Psychiatrist’s 8 Tips to Reducing Holiday Stress

The festive season is so much fun for many people. However, for some, family get-togethers, festive season shopping, cooking, and more make them feel stressed and anxious. Festive season stress is a real thing and it’s something that mental health professionals help their patients with during November and December. How can you help yourself feel better?

Vinay Saranga, M.D.

Vinay Saranga, M.D.

Vinay Saranga M.D., is a psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry (

He offers these tips:

  •  Breathe: One of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety is to slowdown your breathing. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, worried or something is bothering us, our breathing tends to get fast and shallow. This actually makes us feel worse than we are already feeling. Focus on slowing down your breathing. Breath in through the diaphragm (stomach area), hold for a few seconds, and slowly exhale through the lips.
  •  Mindfulness: When you start worrying about preparing Thanksgiving dinner, shopping for gifts, or uncomfortable topics of conversation coming up with family you don’t see that often, practice mindfulness. This is the act of being present and immersing yourself in the present moment. It’s easy to dwell on the past and worry about the future, but being in the present moment is the best place to focus your energy.
  •  Take a break: The festive season can be overwhelming for many people. It’s okay to take a break. Go for a walk. Take a drive and turn up the tunes. Hit the gym. Surf the web. Go to your favorite place and just people watch. It doesn’t matter what you do. If you feel your anxiety levels rising, take a break from what you’re doing and connect to something that makes you feel good.
  •  Avoid controversial issues: There’s nothing like a heated debate over things like sex, politics or religion to ruin what should be a nice family together and stress you out. If a topic feels too far out there, or if you know that people have very differing points of views, stay away from it. Focus conversations around TV shows, movies, music, books, reliving memories and other fun and interesting topics.
  •  Get outdoors: It’s easy to get stuck inside watching the parades and footballs games, but getting some fresh air and a little activity can be good for everyone. Think of games to play outside. Go for a bike ride or a walk around the block. Watch the kids get involved in an activity. A little fresh air can relieve stress and holiday tension.
  •  Comfort yourself: Whether you don’t like the family get-togethers or large gatherings just stress you out, be kind to yourself with the language you choose. Remind yourself that it’s only a few hours and you can get through it. Spend time around the people with whom you have the most in common or the ones who don’t stress you out as much. Remember to smile as this not only makes you appear to be enjoying yourself, it really will help you feel better.
  •  Stay on your meds and keep doctor appointments: The festive season and long family get-togethers can be tough for many people, but even more so if you are suffering with a mental health condition. The holiday season is not the time to come off your medication. Remember to keep all doctor appointments and stick to your therapeutic routine. 
  •  Take a trip: If the festive season really stresses you out that much, there is no shame in telling people that this year you are getting away and taking a family vacation. Going on a cruise, heading to the mountains or whatever you choose to do is perfectly acceptable. You are not being selfish by putting the needs of you and your family first and foremost.

Practical Tips to Prep for Festive Season Travel

Planning travel around the festive season is rarely simple. Coordinating flights or ground transportation is often just the beginning, and safely arriving at your destination may feel like a gift in its own right.

During the hustle and bustle of the festive season, concerns about health and safety can fall by the wayside, but some medical emergencies – whether it be an unforeseen accident, food reaction or chronic condition – are more prevalent during the holiday season. For example, the American Heart Association notes the highest incidence rate of cardiac mortality for the entire year occurs between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Food poisoning, intoxication, traffic accidents and injuries related to burns and decorations, among other incidents, also result in higher amounts of emergency room visits during the holidays.

This year, with festive season travel volume projected to be its highest since 2005 in the United States, according to AAA, take heightened precautions to prepare for the unexpected and protect your health and safety.

Schedule a safety net. During the festive season, disruptions to your travel schedule are practically a guarantee. Plan for the inevitable by creating a travel schedule that gives you ample cushion for interruptions like traffic delays and late flights.

Carry your health history with you. While medical emergencies may not be predictable, having pertinent medical information for everyone in your party can make an unexpected medical event less problematic. Particularly for caregivers, whether your charges are children or aging adults, a tool like the Backpack Health app can help you get organized. The free mobile app provides secure access to personalized, comprehensive medical information and documents, including wellness, illnesses, injuries, chronic health conditions, physicians, prescriptions, allergies and treatments, in one central location on your mobile device. It is also multilingual, providing peace of mind even if traveling abroad and information needs translated for a medical professional.

“Especially for people living with chronic, serious and rare conditions, holiday travel often disrupts health routines – like skipping or rescheduling medical appointments and treatments or forgetting to refill, pack and take medications – and can rob people of enjoying time with friends and family,” said Jim Cavan, president and CEO of Backpack Health. “If you’re traveling across the globe or across town, having extensive medical history, for both you and your loved ones, at your fingertips offers assurance to enjoy the festive season with more peace of mind without the burden of carrying medical folders.”

For more information and to download the app, visit

Pack for the unexpected. Plan around delays by ensuring you have snacks and entertainment to divert antsy children (and adults). Be sure to keep medications in your carry-on bags or where you can easily access them in the car. If you’re traveling by car, carry an emergency kit with items such as extra blankets, a first-aid kit and roadside flares.

Watch the weather. If you’ll be traveling to an area that experiences severe winter weather, or if you live in an area that could have wintry weather when you return, it’s a good idea to keep close tabs on the forecast. Timing your arrival differently by hours or a day can make a major difference in your travel time and safety.

As you embark on this year’s travel adventures, keep the spirit of the season alive and focus on all the good that awaits when you arrive. (Family Features)

Backpack Health

The Art of the Perfect Gift

Even in a world where just about anything is a few clicks away, finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list can still be a difficult task. One trick to winning the festive season is bringing back the basics by choosing presents you know your loved ones need and can actually use.

Consider these crowd-pleasing gift ideas to provide festive season smiles at the moment they’re unwrapped.

The Gift of an Experience

An experience could be perfect for the person in your life looking to spice things up by taking on a new adventure. From a scenic helicopter ride to an exhilarating sky diving package, experiential gifts can be exciting undertakings. One of the best parts: these presents don’t always have to be one-and-done – you can give the gift of a new life skill such as cooking classes or motorcycle riding lessons. Learn more about Harley-Davidson Riding Academy motorcycle classes by visiting your local dealership or

The Gift of Traveling in Style

If you’re interested in giving a present that inspires adventure, a piece of quality luggage may be all your loved one needs. A sturdy backpack is versatile and can be used for a hike on the nearest trail or a backpacking trip through another country. If the next trip is on the open road, an option like the Harley-Davidson Premium Touring Bag can help pack the necessities as you explore the world.

The Gift of Stocking Stuffers

Sometimes, it’s the big gift ideas that are inspired naturally and shoppers find themselves scrambling to find stocking stuffers. This holiday season, don’t overthink it. Stuff those stockings with things people need such as headphones, socks or a warm stocking cap.

The Gift of the Trends

Today’s fashion trends dictate two outerwear items everyone should have in their closets: a denim jacket and a go-to leather jacket. If someone on your festive season  shopping list has yet to jump on the trend, try styles like Harley-Davidson’s Sherpa Fleece Denim Jacket for women or the Men’s #1 Skull Slim Fit Leather Jacket for inspiration.

For more festive season gift inspiration, check out the guide at (Family Features)


Hitting the Road for the Festive Season? Stay Connected on the Go

Traveling for the festive season but worried about being disconnected? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. In fact, plenty of other road warriors are making sure their devices are packed and ready to go so they won’t miss a beat.

Intel(R) recently conducted a survey with YouGov to learn more about the tips and tricks connected road warriors use to keep up with email, entertainment, news and more. According to the survey, connected road warriors (69 percent) admit they always bring their mobile computing device on vacation, and nearly 1 in 3 (32 percent) indicate it makes them nervous to travel without their device.

Regardless of where they are, road warriors continue to demand strong performance and have high expectations for consistent, reliable and accessible connectivity. Seven out of 10 road warriors (71 percent) get frustrated by lagging internet performance and poor connectivity speed. And over half (55 percent) admit that the inability to quickly load pages (emails, web pages, etc.) is a top computing-while-traveling pet peeve.

Whether going to grandma’s house, a beach or a ski slope, chances are these road warriors will be looking to connect. Nearly 2 in 3 road warriors (65 percent) admit doing something extreme in order to connect their mobile computing device to the internet. Eight in 10 (81 percent) report they have connected to the internet in an unusual spot. Restaurants (60 percent) are the most commonly reported location, while nearly 4 in 10 share they have connected in a parking lot. Others report connecting at a park, beach, bar, the side of the road or at a rest stop.

While some people may still want to stay on top of work, being connected is about more than getting through your to-do list. Email may still top the list of favorite activities (90 percent) when connecting on the go, but entertainment is also popular. More than half (53 percent) say they mainly connect for entertainment like streaming and gaming.

The good news is that there are plenty of devices available today that offer great performance and great connectivity for computing on the go. The latest Intel(R)-based mobile devices are fast and responsive and come in a range of connectivity options for you to choose – Wi-Fi, tethering or always-on 4G LTE – so you can power through email or get lost in a 4K-resolution movie from a coffee shop, library, beach or grandma’s house. Powered by the latest Intel processors, these devices run all of the most popular apps for work and play and connect seamlessly with other devices:

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 – Currently available via Verizon, this 2-in-1 PC comes with an S Pen and keyboard that connect instantly and never need charging, plus lightning-fast LTE and Wi-Fi connections so you can be creative, productive and connected, no matter where you are.

Google Pixelbook – Google’s high-performance Pixelbook is its thinnest Chromebook ever. It features a built-in Google Assistant, a Pixelbook Pen, amazing battery life and Instant Tethering, which allows people to access their phone’s data connection even when without Wi-Fi.

HP Spectre x360 – The ultra-slim convertible laptop has high-end power, a digital pen, long battery life, increased security features and a 4K display in addition to Wi-Fi connectivity, offering endless versatility.

Lenovo Yoga 920 – This Wi-Fi-enabled 2-in-1 intuitive convertible laptop offers voice-activated support, a digital pen option, top performance and speed, and a 4K screen. Its Constant Connect feature downloads emails, plays music and receives Skype calls – even in standby mode.

If you’re hitting the road this holiday season, or want to give the gift of connectivity, consider an always-connected PC so you don’t miss a thing! (BPT)

Celebrate The Festive Season with Sonesta’ s South Florida Hotels

The festive season is well underway and Sonesta’s two South Florida hotels are looking to celebrate this time of year with special menus aiming to bring family and friends together.

Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami

Overlooking Biscayne Bay, this hotel provides guests with the ideal getaway to enjoy Christmas and New Year’s Eve in beautiful Miami. On Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, the hotel’s Panorama Restaurant and Sky Lounge will delight guests with an exceptional menu. Top highlights include Seared Diver Scallops ($17), Pepper Crusted Roast Prime Rib and Trio Crème Brûlée Spoons ($11). For those looking to ring in the New Year with a bash, the hotel has created a one-of-a-kind package. Book from now through December 30 and travel December 28 – January 2, 2018 with promo code SONNYE and receive the Big Orange New Year’s Eve Package. Guests will receive fun party accessories, specialty cupcakes and a complimentary bottle of champagne to toast to the memories of 2017 and beginning of 2018, all while enjoying the best view of Miami with Big Orange Ball Drop, fireworks, and Pitbull’s New Year’s Resolution and Countdown. Panorama is also offering a New Year’s Eve prix-fixe menu that will be available from 8-11:30 p.m. for $105 per person on that day. The exquisite menu includes an appetizer station, raw bar and carving station. Elaborate dessert tapas are also part of the night, with a wide range of tasty treats to top off the night. Reservations can be made by calling (305) 447-8264. Here you can access the limited-time menus. 

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach

Across from the Atlantic Ocean and golden coastline, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach is the perfect location for those looking to escape the cold winter and bask in the warm Florida weather. The hotel’s full-service restaurant, Bistro, will be offering locals and guests a celebratory Christmas Eve menu this year. The menu includes Curried Lobster Bisque with Cream Fraiche and Caviar, Holiday Roast Prime Rib of Beef and Chef’s Apple Pie. This will be available throughout the day for $45 (adults) and $15.00 (children 12 and under). For New Year’s Eve, the hotel is rolling out a flavorful three-course dinner spearheaded by executive chef Thomas Russo. Diners will enjoy from a Sunrise Salad with Seasonal Mixed Greens, Crumbled Goat Cheese, Toasted Almonds and Seasonal Berries to a Broiled Lobster Combination with Fillet Mignon, Saffron Scampi Sauce and Port Wine Demi Potato Soufflé. Reservations are available by calling (954) 315-1460. Here you can access the menus with more details.

Festive Season Recipes from Jaime’s Spanish Village Gourmet Salsas

Photography courtesy of Jaime’s Spanish Village Gourmet Salsas.

We’re thrilled to share some of Jaime’s Spanish Village Gourmet Salsas and Queso holiday Tex-Mex recipes including their Tamale Casserole, Turkey Chilaquiles and sides like their Mac n Queso and Spicy Stuffing.


Jaime’s opened in 1931 as just “Spanish Village” and when it closed was the oldest restaurant in Austin – in continuous operation. Jaime Tames, an ex bull-fighter from San Luis Potosi, Mexico took over the establishment 40 years later, bringing with him his famous Jaime’s Margarita’s and charismatic personality. The name Jaime’s Spanish Village invokes strong nostalgia and memories of those that visited the restaurant either as a college student, repeat tourist, or local regular with his spirit and tradition living on through our salsas and queso. From the family’s humble beginnings, to the opening of the restaurant and the organic launch of the salsa itself, this has been a true family business from the start.

Jaime’s award-winning brand of traditional, hand crafted and gourmet salsas are the #1 seller in Whole Foods and Central Market with a variety of flavors winning or placing in several hot sauce competitions, including the Austin Chronicle’s annual contest.  Jaime’s Spanish Village famous salsas and queso are available for purchase at various locations of Whole Foods Market (Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma & Arkansas), Central Market & other fine retailers and available online for purchase at


Jaime's Mac 'n Queso

Jaime’s Mac ‘n Queso

Jaime’s Mac ‘n Queso


1 lb. elbow pasta

12 oz. bacon

¼ C flour

4 tbsp butter + 2 tbsp butter

3 C whole milk, room temperature

1 jar Jaime’s Spanish Village Chile con Queso

3 oz. Cheddar, shredded

1 bunch Lacinato kale

1 clove garlic, minced

1 TBSP Jaime’s Spanish Village Hot Red Salsa, room temperature

1 ½ tsp salt

1½ C panko breadcrumbs


Preheat oven to 350 and grease the bottom and sides of a large casserole dish.

Place the panko in a medium bowl. Melt 2 tbsp butter in the microwave and pour evenly over the panko, stirring until combined, set aside.

Cook pasta according to directions on box, but remove from the water 1 or 2 minutes early. The pasta should be al dente, as it will continue to cook in the cheese mixture. Return the pasta to the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, wash kale and remove veins. Chop into bite sized strips and reserve. Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat till crispy. Place in a paper towel-lined bowl to drain.  Remove 2/3 of the fat from the skillet. Add the kale to the skillet, turning constantly with tongs. Cook for 3 minutes, until the Kale is soft and has shrunk. Make a space in the center of the skillet and add the garlic. Cook for 1 more minute, stirring to combining kale and garlic when you’re done. Remove from heat.  When the bacon has cooled, crumble into small pieces.

In a large saucepan over melt 4 tbsp butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until mixture begins to bubble. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid any lumps forming. Increase heat to medium and whisk occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. This can take 10-15 minutes. When the mixture is boiling, lower the heat and add the Jaime’s Chile con Queso, 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking to incorporate. Once the entire jar has been added to the sauce, add the cheddar and stir until smooth. Remove the cheese mixture from the heat. Add salt and stir.

Combine the cheese sauce with the pasta, kale, and bacon. Add the salsa and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared casserole dish and top with the panko mixture. Bake in the lower third of the oven until the cheese sauce is bubbling on the sides and the panko is golden, about 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Jaime's Spicy Stuffing

Jaime’s Spicy Stuffing

Jaime’s Spicy Stuffing


12 C stale cornbread (or dried in the over), cut into 1 inch cubes

½ C chicken broth

1 C half-and-half

1 ¼ C Jaime’s Spanish Village Hot Green Salsa

3 eggs

1 lb. Mexican Chorizo

3 onion, finely chopped

3 celery ribs, finely chopped

2 medium red bell peppers, seeded, veined, and chopped

½ C pepita seeds

6 TBSP unsalted butter

2 TBSP fresh sage, minced

2 TBSP fresh thyme, minced

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp pepper


Combine the eggs, half-and-half, chicken stock and Jaime’s Spanish Village Hot Green Salsa in a large bowl, stirring to blend. Add the cornbread and toss gently, to coat the cubes, but not break them up too much. Set Aside.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat.  Remove the chorizo from casing and add meat to the pan, breaking up as it browns. Cook for about 10 minutes, until it has browned and released the fat. Remove meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and leave the remaining fats. Add the butter to the pan with the onion and cook for 5 mins, stirring occasionally. Add the celery and bell peppers and sauté for about 5 more minutes until softened. Finally, add the garlic and cook for 3-5 more minutes, watching for the garlic not to burn. Remove from heat. Stir in the herbs, pepita seeds, cooked chorizo, salt, and pepper. Pour mixture over the corn bread, tossing gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to let flavors blend.

Lower the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400. Grease a large casserole dish (about 10 by 15 inches) with butter or shortening. Add mixture to baking dish and cook for about 35 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

Jaime’s Tamale Casserole


3 C masa harina flour (like Maseca)

1 tsp baking powder

1.5 lbs cooked, shredded chicken

1 jar Jaime’s Green Salsa (mild or hot, depending on your taste!)

4 C chicken stock

1.5 sticks butter, melted

2   1 oz. packages of chicken taco seasoning

1 14.75 can sweet corn kernels, drained

1 C Jaime’s Chile con Queso

6 oz. shredded Mexican cheese blend

nonstick cooking spray

sliced Jalapeños for Garnish

Jaime’s Green Salsa for garnish

Sour cream for garnish


Spray a 9 X 13 inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spry and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the masa harina and the baking powder and set aside. In a large stockpot, combine the 1 jar of Jaime’s Green Salsa and 4 cups of chicken stock over medium heat. Add the 2 packages of taco seasoning and stir together. Let heat for about 4 minutes, and add the masa harina mixture, stirring constantly so no lumps form. When they are filly mixed, add the melted butter and stir the masa mixture over medium heat for about 10 minutes, making sure the butter is well incorporated. Finally, add the corn kernels and stir till combined. Remove from heat.

Spread a little more than half of the masa mixture into the prepared pan. Go ahead and use your (washed) hands to spread it evenly. Then, add the shredded chicken in an even layer. Press it into the masa. Melt the Jaime’s Chile con Queso in the microwave, and drizzle evenly over the chicken layer. Top with the remaining masa mixture, distributing evenly with a spatula (or your hands.) Sprinkle with the shredded Mexican cheese. Spray lightly with cooking spray and cover with foil.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden in spots. Remove from the oven and garnish with sliced jalapeños. You can  Serve with Jaime’s Green Salsa and sour cream. ENJOY!

Festive Season Guesting 101

If you manage to avoid hosting duties this festive season, you may be dodging some of the hardest work, but remember that being a good guest goes beyond arriving on time and taking your shoes off at the door. This festive season, ensure your host gets to enjoy the festivities by putting these ideas to practice – it may earn you an invitation for years to come.

Make a festive season playlist.  Offer to put together a festive season playlist for the host who will undoubtedly have his or her hands full prepping for the festive season celebration. Try to choose songs specific to the guests, host and overall theme. A good playlist can be a conversation starter for everyone at the party.

Don’t arrive empty-handed. Even if your host shrugs off an offer for help, a gesture of appreciation is always appropriate. It may be a bottle of wine, a seasonal flower arrangement or, better yet, an appetizer or dessert to share, such as this mouthwatering Slow Cooker Banana Cake. This crowd-pleasing cake is made using a Crock-Pot® Cook & Carry Slow Cooker, which has a locking lid and travel clips to help you get to your festive season celebration without making a mess. The 6-quart, removable pot can be used as a serving dish, and is dishwasher safe to make clean-up a breeze.

Stay off your phone. It may seem obvious, but these days, looking at your phone is almost as habitual as breathing, and chances are you don’t mean to appear standoffish or rude by sneaking a quick peek. However, playing with your phone can detract from time you get to spend with family and friends, many of whom you probably don’t get to see often. Tuck away your phone for the party and live in the moment.

Pitch in to help clean. No host likes to be stuck in the kitchen while the rest of the party carries on. After the meal, offer your help to clear the table, put away perishable items and get the kitchen back in order so your host can join the merry-making. If you’ll be opening gifts, grab a garbage bag and collect debris to help keep the mess under control.

Find more festive season recipes and tips at

Slow Cooker Banana Cake

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 4 hours

Servings: 12

  • Crock-Pot® Cook & Carry Slow Cooker
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 3          cups flour
  • 1 1/2    teaspoons baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3-4       ripe bananas
  • 2          lemon wedges, juice only
  • 3/4       cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2    cups honey or 2 cups white sugar
  • 3          eggs
  • 1          teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2    cups almond milk
  • cream cheese frosting
  1. Grease slow cooker with nonstick spray.
  2. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In small bowl, mash bananas and lemon juice together; set aside.
  4. In large bowl, use mixer to cream butter and honey. Add eggs and mix well. Stir in vanilla then milk. Gradually add flour mixture. Once combined, stir in mashed bananas.
  5. Pour into slow cooker. Cover; cook on low 6 hours or high 4 hours, or until center of cake no longer looks gooey.
  6. Uncover and let cake cool. Once completely cooled, frost cake and, if desired, top with sliced bananas and walnuts.

Notes: If adding bananas, do so just before serving or they will brown. If using a non-oval slow cooker, cook 1 hour less on high heat or 2 hours less on low heat. (Family Features)



Popping Up a Winter Wonderland

Edible, handmade festive season decor perfect for gifting

’Tis the season to pop up some festive season fun by creating a scenic winter wonderland that tastes as great as it looks.

Gather the kids and make a hands-on family festive season tradition out of crafting festive, edible decorations. Popcorn is the perfect choice to pop up and eat while trimming your popcorn tree and decking out your creations. At 30 calories a cup, whole-grain, freshly popped popcorn offers a nutritious alternative to traditional festive season party nibbles. Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories, non-GMO, gluten-free, has no artificial additives or preservatives and is sugar-free.

These clever recipes can help you make edible decor or gifts to give to friends, family and co-workers. Find more creative festive season recipes at

Festive Popcorn Trees

Yield: 10 trees

  • 10        cups air-popped popcorn
  • 1          bag (10 ounces) miniature marshmallows
  • 2          tablespoons butter
  • 1          teaspoon vanilla extract
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • green decorating sugar
  • blue decorating sugar
  • 1          tube white frosting with decorating tip
  • small, colorful candies (such as sprinkles and miniature silver dragees)
  1. Place popcorn in large bowl.
  2. Place marshmallows and butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in vanilla extract.
  4. Pour mixture over popcorn in bowl. Toss well to coat popcorn evenly.
  5. Line baking sheet with foil.
  6. Spray hands with nonstick cooking spray then scoop up about 1 cup popcorn mixture.
  7. Shape mixture into cone, keeping base flat to form tree.
  8. Sprinkle tree with decorating sugars; place tree on baking sheet.
  9. Make nine additional trees.
  10. Pipe frosting on trees to make garland then decorate with sprinkles and silver dragees, as desired.

Serving suggestion: Place each tree on sugar cookie and decorate serving tray with shredded coconut to resemble snow.

Notes: For best flavor and color, start recipe with unflavored white popcorn. You can make your own colored sugar by adding food coloring to sugar then stirring in bowl or shaking vigorously in sealed container. Add additional food coloring for more intense tones.

Festive Season Popcorn Snowman

Yield: 5 snowmen

  • 1          package (1 pound) large marshmallows
  • 1/4       cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, plus additional
  • 1          teaspoon vanilla
  • 10        cups popped popcorn
  • sprinkles (optional)
  • licorice (optional)
  • gum drops (optional)
  • cinnamon candies (optional)
  1. In large saucepan, melt marshmallows and 1/4 cup butter.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  3. Let stand 5 minutes.
  4. Pour over popcorn and stir mixture.
  5. Butter hands well and form into balls.
  6. Decorate with sprinkles, licorice, gum drops and cinnamon candies, as desired.

Festive Season Wreath Popcorn Treats

Yield: 8 wreaths

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3          quarts popped popcorn
  • 4          tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
  • 3          cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3          tablespoons lime gelatin dessert mix
  • small red candies
  • jellybeans
  • red fruit leather
  1. Lightly spray large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place popcorn inside.
  2. In medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Stir in marshmallows and gelatin dessert mix until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour over popcorn and mix until coated.
  3. Spray hands with cooking spray and press firmly to form into 9-inch logs then bend to form wreaths.
  4. Place wreaths on wax paper. Press candies and jellybeans into wreaths as decorations; cut fruit leather to make ribbon and add.
  5. Serve immediately or wrap individually in plastic wrap for storage. Add ribbon tie to plastic wrap as decorative closure.

Tip: Soak saucepan before cleaning.

Chocolate Popcorn Reindeer

Yield: 8 reindeer

  • 8          cups unsalted, unbuttered popped popcorn
  • 2 1/2    cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2       cup chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips
  • 2          tablespoons butter or light olive oil
  • 1/4       teaspoon salt
  • 16        pretzel sticks
  • 16        eyeball candies
  • 8          red candy-coated chocolate candies
  1. Place popcorn in large mixing bowl.
  2. In saucepan set over medium heat, heat marshmallows, chocolate, butter and salt, stirring often until smooth. Toss marshmallow mixture with popcorn until well combined.
  3. Scoop 3/4 cup popcorn mixture into ball. Repeat with remaining mixture to make eight balls total. Place each ball in paper muffin cup liner.
  4. Insert pretzel stick on each side of ball to resemble antlers, attach two eyeball candies for eyes and red candy for nose. Let cool completely.

Tip: Eyeball candies can typically be found in baking aisles of supermarkets or bulk food stores. (Family Features)

The Popcorn Board

Increase Kitchen Efficiency With Ease

As the festive season approaches and the calendar begins to populate, it’s important not to allow the stress of entertaining large groups to become a burden. Below are four tips to help organize a kitchen and host with ease, creating a functional space for family and friends to enjoy.

Plan in advance

Set aside time early in the week to plan the menu, from simple appetizers to the main entree. Grocery shopping apps, like AnyList, allow the whole family to share and build lists together — which can help avoid any last-minute trips to the grocery store. Also, try to identify dishes that can be prepared in advance so more time can be spent away from the kitchen when guests arrive.

Maximize storage and counter space

Optimize counter space by designing small stations for easy access to the necessities. A coffee bar “nook” complete with Keurig cups and mugs can help kick-start a busy day. Storage near the fridge should be stocked with foil and containers, ideal for packing up leftovers after a large party. Reserve the island counter for meal prep and the cabinets below for serving ware and glassware storage.

Keep all staples in arm’s reach

Cooking can be made simple by organizing the essentials. Keep similar tools together, such as bakeware and cookie sheets in one drawer, and pantry staples in another. Spices and herbs should be alphabetized and stored near the stovetop to effortlessly add flavor. For those with design in mind, opt for open shelves to showcase dishes and small kitchen accessories, such as succulents and cookbooks, while keeping everything within reach.

Simplify kitchen cleanup

Cleaning is often the most time-intensive chore in the kitchen, but if designed right, can be a breeze for home entertainers and kids alike. The Delta Foundry Kitchen Faucet complete with ShieldSpray Technology, available at the Home Depot, offers laser-like precision to contain splatter, meaning less soaking, scrubbing and shirt swapping. (BPT)

The Best Festive Season Gifts of 2016

(BPT) – Spending time with friends and family is a big part of what makes the festive season so special. Celebrating with loved ones and exchanging gifts is a time-honored tradition. But before the wrapping paper can be ripped away in a flurry of sparkling shreds, you first need to find the right gifts for all the people on your list.

Don’t fret about discovering the perfect present. The experts at BJ’s Wholesale Club offer their predictions for the hottest gifts of the festive season for loved ones of any age. 


Both kids and kids-at-heart adore unwrapping a gift to discover a neat new toy just for them. This festive season, give them something that will make them squeal with delight. For example, a Giant Keyboard Playmat is great fun for the entire family. Creativity sets let little ones’ imaginations take flight. A 70-inch Jumbo Plush Dog is absolutely snuggle-worthy as it sits next to the tree. Learn more about BJ’s exclusive Top 10 Toys at 


Technology items top festive season wish lists for people both young and old. TVs and smartphones are sure to please, but if the budget is a bit more frugal, you’re not out of luck. One of 2016′s most-wanted gifts is wireless headphones. Whether sleek in-the-ear headphones or on-the-ear options that provide an incredible audio experience, it’s a gift that will be used constantly. Look for top brands like Bose, Skullcandy and LG that give you a secure, comfortable fit without sacrificing audio quality. 

Gift baskets

The smell of cookies, the taste of freshly roasted nuts, the crunch of caramel corn – food is such a memorable part of the festive season. For the person who has everything, gift baskets are guaranteed to please. From savory baskets featuring delicious foods like pretzels, cheese and sausage to sweet baskets with chocolate, cookies and candies, you’ll find something for everyone on your gift list this year at BJ’s.


Bikes and other riding toys are always a hit as festive season gifts. Whether you get the next size bike for your growing child or purchase a rocking horse for your little one just finding her balance, it’s a great gift that continues to give long after the festive season is over. In addition to bikes, trikes, scooters, powered-riding toys and wagons all make great festive season gifts. 

Indoor play

Want to find something fun for inside the home? Get kids away from the TV screen with amazing toys that inspire indoor play. Play kitchens are fantastic choices for toddlers and elementary-aged children. Dress-up outfits let your kid be a doctor, chef, cowboy and more. Building block sets are created to suite kids of virtually every age. Finally, indoor tents and tunnels are great for kids, and even mom and dad will want to get in on the fun.

With these great gift ideas, festive season 2016 will be unforgettable. Save time and money when you find everything on your gift list at BJ’s. To locate the club nearest you, visit