6 Tips to Keep Your Christmas Tree Beautiful

Christmas-TreeWe have just one month until Christmas Eve — it’s time to put your Christmas tree up! You put so much work into making it look joyful with all the tinsel and ornaments, you want it to stay pretty as long as you can. Here are 6 tips to keep your Christmas tree beautiful until the New Year!

Make a Fresh Cut When you go shopping for your tree, keep in mind that the trees at your lot were cut down a few weeks ago and where your tree was cut may be a bit dull and hard for the tree to absorb water. After you haul your tree home saw off a few inches of the trunk before you put it in the tree stand. This helps keep the needles moist and green.

Christmas-TreeWater Immediately Trees are thirsty! A Christmas tree can absorb a gallon of water a day so letting it have that first sip after a week on the tree lot is important to bringing life back to the tree. There’s no need to drill any other hole in the base of the tree to help with water absorption; the outer layer of the tree is very efficient in transporting the water from the trunk to the top branches.

Keep it Cool Keeping the tree away from heat sources is key to keeping it hydrated, but also consider lowering the temperature in the room where you keep your tree to help make it last longer. Keeping it cool will slow down the drying process because the water absorbed by the tree won’t evaporate as quickly. In addition, turning the tree lights off at night and when you’re not at home will keep the temperature around the tree down. 

Keep the Water Pure There’s nothing you can add to water to keep your tree greener or make it last longer. Good, clean water is all it needs.

Christmas-Tree-ornamentsWater Daily Make sure the tree’s trunk is always immersed in water. They drink a lot and they drink fast, so keeping an eye on the water level is important to keeping your tree green through Christmas and into the new year.

Give it Some Sun Think of your Christmas tree as your new house plant. House plants need sunlight to survive and so do Christmas trees! If your tree is in a room where there’s a window, keep the windows open during the day so it can soak up the sun.

Of course you can take the easy way out of caring for a Christmas tree by getting an artificial tree. Whether it’s real or fake, tree trimming is the kickoff to the holiday season; make your decor a delight with LTD Commodities!

 

5 Ideas to Get Your Bedroom Cozy for Winter

Cozy-BedroomIt seems like the whole country got an early blast of winter this week. We may not be mentally prepared for the arctic chill, but we can get our bedrooms ready for the cold nights ahead. Here are 5 ideas to get your bedroom cozy for winter.

Make Your Bed Every Day According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, people who make their beds every day are 19% more likely to get a good night’s sleep. Your body needs extra energy to keep you warm in the winter. Using all that energy wears us out and if we’re not sleeping well, we can’t perform at our optimal level during waking hours. In addition to great sleep, a bed that’s made looks nice and it’s more inviting after a surviving a cold day than a pile of sheets.

blanketsLayering isn’t Just for Tank Tops If you’re not quite ready to trade in your comforter but you want a little more warmth, rather than turning up the heat, add another blanket. Find a nice fleece or plush blanket to layer between your top sheet and your comforter to add a little bit of weight and insulation for your winter slumbers.

Suitable Surfaces Textures can have a big impact on how you see your room and how you feel in it. Soft and dark textures absorb light and make it warmer. Adding a curtain panel to your ceiling, pile a few plush pillows in dark colors on your bed bed or add a cushy throw rug on the floor to visually and physically warm up the bedroom. Save the smooth and shiny surfaces for summer — they reflect light to make a room cooler.

mattress-padExtra Padding While our mattresses last about seven years, we can give them a boost to make them cozy as they approach their expiration date. A new mattress pad or a feather bed can refresh your bed to make it more comfortable and cushioned when you crawl into your cocoon for the night.

Mood Lighting During warmer months, there isn’t as much demand for mood lighting, but it can be soothing in the bedroom during frigid winters. According to a study published by the Journal of Consumer Psychology, participants reported feeling warmer in a dimly lit room than they felt in a bright room even though the rooms were the same temperature. Even if your thermostat is at the lowest temperature you can handle, having a few LED candles scattered around your room might trick your brain into thinking it’s warmer than it actually is.

Warming up your bedroom for the winter is easy — and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to make it welcoming even on the coldest of evenings. With just a few ideas and adjustments, winter nights won’t be so bad.

 

8 Games and Puzzle Gift Ideas

The cold weather has set in and it looks like we’re going to have a long winter. While we’re stuck inside, we’re going to need activities to keep us busy. In honor of Games and Puzzles Week, we have 8 games and puzzle gift ideas to get you, your friends and family through the winter.

games-Farkel-DiceRoll with It The Farkel Game Set with Dice Rolling Tray is a great game to get people together for game night! Farkel is a high point-scoring dice game that has kept players entertained and challenged all night long. For ages 8 and up.

games-disney-scrabbleDisney Has it Covered Disney Jr. Scrabble is the word game that grows with your child’s vocabulary! It’s just like classic Scrabble, but it uses Disney-themed words to build vocabulary. When children develop stronger reading and spelling skills, they can flip the double-sided game board to the other side and play the regular version of Scrabble Jr. For ages 3 and up.

games-nostalgic-puzzlesPuzzles of Yore Go back in time and spend hours piecing together cereal boxes, games or treats we enjoyed as kids with Nostalgic Puzzles. Each puzzles comes with 1,000 pieces that features a collage of familiar favorites from the past. It’s a delightful, calm yet mind-sharpening activity for cold winter days.

Games-Elvis-Puzzle-ShapesTwist on Puzzles Break away from the traditional jigsaw puzzle with a Licensed Shaped Puzzle with Fun Shapes. Each 500-pc. puzzle forms a distinctive shape when completed. Adding to the fun are several pieces that are specially shaped to look like objects related to the larger image.

games-sequence-dice-gameLuck and Strategy Sequence Dice Game is an exciting dice game of luck and strategy for the whole family! The goal is to be the first player or team to make a sequence of 5 chips in a row…up, down, across or diagonally! This entertaining game for friends and family can be played by 2-4 players making it a challenge for couples’ night or family night. For ages 7 and up.

Games-shuffleboardGames of Leisure This 3-In-1 Tabletop Game is all you need for family game night. Play shuffleboard, curling or bowling all on your tabletop! You don’t need to go on a cruise or brave the cold and go to the bowling alley to enjoy a life of leisure games with this set. For ages 5 and up.

games-thomas-kincadePuzzled Movie Scenes A Thomas Kinkade Movie Puzzle lets you piece together memories of The Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind. Created by one of the nation’s greatest artists, this puzzle forms a beautiful piece of art you’ll want to frame when you’re finished. For ages 12 and up.

games-dartsThe Pub Comes to You Licensed Magnetic Dartboard has all the fun of this classic game of skill, without the pub and without the danger! These darts don’t have sharp points, so just about anyone can take a shot at the bullseye. For game night with your adult friends or a night in with the kids, the magnetic dart board promises hours of fun! For ages 3 and up.

It’s not winter yet, but with the temperatures already cold and destined to go down, Games and Puzzles Week couldn’t have come at a better time! You’ll need plenty of indoor activities to survive this winter.

5 Tips for Selecting a Christmas Tree

Christmas-TreeThe temperatures are dropping and even though we’re dreading cold weather, we’re excited for the holidays! We’re putting up all of of our holiday decor, but there’s just one thing missing: the Christmas tree. While we’re getting ready to put one up, we thought we’d share 5 tips for selecting a Christmas tree.

Pick a Spot Before you gather the family to pick out a tree, consider where you are going to put the tree and what kind of help you’ll be getting when you take it home. This will determine the size you want to buy. Standard ceilings are 8 ft high, so you want to select a tree that’s 7 ft or smaller. If you have high or vaulted ceilings, you are open to select taller trees, just remember the taller they are, the heavier they are and an average tree can weigh about 80lbs. Quick tip: Remember when you’re choosing a spot for your tree, make sure it’s away from heating vents so they don’t dry out and become a fire hazard.

Pick a Type There are different varieties of evergreen trees with different characteristics you can choose from:

Fir: Typically triangular, dense with branches, dark green needles, and has a prominent spire — Fraser Fir and Douglas Fir are most popular for Christmas trees

Evergreen-TreePine: Bright green, stiff branches — Scots Pine and Virginia Pine are most popular for Christmas trees

Spruce: Waxy, grey-green, triangular shape — Colorado Blue Spruce and White Spruce are most popular for Christmas trees

Inspect It When you’ve decided on the size of the tree you want and you get to the lot, inspect each of the trees you want:

  • Look for insects
  • Make sure the needles are green and flexible — if they are brittle, the tree is dry
  • The base of the tree should have sap on it

Shake It Off Before you leave the tree lot, shake the tree — with a lot of effort — to get rid of the needles that need to be shed. This will save you some aggravation of having a trail of needles to clean up as you carry the tree through your house that you’ll have to clean up as you prepare for the guests to arrive.

Christmas-TreeAvoid Shock After you shake off the needles, store the tree in a shed or garage if you have one. Trees live outside in temperatures much lower than what you have in your home. Keeping them inside spots with cool temperatures will ease them into the warmth of a festive home, and prevent needles from falling off prematurely. Quick tip: water your tree daily to keep it from drying out and the needles from falling off.

Fresh Christmas trees are a lot of work and maintenance. If you don’t have the time or energy for a real Christmas tree, artificial trees are an easy and practical alternative. Either way, start planning now so you have plenty of time to enjoy your tree this holiday season.

3 Books to Spice Things Up for Cook Something Bold Day

bold-foodWhen you are trying to cook something delicious and healthy every day, it is easy to find yourself in a flavor rut. Cook Something Bold Day marks November 8 as a day to shake things up with zesty ingredients like garlic, hot peppers and saffron. Get started on your culinary journey with these 3 books to spice things up for Cook Something Bold Day.

choppedThe Chopped Cookbook Sometimes cooking something new can be intimidating because it requires exotic ingredients. The Chopped Cookbook shows you ways to unleash the hidden flavors in the food already in your refrigerator and pantry. Transform leftovers into chilled peanut chicken noodle salad. Shake up your taste buds with eggs fried in hot sauce, or a try an American staple with new Louisiana soul with Cajun-spiced burgers. Since this book focuses on common ingredients, you may be able to get cooking without an extra trip to the store.

diners-drive-ins-and-divesDiners, Drive-Ins and Dives On his hit Food Network show, Guy Fieri travels America looking for the most unusual and bold flavors. Bring a bit of his “Flavortown” to your home with the nearly 70 recipes in the all-new Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives cookbook. In addition to fun behind-the-scenes stories from the show, it has lively dishes like braised brisket spiced with coffee and ancho chili powder, green chili stew, and more.

pioneer-womanThe Pioneer Woman Cooks Ree Drummond’s irresistible recipes and wit has made her an Internet superstar and best-selling author. Her up-to-date versions of country favorites include a lot of spicy and savory fare. The Pioneer Woman Cooks features entrees like spicy pulled pork and white chicken enchiladas. If you are just looking for a side or snack, try grilled corn guacamole to add zest to chips.

When you’re trying new recipes, don’t be afraid to add your own spices. Remember that you know how things are supposed to taste and just about every flavor can be adjusted with salt or sugar. Experimenting and being bold is half what makes cooking fun!

National Peanut Butter Month: How to Make Buckeyes

BuckeyesNovember is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month — and it is certainly loved. You can find peanut butter in just about any edible form — cookies, cupcakes, chicken chili, Thai noodles –but since LTD Commodities is in the Midwest, our favorite way to serve peanut butter is as a buckeyes.

BuckeyesIf you don’t know what a buckeye is, it’s a tree. It’s native to the Midwest, but Ohio adopted it as its state tree and The Ohio State University claims it as its mascot (but we don’t have any collegiate allegiances at LTD Commodities). We refer to its seeds as buckeyes — which are very similar to chestnuts, but they’re highly toxic. Buckeye Balls — which are made with peanut butter and chocolate to look like buckeye seeds — are, however, certainly edible and absolutely addictive.

Here’s how to make Buckeyes:buckeye-blanket

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate chips (60% cacao or more)

In a bowl fitted with a stand mixer and paddle attachment or using a hand-mixer , beat together the butter, peanut butter and vanilla on low speed. When the mixture is smooth, start adding the powdered sugar a little bit at a time, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. Scoop out about 1¼ TB of the mixture and form a ball with your hands. Set it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Repeat the process with the remaining batter. Refrigerate for about an hour.

Buckeyes

Melt the chocolate using a water bath: on high heat bring water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Reduce the heat to low and keep the water simmering. Place a kitchen towel over the pan and place a heat-proof bowl on top of the towel. Place the chocolate chips in the bowl to melt. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Buckeyes

Using a toothpick, spear a chilled peanut butter ball and dip it in the melted chocolate leaving a little bit of the peanut butter exposed — this is what makes them look like buckeyes. Return the peanut butter ball (now covered in chocolate) to the cookie sheet and repeat the process with the remaining peanut butter balls. Refrigerate for 15 or 20 minutes.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. This recipe makes about 25 peanut butter balls but it can be doubled, tripled or even cut in half.  Buckeyes also travel well for parties and they can be made ahead and frozen.

You don’t have to be from the Ohio or even the Midwest to enjoy a buckeye ball. They’re easy to make, perfect for the holidays and delicious — even a Michigan Wolverine would enjoy a good buckeye ball.

Sandwich Day: 4 Sandwich Ideas for Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey-Sandwich

November 3rd is National Sandwich Day — it is a day to honor one of America’s favorite meals. Everyone loves a good sandwich, but since it’s also November, we thought we’d give you a few sandwich ideas for leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Here are 4 fun turkey sandwiches to get you excited about Thanksgiving.

For leftover Thanksgiving turkey, your slow cooker will be your best friend. Our Gooseberry Patch Slow-Cooker cookbooks have a few ideas you can adapt to make your leftovers exciting.

Turkey French Dip

  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 to 4 whole peppercorns
  • 16 slices of Provolone cheese (or mild white cheese of your choice)
  • 8 French rolls, split

Place the sliced onion on the bottom of the slow-cooker. Add turkey followed by rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, bay leaf, peppercorns, and chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for one hour. Discard the bay leaf. Using tongs, place the turkey and onions on the rolls. Top the turkey with cheese. Use the leftover broth for dipping. southern-barbecue

Southern Barbecue

  • 1 ½ lbs roasted turkey, shredded
  • 1 18 oz bottle of barbecue sauce
  • 2 TB Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TB hot pepper sauce
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 8 hamburger buns, split

Place all of the ingredients in the slow-cooker. Cover and cook on low for one hour. Serve on buns with or without cole slaw.midwest-turkey-sandwich

Midwest Turkey Sandwich 

  • 3 lbs roasted turkey, shredded
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup (can be substituted with cream of celery or chicken soup)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 24 sandwich buns
  • Pickle slices

Place the turkey in the slow cooker. Top with cream of mushroom soup. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Spoon turkey on to buns and garnish with pickle slices.

EZ Pocket Turkey Sandwich

Ingredients:ez-pocket

  • 2 cans refrigerator biscuit dough
  • Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey
  • Leftover Thanksgiving sides

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out one can refrigerator biscuit dough together to fit and fit into EZ Pocket pans.  Fill the pockets with turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole and gravy — or whatever leftovers you want to add. Roll out second can of dough and top the filling. Seal the edges of the dough with the crimper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

At LTD Commodities, we’re excited about Sandwich Day, but we’re more excited about the holidays!  Whether you need kitchen gadgets to put together the perfect Thanksgiving dinner or you’re looking for Christmas gifts, we have everything you need at the best prices.

 

Deviled Egg Day: How to Make Basic Deviled Eggs

Deviled_EggsNovember 2nd is the day we set aside to honor the deviled egg — that delightful finger food we see during holiday parties and potlucks. According to history.com they’ve been gracing tables as far back as the first century and recipes for them have been appearing in cookbooks since the 13th centruy with a version claimed by just about every culture. People continue to try to reinvent the deviled egg, but if you’ve never made deviled eggs, you might want to start with a standard American recipe. Here is how to make basic deviled eggs.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • (Paprika for serving)

Deviled_EggsDirections:

Place your eggs in a sauce pan. Fill it with water until the eggs are just covered. Over high heat, bring the water to rolling boil. Turn off the and cover the pan. Let it sit for about nine minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan using a slotted spoon. Gently crack each egg and place them in a bowl of ice water. Let them sit until they’ve cooled completely — at least a half-hour. If you follow these directions, your yolks will be perfectly yellow (no green!) and the shells should peel off nicely without leaving any craters in the whites.

Deviled_EggsCut the eggs in half, lengthwise. Remove the yolks by popping them out of the white the way you would pop a piece of gum out of a blister pack. Place the yolks in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mash together and stir (vigorously) until it’s smooth. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Taste the yolks.  If it needs salt, add a pinch and mix well. If it’s too salty, you can adjust the flavor by adding a ¼ teaspoon of granulated sugar.

Deviled_EggsPlace the yolk mixture in a plastic bag. Squeeze out all the air, seal and snip the end with kitchen shears. You will use this to neatly put the yolks back into the egg. With your strong hand, squeeze the top and use your weak hand to guide the bag. Squeeze about 1 TB of yolk mixture into each egg half with a swirl motion. Sprinkle paprika on top. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve the eggs, but they should be consumed within 24 hours.

If you’re looking for an easy make-ahead appetizer for your holiday party or you need to bring something to serve for Thanksgiving, this is a no-fail recipe — it’s hard to mess up for even the worst cooks! Happy Deviled Egg Day!

Deviled_Eggs

Adopt a Shelter Dog Month: What to Think About When Adopting a Dog

dog

It’s Adopt a Shelter Dog Month — according to the ASPCA, almost 4 million dogs are taken in by shelters in the United States each year. Only about 1.4 million of those dogs are adopted. So many more need homes! And dogs are awesome companions. Here’s what to think about when adopting a dog:

Check with Your Landlord If you rent an apartment or house — before you start looking at any of those cute, furry faces — make sure pets are allowed in your building. Even if your landlord said pets were ok when you moved in, the policy may have changed. Shelters will call your landlord to check the pet policy. The shelter won’t let you take home that pup you have already fallen in love with if he’s not welcome in your building.

dog1Consider Monetary Costs Dogs can be expensive. Not including special costs like grooming, the first year of owning a dog can cost about $2,000. The costs go down after the first year, but there are still expenses. There are also other unexpected costs like an illness or injury and things we don’t think about like teeth cleaning. Make sure you can afford a dog before you take one home.

Consider Time Commitment Dogs need a lot of attention — not just affection. They need to be walked and have outdoor playtime. When you leave for work in the morning, you have to figure out how the dog will get walked or how he’s going to be cared for when you want to go out of town.

Consider Your Family Whether it’s a child, wife or roommate, everyone needs to be dog-friendly. This doesn’t just mean being nice to dogs, but consider allergies and ages of everyone in your home. If your husband is mildly allergic to dogs and you bring in a new pet and your husband’s allergies are aggravated by the new dog, you don’t want to be in a position in which you have to return the dog to the shelter.

If you’re not tripped up by any of the above considerations, here’s what you’ll need when you go to adopt a loving dog in need of a new home:dog3

  • A legal form of identification (license or state ID) proving you are at least 18 years old
  • All family members including any other pets and children to introduce to your new dog
  • To be able to take the animal home on the day of the adoption
  • An hour to talk to an adoption counselor to talk about what it means to give a dog a forever home

If you’re on the fence about inviting a dog home, consider the benefits of having a dog — they most definitely outweigh the costs.

Thanksgiving Decor: Simple Ideas to Decorate for Thanksgiving Without Effort

Polka-Dot-PumpkinWith all the things you have on your Thanksgiving plate, the last thing on your mind is the Thanksgiving decor. However, while you might be trying to avoid Thanksgiving disasters, you don’t want your house to be unadorned when your guests arrive. Here are some simple ideas to decorate for Thanksgiving without effort.

Outside You don’t have to worry about outdoor holiday lights just yet, but giving your outdoor space Thanksgiving and fall accents liven up your home and help welcome guests as they arrive for dinner.

  • Daytime Line your steps with pumpkins — big or small, carved or whole, real or artificial — they give your porch a fall flair. With a leaf wreath, stacks of hay, mums, and strategically places leaves, they make a stunning, end of year display. leaf-wreath
  • After Dark Make your walkway inviting and safe for friends and family with solar garden stakes. Decorative or plain white lights, they illuminate the path to your door with charm. With a yard and porch armed with fall’s bounty guests will be prepared for a festive gathering inside.

Inside When guests enter, you want the fall feel to continue. You don’t have to dress up the entryway for a grand entrance to make it a warm welcome —  a few simple tweaks to your everyday decor can give it an autumnal aura.

  • Living Room Guests don’t sit down at the dinner table as soon as they walk in, but they will want to sit and relax before the food is served. Adding a few fall colors to the living room helps guests unwind before filling up on turkey. Swap out your regular throw pillows for pillows in soft browns or fall designs. On end tables, add warmth with scented candles or vases with fall floral arrangements. For empty or white spaces, add fall leaves — leaf wreaths aren’t just for the front door, they can dress up any wall space. If you’re feeling crafty, you can create a wreath made with felt leaves. pillar-candle
  • Dining Room Decorations for the dining room don’t have to be too elaborate since the focus is on the food, but you still want to add some fall accents. Lovely LED candles give a table and buffet a warm glow without the risks and messy wax of real candles. Line the mantle or top the curio cabinet with simple fall leaf arrangements — now is the time to collect the beautiful yellow, orange and red leaves for extra embellishments! For ideas and tips on how to build great Thanksgiving table decor, check out our article on creating a Thanksgiving Tablescape.

Whether you’re dressing up your dining room for Thanksgiving or you need ideas for Christmas decorations, LTD Commodities has a wide variety of decor to give your home the warm holiday welcome as you usher in winter.