National Puzzle Day: Benefits of Puzzles

PuzzleJanuary 29 is National Puzzle Day — we’ve been celebrating the day since 1995, but puzzles of all types have been tickling our brains for hundreds of years. Experts say we love puzzles because we like to pick out patterns and build knowledge. The satisfaction we get from that knowledge is only one of the benefits of working through puzzles. Here are 5 benefits of puzzles for National Puzzle Day.

The Whole Brain The left side of the brain is where we work through tasks logically. The right side of the brain houses our intuition. We have to use both logic and intuition to piece puzzles together.

PuzzleBrain Fitness Puzzles give your brain a workout — while it makes you happy to solve a puzzle, it may also keep your brain fit. Just like running and aerobics help keep your heart healthy and prevent disease, so may brain exercises.  Some scientists believe intellectual challenges can slow down the deterioration of the brain we experience with old age — some studies even show a correlation between puzzles and staving off Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain-Building For kids, puzzles aren’t just brain boosters, they’re brain builders. Through puzzles, they develop hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills. Start them off with puzzles with large pieces and have them improve their skills when they graduate to puzzles with smaller pieces.

PuzzleCognitive Skills For adults, puzzles don’t build cognitive skills, but children’s brains are like sponges with puzzles. It helps them learn shape recognition, helps strengthen memory and develops critical thinking skills.

Social & Emotional Skills Puzzles help people of all ages with social and emotional skills. They give us a goal to work toward as well as an exercise in perseverance — setting out a box of pieces can seem insurmountable, but if you want to meet your goal it’s will take work!

Celebrate National Puzzle Day by fitting a few pieces together, solving crossword clues or getting your number in the right spot. Anyway way you celebrate National Puzzle Day, you’re celebrating your brain!

National Corn Chip Day: Our Favorite Corn Chip Recipe to Serve at Your Big Game Party

Chicken-Casserole January 29 is National Corn Chip Day! We’re also just days away from the NFL’s biggest game when the Seattle Seahawks take on the New England Patriots. So, while we’re celebrating the corn chip, we thought we’d also give you some ideas for your Big Game Party!

We love the crunch and salty goodness of a corn chip — it’s an amazing way to add a little texture to a casserole for a tasty game day snack. Here’s our favorite corn chip recipe to serve at your Big Game party:

Chicken-CasseroleCheesy, Crunchy Chicken Casserole

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2-10.5 oz cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1-10.5 oz can diced tomatoes with chilis
  • 2 chicken breasts cooked and cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 1-12oz bag of corn chips
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (you can be generous with the cheese)

(if you like it spicy, you can add 1-4 oz can diced green chilis)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sautee until they are slightly soft and a little translucent. Add cream of chicken soup, diced tomatoes and chicken. Mix well and heat until the mixture is just bubbling.

Chicken-Casserole

Prepare a medium casserole dish (11”x7”) with cooking spray. Make a layer of corn chips on the bottom of the dish. Spoon the chicken mixture over the layer of chips followed by a layer of cheese. Continue layering until you run out of ingredients. There should be three layers with cheese on top.

Chicken-Casserole

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly. Let cool on a cooling rack. This recipe makes 4 cups.

Once you starting eating this dish, you won’t be able to stop — and neither will your game day guests! However, if you can’t eat it all by the time your favorite team is celebrating its victory, it makes great leftovers. This casserole is even better the next day or even two days later.

We have more ideas for your Big Game party — check out our Pinterest page for more inspiration to get your party started!

Chicken-Casserole

Celebrate National Have Fun At Work Day

Have-Fun-At-WorkHave you ever thought about how much time you spend at work? Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that most of us spend over 2,300 hours at the office in any given year. It’s high time to make some of those hours more fun. January 28 is National Have Fun at Work Day, and it is a perfect excuse for a little comedy in the cubicle.

How National Have Fun at Work Day is unclear, but what is plain is that it reminds us all of the importance of laughter and camaraderie at the office. Having a little fun at work develops a friendly and positive office culture. Plus, it also improves work satisfaction, morale and loyalty. Here are a few ideas of ways to have a little fun at the workplace on January 28.

potluckPotluck Lunch Everyone has to eat, so why not make the lunch break interesting with a potluck? Host it in the break room or an empty conference room and ask everyone to bring their specialties and favorite dishes. You also can select a theme to inspire some delicious creations. You could also try hosting a chili cook-off or an ice cream social.

Office Supply Crafts All day, you are surrounded by paper clips and sticky notes. Why not get creative with them? Let your imagination run wild, and use office supplies to make new jewelry and crafts. If you have trouble getting started, check out some online collections of . You can even use desk supplies to make your own fleet of!

farkelPlay A Game Invite your office mates to play a game over one of your breaks. It can be as simple as a round of Go Fish or Old Maid with a pack of regular cards. Twisted Farkel is a hilarious game that is suitable for all groups, or you could play a few rounds of Celebrity. Since your break time is limited, try to pick games that do not take a long time to play or set up. The point is to have a little fun in your downtime, not to sweat the details of starting a long board game.

While it should be entertaining, Have Fun at Work Day cannot be an “anything goes” event; after all, you are still at work! Double check with your company’s employee manual or human resources department to make sure your plans will not violate any company rules. In addition, remember to follow basic office etiquette. Of course, make sure your boss or supervisor approves of the activities, and don’t forget to invite them, too.

Seattle vs. New England: Regional Food for the Big Game

fish-and-chipsSunday, February 1, 2015, the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots go head-to-head on the gridiron for football’s championship title. While the players will be battling it out on the ball field, fans and foodies will be duking it out at the dinner table! The Big Game has created a true culinary face-off between two cities and two coasts — but whichever dishes you want to serve at your Big Game party, you’ll be the big winner! Here’s what you have to work with for regional food for the Big Game:

Fish and chips: Both Seattle and Boston boast of some of the best fish and chips in the nation. They both use cod and they’re both served with coleslaw.

Oysters: Seattle and Boston name oysters as hometown favorites. Who has the best should only be determined by experts.

Hot dogs: Seattle makes the hot dog its own by adding cream cheese and grilled onions to it — it was the brainchild of a bagel purveyor who wanted to please late night crowds during the grunge boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s..

Boston hot dog lovers are on the purist side. What makes up Boston’s Fenway Frank (named for the home of the Red Sox) are sauerkraut and mustard. It’s been a Boston fan favorite since the early 1900s.

crabcakesCrab Cakes: Seattle and Boston crab cakes recipes are both derived from Maryland, but Seattle has bragging rights with its Dungeness crabs.

Side dishes: Boston has Boston baked beans. They were a staple for the Pilgrims when they settled in Massachusetts. Settlers didn’t do any work on Sundays to observe the Sabbath — which included cooking meals. To get around this rule, they would cook the beans overnight (molasses being the key ingredient) on Saturdays so they’d have a hot meal to eat on Sunday.

Though it’s not something you can get everywhere in Seattle and they don’t have a rich history (just rich flavor), the garlic fries at Safeco Field are among Seattle’s iconic foods, so we’re pitting them against Boston’s beans. Both the beans and the fries can be made at home with comparable prep times.

Dessert: Boston has an obvious signature dessert: Boston cream pie. A french pastry chef at the Parker House Hotel is credited with coming up with this dessert in 1856. It’s not really a pie — it’s more of a pudding cake (yellow cake, custard filling, chocolate ganache icing) — but it’s celebrated as a Boston favorite and became the official dessert of the commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1996.99668421

Seattle doesn’t have a signature dessert like Boston does, but it does have a famous dessert that can easily be replicated at your Big Game party (and it would make a pretty spectacular end to the game if the Seahawks win): The Lunar Orbiter. Basically, it’s an ice cream sundae served in a bowl atop a bowl filled with dry ice. Before taking a bite, water is poured on to the dry ice to make cloud-like vapors as you eat your sweet treat. They served it at the restaurant that tops the Space Needle for decades, but it’s been replaced by bread pudding, cheesecake parfait and seasonal cobblers.

Of course this list doesn’t include all of each city’s best food (we left off coffee, salmon and clam chowder), but there’s enough on your list to make a pretty amazing spread if you want your Big Game party to outshine the actual game. Even if the team you’re rooting isn’t favored to win, your food will be more than enough for a great party.

Cocktails for Your Big Game Party

footballIt’s the NFC vs. the AFC — the Seattle Seahawks will face the New England Patriots for the Big Game! Now you can really start planning your party for football’s most important weekend of the year.

In addition to rich dips and crunchy chips, cocktails are a must for any Big Game party! Now that we know what teams are contending for the championship title, we can put together perfect cocktails for the team you’re rooting for. Here are a few ideas for cocktails for your Big Game party.

patriots-flagBoston has a number of cocktails that bear its name. While the  Boston Cocktail (3/4 oz gin, 3/4 oz apricot brandy, 1 1/2 tsp grenadine syrup, juice of 1/4 lemon) is the obvious choice because of the name,  Ward 8 has deep roots in the city’s history. It was created in 1898 to honor Boston Politician, Martin Lomasney, and the ward he represented — Ward 8. Here’s how to make it:

  • 2 ounces rye whisky
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

It’s the cocktail for someone with a sweet tooth. If beer is your preference for snack accompaniment, Sam Adams is still one of the most preferred beers in the nation, but there are several Boston craft beers you can pick from to serve your guests.

seahawks-pictureIn Seattle, super fans of the Seahawks want The Last Word. By “The Last Word,” we mean the cocktail. It was originally created in Detroit in the prohibition era, but during a cocktail renaissance in Seattle, it’s found a new home.

Here’s how to make it:

  • ¾ oz. gin
  • ¾ oz. green Chartreuse
  • ¾ oz. maraschino liqueur, like Luxardo
  • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Just like Boston, Seahawks love their beer. There are plenty of Seattle beers to choose from but for football fans, the taste of the northwest your guests might be looking for is Rainier Beer.

You don’t have to have a favorite team to cheer on during the Big Game — football’s most important game can be fun for everyone with the right food, drinks and entertainment. Check out LTD for more products and ideas for your Big Game party!

Artichoke Dip for the Big Game

artichoke-dipThe Big Game is almost here! While we all might be football fans, most of us won’t be in Phoenix to watch it in person — we’ll be at home or at a friend’s house for a party to watch every touchdown, field goal and commercial. It promises to be a great time — but you have to have the right food!

According to the National Restaurant Association, the most popular food for watching the Big Game is dips (spreads and salsa fall into that category). We’ve gone through all our recipes and came up with a favorite that’s both delicious and easy to make (nearly fool-proof!) with minimal ingredients. Our hot Artichoke Dip got the most votes and today we’re sharing it with you. Here’s how to make artichoke dip for the Big Game.

Artichoke Dip

  • 3 14-oz cans artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 ½ cup grated parmesan three-cheese-blend (pecorino and asiago are the other two cheeses, but you can probably get away with just parmesan)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced (you can add garlic if you really like garlic)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Place the artichoke hearts in a large mixing bowl. Break the hearts up with your hands so they’re in scoop-size pieces. Add mayonnaise, garlic and cheese. Mix everything together really well.

artichoke-dip

Place the mixture into an oven-safe casserole dish and spread it out evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until it’s bubbly and golden brown on top. Serve warm with tortilla chips or sliced bread. Makes 4 cups.

This dip is easy to make at the last minute so you can spend more time on games, entertainment and making sure all your guests are taken care of. Not only is it easy to make — it’s delicious! You won’t want to wait until the Big Game to serve it!

We have loads more ideas to make your Big Game party perfect — check out our Pinterest board for tricks and tips to put your party together.

artichoke-dip

Dress Up Your Pet Day

Pet-collarDress Up Your Pet Day is January 14! It couldn’t come at a more perfect time — the gray winter days make taking your dog out for a walk uninspiring. A little bit of color on a mid-January day may put a spring back in your dog’s step — and yours! Here are a few easy ideas for wrapping up your dog for Dress Up Your Pet Day!

How adorable are these pet collars? If your dog doesn’t like to wear clothes, you can make him cute by just adding fancy flare to his collar. They come in three styles — orange and black, red and green or red, white and blue!

For a DIY collar, turn an old, favorite t-shirt into a bandana! Strategically cut a triangle out of the t-shirt you want to salvage and pass on to your pup and you’re done! And you don’t even have to break out the sewing machine. This is a great way to upcycle your favorite team shirt so even your dog can show team support for the Big Game!Pet-bandana

There are so many items we don’t want to wear, but they’re not in a shape that’s bad enough to throw it out. For instance, the winter hat. We don’t wear it out as quickly as styles change, which makes it a perfect candidate for an adorable sweater for a small dog or cat. Check out Pretty Little Things’ pattern for a hat-turned dog sweater. If you want to make it a no-sew project, try embellishing the edges using hot glue and embroidered edging.

Here’s a solution for all those socks who lost their match in the laundry — the sock sweater for tiny dogs (and cats)! Howcast does a step-by-step tutorial on how to turn a sock into a sweater without digging up your thread and sewing needles! Your pup will be ready to go out all dressed up for a walk in less than ten minutes. So easy and sew cute!

pet-coatIf your socks aren’t big enough for your pup, try using sweat pants or yoga pants to make something you can dress your dog in. Sweet, Cute and Cuddly Pups has a no-sew pattern to make pants into a dog sweater. She also has a few other more intricate patterns to try out for Dress Up Your Pet Day!

There are lots of ways to dress up your pet — whether they just need a new collar or they need a nose-to-tail coat, your dog will be exponentially cuter (maybe even warmer!) when you dress him  up.

 

Five-Minute Fudge for the Big Game

five-minute-fudgeFood, fun and football! We’re getting ready for football’s biggest game! It’s our favorite reason for a mid-winter celebration. For our Big Game party, people come for the football and stay for the food. Because there will be a lot of people to feed we want what we serve to be delicious and easy to put together. While wings and nachos are must-haves at Big Game parties, you need a little something sweet to break up all the salty snacks. We thought most of your entertaining energy should go to dips and spreads, so we’re sharing our easiest sweet treat to satisfy sugar cravings during the Big Game: Five-Minute Fudge! Here’s how you make it:

five-minute-fudge

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 oz bag of chocolate chips
  • ⅔ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

 

Line an 8×8 casserole dish or cake pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Put the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.

Top it with the condensed milk.

five-minute-fudgePut the bowl in the microwave on high for one minute. Stir the chocolate and condensed milk until it’s well-combined.

If the chocolate isn’t completely melted, put it in the microwave for another 15 seconds. Stir until it’s smooth.

Stir in the vanilla followed by the nuts. Spread the fudge into the aluminum foil-lined dish.

Place in the freezer for an hour or until it’s hard. Remove the foil with the fudge from the pan.

On a cutting board, flip the fudge over so the foil is on top.

Remove the foil.

five-minute-fudgeCut the fudge into one-inch squares. Serve at room temperature. Makes 49 one-inch pieces of fudge.

This fudge takes so little time to make, you’ll be able to concentrate on cheering for your team. In fact, this fudge is so easy to make, it’ll be your new favorite go to treat for parties even after the Big Game!

We have more ideas on what to do for your Big Game party — check out our Pinterest board for inspiration to make your Big Game party awesome!

five-minute-fudge

National Cuddle Up Day: Items for Cuddling Up

It’s January and that means we need to get warm any way we can! But the best way to get warm in the winter is to cuddle up with a loved one — and January 6 happens to be National Cuddle Up Day — in case someone needed a reminder! But even if we have someone special to cuddle up with, we still we need to be draped in all things cozy before we can cuddle! Here are five items for cuddling up we think you could use.

sock-monkey-pjGet silly and snug in the Women’s Sock Monkey Loungewear! You remember the stuffed monkeys from when you were a kid, and this outfit lets you pull a piece of the past to the present for you on Cuddle Up Day! The top is a hoodie with a sock monkey face, complete with pompom hat.. The pants have footies with sock monkey faces to keep your toes warm while you’re cuddling up to watch a movie. Comfy, cuddly and childlike, Sock Monkey Loungewear is just what you need in January!

fleece-sheetsWarm and fuzzy, these Fleece Sheet Sets make the end of a cold day pleasant and they’re perfect for cuddling in! They provide ultimate comfort to keep you cozy for the best night’s sleep possible. The exceptionally soft fleece fabric will keep you and your cuddler so warm all night you won’t want get out of bed in the morning!

flannel-pjCuddle up with your kids in these Matching PJs and Plush Sets! While you’re cuddling them, they’ll be cuddling their adorable stuffed animals in matching PJs! Even when you’re not there, your little ones will stay snug as a bug in a rug with this set.

Comfy-ThrowMake cuddle time fun with this comfy throw! Cuddle with the King, Batman, Superman or even Harry Potter! These throws are somewhere between a blanket and a robe made with soft fleece so you and your cuddlebug can move freely and still stay cozy.

open-front-sweaterIf you’re not ready to cuddle up, you can still stay cozy in the chunky knit of the Women’s Long Open Front Sweater. This snug cardigan works and looks best in layers over T-shirts and blouses with the shawl collar and ribbed trim. You’ll look stylish and be warm at work or when you’re out and about. At home on the couch in lounge pants, it’s the perfect accessory for cuddling up.

We only have a few months left of winter — after that, we won’t have an excuse to get cuddly! Cuddle Up with your loved ones now! You’ll need the extra warmth to get through January.

Favorite Holiday Gift Ideas For Cats

cat-tunnel-towerThe holidays are right around the corner, and there’s no better way to celebrate than showing your cat how much you love her! Thankfully, cats are easy to please—a few treats, the right toy, and a little attention from you makes for a happy holiday. Here are our favorite holiday gift ideas for cats.

Toys A busy kitty is a happy kitty! In addition to being fun, playing helps cats exercise. It gives them a way to let their inner predators out. Plus, playtime gives you the chance to bond. Work them into a frenzy with a Jaws Laser Collar Pet Toy. Interactive toys like Hide and Seek Pet Toys will keep them going for hours.

CAt-Holiday-Pet-HouseBed Or Pet Cave Winter weather makes kitties want to curl up with you, but they still need a nap spot all their own. Give their snoozing seasonal flair with a Holiday Pet House. You can turn any sofa or chair into their special snuggle area with a quilted pet throw. In addition to being soft, it will protect the furniture from fur and damage.

Cat-TowerScratching Post/Play Gym Even if your cats do not have claws, they instinctively feel the need to stretch and scratch. Give them a place to do that while they climb and explore with a play gym. In homes with more than one feline, the 4-Ft. Multilevel Cat Tower with Scratchers is essential. It ensures that every cat gets room to play and scratch. Give them three levels of fun with a Cat Tunnel Tower. A Complete Cat Play Gym has a sisal post and two dangling toys for them to swat at.

No matter what you decided to give your cat for the holidays, make sure to also include the present of your time. While your pet may seem very independent, even the coolest kitty likes a cozy lap to sit in from time to time. Give them some attention, and they will be purring in no time.