Valentine’s Day: The Candy Connection

chocolate-heartsCandy — especially chocolate! — is one of our favorite things to eat so it’s no surprise that Valentine’s Day is an exciting day for candy and chocolate lovers. It’s one day we throw our resolutions for disciplined diets out the window and we can indulge in our favorite treats. The tradition of candy and chocolates on Valentine’s Day had to start somewhere, so we did a little bit of digging to figure out why we give our sweethearts sweets on Valentine’s Day.

Romance We know St. Valentine as the Roman bishop who, in the third century, performed secret marriages for soldiers when it was forbidden. St. Valentine was jailed for this and wrote his jailer’s daughter a letter and signed it “Your Valentine.” This where it is believed the Valentine as we know it was born, but it was hundreds of years before candy became part of the tradition.

Sweets to the Sweet The idea of Valentine’s was preserved through word of mouth and tradition for the next few hundred years — and then literature set the word in stone. Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century poem “Parliament of Fowls” was the first literary reference to Valentine’s Day, but it was Shakespeare who made the reference “sweets to the sweet” in Hamlet in the early 1600s.

chocolate-heartsFood of Love Chocolate has a chemical in it called phenylethylamine. It’s a stimulant that’s released in the brain when people fall in love. The Aztecs, who discovered the cocoa bean, recognized this quality early on. In the early 15th century, Aztec leader Montezuma allegedly indulged in cocoa beans for his romantic  rendezvous. Aztecs also used it as gifts and served it at weddings.

Chocolates for Boxes After chocolate was introduced to Europe, it was initially only consumed as a beverage until the 1840s when manufacturers figured out how to make it into solid candies. Many credit chocolatier Richard Cadbury for Valentine’s Day chocolates. It’s a popular theory that he was the person behind the heart-shaped boxes when his father’s chocolate recipe evolved from drinking chocolate to eating chocolate in the late 1800s. While Richard Cadbury did design elaborate boxes for fancy chocolates, the company doesn’t claim he was the person who popularized Valentine’s Day boxes of chocolate. However, according to the New York Times, confectioners started selling Valentine’s Day chocolates in heart-shaped boxes in the 1890s.

conversation-heartsCandy Chat About the same time Cadbury was perfecting chocolate, a Massachusetts company was innovating other types of sweets. New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) designed the first candy machine in 1847. In 1866, they started producing “Conversation Candies,” a precursor to conversation hearts. It was around 1902 Sweetheart conversation hearts began production. Those conversation candies are still made today with updated phrases. This year’s new phrases include “BFF” (Best Friends Forever), “TE AMO” (I love you in Spanish), “JE T’AIME” (I love you in French), and “Pugs and Kittens” (for animal lovers).

While there may not be an actual connection between sweets and sweethearts, Valentine’s Day is an excuse to eat chocolate and candy guilt-free. Whether you use the day to feed your sweet tooth or you take the day to honor your sweetheart, the tradition of sending Valentine’s Day candy will live on.

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.

6 Personalized Gifts to Add to Your Holiday List

It’s time to start ticking off names on your holiday gift lists, but where to begin is challenging when you want to make each gift personal and thoughtful. We have some ideas to get you started! Here are 6 personalized gifts to add to your holiday list.

LTD-Personalized-sleeping-bagsPersonal Bedtime You don’t have to worry about sleeping bag mix-ups at slumber parties when kids bring their own Personalized Sleeping Bag! Comfortable and cozy, each child’s name is stitched into the top of the sleeping bag.

LTD-Personalized-dog-welcome-matsPersonal Pups For dog owners, show your love through their pets with a Personalized Dog Breed Doormat. Choose your pup’s breed and put his or her name across the bone on the dog’s collar. Rubber backing keeps it in place indoors or in a covered area outdoors.

LTD-Personalized-phone-casesPersonal Talk Snapping selfies has never been so personal with a Picture Frame Personalized Phone Case. Your loved one can easily swap and change pictures whenever he or she wants making it a one-of-a-kind smartphone case. The outer shell protects the phone from damage, and the inner picture frame adds a personal touch.

LTD-Personalized-PendantsPersonal Charm The Personalized Name Drop Pendant is more than an accessory, it’s jewelry that tells your loved one’s story. For a mom with her children’s names or a grandmother with her grandchildren’s names, the necklace is customized with up to 5 pendants, each with a name up to 9 letters long. The necklace comes on an adjustable 18″ chain with a lobster claw clasp.

LTD-Personalized-Pub-PrintPersonal Victories This is the man-cave must-have for the season: Personalized Framed Sports Pub Print. The framed sign features a favorite NFL team along with your loved one’s own printed customization. Pub marquee features the pub name of your choosing and the proprietor section can be personalized as well.

LTD-Personalized-Family-pajamasPersonal Holidays Christmas morning is one of the more personal family days of the year —  matching Personalized Snowman Pajamas! Each set comes with 39 iron-on letters you can use to personalize the long-sleeved top. Long flannel pants have an all-over snowman print and an elastic waistband for a comfortable fit. These pajamas are perfect for lounging by the fire or opening presents.

We have presents for everyone on your gift list. Whether you want to put your loved one’s name on it or you’re looking for a gag gift, LTD Commodities has hundreds of products for you to choose from this holiday season.

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.

Items We Adore: LTD’s Product Picks for the Week

It is finally time to get down to some serious holiday shopping. This magical time of year is all about children, and that shows in the variety of toys, clothing, and other delights waiting for you at LTD Commodities. Here are our Items We Adore: LTD’s Product Picks for the Week.

Your little girl will feel like she's caring for a real baby with a La Newborn Real Life 14" Doll Set or Outfits.

Your little girl will feel like she’s caring for a real baby with a La Newborn® Real Life 14″ Doll Set or Outfits.

Add adventure and excitement to their pretend covert operations with the Military Walkie-Talkie Command Center.

Add adventure and excitement to their pretend covert operations with the Military Walkie-Talkie Command Center.

Jelly Belly® Gift Boxes include 10 or 40 different flavors of the world-famous, delicious candy.

Jelly Belly® Gift Boxes include 10 or 40 different flavors of the world-famous, delicious candy.

Your child can save the day with a Rush & Rescue Remote Control Vehicle!

Your child can save the day with a Rush & Rescue™ Remote Control Vehicle!

 

 

6 Things to Do to Winterize Your Home

483590383We’re starting to feel the chill of fall and it’s only going to get colder. It’s just a matter of time before it’s time to turn on the heat and pull out the wool sweaters and layer discount bedding to keep warm at night. But our homes need to transition, too. Here are 6 things you need to do to winterize your home to save energy and money.

Insulation It’s easy to forget how much money we can save in heating costs with insulation. You may already have insulation in your walls and attic, but you may be able to add more to reduce energy consumption.  Energy.gov has a guide on where your house should be insulated to minimize energy use. If you want to take an extra step toward lower heating bills, you can also use a thermal insulation blanket for your water heater to trap heat and prevent it from escaping too quickly during winter months.

Roof Do a spot check of the rooftop. Check for wear and damage and if there are any missing shingles. Around the chimney, make sure the flashing is intact and that it’s not a source for drafts or leaks.

Clean out gutters and downspouts so they’re free of leaves and debris; with clean gutters, rain and melting snow won’t get trapped on your roof and cause water damage. The downspouts should drain at least five feet from your home’s foundation to prevent water from leaking into your house.

winter-curtainsDoors and Windows Caulking and weather stripping your windows can cut down on energy costs significantly. Alternatively, indoor window insulating kits work very well for the winter to keep cold air out of your home. They require a lot less work than caulking and weather stripping, but plastic may not suit your home décor. Consider heavy drapes or curtains to mask the plastic for the winter months. Plastic insulation doesn’t work for exterior doors; weather stripping at the sides and bottoms of doors is your best bet.

Heating System Before it gets cold, turn on your heat to make sure it’s working properly. If it doesn’t kick on, you can try to figure out what the problem is on your own with a little bit of troubleshooting, but if you’re not confident with your home improvement skills, call a service technician to check it out before it gets cold and he gets busy. If it is working properly, make sure to change your air filter once a month and clean the heating vents.

Plumbing In cold weather climates, frozen pipes are a serious problem. When pipes freeze, they sometimes burst, causing costly damage. It’s not as much of a problem in the middle of the house where it’s generally warm in the winter, but in colder parts of your home like the basement and crawlspaces, insulate your pipes with foam insulation. For exterior pipes and faucets, drain the pipes and shut off the water supply. Automatic sprinkler systems require a professional to drain the underground pipes.

When you travel for the holidays and you turn off your heat, remember to also turn off your water. This might save you from coming home to expensive repairs.

fireplaceChimney and Fireplace Chimneys attract critters during the summer months; make sure squirrels and pigeons haven’t made a home there and it’s clear of any other obstructions. Make sure the flue opens and closes properly. When both of those things are done, make sure your chimney draws out smoke. You can do this by burning a few newspapers to create smoke. If your living room fills with smoke, there’s likely creosote buildup and you’ll need to bring in a professional chimney sweep to clean it out.

Winterizing is a big project. You can save time by having an energy audit done on your home. Though it costs a little bit extra, having a certified professional come in and figure all the leaks and areas you missed may save you a lot of money on energy costs in the long run.

LTD Commodities has everything you need to make your home cute and cozy this winter. From baby toys to quilts to keep you warm, shop LTD Commodities for the best products at the lowest prices.

Cabin Fever: How to Entertain Your Kids This Winter

kids playingMost of the U.S has been experiencing the worst winter in many years. We’ve seen wind chills fall as low as negative 40 degrees in some areas of the country! With temperatures this low it’s not safe for the kiddos to go out and play, but what are they to do? Below is a quick list of things to do in your home to keep the kids happy and your sanity in tact.

Hot Chocolate Bar

With sub-zero temperatures outside, it?s not always easy to stay warm inside. Instead of simply huddling together in front of the fireplace, how about making a fun hot chocolate bar with different kinds of toppings? From peppermint sticks to marshmallows to sprinkles to whipped cream, there are plenty of fun things to add to your hot chocolate. Have your kids help prepare the different toppings and set up the hot chocolate bar, and then have fun making different concoctions. For added fun, invite a few of their friends over and make it into a party!

Play Active Indoor Games

There are plenty of indoor games that help get you and kids moving without putting a football through the TV. Start with simple games that require a little activity like WiFit, charades, and indoor Olympics. You can also have a great time by creating an indoor obstacle course! Have the kids follow a specific path, such as over the back of the couch, under the kitchen table, etc., and give them little challenges along the way, like bouncing a ball in a hula hoop, or doing a somersault.

Dress Up and Put on a Show

Got a few fancy dresses and Halloween costumes? What about props and accessories? Pull out whatever dress-up materials you can find and plan a play for you and the kids to put on at the end of the day! You can make up your own script, or base it on a popular story like Frozen or The Lion King. Check out your kids? fun books and comics for ideas. It?s a great way to pass a snow day!

Build a Blanket City

Yeah, not just a fort, build an entire city. Pull out blankets, ladders, sofa cushions, throws, and all the pillows you can find, and actually create blanket forts throughout the entire house (maybe skip the kitchen and bathrooms). You can name each room, create a royal city, and pretend the hallways are moats so you have to row your (skateboard) boat to get from room to room. This is a great game for a Friday or Saturday so you can leave the forts up overnight!

Have Fun in the Kitchen

Cold and icy snow days remind us of baking cookies and getting marshmallow mustaches from hot chocolate, so give your kids the same memories! Make it a little healthier by cutting vegetables into fun shapes, making fruit kebabs, or even making snowmen out of varying sizes of fruits! You can also get crazy with decorative cookies, making your own chocolate, snowman cupcakes, and more. If you?ve got older kids, you can use this opportunity to teach them to make special family recipes.

Image Source: Fun Family Education

Items We Adore: LTD?s Product Picks For The Week

patriotic heartAnother week over, so we?re highlighting some of our favorite picks this week! It may be warming up in some places around the globe, but it?s the very beginning of the 2014 Winter Olympics. We?ve decided to compile a list that combines patriotism, Olympic-watching parties, and a little inspiration to host your own family Olympics in the next few weeks.

Glass Spinner Stakes ? Patriotic Heart

Get your patriotism off to a strong start with this fun red-white-and-blue glass spinner heart. With 230 Americans off to the Winter Olympics, this is the time to show your American pride, watch today?s opening ceremony, and do so by displaying our nation?s colors and flag!

Set of 4 Tumblers

Coming in four different colors, including red, white, and blue, this set of 4 tumblers is the perfect addition to any Winter Olympics celebration. Serve cocktails and kids? drinks in these great insulated mugs to enjoy the games, no matter where you are!

Handled Casserole Dishes

Again, if you?re entertaining for this year?s Winter Games, make sure your tools are up to the task. We like this three-piece round casserole dish set for both cooking and serving. You can make warm Kale-Artichoke Dip in one, and serve cool pita chips and baby carrots in the other.? With three sizes, these multi-purpose dishes are ideal for serving up a storm! Stay warm together watching the Olympics and enjoy dips, soups, casseroles, and more!

Giddy Up Racing Horse Hoppers

There may not be any horse-related events in the Wither Olympics, but that doesn?t mean you can?t create your own backyard competition with these kids? horse hoppers! If you want to make it similar to traditional Steeplechase, consider adding hula-hoops the kids have to hop into and cones they must hop around. Other easy ideas for backyard Olympics events include running races, egg toss, obstacle courses, and shortened variations of croquet or mini golf.

Sports Superstar Gold Cards

And finally, now that you?ve got your own Olympic Games in your home or living room, you need to have some sort of medal or prize, right? We think these collectible gold trading cards are perfect. Honoring sports icons like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, they certainly fit in with the sports theme! Use the same medal for each event, or get the whole set.