Black Friday marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Come Black Friday, shoppers strive to get the lowest prices on gifts for their loved ones.
Much of the focus of Black Friday is on finding the best deals, but it can be interesting to take a breath and learn how this phenomenon developed and how it has evolved over the years.
The term "black Friday" was originally associated with gold prices and manipulation on the part of speculators Jay Gould and James Fisk. This scandal occurred in September 1869. Commodity prices plummeted 50 percent as a result, and the term "black Friday" was coined to refer to that drop.
The phrase "black Friday" also became famous for all the wrong reasons in 1966. Philadelphia police used it to refer to the Friday traffic jams and crowding in downtown stores from tourists and shoppers who flooded into the city in advance of the Army-Navy football game held the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year. Bigger crowds and rowdiness contributed to long hours and stressful shifts for local police.
Black Friday reinvented
The retail industry started using the term "Black Friday" in the late 1980s. Spin doctors turned previously negative connotations into positive ones by associating the phrase with stores turning a profit and moving accounting ledgers from "red to black" thanks to big year-end sales. Retailers and consumers rallied around low-cost "doorbusters" and other discounted prices.
Interestingly enough, according to the National Retail Federation, Black Friday really hasn't been the most lucrative day for retailers over the years. In fact, greater profits and larger crowds are often seen on the last Saturday preceeding Christmas.
Shopping weekend evolves
While Black Friday may have been the catalyst, in recent years shoppers have made the entire weekend of Black Friday a lucrative one for retailers. Many stores now open on Thanksgiving and extend sales through the entire weekend. Small Business Saturday and Sunday promote patronizing mom-and-pop stores. Cyber Monday emerged when online shopping became a popular way to grab deals, and it marks the close of the opening weekend of the holiday shopping season. In 2017, Black Friday weekend attracted 174 million shoppers who spent an average of $335.47, according to the NRF.
Jack-o'-lanterns and other carved pumpkin designs are frequently the centerpieces of Halloween festivities. The twinkling lights and orange glow of jack-o'-lanterns can add ambiance to any autumn event. The trouble with carving pumpkins is that most people want to do it right away, only to discover their pumpkins wilt and decay long before Halloween.
Nothing ruins Halloween more than visiting a home to trick-or-treat and not getting candy. Equally disappointing is a sad pumpkin display withering away on a front porch. Even though all pumpkins will eventually rot, certain tips can keep carvings from collapsing too soon.
· Choose a sturdy pumpkin. Inspect the pumpkin of your choosing carefully, looking for gouges, spots and holes. Even a small blemish can quickly expand into a mushy mess. Select pumpkins with even color and firm flesh, and make sure that the pumpkin doesn't feel tender when you push on the skin.
· Visit local pumpkin stands. Pumpkins that have been shipped miles and miles in hot cargo trucks may be overly ripened or battered. Pumpkins that were grown nearby may be fresher. Plus, buying pumpkins locally supports local farmers.
· Scrape the insides of the pumpkin thoroughly. Any moist bits inside the pumpkin will mold quickly. The pumpkin carving experts at Pumpkin Masters recommend scraping as much of the "guts" out as possible, leaving about a one-inch thickness of the wall of the pumpkin.
· Coat the pumpkin. Preservation methods may aim to keep the pumpkin hydrated and inhibit mold and other microbial growth. Commercially sold pumpkin preservation products, such as Pumpkin Fresh®, hold up well. Soaking and spraying carved pumpkins with a bleach-and-water solution also seems to preserve designs.
· Keep it out of the elements. Store carved pumpkins in a cool, dry place. This will help slow down the rotting process for pumpkins exposed to outdoor fungi, other microbes and warm sunlight.
· Use an artificial light source. Reduce the heat inside of the pumpkin and encourage hydration by selecting a battery-powered light instead of a lit candle to illuminate the carving.
· Skip the carving. Once pumpkin skin is compromised, microbes can enter. In lieu of carving, paint or decorate pumpkins in other ways if you want them to stay fresh for a long time. Glow in the dark paint can help pumpkins stand out at night.
Carved pumpkins may last a week or two, while uncut pumpkins can last for a month or more. Keeping pumpkins hydrated and mold-free will prolong your designs.
Come Halloween, youngsters' attentions are understandably focused on costumes and candy. Their parents, however, are likely more concerned with their kids' safety.
Trick-or-treating kids might not pay much mind to safety. As a result, it can be hard for parents to get kids to grasp the importance of being safe on Halloween. The following strategies might make that task easier.
· Discuss costumes well in advance of Halloween. Many kids are so enthusiastic about Halloween that they know which costumes they hope to wear long before October 31. Parents can discuss potential costumes well in advance of Halloween before kids even know what they want to wear. Doing so gives parents a chance to encourage kids to choose bright costumes that will make them more visible to drivers on Halloween night. Waiting to discuss costumes increases the likelihood that kids will already have an outfit in mind, making it harder for parents to convince them to choose something safe.
· Explain that some tailoring might be necessary to make gathering all that candy a lot easier. Superman doesn't trip on his cape in the movies, and youngsters dressed up as the Man of Steel shouldn't trip on their capes, either. When kids pick costumes, explain to them that you might need to do some tailoring before they go trick-or-treating. Explain to kids that costumes should be trip-proof so they can seamlessly go from house to house in search of their favorite goodies.
· Create a bag or bucket design day. Depending on what kids will use to carry the candy they accumulate this Halloween, parents can plan a bag or bucket design day a few days in advance. Kids will enjoy this chance to get in the Halloween spirit, and parents can encourage youngsters to decorate their bags and buckets with reflective tape that will make them more visible to drivers.
· Talk up trick-or-treating with friends. As Halloween approaches, parents can discuss how much fun kids will have going door-to-door with many of their friends. This is a good way to ensure kids trick-or-treat in large groups, making them more visible to drivers. In addition, kids trick-or-treating in large groups might be too busy joking with their friends to notice when one or two parents tag along as chaperones.
Parents can discuss Halloween safety with their children in ways that make it fun to be safe while trick-or-treating.
Homemade candied apples are a fixture come Halloween. Sweet, delectable and very easy to make, these apples are a staple at parties and may even be distributed to trick-or-treaters. As anyone who has bit into a sticky-sweet candied apple can attest, although delicious, these apples are not exactly a healthy snack. Yet, with a few, easy modifications, it's possible to improve the nutritional value of candied apples.
With ingredients like caramel, marshmallow, chocolate fudge, and sugar, it's easy to see how candied apples do not embody a healthy treat, despite an apple being underneath all those candy adornments. Try these ideas to increase the nutritional value of this beloved treat.
· Make your own caramel using condensed milk, brown sugar and butter. By controlling the ingredients, you can avoid extra sugar and any additives in commercially sold caramel toppings.
· Use honey for the outer coating of the apple. Then roll it in chopped almonds or granola.
· Coat apples with dark chocolate, which contains less sugar than milk chocolate and is packed with antioxidants. Sprinkle with dried cranberries and chopped walnuts.
· Substitute actual cinnamon for melted cinnamon candies in recipes. Mix powdered cinnamon with a light corn syrup and then dip the apples to coat.
· Swirl homemade raspberry jam with an all-natural peanut butter and spread it on the apples for a gourmet take on peanut butter and jelly.
· Hazelnut spreads are all the rage right now. Use your favorite chocolate hazelnut spread on the apples and sprinkle with granola for crunch.
· Drizzle the apples with your sugary concoction rather than dipping them to cut down on the sugar. This still provides much flavor but does so without all of the sugar.
· Dip apples in melted cheese, like brie or gouda. Sprinkle with bacon bits for a sweet and salty combination.
Experiment with your own flavors. Making your own candied apples, rather than purchasing them from stores, enables you to control the ingredients and how much actual candy goes into the recipe.
What are the horrors of Halloween? Many might say encountering a gruesome ghoul or a blood-sucking vampire is the most horrific part of Halloween. However, an allergic reaction can be just as scary as ghosts and goblins come Halloween.
The candy a child eats, the makeup kids use as part of their costumes or even the costume itself can cause an allergic reaction. Parents and kids need to be careful and exercise their due diligence to avoid possible allergens.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Halloween makeup can trigger an allergic reaction or symptoms of asthma. Inexpensive makeup may contain preservatives that can cause a rash and swelling of the skin. Formaldehyde is a very common preservative used in many of these products, but some products labeled "formaldehyde-free" can still cause allergic reactions. Certain makeup is not advisable to use around the mouth or eyes, so be certain to check all packaging for any warnings. High-quality theater makeup may be a better option than the cheap crayon sticks sold at costume stores. In any event, always test makeup on a small area of the skin well in advance of Halloween. If a rash or any abnormality occurs, do not use the makeup.
Costumes can induce an allergic reaction as well. If costumes are older and packed away in a basement or attic, trapped dust and dust mites can make it difficult for those with allergies or asthma to breathe. Accessories used for many common Halloween costumes also may cause reactions. Crowns, magic wands and faux jewelry that uses metals like nickel may cause rashes and irritation. Beware of nickel and cobalt, which can trigger allergic reactions.
Those who want to create a spooky environment at their Halloween parties should be advised that fog machines can trigger asthma attacks in some people. It's best to check with party attendants before firing up the fog machine.
Food allergies abound in children and adults. Many commercially produced candy and chocolate bars are manufactured in factories that also process peanuts and other tree nuts, so exercise caution with treats. Baked goods may contain wheat, gluten, eggs, soy, and any number of other food allergens. It's wise to have a variety of inedible treats available for trick-or-treaters or party-goers, including stickers, pencils and small toys.
Halloween should be an enjoyable day for the young and the young at heart. This beloved holiday can be made safer by avoiding common allergy triggers.
One of the first questions vegetarians are asked when acknowledging their dietary preferences is, "Are you getting enough protein?" Many people assume it's impossible to consume sufficient protein on a diet that consists largely of fruits and vegetables. But many vegetarians get the protein their bodies need.
Many people are overly concerned with protein intake, eating more than they really need to meet health requirements. The Recommended Daily Allowance of protein in the United States is .36 grams of protein for every pound a person weighs. Many people need less protein than they think, which is likely one reason many nonvegetarians eat roughly one-third more protein than vegetarians. The Vegetarian Resource Group says there are no distinct health advantages to consuming a diet high in protein.
How protein works
The body digests protein into amino acids to fuel its activity and aid in tissue repair. There are 20 different amino acids in food, but the human body can only make 11 of them. Your body cannot synthesize essential amino acids, which must come from your diet. The nine essential amino acids, which cannot be produced by the body, must be obtained strictly from food. Foods that contain all of the amino acids necessary are called "complete protein sources." Many animal products are great sources of complete protein, but complete protein also can be found in plant-based foods. One food that is a complete protein source is the soybean.
Other plant-based foods may not be complete proteins by themselves, but when eaten together, can complement one another to provide all the necessary amino acids. For example, combining beans and legumes with certain grains, seeds and nuts is a way to get the protein one needs. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says that intentionally combining foods at strict ratios is not necessary. As long as your diet contains a variety of foods, many protein needs are easily met.
Less protein healthier?
Many fad diets point to high protein sources for weight loss and improved athletic performance. But reports published in journals like Nutrition and Cancer and the American Journal of Epidemiology indicate high intake of protein, particularly animal protein, may be linked to osteoporosis, cancer and impaired kidney function. Eating a healthy, moderate amount of protein, such as that in vegetarian or vegan diets, can be beneficial.
Many vegetarians need not worry about their protein intake. As long as diets include plenty of grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, vegetarians can meet their bodies' protein needs.
Few items signal the fall harvest season more than the bright, orange pumpkins that dot fields and liven up displays outside of homes and businesses. Come fall, many pumpkins are turned into grinning jack-o-lanterns just in time for Halloween. But there are many other uses for pumpkins as well.
Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Early Native Americans relied on pumpkins as a source of food that helped them survive long winters. Pumpkins could be roasted, baked, boiled, and dried, and they were eaten and used as medicine. Pumpkin blossoms were added to stews. The shells of the pumpkins could be dried and used as eating and storage vessels.
While pumpkins may now be symbolic of Halloween, the following are a handful of additional ways this versatile fruit can be put to use.
Pumpkins contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals that can help replenish the skin. Pumpkin purée can be mixed with honey, aloe vera gel, olive oil, and a bit of cornmeal to create an exfoliating mask for the face or body. Pumpkin also can be used to rejuvenate dry or tired skin from cold weather.
Honey, pumpkin and yogurt can be mixed together and used to condition hair. Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash it out and shampoo.
Foods and beverages
Pumpkin purée is the basis for many tasty, pumpkin-infused treats. Purée can be used in pies, cakes, muffins, breads, and many additional foods. Pumpkin purée also may be found in certain beverages, such as smoothies and shakes. A bit of spiced purée may appear as flavoring in teas and coffees.
Roasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy treat. Foodies suggest using the seeds from "sugar pumpkins" or the ones best for making pies. Boil the seeds for a few minutes before draining. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and put the seeds in a single layer. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and serve.
Pumpkin wines and beers are popular as well. There are many recipes for developing sweet, fermented beverages, which tend to be especially popular in the fall.
The "guts" of the pumpkin can be simmered along with aromatics and other vegetables to create a vegetable stock perfect for soups and broths.
Pumpkins can also add to one's home décor during the fall. Pumpkins can be carved for Halloween displays, hollowed-out to hold tealights or simply left on tables and used as centerpieces. Larger pumpkins may be used as natural flower pots for mums or other seasonal floral displays. As the Native Americans once did, pumpkins can be hollowed-out and used as bowls to serve favorite soups and dips.
Use a hollowed, small pumpkin as a natural aromatic candle holder. Cut holes in the sides to vent the exhaust. Rub aromatic spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla bean, on the inside of the pumpkin. Insert a beeswax candle in the bottom of the pumpkin and let it send inviting aromas into the air.
Pumpkins are a versatile fruit that can serve many purposes beyond just jack-o-lanterns and pies.
No holiday celebration is complete without dessert. The holiday season is one time of year when no one seems too worried about indulging in dessert or having an extra cookie. Many families have their own traditions when it comes to holiday fare, but those who want to wow their guests with something new this holiday season can try the following recipe for "Chocolate-Dipped Sesame Tuiles" courtesy of Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage's "Chocolate Obsession" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang). Inspired by the classic French tuile cookies, these delectable treats are sure to draw a crowd to your holiday dessert table this season.
Chocolate-Dipped Sesame Tuiles
Makes about 48 cookies
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, preferably unhulled
1/3 cup granulated cane sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tablespoon kosher salt
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter with 82 percent butterfat, very soft
8 ounces tempered 70 percent chocolate for coating cookies
Flavorless vegetable oil for the pans
To bake the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottoms of four 12-by-18-inch sheet pans with parchment paper. Lightly coat the paper with flavorless vegetable oil. Put a rolling pin on a work surface. If you have two rolling pins, ready both.
Combine the sesame seeds, flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk by hand until combined. Mix - don't beat - the egg whites into the sesame seed mixture with a rubber spatula. Stir in the butter with the spatula until no streaks of butter remain.
Measure 2 level teaspoons batter onto a prepared sheet pan. Using a small offset spatula, spread it into a round about 31/2 inches in diameter. Repeat with the remaining batter, putting 8 rounds on each pan and leaving 11/2 inches between the rounds.
Bake the trays, one at a time, until the cookies are a uniform golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and, while the cookies are still warm, run the offset spatula under each cookie and place it upside down on the rolling pin so that it curls around the pin. (You should be able to do 5 cookies on a rolling pin, so by the time the sixth cookie is about to be draped over the pin, a few should be ready to be moved. Ideally, though, you will have two rolling pins.) If some of the cookies are not a uniform color, or if some cool too much and are no longer pliable, return them to the oven for another minute until evenly golden brown and again pliable.
Leave the cookies on the rolling pin until they cool completely and have become brittle, a matter of seconds. Carefully lift them off and store them in an airtight container at room temperature until you are ready to dip them. They will keep well for up to 3 days.
Dip the cookies in chocolate:
You can store the cookies and dip them on a day when you have tempered chocolate for another use. Or you can temper chocolate specifically to finish the cookies. Use a tempering machine to temper the chocolate.
Dip the convex (smooth) side of each cookie into the chocolate and then smooth the chocolate with a small offset spatula. Place on a work surface, chocolate side up, and let sit until the chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.
Store in an airtight container in a cool place, not in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to one week.
With the holiday season upon us, many people's schedules are hectic once again. There are social events and family gatherings to attend, shopping ventures to make, and decorating to be done. While fun, the holiday season can be a time of added pressure, which leads to stress and other unhealthy situations.
At a time when you want to be at your best, stress can affect your physical well-being. The American Psychological Association says the hustle and bustle of the holidays has psychological consequences for some people. More people are inclined to feel that their stress increases, rather than decreases, around the holidays. The National Institute of Mental Health says chronic stress can lower immunity and cause excretory, digestive and reproductive systems to stop working properly. Stress also may cause you to eat unhealthy snacks to cope, and that can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Stress is not the only potential health hazard that can arise around the holidays. A greater number of parties expose you to an abundance of foods and drinks you may not consume on a regular basis, and that can lead to a lot of mindless eating. Weight gained during this time of year can be difficult to shed come January, when colder temperatures challenge many peoples' motivation to exercise.
Also, social settings put you in close contact with a greater number of people, potentially increasing your exposure to germs.
You can still feel your best during the holidays. Follow these tips for maintaining a healthy mind and body.
· Get the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine can protect you against various strains of the flu. Get a flu shot before the holidays so you are ready for cold and flu season.
· Carry disinfecting wipes. Germs can linger on surfaces long after an infected person has come and gone. Studies from researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson have found the flu virus - and even the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA - on airline tray tables. Buses, trains and doors all may be harboring germs. Wipe down surfaces with disinfecting wipes and allow them to air-dry before touching them. This can help you avoid coming into contact with germs.
· Balance your activities. It can be tempting to overbook your schedule with a ton of activities, but this may ultimately prove stressful. Leave days open to relax and do things you want to do, such as viewing Christmas light displays or even just unwinding at home with a good book. Try delegating some tasks to others in the household so you don't take on too much responsibility.
· Keep up an exercise routine. Don't stray too far from your exercise schedule. You may have to move workout times to free up other time later in the day for shopping or parties. Early morning is a good time to exercise because it gets you moving first thing in the morning and might even encourage you to hit the sack a little earlier each night, ensuring you get all the sleep you need. Exercise also can improve energy levels and relieve stress.
· Don't focus on food. Focus more on enjoyable activities that keep you moving rather than always being seated around the table for a big meal. Save indulgences for one or two treats on the holidays and eat sensibly otherwise.
· Talk to someone. If the holidays have you feeling blue, talk to a friend or family member. If you need more professional support, find a social worker or psychologist that can help you work through stress and other feelings.
Lavish meals are a large part of holiday celebrations, with many people indulging in dinners and desserts throughout the holiday season. This is a time when many families display their best recipes, and these may include certain desserts that can be labor-intensive to make or something more fitting for a special occasion.
Cheesecake is an example of a dessert that, due to the time it takes to create and the richness of the dessert itself, is not something many people eat on a regular basis. However, with a time-saving recipe, cheesecake can become a dessert prepared in little time for holiday festivities. Try "Cinnamon Caramel Cheesecake Squares" from "Pampered Chef Season's Best, Fast, Fun & Fabulous" by Pampered Chef® Test Kitchens.
Cinnamon Caramel Cheesecake Squares
Makes 24 squares
2 8-ounce packages seamless crescent dough
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar, divided
Flour for dusting
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup caramel topping
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Unroll one package of crescent dough into a shallow baking pan. Roll out the dough to edges.
2. Heat the cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl, uncovered, on high for 30 to 40 seconds, or until softened. Whisk until almost smooth.
3. Add the egg, vanilla and 1/2 cup of the sugar to the bowl. Whisk until smooth. Spread over the crescent dough.
4. Lightly sprinkle the flat side of a cutting board with flour. Unroll the second package of crescent dough and roll it into a 13- by 12-inch rectangle.
5. Fold the dough in half from the short end; gently lift and place in the pan. Unfold and gently stretch the dough over the cream cheese layer; press the edges to seal. Cut off corners of dough hanging over and discard.
6. Bake 22 to 24 minutes, until golden brown.
7. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place the caramel topping in a 1-cup measuring cup.
8. Remove the pan from the oven. Immediately pour the caramel topping over the cheesecake and spread to the edges of the crust. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture; let stand for 10 minutes.
9. Using a utility knife, cut into 4 x 6 rows to make 24 squares.