Transitioning Back to Work After Baby

It’s normal for parents to feel anxious about transitioning back to work after having a baby, but they don’t have to do it alone….

(Family Features) Just when you were getting the hang of having a baby at home, it’s time to go back to work. Beyond the expected changes such as picking work tasks back up and catching up on things you’ve missed, your priorities have most likely shifted now that you’re a parent.

It’s normal for parents to feel anxious about transitioning back to work after having a baby, but they don’t have to do it alone. Most new parents have built-in support systems of friends and family, but if their child will be attending daycare, that structure can provide additional help through the transition.

To help make the transition back to work as seamless as possible, consider these tips from infant teachers at KinderCare, which has been caring for children for almost 50 years.

  1. Choose a daycare near work.
    A parent’s first instinct might be to choose a daycare that’s close to home, but once you return to work you may appreciate having your baby nearby – whether to breastfeed or just get some mid-day snuggles.

    “We have an open-door policy,” said Regina Campisi, a nine-year KinderCare infant teacher. “Come in during your lunch break, feed your baby, have lunch with us and get to know your child’s teachers. Be a part of the educational process. It’s important to bridge that gap between work and school.”

  1. Feel comfortable with your child care provider.
    Parents know their babies best. Most daycare centers are willing to work with parents to answer questions and create a positive experience for both parents and children.

    Campisi recommends visiting your daycare of choice at least once before and once after your baby is born.

    “Before you have your baby, you’re going to have all these questions,” Campisi said. “After you have your baby, you’re going to have different questions. You’re going to want to show your daycare provider what your baby needs.”

    Above all else, parents should feel completely at ease when their baby is at daycare. If parents feel comfortable and safe and know that their baby is in the right hands, it can make going back to work easier.

  1. Take care of yourself.
    When parents are on leave, sleepless nights are one thing. However, once parents have to get up at a certain time for work again and get their baby ready for daycare, they can find they’re operating on a whole new level of sleep deprivation.

    “Going back to work is a very fast-paced time for working parents,” said infant teacher Megan Martina, who has worked with KinderCare for seven years. “That’s why it’s important to rest and take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating and that you have someone to help you.”

    “I always say, ‘Don’t pour from an empty cup,’” Campisi said. “If you have a day off, let me take care of your baby. Go to the grocery store; take a long shower; take a lunch break; get a new book; do something for you.”

Going back to work after having a baby is a huge step to take, but it’s not impossible. For more tips to make the transition easier, visit KinderCare.com.

SOURCE:
KinderCare

3 Tips to Create Your Dream Closet

No closet is complete without some personal touches….

(Family Features) If you’ve ever opened your closet doors and been depressed by what you see, it may be time to rethink your closet.

In fact, according to a One Poll survey on behalf of ClosetMaid, 57 percent of women admitted having an organized closet would make finding what they’re looking for faster and easier while 3 out of 10 said an organized closet would make mornings less stressful.

However, treating yourself to your dream closet and introducing a new level of organization can help alleviate those worries and provide a fresh perspective. To get started on your closet makeover, consider these tips:

Assess Your Needs
Before diving headfirst into a full-blown closet makeover, start by assessing any budgetary constraints as well as the physical aspects and size of your space. Determine your ceiling height and available wall space to give yourself a feel for what your area can accommodate; you may even want to consider converting an adjacent room into your dream closet. Remember to account for any sloped walls and whether you prefer a simple reach-in closet or a more elaborate walk-in. Once you’ve determined your preferences and completed your measurements, turn to your wardrobe to assess whether you need more hanging space, shelving, shoe storage, accessory drawers or something else entirely.

Make Your Dream a Reality
Whether you’re a motivated DIYer intent on completing the project yourself or would prefer to work with a team of designers and professional installers, there are plenty of options available to bring your dream closet to fruition. One closet system to consider if you’re seeking a completely customized, designer-inspired space is ClosetMaid’s MasterSuite 27th Avenue collection. The professionally installed line can be cut to nearly any configuration and offers a range of matte and premium wood finishes, three drawer styles, elegant hardware options and high-end accessories, allowing you the design freedom to ensure the features and aesthetic match your vision for the space.

Customize Your Space
No closet is complete without some personal touches. Make your closet work efficiently with some luxurious organization accessories such as jewelry trays, shoe shelving, wire baskets and drawers, sliding mirrors, valet rods, scarf racks and more. Once you have the necessary accessories and hangers, set up a systematic flow by using the zone principle. Keep frequently used items in prime real estate, accessories within reach and tuck away those rarely used items.

With your dream closet complete, the only thing left to worry about is keeping it in tip-top shape. For more closet makeover tips and solutions, visit ClosetMaid.com.

SOURCE:
ClosetMaid

NB Schools Increase Safety Alert Communications

NB finding additional ways to bring peace of mind for parents and teachers in its district.

North Baltimore Schools Implement Product to Help Increase School Safety and Communication

January 15, 2019 – As schools across the country grapple with finding ways to keep students and teachers safe during the school day, one Wood county school is committed to finding additional ways to bring peace of mind for parents and teachers in its district.

Superintendent Ryan Delaney of North Baltimore Local Schools is partnering with the DriveMind Group of North Canton, Ohio, a school safety consultant, to implement a new communication product that will help to increase the safe operations of the school district.

The district has implemented the ‘Alertus’ program, available through DriveMind, to help with safety and communications efforts in an emergency. Delaney says the program is making a difference.

Communicating quickly with students, teachers and parents in the time of an emergency is vital. Alertus is an emergency response communication system that ensures everyone can receive critical information, regardless of where they are and what they’re doing, during an emergency. Notifications can be sent through traditional means of phone paging systems, email notification and text messages, but can also include pushing emergency messages to digital signage, desktop computers, PA systems, and fire alarm panels using equipment that the school already owns – something that is not available with many other products on the market.

After reviewing other systems for North Baltimore, Delaney chose Alertus for his district. “We knew it was important to be proactive in our communication approach. Families expect that we will communicate with them quickly in a crisis, and Alertus helps us to do that more effectively. And working with an industry leader, like DriveMind, helps us to implement it seamlessly into our current systems.”

Because school safety is so important, DriveMind has made it a focus of their business. In addition to schoolSAFEid and Alertus, DriveMind Group is also known for its promotion of the Bolo Stick door barricade system, a lockdown device can be deployed under the most stressful of situations, and by anyone at any age. From building safety to curriculum enhancement, DriveMind prides itself on recommending solutions that can empower and protect school leadership, teachers and students.

For more information, visit drivemindgroup.com or call 330.614.7902.

‘Understanding Depression in Grief’ Presentation

As Part of the ‘Living Through Loss’ Series at Blanchard Valley Hospital….

The January presentation of the “Living through Loss” series will be held on Monday, January 21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and titled “Understanding Depression through Grief.” This presentation will take place in the Marathon Auditorium at Blanchard Valley Hospital located at 1900 South Main Street in Findlay.

“Understanding Depression in Grief” will assist the bereaved in identifying depression, understanding the difference between “feeling” and “being” depressed and offer coping mechanisms for healthy grief. Jamie Wilkinson-Franks, MSW, LISW-S of Stepping Stones Counseling, will be presenting with opportunity for discussion to follow.

“Living Through Loss” is a nine-month educational series that focuses on the issues surrounding the death of a loved one. Each monthly presentation is open to the public and registration is not required. Presentations provide information related to the grief process, offer opportunities for discussion and are held from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Marathon Auditorium at Blanchard Valley Hospital. Although the thought of speaking up in a group can be intimidating, many attendees find the discussion helpful as they discover their questions and concerns are similar to others. A bereavement expert is available to speak with attendees in private following the presentation.

This series is sponsored by Bridge Home Health and Hospice. For questions, to learn upcoming dates or to have a full program brochure sent to you, please contact the Bridge bereavement coordinator at 419.423.5351 or email bridge@bvhealthsystem.org.

_________________

Bridge Bereavement Services is a division of Blanchard Valley Health System, which provides a total continuum of care to more than 100,000 households in an eight-county area.

What to Consider When Planning a Cruise

Cruise ships offer accommodations for all types of travelers, from family rooms to luxury suites…..


(Family Features) Everyone loves going on vacation, but planning your getaway is another story with questions like where and when to go, how to get there and how much it will cost.

While wading through the options can be a daunting task, opting for a cruise is a fun, convenient and hassle-free option. However, every cruise line has its own perks and offerings based on experiences desired, time of year and destination.

One cruise line known for its unique brand of all-ages fun, varied activities and affordable prices is Carnival Cruise Line, whose newest ship, Carnival Panorama, debuts from Long Beach, California, in December 2019. To commemorate its upcoming launch, Carnival Cruise Line showcased the Carnival Panorama with a 55-foot long cruise ship-shaped float during the 130th annual Tournament of Roses Parade.

The float was made from more than 100 kinds of flowers, representing the home countries of Carnival employees, and included many of the ship’s signature features, such as the classic red and blue funnel, a water park and a Lido Deck party. The float also saluted the armed forces with a special appearance by former Miss USA, Deshauna Barber, godmother to Carnival Vista, sister ship to Carnival Panorama currently sailing out of Galveston, Texas.

“It was a big thrill to be a part of the Rose Parade and be a part of Carnival’s first-ever float,” said Barber, the first active member of the military to serve as Miss USA. “Judging by this spectacular float, the real Carnival Panorama will be truly extraordinary and people will definitely want to experience it for themselves.”

To make planning your cruise as easy as possible, consider these factors:

Timing
Outside of budget, planning a time of year to take a cruise can be one of the biggest considerations. Fall tends to be the best time to sail while summer is always popular with families. Winter is a great time to escape the cold and relax in the warm, aqua-blue waters of the Caribbean.

Destination
From a trip along the Mexican Riviera to a jaunt around the Carribbean, there are cruises available to meet nearly any desired destination. In 2019, the Carnival Panorama – the first new cruise ship on the West Coast in 20 years – will launch week-long cruises visting destinations like Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta from the newly renovated Long Beach Cruise Terminal. Carnival Cruise Line will also offer new voyages to Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico out of San Francisco beginning in 2020, making it the number one cruise operator on the West Coast.

Rooms and Amenities
Cruise ships offer accommodations for all types of travelers, from family rooms to luxury suites.  Carnival Panorama offers several options, including Havana staterooms and suites with exclusive daytime access to a Cuban-themed bar and pool, and Cloud 9 Spa accommodations that surround the ship’s 22,750-square-foot health and wellness center.  There are also extra-roomy Family Harbor staterooms that can accommodate up to five guests and offer two bathrooms.

On-Board Activities
Today’s cruise ships offer many on-board attractions and features for guests of all ages. For example, Carnival Panorama will include indoor and al fresco dining experiences, including the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi and the Smokehouse Brewhouse with BBQ favorites from Food Network star and longtime partner Guy Fieri and craft beers brewed right onboard. It also offers a massive aqua park and recreation areas, including a suspended ropes course, and the first-ever trampoline park at sea in partnership with Sky Zone. Grown-ups can sample the Serenity adults-only retreat, mixology courses and more.

To learn more and start planning your cruise, visit Carnival.com.

SOURCE:
Carnival Cruise Line

5 Ways to Raise a Confident, Adventurous Child

Create teachable moments that introduce your child to necessary limits….


(Family Features) From taking steps toward the stairs to learning that bubbles don’t taste good, exploration is a part of development for babies and young children. While it’s an exciting time, it also can be coupled with anxiety and hesitation as parents find themselves saying “no” or jumping in when baby discovers a new space.

An Open for Adventure survey from Babyganics found a majority of parents (69 percent) believe a child can learn to be more confident if he or she is allowed to explore freely as a baby. However, letting go doesn’t always come naturally for parents.
Clinical health psychologist Dr. Bobbi Wegner encourages parents to be explorer parents, which focuses on raising resilient, confident and adventurous humans through challenge and discovery. She offers these tips for parents:

Aid in discovery. Encourage and applaud baby’s healthy risk-taking, such as mastering a challenging stair climb or pushing through moments of frustration and failure. Additionally, create teachable moments that introduce your child to necessary limits. For example, if you have hot coffee in the morning and your little one wants to touch the mug, let him or her gently touch a warm area of the mug with a fingertip and repeat that the mug is “hot” to help encourage exploration and flex baby’s senses.

Let baby be free. While you may think baby gadgets are necessary for playtime, consider rethinking those toys. Instead of searching for stimulation through lights and sounds from a toy, allow your baby to explore the natural environment. Look for opportunities that allow him or her to make a manageable mess and even get wet or dirty. This could be as simple as playing with a container filled with water or letting your baby pull up grass in the backyard. These small unstructured play adventures can help develop independence and confidence.

Engage the senses. Exposing your baby to new flavors and smells helps engage him or her on a multi-sensory level. For example, allowing your baby (at an appropriate age, typically between 4-7 months) to try new foods can provide a feeling of accomplishment while also exposing him or her to different textures and flavors. Encourage even more sensory exploration by allowing your baby to smell the food and even play with it using his or her fingers.

Provide early exposure to new places. Bringing baby along to restaurants and other public spaces allows for positive exposure to new places, people and sounds, which can help build the immune system, encourage social interaction and support development. While letting a child explore in a public setting like an airport or train station can make many parents anxious, carrying products such as Babyganics Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizing Wipes can help ease parents’ apprehension and keep little hands germ-free while on the go.

Wait a moment. It’s common for parents to intervene the moment baby awakes from a nap or starts moving toward the stairs. Try pausing, allowing your little one to naturally find his or her limits while managing your own fears and worries. This tactic can allow your young explorer an opportunity for cognitive and social-emotional development with you as a safety net nearby.

“Parents often look to their own internal response to guide parenting: ‘If I am worried then it must be dangerous, and I should not allow my baby to do it,'” Wegner said. “When in fact, parents should prioritize their baby’s exploration and needs to provide learning opportunities rather than allowing their own anxieties to impede their children.”

For more information, visit babyganics.com.

SOURCE:
Babyganics

3 Popular Eating Plans You’ll See in the New Year

Instead of eating in a way that could leave you at risk of nutrient deficiencies, opt for a more balanced approach….


(Family Features) If you’re thinking about revamping how you eat in the new year, you might want to think twice about the trendy dairy-free plans that crop up on your social media feed – as they could leave you missing out on nutrients you need.

Three of the most popular and health-promoting eating plans of the moment – the Mediterranean Diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet and Flexitarian Diet – all include dairy milk as an important component, and according to a study in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association,” it’s hard to get nutrients you need without it.

New research also suggests adding an extra serving of dairy to the Mediterranean Diet makes it even more nutritious, boosting amounts of calcium, vitamin D and potassium without exceeding recommendations for nutrients to limit, like saturated fat and sodium, according to a study published in “The Journal of the American College of Nutrition.” A second new study found not only does incorporating more dairy improve the quality of the diet, it benefits health, as well – specifically improving blood pressure and levels of good cholesterol (HDL) compared to a standard low-fat diet, according to research in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” While the Mediterranean Diet typically includes around two servings of dairy a day, these studies built in 3-4.

The DASH Diet, long known for its positive effects on heart health, includes three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy per day. Good news for fans of whole milk: it may be just as effective when it includes full-fat dairy, too, according to recent research in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” Researchers found a DASH diet that included whole milk and other full-fat dairy products lowered blood pressure just as much as the traditional version.

As a high-quality, complete protein, dairy milk is also an important part of the Flexitarian Diet, which encourages more plants and less meat. Many plant-based proteins are incomplete, which means they don’t provide some of the building blocks your body needs. Dairy milk is also an important source of calcium, as substituting milk with non-dairy calcium sources like fortified soy milk or leafy greens can lead to gaps in other key nutrients such as protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin B12, according to a study in the journal “Nutrition Research.”

Instead of eating in a way that could leave you at risk of nutrient deficiencies, opt for a more balanced approach to the new year and consider a plan that includes dairy milk. Visit MilkLife.com for more information and milk-inspired recipes.

SOURCE:
MilkPEP

What to Look for in a Daycare for Your Baby

One of the most important things to look for is evidence that your potential daycare follows safe practices……


(Family Features) Between coordinating childcare, figuring out a new schedule and beginning to feel like a normal person again, life with a newborn can be a lot to handle. Finding the right daycare center on top of it all can seem like a nearly impossible task.

Consider these suggestions to find the right daycare for your little one.

Look for safety first.
One of the most important things to look for is evidence that your potential daycare follows safe practices, including at nap time.

“When you first walk into the infant classroom, check for see-through cribs,” said Naomi Lennis Hicks from the Park Avenue KinderCare. “Teachers should be able to see your baby every moment of every day, even when they’re sleeping.”

You should also ask how teachers at the daycare put babies to bed and what’s allowed in cribs. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, babies should sleep on their backs on a firm surface without pillows, blankets or toys in bed with them.

Find a place that follows each baby’s schedule.
Although babies’ schedules are never 100 percent predictable, an accommodating daycare may work with parents to follow their children’s routine as closely as possible.

While some daycares enforce naps at certain times, you can look for an option that takes into account each baby’s sleeping needs. Teachers should know how to watch each child closely for signs of tiredness. Eye-rubbing, sucking on hands or fingers and heavy-headed nodding are all signs that it’s time for some shut-eye.

Whether baby likes rocking, singing, being held or using a pacifier, a daycare that partners with parents to learn what works best for each baby can be a more comforting option.

Make sure the center is clean and tidy.
When classrooms are spick and span, it’s typically a sign that a daycare and its teachers are paying attention to the details, while also likely employing a dedicated cleaning staff to ensure the space is safe for babies to crawl and play.

In infant classrooms especially, keep an eye out for shoe-free policies and disposable booties for visitors to use.

“We have a bootie- or sock-only policy, and many of our teachers even bring their own slippers just for the classroom,” said Sheila Silveria with the Mercantile KinderCare Learning Center. “As soon as babies are ready to start crawling, it’s important to give them freedom to explore. A shoe-free policy is the best way to keep their little hands and mouths away from germs and dirt while they discover the world.”

For many parents, the most important thing is that their babies are safe and happy, meaning they can rest assured they made the best decision for their family. Find more information and tips to find the right daycare at kindercare.com.

SOURCE:
KinderCare

Thoughtful Gifts for Friends and Family

These ideas can help put you on the right path to a less stressful seasonal shopping experience….


(Family Features) While holiday festivities bring to mind thoughts of joy and celebration with loved ones, there’s one element of the season that can be a source of stress: gifting. Make this year’s shopping trips a touch simpler with thoughtful presents that can fit any number of those on your holiday list.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

When you head into the season with a plan and gift ideas in mind, you’re able to trim the time you spend in stores while also increasing the chances of tracking down the perfect present for each person.

From tasty food and sentimental items to handy tools and home decor, these ideas can help put you on the right path to a less stressful seasonal shopping experience. Find more holiday gift ideas at eLivingToday.com.

A Path to Better Vision

For a healthier way to see, give the gift of a lighting upgrade for use at home or at work. For example, this Refine LED Desk Lamp from OttLite’s Wellness Series provides smooth, uniform light while reducing eyestrain by up to 51 percent. The brushed nickel finish gives it elegant appeal and a convenient USB port charges electronics while four brightness settings allow for functional control to evenly distribute the balanced, natural illumination. Find more information at OttLite.com.

A Gift with Great Taste

This holiday season, give the gift of good taste with The Tasteful Gift combo from Omaha Steaks. This gourmet collection has something for everyone, including two legendary Filet Mignons and two Top Sirloins, two meaty Boneless Pork Chops, four Potatoes au Gratin, four Caramel Apple Tartlets and a Signature Seasoning Packet. Available for a limited-time holiday price with free shipping, it’s a gift that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Find more tasty gifts at omahasteaks.com.

The Gift of Good Light

If you’re looking for a gift for a runner, hiker, biker, camper or someone who seems to always be involved in a home project, consider a headlamp from Energizer to help him or her light the way. With a pivoting head, adjustable band and multiple light modes, you can adjust the headlamp to fit many lighting needs, ideal for nearly anyone looking for hands-free illumination. Find more information at energizer.com/lighting.

Fit for a Chef

For the avid cook, gift cookware like the Anolon Accolade 10 Piece Set, which features an advanced and patented technology that strategically places metal where it’s most needed for efficient heating and exceptional durability. Another key feature is the sapphire-reinforced, triple layer, metal-utensil-safe nonstick coating inside and out for exceptional food release and easy cleaning. Induction suitable, dishwasher-safe and oven-safe to 500 F, this gourmet cookware inspires confidence and creativity in the kitchen. Find more gift ideas at anolon.com.

Share the Wonder this Season

Invite your friends and family into a world of wonder this holiday season with pop-up Hallmark Paper Wonder cards. With intricate detail and 3D design, the cards unfold, pop or expand to reveal a surprise perfect for displaying all season long or sending to loved ones to share the joy of the season. Make the holiday come alive and shop the collection that can inspire people to explore, discover and share the wonder of the holidays with those they love at hallmark.com/paper-wonder.

SOURCE:
OttLite
Omaha Steaks
Energizer
Anolon
Hallmark

Home for the Holidays

Every year, tens of millions of travelers brave planes, trains and automobiles to celebrate year-end holidays and exchange goodwill with family and friends….


(Family Features) As another busy travel season approaches, road-weary parents and families can hold on to holiday cheer a little longer by counting on tech as their preferred travel companion.

Every year, tens of millions of travelers brave planes, trains and automobiles to celebrate year-end holidays and exchange goodwill with family and friends. Consider these ideas for using tech to make this year’s travel a little easier.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Electronic Entertainment
Nearly every parent is wary of excess screen time, but holiday travel is a good time to set aside those concerns. Hours of chaotic travel, unfamiliar scenery and overall disruption to typical daily schedules can wreak havoc on kids. One way to keep those stressful feelings at bay is entertainment, and there are plenty of options that can serve as aides to keep kids calm and collected when travel gets tiresome. Handheld video games, portable DVD players and tablets can all be customized with kid-friendly content to make it from point A to point B with your sanity intact, or to simply enjoy an uninterrupted hour catching up with loved ones.

Savvy Smartphones
It’s a trend on the rise: More than 70 percent of U.S. travelers responding to Google Consumer Insights agreed they “always” use their smartphones when traveling to research activities or attractions, locate shopping areas and restaurants, or look up directions.

For value-conscious travelers, a smart­phone like the Alcatel 7 offers robust talk time, nonstop streaming and lightning-fast charging. Up to 28 hours of talk time makes it ideal for connecting with family and friends down the street or around the globe, and after just 22 minutes of charging, it can be used for up to six hours. With more than 10 hours of nonstop streaming in a single charge, kids won’t have to miss out on any social media stories or updates from their favorite vloggers while waiting for grandma’s pecan pie to cool. Sleek and compact, the phone also features a large six-inch Full HD+ display and dual cameras that let you shoot in portrait mode. Learn more at alcatel7.com.

Get Organized
Technology isn’t just for fun or capturing memories, or even for finding a late-night diner when you’re on the road. With the right apps and tools, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a virtual file folder filled with all your travel details, from an itinerary mapping out each step of your journey to confirmation codes for reservations, e-tickets and more.

Power Up
You’ve heard the tongue-in-cheek adage that technology is great when it works. One thing is sure: it won’t work if it isn’t properly charged. Take time to lay out all your devices and their respective charging equipment before you pack your bags. Fully charge all devices, install new batteries and, when you’re done, stash the cords and extra batteries in your carry-on bag where you can access them easily later.

Connectivity Crashes
If you’re planning to rely heavily on your tech devices while traveling, be sure you’re aware of any potential connectivity issues that may limit your access to certain apps and features. Remember that in certain areas signals can be spotty. If there’s essential info you may need, download it directly into your device so you can retrieve it with or without a good connection.

Protective Care
Away from home, you’re likely to encounter situations and environments that put your family’s tech devices in precarious places. Even a suitcase with liquid toiletries can pose a hazard, but a simple plastic bag can prevent damage from spills en route. Before you embark on your trip, also take steps to safeguard your tech devices with screen protectors and snug-fit covers or cases.

Give Gifts that Matter without Regretting the Price

Holiday cheer turns into financial fright for many people every year. According to MagnifyMoney’s annual post-holiday debt survey, Americans rang up an average of $1,054 in debt during the 2017 holiday shopping season, an increase of 5 percent from 2016. However, buying gifts and spreading cheer doesn’t have to come with a giant price tag that screams regret.

Shop the sales. Tech gifts top wish lists for recipients of all ages, and that makes them popular items for holiday specials. Preview ads for great offers and look for bundles or other perks that make the purchase price even more attractive.

Focus on function. Tech devices come in different sizes and colors, and in every price range. For example, an Alcatel 7 smartphone provides the same connectivity, talk time and display as phones that cost up to four times as much. Plus, multiple camera modes allow for standout photos. With dual rear cameras, portrait mode allows you to focus on a subject in real-time with blurred background effect.

Set a budget. If you determine up-front how much you can afford to spend, there won’t be a reason to second-guess your purchases. Make a list of everyone you’ll be buying for and determine how much you’ll spend on each person. Think about gifts each recipient will appreciate that fall within your threshold for a fool-proof, debt-proof approach to holiday shopping.

SOURCE:
Alcatel

Fight the Cold with Tomato Soup

Put a grown-up twist on grilled cheese and tomato soup with this recipe for Creamy Tomato and Roasted Pepper Soup with Cheddar Cracker Melts.


Fight the Cold with Better-for-You Comfort Foods–Like Tomato Soup

We LOVE tomato soup at our house, but honestly have NEVER made it from “scratch”. Want to share your Tomato soup recipe with the readers of TheNBXpress? email it to: editor@theNBXpress.com

(Family Features) Few things go together quite like cold weather and comfort foods. However, those hearty dishes that are typically craved on blustery days are usually not classified as “healthy.”

With the right approach, though, you can put a better-for-you twist on some of your favorite dishes that can keep you cozy and satiated during the winter season. For example, you can put a grown-up twist on grilled cheese and tomato soup with this recipe for Creamy Tomato and Roasted Pepper Soup with Cheddar Cracker Melts.

Pairing flavorful seasonal dishes like soups and stews with a wholesome snack cracker like gluten-free, non-GMO Crunchmaster Tuscan Peasant Crackers can help satisfy those comfort food cravings while also contributing to a healthy lifestyle. With 20 grams of whole grains per serving, these crunchy, robust baked crackers are also cholesterol-free, allowing you to take a back-to-basics approach to your diet using simple ingredients and no artificial flavors or colors.

For other seasonal recipes, coupons, tips and nutritional information, visit crunchmaster.com.

Creamy Tomato and Roasted Pepper Soup with Cheddar Cracker Melts

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6

Creamy Tomato and Roasted Pepper Soup:

  • 2          tablespoons olive oil
  • 1          onion, chopped
  • 1          carrot, chopped
  • 3          cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1          teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2       teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2       teaspoon paprika
  • 1          pinch chili flakes
  • 4          cups organic no-salt-added vegetable broth
  • 1          can (28 ounces) no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1          cup chopped prepared roasted red peppers
  • 2          bay leaves
  • 1/3       cup 35 percent heavy cream
  • 2          tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives, divided
  • 1          teaspoon cider vinegar

Cheddar Cracker Melts:

  • 24        Crunchmaster Tuscan Peasant Fire Roasted Tomato Basil Crackers
  • 3/4       cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. In Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil. Cook onion, carrot, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, paprika and chili flakes about 5 minutes, or until vegetables are slightly softened.
  2. Stir in broth, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and bay leaves; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaves. Let cool slightly. Transfer to blender; puree in batches until smooth. Stir in cream, remaining salt, 1 tablespoon chives and vinegar.
  3. To make Cheddar Cracker Melts: Heat broiler to high and position rack in center of oven. Arrange crackers on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil 1-2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  4. Divide soup among six bowls. Sprinkle with remaining chives and serve with Cheddar Cracker Melts.

Tip: Use mild, medium or aged cheddar cheese. Smoked mozzarella can be substituted, if desired.

Nutrition information per serving: 250 calories; 15 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 30 mg cholesterol; 730 mg sodium; 22 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 6 g protein.

SOURCE:
Crunchmaster