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What is Purim? A Time For Joy and Giving

01 Mar

What is Purim?

For many people, Jewish holidays are shrouded in an air of mystery, and Purim – since it’s lesser known among non-Jewish people – can be even more enigmatic. It can be intimidating or awkward to figure out the best way to approach someone and ask what their holidays are all about. So, we’re here to shed a bit of light on Purim: a holiday that you may have never heard of, and certainly, have some questions about.

Purim Celebration Decorations

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How to Welcome Spring Into Your Home in 5 Easy Steps

17 Feb

In like a lion, out like a lamb, the first spring month is almost here, which means we made it through the coldest season and it’s time to shed our winter layers in favor of the lightness of spring. While it may still be a few weeks until we can put away heavy jackets and sweaters for good, it’s perfectly fine to start preparing your home for the big seasonal transition. Brighter hues, fresher scents… it’s time to bring the warmth indoors, and the warmth outdoors will follow sooner than you think!

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  1. Clean and declutter

Unfortunately, there’s no way around a time consuming and massive seasonal spruce-up. But there are some tricks that can make the process faster and hopefully a little bit simpler. Before you go cleaning all the way, make sure you de-clutter right out of the gate. This will clear the space and make it easier for you to see what needs sweeping, dusting, or to be taken to the dry cleaners.

And don’t forget to check your fridge! Even if you’re pretty good about keeping your refrigerator in a good shape, you might be surprised to find some expired condiments, forgotten leftovers, and other unwanted items. Make sure to clean the inside of the fridge! You can either spray it with some vinegar and water and wipe it down or make a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda for every quart of warm water for any hardened spills. To make the cleaning easier next time, make it a habit to throw out old food at least once a week. What a great spring resolution to have in the beginning of a new season!

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  1. Give your home a quick color makeover

Nothing says spring quite like cheerful and vibrant colors. As we head into spring, switch things up inside your home. Start with changing the darker and deeper hues of winter and surround yourself with a light springy palette. Pack away heavy fabrics, knit blankets, and remove heavy window coverings in favor of lighter and brighter fabrics.

A quick and easy way to bring a laid-back springtime vibe into the bedroom, is with a fresh duvet cover, featuring a cheerful stripe pattern, flower illustrations, or a more pronounced accent color. Swapping out your shower curtain for something bursting with happy hues is another quick and inexpensive way to bring the feeling of spring into your home.

If you’re not afraid of making a drastic change and a bold statement, go ahead and welcome the season with a bang! A fresh coat of paint in a bright hue is just the thing to make your living room exciting again. Something vivid but not overwhelming like pale aqua, spring green or crisp white will create a wonderful spring atmosphere you are sure to enjoy.

  1. Get creative with a spring DIY project

Spring is the perfect time to take on a new DIY project. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and something as simple as displaying your favorite photographs or pictures in a creative way can be sufficient enough. While we love gorgeous gallery walls, there is a much simpler solution. A metal photo clip string hung on a wall is a great and very easy way to decorate your living room or kitchen and set the right mood.

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  1. Bring some life indoors

Buying fresh flowers or a beautiful new plant will add a nice finishing touch to your refreshed space. Not only will they complete the spring look, but also make you a happier person. As they say, plants can improve indoor air quality, brighten your mood, and even boost your creative energy. That’s exactly what you need to start a new season!

Why not commit to treating yourself to a fresh bouquet of flowers every week? This small and inexpensive ritual will go miles for your mood and general well-being. If you haven’t indulged in a bouquet in a while, now is the perfect time. And don’t forget to spoil someone you love! Surprise your best friend, significant other, or colleague at work with a spring flower arrangement and be sure this thoughtful gesture will go a long way.

Besides flowers, potted plants add life and refresh a home unlike anything else. Natural air purifiers, they will not only add a welcome burst of green, but also help you with your spring makeover. As an added bonus, you can try planting herbs like mint or cilantro. Not only are they pretty, but they smell wonderful and can bring a bit of freshness to your dinner.

For a quick pick-me-up, head outside and just snip any green foliage that caught your attention (make sure to stay on your own property). Placed into a mason jar or a cute vase, a small bundle of ferns or tree leaves makes a simple, fresh, (and free!) arrangement.

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  1. Reward yourself

By now, you’ve completed your big spring cleaning and did a nice job refreshing your living space for the new season, so it’s time to reward yourself! And the best grown-up way to savor vibrant spring flavors as you coax the sun out of winter hiding is a seasonal cocktail. Not just any cocktail but a perfectly spring-inspired yummy sip that’s easy to make and fun to share with friends.

A Kiwi Capiroska is a Brazilian drink, similar to a more popular caipirinha, but made with more familiar vodka and kiwi for a punch of flavor. Bright and refreshing it’s our top choice this spring.

Kiwi Capiroska (Serves 3)

Ingredients:
1 Cup kiwi, peeled and diced + 1 kiwi peeled and thinly sliced to garnish
6 Mint leaves, divided
1 Tablespoon sugar, divided
1 1/2 Limes, juiced
1 Cup vodka
1 Cup tonic water
Ice cubes

Directions:

  1. Prepare 3 highball glasses and fill each with 1/3 cup of diced kiwis, 2 mint leaves, 1 tsp sugar, and ½ lime juice.
  2. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Fill each glass with ice and top off with 1/3 cup vodka and 1/3 cup tonic water.
  4. Stir, garnish with kiwi slices and enjoy.
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Now, You’re All Ready For Spring – What’s Next?

  • Start preparing for spring holidays. Browse spring gifts to USA, UK & 200 countries, and make sure your gifts are delivered on time!
  • Learn about major upcoming holidays including Easter and Passover.
  • You’ve read this far, we’re sure you have a friend who’d like to see this too. Click those share buttons below.
 
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5 Creative Valentine’s Date Ideas

03 Feb

Valentine’s Day is nearly here and we’re sure many of you haven’t planned a date yet. This is bad news if you want to book a reservation at the most popular restaurant in town. But you probably don’t want to do that; after all, you’re a free spirit, an innovator, a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person who likes to go against the rules and do things last minute. Or, maybe more honestly, you’re reading this on February 13th and won’t for the life of you be able to do any of the more traditional things and that’s okay.

Just for you, dear romantic voyager, we’ve put together some of our favorite date ideas that aren’t the typical Valentine’s Day package. Some cater to those who “plan” last minute, some cater to those who like adventure, and all can be enjoyed by couples, singles, friends, and family alike. After all, Valentine’s Day is a day we think should celebrate love in all of its many amazing forms.

1. Spend the night Scrapbooking (digital, Facebook, or physical forms are all acceptable) – This may seem cheesy, but if the night is about celebrating you and the person (or people) you love most, then this is a perfect way to cherish them. Pop open your beverage of choice, order in (or cook together), and spend the night reminiscing about your favorite moments together. Once you’ve finished putting together your album of memories you might be surprised to find that you feel closer than ever before, all while ditching crowds and having an evening more intimate than any dinner and movie combination could hope to provide.

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2. Enjoy one of your favorite childhood activities This can be anything from paintball to staying up late and watching a comforting TV show. The love of your life should welcome all sides of you, even your childish moments and you may find the nostalgia comforting.  This is particularly great for a singles night together. Have everyone bring their favorite board game and spend the evening battling it out! Winner gets to pick what wine you open next!

3. Support local art A lot of cities have different concert venues large and small, art galleries, and independent film showings going on during Valentine’s Day. While they may not make the top of everyone’s list that is part of their charm. You get an evening filled with culture and new experiences the two of you can share. You also get the satisfaction of knowing that your date is supporting local creative arts and helping enrich your community. There is nothing sexier than a partner who cares about community!

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4. Volunteer This may not be the most romantic way to spend your evening we admit, but it is one of the most fulfilling. Volunteering is something you can do together with friends, family, and a partner who doesn’t like the idea of a traditional Valentine’s Day. A lot of people are starting to think that a big date on Valentine’s Day is somehow cheating since every industry in the world is reminding you to participate. So don’t! Go against the grain, and ignore the date all together.

As a bonus, you’ll feel amazing! Nothing makes you appreciate the people and things in your life like helping out the less fortunate. If you do pick this route, we recommend you plan a romantic night later. Maybe at the end of March. Show her you want romance to make her happy, not because a calendar reminded you too. Besides, it’s a great bonding experience! You will discover the qualities in your special someone you never knew existed. Sometimes it’s an unusual experience that helps us to know each other better and to connect in a way we weren’t able to before.

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5. Schedule a classWhat would you like to learn together? There are cooking classes, guitar classes, acting lessons, pottery classes, painting classes, couples massage classes, dance classes, and more. If you can name it, someone out there is teaching it. Why not use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to learn and grow together?! If you two are into completely different things, make it a weekend event. Go to the class you know your partner would love one day, and a class you would love the next. That way you both walk out happy, with skills to last you a lifetime. The most romantic gift of all is one that helps your love grow and fulfill their passions.

Now, You’re Almost Ready for Valentine’s Day – What’s Next? 

  • Schedule your gift now, so you don’t forget. Browse Valentine’s Day gifts to USA, Canada & 200 countries, and make sure your gift is delivered on time!
  • Plan to make this Valentine’s Day truly unforgettable. Get inspired with these Unusual Yet Romantic Gifts.
  • You’ve read this far, we’re sure you have a friend who’d like to see this too. Click those share buttons below.
Image #1 by maf04
Image #2 by gabyalcantara
Image #3 by Mystic Country CT
Image #4 by Katja Hasselkus
 
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The Year of the Rooster: How does Chinese Zodiac Work?

23 Jan

The start of the lunar year is getting closer, and millions of people around the world have already started getting ready for one of the biggest celebrations: Chinese New Year. This January 28th denotes the beginning of the Year of the Red Fire Rooster, as defined by the Chinese zodiac cycle. But what does it really mean to all of us?

Chinese astrology has been around for thousands of years and it is deeply rooted in Chinese philosophy and culture. It’s based on the belief that both living things and objects have a purpose in this world, and achieving harmony is the most important among them. The Chinese also believe that everything has its own energy which can be either male – vibrant and outgoing called “yang”, or female – quiet and subdued, called “yin”. Yin Yang energy plays a key role in Chinese astrology and determines common traits and potential for compatibility between the animal signs.

Just like in Western astrology, there are 12 signs in the Chinese zodiac, but they are divided by years instead of months. While the Western astrology signs are based on the solar cycle, Chinese astrology months are based on the lunar, sixty-year cycle, with the animal signs changing every year, and elements changing every other year. The animal signs of the Chinese Zodiac relate to the signs in the Western Zodiac, and are in order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

Legend has it that it was Buddha who founded the system for Chinese astrology. To celebrate the New Year, he invited all the animals, but only 12 showed up and that’s how they got their place in the calendar. According to another legend, when developing a calendar, Buddha invited all the animals to a race and the order in which they would arrive determined their place in the Chinese zodiac.

Chinese Zodiac

  • Rat

Years: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936, 1924, 1912, 1900
Fixed Element: Water / Yang
Characteristics:
The rat is the first sign in the Chinese Zodiac. Those born in the year of the rat are known to be quick-witted, creative and innovative people with rich imaginations. They are hardworking and problem solvers. Their appealing personality makes them charmers who are very good at getting along with all types of people. Rats are also quite wasteful and don’t like saving money. The rat’s color is black and their element is water.

  • Ox

Years: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937, 1925, 1913, 1901
Fixed Element: Earth / Yin

Characteristics:
The ox is a born leader with strong opinions but poor communication skills. They are extremely powerful and stubborn. On the other hand, oxen are honest, patient, trustworthy, conservative and peace loving. They are usually quite patriotic and deeply attached to their family and friends. The ox’s color is yellow and their element is earth.

  • Tiger

Years: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938, 1926, 1914, 1902
Fixed Element: Wood /Yang
Characteristics:

Just like in nature, Tigers are brave, independent and powerful creatures. They are authoritative and dare to take risks, which makes them good natural leaders. But sometimes they have to be careful not to get too short tempered, selfish and head-strong. The tiger’s color is green and their element is wood.

  • Rabbit

Years: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927, 1915, 1903
Fixed Element: Wood/ Yin
Characteristics:

The say that those born in the year of the Rabbit are the luckiest of them all. This is because Rabbits have wonderful demeanor and are very easy going. They are one of the most compassionate signs and want to see peace in life. Rabbits are also affectionate, gentle, friendly, gracious, which makes them highly popular among their friends. Sometimes, a Rabbit can be quite shy and sentimental, but if they can overcome that, they can succeed in almost everything they do. The rabbit’s color is green and their element is wood.

  • Dragon

Years: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928, 1916, 1904
Fixed Element: Earth / Yang
Characteristics:
The dragon is the most vital and powerful sign in the Chinese zodiac, although with an infamous reputation for being aggressive and having a sharp tongue. Dragons are one of the most popular of the signs and demand attention. They are energetic, talented, determined creatures with interesting imaginations. They can also be overly-dramatic, quick-tempered and moody. The dragon’s color is gold and their element is earth.

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  • Snake

Years: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941, 1929, 1917, 1905
Fixed Element: Fire / Yin
Characteristics:
Don’t believe those who say that snakes are sly and cunning, because they are actually extremely intelligent, graceful and talented creatures. People born in the year of the Snake are the most intuitive and represent the symbol of wisdom. They are generally alluring, care about their looks and can be rather stingy. However, if only the Snake knows how to make use of their true qualities, they will be very successful. The snake’s color is red and their element is fire.

  • Horse

Years: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918, 1906
Fixed Element: Fire / Yang
Characteristics: A Horse’s love of life and energy are engaging. Their positivity and loyalty make them extremely popular among friends. Horses are very elegant, charming, smart, but also hard-working creatures who have high goals in life. They tend to be stubborn when it comes to their beliefs, but are also very patient and good listeners when they need to hear out other people. The horse’s color is red and their element is fire.

  • Goat / Sheep

Years: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931, 1919, 1907
Fixed Element: Earth / Yin
Characteristics:
Sheep are loving and gentle artists who can be quite shy and emotional at times. Although they try to stay positive, they often complain and stress about simple things. Sheep do not like sudden changes or impulsive decisions and they are also very protective about who they let into their inner circle. The goat’s color is yellow and their element is earth.

  • Monkey

Years: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980. 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932, 1920, 1908
Fixed Element: Metal / Yang
Characteristics:
Monkeys are outgoing, energetic, positive and really fun people to be around; that’s why they usually have a lot of friends. They are also quite curious, very confident and often very successful. Moving from one experience to the other, they don’t care as much about the things that they are doing as the feelings that they evoke. The monkey’s color is white and their element is metal.

  • Rooster

Years: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933, 1921, 1909
Fixed Element: Metal / Yin
Characteristics:
Roosters are very independent and confident people who dream big. They will achieve anything they put their mind to, especially if they allow themselves to be led by their instincts. Roosters are generally punctual and reliable people who enjoy being in the center of attention and sometimes suffer from being vain. The rooster’s color is white and their element is metal.

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  • Dog

Years: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922, 1910
Fixed Element: Earth / Yang
Characteristics:
Dogs are honest and extremely loyal people who are going to fight for what they love. They are intelligent dreamers who don’t like sharing their inner lives with others. Dogs are also helpful and positive, although sometimes they tend to worry too much. The dog’s color is yellow and their element is earth.

  • Pig

Year: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935, 1923, 1911
Fixed Element: Water / Ying
Characteristics:
Pigs are strong and noble creatures who will always put others ahead of themselves, especially when it comes to family.
Typically a follower rather than a leader, they are one of the easiest signs to get along with. Friendships build by Pigs will last for a long time even though their careless nature can sometimes be hard to handle. A pig’s color is black and their element is water.

The Year of the Red Fire Rooster is the time when all the 12 Chinese zodiac signs need to work hard and be patient in order to achieve success. Ruled by the fire element, this Yin year is to be spent in solitude and harmony with friends and family. The Chinese horoscope predicts that this year can be beneficial for career and money investments as well as auspicious for starting a new family. Professional relationships too will turn out to be fruitful. Just do not complicate things by over thinking and analyzing too much. Also stay away from risky ventures but stick to well-proven paths to ensure success.

If you’re wondering whether the Year of the Rooster will be lucky for your sign in particular, Chinese astrology forecasts predict that Dragons, as well as Snakes, Oxen and Roosters will be extremely successful. The Rats and Tigers too will have a good year. The Sheep, Pigs and Monkeys will have a mix of good and bad luck while the Rabbits, Horses and Dogs might face a few problems. But there’s no need to worry, in a Rooster Year, all of the Chinese animals can reach their goals by possessing the key Rooster traits. Loyalty, willpower, hard work, family values, and top-notch appearances are just some of the characteristics that are sure to be rewarded this year.

Now, You’re Almost Ready for Chinese New Year – What’s Next? 

  • Schedule your gift now, so you don’t forget. Browse Chinese New Year gifts to USA, China & 200 countries, and make sure your gift is delivered on time!
  • Make plans with these Tips to Jump Start Your New Year.
  • You’ve read this far, we’re sure you have a friend who’d like to see this too. Click those share buttons below.
Image #1,3,4 by IQRemix
Image #2 by Janet Hudson
 
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7 Bizarre Cheeses From Around the World

19 Jan

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January, 20 is a National Cheese Lovers Day and a perfect excuse to talk about our favorite food, cheese!

There’s so much more to the amazing world of cheese than your typical grocery store can offer. There are a lot of great affordable cheeses out there, don’t get us wrong, but none of them made it to our list today. Thousands of artisan cheeses are produced through their own intricate and labor-intensive processes, creating complex varieties with unique flavors. Join us as we explore the most unusual (and expensive) cheeses around the world, because we’re going to give the term “indulgence” a whole new meaning!

Stilton – golden cheese from UK

Let’s start with a fancy cheese.  This delicacy, believe it or not, would be served to you as a dessert! The most expensive cheese in the UK, White Stilton Gold, is made by Clawson who is known as ‘The King” of the British cheeses. With only six creameries in the world, it’s no wonder the prices for this luxury “gold” is so high. Creamy and crumbly White Stilton Gold is made with real edible gold leaf and gold liqueur. It will cost you around $500 per pound and will certainly make an amazing gift for any cheese connoisseur you know. Rumor has it that celebrities and oil sheikhs are already in line for a sample of the golden cheese.

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Pule – donkey’s cheese from Serbia

Another option for those who don’t mind spending a fortune on good cheese is Pule. Even more expensive than Stilton (around $600 per pound), Pule is made outside Belgrade, Serbia and only available on demand. So, even if you’re a millionaire you will still need to go to Serbia and wait for the cheese to be made, which might actually take a while. To make 1 kilogram of this cheese requires 25 liters of smoked donkey’s milk (or 3 gallons per pound) collected by hand from 100 donkeys who only produce 200 ml of milk per day, each!  But this cheese may just be well worth the wait, not only because of the unique crumbly taste, but also due to its health properties. Pule is low in fats, rich in proteins and vitamins (60 times more vitamin C than cow’s milk), and is known to strengthen the immune system.

Moose Cheese from Sweden

Moose cheese? The main reason you probably have never heard of it is that there are only three moose on the planet capable of producing milk. Their names are Gullan, Haelga, and Juna and they all live in Bjursholm, Sweden.

The process of making moose cheese is long, expensive, and tricky. Moose only lactate 5 months a year and require the most tender handling in complete silence otherwise they can get unsettled and dry-up for good. Each moose can produce about 5 liters (1.3 gallons) of milk per day if you’re lucky, which means the farm can make no more than 300 kg (660 pounds) of cheese a year. So if you’re looking to surprise your friends and have $400 to spend on a pound of cheese, pick yourself up some of the world’s rarest moose cheese. Although, instead of actually giving them this cheese, you can always go the cheap route, and just say, “Did you know you could make cheese from Bullwinkle?”.

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Epoisses – stinky cheese from France

If smelly cheeses aren’t a problem for you, then Epoisses should be on the top of your “to try” list.   As a hand-washed rind cheese, it is considered among the stinkiest in the world. Of course, cheese-lovers know that’s a sign of potent, delicious flavor.  Made from raw cow’s milk with its rind washed with pomace brandy, this cheese has a flavor and texture as unforgettable as its smell, which has made this cheese a culinary treasure. Some liken its scent to gym socks, and it has even been banned from public transportation all over France. I wonder what made Napoleon love it so much?

Casu marzu – flying maggot cheese from Italy

For the extreme foodies out there, here’s a cheese that will horrify you. Casu marzu literally means “rotten cheese.” It is one of the most disturbing cheeses out there, and here’s why. To make it, you start with regular sheep cheese and basically leave it out to attract flies until it’s infested with thousands of live larvae. This cheese is only made in Sardinia, Italy and is quite popular with locals. They prefer to eat it while the maggots are still alive (they think it’s unsafe otherwise). Some people get rid of them before consuming, while others leave them in but cover the cheese with their hands while eating because the disturbed maggots can jump up to six inches high! Soft and liquidy, Casu marzu has an aftertaste that lasts for hours and is definitely one of those foods that require a certain courage to try.

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Milbenkäse – cheese with mite excrement from Germany

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than Italian maggot cheese, along come the Germans who take cheese-making to another level. Their Milbenkäse is made by allowing quark (a fresh dairy product much like yogurt) to sit amongst thousands of dust mites that transform it into a highly sought after delicacy. The mites excrete an enzyme that ripens the cheese for about a year until it turns to a blackish lump with a bitter and zesty flavor. Is there anything more to this cheese rather than the unique process and high price? They say by consuming Milbenkäse you can rid yourself of a host dust allergies. That might be a question worth asking some aficionados who’ve already tried it.

Yak – everlasting cheese from Tibet

Are you one of those people who wish good cheese never ended? They have a solution for you in Tibet! Hard like a piece of resin, Yak cheese is so hard it could break your teeth, but at least you can suck and gnaw on it for hours. Made by wrapping the curd from yak’s milk in cloth, then pressing and drying it over a wood fire to give it a distinctive earthy taste, this cheese variety can only be found in Tibet, India and Nepal.

Do your friends love cheese as much as you do? Click the share buttons below to make sure they read this too. Or even better. Surprise them with a gourmet gift basket filled to the brim with delicious cheese delivered to USA, UK & 200 countries.

Image #1 by Yoane Carle
Image #2 by Simon Doggett
Image #3 by Ewan Munro
Image #4 by JohnPickenPhoto
 
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10 Tips to Jump Start Your New Year

08 Jan

The Ball has dropped, the last of the party is finally cleaned up, and your New Year’s Resolutions might have accidentally gotten tossed out with the trash. Don’t worry, we all say things we don’t mean when under the influence of champagne and party hats. But if you are really looking to make some real positive change in your life for 2017, the best advice we can give you is start small, and do something that resonates with you are and who you want to be.

If you need a little bit of help thinking of things that will make your life better and make you feel good while doing it, we just happen to have a list ready.

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  1. Clean out your pantry!  No really, this is going to make you feel better. We all do it, buy something because we forgot we had it and next thing we know there’re 4 unopened tubs of peanut butter in our cabinet that we are never going to eat. Go through each space, and keep what you know you are realistically going to use. For the rest, make sure they aren’t expired and bag them up. Donate them to shelters, food banks, or even college campuses (which often have a location where they accept donation for students in need). New year, new you, new food! It’s a great motto to live by.
  2. Clean out your closet. We promise this isn’t all about donating to charity. But if you have some things that you can give away, that’s great. The point of going through your closet is so you know what you have, what fits, what doesn’t, and so on. You’d be amazed at how many people buy a shirt or dress and put it in their closet only to forget about it. You may find so many hidden treasures that you won’t need to use all those gift cards your family gave you on clothes.
  3. Finally match your socks. While you’re surrounded by your wardrobe anyway, take a minute to pull out all your socks and actually match them. This may sound silly, but we know you’ve had more than one morning where you could not find a pair of socks. This way, the first few weeks of the year, you can get up late for work confident that the battle to find socks won’t slow you down. Plus, we’re betting you’ve got some socks with holes, stretched-out tops, or no more partners. Set these lonely socks aside – they’re perfect for wearing on your hands when you dust hard to reach places, for DIY sock puppet projects with the kids, OR they can even make great toys for your pets.
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  4. Make a calendar you can use. We aren’t talking a paper calendar, but you can use that if you want. Pick whatever phone app you like. Google calendar seems to sync with everything.  If nothing else, make sure you have reminders set up at least a week in advance for things like birthdays, anniversaries, and even a reminder for the movie you saw advertised that doesn’t come out until summer 2017. It’s a little thing that will help you remember to buy gifts and make plans.
  5. Learn to make at least one new dish. It’s as simple as that. Promise yourself you’ll learn one dish this year. If you’re really into cooking, one a month. They don’t have to be complicated or fancy, just put some new flavor and a little variety into your diet. We know you have about a thousand saved in your bookmarks.
  6. Treat yourself.  Yes, you can use the New Year as an excuse to get yourself that thing you always wanted. Want a weekend away? Make plans to travel somewhere! Learning guitar? Take some time to replace the old strings and really clean up your baby. A moment to spoil yourself after months of planning to give to others can be very emotionally and mentally relaxing.
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  7. Take inventory of your holiday haul.  There are always a few things that don’t fit quite right, or need to be in a different color, or came out of the box broken. Most stores stop accepting holiday gifts returns at the end of this month, so make sure you take some time to go through what you got and take care of what needs to go back.
  8. We’re not saying take down your tree, but you may want to dust it.  For a lot of people, holiday trees stay up until…Whenever. And that’s okay! But if you’re leaving yours up, take a moment to dust it, and change up the decorations. Keep that beauty – and holiday spirit – in tip-top shape with a little TLC.
  9. If you made a resolution and you’re finding it too hard to stick to, try taking baby steps.  You don’t have to totally give up on your resolution if you’ve already broken it.  If you want to do something like to learn a language, try learning a new word or phrase a day. You can slowly build that up to more and more, and before you know it you’ll be picking up whole sentences and having basic conversations.
  10. Make sure your home is ready for anything!

This is a good time to:

  • Check batteries in alarms;
  • Check batteries in remotes;
  • Do a little of the deep cleaning you swear you’ll get to;
  • Make sure you have at least one flashlight in an easy to reach place;
  • Make sure you have candles;
  • Get a bottle of water and some dry food for “just in case;”
  • Check your emergency supply kit, renew/update/add items as needed;
  • Go to the car, make sure it’s ready to start fresh and prepared too;
  • Make sure your basic medicines/vitamins are in stock and not expired.

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Whatever way you start off 2017, don’t forget that it is okay to stumble. You won’t get to everything on your to-do list, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you’re trying and doing just a little bit more than the year before. Let us know what you plan to do and how in the comments! You might inspire someone else to greatness.

Now, You’re Almost Ready for New Year’s – What’s Next? 

  • Schedule your gift now, so you don’t forget. Browse New Year gifts to USA, Canada & 200 countries, and make sure your gift is delivered on time!
  • Learn your horoscope for the upcoming year with the Chinese Zodiac.
  • You’ve read this far, we’re sure you have a friend who’d like to see this too. Click those share buttons below.
 
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5 Unusual Airbnb Spots for New Year’s Eve

22 Dec

It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. You know exactly where you want to celebrate New Year, but you just can’t decide on a hotel. The place needs to be fun and fit your personality down to the letter, because as they say, ‘the way you meet the New Year is how you’re going to spend it!’ We want your upcoming year be full of adventures, breathtaking experiences, and unforgettable emotions.  Going with a traditional hotel room just can’t guarantee you any of that, no matter how fancy it is.  That’s where Airbnb comes to the rescue. This website is a priceless resource of the most unique lodging rentals around the world, and it will tempt you with the vacation of your dreams. Still skeptical? See for yourself, but don’t hesitate too long because these incredible locations around the world are already filling up.

 

Bamboo House (Bali, Indonesia)

If you’ve ever dreamt about an exotic place where you can enjoy fantastic panoramas of the jungle, you’ll be amazed to find out that such a place actually exists. This luxurious bamboo house set on the sacred Ayung river in Bali, Indonesia is nothing but unique. Dreamers and celebrities alike are mesmerized by its fabulous settings and incredible views, keeping the Sunrise House busy since 2010. Though it is located in the middle of the jungle, the villa has a lot to offer. The Bamboo House comes fully equipped with luxury amenities including a plunge pool and private garden. This incredible four-story, all bamboo construction comprises 3 bedrooms, a lounge area, a kitchen, a media room, and a work space all furnished with exquisite bamboo furniture. With so much to offer, it is an easy pick for a family or group of friends who want to escape for the holidays together.

If you’re interested, here is what you need to know:

The Bamboo House is priced at $335 per night and comfortably accommodates 6 guests. This seems like a more than reasonable price to pay for a once in a lifetime dream location you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the world. Let the Tarzan in you enjoy the amazing sceneries of the dense jungle waiting to be explored!

 

The Seashell House – Casa Caracol (Isla Mujeres, Mexico)

If you want to spend New Year’s Eve like a mermaid or Neptune, this eccentric Seashell House is a perfect fit for you! Located on the most beautiful Caribbean island, Isla Mujeres, it looks (and feels!) like something out of surrealist paintings or the pages of Zeus’s children’s books. Built in 1994 by a famous architect Eduardo Ocampo for his brother, the unique building was inspired by a seashell. Every little detail inside and outside of the house is themed around shells which makes you feel like you’re one with the ocean. Which is a great transition since the ocean is the view just outside of the window.

Casa Caracol accommodates 4 people and has all the amenities for a comfortable and enjoyable stay with family or friends, and costs $308 per night. It is easy to get to and from Cancun International Airport, making this Caribbean gem the place to escape to for those who believe that crowded pools and touristic attractions aren’t part of a perfect New Year’s getaway.

 

Cabana Floripa (Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil)

You may be looking for something that puts you totally out of your element. A real adventure! Perhaps something that is part Oz adventure, an all eco-friendly, artsy tree house.  Cabana Floripa captures all of that and much more. Made of colorful recycled glass artwork, this one-of-a-kind cabin is an incredible place to explore for both kids and adults.  If you desire a vacation filled with emotions over luxury, Cabana Floripa is a truly unique and special experience for romantic getaways or family vacations alike.

The price may just be the best part at only $73 per night! As an extra bonus, you’ll have beautiful white sand beaches at your disposal only a walking distance away.

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King of the Castle (Galway, Ireland)

Who doesn’t want to start a new year like a king? Well, you can make that dream come true and start your year off like royalty in an actual castle!  This restored medieval building is full of character and looks exactly the same as it did 600 years ago when it was first built. Though now it has a few modern conveniences to make your stay as pleasant as possible. Just imagine yourself sitting before a huge fireplace wrapped in a blanket, looking at crackling wood and raising a toast to a new year. Don’t forget to top the experience off with delicious festive meal and a little pinch of snuff, just like the nobles who stayed before you. Yes, in a castle!

Your loved ones or friends can join you on this adventure since the castle accommodates 5 guests and costs only $161 a night. For a castle that price is an absolute steal!

  

Elqui Domos Astronomic Hotel (Paiguano, Coquimbo, Chile)

For couples looking to spark love on the New Year, what could be better than gazing at a breathtaking view of stars in the comfort of your own bed?! The only astronomic hotel in the Southern Hemisphere, Elqui Domos is a unique place that offers just such an evening. Located deep in the wilderness of Elqui Valley in Chile, these rooms were designed to be an absolute dream for stargazing. The resort offers two-story geodesic domes; each with a living room and a bathroom on the first floor, and a comfortable bed with a detachable roof over it on the second floor.

If you’re looking to get out and adventure you will find exciting tours, nighttime horse rides, and plenty of gorgeous vineyards in the area to help you make the most out of your getaway. At $196 per night we know these rooms will be all booked in no time.

Now, You’re Almost Ready for New Year’s – What’s Next? 

  • Schedule your gift now, so you don’t forget. Browse New Year gifts to USA, UK & 200 countries, and make sure your gift is delivered on time!
  • Start the upcoming year with these Tips to Jump Start Your New Year. Or learn your horoscope with the Chinese Zodiac.
  • You’ve read this far, we’re sure you have a friend who’d like to see this too. Click those share buttons below.

All images courtesy of airbnb.com

 
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Favorite Winter Holidays Recipes From Around the World

09 Dec

When it comes to Christmas dinner in US, it can feel like there’s not much variation. We know the traditional dishes, roast chicken or turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes are usually followed by a slice of pie (or two) and maybe another dessert, to be polite of course! While this food is delicious, it can be easy to find yourself in a holiday rut. Tradition is great! But let’s spice things up a bit.

Around the world, people tuck into all sorts of wonderful and delicious festive fare. Given the upcoming celebration, we’d like to share our 3 favorite holiday recipes from different parts of the world and give you an idea how you can add an exotic flare to your Christmas dinner.

Let’s start with a recipe inspired by traditional Jewish cuisine. As you might know, instead of Christmas, Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, and there’re plenty of amazing Hanukkah recipes worth borrowing and incorporating in your holiday menu. Potato Latkes are the easiest to make, but they aren’t at all lacking in flavor.  Made just in a few simple steps, they will make a great appetizer for you and your family.

What you’ll need:
1 small onion
3 tsp salt
1.5 lbs potatoes
2 eggs
¼ cup flour
Oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Dice the onion and sauté with a little salt until golden brown.
  2. Grate the potatoes and leave them in cold water.
  3. Put the eggs, flour, fried onion and 2 tsp. salt in a bowl. Drain the grated potato, add it to the rest of the ingredients and thoroughly mix everything together.
  4. Heat 2-4 tbsp. of oil in a frying pan, over medium heat. Scoop the batter with a table spoon (about two spoonful) and gently drop it into the oil. Press down gently with the back of the spoon to flatten. Fry 2-3 minutes until golden, then flip and fry additional 1-2 minutes on the other side.
  5. Repeat Step 4 until you run out of the mixture (makes about 16 latkes). Make sure to add more oil to the pan every couple of batches. Enjoy as is, or with a little sour cream or applesauce to taste.

The next recipe comes from Milan but is enjoyed for Christmas and New Year all over Western Europe as well as South America. Italian Christmas bread, Panettone, is deliciously sweet and will become a great alternative to the traditional Pumpkin or Apple pie on your holiday table.

What you’ll need:

For STARTER:
3/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
A pinch of instant yeast
⅓ cup of cold water

For DOUGH
2 1/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tbsp instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple
2 tbs grated orange or lemon zest

Directions:

  1. To make the starter: combine the starter ingredients in a bowl, cover, and allow to sit overnight at a room temperature.
  2. To make the dough: Combine all the dough ingredients except the fruit. Mix and knead them together until the dough is elastic and smooth.
  3. Cover the dough and allow to rise for 60-90 min, or until puffy.
  4. Gently “punch” the dough down with your fist and knead in the fruits and zest.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a tall straight-sided 2-quart pan. Cover the pan and let the dough rise for about 1 hour (until it’s just crested over the rim of the pan).
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F and bake an additional 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat again to 350°F and bake for 25 more minutes.
  7. Cool down completely before serving. Serve immediately or keep wrapped at a room temperature for up to a week.

And the last but not least is a very popular and surprisingly easy to make Russian salad Olivier. Even though the name might tell you otherwise, this recipe is traditionally Russian and is made for the winter holidays by every housewife.

What you’ll need:

6 large potatoes (Yellow Finn, Yukon Gold, or red potatoes)
2 carrots
6 eggs
4 pickles
1/2 lb of your choice of cooked meat (ham, beef or chicken) or mushrooms (for vegetarian version)
1 can of sweet green peas
salt and pepper
mayonnaise (or sour cream to taste)

Directions:

  1. Boil potatoes, carrots, and eggs until cooked (20-30 min).
  2. Peel and cut all the vegetables and eggs in small cubes. Chop your choice of meat and pickles.
  3. Mix everything together. Add peas.
  4. Dress with mayonnaise or sour cream until evenly coated.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!


Now, You’re Almost Ready for Christmas Dinner – What’s Next?

  • Schedule your gift now, so you don’t forget. Browse Christmas gifts to USA, Australia & 200 countries, and make sure your gift is delivered on time!
  • Plan your New Year’s with Unusual Airbnb Spots for New Year’s Eve.
  • You’ve read this far, we’re sure you have a friend who’d like to see this too. Click those share buttons below.
Image #1 by Meal Makeover Moms
Image #2 by Nicola
Image #3 by Ivana Sokolović
 

International Gift Delivery Company Innovates Holiday Shopping Tools

08 Dec

GiftBasketsOverseas.com eases international delivery pains with a combination of dedication and brand new software

ARLINGTON, Mass.Dec. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — GiftBasketsOverseas.com (GBO), the experts in international gift delivery, has spent the past year rolling out update after update, all designed to make the process of sending gifts anywhere in the world easier. The most notable and useful updates include the company’s newest native language website launches for customers who prefer to order in Spanish, Portuguese, and even Russian. Additionally, GBO added Alipay to its array of payment methods, making it easier for even more international customers to be secure while paying for gifts. Now, during the company’s busiest time of the year, the company has unveiled its new Personal Gift Wizard and Corporate Gift Wizard. When asked what they do, Marketing Director NinaCarmen Monroe playfully responded, “Magic!”

She went on to elaborate that the Personal and Corporate Gift Wizards perform essentially the same functions, just a little differently to cater to people who tend to buy one gift versus companies that tend to coordinate dozens – or even hundreds – of gifts at once. The new tools allow customers to easily shop for only the gifts that are relevant to them. Customers can type in their countries of delivery, their budget, and other details, and the Wizard will provide gifts that meet their specifications. In just a few minutes, after filling in a few very simple drop down fields, customers will now be greeted with a screen filled with gifts that are exactly what they are looking for. This allows each shopper to customize their experience and make the checkout process even faster.

CEO Dmitriy Peregudov stated, “During the holidays, when time should be spent with your loved ones, I want to make sure that our company does everything it can to make shopping effortless. The most precious gift of all is time and we want you to enjoy yours!”

Of course, the team at GiftBasketsOverseas.com understands that there’s something to be said about getting to browse through all a country catalog has to offer on your own. So, those have gotten an update too. The servers have been beefed up and the GBO catalogs are getting new gifts added to them constantly, bringing its customers the biggest selection of high quality gifts around the world.

“We’ll never be done growing,” Mr. Peregudov elaborated. “There will always be an update to something that could make us better. And that’s what I want – to always bring our customers the best.”

But GiftBasketsOverseas.com refuses to let its technology surpass its human connection. While other companies are focusing hard on automated answering services and robotic chat programs, GBO has instead improved its customer service team and invested in employee training to make them as effective as possible when it comes to helping customers over the phone, through e-mail, on chat, in social media, through WhatsApp, and more 24/7. This is especially crucial now when customers have so many questions about how to make sure their holiday gifts arrive on time. GBO is looking forward to an especially busy winter season and hopes it can use customer feedback to create an even more impressive 2017.

About www.GiftBasketsOverseas.com

GiftBasketsOverseas.com is an A-ranked, BBB-accredited company based in the United States that specializes in delivering superior quality gifts to over 200 countries.  GBO strives to provide online ordering convenience, excellent multilingual customer service 24 X 7, and secure payment options. Learn more at www.GiftBasketsOverseas.com, like GBO on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

 

Unusual Yet Romantic Gifts

25 Nov

We work with a lot of different kinds of people here at GiftBasketsOverseas.com (GBO). But by and large, our favorites have to be romantics and geeks.

We know when we’re dealing with a ‘geek’ right away. They always know what they want, have specific instructions, and are easy to do business with. Their orders mostly consist of new technology or practical household items like a brand new model of a phone, a camera, iPad, Xbox, large TV with LCD screen, or even a washing machine.

Romantics are just as easy to spot, and the gifts are just as varied! Their gifts, from chocolates to flowers, to jewelry, all have sentimental value, even if it’s not easy for our team to spot right away.

Even though both geek and romantic orders are pretty straightforward, every once in a while we get quite unusual requests. Here are some of our most memorable examples:

Once we had a call from a customer who wanted to order a valet stand for trousers. A ‘geek’ or ‘romantic,’ it’s hard to say, but here’s her story. She was celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary with her husband and decided to give him a gift with a double meaning. As an office worker, her spouse has to wear suits to work every day. After so many years together she must have been a little tired of steaming those trousers for him, so she decided to give him a valet stand. With this new gift, he would not only remember where he left his trousers last night but also look neat every morning on his own. Was this smart woman giving a gift to her husband or herself? It’s tough to say.

Last summer we received a request to send a gift not in a regular wrapping paper, but in chintz. The customer explained that her son was celebrating his first wedding anniversary and in their culture the first anniversary is called the Chintz wedding. Given the name it was easy to understand why it’s considered good luck if the anniversary gift is wrapped in this specific fabric. We were more than happy to follow the tradition and helped the client get what she wanted.

Other ‘romantics’ have quite a sense of humor. Several months ago we had a special request to deliver a… hair tie. Yes, as simple as that. The customer admitted that he promised his girlfriend a hair tie because she was constantly losing them and asking him for help finding it. He was hoping that if he gave her a hair tie as a gift delivered to her office at work along with a bouquet of red roses she’d be more careful and wouldn’t lose it that quickly. Well, we hope he was right.

Chocolates, flowers, and more traditional gifts are all great! But there’s something to be said for a gift that is a little odd and deeply personal. It just reminds us that no matter how big or small a gift is, it’s the story and thought behind it that determines how truly unforgettable it is.

Now, You’re All Ready For Romance – What’s Next?

  • Start preparing for upcoming romantic occasions. Browse romantic gifts to USA, UK & 200 countries, and make sure your gifts are delivered on time!
  • Get ready for Valentine’s Day with these Creative Valentine’s Date Ideas.
  • You’ve read this far, we’re sure you have a friend who’d like to see this too. Click those share buttons below.

Image #2 by Sean McGrath

 
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