Wednesday, December 17 , 2014

Strange New Year’s Rituals from Around the World

Every year is the same for New Year's— you eat and drink and wait for the clock to strike midnight. Maybe it's time for a little shake-up. Try one of these cultural traditions made to bring lots of luck. Who knows? It might be just what you need for the best year ever.

China—The color red is a Chinese symbol of good luck and happiness. Hang a red banner on your front door to bring good energy your way.

England/Wales—For this one, you need a clock that tolls on the hour. When the clock starts to strike midnight, open the back door of your house and then close it. You will be releasing the old year, along with all of its misfortune. Then, on the 12th toll of the clock, open the front door, which welcomes in the New Year with all of its good luck.

France—Good health and good fortune will come to those who eat a stack of pancakes on New Year's Day.

Italy—Good luck will come to those who eat lentils on New Year's Day, which represent a bountiful new year.

Japan—You'll need a string of tiny, white tree lights to symbolize stars. Use the type that has a plug on one end only, such as these. Bunch the string of lights loosely in a clear glass vase. Place the vase in the southwest part of your living room. Just before midnight on New Year's Eve, plug in the lights. This will ensure that you invite lucky stars into your life and have a fresh start for the new year. Keep them on throughout New Year's Day or as long as they brighten your decor. The Japanese also believe in letting out a big belly laugh at the stroke of midnight, setting the tone for a happy, healthful New Year!

Norway—Prepare rice pudding, and hide one whole almond in the bowl. Dish out the pudding to family and friends on New Year's Day. The person who gets the almond is assured of major wealth.

Switzerland—On New Year's Day, let a drop of cream land on the floor to make sure you have a rich New Year.

United States—Did you know that there's a specific reason for the tradition of the midnight kiss? Some say that the practice goes all the way back to ancient Rome, when kissing at midnight was part of the giant party celebrating Saturnalia. The tradition was later adopted and adapted by Europeans, who held masked balls to celebrate New Year's. The masks represented evil spirits, which were removed at midnight, and the kiss was an act of purification. Some believe a good kiss at midnight sets the tone of lucky-at-love for the rest of the year (see more at kisstixx.com).

In the southern US states, luck will come your way if on New Year's Day, you eat a dish of black-eyed peas and greens, such as kale, collard greens, spinach or mustard greens. The beans represent coins and the leafy vegetables symbolize folded money. Who doesn't want a little more green in the new year?

More help in the New Year…

The Surprising Secret of Willpower

How to Buy Low and Sell High

Dream Up the Life You Wish You Had…And Make It Real

Wednesday, December 17 , 2014

Fun Christmas Trivia Quiz

We love sitting around the table and chatting after a big holiday meal, nibbling at second helpings and sipping hot toddies. But sometimes the conversation gets thin or too serious, so it's fun to have a little game time. Here's what to do…

Play a Christmas trivia game! You can search online for printable quizzes, or combine a bunch of questions from various sites (search “Christmas trivia questions” ) or click here. Mix in a few “ family trivia” questions, such as “Who hid in the dining room hutch Christmas eve, waiting for Santa Claus?” “Who has to travel the farthest?” Oh, and make sure all cell phones are put away! If you don't have time to search the Web today before your holiday feast, here's a list of some of our favorite quiz questions…

1. What American state was the first to make Christmas an official holiday?

2. Where did the real St. Nicholas live?

3. What men's grooming appliance became a sled for Santa in a Christmas TV commercial from the 1960s?

4. What does Frosty the Snowman say when he's brought to life?

5. Who is the author of A Christmas Carol?

6. When you go Wassailing, what are you doing?

7. Which star led the Three Kings to the baby Jesus?

8. In the movie It's a Wonderful Life, how do you know that an angel has received his/her wings?

9. In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, what was the name of the elf who wanted to be a dentist?

10. What's the name of the Grinch's dog?

11. Did the Puritans celebrate Christmas?

12. What are the names of Santa's reindeer?


1. Alabama

2. In Turkey

3. Norelco electric shaver

4. Happy Birthday!

5. Charles Dickens (or Darles Chickens to make the kids laugh)

6. You are dropping in on neighbors and receiving goodies!

7. Star of Bethlehem

8. A bell rings

9. Hermey

10. Max

11. No. Because they viewed Christmas as a decadent Catholic holiday, the Puritans in America banned all Christmas celebrations from 1659 to 1681.

12. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen

A happy, healthy holiday to you and yours from Joan and Lydia and Bottom Line Publications!

Special thanks to our helper elf Maureen Naccari at Bottom Line Publications for help with this tip.

More great ways to have fun…


Thursday, November 06 , 2014

Read the Fine Print Without Glasses

You want to figure out how long that DVD will run or how long to cook your pasta, but the type on the back of the case or spaghetti box is just too darn small. Here's what to do...

When you want to read cooking instructions…or a price...or look up that info on the back of a jewel case...or read the small print on that menu, but the type is too small (and you forgot your reading glasses), try this. Make a fist, leaving a small hole between your palm and pinky. Bring your fist up to your eye, look through that small hole and focus on the letters or numbers you want to read. For some unknown reason, the small channel of light entering your eye clears your vision.

You can also puncture a small hole in a piece of paper with a pen point. Hold the paper hole to your eye, focus on the number and see it come into view—larger and sharp.

More ways to boost your vision...


Thursday, December 12 , 2013

5 Tree-Trimming Tips

Trimming a Christmas tree is easy when you have help...and what a great excuse for a party! Invite your trimming crew over, and try these fun ideas...

Decorating your tree with strings of popcorn is an attractive, natural and inexpensive option—but fresh-popped kernels tend to break apart when you try to string them. Solution: Air-pop the corn kernels a few days before the stringing. Stale popcorn is a lot easier to work with than fresh—it’s tougher and holds together better. And fresh popcorn is too tempting to eat!

Ask each of your tree-trimming guests to bring one inexpensive ornament. You can have a contest to declare the sweetest, goofiest, classiest, most retro...whatever categories you'd like. Tell your trimming crew in advance that homemade ornaments are welcome...even preferred.

Try to keep your food selections to easy handheld munchies because people will be busy decorating your tree. The best holiday-party food we know is take-out pizza cut up into small 3-x-3-inch squares. What says Christmas better than a Margherita pizza—red sauce, white cheese...topped with fresh green basil leaves. Finish up with Christmas cookies and hot cocoa.

More ways to make your holiday special...


Tuesday, October 29 , 2013

Last-Minute Halloween Costumes

Did you just get invited to a Halloween party and you need a costume on the fly? You don't feel like spending the bucks on a fancy mask that three other people at the party might have...and you don't feel like staying up all night sewing. What can you do? With just a little imagination and some stuff around the house, you (or your child) will be dressed and ready for the holiday. Here are two ideas for homemade costumes that are sure to be a hit...

You Are a Junk Drawer—wear a black sweat suit or running suit or a black leotard and tights, and use safety pins to pin on the stuff found in everyone's junk drawer—extra keys, old receipts, odd pieces of string, a nearly empty tape dispenser, coin wrappers, buttons, dead pens, matchbooks, etc. People will relate to this stuff, and you'll have fun looking for the objects.

You Are a Movie Theater Floor—wear black, as above, but this time, with double-sided tape or safety pins, attach empty candy wrappers and boxes, chewed gum, popcorn pieces, plastic straws, paper cups (a REALLY big-size soda cup would be fun), ticket stubs, etc. You can wear a popcorn bucket as a hat. (A number of manufacturers of microwave popcorn sell "movie theater butter" versions sold in big theater-style tubs. Check your local supermarket or a discount department store such as Walmart or Target.)

More for Halloween...

Surefire Chocolate Stain Remover

Secrets to Better Pumpkin Cleaning and Carving

Best, Easy Brownie Recipes for Your Holiday Party

Thursday, February 14 , 2013

A Toast to Bouncy, Healthy-Looking Hair!

Did you know that your hair grows fastest when you’re in love? It’s probably because your hormones are jumping for joy. If you want to give all that extra hair some body and bounce, add 1 teaspoon of champagne to 2 tablespoons of your regular shampoo. Work it into your hair, washing and rinsing as usual. (You can also rinse with a bit of champagne after shampooing.)

The bubbly should help make your hair livelier, and the tartaric acid in the champagne will bring out your hair’s natural highlights, especially if you are blonde.

Monday, December 24 , 2012

Sweet Treat for Your Christmas Tree

Give your Christmas tree a pick-me-up by adding 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of maple syrup to its water. The syrup’s sugar feeds the tree and seems to make the pine needles a more vibrant green. It may help them last longer too.

Tags: maple syrup
Wednesday, October 17 , 2012

Secrets to Better Pumpkin Cleaning and Carving

Use an ice cream scoop to remove pumpkin pulp and seeds. It makes the work quick and easy. To carve the pumpkin, use a utility knife (often used to cut drywall, available at hardware stores)—it provides better control than a kitchen knife.

Wednesday, May 02 , 2012

Flower Magic

If you have white or very light-colored flowers in a vase, add food coloring to the water. As they absorb the colored water, the flowers will become a muted version of that new color.

Thursday, April 26 , 2012

Clean Your Baseball Cap

Washing machines tend to be tough on cotton baseball caps…so use the dishwasher instead. The cap will come out clean, and it will also retain its shape.