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Don't get me wrong, flowers and chocolates are lovely and traditional V day gifts. No matter what, they will make you smile and feel all warm and rosy inside. If you are looking for something a bit different though, we've got some ideas for you. While I love roses, giving them to my husband does not seem like the best gift. While he would appreciate the sentiment, it just isn't the perfect gift for him. I've done a few different things over the years so I thought I would share my crafty gifts in case you are looking for something new to try.

1. Last year –  I made 2 dozen chocolate cupcakes with heart sprinkles. I arranged them on a platter in the shape of a heart. Edible Valentine 🙂 Men love these.

2. Year before that –  I went to the local hallmark store and got those small blank cards that are next to the gift bags. I got 12, one for each day of the year. In each card, I wrote something I loved about him. Some were serious and some were funny. I had these arranged with some rose petals and candles.

3. Maybe the year before that – I surprised him with a night away from the house and children. It was a simple room down the cape, but we enjoyed a nice dinner out and roamed the shops in Hyannis. We slept in and then came home refreshed. It was perfect.

4. – Within the last 5 years – We went to Foxwoods for the night and stayed over in their hotel. It was a great deal and we had a delicious meal at the Hard Rock Cafe. We played some blackjack and went home $300 in the plus. It was a great time!

5. 5 Years back – this one took some planning from the year before so while this one may not work now, it would be great to start for next year. Starting this V Day make a jar and each week put in a note of something nice he did or something great that happened. It can be as simple as a thank you for a small kindness or something big like a new home purchase. Just something each week on a sheet of paper.

Whatever you decide to do, no gift is too cheesy or too mushy if it comes from the heart. Happy Love Day everyone!

 

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The January freeze is now here. Temps are dropping and no one wants to go outside for any extended period. Being shut in does have its drawbacks like boredom, but to the avid book reader, there is no shortage of new titles to take in on a cold day. There are tons of websites you can peruse to check out the latest releases and of course there is the NY Times and Oprah's list. I am and have always been a huge lover of books so some of the ones I am suggesting , I have read myself. So take a peek and let me know if I am missing your favorite!

Everything We Keep – Kerry Lonsdale – READ
This was a great book and surprised me right to the very end! Lovely read.
A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

When I Found You – Catherine Ryan Hyde – READ
Sad story, but wonderful read.
From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes When I Found You, an exquisite, emotional tale of the unexpected bonds that nothing in life can break.

The Year We Turned 40 – A Novel – Liz Fenton
If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future.

The Whiskey Sea – Ann Howard Creel
The book begins with a mysterious image of a woman who is in the water and fears drowning. Then the story moves to 1908, when two young girls are orphaned after the sudden death of their mother. They are taken in by a kindly fisherman, and settle into life in a fishing community in New Jersey.

The Throwaway Children – Diney Costeloe – READ
Sad, but enjoyable read.

Rita and Rosie Stevens are only nine and five years old when their widowed mother marries a violent bully called Jimmy Randall and has a baby boy by him. Under pressure from her new husband, she is persuaded to send the girls to an orphanage, not knowing that the papers she has signed will entitle them to do what they like with the children. And it is not long before the powers that be decide to send a consignment of orphans to their sister institution in Australia. Among them—without their family's consent or knowledge—are Rita and Rosie, the throwaway children.

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Whether you like him for his unorthodox views or you can't stand him, Donald Trump WILL be our next President and his term starts today. The official swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. on Friday on the West Front of the Capitol overlooking the Mall. Most of the nation’s dignitaries will be on hand, including Mr. Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Nice.

Mr. Trump will recite the 35 words mandated by the Constitution:“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Then it will be time for his inaugural address which has a lot of people speculating what he will say. Then it will be parade time! A tradition since Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, the parade is one of the inauguration’s highlights and typically draws large crowds and TV viewers around the country.

Next it will be time to dance! Trump will attend 3 balls even though more are going on. He will dance the first dance with his wife at every ball. as is custom, and will give a small speech at each event. Washington is expecting protesters and a lot of them. All inaugurations have protesters present, but Trump is the most controversial president elected yet so protesters will be at an all time high this time and so will security.

The largest event by far will be the Women’s March on Washington, which is on Saturday and is expected to attract several hundred thousand people. AT the same time the National prayer will be held and will signal the end of the inauguration.

You will be able to watch every event on TV, live stream it, and a thousand other ways. It all kicks off at 11 am today so dry your tears and get on board. 4 years of Trump, here we go!

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It goes without saying that you need to be extra careful this time of year. Especially after a snowstorm and the frigid temps that follow, safety is prime concern. In good weather it can be hard to keep our seniors safe so add ice, cold, and winter and the risk goes up. Living in a retirement community in Massachusetts, like Pine Hill Estates, protects Mom and Dad more than others living on their own, but it can still be dangerous this time of year.

Seniors are especially prone to becoming dehydrated simply because they eat and drink less than younger people, thus they consume less water. In general, people also feel less thirsty during the winter and so are more prone to not drinking enough as they should. Make sure your elderly loved one is drinking consistently.

I know it sounds silly, but stock up on GOOD gloves and outerwear. We live in the North so this is a place to NOT skimp on the good stuff. Even when an elderly person is indoors, they should be dressed in warm layers so they can take clothes off if they are too hot, or put more on if they are too cold. Go with Columbia, North Face, etc…

You likely won’t be going outside as much in cold weather, which means that you won’t be getting as much exposure to sunlight. Your body produces Vitamin D when exposed to sunshine, so it helps to adjust your diet accordingly. There are Vitamin D supplements available, but you can always fix the problem by eating more fish and dairy.

Be educated on the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite usually involves numb, waxy skin that has turned slightly grey, white or yellow. Hypothermia patients may feel confused, dizzy and sluggish, and have an irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing or slurred speech. If you suspect you might be suffering from either of these conditions, seek medical help immediately and keep warm.

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More and more people are opting to stay home tonight and for good reason. It is safer, cheaper, and more fun! Want to have a great New Years? Invite a bunch of friends over, make some easy apps, and play some super fun games while waiting for the ball to drop. You can easily make this into a tradition and it is something my family has been doing for as long as I can remember. You can still party, but safely at home. Not sure where to start? I have made a list of some of the funniest game we have played over the years and  a few new ones I found online or from a friend or two. No matter what you do, have a fantastic start to your year and be safe!

**Top Pick! – Pictionary!!

Grab a large dry erase board or some big sheets of paper from the dollar store along with pens or markers. You can grab the pictionary cards or any cards from whatever games you have on hand for the clues. Split into teams of 2 and let the laughs begin. This is tons of fun and people really get into it.

Name that person

Everyone writes the name of a celebrity, famous person or character on a piece of paper and then they stick to the forehead of the player on their left (use tape or office Post-It notes). Make sure they don’t see the name.  Now the game starts. Everyone else can see your forehead. The objective is to work out who you are. Going around the table, each payer takes a turn to ask the party questions about who they are – answers can be YES or NO only. If you get a YES you may continue asking, if you get a NO play moves on to the left. Last person to guess their name is the loser.

Host a Scavenger Hunt

Okay, I know we are not 8 years old, but this can be a blast, Make a list of items guests have to find and the fist person who does it gets a prize. You can have them collect items or just write down their location. This can be pretty funny to watch once people get a few glasses of champagne in them.

2 Resolutions and a lie

This game is a twist on the classic Two Truths and a Lie party game where guests have to try to figure out what the other guests are lying and telling the truth about. With this game, though, they'll have to figure out what two resolutions you really want this year, and which one is completely made up.

Charades

You will need old magazines, newspapers and other literature from the current year, to use as references for this game. You will need to locate several big events that took place throughout the year. You can write them down on sheets of paper or cut out the sections pertaining to them. Fold them up and place them in a bowl. When your guests are ready to play a game have them gather around. Ask for a volunteer to start the game off. They will go up in front of the group, pull a paper and read it to themselves. They will have one minute to come up with something to act out, without speaking or making a noise. They will have one additional minute to act it out. The remaining guests will try to guess which event they are acting out. The person to guess correctly will go next. This continues until the bowl is empty or you are ready to move on to a new game. The person with the most correct guesses wins the game.

Race to the toast

You will need champagne, champagne flutes, plastic bowls, and plastic spoons. Give each player a bowl with champagne in it, a spoon and an empty flute. When the game begins they must use the spoon to transfer the champagne from the bowl into the flute. Once they have gotten all of the Champagne into their glass they will grab their glass and stand. The first person to get this down will get to give the toast for the New Years.

Have the Happiest of New Years!

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Piling the family in the car to go see Christmas lights is one of the oldest and happiest traditions around. Driving around your town is sure to reveal some over the top houses, but where do you go for the wow factor? I am sure you know of the most popular ones, but here is a list of some you may not be aware of.

Enchanted Village at the Cape Codder Resort – Hyannis

Located only minutes from the coast and the plethora of beaches Cape Cod has to offer is the relaxing Cape Codder Resort and Spa. Among the family holiday destinations in Massachusetts, the Cape Codder is at the top. During the month of December, they transform the courtyard and surrounding grounds into one of the best Christmas light displays.

Just like Edaville USA, the Cape Codder Resort lets visitors reminisce of the holidays long ago as they walk through the old fashioned Enchanted Village.

Starting at dusk each night in December, you'll be amazed by the glow of thousands of lights, festive animations, a 16 ft. 'Giving Tree', light sculptures, giant snowmen, twinkling trees and reindeer and more!

Dressed in festive costumes, carolers from the Barnstable High School Drama Club will walk among guests and spread the holiday spirit through song on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm and on Sundays from 5 pm to 7 pm. Santa will also be here until mid-December.

Food and beverages are available for purchase in the Heath 'n Kettle restaurant. Enjoy the majestic Cape Codder fire while the kids roast marshmallows and sing songs with the carolers.

Although the cost is free, donations of an unwrapped toy or non-perishable are much appreciated and will be given to the Independence House in Hyannis.

ZooLights at Stone Zoo – Stoneham

Once a year in winter, Stone Zoo in Stoneham transforms its tree lined paths into a brilliantly lit winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights.

Upon entering the zoo, you'll pass by the Yukon Creek section which houses bald eagles, black bears, Canadian lynx, Gray foxes, and reindeer. Although some of the animals at Stone Zoo need to be housed indoors and kept warm, other animals are adaptable to the colder weather and can still be visited during the day time hours.

What a great way to spend the day and then be able to experience the Christmas lights by night!

Opening on Thanksgiving and running to the end of December, Zoolights is one of the best Christmas light displays and family holiday destinations.

Make sure the children get to take pictures with Santa who will await their arrival in Santa's Castle. He'll be available for photos through December 23rd.

Carousel rides (along with Santa pictures) are also available for an additional fee.

Holly Days – Boylston

Holly Days, located in Boylston's Tower Hill Botanic Garden, pays homage to the multicultural holiday celebrations around the world.

Open daily from the end of November to the beginning of January, Holly Days invites visitors to enjoy the light filled decorations, trees, wreaths and swags beaming with hand-crafted ornaments created with natural materials reflecting the international theme.

Some of the fun activities include holiday music and dancing from around the world, holiday shopping and other garden accessories in the gift shop, floral interpretations of the Earth's many offerings and guided garden tours through the Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

Enjoy tasty ethnic appetizers by Pepper's Fine Foods Catering and find a huge selection of international desserts to sample from. Dine at the Twigs Cafe and sip on your favorite glass of wine or beer while overlooking the panoramic view of Mt. Wachusett and Wachusett Reservoir.

Christmas Festival of Lights at Edaville USA – Carver

Edaville USA brings visitors back to a time when life moved slower and the simple pleasures were something special. Located in South Carver, Edaville gets its name from the founder of the amusement park, Ellis D. Atwood.

The 5 and a half mile long railroad surrounding the park was once used to transport customers to view and sight-see his 1,800 acre plantation of cranberries.

The operation eventually evolved into a "Family Fun Park" with vintage carnival type rides and Christmas light displays with millions of bright lights.

Once a year in winter, Edaville USA features the Christmas Festival of Lights offering train rides through the magnificent Christmas light displays.

The light displays themselves are actually situated among the cranberry bogs; the heated train rides take approximately 20 minutes to go the full loop.

After the train ride, be sure to visit with Santa, he can be located daily through Christmas Eve and found in the Cran Central Junction (museum) building.

With 11 family-oriented amusement rides, a playground for the kids, and fireworks every Friday night, Edaville USA's Christmas Festival of Lights is a top pick for family holiday destinations.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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It has been all over the news…the polar vortex is set to arrive tonight and with it, freezing temps. Things are going to get really cold so today is a good day to button up all those loose ends around the house. I am talking below freezing with wind chills -10 to -20. It will be downright dangerous to go outside and if you have not already drained your hose lines/faucets, you need to do that today or you will most likely have frozen pipes. Most of us northerners know this, but it has been very mild and this fast switch to the deep freeze may have left us unprepared this year. Last year is was 50 degrees in late December still. So, if you have not started your winter checklist and are not sure where to start, here is a quick list of the top things you need to do and fast.

Drain any lines to your faucets outside. This included irrigation, any pool lines, and basic hoses. If you do not, any water sitting in those lines will freeze and expand causing all kinds of plumbing issues. Any exposed pipes in the basement should be covered with pipe insulation. It is very easy to install. It looks like a small pool noodle with a slit down the length so you can slip it over your pipes. It is a small cost to save your plumbing,

Image result for plumbing insulation

Next, you want to make sure all your gutters are clear of any last debris such as leaves, twigs, and muck. If these are built up water will not flow and you will have a big frozen mess up there. This could cause damage to your gutters and cause water damage to the house. Be careful up there as it will get icy quick.

Let's talk fireplaces. This is an often overlooked feature of the home. While fireplaces are simple to use, they have to be maintained. Each year they must be cleaned. Also it is a good time to clean out your wood stoves. Make sure the venting is clear and all of the burnt wood is discarded. You will want these in optimal shape if the power goes.

One of the best and cheapest ways to save on heat is simple weatherstrip. You would be shocked at how much heat you lose through your drafty doors and windows. Applying weatherstrip around your doors is very easy and will block all drafts. You can pick this stuff up at any store, but Home Depot will have the biggest selection.

Image result for weatherstripping

There are a few other things you can do too like wrap a water heater blanket around your water heater or buy or make weather door stops. You also need to stock up on salt for your walkways and make sure your shovels or snow blow machinery is in working order.

Be safe everyone!

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While there are plenty of beautiful ornaments available at any store, it is more fun to make them and it keeps your tree more personal. You will end up making your ornaments from items in your yard and home and you cannot get more personal than that! Plus it is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Put on some Christmas music, make a mug of coffee, and get gluing. You can of course make anything, but here are a few tips to get you started!

Snowball Yarn Ornaments – This one is really pretty and fun!

All you need is white yarn or colored if you like, glue, and some balloons.
Blow up a balloon to a round ball size and wrap your yarn around it. Next, brush on the glue with a small brush.
string2

Let it dry then pop the balloon! Out comes a pretty ball that you can easily tie a string to or display in a bowl Add ribbon for an extra touch.
string1

Remember ladies ribbon and glitter are everything.

Another really great one is the spool Christmas list. You can also change this up by adding names instead of gifts.
All you need is a spool, some string, glue, paint, and a piece of paper cut to size.
spool

How about wooden message signs. I LOVE these, all you need is some flat pieces of wood, you can even use paint stirrers from Home Depot. Paint them white and then stencil or paint on your favorite sayings, names, whatever you like. Punch or drill a hole to hang a string.
100-copya

Do you make ornaments? If so what do you make? Let us know in the comments!

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We are almost there – Black Friday 2016! While most of us are getting food ready today, many are thinking of their black Friday plan and how to score the best deals. It can be kind of tricky with all the ads saying when stores are open as we have the Blue Law here. The Blue Law means stores cannot open on Thanksgiving day. Don't worry,they open at the stroke of midnight or 1am. Also, where are the best deals? That is a bit harder to determine as everyone has different items they are chasing, but here is a quick guide that will surely help you on your day. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Walmart:  1 a.m. (4 a.m. in Avon)

Best Buy: 1 a.m.

Target: 1 a.m. (6 a.m. in Salem)

Sears: 5 a.m. (Thanksgiving/Black Friday ad prices also apply on Wednesday in Mass.)

Macy’s: 12:30 a.m.

Kohl’s: 1 a.m.

Toys R Us: 1 a.m.

JCPenney: 12:30 a.m.

T.J.Maxx: 7 a.m.

Marshalls: 7 a.m.

Dick’s: 12:30 a.m.

Home Depot: 6 a.m.

Office Depot: 6 a.m.

Staples: 6 a.m.

GameStop: 5 a.m.

Bed Bath & Beyond: 6 a.m.

Kmart: 12 a.m.

Babies R Us: 8 a.m.

BJ’s: 7 a.m.

Sam’s Club: 7 a.m.

Costco: 9 a.m.

Also, one of the best things people do not realize is that all the same deals are available online. Sure, you can stand outside and freeze or you can boot up your laptop, under a blanket, and shop away.

Target. Target says all of its Black Friday deals will be available online with free shipping on Thanksgiving Day. Sale items include Powerbeats 2 Wireless Earphones for $89.99, regularly $199.99, and the Dyson V6 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum for $299.99, regularly $499.99.

And there will be plenty of Apple deals up for grabs, too. The Apple Watch Series 1 will start at $198, regularly starting at $269.99, and the iPad Air 2 will start at $274, down from $399.99.

Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart customers can shop the majority of the retailer’s Black Friday deals on Walmart.com beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thanksgiving morning. Then, Wal-Mart’s Black Friday event will begin in most stores at 6 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving Day.

Some of the standout Black Friday deals include TVs, toys, drones and connected home items. The DJI Phantom Standard 3 drone will be $369, amounting to $130 in savings. The PlayStation 4 Slim “Uncharted 4” 500GB bundle will be $249, a $50 savings, plus it comes with a $30 gift card. And a Samsung 50-inch Smart 4K TV will be $398, good for $230 in savings.

Kohl’s. Last year, Kohl’s limited its Black Friday doorbusters to in-store customers only, but not this year. Doorbusters for 2016 are available in store and online from 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day until 1 p.m. Black Friday, or while supplies last.

Deals include a Haier 49-inch Ultra HD 4K TV for $249.99, compared to the regular $349.99. You can also choose between a Sony PlayStation 4 500GB “Uncharted 4” console bundle or a Microsoft Xbox One S 500GB “Minecraft” favorites console bundle for $249.99, regularly $299.99 each.

Additionally, consumers can shop select Black Friday deals online all week. Through Black Friday, shoppers can earn $15 in Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent. It's redeemable Nov. 27 through Dec. 5.

Happy Shopping and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Regardless of your vote, Trump is the new president and he is not going anywhere. Things have calmed down a bit by now and instead of complaining people are now starting to wonder what his take on policy will be. Will he be like every other president elect and change his tune once he has power or will he follow through with all his promises? Seeing how he is not a "politician" maybe it is possible to finally have someone in office that will follow through.

Time will tell. Something we have all been hearing about is his stance on the Second Amendment. Us northerners value our right to bear arms and if Clinton was elected, that would have been severely hampered. So what is Trumps policy?

The Second Amendment to our Constitution is clear. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period. The Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right that belongs to all law-abiding Americans. The Constitution doesn't’t create that right. It ensures that the government can’t take it away. Our Founding Fathers knew, and our Supreme Court has upheld, that the Second Amendment’s purpose is to guarantee our right to defend ourselves and our families. This is about self-defense, plain and simple.

It’s been said that the Second Amendment is America’s first freedom. That’s because the Right to Keep and Bear Arms protects all our other rights. We are the only country in the world that has a Second Amendment.

I have to say I am impressed and surprised by his affirming stance. The right to bear arms is a right that should not be taken away. People have always had the right to protect themselves and that right will never cease no matter what government has to say. Nice to know though it is not going to be an issue in Trumps presidency.

Where do you stand on the right to bear arms? Let me know in the comments.

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