Holiday clutter: A plan for clearing out your house before the gifts arrive

While the holidays bring loads of excitement and opportunities for gift giving, it also means more stuff. Every parent has had to deal with the issue of kid clutter. The holiday season takes it to a different level.Perhaps you’re one of the many of us drowning in too much kid stuff, dreading the next influx of holiday gifts. Then there are the assorted winter coats, boots and gear that go with the season.Let’s introduce a new holiday tradition: clearing the clutter. Knowing how busy the holiday season gets, less stuff can make life simpler. To help you out, consider these tips and suggestions for clearing the clutter and de-stressing the season. “Clearing the clutter is something we recommend people do before all the holiday stuff comes in,” said Cheryl Lightholder, manager of communications for Goodwill Center for Work and Training, Southwest Campus, where in 2016 a total of 3.70 million donors gave to the organization through its stores and donation centers. December is historically the second highest month for donations, a bit behind June and rummage sale season.“End of the year donations spike up at least 10 to 15 percent in December compared to previous months due to the 31st being the last day to get tax donation receipts,” said Lightholder. “Most of the spike happens the last six days of the year, from Dec. 26 through Dec. 31. However, we do recommend people think about donating before the rush, especially as they make room for holiday gifts.” RELATED: The life-changing magic of minimizing holiday traditions RELATED: Kids 2 Kids Christmas toy drive captures holiday spirit for both young and old Start simple. Ask the kids to grab a garbage bag and walk around the entire house picking up trash, looking under the beds and in closets, too. You’ll be surprised by what they find. Specialists at The Container Store, which is dedicated to organizing the home, suggest identifying Continue Reading

With creativity you can ‘eat clean’ for the holidays

Eating clean is all the buzz these days and surprisingly it’s not a diet – it’s a lifestyle, which means there is no deprivation or calorie counting.Classic holiday foods can be a recipe for disaster when you’re trying to eat clean or have food intolerances and sensitivities. Everywhere you turn, you see pesticide-stuffed turkeys and hams; gluten-filled stuffing; refined sugar-laden cakes, cookies, pies and soy-laced canned gravy.But with a little creativity, you can tweak your traditional holiday menu into a clean-eating and anti-inflammatory spread. There’s no need to give up eating clean just because it’s the holidays – there are plenty of healthy foods that are perfect for your holiday table.I’ve compiled a few tips and strategies for you so you can navigate your way through the new year healthy and vibrant instead of stuffed, lethargic and foggy-brained. What is clean eating? Hunger and appetite together drive you to eat. When you feel that pang of hunger, you know what you need to do.But eating is about more than just quieting your appetite. You do not subsist on calories alone – you need a spectrum of nutrients and vitamins to feed your body. GET HEALTHY: DETOX YOUR DIET AND YOUR HOMEFoods have so much more to them than calories, and yet many people think caloric intake is the bottom line. Au contraire! The number of calories a food has is merely information, and as with any other kind of information, less isn’t necessarily better, just as more isn’t necessarily bad.A 100-calorie snack pack is in no way equal to 100 calories of walnuts. The calorie pack is highly inflammatory, full of too many ingredients you cannot pronounce, and the walnut is an anti-inflammatory whole food.Counting calories is the last thing you should worry about when you’re trying to eat clean. A handful of walnuts may be calorically dense, but there’s a lot of nutrients packed in there.Another clean eating Continue Reading

36 ways to help others this holiday season

Giving thanks can take on many shapes and forms. Family, festivities, fun in the kitchen are a few that fill up this season, but for many, giving thanks also includes giving to others.Here are 36 ways that you can open yourself to making someone else's season brighter, starting off with Thanksgiving.Central Jerseyans typically comes through for others in abundance and show why they are the heart of New Jersey. Many organizations and businesses offer an assortment of activities and services to aid, assist, support and entertain. There also are many opportunities for giving and volunteering.For nearly a decade, Gladstone Tavern Chef/Owner Tom Carlin, his family and staff have hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for dozens of formerly homeless veterans who don’t have family to feast with. The veterans reside at Community Hope’s Hope for Veterans Transitional Housing Program and Valley Brook Village, based at the nearby Lyons VA campus in Bernards.“We are thankful to have the opportunity to serve a memorable Thanksgiving feast to the Community Hope Veterans who have served our country,” said Carlin, whose historic restaurant serves a seasonal American cuisine. “The Gladstone Tavern family looks forward each year to offer these 40 veterans a memorable dining experience.”But, it's not just restaurants around Central Jersey that will be busy this holiday season. READ: Mount Saint Mary Academy community to celebrate spiritual Thanksgiving READ: With intention and perspective, the holidays can be stress-freeStephanie Salardino of East Brunswick is running her annual "Night of Giving" Toy Drives at local bars and there are a variety of interfaith services, adopt-a-family programs, Thanksgiving feasts for those in need and turkey drives run by towns, Realtors, restaurants and organizations such as Samaritan Homeless Interim Prograom (S.H.I.P.)., Gladstone, Bernards and Continue Reading

Bonnaroo 2016: Buzz bands deliver load late-night lineup on Day 2

MANCHESTER, Tenn. — Day 2 of the 15th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival featured an undercard filled with rising stars of hip-hop, rap and soul world, along with late-night risings stars of psychedelic pop, dance music and electronica. Aussies Tame Impala live up to hype Late-night sets are always a key part of the Bonnaroo experience, with this year being no different. The most talked-about late set this year came courtesy of Tame Impala, an Australian psychedelic pop-rock band fronted by songwriter Kevin Parker.At times sounding like an amplified version of the Beatles during their psychedelic period — Parker's vocals sound eerily similar to John Lennon’s — the band provided trippy songs with visuals to match, including pulsating color effects on the screens and confetti showers during select tracks.Kicking off well after midnight early Saturday on the Which Stage, Tame Impala played through fan favorites such as the guitar-driven "Elephant" and the vocoder-heavy "Let It Happen" and included the recent set list addition of "Daffodils," a disco/funk-inspired track Parker wrote for Mark Ronson's "Uptown Special" album.As many Bonnaroovians headed back to camp to call it a night after 2 a.m., you could hear the band's signature cut "Feels Like It Only Goes Backwards" echoing across the campgrounds, wrapping up Day 2 in a melodic, dreamlike fashion. — John Connor Coulston, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service, Twitter: @jccoulston Chainsmokers close with Halsey’s helpHalf past midnight early Saturday morning, Bonnaroo crowds found themselves revived from the unforgiving Friday heat with waves of electronic beats pouring from The Chainsmokers through throbbing speakers at the This Tent.Budding into music stardom, The Chainsmokers consist of American DJs Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall, whose niche is producing trancing electronic dance music. The two had their big break in 2014 with the hit single "#Selfie."Since then, they have Continue Reading

Hundreds of people dressed like Santa Claus and other holiday characters will go bar hopping for SantaCon

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better get ready to party: SantaCon is coming to town! The 15th annual Kris Kringle convention kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday when hundreds of revelers dressed like Santa meet to party all day at pubs across town. Organizers announce a meeting place on the group’s website, then alert Santa fans to move to new spots via Twitter, Facebook or text message. “It’s a fun and ridiculous way to get into the holiday spirit,” said Patrick Jones, 27, who is gearing up for his second SantaCon. The fest began in California in 1994 and has since spread to 225 cities in 32 different countries. “Santas” come from miles around to eat, drink and make merry — sometimes too much. “I think I once saw a Mrs. Claus make out with an elf,” said eight-year veteran Mariah Wilson. “That was pretty scandalous.” Here are some SantaCon dos and don’ts for newbies: DO: n Deck yourself silly: Get creative by mashing Father Christmas with your Darth Vader Halloween costume to become: Darth Santa! n Pack a phone charger: Don’t let your phone die, you’ll need it to get alerts and follow the party. n Pace yourself: Don’t be “that Santa” passed out at 3 p.m. Boost your Santa stamina by getting sleep, eating a good breakfast, and sticking to one or two drinks per stop. n Load your MetroCard: SantaCon organizers suggest filling your card to cover at least four rides. We suggest packing emergency cab money. n Bring gifts: Bring at least two non-perishable food items or canned goods which will be donated to the Food Bank for NYC. DON’T: Be a Grinch: The rules of SantaCon include: Don’t break the law, mess with cops, or damage public property. Father Christmas must obey traffic laws and most importantly, he doesn’t harass kids or tourists. n Forget to layer up: The city in December can be as Continue Reading

Bah humbug! Man slapped with parking ticket while  unloading holiday donation on Staten Island

No good deed goes unpunished. Just ask Staten Island construction manager Chris Csoka, who says his effort to donate a holiday truckload of baby supplies to a family in need was spoiled by a grinch-like traffic agent who slapped him with a $60 ticket after telling him it was OK to stop and unload his truck. "I was so mad," said Csoka, 42. "It's a really thing to do...To me that's not upholding the value of respect. "Tis the season to be a New Yorker" Csoka’s holiday tale began last week when he met an out-of-work EMT at a St. George coffee shop and found out the man was struggling to support a four-month-old baby. So Csoka decided to come back with a truckload of clothes, playpens, baby seats, and other equipment he no longer needed for his own nine-month old. “The guy’s really got nothing since he’s been laid off and he’s got a four-month-old infant,” said Csoka, of Little Falls, N.J. “It’s all the stuff that the baby grows out of really quick, but costs a ton of money...We’re not doing anything with this stuff, so we should give it to somebody who needs it.” Csoka and the Staten Island dad, Anthony Spencer, stopped outside Spencer’s St. Marks Place apartment and asked a traffic agent if they could leave the truck there for a few mintues, explaining they were unloading donated supplies. They said she assured them it was fine. “I run in the door; that same woman runs to my car, tickets it and then runs down the street,” Csoka said. The two men immediately headed for the nearby courthouse and asked a judge to dismiss the summons, but the judge refused. Csoka plans to appeal. Spencer, 43, who has been unemployed since he got laid off from his job as an EMT a year and a half ago, said he was grateful for Csoka’s generosity - and stunned he got slapped with a fine. “I’m really suffering,” he said. “We went out to the truck and Continue Reading

98.5 tons of holiday-rush packages stop in Alaska

ANCHORAGE -- The distinctive shape of a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 tri-jet appears out of the darkness and lumbers onto the UPS cargo ramp at Anchorage International Airport on a particularly cold December evening.Recently arrived from Osaka, Japan, as flight UPS81, bundled-up ramp workers hustle out to meet the jet, which will continue on to the company’s home base in Louisville in just over two hours.As the engines shut down and the parking brake is set, the race to get the airplane and its 98.5 tons of holiday-rush packages back into the air begins. Cleaning crews service the cockpit and crew-rest areas. Mechanics check the engines and top off the oil. Meals for the next crew are shuttled on board while 22,000 gallons of fuel are being added for the next flight.Ramp workers open the MD-11's giant cargo door and begin a careful ballet. Bedroom-sized air cargo containers  -- destined for other places in the U.S., or which simply are not as time sensitive -- are pulled off and stored nearby to await their next flight. New containers from jets that arrived earlier in the day, typically from elsewhere in Asia, are loaded on.The jet’s new crew boards an hour before departure, running pre-flight checks and verifying everything is good to go. Two hours and thirty-five minutes later, the airplane is airborne once again; bound for Kentucky.The bustling scene is repeated an average of 14 times a day during the holiday cargo rush, which runs from Black Friday to New Year’s Eve. Compared to its normal schedule, UPS says it has already operated 100 extra flights through Anchorage in November. December looks to be equally busy.“It’s an all hands on deck time of year,” UPS spokesperson Jim Mayer said during a recent tour of the facility.During the holiday shipping stretch, UPS anticipates delivering over 700 million packages. Put another way, it means that if your holiday gifts started in Asia, the odds are good that they Continue Reading

Leave home for the holidays this year on a cruise to warmer climes

Let someone else deck the halls next month while you sip eggnog by the top-deck pool. Book a holiday cruise now and you can snag a bargain that’s nautical and nice. Cruise vacations are riding a pretty good wave right now, thanks to great deals and the ease of an all-inclusive vacation on the high seas. These 10 holiday-themed sails, most of which embark from the city, will get you in the Christmas spirit - and under the warm Caribbean sun - in no time. 1. Ship to Shore: Norwegian Cruise Line serves up a week-long Christmas cruise on Norwegian Gem, leaving New York on Dec. 19 and visiting Port Canaveral (near Orlando) and the Bahamas. Shop or explore in Nassau and lie on the beach on Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island. Going overboard: Show your Christmas spirit by joining in on the holiday show production - audience participation is welcome - and caroling throughout the ship. Then dive into yummy treats like honey-glazed Black Forest ham with sweet potato mash. A priest and a minister will be onboard to conduct Christmas Eve services while Santa spreads the joy. And when parents want to stay up late celebrating, the kids will be well-occupied in the ship’s kids program. From $699 per person; 2. Ship to Shore: Head off to sea for Chanukah for a nine-night sail on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas from Bayonne on Dec. 11. You’ll visit sunny San Juan, St. Thomas, the Dominican Republic - and the cruise line’s private beach in Haiti, where you can play dreidel in the white sand. Going overboard: A rabbi will lead the menorah lighting nightly during the Feast of Lights. Kosher meals are available on this and all Royal Caribbean sailings. From $549; 3. Ship to Shore: The fancy British ocean liner Queen Mary 2 serves up over-the-top holiday delight with two special ­Caribbean cruises from the Big Apple in December (the regular schedule includes transatlantic cruises between Continue Reading

These tasty Brooklyn holiday treats travel well

This holiday, you can send a bit of Brooklyn to your loved ones. The Brooklyn News shipped some of the borough's best treats to the University of Wisconsin at Madison earlier this month - and testers told us what they thought of their first taste of the borough. First was a sampler tray of Junior's cheesecake all the way from Flatbush Ave., which arrived fresh and promptly. "I'm not a connoisseur of cheesecake, but this was amazing," said Todd Brogan, 21, a junior from Lanesboro, Minn., adding the original had the best texture. "It was among the best I have ever had." Christine Schimanke, 21, of Mount Kisco, Westchester County, agreed. "It was really good to eat something that I could only get at home," she said. "They don't know how to make good cheesecake out here." Kimberly Yule, 22 of Eau Claire, Wis., was equally impressed. "It's cool to have eaten something that's so famous," she said. "I remember watching 'Making the Band' [on MTV] when Diddy made [the contestants] go get Junior's. Now I can have Junior's." Sahadi's special International Ready to Eat and Fast to Make basket came next. It included Eastern goodies such as rice pilaf, chickpea curry, polenta, vine leaves, hummus and baba ghanouj. Although none of the products was made at the Atlantic Ave. store on the edge of Brooklyn Heights, they came fresh and intact, with the polenta still frozen in some spots. "I like how it came wrapped in a basket with bows and everything," Schimanke said. "It would be a really good gift idea." Brogan was happy to sample treats that he may not find in his tiny hometown. "The hummus was creamier than I'm used to, but it grew on me after the first day," he said. "Most of all, I'm impressed at how quickly everything came and that it stayed in such good shape." The last to arrive was fresh mozzarella from Landi's Pork Store in Mill Basin. It came in a box with a big "Imported from Brooklyn" sticker on top and a Styrofoam cooler loaded Continue Reading

Tips on getting your car ready for a holiday weekend trip

This weekend, millions of Americans will take to the roads for the long 4th of July weekend to have picnics, see carnivals, fireworks and more. But is your vehicle ready to roll - safely? The following is a checklist and some suggestions to help keep your three days as fun and incident-free as possible. Adjust your driving habits for extra passengers and cargo Vacations usually involve packing a vehicle with heavy cargo. Check your payload capacity, which is usually listed in a vehicle's glovebox or the owner's manual. Estimate the weight of people and gear and don't exceed the listed limit. Also, remember that driving with a packed vehicle extends the time you'll need to stop and will slow your ability to take corners. Consider buying a cheap, portable GPS In the event of a breakdown, you'll be able to find a garage, a place to stay and a place to eat all within a few minutes. Carry an emergency kit Even the most well-maintained vehicle can experience unexpected mechanical trouble. Buy and store jumper cables, flares, a flashlight, a gallon of antifreeze, a gallon of water and two quarts of oil in your trunk in case of emergency. Pay close attention to tires When commuting from home to work and back or to the local grocery store, a flat is an inconvenience. When traveling hundreds of miles from home at high speeds on major highways, however, tire issues can quickly escalate, particularly in a fully-loaded vehicle, leading to expensive and sometimes tragic results. If your tires are getting old, replace them. New tires will also have deeper tread that will perform better in inclement weather. Even if you don't need new tires, check the air pressure of all four, as insufficiently inflated tires lower your mileage and lessen your ability to control the vehicle in emergencies, particularly at high speeds. Get it fixed The time to get your car together is now, not when you're hundreds of miles from home. At the very Continue Reading