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    Super Bowl Dip Recipes

    January 28th, 2015 admin

    super_bowl_dip_header

    The first Sunday in February, a day to sit around with friends eating tasty snacks and savoring adult beverages… Oh yeah, and I heard something about a football game. There are still a few days to go and now is time to start planning your snacks. Here are a couple of dip recipes to make you the MVP of the snack table.

    Six Layers and a Chip Dip

    First off we have a classic dip recipe that everyone will enjoy, just don’t tell them it’s a bit healthier than the standard recipe. The secret is substituting sour cream with nonfat yogurt. When you mix in the cilantro, they’ll never know!

    Ingredients

    2 cloves garlic

    2 teaspoons kosher salt

    1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

    1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

    2 teaspoons chili powder

    2 tablespoons water

    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

    2 cups lowfat shredded Cheddar

    2 ripe avocados, preferably Hass

    1 jalapeno, stemmed, finely chopped, (with seeds for more heat)

    2 cups chopped romaine lettuce

    1 1/2 cups nonfat yogurt, preferably Greek

    1/2 cup fresh cilantro, leaves and some stems, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish

    3 ripe medium tomatoes, diced

    5 scallions (white and green), thinly sliced

    Baked tortilla chips, for dipping

    Directions

    On a cutting board, smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt, and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear the mixture to a coarse paste. Put the garlic, beans, chili powder, water, and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Spread in the bottom of a 2 quart casserole or gratin dish, or in individual sized dishes, as desired.

    Scatter the cheese over the beans. Halve and seed the avocados, then mash with the jalapeno and another teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Spread a layer of the avocado over the cheese, and then scatter the lettuce on top.

    Mix the yogurt with the cilantro and then spread over the lettuce. Add a layer of tomatoes and finally scatter the scallions on top. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with a few cilantro sprigs and serve with baked chips.

    From Food Network Kitchens

    Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/six-layers-and-a-chip-dip-recipe.html?oc=linkback

    Charred Tomatillo Margarita Salsa

    Secondly we have something a little more adventurous that is adults only. This recipe adds tequila for a new twist on classic salsa. Just remember, don’t let the kids get into this.

    Ingredients

    6 tomatillos, husks removed and halved

    2 poblano chiles, halved and seeded

    1 bunch scallions, trimmed

    Vegetable oil, for drizzling

    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1/4 cup tequila

    1/2 teaspoon chili powder

    Juice of 1 lime

    Tortilla chips, for serving

    Directions

    Place the tomatillos, poblanos and scallions on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Place under the broiler and cook until well charred, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the poblanos.

    Add the charred vegetables to a food processor along with the tequila, chili powder, lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper. Pulse until smooth but still slightly chunky. Remove to a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or overnight. Serve with tortilla chips.

    Copyright 2013 Television Food Network, G.P. All rights reserved

    From Food Network Kitchens

    Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/charred-tomatillo-margarita-salsa.html?oc=linkback

    Posted in Ask an Expert, Gourmet Food, Recipes | Permalink | No Comments »

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    Valentine’s Day Gifts for Men

    January 26th, 2015 admin

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    Finding the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for the special man in your life can be tough! So often it seems that Valentine’s Day is geared mainly towards women, but don’t fret, here at GiftTree we have a selection of gifts that guys will love too. Whether your man is a connoisseur of sudsy beverages, has a sweet tooth, or is the kind of guy who likes to keep himself looking and smelling good, we have you covered. Take a look at this awesome selection of Valentine’s Day gifts for men.

    Personalized Stainless Steel Beer Growler

    17895The Personalized Stainless Steel Beer Growler is the perfect gift for the man who likes to brew and drink fresh tasty beer. The growler’s heavy stainless steel construction guarantees the integrity and quality of each beer’s unique character. A gasket ring sealer at the base of the lid prevents carbonation from escaping and keeps the beer crisp and fresh, while an ample 64 oz capacity ensures there’s always plenty of beer to go around. Our exclusive personalization feature elevates the gift to a permanent and memorable keepsake, with an engraved name or special title of your choice. If your guy enjoys brewing his own beer, this is a great way to transport the brew to show off to friends, for picnics or a tailgate party. Many taprooms and bottle shops now have growler fill stations where you can have growlers filled with fresh beer as well. For an extra special touch, find a local establishment with a growler fill station and have the growler filled with your man’s favorite brew. Just a tip, have the growler filled as close to giving this to your guy as possible for the freshest beer.

    Sweetly Yours Valentine’s Cookie Box

    19399If your man has a sweet tooth our Sweetly Yours Valentine’s Cookie Box is a great option and is good for all ages. Hand-frosted heart-shaped sugar cookies are combined with fresh-baked Snickerdoodle and White Chocolate Hazelnut cookies and arrives decorated with a beautiful “Happy Valentine’s Day” satin ribbon. Only the finest in premium ingredients are used in the baking process such as Guittard Chocolate and natural sea salt and each cookie is individually wrapped to ensure freshness. Get this for your sweetheart with a sweet tooth and let them know you really care.

     

    Bon Appetit Gourmet Gift Basket

    5389For the foodie in your life we have the Bon Appetit Gourmet Gift Basket. A vintage picnic suitcase that opens to reveal an impressive assortment of gourmet treats and savory snacks such as: Saraivanov Smoked Salmon, Grilled Vegetable Antipasti, Busseto Dry Salami Con Vino, Godiva Dipped Cashews, Lindt Truffles, and much more. This collection of gourmet treats will be sure to please your favorite epicurean this Valentine’s Day.

    For even more manly gifts check out our Gifts for Him page.

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    Posted in Cheese Gifts, Gift Baskets, Gift Ideas, Gourmet Food, Personalized Gifts, Valentine's Day | Permalink | No Comments »

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    2015 Valentine’s Day Collection

    January 20th, 2015 admin

    VD_header

    Is it too early to bring up Valentine’s Day? Here at GiftTree we certainly don’t think so, which is why we are taking this opportunity to introduce our Valentine’s Day Collection. We have a variety of high-end gifts to show that special someone in your life how much they truly mean to you. We offer everything from elegant jewelry to decadent sweets and a fine selection of wine and champagne. Also, many of our products can be personalized for that extra special touch. This is just a short list of some of our featured Valentine’s Day gifts for your sweetheart.

    Valentine’s Wine & Chocolate Basket

    If you’re shopping for someone who enjoys both the luxuries of artisanal chocolate and red wine, we have the perfect gift for you! The Valentine’s Wine & Chocolate Basket comes with a bottle of California Winemaker’s Red (with the word Love custom engraved on the bottle), artisanal chocolate from renowned chocolatiers such as Lindt, Seattle Chocolates, Godiva and more. This gift is a surefire way to please the wine and chocolate lover in your life.

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    Valentine’s Day Spa Collection

    If you would like to spoil your Valentine with the gift of relaxation, our Valentine’s Day Spa Collection will do that in the most luxurious fashion. This provides everything needed for a romantic and refreshing spa experience, including heart-shaped bath beads, Deep Steep passion fruit and guava products, natural botanical soaps, and more. To finish off the spa experience a comfort-contoured eye shade and 100% cotton ring-spun towel are included, all of this comes packed in a keepsake tote. This is a great gift for a romantic spa night in.

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    Chocolate Indulgence Valentine’s Tower

    True chocolate lovers will adore our Chocolate Indulgence Valentine’s Tower, which consists of three romantic red gift boxes filled with gourmet treats they will be sure to love. Lindt Chocolate Valentine’s Truffles and Marich Dark Chocolate Caramel Hearts are paired with Snickerdoodle cookies, Yogurt Covered Pretzels and more. Show your sweetheart just how sweet they are and how much you care with this elegant gift tower.

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    Our large selection of Valentine’s gifts ensures that you will be able to find the perfect way to express your affection. See our entire Valentine’s Day Collection here.

     

    Posted in Gift Ideas, Gourmet Food, Gourmet Gifts, Holidays, Spa & Pampering, Valentine's Day, Wine Gifts | Permalink | No Comments »

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    Healthy Winter Recipe

    January 19th, 2015 admin


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    Nothing offers more relief after a cold winter day than you favorite comfort food, being based just outside of Portland, OR, GiftTree HQ and Call Center employees definitely know a thing or two about these hearty dishes Although it may not be nearly as cold here as a large swath of the United States (it looks like warnings of another Arctic Blast for the Mid-West and East coast), the soggy cold weather creates the perfect climate for winter comfort foods. The downside to these rich and tasty meals is that many of them may not jive with certain New Year’s Resolutions. In keeping with the spirit of sticking to healthy goals, this winter bean soup with vegetables and pesto will warm you up after a cold winter day while still keeping the calories in check.

     

    Makes 4 servings

     

    INGREDIENTS

     

    Pesto:

    • 2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
    • 1/2 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
    • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 garlic cloves, peeled

     

    Soup:

    • 2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
    • 2 medium carrots, peeled, diced
    • 1 6-ounce white-skinned potato, peeled, diced
    • 3 tablespoons water
    • 8 cups canned vegetable broth
    • 1/2 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
    • 6 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
    • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

     

    PREPARATION

     

    For pesto:

    Puree all ingredients in processor and season with salt and pepper. (Pesto can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

     

    For soup:

    Combine first 4 ingredients in heavy large pot. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until vegetables are almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add broth; bring to boil. Stir in orzo; boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Add green beans; reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in cannellini and crushed pepper; simmer until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

     

    Divide pesto among 4 bowls. Ladle soup over pesto; swirl to blend. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cheese.

     

    Per serving: calories, 353; total fat, 12 g; saturated fat, 2 g; cholesterol, 6 mg

     

    Check out the original recipe at epicurious.com. This is a recipe that responds well to alterations, if you don’t care for an ingredient or have a dietary restriction, give this soup a try with a substitution. Orzo can be subbed with quinoa, or more veggies, if pasta is not on your list. Or try swapping the white potato with a sweet potato for an interesting flavor combo. One final note, if you’re cooking for any vegetarians, look for cheese without animal rennet.

     

     

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    Thank You – Do’s and Don’ts

    January 13th, 2015 admin

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    The art of sending thanks can be tough to master. Whether you received a gift, attended a function or were just given a shoulder to cry on, saying thanks is a simple way to show gratitude and exercise proper etiquette. Is it appropriate to call? Send an email? Mail a handwritten note or a gift? Here are few do’s and don’ts to help you show your gratitude.

    Do’s

    • Be prompt – Perhaps the single most important factor in thanking someone is timing. There are a few reasons to get those thank yous out quickly. For starters, it’s a good way to make sure you actually do it. The longer you wait, the less likely they will ever be finished. If you received a gift (as opposed to attending a party and etc.), punctuality let’s the sender know you received the gift. It’s bad enough waiting and wondering about something you’ve ordered for yourself, but that anxiety can be multiplied when the gift is being sent to someone else! And finally, being prompt lets the sender know the gift was really appreciated. A thank you note sent weeks later can seem like an afterthought.
    • Consider the medium – In the modern age, thank yous can come in all shapes and sizes, it is important to choose a thank you that fits the occasion. For instance, it’s probably inappropriate to send a text after receiving a pair of diamond earrings. However if a friend invited you over for pizza and a movie, a text may be just right. For most gifts a handwritten note will suffice. Remember to be succinct, there’s no need to go overboard. Mentioning the gift in context, such as “Thank you for the new scarf, it will really come in handy on cold winter evenings,” adds a special touch. Thank you gifts are appropriate if you want to show a higher level of appreciation. A gift may be fitting if you want to thank clients for their business, if someone helped you in a time of need or possibly to thank your children’s teachers. Additionally, it is appropriate to send a thank you note after receiving a thank you gift, once again it let’s the sender know it was received and appreciated.
    • Be detail oriented – Spelling counts! Although well intended, a thank you note to Michael may not be well received if it says Michelle. Don’t forget to include everyone in the to and from, leaving someone out may also be a source of ill feelings. Thank the right people for the right gifts, if Auntie Norma sent you a pair of socks and Auntie Nora sent you a new stand mixer, a mix up may be a bit awkward. This leads back to being prompt, the quicker thank yous are prepared, the less likely things will be mixed up. If you have trouble keeping track of who sent what, making a short list will help.

    Don’ts

    • Don’t be rude – If the gift was not perfect, or something you have no interest in (e.g. the “Pink Nightmare” in A Christmas Story), this is no time to be passive aggressive or impolite. Remember, it’s the thought that counts and a gift shows the sender had you on their mind, even if it didn’t quite hit the mark. Be gracious and follow the same rules you would for the perfect gift.
    • Don’t overthink – Keep it simple. Once again, it is the thought that counts. The prose, not so much, as long you keep it relevant. This applies to thank you gifts as well. It’s tempting to try and find the perfect gift, but this can be challenging at best and impossible at worst. Get the basics right and you should be good. For example, you don’t want to get Grandma Ethel peanut brittle if she’s allergic to peanuts. If you’re sending to a client, or group, a gift basket with a variety of yummy treats is a good choice. A good basket will have something everyone can enjoy.

    Thank yous are nothing to stress about and with these tips you can finish them faster and easier than ever before. They are a good way to maintain old relationships and nurture new ones. If you’re looking for a special way to show your gratitude, check out GiftTree’s selection of fun and impressive Thank You Gifts.

    Posted in Gifting Etiquette, Thank Yous | Permalink | No Comments »



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    New Year’s Resolutions

    January 8th, 2015 Alicia

    New Year's Resolutions 2015

    The holiday rush is over and now it’s time to slow down, reflect, rejuvenate and start 2015 on the right foot. Many people turn to New Year’s Resolutions to achieve these goals. The most common resolutions all have to do with self-improvement, whether it be physical, mental, social, or in some other realm, GiftTree may well just have something to help you, or a friend stick to those goals. Here are just a few of the most common New Year’s Resolutions.

    Health

    • Losing weight, getting fit, being healthier… No matter how you say it, there is no denying the fact that a balanced diet, filled with healthy foods is a cornerstone to achieving these goals (along with plenty of exercise). To accomplish this kind of objective, many people will go on very strict diets that cut out all sweets and treats, however the idea of moderation is becoming more popular. Many diets now encourage rewarding a goal by having a special treat, or having a “cheat day,” on which some of the delicious, less healthy foods are allowed, in moderation of course!

    Stress

    • Another common resolution is to reduce or relieve stress. With so many different causes and cures, reducing stress is definitely not as black and white as loosing weight and eating healthier. One stressor may affect one person drastically and another not at all, while a remedy that works wonders for some may have the opposite effect on others. Find what works for you and take a bit of time to relax.

    Travel

    • Many people also make resolutions to travel to new places and also to spend more time with family. These may not seem directly linked; however it is quite common for families to live far apart these days. To combine both these resolutions, plan a trip to meet your far-flung relatives at a new and exciting travel destination.

    Money

    • A lot of people also set goals to improve their economic situation. Common resolutions relating to economic improvement are getting a better job or a better education. These two resolutions may not be achievable in one year, but it is possible to get a jump-start on them in 2015. Start by setting a number of small goals for yourself that will get you on the path to your ultimate goal. If you want to get a better education, start with goals such as finding the right education program, getting enrolled and finishing an academic term with good grades. These are all achievable in the next year. For a quick boost, find ways to cut back on spending and save some pennies.

    Social

    • In this case, a social resolution does not relate to spending less time on Facebook, but rather goals that will help improve life for others and the earth. A couple of altruistic goals people often set in the new year are assisting people in need and helping the planet. There are many easy ways to implement these in 2015. If you would like to help those in needs, you can donate money or goods, volunteer at a charity or start by simply offering a smile or helping an elderly person carry groceries to their car. Some easy ideas to help the environment are recycling more, driving less and cutting down on power use. Not only will these help everyone, but they will help you feel better as well.

    One of the hardest parts about making a New Year’s resolution is following through and sticking to it. Writing down and keeping track of progress is a well known way to help you achieve your goals. If you’re looking something to help you stick to your goals, GiftTree offers The Fine Leather Journal with Free Embossing, an elegant and refined item to help you stick to your 2015 goals.

     

    Posted in New Year's, Personalized Gifts | Permalink | No Comments »

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    How to Serve Champagne Like a Sommelier

    December 29th, 2014 admin

    GiftTree Presents #holidayknowhows—How to Serve Champagne Like a Sommelier

    Whether smashed on the prow of a ship at a vessel christening or poured in Riedel crystal at a presidential ball, Champagne has always been a drink of drama and ceremony. Take for example the fine art of sabering, a traditional method of opening Champagne in which one uses a sword to lop off the neck of the bottle in a single stroke, sending a geyser of foam and sheared glass flying across the room. (Great for spectacle, but say goodbye to your carpet.) You don’t need to do anything quite so dramatic when serving Champagne at your New Year’s bash, but if you want to get the most out of your bottle of bubbly—and maybe ham it up a bit in the process—these tips on how to serve Champagne will have you pouring like a true professional.

     

    Consider the Crystal

    When it comes to serving Champagne, it’s all about the bubbles. Not only are those lively little bursts of escaping carbon dioxide visually appealing, they also enhance the actual taste of the Champagne by bringing subtle aromatics and flavor compounds to the surface. For this reason, selecting glassware that will preserve and display the bubbles for as long as possible is paramount. Tall, thin flutes are useful for this, as are tulip-shaped glasses that have a wide bell and an inward-curving rim. What you don’t want to use are short, wide coupe glasses; these increase the surface area of the Champagne, causing it to warm and lose bubbles quickly.

    Champagne Flutes by Didriks, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Didriks 

     

    Dial in the Temp

    Most people know that you’re not supposed to serve Champagne warm, but some may not realize that it’s just as bad to serve it too cold. Overly-chilled Champagne numbs the palate and masks crucial subtleties in flavor and aroma. Champagne in the proper temperature range will feel cool on the palate, but still blossom with fragrances. Moet & Chandon recommends serving Champagne at 46-48 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a pretty tight range, and you shouldn’t necessarily worry about trying to hit 47 degrees exactly, but you should keep in mind the fact that most fridges are set well below 40 degrees, and a bottle left to chill overnight in such a fridge will be much too cold by morning. Give your Champagne a briefer stay in the fridge (no more than 3 hours) or a little time to warm up afterwards to avoid losing those refined flavors.

    Preparing for the evening by Ed.ward, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Ed.ward 

     

    Give it a Twist

    You may not be up for sabering open a bottle of Champagne, but there are other ways to impress when popping the cork. An old sommeliers’ trick for opening a bottle smoothly and quietly is to grasp the bottom of the bottle with one hand and the cork with the other. Then, instead of pulling or pushing the cork, twist the bottle while holding the cork stationary. You’ll find that the cork comes out much easier this way and you’ll preserve more of those precious bubbles while looking like a silent Champagne ninja.

     

    Get a Grip

    Most Champagne bottles have an indentation in the bottom, known as a punt. It’s a relic of the days when wine bottles were manufactured by hand and needed a base mold, but it still has a function when it comes to serving. To add an extra bit of flair to your pour, grasp the Champagne by placing your thumb in the punt and your other fingers underneath the bottle for support (see picture). Then tilt the bottle forward gently to pour, tilting the glass to meet it if necessary. This sommelier-style grip lends a nice air of elegance to the proceedings—a regal pour appropriate for the Queen of Wines.

     

     

    Cheers, salut, prost, and skal, GiftTree has Champagne gifts for one and all. Happy New Year!

    Champagne & ChocolatesChampagne Wishes

     

    The Royal Champagne Gift BasketSegura Viudas Champagne & Godiva Chocolates

    Posted in Gift Ideas | Permalink | No Comments »



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    How to Host a Christmas Film Fest

    December 22nd, 2014 admin

    GiftTree Presents #holidayknowhows—How to Host a Christmas Film Fest

    Holiday tradtions by grongar, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  grongar 

    Call it the holiday doldrums. Call it a fruitcake coma. Whatever you call it, every Christmas Day has a noticeable lull with no set Christmas family activity. It usually descends sometime after presents have been opened and thoroughly played with, but before it’s time for Christmas dinner. The grandparents nod off. The young kids start to get fidgety. The teens start compulsively checking their phones. The parents see the teens checking their phones, and see the breakfast dishes still in the sink, and start to mutter. In short, a fresh family activity is needed to fill the sails of the good ship Christmas and speed her on her way.

    Enter Christmas Film Fest! Whether it’s Will Ferrell pouring syrup on his spaghetti as Buddy the Elf, or Jimmy Stewart hollering Merry Christmas like a happy maniac at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, we all have our favorite holiday movie scenes. A living room Christmas Film Fest gives everyone a chance to share and enjoy their favorites together. It may just be the perfect Christmas family activity: the parents and grandparents will like it because it’s collaborative and fosters family-type moments; the teens will like it because it involves a screen; and the little ones will like it because, well, because it’s fun, and it’s in their childlike nature to enjoy fun things.

    Sold? Here’s how you do it:

    Set Up the Screening Room

    Not nearly as complicated as it sounds, all you need is the internet and a way to connect a computer or a smartphone to a TV that everyone can comfortably see. Luckily, technology makes it relatively simple to link a computer or smartphone up with a TV. Devices such as a Google Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, and newer video game consoles all provide ways to do this. Even easier, if you computer has an HDMI port and your TV has an HDMI port, just connect the two with an HDMI cable (under $10 from Amazon) and you’re in business.

    An HDMI port looks like this:

    Sky HD Box by DeclanTM, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  DeclanTM 

     

    An HDMI cable looks like this:

     

    Select the Categories

    Next, you’ll want to come up with some categories for everyone to enter their favorite Christmas movie scenes in. These can be traditional and Oscar-inspired (best soundtrack, best costumes, etc.) or whimsical and festive (coziest fire, best example of the holiday spirit); it’s really up to you. Here’s a sample slate of categories to use if you’re stuck:

    Best Christmas Comedy Scene

    Most Inspiring Moment/Biggest Tearjerker

    Jolliest Santa

    Worst Gift

    Greatest Musical Number

    Frostiest Winter Scene

     

    Prep the Entries

    Next, have everyone individually find the scenes they want to submit for each category using whatever resources you have at hand. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and iTunes are all great ways to track down clips. You might even have some in your own DVD collection. The more tech-savvy family members (looking at you, teens) can assist the less tech savvy ones. As they find their favorite scenes, they should mark down the source and the time the clip starts to make the Fest run a little smoother.

     

    Premiere the Films!

    Now comes the fun part. Gather everyone together in the screening room with comfy chairs, blankets, and snacks (we recommend our Fresh Fruit & Cookies Basket filled with premium fruit, chocolate, and fresh-baked cookies), and premiere those scenes! You can screen entire categories at a time, or jump around for a mix of funny, poignant, and nostalgic cinema. If casual voting and prizes seems fun, then they can easily be added in, but they’re certainly not a necessity. Christmas classics have a way of sparking conversation and stories, and if you make space for plenty of those between scenes the Film Fest will take on a life of it’s own. Before you know it, it will be time for dinner. Have fun, and merry Christmas!

     

    7485n_Fresh-Fruit-Cookies-Basket

    Posted in Gift Ideas | Permalink | No Comments »



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    How to Travel Like a Pro This Holiday

    December 19th, 2014 admin

    GiftTree Presents #holidayknowhows—How to Travel Like a Pro This Holiday

    Did anyone else see the map the New York Times published this past November showing the most googled Thanksgiving recipes for each state? From pumpkin whoopie pies in Maine to smoked salmon dip in Washington to something called frog eye salad in Wyoming (no actual frogs involved), it was a multi-flavored reminder of why so many of us travel during the holidays: we travel to be home, to reconnect with that unique blend of family tradition, nostalgia, and regional character that can only be found in the places we’re from. If you’re one of those holiday wayfarers who will be flying across state lines or international borders for a big helping of family and tradition this December, check out these helpful holiday travel tips for a smooth trip.

     

    Holiday Travel Tip #1: Notify

    Before you embark, consider notifying one key party: your credit card company. As a safeguard against identity theft many credit card providers have automatic triggers that will freeze an account when an irregular purchasing pattern is detected. Fantastic news if someone is trying to spend your hard earned cash on a jet-ski in South Florida while you’re actually in North Dakota, but not so great if a combination of your last minute gift purchases and holiday travel expenses freezes your account right as you’re trying to buy a Cinnabon in an airport. To prevent anything coming between you and your Cinnabon, just make a quick call to the customer service number on the back of your credit card before leaving and let them know the dates of your trip.

     

    Holiday Travel Tip #2: Subdivide

    The key to a perfectly packed suitcase is as simple as a trip to the store to buy a package of gallon-size Ziploc bags. Use the bags to subdivide your belongings into small, logical groups—socks in one, electronics in another, etc.—and then vacuum seal the bags by sucking the air out with good old fashioned lung power before quickly zipping them shut. Sure, you’ll get a mouth full of t-shirt air, but the super-compact packages are easy to stack and rearrange into the ideal packing configuration, and the categorization makes it simple to find what you need when you arrive at your destination.

    Geeking out my luggage by gorriti, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  gorriti 

     

    Holiday Travel Tip #3: Personalize

    Classic black roller bags and trendy leather totes are all well and good, but when it comes to the luggage carousel, standing out from the crowd is a virtue. If you can find a way to personalize your bag the benefits are twofold: it’s much easier for you to spot your bag quickly, and it’s much less likely that someone will mistake it for their own bag and walk away from the airport with it. The personalization doesn’t have to be permanent, it just has to be bold enough to spot immediately from a distance. Try tying a piece of bright ribbon around the handle or placing a large X of colored tape on the top.

    travel light [explore] by ** RCB **, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  ** RCB ** 

     

    Holiday Travel Tip #4: Strategize

    Your hydration, that is. Dry re-circulated air, salty airport food, and even complimentary on-board drinks can all leave you dehydrated after a day of traveling, which worsens the effects of jet lag and makes you more susceptible to Grinch-like symptoms such as growling and muttering. Fight back by ensuring you have plenty of access to water throughout your journey. The best way to do this is by bringing a large EMPTY water bottle with you to the airport. If you bring a full one, you’ll just have to empty it out in line at security while trying to take off your shoes and hold your passport in your mouth at the same time, which will just make you sweat more, which is counterproductive to the hydration mission. Instead, bring an empty bottle; then, as soon as you get through security, find a water fountain and fill it up. Thankfully, many airports now feature handy water-bottle filling attachments on their fountains for this very purpose.

    Water bottle refill fountain by raludwick, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  raludwick 

     

    Holiday Travel Tip #5: Surprise

    If you’re flying with kids, you will probably run into a rough spot or three. Plan ahead by packing a bag full of toys, games, and snacks to help distract the little ones when they get fussy. But—and here’s where the element of surprise comes in—the key is to not tip the kids off to what you have stored up. If they know, then they’ll want it all right away and nothing less will suffice. Instead, keep those goods tucked safely away; treat them like a magic horn only to be blown in time of greatest need. If little Garret develops a chronic case of the wiggles right when Lydia starts trying to play tag with the beverage cart? BAWOOOOO! That’s when you summon those emergency supplies.

    One final holiday travel tip: save luggage space, your back, and some peace of mind this year by shipping your gifts direct to your destination instead of packing them yourself. GiftTree offers luxury wine gifts, one-of-a-kind personalized items, and more, all guaranteed to arrive pristine and ready to open wherever you’re headed—Washington, Maine, and everywhere in between.

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    How to Slow the Holiday Rush

    December 15th, 2014 admin

    GiftTree Presents #holidayknowhows – How to Slow the Holiday Rush

     

    ’Tis the season by Benson Kua, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Benson Kua 

     

    It’s no secret that the holidays can be a busy time. People are running around shopping, cooking elaborate meals, assembling trees and toys, and tacking up lights. I remember once, when I was eight years old, my parents got so preoccupied with the bustle of a holiday trip to France that they accidentally left me behind! They got halfway across the Atlantic before they even realized that I was missing. No, I’m kidding; that’s the plot of Home Alone I just described. But the fact that I had you going there for a second is probably a good indication that we all need to make a conscious effort to slow down this year. Here are three “sayings” that will help bring your sleigh ride of a holiday season down from a careening gallop to a pleasant trot.

    2011 Horse and Sleigh Festival - Woodbur by pmarkham, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  pmarkham 

     

    Say “Hi” to Someone

    The holidays can be harsh on personal relationships: family drama, financial woes, and even the weather can all put a strain on couples. At one point Match.com took a poll of singles that showed 76% of them had gone through a holiday adjacent break-up. Yikes! It may seem simple, but take a moment each day this December to turn to someone you care about and say, “Hi.” Don’t schedule a trip. Don’t plan a holiday party. Just say hello and maybe have a cup of cocoa together. You’ll find that minute or two of face time goes a long way towards keeping you both sane.

     

    Say “Bye” to Something

    In the words of comedian John Mulaney, “It is 100% easier to not do things than to do them.” Much of our stress comes from the premise that we have to partake in every aspect of every holiday. Instead, take Mulaney’s wise words to heart and consider simply deciding to not do something this year. Make a list of all the activities, commitments, and projects you are planning—whether it’s baking those labor-intensive cookies you make every year, or building a light display for the roof of your neighbor’s doghouse—and pick at least one to bid adieu to. Summon your inner Scrooge and say, “Bah humbug! I’m not doing ­­_____ this year.” You probably won’t miss _____ in the end, and you’ll certainly enjoy everything else on the list a lot more if you don’t have the yuletide stress sweats.

     

    Say “Nothing”

    Whisper it softly to yourself as you find a comfortable chair in a quiet place, maybe tucked behind the tree or a pile of presents. Say it again as you ease into the chair, and again as you set a gentle timer on your phone for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing as you think “nothing” on the inhale and “nothing” on the exhale. Nothing in. Nothing out. Nothing in. Nothing out. Repeat this mantra—being careful to return your mind to your breathing any time it wanders—until the timer sounds. Voila! You just meditated, my friend (or took a nap, depending on how comfortable the chair was). Specifically, you practiced mindfulness meditation, and, if the experts are right, doing that simple exercise regularly can lead to a whole slew of benefits including improved mood, better sleep, and lower blood pressure. What better way to slow the holiday rush?

    Holiday Bokeh by LenDog64, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  LenDog64 

     

    Send a little moment of peace to someone you care about this holiday season. GiftTree’s personalized spa collections feature relaxation essentials such as organic scrubs, soothing natural oils, reflection journals, and more.

     

    Honey-Spa-Treatment Luxury-Spa-Treatment-Gift-Set

    Bath-Body-Invigoration stress-Relief-Spa-Retreat-Gift-Set

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