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5 Simple Holiday Hosting Hacks

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(Family Features) Entertaining friends and loved ones during the holidays offers an opportunity to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and make lasting memories. The key is getting ahead of hosting duties so you can be present with family and friends.

Make this season’s holiday hosting effortless and enjoyable with these tips:

  1. Stick with a simple menu. There’s no need to create an elaborate menu with complex dishes that take hours to prepare. Instead, build your menu around easy crowd-pleasers. Save the experimenting with new recipes and ingredients for another time when you’re less likely to feel the pressure. Be sure to consider your guests’ likes and dislikes and be conscious of potential dietary restrictions.
     
  2. Serve beverages with festive flair. A beverage station is a fun and unexpected way to infuse some extra holiday cheer into your event. Offer cozy options like hot chocolate and coffee, along with an array of seasonal mix-ins and flavors. Convenient and tasty options to have on-hand for the holidays are Starbucks creamers, featuring flavors inspired by cafe beverages like Caramel Macchiato, White Chocolate Mocha and Cinnamon Dolce Latte, all which are now available in limited-time red holiday packaging online and at your local grocery store.

    Give your guests some festive drink inspiration to start with, such as this delicious holiday-themed recipe for Iced Gingerbread Caramel Coffee that is sure to become a favorite. For added fun, provide an array of toppings such as marshmallows, peppermint sticks and chocolate candies wrapped in colorful holiday wrappers.
     
  3. Plan for entertainment. When a well-acquainted group gathers, the party has a way of taking on a life of its own. In case of a slow start, or if you’re entertaining different groups of friends who don’t know each other well, it’s a good idea to prepare some options to get guests mingling and engaged. A playlist of holiday music creates a festive atmosphere and planning a few interactive games ahead of time can help break the ice.
     
  4. Pace your preparations. Make a conscious effort to spread your party prep over the days and weeks leading up to your event. Saving all the cooking and cleaning until the day of the party only leaves hosts exhausted before guests even arrive. Instead, make a list of everything you need to accomplish around the house and tackle a few chores each night. Do your shopping a few days ahead so ingredients are still fresh but you aren’t left scrambling. Prepare any dishes that can be refrigerated or frozen ahead of time.
     
  5. Anticipate guests’ needs. The secret to great hosting isn’t really a secret at all; it’s simply making sure your guests feel welcome and comfortable. Providing a secure spot for coats and handbags, offering a drink when they arrive and making sure they can find essentials like the restroom may seem obvious, but they’re easily overlooked basics. If you worry you’ll be too busy in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on the meal, recruit a friend or family member to act in your place.

Find more inspiration and other holiday-worthy recipes at athome.starbucks.com.

Iced Gingerbread Caramel Coffee

Prep time: 3 minutes
Yield: 16 ounces

Drink:

  • 1 cup ice
  • 4 tablespoons Starbucks Gingerbread Naturally Flavored Ground Coffee for double strength
  • 6 ounces water
  • 1 ounce Starbucks Caramel Macchiato Flavored Creamer

Toppings:

  • whipped cream
  • homemade or store-bought caramel sauce
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  1. Place ice in 16-ounce glass.
  2. Brew gingerbread coffee with water and pour into glass.
  3. Add caramel creamer. Stir.
  4. Top with whipped cream, drizzle of caramel sauce and nutmeg.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock (friends celebrating holidays)


SOURCE:
Starbucks

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Family

Get Creative with Easter Sweets

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Kid-friendly crafts that bring loved ones together

(Family Features) Holiday hams and deviled eggs may take center stage at Easter gatherings, but edible crafts offer a reminder of the magic of the season that’s found in moments spent together. Simple recipes that call for a dose of creativity are perfect ways to bring the kids to the kitchen, made even easier when all that work leads to sweet treats.

While plastic eggs may have led to a decline in good, old-fashioned egg-dyeing, there are still fun ways to bring crafts back to Easter celebrations. Consider these Kids Krafty Easter Cake Pops, which call for little ones to help dip seasonal shapes in chocolate, use cake molds and more.

Children of virtually any age can relish in the joys of using cookie cutters and decorating Easter Sugar Cookies, all with a little supervision and short list of instructions. This version shows how to make the cookies and homemade icing so you can create any color you desire for maximum creativity.

Remember, these delicious crafts don’t have to be perfect – having fun and making memories that last a lifetime are what make Easter truly special.

Visit Culinary.net to find more Easter inspiration and recipes from “Cookin’ Savvy.”

Kids Krafty Easter Cake Pops

Recipe courtesy of “Cookin’ Savvy”

  • 1 box cake mix
  • 1 can frosting
  • 1 bunny chocolate mold
  • 1 cakesicle mold
  • ice pop sticks
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips or melting chips
  • cake pop sticks
  • 1 bag orange melting chips
  • 2 tablespoons canola or coconut oil, divided
  • 1 bag green melting chips
  • pastel sprinkles
  • 1 piece hard foam (optional)
  • edible markers
  1. Bake cake according to package instructions and let cool completely.
  2. Crumble cake and mix with 1/2 can frosting until dough forms. Add more frosting, if needed. Using small cookie scoop, form dough into balls and set aside. Place dough in bunny molds then pop out and set aside with balls. Place dough in cakesicle mold, insert ice pop stick in each slot and freeze 5-10 minutes.
  3. Melt handful of white melting chips. Stick tip of each cake pop stick in chocolate then insert into every cake ball and bunny until each has one stick. Set aside to dry.
  4. Remove cakesicles from freezer and pop out of molds. In bowl, melt orange melts then mix in 1 tablespoon oil and transfer to cup. Dip cakesicles and scrape off excess using rim of cup. Place on parchment paper to dry.
  5. In bowl, melt green melts then place in zip-top or piping bag. Cut tip off bag, pipe carrot leaves onto piece of parchment paper and let dry.
  6. Melt remaining white melts and mix in remaining oil. Transfer to cup and dip ball-shaped cake pops and bunnies then tap stick on edge of cup to remove excess.
  7. Over separate bowl, sprinkle ball-shaped pops with pastel sprinkles. To keep ball shape, let dry by sticking in piece of hard foam. Bunnies can dry face side up on parchment paper. After bunnies are dry, use edible markers to make face and color in ears.
  8. When carrots and leaves are dry, remelt orange melts and place in piping or zip-top bag. Cut off tip and drizzle orange over carrots. Add small line of orange on each ice pop stick and place leaves on each stick. Let dry.

Easter Sugar Cookies

Recipe courtesy of “Cookin’ Savvy”

Icing:

  • 1/3 cup meringue powder
  • 1/2 cup warm water, plus additional for thinning (optional), divided
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 bag (2 pounds) powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • assorted food coloring

Cookies:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 dash salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  1. To make icing: Mix meringue powder, 1/2 cup warm water, vanilla, powdered sugar and corn syrup. Separate into bowls and add food coloring; mix with water, as needed, to thin for piping.
  2. To make cookies: Heat oven to 350 F.
  3. Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Mix in flour 1 cup at a time to form dough. Roll dough out to 1/4-1/2-inch thickness.
  4. Cut into shapes, place on baking sheet and freeze 10 minutes. Bake 8-12 minutes. Cool completely before icing.
  5. Place icing in zip-top or piping bags and cut off tips. Put cookies on parchment paper. Trace outline first then fill in middle. Use toothpicks to smooth out.
  6. Let dry 6 hours and finish decorating with different icing colors or edible markers.


SOURCE:
Culinary.net

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Child Health

Time is Running Out: Life Time’s 3 Key Tips for Choosing a Summer Camp

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CHANHASSEN, Minn. /PRNewswire/ — With summer creeping closer, parents are now on the lookout for engaging activities to fill their kids’ days once school is out. Life Time (NYSE: LTH), which serves more than 31,000 children aged 5 to 12 annually at its summer camps across North America, offers these tips from its Kids experts to guide parents in selecting a camp this year.

Life Time’s summer camps are designed to give children an unforgettable experience full of adventures, sports, activities, and friendships, all while keeping them active through the summer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, active children tend to have better grades in school, improved concentration and better cognitive performance.

  1. Look for Unique Activities – Consider a summer camp that engages kids in new active experiences, helps them learn different skills and encourages them to be healthy. Every Life Time Summer Camp includes weekly themes, from science experiments to outdoor exploration, giving kids an opportunity to learn and try something new every day. Two electives are included every week including art, STEAM activities, sports, athletic training, dance, coding, cheer and pickleball. There are also weekly Friday field trips to museums, zoos, aquariums, waterparks, amusement parks and other local attractions.
  2. Is the Summer Camp Flexible? – Parents are busier now than ever before. Be sure to check that your summer camp start and end times work for everyone. Many camps have forced times for drop-off and pick-up, creating extra challenges. Life Time has extended hours to accommodate parents’ busy schedules. Camp runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Before care (7-9 a.m.) and aftercare (4-6 p.m.) are included in the cost of camp. Additionally, consider asking about flexible payment options. At Life Time, parents can pay in full during registration, or choose a flex payment plan for the same total price.
  3. Save Time with Swim Lessons – Summer is a great time to get kids started with swim lessons. Why not cross two things off the list with a summer camp that includes swim lessons? Registration for Life Time’s summer camps includes twice weekly swim lessons supervised by lifeguards and trained professionals, ensuring parents’ peace of mind regarding water safety throughout the season.

Life Time’s Kids Camps are designed to give children an unforgettable experience full of adventures, sports, activities, and friendships, all while keeping them active through the summer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, active children tend to have better grades in school, improved concentration and better cognitive performance.

“What truly sets our summer camps apart at Life Time is the quality and variety of content your child will be experiencing. Each day has a unique lesson plan, so kids never get bored,” said Samantha Stark, Senior Director of Life Time’s Kids Programming. “If you add in our unique offering of electives and swim lessons, kids at Life Time’s camps will be well-equipped to have a healthy, happy summer.”

Busy families at Life Time looking for an exciting way to keep their kids healthy and active this summer can now register for the Life Time’s 2024 Summer Camps. For more information about camps near you and to register, visit the Life Time Summer Camps website.

About Life Time®
Life Time (NYSE: LTH) empowers people to live healthy, happy lives through its portfolio of more than 170 athletic country clubs across the United States and Canada. The Company’s healthy way of life communities and ecosystem address all aspects of healthy living, healthy aging and healthy entertainment for people 90 days to 90+ years old. Supported by a team of more than 37,000 dedicated professionals, Life Time is committed to providing the best programs and experiences through its clubs, iconic athletic events and comprehensive digital platform.

SOURCE Life Time, Inc.

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Blog

Navigating Change: Paradise Valley Unified School Board Votes to Close Three Schools Amid Declining Enrollment

In a tough decision, Paradise Valley Unified School Board voted to close 3 schools due to declining enrollment, sparking community concerns.

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In a recent decision that has stirred emotions and raised concerns within the Paradise Valley community, the Paradise Valley Unified School Board has voted to close three schools due to declining enrollment. Sunset Canyon Elementary, Desert Springs Prep Elementary, and Vista Verde Middle School are the institutions that will be affected by this move, with the closures set to take effect on July 1, 2024.

The board members involved in this difficult decision emphasized the necessity of being fiscally responsible in the face of dwindling student numbers. Despite acknowledging the emotional weight of this choice, their primary focus remained on the financial sustainability of the district. As board member Tony Pantera succinctly put it, “In the end, they’re buildings. Some people say, ‘Well it’s not a building.’ It’s just a building.”

However, the response from the audience highlighted a deeper sentiment among community members. Their outcry, expressing that these schools represent more than just physical structures, underscored the vital role these educational institutions play in fostering a sense of community and belonging. As one can imagine, the decision to close these schools will have far-reaching effects beyond the mere physical closure of buildings.

While Pantera’s assertion that “the community can exist anywhere” may hold some truth, the emotional bond and shared experiences nurtured within these school environments are irreplaceable. The impact of these closures extends beyond mere logistics, touching the hearts of students, parents, teachers, and residents who have built their lives around these educational hubs.

As the Paradise Valley Unified School District navigates this period of change and transition, it is essential for all stakeholders to come together to support one another and ensure that the well-being of the students remains at the forefront of all decisions. While change can be challenging, it also presents an opportunity for growth, adaptation, and the forging of new paths forward.

In the wake of this decision, it is crucial for the community to unite, reflect on the values that these schools have instilled, and work towards creating a positive and supportive environment for all students, regardless of the changes that lie ahead. By coming together with empathy, understanding, and a shared commitment to education, the Paradise Valley community can emerge stronger and more resilient from this period of transition.

Source: KTAR News

https://ktar.com/story/5561735/3-paradise-valley-schools-to-close-as-enrollment-numbers-decline/

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