December 2018 How to Enjoy a Claim-Free Holiday SeasonNo one puts “insurance claim” on their holiday wish list. Most would rate this item right below a lump of coal. Yet, due to a lack of safety measures, this is what many people get.Accidents and fires related to decorations are fairly common during the holiday season, but they are avoidable with the proper precautions. Avoid holiday hazards and enjoy a claim-free season with these tips:Trim the tree with care: Will you be using a real tree? Keep it stable and hydrated with a large, non-tipping tree stand that holds water. Place the tree away from heating ducts, doorways, and busy areas. Well-placed and well-watered, your tree will stay fire- and accident-free for the season.Keep your cords nice, not naughty: Exercise caution when working with electricity. Don’t overload your outlets. Use extension cords sparingly. Check flickering lights. Immediately replace those with loose connections or corroded sockets.Be cautious with candles: Candles add ambiance and appeal to your space, but they can also cause devastation. Keep them away from flammable materials. Never leave them burning unattended. If you don’t want to worry about extinguishing candles before leaving or going to bed, consider using the flameless ones this year.Don’t fall for outdoor lighting: Yes, your roofline may look great with perfectly strung lights, but don’t risk your life to get them up there. Use proper safety measures and products designed for outdoor use.Take the time to do décor right. Be happy, healthy, and, most of all, wise this holiday season. Worth QuotingThis month, some famous quotes on the topic of gifts:Each day provides its own gifts.Marcus AureliusOne of the greatest gifts my father gave me – unintentionally – was witnessing the courage with which he bore adversity.Ben OkriTry not to get lost in comparing yourself to others. Discover your gifts and let them shine!Jennie FinchYou have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius.Louisa May AlcottTechnology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.Carrie SnowYesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.Bil KeanePeppermint Brownies2/3 cup oil2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder1/2 cup all-purpose flour1/4 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon baking powder3 large eggs1 1/3 cups powdered sugar2/3 cup dark brown sugar1/8 teaspoon peppermint oil3 candy canes, crushedDirectionsHeat oven to 325°. Grease a 9×9 baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, allowing some to hang over the sides.Heat the oil in the microwave until warm, then add the cocoa powder and whisk until combined. Set aside. Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. Set aside.In a larger bowl, beat the eggs and both sugars until light and airy. Stir in the peppermint oil. Add the cocoa mixture and dry ingredients, alternating in two to three additions until all ingredients are fully combined and the mixture is smooth.Transfer to the prepared baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top, then bake for another 10 minutes, until the brownies start to pull away from the edges. (FYI: A knife inserted in the middle will not come out clean.) Add a New (and Fun) Twist to This Year’s Holiday EntertainingSick of hosting yet another sit-down dinner, or the usual holiday open house? Mix it up this year. Your guests will enjoy the new twist. Best of all, so will you.Here are four new takes on holiday parties:Do it after ChristmasFinding a December date that works for everyone can be tough. Why not wait until after the craziness dies down and host a relaxed, post-holiday bash? Everyone will still feel festive but probably not stressed.Order inWho says hosting means cooking? Order in instead. Offer a selection of gourmet pizzas, sushi, or Chinese takeout. It’s fun, delicious – and easy. Don’t fuss with cutlery; supply chopsticks and lots of table napkins. Set out a variety of beverages, add a simple dessert, and you have a dinner party!Try brunchHost a brunch. Waffles, fruit salad, eggs, bacon, and French toast can all be whipped up quickly and served buffet style. Skip the dining table and eat in the living room for a relaxed party atmosphere.Turn it into a gamePotlucks can be boring, but not when you add the element of competition. Host a contest. Call it “TV Chef: Holiday Edition,” and ask each guest to contribute a dish. Assign categories, such as appetizers, salads, mains, sides, and desserts. (Hint 1: ask what they’re bringing ahead of time to avoid duplication.) You’ll need volunteers to judge. (Hint 2: kids might enjoy being on the judging panel.) The winning dish gets a fun prize. You relax. Everyone enjoys. It’s a win-win!