Winter Activities around Pittsburgh

With the temperatures dropping, snowmanit’s easy to get restless sitting around inside, but there are still plenty of activities around Pittsburgh that can keep you and your family busy during the winter months! Here are some of our favorite ones:

  1. Skiing at Seven Springs or Hidden Valley.
  2. Ice skating at one of the ice rinks in the area – PPG Ice Rink is our favorite!
  3. Snow tubing at Boyce Park.
  4. If it’s not too cold or too snowy, a winter hike is always beautiful!
  5. Spend the day having fun at Wildwood Highlands.
  6. Exploring any of the museums in Pittsburgh is a perfect winter activity – There are so many to choose from for all ages.
  7. Cook! Winter is great for trying out new, more time-consuming recipes. Try making a nice hearty meal to warm you up!
  8. Bake a bunch of cookies and have a cookie swap party.
  9. Curl up by the fireplace with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa, or just watch the snow fall outside. Don’t have a fireplace? Fake it on your computer or TV with this video!
  10. If you don’t mind driving a bit, visit an indoor water park and pretend you’re in the tropics. Great Wolf Lodge is just under 3 hours away in Sandusky, OH and Splash Lagoon is only an hour and forty five minutes away in Erie, PA.
  11. Build a snow fort, and while you’re at it, have a snowball fight, make some snowmen and snow angels!
  12. Go “camping” in the living room – You can even build a fort to use instead of a tent!
  13. Knit scarves, hats and gloves to keep everyone in your family warm!
  14. Burn off some calories and tire the kids out at Sky Zone Trampoline Park.
  15. On a not too cold day, head to the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium for smaller crowds and a new experience at the zoo!

What are some of your favorite winter activities in the Pittsburgh area? Let us know in the comments!

Fall Family Activities

It’s almost that time of year again© Can Stock Photo – crisp air, changing leaves, hot chocolate and sweaters – fall is right around the corner! Get the most out of the season with these fun family activities:

  1. Go hiking – fall is the perfect time to enjoy nature because it’s not too hot or too cold.
  2. Pumpkin picking and hayrides! You can have a pumpkin carving contest at home afterwards.
  3. Apple picking – You can bake an apple pie when you get home!
  4. If your kids are old enough, visit a haunted house.
  5. Sit around a campfire, make s’mores and tell ghost stories.
  6. Decorate with leaves, pine cones and other fall items.
  7. Take a drive in the country to admire the changing leaves.
  8. Football is back! So it’s the perfect time to tailgate or play some backyard football.
  9. Raking the leaves into piles and jumping in them!
  10. Prepare your garden for cooler temps by taking delicate plants inside and planting bulbs for springtime.
  11. DIY Halloween costumes for you or your kids!
  12. Cozy up on the couch with some popcorn and watch Halloween movies.
  13. Learn to knit – it’s the perfect time of year for scarves, hats and blankets!
  14. Get lost in a corn maze.

What are your favorite fall activities? Let us know in the comments!

How to: Host Thanksgiving

It doesn’t matter if you’re hosting your first Thanksgiving or your twentieth, planning a large meal for a group of people can be stressful. Relax – We’re here to help! How to: Host Thanksgiving

  • Delegate – You don’t need to do everything yourself! Ask guests to bring some of the side dishes and desserts, and have the kids pitch in with table setting and clean up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
  • Plan ahead – Make a detailed meal plan and grocery list to shop from to avoid last minute runs to the store. Buy any non-perishable items ahead of time to save you time and hassle at the grocery store.
  • Clear out space – Make sure you have enough room in your refrigerator, freezer and on the counters for meal prep, cooking, food storage and turkey defrosting.
  • Try out recipes – If you have extra time before Thanksgiving Day, try out some of the side dish or dessert recipes ahead of time. This can be especially helpful if you’re unsure of a new recipes or are veering away from more “traditional” food.
  • Prep ahead of time – There are some things that you can (and should!) do ahead of time, including making or assembling anything that can either be frozen until cooking time or reheated.
  • Prepare for guests – Clear out the entryway or mudroom to make room for guests’ coats, umbrellas and shoes. Providing a clear space for guests to leave their things, and a chair or bench to help with removing shoes makes your guests feel at home.
  • Give yourself time – Turkeys are a lot of work, so be sure to give yourself plenty of extra time for defrosting and cooking your bird!
  • Take the pressure off – It can be hard to cook and entertain at the same time, so take the pressure off yourself. Set up small snacks like cheese and crackers to give guests something to nibble on and stock the bar area with all the essentials so guests can help themselves while you’re busy.

Most importantly though, relax and enjoy the holiday with your friends and family!

Getting Your Home Ready for the Holidays

Thanksgiving has ended and the Christmas season is officially upon us – Now is the time to get your home ready for holiday guests. Aside from choosing, and decorating, the perfect tree and putting out a holiday light display to rival Clark Griswold, there are a number of things you can do to make sure your home is looking its best this holiday season.

Our experts offer some of their best tips for getting your home holiday ready:

Christmas-Tree

  • Give the carpets, hardwoods, tile and laminates throughout your home a good cleaning and scrub all baseboards, doors and door knobs.
  • Dust, dust, dust!
  • Save on energy and give rooms elegant flair by replacing existing window treatments with draft-containing, chic velvet curtains.
  • Take all trash cans outside and give them a good scrub before the snow flies.
  • Give the living room, family room and guests rooms a cozy feel by replacing light throws with warm chenille or faux fur versions.
  • If you have a wooden dining table, now is the perfect time to condition and treat it so lasts for many holidays to come!
  • Now is also the time to make sure your fabric furniture’s Scotchguard protection is refreshed and ready for anything.
  • Iron table linens, organize china or holiday place settings and make sure your best silverware is polished to perfection for elegant holiday entertaining.
  • Clean out your refrigerator to make room for party trays, leftovers and extra beverages and snacks. If you use baking soda to eliminate odors in your fridge, replace it now!
  • Check your fire extinguisher, CO and smoke detectors and replace them or change batteries if needed.
  • Assess all of your bed linens and towels to ensure they’re in tip top shape for overnight guests.
  • Make sure you have sidewalk salt on hand to treat steps and sidewalks for guest safety.
  • If it snows, shovel driveways, sidewalks and entries to give guests a clear path to your front door.

The holiday season is all about family, friends and showing love – Why not also show your home some love this Christmas? You can get more holiday-friendly tips, tricks and decorating ideas by checking out our Happy Holidays board on Pinterest.

10 Tips for Thanksgiving Entertaining

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and, if you’re anything like us, you’re taking the opportunity to kick off the holiday season with a big gathering of family and friends. The thought of planning and cooking and organizing a gathering may be daunting now, but we’ve got 10 tips to make Thanksgiving entertaining relatively stress free.

  1. Accept Help: A common misconception is that, if you’re hosting a meal or gathering at your home, you need to do all of the work. In reality, this simply isn’t true. If Aunt Ruth offers to bring her signature desert, let her. It’s one less item on your to do list.
  2. Shop Early: Avoid the day-before-holiday rush and save some money by planning to do your shopping in advance. Most stores begin promoting holiday foods with specials and in-store displays early – Pick up key ingredients each time you visit to avoid overspending on a single trip.
  3. How to: Host ThanksgivingAsk Questions: Make sure you check with guests in advance about any dietary restrictions or special considerations. If you aren’t sure what to serve to accommodate these guests, simply ask if they have suggestions or a favorite dish they’d like you to serve.
  4. Plan for Children: Take children into consideration when planning your gathering – Set up a separate area for kids with activities and/or a television to entertain them while the adults socialize. You may want to consider planning a separate kid-friendly menu of chicken fingers or pizza as well.
  5. Prep in Advance: Start preparing your meal days in advance. Chop onions, garlic, carrots and celery and store them in air-tight containers. Assemble side dishes the day before. If you’re using a frozen turkey, don’t forget to thaw it out! A good rule of thumb is 1 day of thawing in the refrigerator for every 4 lbs.
  6. Make Guests Feel at Home: Open a few bottles of white and red wine and provide a selection of spirits and mixers for your guests in a designated bar area. Allowing your guests to pour their own drinks will make them feel at home while taking some of the pressure to entertain off of you.
  7. Play Music: Play fun, upbeat music throughout your home when guests are arriving. When it’s time for dinner, switch to soft jazz or piano to allow conversation to flow.
  8. Arrange Seating: If your group is on the large side, consider planning a strategic seating arrangement. Spread the extroverts out among the other guests to ensure conversation keeps going – No one wants to be stuck at the boring end of the table!
  9. Share Leftovers: Buy white Chinese food-style containers or inexpensive plastic containers for guests to fill up with leftovers. You’ll avoid wasting food and save precious space in your refrigerator.
  10. Enjoy Yourself: The holiday season is a time for enjoying the company of friends and family – Don’t let yourself get so wrapped up in entertaining that you forget to spend time with those you love throughout the day.

What are some of your favorite tips for holiday entertaining? We’d love to hear from you!