6 cheap kitchen tools that will save your holiday cooking

My kitchen was the first room I really invested in as an adult: I bought a KitchenAid stand mixer, a dutch oven, a high-end chef’s knife and nice plates and wine glasses. But aside from the chef’s knife, a few smaller purchases have become more vital to my daily cooking and food prep routines than any of the luxury items. For just a few bucks, in some cases, these tools can change the experience of cooking, and make the elaborate prep involved in the holidays much more manageable.

Here are six tools that can seriously elevate the quality and aesthetic of the food coming out of your kitchen.

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The single best investment in my kitchen over the past four years has been a mandoline. Essentially, it’s an adjustable slicer for fruits and veggies, and it makes preparing salads a breeze. All the intricate slicing you normally have to do for good salads is so much easier with a mandoline, and prepping veggies for pickling is just as easy. Not only does this make everything you slice look uniform and beautiful, it also gives you fantastic opportunities to punch up textures in your typical dishes.

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If you cook steak with any regularity, you probably already have a cast-iron skillet. But those skillets are just as helpful for making all kinds of meat, from chicken to octopus. One of my favorite recipes I’ve been honing over the years is an octopus-lime bagna cauda — and well-seared baby octopus is one of the most important components. When it’s too cold, or I’m too lazy, to use the grill, my cast-iron skillet is perfect for searing those tiny tentacles.

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A good chef knife isn’t cheap, but it’s an investment that’ll last you years. The problem is, many of us settle for mediocre knives because our old ones get dull and we don’t want to shell out for a $150 knife every couple of years. The tool that helps you keep your knife performing as well as possible is a sharpener. You can pick up a sharpener that works well for as little as $6 on Amazon.

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One of the biggest roadblocks to preparing complex dishes is the prep. If you have to mince, dice or roughly chop a half dozen ingredients, having a spacious cutting board makes a world of difference. Yes, you can pick up small, plastic cutting boards for crazy cheap on clearance at T.J. Maxx, but it’s a better investment to just spring the $20 for a board that’s at least in the range of 18 by 14 inches. You’ll immediately be grateful when you can keep three separate piles of herbs on it, plus chop carrots without the slices rolling onto the floor.

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If you really want to get into baking high-quality breads or desserts, a kitchen scale is a must-buy. You can get one for a little over 10 bucks on Amazon, and it will make your recipes so

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These Cute Halloween Planters Are Wickedly Fun Additions to Your Holiday Decor

Halloween is just a few weeks away, and though your celebration won’t look the same as in previous years, you can still have a memorable holiday. Even if you’re skipping trick-or-treating this year, you can still make some yummy treats, wear a fun outfit, and enjoy a scary movie on October 31. You can also add some Halloween decor to your house, and while you’re at it, make sure you get a boo-tiful new planter for your favorite houseplant, too. These frighteningly fun options will be the perfect addition to your other decorations. There are several different styles to choose from, including a bat, a cat, and a Jack-o’-lantern. Make sure you add these to your cart and order them quickly because you’ll want to have time to show them off before Halloween.

Jack-o’-Lantern Planter

These planters will last way longer than your carved versions. The handmade cement planters measure 8 x 7 inches with a 4-inch opening. (There’s also a small drainage at the bottom.) The unpainted version costs $45 and the orange and black option sells for $49. If you’re feeling crafty and want to DIY your own concrete pumpkin planter, we’ve got a full tutorial here to turn candy buckets into planters.

Buy It: Handmade Pumpkin Cement Planter (from $45, Etsy)

Bat Planter

It doesn’t get much cuter than these ceramic bats. The planter comes in three sizes, small, medium, and large, with free personalization available. Although they’re not usually made with a drainage hole (so they’re best for air plants), the Esty seller notes that if you’d like one, just add a note at checkout.

Buy It: Flying Bat Hanging Plant Holder (from $49, Etsy)

Cat Planter

If you own a black cat, this planter, this planter is a must-buy. The ceramic planter measures 6 x 2 x 5 inches and doubles as a treat bowl for your Halloween candy when not in use as a planter. It doesn’t come with a drainage hole automatically, but if you want one, the Etsy seller will add it to your planter. Just leave a note when you purchase it.

Buy It: Halloween Ceramic Black Cat Planter ($56, Etsy)

Tie Dye Halloween Planter

How groovy are these pots? You can choose among four designs, including pumpkin, bats, ghost, or vampire. You’ll also choose from one of four colors: turquoise/lavender, lavender/peach, yellow/pink, or mint/lime. Each one measures 3.25 x 3.25 inches with a drainage hole at the bottom.

Buy It: Colorful Gradient Halloween Planter ($16, Etsy)

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Fresh off a major summer comeback, Bed Bath & Beyond ebed xecs say they are doubling down on e-commerce and decor for homebound holiday shoppers

bed bath & beyond
Bed Bath & Beyond is winning with shoppers stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond Chief Brand Officer Cindy Davis spoke with Business Insider about the company’s stellar summer sales, as well as its plans for winning during the holiday season.
  • Davis said the brand’s strategy includes a $29 annual loyalty program, enhanced e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment services, and earlier-than-ever holiday offerings.
  • The Bed Bath & Beyond executive said the company plans to remain “close to the customer” to continue to glean insights on consumer trends for the holidays.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Bed Bath & Beyond pulled off a major back-to-school sales coup this summer, despite many colleges across the United States going remote due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now the retailer is looking to apply those lessons to its holiday strategy, according to its Chief Brand Officer Cindy Davis. Back-to-school and holiday shopping are the biggest traffic drivers for the brand. 

Davis credited the company’s positive second-quarter sales — which soared above analysts’ estimates, according to — with Bed Bath & Beyond’s ability to “pivot” to better suit customers’ needs during the pandemic. The company saw  89% digital sales growth compared to the same time period last year, although this was partially offset by a 12% decline in comparable-store sales.

“We had a plan in place for second quarter that was really different for us,” Davis said. “It was customer-inspired, data-driven, and really focused on our omnichannel services. It was a fully integrated plan and it really helped us deliver on Q2.”

The result was two million new customers flocking to Bed Bath & Beyond’s website.

Davis said that those new shoppers tended to be six years younger on average than the company’s existing customers. While Bed Bath & Beyond is known for inundating customers with 20% off coupons in the mail, this new crop of shoppers is less discount-focused and more engaged with e-commerce, she said. They also have a heightened interest in home decor.

“So it was a lot of excitement, because even though our stores were closed early on in the quarter, connecting with those new customers digitally really helped us deliver those results,” she said.

With so many universities only offering remote learning, fears over a dearth of back to school spending spread throughout the retail industry. Bed Bath & Beyond responded by analyzing how consumer needs might change in a virtual or socially-distanced learning environment. Those insights were then applied to different stores based on proximity to schools opting for virtual or in-person teaching.

When it comes to pandemic-era back-t0-school shopping, Davis said that items like coffee makers, cookware, cutlery, drinkware, and other kitchen electronics saw a bigger spike than expected, as pandemic-conscious students eschewed campus dining halls for dorm cooking. And with new customers eager to decorate for the holidays, that trend of surging interest in home goods is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

“Home has been the

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Garden Club of Aiken’s holiday greenery sale is underway | Home and Garden

Looking for some festive holiday decorations?

The Garden Club of Aiken is conducting a greenery sale for the second year in a row.

Plans call for $5,000 from the proceeds to be donated to the Friends of the Aiken County Public Library.

The money will be used to help fund new landscaping on the grounds of the library, which is undergoing a major renovation at 314 Chesterfield St. S.W.

The garden club has maintained the landscaping near the facility’s entrance for many years.

“The Friends of the Library are deeply grateful that Aiken’s oldest garden club will continue its historical connection by funding new landscaping through their Christmas greens sale,” said Friends President Bill Reynolds.

The rest of funds raised by the 2020 greenery sale will be returned to the community through the club’s various outreach programs.

Available for purchase from the club are small, medium and large wreaths, garlands, kissing balls, tabletop trees, table runners and hand-tied deep red velvet bows.

For more information about the holiday greenery sale or to place an order online, visit thegardenclubofaiken.com.

The deadline for orders is Oct. 24.

In addition, special order services are being offered for extra large wreaths, custom garlands and mailbox saddles.

To purchase those decorations, contact an Aiken Garden Club member or call Bonnie Coward at 803 215-1956 before Oct. 17.

Orders can be picked up from 2 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 1 at 1022 South Boundary Ave. S.E.

Claudia Lea Phelps, a member of Aiken’s Winter Colony, founded the Garden Club of Aiken in 1924.

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Bed Bath & Beyond focuses on e-commerce, decor for holiday shoppers

  • Bed Bath & Beyond Chief Brand Officer Cindy Davis spoke with Business Insider about the company’s stellar summer sales, as well as its plans for winning during the holiday season.
  • Davis said the brand’s strategy includes a $29 annual loyalty program, enhanced e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment services, and earlier-than-ever holiday offerings.
  • The Bed Bath & Beyond executive said the company plans to remain “close to the customer” to continue to glean insights on consumer trends for the holidays.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Bed Bath & Beyond pulled off a major back-to-school sales coup this summer, despite many colleges across the United States going remote due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now the retailer is looking to apply those lessons to its holiday strategy, according to its Chief Brand Officer Cindy Davis. Back-to-school and holiday shopping are the biggest traffic drivers for the brand. 

Davis credited the company’s positive second-quarter sales — which soared above analysts’ estimates, according to — with Bed Bath & Beyond’s ability to “pivot” to better suit customers’ needs during the pandemic. The company saw  89% digital sales growth compared to the same time period last year, although this was partially offset by a 12% decline in comparable-store sales.

“We had a plan in place for second quarter that was really different for us,” Davis said. “It was customer-inspired, data-driven, and really focused on our omnichannel services. It was a fully integrated plan and it really helped us deliver on Q2.”

The result was two million new customers flocking to Bed Bath & Beyond’s website.

Davis said that those new shoppers tended to be six years younger on average than the company’s existing customers. While Bed Bath & Beyond is known for inundating customers with 20% off coupons in the mail, this new crop of shoppers is less discount-focused and more engaged with e-commerce, she said. They also have a heightened interest in home decor.

“So it was a lot of excitement, because even though our stores were closed early on in the quarter, connecting with those new customers digitally really helped us deliver those results,” she said.

With so many universities only offering remote learning, fears over a dearth of back to school spending spread throughout the retail industry. Bed Bath & Beyond responded by analyzing how consumer needs might change in a virtual or socially-distanced learning environment. Those insights were then applied to different stores based on proximity to schools opting for virtual or in-person teaching.

When it comes to pandemic-era back-t0-school shopping, Davis said that items like coffee makers, cookware, cutlery, drinkware, and other kitchen electronics saw a bigger spike than expected, as pandemic-conscious students eschewed campus dining halls for dorm cooking. And with new customers eager to decorate for the holidays, that trend of surging interest in home goods is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

“Home has been the center of our lives for months since the pandemic started,” she said.

Davis said that the company intends to keep

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These Sea Glass Christmas Trees Will Add a Coastal Touch to Your Holiday Decor

Photo credit: Etsy/ KPSeashellDesigns
Photo credit: Etsy/ KPSeashellDesigns

From House Beautiful

Whether you live right on the ocean or just like dreaming of the beach from miles away, if you’re looking for a way to bring coastal vibes into your home this holiday season, we’ve found the perfect statement piece: a sea glass Christmas tree.

Crafter Kristin Pimentel of KPSeashellDesigns on Etsy makes these gorgeous trees individually using sea glass and shells. They come in varying colors and heights, ranging from small to large. Each tree is topped with a starfish, the perfect sea version of the classic Christmas tree star topper. You also have the option to add decorations, which include small starfish, shells, and pearls.

Etsy shoppers can’t get enough of these sea glass trees. Not only do they love how gorgeous the trees are, but they also left rave reviews about the seller’s secure packaging, good communication, and fast shipping. “I bought this tree and it is even more magical in person. It is now one of my favorite things,” one customer wrote. “It was packaged very well and arrived in one beautiful piece and I received it BEFORE the promised date.”

The unique, handmade trees are an investment: They start at $198, with prices varying depending on size, sets, and whether or not you select ornaments. But if you want a one-of-a-kind coastal centerpiece for your home this holiday season (and for years to come), they’re definitely worth the splurge.

Think it’s too early to start planning for Christmas? The sea glass trees can take up to four weeks to make and process. And orders placed after November 7 are not guaranteed to arrive before Christmas, so you’ll want to snatch them up now. Get a head start on your holiday decor, and shop sea glass Christmas trees below!

Follow House Beautiful on Instagram.

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Home Improvement: Steps for hanging holiday lights outdoors – Salisbury Post

Metro Creative

It begins to look a lot like Christmas when twinkling lights brighten up homes inside and out. Few things liven up the season more than holiday decorations, particularly clear and colored lights. Prior to taking out the lights, ladder and thermos of coffee to get you through the job, it’s important to note that there are right and wrong ways to hang holiday lights.

• Sketch out your plan. Start by taking a few photos of your home from various vantage points. Print out the photos on regular paper so that you can draw your lighting arrangement and decoration placement right on the photos to see how things will look.

• Measure the area. Use a measuring tape to roughly measure the width and height of eaves or other areas of the home where you plan to hang light strands. Calculate how much overall footage you will need so you can purchase all of the lights in one shopping trip.

• Test the lights first. Plug in the lights to be sure all strands are operational.

• Begin where the lights will be plugged in. Start where the lights will be plugged in and then work your way around the house.

• Add to shrubs and trees. Lights also can adorn shrubs and trees. Lowes Home Improvement says a good rule of thumb is 100 lights for every 1 1/2-feet of tree or shrub to cover. A 6-foot evergreen needs at least 400 lights for a basic level of lighting.

• Exercise extreme caution. Accidents can happen when stringing lights. While many professionals use harnesses, homeowners are not always so cautious. Utilize a spotter to hold the ladder and make sure things are safe. Never set foot on a wet or icy roof. Do not attempt to string lights in inclement weather.

• Know the wattage. Each outlet can generally hold about 17 amps or 1,870 watts if the lights are not sharing a circuit with another outlet. Plan accordingly to ensure you have enough power to handle your lights.

• Use plastic clips. Plastic light clips hang strands along eaves and gables. They’re specially designed for hanging lights over the gutters. Some slip under the edges of roof shingles. Lights can be hung without staples or nails, which can damage exterior surfaces. Plastic zip-ties or deck clips also can attach lights along a handrail.

• Use only outdoor extension cords. Be sure the extension cords you use are designed specifically for outdoor use.

• Use a timer. Timers can make sure the lights turn on and off even if homeowners forget. Once lights have been safely strung, sit back and enjoy the splendor of a well-decorated house.

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Home Improvement: Holiday gifts to spark home improvement ideas – Salisbury Post

Metro Creative

People have spent more time at home in 2020 than they likely have in years past. This has provided homeowners with plenty of time to ponder potential upgrades to their homes. After taking inventory of their lifestyles, surroundings and furnishings, people have embarked on construction projects or home interior design renovations in record numbers. Holiday gifts that cater to projects around the house are likely to be highly valued this holiday season. Here are some ideas for home improvement-related gifts.

• Home improvement retailer gift card: Home improvement centers are one-stop shopping for do-it-yourselfers. To help offset the cost of supplies, gift-givers can give a gift card to a neighborhood hardware store.

• Magazine subscription: There are plenty of ideas on the internet, but a subscription to a home remodeling or interior design magazine puts inspiration right in homeowners’ hands. Pages can be marked or cut out and used on idea boards.

• Tools and supplies: Homeowners just starting out may benefit from the basics. Stores often sell starter tool kits that can be used in home improvement-themed baskets. Experienced DIYers may have a special tool in mind that is outside their budget right now, like a chop saw or cordless power drill. Purchasing one of these items can help projects move along more smoothly.

• Expert consultation: Who can’t use a little help with their home remodeling efforts? Give the gift of a consultation from an interior designer or professional contractor to help complete plans that may be a little out of reach for the average DIYer.

• Big-ticket item: Some friends and family members may want to pool their resources and offer loved ones an over-the-top gift. This can include a backyard playset for children, a storage shed, a pool installation, or even a new appliance package. Gift ideas are endless and only limited by budget.

• Room re-do: All it may take is some new linens or accents to transform a room. From throw pillows to curtains to wall art, give the gift of an easy room makeover. Riding the momentum of increased home improvement projects from the past several months, holiday shoppers can choose home-related gift ideas to keep the projects and ideas flowing.

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Rotherham man builds back garden ‘Furlough Inn’ with holiday money

Related Topics
  • Coronavirus pandemic

Karl Heath in his bar, The Furlough Inn

image captionInside is a soft seating area with bar, fridges, optics, dart board, TV and even lights and a disco ball

A man has spent his cancelled holiday money building a pub in his back garden while on furlough.

Karl Heath, 50, from Rotherham, said he “always wanted to build a pub” so built the Furlough Inn as “something to do”.

He said: “Our holiday this year got cancelled and I needed a project on furlough so I used the money to build a pub in the garden.”

Mr Heath, his wife, sons and friends take it in turns to go to the bar in small groups at weekends.

image caption…and outside is a pergola and decking with soft seating, hot tub and lights

The outside space has soft seating, lights and a hot tub on decking under the pergola, while inside is a bar with fridges and drinks, snacks, a TV and seating, and a dart board. There is even a disco ball above the door.

It took less than three months to build and cost about £3,000.

“I said to my wife I need something to do,” Mr Heath, a manufacturing supervisor, said.

“I just planned it in my head and it’s worked out exactly how I wanted. Everyone loves it, they think it’s fantastic.”

image captionMr Heath’s father-in-law gave him his collection of pub paraphernalia – like these Babycham deer – from his own pub days

For now only small groups of friends and family can use the Furlough Inn, but Mr Heath said: “When covid’s all done and gone we’ll have a big party with all our friends and family.”

  • More Yorkshire stories

Others who have created their own pubs during lockdown include Jim Sangwell from Essex who installed a bar, stools and DJ decks in his shed.

image copyright@Freds_bar_punshed

image captionJim Sangwell live-streams DJ sets from his Essex shed to his friends, but said it’s not as fun without real people

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These Succulent Christmas Trees Are the Perfect Festive Touch for Your Holiday Decor

Succulents have become more than just those adorable plants that sit on tables and desks. With all of the adorable options, they’ve become some of our favorite Halloween decor. Once you’re ready to swap out your pumpkin succulents for something more Christmas-ready, you’re going to want to get ahold of these succulent Christmas trees.

These holiday plants have been around for a few years now, and they are just as magical as ever. There are several Etsy shops that make the attention-grabbing pieces, but Terracotta Corner FL has really perfected them. Trust us, you’ll want to place one in every room that needs a little seasonal spirit.

The 13-inch trees from the shop are handmade with real succulents. The Aurora Succulent Tree is made with 25 echeverias in different colors, so each one is unique. The Alpine Succulent Tree is made with 50 haworthias, which are spiky to make it look like a real tree, and a dozen colorful succulents, including echeverias, graptoverias, and sedums, sprinkled through like ornaments.

You have the option of adding a silver or gold star topper, so all you have to do is place it on the table of your choice. The order also comes with care instructions, which notes that you should lightly spray the tree with water to keep the succulents alive for “many months.” Etsy’s Terracotta Corner FL sells

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