Christmas Decorating Trends For 2005 3 Great Ideas For 4th Of July Party Food Gift Ideas For Mom Mauled At The Mall

This year, the latest craze in Christmas decorating is going back in time. Homeowners seem to be less interested in the icicle-type lights and the use of single color strands. Baby boomers seem to be harkening back to the days of their youth, by bringing back the full color glory of traditional Christmas lights.

Lawn ornaments have become a must-have for the decorating elves in your neighborhood. Families everywhere are installing huge lawn ornaments, many consisting of animated light patterns. They sheer number of choices for shapes, sizes, and designs should tell you that these are very popular with festive homeowners. I am a huge fan of the old-style bubble lights (you know…..the ones with colored water and bubbles inside), and they have returned with a vengeance.

Many people seem to be gravitating back to using real trees, instead of using plastic pre-fab ones. Who can blame them? They smell great, and they make Christmas feel that much more real. My family has always used a real tree. It has become a family tradition to go out and cut the tree ourselves. We usually wait until mid-December. We all get bundled up in our snow gear, get our sleighs out, along with a thermos of hot apple cider, and make our way into the bush. The kids love it, the dog loves it, and it makes for an excellent family adventure!

It seems that Christmas flowers have also changed with the times. Although the classic red poinsettia will likely be with us for the rest of time, many florists are offering their customers alternatives. As has been the case with flowers in general for some time, florists are now adding dyes to traditional holiday flowers and bouquets. My personal favorite happens to be a bright violet poinsettia. My daughter prefers cobalt blue. What is yours?

Whether you are a staunch Christmas traditionalist or you are keen on changing along with the current decorating trends, Christmas decorations have never before been so varied and left consumers with so many choices. So get out there and shop, shop, shop! Tis the season, after all!

Add some fun to your 4th of July party food. If you are tired of the same old burgers and hot dogs on this celebration, go ahead and add more to it or change it up the way that you would like to. There is no rule that the food should be one thing or another. In fact, a potluck of choices is the most American of all ways to celebrate. Gather up some new menu ideas and make this fourth of July fun and enjoyable for everyone.

Need some help coming up with fun ideas for party food? If so, there are more than a few things that you can do. Here are some great ideas.

Add more choices. Instead of just burgers and hot dogs, why not cook up some shrimp, crab or even lobster? You can add chicken, fish and steaks to the menu. Yes, you can cook all of this right on your grill (with the help of a side burner in some cases) and still enjoy the grilling atmosphere that the 4th is all about.

Dress up dessert. How about a cake that is in the shape of an American flag? For red stripes, go with strawberries in rows. For the stars, add enough blueberries to make them shine through. Frost the cake white and decorate. This is a great way to make a special treat.

Don’t forget the drinks. You can make various types of drinks special by just adding in flavored ice cubes, in blue and red, of course. To make them, add strawberry and blueberry flavoring to the ice cube trays. Or, just use the right colored Kool-Aid to make it work. Drop them into drinks for a festive yet fun way to add to your food celebration.

You can add virtually any side dish, any dessert and any type of appetizer to your menu and find those that will love it. The only rules to consider about food for the 4th is that it should be something that does not require fine china, something that can handle being out in the sun and something that is all about fun eating. You can come up with your own fun menu of foods, but don’t forget that some will want the traditional fare nonetheless.

Ah, what to buy for beloved mom for Christmas. Here’s a list of gift ideas for mom that are sure to make her smile.

Gift Ideas for Mom

Okay, she is probably tired of getting bubble bath and so on. This year, you need to get her a unique gift. You can find these gift ideas for mom by searching for the product on any search engine.

1. Terry Velour Spa Wrap – In the bathroom theme, but so much more, the Terry Velour Spa Wrap is a great unique gift. The wrap is super soft, warm and is put on when getting out of the shower or bath. It has a velcro strap to ensure a snug fit and is a definite keeper with moms. You can expect to pay $40 for this unique gift.

2. Shiitake Mushroom Log – If mom likes to cook, she is going to love this very unique gift. The Shiitake Mushroom Log is exactly what it says, a wooden log on which she can grow gourmet Shiitake mushrooms for years. The log comes with instructions and starts producing mushrooms within 10 to 20 days. After the first crop, the log will continue to produce mushrooms every 8 weeks or so for years. A very unique gift that shows you put some effort into finding her a gift. The Shiitake Mushroom Log will set you back roughly $40

3. Picture Time – If you really want to make an impression, gather up your siblings and get a professional portrait done of all of you together. Next, get a custom made calligraphy card thanking Mom for putting up with all of your antics and always being there. A unique gift that is guaranteed to bring tears of happiness to her eyes. Prices will range depending on your location, so make sure to shop different photography studios. Also, make sure you see examples of their work so you can determine if you like the style.

4. Salsa Dancing Lessons – On occasion, moms need a little spice in their life. Nothing is spicier than salsa dancing lessons. Practically every metropolitan area has salsa dancing studios where mom and dad can learn the Latin dance style. Price range from location to location, but expect to spend $50 to $200 for two to four lessons. A very unique gift for mom.

5. Nomad Writing Journals – If mom likes to travel, the outdoors or just document family activities, these writing journals will be a hit. The journals come pre-organized for a variety of subjects such as travel, camping, hiking and bird watching. Each journal contains blank spaces for notes as well as cue areas to remind her to write down information such as places stayed, people met and their contact information and so on. The journals cost as low as $9 without waterproof case and $25 with case.

If you’re looking gift ideas for mom, the above list should do the trick.

I love shopping. Online, that is. No crowds at the malls and certainly no jostling for a parking space. Why would anyone want to traverse crowded New Jersey streets only to go to an equally crowded mall staffed by rude sales staff?

Okay, I’m exaggerating. There are plenty of nice people working at the malls and the internet doesn’t give you the “touchy-feely” you can get at a store by examining a product up close and personal, but with so many nice downtown shopping areas in New Jersey why not visit one of these instead?

I grew up in Ridgewood and at that time it was a town with a real downtown. No slight against the village now, but there are a disproportionate amount of restaurants and not enough stores to choose from. At least give us guys a hardware store to browse in for crying out loud!

My Ridgewood memories bring me back to the time when Woolworth’s and The Big Store dominated East Ridgewood Avenue. Woolworth’s, as you know, was the nation’s chief “5 and 10″ store for many years in many American towns. By the time I was a kid growing up in the 1960s and 1970s there were precious few things selling for a nickel or even a dime. Except for goldfish, I think. What kid didn’t at some point have a fifty cent glass fishbowl lined with green rocks on the bottom and one or two goldfish floating around? I know that I did. Woolworth’s is gone, now just a memory.

Right next door to Woolworth’s was The Big Store. All I know about it was that the store was as large as Woolworth’s, it had wooden floors with fresh sawdust on it, and it seemed to sell mostly small appliances, tools, notions, linens, etc. Their stock seemed almost like what Woolworth’s carried, but different. In the eyes of an eight year old, the stock didn’t matter, what mattered was the sawdust on the floor. What mall today has sawdust on the floor? None that I have visited!

Without harping on Ridgewood or covering sketchy history, I still like certain downtowns. Montclair is my picture of an ideal shopping district. Maybe I should say, “districts” as the middle part of the township centered around Bloomfield Avenue isn’t the only place to shop. Other notable shopping areas in Montclair can be found in the Watchung Plaza area as well as along Valley Road in Upper Montclair. All three areas have plenty of stores to choose from and two have a feature that I like best: in-town movie theatres! Yes, there is something about attending a movie in a building that was built years before you were born, where the walls are fairly thick and you don’t hear the movie from the theatre next door while watching your movie. I particularly appreciate that once the movie is over I can visit art galleries nearby or go over to the coffee shop for something hot. Montclair offers all that and more.

Glen Rock’s downtown is special. Where else can you find a shopping district hemmed in by two railroad lines? In Glen Rock you can! The downtown area is a great place to walk around and they have some nice stores to boot, including hardware stores. While you are there, check out the rock in the glen just south of the business district located on Doremus Avenue at Rock Road. Cool, very cool.

Bloomfield’s downtown lacks parking, but it doesn’t lack potential. The townspeople are in the process of working on long term plans to build a parking garage and attract new businesses. My best guess is if they are successful in their efforts, Bloomfield will be a nice alternative to Montclair.

Over in Clifton is the Botany Village shopping district, near Passaic. Lots of nice little shops to visit and certainly a place that will remind old timers of shopping districts that have gone bye-bye!

I’m sure that I’ll catch “heck” for not naming other towns, but that isn’t the point of my short narrative. Rather, check out the shopping areas in nearby towns and see what they have to offer. It certainly beats being jammed in at the Willow-brook Mall or waiting in traffic on Route 4 in Paramus. Online shopping is a good alternative, but you still have to make your own coffee and, usually, what you can find downtown is a lot tastier.

This article originally appeared on, a defunct site managed by Matt Keegan. It was part of his “Life in New Jersey” series of articles.

add, christmas, decorating, downtown, drinks, family, flowers, food, fun, gift, holidays, ideas, journals, lights, log, menu, mom, montclair, movie, nice, red, shiitake, shop, shopping, store, time, unique, woolworth