Tag Archives: Christmas

A Tribute to Grampa Rasmussen, Determination, and Survival


Lutefisk (pronounced LEWD-uh-fisk) is dried cod that has been soaked in a lye solution for several days to rehydrate it. It is rinsed with cold water to remove the lye, then boiled or baked, and then served with butter, salt, and pepper.

The finished lutefisk usually is the consistency of Jello. It is also called lyefish, and in the United States, Norwegian-Americans traditionally serve it for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In many Norwegian homes, lutefisk takes the place of the Christmas turkey. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, you can find lutefisk in local food stores and even at some restaurants. It is a food that you either love or hate, and, as some people say, “Once a year is probably enough!”

During the fall in Wisconsin, people watch their local newspapers for announcements of lutefisk suppers, which are usually held in Norwegian churches. Usually every Norwegian church will host at least one lutefisk supper between October and the end of the year. The dinners have become so popular that lovers of this special cod dish drive great distances, and these are not just people of Scandinavian descent.

The history of lutefisk dates back to the Vikings. On one occasion, according to one legend, plundering Vikings burned down a fishing village, including the wooden racks with drying cod. the returning villagers poured water on the racks to put out the fire. Ashes covered the dried fish, and then it rained. the fish buried in the ashes in the ashes thus became soaked in a lye slush. Later the villagers were surprised to see that the dried fish had changed to what looked like fresh fish. They rinsed the fish in water to remove the lye and make it edible, and then boiled it. The story is that one particularly brave villager tasted the fish and declared it “not bad.”

Norwegian-Americans believe that lutefisk was brought by their ancestors on the ships when they came to America, and that it was all they had to eat. Today the fish is celebrated in ethnic and religious celebrations and is linked with hardship and courage.



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Amazon limited new Prime memberships amid order surge on Thursday said it limited new Prime membership signups during peak periods in order to protect current member orders from the surge in new memberships.

Amazon said more than 1 million customers became new Amazon Prime subscribers in the third week of December.

Amazon Prime is a membership program that offers unlimited free two-day shipping on certain products for $79 a year. Amazon set a record on orders globally, as well, with more than 36.8 million items ordered on Cyber Monday, or 426 items per second, alone.

(Read moreRetailers to roll out huge after-Christmas deals)

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Holiday shipping issues trigger consumer complaints
UPS and FedEx are drawing criticism after experiencing Christmas delivery problems, reports NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez.

The news comes as shipping giants United Parcel Service and FedExstruggled—and in some cases failed—to get packages delivered before Christmas. The delays were blamed on poor weather earlier this week, as well as overloaded systems. The holiday shopping period this year was shorter than usual, more buying was done online and Americans’ tendency to wait until the last possible second to shop probably didn’t help either.

(Read moreUPS, FedEx struggle with delayed Christmas gifts)

Neither company said how many packages were delayed, but noted it was a small share of overall holiday shipments.

Responding to the delivery delays, Amazon issued a statement Thursday: “Amazon fulfillment centers processed and tendered customer orders to delivery carriers on time for holiday delivery. We are reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers.” The retailer also said it will refund any shipping charges associated with impacted shipments, and offer a $20 gift card to customers who did not receive packages on time.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story was corrected to reflect that Amazon limited new Prime membership signups during peak periods in order to protect current member orders from the surge in new memberships. It was also clarified to show that Amazon set a record on orders globally.

By CNBC. The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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How I enjoy holidays parties without food guilt.

by Isabel De Los Rios
Just too good not too re-post…
Today I want to share with you how I keep up my healthy eating regimen even during all the holiday parties and events.

Actually, the strategies you’ll find below are NOT just specific for the holidays, you can use these methods for any social gathering and party that you may be attending.

Just last Saturday, I hosted my own little party for the parents from my kid’s school. It was really great. A lot of us only see each other during drop off and pickup so it was nice to get to know the other parents outside of the school parking lot.

Many of these parents don’t know me at all…so they don’t know how passionate I am about nutrition and health or that we are completely gluten free and don’t eat any processed food. My goal for the party was to choose foods that would make everyone happy, without having to resort to unhealthy “party” foods.
Here is what I served:

Corn chips (organic, non GMO) and home-made guacamole
Rice crackers and goat cheese
Raw cheese platter
Veggies and Greek Yogurt Dip
Fruit salad

The party was a huge hit! By the amount of food that was left (almost none) and the wonderful compliments I received, I could safely assume that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the food and did not go home feeling lousy.

Now, a party at my house would be super easy to work with, BUT what if the party you’ll be attending is not quite an Isabel bash? What do you do then?

Here are my top 3 strategies for surviving your next social event or party. These are methods I personally use all the time so I am always excited about any social event or gathering regardless of the food being served.

1. Offer to bring something to the party. I very rarely go to anyone’s home without bringing something homemade (and my friends and family really look forward to it). The host or hostess is always so grateful and at least I know, if nothing else, I can eat the item I brought. Many of the items that I served at my last party (shown above) are also some of the items that I bring to parties. I have also been known to make cocktail meatballs (made from grass fed beef), chicken skewers (made from pastured poultry) or smoked salmon on cucumber slices. You may want to give your hostess/host a few options and see which one appeals to him or her the most. (Tip: Guacamole and fresh veggies is almost always a huge hit everywhere I go!)

2. Eat before the party. Do not arrive starving! If you really don’t think the party will offer anything that is an acceptable option for you, eat beforehand so that you are not partying hungry. If someone asks why you’re not eating, you can use any of the following responses and none of them would be lying: “I had a really late lunch and I’m not quite hungry yet. Everything does look great and I’ll be sure to try something out,” OR “I’m definitely going to grab something here in a sec. Thanks for asking,” OR my personal favorite, “I get pretty sick if I eat any wheat or dairy so I try and stay away from it. I definitely would not want to get sick at this great party.” As far as I’m concerned, none of those are rude, nor are they lies (especially the last one!) I actually use a very similar response for my children, “My kids get very sick if they eat wheat or dairy so I try and keep them away from it.”…No more explanation needed. I find that the people that truly care for you will want you to be healthy and would never want you to get sick, especially at their party!

3. Focus on something else besides the food. This is where having 2 toddlers really comes in handy (so if you want to borrow mine, please let me know). Many times, I really can’t even focus on the food and what’s being served because I need to tend to my children (every parent reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about). But, you may not have kids, or you may be attending this particular party without them. Focus on catching up with friends you haven’t seen in a long time, engage in conversations you don’t have the opportunity to have otherwise, and maybe even get your “groove on” on the dance floor (c’mon, what’s a party without dancing?). Keep your focus on the true goal of the party and that’s to enjoy yourself with family and friends, not to focus on what food is being served or what you should or shouldn’t be eating.

And most importantly, I want you to NOT beat yourself up if the party just doesn’t go the way you wanted. Maybe you had one too many cocktails, maybe the brownies were just too good to say no to, or maybe you just ended up eating every single thing that came in your direction. Leave that party behind you and move on. Today is another day and another opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle. One party will not make or break your weight loss goals or your health.

The most important thing you can do is see it as one night or just one party, and not as a reason to let all of your healthy efforts go to the way side. I know this time of year can pose some challenges, so arm yourself with the tools above and remember that this season is about happiness, joy and the togetherness of family and friends.

In health and happiness,




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Treat Clients Like Royalty And Build A Personal Relationship

Communicating with your customers is vital to continued success in business. Poor communication is the fastest way to lose existing customers, whether it’s because of lack of communication or unclear communication. Sometimes communicating with your customers can be a job in itself. This is especially true for companies with a large clientele list. You do not have to be like Michael Scott from The Office, who memorizes the names of every client’s kids, their allergies, and their favorite sport. That may be a little creepy. But you sure don’t want to come across as an insensible person, who has no care for personal relationships and is only in business to make money. So here are a few steps a business owner, manager, or even a salesperson can take to make their relationship with their customers indissoluble.

            Michael Scott may take it too far with his knowledge of his client’s children’s habits, but it shows that he truly cares about the business relationship they have and most of the time it works to his advantage. Whatever you do, you want to stand out, so the next time that client picks up the phone looking for the service you provide, there is no way they are calling anyone else. It is difficult to stand out when business is becoming so impersonal. With the internet and phone being the connection between most businesses and customers, how do you stick out?


            First, find a talented receptionist. This person is the voice of your company. When those clients start calling, you want someone with confidence and cheer taking care of whatever problems or questions they might have. The receptionist should be the epitome of your mission statement bundled up into the perfect employee. Train them to care for each phone call as it is their own customer and offer them bonuses or incentives to keep them upbeat and focused. There is software available that can simplify the job and keep your company on track. A receptionist plays a huge part in the operation of a company and should be rewarded for hard work.

Online Forum

            Next, create an online forum for your company for those clients who prefer to work over the internet. Your receptionist can also be in charge of this forum with your guidance and knowledge. This will allow your customers to have a place to ask questions that are not time-sensitive, which will promote a more transparent relationship. Your customers will have faith that you care for their questions after they see you invested in an on-line forum which caters to their needs.


            Finally, acknowledge any special days or holidays. Don’t do it the old fashioned way! For example, you should have the first day your company did business with the client on record. It is almost like your anniversary! On major holidays like Christmas and New Years, send them a New Year or Christmas corporate holiday E-card thanking them for their continued business. These e-cards are the newest and fastest way to show your customers how much you care. They will be happy to know you are thinking about them during the holiday and impressed with the tech-savvy card. It also saves a lot of time that most people don’t have anyway! No more cramming written holiday cards before your precious few days off.

This is the way to build a personal relationship first and a business relationship on top. It guarantees a level of trust between your business and your customers. Trust will always win a customer over; once they know you provide the best service, the personal rap you build with them through these steps will ensure repeat service and a fruitful relationship.

Featured images:

Ashely is part of a team of writers that has contributed to business blogs and news sites. If you want to see more, follow her on Twitter @ashelymarie1985.



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Low Cost Ways To Reward Your Employees

Office sceneA top contender for the provider of the most awesome and unusual employee perks must be Chesapeake Energy, based in Oklahoma City. The corporate campus boasts a 72 000-square-foot fitness facility, tanning beds and spray tanning, free scuba certification and an employee garden the size of a city block. Oh, and a health and dental centre providing dermatology treatments like Botox.

Being the second biggest producer of natural gas in the States, Chesapeake Energy is a big player, and so can afford to be somewhat lavish with showering its employees with benefits. But what do you do if you’re a small business wanting to treat your deserving employees?

Here are some affordable ways to show your appreciation and reward your employees.

Office Culture

Casual dress days will make people more excited to go to work, and will make them feel more comfortable in the work environment. You can institute a casual Friday, or randomly choose to add extra casual days to the calendar. You can even make themed casual dress days. For instance, everyone could wear the colours of their favourite teams when a big game comes up. This will put everyone in a cheerful mood, and maybe spark some playful bantering.

On that note, organise events for when a team does well as a whole. They need not be expensive affairs. For instance, you could have everyone bring their speciality dish to a barbeque. This will also promote their effectiveness as a team.

Reward your employees with time off. This is a great motivator and you’ll be surprised to see how quickly your employees start working when you offer to let them leave 30 minutes or an hour early, or if you give them the option of coming to work an hour late on Monday.

In the Kitchen

Besides having your kitchen stacked with coffee, tea, water dispensers and perhaps some fruit as snacks, you could have special days established for extra treats. For instance, you bring in bagels and donuts once a week for a delicious breakfast, or establish a “pizza day” once a month. This will give something for your employees to look forward to.

Commemorate special occasions and holidays with food, like cake or cupcakes on an employee’s birthday, Easter eggs around Easter, matzoh during Passover, and candy canes during Christmas. This lets people know that they’re not locked away from the outside world when they’re at the office.

Personal encouragement

If someone’s done something with excellence, take the time out to personally let them know. Don’t just assume that it’s in their job description to do their best, and therefore achievement need not be acknowledged. Instead of telling people that everyone is doing great, take the time to pull a particular person into your office, or to write an email letting him or her know that you’ve noticed the quality of work. You could also recognise the employee publicly by posting something about their work on your bulletin board, or sending out an email highlighting their achievements.

However, although recognising your employees’ individual efforts is important, make sure that nobody ever feels left out by only recognising the same few employees. Why not send flowers to one of the less prominent “behind the scenes” individuals?

Feeling that individually their work is being noted and appreciated can mean so much more for an employee than expensive benefits. And it doesn’t subtract from your bottom line.

Featured images:

Queenie Bates is an avid reader and writer, based in Cape Town, South Africa.



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How to Start Cost-Cutting in Your Small Business

Do you want to trim off the excess fat in your business budget but don’t know where to start? Have you done the basic ways of saving money such as recycling, getting second hand furniture, etc. but think that there are still some ways where you can cut off cost? Well, you are right. Here are some areas that you need to cut cost on.

Business telephone system

Call up different suppliers and ask them to review your present telephone system. Be ready with your bill. You would be surprised to find out that you are actually not using some of the features you are paying for. There are also some areas that you can completely take off your package. Analyze your needs and talk with different suppliers to come up with a special package for you.

Also, you might want to re-think your current system. If you are not using VoIP, you are missing a lot. Consider changing your whole system to VoIP to enjoy tremendous savings.

Representation expenses

These include meals or entertainment for clients. Make a written policy that requires all those who regularly use these allowances to find less expensive places and services. Set a budget and stick to it. If they go over the budget then they would have to shoulder the excess cost from their own pockets. A lot of employees abuse this allowance and making each employee accountable for his own budget will help you save a lot of money.

Free or cheap software, tools and apps

Instead of investing in new equipment or buying new software, check out the Internet for cloud programs, apps and other tools that are free or less expensive. If you worry about security, find a supplier that has a trusted network. They usually require a small fee but it is nothing compared to buying a new equipment or software of your own.


If your company is growing at a speed you did not expect, consider outsourcing your processes such as supply chain management, logistics, etc. It is wiser to let the experts do it instead of investing in your own equipment and hiring new personnel. These companies already have a secure, working system in place so you don’t have to worry.

Ban overtime

Don’t allow your employees to go overtime especially during off-peak seasons. For peak seasons like holidays and Christmas, consider hiring extra part time employees who will only work during this season. You will save more by paying them a regular wage instead of overtime pay.

The key to saving money is by planning your budget thoroughly whether it’s weekly, monthly or yearly. Inform your employees of your plans so that you can get their full cooperation.




If you are thinking about changing business phone systems, check out


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PayPal’s Worst PR Decisions



PayPal is almost synonymous with online buying and selling, being used to pay for everything from online subscriptions to artwork to Ford Mustang parts, including classic Mustang parts. Of course, being a market leader means that you are under somewhat of a microscope, and PayPal certainly doesn’t always make the best PR decisions. Check out these biggest PR disasters that PayPal has had to live with.

Ordering an Antique Violin to Be Smashed to Pieces

One of the conditions of using PayPal is that you cannot use it to receive payment for counterfeit goods and if you do, the payment will be refunded once the buyer destroys the counterfeit item. Unfortunately for one seller, this simple-seeming condition gets a little more complicated when it comes to musical instruments.

Verifying the authenticity of musical instruments is quite complicated, and the buyer filed a dispute with PayPal. Instead of giving the seller a chance to take back her antique violin, they ordered the buyer to smash it to pieces, and reversed the payment.

In the world of music, instruments, especially older instruments, are almost sacred, and the treatment of this seller and her instrument caused a real storm. It’s likely that much fewer musicians will be using PayPal for such sales in the future!

Stopping Regretsy from Raising Money for Sick Kids

With Paypal accounts so ubiquitous and an easy-to integrate ‘Donate’ button available, it’s only natural to consider using PayPal to raise money for worthy causes. In fact ‘worthy causes’ are precisely what this button is for.

So, the Regretsy website community used the button to raise money to buy Christmas 2011 presents for sick children. Imagine the surprise when Regretsy’s fundraising account was frozen, along with the site-runners own personal account.

While essentially stealing toys from sick kids is bad enough, this is not the end of the PR disaster. After all, some publicity nous could have had it resolved quite quickly. Sadly, this is not what happened. Emails flew back and forth between Regretsy and PayPal, and the site owner was informed that while using the button would be okay if she had a sick cat, helping poor people was not allowed. PR disaster!

The issue was finally solved, but PayPal still has yet to apologize, simply hiding behind their privacy policy to avoid discussing it.

The PR problems that PayPal has are quite obviously due to the difficulty of coming up with one-size-fits-all policies. However, this shouldn’t be an excuse and should serve as an important lesson for anyone who runs an online business. The online world allows one complaint to snowball into a cavalcade of bad publicity, so make sure to start off on the right foot!

Post by guest blogger James, a writer who enjoys blogging about technology from online payment systems to CJ Pony Ford Mustang parts.


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