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Holiday Shopping Tips

Holiday Shopping Tips
Shopping after Thanksgiving can be rewarding with all the great sales and overwhelming with all the crowds.

Start Early
• Waiting until the last minute increases holiday stress. Waiting until Christmas Eve, you'll have to fight crowds and take whatever is left over.
• Shop in Off-Peak Hours
• Shop at slow times during the early morning or late in the evening. You can forgo the crowds and long lines by shopping in stores that are open 24 hours.

Take a List

• Keep a pen and paper in your purse or wallet and write down all of your gift ideas. If you keep your list with you at all times, you'll know exactly what you need to buy, you'll be less likely to forget something, and you'll avoid over-spending.

Set a Budget
• Are you still paying for last year's gifts? Work out a budget and stick to it. Buy only affordable gifts and you'll find it much easier to pay off your holiday credit card debt. (Husbands will really appreciate this.)
Look for Sales
• Watch store ads and be on the lookout for holiday sales. You can save a pretty good chunk of money because almost anything you may want to buy eventually goes on sale.

Buy a Few Extra Gifts
• Choose a few
• Find some "generic" gifts on sale that can be for a man or a woman, (gift cards are perfect) and purchase a couple of extras. This way you'll always be prepared if someone unexpectedly gives you a gift, and you can avoid any embarrassment or hurt feelings by returning the favor.

Shop Online
• Every year, more and more people shop from the comfort of their own home. Get your list and buy your Christmas presents at a leisurely pace to avoid the stress. Keep an eye out for free shipping and other "online only" deals. Often, there is the additional savings of not having to pay sales tax that will off set any shipping charges.

Save Receipts
• Be prepared for broken items, wrong sizes and duplicate gifts. Always save shopping receipts for 90 days after your purchase. This is about how long stores will allow a returns. Don't forget to ask for a gift receipt.

Treat Yourself
• If you followed the tips above and stayed organized then you'll have time to enjoy all the season has to offer. Go caroling, ice skating, bake cookies with the kids...

A Baker's Pantry

Here's What you'll need to make all your goodies

  • Unbleached, all-purpose flour contains a combination of high- and low-gluten wheat. Store flour in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place for up to six months. Keeping flour in a large glass jar makes it easy to measure. To keep flour weevils away, insert a bay leaf or two into the jar.
  • Cake flour is milled from low-gluten soft wheat. It is used in tender cakes and pastries. Be sure to use cake flour that does not contain any self-rising agents. Store cake flour in a plastic bag inside an airtight container in a dark cool place.
  • Baking powder is a baking additive that releases carbon-dioxide gas which helps bread doughs and other items rise. Over time, baking powder loses its effectiveness. While you can find large containers in stores, it's best to buy small containers. Store them tightly covered in a cool, dry place.
  • Baking soda is also a baking additive, but it works by reacting with acidic foods, such as lemon juice or molasses, to help bread doughs and other items rise.
  • Granulated sugar is the most common form of sugar produced. It is created from either refined cane or beet sugar. Store sugar in a tightly covered airtight container. Sugar can stay in a pantry for a long time, which makes it useful for using in canning and preserving.
  • Superfine sugar is granulated sugar that has been finely ground. Because it dissolves quickly, it is most often used in baked goods and icings.
  • Confectioners' sugar is granulated sugar that has been ground into powder form. It is generally used in uncooked foods and is most often an ingredient in uncooked icings. Confectioners' sugar generally has a "10x" or "3x" descriptor, referring to the number of times the sugar has been sifted before packaging.
  • Light brown and dark brown sugar are two types of white sugar that contain molasses. The lighter the sugar, the more delicate it will be in flavor. Light brown sugar contains about 8 percent molasses and 92 percent granulated sugar. This ratio of molasses to sugar enables light-brown sugar to caramelize sooner than dark-brown sugar at low temperatures. Dark-brown sugar contains a higher molasses content and tends to burn faster during cooking. Brown sugars will harden if they are exposed to air, so store both types tightly in an airtight container.
  • Dutch-process cocoa has a richer flavor and darker color than regular cocoa, resulting from the addition of an alkali that neutralizes the cocoa's natural acidity. Store cocoa in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.
  • Chocolate varieties include semisweet, bittersweet, milk chocolate and white chocolate. Have all types available for different uses.
  • Walnuts can be purchased both shelled and unshelled. When buying shelled, look for walnuts with no holes or cracks in the shells. These should be stored in a cool, dry place for up to three months. Unshelled walnuts should be kept in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container for up to six months. Discard nuts older than these dates, as they most likely will have become rancid.
  • Almonds should be stored away from direct sunlight in a tightly covered, airtight container. Almonds can also be purchased both shelled and unshelled. Shelled almonds can be stored in an airtight container up to six months, but shelled almonds should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container also up to six months.
  • Pecans that are unshelled can be stored at room temperature for up to three months. Shelled pecans tend to absorb odors when placed around other foods, so store them separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to six months.
  • Hazelnuts are perishable nuts. Since shelled hazelnuts will dry out very quickly, they should be used immediately. Unshelled hazelnuts can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three weeks. Shelled hazelnuts should be refrigerated for up to three months in an airtight container.
  • Vanilla beans are the seed pods of the orchid Vanilla planifolia, one of 20,000 varieties of orchids that bear edible seed pods. The most common types of vanilla beans originate from Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. Tahitian beans are the most flavorful.
  • Vanilla extract is a sweet liquid formed from the infusion of vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol. The resulting mixture is allowed to age for several months, intensifying in flavor. Keep vanilla extract covered in a cool, dry, dark place. Avoid using imitation vanilla extract, as it does not yield the same flavor as pure vanilla extract.
  • Cinnamon is the inner bark extracted from an evergreen tree native to the tropics. The bark is harvested from the tree and dried. Cinnamon is sold both as sticks or ground into powder.
  • Unsalted butter is the best butter to use for baking. This type of butter should be stored in the freezer for long-term storage. The American Dairy Association recommends keeping unsalted butter no longer than two weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Parchment paper is a non-stick, unwaxed paper that is excellent for lining baking sheets when baking cookies. Parchment paper not only ensures that cookies won't stick to the baking pan but also eliminates the need for greasing the pan.

2013 Holidays



Thanksgiving Tips for Hosts and Guests

Thanksgiving Tips for Hosts and Guests
Submitted By: Andrew Boorstyn

Want to be the perfect holiday host or guest? Follow these tips on etiquette and entertaining, and your dinner companions are sure to be thankful.


If you are the host...
• Plan to provide a traditional Thanksgiving feast, then be creative with side dishes.
• Whenever anyone offers to help or bring a dish, say, "Yes, thank you!"
• Use hollowed bread loaves for charming serving containers for cheeses, dips, olives, chips and small sandwiches.
• Once the table settings and centerpiece are in place, sit in each chair to make sure each guest will feel comfortable.
• Include favorite kids' foods, especially those they can eat neatly with their fingers.
• Provide at least one low-calorie dish and a vegetarian option. Then serve a sinful dessert.
• Completely clear the table of all dishes from previous courses before serving dessert.
• Fill the sink with soapy water so cutlery and small dishes can soak clean as the guests are finishing.
• Make it easy for guests who help you clean up to help you recycle. Place bins in the kitchen labeled "glass," "cans" and "trash."
• Keep club soda nearby to clean spots or stains on the tablecloth or clothing.

If you are a guest...
• Arrive no earlier than the time the host has announced and no later than half an hour after the time.
• Plan to stay about an hour after dinner unless travel plans or sleepy children necessitate leaving earlier.
• Bring a gift and write a note of thanks afterward.
• Offer to help set up for dinner and to clean afterward.
• Notify the host of any special dietary needs -- if you are a vegetarian, diabetic or allergic to common foods. You can tell the host how to prepare a dish you can eat, or even better, offer to bring that dish yourself.
• If you're going to a potluck Thanksgiving, bring a serving dish with your contribution.
• Remember, the best potluck dishes are those that need minimal preparation in the host's kitchen, can be served at room temperature and require only a fork to eat.


Make a Thanksgiving Tree

(Special Event Page Graphics) Thanksgiving_Hands_Tree.jpgMake a Thanksgiving Tree
There are so many fantastic ways to get your kids involved at Thanksgiving. One of our favorite family traditions is to make a "Thankful Tree". Here's what you'll need:

• One sheet of poster board
• Different colors of contruction paper
• Markers/pens/crayons
     Have the kids make a tree on the poster board with markers and crayons, drawing just the trunk and branches. Cut out "leaves" from the construction paper. During November, have everyone write what they are thankful for on a leaf (or leaves). At dinner on Thanksgiving, read the leaves or have each guest fill out one to include on the tree and read these leaves as part of a prayer of thanksgiving. While we clean up, the kids get to glue all the leaves on the tree and we have a great keepsake for that year's holiday. This also works if you want to make a turkey, replacing the leaves with 'feathers'.

Help Others

Serve together at a Thanksgiving meal in your community.

Buy an extra turkey and take it to the Food Bank.

Food Hotlines

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line
800.288.8372 or

Foster Farms Turkey Helpline
Get all your questions answered about cooking a turkey.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat & Poultry Hotline
Food specialists answer calls year round in Spanish and English on meat & poultry preparation.

Empire Kosher Poultry Customer Hotline
800.367.4734 or
Recipes and tips on cooking poultry.

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