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  • How to avoid fires during the holidays Dec 21, 2014 7:29 AM
    Take note: Behind the twinkle, sparkle and dazzle of the holidays, safety hazards lurk. Every year, U.S. fire departments respond to about 230 home fires started from Christmas trees, according to a National Fire Protection Association study. And Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day rank as the peak days for kitchen fires. Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy for the NFPA, said that although Christmas tree fires are not common, they can be deadly. Even hanging decorations can pose a risk that lead to injuries and emergency room visits, she said. Being aware of common safety measures during this busy and stressful time of year is key, Carli said, whether it’s the simple act of unplugging your tree lights or keeping an eye on your stove while cooking a big meal. “It’s really, really important just to be vigilant this time of year,” Carli said. Here are tips from the NFPA and Pepco electric company to make sure you have a safe holiday. Fires Cooking is the No. 1 home fire hazard, according to the NFPA, and December is the peak time for candle fires; these often occur in the bedroom, after people fall asleep. “Fires are a risk in the kitchen year-round, but we’re even more distracted by entertaining guests and family this time of year,” Carli said. • Stay in the kitchen when cooking and always keep an eye on the stove, oven or grill. • Keep oven mitts, dish towels and other flammable items away from heating elements and open flames. • Keep an eye on candles and fireplace fires, and be sure to extinguish them before going to bed or leaving the house. • Have your chimney cleaned annually. After a fire, dispose of ashes in a metal container, away from flammable material. • Keep children at least three feet away from fireplaces. • Check your smoke detectors. “This is a given,” Carli said. “They should be checked once a month.” Lighting Holiday lighting poses the risk of overdrawing power and creating a fire hazard, Pepco’s Sean Kelly said. This is especially true of older lights. “Stringing more than three strands of Christmas lights together, especially older ones, and connecting them to a single electric outlet can cause overheating,” Kelly said. “The circuit breaker trips in order to protect the circuit from overheating and causing damage or an electrical fire.” Older strands are more likely to overheat regardless, Kelly said, because they require more electricity. Another hazard? Some types of older bulbs can crack but stay lighted, exposing the heated wire, Kelly said. • Inspect your lights before hanging them. If they look worn (frayed wires, loose or cracked bulbs), don’t hesitate to replace them. Switch to LEDs, which are more energy-efficient and burn cooler than conventional incandescents. • If you’re stringing lights outside, make sure they are for outdoor use. • Do not attach more than three strings of lights together. • Always unplug your lights and decorations before going to bed or leaving the house. Christmas trees • Water your tree daily; dried-out trees are a greater fire hazard than trees that are properly watered. • Keep trees at least three feet away from fireplaces, candles, heating vents or lights. • Don’t use candles to decorate your tree.

  • Pope’s role in Cuba deal fractures Cuban-American flock Dec 21, 2014 12:06 PM
    The key role Pope Francis played encouraging talks between Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro left fractures among his flock in South Florida, where many older Roman Catholics equate the Castro brothers with the devil.

  • ComEd offering seniors electric bill help Dec 21, 2014 2:21 PM
    ComEd has dedicated more than $300,000 through a special “Senior Giving” hardship fund that will be used to help senior citizens who have fallen behind on their electric bill.

  • Egg Roulade Stuffed with Proscuitto, Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Dec 21, 2014 6:45 AM
    Egg roulade makes for a merry Christmas breakfast.

  • Wheaton Warrenville South athletes participate in Day of Caring Dec 21, 2014 4:55 PM
    Winter varsity athletes from Wheaton Warrenville South took part Sunday in the Tiger Day of Caring. “It’s an awesome way to give back,” said basketball player Brian Shallcross, who volunteered to help with the little ones in the child-care room at Blanchard Alliance Church in Wheaton

  • 3 tips to help use remaining health account funds Dec 21, 2014 7:21 AM
    December is the final month for many people with employer-sponsored health coverage to spend the remaining balance in their health care flexible spending account. But these accounts come with a big catch: Often you have to use the balance before the plan year ends or you lose it.

  • Alcohol calorie counts to be on menus by next year Dec 21, 2014 7:12 AM
    Don’t want to be confronted with the number of calories in that margarita or craft beer? Then avoid the menu and order at the bar. New menu labeling rules from the Food and Drug Administration will require chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets to list the amount of calories in alcoholic drinks.

  • American sweetens premium flier awards to fend off Delta, United Dec 21, 2014 7:45 AM
    American Airlines Group Inc. is sweetening frequent-flier awards for passengers buying the most-expensive tickets to fend off loyalty program changes made by its competitors.

  • Gift buyers getting more selfish; 10% of presents returned Dec 21, 2014 7:29 AM
    In the coming weeks, millions of people will buy gifts for loved ones. Which is great -- except that tons of those people will make the same glaring mistake, and buy the wrong gift. Roughly 10 percent of gifts are returned each year -- and the percentage of unwanted gifts is surely higher given that nice people may not want to return presents.

  • Holiday office parties: so very merry — and awkward Dec 21, 2014 7:00 AM
    It is time, once again, to celebrate the holidays with our friends and loved ones. And co-workers. Please don't forget the co-workers. It's not enough to spend five days a week with your dear colleagues; you must put in a few extra off-hours of chitchat and merry-making for good show.

  • 12 less-fattening holiday party food, drink choices Dec 21, 2014 7:12 AM
    The coming weeks will be packed with parties, treats and indulgent annual traditions. Instead of mindlessly diving in and ignoring the repercussions until Jan. 1, keep your head about you. Choose wisely, and you can have your jollies and still feel good in your jeans on New Year’s Day. Here are 12 simple holiday swaps that add up to more than a thousand calories saved, without a putting dent in your festive mojo. 1. Instead of a chocolate truffle (105 calories) ... Go for a candy cane (40 calories). Save: 65 calories Unwrap an iconic red-and-white peppermint stick instead of a chocolate bonbon and get a sweet holiday treat with fewer calories and none of the saturated fat. Plus, if you can resist crunching into it, a candy cane lasts longer. 2. Instead of a slice of Starbucks pumpkin bread (410 calories) ... Go for a Starbucks pumpkin-spice latte with skim milk (195 calories). Save: 215 calories When you stop for a shopping break, get a 12-ounce pumpkin-spice latte, which has the same seasonal taste and aroma as a hunk of pumpkin bread, with less than half the calories. On top of that, the drink gives you milk’s filling protein and essential nutrients. Just remember to skip the whip. 3. Instead of crackers with cheddar cheese (293 calories) ... Go for apple slices and soft goat cheese (170 calories). Save: 123 calories Soft cheeses such as chevre and feta naturally have about two-thirds the calories and fat as hard cheeses such as cheddar. If you spread some on fresh fruit slices instead of crackers, you save even more calories, and gain flavor and fiber. 4. Instead of potato chips with onion dip (260 calories in 1 ounce of chips, 2 tablespoons of dip) ... Go for vegetables and guacamole (48 calories in 1 cup of celery and 2 tablespoons of avocado). Save: 212 calories Dips are ideal party starters because they get everyone close together, sharing and bumping elbows. Instead of fried chips and a sour-cream-based dip, use vegetables to scoop up much more healthfully creamy guacamole. You save a couple hundred calories swapping out a mere ounce of chips and two tablespoons of dip. Most people easily eat twice that in the course of the night. 5. Instead of a cup of eggnog (344 calories) ... Go for a glass of champagne (154 calories). Save: 190 calories Not only is eggnog packed with calories, but one cup has a whopping 11 grams of saturated fat; that’s half a day’s worth! Why swallow that when you can celebrate with the same amount of bubbly for less than half the calories and no fat at all? 6. Instead of three mini sausages (96 calories) ... Go for three large shrimp (21 calories). Save: 75 calories When it comes to finger foods, you can’t go wrong with shrimp. It’s a tempting, tidy, two-bite nibble, packed with lean protein and minerals. So skip the greasy sausage and make a beeline to the seafood platter; it usually goes fast. 7. Instead of spiced apple cider with rum (189 calories) ... Go for a hot toddy with rum (127 calories). Save: 62 calories A warm, spiced cocktail is a comforting pleasure on a cold winter’s night. A tea-based toddy will do the trick with less of a calorie hit than cider, and it has heart-healthy flavonoids to boot. 8. Instead of a slice of fruitcake (440 calories) ... Go for a slice of panettone (284 calories). Save: 156 calories Panettone, the traditional Italian holiday cake, is sweet and studded with fruit, but it is also famously fluffy and light, so it is much easier on the waistline than the denser American cake. 9. Instead of a large handful of mixed nuts (410 calories) ... Go for a large handful of pistachios in the shell (160 calories) Save: 250 calories Of course nuts in their jackets are lower in calories than the same volume already shelled; there are fewer nuts in the handful. But, chances are, you will feel equally satisfied with that smaller portion because the shells slow you down, allowing your brain to register the food before you swallow the whole fistful. 10. Instead of a slice of apple pie (410 calories) ... Go for a slice of pumpkin pie (320 calories). Save: 90 calories Thanks mainly to its double pastry crust, apple pie packs a much bigger calorie wallop than the open-faced pumpkin pie. And, really, how many times a year is pumpkin pie on the menu? 11. Instead of hot cocoa with whole milk and whipped cream (320 calories) ... Go for hot cocoa with 1 percent low-fat milk and mini marshmallows (278 calories). Save: 42 calories A steaming cup of cocoa is a must after sledding or snowman-building. Make it with 1 percent milk for a more healthful treat that is still nice and creamy. Instead of whipped cream, top it with a few mini-marshmallows just for the fun of it. They have just 2 calories each. 12. Instead of two small sugar cookies (140 calories) ... Go for two small gingerbread men (60 calories). Save: 80 calories If sugar cookies are your thing, then go ahead and have a couple. Savor, don’t deprive yourself of, your true holiday favorites. But if it is a tossup, opt for the gingerbread men, which are a tad more healthful because the molasses they are sweetened with contains minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium — and you get to contemplate which body part to nibble first • Calorie counts are based on an analysis of data from ESHA Food Processor, a diet analysis and fitness software tool, using nutrition labels on product packaging and websites. Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author. She blogs and offers a biweekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com. She also writes weekly Nourish recipes in The Washington Post’s Food section.

  • Believe Project: $100 to help out new widow during the holidays Dec 21, 2014 7:30 AM
    The Daily winner of $100 through the Believe Project is Kathy Mondala of Schaumburg, who wants to help a new widow get through the holidays.

  • Don’t see red over oranges in your Christmas stocking Dec 21, 2014 7:00 AM
    Food Editor Deborah Pankey looks at the connection between Christmas and oranges and suggests Dorda Double Chocolate Liqueur as a gift for the choco-holics on your list.

  • Make-ahead roulade makes for a merry Christmas morning Dec 21, 2014 6:45 AM
    Savory egg roulade, which wraps a souffle-like sheet of baked egg around a prosciutto, spinach and cheese is a special breakfast for Christmas morning and a way of making a spongy and elegant omelet for eight people. It’s delicious and practical. Not only does one recipe feed a crowd (rather than making separate omelets), it also can be partly prepped ahead of time.

  • Indoor tanning injuries can require emergency room treatment Dec 21, 2014 7:00 AM
    Indoor tanning injuries have declined but still sent more than 1,000 people to emergency rooms in recent years. Here’s a look at what’s billed as the first national estimate on these injuries, from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • How to avoid packing on holiday pounds Dec 21, 2014 7:00 AM
    It’s that time of year again when everywhere we turn we’re offered creamy eggnog, savory charcuterie and sweet, melt-in-your-mouth apple pie with whipped cream. Sounds amazing to some, but to others the onslaught of holiday cocktail parties, extended family visits and office holiday buffets creates anxieties about weight gain that far override any seasonal merriment.

  • Volunteer’s cookies fetch $75,000 for Boys & Girls Club of Dundee Twp. Dec 20, 2014 7:25 AM
    A batch of 500 cookies were auctioned off at a stunning $75,000 to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Dundee Township. “They are that good,” said Tom Roeser of Otto Engineering, who made the winning bid. But anyone who knows Roeser also knows it’s all about the businessman’s commitment to the betterment of local youth, says baker Barbara Ferguson. “It’s just wonderful what he did,” she said.

  • Gift Guide: 5 fitness trackers offer wide range Dec 20, 2014 7:00 AM
    There are several fitness trackers to choose from, varying in what they measure and how easy they are to use. Here are five, ranked from budget to sophisticated, to give you a sense of the range available. By no means are these the only good offerings out there.

  • Need a last-minute fitness gift idea? Dec 20, 2014 11:07 AM
    If you're looking for any last minute gift ideas, don't forget the gift of fitness. Here are some great ideas for the fitness inclined, or as a hint for anyone you'd like to see become more active.

  • On the road: Don’t miss NYE Cheese Drop in Wis. Dec 20, 2014 6:30 AM
    Only in Wisconsin would the citizenry revel in a New Year’s Eve Cheese Drop. Join the folks in the Plymouth Arts Center, which will be open for a casual evening of live musical entertainment, food, socializing and the nationally acclaimed Big Cheese Drop at midnight. Closer to home, the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center presents its first New Year’s Eve Family Bash.

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