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10 - December 9, 2011 | Hudson - Litchfield News to Start Planning Your Annual Cookie Exchange

‘Tis the season for delicious treats and festive gatherings. The fun of baking, sharing recipes and getting together for holiday parties, such as a cookie exchange, are what make the season extra special. Inspired by their more than 40 years of collective baking and entertaining experience, Hershey’s Kitchens Linda Stahl and Betty Crocker Kitchens Kristen Olson will share advice through a weekly blog on as well as provide recipes, cookie exchange tips and give holiday hosts the chance to share recipes and photos with each other. For those looking to create the ultimate cookie exchange, Stahl and Olson offer the following tips to turn any party into a sweet suc- cess:

* Invite guests at least two weeks in advance and ask each guest to RSVP with the recipe they plan to make to avoid duplicates.

Season’s Greetings Season’s Greetings

Don’t Wait Until the Holidays

recipe booklet you’ve created to commemorate your party. Ask for participants’ recipes in advance so you can prepare. Can’t decide what holiday cookie you should make as the host? Try the classic Peanut Butter Blossoms.

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* Ask each guest to bring at least a half dozen cookies for each person attending the party. * Encourage participants to bring an empty, sealable container to take home goodies, along with copies of their recipe to share. Be sure to have extra bags or containers on hand for guests to transport cookies home.

* Make it personal - showcase the cookies in a decorative ar-

rangement and ask each participant to introduce themselves and explain why they chose their recipe and what ingredients they used.

* Be sure to offer refreshments, such as seasonal beverages, but keep it simple so the cookies are the stars of the show. * Send guests home with a goodie bag filled with a homemade

Peanut Butter Blossoms Makes about three dozen cookies Ingredients: 36 Hershey’s Kisses Brand Milk Chocolates 1 pouch Betty Crocker Peanut Butter Cookie Mix 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 tablespoon water 1 egg Granulated sugar Directions: Heat oven to 375 F. Remove wrappers from chocolates. Stir cookie mix, oil, water, and egg in a medium bowl until soft dough forms. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake eight to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into cen- ter of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool com- pletely. For more recipes, tips and ideas for hosting a cookie exchange, visit

Five Handy Apps for the Festive Season The holiday season is full of festivities

from children’s plays to office parties to checking off shopping lists. That means many consumers are multitasking. Never fear, there are an array of apps for both the iPad and smartphones to help you accom- plish your seasonal tasks on the go.

Epicurious: Free

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A staple of the holidays is food - and lots of it. Whether cooking up a feast for a dozen or assigned to bring a side to the family event, the Epicurious app has you covered. The app offers more than 30,000 reci- pes from publications like Bon Appetit and well-known chefs and cookbooks. Browsing is simple with specific categories - from party snacks to decadent desserts - and users can search by not only typing in keywords, but also using icons such as what’s in season and what holidays are approaching. The app automatically updates so you can be sure to snag the latest recipes and features a handy shopping list you can

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save for when you hit the supermarket. A newer feature lets amateur chefs share favorite dishes with friends via Facebook, Twitter and email. And when it comes to actually putting together your culinary masterpiece, Epicurious helps there too - offering cooking-friendly views that make it easy to follow a recipe step-by-step. For $1.99, you can also save favorite recipes and sync your Favorites list in the app with your online Recipe Box at A great feature for if you create a hit that the clan wants again next year.

Amazon Price Check: Free In the store holiday shopping and think

you just might find a better deal on online? Amazon Price Check helps you make sure. Use Price Check to scan a barcode, snap a picture, or type or say an item name to check prices on products and buy them directly from the app. You also can add items to your Amazon Wishlist and share via Twitter, Facebook, text message and email link.

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Camera +: 99 cents What’s the holidays without pictures to capture the memories? On sale for a limited time for less than a buck, Camera + lets you enhance your smartphone photos by zooming in (up to 6x) and out, cropping, editing, adding color filters and more. You can set exposure separately from focus for more control over your shots and use a flashlight to brighten up your photos - perfect for outdoor holiday snow scenes. It also comes with a stabilizer to steady your camera for sharper pictures and a built-in grid so you can line up your shots and avoid angled photos. Other features include borders, sharing via Face- book, Twitter, and Flickr and cool effects from professional photog- rapher, Lisa Bettany, ranging from

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“Grunge” for that urban city feel to shimmer effects with “HDR” that are just right for shots by the tree.

Orbitz Hotels App for iPad: Free Whether booking travel for the holidays or to escape afterwards, the Orbitz Hotels App for iPad makes it easy to book on the go. The app not only lets travelers book hotels at any of the global destinations available on Orbitz, it also allows consum- ers to find hotels nearby using the iPad’s GPS capabilities - particularly convenient for same-day bookings. Consumers can also search by city, address, zip code or landmark and filter and sort hotels by price, star rating, review score, distance and even neighborhood. The neighborhood feature is a handy tool if you want to book near relatives over the holidays but are unfa- miliar with their area or if you want to be close to the slopes but avoid the high cost of staying right at the resort. Users also can compare hotels and prices on an interactive map while tiles alongside the map provide summarized hotel information that expands to show photographs, guest reviews, special offers, amenities and detailed hotel/room descriptions. And, if your holiday shopping has you on an extra tight budget, the app lets you toggle from a map view of hotels to an innovative matrix view to easily compare many hotel options (and prices) at once.

Calculate Discount and Sales Tax: Free Stores are littered with so many discounts

over the holidays it can be confusing to figure out what they all mean for your bot- tom line. Enter the Calculate Discount and Sales Tax App, a handy way to quickly know how much 25 percent off actually equals in a shopping trip and tally how much you’re spending. It also can calculate sales taxes for a specified area - a bonus for those out- of-town shopping trips.

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Balsam & Fraser Firs

Fresh Cut Trees

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