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6 tips for planning a sweet graduation celebration

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(Family Features) When years of hitting the books lead to a hard-earned diploma, there’s just one thing left to do: celebrate the graduate with something sweet. A graduation is a major life milestone that deserves plenty of recognition, and a graduation party is a perfect way to celebrate the occasion with family and friends.

Whether the party celebrates a recent grad or accepted student, you can make the moment all the more memorable with these planning tips and personalized party favors and customized gifts from M&M’S.

Make a guest list. Deciding who you’d like to invite is a good starting place because it may influence several other choices you need to make down the road, like where you host the party and what you serve to eat and drink.

Choose the place and time. Another decision you’ll need to make right away is where and when the party will be held. Having a rough idea of how many people will attend can help determine where to host the party, since you’ll want to have enough room for everyone to be comfortable. If you’re timing the celebration to coincide with a graduation ceremony, be sure to schedule your party so any guests who also plan to attend the ceremony can do both. Many families choose to hold open house-style parties for an extended period of time so people who have multiple graduation parties to attend can fit them all in.

Plan your menu. The style, timing and duration of your party all influence what kind of food you serve. If your party overlaps a traditional mealtime, you may want to serve a full meal. However, if you’re hosting an open house format, keeping food fresh for an extended period can be a challenge. If you take care to keep chilled foods cold and heated foods warm, a buffet can allow guests to serve themselves as they wish. You may also find appetizers are easier to heat and replenish throughout the party. Don’t forget about dessert: A celebratory cake or tray of cupcakes are traditional ideas you can complement with other selections, such as candy bars to add colorful fun and variety to the party.

Accommodate gifts. While common etiquette suggests a host should never expect them, most people do bring gifts to celebrate the graduate. You can set up an attractive gift table with a gift of your own to discretely show guests where to place gifts when they arrive, such as an M&M’S Occasion Bottle, which can be personalized to toast your grad with  up to three colors, text, clip art and photos. The bottle stands nearly a foot tall, so it makes for an eye-catching centerpiece at the gift table.

Select entertainment. Often, there’s enough hustle and bustle at graduation parties that you don’t need to go overboard planning activities or entertainment. You might have some music playing at a moderate level so guests can still have casual conversations without yelling, and you may want to display a slideshow celebrating the graduate’s accomplishments along the way to this big day. Other fun ideas include photobooths with props, a signature frame for guests to sign and notecards for guests to offer their congratulations, advice or predictions for the graduate’s future.

Organize party favors. One way to thank guests for honoring your graduate and inspire more moments of fun is by offering a favor that doubles as a memento of the event. For example, M&M’S Class of 2022 Graduation Favor Tins make for a perfect way to send guests home with a sweet reminder of the celebration. Each stylish tin can be customized with a lid design and message for guests and be filled with a delicious serving of personalized candies that match the party’s theme.

For more colorful ideas, including customizable gifts and party favors for celebrating grads, check out the full 2022 Graduation Gift Guide at MMS.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (graduate with parents)


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M&M’S

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Tips to pull off holiday hosting

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(Family Features) With stay-at-home holidays a thing of the past for many families, they’re now busy preparing for full-blown celebrations. The return of traditional festivities brings seemingly never-ending to-do lists and pressure to be the perfect host.

From mastering a mouthwatering menu and donning your home with decadent decor to ensuring guests enjoy the evening to the fullest, hosting duties bring plenty of responsibilities. This year, though, you can avoid those anxious feelings with some preparation ahead of the big day.

To help pull off a sensational seasonal soiree, consider these tips from the entertaining experts at Sun-Maid to make the holidays brighter and more manageable so you can navigate the stresses of hosting.

Invite Others to Share Favorite Traditions
Especially with stay-at-home holidays in recent years, some friends and family members may have developed their own special traditions from new recipes and foods to seasonal games and activities. Inviting your guests to bring or share something that represents their favorite part of the holidays can help everyone feel welcome.

Take Time for Yourself
Remember to make time for yourself so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor right alongside guests. The busyness of this time of year can add stress but reflecting on the true meaning of the season and reveling in your favorite parts of the holidays can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Add New Ingredients to Your Menu
While pairing this year’s turkey or ham with the classics provides comfort and calls to mind holiday memories of the past, cooking with new ingredients and adding fresh recipes to the menu can put a fun spin on the season and maybe even create your own traditions to carry forward.  

For example, baking with an option like Sun-Maid Raisins provides a whole fruit option with zero grams of added sugars per 1/4-cup serving. They’re an easy, better-for-you substitution to reduce overall sugar intake without compromising flavor or texture when compared with dried cranberries, which contain 27 grams of added sugars per 1/4-cup serving. The natural sugars of raisins make them a versatile, useful addition to a wide variety of holiday-worthy dishes.

Hop On Hot Food Trends
One of this year’s most popular trends in the kitchen is food boards, a fun and easy way to elevate flavor while incorporating favorites like cured meats, cold cuts, cheese slices and cubes, dips, nuts and more. Plus, you can keep your board balanced with nutritious items like vegetables and fruit, such as raisins, which provide sweet flavor without the added sugars.

A Time for Truce
Gathering for the holidays is about coming together with loved ones, family, friends and neighbors – and pulling it off means catering to everyone’s needs and wants. It’s a time for compromises and truces. To help add a little extra spark this year, try incorporating a theme to the party or coordinate fun activities and games that can be enjoyed by all. For example, holiday-themed charades, a seasonal “name that tune” game and gift exchanges all give guests ways to get in on the excitement.

To find more holiday entertaining inspiration and recipe ideas, visit SunMaid.com/PullOffTheHolidays .

Photos courtesy of Getty Images


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Sun-Maid Raisins

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Why you next car will probably be electric

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(BPT) – Love them, hate them, or don’t really care, electric vehicles are beginning to take over transportation conversations and roadways, and soon, boats and planes. Already, there were 16.5 million electric cars on the road worldwide in 2021, three times more than in 2018, according to S&P Global. Though still in the early adopter phase, here are four reasons your next vehicle is likely to be electric.

Auto manufacturers are phasing out the production of internal combustion engine (ICE) models. General Motors announced in 2021 that the company will only sell vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, across all global markets. Similarly, leading companies like Ford committed to zero emissions globally by 2040 and no later than 2035 in key markets. Some states are making the same commitment. Through Michigan’s Healthy Climate plan, for example, the state is working to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050, including through electrifying vehicles and increasing public transit.

States are accelerating the push for EVs through legislation. The Air Resources Board is offering a Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, making new and used electric cars more affordable for consumers, as some states seek to ban the sale of ICE model vehicles. On the federal level, as part of a broad new Inflation Reduction Act — designed to address climate change, healthcare, and taxes — a new tax credit of up to $4,000 on used electric cars and revised tax credits of up to $7,500 on certain new EVs are available for prospective buyers to take advantage of. These legislative changes highlight the need for tangible progress in increasing the accessibility of EVs.

States are building out supporting infrastructure for EVs. All over the United States, you will find EV chargers popping up at local supermarkets, malls and sporting events. Michigan is taking it a step further by bringing chargers to state parks and working with public universities on pilot programs and research programs to improve battery design. The Lake Michigan EV Circuit Tour, for example, is a network of EV chargers that, once completed, will span over 1,100 miles of drivable shoreline around Lake Michigan throughout Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

“We are going to see a huge uptick in EV adoption, especially as manufacturers continue to diversify the EV models on the market, lower prices for increased accessibility, and partner with states to ensure infrastructure is catching up with the high-tech innovation happening across the country,” says Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer for the State of Michigan. “It’s only a matter of time before your neighbors are driving one too.”

Beyond incentives and legislation, we’re still human and want to keep up with our neighbors and peers. EVs have been around for almost 30 years, with the first mass-produced, purpose-built modern electric car from one of the industry’s key players released in 1996 from General Motors. Soon, EVs will make up a majority of new cars available. And, with the many financial incentives and user benefits associated with making the shift to EVs, it may not take long for you to begin reimagining how an EV could fit into your life, too.

While your next car choice will hinge on a range of factors — lifestyle, brand preference, car features, safety ratings, availability and price — you may be surprised how many boxes an EV can tick. Even without gas, there’s a lot of sustainable power under their hoods.

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Help for older adults on a budget may be a few clicks away

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Help for older adults on a budget may be a few clicks away

(BPT) – Food and gas prices continue to rise, on top of record-high housing costs in many cities across the U.S. If you’re an older adult who is already living on a tight budget, today’s inflation can be particularly difficult. Fortunately, there are programs available that can help you save money on health care, prescriptions, food, utilities and more.

One of the easiest ways to find out if you’re eligible for benefits is to visit the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp.org. The free and confidential tool connects older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers to benefit programs. The site is easy to use, even for people with minimal digital experience.

“It only takes a few minutes to learn about all the programs available and how to apply,” said Ramsey Alwin, president and CEO of NCOA. “For example, there are Medicare programs that can boost your budget by helping with prescription drug costs, as well as premiums, deductibles and coinsurance.”

There are thousands of programs on BenefitsCheckUp, including:

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which can help you pay for healthy food
  • The Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs, which can help people with Medicare afford their out-of-pocket health care expenses
  • The Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing Programs, which can help with housing costs
  • Supplemental Security Income, which provides cash for basic needs
  • The Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides discounted internet services
  • The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which can help you pay for home heating and cooling

Millions of older adults are eligible for, but not enrolled in these programs. In fact, NCOA estimates that $30 billion in benefits go unused each year simply because older adults don’t know about these programs — or how to apply.

BenefitsCheckUp.org will give you a personalized list of benefits you may be eligible for and the steps you need to apply, including links to the correct government agencies and applications. Just a few minutes could save you money every month.

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