TIME psychology

5 Easy, Scientifically-Proven Tips for Controlling Your Eating Over the Holidays

holiday table
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Eating slowly allows more time for the “full” feeling to kick in.

2) Eat off a small plate. Without realizing it, we often judge whether we’re done by visual cues like an empty plate.

3) Keep the serving dishes in the kitchen. Merely having to get up to get more makes us less likely to keep eating.

4) Sit next to the people who are skinny and who never eat much. We’re influenced by those around us, even if we think we’re not.

5) If you do blow it and gorge yourself there’s still an upside: overeating on Thanksgiving can make you less likely to spend so much money on Black Friday.

For more tips, check out Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. It’s by Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

American Cities and Towns With the Most Holiday Spirit

Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, Colorado Jeremy Swanson

Twinkling lights, sumptuous meals, and maybe even Santa skiing down the slopes: T+L readers share their favorite towns for the holidays

Johnny Johnston has lived in Los Angeles for 20 years, but when he goes home for the holidays, he finds himself enchanted all over again by the winter wonderland where he grew up: Vail, CO.

“From the moment you drive into the valley, the streets and public spaces are all lit with Christmas lights, creating a Norman Rockwell moment,” says the broker for Sotheby’s International Realty. Even if his mom still hassles him about what shirt he wears to his aunt’s dinner party, “Vail is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen for the holiday season.”

Many Travel + Leisure readers agree, ranking the Colorado mountain town at No. 2 for seasonal cheer in the America’s Favorite Places survey. Readers evaluated hundreds of towns in dozens of features, from romance to thriving art scenes to irresistible bakeries. To determine the best towns for the holidays, we combined the scores in a few festive categories: department-store shopping, notable restaurants, and Christmas lights.

Plenty of the top 25 holiday towns offer creative spins on holiday traditions, too, whether they look like winter wonderlands or not. In a South Carolina town, you can have your turkey dinner in barbecue sauce. In one mountain town, the annual tree lighting involves a faux pine made of recycled skis. And in places from Healdsburg, CA, to Charlottesville, VA, you can pick up holiday gifts—local wines, French linens, or antique cookbooks—that you’d never find at the mall back home.

Another kind of holiday magic (low-season rates and fewer crowds) can create a blissful version of Silent Night. That’s why Far Hills, NJ, resident Gavin Macomber has spent a few Christmases by the beach in Nantucket, MA. “It’s fun to walk around town sipping hot chocolate and watching snow fall,” says the founder of Andegavia Cask Wines. “Nantucket is particularly peaceful this time of year—which makes it an ideal place to escape to during the holidays.”

No. 1 Aspen, CO

A combination of luxe living and quaint charm helped this Rocky Mountain town capture the spot as the merriest of them all. Wandering along Cooper Avenue, you may chance upon cookie exchanges, public s’mores roasts, or elf meet-and-greets. But the two most famous hotels in town act as the nerve centers for holiday cheer. The lobby of the Hotel Jerome regularly hosts carolers, while the Ajax Tavern and Element 47 at the Little Nell both serve fabulous holiday meals, with indulgences like venison loin with huckleberries, black truffles, and chestnut-and-caramel profiteroles. The Little Nell also hosts the all-you-can-sip Bottomless Cristal New Year’s Eve Party.

No. 2 Vail, CO

Ski season kicks into high gear during the holidays in this Colorado wonderland. December brings the festivities of Snowdaze—where the fresh powder is celebrated with live concerts every evening—and Holidaze, which includes the village’s tree lighting during the winter solstice and a New Year’s Eve torchlight parade down Golden Peak, followed by fireworks. Any time of year, readers love Vail’s liquid nourishments, ranking the town highly for its hot coffee (compare local favorites Yeti’s Grind and Loaded Joe’s) and equally warming cocktails. You might toast the New Year with a Rosemary Lemon Drop (rosemary-infused vodka with lemon juice and a sugar rim) at the icicle-decorated bar Frost, inside the recently renovated Sebastian Vail.

No. 3 Ogunquit, ME

Readers may be drawn to this former artists’ colony in Maine as a beach getaway, but the holiday season brings the perks of winter on the sand: lower prices and overall calm, with just enough festivity to keep things humming. Mid-December’s Christmas by the Sea Festival typically includes a bonfire on the beach and a soul-warming chowder fest. From Ogunquit, you can also easily reach two shopping areas for getting through your list: the Kittery Outlets and, an hour away, Freeport. For distinctive local shopping, browse the Harbor Candy Shop, where the gift boxes include a Vegan Sampler, featuring soy truffles, marzipan, and orange peel enrobed in dark chocolate.

No. 4 Nantucket, MA

The banner event during the holidays in this island town started in the 1970s, because too many locals left to shop in Cape Cod. Today, during the annual Christmas Stroll—typically the first weekend in December—you can shop downtown amid dozens of seven-foot, decorated Christmas trees, and take part in wine tastings, ghost walks, and home tours. Pick up some gifts at Murray’s Toggery Shop (the mother ship for holiday-ready Nantucket Reds pants) and Jessica Hicks, the boutique of a local jewelry designer. For more tree-gazing, go to the Whaling Museum, which houses 80 trees decorated by local artists, merchants, and kids. Nantucket also scored well with readers for feeling both mellow and romantic.

No. 5 Naples, FL

This Florida town lacks snowman-building material—it ranked highly in the survey for warm weather and beach getaways. But the snowbird-style winter wonderland still lured holiday revelers with its luxury stores, cool boutiques, and festive ambience. Third Street South is the headquarters for the official tree, evening “snow” showers during Thanksgiving week, and gorgeous window displays, like those at department store Marissa Collections in the Old Naples Historic District. Continue shopping along Fifth Avenue South, and check out whimsical clothing and gift shop Wind in the Willows, whose window won Best in Show at the 2013 local holiday decorating contest. Of course, the holidays are about more than retail; catch the Naples edition of the worldwide TUBA Christmas, a concert on Fifth Avenue South’s Sugden Plaza featuring brass tubas, euphoniums, and baritones.

Read the full list HERE.

More from Travel + Leisure:

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Healthy Baking Swaps You Need to Try

baking
Getty Images

Healthier, more delicious desserts

For me, baking is pure bliss. I love whipping up brownies, cupcakes, cookies, pies, and cornbread. But as a nutritionist, I also want to feel good about my goodies, whether I’m eating them myself or sharing them with friends and family. To that end I’m always playing around with better-for-you ingredient substitutions.

Here are five swaps that will shore up your baked goods’ nutritional profile, while also enhancing the flavor and texture (I promise!)

Trade butter for avocado

I’ve heard avocado referred to as nature’s butter, and the name truly fits. I enjoy avocado’s creamy goodness whipped into smoothies, spread on whole grain toast, or as the base for a dip, but it’s also fantastic in baked good recipes. Just trade each tablespoon of butter in a recipe for half a tablespoon of avocado. This swap slashes calories, and still provides the satisfying texture you crave in a dessert, while also delivering heart-healthier, waistline-trimming monounsaturated fat (MUFAs for short), and significantly boosting the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant makeup of your treat. Just one note: you might want to use this trick in recipes with cocoa, which masks the color. I’ve used avocado in blondies and cookies, and while the texture and flavor were fantastic, there was a distinct green tint!

HEALTH.COM: 9 Healthier Dessert Recipes for Fall

Replace wheat flour with bean flour

While I tested negative for Celiac disease I do feel better when I avoid gluten. Fortunately there are a number of gluten-free flours ideal for baking that also add bonus fiber, protein, and nutrients. One of my favorites is garbanzo bean flour. A quarter cup packs 5g of fiber (versus just 1g in the same amount of all-purpose flour) and I love the nutty flavor and heartiness—but not heaviness—it adds to brownies and muffins. Substitute it in a one-to-one swap for all-purpose or wheat flour. It should work well in any baking recipe.

HEALTH.COM: 16 Easy, Guilt-Free Cookie Recipes

Use coconut oil in place of shortening

Shortening and coconut oil look similar in that both are generally white and solid at room temperature. The difference is shortening is solid because a liquid oil was hydrogenated to make it solid—a man-made process that’s far from natural. Partial hydrogenation creates trans fat, the nutritional villain that’s been linked to a host of health problems, from heart disease and type 2 diabetes to fertility challenges. Fully hydrogenated oil (aka interesterified oil), while technically trans fat free, may be even worse for your health. A Brandeis University study found that subjects who consumed products made with interesterified oil experienced a decrease in their “good” HDL cholesterol a significant rise in blood sugar—about a 20% spike in just four weeks.

Enter coconut oil, a natural plant-based fat, which also supplies antioxidants similar to those found in berries, grapes, and dark chocolate. While high in saturated fat, newer research confirms that not all saturated fats are bad for you. Coconut oil contains a type called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, which are metabolized in a unique way. This good fat has actually been shown to up “good” HDL, reduce waist circumference, and increase calorie burning. For baking, substitute it one-for-one for shortening. It’s amazing in pie crust and chocolate chip cookies!

HEALTH.COM: Good Fats, Bad Fats: How to Choose

Swap some sugar for pureed fruit

While fat used to be public enemy #1, today’s nutritional wisdom dictates including good fats (such as avocado and coconut oil) and shunning refined sugar. While removing it entirely in baking isn’t always possible, I have found that I can replace up to 50% of it with pureed fruit, such as bananas, pears, apples, mangoes, papayas, and dried dates or figs pureed with water. In addition to being bundled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the naturally occurring sugar in fruit is much less concentrated. For example, a quarter cup (4 tablespoons) of mashed banana contains less than 7 grams of sugar, compared to 12 grams in just one tablespoon of table sugar. The replacement ratio can be a little tricky, because some fruits are sweeter than others, but I often find that a quarter cup of pureed fruit can replace a half cup of sugar. (Note: I don’t like my baked goods overly sweet, so some bakers may prefer a one-to-one replacement.) And because fruit has a higher water content, you’ll also need to reduce the liquid in the recipe a bit, typically by a quarter cup.

HEALTH.COM: 23 Superfruits You Need Now

Upgrade chocolate chips to dark chocolate chunks

I’m always singing the praises of dark chocolate, and the research just keeps coming. A recent study found that gut bacteria ferment dark chocolate to produce substances that fight inflammation, a known trigger of aging and diseases, including obesity. Most of the research about chocolate’s benefits has been done with 70% dark, and the chocolate chips you’ll find in the baking aisle are likely 34% or less (I have seen one brand of 70% but it can be hard to find and quite expensive), so I recommend using a chopped dark chocolate bar instead. It’s easy peasy, and some research shows that chocolate’s aroma, which is released when it’s chopped, pre-sates the palate, which may naturally help you gobble less of the goodies. P.S. If you love chocolate, check out my vegan chocolate brownie recipe with a secret superstar ingredient (hint: it’s a veggie). To make them gluten-free use garbanzo bean flour in place of the whole wheat pastry flour.

HEALTH.COM: 7 Healthy Holiday Cookie Recipes

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME movies

14 Thanksgiving Movies and TV Shows You Can Stream Right Now

Rocky
United Artists

Remember when Mr. Bean and Monica from Friends got their heads stuck in turkeys? We do, too

If you don’t want Thanksgiving to end, then grab a turkey drumstick for a snack and feast your eyes on these holiday-themed movies and TV shows that we’ve drummed up — highlights of what’s available to stream online via Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, or Amazon’s Instant Video section.

Movies

Bean (1997): In what’s arguably the best depiction of stuffing a turkey in recent movie history, the hapless Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) looks for his misplaced watch in a turkey that has already been stuffed, and is then found bumbling around the kitchen with the bird stuck over his head.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973): The gang gathers around a ping-pong table as Snoopy carves the turkey for the Peanuts version of this tradition. Charlie Brown keeps up the tradition of missing the football.

Rocky (1976): Paulie (Burt Young) throws the Thanksgiving turkey out the window in a rage, so Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and Adrian (Talia Shire) bust out of there and go to a nearby ice skating rink where they start to get to know each other.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947): The film features footage shot during the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. According to Turner Classic Movies, Santa Claus, played by Edmund Gwenn, “was given the task of riding in the actual Santa Claus float during the parade and climbing to the top of the Macy’s marquee. The crowds were not aware at the time that it was Gwenn waving to them.”

Brokeback Mountain (2005): Tense Thanksgiving dinner scenes spark fights over carving the turkey and watching football — acts that have been analyzed (here and here) as symbols of masculinity.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987): Steve Martin is a businessman scrambling to get home for Thanksgiving after a snowstorm delays his flight in this John Hughes farce. John Candy plays a pesky salesman who tags along for the ride.

The Ice Storm (1997): Another film that involves a storm hitting around Thanksgiving, this family drama stars Kevin Kline, Tobey Maguire, and Christina Ricci.

Home for the Holidays (1995): Fun fact: It supposedly took 64 turkeys to shoot this Thanksgiving flick, directed by Jodie Foster.

House of Yes (1997): Guy introduces fiancée to his eccentric family over the holiday, including a sister who reenacts JFK’s assassination with pasta and sauce.

ThanksKilling (2009, 2012): Sometimes watching a movie that’s so bad it’s funny can be a great way to bond. For instance, consider these two films, one about a homicidal turkey that hunts college kids, and another that features characters described as “Flowis the rapping grandma” and “Rhonda the bisexual space worm.”

TV

(In case you can’t stand to be sitting with your relatives for the length of a feature film)

The West Wing (“Shibboleth,” Season 2, Episode 8): White House press secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) has to figure out which of the two live Thanksgiving turkeys left in her office is more photogenic for the president to pardon.

How I Met Your Mother (“Slapsgiving,” Seasons 3, 5, 9): This day of thanks is also a day of getting slapped in the face for Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris). However, the HIMYM team apologized for the martial arts-themed “Slapsgiving 3,” because it was considered racist.

Gilmore Girls (“A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving,” Season 3, Episode 9): Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) have four Thanksgiving dinners to attend — and there’s some college admissions drama thrown in the mix.

Friends (“The One with the Thanksgiving Flashbacks,” Season 5, Episode 8): The cast reminisces on the time Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Monica (Courtney Cox) both got their heads stuck in turkeys in dramatic ways — memorably, Monica’s is even wearing sunglasses.

MONEY The Economy

Thanksgiving Shopping: By the Numbers

More than 140 million Americans are expected to shop on Black Friday, while some plan to get great deals online on Cyber Monday.

MONEY Food & Beverage

The Staggering Cost of a Hipster Thanksgiving — and Other Pricey Alternatives to the Classic Feast

Overhead view of Thanksgiving feast
Marcus Nilsson—Gallery Stock

The average Thanksgiving dinner for a party of 10 costs about $50. But who wants a holiday meal that's merely average?

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner feast can be very affordable. On a per-person basis, the average meal easily costs less than bringing the crew to a fast food joint for supper.

But the total price of your Thanksgiving spread can vary by hundreds depending on where you shop, what you’re buying, and the overall quality and prestige of the meat, sides, and dessert, as well as how much time and effort you’re willing to devote to preparing your feast.

To give you an idea of what some different Thanksgiving dining styles will cost you, we’ve rounded up some sample pricing for groups with varying tastes and budgets–including some options for those who don’t want to cook at all.

The Average American
For a classic Thanksgiving dinner, plus leftovers, the American Farm Bureau Federation estimates you’ll spend $49.41 this year to feed a party of 10, including a 16-pound turkey plus bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, peas, rolls with butter, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream, and coffee and milk. Even though the wholesale price of turkey has soared for supermarkets this year, widespread price promotions have kept overall costs down for consumers, and the bureau’s estimated total for Thanksgiving dinner is only 37¢ higher than last year. That averages out to under $5 per person, which is still quite a deal.

What’s more, there are easy ways to cut costs even lower. If you were to take advantage of coupons, sales, and supermarket promotion, you could spend a lot less and still provide a feast. Wal-Mart estimates that you could buy the same menu for just $32.64 by shopping at its stores.

The Hipster
If you were to upgrade that conventional turkey to an organic, free-range one, the price jumps from $21.65 to well over $100 at specialty shops. A 16-pound turkey from Fleisher’s Pasture Raised Meats in New York City rings in at $127.84, or $7.99 a pound vs. the roughly $1.35 per pound for a supermarket bird. Add in organic, locally-sourced vegetables and dairy for your meal, and the costs for sides rise at least $15 over the Farm Bureau’s projection, according to our estimates. Altogether, a healthy, hipster-approved, fully organic Thanksgiving dinner for 10 will cost in the neighborhood of $170.

The Vegan
For a vegan thanksgiving, the “turkey” costs would be similar to that for an organic free-range bird. The soy-based Gardein Stuffed Holiday Roast, picked by Slate as the tastiest of the the faux turkey bunch, costs about $8 a pound. The costs for vegan side dishes and desserts would only be about $5 more than those of the Farm Bureau’s classic menu. Combine the price for 16 pounds of faux turkey and all the trimmings and dessert, and a 10-person vegan Thanksgiving dinner costs about $155.

The 1%
Upgrading to a purebred heritage turkey–which are leaner than standard supermarket birds, take twice as long to reach market weight, and have lineage that can be traced back to the 1800s–will cost upwards of $10 per pound for the meat portion of the meal. Factor that in, along with similarly upgraded sides and desserts, and Thanksgiving dinner for 10 will easily run $250 or more.

The Lazy Non-Cook
Not into cooking at all? Prepared meals save you hassle and time, but you’ll pay for it in more ways than simply losing out on the quality of home cooking. A prepared meal for 12 people from Boston Market, which includes an 11-pound turkey, spinach artichoke dip appetizer, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry relish, vegetable stuffing, dinner rolls and two pies, rings in at $99.99. That’s roughly double the Farm Bureau’s estimate for a home-cooked meal–but perhaps it’s money well spent if you’re hopeless in the kitchen or simply don’t have the time.

Supermarkets will happily do the cooking for you as well, for a price. A meal prepared by Whole Foods Market for 12 people, including a fully cooked 14- to 16-pound standard turkey, stuffing, cranberry orange relish, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy, costs $200. An organic cooked turkey will add an extra $50, more or less, pushing the total up to $250 or more.

TIME Holidays

Good News! 5 Things to Be Grateful For This Thanksgiving

Triplet panda cubs rest in an incubator at the Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou in south China's Guangdong province, Aug. 12, 2014. AP

It's been a dismal month, but you can give thanks for these tidbits of good news

This November has been a serious bummer. The midterm elections were a depressing snoozefest. The sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby have made ‘America’s Dad‘ seem more like a creepy uncle. Protests have erupted across the country after a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. American aid worker Peter Kassig was beheaded by ISIS. We lost Mike Nichols.

With all that bad news, it’s hard to find anything to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. But you better come up with something quick, because sooner or later somebody is going to ask, “so what are you grateful for?” with a schmaltzy smirk. So here are five pieces of good news to celebrate as you make small talk with your aunt’s new weirdo boyfriend.

1) The baby panda triplets in China have stayed alive for 100 days: The “miracle” panda cubs were born in August, and they’ve all survived longer than zookeepers anticipated. Now they’re reportedly healthy enough that visitors can see them. Who to tell: Your niece (but leave out the fact that they’re in China.)

2) The human race has issues, but we landed a probe on a comet this month: On Nov. 13, the European Space Agency’s Philae lander touched down on a comet after a 10-year, 4-billion mile journey. Since comets are made of space’s most primitive materials, scientists hope that the probe will collect valuable information that could help explain the origins of our solar system. Who to tell: Your grandparents who watched the Moon Landing (don’t mention the Virgin Galactic crash.)

3) The Canadians are pretty nice neighbors: After a microphone failure at the Toronto Maple Leaf’s game on Nov. 18 left our national anthem inaudible, Canadian hockey fans filled in to sing the rest of the Star Spangled Banner before the game began. Who to tell: Your neighbor, duh.

4) Taylor Swift ‘s 1989 happened: If you hate Taylor, stop reading now (and maybe do some soul searching.) Anyone with ears should admit they’re thankful for 1989. Who to tell: Play Shake It Off for your grandma, play Blank Space for your cousin who just dumped her boyfriend, play the rest of the album for anyone who will listen.

5) We reached a historic climate change agreement with China: Since the U.S. and China make up 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a big deal that the two biggest polluters are committing to cleaning up the planet, especially since China has previously been unwilling to cooperate on this issue. The fact that China is willing to work with the U.S. to curb climate change is great news for the planet. Who to tell: This one’s good news for the whole table.

So cheer up and eat up. The bad news can wait till Black Friday.

MONEY Shopping

12% of Black Friday Shoppers Will Be Drunk (and More Crazy Facts About the Holiday Frenzy)

141128_HO_Lede
Shoppers wait to enter the Aeropostale store in Tyson's Corner, Virginia during 'Midnight Madness' at the Tyson's Corner Center in Tyson's Corner, Virginia.. Tyson's Corner Center is the largest shopping center in the Washington, DC area. Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images

How many people will go shopping this weekend? What day actually has the best deals? How much will the average shopper spend? How many of them are tipsy while they're browsing for gifts?

Read on for answers to the above, as well as other nuggets about what’s in store for consumers during the annual Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend shopping extravaganza.

Less Than 5% The average discount on Black Friday for 6,000 items tracked last year by the deal-hunting site ShopAdvisor; researchers found that the average discount during the holiday period was highest on December 18 (17.5%).

5 Number of hours that RadioShack will shut down on Thanksgiving (noon to 5 p.m.); it had originally planned to stay open from 8 a.m. to midnight, but decided to close during the middle of the day after receiving complaints from employees.

10 Number of employees at a Virginia Best Buy whose sole job is to restock items as soon as there are gaps on store shelves on Black Friday.

12% Proportion of Thanksgiving Day shoppers who admit to hitting the stores on the holiday while under the influence of alcohol, according to a survey conducted on the behalf of the coupon site RetailMeNot.

16% vs. 50% Respectively, the percentages of shoppers ages 55+ and 18 to 24 and who think it’s “a great idea” for stores to be open on Thanksgiving.

22 Number of days before Black Friday that two women in California began camping out at a Best Buy in order to be first in line for deals. They hope to buy a cheap TV.

25% Amount of extra trash thrown away by Americans during the Thanksgiving-New Year’s period, compared to any other time of the year.

28% vs. 32% Percentages of women and men, respectively, who plan on spending $250 to $500 on Black Friday (yes, more guys than girls).

At Least 3 Dozen Number of national retailers, including Costco, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s, and Nordstrom, that have decided to stay closed on Thanksgiving.

38% Percentage of shoppers who plan on purchasing holiday gifts with credit cards, up from 28.5% last year and the highest level recorded since the National Retail Federation has asked the question in surveys.

39% Proportion of Americans who feel pressured to spend more than they can afford during the holiday season.

42 Number of consecutive hours that Kmart stores will be open, starting at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and lasting through midnight on Black Friday.

70% Percentage of consumers who say that stores should be closed on Thanksgiving this year, up from 60% in 2012.

70% Percentage of consumers who say that Black Friday is meaningless because “there will be more sales throughout the holidays.”

71% Percentage of consumers who say they may not like the gift they receive over the holidays.

96% Percentage of consumers who say that discounts are important to their shopping decisions during the holidays, up from 94% last year—and three in ten say that they’ll hold out for discounts of 50% or more before making a purchase.

$407 Average amount spent by consumers over Thanksgiving weekend in 2013, down 4% compared to the year before.

$450 Minimum you must spend at one of two malls in southern California in order to receive a free Uber ride home, starting on Black Friday and stretching through Christmas Eve.

140 Million Estimated number of consumers who will shop in stores or online this weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, roughly the same as the expectations leading into the 2013 Thanksgiving-Black Friday period.

 

TIME technology

6 Unexpectedly Absorbing Games to Play on Your Phone While Ignoring Your Family This Holiday Season

Using phone
Getty Images

Kidding! Don’t ignore your family. Unless your family is awful. In which case, enjoy these distractions

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

The realities of distance have long dictated that my time spent among family is somewhat limited to a couple weeks in total each year. My people of origin all live in South Florida, while I am in Boston, and although my in-laws in upstate New York are closer, they’re still far enough away, and everyone involved is so busy, that visits are special occasions and not predictable occurrences.

I miss them, enormously, all the time. Because of this, it’s actually pretty rare that I ignore anyone when we’re visiting, given that I treasure and cherish every moment with my beloved family.

But, you know, even I have my limits.

Sometimes, surrounded by people who love you, or at least people to whom you are related, you just want to put your head down and do something, anything other than listen to your cousin talk about her wedding plans for an hour, or your aunt ranting on with her offensive politics from 1953, or have to answer intrusive questions about your professional/marital/reproductive prospects. Sometimes you want to put on some headphones and just ignore everyone just for a bit. I am here for you. It’s OK.

(My husband writes about video games for a living, and when I told him about my “ignoring your family” angle, he called me a cynical jerk. That’s probably a fair assessment. But I thought it was funny.)

Monument Valley (iOS, Android)

I first saw Monument Valley at the Game Developers Conference earlier this year, and I was mesmerized. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when it received a bunch of positive attention right away, and went on to win a 2014 Apple Design Award.

Monument Valley follows Princess Ida on a journey through meticulously designed environments, in which the architecture hides puzzle solutions in optical illusions that borrow liberally from the work of M.C. Escher. In each chapter, you help Ida on her travels by pressing switches and rotating pathways and staircases to create a path for her to follow, and the solutions are elegant and often surprising.

Beautifully surreal, slow-paced, simple to learn and with a soundtrack like aural Valium, it’s an easy game to get lost in. Happily, new chapters are now available.

Device 6 (iOS)

Device 6 is similarly lauded and similarly surreal, but in some very different ways. A sort of hybrid visual novella and game, Device 6 tells the story of a woman called Anna, who wakes up in a castle on a mysterious island with no recollection of how she got there.

Device 6 dispenses with typical running/jumping game mechanics in favor of a more intuitive approach in which the text itself is the playing field. You read it as much as you play it, and the puzzles give the distinct feeling that you’re a detective collecting and analyzing clues to a much bigger mystery, rather than simply looking for the right random solution. And it is stylish as fuck, with a swingy midcentury vibe that somehow underscores how freaking creepy it can occasionally get.

Also, the sound design on Device 6 is mind-rendingly brilliant.

Sometimes You Die (iOS)

Oh, what’s that? You’re a total freakbrain nerdo who’s captivated by the more meta-level questions of What Is A Game and What Is Fun and Why Does Anything Exist Anyway? ME TOO. This is a thing you will like!

Sometimes You Die has been a bit of a surprise hit this year, given that it is actually a minimalist question with no answer, given game form. Typically, “dying” in a game is a momentary setback, but in Sometimes You Die, death is a necessary part of success, as you must litter the screen with your corpses to carve a path to follow from level to level. (Your corpses are just little black blocks so this is less gory than it might sound.)

What you wind up with is an existential query into the nature of play that also manages to be fun and surprisingly difficult to put down.

Tengami (iOS)

First off, Tengami is beautiful. Taking its design from traditional Japanese arts and crafts, you guide a character through a pop-up book world in which you flip pages and slide tabs to discover hidden passages and other secrets.

This is a contemplative puzzle-solving experience that is more style than substance, so if you’re looking for a deeply compelling narrative, you’re better off with other games on this list. But as a chill, low-thinking break from holiday madness, it certainly does the job. And not only is Tengami pretty to look at, the soundtrack is gorgeous as well.

The Last Door (iOS, Android)

Moving from really relaxing to really really really not, The Last Door is a retro-styled old school point-and-click horror game that is legitimately terrifying. I still hold a special place in my heart for 8-bit games, but even I was surprised by how frightening this game could be, given that the graphics are limited to a heap of loosely arranged pixel chunks. It really makes the point that, in the right hands, lifelike visuals aren’t necessary to sustain an atmosphere of terror.

Set in England of 1891, you play as Jeremiah Devitt, who is investigating the suicide of an old friend, and as he digs up his past, things take an otherworldly, almost Lovecraftian turn. The Last Door owes a significant debt to adventure games of the ’80s and ’90s, and it manages to feel both nostalgic and new at the same time. You explore locations looking for items and clues at your own pace, and solve puzzles to move the plot forward.

Also, The Last Door uses an episodic format, so new pieces of the story are still being made.

A Dark Room (iOS)

A Dark Room has no graphics at all. It is a game that uses only text to tell its story; even the pseudo-graphical “map” you use to explore beyond your campsite is drawn with letters and punctuation marks describing the landscape, ASCII-style. It has no sound design. In the way of traditional resource-management games, it consists of tapping things on your screen to get other things, but it evolves into a role-playing game as well before long in which you’re battling enemies and exploring spooky caves, crumbling houses and abandoned mines.

All this you get to imagine in your head, because like I said: no graphics. Add a dark, convoluted story that is somehow all the more compelling for the lack of concrete details it provides, and you’ve got a minimalist masterpiece.

It is also weirdly addictive. The first time I played A Dark Room months ago, I suddenly realized I’d been sitting on the couch for three hours amassing wood and meat for I don’t even remember what. It seemed very important at the time.

There is also a prequel, The Ensign, that has recently come to the App Store. Enjoy both, and forget your family is even in the room with you.

Lesley Kinzel is Deputy Editor at xoJane.com.

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TIME Books

A TV Thanksgiving Dinner: Recipes Inspired by Your Favorite Shows

Channel your TV-watching into an original holiday meal with recipes based on Orange Is The New Black, Downton Abbey and other hit shows

If the stress of holiday cooking makes you want to curl up on the couch and binge watch old episodes of Portlandia, you can combine your fondness for addictive TV-watching with your desire to eat a decent holiday meal. Here’s a menu made up of recipes from new cookbooks based on some of your favorite shows. (After all, what soooort of rhymes with Kardashian? Tryptophan.)

 

 

  • FIRST COURSE

    Nick Briggs

    Cream of Watercress Soup

    From A Year in The Life of Downton Abbey, by Jessica Fellowes

    If you’re counting down the days until the January 4th season premiere, this photo-packed cookbook may help ease the wait. Nestled between hints about the upcoming season and behind-the-scenes shots are 24 classic British recipes, including one for this elegant soup.

    3 ½ tablespoons butter
    1 large onion, peeled and chopped
    1 large leek (white part only), washed and sliced
    1 large potato, peeled and chopped
    Salt and pepper
    3 cups hot chicken stock or water
    9 cups watercress, de-stalked and chopped (can substitute sorrel or spinach)
    Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    ⅔ cup light cream

    Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, then add the onion, leek and potato and stir to coat them in the butter. Season with salt and pepper, turn the heat to low and let the vegetables sweat with the lid on for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are tender, add the hot stock or water. Bring back to the boil, then add the watercress and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Take the pan off the heat and liquidise the soup. Stir in the cream and pour into bowls to serve. Serves 4.

    Copyright © 2014, reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

  • SECOND COURSE

    Shrimp Saganaki

    From The Portlandia Cookbook, by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein with Jonathan Krisel

    The show that lovingly parodies all things Portland has spawned an eclectic collection of recipes for foodies and freegans alike, such as this variation on sautéed shrimp.

    ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 large onion, thinly sliced
    Crushed red pepper flakes
    1½ pounds ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped with seeds
    1½ pounds cleaned and deveined medium shrimp
    ½ cup (about 3 ounces) pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
    Kosher salt
    ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
    6 ounces Greek feta, crumbled

    In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened, crushing with the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes longer. Add the shrimp and olives and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are curled and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in half the dill and half the feta and cook just until the cheese is heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer to plates, sprinkle with the remaining dill and feta, and serve with crusty bread. Serves 4 to 6.

  • THE MAIN EVENT

    HNA7366r1+OITNB_interior_7_24.indd
    finearts

    Pennsatucky’s Family Beer Can Bird from Orange Is the New Black Presents: The Cookbook, by Jenji Kohan and Tara Hermann

    Remember when Crazy Eyes went nuts in the cafeteria and hurled a piece of pie at Alex? Now you can make that same dessert and 50 other treats to remind you of the funniest/saddest/craziest moments at Litchfield prison—including the entree to your TV dinner.

    For the rub:
    2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
    2 teaspoons smoked paprika
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    2 teaspoons salt
    ½ teaspoon ground cayenne

    One 12- to 14-pound (5.5- to 6.25-kg) free-range turkey
    1 medium chunk of smoking wood, such as apple wood
    One 24- or 25-ounce (740-ml) can of beer

    Fire up a smoker or grill to 325F (160C) on one side. In a small bowl, combine all the rub ingredients. Remove and discard the neck and giblets from the turkey. Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the cavity with about 1 tablespoon of the rub. Using your fingers, gently separate the skin from the meat underneath the breasts and around the thighs. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the rub under the breast and thighs. Open the beer can and pour yourself about one third of the beer. Make a few more openings in the can using a can opener and leave the rest of the beer in the can. Add about 1 tablespoon of the rub to the beer can. Sprinkle the remaining rub into the cavity of the turkey and all over the turkey, inserting it under the skin.

    When the grill comes up to temperature, add the wood chunk. When the wood ignites and starts to smoke, place the beer can on the grill over the unheated portion. Carefully lower the turkey onto the beer can, legs down. Adjust the legs so the bird is stable on the grill. (If it’s hard to get it to stay stable, you could place the bird, beer in butt, in a roasting pan before placing it on the grill.) Cover and smoke until an instant-read thermometer registers 160F (70C) in the thickest part of the breast, 2 to 3 hours. Remove the turkey from the smoker, place it on a carving board, and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Remove the beer can, carve, and serve.

  • SIDE DISH

    Herbed Garlic Bread from In the Kitchen With Kris, by Kris Jenner

    Even if you can’t afford a personal chef or Hermès china for your celebrity offspring, you can still get a taste of the Kardashian life. Here’s an amped-up garlic bread recipe to go with dinner:

    6 garlic gloves, minced
    2 teaspoons olive oil
    4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    ¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
    2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 large, elongated crusty bread, such as ciabatta, cut in half horizontally

    Preheat over to 350°F. Heat the garlic and olive oil together in a small skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is tender but not browned, about 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and let cool completely. In the same medium bowl, combine the Parmesan, parsley, oregano, and thyme. Using a rubber spatula, mash the mixture together until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide and spread the herb mixture on the cut sides of the bread. Wrap the loaf in a double thickness of aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Open up the foil and continue baking until the loaf is crisp, about 5 minutes, Cut into 1-inch wide slices and serve warm. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

  • DESSERT

    Blue Meth Crunch from Baking Bad, by Walter Wheat

    How did Walt get his bake so pure? You won’t learn Heisenberg’s secret recipe in this hilarious (and drug-free) parody cookbook inspired by Breaking Bad. But you will find novelties like Mr. White’s Tighty Whitey Bites, Ricin Krispie Squares and this blue rock candy:

    ½ cup (118ml) water
    ¾ cup (177ml) light corn syrup
    Do not use chili powder. It’s for amateurs
    14 ounces (350g) granulated sugar
    2 teaspoons (10ml) peppermint extract
    Blue gel food coloring
    You will need a candy thermometer

    Line a baking tray with aluminum foil, or use a heatproof glass tray. Spray with non-stick baking spray. Find yourself a decent accomplice. Underachieving ex-students are a good choice, though psychologically fragile. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup and sugar. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat to bring to a boil. Stop stirring and insert the thermometer and use a pastry brush dipped in water to wet the sides of the pan (this will prevent crystals forming). Cook the mixture until the temperature reaches 285F(140C). Immediately remove the pan from the heat and take out the thermometer. Let the mixture stand until all the bubbles have stopped forming on the surface.

    At some point you’re going to need a distributor. But don’t worry about that now. Add a few drops of peppermint flavoring and enough blue color to give the correct Blue Meth hue. Quickly pour the mixture onto the baking tray, lifting the tray from side to side to spread the mix. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly smooth or has holes in it. Let the candy cool to room temperature. Once the candy has cooled, use a hammer to break it up. Put into little plastic baggies or serve as is, whichever your clients prefer.

    All recipes reprinted with permission.

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