1. Home values, stock markets and Americans' spirits are all up
By Shobhana Chandra/Bloomberg News
Americans are the most optimistic about economic conditions since 2008, according to consumer confidence measures. Purestock/Purestock
U.S. consumer confidence climbed more than projected in December as Americans' views of current economic conditions jumped to the highest level since April 2008.
The Conference Board's index rose to 78.1 from a revised 72 a month earlier that was stronger than initially estimated, the New York-based private research group said Tuesday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a gain to 76.
Americans are growing upbeat about the economy as household finances improve on the heels of more hiring, rising property values and stock-market gains. Increased optimism along with greater wealth will help underpin the consumer spending that makes up almost 70 percent of the economy, providing a boost to the expansion.
"The consumer will continue to do some of the heavy lifting for the economy," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pa. "The job market is better. Stock prices are rising. The odds of another round of political brinksmanship are lower."
Estimates of 59 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 71 to 81.2 after a previously reported November reading of 70.4. The index averaged 53.7 in the recession that ended in June 2009.show more
2. What Congress doesn't get about new year's resolutions
3. Noshes for a New Year's Day brunch
By Jackie Burrell/Mercury News
A plate of belgian waffles with fruit on a marble counter. Joe Michl/Getty Images
Whether you're hosting a New Year's Day brunch or looking for fun hors d'oeuvre ideas for the celebratory midnight hour, may we suggest waffles?
Served hot off the waffle iron, those large dimpled squares beg to be drizzled in syrup, topped with berries or slathered with whipped cream. Go classic with a buttermilk batter or turn those waffles savory by adding sharp cheddar and crumbled bacon to the batter.
Make them small - an inch or two across - and those tiny waffles become a whimsical, late-night appetizer with savory toppings. Chris Borges, the executive chef at San Francisco's Taste catering, tops tiny waffles with maple-glazed bacon, pickled pears and a tangy, sweet-spicy chile jam for cocktail parties, brunches and brunch cocktail parties.
Don't worry if your waffle iron makes large waffles. That's what knives are for, Borges says, "Cut up the waffles and put anything on them - maple, bacon, a savory jam."
Or you can follow the suggestion of San Francisco food writer and waffle expert Dawn Yanagihara: "By spooning small dollops of batter onto the center of each section that makes up the waffle-iron grid, you can make several minis at once."
Big or small, sweet or savory, you'll want Champagne - or better yet, a clementine mimosa or another sparkling cocktail to wash it all down.
A MIMOSA BAR
Throwing a New Year's brunch? Champagne, cava or sparkling wine are always appropriate, but if you're looking for something more colorful, consider setting up a mimosa or Bellini bar.
Mimosas: This classic brunch cocktail is simply equal parts sparkling wine and fresh orange juice, but you can dress that up by varying the juice choices. Offer carafes of fresh-squeezed blood orange and clementine juice, in addition to the OJ.
Bellinis: To make the traditional Venetian cocktail, pour 2 to 4 tablespoons of peach puree into a Champagne flute and top it with prosecco. For winter libations, Giada De Laurentiis suggests pureeing a thawed, 16-ounce bag of frozen peaches with a teaspoon of grated orange zest. Sweeten the mixture to taste with simple syrup. You can use the same technique with frozen strawberries, blueberries or blackberries, but be sure to strain out any seeds before serving.
4. These are the most annoying words of 2013
By Ed White/Associated Press
A couple takes a 'selfie' outside Rockefeller Center on Nov, 19, 2013 in New York City. Andrew Burton/Getty Images
A Michigan university has issued its annual list of annoying words, and those flexible enough to take selfies of themselves twerking should take note.M
In addition to "selfie" and "twerking," there was a strong sense among those who nominated words to this year's list that the word "hashtag" and term "Mr. Mom" had both run their course.
"Selfie," a term that describes a self-taken photo, often from a smartphone, led the way among the more than 2,000 nominations submitted to Lake Superior State University's 39th annual batch of words to banish due to overuse, overreliance and overall fatigue. Even President Barack Obama got into the act this month when he took a well-publicized selfie with other world leaders in South Africa for Nelson Mandela's memorial service.
Since 1975, the list has grown to more than 800 words, many from the worlds of politics, sports and popular - maybe too popular - culture.
"The list is made up completely from nominations. We don't just sit around and think of words that bug us," said Tom Pink, a spokesman for the school in Sault Ste. Marie, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
"Twerk" or "twerking," a sexually provocative way of dancing, found a dominant place in parlance due to Miley Cyrus' performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.
"Hashtag" refers to a word or phrase with no spaces preceded by the pound sign on the microblogging website Twitter.
Others on the banned list include "Twittersphere," "t-bone," "Obamacare" "intellectually/morally bankrupt" and anything "on steroids." People also tired of the suffixes "-pocalypse" and "-ageddon" used to make words such as "snow-pocalypse" or "ice-ageddon."
And enough already with "Mr. Mom," a reference to fathers who take care of kids. It's also the name of a 1983 movie starring Michael Keaton, although many stay-at-home dads these days don't like the movie stereotype of a clueless male.
"There were almost as many nominations for 'Mr. Mom' as 'selfie' and 'twerk,'" Pink said.
He believes the title got traction again in 2013 due to news stories about the 30th anniversary of the movie.
By CHRIS MAYS / Reformer Staff
Trucks are filled with salt and dirt in preparation for a recent storm at the Department of Public Works in Brattleboro. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)
BRATTLEBORO -- A two-part weather system is forecast to bring in snow with severe cold following behind it, later this week.
AccuWeather Meteorologist Mark Paquette told the Reformer that there is 6 to 10 inches of snow forecasted throughout the end of the week.
On Wednesday, it should be partly sunny but cold with a high of 24 degrees. There shouldn't be any weather-related delays in traveling for the holiday.
During the night is when the trouble should start, Paquette says. That is when snow is forecast to come east to west toward dawn.
"Thursday is the snowy day," Paquette added. "It's cold with snow all day accumulating right through Thursday night. Snow will wind down on Friday."
He believes the time period that is likely to have the most snowfall is Thursday from the afternoon until midnight.
The snow will not be heavy but the dry and fluffy kind. It could cover roads enough to cause troubles and delays for travel plans.
"You've seen worse and probably will see worse this winter," said Paquette. "But the cold is going to be brutal."
AccuWeather expects a low of 1 degree below zero on Thursday with not much recovery in temperatures on Friday when a high of 6 degrees is forecast. It will be brutal to be outside on Friday, Paquette told the Reformer.
Saturday has a high temperature of 13 degrees and at night a low of zero.
"By the time you wake up on Saturday morning, it should be 16 below zero," said Paquette. "All these time periods are accompanied by wind so it will feel even colder."show more