Bring the holidays home with Favorite Family Recipes: American Family’s new e-cookbook

Favorite family recipes cookbookJust in time for the holidays, we’re excited to introduce Favorite Family Recipes: The American Family Insurance Back to the Family Dinner Table Cookbook!

From savory suppers to decadent desserts, Favorite Family Recipes combines recipes from customers, employees and bloggers from across the U.S.* to encourage families to rediscover the joy of family mealtime.

Discover new recipe ideas, time-saving tips and delicious reminders that dreams are made around the family table. Download the free e-cookbook here!

Download the epub version. Download the mobi version here. Download the PDF version here.

If you’re unsure what file to download, use this handy reference:

  • Laptop or desktop computer — Get either the ePub or PDF.
  • iPhone, iPod touch or iPad — Grab the ePub or PDF and read it in iBooks or the reader of your choice.
  • Kindle — Get the Mobi file and load it onto your Kindle.
  • Android — Read the ePub on your favorite reader
  • Nook — The ePub and PDF formats work well on this reader.
  • Sony Reader — ePubs work well on your Sony Reader.
  • Windows Phone — Read the ePub, Mobi, or PDF on the ebook reader of your choice.

* With hundreds of fantastic submissions, we simply could not include them all in the cookbook – but were truly inspired by your heartwarming recipes, stories and shared passion for bringing families back to the table.

Make the holidays safe for pets and children

Keep Kids and Pets Safe During the HolidaysOne of my most vivid childhood memories of the holidays was the year I knocked over the tree. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. I was maybe four or five years old and went after a toy that had rolled behind the tree. Not knowing any better, I went after it and in the course of my diligent toy retrieval efforts, managed to knock the tree down.

Unfortunately, I broke several ornaments that had a lot of sentimental meaning to my parents, spilled the water in the tree stand and broke a few light bulbs as well. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it scared the heck out of me.

Fast forward several years to when I had children of my own. Not wanting history to repeat itself, I always made sure our tree was secure. In addition to being solidly in the stand, I also used clear fishing line to secure the tree to the handles on the windows behind it. I also kept a close watch on my kids whenever they got to close.

In the years since, I’ve picked up a few other tips to help my family safely enjoy the holidays and not be afraid that someone will get sick or hurt. Some of these also apply to families with dogs or cats.

I’m sure there are things you do around your home to keep children and pets safe. Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up that may help this holiday season.

  • Avoid decorations that look like food and could tempt little ones (or pets) to try to eahc.
  • Limit rich, fatty holiday foods which can easily lead to an upset stomach.
  • Holiday plants like holly, mistletoe, lilies and poinsettias are poisonous.
  • Keep lit candles away from little hands and wagging tails.
  • Keep hot pots and pans on back burners to prevent them from being accidentally knocked over and causing a burn.
  • Make sure toys are age and ability appropriate and don’t contain small parts that could be a choking hazard.

If you haven’t seen it, there’s also a great article in this month’s @dvisor with additional holiday safety tips for children and pets.  

From my home to yours, I wish you all a happy, healthy, joyous – and safe – holiday season!

Building dreams ... one wall at a time

Habitat for humanityIn 2011, American Family launched the “Dreams Protected” advertising campaign. My work team decided to take it one step further and help others build dreams.

The East Property Survey Team recently spent an afternoon working with Habitat for Humanity of Dane County.  Although the organization was chosen because of the nature of our work, it quickly became clear we would be getting a lesson in much more than construction. It was a lesson on building dreams.

We were able to meet the recipient of one of the homes under construction.  The gentleman was an inspiration to us all.

In 2006, he fled Kosovo in search of a better life for himself and his daughter. His profile on the Habitat website indicated he had “dreamed of owning his own home for many years.” He is determined and has been working very hard to make it happen.

He is currently working two full-time jobs and is a single parent to his 9-year-old daughter. Although he already has a full plate, he must also spend 325 hours working for Habitat for Humanity. This is what is called “sweat equity” and ensures recipients are invested in the home that eventually becomes theirs.

His busy schedule doesn’t seem to bother him at all. He is simply happy that he and his young daughter will have a place to call home; something others often take for granted.

The afternoon was spent working with this wonderful gentleman under the direction of a Habitat for Humanity supervisor. Some of us were able to contribute a bit more skillfully than others, but we all had enthusiasm and willingness to lend a hand.

Our job that day was to help install the second story walls. The pre-assembled walls had to be lifted from the ground to the second level, carefully placed, and nailed together. A few others were busy helping to frame the first floor of another home in the area.  It was great to see how quickly the home’s frame came together! The recipient’s determination and excitement was even better!  We could literally watch his dream coming true before our eyes. 

While our arms were sore by the end of the afternoon, it was a good pain.  We were grateful to have the opportunity to contribute our skills to make a family’s dream of home ownership come true.  

Several of us plan to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity again. If you are interested in helping others achieve the dream of home ownership, you can contribute financially, shop at their wonderful Habitat Restores, or volunteer your time individually or with a group. Check out Habitat for Humanity of Dane County for more information.

Focus on the positive

Jeremy JoWhat is the one thing you want more than anything in life? Chances are, that “one thing” is the same thing for everyone – happiness. We want to be happy at work, at home, in our relationships, and so on.

But ever wonder why so many of us are sad or just not genuinely happy?

During a break from a sales class, I suggested to the trainer the company should really look into having personal development workshops for everyone. They can boost morale and ignite productivity. This is a question of how much the company wants to invest in the well-being of its lifeblood – its workforce.

Instead, we get refresher classes we’ve taken many times over, or contests with cash incentives only to produce very little good results. Worse yet, job security fears get instilled in people’s minds because of subpar performance.

These systems are flawed. The method of dangling the carrot may produce better results than instilling fear, but both can only produce superficial results.

These aren’t things we do just in the business world. The same is true in academics and home life – "get A's in school, find that right person, work hard, become successful, and you will be happy.” We have all learned and been taught this way. It’s time we did the reverse.

Be happy by being thankful. We can choose to be miserable at our jobs or because of our pay, or we can choose to be grateful for the privilege of working. There is so much power in realizing how fortunate we are for having jobs.

Be happy by looking for the good; don’t focus on the bad. How much we want to invest in the company? Are we with the company only when times are good, or are we willing to work through the bad and become part of the solution?

Be happy by getting good hormones flowing by starting your day with meditation and exercise – even if only for five minutes.

These are just some of the simple steps I take daily to reach my goal to be happy. It is only when I’m happy I think clearly and enhance my productivity.

Happiness fosters success in life, and not the other way around.

Life is too short to be unhappy. Happiness is a choice, and so is misery. Which one will you pick?

30 Days of Thanks: Small Business Owners

30 Days of Thanks: Small Business SaturdayIt’s the heart of the holiday season. Thanksgiving has come and gone (as well as Black Friday), and there are only a few short weeks until the holidays.

A common phrase I’ve been hearing at work is, "Are you done with your Christmas shopping yet?" This year, I’ve decided to do 100 percent of my holiday shopping at places that I’m thankful for – small businesses.

Why? Because for every $100 spent at a small business, $68 stays in the local economy. As someone who lives in a small town, you can see the difference a thriving small business community makes. According to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, more than 5.4 million businesses fall into the category of 0-19 employees. That translates into about 21.4 million people employed through small businesses.

I think it’s pretty clear supporting local and small businesses is important. But even without researched facts, I love to and would much rather shop small and/or local shops. I’ve had OK customer service and great deals at the big chain stores, but I’ve never built a relationship with them like I have with small shops -- and their owners.

What places are on my list to stop at this year?

For starters, Horse Emporium in Waukesha, Wis. Sue and her family have run the store since 1986. They are a great source for knowledgeable information and friendly advice about your horse and riding needs. Not to mention the girls – Amy and Alissa – were incredibly patient when fitting my daughter for riding boots, as well as a new saddle for a high-withered horse. 

I’ll also stop at Lewis Station Winery in Lake Mills, Wis. Owners Michelle and Rob created a boutique winery and shop in the heart of this community. I believe if you can’t find appropriate hostess gifts at Lewis Station for all the holiday parties you’re attending this season, you might as well stay home.

I also made a special trip in October to Door County to pick up a few items from the local shops, including Maxwell’s House and a local cherry orchard (25 pounds of Door County cherries to be exact!).  

But it’s not just the traditional store-front shops that fall into the small business category. There are also numerous service-type companies and one-person shops to consider year-round when looking for goods and services.

Small business owners are our friends and neighbors. They are vitally important to the economic growth and stability of our nation. Despite economic volatility, many of these local businesses continue to survive and provide jobs, services and products to our communities. This is a testament to the small business owners’ tenacity and creativity, and to the faithfulness of local consumers.

The next time you walk into a local establishment or contact a local service provider, take a moment to pause, look around, and see all that is being done, what is being provided, and the number of people busy at work. If you get a chance, find the owner and thank them for being willing to take the risk, stand against all odds, and provide jobs and revenue for your community.  

What small business will you be shopping at this season? Give them a shout-out in the comments below.

30 Days of Thanks American Family InsuranceEditor's note: Give yourself permission to practice gratitude! Each day during November, American Family Insurance will share ideas for showing appreciation for the people, things and events in our lives. We hope you use these 30 Days of Thanks as an opportunity to share your gratitude. Visit us on Facebook for inspiration and ideas as we celebrate 30 Days of Thanks.   

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