So much of our time during the holidays is spent trying to get things ready, decorate, sit in traffic, buy nice gifts, and other various tasks and duties that the holidays have told us we need to participate in in order to really experience the holiday season. However I would like to propose that while those things are very fun, and if you have the time and resources that you should try them out, but I think there is more to the season than those things. I would like to propose that the season is actually about love, giving, and hope (by way of miracles).

Here is a list of ideas that are great traditions for the Holiday season. Each of them promotes- one if not two or three of the fundamental characteristics of the holidays: love, giving and hope (miracles). Hope you enjoy:

  1. Acts of Charitable Giving: Charitable giving brings a whole new meaning to the saying “Tis the Season”. People can make this refer to anything they want, but I think if we are all being honest with ourselves the holiday season is a season for giving and doing kind deeds. Go out and give like you have nothing to lose. Think about all of the things in your house that you never use that others might be able to make use of every day. Can you live without it? If the answer isn’t an instant no, you might consider being generous and giving it away. Tis the season, right?

Neighborhood Parties for the Kids: Do something great to bring community and excitement to your neighborhood/apartment complex. Start an annual family get together. Have cookie decorating for the kids, ornament making tables for kids and adults, and of course- do it pot luck style. Everyone gets to bring their favorite dish, and no one will complain about getting to eat them! If you want more ideas for holiday craft ideas for the kids check out this list from Martha Stewart.

  1. Acts of Community Service: Very similar to charitable giving is the giving of one’s time. Many times the reason why gifts make people feel so great is because it makes them feel that someone else cares about their life. Giving up your time (even if it’s only five minutes to carry someone’s bags to their car) can have the same effect. Take time during the busy hustle and bustle and make someone feel cared about.
  2. Give Home Baked Platters: Many of you are overwhelmed by the idea of giving gifts to all the people in your life that you care about. It’s not always easy, or affordable. One great way to show you are thinking of them is to make cookie and baked good platters. Get creative, make them in bulk, and enjoy giving a delicious treat to many for very little money. Struggling for ideas? Check out this website, they have so many different Holiday cookie platter ideas.
  3. Community Outreach (Miracle workers): Find out what “dreams” and “miracles” t hose around you are wishing for. Get crazy, get together in groups, and make those dreams happen for them. Can you imagine what it would feel like to truly be involved in seeing someone get their “miracle” because you and others cared enough to see it through?
  4. Go Caroling: Caroling isn’t for everyone, but if you are one of those that loves to sing and loves holiday music you might be surprised how much you will love caroling. It seems a bit intimidating at first. Don’t let that stop you. You might find you love it.
  5. Be Thankful, Tell People: Do a “reasons to be thankful” during the month of December. Every day in December leading up to the end of the year write down something you are thankful for with regard to that year. On New Year’s Eve read the list and share with those who the list involves. Let them know how much they impacted your life. If you need a little help getting started check out this post of ideas for things to be thankful for during the Holiday Season.
  6. Random Acts of “Payment”: Bring the gift of giving to completely unsuspecting people. When you are in line buying a coffee, give enough to pay for the person behind you. When you are eating out at a restraint cover the bill of the table next to you. When you are grabbing a bag of groceries and you notice the person behind you is picking up a quick few items, pay for theirs too. The best way to go about doing this is to give the cashier enough to cover what they seem to be getting and tell them to apply the rest to the person behind them, or just have them put a certain amount towards the persons bill. This type of random act of kindness will truly make a person’s day.
  7. Visit the Hospital: There are plenty of people that just need someone to be with them during the holidays. People who don’t have family, or whose family isn’t nearby. Go read someone a book, or teach them how to knit, whatever it is you might enjoy doing that can be done in a hospital room.
  8. Buy Gifts for Orphans: There are always people (kids especially) who won’t be getting gifts unless someone like you goes and buys them for them. Find out what organizations in your area run services for kids like this and make a holiday tradition of buying gifts for people who would otherwise not get one.
  9. Make a Snow Angel or Snow Man: Simple as it may sound, making snow angels and snow men can be a very enjoyable holiday season tradition. Start the tradition with someone and do it ever year. Take pictures with both of you (all of you) and your snowman or snow angels. Keep the photos over the years and see how fun it is to look back on each year.

Here is a list of our favorite, nutritious and inexpensive snacks to enjoy!:

 almondsNuts: So there are many healthy snacks out there, but there are few that are as easy and as healthy as a handful of nuts. Some people find nuts to be boring or tasteless but nuts can actually be a very sweet, delicious treat. There are many different ways to prepare and eat them, from spices and sweeteners, to roasting (see below) and baking. Added bonus: You can buy nuts in bulk to save big money!

Roasted Nuts: If you are someone who tends to have a sweet tooth, especially late at night, roasted nuts are perfect.  Take a mixture of your favorite nuts (plain nuts- a bunch of sugar and salt voids the purpose of the healthy snack), put them in a skillet with some honey. Stir constantly until the nuts begin to smell as though they are cooking. Remove from heat and let set.  If you like deeper flavor, let them darken a bit.

Trail Mix: Make your own trail mix. Skip the m&m’s and only include nuts and maybe some dried fruit (cranberries are delicious, tart and great for cleansing your body).  Be sure the nuts are raw and the fruit isn’t sugared.

Raw Fruits and Vegetables: I know that is seems like an obvious, but many people don’t think to just grab a stick of celery, or a carrot or two on the way out the door. Grab a banana or an orange, maybe even some cauliflower.  They are all natural, healthy, easy, and cost friendly.

Lunch Meat and Cheese: Lunch meat and cheese is a win-win situation when it comes to healthy quick snacks.  Grab your favorite sliced meat and your favorite cheese and roll them up for a tasty, low-carb snack.  For a little extra flavor, and a lot of extra nutrition, add a few slices of avocado to the middle.  (Avocado is a fabulous alternative to mayo!)

Granola: Granola is a great snack and it is also a nutritious, fiber-full topping to add to snacks.  Bring a small bag of granola to grub on in the car or on the train, or throw some granola in your yogurt to give it a little crunch.  You really can’t go wrong with healthy granola.  However, be careful not to buy granola that is covered in sugars and fats.  You want to go for natural brands and avoid the sugar crash; check out the options lining the shelves of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s!

Rice Cakes: Rice cakes are an awesome alternative to bread. You can do anything you would do with bread on a rice cake. Some ideas I use on my rice cakes:

  • Peanut butter & jelly
  • Avocado and sliced turkey
  • Cream cheese and strawberries
  • Cheese and sliced, grilled meat (chicken, turkey)

Apples: Everybody loves sweet and crunchy apples!  Try to spice them up a little with a yummy dip– all-natural peanut butter or plain yogurt are great compliments.

Hard Boiled Eggs: Eggs are a great source of protein and keep really well when they are hard boiled (meaning you don’t need to keep them refrigerated for the entire day). They are also very filling and will take the edge off of hungry quickly. I recommend hard boiled eggs with Kashi crackers but an egg alone will do for a a quick snack to hold you over.

Lean Animal Protein and Crackers: Try out some tuna or grilled chicken (chicken or tuna salad are also great options!) on your favorite whole-wheat or gluten-free crackers. What a healthful, filling snack for an on-the-go schedule –good for kids, too!


There are so many areas of life that we work on keeping in line and balanced. However, many people neglect their dating life as if it is something because it happens without trying it doesn’t need special attention. Let me explain. If you want to be healthy and fit in terms of your physical body you focus on working out. Without the desire to be fit you wouldn’t work out. Therefore there is more attention put toward your work out and how effective it is. However, with dating, you will most likely date with or without a focus on how effective it is. I challenge us to take the same stance in dating as we would any other “healthy” habit in our life. Below are some great to tips for a healthy dating life.

  1. Know Who You Are: I challenge you to sit down and describe who you are. Be honest and open with yourself. List your dreams, fears, passions, skills, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Then assess what of those things you want to grow in, what you want to change, and what you really love about yourself. When you start dating pay attention to how much the person makes you grow in the areas you wanted improvement and how much they bring out the best in you. If being with you doesn’t make you stronger in your strengths and less apt to do the things you feel are weaknesses then you might want to consider if it is a healthy situation.
  2. Have Your Priorities Straight: Before you start dating anyone it is important to know what means the most to you in life. Be grounded in your beliefs and your ideals before diving into a relationship. When you do this you come into a dating situation with a clear idea of what you believe and what you don’t believe. You will be more apt to not compromise your ideologies for someone else’s just because they make you feel excited inside.
  3. Don’t Give Up You: Manage a healthy balance between doing the things that make you you, and spending time with the other person and doing the things they like to do. Remember if they really care for you they care for the person who likes the things you liked when they met you.
  4. Make an Agreement: Write a few reasonable things that will do during your dating life. I would say that you “wont” do but I don’t like negatives. So, instead of saying “I will not let my dating life distract me from my passion” say something like “I will remain focused on my passion”. Couple of things, the passion example is just an example, but for the sake of not being misunderstand I feel I need to explain. It is quite possible to have a healthy meaningful relationship where you share your life with someone but still hold onto the passions outside of them that make you happy too.
  5. Set Boundaries: Boundaries are important in any form of relationship. Boundaries in the dating world are essential to a healthy dating life. You need to know what keeps you stable and grounded. You need to know what makes you feel most like you like who you are being, and then you need to draw lines that cross over into an area where you see yourself not being who you know you are inside. STICK TO YOUR BOUNDARIES. But, if you do make a mistake, pick yourself up, forgive yourself and do it better next time. Shame doesn’t do anything good for anyone. Let it go.
  6. Watch the Speed: Be careful that you are mindful of who and what you are involving yourself with. To some degree only time can show you who a person is. Of course there are always the “love at first site” instances but just because you love them doesn’t mean you have to commit everything you could possibly give to a person to them at that moment. Live in the moment of love, but enjoy the process and don’t try and rush anything. Love happens in its own time, and quite naturally progresses without our help when its right.
  7. Don’t Look to the Media for Advice: SERIOUSLY, don’t. Gossip Magazine is not a good place to go to have some magazine editor tell you how you should conduct your dating life (and especially you sex life). If the mass media knew how to date in a healthy manner then the divorce rate wouldn’t be where it is today. Find people in your life that have healthy relationships that have shown to last over time and ask them for advice and guidance.

What better way to host a great holiday party during the Christmas season than to make sure that your guests are being fed healthy, weight conscious food. With all the candies and chocolates that swarm us during our work week, the parties that come in tow with tons of finger foods and appetizers, the champagne, etc etc it wouldn’t be a bad idea to server your guests something different. From gluten free to vegan to just plain healthy and delicious we have a number of fun but healthy Christmas recipes for you.

Salad

  1. Red and White Christmas Salad: What better way to start the list than with a dinner “starter”. This red and white festive salad is great as a starter or side dish. Prepping your guest for the amazing meal to come.

Holiday Deserts and Cookies

  1. Twelve Days of Gluten Free Christmas Cookies: This blog gives you 12 recipes for gluten free cookies for the Holiday Season. You won’t have to guess at any cookies anymore. From fudge to peanut butter this blog has it all. You might want to do the usual substitutes here, apple sauce for butter, syrup for sugar, chocolate substitutes, etc. But they are a great starting point for amazing holiday cookie recipes.
  2. 30 Gluten Free Cookie Recipes for Christmas: Here is a great list of either recipes or sources with other lists of recipes. You are sure to find one you really like.

Entrees

  1. 10 Vegan Holiday Recipes: I Love this blog. She is full of great vegan ideas for all the holidays and any other time during the year. For the sake of keeping with our holiday tradition I have picked a blog where she shares 10 vegan and gluten free holiday recipes. They are beautiful dishes, and sounds amazing. In fact, I have chosen one of the ten recipes as my “featured” recipe for this post!
  2. Featured Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan Holiday Entrée of Choice: (NOTE: This is a recipe taken from glutenfreedoggess.blogspot.com, it is not our recipe. We are just sharing it with you)

There is the option of having sausage in here, but you easily keep it vegan. Just omit the sausage and serve with a side of hummus.

Ingredients:

1 large cabbage
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, diced

1 red onion, peeled, diced

1 large tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 sausages- these can be sweet Italian, chicken apple, turkey, buffalo, cut into chunks

Extra virgin olive oil, as needed

1 cup natural apple juice or cider

1 tblspns pure maple syrup

1 tblspns balsamic or apple cider vinegar

Sprinkle of sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel

A handful of raisins or dried cranberries

1 to 1 1/2 c cooked quinoa
For the sauce:

1 24-oz jar or can of strained tomatoes- I use Bionature Organic Strained Tomatoes
1/2 c apple juice or cider
2 tblspns maple syrup
2 tblspns balsamic vinegar
1 tsp onion powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
Sea salt, to taste

Instructions:

First: Cook your cabbage. You’ll need a fresh, large head of green cabbage. Trim the bottom root and cut an X into the center core. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the head of cabbage for about five minutes until soft; remove and drain well.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Make the filling. Throw the vegetables, apple, and sausage into a roasting pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add the apple juice, maple syrup, vinegar, salt and spices and toss well to coat. Roast in the oven till soft- about 40 to 50 minutes. Stir a few times during roasting to distribute the sauce and seasoning. Meanwhile make your sauce.

Make the sauce. Combine the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and stir. Cook over medium heat until simmering. Cover and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Taste test before using in the recipe. If you like a bit of spice, add a dash of hot pepper- but please taste test first.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Lightly oil four serving dishes or one medium-large baking dish.

When the cabbage has cooled enough for you to handle, cut another 1/2 inch or so off the bottom core if you need to and gently peel off the leaves one at a time; set the leaves aside on a plate or board. Trim any large leaves that may have a thick spine. Smaller leaves can be combined- use two to make one roll if you need to.
Combine the roasted vegetables and sausage with the cooked quinoa- start with a cup and see how much you need. If you want to stretch the filling, use more quinoa. Add a handful of raisins and stir in.

To stuff:

Lay a cabbage leaf on your work surface and add a spoonful of filling in the center. Fold in the side of the leaf and roll it up; tuck it into the prepared baking dish seam side down. Repeat for the remaining leaves and filling.

Pour the sauce over the stuffed cabbage and bake in the center of a preheated oven for about 30 minutes, till heated through and bubbling.

You can make this stuffed cabbage ahead of time, if you wish; cover and chill. Add an extra 10 minutes or so to the baking time.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 



Truth

  • Others Know Where you Stand and Where They Stand with You; Credibility: Being honest in every situation helps you build credibility.  When you have a solid reputation, people feel more at ease with being around you and receptive to what you say.
  • Never Have to Look Back, There is Freedom in Truth: When you tell the truth, you never have to retrace your steps and wonder, “Did I really say that?!”  If it isn’t the truth, you didn’t say it — easy enough!  There is real freedom in being able to live without having to keep track of various storylines.
  • Simplicity is Bliss: Being honest is about as simple as it gets. There isn’t any, “What should I say?” or “What story should I tell?”  If you don’t want to talk about something or do something, you can just be honest!  It’s that simple.  No guessing games, no creativity needed; just raw honesty.  And, always remember, “No” is a complete sentence.
  • Confidence:  Being honest helps to build confidence; you gradually end up realizing that people love you and are in your life because of who you are.  And if anyone in your life falls away, you’ll be able to let them go with ease, knowing you’re truly in touch with yourself and surrounded by those who are, too.
  • Honesty is Altruistic: People who choose to encourage and build up those around them are usually honest people. After all, you can’t really trust someone who isn’t honest with you, so how would you value such a person’s advice or encouragement?  You are only doing people a disservice if you are not honest with them.  Those that authentically care about others help them by being real with them, and allowing them to uplift their own lives through honesty as well.  Lead and inspire others by example!

Important Notes

  • Don’t Over Share; Great Truth Comes with Great Responsibility: When we talk about being honest, it is important to keep in mind that there are times when you can be honest without saying everything.  I’m not referring to telling only half the truth, which is basically the same as lying.  What I’m talking about here is telling the truth in such a way that it does not abuse the person on the receiving end.  For example, let’s say you are shopping with a friend and she tries on a dress that is not entirely flattering to her figure.  She asks you if you like it.  You don’t say, “No way, you look like a cow!”  What you might say is, “You know, I liked the first two that you tried on better.  I think we can find some others that flatter your figure really well, too.”  Both  statements are true (in your perception, anyway), however one didn’t make your friend feel awful.
  • Don’t Persecute Yourself: For those of you with an over-active guilty conscience, consider whether you should be sharing every misstep you feel you’ve made.  Throwing yourself under the bus for some people is a way to “earn” forgiveness from those who ultimately weren’t involved and don’t need to know.  Someone you just met doesn’t need to know about things you regret doing from 10 years back!  Clear out that mental junk by forgiving yourself and just let it go.  Wait until there is an appropriate time when your story may actually be useful — ie: when you are asked for advice from someone who made a mistake and you had made a similar one and learned from it.  Wisdom is born from our painful experiences, but only if we let go of the pain first.
  • What Motivates Your Honesty?  / Honesty as a Tool: Sometimes people have a tendency to “be honest” and share information that ultimately didn’t need to be said and was only said out of anger or bitterness.  Before you say something, consider why you are saying it.  For example, let’s say your partner just came home and has obviously had a rough day.  She/he isn’t in a great mood, doesn’t acknowledge the dinner you made, the new haircut you got, nor asks how your day was.  The honest truth is that you really don’t like being on the receiving end of their steam… but why say it?  Would this bout of honesty benefit you or your partner?  I’m not implying you let people walk all over you, rather I am saying that honesty can be used as a tool.  For example, why not spin the honest spirit into releasing tension instead of building it with, “Did you have a bad day?  I’ll get out of your hair and let you breathe, let me know if you need to talk.”  Then go do something that actually makes you feel good (bubble bath and a good book, anyone?).  If you aren’t saying it out of love, don’t say it!

 Guest writer/editor, Kelly, KellySays.com

Image credit, winnond, FreeDigitalPhotos.Net