Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas  Happy Holidays  Buon Natale 

Happy Christmas  Feliz Natal  Joy To The World 

Feliz Navidad  Joyeaux Noël  Fröhliche Weihnachten 

Glaedelig Jul  Sretan Bozic  Shèngdàn Kuàilè 

Merry Kisimusi  Peace on Earth  Geseënde Kersfees 

Colo Sana Wintom Tiebeen  Vaselé Vánoce 

Sinifisela Ukhisimusi Omuhle  Meelad Majeed 

Sinifisela Khisimusi Lomuhle  Kala Christougena 

Mele Kalikimaka   God Jul  Nodlaig Nait Cugat 

Maligayang Pasko  Nadel  Nollag Chridheil  Love

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia  Happy Holidays

Hristos Se Rodi  Merry Christmas Boldog Karácsonyt  

HO HO Holiday Waistline

A 2007 New York Times blog article suggests that reports of holiday weight gain of 7-10 pounds are exaggerated.  Studies suggest that the average weight gain during the winter holidays is actually just a single pound. 

This all seems like pretty good news except that most people don’t ever lose the extra pound which can add up to excess weight over the years.   

I must admit, I’m not one of those disciplined people able to turn away from the mountains of delicious treats that pop up in stores and pour out of sweet-smelling kitchens every holiday season.  Fact is, I can’t imagine the holidays without sampling every sugary treat possible and overloading regularly on carb loaded side dishes.

The good news is you can have your cake and cookies too if you practice eating smart and in moderation.  As a fairly disciplined eater, I rarely deprive myself of a few sweet treats here and there. 

This holiday season is typical in that my sweets meter went way up and hasn’t started to fall just yet.  No fretting over a gingerbread latte, heavenly bliss bar or my favorite, peppermint bark ice cream.  Instead I’m counting on balancing healthy eating with holiday treats while drinking plenty of water and sticking to my regular exercise routine.  So far progress is good and no regrets!

What The Experts Say

 According to WebMD, portion control is the key when it comes to the holidays.  These 10 tips will help you avoid overindulging this holiday season:
1.  Never arrive hungry; have a nutritious snack beforehand or drink water before filling your plate.
2.  Divert your attention; focus on something other than the food at the party, like chatting or dancing.
3.  Pace yourself; munch at a leisurely pace.
4.  Count your canapes; track how many of those little treats you’re eating.
5.  Outsmart the buffet; use the smallest plate and stick to fruits and veggies while watching sauces and dips.
6.  Limit alcohol; avoid the calories and stay in control of yourself and what you eat.
7.  Be choosy about sweets; stick to small desserts that are worth the calories.
8.  Bring your own treats; when it comes to a potluck; make something healthy that works for you.
9.  Limit “tastes” while cooking; those extra calories add up.
10.  Walk it off; take a family walk and burn calories before or after a meal. 

Have a healthy and sweet holiday season!

After Christmas Prices Now

While picking up last minute gifts, I noticed two things:

1.  Retailers are not waiting until after Christmas to have big clearance sales.  If you want it, you should probably get it now or very soon.  Many retailers have discounted Christmas and seasonal merchandise up to 50% heading in to the last week before the big day.  If you can hold out and are flexible, you will likely see merchandise at even bigger discounts a couple of days before Christmas.   It could very well be worth the wait.

2.  Christmas departments are shrinking super fast and the holiday cleanup has already begun.  This speaks to the accuracy of predictions made by analysts a few months ago that retailers would not be carrying much excess inventory.  Holiday merchandise is already reduced by half or much more in many cases.  Costco’s shelves are practically free of Christmas merchandise and what’s left is deeply discounted.  Valentines Day merchandise is not only in stock, but on shelves!

I like to do a little after Christmas shopping and already know where I’ll be picking up deals.  After Christmas sales are a great time to buy and store food items with extended expiration dates, wrapping paper, eco-friendly lights and much more.  See  https://reindeerdreams.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/now-til-christmas-2009/ for a list of items to consider stocking up on at incredible prices after the holiday season.

Happy post-holiday season shopping!

Last Minute Gifts

A few nice last minute gift options to consider.

1.  Lolita glassware is so much fun and a great collectible item.  They make perfect last minute gifts and can be found online and at retailers across the U.S.  Many of these dressed up wine glasses, ornaments, martini glasses and more come with a fabulous drink recipe on the bottom.  How cool is that!  

  Netflix

2.  A subscription to Netflix DVDs by mail is a great last-minute gift for an individual or a family.  Subscriptions start at $8.99 per month and 1-12 month subscriptions are available at a cost fit for every budget.  A great entertainment gift.

3.  Gift Cards never fail.  It is reported that 35% of Americans bought gift cards in 2008 and over 50% of consumers say they like receiving them.  As much as many of us feel like gift cards are a cop-out gift, not so!  They’re sure winners that allow recipients to buy whatever they want.  No sad faces or disappointments to deal with on Christmas day makes for a very happy holiday.

White House Theme 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the long awaited White House Christmas theme of “Reflect, Rejoice, Renew” today.  She said this theme was chosen because her family spends the holidays reflecting on its blessings, rejoicing in the company of friends and family and renewing their commitments to each other and causes they believe in.

This year’s theme is being reflected by the use of recycled ornaments, natural materials and environmentally friendly LED lights.  Executive pastry chef Bill Yosses and his staff created the traditional gingerbread replica of the White House covered in white chocolate complete with a shadowbox for viewing inside the State Dining Room, with a lit chandelier and dark chocolate furniture.  This year there’s also a replica of First Dog, Bo along with Mrs. Obama’s South Lawn garden complete with marzipan vegetables.

Mrs. Obama chose traditional decorations to reflect the architecture and color scheme of each room of the Georgian -style mansion.  Natural materials such as hydrangea, magnolia, honeysuckle vine, pepper berries and dried root from her South Lawn vegetable garden decorate trees and wreaths in rooms on the State Floor. 

The official Blue Room tree stands at 18 1/2 -by-13 feet and is lit with environmentally friendly LED lights, decorated with huge gold ribbons and bows and more than 600 ornaments from prior administrations. 

The ornaments were sent to over 60 local community groups throughout the country with instructions to decorate them in tribute to a favorite local landmark.  Landmarks include some Obama hometown favorites like Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, The Art Institute of Chicago and the DuSable Museum. 

Mrs. Obama thanked the more than 90 volunteers from 24 states who worked some 3,400 hours to transform the mansion into a Christmas wonderland. 

More than 50,000 people are expected to attend 28 holiday parties and open houses at the White House this month with the first on Tuesday night in the East Room, honoring volunteer decorators.

Billionaire talk show host Oprah Winfrey will present “Christmas at the White House,” a prime-time special  airing Sunday, December 13 on ABC.

See the video of First Lady Michelle Obama previewing Holidays at the White House http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/first-lady-previews-holidays-white-house)

Check out the White House December, 2009 photo gallery (http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/december-2009-photo-day).  Photos, podcasts, videos and live streams are also available at www.whitehouse.gov

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_House_Christmas_tree

The Associated Press

http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/first-lady-previews-holidays-white-house

Navigating The Holidays

Holiday time can be a chaotically joyful thing.  In the midst of the twinkling lights and festivities life is still happening.  For many this hasn’t been a banner year and it may come as a surprise to some that not everyone looks forward to the holidays.  Yet we cloak ourselves in cheer and dig deep searching for meaning and deep wells of joy and comfort to spread to others. 

It has been long rumored that mental conditions spike around the holidays.  Many wonderful sources from the web to books and talk shows give tips on how to navigate the holidays without slipping into sadness and depression.  Perhaps the best advice is to hold on to the things that make the holidays special for you.  It doesn’t have to be an item of monetary value.  In fact, memories can transport us back to the most special moments of our lives.  It could be the time you spent with family and friends or maybe you’re  looking forward to helping and serving others, which is guaranteed to lift the spirit.    

Whether to a loved one or perfect stranger, take care to speak kindly for you never know what burdens they shoulder or what blessings they bring.  I once read a memorable quote by poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou worth remembering during the holidays and everyday.  They are words of unforgettable truth:

“People will forget what you said,  people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

While sifting thorough old emails, I came across this list of lessons said to be written by a woman who had turned 90 years old and wanted to share the wisdom she’d acquired over the years.  In truth, the author was turning 50 and this was an update to an earlier list of published lessons.  Something about this list by Regina Brett seems perfect to consider as we turn to a new page and a make the bold leap into a brand new year.  Here goes:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Happy Holidays!

Reindeer Dreams

Berry Berry Sweet

I’m a bit of a berry nut and one of the very best seems pop up here and there but only gets an honorable mention during the holiday season.  Chestnuts show up in Christmas songs but nobody ever sings about one of the hardest working berries in the food business; the cranberry!   Lets face it, a Christmas dinner just wouldn’t be the same without a little cranberry sauce gracing the table.  This fabulous little berry shows up as a side dish, in side dishes and in desserts that wouldn’t make sense without them, starting with the madly delicious Starbuck’s cranberry bliss bar but never seems to get the respect it deserves.  

I keep plenty of cranberries around year round to put in salads, hot cereal and as a topping for things like sweet potatoes.  These great little berries whether dried or fresh bring a special zing to everything they touch.  They’re also found to have a long list of amazing positive health benefits including powerful antioxidants and antibacterial effects on the body.  Heck, the cranberry is so important there’s even a Cranberry Institute….Who knew! 

In addition to all of this, the cranberry is the number one  fruit crop for the state of Wisconsin which produces more than half of the entire world’s supply.  Why so much love for cranberries?  Well, they just seem to make everything taste better.   Check out these holiday and everyday recipes and tips and you’ll see what I mean: 

 

1.  Cranberry Sauce with Candied Ginger (Whole Foods Market)

Ingredients

1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup triple sec or other orange liqueur
1 2/4 cups brown sugar
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 cup crystallized (candied) ginger, finely chopped, divided
1 tablespoon orange zest 

Method 

Put juice, triple sec and sugar into a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar has dissolved.  Add cranberries and bring to a boil.   Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minute. 

Add ground ginger and about a third of the crystallized ginger and simmer, stirring often, until cranberries have popped and sauce is thickened to a desired consistency, about 10 minutes.  

Remove from heat, stir in zest and all but a few pieces of the remaining crystallized ginger.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.  Garnish with crystallized ginger and serve.  

Note:  replace triple sec with more orange juice if desired.  

2.  Homemade Cranberry Sauce (with a little spice)

Ingredients  

1 cup water
1 cup sugar 
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
5 cloves
pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh ginger 

Method 

Put water, sugar, cloves and ginger into a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar has dissolved.  Lower heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes giving the ginger and cloves time to flavor the mixture.   

Skim ginger pieces and cloves from the pan and add cranberries.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop.     

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Note: Double cinnamon, clove and ginger amount if stronger flavor is desired.  

2.  Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies (modified Ocean Spray recipe)

Ingredients 

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chunks 

Method

Preheat oven to 375ο 

Mix butter and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until creamy.  Add eggs and mix well.  In a separate bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt.  Slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture until blended well.  Add dried cranberries and chocolate chunks.  

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool 5-10 minutes before serving.  

Makes approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies.  

3.  Simple Cranberry Nut Mix

Ingredients

1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup almonds
1 cup pistachios
1/2 cup round dark chocolate pieces (optional) 

Method

Combine cranberries, nuts and chocolate pieces and package in a glass jar with a bow.  This makes a perfect hostess gift or simply keep around as a healthy treat to nibble on throughout the holidays.  

Note:  Recipe works great with raw or roasted nuts.  

References: