Spiralize This!

Just in time for the summer harvest of so many fantastic vegetables, I became the very excited owner of a spiralizer.  This was thanks to my sister Julie, who knows me so well. I’ve been a huge fan of zoodles (spiralized zucchini) and all other spiralized veggies (carrots, butternut squash, potatoes, beets), typically buying them at Wegman’s.  Now – when I buy them already in their spiralized state they are expensive. As in $7 for a little tiny package of zoodles. The other problem with buying your veggies already spiralized is they have a shelf life of zero. They get scary-mushy well before their sell-buy date.  

My sister Julie is an avid gardener.  She harvests loads of fresh vegetables all summer long, so it was only natural that she would become a spiralizer-owner early on.  She strongly recommends investing in a quality spiralizer. She gave me the OXO Good Grips Table Top Spiralizer. I was in love at my first spiral!  Like so many OXO products, it did not disappoint. It’s solid. It has great suction and really fastens itself to my counter-top. It’s super-fast. Julie works from home as a Pilates instructor and she spiralizes vegetables in-between clients.  

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Knowing I had my spiralizer, I bought some extra zucchini at Ward’s Berry Farm and put my new gadget to the test.  It was so easy to use, right out of the box. I was able to whip up a fun side dish by sautéing the spiralized zucchini in a teaspoon of olive oil, adding some grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives and a little parmesan cheese.  Delicious!

The OXO Spiralizer goes for about $40 at Bed Bath & Beyond.  I figure it’s worth it considering all I was spending buying pre-packaged spiralized veggies.  I can’t wait to try it out with all the amazing vegetables that we’ll be receiving in our CSA box this summer.  Spiralizers are so popular, there are whole blogs dedicated to spiralizing. Check out the Inspiralized blog for inspiration.

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I highly recommend investing in a quality spiralizer.  It will encourage you to eat more vegetables (always a good thing).  I’m so glad I have one and I’m looking forward for a summer of new recipes!

Lessons Learned From Whole 30

Meet Rachel – my co-worker who began a journey with the ever-popular Whole 30 Diet.  If you are not familiar with Whole 30, it’s an elimination diet that promises life-changing results in as little as 30 days time.  The Whole 30 Diet calls for no dairy, no grains, no added sugar, no alcohol, and no legumes.  None.  At all.  For 30 days.  The idea is to then re-introduce potential problem-causing foods so that what you can eat is affecting you.  For more on Whole 30, check out their website at whole30.com.

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First a little about Rachel.  She’s an amazing single mother of three children who inspires me all the time with her talent, wit and positive attitude toward life.  Rachel and I both share a passion for food – especially farm-fresh food, farm-to-table cooking and restaurants and goal achievement through fitness and nutrition.  

Rachel and her boyfriend recently decided to try Whole 30 – beginning March 1st – and so I had the opportunity to interview her after 30 days on the program and 30 days following.  

Melissa:  What inspired you to try Whole 30?

Rachel:  My boyfriend was having frequent, almost debilitating heart burn and chest pain after eating certain foods. We weren’t sure of the cause, or if it was even food related. Maybe stress? We decided to try the Whole30 diet as a way to test if certain foods were the culprit.

Melissa:  What were the biggest changes you made going into Whole 30?

Rachel:  Knowing Whole30 was going to be a drastic shift in both how and what we ate, we started to eliminate, or at least cut down, on the toughest ones. I started drinking my coffee black, (no more cream and sugar!) and he cut back on sugar and bread products. When we implemented the Whole30 plan, we followed it as close to the letter as we could…with no cheats; even making all our own condiments and dressings. I’d love to say that starting early made the full month of Whole30 easier, but it was still an enormous adjustment.  The other huge adjustment was getting used to—and making time for—eating three meals a day. Both of us were used to eating maybe twice a day and skipping meals if our schedules were too busy.

Melissa:  What did you miss the most during the first 30 days?

Rachel:  Personally, I really missed sugar and chocolate. Like, REALLY missed them. In everything I read about the Whole30, people would say that those sugar cravings go away about the second week and then you never really think about sugar. That was a total lie. I thought about sugar every minute! My boyfriend missed bread the most; crunchy toast, bagels, and rolls. The other thing I missed was the convenience of the way I used to eat. On Whole30, there is no such thing as “convenient” food. You have to think about, shop for, prepare your meals and snacks, and bring them with you—at least if you want to follow the plan as it’s laid out.  Which was particularly challenging when I traveled for work. In my laptop carryon was an enormous bag of Whole30 approved protein bars, carrot sticks, pea pods, and cut fruit. It looked like I was traveling with a toddler again. 

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Melissa:  What were the biggest lessons you learned from Whole 30?

Rachel: 

  • That the foods that made us the sickest, were the ones we craved and missed the most. We discovered that gluten and oats really make my boyfriend sick, and that most of my previous diet consisted of sugar.
  • In the beginning, you can’t trust your body to tell you what it needs. You have to eat when you don’t feel hungry, or stop eating before you feel full, until your body adjusts to running on clean, healthy food. Both of us were not very hungry at the beginning of the program, but it’s imperative to not skip meals because your body needs the fuel, even if your stomach “feels” full.
  • There is sugar in everything. Absolutely everything. And it’s very often added into products, not because it’s needed, but because it makes people want to eat more. I am diligent about reading labels now and buying products that don’t contain added sugar. Except BBQ sauce. BBQ sauce definitely needs some sugar. 
  • That our food choices were really responsible for how poorly we had been feeling, when we were previously quick to chock it up to stress, lack of sleep, or a busy schedule. When we started eating three meals a day, primarily healthy meats, veggies, and fruits, we both felt better, had more energy as a whole, and our stomachs rarely hurt. 

Melissa:  Did you lose weight during Whole 30?

Rachel:  Yes. I think weight loss is an inevitable part of following the Whole30 plan, and was an ancillary benefit to why we began this journey. We each lost eight pounds, my boyfriend is now at his high school graduation weight! What I found interesting is that I still lost weight while eating the most food I’ve ever consumed in a month. When you eat food that your body can actually use, instead of the many empty carbs people typically put into it, you can eat a lot and still lose weight. 

Melissa:  What were the lasting changes you made since completing the Whole30?

Rachel:  I still drink my coffee black, preferring to use my sugar intake for a dessert once or twice a week. We also both eat three meals a day because that’s when we feel the best and it gives us the energy we need for the full day (not just until 3 pm, when we used to crash). My boyfriend has realized he needs to live a gluten-free life, which has been more of a mental challenge than anything. He admitted to me that didn’t believe that food (let alone gluten) would ever make him that sick, but after eating a few meals with gluten since our Whole30 ended, and enduring the ensuing sickness it provoked, he’s sold. (Plus we discovered his favorite pizza place has gluten free crust! SCORE!) We are almost two months post Whole30 and we’ve both kept the weight off, simply by continuing to eat healthy meals. It’s really changed our lives. 

Melissa:  What advice would you give someone contemplating this diet?

Rachel: 

  • Don’t do it for the sole purpose of losing weight. This is definitely not a weight loss plan. It’s all about understanding your body, what foods make it feel great, and what foods don’t. Then adjusting your diet to achieve optimal health for yourself. It’s different for everyone.
  • Make sure you have enough time to do the meal prep and research. If you want to be successful, do not underestimate the time required to plan, shop, cook, prep your meals and snacks. It’s a lot, but it’s completely worth it for the answers.
  • Go big, or go home. If you are going to go through Whole30, then do it all the way, just as they prescribe in the book. Don’t cheat. Don’t miss a day. Then you really will know a lot about yourself and how your body (and mind!) react to food choices and where your pitfalls are. Then you can make lasting changes. 

Melissa: Are you glad you did Whole 30?

Rachel:  Absolutely. The information you learn about yourself, your cravings, and what foods your body needs to work best is invaluable.  

*Note: It is recommended that you consult your physician before starting any diet, especially an elimination diet like Whole 30.  

Other Great Blogs

Speaking of my co-workers, let me introduce you to Tina Haupert, who writes the famous Carrots N Cake blog.  Tina and I worked together a few years ago, and I still love checking in with her daily.  One of my favorite posts lately?  Shorts That Don’t Suck!  Yes, Tina always knows the perfect topic for minds, bodies, and strong thighs like mine!  Here comes summer (finally) and if you are in the market for new shorts, be sure to read Tina’s recommendations.

 

Perfectly Hard-Boiled Eggs

 Cluck and Trowel eggs, Pawtucket Winter Farmers Market

Cluck and Trowel eggs, Pawtucket Winter Farmers Market

With Easter upon us, today seemed like the perfect day to share our family recipe for perfectly hard-boiled eggs.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to peel an egg when the shell is all stubbornly stuck. Or how about when the yolks turn green.  Ewww! That is all a distant memory to me because my husband has mastered the trick to perfectly hard-boiled eggs. I haven’t had a stuck-on shell or green yolk in years.   

Step 1: Fill any large pot with water only and bring it to a boil.  Be sure to use enough water to cover your eggs.

Step 2: While the water in the pan is heating, place eggs in a bowl.  Fill the bowl with hot tap water. Let the eggs sit in this hot tap water until your pan is ready with boiling water.  Empty the bowl of water.

Step 3: Using a slotted spoon, carefully place the eggs, one-by-one, into the pot of boiling water.

Step 4: Set the timer for 10 minutes.

Step 5:  After 10 minutes, remove the pan from heat and let the eggs sit in the pan for 1-2 minutes.

Step 6:  Using the slotted spoon, remove eggs, one-by-one from the pan and place them back in your now-empty bowl.

Step 7:  Place the bowl in the sink.  Run cold water over the eggs for 1 minute.  Let the eggs sit in the water for 5 minutes to cool down.  (Note: This step is critical for shells that will peel easily).

Step 8:  Remove eggs from water.  Store in refrigerator.

This method is fail proof.  This has been a science experiment of sorts for my husband, who was very determined to figuring out the best way to ensure the very best egg results.  He insists that the combination of soaking the eggs first in hot tap water before boiling them – and then soaking them again in cold tap water after boiling the eggs – causes the membrane to adhere to the shell and not to the egg white.  I just know that it I get the satisfaction of perfect eggs every time.

Whether it’s for Easter – or for every day – you have to try this!

Living the Low-FODMAP Life

About a year ago, I began following the Low-FODMAP Diet.  While most people have heard of other named diets – Paleo, Mediterranean, Ketogenic, Whole30 – I find that there are few people who are familiar with the Low-FODMAP diet.  That’s always surprising to me because it was developed in 1999 at Monash University in Australia and it is a diet that is recommended for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS.  In fact it has been shown to help at least three out of four people with IBS (and IBS is a condition that affects 15% of the population).  By the way – may I just mention - that as a sufferer of IBS, I would really love it if we could just re-name this disease.  For example, we could name it after one of the celebrities who has it, such as Tyra Banks, Jenny McCarthy, John F. Kennedy or Cybil Shephard.  Yes, we could call it the Tyra Banks disease.  Isn’t that much prettier than “Irritable Bowel Syndrome?”  

FODMAPS are a group of naturally occurring sugars that are not absorbed in the small intestine.  They travel down to the large intestine and ferment there, resulting in gas, bloating, pain and a lot of other unpleasant side effects. So what does the acronym FODMAP stand for exactly?

F - Fermentable

O – Oligosaccharides

D – Disaccharides

M – Monosaccharides

A and P – And Polyols

You can see why an acronym was a necessity here.  The key to the diet is to avoid foods which are high in FODMAPS.  In fact, it is recommended that you eliminate them from your diet altogether for about six weeks and then work with a dietitian to re-introduce them.  

So, what are some of these High FODMAP foods to avoid?   Here are just a few: 

  • Foods high in lactose (cow’s milk, many cheeses, ice cream)
  • Foods with excess fructose (asparagus, apples, pears, watermelon, high fructose corn syrup, honey, run, agave nectar)
  • Foods with high fructans (garlic, onion, leeks, scallions, onion powder, garlic powder, kidney beans, ripe bananas, wheat, soy milk, black beans, chamomile tea)
  • Foods with high polyols (cauliflower, mushrooms, blackberries, sorbitol, xylitol, prunes)

Are you asking yourself what you can eat yet?  The list is actually long and plentiful.  There are many wonderful fruits, veggies, gluten-free grains, nuts, proteins, herbs, legumes, coffee, tea, dark chocolate and wine (thank goodness!)  You can find many lists on low-FODMAP websites.  I highly recommend the Kate Scarlatta blog.  She is a Boston-based Registered Dietitian and New York Times best-selling author.  I love her low-FODMAP Grocery Shopping List and her recipes too.  

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When I tell people that I am on the Low-FODMAP diet, these are the questions they ask me.

Q: Who recommended the Low-FODMAP diet to you?

A: First, my primary care physician.  Then, my GI specialist, who diagnosed me with IBS, I mean, the Tyra Banks disease.  I was familiar with it because I have a close friend who has Crohn’s disease and we had explored components of the diet together.  I have been on the diet for approximately one year.

Q. Has the Low-FODMAP diet helped your IBS symptoms?

A: YES! It has helped tremendously.  I used to have eight bad stomach days out of every ten days.  Now that number is about one out of ten.  

Q. Is it hard to follow?

A. Yes and No.  I was already gluten-free and almost completely dairy-free when I started the diet.  My diet was also primarily comprised of unprocessed foods.  All of that helped.  It also helped that I had a background in nutrition.  Like many diets, it is easy to follow when you are eating on your own and eating in your own home.  It gets much harder when you are traveling, eating in restaurants, or at a dinner party. 

Q. Where do you go for recipes?

A. I have a couple of cookbooks written by the diet’s founder, Sue Shepherd, Ph D.  And I have found some great recipes just from searching through Instagram, Pinterest and other Internet resources.  There are a lot of FODMAP foodies out there!  I’ve also developed some of my own recipes.  I now make some of our family favorites without garlic and onion, for example.  My husband and kids have been amazingly accommodating.  That’s not to say they don’t love a good meal full of gluten, dairy, garlic, onions and all the rest when I’m not around!

Q. How do you handle eating out?

A. I’ve found that garlic and onion are big triggers for my stomach and gluten is also, so I tell my server that I’m allergic to garlic, onion, scallion, and gluten.  And then we take it from there.  Sometimes I’m always having the salad with grilled salmon.  But I’ve also had chefs make me some exceptionally creative dishes too.   I find that these days servers are incredibly well-educated about allergies and intolerances.  Also, we have found the restaurants that handle it best – and that’s where we tend to go.  

Q. Is it hard to follow when you are traveling?

A. Yes! The problem is that the staples you need are more likely to be found in a grocery store, not in an airport or other convenience location.  For example, when I want yogurt, I want non-fat, plain Greek yogurt.  But it’s hard to find that in a single-serve size in an airport or in your hotel’s little snack market.  You are more likely to find yogurt that already has fruit in it – and, unless it’s labeled, you don’t know what kind of sweeteners might be in there.  So, I pack a lot of almonds!  

Q. What do you do when you are going to someone else’s house to eat?

A. I try to bring one dish that is low-FODMAP.  During the busy holiday season, when we had a lot of Christmas parties on weekend nights, I knew that I would be heading into houses where I would be out of luck at the buffet tables.  So, I would make an omelet (like the one pictured) and eat ahead.  At least I knew that I wouldn’t be hungry.  

Q. Have you lost weight?

A. No – I remained about the same.  It’s not necessarily a weight-loss plan.  You will eat very cleanly though.   

Q. What has been the most surprising thing you have learned?

A. There is high fructose corn syrup in everything.  Everything!  It’s even in Nyquil!  It is in so many processed foods in the United States.  Oh – there is also garlic and onion in everything.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about the low-FODMAP diet?

A. Yes! If your stomach hurts- if you experience bloating and discomfort, gassiness, or anything else that makes you miserable, don’t try to fix it on your own.  See your doctor and ask to see a GI specialist.  There are things you can do to feel better and it is so worth it!

For More Information on IBS or the Low-FODMAP diet:

Shape Magazine:  Ask the Doctor – The Low-FODMAP Diet

Brigham and Women’s Crohn’s and Colitis Center

She Can’t Eat What?!

Self Magazine: This Model’s Instagram Photos Get Super Real About Life With IBS

A New Year’s DeTox

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Happy New Year! No matter how healthfully you may have lived over the last six weeks, it is nearly impossible to emerge on January 1st without feeling a little bit puffy.  Let’s face it.  The calendar has evolved around cookie swaps, endless parties and feasts.  And so with every New Year, there is always a renewed emphasis on health and well-being.  

For some, before they can begin eating nutritiously again, they feel the need to detox or cleanse.  The topic of cleansing has been debated by medical professionals.  Most agree that detox diets or cleanses that require fasting can cause fatigue and vitamin/mineral deficiencies.  Instead, you might try one of these ideas to kick off your New Year feeling lighter and more energized:

  • Try Cooking Light’s Three Day Detox.  Rather than cutting out all food and calories, the incredible authors at Cooking Light have put together a plan for you that will get you back on track and make you feel renewed.  There are recipes and shopping lists included.  I’ve never met a Cooking Light recipe that wasn’t amazing.  I have so many that have become family favorites.  The Pan-Seared Shrimp with Rosemary Spaghetti Squash looks incredible!
  • Make a vegetable-based soup.  This is what I do when I’m feeling sluggish – especially in winter.  Lunches can become soup plus a hard-boiled egg or two for protein.  In year’s past, I’ve made Karina’s Detox Green Soup with Ginger from the Gluten Free Goddess blog.  This New Year’s Day, I made Carrot and Ginger Soup (see recipe below).  It’s delicious and it will be a warm and nutritious lunch for the cold days ahead.
  • Embark upon a cleanse – with supervision.  Juice On Main offers a Juice Cleanse in 1, 3 or 5 day programs.  I have spoken to several customers who have been very pleased with the results.  Email Lori for more information: lori@juiceonmain.com.  Or learn more at http://www.juiceonmain.com/juice-cleanses/
  • Consider making it a Dry January.  I’ve had several friends and colleagues take this January plunge over the past few years.  This year, I jumped in with some friends and made the commitment as well.  I’m curious to see if I can improve my health even more by cutting out sugary wine.  Detox tea anyone?  If you haven’t heard of Dry January, check it out on Facebook.  There is even a Dry January app.  

Here’s to a more energized and focused version of you in 2018!

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Carrot and Ginger Soup Recipe (from The Low-FODMAP Diet Cookbook, Sue Shephherd, PhD, 2014)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small celery root (about 14 ounces) – Note:  I just used celery.  It was fine

4 pounds carrots, cut into ¾ inch chunks

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

6 ½ cups gluten-free chicken stock (onion free, if following Low FODMAP diet)

1 heaping tablespoon ground ginger

1 cup low-fat milk (or lactose free milk or other plant based milk)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add the celery root, and cook until golden.  Add the carrots, potatoes, and stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Let cool for about 10 minutes, then puree with an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender) until smooth.
  2. Stir in the ginger and milk until well combined.   You can adjust the quantity of milk depending on how thick you like your soup.  (I added more milk and more ginger).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reheat gently without boiling and serve.

Serves 6.

Per serving: 225 calories; 7 g protein. 4 g total fat; 1 g saturated fat; 44 g carbohydrates; 12 g fiber; 713 mg sodium

 

Twelfth Day of Stress-less Christmas: Remember the Reason

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Merry Christmas Eve everyone!  I hope that this blog-post series gave you some ideas on how to find more serenity in mind, body and spirit this holiday season.  

While I no doubt had some tense moments (or two – okay, more than that), I have to say that this was probably the least stressed I have been during the holidays in a very long time.  What changed?  A couple of things.  My very dear Great Aunt Ruth (my godmother) passed away this fall.  She was a true inspiration – a lover of nature, an absolute Yankee, a real do-it-your-selfer, an intellectual, and more Martha Stewart than Martha herself.  But I remember her wise advice (and there was so much that she gave me).  This one resonates with me – especially this Christmas season.  Don’t try to be too perfect.  Don’t try to be too perfect.  Isn’t that the advice we need at Christmas?  I don’t want my kids to remember Crazy Cookie Making Mom at Christmas.  I want them to remember a time of love, faith and family.  

Jodi is my friend from high school.  She and I were cheerleading co-captains back in the day.  One of the beauties of Facebook is that you get to stay in touch with people who you otherwise would probably not be able to see all the time.  Jodi game me permission to use this great photo of her Christmas list – and I love it.  Of course, these last couple of days I’m food-shopping and cooking and last-minute wrapping.  But, I’m remembering that it doesn’t need to be perfect.  I’ll remember to be present tonight and tomorrow.  And well, you can read the rest. 

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Merry Christmas Everyone!

  

Eleventh Day of Stress-less Christmas: Take it outside

Studies have shown that time spent outdoors is great for your mental health.  Unfortunately for we New Englanders, getting outdoors gets much more difficult during the cold, harsh winter.  How do you make this little stress-buster work during this busy season – and during the bad weather?

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Invest in the gear.  You will be miserable if you are not dressed for the cold.  I am a cold person.  I don’t even like to go in our garage in the winter.  So, I have a very warm winter coat, the furry boots, neck warmers and gloves stashed everywhere.  I can face the cold once I’m bundled up.

Give gifts of warmth.  Looking for a last minute gift?  My husband and kids ski – so I stuff their stockings with ski socks and hand warmers.  Coats and boots make awesome gifts.  You know you’ll get outside if you have a friend who will go with you.

Ski – and if you don’t ski – find another winter sport (cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, skating, winter hiking).  We have so many great places around.

  • Weston Ski Track – This is where I learned to cross country ski, many moons ago.  Now, once the snow is here, we take our X-country skis on the Mansfield bike path.  Weston ski track is worth the drive too – it’s on the Newton line.  You feel like you are in New Hampshire, but can easily spend a weekend afternoon there.
  • Borderland – Whether there is snow or not, how lucky are we to have beautiful Borderland so close by.  There is a sport for everyone there – snow shoeing, trail running, hiking, disc golf.
  • Foxboro State Forest – This is another gorgeous outdoor spot for a day hike.  Just minutes away but you will feel like you are in Vermont.
  • Your neighborhood or your corporate office park – Of course, the easiest of all.  Just step outside!  Even little bursts of outdoor air will do you good.

We have to embrace winter – even if it’s just a little bit.  

  

Tenth Day of Stress-less Christmas: Listen to some holiday tunes

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Music is so powerful.  As group fitness instructors, we use it all the time.  Fast-paced, high-energy music in Tabata class.  Instrumental, slow, flowy music for yoga and Pilates.    In these last few days and hours before the Big Show, I use Christmas Music a lot to get me through.  At this point, some people have had enough of Christmas music.  But I like to make sure that I listen to all my favorites at least one last time.  After all, next week, it’ll be time to put away the holiday tunes until next year, right?

There are so many holiday stations on Amazon Music, Pandora and Spotify – you are bound to find one that suits your taste just perfectly.  However, here are just a few of my favorite things when it comes to soothing tunes  - especially for holiday traffic over the next couple of days:

Pentatonix Mary Did You Know

Idina Menzel River

Sting If On This Winter’s Night 

Sarah McLachlan Wintersong

Happy Listening Everyone!

 

  

Ninth Day of Stress-less Christmas: Don’t feel pressure to give your kids everything they want

It’s desperation time – just 4 days to go before Christmas.  I see signs of it everywhere.  People are driving crazier than ever.  The jewelry store is open late.  Commercials on TV have turned to big-ticket, high-impact gifts like cell phones.  This is when we parents start to doubt if we are truly going to make that magical moment for our kids on Christmas Day.  Maybe we need to go out and get more, more, more!  Maybe there is one more amazing gift that will make it the perfect Christmas!

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Today’s tip in how to have a Stress Less Christmas is to take a deep breath and pause.  Don’t feel pressure to give your kids everything they want. That is not the point of the holiday and it does not need to be your mission this holiday.  

Another thing that drives us Magic Makers into a frenzy these last few days before the Big Show is the fear that my kids/husband/significant other won’t have enough gifts to open on Christmas morning.  This becomes more of an issue as kids get older and the big ticket gifts become more expensive.  So we spend the last few days scurrying about, buying filler gifts so that under-the-tree looks full of presents.

Here are some ideas instead:

Give experiences, not gifts:  How about wrapping up something that you might do with your family during school vacation week, like a visit to a museum, or movie tickets?

Give one, two or three things from your child’s wish list.  Make the rest things you would buy anyway (sports equipment, clothes, winter gear).

Keep notes on everything you give your kids and then look back next year to see what they really used.  For example, we gave our daughter a mermaid blanket last year (one that makes you look like a mermaid).  She never uses it.  Ever.  Instead, she loves the inexpensive, soft blankets you find at Kohl’s.  

For more ideas on how not to succumb to the pressure & hype, here are some articles on not giving in!

Good luck everyone!

NPR article

Today Show article

 

Eighth Day of Stress-less Christmas: Add Humor

Laughter is one of the best ways to relieve tension.  When you laugh, endorphins are released, triggering the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.  So, if the next few days get a little stressful, here are a few ways that you can add some humor to the situation.

At the Office:

Host a Yankee Swap: My office does this every year and it’s a blast.  Everyone brings a $15 wrapped gift – and the rule is that we all buy locally.  At the swap, we all pick a number, let’s say 1-35.  #1 picks the first gift.  Then #2 picks their gift.  If they like #1’s gift better, they can take it from #1.  #3 can take a gift from #2 or #1.  Get it?  This goes on for all 35 people.  At the end, #1 can take any gift they want.  

Start an Office “Elf on the Shelf”:  We have a little blue Office Elf who goes around and makes mischief in people’s cubes and offices.  

 

At Your Home:

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Elf on the Shelf:  I’ll admit, I steered clear of the Elf craze for as long as possible.  Who needs one more To Do during the holidays, right?  But, Herby was a lot of fun for six years.  Yes – we did wake up in the middle of the night completely panic-stricken because the elf hadn’t moved.  But some of the elf stuff can be pretty hilarious.  The key is to remember that there are no elves coming to your house to clean up whatever mess your elf made.

Host a Festivus Celebration:  This year December 23rd is a Saturday – and I’m wondering if there will be Festivus Parties.  You know – the holiday created by Seinfeld’s Mr. Costanza, where you air your grievances – complete with the Festivus pole, red foods and feats of strength.  If you have a lot of sarcastic friends with a great sense of humor, this could be one to try.  Here are some step by step instructions.

 

For Yourself:

SNL on Youtube:  If you just have a few minutes but need a laugh, you can’t go wrong with a quick visit to SNL on Youtube.  Pete Schweddy.  Enough said.

Funny Christmas Movies:  Take a night off for Four Christmases, Christmas Vacation or Love Actually.

Good luck out there and Happy Festivus everyone!