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Month: December 2016

New Year’s Resolution

New Year’s Resolution

New Year’s Resolutions

resolutionOne in 3 people make a new year’s resolution. They’re fun to make but difficult to maintain! Very few people actually follow through with their promised resolution.

A resolution is a tradition most common in the Western hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of something for self-improvement or an act of kindness at the beginning of the new year.

Just before the end of the year, it’s not unusual for us to reflect on our accomplishments of the past year. Most of us want to improve on the past so it is only natural to have plans for the year ahead. The New Year is an ideal time to set goals and desires. It’s good to have goals so we have something to shoot for. But often resolutions are more general and far-reaching and therefore difficult to fulfill and easy to break.

The most common resolutions are:

The most common reasons for people failing their New Year’s resolutions are that they set unrealistic goals, they didn’t keep track of their progress or they simply forgot about it. If you’re serious about making self-improvements, then consider taking a more general resolution and making it more simple and defined. For example, 5 years ago, I wanted to do something about volunteering. As a full-time worker, with a family and house to keep, I chose to do an activity that didn’t involve too much time, but made me feel good about donating my time. Instead of just saying I want to volunteer, I needed to be more specific about what that meant. I looked into a few options and found some that could work. Ultimately, I defined my goal as simply to start giving blood. This is something you can do about every 2 months so it only involved about 2 hours each time and up to a maximum of about 5 times per year. Even if I did it only once, I still completed the goal. For me this was a more realistic expectation of my volunteer time and something I feel is helping society as a whole. After doing it once, I felt encouraged and went back as often as I could. I feel good about doing it and it doesn’t take too much of my time.

Another example of a simple attainable goal is travel. I did this in two ways. The first was to make a list of all the places globally my husband and I would like to visit. We try to cross off one place each year. As this is more expensive, we plan carefully and look for ways to save money. Also we never revisit somewhere we’ve already been. Secondly, we occasionally make day trips locally. It’s like being a tourist in your own town and is cheaper option than travelling across the globe! Any change of scene makes you feel like you’ve done something interesting. There’s always a festival or special event somewhere and it’s good to explore nearby and support local!

Other examples of turning general goals into specific attainable goals are:

  • Get healthy –> Eat one salad per day
  • Cut back on alcohol –> Drink only one glass of wine per week
  • Become more organized –> Keep a journal
  • Get more sleep –> Go to bed at 10pm every night
  • Do something kind –> Pay for a stranger’s coffee

These are only some examples. There are infinitely many more…

What is your New Year’s resolution?

How to Lose Weight

How to Lose Weight

How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

weight-scaleSome people eat to live and others live to eat. If you’re one of those people that love food, you may find it hard to know when to stop. Many Americans and Canadians overeat and obesity is becoming an epidemic. Somehow it seems ironic that over indulgence can slowly kill you. Especially as we enter our forties, our bodies need less food to function. In my 20’s I could pretty much eat anything, but as I entered my 40’s I started to notice that putting weight on became all too easy! I have to consciously be aware of how much I am eating. It’s easy to be tempted and some family members may make you feel guilty for declining their offerings. Don’t let that stop your goal of staying healthy. This is especially true during the holidays!

After the holidays, many people decide it’s time to get healthy and lose some weight. But how do we do this? And where do we start? To be healthy, it’s better to change your daily lifestyle by slowly changing your eating habits so it is something you practice every day. It’s ok to treat yourself occasionally, but don’t fall off the bandwagon because of one mishap.

To lose weight the goal is to spend more energy than you take in. You can do this by eating less and/or by exercising. But to burn enough calories to account for extra food consumption means exercising for an extensive amount of time. For example, if I run for 30 minutes, I burn about 250-300 calories. The equivalent in food is one extra piece of toast with peanut butter. That’s a lot of work for only one piece of toast! The problem is most people reward the extra exercise with more food, so in the end, they end up gaining weight! The work you put into losing weight through exercise is very high. The secret I have learned to realize healthy body weight is:

Eat less to lose weight and exercise to get toned.

Before attempting to lose weight, always consult your doctor. Get a complete check-up to ensure there are no underlying conditions that may be causing an issue with your weight. If all is normal and the doctor agrees, begin your quest to get to a healthy weight.

Start by tracking and documenting everything you consume in a notebook or diary. Include absolutely everything you eat and drink. You may be surprised to see it all in writing. It makes you notice all the extra little snacks you add into your diet between meals. Start cutting out add-ins and removing excess sugar from sugary drinks like pop and fruit juice and sweet snacks like cookies. Concentrate on whole, unprocessed foods. At mealtime, make sure at least half of your plate or bowl is filled with veggies and fruit. Make sure it looks appetizing by including lots of bright colours. Be aware of caloric density and go easy on the oil. There are lots of salad dressings you can make or buy with no oil. Choose whole grain bread over white bread for more fibre. Minimize refined, highly-processed carbohydrates like white sugar and corn syrup. Beans, legumes, starchy vegetables and fruits are healthy sources of carbohydrates our bodies need.

A good rule of thumb is to have fruit and grains for breakfast, a fresh colourful salad for lunch and cooked veggies and grains for dinner.

  • Breakfast:
  • Lunch:
    • Fresh leafy green salad with colourful toppings with
    • Oil-free salad dressing, fresh squeezed lemon, or flavoured vinegar
  • Dinner:
    • Cooked veggies such as roasted veggies or stir-fry with rice or
    • Veggie burger with fresh veggie toppings & baked fries or
    • Veggie soup with whole-grain pita or naan

Healthy snacks between meals can include fresh fruit & veggies. Keep them washed and pre-cut in containers in the fridge to make it easy for you to access. Don’t purchase unhealthy processed foods. If they aren’t in the house, you won’t eat them! Think about what you want to eat, keep a list of recipes and a grocery list. Planning ahead makes all the difference. You’re less likely to purchase on impulse. Also don’t shop when you’re hungry!

Once you develop good eating and buying habits, you’ll want to keep some of your favourite recipes on hand. A good goal is to aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week – which is no more than 8 pounds per month. You’re more likely to keep the weight off if you lose it gradually like this. Even though we know that weight loss is a result of eating less, don’t stop moving! How about before you eat your lunch, you go for a walk? Drink plenty of water then eat your lunch. You’ll probably find you don’t eat as much. (Don’t like plain water? Try lemon water.)

Once you’ve lost the weight, you need to maintain it. It’s ok to let yourself indulge once in a while, but just because you do it once, doesn’t mean it’s ok to go overboard. Keep on track with eating healthy. You deserve nothing less! It’s not selfish to look after your health. Do it for yourself but also do it for your family. Start small. Make only one or two changes at a time. Make changes that will stick. Instead of eating out with friends, find another activity to do together like taking a walk or going shopping or even dancing! Hang out with people who have good habits. Don’t think of it as a diet but rather a log-term lifestyle change.

Habits to break:

  • Avoid pop and sugary drinks
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners
  • Don’t eat out (limited amount only)
  • Don’t buy foods of temptation
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Minimize alcohol consumption
  • Don’t starve yourself
  • Don’t go back for seconds
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV
  • Don’t reward your hard work with food treats
  • Don’t go for gimmicks and unrealistic promises
  • Don’t stop moving

Habits to learn:

  • Track everything you eat
  • Use smaller plates
  • Make your own meals
  • Eat whole, unprocessed foods
  • Eat foods low in caloric density
  • Eat fresh fruits and veggies
  • Learn to sauté with water instead of oil
  • Cut back on added sugar
  • Watch the added salt
  • Eat more slowly
  • Exercise before you eat
  • Drink more water
  • Try intermittent fasting
  • Stop eating after dinner
  • Get enough sleep
  • Have realistic goals
  • Reward yourself with something non-food related

How did you lose weight and keep it off?

See some of my healthy recipes.

Fresh Green Smoothie

Fresh Green Smoothie

Fresh Green Smoothie

green-smoothie

  • 1 ripe banana, chopped (or use frozen)
  • ¾ cup fresh pineapple (or frozen)
  • 1 kiwi, skin on
  • one half of a pear, chopped
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1-1/2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 2 oz dates, pre-soaked in water to soften
  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup cold water

Soak dates in warm water for a few minutes as you prepare other ingredients. Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender, then drain dates and add to blender. Mix well and serve immediately. I made this smoothie with all fresh ingredients and it was a good consistency. If you replace some of the fruit with frozen fruit, it will be slightly thicker. Simply add more or less cold water for the desired consistency. Enjoy!

Family Reunion

Family Reunion

How to Organize a Family Reunion

family-reunionIf you’re planning a family reunion for the first time, the task can seem daunting. It can be a simple backyard barbeque to a more involved destination vacation. Either way, planning and organizing ahead is the key to a stress-free reunion. With families being spread across the country and even the world, reunions are becoming more popular. When surveyed, most people cherished simply spending time together and even enjoy cooking together. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Define why you are planning the reunion and who should be included. Is it simply to gather family members together to rekindle relationships, or are you documenting family history and lineage or does it revolve around a special event, like an anniversary?
  2. Set a date and destination as early as possible. Start 6 months to a year in advance, especially if your reunion involves travel. This gives lots of lead time and allows all family members to plan around the date, booking time off work and booking any required travel. Families with school-age children general need to plan around the school schedule. Once the date is set, stick to it. There may be a family member who has to change their plans and cannot make it, but if you keep changing the date to accommodate one person here and there, before you know it, the entire reunion will be postponed. Consider location, weather, venue, attractions, activity options and overall cost. Keep in mind the ages, abilities, resources and life stages of family members. Be open minded for all types of activities even if it’s not your cup of tea.
  3. How long should it last? For an annual family reunion, a weekend will suffice. If the reunions are less regular allow a few extra days for those who can stay longer, but define at least 2 days when everyone is expected to overlap. For a destination vacation, about a week at a resort or on a cruise would be expected.
  4. Don’t do all the planning alone. If your event is quite large, get a small team together to sort through what needs to be done from booking vacation rentals, organizing group events, to planning meals. Delegate the work so you are not doing it all yourself. Choose one person from each family to be the contact person so wires don’t get crossed. Take an informal survey of what people are willing to spend and when they would like to go.
  5. Start small. If this is your first time planning a reunion, then only invite close family members. It gets much more complicated with more people involved.
  6. Allow for down time. You don’t have to spend every minute of every day together. There can be some main events that will occur at the reunion that include the entire family. Other activities can be open to whoever wishes to participate. Some family members may wish to simply observe. There should also be time to sit, talk and reminisce and be together. One of the best times to all come together is at meal times – especially dinner – this is when you can reflect and talk about your day.
  7. Other things to consider: Display a family tree. Bring photo albums. Take a group photo. Honour your elder family members and others who are marking a life event or special achievement. For very large families, get children involved by making nametags or dinner place cards. Leave the tech to the teens and have them make a music video or even a Facebook page or website.
  8. Some families include souvenirs of their reunion. Consider T-shirts or tote-bag or baseball cap, but my personal favourite is a simply a family photo to keep the event alive in everyone’s memory for a long time.
  9. Take note of things that do and don’t work for your next reunion. Things to avoid are drinking too much and spending too much time on cell phones. Make new memories and start or continue traditions. Bring lots of love and don’t sweat the small stuff!

family-reunion-nuts

Types of Reunions:

  1. Home-Hosted Event: This is better for smaller groups, older relatives & families. This option is good for saving money. Choose potluck style meals so one person isn’t stuck doing all the work or paying for all the meals.
  2. Out-door Style Reunion: This option is a good low-cost option for people who like camping. Family adventure works for those active families who like hiking, swimming, biking, golfing, fishing, skiing and exploring.
  3. Vacation Rental: Rent a beach house or cabin at a lake or near a ski hill. This option is great for activities but it is also self-catered so make sure meal preparation is shared. This is probably the most popular family reunion option. They are usually cheaper than hotels and give more room to spread out. They also allow for options to eat in or out. Vacation Rental websites: AirBnB.com, HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, tripadvisor.ca.
  4. All–Inclusive Package (Cruise or All-inclusive Resort): Resorts offer lots of activities and no one gets stuck doing all the work. Smaller groups can break off to do activities. Meals and photo sessions are easy. There is more cost involved in this option and everyone pays up front abut there is no need to worry about what to eat or what to do.
  5. Destination Vacation: can be cheaper than all-inclusive but may require a little more planning for meals and activities. Get a hotel with connecting rooms and choose a location you can navigate by foot to avoid carpooling issues.

I have taken part in home-hosted reunions, destination reunions and vacation rental reunions. Probably the most successful ones were home-hosted and vacation rentals because it feels the most cozy and casual. It makes it easier all round for feeling at home and more flexible for various needs of different age groups.

What’s the best part of having a family reunion?

Travel destination ideas.

Cross-country Skiing

Cross-country Skiing

Cross-Country Skiing Basics

cross-country skis

Cross-country skiing has evolved from being a utilitarian form of transportation to a modern day world wide recreational sport. It is believed to have started as a form of transportation in Scandinavia in the 13th century and in the 1800’s branched out into other forms of the sport: long races on flat ground, down hill races, and shooting a target while skiing at top speed! A new technique “skate skiing” was experimented with in the early 20th century and became widespread in the 1980’s after the skiing style was used to win the 1982 Cross-country Skiing Championships by Bill Koch. And lastly there is also dog skijoring where a skier is assisted/pulled by 1 or 2 dogs.

skijoring-2Today cross-country skiing includes ski touring and skiing on groomed trails. Groomed trails are typically found at resorts and parklands and require specialized equipment to maintain the tracks. Ski touring can be done anywhere but we typically think of this as in the backcountry.

skiing-2-typesCross-country skiing requires skis, poles, boots and bindings. I remember my first pair of ski boots looked like shoes with laces and an extended toe to fasten into the binding. It was easy to get snow in the top of the boot at my ankles because of the design and therefore wet and cold. I bought new skis and boots 2 years ago from Mountain Equipment Co-op and they are much more comfortable and easy to fasten into the skis. For someone like me who does a little recreational, casual skiing, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on top-of-the-line equipment. Basic waxless skis and comfortable well-fit boots are essential to avoid getting blisters. You can also opt for waxed skis but you do need to apply the correct wax prior to your outing.

skiing-groomed-trailSki boots are attached to the skis with bindings. They attach only at the toe leaving the heal free, allowing the foot to lift. Poles are used to help you propel and keep your balance. My first pair of ski poles were made of bamboo. Nowadays they are made from aluminum, plastic or carbon fibre. They are used either each alternating or double poling.

If you are a runner, cross-country skiing is an excellent sport to follow during the winter months when running may not be possible due to ice and extreme cold. I am not the fastest skier but it certainly gives a good workout over most of the body. The pole action keeps the arms engaged and you can really get your heart rate up. Remember to take the time to warm up and cool down before and after each ski outing. If you’re travelling down an incline, make sure to practice the “snow plough” technique to help slow you down and maintain control. Snow plough means placing your feet quite wide apart while also pointing the front tips of the skis together so they are forming a wide V shape.

Typically, the best way to dress is to wear layers. Much like running, dress slightly cooler than you would normally since you will likely be working up a sweat. Several thinner layers are better than one thick layer. If it’s cold and windy, wear a hat, good mitts and windbreaker type pants and jacket. If you plan to go out for a while, take a small knapsack to hold energy snacks and water.

All in all, cross-country skiing is an excellent total body exercise to incorporate into your winter fitness routine. Take the time to warm-up before your ski and also remember to cool down and stretch at the end. Dress appropriately and get outside in the fresh air. Avoid very cold, icy days for your own comfort and safety. If you go alone, remember to take a cell phone and tell someone where you’ll be. Have fun and be safe!

What’s your favourite spot to cross-country ski?

Read about running.

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this information, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this information are at your own risk.
Rocky Road Fudge

Rocky Road Fudge

Rocky Road Fudge (Vegan)

The combination of chocolate and peanuts is an all-time favourite. This is a fun recipe to include amongst your holiday baking and adds a little variety and perhaps something unexpected with the marshmallows. Traditional marshmallows are made with gelatin, an animal product. You can usually find vegan marshmallows at a health food store. I found one called Dandies which is mostly just sugar but is very similar to the original in texture.

  • 3 cups dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 3 cups vegan marshmallows (Dandies)

Line an 9 x 13 dish with parchment paper and set aside. In microwaveable bowl, place chocolate chips and coconut oil. Microwave bit by bit, stirring often so as not to over cook. It took me about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes total. Watch closely so they don’t burn. Alternately use a double boiler.

Next stir in peanut butter and combine well. Stir in marshmallows and peanuts with spatula. Pour into prepared, parchment lined 9 x 13 dish. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours or until firm. Once set, remove onto cutting board by lifting parchment. Cut into squares and keep stored in fridge in a sealed container for a week.

See also Cranberry Orange Cookies

What are your favourite holiday cookies?

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Cranberry Orange Cookies

cranberry-orange-cookiesThis recipe has a nice fruity, sweet & tart combo flavour. It stimulates your taste buds and makes a nice change from the usual chocolate treats at Christmas time. I first made this with butter and eggs but “veganized” it. I also replaced half of the butter with apple or pear sauce which makes the cookies slightly softer and more “pillowy”. If you prefer firmer cookies, bake slightly longer.

  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 6 Tbsp warm water
  • 3/4 cup Earth Balance (vegan butter)
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup apple or pear sauce
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar (or white sugar)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups frozen whole cranberries , lightly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Frosting:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 3 tsp orange juice
  • 2 tsp light corn syrup or brown rice syrup

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Prepare 2 “flax eggs” by mixing ground flax seed with warm water in small bowl and allow to sit 5 minutes to gel and thicken.

In a large bowl, cream together the Earth Balance and canola oil. Mix in apple or pear sauce. Add organic cane sugar and brown sugar and beat until smooth. Mix in 1 teaspoon orange zest, 2 tablespoons orange juice along with flax eggs and mix until fully combined. In medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the orange mixture and blend with mixer. Add in cranberries and if using, walnuts; fold with spatula until evenly distributed. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment covered cookie sheets. Cookies should be spaced at least 2 inches apart. Bake for about 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges are golden. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

For icing, in a small bowl, sift together icing sugar and cornstarch. Gradually add liquids a little at a time, stopping to scrape down sides as you go. One you have the right consistency, place in small Ziplok bag and carefully remove as much air as possible and seal tight. Snip off one corner and spread icing in zig-zag stripes over tops of cooled cookies. Let stand until set. These cookies taste great even without the icing, but the icing makes them a little more sweet and fancy. Enjoy!

What’s your favourite Christmas treat?

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, Arizona

grand-canyon-1

The Grand Canyon is a steep canyon in the state of Arizona. The Colorado River runs through it and it is certainly a site to behold. You don’t really get a sense of its magnitude and grandeur until you are actually there. It was on my bucket list and it was well worth the trip.

grand-canyon-2The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (466km) long, 18 miles (29km) wide and over 6000 feet (over 1800 metres) high. It is a result of erosion and is estimated to have originated over 17 million years ago. Its layered bands of red rock reveal millions of years of geological history.

grand-canyon-3You can tour the North Rim, the West Rim or the East Rim, but the most popular one is the South Rim. This is the one you would recognize from pictures. You can take mule rides, rafting tours along the Colorado River, plane tours or even helicopter tours. If you’re tight for time, you can even take helicopter tours directly from Las Vegas.

grand-canyon-area-mapYou can drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, Nebraska or from Phoenix, Arizona. Either way, it takes about 4-5 hours. We found cheaper flights to Las Vegas and it also meant we could stop and see the Hoover Dam as well, so we opted for Las Vegas.

Mule deer in the Grand Canyon
Mule deer in the Grand Canyon

Seeing the park on different days and different times of the day, means you can experience varying light conditions and explore different areas within the park. Learn about the native plants and animals, varying weather patterns, hiking trails, and history. Visit the information centre first to familiarize yourself with your options before heading out.

A popular destination for artists and painters
A popular destination for artists and painters

The weather in the Grand Canyon varies due to elevation and time of year. Hikers should always check the forecast before heading out. The North Rim is closed October to May. It is most popular to travel to the Grand Canyon in spring and summer. We chose to travel in September, which was less busy than summer, however, still busy enough to have line-ups for buses etc. The South Rim is open all year and is much less busy during the winter months when you can expect to see snow. You can also get some interesting cloud formations and low-lying fog. Varying light conditions and weather patterns make for some very interesting photos! Be aware that you must use extreme precaution and planning if you decide to hike down into the Grand Canyon itself. This is crucial year-round because the temperature rises approximately 5-1/2 degrees for every 1,000 feet you drop in elevation, which means the temperature inside the Inner Gorge can be up to 25 degrees warmer than on the upper rim. This is particularly important in the summer months when the temperature on the floor of the canyon can reach over 100 degrees F. When up on the rim, it is less protected from the wind and you may need a light jacket especially in the evening. Many tourists under-estimate how long to hike down and up and don’t plan accordingly for time or food and water.

There are many hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Do your reading and research before choosing the trails. The park also offers a bus service where you can hop on or off at anytime if you feel tired. Some of the best vantage points are up top and some of the best vistas at the South Rim are found at Powell, Hopi and Mohave Points. It is busy all year, so you must book well in advance. You can actually stay in a hotel or cabin (or even tent camping) within the park. Or you can stay just outside the park entrance in Tusayan. Either way, you’ll want to book several months in advance as it books up very quickly. Another option is to stay in Flagstaff but it is about a 1.5 hour drive from the park.

The Colorado River is one of the principal rivers in the south-western USA. It can be seen from various vantage points in the Grand Canyon. Its water levels are at their lowest levels in over 100 years of record taking and its future is uncertain. The extended drought has impacted regional water supply and other resources, such as hydropower, recreation, and ecologic services. This is particularly noticeable at the Hoover Dam and also Lake Mead.

hoover-dam-1The Hoover Dam located on the Arizona-Nevada border was completed in 1935. At 726 feet tall, this massive hydro-electric project took 5 years to construct and was named a National Historic Monument. Nearby Boulder City was constructed just to house many of the people who worked on the dam through the Great Depression. Lake Mead was formed as the biggest reservoir because of the dam and is a site for recreation including boating, fishing and swimming. Over the past 100 years, water levels have receded and when we visited in 2015, it was obvious levels had dropped a great deal. We estimated a total drop of about 100 feet.

Lowering water levels at the Hoover Dam
Lowering water levels at the Hoover Dam

If you’ve ever wanted to visit this part of the United States, I would highly recommend taking a few days to see the Grand Canyon. Driving yourself allows you to customize your trip and the flexibility to see other spots along the way. The drive from Las Vegas allows you to see varying landscapes from desert to more plush green spaces. Plan to travel in the off-season to avoid bigger crowds. Take a good camera and enjoy!

Useful links:

More travel spots.

How to travel light.

Christmas Magic on a Budget

Christmas Magic on a Budget

How to be Creative on a Limited Budget

brown-paper-giftsBeing thoughtful and giving gifts during the holidays doesn’t need to break the bank. A simple gesture of gift giving means a lot to the recipient and we shouldn’t commercialize this sentiment. Here are some ideas to help curb your spending:

  1. First determine how much you can afford to spend. Make a list of everything from gifts and decorations, to food and travel. Start saving in advance and don’t spend what you don’t have.
  2. Avoid impulse buying and stick to your list. Track your spending especially if you use credit cards. It’s easy to spend too much on that piece of plastic!
  3. Get creative. Make some or part of your gifts. People actually appreciate this much more. It can take more time, but well worth the effort. Use talents you already have to create something special and homemade.
  4. Talk to your loved ones about the things they’d like or need. Sometimes a gift card for gas or food is much appreciated. And consumable gifts are often better so we don’t end up accumulating more stuff!
  5. Talk to your family about limiting gifts to each other. This doesn’t necessarily apply to grandparents and their grandchildren! Young children don’t need many gifts and don’t care how much you spent. For adults, perhaps choose to spend some time together doing a shared activity rather than buying gifts you don’t really want or need. In my family, we decided to stop gift giving at age 21. Adults don’t purchase gifts for each other, but we take the time to travel to visit each other for reunions at different times of the year.
  6. If gift giving is still important, consider the secret Santa idea. Many extended families draw names, where everyone is responsible for giving one gift. Set rules about a price limit.
  7. If you are fortunate to be financially stable, remember to include a gift to your chosen charity. If you can’t afford a lot, consider giving your time. There are many people less fortunate who would greatly value your contribution and besides it makes you feel good!

What are your tips for a Christmas budget?

See also Consumable Gifts.

Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts

Maple Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

brussel-sprouts

This recipe is easy and healthy. It makes a great side dish for any meal. Not everyone loves brussel sprouts especially if they are bitter. This dish adds lots of flavour and the maple adds some sweetness.

  • 3-4 cups brussel sprouts
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil (or less)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 an onion, diced (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Trim brussel sprouts. Cut large ones in half. Rinse well in colander. Place in microwaveable casserole dish (still coated in water), cover and cook until blanched and still a bit crispy. Next heat oil in large skillet and saute garlic and onion until translucent and fragrant. Add microwaved brussel sprouts, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup to skillet and toss to coat. Cook on medium to medium-low until brussel sprouts are caramelized with maple-balsamic topping. Season with salt and pepper to taste and voila! You’ll find yourself coming back for more… Enjoy!

How to you prepare your brussel sprouts?