Healthy Holiday Eating (and Drinking)

Holiday cookiesWe definitely want you to have fun this season and we know delicious baked goodies & seasonal beverages come with the territory.  Between baking at home with your family, receiving baked goods as gifts, and attending functions with a large selection of deserts & drinks, you’re probably consuming your fair share of bulge inducing delectables.  No wonder so many people make weight-loss a part of their New years resolutions!

Here’s how you can modify a bit but still have fun and enjoy the goodies.

If you’re baking, try substituting the following:

*   Whole wheat flour, ground oats or almond meal for FLOUR.
*   Honey or Stevia for SUGAR.
*   Applesauce, mashed banana or coconut oil for BUTTER & OIL.
*   Applesauce or flax meal for EGGS.
*   Carob chips or dark chocolate chunks for CHOCOLATE CHIPS.
*   Greek yogurt for SOUR CREAM.

If you’re attending a party try the following:

*   Make the earlier part of the day extra healthy.  Have a high fiber breakfast, a vegetable filled lunch and exercise in the afternoon.
*   Eat a healthy snack before the party to ease your hunger.  We’ve heard a cup of vegetable soup does a great job.  Also try fiber filled fruit, string cheese, almonds, 4 oz. Greek yogurt or 1/2 cup of cottage cheese.
*   When you get to the party, survey and determine your options before filling your plate.  Decide which foods you like best and choose only those – don’t fill up on the others.
*   Dish out smaller portions – about 20% less than you think you might want. (How many times have your eyes been bigger than your stomach at a party)?

If you are going to indulge in Holiday Libations, here are lower calorie options:

*   Wine spritzer = White or red wine mixed with club soda
*   5 oz. of wine, 12oz. of light beer, or 1.5oz of liquor combined w/ non-calorie mixers = 120 calories each.
*   Cranberry crush = Club soda splashed with cranberry cocktail and frozen grapes
*   Guiltless hot chocolate = 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder, skim milk, low-cal sweetener, dash of cinnamon & vanilla extract
*   Apple tea = Brewed tea sweetened with a splash of apple cider and a cinnamon stick.

Do you have any tricks, tips and strategies for savoring the season without putting on the pounds?  We’d love to hear it!

Merry Christmas!!

S.O.
POB Agency

8 Tips For Throwing A Successful Holiday Party

Tis the season for Holiday Parties!  When you attend one, you may not give much thought as to how much pre-planning a host may do prior to the event.  But if you’ve ever been the host – Oh my!  It can get pretty stressful.

We recently had a party for 12 and in between work, kids, volunteer work, and day-to-day household chores, thank goodness we gave ourselves two weeks to prepare!  But, it all came together nicely and I’ll share some tips I think will ensure your party is a success without the stress:

1. A store-bought veggie tray is OKAY. Yes, our guests liked the hearty finger food but at the end of the night, that veggie tray was empty.  Guests like to nibble and snack as they drink their cocktail and they don’t want to leave feeling stuffed.

2. If you’re serving dinner, choose something that you can make ahead of time.  Have a casserole or lasagna pre-prepared so you can greet your guests as they arrive.  You’ll be free to mingle with everyone instead of stuck cooking in the kitchen while your guests hover over you feeling as if they should be doing something to help.

3. Decorate with inexpensive festive décor & play music. Simple wreaths and a few candles are an inexpensive way to create a warm and cozy atmosphere.  Our decor was minimal this year (to save time):  a tree and a simply decorated mantle.  We put on holiday music from one of our TV channels (who has time to create a playlist?!??!), lit candles and dimmed our lamps.  It was just enough.  We received many compliments on how cozy the house felt.

Click for EASY recipe!
Click for EASY recipe!

4. Serve ONE holiday drink for all.  Check out Pinterest for a TON of ideas.  Try a Candy Cane or “The Grinch” Martini; A Hot Apple Rum Punch; or the one I served:  Pomagranate-Cranberry Sparklers.  Even the guys drank it and LOVED it.  If you’re worried about drinking and driving, have a list of driving services and/or taxi numbers on hand OR offer them a guest room.

5. On that note, don’t stress your guest room accommodations.  We have 1 guest room but 2 couples stayed over.  I knew this could be a possibility after serving cocktails so I made sure all the beds had neat and clean bedding – even if one couple had to sleep on (clean) Avengers sheets.  But, it’s okay!  These are our friends and no need to stress the accommodations.  They were safe and slept great!

6. If it’s a relatively small party, enjoy a white elephant gift exchange. This party we hosted is an annual party and we always do a white elephant gift exchange.  It’s a blast!  It can be something from your home that you are no longer using; something funny; or something purchased.  It’s always fun watching people switch and swap as each gift is chosen. We’ve lucked out some years with a great gift and other years we’ve gone home with a gag gift – like a singing turkey.  If that’s too risky due to a more conservative group, consider something even simpler than that, like an ornament exchange.

7 If you’ve got the funds, consider hiring help. A catering service will allow you to fully enjoy the party. A bartender is also a nice addition, especially if you’re going for more complicated & diverse cocktails to serve. You might feel like you’re taking the easy way out, but in the end, you’ll be glad you got to engage in the holiday merriment along with your guests.

Have you hosted a Holiday Party (or any party) recently?  What did you do to cut back on time and stress?  Share your tips and success stories with us!

S.O.
POB Agency

Christmas Tree Fires are More Deadly than Typical Fires – Follow our Tips

The Christmas season has begun and it’s one of our favorite times of year.  Our Facebook news feed contains many posts of our friends’ beautifully decorated Christmas trees as well as pictures of them cutting their live tree at the Christmas tree farm.  We thought this would be an excellent opportunity to remind you of how to care for your live tree so it does not catch on fire.

christmasTrees are not a fire hazard if you take care of them, keep them watered, and decorate them carefully.  However, should the tree catch on fire, it is one of the most deadly fires.  In fact, one of every 66 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death according to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  The tree provides an unusually large amount of fuel leaving little time to get out of the house.  They are especially deadly if they occur at night when people are sleeping.

  • Keep the tree well-watered.  Check the water supply at least once a day.  Trees can drink a lot of water.
  • Use new or high-quality lighting.  Never use lights with frayed cords or worn connections.  Consider switching to LED (light-emitting diode) holiday lights. In addition to the energy and cost savings, LED lights are much cooler than incandescent bulbs, reducing the risk of fires.
  • Keep the tree away from candles and other heat sources such as a fire place.  (A heat source too close to the Christmas tree started one of every five (18%) of Christmas tree fires from 2006-2010 according to the NFPA).
  • Turn off the lights before leaving home and before going to bed.
  • Dispose of the tree as soon as it feels dry.  Many cities, including Indianapolis and Fishers, will provide safe disposable sites for your tree beginning December 26th.  Big box stores such as Home Depot will also provide drop off sites.  (Do not burn the tree outside your home)!

In addition to our Christmas tree fire prevention tips, we also encourage you to review the following fire safety tips that pertain to this time of year (compliments of amfam.com):

  • Candles should be kept away from your tree and any flammable decorations and should be extinguished before leaving a room.  Candles are also a major cause of household fires during the holidays.
  • When starting a fire in your wood stove or fireplace, use hardwood logs cut the season before. Do not toss wrapping paper or branches from your Christmas tree into the flames because flash fires can result. Chimneys and wood stoves should be inspected annually for creosote and cleaned regularly. Stockings should not be hung from your fireplace mantle in the path of sparks and flames.  Home heating equipment, such as wood stoves, space heaters and fireplaces, cause nearly one-third of all home fires according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Inspect your lights before they go up to make sure they’re in good condition. Don’t plug too many into the same electrical circuit or overload extension cords. You should use no more than three light sets per extension cord. Unplug all lights when you leave the house and before going to bed.
  • Make sure everyone knows all of your home’s exits and you have a designated outdoor meeting place to regroup. If a fire does start in your home, stay as low as possible while heading for an exit to reduce your chance of smoke inhalation. If you do catch on fire, stop, drop and roll.

We wish a wonderful and safe Holiday Season.

Merry Christmas!

– S.O.
POB Agency