A couple of months ago I was in Dulles airport between flights and stopped at a bar for a glass of ice water and noticed a man was buying the serviceman next to him a beer. Another customer came up to order and gestured toward the same serviceman, “Please add whatever he’s drinking to my tab.” It got me thinking about giving as an expression of gratitude.
As we began making gift lists, I asked my daughters how we might share the spirit of giving. Olivia decided to do a neighborhood food drive. She and her friend Shelby made flyers to put in everyone’s mailbox and borrowed a wagon for the food pick up. Their goal was to collect 100 cans, and I promised to make up the difference if their efforts yielded less.
I wanted to have fun with this idea of unexpected giving. Why not diffuse the intensity of buying and preparing and mailing and festivity planning by sharing gifts every day? We started a list of ways to make people happy.
With your family. make your own list. Put each idea on a December calendar square (repeat in January if you like) and check them off each day like a gift giving advent calendar.
- Adopt a family and treat them like friends bringing holiday food and gifts throughout the month.
- Make a wreath for your elderly neighbor. Place it on her door like a secret Santa.
- Take your neighbor’s trash to the curb and pull it back after it’s empty.
- Bring the newspaper to another neighbor’s steps along with a plate of warm muffins for breakfast.
- Pay the toll/parking fee of the person behind you.
- Take your dog to the beach and offer to take someone else’s dog to play, too.
- Leave a card with money in it for your postal deliverer, the garbage folks, the coffee barista—anyone who serves you throughout the year.
- Pick up lunch for a busy friend.
- Smile hugely at the fireman and the policewoman while thanking them for keeping your community safe.
- Do a neighborhood food drive or wrapped gift collection as part of your traditional holiday party.
- Grab an extra poinsettia for your colleagues’ desk.
- Bring a hardworking friend a cup of tea and give her a shoulder massage.
- Offer to mind your neighbors’ children one night so they can go out.
Doing these kinds of things lightens the pressure of the holiday season by bringing moments into focus. If you start now, you may find as many ideas as there are ribbons and bows; and you’ll be a happy elf rather than a time-pressured scrooge all month long.
Appetizers Perfect for Holiday Gatherings
Healthy and Nutritious Dips Everyone Will Love!
Double Artichoke Dip
Thanks to my neighbor Greg for her divine artichoke dip recipe. This can be made with or without adding crabmeat (which is delicious). What makes this dip so wonderful is that it uses twice as much artichoke than the standard recipe. After all it’s the artichoke I’m after!
½ cup light mayonnaise
½ cup light or fat-free sour cream
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. hot sauce
Combine all and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with pita crisps, cut vegetables, and/or whole grain crackers.
Beyond 7-Layer Dip
The standard 7-layer dip reminds me of fast food. This one is chock full of nourishing yummy stuff including: vegetarian refried black beans (lard-free), vivid organic salsa, fresh avocado, mounded with organic cheeses, and romaine lettuce. Very simply it’s a meal in an appetizer.
15 oz can of vegetarian refried black beans
8 oz guacamole
1 organic avocado, cubed
8 oz red salsa
10 oz lowfat sour cream
6 oz organic Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/3 shredded cheddar cheese
½ small head romaine lettuce, shredded
Combine sour cream and Monterey jack in a bowl. Layer the dip onto a decorative platter in the order that ingredients are listed. Serve with Green Mountain Organic Tortilla Strips.
Anya Wolfenden, M.A., is a Product Innovator for Nutraceutical Corp. Anya formerly served as communications director for what is now Heritage Natural Market—www.heritagenaturalmarket.com —where these organic ingredients can be found.