Traditional recipes

Have a Drama-Free Holiday Slideshow

Have a Drama-Free Holiday Slideshow

2. Let the Exaggerator Shine

Just for a moment, that is. While there might be no doubt in the minds of those around the table that the story they are telling is well beyond humanly possible, why spoil the fun? Let them have their chance to say what they want to say, listen, and then try to direct the conversation elsewhere once they are done.

3. Offer Your Pity


If your family includes a martyr, offer up your sympathies to their sacrifices and give them the gift of indulgence this holiday season. Often times, all they want is to be heard and acknowledged. The best way to do that is by saying, “You deserve a break." And, if you are anything like me, keep the sarcasm to a minimum, this is serious stuff.

4. Derail the Nosy

Especially frustrating to those who lead a private life, the busybody in every family is relentless and always listening for news. In a small group, feign indecision or ignorance if their questions cross the line, or let them know that it’s your business, not theirs. Better yet, approach the nosy person in a group where the conversation can be diverted away from their fact-finding mission.

6. Identify a Peacemaker


Be it a topic of conversation (Politics! Religion!) or arguing family members, having a peacemaker on hand to sooth the fire of conflict before it flares up is the best way to keep the drama at bay and the meal a happy and harmonious one.

7. Use Place Cards

Assigned seating is the best defense against the potential for conflict at the table. It not only allows you to arrange your guests by temperament, but it also ensures that everyone at the table has someone seated next to them that they will enjoy.

8. Mix Family with Friends

Adding friends to an otherwise family-filled gathering almost always ensures that everyone will be on their best behavior, downplays any family conflict, and provides ample opportunity forconversation. Plus, it allows you to share the holidays with your closest friends.

9. Create Happy Memories

istock/monkey business images

Boredom is the fuel to any family feud. Keep your guests sober and busy by planning a number of activities, whether its something outdoors, crafts the kids can make (and eat),board games, or games toplay at the table. Plan for something both beforeandafter the meal.

1. Embrace the Family Do-Gooder


We all have that happy, clappy relative who slaps on that Stepford wife-smile and wants nothing more than to host the kind of family celebration that one only reads about in stories. Resist rolling your eyes in front of them and give them a moment to bring in the holiday cheer. Then, find the humor in their holiday attire and try to let their good spirits rub off on you… even if it’s just for a moment.

5. Avoid Sibling Rivalry

Hard as we try, we all regress to our teenage selves when we are around our siblings. Resist the urge to still point out all your brother’s faults, even when he’s 40 and you’re 50. Mind your business and don’t pick fights for the sake of everyone at the table.

10. Keep an Eye on the Bar


Adrunken family memberis sure to destroy all hope for a happy gathering for all. Where possible, keep the cocktail hour short and pre-meal drinks to a minimum. Save the strong stuff for when you have a full stomach.

Easy, Beautiful Window Boxes for Sun

Window boxes are the perfect way to make dormers look extra special. Create lots of season-long interest with a mix of profuse bloomers, such as this verbena, and unusual foliage, such as flowering kale and sedge. That way you can enjoy the beautiful leaves and their distinct textures if the flowers take a break.

A. Sedge (Carex siderosticha 'Variegata') -- 2

B. Kale (Brassica oleracea 'Osaka') -- 2

C. Verbena 'Tuscany Violet with Eye' -- 2

D. Coral bells (Heuchera 'Pewter Moon') -- 2

A pinch of salt makes everything taste better, including savory smoothies.

Aside from banana, we can’t think of a fruit that wouldn’t be good in this drink.

Recipes you want to make. Cooking advice that works. Restaurant recommendations you trust.

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Tasks You Can Complete Now to Prepare for a Season of Holiday Entertaining

Once Halloween has come and gone, you know the holidays will be here in a flash (we're sure you're already seeing holiday displays pop up in retail stores!). This time of year, it's never too early to start preparing for a season of holiday entertaining. "Some of our clients begin the process right after Halloween some plan it just a couple of weeks prior to their holiday party. It's an individual decision&mdashwhenever the mood is right," says Sunny Ravanbach, founder of event planning company White Lilac. One thing is guaranteed, though: The earlier you start, though, the less you'll have to do at the very last minute. Plus, getting tasks out of the way early means you'll also probably be able to enjoy the holiday season much more. Instead of feeling rushed to organize, clean, cook, and decorate the house from top to bottom, you can spend time with family and friends.

Another bonus of early planning? The sooner you begin, the more time you'll have to think about every last detail and create the holiday party you've always envisioned. "We like to incorporate tradition, but in a very unconventional and whimsical way," Ravanbach explains. "We love holiday décor that has a little unexpected twist. It can serve as a conversation piece to the guests who are pleasantly surprised."

From a chic, inviting aesthetic to delicious food, festive drinks, and fun entertainment, there are a variety of elements that can help you pull together your very best holiday party (and you can begin working on them up to a month, or more, ahead of time). Here, Ravanbach shares the things you can start doing now to prepare for seasonal parties that go off without a hitch, regardless of your hostessing experience.

31 Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas

It's the most wonderful time of the year&mdashbut also one of the most stressful! Make the season more enjoyable by stopping stress in its tracks with these expert tips.

With the gift-giving, the cooking, the decorations and the parties, the holidays can seem to be more like work than a vacation. We've asked the experts, and here's how to make the most of your holiday season.

Save these stress-free Christmas tips for later! Don't forget to follow Woman's Day on Pinterest for more great Christmas ideas.

Make a change. Take one task that drives you crazy during the holidays and tackle it in a new way. A fresh approach just might make a difference. For example, if you dread having to send out holiday cards, enlist your husband and split the list.

"Don't always go for bigger and better," when planning your holiday, advises Loretta LaRoche, author of Life Is Not a Stress Rehearsal. "Does the tree have to be bussed in from the hinterlands of Alaska?" she quips. "Isn't a little bush enough?"

LaRoche forgoes the stress of shopping for family members in favor of sharing special moments and experiences. She may treat loved ones to a holiday show, for example, or breakfast at a fancy hotel. "Instead of having a package to rip open, we have this wonderful day together," she says.

If you're dragging your kids off to see The Nutcracker&mdashit's a tradition!&mdashbut they're whining every step of the way, make a switch. True, families thrive on traditions, but it's less about the event itself, which your kids may have outgrown, and more about time together. If your kids are complaining, drop expensive, high-stress rituals in favor of something simple and universally appealing, like a Christmas Eve chocolate-chip pancake feast.

That massive pile of holiday cards needs to get mailed ASAP, but just the thought of it gives you writer's cramp? "Refocus on what's most important to you," says life coach Linda Hedberg. "If you're overwhelmed with dozens of cards to send out, ask yourself, Which are the 10 most important ones?" Send those and put the rest on the back burner. Or just send an e-card to everyone on your list. Bonus: It's eco-friendly!

Barreling through throngs of mall shoppers on the hunt for a last-minute gift? Step up to the department store perfume counter, peruse the testers and dab on a lemony fragrance. According to researchers at Ohio State University, lemon scents instantly boost your mood.

As you take part in trimming the tree or preparing the Chanukah cookies with your kids, take a deep breath and savor the moment. Give yourself permission to forget about all those tasks still left on your to-do list.

With security restrictions at airports being what they are, make it easy on yourself and give gift certificates. Or mail your gifts ahead of time. Rosemire orders gifts online or from catalogs and has the companies send them directly to her holiday destination. Either way, you'll save room in your suitcase.

Tuck everyone's sleepwear and toothbrushes in one easy-to-reach bag. That first night when you arrive at Grandma's house or another destination, you won't be fumbling through every suitcase before bedtime.

If you're traveling by car, ensure your vehicle is in good running order for the trip by checking belts, hoses, air pressure, fluid levels and windshield wipers, says AAA spokesperson Jerry Cheske. Contact your auto club, the state police agency or highway patrol regarding road closings or conditions.

Simplify air travel by arriving up to two hours early for domestic flights and up to three hours for international flights. To avoid parking hassles, "get someone to drive you to and from the airport, if possible," advises Cheske. If you're picking up a holiday guest, sign up online for a traveler care alert. Some Web sites, including, will automatically contact you via phone, e-mail or pager to give you updated flight information.

If you like to read for half an hour before bed, don't give it up in favor of yet another holiday chore. Our everyday practices help calm and center us.

During the busy holiday season , Brenda DeHaan of Wagner, South Dakota, and her husband seek out one afternoon of serenity. Each year the couple embarks on a leisurely drive, with a stop to observe the eagles that winter alongside the Missouri River. "It's a peaceful time, when we don't worry about rushing anywhere," says Brenda. Can't escape for a whole afternoon? Then head outdoors for a refreshing change of scene. Bundle up and walk to the mailbox to drop off Christmas cards, or take a starlit nighttime stroll through your neighborhood to view the holiday lights.

Donna Wallace of Shawano, Wisconsin, found that adding, rather than deleting, something from her to-do list made her Christmas feel less hectic. One year, she joined her church choir for the express purpose of singing with others in praise and celebration of the season. "It grounds you to acknowledge the spiritual side," says Donna.

Stores don't always publicize this service, so be sure to ask. Also seek out charity gift-wrapping services. Nonprofit organizations often set up booths at malls or craft shows and will wrap presents for a small fee. Take advantage of their services and you'll save yourself one task while contributing to a worthy cause.

Buy multiples of tape, extra gift tags and more wrapping paper than you think you'll need. Nothing is more frustrating than running out of supplies with the job half done, and you can always save the leftovers for next year.

Log on to your local mall's Web site and download a map and directory of stores. Before you go, plot your path and make a list of potential presents. While at the mall, avoid excessive browsing since it can quickly eat up your available time, not to mention money. Lastly, always bring along advertising circulars in case there's a question about an item's availability or price.

The day of your visit, bring only the essentials&mdashsince you'll be hauling shopping bags by day's end, consider carrying your wallet and ads in a zippered waist pack or a small, light handbag. Tuck receipts in one place, perhaps a compartment in your handbag or a brightly colored envelope.

G. Gaynor McTigue, author of Why Make Yourself Crazy?, offers this tip for braving the malls: Avoid long lines by seeking out a store's "hidden" cashier. "I always seem to find a courtesy counter or service desk where they'll gladly ring up purchases. It's usually in a place that's less obvious, generally at the back of the store," says McTigue.

Allow a store's staff to put together the "some-assembly-required" gifts you've purchased, even if you must pay a fee. "They can do it fast, they can do it correctly, they can do it in their sleep, and you can't," says McTigue.

In fact, guests prefer to take on some small tasks, instead of standing around while you attempt to do everything yourself. Ask an older relative if he'd mind greeting guests at the door. Recruit teens to take coats or offer fruit juice. Kids may direct guests to the buffet table or offer hors d'oeuvres.

A special gathering is not the time to experiment with a new recipe. "Just do what you know how to do and can do well," says Caroline, who includes basic mashed potatoes on the menu because it's a family favorite. She also keeps the table setting simple, adding a seasonal touch with a single Christmas centerpiece and festive napkins. "Focus on the fellowship of the people you're gathering with, and don't stress out on the preparations and menu," she says.

Order your local deli's tangy side salad or the bakery's pumpkin pie to complement your main course. Adeline Rosemire, author of Christmas Shortcuts, once went one step further and hosted a holiday dinner in which everything&mdashthe appetizers, smoked turkey, bread and desserts&mdashhad been ordered from gourmet food catalogs and required little or no preparation.

"We only say yes to meaningful events that focus on the holiday and bring the whole family together," says Caroline Solarski, a mom from Alpharetta, Georgia. Can't say no? Then keep your gatherings small and intimate. Get together with a few of your closest friends or relatives for the holidays. Choose to throw the big blowout parties at another time of the year, when you and your guests will have fewer commitments competing for your precious time.

A brainless, stress-free way to decorate is to chose a color (red, green, blue) and run with it, says Courtney Zellmer, floral manager at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. For example, turn a simple bouquet of red carnations into an eye-catching arrangement by adding red glass gemstones to a vase and a few drops of red food coloring to the water.

Take the photos out of your everyday frames and replace them with leftover wrapping paper and free printables. Put the frames back in their original locations and voilà!&mdashyou've just decked the halls.

Bring out books to easily add a seasonal touch. Prominently display an illustrated volume of A Christmas Carol on a living room shelf or the fireplace mantel. Or, place a basket topped with a bow and filled with children's Chanukah books on the coffee table.

Every time you make a meal for your husband and kids in the weeks before Christmas, double the recipe and freeze half, says Alison Daniel, a mom of two in Folsom, California. "That way, when guests visit you can serve a home-cooked meal in minutes."

  • Sure, you want your home to look great for guests, but don't fall prey to holiday house fever. "That's when you try to do too much in too little time," explains Cynthia Ewer, editor of "Cross off anything on your household prep list that will take more than a half-hour to do. The goal is to spiff up the house a little, not turn it into a showroom."

Take your dog outside for some playtime before your gathering. A tired pooch is a lot less likely to jump up on guests or bark incessantly every time the doorbell rings. For extra insurance, keep him occupied with a toy that dispenses treats, like the Kong.

Too much added sugar can cause blood sugar highs and lows, leaving you feeling more anxious and less able to handle stress. But that doesn't mean seasonal sweets are completely off-limits, says Lauri Wright, PhD, RDN, assistant professor, department of nutrition and dietetics, University of North Florida, Tallahassee. Small changes can significantly reduce your overall sugar intake. Try eating just one cookie or piece of candy instead of a handful so you can have a taste without overdoing it. (Place your treat on a plate, then walk away from the rest of the goodies so you aren't in sight of more temptations.) Also, when cooking, make no-sugar-added choices like roasted sweet potatoes rather than candied yams (you'll save 14 grams of sugar per serving).

It's worth it to brave the cold&mdashespecially because you don't have to stay out too long to reap the benefits, says Gregory Chertok, sport and exercise psychology consultant. Studies have found that heading outdoors to exercise is more enjoyable than doing the same activity while cooped up inside, and you'll feel a lift in your mood after just 5 minutes. Working out is also one of the best ways to bust anxiety: Research shows that it promotes the release of endorphins, which act like a tranquilizer on the brain. Plus, exercise blunts the effects of stress hormones like cortisol. Go for a family stroll before or after dinner, or set your morning alarm 20 minutes earlier to fit in a walk.

Bottling up your stress for too long can lead to health issues such as back pain (from excessive muscle tension) and a weakened immune system, says Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD, a general, integrative and holistic medicine practitioner in Los Angeles. So it's crucial to find a release that works for you. One suggestion: Go to a private spot, such as your car, and scream for about 5 seconds. Yes, seriously. It's like letting out steam from a teakettle. If screaming isn't for you, try a few minutes of dancing, singing (put on some holiday tunes!) or deep breathing.

Save these stress-free Christmas tips for later! Don't forget to follow Woman's Day on Pinterest for more great Christmas ideas.

23 Impressive Holiday Desserts You Can Make in a Slow Cooker

If you love frosted cookies and Christmas cakes, slow-cooker holiday desserts may not seem like the best idea. I mean, if there’s any time to go all-out on fancy dessert, it’s the holidays. Decorating Christmas cookies, putting together a gingerbread house, and soaking fruitcake with rum are all super festive ways to spend an evening—not to mention, they tend to yield delicious results.

That said, there comes a point when you can’t bear to roll out another ball of sugar cookie dough, or pipe another line of frosting. When that point hits, you’re going to want to have these slow-cooker holiday recipes bookmarked and ready to go.

Whether you love rich chocolate cake or see yourself as more of a fruit crisp person, there’s something here for you. All of the recipes are guaranteed easy and delicious, and can be made ahead of time for stress-free holiday party prep.

So, what are you waiting for? Add one (or all) of these slow-cooker holiday desserts to your December to-do list.

Thyroid-Friendly Smoothies

Who can resist a creamy, delicious, healthy smoothie? These beverages are growing in popularity, and the global market for smoothies is projected to reach $17 billion dollars by 2024! But for people with thyroid problems, some popular smoothie ingredients and preparation methods are not thyroid-friendly. Let’s take a look at how you can enjoy smoothies without getting in the way of good thyroid health.

Goitrogens are foods that contain a chemical — thiocyanate — that can slow down your thyroid. Many common smoothie ingredients are goitrogens, including cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, kale, and watercress. Smoothies made from dark leafy greens, are, in fact, a growing sector of the smoothie market. Avoid making smoothies with raw or boiled goitrogenic foods. But don’t avoid them entirely. Cooking or steaming can deactivate most of their anti-thyroid effect.

Soy and soybean products can promote an enlarged thyroid (goiter) and hypothyroidism, so don’t add soy milk, tempeh, tofu, or soy protein powder to your smoothies. For protein powder, try whey or pea protein for thyroid-friendlier smoothies. If you’re determined to use soy in your smoothies, make sure that your diet includes enough iodine, which can help offset the impact of soy.

Whether you’re at Starbucks or Smoothie King, you’ll find green tea on the smoothie menu. But you may want to give it a pass. Too much green tea can significantly reduce thyroid hormone levels, and make your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level go up.

Seaweed — and other sea vegetables like kelp and dulse — are healthy and delicious. They are also very high in iodine. If you have been tested and shown to be deficient in iodine, by all means include them in moderation in your smoothies. But if you are not deficient in iodine, loading up your smoothies with seaweed, kelp powder, or dulse flakes can aggravate autoimmune thyroid disease, create worsening hypothyroidism symptoms, and even increase your risk of thyroid cancer.

If you like to add milk to your smoothie, remember that the calcium in milk can interfere with the absorption of thyroid drugs used to treat hypothyroidism.

There are solutions, however:

  • Swap your cow’s milk for a lower-calcium alternative like almond or rice milk.
  • Wait at least an hour after taking your thyroid medication before you drink your smoothie.
  • Save your smoothie for later in the day, when it won’t impact your thyroid treatment.

Some people like to add psyllium, flaxseeds, flax powder, chia seeds, or other high-fiber ingredients to smoothies. You should know, however, that going from low- to high-fiber intake can reduce your absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medication and make you more hypothyroid. If you start drinking high-fiber smoothies, have your thyroid levels rechecked eight to 12 weeks after making the change, so your medication dosage can be adjusted if necessary.

Many smoothie recipes contain kale, which is healthy, but is a goitrogen. You can steam kale before mixing it into the smoothie, however. Or replace the kale with non-goitrogenic and equally delicious chard.

Coconut milk and coconut water are thyroid-friendly ingredients you can add to your smoothie. Check out The Hypothyroidism Chick's thyroid-friendly smoothie recipes, including the tantalizing Pina Colada and Bahama Mama Smoothies.

Functional medicine expert Mark Hyman, M.D. has some healthy breakfast smoothie recipes that are good for your thyroid and can help with weight loss. I love his Strawberry-Almond-Coconut, Ruby, and Cocoa Bliss Smoothies!

Experiment with various smoothie recipes to create thyroid-friendly variations of the ones you love best. Here are some good places to start for other smoothie recipe ideas:

Mary Shomon is a patient advocate and New York Times bestselling author who empowers readers with information on thyroid and autoimmune disease, diabetes, weight loss and hormonal health from an integrative perspective. Mary has been a leading force advocating for more effective, patient-centered hormonal healthcare. Mary also co-stars in PBS’ Healthy Hormones TV series. Mary also serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board.

Trail mix is one of the easiest snacks to throw together. Simply mix up your favorite nuts, dried fruits, and sugar-free cereals and store in an airtight container. Try pretzels, nuts and raisins for a sweet and salty combination, or add in some plain shredded wheat for a boost of sugar-free fiber.

Love the taste of pumpkin pie but not all the calories? This crustless pumpkin pie recipe is a comforting, sugar-free, and low-fat way to enjoy the health benefits of pumpkin.

11. Turkey and Cheese Scramble

Eggs, sliced turkey and cottage cheese — all three are impressive sources of protein and all three are what make up the entirety of this breakfast scramble. This dish tops out at 34 grams of protein so by having this for breakfast, you'll already be off to a great start with spreading your protein intake throughout the day versus just backloading at dinner, like most of us do, according to data published in June 2014 in the Journal of Nutrition.

Don't be shy with the veggies either — throw in some onions, mushrooms or tomatoes into the mix for added nutrients.

Get the Turkey and Cheese Scramble recipe and nutrition info here.

Watch the video: Free holiday movies (January 2022).