The holiday season is here!

It's the last day of November, and the holiday season is upon is. This is my absolute favorite time of the year; celebrating everything this year has brought us, inviting in the new, spending time with loved ones, and re-living some of my fondest childhood memories. This year is incredibly special to me, since I will be celebrating Christmas in Europe for the very first time in 18 years. My grandmother doesn't want to travel all the way to New Zealand for our family holidays anymore, so we have all decided to come to her instead, which is really bittersweet. She used to be the person, who would host Christmas every year until my grandfather passed away. The house was a magical place filled with the smell of a fresh pine tree, sparkly lights everywhere, and so many homemade cookies, cakes, and goodies. We all used to sit around and sing Christmas songs, my sister and I would recite poems, and I just remember feeling warm and cozy and so protected. We will try to re-create some of this magic but in the alps of Austria this year, since my grandmother no longer has enough space to host of all us. I am so excited about a white Christmas, and Baby Zand getting to spend precious time with her great-grandmother, whom she absolutely adores.

Special things happening on the blog

However, leading up to Christmas there will be some special things happening here on the blog, too! First of all, the Fitness Advent Calendar is back! This year I am focused on bringing you stress release for the holidays. It's all about spending 10 minutes a day checking in with yourself to make sure you are still alive, still feeling good, and to take care of yourself. Our to-do lists can seem endless this time of the year with so many gifts to buy, holiday parties to attend, and end-of-the-year events happening everywhere. Everyone wants to catch up one more time before the year ends, as if we are never going to see each other again :-). I find this time to be fruitless, because often people are so exhausted that they don't really enjoy the time with each other... which is really what this season is about! I want to help you bring back some magic, some care and kindness. And we can only do that if we are not a frazzled bundle of stress ourselves. So check back here every day for 25 days to join me for the Fitness Advent Calendar starting Saturday.

Homemade gift ideas coming in the next two weeks

Next up I have decided to give you recipes for homemade gifts this year. A few years ago I shared a recipe for Relaxing herbal tea (actually perfect for yourself for that holiday stress release I was just talking about!). This year I will step it up with some lovely homemade pantry staples that don't take long to make, but will make the season of giving extra speical. Who really needs another pair of socks, another candle or some more electronics? (If you already got them for me, of course I want them :-)). I find homemade gifts that can be used and don't just sit around collecting dust super useful and they make me incredibly happy. So check back over the next 2 weeks to find some tips. Until then, here are some of my favorite previous recipes you can try out.

Homemade gifts:

Relaxing herbal tea

Homemade vanilla extract

Christmas balls

Christmas chocolates

Christmas compote

Need inspiration for your holiday menu? Look no further!

And finally, I am always incredibly honored if some of the recipes from the blog make it to your holiday festivities. Here are some of my favorite dishes I love during the holiday season. Enjoy!

Light starters:

Roasted mushrooms stuffed with arugula pistachio

Watercress salad with blood orange and avocado

Fall harvest kale salad

Carrot ginger soup with cashew apple crunch

Delicious mains and sides:

Stir fried kale with white beans and caper lemon sauce

Baby pumpkins stuffed with rosemary wild rice

Bejeweled broccoli

Braised red cabbage with raisins

Cranberry sauce

Spicy cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes

Maple balsamic glazed Brussels sprouts

Rosemary roasted potatoes

Garlic sage butternut squash mash

Sprouted spelt dinner rolls

Divine desserts:

Egg nog and peppermint hot chocolate

Warming winter energy balls

Orange cardamom balls

Gingerbread cookies

Macadamia ginger cookies

Holiday apple crumble

Strawberry santas

Raw pecan cherry pies

Christmas chocolates

Here is to a wonderful holiday season!