Holiday greetings, we will be back in 2010

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Embrace the joy of the season

I still love the ornaments from our first treeI love this time of year. For a few weeks I can almost forget my dislike of the cold.  I cook and bake. The sweet, spicy scents fill my kitchen evoking wonderful memories. I enjoy spending time in my kitchen and find it relaxing. I assure you if I didn’t, I would buy one of the many lovely boxes of holiday cookies and serve them instead. 

 I believe less is more when it comes to holiday delicacies, unlike our mothers and aunts. I don’t feel compelled to fill my house with sweets and treats. We enjoy special meals and desserts as part of our celebration, but we also try not to gain five pounds between Christmas and the New Year. We still mange to enjoy the season. A two-week buffet spread of cookies and candy is one tradition we don’t miss.

 
Even though we have no children, we still decorate. We have a tree and enjoy decorations we have collected over the years. I still remember buying some of them at Ogilvy’s, my favorite Montreal department store, when we were first married. A friend visiting for the first time a few Christmases ago was delighted by our holiday decor, but surprised that we would bother — for just “us”. It pleases us. If you enjoy it, go for it. If you feel that would like to scale back on decorating or entertaining, suit yourself, but celebrate!
 
Except for the last few years, my husband and I always had big holiday parties for 35 to 50 people. We had wonderful parties in several cities, including Moscow. The Russian capital was an especially fun at the holidays. We would have our holiday party right before most to our friends left to celebrate at a sunnier destination. We scaled back when we resettled in a new city, but still found new friends to host at the holidays.
 
We love to entertain, it’s our nature. But it’s not for everyone.  After a big party, many guests have awkwardly said to me, “Gracey, I can’t do what you do and have big party." So what! We are all different! Not everyone needs to be a hostess. Be a great guest, if that is your forte. Reciprocate some other way. But, celebrate!
 
If you have children, make something special with them, or bake. Make your own new traditions, or share an old family one that you truly love. Children love to make crafts and will cherish the memories for years. Stock up on supplies now for those lovely days between Christmas and New Year’s. Forget bargains and malls, cozy up with projects and fun! This can be fun for adults too – or borrow a child. Use the holidays to visit, read, creative and renew!
 
Inhale the season’s goodness and merriment with candles and the scent of pine. It will soon be gone. Whatever your beliefs or situation find a reason to be grateful and celebrate. Life is short my darlings, make it sweet. Let go of things and traditions that make you crazy — be thoughtful and kind instead. It works better. Don’t worry about gifts you can’t afford. Scale back, buy smaller or fewer. Don’t worry that anyone will care. Write great cards. Consider ecards for much of your list. Save trees and save postage. Be creative, kind, and send joy over the net!
 
Embrace traditions that work for you. Find and share the joys of season. Shine your light and welcome the New Year with hope, love, and gratitude. Happy holidays to all of my darlings!
 

 

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Tips about tea

Festive Christmas tea, a favouriteHave you ever wondered what makes fine tea different from what you find on supermarket shelves? Do you know how long to brew fine teas? Tea has become as important as coffee, perhaps more so. Many of us drink it for the health benefits. When my husband and I entertain, we often serve fine herbal teas after dinner; our guests request them. I also enjoy blended flavoured teas such as Kusmi’s Christmas Tea, for special occasions. I love the spicy, sweet aroma. It’s also a special treat I can enjoy all season without guilt, as it does not have a single calorie. I like to share it with my special friends too.
 
I interviewed tea expert Sylvain Orebi,the owner of Kusmi Fine Teas, to get the scoop on tea drinking. Don’t miss a word of our exclusive interview, and learn to be a tea maven too!
 
DD:  Why is green tea an antioxidant?
SO: As any vegetal element, tea leaves contain nutrients called flavonoids which are antioxidants. They are water soluble, which makes it great for tea drinkers.
 
DD: Do black teas also have health benefits?
SO: Black tea also contains a large amount of anti-oxidant but a bit less than green tea due to fermentation.
 
Sylvain OrebiDD:  What is red tea? Does it have health benefits?
SO: This plant actually belongs to the acacia family and is completely different from traditional “Camelia Sinensis” tea, except for the way it is prepared and consumed.
This little bush exclusively grows in South-Africa and is harvested during the summer; it is then, just like black tea, fermented – which gives a dark red colour – and then dried in the sun. The longer the infusion, the stronger the taste – although it does not become pungent because it does not contain any tannins. It is also totally caffeine-free, said to have anti-spasmodic and relaxing properties, and contains a fair amount of antioxidants.
 
DD:  Does decaffeinating tea affect the flavour?
SO: No, this process does not affect the taste.
 
DD:  You give different brewing times for different Kusmi teas. Why is this important?
SO: This is important because black leaves deliver their flavours after 3 to 4 minutes, and green tea after 2 to 3 minutes. If you brew green tea too much longer, it could become pungent, although Kusmi Teas are carefully selected to be quite smooth and light.
 
Temperature can also alter the taste and suppress some of the well-being factors of teas. For instance, green tea should brew at 75°C (or 165°F); in case of higher temperature, its flavour diminishes as well as its amount of natural anti-oxidants that are very sensitive to high temperatures.
 
DD: What are “wellness” teas?
SO: Wellness teas are a new line of blends that not only contain tea, but also plants known for their natural well-being properties. For instance, Detox is made of green tea, but also Maté – a tonic plant popular for its richness in vitamins, minerals, caffeine and anti-oxidants – and lemongrass, a plant well-known for its tonic and digestive effects.
 
DD: Kusmi makes beautiful seasonal and specialty teas such as Christmas tea and Imperial Label tea. Can you explain how a seasonal tea is created?
SO: Creating a seasonal tea or an exclusive blend is a very long process that is quite comparable to making perfume. It really starts with a concept; what does this tea mean to the people who are going to drink it, as well as a list of desired ingredients. Then it takes a few weeks or months to find the right blend of tea leaves, the right flavours and the perfect balance of all ingredients. To create Imperial Label, especially made for Kiehl’s, I spent weeks reinventing ancient Russian sbiten and matching the taste to Kiehl’s Imperial Body Balm.
 

 

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Stuff a stocking –lushly

Little  "Lush " treats!The holidays can be a time of stress, but they should be time to pamper, rest, restore and renew. So think about stocking stuffers and little gifts that promote renewal!
 
Bath bombs and bars from Lush fill that bill for les than $5. Try So White for a frothy, apple-scented bath.  Jingle Spells is an herbal scented hangover helper. And if you love a tub of bubbles, there is the Christmas Eve Bubble Bar to fill your tub with floral suds. We all love the Lush Emotibomb Double Fast Luck for its mood elevating scents of orange and patchouli — so soothing. 
 
Treat yourself too!
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Sometimes you just want to smell clean

So soft warm and sey!Clean is the modern scent that appeals to women who like to smell clean, fresh and sexy. That’s why when Clean quickly became a favourite of celebrities known for their classic style, when it launched in 2003. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Anniston, Courtney Cox Arquette, and Daryl Hannah are all fans of Clean.
 
The line has expanded to included new scents such as Warm Cotton, with the comforting, crisp smell of clean linen. The Clean to Go Holiday Gift Bag is a lovely gift for the classically “Clean” woman. This handy little bag features travel sizes of Warm Cotton Eau de Parfum, Bathand Shower Gel, and Soft Body Lotion. It’s at Sephora in the U.S. and Canada.
 
 
 
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Stay well

Don’t let overindulgence blight your enjoyment of the holidays. If too much of good thing has left you feeling bloated and unwell, try Gaia Herbs Rapid Relief Digestive Support for gas and bloating. It is made in Tuscany, Italy by Aboca, the herbal leader that has supplied more than 25,000 European pharmacies and health food stores since 1978. 

 
The all-natural formula contains vegetable charcoal, fennel, and a blend of herbs that includes cumin and other good things. Consult your doctor for any serious or recurrent problem.
 
Even if you have had a flu shot –or two – and wash your hands like a fiend, you may feel that you are surrounded by plague carriers coughing and sneezing their brains out. I know I did recently while trying to watch a film. It is maddening. Many of these disease carriers do not even cover their mouths! Maddening!
 
If you feel an illness coming on you may want to try Gaia Herbs Quick Defense Quick Response at Onset. Five years of research have identified the chemical differences in echinacea that effectively boosts the body’s immune response. Gaia Herbs Quick Defense Quick Response at Onset is designed to help your body fight off infection if taken at the first sign of illness.
 
I took some at the first signs of sore throat, which for me precedes a cold, and it worked like charm. I drank lots of water and went to bed.
 
I also got my seasonal flu shot and will be getting my H1N1 injection this week. The illnesses around today are scary. Eating well, sleeping, hygiene, and supplements are the best defense.
 
 
 
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Eat well on the go!

Good for you on the go!Shopping, cooking, cleaning and working through the holidays can leave you little time for healthful meals. If you resort to junk food and other fattening strategies too often, you will pay the price in weight gain and fatigue. Darlings, it isn’t necessary. Stock up on tasty Larabars. Our Alice Farnsworth reviewed them a couple of months ago. She loved them! I usually loathe nutrition bars; they can taste chalky and weird. But I tried Larabars and found them tasty too! Larabars are gluten free, kosher, dairy-free, sugar-free, unprocessed and raw – and they taste good!

 
My favourite flavour is Cherry Pie. It does not taste exactly like pie, but I love the tangy cherries. Each bar has about 200 calories and there are lots of flavours. Darlings, stock your bag each day with water, tea, and something good such as Larabars. Keep healthy and if you are going splurge on your diet, make it worth your while. Don’t squander calories on junk.
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Give a perfect pout

What fashionista would not love to get this set of Lip Fusion Mini Holiday Collection? Lipfusion’s patented micro collagen delivers active collagen to the lips. Tiny marine micro spheres plump lips and create a beautiful full pout. Lipfusion does not contain irritants such as cinnamon, caffeine or menthol to temporarily swell lips. The micro spheres and collagen do the plumping painlessly.

 
The collection includes 6 shiny sexy shades in popular baby pinks, sheers and nudes, including the newest shades — Crave, Goddess and Boca Babe.
 
Available at Sephora in the U.S. and Canada, www.HSN.com , and www.skinstore.com $39USD and $42 CND 
 
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