What Sets Raja Ampat Apart from Other Tourist Destinations?

For many of us, traveling has come to be synonymous with long lines, crowds, and added stress, when vacations were meant to be for relaxing, enjoying yourself and discovering new places. That’s why it’s important to choose your vacation destination wisely, so you can disconnect, unwind, and then go home with your batteries recharged, and with a treasure’s chest of new experiences packed into your suitcase.I am back home after a great experience in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. This has been my third time there, in the paradise on earth (as locals love to name this area of the world)....more

A Conservation Carol: 3 Ways to Reduce Holiday Excess

The holidays are a time for abundance. Lots of food, shopping, and gifts fill not-so-silent nights with joy and memories. Unfortunately, holiday abundance also leads to abundant waste. ...more

How to Hygge + Honeynut Squash Soup

EmPowered Nutrition The winter season is often filled with the joy of the holidays, but how do we overcome those mid-season blues? This is where Danish tradition, hygge, comes in. Plus, I have a cozy squash soup to help get you started on how to hygge!...more

Peppermint Chocolate Wafers

Day 5 of the 12 Days of Christmas Cookie SeriesWell, hello. Still here, hmmm? Is that because I've failed to offer you something truly wow-worthy. I hope not. I hope it's because you just can't get enough. Nutmeg and chocolate, sugar and coffee, cardamom and cocoa. Is it possible to overdose on cookies? Not likely. But if you're still looking for that cookie that will really class things up, you'll be pleased with today's offering....more

5 Easy Ways to Slam Holiday Stress

Your whole family is coming. They're counting on you to have a perfectly tidy home, a perfectly cooked meal, and the perfect gifts. That, or maybe no one is coming. Either way, the holidays can be an exceptionally stressful time of the year; a lot is happening all at once. Your bank account is about to get stretched, and your clothes will likely become tight as well. The last thing you need is to get bogged down by stress. Stress can make you ill, but more immediately, it can ruin your holidays altogether.Here are 5 easy ways to slam holiday stress and enjoy yourself:...more

24 Acts of Kindness This Holiday Season

 "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."-Aesop I'm grateful for heat.Yes, I love the blazing sun of summer, but right now, I'm most thankful for central heat.You see, our furnace bid us adieu on Sunday. After 15 years of pumping out heat in the Chicago winters, it had had enough. The pipes were corroded, leaking, and in the words of our heating and cooling guy, "if there's not already carbon monoxide present, there will be soon."...more

Chai Spice Muffins

EmPowered NutritionMuffins are a versatile breakfast or snack item that are sure to be a crowd pleaser every time!  These chai spice muffins are perfect for the holiday season with notes of nutmeg & cinnamon.  It's like your favorite cup of chai tea rolled into a warm, delicious muffin.   Hopefully you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday & are getting back to your daily routines. I know the beginning of my week was off to a slow start. Sometimes you just need some time to recover from a holiday weekend & ease into the week.  Many of you know I love to bake, it's truly my greatest stress reliever. I hate to say it, but all that baking (I'm easily stressed!) isn't always the best for our health. I'm all about treating yourself, letting yourself have what you're craving, & making room for all foods in your diet, but sometimes we should try to lighten up our favorite recipes to make them just a tad bit better for us & still keep all the yummy flavor!     Image via Wix  Since we are officially into the heart of the holiday season (which in my book, holiday season = baking season), I've been in my kitchen working on a muffin recipe that you're sure to love! Muffins are one of the easiest baked goods to make a little healthier because you can throw almost anything in the batter & they'll still taste delicious.    Here are some of my favorite ways to lighten up my muffin recipes: Use Greek yogurt as a fat replacer. So instead of adding a ton of butter or oil to your recipe, swap some of it out for full fat Greek yogurt (yes! full fat...don't be afraid!). This takes a little work in getting the right ratio, but you'll end up with a muffin that's lower in fat & has a some extra protein! #win Applesauce is a great way to cut back on the refined sugars in muffins. Just make sure to choose unsweetened versions, or make your own! Applesauce also works as a great oil replacer in your baked goods. This swap can usually be made on a 1:1 ratio (1 cup applesauce = 1 cup sugar, etc.). Add rolled oats to add extra fiber, texture, & cut back on some of the flour.  You can also easily use whole wheat flour in muffins, since these are typically a more dense baked good & don't require the delicate texture a cake or cookie might have. Maple syrup is another great way to cut back on the sugar in your recipe. You can use less syrup than straight sugar, yet still get the same amount of sweetness. Don't forget about spices & vanilla extract, these are great ways to add sweetness & flavor without going overboard in the sugar department.    So after all this talk of making delicious muffins, let's get to the recipe! ...more

Coping and Thriving with Loss during the Holidays

This is my favorite time of year – autumn colors with nearby mountains cloaked in winter white; gaggles of geese discussing where to winter; aroma of Pumpkin Spice candles; knitting scarves for people I love; breaking trail in snowshoes. And in between all this winter fun and beauty – family and friends gathering, and giving thanks, and eating way too much pie, and lighting menorahs, and decking the halls, and welcoming in a New Year....more

NaBloPoMo (11/2016) - Day 29: Fruitcake - It's not just a doorstop anymore

We've all heard the horror stories that come around each Holiday season about ridiculously bad fruitcake. That cake that gets re-gifted time and time again because, really, no one wants it. Eventually, it simply doubles as a doorstop. It's the stuff of legend - or urban legend.Fortunately, my grandmother's fruitcake was not fodder for the re-gifting set. Quite the opposite, in fact. People craved Gram's fruitcake. I don't like fruitcake and even I enjoyed a small bit of it each year.  So that's really saying something....more

Red Velvet Marshmallow Crinkles

Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies SeriesOn the second day of Christmas, I'd like to give you something amazing. A cookie concocted out of cocoa and sugar, fluffy and soft and stuffed with white chocolate and the oozy goodness of marshmallow. These festive crinkles are colored red to assume the cheer of the season, their surfaces cracked with powdered sugar dusting as if they've just been sprinkled with lightly falling snow....more
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