Tag Archives: Christmas

Fond Memories of the Spirit of Christmas

Long View: Princess of Christmas Past

As a child, my favorite time of year was Christmastime. It was not just Christmas day, but the whole season surrounding it. The spirit of being joyful, grateful, loving, and caring was something I thought should exist all year long.

The spirit of giving was my favorite of all. Everyone felt like a prince or princess waiting to receive their heart’s desire. It gave me joy to give someone a gift and see the expression on their face when they opened it, especially when it was thoughtful or something they really needed or always wanted.

The season also came with beautiful and vibrant decorations. Some of my favorites were the candy canes and stockings. I remember the candy-filled, clear plastic candy canes with the solid red hook. They could be filled with any kind of candy, from gumballs to M&M’s or even Sweet Tarts or jelly beans.

I also remember the red see-through netted stockings filled with both candy and small toys. I thought to myself, “Why would they make a stocking where I can see the goodies in it but then tell me I can’t open it until Christmas?” It was too tempting to not try and sneak some candy out of it ahead of time. Although I was anxious to open it, the wait built patience. And patience is a virtue.

More of my favorite memories include choosing our real, live Christmas trees. My daddy insisted that we get a real tree and not an artificial one. “Nothing can replace the scent of fresh pine in the house,” he explained. 

Our tree was even more special because it was decorated with not only store-bought decorations of lights, bulbs, and tinsel, but also ornaments I had made at school. And the tree had to be as tall as the ceiling with either a shining start or an angel on top.

My most memorable times at Christmas were when my family came together at my grandma’s and granddaddy’s house on Christmas Eve. I got to see all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. Of course there was lots of food. My favorites were the turkey, dressing, and peach cobbler.  Everything was homemade, and I could tell it was made with love.

It’s my goal to carry the spirit of being joyful, grateful, loving, and caring into the present and the future. With or without the candy canes, stockings, or decorations, the memories of family and love are most important to me.

The material things pass away. The candy is consumed.  The stockings are thrown away. The light bulbs eventually burn out. The tinsel gets tangled, and the pine needles on the real tree dry out. But memories of family love will continue to live in our hearts.

Everyone here at Health Alliance wishes you and your family a joyous holiday season and a very Merry Christmas. Share your memories with someone you love, especially those older princes or princesses in your family who have years and years of fond memories on their minds this time of year.

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

Family Time for the Holidays

Covered Bridge: If Only Time Stood Still

As a child with a birthday in December (of course shortly followed by Christmas), I can say I always wished the first part of December away. I was so excited about all the festivities to come that I merely wanted the days to pass until the real excitement began.

Even though I share a birthday with my twin sister and some of our presents consisted of sharing, I wanted nothing more than to see what gifts we might receive for our birthday. Fast forward 10 days, and all we wanted to see were the gifts we would receive for Christmas, hoping not to have to share those.

That’s usually the way kids work, right?

Now, as an adult, my daughter’s birthday is 2 days from mine, which means I care less about what I get and more about what we get to do for her. My husband and I rarely get gifts for one another. We find much more joy in giving to others than receiving ourselves.

These days, we look forward to making cakes for birthdays and favorite meals for our kids. We look forward to family coming to town to visit and trying our best to get thoughtful gifts for them that we hope they’ll enjoy.

We enjoy the extra company and chaos that ensues with it. We spend more time sitting around the table chatting with family and less time worrying about the cleanup of a meal we spent most of the day preparing. After all, it will be there tomorrow. Our family may not be.

It’s also important to remember that while some of us think of joy and family during the holiday season, others feel isolation and anxiety, and the shorter, darker days and cold weather don’t help. We often forget about those who may be living alone. I encourage you this holiday season to take an extra moment to make time for the ones who may need it more than you know.

During the holidays, which is oftentimes the only time we get to be with distant family, take the extra time to not worry about what can be put off until tomorrow. Spend it talking, communicating, and interacting. We rush through life as children to get to the next exciting moment, but what if the most exciting moments now are the ones shared over a meal and simple conversations?

Happy Holidays!

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

National Pomegranate Month

National Pomegranate Month

It’s National Pomegranate Month, and you can work the in-season fruit into both sweet and savory recipes for a fresh burst of flavor. These healthy pomegranate recipes can help you get started.

First up is a beautiful dish for holiday breakfast, Cinnamon Spice and Pomegranate Oatmeal.

Cinnamon Spice and Pomegranate Oatmeal

 

Baked Balsamic Goat Cheese Stuffed Pomegranate Chicken is an easy weeknight dinner for the family.

Baked Balsamic Goat Cheese Stuffed Pomegranate Chicken

 

Lighten up everyone’s favorite with this Caramelized Butternut, Crispy Kale, and Fontina Pizza with pomegranate salsa.

Caramelized Butternut, Crispy Kale, and Fontina Pizza

Caramelized Butternut, Crispy Kale + Fontina Pizza

 

This beautiful Apple-Pomegranate Breakfast Crumble would be perfect for a Christmas morning surprise.

Apple-Pomegranate Breakfast Crumble (Gluten and Grain Free!)

 

Whip up a romantic date night with Beef Filets with Pomegranate-Pinot Sauce.

Fall Farro Salad with Halloumi & Pomegranates
Image and Recipe via My Fitness Pal

 

This Fall Farro Salad with Halloumi & Pomegranates is a celebration of colorful in-season veggies.

Fall Farro Salad w/ Halloumi & Pomegranates

 

Go vegetarian for dinner tonight with Baked Pumpkin with Rocket, Feta, and Pomegranate.

Baked Pumpkin with Rocket, Feta, and Pomegranate
Image and Recipe via Adeline and Lumiere

National Food Holiday Recipes

National Food Holiday Recipes

This week, we’re celebrating with national food holiday recipes that feature popular holiday dishes and ingredients perfect for a week of entertaining. 

First up for National Pumpkin Pie Day, indulge without the guilt with the Ultimate Healthy Pumpkin Pie.

The Ultimate Healthy Pumpkin Pie

 

For National Candy Cane Day, make breakfast for visiting family special with Dark Chocolate Peppermint Muffins.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Muffins with Soothing Peppermint oil {Grain Free}

 

Beat fruitcake’s bad rap for National Fruitcake Day with these gorgeous Mini Fruitcakes.

mini fruitcakes

 

Whip up Dark Chocolate Bark with Dried Fruit for an easy and beautiful National Chocolate Day treat.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Dried Fruit Recipe

 

It’s National Pepper Pot Day, and Pepper Pot is a Caribbean stew, especially popular in Philly and at Christmastime. Try making your own.

Pepper Pot
Image and Recipe via Saveur

 

It’s National Bacon Day, and a little bacon goes a long way in this delicious Creamy Butternut Squash Alfredo.

Creamy Butternut Squash Alfredo Pasta

 

It’s time for a new year! Clear out your leftover cranberry sauce and impress your guests with Easy Cranberry Brie Crostini.

Easy Cranberry Brie Crostini

Give Back Christmas Wishes

Give Back for the Holidays

This week, we’re helping you find ways to give back this holiday season.

Donate a homemade scarf to the Orphan Foundation of America’s Red Scarf Project and give foster teens in college a way to stay warm.

Donate a Red Scarf

 

Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped, or your homemade toys to give to kids in need. Find a drop-off center.

Donate new, gently used, or homemade coats to those who need them with the Warm Coats & Warm Hearts Coat Drive.

Giving Warmth

 

Send a thoughtful holiday card to American service members, veterans, and their families with the American Red Cross’s Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

Reaching Out for the Holidays

 

Fill a shoe box with handmade or bought gifts to send a personalized present to a child in need through Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child program.

Give a Personalized Gift

 

Donate your old cell phone to Cell Phones for Soldiers and give the gift of communication to our troops and their families.

Give Your Old Phone

 

Give the gift of a good holiday meal to a family that might otherwise go without through a food bank near you.

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Holiday Orange Recipes

Healthy Orange Recipes

While you decorate your house and whip up holiday treats, we’ll help you make use of your leftover in-season oranges with these orange recipes.

This Pomegranate Orange Salad is a light and healthy lunch in the middle of holiday meal season.

Pomegranate Orange Salad
Image and Recipe via Chelsea’s Messy Apron

 

Herb and Citrus Oven Roasted Chicken is perfect for weeknight dinners or the holidays.

Herb and Citrus Oven Roasted Chicken Recipe

 

These Grilled Scallop and Orange Kebabs with Honey-Ginger Glaze are a quick and easy showstopper.

Grilled Scallop and Orange Kebabs with Honey-Ginger Glaze

 

Your family will love these Copycat Orange Fruit Chews made with fresh juice.

Sun-Kissed Fruit Chews Recipe {100% Fruit}

 

Orange Chicken Stir-Fry with Asparagus is way tastier and healthier than picking up takeout.

Orange Chicken Stir-Fry with Asparagus

 

Citrus and Fennel Salad turns in-season produce into a pretty holiday side.

 

This heart-healthy Orange-Rosemary Glazed Salmon will only feel decadent.

Orange-Rosemary Glazed Salmon
Image and Recipe via Cooking Classy

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The Holiday Season

Long View: Did You Thrive or Survive this Holiday Season?

Here at Health Alliance, we’ve made it through another holiday season. Most years I’m stressed from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Add in Medicare and Individual enrollment seasons, and it’s easy to wish the holidays away. Here are some ways I managed to thrive, not just survive, during the holidays.

I need to say no sometimes.

I didn’t attend every activity I was invited to, and I am a better person for it. Most years, I cause a lot of my own stress by trying to fit too many things on the calendar. Setting aside some time to relax and reflect became an important part of this round of celebrations. Try it. You might enjoy the things you agreed to do a little more.

I need to get over myself.

I don’t have to be involved in every decision. All the adults in my life are capable of selecting a turkey or picking up family from the airport. My involvement is not only unnecessary, but sometimes unwelcome. That realization took stress off me and my family!

I will not whine.

The grocery stores seemed to be crowded every time I needed to shop. Long lines, people rushing around, tempting candy displays—you know the scene. Every time I was close to whining, I remembered almost 20 percent of the population in Champaign County doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. We can all stand in line without complaining. This gave me a much better attitude throughout the holidays.

I will not mention how cold it is outside.

I need to hunker down and stop focusing on the weather. We live in Illinois, not Hawaii. The weather is no surprise. I’m trying to focus on the warmth of the holidays, not the cold outside.

These little steps helped me have a more enjoyable holiday season. We’re also using them to get through our Health Alliance busy season with great results. Give them a try and you can thrive during the holidays, too.