“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”

—Agnes M. Pharo

Finding peace and good will towards our fellow men and women can be a challenging task during the holiday season. Expectation levels run so very high during these few frantic weeks, and patience levels can wane amidst the cyclone of activity. Traffic congestion, long lines in the post office, stores, and banks and a multitude of social gatherings can be taxing to our systems.

Staying healthy and happy during this festive and frenetic period requires dedicated effort. While a certain amount of revelry is a joyous part of observing the season, overindulging in rich treats and alcohol can lead to physical and emotional discomfort.

Try to take time to soothe and renew yourself. Remember to take a quick walk every hour while at the office, as well as reaching your arms upward for a nice, long stretch. This essential break will give you fresh energy and relieve eye strain also.  Keep up with your regular workout schedule, including long walks outside, in the fresh, crisp air. Nothing lifts the spirits faster than taking a bit of exercise.

Dry, cold air and ingesting holiday sweets and treats can be harsh on the skin. Treat yourself to a refreshing skin treatment. Peel a ripe avocado and mash the flesh into a soft paste. Using the pit, massage the paste into your skin with upward circular motions. Let absorb for a few minutes and then wash off with warm water. The intense vitamin E content of the avocado will soften and illuminate stressed-out skin.

Enjoying seasonal produce and fruits will enhance your sense of well- being and help keep you healthy and happy. The fruits of December are full of incredible, natural flavor and deliver exceptional nutritional benefits. Choose from cranberries, apples, grapefruit, kumquats, tangerines, clementines and pomegranates. In addition to their vibrant, sunny flavor, these fruits provide powerful antioxidants to keep your immune system operating at peak performance.

Clementines are delightfully sweet, so juicy and super easy to peel, making them a terrific snack choice for kids. They are a tasty and light alternative to the heavier foods of the holiday. For an elegant dessert, peel and section clementines, place sections in a pretty bowl and pour champagne over the sections. Let soak for about an hour, then serve in individual dishes. Or drizzle a little honey over the fruit slices instead, and top with cinnamon and slivered almonds.  Include clementines in a colorful fruit salad for holiday meals, or add the little slices of sunshine to green salads or grain-based side dishes.

Enjoy this sparkling winter salad as you prepare your delicious life this holiday season.

Sparkling Holiday Salad

4-6 servings

Mix together in a large salad bowl:

6 cups baby spinach

3 cups baby kale leaves

3 cups arugula or any salad green of your choice

3/4 cup toasted walnuts, pignoli, almonds or pecans (optional)

12 clementines, peeled and sectioned

1 cup dried cranberries

1 large apple, washed and cubed (honeycrisp is nice)

Whisk together in a smaller bowl:

6-8 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice

4 tablespoons cranberry or pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon organic honey

freshly ground black pepper

pinch of sea salt

Drizzle half the dressing over salad and toss gently. Taste, season with salt and pepper and add more dressing if desired. Divide among 4-6 plates.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net.

Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com