eGuide to Healthier Holidays

I meant to deliver this to my people before Thanksgiving. But it kept growing and it was hard to finish. It’s still not finished. It’s hard to put the knowledge you take for granted into words. 

Today, I give you the introduction free-of-charge. If this intrigues you…buy the entire eGuide in a nice, safe way over at PayPal.

Introduction to Guide to Healthier Holidays:

“Once the holidays are over….then I’ll start”.  It’s much too hard to behave over the holidays, right?

 The holidays are the perfect time to start. Most people have already cleared the first big hurdle; shaving time out of their busy schedules to devote to cooking. Why not revisit and reinvent the menu with healthier options?

 But what is healthy?

Healthy is hard to define because it’ s incredibly subjective. That warm slice of homemade, whole grain bread could be heaven to me, but a gastrointestinal nightmare to someone with wheat allergies. A one mile walk is a nap for the 10k runner but a major milestone for a morbidly obese person.

 We all bring unique health histories, energy levels, food traditions, physical limitations and personal tastes to the table. How can you address all of those? 

You can’t.

 All you can do is create your own definition of healthy; one that best fits your lifestyle, your body, your preferences and your budget. 

This guide is based on my definition of healthy. It is based on three big ideas I believe to be true for me and my family:

 1. Homemade is healthier: I believe that health care reform starts at home. I believe in cooking with ingredients whose primary intention is to nourish the body, not maintain three-year shelf lives. Ingredients like monosodium glutamate and benzoyl peroxide scare me more than fat and carbs.

Cooking from scratch does not mean assembling processed and preseasoned foods, it means using whole, unprocessed foods as close to their original source as possible.

2. Seasonal eating is healthier: Tomatoes taste bad in February for a reason. Foods at their peak taste better and give your body the nutrients it needs for that season. Each season presents produce that is more readily available and costs less. (Have you priced raspberries in January?)  Seasonal eating is also better for the planet. It takes a lot of resources to force food to grow in the cold or to ship them to less sunny locations.    

 3. It’s only healthy if you can access it. No matter how nutritious a food is, it won’t be if you can’t afford it or find it in your area. This guide is for good cooking, not culinary snobbery. You will not need white truffle oil or $40 pinches of saffron. These are lovely ingredients, but they are beyond the scope of this guide and most pocketbooks. I hope that most of the food here can be easily found and made without fear in the average kitchen.

 What is this guide?

This guide is primarily for the culinary-challenged; those who get intimidated by fresh herbs or get stuck in habits of assembling processed ingredients. It is an introduction to bringing fresh, homemade flavors into your holidays. 

This guide tries to answer “why” and “how” to showcase late fall and winter seasonal ingredients; to reap their health benefits and flavors.

 It identifies the dangers of holiday eating and how to navigate them. It helps you acknowledge your areas of weakness so you can plan a little damage control. 

 This guide is NOT going to analyze recipes for calories, fat content or grams of protein. It will not tout statistics. (Because the minute you do, someone finds research to refute it). It is not fat-free, gluten-free, vegan or lactose intolerant. It might not always be politically, socially or environmentally correct.  You may not always agree, but even disagreeing helps you clarify what you need.

 Most importantly, this guide is about using common sense. Sometimes we obsess about counting calories or using all-organic or only sustainably raised food. But the science, the price tag and the lack of availability excludes a great deal of us. It is possible to promote certain beliefs without practicing them 24-7. It’s about finding balance and being flexible.  It’s about doing what you can when you can. 

 One of the biggest gifts you can give this holiday season is to treat yourself and your loved ones to balanced, homemade seasonal food and flavors. The sooner you give that gift, the better you will feel.

 Please use this guide as the inspiration to feel better before January 1st.  




Registration Open! Healthy Holiday Workshop

Arm yourself with common sense tips for healthier, tastier holiday cooking and eating with this interactive workshop. Topics include:


  • Defining “healthy”. What does it mean to you?
  • Navigating those holiday potlucks and buffets where we often overindulge
  • Recipe makeovers for holiday favorites
  • Cooking demos* & yummy samples

*due to location restrictions, this is not a very “hands-on” cooking class. I will do most of the cooking with some minor assistance from participants. But you’ll still have fun. 

Salads in winter? It can be done.

When: Tuesday, December 11th or Wednesday, December 12th
Where: Stepping Stone Learning Center, Poynette, WI
Time: 6:15-8:00 pm
Cost:  $10  What a bargain!!


TO REGISTER: Click on link below to download registration form.  Complete and submit (directions on form). Please contact me at if you have any questions!  


Healthy Holiday Workshop Registration Form

Thinning Carrots

I am in charge of the school garden this week. It’s a bit like trespassing – taking care of a garden you didn’t plant.  As a novice gardener, I question what type of care these varieties need.   

I do know one thing. Thin those carrots.

Initially, I hesitate to pull the teeny tiny seedlings. I picture the tender, little hands who planted these seeds. Or in this case, tossed in a zealous handful. It means destroying significant clumps of delicate vegetation, well over half the plants. I hear those little wisps quietly scream…

Noooo, evil hand…give us a chancewe will growww…”

But thinning keeps the entire lot from dying.   

Are you bracing yourself for the inevitable cheesy gardening metaphor?

More and more, I feel inundated by massive clumps of undernourished words. Now when I read, “55 Ways to…” I click away fast and furious. I even shut down at “15 Steps Toward…”  Give me 5. Better yet, give me 3.

When it comes to ideas, articles, stories and speeches, we hate thinning carrots. Why is editing so hard?  

Because everything has potential. It all starts from the same seed mix. It should ALL be given a chance to grow, right?   

Because we might weed the wrong plant. Pull a strong point. Cut this phrase or prune that anecdote, and risk confusing, even losing, the audience. Keep it all….JUST IN CASE. 

Because every word is of Absolute. Vital. Importance.  

Because leaving things out is mean.  Poor omitted words. Everyone should get to play.    

But think about the last quality article that grabbed you. A riveting speech that made you applaud in earnest. In your own living room. What drew you in? More than likely, it wasn’t information overload. How did it leave you? Wanting more.  

The healthiest words, spoken or written, leave us hungry for that next delicious bite.

Sacrificing weaker ideas and unessential detail allows stronger ideas to settle into the space they need. This breathing room gives your audience time to digest their meaning. It’s hard to digest when in a constant state of chewing.

It’s survival of the fittest . Editing produces the most vibrant carrots to dangle in front of noses. Follow me.

carrots that command attention     photo by alvimann/

Hate to pull and destroy? Divide and transplant. Give smaller ideas their own fertile patch. Some take root. Some disintegrate into the ground. Like my stupid parsley. Apparently, parsley didn’t want to play.

Back to the school garden. Insecurity crept as I surveyed my work. Did I pull too many?  Will Irate Garden Mom post a scathing remark on the school Facebook page about that idiot who totally MUTILATED our lovely patch of baby carrots. You know, the wispy kind that absolutely thrives by growing in clumps?

Doubt it. One glance today shows me they’re already stronger.

Are you on information overload? Is it time to thin those rows?

Dropping the “alternative”

If one out of every three Americans uses some kind of alternative medicine, why do we still call it “alternative”.

In this article, I suggest green businesses examine their messages. Today I add that you drop “alternative” unless you are targeting a true niche market.

Some people respond well to the word; people who regularly seek the unconventional or those who aren’t getting desirable results with the conventional.  

But some immediately think “quackery”. You want to stand out from the competition, but not in a freak show kind of way.

Making herbal tinctures is safe, easy and fun.

My biggest gripe with “alternative” is the complete 180 it’s taken. How did it get so twisted? Why does acupuncture, a treatment used for over 2,500 years, become a practice we suspect way more than popping pills with 2012 birth dates? Why do we hear “Hey, I’ll try ANYTHING at this point” from folks who finally decide to give this newfangled voodoo a try.

We don’t consider pills and probes snake-oil science despite our ignorance of their long-term effects and experimental roots becausethe language that surrounds them is serious, clinical jargon.  It’s gotta be legitimate because the words are so big, right?    

Organic agriculture. Additive and trans-fat free food.  Herbal medicine.  Just a few examples of old school methods of surviving and thriving marketed primarily with “alternative” branding that drives a certain audience away.    

Genetic modification, pharmaceuticals, preservatives…all new kids. They are the alternative who have quickly become the new ”normal”. Why?  

Many reasons. But in part, its language. The language we choose to describe our ideas, products or services is our responsibility. Continuing to use words like “alternative” sacrifices history. It suggests “new” and “unproven” which downplays a viable standing in the mainstream marketplace. When you rely on “alternative”, you polarize yourself and turn off potential customers or new advocates.  

You provide an option, not another.    

Reclaim the “traditional”. Remind us about the successful origins of what you offer. Find a fresh new way to let people know how your product or service is beneficially different without blatantly calling it “different”.

Check this out: Green Patriot posters reconnect our civil duty to environmental causes. Just one clever way to quit preaching to the choir and reach a wider audience.    

Meet Local Bites

It’s not an identity crisis. It’s an identity evolution.

When I left my job to venture forth into the world of self-employment, my head reeled with a kazillion ideas. Three stood out from the pack; freelance writing, consulting services and a tangible food/wellness center. All involve writing (obviously) and education. But the latter also involves access to a commercial kitchen, hosting workshops and setting up retail of locally produced items. In my unicorn, fairy tale world, the first two eventually lead to (and help finance), the third. Right now the third is but a dream.

But what the hell do you name a business that embraces it all? Have you ever named a business? I thought it would be soooo much fun. It’s been nothing short of schizophrenic. I have five email accounts people. It’s time for a merge.

You have met Warm Turkey and Reality Wellness.  They describe my no-nonsense approach to improving mind, body and soul. But even my biggest fan thought Warm Turkey meant comfort food, you know, like a nice turkey sandwich? And Reality Wellness is cumbersome and  theoretical. Not very catchy.

Local Bites is the corny party-crasher that’s been hovering around my keg for some time, kinda like Flounder in Animal House. Persistance pays off. Where Reality Wellness was the tall, elegant lady with long shiny hair, Local Bites is the perky, short round gal with curls. Reality Wellness invites you to make eco-friendly improvements. Local Bites busts some chops. Reality Wellness was my girl crush. Local Bites is who I am.  

I think you’re getting the picture.

Mark Twain once described sound bites as “a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.” I love that. It’s my new mantra. Local Bites gives you edible and conceptual pieces to chew on. Local Bites says bite me when it needs to. Yes, this is a name I will invite to sit down and play cards with me. As long as it lets me win sometimes.

Growing pleasures, people, not pains. Grow with me.

Six Weeks Notice

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.      ~ Mark Twain

Oh…hi Karen….you’re actually the person I wanted to talk to….

I’ve been working in my current position for 2.5 years. This was the first job I took after a six-year maternity leave. Why my maternity leave lasted six years is another story for another day.

I’m calling….um….to give you my notice…

Shit, shit, shit I’m getting verklempt. Not in the plan…I was going to be cool, pragmatic…this is business…I have my list in front of me…focus on the list. Balls to the walls…

Can I ask why?

This isn’t “take this job and shove it”. I’ve learned a ton here. I like my co-workers. It’s not you, it’s me. Well…maybe it is you a little. My position limits me. I want to write. I want to teach. I need to grow. It’s time for me to lead. To call some shots. There’s no opportunity for me to do that here. 

Because I’ve tried for two and half years to be zen with training management. Enough time to know training management is not my thing. I’m getting squirrely and irritable. Duly noted by my co-workers and family.    

Because I’m 42 for Christ sake, and my professional biological clock no longer gently ticks. It persists, when…when…when?   

Because I’m exerting excessive energy into someone else’s work plan. Because I want to pour this energy into my dream, into my community, into my family, into making a direct impact on the wellness of others.  

Because Confucius says, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For me, this means creating my own unique position rather than adapting to one developed by a company prior to my arrival.

Because Madonna sings, “There’s only so much you can learn in one place…the more that you wait, the more time that you waste.”

Ok, I didn’t quote Confucius and Madonna to my executive director. Luckily, she said all the right things: Ah, you are at the stage when you realize you only get one life…You are at a good age, one that brings more confidence…This is bad news, but it’s also good news. I think you’re going to do some exciting things.  

I’m not quitting, I’m moving forward. One of the stupidest phrases people take too literally is “winners never quit and quitters never win”. So they stick it out and stagnate. Leaving can mean accepting your reality and your limitations. It means identifying strengths and catering to them. It takes maturity.

Leaving takes courage. Ceasing any situation is one of the hardest things we do. It’s easier to stay, it’s safer. Change is harder because it challenges us. A huge reason I didn’t leave sooner is that my family already lives by humble means. Losing this salary puts us in financial straits. I know this. And it scares the shit out of me.  

Oddly, a major mental shift came to me from watching X-Games, The Movie with my son. Travis Pastrana explained why his crowd takes such incredible risks with their lives. “In those moments that most people say ‘I can’t’, most people say ‘Self-preservation’, most people say ‘What if’?…we say, ‘What if?’ the other way. What if you land it? What if it is possible?”

What if I nail the landing? What if I succeed? What if I make more money?

What if, for the first time in my professional life, I say “I love my job”?

It’s time to find out. As of June 8th, I will be a free agent. What will Amy do, you may ask? You’ll just have to stick around and find out.

But rest assured this end is the beginning of a dream. Off I sail with a belly full of nerves, a head full of inspiration and a soul, finally, beginning to fill with faith in myself.