Celebrate Together: 12 Ways To Give Back With Your Kids

The winter holidays are a time to celebrate with family. They’re also a wonderful time of year to instill a giving spirit in your kids! When families share charitable moments together, they build a tradition of giving that will carry through to future generations.

Kids grow older, but charitable traditions last forever!

Some of the more traditional “giving back” activities, like volunteering or donating to charities, can be difficult to pull off with small children in tow. Especially for kids who haven’t quite grasped the concept of money, financial charity doesn’t often have the same effect as physically working on a project together. These ideas help families with kids of every age get involved with their communities, and find ways to give back during the holiday season.

1. Get involved with your kids’ schools.

One great way to help kids see the fruits of their labor is to focus on a place where they spend a lot of time: school! Get your kids involved picking out and making end-of-year gifts for their teachers. On a chilly morning, get up a few minutes early to make a pitcher of hot chocolate, and have your kids hand out cups during the morning car line. Your kids take the bus to school? Have them write thank-you letters to their bus drivers, and hand them out with a bag of holiday candy.

2. Sponsor a family for a gift-giving holiday.

The holidays can be a difficult time for families going through a tough time. As a family, participate in a holiday sponsorship through a local charity, church, or community center. Many of these organizations offer “giving trees,” where your family can pick a name off a tree or list to sponsor for the holidays. Have your kids plan a budget, find out what their friends like, and choose the items that you donate to the family in need. For an extra DIY touch, have the whole family write handmade cards to deliver with the gifts!

3. Start a holiday toy drive.

For a larger-scale project, your family can start a holiday toy drive within your community. Ask neighbors, friends, and schoolmates for donations of gently used toys, clothes, and winter supplies. When you have enough, donate the whole pile to a local charity, hospital, or shelter.

4. Do something kind for strangers.

A day of unexpected charity makes for an excellent family tradition! Choose a busy spot like a mall or grocery store entrance, and hand out small gifts to strangers, like individual flowers, handmade holiday decorations, or compliments. Your kids get to watch strangers’ faces light up at these small acts of kindness, and learn a valuable lesson for the future!

5. Make handmade cards for hospital patients.

Hospitals work hard to fill patients’ rooms with holiday cheer. Help out by making handmade cards for your local children’s ward, or volunteering to clean and decorate common areas.

6. Go caroling at a senior center.

Many senior centers receive few visitors, especially from children. Share your kids’ holiday cheer with the elderly with a day caroling at local senior centers. If your kids are readers, bring holiday-themed books to read aloud, or host a sing-along in the center’s common rooms.

7. Hand out baked goods to local workers.

If you live in an area with a chilly climate, it’s a great idea to thank local workers like mailmen, garbage collectors, and crossing guards. Make a big batch of homemade baked goods and hand them out to everyone who helps your family maintain its routine. Bonus points if you can give something warm to someone working out in the cold!

8. Cook meals for a family in need.

Like sponsoring a family’s holiday gifts, you can also donate the time and energy it takes to make meals for a family in need. Get your kids involved with your favorite holiday recipes: have them plan out their perfect holiday dinner, then get them in on making a budget, shopping for groceries, and cooking the individual components. When you’re all done, pack everything in reusable containers and deliver to a local family.

9. Host a “give back” party.

Instead of an Ugly Sweater or Grinchmas party, host a Give Back party. Invite guests over to bake cookies, make handmade cards or decorations, and bring an item or two to donate. Spend a few hours sharing holiday stories and working on crafts together, then pile into cars and drive to your nearest donation center so everyone can share in the big moment together.

10. Plan a community cleanup day.

Kids and cleaning may not seem like a match made in heaven, but you can get kids involved with a community cleanup day if you let them be in charge (well, mostly) of the planning. Have your kids pick a place that’s important to your family, like a local park, beach, or playground. Then, have them coordinate with friends to plan a day of cleanup. Bundle up in winter gear and turn the cleanup day into a festive occasion! (For bonus points, make it a friendly competition: see who can collect the most trash in a set time limit!)

11. Make care kits for the homeless.

Especially during winter, homeless people benefit greatly from things like socks, snacks, hygiene items, helpful resources, and words of encouragement. (For more information, visit the Portland Rescue Mission.)

Winter is a difficult time for the homeless. You can get your kids involved in this project by creating care kits. Fill winter hats, coats, or sleeping bags with cold-weather essentials: fuzzy socks, hand warmers, lip balm, lotion, and cleaning supplies. Complete each kit with a handmade holiday card, then donate the lot to a local homeless shelter.

12. Donate DIY-ables to an animal shelter.

Kids and animals go together like candy canes and gingerbread! If your kids are major animal lovers, get them involved in a charity project that sponsors a local animal shelter. There are many online recipes for pet-friendly baked goods, homemade toys, and decorations like pillows and dog beds. Spend a day making these items together, then donate them to a local shelter.

What are your favorite ways to give back during the holidays? Let us know in the comments!

Sleep Right: How To Ensure Quality Sleep During the Holidays

The holidays are a time of high excitement, for kids and parents alike. It may be fun (for the kids, at least) to wake up early and open presents, but all the holiday excitement can turn into a major case of the humbugs if naps are skipped, bedtimes are missed, and sugary treats take over our holiday diets.

How do you get kids from “holiday cheer” to “visions of snowplums dancing in their heads”?

These tips will help your family guarantee healthy sleep, during the most wonderful (and busiest) time of the year.

1. Whenever possible, stick to your regular routine.

The winter holidays often disrupt our usual routines. Instead of school, kids head to family events, neighborhood parties, and snowy outings. Despite your busy schedule, try to stick to your normal bedtime routine as much as possible. If you’re staying over at Grandma’s house, pack familiar toothbrushes, story books, and sleep aids like blankets or stuffed animals. When bedtime rolls around, try to resist the request for an extra fifteen or thirty minutes–sticking to normalcy will help your kids’ bodies fall into their natural bedtime rhythms, making sleep seem less far away.

2. Make bedtime fun with a new family tradition.

If you celebrate a gift-giving holiday with your kids, the night before the big day can be far too exciting to get to sleep. One way to curb this is to start the festivities a little early! Create a new family tradition, where everyone unwraps a new set of personalized jammies, curls up under blankets, and reads or tells stories together. This can be a good low-energy way to curb kids’ enthusiasm, and get their minds and bodies ready for bed.

3. Plan a seasonal siesta.

Between cooking, cleaning, gift-wrapping, and snowball fights, the actual holiday can add far too much stress. If your schedule allows, set aside an hour or two where the whole family–not just the kids–takes a brief break to energize and recharge. This can be nap time for the kids (and we all know a nap would be a great gift for Mom or Dad, too), or a quiet time for the adults to enjoy a cup of coffee. If you make the siesta a familiar part of your holiday routine, kids will benefit from the scheduled relaxation time.

4. Keep kids’ diets balanced.

Candy canes! Chocolate! Reese’s Trees! The holidays are full of sugary stuff that keeps our kids up at night. That’s why it’s so important to stick to a balanced diet during the holidays, and enjoy sweets and caffeine only in moderation. Plus, healthy proteins like turkey contain tryptophan, an amino acid that makes us sleepy as our bodies break it down. Avoid sugar and caffeine for a few hours before bedtime, and make sure your kids are eating a healthy ratio of greens, protein, and carbs at mealtimes.

5. Learn some new relaxation games.

If your kids are struggling to fall asleep, relaxation games can be a good activity to try together. Practice body mindfulness by stretching every body part one by one: while laying down, start by flexing the fingers and toes, then move clockwise around the body until you’ve checked in with every body part. You can also turn this into a holiday grounding activity by naming objects in the room, or objects related to the holiday you celebrate. Can your kids name five red things associated with Christmas? How about six decorations you create for Hanukkah? These mindfulness activities can help calm racing thoughts, release pent-up energy, and prepare the mind for rest.

6. Remove distractions.

Holiday decor like lights and music can be a major distraction when we’re trying to sleep. Make sure kids’ windows are well-covered, blocking out any twinkling or blinking lights from the street. If you’re staying with family, try to find a place for the kids to sleep well away from any late-night conversations. Tuck travel cribs in quiet, safe spaces like the laundry room or a home office. If cousins are likely to stay up all night giggling (like in my family), it might be time for separate rooms.

Winter Jammies

Winter is a great time to get outdoors and active!

7. Tire them out.

Kids have a seemingly limitless amount of energy, but that’s nothing some good old-fashioned cardio can’t cure! A few hours before bedtime, get the kids up and moving with some holiday games and activities. Winter is a great time for snowball fights, hide and seek, and capture the flag. If they opened new toys or games during the festivities, find a way to make playtime as active as possible. This extra calorie burn will come in handy at bedtime!

8. Try a natural route.

Certain natural supplements, like melatonin or specific essential oils, can help the body relax and calm down enough for sleep. (If you choose to go a supplement route, just be sure to check with your pediatrician first.) Essential oils like lavender, valerian, and chamomile are great for relaxation. A couple of drops in a diffuser, under pillows, or on your kids’ pajamas can help lull them into a smooth sleep.

9. Stay flexible!

We get it–the holidays are exciting! And for many kids, the winter holidays are the highlight of the year. Excitement, adrenaline, and sugar can all be a major detriment to healthy sleep–and kids who are normally well-behaved might fight bedtime a little harder than usual during the holidays. Take a few deep breaths, stay flexible, and remember how you felt about the holidays when you were a kid.

The holidays are a wonderful time to create and share memories with your family. With a can-do attitude, some perseverance, and just a sprinkling of holiday magic, you can ensure your kids get enough sleep to carry them through the excitement of the season.

New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.

Celebrate Together: Holiday Traditions For Kids

The winter holidays are an amazing time for families to come together to celebrate! Whether you celebrate one particular holiday, multiple, or none at all, the end of the year offers a perfect opportunity to create and celebrate family traditions. The team at New Jammies worked together to share our favorite family traditions, in the hopes that we spark new celebrations for yours!

Have you tried one of these traditions? Have a unique tradition of your own you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Egg Carton Penguins from OneLittleProject are a great kid-friendly DIY decoration!

  1. Create DIY decorations. Many winter holidays involve a wonderful amount of decorating. Instead of spending tons of money on store-bought decor, set some time aside each year to create homemade holiday decorations together. There are tons of online guides for easy, kid-friendly DIY projects, like these adorable Egg Carton Penguins from OneLittleProject. The point of this tradition isn’t to be the best at arts and crafts — it’s to enjoy the laughs, the fun, and the time spent in each other’s company.
  2. Perform random acts of kindness. The holidays are a great time to teach children that a little kindness goes a long way. Make it a tradition to surprise strangers with random acts of kindness, like compliments, free hugs, or small gifts. One of our teammates says, “When I was a kid, my dad took my sister and I to a grocery store to buy a bunch of bouquets of carnations. Then, we went to the city center and handed out flowers to random holiday shoppers just to brighten their day. It became a quick tradition!”
  3. Pose for family photos. Holiday cards are an excellent way to update friends and family on the year gone by. They’re also a great addition to any scrapbook or family photo album! Many photographers offer discounted holiday photo packages during the fall and winter. For bonus points, have everyone dress in matching outfits!
  4. Make a countdown calendar devoted to learning. If you celebrate a winter holiday on a specific date, you can create a countdown or advent calendar of your own with your own traditions. For example, you can celebrate learning with a countdown calendar made of books! Each night, read a different book with your kids, focusing on a different holiday, historical figure, or culture. It’s a great way to learn more about the world around us, and share some wonderful family time!
  5. Surprise the neighbors. Many families enjoy baking cookies as part of a holiday tradition. You can take this tradition one step further by sharing the bounty with your neighborhood. There’s nothing quite like surprising your neighbor with a fresh-baked loaf of bread, still hot from the oven!
  6. Start a gag gift tradition. If you celebrate a gift-giving holiday, gag gifts can be a fun, inexpensive way to celebrate the end of the year. Another New Jammies teammate shared this great tradition from her family: “When I was a baby, we had a family friend known as Grandpa Sam. He was so much fun at the holidays. Anytime he opened a gift, he would yell ‘YOWZERS!’ He also had a knack for picking out gag gifts that people would inevitably find useful. For example, a pair of lotion-lined gloves from a dollar store that turned out to be a great cure for wintery dry skin! Today, my family still picks out small ‘gag’ gifts for each other, and as soon as we open them, we all yell ‘YOWZERS!’”
  7. Build your own hayride and look at the lights. Depending on what your neighbors celebrate, many neighborhoods are full to bursting with holiday decorations and lights. Get your family in on the fun by loading everyone in the car, jamming to a playlist of your favorite holiday music, and driving slowly through the neighborhood to look at the lights.

    Hosting a holiday PJ party? Set up a backyard photo booth with wintery decorations, props, costume pieces, and more!

  8. Have a holiday PJ party. This is a great tradition for neighborhood kids, extended family, and adults alike! Instead of an ugly sweater party, have everyone show up in their favorite pajamas. Guests can play games, bring food, and stay up late watching holiday movies. At the end of the night, the kids can have a group sleepover!
  9. Host a neighborhood potluck. This is a wonderful tradition for neighborhoods deeply steeped in culture, where many families celebrate different holidays. Ask everyone to bring a dish made from a family recipe, or a traditional recipe from their family’s country. Spend the night learning about different cultures through delicious food, traditional songs, and party games! “I have been having an annual holiday open house party in the day which is nice because people can stop by during a wider time range,” says New Jammies founder, Nicole Johnson. “It is nice for families because if kids have different nap times or other weekend obligations they can arrive and leave at their convenience.”
  10. Give back. The holidays give us an opportunity to build a volunteering spirit in kids from a young age. Nicole’s family participates in Toys for Tots by choosing a few names from a local tree each year to pick out presents for other families. And at New Jammies, we work with various organizations and fundraisers throughout the year to keep them well stocked in comfy, organic cotton jammies! Find a cause you believe in — hosting a food drive, volunteering at a soup kitchen, making and handing out gifts for a senior home — and make it a family tradition. By participating each year, your kids will see the direct impact of their hands-on volunteer work.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments!

Eat Right: Healthy for the Holidays!

Holiday meals are full of New Jammies’ traditional favorites, from turkey and stuffing to pumpkin pie topped with fresh whipped cream. With many of these holiday appetizers, entrees and desserts loaded with fat and calories, we like to discover some of the more healthier options for families, especially those with kiddos to please.   

One way to start thinking healthy for the holidays is to consider switching out traditional ingredients for less sugar- and calorie-heavy items. Everyday Health healthy living newsletter offers these options, featured in its “11 Healthy Holiday Food Swaps” article. These include skipping:

• Full-fat dips, and eat yogurt dips (hummus with yogurt and lemon recipe)

• Some alcohol calories, drink wine spritzer instead (8 ‘skinny’ holiday cocktails)

• Candied yams, eat roasted sweet potatoes (low-calorie candied yams recipe)

• Store-bought, eat homemade stuffing (low-calorie stuffing)

• Traditional gravy, eat low-fat gravy (click here for recipe from the Mayo Clinic)

These recipes will be a hit with the family this holiday, and help with staying healthy:

We discovered this healthy mama on instagram with a new low carb twist on stuffing.

Cauliflower Stuffing

“It’s really pretty simple: melt 4T butter, sauté 1 chopped onion. Add 2 chopped carrots and 2 ribs of diced celery and sauté till soft. Add about 3 cups of riced or finely diced cauliflower and cook about 8 min. Add 1cup chopped mushrooms and season with salt, pepper, 1/2 t dry sage, fresh parsley and fresh rosemary. Cover and cook 15 min. Add up to 1/2 c broth if it seems dry. Using frozen cauliflower rice brings more moisture. Serve warm and eat it up!!!”

Thanks  Jennifer!  https://www.instagram.com/jenniferpantall/

 

 

 

 

Wild Rice with Cranberries & Almonds

This low-calorie (120 per 1/2 cup), low-cholesterol (0 mg) side dish, courtesy of the American Diabetes Association’s Recipes for Living, is a healthful holiday option that can be made for a big dinner, or a small get-together with lots of leftovers, as it serves 11. According to the ADA, wild rice takes longer to cook than other rice, but it has a lower glycemic index of 45 compared to white rice with a glycemic index of 70. This is important for those holiday guests with diabetes or other special diet considerations. The toasted almond slices and dried cranberries are a nice touch for any holiday spread.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
2 (4-ounce) boxes wild rice
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Instructions
1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the water and chicken broth to the pan and bring to a boil.

3. Add the rice; cover and cook according to package directions; usually about 50-60 minutes.

4. Remove the lid and add in the toasted almonds and cranberries; use a fork to mix together.

MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: Confirm all ingredients are gluten-free, including the chicken broth, and this can be made gluten-free.

Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Finally we found Jenn, a veggie lovin’ mama, cooking up Roasted Butternut Squash Soup which she considers a cold-weather staple! We love this silky butternut soup served with spicy roasted chickpeas for extra flavor. Vegan, Vegetarian, and T-Rex toppings available, so there’s something for everyone!

Recipe yields approx. 4 bowls or 6-7 cups of soup.

COURSE SOUP
CUISINE AMERICAN
KEYWORD ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
PREP TIME 10 MINUTES
COOK TIME 50 MINUTES
TOTAL TIME 1 HOUR
SERVINGS 6 SERVINGS
AUTHOR JENN LAUGHLIN – PEAS AND CRAYONS

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lb butternut squash
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 onion (white or yellow)
  • 1 TBSP avocado oil (or favorite healthy oil)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic smashed + minced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • additional salt + pepper to taste

SPICY ROASTED CHICKPEAS

  • 15 oz canned chickpeas
  • 1 TBSP avocado oil (or favorite healthy oil)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (spiiicy!)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Make sure you have two large rimmed baking sheets handy as well as a blender.

  2. Drain and rinse your chickpeas and place on a stack of paper towels to dry a bit. The drier the chickpeas the crispier they’ll get in the oven. Woot!

  3. Cut your squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Pierce skin of squash a few times with a knife. Peel and cut your carrots into 3 portions. Peel onion and cut into 8 quarters.

  4. Place your squash (cut side down), carrot, and onion on a large rimmed baking sheet (or roasting pan). Drizzle with 1 TBSP oil (extra if desired) and season with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Pour 1/4 cup of water over the squash. (it will evaporate as the squash roasts)

  5. Pat chickpeas dry and add to your second baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 TBSP oil and season with 1/4 tsp salt. (The rest of the spices will be added after)

  6. Place both pans on the center rack in your oven and roast. Chickpeas will be done at 30 minutes and the squash and veggies will be done after 45-55 minutes. When squash is tender and can be removed from the skin easily with a spoon it’s good to go!

  7. While your veggies roast, combine spicy chickpea seasoning in a small bowl: paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper. Set aside and once chickpeas are done roasting, sprinkle with the seasoning blend, mix ’em up, and set aside. They will crisp up more as they cool!

  8. In a medium-large pot, melt 2 TBSP butter over medium heat. For extra flavor, let’s brown the butter first to add some nutty flavor to our soup! Let your butter melt untouched, then once it starts to simmer and brown, add minced garlic and whisk constantly until butter is golden and fragrant. Add your vegetable broth, cover, and reduce heat to low.

  9. Once your squash is ready, allow to cool enough t handle, then peel off the skin of the butternut. Alternatively you can scoop the squash out with a spoon.

  10. Working in batches, blend the veggies with the broth in your blender until silky. I was able to add half the veggies and half the broth and get it all blended in 2 batches. Filling blender only 2/3 full is best as hot liquid expands.

  11. Return the soup to your pot and mix well. Add any additional seasoning to taste and feel free to add extras like nutmeg, allspice, cayenne pepper, etc… If skipping the chickpeas (which have a LOT of flavor) you’ll want to add extra seasoning to the soup. Keep covered over lowest heat setting until ready to serve.

  12. Dive in while it’s hot and top soup with seasoned chickpeas and your choice of toppings from the notes below. I like mine with chickpeas, scallions and a teeny drizzle of cream!

    Visit Jenn for more topping and spice ideas for your bowl!   This might be bookmark worthy –  Peas and Crayons 

Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season!!

New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.

Eat Right: Warm Drinks to Cozy Up to This Winter

On a cold winter’s New Jammies night, there’s nothing that warms the soul better than a warm mug of creamy homemade cocoa for the kids. Mom and Dad can relax with a soothing cup of herbal tea paired with a hearty scone on the side. These ideas for warm drinks, and more, will help the whole family heat up and eat (or drink) right this winter.

Warm milky drinkWarm Milky Drink

This recipe for a cozy milk concoction from Everyday Roots is described as a “tasty combination of warm milk, honey, and a sprinkling of nutmeg that’s your ticket into Snoozefest.”

The Everyday Roots website‘s goal is to spread knowledge about natural and home remedies to the general public. “A natural remedy could be defined as simply exercising daily, or eating healthier. After all, it’s the little everyday decisions that will help you live not just a longer and healthier life, but a happier one as well,” says the online resource.

According to Everyday Roots:

“Why warm milk: The idea that warm milk helps you fall asleep didn’t come out of nowhere. People over the centuries could tell you it really does work, but not for the modern-day reason that states it makes you sleepy because of tryptophan. Conclusive studies have been done that show milk does not raise tryptophan levels, but can raise internal body temperature when it’s heated, which will relax you and make you sleepy and calm. Add to this the most powerful effect of all, the placebo effect. Warm milk seems to do something psychologically that makes us calm and drowsy. Perhaps it makes us harken back to our days of infancy, and therefore makes the drinker ‘sleep like a baby.’ Either way you look at it, there’s something about it that makes falling asleep a breeze.

Why honey: L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid vital to our rest. It is the precursor to serotonin, which can be converted into melatonin, and melatonin is what regulates our sleep-wake cycles. Honey creates a spike in insulin, which drives tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier. It is then converted into serotonin, which in darkness is converted in to melatonin in the pineal gland in our brain. The result is that as nighttime approaches, you have more melatonin to tell your body ‘ok, it’s time to sleep now.’

Why nutmeg: Nutmeg is a pretty powerful spice, so much so it’s very possible to “overdose” and end up getting looped out, feeling incredibly ill, hallucinating, and experiencing a myriad of other unpleasant side effects. Ingested safely though, it is a pretty darn good natural sleep-aid, thanks to numerous chemical components that act similar to tranquilizers — just stick to a quarter teaspoon or less.”

Ingredients
1 glass of milk
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of honey
1/8 teaspoon to a 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Directions
1. Warm up about 8 ounces of milk in your favorite mug.
2. Heat it until it’s a little hotter than you would comfortably drink, and stir in 1 tablespoon of honey (or as little as 2 teaspoons if you prefer.)
3. Sprinkle with a ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg at the most, and let it cool to a temperature that is still nice and toasty warm but drinkable.
4. Make this about 30 minutes before bed when you start winding down, sip slowly, and enjoy.

Hot cocoa is a winter staple that makes us think of snuggling up by the fire with a fuzzy blanket and a nice book. This healthy version from at WellnessMama.com, a mom blog and resource that offers real food recipes, natural living and cleaning tutorials, beauty recipes and health tips with natural ingredients and remedies, is all-natural and dairy-free with no refined sugar.

Real Food Hot ChocolateReal Food Hot Chocolate
Makes 1 serving

Ingredients
8 ounces of hot (not boiling) water or coconut milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon gelatin powder
1 teaspoon maca powder (optional)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder (optional)
1 tablespoon of butter or coconut oil
1 teaspoon of maple syrup or honey (optional)
½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in blender and blend to combine.
2. Serve warm and enjoy.

Notes
• Recipe can be doubled or multiplied as needed.
• Adding more butter or coconut oil will make a thicker hot chocolate.
• This must be done in a blender, since with the added coconut oil or butter, just stirring will not make a smooth mixture.
• More sweetener can be added for a sweeter hot chocolate if desired.

Green tea has many health advantages, and has been called the healthiest beverage on the planet. From brain-boosting nutrients and cancer-fighting antioxidants, green tea packs a healthy punch as a beverage served hot or cold. Wintertime is a great season to keep warm green tea on hand in a slow cooker in the kitchen or in a Dutch oven on a wood-burning stove. This recipe from Better Homes and Gardens is perfect for the cold weather and fighting off the effects of winter colds.

Slow Cooker Green TeaSlow Cooker Spiced Green Tea
Makes 8 servings

Ingredients
6 inches stick cinnamon, broken*
1 tablespoon snipped crystallized ginger
4 cups brewed green tea
4 cups orange-peach-mango juice or orange juice
1 cup dried fruit, such as peaches, apricots, and/or pears
Orange slices
Sugar (optional)
Cheesecloth

Directions
1. For a spice bag, place cinnamon and crystallized ginger in the center of a double-thick, 6- to 8-inch square of 100-percent-cotton cheesecloth. Bring up corners; tie closed with clean cotton string.
2. In a 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-quart slow cooker combine tea and juice. Add spice bag and dried fruit.
3. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 4 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 to 3 hours. Remove and discard spice bag and dried fruit.
3. Ladle tea into cups. Float an orange slice in each cup. If desired, sweeten to taste with sugar.

*TIP: To break cinnamon sticks, place in a heavy plastic bag and gently pound sticks with a meat mallet.


New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.

Play Right: Family Game Night Fun

Personalized New JammiesNew Jammies knows the benefits of kids and their loved ones gathering around a board game on Family Game Night to encourage good sportsmanship, creativity, and problem solving. Parents can bond with their kids over games they used to play in their youth, and children can introduce new games that can challenge the mind and promote team spirit.

ParentingScience.com, a website that provides evidence-based information about parenting and child development, says games may encourage kids to consider the concept of rules, practice following rules, and reason about moral problems. Citing a 2004 study by researchers Gobet and Retschitzki, titled, “Moves in mind: The psychology of board games,” published in Psychology Press, evidence has shown that when kids play with older role models, they can learn something else, too.

“How to win — and lose — with grace and good manners,” the reports stated.
Also, there are the possible intellectual benefits. “Many board games, including the classics like chess and Mancala, encourage players to detect patterns, says ParentingScience.com.

Personalized PJsThe Child Development Institute suggests board games teach planning, taking turns, handling winning and losing, problem solving, and other spatial skills.

“When played as a family, board games facilitate bonding and improve communication,” says Dr. Bob Myers, a licensed child and adolescent psychologist, in his article, “Toys That Help Develop Spatial Skills, Creativity, and Social Skills.” “Parents can use board games as an opportunity to teach social skills and frustration tolerance.”

Dr. Meyers says parents should select toys that are appropriate for your child, and look for ones with a fairly wide age-range so that your child will be able to enjoy them for a long period of time.

“Spend time building things and solving puzzles together with your child as well as encourage them to create on their own,” he suggests.

Jenga, Connect 4, Scrabble, and Clue are all classic games that can help with problem solving and helps kids use their analytical skills. For parents seeking options to make Family Game Night fun and educational, there’s a website at familygamenightsideas.com. The online community site is a resource to help parents and kids create successful Family Game Nights.

Ticket to RideA few board game ideas as holiday gifts include the popular Ticket to Ride. Players draw cards that offer perspective routes to complete on the map in order to score points at the end of the game. “Then you draw and play cards throughout the game to place your trains on the map in order to achieve your route goals,” says familygamenightsideas.com. “This can be very challenging especially when other players are competing for similar routes to you. You can also draw for new routes throughout the game, but beware that uncompleted routes will cost you points so plan carefully!”

Beat the ParentsThe game Beat The Parents is fun for kids ages 6 and older, and entails each team starting on one side and racing past the other to victory.

“This game is kids versus parents in a mad dash of trivia. It is designed for the parents to answer questions about kid’s stuff, while the kids have to answer things the parents should know. All the while you are trying to be the first to move your pieces across the board to win,” says the game’s review.

“One value that this game can really help with is teamwork. It was quite fun to watch the kids discuss what they thought was the right answer and why the team should take one over the other.”

HedbanzAnother favorite for kids and parents is the game Hedbanz, which gets both the parents and the kids laughing for hours. Amazon describes the award-winning game as a “goofy guessing ‘What am I? game. In the game, kids use their heads in more ways than one while asking yes or no questions to figure out if the cartoon on their head. The first player to guess what you are wins. Fun for all ages.


New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.

Eat Right: Healthy Holiday Cookie Recipes

Holiday New JammiesAt New Jammies, we love the holidays and all that make them special. Kids make the memories especially sweet as they handcraft cute holiday ornaments for the tree and help in the kitchen to bake and decorate cookies.

We like to eat healthy during the holidays when we can, so these cookie recipes are cute, fun, festive and nutritious.

Happy holidays!

Boot TracksBoot Tracks cookies, courtesy of Eating Well Magazine, are perfect to leave out for Santa the night before Christmas, or to package in holiday tins for homemade gift-giving. The recipe is from Eating Well reader Patti Anderson, a professional quilter, who had never entered a cooking contest before she won with this quick, no-fuss, chewy chocolate cookie made using a waffle iron. Best of all, Eating Well says kids love them.

Ingredients
1/2 cup salted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions
1. Preheat a nonstick (not Belgian) waffle iron.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa powder, oil and espresso powder (if using). Beat until thoroughly combined.
3. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls about 1 inch apart onto the preheated ungreased waffle iron. (To avoid burnt fingers, use two spoons, one to scoop and one to scrape dough onto the waffle iron.) Close and cook until the cookies are puffed and cooked through, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Waffle irons vary, so watch closely and don’t let the cookies get too dark. Transfer to a wire rack to cool until just warm. Dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while still slightly warm (see Variations).

Variations: Instead of confectioners’ sugar, drizzle cooled cookies with melted bittersweet and/or white chocolate. Or make a peppermint drizzle: Mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 4 teaspoons water and 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract; add natural green food coloring, if desired.

Make-ahead tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 1 day. Dust with additional confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Decorate on parchment: When adding finishing touches to your cookies or cakes, place them on a large sheet of parchment paper before you decorate. The paper catches the excess, making cleanup a breeze.

 

img_2099These Oatmeal Jam Bars from Better Homes and Gardens feature fiber-rich oats to add nutritional value. A sweet raspberry filling is sandwiched between two layers of warm, crumbly cream cheese crust. For heart-healthy options, use low-sugar or sugar-free jam and low-fat cream cheese.

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup seedless blackberry or red or black raspberry jam
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in oats, brown sugar, and lemon peel. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until mixture is crumbly. Remove 1 cup of the crumb mixture for topping; set aside.
3. Press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the jam and lemon juice. Carefully spread jam mixture over hot crust. Sprinkle with the reserved 1 cup crumb mixture. Bake about 15 minutes more or until top is golden. Cool bars in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Place bars in box; close box.

Make-ahead tip: Layer bars between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

 

Cranberry CookiesCranberry cooperative Ocean Spray has declared the beloved red berry as the “official unofficial fruit of the holidays,” and we can’t think of a better way to eat it than in cookie form. The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association (see more healthy recipes at cranberries.org) offers this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies using dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, and old-fashioned oats.

Ingredients
⅔ cup butter or margarine, softened
⅔ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 bag of sweetened dried cranberries (6 oz.)
⅔ cup chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Using an electric mixer beat butter or margarine and brown sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix well.
3. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition.
4. Stir in sweetened dried cranberries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
5. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until gold brown.

Blueberry White Chocolate Ginger CookieBlueberries, ginger, white chocolate, oh my! These three ingredients combine to make a magical Blueberry White Chocolate Chunk Ginger Cookie that Eating Well Recipe Contributor Anna Ginsberg says are “a real snap to make — just stir and bake.” Package in a pretty blue holiday tin, and these cookies will be a big gift hit, thanks to this Eating Well recipe.

Ingredients
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup oats, quick-cooking or old-fashioned (not instant)
2 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup dried blueberries, (see Tip)
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped (see Tip)

Directions
1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 375°F.
2. Whisk flour, wheat germ, baking soda, salt and ground ginger in a small bowl.
3. Whisk egg, brown sugar, oil and vanilla in a large bowl.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; stir to combine. Add oats, chocolate, blueberries and crystallized ginger; stir just to combine.
5. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto 2 ungreased baking sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake the cookies until puffed and barely golden around the edges, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through, 8 to 10 minutes.
6. Cool on the pans for 2 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make-ahead tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Tip: Dried cranberries or cherries will also work in place of blueberries; all can be found, along with crystallized ginger, in the baking, dried fruit or produce sections of many supermarkets and natural-foods stores.

Storage smarts: To extend the life of your baked goods, store them in an airtight container in a single layer or between layers of parchment paper to prevent sticking.

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Personalized New JammiesPersonalized PJs for December!

New Jammies is now offering Personalized PJs. Embroider your child’s name on our soft organic cotton New Jammies for the perfect holiday gift!

www.newjammies.com/Personalized-Kids-Organic-Cotton-Pajamas


New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.

Sleep Tight: Outfitting Baby for Long Winter’s Nights

New Jammies Sleep SacksIn 2012, Time Magazine ran a story about safe-sleeping sacks that were becoming popular in U.S. hospitals, inspired by the passing of Bill Schmid’s daughter, Haley, of SIDS. At the time, Schmid had developed a sleeveless zip-up sleep bag to replace blankets, and the popularity of this safe-sleeping option was gaining momentum. The article noted that his sleep sack invention had become so mainstream, the baby apparel was being sold everywhere from Target to Pottery Barn. And now, New Jammies.

New Jammies heard the call for safe-sleeping baby wear in its own collections. And answered. Last spring, we launched our popular sleeveless sleep sacks to keep babies safe and warm in the wintertime and cool in the warmer months.

The idea to offer sleep sacks came about as New Jammies owner and founder Nicole Ludlow, mother of a new baby herself, become interested in the safety of sleeveless zip-up bags for resting babies.

“I wanted to carry a collection of durable sleep sacks that encouraged my baby to sleep on his back until he could comfortably roll over from back or tummy,” she says. “And eliminate loose crib blankets for the prevention of SIDS.”

New Jammies Butterfly Magic Sleep SackLudlow designed a New Jammies sleep sack that’s offered in double-layered, 100% organic cotton to be warm, breathable and cozy. Sizes come in small (3-6 months, 10-18 pounds) and medium (6-18 months, 16-24 pounds).

“They fit perfectly over footie pajamas for cool evenings or can be paired with onesies for warmer nights,” she says.

According to Nancy Maruyama, RN, an infant’s sleep environment plays a large role in safe sleep. In her article titled, “Tips for Safe Sleeping: Newborns and Babies” on pregnancy.org, Maruyama says SIDS deaths are most likely to occur when babies are between the ages of 2 months and 4 months, and deaths tend to peak in winter months.

“It is the leading cause of death in babies 1 month to 1 year old,” she reports.

Strategies featured in the article for lowering SIDS risk includes the notion that the only safe bedding for baby is no bedding.

“Layer clothing on baby for warmth instead of layering blankets,” says the article. “Baby’s face should never be covered and pillows should never be used. This can also cause suffocation.”

Also, stuffed animals, pillows, bumper pads or other fluffy items should not be placed in baby’s sleeping areas.

“There have been numerous reports of suffocation from accidentally covering the baby’s mouth and nose with these items. The baby’s crib should contain nothing but the crib.”

Maruyama also suggests parents not dress baby too warmly at sleep time.

“Allowing babies to become too warmly dressed has been shown to be a risk factor for SIDS. Avoid extra clothing especially when the baby has a fever.”

For the best newborn sleep when putting infants to bed or down for a nap, experts on whattoexpect.com advise keeping babies’ rooms cool. They say being too warm or too cold can interrupt newborn sleep.

“Dress baby in a warm sleeper or sleep sack, but skip the blankets (loose bedding is also a risk factor for SIDS),” says the “How to Dress a Newborn” article. “In the winter, try to keep the room temperature between 68ºF and 72ºF. 68ºF is usually ideal, but all babies are different. If yours wakes during the night or after a nap, check his neck to make sure he’s not too sweaty. A little dampness goes with the baby territory, but pools of perspiration definitely do not.”

Many baby experts suggest a cotton onesie under well-fitting footie pajamas or long-sleeved sleep-and-play outfits as ideal winter sleep wear. Adding a sleeveless sleep sack ensures a safe-sleeping environment, and keep baby warm without blankets.
New Jammies Whales
Show Us the Love

February is American Heart Month, and New Jammies is celebrating heart health and wellness by asking kids and their parents to show their PJ love. Throughout the month, we’re accepting entries for the “Show New Jammies Your PJ Love” contest, open to New Jammies customers and their families who can show kids wearing their favorite New Jammies PJs for infants, toddlers and young children.

Photos can be submitted online by clicking here (or visit newjammies.com and click on “Photo Contest” at the bottom of the page). Deadline for entries is Feb. 29, 2016.

The winner receives 3 pair of PJs or footies of their choice (Value approximately $100.00).

– See more at: https://blog.newjammies.com/show-new-jammies-your-pj-love/

Eat Right: Soup’s On for a Healthy New Year

With every new year, eating better is something New Jammies can really get behind as a resolution. One easy way to eat healthier without the pressure of a resolution commitment is to make a warm batch of soup for the family using fresh, vitamin-packed vegetables and nutritious, low-fat ingredients. Light a fire, stay warm, dress the kids in comfy New Jammies, and enjoy these soup recipes to feel great in the new year:

Hearty Greens SoupHearty Greens Soup with Bowtie Pasta and Tomatoes
wholefoodsmarket.com

With only 200 calories, 5 grams total fat and 7 grams of protein, this vegetarian soup recipe from Whole Foods incorporates hearty greens such as Swiss chard or kale, escarole, garlic and fresh tomatoes for a low-sugar protein punch for an easy dinner with leftovers for a quick lunch. Serves 6 to 8.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard (about 3/4 pound), roughly chopped (and/or kale)
1/2 bunch escarole (about 1/2 pound), stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2 pound dried bowtie (farfalle) pasta
1 (3-inch) Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
1/4 pound baby spinach

Instructions:
1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more.
3. Add carrots and 8 cups water and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
4. Stir in chard, escarole, pasta and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind.
5. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until broth is flavorful and greens and pasta are tender, about 15 minutes.
6. Stir in spinach and season with salt and pepper.
7. Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from soup then ladle into bowls, garnish with grated cheese and serve.

Rustic Italian Tomato SoupRustic Italian Tomato Soup
goredforwomen.org

As part of its Go Red for Women campaign, the American Heart Association offers this low-calorie, low-sodium soup to help beat heart disease. It’s often called the Silent Killer because heart disease victims often don’t even know they have it, so they aren’t treated or make healthy lifestyle changes. The AHA reports that 80% of heart disease in women is preventable, and more women are beating heart disease than ever before. So fix this heart-healthy soup for the women you love in your life. Serves 4; 1 cup.

Ingredients:
16 ounces frozen mixed bell pepper strips (may be labeled stir-fry mix)
1 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 3/4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 15.5-ounce can no-salt-added navy beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin preferred)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions:
1. In a food processor or blender, process the bell pepper strips, tomatoes with liquid, broth, beans, basil, parsley, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes until slightly chunky or smooth.
2. Pour into a large saucepan.
3. Bring to a boil over high heat.
4. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the flavors are blended.
5. Remove from the heat.
6. Stir in the oil and salt.

California Avocado Spiked Corn SoupCalifornia Avocado Spiked Corn Soup
californiaavocado.com

Using fresh California avocados, and a kick from white and cayenne peppers, this corn soup from the California Avocado Commission is low in sodium and a great source of potassium, fiber, protein, Vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. Serves 4.

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 small celery stalks, diced
1/3 cup coarsely shredded carrot
1 Tbsp. canola oil
8 oz. yellow corn kernels
3/4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 cups water
As needed Salt, to taste
As needed Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
As needed Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
2 ripe, Fresh California Avocados, peeled and seeded
As needed Carrot threads*, as needed for garnish

Instructions:
1. Sauté onion, celery and carrot in oil until soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in corn, thyme, water and a little salt; simmer 20 minutes.
3. Coarsely puree mixture; return to pot.
4. Stir in salt, white pepper and cayenne to taste.
5. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice.
6. Dice half of the avocados and stir into soup. Slice remaining avocado.
7. Divide soup among warmed soup bowls. Garnish with avocado slices and carrot threads.

Serving Suggestions:
Stir in diced roast chicken or turkey for a main-meal entrée. To make carrot threads, pull a zester down a large carrot. Try with a glass of Pinot Noir.

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.

Sweet Coconut Tapioca Soup with Bananas Sweet Coconut Tapioca Soup with Bananas (Che Chuoi)
Cooking Light, myrecipes.com
Photo by Karry Hosford

This traditional dessert soup called Che Chuoi, made healthy with low sugar, tapioca, light coconut milk and fresh bananas, is a favorite for kids of all ages as a feel-good soup after dinner or a tasty after-school snack. According to myrecipes.com, it can be eaten hot, at room temperature, or chilled, and the cooler it gets, the thicker it becomes. Serves 4.

Ingredients:
2 cups water
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 cup uncooked granulated tapioca
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large ripe bananas, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted (optional)

Instructions:
1. Bring water and coconut milk to a boil in a medium saucepan.
2. Stir in sugar, tapioca, and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Stir in bananas. Remove from heat; cover, and let stand 15 minutes.
4. Serve warm, or chill 3 hours. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired