Six Simple Ways to Give Back This Holiday

Christmas has a way of creeping up on even the most prepared person. So while you may have all of your gifts wrapped, cards sent, and meals planned for the big holiday season, other things may have gotten ignored on your list.

The holidays are a popular time for volunteering and contributing to communities, but many charities have already done the heavy lifting this close to Christmas. The Pittsburgh Marine Corps Toys for Tots program handed out gifts last Friday and Saturday so that area children could have the joy and excitement of opening gifts on Christmas morning.

If you want to give back this season but feel like you’ve missed your deadline, don’t worry! There are still many small things that you can do to make a big impact on someone’s day.
Unexpected Greetings

You remembered to send Christmas cards to your sister in Florida and your grandchildren, but did you remember to send one to your favorite bus driver? How about the sweet woman who has been handling your banking for the past five years? These people who touch your life will be thrilled to receive a hand-written card thanking them for helping you to make it a happy one.

“This one’s on me!”

The next time you’re in line at your favorite coffee shop, pay for the beverage of the person behind or in front of you in line. It only takes a few seconds and a few dollars to buy someone a drink to warm their hands and heart.

A Helping Paw

Are you an animal lover? While there are many happy children who get puppies for Christmas, there are still plenty of animals that spend the holidays in shelters. Provide them with a good Christmas dinner by donating food and treats to a local shelter. And if you know of anyone who is thinking of picking an animal as a last-minute gift, encourage them to go to a shelter rather than a breeder.

Make Some Change

Instead of avoiding change as you do your Christmas shopping at the mall, welcome it with open pockets. Then, before you leave, find a donation area to drop it off. Many charities collect money up to Christmas, so you’ll be sure to find a wonderful way to give your money to someone other than the cashier in the food court.

That’s a Wrap

Simple holiday tasks can be difficult for friends or neighbors. Ask around and see if any of yours need help preparing for the holidays, whether that means wrapping gifts or accompanying them to the grocery store to do some shopping. You’ll get to spend quality time with a loved one and check off items on their to-do list!

Shop Responsibly 

As you hunt for last-minute gifts, consider buying a few gifts that ARE good and DO good. Does your niece want new shoes? Maybe she would like Toms, where every purchase also means a new pair of shoes for a child in need. Or you can browse (RED) products for a gift for everyone on your list. You can also support the local economy by purchasing locally-made items.

‘Tis the season of giving, and it’s easy to give in small ways to help those around you have a happier holiday. 

From our family at Sherwood Oaks Retirement community, we hope that you and your family have a holiday filled with love, laughter, and magic. Cheers to a happy and healthy 2014!

10 Reasons to Love Winter in Pittsburgh

It’s beginning to look (and feel) a lot like winter in Pittsburgh and at Sherwood Oaks Retirement Community. And while winter doesn’t officially kick in until December 21, winter activities in and around the city are already happening!

We’ve already made some suggestions for a few wonderful holiday shows, but our city has plenty more to offer. So we’ve made a list, checked it twice, and decided to share our top 10 Pittsburgh winter activities with you!

1. Gingerbread Houses

The PPG Place Wintergarden is one of the best places to get some holiday cheer in Pittsburgh. Each year, dozens of Gingerbread Houses call the building home for the Gingerbread House Display Competition. Many groups, from elementary schools, professional organizations, families, and nonprofits, will decorate gingerbread houses in hopes of getting named the number one gingerbread house in the city! You can see all of the winners for free every day through the New Year.

2. Ice Skating!

Whether you are a fan of ice skating or enjoy seeing family and loved ones on the ice, you have plenty of options right near home! The Rink at PPG Place allows skaters to circle a beautiful Christmas tree while skating with Santa and taking in a great view of the city. Plus, it’s close to some other fun winter activities in Market Square that are also on our list! To avoid some of the holiday rush, you could also visit the Schenley Skating rink.

3. Giving Back

It’s the season of giving, and volunteer opportunities are an easy but meaningful way to bring joy to yourself and your neighbors during the holidays. Browse resources like Pittsburgh Cares to search for a volunteer opportunity close to your heart.

4. Light Displays

What makes the holidays so bright and cheery? The lights certainly help! You and your family can enjoy the lights at both Kennywood and Phipps Conservatory.

5. First Night

Ring in 2014 in downtown Pittsburgh at First Night on Dec. 31 beginning at 6 p.m. The evening’s festivities include a parade, children’s activities, live music, fireworks, and more!

6. Winter Sports

Football and hockey will be going strong this season. While we love catching a game at Heinz Field and Consol Energy Center, it’s also fun to curl up on the couch and watch a game from home!

7. The Holiday Market

Located next to The Rink at PPG Place, The Holiday Market is a spectacular display of cultural gifts, food, shows, and more! Pick up a fir tree or a handcrafted ornament while snacking on European sweets.

8. Joy of Cookies!

Sugar, gingerbread, chocolate chip… which is your favorite holiday cookie? No need to narrow it down, because you can get your fill of holiday sweetness with the Joy of Cookies Cookie Tour in Lawrenceville from December 5 to December 8 for free! More than 30 businesses are taking part in the event, where shoppers can enjoy shopkeepers’ favorite cookies at stores throughout Lawrenceville.

9. Pittsburgh Twists

We love holiday traditions, but we especially love when holiday traditions have a Pittsburgh twist. It’s hard not to sing along to the yinzer-inspired carol, “Santa Claus is Coming Dahntahn.”

10. Nationality Rooms at Pitt

Experience holiday traditions from around the world with the Nationality Rooms Holiday Tours. Not only are the tours fun, but you can give yourself the gift of learning something new.

Healthy for the Holidays

Friends, family, and food! These are the cornerstones of the holiday season. But as we age and develop more of a need for a healthy diet, it can put a damper on our holiday feasting. Whether because of diabetes, heart disease, or just for overall health, the entire family can benefit from healthier substitutions at the holiday dinner table.

Diabetics need to pay close attention to their carbohydrate and sugar intake, while those concerned with heart health should look for foods that help lead to lower LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight. We went on a hunt for some of the healthiest (but most delectable) holiday recipes out there. Would you consider trying one of these good-for-you goodies this year?

Diabetic Dining:

Appetizer:  Mix together some unlikely ingredients and whip up some Apple-Nut Blue Cheese Tartlets from this award-winning Taste of Home recipe.

Main Course:  Add a twist to a classic roasted turkey with this Citrus-Roasted Turkey from Diabetic Gourmet.

Side:  No matter where you’re celebrating this season, you can add some southern charm to your Thanksgiving dinner with these Southern Green Beans.

Dessert:  These gluten-free Pumpkin Spice Muffins are also great for diabetics looking to take advantage of seasonal flavors.

Heart-Healthy Options:

Appetizer: Bring the tart taste of cranberry to your pre-dinner snack with this Braided Cranberry Bread.

Main Course: Be unique and trade turkey for pork. Try out these Maple-Thyme Pork Chops.

Side: Better Homes and Gardens offers a Heart-Healthy Cheesy Potatoes recipe sure to please the whole family!

Dessert: It’s not truly the holidays without pumpkin pie, is it? Get a little bit extra with this Maple-Apple Pecan Crunch Pumpkin Pie recipe!

Here are some general rules to follow for a healthier holiday season:

  • Look for any chance to reduce the amount of butter or oil you are using in recipes. According to Fit Sugar, avocado, prunes, Greek yogurt or applesauce can replace butter in many baked good recipes. Smart Balance Heart Right Light Buttery Spread is also a heart-healthy alternative to use in cooking and on dinner rolls.
  • Pay attention to serving sizes. The American Heart Association provides a guide for eating in moderation. One serving of cooked meat is 3 ounces, about the size of a computer mouse, while one serving of low-fat cheese is 1.5 ounces, about the size of six dice.
  • Substitute whole grain bread for white bread in your holiday stuffing.
  • More sodium = higher blood pressure. Look for ways to cut salt when possible.

Whether you plan to have friends over, visit family, or spend Thanksgiving and other upcoming holidays at Sherwood Oaks, it is very possible to have a delicious and healthy holiday meal. We serve dinner for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, with plenty of room for residents to invite friends and family. Year-round, we provide nutritious dietary options, including the option of fish as well as diabetic and gluten-free selections.

So eat up!