Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

15+ Christmas Cookies to Gift (And Eat Right Now)

Yes, yes, the decorations are lovely, but hands down my favorite part of holiday festivities (after the people) are the Christmas cookies. For years my mom and I have made big plates of Christmas cookies and wintery desserts to give out as gifts. I love spending the time together in the kitchen… and eating all of the gooey cookies straight out of the oven.

This year my boyfriend and I decided to forgo any decorations in our small space since we were both going home for Christmas. Instead, we are making a batch of cookies each week to eat and share. It’s also my first year baking 100 percent gluten-free, and so far, two weeks in, it’s going great!

Christmas Cookies to Gift

Christmas Cookies and Other Goodies to Gift

These are all cookies that look beautiful, hold up well, and feel special as a gift. But I beg you, don’t forget to save some for you too.

Christmas Cookies to Gift

Easy Shortbread Cookies

I love taking the dough for these and splitting them into different cookies. I’ve made them with cranberries, topped them with jam, and even sprinkled them with candy cane pieces. I’ll be adapting them to gluten-free flour this year.

Chocolate Chip Cookies Stuffed with Nutella

I used to work with Dzung from Honeysuckle Catering at Sunset, and people would go CRAZY for her cookies. We would seriously run down the halls to try to get there first. They go FAST.

I’ve only had her original version (just leave out the Nutella for the recipe), but the look on people’s faces when they bite into this Nutella stuffed version is pure heaven.

Zebra Cookies

My brother asks for these every year. You probably should too.

Soft and Chewy Ginger Cookies (GF)

I’ve made these twice… in the past two weeks. If sugar wasn’t bad for you (and I wouldn’t get sick) I would make them when no one was home and eat the whole batch.

 

Bonus: These cookies look amazing, but they are all cookies I haven’t made yet so I can’t vouch for their tastiness.

Super Soft Gluten-free Sugar Cookies (GF, V)

Chocolate Brownie Cookies (GF)

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I’m a sucker for salted chocolate chip cookies. The sheer number I have eaten is unreal. I might just need to try to make these gluten free with my own flour blend…

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies 

These have a vegetable in them (pumpkin), therefore they are good for you.

Homemade Salted Butter Caramels

Chocolate Loaf Cake

This recipe makes my mouth water every time I see the picture on my Pinterest. It doesn’t help that it’s the cover photo for my dessert board.

Clementine Butter Cookies

I’m usually a fan of thick, chewy cookies, but these thin cookies look soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Natural ingredients, beautiful finished product.

Christmas Cookies to Gift

Raspberry Hand Pies (GF, V)

I would cry tears of pure joy if someone gave me buttery, homemade gluten-free hand pies. Huge hint.

Cookies to Eat Right Now

Christmas Cookies to Gift – healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

My Standby ‘Healthy’ Oatmeal Cookies

Gingerbread Men (GF)

Sure, you could give these away. But why would you share them?

A photo posted by Angela Liddon (@ohsheglows) on

Jumbo Chocolate Chunk Cookies (GF, V)

You only have to dirty a single bowl.

Perfect Holiday Party Treats

These treats are the perfect thing to share.

Chocolate Molten Cakes in a Cupcake Pan (GF option)

I made these for a work holiday party last year and they were a huge hit. They worked out great with gluten-free flour.

Chocolate Sheet Cake (GF Option)

This recipe feeds a crowd and comes together FAST. I’m so happy to just pour on frosting and be done with it. Plus, just grab the entire sheet and go. You can decorate it like the cake above or make your own chocolate trees. I won’t tell if you just leave it plain too.

2-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Truffles (GF, V)

People go crazy for little bites. Especially if it’s something that is relatively healthy.

November Reads

I can’t believe it’s already Christmas time. Where have the months gone? Everything after our trip to Wyoming in August is a complete blur. So much so that I couldn’t have named a single book I read this month off the top of my head.

But after perusing my Goodreads, I can’t see how I could ever forget. My November reads were perfectly eclectic, and I think I’m finally back into the swing of things with fiction again. Well, I might have something to say about that next month given how my reading is going lately, but at least it was true this month.

November Reads

November Reads

 

The Unseen World

Oh man, so good! I really enjoyed the story, so much so that I spent an entire day reading after picking it up at lunch. Oops.

The characters feel real, and the story is rich and engrossing. The book follows Ada’s unravelling of her eccentric father’s past. It was one of those books where I didn’t see the ending coming (and I also wasn’t furious at the end of it like Gone Girl).

If you have an interest in tech or programming, I think you’ll enjoy it even more.

 

The New Better Off

There is something both comforting and off-putting about reading a book that so perfectly aligns with your beliefs. I started to feel weird about it at the end, like maybe I needed to have my views challenged a bit more. Then I realized that’s what every day life is for in Silicon Valley.

Courtney E. Martin believes that while we may not end up wealthier than our parents in the traditional sense, we have the opportunity to be happier and more fulfilled. She argues for discovering what you really want to be doing with your time, and she made me take a hard look at my community and how I could build it.

While I won’t be moving into a co-op anytime soon, it was a nice reminder that I have more control over my life than I often realize. It also made me want to start putting in more effort to my friendships and building new ones.

 

The Curated Closet

I stumbled across Anuschka’s blog a couple years ago when researching capsule wardrobes. To say she takes detailed consideration seriously is an understatement.

After reading the book all the way through, I’ve been slowly working my way through the exercises. My closet is already cut down fairly significantly–I’m still somewhere around my 50 or so pieces in total–but it doesn’t feel cohesive. Before reading this book I couldn’t have told you my ‘style’ or put into comprehendible words what I like to wear.

I can now answer mot of those questions, and I feel like I have a good roadmap to slowly updating my wardrobe, defining my style, and replacing my worn out pieces. If only it involved never having to shop.

 

Today Will Be Different

I loved Where’d You Go, Bernadettebut this one fell flat for me. The narrator does nothing to make you like her, if anything, everything she does makes you dislike her more. This one was just an ‘eh’ for me.

 

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

After walking the aisles of Powell’s for well over an hour in a frenzied daze, I finally settled on Hunger and got out of there. I had seen Carrie Brownstein around here and there, but I knew nothing of her band Sleater-Kinney. Turns out it’s probably important that you know about the band. The book was alright, but I think it would have been way better if I had listened to the music and been a fan before opening it.

 

Little Victories

Please excuse me while I pat myself on the back for (accidentally) perfectly timing this one with Thanksgiving.

This short book is full of stories from Jason Gay’s life and quick tips for modern life. Nothing life-changing, but enjoyable for a lazy Thanksgiving weekend.

 

PS. You can see all of my book reviews here.

Minimalist Gift Ideas

You can have a joyous, fulfilling, heart-warming Christmas without piles of gifts pilling out from under the tree. There is also nothing inherently wrong with giving someone a physical gift, but most of us have more than we would ever need.

These minimalist gift ideas will help you give a meaningful, clutter-free gift to anyone on your list. They are also great ideas of what to ask for if you would like to avoid receiving physical gifts.

Minimalist Gift Ideas for Everyone

Minimalist Gift Ideas

 

Exercise classes

Give a voucher to their favorite class or a gift card for somewhere new that you think they will love. If they love a bunch of different workouts/studios, you may want to look into something like ClassPass.

 

Hobby gift cards

It can be incredibly difficult to purchase an item that will fit in with your recipient’s hobby and what they already have. Gift cards are a great way to recognize what they love to do and allow them to get something they will really value and use. Great places to consider are art supply stores, yarn shops, cooking stores, local running shop, tech centers, local golf course, or anywhere else that supports a specific hobby. I personally love getting a gift card to my local running store and it supports their small business too.

 

Museum tickets

Take your friend on a museum trip or just purchase a gift card and let them buy tickets for the day that’s best for them. Even your local museum/aquarium/theater should offer a gift certificate.

 

Event tickets

Concerts, sports, movies, shows, the list goes on. You can buy specific tickets, offer a self-made voucher, or give a gift certificate for the location or ticketing company.

 

Babysitting

Or dog sitting as it may be.

 

Favorite food

Cookies just for me? Yes, please. You can also make their favorite meal and freeze it or give a coupon for a fresh batch in the future.

 

Other edibles

A bottle of wine, an assortment of local beers, coffee beans – the list goes on. Bonus, these are easy to tailor to your recipient’s taste and they are easy to buy in bulk.

 

Subscription

Many years ago (before it was cool), my mom gave my grandparents a Netflix subscription. My tech-savvy grandpa loved it. There are so many subscription services today – although I would encourage you to avoid any that send stuff unless it’s quickly consumable like wine. Subscription boxes can quickly add clutter and feel overwhelming.

 

Homemade consumables

Soaps, candles, beauty products, and other homemade consumables are a great way to cover multiple people on your list without adding a ton of clutter. Once they are used up they are gone.

 

Your time

It sounds so cheesy that my face is getting hot just writing it, but some of the best gifts really are spending time with your friend or family member. Take them on a picnic or a hike. Invite them over for tea and snacks. Offer to help with a big task like painting the room that’s driving them crazy or decluttering an overwhelming closet. If you can’t think of anything great, make an open-ended voucher for an afternoon of your time and let your recipient cash it in on whatever they want.

 

No gifts please

When someone specifically asks for no gifts, it’s best to respect their wishes and not get them a gift. But that doesn’t mean you can’t clarify and see if something on this list (like spending the day together or a bottle of their favorite beverage) would still be alright.

You can also ask to not receive gifts without causing a kerfuffle. The best way is to explain why you don’t want any physical gifts this year and offer alternatives (like the list above) to people who are adamant about getting you or your family something. (This article or this forum may help you broach the subject.)

 

Looking for more ideas? Check out these great posts.

Minimalist Gift-Giving from The Minimalists

90 Clutter-free Gifts and 18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children from The Minimalist Mom

21 Minimalist Gift Ideas Under $100 from The Minimalist Vegan

You can read more about my previous minimalist Christmases here.

20 Things to do on Black Friday Instead of Shopping

Black Friday shopping isn’t the only thing happening today. It turns out the day after Thanksgiving was not invented as a shopping melee.

Take back the day and use it for something that you will really enjoy and that will actually add value to your life. After all, it’s the season of joy, not the season of stressing about deals running out, fighting for the last gadget, or crippling debt.

On that lovely note, I’ve made a list of 20 things I’d rather be doing today.

20 Things to do on Black Friday Instead of Shopping

Fun things to do instead of Black Friday shopping.

1. Spend time with friends and family.

2. Settle in with a good book or newspaper.

3. Cook a healthy meal or enjoy leftovers.

4. Volunteer for a local charity or nonprofit.

5. Start planning or making homemade holiday gifts.

6. Decorate for December holidays.

7.  Call a family member you haven’t seen in a while.

8. Pull out your arts and crafts supplies and get your hands dirty.

9. Clean out your closet. (Just me?)

10. Plan your next vacation.

11. Visit a museum. Many will have discounts today.

20 Things to do on Black Friday Instead of Shopping
12. Get outside! Go for a walk, visit your local park, or explore your local State and National Parks. Many parks are offering free entrance (but often only to a limited number of people so get your pass soon!).

13. Do your favorite type of exercise. Swim, run, go to a class, dance around your living room – do what makes you happy.

20 Things to do on Black Friday Instead of Shopping
14. Indulge in a holiday movie (or you know, start and finish that new season you’ve been looking forward to… like Gilmore Girls.)

15. Journal. Don’t let Thanksgiving’s success go to waste. Get going on that gratitude journal.

16. Learn something new. Online classes, local stores, your best friend – there are lots of places to pick up a new skill.

17. Build a fort. What, you think you have to be a kid to do that?

18. Pamper yourself. Paint your toes, put on the album your family hates, spend the day in bed – you know what to do.

19. Take your winter gear to fixed or waxed.

20. Go ice skating. But please, I beg you, don’t forget the hot chocolate.

Why You Shouldn’t Shop on Black Friday

Shopping on Black Friday not only fills your house with things you and your loved ones likely don’t need, but it also tells companies that it’s alright to make their employees work miserable hours on a holiday that is supposed to be about giving thanks for what you have.

Black Friday

 

And it’s not just going into the store. Last year Americans spent $4.45 billion on Thanksgiving and Black Friday alone. That’s a frightening amount of shopping and spending.

These purchases have real impacts, and shopping for the sake of shopping hurts us long after we hand over our card.

9 Reasons Not to Shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday

1. Shopping, especially in excess, is resource and energy intensive. What you buy (and how) has a very real environmental impact. It’s not just your wallet that will feel the impact of your spending.

2. The deals aren’t real. Many retailers raise prices in advance of Black Friday or they don’t actually intend to ever sell the item at the list price.

3. “But it’s the best deals of the entire year!” False. Many stores will have better prices on the same items throughout the year. Prices are likely to be even lower in early December.

4. The crowds. Does anyone actually like waiting in line and being over-run by the people around them in the store?

5. Stress! We seriously don’t need any more stress in our lives.

6. Workers shouldn’t have to protest for their right to spend Thanksgiving with their families.

7. You’re more likely to make rash decisions and impulse purchases when something is on sale.

8. Many retailers manufacture cheaper, lower quality items to sell on Black Friday according to an article in CNN.

9. Black Friday isn’t about giving consumer’s good deals and taking care of loyal customers. It’s about pushing their year-end profits. Black Friday started as a way for stores to grow their profits. It’s all about getting them more money, not saving you any.

 

There’s a reason books on decluttering are hitting the top of charts across the world. We are so conditioned to buy without thinking it through first. We fill our homes with so.much.stuff. Let’s take a break this Black Friday and be happy with what we already have.

 

Stay tuned for Friday’s post on what you should do instead of shop on Black Friday.

Homemade Beauty Gifts

I’m a huge fan of homemade gifts and luxurious DIY beauty treatments. Combine them, and you have the perfect holiday present.

These homemade beauty gifts are easy to make and are made with easy-to-find, natural, sustainable, safe ingredients. No mysterious ingredients or harmful chemicals here.

Another reason I love making little gifts like these is because they are easy to scale up or down and make as many as you need. I’m also a sucker for anything in a cute jar.

Easy Homemade Beauty Gifts

Homemade beauty gifts - homemade shea butter and coconut oil body butter-homemade-shea-butter-and-coconut-oil-body-butter

Coconut oil and shea butter body butter

Infused bath salts

Homemade Beauty Gifts - DIY Tinted Raspberry Lip Balm from Hello Glow

Photo courtesy of Hello Glow

Naturally-tinted raspberry lip balm

Face mist

Conditioning anti-frizz spray 

Grapefruit rosemary bath salts 

Homemade Beauty Gifts - Herbal Sleep Balm from JJ Begonia

Photo courtesy of JJ Begonia

Calming sleep balm

Solid perfume

Peppermint + lavender headache balm

Homemade Beauty Gifts - Four holiday body scrubs from Hello Glow

Photo courtesy of Hello Glow

Four holiday-scented body scrubs 

Dry shampoo spray

Vanilla body spray

Sore muscle salve

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make some of these for myself.

How to Downsize Without Stress

A downsize of any magnitude can be stressful. Too much stuff in not enough space is a recipe for tears and disaster. But living small doesn’t have to be a struggle. You can downsize without stress, arguing, or despair.

This year I took the plunge and massively downsized my living space. I went from sharing a spacious three bedroom, 2.5 bath, two-car garage townhouse with two roommates to sharing a one bedroom, one bath 275 sq. ft. apartment with my boyfriend.

While I already didn’t have a ton of stuff, my things were strewn about the entire place. It was also a huge jump in space – my old bedroom alone was easily half of our current living space.

Downsize Without Stress Tiny House

*Our new tiny kitchen and half of the downstairs.

Tips to Downsize Without Stress

1. Get rid of things well ahead of time.

Over the past four years I have been reducing the amount of stuff in my life. But in the face of massively cutting my living and storage space, it was clear I had further to go.

Six months before I planned to move I started donating and selling things. This let me do a really deep clean and sit with my things before deciding if they were worth making room for. Around 90 percent of what I got rid of happened at least two months before I moved.

You don’t have to start six months out, but the more time you give yourself the more you will be able to get rid of and the less stuff you will have strewn about in your way after you move.

2. Be realistic.

We talked extensively about what living together in a small space would mean. We both knew we would have to live with a bit less, and we hypothesized (endlessly on my part) about what could be given up to make it work.

But before that, there was a discussion about how small we could really go and comfortably fit our stuff and our lives. I’m a firm believer that this such a thing as ‘too small.’ Find your balance and your limits.

Downsizing Without Stress to a Tiny House

*Half of my (largely empty) old closet on the left and our shared closet now on the right. Our closet is a quarter of my old one, and it’s our only closet.

3. Know where it goes.

I spent months imagining where everything could/should live in our tiny apartment. We have limited storage space, and I hate looking at piles of stuff and furniture. By the time I moved in we knew where 90 percent of our stuff was going to stay. It made a huge difference in making our space quickly livable, cutting out debates over best places, and preventing us from moving things over and over again in our small space.

4. Move slowly.

There’s nothing that will make you regret your decision more than seeing all of your stuff piled in the middle of a tiny space. Avoid the overwhelm and the panic.

I moved in a box at a time for a couple of weeks until I only had about a quarter of my stuff left. I cannot recommend this method enough if you are downsizing. All of my essentials went first, and I let the random bits that didn’t have a clear home languish at my old place for a bit to feel what it would be like to live without them.

It took the stress out of trying to pack and move and unpack all of my stuff at once. And the things left behind went straight into the donation bin at the end.

This is obviously not an option if you have to be in one place or out of another quickly, but it was perfect for my leisurely timeline. You can also mimic this by moving your essentials into one part of the room, packing up the main things a week before, or whatever system that will work for you.

5. Don’t buy anything.

Seriously. Of course you should feed yourself, but anything that isn’t a consumable (or a necessity like a mattress) should wait. When we first moved in together there were so many things that we thought would fix all of our problems.

But the longer we waited to purchase these “solutions,” the more often we realized we didn’t need them at all. We made do with what we had or reorganized to make things work.

Live in your new space for at least a month before you bring in new furniture, storage, or other purchases. This lets you get a sense of how you really use the space, if you really need the item in the first place, and what the real problem is.

I nearly bought a large shelving unit just to fit my mixer. But after (slowly, and more than once) reorganizing our kitchen I realized that I could make the mixer fit under the sink and we didn’t really have anything else to go on the shelves.

6. Everyone’s in charge of their own stuff.

Whether you are moving as a family or just by yourself, this seemingly obvious rule is important. It’s so easy to see what other people should get rid of, but actually downsizing your stuff can be a nightmare.

Put the responsibility on each person to declutter and move their own belongings (within reason). When my boyfriend and I moved in together we were careful to not interfere or lobby for things to be donated. We divided up our storage spaces equally and we were free to put whatever we wanted in our half.

The same is true if you are storing items for a family member. Those items are their responsibility and theirs to store when you move.

7. Have a why.

This is crucial! More than anything else, knowing why you are downsizing and being fully behind your decision will make your move much less stressful. Remind yourself anytime you start to feel overwhelmed or overworked why you want to live in a smaller space and the benefits you are going to get.

For me, downsizing meant that my boyfriend and I could live in a comfortable apartment in a neighborhood we liked without needing roommates. It meant I could freelance more comfortably and cut my rent significantly. Living small makes it easier for us to travel. Also, have a I mentioned we can fully clean the whole house in less than 30 minutes (heaven!).

These benefits made getting rid of the last bits of homeless things that I was holding on to relatively easy. It also made the hair-pulling moments something to laugh about and tackle head on.

Women of the Road: Is #Vanlife Really Instagram Perfect?

It all started with following a couple people on Instagram. Then I found the #vanlife hashtag and it was all over. I was obsessed.

For months I played with the idea of interviewing people about what it’s really like to live and travel in a van for weeks or months at a time. Is it really as great as it seems? Does it look anything like it does on Instagram? I had so many questions.

While holed up in bed with a casted ankle, I finally got to speak to incredible women who have traveled in ways I have only dreamed about. Their solo trips around the U.S. and New Zealand were incredible. And if anything, it only made me more obsessed. Their stories were refreshing and honest and left me just as captivated as before.

Is #vanlife really Instagram Perfect? Mandy Ferreira for Misadventures October 2016

This story begged to be written for months, and I just couldn’t help myself from sharing it. The story is now live on Misadventures!