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In the Spirit of Giving

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Is pervasive yuletide background music reverberating in your head along with thoughts of holiday gift lists and interminable trips to the mall? Are visions of sugar plums and dancing fairies turning into nightmares before Christmas as you contemplate the holiday season?

Is pervasive yuletide background music reverberating in your head along with thoughts of holiday gift lists and interminable trips to the mall? Are visions of sugar plums and dancing fairies turning into nightmares before Christmas as you contemplate the holiday season?

In an effort to help you calm the mistletoe mayhem and cut through the seasonal snarl of traffic, crowds, and endless line-ups, here are a few unusual, yet healthy, gift ideas to aid in restoring the spirit of giving.

Movies and Munchies

Pick a movie theme for the film fans in your life, and fill a festive bowl with a favourite classic and a healthy thematic snack to munch on while they watch.

Wasabi peas: Provide a bit of blaze for the brave with wasabi peas; a marriage of dried green peas with sea salt and wasabi, the fiery green condiment made from Japanese horseradish. This is a guilt-free snack that offers chlorophyllin, known to be a cancer-fighting compound. It may go down particularly well with the 1950s Japanese blockbuster Godzilla.

Pumpkin seeds: Packed with protein, fibre, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, as well as the amino acids arginine and glutamic acid, pumpkin seeds are another guilt-free snack. They also contain linolenic acid, which may help to prevent hardening of the arteries. These munchies are a natural for any heart-stopping horror classic such as Frankenstein or The Phantom of the Opera.

Organic tortilla chips: Satisfy just about any movie snacker with organic tortilla chips. Complement with quality organic salsa, low in fat and calories but loaded with lycopene the powerful antioxidant that gives tomatoes their deep red colour and provides protection against prostate cancer and heart disease. This is a great snack team for any version of the Spanish swashbuckler Zorro.

Popcorn: An old standby, popcorn is a favourite low-calorie snack. Rich in dietary fibre and a source of good complex carbohydrate nourishment, organic popcorn comes in plenty of flavours, including white cheddar, garlic and herb, and sea salt. Fill an extra-large bowl with some of these tasty varieties enough to last through a marathon viewing of Gone with the Wind.

Have a Hempy Holiday

You can fulfill just about anybody's wish with a product from the multipurpose hemp plant. Long cultivated and used for rope, cloth, paper, and food, hemp is a renewable resource that also provides important nutritional benefits. From clothing to paper, to hemp oil and seeds, you can literally wrap up your holiday shopping with this one versatile ingredient.

Wear it: Satisfy almost any taste with hemp clothing. Use some hemp wrapping paper and twine to wrap up a pair of hemp jeans with a hemp rope belt, or pair a hemp hoodie and T-shirt with some natural hemp socks and a cozy pair of crocheted hemp slippers. Top it off with a natural hemp hat available in various shapes and colours, including ski brim caps, safari hats, beanies, berets, and even baseball caps. Or wrap up a cozy pair of hemp mittens with a matching warm scarf and toque.

Pack it: Travellers will appreciate a selection of natural hemp items to make their journey easier. Give a passport holder or bag, waist pouch, cheque book, wallet, sunglass case, or shoulder bag or backpack, all versatile items that come in a variety of colours and designs. Throw in a hemp hacky sack to use during long waits at the terminal.

Create with it: For the artist or crafter in your life, tie up a selection of yarns, beads, twine, and jewellery supplies in a natural hemp bag. You can also include some hemp writing paper or note cards and envelopes or a beautiful hemp journal for recording creative inspirations.

Beautify with it: A hemp toiletry bag is the perfect container for a selection of personal care products containing hempseed oils rich in essential fatty acids important ingredients in maintaining healthy skin and hair. Stock the bag with natural hemp shampoo and conditioner, hand and body lotion, face and body scrub, eye and face creme, shower gel, bar soap, and some fun-flavoured hemp lip balm.

Eat it! Don't forget hemp oil, flour, and seeds for the foodies on your list. The hemp cultivated for food products does not contain levels of the psychoactive substance delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in its popular cannabis cousin. Nutritionally, though, hemp packs a powerful punch. Load a hemp basket with a selection of hempseed oils, seed nuts, hempseed butter, granola cereals and bars, pasta and pesto, cheese, beer, and even candy. You may want to hold off on the organic hemp ice cream, though it could be a messy surprise!

Choose Some Chocolate Cheer

The world is catching on to what every chocoholic has always intuitively known chocolate is good for you. Studies continue to herald the good news for the once-maligned, guilty pleasure. Not only does chocolate contain higher levels of flavonoids and antioxidants than red wine or green tea, but it also contains phenols (found in the cocoa plant), which are known to lower blood pressure. Consuming this creamy confection releases serotonin in the brain, which creates a warm inner glow, an experience worth sharing during the cold, winter days of this holiday season.

Chocolate choices: Find a festive tin and fill it with organic chocolate treats such as vegan chocolate fondue, hemp chocolate, chocolate rice nectar, chocolate spread, truffles, chocolate-covered almonds, and, for the serious chocoholic, chocolate vodka, distilled with natural cocoa. Be sure to include some fine quality bars for a rich, intense burst of bittersweet dark chocolate. To make this special gift complete, wrap it all up with a copy of Joanne Harris' luscious novel Chocolat (Penguin, 2000).

Chocolate yoga: Although just beginning to take Canada by storm, a new adventure in chocolate is hitting yoga centres all over the US. Chocolate yoga, an exercise concept where inner peace begins with the stomach, combines the natural high of stretching with the endorphin high of eating chocolate to facilitate relaxation, health, and happiness. Check your local yoga centres to see if this delectable discipline has hit your community. Sign up your loved one for an experience that could be even more spiritually uplifting for chocoholics than a tour of Willie Wonka's chocolate factory.

Don't Forget Fitness

There are endless possibilities to wrap up a little fitness for the festive season. Giving the gift of fitness can be as simple as a gift certificate for the local gym or health club, yoga or Tai Chi studio, or the YMCA/YWCA. Or use your imagination and pump up someone's holidays with one of these ideas.

Rubber bands: Stretch your loved one's fitness level to new lengths with resistance tubes or rubber bands, a great exercise option for strengthening and toning the entire body. Include a range of bands (colour codes distinguish level of resistance) and a door-handle attachment for more exercise options. Add a guidebook that includes exercises for the whole body such as The Great Stretch Tubing Handbook by Michael Jespersen, Andre Noel Potvin (Productive Fitness Products, 2003).

Exercise balls: Get to the core of anyone's fitness needs. Exercise balls are being used by elite athletes in all sports disciplines for core strength and stability. They've become popular for their versatility and simplicity as well as for their portability. Exercise balls come in a variety of sizes to accommodate individual sizes so make sure you know your loved one's height before choosing. Unless you enjoy a wrapping challenge, choose an inflatable exercise ball and add a small hand pump.

Pedometers: Walking is one of the best forms of physical fitness and the best thing about it is that just about anyone can do it. Guidelines to meet the US Surgeon General's recommended daily activity level are to count toward a goal of 10,000 steps per day. Using a pedometer is the best way to keep track and many options are available on the market. The best pedometers can calculate and display other interesting stats such as distance, calories burned, speed, elapsed time, and steps per minute; some also function as a stopwatch and alarm. For the walkers in your life, pack a waist pack with a pedometer, water bottle, wrist weights, and some reflective strips for walking in the dark. You might even want to throw in some odour-eating foot powder for that special someone.

If your shoulders are tightening around your ears at the mere thought of shopping to fulfill your seasonal obligations, gift yourself first take the time to relax in a nice hot bath and turn on some sounds of nature not noel.

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