Throw a Stress-Free Dinner Party

picjumbo.com_HNCK2125 During November and December, all we really feel like doing is cozying up with friends and family in order to adjust to the colder weather. What better way to do that than with a dinner party? With warm, comforting dishes, some great drinks and some even better people, throwing together a gathering of your closest friends could be one of the best ways to celebrate the season.

If the thought of planning something like this intimidates you, not to fret. There are plenty of ways to make these gatherings easy as pie. Check out our tips, and share your own below!

The Key: Prepping Ahead of Time

  • Pick your favorite people: This is a super important step! Choosing your guest list can be a challenge, but be sure to invite reliable, positive friends who can help you along the way.
  • Shop early: Making a list and doing your shopping a couple days ahead of time will save you some serious hassle the day of the party. Even better, you have a couple days to remember anything you could’ve forgotten!
  • Chop ahead: Once you decide on a recipe, prepare everything you can the day before. Veggies can be chopped, broths can be stirred up, and desserts can be baked the day prior to save oven-space and time the day of.
  • Set the table & drink station the night before: This is a key step many forget! Setting out plates, silverware and any DIYs you’ve stirred up the week before (get some ideas here!) will save serious time before your guests arrive.

picjumbo.com_HNCK2326During the Meal

  • Stay simple: If you love food like we do, you probably have a million ideas for delicious dishes you could put together for your loved ones. However, for sanity’s sake, it’s important to keep your fancy, million-ingredient dishes to one main course. Keep sides and desserts simple to avoid being overwhelmed.
  • #DinnerMode: Put down the gadgets! Take the time during the meal to zen out with your best pals without the ring of your cell. Staying unconnected is the perfect way to truly connect. Read more about the #DinnerMode movement here.
  • Clean as you go: This could seem like an annoyance, but you’ll thank yourself after the meal. The less dishes after everyone leaves, the better!
  • Leave time to mingle: Don’t over-stress. Everyone is there to enjoy each other’s company, and you should be a part of it! Be sure not to get bogged down in the kitchen, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Dessert Idea: Ice Cream Bar
We love this dessert idea from One Ingredient Chef: let all your guests make their own ice cream flavors! All you need are some frozen bananas, a food processor, and a couple flavor toppings.

Greatist also has a great list of healthier dessert recipes here. Make them ahead or delve the tasks out to friends for them to bring the night of the party.

How do you prep for an awesome dinner party? Share your ideas in the comments below! 

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Best European Walking Cities

laramblaIt’s truly the perfect time to start planning a great getaway. As winter begins to settle in, it’s nice to have something to look forward to as the winter weather begins to swirl about.

With our new Made in Europe shop, planning a European vacation has been on our minds lately. Taking inspiration from Pinterest photos, magazines and online travel blogs to make our shop got us thinking… where exactly are the best walking cities in Europe?

London, England
With cobblestone streets and gorgeous, age-old architecture, London is a wonderful walking city filled with the greatest in British attractions. One of these is the Tower Bridge, spanning over the Thames River. The bridge is complete with an upper walkway for checking out some completely stunning views.

Barcelona, Spain
Stretching for three-quarters of a mile lined with beautiful trees, La Rambla is a pedestrian’s paradise. As more and more tourists have found the street spectacular, small kiosks and cafes have been added. Grab a cup of joe and meander down the beautiful street with ease.

Venice, Italy
While Venice may be known as a water-based city, it’s considerably walkable. Starting at the Rialto Bridge, a famous landmark that spans the Grand Canal, and walking along the river can offer an easy, enjoyable adventure through the city.

Gore-tex Scottish National Trail
e6bfbb724b00fd3abde9781a24d306e3With different paths for foodies, history lovers and art fanatics, the Gore-Tex Scottish National Trial has a little something for everyone. The trail runs the entire length of the country, the first official one of its kind, and winds through two major national parks and the capital city.

Munich, Germany
There’s much to see in Munich, from various cathedrals to the English Garden to some impressive beer halls. Experience the culture of Munich by walking through a produce market or checking out some of the museums.

Vienna, Austria
Get lost down hidden medieval alleys and beautiful gardens in Vienna. While it’s great to have a tour guide, sometimes wandering and getting lost leads you to the best finds. Be sure to check out their famous open-air bazaar, the Belvedere Palace and some stunning architecture.

Need some great walking shoes for your European adventures? Check out our Made in Europe shop

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OLovesM Recycled Yoga Mat Bags!

376562_254948464621243_218110903_nHere at PlanetShoes, we love that so many of our brands make a difference. Whether by volunteering regularly, using eco-friendly materials in their shoes or donating a portion of their profits to a charitable organization, these shoe and accessory companies are doing what they can to give back to both local and global communities.

One of those companies that truly stands out is OLovesM. One day in yoga class, founder Merle had an thought: what happened to all those old yoga mats once they were no longer usable? Turns out they just got thrown into a landfill. Once Merle realized this sad reality, she set to collecting old yoga mats all around her town to start making great bags! Between the recycled yoga mats and their Made in the USA production, these are some of the most eco-friendly bags on the market.

Even better… their bags are adorable. Truly stand-out styles in a variety of colors and textures, forms and functions, OLovesM bags are the perfect addition to your wardrobe. Take one of the wallets on a quick trip to the store, a tote on a long weekend trip, or a handbag while perusing the local shops. The opportunities are endless when you have a cute, yoga-mat-made OLovesM bag!

Check out our OLovesM selection today, and let us in on which is your favorite in the comments.

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Fall Produce You Should Be Eating (and May Not Be!)

We really adore the food that comes out during the fall. Stews, soups, roasted veggies, baked (cookies) casseroles… it’s all simply warming, comforting and delicious. Filled with pumpkin, apples and squash, there’s really no way to go wrong.

There’s a ton of produce out there, however, that’s currently at its best yet is often forgotten this time of year. On top of that, these forgotten fruits and veggies are filled with vitamins and minerals to keep you strong all winter long. Fall produce is a bit heartier than summer varieties, meaning all the more room for tons of filling fiber and a slew of nutrients.

beets

Beets can often get a bad rap, but prepared correctly, they can taste as sweet as candy! These root veggies are said to help lower cholesterol and are filled with a plethora of B-vitamins and iron.

peras

Pears are the perfect way to satisfy your daily sweet tooth. An oft-forgotten cousin of the apple, pears are at their best during fall. These fruits are filled with fiber and can be used in everything from savory dinners to delicious baked desserts.

kohlrabi

In the cabbage family, kohlrabi tastes a bit like a sweeter broccoli. Filled with phytochemicals (nutrients that are said to help prevent certain cancers), this veggie is delicious prepared as fries, thrown into soups or roasted in the oven with your favorite spices.

sweetpoato

Sweet potatoes may already be on your fall produce list, but they’re so yummy and healthy that we had to include them. Filled with beta-carotene (great for eyesight) and a plethora of vitamins, it’s easy to feel-good with this white potato alternative.

grapfruit

Harvest season for grapefruit occurs from September to April, so they’re truly at their best during fall. Closely related to oranges, grapefruits are filled with vitamin C for a healthy immune system.

rutabaga

These root veggies are filled with fiber and are guaranteed to keep you fuller, longer. A cross between a cabbage and a turnip, these yummy rutabaga are great roasted with rosemary or thrown into soups.

persimmons2

Complete with a solid amount of fiber, Vitamin C and lycopene, persimmons are a great alternative to your classic apples and oranges to grab a significant amount of necessary vitamins. Vitamin C boosts your immune system for the dreaded upcoming winter, so eat up to stay cold-and-flu-free!

endives

While this may not be something you buy everyday, adding this bitter leafy veggie to salads and stews is a healthy way to incorporate more greens into your day. With vitamins A and C as well as plenty of fiber, endives are a welcome addition to a nutritious diet.

What are your favorite fall fruits and veggies? Let us know in the comments!

Sources:

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/

http://greatist.com/health/healthiest-fruits-and-vegetables-fall

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Create Your Best Health Plan

bestyourbestselfEveryone’s health needs are different. With all the advertising coming at us each and every day, from television to the internet to billboards and gyms, it’s easy to get pulled in to health plans that simply aren’t right for you. The commercials for these methods show astounding results (50 pounds lost! 50 pounds of muscle gained!), but that plan may not work the same for everyone.

Each and every body is different, and therefore it makes sense that each and every individual needs a different sort of health plan. The ones advertised can offer a great starting point, sure. On top of that, it’s up to you to find your perfect rhythm, diet and fitness plans to becoming your best you!

Answering a few of these questions may just be the best way to get started.

What do you truly enjoy?
Start here. What health-related activities make you the happiest? Does jogging soothe you? Do you love power-walking with friends? What about cooking up delicious meals? Take your health-related passions (or even those things you don’t really mind doing) and make it a goal to incorporate those activities into your daily life.

Is this something you can keep up with?
The best intentions are only as good as how you enact them. Making huge, lofty goals is all in good fun, but often they become difficult to keep up with. Picking smaller goals will make your regimen addictive, always on your way to the next tangible goal. On top of this, be sure that the goals you choose fit into your daily life accordingly. If you work until 9pm, for example, the goal of nightly workouts may not be so realistic.

Are you surrounded by a positive, supportive group?
Having a core group cheering you on is one of the best motivators towards success. If you enjoy exercising or cooking alone for some downtime, get involved with reading blogs that offer great tips and a community of like-minded people striving for the same achievements.

shutterstock_59208547How do you feel?
Check-in with yourself every once in a while. When schedules get busy and time is limited, it can be easy to run through the motions without giving new routines a second glance. Are you feeling revived, amped up, and rejuvenated from your health plan, or does it have you feeling super sore and sluggish? Giving yourself a little mental check-in could make all the difference in continuing your newly developed plan.

Are there ways to better this for you?
Once you’ve nailed down a great routine, don’t stay stagnant. Take time to reflect upon what you’re doing well in achieving your goals and what you aren’t enjoying so much about your routine. Remember, this is YOUR plan. If you don’t like something, change it!

How do you design your life around health and fitness? We’d love to hear your tips and tactics!

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Homemade Healthier Halloween Candies

Halloween comes with adorable, fun costumes, spooky haunted houses and a whole lot of yummy sweets. Having all that Halloween candy lying around the house before the trick-or-treaters knock on the door can lead to some awfully tempting munching.

While it’s great to indulge every once and a while, we always say make the indulgence worth it! Those pre-packaged candies are delicious, but are often filled with artificial ingredients and chemicals, making them not-so-healthy for your body to ingest.

Make the most of this Halloween season by whipping up your own, healthier versions of your favorite candies. Some people even follow the rule to only eat desserts when they’re homemade, a great idea to avoiding tempting sweets. Chances are you’ll like these (surprisingly) healthier versions even better than the original… so nosh away without the guilt!

resees

 

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
Made with only three, simple ingredients, these homemade Resee’s are easy to whip up, all natural, and well worth the indulgence!

 

SONY DSC

 

Homemade Butterfingers
These easy, textured candies are made up of only four ingredients… much less than in the normal buttery concoction!

 

mintpatties

 

Dark Chocolate-Covered Peppermint Patties
These babies are made of coconut, cashews and an important all-natural sweetener: maple syrup! With antioxidants from the dark chocolate and coconut and protein from the cashews, you can feel-good munching away on these deliciously refreshing candies.

healthywhoppers

 

Healthy Whoppers
What an awesome surprise… toasting up protein-packed chickpeas gives them a whopper-like consistency! Cover them in chocolate and you have a much healthier, still scrumptious whopper.

 

Caramel-apples-on-parchment


Homemade Caramel Apples
The store-bought, packaged caramel meant for apples simply doesn’t have the same appeal as these goodies. These aren’t necessarily the healthiest of the bunch, but they are made with natural sweeteners (honey and rapadura) that give them a whole-food kick over the conventional.

What are your favorite Halloween candies? Do you ever make them from scratch? Share your recipes with us below… if you dare!

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