Cure Your #HolidayProblems with an Escape to Travaasa

This holiday season Travaasa’s experts are making sure you don’t get stuck in a rut with the most common #HolidayProblems, but we’re also looking to take it a step further with our #HolidayProblems Sweepstakes.

  • GRAND PRIZE: A three-night stay (for two) Vitality package at Travaasa Austin for a fresh, healthy start to the New Year and two $300 American Express gift card to apply towards travel expenses.
  • Weekly giveaways of two $50 Travaasa gift cards.

Share your #HolidayProblems with us and enter to win!

Texas Holiday Dish: Wild Boar Ribs

Get a little wild this holiday season. Wild Boar Ribs generally have a stronger, richer flavor than your basic pork ribs — they’ll be a huge hit around the Christmas dinner table.

Ideally, these would be done in a smoker. An oven will do the trick, but you might lose some of that amazing smoky flavor.

To prepare the ribs:

  • Make a small slice in the connective tissue in between each rib (not deep enough to cut the meat).
  • Generously rub the ribs in Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To prepare the mop sauce:

  • Combine 1 part brown sugar and 1 part apple cider vinegar.

Place on smoker once the fire has burned down and coals are holding at between 250-285 degrees. Control the damper to hold the heat at desired temperature. Mop ribs every half an hour, turning over every hour. Continue this process for about 6 hours. The sugar from the mop sauce will caramelize and create a beautiful bark.

Serve with a slaw and sweet mashed potatoes.

How to Chop the Perfect Onion

It’s guaranteed: your holiday recipes will almost certainly include onions. But are your chopping chops in order? Here are some tips to help you slice, dice and julienne like a pro.

Pro Tips

  • Keep fingers curled so no finger tips end up on the board.
  • Make sure that the knife is sharp, so you won’t need to use extra pressure (knife should gently glide through onion with little pressure).
  • Leave the root side on the onion to keep onion form falling into pieces while cutting (this will avoid a safety hazard).

How to Dice an Onion

  • Take a half of a peeled onion that has been sliced lengthwise.
  • Gently slide the knife horizontally in four places equidistant from each other.
  • Slice onion vertically, without cutting through the root bit holing the onion together, about six times.
  • Slice perpendicular to the last, to create small dices

How to Julienne an Onion

  • Take a half of a peeled onion that has been sliced lengthwise.
  • Remove the root bit from the bottom half of the onion.
  • Slice the onion lengthwise. Keep cuts close together to create very thin julienne slices. Once the last third of the onion becomes too small to cut effectively, lay the piece down on its’ side and cut in the same fashion

Wine Pairing for Your Christmas Dinner

Whatever you end up making this year, your perfect Christmas dinner demands a perfectly complementary wine. But finding the right wine for you and your guests can be overwhelming. Here’s a quick guide to some palate pleasing bottles.

Ramey “Ritchie Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California 2009

A firm representation of a cooler growing climate pulling out the aromatics and delicate flavors of this versatile grape. On the palate, Red apple skins, vanilla and baking spice can co-mingle with your favorite pumpkin spices and baked dishes that need a heartier white wine that won’t hide from the flavors.

Pichot Vouvray, Loire Valley, France 2012

A demi-sec or off dry selection  this Chenin Blanc creates something for everyone. The ripe lush tropical fruits allows this wine to be enjoyed all by itself while the racy acidity allows the senses to be cleansed prepping the palate for whatever your table abide.

Masi Serego Aligheri “Viao” Amarone, Valpolicella, Italy 2007

Descendant of the famed Dante, this poetic device needs no introduction. A lovely blend of three noble varietals of northern Italy speaks of dried red and black cherry, fig and spice with a soft texture and silky tannins. Amarone, a beautifully crafted red wine, adopts the Appasimento method wherein the grapes are picked and dried in large attics known as Frutae where they are hung in the dry autumn air for upwards of three months. This adds a unique flavor profile that promotes a rich character to hang with those heavily spiced and cured meats that dawn the holiday season. Rich roast turkeys and smoked hams with brown sugar and baking spice would be happy to have this guest over for dinner.

COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2007

From the island of Sicily, COS is a winery known for its adherence to organics in an attempt to let the land speak through the grapes of this rocky volcanic soil near the base of Mt. Etna. Warm, spicy notes on the nose entice the senses. Fresh tart cherry and earth mingle quite nicely with any herbaceous dishes and fresh fruit accompaniments during the holiday season.

Holiday Gift Guide: For Your Dog

You can’t forget your best friend this holiday season.

Get him fresh and clean with one our our favorite dog shampoos without the bottle: Shampoochie. This all-natural, herbal shampoo is made with eight natural plant oils to condition skin and fur and five pure essential oils to soothe itchiness. It’s non-detergent based, and sulfate and chemical free, leaving your pooch feeling silky and soft.

Style him out with a new collar and leash, the give him a tasty treat. He’ll be one happy pup.

A Cup of Tea A Day Keeps the Doctor Away

It can help in battling cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It can be a weight-loss aid. It can lower cholesterol. It can improve one’s mental state.

What is this magic elixir? A simple cup of tea.

Adding a cup or two of tea to your daily routine is a great (and easy) way to stay healthy. Here are just a few examples of the powerful benefits of tea.

  • Research shows that two cups of black or green tea daily will lower women’s risk of ovarian cancer by 46 percent.
  • Green tea can help you lose weight — it’s heavy in epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which experts say can speed up your metabolism.
  • White tea is a bacteria killer. Two cups daily vastly lowers your chances of getting strep and pneumonia.
  • Green tea may help to reduce the risk neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • Oolong tea is rich in antioxidants, and can strengthen bones structure and protect teeth from decay.
  • Green tea is a fantastic substitute for coffee. It contains less caffeine, but still helps with mental alertness and reduces anxiety.

Healthy Milk & Cookies for Dear Old Santa Claus

By our extremely scientific calculations, Santa Claus consumes upwards of 600 million cookies on Christmas Eve. Help the big guy’s waistline out a little bit by making these healthy-but-still-delicious cookies this year.


  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups maple syrup or honey or agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2/3 cup pepitas


  1. Toast rolled oats in an oven until golden brown.
  2. Place peanut butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, and cinnamon in a sauce pot a heat on low. Stir mixture until homogenized.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the oats, chia seeds, and pepitas.
  4. Add one half of the peanut butter mixture to the oat mixture, and fold together. Add the rest of the peanut butter mixture and fold together.
  5. Press granola bar mixture into cookie sheet and cook gently for ten minutes at 250 degrees.
  6. Allow to cool and set for one hour.
  7. Cut into bars.

Cocktail Bliss: Nutella Martini

For some of us, that oh-so-creamy hazelnut-chocolate spread known as Nutella is a bit of an addiction. This excellent cocktail recipe doesn’t actually contain Nutella, but trust us — Nutella addicts will love it.

Nutella Martini

  • 1.5oz Three Olives Chocolate Vodka
  • .75 oz Frangelico Liqueur
  • .5oz Simple Syrup

Shake over ice and strain into a martini glass

De-Stress With Verbena

Let’s face it: the holidays can be extremely stressful. Verbena can help.

Verbena (Latin: Glandularia Bipinnatifida) is commonly used to relieve physical ailments as a sedative and muscle relaxant that is soothing to the nervous system. Most people who work with the plant will build a simple, pleasing and mild relationship with it to relieve aches and pains and aid in sleep.

For those who are overworked and overstressed, however, the plant will work deeper on emotional issues. Verbena is especially effective at bringing ease and relief to those who tend to take their work home with them or are in a very competitive workplace and are fighting to keep up. (Oddly, often those who can benefit from Verbena the most tend to resist it the most.) This plant will help you bolster against cold and flu and can be used with Bee Balm (Latin: Monarda Fistulosa) to move mucus and clear the sinuses.

Verbena loves people and grows well in disturbed soils all over the country. It is likely you can find this plant near your house.


Usually Verbena greens and flowers are used to make fresh tea and tinctures and the flowering tops can be used in salads. The roots are stronger and are only used in more extreme situations.

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Spa Lover

Give the gift of relaxation this year.

  • Hand in Hand Sea Salt Bath Salts and Lavender Soap – These aren’t just fantastically soothing bath essentials, they’re also ethically sourced and Hand in Hand donates to third world countries with every purchase.
  • Travaasa Spa Robe and Neck Pillow – Give a little bit of Travaasa with these cozy gifts. After a long day, nothing feels better.
  • Primavera Face Wash and Moisturizer – Nourishing, therapeutic and natural care for your skin during the dry winter months.
  • KYPRIS Beauty Elixir – Skin care that brings out your beauty.
  • bkr Water Bottle – Stylish water bottles that are perfect for on-the-go types.
  • 80 Acres Blood Orange Candle – This clean-burning soy candle is packaged in a 100 percent recycled paperboard box.

All items are available at the Travaasa Spa Boutique. 

Winter Fresh: Men’s Skincare Tips

Admit it, guys. Your skin needs some TLC, too — especially during the winter months. Don’t know where to start? Mike Bruggeman of Organic Male is here to help.

Common Problems Men Face

  • Not so ironically, many skin problems men face are related to the shaving process. Ingrown hairs and shaving related sensitivity are common problems. Good shaving technique is paramount in preventing male skin concerns, coupled with products that feed and nourish the skin to help prevent aging.
  • Another problem stems from the fact that the top three shave brands in the U.S. contain either Isopropane or Butane to create foam. These chemicals dry the skin, which in turn causes premature aging.
  • Additionally, nearly every man as some sort of combination skin due his oiler skin by nature — 20% oilier than female skin. Larger pores and increased oil produce an oily T-Zone, while many shaving products dry the shaving zone.  Rebalancing the skin is a critical step after shaving.

Why a Skin-Care Routine Is A Must — And How Organic Male Can Help

Organic Male OM4 believes in simplicity and the brand mantra – 4 PRODUCTS | 4 STEPS | 4 MINUTES | 4 MEN. Each product in OM4’s color-coded by skin type and numbered systems is formulated for the biological differences in male skin. The system takes less than four minutes to complete.

Step 1: WASH. Encompass the skin-type specific cleansers which address the over oil production issue. Textures are different depending on the need from gels, to a French Green Clay mousse for oily skin and a creamy Sea Bucktorn Oil and Caldenula based cleanser for dry and mature skin.

STEP 2: BALANCE. It’s one of the most important steps after shaving. Rebalancing oily and dry combination skin with a single splash while bringing down sensitivity is the goal of our pH Balancers/aftershave splashes.

STEP 3: BIOACTIVATE. Simply said, don’t leave the spa without it if you want healthy, younger looking skin. One drop of OM4 serums suspended in a fractionated molecule medium, go where moisturizers cannot to provide a daily dose of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids to feed male skin which is 30% thicker and more dense than female skin.

STEP 4: DEFEND. These skin-type specific moisturizers lock in the benefits of the entire system and provide a matte clean, masculine finish.

Soup for the Soul: Butternut Squash

Good for the soul, good for the tastebuds. Chef Ben’s butternut squash soup is the perfect cure to a cold winter day.


  • 1 butternut squash (roasted)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 1 Tbsp ginger
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp Agave nectar
  • Tabasco (dash)


  1. Cut butternut squash lengthwise. Lay face down on a sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until flesh is soft.
  2. Saute chopped leeks, garlic, and ginger in a large pot and add vegetable stock.
  3. Puree butternut squash and stir into vegetable stock.
  4. Add orange juice.
  5. Blend soup in a blender until smooth.
  6. Finish with Agave nectar and a dash of Tabasco.
  7. Salt to taste.

Fight the Common Cold With Echinacea

A winter cold can put a serious damper on your holiday cheer. This year, try to battle back with Echinacea.

Echinacea (Latin: echinacea purpurea) stimulates the immune system and thus increases one’s overall resistance to disease. The herb can be useful in treating the early phases of bacterial or viral infection. Echinacea speeds the resolution of colds, flu, and many forms of upper respiratory infection. Bonus — it can also be used as an anti-inflammatory and to treat infected stings, bites, or wounds from reptiles and insects.

This is a very strong a powerful herb. Some herbalists recommend using small doses of Echinacea as preventative care during cold and flu season, while others only use it in stronger doses to treat one after becoming ill.

Echinacea is a cone flower that can be found in many parts of North America, but especially on the plains. This is a great flower to cultivate in your garden. During the growing season harvest flowers, stems and leaves. The roots are the strongest part of the plant but should be harvested minimally to ensure the survival of the plant from year to year as it is a perennial. A portion of a healthy Echinacea plant can be dug in late fall of winter and tinctured for use when one because extremely ill with a flu like symptoms.

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Man in Your Life

Finding the right gift for the dad/brother/husband/boyfriend in your life can be the ultimate Holiday Problem. Here are a few suggestions, all available at the Travaasa shops in Hana and Austin.

  • Liberty Black Mens Cowboy Boots – Maybe he’s not actually out riding the range on a daily basis, but these handmade boots have deep Old West flavor.
  • Henley Rollup Barware Set – Give this gift and watch your guy transform into a master mixologist.
  • TopShelf Western Leather Flask – A supercool, old school flask that is perfect for winter nights out on the town.
  • Organic Male Skincare Line – Guys’ skin needs to be taken care of, too! Organic Male Skincare Line is easy to use and effective.

All items are available at the Travaasa Spa Boutique. 

Trouble Sleeping? Essence of Vali Just May Do the Trick

Too many visions of sugarplums dancing in your head while you try to sleep this holiday season? A good night’s rest is vital for getting through these busy times. A natural solution is Essence of Vali.

Valerie Bennis of Essence of Vali explains why.

Why should you use Essence of Vali? It is 100% natural and contains soothing essences from plants.

What does it do? It is a synergistic blend of sedative plant essences that help you relax and eases you into a peaceful sleep.

How does it help you? It helps you relax so that you can get to sleep. The blend of lavender, marjoram, cedarwood and ylang/ylang is soothing, grounding, anti-anxiety and sedative.

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Yogi

Need to find the perfect gift for the person on your list who loves everything Zen? Here are a few ideas that are sure to make their inner chi smile.

  • Smart Yoga Mat – How cool is this? An interactive, smartphone/tablet friendly yoga mat that helps you through your practices.
  • Ipanema Ana Crochet Flip Flops – Fresh, colorful footwear that will get anyone to the studio in style.
  • Bluma Project Weekender Bag – Stylish and functional, these artisan-made bags have room for all essential yoga items.
  • bkr Water Bottles – These trendy bottles are great for mid-pose sips.

 Most items available at the Travaasa Austin Spa Boutique.

Citrus Healing: Lemon Balm

Soothe your #HolidayProblems-induced nerves with a a dose of lemon balm.

Lemon balm (Latin: Melissa Officinalis) is a lovely, calming nervine without the sedative effect that many nervines have. This plant is related to mint and basil and is easy to grow in a garden or pot. It can be used for headaches, to aid balanced thyroid function, for opening the heart and healing sadness. Topically, lemon balm is a wonderful anti-viral that is known for healing cold sores. This plant will aid in perspiration and can help one sweat out a fever. It tastes great a fresh tea or tincture is relaxing and is safe for pregnancy.

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Food Truck Style

If you enjoy leftovers like we do, you’ll love this creative recipe for Thanksgiving Leftover Sliders crafted by our very own Food Truck Chef, Tony Arcangelini. Take a little turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and corn and place it on a roll. Voila! Leftover goodness.

Get the full recipe on the Travaasa Blog.

Thanksgiving Side Dish: Chef Ben’s Famous Green Beans

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce are all perfectly good Thanksgiving staples. But everyone expects them to be good. This year, try stealing the show with Chef Ben’s Famous Green Beans, an inspired spin on an old standby.


  • 1 pound green beans
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Wash the green beans and trim the stem bit off of the end.
  2. Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Season green beans with salt, and pepper.
  4. Use a stainless steel grate, or perforated piece of aluminum foil on a hot grill. Grill green beans until slightly charred and blistered.
  5. Eat while still steaming hot!

How to Perfectly Pair Your Thanksgiving Meal

It’s the ultimate Thanksgiving challenge: Finding a wine that won’t clash with the wide array of dishes that are a part of every proper feast. But we love a good challenge. Here are three wines that will have the whole table giving thanks.

Gundlach Bundshcu “Gewurtztraminer,” Napa  Valley, California 2012

A floral and off dry representation of this Alsatian varietal. A bit of richness can mingle with turkey gravies and sweet potato stuffing, while the bright acidity cleans up the palate in between bites. Yum!

Bethel Heights “Casteel” Pinot Noir, Aola-Amity, Oregon 2011

This little gem is vineyard specific and speaks about the little area in Willamette Valley, Oregon, where it originated. Think of it as a less flashy version of pinot coming from a cooler growing climate and a more terroir driven community. This thick skinned delight delivers notes of black cherry and rhubarb while lending a touch of baking spice and orange peel to fill out the flavor. Smoked ham and other cured meats, especially a good sage and sausage stuffing, could complement these shared nuances and accent the riper red fruit characteristics.

Kenefick Ranch Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, California 2009

This wine is a more luxurious version of its more commonly enjoyed Chinon counterpart. Cabernet Franc, a blending varietal for Bordeaux reds and a stand alone for this Napa producer, the pyridines proudly present notes of green herb, dill and bell pepper give a dynamic component to the rich blackberry and currant notes that are enveloped by refined tannins that serve to add texture to this tantalizing delight. Think of cajun turkey, honey cured ham and all that wonderful cranberry and dressing. The angels would sing.

Thanksgiving Side Dish: Scalloped Potatoes

Need an easy-to-make side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner this year? We’ve got you covered. This scalloped potatoes recipe is creamy, cheesy, and will have your guests begging for seconds.


  • Medium russet potatoes (or any potato) – 7 each
  • Red bell peppers – 2
  • Butter – 3 tbsps
  • Half and Half – 1 cup
  • Salt – 2 tbsps
  • Pepper – 1 tbsp
  • Cotija cheese – 2 cups crumbled


  1. Roast red peppers in the oven until tender. Skin should be separating from the flesh of the pepper.
  2. Allow peppers to cool, peel off the skin, and reserve.
  3. Slice potatoes thin with a knife or a mandolin
  4. Place potato slices in water to prevent oxidation. Drain when all potatoes have been cut.
  5. In a small casserole dish, shingle the potato slices until the surface of the dish is covered
  6. Repeat
  7. Season shingled slices with salt and pepper
  8. Layer roasted red pepper into the dish
  9. Layer potato slices once more and season
  10. Continue this pattern until all of the slices have been used
  11. Heat half and half with the butter and pour into the baking dish
  12. Cover with plastic wrap and foil, and bake for 30 minutes
  13. Allow dish to cool before serving so that it will keep its’ shape when dished
  14. Slice into portions and place on a cookie sheet to reheat
  15. Sprinkle crumbled cotija cheese onto the top of the gratin and bake until cheese is golden brown
  16. Enjoy!

Fall Harvest Beers: What to Drink on Thanksgiving Day

It’s probably safe to say that those Puritan Pilgrims did not enjoy an ale or two back in Plymouth during the first Thanksgiving. But times have changed — and that’s something to give thanks for, indeed. Here are two brews that will pair nicely with your turkey dinner this year.

Hofbrau Oktoberfest: Munich, Germany, Est. 1589

This beer is an atypical Oktoberfest, in the sense that the caramel and malt flavors sing splendidly with the more noticeable prevalence of hops. The hops add to the texture of the beer and give it a sense of balance with the sweet roasted notes and a touch of floral and creamy mouthfeel. It makes a fine pairing for those rich dinners around the holidays, as these beers traditionally can become homogeneously lost in heavier dishes because of their style being crafted towards the American palate. A nice contrast to the trimmings on your holiday table.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale: Delaware, USA, Est. 1995

Named after the offbeat Delaware native event, the “Punkin Chunkin.” You probably get the idea. This well-rounded delight has all the features of fall, with a round nuttiness, brown sugar and pumpkin spice notes.  Skip the eggnog and pair a pumpkin with your pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving Side Dish with a Texas Twist: Roasted Watermelon Radishes with Grilled Shishito Peppers

Throw something new into the Thanksgiving mix this year. Sweet, thin-skinned Shishito peppers and rootsy, roasted watermelon radishes will add a little Lone Star flavor to your feast.


  • Cut radishes into wedges.
  • Wash Shishito peppers and place on a towel to dry.
  • Keep both ingredients in separate bowls. Drizzle each with extra virgin olive oil. Season each with salt and pepper.
  • Use a stainless steel grate, or perforated piece of aluminum foil on a hot grill. Grill Shishito peppers until slightly charred and blistered.
  • Roast Watermelon radish wedges in an oven preheated for 15-20 minutes.
  • Combine ingredients while still hot. Serve on the side of your favorite dish.

Health Tips: A Lemon a Day Can Go A Long Way

Fighting off colds in the winter is hard to do, but if you start each morning off with hot water and lemon juice, you’ll help your body make it through!

Here are a few of the reasons to sip on this hot beverage:

  • It strengthens the immune system, thanks to vitamin C.
  • Potassium contained in it stimulates brain, nervous system and controls blood pressure. So it helps your body and mind to relax.
  • It encourages your liver to produce acids required for digestion, helping to clean it of toxins.
  • It cleanses the skin, and even more, reduces wrinkles. A natural antiseptic contained in lemon helps to treat skin problems.
  • Lemon refreshes morning breath.
  • It helps with coughs and breathing problems.
  • It cleanses intestines of the remaining food from the previous day.
  • It provides vitamins and minerals.
  • It helps to treat stomach problems such as nausea, heartburn, bloating, constipation.

So what are you waiting for? Drink up!

Setting the Perfect Table

You’re hosting a holiday meal, but you are not exactly sure how to set the table for the evening? Our events experts lend their advice on creating a beautifully appointed table to set the tone for the evening:

  • You want the first impression when your guests see the dining room to be impeccable. Our best advice: set your table a day in advance.  It will save you time and you can avoid any last minute rush to get the “details” done that will make the setting perfect.

  • Create a canvas for your perfect table set with chargers or placemats.  Be creative- a store bought charger isn’t the only option.  Check out a local craft store for wooden discs with bark edges in tact to create a rustic but elegant backdrop to your fine china.

  • When setting the actual places, the order from left to right is: Napkin, fork, plate, knife, spoon. Bread plates and butter knives go in the upper left corner; Glasses go in the upper right corner. Also remember, the knife blade always faces the plate.
  • Make sure your center pieces are not too tall. Take a seat in one of the chairs, and make sure you can easily see across the table.
  • Extra guests and not enough of your favorite place settings?  Mix up your china by combining pieces from different sets.  An eclectic combination of plates and bowls can help you accommodate those extra guests and still use your favorite pieces.

Skincare 101: DIY Facials

No time in your hectic holiday schedule to make it to the spa? Our spa experts share tips, tricks and their favorite products for giving yourself a facial at home. Finding a little time to take care of your skin is important, especially during the dry winter months.

For the most benefit from a DIY facial, first you should be relaxed. Run a bath and add Jojoba oil, sweet almond oil or a Lavender or Rose Sallow bath oil from Primavera. This will soothe your senses and moisturize your skin, setting the atmosphere for your facial.

Cleanse your face with a hydrating cleanser, rinse then gently exfoliate with your favorite exfoliant using circular upwards motions. After rinsing apply a moisturizing or hydrating mask. We recommend Primavera Antioxidant Mask, but you can also make your own:

  • For dry skin: mix an Avocado with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and apply to your face. It will provide your skin with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and softening agents.
  • For oily skin with large pores: smooth a beaten egg white all over your face. It will tighten your skin and bring a healthy glow.

While your mask is on, lean back and relax or read a book, taking in the wonderful aromas of your bath. After 15 minutes rinse or wipe off your mask. Once you are out of the bath, apply lotion or oil to your body and a rich moisturizer or Intensive seed oil capsule to your face. You will feel refreshed and look radiant.

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Brews

The last month of the year always brings in the beer that is made to be enjoyed during the colder season. John Groyance, our resident beer instructor, shares his favorite beer selections for the holiday season:

  • Sam Adams Winter Lager: This deep ruby colored lager brings out notes of cinnamon, ginger, and a touch of orange peel that brings out the sweetness of the various malts to produce a warm and spicy flavor and weighs in at 5.6% alcohol.
  • Delirium Noel:  I love this Trappist ale which is an extremely malty and hoppy balanced ale. The color is a deep amber and has traces of dark fruit, caramel and is brewed with Belgian candy sugar which brings in the weight of this beer at 10% alcohol which is very well hidden due to the complex flavors.
  • Sam Adams Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout: Brewed with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger and a touch of wheat, this stout is not to be missed. Due to all the spices and dark roasted malts the 9% alcohol is very well hidden.


Holiday Side Dishes: Garlic Rubbed Roasted Cabbage

If you love cabbage, you are going to freak out about how good this is. If you are on the fence about cabbage, you need to try this because this might be the recipe that converts you into a cabbage lover!

This is a simple side dish worthy of a dinner party and couldn’t be easier to make: four ingredients, a couple of minutes to prepare and toss in the oven for an hour.


  • 1 (approx 2lb) head of organic green cabbage, cut into 1″ thick slices
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 3 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • spray olive oil OR non-stick cooking spray


1. Preheat oven to 400F and spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Pull outer leaf off cabbage (it’s usually dirty and nasty looking), cut cabbage from top to bottom (bottom being root) into 1″ thick slices.

2. Rub both sides of cabbage with smashed garlic.

3. Use a pastry brush to evenly spread the olive oil over both sides of the cabbage slices.

4. Finally, sprinkle each side with a bit of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

5. Roast on the middle rack for 30 minutes. Carefully flip the cabbage and roast for an additional 30 minutes until edges are brown and crispy. Serve hot and Enjoy!

Image Source: Foodista

Holiday Games for the Whole Family

Getting everyone in the family together over the holidays is always wonderful, but also stressful. Here are some activities and games to settle the fun family feuds and really enjoy the time with each other:

  • Holiday themed mad libs.
  • Karaoke to holiday songs
  • Instead of putting all the presents under the tree, create a scavenger hunt for the children and have them search for the presents.
  • Have a gingerbread house making contest.  Gather materials for guests to make gingerbread houses.  Then, have guests vote on their favorite two houses.
  • Make this season a healthy one.  Instead of having a typical cookie exchange, trade healthy desserts and recipes.
  • Get a camera that prints out stickers or a Polaroid camera.  Take a group photo and then have the family members use the photo to make Christmas ornaments.
  • Go around the room and have everyone say what they are thankful for (without repeats).
  • Have an ugly Christmas sweater contest.
  • Drive or walk around town in search of the best decorated house.
  • Make holiday cards for those who may be lonely during the holiday season, such as people in nursing homes, the hospital,etc.
  • Play card games, such as bridge, spades, euchre, or gin rummy
  • Play corn hole, table tennis, or foosball
  • Get to know relatives you rarely see with board games.  Games are a great way to bond with relatives you don’t know very well. Board games such as Apples to Apples are easy enough for the young ones to grasp and, and often result in laughter.
  • If you have just spent hours driving to your relatives house, take off some steam and get moving with an active game such as kubb, croquet, kickball, baseball, or horse shoes.
  • White Elephant Gift Exchanges get everyone involved, and talking long after the exchange has taken place.
  • Name that holiday song.  Play a short clip from different holiday songs.  Whoever guesses the song first wins.  A more challenging version of this game is to write out clips from different holiday songs.  Whoever guesses the most correctly wins that version.

Best Skincare Products for Winter

The cold winter months are so harsh on our skin, resulting in dry, itchy skin. Here are some of the best skincare products our spa experts recommend using for silky smooth skin that you’ll instantly love!

Dry Hands & Elbows: Anakiri Flower Fusion Hand Cream. This rich hand cream soothes dry elbows and hands, exfoliates and deeply moisturizes.

The Body: Pinot Honey Ginger Body Oil or Primavera Rose Sallow Body Oil. Apply these to the skin after you shower for smooth skin all winter long.

The Face: Primavera Seed Oil Capsules. The Moisturizing Intensive Seed Oil capsules with neroli, cassis, rose hip and borage seed oil is a perfect dose to maintain hydration. The Revitalizing Intensive Seed Oil capsules with organic rose, pomegranate, sallow thorn and rose hip, deliver anti-aging benefits with a perfect does of hydration.

The Lips: Moisturizing Lip Bal with neroli, cassis shea butter and jojoba is a must have.


Holiday Side Dishes: Sauté of Dinosaur Kale with Oyster & Shitake Mushrooms

Kale is a super food that Chef Marko recommends consuming daily. It’s loaded with tons of nutrients and tastes delicious. Actually called Lacinato Kale, this variety gets it’s name from the fact that it has a reptilian looking appearance. Dinosaur Kale is Chef’s  favorite variety, especially during the colder months of the year.


Note: You will need to remove the stems from the kale and mushrooms but instead of throwing them out hold on to them for my veggie stocks.

Cut kale and in thin strips and set aside.

Using a large wide pan, sauté 1 sliced red onions with 1 T. olive oil


¼ cup diced ginger

1 T.  diced garlic

Add 2 cups sliced mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes

Add kale and cook for 3 minutes

Add small amount of veggie stock

Finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.


Health Tips: Beat the Winter Blues

Oh, the weather outside is frightful! Which means you just want to curl up on the couch with a blanket, a movie and probably some not so healthy treats. It’s important to stay positive and healthy during the winter months. Here are a few ways to bite the winter blues and ensure you enjoy the beauty of the holiday season:

  • Get Sunshine – even if just for a few minutes, go outside!
  • Socialize – fight the urge to stay in and go out for dinner with friends or do some holiday shopping.
  • Get a Massage – it’s important to take care of your body and get the toxins moving around. You’ll be so glad you took some time to pamper yourself.
  • Keep a Daily Gratitude List – little reminders keep the soul warm.
  • Practice Conscious Acts of Kindness – the holiday season is all about giving. Put a smile on someone’s face with a simple act of kindness.

Holiday Dishes: Vegan Chocolate Mousse

The secret ingredient in this recipe that makes it healthy, delicious and vegan?! Avocado.

Melt 1 cup dark chocolate in a stainless steel bowl that fits on top of a saucepan with a little simmering water then set aside.

In a blender combine the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • zest from two oranges
  • juice from two oranges
  • ½ tsp. gluten free soy sauce
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 T. instant coffee granules or just some finely ground coffee.
  • a small dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup melted chocolate

Then add the secret ingredient: 6 avocados.

Add your avocados one at a time.  Watch to see when the mixture begins to look more like a pudding. If you want to thin it out just add: ½ cup coconut milk. If you want to thicken it just add another avocado.

Serve in parfait or martini glasses and garnish with raspberries.


Winter Health Tips: Manzanilla Camomile Tea

It’s hard to avoid catching ill over the winter months, but we have a few employees at Travaasa who swear by Manzanilla Camomile Tea! It’s a very powerful, all-natural tea we recommend you drink daily. Here are some of the reliefs it aids in:

  • digestion
  • sleep
  • allergy relief
  • asthma
  • bacterial infections
  • burns and sunburns
  • colds
  • nausea
  • ulcers
  • morning sickness
  • stress relifer
  • restlessness
  • heartburn


5 Yoga Poses to Prep for Your Surfing Vacation

Work these yoga poses into your daily workout routine to build strength, endurance and flexibility:

Plank:  Increase muscular strength and endurance for arms, wrists, spine, quads and abdominals.

Warrior II:  Improves balance and stability as well as increasing muscular strength and endurance in the lower body.  Stretches hips, groin and shoulders.  Opens chest and lungs.  Builds stamina and concentration and energizes tired limbs.

Child’s pose:  Stretch for lower back and hips.  Release tension in the back, shoulders and chest.  Calms the mind and body, encourages strong, steady breathing.

Bow:  Heat and strengthen the entire body, mostly legs, back and buttocks.

Tree pose:  Strengthens the ligaments and tendon of the feet.  Assists the body in establishing pelvic stability.  Builds self-confidence and esteem!


Holiday Side Dishes: Spiced Quinoa with Butternut Squash

Quinoa is an ancient grain that is indigenous to South America and has become very popular because of its fast cooking time and complete protein profile. It contains all the amino acids including lysine and is gluten free.  Although it is often marketed as pre-rinsed it is advisable to rinse it if purchasing in bulk. This is because the plant produces a natural defense of Saponis that protect it as it grows but can leave a slightly bitter taste unless it is rinsed. Pour your quinoa into a fine mess strainer and submerge it into a mixing bowl of filtered water.  Mix it with you’re fingers and remove and drain.  Quite often good chefs will toast grains to build flavor and it just takes 3-4 minutes in a dry pan.  Fully cooked quinoa makes a wonderful salad and there are numerous choices that you can use to create a flavorful experience. Another effective technique in producing a batch of quinoa is to use vegetable stock instead of water. This also enhances the nutritional content.

Save your vegetable scraps so you can make your own vegetable stock.  The basic veggies in most stocks include:

  •  1 sliced onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

You can use almost all of your other vegetable scraps with the exception of cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower or broccoli.

Place ingredients in a stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool and strain.

Rinse 2 cups quinoa in a strainer then drain and hold.


  • 1 cup of onion
  • 1 cup of butternut squash
  • 1 cup of carrot

In a saucepan heat 1 T. of olive oil and start a sauté of diced onions, butternut squash and carrots. Cook for two minutes then add:

  • 1 tsp. curry
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 T. diced ginger
  • Toasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ tsp. good salt

Add your two cups of quinoa along with 1.75 cups of vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to a simmer add a touch of saffron and cover. Cook for around 15-20 minutes.

The low down on salt

Most commercial salt is blasted at 4000 degrees but if you look at a batch of good salt it often has an assortment of colors. These are actually trace minerals which you body needs.

Useful Equipment

  • Small stockpot
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Spatula
  • Cutting boards

Farm Fresh Table Decorations

This holiday season, look to your garden for fresh centerpiece ideas. We have tips for several unique creations that use the plants right in your own back yard! Check it out:

  • Purple Kale Flowers: These beauties have become a popular focal flower for table centerpieces.
  • Artichokes: This vegetable already has a unique look to it. Add it to any flower arrangement for additional texture.
  • Small Pumpkins & Gourds: These fall vegetables also make great table top decorations. They add a seasonal twist when incorporated into an otherwise traditional floral piece.
  • Cranberries: The bright little berry is a popular decoration during the holidays. Place a handful in the bottom of a vase and add flowers or a candle for a holiday feel.
  • Colorful Vegetables: Other vegetables like bright orange carrots or purple onions can also brighten up any centerpiece and add a seasonal touch.
  • Dried Tree Branches & Twigs: Branches add an elegant architectural element to a vase of flowers or the base of a centerpiece. Try painting the branches a bold or metallic color to add a modern touch.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Beer Pairings

As summer passes on by,  beer goes from lighter to darker in color and in strength. During the Thanksgiving season there are several wonderful and flavorful beers that hit the market that go very well with a feast.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale: A delicious brown ale brewed with fresh pumpkin, cinnamon, and brown sugar and weighs in at 7% alcohol.

Sam Adams Octoberfest: Easily available anywhere in the states, this is a very drinkable amber ale made with 4 varieties of malt giving an aroma of sweet caramel and toffee and weighs in at a mere 5.3% alcohol.

Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin Stout: The second beer I would recommend is a little Stronger and darker, this beer is brewed with pumpkin, chocolate, molasses, nutmeg, allspice and ginger.  Save this for your last course and serve a dessert beer as it is a very thick frothy beer weiging in at 10.5% alcohol and is best enjoyed on a chilly fall night.


Holiday Side Dishes: Asian Sweet Potato Salad

We prefer to use Garnet yams for this recipe but conventional sweet potatoes will also work!


Peel about 5 potatoes, cut them up in 1/2 inch cubes and separately store in water.

Bring small amount of water to a boil and immerse potato cubes with a touch of salt. Cook at low heat until tender (4-5 minutes) but not soft. Drain into colander and let cool.

Make a vinaigrette with:

  • 1 cup fresh apple juice
  • 1 cup Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/4 fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. crushed pepper flakes
  • 1 T. crushed garlic
  • 1 T. agave nectar
  • 2 T. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 1 bunch scallions chopped
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 1/2 diced red bell pepper
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. good salt

Process 1/2 inch cubes of the following and add to your vinaigrette:

  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup jicama

Toast 1 cup of pecan pieces and 1/ 4 cup sesame seeds

Gently fold ingredients together and let stand in your fridge for 30 minutes to absorb flavors. Test for salt depending on your preference. Garnish with few remaining sesame seeds and cut scallions.

(Photo Credit: Jennifer Chandler)

5 Stress Relieving Activities to Get You Through the Holidays


Yoga remains one of the most sought after stress reducing activities in Resorts and Spa around the world.   Studies have shown that consistent yoga practice improves sense of well-being, increases strength and flexibility, while lowering blood sugar and blood pressure.


Increased immunity, improves emotional balance and sense of well being, lowers blood pressure, calms the nervous system, reduces stress, improves sleep.

Hula Hooping

Hula Hooping is a fun, exciting way to get a whole body workout.  You can utilize the hoop as a tool for exercise, dance and self-expression.  Maybe even learn a trick or two?  Hooping is great for beginners or anyone looking to dive into learning something new!

Aqua Aerobics

A fun way to kick off your day!  Whether at Travaasa Hana or your local gym, you can get wet while enjoying the standard benefits of any exercise. The enhanced weightlessness of aqua aerobics protects the body and reduces the risk of muscle or joint injury, placing less stress on the joints when stretching, and can allow a greater range of motion. Aqua aerobics is safe for individuals who prefer to keep their heads out of water. You do not even have to be a strong swimmer to participate in aqua aerobics!

Morning Walk/Jog & Stretch

Start your day with a walk/jog in the great outdoors (whether its your neighborhood, city park, the beach or the mountains). Stop along the way to take in the natural features around you as you wake up your body for the day ahead. This non-static technique known as active isolated stretching helps improve circulation, increase the elasticity of muscle and fascia, develop joint range of motion, and reduce stress.


Holiday Side Dishes: Pecan Dressing

While this may not be the healthiest side dish, we just had to share this Texan tradition from Texas Monthly – because, well, it’s just delicious and it wouldn’t be a Texan Thanksgiving without it! (We did note a few healthy substitutions.)

Serves about 15

10 cups dried bread; half white bread and half, not sweet!, cornbread (try wheat bread for a healthier version)
3 cups pecan pieces
2 large sweet onions, minced
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon paprika
4 cups whole milk (substitute chicken broth for a healthier version)
1 cup melted butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups celery, chopped

Tear bread into small pieces. Add pecans, onions, and seasonings. Stir in remaining ingredients in the order given. Bake in a casserole dish (or two) at 325 degrees until crispy and brown around the edges, about an hour.

Adventurous Spa Treatments: Thai Massage

Feeling adventurous this holiday season? Break away from your usual spa treatment and try something new, like a Thai Massage.

Traditional Thai massage uses no oils or lotions, and the recipient remains clothed during a treatment.  There is constant body contact between the practitioner and the client, but rather than rubbing on muscles, the body is compressed, pulled, stretched and rocked in order to clear energy blockages and relieve tension.  The practitioner uses thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows, knees and feet to create a dance of movement on the body of the recipient.  Joints are opened, muscles and tendons are stretched, internal organs are toned, and energy is balanced.  The overall effect is one of deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and physical and mental well being.


  • Massage therapy with twists and turns that cannot be applied in a typical massage.
  • Improved posture, balance, flexibility, range and ease of motion.
  • Removes aches, pains, stiffness, and tensions, stress of muscle, fascia, connective tissue, joints, vessels, nerves, channels the mind.


Healthy Holiday Snacks: Kale Chips

This is a super easy snack you can do in twenty minutes. Don’t be surprised if the kids want some of these jewels. This is essentially like dehydrating the old fashion way before we had dehydrators. This technique concentrates the flavor profile of the kale to yield a surprising flavor. Enjoy!

  • Pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees.
  • Rinse, de-stem and dry one bunch of kale.
  • Tear into large pieces and place in a mixing bowl with a small amount of olive oil and soy sauce.
  • Place on a baking sheet or casserole dish and cook in the oven for around 15 minutes at 250 degrees.

(Photo Source: Vegan-In) 

Dry Skin Remedies to Get Your Through the Winter

With the change of seasons and much cooler temperatures of winter comes the-ever-dreaded dry and itchy skin. Never fear, our spa experts our here to solve all your dry-skin woes with these daily remedies:

  • The heaters in our cars and houses are very drying to the skin, use a humidifier to put moisture back into the air.
  • Licking your lips makes them drier! Keep a lip balm in your purse or close at hand to soothe dry cracked lips.
  • Use a hydrating cleanser for face and body.
  • At night use an oil based moisturizer or seed oil capsules to protect your skin from moisture loss.
  • Exfoliate your face and body once or twice a week to remove dry, dead skin cells.
  • Moisturize your face and body within 2-3 minutes of getting out of the shower or bath while your skin is still damp.
  • Never forget, sunscreen is still important in the winter!


2013 Bucket List Adventures

Take on the Zip line

It may look intimidating at first but once you’re flying more than 250 feet through the air and over treetops you will be glad you took on the Prickly Pear zip line.

Learn how to Play the Ukulele
Learning to plan an instrument is a great way to exercise your mind and give you a sense of accomplishment. Plus, how many people do you know that are able to play a ukulele?

Paddle Board
This sport is quickly growing in popularity due to its’ ability to strengthen core muscles and improve balance. Not to mention the peace and tranquility that it provides.

Ride in a Glider
Discover Maui like never before as you fly in a glider along the coast and above volcanoes. An experience that you’ll be sure to remember.

Learn how to Two-Step
Raise your heart rate and lift your spirits as you discover a dance that takes you into another culture.

Resolution Solution: Be More Adventurous

If you feel like you never do anything exciting enough in your life, it’s time for a better New Year’s resolution: be more adventurous. Check out these tips that will have you sky-diving into 2013.

  • Make a list – Brainstorm a list of all the things you would like to try and do your best to accomplish all of them throughout the year. Close your eyes and pick a random one on a day when your schedule is clear. They can be anything from trying a new food to an extreme sport.
  • Enlist a friend – Adventures are often meant to share. Invite friends who are already adventurous to encourage and support you. If you can’t think of anything adventurous to do, they most likely will!
  • Try something new every day – It could be something big, but even the small things count when it comes to trying something new. Whether it be taking a new route home or stopping into a store you always pass, this is a big step in being more adventurous.
  • Live in the moment – While it’s great to know exactly what you want to try, sometimes the biggest adventures are just rolling with the punches. When you’re trying new things, plans often change. Have fun with what’s given to you!

Resolution Solution: Eat Healthier

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to try and eat healthier. While it’s a great change to make in your life, it can be hard. Try these tips to make a healthy change in your lifestyle.

  • Drinks lots of water – Perhaps the most important step to eating healthier, water is important. Water makes you feel fuller and aids digestion. Often when you think you’re hungry, you’re really just thirsty (but stay away from the soda).
  • Be open to new foods – Even though many of the foods you probably love are healthy, it’s good to be open to new foods too. Bland foods can be made more exciting with spices and herbs. You never know- you may find your new favorite food.
  • Don’t skip breakfast – Many times people don’t feel the need for breakfast or don’t feel hungry early in the morning. If you skip breakfast, it’s easier to overeat at lunch to compensate. Remember that a small breakfast is better than no breakfast at all.
  • Practice moderation – Giving up your favorite chocolate cake isn’t the whole solution to eating healthier. It’s okay to have your favorite food if you eat a small amount of it instead of the whole plate. Try to vary your diet so you eat some of everything.
  • Slow down – It can take a few minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. If you eat slowly and start feeling satisfied, that way you haven’t consumed too much extra.

How to Split Holiday Time Between Families

It’s easy enough to spend holidays with the family when there’s one big gathering, but what about when you’re trying to decide between in-laws or divorced parents? Here are a few guidelines to help make those tricky holiday decisions.

  1. Manage expectations early. If you can decide to spend Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas/Hannukah with another family, that can help alleviate stress and avoid potentially hurt feelings in advance. (It also makes travel planning much easier.) Another option (if long-distance travel isn’t an issue) is to spend Christmas Eve with one and Christmas day with another.
  2. Alternate Christmas/Hannukah/Thanksgiving every other year. If you’re choosing between two families who make a big deal out of a particular holiday, just switch off every other year. This year, spend Christmas at one place, and next year, spend it at the other location. Yes, it’s a long-term plan, but it’s certainly fair and gives everyone some face time.
  3. Host a holiday at your house. Yes, that means planning ahead and possibly preparing a large meal or hosting numerous house guests., but hosting one holiday at your house means you and your family won’t have to deal with expensive, out-of-town travel, and you don’t have to choose between families to visit.
  4. Go somewhere completely different. Don’t want to choose between families (or deal with the potential drama) this year? Plan a fun, relaxing getaway somewhere totally different instead—and bring a friend or that special someone. At Travaasa Hana and Travaasa Austin, you’ll have plenty of spa treatments, yoga classes, outdoor adventures and down time to enjoy. You might have thought “relaxing holidays” was an oxymoron, but you’ll soon be thinking otherwise.

Christmas Dinner Side Dishes: Rice Pilaf With Cranberries

Keeping recipes easy yet delicious this holiday season can be an often complicated task. The experts at Travaasa have a delicious recipe for Rice Pilaf With Cranberries that will surely solve your #HolidayProblems and make your holiday party interesting.

Cook 1 1/4 cups wild rice blend in chicken broth with 1/2 cinnamon stick, as the label directs. Cook 1/2 minced onion in a skillet with 3 tablespoons butter, 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup sliced almonds and cook 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup dried cranberries and cook 2 more minutes. Toss with the rice. Top with chopped parsley.

Christmas Dinner Side Dishes: Cheese-Crusted Squash

Keeping recipes easy yet delicious this holiday season can be an often complicated task. The experts at Travaasa have a delicious recipe for Cheese-Crusted Squash that will surely solve your #HolidayProblems and make your holiday party interesting.


Mix 2 minced garlic cloves, 8 minced sage leaves, the zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 3 tablespoons each breadcrumbs and olive oil, and some salt and red pepper flakes. Pat onto thin wedges of acorn squash. Bake in a single layer at 450 degrees F, 15 to 20 minutes.

Christmas Dinner Side Dishes: Fresh Mushroom and Parsley Salad

Keeping recipes easy yet delicious this holiday season can be an often complicated task. The experts at Travaasa have a delicious recipe for Fresh Mushroom and Parsley Salad that will surely solve your #HolidayProblems and make your holiday party interesting.


  • 1 pound large button mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan


In a medium salad bowl, mix together the mushrooms and parsley.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the oil mixture to the salad bowl and toss until all the ingredients are coated. Place parmasen on top and serve.

Adventurous Things to do for New Years

With New Year’s just around the corner why not try something new and adventurous this year? Forget the stress and mess of a party, and check out all the exciting things you could be doing instead.

Equine Encounters
Horseback riding is a great way to get in shape and stay in touch with nature. Both Travaasa locations include beautiful resort properties with networks of paths sure to take you on an adventure like no other.

Challenge Courses
Feel the rush of energy and exhilaration as you take on a ropes course high above the ground. Test your body awareness and physical ability as you navigate the Cob Web, the Flying V and many more obstacles sure to leave you feeling accomplished.

This year is sure to sling some arrows at us. From breathing methods to patience techniques, learn how to take on anything the New Year shoots your way.

Snorkeling & Paddle Boarding
Workout while improving your balance and core strength in an ocean adventure you’ve never experienced before—paddle boarding. Or dive right in, and snorkel with tropical fish and colorful coral gardens instead.

Bike Hana
Discover beautiful Hana by bike, and learn about the towns’ culture, land use and history—an experience like never before.

5 Tips to Cure a Holiday Hangover

Ah, hangovers. One minute, you’re having conversation over a few (too many) holiday cocktails, and the next, you’re waking up with a searing headache and a churning stomach. Not to fear,  just try one of these #HolidayProblems quick fixes, and hopefully you’ll be ready to tackle your next holiday party.

  1. Gatorade/Vitamin Water/Coconut Water – Low blood sugar paired with dehydration accounts for most of those nasty hangover symptoms (think headache, shakiness and thirst), so a beverage enhanced with vitamins, sugar and electrolytes are your best bet for a quick rebound. Meanwhile, if you’ve got an exceptionally wicked hangover, just go straight for the Pedialyte.
  2. Spa Day – If your hangover is mild to moderate, a massage might be just the thing to release toxins, ease achy muscles and relax an overworked nervous system. Afterward, spend some time in the steam room to sweat out any leftover toxins. Just make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day so you don’t get dehydrated. *Note: If your hangover has you feeling truly terrible, it’s best to skip the massage, since releasing any more toxins into your bloodstream can actually make you feel worse.
  3. Bitters and soda water – If nausea is your biggest hangover issue, this old-fashioned remedy is a well-known standby for quick stomach relief. Angostura Bitters was initially created nearly 200 years ago as a stomach medicine, but nowadays, it’s frequently used as a cocktail flavoring (or hangover remedy, whatever).
  4. Peppermint Tea – This warm, caffeine-free beverage helps hangovers in a number of ways. Peppermint is a well-known cure for headaches and migraines, and it also has anti-spasmodic properties, which can help alleviate stomach maladies. Not to mention, tea is mostly made of water, which is what you really need after a night of heavy drinking.


Holiday Gift Ideas for the Wellness Enthusiast

  1. Fitness Class Coupon—What are their favorite hobbies? Gift certificates to their favorite climbing gym or yoga studio are great ideas for the fitness buff.
  2. Healthy Cookbooks—There are a ton of cookbooks that feature low-carb or low-fat recipes. Go to your local bookstore and search around. You’re sure to find one you like.
  3. Juicer—These are great because you pack a whole serving of fruits and veggies into one glass. Although they are a little pricier it’s sure to be a hit with anyone who’s health conscious.
  4. Heart-Rate Monitoring Watch—These can be found online and are not too expensive. Any health buff will love receiving this as a gift and keeping track of their heart rate while they work out.
  5. Great Workout Apps—If your on a smaller budget, give a iTunes gift card to download their favorite workout app. To make their work easier, give with a list of fitness apps including descriptions and ratings.

DIY Gifts for the Holidays

With Pinterest, searching for DIY gift ideas has never been easier.

But especially with the holidays right around the corner, we know you don’t have time to spend hours searching for the perfect gift to make for your mom/sister/best friend/cousin/next-door neighbor.

So, we complied a list of our favorite DIY gifts for the holidays as a solution to your #HolidayProblems.

Lavender sachet
Use dried lavender and a small muslin bag to form a sachet.

Scented Body Scrubs
Create a scrub from 1/2 cup each Epsom salts and sugar, plus 1/4 cup sunflower oil, and place inside a pretty glass mason jar

Travel candle
Repurpose candy or mint tins as candles: Simply melt wax and add a wick (available at craft stores).

How to Be the Best Guest

Advice columns are full of suggestions on how to deal with difficult house guests and holiday party attendees. Ensure you’re not one of them with these easy tips.

…At a Holiday Dinner

  • Show up on time. When it comes to holiday dinner, you’re not being fashionably late—just late—and it can be stressful to the host, especially if they’re worrying about dinner getting cold.
  • Bring a dish. Ask the host ahead of time if there’s something you can bring to dinner, whether it’s an appetizer or dessert.
  • Bring a gift for the host. Something as simple as a bouquet of flowers can mean a lot to the host—and it can double as a centerpiece. Otherwise, bring a bottle of wine or a small home gift.
  • Offer to help clean up. No one wants to cook dinner and clean up. Even if the host refuses clean-up assistance, at least make sure to offer your help.

…At a Holiday Cocktail Party

  • Pay attention to your limits. Avoid embarrassing yourself (and other guests) by keeping your alcohol in check. If being at cocktail parties makes you nervous and drink more than you would normally, try alternating cocktails with a glass of water or soda water.
  • Have a snack before you show up. If you show up starving, not only do you run the risk of getting too drunk too soon, but you’re also more likely to devour way too many hors d’oeuvres.
  • Arrive ready to mingle. Cocktail parties mean plenty of conversation, so show up ready to work the room. Make sure to ask plenty of open-ended questions and come with something interesting to chat about, whether it’s a fun trip you’re planning or a great new restaurant you just tried.

…At Someone’s House for the Holidays

  • Be clear about who you’re bringing. Whether you’re bringing your dog or your significant other, make sure your host knows who will be coming with you, as to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
  • Follow house rules. It could mean no shoes in the house or it could mean quiet time after 10 p.m. on week nights. Either way, go with the flow—their flow—while staying there.
  • Bring appropriate pajamas. You might be used to sleeping in your underwear or a sexy, silky getup when you’re at home, but when you’re in someone else’s home, make sure to wear something a bit more PG-rated.
  • Entertain yourself. Your host isn’t a tour guide. Keep yourself busy, or if you’re intent on doing touristy things during your stay, take it upon yourself to make that happen, rather than expecting your host to show you around.
  • Bring a gift or send a thank you card. Show your gratitude by bringing a small gift or taking your host family out to dinner. Afterward, send a quick thank you note to let them know how much you appreciated their hospitality.

Holiday Gift Guide: The Host and/or Hostess

This holiday season delight your party or dinner hostess with a thoughtful gift. Hostess gifts can be extravagant if you wish, but simple gifts are equally appreciated.When searching for the perfect hostess gift, think outside the box. For both traditional and unique Holiday hostess gift ideas, we have rounded up some of our favorites.

1. Fine chocolate.  Visit any specialty candy store to choose a set of four delectable truffles. Consider specialty items like gourmet topped chocolate covered pretzels or pistachio marzipan dark-chocolate bonbons.

2. Gourmet olives. Many regular grocery stores now carry a selection of gourmet food items including local and imported olives. Consider a jar of almond stuffed olives and package in a simple gift bag. If you know your hostess enjoys stronger tastes, you can find olives stuffed with blue cheese, garlic, or chipotles.

3. Flavored vinegars or oils. There are many gourmet vinegars and oils to choose from. Some flavored oil ideas include sun-dried tomato infused with Greek oregano, peppercorn, and garlic, or porcini & shiitake mushrooms combined with jalapenos, sage, bay leaves, and red peppers. Vinegars come infused with a variety of herbs and spices such as garlic, pepper, lemon thyme, baby dill, tarragon, cilantro, and mustard seed.

4. Wine. Wine is the traditional hostess gift, but always appreciated. Consider what you know about your hostess before purchasing wine. Are they a gourmet cook or do they prefer simple meals? If you are already a wine connoisseur, you will be able to choose an appropriate bottle. For those less educated about wine, a fine winery will assist you with appropriate choices in a range of prices.

5. Tea or coffee gift basket. Always appreciated, you can’t go wrong with a lovely tea or coffee gift basket. It’s also easy to make a gift basket by purchasing your own products, arranging in a basket purchased from a discount or craft store, and wrapping in cellophane or tissue paper.

Inexpensive DIY Holiday Décor

With the endless shopping list, travel expenses, and gift buying, the holidays can add up. The experts at Travaasa are here to answer your #HolidayProblems with some of our favorite inexpensive DIY Holiday décor tips. That way no matter what #HolidayProblems come your way, you’ll be in a festive environment. 

Glitter Pinecones – These glitzy decorations are perfect for filling up a large bowl on a coffee table, or you can turn them into sparkly ornaments by tying a piece of clear fishing line around the tops. Make sure to wash your pinecones beforehand (especially if you found them outside), and let them completely dry. Using a small paintbrush, coat the petals of pinecones with glue, and dust with glitter. Shake off any excess glitter, and let dry. And that’s it!

Origami Ornaments – Reuse colorful paper from junk mail or magazines by turning them into origami tree ornaments. From festive stars to elegant cranes, YouTube has a number of step-by-step instructional videos so you can transform paper waste into a work of art.

Cranberry tea lights – Inexpensive and super easy, this decoration is ideal for adding a splash of color to your credenza or holiday dinner table. Fill a small, decorative bowl or serving tray with fresh cranberries, and nestle white tea lights in the cranberries before lighting. You often can find bags of tea lights at dollar stores or discount stores.

Holiday Gift Guide: The In-Laws

It’s that time of year again—holiday shopping for the in-laws. It seems they’re the hardest members of the family to shop for but your #HolidayProblems have been solved with the help of the experts at Travaasa.  Here’s our list of great holiday gift ideas for in-laws.

  1. Photo Albums or Picture Frames—Collect pictures of your in-laws or family members. Put together a collage of the kids or dig through old pictures from when they were younger and blow one up to frame. Digital picture frames are also available and can hold many pictures at once. Either way, this is a gift they’ll be sure to love.
  2. Dinner Invitation—Invite them out to dinner with a homemade coupon for their favorite restaurant. If you’d rather cook, make the coupon redeemable for one dinner of their choice at your house.
  3. A Holiday-themed Gift—For those who celebrate Christmas, what about an ornament to hang on the tree? Kosher gift baskets are easy to find online, and what better to receive for Kwanzaa than a traditional African cookbook?
  4. Movie Basket—Create your own gift basket with popcorn, gift cards to the movies, candy and drinks. Or if you’d like, buy a DVD or two to add.
  5.  “Hobby Gifts”—Do you in-laws have a hobby they enjoy? Monogrammed golf balls and tees are great for the golfer. New knitting needles and different colored yarn is perfect for those who love to knit. Play off their hobbies, and they’ll be sure to appreciate whatever you choose for them.

Holiday Music with a Hawaiian Flair

Looking for some classic Hawaiian tunes to liven up the holiday season and help solve some of your #HolidayProblems? We’ve listed some traditional songs that are sure to get you feeling festive this season.

Mele Kalikimaka

Kana Kaloka

Ho’o Haehae

Papalina Lahilahi

Holiday Gift Guide: Coworkers

It’s always difficult choosing gifts for coworkers and on the list of  common #HolidayProblems. Here at Travaasa, we’ve put together our list of top holiday gift ideas for co-workers in 2012. Don’t forget to include a card!

  1. Themed gift sets are perfect for colleagues because they come in a variety of options. From tea to hot chocolate to candy, gift baskets can be customized and don’t have to be expensive.
  2. Plants are also great gift ideas. These too are inexpensive and a lot of plants bring along meaning with them. For instance, a bamboo plant symbolizes good luck, and the Jade plant is known as the “friendship” plant.
  3. Travel Mugs are great for co-workers. Who doesn’t enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the morning? And USB-heated travel mugs can be found for as low as $20 online.
  4. Homemade baked goods are a favorite everyone can enjoy. From brownies to cookies and cakes, if you love to bake and show off your creativity this is the perfect gift to give this holiday season.
  5. Gift cards allow you to choose the exact amount you wish to spend. Choose a coffee shop or bakery located by your office. Gift cards are great because they are neutral gifts and allow co-workers you may not know well to pick out something they’ll love.

How to Be Better About Correspondence

  1. Create a monthly list of birthdays. Keep an ongoing list of people’s birthdays or anniversaries, sorted by month. At the beginning of each month, use the list to send everyone a card, even if some people will receive their birthday card a bit early.
  2. Take our Journaling class. If you’ve lost touch with the art of writing, our Journaling class at Travaasa can help you reconnect with this easy, pleasurable pastime. In this class, you’ll have plenty of time to self-reflect and communicate through the written word, making correspondence feel like second nature.
  3. Set a date to send holiday cards. The holidays come faster than you might realize, so stay on track by setting a deadline in your calendar for sending cards to friends and relatives.
  4. Buy plenty of stamps in advance. There’s nothing like needing a stamp to derail your intentions for keeping in touch. Plan ahead by stocking up on a variety of stamps, and for the ultimate convenience, order them online.
  5. E-newsletters – If you have a very large family or are in a bit of a time crunch, send a family e-newsletter updating everyone with your latest news, holiday plans and well wishes.

Anti-Inflammatory Recipe: Pumpkin Soup

Eating anti-inflammatory foods during the holidays can not only make you look better, but feel better as well. Our experts at Travaasa say that a great anti-inflammatory food to eat during the holidays is pumpkin (skip the sugar packed pumpkin treats, though). This healthy soup protects against inflammation, is low calorie, and tastes delicious!


  • 16 ounces of pumpkin or winter squash such as butternut (may be canned or freshly puréed
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup of light cream or whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • Greek-style plain yogurt for topping
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Chopped pumpkin seeds


  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil and gently sauté onion and carrots until soft.
  2. Optional: Put vegetables and broth into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Return to pot.
  4. Add pumpkin and light cream or milk.
  5. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  6. Pour into soup crocks or soup bowls.
  7. Top with yogurt and chopped pumpkin seeds.

Adventurous Movies For The Holidays

Has the cold weather gotten you down? Or have you had enough of the snow and wool sweaters? We asked our experts here at Travaasa for some of their favorite movies that inspire adventure to get you though your common #HolidayProblems. Check out our suggestions that are sure to leave you feeling warm and ready to take on any challenges that come your way.

Into the Wild
Based on a true story, Christopher McCandless turns his back on society to live alone with nature but soon finds that life is not much without the ones you love.

The Pursuit of Happiness
It may seem like the end of the road for most when your life savings disappear and you’re struggling to take care of your family as a single parent. But big things happen when you don’t give up.

127 Hours
The ultimate survival tale based on a true story that is surely an inspiration to all.

Forest Gump
This American classic takes you back through history as one man is followed across the country in his pursuit to find his one true love.

The Edge
After a billionaire and two other men’s plane crashes into the wilderness, see just how far they will go to survive.

Alone in the Wilderness
Join Dick Proenneke in this documentary as you follow his inspiring journey to find complete solitude and serenity living in the wilderness.

5 Travel Books for a (Much Needed) Dose of Adventure

Staying at home this holiday season? The experts at Travaasa have complied a list of their favorite travel books that allow you to escape the cold weather and a much need dose of adventure.

  1. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard: In this descriptive coming-of-age novel, 18-year-old Bria ventures to Central America in an effort to become a world traveler. There, she meets Rowan, a seasoned backpacker who introduces her to lush islands, hidden Mayan villages and exotic worlds she never imagined.
  2. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson: As a middle-aged, out-of-shape man, Bill Bryson might have not been fully prepared to trek the 2,100 miles along the Appalachian Trail, but that’s probably part of what makes this account so hilarious. Join him as he explores the wilderness, encounters some memorable characters and discovers a lot about himself in the process.
  3. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes: Experience the rustic charm of the Italian countryside with Frances Mayes—renowned travel writer and gourmand—as she buys and restores a disheveled villa in the hills of Tuscany.
  4. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux: Comedic, eye-opening and ultimately entertaining, this acclaimed novel takes readers on an unforgettable railway journey through the colorful worlds and cultures of India and Asia.
  5. Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips by National Geographic Society: More of a useful guidebook than an imaginative novel, this compendium of spectacular adventures comes packed with expert advice, top 10 lists and must-do activities around the world.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Guys

Finding the perfect holiday gift for guys can be a huge #HolidayProblem and take up a lot of time. For this holiday season, the experts at Travaasa have picked some the best holiday gifts for men, or maybe just for yourself.

Texas Irons Classic Steak Branding Iron

Your favorite grill master can now let everyone know he cooked the steaks with this branding iron from Texas Irons ($59.95, It can be personalized with up to three letters and comes wrapped in a cedar box with a bandana.

Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club

For the guy who has everything, give the gift of hard-to-find microbrewed beers delivered to his door each month. Gift memberships can be paid either monthly or in one installment, and they’re available in 2-12-month packages ($22.95/month,

Nook Color

For the book worm man, think about giving a Nook Color. The Nook’s extra-wide viewing angle keeps glare to a minimum on its 7-inch, 16-million color high-resolution screen. Additional perks include a Flash-enabled browser and a growing variety of apps and features. Our favorite? $249

Holiday Stress Relieving Meditation

How would you like to start every morning on the beach? Or sitting in front of a blazing fire? With meditation, you can. Focusing on a calming scene for just five minutes every day will help you to clear your mind and prepare for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Meditation is also a great tool to use for those days that are stress-filled and full of holiday commitments  Sneak away for a few minutes to ease your nerves and rest your mind. Here are a few tips to get you started on meditation to relieve that holiday season stress.

Focus. Concentration is essential to outstanding creative execution and performance. The simple act of focusing on your breathing everyday, will gradually improve your powers of concentration.

Patience. Meditation can be boring at times. For once in your life, you’re not trying to do anything or think anything, just sit there and pay attention to your immediate experience. And you will encounter all kinds of resistance to doing it. Zen priest Steve Hagen says, “If you can get past resistance to meditation, nothing else in life will be an obstacle.”

Calmness. At first, you’ll be surprised, maybe even horrified, to discover how busy your mind is – a nonstop stream of mental chatter. But if you stay with it, you should gradually find that your mind settles down as the months go by.

Clarity. Like calmness, this can be gradual and intermittent to begin with. But you are likely to notice moments and even periods of mental clarity, when you see things clearly and your mind is sharper than usual – which makes problem-solving and decision-making easier.

Insight. You’ve probably had the experience of suddenly realizing the solution to a problem, even though you haven’t been consciously thinking of it. Or you may have experienced a moment of inspiration, when a new idea flashes into your mind unbidden. If you’re practicing meditation regularly, expect this to happen more often.

Perspective. When you spend time just being present and observing your breath, thoughts, feelings, and moment-to-moment experience, you start to realize how trivial most of our daily worries really are. Even in the midst of the daily grind, you can let go of the small stuff, and keep the big picture in view.

Quick Fixes for Stomach Problems During the Holidays

Whether you’ve had too much to drink or too much to eat (or in all likelihood, both), try one of these quick fixes to get you back on track this holiday season.

Problem 1: Too much rich food.

From excessive portions to fatty dishes, an overload of rich foods can lead to everything from acid reflux to constipation to diarrhea. The most obvious solutions are over-the-counter remedies, but you can counter the abundance of seasonal treats by taking a fiber supplement, eating slowly or going for a walk after meals.

Problem 2: Too much to drink.

Ah, the hangover. It’s a malady that’s best avoided altogether, but hindsight is 20/20, right? Grab some coconut water for immediate replenishment of sugar, vitamins and electrolytes, and try to get some (mild) food in your stomach like bananas, rice, applesauce or toast.  And next time, try not to drink so much.

Problem 3: Too much stress.

All it takes is a trip to the mall during the holiday madness to get your stress levels skyrocketing. Nip stress in the bud by taking a yoga class or spending a few minutes doing deep, slow breathing exercises. Caffeine-free peppermint tea is another all-natural way to soothe rattled nerves and help alleviate nausea and stress-related stomach aches.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Gals

 With so many gifts to choose from how do you decide what to get your gal pal or significant other for the holidays? Here are five gift ideas that any girl is sure to love!

  1. Spa gift baskets or certificates—These are perfect for any girl in your life whether it be your daughter, friend or significant other. Put together a basket of her favorite smelling soaps, body wash and bubble baths or give her a certificate for a facial or manicure. Give the gift that’s sure to satisfy.
  2. Flowers of the Month Club—Great for reminding her how much you care each month. With twelve deliveries throughout the year, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
  3. Jewelry—You can never go wrong with jewelry because as everyone knows, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Make sure you pay attention to what type of style she likes to wear—is it big and bulky? Simple and elegant? Get a piece that matches her style, and it’s sure to be a hit.
  4. A Big, Comfy Robe—This may not seem like a big gift but it is certainly a great one. She will be sure to enjoy it year-round and different patterns and fabrics make them customizable.
  5. Cook Book or Cooking Set—This is great because there are such a wide variety of options with this gift. For the woman who loves to cook infused olive oil sets, cooking classes and recipe books are available online and easily customizable to her favorite style of cuisine.

Healthy Dessert Recipes: Mini Pumpkin Pies

With only 148 calories per pie, these treats are sure to delight your taste buds without making you feel guilty.


  • 3 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 whole graham cracker, crushed
  • 2 lg eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1 can (12 fl oz) can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cups pure maple syrup
  • ¾ cups 2% plain Greek-style yogurt

1. Heat oven to 375°F and coat 12-cup nonstick muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. Combine wheat germ, flaxseed, and crushed graham cracker in small bowl. Divide evenly among muffin cups.

3. Whisk eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract. Pour evenly into cups. Bake until sides are set and centers jiggle slightly, 30 to 35 minutes.

4. Stir maple syrup into yogurt in small bowl while pies bake. Chill until ready to serve.

5. Let pies stand 10 to 15 minutes before removing from pan with spatula. Top each with a dollop of the yogurt mixture.

Healthy Dessert Recipes: White Chocolate Holiday Bark

This heart-healthy treat is packed with antioxidants and tastes just as great!


  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup oven-toasted rice cereal
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 ½ lbs high-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Spread the sliced almonds and the unsweetened coconut in an even layer on the baking sheet. Toast 5-8 minutes or until coconut just begins to brown. Remove baking sheet from the oven, and let cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine almonds, coconut, rice cereal, and dried cranberries. Reserve about ¼ cup of the mixture, and set aside.

4. Place chopped white chocolate and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large heatproof bowl, and set over a medium saucepan of simmering water. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is completely melted.

5. Remove the chocolate from heat, and fold in the almond mixture. Spread mixture evenly on parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle on the reserved ¼ cup topping. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate has completely set. Break the bark into small pieces, and serve.


Reduce Stress during the Holiday Season

The holidays are no doubt one of the merriest times of the year. However, they can also be one of the most stressful times of the year, too. Our experts at Travaasa have some tips to keep your holiday season stress free and organized.

  •  Plan ahead parties – Whether you’re the host or the attendee, parties can definitely be stressful. If you feel like you’re being pushed into attending or hosting too many events, try to prioritize which are most important to you.
  • Follow a budget – Financial problems can become overwhelming during the holidays, and can become a big stress point. Set a budget at the beginning of the season and stick to it.
  • Give yourself time to travel – Traveling can be stressful during a normal time of the year, but it just gets more stressful over the holidays. If you give yourself extra time to get through those security lines, the stress level will reduce.
  • Use lists and calendars – Calendars and lists may seem petty, but they’re a great way to stay organized. Make a list of chores, presents to buy, etc. so that you can cross them off when you’re done. Use calendars to keep track of your parties and events so you can plan ahead accordingly.

Adventurous Side Dishes to Serve This Holiday Season: Orange-Balsamic Cranberry Sauce with Dates

Looking to add to your recipe repertoire this holiday season? Spice up run-of-the-mill side dishes with this recipe for Orange-Balsamic Cranberry Sauce with Dates. A new interpretation on an old standby, this sauce combines the sweetness of dates with the tanginess of balsamic vinegar and orange.


1 cup water

½ cup sugar

Zest from one orange

1 cup fresh orange juice

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup chopped, pitted dates

2 (12 ounce) bags fresh cranberries



  1. Simmer water, sugar, zest, orange juice, vinegar and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring, 5 minutes.
  2. Add half of dates and half of cranberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to burst, 7-10 minutes.
  3. Stir in remaining dates and cranberries and simmer until remaining cranberries begin to burst, 7-10 minutes more. Remove cinnamon stick and transfer to a serving dish. Serve at room temperature.

10 Tips for Reducing Stress and Staying Organized During the Holidays

  1. Make delegating easy. Before people come over for Thanksgiving dinner, write down a list of tasks that people can do. That way, when they ask what they can help with, you can just refer them to the list.
  2. Stock up on wine and liquor well in advance, as to avoid long holiday lines and irregular holiday hours at the liquor store.
  3. Stock up on baking/cooking essentials (butter, sugar, baking soda, flour, salt, vegetable stock) to cut down on last-minute trips to the grocery store.
  4. Share cooking duties by encouraging a potluck style Thanksgiving dinner.
  5. Make room for new gifts and purchases in advance, whether that means purging closets or reorganizing drawers.
  6. Schedule a cleaning service to help with post-party messes (or to get your house sparkling before out of town guests arrive).
  7. Stock up on easy appetizers – crackers, cheese, dips – to alleviate stress during gatherings and to accommodate last-minute gatherings.
  8. Make a list of people who you plan to buy presents for, and set a budget for each person.
  9. Shop online. Not only can you avoid long lines (and traffic and parking), but you also can have gifts wrapped and sent directly to the recipient.
  10. Set a deadline to have all of your holiday gifts purchased, wrapped and sent.

What to Do With Leftover Wine

Don’t get us wrong, we love it when guests arrive to our holiday parties with a bottle of alcohol in hand, but when half-finished wine bottles are left at the end of the night, it can feel like a bit of a waste. Make the most of leftover wine with these quick, easy tips.


Tip 1: Cook with it.

If you’re making a recipe that calls for vino, it’s the perfect opportunity to use leftover wine without opening  a fresh bottle. If you’re not planning to cook anytime soon, freeze wine in ice cube trays and throw it into soups, stews or other recipes at a later time.


Tip 2: Mull it.

If you have half a bottle left, breathe some new life into it by turning it into mulled wine (perfect for the holiday season). For half a bottle of red wine, add 2 cups of apple cider, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 cinnamon stick, the juice and zest from half an orange, 2 whole cloves and 1 star anise. Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs and garnish with an orange peel or cinnamon stick.

Adventurous Side Dishes to Serve This Holiday Season: Ginger-Curry Pumpkin Mash

Looking to add to your recipe repertoire this holiday season? Spice up run-of-the-mill side dishes with this recipe for Ginger-Curry Pumpkin Mash. It’s delicious alterative to ordinary mashed potatoes and will add color, exotic flavor to your holiday side dish selection.



1 (2 ½ pound) baking or butternut pumpkin, trimmed, cleaned and cut into 2-inch wedges

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp curry powder

1 tbl butter

¼ cup vegetable stock

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper



  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Place pumpkin wedges on baking sheet and bake in oven under tender, 40 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
  3. When pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh and transfer to a large bowl. Discard skin. Add ginger, curry and butter and vegetable stock; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Using a potato masher or handheld mixer, beat until smooth. Transfer to a serving dish.

Adventurous Cocktails for Your Holiday Party: A Taste of Texas

After attending a couple holiday parties, it’s easy to feel burned out on eggnog and hot buttered rum—but not to worry. When it comes to throwing your own seasonal soiree, these exciting cocktails are sure to spice things up for your guests and add a Texan flair to any tablescape.


Cucumber Ginger Gimlet

Recipe by Shawn, our bartender at Travaasa Austin

1 ½ oz. Hendricks’ gin

½ oz. St. Germain Elderflower liqueur

½ oz. fresh lemon juice

¼ oz. simple syrup

Fill a shaker tin halfway with ice. Add ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a lemon twist.


Pear Nectar and Reposado Tequila Cocktail

Recipe from Cookie and Kate

1 ½ oz. reposado tequila

3-4 oz. pear nectar

Dash cinnamon

Drop vanilla extract

Light drizzle of honey

Juice from half a lemon

Cinnamon stick (optional garnish)

Fill a high ball glass with ice. Pour in tequila and pear nectar. Add cinnamon, vanilla and honey. Squeeze in lemon juice. Mix by pouring into a cocktail shaker or another glass. Shake or stir well, and pout into original glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.


Tofurkey (Tofu Turkey) Recipe with Vegan Gravy

Thanksgiving is all about coming together with friends and family over a delicious meal, but what about when your guest list includes non-meat eaters? Even those on a vegetarian or vegan diet will feel welcome at your feast with these meat-free, dairy-free Thanksgiving recipes.


5 (16 oz.) packages extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 red onion

1 1/3 cups celery, diced

1 cup chopped mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons Herbes de Provence

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 cups prepared stuffing

½ cup sesame oil

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons miso paste

5 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon mustard

½ teaspoon orange zest

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

  1. Line a medium sized, round colander with a cheese cloth or a clean dish towel. Place the crumbled tofu in the colander. Place another cheese cloth over the top of the tofu. Place the colander over the top of a bowl to catch the liquid. Place a heavy weight on top of tofu. Refrigerate the colander, tofu and weight for 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Make the stuffing: In a large frying pan, sauté onion, celery and mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil until tender. Add the garlic, Herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of soy sauce. Stir well; cook for 5 minutes. Add prepared stuffing and mix well. Remove from heat.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.
  4. Combine 1/2 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, miso, orange juice, mustard and orange zest in a small bowl; mix well.
  5. Remove the weight from the tofu. Hollow out the tofu so that there is one inch of tofu still lining the colander. Place the scooped out tofu in a separate bowl. Brush the tofu lining with a small amount of the miso seasoning. Scoop the stuffing into the center of the tofu shell. Place the leftover tofu on top of the stuffing and press down firmly. Turn the stuffed tofu onto the prepared cookie sheet. Putting the leftover tofu side of the Tofurkey (the flat side) down. Gently press on the sides of the Tofurkey to form a more oval shape. Brush the Tofurkey with 1/2 of the soy sauce-oil mixture. Place the sprigs of rosemary on top of the tofu. Cover the Tofurkey with foil.
  6. Bake for one hour. After one hour, remove Tofurkey from the oven and remove the foil. Baste the Tofurkey with the remaining soy sauce-oil sauce (reserving 4 tablespoons of sauce). Return Tofurkey to oven and bake another hour or until it is golden brown. Place the Tofurkey on a serving platter, brush with the remaining soy sauce-oil mixture and serve hot.



1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup chopped onion

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons nutritional yeast

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon dried herbs, such as thyme or rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions: Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Stir in flour, nutritional yeast and soy sauce until a smooth paste forms. Gradually whisk in vegetable broth. Season with sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, for approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened.

(Photo Source: YumSugar)

Cooking a Turkey 101

With turkey being one of the most important Thanksgiving traditions, our holiday experts at Travaasa have put together some easy tips that are sure to have everyone coming back for seconds.

  1. Make sure you leave enough time for the turkey to defrost. In the fridge five pounds of turkey takes about a day to defrost on average, so make sure you plan ahead.
  2. A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not overstuffed. Place the remaining stuffing in an oven-safe dish and cook it separately.
  3. Be sure the stuffing inside of the turkey reaches at least 165 degrees before taking it out to ensure no holiday mishaps, such as salmonella.
  4. Use a meat thermometer!
  5. Continue basting the turkey every 30-60 minutes to keep it moist and give it more flavor.
  6. Let the turkey sit for at least 15 minutes before carving. Make sure the knife you’re using is sharp. Electric ones work well also.

How to Get Better Sleep during the Holidays

With all the hustling and bustling around the holiday season it sometimes seems impossible to get any rest. Our wellness experts here at Travaasa have compiled a few easy tips to make your sleep easier and more effective.

  • Make sure you’re maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Going to bed and waking up at the same time will help you feel more rested and get to sleep easier and faster.
  • Skip the caffeine after noon and opt for decaf or switch to a decaffeinated tea. Also, avoid alcohol four to six hours before sleep as it interferes with REM, an imperative part of your sleep cycle.
  • Eat larger meals for breakfast and smaller meals at night. This helps your digestive system as well as allowing for a deeper sleep.
  • A cooler temperature is better for sleeping. Your body needs to cool down when you sleep, so make the job easier and turn down that thermostat!
  • Turn off the lights. Darkness allows your pineal gland to secrete more melatonin, which is a big factor in determining how well you sleep.
  • In addition, increase how much light you get in the day. Go outside for a walk in the sun and open your curtains. The more light you get during the daytime the better.

5 Adventurous Workouts

It’s easy enough finding an adventurous workout when you stay at Travaasa Hana or Travaasa Austin (after all, we offer everything from kayaking to horseback riding), but what about when you need a dose of adventure in your everyday life? Just try one of these adrenaline-pumping workouts, which are available in cities across the country and are sure to spice up your routine.


Aerial Yoga

“Flying crow pose” takes on a whole new meaning when you’re actually suspended in the air. In an aerial yoga class, you’ll be working your way into traditional yoga poses with the help of a circus hammock. Although it sounds more complicated than a traditional class, the hammock actually helps students achieve optimal alignment, while simultaneously relieving areas of chronic tension.


Indoor Rock Climbing

Get a whole new perspective—literally—when you traverse your way to the top of an indoor climbing wall. This adventurous activity is a great way to improve balance and flexibility, all while toning arm, back, chest and leg muscles.


Krav Maga

This non-competitive form of martial arts initially was developed as an easy-to-learn method of self-defense, but it’s also an exciting, heart-pounding workout. Krav Maga borrows from a variety of combat systems, such as boxing, Jujutsu and karate, so you can boost self-confidence, while simultaneously toning arms, strengthening core muscles and improving cardiovascular health.



If you’ve ever dreamt of being a ninja (and come on, who hasn’t?), you’ve got to try this new samurai-style workout. No, it doesn’t use sharp blades—more like a dull stick, actually—but during this fat-blasting class, you’ll learn basic swordsmanship moves while sculpting abs, arms, back and legs.



A bit like walking on a tightrope, slacklining involves balancing and walking across a tensioned line. Yes, it’s challenging (and fun!), but more importantly, this unusual pastime is a great way to improve balance and strengthen core muscles. For a truly adventurous workout, find a class that combines yoga and slacklining.

5 Travel Books for a (Much Needed) Dose of Adventure

Staying at home this holiday season? Escape to exotic locales and experience other cultures with these 10 travel books that will make you feel like you went somewhere.

1.     The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

What does it mean to be happy? How does one achieve happiness? Journalist Eric Weiner travels the world—from Switzerland to Thailand to Iceland and plenty of places in between—to answer those questions. And the answers he uncovers are surprising.

2.     Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

In this suspenseful memoir of a woman who felt like she had lost it all, Cheryl Strayed decides to embark on a 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific coast, by herself and with no prior long-distance hiking experience. Along the way, she faces rattlesnakes, bears, brutal elements—and most importantly, herself.

3.     Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

An insightful travelogue through America, this book takes readers on a road trip through small towns, breathtaking natural parks and roadway diners, all while offering a glimpse into the lives of interesting characters met along the way.

4.     Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

After escaping from an Australian prison, Lin flees to the bustling metropolis of Bombay, where he witnesses the beauty and horror (sometimes simultaneously) of its many worlds: the impoverished slums, opulent whorehouses, dingy heroin dens, secret mafia headquarters and chaotic marketplaces. Romance, suspense, self-discovery, adventure, betrayal—this weighty tome has it all.

5.     The Beach by Alex Garland

In this travel thriller, Richard, a young English tourist, ventures to seedy Bangkok, where he is given a hand drawn map leading to a legendary island touting sundrenched beaches, scenic waterfalls and dense jungles—only when he reaches the paradise, he finds much more than a utopian civilization.


Healthy Dessert Recipes for Thanksgiving: Maple Walnut Cake

This healthy delicious cake is high in omega-3s and has only 342 calories per serving.



  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates, (6 ounces)
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts, divided
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 lg egg
  • ¾ cup pure maple syrup, preferably dark amber (Grade B)
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract


  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup gently packed confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-2 tsp water, if needed


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 10-inch spring form pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place dates in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over them to soak. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Process whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup walnuts, baking soda and salt in a food processor until the walnuts are completely ground and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a medium bowl; make a well in the center.
  4. Puree the dates and soaking water in the food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add egg, ¾ cup syrup, oil, butter, 2 teaspoons vinegar and vanilla and process until smooth and creamy. Scrape the date mixture into the well in the dry ingredients and stir together gently until just combined. Transfer to the prepared pan.
  5. Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake, if necessary, and remove the sides of the pan.
  6. To glaze cake: Carefully lift the cake from the pan bottom and place on a cake stand or serving plate. Whisk maple syrup, vinegar and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if necessary to make a spreadable consistency. Spread the glaze evenly over the top of the cake, then decorate with the remaining 1/3 cup walnuts.

Healthy Holiday Tabletop Tips

Hungry for more ways to revamp your holiday menu? Try these tips to set a healthier table this holiday season:

  • Appetizers: Veggie trays make for a wholesome first course. Replace ranch dip with a hummus spread to keep the appetizer low-calorie.
  • Condiments: Condiments are sneaky calorie culprits. Manage your meal by keeping the condiment count under control. Cut down on butter, sour cream, brown sugar and other high-calorie garnishes.
  • Sauces: Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C. Create your cranberry sauce with fresh fruit in place of the canned variety to maximize the nutritional value while minimizing sugar content. Opt for artificial sweetener in place of sugar to really take your sauce to healthier heights.
  • Desserts: Sweet potatoes make for a nutritious (and delicious) dessert. These holiday favorites are full of nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, potassium and fiber. Top with margarine and cinnamon in place of butter and brown sugar to keep your dessert on the lighter side.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Bake a lighter pumpkin pie.

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.
Bake a lighter pumpkin pie.
Pumpkin is rich in nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and potassium. Enjoy this classic holiday dessert without the waistline worries by giving your ingredient list a switcheroo. Swap in evaporated skim milk for whole milk, egg whites in place of whole eggs and a low-fat graham cracker crust instead of traditional pie crust. Top your treat with fat-free whipped cream and savor every delicious bite.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Make more sensible stuffing

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.
Make more sensible stuffing.
Sacrifice holiday stuffing? Not a chance! Revamp your recipe by substituting margarine for butter and low-fat chicken broth for chicken stock. Ditch the giblets and replace with lean meats and dried fruit, such as raisins. Cut fat content by cooking your stuffing in a casserole dish instead of inside your turkey.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Simplify the green bean casserole

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.

Simplify the green bean casserole.
This classic holiday dish doesn’t have to be a diet doozy. The secret to slimming it down? Simplify. Combine canned green beans with low-sodium/low-fat cream of mushroom soup and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grease your baking dish with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes and then top with toasted almonds and bake 15 minutes more. This finishing touch offers fewer calories than the traditional fried onion topper — plus nutrients such as vitamin E, protein, fiber, potassium and calcium.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Slim the mashed potatoes

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.

Slim the mashed potatoes.
Potatoes are packed with potassium and other nutrients, most of which lie in the skin. Try mashing yours (skins included) with margarine and low-fat milk to retain the nutrients and reduce the fat. Slim down your gravy recipe by swapping turkey fat for low-fat broth. Feeling extra healthy? Forgo the gravy altogether and top your taters with veggies, such as corn or peas. If you want a sweeter alternative, try baked (not candied) yams.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Trim the turkey.

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.

Trim the turkey.
Turkey is a staple at most holiday get-togethers. With a few simple tricks, you can pile your plate with protein without piling on the calories. Bake turkey on a rack inside your roasting pan so the fat can drip away (instead of soaking into the skin). Drain any excess fat before serving. When it comes time to fill your plate, pass up the dark meat. It has more saturated fat than white meat. Skimp on the skin to curb calories and fat.