12 Inspiring Holiday Joy Breaks

written by Nellie Lazar, CRS
Turlock, CA
Dec 11, 2020

Food & Drink


By the time this blog is posted, we will be well into December. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or another holiday, I encourage you to not fall victim to the busyness of the season. That coupled with the frenetic pace of our work life, can leave you feeling depleted at month’s end and perhaps some guilt over not embracing the spirit of the season. It serves me especially well this time of year to take a moment each day and reflect on something that brings me joy and peace. It might be doing something for someone else or it may be doing something for myself. Doing something for oneself can in a lot of ways be meditative and inspirational. Slowing down and doing something that feeds our soul not only brings personal joy but deepens our spiritual connection and quiets our mind. Although we each have different ideas of what might bring us joy this holiday season, or even different ideas of what might deepen spiritual connection, I’ve comprised a list of my own suggestions for what I call “Joy Breaks.” Give one of them a try this month, and you just might want to put them into practice on a regular basis.

  1. Make hot cocoa from scratch, a vin chaud (spiced wine), or brew a cup of tea and sit and sip by a window or by a fire, soaking in the quiet time. Be mindful of putting aside thoughts of work or to-do items and instead focus on the people or things in your life that make you happy.
  2. Commit to reading something daily that inspires you… it might be a book of poetry, a novel, an inspirational book, or a spiritual book. Maybe it’s a Christmas book. Reflect on its meaning or inspiration.
  3. Listen to music that feeds your spirit and mood. Create a Spotify list of seasonal favorites, put on your earbuds and listen as you go about your day. Enjoy a swanky Holiday favorite here!
  4. Look for a virtual exhibition at one of your favorite museums. Or go to several museum websites and view different works. The National Gallery of Art at our nation’s capital has several exhibitions you can enjoy from home, and they’re just one of several renowned museums offering exhibitions.
  5. Take an online cooking class or enroll in a seminar on one of your favorite topics. There are sources available for classes directly from Europe that you can participate in for minimal cost. Check out Context Conversations, La Cuisine Paris, or Chefsfeed.
  6. Instead of hurriedly scrolling through the newsfeed evert morning on your phone or tablet, take the time to read a complete article in a magazine you’ve always enjoyed. Apple News allows you to curate your own feed of your favorite magazines available whenever you’d like.
  7. Go on a walk, hike or a bike ride either by yourself or with your partner. Enjoy and meditate on the beauty of the outdoors.
  8. Volunteer at one of your favorite non-profits, donate to a food pantry, or participate in a coat or toy drive. Giving of your time to a cause or to a group can bring great joy and a sense of purpose and fulfillment while making one’s own cares feel small.
  9. Attend a holiday concert or ballet. Yes, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but YouTube has an endless array of concerts and performances to choose from to suit your taste. Sometimes, you might even find live performances.
  10. Tour the Christmas lights in your city. My city has a specific neighborhood that’s been dubbed Christmas Tree Lane. Every year we gather at my sister’s home that’s nearby, and with our parkas and hot toddies, we walk the neighborhood and admire the lights and decorations. You can even sing carols… a perfect pandemic activity!
  11. Enjoy a few candlelight dinners with your spouse or significant other. Get creative and perhaps do it outside under twinkling lights and a fire pit.
  12. Instead of making a list of New Year’s Resolutions, make a list of all that’s transpired in the previous year that you’re grateful for. I find this gives me a sense of contentment rather than using the discontent to fuel anxiety about what I haven’t accomplished. Setting goals is healthy and crucial in our business, and even in our relationships, but focusing on the things I’m grateful for gives me foundation from which to set realistic goals and expectations for the new year.



Makes ½ Gallon (2 Liters)

  • 8 ½ cups of dry red wine (Beaujolais, Burgundy, or Côtes du Rhône) OR dry white wine (Viognier or Dry Riesling)
  • 1 peeled orange
  • ½ peeled lemon
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 1 ½ cup sugar (300 grams)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • Optional additions:
  • Fresh nutmeg
  • Brewed black tea (Earl Grey)
  • Cardamom pods
  • Brandy
  • Dark Rum
  • Grand Marnier or Cointreau


  • You can use a regular stovetop pan or a crockpot, start warming only the wine on low heat.
  • Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves and cover, letting it continue to cook on low heat.
  • When you see the wine begin to steam, releasing alcohol, then add 1 cup of sugar (300 grams), taste and then add more until you reach your desired sweetness level.
  • Add the orange, lemon, vanilla bean and let simmer for an hour (do not boil).
  • Once you have your desired sweetness level, you may add up to ¼ cup or more to taste of your favorite liquor such as brandy, Grand Marnier, Cointreau or dark rum.
  • Note: If you only use one bottle of wine 750ml, use only ¼ cup (50 grams) of sugar.

Don’t forget to dress up for the occasion! You may be at home, but you can still dress up!