Whole Holiday Gift Ideas with Whole Foods

If you’re like most peeps, you have a bevy of holiday partays, gift exchanges and soirees to attend to in the next few weeks.  So what if you need to bring a gift or a tasty treat to your event?  You could make several stops or…you could go to Whole Foods!  Yah we know, for us with low account balances, Whole Foods may seem a bit intimidating.  But we were pleasantly surprised to learn some new developments at Whole Foods this past week at a tour of their River North headquarters.  As we walked from room to room we delighted in the holiday goodies.  In no particular order, here are some Holly Jolly Holiday ideas from Whole Foods.

DIY Gifts

Did you know Whole Foods is a DIY hot spot?  If you have a crafty side, you have all you need to develop a relaxing bath salt, tantalizing sugar scrub, or soothing lip gloss by snooping through Whole Foods’ beauty and bulk section.

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Beauty

On our tour, we created our own Epsom salts by mixing 3 cups of salt with essential oil and flower choices.  We picked the eucalyptus oil (as cold season is on the rampage right now) and calming lavender oil (cuz the holiday traffic is making us pull out our hair.  Then we threw in some bright yellow dried calendula flowers (a relative to chamomile), lavender buds, light pink Himalayan salt, and some crinkly red rose petals.

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Floral

Who says the poinsettia is the only petal you can gift?  The Whole Foods Headquarters arranged a flower bar for guests to create holiday bouquets.  Pluck some deep red and purple buds, add some baby’s breath, and grab a cute mason style jelly jar for presentation.  You can feel charitable about your choice too.  Whole Foods carries fair trade and organic flowers as well as Veriflora Certified flowers (Veriflora certification indicates better working conditions such as no child labor, fair hiring practices, and access to education, healthcare and other needed services).

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Life of the Party

You all know that thing where you’re at a party and everyone is talking around the food set up?  Party food can make or break a soiree.  Stopping by a gathering?  Whole Foods produce, bakery, and cheese departments all offer unique and most talked about treats.  Our favorite cheeses at the gathering were the truffle stuffed camembert (a soft, creamy french cow cheese with a layer of tasty fungus…yes that’s a truffle, weird right?) and a pyramid shaped goat cheese.  In the bakery section, we delighted in gluten free and vegan options like a rice flour crust blackberry pie and the banana hazelnut vegan cupcake from local cupcake purveyor, Swirlz.  And on the non-semi healthy side of things, the gigantic Carol’s cookie was so fresh and chocolately and big enough to feed your whole family.  Or be the angel of the party, bring a fresh fruit tray and rejoice on your savings.  Whole Foods has heard our wallet cries and is now setting out to price their produce on par with competitors like Marianos and Jewel-Osco.

Hosting your own get together?  Lazy it up with Whole Foods catering and wow your guests with gruyere and spinach stuffed mushrooms, ripe guacamole, or ethnic goodies like spanakopita, a greek stuffed phyllo dough appetizer.

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Swirlz Cupcake – Vegan Peppermint Chocolate

Feeling inspired?  Go out there with confidence and shop, dear friends, and impress those peeps with your Whole Foods Holiday swag.

The Skeleton Key to Exploring Dia De Los Muertos

Chicago knows how to showcase Halloween.  From horror movie marathons at the Music Box theater to elaborate Eyes Wide Shut style masquerades, there is something to put a scare into everyone.  This year, we decided to make the abnormal leap into 2 different Dia De Los Muertos events in the Chi.

Quick Skele-view: Traditionally, Dia De Los Muertos, or day of the dead, is a two day remembrance in Mexican culture where people honor their lost loved ones.  People make shrines decorated with photos of those lost, sugar skulls and other items linked to their loved one.

Dia De Los Muertos also inspires calavera, or skeleton, art and the sought after La Cavalera Catrina, the famous female skeletal face.

We split up to hunt down two different Day of the Dead events.

Google+ Local Day of the Dead at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen and Gold Coast Day of the Dead at International Museum of Surgical Science on Lake Shore Drive benefiting Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Chicago.

Kate: Monica wasn’t available for the Google+ Local Day of the Dead event so I wrangled two brave friends, Melissa and Karla, to come with me.  It was a thriller to see Dia De Los Tamales with a huge spread of food for us.  Our fave vegan black bean tamales were haunting the table as well as asparagus taquitos, fresh guac, and three types of salsas (red, green and black bean & corn).  My meat eating pals were treated too, not with brains, but pollo and pork tamales.

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Dia de los Tamales

After feasting, we sneaked through the Day of the Dead exhibit.  There is a diverse array of art mediums, including full shrines, wood burnings, statues and prints.  No pics are allowed in the exhibit but here is Skeleton Elvis leering outside.  He’s a hunk o burning bones.

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My substitute camera woman, Karla, conquered her nightmares and took a picture of my feared glare.

The monster mash of the event was getting my caterina makeup done.  All 3 makeup artists created detailed sugar skull looks for guests.  For dyi ghosts, YouTube tutorials are available for La Catrina as well, if you daaaare!

Monica: At the IMSS, I learned that there has been enormous changes in surgical science.  If they had not occurred, we would not be where we are in terms of technology and surgical combined.

One intriguing section on the third floor displayed history, anatomy and medical conditions of pain including alternative treatments such as Ayurveda, an ancient Indian holistic medicine.  Ayurvedic medicine combines diet, yoga, breathing exercises, medicinal herbs and more to resolve pain.

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Some interesting facts: Bayer, famous for Aspirin production, once sold Heroin as medicine in late 1800, thus causing one million opiate addicts in USA by 1900.   Cigarettes were used to treat Asthma (totally makes sense right? *sarcasm*).

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Now the less creepy stuff….I sampled cupcakes from Swirlz Cupcakes, Ludwig Farmstead Creamery delicious Kickapoo and Gouda cheese, blood orange gelato by Caffe Gelato, Tequila Avion Espresso, tasty Pumpkin Patch and Hypnotize Me cupcakes by Guilty Pleasurez Cocktail Cupcakes and much more!

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Swirlz Cupcakes – red velvet chocolate filling raspberry, Dia De Los Muertos chocolate mint, pumpkin s’mores, and carmelita!!

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Caffe Gelato, Local Folks Foods, Tequila Avion Espresso, Guilty Pleasurez Cocktail Cupcakes, Angelina Ristorante and Anthony’s Own.