Tree Classics Favorite Recipes: 10 Breakfast Essentials

Healthy and satisfying are the two main requirements for an American breakfast. Tree Classics shares with you 10 must-have dishes to help you start your day right.

All-American breakfast of fresh fruits and whole grain cereals from Tree Classics
Photo by ralph and jenny via Flickr CC BY 2.0

1. Maple-Glazed Pears and Cereals

Eating tasty maple-glazed pears and cereals for breakfast can give you the nutrition you need for sustained energy. Real maple syrup features high levels of antioxidants, zinc, and manganese, which keep the heart healthy and boost the immune system.

Pears are a good source of fiber, vitamin E, C, B2, potassium, and copper. Whole grain cereals contain many essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that have been linked to significant health benefits, such as lowering the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer.

2. Oatmeal with Banana and Molasses

Delicious and comforting, warm oatmeal with banana and molasses can satisfy your hunger easily, and it can make you feel full until lunch. The whole grain oats in this meal help prevent heart diseases and type 2 diabetes, and also help lower bad cholesterol. Bananas add flavor while helping dieters reach weight-loss goals and keep bowels healthy. They also provide nutrients that regulate heart rhythm and contain vitamin compounds for eye health. Sweet organic molasses, which has a high mineral content, is a healthy energy-booster as well as a natural laxative.

3. Whole Grain Pancakes with Maple Syrup

Whole grain pancakes are a delicious way to add fiber and nutrients to the body first thing in the morning. These pancakes will help you feel full longer than do white flour pancakes. The milk and eggs in the pancake batter also provide protein and calcium. Additionally, eggs are a great source of vitamins A and B as well as other nutrients needed for nerve and brain health. Top the pancakes with maple syrup to increase their health benefits!

4. Granola Yogurt Berry Parfait

Make breakfast more fun with this granola yogurt berry parfait. Assemble it by layering your favorite granola, plain yogurt, fresh blue berries and other fruit. Drizzle with honey. Made from oats, granola is rich in fiber and antioxidants. Yogurt contains probiotics that promote good digestion. Blueberry is known as the antioxidant super fruit because of its high concentration of antioxidants.

5. Breakfast Quinoa

Quinoa is usually served in savory side dishes but it also makes a wonderful hot breakfast meal. This high-protein seed contains all nine essential amino acids, and has almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. Serve it with milk, honey, cinnamon, and blueberries for a tasty, healthy breakfast treat.

6. Turkey BLT Sandwich

Turkey bacon is a healthy alternative to pork, which has long been a staple of American breakfast. Turkey bacon is a rich source of dietary protein and vitamin B12, and comes with a relatively low fat content while retaining the flavor of regular bacon. Romaine lettuce adds crunch to the sandwich, as well as fiber, folate, and antioxidants. Sweet, juicy tomatoes are a rich source of potassium, vitamins, and cancer-fighting lycopene. The whole wheat bread maximizes the nutritional goodness of this meal with more fiber.

7. French Toast with Blueberries and Strawberry Jam

French toast stuffed with fruit and jam is a refreshing way to wake up in the morning. French toast offers nutrients from egg and milk, and because bread is rich in carbohydrates, it gives you the energy you need to start the day. Top it with blueberries and strawberry jam – and the classic breakfast becomes even more appetizing.

8. Tomato and Basil Quiche

Quiches are great for breakfast or brunch, and are ideal for families on the go. You can whip a batch at night and enjoy it hot or cold in the morning. Eating a tomato and basil quiche lets you enjoy the flavors and nutrients of eggs, milk, tomatoes, and basil, which not only lends a sweet, earthy aroma but also offers an impressive list of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins K and A, and minerals calcium, manganese, and iron.

9. Chunky Apple Muffins

Muffins are a delicious way to get the energy you need for the day. They’re great for a quick breakfast or snack, and, like quiches, can be made the night before. Filled with oats, bran, and plenty of fruit, these chunky apple muffins contain plenty of fiber. In addition, apples are high in potassium, which helps control blood pressure, and quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that protects brain cells from degeneration.

10. Spinach Breakfast Stuffins

Combining spinach, red bell pepper, egg, milk, and whole grain bread cut into cubes, spinach breakfast stuffins are not only filling but also packed with nutrients. The spinach provides vitamins K, A, C, B2, and B6 as well as minerals such as magnesium, folate, manganese, iron, calcium, and potassium. Red bell pepper gives the body phytochemicals and a decent amount of fiber.

Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. With these healthy recipes, you can eat like a king and get the energy and nutrients you need to get going.

5 Ways to Use Pebbles as Home Decor

Pebbles are a great way to incorporate the beauty of nature in both interior and exterior home design. Here are some ideas on how you can use these stones of various shapes, colors, and sizes to bring in a completely different look to your living spaces:

1. Pebbles as Decorations

Using pebbles as ornaments can be as easy as placing a bowlful on a center table to lend an earthy, Zen-like appeal, or piling them in a regular glass vase with water topped with a nice flower. Pebbles can also be used to substitute functional decorations at home. Some examples are candle holders, paper weights, and bookends. Pebbles can also be utilized as your own canvas. You can paint animals, landscapes, and portraits, or decoupage flowers on them!

Tree Classics Pebbles
Photo by Avia Venefica via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 

2. Pebbles as Wall or Floor Details

Pebbles offer a great way to add texture to walls and floors. In this kitchen, the designer artfully used them along the curved island, breaking up the traditional limestone tile layout and highlighting the kitchen space. On a wall, a pebble border adds three-dimensional quality to an otherwise flat tile design. It also helps in tying together a neutral color scheme.


Eclectic Kitchen by Victoria Interior Designers & Decorators The Sky is the Limit Design

 

3. Pebbles in the Bathroom

Pebbles bring a relaxing, spa-like feel to bath spaces, and they work well with wood and other natural elements. Cover an entire vanity wall with pebble tiles to create a dramatic focal point. In the shower area, pebble tiles are an excellent choice for a slip-resistant floor. A plus is that they feel like a gentle massage on your bare feet.

4. Pebbles below the Stairs and along Paths

Placing pebbles just below the stairs can add beautiful color and textural contrast. This delivers an unexpected eye-catching accent to perk up quiet corners in your home. You can also layer pebbles along paths. The result will be a welcoming and visually pleasing space. 

5. Pebbles as Pool Details

Pebbles work well with water features. As a lining for swimming pools, they create a spectacular landscape. Pebbles also create a natural, beach-like atmosphere and can be used to cover unsightly areas around the pool.

There are many ways to use pebbles in sprucing up your home. We hope these ideas inspire you!

Tree Classics Christmas in July: Host a Milk and Cookies Party in 2 Easy Steps!

In our fifth and final installment of Tree Classics Christmas in July, we give you two easy steps (plus lots of quick tips!) for hosting an amazing milk and cookies party to keep the yuletide spirit alive. You don’t have to wait for Santa to come down the chimney just to enjoy these oven-fresh delights. Gather friends and family this summer for one unforgettable holiday!

Tree Classics Christmas Tree Cookies
Photo from The Tedster via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

Step 1: Bake the Cookies with Your Friends and Family

Let’s face it. It’s more fun to bake when you have friends and family helping you out in the kitchen. It’s also the perfect excuse to try out a tiny pinch of your favorite mouthwatering cookie dough!

Line up the ingredients for your selection of baked goodies and give each baker a corner in your work station. Whip up a batch of the classic chocolate chip cookies using red and green candy morsels or, for the more advanced bakers, a batch of stained glass sugar cookies with a colorful Jolly Rancher center.

QUICK TIP: Don’t forget the cookie cutters and stamps! Make your guests feel right at home by letting them take part in baking goodies with sweet and thoughtful holiday greetings they can exchange with one another.

Another great thing about cookie parties is that everyone can garnish their cookies their own way. For Christmas in July, have red, green, and yellow candy sprinkles, gumdrops, and crushed candy canes ready for your happy helpers to lavish on their baked goodies.

 

Step 2: Serve Up Ice Cold Milk

While waiting for your cookies to bake, you can start serving ice cold milk to your kitchen helpers! Kick off your summer Christmas party with various flavors of milk, such as chocolate and strawberry, and for the figure- and health-conscious, a serving of low-fat and lactose-free milk from your very own milk bar.

Tree Classics Variants
Photo from Joe Shlabotnik via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

QUICK TIP: Instead of using the usual pitcher and glass, fill old-fashioned bottles to add a vintage feel to your summer Christmas party. These wonderful glass bottles can be used later on as a quaint flower vase or container for your trinkets. You can also fill the bottles three hours before the celebration and place them in the chiller. When it’s time for the party, you’ll have your cool drink ready to be paired with your oven-fresh cookies!

 

For friends and family who can’t get enough of those delicious cookies, you can give them extra treats packed in these lovely antique-styled French canning jars. They make classy take-home gifts and nifty containers for other baking ingredients.

 

Tree Classics’ Recommended Treats:

1. Classic Cookie Recipes

A Christmas milk and cookies party in the middle of summer should serve fun and unique treats. This New York Times favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and these colorful Oreo cookie pops are sure to make your celebration all the more special.

Tree Classics Chocolate Chip Cookies
Photo from arnold | inuyaki via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

2. Healthy Cookie Recipes

Health-conscious guests need not worry about the fare as you can also serve flourless and sugar-free peanut butter cookies and whole grain low-sugar chocolate cookies with pecans from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

Tree Classics Peanut Butter Cookies
Photo from Maggie Hoffman via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Have a merry and memorable Christmas in July with a fun and simple two-step milk and cookies party!

Tree Classics Christmas in July: A Hint of the Holidays in Your Summer Home

Christmas in July is about to reach its final stretch. It’s hard to let go of memories of a great vacation. But why say goodbye to this spectacular holiday? Even after summer, you and your family can capture the warmth of the season with an ethereal beach house look that retains a hint of the holidays. Join Tree Classics as we give you three great tips on how to spruce up your quaint holiday home and cherish memories of Christmas in July.

Tip #1: Decorate a Christmas Tree with Summer Holiday Photos

Summer is no different from the traditional yuletide season when families come together. And what better way to give your summer holiday home that heartwarming feel than by accenting your beloved tree with precious photographs from your family vacation? Our pick for a great Christmas tree in a summer-y home has photos mixed in with traditional yuletide ornaments.


Contemporary Family Room

 

Tip #2: Adorn Your Holiday Home with Nature-inspired Decor

Apart from bringing in a sense of nostalgia with their tree, the homeowners of this contemporary family room keep the atmosphere light by decorating the space with treasures from the surf, sand, and sea. You can use starfish or sea shells and pile them at the center of your dining table. These jagged conch shells, for instance, are set in contrast to the shiny baubles hanging from the beams, creating an unexpectedly eclectic look.

If you want a more relaxed atmosphere, go for subdued tones that remind you of warm sand, then inject color into your space with a few holiday decorations that never go out of fashion. This home highlights a quirky Christmas vibe with the palm and eucalyptus leaves decorative accents that keep the holiday fun going. But it also surprises you with a sea horse light fixture atop the staircase for an exuberant beach house look!


Eclectic Staircase by Menlo Park Media and Bloggers Janet Paik

 

Tip #3: Enjoy the Outdoors with a Summer Holiday Tablescape

Unlike other festive occasions, Christmas in July can take on a more relaxed and relaxing appeal. This tablescape from The Happy Home Blog says it all: you can blend the quaint charm of summer with quirky Christmas ornaments. And with a clean and simple silvery white color scheme, the setup in this home in Australia captures the effervescence of summer with a balance of sparkle – from the holiday decorations – and the invigorating look of fresh summer flowers.


Contemporary Spaces by Sydney Media and Bloggers The Happy Home Blog

 

So who says you have to say goodbye to Christmas in July? With these three simple decorating tips, you can continue to enjoy the ethereal charm of your summer holiday home.

Tree Classics Christmas in July: How to Make an Edible Christmas Tree!

Deck the halls with fruits and berries, or better yet, make a miniature Christmas tree with sugar cookies and candy sprinkles! Because Tree Classics absolutely loves Christmas in July, we’re celebrating it with all the luscious fruits, veggies, and sweets from this season. It’s one unique holiday that infuses elements of traditional yuletide festivities with the flavors of summer. Have fun adorning your home – and satisfying your tummy – with edible Christmas decorations. Tree Classics presents three great ideas to spruce up your summer holiday with delicious treats.

Have a Yuletide Fiesta with Fruits

Infuse your Christmas in July celebration with the flair of a summer fiesta by whipping up a fruit Christmas tree. This new take on the traditional fruit salad consists of strawberry, raspberry, orange, watermelon, kiwi, and grape carefully mounted in the conical shape of a tree. You can also add pear, mango, papaya, and banana into the mix. As a finishing touch, you can cut out a star out of a pineapple to top your scrumptious yuletide tree.

Tree Classics Tropical Fruits
Photo from Tama Leaver via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

Tropical fruits are known to have a wide array of health benefits. Aside from vitamin C, fruits such as mangoes and papaya help reduce the risk of breast cancer, according to the International Journal of Cancer. Eating potassium-rich bananas is great for regulating blood pressure. The vitamin B6 in the fruit is credited for improving a person’s mood. Fresh pineapples also make for an excellent anti-inflammatory food due to an enzyme called bromelain.

Taste a Veggie Merry Christmas

If you prefer a Christmas dish that packs an even healthier punch, you can’t go wrong with a fresh produce holiday tree. This ideal edible centerpiece can be made with broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, celery, and lettuce leaves. Arrange the vegetables into a Christmas tree and place on a large platter. Serve this marvelous treat with a creamy garlic herb dip or hot spinach and artichoke dip for an even healthier fare.

Tree Classics Veggie Tree
Photo from djprybyl via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

While broccoli may not be the tastiest of vegetables, it is certainly one of the healthiest to eat, especially for people with age. Its health benefits include a high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin, which help improve eyesight, and also soluble fiber and chromium, which regulate blood sugar levels. The vitamins A and K present in broccoli also aid in breaking down the vitamin D in our bodies, which in turn promotes better calcium absorption and bone growth.

For people on diet, the lettuce leaves in our veggie Christmas tree offer a light yet filling dining option. A cup of shredded lettuce leaves only has 12 calories and almost zero fat. Also, its high fiber and cellulose content improves digestion and promotes long-term weight control.

Enjoy a Sweet, Sugary Holiday

Since it’s summer, a little sweet treat wouldn’t hurt. Spruce up your beloved Christmas tree with delectable confectionery creations straight from your kitchen. This Christmas nougat candy, carefully placed in miniature baskets or decorative tins, makes a great highlight for your tree and a thoughtful gift for guests as well. In place of regular candy canes, you can create these fabric candy cane cone treats as creative and tasty accents. Hang up these cute and delicious iced Christmas cookie decorations to make your Christmas tree more fun to look at. If you want to save time baking edible decorations, go for these nifty gingerbread decorations from Tree Classics.

Christmas Cookies
Photo from starshaped via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

Whichever edible idea you choose for your tree, you’re sure to enjoy a fun-filled Christmas in July.

5 Ways to Use Bananas as a Beauty Treatment

People having a bad day may sometimes encounter that funny adage: “Have a banana!” The fruit has come to represent how you can have a bright and cheery disposition inspired by the most mundane things. And with the many health benefits the banana has to offer, everyone’s favorite pick-me-up has, for centuries, also become one of the world’s most delicious all-natural beauty secrets. Here are five ways you can use bananas to stay beautiful.

TC banana

Banana Anti-Aging Mask

Bananas are rich in potassium, Vitamin A, B, C, and E, as well as natural oils. All of which play a vital role in maintaining the health and elasticity of the skin. To prevent or reduce wrinkles and age spots, try this all-natural banana face mask. Just mash one-half of a ripe banana and mix it with half a teaspoon of natural honey for extra emollient properties. Apply the rich mixture gently on the face. After 25 to 30 minutes, wash off the mask with warm water. Use cold water for the final rinse to tighten pores. For best results, do it three times a week.

Banana + Brown Sugar Scrub

Bananas are loaded with anti-oxidants that help get rid of dead skin cells and leave skin feeling rejuvenated. Combined with sugar, which is a natural source of alpha hydroxy acids, bananas make for a fantastic body scrub. To make a gently exfoliating banana mixture, mash one ripe banana and combine with one-fourth cup of sugar. Add vanilla or almond extract for an aromatic bath experience. Slather the banana and brown sugar mixture over your body and gently massage on your face. Wash the concoction off with lukewarm water.

Banana Hair Treatment

Bananas have minerals such as silica, which improves hair thickness, and vitamin B, which helps in the prevention of split ends. Aside from that, they have the ability to promote hair recovery and rehabilitation through other nutrients, making bananas the perfect ingredient for a homemade hair growth treatment. To promote healthy hair growth, combine three ripe bananas with three tablespoons of yogurt or milk in a blender. Apply the smooth paste on wet scalp and hair. Rinse thoroughly after 15 to 20 minutes. Use this treatment once a week for best results.

Banana Peel Teeth Whitener

Ripe banana peels contain high amounts of potassium, magnesium, and manganese, which work together to remove stains and whiten teeth. They are also rich in calcium and vitamin D, which help in the absorption of minerals for healthier and stronger teeth. To make your teeth whiter and stronger, rub the inner skin of the banana peel on your teeth for two to four minutes, and then brush with your regular toothpaste. Do this twice daily for best results.

Puffy Eye Banana Remedy

The potassium present in bananas helps to regulate the fluid levels under the eyes. In addition to that, the rich Vitamin A content of the fruit restores the lost moisture and repairs the damaged, dull, and dry skin around the eye area. To draw out excess fluid from under the eyes, mash half a banana and apply generously around the puffy eyes. You can also try putting banana peels on your eyes in place of cucumber slices. Wash off with cool water after leaving them on for 20 minutes. Just as eating bananas helps in keeping our bodies healthy, applying bananas on our skin can work wonders as well.

Still having a bad day? Forget about all your wrinkle-causing worries and have a banana!

At Home with Tree Classics: 5 Smart Ways to Save Energy

With global warming sending world temperatures to all-time highs (and lows), keeping an energy-efficient home is not simply a matter of choice. It is a must for everybody to cut down their carbon footprint. But amid the sweltering summer heat, how exactly can we make our homes cooler and greener? Here are five smart tips from Tree Classics:

Tip#1: Get Rid of Phantom Loads

A phantom load is an electronic device on standby mode. It remains plugged even while it is turned off. Environmental agencies estimate phantom loads make up six to 10% of people’s monthly energy bills. These “energy vampires” include the TV, stereo, microwave oven, clock radio, and even chargers for cellular phones and iPods. Unplug appliances when not in use. To make the task easier, you may want to use a power strip, which allows you to turn off all appliances with a single switch.

Tree Classics energy efficient power strip
Photo by Wickerfurniture via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 

Tip#2: Choose Energy-efficient Devices

Energy Star devices may cost more than their conventional counterparts, but in most cases they will more than make up for that additional cost through substantial energy savings over time. For instance, a qualified Energy Star light bulb consumes about 75% less electricity than a traditional incandescent bulb and lasts at least six times longer. When it comes to home computing, laptops can save up to 80% energy, with powerful notebooks only at 30W compared to a 120W desktop PC plus 80W CRT screen.

Tip#3: Use a Programmable Thermostat

Heating and cooling make up the largest energy expense, accounting for 56% of the energy use in the typical American household, says the US Department of Energy (DOE). Cut unnecessary energy consumption by automatically adjusting the temperature in your home to your schedule. The DOE advises to “save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7° to 10°F for eight hours a day from its normal setting.” A programmable thermostat allows you to automatically set the times you turn on the heating or air conditioning. By encoding a schedule, the equipment does not operate as much when you are asleep or out of the house.

Tip#4: Improve Insulation

Half of the energy used to heat or cool homes is wasted without proper insulation. Un-insulated roofs or ceilings, for instance, can let out up to 45% of the heating and cooling energy we use. Walls and certain types of floors without such feature can lose up to 15% heat in the winter. Make it easier to control the temperature and save energy in the process by improving the insulation in your house. Upgrading insulation is a sound investment, but you can also start simply by sealing off leaks in windows and doors or by having a carpet.

Tip#5: Switch to Fans

Ceiling fans are one of the most energy-efficient devices you can have at home. A 2.5 ton central system consumes about 3,500W while a window A/C unit uses between 500 to 1,500W. But a floor fan needs only 100W as it runs on its highest speed, and a ceiling fan requires only 15 to 95W. Studies also show combining ceiling fans with A/C units and heaters boosts their efficiency, reducing summer cooling bills by up to 46% and winter heating bills by up to 15%.

There are many ways to save energy without having to give up the modern conveniences of using electricity. With these five simple tips, you’re on your way to saving an even bigger home: the entire planet.

Create a Sprawling Garden: How to Grow Herbs Indoors

Nothing beats homemade cooking flavored with freshly picked herbs from your own garden. For a convenient way to add culinary flair to your dishes, grow your herbs indoors. Tree Classics’ Create a Sprawling Garden series gives you practical advice on herb gardening to bring freshness straight to your plate!

Choosing a Method

There are different ways you can jumpstart your indoor garden. One of them is by using a hydroponic system. Not only does this soilless method provide your plants with everything they need; it also allows you to set up your garden anywhere in the house. To start, purchase a hydroponic kit, which comes with equipment, special lights, and mineral nutrient solutions that will nourish your plants and stimulate their growth in a safe environment.


Tropical Kitchen by Other Metro Landscape Architects & Designers Savscapes Landscaping Cape Town

 

You can either plant a seed or root a cutting. Herbs like sage, oregano, and rosemary are best prepped for indoor cultivation. Plant a section of their root or stem in a soilless mix. Meanwhile, basil and parsley need to be planted as seeds, although the latter, as well as chives, can also be planted by potting a clump from an existing outdoor plant.

If you have a kitchen window facing either south or east, make the most of it by creating a windowsill herb garden. Bay leaf tree, oregano, rosemary, and most mints are just some of the herbs that are easy to raise on a windowsill. South-facing windows provide your plant with the most sunlight while east-facing ones give you a moderate amount of light (mostly in the morning). Different herbs have varying needs for sunshine, so make sure to find out how much light your herbs require.

Transitioning Indoors

If you are moving an existing outdoor herb garden indoors to prepare for winter, you will need to acclimatize the plants to their new environment first. Gradually introduce them to shaded areas. Instead of directly putting them inside the house, park them in an enclosed porch, an entryway, or a garage. When they have gotten used to it, you can move them to the window where they can receive the most sunshine.


Eclectic Landscape by San Luis Obispo Photographers Jennifer Young

 

Achieving a Balance of Elements

Know how to balance light, temperature, and water. For example, herbs in a clay pot placed on a south -facing windowsill may need more water than plants on an east or west window. Every week, turn each pot around for about a quarter to expose all of the sides of the plant to sunlight. During winter, the air inside your home tends to get dry, especially with artificial heating. Dry air may affect your indoor plants’ growth. As a remedy, spray mist around your plants to keep them from getting brown leaves due to low humidity.

Fertilizing

Your herbs will stay healthy if you fertilize them, but too much of it may keep them from producing the best flavor. Nourish them with fertilizer only once a month, or mix a slow-release plant food into the soil before planting your cuttings or seeds.

Grow your indoor herb garden now and make your meals even more flavorful and special!

Celebrating with Tree Classics: 12 Ways to Christmas in July

If you’re eager to celebrate the holiday season with the exuberance of summer, then you’ll love our ideas for Christmas in July! What better way to cherish all the wonderful memories with friends and family than with a get-together that also lets you soak up the sun. Get ready for some midyear cheer. Fluff your Christmas tree, serve up some eggnog, and kick-start the merrymaking with Tree Classics’ 12 ways to Christmas in July!

12 Ways to Christmas in July

Tree Classics Christmas in July: 5 Simple Ways to Spread Cheer

Christmas has always been a season of giving. Whether you’re handing out gifts at an orphanage or helping out at a local soup kitchen, you know there is nothing more satisfying than being able to make other people happy. Celebrating Christmas in July allows you to continue spreading the joy of the holidays. Join Tree Classics as we list down ways you can turn your Christmas good deed into a year-long tradition.

1. Hold Storytelling Sessions with Kids

Audiobook
Photo from LibAmanda via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Reading is a great way for kids to enrich their imagination. There is a tale of adventure and awe locked inside every page of a good book. But reading can be very difficult for a child who has dyslexia or is visually challenged. Remove this obstacle by lending your voice in an audiobook production and holding a storytelling session with kids.

By using well-loved storybooks and textbooks that have been transformed into electronic recordings, children with learning disabilities can enjoy the lessons that these wonderful literary treasures have to offer. Visit Learning Ally to find out how you can sign up as a volunteer reader.

2. Visit Homes for the Elderly

Elderly
Photo from ryanrocketship via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Time has a way of making us forget the things that really matter. We won’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the people who came before us. Let’s not wait until the Christmas season to check up on Grandpa and Grandma and make them feel appreciated. Drop by your grandparents’ house or your local elderly home and bring back their smiles. You can share a meal, tell stories, and even play fun games with them. Check out organizations such as Little Brothers to learn more about how you can help bring cheer into the lives of our beloved elderly.

3. Become a Red Cross Volunteer

First Aid
Photo from Fort Meade via flickr. CC BY 2.0

If you’re looking for a long-term commitment helping out, you can never go wrong with the American Red Cross. Always ready to help where there is a disaster, the organization has come to symbolize solidarity and care. For decades, it has given aid to those situated in the most dangerous corners of the world. The Red Cross has diversified its volunteer work into different functions. Aside from helping in disaster relief efforts, you can also be a volunteer at blood drives, become a health and safety instructor, or even a social media advocate.

4. Rescue Animals with Your Neighbors

Animal Rescue
Photo from Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Animals have the right to be safe. Sadly, not everybody is aware of this fact. We often find pets neglected or mistreated by their owners. Groups such as Sanctuary One and The Humane Society of the United States try their best to care for these poor critters, but they also need the help of other animal lovers. Sign up for their programs such as rescuing and protecting these pets from cruelty and providing them a loving home.

5. Build Homes for the Homeless

Habitat
Photo from Rob Swystun via flickr. CC BY 2.0

And, yes, there is no place like home. This has always driven the volunteers of Habitat for Humanity. They have dedicated their time and energy to providing homeless people everywhere a shelter where they can be safe and warm. You can join hands with family and friends and turn home-building activities into a time for bonding. With every brick you lay and every beam you hammer into place, you can have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped create a better tomorrow for your fellow.

You don’t have to wait until Christmas to spread holiday cheer. Now is as good a time as any other.