In this episode of Healthy Family Project, we talk to Amber Gray, digital marketing manager at Healthy Family Project about navigating the upcoming holiday season during COVID. Amber shares tips on how to approach the holidays this year, ways to adjust your traditions, how to stay connected to loved ones, and easy ways to give back to families in need.

Amber is the mom to an active toddler with no chill and navigating a whole new world of food. She has been a part of the Healthy Family Project team for over 10 years, overseeing all digital marketing efforts including digital partnerships, content strategy, social media, website and email marketing.  

A passion for healthy cooking was instilled in her at a young age, cooking alongside her mom and sister in the kitchen. Her passion for cooking, food and photography has also brought her behind the lens to develop and photograph recipes for Healthy Family Project and partners.

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Want to skip straight to a hot topic? See time stamps below. But of course, we recommend listening all the way through!

  • 4:19 Meet Amber
  • 6:14 Managing expectations around the holidays
  • 11:14 Consider ditching or adjusting traditions
  • 13:30 Holiday Zoom celebrations
  • 16:12 How to give back this holiday season
  • 23:26 Thanksgiving gratitude exercises

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Transcript for Episode 59

This transcript was produced by Otter.Ai. Please forgive any misspellings and grammatical errors.

Welcome to the healthy family project by produce for kids covering the hot topics in the world of health,
food and family with a dose of fun. Welcome back, the holidays are upon us and of course relentless
2020 continues on. If you’re like me, it’s hard to fathom that, you know, back in March, I was looking, I
mean, I thought we were all going to go back to school. So I mean, then I thought I was going to have
the regular summer. And none of that happened. Although different, it was different and memories were
made. But here we are, it’s the holidays we’re about to jump on in. So today, we are going to chat with
Amber Gray, who is part of the healthy family project team. So she and I just have been discussing a lot
about what our holidays are going to look like. And we thought, hey, let’s get on and record a podcast
episode and offer up some of our ideas and what we’ve been seeing and really just start that
conversation about how to navigate the holiday season. This year with things you know, they’re different.
No matter where you live, or what your circumstances might be. I don’t think anyone’s holidays will look
exactly the same this year. So don’t forget to join our Facebook group. I mentioned that because this
conversation has already taken on a life of its own over there, some good feedback, and we’d love to
hear your thoughts. We have holiday content going live every day over on healthy family project comm
lots of blog posts and recipes and ideas. And also across our social media outlets. We also have our
weekly e newsletter, if you just want everything in all in one place. That’s cool, too, we can, you can get
that link in the show notes are on our sign up on our website to get that weekly email with all the newest
recipes and content. And I usually say this at the end of each episode, but I’m going to throw it out there
in the beginning today, we would love for you to leave us a rating or leave a comment. It only helps us
grow if you can share with a friend. We are truly hoping to continue to grow healthy family project and
want to make sure we are getting the resources and information on these hot topics, current topics that
are important to families out there. And if you have a topic idea, something you’re struggling with
something you feel needs addressed on the podcast, please share it in the comments or contact us
direct in the Facebook group, or through our website. We want to hear from you. And we want to keep
this content flowing and keep giving you the content that makes sense for your everyday life. Okay, so
I’ve talked enough I think we’re, we can get on here to talk about holidays 2020. Today, we’re talking to
Amber Gray, who was part of our healthy family project team. And we’ve been talking a lot here about
what the holidays look like in 2020. I will preface this. I mean, don’t stop listening. We don’t have any
answers for you. But we do have some thoughts and ideas that maybe you can pull from. And we’re
hoping that this conversation continues over in our healthy family Project Facebook group, which we’ve
kind of already started started the conversation that I’ve seen seen some good ideas, so let’s definitely
take it over there. And then we just we know that holidays are awesome and fun and memories are
made. But we know in general, they can be stressful, whether it be 2020 pandemic year or not. And we
have some content over on our website from our friend Dr. Stephanie Smith, who’s a psychologist and
regular guest on the show. So we’ll link up to her post over there. Amber reminded me of that before we
got started here. So welcome. Amber, can you tell listeners a little about yourself?
Sure. Thanks for having me. So I’ve been with the healthy family project for 10 years now. And I oversee
all the content on our website. So all the recipes, all the blog content, you know, everything that you see
there. And then I work alongside grace on our team for everything that we do on social media or equally
or weekly newsletter, which if you’re not already on, definitely sign up for it. We’ll have a link in the show
notes. And then I also oversee our mission for nutrition and power your lunchbox campaigns. And then I
work with a lot of our partners on everything from recipe development to social media promotions.
Personally, I’m also a mom Have a one year old daughter. So that’s a whole new life and also managing
that during a pandemic, which has been, you know, fun and interesting.

Hey, that’s another episode, I think first year. There’s a baby and a pandemic. There you go. So, all right,
so welcome. You know, and just kind of kicking it off talking about the holidays. I hate to say this phrase,
but I feel like I had to have a conversation with myself. I’ve had many of those this year, but a
conversation with myself that I really had to lower my expectations for this holiday. And I know, it’s kind of
a negative, it sounds like that downer phrase, but I just really had to come to terms mentally, that things
would not be the same, doesn’t mean they have to be bad or sad. It just had to really, you know, realize
that this is not going to be the same, you have to know that this is going to be different. And you need to
come up with a way to embrace this 2020 holiday season. So yeah, so that’s kind of where I am with my
holidays, knowing it’s going to be different. And for Thanksgiving, really, I don’t typically have a big
crowd. So we I’m not I don’t feel too affected. I know people have, you know, huge crowds that come in
for Thanksgiving. My mom usually visits from Pennsylvania, which isn’t happening this year. You know, I
know that makes me sad. And it makes my kids sad. But I’m just recognizing that’s the nature of the
world right now. For Thanksgiving, for me, I’m just going to have a smaller dinner ready to go early in the
day and have a few of my husband’s family members who are in town who we’ve been, you know,
interacting with, regularly stopped by different times. And I also think I’m moving our Thanksgiving
outdoors, which I know people not in Florida are like, Okay, go ahead. Talk to me about moving your
Thanksgiving outdoors. But I know that’s not always easy to do. But I think that the weather at that time
of year is usually pretty nice here. So So yeah, so what do you have going on?
Yeah, I’m excited for this cooler weather that we’ve had this last week or so. I actually had to put my
daughter in a sweatshirt for the first time, I think. So that was pretty fun and exciting. But yeah, I mean, I
get the lowering expectations. This is, you know, unprecedented year. Even like we had my daughter’s
first birthday recently. And you know what I thought was going to be her first birthday was not her first
birthday. And you know, she was born in October. So she had a Thanksgiving and Christmas last year,
but she was way too little even what was happening. You know, where she’s gonna be a little more
present this year. And so, again, we thought Thanksgiving, Christmas was gonna look very different. And
it’s it’s just yeah, expectations are changing. You know, for me, Thanksgiving was never really a huge
deal. Growing up, my mom worked at Disney. And that is a huge Oh, yeah, day for Disney. And she took
the overtime pay and worked a lot of times. So we didn’t have like, I never had a turkey or anything like
that growing up. So as I got older, those were traditions I wanted. Although I have never made an
amazing Turkey, that’s always kind of sad. So I think this year, we’re just gonna roast a chicken, because
it’s my husband and I and our one year old, so I don’t want to be stuck with like, a ton of leftovers, right.
And then just making smaller portions of our favorite foods, like I still want mashed potatoes and green
bean casserole and things like that. So just trying to cut those portions in half. So I’m not eating mashed
potatoes for three weeks or you know, anything like that. So that’s always a really good idea for not
having that huge family get together that you normally have is just trying to find smaller portions or
sticking with those things that you really love. Kind of leaving out some of the things that you don’t love
as much. And then, you know, as we kind of head into Christmas, growing up with my mom working at
Disney, we went to see the Osborn lights every year which was like a magical experience. Yeah, I think
my very last time when they canceled it was when you and I went when a girl was yes, yes. So such a
good I missed them so much. But the following year we discovered my husband and I in Charleston, they
do this huge drive thru light display, which was nothing I’ve ever heard of before but my husband grew up
in Minneapolis and it was something they did as a kid because it’s way too cold to walk through lights like
it is here in Florida.
I’m familiar we have several of these these things in the Pittsburgh area so you drive streetlights.
So we started doing that for Christmas. We love Charleston so we would drive up about six hour drive
from Orlando and drive through this light display. So we decided this year you know what, let’s do it. We
rented an apartment so, you know we don’t have to deal with like a hotel or anything like that. We kind of
have our own space. And then we can do this drive thru light experience with our daughter Raleigh. And,
you know, kind of get some of that Christmas cheer for the year that we probably wouldn’t have
otherwise. And hopefully, it’ll be cold enough to actually drink hot chocolate. Yeah, because it’s never
cold enough at Christmas time to drink hot chocolate here in Florida. So hopefully that will be a good

tradition for us to start with her, or, I guess a tradition we already had, but kind of bringing her on this
year for that.
So it sounds like you have a plan in place. That sounds like a lot of fun. And you’re going to be able to
keep some of you know, your traditions and things that you like to do and just do it in a safe way, which I
think is important for all of us to remember. Like you don’t have to cancel everything. You know, there’s
there are ways to do things safely. You know, depending on your, you know, comfortability is that the
word comfort comfortability did I just make that word up? So depending on that, and of course,
depending on where you are, you know, it’s just there’s different circumstances for every family. So we’re
just here today to share with you what we’re thinking, and you can, you can take what you’d like from it
and make it your own. I’ve read a few things about families using this year to actually ditch tradition. And,
you know, like I said, In the beginning, sometimes there’s, you know, if you’re the person hosting
Thanksgiving, or you know, whatever holiday you’re celebrating, you’re hosting that dinner or, you know,
in charge of it, maybe you’re looking for a way to take a year off and why not? Let it be 2020 like to ditch
that tradition. Hey, look, guys, guess what, this year we’re having lasagna. Here’s there’s enchiladas for
dinner, you know, I read. I just read this. I got my Food and Wine Magazine. I think it was food. It was
food and wine yesterday. And it was funny because as you and I were talking about this, I opened the
magazine to a page that was like holidays 2020 And what people are doing, and that was one of the
points that they were making, that they were gonna opt, you know, opt out of someone who they think
they were I don’t even really like Turkey. I don’t know why I’ve been eating turkey. Two years. What am I
doing? So I was like thinking it’s funny, like we’re making lasagna this year. So I guess if there’s ever a
time to step outside of tradition, it would be this year, right?
Yeah, I agree. We could we start to do our taco bar that we did recently on the website. There were
amazing board skills.
Oh, yes. Oh, yeah, we’ll definitely link up to the taco board, if you want to go that route. And kind of just
have your family enjoy a nice grazing board for for Thanksgiving. I and I mean, I know, I know, we have a
couple things I want to touch on today. But just, you know, when you think about especially, I mean,
these holidays, but Thanksgiving, especially it’s about, you know, being your family being together. And
maybe it’s not your huge extended family. But you know, but that brings me to this next question or topic,
I guess I kind of threw this in here. into the mix. I feel like I’m very zoomed out. This year. I felt like
everything’s a zoom in. In the beginning. I was like, Yeah, I’m zooming everybody. And then now, you
know, especially in the work space, and you know, but I did read another thing that I read in the
magazine talked about ideas on zooming people in for your holiday. So I definitely want to try to link up to
that article. But that might be fun, or even like after dinner, like trivia, like an evening trivia with where you
can invite people in what are your thoughts? I know you’re zoomed, you’re zoomed to
a weekly zoom call to I, we were just talking about this with a group of women here in Orlando, like a
professional organization. And we still do weekly zoom that we started back in March. And so I can’t
believe we’ve been doing this long. Yeah, so zoomed out, and it’s hard, I think to with the season and not
being able to travel, or some people are still traveling, but not feeling like that’s really what you want to
do. And yeah, you still want to be close to family. And so yeah, that’s, I’ve also read some stuff around,
you know, trying to pull together a recipe and do mean together while you all make the same recipe to
like not work in my kitchen. I felt like there would be no way for you to see what was going on. And also,
you know, but yeah, I think there are definitely some good ideas. I’m sure if you searched around like on
Pinterest or did a Google search find like a ton of ideas to really bring your bring together, your family
and the holidays. On zoom
out Any over. And I know I know, I know that we might not be the best. But if you are down for it, I think
that that could be fun. And I we’ve always played games in the evening on holidays, I don’t know, we
always end up even as a child, for me, you know, one of my siblings would receive some kind of board
game, you know, or something. And so that always we would wind down the night and up at the dining
room table playing something battling over Scrabble. As you see I make up words. So you know what my
role was there? But yeah, I don’t know. Try it out again. And like Amber said, check out Pinterest, too. I

know, there’s always some good ideas over there. I talked a little bit about our Facebook group. And I
know Gloria, who’s in our group, we started this conversation about the holidays and what everyone is
doing. And Gloria said she was planning a food drive with her kids in the neighborhood. And so I started
thinking, you know, obviously, the holidays are a great time to give back or the great time to think about
others and how you can make a difference. But especially this year, you know, if you aren’t planning a
big dinner, or you’re not traveling, you have some extra time on your hands. You know, and looking at
some ways to give back. And maybe it doesn’t have to be thanks. You know, it doesn’t have to be
Thanksgiving day could be any holiday your family celebrates through November and December. There’s
just so many people in need right now. So many people who are unemployed, are in need of meals that
we can help out. I know our food banks here, Amber and I have volunteered around town different
places. But our food bank here has safety measures in place with masks and limited number of people
that they have in their groups to volunteer, I would recommend finding your local Feeding America Food
Bank, that’s a good place to start. I mean, I’m sure every community has different organizations. But if
you go to feeding, you can find easily find your food bank. And I think there’s some virtual
options too. I feel like there I can’t like pinpoint, you know, that’s like how do you volunteer virtually, but I
feel like there were some things. And then there’s also, you know, other national organizations, we
regularly work with Society of St. Andrew, their National Salvation Army, I just I feel like a lot of these
organizations are going to need some extra support this holiday season.
Yeah, that’s such a good point. And if you are making a smaller dinner, I know grocery stores a lot of
times leading up to the holidays have, you know BOGO sales on canned green beans or whatever it is
that you need. And maybe you don’t need both. But you have that extra box of stuffing or whatever, that
can definitely go for a food drive to help another family in need. You know, is such a tough year, I think
every year is tough. around the holidays, I grew up with a single mom. So I know that like kind of struggle
of not getting all the presents or you know the kid and kind of the value of the dollar. And so there’s
always family struggling, I think this year is especially tough. So if you do have a little extra time, or some
extra canned goods in your pantry that you aren’t going to use or even, you know, $10 it makes such a
huge difference to those families who really need it. At my daughter’s daycare, they’re doing a drive. I
think it’s the week leading up to November, I should probably check that calendar and plan ahead. But
they’re asking families to bring in small things like just a small toy, or you know, a canned good or there’s
kind of a different theme for each day. And then those are all getting collected to take into a local
organization for families in need here in Central Florida. So that’s like an easy way that I can help give
back. I’ve always really loved your tradition to you take the girls and you volunteer on Thanksgiving. You
know, Raleigh’s a little too young for that now, I think she all pass them out. I don’t think anyone needs
her little hands in there. That that might be something, you know, for us to look forward to for
Thanksgiving in the future as she gets older and can kind of understand a little bit better what she would
be doing there.
Yeah, and that’s actually a good point. I guess I because we work we so much around food. I forget
sometimes that there are other, you know, things that people are in need of and I mean, Christmas, you
know, kids without gifts on Christmas is super sad. And so I think that looking around, I’m sure there’ll be
many of those kinds of drives that are like a small toy, you know, to bring in or even in places not Florida
where the weather gets cooler, although it gets cooler, cooler at night, I swear, blankets and I know
where I grew up. They would do like a coat drive, you know, because kids, a lot of kids, winter coats
aren’t cheap, you know, it’s not the end, everybody needs a winter coat. And my mom is actually a
teacher in the community that I grew up in. And she’ll tell me quite often, you know, it’s, it’s sad that there
are kids that come in and it’s below 30 degrees, you know, and they don’t have a coat, because they
really don’t have a coat. So, yeah, I think that there’s a lot of ways. So if you have extra time, like Amber
said, or a couple extra dollars, or, you know,
some have a good time to do some fall cleaning. Closet, yes, clothes that don’t fit anymore. Good. Or,
you know, especially if you have kids, because they outgrow those so quickly. You know, that kind of
stuff, too, can be really helpful for families in need.
Yes. Well, and I think this could be a whole podcast episode in itself to talk about ways families can give
back. But some of you know, and some of you may not know it a healthy family project, we’ve given 7

million back to charities that benefit families and children since 2002. And so, Amber, and I, this is a daily
thing for us. It’s I think, you know, sharing useful information with families and how to be healthier, but
also ensuring you know, that we are giving back and making a difference. I think, like I said, this is
another podcast idea. So no. So yeah, put it on the list. I think expressing gratitude is very important. All
the time. But you know, this year? I don’t know. I keep hearing like, oh, you know, we’re seeing what we
what you realize what you’re missing, and you’re more grateful for it. And there’s the gratitude. But I’m
just going to be honest, that it’s probably harder to express gratitude this year. Because there are so
many emotions, especially for my kids. I have one right now who’s doing her PE class right in the room
next to me, I can hear her jumping jacks bounce hear her bouncing around. So you know, she wants to
go back to school. You know, there’s a lot of like anger and emotions. And so it’s a challenge to say Be
grateful, be grateful this year. But I think there are ways to embrace gratitude. And one thing we did a
few years ago, which I’m I want to bring back and I need to get on it. But throughout the month of
November, the we all added a leaf to the tree. So we had a we did ours on the wall just kind of like a
construction brown construction paper was our tree in the branches. And then we cut out leaves and
wood right what we were thankful for and added a leaf to the tree. Whenever Whenever we wanted to, or
whatever we were thinking but at least one a day. And by Thanksgiving Day, we had a full tree with
leaves of everything we were thankful for. So I love that idea. I’m sure there’s other ideas out there. To
embrace gratitude. I don’t know if you if you’ve seen anything out in your Pinterest world or can think of
any other ideas.
Yeah, I’ve seen people do the tree and also a turkey. And then they put the feathers on the turkey, which
is super cute too. Yeah, gratitude. It’s hard. I think right now.
I do I hate to say that because it’s like, oh, we’re you’re missing things. So you’re recognizing what you
were, you know, recognizing what you’re grateful for. But I know, it’s a tough one. But if we see anything,
we’ll definitely be posting it to the healthy family Project Facebook group. And I was just looking back
through the website today, some of our past Thanksgiving content. And I realized that I had done a post
with some ideas on snacks like fun snacks to do and crafts and tablescapes because I’m a fan of
believing people. It’s nothing elaborate. It is more like what can I put together with vases I already have
and things I’ve found, you know, at the dollar store, or Michaels or whatever and what we you know, we
can create. So, I think that that’s something fun that you can do with your family is find some fun crafts or
you know, fall fall fun or I guess as you’re moving into Christmas and other holidays you can you can find
some fun things there too. So, again, we’ll continue to add those over to the to the Facebook group.
Yeah, and I’m sure Charlie will love to share all of her Christmas crafts. Yeah, girl Halloween crafts live or
something coming up to.
Yes, yes. So Please, you know, tune in to we’re doing some pretty regular Facebook Lives and my
daughter, Charlie has been a part of those, and you never really know what you’re gonna get when you
have Charlie Live, which is always fun and sometimes stressful. But every parent ever Yeah, yeah, no,
she Yeah, she brings the real but definitely has some fun ideas. She loves crafting. So she’ll definitely be
sharing some things. So. All right, well, I think we have touched on a lot of ideas here today, I would
encourage everyone to check out the Facebook group and see what we’re posting over there as we
come across new ideas. And then of course, the show notes will link up to anything that we mentioned
over here. So thank you so much, Amber, for chatting today. It has been it has been wonderful. I know
things are different this year, but excited that we’re able to talk about some ways to embrace this year of
Yeah, thanks for having me.
Thank you so much for joining us today. It was fun to have a casual conversation about this upcoming
holiday season or I guess we’re in the throes of it now. So just good to have that conversation. And we
hope you’ll continue chatting with us over on our Facebook group. If you liked the healthy family project,
please tell a friend leave us a rating. It will only help our visibility so we can continue to create a healthier

generation. If you want to tweet with me direct. I’m at Amanda M Kiefer on Twitter and I’m also over on
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