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Healthy Holiday Gifts

Holiday excess often clashes with healthful habits. Rather than shower your health-conscious family and friends with sweets and meaningless trinkets, reward their efforts with fitting gifts.

Here are 10 ideas for healthful holiday giving, courtesy of Oregon Healthy Living. Some gleaned from our favorite stories over the past year, these suggestions fit a wide range of budgets, tastes and values. Recipients may be challenged, entertained, relaxed, beautified or nourished and, in turn, may nourish others.

Purchasing from and supporting local businesses improves the health of our community. And bestowing gift cards for services — rather than goods that use resources in manufacture and contribute to waste when they wear out — promotes a healthier planet.

For enthusiastic exercisers, new equipment or apparel is the gift that keeps on giving. Give them a gift card to Rogue Valley Runners, and they'll be sure to step into the ideal walking or running shoe.

The Ashland store performs a gait analysis for every customer, observing one's walk or run on a treadmill with the assistance of a rear-mounted camera. More than just a measurement of a runner's stride, the system also reveals peculiarities like pronation — the inward roll of a foot during normal motion — or supination, the foot's outward roll.

"It's just part of our process of getting you in the right shoe," says Hal Koerner, owner of the Ashland store. "You just get a personalized selection."

Rogue Valley Runners staff perform 10 to 20 gait analyses daily, more on the weekends. They also take into account customers' orthotic inserts, medical issues and the gamut of fitness goals, from simply walking in Lithia Park to running a first marathon, Koerner says. No appointment is necessary for the process, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

The gait analysis is free, and store gift certificates are available in any denomination. Rogue Valley Runners is at 161 E. Main St. or online at www.roguevalleyrunners.com.

To safeguard your loved ones this year, whether they're out for a hike or making the morning commute, put their vital information close at hand.

Rescue Facts attaches to seat belts, backpacks, canes, walkers and even refrigerator doors, says inventor John Mulry of Central Point. The retired U.S. Navy coroner created the bright-red cloth pouch five years ago to put medical information where rescuers can easily see and use it in an emergency. He's since designed versions for motorcycle helmets and pet collars.

A single sheet of water-resistant paper has space for identifying and emergency contact information, medical conditions, blood type, medications, allergies, preferred medical treatment, signature of consent for minors, even a passport photo.

"Medical bracelets don't really tell you anything," Mulry says, adding that customers appreciate the versatility of filling in the blanks themselves instead of handing their medical history over to a database.

Mulry sells about 750,000 Rescue Facts pouches per year, supplying fire departments, hospitals, schools and nonprofit health foundations. Rescue Facts can be purchased locally at Medford's AAA store, Ed's Tire Factory and the Rogue Valley Manor.

"They buy 'em like popcorn," Mulry says.

Call 541-665-2373 or see www.rescuefacts.com. The online price is $7.95.

Whirling across the ice is a wintertime tradition in Ashland, where the Rotary Centennial Ice Rink is open November through February, weather permitting.

Because ice skates are available for rent, the sport requires no special equipment, just a bit of balance. Unsteady skaters can also rent trainers, which resemble walkers, for $1 per session.

"They make it really easy for anyone to get out on the ice," says Joy Bannon, recreation coordinator for the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department.

The city also makes it easy to treat the skater on your list to a season of rosy cheeks and toned thighs with its punch-card system. All cards hold 10 punches, each good for one admission. The adult card is $35, youth $28. Another $20 buys a card good for 10 skate rentals.

"It's such a great thing to do with families," Bannon says.

Cards can be purchased at the rink, 95 Winburn Way, in Lithia Park. Regular-season and holiday schedules are posted online at www.ashland.or.us/icerink.

Local spas offer a single treatment for anyone who craves relaxation, relief from aches and pains and penetrating heat.

LaStone, or massages with heated rocks, stimulates the circulatory, nervous and lymphatic systems, therapists say. Popular all year, the treatment sees a rise in demand when the thermometer drops.

"People come in, and they're so cold, and they really get their need for that deep heat satisfied," says Laura Jarrell, owner of Spa in Jacksonville, one of the first local spas to practice LaStone.

The copyrighted treatment combines basalt rocks heated to 120 to 140 degrees in an electric turkey roaster with 18 marble or jade stones chilled in the refrigerator or freezer. The smooth stones are lubricated with oil and rubbed over the body in a Swedish massage technique, Jarrell says. Therapists may incorporate deep-tissue massage at clients' request. Alternating sensations of hot and cool stones energizes the body, she adds.

The treatment is $115 for 90 minutes at Spa, which sells gift certificates in both dollar amounts and for specific treatments. See www.jacksonvillespa.com. The spa is located at 235 W. D St.

The Blue Giraffe, The Phoenix and Waterstone spas in Ashland also offer hot-stone massages. See www.bluegiraffespa.com, www.thephoenixspa.com and www.waterstonespa.com.

Holiday overload can turn the jolliest of elves grinchy. Escape from the season's sights, sounds and smells at Ashland's Zenwest Flotation Center.

Based on sensory deprivation experiments of the 1950s, floating in tanks of skin-temperature salt water can lower blood pressure, ease joint pain and arthritis, speed muscle recovery and relieve stress and anxiety, says Keith Williams, owner of Zenwest. Music eases floaters into the experience of weightlessness, where they eventually reach a "theta" state, the point between sleep and waking, he adds.

Unique to Southern Oregon, the center at 130 A St. has two bathtub-sized flotation tanks, each filled with 10 inches of water and about 800 pounds of dissolved Epsom salts. The solution is so dense that it's impossible not to float, no matter how many pounds clients have packed on from holiday feasting.

So much salt renders the water almost completely sterile, but trace levels of bromine, used in swimming pools, and several filtration cycles between clients ensure a clean experience. Floaters shower at the center before and after sessions.

Hour-long float sessions cost $45, or buy three sessions for $100, which includes earplugs to use while floating, shampoo and shower gel. Gift cards are available. Call 541-488-5551 for appointments between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. or go to the Web site www.zenwest.net.

If the hectic holidays don't leave time for hours of relaxation at a stretch, find a few minutes of peace in a mandala.

Medford artist Betsy Lewis mounted a show of her original pen-and-ink mandalas this spring. She reproduced 15 of her black-and-white designs on 8-1/2-by-11-inch paper for budding artists to color according to their own whims and inspiration.

"They're meditative," says Lewis.

Often symmetrical and composed of abstract, geometric shapes, mandalas are common in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, where they can be used to facilitate meditation. But the form also appears in centuries-old works of Christian, Jewish and Islamic art, as well as more ancient tribal designs. The Sanskrit word "mandala" can be interpreted as "sacred circle."

Giving her mandalas titles like "Joy," "Truth," "Strength," "Anticipation" and "Blessings," Lewis, 54, drew mandalas as therapy for severe depression. Her new series, planned for release in time for the holidays, is grounded in the theme of trees, which represent strength.

Her packet of mandalas to color can be purchased for $14.95 at Rogue Gallery and Art Center in Medford or from Lewis' Web site, www.arteventproductions.com. Colored and cut out, the mandalas could even be used for next year's holiday greetings.

Sometimes nothing but a thorough cleaning can calm the chaos, and a professional organizer can help.

Maybe it's the annual crunch to ready one's home for the holidays or the ensuing wake of refuse that's just too overwhelming. Both scenarios — and many more — are jobs for Rosann Johnson, owner of Medford's Organize It Right, who knows how clutter can siphon joy from the season.

"It really robs you of peace," Johnson says. "It can lay a guilt trip on us; it can make us depressed."

For $45 per hour, Johnson can help restore a home's order and its occupants' mental well-being. Her assistance is available for whole-house organization or just a single closet. Clients can register for Johnson's newsletters and weekly e-mail tips, which last year included strategies for giving gifts that don't contribute to clutter.

While her services can be purchased as a gift, Johnson cautions that the giver should make sure the recipient really wants to get organized and is ready to dive in and take action. Clients have to work with Johnson to determine what should be kept or tossed out and what organization systems are most useful. Call Johnson at 541-773-2515.

Several local companies specialize in bath and beauty products. But Maria DiMaggio infuses her Greensprings Body Works with wild herbs she gathers in the mountains outside Ashland.

St. John's wort, elderflowers, mullein, plantain and rosehips combine with garden-grown comfrey, calendula, rosemary and lavender to infuse olive and jojoba oils. This blend of botanicals forms the base for DiMaggio's organic and wild-crafted creams, salves, lotions and toners, which fill the increasingly common demand for organic food and cosmetics.

"I'm as particular about what I put on the outside because it does get on the inside," DiMaggio says.

The distinctive cobalt-blue bottles, jars and vials can be found April through November at Lithia Artisans Market, which DiMaggio organizes on Ashland's Calle Guanajuato. Greensprings Body Works will be among the numerous locally made goods for sale the weekend of Nov. 27, 28 and 29, when Lithia Artisans holds its annual bazaar in the Historic Ashland Armory. DiMaggio also has a stall at the old Briscoe Elementary School the second and third weekends in December. And if customers miss her there, they can phone in orders. Call 541-488-1040.

"I also call myself the organic Avon lady — I do deliver," DiMaggio says.

New for the holidays are antibacterial sprays made from lavender, lemon, eucalyptus and other essential oils with antibacterial properties. A 2-ounce bottle of "hands-on" or "hands-free" is $7.

Long touted for its disinfectant properties, lavender essential oil has been applied to cuts, scrapes, insect bites and minor burns since the Middle Ages. Nowadays, more people recognize lavender as an aroma that promotes relaxation and sleep.

With so many beneficial properties, lavender plants would be just as welcome indoors as outdoors. Jim and Dotti Becker of Goodwin Creek Gardens in Williams have bred a variety that blooms through the winter in a sunny window.

"They'll bloom 12 months of the year ... as long as they get enough light and they get enough warmth," Jim Becker says.

"Goodwin Creek gray" is an accidental hybrid of French lavender and woolly lavender that proved itself up for life confined to pots. The plant takes well to pruning and, unlike many lavenders, can tolerate humid climates and also is more winter-hardy than most, Becker says. Like most perennials, it benefits from a summer sojourn outside, even if it's just on a porch or windowsill.

Lavender starts in 3-inch pots cost $4.95, including shipping. If picked up at the Williams nursery, they're only $3.50. But the business at 970 Cedar Flat Road is open only by appointment in winter. Orders are accepted by phone. Call 541-846-7357 or 800-846-7359. Or shop online at www.goodwincreekgardens.com.

When the perfect gift remains out of reach, before you cop out with cash, give some green: microgreens.

Both the budding gardener and avid home cook can enjoy growing tasty, gourmet greens that offer a dietary boost all year. This year's "Microgreens: A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens" explains how anyone can produce pounds of microgreens for a fraction of their retail cost and with minimal knowledge and materials.

The 192-page guide was published in April while authors Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson were living in Ashland, where they also sold their crops to specialty grocers and restaurants. Microgreens' chef-worthy cachet is apparent in the book's lavishly photographed recipes, which also appeal to the home cook.

Franks and Richardson profile 16 crops, from arugula to Tokyo bekana, explaining each one's unique characteristics, preferred growing conditions and quirks that could create challenges. In addition to the 10 steps of producing microgreens, the book contains a troubleshooting section followed with the 10 most frequently asked questions and recommended books and Internet resources.

Published by Salt Lake City-based Gibbs Smith, "Microgreens" is stocked in major bookstore chains, as well as the Ashland Food Co-op and Ashland's Bloomsbury Books. The cover price is $19.95.

- Photo by Bob Pennell