Health Benefits of Volunteering

Yep, you read the title of this blog post correctly. 

You may be asking your screen, “Aren’t these supposed to be about food and drink?” 

Good question, and the answer is no. 

You may also be asking, “What does volunteering have to do with gift baskets?”

Another good question, and the answer is nothing. 

You see, we’re thinking outside of the vittle/potable box while still sticking with the health benefits theme. I’ve also wanted to write about this topic because I’ve certainly experienced the benefits of volunteering, working with organizations such as the Northbrook Chamber of Commerce, The Peyton Heart Project, Shir Hadash Synagogue, Boy Scouts of America, and Camp Fire. 

Today, we veer toward volunteerism. 

Volunteering Can Help Reduce Depression

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and finally a light is being shined brighter on this issue than ever before. In that vein, it turns out that the act of volunteering can be good for your mental health. 

A study shows that social connection for a good cause reduces feelings of depression, especially among patients suffering from chronic pain. Lending a helping hand gives you a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and may improve your self-confidence. 

A Mood Boost

We’ll keep things in the mental health realm. 

Part and parcel with reducing depression, volunteering can make you happier. According to the Journal of Happiness Studies (I’m not making this up), scientists discovered that people who volunteer compared to those who don’t, were generally more satisfied with their lives and reported better mental health. 

Feelings of happiness are linked to endorphins, also known as the brain’s natural pain reliever

Improved Physical Health

Check it out: you could volunteer without missing out on a gym hour and vice versa. Volunteering can serve as a good workout. 

Activities vary in physical exertion, but movement can improve your heart rate, which helps battle cardiovascular diseases. A 30-year study by Cornell University shows that senior citizens who volunteered had far fewer illnesses than their counterparts who didn’t.

Many volunteering activities are outdoors, meaning you get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Also, you exercise your body, which is important for overall health. 

Nurtures New and Fosters Existing Relationships

People are often recruited to volunteer by friends, co-workers, colleagues, and other folks they know. Spending quality time together and conducting acts of service strengthens bonds. At the same time, volunteerism offers an opportunity to build new relationships. 

The Mayo Clinic agrees: 

“Volunteering increases social interaction and helps build a support system based on common interests. One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to participate in a shared activity. Dedicating time as a volunteer helps expand social networks and practice social skills with others.”

Fired up yet! You should be. If you need direction on volunteer opportunities, here is a comprehensive list covering Chicagoland. 

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The Health Benefits of Baths

Full disclosure: I love me a good bath. It’s sort of vital to my existence. 

Baths are a great way to relax and unwind after a long day or as a soothing reward after a big accomplishment, or even just because. 

Are baths actually good for you? 

You bet your sweet bubbles they are! In today’s blog post, we discuss the health benefits of baths and why you should indulge in a warm tub today…or right now. 

Baths Help Our Minds

Research shows that having a bath can have a lasting effect on your mood. The comfort that comes with a warm bath can be very powerful, giving us womb-like security. That security has a strong positive psychological impact that has real staying power.

Baths also help us sleep better, and sleep is not overrated. Healthy sleep can produce good outcomes like the ability to better assess difficult situations and apply critical thinking. A soothing bath before bedtime can help your body and mind relax so you can drift off peacefully and enjoy some Zzzzz’s.

Baths are also known to improve mental health by reducing inflammation, which calms the nervous system and reduces stress and anxiety. 

Baths Do The Body Good

There are plenty of reasons your body will thank you for a bath. Not only does a bath feel great, but a warm soak encourages physiological health, as well. 

Taking a bath can improve blood circulation and increase blood oxygenation by allowing slower, deeper breathing. This may reduce inflammation and can ease stiff muscles and joints, which cause chronic pain. Additionally, baths allow our skin to hydrate, which is enhanced by oils and bath bombs. We are, after all, composed mostly of water. 

Additional Benefits 

Bathing can also help relieve cold and flu symptoms, burn calories, and even help keep your heart healthy, not to mention boosting your immune system to better help fight off viruses and infection. 

One More Thing…

A plain bath can be good enough, but just like pizza, why not add to it? There are wonderful accoutrements to elevate your bathing experience, like 🛀 SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT 🛀our Mom’s Escape Gift Basket, built in a paperboard travel trunk that begins with a bottle of Chardonnay and is filled with a bath pillow, eye mask, Himalayan bath salad, a cucumber candle, and much more. Did I mention that it’s the perfect Mother’s Day and that Mother’s Day is THIS SUNDAY? 

Whether it’s to soothe irritated skin, feel more awake, or just to feel pampered, taking a bath is always a good idea. Now go have a soak. You’ve earned it!

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Administrative Professionals Are Essential for Small Business Success

Did you know that Administrative Professionals Day is next Wednesday, April 27? 

If you did, way to pay attention. If you didn’t…surprise! 

The cogs and wheels that keep business operations running are many, and the unsung heroes are often administrative professionals hard at work behind the scenes. They are essential for small business success, as we know all too well over here at BasketWorks.  

Would most businesses survive without administrative professionals? Probably not. 

The Impact of Administrative Professionals

Administrative professionals deserve recognition, and it’s nice to see that they’re getting it. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed a lot of people in the workforce last year and found that:

  • 92% believe that administrative professionals are essential to the success of a team
  • 89% have enjoyed the experience of working alongside an administrative professional 
  • 87% say the work of an administrative professional is challenging

Not only are they often tasked with managing correspondences, clerical work, scheduling, etc., but in today’s evolving business world, administrative professionals also provide customer service, manage social media accounts, make sales, etc.

In other words, they wear lots of hats. 

Fundamentally, administrative professionals provide the framework for collating efforts in a business on a day-to-day basis. That’s a fancy way of saying that they’re utility is critical. Small business owners need the right people in the trenches to resolve customer complaints, book meetings, complete paperwork, and answer calls.

Suffice it to say businesses–big or small–wouldn’t function at their best without the skills of administrative professionals.

How to Show Your Appreciation

Time to put your best appreciative foot forward. We’ve written before about ways to acknowledge your staff for jobs well done, and now we turn our attention to administrative professionals. 

Kudos Time – When an admin delivers, there’s a positive ripple effect. A thank you is a start, but take it a couple of steps further. Explain to them how their work helped and its impact on the company. Present feedback from happy clients, and celebrate your workers publicly by acknowledging their contributions with peers. 

Give Them Some R&R – Give your administrative team a breather. Let them log off early or surprise them with a day off. Sweeten it more by surprising them with a gift card so they can treat themselves to a spa day. 

New Professional Opportunities – Talk to your employees about their professional development and offer them opportunities at upward mobility. This demonstrates that you’re invested in their future and that you value their efforts. It’s all about engagement. 

How About a Gift Basket? I really shouldn’t blog while driving because of 🚨SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT🚨 potholes. Where was I? Ah yes, of all the ways to shower your appreciation for your administrative staff, there’s none more powerful, more meaningful than through surprising them with a best-in-class BasketWorks gift basket! We even have a whole page dedicated to them for you to check out. 

Administrative professionals are the glue that holds companies together. Show them some love on April 27, and keep it going from there.

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Games That Make You Smarter

Did you know that certain games can help improve cognitive skills, reflexes and abstract thinking?

And getting smarter is never a waste of time unless you are the smartest human in the world. Did you also know that, while game apps are ever popular, so are board games? The number-crunchers over at statista.com have reported tremendous growth of global board game market value beginning in 2017 at $7 Billion and project that number to soar to $12 Billion through 2023.

Suffice it to say that digital and physical games are here to stay, and if you’re interested in working on your brain, below, we discuss games that make you smarter.


Word Games

Word Games are familiar to almost everyone. There are the classics like crossword puzzles and Scrabble, along with thousands of apps. Whichever word game you choose, there’s a host of advantages for your brain to feast on.

  • Increased neuroplasticity
  • Improved vocabulary and spelling
  • Better communication skills
  • Increased attention span
  • Improved creative problem solving

With so many choices, it’s a brain exercise just choosing your game…unless there existed a certain, locally loved specialty retailer that designs baskets with game themes. By golly and 🚨SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT🚨, I’ve found one! BasketWorks’ Boredom Buster Gift Basket.

Of course, this is just one of many gift baskets with brainy games like a crossword and 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

Memory Games and Puzzles

Improving your memory and problem-solving skills can be easy and fun if you take the right approach. Puzzles are one of the best ways to sharpen your abstract thinking and heighten your memory.

  • Rubik’s Cube
  • Jigsaw Puzzles
  • Simon Says
  • Jenga
  • Sudoku

Just don’t be that person who shares your high scores on social media!

Strategy Games

More often, multiplayer strategy games can be a fun way to compete with a friend while giving your noodle a workout.

Forcing you to think quickly, strategy games are a great way to boost your decision-making skills and make you a better strategist. Learning to quickly analyze a situation and choose the best option can sound stressful, but playing strategy games can help improve those skills, giving you the confidence to think on your feet and make great decisions.

With unlimited options, here are just a few to get the ball rolling:

  • Board Games (Monopoly, Risk, Settlers of Catan)
  • Kids games (Sorry, Trouble)
  • Chess
  • Tetris
  • Role-Playing Games
  • Countless apps and video games

Solo or with friends, strategy games are always a winner when you’re looking for ways to train your noggin.

Now that you’ve got some ideas for ways to exercise your brain, get gaming!

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Gluten-Free Doesn’t Mean Flavor-Free

When some of us hear “gluten-free”, our response is “blech”, referring to taste because we presume gluten-free foods have compromised flavor. 

We live in a culinary golden age where food scientists can take oats and create milk, and to that end, they’ve also managed to create delicious gluten-free foods that taste as good as foods that are gluten-filled.

How can this be? Read on. 

Why Gluten?

Why is gluten present in so many of our foods? 

Simply put, gluten acts as a binder. Found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye, gluten is a protein that adds a stretchy quality to foods, often improving the texture of things like breads by allowing the dough to stretch without tearing apart. 

But that doesn’t mean gluten is necessary, nor does it mean that gluten-free alternatives can’t be just as tasty.

In fact, many people who stop eating gluten find that their diet doesn’t need to change much. Many of the gluten-free choices are the same ones they’ve always eaten. The reality is, if you’re making healthy choices, and avoiding processed foods, spotting gluten and avoiding it is pretty easy.

Why Gluten-Free? 

There are many reasons people choose to cut gluten from their diet. The main reason is celiac disease, where intolerance to gluten causes an immune reaction in the small intestine. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Abdominal Bloating
  • Chronic Diarrhea/Loose Bowel Movements
  • Chronic Gas
  • Acid Reflux
  • Skin Rash
  • Constipation
  • Peripheral Neuropathy

Alternatives to Gluten

Now you’re probably asking, “well what about foods WITH gluten, like bread and pastries?” 

Fortunately, there are many alternatives that allow you to enjoy the same foods you love, without the gluten. We’ve already touched on what gluten does, so how do we get that stretchy, binding effect? There are a few options available.

Gluten substitutes, like xanthan gum, gelatin, or our favorite vegan option, agar-agar, add the elasticity needed to hold stretchy doughs together. With a little practice, these alternatives will take your gluten-free baking to the next level.

Gluten-free flours are becoming more popular, and as a result, are also becoming more readily available. Try experimenting with different flours to find what you like best in your favorite recipes. There are many different flours to try, each with its own unique flavor and texture.

  • Pea Flour
  • Coconut Flour
  • Buckwheat Flour
  • Millet Flour
  • Sorghum Flour
  • Amaranth Flour

Here’s the thing, let’s say you’re…cough…in need of a…cough…gift basket for someone with a gluten-free lifestyle. You don’t need to…cough…search high and low. Look no further than our… 

🚨SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT🚨

🚨SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT🚨 

🚨SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT🚨 

🚨SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT🚨 

🚨SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT🚨  

…wonderful assortment of gluten-free gift baskets like this one with foods that already don’t contain gluten (peanut brittle, popcorn, cashews) and foods made without gluten (gluten-free cookies) but still taste delicious.  

So put on that apron and start experimenting with some recipes, or place an order for one our inimitable gift baskets. The flavorful world of gluten-free awaits!

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The Health Benefits of Cheese

It’s baaaaaaaaaack…Our next installment of our The Health Benefits of Fill-In-The-Blank Unlikely Foodstuff. 

Last time it was pasta, and today it’s an item we normally don’t associate with “good for you.” 

Who can blame us either? When something is as delicious as cheese–and associated with pizza, burgers, curds, and Opa!–how could it possibly enter the realm of healthy?  

That’s what we’re here for. Not only do we (shameless plug whisper) procure cheese and feature it in our gift baskets, but we’ve also conducted our research, leveraging the world’s foremost cheese scientists (the Internet) to coax out its health benefits. 

Read on, friends. 

High In Calcium

Dairy foods are high in calcium. 

Calcium is imperative for good bone and muscle health. Without it, bones and teeth grow slowly and struggle to recover from damage. Not good. Calcium is also known to prevent osteoporosis as we get older. Plus, foods high in calcium can help reduce blood pressure.

Packed With Protein 

Protein is the building block for our body’s cells, making muscle growth and recovery faster and providing us with energy. 

This essential nutrient is found in spades in cheese. In addition, the dairy fats in cheese contain Conjugated Linoleic acid (gesundheit!), which can help ease inflammation and even aid in the prevention of heart disease and obesity!

Below are popular cheese varieties and their nutritional content per average serving: 

Mozzarella 28g

  • Calories – 85
  • Protein – 6 grams
  • Fat – 6 grams
  • Carbs – 1 gram
  • Sodium – 176 mg
  • Calcium – 14% of recommended daily intake (RDI)

Feta 28g

  • Calories – 80
  • Protein – 6 grams
  • Fat – 5 grams
  • Carbs – 1 gram
  • Sodium – 370 mg
  • Calcium – 10% of recommended daily intake (RDI)

Ricotta 124g

  • Calories – 180
  • Protein – 12 grams
  • Fat – 12 grams
  • Carbs – 8 gram
  • Sodium – 300 mg
  • Calcium – 20% of recommended daily intake (RDI)

Cheddar 28g

  • Calories – 115
  • Protein – 7 grams
  • Fat – 9 grams
  • Carbs – 1 gram
  • Sodium – 180 mg
  • Calcium – 20% of recommended daily intake (RDI)

Parmesan 28g

  • Calories – 110
  • Protein – 10 grams
  • Fat – 7 grams
  • Carbs – 3 grams
  • Sodium – 330 mg
  • Calcium – 34% of recommended daily intake (RDI)

Goat Cheese 28g

  • Calories – 75
  • Protein – 5 grams
  • Fat – 6 grams
  • Carbs – 0 grams
  • Sodium – 130 mg
  • Calcium – 4% of recommended daily intake (RDI)

Other Stuff

Along with calcium and protein, cheese is also crammed with other great stuff, including:

  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus
  • Vitamins A and B-12
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Riboflavin

Did We Leave Something Out?

Failing to mention a certain substance found in food and always featured in these blogs is akin to The Academy snubbing famous people during the Oscars In Memoriam segment. 

Perish the thought, for ANTIOXIDANTS are alive and well in cheese! 

Yes, the antioxidant, glutathione, known to roam in certain dairy products, including cheese, is vital to brain health and fighting age-related neurodegeneration. Turns out you can have your cheese and brain health and eat them, too!

From possibly reducing our risk of heart disease and promoting gut health to helping prevent diabetes and osteoporosis, we see that cheese can play an important role in a healthy diet. 

You know where you can find some? In (🚨SHAMELESS🚨) this (🚨PLUG🚨) delicious BasketWorks gift basket (🚨ALERT🚨).

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Supporting Small Businesses Strengthens Communities

At BasketWorks, we’re all about supporting small businesses and building community. I mean, jeez, we’ve been in business almost 25 years, so we can speak with some authority on this! 

Not only do small businesses support each other, but they can give a community the uniqueness that reflects its personality and welcomes visitors. Small businesses bring prosperity to communities both financially and by building relationships among its members. 

Today, we take a look at how this happens. 

Financial Advantage

As the little guys and girls, small businesses can have a big impact on  local economies

Local businesses tend to leverage other local businesses to fulfill their needs. You see, it doesn’t always have to be a dog-eat-dog (or cat-scratch-cat) competitive world. Whether it’s a restaurant buying produce from the farm down the road or the local web designer outsourcing graphic design work to a power partner, when entrepreneurs support each other, the entire community wins. BasketWorks walks the walk by referring other basket companies when the need arises. 

It’s not just an increase in business done locally that provides a financial advantage either. All these transactions between businesses lead to:

  • Keeping taxes local
  • Increased employment and income
  • Improved standard of living
  • Increased discretionary income inside the community

Community Identity

Small businesses tend to reflect the ideals of the communities in which they operate. 

Becoming representatives of their communities allows these businesses to cater to the specific needs of the local customer base, creating a true relationship between the business owner and their customers. 

Take us, for example. BasketWorks is a member…hold on a second…forgot to sound the 🚨SHAMELESS PLUG ALARM🚨. Where was I? Ah, yes, member. BasketWorks is a member of the Northbrook Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the GOA Regional Business Association, which further connects us to the communities we serve. With local founders, small businesses truly reflect the local culture, and as a result, can contribute to that identity in a meaningful way. 

This is a benefit for both businesses and customers. It encourages the owner to cater to their local client base, and this, in turn, encourages the customer to shop locally and build a relationship with local entrepreneurs. 

Environmental Impact

How a business operates can have a significant impact on the environment, and small businesses tend to focus more on how they affect the environment by doing the following:

  • Recycling
  • Using fluorescent or led lighting
  • Paperless documentation like email receipts
  • Using sustainable products like printer paper, cleaning products and to-go containers
  • Composting

I will take this opportunity to pat ourselves on the back and note that we recycle all of our incoming boxes, and we use clean fill in the bottom of baskets, including  packing peanuts we receive in shipment and the bits of cello we cut off the top of the wraps.

We also accept clean packing materials, we’ve installed LED lighting in our office, and we make a concerted effort to order products within 500 miles to reduce our carbon footprint. We can’t leave out composting. Rather than toss coffee grounds (from our daily nectar of the gods) and fruit peels into the garbage, we compost them.

Small business is good business. Small business owners are truly the lifeblood of their communities by helping their local economies through job creation, tourism, and supporting fellow businesses.   

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Why’s It So Darn Hard To Shop For Valentine’s Day?

The gift-giving experience is a dichotomy: we literally don’t have to leave our houses or even our couches to shop for and order gifts. Yet it can feel like we’re pulling our own teeth because we are terrified of buying the wrong thing and of feeling shame and embarrassment over it. 

Is there a bigger contradiction between the joy that a holiday symbolizes and the stress and anxiety that comes with celebrating it? Among the holidays that cause the most shopping angst for people is Valentine’s Day. I have to laugh at this excerpt from an article in Forbes that lists 20 reasons why not everyone is completely happy during Valentine’s Day:

1. Being reminded that you’re not in a relationship

2. Being reminded that you are in a relationship

I’m not judging anyone who gets overwhelmed by any holiday; rather, I’m here to examine why we do and what you can do to put your mind at ease and actually enjoy Valentine’s Day. 

Too Much Chocolate To Choose From 

Sometimes too much chocolate is a problem, as in there being too many options to make a decision. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate dipped this, chocolate infused that. Where do you even begin?  I mean, if only there were a retail site where one could shop for items. 💞💞💞SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT – VALENTINE’S DAY EDITION💞💞💞 

Oh sorry. Once again, someone tripped and set off that alarm. Since they did, you can find a small but mighty selection of gift baskets with delicious chocolates on this page

It’s Difficult To Be Original 

Maybe chocolate’s not your thing. Sometimes people want to stand out and present a gift that’s outside the box (Get it? Like a chocolate box that you’re standing on the outside of? See what I did there?) The good news is that if you want to go the food route, there are tons of other options. 

Sticking with sweet, gourmet donuts and cookies are all the rage, and there are definitely those with Valentine’s themes. For savory, how about preparing a charcuterie and cheese board? 

You Can’t Find Roses 

It does happen. 

If you wait until the last minute, you may be R.O.L or Rose Out of Luck. Fortunately, florists and other places that sell flowers have other choices. A while back, The Washington Post ran a story on this very topic. The florist owner who was interviewed suggested orchids because they’re perceived as being exotic and lasting longer than flowers, followed by tulips and carnations. 

You Can’t Find “The Perfect” Gift

Here’s a tip: there’s no such thing as the perfect gift. It’s as elusive as a lawn in Chicagoland that’s not covered in snow right now. 

Think of it as the right gift instead of the perfect one. How do you find the right gift?  Make it personal. Personalized gifts show kindness, thoughtfulness, and empathy, you know, everything your Valentine wants to receive. 

Writing The Card

This is a pressure-cooker no matter how you pressure-cook it. If you’re in a new relationship, and this is your first Valentine’s Day together, you need to knock it out of the park with the sweetest, most poetic and lyrical card message ever. On the flipside, if you’ve been married for 20-plus years, how could you compose something original? 

Three words: Make it genuine. Tell them what they mean to you, why you appreciate them, and why you love them. Give examples, like how they helped you when you were experiencing a challenging period, or made you laugh, or how they listened to you when you needed to be heard. 

It turns out that Valentine’s Day shopping doesn’t have to be fraught with worry and aggravation. Hopefully these tips will allow you to look forward to the holiday and quality time with your loved ones. 

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BasketWorks Is Different: Here Are 6 Ways We Stand Out

Today’s blog post is a combination of crowing and appreciation. As the title suggests, we discuss what makes BasketWorks unique, but we’re able to achieve these differentiators because of our customers and community. You inspire our creativity and innovation and remind us that when our hands are achy from designing and assembling gift baskets, it’s the hurts-so-good kind of pain.

Let’s get into it! Here are six ways that BasketWorks stands out.

1) Oodles of Experience 

We’ve got a very important anniversary coming up: 25 years in business (more on that in the coming weeks), also known as the Silver Jubilee or quadricentennial anniversary. According to the Internets, this anniversary can celebrate a marriage, a monarch’s reign, or how long you’ve owned that terry cloth shirt you bought at Structure your freshman year of college. 

The point is that we’ve been at this for a long time, and we know how to design the perfect gift basket that will make you look good to your oh so lucky recipients. 

Oh, I also spent four years working for a florist in college and graduate school, and I just can’t get rid of the attention to detail that experience taught me. 

2) Customization

Okay, there’s customization and then there’s customization

We don’t mess around. Our gift baskets and packages are built-to-order, meaning we can customize from our vast inventory, changing colors, creating custom imprinted ribbon, and adding or removing products (no nuts, add coffee, etc.).

Here’s proof: we once designed a fishing-themed wedding basket for newlyweds who planned to go fly fishing on their honeymoon. I don’t know how many fish they caught, but they were very happy with their gift basket. 

3) We Hunt For The Best Products 

If there were such a thing as gift basket product apex predators, that would be us, except we don’t harm living things. Rather, our staff attends many gift and gourmet shows annually (the International Housewares Show, Sweets & Snacks Show, two Chicago gift shows, and a national gift basket conference where I’ve taught for several years) to find new products and to taste and select every item we use in our gift baskets and gift packages. 

We understand that our customers have different palettes and nutritional preferences, which is why we maintain an inventory of gluten free, kosher, heart healthy, and other special diet foods. 

4) Local And Woman-Owned

BasketWorks is a proud, local and woman-owned business, and we support and leverage other small businesses, which helps strengthen our community. We are very active members of our local chambers of commerce, and not to brag or anything, but I was recognized as Volunteer of The Year by the Northbrook Chamber of Commerce & Industry.  

5) At Your Service 

We’re nothing if not consistent with the quality of our customer service because, to sort of quote the great Sally Field, “We like you! We really really like you!” You like us back, we’d like to think because of the following: 

  • We will gladly store your logo items to include in your gift baskets for products like onesies, mugs, pads of paper, and more.

  • We will gladly store your custom cards or business cards to use with your packages.

  • Most orders are shipped out the same or next business day.

  • We can create a custom page for you on our website showing only the products you want to see and/or only your custom products.

  • We return calls quickly, USUALLY  in under two hours but always before the end of the next business day, and you can expect to speak to a real person who can help you.  (I am so compulsive about checking voicemail).

6) We Care About Causes

Mental health awareness is near and dear to our hearts. I’m involved with the Peyton Heart Project and support its mission along with the #StoptheStigma movement to help end suicide and bullying. The project’s mission and name were inspired by many stories, including Peyton James’, a 13-year-old boy, the victim of bullying by peers, who took his own life in 2014. 

According to the Project:

“The delicate hearts, each one made by hand and each one representing the delicate heart of a life lost to suicide, have various inspiring quotes attached to them, along with our social media information. The hearts are placed in public places around the world for people to find during their everyday lives. We hope the hearts cause people to stop for a moment and reflect on a life lost to suicide, on bullying and on the fact that everyone’s life matters.”

I crochet and distribute thousands of hearts annually as part of this initiative. If you would like hearts, please email info@79gifts.com or call 847-599-9379. I’ve also presented to my synagogue on my experience with depression, which you can view here

We can’t thank you enough for your support. We will keep on keeping on! 

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The Health Benefits Of Pasta

Hopefully the title of this blog post just blew your mind. 

Pasta? Healthy? For Real?!?!

Indeed. 

But put the breaks on your chicken Parmesan, bucatini carbonara, and gnocchi bolognese carryout order. Pasta can only be healthy if you, well, make it healthy. 

The good news is that there are plenty of options to satiate you without making you feel like a total pasta sellout. For example–Whoa! What’s That? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a 🚨SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT🚨–spinach fettuccine like the one featured in our Lotsa Pasta Gift Basket

It’s time to set the table, put on your bib, and read on. 

Pasta Can Help With Glycemic Index 

If you’re not familiar with the Glycemic Index (GI), then you’re like many of the rest of us. 

The GI is a measure of how quickly a food causes our blood sugar levels to rise. We quickly digest and absorb foods with high GI’s, which causes our blood sugar to spike, and that’s unhealthy. Pasta is considered a low GI food and can help your body metabolize it more slowly and lead to lower fluctuations in insulin levels, which is beneficial to your health and weight. 

It’s Part Of The Mediterranean Diet 

Apparently, the secret to life is the Mediterranean diet. 

We hear about it all the time, especially on those doctor’s shows, and for good reason: it’s known to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Consisting of fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil, the diet does not restrict foods like pasta, which means you can eat your pasta and have your Mediterranean diet, too. 

Protein And Fiber-Rich

Why is protein important? For one, you need it to be alive. 

Proteins are considered the “building blocks of life” that fuel our energy and carry oxygen throughout our body in our blood. Our bodies also like protein because they create antibodies to combat infections and illnesses and keep our cells healthy. 

And fiber? We need it to regulate how our bodies use sugar, which helps keep hunger and blood sugar at bay. 

What does this have to do with the price of pasta in your grocery store? There are kinds that are plant-based, gluten-free, and packed with protein and fiber, as you will read next. 

It Comes In Many Healthy Forms 

Lest you thought there was only one kind of pasta, you were mistaken. Culinary innovation has made it possible to fashion pasta out of very very healthy ingredients like these mentioned by EatingWell:

  • Whole-Wheat Pasta: 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein per serving
     
  • Chickpea Pasta: Gluten-free with 8 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein per serving

  • Red Lentil Pasta: Plant-based, gluten-free, iron-rich with 6 grams of fiber and 13 grams of protein per serving

We should note that white pasta, the classic kind, is actually healthier than many folks think. It’s made with semolina flour and enriched with iron, folate, and B vitamins. 

Finally, we regret to inform you that our beloved antioxidants are unable to attend this post. We will make every effort imaginable to reprise our faithful, free radical-eviscerating friends in future blogs. Thank you for understanding. 

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