Monday, November 30, 2009

Ways To Share And Care When You Have Nothing To Spare

This holiday, more people than ever will need just a little help to enjoy the season. How can we help others when we too are suffering the effects of the economic downturn? Even if you think you have nothing to spare, there are small ways you can make a difference.

Did your child receive a toy from a well-meaning yet distant relative that wasn't exactly age-appropriate, or something he or she would enjoy? Local fire departments host toy drives every year where they ask for still-packaged toys which they distribute to kids in need.

Do you have some cans of soup, chili or vegetables which you bought on sale and your family didn't like? Donate them to a canned food drive in your area.

Do you have some toiletries or makeup samples lying around? Did someone gift you with a bottle of shower gel for your birthday with a fragrance you don't care for, or a book you wouldn't enjoy? Deliver them to a women's shelter or retirement community. They are always looking for donations, especially this time of year.

Are there some holiday decorations that you just don't use anymore? You could offer them on or donate them to a local thrift store so that someone who needs them can have them.

If you are unable to donate money or goods this year, what about giving your time? Many local churches and organizations such as women's clubs, the Salvation Army and Lion's and Rotary clubs need volunteers for relief events they are organizing this season. Check with local organizations to see if they need workers for toy drives, grocery giveaways, holiday breakfasts and dinners for the needy, etc. Local SPCA's and animal shelters may also need volunteers for holiday adoption drives.

Don't forget about people in your own neighborhood who may need help. You may have elderly neighbors that could use some assistance putting up their tree or Christmas lights. A "secret santa" gift left on the porch of a nearby family you know are having a tough time this year would be a nice gesture.

I hope this post has shown you some ways you can help out this season, even if you are experiencing some financial challenges yourself. Please share your own ideas for giving something back to the community.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Uncork Your Creativity This Christmas

I'd like to share the directions for a quick and easy Christmas craft with you. We will be making a cute Christmas tree-shaped trivet which will come in handy for holding those hot cookie sheets and casserole dishes during all of your holiday baking and gatherings. You will need 34 wine corks, some glue such as Elmer's, and one sheet of green felt which you can get at the craft store. If you don't have corks saved up, you can ask friends to save theirs, make friends with a bar owner, or order some on ebay.

It is easiest to work on a non-stick surface such as the backing from a sheet of labels or stickers. This keeps your trivet from sticking to your work surface while it is drying. Arrange your corks in rows on your non-stick surface. The top row will have one cork, the second row will have two corks, the third row three corks, the fourth row four corks, the fifth row five corks, the sixth row six corks, and the seventh row seven corks. The eighth and ninth rows will each have three corks. After you have arranged all of the corks, remove them one at a time, squeezing a line of glue between each where they connect and replacing it. Eventually the corks will all be back in place, and there will be glue between them on all sides where they connect. Leave the trivet to dry overnight. When it is completely dry, place it on the green felt, and draw around it with a piece of chalk. Cut out the felt about 1/2" smaller than the chalk line all the way around. Glue to the bottom of the trivet, being careful not to make the glue too thick or it will seep through the felt and show.

After it is completely dry, your trivet is ready for duty! These trivets also make a nice hostess gift if you are going to a party at someone else's house. Please let me know how you like it if you make one. I use mine every holiday season!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Custom-Made Celebration

This Thanksgiving, why not start some new family traditions? Thanksgiving is one of the few days of the year when extended families are typically gathered together. What better time to start some new holiday customs?

How about a long walk together after dinner? I'm sure everyone would welcome the chance to walk off that turkey and the extra helping of mashed potatoes! If there's nowhere to walk in your neighborhood, you could always drive to a nearby park or trail.

One idea I'm sure the hostess would appreciate is drawing names for chores. Since the person hosting has gone through all the work of preparing the meal, it's only fair that everyone else should pitch in with setting the table, clearing the table, loading and unloading the dishwasher, etc.

A particularly nice tradition, in my opinion, is to invite friends or acquaintances who are not having their own family get-together to celebrate with your family. If your guests are from another country, have them bring a traditional dish from their homeland to share. This should bring some new and interesting foods into the mix!

Some families pose with the entire clan for a picture on Thanksgiving Day. This photo is then used to create their annual Christmas cards. In larger families, sometimes names are drawn on Thanksgiving for the Christmas gift exchange as well.

Another nice idea is a toast at the dinner table in honor of family members who have achieved something during the year. It could be a promotion, high school graduation, a marriage, the birth of a new child, beating cancer, etc. For non-drinkers, make sure to have some sparkling cider on hand so they can participate.

After the table is cleared and everyone is in a turkey torpor, why not pull out those traditional holiday films and get into the holiday spirit? It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street are two of my favorites.

If the women in your family usually go shopping on Black Friday, what about having the women in the family sleep over so they can get an early start in the morning? While they are pounding the pavement for deals, the men can be pulling out the Christmas decorations and getting a jump on decking the halls!

I hope this post gives you a few new ideas for ways to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family. I would love to hear what some of your traditions are, too!