Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cup of Christmas Cheer

When I refer to a cup of Christmas Cheer I am not referring to spiked eggnog. Although, spiked eggnog could definitely be considered a cup of Christmas Spirit.

As we’ve done for the last few days, let’s talk about giving. Let’s talk about giving a cup of Christmas Cheer.
While you are standing in line to get a cup of coffee or maybe a cup of hot chocolate, why not buy the person behind you a cup? Not sure what the person behind you is going to have, hand the barista a couple of dollars and ask him/her to buy the next Veteran they serve a free cup of coffee on Santa. Or request they buy the next child a free cup of cocoa...with whipped cream.
Coffee not your drink, then perhaps some tea. Whatever your poison, go and offer up a cup or glass of Christmas Spirit (spiked eggnog or other Holiday spirits). Buy the person at the next table.
See a police officer directing traffic on a winter night? Offer him a hot cup of java to make the night pass with a smile and to thank him for his/her service.
Merry Christmas and enjoy a cup of cheer!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Candy Cane Christmas Giveaway

What is the one candy that says Christmas?

Candy cane!

Candy canes are everywhere this time of year, bringing everyone holiday cheer.

Candy canes are used as decorations on Christmas trees and make a fabulous stirrer in a cup of peppermint cocoa.

Crush a candy, add it to a little white chocolate, top that to a dollop of dark chocolate and you have a holiday favorite of peppermint bark.

A candy can is a sweet treat both kids and adults adore.

How does this fit into our Twelve Days of Christmas Spirit? That's easy.

We're going to give them away!

Here is the plan:

  1. Buy candy canes. Doesn't matter whether the big candy canes or the small ones. They cost about a dollar a box. Come on! If you can buy a cup of coffee, you can buy candy canes to give away.
  2. Take candy canes to mall. Pick a mall, large or small, any mall at all. Malls intimidate you, then go to your local coffee shop. It does not matter where you go, just go!
  3. Open box or boxes of candy canes.
  4. Start handing them out! See that harried, last minute shopper, give her a candy cane and wish him a Merry Christmas. See that dad with dragging his kids through the mall looking for gifts for the wife, give him a candy cane and wish him a Happy Holiday. What about your favorite barista? Give him or her a candy cane and say thank you for a great cup of coffee.
Merry Christmas and have fun!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Give the gift of warmth

It's winter! Have you noticed? Some may have noticed more than others. I live in new England and we are having an unusually warm winter, by warm I mean only down to the 30s.

But it is winter and almost Christmas. With winter and Christmas comes cold and people needing to stay warm, especially those people who walk to work or those people who are homeless and living on the street.

Let's help these people out and give the gift of warmth!

Have you read or seen the articles about people leaving scarves or cold weather gear like hats and mittens on telephone or light poles? Well, let's join the fun!

Do you have any yarn sitting around waiting to be knit or crocheted? Take that yarn and knit up a scarf or crochet a hat and leave them for a complete stranger who could appreciate it.

I will even bet some of you have a scarf that your grandma or relative gave you that you have never even worn and maybe has the tags left on them. Don't let it take up space. Give it away!

Take your hand-knit scarf or your closet hiding scarf that isn't keeping anyone warm to the nearest light pole or telephone, wrap it around the thing and give it away.

Now, if you tie a scarf to a pole most people will probably just walk by thinking it was lost. To avoid this, attach a personal note. Something like you see in the picture to the right or maybe a little more festive.

You could try, "I am not lost, but I am looking for a good home. Take me, I'm yours; a gift of warmth from a total stranger and some holiday cheer. Merry Christmas!" You get the idea.

Have fun with it. Spread warmth and holiday smiles. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas spirit, running style

Following our Twelve Days of Christmas Challenge, I thought of another way we might be able to give. I call it Christmas Spirit, Running Style.

Give a gift from a runner or to a runner.

As a runner, I know I have lots of shoes and T-shirts. At one time or another a runner buys shoes when they are on sale because he/she thinks, "Oh my gosh! I have to get them while they are cheap!" If the word cheap can actually be applied to running shoes. And then he or she falls in love with a totally different pair of shoes and the ones they bought are sitting in their closet in a box never opened, never worn. Aww. Very sad.

Sound familiar? Are you guilty of this? I know I am. As a matter of fact, I have at least three pair of running shoes sitting in boxes in my closet never opened, never worn.

Hmmm...what should or could I do with these? Last year I held on to them and donated them at the Vermont City Marathon. This year, however, I am going to do something similar to the Christmas in Books. I am going to leave a pair of unused shoes in a box with a note inside, wishing the new runner a Merry Christmas!

Did it cost me anything? Not really. I had already spent the money and it was sitting wasted in my closet. Will it make someone's day? I hope so. Could I be contributing to the insanity of a future runner or walker. That would be fabulous! Even better, I would be giving the gift of health. A pair of running shoes that could spur on someone to meet their New Year's resolution to walk every day, or run their first 5K or better yet, get healthy.

There is more. As a runner who regularly participates in races, I have T-shirts. Lots of them! Where are they? In my closet, under my bed, in a chair, or anywhere else I can find space for them.

Here we have two options. If you have a runner in the family and you know where they store all those unworn T-shirts, why not upcycle them into something useful like a quilt or a handbag or duffle bag. Heck, why not placemats for the truly obsessed runner in the family.

If you're a runner and don't wear your race T-shirts and want to see them put to good use then give them away. Wrap them up and drop them off at a homeless shelter or a women's shelter. Or, if you are feeling energetic then take a handful on your next run and tie a few to various telephone poles with a Christmas ribbon and a note wishing the future wearer a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas in Books

Last night I visited a local bookstore. This is a regular occurrence for me as I am a HUGE reader and lover of books, not to mention an author.

I was on a mission for a couple of Christmas themed books.

I picked up two books by a couple of my favorite authors: "A Knights Bridge Christmas" by Carla Neggers and "Christmas in Mustang Creek" by Linda Lael Miller.

I will probably have them both read by the weekend and will need others. What can I say? I love to read!

When you think of Christmas gifts for kids or teenagers or even adults, what do you think of?

Most people think of electronics or clothes, or jewelry, and everything else in between.

What about BOOKS?!

In this day of electronics, we have Kindle and Nook and even phones to read a book. Yes, you could buy someone a giftcard to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Better yet, you could share a book you loved. Share your joy!

This year I'm giving all of my relatives a book. (Oops! I hope none of them are reading this.) I shared with each of them a copy of a book I enjoyed or an author I love to read. Some of the books are even autographed by the authors. How fun is that?!

Anyway, as I was standing in the checkout line at the bookstore I noticed this bin of books just looking for a home. It was a bin of books that needed a buyer so they could be donated to a child. How can you not give a book to a child? You are not only offering them a Christmas gift, but you're offering them a chance at literacy.

Books make great gifts, super stocking stuffers, and open a new world for a child or adult to see and experience.

Can't afford to buy another book? Got any books on a bookshelf? Then take one off the shelf and to your local coffee shop and leave an already read book behind.

Yes, you read that right. Take a book you've read, add a little note on the inside telling the reader that you left this book so someone else could enjoy it and wish them a Merry Christmas and leave the book.

I do this all the time! If you ever visit Panera in Bedford, NH then you may have spotted a book next to the fireplace at one time or another. As a matter of fact...look for more this weekend.

And as my Twelve Days of Christmas Spirit blog says, let's give ALL YEAR. Share your love of books with others, with total strangers, with someone who maybe can't afford to buy a book. Read and share!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Remember our Troops and Veterans this holiday season

Many of you know I am a runner. Actually, in the past year I have become an ultra runner. What is an ultra runner? Someone who runs or in my case run/walks more than a marathon (26.2 miles).

You also know I am a huge supporter of our Veterans and giving back. Every Christmas I make it my mission to make as many Veterans Christmas special. But, as my earlier post Twelve Days of Christmas Spirit Challenge mentioned, we want the spirit of giving to continue throughout the year.

In that hope, I have combined my love of running with the goal of giving throughout the year by registering for the Rock the Ridge 50-miler with the goal of raising money for Team RWB whose mission it is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

This is the second year I am running for Team RWB and the Veterans and as it is the season of love and charity, I am hoping you all will help me in supporting this wonderful organization and the people who have served our country to keep us safe. Let's show our Veterans our love and thanks by giving back.

If you have it in your heart and have money in your pocket you can spare, please help click this link to my crowdfunding page and donate at Denise's Rock the Ridge for Team RWB funding site.

If you're not ready to donate at my site then please, thank an active Service Member or Veteran this Christmas. Thank him or her for their service, offer a hug, a handshake of gratitude, or buy a member of our military a cup of coffee.

Happy holidays and a big thank you to our Troops and our Veterans. Merry Christmas!

In the spirit

Today I was in the holiday spirit. Today I played Santa at the office, delivering gift bags to the team of engineers whom I have the extreme pleasure to work with and several co-workers who make my worklife interesting and many times fun.

Is it just me or is there any greater gift than giving?

It doesn't matter how much or how little you spend, whether its store bought or handmade.

Remember, the old addage, "It's the thought that counts." There are reasons we have such sayings. Because they are based in fact.

Letting someone know that you thought about them is a wondrous gift. It could be a text, and email, or in the case of 10 days before Christmas, a small gift bag with little items to make their day a little more sweet and enjoyable.

You can handmake a card, or in my case my mom (the crafty woman in the family) handmade Christmas candybar wrappers and I stuffed them with the chocolate bars.

Why not offer up a little warmth for those cold winter days with a mug and a jar of hot cocoa mix and a bag of mini-marshmallows. Sweeten up a day with a box of chocolates or a tin of Christmas cookies. Or offer up something simple and seasonal like a candy cane.

Whatever you do, give it from the heart and offer it with cheer, for the smile you receive will last all year.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Twelve Days of Christmas Spirit Challenge

What is Christmas about?

I was hanging with a couple of girlfriends the other day and we were talking about Christmas. We talked about how it has become so commercialized that the true spirit of giving has become almost lost amongst the commercials, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, madness.

It’s about buying everything for your kids or buying the most expensive gift for a loved one even though they can probably buy it themselves.
Do you open your gifts with your children and on Christmas morning ask, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?”

When did it become about receiving? And seriously, everything you wanted? Is this what we want our children to believe? That all they have to do is wait for one day in December and everything they want will be packaged up in a pretty box and topped off with a bow, waiting under a Christmas tree?
We’ve lost the spiritual meaning of Christmas. And I don’t mean the spirit in the sky or wherever you believe it might be. I mean the spirit inside us. Each of us.

During this conversation yesterday, one girlfriend mentioned how when her daughter was younger they would take her daughter’s allowance and go buy toys to give to Toys for Tots. She taught her daughter that the true Christmas Spirit was about giving, not receiving. They still donate every year.
I have friends that will serve Christmas dinner at a homeless shelter. Of course, they serve at the homeless shelter more than on just Christmas, but he, his wife, and their two children give their time and their caring to those less fortunate. The spirit of Christmas.

Me, I have a thing for giving back. I want to make the Christmas of our Veterans a happy one. Every year a friend of mine who owns a small business in Bedford, NH called Just Naturals puts out the Veterans gift tree on Veterans Day. Then anyone who wants to give picks a tag from the tree that has a name, the branch of service the Veteran served, his/her age, and the list of what that person would like for Christmas. It’s a humbling experience.
They ask for the simplest things, the things you and I probably take for granted. They ask for cookies and candy, toiletries, socks, hats and gloves, sweatshirts and sweatpants. Occasionally you will see bigger items like a blanket, a comforter, or a winter coat. I saw all of these this year on the tags that I pulled. These are the people that I want to give everything they want, not because they asked for it but because they gave everything they had in serving our country and keeping us safe. This year my oldest Veteran was Robert, a 97 year-old Army Veteran. Merry Christmas, Robert!

This year I even reached out via Facebook and posted about my Veterans and the outpouring of support was amazing. The next thing you know a runner I just met a month before at the Marine Corps Marathon sent me money. An author friend of mine in Spain sent me money. Another author donated a 5 pound box of peppermint lollipops, and yet another donated clothing. There are many more people like these wonderful ladies who understand it’s better to give than receive.
But you know what? You do receive.

You donate your time, your energy, and sometimes even your money and it fills you up. It starts out small with a tingling feeling in the pit of your stomach that you can’t quite explain. Then when you’re wrapping the eighth package of socks to donate to a total stranger a smile curves your lips. When you place all the candy and cookies into a gigantic box, your heart skips a beat and starts tapping out to the beat of It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. When you package the box of toiletries, winter hats, and gloves, etc. for the Veterans home that is for those men/women getting their lives together after spending it on the streets and homeless, it hits you like a sledge hammer or one of those sappy commercials that you can’t help but cry. And when you stuff that comforter into a Christmas bag and all you hope is that Robert likes the color blue there's a warmth that feels your soul.
The true spirit of Christmas is in giving, and in that giving you receive so much more.

Those of you who know me know that while I may go overboard at Christmastime giving back, I mean how can I not, I also give back or pay it forward all year long. To quote Charles Dickens, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Will you? Can you?

Sometimes it takes a little push, a little incentive to get people to move in the right direction. Let’s see if we can do that.
We are 12 days away from Christmas. Less than two weeks. Your mission, should you choose to take it, is to give. Give to a total stranger an act of Christmas Kindness.

For the next 12 days - Give your time, your energy, your scarf from around your neck, or your money. Whatever you can afford to give. Give to a stranger.
I will bet you that if you do this, by Christmas morning you will have the Spirit of Christmas and you won’t soon forget it. Who knows, you might keep it in your heart all year long.

I hope you do and I wish you a very merry Christmas filled with love and the joy of giving!

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