Can you feed one more for Christmas?

Mince pie

Mmmm mince pies

Everywhere I go right now I’m bombarded with images of holiday food. And it looks delicious. For health reasons I’m following a strict AIP Paleo diet at the moment, and with no grains, eggs, dairy, sugar, nightshades (tomatoes, chillies, potatoes, peppers, eggplants and more) allowed, I often feel a bit sorry for myself. I mean, who doesn’t fancy a good old fashioned Quality Street or M&S mince pie whilst wrapping presents? Today was one of those days.

I was also looking for inspiration for my one good thing. Luckily, some friends and fellow bloggers came to the rescue with the following ideas. And they’re food related too. Perfect.

No Kid Hungry – right now 1 in 5 kids in the USA is going hungry. A shocking statistic. This charity is dedicated to ending child hunger and can provide 100 meals for a donation of just $10. If you have $10 to spare, this is definitely a good way to make the most of it.

One More for Christmas – Did you know that for less than the cost of one portion of Christmas dinner (£16, in case you were wondering), you can feed a child for a whole year? Mary’s Meals is a UK organization behind the ‘One More for Christmas’ campaign, and for a donation of £12.20 you will feed a child at a place of education in some of the world’s poorest communities for an entire school year.

I did a quick online donation to each and felt good for the rest of the evening – even without a mince pie.

Lollypop, lollypop

Yesterday it rained, and rained. This morning we woke to a dreary grey sky and more rain. It was almost like being back in the North of England. Except the people weren’t being quite as friendly. I think the bad weather brings out the grumpiness in New Yorkers. So today I decided to spread a little holiday cheer for my one good thing. 

I bought a cheap bag of lollipops (or dum dums?!) and handed them out to everyone I thought needed a little pick me up.  I gave one to the grumpy security guard in my local supermarket, and one to the guy selling hats and gloves (and trying to stay dry) on the street. As the rain turned to snow I took my dog for a walk in Central Park and continued with the handouts. To the dog walkers bracing themselves against the blizzard-like conditions, to the guy who’d popped to the local store in his flip flops and got caught out by the snow, and to the doorman standing out in the cold to help others get inside quickly.

Reactions ranged from bemusement to joy. Some people were blasé (or maybe they were so busy they didn’t look up to notice what I had handed them). My only negative reaction came from a woman in the park who told me she didn’t eat sugar and handing out ‘balls of sugar was hardly a good deed’ and that I should ‘think of something else’! I should have known. It is New York after all. My best reaction came from the Traffic Cop on the corner of my street doing a great job in miserable conditions. She literally beamed at me.

I hope I managed to spread just a little bit of joy on this dreary grey (and snowy) day. I know it made me feel better.

Make an old lady very happy…

I’ve had some great messages of support via text, email, Facebook, Twitter and on here too. I’ve also had some suggestions for things to do. So if you’re looking for inspiration to do one good thing, here are a few ideas from this wonderful printable Random Acts of Christmas Kindness advent calendar which was sent to me by my lovely friend Dallas at Skilled With Kids.

Tape change to a vending machine

Pay for a stranger’s coffee

Donate books to the library or hospital

Give treats to the postman

There are also some fantastic ideas from the Karma Army in this book.  From leaving a sweetie on each seat in the cinema and giving someone on their way home bacon and eggs for the morning after, to buying toys for a maternity ward and telling staff to give them to whoever needs them… the book is full of personal stories and snippets and have given me some great ideas to keep up the momentum for the rest of the month. In fact I’m using one of their ideas today – but I need your help!

First a bit of background. When my mum and Dad first got divorced we moved into a tiny house in a not-so-salubrious part of town. It wasn’t a great house – the front door opened straight into the living room and the always-freezing-cold bathroom was off the kitchen. Me and my brother had to share a room and there was no garden – just a back yard we shared with our next door neighbor, Jessie.

Jessie was an elderly lady who was probably the happiest, friendliest person I have ever met. She had a bright yellow front door  to match her sunny disposition and a kick-ass rocking chair. Me and my brother loved spending time at her house (and fighting over that rocking chair). I assumed Jessie had passed on a while ago, as to my eight year old self she seemed very, very old. But I recently learned she is still alive and well – and best of all I managed to get her current address, so today for my one good thing I’m sending her a Christmas card this year. But that’s not all. I would really, really love it if she got a pile of cards from people all over the world (i.e. you lot) to simply wish her a Merry Christmas. She really is a lovely lady and I just know it would make her Christmas. I don’t want to put her address on here, but if you send me your details (or leave them in the comments), I will forward them to you and in return I will happily send a card to someone you want to wish a really, really special Christmas to too.

So let’s make an old lady very happy. And Jessie too. Thanks in advance.

A dog is for life…

According to recent research, pets really do know it’s Christmas. And this adorable video by the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home showing puppies preparing for their first ever Christmas certainly shows they are enjoying it.

Christmas puppy

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home puppies enjoying the holiday season…

Inspired by the Battersea campaign, a visit to PetCo on the school run home gave me the perfect opportunity to my one good thing today. There was collection for shelter animals – a chance to spread cheer to our four legged friends in need. It was a reminder that animal shelters all over the world will be filled with cats and dogs this Christmas.

The donation bin was looking a little sad with a few chew toys and a collar in there. So I dropped in some food, and one of these great bars that operates a one for one system and gives a treat to a pet in need for every bar sold…

DogsBar 2

There are plenty of ways you can help out animals around the holidays – you can even do it from the comfort of your own home through the fantastically-named Santa Paws. In the past five years, Santa Paws Drive has raised more than $55,000 in toys, treats and donations for shelters all over the world – from Greyhound Rescue in the UK to the only animal shelter in Afghanistan.
And Battersea Dogs home is also asking for help with donations – you can go online to donate a present to one of their 400 dogs or 250 cats.

If pets really do know it’s Christmas, surely they deserve a little holiday cheer too?!

Dear Santa… please can I have a donation to TINT?

With family and friends back in the UK, we do our Christmas shopping in two halves nowadays. The things we need to mail back to the UK get done first… We’ve been focussing on those, so I haven’t thought about what to get for my friends and family here in New York yet. And I haven’t thought about what I’d like from Santa either…

Santa Rescue

But watching the annual FDNY Santa Rescue at the fire museum this morning got us talking about presents for each other and our little man.

This year, in an effort to be a little more minimalist and keep our tiny 2-bed apartment as clutter-free as possible, we are using something I spotted as a comment on this site… And buying the following for each other…

Something we want,
Something we need,
Something to wear,
And something to read.

Still plenty to open without going present-crazy. My husband, who is a great gift giver was also talking about a few stocking fillers (or stocking stuffers as they say out here in the US). Instead of a few inexpensive novelty items I asked him for something else instead… A donation to The Isaac Nash Trust. (TINT).

Earlier this year, the young boy of an ex-colleague was swept out to see off Anglesey. He was 12 years old. He was swimming with his younger brother Xander when tragedy struck. Their father managed to rescue Xander, but despite heroic attempts their grandpa just couldn’t hold onto Isaac. He was lost.

Isaac Nash

Isaac Nash, the 12 year old boy from Huddersfield, who died after being swept out to sea.

You can read the heartbreaking story here.

The family also have a young girl who’s a similar age to my little one, and although I only knew Adam (Isaac’s dad) for a short time whilst working in Leeds, the news from home deeply affected me. I can only imagine what the family is going through and my heart goes out to those two young children who will forever be without their big brother.

The Trust is aiming to raise £100,000 for a skate park in Isaac’s memory and an additional £10,000 for the RNLI who worked hard on the day of the tragedy (as they do every day of the year – including Christmas Day). They have raised more than £60,000 so far, and it would be a great Christmas gift to help them get a little closer to their target. If you want to help too, you can donate to the fund here, or if you prefer, purchase a Huddersfield Examiner 2015 calendar full of stunning images from the local area for just £6. All profits go to The Isaac Nash Trust.

Feeling inspired? Why not ask Santa for a donation to a charity close to your heart for Christmas this year? There are so many great causes out there, but if you know Adam or the Nashes, or simply want to help this wonderful family, consider a donation to TINT.

It’ll be lonely this Christmas…

NYC Christmas tree home

Taking home the tree

Today has been a day all about one thing – Christmas. This morning we picked out our tree and schlepped it home (New York Style), we wrapped gifts listening to the Salvation Army playlist, and we wrote cards for friends and family back in the UK. It was cold and wet, so it was the perfect afternoon for it. I was only missing one thing – the mince pies.

I know that Christmas cards are becoming obsolete. In fact I read something today that said 2014 is the year the Christmas Card died. One of my best friends has decided to use the money she would have spent on cards to donate to a  charity close to her heart instead, which is a fantastic idea.

I was thinking about a few certain people back home who I really need to write to, and it got me thinking – there are plenty of people who don’t receive cards or gifts and would love to receive something in the mail – especially at this time of year. So I had a look online and found a wonderful organisation called The Forgotten Ones Card Exchange for the Elderly.

Here’s what they have to say:

The Forgotten Ones: International Card Exchange for the Elderly
 
Walk into any nursing home today, and you’ll see them: The aging lonely. They are easily recognizable. Look for the sadness on their faces, the pain in their eyes. With a television on for company, these men and women sit alone in their rooms. Their shelves are bare, their bulletin boards void of pictures, cards, or any memento denoting love from the outside. Those sad eyes may even hold a twinge of bitterness, asking, “Why am I still here with no one to love me?” by Karrie Osborn 

So I added a few addresses to my card list. I’m sending cards to residents in need of cheer at nursing homes, rehab centers, and hospices – from as close as a few blocks away in Harlem to as far as Nairobi and Australia. I chose a few places close to our hearts too – such as Manchester (where my husband’s from) and Edinburgh (where we got married). I sent a few pictures my son had painted/drawn to add a personal touch, and also included a stamped, addressed envelope in case anyone wanted to reply.

Card Exchange for the Elderly Cards

This is definitely a Christmas tradition I will be keeping. I’m already looking forward to next year. What about you? Do you have a few spare cards? If so, don’t put them away for next year, send them to someone who will really, really appreciate the effort and bring a smile to someone’s face.

Got any comments or suggestions? I’d love to hear what you are doing. Get involved below.

Gifts that give back

I happened to go past Bloomingdales today – one of New York’s ‘best department stores‘. The holiday season is in full swing and this year, as part of Advent of Good Things, I have decided to buy as many gifts ‘that give back’ as possible, and I have included some great links below if you’d like to do the same. But I really needed a few presents for those hard to buy for people to send back to the UK. So I went in. Before I go any further I must explain that I really dislike shopping. Hate is a strong word, but I have used it in the same sentence as ‘shopping’ on numerous occasions.

The shopping experience in Bloomingdales is very American. There’s a woman whose job it is to say ‘Welcome to Bloomingdales’ to everyone who walks through the door. Everyone. And that’s a lot of people. The store is so big you need to download an app to find your way around. I walked around and got lost (I didn’t download the app), felt annoyed, and left empty handed. As I was leaving I noticed almost everyone else coming through the door had giant smiles and faces full of excitement and anticipation… people just love to shop!

It made me realise that for me, gifts that give back are definitely the way to go. It’s so easy and you can find something for pretty much everyone. I say pretty much as we all have those people who are particularly difficult to buy for and so in the end I had to go to a normal store to pick up a couple of last gifts. Even then though there was an opportunity to do my one good thing – as I was paying the cashier asked me if I would like to make a donation on top of my purchase, so in the end, that was also a gift that gave back.

Great gifts that give back:

Everyone loves a good bag – especially one that is helping children achieve their dreams.

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Will Bags Wax Coated Dome backpack, ($175

Wax Coated Dome backpack from Will Bags ($175) – helping kids achieve their dreams. I have this bag and I love it.

TheAshton.OliveBlack.Front.478_1024x1024

Stage Bags Ashton Bag, $150

The Ashton – from State Bags ($150) For every backpack sold they had deliver one to a child in need.

Charity gifts – from an Oxfam goat to a Kiva loan. There are so many charity gifts to give. Make it personal by choosing something specific to the person you are gifting to. If they are a nature or wildlife fan try Animal Adoption, if they are a family loving erm… family, why not sponsor a child through Save the Children or World Vision. (as part of his gifts this year our little one will be sponsoring a child – not sure how Santa will driver that one yet!)

Twillory Shirt

Twillory Blue Royal panama Shirt $79

For the man who has everything, how about a Twillory Shirt? They’ll also get a pre-paid mailer bag in which they are encourage to re-gift an old gently warn garment – all they have to do is put it in the envelope and drop it in the mail. Twillory in partnership with CareerGear will inspect, launder and repackage your donated goods for distribution to those in need helping the jobless, homeless and disaster stricken, both at home and abroad.

TimexMiniWeekender_Front_large

ladies Timex Watch, United By Blue, $88

Anything from United By Blue, such as this ladies Timex Watch ($88). The company are dedicated to helping the environment. For every product sold, UBB removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company organized and hosted cleanups. (Tip: they also sell socks!)

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Sevenly Limited Edition Together Were Stronger Flowy Long Sleeve Tee, $36

A graphic tee from Sevenely who donate $7 dollars for every purchase to a different charity every week.

Here are some more great gifts that give back ideas from a round the web:

http://www.kitchencounterchronicle.com/holiday-giving-holiday-gifts-give-back/

http://www.popsugar.com/moms/Kids-Gifts-Give-Back-25977951#photo-25977951

http://homewiththeboys.net/guide-gifts-that-give-back/

Food for thought

I’m sure a lot of people think I must have a glamorous life, living in New York City. Truth is, my life is just like yours. Today I had to go to the supermarket, do my washing, and entertain a two and a half year old (lego, play doh, reading, lego again – recognisable?!). I was wondering how I was going to squeeze in a good thing, but with my new friend from yesterday still fresh in my mind , I decided today was a good day to donate to the food pantry.

According to New York City Coalition Against Hunger, more than 1.3 million New Yorkers live without sufficient food – including 1 in 5 of the city’s children. The shocking fact is that kids are going to sleep hungry every night. Kids near me, kids near you. Kids everywhere.

All it took was a quick rummage through the kitchen cupboards and I had a hamper full of food – rice, pasta, canned fish, cereals, peanut butter, crackers and plenty more.

Food bank donation

Trying to explain to a 2-and-a-half-year-old what I was doing was tough… I’m not sure he understood, but he did choose a toy bus to donate to the children who didn’t have any toys (he kept asking why they didn’t go to the store, which makes me realise he is a little spoiled – work to be done there!)

The point of this blog is to inspire others to do ‘one good thing’. I know life is tough for everyone, but if you can spare a few things from your cupboards (that tin of pears at the back of the cupboard that you bought but will never use maybe?) there will be people out there who really, really appreciate it. If you’re in the UK you can find your local for bank here. And for New Yorkers, here’s a great list.

I enjoyed dinner tonight knowing that someone else will benefit from our donation, and am thinking of buying a few extras each week to make it a regular thing.

Being a friend

Today was all about being a friend. Not just the ‘I’m here if you need me’ comment on Facebook friend, but a real friend.

One of my friends had a disappointment at work and needed a cup of tea and a chat. Another friend had received some heartbreaking news from home. Chocolate, flowers, cuppas and hugs were exchanged, and it made me realise that doing a good deed doesn’t have to be about spending money or doing something for a stranger. A good deed can be something as simple as being there for a friend. Key to this is something friend one mentioned – it’s about really connecting, spending time and really listening. How often do we do that in this crazy world we live in now? We all say it all the time.  ‘Let me know if you need anything’, ‘I’m here if you need me’, ‘thinking of you’. But sometimes, we have to just be there. Listening.

Later in the day I had the chance to connect with someone else. A woman standing outside a local church with all her worldly possessions in trolleys and bags beside her. I stopped for a chat. She asked me if I needed help. I told her about adventofgoodthings and she smiled and told me where I can donate food and clothes. We talked about the church, the local thrift store and my dog. She was moving from a shelter to a room, and was pretty happy about it. I had nothing to offer her (walking the dog I generally carry dog treats and bags). I gave her my hat. She posed for a photo. I wished her luck in her new home. We both smiled.

Advent of good things day 3

Despite the eight and a half million residents, New York can be a lonely, isolating place. it’s good to have a friend. It’s even better to be one.

Got a ‘being a friend’ story to share? I’d love to hear it. And if you have any suggestions for my one good thing a day let me know.

Advent of good things day 2 – a quintet on 34th St

Today was a tough day for good deeds.

There’s a Salvation Army bell ringer on my street. I can hear her from the roof deck, when I open my door. Brrrring, ring, ring. All day.

When I told my 2-and-a-half-year-old why she was there he decided he wanted to take some money out if his money box and put it in her bucket. So we put a few quarters in his coat pocket. (He doesn’t understand the paper money thing yet, so they had to be coins). Thing is, every time we go down to donate them, she’s not there. I feel like she’s avoiding us.

Today it’s cold in New York. It’s also #GivingTuesday, so there are plenty of options for my one good thing. From Reading Empowers to NYRR Youth Programmes. I’ve had suggestions from friends (thanks to the lovely Dallas from Skilled With Kids) and emails and facebook alerts from all sorts of charities and organizations needing help. They are all worthy causes, and I will be giving to a couple of charities close to my heart this evening. But I would have done that anyway, so I wanted to get something for the elusive Salvation Army woman too. When I spotted her outside Wholefoods this lunchtime I ran in and grabbed her a coffee (to warm her up) and a muffin (just because). I was already feeling good just carrying them through the store. But when I got outside she had gone. Again. So today’s deed hasn’t been so easy. I even tried to give the coffee and muffin to the doorman on my way into the building but he declined too. So did the maintenance guy.

We ventured down to Macy’s to see Santa this afternoon – another disaster. My little boy wouldn’t go near him, let alone sit for a picture. It then took us fifteen minutes to persuade him to put on his coat back on and get outside. Feeling utterly deflated we trudged back to the subway in the rain. And then we (heard then) saw these guys doing a brass band version of the Eye of the Tiger. With choreography. Brilliant. Take a look at the video here.

Lucky Chops CD

Lesson of the day. A chance to do something good always presents itself. We had a chat with the guys, complemented them on the music, bought a ten-dollar CD and gave them the change out of a twenty. They loved it. Just shows, it’s the little things that make our day. My little one has watched the video at least twenty times, which has definitely been the best part of his day. Oh and my husband got to eat the Wholefoods muffin, so everyone’s happy.

Oh, and if you’re around Lucky Chops are playing at Grand Central 12-3pm on Thursday. Don’t miss them.