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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

A warm feeling inside

Day one of good deeds. A good chance to explain why.

When I moved to New York just over a year ago, I wasn’t worried. I love this city – always have. I knew it would be beautiful, crazy and cool.

But I didn’t think it would be friendly. In fact, in the first few weeks we were here, a woman screamed in my face in Wholefoods for “crowding her”. When I was nice enough to give someone directions he shouted an aggressive “Good!” In my face and strode off. And I said sorry to everyone who bumped into me on the ‘sidewalk’ and the subway.

Safe to say I was not feeling the love.

However in the last 12 months, people have brought soup to the door when I was ill, brought books when the little monkey was sick, left $200 under my door when my credit card got cloned, walked my dog, babysat my child, helped me sort everything from doctors to gym classes to swimming lessons, and just been there for me with help and advice and a friendly face at every turn.

These things are far more beautiful than the view from the top of the Empire State Building at dusk, better than any fancy restaurant meal, trendy coffee bar, or show on (or off) Broadway. These things have made me feel not just welcomed, but amazing. This is my way of passing that on.

Today is the first day of my ‘advent of good things’, and being stuck inside all day with a poorly child was not part of the plan. But doing one good thing, it turns out, is pretty easy. I pulled out three coats (including a down jacket that got me through my first excruciatingly cold NY winter) and sloped off in the rain this evening to donate them to NY Cares Coat Drive. Easy? Yes. Worthwhile? Definitely. It kills me to think there are families out there who don’t have something as basic as a coat to keep them warm.  I took ours to our local Police Precinct, and the guys on duty were very friendly and grateful. You can donate at any police station and plenty of other drop off locations in the city. Find your nearest here. And if you’re reading this in the UK you can find something local from the Winter Coat Amnesty in the North East to Wrap Up London. These may have stopped collecting now, but I’m sure there are plenty of people happy to receive a warm winter coat.

To make it a really good thing, I put a little extra donation in the pockets to help – purely for selfish reasons…It made me feel great. Roll on day two.

Got ideas or suggestions? Want to join in? Let me know.