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Ways to give back for the holidays

How do you plan to show your gratitude this holiday season? Will you give gifts? Volunteer? Visit far away family and friends?

There are tons of ways to give back not only to your friends and family, but also to your community. The holiday season is a time of giving, and it’s the perfect time to go out of your way for a stranger or someone needing a little joy or helping hand.

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We’re putting this guide together focused on the Lee & Collier County area, as that’s where we are based. We hope you take a chance to look this over and plan to give back a little something to someone in need during the holidays.

Salvation Army

We all know about the bell ringers (which you can volunteer for) but did you know they also need assistance sorting and packaging toys and food boxes for holiday distribution? Click here to find out more.

St. Matthew’s House

St. Matthew’s House is known for helping fight hunger, homelessness, and addition in Collier County. They are always accepting donations for:

  • Cars
  • Stock
  • Cash
  • Material donations (free pickup of large items)

You can apply to volunteer online.

  • Staff support
  • Help retail staff & stock merchandise at thrift store locations
  • Kitchen assistance
  • Serve holiday meals
  • Serve meals at Justin’s Place Feeding Ministry
  • Hold a fundraiser
  • Admin support
  • Pack groceries and organize in food pantry

Stockings 4 Kids

Stockings 4 Kids gives less fortunate kids in the SWFL area a filled stocking for Christmas. They’re always accepting donations and each stocking costs $15.

Brook’s Legacy Animal Rescue

Give a dog or cat a loving home this holiday season, or volunteer to be a foster parent. Volunteers are always needed, especially for adoption events.

Collier County Hunger and Homeless Coalition

This group is dedicated to preventing and ending hunger and homelessness in Collier County. Donations are welcome any time of year.

Cancer Alliance of Naples

The Cancer Alliance of Naples formed 13 years ago to help those touched by cancer. Donations are always welcome and there are plenty of volunteer opportunities.

  • Volunteer in the office
  • Speakers on cancer-related topics (nutrition, beauty, stress reduction, etc)
  • Sponsorships

Habitat for Humanity

Help build homes for the less fortunate. Volunteers 16 years of age and older are welcome on the job site. Those younger can help by setting up refreshments for volunteers. You can also volunteer in the office, fold newsletters, and help in the Habitat Store.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank

The Harry Chapin Food Bank has been helping to fight hunger in Collier, Charlotte, Lee, Glades, and Hendry counties. Volunteer to hold a food drive, become a partner, or a general volunteer. Donations of money go a long way, every $1 donated helps distribute $8 worth of food.

Meals of Hope

This Naples organization has packaged over 36 million meals to date. Join a food packing event or host one yourself. There are also volunteer opportunities and an online donation section.

Youth Haven

Youth Haven’s Holiday Angels runs from November 23-January 5. Each donation amount provides something to a child in need such as supplies, one week enrichment summer camp, animal assisted therapies, and more.

Besides donating they also have various volunteer programs:

  • Open Windows art program
  • Healthy Starts pantry program
  • Helping Hands program
  • Admin support
  • Special events


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How to get in the holiday spirit

gift-present-christmas-xmas

The holiday season is officially upon us. No matter where you go, you’ll see some sort of reminder that celebrations are forthcoming. There are Christmas tree lots on every other corner, dreidals and menorahs for sale, festive treats, red and green colors, and that never ending bell-ringing.

Whether you like it or not, there’s almost no way to avoid that holiday cheer (unless you don’t leave the house all month long). You might as well get in the spirit! We’ll give you a few tips on how to start enjoying the holidays rather than dread them or feel stressed.

Get on that Santa hat, put on some tunes, and start baking some cookies!

How to avoid holiday stress

This is one of the biggest reasons people don’t like the holidays. Stress can come from many things like having to think of gifts for friends and family, hosting them at your home or going out to holiday parties, and spending money.

If you’re worried about spending too much, try doing something a little different this year. Let all your friends and family know that you would prefer to do a food exchange. You cook or bake something for everyone, and they do the same in return. There’s a lot of love that goes into making food, and the thought is there, plus it is relatively light on the wallet to bake cookies or make some treats for everyone.

If you are tight on money, let everyone know you’d prefer not to receive gifts this year. That way they don’t feel obligated to purchase something for you and vice versa. This article has tips on how to tell your family you don’t want to exchange gifts this Christmas.

Another cause of stress is hosting friends or relatives. This time of year is when everyone is traveling to stay with family. A few days with family members is usually OK, but any longer and we start to feel stressed out. If you’re having family coming into town and are having them at your home, make sure to plan some activities to get everyone out of the house. You can lend them your car or have them rent one to do a day trip.

How to enjoy the holidays

Now that you have some ideas for avoiding stress, here are some tips for enjoying the festivities.

  1. Find time for yourself- Get out of the house on your own and unwind.
  2. Don’t create an action-packed schedule, leave room for relaxation
  3. Don’t take on too much responsibility, learn to delegate
  4. Don’t leave everything until the last minute (especially shopping)
  5. Set aside a day for decorating
  6. Bake some treats you wouldn’t normally make
  7. Treat yourself!
  8. Show gratitude to your friends and family


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Valentine’s Day Treats

Valentine’s Day is a time for romance, fancy dinners, and lots of tasty heart-shaped treats! If you’re hoping to make a great impression on your loved one for the most romantic day of the year, you can’t go wrong with baking some delicious treats. We recently did a blog on homemade Valentine’s Day gifts, which included a few baked goods. But now we want to go further. We’ve got the recipes you can’t resist. The trouble will be in picking just one to make.

Alright, let’s get to the baking!

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Chocolate Dipped Krispie Treats {Heart Shaped!}
Mels Kitchen Cafe

mozz

Mozzarella Cheese Filled Hearts with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
Hungry Happiness

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Valentine’s Day White Chocolate Bark Bites
No. 2 Pencil

brownie

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Brownies
Kevin and Amanda

pretzels

Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Love from the Oven

apple tart

Valentine’s Apple Rose Tart
Green Healthy Cooking

Meringue Hearts

Meringue Hearts

Chocolate Dipped Meringue Cookies
Your Home Based Mom

trifle

Individual Fruit and Brownie Trifles
Just a Taste

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Warm Chocolate and Caramel Cakes
Country Living

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Deep Dark Chocolate Cake
Country Living


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5 Great Gifts for Senior Citizens

If there’s that senior in your life, they deserve something great for the upcoming holidays. They have been through so many, they have surely received enough gifts and had their fair share of unused ones. You want to make yours special, you want it to be meaningful and useful.

It’s tough buying gifts for someone else. Sometimes you want to just get something you like, that you think they might enjoy. It’s a strategy, but maybe not the best one. You need to get to know them and what they like. If you find something that they have been wanting, but maybe didn’t want to go out and get, then you’re golden! But it can be hard to find out what they want without asking. We have some ideas to help you shop around for that senior in your life. If you don’t have a senior relative or friend, you should participate in a senior gift drive in your area. There are always many seniors each year living alone or in a nursing home that don’t have anyone to celebrate the holidays with. Check out your local newspaper or news websites to see what is going on in the area for Christmas and Hanukkah.

 

Photo Throw Blanket
Combine the heartfelt moment of a photo, but the utility of a blanket! No longer will a photo just sit on the shelf to be glanced at, Costco and other photo centers now offer the ability to customize a throw blanket with a photo.

kindle

Tablet or Kindle
Who doesn’t love a good book? Nowadays, many of us read them on tablets or Kindles. You are able to access thousands of books without leaving your home. Getting a senior a Kindle will allow them to access all these books, and you can set it up to feature large print for easier reading. A tablet is also a great idea to keep them busy. Spend a few hours getting them used to the system and download some fun games, and Skype to keep them in touch with loved ones.

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Gift Basket
Don’t just get any old gift basket, get one filled with all their favorite things! Maybe they are a coffee nut. Grab a custom coffee basket featuring a mug, coffee samples, chocolates, and cookies. Maybe they enjoy charcuterie, then you can get them a platter of delicious meats and cheeses. Whatever their tastes or preferences, there is a gift basket for it.

Grocery Store Gift Card
Even if your senior is not living independently, many senior living homes offer trips to the local grocery store. Grab them a gift card to that store so they can stock up on their favorite foods and snacks without the guilt of spending.

A Trip
If they are able to travel, get them tickets to their favorite spot, or send them on a cruise for the winter! Who would hate a cruise during the snowy days of December or January? If they are unable to travel and you live out of town, plan a surprise visit! Show up and surprise them with love and gifts, then take them out to their favorite restaurant. An experience is always a memorable gift that is hard to forget.


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Hanukkah Decorations and Treats

With December comes those big holidays many of us look forward to. Maybe you celebrate Christmas, maybe it’s Hanukkah, or maybe it’s something completely different like Festivus (Seinfeld fans will understand). If you are planning to celebrate Hanukkah this year, or maybe you are hosting the festivities at your house, you want to have your house decorated in the Hanukkah spirit.

star of david garland

Star of David Garland
You can buy this cute blue and white Star of David garland, or even make it yourself.

Star of David Wreath
Let everyone know you’re celebrating Hanukkah with a Star of David wreath.

dreidal app plate

Dreidel Appetizer Plate
Don’t be surprised when all your guests ask where you got this plate.

tea light menorah

Tea-Light Menorah
See how to make this simple, cute glass tea-light holder set. It’s a classic take on the menorah.

dreidel gift box

Dreidel Gift Box
Use these festive gift boxes shaped like dreidels to hide small treats or candy.

dreidal garland

Dreidel Garland
Make this paper dreidel garland to decorate the mantel, window, or doorway.

pumpkin challah

Pumpkin Challah Bread
Turn the classic Challah bread into a new favorite by adding pumpkin!

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Spiced Apple or Pear Fritters
Make plenty of these, they will be gone before you know it.

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Curried Sweet Potato Latkes
Spice up those plain potato latkes.

mandel brot

Mandel Brot
Think of this like the Jewish biscotti. Mandel means almond and Brot means bread in Yiddish.

nutella sufganiyot

Nutella Sufganiyot
This delicious Jewish doughnut just got better with some Nutella!


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Winter Decorations for the Holidays

Yeah, we know, Thanksgiving hasn’t even passed and we’re already talking about December. But c’mon, it’s called “the most wonderful time of the year” for a reason! Who doesn’t love the holiday decorations? There’s Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza and just winter in general. We love getting in the spirit with lights, garland, ornaments, and DIY decorations. Here are some of our favorite decorating ideas to help get you in the holiday mood.

40 Christmas Decorating Ideas
40!? I can’t even think of 10. You will have more ideas than you know what to do with. Ideas include using old Christmas cards, and getting the kids to help decorate. (Lifehack.org)

DIY Woodland Sign

Make this fabulous DIY Winter Woodland Sign for the upcoming holidays! Tutorial by Blooming Homestead for www.livelaughrowe.com #diy #woodland

Make this fabulous DIY Winter Woodland Sign for the upcoming holidays! Tutorial by Blooming Homestead for http://www.livelaughrowe.com #diy #woodland

(livelaughrowe.com)

DIY Stocking Hangers

stocking hangers

(decoratingyoursmallspace.com)

10 Inventive Christmas Tree Themes

By Toni Kami

By Toni Kami

(topsinspired.com)

Snowman Door

snowman door

(http://thecreativestamperspot.blogspot.com/)


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Our Favorite Fall Foods and Drinks

In celebration of fall, we posted a few tasty Thanksgiving day foods to try out. But there’s more to fall than just Thanksgiving. There are so many great ingredients and tastes that epitomize fall. Pumpkin, spices, warmth, nuts, apples, soups, hot chocolate. Getting hungry, huh? Here are some of the tastiest fall foods we could find from desserts to drinks to delectable entrees. Enjoy!

cream cheese pumpkin bread

Cream Cheese Filled Pumpkin Bread
Say no more! You had me at cream cheese, then stole my heart with pumpkin bread. This sounds like the ultimate fall food. (Averie Cooks)

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Apple Pie Bites
These are perfect for those watching their figure, but who don’t want to compromise and eat boring, tasteless food. These apple pie bites are a shot of dessert in miniature form. (The Blond Cook)

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Pumpkin Waffles and Apple Cider Syrup
Now who wouldn’t want to wake up to the smell of that? (Cooking Classy)

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Caramel Apple Sangria
This is for those of you who love to pair their alcohol with the season (is that a thing?). (A Night Owl Blog)

biscuit pot pie

Biscuit Pot Pie
This just screams warm fall food and brings you back to eating at home as a kid. (Damn Delicious)

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Apple Cider Donuts
Skip Dunkin’ Donuts. These are a mouthful of fall’d favorite fruit in donut hole form. (Sally’s Baking Addiction)