Category Archives: cards for charity

Five Rewarding Ways to Volunteer at Christmas

Is your Christmas Day the same every year?  Wake up, eat, watch TV, eat, open presents, eat, watch more TV, eat and then eat some more.  Do you sometimes think that there has to be more than this?  There are so many invaluable ways that you can help to improve others’ lives for the better this Christmas.  So why not clear your diary?  Think about how you’ll experience the wonderful warm glow in the knowledge that you’ve changed someone’s life for the better.  Here are just a few:

1.  Help the homeless

Many people find themselves in the unfortunate situation that they become homeless during the Christmas period.  The coldest time of year, we all take it for granted that we live in wonderfully warm homes.  There are numerous shelters around desperate for volunteers to help support the great work that they do.  Give them a call.  Perhaps you can help hand out coats and warm clothing, help at a soup kitchen or offer a skill that you might have such as hairdressing.

2.  Think of your elders

Christmas is always a time for family, or so it is said.  Lots of old people that live on their own or in a home will absolutely crave company at this time more than ever.  Perhaps you have an elderly neighbour?  Why not make sure that they have all that they need during the holidays – particularly when shops are closed.  Sometimes all that’s needed is a chat, but you can really make a difference.  Why not get the children involved, bake some Christmas biscuits and deliver a gift that they’ll really appreciate.  Alternatively, speak to your local old peoples’ home and see what support that they could benefit from.  Perhaps you’ll be asked to visit some of the residents – to talk, reminisce.  Maybe you’re a dab hand at puzzles or enjoy reading aloud?

3.  Charity first

Whether it’s helping to fundraise or providing some more direct support, volunteers are always in demand from charities.  Contact a national charity.  Perhaps they may be offering a Christmas present wrapping session in your local shopping centre to raise funds.  There are lots of charities that operate telephone helplines – maybe you can help to take some of these calls.  Do you enjoy singing?  Speak to your local charity and see if they have any carol singing sessions planned that you can join.

4.  Don’t forget the animals

If you’re an animal lover, there are several ways that you can support your feathered and furry friends at the coldest time of the year.  Speak to your local animal rescue centre.  Some welcome deliveries of warm bedding, towels, treats, disinfectant and snacks.  See if they need any volunteers to help over the holiday period when many staff are on leave.

5.  Support your local Children’s Hospice or Hospital

There’s never a good time for children to stay in a hospital or hospice.  However Christmas is an emotional time for parents that are not at home with their children.  There are lots of ways that you can offer practical support that will certainly bring a smile to a child’s face.  When you’re Christmas shopping, why not buy an extra gift.  With all of the 3 for 2 offers that are popular, save the third gift and pass it on.  If you know that your children will be receiving new toys in their stockings this year, why not take the opportunity to have a real clear out and pass on any good quality toys and books that they no longer play with.

Not More Turkey at Christmas: Five Different Festive Options

Every year it’s the same thing.  Traditional turkey with all of the trimmings followed by Christmas pud.  Roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, pigs in blankets, stuffing, brussel sprouts, parsnips, carrots – you name it.  Sounds delicious yes, but sometimes don’t you think that there must be more to the biggest feast of the year?  Well there are lots of different options for the carnivores and vegetarians amongst us.  Lick your lips, loosen your belts and get ready for some delicious alternatives to the trusty turkey and Christmas pud combo.

1.  The goose is getting fat

Ever-famous for its starring role in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, “There was never such a goose…”  Imagine your family’s delight when they feast their eyes (pun intended) on the fine bird that makes its first appearance on your beautifully adorned table.  Although some people complain that it’s a fatty bird, if the skin is pricked sufficiently it can make for a deliciously juicy meat.

2.  An exotic Christmas option – Ostrich

How about going for something a little exotic for a change?  Ostrich Wellington sounds pretty special.  Although they may sound quite rare you’ll be surprised that they can be found on farms after a little searching.  The beauty of ostriches is that they only need minimal cooking.  Tasting like a good beef fillet steak, a 2kg will easily feed a family of eight.

3.  For the non-meat eaters

It doesn’t have to be nut roast each year.  Many meat eaters are even waking up to the realisation that there are other delicious choices that aren’t meat related.  Although a Quorn roast is a simple option, how about a stuffed butternut squash?  For something really special, why not try a field mushroom stuffed with garlic feta and chestnuts.  Decorate with pastry and you have a stunning vegetarian dish suitable for a king or queen.

4.  Bring some international flavour

If you’re looking for something entirely different why not make like the Aussies and get the barbie out.  This will be dependent on weather of course, choose from a selection of meats, prawns and crabs.

5.  For the fish lovers

If you’ve got a mixture of meat eaters and vegetarians joining you for Christmas and you’re looking for a safe option why not consider a beautiful side of salmon.  It doesn’t have to be straight forward either.  How about something a little spicy this year?  Create a gorgeous sticky soy marinade from hoisin and soy sauce – some star anise, crushed garlic, Thai herbs, Thai fish stock and add some chopped red chilli and lemon to serve.  Are you salivating yet?  A whole side will feed 8-10; it’s a simple choice that will wow your guests.

6.  Christmas pudding – it’s a bit like marmite

You either love it or hate it.  A wonderful Christmas favourite, sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of a change.  With desserts there are a couple of schools of thought.  You either go full steam ahead with a heavy duty faithful such as the aforementioned Christmas pud.  Alternatively there’s the polite, oh just the fruit salad for me option.  But there’s more to life than that.  If you’re really looking for a show stopping dessert that your guests will be most impressed with, how about a stunning Stollen Parfait.  Featuring all the festive favourite flavours, slice, dust with icing sugar and serve with some glacé cherries.  Delicious.  If you still crave for a proper hot pud, how about a gorgeous hot panettone pudding.  It’ll still give you your festive fix and should finish off your meal quite pleasantly.


Is it time for your Children to Meet Santa?

One of the most wonderful experiences for your family to have is meeting Father Christmas himself.  Do you remember your first time?  Perhaps you were never taken to meet him when you were a child?  If you’re planning on a visit with your little ones for the first time this year, sometimes a little pre-planning can be really helpful to make sure it’s a visit you remember for the right reasons.

Choose the right time

Grottos can be a really busy place.  If you’re choosing a high street store to visit for example, you may want to visit earlier or towards the end of the day when it’s likely to be a little quieter.  Also, think about your little one’s sleeping patterns.  It’s obvious probably, but don’t arrange a visit when your child normally has a nap.  A queue to meet Father Christmas and an overtired child do not always mix.  If you know there is going to be a long queue, make sure you have some fruit snacks and a book or small toy to keep them occupied.

How old is old enough?

A really tough question.  Does your child enjoy meeting new people?  Some children are very confident and others may find the situation a little overwhelming.  As a general rule, if your child is attending a nursery or pre-school they are likely to meet new people there, so that’s probably a good age bracket to suggest.  Only you know your child though and if you think that they might be a little too sensitive now, it may be worthwhile waiting until they can thoroughly enjoy the experience.  There’s nothing worse than seeing a small child screaming at the sight of a man in a big red coat and a beard.

Where is Santa?

There are lots of places that you can find Santa and his elves.  A wonderful festive treat, you’ll often find Christmas grottos at garden centres, department stores and fêtes.  Have a look online and in your local newspaper for details of opening times and locations.  For the ultimate in Christmas luxury, you could book a trip to Lapland to see the ‘real’ Father Christmas.  An amazing experience, you’ll get to see Santa, his reindeer, elves, huskies – all in true traditional Christmas spirit.  Wrap up warm though, it’ll certainly be cold!

What happens on a visit?

Every grotto is different and you’ll find that each experience will be individual.  Why not ask friends and family if they can recommend a good grotto.  Most grottos are well decorated for the season, some are lot more intricate than others.  Normally your child will be invited to meet Santa, and they’ll be asked whether they’ve been good that year.  Then comes the exciting bit – more often than not there will be a small token present to take home!  Talk to your child before you go about what is likely to happen.  And most importantly, ask them to think about what they’d like on their wish list as Santa is likely to ask!

Is Santa real?

When your children get to a certain age they may ask the inevitable question “Does Santa really exist?”  It’s up to you how you answer.  Some of the best parental answers always seem to put the onus back on the child. “Well if you don’t believe, who is going to deliver your presents?”  And there are certainly many thirty-something adults who still believe that they need to leave out a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for Rudolf on Christmas Eve just in case….