You’ve probably noticed your friends or family sharing this message lately.
When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please include the following:
A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
xxx Georgia Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. xxxx
It seems to get shared more and more as we get closer to the holidays, and for good reason. People want to thank our troops and show their support, especially for those stationed overseas during the holiday season. The intentions are good.
Unfortunately, the information is not correct…at least not anymore.
Years ago, “Any Solider” packages were accepted and distributed. Since 2006, due to security concerns and logistical issues, these types of letters and packages are simply discarded. There are not enough resources to sort and check packages, let alone get them distributed where needed.
If you’d like to send a gift of thanks or holiday cards to troops, here are a few places to check out.
Note: Always, always, always contact any organization before starting your holiday cards to ensure they are accepting cards this season. Some local chapters may not have the resources needed to distribute items or may have reached their limit on cards they can realistically send before the holidays. I can not stress this enough. Also, please be sure to check for any restrictions on the types of cards or items that can be sent, especially for cards and packages going overseas.
Blue Star Mothers: You can locate a chapter in your state and help with care packages, letter campaigns, and other projects.
Hero Box: Hero Box will pair you up with a solider and send you a list of their wants/needs/likes/dislikes so you can really personalize your care package. (I’ve participated in their program before and it is great to be able to know exactly who your package is going to and be able to include some things they love or miss from home.) This is a great way to get your kids involved. They can help you shop for items, pack the boxes, and make cards for your adopted solider.
Your Local Red Cross Chapter: The national holiday card campaign once run by the Red Cross is no longer in service, but you can contact your local chapter for information on sending cards to troops. You can also volunteer to help sort and mail the letters, which is a great community service project for older children.
Your Local USO Chapter: Many USO chapters will accept cards for troops, especially chapters with airport service locations where they can hand cards to soldiers travelling during the holiday season. You can also make monetary donations on the national level to help with their Holiday Boxes campaign and other amazing services the USO provides here at home and overseas.
Local FRG or Spouse Organization: If you live in the vicinity of a military base, contact the local FRG (Family Readiness Group) or Spouses Organization/Ombudsman. They may be participating in a card campaign or can help you “adopt” a platoon/ship/troop to send cards and care packages to this year.
Veterans Organizations: Check with your local American Legion, VFW, and VA Hospital. Many will accept cards for patients or veterans in your area, some of which may be unable to travel or be with their families over the holidays. VA Hospitals are very strict with the type of cards their patients can receive, so keep this in mind when creating cards if you’ve been granted permission to deliver them to the hospital.
Any Solider: This organization pairs soldiers up with those wanting to donate letters and care packages. The solider that receives the items distributes them to men and women in their troop so that no one is left without mail. They have volunteer contact soldiers located all over the world.
This is just a basic list of ways you can send holiday cheer to servicemembers this holiday season. If you have a resource, please feel free to share it in the comments. Again, please be sure to check and double check and triple check with any organization, especially on the local level, before beginning a card campaign or care package.
Last winter, I had a delicious holiday sangria at a chain restaurant and fell in love. I forgot to get the recipe from the bartender, so I started trying to recreate it at home. After a few tries, I finally figured it out and it’s been my go-to winter cocktail ever since.
The best thing about this drink is you can tweak it to suit your tastes. Want it a bit stronger? Add more vodka. Like it on the sweet side? Add a little more juice. You can use your favorite red wine, but I’m partial to a dry Merlot or Pinot Noir. Using a sweet red makes the sangria a bit too sugary for my taste.
My recipe is for an individual serving, but you can easily mix up a pitcher for guests. If you do make a pitcher of the sangria, leave the seasoning out and sprinkle a pinch over the individual glasses when serving. The best part of this drink is enjoying the cherries and oranges after they’ve soaked up some of the alcohol. If you want to really have them soak up the flavor, mix the drink up ahead of time and cool in the fridge, then pour over ice before serving. Adding ice to the pitcher will most likely water down the sangria and no one wants that.
I hope you enjoy this winter sangria recipe this holiday season. Make a glass and curl up by the fire with your favorite Christmas movie. I promise it’s the perfect way to spend a winter evening. Or every evening when you’re snowed in and your kids haven’t been to school all week and there’s no end in sight.
Winter Sangria Recipe
1.5 oz Absolute Mandarin (or other orange flavored vodka)
.5oz Simple Syrup
1.5 oz Orange Juice
3.5 oz Red Wine (Merlot or Pinot Noir)
3-4 Maraschino Cherries
3-4 Clementine Wedges
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pour vodka, simple syrup, orange juice, and red wine into a large wine glass filled with ice. Add cherries and oranges. For extra sweetness, add a spoonful of cherry juice. Top with a pinch of pumpkin pie spice. Stir well and serve.
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Truth in the Tinsel has become a holiday season staple in our home. We’re not what you’d consider a religious family, but we do believe in teaching our children the Biblical Christmas Story and the reason we, as a family, celebrate Christmas. Santa is also part of our Christmas and a tradition we’ve chosen to continue with our children. I’m of the mind that there is plenty of room for both versions of Christmas in our house. The best thing about Truth in the Tinsel is that you can absolutely adapt the program and lessons to your life and how your family chooses to celebrate Christmas.
This will be third year using Truth in the Tinsel, a guided Advent study for children. Each day, we read an Advent story and the kids color ornaments to hang on their own tree. It’s a simple activity that takes 10-15 minutes each day, but it reminds them of why we celebrate Christmas and gives them a chance to sit down and soak it all in. I’ll even tie it into other Christmas activities like baking.
It’s also the third year our Elf on the Shelf, Alfie, will be coming to spend the holidays in our home. My kids adore their elf. Not because he’s naughty and gets caught turning our milk blue or toilet papering the tree, but just for the simple joy of finding him around the house each day. I’d love to say he helps with behavior during the holidays, but I’d be lying. He’s just a fun little guy that hides in our house and helps us celebrate Advent. Yes, your Elf can celebrate Advent with you!
Here are three easy ways to incorporate both traditions into your Christmas season:
1. Have your Elf deliver the Truth in the Tinsel ornaments:
This year, Alfie will be bringing the kids their ornaments each day. I’ve already printed and cut out the ornaments at night after they’re in bed so I’m set for Novmeber 30th. This makes my life a lot easier because I don’t need to think of something to do with Alfie each night. I wish I could create all of these Pinterest-worthy setups for the Elf, but I just don’t have it in me, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. All I need to do is put two ornaments in his hands and hide him somewhere in the house. I’ll set an alarm on my phone to remind me to set him up each night so I’m not shooting out of bed at midnight thinking, “I FORGOT THE ELF AGAIN!” If your kids are older, you can have your Elf deliver the craft supplies for each project. We are going to move to the crafts next year when both kids are a bit older. The paper ornaments work perfectly for us for now.
2.Your Elf can help create a display for the ornaments:
Last year, Alfie made my kids a paper Christmas tree to hang their ornaments on. You could also set up a small artificial tree in the kid’s bedroom or in your living room. I suggest setting it up somewhere the children will see it each day and within their reach. This isn’t the family Christmas tree with breakable ornaments. This is their tree. Let them decorate it as they see fit, even if all of the ornaments end up on the same two branches. Having their own tree to decorate will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment and they’ll be reminded of their lessons each time they look at their beautiful tree.
3. Have your Elf deliver Advent Stories or a new Bible:
Our Elf loves bringing books to the kids. I order a lot of books from my kid’s Scholastic fliers (I have a Scholastic addiction) and have the Elf leave them during his stay. This is the perfect chance to give your kids a new Bible or some great books about the Christmas Story. One of my favorites in the Scholastic flyer this month is Humphrey’s First Christmas. You can also print out the Advent story for the day and have your Elf deliver it with the ornaments. My kids like being able to draw pictures and write about the stories right next to the passages.
I’m looking forward to our Advent lessons again this year. Each year, the kids seem to absorb more of the stories, ask more questions, and become more excited for the Season. If you’re looking for an easy, yet meaningful way to teach the story of Advent, I definitely recommend purchasing Truth in the Tinsel and making it a new holiday tradition.
I’d love to hear how your Elf helps you celebrate Advent in you home. Leave a comment and share your ideas!
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