Join the Santa-Goes-Postal Movement

December 10, 2012
Get in the spirit of giving for people who are often not appreciated enough.

Santa Clause reading a Dear Santa letter

There are two parts to this post. The first is about $5 gift cards. The second is about much bigger gifts.

Part One

I generally don’t buy gift cards, agreeing with my husband that they force you to shop at a certain story or restaurant even though you could get a better bargain elsewhere with the money spent on the card. Also, sometimes there is a time limit so that when you go to redeem them they have lost their value.

But today I’m going to suggest you buy some in order to become Santa’s helpers.

This idea came from Staci Armao, an aspiring actress and executive director of Hollywood Police Activities League, among other things. I was told about this by Patty Paul, who has contributed a number of ideas for my websites over the years. It seemed appropriate for my holiday posts.

Want to do something fun and easy this holiday season that will make someone’s day brighter and will have a ripple effect? Join the movement SANTA GOES POSTAL. Post offices can’t employ as many workers any more, so the stress level is high in December when crowds grow and lines slow. We all know that a crowded post office is not usually a happy place to be during the holiday season, with people complaining and grumbling.

Wouldn’t a neat holiday gesture be to wait in lines at various post offices and when you arrive at the window to simply give a small gift to the postal worker and say Merry Christmas? No buying of stamps or sending a package. Just a gesture of standing in a line simply to surprise someone and wish them happy holidays.

Last year I bought $5 Starbucks gift cards and stood in lines at different post offices on the busiest day of the holiday season (typically the Monday about a week before Christmas). The reaction of the workers was fantastic! One woman had just had a customer scream at her. Then I walked up and gave her a gift and she grasped my hand under the window and whispered “For me?? Thank you!”

This year, I propose that you buy two small gift cards from anywhere and give one to the postal worker to keep and ask them to pay it forward by surprising a stranger with the second card. You can also branch out and surprise any stranger yourself on any day in December if you don’t want to go to the post office. Post your stories on this wall. Let’s do this!

 Since I don’t drink coffee, the Starbucks card wouldn’t do me any good, but I plan to buy several for grocery stores since we all need to eat.

If you choose to be Santa’s helper with gift cards, let me know what happens.

Part Two

On Dec, 5, Huff Post Money offered the following news:

New York State Police are trying to find the woman who handed an on-duty trooper a holiday card with $1,000 cash inside.

Under New York law, members of the state police can’t accept such gifts.

So state police officials are seeking the public’s help in finding the woman who gave the money to Trooper Christopher Maniscalco in the Albany suburb of Guilderland on Sunday. They say they want the woman to tell them where she would like the donation to go.

Police say the woman told Maniscalco she had seen him doing a good job and wanted to say Merry Christmas and thank you. Officials say it wasn’t until after his shift ended that the trooper opened the card and saw the money.

 I heard about this on the radio after I had written the first part of this post and just couldn’t resist including it. Now I’m wondering if postal workers aren’t allowed to accept gifts. I would go ahead and give them a card anyway. But $1,000 may be a bit  too much to give to someone who can’ use it.

My Superb Caramel Gift to You

December 3, 2012
Discover how to make the best caramels in the world for holiday giving and eating throughout the year.

I know I said that today I would launch How to Love a Perfectionist Without Going Crazy. But it needs just a few tweaks before going live, so I’ve scheduled that for Thursday and in the meantime I’m giving you some wonderful caramels for the holidays.

Caramels with nuts

Okay, this isn’t an actual gift of caramels, but it’s close to it. In this post I share the best caramel recipe you will ever find! Just ask my friends and family.

It came into my possession back in my college days when a roommate received a box of home-made caramels from her mother back on the farm. The cream had to have been the freshest you could find and the butter as well. So already you can see that this isn’t a low-calorie gift. But a little piece of heaven is better than the so-so variety you’ll find in most stores. Only the very finest candy stories come close to duplicating it.

Once a good friend and I made this, together with 5,000 other pieces of homemade candy, for Christmas gifts. It was a lot of stirring and measuring and cutting into cubes, but we got many compliments saying it was the best gift they’d ever received.

So, if you want to be known as the queen or king of caramels, here is the recipe I managed to get out of the farmer’s wife. It is as good when made in the city as on a farm.


Cream Caramels

Don’t be stingy. Increase the recipe by 3 to 5 times (depending on the size of your pot). It will need to be big enough to bubble up without going over the edge.

Since it will take about 45 minutes for a single batch and only about an hour for more than that, it isn’t worth it to just make one batch at a time! They store well in the freezer and can be brought out as gifts throughout the year.

Of course, if you aren’t sure of your candy-making talent (though I think this is quite easy), you could always make just one batch as a sample. Then you’ll be sorry you didn’t make more, but you’ll also be confident that your next large batch will be excellent.

 2 cups  light brown sugar packed well
 3/4 cup  light corn syrup
 1/2 cup  butter (preferably nonsalted)
 2 cups  cream (preferably whipping cream)
 1/2 to 1 cup  nuts (walnuts and pecans do best)

Begin by buttering a 7″ square pan and scattering nuts over the bottom. Of course, there are strange people, like my husband, who don’t like nuts, so you may want to divide the caramels into two groups. Then the group who does appreciate nuts with caramels can get twice as many nuts.

I recommend you butter a pan more than you think you’ll use. That way, when you are pouring the caramels into the pan and decide they will be too thick, you won’t be rushing around to find another pan to butter.

I often use aluminum foil (buttered) to make it easier to take the caramels out of the pan when they are cold.

Put the sugar, syrup, butter, and one-half of the cream in a large pan. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a long spoon (the steam can be hot if you use a shorter spoon).

When the mixture has come to a full bubbling boil, gradually stir in the rest of the cream, making certain that you do not let the mixture stop boiling. Keep the temperature moderate and stir constantly.

Take a wet rag or kitchen brush and “wash down” the side of the pan so that no sugar crystals remain to fall into the batter. It takes only a moment and can prevent serious problems later.

There are two ways to know when it is done. If you have a candy thermometer, cook to 238°.

If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use the cup-of-water technique. This is the time-tested method common  before thermometers were invented. Put a little hot syrup into a cup of cold water and try to gather it into a ball. You will know it has reached the firm ball stage when it holds its shape when pressed with your finger.

I keep teaspoons and about 3 separate cups of cold water next to the stove. When the caramels have been cooking for some time and the boiling become less frothy, I start testing about a half teaspoon at a time. This way the cook gets to taste it before those who haven’t been stirring.

When it is done, immediately pour into the buttered 7″ square pan with the nuts scattered over the bottom.

Do not cook until the hard ball stage or the caramels will be too hard. It may be possible to rectify your error by adding a little more cream and cooking for a little while, but that is harder to do than stopping the boiling on time.

And of course, if it’s not done enough, you can always bring it to a boil and try again.

P.S. You can include chocolate pieces in the pan or drop them on top, use some of the caramel (diluted by a bit more cream or milk) as topping for ice cream or brownies, or make caramel apples. You can’t go wrong with flavor like this.

Share the Talent of Animators

December 10, 2010
Celebrate the holiday season by sharing animation that brings joy to our hearts.

Animals in the woods building a snowmanI am highly impressed with animations that come into our homes via broadband transmission, features we couldn’t have seen even several years ago. In addition to  the advance of software in producing them, there is the sheer creativity of talented people who come up with the ideas.

I want to tell you about two of them. One is the somewhat interactive Christmas greeting shared by Jack Frost whose blog, A Laugh and a Smile, makes me laugh and smile. Here is his greeting of Merry Christmas to You All.

Then there are the greeting cards by Jackie Lawson, who has grown progressively more elaborate in her animations over the years. This year I sent myself, and several grandchildren and friends, her Advent Calendar. It sits on my screen and gives me a new and delightful greeting every day.

Such talent!!! Now if we can only turn that creativity into solving some of our problems, next year could be a year of progress rather than gridlock.

If you find some animation that tickles your fancy, let me know.


Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


Be Kind to Yourself and Your Body This Holiday Season

December 7, 2010
You will do a better job of making other people happy in this holiday season if you have compassion for your body and spirit.

If you haven’t read the introduction to this series of suggestions for a guilt-free, stress-free holiday, read Talking Back to the Voice of Unhealthy Guilt.

Then write the following on a piece of paper and put it where you can see it throughout the day:

Because I choose to be kind to myself and to my body, I select only those activities which allow me to comfortably plan them, accomplish them and enjoy them.

If you put this affirmation into practice, how would that affect your relationships?


Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


A Guilt-Free Holiday Season

December 13, 2006
Reduce the guilt many people feel in the rush of the holiday season.

For those of you who aren’t traveling this holiday season, as I am, but worrying about getting ready for the holidays, I wanted to share an excerpt from an article previously published on the Support4Change website. It is one I wrote several years ago about the relationship between the this season and guilt, especially for women, and especially perfectionist women. Here is how the article begins:

Guilt creates more problems during the holiday season than the combination of a UPS strike, a power outage on the night of the school play, and a turkey that failed to thaw on time. That is because this is the time of year when it is assumed that people will demonstrate love, good will, and generosity to all. That’s a tough order for many of us when we’re trying to juggle work, family, community activities — and still find a little bit of time for relaxation and renewal.

For people (primarily women) who are afraid they won’t be loving enough, show enough good will, or be generous enough, the season’s expectations are a particularly heavy burden. Knowing they’re flawed, but wanting to hide that fact from others, they try ever harder to give their maximum effort in all they do. Dashing from one hectic activity to another, they act as though they were appointed God’s special assistants, doing lots of things they wouldn’t chose to do if they didn’t feel such pressure to perform.

Believe me, as someone whose gift-wrappings thirty-five years ago were photographed because they were so stunning, I understand this dynamic all too well. Now that I’m a recovering perfectionist and have even been known on occasion to give a gift in a brown paper bag (horrors!), I would like to offer you some suggestions for avoiding the pitfalls of taking ourselves too seriously.

I hope that you are able to discard unhealthy guilt. When you do, you will discover, that very soon, your family and friends will notice that what you have to offer them is the gift of being the best you, which is the greatest gift you can give anyone.