You can play Santa to those in need…As we start the final countdown to Christmas (single digits now, folks), I want to remind everyone that this is THE season to remember charitable contributions. Not only will you get tax credit for 2012 if you donate before 12/31, but you’ll also know that you’ve done a good (and oh so important) thing. Charities count on contributions to help those in need, whether they’re children, seniors, animals, churches, wounded warriors, etc. To be sure that you give to a worthwhile charity (and one that puts most of the money to good use and not administrative costs and salaries), be sure to do a little research beforehand by checking out www.give.org and www.bbb.org. To simplify the process, you may want to consider www.justgive.org. This is a database of 1.8 million charities and offers good options, such as charity gift cards. A few ideas: Trees for Troops, Wounded Warriors, Save the Children, World Wildlife Fund, Angel Tree, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and American Cancer Association.
There are all kinds of ways you can make a difference if you just don’t have the money to donate:
*Donate clothes and jackets/coats
*Donate books, games, and/or toys
*Donate your time at a shelter or charity
*Adopt a pet from the local shelter (only do this IF you can afford food and care for the animal and it is NEVER a good idea to “surprise” someone with a pet for Christmas)
*Help a neighbor (shovel snow, rake leaves, drive them to the doctor, fix something, bake a casserole or pie, etc)
For those still looking for somewhere good to go to celebrate the final holiday of 2012, here is a list of the most popular places this year:
10. Fort Myers, Florida
8. San Juan, Puerto Rico
7. Denver, Colorado
6. Los Angeles, California
5. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
4. Cancun, Mexico
3. Las Vegas, Nevada
2. New York City, New York
1. Orlando, Florida
FYI: Fares will be slightly higher this year on hotel rooms and airfares. See my earlier posts and pages on ‘cheap travel’ for money-saving tips on lodging, transportation, food, admission tickets, etc.
Note: This will be my last post for 2012. See you in 2013!
A fun Christmas or New Years cocktail is a Cranberry Orange Sparkler. Combine 2 cups red wine with 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup cranberry juice, and 1/2 cup raspberry liqueur. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Stir well before serving over ice in highball or wine glasses. Add a splash of lemon-lime soda to the glass and garnish with lime or orange. To make mocktails, leave out the alcohol and simply add more lemon-lime soda.
Looking for a dessert that will make guests or family say “Wow!” I found a recipe for a CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT CAKE that looks too good to cut and tastes even better. You’ll need:
A box of chocolate cake mix
A box of instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup water
1 stick of butter (room temperature)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup vanilla frosting
2 cups chocolate frosting
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 cup chopped peppermint candies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (3) 8-9″ layer pans. Mix cake mix, pudding mix, water, butter, eggs, and extract in large bowl. Stir in chips. Pour into pans. Bake for 20-30 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean or top pops back when touched). When cool, frost two layers with vanillas frosting mixed with 1/4 cup chopped peppermint candies. Frost top layer with chocolate frosting, as well as the sides of the cake. The inside layers will be white and the rest of the cake will be chocolate covered. Use knife or fingers or small spatula to add a think coat of chopped candies to the sides of the cake. The top of the cake will not have candies, just chocolate frosting. Or you may opt to add a message in red or white on the top, such as HAPPY HOLIDAYS or MERRY CHRISTMAS or PEACE AND JOY. Or you can skip adding candies to the side and just edge the top of the cake with them.