The Hartshorn’s Holiday Plans

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Holiday Plans

It’s that time of year! Preparation for the holiday season! I want this season to last as long as possible so we get our tree at the beginning of December. Mac likes the tree to reach the ceiling, so we purchased and decorated a 10′ tree this weekend and arranged the nativity scene underneath.

We lit a balsam and cedar candle (this one comes in a lovely mercury glass jar) that reminds the girls of the holidays. Amazingly our daughters remember whose turn it is to place the angel on top of the tree from year to year and they can now get up there without help from Mac. How time flies!

As a mother I still want to make our home and the season as magical as possible even though we have disillusioned teenagers. That includes baking sausage rolls and mince pies, purchasing Christmas crackers (like these from Paper Source) for the table on Christmas Day.

I write the schedule for December on the wall so that everyone knows the plan. Next weekend we are going into NYC. We plan to start at Bryant Park, eat and wander around the Christmas market that reminds me of Europe. Then up to 5th Avenue to see the windows and finally ice skating at the Wollman Rink in Central Park.


Holiday plans Holiday Plans Holiday plans

Where to Donate Used Toys This Holiday

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Donate Used Toys

Holidays are a wonderful time to teach children the lessons of compassion and giving and also clear the way for new toys they’ll receive this year. Please be sure to read each organization’s requirements carefully and to donate only clean, gently used or new toys.

Donation Town

Guidelines: Varies by organization

Don’t have time to sort through all your kids’ stuff for each different charity? Donation Town brings hundreds of organizations together, so you can send your used games, sports equipment, action figures, dolls or stuffed animals to one place. Keep in mind they don’t accept broken toys or toys with missing parts. Find a charity in your area online that you can schedule a free pickup of your goods with.

Pick Up Please

Guidelines: Accepts everything light and small enough for a person to easily carry

Downsize their stuffed animal collection this season by giving a few to a child in need. In partnership with The Vietnam Veterans of America, you can schedule a pickup that benefits the org through Pick Up Please. Give away everything from board games to dolls to sports equipment.

Reach Out and Read

Guidelines: New or gently used children’s books

This organization specializes in promoting literacy at a young age. Medical providers associated with the org give kids books at well-visits to emphasize the importance of reading from an early age. There are 67 spots to drop your books off in the state, so you’re bound to find a locale near you. You can also give a monetary donation, donate via your Amazon purchases and more.

Salvation Army

GuidelinesYou can donate just about anything

The most famous symbol of giving back during the holiday season accepts all kinds of stuff from clothes to bikes to stuffed animals. Schedule a pickup of your items or drop it off at a NJ donation box.

Second Chance Toys

GuidelinesPlastic toys

This group will give the old toys in your house a new life (and your family more living space). Plus, handing them in at one of the locations in NJ or NYC keeps that non-degradable plastic out of landfills. Keep in mind this organization requires batteries to be included if a toy needs them to operate. Also, they’re a seasonal operation, so drop-offs near you may only be running around Earth Week in April and December during the holidays. Check back online as the holiday season draws nearer.

Toys for Tots

Guidelines: Nothing that looks like a realistic weapon or with food; must be new

Run by the US Marines, Toys for Tots has several toy drop-off locales that you can leave new, unwrapped toys at. Search by county to find a spot near you. You can also set up a collection near you yourself, host your own Toys of Tots event at home or volunteer at a nearby warehouse.

Simple Gingerbread Cake

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Simple Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread Cake

 You can make the cake up to 2 days ahead; cool, cover, and store airtight at room temperature. This cake is moist and delicious and will be a sure favorite!

Step 1

In a 2- to 3-quart pan over high heat, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in molasses and baking soda. After mixture stops foaming, stir in 1/2 cup cold water; let cool to room temperature, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Step 2

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves.

Step 3

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in eggs until blended. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add flour and molasses mixtures alternately until incorporated, then beat on high speed until well blended. Pour into a buttered and floured 9-inch square pan.

Step 4

Bake in a 325° regular or convection oven until a toothpick inserted in center of thickest part comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack at least 1 1/4 hours.

Step 5
Whisk powdered sugar and water into a smooth frosting and spread over COMPLETELY cooled cake.
Step 6
Top with rosemary sprigs and dragees or sprinkles