Holiday Baking

Holiday baking is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.   It’s steeped in tradition, heritage and reminds me of my childhood.  Growing up we made mint cookies and molasses cookies every year.  Christmas morning my mom would serve her Christmas tea ring.   The memories of making Christmas cookies with my family are some of my fondest.    I’ve carried on many of these traditions making the mint cookies every year.   Over the years, we’ve stopped making the molasses cookies in Florida as they take too much flour to make them manageable.  In lieu of the tea ring, I’ve made my caramel rolls to serve at brunch for over a decade.

I had an amazing time exploring Scandinavia this fall with my son, brother and sister-in-law.  It definitely strengthened the connection I feel to our family’s heritage. As a result, I wanted to infuse some traditional Norwegian and Finnish cookies into our holiday baking.  My aunt, a lefse baking pro, provided us with the recipe for lefse.  I found the recipes for the Norwegian cookies in Norwegian heritage groups on Facebook.  Finally, I was able to find Finnish recipes via google.

The baking started off by baking the mint cookie dough.  I planned to bake several dozen since these cookies were a sure bet.  Unfortunately, dough vultures (a.k.a my kids) thwarted my first attempt.  My next attempt had to be more covert.  Indeed, my mom and I ended up baking three more batches.  We had to hide the dough in one of our three refrigerators to ensure we’d have enough to bake cookies.

My holiday baking this year was more special since my mom was here.  It made our culinary adventure through Scandinavian traditions more meaningful.  Our first task was to make the dough for the kringlas (Norwegian) and juolutorttu (Finnish.) Each of these doughs was quite easy to make.  The kringla is a sour cream dough, while the juolutorttu dough is more of a pastry dough.  Normally, the doughs would need to rest for an hour or two. However, we left them rest overnight due to the climate in Florida.

Cloudberry juolutorrtu
Lingonberry juolutorrtu
Blueberry juolutorrtu

The next morning we started by making the dough for the pulla, a Finnish sweet bread.  Since the bread had to rise for 90 minutes, it was the perfect place to start.  While it raised, we were able to make the juolutorttu and the kringlas.  Traditionally, the juolutorttu is made with prunes, but I didn’t have any and I don’t really like prune.  Consequently, we made ours with lingonberry, blueberry and cloudberry jam that I had purchased on my recent travels.  Both of the cookies were a bit fussy to make, but they were much easier to make than I had to anticipated.   The pulla was relatively easy to make and smelled divine.

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Pulla

As the pulla baked, I headed to the gym for a quick workout before we undertook making lefse.  Once it was completed, we fired up the lefse griddle.  (Naturally, I had bought an entire lefse baking kit.- get it here.)  The lefse would be, by far, the most difficult thing we made that day.  While I was at work the Friday before, my mom mixed up the dough since it had to sit overnight.  Nonetheless, the lefse was still difficult to handle.  Our first attempt was an utter failure, but we improved with each lefse.  By the end of it, we were professionals.

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Our first attempt

In the end, we worse ourselves out will all of our holiday baking.  On Christmas, we had a plenty of sweet Scandinavian treats to last til next Christmas.   We had great beginner’s luck on all of our Scandinavian treats and I can’t wait to make them again next year.   Below you’ll find the links to the Scandinavian recipes we used this Christmas.

Krumkake with cloudberry and blueberry jams

 

Recipes:

Juolutorrtu (also called juolutorts or north stars)

Kringla

Pulla

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Back to Reality

Back to Reality

It was back to reality today.  I gotta say this whole Christmas on a Monday and back to work Tuesday stuff is for the birds!  Nonetheless I headed into work Dunkin’ hand.  Truly, I was somewhat relieved that my clothes still fit after this weekend and that traffic was relatively light.  When I got to work, the parking lot was absolutely empty.  At its peak, it wasn’t even close to half full.

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After a weekend of eating everything in sight, today was a good time to get back on track.  Unfortunately, I have a proclivity for sweet treats.  As much as I planned to be good, how could I turn down a perfectly good Christmas cookie?  After all, I won’t be making them again until next December.  I don’t think you can argue with that air tight logic.

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Since I indulged in a couple of sweet treats today, I definitely had some extra motivation for my run.  The Piggie and I logged 2.5 miles before I headed to yoga.  Indeed it was a nice run with comfortable temperatures and a pretty consistent pace.  As I ran, I was a bit mad at myself for not maintaining my running last spring.  In some ways, I feel like I’m back to the beginning of training.  Whereas, last spring I finally got my mile below 8 minutes, I’m back to running a mile in 9:5 minutes.

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In 2018, I’ll be re-committing to running and regular training. I’d love to finish 2018 with either a half marathon or two 10ks under my belt, but more on 2018 in a later post.  In order to train successfully, I have to make sure my legs stay healthy.  Consequently, I spent a good 15 minutes stretching my legs post-run tonight.  I did this even though I knew I’d be headed to yoga afterwards.

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In addition to my post-run stretch, I’ve been going to Massage Envy a couple of times per week for assisted stretch.  Not only is this helping loosen up my legs for running, but it’s helping my yoga practice as well.  While I enjoy a good massage, the assisted stretch sessions have yielded much better results.   Unfortunately, neither my yoga teacher or massage therapist can help with the huge bruise I got on right thigh at paint ball.   I’m pretty sure that bruise is going to be around for a long time.    I’d post a picture, but it’s borderline indecent.

Tonight’s song performed by Michael Buble is “Feeling Good.”

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as you had hoped.  Ours started early, but thankfully not too early.  The Mayor woke us up shortly before 8:00, which is a lot later than it used to be. Back in the day, the boys would wake us up well before 7:00 am.  My friends and family know how little I enjoy waking up early, so the super early Christmas wake up calls were tough!

Unquestionably, Christmas is much more meaningful as a parent.  Its not that I don’t like getting gifts; its just that giving them is so much better.  In our house, opening gifts happens like a hurricane as the boys tear open their gifts.  This year their Christmas lists were markedly smaller than previous years.  Although they did include some interesting items like: a teacup pig, a puppy, a tegu, a bearded dragon, and a MacBook.  Unfortunately, there was no teacup pig or puppy under the tree this year.

After they opened their gifts, the Hubby and I got to work preparing for brunch.  He made his famous Cholesterol Bake (totally worth every calorie,) while I finished my caramel rolls and started the bacon.   Additionally, we had to get our drink bar ready.  We had plenty of OJ and champagne/asti for mimosas.  Moreover, this year we added a coffee bar, so my bro brought cold brew coffee and we paired it with Bailey’s and/or Ciroc French Vanilla vodka.  To the uninitiated, the coffee (we used Stok) with Bailey’s and vodka is smooth and absolutely sublime.

While I finished cooking the 85 lbs of bacon and rolls, the boys played show and tell with their menagerie.  They were more than happy to share their animals with our guests.  After showing off Lil’ B (our little beardie,) Goalielocks and the Mayor brought down their two chameleons.  Surprisingly, Goalielocks was able to get the normally shy chameleons to eat in front of company.  Of course it’s a bit of a show when the chameleons eat.

Fortunately, all of the food turned out awesome.  Surprisingly, we didn’t end up in a food coma after eating copious amounts of caramel rolls, cholesterol bake and bacon.  Once brunch was done, the boys headed outside to play football.  Unlike Minnesota, which was -5 this morning, we were balmy in the 70s this morning.  For paintball we were in the low 80s, but without too much humidity.

This year we went to paintball a little later with a 1:00 pm start time.  Unlike years past, the paintball place was completely crowded with groups of uninitiated paint  ballers.  We’ve done this for several years on Christmas not to mention the numerous birthday parties the boys have attended.   Nonetheless, I have zero patients for morons who shoot randomly when not on the field or take their masks off on the field.  Darwin would have been proud!

Straightaway, after getting our guns, we headed to the far fields away from the crowds.  We had the far fields to ourselves for over an hour before a couple of the inexperienced and not so bright groups came on over.  Despite the ineptitude of the people around us, we managed to have a good time.

Our group was pretty small, so we stuck to the smaller fields.  We split up the teams a number of different ways to make interesting throughout the day.   The adults took it to the kids several times, but don’t worry they got us back.  Both the Mayor and Goalielocks have their own guns, which are far more powerful than the rental guns.  Both took me out several times from afar.  I didn’t even have a chance since my gun couldn’t shoot that far.

In one round, Jake, Brandi and I played against my brother and my two younger kids.  My brother came running across the field, thinking there was cover (there wasn’t) and all three of us shot him simultaneously.  Whoops!  Thank goodness my brother is a good sport!

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Between rounds, we Face-timed my parents from Paintball and was able to speak to everyone there, which was awesome.  I definitely miss seeing my family and extended family this time of year.  I have many cherished memories that  I have from holidays spent with my grandparents and extended family.  My hope for my boys is they cherish the traditions we’ve started that put a premium on time spent together having fun.

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Post-paintball we headed home and ordered some friend rice and chicken teriyaki.   Tonight we’re going to watch a movie on NetFlix and relax.  Unfortunately, tomorrow is Tuesday and not a holiday meaning most of us will be back at work.  Can you hear the collective boo?  I’ll leave you tonight with my favorite Christmas song.  This song performed by Mariah Carey is “All I Want For Christmas is You.”

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is here and almost gone.  Today was hectic and we rushed to finish our last minute shopping and preparations for Christmas day.  I think the boys will be happy with what they’re getting, but we’ll see.  Truthfully, I had hope to spend more money on experiences or even a trip than gifts.  Oh well, there’s always next year.  Its probably a shift that’s easier to make gradually than in one fell swoop.

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In addition to last minute errands, I had (and still have) a lot of baking today.  I made another round of mint cookies today in addition to krumkakes and toffee candies.  Fortunately, all three of the items turned out really good.  As I write this, I’m starting to make the main star of tomorrow’s brunch — the caramel rolls.  Ah yes, no less than 1,000,000 grams of carbs and sugar in these beauties, but they’re completely worth it.   Honestly, all calories on Christmas should be free, I think Santa would totally agree.

Krumkakes are a traditional Norwegian cookie that I was excited to try making this year.  After all, I have both cloud berry and blueberry jam from Norway to pair with the cookie, so now is the perfect time.  In order to bake said cookies, however, I had to order a krumkake iron.  I opted for a new school plug and play model versus the old school iron you heat up over a burner.  I think we can all agree that nothing good would come from me using an old school iron.

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The dough is quite simple to make.  You can use either vanilla or almond extract to flavor the cookie  Today I used vanilla as that is what I had on hand.  Once the dough has been mixed up, you bake one cookie at a time on the iron.  These cookies cook quite quickly albeit individually.  Moreover, once they come of the iron, you need to shape them around the cone to get their famed conical shape.

My first attempt at shaping a krumkake was lackluster, but I had also overcooked the cookie.  After the first couple of cookies, I got the process down pat.  You can definitely bake these cookies by yourself.  However, it would be easier to an assistant help shape the cookies once they come off the iron.

After all the baking, we headed to my brother’s house for some games, movies and appetizers.  Before though I had to make a pit stop at Walgreen’s for some whipped cream and dollar bills.  I had no cash on me and we needed singles, so we could play Left Right Center at Jon’s.  You can only imagine the look the clerk gave me when I asked for my change ($20) is singles, but I digress.

We quickly ate our appetizers once we got to Jon’s, so we could start playing Left Right Center.  Goalielocks didn’t want to spend any money (even though I was funding), so he manned the music tonight.  Per usual, the game was not mild.  Both the Mayor and Jake ended up winning two games, while both Brandi and I won a game.  Throughout the games, the Mayor was full of witty one-liners.

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Once the money dried up, it was time for krumkakes.  I served them with whipped cream and either blueberry or cloud berry jam.  They were absolutely heavenly.  Moreover, I forgotten how much I loved the Norwegian jam.  I have yet to find either cloud berry jam or a good blueberry jam stateside.  When my family goes in January, I hope they bring some more back for us. Hint, hint…..

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Now it’s off to finish wrapping presents and baking caramel rolls.  Tonight’s song performed by Mariah Carey  is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Come Fly With Me

Come Fly With Me

Come fly with me, no seriously, you’ve gotta try aerial yoga at least once.  Now that I’ve have several classes under my belt, I’m starting to feel much more comfortable in the silk.  After an rousing hockey game last night and kick arse circuit burn class this morning, aerial yoga with Monica was the perfect way to decompress mentally and physically.   Additionally, the communal atmosphere of the class is awesome.  Everyone is supportive, eager to try new things and happy to cheer others on.

I know you’re wondering, what’s so awesome about aerial yoga. So let me tell you.  First, aerial yoga is great for your back.  While you’re in the inversions, your spine is able to decompress and there’s minimal strain on your back.  If you’ve got back problems, an aerial yoga practice may provide relief.

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Since the silk supports you in the inversions, you’re able to get into inversions, like handstands, and hold them much longer.  Consequently, you build not only strength, but also muscle memory for the poses.  This will translate into your mat practice.   Moreover, there are parts of the aerial practice that are nearly identical to TRX.  You’re able to use your own weight as resistance to build strength and flexibility.

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Thankfully, I was able to decompress both my mind and my spine this morning otherwise I would have lost my mine at the mall.   The Hubby and I are way behind the eight ball when it comes to Christmas shopping.  Although to be fair, the boys just posted their Christmas wishlists on the fridge yesterday.  Consequently, I headed to Kohl’s to find a present, but left empty handed.  I could not believe how picked over the shelves were. Since Kohl’s didn’t have what I needed, we headed to Macy’s and Dick’s.

What should have been a five minute ride took nearly 20 in the snowbird laden mall traffic. Ugh, Christmas shopping is bad enough, but throw in winter traffic and it is insufferable.  We ran in to Dick’s first, but again came out empty handed.  Afterwards we made our way to Macy’s, were we finally found what we needed to buy.  Unfortunately, we spent more time trying to exit the mall parking lot than we spent in Kohl’s.  Road rules and traffic regulations are not strong suits of Florida drivers.

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Later the Mayor and I went to Target, so he could by his brothers some presents.  Fortunately, Target was better stocked and well staffed.  We were able to get our groceries, the presents and check out in less than an hour. This was amazing especially considering we made a detour to Starbucks as we shopped.

Tomorrow we’ll finish out last minute shopping after aerial yoga and then head to my brother’s tomorrow evening.  Of course, we’ll have to wrap all the presents and start preparing the dishes for Christmas brunch.  My family looks forward to Christmas brunch as its usually the only time I make caramel rolls.  You may recall that for hurricane Irma I made an exception.  Unfortunately, we were house bound so we couldn’t work off the calories.  Consequently, Jake and I are already planning a long run Christmas Day to counteract the thousands of calories and carbs we’ll consume at brunch.

Tonight’s song performed by the Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra is “Come Fly With Me.” This song is one of my absolute favorites.  Enjoy!

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

It’s the winter solstice today, well at least it was at 11:28 am this morning.  The shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere is also the harbinger of longer days to come.  Unequivocally, I hated the short days of a Minnesota winter.  There’s nothing more depressing than a sunset at 4:30 pm.

Here in Florida, the sunset was around 5:30 pm tonight and was gorgeous.   If it weren’t for the horribly short days, you would hardly know it is winter here. Piggie and I were out on our run enjoying the beautiful weather.  As we pushed to mile 3, Piggie recoiled with fright into my left knee.   My left leg is a veritable disaster with hip flexors and a IT band so tight if it snapped, it would poke your eye out.  What was the monster that frightened her so?  Perhaps another animal or a loud car?  Oh no, my Piggie was afraid of the orange cone.  If I wasn’t so out of breath, I would have ended up on the ground in a laughing fit.

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As you’ve probably gathered from reading my recent blog posts, things have been a bit stressful in our household.  It’s not always amazing to own your own business, but that’s the price you pay for autonomy.  In addition, we had a health scare with one of our boys, so we ended up at a specialists office this afternoon. Fortunately, his bladder and kidney looked good on the ultrasounds.  This gave him quick relief as he was worried they’d find something in his organs.

Nevertheless, he will have to undergo an outpatient surgery in early 2018.  This should be quite simple and result in minimal downtime.  However, if anything is discovered during the procedure it could result in a more protracted and complicated recovery.  Here’s hoping for an uneventful procedure and a miraculous (quick and uncomplicated) recovery.

Speaking of miracles, I’ll need to start and finish my Christmas shopping (food included) in the span of 72 hours.  Unfortunately, this means online shopping isn’t going to work.  Well, unless I want to spend $250 for Saturday shipping, which I don’t as that’s ridiculous.  Wish me luck as I hit the stores with the snow birds and all the glorious people South Florida has to offer.

Tonight’s song, performed by one of our hockey sister’s Julia and her classmate, is “The Prayer.”

 

 

Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress

I’m sure we can all relate to the pressures of holiday stress.  At this time in the year, the stress level is maxed out as we hurriedly try to finish our holiday preparations.  When you’re a small business owner, you can amp that stress level up 100X as you wait for contractors to act on invoices sent over a month ago.  While they’re are definitely benefits to owning your own business, the added stress is not one of them.

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I’ve written about missing home before, but some times in the course of doing business I really, truly miss the Northland.  It would be unthinkable up north for a reputable contractor to sit on invoices for over a month.  Whereas, here in S. Florida it is completely normal for a contractor to pay invoices on island time.  Admittedly, I’m new to this business and my hubby assures me this is normal, but I want to fucking throat punch this guy right now.

Anyway, rant over because that’s not what this post is about.  Believe it or not this post is about ways you can reduce your holiday stress.  Here are some of my favorite coping mechanisms:

  1. Run –  Runner’s high is real and it is amazing.  The world is a better place after a good long run.  f0c4c054288a64ccf399c4ef4b13cbf2--runners-quotes-funny-motivational-quotes-for-working-out
  2. Meet me at the mat!  There’s nothing like a good Vinyasa class to remove your from life’s craziness and put you in the moment.
  3. Come fly with me….  If you’re not inclined to hop on a mat and namaste, then come fly with me at Aerial yoga.
  4. Bake some holiday treats with your loved ones or friends.  If your family is anything like my boys, make sure they don’t steal any cookies from the cookie sheet.  FL Christmas 2006 487
  5. Spend time with good friends  24883571_10155106304447371_1492472535565284382_o
  6. Enjoy a nice drink (i.e. Ciroc and vodka.)  See 5.  tenor (2).gif
  7. Pay it forward.  There’s nothing more rewarding than helping those that are less fortunate.  IMG_1144
  8. Hang out with your four legged friends.  I love chilling with my puppies!  IMG_1291
  9. Spend time doing the things you love with the people you love.  There’s nothing I love more than watching my boys (even the big one) play hockey.  I was in hog heaven last night as three of the four took to the ice.

    Monday Night Mayhem
    Monday Night Mayhem
  10.   Drink more Dunkin’!  Just think soon it won’t just be coffee I’m talking about it will be beer too!

I hope my list of tricks and tools to alleviate the holiday stress was helpful to you.  Obviously, if you’re not in to running or yoga, you suck.. I’m only kidding.  In all seriousness, if they’re not your poison, make time for your favorite workout.  It will do you a world of good!

Tonight’s song is “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

Blissful Moments

Blissful Moments

As crazy as our Saturday was, Sunday was divinely low key and full of blissful moments.  I spent the better part of my morning cuddling on the couch with my Mayor, which is hands down one of my favorite things. My hubby, who had run out to Home Depot was kind enough to return home with my coffee. Yay!

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I worked  on the living room getting it ready for the Christmas tree.  I’m happy to report that we’ll hit our goal of getting our Christmas tree up before Christmas.  It’s the small victories in life.  Now that it’s up, we’ll have to actually decorate it before the holiday.  Meanwhile, Goalielocks and the Mayor cleaned their animals cages and did their chores. Additionally, I finally got the photos of Maya and Athena from Petco!

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Sadly, we missed the Jingle Bell Jog in Delray this year.  Our hockey schedule made it impossible for us to make the race.  This race is one of my favorite 5ks in South Florida. Its fun to see all of the runners dressed as Santa Claus.  Morever, the course is a beautiful run up A1A along the ocean.  The view is absolutely incredible.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the mimosas and beer available post-race as it is a definite plus.  Unfortunately,  we’ll have to wait until next year’s event.

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Since we didn’t make it to the Jingle Bell jog, Goalielocks and I took the girls for a nice run this afternoon.  We logged 2.5 miles today and it was a good run.  As a fyi, I classify it as a good run when I don’t want to puke the entire run.  Nonetheless, nothing beats the bliss of the post run high or running with my boys.  I love that its another activity we can share together.  Much like hockey, they’re much better runners than me, but that’s okay.  Its just another way in which they amaze me.

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I’m thankful that I went in for the assisted stretch appointment yesterday.  My legs, including my left hip, were much looser than they were Saturday.  Additionally, my legs felt great on the run.  Where I was experiencing muscle pain or muscle cramps in my legs, I experienced none of that today.  After our run, I helped Goalielocks stretch his legs and then stretch mine.  I’ll be ready to run again tomorrow!

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Tonight I’m going to back up some of our mint cookies for Christmas.  After making the dough for the second time, I’m hoping to actually have some cookies to show for the dough I made.  If I delay baking these cookies, odds are they’ll never be made.  I’ll post some pictures for tomorrow’s blog if my boys don’t eat them!

Enjoy tonight’s song performed by Pentatonix is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”  I love this song!

Magical Moments

Magical Moments

Our morning was filled with magical moments as we joined Santa to deliver gifts to the beautiful kids at ARC Broward.  This is my second year leading the initiative with my incredible partner in crime MK.  Consequently, it was also my second time attending the gift delivery.  Last year,  the event blew my away.  When I left last year’s event my heart was full after watching these kids and their parents relish their moment with Santa and their gifts.  I couldn’t wait to go back!

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This year ARC Broward’s preschool is under new leadership, so we’ve been working with new people.  Can I just tell you how amazing these people are?  They do an incredible job educating, advocating and creating futures for people with disabilities.  When we first arrived,  Shawn ushered us into a room where ARC’s Culinary program had catered in breakfast.  Their culinary program provides post high school education via a certificate to adults with disabilities.  The food was absolutely amazing!

As we finished our amazing breakfast, ARC’s high school class came into the room to visit us.  They performed a couple of songs and posed for pictures with all of us and Santa.  It was magical.  These high schoolers had incredible energy and were filled with joy. ARC’s commitment to these teens and young adults is to give them the skillset to find a job they want in the community.  Indeed, it’s all about creating opportunities for these students to excel.

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Afterwards we headed over to the preschool to start handing out the gifts. I struggle to words that adequately describe how beautiful and amazing it is to watch these kids receive their gifts and see Santa.  While some were afraid to sit on Santa’s lap, many were excited beyond belief.  They bounded with joy to get their presents and see Santa.  Their innocence, excitement, happiness and gratitude were overwhelming. It’s hard to watch without getting misty.

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I was so excited to buy for my angels after having met them both last year.  These two girls are incredibly sweet and full of energy.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to give one of my angels her gift today.   Moreover, I was able to meet her mom (who’s incredible) and chat with her for a bit.  Many times we donate to charities or toy drives and don’t have the luxury of getting to witness the child receiving the gift. I can tell you that there is nothing better than watching a child receive that gift.

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It’s no wonder that we left today’s event with a full heart and complete joy.  There’s something beyond gratifying in making someone’s world a little better.  As we go on our journey around the sun, it is easy for us to get stuck in the rat race.  We don’t have to be stuck!  We can live our legend, even if we’re punching the clock at a 9 to 5.  Sure we’re not crossing the Sahara looking for an alechemist, but we can find ways to fee our soul.  For me, it’s paying it forward via Angel Tree or raising funds an awareness for pancreatic cancer research.  It doesn’t have to be grandiose to be magical.  It would be a small, purple pony that you give to a little sister who didn’t think she’d be getting a gift.  Sometimes it’s all about the small things.

Tonight’s song performed by U2 is “Christmas.”

Breakfast With Santa

Breakfast With Santa

Today was our annual Breakfast with Santa at work.  I know what you may be thinking.  We’re far too old to be eating with Santa, but you’d be wrong!  Importantly, our annual breakfast is the culmination of our Angel Tree drive. In fact, this year we adopted 363 angels for Christmas!

Our Angels come courtesy of ARC Broward, which is an incredible organization that provides people with disabilities and other life challenges the opportunity to fulfill their potential.  Raising children in modern times is incredibly expensive.  Unfortunately, for parents of special needs children, the costs can be exponentially higher, which is where we come in.

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This event started over seven years ago when my CRO and his wife adopted their daughter’s classroom having seen the need first hand.  Thankfully, my CRO shared this opportunity with our military team and we took up the challenge.  Excitedly, this is my second year leading the event with my partner in crime MK.  By comparison to years past, our team is bigger, more diverse and incredible this year.  We made a concerted effort to expand the team outside of our unit, so it would encompass representation from units across the company.

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First, we started off our morning staging the gifts downstairs.  As a result, our employees could get their pictures taken in front of the gifts with Santa.  The sight was beyond impressive with gifts for over 300 people including 20 bikes staged in reception! What struck me as I looked at the gifts, was the amazing generosity of my colleagues.  In that moment, I felt truly blessed and proud.  Blessed and proud to be a part of an organization where community involvement and philanthropy are prized and encouraged.

Importantly, current employee engagement theory has shown that engaged employees happier and more productive.  Since I had the pleasure of taking the pictures with Santa, I got to witness our employees reaction to the event first hand. Without fail, our collective generosity blew away my colleagues.  Time and after time, people made comments about how awesome it is to work with such great people and at a great place.  Undoubtedly, for me, witnessing both their pride and their joy was a profoundly rewarding experience.  As a result, I have no doubt that today’s event was an employee engagement win!

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Afterwards, I headed back up to meetings.  Meanwhile, the team loaded the gifts up for delivery.  I simply cannot wait to go hand out the gifts later this week.  Last year, it was such an amazing, life affirming experience.  Unquestionably, the joy on the children’s face coupled with the gratitude of the teachers and parents is indescribable.  Meanwhile I’m filled with the joy and gratitude for today’s experience.

Tonight’s song performed by  music legends David Bowie and Bing Crosby   is “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.”