THINKING OF MY FRIEND JAKE This Holiday Season
Years back, I was listening to an audiobook of Tony Robbins’ “Money: Master the Game” during the five-hour drive to Philadelphia, where I would meet with our window manufacturer. Incredible speaker and writer that Mr. Robbins is, I found his seven steps to financial freedom deeply compelling, especially number seven, “The secret to living is giving.” Essentially, he stresses that just writing a check to a charity isn’t doing the most good. Instead, he argues, you should immerse yourself in one, working on the ground level and truly connecting with the people you serve. This in mind, I found myself exploring the streets of Philly before the meeting, reminiscing about days when my friends and I would head to the city to see live bands like Simple Minds and the Pretenders. I withdrew $100 from the ATM, thinking I could either divide the money between the homeless people scattered around most street corners or hand the entire stack over to a single, deserving individual. But as I walked around, I was struck by Tony Robbins’ words, and decided to step completely outside my comfort zone. I approached a gentleman who wasn’t panhandling, no cardboard sign or metal cup. He was sitting by himself at a picnic table, and I asked for directions to the Liberty Bell, pretending to be a lost tourist. After he pointed it out — right across the street — I thanked him and asked how he was doing. “Not so good,” he told me. He’d been living on the streets since 2001. I learned his name, Jake, and discovered that, to my surprise, he didn’t know how old he was. It had been years since he celebrated his birthday, and he’d stopped keeping track. I sat down at the table and talked to him for over an hour. After learning of his struggles to find work and offering him some employment advice, I asked whether he’d meet me at the same spot if I returned next weekend. Lo and behold, when I returned to Philly the next week, he was there. I took him to Subway, where we ate and talked. Over the next few months, Jake and I became close friends, meeting almost every week at Subway. Eventually, we upgraded to the Midtown Diner, where our server, Regina, would save a space for us in the back.
I progressively coordinated my efforts with an organization in the area called Project Home and encouraged Jake to find a job, steadily curbing my financial assistance to him (which wasn’t much to
begin with). But I eventually realized that, despite all my efforts, I couldn’t cure the mental illness that kept him out of ordinary society. What I could do was continue to be his friend, meeting with him as often as possible. Over the next couple years, we’d meet intermittently, sometimes losing touch due to some event in my life, and then, inevitably, I’d find him once again. This spurred me to get more involved with the Sunday Love Project, the brainchild of Margaux Murphy, serving quality food to people struggling daily on the streets of Philadelphia. The Christmas season has me thinking of Jake and the thousands of people in similar difficult circumstances out there in Philly. I tell his story a lot — there’s even a website, thejakestory.com — and people are often skeptical, thinking that my involvement with the homeless must have some ulterior motive. I tell these people that I don’t consider myself any kind of Mother Teresa; I’ll often see a band when I’m in Philly and take advantage of the big city. The truth is, I just enjoy meeting people who are less fortunate, learning their stories, and helping them in some small way. It’s a labor of love that gives my life meaning. Jake isn’t just some token homeless person for an abstract cause. He’s my friend. Though I haven’t seen him since July, when I introduced him to my daughter and explored the city with him like old times, I’m still banking on him showing up at Sunday Love one weekend. With any luck, I’ll see him just before Christmas, when we head down on Dec. 22, ready to eat meatloaf at the Midtown Diner just like before. –Ger Ronan
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to Enjoy This Holiday Season UNUSUAL HOT CHOCOLATE RECIPES
’Tis the season for hot beverages! Sure, Americans love
Raspberry Hot Chocolate Tired of the dreary, gray winter weather? Is sounds like you could use a dash of sweet pink! Real raspberry puree gives this drink a much- needed burst of fruity delight, especially when you swap out the usual milk chocolate with creamy white chocolate. Toss a few raspberries on top, and you’re sure to be enchanted by the colors and the flavor. Check out the recipe at sugarhero.com/raspberry-white-hot- chocolate/. Frozen Hot Chocolate If your winter wonderland view is less than snowy, you might be craving a cooler hot chocolate beverage. It’s your standard hot chocolate recipe, but it replaces the pot and stove with some ice and a blender! Yes, you can still top it with whipped cream and sprinkles. Find the full recipe at centercutcook.com/frozen-hot-chocolate/. Whether you’re a casual cocoa drinker or a true chocolate connoisseur, there’s an incredible recipe waiting for you. The best part? You can keep trying different hot chocolates until you find your new favorite.
coffee all year long, but as the holidays roll around, hot chocolate sales boom. There’s something satisfying about sweet, rich chocolate topped with whipped cream and marshmallows. It’s a classic combination, but who says the classics can’t be updated? Broaden your hot chocolate horizons this holiday season with some truly unique recipes! Aztec Hot Chocolate This spicy drink pays homage to those original chocoholics, the Aztecs. Cacao beans are native to Mesoamerica, and the ancient Aztec loved to grind the beans and serve them in a bitter, frothy liquid. In this recipe, dark chocolate, chili pepper, and cinnamon blend into a rich treat, but you’ll also have access to a couple ingredients the Aztecs didn’t have: sugar and milk. Learn how to make the perfect winter drink at theendlessmeal.com/spicy-aztec-hot- chocolate.
THE NEWEST FURRY MEMBER of the Yankee Family
This month at Yankee Home Improvement, we’re thrilled to announce our latest hire: Betsy Ross, the Great Pyrenees! As the newest member of Ger’s family, she’ll be joining us as the official pooch of the business. She’s a gigantic, fluffy ball of friendliness, so we’re sure her personality will fit right in, though her enormous frame might take up a little more room. Ger and his wife picked up Betsy Ross from an animal rescue in Philadelphia. Her unique name is inspired by the historical designer Betsy Ross, who’s credited with making the first American flag. Our new furry friend is already right at home in the office, relaxing by Ger’s feet while he takes calls and manages the business. All of us at Yankee believe that if you’re going to get a dog this holiday season, it should be from a shelter. Not only are you saving the pooch from being one of the 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats euthanized annually in the United States (according to the Humane Society), you’re more likely to get a happy, healthy pet who is already house trained and socialized. In addition, you’ll help fight the
prevalence of puppy mills, which are factory-style breeding facilities that put profit far above the welfare of their pups.
If you don’t believe us, just take one look at Betsy — you can’t deny those big, watery eyes! If you get a chance, stop in and say hello to our wonderful new companion. She’ll certainly be eager to meet you.
Recipe inspired by elanaspantry.com/star-cookies
The Best Way to Lower WINTER HEATING BILLS
CHRISTMAS STAR COOKIES
No matter how much you love the snow, you have to admit that, besides being chilly and inconvenient, winter can be expensive. Simply keeping your house warm during these icy months can rack up hundreds of dollars in additional heating bills. The toughest among us might be able to kick down the thermostat 10 degrees and resort to wearing a coat indoors, but nobody wants to turn into a popsicle in their own home. Luckily, there’s a simple and relatively inexpensive way to trap that heat indoors: investing in new insulation for your roof and attic. According to TheGreenAge.com, around 25 percent of the warmth your heating system generates escapes through the roof. This problem gets even worse if you’re using old insulation, which tears and degrades over time, forcing your heater to work harder for less benefit. And if you’re using minimal to no insulation in your attic, you may find it almost impossible to keep your house at a reasonable temperature without cranking the thermostat up beyond reason. Our team can help. We will thoroughly inspect every inch of your attic to ensure that you are covered with high-quality, heat-trapping
insulation. Depending on your needs, we will find a solution. You can be confident that an attic insulated by our experts will save you a lot of money, which will certainly add up in the years to come. Give us a call at (866) 875-2546 today and get the comfort you and your family deserve, without breaking the bank.
¼ cup coconut oil, melted 5 tablespoons agave nectar or honey 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2½ cups blanched almond flour (not almond meal) ½ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. 2. In a small bowl, mix coconut oil, agave, and vanilla. 3. Mix wet ingredients into dry. 4. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper until ¼ inch thick. 5. Refrigerate for 1 hour. 6. Remove top piece of parchment paper and dust dough with almond flour. 7. Cut out cookies with a small star cutter. 8. Using a metal spatula, place stars on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 9. Bake at 350 F until edges are lightly browned, 5–8 minutes.
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Reaching Out to Those Less Fortunate INSIDE
Unique Hot Chocolate Recipes You Need to Try
Meet Betsy Ross, Yankee’s New Dog!
Keep Heating Bills Low
Christmas Star Cookies
New Year’s Celebrations Around the World
NEW YEAR’S CELEBRATIONS FROM EVERY CORNER OF THE GLOBE
When you think of marquee New Year’s Eve parties, New York is probably what comes to mind. The Times Square ball drop has become an iconic moment that closes out the calendar, but it’s far from the only mega celebration. Let’s take a globe-trotting tour of some of the world’s biggest and best New Year’s Eve parties, time zone by time zone. Sydney, Australia Due to its location, Sydney is the first major city to close out one year and begin another. With this honor comes the dignified responsibility of getting the party started, and the city doesn’t hold back. The world’s largest fireworks display illuminates the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House, drawing over 1 million visitors every year. On Bondi Beach, there’s also a dance party that would make a music festival blush. Hong Kong, China China’s most cosmopolitan city recreates the famed ball drop in its own Times Square shopping mall. From there, locals go to Victoria Harbor, partying on boats and the city’s many rooftop and terrace bars. The grand finale? A stunning pyrotechnic dragon slithering across the sky. Berlin, Germany Celebrations in this capital begin with a wacky tradition: the Berliner Silvesterlauf. It’s a race where runners deck themselves out in their holiday
best and flip pancakes as they run through the streets. When the sun sets, more than 1 million people gather at the Brandenburg Gate for a night of world-class bands and spectacular fireworks. Oh, and the after-parties last well into the morning. Reykjavik, Iceland This time of year, the world’s northernmost capital only gets four hours of sunlight, so residents love an excuse to go wild. Beginning around 4 p.m., bonfires light up the city, burning off the past year’s negative vibes. It only gets more festive from there. And there’s no better way to cure a New Year’s hangover than visiting one of Iceland’s picturesque hot springs. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Just before celebrations reach their apex in America, Brazil’s most famous city puts on a party like no other. Revelers dress up in white and go to Copacabana Beach for an all-night celebration. Boats filled with flowers are put out to sea to honor the oceanic goddess Yemanja. Music, dancing, fireworks, and an unrivaled atmosphere — Rio has it all. If you follow the new year from one end of the world to the other, you might be a little tired by the time 2018 hits our shores. Partying with the entire world, however, makes the effort worthwhile.
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