The Appreciation Factor

All things Appreciation: Things to Appreciate and the Ways we look at, Show and Think about Appreciation.


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Today is #GivingTuesday. Are You Supporting the Day that Was Established to Help “Bringing Back the True Meaning of the Holidays?”

In the spirit of #GivingTuesday (today), I wanted to refresh an older post on one of my favorite days of the year.  Giving Tuesday is 6 years strong today and looking at #socialmedia is growing in leaps and bounds.

 

For many, the holidays bring stress and pressure in not only finding the right gift, but how many gifts to give, what is the best price for said gifts, and of course long linesthe annual question on whether to shop or not to shop #BlackFriday.  And as you know, Black Friday has even creeps infringes on our time with family over the Thanksgiving holiday!

 

 

While all of these things may be seem important, why not stop and take the time to go back to what the holidays are really about, saying thanks and giving back.  Here at The Appreciation Factor, I’ve found a way you can do this — consider spreading the word and participating in #GivingTuesday2017.  This year, November 28th marks the sixth annual Giving Tuesday.

giving tuesdayHaven’t heard about it? What is Giving Tuesday?
Set on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday was started in 2012 as a global, 24-hour giving challenge created by thought-leaders at the UN Foundation and the 92nd Street Y.

 

 

#Giving Tuesday’s focus was to bring back the original sentiments of the holiday season:

  • Generosity
  • Hope
  • Goodwill, and
  • Community

 

As per the Giving Tuesday organization:

#GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local challenges. It also brings together the collective power of a unique blend of partners— nonprofits, civic organizations, businesses and corporations, as well as families and individuals—to encourage and amplify small acts of kindness.

 

 

If you’ve been following me/read other posts on this blog, you’ll agree that these are all things I can get my hands around.  It shows appreciation for more than just the retail side of things during the holiday season.

The concept gained steam with the help of founding partnerships with The United Nations Foundation, Donors ChooseMashableGlobal Giving, the Darden Restaurant GroupGroupon, and Unilever and several others.  There ongoing success is partly due to the assistance from renewing corporate sponsorships by Google, Microsoft, Skype, Cisco, UNICEF, and the Case Foundation.  This participation has helped the #GivingTuesday initiative raise millions of dollars for thousands of non-profits. – Wikipedia

 

Did you know? Americans give more to charitable organizations in dollars :$300B
When seen as a percentage of the GDP, 2.1% more than any other developed country

Source: Forbes 2014

 

There are many non-profit organizations participating/asking for your help on #GivingTuesday, maybe one of your favorites, and many more that truly need our help at this time of year.  Plus #GivingTuesday is a great alternative to the pressure to spend, spend, spend on gifts that may not make as much of an impact.

How Can You Participate?

The idea is simple.  Give to a non-profit organization of your choice Tuesday, November 28th.  BUT… don’t feel that the only way you can join in is to give financially.
Here are 3 ways you can make a difference:

    1. You can post an “Unselfie”   (You read that correctly.  It’s UNselfie not Selfie.)
  1. Still going strong in 2017, although many companies create their own, with their own humanitarian efforts and hashtags included.
    In 2013, #GivingTuesday supporters were encouraged to take a photo of themselves or something that represented their giving, upload it to their social media account of choice, and use the hashtags: #unselfie and #GivingTuesday. It was a resounding success and they’ve asked that we take on the Unselfie challenge again this year.

You can download your own Unselfie

 

2. Give of your time.  Pledge to give 10 mins or 10 hours of volunteer or your expertise to help further their efforts. Every little bit will help.

3.  Choose to make holiday purchases from retailers who give back. (Check to see if they donate a portion of their profits, have a company foundation that supports those in need, or even better, are they participating in Giving Tuesday?

You can of course also simply just spread the work and kindness through a random act of kindness (#ROAK) or publish a post on your social platforms, but I hope you’ll consider doing more.

So… What will you do?

 

 

MY PLEDGE (aka: Unselfie) FOR 2017

– Pledge to give 30 hours of volunteer time over the next 6 months

– Promote and buy more gifts/items from companies that give back

– Make a $100 donation to an organization or organisations that I feel passionate about.

– Promote #GivingTuesday through my social media profiles

Want more information/Want to get involved?

Learn More:

Share:

 

Don’t forget to post your #Unselfie or give (in the best way for you (time and talents are JUST AS IMPORTANT as financial support) to your favorite non-profit.
If your favorite doesn’t seem to be participating in #GivingTuesday, be sure to mention your #GivingTuesday participation along with your “donation” to help spread the word.

I’d love to hear your feedback, and how you may be participating in #GivingTuesday!


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Drop “Me” A Line – It’s National Letter Writing Month

April is National Letter Writing Month. Get those Pens out!

If I could, I’d have this song playing while you read the post. It’s cathartic to me and oh so clever, even if it’s not exactly mimicking putting pen to paper.

 

If you’ve already heard about National Letter Writing Month, my apologies, I know I’m a little late to the game.  Once I heard about it however, of course I needed to share because HELLLLOOOO, this is so up my alley.  How better to show your appreciation than with a handwritten note.  (Candidly – this celebration also reminded me that I need to write more notes all year long.)

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An Appreciative Valentine’s or Any Day

So I’m sort of on the fence about Valentine’s Day. It could be due to the fact that I’m unattached at the moment and everyone else around me has someone special, but I don’t think my dislike of chocolate and roses, two main staples of this Hallmark holiday, helps.

Still when this holiday rolls around, I can’t help but be a little inspired by all of the craftiness heartsyou see in the blogosphere, not to mention the increase in popularity of  things to do for
“Galentine’s Day.”

(For those who may be confused: Galentine’s Day is the day where you celebrate your girlfriends. As per Parks & Recreation, where it’s said to have originated, it is celebrated on the day before Valentine’s Day, February 13th.)

 

Appreciation – It Doesn’t Have to be Reserved for February

I love to show those I care about how much I appreciate them, and while I may not get on the whole Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day bandwagon – and neither should you if it’s not your thing – I thought perhaps I’d turn this into more a heart-themed appreciation post.

I’ve come across some great homemade ideas over the years.  So why not skip the card aisle this year and show your love and/or appreciation on February 13th OR February 14th (as we’ve become trained apt to do) or just do these at any time.  Just saying… break the mold once in a while.  Appreciation is a year-round thing. 🙂

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Heartfelt Wishes

Happy New Year

new-yearsPhoto Credit: Paperless PostThe Indigo Bunting/Erin Jang

 

I wanted to take a moment to Thank All of You… my Followers especially, but also the visitors, mentors, and fellow bloggers as well, that continue to visit and/or comment on my site, The Appreciation Factor.  I hope you’ve found the posts helpful, insightful, or that they’ve provided a new point of view. I’m so grateful for you all.

 

I know I didn’t post as often as I should have wanted to this year, but my passion for all things Appreciation has not wavered, but simply the act of completing the posts was challenging at times for me. This was especially true when I always wanted to ensure that my posts and topics are fresh/new content and paused when I wasn’t sure that it was.  Still for 2017, I hope to overcome these insecurities challenges and get more posts out in the new year.

Know that I’m forever grateful for your support, and for those that continue (or start) to follow this blog. You cheer me and humble me simultaneously.

 

May you have much success and happiness in 2017!
I hope you’ll come back for fresh content, tips on saying and writing thank yous (or just notes),
and for new things to appreciate.

I do have a few ideas up my sleeve and hope to start posting in early January. (Thanks for your patience!)

Sincerely,

k of taf


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Appreciating You and the Year that’s Passed on New Years Day

2016 New Years

 

Wow! It’s 2016 already. It definitely feels as though the years go faster and faster as I grow older. I guess our parents and grandparents were right about that. Sigh… If only there were a way to slow things down or better yet pause from time to time.   November and December felt especially quick – how about to you?

Before I go any further… Happy Happy New Year!  
I especially send my biggest thanks to you, my followers, for helping make 2015 my best year of blogging.

So the stats: In 2015, I published 37 posts and had over 2,000 visitors and gained 15 new followers (that I know of). I’m humbled. I’m so glad that my writing resonates with so many of you and that many (because you’ve told me) have found useful tips on my favorite topic Thank you notes – as well as for acts of kindness.

I love writing and sharing my thoughts with you, and hope you’ll continue to follow me and my goals of showing and sharing my appreciation of what I have and to others for all they do.

Here are the 5 posts I enjoyed writing the most this year – take a 2nd look – or a first one if you didn’t catch it the first time.  And please…. share your thoughts on topics you’d love to read about or send a link to something you think I’d enjoy. I love getting feedback and info!

  1. Thankful Thursdays. These were a new feature for me this year and I posted 10 issues this year. Here are my top 3 Thankful Thursday posts.
  2. Improve Your Relationships By Showing Your Appreciation at the Holidays This was my first cross over post in which I paired my professional expertise along with my love of sending holiday cards out each year as a way to say thanks.

  3. Goodbye Lovely Summer makes the list because I just love summer and these images give me some warm as the cold of winter is upon us. (Yeah I know it was in the high 60s a week ago today! I almost considered going swimming! – but winter is likely here and here to stay.)
  4. The Just Because Note is something I like to do, but candidly could do it more often as I didn’t quite hit the consistency of 2-3 notes/month – though one note I did send rekindled a friendship that had been dormant for almost a decade.  Perhaps adding this to my top 5 list here will help inspire me to plan better in the coming year.
  5. November’s World Kindness Day. While this was written to celebrate a specific holiday, it’s a reminder that Random Acts of Kindness (ROAKs) can be done quite easily so why not put these into practice all year long.

 

So which were your favorites? I’d love to hear.

I wish all of you only much success, happiness, and the ability to share your appreciation with those you care about, those you meet, and those you work alongside each day. You’d be pleasantly surprised how great saying and sharing your thanks either outwardly or via an act of kindness can make you feel.

Happy 2016!

yours,
TAF

 


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It’s National Thank You Note Day – I’m Celebrating with Janet Parnes

It’s that time of year where you may already be writing thank you notes for the generosity of those around you, but did you know there’s an actual “holiday” for Thank you notes?
Yep it’s December 26th!  I think it was created as it’s a reminder to get your thank you notes out ASAP after the holidays. (hint hint)

Not to worry I’m here to help.  To celebrate National Thank you Day, I’ve recruited my friend, Janet Parnes, Owner and Etiquette Consultant at Etiquette for Today.  I’m having her share her tips on writing a Thank you note. (I thought it would be great to have someone who counsels these tips to others already, weigh in at The Appreciation Factor.  Plus I’m excited to meet someone who values saying “thank you” as much as I do!)

Before we get to the tips, I thought I’d share a little bit about Janet.

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It’s that Time Again When The Radio is Taken Over

It’s the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  A time for giving, showing kindness, and making and buying gifts. Part of your holiday rituals may also include Christmas music (songs and carols).

Do you know the difference between a carol and a song?
Quite simply, Christmas carols are typically religious in nature – think Holy Night.
Christmas songs on the other hand are secular and have no real spiritual or religious affiliation.

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How Will You Contribute/Share Your Kindness?

Friday, November 13th, is World Kindness Day. 

I’ve been looking forward to this day for almost a year, having just missed it last year. Not be deterred, I printed a reminder and put it in my new day timer right away.

I know this blog is about Appreciation first and foremost, but I’ve always felt that kindness can beget gratitude/appreciation, and that showing/expressing our gratitude can also trigger kindness. Kind of makes a nice circle don’t you think?

 

Hands on a globe --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

World Kindness Day, was first introduced in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).  This group’s primary objective is to “foster goodwill among the broad community – local, national, and international – by way of kindness and in so doing, create greater understanding and cooperation between all people and all nations throughout the world.”  (You may be familiar with one of the US delegates, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.)

 

All in all, it’s a day to inspire individuals to share kindness
and strive to create a kinder world.

 

 

What can I do?

On this day, I encourage you to show kindness to your friends, family, loved ones, colleagues and strangers.  Your act can be big or small. Really anything that shows your appreciation or kindness to another person will do.  I’ve been planning on what I’m going to do on the 13th for a while, but have put together a list of 12 things that may help inspire you to take part in this truly special day. (FYI: The tasks I’m going to do are those in Green.)  Here’s a list of actions you can take:

1. Write 5 Thank you notes to those who have made an impact on my life or have recently helped me  (You didn’t actually think I could forego my tried and true way to share my appreciation. These notes will also be more of the Just Because type vs. due to a recent interview or act of assistance.)  Like this idea, but need help writing one? Visit these 2 of my prior posts for tips:

PB Envelope & TY CardWriting a Memorable Personal Thank you note

Writing a Just Because Note

2.  Feed meters or pay for someone’s coffee. (I don’t drink coffee so the latter half of this is harder for me personally. I did do it once, though I did not stick around to see the recipient or if the barista simply drank it.)

3.  Make food and distribute to office mates or friends – It’s best to share with someone who knows and trusts you vs. a stranger. (Be sure to include the recipe!)

4.  Surprise someone in your network with a reference on LinkedIn.  You likely have many in your LI network or otherwise whom you could write a glowing recommendation.
So often it’s their request that prompts us to help, why not surprise her/him before they have to ask. (You can also offer to provide/write one even if you’re not on LinkedIn.)
Idea courtesy of
Jenn of Work Wonders Coaching.Jar of Hearts

5.  Put 25 – 50 paper hearts or smiley faces in a box/jar. On the back of each one, write something that is special about your lover or a good friend. Give her/him the box and tell her to pull out a heart or smiley face anytime she gets lonely or wants a pick me up.

6.  Have an Amazon account?  Did you know that you can donate money to your favorite US non-profit through Amazon Smile.  Amazon will donate 5% of the price of your eligible Amazon Smile purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. I just set this up and it took less than a minute!

7.  Since World Kindness day is so close to Veteran’s Day – Send a special note to a veteran, soldier or wounded military personnel. If you don’t know any personally, here are two links to make a connection:

Write a letter to a deployed or wounded member of the military through Operation Gratitude. Soldiers say that’s the most meaningful part of care packages they receive.

On Facebook?  You can send your thanks to military members through Military Facebook pages.

8.  Say thank you to those that you see every day, but whom may not work “with” you.  Everyone is important from the office security guard and the person at the front desk to the mailroom clerk and cleaning staff.  Get to know their names and greet them by name. It also never hurts to say thanks for their services as you likely would have a completely different office without them. Plus we all like to feel that our efforts are appreciated.

9.  Looking for something on the Internet?  Instead of simply turning to that popular search site, use Goodsearch to search the internet, play games or answer survey questions.  50% of their ad revenue and/or 1 cent for every search is donated to charity.

10.  Printing some coupons before you go on a shopping spree? Print out a few extra (when you can) and bring them along.  You can surreptitiously leave them in the store for others to find, or hand out to a fellow customer who looks like they could use one for their purchases.

11.  Create some inspirational quotes or signs and place them around the office or in your colleagues’ work spaces.  You never know when someone may need that pick-me-up.

12.  Make an impact for those who need help by visiting Free Rice, a United Nations Food Program that donates rice to hungry people when you interact with the web site. 

 

 

It’s Good for You!

Now of course, while I want to promote World Kindness Day, I do believe that showing kindness deserves more than just one day to share or celebrate it. Kindness and gratitude should be shared as much as possible, all year-long.  Plus did you know that it’s been scientifically proven to be beneficial to do so?  A great reference I found was Amy Morin’s Forbes article about 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude.  Here are my top three from the article:

  • Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma.
  • Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people…
  • Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends…

 

Inspired?
Will you celebrate World Kindness Day and help make the world a kinder place?
What ideas to you have to show your kindness, random or deliberate? Share them with me and my followers!


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Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead – Keep on Remembering and Appreciating Those Who Have Passed

A time to remember those who we’ve lost through a celebration of the dead.

Today starts this year’s Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead festivities.  Celebrated in central and southern Mexico on November 1st and 2nd, Mexican’s believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31st, and that the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) come to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy food, celebrations and alters created in their memory.  All told, it’s an opportunity for relatives to honor their deceased loved ones.

I’ve long loved this holiday, in part due to the pageantry of the images and symbols, but I love the idea of having “another day” with those we’ve lost – even if simply a day set aside to celebrate their lives with a festival.

Some key symbols:

Edible Sugar Skulls (sometimes made of chocolate) many will have the names of the dead decorated on them as well.

Edible Sugar Skulls (sometimes made of chocolate). Many will have the names of the dead decorated on them as well (see top right).

Alter with the image of the deceased, marigolds, sugar skulls, candles and pan de muertos.

Up close shot of pan de muertos (Recipe below!)

Up close shot of pan de muertos (Recipe below!)

 

 

The History

According to Wikipedia, scholars have traced the festival back to a pagan observance dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl or the Lady of the Dead. In fact the natives believed that death was a continuation of life and it was embraced. They also felt that life was simply a dream and that only when one died, were they truly awake.

The altars and items displayed are to encourage visits by the departed’s souls and to allow the souls to hear prayers, anecdotes and fond memories. It’s believed that the souls will eat the spirit of the food and beverages presented and those celebrating will consume the physical ones. In some instances, families also lay out blankets and pillows to allow the souls to rest before their long journey back to the after world.

Source: Taza Chocolate

Source: Taza Chocolate

 

 

 

Up until a few years ago, I’ve felt that this holiday wasn’t as big of a deal in the US as it was in Mexico.  However over the last four years, I’ve personally seen a surge in Day of the Dead costumes at #Halloween. I’m not sure this translates to a surge in celebrating it, but I do know of a few local festivals supporting the holiday.  One local chocolate maker, Taza Chocolate, who sources their chocolate from #Mexico, holds an annual Día de los Muertos festival each year. This year marks their 5th Annual event.

 

 

The Book Of Life

Source: 20th Century Fox

In 2014,  The Book of Life, created and written by Jorge Gutierrez and Douglas Langdale, and produced by Guillermo del Toro, was released.  An entire movie around the Day of the Dead?!  I was ecstatic when I heard about it.

This is an animated film that focuses on a love story and the importance of Dia de los Muertos.  While “primarily” targeted to children, the plot is applicable to all. It reminds us of the importance of keeping those who have passed away in our memories, and that we should continue to celebrate their lives.  It also helps us remember that those who have come before us, can help shape who we will become. (That tradition theme is strong here.)  There’s a bit more to it, but I don’t want to ruin it for you! I promise it’s worth seeing!

I was awe-struck by the images in the Land of the Remembered. Each balloon sugar skull, character, and fiesta scene captured how I’d like draw and showcase the Day of the Dead symbols  — that is if I had any artistic talent!  It was creative and whimsical, and made me want to join in their fiesta. I was especially enchanted by Maria, Manolo and La Muerta.  It’s really a film for all ages, and each time I watch it, I see something new.  Read more about the Book of Life here.

 

 

Have I peaked your interest enough to try making one of the mainstays of the holiday — pan de muertos (translation: bread of the dead)?   This is a yeasty, sweet egg bread flavored with anise. (Just a touch of the licorace flavor – I still think you’ll like it if you’re not too in to licorice.) I think it’s great and many enjoy having a #PSL (that’s shorthand for the “hot” Pumpkin Spiced Latte) with it. Straight coffee will do as well!

I’d found and tried this recipe on Chowhound.com. It’s adapted from Richard Sandoval and Maya Restaurants in NYC.  You can click here to see the recipe or use the version below:

Pan de Muertos

Total Time: 3 hrs 40 mins  Makes: 2 loaves
See picture above for how it will look when done. (Sorry I don’t have step-by-step pictures)

Ingredients

  •  1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1/2 ounce (2 packets) active dry yeast (I used Fleischmann’s)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
  • Vegetable oil, for oiling the bowl
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water

Directions:

  1. Combine the sugar, salt, anise seed, and yeast in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Heat the milk, water, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter is just melted; DO NOT allow it to boil.
  3. Add the milk mixture to the dry mixture and mix well with a wire whisk.
  4. Stir in the eggs and 1-1/2 cups of the flour and beat well.
  5. Add the remaining flour, little by little, stirring well with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured wooden board and knead it until it’s smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, about 9 to 10 minutes.
  7. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise in a warm area until it has doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours. (It took the full 1-1/2 hours for me)
  8. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  9. Punch down the dough and divide it into 2 pieces. Cut 3 small (about 1-ounce) balls from each half and mold them into skull-and-bones shapes. Shape the large pieces of dough into round loaves and place the skull-and-cross bones on top.
  10. Place the breads on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let them rise another hour.
  11. Brush the loaves with the egg yolk mixture and bake.
    Halfway through baking, about 20 minutes, remove the loaves from the oven and brush again with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Return to the oven and bake until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, about another 20 minutes.

Offer up to those who have passed and enjoy. (You’re allowed to eat it!)

Do you celebrate those who have passed?  Do you celebrate Día de los Muertos?
Let me know if you like the recipe!
I also hope you’ll do more research into this great holiday after reading my post!

 

 

Special thanks to www.mexicansugarskull.com, Taza Chocolates, Wikipedia, artisfun, chowhound, 20th Century Fox for helping with details within this post.