Sharing Box Ideas: 28 things to put in your neighborhood pantry this month

One of my favorite parts of my neighborhood is our Sharing Box, a small outdoor pantry where neighbors can put things to share and take what they need or want. Since Advent coincided with our new puppy’s ability to go on longer walks, we have used the Sharing Box as a destination multiple times a day (It’s a few blocks away–just enough for a little walk) and used Advent as an opportunity to share more. We set our goal of sharing once per day, and we’ve mostly kept it up.

Here are some things we’re sharing during the cold month of February.

  1. canned soup with pop-tops
  2. boxed soup
  3. crackers
  4. in-season citrus fruit (dropped off in the morning before the temperature freezes)
  5. tins of sardines
  6. double-bagged Ziploc quarts of homemade curry
  7. frozen pizzas (during our run of below-freezing days, marked on the outside with the moment of delivery so that folks know how long they’ve been in the box)
  8. single-serving size bags of chips
  9. individually wrapped tea bags
  10. packets of hot cocoa mix
  11. boxes of almond milk
  12. bottle of hot hot sauce
  13. a can opener
  14. box of cake mix + a 9×13 pan to bake it in
  15. small bag of apples
  16. extra toothbrushes  and sample-sized floss and toothpaste picked up from the dentist
  17. bars of soap
  18. winter pajamas we’ve outgrown
  19. hats, gloves, scarves, and mittens we’ve outgrown
  20. decks of cards, including Uno and Skip-Bo
  21. candles
  22. Valentine’s Day cards for kids to share at school
  23. bag of individually-wrapped Valentine’s Day candy for kids to share at school
  24. recent issues of magazines
  25. this week’s local newspaper
  26. repurposed shaker bottle (like from Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast) filled with sidewalk salt
  27. costume jewelry that a child might like to give to their mother or grandmother
  28. a doll

No photo description available.

We love our sharing box!

Children’s Time: “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day was the first children’s picture book to respectfully depict Black children. Teachers who read it to their students soon reported that it helped African American children see themselves for the first time in books. One teacher wrote to him, according to Deborah Pope, the executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation:

There was a teacher [who] wrote in to Ezra, saying, ‘The kids in my class, for the first time, are using brown crayons to draw themselves.’ These are African-American children. Before this, they drew themselves with pink crayons. But now, they can see themselves.

You can hear this story read aloud as part of our church’s commitment to sharing picture books featuring Black characters during the month of February.

You can hear the whole service here.

A little snow makes it easier to say goodbye to Christmas

I’ve been a little jealous these last few weeks as friends in different parts of the country have gotten snow and we’ve gotten warnings about snow and then… nothing. But today, a little snow landed and stuck–nothing serious, but enough to make it feel like winter for a bit. Which also means it’s easier to say goodbye to Christmas, which we’ve started celebrating through the 40th day after December 25th, because it still feels like winter (which it is).

Here are some highlights from our house this Christmas season.

We used this Advent calendar from our church to connect us to others as we each performed the same acts of kindness each day. The little felt donkey, just 1″x1″, guided us to the nativity.

Above, scenes from our Advent wreath making project. Using recycled parts but new candles, we made an Advent wreath for everyone at church who asked, about 10 in all.

During one of our weekly Christmas crafts, we made garland from paint chip samples–trees and stars.

Do you have a Christmas pickle on your tree? We used paint chips to make 3 dozen of them to share with neighborhood friends.

More Christmas crafts! Trees from a paper forest, a pinecone elf, and snowpeople made from wooden blocks.

Last year, we made every family with children at church a small Holy Family painted on tiny rocks. This year, we made every family with children a peg people Holy Family.

Some presents appear every single year: board and card games, books, and either mugs, travel mugs, thermoses, or water bottles.

Christmas Eve dinner references my life back East, so, this year, crab mac and cheese. Christmas Dinner this year was themed “traditional Midwestern,” with roast beef replacing turkey. As usual, the sides are the star. (And, yes a 1:8 lb butter:potato recipe is entirely appropriate)

We love birds in our tree–and here are some additions for the year: a felt cardinal, a knitted cardinal, and a ceramic star with a dove cut from it.

New wreaths, three on the tree (a yarn one by a friend and two woven from wheat), plus one we made from a grapevine wreath on the banister.

Our Christmas tree, overseen by Marian Zsofia, our angel.

Children’s Time: The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

Yesterday marked the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple, a feast that celebrates Jesus’ first appearance as a child at the temple, 40 days after his birth. It’s the end of the Christmas season at our house, and it was the subject of this week’s children’s time at our church, which featured the artwork of icon artist Kelly Latimer.

You can find the whole online service here.

Children’s Time: “We March” by Shane W. Evans

The Sunday before Martin Luther King Day is one of my favorite of the year at church. We have honored it in different ways over the years, including using King’s words in our worship, singing songs of the Civil Rights movement, praying for our enemies, and preaching on the themes of racism, poverty, and militarism. This year, our worship included the reading of this picture book by Shane W. Evans. It includes illustrations based on photos from the March on Washington. See if you can spot Dr. King, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, and John Lewis.

Winter Crafternoon: Wooden Snowmen

During Advent, some friends and I gathered weekly to make seasonal crafts via Zoom. Every part of it was fun, but an especially endearing part was how many people accepted the invitation saying “I stink at crafts, but I’m willing to try.” I love that spirit, and I love that friends were confident that we could do crafts together poorly and still have fun.

To be inclusive, our crafts had to: 1) require few pre-existing skills, 2) require few tools or materials since I bagged them up and delivered them to my friends, 3) be adaptive since our group included children through older adults and people with various abilities. And while most of my friends were from my church, not everyone was, so I chose mostly crafts that were wintertime-themed, not holiday themed.

Our final craft was a wooden snowman. Everyone in our group got a head start because I cut the wood and gave it the base layer of paint before I delivered the supplies to them.

Supplies

  • 3 pieces of scrap wood of the same width and depth, cut to different lengths. Pieces could be as short as 2″ and up to 8″.
  • black, gray, or dark blue craft paint
  • white craft paint
  • sand paper (optional)
  • orange craft paint or an orange Sharpie
  • assorted buttons, at least 3
  • fabric at least 8 inches long to create a scarf
  • twigs to create arms
  • materials to make a hat (black stock paper, children’s sock + a ribbon, felt + jingle bell or pom-pom) or ear muffs (chenille stems + pom-poms)
  • scissors
  • hot glue gun and hot glue stick
  • newspaper to create an area to work

Directions

  1. Paint wooden blocks black, gray, or dark blue.
  2. Paint again with white paint, allowing some of the darker color to peek through. Add as many layers of white paint as you prefer. When final coat is dry, use sandpaper to scruff it up a bit. The goal is to add depth to the wood by creating areas of darker and lighter wood.
  3. Select which block will be the head, torso, and bottom, placing them on top of each other to create a thin, tall snowman. Experiment by arranging them in new orders and turning them a bit to different angles, so they are not perfectly stacked on top of each other.
  4. Hot glue blocks on top of each other.
  5. Use markers or paint to add eyes, a carrot nose, and a mouth.
  6. Hot glue buttons in a vertical line on the torso.
  7. Use hot glue to add sticks to either side of the torso for arms.
  8. Create a fabric scarf by cutting a long piece of fabric or felt and then nipping the ends to create fringe. Circle around the neck and glue in place with a dot of glue on the rear of the neck. Tie the scarf in front, securing with a dab of glue.
  9. Create a hat and glue in place.
    • Stocking cap: cut the toe off a child’s sock, then create fringe. Tie the fringe off with a ribbon and stuff the sock with scrap fabric or cotton balls.
    • Kerchief: Cut fabric into a equilateral triangle and secure with glue on top of the head and under the chin
    • Jingle cap: make a cap like for our pine cone elf
    • Top hat: cut a circle slightly larger than the top of the head from black cardstock and another slightly larger. Cut a strip that is the circumference of the circle and as wide as you want the hat’s height. Create a ring from the long strip and hot glue it between the two circles to form a hat.
    • Ear muffs: double a chenille stem that is slightly more than the length of the width of the head. Hot glue a pom-pom to either end of the stem. Bend into an arc. Glue to head, one pom-pom over each ear.

Winter Crafternoons: Evergreen Forest

During Advent, some friends and I gathered weekly to make seasonal crafts via Zoom. Every part of it was fun, but an especially endearing part was how many people accepted the invitation saying “I stink at crafts, but I’m willing to try.” I love that spirit, and I love that friends were confident that we could do crafts together poorly and still have fun.

To be inclusive, our crafts had to: 1) require few pre-existing skills, 2) require few tools or materials since I bagged them up and delivered them to my friends, 3) be adaptive since our group included children through older adults and people with various abilities. And while most of my friends were from my church, not everyone was, so I chose mostly crafts that were wintertime-themed, not holiday themed.

We build an evergreen forest every year at our house, often reusing old trees but in new combinations. Here is how we do it:

Above, two cone-shaped trees made from green cardstock. One is painted with white polka dots, the other white swirls.

Supplies:

  • green cardstock of various sizes, with some at least large enough to trace a plate on
  • pencil
  • compass for creating circles or circles to trace (cereal bowls, plates, containers, etc.)
  • scissors
  • white craft paint + paint of other colors, such as silver, gold, and rose gold glitter
  • hot glue gun and hot glue stick
  • newspaper for your workspace

Directions:

  1. Paint your paper with fun designs. Try polka dots, stripes, leopard print, sponge paint, zig zags, etc.
  2. When the paper is try, trace a circle on the non-painted side. Cut out.
  3. Cut a Pac-Man mouth out of each circle. Roll into a cone shape. The larger your mouth, the taller and skinnier the tree. You can even cut each circle in half, then roll the half into a cone. This will create a small overlap of the edges; secure with a line of hot glue.
  4. Experiment with circles of different sizes and different size cuts to create trees of different sizes.
  5. Use scissors to cut a zig zag around the bottom edge, or for something softer and more whimsical, cut a wave shape.
  6. Cut circles of slightly different sizes, then stack the finished cones on top of each other to create trees of multiple layers.
  7. Use additional markers to draw cardinals or squirrels on the trees, or add Christmas lights.
  8. Add individual trees to cookie plates, or group together for a centerpiece or to cover a mantle.
  9. We sometimes hide candies under the trees to help countdown to Advent.