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Altruistic for the holidays: Five steps to great charitable giving

Great gift giving is all about finding that perfect something that will be meaningful for a friend or loved one. When you find the perfect gift, you just know it.

Great charitable giving intensifies these good feelings with a layer of life-changing impact followed by a rush know as the "helper's high."

Charitable giving impacts on the lives of others in one's neighborhood, city, country or world.

A great giver is someone who asserts the power of his or her personal generosity as a force for change. And, a great giver …

•Can be rich or poor.

•Can give time, talent or dollars.

•Understands the impact they wish to make with their gift.

•Advocates for causes he/she believes in.

With so many inspiring charitable organizations and causes, how do you figure out how to make the most impact with your generosity? There is no single strategy that is right for everyone, but here are five steps to get you started.

1. Pinpoint your passions

Clarify what you care about. Are you...

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Holiday gift guide, Going the art market route in Baltimore

They're on everyone's shopping list: unique gifts. That's often easier said than done. But not when you live in a city that offers an abundance of alternative art markets.

Take my advice and try these. Each has its own flavor, with offerings that can fill question marks on your gift-giving list.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of market options, the five below are on my do-not-miss list. Hopefully, they'll be on yours, too.

Christmas Village

Now through Dec. 24. West Shore Park, 501 Light St. baltimore-christmas.com.

For more traditional options, try this German-style market, back for a second year. An indoor-outdoor combo, this year's Christmas Village has more than 60 booths selling unique items such as stollen (a German fruitcake), elisen lebkuchen (gingerbread in cute tin boxes) and schwibbogen (a decorative light display inspired by German miners' tradition of hanging lanterns around the entrances of mines). 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m.- 8 p.m....

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Great gift idea: With Baltimore in a Box, send the city anywhere you please

Each holiday season, Ross Nochumowitz noticed local shoppers tediously compiling care packages with Baltimore-related items. Earlier this year, the 29-year-old Mount Washington resident made the process easier by creating Baltimore in a Box, an online shop that allows customers to fill a package with city-specific items for anyone feeling a little homesick (or just in need of some Big Boyz Bail Bonds pens).

Nochumowitz discussed, via email (hey, he's a busy guy this time of year), the most popular items, strange requests and more.

What's the farthest location you've sent a Baltimore in a Box package?

We have delivered boxes as far as Alaska, Hawaii, Afghanistan, Czech Republic, Germany and India.

What are the most popular items people choose?

The most popular item is, by far, Berger Cookies. They are requested in almost every box we send out. I would say the close second is probably Fisher's Popcorn or Old Bay.

What items do people most often request? I assume beer is probably popular,...

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Great Baltimore cocktails, The Bloody Maria at Johnny's

We love the idea that Johnny's is having a Black Friday brunch, and we really love that they're featuring Bloody Marys at the brunch. We can't think of a more civilized response to the madness of an enforced shopping holiday combined, not to mention whatever hangover you happen to be nursing from having spent all of Thanksgiving Day with your family.

You could down a pitcher of Bloody Marys while just arguing about the folklore surrounding it. There are different origin stories for the Bloody Mary, and its recipe has changed over the years. It has become hotter and spicier.

The handmade mix at Johnny's is close to classic, according to bartender Joe Beitman. It has freshly ground black pepper, a dash of Worcestershire and freshly grated horseradish. But it doesn't have Tabasco, or any other hot sauce, and if you're used to Bloody mixes with the strong taste of hot pepper sauce, tasting a mix without it is a little revelation. The flavors are much brighter and cleaner. I'm a fan....

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'Gotham' recap, 'LoveCraft'

“Don’t ever mistake bravery for good sense.”

That’s the lesson that Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon learned the hard way as nice guys. But as the only nice guys the city has, they tough it out and ignore good sense for the good of the Gotham.

“LoveCraft” takes us to the midseason break with a few major milestones for Bruce (first fight with a villain, first kiss), and a few major setbacks for Jim (no job, still no fiancé). Add that to some action-packed fight scenes and nail-biting cliffhangers — it’s everything you could want from a midseason finale.

Over the past few episodes, the writers have woven in more storylines about the Waynes’ murder. As we pull the thread to discover who killed them, it’s not clear when the mystery will finally unravel, but I’m glad it wasn’t in the midseason finale. It would have felt too abrupt to learn now.

We might not find out who was really behind their murder by the end of this season, and that’s all right. With how deep this goes, we’ll likely be...

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'Dancing With the Stars' recap, Season 19 finale, Part 1

Finale time! I'm back just in time. I'm predicting either a Sadie or Alfonso win and hoping for Alfonso.

When they show a picture of all four finalists next to each other, I start singing at my couch buddy: "One of these things is not like the other one." (As in, three young brunette women and Alfonso.)

Bethany Mota & Derek Hough

Jive

Bruno Tonioli has chosen for Bethany and Derek to redo their jive from week 1. When he comes to visit them in the rehearsal studio, he mentions the difficulty Bethany had with the transitions.

She looks like she might have forgotten a couple of steps, but overall it's fine. And her shoes are super-cute - pink and white t-strap spectators. Derek confirms to Tom that there was an issue with the set at the beginning (furniture not getting moved out of the way fast enough). But then Derek, pro that he is, gives praise to the normally good and hard working production crew.

Len Goodman loves it. Julianne Hough says she's focusing more on Bethany now than Derek...

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