Well, the hustle and bustle and holiday madness has officially arrived! I strongly encourage you to assess or reassess your priorities and add this "escape" to your seasonal preparations! It's a free Christmas concert and right here in Elkridge.

Take a few hours to forget about all the shopping, take a break from the cooking and baking, and know that the online ordering and the holiday hustle and bustle will be there when you get back. Join the Harwood community to celebrate with a hand bell concert and dinner. The Canterbury Ringers will be featured at Harwood Park United Methodist Church, 6635 Highland Ave., Sunday, Dec. 4 at 5 PM. Immediately following the concert, enjoy dinner and dessert in the church hall, complete with plenty of wonderful Christmas spirit.

For more information, or if you have any questions, email harwoodparkchurch@verizon.net.

Don't miss Nancy Grabowski's annual Holiday Greens and Crafts Sale this Friday-Sunday, Dec. 2-4, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. You'll find stunning, hand-made wreaths, large arrangements; and centerpieces with greens, candles, ribbon and colorful glass balls and trim. You can also find plenty of roping and beautiful swags for the windowsill, mailbox, lamppost, or door, and miniature boxwood Christmas and topiary trees.


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You can cover some of that holiday shopping, too, because the Greens and Crafts Sale also offers locally crafted gifts, jewelry, and note cards. Just follow the signs along Old Washington Road to Nancy and Steve's house; they are located on the left-hand side of Augustine Avenue just past St. Augustine school.

If you need a particularly large order of roping, or any other specialty items, email Nancy at nlg2designs@msn.com.

Please keep the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department's annual Holiday Food Drive on your radar screen. This wonderful initiative truly benefits needy families in Elkridge and the surrounding communities. Donations of perishable and non-perishable foods can be brought to the EVFD or given to Santa and Mrs. Claus on their annual neighborhood fire truck visits.

Monetary donations are also welcome. Checks should be made out to the EVFD, and can be mailed to: 6275 Old Washington Road, Elkridge, MD 21075. If you have any questions or need assistance with pick-up, call Joe Slavotinek at 410-984-1796. Your kindness and generosity will warm hearts and bring cheer to homes of those most in need!

And you might not catch the sound of sleigh bells, but rather a holiday version of the siren! Yes, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be making their rounds with the assistance of the EVFD. In their travels, our friends from the North Pole will also be collecting non-perishable goods and new (and preferably gift-wrapped) toys to help fill the fire department's annual Giving Baskets.

The EVFD asks that you please do not call the fire department to inquire about Santa's arrival in your neighborhood; however, when you hear the festive tone of the siren, gather on your street corner to welcome Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The Family and Friends of Boy Scout Troop 1111 of St. Augustine Church is sponsoring a Longaberger Basket/Vera Bradley Purse Bingo to raise funds for their troop. This event is scheduled for Dec. 9 at the church hall 5976 Old Washington Road, in Elkridge. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; games begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance; $20 at the door.

The event will feature 20 games, plus four "specials" and will offer themed, filled baskets and purses as prizes. Other fun stuff will include raffles and door prizes, and food and drinks will be available for purchase.

For tickets or additional information, call Donna at 410-379-5496.

Hey kids: don't miss a chance to show off your gingerbread house decorating skills at the CrossLife Community Church! This is the third annual Christmas gingerbread house contest hosted by Crosslife and it will be held Dec. 10 at the Elkridge Fire Hall. Kids work with supervision by their parents to create their own festive gingerbread house from 10 to 11:30 a.m. At 11:30, judges from the community will view the houses and pick the homes best representative of the different categories, and prizes will be awarded.

All materials are provided, and there is no charge for this memory-making event. Light refreshments will be served and Santa will make a visit. Registration is required to guarantee plenty of Gingerbread fixins', so call Michelle Mackall at 410-960-6301 or email michelle@crosslifeonline.com no later than Dec. 5. Go to http://www.crosslifeonline.com and click on Community Event Gingerbread Contest to see details of the 2010 event.

Well folks, naughty or nice, it's that time of year to make a case for yourself! Don't miss Breakfast with Santa at the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department Dec. 11 from 7 to 11 a.m. Tickets are a bargain for this all-you-can-eat breakfast feast: adults $8; seniors (55 and older) $7; kids ages 5-12 can fill up for only $5 and little tykes (younger than 5) eat for free.

Get your picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Spoil your sweet tooth at the bake sale table to benefit the Junior Firefighters. You are welcome to bring wrapped gifts for needy children and canned goods to help with the annual food basket drive (and might even earn you a little extra credit with Santa). Visit with your friends and neighbors at the fire hall. What a great way to spend a Sunday morning and all in the spirit of Christmas.

Remember to keep the true spirit of the holidays alive and well in your daily life and keep in mind that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Please keep in touch and let me know what you'd like to share in this space. I always look forward to hearing from the great friends and neighbors of Elkridge and Hanover. Thanks and have a stellar week!