Despite anger over the steep gas tax hike and frustration and fatigue with "politics as usual," my roots still run deep here in New Jersey. Not just as a born-and-raised Proud Jersey Girl, but my family's roots are in the Garden State, too, amid lots of relatives and friends.

I was looking for a way to reset my focus heading into the big holiday season. A quick search for "November kids crafts" turned up "gratitude trees" — and a day later I had a bare-branches, foam paper creation in the living room.

What's a gratitude tree & why I'm planting one in NJ (Erin Vogt, Townsquare Media)

Basically, it can get as intricate or as simple as you're up for — it's a chance to name things you're grateful for, in the weeks and days leading up to Thanksgiving. You put an idea on a leaf and stick it on the tree each day. By the holiday, it's like autumn in reverse. As the leaves outside are decaying on your lawn, those branches inside are blooming with gratitude.

What's a gratitude tree & why my family is planting one in NJ (Erin Vogt, Townsquare Media)

I found a nice starter list for kids and adults alike: name a food you're thankful for, someone in your life outside the household, one thing in your home. I thought it'd be better to help my daughters think of answers, since they're little, but they had plenty to list! Lobster rolls, cousins and toys for my kindergartner; mac and cheese, aunts and uncles and our dog Rollie for the 3-year-old.

It was my own answers that took longer. I definitely went pizza on the food, since New Jersey is rich in that area. Actually, stopping and thinking about how much I appreciate my own parents (and my coffee maker) were a nice break in the daily routine.

Maybe it's corny to some, but talking about my family's shared love of Jersey's beaches and being able to see our local relatives often were a nice reminder that life is pretty good.

The other thing I like about this "thankful tree" is that if things get hectic and you miss a few days, there's no foul. Even if you tack on a couple leaves a week, it's a cute way to extend some family goodwill for a lot longer than a few hours amid turkey and fixings, football and pie.


Proud Jersey Girl Erin Vogt’s first reporting gig involved her Fisher Price tape recorder. As a wife and momma of two kiddies, she firmly believes that life’s too short to drink bad coffee.  A fan of the beach, Dave Grohl and karma, in no particular order.

Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook as ProudJersey.