Saturday, December 31, 2011

Month of Giving Recap

Happy New Years Eve!!

First of all I want to thank each and every person who even glanced at the title post each day of this month to see the name of each of the charities I highlighted. Raising awareness is all I was trying to do, and if you glanced at the post title, then my goal was met!

I decided to post a daily charity highlight for the month of December because I wanted to do something to commemorate the holiday season and the feeling of giving brought about this time of year. I also wanted to use it as an opportunity to introduce people to charities they may not have heard of. And, I wanted to highlight charities that can use your help in other ways than just financial. Plus, the end of the month brings about our last opportunity for tax deductible charitable contributions, so I thought I would capitalize on that, too.

Plus, I didn't want to make 30 different batches of cookies that I would then have to eat.

I want to thank my good friend Jenn at Cats, Cooking and Compassion for her lovely guest post about no-kill shelters, and great tips and reminders about pets in general! Don't forget to check out her blog!

I also want to thank my friend Sabrina from College Dreams for her lovely guest post and sharing with us her personal story! Thank you Sabrina!

I also want to thank each and every person who suggested a favorite charity. Your suggestions were very helpful! Writing about 30 different charities was challenging, informative and really amazing. There are SO many awesome ways to help people or animals in need, pretty much no matter where your interest is. Food, water, clothing, hair, blood, housing and so much more.

I do want to remind you that these 30 charities are just the tip of a huge iceberg. There are thousands of charities. Church groups and other local organizations in your own community do great good, in addition to well-known national and international organizations.

Thanks for reading this month! Below is a recap of the 30 charities I highlighted each day of this month of December. Day 31 is dedicated to thanking each of you and this recap.

Happy New Year!!

American Red Cross
Donate Your Dress
Cell Phones For Soldiers
One Sight
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Heifer International
One Warm Coat
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Locks of Love
Ronald McDonald House Charities
Goodwill Industries International
St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital
Books for Soldiers
Feeding America or Your Local Food bank
Start Making A Reader Today
Doctors Without Borders
Make-A-Wish
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Marrow Donor Program
Your Local No-Kill Animal Shelter or Rescue Group
Toys for Tots
National Hospice Foundation
Meals on Wheels
Your Local Women's Shelter
Earth Birth
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
charity: water
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
College Dreams

One last public service announcement: Please don't drink and drive. Many AAA locations throughout the country and other local taxi and tow truck companies commit to helping New Years revelers get home safely each New Years Eve. It is typically free or low cost, and you don't have to be a member of AAA.

1-800-222-4357 AAA Tipsy Tow Hotline. In Portland Oregon after 8pm on New Years Eve Max and TRIMET will be free.

Before you head out for a night on the town, check into what is available in YOUR local area. Plug those phone numbers into your magic phone and if you do happen to ring in the new year with a little more than you should, PLEASE call someone to take you home.

Thanks for reading this year. I appreciate each and every one of you! Happy New 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

College Dreams


This is it! The last of my charity highlights for the month of giving! Tomorrow will be a recap of the 30 charities I highlighted this month.

Today's post is a guest post by a college classmate of mine. You may recall back in November I posted that I competed in a speech contest for a $100 donation to my chosen charity. I had chosen the Oregon Food Bank. I didn't win. I came in second. The author of today's guest post, Sabrina Miller, was the winner. Sabrina spoke about an organization near and dear to her own heart, one that has helped her achieve and succeed in ways she at one time did not think would be possible. Sabrina not only was helped by College Dreams, but now works there as well. She is a real success story!

Please take a moment to read about College Dreams, and Sabrina's story.


College Dreams promotes healthy youth development, academic excellence, and college preparation for students, especially those who face life challenges. The basic goals of College Dreams are to reduce school dropout, delinquency, and substance abuse among youth. Our high level goals are to promote academic excellence, college preparation, and post-secondary education or vocational training.  A study of Dreamers and matched comparison students from the high school class of 2005 demonstrated that Dreamers were arrested 74% less often by the end of 10th grade, and dropped out of high school 62% less frequently by the end of 12th grade. Dreamers were more than twice as likely to be a member of the National Honor Society, and to be fully prepared for college admission. Dreamers received four times the amount of scholarship awards at their high school senior awards celebrations.

College Dreams told me I could, when the rest of the world told me I couldn’t.

When I first became a College Dreamer in the sixth grade I had no idea that my life was going to change so drastically. By the time I graduated high school, I had already, moved twenty-three times. My days were constantly filled with drugs, alcohol, and abuse. But, no matter where I was in the world or what circumstance my life was in, my College Dreams mentor Monet was always there for me. My life was all over the map, and College Dreams gave me a stable family to rely on.  In 2008, I defied odds and graduated high school. It was a moment I had been waiting for my entire life. I also received $20,000 in scholarship awards, a part of that being from College Dreams! College Dreams helped me to prepare for college, and focus on my dreams. They taught me how to see past the trials in my life, and plan for my future. They truly have changed my life in a way I thought nobody could. To me, College Dreams is more than a college incentive program that I participated in, they are my family!
-Sabrina Miller, College Preparation Associate, College Dreams

Donation information available on our website.
Additional College Dreams information, updates, and pictures are available on our Web Site at www.collegedreams.org.

For any specific questions, please call Judie Drummond at 541-476-8146 or contact her by Email at  jdrummond@collegedreams.org.

Thanks Sabrina! Congratulations on all your accomplishments!



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network



Pancreatic Cancer isn't like Breast Cancer. It doesn't have the sexy lingo like "Save the Tata's!" or pink bracelets that say "I <3 Boobies". What Pancreatic Cancer does have is a very high mortality rate and less funding. It also has some pretty famous faces that have succumbed to the disease, including Randy Pausch former Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and famous "Last Lecture" speaker, Patrick Swayze and Steve Jobs.

According to Pancreatic Cancer Facts 2011, compiled by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Pancreatic Cancer is the 10th most commonly diagnosed cancer, but the 4th leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

94% of all patients diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer do not survive past 5 years, and 74% die within ONE year of diagnosis.

Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis is INCREASING.

There are NO early detection methods.

Treatment options are limited, and 80% of patients that do qualify and receive surgery still die within 5 years of diagnosis.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is dedicated to helping people diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and their families. They offer support and services, education about the disease and resources.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network also works with the Federal Government to raise awareness and increase funding for Pancreatic Cancer research.

There are many ways you can help support the efforts of PanCan. There are several types of volunteer opportunities available throughout the country. There are various physical events such as walks and other races throughout the country each year. On their website you can donate cash, stocks, make arrangements to donate a vehicle or shop at their online store.

The PanCan store is FILLED with cool stuff. The color for PanCan is PURPLE! They have everything: clothing, luggage, bags, jewelry, coffee cups, water bottles, office supplies, accessories and tons more.

You can also buy flower bouquets through their website and 12% of your purchase goes to support PanCan.

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network can use YOUR help to meet their goal of increasing the survival rate by 50% by the year 2020. Check out the website, maybe do a little shopping (I have a very cool PanCan purple daisy ribbon key chain and a PanCan travel coffee mug, but I see that they have cool water bottles now, too!) and see if PanCan is something you can support!






The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International



Gorillas in the Mist...


The title of both a book and movie. The book, written by Dian Fossey, is about her own experiences in the Mountains of Africa observing the Mountain Gorillas. The movie, about Dian Fossey, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver, is incredible. Both are well worth your time.

Dian Fossey went to Africa and began studying the Gorillas in the 60's. In 1967 she started the Karisoke Research Center. The goal of the Karisoke Research Center, located in Rwanda, is to protect the highly endangered Mountain Gorilla, protect their habitat, study the Gorillas themselves and to provide services for the needy community as well.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has continued Dian's pioneering and important work after her death. There are fewer than 800 Mountain Gorillas left in the world, and other species of Gorilla are endangered as well. Their habitat is at risk due to wars and human expansion. Their lives are at risk from poaching.

Dian Fossey with her mountain gorillas - source

For as little as $40 you can "adopt" a gorilla through the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Monies received go to continue the very important work began by Dian to protect the Gorillas, study them, rescue and rehabilitate them if needed, and to gain a greater understanding of our closest non-human relative.

Gorillas are amazing creatures and there are few of them left in our world. Please consider visiting The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International website to learn more.


mother and baby - source

 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

charity: water



Did you hear about the little girl named Rachel who, instead of receiving birthday gifts for her 9th birthday, asked all her friends and family to donate to charity: water? She asked for donations of $9.

Her goal was to raise $300.

Rachel was appalled that many children in our world don't live past the age of 5 due to lack of access to clean water.

When her birthday came Rachel was a little disappointed because she had only raised $220.

And then, the unthinkable happened.

Rachel was critically injured in a car accident, and eventually she was removed from life support.

Read more about Rachel's story in this New York Times Article. Rachel's wish has raised over $1.2 million dollars to date.

charity:water is an organization that helps bring clean drinking water to people in places where clean water is not coming out of the kitchen faucet.

This short 3 minute video explains the need and the benefits of clean water.



Please take a moment to read Rachel's story, watch this video, and if you feel moved, donate to charity: water.

Just give $9. For Rachel.







Court Appointed Special Advocates

For Children

**The month of giving continues with daily charity highlights. I was playing kitten-mom Monday and Tuesday, so failed to post a charity those days, so I am doubling up for the next couple of days. On Saturday I will do a re-cap of the 30 charities I highlighted each day in December. Thanks for reading!**

We have all heard the stories in the news about kids in foster care "slipping through the cracks". Foster care is necessary, but the "system" is over-filled with children, and the agencies, court-systems and child welfare workers are all over-burdened, understaffed and underfunded. Budget cuts at all levels of government have impacted the ability for child welfare workers to do their jobs and legitimately monitor the kids under their supervision.

Child welfare workers simply do not have the time or budget to do what they really should do, which is get to know the children, the parents, the other people involved in the situation and make well-informed decisions about what is in the best interest of the child.

This is where Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children step in to help.

From their WEBSITE:

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.

Independent research has demonstrated that children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care and less likely to reenter care.

Judges appoint CASA volunteers to represent the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Each year, more than 700,000 children experience foster care in this country. Because there are not enough CASA volunteers to represent all of the children in care, judges typically assign CASA volunteers to their most difficult cases.

CASA is funded primarily through government grants and other partnerships. They do accept donations from the public in order to support their mission of advocating for abused and neglected children.

As we quickly approach year-end, and the clock is ticking on 2011 tax donations, consider investigating CASA and seeing if this organization is one you can support. They, of course, are always looking for qualified volunteers to BE an advocate, so if you have a place in your heart and time in your life, maybe CASA is a good fit for you.





Happy Hiatus!

Hello All!

Happy in-between week!

I took a bit of a holiday hiatus from posting, mostly because of this:













This is Roxie. Roxie came to live with us Christmas Eve eve. But first we had to go on a several hour car ride, spend the night at grandmas and then drive 6+ hours back home. As you can see by the car pictures, she was (ahem) very stressed. HA!

She is the sweetest little kitty. SO friendly, laid back and playful.

She has the tiniest squeak of a meow and does not like to be by herself! She follows me all over the house and if I leave the room she cries. It is so cute!

She is a few months old and has settled right in to life here at casa Beebe. We have a routine:

Up at 6 am. It is time to play! EPIC energetic play session with lots of running, jumping and chasing followed by snacks and our early morning nap. Play lasts for 30-45 minutes.

Morning nap lasts until mid-morning. More snacks and then some investigating of the house, followed by playtime, some pets and purring, and then our long afternoon nap. Our afternoon nap can be several hours long.

Evening time is time for more EPIC energetic jumping, running and chasing playtime! We like the laser, the shiny/jingly toy, fuzzy feathers and to chase the balls. We also like cardboard, wrapping paper and rope with knots tied in it.

Roxie is excellent at using the potty box, listening when she is told no, eating her crunchies, drinking her water, scratching on her appropriate scratching items and has paid no attention to the Christmas tree whatsoever.

Roxie goes to bed with us at night and sleeps on the bed, but she doesn't want to be right on us. I think she gets hot. She wants some snuggles and pets around 3 or 4 in the morning, but then settles back down until about 6 when it is time to get up and PLAY!

Chris and I have left her home alone for a few hours and she just curls up and goes to sleep, so even though she doesn't like to be left alone, so far she hasn't shown any tendencies toward anxiety or being destructive while we are gone.

Roxie has filled a big hole in our hearts and home. She is just a darling little love kitty and likes to take turns sitting with me and with Chris.

We are super happy to have a new little kitty to love, especially one that is so sweet and well behaved.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Earth Birth

First of all: Merry CHRISTMAS DAY!!

I couldn't think of a better charity to highlight on Christmas Day, the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, than Earth Birth.

Admittedly, I am not overly familiar with Earth Birth, having only been introduced to it recently by a classmate, but from what I saw I was impressed. Maybe you will be, too.

From their website:

Mission

Earth Birth is an International Women’s Health Collective run by midwives to foster a movement that encourages and promotes safe and peaceful birth as an act of social justice and community healing. We approach women’s health care through a methodology that is both community centered and internationally connected. We build clinics and community centers that are sustained by Traditional Birth Attendants and Educators. Our birthing centers are not only clinics but community sustained spaces for refuge, learning and the sharing of stories. Our goals include lowered maternal and infant mortality rates, lowered mother to child HIV transmission, access to supplies, access to trauma counseling, the ability to articulate ones story and the facilitation of positive and empowered childbirth experiences.

We view childbirth as an act of social change. Safe and peaceful birth experiences are necessary for generations that are to live without war.
We are a community of health care professionals, activists and academics. We stand in solidarity with women who have been victims of war, who have been silenced, abused, or shunned. We move with and support those who have dedicated their lives to peace and justice, to creation in the face of destruction, to fearless resilience.

Earth Birth health care professionals travel to places like Uganda, Sudan and Brazil. They build birthing huts where women have a private room in which to give birth. They offer medical care and counseling. With the help of Earth Birth, incidents of disease and death, both of mother and child, decrease significantly in these areas.

From their website:

Here is what your cash donation can do:
$10: a box of non-sterile gloves
$35: A fetuscope, stethoscope/blood pressure kit
$50: Fund the training of a Traditional Birth Attendant
$100: A complete model of pelvis, fetus, placenta, etc.
$150: Books and educational supplies for birth attendants
$260: 12 infant resucitators
$300: Midwife Pack” of instruments and materials
$500: Replenish clinic with gloves, sutures, sterile cleaning supplies
$700: Model of a pregnant woman’s torso to teach palpation, etc.
$3500: The whole suite of supplies and equipment for a site



Today, as we celebrate birth, it is a good time to think about those women in areas where giving birth is much more of a life and death situation. We can help these women have positive and healthy birth experiences.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Your Local Women's Shelter

I've already posted about domestic violence statistics in the US, but it bears repeating.

One in Four people (not just women!) in the US will be a victim of Domestic Violence.

Women can be abusers, as well as be abused. However, it is more common for women to be on the receiving end of abuse.

Domestic Violence is not just physical assaults. It can include emotional, verbal and physical abuse, including partner rape.

Domestic Violence occurs across all socio-economic boundaries. You don't have to be poor to be on the receiving end of Domestic Violence.

Today is Christmas Eve, and it might seem like a depressing topic, but many people will be attacked by their partner, lover or spouse today. The holidays are a time of increased stress and, often, increased alcohol and drug use. These factors often trigger violent outbursts in abusers.

As you prepare to celebrate your holiday with your family and loved ones, I hope that you do so with safety and security.

But for those that may not have that same opportunity, I ask that you consider looking into making a donation to your local Domestic Violence shelter, often found under Women's Shelters. A quick Google search of "women's shelter" followed by your town or state name will bring up many great organizations. There are also several national and international women's advocacy groups that offer support to women trying to escape Domestic Violence.

As you are settling into the safety and security of your family this holiday, please take a moment and say a prayer for those who do not have that safety, and perhaps consider making a donation to your local women's shelter or women's safety organization.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Meals On Wheels





You all know by now that food and hunger are issues near and dear to my heart. The Meals on Wheels Association of America has a goal to end senior hunger in the United States by 2020.

They serve over 1 million meals to seniors in need EACH DAY!

These are people who may be in financial difficulty, be disabled or are just older and alone.

Meals on Wheels volunteers package up healthy and nutritious meals and deliver them to the seniors in their homes.

Please take a moment to watch the two minute video about Meals on Wheels and the need they serve.

No one should be hungry.

Just $35 can help provide meals for 5 seniors. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

National Hospice Foundation


Have you heard of Hospice? Do you know what Hospice is? I do. When my grandfather was dying of cancer Hospice care is what allowed him to die peacefully at home, rather than in a sterile and uninviting hospital room. Hospice care is what allowed my grandmother and great-grandmother to be able to support my grandfather and continue daily care for him at home as he progressively got worse. The Hospice care-givers would come to the house, monitor medications, check vital signs, monitor my grandfather's status, and very importantly, provide emotional care and support to my grandmother and great-grandmother. The Hospice care-givers were able to provide us with information about the stages of death and dying, things to look for, and they were able to provide us with the ability to say goodbye to Grandpa at home.

The National Hospice Foundation is a National Organization that supports regional and local Hospice providers throughout the country. I thought there was just one "hospice" but it turns out that there are many different organizations that provide hospice care and education. The National Hospice Foundation is one of those organizations.


From their website:

Our Mission
NHF supports the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s quality and research initiatives; hospice/palliative care provider education activities; consumer engagement and caregiver services; and the FHSSA Impact Fund.

In partnership with NHPCO, we work to improve care at the end of life throughout the United States. We raise funds from individuals, foundations, and corporations to fund programs that make a difference in the lives of the patients and families served by NHPCO’s membership of more than 3,400 hospice and palliative care providers.

Through our support of Caring Connections, a program of NHPCO, NHF funds the development of resources, tools, and information to educate and empower individuals to access advance care planning, caregiving, hospice and grief services, and information.

Through the FHSSA Impact Fund, NHF raises funds to support the programs of FHSSA.


One of the very fascinating ways you can help the National Hospice Foundation is to join the Run to Remember. The Run to Remember is not a specific event, rather it is any running/walking event you choose. You register for your own event, and then sign up for the Run to Remember. You raise funds to donate, 50% of which go to your local hospice organization and 50% go to the National Hospice Foundation. There is no minimum fundraising amount. In addition, you will receive a high tech race shirt customized with your loved ones name(s) on it!

If you are already committed to running/walking/participating in a race event, consider also registering your existing event as a Run to Remember event, do a little fundraising, and support both your local and the national hospice organization.

The National Hospice Foundation also partners with sites like ProFlowers, Shari's Berries, Red Envelope and others. If you are planning on purchasing something from one of these online retailers, visit the National Hospice Foundation shopping page. If you click the ProFlowers link, for example, from that page, ProFlowers will donate $10 to the National Hospice Foundation. I love this!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Toys for Tots


There is still time to donate to organizations like Toys for Tots! Toys for Tots is an organization that collects new, unwrapped toys and donates them to children in your community that would perhaps not otherwise have gifts for Christmas.

From their WEBSITE:

MISSION:The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.

GOAL:The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.

Local toy collection campaigns begin in October and last until mid to late December. Toy distribution also takes place mid to late December. Membera of the community drop new, unwrapped toys in collection boxes positioned in local businesses. Coordinators pick up these toys and store them in central warehouses where the toys are sorted by age and gender. At Christmas, Coordinators, with the assistance of local social welfare agencies, church groups, and other local community agencies, distribute the toys to the less fortunate children of the community. Over the years, Marines have established close working relationships with social welfare agencies, churches and other local community agencies which are well qualified to identify the needy children in the community and play important roles in the distribution of the toys.

While Toys for Tots Coordinators organize, coordinate and manage the campaign, the ultimate success depends on the support of the local community and the generosity of the people who donate toys.


Not sure where or how to donate? The home page has a donation location drop down menu, or you can make cash donations online via Paypal. Toys for Tots primarily works with children up to age 12, although some communities accept donations up to age 14 or 16. Imagine what it would be like to wake up Christmas morning with no tree, no toys, no gifts, no food....Christmas is a time of plenty for many, but for many it is a day that is lacking. Help Toys for Tots this season by donating a new unwrapped toy or two and bring some happy to a child's life. 

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing

Things are gettin' hectic!

It's crunch time!

There are cookies everywhere! And fudge.

It can be hard to eat real meals, real food, this time of year. Who has the time or energy to make a big dinner when there are a gazillion cookies to make, frost (eat), presents to wrap, last-minute shopping, AND if you are traveling somewhere you have to do all that and get ready to go!

Craziness.

But it isn't *impossible* to eat a real meal.

On one of your last-minute trips to the grocery store pick up a rotisserie chicken, some mixed salad greens, a small can of coconut milk, and you can have a super quick, nutritious meal in minutes, literally.

The original recipe comes from Cooking Light April 2011. It is one of those recipes that you can use as a guide and add or subtract from based on what is available and ready.


(source)

I threw this together last night in about 10 minutes. I roast a chicken once a week or so just for purposes like this, so I had pre-cook chicken breasts in my fridge. I also had some mixed organic salad greens. I shredded a carrot and chopped up a celery stalk. I didn't have bean sprouts, so I left those out. I did have peanuts, so I chopped those up real quick with my Pampered Chef food chopper.


On the stove I heated a small can of coconut milk, some peanut butter, brown sugar, sprinkle of cayenne, some low sodium soy sauce, and a splash of lemon juice from the bottle. I didn't have fresh limes, so I just used what I had on hand. I've said before, recipes are a *suggestion* or a way to get started, but use what ya got! That's my philosophy anyway.

Now, these pictures are terrible...I don't know why...but the final product is delicious, and literally, 10 minutes to done.



Chris put more dressing on his salad than I did.

I made this dinner in the midst of finishing a batch of cookies. It really is quick and easy and delicious! Plus, it helps to combat the sugar overload from all those cookies I'm (not) eating.

Check out the recipe for Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing and give yourself the gift of a real, good meal in minutes this week! (Veggie friends: just leave out the chicken! Add some garbanzo beans instead!)

Are you on sugar overload? Have you given up food for treats this week?? Do you have a favorite super quick and healthy meal?

Emotional Growth Spurt

Do you sometimes feel like you are going through a growth spurt?

I don't mean physical growth like when you were a kid and your bones hurt from growing.

I mean a mental/emotional/understanding/awareness growth spurt?

I do not know why, but this holiday season I feel I am gaining clarity on so many things!


I asked a question on Facebook the other day to my Jewish friends about Christmas cards. Yes, I know that Hanukkah is the appropriate holiday for Jews, but my question, which I had never thought of before, was: If *I* celebrate Christmas and I am sending Christmas cards (because that is the holiday I celebrate) is it rude to send them to my Jewish friends? Is it considered rude? Should I go out and buy Hanukkah cards?

There was mixed response. Some people felt it was okay, as long as it was sent in the spirit of love and inclusion.

Others felt that while it wouldn't perhaps necessarily *offend*, it may be received with eye rolling for wishing someone to have a Merry holiday they don't celebrate.

I'm still on the fence about it, actually, but I feel like even asking the question or having the thought process creates growth and promotes understanding.


Personally, I can understand it both ways. I feel like if I am celebrating Christmas and I send out Christmas cards the MESSAGE I am sending is not necessarily about the specific holiday. To ME the cards represent a feeling of love and caring that I want to extend to the person receiving it. I am sending the card to tell that person that I love and care about them and that they hold a special place in my life.

If I were to receive a Happy Hanukkah card from a friend, I would be appreciative of them thinking of me and of including me in their celebration. I would be honored to know that they cared about me enough to include me in their holiday wishes, no matter what holiday that might be, including Festivus, Ramadan, Kwanzaa or any other holiday of which I am not aware.

I think this is part of what I find so interesting about people (particularly here in the US) beating the drum that they are going to say MERRY CHRISTMAS, damnit! And if *you* don't say Merry Christmas then you are some kind of jerk.

I have been out and about the past few days and when people have said Merry Christmas to me I have noticed that it is coming across in one of two ways.

One: it is said with some measure of defiance! Merry Christmas GrRRRR....!!  Like they are just waiting to pounce should the person respond with something other than complete thankfulness at being wished Merry Christmas.


Two: it is said with some measure of weariness. Uhmmm MerryChristmas. Quietly, quickly. These people are afraid that they, too, will be pounced on for uttering the wrong words.

Really?

Are people really missing out on the point of the HOLIDAY season...??

The holidays, of which in the US Christmas is the one celebrated by the majority of people (not right or wrong, just current fact), are a time where we are supposed to remember that we are to love one another, be kind, be gentle, be grateful, and be accepting.

What difference does it make if the store clerk wishes you Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Happy Kwanzaa? The appropriate response is "Thank you!" The store clerk certainly doesn't know if you are Jewish or Christian or Atheist just by looking at you. The INTENT of the message is not to offend or be bigoted, it is simply to pass on a blessing for happiness.


Another area of growth I have noticed is regarding religious beliefs in general. I am not what one would call religious. I have my belief system, but I do not participate in organized religion.

You know what? This belief of mine does not make it impossible for me to support and appreciate and congratulate those around me who DO participate in organized religion. I do not need to ignore Hanukkah because I am not Jewish. I do not need to ignore the excitement of a friend who has been baptized for one year today. This was obviously a big moment in her life. She is understandably excited to share. And I am happy for her!

Simply because her beliefs and my beliefs, or her level of participation and my level of participation are different, doesn't mean I cannot share in her happiness, and support it even. My support of her in no way diminishes my OWN beliefs or happiness.

I am in the midst of a growth spurt of clarity and enlightenment. It is amazing and freeing. I do not need to resent or ignore or have any negative feelings towards those who celebrate or pray in a different way than I do. I only need to maintain my faith and be respectful of theirs.

So, with that said....Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Ramadan! Happy Kwanzaa! And Happy Holidays! to each and every one of the people who come and read this blog. I appreciate you being here and I look forward to continuing to share my life with you.




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Your Local No-Kill Animal Shelter or Rescue Group


My friend Jenn is the biggest animal lover I know. She used to be a vet tech, and then spent several years volunteering at her local shelter. She currently volunteers at her local Zoo, and in addition to caring for her own brood of 9 cats, continues to be a foster mom for kittens in need. Jenn loves animals and is very knowledgeable about what organizations out there are really helping the animals. I couldn't think of anyone better to ask to write a guest post about animal charity organizations than Jenn. Don't forget to check out Jenn's blog at Cats, Cooking and Compassion!

When Corrie asked me to write a guest post for her blog, my initial reaction was to say no. But then I decided to say yes. As a definite confirmed pet lover, I wanted to focus on a pet rescue group. However, I really had trouble finding a national charity that I wanted to profile, as there truly isn’t a national organization. Most of what you see really aren’t national organizations, despite having United States or American in their name.

Instead I am going to encourage you to donate your time or money to your local No-Kill Shelter. They do great work within the community.

Among the services no-kill shelters provide are:

*Adoption
*Rescue from animal control and open-door/kill shelters
*Low-cost spay/neuter services
*Trap/neuter/return of feral kittens
*Hay distribution four outside animals
*Educational programs for adults and children
*Obedience classes for dogs
*Off-site adoption centers
*Community events
*Medical services for the public
*Foster program
*Food bank distribution

Not every shelter provides all of these services, but many do, and some offer even more. Services will differ. It is important to note that no-kill shelters and rescue groups do not get government funding. They rely on grants and donations and rely heavily on their volunteers.

Have you seen those commercials on TV that show all the cute puppies and kittens being given as gifts? The recipients, usually children, are overjoyed at receiving this adorable gift. This is not reality.

You should never give a gift of a pet. The reasons are numerous, and I’ll discuss some below.

First, the decision to get a pet should never be entered into lightly. A pet is not disposable or returnable. A pet is a commitment and it is unfair to ask anyone to make that kind of commitment if they are not ready. Pets can live up to 20 years. That is a long time to ask someone to make adjustments to their lives.

Secondly, when a person is ready, truly ready, they should make the selection for themselves. A human/animal bond cannot be explained and it cannot be chosen by someone else.

A pet requires time, money and lifestyle changes that person has to be willing to make. Even if someone intends to get a pet, only they can decide when they are ready. Dogs needs walks and baths, and cats need litter boxes scooped. And even bunnies and guinea pigs needs their cages cleaned and exercise. And regardless of their reputation of independence, all pets need and crave attention and play in order to thrive.

Shelters are full of pets that have been returned because they were unwanted pets, leading to unnecessary euthanasia.

If an animal is not wanted, it could be ignored.

The holidays are usually a time of chaos and it is a really bad time to bring an animal into a home, where routines are broken and people are coming and going. To integrate an animal into a household, an animal needs to have a routine established.

It is important to consider the recipient. Is it a child who will get bored with the pet, and then the care defaults to the mother? Or is it for an elderly person who could conceivably pass on before the pet? What happens to the pet then? Or what happens if a couple decides to have a baby? These are all factors that we cannot, or should not, have to decide.

So if you want to help the animals this season, you can do one of the following things:

1. Give a gift certificate to the intended recipient and they can pick out their own companion when they are ready; or give a gift basket of supplies they will need

2. Give the shelter a donation to use for their programs, or for whichever program you feel is closest to your heart (spay/neuter, education, adoption, etc)

3. Volunteer your time

4. If it is a quiet holiday for you, foster and give an animal a break from a cage

5. Adopt your own

Thanks Jenn!

There are many thousands of no-kill shelters and rescue groups throughout the country. One website I found, No Kill Network, has a map to click on for a list of no-kill shelters in your state. Alternately, you can simply Google search for no-kill animal shelters in your local area. I was surprised at how many organizations there are in Oregon. I know many friends and family members who have adopted loving, lifetime family pets from no-kill shelters and rescues. If a pet isn't in your plans right now, that is totally okay! But maybe you want to help a no-kill shelter or have some time, money or space in your home to donate. Be sure to do your research about the organization you want to support. Many well-known organizations like the HSUS, ASPCA and PETA are NOT no-kill organizations.

And remember: spay or neuter your pet!

Monday, December 19, 2011

National Marrow Donor Program



Many of us have been touched by cancer, in one form or another. And many of us are familiar with the big cancer charity organizations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society. Instead of highlighting those charities during my month of giving daily charity highlight, which have a great deal of public awareness around them already, and already raise millions of dollars each year, I thought I would use my little voice to bring awareness to another aspect of cancer donation.

So Shiny is a blog I read, written by the very funny Catherine Shaffer. Catherine's mother recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. On her blog, Catherine requested, as a way to help save lives, that her readers sign up for the National Marrow Donor Program.

I knew that there was such a thing, but I didn't really know anything about it, nor did I know how simple it was to sign up! I followed the link to the National Marrow Donor Program website and spent some time reading up on Bone Marrow Registry and donation. It is free to sign up. The questionnaire to see if you are a potentially eligible donor took about 2 minutes to complete.

Upon completion I was told that I am potentially eligible and will be sent a kit by mail that will have 4 cotton swabs in it. I will swab my cheek and send them back to be tissue typed.

There is no cost to me to sign up and register, though there is the opportunity to donate to help defray the costs associated with the tissue typing.

Maybe some day in the future I will be contacted about a potential match, and I may be able to donate some of my blood or marrow to help save a life. According to the National Marrow Donor Program website 10,000 people need marrow donations, but only half receive them in time.

It is very simple to sign up. Please consider doing so. You can follow the link above or click on the post title to take you to the registration page.

If you are uncomfortable with becoming a potential marrow donor, there are other ways you can help. The National Marrow Donor Program accepts donations. They also have a Be The Match store, where they sell all kinds of things! Apparel, accessories, bags, jewelry, coffee mugs, picture frames and more.

For my fitness minded friends, the NMDP also puts on a Be the Match Be the One Run in Atlanta, Charlotte, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Long Beach, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland OR, Richmond, San Jose, St. Louis and Tampa. Portland's event is a 5k on July 15, 2012 at the World Trade Center Plaza downtown. You can raise funds to donate to the NMDP and run a quick downtown race.

Maybe a monetary donation isn't in your budget this year. But maybe you can take a few moments and see if you are a potentially eligible marrow donor. You could help save a life!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Goals Week 12/18/11

I was reminded (again) why exercise is about more than just adjusting my BMI. I suffer struggle with anxiety issues that can be very debilitating. When I am not taking good care of my body, when I don't exercise, when I eat 5 or 6 cookies and then have an egg nog latte, and don't eat vegetables and am sad because my kitty is gone, the anxiety hits me hard.

And it kinda knocks some sense into me.


I know better than this.

I know I can't ignore my body and my physical activity and eat total garbage. Especially if I am already emotionally "heightened" like I am right now because of my kitty, Christmas, money, stress and blah blah blah.

Yesterday I ate crap. I didn't exercise. I sat around much of the day doing nothing. That was a mistake.

My anxiety kicked in last night and made for a super fun evening. <---sarcasm.

Today, I KNEW I had to pay attention to my body and take care of myself. (Sometimes I am so dense.)

So, what better way to kick myself into gear with taking care of both my physical and mental health than by setting some goals for the week?

NO better way!

MY goals are pretty simple:

Exercise at least 20 minutes a day Sunday through Thursday.

Drink water or tea, skip coffee, and only have alcohol at our holiday festivities on Friday.

Eat veggies or fruits with every meal.

Limit Christmas "treats" to two per day maximum prior to Friday. (I'm gonna have more than two treats on Friday because that is our "Christmas" celebration.)

That's it! Those are my goals for this week.

I started off the day on the right foot!

Banana and water for early breakfast, followed by 40 minutes of Firm Burn and Shape. Oatmeal and pb for late breakfast. More water. Clementine for snack. More water. Lunch was quinoa, black beans and cumin heated in the micro and topped with fresh tomato and avocado (SO GOOD) plus a hardboiled egg. Tea. Dinner was homemade chicken enchiladas. I had two. More tea. NO Christmas Treats, coffee or alcohol.

Success for day 1!

Incidentally, I'm feeling much more relaxed and less anxious and tense this evening. Coincidence? Unlikely.

What are your goals for the week? Are you throwing in the towel because of Christmas or hanging on my a thread??

National Alliance on Mental Illness


My life has been touched by mental illness in many ways. Many family members and friends have been diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses or mood disorders. Some of them suffer terribly with their illness, while others are less impacted. But, there is no doubt, that any type of mental illness or mood disorder affects day to day life for millions of people, and their loved ones.

Mental illness has a great deal of stigma associated with it. This frustrates me because unlike addictions to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes or food, mental illness is not something someone chooses. Having another drink is always a choice, but waking up every day with mental illness is not a choice. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a group that helps increase knowldege and decrease stigma associated with mental illness.

From their website:

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope for all of those in need.
From its inception in 1979, NAMI has been dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. Financial contributions allow NAMI to offer an array of programs, initiatives and activities in support of the NAMI mission.

Our work.


NAMI stays focused on educating America about mental illness. NAMI is the foundation for hundreds of NAMI State Organizations, NAMI Affiliates and volunteer leaders who work in local communities across the country to raise awareness and provide essential and free education, advocacy and support group programs for people living with mental illness and their loved ones. NAMI creates change and works tirelessly to advocate for an American health care system that ensures access to treatment to those in need.

NAMI focuses on support, education, research and advocacy to help individuals and families affected by mental illness. Learn more about awareness and support, NAMI's education programs and our advocacy efforts.


You can help NAMI with their great work by becoming a member, donating funds, contacting your legislators or participating in NAMI Walks. Nami Walks are available in 44 states. Click the link to see when/where the next Nami Walk is in your area. Oregonians: Mark your calendar for May 20th, 2012 for the next NAMI Walk 5k at the Eastbank Esplanade in Downtown Portland!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Make-A-Wish


Most everyone has heard about the Make-A-Wish foundation. Make-A-Wish grants wishes for terminally ill children.

From their website:

Since 1980, the Make-A-Wish Foundation® has enriched the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions through its wish-granting work. The Foundation's mission reflects the life-changing impact that a Make-A-Wish® experience has on children, families, referral sources, donors, sponsors and entire communities.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation was founded in 1980 after a little boy named Chris Greicius realized his heartfelt wish to become a police officer. Since its humble beginnings, the organization has blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon, reaching more than 250,000 children around the world.

According to their website, the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants a wish every 40 minutes. Many people, myself included, are under the impression that the wishes are huge, but if you look at the recent wishes page it is easy to see that some of the wishes are not huge, but are huge to the child making the wish.

One little girl has the wish for a pink playhouse.

One boy has a wish to go see Wheel of Fortune.

Another boy wants to see snow.

There are several ways you can help support the work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In addition to financial donations and volunteer efforts, you can donate frequent flier miles, building materials, electronic items or purchase goods from Ebay Community Sellers supporting Make-A-Wish. You can also shop at the Make-A-Wish Marketplace which has apparel, jewelry, office and promotional items and more. Please visit the Make-A-Wish webpage to learn more!


Hearty Poblano Corn Chowder

I originally posted this recipe in September of last year. You can find the original post here.

I made this again last night and it was delicious! I still didn't take my own picture though.


source


The original recipe inspiration came from www.myrecipes.com and can be found HERE. I adapted the recipe a bit to suit my style.

When I originally made this recipe I used fresh everything. But last night I did a little "shopping" from my freezer! I totally love being able to head out to my freezer to go produce shopping from my garden harvest in the middle of December. So awesome!

I used about 6 or 7  small/medium size poblano peppers that we had roasted and then frozen this summer. I didn't peel them before we froze them which turned out to be okay because once they defrosted a bit the skins peeled off super easy! WAY easier than when they are freshly roasted.

I also used 3 cups of corn that I cut off the cob this summer and froze. That fresh, sweet corn flavor was perfectly preserved and gave the chowder super flavor.

I have made some minor alterations to this recipe based on having made it a couple more times. The recipe below includes these alterations. The original recipe is delicious, but these adjustments give it a bit more oomph.

Hearty Poblano Corn Chowder
Serves 4

4 medium and 4 small poblano peppers, roasted, seeded and diced (about 1 - 1.5 cups diced)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
3 cups (16 oz) corn (can be canned, frozen or fresh off the cob-if canned drain, if frozen defrost)
2 cups rice milk or fat free milk, divided
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup half and half
generous sprinkle of salt
generous sprinkle of pepper
4 Tablespoons sharp cheddar cheese, grated

blue corn chips or tortillas for garnish

Makes 4 servings approximately 1 cup per serving

1. (If using fresh) Roast poblano peppers in the oven or on a hot grill until they are charred well on all sides. Place in plastic zip top bag and let steam for 15 minutes to make removing the skin easier. Remove the skin, top and seeds of the poblanos. (If using frozen, defrost, skin and dice).

2. Dice the poblanos.

3. Add olive oil to medium hot skillet. Add onions and garlic. Saute until onions are soft; add the diced poblanos and saute 2-3 minutes more to heat thorough.

4. Add 1 cup corn to pan and sauté/pan roast for 3-4 more minutes or until corn starts to soften and brown slightly.

5. Add 1 cup of milk to pan. Heat mixture to simmer; continue to simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

6. Take the remaining 1 cup of milk and 2 cups of corn and puree in a blender until smooth.

7. Add to corn and pepper mixture, along with butter and half and half. Stir to combine and heat through. Sprinkle with generous amount of salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

8. Ladle into bowls and top with 1 tablespoon of grated cheddar per bowl. Garnish with blue corn chips or tortillas.



5, 6 or 7-Layer Bars, Your Choice

AKA...my once a year cookies. I *only* make these at Christmas time.

I may have mentioned here or there that I have no self control when it comes to cookies. That is true, and well-known. But, I especially have no self control when it comes to these cookies, or bars if you prefer.

They are decadent.

Rich.

Sweet.

Gooey (if you eat them when they are still slightly warm, and why wouldn't you, especially if you have no self control when it comes to cookies?)

Delicious.

I make them only once a year so as to do as little damage to my physique as possible.

5, 6 or 7-Layer Bars

Here's what ya need!
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2-1 cup shredded coconut
6-8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels
6-8 ounces butterscotch morsels
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/4-1 cup chopped nuts (your choice or a mixture)

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Melt butter in 13 x 9 baking dish, ensuring to coat entire bottom of dish evenly.


3. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs (run them through the food processor and you will have crumbs in a minute!) over top of melted butter. Smooth evenly over bottom of dish and press into butter
slightly.



4. Sprinkle semi-sweet chocolate morsels over the top of graham cracker base.



5. *optional* add sweetened, shredded coconut (I add it to half of my pan only)


6. Sprinkle butterscotch morsels.


7. Press down slightly.

8. Add sweetened condensed milk over top of mixture, pouring as evenly as possible over the entire pan.



9. *optional* top with chopped nuts, one type or a mixture of several. (Use your food processor to make quick work of the nut chopping, but don't pulverize them, you still want some chunks.) I put nuts on about half of my pan.

Mix of peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachio's.



10. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes or until the nuts (if using) are slightly toasted and browning, and the sweetened condensed milk is nice and toasty golden brown.


Remove from oven and let cool (as much as you can stand to wait).


I have found the easiest way to cut these is with a good thin metal spatula. If you wait to cut them until they are completely cooled, they can be a bit difficult. Cool them well, but don't leave them overnight.





 These are VERY rich, so small pieces go a long way. I usually cut them into small, two-bite pieces.


I have been making these (only at Christmastime) since I was a child. I don't know where the original recipe came from, but I know there are many versions and varieties out there. As always, experiment! I don't like coconut and nuts, but other people do, which is why I make the batch half-n-half this way. I'm sure these would be incredibly delicious with peanut butter morsels instead of butterscotch, if butterscotch isn't your thing.

These make a beautiful, tasty gift (that is a great way to get them out of your house so you don't eat them all in one day!).

If you try these out, they take all of about 10 minutes to prep, and 30 minutes to cook. Let me know if you love them!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Steak, Fennel and Arugula Sandwich

Many of you know that I read Cooking Light magazine, and end up making quite a few of their recipes. I think they do a really great job of balancing yummy food and lower calories. The magazine reminds us that no food is "off limits" and that things like steak and mayonnaise can be a part of a healthy diet, when eaten in moderation. I really enjoy that aspect of Cooking Light, because it is a belief system about food that I share.


I really dislike the idea of labeling when it comes to eating and diets. I think when we create labels about what we will or wont eat, we open ourselves up to a lot of attacks by other people if we don't live up to *their* standard of whatever food label we have chosen.

Here is what I believe about food: I need to eat food. Healthy and nutrient dense actual food. I need to limit fake, sugary, processed foods. I need to base my diet on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and proteins. There needs to be room in my diet for periodic indulgences, but overall I need to eat FOOD and skip non-food and food-like products filled with unpronounceable ingredients, chemicals, fillers and red dye #7.

I do not believe in "diets", severe food restrictions, or labels of what type of eater I am (vegetarian/paleo/whatever). I am a human that needs to eat food. That's it.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, although I have never made my own mayonnaise. I just use store bought. I really love fennel, especially cooked like this, it is so flavorful. My only caution with this sandwich is don't use a bread that gets too hard/crunchy when it is toasted, or your mouth will get ripped up like you have been eating Cap'n Crunch cereal! I rarely follow recipes exactly, but this one is pretty close!

Here is the link to the original Cooking Light recipe.

Here is what I do:



Steak, Fennel and Arugula Sandwich
Serves 2

3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (I love fennel!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cumin (I love cumin)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
olive oil (divided-to roast fennel and then cook steak)
2 average fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 ~1lb new york loin steak, ~1 inch thick
2-3 tablespoons mayo (feel free to use the Cooking Light recipe and make your own)
4 slices of hearty bread
1 cup fresh arugula

1. Combine fennel seeds, salt, cumin and pepper in a small bowl.



2. Heat olive oil (enough to coat your pan) in a skillet over medium heat. Add half of seasoning mixture to pan and the sliced fennel. Saute for 15 or 20 minutes, stirring periodically, until the fennel is soft and starting to caramelize and brown.




3. Remove fennel from skillet and set aside. Add a bit more olive oil to pan. Coat all sides of steak with remaining seasoning mixture. Add steak to pan. Cook about 5 minutes per side, or until desired degree of doneness.


4. Let steak rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.


5. Lightly toast your bread.
6. Thinly slice steak against the grain.
7. Assemble the sandwich. Spread mayo on each slice of bread, top with arugula, sliced steak and caramelized fennel.



EAT and ENJOY!!