Thursday, December 31, 2009


Alright folks today is the LAST day of charity month.

I've learned a TON about so many amazing charitable organizations, but today's is really my favorite for several reasons.

Years ago, I read Muhammad Yunus' Banker to the Poor (which, if you have not yet read, I whole-heartedly suggest) and developed a soft spot for Microcredit. So much so that I even took a class about it during my last quarter of business school.

In a nutshell: Microcredit = providing small loans (microloans, usually under $750) to those in poverty who lack collateral and a verifiable credit history and therefore would not be extended traditional credit. These loans are designed to spur entrepreneurship, and are repaid on a very short time-frame (usually less than 20 weeks.) If you're interested in learning more, here is a good intro from Wikipedia. Maybe it's just me, but despite it's flaws, I find the field of Microfinance fascinating.

Which brings me to today's charitable act. Meet Miraluna:

Miraluna sells bananas in her own small store in the Phillipines, as well as working a farm.

She needs additional capital ($150) to supplement her businesses. The loan will be used to buy additional merchandise to sell in her store and will also help her grow more and better crops. Miraluna has three children. Ranging from 1 - 14 years old.

This loan was Miraluna's Christmas wish, and I just kick started it with a $50 donation.

I haven't really asked for many donations throughout the course of this month, because I'm pulling out all the stops now: In case anyone is still reading, please, won't you help me fund the remaining $100 of Miraluna's loan?

If 4 readers can donate just $25 each, we can get her the loan she needs to improve and expand her business. I think it would be AMAZING for run betty run readers to fund an entire microloan - don't you? (Not to mention - this is truly the gift that keeps on giving - once your original donation is repaid by Miraluna, you can pass the amount of the loan onto another candidate.)

Please head here to donate.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Mission Statement: "MADRE uses human rights to advance social justice. We partner with women in communities worldwide to meet urgent, local needs and create long-term solutions to the problems that women face."


My donation: $5

MADRE supports existing women's organizations, ensuring that skills and resources remain in the communities that their programs serve for the long term.

Currently, MADRE is working with various organizations to provide programs for women's health, combatting violence against women, peace building, economic and environmental justice.

MADRE's programs are operated in Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Iraq, Kenya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Peru and Sudan. Quite an impressive global reach.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Feed a cold, starve a....landfill?

Oh Glamour, I have ever so many bones to pick with you (and your 31 Days of Giving Calendar).

Today's suggestion: "Starve a landfill. Make this a 'no wrapping paper' year - use newspapers, even the pages of this magazine, instead."

On December 29? Don't you think it just might be a little bit too late to be thinking about wrapping my presents for the holiday that passed, oh FOUR DAYS AGO!?!

Logistics aside, I did make a concerted effort to use as little wrapping paper as possible this year. Among my tactics - recycling wrapping paper and gift bags from last year and using creative scraps of paper leftover from crafting projects.

Ultimately, I did have to use some wrapping paper. But, I didn't buy any. Either before the holiday or at the 50% off day-after sales. Mostly, because I saved so much paper by re-using what I had, that I still have plenty to get me through at least next Christmas.

Feel's pretty good actually.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Last week, after stuffing our bellies at delicious Bouchon in Northern California wine country, A and I took a little stroll up Washington Street in the heart of beautiful Yountville.

It was a brisk and beautiful evening, and as we neared the end of our walk, we meandered across the specatcular grounds of the Vintage Estate Mall when what to my wandering eyes did appear but:
A beautiful Meyer lemon tree!

This one was pregnant with fruit, so much so that a few lemons had even fallen to the ground and begun to spoil. Now, I'm not usually one for stealing taking things that aren't mine, but in this case - clearly no one else was making good use of the fruit, and it's not like we were on private property, (plus, no one was there to catch me in the act...)

All week I've been scouring the blog world to find just the perfect recipe for my contraband lemon. Tart? Lemon bars? Preserves? Finally, I settled on this:

(expert food stylist and professional photographer, alas, I am not...)

Meyer Lemon Pasta

1 8 oz. package Papardelle (I like Trader Joe’s egg papardelle)
1 large Meyer lemon
1.5 T olive oil
About 20 basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1 C ricotta cheese

1. Cook papardelle according to package instructions.
2. While pasta is cooking, zest the lemon. Reserve. Cut in half and juice the lemon. Reserve.
3. Chiffonade the basil leaves.
4. When pasta is al dente, drain. Return pasta to pot, and mix in lemon zest, juice, oil, basil, salt and pepper.
5. When pasta is thoroughly mixed, add ricotta, tossing gently.

Notes: Most of the recipes I (loosely) based this on suggested reserving anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, and stirring that in with the ricotta for a creamier sauce. Personally – I wasn’t looking to make a “cream” sauce. I like my ricotta lumpy. Up to you though, really.

Also, if you’re one of the lucky ones with a Kitchen Aid pasta maker, I bet homemade pasta would be fantastic in this. But, the TJ’s papardelle is a really close 2nd to homemade.

For dessert, A treated me to Mani's bakery.

And we topped it all off with a delicious bottle of this:


What is it about Christmas that makes you want to put the rest of your life up on a shelf for a few days, and then, only much later, when you're fully rested and recovered (and slightly bored...) go pick it back up again?

For me, the past few days have flown past, and I'm not quite sure what I did.

I know what I didn't do - blog.

Another rapid fire posting for the last several days' charities:

In this economy, 36% more families are struggling with hunger. For $5 at you can provide 20 bags of groceries to food banks around the country.

If you knit (which I do not...) you can send squares to to be worked into an afghan that will be given to women's shelters. Or you can take the easy way out (like me) and just donate cash...

A donation to International Medical Corp enables them to provide life-saving services by training health care professionals to care for their own communities. You know, the whole give a man vs. teach a man to fish... concept?

And finally, at the I DO Foundation brides and grooms can link their wedding registries to their favorite charities to generate funding for their favorite causes. We haven't created our registry yet (though after spending the better part of yesterday in Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table, I'M READY) but I'll be sure to link back to it when we do.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

I couldn't leave without spreading another smidge of holiday cheer this evening:

Merry Christmas!

P.S. This one's for Mom - let's see how often she checks the blog, and if she can figure out what it is before tomorrow...

The Fistula Foundation

Mission Statement: " raise awareness of and funding for fistula repair, prevention, and educational programs worldwide."


My donation: $5

Fistula mainly plagues women in developing countries and is apparently easy to treat with increased access to obstetric care.

Not being one of the more "glamourous" (no pun intended) charities selected by the mag this year, and on Christmas Eve, nonetheless, I'll spare you all the medical definition of fistula. I'd encourage you NOT to look it up on your own. Definately not right before mealtime. Or after. Or really, ever. And for those who are still curious, I offer this explanation of the effects of fistula, lifted from the website: "A majority of women who develop fistulas are abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their communities because of their inability to have children and their foul smell." Gross.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a GOOD NIGHT!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Weekend

This weekend, A and I headed up north to spend some time in SF and a leisurely couple days eating and drinking our way through Napa. We had an awesome time, and since my posts have been pretty sparse for pictures lately, I'll just let the evidence speak for itself.

We had a wonderful time.

Union Square

Bramble Trees outside Beringer Brothers

With dear friend Meredith at Beringer 'Mansion'

Oxbow Public Market

Seriously? This place is foodie heaven. Like a mini-Embarcadero with varying food stands, bakeries, chocolatiers, a green grocer, cafe, even a wine and cheese market. We stopped here twice. (Um, in the same day.)

Spices at Oxbow

Beautiful organic produce

My own personal heaven on Earth

No, wait - this is my heaven on Earth

Nope, wrong again - THIS is my heaven on Earth

Well, in any case, here's wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Playing Catch-Up

I went on vacation! (My laptop did not...)

So, I have a bit of catching-up to do today. In the interest of not boring you all to death, I'll try to keep this short.

First up we have GO campaign, an Organization, "dedicated to helping orphans and vulnerable children throughout the world build a better future."

Image courtesy of GO campaign (clearly)

I chose to support the Ethiopian School for Tigray with my $10 donation. After recently finishing Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea I firmly believe in the connection between education and the eradication of poverty and violence. According to GO campaign's site, "only 63.4% of school age children [are] enrolled in primary schools. Most schools lack proper sanitation, playgrounds are practically nonexistent, and supplies and materials are luxury items afforded to very few schools." My donation will go towards establishing a comprehensive educational program to benefit about 200 children in the Hintalo Wejirat District of Northern Ethiopia.

Next up we have Hannah's Socks.

This amazing Organization began because of the curiousity and compassion of a 4 year old girl:
Images courtesy of Hannah's Socks

It's not so much that her story is anything too special. But what it inspired her parent's to do is moving. I didn't know that socks and undergarments were the least donated (and most needed) items for most homeless shelters. (I always just assumed it was food.) My $5 donation will help Hannah reach her goal of donating 60,000 pairs of socks in 2009. She's pretty close - with 54,345 pairs donated to date.

And finally today we have free kibble where for the 10 seconds it takes to answer a trivia question, you can donate 10 pieces of kibble to animal shelters where it will be used to feed hungry dogs.

Having not grown up with pets (and with a somewhat irrational fear of most dogs) I didn't really understand the significance of this Organization. Until this weekend when animal shelters in San Francisco were all over the news. Apparently, Chihuahua's were 'trendy' pets in 2007 or so. However, since they are no longer all the rage (at least, not in California anyways) these dogs are now overcrowding animal shelters throughout the state. Virgin America airlines has graciously arranged to fly several of these pups to shelters on the East Coast (where, apparently Chihuahua's are still in high demand) as soon as the weather permits.

So there you have it, my charitable acts for the past few days. Be back later with a vacation recap and some gorgeous photos.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The International Rescue Committee

Mission Statement: "Founded in 1933, the IRC is a global leader in emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection of human rights, post-conflict development, resettlement services and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression."


My donation: $10

The IRC works in 42 countries providing emergency relief, relocating refugees, and rebuilding lives in the wake of disaster. They also help refugees resettle in the U.S and become self-sufficient.

The IRC is another well-known and well-respected charitable Organization with a long-standing history of doing good, that I am proud to support with my donation today.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Home Based Care Alliance

Mission Statement: "...advocating for transparency and accountability in HIV/AIDS programming."


My donation: $5

The Alliance is comprised of caregivers who improve the lives of orphans, vulnerable children and people living with AIDS by promoting food security, training community members in health care, providing counseling and creating safe havens for women and children in need.

As far as I can tell, the Alliance is a vehicle for the caregivers to both unite, gain recognition and access funding.

I was surprised to learn that among the many challenges facing caregivers and those whom they serve, the primary challenge isn't solely a lack of funding, but really it is the social stigma of HIV/AIDS as well as women's inequality (which, unfortunately, fuels the vicious cycle of HIV/AIDS in Africa.)

Ultimately, it seems a caregivers first and foremost role is one of service - to protect and serve those most in need. The ultimate philanthropists.

Friday, December 18, 2009

GoGirlGo! Fund

Mission Statement: "[To] support...non-profit agencies providing sports and/or physical activity programs for girls along the Gulf Coast whose facilities and programs have been damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina."


My donation: $5

The GoGirlGo! Fund is the primary program adminstered by the Women's Sports Foundation. The purpose of the Fund is to combat the physical health problems that affect a large proportion of young American women and girls. The Organization (supported in large part by the GoGirlGo! Fund) encourages girls to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle. Something very near and dear to my heart.

Literally every Organzation I have researched so far this month has reminded me of the sad conditions facing so many of the people both in this country and across the world. And while I feel strongly about so many causes, obsesity is one that really socks me in the gut every time. Did you know that 25 million children (under the age of 17) are overweight or obese? That 15-30% of girls aged 16 & 17 report that they get NO PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AT ALL on a daily basis?

The most basic premise of this Organization is that if kids/girls are involved in sports, they'll be too busy to fall into some of the worse traps that await them, such as drug use, underage drinking, and a whole host of other unsavory behaviors. Not to mention the fact that they will be improving their health and their quality of life.

(Images courtesy of Women's Sports Foundation)

I appreciate what the Women's Sports Foundation is doing for these girls.

Running errands...literally

I love Fridays (when I work from home). I love December in Southern California (helllllloooo 75 degrees and sunny). And I especially love running errands. Literally.

This morning, I brought our car in for service. One of the many MANY perks of leasing a BMW is the free maintenance and the shuttle service. Correction. The ONE-WAY shuttle service.

Not such a big deal for your average two-car family. A and I however share our one car (now there's a story for another time) which has never been problematic. Except for when we have to take our one and only car in for service. The service center is nice enough to bring us back home after we drop the car off. But when it's ready for pick-up? Sorry Charlie, it's up to you to get back there.

Thank goodness we live a whopping 3 miles away, so I've taken to running back to pick up the car when it's ready.

Today, we piled on an additional jaunt to the grocery store first, and from there I continued on to the dealership while A walked the groceries home and cooked us up some lunch.

Seriously - I don't think there is any way to improve on errands (well, barring a fairy godmother loaning me her wand...that is.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Carolina for Kibera

Mission Statement: "Carolina For Kibera (CFK) fights abject poverty and helps prevent violence through community-based development in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya and beyond."


My donation: $5

CFK is an affiliated program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Organization firmly believes that in order to solve problems related to poverty, those affected by it must be a part of the solution. In that sense, the Organization is much more a hand up than a hand out. I like this philosophy.

Kibera faces a whole host of problems, from an overwhelming youth population, to bloody clashes between the 6 different ethnic groups that call the slums home, to the estimated 12-15% of the population suffering from HIV/AIDS.

CFK's aim is to promote youth leadearship and provide improved sanitation and healh conditions through core projects such as the Youth Sports Program, the Tabitha clinic and the Binti Pamoja Center.

As the Organization is affiliated with UNC, students from various universities (including UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, Georgetown, Columbia, and many others) can apply to intern as volunteers with the Organization and may even have the opportunity to travel to Kenya and study in nearby universities in Nairobi. Some of the students even blog about their experiences with the Organization here.

(All images courtesy of Carolina for Kibera)

Seems pretty cool to me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Small Can Be Big

Mission Statement: " address a developing homeless crisis in Massachusetts."


My donation: $5

Small can be big is an amazing Organization. The premise is that small local donations for a family on the edge of financial disaster can make a huge difference over the long run. Too bad the organization is based across the country from me. But still, I love the site set up - as a donor, you get to choose what type of need you want your contribution to support: fending off eviction, escaping domestic violence, struggling with unemployment, etc. For each unique cause there are several families who need a helping hand, and a brief description of the circumstances they face.

For example:

I selected "fending off eviction" (based on my recently developed soft spot for homelessness.) My donation went to a widowed mother of 6 struggling scrape together $1,300 to pay her rent for the next month, and prevent her grieving family from eviction. This family lost their father in an unexpected accident last year, and are now struggling to make ends meet. The kids range in age from 3 - 16. After reading their story, I only wish I could give more.

What I love most about this site is the personal stories and the ability to direct your donation to whichever cause you choose.

Go check it out - these stories will tug at your heartstrings, and since donations as small as $1 are accepted, hopefully you'll be able to help in a small way.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Share Our Strength (and have a holiday party!)

Mission Statement: "Share Our Strength is a National Organization that works hard to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry."


My donation: $5

Redemption! Today's charitable activity is awesome. Share Our Strength is a fantastic organization, working to solve a problem that I have recently become much more concerned with - childhood hunger in America.

As I mentioned last week, Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle focuses extensively on the problems of childhood hunger in certain parts of the U.S. I was saddened to read how in middle school, Walls was so humiliated that her families poverty precluded her from bringing a lunch to school, that she spent the majority of her days sitting in the girl's bathroom, waiting for someone to throw a half-eaten sandwich or unwanted piece of fruit in the trash, so she could scavenge herself a meal.

(images courtesy of Share Our Strength)

[Ordinarily, this is the part of the post where I'd start telling you about all the great work the Organization is doing. Lucky for me, Share Our Strength has their very own blog, which saves me from writing all about it.]

And now the best part of today's challenge - the dinner party! We're hosting a holiday potluck (which is really more of a holiday wine & cheese & cookie party, but whatever) for a group of our friends tonight. The idea here being, the money we save on going out would be contributed to Share Our Strength.

Last night, I got my festive (Taylor Swift) Christmas music on, busted out the mixer, and whipped up some awesome holiday cookies, including...these homemade oreos.

While Deb's photos are hands down lovelier than mine (see evidence below) mine still taste AWESOME. (And I should know, seeing as I may or may not have eaten 3 of these for lunch today...thank goodness for long runs.)

Mine (What they lack in looks they more than make up for in taste)

Deb's (image via Smitten Kitchen)

Monday, December 14, 2009

American Red Cross

Mission Statement: "The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross Movement, will provide relief to victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies."


My Donation: FREE $10

For CYRING OUT LOUD Glamour!!! You know, normally, I am not one of those people with nothing better to do with their time who send nasty letters to the editor into magazines. But...this is seriously the last straw.

Today's charitable act was MEANT to be sending holiday cards to soliders overseas. I was actually excited for this one. I have plenty of Christmas cards lying around, and for little more than the cost of a stamp, I could send as many notes of thanks to the men and women protecting our country as my little heart desires.


The cards are actually mailed to an American Red Cross P.O. Box, not directly to the troops, so that each card can be checked for hazardous material and inappropriate content before being delivered to deserving soldiers. Totally understandable.

Now lets think about this, shall we? Today is December 14. Christmas is 11 days away. Hannukah started 3 days ago. Even if delivering the mail only took a week (to get overseas...yeah, right...but still, a simplifying assumption) and sorting the mail took a week, cards would have to be mailed out by December 11 AT THE LATEST in order for the servicemen to receive them on Christams.

Not surprisingly, the Red Cross has THOUGHT of this, and has closed the Holiday Card P.O. box for the 2009 season. Glamour, however, chose this as the charitable act for TODAY, December 14, WHEN THE BOX WAS ALREADY CLOSED!

Am I surprised? Not in the least.

But, I feel so guilty that I missed the deadline, that I decided to make a small contribution to the American Red Cross instead. P.S. $0.92 of every $1.00 that is donated to the Red Cross is spent on humanitarian services and programs!

Glamour take note - my subscription notice just came in the mail this weekend. Will I be renewing? Uh...what do you think?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Doctors Without Borders

Mission Statement: ...provides assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict...irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions.


My Donation: $5

Founded in 1971, Doctors Without Borders (or "Medicins Sans Frontieres", "MSF") provides aid to people in 60 countries. MSF primarily helps people who are affected by armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, lack of health care or natural disasters.

In 1999, MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize. Pretty cool.

One thing I have always respected about MSF is the fact that the bulk of the volunteer work is done by ordinary medical professional's who donate their time to serve the underserved for a period of time. To me, MSF has always been the Organization that epitomizes that the regular Joe can do something to make a difference.

So, I was happy to make my contribution to MSF today.

In other news, in case anyone out there is keeping track, I skipped a day. I'm not proud. But yesterday was SUPER busy. And, when I sat down tonight to start researching the Organization ( I just wasn't feeling it. Again, not enough information about the charity for my taste. Plus, I was $5 above budget from Wednesday's donation to Save the Children (who wouldn't accept a donation of anything less than $10) so I chose to skip a day and get back on budget.

Oh well.

Hope you enjoyed your weekends - I need another day to recover from mine!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Plastic Jungle

Mission Statement: Uh...doesn't really have one


My Donation: Nothing

Strike 3? This week has not been good for me, charitably speaking.

I was amped by the idea of donating my unused giftcards to charity. I had an old Macy's card lying around with about $8 (what am I ever going to get at Macy's for $8??) and a couple $5 Coffee Bean cards collecting dust (I mean, why go to Coffee Bean when you could have STARBUCKS!?).

And then I went to the website...

(Side rant: I love charity. I love the internet. I do NOT love how most charities use the internet. I get it, it's a charity. There's not a whole lot of money lying around for website upgrades. But seriously? If your Organization's site is so poor that it makes it hard for me to find out any meaningful information about your mission or operations, is it any wonder that I'm not going to bother donating to your cause? And P.S. Glamour - did you hire Olivia from "The City" as the junior copy editor who reviewed this error ridden giving calendar? 'Cuz I'm thinking a monkey could've done a better job...)

Ok, so now that I've gotten that out of my system:

Plastic Jungle (PJ) is not a charity. It's an online black market (ahem...) "vehicle" for after-market buying and selling of retail gift cards. If you persist and wade through the fine print and buried links, you'll find one page devoted to non-profit organizations, however, PJ puts the onus on the individual charities to round up a bunch of unused gift cards, mail them in, and then takes a sizeable 20% commission and convenience fee off the face value of the cards, remitting the remainder back to the charity in cash. P.S. gift cards with a value of less than $10 are not welcome. (The minimum value jumps up to $25 if you want to donate cards through the site.)

Seriously people? Worst idea ever. The brilliant (or so I thought) part of this plan is putting those piddly $5 gift cards (or remaining $3.56 balances at stores you don't really shop in) to some sort of productive use. For $10-$25 I can surely use that gift card on SOMETHING.

Sorely disappointed today (could ya tell)?

If anyone is looking for me this weekend, I guess I'll be buying Christmas presents at Macy's while sipping a Vanilla Ice Blended. (Oh, gag.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Mission Statement: To help as many nonprofits and schools as possible…[by] funding the great works they are doing.


My donation: Free!

All day today, instead of Googling things, I am GoodSearching them. I’ve left the browser up on my computer and every time I need to look something up, I’m clicking over to GoodSearch.

One thing I really like about this site – you get to choose which charity your search supports. I chose the Susan G. Komen International Headquarters (since I was mildly disappointed that none of this month’s charities supported breast cancer.)

Good Search also has a link which demonstrates how much funding has been raised in support of each charity, broken down by month and number of searches. This page also explains (in much better detail than the Care2 site) how using the site benefits the charity. Namely, “50% of the revenue generated from advertisers on GoodSearch is shared with the charity.” I’m presuming then, that GoodSearch uses the data (i.e. which charity user’s select) to track the advertising revenue generated by each search. That’s the good news.

Now for the bad news… estimated funding is just over $0.01 per search. Yikes that’s low. For the entire 2009 year, the Susan G. Komen foundation has only earned $375.82 from over 35,000 searches.

If any nerds inquiring minds like me are curious how pay-per-click advertising works, and what exceptions there are to the GoodSearch model, I highly recommend visiting their FAQ. Seems as though there are several searches that won’t qualify towards donations (like searching for commonly known URL’s ahem, Facebook and Hotmail, searches for anything ending in “.com”, and many other exceptions.) This is GoodSearch’s intelligent way of preventing fraudulent use of the site to artificially drive advertising revenues.

Will I still use GoodSearch? As long as the search results are comparable with Google, I’d rather have 50% of my generated ad revenue going to charity than 100% of it ending up in Sergey Brin’s pockets.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2 down, 10 to go

I just finished month 2 of running every day. Man, time flies when you are having fun.

Not much notable to report this month, other than the truly nasty cold that I got right around Thanksgiving. I even missed a couple days of work, but couldn’t bring myself to miss a day of running, so I ran right through that cold. Word to the wise – running (while breathing through one’s nose) with a sinus infection…not so fun.

No pictures this month, since most of my runs were on my trusty treadmill. Dude – it’s cold.

Except for this one - taken from one of my runs while we were in Hawaii for a wedding:

And this one (because it's just so pretty):

10 more months 'til the big day!


Mission Statement: Make it easy for everyone to live a healthy, green lifestyle and impact the causes they care about most.


My donation: Free!

The “click to donate” section of the website was a little tough to find (made even MORE difficult since the folks at Glamour had incorrectly listed the url, but whatevs…) but once I started clicking, I realized just how EASY this one was.

As I was clicking away, I began to wonder how my click was generating funding for the various charities. I think I must be part engineer (thanks Dad!) because I am always curious about how things work. Or maybe it’s all that good business school training…

So, how is it that by my clicking on an icon, I help cure breast cancer? Someone break it down for me, please?

I spent the better part of an hour browsing the website, and the best I could come up with was that their advertisers sponsor the website and somehow, the more times people click on the icons the more the advertisers contribute to the various charities. Huh.

I wish I had better things to say about this site, because I really believe the Organization is trying to do (A LOT) of good things. Unfortunately, that old saying, “you can’t be everything to everyone” really comes to mind. The site lacks focus, which wouldn’t be so bad…except that the vast expanse of coverage the Organization is clearly trying to achieve comes at the expense of the website’s functionality. Trust me, it was a nightmare to navigate.

But, would I spend the 15 seconds a day to do click a few of the links? Yeah, it doesn’t get much easier than that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Save the Children

Mission Statement: “Our mission is to create lasting, positive change in the lives of children in need.”


My donation: $10

Save the Children is one of the larger and more long standing non-profit organizations, providing a wide range of programs from prenatal care for new mothers to immunizing young children, building schools in developing countries and improving literacy and nutrition for children living in poverty in the U.S.

Hold up – what? Save the Children is doing work in the U.S.? I learned something new. And timely.

Until a couple nights ago, I didn’t realize the extent of poverty in the U.S. That is, until I started reading Jeanette Walls, “The Glass Castle”. You may have heard the buzz about this book, but in case you live under a rock:
Walls and her siblings grow up in what can only be described as poverty in the remote desert of the Western United States. While Walls and her siblings mature into successful adults, their parents ultimately follow their children to New York to watch them succeed, while choosing instead to live a life of homelessness.

The book is marvelous. But it opened my eyes to a very real problem that is going on all around us in the United States.

Did you know that 1 in 6 children in the U.S. lives in poverty? I didn’t. According to STC’s website (there is a “U.S. Programs” link under the “Programs” tab, in case you’re browsing the site) there are communities in Appalachia, the Mississippi River Delta, the Gulf Coast, the Southwest (where Walls grew up) and California’s Central Valley that are so impoverished that the conditions there resemble parts of the developing world.

Ok – plain English now? There are communities in California that are as developed as a THIRD WORLD COUNTRY.

It breaks my heart to think that there are children living within a hundred miles from me who are suffering. I was especially saddened to read that children living in poor rural areas are disproportionately affected by obesity because they grow up in environments with limited access to healthy food and limited opportunities to be physically active.

It doesn’t surprise me. I know you can buy a lot more calories with $1 at McDonalds than you can with $1 at Trader Joes.

But, just because it’s no surprise to me doesn’t mean it sucks any less. This one hits a little too close to home for me.

Go donate.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Taproot Foundation

Mission Statement: “The Taproot Foundation strengthens nonprofits by engaging business professionals in service.”


My donation: Free! REJECTED

Taproot runs a limited number of pro-bono projects at a time for selected non-profit organizations in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a handful of other cities. A Taproot staff member acts as a project manager for each team. Volunteers work in teams of 3 - 6 and primarily complete their service online. Teams hold weekly 30-minute conference calls and meet in person with the client about once per month. Taproot’s projects generally last 6 months and require a time commitment of about 100 hours over that period.

The initial questionnaire took about 10 – 15 minutes to complete online. A wide variety of business skill sets lend themselves well to the types of volunteer positions that Taproot uses on each of their pro-bono projects. Unfortunately, my skill set was not in demand for any of the current projects that are running in the Los Angeles area.

I received a (very polite) email from the Foundation informing me that they, “…could not find a matching pro bono consulting project for [my] experience at this time.”

While I was initially crushed from the harsh rejection (kidding, kidding) I have to admit, I’m breathing a sigh of relief on this one. A 100-hour, 6-month team project sounded frighteningly reminiscent of my MBA GAP project, which we painfully rehashed in a dinner conversation last week. Talk about dodging a bullet!

I guess they can’t all be charities I’m totally excited about, right?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

National Gardening Association

Mission Statement: “To promote home, school, and community gardening as a means to renew and sustain the essential connections between people, plants, and the environment.”


My donation: $5

The description from the giving calendar had me really psyched about today’s charity: “$5 to buys seeds for enough veggies to feed a struggling family of seven.”

Awesome. Feeding the hungry with homegrown healthy vegetables? I’m actually feeling a little bit jealous that this hungry family gets to eat better quality produce than I do (since the extra 2 hours I got sleeping in this morning was more important to me than dragging my slightly hungover butt to the Farmer’s Market.)

But I digress.

I browsed out to the website, but the information I found there makes the organization sound more like a gardening education program than a charity devoted to feeding the hungry with (cost effective) fresh vegetables. I mean, yes it is important to instill the value of gardening in children, and yes, I’d like to know which plot of my backyard is the ideal section to plant my vegetable garden…but, well, I feel a bit mislead.

I’m still making my donation, but Glamour: next time, please don’t mislead readers about the mission of the organization, k?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Vitamin Angels

Mission Statement: “Vitamin Angels is dedicated to reducing child mortality by advancing availability, access and use of essential nutrients to newborns, infants and children under five.”


My donation: $5

Seriously? How cute are these kids:

I’m totally the sucker sap who cries at those Sally Struthers, “Feed the Children” commercials. But, I’ve never done anything about it.

Interesting facts I learned in my research:
· One third of all childhood deaths are caused by undernutrition
· Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of childhood mortality and blindness
· Vitamin A deficiency can be cured with a simple capsule every 6 months, and can reduce childhood mortality by 23%

But perhaps the most compelling thing I learned? The cost to provide vitamins to one child for the first 5 years of life (which are the most critical years) is ONE DOLLAR. That’s it. A dollar. So, basically, for the cost of the tall latte you’re sipping right this minute, you could have treated malnutrition for ~3 kids.

Inspired yet? I just saved 5 kids. What have you done this morning?

Friday, December 4, 2009

I’m never buying canned soup again

I’ve been sick for the past week (sadly, including on Thanksgiving) and nothing has sounded appetizing except for soup. I’ve tried everything to kick the craving from Progresso (blech) to Whole Foods soup bar (marginally better) to the Ramen House (we’re getting close).

Today I made this for lunch:

And now I’m serious when I say I’m never bothering with that store-bought crap again. I made this soup in 15 minutes, with ingredients that I already had on hand. I can’t even get to the store and back and microwave my soup in 15 minutes anyways, so it’s not like it even takes longer to make this soup! The keys to speed are cooking the stock and the chicken at the same time (in separate pans) and slicing the vegetables really thinly, so that they’ll cook faster.

Almost Homemade Chicken soup

1 ½ C Stock (I used Pacific’s Organic, Free-Range Chicken Broth)
Vegetables (I used 1 carrot, 1/3 onion and 1 green onion)
2 oz Pasta (I used Buckwheat Soba)
3 oz Chicken breast (Frozen is fine, doesn’t even need to be thawed)
Seasonings to taste (I used a little sea salt and black pepper on the chicken)
Medium saucepan
Small frying pan

1. Add about ¼ C stock to a small/medium saucepan over low heat.
2. At the same time, place chicken breast in small frying pan over medium heat.
3. Chop vegetables and add to stock. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.
4. Add about ¾ C stock to saucepan and bring back up to simmer.
5. Remove chicken breast from saucepan when almost cooked through, and chop in to bite-size pieces.
6. Add remaining stock to saucepan, along with pasta and bring back up to simmer. Simmer until pasta is almost cooked.
7. Add chopped chicken to saucepan about 1-2 minutes before pasta is cooked, and simmer until pasta is done. Pour soup into bowl, eat, and be magically cured of ailment. (No, seriously. It works. I added a tall glass of orange juice on the side to boost the curing effectiveness.)

Street Soccer USA

Mission Statement: “Soccer for social change…Ending homelessness through sports.”


My donation: $5

Homelessness has always been a soft spot for me. When I was in high school, I played in an orchestra that rehearsed at Cal State Northridge. As soon as I turned 16, I started driving myself to rehearsals every Sunday night. To get there, I took the Reseda exit off the 101, and every Sunday night, the same homeless man was standing on the corner. He seemed nice enough, so I started giving him a dollar every week when I drove past him. Then, I started bringing him food – a sandwich here, an apple there. I thought we had a pretty good relationship.

One week, I decided to go all out. I asked my mom to help me put together a care package – toothbrush, toothpaste, bottled water, snack packs. I was so excited to drive to rehearsal that week. And wouldn’t you know it – my homeless friend wasn’t there.

Street Soccer USA acknowledges that the homeless are generally looked down upon, marginalized and socially excluded. By creating a team environment, the Organization provides a community of support and helps the homeless to build trusting relationships.

I was impressed to learn that one year after joining the Street Soccer program, 75% of participants move off the streets.

I never saw my homeless friend again. I can only hope that he got his life together and ended up off the streets too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Donate books

Another freebie! And timely too. Lately, I’ve been feeling like A and I are outgrowing our space, not because we need more space, really, but because we just have TOO MUCH STUFF. Stuff that we don’t use, don’t need, probably shouldn’t have bought in the first place, and it is crowding us out of our home!

I went on a mini- cleaning binge and pulled together a nice stack of books destined for my local public library:

I love our library. It’s really small, walking distance from our place, and the librarians are really friendly. Did you know that you can call and ask them if they have a book, they’ll look for it, and if they do have it, they’ll pull it from the shelf and save it for you? Total time saver. (Because I can’t tell you how many times I have walked up there only to be disappointed that the books I was looking for were out on loan.)

I guess I should probably suck it up and pay my overdue fines when I drop off the pile of books this afternoon…

Mission statement: “ is an online career development/educational planning and mentoring program matching at-risk middle and high school students with volunteer adult mentors. By connecting students online with committed professionals from a broad range of career fields, expands young peoples’ vision of their own potential, encourages them to set educational and career goals, and helps identify pathways to achieving goals.”


My donation: Ad hoc mentor (free!)

Each year, 1.2 million young people drop out of school. This number didn’t mean very much to me until it was put in the following context: that is 30% of all students in the U.S. (THIRTY PERCENT! Are you kidding me?!) The students serves are from the demographic communities that are statistically most likely to drop out of school.

I also learned that an alarmingly low 68% of 9th grade students will graduate from high school, and only 18% will go on to receive an undergraduate degree. The numbers didn't hit me until I saw this graph:

(Apologies for the blurry image)

See that teeny tiny small bar on the right? Mind you, this is not 18% of underprivileged 9th graders, this is 18% of ALL 9th grade students in America. (Ummm, seriously people? This is America! I really had no idea.)

In all fairness, I feel like I should warn you – this one has a little meat to it. In order to become an online mentor in the program, you’re required to submit to a background check, which can take up to 2 weeks. Filling out the background check questionnaire takes about 5 minutes.

The time commitment for a year-long mentor is about an hour a week. Luckily, there is the “ad hoc mentor” option, which basically allows you to log in and answer mentee’s questions that are posted to the discussion boards whenever you have a few spare moments.

I spent 10 minutes this morning answering questions about financial aid for college, money management and career decisions. Super easy, and surprisingly rewarding!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pajama Program

Mission Statement: “The Pajama Program…provides new, warm pajamas and new books to children in need in the United States, and around the world, many who are waiting and hoping to be adopted.”


My donation: $10

As I was browsing the website to learn more about this organization, I stumbled across founder Genevieve Piturro’s inspiring account of what prompted her to start the Pajama Program back in 2000.

I’ll admit, before I started researching the organization for this post, I didn’t really understand what the big deal was – I mean, they’re just pajama’s, right? But after reading her story, I had a completely new perspective.

If Genevieve’s story doesn’t tug on your heartstrings, I’m sure the pictures of the kids will get you.

Here’s hoping you’ll click through and be compelled to make a donation of your own.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

‘Tis the season to be…charitable

I love the holidays. Cold weather, spending time with family, pie, cookies, 8 straight weeks of Christmas music on the radio, presents. What’s not to love?

A few weeks ago, as I was thumbing the pages of one of my magazines, I stumbled across this great little giving calendar:

My first thought was, “how cool – I’m going to do every single one of these, and then I'm going to blog about it” followed very closely by, “I wonder how much that would cost.” ($451 in case you’re wondering.)

Now, while I love the idea of giving something back, I’d still like there to be a little something left to take care of the rest of my holiday gift list.

So I did what any good (nerdy) accountant would do – I dragged out my trusty calculator laptop, opened up excel, set a scope, and got to work. Here’s what I did:
1. Any day where the financial commitment is over $5, I reduced it to $5.
2. Any cause that I feel more strongly about, where the financial commitment is under $5, I increased it to $5 - $10.
3. The one cause I feel most strongly about, I allocated $50. (Coincidentally, this is on the last day of the month. Nothing like going out with a bang!)

Here’s how the month will play out for me, financially:

All in, I’ll be contributing $150 to a variety of worthy charitable causes throughout the month of December, and I’ll be blogging about it here.

Tune in daily, for posts about each organization and links to their websites. Maybe, hopefully, you’ll feel compelled to donate a little something too.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Say ‘yes’ ‘probably’ to the dress

I’ve spent the better part of the last 4 Saturdays shopping for wedding dresses, and although I don’t actually watch the show, from what I’ve heard, I’m getting the feeling that there are some serious editing liberties taken with the show.

Trust me, no one is trying on just 3 dresses and finding “the one.”

Or at least I’m not.

I’d guesstimate that I’ve tried on at least 50 dresses so far, and I’m still nowhere NEAR making a decision.

But, I reached a turning point on Saturday. After trying on at least 8 10 12 dresses, I took mercy on the poor sales associate and threw in the towel (at that store anyways.) And that is when she gave me some REALLY good advice…”stop torturing yourself.”

Data-whore that I am, I had this idea that trying on AS MANY DRESSES AS POSSIBLE would somehow help me find the *perfect* dress. But really, they’re all so similar, and yeah, I like some better than others, but I think I am at the point where I’ve pretty much narrowed down the style and there really isn’t all that much difference between all the front runners.

SO. No more trying on (new) wedding dresses. We’re taking a couple more trips to visit some of the front runners, and decisions will be made SOON.

In the meantime, tell me what you think:

(Photo courtezy of Gabriel Ryan here, sash/flower added by me)

(Photo courtesy of Ella Bridals)

(No, I’m not superstitious, and could care less if A sees the dresses I am choosing between. It’s so hard to make such a big decision without his input! Besides, he's already seen this...sitting right next to me as I blog.)
Please, PLEASE leave comments, and let me know what you think. I'm hoping to make a decision in the next few days.

Monday, November 9, 2009

One down, eleven to go

It’s hard to believe that I’m already a whole month into this running resolution. This month has reminded me, once again, why it is that I love running every day. It’s become a habit; my daily run is something that I look forward to from the minute I wake up until my feet hit the pavement (or treadmill).

I’ll be driving in the car and hear one of my running songs come on the radio, and I get the sudden urge to drop everything and go out for a run. On my short days, sometimes it’s hard to stop at just 15 minutes.

I’m officially hooked.

Now, that said, I do still have some crappy runs and just plain bad days. Like this Saturday. I’ve been feeling sorta under the weather and just generally run down for a few weeks now. This weeks’ ‘long’ run was a 6-miler early Saturday morning (before going to try on wedding dresses)!

From the first 5 minutes, I just knew something wasn’t right. It felt like someone was squeezing my whole torso with all their might. Slow as I went, I couldn’t get a deep, fulfilling breath. Man, did I want to turn around, walk, lie down in the middle of the San Vicente median (you get the picture). But I didn’t. I kept going, and eventually, I made it home. And truth be told, by mile 5, I was feeling pretty great.

(A couple pictures from some of my more recent runs.)

(Along the beach)
(At my hotel gym in Portland this morning)
(Saturday's long run)

And some good news to end on - I got my iPhone! Not only do I feel safer on long runs, I have 2 new running playlists, and I can take pictures while I am out running. I also downloaded this awesome running app that tracks how far you’ve run, pace and split times (in 2 minute increments) and elevation gains and losses.

I finally get the “there’s an app for that” marketing campaign. Oh so hooked on the iPhone.