Friday, August 31, 2012

Knitting for Charity


As a type-A overachieving, slightly ADD WAHM, I’m always looking for more err, stuff, to pile onto my To Do list. I now have an oh so small opening in my schedule, so I’ve been scanning the electronic horizon for something to fill up my time.  And as I’ve been in a particularly CIVIC mood lately, I’m thinking I’d like to volunteer.

Ideally, I want to find a way to volunteer that intersects with one of my interests, namely, knitting.  I love to knit but I’m running out of home projects and none of my family members want any more scarves or socks.  After much digging, I realize that finding an active knitting charity doing something I can relate to is not so easy.  I don’t want to affiliate with an overtly religious effort, would prefer to help my local community or, failing that, support either active or retired servicemen, children OR the homeless.

This limits my list to the following:

Afghans for Afghans: This is a humanitarian and educational people-to-people project that sends hand-knit and crocheted blankets and sweaters, vests, hats, mittens, and socks to the beleaguered people of Afghanistan.  They just completed a project; click on sign-up at the bottom of the homepage to join their group and to be notified when the next project starts. Based in San Francisco.

Christmas at Sea:  Since 1898, during the Spanish American War, volunteers of the Seamen’s Church Institute have knitted, collected, packed, and distributed gifts to mariners who are miles away from home during the holidays.  You must use one of their patterns but they have a good range of options.  Loosely affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

Knit your Bit:  This charity is affiliated with the National WWII Museum in New Orleans and donates knitted scarves to military veterans in VA centers. Now in its seventh year, this organization has donated more than 18,000 scarves to veterans. While you don’t need to use one of their patterns, they do have several nice ones on the website.

Knitting Pals by the Bay:  This group knits chemo caps for children, teens and adults who have cancer. More than 43,350 caps have been donated since 2002.  Based in the Bay Area, they donate to scores of local hospitals and Cancer support groups.

Project Linus:  Project Linus is a non-profit organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need.  The charity began in late 1995 and has grown very quickly, with "blanketeers" having donated more than 1.6 million blankets to children who could use a little security. You must donate blankets via your local chapter but chances are good that there's a location near you.

The Ships Project: The Ships Project sends homemade hats, slippers, etc. to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines deployed across the world.  You need to join their Yahoo group in order to receive participation and donation instructions. 

Stitches from the Heart:  Founded in 1997, the organization distributes knitted items to preemies.  To date, they've donated 220,000 items to preemies at more than 432 facilities.  They provide very simple instructions for preemie items so you can use any patterns you like, as long as they fit the preemie measurements they provide on the website.  Based in San Diego.

If none of these inspire you to pick up your needles, you can search for a charity by area of interest or location using the Charity Connection Registry on the Lion Brand Yarn website.

Please let me know if you have any other charities to share.  As mentioned above, I’m looking for those charities that are NOT overtly religiously affiliated and, preferably provide to soldiers, veterans, the homeless or children in need.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not

You may have seen recent coverage of a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which estimates that 40% of food is wasted in the US.  The report cites numerous reasons for this, from the cheapness of food to the food waste from oversized portions served in restaurants.  Whatever the reasons, its a true shame that we waste so much food when more than 46 million Americans rely on Food Stamps to survive. Here are a few more numbers to slap you sober on this subject.



What, you're asking yourself, can I do about this and what on earth does it have to do with yoga?  Glad you asked.  With respect to the what you can do question, its pretty simple.  Buy only what you need and use what you buy.  Eschew the bargain bulk buys at Crap-Mart and consider sharing that jumbo-sized entree at Orangeabees or Fennys.  Cook at home and make just enough for one meal or EAT YOUR LEFTOVERS.  For more ideas and inspiration, check out Wasted Food author Jonathan Bloom's blog where he posts a variety of sources where you can get more ideas about how not to waste food and what to do with the food you cannot use.
As for what it has to do with yoga, follow my thinking:  Yoga is all about balance - with your mind, body and your surroundings.  Its about being present and in harmony with others.  If you experience this with yoga (or whatever you do that brings you balance), you should not be comfortable with throwing away something that took valuable resources to create, grow and produce. Something that could be of tremendous value to someone who really needs it.  Something that, when wasted, harms the environment. 

Sorry for the soapbox but this is a subject close to my heart.  As I've mentioned, we are a family of cooks and we grow much of our own food.  And yes, I live in Michael Pollan-ville where food is both political and religious.  But I'm not coming from that place but rather from the perspective of my grandparents, who came from humble beginnings, never had a lot of money and valued what they had.  The kind of people who saved aluminum foil to reuse, saved little bits of soap to melt into a new bar, and kept a jar with "grease" that they used to fry their morning eggs (the BEST eggs ever, BTW).  Because food is cheap and plentiful, we don't value it - we waste it. I see it every day at my daughter's school where half-eaten sandwiches and fruit are swept into the garbage; I saw it at the tech companies I used to work for where untouched box lunches were tossed and catered meal leftovers tossed. And I see it almost every time I eat out when half-eaten plates of food are handed back to the server for disposal.

But we can make a difference.  We can get off the mat and find ways to waste less food in our own homes.  Look for creative ideas to use the food you can no longer eat (composting anyone?) Help your local school or place of work find ways to use or donate food not used.  Order less food when you go out and take home what you don't eat.  Consider "swapping" the food you grow and cannot use. Found Fruit is a great resource for this if you live in the Bay Area but you may be able to swap for what you need with farmers at your local Farmer's Market or even your neighborhood grocery store.  

Very often I read about problems in my community and I feel helpless to make a difference.  Here's one I really think I (and you) can do something about.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yoga Teachers Love Obama and How to Get Off the Mat and Into the Polls!

In case you were wondering, yoga teachers apparently love Obama.  That's according to a recent article on The Daily Beast, which combed data from the Federal Election Commission's latest filings listing contributions to the candidates from individual donors in the election cycle so far.  Other professions big on Obama include retirees, lawyers, teachers, firefighters and rabbis.  Romney fans include ranchers, wealth traders (quelle surprise), farmers and homemakers (how they categorize that, I'd like to know.)

According to the article, yoga instructors donated $58,324.50 for Obama vs $5,515.00 in  total donations for Romney. And Obama has 473 such donors compared to 4 who have given to Romney.

So what does the discriminating Obama-lovin' yogini wear?  Obama's clever fundraising staff had that all figured out with these groovy yoga pants:

Unfortunately, these are no longer available : ( but you can still peruse the Obama Store for other sweat-worthy options.  BTW, color me very impressed by how extensive (and specific) the online catalog is.  This campaign is covering ALL the bases.

So seriously, what is the yoga community doing to motivate all of us to vote?  Glad you asked, check out Off the Mat and Into the World.  Its a nonprofit program "dedicated to bridging yoga and activism. OTM’s mission is to use the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change."  Pretty cool huh?  Check out their website to learn more about this awesome organization and how to get involved.  

Also check out their YogaVotes campaign, which is focused on getting the yoga community off the mat and into the polls.  Described on their website as "a nonpartisan campaign to awaken a new demographic of mindful voters, sparking higher voter turnout among the 20 million Americans who practice yoga." YogaVotes is not only trying to mobilize this community but also demonstrate that "the yoga community is a block of conscious voters, engaging in politics in a new and impactful way."

I personally feel this is a natural extension of the awareness and compassion that regular yoga practice can cultivate.   Both of these programs have many options for getting involved, so check them out and get moving (and voting)!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Let 'em Eat Muffins

As the tired, taxed and sometimes frustrated parent of a toddler, I'm often struck at how such a tiny human can test the emotional, intellectual and psychological limits of two smart grownups.  I swear, if we ever want to end the war on terror (or any other silly scuff-up the government feels compelled to enter us into) just embed a few toddlers in the homes of government and military leaders and, in a few weeks, they'll be too tired and confused to pick up their weapons.

Right now we're at the "picky eater" stage with Pixie.  Its super fun. Not only is she suspicious and truculent when presented with any dish that contains more than two ingredients, she wants her own food, not sloppy seconds off our plates.  That's fine but I'm not eating baby carrots, grapes and plain rice every night for dinner.  Solution?  Enter the muffin tin; my new favorite kitchen tool for creating kid-sized yet complete dishes that everyone seems to love.

Over the past few weeks, we've been converting some of our staple recipes into muffin tin size. So far, we've successfully created muffin-tin versions of lasagna (recipe below), mexican casserole, quiche, strata and spanakopita.  Pixie loves these because they're kid-sized.  Flyboy loves them because they travel well.  I love them because they provide automatic portion control and one recipe provides a week's worth of easy to reheat meals.

 Lasagna in Muffin Tins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 package of won ton wrappers
  • 2 C. Pasta Sauce (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 C. Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 C. Asagio or other dry cheese, grated
  • Cooking Spray

Directions

  1. Mix cheeses together in a bowl.
  2. Spray each cup of a muffin pan.
  3. Press a won ton wrapper into the bottom of each cup.
  4. Drop a healthy dollop of pasta sauce to about 1/2 way up the sides.
  5. Sprinkle a 2-3 TB of the mixed cheese on top of the sauce.
  6. Press another won ton wrapper on top of the cheese. Press down to compress the first layer.
  7. Add another dollop of sauce, followed by cheese.
  8. Cook at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. These can be frozen and reheated. 

 Makes 12

Footnotes

  • Feel free to play around with this recipe; its endlessly adaptable! You can also use mini-muffin pans to make these as easy appetizers. Just cut or tear the won tons in half and cook for 15-17 minutes. Also great to make with kids. 
  • You'll notice this recipe doesn't include any meat.  That's because we usually eat vegetarian but here's another benefit of the muffin tin; you can drop different ingredients into each serving as you like.  Add sausage to a few or make some more spicy, etc... make 'em your way!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part


Amen, Tom.  FlyBoy and I have a lot of plates spinning right now but the hardest part is not the spinning. Its the waiting. FlyBoy is in Hawaii right now interviewing for a job that will, if he gets it, undeniably change our lives.  I hate the fact that he has to travel the last mile alone. And I hate the fact that once the interview is over, there's nothing we can do but wait on a decision made by strangers.

With one day to go, its killing me that FlyBoy is thousands of miles away and I cannot help him, check on him, give him a hug or make him a sandwich.  That said, he's probably happy to be isolated, away from Pixie, the cats, and a hovering wife. Oh and he gets to study on the beach with a fresh plate of poke.  I guess there are worse ways to prepare : ).

FlyBoy, I love you more each day and time has only increased my respect for you - good luck, fingers crossed and do your best. I'm proud of you no matter what happens.  But a word of guidance from my new spiritual leader, RuPaul? "Don't flunk it up."

Wonder if YogaGlo has a "waiting for spouse to finish his big interview in Hawaii" workout?  Yoga mat, here I come.