Friday, December 27

Tolkein Day is Coming!

Now that Christmas is officially past, many people are eagerly looking forward to New Year's as their next cause to celebrate and enjoy a rich repast.

And while I certainly hope you have a wonderful New Year's, I'd like to offer you a cheerful reminder that your celebrating doesn't have to end January 1st, because January 3rd is Tolkien Day!!

In honor of the fabulous world created by J.R.R. Tolkein, I recommend celebrating by eating like a hobbit - see the schedule at right if you're not familiar with it.  (If your January resolutions including eating better, however, you can still participate by eating like an Elf... lots of greens and a little flatbread.)

If you're in need of creative ways to celebrate, there are all kinds of great ideas floating the web - suggested party menus, movie marathons, games, trivia - you name it! If you're feeling really adventurous, wear a wizard hat or your favorite battle axe to work... that should spark some great conversations!

Whatever you choose, great literature is one of life's simplest pleasures, so try to take at least a few minutes this year to raise your glass or tip your hat to one of the masters of the literary arts! (And if you have a child in your life who has not been introduced to Tolkien's amazing books, will you take a minute to recommend them? Every library will have a complete copy of the set, and everyone deserves the joy of exploring a great adventure between the pages of a epic.)

See you at afternoon Tea!

Monday, December 16

Helpful Tips for Administering Medicine to Your Dog

Mud? What mud? Seriously, throw the
frisbee already!

We have two beautiful border collies, whom we love to pieces. Border collies are the workaholics of the dog world and consider themselves to be made of adamantium or some other relatively indestructible substance. They plow through (and sometimes pile-drive into) anything that gets in their way, usually without stopping to notice.

But every once in a while, they come up against an injury that actually makes them slow down. Since it's hard to watch my babies hurt, I've done some research over the years to figure out what is and is not safe to give them on such occasions, and I wanted to share a few quick tips and a helpful link with anyone else who is a furry parent and might benefit.

Dogs can have children's benedryl (or the generic loratadine) as an anti-hystimine medicine to reduce itching and allergic-style reactions to things they've encountered. Both in come in relatively small doses (and tiny pills) and are easy to administer.

Pain Relief
While administering medicine is something we do very sparingly with our dogs, sometimes it can go a long way towards easing their misery when they've sliced open a paw or otherwise been injured. Aspirin is the recommended pain medication for dogs, and I like this very helpful chart for how much to give by weight. Note: Puppies and cats should never be given aspirin! 

Food Poisoning
It's not the years, it's the miles...
When your dog has been ill, particularly after food poisoning or other vomit-inducing illness - they can easily get dehydrated and be reluctant to eat or drink. The best solution for this that we've found is a few tablespoons of maple syrup. Sometimes they'll lap it out of a small bowl, other times you may have to coax them to lick it off your fingers, but if you can get it into them, it usually kick-starts their system and will get them drinking again.

To ease them back into eating, give them rice cooked in chicken stock (or any other kind of stock). It will be gentle on their stomach and get some nutrients in them to help their body fight off the illness and re-balance itself.

Hopefully, you won't ever need these remedies, but with the holidays around the corner and the world outside blanketed with snow and ice it's far better to be prepared to take good care of your furry companions than to be caught unaware when they need you!

Sunday, December 15

A Glimmer of Hope

If you have ever read science fiction, you know that mankind's ingenuity and invention are among its crowning glories. History is full of people - plain, once obscure people - who found new ways to do things and revolutionized the world.

Working in the grants world, where politics often result in money going to pointless projects that the science proves won't work while really worthwhile endeavors get left in the cold, frequently leaves me feeling extremely cynical about the ability of the world's current population to live up to either our ancestors or our hopes for the future.

Until I watch TED Talks.

Not all TED talks are created equal, but just one good one can go a long way towards restoring my faith that there are, in fact, still brilliant and passionate people making the world a better place. Recently, I was blessed to find not one but two AWESOME talks on a subject near and dear to my heart: America's food system.

Take note funders griping about the lack of women entrepreneurs/scientists: I think perhaps there is not so much a lack of women in these roles, as a lack of women in these roles doing what you want them to... ha!

Please, when you can, take a couple minutes to watch these and pass them along. Both of these women have created real tools, functional and relevant to the real world, that can empower all of us to exponentially increase the impact of our efforts to crack the hold of Monsanto and other nasty mega-agribusinesses and create the kind of food system that is healthy for us, the environment, and generations to come!

Technical difficulties with blogger are preventing me from simply inserting the videos here for some reason, so here are the relevant link:  Can a Simple Piece of Paper Change the Way We Eat? Kavita Shukla at TEDxManhattan   and  Why Food Transparency Matters and How Can Help: Cara Rosaen at TEDxManhattan. 

Wednesday, December 11

31 Days to Happiness by Dr. David Jeremiah

I was a little surprised to see a book with a “self-help” title like 31 Days to Happiness being written by Dr. Jeremiah, being somewhat familiar with his usual style of work from his radio show. As it turns out, this isn’t really particularly about happiness – the subtitle (How to Find What Really Matters in Life) is a much better descriptor of the book’s content. The author takes readers through an in-depth look at the book of Ecclesiastes and its truths about life.

As usual, Dr. Jeremiah’s work is right on target in terms of being spiritually/theologically accurate, well researched, well laid out, and well written in all technical aspects. His points about how to approach life (and therefore find happiness/meaning/peace of mind) were all right on target. I periodically found myself having a hard time staying engaged (the numerous stories/ examples sometimes felt more distracting than helpful), but I was reading straight through rather than reading 1 chapter per day in a devotional fashion as the book is intended to be used. If you are looking for good insights in grappling with life from a Christian worldview, this is a great resource. If you’re looking for self-help books related to happiness, this isn’t what you want.

Tuesday, December 10

A Word to the Wise About Charitable Giving This Holiday Season

As the end of the year rapidly nears, many of us stop to take stock of our finances. (Or would, if we weren't running around like crazy people amidst the holiday rush.) Charities of all stripes are quick to remind us that donations made by Dec 31st can count as deductions on this year's taxes - and who couldn't use more of those?

But as someone who sits on the Board of Trustees for a non-profit and writes grants for a living (and therefore is in a prime position to see where money is being funneled to and what it's used for), may I offer two words of wisdom to consider while making your charitable and financial decisions this holiday season?

Tip #1: Consider giving at the individual level.
By law, non-profits are almost never able to give money directly to individuals and it's exceptionally
rare that they are able to directly pay for what struggling families or individuals actually need - things like relief from suffocating medical bills, house/car repairs, or groceries. If your heart is to make a powerful difference in people's lives, consider giving at the individual level this year. There are all kinds of ways to go about this, but whichever method you choose, this is one of the most powerful ways to use your dollars to produce real change in a person/family's life.

Tip #2: Always specify what your donations can be used for.
If you decide to donate to an organization, always specify what your donation can be used for. This is as simple as writing the program or purpose on your check, in the online donation form, or on an envelope holding your cash.

Why does this matter? Because unless you've done really thorough research, you might be shocked (and a little appalled) by how your money is used. Sure, every organization uses some of its income to pay for boring, non-missional expenses like printer paper and phone service. But few people are aware of just how diverse organizations' programs tend to be - especially if the organization makes grants itself, channeling the money into other non-profits. 

Case in point: I was recently researching a funding opportunity for a client and encountered a grant program run by a huge and extremely well known cancer research non-profit that dished out fairly substantial amounts money every year. Based on the organization's slogans, events, and marketing, 99% of people raising money for or donating to it understandably believe their money is going towards finding a cure - i.e. research, experimental treatment programs, and other highly scientific, medically-based efforts.
Aura paintings.... one of the
many things you wouldn't expect
to find being funded with your
cancer research donations.

When I pulled up the information on what had actually been funded, however, I discovered that they'd spent a good chunk of money on therapeutic retreats for cancer victims and survivors consisting of Reiki, aura readings/ aura painting, yoga, journaling instruction, and nature walks.

While I fully appreciate the therapeutic value of nature and journaling, but I'm pretty sure that when people wrote checks to this organization in memory of loved ones lost to cancer, they fully expected the money to go to new treatments that might prevent their children and grandchildren from being lost or suffering loss to this terrible disease - not pay for cancer survivors to sit around a table with glitter paint, talking about their auras. 

As a grant writer, I see situations like this all the time. So if you donate money this season, take the extra 30 seconds to spell out what your money can be used for (be it a general programmatic priority like cancer research, or the title of the program that prompted you to want to give such as Mercy House new construction). In an era where money is painfully tight and non-profits are increasingly viewing themselves as businesses rather than charities, it's critically important that we retain responsibility for ensuring good stewardship of our money and make our donations count. 

Sunday, December 8

Hope & Joy

We're a week into December now, and if the airwaves and tv stations near you aren't already rolling out their usual lineup of stories on hope, joy, and Christmas miracles, they will be soon. In keeping with that spirit, I wanted to share this video. Dog stores make me cry like nothing else (I can't watch Eight Below without waterproof mascara), and this was no exception.

Furry companions are an endless source of hope and joy in our lives that I think it is uniquely wonderful to see one them get the miracle they need. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 7


Now that winter is upon us, and the days are short, there's much less opportunity to be outside working on things and I have been able to find some time to get back to my quilting.

Red fabrics for an upcoming quilt.
I've been regretfully neglecting it for more than a year, mostly because I knew once I started unpacking all of my quilting supplies, it would be quite an undertaking to get them all sorted out! The last time I had all of my quilting things out was at our apartment. When we moved, all the totes came in, got stacked in a closet, and then ignored because there was far too much to do and nowhere to spread everything out and get it sorted.

But in the last few weeks (with my wonderful husband's encouragement) I've dragged it all out, gotten it sorted, and been able to start new projects. I have quilt tops and backings draped all over the library, waiting for me to remember to pick up some batting so that I can finish them, and have gotten all my spools of thread lined back up on their rack for quick access.
Friendship star block.

I sat down to sort my fabric, thinking I'd find what I needed to start a new quilt, and instead found myself with my next three quilts lined up! At my current quilting rate, that should keep me busy for an exceptionally long time.  :)

Here's a sneak peek of the current plan (highly subject to change):

 (1) Red & Black Quilt: I found some red fabrics (above right) that I want to combine with some lovely black fabric I have in Friendship Star Blocks (shown left) or something like this.

Scrap Jar Star Blocks

(2) Scrap Jar Stars Quilt: This one has been on my radar for a while, and I'm finally actually starting it. I'm cutting squares of the right sizes from the remnants and remainders of my other project fabrics as I go, and dropping them in a jar on my sewing table. By time I get to work on this pattern, I should have an excellent start on my pieces. It's nice to feel like nothing is going to waste! 

(3) Fields of Blue: This is my current project, and I'm essentially making it up as I go along, based on my favorite components of three or four different quilts I have pinned to my quilting board. It started with the desire to constructively use a pile of blue and yellow printed fabric I inherited, and was nudged along by the discovery of a gorgeous blue and white flower print I ran across.
Lovely flowery print.
The fabric that got me started.

Any time I make a scrappy quilt, I like to lay the pieces out before I even think about sewing any of them together. (Usually I use the floor to do this, but wet weather and muddy puppies have prompted me to take over the dining room table for the moment instead.)

I like the diagonals of the two fabrics I have the most of going down the center of the quilt, and am still playing with the other fabrics to ensure there's a nice balance of lighter and darker squares throughout. I will be either making the dividing strips thinner or switching to a different shade of blue, but I'm not quite sure which yet.

I'm also hoping to use this as an experiment in alternative methods of backing a quilt. I'd like to follow one of the tutorials in which you sew together small chunks of the top at a time, then combine them with their batting and backing, then sew together the finished chunks to get your final quilt. (As opposed to the standard method of sewing the whole top, then combing it with the whole batting and backing.) It won't work for every quilt, but it should allow me to use pins instead of spray adhesive to hold the layers together and reduce the stress of backing my quilts. It's expensive to send them out to be done (and unjustifiable for a simple quilt that doesn't need complex quilting), but because I tend to make bigger, heavier quilts, doing it myself on my sewing machine can be a challenge.

Anyway, that's enough rambling for now! I'll try to remember to take pictures as I go and post them here to record my progress as I go.