February 7, 2011 at 8:00 am , by Amanda Wolfe
It’s been a long time since my last update, so I thought I’d let you know how I’ve been doing. (Here’s my original story about caring for my mother, who died of ovarian cancer, and my follow-up blog post.) My mom is especially on my mind today because it’s been exactly a year since she passed away. I can’t believe it’s already been a whole year—the 21 months we spent battling her cancer seemed like an eternity, and now it’s already been a whole year without her?! How can that be?! But life goes on.
Since I last checked in, my sister and I sold my mom’s house in Ohio and moved our family heirlooms and must-have mementos into a storage facility. Saying goodbye to the house was incredibly hard—it almost felt like saying goodbye to my mom all over again. I had to keep reminding myself (through wracking, snuffly, red-faced sobs—lovely) that it’s just a house. Just a house. The memories are what matter. But our last days in my mom’s house were literally the three days over the Christmas holiday (our first without her). It was a double-whammy of emotional sucker punches and—all said and done—a holiday I’m not in a hurry to remember.
But selling the house also brought some closure. I can’t tell you how nice it is not to be a long-distance homeowner, with all of the crazy coordination and stress (and bills!) that entails. (For a house you’re not living in! Oy.) It’s funny though, looking back over the year: Aside from the traumatic Christmas, I’ve been doing pretty good. Do I think about my mom all the time and cry occasionally? Of course. Do I still have moments of piercing sadness where my visceral, childlike reaction is simply “I want my mom.” Heck yes. But I keep feeling this strange sense that I shouldn’t be doing as good as I am. Most days I feel pretty good, emotionally. And some twisted part of my brain thinks that’s weird. Like I’m waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me, waiting for some dramatic mega-breakdown that never came (and—fingers crossed—hopefully never will). I keep thinking, “I can’t possibly get off this easy, can I? Am I stuffing things down only to have them surface in some spectacularly destructive way 10 years from now?” Read more
February 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm , by Amanda Wolfe
In our latest issue, we salute six American women who are changing lives around the world. Check out these resources to get involved in one of their causes (or all of them, if you’re feeling ambitious!).
The Humanitarian Doctor: Marlo Hodnett, M.D.
You don’t have to be a doctor to help feed hungry kids. Dr. Hodnett volunteers with the National Association for the Prevention of Starvation, which is always looking for volunteers for its U.S. efforts and mission trips abroad, as well as donations.
The Cultural Ambassador: Ginny Lou Laughlin
Ginny Lou is active in her town’s sister cities organization, which help kids and adults connect with other cultures from around the world. Check with your local government or Sister Cities International to find out if your town has a chapter. If you don’t have a sister city, help hook up your town!
The Compassionate Coach: Colleen Lewis-Aguilar
Coleen’s organization, Basketball as a Mission, helps bring sports camps—and the self confidence that comes with learning a new skill—to underprivileged kids. They’re looking for donations (of gently-used gear or money) and volunteers, and you don’t have to be a jock to get involved.
The Selfless Saleswoman: Pati Going Frey
Patti sells bags that are handmade by women in Zambia, and 100% of the proceeds go to the women to help them take care of their families. They don’t have a website (yet!) but you can email Pati if you’d like to buy a bag or sell them in your area.
The Nurse Without Borders: Mary Loftus
Mary volunteers at a rural health clinic in Haiti with the group Friends of the Children of Haiti. If you’re not up for a trip to Haiti yourself, you can sponsor a child through the organization and provide your child with food, education and health care.
The Knitter Who Sends Hope: Amy Berman
If your’re into knitting, this one’s for you: Amy’s Mother Bear Project sends handmade bears to kids in Africa. You can knit or crochet bears with their provided patterns and send them to Amy for distribution. Not so crafty? Sponsor a bear instead, donate supplies or volunteer.
January 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm , by Amanda Wolfe
Meet the lovely ladies from our February “Fit For Life” story. In this first series of video diary entries, they introduce themselves and share the reasons why they wanted to get involved in our Pound For Pound Challenge (as seen on The Biggest Loser), and some of their weight loss challenges. If you want to lose weight along with them (and hey, who’s not thinking about shedding a few pounds this time of year) check out our February story for the diet and exercise tips from The Biggest Loser’s pros.
You can also do good while you drop the weight! For every pound you pledge to lose from now until May, Feeding America will donate one pound of groceries to a local food back. Just sign up at Pound For Pound’s site.
We’re cheering for Renee, Melanie, Selena and Susan—and we hope you are too!
December 13, 2010 at 11:35 am , by Amanda Wolfe
Our photo director, Clare, has been going to the Big Apple Circus with her kids for the last 12 years. She and her daughter, Lily, caught a show recently (that’s Lily and a friend, at right). But as much fun as going to the circus is for Clare and her kids, the Big Apple Circus is special for another reason: their Clown Care program, which brings a little bit of the circus to sick kids who can’t go see it themselves. When Clare told us about the program, we loved it. The Clown Care team has 80 performers who visit 16 different pediatric hospitals across the U.S. Together they make nearly 225,000 hospital visits every year, cheering up young patients and providing some much-needed comic relief.
Learn more about the Clown Care program and how you can help!
December 9, 2010 at 9:29 am , by Amanda Wolfe
I go all out when I decorate sugar cookies (which only happens once a year, precisely because I go all out). Piping cookie after cookie’s worth of intricate patterns feels like a fun art project—and then of course there’s the tasty treat at the end. So I jumped at the chance to make the snowflake sugar cookies from our December issue. (I don’t have any snowflake cookie cutters, so I went with mostly stars as you can see, above.)
The sugar cookies themselves seemed pretty standard (with a little ginger kick — yum). But I’ve never made royal icing with lemon or meringue powder before, so I was eager to see how it would turn out.
I gathered my ingredients to make the dough and then chilled it for a few hours before rolling (which is key). I made a half recipe and needed a bit more liquid to hold the dough together (maybe my eggs were small?) but an extra half-egg did the trick. I recently inherited my mom’s pastry cloth and it makes rolling and cutting out cookies SO much easier. Just a little flour on the cloth and the rolling pin and you’re good to go.
After baking a few batches and letting the cookies cool completely, I made the frosting. The lemon was the only liquid in the icing which gave it a real lemony zing. I don’t have any in-process icing shots because I made a mess. I had blue and white frosting in two different consistencies each (a firmer one for piping and a looser version for flooding) so it was quite a production—and a time-sensitive one at that. My trick with flooding (which is where you pipe around the edge of the cookie and the fill with the looser frosting to give that pretty, smooth look) is to just skip the piping bag and spoon on the filler icing. I end up making a mess either way, and I usually need to smooth some of the frosting into the corners with the back of the spoon so it actually saves a step.
My piping wasn’t the neatest job in the world, but they still made for delicious treats, of course! I liked the ginger and lemon in this recipe because traditional sugar cookies can be a bit bland for my taste and these were a great, flavorful update on the classic.
November 29, 2010 at 11:16 am , by Amanda Wolfe
We’re loving this movement, spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy. If you’re planning to score some great Cyber Monday deals (like the cool stuff Chelsea just posted, below), check out this list of eco-friendly presents and ideas. It’s a great way to grab some amazing presents and do good for the Earth too. Nice!
November 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm , by Amanda Wolfe
For most people, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where being thankful for our abundance (and sitting down to a table overflowing with holiday bounty, like the ridiculously good-looking truffle butter bird at right) goes hand-in-hand with being mindful of those who are less fortunate, and whose bellies are less full. Does your family volunteer or give back during the Thanksgiving season? It’s a wonderful tradition to start, and great a way to make Thanksgiving about more than just food and football (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things…). Here are a few ways to give back.
- Does your family go around the table and say what you’re thankful for? (Love that tradition.) Put each family member in charge of coming up with a group volunteer idea for the upcoming year based on their “thankful” thing. That way you’ve got volunteer ideas for the year, not just the season. Kids count too! For instance, is your little niece Addie thankful for her pet kitty? Take everyone to the animal shelter to help out for a day.
- Take the pledge and donate to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. No child in America should have to go hungry on any day (not just a holiday), and Share Our Strength’s goal is to end childhood hunger by 2015. That’s a mission we can all get behind.
- It’s a cliche but if you’ve never actually volunteered at your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, now is the time. But before you package up all your leftovers to bring along, call the shelter to ask about their food donation policy. Even better, sign up to volunteer on a monthly basis so your holiday spirit keeps on giving.
- I think we’re all thankful for our service men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country. Operation Gratitude is a great organization that sends thank-you care packages to our troops, and they’d love your help all holiday season (and year!) long.
- To find specific Thanksgiving volunteer opportunities in your area, do a quick search with our friends at Volunteer Match. Just type in your zip code and “Thanksgiving” as the keyword.