Amanda Wolfe

Do Good: How To Help Japan

March 14, 2011 at 9:31 am , by

pict_grid7The videos, images and stories of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan are devastating, and it seems like every hour there’s more bad news: aftershocks, nuclear explosions. It’s easy to feel a sense of utter helplessness as we watch in shock, halfway around the world. But there are ways we can help:

The American Red Cross already has medical relief teams on the ground in Japan. To donate $10, text REDCROSS to 90999 or visit their site to donate any amount.

Save the Children, which has operated in Japan for the last 25 years, is also mobilizing to help children and families affected by the disaster. They’ve set up a special fund for Japan, and you can donate online or text JAPAN to 20222 to donate $10.

MeryCorps is working with its partner in Japan, Peace Winds, which is helicoptering in tents and supplies for homeless victims today. Click here to donate online.

Global Giving has a special fund set up for earthquake relief and is working with other organizations on the ground, like the International Medical Corps and Save the Children, to bring aid to victims.

If you have loved ones living in Japan, Google set up a 2011 earthquake people finder to help you connect. CNN also has a big list of additional ways to help the relief effort.

Image via GlobalGiving.

Do Good: Celebrate International Women’s Day!

March 7, 2011 at 9:33 am , by

IWDTomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The first IWD honored suffragettes—the women who campaigned for our right to vote. Now the day is celebrated around the world with events that raise money and awareness for hundreds of issues affecting women and girls. It’s a powerful way to celebrate how far we’ve come—and keep pushing for much-needed change, especially for our sisters across the globe who have less opportunities than we do. Want to celebrate with us? Here’s how!

* Find an event near you at There are literally thousands of events going on around the world—everything from major conferences and marches to movie nights, concerts and makeovers. Air India will even be flying all-female crews tomorrow to honor the day.

* Attend the CARE National Conference in Washington, D.C. Okay it’s probably a little late but if you’re in the D.C. area, it’s an amazing 3-day event where you can hear from and be inspired by amazing women like Melinda Gates, Laura Bush, Judy Woodruff and our very own editor-in-chief Sally Lee. Follow CARE on Twitter to keep up with all the action from afar.

* Can’t find an event close by? Do something yourself to honor the day. We are loving the cupcake party toolkit from our friends at Vivanista and Sprinkles cupcakes to benefit CARE (and help eliminate global poverty). When you sign up to throw your own Party With a Purpose, they’ll give you a free toolkit with cupcake recipes, IWD trivia and more. Sweet! You can also watch broadcasts from events around the world on YouTube.

* Are you already planning to celebrate and champion a cause that’s close to your heart? Share your IWD activities with us in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

Looking Back: One Year Later

February 7, 2011 at 8:00 am , by

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

Global Citizens: How You Can Get Involved

February 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm , by

Dr. Hodnett with a patient

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.

Fit For Life: Meet Our Weight-Loss Women

January 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm , by

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!

Do Good: Cheering Up Sick Kids

December 13, 2010 at 11:35 am , by

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!

Dishing It: Holiday Sugar Cookies

December 9, 2010 at 9:29 am , by

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.