Lessons from Hurricane Sandy—& Save the Children

“Disasters happen. It’s how we prepare for them that makes the difference.”

It’s hard to believe that one full year has passed since Hurricane Sandy roared up the East Coast and made landfall in New Jersey, killing at least 117 people and causing $50 billion in damage—the second costliest weather disaster in American history, behind Hurricane Katrina.

Though weather models warned of the potential destruction, coaxing evacuations, closing subways, rescheduling and repositioning trains and other public transportation—ultimately saving lives along the eastern shoreline of New Jersey, New York, Long Island and New England—families had very little to work with in preparing their children for the pending devastation.

During the storm, the foremost concern for parents with homes and children in Sandy’s path was physical safety. But in the days that followed, when electricity, food, water and shelter were scarce, and survival mode stretched on far beyond expectations, parents were tasked with managing their children’s mental state to a degree never before imagined.

The volatility of nature and technology spinning out of control is frightening for adults; the fear and trauma created for children even more so. Ultimately, as portrayed in the movie, “The Impossible,” the effect of familiar surroundings suddenly looking like a war zone, can leave children fretful for years.

“When disasters like Sandy end, the impact on children doesn’t. One of the most important parts of recovery is planning for the future.”

As you tune into the news today, you’ll likely hear numerous reflections of victims’ experiences, and feel the same sense of anxiety that many of us shared during newscasts and interviews a year ago. And, if they’re watching and listening alongside of you, so will your children. They may have questions about what you would do if another storm was predicted, and want reassurance that he/she, their friends, their pets, and everyone around them will be safe. You will readily supply all the right answers, but in your mind, be wondering how exactly, you might fulfill your promise to your child that, “everything will be OK.”

Save the Children has four words for you: Get Ready. Get Safe. And, in honor of all those who lost homes and family members just a year ago, they want you to start today

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Created to help families open up positive, proactive dialogue about the possibility and consequences of a natural disaster, the project also seeks to provide awareness and funding for families still recovering from Sandy. Reliving Sandy’s memories today, will quickly remind us all that protecting our children must be a priority across the country and around the globe. 

Natural disasters can’t be prevented, but families can be prepared. By clicking on the links throughout this post, and downloading the campaign’s thoughtful checklists, you and your family will be better equipped to navigate the unthinkable. And, you will also be better equipped to help your community build a safer, more efficient emergency plan.

Spend some time on the site, and if you’re interested in advocating for larger-scale prevention, you’ll find a link leading to state-specific emergency planning standards—something we should all be aware of. 

Thank you Save the Children for helping us to provide a safe haven for our most vulnerable population.

Pay it (fashion) forward

CCC sale dates website page updated

I don’t know about you, but my wardrobe is looking a bit shabby these days. Ever since fall officially hit, I’ve been wearing the same sweater and leggings, or jeans, blouse and blazer combinations (ignoring dresses and dress pants completely)—looks saved only by good quality boots that fortunately make everything look better.

But with warm weather and its characteristic air of informality behind us, taking liberties with fashion is a definite don’t. Wander through the high-end stores at the King of Prussia mall, or hanging at any of the boutiques in town and in the ’burbs: Fall and winter in Philadelphia means polished looks—most successfully created with sumptuous fabrics and balanced combinations of classic and trendy styling.

Now, not all of us ladies can afford to make designer purchases, even once in a while. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t if we could.

So here’s the good news: This week, every woman in the Philadelphia area has a chance to get a piece of the designer fashion pie, and at jaw-dropping prices, thanks to Community Clothes Charity’s annual sale.

The Community Clothes Charity has had a large impact on Philadelphia and the Main Line ever since its original inception in 1957 to aid hospitalized war veterans. In 1977 the organization was restructured to its present form and name. Over the years this group has donated over $3.7M to many worthy beneficiaries. By recycling their own and others’ stylish fashions, this committee’s concept has been ecologically “green” for 56-plus years.

Before I dish the details, take a minute to picture yourself in some of the gorgeous clothing you’ve been ogling while flipping through the pages of Vogue. Imagine how great you’ll look and feel wrapped up in Chanel, Armani, Prada, Oscar de la Renta, Dior, Ferragamo, Gucci, Hermès, Pucci and more. Or how relieved you’ll be when you find that elusive dress you’ve been looking for, to get you through gala season or other milestone event that requires you to look like a million bucks—even if your bank account is just not quite there… yet.

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Kicking your wardrobe up a few notches is just one of the “wins” you’ll experience by attending the sale. The real reason to spend your hard-earned greenbacks, is to show support for this year’s two beneficiaries: Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech and Puppies Behind Bars (PBB), in acknowledgement for their Dog Tags: Service Dogs for Those Who’ve Served Us program. Anyone who has experienced the joy of owning a pet, will appreciate this organization’s main function, which is to offer prison-trained service dogs, free of charge, to physically and psychologically wounded veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, spreading comfort and companionship.

Regarding the Clarke School, I’ve driven past its Bryn Mawr campus a number of times, but have never taken a tour. Based on conversations with a former trustee, with whom I spoke during Main Line Today days and again recently, this hardworking school is making a positive impact for families locally and along the East Coast.

Here in Philadelphia, the Clarke team works with families to educate schools, both public and private, about childhood hearing loss, along with the value of traditional academic placement post-on campus intervention. By building relationships with area schools and providing critical services, Clarke helps create positive outcomes for students striving to transition into traditional classrooms. Students requiring a higher level of support are equally represented. In fact, monies raised during the CCC sale, will be put toward a much-needed inclusive and accessible playground that will extend learning opportunities beyond the classroom and allow their students the freedom to play in a safe environment. Just think how much better you’re going to look and feel wearing a designer garment that has the power to make a difference.

Technologically, Clarke has some pretty neat bells and whistles; since you’re already online, why not click on the website? Or, if you would like to take a tour, contact Kate Hagarty, (610) 525-9600 ext. 110; khagarty@clarkeschools.org. Learning more might just make you feel extra motivated to get your clothes shopping on.

Now, back to the sale:

The five-day fundraiser kicks off with a Special Preview Day, Tues., 10/29, 1-6 p.m. pm. All you need to do to capitalize on the “early bird special,” is make a $30 tax-deductible donation at the door that day (this also gives free re-entry on Wednesday).

The sale continues on Wed., 10/30, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., with a $5 donation request at the door. (Entry is free all on the remaining days of the sale.)

On Thurs., 10/31 the sale runs from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. because of Halloween. Marked prices will be cut in half on both Fri., 11/1 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Sat., 11/2, (9 a.m. -noon). 

The sale venue is The Village Hall, Eagle Village Shops, 503 West Lancaster Ave. (the intersection of Route 30 and Eagle Road), in Wayne, PA 19087. Cash, checks, Visa, and MasterCard will all be accepted.

While you’re waiting for doors to open on Tuesday, you can do a little cyber window shopping on Twitter and Facebook. I’ll see you there. Maybe wearing these…

CCC shoes

Home(made) for the Holidays: Teachers’ Gifts

This post is dedicated to my daughter Nicole, who as a teenager said to me, “Remember when you used to be crafty?” 

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Many moons ago, when social media wasn’t invented, and I was in full-on childbearing mode (aka the decade of pregnancy), and it actually snowed for consecutive days, I was into all kinds of creative activities. Whether for the home or a gift, my hands were always busy sewing, baking, cooking, painting, gluing, decoupaging, measuring, sketching, and occasionally, melting (chocolate, crayons).

During the holidays, especially, I would go slightly overboard, baking individual gingerbread shapes (with copper wire hooks embedded at the top), decorating with royal icing and silver dragées, and then stringing with twine to make garland. I only used Martha Stewart’s gingerbread house-making recipe (reliable for making sturdy, large houses) and painstakingly knotted each hook so the “ornaments” wouldn’t slide, before wrapping them in holiday gingham tissue paper and cellophane bags.

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At that time, three of my children were in nursery  school and Pre-K, and there were no rules about teachers’ gifts or any organized collections taking place. It seemed logical to have my kids help (that being a relative word back then) with the gift-making.

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Probably the easiest craft for them to tackle was pinecone bird feeders. And, since we live in the Northeast, with lots of trees—and birds—this fell into the “practical” gift category. And, low-budget; something to consider when giving out presents to several teachers and school administrators.

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Chocolate-covered pretzel sticks, rolled in Almond Roca crumbles, coconut, crushed chocolate-covered coffee beans and ultra-mini m&ms, were also easy for the kids to make. Just don’t have them do it on an empty stomach or before an activity where they’re supposed to sit quietly. I love this updated version.

Though it looks to be for Valentine’s Day, I can easily envision a Christmas or Hanukah version with mini dreidels or green and red m&ms, silver and gold spray-painted acorns or miniature pine cones or rocks to prop up the pretzels; and pretzels dipped in white chocolate as well as dark or milk, and rolled in appropriately colored ingredients. You can get small-sized cylindrical vases at the craft store, and keep the pretzel count to 3 or 5 to maximize your effort.

pretzel flower arrangment

Hand-painting one (or a trio) of terracotta pots, filled with potting soil sealed in a baggie, and glass vials of seeds also proved to be a successful endeavor that the kids enjoyed helping with and the teachers enjoyed receiving. While the kids painted the pots, I divvied up the seeds and soil. Had Pinterest been around then, I would have logged all of these ideas in step-by-step photos, but at that point, I am not even sure we had a computer in the house!

handpainted pot for post

One year, we made picture frames, using paper or wood frames purchased at AC Moore, a store I barely step into these days. The kids would draw patterns (or some semblance of) on the frames, paint them with tiny paintbrushes, then add glitter, rhinestones, scrapbooking icons or tiny flowers, depending upon who they were for. We did not put photos in them, because we figured that when the teachers were at home, they didn’t need to be reminded of their students—no matter how adorable they were.

Last but not least, and always a fan-favorite, were the homemade cookies, beautifully packaged in boxes layered with colored tissue paper (first wrapped as 2-3 cookie bundles in plastic baggies for freshness) or vintage cookie tins that I’d collect throughout the year. We’d do mini chocolate-chip sugar cookies cut into holiday shapes, regular sugar cookies adorned with red and green sprinkles, half-dipped in white or dark chocolate first… peanut butter cookies filled with mini m&ms and piped with dark chocolate zigzags, white chocolate-cranberry-almond oatmeal cookies diagonally dipped into white chocolate, and of course, old-fashioned gingerbread boys piped with royal icing.

No matter how much the teachers moaned and groaned each year that they’d gained 10 pounds during the holidays, each year they asked if we were making cookies again for the holidays.

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OS_RC_1143_WD(Cranberry cookie courtesy of ocean spray; p-nut butter courtesy of Crisco. Click through to recipes.)

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More than the taste, I think their heartfelt anticipation reflected an appreciation for the time and effort we, and other families, dedicated to making them feel special. I think this is something we all need to remember, especially when budgets are tight. Homemade gifts aren’t cheap or “junky,” and have the power to make a much more lasting and meaningful impression than something picked up thoughtlessly amidst the rest of your holiday shopping.

Eventually, the schools swayed the class moms to collect donations for a larger, more sophisticated non-teacheresque gift such as dinner out on the town or a gift certificate to a boutique, and our crafty days began to wane. (OK, I admit there were A LOT of reasons our zeal for crafty endeavors died down.) And now of course, there’s Pinterest, so I am all about DIY’ing it up. I may be short on time these days, but since I am down to two kids at home and one heading to college next fall, I think I’ll have no problem jumping back into the creative zone. No doubt there will a zillion Pinterest boards to keep me busy during those “where did my kids go?” days. Leave a comment if you want some actual instructions. I’m a pro at making gingerbread houses.

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NKH Bake Sale Inspiration

This recipe is an extension of DEW’s post RE: Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry.

brown betty

Get your Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry started with this sumptuous cake, courtesy of The Brown Betty Cookbook: Modern Vintage Desserts and Stories from Philadelphia’s Best Bakery with a few Baker’s Note’s from Jennifer Gutmaker Morgan.

(serves 20 people)

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray with flour (*Jen’s note: Pam Baking spray is what I prefer)
  • 4-½ cups all-purpose flour (*Jen’s note: I used White Lily soft wheat flour and converted it to all-purpose measurements because I prefer the texture of this brand)
  • 1 teaspoon regular salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups superfine sugar (*Jen’s note: I didn’t have caster sugar in my pantry, so I took granulated sugar and ground it in the food processor for about 2 minutes. It’s a more cost effective method too, as you can buy granulated sugar in bulk).
  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature (*Jen’s note: you can quickly bring eggs to room temp by placing them in a large bowl filled with hot water for about 10 minutes)
  • 1-½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract (*Jen’s note: I like the Nielson-Massey brand)
  • 1-½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1-½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • 1-¼ cups buttermilk
  • 1 recipe Lemon Buttercream frosting (*Jen’s note: I skipped this and used a friend’s vanilla buttercream recipe instead, although I added some lemon extract)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Coat a 10-inch angel food cake pan with nonstick cooking spray (*Jen’s note: I substituted three 9-inch round cake pans to make a layer cake).

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy and then add the sugar on low speed until smooth, scraping the bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until blended and scraping the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon extract.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately add the flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, and buttermilk, ¼ cup at a time, to the butter mixture, mixing until well incorporated.

5. Spread the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake until golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean, 60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely (*Jen’s note, I used three 9-inch cake pans lined with a parchment circle and nonstick spray with flour. I baked the cakes in a convection oven and reduced the baking time by about 10 minutes).

6. To frost the cake, turn it bottom-side up onto a cake plate. Using an offset spatula spread the frosting all over the cake (*Jen’s note: I opted to tort the cake to make a multi-layer cake. I sliced each of the three individual cakes in half to make six layers. I alternated filling each layer with lemon curd, lemon-vanilla buttercream, and raspberry preserves. In the interest of time, I used Trader Joe’s brand lemon curd for the filling, which tastes fairly close to my homemade lemon curd using the Barefoot Contessa recipe).

Tip: The cake does not have a strong lemon flavor, so if you prefer a more tart/lemony cake, you can either increase the amount of lemon extract used in the batter, or you can frost the cake with a lemon flavored frosting.

Sweet Smell of (hunger advocacy) Success

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In the better late than never category, I’d like to send out a not-so-gentle reminder on behalf of No Kid Hungry and Share our Strength.

…In just 10 days, this in-constant-action organization will wrap up its October initiative, spurred by two very generous “sugar daddies,” Domino Sugar and C&H Sugar.

Of course, I mean this is in the most positive interpretation of the colloquialism, because these two food industry superpowers have offered a dollar-for-dollar match on October’s Bake Sale No Kid Hungry proceeds.

If  you’ve been itching to get your baking on, NOW is the time to grease those pans, melt that butter and cover the counter in flour. (It’s a good excuse for your kids to make a mess without being scolded too!)

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Want to make a stand against hunger? A neighborhood or community bake sale is an effective—and tasty—way to get involved and make a positive impact.

The No Kid Hungry team is happy to receive your Bake Sale contributions all year long, but the promise of matching funds is irresistible—apparently to bakers across the country, who have raised $75,000-plus since October 1. Talk about “sweetening the pot;” at minimum now, a total value of $150,000. This is a big deal at a time when families are facing SNAP cuts along with a generally unstable economic foundation.

Whipping up a bake sale is easier than you think: With one weekend between now and October 31, and plenty of football, soccer and fall ball games happening at parks and schools across the country, you’ve got a captive audience. And, who wouldn’t want to bite into one (or three) of these tasty cupcakes (or these and these!). Click here for a gluten-free option. 

Spreading the word and showing support for food-challenged families through an old-fashioned bake sale is an affordable and fun way to get your community talking about hunger. Having that time and effort rewarded with a matching gift, is the icing on the cake.

Happy Baking!

Blog talk: On the Lineup

DEW G+ profile pic

I can’t be the only after-hours blogger longing for an extra six hours each day, hands that type as fast as I think, or a magic pill to spin less articulate thoughts into compelling copy… getting it right—and done on time—as a blogger is a daily challenge. But when I finally get a post up, and see that actual people are reading the words that I have labored over, it’s like eating a heaping, grandma-made bowl of pasta and meatballs after a long day of inconsequential noshes—sheer satisfaction.

And now that I finally got my latest post up on womenonbusiness.com, and passed along a few deliverable to clients, I am ready to dive into at least one of my upcoming posts. For starters, I have on the editorial lineup, a Q+A with Jay Jaboneta, founder of Yellow Boat of Hope, and a conversation with Val Haller, founder of music website Valslist.com and the writer behind “Music Match”. She’s got a new app coming out that is sure to be a hit on the holiday gift-giving list—from kids to parents.

Also coming up is a trio of culinary spotlights: Yellow Springs Farm (crazy good artisinal cheese maker), Wyebrook Farm, purveyors of organic beef, pork, chicken and eggs, and Boxcar Brewing Company (hopefully onsite tours of each)—all new food and drink resources discovered at Heritage Farm Fare a few weeks ago.

And, my Mighty Writers mentee is slated to deliver a guest post on our field trip to The Free Library of Philadelphia to see, listen to and get our jam on with author James McBride and his band. One of the coolest book reading/signing events that I’ve been to, I thought it would be neat to hear what a 15-year-old took away (aside from her first-ever autographed hardcover!).

Somewhere in here I plan to squeeze in a follow up to all the tweeting and posting, and most importantly, listening, I participated in during Social Good Summit 2013 in NYC. I’ve been wrestling with a few ways to tackle the endless possible angles, hence the delay. However, I am still on the #2030NOW high, and feel a sense of duty to help keep the mojo flowing and turn people onto this amazingly optimistic and powered up initiative.

And finally, I just learned that my good friend, Research Specialist at Monell Chemical Senses Center, musician and philosopher, has launched an online video talk show “Meeting of the Minds with Christopher Maute”. I am just getting up to speed on this, but after listening to him explain the central themes discussed on the air, I am curious to tune in. And, hopefully you will too—to these posts and others, as I continue to grow read.eat.DEW.write and keep up with all the interesting (and occasionally frustrating) happenings in the world.

Thanks for listening. Er, reading.