Charitable Gift Giving

We surf the Web to find good products that help out a great cause.

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Soy Candles that Help Charity

June 8th, 2021 · Uncategorized

I’ve been seeing Dilly Dally candles all over Etsy and Amazon. The first thing they got right is the names of their candles. Here’s a sampling of what they have on Amazon.

Visit their Web site for other flavors like Blueberry Cobbler, Gingerbread, and Lemon Pound Cake.

Dilly Dally candles come in two sizes, 9 ounces and 16 ounces. They’re made of 100% natural soy wax and essential oils.

Soy wax is preferable to paraffin in almost every way. Most people don’t realize that paraffin wax is a byproduct of crude oil refinement–this is why candles made from paraffin are so cheap and found in every cheap store, usually mass produced overseas. Because of the way it’s produced, paraffin wax can contain dangerous chemicals such as toluene.

Soy wax, on the other hand, is a vegetable wax that’s produced from soybean oil. The vast majority of soybeans are grown right here in the USA, in Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois. As you can imagine, soy is completely renewable and as “green” as it gets. Specifically, as soybean oil is extracted from soy beans, it undergoes a process called hydrogenation, which solidifies the oil until it becomes a wax.

If you’ve burned a paraffin-based candle, you’ll also notice black soot all over the walls, and all of that’s going into your lungs. Soy candles burn cleanly without toxins or chemicals, and are completely natural.

Dilly Dally candles are 100% natural soy wax and essential oils, and all handmade in New Hampshire. Aside from supporting a small business in the USA by buying these candles, a portion of proceeds goes to childhood cancer research. The name “Dilly Dally” refers to Dylan, the founders’ child who when he was three years old lost his right eye to a rare eye cancer called retinoblastoma. Per their Website, Dylan is a healthy, cancer-free 15 year old teenager right now, but his

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Best Dog Poop Bags

June 6th, 2021 · Uncategorized

Most states are starting to ban plastic shopping bags at grocery stores. One of the unintended consequences of that is that now dog owners around the country have to go and buy expensive Hefty or Glad bags to take care of their best friend’s business, resulting in even more plastic being sent to landfills from bags that are much thicker than the old grocery store bags, not to mention a hefty profit (no pun intended) to the big companies that make them.

If you’ve shopped for doggy do bags, you know it’s almost impossible to find a bag that’s not so thick that it takes years to degrade and not so thin that it’ll fall apart in your hands the moment it touches anything wet.

These biodegradable bags from the aptly named Doggy Do Good Store on Amazon provides a great solution. For under $30 you can purchase 180 biodegradable bags that break down in just 90 days. And yet if you read the reviews, you’ll see rave comments. They’re thick enough (20 microns or .80 Mils thick) to not get residue (resi-doo?) on your hands and will not leak. And yet they’re so well made that they come easily off their roll and open easily.

Doggy Do Good is a mom-and-pop (mom-and-poop?) company based in the US. Every purchase gives back at least 10% back to the following animal rescues and no-kill shelters.

  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • The Gentle Barn
  • Animal Welfare Institute
  • Friends of Animals
  • Best Friends Animal Society

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Portraits of Immigrants from President Bush

June 4th, 2021 · Uncategorized

Many ex-presidents have crossed the rubicon from being pilloried or ridiculed in the media to being respected elder statesmen. Richard Nixon managed to rehabilitate his image by the end of his life to be recognized as a foreign policy thought leader. Jimmy Carter left office ignominiously but is recognized today for his humble charity work.

When George W. Bush left office, he turn, of all things, to oil painting. Lot of people ridiculed his efforts, calling them amateurish and pedestrian. But then, strangely enough, the art world started to take notice. Through these “childish” paintings, somehow he managed to evoke the deeper essence of his subjects.

In 2017, he published a book called “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors” that shared paintings and stories of military veterans. This year, he followed that up with “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants“. He stays well of politics (even to the point of delaying the publication of this book until it was well after the presidential elections), and created this book of paintings and stories of some of America’s most inspirational and successful immigrant stories.

While the news media seems intent on separating us and politicians on all sides seem intent on using immigrants as pawns in in their never-ending chess match, President Bush’s book is a wonderful attempt to bring us together by reminding us that every one of us immigrated from somewhere else, and it’s immigration that’s the lifeblood of this country. One need look no further than the glowing Amazon reviews from both the left and the right celebrating this book.

Proceeds from this book are being donated to organizations that help legal immigrants, as well as to the Bush Institute’s work on immigration.

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Children’s Book on Losing a Grandmother

June 2nd, 2021 · Uncategorized

All too often, a child will lose a beloved grandparent at far too early an age. Too often, adults–sometimes stricken with grief themselves–are unable to explain to their children why they’ll never see the person they loved again, at least not on this side of heaven. This is a book written by Tracy Harding and illustrated by Mosca Anna that tackles the subject head-on.

The writing and illustrations are at once touching, tasteful, and beautiful and the book is suitable for reading to kids young and older as they think back fondly on the loved one they lost and grieve about their absence.

100% of all profits go to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the hosptial where the author’s own mother was treated for cancer. The title character is named after her niece who was the youngest person in her family and who had a close relationship with the author’s mother.

You can purchase a copy of the book on Amazon.

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Giant Rat Stuffed Animal

May 31st, 2021 · Uncategorized

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably noticed that stuffed animals aren’t as special to your child these days as they were to you when you were their age. When we were kids, our parents could maybe afford one or two stuffed animals that we’d cherish throughout our childhood.

But as manufacturing has gotten cheap, it seems that most kids have dozens or even hundreds of stuffed animals…bunnies, sheep, dogs, cats, fish, turtles, penguins, bears, elephants, unicorns, monkeys, pandas, foxes. Go to the zoo, the ballpark, the mall, a resort, and chances are yet another one is joining the menagerie. And don’t get me started with Disney.

After a while, you begin to notice that every stuffed animal is the same. So many of them are just rolled off a factory assembly line. At some point, your kid may have so many nondescript plush animals devoid of any uniqueness or personality that you wonder if they should be paying you rent.

Shelter Pets is a company that breaks the mold–literally. It’s a company with a unique idea–they learned the stories of real animals that were adopted from non-profit shelters and created unique stuffed animals based on them. For example, the little guy you see above is named Chunk the rat, who was donated from the Seattle Human shelter. You can read his story here.

Look through Shelter Pets’ Web site and you’ll see other pets and pet stories, from Ostera the bunny who survived a vicious dog attack, to Oakland the husky puppy with his one orange eye and one blue eye, to Rosie the Guinea Pig, rescued while she was pregnant.

For every Shelter Pet sold, 10% of sales are donated to non-profit animal shelters, including the shelter that the actual animal who inspired the stuffie came from. You can buy cheap stuffed animals of boring dogs and bears anywhere, but here’s where you can a unique one with an interesting story that you can use to teach your child about compassion, treating animals with care, and the important work that non-profit shelters do.

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COVID Post-Pandemic Thank You Cards from Black Tabby Studio

May 30th, 2021 · Uncategorized

post pandemic thank you cardsAs we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a good time to think of all those people since last March who have helped you. From doctors, nurses, and EMT personnel to delivery drivers, restaurant owners, and volunteers of all kinds, a lot of people stepped up in the last year to make the insanity just a little more sane. And many of them quite literally put their lives on the line to help. 

Before things get back to normal, think over all these people and jot them a note to say thanks.

These Thank You cards from the Sugartown Greetings line of cards from Black Tabby Studios, available on Amazon, are a good way to get started. They have minimalist, modern hand-drawn designs that look so much more personal and sincere than the superficial, hackneyed, mass-produced junk you see from Hallmark and American Greetings.

There’s a lot to love about these cards. They’re made in the USA and printed on 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper, and yet the paper has a premium quality about it. And 10% of all proceeds are donated to charities that help nature in meaningful ways, like maintaining nature trails and rehabilitating wildlife here in the US, to building schools and providing water to families in impoverished areas overseas.

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And…we’re back!

May 29th, 2021 · Uncategorized

It’s been a while since I posted a charitable gift on this site and for good reason–six years ago a beautiful little girl came into my life and pretty much removed any free time I had, and then three years ago I got a job as an executive at a major company.

Well, my little girl is on her way to first grade, which means I’ll have a lot more free time. And the wonderful corporation that hired me three years ago in all their wisdom decided to give me the axe a few weeks ago. So I figured, why not dust off the old blogging keyboard and start from scratch?

We’re not #1 on Google for “charitable gifts” anymore, and companies aren’t bombarding my email begging me to feature their products anymore. But hey, let’s start this whole thing all over again and see where it gets us, shall we? 🙂

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The Cat in the Hat for President 2016 #catinhat4prez

July 26th, 2016 · Uncategorized

I normally don’t get political on this blog, but I’m going to make an exception in this case, as The Cat in the Hat is running for president!

cat-in-the-hatHere are some reasons why The Cat deserves your vote this November:

  1. If he can balance a cup and a cake and two books and a fish and a little toy ship and some milk on a dish, surely he can balance the Federal budget.
  2. Sure, he gets himself into messes, but he always cleans things up.
  3. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Name me one other presidential candidate with these credentials.

Okay, I’m just getting into the spirit of the fun, but aside from being a very clever and well-timed marketing campaign from Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Amazon, and Random House children’s books, there’s a serious point. Along with having fun, the three companies will donate $20,000 to a charity that receives the most votes. Kids can vote at the “campaign headquarters” page on Amazon.com (logging in with their parents’ Amazon account) for one of five causes, each of which is linked to a Dr. Seuss character: Dick and Sally from The Cat in the Hat support reading (First Book); The fish from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish support ocean conservation (Oceana); the Lorax speaks for, what else, the trees (Conservation International); Sam-I-Am from Green Eggs and Ham Fights Hunger (Feed the Children); and Horton from Horton Hears a Who supports an anti-bullying organization (PACER Center).

In addition, on that page you’ll see links to all kinds of merchandise, like an actual Cat in the Hat stovepipe hat, stickers and badges, and T-Shirts, my favorite of which is this Winston Churchill-inspired Keep Calm and Vote for the Hat T-Shirt, currently in stock for adults and girls sizes.

 

 

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All Natural Deodorant, First Aid Cream, and Lip Balm from Green Goo

July 14th, 2016 · Children's Charities, Developing Areas, St. Jude's, Veterans and Military, World Vision

For some reason, I am really, really allergic to just about everything you put on your skin. I can’t use lotion, insect repellent, underarm deodorant, or sunscreen without really bad allergic reactions. As a result, during the summer while everyone else is at the beach, in the woods, or playing summer sports, I’m usually cowering under the bed.

I’ve tried so hard over the years to find products I can use. Even ones that are marked “natural” have caused horrible reactions. My body is clearly trying to tell me something each time I try one of these things.

Even if you’re not allergic to these things, have you ever thought about what goes in them? Here are the words from a label of popular underarm deodorant.

  • Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY
  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Stearyl Alcohol
  • Isopropyl Palmitate
  • PPG-14 Butyl Ether
  • Talc
  • Mineral Oil
  • Hydrogenated Castor Oil
  • C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate
  • Dimethicone
  • Fragrance (Parfum)
  • PEG-8
  • BHT

Now believe it or not, most of these ingredients probably are harmless, but that first one (which is the active ingredient in most of the major anti-perspirants) isn’t good news. The way this ingredient works, aluminum (yes, the same Al found in your Reynolds Wrap) and zirconium ions absorb into your skin, cause your skin cells to swell, and then pinch the sweat glands closed, keeping them from releasing sweat (ergo the word “antiperspirant”) and also absorbing odor. It’s truly a miracle of modern science, but just a bit creepy when you look into the details. Your body is obviously trying to do something very natural in expelling perspiration, and yet you’re blocking your body from doing so. Even though scientists say that there’s no harm in these chemicals, there’s just something downright unnatural about keeping your body from expelling sweat (and the toxins that go with it).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those “natural living” warriors who’s out to destroy all the pharmaceutical companies and bring us back to an age where no one uses chemicals and everyone’s got dry skin that’s getting attacked by mosquitoes–at least the ones who who aren’t repelled by the terrible odor emanating from you. On the other hand, it’s difficult to deny that we have way, way too many unnatural chemicals in our lives today, from the food and drinks we ingest, to the topical ointments we put on our bodies.

Enter Green Goo. Green Goo, also known as Sierra Sage Organics, produces a bunch of products that are natural, and not “natural” in the way that mass-market companies with big marketing departments claim. To see what I mean, take a look at this list of ingredients in their 100% All Natural Deodorant stick:

  • Organic Shea Butter
  • Organic Coconut Oil
  • Organic Cocoa Butter
  • Organic Calendula Flowers
  • Organic Chamomile Flowers
  • Aluminum-free Baking Soda
  • Organic Arrowroot
  • Organic Sunflower Oil
  • Organic Beeswax
  • Lemongrass, Lemon, Orange, and Sage Essential Oils

I had to do a bit of a double-take when I read the ingredient list. It sounds more like a healthy smoothie than a stick deodorant. And there’s no ingredient that’s more than three syllables long!

How does it work? We had a heat advisory in my town this morning, with temperatures up to 93 degrees and humidity at 87 degrees. I applied some of the stuff earlier today to clean armpits (just one or two swipes, following the directions). It felt dry and a little flaky when I first touched it, but when I applied it it went on smoothly. The stuff smells absolutely wonderful–the cap says that it’s “Lemongrass and Sage”, but the aroma is amazingly fresh and delicately balanced between the flowers and the citrus and herb essential oils.  It’s not overpowering like perfume or cologne.

Just now I just got back in after a long, grueling walk trying to catch Pokemons. While the deodorant didn’t stop me from sweating, it did cover much of the odor.  and best thing of all, unlike with other deodorant sticks, I’m not breaking out into itchy rashes and hives. In fact, I feel great.

The next GreenGoo product I took a look at was their First Aid ointment/salve. Their company slogan is “rethinking First Aid”, so I’m guessing this is one of their signature products. It comes in a package like this.

Opening the box reveals a tin.

And inside the tin is the eponymous “green goo”.

Now I hadn’t planned this, but it so happens that a few days ago I burned a little bit of my forearm on a Pyrex dish of over-roasted carrots. The burn has healed up nicely, but I have to say there’s still a bit of irritating. And so I applied a little of the green goo. Here are the ingredients:

  • Olive Oil
  • Plantain
  • Chickweed Yarrow
  • Sage
  • Calendula
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Comfrey Leaf
  • Gum Benzoin
  • Myrrh
  • Chaparral
  • Vitamin E Oil
  • Beeswax
  • Essential Oils of Lavender and Rosemary

Again, after dipping my finger I was tempted to taste it, as the aroma of lavender and rosemary was heavenly.

The combination of herbs reads like a time-tested list of herbal medicine. I know a lot of people scoff when they hear the words “herbal medicine”, but remember that ALL medicine was “herbal” until the first synthetic drugs were introduced in the 20th century (in fact, pharmaceutical companies like Merck, Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lilly, Hoffman-La Roche, and parts of Glaxo Smith Kline, and Pfizer all started as small apothecary shops in the 1800s distributing botanical drugs).

In other words, this isn’t snake oil, but a combination of truly natural ingredients that have been used to treat various ailments since ancient times.

Does it work? It was an interesting feeling–the surface was smooth and solid, but after putting my finger in it it sort of “melted” into my finger. It definitely felt soothing putting it on my burn. And according to their Web site, it helps relieve symptoms not just of burns, but also of insect bites, cuts and scrapes, cracked hands, poison ivy, cold sores, sunburn, chapped lips, blisters, ingrown toenails, fungal infection, and chafing. The combination of herbs doesn’t just cover the wound, but actually has antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. It’s completely safe for children, and they even have a version for pets.

Finally, I got to try out their lip balm, in the Cool Mint variety.

The tube looks like any other lip balm. But the contents don’t feel anything like any lip balm I’ve tried at all (and I’ve tried all of them–Chapstick, Blistex, Softlips, EOS, and a gazillion others that I’ve bought when I find myself with chapped lips but lost my lip balm, which seems to be a regular occurrence).


Some of those lap balms feel like you’re applying a candle to your lips. Others are way too gooey and messy. The Green Goo lip balm was..stunning. Like I said, I’ve tried them all, and this one surpassed them all.

When you apply it, it goes on amazingly smooth and silky–you can feel the moisturizing effect almost immediately. But the best part is, a few seconds later you feel the “whoosh” of the cool mint cooling your lips. And this isn’t just from a chemist who concocted a “natural flavor”–this is the real deal.

The ingredient list again is remarkable.

Active Ingredients

  • Organic Calendula Flowers
  • Organic Sunflower Seed Oil

Inactive Ingredients

  • Organic Peppermint Essential Oil
  • Organic Olive Oil
  • Beeswax
  • Organic Coconut Oil
  • Organic Jojoba Oil
  • Organic non-GMO Vitamin E

Trust me, this is one lip balm I will NOT be losing! It’s almost making me look forward to the next time I have red chapped lips just so I can try it out 🙂

There you have it–three products that work, that are actually good for you, and are good for the planet to boot. I admit, I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about this company’s products, but I’m a believer. In fact, I’ve been looking for this company for my whole life–I must have tried 7 different brands of deodorant, and 5 different brands of lotion, each which caused bad allergic skin reactions that required me seeing a dermatologist. I can’t wait to try out their SPF 30 sunscreen (I love the name of it, which is “Solar Goo”), their dry skin care for dry cracked hands and feet, and their bug repellant.

The more I looked into Sierra Sage, the more impressed I was. They’re a family-owned operated business in Lyons, Colorado. All their products are made with certified organic herbs and pure grade essential oils. Their packaging is environmentally friendly, they use sustainable practices, and because their products are natural they won’t cause pollution or danger to nature. And best of all, they are big supporters of some amazing causes. They are big supporters of World Vision, a great charity we’ve highlighted many times in the past. They support the troops through Snowball Express, serving the children of our fallen military heroes. They donate a portion of their great mother and baby products to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  Great products, great causes.

Green Goo products are available on Amazon as well as on Sierra Sage Organics’ own site. Check them out for yourself.

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Basketbox – T-Shirts, Onesies, and other Clothing that Let You Wear Your State Proudly

June 8th, 2016 · Uncategorized

I was born in New Jersey and spent most of my life there before moving to New York about 10 years ago. While to most casual observers outside of this area New York and New Jersey are pretty monolithic, the truth is long-time residents of each know that each has its own very distinct culture.

Even though I’ve been in New York for so long, I still get feeling of “home” when I cross the tunnel or bridge into New Jersey.  For some reason, the hoagies (not “heros”) taste a little bit better, it’s nice not having to pump my own gas or make U-turns, and there’s nothing better than a Jersey fresh tomato.

Most people don’t realize that originally the colonies, and eventually the states, were all pretty much independent of each other in the beginning. Each had its own government and each was pretty self-sufficient, and the concept of a federal government was there really to help out with things that no state could do on its own. Of course, over the years the size and scope of the federal government has gotten just a wee bit larger. Plus, things like railroads,the interstate highway system, and air travel started to grey the lines of the borders a bit. Today, if you go from city to city, you’ll see Starbucks, McDonalds, Walmarts, and other things that seem to make everything blend together just a little more.

And yet, talk to anyone who’s lived in their town for more than a few years and you’ll see that there’s still a certain pride in what makes them and the place they live in unique.

Basketbox is a fantastic company that creates apparel which anyone can use to celebrate their home state or hometown. It makes a fabulous gift for someone who’s proud of their roots, whether they’ve lived in their same state or town all their lives, or like me, have been uprooted but still feel a special bond to the place where they grew up.

The concept behind Basketbox’s designs is simple and yet brilliant. They have everything from T-Shirts to hoodies to mugs to pillows to mugs to baby onesies. The design is a simple silhouette of the state (or in some cases like Houston, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, DC, Long Island, Staten Island, and Brooklyn, a city or region) along with block letters that proudly state the demonym of that person, whether it’s “Hawaiian”, “Iowan”, “Californian”, or “New Yorker”.

As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, my daughter was born last August in Queens, New York. And so I jumped at the chance to have try out the “New Yorker” onesie.

The onesie came packaged in a beautiful gift basket, festively wrapped with cellophane that had a colorful, whimsical design and a ribbon tied into a bow.

IMG_6283

The basket contained this onesie and this bib.

IMG_6285

The first thing I noticed about the onesie was that it was made by American Apparel. I first got to experience an American Apparel shirt when I got one at a conference I went to years ago. Over the years, that shirt became my single-most favorite t-shirt. I don’t know how they do it, but where other brands of shirts (even well-known brand) are thick and uncomfortable to wear, my American Apparel t-shirt was soft to the touch from the first day I got it, and only seemed to get softer and more comfortable with every washing. It’s years later now, but that same shirt is still the most comfortable thing I choose to wear, and it’s withstood many, many washings.

I noticed the same thing about this onesie. Maddie loved it as soon as we put it on her. And true to the New Yorker that she is, she let us know it right away.

IMG_6484

Today the onesie and the bib are probably among our favorites; while other bibs (include a New York Yankees one that was given as another gift) have long since been destroyed, this one is a really great quality one. And the onesie is just as soft and durable as my favorite t-shirt.

IMG_6447

Most of all, as the first native New Yorker in the family (her mom is from Taipei and I’m from New Jersey), I love the fact that she can wear her state proudly. The onesie has gotten lots of smiles and great comments wherever in New York we go.

Looking through the other products at basketbox.com, there are lots and lots of other fantastic products, from T-Shirts for dogs…

texas t-shirt for dogs

…to mugs…

mug for chicagoans

…to t-shirts for human adults.

california t-shirt

What’s even more remarkable is that a donation from each order is given to the International Dyslexia Association.

I asked the founder, Emmanual Sullivan, why he chose this charity, and here’s what he wrote back to me:

I chose the International Dyslexia Association because of my own struggles with spelling and reading in primary school. I conquered the handicap, for the most part, during high school. I had to work extra hard during those years and in college to advance. I really didn’t know until later in life that I might have the disability. Looking back, my parents and other family members struggled with it too. It’s something that lingers as well.

So, since my products have a spelling component, I thought the organization would fit perfectly with what we sell. I’ve only recently paired up with the association, but from what I can see they do great things with teachers and others involved with dyslexia. They are also very transparent in their mission and goals, unlike other dyslexia organizations that I’ve researched.

To me, it’s a brilliant pairing, especially given all the questions and debates people tend to have about demonym spelling. “Is it ‘New Jerseyan’, ‘New Jersian’, or ‘New Jerseyite’?” “Is it ‘Seattlean’, ‘Seattleite’, or ‘Seattleer’?” And so on. Not only will Basketbox apparel end the debates once and for all, it’ll let you proclaim your allegiances proudly. It makes a great gift for college students heading out-of-state for the first time, for homesick expatriates from another state, as a souvenir gift for people visiting your state, and much, much more.

Learn more at Basketbox.com.

 

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