"If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things. The powers-that-be can break up any big thing they want. They can corrupt it or co-opt it from the inside, or they can attack it from the outside. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They break up two of them, and three more like them spring up!"
- Pete Seeger, in YES! Magazine

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Help a Mom Shop

This entry was posted by Wendy, who's filling in while Jen's on the road. You can read more about my project at Spread Change.
The project:
Help a mom get her weekly shopping done by watching her kids.

Two to three hours.

Why bother?
Moms lead a busy life. And frugal moms spend a huge amount of time clipping coupons and planning for an entire week (or more) so they can maximize the amount of money they save for the family. When you're trying to get the best bargains it's sometimes hard to concentrate when the little ones keep saying, "Is it time to go? Are we done yet?"

Every now and again, the boys grandma will offer to sit for me while I'm shopping. This helps my husband and I both because I get to do my shopping unfettered and it also leaves my husband free to do a few things he needs to do like work in the yard or just get some well-needed alone time.

Worth it?
Absolutely! The look on the mom's face when she comes beaming in to tell you how great she did on her shopping is well worth the time spent. You've renewed a spirit. And... maybe you'll get something cool and unexpected out of the deal. The last time I went shopping and the kids grandmother watched them and I found a great small roast that was on sale and brought it back for her. Yum!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Help Can Peaches

Opportunities to lend a hand don't end just because we're on vacation. :) Jen
The project:

Peel, pit, measure, stir, and otherwise can 20 pounds of peaches.

Couple of hours - lost track of time.

Why bother?
My aunt had two paper sacks full of ripe peaches that needed to be preserved in some manner. She opted for making jam, so this morning we blanched the peaches, sat out on the back deck to skin and pit them, then moved inside to wrap up the job. My 9-year-old daughter, E, got in on the job from peeling and pitting to measuring and stirring.

Canning can be a lot of work. It always goes by more quickly with company.

Worth it?
MMMmmmmmm! (OOOps...I mean YES!)

Here's the recipe:
5 pounds peaches
5 cups sugar
3 tsp. lemon juice

Peel and pit peaches. Smash into pieces with the sugar. Bring to boil. Continue at boil for 20 minutes. Pour or ladle into prepared (sterilized) jars. Place lids and rings, process under 1" water 15 minutes for pint jars, 30 minutes for quart jars.

(Be sure to save some out for immediate gastronomical reward!) :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Trim Trees & Rearrange Pantry

By Jen on the road. This week: Brigham City, Utah
The project:

Do a little tree trimming, then rearrange the pantry for aunt and uncle.

Tree trimming - 15 minutes.
Pantry - couple hours.

Why bother?
There's something about doing chores at someone else's house, particularly at the home of someone you love. It's rewarding to do a chore that makes a visual difference, and saves work for someone else. Plus, everyone has chores they don't want to do. What a treat, then, to have someone volunteer to do it.

Today I found tree trimming equipment hanging in a tree, where my uncle had tuckered out on the overhead trimming job. I worked on it until my shoulders gave out, then moved inside to the pantry job.

Worth it?
Absolutely, though I must confess the pantry job was almost overwhelming. There's any number of ways to organize a pantry. With my aunt on hand to help direct me, we cleaned it out, reorganized it and made it more user friendly for her household.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Communicate on the Road - Letting In Truckers

While Wendy holds down the fort, I'll still post when I get get online! :) There's always SOME way to help on the road. Jen

The project:

Help big-rig truckers pass and change lanes with simple headlight communication.

Seconds each time. Untold number of assists in 800 miles.

Why bother?Non-verbal communication with strangers works just as well as verbal communication. And it's handy sometimes. (Here's how to do it.) Plus, it's a simple way to help out road-weary travelers with long loads.

Worth it?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Your Temporary Hostess

While Jen is on the road, living charitably on the go, I'll be here holding down the fort for a little while. Stay tuned for some upcoming posts.

My name is Wendy and I maintain a blog about budget philanthropy called Spread Change. I'm thrilled that Jen invited me to share some charitable, compassionate and caring moments with you.

Let's have fun while she's gone, but please no spilling drinks on the carpet or furniture and if you break it, you buy it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Picking up a (feline) hitchiker

The project:
Adopt a stray kitten while on the road.

Moments - but a kitty lifetime of care to come.

Why bother?
It's not as if we needed another pet. We already have cats and a pond full of fish, the occasional insect pavilion (ladybugs to hatch, caterpillars to metamorphize, whatever the kids catch and bring in for temporary housing). But when a little fuzzball of a kitten found us on our first rest stop some 200 miles from home, we couldn't just leave it behind?

Wait. Let's back up and explain. We'd love to have larger pets, particularly farm animals, but we live in less than 1/4 acre (no horses, cows or sheep, for instance) in a homeowners association (no chickens, duck or anything resembling a farm animal). We like to travel, so we have no dogs. We've explained time and again to our girls that traveling with a pet is no easy task, particularly considering that many of the places we enjoy, camp and/or hike don't allow dogs.

At 4:30 a.m. we waved goodbye to our home and husband and headed east. The girls fell back to sleep for a couple of hours, but by the time we reached Arvin, Ca. shortly before 7 a.m., it was time for a rest. We pulled into a fast-food restaurant parking lot - we knew they'd have restrooms open that early. As we approached the restaurant door, a little gray ball of fluff with baby-blue eyes tripped straight to us. We picked up the kitten and searched the parking lot for other kittens or a mother cat. No dice. There was quite a bit of traffic both in the lot and on the ajacent highway. I couldn't just put her down to trip into the path of a vehicle, so we took her inside to find out whether the staff knew anything about her. They did. And were excited to see she'd been picked up. "She's almost gotten run over a few times." The kitten had appeared that morning.

Options: put her down outside and let her take her chances; find the shelter (is there one in Arvin? And is it no-kill?); take her with us. We live on California's Central Coast. Our trip will take us to Utah, Nebraska and Colorado before we return home in three weeks. That's a lot of travel for a kitten.

Our choice? Let me just say, if you want to keep young children entertained on a very long road trip, adopt a kitten.

Worth it?
Traveling with a kitten takes a little extra work. We've created her own little nest in the back seat complete with food, water, cat box and blanket. We move that nest from van to trailer when we get to our nightly destinations, and keep the windows closed on the van with a/c on even when the temps outside would allow for wide-open window driving. But it's all worth it. The kitten wanders the car, playing with anything and anyone resembling an entertaining distraction. Then she finds a lap, curls into a little ball and passes out. Great fun.

Share this post with:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Charitable Deeds Hits the Road

For the next few weeks, we'll be taking the Charitable Deeds project on the road for a five-state tour (once we escape from California). Maybe we'll cross paths in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska or Colorado. If you see us alongside the road, please lend us a hand. If you catch us in a park, say hi. And with our funky little trailer in tow, we're unlikely to pass you, so just give us a wave as you breeze by.

Provide Roadside Assistance

The project:
Help a stranded motorist whose car had overheated.

45 minutes

What happened and why bother?
We were on our way home from running errands when I noticed a small sedan parked cattywompus in the traffic triangle. At first, I drove by, but as I passed I eyed the situation and determined this poor guy was pretty much beside himself trying to figure out what his next option was. I made a U-turn, pulled into the triangle and asked if he needed help or a phone or anything.

Turns out, he didn't speak a lick of English. Fortunately, his first language (and my only other language) was Spanish. Unfortunately, I haven't spoken Spanish in a very long time, so I've pretty much lost it! I've forgotten so much vocabulary, plus I never really learned auto vocab, or words like "steam" and "radiator cap." But we managed.

Through our Spanish and hand language conversation, I learned his radiator cap had blown off when his car overheated, and it was nowhere to be found. (Well, actually he said he'd lost the cap. Maybe that's WHY the car overheated - you can't drive far in the heat without a radiator cap.) The car was too hot to refill with water, and it wouldn't start. It was parked in a terrible spot, and he was only heading up the road about three blocks, so I hooked his car up with my tow strap and off we went, to a safer waiting spot.

Then he used my phone to call his brother for a ride to the parts store for a cap, water and radiator fluid, or home.

Worth it?

He was really nervous about being parked in that triangle. He knew it wasn't a legal spot and he said he was afraid if he left it there it would be towed. He was probably right, and the recovery from the tow wouldn't have been cheap. When it was over, he offered me $20. I refused. He insisted. I offered a handshake instead. I hope I didn't offend him. But really, it took some time, but it didn't cost anything material.

Photo courtesy Leslie under Creative Commons License.