#GIVINGTUESDAY a new campaign


Some of you might remember that last year I created an Indiegogo campaign for my birthday called Birthday for Giving. The campaign was more successful than I ever imagined so I decided to raise funds again this year.

I’ve created a dual-fundraiser in support of Friends of Asian Elephant hospital in Thailand. Created by Soraida Salwala in 1993. FAE is the world’s first elephant hospital. And since its inception it has helped over 3,600 elephants!

FAE is probably best known for Mosha, the baby land-mine victim who was not only saved by FAE but has been outfitted with a prosthetic limb and is now a permanent resident. Since she was only 2 years old when she lost her limb, she seems more comfortable and natural with her prosthetic limb than Motala, an older victim. In fact, Mosha has received numerous adjustments to her prosthetic on account of her active lifestyle.

Mosha, now 9 years old and thirving thanks to FAE

Mosha, now 9 years old and thriving thanks to FAE

In addition to Mosha and Motala, FAE has also come to the rescue of elephants poisoned by contaminated soil, injured through their work in the tourist industry, or in need of maternity care, among other health needs. Because FAE survives on donations, it seemed only natural to direct this year’s fundraising efforts in their direction.

Those living in the Philadelphia area will be able attend I ❤ Elephants: a night of yoga and film at Studio 34 (registration for the event is available on their website). The evening will begin with a Breathe and Flow yoga class taught by studio owner Angela Norris and culminate in a screening of Eyes of Thailand, Windy Borman’s award-winning documentary about FAE. For those living outside the Philadelphia area (or who don’t like yoga), I have created an online campaign. To learn more about my campaign and to donate, click on the banner.

I <3 Elephants demo

Thank for reading this post – please share!

Giving Back

photo of baked carnival squash
Roasted Maple Vanilla Carnival Squash

As I mentioned in my previous two posts, I started an Indigogo campaign for my birthday. Because today is #GivingTuesday, I thought it was only right for me to give something in return for asking readers to donate to my cause. So here is a quick recipe to make your winter a little warmer:

Maple Vanilla-Glazed Carnival Squash (2 whole carnival, delicata, or small acorn squashes)

  • preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • wash your squashes, slice them in half, and remove seeds
  • slice the squash halves into uniform slices (I cut them into sixths)
  • remember: the thinner the slices, the more quickly they will cook – and the more glaze per slice
  • place the slices on a lightly greased or parchment-covered baking sheet (I used a pizza pan)
  • loosely cover the pan with foil, place in the oven, and bake for about 20 min
  • while squash are baking, mix maple syrup and vanilla in a small bowl
  • NOTE: I used about a tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/2 tsp of Dominican vanilla extract. This will seem like an extreme amount of vanilla; it is. But this was the total glaze I used for all the squash. If you want a sweeter dish but don’t want an overwhelming vanilla flavor, try 1/4 cup of maple syrup with 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • check the squash after 20 min. If they are soft and starting to brown, remove them from the oven. Turn them so that the center (hollow) is face up. Lightly brush with syrup (or pour it on). I also put a tiny dab of butter in the center of each
  • return to the oven for 5-15 minutes until the squash golden and the glaze is sizzling

As always, thank you for visiting my blog. Please take a minute to read about my campaign. If you are inspired, please consider donating. Every dollar counts, and today Indiegogo is kicking in $1 for every $20 that I collect midnight to midnight PST. And please pass along this campaign to any animal-lovers you know:

elephant giving flowers
Click for the Link

Thank you!!!

Birthday for Giving


People always ask, “What do you want for your birthday?” or “How are you going to celebrate?” Since my birthday is November 30, I have been thinking about this quite a lot. I knew there wasn’t really anything I wanted, and after years of bar crawling and all-night dancing (on occasions not limited to my or anyone else’s birthday) I really wasn’t interested in painting the town. What I do want is something that makes a genuine contribution. I’m not a billionaire, so I won’t be able to build a hospital or arts center, but we can all do something to help leave the world in better, fairer, and more beautiful condition than when we first arrived. Right?

It turns out that Tuesday December 3–the Tuesday following my birthday–is #GivingTuesday! What is Giving Tuesday? From their website: “#GivingTuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.” Learning about #GivingTuesday and their partnership opportunities with Indiegogo inspired me to turn my birthday into an occasion to do something positive. I figured if all my friends, family, and fitness participants contributed $5 to a cause instead of buying me a cappuccino, a fancy cocktail (which would be more like $10 anyway), or even a card, I could collect around $500!

photo of baby elephant
Source: http://melstepp01.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/the-worlds-top-10-most-ridiculously-adorable-baby-elephants/

Choosing the cause was easy. I love elephants, and because of the recent surge in poaching, their plight had been all over the news. Choosing the organization, however, proved rather difficult. There are countless, wonderful foundations dedicated to elephants–everything from the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, which houses retired zoo and circus elephants to Soraida Sawala’s amazing Elephant Hospital in Thailand, which adopts orphaned baby elephants and has provided prosthetic limbs to animals injured by landmines.

One of my key considerations was convenience. I couldn’t choose a charity that didn’t accept U.S. dollars or required a complicated bank transfer to a foreign bank. I’ve done that myself once before to pay for a yoga retreat in Veracruz–and while the process made me feel like James Bond, it’s a bit complicated, complicated enough to deter potential donors. I ultimately decided on The Asian Elephant Foundation. TAEF not only supports Soraida’s work, they also work in tandem with the Elephant Parade, which is an international open-air art exhibit that brings awareness to the Asian elephant and raises funds for all of TAEF’s projects. I was lucky enough to visit the first U.S. Elephant Parade in Dana Point, CA this past October.

photo of me at the U.S. Elephant Parade
Floppy and me at the Elephant Parade!

Since we had visited the Elephant Parade as a sort of early birthday celebration for me, it seemed only right to use my real birthday to give back to the organization that made the parade possible. I am so excited to share with you my first (and hopefully annual) Birthday for Giving. The Birthday for Giving campaign is live and will last for approximately 30 days. Click on the image to see it.

photo of cupcake
Click on the image, please!

More information, more yoga, and more recipes forthcoming!

Of honeybees and killer whales, Part 2

A honeybee and a killer whale walk into a bar … and nothing happens. Why? because honeybees and killer whales don’t attack humans under normal circumstances. And while I knew this about honeybees (having done extensive reading on beekeeping over the years in hope of someday managing my own hive), I didn’t know this about killer whales. Last week, however, proved to be a real eye-opener. A few days prior to Paul Dangel’s presentation on honeybees, I was lucky enough to attend an advanced screening for an upcoming documentary called Blackfish:

Poster for the film Blackfish
Click to be taken to the film’s website and view the trailer

The film’s title is a translation of a Native American word for the creature. The film is scheduled to be released in the U.S. July 26 – so don’t worry, you didn’t miss it. But how did I score two tickets to an advanced screening? Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with my “other life” teaching critical writing and film.

photo of elephant herd
Warning: elephant digression coming!

People who know me know that I have a sweet spot in my heart for elephants. Some have even referred to my affection as an “obsession” (can’t a girl get a tattoo without being accused of being obsessed?). Because of my fondness for elephants, I do not support the use of animals in circuses. When I read that Ringling Brothers would be coming to Philadelphia in early 2013, I knew I had to do something. Even in an era when it seems like you can find anything via the internet, you can’t just Google “join circus protest” and find a sign-up sheet. But then I thought – anyone who believes that elephants do not belong in zoos must feel twice as strongly about elephants in circuses. Right?

See, back in 2006, the Philadelphia Zoo announced that it would be closing its elephant exhibit and sending its elephants elsewhere. This happened in part because one of the four elephants, Dulary, had been injured in a fight with another elephant. A group called Friends of Philly Zoo Elephants campaigned to have the elephants moved to a sanctuary. Dulary now resides at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. And while I “check in” on Dulary via the sanctuary’s newsletter and super-cool “Elecams,” I never forgot the fact that there were people here in Philadelphia dedicated to elephants. With this in mind, I began reading old news stories about the zoo protests, searching for the names of individuals or groups involved, emailing, “Um, hi, if you get this, and are protesting the circus, I want to join,” and hoping that someone was still monitoring websites years after the elephants left Philadelphia. To make a long digression short, it worked! So from my concern about elephants, I found a group of people passionately dedicated to animal welfare. Lab testing? Puppy mills? You name it, they’re on it. And it was from my connection to these kind folk that I was able to get a sneak peak at an amazing documentary.

Right about now you’re thinking, “What a tease! this post has nothing to do with honeybees or killer whales!” That’s right, it doesn’t. I’m writing about Blackfish for an online journal and don’t want to plagiarize myself in advance (does that even make sense?). So stay tuned for a link to that article – Kris and Josh, don’t worry, the pixel post is almost finished, I just haven’t shot a post-pixel photo – and Happy 4th of July!