Super Hero Cape

Tonight we were taking some photos to send over to The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project for a special video montage. Arianna asked if her tote bag was a super hero cape.

Well, let me think about that one.

If super heroes come up with amazing ideas to begin a Project that helps our neighbors carry food from the pantry to the bus to home using reusable grocery tote bags, then yes, it is a super hero cape (and has been evidenced at PodCamp!)

If super heroes find a way to turn one tote bag into 153 plus way more a year later and then into joining the Steering Committee of that Project, then yes, a tote bag is a Super Hero Cape.

If super heroes find ways to coupon for food pantries and share those processes with others through the Tote Bag Project, then yes, a tote bag is a Super Hero Cape. 

If super heroes are ‘lil girls and boys who give up their toy room space to hold boxes of tote bags, food, and feminine products or ‘lil boys and girls who gather toys for Stuff a Bus instead of asking for birthday presents, then yes, a tote bag is a Super Hero Cape.

Arianna, may you continue to show adults how to give and to be a super hero. Your caring heart brings tears of joy to my eyes–I am so proud of the ‘lil lady that you are. Always remember that even if you don’t have much, there is always someone else who has less than you–thank you for reminding us of this, and thank you for being a Super Hero.

Thirty Days of Thankful and NaBloPoMo Day 24: Stuffing

I’ll admit, the one thing I really look forward to each Thanksgiving is stuffing. We don’t have anything traditional to our family culture, but we sure do love our stuffing. Three years ago, I made 3 additional kinds of stuffing to add to my dad’s traditional loaves (what can I say, I was pregnant!). This year, my mom asked my dad to change it up a bit and turn his loaves into muffins. Stuffin’ muffins? Amazing.

Today I’d like to share with you an opportunity with the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project, an organization dear to my heart. We all know that the holidays are full of asks, giving, and busy times, but we cannot forget that this is also a time when people are going hungry.

In some cases, the people going hungry are also going without traditional holiday foods. I am really not sure what I’d do if I couldn’t have stuffing at Thanksgiving. I know it’s a simple holiday tradition, but one that many will go without. 

From the Tote Bag Project:

Our focus this year is on Supporting Cultural Traditions w/ A Simple Gift of Food. We encourage donors to focus on a list of ethnic foods that are not often available in food pantries.
The project grew out of the realization that pantries serving refugees and immigrants were having no problems with reuse because it was a cultural value for many of their clients – a lesson that many of us could learn. During that conversation, we learned about the lack of ethnic foods and thought this would be a good way to fuse the two concepts – highlighting something our newest neighbors can teach us as well as a specific support we can offer in return.

So, how can you help? Organize a drive this holiday season. Many folks are already planning on doing this. Ask specifically for tote bags and ethnic foods. Need a list? Here’s what the Tote Bag Project suggests:

 

For more information on this holiday drive, check out the event page; follow along on Twitter (@tote4pgh); or like the Project on Facebook.

Today, I am thankful I have my stuffing…and I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have that traditional item. I hope you can find a moment this holiday season to help out with these efforts.

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This post is part of NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

#BlogMob #ReusePgh

Last Thursday, myself and several other bloggers plus The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project converged on Construction Junction and Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR) for #BlogMob #ReusePgh. (Find more posts on the Tote Bag’s site here!)

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I took lots of bitty notes during the event as we toured PCCR and then CJ:

CJ 11 Years ago, PCCR 2007

Donations 2 days a week, have to limit due to space.

Small staff, a lot of org is volunteer. Sort, measure, facilities, data entry, etc. Community resource to keep prices low for makers, artists, teachers.

Excess donations…part is staffing and part is marketing. No advertising budget. Adult parties/space rental.

One space CJ rents out is Computer Reach, getting computers to ppl who need them.

CJ regives helps other orgs get furniture they need. Like the college furniture. Applications online?

Church pews, college desks…card catalogs…

Big Pour annual fundraiser.

Goodwill partners who learn skills and help CJ in the warehouse and connect with the community. Buckets of reuse cost $1 and contain ideas of things to donate!

Classes to help people learn remodeling skills (like sanding!). Have a skill? Have a project you wanna learn? Send email!

Like them on Facebook and share it with your friends. No searchable inventory, look for items, call and claim! Mike Gable (exec director) wants to do a program encouraging folks to instagram doc dumpster finds, put on fb, and see what you could have done with that instead. Stuff that shouldn’t go to the trash! Don’t actually pick the stuff up. There are some Boroughs that fine you!

The Space Upstairs dance, art experiences.

There was so much to learn and take in…my only regret is that we didn’t have more time to shop ourselves! 😉 Both sites are a crafter and builders dream. As I was posting photos on Instagram, people were asking where they could get the items I was showing. It’s amazing how few people know about these places, and both and accessible to anyone in the city (as long as you’re willing to fight pre-5 PM Highland Park bridge traffic, ha!).

Following our tours, we had a potluck dinner and then participated in Meet n’ Make, making ornaments for a tree that will be donated to a shelter. We also met people involved in Knit the Bridge, a project of knitters and crocheters who are crafting a cover for one of the Three Sisters bridges. I wasn’t feeling very crafty (what I didn’t know is that I was actually really sick), but I did participate in making some ornaments for the tree reusing items from the bulk section of PCCR.

Teachers, artists, parents, ANYONE who loves crafting, PCCR is for you! If you build things, remodel homes, or just like neat stuff (thanks, Pinterest), CJ is for you!

Enjoy my photos from the event on Flickr. PCCR on Facebook and Twitter ; CJ on Facebook and Twitter…both post unique finds and you can claim them via the ‘net!

#BlogMob is taking a break over the holidays, but we hope to be back with more great ‘Burgh finds in the early spring.

#BlogMob #REUSEPGH is Coming!

I am excited to share with you another opportunity to attend a Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project #BlogMob. On November 8, bloggers (and any other guests) will tour the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR) and Construction Junction (CJ). This will be a first visit to CJ for me, but I’ve been to PCCR to re-purpose tote bags before.  I can’t wait to share the experience with everyone who attends.

The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project invites local bloggers and social media users to join us for another “mob”
event, this time focusing on reuse.

The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR) and Construction Junction (CJ) have invited us to tour
their facilities, enjoy a potluck meal and then participate in a “making” event led by artists in residence at
PCCR. We will also meet the organizers of Free Ride Pittsburgh.

Again, I’ll be joined by Emily and Elizabeth (who blogged about the event here) as co-hosts.

Here are all the details you need to know:

When: Thursday, November 8, 2011

Time: 5-8:30

Location: Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, 214 North Lexington Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15208
(same building as Construction Junction, just further down N. Lexington)

Parking: Street. Please do NOT use CJ’s lot as the gates are closed at 6 PM

Potluck: Please bring a dish or beverage to share.

Admission: Tote bag with suggested food donation.

Open crafting night. No experience necessary

RSVP: <a href=”mailto:tote4pgh@gmail.com”>tote4pgh@gmail.com</a>

Please tweet in advance about this project to invite othes. Use hashtags #Blogmob #ReusePgh

If you are interested in reuse, please join the Facebook group “(re)Use Pittsburgh

Hopefully I will see you there!

Let’s End Hunger Now: #BlogMob #Hunger

While touring Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (my third tour there in a year), this image made me ask, “Are you with me?”

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And really, I want to know if you are with me. Hunger is a real issue in our nation, and one each and every one of us can help with. Here are some of the things I learned during #BlogMob #Hunger that can help our neighbors.

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Produce to People This is a distribution the Food Bank hosts at not only the Duquesne location but at other local pantries throughout the month. If you know someone who is in need of food, especially fresh produce, let them know about this program. It is not limited to folks who receive food benefits—if there is a genuine need, recipients just need to sign a proclamation of need.

Tote Bags help! Events like Produce to People are what inspired the Tote Bag Project to focus on getting reusable grocery bags into the hands of Food Bank recipients. As I was walking into the Food Bank, I saw many kinds of “bags” to gather the 40 (or so) pounds of food that would be distributed—suitcases, an old potato sack, laundry baskets, rolling shopping bags, pockets, and tote bags. If every patron had a handful of tote bags to help them bring their haul home, it surely would make life easier (just imagine toting 40 pounds of produce on the bus in a typical grocery bag). A sad truth learned, although almost 20,000 tote bags have been donated in this past year, the Food Bank is now out of the tote bags and could use more. Consider hosting a tote bag drive in your workplace, religious center, or even among your neighbors. ‘lil Miss A is asking you to bring some to her birthday party to make a small dent, too.

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Key donation items include peanut butter, tuna, and low-sugar cereal. These are things the Food Bank should never have to run out of, but without the help of donations, this is possible. Sure, the warehouse has a nice stock of peanut butter, but with pantries across several counties, it would be easy to imagine the possibility. Do what you can to help with this—if you have a food drive, consider sending these items or even asking those helping out to focus on these.

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Funding cuts are real issues, too. Money going to food programs is facing serious cuts. There are a few things you can do to help with this. One, when you are asked to give money to the Food Bank, know that it goes a long way. Because the Food Bank orders wholesale, a $1 donation can bring about $4 of buying power. Two, you can sign a paper plate (even virtually, click here!) to send to Governor Corbett a message that you want to help protect the State Food Purchase Program (instead of this falling under a budget cut). While the #BlogMob group toured the Food Bank, participants in Produce to People could write out a message on a paper plate that will be physically delivered to the Governor at the end of Hunger Action Month. We got to fill one out too, and it brought some tears to my eyes.

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It’s not all doom and gloom! Sure, those observations above are sort of scary, but there are good things happening.

  • On Thursday night, each produce distribution station was accompanied by an informative table. For instance, Giant Eagle dietitians were there talking about a plate portions; participants could register to vote; and there were health screenings. This new feature of Produce to People seemed to me like a great idea, and I hope it sticks.
  • The Food Bank nutritionist was on hand to show recipients how to make a healthy Harvest Stew using acorn squash, onions, and collard greens that were distributed that night. I was inspired, learned how to cut an onion without crying (it works), and will be making this meal for dinner tonight!
  • Bought and donated food is marked with a 1, 2, or 3 depending on nutritional value and movement analysis. This helps local pantries with ordering so that they can properly order their distributions.
  • Volunteers are making things happen! You can volunteer by repacking, putting together boxes for Seniors, or carrying food to recipients’ cars. Every little bit helps.
  • Community Table is a new program where chefs are donating extra “plates” of food—they make the extras, so these are not items that have sat out—and a truck comes around and picks up the food, getting it quickly into the hands of those who need it most.
  • Kids. Kids. Kids! They learn so much, those ‘lil sponges! Miss Ivy goes to schools and groups and talks to kids about hunger and how they can help. Her cubicle was covered in inspiring posters children have made…if only we all had the heart of a ‘lil child, this world really would be a better place.

During the night, those of us in attendance learned lots about how we can take action. I hope this has inspired you. If you want to hear more about the night, go visit Emily, Elizabeth, or Lou (he wasn’t able to attend, but was still uber-inspired and interacted in our tweets, LOVE!) to hear more. The Tote Bag Project has also pulled together a great Storify site with our top stories about #BlogMob #Hunger, do read!

Here’s where I NEED you. Comment below—what action are you going to take in this 2nd half of Hunger Action Month? Will you tweet about this post and/or hunger (use the “Tweet” button below!)? Will you organize a food/tote drive? Will you sign up to be a Food Bank volunteer? Leave me some love below, my heart needs to know there are more and more great people in this world.

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The night ended with a few prizes, and we decided to share one of them with our blog readers. If you’d like to enter to win a session with Emily Levenson, a nutritionist, use the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably seen these photos; however, take a look at all of my photos from the night over on Flickr.

WRRYFree Skin Care Fighting #Hunger #Giveaway

Last week, summer decided to make a return to Pittsburgh, and my skin was ill prepared. Thank goodness WRRYFree Skin Care decided to team up with The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project, Coupon Billie, and myself to help fight hunger this month.

What does that mean? It means I was able to test out the Bast Sensitive Face Wash, my choice for three reasons. One, it is orange-ish, the color of Hunger Action Month. Two, we have sensitive skin around here, if you didn’t know. Three, my skin has always been a pain to keep clear, but last week it was like I stepped back to 1999 and my 16th birthday party, ouch!

First, you should know I love anything that foams. I’ve tried other foamy face washes, but most burn my skin. The great thing about WRRY Free Skin Care products is that they are ‘Clean, Safe, and Effective’. True story. Natural products mean no burning and no worries if ‘lil Miss A decides to wash her face like Mama. Proven by the fact I wasn’t burnt by this face wash!

Second, smell is a big thing for me. While I like to know I am clean, I don’t want to smell like soap. With the Bast Sensitive Face Wash, I smell like a mix of orange and roses.

Finally, I want to be clean and see results. The Bast Sensitive Face Wash left my face feeling “tight” after, meaning it closed up my pores. Greg gave it a try and reported the same. The next morning, I was already seeing results, many of my “spots” weren’t as red or prominent, and just 4 days in, most were gone with no new ones popping up. Need I tell you I am pleased???!??!

There’s more than Face Wash available, this wash is just step one in an entire “Fab Five” Face Line plus (as you know) many other great products from Bast and Climb On! through WRRY Free Skin Care.

And…the facts get even better. As I mentioned, WRRY Free Skin Care is going to help The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project fight hunger this Hunger Action Month. When you make a purchase at http://wrryfreeskincare.com and enter the code tote4pgh, you will get 10% off AND $1 will be donated to the Tote Bag Project. How incredible is that?

As if that wasn’t enough, WRRYFree Skin Care is offering readers of ‘lil Burghers and Coupon Billie a chance to win a Mini Extreme Special. This includes Creme, Lip Tube, and a mini Bar. Awesome products, awesome cause. Enter now through the end of the month. Thanks, WRRY Free!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I was given product to review and I loved it, true story. I also personally love WRRY Free Skin Care because they are a local small business with a big heart, a true example of a Hunger Hero. Thanks for your support!

#BlogMob #Hunger is Coming!

If you are keeping up with the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project, you are fully aware that September is Hunger Action Month, a month full of events to make us aware of the impact of hunger.

One of those events, #BlogMob #Hunger will be my favorite. No, it’s not because I am lucky enough to co-host the event with Elizabeth and Emily, two Pittsburgh bloggers (but that’s pretty awesome). No, it’s not because I’ll get to network with other bloggers who share my passion. No, it’s not because I love working with the Tote Bag Project.

It’s because I firmly believe no one deserves to go to bed hungry, and this is a great chance to share with you what can be done about it. Donating to the Food Bank is a great start, but hunger needs advocates, and I’d like to call myself one. Being aware of the issues, observing Produce to the People distribution, and finding things to share with you are going to be the best parts of this event.

Have a blog? Want to come take part in the event? Here are the details about the September 13th event at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. RSVP info is in the image below. 🙂

Highly Recommended: Bistro To Go

Greg and I volunteer with The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project, an opportunity that has taken us to various new places in town. This weekend, we had a chance to help organize bags and then got dinner with two others who were sorting. Sure, we could have decided to just grab a sandwich from anywhere, but we were easily convinced to go local after Greg and Ledcat went to pick up totes at Bistro To Go and ogling the turtle cheesecake.

Logistically, we don’t get to the North Shore often (unless it’s for a Pirates game), so without this opportunity, we probably wouldn’t have realized this as a good dining option. It will now be on our “meet-up” and pre-game list. Parking is on-street/metered, but it wasn’t tough finding 3 spots on a busy Saturday afternoon.

The first thing I realized about Bistro To Go is that it is beside Bistro Soul, another restaurant in the Bistro family, and both boast of southern décor. I fell in love immediately, not needing to see that darn turtle cheesecake. When you walk inside, you know you are in for a soul food treat.

If you want technics, you should know this is essentially fast-casual dining, but the prep is nothing but. Amazing specials are in front of you, and served up (big helpings) right in front of your eyes. You can get the food to go, but I urge you to take a seat at one of the adorable tables or even the “bench” seating with an old church pew as one side of the seating. We stayed well past our original meter because we loved the atmosphere so much. Bonus, free wi-fi, people watching out the front window, cheerful employees, and listening to the chefs prep and cook in the open kitchen. Have some time? Sit and read some of the many cookbooks in the dining area. Absolutely beautiful.

Oh, you saw this was a post about a restaurant and want to know about the food? Well, gee! Entrees come with your choice of 1 or 2 sides (pricing is just a little more expensive than getting a combo meal at a drive thru) plus a bun “the size of Ledcat’s head”. From what I can see on the Bistro To Go website, specials change weekly, but there is always a great variety. I selected the stuffed beef cabbage, green beans with turkey, and a chipotle black bean and cilantro salad (no bun, those things were seriously HUGE). Greg got chicken and gravy (the breading was almost reverse fried with stuffing on the outside…), green beans, and…well…I can honestly say I am not sure what his side was. He gobbled everything down quickly—maybe it was mashed potatoes?

We were treated to dessert by Chef Nikki, a supporter of the Tote Bag Project. Greg went for the Turtle Cheesecake, and although I was tempted by the Ho Ho Cake, it was crème de menthe bars for me. Let me tell you a little bit of what I understand about Chef Nikki. She loves Pittsburgh, and she loves our people. She has a big heart. And, she is going to have me attending some of her cooking classes, because I want to amp up the kitchen. Her passion with Bistro to go was to “create a neighborhood restaurant where good food brings people together”. Uh, in my opinion, she’s hit it on the mark. Further, part of the Bistro mission “is to be a Christ-centered business and an employer where all cultures are welcome”. Again, absolutely evident.

We will be back again, and hopefully with the kids. There were high chairs, but I’d have to make sure I knew the menu before going with them for the ‘lil ones dairy issues. Perhaps we’ll even make a Sunday brunch!

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Disclaimer: I was not asked to write this review, and Bistro To Go might never even know how much I heart them. These opinions are 100% my own, and the dessert was provided out of kindness. Time to pay it forward and send you there!

Are You #Brave Enough to Help Out and Fight Hunger?

This weekend, the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank will be hosting a tote/food drive at the premiere of “Brave” in the South Side. If you are a Burgher and can make it out, you definitely should. The ‘lil Burghers just might even be there (we’re still working out details).

Here is the press release, or you can check out the blog post on the Tote Bag Project’s page.

School’s Out – Watch Out for Hungry Kids!
Food Bank and Pittsburgh Totebag Project Plan Drive at Movie Premiere

Pittsburgh, PA (June 19, 2012) Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and The Pittsburgh Totebag Project will hold a food and totebag drive called “School’s Out – Watch for Hungry Kids.” The drive will take place this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (June 22-24, times below) at the opening of Disney’s new movie Brave at South Side Works Cinema.

Summer means fun for most children – vacations, camp, or just playing all day. But for children who depend on school breakfast or lunch for the most nutritious meal of the day, and for their parents who have to find ways to put more food on the table, summer can be a trying time.

Sue Kerr, Founder and Co-Chair of the Pittsburgh Totebag Project saw a connection between kids going hungry and Brave, and initiated this drive with assistance from the Food Bank. “Adding tote bags and backpacks to the drives to fight child hunger gives all children a chance to help by donating their gently used backpacks. It adds dignity to the process of giving and to the experience of families receiving help.”

Collections will take place on Friday (June 22) from 6:00-9:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday (June 23 & 24) from noon till 8:00 pm, only at the South Side Works Cinema. People are asked to donate a bag of nonperishable items, packed in a reusable grocery “totebag” or backpack if possible. The first 50 families that make a donation will receive a family pass to the ToonSeum, downtown Pittsburgh’s museum devoted to cartoons. Popcorn vouchers will also be available.

The title of the drive is a takeoff on the old public safety campaign that said, “School’s Out! Watch Out for Kids!”? It meant drive more carefully because more kids would be out playing outside in the summer. In the same way more children are at risk of hunger in the summer as well.