Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book Review: Close to You

Hi Friends! Remember how I had a long list of mostly serious books to read at the beginning of the year, and mentioned I was going to need to work in some lighter reads for fun? Well, I found a good one! Close to You by Kara Isaac comes out April 26th, and you will definitely want to put it on your summer reading list!

When Howard books told me about this story, I jumped at the chance to read it. Both my sister and my cousin lived and studied in New Zealand in college. I'm the only one in my immediate family who hasn't been there, so this was my imaginary ticket! The main character is smart and funny kiwi Allison Shire who keeps on keeping on in the midst of her life's biggest disaster to date. At the moment, that means this scholar, with a doctorate in literature, is leading tours all over New Zealand with groups dressed entirely in Lord of the Rings garb and speaking Elvish.
Meanwhile Jackson Gregory has signed up for the ultimate LOTR fan club tour in order to schmooze his great uncle into investing in his business--an investment he desperately needs. The only problem is, Jackson knows nothing about The Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. Perfect. 
If you've ever wanted to traipse all over New Zealand, if you've ever had a career disaster (like both of these main characters), if you've ever read a Lord of the Rings book (or seen the movies), or if you just like a good love story; you will love this book! It is well written, with a great setting and fun characters. This is Kara Isaac's first book. How I love to see people succeed! 
Happy reading!

** Howard Books gave me a free copy of this book for my honest review. All opinions on my blog are my own. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sole Hope

Hi Friends! We are on Spring break this week and loving it!  Trees are starting to come alive with new leaves and even some blossoms. I love spring because it's like all of nature is coming back to life. It's so exciting to see something new. Along those lines, I have discovered something new (well, new to me). It's an organization called Sole Hope. They are based in Jinja Uganda and they are helping to solve a unique problem. Several years ago a couple read about how many people in Africa are infected by jiggers, a sand flea that burrows into toes and the webbing between them, and then lays thousands of eggs. These fleas in the feet are very painful and and lead to other diseases. They looked at all the angles of solving the problem and then created Sole Hope. They bring in people who have jiggers (or travel to them), and clean their feet, remove the jiggers, and provide education about how to keep from getting them. Then each person is given a new pair of shoes as well as a foot care kit, and finally their house and property is sprayed with a pesticide that kills the jiggers to eradicate them and keep everyone healthy. Watch their video here for a peek into what they do!

One of my favorite parts about the organization is that they employ local shoe makers to make the shoes that they distribute. I read once about how some well-meaning shoe companies had actually hurt communities by giving everyone a pair of shoes, putting the local cobblers out of business and causing them to have to move elsewhere for work. Then when those shoes had been worn though there was no where to get shoes. I love this more sustainable approach. Best of all, they invite people like you and I to be a part of this process. The shoes are all made out of recycled blue jean or denim. In order to make shipping as efficient as possible, Sole Hope asks groups in the U.S. to get together and have a "Shoe Cutting Party." Last week we had a cutting party and it was fun and easy! We gathered up our old jeans that have been waiting for a project such as this. The fronts of these pants are pretty worn,

but the backs are still in great shape, perfect for cutting out shoe pieces! If you don't have jeans, you can also just buy a few XL pairs at the thrift store. 

So we rounded up our jeans, 

ordered a party pack with the patterns and instructions (order a cutting party here), and invited friends to come over and trace and cut. 

For each pair ten pieces get cut out of denim

and two pieces get cut out of plastic milk jugs, as heel supports.

Then all those pieces get pinned together and labeled,

and put into packs of 10 in a gallon size bag. Everyone that comes is asked to bring just $10 help cover the cost of paying the shoe makers in Uganda, and shipping the materials. Best $10 you'll spend!

When you see how much trash there is just between all the seams, buttons and pockets, you realize how efficient it really is to cut them here and ship only the needed pieces. We saved the pockets for a later project...stay tuned :)

I have already planned a second cutting party, and I'm thinking this will be something we do on a regular basis.  I love their awesome holistic model. Check out Sole Hope's website here. 

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