Tuesday, December 28, 2021

End of year charitable Gift Giving Guide, Helping animal rescues and people

A year end charitable contribution can really make a difference, especially to a small non-profit. Small animal rescue groups have very few resources for "free money" and nearly all funding comes from private donations. Large umbrella groups often pay large administration fees and have seemingly unlimited advertising budgets. They rarely trickle down donations to local organizations and often are not even affiliated.

Look for groups that truly need your help! I've even found a small niche group that is not local to me that I particularly like. Research your non-profit to determine how much money actually goes to the services it provides (vs administration and fundraising). Smaller non-profits might not be registered but an online search of their reviews can be helpful.

It's not too late make a gift in honor or in memory. Holidays are often tough for those that have lost someone during the holiday season. Sadly my Grandmother passed on Christmas Day and it was her favorite holiday. A year end "in memory" donation might be the most thoughtful gift one could make. It never made sense to me to mail a Happy Holidays card to someone that had a recent loss, turn it around and send a "hoping you will find peace in 2022" message.

This year, in lieu of gifts, I requested for donations to be made to one of  my favorite non-profits. Many have social media sites on Facebook that provide frequent updates.

HOWS, Houses of Wood and Straw is an animal rescue charity that serves several counties in my area. They initially began building sturdy dog houses for chained dogs and have expanded to erecting fencing to get dogs off chains. Because of my animal rescue background, I've been a supporter for years. I understand very well the difficulty in Virginia to remove animals from a bad situation. Laws permit people to keep outside dogs and often the situation is dire. HOWS provides EYES into the community and at least makes a bad situation the best it can be, providing medical care, guidance, and property improvements. Sometimes even getting lucky by counseling pet owners to allow them to find a warm and cozy inside home for their dog(s).

My second favorite animal rescue is a niche organization in Alabama that rescues chickens. Sweet Peeps Microsanctuary rescues factory farm chickens, and even chickens that were slated to be killed in religious ceremonies. Operated by the daughter of one of my good friends, I know the funds are used appropriately. The first time I saw a truck of chickens headed for slaughter in South Carolina, I broke down in tears. It took me many years to wean myself off of chicken and turkey meat but it made such an impression to me that I never forgot this experience. Getting to know chickens on a personal level by having a flock of chickens of my own has opened my eyes to their varied personalities and antics.

Local wildlife rescues are often loaded with animals receiving very specialized care. Two of my favorites located in different areas of Virginia are Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary and Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke.

If animals are not on the top of your list for donation, Meals on Wheels is one of my favorite assistance programs. Providing a hot meal can often be the difference between living at home or in a facility. Covid has been especially hard on those living in care facilities. Meals on Wheels can sometimes be the first line of assistance for not only serving a meal but for checking in on someone to see if they are OK. Give directly to your local community group not the large umbrella group. 

I can't image being homeless but one would presume this to be the first step of decline of ones inner soul. We are very fortunate to have The Haven in Charlottesville that address this basic need. Highly rated on Charity Navigator (under Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless).

Be wise with your giving and do some research first. IRS tax laws have been improved this year for charitable giving. In general, $300 for single and $600 for married filing. 


Friday, December 24, 2021

Shops at Stonefield Lighted Christmas Tree Walk in Charlottesville VA

A nice holiday outing in Charlottesville Virginia is The Tinsel Trail at the Shops at Stonefield. Hosted by the Junior League of Charlottesville it features 50 Christmas Trees uniquely decorated by local businesses. 

The outdoor decorations will ring in the New Year, on display until January 2nd.  

Get in the spirit and check it out - it's free! Every year we take a little car tour of the lights and we added this to the list. Bundle up, it was only 40 degrees last night when we toured the trees. 

There is also a very pretty tree in front of the movie theatre and many of the trees along the walkways are also lighted.

Restaurants and businesses were open as we strolled around. It's prettiest at night but you can check it out day or night. Next to Burger Bach.

Enjoy my video of our tour 


Monday, August 23, 2021

Best items in Lidl, Grand opening of store in Charlottesville, Virginia

Since the grand opening of Lidl Food Market in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 14, I've been exploring their unique options. The first trip into the store I was a little overwhelmed by the layout and offerings. But the seduction of a register coupon for $10.00 off when you purchase $30.00 was enticing so I came back the following week.

My positive experiences with Lidl (pronounced Leedl) encouraged me to blog about our new store and some of the best tasting products that I have discovered thus far. I specifically hunt for items with limited ingredients or that are organic. Many of the tasty items of course contain sugar but my picks generally do not have an obnoxious amount. I will leave label analysis up to each of my readers.

The second time in the store was easier to navigate. During this trip I roamed through the non-food items that include kitchen and home goods plus a little clothing. I was shocked to discover they had tall back chair cushions that might fit my 1980's retro outdoor patio furniture. I gave up years ago on trying to find them but took one home for a fitting. Presuming I was on the only person on the planet that needed to fit this style of chair I waited until the following week to buy the other matching three. Sadly when I returned, they were all scarfed up! This led me to contact Lidl.com, who responded immediately and directed me to other nearby stores that had this item in stock. I was thrilled at the quality and great pricing of this item!

I'm totally hooked on the pack of four light and fluffy brioche burger buns. They toast up really quickly so beware, they can burn easily. Hands down better than any other plain bun that I've eaten and a nice quantity for households that don't have a large family. There also is an inhouse bakery that churns out a lot of different breads and pastries. None of which I've tried so there could be some really nice options here as well. 

I should mention the layout of our store, when you enter you will find produce and seafood freezers. The rest of the frozen food wraps around the entire back and other side of the store. Finding other packaged dinners, ice cream and veggies on the opposite side of the store near the check out lines.

Another favorite is the Lidl labeled Whole Wheat and 12 Grain Bread. My husband loves both of these pan sized breads and the price is incredible. The only downside is that they are not organic but I don't always purchase organic bread so it's not a deal breaker for us.

There were not a lot of organic produce options. Lidl advertises they provide the lowest prices so possibly this is a difficult task when supplying organic but one would presume consumers would realize organic sadly often costs more. Hoping the Charlottesville market will encourage Lidl on this front for future offerings.

Also stocked is refrigerated Lidl Orange Strawberry Banana Juice. I never drink any packaged juices but we had company in town and did serve this with breakfast and it was a sweet not overly banana in flavor blend. It was one of my few shocking amounts of sugar items (all bottled fruit juices will be) but was pleased that it was organic.

Next row over is the specialty imported item section. Mainly sweet treats, teas, coffee, oils, and jarred items. I found a nice bottle of  Grapeseed Oil. The only return that I made was for an organic bag of coffee that I found very acid leaving a very unsatisfactory, undrinkable taste in my mouth. I would not purchase again either of the organic coffees they offer. Lidl is a German company so possibly in Germany they prefer a more acid coffee. I disliked it immensely. Lidl has a 100% satisfaction guarantee in all their 10,500 stores, so you can always bring back what doesn't float your boat.

Lidl operates in 29 countries around the world.

In the specialty section we found two items that our household hands down loved. The number one sweet treat was the dark chocolate topped butter cookies. I even made a Smore out of 2 of them and it was fabulous. I purchased the Chocolate chip Shortbread cookies out of desperation when they were out of my number one choice and they too were very nice. Fortunately, I was glad to find the butter cookies in stock when I went back the following week! 


A few more honorable mentions; I was happy to find Lidl labeled organic apple sauce which was excellent! The organic Planet Oat Oatmilk is very nice and does not contain added sugar or Sunflower oil which is always a negative for me as that particular oil is highly inflammatory. The organic eggs are reasonably priced and are in recyclable cardboard - YAY! The Lidl flavored seltzers are tasty - mango and grapefruit I've tried and are nice. Happy to see bottled gallon jugs of Drinking Water that I need for my one sensitive stomach cat :) The box of 40 green tea bags has a decent flavor for bagged tea (I typically drink loose tea but nice to have a back up). The Lidl small chunk light canned tuna in water also has a nice pleasing flavor. Beyond Meat Sausage patties and a decent tasting Falafel are in the freezer section. Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies make my husband happy.

A few more items that I would like to try have been sold out. Understandable for a new store opening trying to gauge consumer likes and dislikes. No worries, I'm hooked so will be back!
I remember going into Trader Joe's for the first time and saying I didn't get what all the excitement was about. It seems we often think this way until we get used to the store layout and their offerings. I've changed my mind in both instances about Trader Joe's and Lidl. Give it a try a few times - leave a comment about your Lidl favorites so others can give them a try!


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