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I hate cleaning out the fridge. Granted, in truth I don’t know anyone who enjoys cleaning out the fridge, but still. It’s not one of my favorite chores. Putting aside the fact that it usually makes for extra dishes and there’s almost always one science experiment of questionable growth, the real reason I hate it so much is the guilt. Inevitably, there’s at least one (formerly) good meal worth of food that I end up throwing out. It reminds me very clearly that I can be so wasteful sometimes and take my ability to buy more food for granted. I don’t do it on purpose, of course. In fact, I’d love to blame it on the design of the fridge and point to the fact that it usually gets lost behind the almond milk, but truthfully, I sometimes fail to remember there were leftovers and at other times just don’t want to eat the same meal for the fourth day in a row.

Recently I have started to batch cook on weekends because I find my weekdays so busy and without any extra energy for cooking. It’s a new endeavor, but I’m worried that this is going to further exacerbate my tendencies to waste food. (There’s simply more food to waste!) So, that’s why I’m setting up this 5-Minute Friday Challenge. It’s mostly for myself, but I figured maybe this would resonate with others and perhaps together we could help each other out. The challenge is to not waste any leftovers this week. I’m extending this to include fruit and veggies, too, as those can sometimes languish in the drawer until their molecular structure qualifies them as a liquid. (Please tell me I’m not the only one here?)

It sounds like an easy challenge with a clear plan of attack — just eat more! However, we could also put a few minutes of thought and planning into our efforts for success without adding to our waistline.  🙂  Here are some thoughts and tips I’ve come up with to help us both do our best this week:

  1. Shop often for small amounts. I like to do weekly grocery shopping, but it’s really better when I go twice as then my produce is fresher and I’m less likely to wait too long to eat it.
  2. Buy frozen when possible. I do this with vegetables especially. It’s so much easier to just use what I need and put the rest of the bag back in the freezer.
  3. When batch cooking, store a couple servings in the freezer. I am finding that if you skim one serving right off the top and pop it in the freezer you don’t miss it and then you have an emergency store of frozen meals for nights when you run out of food.
  4. Make more than one dish. This might sound counter-productive, but if you’re the type that doesn’t want to eat the same thing every day, give yourself a couple of options and switch back and forth to change it up.
  5. Plan ahead. Not only what you’re going to cook this week, but also your grocery list — and be specific! Don’t just list “tomatoes”. List “4 medium sized tomatoes”. Otherwise you might buy more than you need.
  6. Think of a catch-all dish that you could make that would use up random leftovers — like a stir-fry, smoothies or veggie soup.

Perhaps you’re already good at this — if so, please share some tips with the rest of us! I for one am excited to start in with a new energy and focus to end my waste of food and with it my guilt. Plus, perhaps a cleaner fridge? It’s a win-win!

Don't Waste Your Leftovers | The Giving Back Society | Helping End Food Waste



I was welcomed into the “Tuesday Night Team” at Forgotten Felines Cat Shelter in Westbrook, Connecticut to experience and document what it’s like to volunteer at a cat shelter! (Click here or the video to watch my mini-documentary of the undertaking.)

The Giving Back Society Volunteers at a Cat Shelter

I’ve volunteered at cat shelters before, but never on the cleaning crew so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Seriously, I struggle to keep up with all the cleaning at home, so why was I volunteering to do more? What I hadn’t understood was the camaraderie on the team — we weren’t going through the motions before diving into a Netflix binge, we were all together making jokes, laughing, having fun! It was a really light-hearted atmosphere that was wonderful to be a part of. Plus, the work wasn’t that bad at all — they split it up between everyone so it didn’t take that long to complete our part. Finally, THERE WERE KITTIES EVERYWHERE! Sorry to go all caps on you, but it really makes a difference to see the adorable furry friends whom you’re helping wandering around the room. The purpose of the shelter is to keep the kitties safe healthy until they can be adopted into a forever home and by simply showing up to clean for two hours once a week you’re helping that cause in a big way!

A HUGE thank you to Forgotten Felines for letting me use their shelter for the first of what will hopefully be a series of videos volunteering at various non-profits. Considering I had never tried to film and volunteer at the same time, this could have been a disaster! But, the kitties were a convenient distraction from my poor selfie-style filming abilities. However, practice makes perfect (or purrfect!) so I can’t wait to make the next one!

In the meantime, please reach out to your local cat shelter (or any animal shelter) and volunteer a couple hours a week to make a difference for them. You can check for local shelters near you. And if you’d like to help Forgotten Felines directly, they have a wonderful page on their website called “Take Action” with the various ways you can support them!



One of the Facebook groups I follow recently posted the question, “If you could wave a magic wand and fix any problem, what would it be?” Wow, did that get my mind thinking… So many ideas floated through my head — end world hunger, clean our oceans, climate change… How does one choose? But, before the potential overwhelm set in, I realized I already knew my answer.

If you look back at the history of my volunteer efforts, you’d see that most of them revolved around helping shelter pets. That’s my to-go cause because I am simply most passionate about it. I’ve always loved animals and when I visited our local animal shelter to adopt my first pet (as an adult out on my own) things just clicked. But, how does that journey happen for others? How does one cause jump to the top of the list of all the problems that need fixing?

I’ve watched friends throughout the years also discover their top cause. Most have been health-related with those they loved (or themselves) being diagnosed with disease, or experiencing the premature birth of a child. After witnessing (or living through) these struggles, what came out of it was a desire to help others who struggled through the same experience they had.

For my fiancé, his journey started decades ago when he was enlightened to the plight of factory farming and became a dedicated animal activist and decades-long vegetarian then vegan. So, his example revolves around education and awareness.

This makes me wonder if there are other ways a cause can become someone’s single magic wand wish. A love for those in need, life events or awareness of an injustice are what I’ve witnessed, but are there others? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I’m also curious to know what your wish would be!

I know it’s silly to dream of magic flying in to fix our problems, but perhaps if we believed in it a little bit more we’d realize that we already have the magic inside ourselves to help make a difference, even without the wand.

The Giving Back Society | Building Compassion Through Volunteerism



“You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.” – Evan Esar

The Giving Back Society | Building Compassion Through Volunteerism



Doing a little late night design work for a local cat shelter, designing their 2019 fundraising calendar. It can be tough to fit in projects like this, but it feels so good to enable them to raise much needed funds for the kitties! Never underestimate how needed your skills or talents can be to those helping causes you care about!

The Giving Back Society | Helping High School Students Gain Skills Through Volunteerism



Small changes are easy to make, right? Using reusable grocery bags, going meat-free at dinner one night a week, donating a can of food to the soup kitchen at the grocery store checkout… All of these actions are relatively simple and just a scratch on the surface of all the small things we can do. But, it’s easy to think that these tiny efforts won’t really have any impact. We tend to gravitate towards the bold gesture, the huge change with the biggest results. We want the headline story, not the sidebar. Go big or go home! But, I think this is where many of our efforts to expand our impact tend to go wrong.

When we find causes we’re passionate about, we want to bring others on board, too. It’s only natural. But, we need to remember that they might not be as devoted to the cause as we are and therefore not as willing to go all in. This is where the small changes shine. With a little awareness as to why your cause is so important and if your call to action is something that is relatively easy to do, then you’re more likely to affect change in others. And these small changes add up so quickly! Did you know that by turning off the water while you brush your teeth you can save 200 gallons of water a month?* Now convince 10 people to do the same and you’ve saved 2,000 gallons a month! How about 100? It adds up so quickly to real, tangible change.

So next time you’re starting a campaign to make a difference for a cause you care about, don’t be afraid to think small. You’ll get more people on board with your efforts and that will add up to the headline feature in no time!


The Giving Back Society | Building Compassion Through Volunteerism



After seeing a picture floating around social media of a bee waterer, I knew I had to make one of my own. What’s a bee waterer, you ask? Well, basically, it’s a shallow dish of water that allows for bees and other pollinators to drink and stay hydrated. But, you also need to be sure that they can’t drown, so the easy solution we followed was to use marbles for them to rest on while they drink!

I set out searching for clear marbles on Amazon, but my fiancĂ© brilliantly suggested the dollar store and he was right — I was able to get a pan and two bags of marbles for, well, obviously $3. I could have gotten away with one bag of marbles I think, but since I had bought two I used them both and filled the dish a bit higher.

Here’s all that I used for this project (plus water, obviously):

Bee Waterer for $3 by The Giving Back Society

Then I washed everything — not sure I really needed to, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I was careful with the marbles though as I didn’t want them down my garbage disposal. A strainer worked pretty well in the end.

Bee Waterer for $3 by The Giving Back Society

Next I poured the marbles into the pan (which was just a simple metal pie pan) and brought it outside. Then I filled it — not too much as the whole point is for water to be up to the marbles, but not over them as to cause potential for drowning.

Bee Waterer for $3 by The Giving Back Society

And voila! A bee waterer. At least that’s what it’s meant for. It’s going to be interesting to watch over the next few weeks who (if anyone) actually uses it. I’m hoping that by putting it on the table our nighttime visitors (like raccoons) will leave it alone. (They have a dog water bowl on the deck which they use all the time, along with the birds and squirrels during the day.) So, we’ll keep an eye out and try to snap some pictures for updates if anyone likes this new waterer!

Bee Waterer for $3 by The Giving Back Society


My Hopes and Heartbreak When Rescuing an Injured Turtle

Driving home yesterday I saw a snapping turtle on the other side of the road who had been hit by a car. It was a quiet road, so I was able to back up and take a closer look — at first glance it definitely looked like it had been killed. But, from some earlier research I knew that just because a turtle’s shell has been broken doesn’t mean that they’re dead. So, I got out of my car to investigate a bit. (I should point out that this was a very quiet country road — be super careful if you’re ever doing this in a busy area). Anyhow, I will admit I was surprised when the turtle moved — and it also put me into a bit of a panic! What do I do? How can I help? I knew the turtle was in rough shape (poor thing), but I also knew that leaving it there on the road would most likely result in certain death. So, I decided to take the turtle to someone who could try and help it — a wildlife rehabilitator. (If you’re not familiar with the term, these are people who are certified to care for and rehabilitate wild animals. This isn’t a paying gig or a chance to keep cute wild animals as pets. These are dedicated people who nurse wildlife back to health with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. I could go on and on about how wonderful I think they are, but I’ll save that for another post.)

Not having a box in my car meant that I had to get a bit creative — you can see the picture below, which is almost embarrassing to post as it looks a bit bizarre. I had taken a small blanket and wrapped it over the turtle’s back and used it to pick her up. (Even though she looked pretty out of it, she still was a snapper after all, so I didn’t want to get nipped.) I then tucked her into a totebag (please don’t judge — it was the best I had!) and put her on the backseat of my car. I didn’t want to leave her out because I knew I would be distracted, plus she was bleeding a bit. So, wrapping her up (very gently) seemed like the best option. A very nice lady stopped and helped me to get her in the bag.

Snapping Turtle Rescue Attempt

Then we were off. I called my boyfriend and my Mom and set them to work on Google to find the best place to bring the turtle while I drove towards the highway. They both did great communicating with groups on Facebook and finding phone numbers. One number was for The Turtle’s Back — a woman who specializes in native turtle rehabilitation. Thankfully, she was home when I called and I got her address to deliver the turtle. It was about a 25 minute drive, so we headed out right away. My adrenaline was going at that point (I’m driving with an injured snapping turtle in a totebag on my backseat — what is happening here?) so I tried to soothe both of us with some classical music. Not sure if it helped the poor turtle, but it helped me a bit. I found what I thought was the right house, but couldn’t find a number, so I knocked on the door and was so grateful when they asked “You’re here with the turtle?. (I wonder how often their neighbors get accidental deliveries!)

I met Pam in her driveway and she took a look at our patient. She was so incredibly kind and you could tell that she really knew her stuff. Unfortunately, the turtle (who was suspected to be a girl) was hit right behind her neck which was kind of like a spinal cord injury for a person. Pam warned me that it was a rough injury and that we would have to wait and see. Turtles can be very resilient, but the first 72 hours are the highest risk. I stood there soaking up the information and restraining myself from wanting to cuddle the poor turtle to comfort her (which would obviously just make things worse, duh, but #empathy…). I promised to send along my contact info and where I found the turtle as Pam needed that info for her records. I also took these two quick pictures to share with those who had helped me rescue her, but I’ll warn you that they are pretty sad, so scroll quickly if you don’t want to see…

Snapping Turtle Rescue Attempt

Snapping Turtle Rescue Attempt

Unfortunately, when I reached out this morning to see how my little rescue turtle was doing, I heard back that she didn’t make it through the night. I’ll be honest with you, I shed a few tears over the news as it was so sad to think of her dying just because she was trying to get to her pond. But, I also knew that with the efforts of our small team, we at least kept her from getting hit again, causing even more pain, or cooking all day long on the road if she couldn’t get to shade.

All day today I went back and forth about whether or not to share this story. It’s not something with a happy ending. Nor am I looking for credit for such a small effort. I also didn’t want to exploit her suffering just for content for a blog post. In the end, the reason I am writing this is because I thought maybe other people might think twice when they drive by an injured turtle and now know that just because their shell is broken doesn’t mean that they’ve already passed. With the right help the turtle might survive and that’s the story I hope you get to write one day.

Extra Turtle Tips: If you’re lucky enough to see a turtle crossing the road who isn’t injured, help them along to the side of the street **in the direction they were already going**. I also recommend looking up a turtle rehabilitator and getting their contact info into your phone so you’re not struggling like I was. Oh! And put a cardboard box and gloves in your car — so much better than a blanket and totebag!


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