Friday favorites: Buy a T-shirt, help rebuild a home for Sandy survivors

I’ve worked for charities for years, so I love seeing new and interesting ways of raising money for worthy causes.

I recently discovered, a website that raises money for a different charity every week by selling specially designed T-shirts. For each T-shirt they sell, they donate $7 to that week’s charity.

This week, they’re raising money for Forward Edge International to help survivors of Hurricane Sandy repair or rebuild their homes.

You can see this week’s T-shirt designs in this video.

The T-shirts tend to hover in the $25-30 range which, to my mind, makes them shirts, not T-shirts. They look gorgeous, and I would happily wear one to work. Then again, I work from home, so no one gives a crap what I wear.

Anyway, I recommend checking out their site and signing up to their newsletter or following them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Last week they raised money to fund undercover missions to free girls (yes, underage girls) from brothels in India. Who knows what they’ll fund next week, but if you’d like to do something nice for Sandy survivors and you can afford a new shirt, you have about three days left to get one from Sevenly.

What do you think of Sevenly’s idea? See any shirts you like? Do you know of other interesting fundraising sites?

Would you pay to browse in a bookshop?

Last Friday, I was listening to You & Yours, BBC Radio 4’s consumer affairs program, and heard the CEO of HarperCollins say something that stuck with me all weekend.

“Only 35% of fiction in the UK is bought through a physical bookshop…I don’t want to take the bookshop away. I desperately want to keep it. But I think the question is, will they be able to sustain themselves?…In America, certain shoe shops are charging to try on shoes because people are just going in, trying them on and then ordering them online. I think the idea of a bookshop becoming a book club is not that insane.”

Victoria Barnsley, CEO of HarperCollins UK and International

You can listen to the discussion on Radio 4’s website (it starts at 21 min 05 seconds).

My first reaction was to wonder which shoe shops in the U.S. charge people to try on shoes. Fortunately not the ones I’ve ever been to because I find shoes impossible to shop for.

My second reaction was fear, which seems to be my default mode when I think about the possibility of bookshops disappearing. I say that even though I rarely buy things from bookshops any more – but the main reason for that is because I live in a country where the English-language selection is small.

Two Dutch scholars browse at the University of Leiden, 1610
Two Dutch scholars browse at the University of Leiden, 1610

When I visit bookshops in the U.K. and U.S., I’m so excited to be surrounded by books that I inevitably walk out with my arms full and my credit card smoking. But I also completely understand people who browse in bookstores and then buy wherever they find the best deal – which will often be online.

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Friday favorites: A six year old gives great advice on how not to be scared

Bianca Giaever was just about to graduate with a degree in narrative studies (how cool does that sound?) and was a little nervous about what would happen next. She was creating a short film and asked six-year-old Asa what the film should be about. He told her a story about a bear and a mouse that ends up having a much deeper meaning. The miniature Aesop tells Bianca to think about the things she likes until “the nervous has gone out of you” – because the scared feeling is scared of all the things you like.

If you’re feeling scared or nervous, I think this video will help chase those feelings away – at least for about eight minutes. (You may have to refresh this post a couple of times in order to see the video player.)

the Scared is scared from Bianca Giaever on Vimeo. (I originally found this video on

I love Asa’s advice. For me, the last several months have been magical. A long-awaited baby on the way and my first book coming out in August..what more joy could I have? But, of course, those are both a very big deal, and they can bring the Nervous and the Scared.

So what will I think about when they hit me? The way new babies smell. Their sleepy smiles and their tight grip around your finger. Long hugs from Smarty Pants. The warmth of San Diego sunshine on my face. Fresh guacamole and salsa from my favorite Mexican restaurant. The decadent hot chocolate the cafe next door sells. The joy of discovering a new author I love. The way my abs ache from laughing when I’m with my friends.

What do you think of when the Nervous and the Scared attack you?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Will your relationship keep you alive longer?

Valentine heart chocolates, via
The annual day of candy- and card-pushers is here. For many, it’s just another day. For some, it’s a time to feel the pressure of making a grand romantic gesture. For Stuart Heritage, a journalist who writes for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, it’s a day to examine whether your relationship will keep you alive longer – or lead you to an early grave.

Brits are so fun.

Stuart put together this infographic – A one-page guide to your romantic happiness (or doom) – to tell you whether your life is happier with your partner in it. Since Smarty Pants and I have a baby on the way, I’ve discovered that this baby means my life is statistically likely to last longer. Apparently childless couples die younger, but have great holidays in the meantime – so it’s not all bad.

So tell me, where do you end up on this infographic?

Friday favorites: Letters from a British nurse in World War One

Up until a couple of years ago, I worked for the British Red Cross as a writer and editor. One of my favorite activities was talking to our archivist and finding interesting items that had been collected throughout the organization’s 145+ year history.

I thought you might like these letters, which our archivist pointed out to me just before I moved to the Netherlands. They’re letters from a Red Cross nurse who volunteered in Surrey during the First World War. Many wounded British soldiers were evacuated back to Britain to recover, and the author of these letters, Miss Dorothy M Robinson, nursed them back to health at Waverley Abbey Military Hospital.

You can read the original documents on Scribd, but I’ve also transcribed my favorite – the third in the series – below so it’s easier to read. I love it because she talks about so many things: how long she can make £2 last, what kinds of practical jokes the soldiers got up to, and what happens when a Zeppelin comes close. And, of course, the problem with servants. Her last line kills me every time I read it.

I originally wrote about these for the Red Cross because it was when season 2 of Downton Abbey was on TV in the UK, and Lady Sybil became a Red Cross nurse. So if you’re a Downton Abbey fan, here’s another upper-crust young woman doing her bit for the country.

And if you just like history, I hope you enjoy these letters.

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