‘Tis The Season of Giving!

Okay, Bits and Bramblers, we’ve already talked about how we’re in the holiday spirit, right? With the shopping and the decking the halls and the gifts? Well…now let’s talk about the other part of the holiday: giving back. After all, there are a few easy (and awesome) ways to give back to those in need this holiday season.

First, there’s one of my all-time favorite sites: Free Rice. If you haven’t used the site before, here’s how it works: you pick a subject–anything from English Vocabulary to Human Anatomy–and you answer trivia questions. If you’re right, you automatically donate ten grains of rice. The more questions you answer correctly, the more rice you donate. It’s a win/win/win: you get to show off how smart you are, you get to learn new things to impress your family, friends, and teachers, and you donate rice to those in need.

And speaking of those in need, it’s hard not to think about the tragedy that happened last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School-and it’s especially hard not to think about the victims, their families, and their friends. If you’d like to make a donation–and you have your parent or guardian’s permission–consider the United Way of Western Connecticut. They’ve set up the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, which will provide support services to the families and the community that needs them.

It’s strange, isn’t it? With everything that’s happened, the world can seem like a very dark and very sad place. But there’s one surefire way to make it brighter–and that’s helping people. After all…it is the season of giving. So wherever you are, Bits and Bramblers, HAVE A VERY SAFE AND HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON.

And because we could all use a little laughter, here’s the Santa Claus…soap dispenser…drowning in…pudding, with a crazy legs…snowman. (It’ll make you laugh. Just trust me on this one.)

‘Tis the Season of Giving!

Okay, Bits and Bramblers…we are definitely in the season. Have you done your shopping? Decked your halls? Baked your gingerbread? ‘Cause like I said, it’s definitely the season. And it’s the SEASON OF GIVING!

Because while you’ve giving gifts to all your friends and family, it’s always good to give a little to those in need, right? And it’s easier than you think. You can…

  • Go to FreeRice. All you have to do is answer some easy trivia questions on English vocabulary, math, geography, and lots of other subjects. For every correct answer, ten grains of rice will be donated to the people that need it the most. And you get smarter. That’s what we call a win-win
  • Check out FreeKibble (because animals need our help, too!) This site is a lot like FreeRice, with one minor difference–it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. All you have to do is answer a trivia question, and ten pieces of Kibble will be donated to animal shelters to help feed hungry dogs. After all, nobody deserves to be hungry over the holidays, not even our furry friends.
  • Head over to the Bread Art Project They give you a piece of virtual bread, and you decorate–or toast it–any way you like. Submit your bread art, and if it’s approved, the Grain Foods Foundation will donate a dollar to Share Our Strength, an awesome organization dedicated to ending Childhood Hunger. And what’s not to love about turning bread into art?!
  • Shift your gift! It’s pretty much exactly like it sounds. Try Shift My Gift! After you get your parents’ permission, you can create a profile, picking different nonprofit organizations that are important to you. Then your friends and family can make donations…and shift your gift!
  • Give back to the Mansfield community. Get your parent’s permission, and make a donation to the Richland County United Way. Every year, the United Way has a holiday fundraiser to help throughout the year. So far, they’ve raised about 57% of their goal…and you still have time to help them reach it, and make a difference here in Richland County!

…See? Told you it was easy. And nothing makes you feel quite so good as helping another person, right? But no matter who you help, or what you do…have a safe and happy holiday season, Bits and Bramblers!

‘Tis the Season of Giving: Free Your Footprint


Brrrrrrrrrr, Bits and Bramblers! I don’t know about you, but Jack Frost has definitely been nipping at my nose this week. As well as pretty much every other part of me. Last week it was kind of fun, you know? The cold, and the snow. It helped fill me with holiday cheer. Now I’m still full of holiday cheer, but I’m reeeeallllly sick and tired of the snow. It’s probably not a good sign, considering it’s…you know…not technically winter yet.

Enough about the snow—let’s talk more about holiday cheer! Well…let’s talk a little bit more about the snow. Did you know that snow can fall from any cloud that is layered? It’s true…and you can find out more facts like this at Free Your Footprint!

Now…it works a little like FreeRice. You head to the website, and you pick a subject—like Eco-trivia or Random Trivia—and play the game. When you get one answer right, you offset one pound of carbon dioxide emissions. If you get 20 right, you offset the average of a daily commute. And if you get 25 right, you offset an average day’s worth of energy consumption. Pretty awesome, right?!

There’s no downside to this, Bits and Bramblers. You learn cool things that will impress your teachers, family, and friends (and who doesn’t love that, right?!) and you’re helping the environment. And when it comes to the season of giving? Helping the environment is a great way to give back.

So what are you waiting for? It’s cold out there, so grab a cup of cocoa (but don’t forget the marshmallows,) head to Free Your Footprint, and give back to the environment! And if you’re still a little confused by all this “emissions” stuff, check out this video…it should help!

‘Tis the Season of Giving: Bread Art


…It’s cold out there, Bits and Bramblers. It’s mittens, earmuffs, and scarves cold. It’s “I need hot cocoa now!” cold. The good thing, I guess, is that mittens, earmuffs, scarves, and cocoa get all of us into the holiday spirit, right? We’re full of cheer, when we’re not freezing to death. And on that note, it’s time for another ‘TIS THE SEASON OF GIVING post, where we share ways you can use all that holiday cheer, and give back to those in need this season.

I don’t think anybody will be surprised to hear that we have a problem with childhood hunger in this country…but you know that hunger impairs a child’s growth and development? Luckily, there are sites like Bread Art that are working to end childhood hunger in our country. Bread Art is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—it’s art. Made of bread. Well, virtual bread, which is even better. Once you visit the site, you can go to the art gallery and view the submissions of other people, and you can paint your own bread art (errrr…you can toast your own bread art.)

But you know the best part? With every piece of bread you turn into art, money is donated to Share Our Strength and Go With the Grain—two organizations that want to TOAST CHILDHOOD HUNGER(Yes, it was a bad pun. Absolutely groan-worthy. But hey…it’s the holidays! Bad puns are okay during the holidays!)

So what are you waiting for, Bits and Bramblers? Check out this super-helpful video, then head to the Bread Art Project, and use your creativity to help fight childhood hunger!

‘Tis the Season of Giving: The New and Improved FreeRice


There’s a definite chill in the air, Bits and Bramblers. Yesterday, we got just enough snow to build a tiny snowman (but let’s be honest—it’s definitely more fun to throw snowballs at your friends.) Aaaaanyway…my point is, it’s beginning to look and feel like the holiday season!

Now, we all know the holidays are a time for tradition…right? So here at Bits and Brambles, we’re keeping a tradition of our own…a series of posts about different websites you can visit, and charities you can contact to help give back to those in need. After all…‘Tis the Season of Giving, right? And we all know that giving is better than receiving, right?

I know I’ve shared FreeRice with you before, but it’s one of my favorite websites ever. It’s an online game that’s a little bit like taking a vocabulary test (*coughgreatACT/SATpracticecough*). But your capacious vocabulary (that’s right, capacious. That’s why you need to play the game!) isn’t the best part about playing the game—the best part is that for every word you get correct, FreeRice donates 10 grains of rice through the United Nations’ World Food Program. So you’re learning new things, and feeding the hungry. What could be better than that?! There’s only one thing I can think of…and that’s the new, improved FreeRice!

Now if you visit the site, you’ll have more than an illimitable (seriously, play the game!) vocabulary—because there are several different games you can play. You can match a famous work of art with the artist who created it, and you can learn all about the periodic table of elements and quiz yourself on the symbols. There are quizzes on languages like Spanish and Italian, Math/Pre-Alegebra, and much more! But the point is the same—you learn new things, and you help feed the hungry. Everybody wins, right?! There’s no downside. You get smarter, and the people that need food most get it. It’s really that simple.

You can learn a little bit more about this made-of-awesome website from this video…then start clicking, and help end world hunger!

Need a Snow Distraction?

I’ll be honest with you Bits and Bramblers. I’m one of those people that likes snow in December, but…after that? Not so much. By this point, though, even those crazies that like snow are sick of it. Even snow days are getting boring, and that’s because there’s only so much you can do with snow before it gets old. Snowmen? Built four of ‘em. Snowball fight? Please. Snow Angels? They’ll just get covered up in an hour by MORE SNOW. Blech.

But you’re smarter than that, right? You’re sitting in front of the warming glow of a computer. And you’ve come to the right place, because I have just the thing to keep you entertained. Why not play Ayiti: The Cost of Life? It’s a little like The Oregon Trail…but instead of getting across the U.S. in one piece, your job is to help one of rural Haiti’s families stay happy, healthy, and educated over a four year period (and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that things in Haiti have been pretty horrific lately…)

The thing is…I’m really bad at this game. I keep driving my family into poverty (not on purpose though. Then again, everyone in my covered wagon usually died of typhoid on the way to Oregon. Stupid typhoid…) But I’m sure you’ll be much better at the game than me, and it will give you a good idea of how difficult life is in Haiti (especially now!) And speaking of Haiti, you can make the “Season of Giving” last all year by donating to the relief effort, if you can (and remember…you need your parents permission!)

Hopefully, this distracts you from the snow! But still… stay safe and warm, Bits and Bramblers! We’ll leave you with one of my favorite performances from the Hope for Haiti telethon…here’s Coldplay with “A Message”!

‘Tis the Season of Giving: at Home


So…over the past couple weeks, we’ve shared some fantastic organizations with you, Bits and Bramblers—like FreeRice, Kiva, and Heifer International. And while they all do great things all over the world, our last “‘Tis Season of Giving” organization is all about making a difference right here in Richland County. They help people in need throughout the community, and you—that’s right, you—can help, too.

The United Way of Richland County works “to increase the capacity of Richland County citizens to care for one another by bringing together all elements of the community to plan, support, deliver, and monitor quality human services.”

Which is just a fancy way of saying that they help people with everything from education to health care.


…And right now? The United Way is looking for heroes. Now, they aren’t really looking for superheroes—don’t get the two confused—but regular, everyday heroes who care enough to help those in need. See, they’re trying to raise a total of $1,701,000.00 by the end of the year.

Now…that’s a lot of money, right? I mean, it totally is…but when you think about it? It can do so much for those in need, right here in Richland County. The good thing is, they’ve already raised a bunch of money…$852,296.19 as of December 18th! But there’s still a long way to go…so if you’re in the spirit of giving, you—that’s right, you—can help!

First off—and most importantlyget your parents permission. Next, call the United Way offices at (419) 525-2816, or head to the United Way website and click the DONATE button. Remember…every little bit helps, and then they’re that much closer to meeting their goal!

So get moving, Bits and Bramblers…help the United Way today, and LIVE UNITED!


‘Tis The Season of Giving: Heifer International


I’m just going to assume that you’re in the holiday spirit, Bits and Bramblers. You’re catching snowflakes on your tongue, enjoying your winter break (or counting down the minutes until it begins.) So it’s the perfect time to talk about another organization that will help you—that’s right, yougive back to those most in need.

Today, we’ll be talking about an organization that does something really simple—it gives people animals. And by doing that, it helps villages and communities grow.
See, Heifer International provides animals like cows, sheep, and even flocks of chicks to villages and communities who need them—in 53 countries across the world (including the United States!)

An animal can do so much—they provide food (like milk and eggs,) and material to make clothing (like wool.) And best of all, Heifer International encourages people to “pay the gift foward,” meaning the people fortunate enough to receive animals from the organization then give baby animals to other needy villages. Again…it’s totally a win/win!

So here’s how you—yes, you—can help. Once you get your parents permissionand that part is super important—you can head to the website, and click GIVE to see the online catalog. You can donate as little as $10, which helps pay for the price of an animal, like a water buffalo or a trio of rabbits! And just like that, you’re helping a village or community get stronger…all thanks to an animal!

You can learn a little more about the organization in this video (with a little help from TV Chef Alton Brown.) What are you waiting for, Bits and Bramblers? Head over to Heifer International, and change someone’s community for the better!

‘Tis the Season of Giving: Kiva


Are you in the holiday spirit yet, Bits and Bramblers? If it took you a second to answer that question…then you’re definitely in the right place! After all, nothing gets you in the holiday spirit like giving. And here at Bits and Brambles, we’re all about giving back. That’s why we’re sharing different websites and nonprofit organizations that are making a difference m to those most in need this holiday season. And you—that’s right, you—can help!

So…let’s talk about Kiva. Their mission is “to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty” (and I think we can all agree that’s a pretty awesome mission, right?) But it’s how they help people that make them so cool. Have you ever heard of microfinance?


…Yeah, I hadn’t either. Basically, all it means is that banks lend small amount of money to low-income clients—who generally can’t get loans. But what Kiva does is a little different though. The site helps real people from all over the world—from Kenya to here in the U.S.—who trying to start a business of their very own business (like a grocery store, or even a farm.) Except…they don’t rely on banks to give microloans.

That’s because Kiva is the first person-to-person micro-lending website.” And that’s where you–that’s right, you—come in. First, obviously, you need your parents permission. Next, you can head back to the Kiva website, and click the LEND button to see a list of real people with real goals. Once you decide who you want to help, you just donate $25 to their cause…and then you can follow their progress!

Still not convinced? Well, check this out…since you’re loaning a real person some money, they’ll pay you back. It’s not all that different from loaning your friend lunch money, with the minor exception your best friend isn’t trying to open a grocery store. Probably.

It’s another win/win, really. The people you’re helping can start their business, and eventually you’ll get your money back. And if you want, you can lend it to a new person who’s starting a business! So what are you waiting for, Bits and Bramblers? Get into the holiday spirit, head over to Kiva…and start changing the world!

‘Tis the SEASON OF GIVING: FreeRice


It’s really starting to feel like the holidays…isn’t it, Bits and Bramblers? Of course, part of that might be the cold and the snow (which really only needs to stick around for the holidays. And then it can be around 45 degrees until…let’s say March.) But back to the holidays…after all, it’s the season of giving!

…Because that’s always the best part, right? The giving, I mean. And when you’re giving someone a gift they reeaaallly wanted—or needed—it’s even better. So in the spirit of giving, we’ve decided to do a series of posts here at Bits and Brambles, letting you know about different websites and nonprofit organizations making a difference for those in need this holiday season.

…First up, FreeRice. If you’ve ever taken a vocabulary test, you can play FreeRice. They’ll give you a word, like “disorderly,” and a list of synonyms—and all you have to do is pick the word that means the same thing. See? It’s simple…if you’re wrong, you learn a new word. But if you’re right, then the site’s sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice to the UN World Food Program. So the more words you get right, the more rice they’ll donate. It’s a win/win situation, Bits and Bramblers!

You learn a bunch of new words, which will make you look smart in front of your family, friends, and teachers (and will probably come in pretty hand on tests like…oh, the ACT/SAT.) And the whole time, you’re helping the United Nations end world hunger. And you don’t even have to change out of your pajamas. Come on…it doesn’t get any better than that.

You can learn a little more about the website—and the people that benefit from it—in this video. So what are you waiting for, Bits and Bramblers? Start clicking…and help end world hunger!