Oh, yum! There’s nothing quite like a delicious lemon bar. For those of us who have Celiac disease, getting a good lemon bar can be a challenge—or maybe I should say, was a challenge. These are so good!
In 2019, charity scams are alive and well. Because December is the month when charities receive a large portion of their funding, and when scammers ramp up their efforts to stuff their wallets with your money. Whether your favorite cause is animal welfare or youth development, the thing that binds us all together is we want our dollars to be used properly, not wasted on overhead and exorbitant salaries. With that goal in mind, here are three tools to evaluate charities before you give.
My personal favorite is Charity Navigator. I like that they evaluate charities based on two factors: their financial health and their accountability/transparency. Click here to see how Charity Navigator determines their rankings. They also have a listing of top-rated charities in different categories such as animals, arts and culture, the environment, homelessness, and more.
Another excellent way to evaluate charities is Charity Watch, which bills itself as ” America’s most independent, assertive charity watchdog.” According to Charity Watch, they dive deep into the finances of more than 600 charities to give a thorough determination of where donated dollars go. If you want to see just how dark the underbelly of the charity scam beast is, take a look at their CharityWatch Hall of Shame, which exposes fraud and deceit for charities in the areas of dealing with homeless teens to cancer research. While I was on their site I checked out some of my favorites and found them all to have at least a B+ rating.
The 2019 Consumer Reports Best and Worst Charities for your donations list is a good quick reference if you don’t have a specific charity in mind. Their list of best and worst covers a range of interests. One of the tips they emphasize is to watch out for similar sounding names. For instance, the Cancer Research Institute earns high marks on this report, but the Walker Cancer Research Institute is ranked as one of the worst.
Bottom line: sometimes it takes more than one source
So what differentiates these two soundalikes? Charity Watch doesn’t answer that question because it gives the Cancer Research Institute an A, but doesn’t rate the Walker Cancer Research Institute. But Charity Navigator, who also gives their highest ranking to the Cancer Research Institute, susses out the biggest reason. According to their reports, the Cancer Research Institute spends more than 85% of their funding on programs to help cancer research. The Walker Cancer Research Institute spends only 8.5% on programs, but 83% on fundraising. Walker does not appear very transparent in their finances, which is the opposite of the Cancer Research Institute.
When we signed up for an overnight stay with a local farmer in Rotorua during our New Zealand trip, we had no idea we were in for such an idyllic setting. The cool thing was that since they leased out their land rather than doing the farming themselves, we didn’t have to milk cows or do any of that other “farm stuff.” It was a fabulous experience!
More photos from Rotorua
I took this picture in Arches National Park in Utah. Only when I was off the trail and behind the arch, did I see the Okay sign. I have kept this picture above my desk for years to remind me of how blessed I am.
I was a working woman with two children (grown now), and working women work two shifts, our paying job, and our second shift, raising children and creating a home. I got the bug to write while commuting to work in Denver on the light rail. Most women boarded the train and pulled out a book or an e-reader. With the demands of a job and a family pulling at us, the time on the train was the only “me” time for most of us. I write the Claire Callahan series for everyone who has only a scrap of free time a day and likes to read.
People always ask, why did you become a writer? If it weren’t for my mother taking my sister and me to the library every week, I might not be a writer. I cut my teeth on Trixie Belton, Nancy Drew, and Agatha Christie.
Truth is stranger than fiction, and years in the news business provided me with lots of peculiar characters and stories to write about. I worked years honing my craft.
Stringing words together to create meaning and pack an emotional punch comes after writing hundreds of pages that went into the shredder. At the beginning of my career, I wrote for an early morning news show; many of these shows air at 4:00 a.m. and are devoted to agriculture news and lots of local weather
Once I had some news writing experience, I was assigned more important stories, like the brutal murder of a twelve-year-old girl. I interview the man who was convicted. He was smart, attractive, and charming. I was chilled when I realized if I were stranded on a highway with car trouble, and he stopped, I would have trusted him.
I love the news business because each day, something new and interesting happens.
We were producing a live news show and interviewing a woman who was the district’s state representative. We were ready. The interviewer and the talent were on the set. The opening credits rolled. Instead of our regular music playing, ‘Lay, Lady Lay, across my big Brass Bed’, comes pouring out of the sound system. She hears it, jerks off her microphone, and stomps off the set. Luckily, we had an old interview cued, and we played it.
I enjoy writing the Claire Callahan series. Claire is the kind of woman who tries, stumbles, gets up, and forges ahead. She’s had some difficulty being accepted- she’s a stunning red-headed female PI in a man’s world, but she’s sharp and tough. Right now, Claire’s trying to solve the case of who murdered the wealthiest man in Denver.
I’m proud to be a member of Sisters in Crime, an incredibly talented group of women who share their expertise with one another and of Mystery Writers of America.
Raising two children who now have families of their own is my greatest joy. Our lives aren’t perfect and certainly aren’t without their challenges, but we are family.
Wishing you many happy hours of reading,
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” – Lemony Snicket
Jennifer S. Alderson was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. Her love of travel, art, and culture inspires her award-winning mystery series—the Zelda Richardson Mysteries and Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mysteries.
Beginning a new series
Jennifer’s Zelda Richardson Mystery series are fast-paced, plot-heavy, art thrillers. She said she loves to write that series, but also wanted to delve into a whodunit-style mystery. “Because I love to travel, a cozy mystery series based around a tour guide turned amateur sleuth was ideal! The Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery series is primarily escapist fun with a travel twist. Secretly, I hope it encourages wannabe travelers to take the plunge and book a ticket!”
On a deeper level, Jennifer also sees a theme about life. “Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect and sometimes you can get stuck in a rut. But life has a funny way of presenting you with many opportunities to get unstuck – if you’re open to them.”
“You don’t have to own a passport to enjoy these cozy mysteries,” Jennifer said. “However, my own is well used. I did spend four years living out of a backpack while traveling around the world and the cities I set my stories in are all places I enjoyed visiting. American by birth, I am currently living in the Netherlands with my Dutch husband and our young son. There is still nothing I enjoy more than exploring a new-to-me city or country.”
Jennifer said her travels inspire the locations she uses for her novels, as well as many of the plot twists and characters. “I was an avid traveler before I started writing, so many of my more memorable past experiences have found their way into my novels. It can be anything from eating fresh goat blood cake in Nepal, to the joy I felt when seeing the Danube River for the first time.”
More to come
“If you enjoy heartwarming stories about friendship, travel, and celebrating new experiences, I invite you to follow along on Lana Hansen’s journeys! The first book in the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery series – Death on the Danube – is about a New Year’s trip to Budapest and will be released on November 28, 2019. The next three books in the series – Death by Baguette: A Valentine’s Murder in Paris, Death by Windmill: A Mother’s Day Murder in Amsterdam, and Death by Bagpipes: A Summer Murder in Edinburgh – will be released in 2020.”
Learn more about Jennifer Alderson at jennifersalderson.coma Rafflecopter giveaway
This photo was taken on the farm of the New Zealand couple who hosted us for an overnight stay. They have a beautiful place on top of a hill with an incredible view. Instead of farming all of their land themselves, they lease out the majority and only use ten acres for themselves. Their ‘farmhouse’ is gorgeous and would make any city slicker proud!