This Tuesday is Giving Tuesday where charities all over the world ask for donations. The idea is that many people will give a charity gift in the name of a friend or relative in place of a Christmas gift.

This year I'm asking for support of a new charity I just learned about. We all know about the Syrian refugee crisis. If you've read my bio, you know that I grew up in Saudi Arabia. There are many wonderful, generous, friendly, peaceful Muslims in this world and it is unfair to generalize all of them.  

In fact, when I was a child we were driving our Suburban back from Europe and passed through Syria. We pulled over in the dark to camp for the night. Then a Syrian came up to us and invited us to stay at his home. Turns out we had inadvertently parked by a dump. He shuffled his family around to offer us their bedrooms and they fed us and were very generous to us. It's a story that we still recount to others as I'm doing now.

It saddens me to think that their home is probably bombed to smithereens and that in all probability, that family is decimated by the killings over there. They could very well be refugees themselves. 

There is a new charity that connects you directly to Syrian refugees living in refugee camps in Lebanon. It is called Humanwire. Because it is completely internet based, they are able to contribute 100% of your donation. 

You can support with single donations, but because I know a lot of family friends from our years in Arabia, I've started a campaign to support the family above. Omar (3) is pictured with his uncle, Asad Hamad (28) on October 26, 2015 in Beirut, Lebanon. The family of seven is originally from Hasakah, Syria near the border of Turkey and fluent in Arabic and Kurdish. They left their homeland in August, 2012 when ISIS invaded and began controlling their neighborhood in Al Qameshli where Asad also worked as a concierge.

After they fled, they paid to rent an apartment for $300/month though, after a year, were not able to make ends meet due to the lack of opportunities. Only one family member has found occasional work in construction earning a salary of $5/day. 

He assumed it would be safe to return to Syria sooner. Now it is too late to receive assistance from the UN as the UNHCR is no longer registering refugees in Lebanon. Despite having no shelter, Asad says his three greatest needs are 1) food and milk for his sister’s children, 2) clothing and 3) the desire to cease pleading with people on the streets.

When asked if he would like to return home if it becomes safe, Asad said “Of course. This is what we are praying for every single day. Moving back to our home….if it still exists.”

I've set a goal of $1000.00. Please consider joining the campaign and making a donation for Asad's family here.  


Followers of me and my blog know that my local charity of choice is the Food Literacy Center. They do a terrific job of educating low income elementary school children on nutrition and the importance of proper eating. Children come out of their classes excited to eat vegetables! Each year Amber Stott's program expands a little more and the hope is someday it will be statewide. 

Please consider donating to her group here: donation page 

Long time, no see. That's because I was doing a bit of traveling this month. I had gone off to the World Food Championships held in Celebration, Florida. This is the same place where our own Pangaea Cafe, winners of the Sacramento Burger Battle, were off to compete against the best in the nation...and the world.

In actuality, I was at the blogger component, a conference called Food Fight Write. I was among about 40 other bloggers from across the United States and even one from Myanmar, thus contributing to the World component. The real goal of Food Fight Write (FFW) was to bring in bloggers to promote the World Food Championships (WFC) and "food sport" or competitions.

This was the fourth year for the WFC. Prior to this they had been held in Las Vegas. The creators of the WFC had the idea to create the equivalent of the Olympics or the Superbowl — for food. After all, every year there are regional cook-offs at events or State fairs for everything from chili, to barbecue, to desserts. The idea was to have a final arena for these regional winners to compete and claim the ultimate title of World's Best.

The competition categories are: dessert, pasta, recipe, chili, barbecue, burgers, sandwiches, bacon, seafood, and steak. Dishes are judged based on the EAT methodology of Execution, Appearance, and Taste. This year the competitors included 17 countries and 40 States.

Each category has two stages of cook-off. The first stage sets everyone to prepare two dishes — their signature and a "structured" dish that has create their own spin on the same basic dish.  The top 10 then go on to compete in the finals where they must use a specific ingredient . The winner wins $10,000.  The winner of each category then goes to a final competition where they compete for the $100,000 grand prize and title of Best Dish.

For this endeavor the competitions took place in two places. In downtown Celebration, where I spent my time, there were 50 cooking stations set up down their main street. Every station was equipped with brand new Kenmore Pro Series appliances that included: range, microwave, toaster oven, gas grill, food processor, standing mixer, blender, pots and pans. Every few stations shared a refrigerator.

The other location was at the Westgate Resorts where the barbecue and burger competitions took place. I believe the reason is that they had more than 50 competitors and also that they had a range of barbecues available and there was more concern for fire danger.

I should mention that Pangaea just BARELY missed the top 10 by like fractions. Good job though! VERY close to cracking the top 10.

Our pantry selections
Meanwhile I had the lovely honor of competing as well. We actually were the first to use the Kenmore kitchens in an "all in fun" cooking competition. It was designed to  make us see what it's like to participate in a cooking competition with the timing, judging, etc. We had to use filet mignon from Kansas City Steaks as well as one of six sauces from Saucy Mama. I knew everyone would be cooking, so I chose to do a steak tartare. Let's just say at least I didn't come in last place.

My overall impression is that someday the WFC will be a huge deal. Right now it's still in growing pains. They've chosen to stay in Celebration for the next five or so years. While I understand that it's easy to keep coming back to the same place logistics-wise, downtown Celebration is small and I just can't see tens of thousands of people crowding and attending it there. 

Each year there is sure to be more sponsors. Last year Kenmore wasn't one, this year they are. Also, celebrities will help as well as the TV coverage that takes place by some of the food networks. 

Meanwhile, Sacramento should try to send more competitors in more categories besides burgers. I hope to see that grow as well.