Grantee Highlights

This week Lori and I visited Huckleberry Youth in San Rafael and talked to Medical Students for Choice, which is located in Philadelphia. Read on for more on two of our favorite Isabel Allende Foundation grantees:

Huckleberry Youth has a simple catch phrase that sums its work up nicely: Where There’s Huckleberry, There’s Hope.

Here is a short Public Service Announcement the organization recently produced. It will draw you into the Huckleberry website, where you can learn about all of the amazing work they do, which includes its San Francisco Crisis Shelter, counseling for emotional, behavioral and substance abuse problems, and stellar heath care and health education. Also worth mentioning is Huckleberry’s collaborative approach with the Novato Youth Center, Panned Parenthood and many of the local public and private middle and high schools. Huckleberry is worth checking out; in fact, I almost dropped off my 9-year-old daughter after my visit for “The Talk,” which they seem so capable of delivering through their youth programs in schools and workshops, and which cover critical topics including STI prevention, teen pregnancy and more.

Speaking of collaboration, one thing I love about Medical Students for Choice is its seamless collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Abortion Federation, among many others. Please visit the site for more information about the work they do. In the meantime, here is their mission statement: “Creating tomorrow’s abortion providers and pro-choice physicians.” Several years ago when I was talking to an Emergency Room OB-GYN, I hadn’t realized there aren’t many physicians around who are qualified to perform abortions. Medical Students for Choice helps facilitate that education in medical schools across the country, as well as in far-reaching areas. Here is a link to see where Medical Students for Choice operates worldwide, from Ireland to Rwanda. And here is the fact sheet that impressed me:


Comments { 0 }

On Being Content


This year at the office our resolution is to be content. Isabel told us that her New Year’s resolution was to choose contentment over frustration, letting go over getting upset, and doing what she can and hoping that it’s good enough.  I like it – it’s clean, simple and doesn’t require a lot of visits to the gym.  ALSO, it’s easy because after all, on the whole, we are very lucky. So we are all following her lead in this contentment  issue.

Comments { 2 }

Crazy December

Isabel sent me these photos form what she calls the "Geriatric Ward" aka her parents home in Chile. Panchita is back safe and sound.

Isabel sent me these photos from what she calls the “Geriatric Ward” aka her parents home in Chile. Panchita is back safe and sound.

What a crazy month it has been, everything that could change did and every plan that was made shifted. Best to bend like the reed as they say. Isabel’s 95 year old mother, Panchita had a fall that resulted in a broken hip and suddenly Isabel was whisked off to Chile to be with her and help her through the recovery. We cancelled our annual cookie party–that seems trivial–but it accounts for a large part of our yearly sugar intake and many of us were gloomy about that. I’m a tad relieved since it was my year to make Isabel’s dough, she hates making it herself. What else? Well, while everyone is off to New York for the holiday the blog will take a little break. I’m hoping to get photos of Isabel from New York to post or maybe we will get some from family there for FaceBook. Otherwise happy holidays, I hope you have some cookies and we will be back in January for that auspicious date of January 8th when Isabel will hopefully start her next book adventure!

Comments { 4 }

Fair Trade

1. Shared Trade 2. Threads Worldwide 3. Artisan Connection 4. Heifer International 5. Global Girlfriend 6. Global Goods 7. Pippa Small 8. Article 22 9. Soul Gems

1. Shared Trade 2. Threads Worldwide 3. Artisan Connection 4. Heifer International
5. Global Girlfriend 6. Global Goods 7. Pippa Small 8. Article 22 9. Soul Gems


Look, I am not going to lie to you: these sites are not all that snazzy; actually, some are not even all that functional. You won’t find a link to similar items in your cart that other shoppers have bought and you won’t find reviews. BUT, if you are patient, you will find unique gifts that aren’t available at Target or Amazon. You will find items that are lovingly sourced and distributed with fair practices that give a fair percentage to the collectives, villages and women (and some men too!) that make them. Here is a list of fair trade sites where we (including Isabel) are doing the bulk of our holiday shopping this year.

First, a huge shout to our recent Espíritu recipient, Thistle Farms, which has this to say about their products:

Buying Thistle Farms products is an act of love. The products are made with the finest ingredients, by artisans who nourish and heal their bodies and souls through their work.

Thistle Farms recently launched a new division called Shared

Thistle is spreading the love with products distributed by Shared Trade and giving a fair share to the women who make them.

Threads Worldwide’s model aims to educate and involve other concerned women who want to host or sell to expand the reach of their partners. This is a win-win, helping women worldwide through the creation and sale of fair trade

Artisan Connect sells beautiful things—really lovely gifts. Here is their motto: We source exclusively from non profits, artisan collectives and other organizations that ensure a fair wage is paid to the artisans.

On a personal note, I would like to highlight Heifer International. My daughter and I have been rolling quarters (gleaned from our chicken-scratch gumball machine on the street in front of our chicken coop) and collecting money for this group for about four years now. Buy your beloved a symbolic pig and sit back and reap the rewards. Now that’s pure love!

Global Girlfriend‘s site states it plain and simple: Women Made, Fair Trade!

With the goal of alleviating poverty and promoting social justice, Global Goods is on the right track. They’ve partnered with 40 groups in 20 different countries and brought back the goods here.

If you have a little more money—okay, gobs of it—shop Pippa Small and support a beautiful mix of anthropology and jewelry, which is merged to better the lives of the artisans. From cooperatively owned gold mines in Bolivia to fairly paid craftspeople in Afghanistan, Pippa Small rocks.

Article 22 sells sleek and simple jewelry that utilizes the metal from bombs dropped in Laos—local craftspeople transforming bullets in to jewelry. Yes, you can buy back the bombs dropped on the rural Vietnamese countryside in the form of pretty.

One hundred percent of Soulgems’ profits go directly to charities working to combat the sex trafficking of women and girls. Their selection is small but their mission is expansive.

Feel free to send us links to your favorite fair trade sites. This list was gleaned from friends and does not even scratch the surface of what’s available. Looking through these sites I learned a lot about various artisans around the world. It kind of felt like traveling!

Comments { 1 }

Inside the White House


by Nicole Frias

Nicole, Isabel’s granddaughter, sent me this glowing insight into Monday’s event at the White House, where the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony took place. Here is a sneak peak from an insider, complete with photos:

Isabel sported a sparkling blazer with a vivid orange blouse and a long black lace skirt—very sexy. She left in the morning accompanied by Lori, who kept her cool, calm and collected until the ceremony began. Once we arrived, we were quickly guided through three different security checkpoints before entering the White House. We met up with Isabel and Lori inside, where the other recipients and their guests mingled. The room buzzed with excitement.

It was time to take a picture with the President. Needless to say, I was shaking with nerves and anticipation. It’s not every day you get to meet the President—especially one as good looking as Obama. We all shook hands, took a picture and rushed out the door for the beginning of the ceremony.

Obama was kind, charming and even better looking in person. We all waited for Obama to come in with Michelle to begin the ceremony. The brief introductions of each of the award winners held sentimental and heartfelt value for each of the guests. The ceremony was emotional in all the best ways. Isabel was floored when she got up to accept the Medal of Freedom, and in every photograph she is beaming with pride and a huge sense of accomplishment.

The speech and issuing of the medals took about an hour. After it was over, Obama excused himself and allowed us to stay and enjoy a nice reception where everyone could sport his or her new Medal of Freedom. Isabel attended multiple press meetings and did so with ease and elegance—she’s a pro at this point. Isabel Allende now holds the highest civilian honor the United States can award.

Congratulations to my Grandma. I’m so proud of you!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Comments { 26 }

Upstaging The Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony

PresidentialMedalOfFreedomThere’s been a flurry of activity here at the office ever since Isabel was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama! Sure, she is concerned with learning all about her fellow awardees and being able to address them personally. Sure, she’s proud that the award is the highest honor bestowed on a civilian in this country. BUT, mostly, right now she is worried about what to wear…So far consultations have occurred with various fashionistas—or, more appropriately, friends we consider fashionistas because they are so cool—around the country, and while it isn’t appropriate to wear white after Labor Day, let’s just say I think she settled on the white.


I have been promised a-behind-the-scenes guest blog from Isabel’s six-foot-tall, gorgeous granddaughter, Nicole, complete with photos. I asked Nicole what she is wearing to the party and she wrote back the following: I am wearing a black dress that goes to my shins, tight fit but pretty conservative, long sleeve and turtleneck but there’s a cut out back. I’m also wearing black stilettos and RED LIPSTICK muahahaha!

Hmmmm, I predict an upstaging!

PS. The ceremony will be live-streamed on on Monday, November 24th at 1:45pm ET (10:45am PT).


Comments { 8 }

Espiritu 2014

The Isabel Allende Foundation’s annual Espíritu Award this year went to Thistle Farms, a truly inspiring organization and social enterprise dedicated to helping women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. The award event, which was held at Isabel’s home this past weekend, was filled with love. Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest and the founder of Thistle Farms and its residential Magdalene program, was refulgent, and spoke of her work with modesty and hope. You can read about Thistle Farms here; click here for the Foundation’s press release.

Honoring Becca and the work of Thistle Farms and was a beautiful choice for the Foundation. Isabel holds Thistle Farms’ work in the highest regard, since the Foundation, which was founded in 1996, honors Isabel’s daughter Paula, who passed away at the age of 28. The Isabel Allende Foundation supports and in many ways carries on Paula’s mission of providing vulnerable women and children access to reproductive rights, healthcare, education and protection from violence. Thistle Farms hits all of these issues, making it a perfect choice for the Foundation, and it was an honor to be involved in the decision and giving process. Thistle Farms is an organization we will support for many years to come and one that we hope others will as well.

The Magdalene program is grounded in 24 spiritual principles, including Come Together, Love Without Judgment, Lose Gracefully, and Forgive and Feel Freedom. At the end of the evening I followed yet another one of Thistle’s guiding rules: Leave Thankfully.

Here are some photos from the evening that show the atmosphere and aura of love and hope:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photo stills from the evening taken by Mike Kirsch. Mike will be producing a short video about both the event and Thistle Farms that we will share with blog readers and on Facebook in the next month.

Comments { 2 }

A Wedding

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 12.24.54 PM

Isabel writes every day to her mother Panchita, who is 94 and lives in Chile. On October 25 Isabel wrote a very special letter, which she shared with me since…it is about me! You may notice that she closes the letter by writing she wants to get married again, though she doesn’t specify to whom…

Hi Mom,

We just got back from Sarah and Alan’s wedding. It rained, so it couldn’t be held in the park as they had planned, and it took place at Alan’s studio.  Alan is a printer and has beautiful printing presses in a loft in Oakland, where he works. Grace came from the Zen Center to officiate a ceremony filled with deep spiritual meaning. Sarah looked lovely in her short white dress with cowboy boots and flowers in her hair. Alan, who is truly a prince, wore a stripped shirt and jeans.  Nora, Sarah’s nine-year-old daughter, wore a golden dress and gardenias in her braid. Kristoffer, Alan’s son, a seven-year-old redhead, wore an elegant white shirt and boots, and had a wooden pirate’s sword that his father made for him. It was a happy, relaxed, charming and unpretentious wedding, perfect for Sarah and Alan’s temperaments.  They met in a time of loneliness, they fell in love immediately and they decided to get married after less than two months. Grace, in her wheelchair and helped by Lori, said that we were all witnesses to the couple’s vows and that we should hold and help them.  With touching and poetic words she explained that the commitment they were making for life would allow them to grow as individuals, as a couple and as a family.  Alan and Sarah exchanged their vows and then Sarah told Kristoffer that she would love and respect him as she loved and respected Nora. Alan said the same to Nora. The four of them make such a wonderful family! The kids gave the rings to their parents and the rest of us showered them with rose petals. It was so moving that I want to get married again.

Comments { 3 }

Don’t Judge a Purse by it’s Cover


Question: What does Isabel Allende keep in this pretty velvet and satin purse? Her friend Pia made it from precious scraps of vintage suits and dresses. The silk cord, jeweled button and the golden stitching had me intrigued.

Answer: Dog treats, baggies for clean-ups and a leash!


Comments { 1 }

Fragrant Dulce


Another day in the life of a dog owner as told by Isabel:

Willie went to the 50th reunion of his Hastings Law School class – I realize I am married to a very old man – and came home at midnight. Our dogs Dulce and Olivia needed to pee, so Willie opened the door and they ran into the garden. Unfortunately there was skunk digging peacefully up our lawn. Dulce tried to attack it, thinking it was a squirrel, and got sprayed in the face. Now, you have to understand, Dulce may be an ordinary little mutt, but she has a refined soul and is very allergic. She ran screaming into the house, her eyes shut, her muzzle crimson, and rubbed her body on the rug, the couch and finally on our bed before we could catch her. We had heard that tomato sauce is the answer to this kind of crisis but it only made things worse. Finally Willie got in the shower with her while I tried to clean up the mess and ventilate the house. Willie’s sense of smell is almost nil, so he didn’t suffer much, but I pride myself of having a hound’s nose. I will be camping on somebody’s couch for a while with Olivia, while Willie stays with Dulce in the house. Does anybody know how long it may take for the skunk smell to dissipate or for human to learn to appreciate it?


Comments { 4 }