Friday, September 3, 2010

Chlorophyll Accumulation & Release

Photo: HWTM (They hung photos of the happy couple from the shrubs encircling the reception site!)




















I have been away so long that my mind is swirling with all manner of greeneties. Incomplete, and in no particular order:
  • My first attempt at a candy buffet: Karen and John: T-minus 23 days and counting. Amy Atlas, you're me hero. Also, Hostess With the Mostest makes my day.
  • Hurricane Earl: Nature will not be tamed. The hatches have been battened by my Martha's Vineyard family, while I have become a Stormpulse groupie. 
  • Chicken coops: Stay tuned for coon-proof offerings from Captain Coop himself, Daddy Greene. Wondering if there might be a market for these on Etsy?
  • Bee-keeping. Honey bees are in danger, and that means WE are, too. Some people are doing something about it. (That's a teaser, BTW.)
  • Dating lessons from the Millenials: Apparently, voice mail went out with bootcut jeans and fitted tops. Email/text are the only respectful way to woo a lass. This non sequitur c/o a colleague's early-20s cousin, who needs her own blog on "boys" because she is hilarious.
  • Packing and purging (a friend's grandmother called it "inventory reduction) for a move from the 'burbs to the city: New home, fresh new adventure. Lightening the load frees my chi. Reused boxes from work keep it cheap and carbon-reduced. ZenFamilyHabits took the nuclear approach. I am not so hardcore, but I admire their courage. I am selling nothing. What I don't want, I am giving away. It's too much work to sell, my stuff's not worth much, and I give out of gratitude for all that has been given to me.
I searched Etsy for "chicken coop." Tourbabe Designs=genius!

I missed you, readers. All seven of you. Greene love! xx, CG

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quench

...Is one allowed to take a second blog vacation, a mere 3 months after launching said blog? I hope so! I am collecting MUCHO post ideas, but am unable to convince myself to come in from the summer fun to write about them. Come fall, watch out, Greenesters! You won't know what hit you. Until then...

BeautyFullyUsed says, "Have a solar-powered drink on us!" and GimmeSomeOven (winner of this week's prize for cutest name) goes the mason jar route. Either, it's a cool sip of summertime. Enjoy!

Photo: GimmeSomeOven.com


PS: Happy Summer Birthday to Courtney Bassett at BFU!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Better World Shopper

I found this little volume of Greene-in-every-sense shopping tips on a friend's kitchen counter and proceeded to devour it on the spot. I couldn't put it down, and stood there flipping pages until I had a drawer-handle imprint on my tush and my head was swimming with new awarenesses about how my trip to the corner grocery store (oh, who am I kidding? Market Basket!), or my choice of airlines can have a significant effect on society and the earth.


It's a careful consumer's dream! Organized by category (LOTS of categories - cars to computers, pickles to pet care), in alphabetical order, this pocket-sizer offers a report card, from A to F, of major  manufacturers and vendors, some of whose ratings really surprised me. (Poland Spring, for shame! But, ladies, you'll be glad to know that Nordstrom's made the Nice List...)

I see that the Guide may be on the simplistic side, and author Ellis Jones (co-author of The Better World Handbook) admits as much. I mean, you can only fit so much research in your handbag and still have room for dental floss, lip stuff, and scribbled notes about future KIG posts. Seriously, since I've been blogging, I've had a chance to gather feedback from folks who see things a little differently than I (amazingly, there seems to be another side to the WalMart debate! More on that later.), and these conversations have been eye-opening.

Still, I appreciate this Cliff's Notes version of social and environmental heroes and rapscallions. It's cheap, it's reader-friendly, and it even comes with some handy Top Ten Lists. I'll skip the Corporate Devils, because they see their names in print enough, and, instead, I'll end with a shout-out to the heroes of detergent, decor, designer duds, and so much more.

Greenesters, give it up for:
Seventh Generation
Tom's of Maine (one astute high school pal likened the deodorant to "anchovie slime," but I love the mouthwash)
Dr. Bronner's (I guest-blogged about them here)
Ten Thousand Villages
World of Good

This list is in no particular order, mind you. It's just what jumped off the page at me. What? You want it spoon-fed? Buy the book!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ms. Moneybags

Ellen Remmer, President and CEO of The Philanthropic Initiative, writes on Philanthropy Central that "Women will in large part shape the future of philanthropy." She points out that women are making more money than ever before, and are taking on more leadership roles within civic and nonprofit organizations. (As every fundraiser knows, your loyal volunteers are often among your strongest donor prospects!)



Oh, my goodness, those Canadians are so darned cool.
Just LOOK at how they take action in support of women's economic wellness.


I consider myself moderately philanthropic. My best guess has me giving a bit over 2% of my salary to nonprofit interests. Remmer's piece made me want to give more generously, partly for the privilege of being one among the sea of women using their economic power to effect positive changes in the world, and partly in appreciation for my own . My four years at boarding school opened up the world to me, and led me to a college experience for which I am ever more grateful as time goes on. Neither would have been possible without: the sacrifices (and backbreaking hard work) of my parents; nor the charitable gifts of many; and the extreme generosity of a few women "sponsors." These set me on my course as a professional fundraiser and an amateur philanthropist, forever paying forward the joy and privilege of what I received from others (mostly women, as it happens).

Women & The Economy, a project of United Nations Platform for Action Committee (UNPAC), confirmed my hazy recollection of this factoid: "Studies show that women are responsible for buying 80% of household goods." As they put it, "Women's role as care givers has meant that women play an especially prominent role in buying things that provide sustenance for home and family."

Philanthropy definitely falls under the category of "sustenance" in my book, and I love the idea of moms and stepmoms, grandmothers and aunties, unpacking a spiritual shopping bag of generosity and laying their philanthropic inspiration out on the kitchen counter where the kids can absorb it as they reach for a (real, edible, non-spiritual) after school snack.  Goggles and cape: optional.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pain for Vain?

This is yet another doom 'n' gloom post about chemical nastiness. Sorry to dwell! A huge part of being Greene is taking good care of ourselves, inside and out, so I think it's worthwhile to reflect on these questions. 

A friend asked me for suggestions about non-cell-destroying hair coloring options. She writes,

"I'm planning to get highlights later this month, but I'm scared! I offered to bring a special dye (Naturatint from drugstore.com) into the salon but the stylist convinced me that wouldn't be a good idea since she's never worked with that dye before and I might pick a bad color. Guess I have some sacrifices to make for beauty, huh?"

Will I really be beautiful enough unless I risk all kinds of nasty side effects?
Image: naturalhairdye.com.

I had to admit that I routinely fry my locks, and potentially my health, with the good, old-fashioned (by which I mean, bad, potentially hazardous), Hard Stuff. I really hadn't given the subject much consideration.

According to this very comprehensive article from NaturalNews.com, it's something one might want to consider, or at least research. As an "enhanced" blonde, I take a wee bit of comfort in the article's assertion that darker dyes are more dangerous than lighter ones, but I know that's splitting hairs (sorry!).

Has anyone tried the less toxic coiffure options? I'm not surprised that the stylist took a pass on this one, because I'm sure she doesn't want to be responsible for any Rapunzelistic disasters. Does anyone know of salons that specialize in not giving us cancer?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Urban-ish Garden: 10 Thoughts on Eating Very Local -- Part II

Picking up where we left off with our guest blogger (Part I, if you missed it). The lessons, please, Professor!

...And so my garden grows, with real dirt and real seeds.  I have learned these important lessons along the way:

•    Take pictures.  Your garden is like your child, and it will change overnight.  The daily immediacy of its demands will obscure the big picture and the work that you’ve done, until it is easy to forget where it all started, back then in a sunny patch of dirt.  So take pictures to document the journey. 

•    Keep a record.  I use a wire-bound purple notebook in which I’ve pasted my charts of companion plantings, drafts of my garden plans, scribbled notes on planting and germinating times, and records of which seeds I bought from which company.  Just like with the pictures, I know that next year I will have forgotten what I did when and my garden plans will help me stay organized as I plan next season’s crops.



•    Fork it over for the expensive garden gloves.  My garden has eaten through four pairs of gloves so far, as even the latex-coated fingers get shredded by the work.  On the other hand, save your money on garden ties and scrounge in your sock drawer for old pantyhose, which works great for tying up your crops.

•    Start small, and then expand.  A garden is more work than you think it will be, especially in the beginning.  To make my garden from scratch has been labor-intensive.  I dug the fence-post holes, I built the fence, I cleared the ground, I tilled the soil, I primed, painted and built my garden boxes, I dug up the dirt to make the boxes, I sifted the dirt for rocks and clumps, I mixed in amendments that I lugged back from the store because my dirt was nothing but clay, I planted seeds, I weeded, I tended seedlings, I built a drip irrigation system, I staked, trained, and pruned plants, I built several wood and twine trellises, and I’m still not even close to having my whole garden up and running.  My modus operandi is usually to take a flying dive off the deep end, and then leave half-finished projects in my flailing wake.  This time, for this project, I somehow had the wisdom to work in more bite-sized chunks.  My garden will eventually be 14 4’x6’ boxes, but I’ve started with the materials for 7.  It’s taken 8 months to get my first 4 boxes fully up and running. 

•    Seed catalogs are very tempting in January.  I still haven’t planted all the seeds I bought in my seed-buying exhilaration, as I imagined both the exotic and the mundane for my backyard garden.



•    Grow heirloom.  I always knew my garden was going to be organic, or else defeat its basic purpose of subverting modern industrial farming.  Then the more I learned, the more I knew that my garden, this throwback to a life less rushed, would also only make the most sense if I grew heirloom seeds, which have been cultivated over generations and help save the variety in our food.  Hybrid seeds are too much agribusiness inventions and too little connection to the dirt.  Heirloom seeds restore a sense of purpose in your food when you start to realize that a carrot is not just a carrot, not just an orange root shape in your cellophane bag, but that there are hundreds of types of carrots (and not all of them are even orange).  Plus, although hybrid seeds are more fool-proof (at least for the first round; all they grow are sterile crops), the variety in heirloom seeds enables you to find a type that is already matched to your climate and soil type and gardening ability.

•    Trust the dirt.  Plants want to live, and will go to great lengths to do so.  If you provide the intersection of seed, soil, sun, and water, just step back and watch what nature does with it.  I have tomato plants now thriving that were on the verge of death when I transplanted them.  I have a rogue cucumber growing in my tomato box because that used to be a cucumber box, but when all of my first seedlings died (sub-lesson: hardening your seedlings is not optional), I switched to tomatoes, and that little seed survived the parched spell in the transition and is now wending its way through 3 types of tomatoes.     

  

•    When they recommend spacing for plants, listen.  I didn’t want to be presumptuous, so I didn’t put up cages for my spindly tomatoes.  I was in a rush to get more plants in before the scorch of summer hit, so I planted a jumble of seeds in one box.  Cue to: my tomato jungle, battling with my cucumber jungle.  Cue to: my hedge of peas.  Cue to: my squash plants crowding out my pepper plants.  I suppose there is another sub-lesson here regarding the wisdom of thinning your crops, but I just didn’t have the heart to rip out pea plants which obviously wanted desperately to live.  I didn’t think that my cucumber plants, which started so small, would engage in their own urban sprawl through their own box and into neighboring boxes.  So I’ve installed an aftermarket trellis, in the hopes of just containing them off the walkway, and I’ve learned a lesson about maximizing vertical space as well as horizontal space.        

•    Gardening is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.  On the one hand, if you just provide that crucial intersection, you are gardening.  On the other hand, you can get an advanced degree in soil chemistry and crop rotation and integrated pest management.  My learning curve has been steep, since I don’t want this to be my full-time job but I do want to make my efforts fruitful, but that has been part of the fun.  It is also like teaching in that there will never be a sense of completion, no time when I have accomplished the job perfectly, because there is always room to learn and fiddle and try and reflect and try over in an effort to make improvements.



•    And the number one, supreme lesson I have learned: be patient.  I’ve found myself taking plants out too soon, or fretting over their lack of progress, only to find that I was merely being impatient.  Gardening is not an instant gratification venture.  On the one hand, your garden is like a child, whose growth spurts happen overnight, right before your eyes.  On the other hand, the period between germination and fruit production is an eternity.  Even watching my tomatoes grow, and grow, but not ripen, has been weeks of waiting.   Patience is what lets me take small steps to get my garden up and running.  Patience is what makes the harvest still tasty even when you’ve been waiting 76 days for it.  A garden forces patience and forces the kind of gentleness that careful cultivation cultivates.  A garden is the opposite of traffic, of texting, of locks and keys, of caffeinated mornings and clock punches.  A garden is a solution, is psychotherapy in the dirt, is ancient and sacred and restorative.   So co-opt the language of imperative motivation, and just do it: grow something and eat it.  You’ll see what I mean.

Guest Blogger Maria Thibodeau grew up on a leafy chunk of glacial detritus and now cultivates her seeds, both literally and metaphorically, in Los Angeles, CA, where she lives with her wife and 3 dogs.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Heaping Helping O' Endocrine Disruption?

Holy Poisonous Food Products, Batman!

Nicole at And Baby Cakes Three pointed to this article on BPA leaching into canned foods -- even those from Whole Foods and other supposedly "green" companies. 

I heart my bodily systems!
Image: http://www.epa.gov.


I prepare from scratch almost everything I put in my mouth. Just about the only canned food I eat is tuna and,  occasionally, in a tight spot, canned carrots or green beans. Tuna, in particular, is a key ingredients of insta-meals when I'm pinch for time. I was totally bummed to read this article, because it means making yet another choice of convenience or peace of mind. Decisions, decisions...

This is two strikes for tuna, which is also fairly high in mercury. Actually, three, since the National Resources Defense Council puts tuna in the category of fish that are, "perilously low in numbers or are caught using environmentally destructive methods." In other words, sort of a no-no all around. Here's NRDC's Consumer Guide to Mercury in Fish.

But, I digress. We're talking canned foods of all kinds (soup, ravioli, BABY FORMULA...) not just the thrice-cursed chickenofthesea.

ILY, Natick Community Organic Farm! natickfarm.org


Obviously, fresh (and locally grown, and organic, and non-genetically-modified) is best, but sometimes I really want to hit the hay instead of taking an extra minutes to prep something for tomorrow's lunch. What's a busy, health-and-eco-conscious girl to do?  In my case, given the dangers of Bisphenol A, and my fondness for my thyroid, pancreas, and ovaries, (and since that much-coveted good night's is dependent upon me having a quiet head), I think I will try hard to avoid canned foods in the future.

Greenesters, what do you think?

Do you eat canned vittles? Are the sealed sleeves of tuna safe? What about the plastic bags for frozen veggies? How do you conserve kitchen time while preserving your health and wellness? Any thoughts are much-appreciated.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Second Thought...

OK, so, perhaps you have obediently Greened Your Mailbox and you start missing all those glossy catalogs and the "Casual"-Yet-Perfectly-Appointed homes with which they taunt you. What's a dreamer to do?



Answer: Let Catalog Living narrate for you the maudlin "reality" of life behind the dupioni silk curtain.My thanks to the Fug Girls is of Shakespearian proportions ("as boundless as the sea," et al), but particular thanks to them for pointing out this gem.

Nothing is Greene-er than a good guffaw, and this is very funny stuff.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Urban-ish Garden: 10 Thoughts on Eating Very Local -- Part I

Dear Friends, I am delighted to share a piece by the first-ever KIG Guest Blogger. Please give a warm, Greene welcome to Maria T. I hope you enjoy her observations as much as I do. xoxo, Court



    Many a morning lately has found me crouched in the dirt, dodging bees, with a pile of pantyhose strips in my fist as I try to wrest control over the tomato plants.  I can almost understand why people thought the tomato was poisonous for so long.  When I come inside, it takes me several minutes of scrubbing neon-green suds off my hands to wash off all the chlorophyll.


    I remember second grade science, when we learned about how seeds sprout, how plants eat sunshine to live, how the flowers have a gender and fruit is anything that started as a flower.  But I have recently seen all of this on my own, first-hand in a new wonderful way, in my own backyard urban-ish garden.  When I was growing up, both parents had gardens.  I never really helped them with their gardens, and I have only a few memories of eating the food or of the process of growing it.  I wouldn’t consider myself as having a green thumb, as even house plants die on my watch.  So I’m not really sure when the garden bug bit me.  Perhaps it’s like the other influences that our parents have on us, not so much an explicit instruction as a subtle process of observation, like when I realize that I hold my steering wheel like my father did, even though I learned to drive long after he died.  Whatever it was, that seed took years to germinate, as I moved from apartment to apartment with no outside space to call my own, until a year ago when my wife and I bought a house with a huge backyard and I immediately staked my claim to the sunniest side of the yard and began imagining what I could grow there.



    Maybe I just understand that a house should come with a garden.  I understand the importance of growing your own food.  Not in an apocalyptic militia sense, but in a fundamental sense of taking control over that fundamental cycle.  I believe in “eating locally.”  I’ve read Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver.  I’ve watched Food, Inc and King Corn.  And as a vegan, my diet is already plant-based, so a garden makes more sense to me than large animal husbandry.  But more than all of this, I believe that our downfall began when we trusted the first person who convinced us that food was not growing outside in the ground and on the trees, but food was what was available in grocery stores, and it was only available if we traded our money for it, and money was only available as an abstraction for which we traded our time and energy.  And so I believe most in the idea of energy-in, energy-out.  The simplest equation is that the energy that you take from the land in the form of your food should be equal to the energy that you put in to the land in the form of your labor.  There is something deeply satisfying, almost on a primal level, in the tangible reward for your effort in gardening.  There is something profound to me about walking across the yard to pick my dinner (or, lately, my breakfast), and eating half of it from my hands before I make it back inside.


  
    Maybe I like gardening because it’s like a more instant metaphor for teaching, which is the thing I trade my time and energy for in my real life.  As a teacher, I plant seeds, I cultivate talents, and I celebrate growth.  But I never get to see the fruit because it takes years to turn from something intangible to something fully realized.



And so my garden grows, with real dirt and real seeds.  I have learned these important lessons along the way...






Keep it locked for the next installment, in which we get taken to school by our resident gardening goddess...   



Guest Blogger Maria Thibodeau grew up on a leafy chunk of glacial detritus and now cultivates her seeds, both literally and metaphorically, in Los Angeles, CA, where she lives with her wife and 3 dogs.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm Nuts for Soap Nuts!

I'm not fanatical about cleanliness. (Cue my mom and/or roommate, chuckling at this understatement.) I like a tidy home, but given the choice between slightly grimy and chemically sanitized, I'd choose the former. For one thing, I don't like to work very hard. For another, I'm not very afraid of dirt. In fact, I think a little bit can be a good thing, and far preferable to the kind of "clean" accomplished using products which require a wind-tunnel's worth of ventilation (I'm talking to you, shower-tile-spray!).

Of course, with today's proliferation of eco-friendly products, there is no shortage of green-labeled "detergent -- or soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach" (FTBY&M, je t'aime) to get the job done without poisoning one's born or unborn children. 

Happily for me, my favorite eco-friendly home-helper happens to match one of the two household chores that I actually enjoy: laundry.

Introducing: Maggie's Soap Nuts!

Made from the dried fruit of the Chinese Soapberry Tree, these crusty-looking brown things are so ridiculously Greene, it is hard to describe them as succinctly as the blog medium requires. A list might be in order here, framed as an ode to my crinkly brown friends. 

Why So Greene, Soap Nuts? I love you because...
  1. You are hypoallergenic and contain no chemicals, dyes, perfumes, or otherwise noxious ingredients.
  2. You're not really a nut, you're a dried fruit, so even nut-allergic clothing-wearers can use you. 
  3. You are harvested from the ground, picked after your Indonesian mother tree has naturally shed you. (Isn't that so much nicer and more sustainable than cutting down said tropical forests for lumber? Those ancient woods take forever to grow back!)
  4. You actually clean my clothes. This is a little-touted side bennie. I love it when the "au naturale" method is not only guilt-free, but performs its intended function.
  5. You come in a cardboard box, so I don't have to deal with another plastic bottle (unless I choose the new, liquid, version of you. I won't.).
  6. Extra credit: You won't stain my clothes like blue detergent sometimes does.
  7. Extra, extra: Maggie’s Pure Land donates 10% of net proceeds to "groups that improve the lives of mothers, children, and support a happy, Pure Planet Earth." 
I first discovered these crusty magic balls at Abode in Missoula, MT. Turns out, they are sold at Whole Foods, as well as at maggiespureland.com.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Greene My Mailbox

I am ruthless in my quest to eradicate junk mail, that well-documented a waste of trees and ink and mail-carrier energies. 

Every time anything comes in that I don't want -- catalogs, special discount offers, charitable appeals, etc. -- I tear off the back page or the "contact us" section and stick it in a file folder. At intervals, I actually call every single junk-mailer individually and request my name be removed from those mailing lists. It's amazing how effective is this technique in stanching the flow of buy-by-mail offers!

(No flies on Patricia Zapata @ A Little Hut, who made her grocery circulars into beautiful art.

Still, sometimes it's a hard request to make. Who wants to halt the Smile Train or call off the Salvation Army troops? These are worthy organizations doing good work, and I don't want to be a Scrooge. But, I am not in a position to give to every single organization that solicits me. (I give a designated annual amount to each of my four top priorities, then, I mentally allocate a pool of funds for friends doing charitable runs, walks, and other sporadic fundraisers.) By calling off the hounds from groups who won't be successful in soliciting me, I'm saving them money and, in that way, supporting their missions. 

(Behold, the work of a true genius. Santa Fe artist Nancy Judd created this gown out of -- you guessed it! -- junk mail. Behold even more @ www.recyclerunway.com)

Lastly, I instructed Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to put a security freeze on my credit report, preventing them from releasing my credit report without my consent, and resulting in ZERO new credit card offers! It's a miracle. (I'll call to unfreeze a few days before I'll need it.)

Less for me to cart to my recycling bins and less waste of time and high-gloss photos can only be described as a Mailbox Greene-Over!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Postcards from the Edge

I'm a big journaler. Since there is no such word, I guess I should say, "I'm very journalary." (Thanks, Dictionary.com.) Point is, I like scribbling a bit every night. It's usually some chicken scrawl about the things I'm grateful for and a few lines about what's going on in my head, before the letters start sloping down the page into complete illegibility as sleep takes over. Jotting stuff down helps clear my head in the moment and, in retrospect, provides that much-loved 20/20 hindsight. This can be amusing, illuminating, or ouch-inducing, depending on the situation, but there is no denying its overall salutary effect on my state of mind. 

On the other hand, my journal doesn't capture the news of the day in the charming, archival way that old-fashioned diaries used to. Even when I'm traveling, which I do fairly often for work, I might fail to mention, or give only a passing glance back at, my out-of-town adventure. Nor will there be many photos, unless someone else is snapping them. It all adds up to an ineffective travel record. 

My solution? I've taken to sending myself a postcard from each of my trips.* It has long been my habit to dash these off to my godchildren, nieces, nephews, baby siblings and my grandmother, but I recently added myself to the list.

http://www.cardcow.com

The picture postcard. Is there anything more succinct, yet evocative? They are date-stamped, yet timeless. They are supremely personal, highly budget-friendly souvenirs. 

Additional Greene Points for the simplicity of the form (your very own handwriting -- when was that last on display?), the appreciation of the moment, and the creation of the message (how much can you convey in just a few bon mots?).

*Credit for this idea goes to my middle brother (who gets to remain anonymous). At the age of about 7, unbeknownst to the rest of us and exemplifying the above-stated principles, he wrote, stamped, and mailed the following message to himself on a postcard from Barbardos: 

"Dear __________, 
You're the best.
Love, ___________" 


Monday, July 19, 2010

"Philanthropy is Beautiful"

Financier-turned-jewelry-designer Joan Hornig has taken a page from the (late, very great) Paul Newman's book, using silver and gold instead of oil and vinegar. All profits from Joan Hornig Jewelry, which uses the tagline "Philanthropy is Beautiful," go to charity. She even allows purchasers to direct the donation to the nonprofit organization of their choice, which you can't do at the Market Basket checkout counter.

These are no $3 bottle of dressing, folks. Joan's designs are for those still living their salad days, and her list of celebrity endorsements is long. She works mainly in precious metals and stones and other très chère materials, but, for once, the exception happens to be my very favorite collection, called Tools for Giving, which make feel-good self-decoration available to the masses.


  

 

(funds from this one must be directed to a Haitian relief charity)

As a builder's daughter and a one-time nail-banger who was, generally, the most blinged-out member of my dad's crew (which isn't saying much), I am pretty charmed by her philanthropic charms. Let's build a better future through generosity and accessorizing!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

That's a Wrap

One of my favorite crafty projects is wrapping presents using re-used, re-purposed paper, plastic, ribbons, and whatever else catches my fancy. It saves cash and materials, and allows me to present a loved one with something personal and one-of-a-kind. Plus, it's time-sensitive and not overly ambitious, which means I'm likely to actually complete it, rather than letting it languish like that bracelet I started last year, the mending that is 90% done, et al.

New Babies + Rubber-Stamp Crafts = Perfect Match

The simple route: a brown bag from a long-ago boutique purchase plus a little tree stamp to symbolize growth, the goodness of nature, and the gladness of the earth to welcome a new little person. I admit that the tissue paper was first-generation.


I always feel guilty when I buy something breakable and it gets wrapped in 1,000 layers of paper before being double-bagged and plopped into my waiting arms. Still, those thin, gently-creased sheets of dead forest fold easily and provide a nice, neutral background.



DIY wrapping paper is especially fun for registry gifts, in which the element of surprise has been sacrificed to the worthy god of getting-stuff-you'll-actually-use. Glitter glue, tissue paper & rubber stamps via A.C. Moore, a crafty gal's paradise.


 Love is in the air!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Smile it's Today!





My uncle in southern Maine has friends whose grandmother jotted this simple, powerful phrase on a chalkboard in their summer cottage: "Smile it's Today." Even after Grandmother Mame's death, the note remains there as a reminder to appreciate this moment for the miracle that it is. 


In tribute to its matriarch, the family decided to share this message via T-shirts and other apparel imprinted with her handwriting. $2 from the sale price of each item is donated to CureSearch in support of its mission to cure childhood cancer.


I wore my own Smile T all across Wyoming and Montana last week. Besides being a great reminder to me to LIGHTEN UP, the dark brown color meant good camouflage for the dust and dirt of the Wild West. 


www.smileitstoday.com

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vacation Concessions & Cautionary Tales, Part I


Anyone arguing that Wal-Mart is the Evil Empire won't have to twist my arm. You're preaching to the choir if you rail against big box stores tempting hardworking Americans to squander their resources and fill their homes with junk, then return to the store for plastic containers in which to store said junk. By the way: I spot it, I got it. Cheap and plentiful is a dangerous game for me, so I have tried to avoid the maniacal smiley face as much as possible.

But, watching The High Cost of Low Price last year, my generalized concern about WM (and, to be fair, others like it) crystallized into distinct horror at the litany of WM's crimes against our society, humanity, and our culture. After that, I swore it off and hadn't been in a Wal-Mart in at least a year or two.

Then, I went on vacation. In America.

Allow me to excerpt:

Cheyenne, WY
At the top of our journey, with 2.5 days of road-tripping ahead of us, we meander through town trying to find a few necessities. When faced with no other choices, we end up at Wal-Mart and I abandon my boycott. I head in for fruit and yogurt. I emerge with the necessary foodstuffs (they even sell Chobani! This is living.) as well as three rolls of absolutely adorable grosgrain ribbon. Because, everyone needs ribbon on a road trip through two national parks! In the car, I test out my aunt's new foam neck pillow ($6.99). I run back inside and emerge with one each for myself and my mom. They serve us well throughout the next 10 days. (They are currently tossed on my bedroom carpet. I'll have to buy a plastic bin to put them in.)

Riverton, WY
Day 2: After a snooze at the Super 8, Yellowstone awaits and we are anxious to be on our way. It is very hot, however, and some among us are regretting last night's Chinese dinner in Casper, WY (I was spared, but learned by proxy: Wyoming is no friend to chow mein). The call goes out: "More fresh veggies and a second cooler with ice!" No other options in sight, my highborn principles, cracked yesterday, now crumble like so much cheap crockery. Wal-Mart Visit #2 results in a few legitimately nutritious items and four irresistible Miley Cyrus/Max Azria T-shirts in various British-inspired designs that I know my sister will love. At $1 each, how can I not? To assuage my guilt, I buy a reusable shopping bag (cute enough to carry as a tote!) made from recycled plastic bottles. Regardless, by this point, my Karma is seriously shot. I later embarrass myself, picking a fight over the choice of dinner plans. Coincidence?

As luck would have it, I manage to avoid two other WM-runs during the vaca. That place proves to the luxury of those whose short-term theosophy can handle aisles of bright, shiny things one never knew one needed until one saw them there. That extra cooler served us well, but, on home turf, I'll keep searching out the mom 'n' pop joints.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bringing' Greene Back from the Wild West

Longtime, no Greene!

How do blog divas go on vacation -- do they hang a "Gone Fishin'" sign on their blog front door?* I wasn't sure, so I went for the less-is-more approach and completely abandoned the Greenedom for almost two weeks while I was in Montana and Wyoming. Totally unprofessional, I know, to take leave of the post I only so recently came to occupy. Still, my big old-fashioned adventure provided lots of blogalicious ideas, which I shall share with you toute suite.

Vacation-Inspired-Blogalicious Idea #1: 
Being Outdoors is Good For Children and Other Living Things



Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods describes what he terms "Nature Deficit Disorder." It fairly well horrified me with its descriptions of the how kids these days have very little unstructured playtime, and even less exposure to untamed nature. According to Louv, we have scheduled them within an inch of their imaginations, and some suburban housing developments even have rules that kids can't climb the trees!

Louv's thesis made me feel fortunate to have grown up getting muddy and stringy-haired in the garden, rubbing elbows (from my playpen) with our dairy goats (named for Richard Scary characters), and spending seemingly endless hours at the Rock Fort with Maria T in the woods near my house. (We were shocked and somewhat dismayed when our fort was dismantled and the huge stones repurposed in my mother's herb garden. Being in our late 20s by then, we tried to keep a stiff upper lip.)

Recently I had the pleasure of watching my niece and nephews (ages 10, 7, and 4), spend four days completely engaged in self-guided outdoor adventuring. At first, when we arrived at our mountainside cabin on a lake 20 miles from the nearest gas station or grocery store, they were excited to see a Nintendo system, and looked forward to hooking it up. (Nothing wrong with video games -- I hear they help with hand-eye coordination!) But, these are kids raised on visits to the Bison Range and trips into the mountains "looking for bear tracks."

Soon, tech-free interest captured their attention and didn't let go until the final frog had been caught, escaped, was caught again, and, finally, allowed to disappear into the muddy banks of his watery home. It was the Call of the Wild, in the form of bugs, muck, and freezing cold water, so tempting, yet so intimidatingly icy. If that weren't enough, Mother Nature spoiled us rotten one evening with a barrage of melon-ball-sized hail stones hammering down on our metal roof as we squealed with surprise and amazement. Someone, pinch us, please!
video

I am glad to report that, somewhere in western Montana, three precious children are being raised to know and love the woods, and handful of adults are refreshed by their own adventures in "the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong."

*Ah-ha! Turns out, the Blogger Vacation Aid is called "scheduling posts," and it is apparently quite a handy little device. Next time...


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ain't That (Fancy) Philanthropy

Giving, of all kinds, is über greene, since it regenerates both giver and receiver. As I settle in at KIG, I think I'll try to post weekly about particularly inspiring philanthropy and/or service work. Why not start with some of the most well-known philanthropists in the world?

 Photo: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Melinda Gates with a newborn baby at Keleya Community Health Center, in Mali.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently pledged $1.5-billion over the next five years to improve maternal and child health, family planning, and nutrition programs in poor countries. This is in keeping with the Foundation's history and mission to improve health conditions worldwide, and working to oppose hunger and extreme poverty. The pledged amount is about half what the organization gave away, total, in the year 2009.

Now, the Gateses are joining with Warren Buffett to encourage other Seriously Well-Funded folks to give away half of their assets in their lifetimes. The project is called The Giving Pledge, and its rather interesting story was told by Fortune Magazine

Philanthropy at this level is so far beyond me that it's hard to wrap my mind around. Consider the fact that Buffett can, as he has pledged to do, give 99% of his net worth to charity without impacting his or his family's lifestyle at all. Huh?

Still, I love the idea that each participant will write a public letter about how they decided to make this commitment. I am fascinated by the "why," and I very curious to know what will come of it all. Check back for updates!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sleepy = Dopey

I invest a good deal of money, time, and mental energy in my health.


I see an acupuncturist, 
a chiropractor, 
an integrative Western-style doctor,
a dentist, and
an optometrist.

I brush and floss three times a day,
have a good mattress. 
practice yoga and meditation, 
eat organic meats, eschew caffeine, 
don't smoke, 
avoid the microwave, 
wear sunscreen (more on that soon), 
use orthotics, 
try to remember my multivitamin and fish oils, 
and even take the stairs whenever possible! 


And yet, I  ignore one of the most important (and most cost-effective) factors in overall health: sleep. Public shaming time:

Yes, I've been keeping track, and I did the math. It's an average of 6.3 lousy hours per night, while my doc says even grown-ups should get 8.Doesn't seem so bad, until you remember that's 30-50 hours of sleep debt per month!

I first heard about sleep debt from Dr. Jennifer Caudle, the director of family medicine in the division of General Internal Medicine at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, MD. 

Apparently, not sleeping enough is like shopping with a credit card. Even if I lose the receipt, the bank still knows about my little trip to BCBG, and the next one to Banana Republic. That pesky balance builds and builds and has to be paid, one way or another. At least with money, it's only money -- I pay the piper and wipe the slate clean. ("Ouch! But that skirt is cute and totally worth eating iceberg lettuce the rest of the month.") The possible ramifications of sleep-deprivation, though...they ain't pretty. I'll let Gwynnie give you the GOOP on that.

I routinely pick on Gwyneth Paltrow's blog (easy target), but her newsletter on sleep hit me right between my half-mast eyes. It compounded my PCP's recent chiding and the running conversations I have with friends, such as: "Tonight, I really am turning off the light at 9pm! 10, latest! OK, 11... Well, maybe tomorrow."

I'm sick and tired of being so tired I feel sick. With proof coming in from all sides that a well-rested girl is a greene girl, it's time I do as Dylan suggested"shut the light, shut the shade" and get some Zzzzs! 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Same Song and Dance

Arcades keep it greene in their own grimy, nostalgic way, and seaside arcades, rife with fearless seagulls and leather-skinned locals, are, of course, a notch above the rest. A recent spontaneous trip to Salisbury Beach to play Ms. Pac-Man brought an unexpected treat that had my friend and me transfixed for a good while.

We definitely had to place a second coin in the slot to "make it go" again, Sam. This was one of those eerie, fascinating, slightly repellent experiences during which I couldn’t tell if I should be charmed or spooked.

Note the smooth white patches where the dance floor has worn away under the puppet’s tireless twinkle toes. Note that the flaxen-haired lass in the front row has lost a leg, but not her painted, wooden smile. Look closely (or click the photo to enlarge): the tall woman behind her has rubbed off her own nose with the mild, relentless mechanical sweep of her arm back and forth in front of her face. 

As if the scene was at all lacking in curiosity points, after two peppy songs lip-synced by the Wicked Witch and a circus-ringleader-type (both hidden from view in the pic) the third track was not a song at all. It was a snippet of Big Bird addressing Mr. Snuffleupagus filched from an episode of Sesame Street. Incongruity alert! Yes, they are both puppets, but…no. Big Bird’s voice goes with Big Bird’s body, not with a pint-sized, wooden, broom-jabbing cackler. My friend felt sort of cheated by that, and I agree, it somehow cheapened the 25-cent show.

Still, greene is in the dust and the details, and the fact that this little box of eclectic characters in hand-sewn costumes remains, outdated, but consistent, in the corner, next to the Simpsons pinball machine and across from Big Buck Hunter shooting game.

Friday, June 18, 2010

TeenLove

No one keeps it greene like a teen. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you find some adolescents to hang out with. I'm not kidding! If you happen to be the parent of a teenager, you might think I'm nuts, and, indeed, it's often easier to hang out with a teen or a parent who is not your own.

Even moms and pops will have to agree that these no-longer-children-not-yet-adults are truly amazing creatures -- extremely idealistic, constantly in flux, highly emotional, sometimes cranky, often quite honest, and, very, very perceptive. In my case, I find continual inspiration in my much-young sister, Alice, who turns 16 in October. Check out the collage she made me:


It hangs on my bedroom wall and makes me remember the days when I had no choice but to let myself experiment, be messy, dream big, fret out-loud (quite often), contradict myself and fully assume that I had Broadway or Hollywood in my future. Alice had a blog before I did, but, she admits, "I was being really mean to my parents and my brother," so that privilege got the ixnay. (When she's paid her dues and gets back to posting, you'll be the first to know!)

In sum, nothing spells g-r-e-e-n-e like the musings of a teen. Simultaneously, nothing so ensures my acceptance of laugh lines, car payments, and truncated summer vacations as remembering the slings and arrows of outrageous adolescent fortunes. That's why I highly recommend you visit with some double-digit-under-twenties on the next possible occasion. Or, get out the scissors, the rubber cement, and some old magazines, and unleash your inner high schooler. May the results be a colorful, complicated, collage of humor, hopes, fears, fantasies and fun.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

For Our Ears Only

I work in a beautiful brick building on a campus of breathtaking Gothic architecture. Most days, it is a picturesque environment.

Today, though, it’s like a trip to the dentist times 1 bajillion. As workers prepare to upgrade the building’s façade by first drilling away the old mortar directly outside my window, it feels and sounds like they are burrowing into my very skull. My bones are rattling and my teeth are chattering and I would give my Blackberry for a pair of earplugs. I’m SOL today, but, check it out, my officemate just told me there is a handy new accessory that all the girls are using…


Ladies! If your aural canals are too delicate for beastly, man-style hearing protection (in icky, undainty colors like orange and blue, which might clash with your rose-hued nighty), now there is a noise-protection device just for us. These are, and I quote, “Softer, Smaller, Silky Smooth and Contoured.” Isn't that just the thing?

This discovery has done nothing to diminish the head-splitting ruckus outside, but it is, most certainly, the silliest thing I’ve heard all day, and silly keeps you Greene. I think I’ll get by with my un-contoured noise-cancelers, but if you are the type of gal looking for "ultimate comfort" up to 30dB, in hot pink...look no further!

Sleep well, Dreamgirls. 

xo

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2 Weeks Left to Choose!

 Image courtesy of: midwestsocialite.blogspot.com

I went to a boarding high school and I'm pretty sure I'm one of the most heart-on-my-dorky-sleeve head-over-heels-in-love alumnae there ever was. It was a natural fit, and I have adored the institution and the community from the moment I stepped onto campus. Even after getting a good look at the man behind the curtain as a member of the development staff until just last winter, my crush remains intact.

College was, inexplicably, much different. I felt miles away from my seemingly self-assured and sophisticated classmates who appeared to be living the College Dream. I struggled to find my place, feel confident academically, curb my bagel consumption, and stay awake through long passages in Red Star Over China. Although I learned a lot and grew up a great deal, those were not my happiest days, to say the least.

15 and 10 years later, respectively, I make sure I send an annual gift to each institution.

Giving to the my high school strengthens the good memories and reconnects me to its mission. I love providing today's teenage artist-scholars some version of the not-your-father's-prep-school world in which I thrived.

Giving to my college has, conversely, smoothed many a rough spot in my personal archive. As a donor, I feel pride in this impressive institution, instead of nagging regret about skimmed texts and half-hearted essays. I forget outdated grudges against former roommates and, instead, crack a smile, remembering late-night Karaoke parties and hours spent poring over the pages of our actual facebook (in the days before that word was a proper noun).

Whatever one's personal experiences, there are many reasons to give to one's school:

~ Alumni participation (i.e. the fact that you gave, not the size of your gift) improves a school's strength and ranking, boosting the integrity of one's diploma.
~ The number of alumni who donors improves a school's chances of winning grant funding to assure its healthy future.
~ If you received financial aid, we can stop the conversation right here, but...
~ Since tuition alone doesn't meet the school's costs, even if your parents paid for the whole thing themselves, your education was still subsidized by those who went before you.
~ It matters to someone else, someone young, to have a community in which to be confused and creative and challenged and courageous and carried along by the generosity of those who went before her.

We might think our generosity too "barely detectable" to have an impact at a school we loved. Or, we might think, "Meh, that place didn't float my boat. I'll just recycle this appeal letter." But, if you're anything like me, when you give back to institutions that helped make you who you are, the life (or, at least the perspective) you change just might be your own.

Your school's fiscal year probably ends June 30, 2010. Two Weeks Left to Choose Generosity!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Twigs and Heather

I cannot choose a favorite among the tantalizing array of homemade Twigs and Heather jewelry -- 
and you can't make me! 

I love variations on a theme, and these girls (identical twin sisters, of course) are all over that. 

Each has her own distinctive style.

Heather's stuff is cast from organic elements such as birch bark, twigs, and maple seeds, 
which she gathers herself. LOVE!

 Kerry has a rockabilly vibe that is both edgy and romantic. It brings out the (extremely latent) badass in me.

Betcha can tell whose is whose!


I'll take two of each, please!





Sunday, June 13, 2010

Indian Hill Press

I played it cool last summer when bringing my grandmother to meet poet, printer, and printmaker Daniel Waters at the Vineyard Artisan's Festival, but, really, it was a Brush With Greatness (BWG)* for me.

I had always loved the tiny, often hilarious, hit-the-spot poems which used to pop up randomly on the pages of my hometown newspaper, mysteriously credited to “D.A.W.” Who was this masked rhymer? Why so shy? The rumors swirled. (Turns out, it’s a great story. Wicked awesome poems, too, huh?)

Mr. Waters has long since come uncloaked, founding and running Indian Hill Press and staying proudly, “out of step with the modern world.” (Then again, he’s on Facebook. At least my grandmother has held out.)

Take a gander at his gallery. Isn’t it like opening the window of your stuffy bedroom on a quiet June night and getting two lungsful of post-rain-shower freshness?


"Whoooo is D.A.W?"


*BWGs are uber-Greene, because they always make you that much more jazzed about being alive. This subject will get its own post someday soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

ReCap

There are many reasons to love Aveda, chief among them being olfactory. I mean, it's no use forming a partnership with a women's cooperative network in Morocco, sourcing ingredients from traditional communities, or becoming the first beauty company to manufacture with 100% certified wind power unless your cleansers, hair-curling goop, and signature herbal tea are the opiates of the nostrils, right? 


Besides seducing my sniffer and softening my skin, though, Aveda boasts an innovative program to recycle plastic bottle caps. (Surprise! While it's easy, these days, to find a place to recycle your plastic water bottle, most facilities don't have a system in place to deal with its screw-on top. That gets tossed and can eventually contribute to terrible wildlife destruction and marine pollution. Pee-Ewww!)


Recycle Caps with Aveda is targeted towards schools, but, being neither a parent nor a teacher, I have gotten into the habit of saving bottle caps at home and carrying them right into my local Aveda store. (It might be wise to call ahead to yours, in case policies differ, store-to-store).

 (Our cap collection, awaiting its trip to the Atrium Mall.)

Store visits can, of course, be an expensive habit, thanks to the aforementioned heavenly scents swirling in the rarefied Aveda air. Still, at my last drop-off, I mustered nerves of steel, purchased nothing, and was offered, as thanks for my trouble, a free sample of the latest nose-worthy Caribbean Therapy moisturizing cream.

Better for the earth, great for my epidermis, and including a free giveaway? Smells like a winning combination to me!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bounce It Out

Regeneration begins at the cellular level! Or, so says my rebounding instructor, the inimitable, unstoppable Joanne, to whom I dedicate this post. (That's not her in the photo, by the way. I love how completely frozen that woman is -- quite the opposite of what you'll see in a real class! Thanks for the pic, byebye-breastcancer-hello-wellness.com.)


What is rebounding, you ask? Only the most fun you can have working up a sweat in mixed company!

Imagine a roomful of adults (in my case, fellow employees at a lunchtime staff wellness class), on single-sized trampolines, jumping, jogging, twisting, stretching, and "moving fast while breathing slow."
The music is pumping and the teacher is expounding on how we are, at this very moment, rejuvenating our cells, cleansing our lymph glands, boosting our immune system and, generally, turning ourselves into superheroes. Sounds enticing, huh?
My teacher  is beyond enthusiastic about the benefits of this regime, and she is not alone. It seems that rebounding is actually a pretty awesome way to detox (although I really can't get behind the idea of letting the girls go unsupported, but I'm curious to hear your reactions on that part of the linked article).

Besides being an amazing workout, bouncing around like a monkey on the bed is a natural mood-elevator. While attempting to avoid sailing off the rebounder and smashing into the wall (I'm a little bit overly enthusiastic) or catching my yoga pants in the springs, it makes my day to see my classmates completely going for it, full-throttle, no self-consciousness. We sing along to Sonny and Cher as we bounce away the stress of the day. Sometimes I glance at a colleague, red-faced like me; like me, grinning and bobbing like a Jack-O-Lantern on a pogo stick, and I laugh so hard out of sheer delight that I almost fall off my trampoline. Which makes me laugh even more, and I hear laughing is good exercise, too!

Wanna see for yourself? In fairness, this video looks almost nothing like what happens in my life on Wednesdays at 12:15pm. These folks are in rebounding graduate school, while I am in pre-K. Still, the similarity is the smiles. You might snark, "I'd be happy, too, if you could bounce a quarter off my abs," but I assert they aren't merely being smug -- it really is impossible not to beam while you bounce!

UPDATE: I just heard from the amazing Joanne that I have led you astray! Regarding the video I posted, which was, unbeknownst to me, a different kind of rebounding from what I know and love. Joanne says, "Yes it looks harder because it is harder on your body. When you bounce down on a rebounder and pound you are not using gravity. That's the magic of rebounding -- using gravity UP... I will explain all this at my lecture at beyond Fitness 5 Summer street this coming Wednesday at 6:30 that's June 16th, in downtown Natick."  

This is a wonderful lesson that less is more and just because it hurts, that doesn't mean it's good for you! 

"Use gravity to strengthen you, not weaken you. Training in multidimensional patterns gives us the flexibility to enjoy a happier life.” Joanne Schmalenberger, BeyondFitness.net

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Starting is the Hardest Part

I've been scheming about a blog launch for over a year now, and I finally decided that there was no time like 11:38pm on a school night to unleash the Greene.

One of the main reasons I started this bliggity blog is that I am inspired and delighted by so many of the words, images, ideas, dreams, and passions that I see people share via books, poems, songs, hobbies, graffiti, clothing, theater, and their own blogs, as well as their general life choices. This gives me a holding pen for the things that strike my fancy and a way pass them onto you, in hopes that it will inspire some reaction in you, too. I look forward to hearing back from you, as soon as I get brave enough to pull the trigger and publish a for-real post.

That's all for now (it IS a weeknight, after all), but I promise I will get more substantive pronto!

xoxo, Court