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...