Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let's Keep Handmade In Business

I'm musing at the Green Phone Booth today about the new craft and toy safety regulations that may put lots of independent artists out of business in February if we don't speak up. Check out my post - I link to some great background reads on the issue and to ways take action to keep our kids' toys (and one-of-a-kind clothing) safe and unique. Read more!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Organizing Myself (and not in that gauche community organizer way)

Check out my post over at the Green Phone Booth about my latest efforts at simplifying.... Read more!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Little Alouette Discount Today (Sunday)

If you're in the market for a baby gift, check out Little Alouette this weekend for some simply, beautifully made wooden toys. I met Ms. Turn Sharp in San Francisco last summer and she's as warm and sparkling in person as her toys. Love the wooden keys (you know how I feel about the real ones as a toy) and the new tagline for the store:

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."
Little Alouette's offering 10% off with the code "Mamabird10" if you shop today (Sunday, Dec. 7) -- Happy Weekend!

P.S. This store's in Ohio - if you're looking to support independent artists in your area, check out Etsy's Shop Local feature. If you're in the DC Metro area, check out CREST, a consortium of local etsy artists. Read more!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Solstice Activity: Sun Bread

Check out the Green Phone Booth today for a bread-and-butter children's holiday activity featuring my mom. Read more!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Green Beauty Guide - Book Review

Hey, go check out my review of The Green Beauty Guide over at The Blogging Bookworm. It's a great book -- and, if you live in my neck of the woods, I'm thinking you'll need to borrow it! Read more!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Writing Your Way to Happiness

A research study on expressive writing caught my eye - check out my post at the Green Phone Booth and see how you can use your gift of (written) gab to cheer yourself on up. Read more!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Going Solar in DC

I got to interview a superhero neighbor of mine about her successful quest to go solar in a DC rowhouse. Check it out! Read more!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ruminating About Tuesday

It was super, wasn't it? Head on over to the Green Phone Booth to give me your impressions. Read more!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Birth Control: Voting Green

Have you all been following the races around the country battling it out over basic access to birth control? Sheesh! Follow the links in my post over at the Green Phone Booth to learn about how the extreme, extreme right (not the vast majority of our country including pro-life voters who think we should have access to birth control) is trying to equate being conservative with telling pharmacists not to stock the little clamshells. Read more!

Makin' the First Move

I'm writing at the Green Phone Booth today about makin' the first move! You know, those little steps you take in getting green that just make you want to click your heels in the air while you walk? Nothin' huge, just little happy-making shifts. Tell me yours! Read more!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Green Phone Booth: Simple Halloween Party

Hey, I'm planning EGirl's kindergarten Halloween Party and need some help keeping it simple and easy, capiche? Head on over to the Green Phone Booth and give me some advice. Thanks! Read more!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Green Phone Booth: Locavore Fairy Godmothers

In case you haven't switched your subscription yet, head on over to the Green Phone Booth to read all about the wonderful women in my neighborhood who hooked us all up with farm-fresh veggies for the season. A great how-to on getting a CSA delivery to a location near you! Read more!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Testing Toys for Toxins

I had great fun with a lot of green moms at BlogHerDC yesterday! I can't wait to tell you all about 75,000 things that I learned but I have to start somewhere. So go check out my very first GreenPhoneBooth post about The Smart Mama's XRF analyzer and my kids' (arsenic, chromium, phthalate, and lead-laced) toys. Read more!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Green Phone Booth: Where Ordinary Women Go to Become Superheroes!

So, I've been pretty busy lately (haven't we all?) and part of what I've been up to is plotting the launch of a phenomenal new community blog called the Green Phone Booth. I could not be more excited to report that I will be abandoning this blog flat on its arse and happily taking up residence at a new site. Our new gig will be a group blog, and my fellow writers are a pretty amazing lot: Green Bean Dreams, BurbanMom from Going Green, and the Purloined Letter.

Dontcha want to meet the Bulk? Olive S. Oyl? Green Bean? or the Green Raven?!

I'm tickled pink to be writing with these women, and even more thrilled that we will be able to not only take on issues dear to our green mothering hearts, but to do so in a nurturing community. Put the Green Phone Booth on your speed dial! We're live today and will be posting daily starting one week from today.

If you're going to BlogHer DC, hope to see you there - please find me via Twitter.

Read more!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Alternatives to Neon Electrolyte Drinks


In case one of your tiny loved ones gets the barfing flu this winter (can you believe I just wished that on you?!), I thought I would pass along my recent research on non-neon electrolyte beverages. When EGirl was feeling terrible recently, I decided that the last thing her system needed while it was down and out was a whole mess of artifical colors, flavors, and sweeteners. Naturally, I turned to twitter for advice.

Thanks so much to the many people who helped me out. It turns out that you can make your own electrolyte concoctions, or purchase coconut water at Whole Paycheck or find this premade organic electrolyte drink. I did the first of the two options. I will have to admit that EGirl has tasted Gatorade before so she looked at these drinks like they were rat piss after one sip. I figured she was fine with just water, a little of the electrolyte, and some banana for potassium. Maybe the premade will help us out in the future! Worth a shot with your own kid, though.

Also, you should know there is a natural version of jello (anyone know how to make it with gelatine and fruit juice?), and we always hit up the probiotics for tummy troubles. Now to 'splain to CBoy that the white flour products in the house aren't coming back for awhile. His refrain of WANT COOKIE (animal crackers) is going to get ignored for a bit while we move back into the land of fiber. Hope you and yours are transitioning to fall with happy tummies.



*Photo courtesy of sxc.
Read more!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Moving Away From Teflon: Sticky?

So, I make one of my kids scrambled eggs a lot. I got rid of our Teflon pans a while ago because of health concerns. And I pretty much hate doing dishes at all, but the daily layer of impossible-to-remove-scrambled-egg gunk was pretty much making my head split right down the middle. Does *everything* healthier have to be a PIA, I wondered?

Actually, it turns out I am just a lousy cook! What I needed to be doing was to heat up my pan super hot and then add the olive oil (if I used butter, it would stick even less). Who knew there was a different way to cook to keep the horrid scrambled-egg crust from bonding like SuperGlue to the bottom of my pan?

Apparently, Ask Metafilter (thanks to not martha) and Harold McGee knew. I love the way the interwebs make me a better person cook.



*Photo courtesy of sxc.
Read more!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

DonorsChoose - Targeted Gifts to Public School Class Projects

So, I may be a giant, bleeding heart but I think we can all agree that the crazed roller coaster our economy's been on over the last couple weeks does NOT mean that the public school systems have won the lottery. I'm just sayin'. Anyways, just because none of us will ever be able to retire doesn't mean that we have nothing left to give! Check out the widget on the sidebar of my blog (top right) and click through if you are so inspired. Give a buck, give a couple thousand, whatever it is, I know it will help. This organization seems pretty cool. They ask teachers for projects and then - without having to funnel the money through some giant Kafkaesque bureaucracy !cough! DCPS - they send the materials right on over to the schools.

Those of you who know me in real life know my dad's a huge birdwatcher and naturalist. That's why this program description pretty much made my heart go pitter-pat:

"I'm the visual arts teacher at a Title I elementary school in southeast Washington, DC. I currently teach visual arts to over 400 students in grades ranging from Head Start (two-year-olds) to 5th grade (twelve-year-olds). I have been teaching in the same school for the past ten years.

Our local park is truly a gem in our Nation’s Capital. It offers visitors an opportunity to reflect and soothe their spirits through the beauty of nature. Fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals, and the ebb and flow of the creek emanate the delicate aura of the forest. It is the home to over 200 different species of birds.

Birdwatching means learning to identify the birds and understand what they are doing. Life suddenly gets more interesting when you become aware of the varied bird life all around you. To do this effectively the naked eye alone is not sufficient enough, in order to do it efficiently the students will need medium powered binoculars to explore the nearby park habitat and find the various birds in their natural habitat and the notebooks so the student can be effective recorders. The books would let the students match their birds with the correct species that are commonly found in North America, more specifically Washington, DC.

With your help my students will have the opportunity to further their experience in life science while exploring a new lifetime hobby. Research has shown that children who do not regularly encounter wildlife, develop unreasonable fears. Everything wild becomes strange and scary. Studies also suggest that unless these personal connections are made in early childhood, they may not be possible on such a deep, meaningful level.

My students need 20 pairs of binoculars, steno pads and 2 Birds of North America resource books. The cost of this proposal is $1,129."

Imagine being able to give a child something tangible that might kindle in him or her your father's lifelong passion. Sold!

There are projects of all sorts, something to tug at your personal heartstrings no matter their flavor. I wrote about the details to kick off the month-long DC Metro Moms Challenge if you want to read about more unbelievable reqests (like from a PE teacher who has no equipment and all he's asking for is hula hoops and bean bags. Sigh. Banging head on keyboard). What an inspired idea to give teachers the power to instantly make their students' lives more fulfilling.

Thanks for reading, folks, and if you're a blogger and feel so inclined, spread the word! If you're a person with a change jar you can swing into action, do it! I appreciate your generosity from the bottom of my heart.

Read more!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Sweet Cha-Ching of the Holidays

Well, my friends. It's that time of year again. Time to snap those wallets shut and think about the true meaning of the holidays (even if you are not religious). I really love tradition, and celebrating with my family and friends. And usually, making the green choice involves having forethought and carefully planning how to tackle an event. So here are a few successful strategies I've found for limiting the giving-and-getting beast over the upcoming holiday season. Consider this a to-do-list for myself for the fall.

Halloween

  • Make our costumes; the more I can upcycle the better (signed up for a basic sewing class!)
  • Buy pre-packaged treats to offer kids at the door (I just ordered fair trade chocolates from Global Exchange) including non-food options like stickers and pencils, but make (more alluring) homemade stuff for the kids we know -- like caramel apples or silly looking cookies
  • Get my kids to collect for Unicef
  • Order kit to educate adults about fair-trade chocolate issues (from Global Exchange - deadline is Oct. 1 for groups and Oct. 13 for individuals)
  • Make our decorations (ghosts out of tissues or handkerchiefs, paper-and-paint old-school decor)
  • Head out to the country for apple picking, hay rides, and selecting the perfect jack o'lantern from the pumpkin patch
  • Have a blast carving pumpkins and eating roasted pumpkin seeds

Thanksgiving
  • Bask in the brief, merciful respite from sugar-laden and gift-glorching holidays
  • Eat favorite family goodies like oyster stuffing, stuffed peppers, and make-ahead potatoes; take walk through woods if weather allows
  • Cook and then wolf down some of these pumpkin goodies (note to self: cook actual pumpkins to make puree rather than using BPA-lined cans)
  • Read books on giving thanks and make a Tree of Thanks like my sister-in-law did last Thanksgiving (cut out kid-sized hands out of construction paper; everyone take a moment to write notes before dinner; have everyone read aloud, then attach to branch centerpiece)

Christmas
  • Try to get family members to get sustainable/used goods that we really want/need
  • If we can stop ourselves and others from celebrating with things (depends on the relationship), ask for donations to charities we love
  • Give others homemade items (shop Crafty Bastards today! shop Etsy online)
  • Give the gift of time (babysit, shovel snow, rake leaves, make dinner, walk dogs, corral kids into playdates, generally allow people you love to breathe)
  • Make sure that the holidays are about special traditions (like seeing lights/holiday displays, making gingerbread houses, singing carols, reading special stories, seeing loved ones)
  • When wrapping gifts, use reusable cloth bags instead of wrapping paper; if using giftwrap, buy recycled and reuse both it and the ribbons

Don't Forget the Solstice!
One of the most wonderful things about this time of year is the ancient tradition of honoring the seasonal changes as the light dwindles and the evergreens promise ongoing life. Honoring nature adds to the wonder of the winter holidays.

Take A Breath
And a final note to self? Relax! Remember that even if your darling children have never eaten anything but hemp granola for breakfast, they won't grow a third arm if Lucky Charms come in that Christmas stocking (hey, my children's Easter Bunny brings fresh spring vegetables... couldn't Santa just bring pickled carrots? I'm just sayin!) 'Cause although I wrestle every year with the emotional connections we sometimes build through giving vs. the materialism that undermines the genuine sharing and love of the holidays, I do think that we all need ways to kindle warmth with each other. Hope you have a great fall building traditions with your families and strengthening your ties to your community.

This is my contribution to this month's Green Moms Carnival, hosted on Monday, Sept. 29 by GreenBeanDreams. Go check out the other entries on the commercialization of the holidays!

Read more!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Asbestos Safety: Protecting Your Family and Environment

I recently got a request from the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center to help spread the word about health and safety concerns, not just for laypeople in residential and commercial buildings, but also for workers in aging coal and oil industrial buildings. I'd heard, of course, about health risks associated with asbestos, but I'd never connected it with the energy industry. I asked for info about that area of concern as well as the family-focused take on asbestos.

"Firstly, many people believe asbestos is a hazard of the past, when the fact is that asbestos still exists within nearly 80% of structures built prior to 1978. Asbestos products were banned in the late 1970's but still exist in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, drywall, insulation, and other home construction materials. These are common, but only hazardous if they're damaged or aged.
If you have asbestos products in your home, you should be aware of where they are and what their condition is. Additionally, children should not be allowed within the vicinity of asbestos products because something as innocent as a child's curiosity can render a product hazardous for the entire family. Asbestos exposure has been conclusively linked to the rare cancer mesothelioma, a malignancy for which there is no known cure."

Thanks so much for sending this info! So, my basic question is this: how would a mother know if there were asbestos in her home? Or in any other building (school, daycare, etc.) where it might jeopardize her kids' health? Are there general guidelines of trouble areas you could give the moms reading my blog?

"The important thing to remember for homeowners and particularly those with children, is that because asbestos was so widely used, it must be assumed it is within your home in at least some capacity if the structure is more than 30 years old. For reference let me give some of the most common areas where asbestos would be found in a home.

Pipe coverings: Asbestos was used extensively as a pipe insulation in cold weather climates. For instance a basement or garage will likely have older HVAC/plumbing piping and ventilation, much of which was insulated with asbestos insulation sleeves. Any damage or fraying of these sleeves presents a hazard.

Flooring: Asbestos was often used in linoleum and, floor tile, and even tile glue because it was extremely fire-retardant. Older, damaged flooring should be examined by an asbestos consultant if there is a fear it may contain asbestos.

Ceiling tiles: Foam-based drop ceiling tiles are common in basements and other rooms. These were often made with asbestos to reduce fire hazards around lighting fixtures. When you handle these tiles, you can feel how brittle they are. Any damaged to these (such as water damage) can make older tiles extremely hazardous. If you have these in your home, they should be
monitored carefully for damage.

As far as outside the home, it seems each day a new school is being closed for a few days because of an asbestos scare. This is not to say that all schools contain asbestos, but many are large municipal buildings with extensive HVAC and plumbing fixtures, that like I said above were insulated with asbestos. Districts are typically very open with parents and faculty with regards to asbestos history in school buildings.

Damaged asbestos products should be examined by a state licensed asbestos consultant and removed by a licensed abatement company. These companies are in compliance with the proper removal and environmentally friendly disposal methods for asbestos products.

Asbestos however, is not only a hazard in the home, but also in industrial settings, particularly in the processing of fossil fuels. Asbestos was heavily utilized in coal plants and oil refineries for more than a century before it was finally banned. But like residential structures, it still remains in the older fixtures of these environmentally unfriendly industries.

Workers in these industries have among the highest rates of mesothelioma of any occupation. Exposure typically occurs around boilers, piping, and older insulation fixtures. These men and women are being needlessly exposed as our backwards environmental policies continue to prop up these industries which damage the future of our plane. A decreased reliance upon fossil fuels in general would make these industries look toward more safe and environmentally friendly energy options. We see now that we can save the planet for not only for our children through alternative energy options, but also the health of our industrial workers.

For more information concerning mesothelioma or mesothelioma treatment please
visit the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center."

Thanks for the info!
Read more!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Too Late For Cloth Diapers? LemonCadet Guest Posts!

Well, I could not be more excited. I threw a random challenge at one of my favorite Etsy crafters a little while ago (What? You don't fall in love with the people who make your kids' clothes? And then pepper them with questions? Maybe you should be shopping on etsy!).

LemonCadet? I asked, should I bother to switch my almost-two-year-old-boy to cloth diapers? I figure lots of folks out there already do the comparisons (like I did) back when they are pregnant, but who's out there doing the math for us late bloomers (heh, heh)? I won't bore you with our tale of switching from a diaper service to the 7th Generation whole wheat diapers and now on to the theoretically compostable Nature BabyCare diapers (for the moment). If there's anyone out there on the fence like me on the cloth scene, check out the LemonCadet wisdom on the washable nappies. And if you live in DC, you've got to check out her a-dorable stuff at the CraftyBastards fair in Adams Morgan on Sunday, Sept. 28th. See you there!

LemonCadet: "Since I have recently become absolutely obsessed with cloth diapers, MamaBird here asked me if it was too late to start using cloth on her 21-month old son. Always up for a challenge, I got started on the research --and the math.

There are many reasons to use cloth. Many mamas use cloth because of the environmental impact (I've read that one baby's disposables take up as much space in a landfill as a car!). Others choose cloth because their children are allergic to the chemicals in the "sposies." One of the most common reasons to use cloth is that it's just plain cheaper (well, it can be). MamaBird will spend almost $500 on disposable diapers for the few months left until potty training using only 3 - 4 diapers per day (the average age of potty training for boys is 31 months, longer for kids not in day care). It will be devastating for her if we add up just how much she has spent on sposies so far so we'll leave it up to the imagination while remembering that newborns go through at least 12 diapers a day for the first few weeks. My 5-month old is still using about 8 - 9 dipes a day. And how many times have you put on a clean diaper only to have the kid pee on it before you get the tabs closed?

I personally use cloth because I hate throwing stuff away. We recycle, we compost, we use dishtowels to dry our hands and hankies to blow our noses. It only made sense to use cloth diapers. We have a washer/dryer in our basement and a clothesline in the yard. Hanging up the wet diapers on a sunny day has become a routine that I look forward to. I enjoy stuffing my clean pocket dipes in the evening after the baby's in bed. It's one of the few mindless things I get to do.

At the bare minimum, I would suggest that MamaBird buy about 15 pocket diapers and at least 20 inserts. This is an easy combination allowing for fewer trips to the washing machine and little to no dryer use. Pocket diapers (the most popular brands are bumGenius for their one-size diaper and FuzziBunz for their sized diapers) have an inner layer of a polyester fabric that wicks wetness away from the baby. The outer shell is PUL, a waterproof material that keeps the clothes from getting wet. Inside the pocket there's room to stuff an insert.

I prefer FuzziBunz because they have snaps that are harder for babies to remove than velcro. They also dry really fast --and that's the key in this experiment. Inserts take longer to dry; that's why I recommend having more of those on hand. Most people get by with one microfiber insert, heavy wetters may need two. Plain microfiber doesn't take too long to dry but hemp and bamboo do take a while. Many mamas opt for an insert that combines layers of microfiber and hemp for maximum absorbency without a lot of bulk.

Sadly, I recommend that she stick with sposies at night because I have yet to find a good nighttime option that I feel comfortable sharing. This may soon change.

The goods: I found seconds at the FuzziBunz site for only $12 each! Several websites sell packs of inserts at a discount so 20 microfiber inserts would run about $50 (you would need more of these because of drying times). That's a total of $230; a whole lot less than will be spent on sposies. And just think about the value if you plan to use them on more than one kid. If not, you can always give them away, donate them, or resell them. Another option is to buy used. I have bought FuzziBunz with inserts in excellent condition for only $15 each.

Of course there are hidden costs. I read on my favorite cloth diapering forum, The Diaper Pin, that it costs about $5 a week to wash and dry cloth. That's even less if you line dry. You can put a drying rack in your tub or hang the diapers with hangers from your shower curtain bar if you don't have easy access to a clothesline. If you want to go out for the day, you need a wetbag to haul your diapers home with you ($15) although you could reuse plastic shopping bags. We use a washable pail liner and a laundry hamper to store our dirty diapers at home. These cost $15 - $20 but you could always repurpose a plastic bucket with a lid. You could buy some cloth wipes or cut up your own from old t-shirts and towels. You could buy wipe solution or make your own.

So let's add about $45 to this to be generous for a revised total of $275 --still almost 50% less than what would be spent on disposables. And this is just what I recommend. Everyone has their own favorite brands. This is just a suggestion that I think will work for someone who doesn't have the best access to her washing machine.

On the other hand, you could spend hundreds and hundreds on fancy organic diapers and matching covers but cloth can be done easily and cheaply. Either way, you will get addicted."

Thank you, LemonCadet! What more could I need, personal researcher?! You rock and I can't wait to see your new yetis on Sunday! My little guy already sleeps with two "monnies" (that's monster to you and me) so I have a feeling a little more furry love may be in our future.



P.S. The gorgeous pictures are all from LemonCadet: of the beautiful cloth diapers and wipes she sewed, as well as her darling baby girl, Zadie! Check out Zadie's beautiful nursery (the Flickr set is amazing) if you dig LemonCadet's artistic vision as much as

I do. The room is lovely without being sappy. Kind of like LC. Read more!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dragon Cake: Mountain Mama Guest Posts!

A dear friend in Colorado sent these pics and directions for making dragon cake (her little guy just had a birthday) and a description of her kiddo's green birthday party. They were so cool that I just had to share. I am always on the lookout for eco-friendly and flat-out fabulous party ideas.

Mountain Mama: "Mountain Daddy and I stayed up pretty late the night before decorating his cake. I had them baked and cut the cakes earlier in the day but we started decorating pretty late at night and it takes time. But we were both so proud of the cake.

Everyone said the party was great. We held the party at a really neat playground. We reserved a shelter in case of rain. The rain was a close call--it rained all day Friday and all Saturday night. We had a husband-wife team put on a 40 minute interactive show--kind of like Jim Carey doing comedy and theatrics for 6 year olds. It was very interactive--Mountain Boy was sweating from all the jumping around. That went over very well!

The toy exchange went fine. The kids brought wrapped things (mostly used toys). I put all the toys in a duffle bag and just handed each kid a toy as they left. We asked politely but firmly for the kids to open the presents in the car, not at the park (that was key!). At one point, I was surrounded by 8 kids wanting gifts. Yikes. I told them they would each get one when they left the party. So I think some kids went and found their parents so they could leave! Which was fine. After 2 hours...I was used up! One kid didn't want the wrapped gift I gave him--he wanted to pick. I said this was the way we were doing it today.

I also bought compostable plates for pizza and cups for lemonade. We used "Preserve" washable plates for cake and used up old plastic forks. I took all the waste home and sorted it--compost, dishwasher. It was interesting--all that I threw away was leftover pizza and cake. I did take a marker and write their names on their lemonade cups.


This cake was mostly organic, except the fruit-roll-up wings, and some natural candies. We used natural orange dye made from turmeric (smile).

For the dragon cake, we made THREE batches of Fannie Farmer icing. A DOUBLE batch that we tinted with a lot of natural orange dye. We made a THIRD batch that we didn't tint (ran out of dye)--we used this white frosting as the "glue" to hold the legs, tail, head and belly together.

Decorations - we used natural raspberry licorice for claws, chocolate covered almonds for nostrils, natural fruit chews for eyebrows, Paul Newman's organic chocolate cookies that we cut into triangles for back scales, marshmallows w/chocolate chips for eyes, fruit roll-ups for wings (you have to wash scooby-doo printing off with wet paper towel). Put wings in cake at party.

1st Tip - Cut cake into dragon pieces. Then put on wax paper and freeze. Ice after frozen. Crumbs weren't a problem during icing.

2nd Tip - Cut scraps of wax paper to slid under all cake parts. Then ice cake. Remove wax paper. Voila! Clean cake board.

3rd Tip - We don't have a big fridge. So we put the dragon's body on our big cutting board (dragon's butt right up to edge of board). Then we put the tail on a smaller cutting board (tail base right up to edge of board). When we presented the cake, we put the two cutting boards together--tail base to dragon butt. Voila! Full dragon.

Cake Mix: Whole Foods organic yellow cake mix

Frosting: Confectioners' Frosting II (The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham)

* makes about 1 cup
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (we used butter)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar, approximately (I sifted--better results, no lumps)
2 tablespoons cream or milk, approximately

Cream the shortening and the salt together, then add the sugar and stir briskly. Stir in the cream or milk and beat well, adding more sugar or more milk if necessary to get an easily spreadable consistency. This is enough to frost an 8-inch two-layer.

*Here's the recipe for the dragon cake--read comments if you make it (we bought a yellow cake mix from Whole Foods--tasted great! We made 3 batches of buttercream frosting from Fannie Farmer's cookbook--awesome too: butter, powdered sugar, milk, cream of tartar).

* Slightly bigger photo of the same cake."

Thanks, Mountain Mama! You and Mountain Daddy rock and I bet your little guy was so thrilled with his cake. Give him a birthday hug from us.

Read more!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Can EcoLiving Be A Feminist Act? BlogHer Post

I'm a little behind in my cross-posting -- I put this post up on BlogHer on Friday, in response to the feature story in this month's Brain, Child. It's a great set of reflections from the author of Grassfed Gourmet (and a much more off-the-grid eco mama than me - think literal milking of the cows). I so agree with her; living sustainably doesn't have to be a throwback, antifeminist stance. Read more!

Just Say No to Faux Pockets: DC Metro Moms Post

Believe it or not, I am ranting about the ridiculosity of faux pockets today over at DC Metro Moms. Someone had to do it. Read more!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Honey Whole Wheat Spiced Apple Cake

I'm on snack duty for my kid's classroom this week and decided on the spur of the moment this morning to whip up a tasty treat using our CSA apples. Could I just use the muffin mix in the freezer? Nooooooo. I had to get all complicated and try a new recipe, one which I would modify on the fly. Luckily, it all worked out fine and it's actually quite delicious. I'm just sayin', if you only get up at 6:30am and the cakes need to bake for 60-70 minutes? Well, you'd better start peeling the apples. Oh, and TGIF!

This cake is very moist and dense. You can definitely tell it's got cream cheese in it. And it's not too sweet, which is a plus for moi, but if you want a little extra treat, you might want to whip up the Vanilla Glaze that I skipped (recipe at the end). I was shooting for something along the lines of a whole wheat apple bread that I could pass off as a cake for the five year old crowd. Not to get all Jessica Seinfeld on you. I'm not hiding anything besides whole wheat pastry flour in there. Although dramatically altered, this recipe is based on the Spiced Apple Coffee Cake recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Muffins book that my darling SIL gave me some years back.

Honey Whole Wheat Spiced Apple Cake

(recipe adapted to make enough to serve a full kindergarten class, with enough for 2 teachers and the principal, plus a tiny cake pan to reserve for younger sibling)

5 1/4 Cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
9 tart cooking apples, such as Granny Smith or Braeburn, 3 lbs. (I used 3 1/4 lbs., to be precise) total weight before peeling, coring, and coarsely chopping said apples
6 TBSP strained fresh orange, lemon, or apple juice (or, in my case, the remnants of a tube of frozen OJ I have had in the freezer for approximately 7 months)
1 Cup honey
2 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temp
16 oz cream cheese at room temp
8 oz plain yogurt (notice that I ran out of cream cheese but if I had enough I would probably just use 24 oz cream cheese and omit this yogurt)
Another 1 cup honey
4 tsp vanilla extract
6 large eggs (I used a dozen of the Polyface medium eggs but they are really small)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans. I used the kind with the little scraper built in that you can run around the bottom to get the pans out but I didn't really need that feature, as it turns out. Original recipe says you can use square baking pans or dishes. You kind of have to keep an eye on the cake to make sure it doesn't burn/the inside is done anyways, so use what you've got.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, toss the apples with the juice. Add 1 cup honey, the nutmeg, and the cinnamon.

In another bowl (a big one), using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter, cream cheese, yogurt if you're using it, other 1 cup honey, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 2 or 3 increments and beat well until smooth. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the apples gently until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and spread evenly.

Bake until the top is golden brown, 60-70 minutes. I used a convection oven and it was ready in less than an hour. I was a little worried the edges would burn and I was horribly late for drop-off, dogwalk, and work, so I yanked those puppies out of there at about 52 minutes if my memory serves me correctly. General common sense like a toothpick coming out clean if you insert it into the center of the cake applies. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Like I said, I was worried about my edges, so I actually flipped the cakes out of their pans and cooled them upside down on the racks, giving them a fairly interesting latticework on the top. I'm not sure I'd recommend that strategy. Regardless, I'd get the cakes out after 5 minutes cause like I said, it's a dense little snack.

Vanilla Glaze, as promised, for those of you who'd like to add the refined sugar right on back into the recipe I diligently made all honey and whole wheat-y:

In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted; 2 TBSP condensed skim milk, warmed; and 1/2 tsp vanilla until smooth and pourable. Drizzle over your still-warm cake.

Still good later in the day for an after-school snack!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

5M4GG Post: All It Takes Is Some Green Talkin'...


Post up at Five Minutes for Going Green today, musing about word of mouth and how powerful it can be to give your ideas the green light (it's all about worms these days).... Read more!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Green Moms Carnival: Back To School Edition

Ladies and germs, children and adults, I welcome you to the September edition of the Green Moms Carnival: the Back To School Edition! Bloggers of all stripes have contributed thoughtful, funny, and inspiring ideas on greening your child's school experience. Read one, read them all...and then skip on down to leave a comment if you'd like a chance to win some eco-friendly back-to-school gear.

Autumn Beck presents How To Start Cloth Diapering on a Budget posted at All About Cloth Diapers. Autumn posts about how to get started with cloth diapers for less than $125.

Tela Kayne presents School Lunches - What are Your Children Really Eating? posted at babyminding.com and reveals some of the scary-sounding ingredients in typical school lunches.

Karen Hanrahan presents Back To School at Best of Mother Earth with tips on everything from nurturing your own mom-self through healthy eating and exercise, to avoiding refined white sugar and consumerism, and organizing the influx of kid artwork. She's even got a tip for negating the evil of nitrate-laden hotdogs!

Diane MacEachern (author of Big Green Purse) presents Taming the Back-To-School Shopping Beast and Check Out Maggie's Organics for Back-to-School Shopping with plenty of tips like "Go shopping in your closet first!" and, well, a source for organic toddler socks which came in plenty useful in our household.

Crunchy Chicken presents Reducing School Bus Emissions with a sample letter to send to your school district to get them to consider switching from diesel to something with less harmful emissions.

EcoBurban Mom presents The Future of School Lunches (on the USDA reauthorization of The Child Nutrition Act - head over there asap as you must comment by Oct. 15th) and 4 back-to-school tips for 'that mom' (including knowing your own kid - maybe he'll use up 75 #2 pencils, maybe only 1...depends on the child, right?).

Fake Plastic Fish presents E+Co Pencils Not So Eco, Actually with an insightful example of how important it is to read the label -- and then use your own judgment to decide if there's greenwashing in your hands.

'Burban Mom presents We Needs Us Good Edgewcashun at Going Green with an action item: telling your reps how much we need to fund environmental education (and PE, for cryin' out loud) via the "No Child Left Inside" legislation due up for a vote this week.

Going Green Mama presents Dishing Up Healthier Lunches and reminds us not to overpack the poor kiddo's lunchbox which means "you’re setting them up to overeat or to toss the rest, both of which have negative consequences." Hear, hear!

Gray Matters presents Going Green in Preschool with a lowdown about her kids' snack policies and how she's managed to honor her green roots while working around school regulations (something we all have to navigate).

Greeen Sheeep presents Back to Eww School with her wistful musings about saner school supply lists (can we just use up the old supplies?!) .

Sommer presents Triclosan and a Non-Toxic Classroom, Eco-Friendly School Lunch, and Healthy Breakfast Ideas posted at Green & Clean Mom. Thanks especially for the alternatives to triclosan - I haven't been able to stomach the smell of it since I was pregnant (a surefire way to tell if something's toxic, imho).

Green Bean presents Education is Eco-Logical at Green Bean Dreams with a comprehensive list of ways to push yourself beyond the basics.

Green Style Mom presents Green Education at her blog (where she's "trying to be myself, be a mom, have some style, have some fun...and do it all in an environmentally friendly way.') Love this post about ways to inculcate little greenies at home, where learning begins: "We aren't waiting until our kids are older or waiting for a good green school curriculum. In our house, we don't just act responsibly, we discuss it. We are building a base that will be expanded as they grow. A way of life that is inherent to them as recognizing letters and counting objects."

Green Talk presents Thrifty Is The New Green for Back To School Supplies with a paean to being thrifty and using up what you've got before heading out for (eco-friendly) supplies. She's also written up a great rundown of Eco Fundraising Made Easy and Profitable tips (like recycling phone books! yeah!) and a snapshot of Project Kool which is also a fundraiser (reusable lunch sacks) dreamed up by a 12 year old!

Jennae Petersen presents Green Rooms in a Box Series: A Modern, Eco-Friendly Nursery Under $2500 posted at Green Your Decor. Jennae notes, "This eco-friendly nursery costs less than $2500 overall, and every single item in the room has green qualities. Not a bad budget if you're starting from scratch, from the ground up."

Mary Hunt presents Time To Start A Class War... at In Women We Trust with a rundown of The Eco-Women Alliance's suggestions for greening a school (email her if you want a more complete version of this handy checklist) and her musings about her favorite lunchboxes.

La Marguerite presents Getting Biodiversity on the Cultural Radar Screen with a plea for all moms - and dads - to help spread the biodiversity message in schools!

Mindful Momma presents The Price We Pay for Back2School Cool at ...adventures in living a green & healthy life with a tongue-in-cheek gentle razz of the barrage of advertising she's resisting as she sends her boys to school.

Tiffany Washko presents Back to School - Green Style posted at Natural Family Living Blog.

Lynn Miller of OrganicMania, founder of this marvelous carnival, presents Green Mom Culture Shock: Back to School, musing about going "from the friendly confines of the Green Mom blogosphere to the public school system."

Ena Clewes presents Dealing With Garden Pests the Organic Way - Gardening Articles - Organic Gardening posted at Organic Gardening. As she notes, "for many gardeners, a good offense is better than a good defense when it comes to pests in the garden."

Yours truly presents Back to School: Greener Fundraising Ideas and Back to School: Waste-Free Lunches. Long-winded posts with resources for you to use on both topics. ;)

The Green Parent presents Add Some Green to School Lunches and suggests an "offer vs. serve" cafeteria policy and a "Giveaway Table."


The Not Quite Crunchy Parent presents Ten Ways To Make School Green All Year Long
at her blog (love her tagline - she's "Not quite crunchy, not quite mainstream...news, tips, and information for parents in the middle") with reminders of some basics we can use all year long, like heading to the library (oh, that new booklust, sigh).

Jennifer presents Back to School With Asbestos?? at The Smart Mama with simple steps to reduce asbestos exposure should your child's school be, well, crumbling and old like the rest of America's....

Jenn at Tiny Choices presents DIY: Reusable Sandwich Wraps with a whole host of linkety-goodness on how to make a wrap-n-mat knockoff (possibly one without a plastic liner!).

Thanks once again to Lynn Miller at OrganicMania, the founder of the Green Moms Carnival, for bringing everyone together, and to all of the fine writers who contributed such thoughtful posts about greening our children's lives at school.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a lunch pack sampler of 3 lunchbox napkins and a snack bag made from upcycled vintage fabric at The Guestroom Closet (woo hoo! a fellow DCUM and local business for me) and an assortment of bags from ecogear (organic cotton kid's green messenger bag and toddler natural-with-pink-trim backpack, and a PVC-free-nylon navy adult pack). To enter, leave a comment below about the best tip you got from reading a carnival post about greening schools...and share a new idea of your own. Post your entry comment (with a valid email with which to contact you!) by Friday, Sept. 12th and I will pick a random winner.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Recycling Tyvek Envelopes

I bet that you also have a stash of those plastic envelopes stuffed in the top of your hall closet because one day, long, long ago, you read somewhere that you could mail them someplace to be recycled. But you're cutting your consumption, and your kids haven't been deluged with gifts lately, it not being the traditional Season of Giving, and it's been awhile since you got something in the mail. The weather is cooling, tho, and you may be reaching for your fleece jacket soon enough, and they are going to come tumbling down on your head. Why, just today, I got something small in the mail that I'm going to give away on Monday at the Green Moms Back-to-School Carnival, so I was reminded once again: Tyvek envelopes are recyclable.

Reusable, too! In the instructions for mailing them back they tell you to turn it inside out and to write the address on the inside. Doh! Why didn't I think of that? Not to mention that you can just use a new label, for that matter. So reuse them to death, of course and then.....

Tiny Choices just talked about this, and while I will leave the interesting Cradle-to-Cradle conversation to their comments, suffice it to say that Fake Plastic Fish won't be having any wanton Tyvek-envelope consumption parties just because the end product is going to be a recycled park bench (ie not a new recycled plastic Tyvek envelope).

Perfect enemy of good? Who knows... but here's the info:

For Small Quantities (less than 25 envelopes/month)
Turn any Tyvek® envelope inside out, so the unprinted white surface shows on the outside. Stuff the inside-out Tyvek® envelope with other used Tyvek® envelopes for recycling.

Address and mail the envelope to:
Tyvek® Recycle
Attn. Shirley B. Wright
2400 Elliham Avenue #A
Richmond, VA 23237

I am going to assume that you don't have more envelopes filling up your mailbox than that. If so, you need to go read Suze Orman, not MamaBird. Or you can click through my link in the first paragraph for instructions. That'll work, too.

Happy decluttering!

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Affluence

I often think to myself that money is freedom. The less money you have, the more you have to focus on meeting basic needs. Once you have more than the basic amount that works for your family, you can work on meeting Maslow's hierarchy of needs (morality, self-actualization and so forth) or even (since I really am a Carol Gilligan lover myself) strengthening relationships as the end goal. My Achilles heel of consumption is definitely buying people rockin' presents (stuff I could easily deny myself, hmmm). But I digress...

For the upcoming APLS (Affluent People Living Simply) Carnival (which you can participate in if you send your entry to aplscarnival at gmail dot com by Sept. 10), we were tasked with thinking about what it means to be affluent. I guess a lot of folks commented about how uncomfortable they were calling themselves affluent. Myself? Not so much. C'mon, you know your parents used to invoke starving children all over the world when you wouldn't eat your dried-out meatloaf. Even if your station wagon *did* have a rusted-out floor that reminded y'all of the Flintstones. Even if your neighbor retired at 40 to sail around the world. In the relative sense, I would venture to say that lots of us with the time and resources to blog are probably affluent.

I am affluent because I can afford to spend my free time poking around the interwebs researching product safety. Because I can, as part of a family vacation, stop by BlogHer to meet fellow enviro-mama bloggers that I now pepper with daily questions and green business ideas (ok, that really means: make this! this safe product! for my kiiiiids!).

I have competing goals when I am considering purchases or actions. First and foremost, I consider health and safety for my kids. Is this plastic going to leach into my child's food and cause her harm? Does tuna have levels of mercury that will damage my child's developing brain? And so forth.

On the other hand, as a mother, I also consider it my duty to keep the earth's air and water clean, and resources undepleted, not only for my children but for their children and for all of the other kids around the world who aren't as, well, affluent as my kids. And I would venture to say that to one degree or another, lots of us who have pets consider most animals to be in need of protection as well. Not to mention the earth itself, which is a pretty magical ecosystem.

So: safety/health, protection, stewardship. I consider those my competing demands when thinking about, say, what to make for dinner. Or what type of clothing to get for my toddler (thanks, Big Green Purse! we love the Maggie's Organics athletic socks). Or even whether we choose to simply stop consuming. You know the list.

It is truly fortunate that our family has the resources (money, time, education) to consider making choices that reflect our values. I recognize that not everyone is affluent in this particular way, and not everyone has my same decision-making schema. That's why being greener-than-thou is so ridiculous. I so appreciate being able to be neurotic thoughtful about my life-worth-living, and love doing so in the company of others who are thinking about many of the same issues. Hats off to the green blogosphere! Thanks for giving me so much to think about -- and to act on.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Environmental Concerns Not Even A Topic of Discussion at ADA Conference?

I took EGirl to the dentist last week right before school started, to get the shining of the pearly-whites out of the way before life got more hectic. My dentist and I chatted once again about the topics that intrigue me: the safety of fluoride (whether in water or toothpaste) and the possibility of a link to bone cancer in boys (see this Eugene Weekly review of the issue from 2005 for a great overview of the controversy); sealants and whether BPA leaching out of them is a health concern; and mercury fillings' wastewater as an environmental hazard. My dentist is pretty comfortable with these topics, well-read, and open to discussion. She didn't come down definitively on any of the issues (hot button topics that need more research in all cases). We both were pretty middle of the road in terms of seeing a true need for cavity prevention (literal British teeth in our family), but she did comment that the ADA conference, which she recently attended, didn't address any of my questions. She suggested I write the ADA to tell them to at least put these issues on the docket for their next round. Even if these topics turn out to be non-issues, you'd think dentists would want to discuss fully how to allay their patients' fears given the level of BPA press alone this year.

So, thanks for the suggestion, doc! Done and done. If y'all want to follow suit, here's my letter:

ADA
American Dental Association
211 East Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611-2678

To Whom it May Concern:

I recently took my child to the dentist and had a number of questions for my dental health provider. Apparently, none of my questions were addressed at the last ADA conference (which she'd just attended). I would like to outline my areas of interest in the hope that the ADA will be able to discuss and continue to study these issues within your professional community. I am aware that the ADAs official positions on fluoride and BPA are on the ADA.org website, but in both cases the ADA acknowledges that more research needs to be done to determine if a health concern exists. Please continue to discuss these topics and to inform the public about updated studies of the safety of these chemicals.

1.Fluoride

With regard to fluoridation of water, as the ADA states on its website, there is a controversy regarding a possible link between fluoride supplementation and bone cancer in boys (my dentist mentioned that this was a "hot topic" in Sweden at the moment and that the issue seems to arise cyclically).

While reading up on the issue, I came across the following additional environmental concerns about fluoride: 1)that the type of fluoride used in municipal water treatment may have persistent organic pollutants bound to it (because "most is industrial waste: sodium
fluoride, sodium fluorosilicate and fluorosilicic acid from phosphate fertilizer, glass, steel and aluminum production. Unlike organic fluorine, these compounds come with pollutant hitchhikers that get a free ride into public water supplies." (via ScienceDaily) and 2)even the levels of fluoride considered safe for humans may be affecting marine organisms.

Regarding the possibility of a bone cancer link, the ADA in 2006 put out a press release noting that it "will require scientific confirmation to confirm or refute the findings." I wonder if there's been any more recent research on this topic? What about the other areas of concern ie the ingestion of persistent organic pollutants and the effects of fluoride on marine life?

2.Sealants

Regarding the BPA in sealants, some research seems to indicate that it may be soluble in saliva at high levels during or immediately after application. (In the March 2006 Journal of the
American Dental Association, researchers tested 14 volunteers immediately after sealant application and found that patients who received Delton Light Cure (LC) Opaque brand absorbed about 110 micrograms of BPA, 20 times that absorbed by recipients of another brand, Helioseal F (5.5 micrograms). Delton Light Cure (LC) leached amounts similar to those that caused developmental toxicity in rodent studies and, at 42.8 parts per billion (ppb), are higher than the
highest amount found in canned food, 38 ppb.... ") Is there an alternative to BPA-based sealants that is effective and safe? I tend to try to avoid potentially toxic chemicals (like endocrine disruptors) even if the jury's still out because I have young children with developing bodies. If I am getting rid of a baby bottle that may or may not leach minute amounts of BPA, I certainly want to avoid a massive ingestion of BPA during the application of a tooth sealant.

The ADA's public statement on Bisphenol-A concludes that "any concern about potential BPA exposure from dental composites or sealants is unwarranted at this time. When compared with all other sources of BPA, these dental materials pose significantly lower exposure concerns." While it seems that the aforementioned study might contradict that statement, I am no scientist (just a concerned mother). So I am thrilled to read that "the ADA is a professional association of dentists who remain committed to the public’s oral health. As such, we strongly support additional research into human exposure to BPA and any health effects it may cause." Could you update me as to the status of the BPA research the ADA's aware of? Is the ADA continuing with an internal dialogue on this matter?

3. Mercury Pollution

It's my understanding that research has shown mercury amalgalm fillings to be safe for humans -- but it sounds like the wastewater leaving dentists' offices may be polluting our water supply.

"Mercury is a large component of dental fillings, but it is not believed to pose immediate health risks in that form. When exposed to sulfate-reducing bacteria, however, mercury undergoes a chemical change and becomes methylated, making it a potent, ingestible neurotoxin. While the major source of neurotoxic mercury comes from coal-fired electric power plants, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and at Urbana-Champaign say mercury entering drain
water from dental clinics and offices is also a source. "We found the highest levels of methyl mercury ever reported in any environmental water sample," said Karl Rockne, associate professor of environmental engineering at UIC and corresponding author of the study that appeared online March 12 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology." (via EurekaAlert)

What is the ADA's stance on this topic? Is there any safe alternative to mercury-based fillings? How might dentists mitigate the environmental pollution associated with drain water?

Thank you very much. I am not trying to be alarmist about any of these topics, and your website does a good job of addressing the ADA's stance on both fluoride and BPA. I'd just love to see further study and conversation about all of these topics.

Best,

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First Compost Complete

Hey! I am so excited. We got to use finished compost for the first time, to start some fall seeds and to replenish our soil in the community garden plot. It was pretty interesting sifting through the lumpy contents of our tumbler so I thought I'd share our successes and failures. We have a tumbler that you can rotate by flipping it over. I will confess that we were erratic about rotating it, and I can vouchsafe that our pile was probably not as piping hot as compost piles get. Still, for a beginner, I'm pretty happy with the results -- we made compost! Compost that we can use! That won't go to the landfill! Wooooo hoooooo!

What did break down?

  • lint
  • bread
  • veggie and fruit scraps galore
  • dog hair
  • leaves
  • bagasse plates and cups from a block party -- I would definitely use these again
  • corrugated cardboard
  • cotton cloth

What didn't break down?

Fascinating to see the process from start to finish, and I am thrilled to be composting our scraps once again. Now, if Worms Eat My Garbage would just come in to my local library -- I actually cleared a couple shelves in my laundry room so I am definitely heading down the wriggler path.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Protein-Packed Granola Recipe

We lurve granola in our house. Crunchy people, crunchy breakfast, right? But, really, what's a girl to do when Whole Paycheck's bulk bins have stale granola in 'em and I'm too lazy to get myself all the way over to the People's Republic of Takoma Park to their commie co-op nirvana of bulky goodness? Make my own cereal, of course. And, since I am even lazier than that, I had to shake down my interweb friends for recipes. So a huge thanks and shout-out to Jodifur, GreenBeanDreams, and BurbanMom for their amalgamated recipe(s). I also ripped off parts of a granola recipe from my Vegetarian Times Cookbook, btw. Since I grew up in the same house as a man I'll affectionately call Pumpkin Head (not to have gross insensitivity to people who suffer from life-threatening allergies, but, well, to have gross insensitivity in all honesty?), we avoid nuts in our home. Tree nuts, peanuts, you name it. I do, however, love the crunch and protein power packed in those yummy seeds. So consider this doctored recipe my paeon to crunchy, nut-free granola goodness.

MamaBird's Granola

7 cups rolled oats (not quick cook)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup millet
1 cup (uncooked) oat bran cereal
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flaxseeds (I used toasted ones)
1/4 cup maple syrup
5 egg whites
1 cup apricots + 1 cup diced dried plums OR 1 cup dried cranberries + 1 cup dried blueberries

I know you're not going to believe this from a kid who used to ask her mom if we could find yogurts with no sugar or artificial sweeteners, just fruit in them, but I really don't think this recipe is sweet enough. It's pretty good, but I think I will up the maple syrup and brown sugar to a full cup each.

Stir it all together, and bake at 300F for 30-45 minutes. Till it's as crunchy and golden as you like it! Mmmmmmmmm....

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mom, Watch Me!


DC Metro Moms post up musing about the mommy gaze. As in, the ever-elusive full-on MamaBird attention my kids both crave. Read more!

Light Green Thumbs


Post up over at Five Minutes for Going Green about how easy it is to have houseplants - a novice guide to greening your indoors aka embracing desert plants! I know some plants are high maintenance, but if you skip the orchids, cleaning your indoor air can be a breeze. Heh, heh. By the way, if you're local, I have more aloe plants than I know what to do with. Let me know if you want one. Read more!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Green Moms Carnival

Hi folks, in case you're gathering fabulous ideas as you get ready for the first day (some friends of mine in year-round charters in the District have been back for three weeks! and the teachers are at their desks for sure) -- don't forget to submit entries to the Green Moms Carnival. Send 'em to greenmomscarnival@gmail dot com by Sunday, September 7th for entry in the 9/8/08 carnival! We all want to know what eco tips you've been rustling up for the lunchbox. If you're a blogger, send the link and a description, and if you're a blog reader but want to participate, send me your text and I will post it for you, 'cause yours truly is hosting. Many thanks again to Lynn at Organicmania for kicking off this group of partyin' ecomammas. Enjoy your last few days of sunshine and freedom.... Read more!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Take Action: Bush Trying to Weaken the Environmental Protection Act

Pesky (drowning) polar bears. They might give scientists authority to act immediately on global warming!

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said late Monday the changes were needed to ensure that the Endangered Species Act would not be used as a "back door" to regulate the gases blamed for global warming. In May, the polar bear became the first species declared as threatened because of climate change. Warming temperatures are expected to melt the sea ice the bear depends on for survival.The draft rules would bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats. (AP report via Treehugger)


I'm sure you've heard the palpable alarm from around the blogosphere. Just checkin' to make sure you know how to comment, 'cause the Bush administration (surprise!) is going to make it as difficult as possible by shutting down email comments. Luckily, the NRDC Action Fund's outraged and will submit your comments via paper (or mule, or whatever else the Bush admin demands) if you click here to take you to a simple form letter to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne (took me 10 seconds to personalize):
I strongly oppose your recently announced plan to weaken protections for threatened and endangered wildlife. The Endangered Species Act is our nation's strongest law for protecting wildlife. Its purpose is to ensure that imperiled plants and animals never reach extinction while protecting the habitat on which they depend. This simply won't be possible with the reduced protections outlined in your new plan.

Wildlife protection should be carried out by trained wildlife professionals. But your proposed plan would transfer that responsibility to agencies with no such knowledge or expertise. Furthermore, some agencies' interests could be directly at odds with the well-being of endangered species. By eliminating or reducing the consultation processes long embedded in the law, the proposed plan removes essential safeguards, including independent scientific review. In essence, the plan replaces science with politics.

Environmental protection is a top concern for most Americans. As such, our government should be doing more, not less, to protect endangered wildlife and their habitat. I urge you not to formalize these proposed plans, which would weaken the Endangered Species Act.

In addition, I am very concerned that the Department of Interior is only allowing 30 days for the public to comment on these dramatic changes to the way the Endangered Species Act is implemented. I urge you to extend the comment period to at least 90 days and to hold public hearings on the proposal throughout the United States.
Thanks to Burbanmom and Green Bean Dreams who have been urging me to comment. Three weeks left in the comment period. Hope I can motivate one other lazy late summer slacker!

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Why I Don't Pay for (Bottled) Water Anymore

Post up at at BlogHer about why I don't pay for bottled water anymore despite my deeply conflicted feelings about safe hydration. Leave a comment there about why you do or don't buy water. Read more!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Planting for Fall Gardens

We had a great weekend here in DC; we're having an anti-August which means it's not been horrifically hot or humid. Made for perfect weather for heading down to our community garden plot to plant some seeds. We put in fall, cool-weather crops: beets, lettuce, arugula, cilantro, a few more sunflowers (smile)...and plan to sow some beans and carrots by next weekend. Most importantly for me, we got to use finished compost to augment our soil! Wooo hooooo. Most importantly for EGirl? We have a baby pumpkin growing!

Later in the fall, I want to plant some onions and garlic, a cover crop to put nitrogen back into the soil, and some early spring seeds like peas. They'll come up first thing after the winter's over. Which will be a great change from the other years when it's been wet and soggy for eons and I've been afraid of stepping around my garden and compacting it down so I blow the entire early cool-weather crop season. Who knew you could do this?

Speaking of my novice gardener status, I thought I'd share the tips I got from the kind and generous Andrea of Andrea's Recipes: August Gardening tips (Virginia) and a fall garden planting guide (North Carolina). Both are germane to the southeast near DC. As is this tip for buying seeds from Ed Bruske of The Slow Cook (on the DCUrban Gardeners yahoogroup): the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. As Ed says,

You can also gain a wealth of knowledge from seed catalogues. My favorite seed company is one not too far from us, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange located outside Charlottesville. They collect a lot of knowledge from local growers and give specific information about planting times for our area. They are also very accessible, not a big, corporate operation.
Happy gardening and I hope you're having your personal version of the perfect Anti-August.

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