Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reusable Cups

Once again, I'm participating in Reduce Footprints' Change the World Wednesday challenge. This past week's challenge was:

This week only use reusable mugs/glasses. Yep ... for seven whole days, refuse anything that isn't reusable. Bring your own mug to your favorite coffee shop ... haul your own glass to the soda dispenser at the corner convenience store ... carry your own mug/glass to fast-food restaurants. If a drink comes in something that will be tossed out ... either don't buy it or use your own vessel.

Oh, I thought for sure I had this one in the (reusable) bag! We rarely eat a fast food restaurants. I gave up going out for coffee a few months ago (read about how I broke the habit here). My biggest problem is that most restaurants serve kid's drinks in plastic cups that get thrown away after one use. But I've long been taking those cups home to recycle or reuse, and try to bring them back if we're going to the same restaurant. I also got some good ideas here.

Then my husband and I decided to take the kids to Moe's for dinner one night this week. It was a special treat...we all like their Mexican food, and it's fast enough that the baby usually doesn't get upset and we can make it home in time for bedtime. I even brought the kids' cups from last time we were there. But Moe's is a fast food restaurant. The cups for adults are disposable. As a nursing mom, I'm thirsty CONSTANTLY. Skipping a drink just wasn't an option. So I got one. Challenge--FAIL.

Oh well, part of why I like these challenges is that they open my eyes and make me think about things. What did I learn this week? I'm a nursing mom, and it's irresponsible to go out without a drink. I have a reusable water bottle, and I need to be better about bringing it with me where ever I go. That way I won't be stuck somewhere, thirsty, needing to stop to buy a drink. Not only will this help me reduce the amount of garbage I generate, it will also help me save money so I'm not tempted to buy a drink whenever I get thirsty.

New England, You're My Home

Jules, one of my co-writers at How Does Your Garden Grow recently turned me on to a blog that gathers together New England bloggers. All my fellow New England bloggers, you might want to check out the new button on my sidebar!

Anyway, today they're celebrating their 1 year anniversary (can you say "late to the party"? Oh well, I'm only a year late), and people are blogging about why New England is special to them.

I'm a transplant to the area. I grew up in Buffalo, a lovely place, but after college, I wanted to get out an explore a little. TK, my then boyfriend, now husband, was accepted to grad school in Georgia, so we decided to move to Atlanta. Georgia is also a lovely place, but after a year or so, it was clear that neither of us wanted to spend our lives there. I desperately missed winter; I complained bitterly about the unreasonable heat. I didn't find Atlanta to be pretty. The architecture was heavy on the 70's concrete and 90's McMansions, nothing like the surprising beauty of Buffalo architecture. There was no beautiful fall season where all the leaves were riotously colorful. Don't get me wrong--we lived there for 5 years, and enjoyed a lot of things about the area. But when TK graduated, I especially knew I wanted to move elsewhere. And I campaigned for the East Coast, DC or further north, where we could have some winter, and be closer to our families. Luckily, his favorite job offer was from a company in the Boston area. So in 2001, we were Boston-bound.

Pretty much as soon as we got here, I knew we were home. It just felt...right. We've got Boston, a great city, near enough to visit when we feel the need to explore an urban center. There are four BEAUTIFUL seasons: winter! Snow, snow, snow! Is there anything more beautiful than the clean white coating on the ground after a storm? And the trees when they're covered in snow! The cold air that feels so lovely to breathe...really wakes you up! I missed winter so much in Atlanta. Sure, by February or March I'm ready for spring--who isn't? But I'll never willingly give up winter again. Spring and summer are also beautiful here. We usually have a couple of days here and there of "too hot", but most days are temperate and comfortable. I don't have to hide inside all summer like I did in Atlanta! And autumn...what is there to say? Everyone knows there's nowhere more beautiful for fall leaves. Absolutely breathtaking!

And the Bah-ston accent--wicked hilarious! It makes me smile every time I hear it. Though I probably shouldn't talk about accents. I don't know what's wrong with my voice, but I've spent my whole life, including growing up in Buffalo, being asked where my accent was from. Just the other day someone asked me if I was from Wisconsin!

Ice cream stands all over the place--you've got to trust an area with a zillion ice cream stands. Believe me, I've lived in in other places, and you just don't have quite the plethora of ice cream choices.

Tons of museums, historical sites, parks: the greater Boston area is a fun place to explore, both for kids and adults. Beautiful beaches, touristy towns like Salem and Rockport that are so fun.

We've been here almost 9 years. A few months ago, we moved out to the boonies. We're kind of on the border now between the Boston 'burbs and Central Mass (or at least a lot closer to central Mass than we were before!) It's a whole new area for us to explore, and has more of that "small New England town" feel to the area. We still love the area--it's definitely home for us!


I should also add, as I'm getting some new New England area visitors, that I write for a group blog focused on all the wonderful local food choices in New England. It's primarily a recipe site, so head on over to How Does Your Garden Grow if you're looking for some yummy in season recipes. We're always looking for new writers, so if you live in New England, have a passion for eating locally produced and grown foods and are interested in adding to the site, leave me a comment!


I'm also editing to add a related green tip for the day: consider a local vacation next time you're looking to get away. Even better, consider a staycation as that will save even more gas and you won't have the need to stay in a hotel. No matter where you live, or how long you've lived there, I'm sure there are new places to discover and old favorites to revisit within an hour or two of your home!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bejeweled Bl-addiction

I play a fair amount of Bejeweled Blitz on facebook. I'm not that good, but with 1 minute games and two kids who like to watch me play, I'd say I get in 5 or 10 games most days.

Well, they're coming out with new features, and I'm finding it SUPER addicting. I mean, I'll play the entire 30 minutes I'm feeding Zach! I'm still not very good, but I've been playing so much, I "see" games in my head as I'm trying to fall asleep.

TK and I had just turned out the lights last night, and I said to him, "Oh no! I just made a mistake on the bejeweled blitz game I'm playing in my head!"

He burst out laughing. He's color-blind, and therefore really can't play Bejeweled Blitz so he doesn't understand the addiction. The only thing I could think to compare it to was tetris. Back in the day, he'd play tetris endlessly so I reminded him how you'd see boards of that in your head after you'd played for a while.

His response, "Yeah, I know what you mean. But I never make mistakes in the boards I play in my head!"

So what's your vote? Is it weird that even in my head, I'm not a great bejeweled blitz player? Or are you still hung up on how weird it is that I'm playing bejeweled in my head as I try to fall asleep?

Fess up...are you a bejeweled blitz fan?


Green tip for the day:

Use the backs of envelopes you receive to write your shopping lists, or whatever else you need scratch paper for. I've tried to minimize our junk mail and change as many bills as possible to paperless, but it still seems like we get at least one envelope a day. Rather than just recycling them, I figure I can get one more use as a shopping list, or a list of meal ideas for the week, or just as drawing paper for the kids.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SOLE food

This week I'm participating once again in Reduce Footprints' Change the World Wednesday. The challenge this past week was:

This week, for seven whole days, read food labels and refuse to buy anything containing the following:
  • Hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives
  • Bleached or bromated flour
  • Any ingredients that you aren't familiar with and/or can't pronounce
Following "food rules" has become somewhat trendy, thanks largely to Michael Pollan in my opinion. I'm still a fan of his "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." advice. The Change the World Wednesday challenge rules this week really fall under the "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" umbrella, which I've been trying to do anyway as it just seems like a logical way to eat.

Anyway, this week's challenge is one I think is really important. Thanks, if we're being perfectly honest here, to my son's food allergies, I've become an avid label reader. (Yay, food allergies! See, it's not all bad. In my experience, people with food allergies in the family tend to eat more deliberately, and often healthier. I know our transition to a healthier diet was spurred in a large part by B-man's allergies!)

I think everyone should spend at least a week reading food labels. It can be an eye opening experience! Find out what those weird ingredients are, what they're made of, how they're manufactured.

While I love this week's challenge, I think those rules are covered by trying to eat SOLE food, which has been my aim. SOLE stands for Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical. No, there's no way to eat a 100% SOLE diet, or at least, no way for ME to do it. I'm sure someone could! But I'm all about the babysteps, so I try to hit at least one of those 4 points as often as I can. If you eat SOLE food, you're pretty much guaranteed to be following the rules of this week's challenge.

So what do those things mean? Here's some brief points:

Sustainable: food that is grown in a sustainable manner. For example, not a monoculture that saps the soil, not reliant on chemical fertilizers. Basically, farmed and produced in a manner that isn't actively destroying the planet. This is harder than you'd think.

Organic: The most well-known and defined of all the points, so I'm not going into much detail. However, I will say it's the least important to me. Many small farms can't afford organic certification. Both CSA's I've belonged to grow food organically but do not have organic certification. I'm also not completely opposed to IPM practices and buy quite a bit of locally grown IPM produce in the summer.

Local: Again, pretty well-known, and certainly well-discussed here and on the local New England blog I write for. I love there to be a relationship between me and a farmer; to actually see where my food is being produced. And even when that's not possible, a local food choice saves food-miles--the distance food is shipped. Eating locally also means eating in season, and let's be honest: in season food just tastes better. So really, that's no hardship. But, I'll never be a full-time locavore. I like coffee, and lemons, and chocolate. Bananas and avocado. Unless we move to Florida or Southern California, which we won't, I'm never going to be 100% local.

Ethical: This is what I actually think is the most important point, and at least for me, the most overlooked. How is our food produced? Are the workers subjected to dangerous conditions in slaughterhouses? Are they paid a living wage? Are the farmers applying excessive fertilizer that is running off into the ocean? Are the animals being treated humanely (even if you're not a big animal-rights activist, it's hard to ignore this after having seen Food, Inc.)? Do the fishing practices destroy the ocean floor? Are the rain forests being destroyed to clear land for the product you're buying? These are just a few of the ethical considerations raised. By trying to adhere to the S, O, and L, you eliminate many of these issues, but certainly not all.

Anyway, I don't have any answers. Just things I've been thinking about. And don't think for one second I'm claiming to be perfect, or passing judgment on those who can't or don't eat this way. I don't want to be hypocritical, but I've had to stop using my inability to commit 100% as an excuse. No, I'm not prepared, either time-wise or money-wise or food-choice-wise to eat a totally SOLE diet. However, this is another one of my small steps. Even one SOLE ingredient a meal is a good start. And I've found that as I become more cognizant of these issues, and try new types of food and new sources of food, it becomes easier and easier. My cupboards and refrigerator become stocked with better choices, and my repertoire of meals expands to include many in season, local choices.

Thank, Small Footprints, for another interesting, thought-provoking challenge!


Green tip for the day: plan an oven- and stove-free day, and no cheating and going out to eat! Have sandwiches, cut up fruit, veggies with dip, leftovers from a previous dinner that you can heat in the microwave. Plan ahead and make a pasta salad you can eat cold for a few days. Have hummus, feta cheese, and spinach on a pita or wrap. There are tons of healthy, delicious meals you can have without having to turn on the stove! As an added plus, many of the meals are quick and easy to prepare! Have an idea for an energy-saving, no-stove/oven meal? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Just like those 9 legged octopii

I wouldn't say I'm a particularly big crazy magnet. I've got enough crazy all on my own, thank you very much! But being out with twins does seem to attract a particular kind of crazy.

I was out with all three kids at the supermarket yesterday. It wasn't going great, though mostly in a "everyone is acting nutty but at least not grumpy" kind of way. We had to take a rather extended potty break in the middle of shopping, and when we got out of the bathroom, there was a guy standing there, I'm guessing waiting for his wife who was the poor unfortunate person trapped in the bathroom with my nutty kids talking loudly about their potty-filling abilities.

"They twins?" he asked.

"Yep," I answered, trying to keep the kids moving. And failing miserably as all the Christmas clearance was in a bin right outside the bathroom.

"Have you heard about the octomom?"

"Yes," I answered. I'm in no mood to chat as we've been at the grocery store for approximately 2 days already, but I'm trying not to be rude. It is interesting, though. I think queries about octomom now exceed queries about Jon and Kate plus 8. Are other twin moms finding that as well?

"What'd she have? NINE kids at the same time?" he asked.

"Something like that," I answered in disbelief, wondering to myself why he thought she was called the OCTomom.

He talked more about that, right over my kids who were pointing out every santa hat and glittery thing they could find in the bin.

Then, out of no where, he busts out with some insane political stuff, about how Obama is ruining our country. Seriously, it went on and on. I wanted to ask, "You live in MASSACHUSETTS! Do you pull this crap just hoping to rile the liberals?" But I was finding him so hilarious that I was having trouble not laughing. So I gathered up the kids and hurried on our way, finding this crazy-encounter a little more amusing than just a normal run-of-the-mill, unremarkable nut. Thanks, strange man. Your mixed up, ill-informed insanity actually brightened my day.

Sometimes it's fun to be a crazy-magnet!


Green tip for the day: I'll go with something grocery related since my post was about grocery shopping. Figure out a way that works for you so you don't forget your reusable bags. There are some models that fit in your purse so you'll always have them with you.

Here's what works for me: After I unpack my bags, I put them right in front of the door. Next time I go out, I put the bags on the front seat of my car. It looks a little messy, and of course I have to move them when TK and I are both in the car, but I always see them there and rarely forget to bring them in to the store!

Just keep an eye on your bagger or you might end up with this:

Why yes, that is all my groceries packed into about 10 plastic bags, that were then shoved into my reusable bags. I was distracted at the checkout by my kids, and didn't notice until I was taking my bags out of my cart to load into the car.

I figure the guy who packed them either didn't notice until the end that I had reusable bags, or really, really hates the environment.

I hope this never happens to me again, though I must admit, I found it somewhat hilarious to open up my reusable bags and just keep finding more and more plastic bags. It's like an environmentalist's nightmare! Luckily, I know where the local recycling drop off is for plastic bags :)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

You'll never guess...

At preschool, each kid has a day when they're the "superstar". On their superstar day, they get to take home the mystery bag, which we then fill with an item that starts with the letter of the week. Then the kid comes up with three clues about the item, and the class has to guess what it is the next day. It's a pretty fun thing they do!

So, yesterday N-man was the superstar. Tonight we went around the house looking for something that starts with the letter J, and he finally chose a jingle stick, one of those musical instruments with jingle bells attached to it. These are the clues he wanted me to write down:
  • It's a rocket
  • It has socks on it
I explained to him that we couldn't use those as clues since they weren't true. He answered, "Well, I don't want anyone to guess what's in the mystery bag." Hmm, I guess that's one way to keep people from guessing!


B-man was the superstar on Monday, so he looked for a J item earlier this week. He comes back with a...DREIDEL. I tell him that it starts with a D, not a J. "No, you're *really* WRONG, Mommy! It's not DAY-del, it's JAH-raydel!" I feel bad, but I couldn't stop laughing. If you say it out loud, dreidel does kind of sound like JAHraydel. He wouldn't believe me, though. I finally looked it up on wikipedia for him, which luckily has a picture of the exact same dreidel he found. "Oh," was all he said, when he discovered dreidel doesn't start with a J.

For the record, he finally settled on a stuffed jaguar for mystery bag item.

I had a lot of fun with the mystery bag this week!

Green tip for the day: whenever I throw something in the garbage or recycling bin, I take a second to think about if I really needed that item. I ask myself things like:
  • Could I have done without it? (Like the classic bottled water example when you can drink from the tap)
  • Is there an alternative that can be reused? (This is why I switched to cloth napkins and cloth towels, so we weren't throwing away so many paper napkins/towels)
  • Is there an alternative that uses less packaging (i.e., less to be thrown away or recycled)? (Such as buying larger bulk containers instead of individual packages)
  • Is there a way I can repurpose the item I'm throwing away? (I've been saving large yogurt containers and other similar sized plastic containers to start seedlings this spring. We also use them in the bath to rinse hair)
  • Is it possible that even if my town doesn't recycle the item, I can look around online to find a different way to recycle? (Such as dropping off used CFL bulbs at the hardware store, or finding a drop-off place for a used laptop battery)
  • Can the item possibly be donated/freecycled/or otherwise continue to be used? (I freecycled 11 mismatched coffee mugs, and got a TON of responses for them. I try to keep in mind that just because I don't want something doesn't mean it's trash!)
Some things I decide really are trash, and I really did need them and will continue using them. For example, I haven't found a convenient, affordable source of milk in glass bottles. So we have a lot of milk containers in our recycling bins. We still have at least 2 bags of trash each week, and 2 or 3 bins of recycling every two weeks. I'm trying to cut back on that, but the reality is that it will never be zero. I just like to make sure I'm being cognizant of our household trash/recycling!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Food Inc update

In the past, TK has more endured than appreciated my efforts to change the way we eat. While he was generally supportive, there's been some eye-rolling and some comments that perhaps I was falling victim to propaganda. When he found out I snuck Food, Inc. to the top of our Netflix queue, he wasn't exactly overjoyed, though he did agree to watch it with me.

The next day, he came home from work and I asked what he'd had for lunch (there's an awesome cafeteria where he works). He had eggplant parmesan. Yum, I said. One of the other choices was pot roast, he admitted. That sounds even better than eggplant, I said. Yeah, but I kind of felt like I needed to eat vegetarian, he answered.

The Omnivore's Dilemma is now on his nightstand. He brought leftover bean soup for lunch today. I'm honestly shocked. I'd kind of resigned myself that he would never be really on board with trying to eat local and/or organic food. I'm pretty excited that he's becoming more aware of the problems with the food system.


Green tip for the day: Can I recommend Food, Inc. again? Anyone who has seen it, I'd love to hear your opinion!

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010, I'm ready for ya!

Good thing, as it's 4 days in already.

Okay, I wasn't going to do a "resolutions" list. Resolutions are on the outs, aren't they? So let's call these 2010 goals, though we all know it's just semantics. These are really resolutions in goal-flavored clothing. But what the hey.

First goal for 2010: Lose the baby weight! I've got about 10 lbs to get to pre-pregnancy weight, and, if we're being honest here, about another 10 to 15 lbs to go beyond that. But I'll just be happy with fitting in my pre-pregnancy clothes. I got EA Sports Active for the wii for Hanukkah, and just did day 1 today. Don't know how frequently I'll have time to do it...I'm sure not every day, but hopefully at least a few times a week. I know, indistinct, poorly-defined goals are doomed to fail, but with three kiddos, saying "I'll do it M,W,F" is doomed to fail, too.

Second goal for 2010: Figure out if we're saying "two thousand ten" or "twenty ten". Can we get a consensus, people?

Third goal for 2010: Continue taking babysteps toward a greener lifestyle. Lots of ideas here...they'll be popping up in my green tips at the end of my blog entries!

Fourth goal for 2010: Continue doing fun things with the family, remembering to really appreciate it and be thankful.

Fifth goal for 2010: I was going to say "blog more often", but it's already 4 days into the new year and this is my first entry. Still, I think I can do better than the 5 or so posts a month I've been averaging. A huge THANK YOU to those of you who have stuck around through my relative silence. And a promise here to be better about commenting, as I've slacked on that, too.

Sixth goal for 2010: Make an effort to get to know people out this way. It's amazing we've been here almost 5 months...I need to break out of my shell! Step one I think will be joining a local mom's club.

So, that's all I can think of now, though I know there's a lot of other things if I spent more time thinking. But have to work on actually getting these blog posts up, right? Otherwise how will I work on Goal 5?

Have any goals of your own for 2010? Have any ideas for me?


Green tip of the day: Watch Food, Inc. Seriously. If you have Netflix, you can even stream it to your computer instead of waiting for it to come in the mail. I think it's important for people to be at least aware of the issue surrounding food in America, and then make their own decisions. Before I read The Omnivore's Dilemma (I'd also highly recommend to read this, but Food, Inc. covers a lot of the same ground, and somehow it's more powerful, at least for me, to see it rather than read about it), I didn't even know about many of the problems. I think Food, Inc. is a great place for people to start.

If you've seen Food, Inc., what did you think?