Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo, I miss you!

Do you see how I'm not apologizing for my lackluster posting schedule? Come on, 1 post a month? Geez, even if I don't post again in November, I've now officially doubled my monthly posting. You're welcome.

Anyway, it's November. It's National Novel Writing Month. I love NaNoWriMo. I've done it twice now, and loved both experiences.

I'm not doing NaNo this month.

I'm kind of sad about that, though truthfully, with little Z-man still not sleeping through the night, and still not quite up to entertaining himself, I don't think it would be much fun to try to force in time to write a novel.

Plus, I have two novels from past years that I could work on.

What is it about writing novels that the goal, the expectation seems to be that you're writing for others, to publish and to share? If I spent a month writing a journal, I don't think I'd feel the same pressure to rewrite and let others read. Though oddly, here I am, sitting on two novels I'm not sure I want to share, but I write on a blog, essentially self-publishing a journal for all to see. Is it weird that I consider my fiction writing more personal than my blogging???

Anyway, anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? If so, what are you doing reading my blog? Get back to work!


Green tip for the day: Use both sides of paper, including things like shopping lists. Just cross out the stuff you already bought and start a new list underneath it or on the other side.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Great Books

There are also books full of great writing that don't have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story, Bobby. Don't be like the book-snobs who won't do that. Read sometimes for the words--the language. Don't be like the play-it-safers who won't do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.

That quote is from Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King. I'm not sure why I stopped reading Stephen King. Sometime in college, I just kind of moved on. Recently, though, I've picked up a few of his books at library book sales, and I'm having a bit of a Stephen King renaissance. Anyway, I stumbled across that quote and it got me thinking. I try to read broadly, but I tend to fall in the "read for the story" group. I can forgive, or ignore, bad writing for the most part, but bad story--forget it!

It's so personal, what makes that combination of great story and great writing. Here's my (I'm sure partial) list of some of the books I've read that were really a combination of outstanding prose and terrific storytelling:

Margaret Atwood is a wonderful writer...I'd say pretty much all her books are examples of great writing. But her stories that really resonate with me, that I truly love, are The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid's Tale.

Kurt Vonnegut is the only other writer I've read who was so consistently strong in his writing. Cat's Cradle is outstanding, and Blue Beard is my other favorite by Vonnegut.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon was another perfect book for me--great writing, great story. After I read that, I got every other book by Chabon. While I enjoyed many of the others, unfortunately none resonated with me the way Kavalier and Clay did. Oddly, I was just reading I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron, which contains an essay titled "On Rapture". It opens with the lines:
I've just surfaced from spending several days in a state of rapture--with a book. I loved this book. I loved every second of it. I was transported into its world. I was reminded of all sorts of things in my own life. I was in anguish over the fate of its characters. I felt alive, and engaged, and positively brilliant, bursting with ideas, brimming with memories of other books I've loved.
She's talking about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and it was like she had peeked into my brain to write that.

Since it was a Stephen King quote that got me thinking of this, I'll throw in a Stephen King novel. When I read King, it's really usually a case where I'm reading for story. But, I think he is an author who is not given his due--he's not just a hack. Some of his books also have incredible writing (if you like a long drawn out, overly descriptive type of writing. Which I happen to. Drives TK crazy, though.) I'll put The Stand on my list. Really great story, great plotting, great writing.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Geez, I love that book. Perfect combination of good writing and great story. I've been pretty disappointed with Card's more recently published works, but I'll always love him for writing Ender's Game.

Well, I've run out of time and want to get this posted. The list could never really be done...I can always keep thinking of more, so here it is in its unfinished glory.

What are your examples of those amazing books that pair up wonderful writing and wonderful story?


Green tip of the day: Use your library! Buy used books, and donate your books you don't want to keep. I like to donate books to my library, because I know they'll sell them to raise money that goes right back into the library.

That said, I still buy a number of new books--hey, I also think it's important to support authors :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Hunger Games

About a month ago, I finally got around to reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I don't know what I was waiting for. YA book? Check. Dystopian novel? Check. You've just described my two very favorite classifications for books. I think I was just so disgusted by the Twilight series that I lost all faith that any other popular YA books would be any good.

But I'd heard so much about The Hunger Games, and then there I was, walking through Target one day when I'd just finished my last new book in the house, and happened to see The Hunger Games on an endcap. So I picked it up. And I'm glad I did.

The writing in the book is okay...a bit rocky at times, but it's really the story that grabs hold and pulls you along.

I was a little annoyed. A few times, I've read books and said "I could have written this." This was one of those books. Both novels I've written have been near-future dystopians. Both could have been YA novels. So as I'm reading, I kept kicking myself, saying "this could have been *my* book". But here's the thing: even if I had had this idea, I would have dismissed it as too derivative. The idea of the book kind of riffs off Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, with a healthy dose of Stephen King's The Long Walk and The Running Man and throws in a touch of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. I would have tossed out the idea in a minute.

So as an aspiring writer, I learned some very important lessons: 1) write a good story, and it really doesn't matter if it's derivative. I enjoyed all the stories I mentioned above. It should be no surprise that I liked this so much. 2) At least for readers like me, a strong engaging story is more important than perfect prose. That's very heartening as I struggle with writing "perfectly", though I find that I enjoy writing much more when I just let go and let the story flow rather than worrying about how well it's actually written.

Also, this trilogy has reignited my hope for YA fiction. I mean, so many people being in love with the Twilight series made me seriously worry for the future ;)

So if you haven't read it yet, get out there and get a copy of The Hunger Games. I really enjoyed the story--it's dark, bleak, and just the right hint of hope without being cloying or fake.

If you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you thought.


Green tip for the day: If you have kids and like to go out to eat, carry some crayons in your purse. Then turn down the crayons they give your kids--if you leave them, they just get thrown away! We only take new crayons when our old crayons get too broken or lost and we need new ones to replenish my purse-supply.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

But he doesn't like my cooking???

Well, I hate to call it out in public, but we're working with our little B-man about a very gross problem: nose picking. I'd love to hear if anyone has a solution to that gem. But, this isn't a vent about nose picking. Instead, it's a funny story. About nose picking.

Yay for mommy blogs!

So, the other day, I caught B-man picking his nose again. I told him to stop, and like always, he asked why.

With a distinct tone of frustration in my voice, I said, "First, it's disgusting."

He stopped me and said with that same tone of frustration, "Mom, first, it's delicious."

Yeah, now we're working on not eating our boogers...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Snack bags and garden pickings

N-man and B-man start Kindergarten tomorrow. I'm finding it hard to believe, though I suspect that's normal.

Our district only has half day kindergarten, so I don't need to worry about lunches. But they do need to have a snack every day. I asked what they wanted for their snack the first day, and they chose strawberries and blueberries (N-man) and cottage cheese (B-man). Weirdos! Anyway, since both of those need an ice pack to stay cool, I decided to make the kids a reusable snack tote, something I had in mind for a while anyway.

Here it is. A pocket for an ice pack, a place to hold a fork or spoon, and room for a small reusable container. It was pretty easy to make, and if I actually knew how to use my sewing machine, I'm sure it would have been far quicker.

Here they are all folded up. I let the kids choose their fabrics/thread, so while it might not have been exactly the colors I would have put together, they're happy with it. B-man chose the stars, N-man chose the dots. The only other thing I might do is sew a quick napkin from the remaining fabrics. Probably not by tomorrow, though...we have plenty of cloth napkins that I can just stick inside.

I've written about zero-waste lunches before. I'd really like to try to continue to pack snacks that don't have any packaging. I also have a couple reusable sandwich bags that I bought, and I think I'll try to sew a few more in different sizes. Those are good for holding snacks like crackers or goldfish. I just needed something that could also hold an ice pack so I can pack cold snacks, too.

(If anyone is curious to make one, the big square is 14" and the pocket is 8.5" by 5.5", though your sizes would be dependent upon the size of your ice pack.)


At the beginning of the summer, I posted about our raised bed garden. It's done okay...I've been plagued with horn worms (did a number on the tomatoes, though I managed to rescue a few of the plants), deer, I think (bye bye beans, bye bye many ripening tomatoes), and drought (um, that's my own fault for not watering...lost a few bean plants that the deer had missed, and my only squash plant).

But we've still been getting stuff. Earlier in the year, the lettuce and swiss chard did great...I was able to make a couple meals with those before the weather started getting too hot. We've been getting a few tomatoes here, a couple fairy tale eggplant there, a handful of lima beans, an onion or two; nothing overwhelming, and never enough to make a side dish alone but stuff I've thrown in with other veggies from our CSA. Yesterday, though, I picked the rest of the onions and carrots, plus we had a few more cherry tomatoes. Not the biggest haul on earth, but a pretty respectable one day harvest.

Yum! While I didn't get great harvests this year, I learned a lot. Once the tomatoes are done, I think I'm going to clean out the bed, plant a few squares of garlic this fall, and then plant some permanent squares of asparagus and rhubarb in the spring, for future years. And hopefully add another box (or two, or three!) to plant more veggies next year! Maybe I can even add some kind of fencing to keep out the deer. At the very least, I'll try some kind of deer-deterrent (besides our awesome neighbor across the street who yells at the deer every time she sees them munching on our garden :).

How did your gardens grow this year?


Green tip for the day: Of course I'm putting in another plug for zero-waste lunches and snacks.

What are your tips (or favorite products) for zero-waste lunches and snacks? I'm a fan of the little reusable glad or ziploc containers you can get at the grocery store. Perfect size for little guys! And, inexpensive so if they get lost at school, I don't have to worry. I looked at some metal containers, and the small sizes were upwards of $10 a piece! They're nice, but I think I'd worry my 5 year olds might misplace them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chocolate Chip Math and Terracycle

N-man and B-man can be so different. B-man is in love with all things math. Today, I gave him 7 chocolate chips. He immediately counts them, then picks one up to eat and says, "7-1=6". He eats the next after saying, "6-1=5". And he keeps going.

N-man looks at B-man, looks at his own chocolate chips, then says, "Seven minus one equals YUM!" and tosses a chip in his mouth.

They were both right...


Green tip for the day:

Look for a local Terracycle drop off point. There are many different things that can be dropped off, depending on what "brigades" your local group has signed up for. For example, our terracycle group in town collects juice pouches, chip bags, used pens/markers, empty glue bottles, cereal liners, and a variety of other non-recyclable items.

Many schools organize terracycle brigades as they receive a couple cents for each piece of garbage collected so it's a good fundraiser as well as an opportunity to keep trash out of landfills. You don't need to have a kid in school, though. Call your local school and find out where the drop-off points are...there may be some in locations besides the school, such as the library or a local coffee shop. Or you may be able to bring your donations to the school office even if you don't have a child in the school.

The only thing I'm not too sure if I like is that I wonder if the terracycle brigades encourage people to buy more single-use products, since the packaging is collected and raises money for their school or other charitable organization. For example, do you think people are more likely to give their kids juice pouches rather than water or juice in a reusable container if they know they can upcycle their used pouches? What do you think?

Do you drop things off for a terracycle collection? If so, what are your favorite things to terracycle? I love the used marker and cereal bag collections, as those are things we definitely buy and used to have to toss in the trash.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Most Regal Planet

For their birthday, we got N-man and B-man a book about planets. B-man is doing a great job reading--he can recognize the names of all the planets in our solar system.

Except "Uranus", which he keeps reading as "Your Highness". I just can't stop giggling. Now he's calling it "Your Highness" on purpose. I love this kid!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

He's always a surprise!

TK and I have been married 13 years, and together almost 18 years. But sometimes, he's still a mystery to me.

TK is an engineer, and well, for good reason engineers are not known for their fashion sense. To be honest, TK isn't bad--he irons his clothes, he tries to make sure they match, he dresses generally appropriately. He work attire is casual to business casual, so most days he's in khakis and a collared shirt. But this week he has a big presentation. He asked for my help to pick clothes.

He'd pulled out a tie and said that was what he wanted to wear. I reminded him last time he had a presentation that we'd determined he didn't have any shirts that would look good with the tie. His answer: "well that was in the winter. One of my short-sleeved shirts might work with it."

I was literally speechless for a good minute. Then I said, "You can't wear a tie with a short-sleeved shirt."

"Why not?" he asked. "It's hot out. What do you think people wear?"

"Long sleeved shirts."

"No," he insisted. I was forced to inform him that short-sleeved buttondown shirts are pretty geeky, but I let it go because 1) it's cute-geeky, and he pulls it off, and 2) it's pretty appropriate in engineering circles, or at least the engineering circles he runs in. But a short-sleeved buttondown with a tie was just too geeky. I couldn't let it go.

He wouldn't believe me. Convinced he was right, he said, "I'm checking online."

I wasn't worried one bit. Five minutes later he came back and said, "Okay, I'm convinced."

And he let me pick out a nice long sleeved shirt and tie.

I'm not super fashionable, but I could run a service for engineers to keep them at the engineering-geek level of attire rather than letting them flounder into the total-geek realm.


Green tip for the day: Speaking of fashion, keep "green" in mind when shopping for clothes. Some ideas:
  1. Buy clothes to last. Don't buy new clothes every season, even if you can afford it.
  2. Look for eco-friendly and/or organic materials.
  3. Pass your used clothes along: to friends or family, to a consignment store, to a charity, via freecycle or craigslist.
  4. How crafty are you? Turn damaged or stained clothes into something new. Or just use them as rags.
  5. Consider buying used clothes from a consignment store or place like Goodwill.
Any clothing-related green tips to share?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Change the World Wednesday: Food Budget

Every week I intent to write a Change The World Wednesday post, but you see how infrequently I post so it's just not getting written. I have a few hours left in Tuesday...we'll see if we get it done this week!

Though it's a bit ironic that this week I'm *not* participating...

The challenge this week was:

This week, spend no more than $25 per person on food. This includes anything which is consumed ... spices, oil, fast food items, soda, etc. Make smart choices and stretch that food dollar as far as it can go. In addition to budgeting your food dollar, please write about how it went. We'd like to know what worked, what didn't and your strategy for staying within the budget.

I'm not opposed to living on a budget. I already do! But I don't like trying to drastically slash my food budget. Good food: food that's good for you and good for the environment, tends to be more expensive than traditional food. It's a very sad commentary that it can be far cheaper to get processed food-stuff than fresh meats and vegetables, but there you go. What are some of the reasons I can't spend only $25 per week on food? Organic milk is twice as expensive as regular. Unbleached flour is more than bleached. Fair trade organic bananas and coffee are more expensive than traditional. Grass-fed, organic meats are at least twice as expensive as factory-farmed meat. Those are just a few of the items that I'm not willing to bend on, that would bust our $25/person food budget.

I hate that farmers can't make a living wage...there's so much pressure on the price of food! I think we should recognize the value of fresh, healthy food that is grown/prepared in an environmentally-friendly way--and I think it's worth paying a fair price for it.

That said, I do have a few tips for saving money on food:
  • Eat vegetarian/vegan. Meat is pricey, and I believe for health reasons should only be eaten in moderation anyway.
  • Shop your local farmers' markets rather than large grocery stores. Sometimes, though certainly not always, you can get better prices since there's no middle-man. Also, it's almost always tastier!
  • Shop sales/specials to stock up. For example, the other day our local grocery store was running a special on bags of peaches for $3 (probably 15 or so peaches)--only problem was, they were RIPE, and had to be used asap. We had some for lunch, then I pureed the rest for baby food and to make peach ice cream.
  • Eat what's in season. It's always cheaper than when it's out of season!
  • Find a you-pick place. We picked strawberries today and got 4 quarts for $10.30. At the store, I've seen local strawberries priced between $5.99 and $7.99 for a single quart! Special bonus: it's fun, especially for kids.
  • Prepare your own foods. Don't rely on prepared foods or eating out. Probably healthier that way, too, besides saving you money!
  • Don't waste food. Eat leftovers; don't let food go bad before you eat it.
Even with all those tips, though, I'm not even close to $25 per person per week. For a family of 2 adults, 2 preschoolers, and 1 baby, I'm spending closer to $200 per week for food, and that doesn't count my husband's lunches at work. I could certainly do better than that, but I'd never be able to get it down to $25 per person on a consistent basis. Sure, I could do it for a week by eating from our freezer and cabinet stores, but I couldn't keep it up.


I also wanted to comment on a Change the World Wednesday challenge from a few weeks ago:

This week, give up single-serving foods. No single-serving containers of yogurt, pudding or jello. No single-serving snacks or drinks. Eliminate individually wrapped slices of cheese and fruit cups. Basically, if a container holds only one serving ... don't buy it.

I definitely try to do this on a regular basis, but what I wanted to talk about is baby food. Baby food: always in single serving containers! You end up with a zillion little glass jars or plastic containers. Ugh! I wanted to put out a suggestion to make your own baby food. It's pretty easy. I just steam the fruit or veggie, then blend it up with a stick blender. Pretty fast, easy, and nice that I can control what goes in. I freeze it in ice cube trays, then store it in a freezer bag: far less packaging than the jars of baby food! Plus, it's so much less expensive. The other day I bought 2 organic turkey thighs. It made 14 servings and cost $3.72. If I'd bought it jarred, it would have been more like $10! And don't even get me going about when I get a REALLY great deal, like that bag of peaches for $3!

Anyone looking to make their own baby food, Wholesome Baby Food is a great resource!


Every Wednesday, there's a new challenge. Head on over to Reduce Footprints where you can help change the world, one small step at a time!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fear Factor

N-man and B-man have this thing where if we have m&m's, they both always want to make sure they get red ones. They don't care about any other color...they just want red. I figured it was their favorite because they both love the color pink. (As an aside, B-man now calls pink "light red"...I don't know if that's his attempt to make it more boy-friendly??)

Today I asked them: why red m&m's?

The answer surprised me, and reminded me that they're like little sponges, absorbing every little thing I tell them: "because red dye is made from mushed up bugs!"

Yes, I told them about carmine. I thought it was a fun gross-out fear factor thing. Now they avidly pursue red foods so they can be eating insects.


Our garden

I posted about our garden over on our local eating blog. Head over there if you want the whole story, but here, I'll leave you with a few pictures:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Zippy Zip

I went out last night to a mother of twins meeting. Since I was on a rare outing without the kids, I took TK's car, leaving him with the van in case he needed to take the kids anywhere.

I've been driving the van so long, his little sedan felt so small and sleek and zippy. Until I drove for a few minutes and remembered it was a 10 year old Civic. No pickup. Not particularly sleek. Not at all zippy.

It's a sad, sad day where I realized my van is the zippy car in the house...


Green tip for the day:

Did you know dryer lint can be composted? I didn't. Now I do! Sure, it's not a huge contributor to the volume of garbage in our house, but every little bit helps!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The "Surprise"

Yesterday N-man and B-man didn't have anything to bring home from school. The teacher explained that they were working on a special secret project that they'd bring home later.

We made it to the car before the kids told me it was a Mother's Day present. I told them that was great, but they shouldn't tell me what it is.

By the time we walked in the door, N-man wanted me to guess which table he sat at to work on it. I know which teacher was helping him!

By lunch time, it was still on N-man's mind. He wanted to keep the secret, but wanted to let me in on it as well. B-man, while more staunch in his desire to not tell, had no problem with N-man giving hints.

"Mommy, guess what we made today," N-man said.

"I don't want to ruin the surprise. You don't have to tell me."

"Just guess," N-man said.

"Okay. A drawing."

"Nope. Guess again."

"A painting."

"No. I'll give you a hint. It's what this is in." He pointed to a large fake flower arrangement in a vase.

"A vase?" I guessed.

"No. It's a flower pot," N-man revealed.

"You weren't supposed to tell!" said B-man.

"It's okay, I didn't hear," I lied.

"IT'S A FLOWER POT," N-man yelled.

I got a case of the giggles then.

I guess the surprise is that he lasted a full hour before telling me!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who's There?

This is a small sampling of last night's dinner conversation:

Nate: Knock knock

TK: Who's there?

Nate: Banana

TK: Banana who?

Nate: [long pause, then confusedly] Uh, you do that banana joke.

Then, after the "orange you glad I didn't say banana" joke had been told, it was Ben's turn.

Ben: Knock knock

TK: Who's there?

Ben: Lamp

TK: Lamp who?

Ben: Knock knock

TK: Who's there?

Ben: Lamp

TK: Lamp who?

Ben: Knock knock

TK: Who's there?

Ben: Light bulb

TK: Light bulb who?

Ben: Light bulb you glad I didn't say lamp!

Friday, April 23, 2010

I'm a Twit

I finally took the plunge and set up a twitter account. It's linked over in the sidebar. I'm not really sure what I'm doing...I've never really followed any twitterers. Hee. Twitterers.

Anyway, I realized that half the time I end up not posting on my blog because I don't want it to devolve into one line posts of something funny my kids say. But that's the perfect thing to use twitter for! So there is the impetus behind "My Boys Said It". It's just going to be things my boys have said.

Now I'll feel free to use my blog for all the tons of deep and important things that I'd like to discuss. (Coming tomorrow: knock knock jokes!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poor Neglected Blog!

Oops, I did it again. I forgot to post. Yikes!

Well, it's not like I forgot. It's just every time I think of something to write, I'm not near the computer. The only time I really get uninterrupted computer time is when I'm up in the middle of the night feeding Z-man. And no one wants to read my incoherent 3 am ramblings.

Yesterday I jotted down some crazy notes every time a "oh, I could blog that idea" popped in my head.

Then I lost the paper.

Turns out "Organize my life" should probably be at the top of any list I write.

Luckily for you, I remember a few things. Also luckily for you, I forgot many. Turns out, it's a good thing I don't have a computer ready to record my every thought.

Here goes:

We were driving home from Long Island yesterday, and left during morning rush hour. Luckily, we could drive in the HOV lane. You know what the hardest part of driving in the HOV lane is? Not pointing and laughing at all the shmoes who aren't in the HOV lane.


Much later in the drive, I was reading my list to TK. I said to him, "you know what's the hardest thing about driving in the HOV lane?" He answered, "Not laughing at the people in the lane next to you." There's a reason why I married him.

Then we both said, "I didn't want to mention it at the time because I didn't want to jinx the HOV lane." Everyone who commuted on the LIE yesterday can thank us that there wasn't an accident in the HOV lane.


N-man randomly said, "Mom, do you know what's in an alien sandwich?" I thought it was the beginning of a joke. "No, what?" I asked. "Dead aliens," he replied, with a DUH tone in his voice. I'm still not sure if that was a joke or if just like a chicken sandwich is made from dead chicken, he was just generalizing that an alien sandwich would of course be made of dead alien.


Why are pizza and bagels so much better in NY? Seriously, how hard can it be to make good pizza and bagels? Why hasn't any other place figured it out? I guess it's like Buffalo and chicken wings. Awesome wings in Buffalo, but I wouldn't even bother getting them anywhere else. Are there other regional foods like this, that are only perfected in one area?


Well that was random. I probably should have saved up all those awesome ideas for separate blog posts. *sniff sniff* Do I smell sarcasm?


Green tip for the day: Plant an herb garden. Tomorrow's Earth Day...the perfect day to plant something. Even if you have a black thumb--most herbs grow easily with little TLC required. Even if you have no room--herbs grow great in pots, indoors or outdoors.

Fresh herbs are so lovely to use. And think of all the packaging you can save...at least by us, I can only find small quantities of herbs in plastic clam shells.

Here's a quickie favorite way to use up herbs when you've got a lot: soften some butter, then mix in a bunch of your favorite herbs. Then use it on crackers, bread, pasta, for sauteeing veggies, over corn. Put the herbed butter in small containers and freeze it and you can have herbed butter all year long!

If you've already got an herb garden (or have one planned), what's in it?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another twin moment

We were just playing a guessing game with letters. It was N-man's turn. He said, "I'm thinking of something that starts with the letter N."

We all made a few wrong guesses, then N-man gave a further clue: "It's something you celebrate at night."

B-man yelled out almost immediately, "Halloween!"

"Yes!" Nate said.

We did let both kids know that Halloween starts with an H. I wonder what they think Hanukkah starts with...


A still-not-well well update: We had our well repaired today, so the first step is done. A water sample has been taken, and results will be ready in 1 or 2 days, depending on how backed up the lab is. If by some miracle it's bacteria-free, we can start using the water. If, as is probably the case, it's contaminated, they'll have to put in chemicals to kill the bacteria. That takes 24 hours, plus a while to clear all the chemicals out. Either way, we're in the home stretch and should have usable water by the end of the week, or the beginning of next week at the latest.

I love clean water. I miss clean water. I think next time we chose a charity to donate to, it's going to be for a clean water fund or well fund. This has been pretty eye opening. I knew it would be inconvenient to live without running water, but I didn't know quite how inconvenient it would be.


Green tip for the day: Be thankful for your water, and think of a way you can conserve water today! I'd love to hear your water conservation tips in the comments. It can be as simple as "turn off the faucets while brushing teeth" or the like!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


When we moved, we went from city water to well water. Something neither TK nor I were super excited about, but most of the towns we were looking in, that was the only option. Neither of us had well water growing up, so we've been slowly learning about wells since we moved.

We're about to get a crash course.

I'm sure it's not news to anyone to hear there's been lots of flooding throughout New England this past weekend. Half of my friends' facebook status updates have been about flooded basements. While our sump pump has been running CONSTANTLY, and we spent 24 hours with our backup sump pump kicking in (and ringing the backup alarm nonstop), our basement managed to stay dry. Yay!

Then yesterday afternoon I noticed our tap water was coming in slightly discolored. It got worse the more I ran the water trying to clear it. TK changed the water filter...no help there. Parts of our yard are flooded, including the area around our well. While the well is capped, we suspect the well might have flooded. Which means the well might be contaminated. Which means we can't use the water.

TK's taking the day off today. We're going to try to find a hardware store that still has a pump in stock so we can try to pump out the yard near the well. We're going to call the well service company. We're going to get our water tested.

I started researching on google, and I had to stop. It was as bad as relying on Dr. Google when I have a runny nose. I have no idea how bad this is, but I saw on one of the first hits that it can take MONTHS to get the well back to usable condition. I'm trying not to freak out. As I started out saying, we know pretty much nothing about wells, so I'm not even trying to diagnose this one ourselves. Hopefully we'll get okay news about all this...


So, I already miss running water. No shower today, have to brush teeth with bottled water, can't drink tap water (my main beverage of choice), can't do dishes, can't run laundry. Still can flush the toilet, though, so I guess that's the one good thing since we technically still do have running water.

You'd think, for one minute, "Oh, can't use the water! What a great chance to learn some really great water conservation techniques." Well, you might think that for a minute while you were desperately searching for the upside.

Here, so far, are all of the horrifying anti-green results of the unusable water:

  • had to buy gallons of water to use for things like tooth brushing, drinking, washing, and cooking. Me, buying bottled water! Ugh!
  • had to buy disposable diapers since I can't do laundry for the cloth diapers (yes, if this is a long term problem, I'll have to find a laundromat. Since I have to do diaper laundry every other day, this will be a HUGE drag).
  • bought purell to disinfect hands.
  • I suspect we'll be eating out more as it's a pain to cook (not to mention, can't wash dishes with this water). I am making corned beef and cabbage tonight, though. Can't keep this Irish-American gal down! I've got it in the slow cooker with Guinness instead of water :)
  • I'm going to have to go out and buy disposable plates, cups, and silverware. Ick, I hate paper plates. I hate paper cups. I hate plastic forks. But again with the "can't do dishes", we're quickly going to run out of real plates, cups, and dishes.
  • I'm going to have to go back to paper napkins and paper towels, because of the "no laundry" thing.
Hopefully, we'll find out today if we can at least boil water to use it. My problem now is that besides the worry of the water being unsafe, it's also very dirty. I mean, I can boil it to kill any germs, but that doesn't get rid of the dirt so I still can't use it. Can I? I certainly can't drink it! But even if we could use boiled water to wash dishes, that would be a huge help. Hopefully we'll be able to get a professional out today to service the well and give us some information about all this. And hopefully, the news will be better than I fear. I tend to overworry about things. Fingers crossed that this is one of those times.

For now, I'm trying to cut myself a break about how eco-unfriendly I'm having to be now, and focusing on making the best choices available given the situation. Time to test out the recycled unbleached paper products!

Anyone know anything about wells? Anyone ever deal with a contaminated well?


In the "whoa, irony" department, last week's Change the World Wednesday was about using less water, letting the tap only run a trickle. I'd been trying that out this week, until all this happened. It's amazing how much water you can waste just by letting the tap run full speed! So that was a good, easy tip last week to just run it a trickle. Of course now I'm alternating between running the taps full out trying to get the water to clear and keeping them totally turned off...

This week's challenge is:

This week, make use of returnable/reusable containers at the market. If your store takes back bottles (or any other containers), return them. If bulk shopping is available, reuse the bag/container for your next purchase. If you buy veggies and use the store's produce bags, keep the bags and reuse them on your next trip.

I try not to buy drinks that come in returnable containers as they're normally soda and/or single-serving drinks, so I don't often use the store's bottle return. None of our local grocery stores have a bulk section (an annoyance for another post), so I don't get to use any reusable bulk containers.

Veggies and fruit I've written about before. A lot of times, you don't even need a bag at all. I do carry plastic produce bags in my purse to reuse. I also recently got a couple reusable mesh produce bags, which I think is ultimately the way I'll go. Oddly, though, I'm having trouble remembering to bring them with me. I have to get a workable plan in place. I don't know how I can remember my reusable grocery bags and forget the produce bags, but somehow I manage!

Monday, March 8, 2010

I've finally discovered my superpower

I was with the kids, brushing teeth before bedtime. N-man once again cracked me up with his random randomness. I love how his mind works! Here's the conversation we had:

N-man, out of nowhere and completely unrelated to anything we'd been talking about: Mommy, you've got MAGIC in you!

Me: Oh boy! Thanks! What kind of magic?

N-man: Silliness!

Very astute, my fine fellow!


Green tip for the day: Rhonda had left a comment the other day on my post about shampoo asking about conditioner. I don't use much conditioner, but have been experimenting with using diluted apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. It works surprisingly well...my hair ends up really soft. I'm not a big fan of the smell, though. The smell does rinse out...I don't smell it all day. The jury's still out for me on the vinegar-as-conditioner thing.

Does anyone have any suggestions for environmentally-friendly conditioner?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Antibiotics rule! Antibacterials don't.

N-man and B-man came down with strep throat this week, and scarlet fever.

No surprise, a few days later, I was at the doctor. Strep throat for me too. Wow, that hurts!

Anyway, we're all on antibiotics. The boys are much, much better, and I'm well on my way. How awesome are antibiotics? You hear "scarlet fever" and think of some wicked terrible disease. Turns out it's quite easily treatable and no big deal as long as you get on antibiotics. Who knew?

This got me thinking about one of my pet peeves: the overuse of antibacterial products. I think people are starting to understand why it's dangerous to overuse antibiotics. But what I can't understand is why supermarkets (and to a lesser degree, toy stores) are filled with antibacterial products. Unless someone in the house is immune-compromised, why does anyone need it? Just like with antibiotics, antibacterial products can create resistant strains of bacteria. Here's a good article from the CDC.

It seems to me that companies who sell antibacterial products are really being irresponsible, relying on fear-mongering and misinformation.

Not to mention, triclosan, one of the most commonly used antibacterials, pollutes the water supply and may have potentially dangerous health consequences (check this for more info).

What do you think of things like antibacterial soap or products impregnated with antibacterials? Do you use them in your house? If so, are you aware of the risks? My theory is that most people who buy them think it's a good thing that will protect their family and don't realize they are contributing to the rise of "superbugs", polluting the environment, and potentially contributing to health problems. Now there would be some good truth in advertising: "buy our antibacterial soap! It probably won't help you, but it will screw up the world!"


Green tip for the day: Unless there's an extremely compelling reason (i.e., an immune compromised family member), just say no to Microban products and cleaners containing antibacterials.

As always, do your own research and/or talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. The internet is filled with nutjobs making wild claims about the dangers of this or that. I tried to include links that contained actual scientific research rather than someone just screaming "antibacterials will kill us alllllllll!" I am not a scientist. However, I do find the research compelling enough that we don't use antibacterial products. Says the person who has a house full of strep throat :)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hey, who's in charge of updating this thing?

Oh! I guess it's me! Kind of fell down on the job there, didn't I?

Things have been...normal. The sleep deprivation was kicking my butt, and just when I thought I couldn't possibly take it any more, Z-man started sleeping through the night. Sometimes. Five nights so far, out of the last seven. Hey, I'll take it. It was enough to make me feel human again instead of zombie.

We went to New Jersey for my nephew's bar mitzvah. I can hardly believe I have a nephew that old! It was very nice.

Plus, every time we go to New Jersey, it reminds me how much I love Massachusetts. No offense, New Jersey! You just...aren't my cup of tea, let's say. It was nice to get a reminder about how lucky we are to live in the perfect place for us. I hope everyone in New Jersey feels like they live in the perfect place, too.

Our computer died. I'm limping along now on a SLOW mini we got free from the cable company when we signed a 2 year contract. I'm really glad we have it as I don't know what I'd do totally cut off from the internet, but I really miss a grown-up computer.

So that's it. We'll see if I can get posts up more frequently!


Bonus funny from N-man, that my facebook friends already saw in my status update: Out of nowhere he said the other day, "I have more ideas than my brain has space." I know how you feel, buddy!

And here's a bonus funny from B-man, that my facebook friends haven't seen yet: yesterday B-man called out to me from the bathroom, "Mommy!" I was worried something was wrong, so I hurried it. He held up his hand and said excitedly, "my thumb is shorter than my pinkie!" Okey dokey!


Green tip for the day: Consider switching to a shampoo bar. Great on so many levels: no plastic container, smaller so it's easier to ship, no weird chemicals get added to the water supply (or your hair). I've been using Burt's Bees Rosemary Mint bar. It's less harsh than regular shampoo so it did take a few weeks for me to step up to using it full-time. I started out switching between regular shampoo and the bar every other day, then every 2 days, then shampoo only once a week. TK and I have both been using the bar full-time since January 1. I think my hair looks much better and healthier as a bonus. Plus, the bar is much cheaper than shampoo in the long run. I paid $5.99 for it, which is a bit more than I'd pay for a bottle of shampoo. But, we got this bar at the end of November, and it's only about half done. I'd have already used 2 bottles of shampoo by now! Store the bar in a closed travel soap dish so that it stays dry and lasts longer.

It was hard for me to find a shampoo bar. I finally located this one at Whole Foods. Let me know if anyone knows of any other stores that carry them! (Of course you can always find them online, too).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Well, I guess if you have a good excuse...

I just reminded N-man he needed to clear his lunch dishes from the table. His response, very upbeat and happy, "Sure Mommy! I just need to save the world first!"

Then he ran away with a dun dun DA sound effect.

I wonder if Superman ever has to clear the table!


We started baby Z-man on rice cereal this past weekend. Both big boys love to help feed him. Today all four of us needed baths after feeding Z-man! I remember solid foods being messy with the twins, but adding 2 four-year-olds into the mix ups the mess dramatically.


Green tip for the day: As we're coming up on Valentine's Day, I'm going to go with my own little pet peeve: flowers. Aside from any environmental issues, let me be the first to admit that I've never really understood the desire to celebrate happy occasions by watching something beautiful die. I've always thought flowers were at worst rather depressing and at best a waste of money. But to each their own...I've even bought flowers in the past for people who I know would enjoy them.

In the past few years, though, I've been hearing more and more about the flower industry. They are heavy users of fertilizers and pesticides. They're flown in daily from around the world--not a lot of local flowers available in Boston in February! Basically, they're not very eco-friendly. Coincidentally, there's an article up about flowers on the Green Lifestyle blog today, too, so pop on over for more in depth info. I guess I'm not the only one with Valentine's Day on the brain!

But what if you really want flowers? Here are some alternate suggestions:
  • Get a potted plant, preferably locally-grown. At least a potted plant will live and be enjoyed for a long time, instead of just a week or so for cut flowers.
  • Give a gift certificate to a local nursery to buy flowers to plant in the garden come spring.
  • Build or buy a window box to fill with flowers in the spring.
  • Give a kitchen garden of pots of favorite herbs.
  • Give flower or vegetable seeds.
  • Give a framed photograph of flowers.
  • Turn pages of magazines, tissue paper, or other scrap paper into paper flowers. There are tons of instructions available online, and it would be a fun activity to do with kids.
  • Some CSAs offer flower shares, where you can pick flowers all summer long at a farm. Investigate to see if you can find one nearby. (Note: I don't know of any locally that you can purchase without being a member of the regular CSA. But it never hurts to ask!)
  • If you absolutely feel like Valentine's Day can't possibly be complete without cut flowers, look around for some eco-friendly flower options. You can find organic flowers, fair-trade flowers, and/or VeriFlora certified flowers.
And before I get labeled the grinch who stole Valentine's day, let me leave you with a really funny quote from the 30 Rock season 4 green week episode. If you don't watch 30 Rock, well, let me assure you it's hilarious. And here's just a little taste of why:

Jack: I love the earth. I have these blossoms flown in every morning from Sri Lanka on a private jet. That's the definition of green. And yet they force us to do more... more sacrifices. Why? For the children. What have children ever done for us?
Kenneth: Well, they make our shoes and wallets.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A dose of optimism

Today Z-man was once again not-napping*, and I said to the big boys, "Wow, Z-man really isn't good at napping!"

B-man answered, "but he sure is good at smiling!"

And you know what? He is. How lucky am I that at least Z-man skips his naps so he can coo, smile, giggle, and be generally adorable?


* Okay, I'm three kids deep now, and I think I can decisively say that my worst parenting skill is getting infants to sleep. Oh, I can do it: car trips, rocking, nursing, walking around holding them. But 2 out of 3 of my kids totally lack the ability to nap in a crib. If it wasn't for N-man, who was the world's greatest napper, I'd have a total complex. As it is, at least I'm not batting zero.

How long until Z-man is old enough not to need a nap? I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stove/oven/microwave-free food prep

This week's Change the World Wednesday challenge over at Reduce Footprints was spurred by a green tip from my blog! Pretty neat, huh? Thanks, Small Footprints! Anyway, the challenge this week was:

This week, "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!"

**I'd like to bump up What A Card's challenge ... how about including microwave-free, as well.

I thought I'd give some quick background on where this challenge came from. A few months ago, I filled out an online survey on National Grid's site about electricity usage. After you're done, it comes back with a ton of suggestions for conserving energy. Many were fairly obvious, and things I already do, like using a programmable thermostat. Some things were "we can't afford to do that" or "we're saving money to do that" items. But some were things I never thought of. Two of the recommendations were: "Cut weekly oven use in half by baking multiple dishes at the same time: potential savings per year of 292 lbs of CO2" and "Use the microwave instead of the oven: potential savings per year of 1752 lbs of CO2".

I cook a lot. I'm a stay at home mom, and I cook with my kids. Sometimes I'll make three hot meals a day. For dinner, I often have the oven *and* stove going. I love to cook, and I'm still going to do it, but this has made me more aware of my electricity usage related to food. I've been making an effort to reduce my oven and stove usage when possible. For example, I've found that instead of grilled cheese on the stove (which probably takes about 10 minutes), I can make open-faced toasted cheese sandwiches in the toaster oven (about 1 minute). So, this not only saves electricity, it also saves time, not to mention is healthier since it's not cooked in butter. I know that's not a no-electricity meal, but I've been looking for opportunities like this to reduce electricity usage.

So, here are some ideas I've had of meals to prepare without electricity:

Fresh fruit
Granola bars
Baked goods that you cook the night before while you're already using the oven for dinner. For example, muffins, sweet breads, scones, etc.

Fresh fruit
Raw veggies and dip
Cold pasta salad
Cole slaw
Cheese and crackers

Same stuff as lunch

Here's what I made for dinner:

There's baba ganoush, ful medammes, and pita bread that we got at the farmers' market from Samira's Homemade. (As an aside for any locals reading this, that baba ganoush was the best packaged baba ganoush I've ever had!). I made a garbanzo bean salad on the side: 1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed, a handful of diced tomatoes, juice and zest from half a lemon, and salt to taste (I used Borsari seasoned salt). It's best to let it marinate in the fridge overnight. We also had a simple salad of things we picked up at the farmers' market: spinach, arugula, grape tomatoes, with a few croutons and my favorite dressing, Cindy's Kitchen Wild Maine Blueberry. It was all delightful!

So what do you think, do you have any other meal ideas that don't require cooking?


Green tip for the day: I'll leave you with another weird one from the National Grid recommendations: substitute buffalo for beef once per month for a potential yearly savings of 91 lbs of CO2. We don't eat much beef, and what we do eat I can source locally. I don't believe there's any local (to Massachusetts) buffalo, so I kind of wonder if the transportation would offset any CO2 reduction. But, I thought this was an interesting one, and I've heard buffalo is healthier than beef anyway, so I'll probably try swapping it from time to time.

Oh, and I guess a second tip is to check out the website for your electric or gas provider and see if they offer any energy-reduction tips. I found these pretty useful!

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?