Monday, December 29, 2008
Reusing is even better! Reusing uses little or no additional resources while not adding to the landfill. Not to mention the cost savings of reusing the stuff you and your neighbors already own.
1 cord from a coffee cake box
1 eight year-old Girlie
Mix together to create a fun game of Cat's Cradle.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Robin mentioned that her family recently test drove new biodegradable plates made from banana leaves. The package promised Robin that the plates would biodegrade. Any logical person would assume that biodegradable plates (or bags or cups or utensils) easily break down without creating trash. And we all know that trash isn't something that we need more of on the planet.
What a load of greenwashing!
Since I'm not a scientist and refuse to wear white (black is more stylish), I will not regurgitate the technical mumbo jumbo about biodegration. Basically, you only need four things to break down biodegradable materials. Oxygen, water, nutrition and heat.
In most of today's modern landfills your trash is first disposed of in a plastic bag and then the entire landfill is capped in plastic. Oxygen and water do not penetrate the plastic in the volume needed to break down the biodegradable materials.
Biodegradable materials like veggie scraps, dryer lint, egg shells, wine corks and banana leaf plates can take much, much longer to break down in a landfill then they do in a simple compost bin. For example, if it takes say one month for the average newspaper to compost in a compost bin, that number could jump up expediently in a capped landfill.
Take Hubby's favorite soap as a real life example. This particular Tom's of Maine soap comes packaged in a biodegradable plastic wrap. Instead of landing in the landfill in another plastic bag, I toss it in the backyard compost bin. Once the plastic goes in the bin it seems to magically disappear. With all of the soap that hubby uses (he sure likes his showers) I have yet to see the biodegradable plastic again after it lands in my compost bin. The time it takes to compost seems amazingly short.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Who can find the bath towels? Downstairs in a showerless bathroom. (huh?)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
This Christmas we ditched our lofty hopes of ever creating a house made of yummy treats for a more reasonable goal of cooking gingerbread cookies.
Less stress. More fun. More Yum.
A simple and magical Christmas to all!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I had loads of fun!
Now, can someone tell me why the period at the end of the Courant's title is just hanging out there?
Friday, December 19, 2008
I got my money back, but those three hours will be lost forever,
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
All of that may come to an end very soon. The large toy companies who have knowingly allowed nasty chemicals to be included in our children's toys have spoiled the fun for everyone. In just a few weeks a new law will mandate all toys to go through a $4000 safety test before they can be sold to American children.
This $4000 per toy fee would include the stay-at-home mom who sews while her babies nap. This fee would include the part-time person who is making a go at importing toys to sell online. This $4000 per toy fee would give all of the power to the big guys.
So what's the answer? Allow the big guys to continue to make unsafe toys and import them? Put all of the little guys out of business? There has to be an answer.
Please take a moment to read about Diane's thought over at dkMommy Spot. She has posted a great video and lots of additional compelling facts about the issue.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Healthy Toys hadn't updated it's database in quite some time. Now it's back and better than ever. Thank you!!
Please take a minute to look-up your gifts before you give them to a child you love. You can also look-up the toys you already own. Be prepared to completely freak out and feel abused by the toy industry. I personally have freaked out on a couple of occasions after searching (and finding)toys that the family owns.
It's rocks and sticks for the kids again this Christmas.
The toys being tested by Healthy Toys aren't obscure toys that you've never seen. This list plays out like the who's who of every playroom across the country.
On the Healthy Toys site, I like to search by type of toys. "Vehicles" is always my first step. Those millions of tiny little cars and trucks that Little Guy lives for can't be that bad. Right?
Unfortunately there are literally thousands and thousands of little vehicles out there and Healthy Toys can't test them all. What do I do? Toss them like I did to Girlie's PVC-laden baby dolls? Hope he grows-up and outgrows them soon (never!)?
For one quick example on one of the hundreds of toys you can find on Healthy Toys, peak around to see if you have a Leapster 2 hanging around the house. If so, then you also have dangerously high levels of lead and arsenic with lower levels of bromine, chromium and mercury tossed in too.
If you knew these facts before you bought this educational game system, would you still have purchased it? Would you allow your kids to touch these poisons? Breathe them in? What do you do now that you've already spent your hard-earned money?
What do we do when toy companies have two production lines? One for the EU and one for the kids of the US? What do we do? Why aren't we fighting for our kids a little louder?
Sunday, December 7, 2008
... .... .... .... ....
Do you feel like the world is going to hell in a hand basket? Do you feel like you are the only person out there who isn't an evil meanie? Well, I feel like that all of the time. Even my kids are staring to feel like the rest of the world is crazy.
I try to tell the kids (and myself) that there is much more good then bad in the world. The bad events and people are the ones who get all of the press. It's the bad that sticks in our mind. But it's the good that's truly winning.
Take a seemingly normal day last week. Little Guy and I were driving home from the children's museum class I teach. We had yet to make it to school on time after my classes and on that day we were organized and right on time. Until we blew a tire.
Since I'm no helpless mamby-pamby woman I proceeded to speed dial the school to tell them to prepare Little Guy's now laminated late pass ready. Then, I lept up on my stacked heels, grabbed the spare tire out of the trunk and flew into action.
Being the daughter of a mechanic, the cars I grew-up with were well-used. Dad's theory was that he could always just fix them so why buy new (or even from the current decade). Consequently, I have had just about everything go wrong with a car. Good experiences now that my mechanic father lives hours away.
Imagine my surprise when my tire iron didn't fit my lug nuts. Sure I just love hanging out on the side of the road in the freezing rain with a five year-old. But wowsers was my day not going well.
Just when hitchhiking with my five year-old started to look like a good idea, a friendly man with a five year-old of his own stopped to help. This friendly man ended-up coming back on three separate occasions with tools borrowed from various friends. All without knowing me.
When I asked friendly Rob and little Ryan why they stopped to help, Rob looked puzzled and simply replied "you needed help."
Simple you might say. But with all of the road raging, financially stressing, shopping cart bumping angry people that I see everyday, it's nice to know that there are people out there who actually think of strangers. Good people who care.
Thank you to Rob and Little Ryan. An extra gift is heading over to you Ryan as a thank you. I know that your daddy tried to refuse, but I want to thank you for my own selfish reasons. My fingers are crossed that you will grow-up and be one of the good ones like your daddy.
Monday, December 1, 2008
It used to be easy. The CSA would give me a bag of veggie each week. Each week I would plan recipes around the veggies in the bag. We would eat them. Easy smeashy.
Now I walk into the grocery store and are greeting with millions of possibilities. Too many for me to even want to chose from. Often it's just chicken pot pie again. And again.
If I was a smarter Gruppie or I possibly lived back in 1765 I would know just how to preserve those summer veggies to last all winter long. In fact, learning how to preserve food is on my it's too cold to go outside so I might as well learn something new agenda.
Last week I dug deep into the depths of my cabinet and emerged with two small sweet potatoes and a clove of garlic left over from the farm. I took them and made a Real Simple recipe of sweet potato risotto.
Yummy....Still, the question lingers. What do I cook for dinner tonight?
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Everything that once looked dead, dark and tired now looks clean, bright and new. The once boring backyard turns into a wonderland. Kids and adults alike can't help but to smile and look toward the heavens.
Angels land on uninspiring driveways.
Stay tuned in February for another snow related post entitled "What is With All of This Freakin Snow!"
Friday, November 28, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
But what do you do if you are a high-performing school public school on a shoestring budget with standardized testing and budget cuts constantly looming? You get creative.
The newest step in the school's initiative is a shoe collection. The school has partnered with Kinderschuhe to collect new and gently used shoes of all sizes and styles for Soles4Souls. Kinderschushe's friendly owner Kimberly has graciously offered to pay for the shipping of the collected shoes and provide us with marketing materials.
Unlike Recycling, reusing doesn't use any additional resources. Reusing our possessions should be our ideal goal. For example, reusing shoes helps other people while at the same time lightly treading on the earth. (punny huh?) Both reusing and helping others are ideas that young children can really understand and get behind.
Many of us take something as basic as shoes for granted. Will I wear the patent leather pumps or the stacked boots today? For many other people in the world, something as simple as shoes can mean the difference between attending school or going without an education. Shoes can mean the difference between looking professional and landing a job or having to stay in a shelter.
After collecting the gently used and new shoes, Soles4Souls distributes the donated shoes both domestically to 45 states and abroad to 61 countries.
Domestically, Soles4Souls gives the donated shoes to victims of natural disasters who may have lost all of their possessions, to women in shelters so they have professional shoes to wear to job interviews and to summer camps for disadvantaged children who may not have adequate footwear.
Abroad, the donated shoes will travel to village women who have to walk long distances to obtain water for their families, orphanages where shoes are scarce and to people who have to sort through landfills in order to meet their basic survival needs.
Next time you go through your closet and find a pair of shoes that just isn't your style anymore, please take a minute to visit www.soles4souls.org. There you can find a list of local drop-off sites where you can give your old shoes a new life.
My new hand towels are an excellent replacement for paper towels. Not only are they helping my family to save a tree or two, but they look so darn cute!
Whenever I wipe my wet hands I will not only be saving a tree, I will also be reminded of you.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
This Sunday I noticed a travel advisory for Australia. Could they be throwing tourists on the barbey?
Apparently a crocodile was moved from a remote area to a locale 600 miles south as part of a wildlife relocation. After the move, this same crocodile began showing up on tourist beaches. Shortly after, it was found dead.
Officials found 25 plastic shopping bags in the crocodile's stomach. These plastic bags prevented the crocodile from digesting food. The plastic bags starved the croc to death.
Sadly, animals will often mistakenly view plastic in the water as yummy jellyfish, small fish or even plankton.
After reading this disturbing story, a friend and blog reader named Jean sent me an email outlining her journey to ditch plastic shopping bags for good.Jean openly admits that she is far from green. Still, she is really trying to make an effort. Jean's first plan of action was to buy and use canvas shopping bags.
The first time Jean intended to use her reusable bags at the food store, she forgot them at home. No worries there. Jean asked for paper bags (in our area paper is required to be in a brown paper bag for recycling...counterproductive...I know). Since Jean was busy doing things like watching the scanner for prices and refereeing her children, she missed the fact that the bagger had bagged all of her groceries in plastic bags and THEN put the plastic bags in paper bags.
Fast forward to the next week. Jean remembered her canvas shopping bags! Again there was the price checking and kid threatening. The grocery bagger placed the newly purchased food in plastic and THEN put the plastic bags in the canvas bags.
Bringing reusable bags is not a new concept for stores. My bags have been accompanying me for the last eight years. Others before me have been doing this since the advent of merchants. How do these stores not take seven seconds of their training to talk about reusable bags?
Keep on trying Jean! Try bringing those bags to the sporting goods store, the pharmacy and the mall. Think of all of those happy crocodiles that are busy eating yummy tourists because people like you have said "no."
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Gail said that after the soap nuts have shrunk (4-5 washes), they can be boiled down to make dishwasher soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner, pet cleaner...the list goes on and on. An all natural product with no plastic waste. Sounded great to me!
I emailed Gail the soap nuts lady back and mentioned that my friendly neighbor Lauren and I were just talking about how the skin is our biggest organ and how easily it absorbs toxins. The conversation turned to safer detergent alternatives. (Jealous of our fabulous bus stop conversations?)
Gail surprised me by sending out two packages of soap nuts. One for me and one for neighbor Lauren. What a great surprise.
Neighbor Lauren agreed to write a review of the soap nuts for Soap In a Nutshell. Enjoy!
My neighbor gave me these great soap nuts! I had heard about them and always wanted to try them out.
My first reaction was that they had no smell. Its kind of strange a product like this can clean your clothes just the same a laundry detergent. But I was pleasantly surprised!
My clothes smelled naturally fresh and even got out food stains on my kids clothes. I have used the same 4 soap nuts 5 times and now will boil them and make an all purpose cleaner. I am pleased with the soap nuts and like the fact that the soap nuts have multiple uses! I will continue to use them.
Thanks Gruppie !
Thank you Lauren! But I still have one question for you. You promised to provide "adult drinks" every Friday now that the bus stop us at your house. Where are those drinks? Still waiting...
Saturday, November 8, 2008
But I have some really good excuses...
- My cat ate my computer.
- I have a running blog in my head. Now if technology could just come up with a way to get those thoughts on the computer without me having to open the computer.
- I got a job at the local children's museum teaching a class.
- My laundry is all done, folded and put away for a change.
- Being Grand Poohbah of the PTO is a lot more work than I guessed.
- Hubby has been traveling a ton.
- Spreading organic fertilizer for the winter sure is time consuming.
- Obama has distracted me with his perfectly-presidential speeches.
- I'm still recovering from the field trip from hell.
- Third grade homework is tougher than I thought.
- It's not easy being green.
Let's hope for less distractions and more writing next week.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Yesterday that very pumpkin became...
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Girlie's third grade class has been studying rocks. Everywhere we go she picks-up the rocks she sees. Apparently rocks are very interesting to eight year olds. And here I was just enjoying the shiny, gift wrapped kind.
These days I find rocks all over the house. ALL over the house...in the dryer, in the sink, in my car, in her bureau, on the front stoop...you get the idea.
Yesterday was the day of the big rock field trip. The excited kids and prematurely tired chaperones all loaded on to the yellow school bus. We drove at an unreasonably high rate of speed through the narrow and winding Connecticut roads. The roads were originally built for horses. Not for a bazillion ton school bus. The icing on the road trip cake was the steep cliffs. Most of our route was bordered by plunging drop-offs. No guard rails for these hardy New England residents.
Finally, we were granted a break from the treacherous roads. The school bus entered a privately gated nature area. I peered our enthusiastic geology tour guide ceremoniously locking the creaky gate behind the bus. Who were they trying to keep away from the rocks? Or were they trying to keep someone IN? Gulp! The scene was set for the perfect horror movie.
The school bus pulled onto the rocky field and proceed to perform a three-point turn. Backing up centimeters from a steep drop-off down to a river. Again, no guard rail there. The kids in the back (including Girlie) started screaming for the bus driver to stop. Ava, the friendly chaperone near me squeezed her eyes shut in prayer and grabbed onto her son. I, for my first time, cried on the school bus. The kids in the front may have had a chance of survival, but Girlie and myself in the back were sure to be pancakes.
The bus ended-up only this far away from careening down the embankment and into the river. This close I tell you.
Then the fun began. All of the eight year-olds were given hammers and told to crack open rocks. Seriously? What happened to visiting the post office like I did in the third grade? Who was the brain trust who decided to give kids hammers anyway? Or for that matter, who trusted me with a hammer? I came this close to amputating a child's finger when she raced out to grab a rock I was attempting to smash.
Our geology tour guide was very ummmm jazzed about his rocks. He said something about a big sheet of ice and lots of weight. I must have blanked out from laughing. Thank you to chaperone Marissa for the crack about the tour guide "getting his rocks off."
My prayers were answered and the field trip did in fact come to a safe end. Feet and noses frozen from the blustery day. Can someone tell me why my daughter has added a rock smashing hammer to her Christmas list?
Beware of the tale of the rocky field trip!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
A few years back, when I was still a Rhody, I saw a press release touting $25 compost bins. The friendly people at Rhode Island Resource Recovery were selling new compost bins at 1/3 off of their retail price to the people of Rhode Island. Progressive huh?
My compost bin traveled through my move to Connecticut and was promptly set-up in a sunny spot in the backyard. It happily gobbled-up leaves, pine needles and other assorted yard waste. In return, my compost bin presented me with nutrient-rich soil whenever I wanted it.
This year I have taken to feeding my compost bin and more diverse diet.
1. Loads of kitchen scraps...apple cores, potato peels, lettuce stumps, egg shells, corn husks
2. Waxed paper....great for wrapping sandwiches and can be found on sticks of butter
3. Corks...I love myself some wine
4. Shredded newspaper...in the height of summer when brown matter was scarce
5. Dryer lint...for those of us who can't line dry all of our clothes
Actual Gruppie family dryer lint...don't get too excited.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
George over at Terracycle sent me an email announcing the company's newest recycled product and offering to let me give it a whirl. You may already know that I am a huge fan of Terracycle and their worm poop... Spray some worm poop on your plants or lawn and watch them smile...
Maybe I would be a fan of Terracycle's new firelogs?
Two days later a neat little box of logs arrived on my doorstep. That same day, Hubby was feeling down in the dumps about the end of the warm weather and the beginning of the long-dark nights. A late-season cookout seemed like the perfect remedy. Veggie burgers, beer and an outdoor fire. We even invited the Dynamite family and their onion dip over to join us.
Presently, there is no way to recycle wax cardboard. The friendly people at Terracycle decided to gather-up wax cardboard that was bound for the landfill and pack it into a log shape. No more cutting down trees, let's use-up the wax cardboard we already have.
The directions ask you to leave the wrapper on the logs when you burn them (even less waste!), but I of course had to sneak a peak.
Unwrapping the logs completely isn't directed unless you have an excited five year-old setting-up.
Kindling isn't nessasary. Another case of a five year-old helper.
As someone with outdoor allergies, it used to be torture to sit anywhere near a wood-fueled fire. Stuffy, sneezing, itching. Not worth it. No worries with these logs. I was able to warm my tootsies and breathe all at the same time. Amazing.
Terracycle's firelogs are supposed to burn for three hours. In my experiment, the logs really burned well for two hours and then smoldered for the last hour. Pretty good when compared to wooden logs. As for the waste left over after burning, I just tossed it in the compost bin. That counts as brown matter. Right?
The final decision is a big YES. Allergies will make me suffer during those summer neighborhood fires no more. Not to mention the savings to my neighbors now that my father won't have to liberate logs from their personal wood piles. If the wax cardboard is already in existence, go ahead and burn it instead of loosing another tree.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Over the season I have exposed myself and my family to many new foods are recipes. A large portion of the food we now consume has been grown or made locally. The family's diet is now primarily vegetarian..and we aren't missing having meat everyday. In fact, when we eat more than the occasional piece of meet it makes us feel ill.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Want to love your mailman too?
A Group called ForestEthics is compiling a petition for the creation of a national do not mail registry .
Imagine all of the trees, ink and glue that could be saved each year? Imagine the intrusive letters that would cease from arriving at your house? Imagine what your letter carrier's physical therapist will do with their new found free time?
"The statistics are crazy: 30% of all the mail delivered in the world is US junk mail, and the emissions of junk mail's logging, production, and distribution equal the CO2 emissions of more than 9 million cars."~ Jon at ForestEthics
Please take a minute to sign your John Hancock on ForestEthic's petition. And for those ambitious gruppies with little Trick-or-Treating gruppies of their own, the website includes a printable page for you to get your neighbor's signatures on Halloween.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
"Don't give that to the kids. It has high fructose corn syrup in it."
"You know, that's just a fancy smanshy name for corn."
"Great! Let's feed it to the kids with a side of mercury and lead paint."
Hang my head in shame, but while I knew to stay away from HFCS I had no idea why. As a girl with a major sweet tooth, I knew that I needed to do a little research.
Disclaimer: I am not a scientist. I don't even wear white (black is way more flattering).
Fact #1 HFCS is made from genetically modified corn and is then processed with genetically modified enzymes. Frankenfood
Fact #2 Most companies use HFCS instead of sugar because of the expense of importing sugar. Corn crops are subsidized in the US and therefore are much cheaper than corn. Cheaper ingredients equal great profits.
Fact #3 Studies have found that soft drinks sweetened with HFCS are up to 10 times richer in harmful carbonyl compounds than diet soda. Carbonyl compounds are elevated in people with diabetes and are blamed for causing diabetic complications such as foot ulcers and eye and nerve damage
Fact # 4 Glucose is metabolized in every cell in the body but all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. That's a lot of extra stress on the liver.
Now the Corn Refiners Association has begun to realize that the American people are waking-up and not making their food purchases blindly. Cue the horrible commercials.
I poked around on YouTube (what could be more fun on a lazy Sunday afternoon) and found a few parodies of the Pro-HFCS commercials. Funny I tell you. This one in particular is a hoot. Anytime you can compare companies blindly leading American consumers to the Nazis, it really drives the massage home.
Friday, October 10, 2008
This time of year it is easy to make a nice looking table without even really thinking about it. Squash from the CSA...Two apples waiting to be munched...Grandma Dot's old silverware box.
Edible and always changing. Isn't fall beautiful?
Friday, October 3, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
On the day I learned about the Skin Safe Database, I also learned that I was completely and voluntarily poisoning myself in the name of all that is cute.
Scary sounding polysyllabic frankengredients that cause fun side effects like neurotoxicity, allergies, developmental /reproductive toxicity and biochemical or cellular level changes were included in my products. All contained in the everyday cosmetic brands you find at the drug store or department store. Just because the product is pricier, doesn't mean it is safer either. Many of the high priced cosmetics are the worst offenders.
When it finally dawned on me that my skin is my biggest organ and what I put on my skin does penetrate into my body, I decided to make some serious changes.
I started on the first step of the staircase. With with my lipstick. Who wants something toxic so close to their mouth?
The next steps came quickly. Eye shadow, mascara, foundation, powder. Nothing above a 3 on the database. Most closer to a 1.
In my search, I have discovered my two favorite brands...
Coastal Classic Creations is owned by a friendly woman named Jane and her husband. The have made it their mission to educate your teenagers just beginning to use make-up and breast cancer patients who are keeping their bodies as toxin-free as possible.
My favorite product from Coastal Classic Creations was a surprise to me. Instead of traditional eye liner, try dipping a wet brush into Surfer's Beach eyeshadow. Beautiful!
The friendly people at Afterglow Cosmetics were helpful in choosing the correct colors for me. "What would you recommend for the Irish Spring commercial girls?" My favorite product has to be their organic setting powder (light). Beautiful!
Of course I forgot to take a before picture of my make-up drawer...here's the happy after picture. Simplified and safer!
Monday, September 29, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Delusional Monday morning Gruppie was going to whip-up a seafood feast because the experts keep telling us that seafood is essential. Monday night Gruppie was going to boil water for oatmeal.
Friday, September 19, 2008
That simple brown bag of veggies has really expanded my horizons from simply potatoes and carrots all the way to bok choi (hubby wants to replace the lawn with a field of bok choi next spring) and now husk cherries.
On first glance, husk cherries resemble tiny paper lanterns. Delicate and paper like.
When it finally dawns on you to tear open the covering, you will find perfect pale-red spheres. When it finally dawns on you to taste one, you will notice a taste somewhat like a sweet tomato with hints of something I can't put my finger on.
In this week's CSA newsletter the farm included a recipe for husk cherry pie. Gosh, stick anything into a pie crust, add sugar and I will be your best friend.
1 unbaked pie shell
1 cup husked cherries
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 table. flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line pie pan with the pastry and fill with the husked cherries. Beat eggs with salt. Add sugar and flour. Add milk and vanilla and stir well. Pour over the husk cherries and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 -30 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve Plain or with whipped cream. http://www.recipezaar.com/
The plan is to cook the pie after soccer practice (Little Guy's. I don't pretend to have the ability to kick a ball). I'll update you then.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
On an early September morning, twenty-five mostly eager little faces walked into my classroom. One in particular stood out.
Kirsten was a precocious, little girl. Big blue eyes, glasses, a Brownie uniform and lots of questions. At seven she could already spell circles around me...
"Ms. Gruppie? Doesn't cocoa have an a at the end?"
"Ummm, sure. I was ummm, just testing to see who was paying attention."
Eventually I learned that Kirsten and I shared a birthday. March 8th to be exact.
Then, I learned that Kirsten was also adopted.
After I heard Kirsten openly discussing her adoption with other kids I was an instant fan. Here was a seven year-old that was openly discussing something in a way that my twenty-three year-old self was unable to do.
As a kid I never told anyone that I was adopted. It felt like a secret to me. Even today when I tell people, they always respond with a hearty "Really?". They seem to be shocked that someone who is relatively normal and devastatingly cute could be adopted. These reactions have always made me feel different and strange.
Kirsten and I went on to have an annual pizza lunch together on our birthdays. A few other lucky Pisces joined and we even expanded the lunch to kids born on the 7th and the 9th. Can you imagine if I will still teaching? "Pizza party for everyone who was born in the winter!"
After I "retired" to stay home with my sweet little Girlie, Kirsten continued to invite Girlie and me to her birthday parties. Then to summer pool parties. Twice a year is the norm. Kirsten's amazing mummy Eileen really kept the connection going.
This year Kirsten is a senior in high school. I simply will not believe that she is old enough to drive a car and take the SAT's. I simply will not believe that I am old enough to have taught someone who has taken a college tour.
A few weeks ago Kirsten and Eileen invited my family over for lunch and some swimming. Where has the time gone? Kirsten now plays the role of a fun aunt and Eileen is the grandma who loves to spoil my kids. What happened to Kirsten being the little one?
Next school year I am sure that I will be baking cookies and sneaking five dollar bills into greeting cards for Kirsten when she leaves home for college. Someday she too may have her own little girl. When that little girl is in second grade and I hope that she will remember her second grade teacher and smile.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Just like Kermit, Oscar the Grouch and other assorted Muppets. My hair is green.
For years I have highlighted my hair. Brightens it up. Recently it dawned on me that hair dye may not be the safest thing to put so close to my brain. So all summer my friendly hairdresser has been attempting to get my hair back to it's original color. (whatever that may have been)
This summer each time my hair was colored, it would disappear and be back to it's streaky-brass self in about a week.
At this week's hair appointment my hairdresser claimed she had the trick to make the color stay. Some sort of French word for magic.
I emerged from the salon chair looking a bit like a deranged Snow White. Skin the color of snow. Hair the color of coal. Only without the birds perching on my fingers, it didn't look so cute.
Fast forward to the next day. I took my shower, brought Little Guy to Kindergarten and popped-in on Girlie and her friends in the cafeteria.
Staring. Pointing. Giggling. The table full of eight year-old girls who couldn't take their eyes off of me. I was rocking the sweatpants...
"Ms. Gruppie. Why is your hair green?" Huh? "Mummy, your hair is green."
Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?
Monday, September 8, 2008
Maybe if we lived in someplace progressive like Amsterdam or someplace that has been recently planned like the Southwestern US I could say "yes." Alas, here in ye olde Connecticut where narrow and winding roads that can be treacherous are the norm, my bike riding has been banished from the roads. Even when surrounded by six air bags, many of these roads feel a bit like a roller coaster ride gone wrong.
Now that Little Guy is five ("one of the big boys now", says he), we have been able to get out and bike as a family. Mostly on local bike trails and once off road in the woods. Did you know that breaking on a sandy hill is not the smartest idea?
When we go biking as a family we tend to look like the bike trail misfits. T shirts, sneakers and the occasional flip-flops are the standard. Why do I get the feeling that those hardcore bike families look at us funny.
You know those families. All in spandex. Space age helmets. Backpacks with snakelike straws.
Seriously, there is no way that I could get so thirsty in a single hour that I would need to drink out of a backpack. OK, OK. That statement does not count during college years. I vaguely remember a certain LL Bean backpack filled with a coconut run and apple cider mixture. shudder
Just yesterday the kid's school had a family bike trail parade. Lots of families showed-up complete with decorated bikes. Even the friendly principal and her hubby brought their bikes. Family togetherness. Exercise. Enjoying nature. What could be better?
I'm proud to say that my bike has saved me from the dark, dank gym over the last three months. Fingers crossed for global warming to head off winter this year.
Friday, September 5, 2008
With the fabulous social life my family leads, there seems to be a lot of plastic cutlery involved. Summer beach cook-outs. Cape Cod street parties. Backyard birthday parties...I could go on, but I don't want to make you insanely jealous.
What do all of these celebrations have in common? Trash! Plastic junk that will be on this earth for lifetimes. Plastic plants spewing toxic air for innocent residents to breathe. And can someone tell me why those plastic forks snap every time you need to actually cut something?
Here is my solution...
Aren't They Cute?
Each rolled pouch is made of old plastic bags and newspapers. Inside, the bamboo cutlery sits comfortably. Knife, fork, spoon and chopsticks. If your kids are anything like mine, the chopsticks will be perfect for spearing watermelon from the fruit bowl, marshmallows from the bag and sometimes for spearing each other.
To-Go Ware was founded by a US woman in order to create a fair income for women on the Thai-Burma border. A happy addition to that fact is that these creative women are using tons of plastic that would otherwise be relegated to landfills or the ocean to create the pouches. The company's tag line reads, "turning one persons trash into another person's livelihood." Beautiful.
Did you know that Americans toss out enough plastic cutlery each year to circle the equator 300 times? That little fact certainly shocked me into awareness.
Next time you are at a party (where is my invite?) or enjoying some take-out ice cream, take a second to think about that plastic you may be holding in your hand. Once we use it, it's here forever.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Are people really concerned that I will cease to fit through the front door because of spending my days eating bon bons or is this some grand test that women give to each other.
"Gee, I was going to spend all of my free time contemplating world peace while watching reality shoes."
Yes, Little Guy will be in school for three whole hours each day. Enough time to shower, return calls and maybe plan a dinner. Maybe I will take some time for myself (gasp!).
Even if the kids were in school for fifteen hours a day and I wanted to stay home, why should I have to defend that choice to anyone? That is my family's choice.
Funny, not one man has asked me what I was going to do with all of my new found "free time."
When will women step-up and support each other? Whatever decisions we make regrading our decision to stay home, work or something in between are the right decisions for us. Isn't modern feminism all about individual decisions and understanding that other people's decisions might be different from our own?
Just today I decided to turn down a possible job offer. The position was the most perfect job fit for me. An educator at a local children's museum. Unfortunately, the time and money constraints that went along with the job were far from perfect. Ultimately, this job didn't come at the right time.
I was afraid to share the details about the interview with too many people. If I chose to go back to work I might be viewed as abandoning my little one. If I chose to pass on the job I might be viewed as lazy or IQ-challenged. No win.
Here is my call to all of my female readers; Support the women in your life. Whatever her choices are.
Monday, September 1, 2008
That last sentence alone could comprise one completely depressing blog post.
This morning I woke up freezing for my first time in months. Hubby was so cold that he broke down and put on a long sleeved shirt. While the days will continue be warm, here come the cold mornings and evenings.
Tomorrow is the first day of school. That means today is the last day of summer vacation. Not only will Girlie be heading off to the third grade (I am so not old enough to have a third grader), but Little Guy will be downstairs in kindergarten. (Little Guy is so not old enough to be in kindergarten)
Another tell tale sign of summer slipping away is right on the trees. The leaves are starting to change. As beautiful as the leaves can be, I see the leaves as an ominous warning. Here come the coats, boots, busy schedules and the end to playing all day.
Goodbye sand between my toes!
Goodbye ice cream for no special reason!
Goodbye flip flops!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Formally dressed and often thick accented appraisers look over people's cherished family heirlooms and yard sale finds. In every episode you will see people saying something like
Regular Lady: "I bought this pretty vase at a yard sale for 50 cents."
Appraiser: "Do you know how much it is worth mam?"
Regular Lady: "No clue"
Appraiser: "This is a rare, second century vase in mint condition. It is worth $560,000!"
Regular Lady: "AHHH!" (faints)
At the end of this exciting episode there was an announcement that the Antiques Roadshow was coming to Hartford. Free tickets. Just email PBS to get into the lottery.
Smelling like an adventure, I sent in an email. After a few minutes later I remembered just how unlucky I am (the only thing I ever won was my ninth birthday cake...6 people entered) I decided to enter my mummy to.
Wouldn't you know it, a few months later I received an email telling me that I had not been chosen for tickets but thank you and keep watching. Gee thanks.
Completely forgetting that I entered my mummy, I got a call from her a few days later. "Ummm, did you do this? Did you request Antiques Roadshow tickets? I got two tickets!"
Fast forward to Saturday. Mummy and I each rounded-up two family antiques that we thought might be worth something. A neighborhood signature quilt, a silver cup, old porcelain dolls and letters from Paul Revere.
We arrived at our designated time and stood in line for an hour. Like Disney World, that line was just a teaser. We still had to wait in four additional lines to speak with the individual appraisers. With the average age of the Antiques Roadshow viewer being somewhere around 78, that meant the lines were filled with chairs, wheelchairs and walkers. If my nerves were frayed and I was tired, they were certainly wiped out.
I'm still puzzled as to why the friendly people at Antiques Roadshow weren't prepared for lines lasting four hours in the painting section. Or two hours in the folk art section. This was the 90th Roadshow. Shouldn't they know how to make things run smoothly by now? Shouldn't they know that they are catering to an older audience?
The lines would have been worth it if I too had a table appraised at $300,000 like a particular weeping woman.
Mummy and I started at the "manuscript and books" table. We had letters from Paul Revere that my great grandfather may or may not have liberated from a certain state house. Turns out the letters are actually from Paul Revere's son. Not the Patriot himself. "Lots in the market. Not worth much" we were told.
Next up was the "doll" table. An 1870's Springfield Doll that had been well-loved and an 1880's German doll in pretty good condition. Not worth anything special.
Then came the little silver cup. Grandma Dot used to let me use it in my sandbox as a kid. I grabbed it from her house for sentimental reasons and now use it as a pen holder. Just recently I was dumping out the pens in a desperate attempt to find lip balm when I noticed the date. 1792. Seeing that the cup was that old, I hoped that maybe this would bring in a high appraisal number.
Turns out that Grandma Dot should not have allowed Little Gruppie to play with an eighteenth century silver cup from St. Petersburg, Russia. I dinged and dented the bottom of the cup reducing it's value "exponentially." Bummer.
Last up was my pick for the highest value. A signature quilt from 1850's Newburyport, MA. My grandfather's family arrived in Newbury, MA in the 1620's and apparently stuck around for a while.
The quilt spent many years in my mummy's hope chest and has been hanging on a quilt rack in my house for the last ten or so years. It is simple (like my tastes) and historical (I can be a bit of a history geek), so naturally I love the quilt.
"Sentimental value" the appraiser said. "So, umm, could you put a monetary value on the quilt?" I hopefully asked. "Zero" the appraiser said. She went on to say something about lack of color and bunching in the batting.
I'm looking back on my experience with the Antiques Roadshow as an adventure. I didn't find any lost money, but I did learn a little more about my family heirlooms. I saw hundreds of people who love antiques over new purchases. And really, what could be more green than antiques?
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I haven't had a chance to sit in my hammock swing and just read. I haven't had the chance to watch all of the reality shows on my DVR. I haven't had the chance to unpack my toiletry bag. I haven't had the chance to play one game of UNO with the kids.
Hello. My name is Gruppie. I'm an overscheduled parent.
Enough with the poor me. I did get to spend the week with my mom in Cape Cod. I did get to walk alone on the jetty with my kids. I did get to really play on a playground where no one knew me and only my kids cared that I could get to the top of the rock wall. I did realize that I will either have to have another kid or loose a heck of a lot of weight if I want to be able to balance on one side of the see-saw with my kids on the other. I did have a great time with my family.
This trip began the kids and myself tagging along on Hubby's business trip to Boston. We stayed in an amazing suite (upgraded!) with beds so soft they felt like clouds. The kids begged to stay in the room for the rest of the summer. (OK, I begged a little too.)
The family took in our first Red Sox game together. Those of you in the Massachusetts area understand what it truly means to be part of the Red Sox Nation. For those of you who live elsewhere the feeling can be summed up in one word. Insanity.
Red Sox fans have to be the most loyal fans in the world. They love their team and don't mind dressing head to toe in Red Sox gear to prove it.
At the game there were just as many women, if not more than, as men. A fact which surprised me. These woman knew their stuff and yelled it often.
Little Guy is a huge Big Poppi fan. When Big Poppi first got up to bat Little Guy yelled in his tiny voice. Hearing Little Guy yell made our nosebleed section go crazy. That's all it takes. A little strawberry headed five-year old to make the Red Sox Nation Roar.
I was pleasantly surprised with how nice everyone around Yawkey way really was. People who saw our matching B hats on the T (Subway) went out of their way to offer directions. The T drivers (yes, we ended-up taking a few trains) announced when the Kenmore or Fenway stops were coming up and reminded everyone going to the ball game to get off.
Another example of the kindness of the Red Sox nation lies with the Irish fans. Quite a few members of the Red Sox Nation are Irish and tend to have skin as wimpy as mine. One of these members offered me sunscreen after noticing that the weird ballpark purchased sunscreen was not actually working. She then confessed that it wasn't her sunscreen and she had borrowed it from someone a few rows ahead.
Each time we bought a Fenway frank or Cracker Jacks from a roving seller our row passed down our money and passed up our food. Their willingness to help happily surprised me.
Long story short the Red Sox got smeared by Toronto. It was messy. At least it we weren't playing the Yankees.
PS I forgot about the GREEN part of our Red Sox experience. There were recycling bins throughout the park. There were also a group of people called the "Poland Spring Fenway Park Green Team." They walked around collecting plastic bottle from the fans in the stands. Not wonderful, but a great start.