Friday, October 31, 2008

Life Cycle of a Pumpkin

It began as a seed scattered by Little Guy.

Then, it grew bigger than a basketball.

Yesterday that very pumpkin became... grow more pumpkins next year

Yummy baked seeds
A Jack-O-lantern.

Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Scare (for Halloween)

This scary tale begins with me agreeing the chaperone a third grade field trip that included a bus ride and eight year olds yielding hammers. One would think that those facts alone could easily comprise a story scary enough to straighten your hair. You would be wrong.

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 the dryer, in the sink, in my car, in her bureau, on the front 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

The Thrill of Compost

OK, OK. I had a tough time coming-up with a catchy title for this post about compost. Maybe compost is exciting to me, but I realize that most people don't get the same buzz from rotting food.

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 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 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.

When I needed rich soil to fill-in the lawn's bare spots this fall, there was a half-full compost bin waiting for me. All for free!
Composting does not just add to your wallet it also takes away from the landfill. When you add food scraps and other compostables to the landfill they tend to hang around for quite some time in their plastic bags and in the plastic-capped landfills. Toss those same compostables into the compost bin and they can disappear in a matter of weeks.

My best estimate would be that my family of four keeps 1/2 of a bag of trash out of the landfill each week from religiously composting food waste. That equals 26 bags in a year. Pretty exciting stuff for a boring Gruppie like me.
My compost bin is starting to feel lonely. Aaawww. It could really use a friend. Maybe the friendly people at the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority will read this post and follow Rhode Island's example to save tons of waste from languishing in our landfills.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Terracycle's Fire Logs

I get emails from people all over the world wanting me to help sell their products on my blog. Everything from natural pesticides (isn't that an oxymoron) to cloth diapers (hopefully it will be a few years until I start needing to wear them). Generally, I feel that being green is not about buying more stuff. Living green is living simply. But if you have to shop, it's great to try to shop more responsibly with the earth on your mind.

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

Last CSA of the season

Yesterday was my last pick-up of the nineteen week Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) season.

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.

That last pick-up is my signal that the freezing weather and dark days are before us. Gone are the days of playing outside in flip flops. Gone are the days of endless fresh fruit. Gone are the days shaving my bikini line.

Raise a glass of hard cider to the promise that next spring will come soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Do Not Mail Registry

Love dinner time because of your silent phone? Thank you Do Not Call Registry!

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

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Have you seen those commercials on TV promoting the health of high fructose corn syrup? I totally thought that I was watching Saturday Night Live. This had to be some kind of joke.

"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

Deccorating By Nature

Recently a friend stopped by and complimented me on my table's centerpiece. At first, I looked around and couldn't figure our what she was talking about. I'm not one to take lots of time to dress my table. Dressing myself is a challenge enough.

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?

Yakkity Yak

Thank you to the friendly people of the United Methodist Church of Hartford I had a wonderful time talking to you about all things green.

Just one thing!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Smells Like Soccer

Up until this fall I have could been labeled a dance and violin mummy. Both activities take place in a nice, climate-controlled space. Comfortable in any weather. Safe for little ones too.

Now I can add soccer and football mummy to my resume.

I'm not thrilled about it.

I woun't mention the rain, bugs, blazing sun and freezing wind. It is that smell that has be running scared. You know that smell. The smell of freshly applied pesticides.

Thousands of kids and parents sit walk, run and roll around in the pesticide laden grass every weekend. Thousands of my neighbors exposing themselves to toxic cocktails all in the name of good, clean fun.
Recently Connecticut enacted a law banning dangerous pesticides on elementary school fields. Great for the few kids who only play at the elementary schools. What about my kids and the countless others who practice at the high school and the town field? Doesn't their health count? What about the water supply, wild creatures and families who live near the upper-level schools?

In a few hours I will be off to sit and cheer in the middle of a sea of chemicals. I will try to keep reminding myself that I am doing it for Little Guy. Still, I can't help but wonder if I am doing more harm than good.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Make Me Up Before You Go Go

Just because I like to hug an occasional tree doesn't mean that my face has to look like one. No, we are not talking about going as far as say Tammy Faye Baker . Just a light dusting a make-up to enhance the right things.

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's the happy after picture. Simplified and safer!