Wednesday, August 31, 2011

$5 Challenge

I got an email from Slow Food USA the other day with an interesting's a $5 challenge. The idea is that slow food (that is food that is good for those that eat it, good for farmers and good for the planet) the opposite of fast food, shouldn't cost more to eat than a value meal. So the challenge is to cook a slow food meal that costs no less than $5 a person. September 17th is the day of the challenge and Slow Foods is planning to have hundreds of gatherings nationwide. Here is an article about it on Reuters. I love the idea of this!

Slow Food vs. Fast Food?

PR Newswire

The $5 Challenge, Slow Food USA's New Campaign, to Take Back the 'Value Meal'

BROOKLYN, N.Y., Aug. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, in response to a lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables, people eating more fast food than home-cooked meals, and increasing rates of diet-related disease, Slow Food USA launched The $5 Challenge campaign. The organization, a national non-profit working for good, clean and fair food for all, is encouraging people across the country to cook slow food that costs no more than five dollars per person. Slow food – the opposite of fast food – is food that is good for those who eat it, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet.

"Slow food shouldn't have to cost more than fast food. It's time we take back the 'Value Meal,'" said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA.

On Sept. 17, the campaign will launch with a Day of Action where people can attend any one of the hundreds of slow food gatherings nationwide. To participate in The $5 Challenge, all one has to do is pledge to cook a slow food meal for five dollars or less, or attend a local event. These events and meals can take any form: some people will host potlucks where they bring food that costs them less than five dollars to prepare. Some people will cook for a crowd and charge five dollars or less at the door. Some people will cook for themselves or their family. The only thing meals need to have in common is to reflect slow food values and to cost no more than five dollars per person. Those taking the challenge are also encouraged to register their events and to share their stories at

The $5 Challenge is a response to the First Lady's challenge to the nation to end the childhood obesity epidemic in a generation. In addition to Michelle Obama, a handful of other influencers such as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and author Michael Pollan have increased public concern about the impact the industrial food system has on our health and the environment. The campaign is a way for everyday people to build and to share their own solutions.

Locally, The $5 Challenge will give individuals an opportunity to come together, to share a meal and to begin a conversation about what needs to change with food in their community. Nationally, the campaign will bring attention to the challenges many people face in trying to feed their families healthy, sustainable food—from a lack of access, to the rising price of fruits and vegetables and the falling price of soda and junk food.

"Right now, we have policies that make it harder to feed our children fruit than Froot Loops. But everyday, against the odds, people find ways to cook real food on a budget. We need to make cooking and eating that way a possibility for everyone," added Viertel. "If you know how to cook slow food on a budget, The $5 Challenge is a chance to teach someone. If you want to learn, it is a chance to get started. And it is a chance for us all to unite and begin pushing for the change we need."

For more information, to share a recipe or to find or host a meal, visit Creative event ideas and recipes will also be available on Slow Food USA's social media networks at and

About Slow Food USA

Slow Food USA is a national non-profit that believes food and farming should be sources of health and well being for everyone. Through national advocacy, local projects and bringing people together through the common language of food, Slow Food members and supporters are making it easier to access real food that is good for us, good for those who produce it and good for the planet. Slow Food USA's network includes more than 250,000 supporters, 25,000 members and 225 chapters. To learn more, or sign up for our mailing list, visit our website,

Contact: Emily Walsh / Slow Food USA / 718-260-8000 x154 /


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Losing Focus

I'm blogging, defrosting meat for dinner (clearly not for me and don't EVER let my husband say he doesn't get meat for dinner since CLEARLY he does!!!), baking cupcakes for my daughter's preschool orientation tomorrow, listening to my youngest scream and bang on the door because he doesn't want to nap and doing laundry, which admittedly isn't that hands on, but it's something I need to keep an eye on none the less! I worked this morning, getting the classrooms ready and working with the other teachers. When I got home at 1:30 I still hadn't written my daily to do list, which of course always includes "blog". As I was doing a few of the other items on my list I was trying to think of a quick blog topic so I could cross it off the list. Then I realized what I was doing. I can't let this become a task on my to do list that I hurry to cross off. I need to use it to keep me thinking, daily, about how I can live a greener life. I need to take the time each day to reflect on SOMETHING. I really enjoy writing here because it keeps me focused on my REAL thoughts, not just daily tasks. So now that the floor is vacuumed and the dehumidifier is emptied, I can be sure to keep a place in my day for *this*. OK, just like my wall says, Pause, Relax, Breathe. (I had to buy SOMETHING from my son's fundraiser last year and they had these removable wall stickers which I thought were kind of funny. In my house, how perfect is it to have those three words on the wall???) Back to being more focused on green living. Now if only the frosting for those cupcakes didn't have HFCS in it...

I sent out invitations for my Green Moms group. I received a free sample of some gluten free crackers that I applied for to hand out at the group. I booked the room at the NCPL. Now I just need moms. This part is not going so well. I really hope I can make a go of this because I feel like it's important to be around others who are also working to live a greener life. It helps to keep you motivated to keep doing what you're already doing and push you to try something else. I feel like I need to try something else at this point, but I'm a little overwhelmed right now. I guess starting the Mom's group is my something new. Well, at least I'll have a lot of crackers to eat if no one comes!

Monday, August 29, 2011


I was shopping for soap the other day and I noticed a "Paraben Free" label. Generally when you see a @$# Free on something that first part is bad. So paraben's must be bad, right? I thought I would do a little research to figure out what exactly parabens are. So I Googled "paraben free" (that's right, after years of college courses on research, this is the level I've sunk to! (and yes I did end that sentence with a preposition!)). What I found is that parabens are chemicals that are added to cosmetics and personal care items as preservatives. They help extend the shelf life and prevent mold and fungus from growing in the products. This part is good, but that bad part is that parabens are estrogen mimics which is a bad thing. Estrogen mimics are bad for your body because they throw your hormones out of whack, but also because they have been shown to cause cancer. One article I read said that there are conflicting studies on this fact, but just like the article said, better safe than sorry! So here is a start if you're looking for paraben free products!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Working Green

Today I started being a working mom. Of course we all know that the term "working mom" is redundant and of course I've been working since 3-10-05, but I mean outside of the home. Today was my CPR training (State of Ohio: This is the third time I've done this seems odd to me that it keeps is that possible?!) I'm going to be teaching preschool two days a week this year, then three additional days in the fall/early winter while I cover another teacher for her maternity leave. I'm aware this is not a whole lot of time to be working, but it's still going to have a big impact on our family. I'm wondering how much I'm going to have to compromise in my green efforts, if any. Off the top of my head two things pop up as being problems...the cloth diapers, and lunches. First, I'm not going to have the time I used to have to do laundry. I'm not really willing to compromise on the cloth diapering though, so I'm determined to make it work...even if it means staying up late to run a last rinse cycle! Now that school is back in session I'm back to packing lunches. I have a reusable lunch bag/reusable snack bags and sandwich wraps, cloth napkins, reusable thermos and water bottles...I'm not sure how this will work once I don't have as much time. Will I be willing to start using more prepackaged, disposable lunch items? I hope not! Even my blog. Will I still have the time to devote to (as my brother-in-law says) telling everyone why I'm better than they are? There are only so many hours in a day and so many things I can take on (although I do love to see how much I can overextend myself!). Something is going to have to give and I just really can't tell what that's going to be. I'm just so glad that I don't start teaching until my oldest has been in school for a few weeks. I guess I'm just a little nervous with my new schedule. It's going to be a crazy fall until we all get used to running like mad!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beautifully Green

I've had the idea for this post topic in my head for a few months. I've been hesitant to write about it because I felt guilty. I've decided to confess. I got acrylic nails in June. Now before you become enraged, let me just say, I don't have them anymore (and my real nails are now so brittle I ripped one below the quick yesterday and it was bleeding...this counts for punishment, right?) When I first started going green, I went WAY green. I quit using soap and shampoo and just used Dr. Bronner's castille soap for everything. I quit using antiperspirant and used a natural deodorant. I stopped wearing make-up. So I know you're did you backslide SO far? And the answer is, it's Seventeen magazine's fault. I started reading Seventeen when I was a freshman in high school. I still have that copy, although it's about falling apart because I read it and reread it so many times. I LOVED getting that magazine every month. I learned lots of great things, like how to be anorexic and how cutting is physical release for emotional pain. Thanks Seventeen! But I also learned how I need products to look pretty and be liked by others. Remember that song that came out around graduation time a few (OK, probably 10) years ago that had that "Wear Sunscreen" commencement address embedded in the song? (I think Vitamin C was the artist.) Anyway, there's a line in there that really stuck with me, "Don't read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly." How true! "How to get fabulous hair" "Lose 10 lbs in a month!" "Make-up tips from the pros!" All of these infer that you're not ok, or pretty, the way you are. And since it's all about selling, there are, of course, products that go with all of this. And they're NOT green! Your skin is your biggest organ. You put chemicals on your skin, it's in your body. (*See previous argument about the chemicals in disposable diapers.) So, even though I know that by putting acrylic nails on, I'm allowing chemicals to leach into my body every day, the Seventeen message that I got at age 15 is still so strong that I decided to do it. I kept them on for about a month and a half. And I won't lie... I loved the way they looked. Felt like I looked more "pulled together" even when I was wearing my Y clothes. They were great, until they started cracking and hurting and taking up way to much of my time to get filled. Plus, I really did feel guilty about having them on. How can I write a blog about living green and have fake nails?!!? So I feel better now. My hands are wreck, but they're mine. No one cares what they look like, except me. Despite what Seventeen magazine would have me believe!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Good-Bye Summer

Summer seems like it went so fast! I'm not ready for my big guy to leave me yet! I remember how hard it was on all of us last year when he started Kindergarten. I know my little man is going to REALLY miss his big brother this year. It's like summer is officially over tomorrow. I feel like it's so much easier to be "green" in the summer. There are farmer's markets, my garden is growing, I can line dry my clothes, we spend time outside, it's sunny and bright and I just feel more optimistic. As the weather gets colder I feel like it's a little harder to keep up my greeness. I still do a little line drying on my drying rack in the basement, but jeans and sweatshirts take a LOT longer to dry than tanks and short! It's harder to eat fresh local food, when everything is going to seed as well. But I do love the change of the seasons, summer to fall especially. On a cool day like today I get excited for fall and all that goes with it, apple picking, pumpkin picking (I'll have to share my recipe for pumpkin pie from a roasted pumpkin when they're in season!) cool Saturday's outside and of course HALLOWEEN!

Home Sweet Home!

We're back! After a week at the beach (and more importantly 24 hours in the car!) we're finally back home and getting settled back into our old routine...just in time for school. It was such a shock for me when we got home yesterday and I started unpacking and planning for the coming week. I was making out the grocery list and realized I need to start packing lunches again! I came home to an empty fridge, which is both depressing, since I have to drag everyone to the store for a super trip, but also a little fun, since it's kind of a clean slate. So I'm going to start baking a big batch of rice and preparing beans for the slow cooker. These are the lazy way to prepare whole foods! I like to make a big batch of rice and beans, then freeze them so they're ready to use when I need them. I've been meaning to add these two recipes here for awhile and today I finally remembered! So:
1 1/2 C brown rice
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 C boiling water
2 tsp olive oil
mix all ingredients in a 1 1/2 qt casserole dish. Cover and bake at 375 for about an hour, or until all water is absorbed.

Measure 1 part beans to 4 parts water (measure beans before they're soaked)
Soak beans overnight (I do this in the slow cooker, because who wants to dirty another pot?) and cook for 3-5 hrs on High or 8-12 hrs on low. If you don't have time to soak the beans cook them 4-6 hrs on high or 12-14 hrs on low.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Super Food!

I was doing my biweekly menu planning the other day and I was digging in my cookbooks and recipes trying to find SOMETHING new and exciting. I came across my file folder of recipes/tips/food resources that I keep from things I come across in books or online as I read. (This actually started out as a hard copy of recipes from which is the sister site to In it I found a list I copied from one of Dr. Sears's books which I read last summer. It's his list of the Top Twelve Foods. I found in interesting since it contains a lot of foods that aren't on most lists. He lists them in alphabetical order, not nutritional order.

Top Twelve Foods (according to Dr Bill Sears)
fish (salmon, tuna)
flax seeds and flax oil
kidney beans
sweet potatoes
Tofu (firm)
whole grains
Yogurt (plain, nonfat)

I was surprised not to see that blueberries and kale aren't on the list. Also yogurt. I really started eating a lot more yogurt after reading about it's healthy benefits in his book....which isn't really helping my vegan transition, but who am I kidding, I'm not really making much of an effort to go vegan anyway!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Green Missionary!

It all started with milk. I've mentioned before how much I like Hartzler Dairy's milk. It's all natural, grass fed, local, all the good stuff. I think it just tastes better. But most people I know (who are over 4 ft tall) don't drink milk. But my cousin does. So I bought her a half-gallon and sent it home with her to try. She really liked it! She also agreed that it DOES taste better than not only conventional milk, but also organic milk. It's non-homogenized and pasteurized at low temperatures to help retain as much of the "good stuff" in the raw milk. I told her I know they sell it at the Raisin Rack, but I'm not sure where else. So guess what? She decided to give it another try and go to the Raisin Rack and get some for herself! Of course you can't go in there and only buy one thing! It's too fun to check it all $110 later (I never said it wasn't expensive! It's not Aldi, people!) she had a cart full of organic goodies. From the text I got, it seemed like she was a little skeptical. I understand that. That's one of the "Organic Myths" from"organic food tastes like cardboard". I once took a casserole somewhere and proudly stated that it was all organic. (I know, can you believe it? I was droning on about organic food?!?!) Someone said, "Yuck, organic meat?!" Which confused me. Why, exactly, is organic meat gross? Because it wasn't fed pesticide laden corn (which isn't a food cows should be eating anyway... cows stomachs are designed to eat grass...eating all that corn is what causes then to get sick and need all those antibiotics that are pumped into into them, which are causing mutant strands of mega-bacteria (and yes, of COURSE that is the scientific term!), like e.coli...sorry, the vegetarian is getting off topic!) or pumped full of antibiotics, or confined to a pen, knee-high in it's own waste? Yummm! (as an aside to be certified organic beef must:

According to the USDA[1] rules passed on October 22, 2002, certified organic beef must come from a fully verifiable production system that collects information on the history of every animal in the program, including its breed history, veterinary care, and feed. Further, to be certified as organic, all cattle should meet the following criteria:

  • Born and raised on certified organic pasture
  • Never receive antibiotics
  • Never receive growth-promoting hormones
  • Are fed only certified organic grains and grasses
  • Must have unrestricted outdoor access
Thanks Wikipedia!)
Anyway, as I was saying, people seem to think that organic=bland. However, this is NOT the case! I've been getting texts from my cousin for the past few days as she tries her organic loot...and she loves it! I've done it! I've converted one person! I'm a missionary for Green! Of course just because she likes the organic products doesn't mean she's going to totally abandon everything conventional, but I'm having a rough week...can you just give me this moment, please?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cold Frame Seminar

So I'm multi-tasking right now. While typing this blog post I'm also listening to a Kashi training webinar so I can get my free sample from Kashi for my Mom's Meet group (that I have yet to organize!). This is really a great webinar and I'm going to try to link it here if I can! But until I get that figured out, I'm going to mention ANOTHER seminar that looked interesting to me. Even though I'm not doing the CSA again this year I'm still getting their newsletter. This time the newsletter featured a seminar that they're going to be sponsoring at the farm. It's something I've never heard of and I thought it would be something great to try, especially since we eat so many greens!!

Cold Frame Seminar

Join Kidron market gardener and author, Karen Geiser, at the Simon's farm (1094 Battlesburg st SW, east Sparta, Ohio 44626) to learn how you can grow greens in the winter months in your backyard. Karen's family has been eating fresh spinach, kale and arugula all winter long for the past 10 years from her greenhouse and various homemade cold frames. She will share ideas on structures, plant varieties and planting schedules. Cost is $12 a person and includes handouts with planting dates. Also available for purchase will be seeds and plants to get you started on your winter gardening adventure plus Karen will have her local foods book and coldframing DVDs available. Please RSVP by Friday, August 26.

I'm not sure when the seminar is scheduled, but I think I'm going to look into coldframing online and at the library. If you're in the Canton area and you're interested in attending this seminar let me know...I could be convinced to go if I had a buddy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Green Parties for Less/ Green Halloween

Last Thursday I "attended" the webinar I mentioned a few days ago about having green birthday parties for less. Ummm, NSG. It had good intentions, but it really wasn't what I was thinking when I signed up for it. Most of the suggestions were either things I already do (have the party between meals thereby avoid the cost of feeding everyone) or things I don't do and therefore don't need a green alternative (using refrigerator boxes to cut out huge trees for the decorations for a jungle themed party -- in our house you get a much-used "Happy Birthday" banner and that's it.) They did talk about making it more about the memories than the event--asking guests to bring only a homemade gift or card--which I like, but I'll be honest, that's a little too green for even me. I can only imagine the look on those mom's faces when they open an invite that instructs them to actually make a gift instead of picking something up at Target. The thing I liked best was this German Birthday ring that they had a picture of. It's king of like an advent wreath with 18 holes. Each hole is filled with a figurine or candle. Each year you take out one of the figurines and add a candle so on the child's 18th birthday they have a whole ring of candles. It was cool an I found one at Three Sisters for not a TON of money, but the figurines you put in were almost $5 each! The mother/daughter team that put on the webinar also has a website which looks kind of interesting, but I REALLY perked up when I heard them mention a green Halloween site! I couldn't believe it! My two favorite things! How cool! The site even did my job for me and has a little blurb to cut and paste about the Green Halloween initiative (I'm supposed to mention that the authors of the blurb "Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter founders of Green Halloween® and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family"

Green Halloween®
The “eek-o-friendly” revolution
Who says Halloween has to be unhealthy? And who says healthy can‟t be fun? Green Halloween® is about making Halloween happy and healthy and about creating community traditions we can all be proud of.
What is Green Halloween?
Green Halloween® is a non-profit, grassroots initiative striving to create healthier, eco-friendlier holidays– starting with Halloween. Launched in Seattle in 2007 by a mother of two, the nationwide movement is all about educating and inspiring communities by showing how easy, affordable, and fun it can be to factor our earth and our health into our daily choices.
To read all about Green Halloween and find fun events near you, visit You can learn how to get involved locally, sign up for the super nifty newsletter, and share DIY costume ideas, recipes, and more on the brand new discussion board. There‟s even a trick-or-treat bag design contest for kids!
So forget orange and black. With upcoming events in cities across the U.S., this community initiative is adding much-needed green to Halloween. It‟s a scream!

Pretty interesting, right?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gravenstein Apples

I got an interesting email from Slow Foods today. It was about ordering some apples. Since my family consumes mass quantities of apples (seriously about a bag and a half a week!) this was of particular interest to me. So I've cut and pasted most of the body of the email here.

What You Get:
Enjoy 5 pounds of delicious fresh Gravenstein apples delivered within two days of harvest, along with a special apple tart recipe from acclaimed northern California cookbook author Michele Anna Jordan. Cost: $20. The box is 75-100% post consumer recycled cardboard. The apples will be picked from two local organic orchards.

What You Support:
Your purchase supports Sonoma County's remaining Gravenstein Apple orchards. The Gravenstein Apple is on Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, a catalog of over 200 endangered American foods. The Gravenstein Apple Presidium promotes farmers who nurture their apples from tree to table. The Presidium has documented the history of Gravenstein apples, organized the remaining apple farmers, and developed production protocols, marketing materials, and strategies to promote sales.

The Gravenstein Apple:
Among the hundreds of California apple varieties, the heirloom Gravenstein Apple is beloved as one of the best snacking and baking apples. A fine balance of sweet and tart, its full-bodied flavor intensifies when made into sauce, juice, pie, or vinegar, yet the Gravenstein Apple is in danger of becoming commercially extinct. Suburban development, the popularity of wine grape production, and competition from imported apple juice concentrate are among the factors that have greatly reduced the number of orchards and apple acreage in Sonoma County.

How to Order:
To order, contact The Fruit Guys at 877-FRUIT-ME or via email. Gravensteins have a short and precious harvest season and will be available for shipment the weeks of August 15th and August 26th only. More information is available at their website.

Green Entertaining

I had a Thirty-One party Tuesday night. As always, when I entertain I'm faced with a dilemma...go green or conventional? First, I'll address beverages because this is always an issue when we entertain. My husband ALWAYS insists that we serve pop when we have guests, but I prefer not to. Here is my thinking: I care enough about my family to not to serve them pop (I tell my kids it's toxic!) so why, would I serve it to my guests?!? I understand that they're adults and can make their own decisions and that's their own house! I feel like I've taken a stand on healthy eating, and serving pop goes against that. Which leads me to my other dilemma...organics. I eat mostly organics. I serve my family mostly organic food...but when I entertain for some reason ($$$$) I'm always tempted to go conventional. Example: We always buy organic strawberries, even though they're almost $4 a container. But when I entertain, I need to buy 3 containers...that's a lot of money on strawberries! So I have to go back to my original argument...I won't serve conventional to my family, why my guest. I've taken a stand on organic produce...I need to maintain that position, even when entertaining. So today I'm doing another webinar through Kiwi Magazine Online. (I was going to add the link to this webinar, but I can't find it which makes me think it's full. It should be online tomorrow for everyone to view though at this link.) The topic is Green Birthday Parties for Less, and since I have birthday party coming up in September, I'm hoping it has lots of good suggestions!

Monday, August 1, 2011


The first step is admitting you have a problem. I have a houseplant obsession. Lowe's was having a 1/2 off sale on all their indoor plant. 1/2 off!!! Some of them were $2.50! How could I not get a few?...or 11? I've been thinking about where to put plants in my house for a long time. Some on either side of the fireplace would look nice...a little grouping on those nesting tables in the corner...some lower bushier plants around the Money Tree...something for the other side of the couch...well. I got them. And then some. And now I TRULY live in a jungle! I still think I was right about where those plants would look good....just not all together! But I do have to say I must have some STERILE air in here with all these air purifiers! I counted. I now have 33 plants. Even though I'm still trying to find a happy home for each of my new plant friends, I'm still really happy with all of them. I really had fun picking each one out, planning where to put it, and enjoying the greenness in my home. SO although I don't suggest buying 11, I'm just letting everyone know that Lowe's is having a sale on plants (yes, I DID leave some in the store!) so if you've been thinking about getting a plant, not would be a good time to try it out. Here's a quick how-to on choosing plants. It's my experience (and I'll be honest, it's pretty limited) that as long as you match our plant's location with it's light and water needs, you're good to go. Before you head to the store, decided where you want to put your plant. Which way does the window face? How far from the window will your plant be? Now go here and find out which kind of plant you're looking for, high, medium or low light. Then read the tag for watering needs! I used to think plants needed watered every day...most don't! Here are more watering tips. And you should be good to go! Happy shopping!