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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Green Halloween!

Wishing you guys Happy Halloween - stay healthy, safe and as green as you can :-)
A few last minute ideas:
  • stay local and walk 
  • invite friends over and serve self-made treats with real utensils, no disposables
  • choose treats wisely
  • save Halloween decorations for next year

Our family had a ton of fun today carving our first family pumpkin "Kuerbis". As per my older son's directions "he" has a mouth, chin, ears, eyes with eyebrows, and a little forehead.

I just made a pumpkin cake with the carved pieces. Tomorrow we'll roast the seeds. Reuse also goes for carving pumpkins!
Sorry the picture came out a bit dark. But boy, I wished you could smell it! I hope it tastes as good as it smells...

Here's the recipe for the cake:
  • mix 2 1/2 cups of spelt flour with 1 tsp. baking powder and a tiny bit of salt, nutmeg and cinnamon 
  • blend 3 eggs, 1 cup coconut oil ,1 cup  maple syrup and a few drops vanilla extract
  • add about 2 cups baked (soft) pumpkin to the mixture and blend
  • add the flour mix
  • pour in baking dish and bake for about 45 - 50 minutes at 350 degrees (depending on your oven)
  • check with toothpick to make sure it's done
Grrrrr! Pretty scary at night, our Kuerbis.

Have fun trick-or-treating and Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Super Easy Spicy Salsa

for a party of 4 you'll need:

* 2-3 big, very ripe tomatoes
* 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
* 1/2 jalapeno pepper
* salt to taste

1) Wash tomatoes, pepper and cilantro
2) Pulse all ingredients in blender until chunky

3) Put in bowl and serve with (organic!) tortilla chips


No Footprint Flower Bouquet

My son came back after a short cable car ride with our super and handed me this beautiful bouquet.
Is this worth a blog post, I wondered. Yes, absolutely.
Because it shows how simple things can make us (at least me!) so happy.
He picked up some beautiful colored leaves off the ground, a few flowers that were broken already and some grasses. Not sure how much help he got from his adult buddy, but boy was he proud when he handed me the bouquet with a "Happy Halloween!". He was as happy as I was.

It has a special place on our dining table - hopefully for a long time.

Enjoy the fall and the gifts that it has to offer!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Green Your Halloween

Halloween is coming up and with it these questions: Should we do what we do every year and just have fun or should we try to be green and if so, how?
I overheard quite some conversations about this topic during the last past months. Shockingly, a ton of people confessed that they throw out most of the Halloween candy that the kids are collecting, even though they have no problem with the kids eating candy in general (which is a completely different topic which I don't want to discuss at this point :-)

So here's my problem with this: Many people think that for one day per year (really? Only this one day?) we shouldn't worry so much about nutrition and the environment and just do what the tradition calls for: hand out and collect cheap, harmful candy that requires a ton of energy to be produced, wrapped, shipped and then to be tossed???
Of course we also need a new costume every year, if possible each and every family member. Again, a lot of energy for production, wrapping, shipping... you get the idea.
Then we need all those decorative items for inside and outside the house, preferably also new each year.
Oh, and not to forget the parties with the typical candy stuff, disposables (why, of course it has to be Halloween themed paper napkins, plates, tablecloth etc. etc. Right?)

Scary? Yes!

I believe we can have fun and act responsibly at the same time. Here's some tips how to Green Your Halloween:

  1. To end the tons and tons of cheap, harmful candy that goes into the landfill every day after Halloween, why don't you think about giving out all those chatskies that your kids received at all the parties during the year? Think pencils, figurines, animals, notepads, stickers,... There's a ton of alternatives to the "traditional" candy out there - even pennies might do it!
  2. Chocolate is, like coffee or tea, serves a big market throughout the world. Unfortunately, most of the cocoa used for the production of chocolate is harvested and processed in non-humane and non-environmentally friendly ways, including child labor and even slavery. Global Exchange has launched Reverse Trick or Treating, where kids hand out a piece of fair-trade chocolate along with an informational sheet to adults to spread the word about the labor and environmental problems of conventional cocoa and coffee farming. The kits can be ordered online or are available at Terra Tea Salon if you live in the Montclair area.
  3. Costumes: Have you ever tried to make a costume out of something that you already have? I personally can't think of any other thing that can be so fulfilling as to do just that. Dig deep into your box of hats, scarves, old clothes etc, and you might be very surprised at what might come out of there. Think pirates, clowns, even trees. Be creative. Have fun. And if you're not so handy (or think you're not), consider getting your costumes at a local thrift store or from friends and neighbors.
  4. When it comes to decorations you're better off with nature-made items such as pumpkins, gourds or hay bales. Fragrance candles often give off toxic compounds which are not good to inhale or for the environment. If you own Halloween decoration already, use it again and again and again and again (instead of tossing it and buying new stuff each year).
  5. And finally, if you throw a Halloween Party, ditch the disposables and pick reusables instead. We really don't need the Halloween themed single-use dinnerware and napkins (and we have never, ever needed the plastic throw-away after one use "silverware"). How about an orange tablecloth with black dinnerware (most people, including me, owe some kind of black plates), decorated with gourds in different sizes and colors and some hay? Just to throw out a few ideas...
Hopefully there's some options for you to Green Your Halloween.
Have fun!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How To Stay Healthy In The Cold Season

And here we go again - the cold season has started, and with it the runny noses, sore throats and the fear of the flu.
Many people believe that there are more germs flying around in the cooler weather, which is not true. It's the fact that we spend more time inside, with typically very dry air, which makes it easier for viruses to pass through the skin, eyes and nasal passages

There are many discussions going on right now about which vitamins to take during the cold season to strengthen the immune system and what else to do to stay healthy.

I personally don't believe vitamins, especially chemical ones, are the one and only answer.Instead of spending money and relying on synthetics, read these tips that may help you stay healthy during the coming months:

  • Get your daily dose of healthy vitamins through a green smoothie (mix fresh vegetables, preferably green such as spinach, kale, chard and also carrots, celery, bananas, any fresh fruits you like with some dates for sweetness, and water) - the whole family from baby to grandparents can drink it and will benefit from it way more than from any man-made multi-vitamin
  • Add fresh garlic and ginger to your diet, as much and as often as you can (garlic can go in pretty much every main dish, ginger can be added to smoothies or taken as a tea)
  • Take a teaspoon of the almond-honey-ginger-paste. My sons' pediatrician gave me this recipe years ago and ever since my family is taking a teaspoon full every morning to fight off germs: blend about 1 1/2 cup of raw almonds, a big chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into smaller pieces, and 1 cup raw honey in blender. I store it in a glass jar in the fridge
  • Wash your hands. Frequently and thorough. With soap and water, and make sure you get under and around the nails (where germs love to hide and are tough to remove)
  • Get outside! Not only will it keep your level of natural Vitamin D up (which will strengthen your immune system as well!), it also moisturizes your skin, eyes and nasal passages, making it harder for those germs to pass through 
  • Keep your gut healthy. For many years, our family was taking probiotics on a daily basis. Only months ago I learned that every little bite of fermented foods or drinks actually gives you more benefits than any man-made probiotic will ever do. I started making my own water-kefir, a fermented, water-based drink for the whole family. It works very well for all of us
  • Drink plenty. Preferably pure water and quality teas, unsweetened
  • Eat a whole foods diet. As little processed food as possible, which means staying away from prepared meals, fast foods and the like
  • Don't be paranoid. I know, this is easier said than done (whoever knows me knows exactly what I mean :-) - obviously stay away from people who are sick, or stay away from people when you're sick. But keep in mind that, especially for children, it is important to be exposed to germs. Healthy individuals will deal with the cold or even the flu just fine and it will strengthen the immune system, making the body stronger to deal with all kinds of bacteria and viruses
  • Get rest. Especially when you're dealing with a cold or flu, rest, rest and rest. Don't suppress a fever (until it's skyrocketing). Sore throats love honey. Take extra vitamin C and relax. You're going to be just fine.
Stay healthy and feel free to share you're tips with us.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Downside Of Paper Recycling. WHAT????

You can't imagine how surprised I was when I read an article about the downside of conserving water in Germany. Being German myself, I grew up thinking I did the right thing preserving water wherever and whenever I could.
Now studies show that saving water actually damages the environment! Why? Long story made short - because there's a lot of rainfall in Germany and only a small percentage of this water is being used. So, in order to keep the water clean and safe, there has to be more "water traffic" going on, otherwise grease and food will get stuck in the pipes, lead and other metals don't get flushed out and chemicals have to be used to keep the water clean.
I started thinking about whether this applies to the States as well, at least for areas with a lot of rainfall. I will research that soon.
Is it possible that some of the things that we believed were the right thing for the planet turn out to be, um, not so good?

A while ago a reader commented on a post about recycling and mentioned that paper recycling has its downsides. I promised to look into that. And I am very surprised by my findings:

  • Recycling newsprint actually creates more water pollution than making new paper: for each ton of recycled newsprint an extra o 5,000 gallons of waste water are discharged (source: New York Times)
  • Recyclables are usually transported over long distances by energy-consuming, pollution-spewing vehicles
  • Every ton of paper that is burned rather than recycled prevents 300 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions (source: Journal of Environmental Planning and Management)
  • Many recycled paper products are treated with a mixture of bleach and/or other chemicals and toxins that make their way into our homes
  • Products made of recycled paper such as paper towels or bathroom tissue are often not so soft and absorbent with lower wet strength and higher fibre content. As a result, consumers use more towels at a time

  • One anti-recycling argument has been that, even though a lot of trees have to be cut to produce new papers, more trees will be planted in their place. And there's something to that: America's forests have three times as many trees now than in 1920
  • "Paper is an agricultural product, made from trees specially for paper production.Acting to conserve trees by recycling paper is like acting to conserve cornstalks by cutting back on corn consumption." (Jerry Taylor, Director of Natural Research Studies at the Cato Institute)
  • If you buy paper products, make sure to buy FSC- approved products (Forest Stewardship Council - promotes responsible management of the world's forests)
  • If you support paper recycling, make sure the recycling plant in your area doesn't use chlorine
  • Buy only recycled paper products that are unbleached or bleached without chlorine, to keep dangerous toxins out of your home and the environment
So what should one do?

Minimize consumption. That's the only thing to do. As with everything else, we overuse paper. Think packaging, cleaning supplies, books, magazines,...
I cleaned our apartment today and didn't use a single piece of paper towel. I have reusable cleaning cloths that I bought years ago and throw in the wash after use, and they work just fine.
Reading the news and magazines online, getting books from the library or at least second hand are other ways to reduce paper consumption.
Buying products from the bulk aisle will cut down on the light cardboard packages. And if you order something, make sure to pick companies that don't overpack their products.
Oh, and call those firms that keep sending you those junk mailings and ask them to take you off their list, or put a sticker on your mailbox that says "NO JUNK MAIL PLEASE".

And keep this order in mind: Reduce, Reuse, and finally, if at all in this case, Recycle.
This, by the way, applies to everything in our lives, not only paper :-)

Happy preserving!