May She Rest In Peace

Guest post
My dear friend Heather from A Mama’s Blog wrote this beautiful tribute to my sister Carrie who died unexpectedly this week. At this time I am unable to form coherent sentences, so with her permission, I am reposting it below.

If you read my blog regularly, you know one of my best friends is Amy whose blog is Crunchy Domestic Goddess.  In the last post I wrote about my friends who I have been friends with since our children were born.  Amy is one of those friends. I’ve written a lot about Amy over the past few years.  She has been there for me in every way possible and then some when I was fighting cancer, going through a divorce, and dealing with my mom’s sudden illness and death.

I received some heartbreaking news from her yesterday morning.  Her younger and only sister, Carrie, was killed in a car accident Monday night.  She was returning from visiting friends in the mountains, the roads were icy, and the weather was bad.  Carrie lost control of her car and was hit head on by a truck.  She passed away instantly.

Over the years I’ve gotten to know Carrie too and she was always a joy to be around.  She had a beautiful smile, and I can’t recall ever seeing her not smiling.  She helped all of us out with our kids when she could.  For our surprise going away party for Julie, just weeks ago, she watched several of our kids, so we could have an adult party.  She was a terrific aunt to Amy’s two children, and she was an amazing sister to Amy.

When I first heard this terrible news, I started to cry, and cried all day off and on. So did my friends.  We are all in such disbelief, shock, and grief.  Carrie was only 31, had recently finished law school and had a job advocating for people with disabilities.  It is tragic her life was cut so short.

I visited Amy briefly on Tuesday, and it is not often I am at a loss for words.  But I was, and still am.  I wish there were magic words I could say to make this terrible situation go away.  Nothing anyone can say or do will bring Carrie back to her family, or ease the pain and anguish Amy and her family are in.

I think about my friends, and my own two sisters and brother.  While losing my mom was awful, in some aspects I think it is more “natural” than losing a sibling so early in life.  Parents age- our siblings and friends are supposed to live long lives, and certainly not die in terrible freak accidents.

And it brought back many feelings of my mom’s death- again.  All the feelings- the intense pain, and the sense of helplessness.  I had a few friends who told me they could not attend my mom’s funeral service, because they had lost a parent, or a loved one recently.  I understood, and could imagine how they felt, but didn’t really “get it.” Sadly today, I do.  And part of me wants to forget this happened and not think about it death, dying, accidents, funerals, moving on after a loved one is gone, what to say or what to do, anymore.

There will be a service for Carrie on Saturday, and I am going to attend.  It meant so much to me to see the people who had come to say good-bye to my mom with my family and I, and Amy was one of those friends who was there for me on that very hard day.  I hope I can be strong and be a help and a comfort to Amy and her family instead of a hindrance while I try to keep control of my own feelings and emotions about my mom.

I wish I had some clever way to wrap up this post, but I don’t.  Death leaves more questions than answers.  The only thing that does seem to help is time.

To Amy and her family: My deepest sympathies, and may Carrie rest in peace.

Carrie & Amy, May 2010

How Low Can You(r) (Thermostat) Go?

I don’t know about you, but where I live in Colorado it’s already gotten cold enough at night to warrant turning on the furnace. At least some people in this house think so. 😉

Every year I try to resist turning on the heat for as long as possible. You can often hear me staying things like, “Put on a sweater!” or “Wear your wool socks,” but between trying to motivate my kids to get dressed in the morning when it’s freezing in the house and the fact that we had a super-wowee uber energy efficient furnace installed this summer (not to mention listening to my husband complain that I won’t win any award for refusing to turn on the heat), I caved and turned it on about two weeks ago.

It’s funny because one thing I liked to complain about as a kid was how cold my Dad kept our house. I was always trying to nudge the thermostat up a degree or two and hoping he wouldn’t notice. You’d think now that I’m an adult, I’d keep my house as warm as a sauna, but nope. Although my Dad was likely keeping the temperature down to save money, I’m doing it both to save money AND because it’s more energy efficient.

Every year Deanna, AKA the Crunchy Chicken, challenges her readers to a Freeze Yer Buns Challenge. This year is no different. A lot of people are pledging to turn down their thermostat — from a degree or two to 10 or more! A few years ago, I wrote about how we inadvertently took part in the challenge and now I challenge myself and my family every year.

One of the many Acts of Green on One Million Acts of Green is Set Your Thermostat to 18C (65F) or Less in the Winter. I haven’t been able to go that low in my house (at least not during the day) yet, but every degree you can drop truly makes a difference. Per Crunchy Chicken‘s blog, “for each degree set below 68 degrees, energy consumption decreases by about 6 to 8 percent.”

Can you pledge to lower your thermostat by a degree or two or even pledge to go down to 65 degrees (or less!)?

Head over to the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge or get signed up on One Million Acts of Green and pledge to make a difference. It all adds up!

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

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Boo Nestle Twitter Party tonight!

Nestlé-Free Zone

Just a quickie to let you know I’m co-hosting a Boo Nestle (#noNestle) Twitter Party tonight at 9 p.m. EST. (That’s in less than an hour!) There will be a lot of information shared about the Nestle boycott as well as great prizes — many are fair trade, organic and/or green!

The Twitter Party kicks off the week-long International Nestle-Free Week, set up to coincide with Halloween.

Please join @phdinparenting, @that_danielle, @bestforbabes, @blacktating, @doudoubebe and me! Find more information and RSVP here: Boo Nestle

Hope to see you tonight on Twitter!

Follow #noNestle tonight and throughout the week.

More information:

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Americans STILL Aren’t Eating Their Veggies

Last month, The New York Times reported that despite 20 years of “public health initiatives, stricter government dietary guidelines, record growth of farmers’ markets and the ease of products like salad in a bag, Americans still aren’t eating enough vegetables.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a comprehensive nationwide behavioral study of fruit and vegetable consumption. Only 26 percent of the nation’s adults eat vegetables three or more times a day, it concluded. (And no, that does not include French fries.)

These results fell far short of health objectives set by the federal government a decade ago. The amount of vegetables Americans eat is less than half of what public health officials had hoped. Worse, it has barely budged since 2000.

The government recommends four and a half cups of fruits and vegetables (which equals nine servings) for people who eat 2,000 calories a day.

People know that vegetables are good for them and can improve health, but they are also seen as a lot of work and have a much quicker “expiration date” than processed foods. Even if you buy veggies with the best of intentions, if you don’t consume them fast enough, they are doomed to rot in your refrigerator. I think this is something we’ve all been guilty of at one time or another. A survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by White Wave Foods indicates that almost half of us leave our fruit in the refrigerator until it rots. I can only assume that even more vegetables suffer a similar fate.

At Mother Nature Network, Katherine Butler asks, “what is the price of not eating vegetables?”

Mostly, it means that Americans are lacking in vital nutrients. Antioxidants and fiber fill vegetables, as well as key nutrients such as potassium, beta-carotene, iron, folate, magnesium, calcium and vitamins A, C, E and K. Fiber can reduce cholesterol; potassium, found in foods like spinach, helps blood pressure. Vitamin C helps gums and teeth, while vitamin E fights against premature aging.

Apparently, orange veggies are something we should be focusing on too. According to The Ohio State University Extension blog:

Orange vegetables, like pumpkin, squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes contain nutrients and phytonutrients found in no other group of vegetables. That’s why experts recommend we eat at least 2 cups a week of orange vegetables. How many do you eat? If you’re not eating enough, now is the perfect time of year to start!  All types of winter squash — acorn, butternut, hubbard, etc. are in season and cheap.  Pumpkins and canned pumpkins are stocking the shelves. Carrots and sweet potatoes are found commonly throughout the year.

I’m not sure there’s a solution for getting adult Americans to consume more vegetables. They know they are healthy, but they still don’t eat them. Even with convenient options like prepackaged servings of broccoli and bagged salads available, they aren’t biting (pun intended). Until Americans make eating vegetables a priority, it’s not going to happen. After all, you can’t force feed them. Maybe we could hide vegetables in french fries? Hmm. Probably not. Although that is a technique some people use to get children to eat their veggies (remember Jessica Seinfeld’s book Deceptively Delicious?), though not everyone agrees with it.

Organic Authority points out the important of fruits and vegetables for children. “A diet high in fruits and vegetables is important for optimal child growth, maintaining a healthy weight, and prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers—all of which currently contribute to healthcare costs in the United States,” says William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.

Lisa Johnson mentions that some high schools have added baby carrot vending machines next to the typical junk food machines and wonders if the packaging (designed to look similar to a potato chip bag) will entice kids to buy them. Lisa says, “I have to say I think it’s a good idea. It might seem a little condescending to some but we are visual creatures and we react positively to colorful items that grab our attention while glossing over the ho-hum stuff. Shouldn’t we just capitalize on human nature to achieve a greater good?”

The Huffington Post reports “The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced what it called a major new initiative, giving $2 million to food behavior scientists to find ways to use psychology to improve kids’ use of the federal school lunch program and fight childhood obesity.” Some schools are employing psychology tricks in hopes of getting teens to make healthier lunch choices in the cafeteria. Cornell researches have dubbed these little tricks a success: “Keep ice cream in freezers without glass display tops so the treats are out of sight. Move salad bars next to the checkout registers, where students linger to pay, giving them more time to ponder a salad. And start a quick line for make-your-own subs and wraps, as Corning East High School in upstate New York did.”

Perhaps the veggie avoidance can be traced back to infancy. I wrote in 2007 about a study that showed breast-fed babies are more likely to like fruits and vegetables (if their mother ate them while breastfeeding) than their formula-fed counterparts.

Senior author of the study Julie A. Mennella, PhD said, “The best predictor of how much fruits and vegetables children eat is whether they like the tastes of these foods. If we can get babies to learn to like these tastes, we can get them off to an early start of healthy eating. … It’s a beautiful system. Flavors from the mother’s diet are transmitted through amniotic fluid and mother’s milk. So, a baby learns to like a food’s taste when the mother eats that food on a regular basis.”

However, regardless of whether your baby is breast-fed or formula fed, the article points out the importance of offering your baby “plenty of opportunities to taste fruits and vegetables as s/he makes the transition to solid foods by giving repeated feeding exposures to these healthy foods.”

What’s the answer to get Americans to eat their veggies? I vote for focusing on the children. Perhaps if Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution continues, not only will children start eating healthier, but their new habits may rub off on their parents too.

Photo via Masahiro Ihara on Flickr

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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I believe the children are our future…

Whitney Houston said it best. 🙂
“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”

I try to do what I can to set a good example for my kids — whether it means making healthy meals, picking up trash on our hikes, or taking care of my mental health. I believe that despite what they may learn from their friends or in school (although we are home schooling this year — more on that soon, I promise), my husband and I are still their primary teachers.

Although my kids are still young, I think it’s important for them to learn that we need to take care of the earth and that like anything or anyone else, the earth deserves our respect.

As I was digging deeper into the One Million Acts of Green web site the other day, I discovered they have a page dedicated to Education Resources for Teaching about Climate Change.

“When it comes to educating children about the environment, the entire world is a classroom.”

That’s a philosophy I’ve become rather fond of in regard to home schooling too, but like I said, I’ll write more about that another time soon. 😉

They go on to say: “The One Million Acts of Green Program works closely with the National Wildlife Federation, The Climate Project, and its website partner GreenNexxus to provide high-quality, age-appropriate resources for K-12, and beyond.”

There are links to all kind of resources that can be used to teach kids about the environment and climate change. While some of it may be geared moreso to a classroom setting, there’s a lot of information that could be used by parents as well.

This link to the National Wildlife Federation has a bunch of answers to kids’ questions about global warming, including a Parent’s Guide to Talking To Kids About Global Warming.

Another link is to Cool The Earth which is a program similar to One Million Acts of Green, but for kids.

Cool The Earth is a free, ready-to-run program that educates K-8 students and their families about climate change and inspires them to take simple actions to reduce their carbon emissions. The program is successful because it’s fun and empowering for the kids, and their enthusiasm is contagious!

Cool The Earth can be run at any elementary or middle school in the country. If you are interested in learning more, check out how to bring the program to your child’s school.

In addition to the education resources, there’s a lot of other good info available at One Million Acts of Green. If you haven’t yet checked out One Million Acts of Green, I encourage you to read my intro post and learn more about how you can start logging and sharing your Acts of Green. Check out the Facebook app too!

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr

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Eating Locally – Good for So Many Reasons

It’s harvest season in the United States. In other words, ’tis the time of year to eat locally and preserve all of that gorgeous locally grown produce!

This weekend I snagged a second case of local organic roma tomatoes (for the amazingly low price of $15) with plans to make and can more sauce. You see, I already processed one case of the local romas and put away six quarts of sauce (so deliciously *thick a wooden spoon stood up in it). Six quarts is not nearly enough though, so I got the second case. Today I canned six more pints and two quarts. It’s still not enough, but being that a frost is expected tonight and when I got the second case, I was told that was the last of the romas, my sauce making days may be over for the season.

I’m not complaining though. I am actually quite proud of the canning I’ve been able to accomplish this year. It’s definitely my most productive canning year since I started two years ago. A shelf in my garage contain jars of apple sauce, pear sauce, nectarine preserves, dilly beans (like dill pickles, but with green beans), and now tomato sauce (and more that I haven’t moved out there yet). About 2/3 of the food I preserved came from right here in my city and the other 1/3 came from within the state.

It’s not a ton, but it makes me feel good and I like to look at it. 😉 Maybe I should arrange the jars by color for more of a rainbow effect. 😉

There are a lot of reasons why it’s good to eat locally.

According to One Million Acts of Green:

A lot of the food we eat in North America has travelled a great distance to get to us. On average, various food items travel more than 2,400 kilometres (or nearly 1,500 miles). That’s a lot of energy, transport and storage. Plus, all that food is shipped in controlled environments, which depletes nutrition. Buying local produce means your food is fresher. It also helps local farmers and reduces air pollution.

Treehugger points out additional benefits of eating locally:

… farmers who sell direct to local consumers need not give priority to packing, shipping and shelf life issues and can instead “select, grow and harvest crops to ensure peak qualities of freshness, nutrition and taste.” Eating local also means eating seasonally, he adds, a practice much in tune with Mother Nature.

“Local food is often safer, too,” says the Center for a New American Dream (CNAD). “Even when it’s not organic, small farms tend to be less aggressive than large factory farms about dousing their wares with chemicals.” Small farms are also more likely to grow more variety, too, says CNAD, protecting biodiversity and preserving a wider agricultural gene pool, an important factor in long-term food security.

Another benefit of eating locally is helping the local economy. Farmers on average receive only 20 cents of each food dollar spent, … the rest going for transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and marketing. Farmers who sell food to local customers “receive the full retail value, a dollar for each food dollar spent.”

One of the many Acts of Green from One Million Acts of Green is to Purchase Locally Grown Produce. I’ve been appreciating the importance of this more and more over the last few years. Of course there are the benefits to eating seasonally as was mentioned on TreeHugger. There are also the benefits of preserving (either by freezing, dehydrating, or canning) locally grown food while it’s in season. It can be time intensive, but the more I do, the more rewarding it is.

I also admit I love to hear my six-year-old — upon seeing the jars of sauce on the countertop — say, “We sure are getting ready for winter!” I like that the idea of canning and freezing food for the winter is just natural to her.

As I said in my intro post to One Million Acts of Green, “I don’t claim to live a perfectly green lifestyle, but I do the best that I can in the moment. I try to lead by example and inspire others to do what they can too.” If buying a bit of your produce locally at the Farmer’s Market or local farm stand is something that feels good to you, go for it. I have to say it’s kind of cool to know just where your food is coming from and to even meet the people who are growing it. Or perhaps you have a friend or a neighbor who’s garden is producing too much for them. Most gardeners are happy to share the wealth. All you have to do is ask.

Do you buy locally? Do you preserve food for winter? If not, what’s holding you back from getting started?

If you haven’t yet checked out One Million Acts of Green, I encourage you to read my intro post and learn more about how you can start logging and sharing your Acts of Green.

* I cooked my sauce in a stockpot on the stove, but moved it into the crock pot to cook down on low (uncovered) overnight. It worked like a charm. 🙂

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

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I heart fall – Wordless Wednesday

I love fall — the sights, the sounds, the smells. Oh, the smells. 🙂 There’s nothing like the smell of autumn leaves. 🙂 And I especially love the colorful maple tree in our new backyard.

What do you love about fall?

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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The Cost of Litter

I’ve written before about my mom’s habit of picking up trash and how it has rubbed off on me. I’m not as agro as she is (yet?), but I try to do my part. I find it’s especially hard to ignore garbage when it’s in the street or on the sidewalk in front of my house or when I’m out somewhere in nature surrounded by beauty and wildlife. I feel compelled to pick up trash in nature. I can’t stand it marring the scenery or the thought of it ending up in an animal’s stomach.

This weekend, the fam and I took a hike to St. Mary’s Glacier outside of Idaho Springs. It was so picturesque, but I ran into a stray piece of garbage here and there (mostly wrappers from “convenient” individually-wrapped foods), which I pocketed and threw into the trash when we returned to the parking lot.

It’s hard to ignore garbage when the view looks like this:

Or this:

Or this:

And especially when I look at these two and then see a piece of trash. It’s really hard to look the other way.

Over at One Million Acts of Green, one of the Acts (under Everyday Habits) is Pick Up Garbage. The carbon dioxide reduction of this particular Act is low, but it’s important for many other reasons.

The Cost of Litter

Garbage littering our neighborhoods, waterways, nature areas and more:

  • Creates an eyesore.
  • Creates potential environmental damage.
  • It can be a health hazard to humans and animals.
  • It’s killing marine life.
  • It’s killing animals in the wild and even in a zoo.
  • And it’s costly to humans in the dollars and cents sense of the word too.
  • In the United States, state governments spends millions of dollars (yes, millions) each year picking up garbage.
  • They also drive millions of miles each year to collect that trash. Think of all of the gas that is used to fuel their trucks!

If we all did our part and picked up after ourselves and others — including our DOGS — (and for the love of God, try to stay away from those “convenient” individually-wrapped foods in the first place) we could make a big impact.

If you complete the Pick Up Garbage Act, you’ll be well on your way to completing 3 Acts of Green which will earn you an entry into the 3 to Green Contest where one very lucky winner will receive a $5,000 spending spree at BuyGreen.com. To enter for your chance to win, just register and complete three acts of green! It’s that easy! And for every additional three acts of green you register, you’ll earn another entry. Not only will you get a chance to win some cool green stuff, you will be doing your part to clean up the Earth. Our children and our children’s children will thank you for it someday.

As we were on our hike, I paused by the lake to gaze out at the water where I saw ripples — first tiny, then bigger, and bigger, and bigger — which made me think of the ripple effect.

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. — Scott Adams

Let’s start our own little ripples and see how big they become. 🙂

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

Green Your Halloween with National Costume Swap Day – Oct. 9

I have fond memories from Halloween when I was a kid. My crafty mom made a point of sewing costumes for me and my siblings, often creating a theme for all three of us. One year we were Princess Lea, Darth Vader and an Ewok. Another year my brother was Superman and I was Batgirl. Our little sis was a clown. Not exactly sure how that tied in to our super hero theme. Oh yeah, it was a costume my mom made years prior that both me and my brother had outgrown. 😉 I’m not giving you grief for reusing costumes, Mom. Really, I’m not. 🙂 I actually love it and would totally do it myself! Actually, I am this year. 😉

As a kid, I loved having costumes that were unique and now that I’m older I appreciate even more that they were made with love and care and have lasted through the years. My kids might be able to enjoy wearing them too!

These days, as Halloween-themed stores pop up across the city in buildings that usually lie vacant, you can buy just about any disposable costume imaginable. But instead of shelling out the cash for something you or your child is likely to wear for one night, why not participate in a costume swap? National Costume Swap Day — “a country-wide event encouraging local kids and families to trade Halloween get-ups instead of buying new ones to reduce waste” — takes place this year on Saturday, Oct. 9. The event is being promoted by KIWI Magazine, Green Halloween and Swap.com.

According to Green Halloween, if just half of the children who celebrate Halloween swapped costumes instead of choosing new ones, annual landfill waste would be reduced by 6,250 tons, which is equivalent to the weight of 2,500 midsize cars!

To find a swap near you, register a swap or get information about how to host a swap, visit Green Halloween’s Costume Swap page.

Kellie Brown, who organized the online Colorado Costume Swap, said, “While many are trying to cut costs and pick up a second hand costume, others just want to avoid making new purchases. Motivation aside, gently used costumes are the way to go for a green Halloween.”

On Inhabitots, Julie Knapp points out the benefits of costume swaps.

Swapping costumes means that fewer costumes need to be produced by manufacturers each year. In turn, fewer resources are needed to make those costumes, less packaging is required, fewer costumes need to be transported from other countries or to your local store, and less waste will be produced since many consumers trash their Halloween costumes once the fun is over.

Cool Mom Picks asks, Halloween costume swaps – Frugal or just plain smart? Personally, I vote for both. CMP points out that even if there isn’t a costume swap in your ‘hood, you have options to participate online instead.

CMP favoritethredUP has even developed a way to participate in this swap online: Put together a box of outgrown clothes to swap and include a Halloween costume in that box. Label it as a “Halloween Box” and then offer it to their members. Then, search their database for a costume for your child.

Over at Confessions of a Psychotic Housewife, Storm points out this swap doesn’t have to be just for people who celebrate Halloween. “Even if you don’t celebrate Halloween, it’s a great chance to fill up your child(ren)’s dress-up box, or to get costumes for plays and Church functions.”

Whatever your motivation is — being frugal and saving some green, wanting to keep stuff out of the landfills and being green, or just wanting to stock up on dress-up clothes for the kids — this costume swap is a great option. Visit Green Halloween’s Costume Swap for more information. Happy swapping!

Related posts:

Photo via Crunchy Domestic Goddess. (Yep, that’s me up there! Batgirl to the rescue!)

Soon-to-be cross-posted on BlogHer

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