Monthly Archives: May 2010
Okay, I know it’s sort of cheating, since none of this food is in season here yet. But this was just, you know, that meal, the first really lovely fresh springy dinner of the season.
I marinaded chicken breasts in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, tarragon, and a little salt, and my husband grilled them. He also grilled fresh baby zucchini from a similar marinade, and fresh ears of baby corn. For dessert we munched on fresh cherries. Just this entire meal of lovely freshness, nothing processed, cooked entirely outdoors without having to heat up the kitchen at all.
My garden is doing okay–so far the bunnies are respecting the chicken wire and staying out of the veggies, and they are growing nicely. The peas are growing, the eggplants look healthy, the kohlrabi have recovered from the initial bunny attack, and the tomatoes are…well…tomato-ing away as they should. My cuke and zuke hills are starting to spread out a bit too. So all is well. I can’t wait till we can have one of these kinds of meals from our own garden…
Okay, nothing terribly useful and green to report or offer…just musings on a weekend that’s started really nicely. (I hope this won’t jinx the next 3 days.)
Friday is my day off, normally–well, it was yesterday too, but my son had an early dismissal from school (:::eye roll–what kind of “teacher institute” do they need a week before school lets out?), so I sort of had a half-day off instead. I celebrated with my annual (yes, I honestly only do it once a year) indulgence of a manicure-pedicure at a local nail shop I’d never tried before. But they advertise literally the cheapest mani-pedi combo I’ve seen anywhere (er…local friends, we’re talking about The Nail Station at Cass and Ogden. In August they will be moving a few blocks west, because Walgreens has bought the entire corner where they are now located, since, you know, we really need another Walgreens, because one every half-mile is just not enough.), so I thought I’d give them a try.
(I know, my greenish self in a way blushes at admitting to even the once-a-year indulgence, but the other reality is that I at some point in June or so start feeling almost unprofessional having gross-looking feet, because I wear sandals all summer. I don’t wear makeup, so I feel like I should do something to pretend I give a rodent’s patootie about my appearance when on the job.)
I was pleasantly and green-ly surprised. Now, of course, you can probably find officially “green” salons in any major metropolitan area, but the ones I’m googling around here conspicuously lack nail services of any kind. I presume because there’s not much one can do in the area of mani-pedi services that don’t involve toxic chemicals. But…this place had a few touches I just sort of noticed. For one thing,I noticed immediately that the place didn’t reek of nail polish scent, chlorine, and/or other chemical yuckiness. The place was immaculately clean, but it was also pleasant-smelling and easy to breathe in.
They didn’t give every pedicure client those cheezy foam things for between your toes and get immediately thrown out; they used paper towels instead. And most clients came in flip-flops so they didn’t need the cheezy foam flip-flops to give us to walk once across the room to the manicure table. I wonder how much eliminating all that needless garbage takes off their overhead, permitting those really inexpensive mani-pedis? This is the kind of thing I really like–while of course businesses that make greenness and eco-consciousness a priority are the awesome of awesomeness, it encourages me a lot when places that aren’t specifically geared to this mentality take the little easy steps they can.
And in the next couple of weeks I’ll be trying to find a decent eco-friendly nail polish remover for when the fingernails inevitably chip. So I’ll keep you posted (and would welcome suggestions!)
My husband still brings me the magazines his mom gets but never reads; I’m sort of finishing out her current set of subscriptions. Many of them are downright scary in their pro-consumer, pro-processed, pro-chemical stance on things…but occasionally I find an article or a recipe I might want to use.
Like this one for easy berry muffins. Or, I guess, almost any kind of muffins.
The reason it’s so quick and easy is that it uses pre-made “pancake mix” as a base ingredient. Aha, I thought! I make my own baking mix! So I tried the recipe with my own baking mix and a couple little alterations:
Berry Easy Muffins
In a bowl, mix well:
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup water or milk
- 1/4 cup oil (or applesauce?)
Mix in until just blended:
- 2 1/2 cups pancake mix
- 1/2 cup sugar
Stir in 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen berries (I used raspberries) (Note: if you use frozen berries, leave them frozen when you mix them in, or they will produce a whole bunch of juice and completely discolor your muffins. Well, okay, really, they will discolor your muffins any way you slice it, but what the heck.)
Pour into prepared muffin cups. (Either paper lined, or greased, or non-stick.) Bake at 400 degrees for 14-16 minutes (longer if you’re using frozen berries). Or pour into a 9×9 baking dish and bake about 30 minutes. For me, this batch makes about a dozen regular-sized muffins.
VERDICT: These were pretty good. I would probably add some other flavoring next time I make them, like a little cinnamon or vanilla or other extract, but they make a nice basic neutral muffin. And they are amazingly speedy-fast–I can’t imagine anything being easier. (The kids thought they were gross. Figures. Next time I’ll try chocolate chips or something, that’ll fly better. I think the raspberries were too sour.)
I personally use about half and half white and whole wheat flour in my baking mix, so doing this with your own baking mix makes these pretty healthy. I didn’t do the oil-for-applesauce substitution, which would even cut back on more fat and calories. I wonder if mashed banana would work in place of the oil too…but I’ll try that next day I make these. For the moment this recipe is a tweakable keeper.
This is a great resource–check out The Environmental Working Group’s site detailing the best beach and sport summer sunscreens, in terms of which are safest and most effective. I’ll be using this before I go shopping for my kids’ sunblock this year…
You can also use this site to check out how safe the one you already use is…if you dare.
Well, this is shocking…by which I mean, “THIS IS COMPLETELY UN-SHOCKING!”
(Line courtesy of Dr. Doofenschmirtz, for those of you in households where your children do not clamor to watch “Phineas and Ferb” every waking hour of the day…)
On Non-Toxic Kids (love her blog, by the way–when I have 936 pending messages in my Google Reader, she’s one of the ones I go to first to actually read, while my Grist and Tree-Hugger feeds just pile up more and more…)
This is the kind of thing that, to me, makes perfect sense, and is a really good reason to not necessarily assume because someone’s marketing department–or even the FDA, CDC, or whatever government acronym you choose–says it’s safe. Because the marketing departments have a vested interest in it, and the goverment organizations can’t say a damn thing unless the unsafety has been scientifically proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Which is to say, unless someone has been willing to pay large amounts of money (which the government doesn’t have or spend) to do transparent and obvious studies and come to undeniable conclusions that are so undeniable that the marketers can’t refute them with their own studies “proving” the safety of the product, they can’t say a damn thing. When the government says “this is safe,” they usually mean “our studies haven’t proved that it’s unsafe.” Which, to me, is a completely different thing.
Like bug repellents–last summer I remember being aghast that the government was able to say with certitude that Picaridin, an ingredient currently used in a lot of DEET-free bug sprays, has not been demonstrated to be unsafe–but that there haven’t been enough studies on lemon eucalyptus oil to say the same thing.
So…anyway…if pesticides work by disrupting the insects’ neurological systems, how huge a stretch is it anyway to wonder if long-term exposure, in utero and out, to similar pesticides might possibly have some vague connection to neurological disruption in humans? Hmm?
From an Igloo is one of my favorite crafty/sewey blogs, and I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at her patterns and tutorials and going, “Wow! I could totally make that!” But somehow I never do…
This one, though, I bet I could handle:
It looks fun and manageable and easy, involving a lot of rectangles, and it doesn’t require pinning fabric to slippery pieces of tissue paper and cutting it out with notches and dots. And my daughter would love it.
I may also try the “bubblegum jumper,” as I am one of those exact people she describes who has a terror of buttonholes and needs some project or another to break the fear and just do it. But this sundress looks impossibly easy–even I could do it. And I have a couple of smaller fabric pieces I could make this work with, too…maybe Friday. We’ll see.
In the meantime, I’ll spend a little more time looking at her patterns and tutorials and going, “Wow! I could totally make that!”…
There is a fascinating article over at Racialicious; I highly recommend it:
The article is good; the comment string following is far more thoughtful than the average string of blog comments. This one particularly hits a nail on the head:
“It reminds me of the “bike to work” movement. That is also portrayed as white, but in my city more than half of the people on bike are not white. I was once talking to a white activist who was photographing “bike commuters” and had only pictures of white people with the occasional “black professional” I asked her why she didn’t photograph the delivery people, construction workers etc. … ie. the black and Hispanic and Asian people… and she mumbled something about trying to “improve the image of biking” then admitted that she didn’t really see them as part of the “green movement” since they “probably have no choice” –
I was so mad I wanted to quit working on the project she and I were collaborating on.
So, in the same way when people in a poor neighborhood grow food in their yards … it’s just being poor– but when white people do it they are saving the earth or something.
And YES black people on bikes and with gardens DO have an awareness of the environment. Surprisingly so! These values are in our communities and they are good values. My Grandmother was an organic gardener before it was “cool” –My mother believed in composting all waste and recycling whatever could be reused– it was a religious thing. God hates waste.
Makes one think. And it makes me, at least, really glad that these conversations are happening.
Okay, I just survived another in-home children’s birthday party–once again reminded of why it’s so nice to hire one of those places to do it for you, on their own turf. But here we were able to save a huge amount of money and prevent a huge amount of garbage-generation. And my daughter had fun.
All in all, this was pretty okay. 8 girls total, ages 4-5, for a “Princess Pajama Party.” They came in their jammies, we made pizzas and decorated and iced our own cupcakes, we made princess tiaras and magic wands, and I made them each a little princess cape. We used disposable cups because we honestly don’t have enough real cups to serve all these girls (plus I have a stock leftover from pre-greenness, so I didn’t go out and buy anything at least), but the flatware and plates were all real–and when all was said and done, we were able to save the “disposable” cups anyway, because they were that hard plastic that washes really easily. (The kind of thing I would never buy now, but they are in my house, so the footprint for them is mine whether I want it or not–might as well make the most of it.) I lamented to a friend today that the cupcakes were a little overbaked, but she wisely said, “who cares? They won’t eat the cupcakes anyway; they’ll ice and decorate them, and then they’ll eat all the icing and decorations off them, and then they’ll say they’re full.” She was absolutely correct. And between crafts and foodstuffs we played a couple of games, and they ran around the house a bit, they screamed at the top of their lungs a bit, and in the end we got them settled in front of a princess movie munching popcorn for the last 20 minutes till their parents arrived.
I was fairly proud of the crafts too, though they in hindsight might have been better for girls maybe age 6-7, requiring a little more dexterity than these kids could handle. The basic tiara directions I found here–you use pipe cleaners and beads to make a really nice sparkly crown thing. The magic wands were pretty much my own creation: you get wooden dowels about a foot long and a quarter inch thick, and either cut out cardboard stars to glue onto the end or, in my case, little spheres with the right size hole in them to fit into the dowels. Roll the dowel part in aluminum foil, put a little square over the tip (or star if that’s what you’re using), and it’s silver-colored. (no toxic paint fumes.) Tie three different colored ribbons around the tip–I strung a jingle bell on one of the ribbons too, so it made a nice jingle. If we’d been outside I would have done glitter glue instead of foil. Easy and quick, and I was basically thinking to send kids home with things that they would actually play with, not throw away.
The princess capes were fun too, and surprisingly easy,though of course I did those myself. Two words: panne velvet. ($4.99/yard at JoAnn’s, I got 9 capes out of 2.5 yards.) It has this nice quality of sort of curling around the cut edges, so you can get away without hemming it or finishing any of the edges. I made these little capes by gathering the cloth onto a band and sewing ribbons onto either end; if I were doing it again, I’d probably just buy double fold bias tape, extra wide, and just enclose the gathers onto that. But these were really easy; making 9 of the things only took a couple of hours, if that–and that included a lot of trial and error and figuring out the easiest way to do it; I could probably do it in half the time now that I have the hang of it. Each princess got her cape as she came in the door.
I was slightly aghast that two of the girls, before leaving, stood there in front of me with their capes and crowns and wands and asked where the goodie bags were. Sigh. You can’t win.
But my daughter is happy. That’s what matters.
It’s when the milkweed fuzz (I assume that’s what it is–I suppose it could be some other white fluffy far-travelled seed-bearing thing) hits the air and makes it look like everything is snowing little cotton pieces for a few days. (Although a friend just facebook-commented for me that she thinks it’s the cottonwood trees, of which her parents have two. We didn’t have cottonwood back east where I grew up…thanks for the tip! I still think it’s cool looking.)
It gets all over your clothes, it gets all over your car, and sometimes when you’re riding your bike (to work today! But that’s a post for another day…) it gets in your eyes and you can’t see for half a block…but basically it’s just so pretty and so springy.
The pussy willows tell me spring is coming. The over-the-top green foliage of that one morning usually (around here) sometime in late April tells me it’s here. The milkweed tells me it’s settled in and not going anywhere for a while.