Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where's the beef and which beef should I buy?

Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil

Confused in the meat department in your local grocery store? I sure am. Between claims of "all natural," "hormone free," "organic," etc., it is hard to know what to fork over more money for and what is simply an empty claim. So here are a few tips to help you sort through it all:

Let's start with chicken. Did you know that growth hormones are not allowed in any poultry? So higher ticketed chicken boasting a "hormone free" label aren't worth the extra cash. It's all hormone free! At least, by law, it is supposed to be. But if you buy food that is not being regulated, who knows?

So what about the difference between organic and free-range? Well, here there is a difference. Free-range chicken are covered under absolutely no standards or regulations. What does this mean? While free-range chickens might cluck a bit happier tunes than their penned cousins, they also may be full of antibiotics and non-organic pesticide-ridden feed. Bottom line: organic is the safer choice for you and your family.

If you are not only concerned about the safety of the food, but are also thinking about the welfare of the animals, look for the "Certified Humane Raised & Handled" label. Poultry, meat, eggs and dairy products bearing this label have had access to plenty of clean food and water, have been protected from harsh weather, lived in a safe place with plenty of room to move around in. These standards were put in place by the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the U.S. Of course, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you are probably ready to jump on me for promoting the eating of these farmyard pets altogether, but I am just relaying some info, so save your is not my intention to offend anyone, just to educate those who choose to eat meat (of which I am one of them).

This last bit reminds me of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which contains one of my favorite lines from a film. Remember when the main character brings her boyfriend home to meet the family and her aunt finds out he is a vegetarian? She loudly states, "You don't eat no meat? You don't eat no meat? ... Well, that's okay. I'll make lamb." Love it!!

Wow. I don't know what that had to do with anything, so let me get back on track. As far as being a more environmentally-conscious person goes -- the less meat you eat, the better. If you simply cut your consumption of meat in half, the amount of greenhouse gases you could save yearly equals 1.4 tons! So it is a greener choice.

But let's continue looking at meat and what's worth paying more for. I was at Right by Nature on Friday night and had a tasting of their grass-fed beef. Oh my...let me tell you -- there is a difference. It may be costly, but oh, is it worth it! If you only enjoy steak occasionally, you might want to spring for grass-fed beef. However, like free-range poultry, there are no standards by which a beef farmer has to adhere to when claims of "grass-fed" are made. Basically, though, it simply means the animals dined in the pasture instead of in a stall with a trough full of processed feed.

If not grass-fed, then at least pick up some organic beef, especially if you are feeding it to your little ones. The U.S Department of Agriculture has standards that organic livestock ranchers must abide by. Here's the list:
  • Antibiotic- and hormone-free
  • Humane treatment
  • Natural preventive health practices to prevent diseases
  • Natural processing methods -- this is a good one to pay attention to. It means that while processing the meat, there are no artificial preservatives, harmful additives or synthetic chemicals. None.
  • Organic feed -- 100% certified organic feed or toxic-free grass with no pesticides or fertilizers that are harmful to the earth.
  • Zero animal by-products -- mad cow disease was the result of the cows being fed parts of other animals. This is not permitted in meat that is certified organic.
What about claims of being "natural?" That simply means there was little processing and no additives or preservatives were used. However, once again you have to realize there are no standards for qualification, so there most certainly could be antibiotics and hormones thrown into the mix. Look for third-party verification. Unless you can find it, you might want to ignore the "natural" branding.

Want to find out where to buy organic meat and dairy products that are free of hormones and antibiotics? Check out

Keeping it green and healthy,


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Something more important than being green

Photo courtesy of Kim Newburg

When my kids were little, I had the best friends ever! Since I lived 250 miles from my closest family member, the need for reliable friends was really important...and God provided just what I needed. I had a few really awesome friends who didn't just tolerate my kids, they loved them. Kathy and Sandy B. were like second moms to my girls, and Sandy W. and Judy were there for me whenever I needed them. It was like having a great big extended family. Bethany and Jessica were raised with a bunch of surrogate brothers and sisters and it was wonderful.

After I moved away 19 years ago, I lost track of Sandy B. My last Christmas card to her was returned because she no longer lived down the street from my previous address. I tried to find her, but kept coming up with dead ends.

Then on Friday night, I finally found her kids on Facebook. Bethany, Jess and I have been doing FB searches on a regular basis and we simply couldn't find them. When I found Sandy's oldest daughter, I wrote an upbeat message to her, expressing my excitement over finding her at last! I told her I couldn't wait to get the families together again. I clicked send before checking out her friends' list. It was small and I spotted her dad's page. Opening it, I was stunned by the wall post I saw there. It was an announcement for Sandy's viewing and memorial dinner to be held on September 15th. I sat at my desk, stunned, unmoving, simply reading his post over and over again. Sandy died? I thought to myself. That's not possible. So I googled the obit and sure enough, there it was. She died suddenly two weeks ago at the age of 49. I missed the funeral.

But that's not all I missed. I also missed the chance to tell her how much she meant to me and my girls. I didn't get to thank her for being a lifeline after my husband was killed. I didn't get to hug her for all the countless hugs she gave me girls.

We carpooled together. The kids rode the bus together. She came to the women's Bible Study I taught in my home, while my husband walked over to her house to watch her 3 kids. Sandy died? That's not possible.

Remember the returned Christmas card? I still have it. Inside the sealed envelope is a letter I wrote to her, expressing my heartfelt gratitude for all she did for me back when we were neighbors and close friends. I can't bear to open the envelope.

I also can't bring myself to popping the video of my kids' 5th and 7th joint birthday party into the VCR (yes, folks, I still have a VCR!!). It's the one where my late husband and Sandy grace the screen several times. Sandy died? That's not possible.

So here we go again with me reminding you that life is short. Sometimes it is way, way, way too short.

Should we care about the environment? Absolutely!

Should we watch what we're feeding our kids? Of course!

Should we read labels? Naturally.

But before we do all of that, we should hug our kids, kiss our spouses, call our parents, spend time with our friends...and thank every one of them for the treasure they are in our lives.

So let me close by saying I treasure you, my GG family. You enrich my life.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Love fall colors? Don't forget the green!

Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil
One of the things about trying to live in a cleaner and healthier environment involves finding new uses for eco-friendly items already in your homes. So here's a little list of things you can use common household items for as the autumn settles in:
  • I'm a huge fan of candles, which is probably one of the reasons I enjoy fall so much. Darker evenings mean more cozy, candle time. But I hate when they get stuck in the candle holders. That usually means some time spent in my already too-crowded freezer. But not anymore; not with this tip I just learned about. All I need to do from now on is dab a little bit of olive oil on the base of the holder before I put the candle in. Voila! No more stuck wax.
  • Another thing I love about the cooler weather is...sweaters!!! As you bring your sweaters out of the cedar chests, etc., clean off any last-season-pilling with a small piece of the hook side of Velcro. Make sure to use the hook side though, so you don't pull at the fabric.
  • How about apple festivals? Apples are the fruit of fall. Keep sliced apples from turning brown by spritzing them with a little bit of lemon juice.
  • As you're repotting your plants to bring them in for the winter, line the bottom of the pots with a coffee filter. This will keep the dirt from spilling out of the drain holes and make the entire process just a bit easier as you will have less dirt to clean up.
  • Is the change of season making you sweat a bit more? Grab some good ol' baking soda and dust it under your arms in place of deodorant. This is an inexpensive way to keep odor away, which is really important given all the time we'll be spending indoors in the upcoming months!
  • Greeted by morning frost on your windshield? That is certainly not something I'm looking forward to as the temperatures drop! But I just learned about a way to prevent that. Simply add 2 teaspoons of salt to a gallon of hot water. Wet a cloth with the solution and apply it to the inside of your car windows. Make sure you wipe it dry when you are done. I haven't tried this yet, but am sure hoping it works!
  • You cannot have beautiful fall days without throwing some rainy ones in the mix. If your kids come slushing home from school with wet shoes, dry them overnight by putting some balled up newspaper in them. They will be dry by morning.
  • And what would a series of cool weather tips be without one involving vinegar? This one is for winter, but what the heck? You know how you get those white salt stains on your shoes and boots? Get rid of them easily with a cloth dipped in distilled white vinegar.
Hope you find something here that helps make your cool weather seasons a bit greener.

Keeping it green,


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Sabbath Experiment

Lately I have been convicted of being too busy. Quite honestly, I work every day, seven days a week. It may only be for a couple of hours, but at the very least, I check emails, respond to clients, etc. seven days a week. It seems my clients have no respect for weekends, because they, too, are working seven days a week. This, I believe, is a destructive pattern, and I am putting an end to it. After all, God Himself created for six days and rested on the seventh.

The Sabbath. What does it mean to you? Are your Saturdays and Sundays filled with running here and there, doing housework/yardwork, working on your computer, grading papers, crunching numbers, etc.? Where does rest fit in?

I am not about to get into a theological debate on which day the Sabbath actually occurs. For some, it is Saturday and for others, Sunday. For me, I will recognize the Sabbath, my day of rest, mostly on Sundays. Occasionally, however, it will be a Saturday for my husband and me. Why? Simply because I refuse to be legalistic about this. The point is we are to rest from our work one day a week.

What does this mean for me? No emails. No blogging. No work in my office. No laundry. No cleaning. Will I cook? Maybe. Will I clean up after cooking? Maybe.

And my husband? He won't do yard work, rake leaves, clean out the garage, etc. Will he water the plants? Possibly...if they really need watering. But basically, he won't be working either.

As I said, most of our Sabbath time will occur on Sundays, starting with church. After church, we'll have lunch with the kids and grandbabies and then, who knows? Maybe a walk in the woods or an afternoon of playing cards. Maybe we'll have dinner with friends. Or we'll watch a Hallmark movie marathon. Or nap. It won't really matter, as long as we are relaxing.

Why do I think this is important? Well, for one thing, God tells us in His Word to do this. But it goes beyond that. I have not researched this, but I have a strong suspicion that the rise in stress-related conditions started within a few years of America ridding itself of the Blue Laws. Remember them? Because businesses were not permitted to be open on Sundays, life was different. People spent Sundays with their families... and not at soccer games or at the mall. They shared Sunday dinners with Grandma or they went on picnics. Life slowed down for one day every week.

Then the Blue Laws were repealed and our frantic, busy pace seeped into our Sundays, making them a day just like all the rest. And no one seemed to notice how this was affecting our marriages and families and... our health!

Bill and I started The Sabbath Experiment on Saturday. Plans to do this on Sunday were averted because we received sad news about the deaths of two friends, so we chose to take Saturday off and revisit some places we used to enjoy. We spent time walking hand-in-hand in the Wildflower Reserve in Clinton, PA and ate breakfast at a familiar haunt from our dating years. We visited my late husband's grave and drove by our deceased friends' homes. We honored memories. 

We bought fresh produce from a local farm market and, once home, cooked a simple dinner, eating in the living room as we watched a movie. It was a bittersweet day, but a relaxing one. I am, understandably, quite sad about the loss of my friends. But burying myself in work would not have made anything any easier. Spending the time with my husband (and best friend) did.

Was it hard for me not to check on work when I got home? Absolutely. I am not predicting an easy transition for either of us. However, I believe the dividends we reap will be well worth it.

My challenge to you... for your emotional, physical and spiritual health... is to follow suit. See where The Sabbath Experiment takes you. And then let me know how it has changed your life. For me, I am expecting great results.

Keeping it healthy with a day of rest,


Sunday, September 26, 2010

This is My Father's World

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of bad news, recalls, dangerous products, etc., etc., etc.?! Me, too. I encourage you to take 4 minutes of your day and just relax as you watch the video at the top of the page.

Why do I care so much about the earth? I think the song explains it better than I ever could.

Wishing you peace as you watch and listen,


Friday, September 24, 2010

Vinegar Fridays

Photo courtesy of Anna Cervova


Today I thought I'd just share some random tips with you. No theme...other than Vinegar Rocks!!

This hasn't happened recently, but for years whenever we would go to visit my mom, my husband and I would be woken up much earlier than we wanted to be by the screeching of the smoke alarm. Since her alarm was electric, there was no way to pop the battery out. And, for some reason unbeknownst to me, there was no switch either!  So, we had no choice but to get out of bed to be greeting by crisp bacon in the broiler. While she would never admit it, we always knew that was her plan.

Too bad I didn't know about this trick back then. The next time you burn your toast, char your steak, or over-crisp your bacon, simply pour some vinegar onto a dish towel and swing it around in the air. This will not only keep the smoke alarm from sounding, but it will also quickly absorb the smoke and its smell.  Plus, it will amuse your kids if they're watching!

If the smell of smoke has already permeated your house, here's a remedy for that, too. Just soak some bread in vinegar and place it in bowls in various rooms. The smell will be gone in no time.

If your clothes or furniture has residule smoke odor (from smokers in the home, an evening in a smoky location, or time spent at a fall bonfire), skip the Febreeze and just spritz the fabric with vinegar. Don't worry about smelling vinegary -- it dissipates quickly.

If other odors are a problem, don't reach for the chemically-laden, cancer-causing, aerosol spray air freshener!! Use your homemade, eco-friendly and health-friendly alternative:
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
Mix together in a spray bottle and spritz the air as needed. Will your home smell like a meadow or spring rain or pine forest? Nope. But it will smell fresh and the air will be safe to breath!

Have you ever had chewing gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe or worse, in your kid's hair? Super vinegar to the rescue! Heat up some vinegar (it doesn't matter which kind) and then saturate the area with it. Stickiness gone!

Speaking of kids...any of your kids playing football these season? If so, you know all about grass stains. Once again, vinegar's the answer! Just soak the stained clothing in undiluted distilled white vinegar and voila! Stains are gone. (This works for other stains, too, like coffee, tea, wine and fruits, including berries.)

After the big game, does your son (or cheerleading daughter) come home complaining of aches and pains? Fill the tub with very warm water and add two cups of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar is packed full of potassium and will soothe those aching muscles.

The bath thing isn't just for athletes, either. As a matter of fact, I hear a hot bath summoning me right now -- something has to work to ease this fibromyalgia-wracked body from its pain. So I think I will obey the summons. Hoping to spend this Vinegar Friday in less pain.

Keeping it green with vinegar,


Thursday, September 23, 2010

A crucial piece of the conservation puzzle

Earlier this week, I received an email from a gentleman who has been enjoying my blog. He asked me if I would consider posting one of his articles, as he thought it would fit in well with my overall purpose. I read the article and agreed.

While the article may be a bit more technical than you are accustomed to reading here, I think you'll appreciate the message it is portraying. When you are done reading, make sure you find a local farmer's market to patronize!

Reduce Your Impact
by Kori Bubnach

“In other environmental issues we tell people to stop something, reduce their impact, reduce their damage,” states US Ecologist Gary Nabhan in a recent interview. Nabhan is a ethno botanist/gardener whose promotion of biodiversity has caught the attention of many over the years. Since his book, Coming Home to Eat. was published in 2001, the local food movement has ignited, causing a worldwide green epidemic.

Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of organizations and businesses that have contributed to the promotion of sustainability through conservation. The Earth Day Network has played a large part in bringing conservationist and green enthusiasts together, sharing ideas and discussing new ways to support the planet. Other large organizations and non-profits like Doug Band and the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) have been working on successful emission reduction projects in the San Francisco Bay area. While climate control has continued to worsen, collaborative and individual acts are vital for any successful green campaign. As human beings, we are urged to reduce our carbon footprint, consume more healthy foods, and spend less time in the shower! But let’s take a minute to step back and look at this from a different perspective; one that Gary Nabhan strongly suggests.

According to The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, only about a quarter of crop diversity is left and a dozen species now give 90% of the animal protein eaten globally. In accordance, just four crop species supply half of plant-based calories in the human diet.

Eating homegrown food, as Nabhan suggests, will have a greater impact on sustainability for our planet as a whole. “Eat what you conserve,” is a well-established theory focused on eating the fruits and vegetables that we are attempting to conserve/save; by doing so, we are promoting the granular dissemination of various plant species.

According to agriculturist Marco Contiero, “Biodiversity is an essential characteristic of any sustainable agricultural system, especially in the context of climate change.”[1] His theory suggests that as individuals, we tend our own crops/plants, and when purchasing, we should buy local farm products at supermarkets and grocery stores. In the end, this condenses export/import reliance, thus reducing our carbon footprint.

Both theories rely profoundly on an action-oriented approach at conservation and sustainability. With an abundance of green movements following Earth Day 2010, many organizations and individuals have chosen to follow expert opinions like the ones demonstrated by both of these highly influential agriculturalists.

So remember, as the fall season approaches, to be sure to visit your local farmers markets to purchase your fresh fruits and vegetables. As eco-conscious individuals, do not hesitate to stop the next time you drive by a yard stand with fresh crops. Promoting biodiversity and localized farming is a crucial piece of the conservation puzzle.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why did God create stink bugs?

Did you ever wonder why God created stink bugs? Well, to be honest, neither did I until I started thinking of a title for this post. But it's a valid question. I wonder what their purpose is?

All I know is they are enough of a nuisance to cause a commotion in the infested communities across the U.S. Everybody is talking about them. After all, other than ladybug infestations, you rarely hear about someone trying to win the battle against a bug that multiplies by the hundreds in homes, particularly as the cool weather approaches.

I have never been bitten by a stinkbug, but I hear they do bite. Same as ladybugs. Most people think they are harmless, but let me tell you, their bit is pretty darn painful. I would love to know if any of you has ever been bitten by a stink bug. Please post a comment and tell me about it if you have.

While I have not been bitten, I have been sprayed. It is not a pleasant thing, folks. The sickening sweet smell lingers...for a long, long time. One day this past spring when I was putting my freshly line-dried sheets on the bed, I realized the stink bugs must have had a convention on the sheets as they hung on the line. It took days to rid the bedroom of that smell!

It was a really nice day in Western Pennsylvania yesterday so I decided to do my writing out on the back porch. What I did not count on was the onslaught of stink bugs flying and landing anywhere and everywhere...including in my hair! Yuck!!

There must be a solution! I said to myself. They will not win!

So, rather than googling stink bug solutions, I created an environmentally-friendly solution of my own. It is called The Stink Bug Eradicator, which is a much scarier name than product! The product is a simple solution anyone can make at home.
  • Get a jar and fill it with about 3" of water.
  • Add a few squirts of liquid soap. I chose an eco-friendly brand.
  • Place the jar underneath the stink bugs as they climb your walls.
  • Laugh at them as they struggle for their last breath as they are stuck in the soapy water.
  • Close the lid to prevent the smell from permeating the area around you.
  • Utilize call block on your phone and block calls from PETA (I know they are going to hate me for this one -- but c'mon, it's not like I am going to make a coat out of the stink bugs or anything!)
The odd thing was, once I had gathered upwards of 100 stink bugs in the jar, other bugs started jumping in as well. I even had a bee and a huge mosquito go into the jar as I held it under them. Hmm. Maybe I am on to something here. Can't wait to see how many I can bag today!

It may be labor intensive, but I have to admit, I found it to be a bit of a game. You could even have family or neighborhood competitions. See who can jar up the most stink bugs in an hour. Maybe it will become a nationwide phenomenon! Just remember, when that happens, you heard about first here on the GG blog.

Keeping it green when it comes to stink bugs,


Monday, September 20, 2010

My daughter and her husband moved on Saturday. I thought the most helpful thing I could do for them was to take their 23-month-old off their hands for the weekend, and so I did. Not that it was any great sacrifice on my part! I love spending time with the lovely little Lady Laura!

As I was trying to figure out what I could do with Laura for a few days, I decided to head across the state to visit my mother in Lancaster County. My daughter, Bethany, decided to go along with me, which meant we were traveling with a nearly two-year-old and a three-and-a-half week old. It's been a long time since I had to worry about strapping two little ones in carseats, stop at rest stops so the baby could be breastfed, etc. I'll tell you's a lot easier when you're young!

So, armed with cloth diapers for two and a whole slew of baby and toddler paraphernalia, we set off on an adventure across the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I'm pretty sure I'll need a few days to recoup when I get back.

With limited Internet access for a few days, I might not be blogging for a couple of days. Instead, I'll be cuddling and playing with my grandbabies...and isn't that the real purpose of a grandma, green or otherwise?

Enjoying the kiddos,


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Others won't care how much we know
until they know how much we care.

-- Charles Swindoll     
Come Before Winter

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vinegar Friday


I had a doctor appointment yesterday and came home feeling a bit depressed. The numbers weren't good...including the number on the scale. It seems I've put on a few pounds since my last visit, which puts me at higher risk for a whole lot of problems associated with my type 2 diabetes. So I decided it's time for me to get serious about losing this weight.

One thing that will help is the treadmill my husband carried home from my neighbor's curb on trash night. "We're moving a block away from the Y, so I won't need it anymore," was her explanation for throwing out a relatively new machine in working order. Whatever.

Unfortunately, this wonderful piece of exercise equipment is still sitting down in my garage waiting for the day I have its room ready. Not that the room is just for it. I'm actually converting my old office into a playroom for the grandbabies. But it will also serve as an exercise room for me and I can't wait. Life just kind of got in the way of my ever cleaning the room out, and as the months have passed by, I've been guilty of throwing more stuff in it! Help!! I need a personal organizer to do her magic in the room. But that's not what Vinegar Friday is about. I can't just wave the magic vinegar wand and make the mess go away. Too bad.

What I can do, is incorporate vinegar into my diet to help me shed these pounds. I need to lose at least 15, but ideally would like to make it 25. So, I went in search of a solution and found a YouTube video I liked. Of course, it's about vinegar...and weight loss. Perfect.

So scroll down and watch this short video. I'm taking her advice starting today. I'll let you know what the results are in a month or so. If you need to lose a few pounds, I challenge you to join me in my quest to be thin.

Keeping it healthy with vinegar,


Dieting : How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teaching kids to be green...leading by example

Raising environmentally-conscious kids isn't as difficult these days as it used to be. After all, it's cool to be green...despite the "I poo in blue" ultra-cool kid rockin' his disposable diaper. While you may spend a considerable amount of time teaching your little ones about recycling, not littering, etc., there is one thing you probably do, without thinking about it, that is sending your kids the wrong message.

What is it? Well, it has four wheels, two or more doors, a radio, CD player and possibly a DVD player or two.

You're not going to ask us to give up our cars now, are you?
Relax. Of course I'm not going to ask you to do that. But I am going to ask you to reconsider how many times you pile the kids in the car and drive them here, there and everywhere. Are all those trips necessary?

Let's start with school. Do you drive your kids to school? Why? Perhaps you drop them off on your way to work. Okay. Perhaps you only do it on rainy or snowy mornings. Okay. Perhaps you do it because they whine about having to ride the bus. Not okay. If there is a bus transporting children from your neighborhood to the school, consider saying no to the personal chauffeur service your kids are accustomed to. Why can't they ride the bus?

If you care about the environment and are trying to teach your kids to do the same, tomorrow morning's a good time to send them off to the bus stop! And you can tell them I told you to do it...I don't mind if their anger is directed at Green Grandma. I can take it.

How about when school is within walking distance? I understand concerns about letting your kids walk considering child abduction, dangerous intersections, etc. So consider walking with them, if that's a possibility for you.

At the very least, start a carpool. It just seems ridiculous to have 200 or 400 or 600 parents driving their kids to the same school every day. It's wasteful and definitely not eco-friendly.

So the next time you start to talk to your kids about saving the earth, consider ways you can save gas. It's all about the little things. And they all add up now, don't they?

Keeping it green,


Photo courtesy of Peter Griffin

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A lifeline for Jayden

I am having a semi-sleepless night tonight. It's 4:45 a.m. and I have been up for a couple of hours now surfing the Internet, responding to emails, posting links on Facebook ... nothing of any real value ... except perhaps one of the FB postings about Jayden, a baby born at 31 weeks addicted to cocaine and alcohol, with congenital syphilis. This precious little one had no skin on the palms of her hands or the skin of her feet and had to undergo painful skin grafts. Plus, little Jayden was blind and deaf at birth.

When she was released from the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), Jayden was sent home with her foster mother to die. The doctors and nurses had no hope for this child, who was insulin dependant and on oxygen 24 hours a day. Additionally, it was eventually discovered that Jayden bears the distinction of being one of 18 people in the U.S. who was born without a pancreas. To further complicate things for this tenacious little soul, she could not tolerate formula of any kind!

Jayden's foster mother knew breastmilk was the answer for this tiny baby, but the state wouldn't pay for banked milk because Jayden was a MEDICAID baby and the breastmilk was expensive.

That's where you come in. Jayden lives in SE Michigan and is in desperate need of breastmilk. There are drop-off locations across this section of the state. If you know anyone in this area who is nursing, or perhaps has recently weaned her child and might have a supply of milk still stored in her freezer, please pass on this information.

As it turns out, breastmilk saved Jayden's life. With so many strikes against her, one thing Jayden does have going for her is her astonishing will to live! So astonishing, in fact, that she is now 17-months-old and weighs 17 pounds! And here's what she's doing these days:
  • crawling
  • sitting up by herself
  • standing on her own
  • creeping onto things
She is also enjoying all the sights and sounds around her, because both her vision and hearing were restored. How is that possible? Through the power of donated breastmilk! Breastmilk has been her lifeline from the very first bottle. Her pediatrician explained that when someone is actively dying, their brain shuts off all "non-essential functions"... seeing and hearing in Jayden's case. As she began to actively live, her blindness and deafness vanished. What has not vanished, however, is her extreme food allergies. Breastmilk is the only thing Jayden can tolerate.

Had it not been for the wisdom, tenacity and love of her foster mom, Jayden's story would have ended in a tiny casket. While I generally give out Greeny Awards, in this case I believe a Hero Citation is in order. Let's hear it for this foster mom ... and for all the moms out there who are willing to keep the lifeline going for little Jayden. You are all a blessing!

You can read more of this amazing story by visiting Milk for Jayden.

Keeping you informed,


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Call to action to make ice cream safer!

I mentioned this on Facebook yesterday, but thought this info on contacting the ice cream companies was worth passing on:

Take Back Our Ice Cream!

No More Genetically Engineered Hormones!

More and more people are finding out that recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) is injected into cows producing some of the dairy foods we feed to our children. This drug harms cows, leads to increased antibiotic resistance in humans and may increase cancer rates. Its use has been banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and all 27 nations of the European Union.

Thanks to consumer demand, numerous companies don’t use the hormone, including Starbucks, Chipotle Restaurants, Ben & Jerry’s, Darigold, Tillamook and many more. Last year, Yoplait and Dannon yogurts both went completely rBGH-free in response to consumers’ wishes.

But Breyers and Dreyer’s, the two largest ice cream producers, still allow the use of rBGH. Breyers’ brands include Good Humor, Klondike Bars and Popsicle. Dreyer’s includes Haagen Dazs, Nestle´ and Edy’s. Breyers and Haagen Dazs labels even say “All Natural!”

Please help us take the next steps in protecting the health of our families and friends.

If you have only two minutes:

•Please contact Breyers and Dreyer’s today and simply ask them to stop using rBGH – please include what town or city you’re from.

•If you’ve stopped buying their product(s) or will stop because they use rBGH, let them know.

If you have a few more minutes:

•Tell them who you are (such as a mother, nurse, doctor, business owner, teacher, student, etc.).

•And please forward this message through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter , MySpace and good old face-to-face conversations with family members, friends and neighbors.

To email U.S. Ice Cream, which includes Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike Bars and Popsicle, go here. If you’d rather call, the separate numbers are:

BREYERS (800) 931-2826
GOOD HUMOR (800) 931-2854
KLONDIKE (800) 931-2830
POPSICLE (800) 931-2849

To email Dreyer’s, which includes Haagen Dazs, Nestle and Edy’s, go here. For separate phone numbers:

DREYER’S (877) 437-3937
EDY’s (888) 590-3397
NESTLE (800) 225-2270
HAAGEN DAZS (800) 225-2270

The American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, Health Care Without Harm, Food and Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Family Farm Defenders, National Family Farm Coalition and Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, among many others, all have taken official positions opposing rBGH.

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility facilitates a nationwide effort opposing rBGH and you can check out a short video, brochure and other documents here to get the facts.

Every e-mail and phone call brings us one step closer to these companies going rBGH-free. THANK YOU!

For more information on how you can help Take Back our Ice Cream, please contact:

Rick North, Project Director, Campaign For Safe Food
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Monday, September 13, 2010

A few helpful tips from Martha Stewart

I received a sales letter in the mail a few days ago encouraging me to subscribe to Martha Stewart Living. I threw away the letter as I already receive more magazines than I have time to read and give most of them to the library so someone else can enjoy them. As a matter of fact, I hauled 75, yes 75!, over there one day last week. Anyway, I did keep the little tear-out tip sheet and thought you might benefit from some of MS's wisdom.

I, personally, loved this one about how to remove red wine stains, as I am someone who loves red wine! Here's what she says to do if some of your fine linens, or in my case, my not-so-fine linens get stained with the fruit of the vine (I'm guessing this would work on grape juice as well):
  • Wet the stain with luke-warm water
  • Add a layer of table salt
  • Rub
  • Let sit for 5 minutes
  • Pull fabric tightly across a heat-proof bowl and secure with a rubber band
  • Put the bowl in the sink and pour boiling water on the stain from a height of 3 feet (she said 'carefully pour,' but I think you're smart enough that I don't have to add that!)
Why does this work? Well, according to Martha, it's because of the combined pressure and heat of the water. Cool.

Have you ever laid out a freshly ironed tablecloth (c'mon, I know some of you still iron!) on the table only to find a wrinkle here and there? Well, Martha suggests putting a towel underneath it and spritzing it lightly with water. However, you have to do this the night before so gravity can do its thing while you sleep, gently pulling the wrinkles out of the cloth...too bad my facial wrinkles...and neck wrinkles...oh, and those nasty underarm wrinkles, don't fade away each night as I sleep! I swear I wake up with more every morning.

Here's a tip I already knew, but thought I'd share. How to Remove Melted Wax. I was hoping Martha would address the problem of melted wax on table runners, mantels, etc., but she didn't. Here she just pointed out how to get melted votives out of their glass holders. Simply place them in the freezer for a few hours, which will shrink the wax just enough to pop right out of the containers. Nice.

Okay, here's something I didn't know, but most of you probably do. Don't store tomatoes in the fridge. I guess I didn't know this because I'm not fond of tomatoes. But I used to make a Bisquick Impossible Garden Pie with tomatoes, zucchini, onions and parmesan cheese that I absolutely loved. So guess what's in my fridge right now? Tomatoes! Guess I better go downstairs and do what Martha tells me to do with them, which is: Put them in a large, shallow ceramic bowl so they can look beautiful on my kitchen counter. Yeah, right. I don't think I own a large, shallow ceramic bowl, but I'm sure I can find something to put them in that doesn't include a small paper bag in the refrigerator!

Now here's a tip I won't be following: "Commercial window-cleaner evaporates quickly, making it better for mirrors than homemade solutions." Martha, Martha, Martha!! Is Windex paying you to say that?? I do like her idea of spraying the cleaner (in our case, it's a homemade, eco-friendly type involving vinegar, right?!) onto a clean, lint-free cloth and then wiping the mirror rather than spraying the solution directly onto the mirror. Then dry immediately with another clean, lint-free cloth (she recommends using old T-shirts -- how green of you, MS!)

Okay, here's one that earns Martha some points. Whitening with lemons. Here's what you do:
  • Set a large pot of water on the stove
  • Add several slices of fresh lemon
  • Bring to a boil
  • Turn off the heat
  • Throw in yellowed linens and/or dingy white socks
  • Let soak for up to an hour
  • Launder as usual
  • Hang out in the sun to dry (this adds an extra boost to the whitening factor)
I think this would be perfect to do right before your hubby comes home from work at night. He'll lift the lid on the pot on the stove to see what delicious lemony meal you've made for him, only to find a pot of his old socks soaking in lemons. Of course, that's my idea, not Martha's.

If anyone tries out this suggestion, let me know how it works out for you. Maybe it'll motivate your husband to take you out for dinner. After all, you've been slaving in the kitchen way too long already trying to get his socks bright white just for him!

Keeping it green with Martha,


Friday, September 10, 2010

Vinegar Fridays


Well, here it is again. How do these Fridays keep sneaking up on me so quickly?

Nearly every Friday for months now, I have praised the properties of vinegar, mostly distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Today I want to sing the praises of a different kind -- balsamic vinegar. Why? Because it has amazing health benefits.

Balsamic vinegar boasts high levels of antioxidant polyphenols, which are believed by many to help prevent, or at least delay, some types of cancer. They also lessen the risk of heart disease by blocking the oxidation LDL (bad cholesterol) and boost bone mineral density. According to Okhee Han, assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State, there is a potential downside, however. Based on her research, she has some concern about polyphenols' affecting iron absorption. "People at high risk of developing iron deficiency -- such as pregnant women and young children," she warns, "should be aware of what polyphenols they are consuming." While I am quite enthusiastic about the benefits of balsamic vinegar, I also want you to be aware of these findings.

With that said, let me continue on with the benefits of balsamic vinegar. It is
  • fat-free
  • high in potassium
  • extremely flavorful
While you might be used to reaching for the ranch dressing for your salads, you might be pleasantly surprised at just how much you enjoy the healthier alternative of balsamic vinegar and olive oil!

Balsamic vinegar has a rich history. Our seventeenth century ancestors used it as a tonic for a variety of conditions. They also gargled with it and purified the air with it in hopes of warding off the plague.

Let's look at the nutrition facts. These numbers are based on 3.5 ounces of balsamic vinegar:
  • Calcium: 12 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 30 grams
  • Phosphorous: 20 milligrams
  • Potassium: 70 milligrams
  • Sodium: 20 milligrams
  • Sugars: 30 grams
This is some healthy stuff! Even Richard Simmons is a huge fan, which has to say something!

Wow...I just flashed back over two decades to days of leotards, tights, permed hair and Sweating to the Oldies! Hard to believe I used to lead a group of women who combined working out to the Richard Simmons' video with Bible Study. But it was a lot of fun!

But here comes another warning -- you have to check out what kind of balsamic vinegar you're buying. Stick to the organic version -- yeah, the more expensive one. Why? Because the cheaper non-organic vinegar has unnecessary stuff added to it, like carmelized sugar (for coloring).

Where can you buy it? Stores like Whole Foods carry it. You can also check the organic departments of your local grocery stores or head to a natural foods market. It might take a little bit of shopping around, but in the end, I am confident you will appreciate the tip!

Keeping it healthy with vinegar,


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Anniversaries are not always a cause for celebration

Twenty-one years ago today, I received a phone call at 2:45 a.m...the kind of phone call every spouse dreads, somewhere deep inside. Twenty-three hours later, my husband was dead.

Last year on the 20th anniversary of his death, I posted the following story of what happened. While reposting may be frowned upon by many in the blogging community, there are times I believe it is okay. Times like these...when grief demands one's attention and creating new content is too much of a chore.

For those of you who read this already, just scroll down to the bottom, for the most important part...

Here's the post, as it appeared last year.

Tears in a bottle

Today is the 20th anniversary of my husband’s death. While I am committed to writing about things related to being green and raising kids in a healthy environment, please indulge me on this one day to write about a man who died way too young and about the company who was responsible.

There is a chemical plant on Neville Island in Pittsburgh that is constantly in trouble with local environmentalists. They don’t care. As a matter of fact, they don’t care about much at all, except the bottom line.

On September 9, 1989, my husband, Jim, and his co-worker and best friend, Doug, were working at their unit at the above mentioned plant. For some reason, which is suspect, the chemical tank they were operating shut down. As a result, there was a spill that released volatile fumes into the air. As Jim was cleaning up the spill, Doug went into the unit to call his supervisor. At that moment, a spark ignited the fumes and a fire ball crossed the surface and surrounded my 6’4” husband in its fiery embrace. Doug was unable to reach him as he heard his cries for help. A hero on the ground responded by getting a fire extinguisher, climbing up to the top of the unit where Jim was, hitting him with the extinguisher’s discharge and carrying him down to safety. This co-worker, who never wanted to be recognized for his heroism, suffered burns as well.

Jim was Life Flighted to West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh where he survived for 23 hours with third degree burns on 98% of his body. I will never forget the sight of him, nor the smell of burnt blood as it saturated sheets and dripped onto the floor.

The horror of it was only compounded by my having to tell my seven-year-old and five-year-old daughters that their daddy was never coming home.

A horrific accident like this…you would think the company would care. They pretended to. But when OSHA handed down a report three inches thick, their lawyers went to work. It was proven that the incident was 100% their fault. But since we live in Pennsylvania, I had no recourse. While people around me thought I’d at least be fairly compensated for the loss of my husband, I had to face the reality that would not be the case.

Had the investigations revealed a third-party was at fault, I’d probably be a millionaire. As it turns out, the Workers' Comp law in PA protects companies from being sued by injured workers or their families…even in the case of a fatal injury. The plus side of this law is that I did not have to go to work to support my children. Until the time I remarried, I was provided for with two-thirds of my husband’s salary and SSI. To me, that was nothing more than a slap on the wrist for the company who was responsible for my husband’s death. The OSHA report revealed that an electric box was located too close to the unit, which is suspected to have caused the spark that lit the fire.

The electric box has now been moved. The unit now has an alarm system. The workers now have regulations that require them to evacuate as soon as there is a spill. Hmm. Why weren’t these common sense factors in place prior to my husband’s death?

Was there follow up from the company? Did they care to check up on the kids as they were growing up? Of course not. The only follow up we had came from the Workers' Comp investigator who stopped by for his annual visit.

Forgive me if I’m coming across as bitter. Quite honestly, I rarely think about this, other than simply missing my husband. It just must be this anniversary. I wonder if anyone else remembers. Are Jim’s co-workers remembering him this day? Did one or two of them offer up a prayer for my girls and me?

Life is precious…and too often too short. Insidious diseases sometimes rob us of life. Drunk drivers veer into the wrong lane. Children ride their bicycles into the path of cars. Misled women choose not to give birth to their babies. People in despair end their own lives. Criminals, or jealous lovers, find ways to destroy others. The list goes on and on.

Death…it’s a part of life. But when it’s the result of someone else’s negligence and irresponsibility, it makes it just a tad harder to accept; especially when they cannot be held accountable.

That's why it's important that you take some time today to let the people you love know how you feel. Hug them extra tight. Say the words. Tomorrow it may be too late.

David writes in Psalm 56:8: You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle; are they not in Your book? God’s bottle must be awfully big, and there better be plenty of room for more. Tears are a guarantee in life. Today, I’m going to let them fall.

Sharing my heart,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What a toxic world we live in...guest blogger, Paige, shares her story

Today I am thrilled to feature guest blogger, Paige Goldberg Tolmach. This is actually a reposting of one of her own entries from her blog, The Little Seed. She’s done the research and is happy to share it with all of you. Please visit her blog and/or follow her on Twitter (@paigegold).

My Little Seed

by Paige Goldberg Tolmach

Three years ago, I had a baby. A beautiful, perfect, amazing baby. Within eight weeks of birth, my perfect baby developed eczema. Extreme eczema. Every doctor on the planet told me that his skin condition was a product of genetics and a reaction to the weather. This seemed odd to me as neither my husband nor I had eczema. Though I continually insisted that my baby must be allergic to something in his environment, the doctors dismissed my notions and explained that there was absolutely nothing that I could do to help him other than using topical and oral steroids to manage his breakouts. If we were lucky, they said, he would grow out of it by age six. They also told me to stop breastfeeding.

This wasn’t good enough for me. In my heart, I knew that they were wrong. I refused to listen and kept on searching for answers. I continued to breastfeed my baby and started doing a tremendous amount of research on eczema, allergies and possible environmental factors that might have played a role. What I discovered was shocking – my home was toxic.

Hazardous chemicals were in all of my household cleaning products. Jackson’s crib mattress off gassed toxic flame retardant. His plastic teething toys and bottles contained phthlates and BPA which were linked to allergic skin conditions and worse. His cotton clothing (everything that he wore) was tainted with residue from the cancer causing pesticides that were sprayed on the crops before they became onesies, towels or crib bedding. Carcinogenic substances such as synthetic fragrances, artificial colors, parabens, mineral oil and/or petrolatum were in all of his bodycare products. Even the products suggested by the doctors to help his eczema!

I could not believe that I didn’t know these things. I felt lied to by every author who wrote every book on pregnancy and child-rearing. I felt betrayed by the many baby stores where I had spent hundreds of dollars on clothing, bedding and bathing products – not to mention toys which went directly in my baby’s mouth and skincare which covered his entire body. I felt tricked by our government who clearly makes us think that all is “safe” for baby. No wonder he had eczema. And worse, I had no idea that I had options.

I immediately threw out everything in my son’s nursery – his furniture, mattress, bedding, toys, bottles, clothing and bodycare. I then searched the planet looking for safe alternatives like toys without lead, clothes without pesticide residue, bottles without BPA and a mattress without toxic flame retardant. This was no easy task. I ordered rattles from New Zealand, bottles from Texas, stuffed animals from Sri Lanka, and clothing from England. I got rid of all chemical cleaners and started using vinegar and water to clean my house. I dressed him in organic clothing and swaddled him in organic blankets. I also paid a visit to my genius acupuncturist who gave me creams to help heal Jackson’s beautiful baby skin that had been ravaged by excessive scratching and bleeding. Within weeks, his eczema went away and his skin began to glow.

I was overjoyed. I wanted to shout my discovery from the rooftops and I knew just where to begin – my own backyard. With my friend, Soleil Moon Frye, I opened a non-toxic and eco friendly baby store called The Little Seed. I didn’t want anyone to have to go through what I did without help or support.

I know that every parent out there wants to make a better world for their little ones. With my new found knowledge I hope that I can be of some assistance along the way. Because, as you know, we are all in this together.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The government will keep you safe from toxins...NOT!

What does Europe have that American's don't? A union that is working for the health of its people and the environment. The European Union enforces recycling and safety regulations that are unheard of here in the U.S. Well, maybe not unheard of, but certainly widely ignored.

Did you know that the toxic products we use here in the States have health-friendly and eco-friendly alternatives, that we make here in the U.S. but are exported to countries that apparently care more about their citizens. These safer versions are being sold to Europeans, Japanese and -- are you ready for this -- Mexicans!

From personal care products (that you've heard me rant about before) to toys, automobiles, food and even computers, American companies are producing duplicate versions of each -- one loaded with toxins and environmentally-unfriendly gunk, and the other free of those things. Why? Because those other countries would stop buying our products otherwise. But here in the good ol' U.S. of A., our government continues to allow companies to poison the men, women, children and environment here.

This makes me angry. Unless you've already rid your home of the culprits, most of you will find dozens of things in your cupboards and cabinets that are known carcinogens. Doesn't that make you sick? It does me. But don't take my word for it. Take a virtual stroll over to the website for the Environmental Working Group and type in some of the ten-plus syllable ingredients in some of your personal care items...or disposable diapers, for that matter. We are unwittingly exposing our children to things that cause cancer everyday!!

According to Mark Schapiro, author of EXPOSED, other countries don't even want our stuff least not the stuff we consumers are buying in the U.S. The reason? Because they refuse to expose their citizens to the toxins in our Made in America products. Ouch. Recycling and safety regulations are so stringent in other countries, compared to our lacksadasical ones. An example Schapiro cites in the book regards the components in electronic equipment. Travel outside of the U.S. and you'll find these items are lead- and mercury-free and are made of reusable materials.

While Europeans tend to try to avoid injury by eliminating toxins, American policy makers spend their time analyzing the cost/benefit -- i.e. How much will it cost to change over to non-toxic substances vs. What is the potential cost to human health.  Doesn't that just give you the warm fuzzies? So glad our government agencies care so much about us.

The fact is most of the toxins in our personal care products in the United States are banned in other countries. Yes, you read that correctly -- banned!! This news is beyond disturbing.

Proctor & Gamble was mentioned in the book after Schapiro met with one of their executives. He asked why phthalates were still in their nail polishes, despite the known fact that they are endocrine disruptors? Well, because, according to this unnamed executive, that's the way the consumers wanted it. Eventually, the phthalates were eliminated...but it was a hush-hush deal. P&G was afraid of lawsuits if the public knew they dragged their feet on this, despite what they knew for years. Well, we know now...anyone want to start a class action suit? Only kidding...kinda.

If we are honest and realistic, we know why toxic substances continue to pollute our products. It is all about the bottom line. It is always about the bottom line.

So read, read, read your labels. If you don't know what something is, look it up. If you are in the U.S., the government is not going to protect you. Face that fact now, and do all you can to protect yourself and your family. After all, what good is it if you only feed your children organic food, but you lather up their hair with baby shampoos packed full of carcinogens and other toxins?

If you are concerned about the products you use, buy from companies like Leaf & Bud Naturals, Earth Mama Angel Baby or As I Am Naturals. Of course, there are many other natural and safe products out there. Just make sure you do your research before exposing your family to one more unnecessary carcinogen or toxic substance. Their health depends on it!

Keeping it healthy,

In honor of the holiday, I'm going to rest from my postings will resume tomorrow.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day!


Saturday, September 4, 2010

"If a child is to keep alive
his inborn sense of wonder
without any such gift from the fairies,
he needs the companionship
of at least one adult
who can share it,
rediscovering with him
the joy,
and mystery
of the world we live in."

-- Rachel Carson                    

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vinegar Fridays


Well, this one snuck up on me! Considering the fact that I thought yesterday was Wednesday, I feel like I lost a day. While most of you look forward to your weekends, I actually prefer weekdays. Alas, Fridays come and at least we can all look forward to Vinegar Fridays!

I am falling more and more in love with vinegar. Last week, I discovered for myself the amazing power of apple cider vinegar to soften feet! I know I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but now I've actually tried it! I simply added one-half cup of ACV to the warm water in this little inflatable foot bath I have. After a five minute soak, I found my heels were no long rough, but were smooth and soft. Ahh.

Not wanting to waste the solution, I looked around for something to do with it. Of course, I didn't want to water my drought-ridden garden with it, as vinegar could hurt the plants. Then I spied my one-earred Ragdoll cat, Theo, who has a sensitivity to bug bites and has chewed his tail practically raw. As a matter of fact, his entire back and neck is covered in scabs. Much of this is from the fleas that have recently hopped on board. You see, I dump a splash of distilled white vinegar to the cats' water bowl to repel fleas. My husband, on the other hand, tends to skip this step when he fills the bowl. Alas, fleas have found new hosts -- my Ragdolls, Vincent and Theo Van Gogh and my Manx, Bella Notte. As a result of the bug bites and his constant scratching and chewing, Theo's fur has become really nasty. It's rough and not very soft to the touch....that was until I got the brilliant idea to dump the ACV-infused foot bath over him. While he resisted a bit, I must say, this strong cat submitted rather easily as I held him by the neck with one hand and dumped the lukewarm water over his entire body. The results? I now have an unbelievably soft and fluffy cat! Seriously. This worked.

After seeing what it did for Theo, I decided to repeat the process with Bella. She, too, submitted to what most kitties would consider serious abuse! After she was dry, I was amazed at how her long black fur felt just like a bunny's! And, of course, another benefit to all of this is the fact that ACV kills fleas!

The chewed off fur is growing back nicely on Theo's tail. I doused him once again this week and he's starting to look, and feel, mighty fine. Now if only I could find a vinegar cure for his missing ear!

While most of you will hesitate at giving your cats ACV baths, you might want to try it with your dogs. It is amazing how soft the fur becomes. I've been using it as a final rinse on my own hair (1/2 cup added to 2 cups of warm water), and my hair's looking pretty healthy lately.

So those are my vinegar tips for today -- foot baths for amazingly soft feet followed by kitty or puppy baths for amazingly soft fur. Let's hear it for all natural, toxin-free alternatives! Let's hear it for vinegar!

Keeping it green,


This week I plan to see what kind of affect vinegar has on stink bugs. We've been seeing quite a few of them in the house and clinging to the screens lately, so I think I'll try hitting them with a spray of undiluted distilled white vinegar. I'll let you know how effective it is.

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