Monday, June 30, 2008

Green Guys

My oldest son called me from his babysitting job on Friday night. Not because he was having trouble putting the two little ones to bed or having difficulty wrangling them into brushing their teeth. He can handle all that just fine.

He called me because he couldn't figure out what to do with the pizza box that was delivered to the front door holding their dinner. He couldn't find a recycling bin. Anywhere. He looked high and low and called me in confusion. What do I do with it? Where should I put it? Can I just leave it on the counter? I'm not throwing it in the trash. Do you want to come over and get it and put it in our bin? (He was babysitting for our next door neighbors)I explained to him that not every family recycles and you might just need to leave it on the counter for the parents to decide where to put it. He was surprised to find out that a concept as simple as recycling isn't embraced by everyone. This is the first of many learning curves I am sure he will encounter as he goes out to babysit, date or hang out with friends. Not everyone recycles. Not everyone avoids high fructose corn syrup like the plague. Not everyone believes in global warming. Not everyone thinks you should support your local farmer buying funny looking meat, cheese and bread in label-less packages.

My son left that pizza box on the counter. He held firm to his beliefs that you don't throw cardboard in the trash and he just wasn't doing it. I hope that this is the first of many steps he takes to create his own "green guy" stance. I am sure he heard my voice rambling in the back of his brain about landfills, decomposition, global warming and garbage. I hope my voice isn't someday replaced by girlfriends, buddies and peers that tell him, "Dude, like, just throw it in the trash, who cares, we're in a hurry". I hope my son is the one who tells them, "Dude, you can't just throw that in the trash! That will be there for like 700 years, what were you thinking?"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

One Local Summer - I'm a CopyCat!

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? If so, then Green Bean and Melinda from Elements in Time are both very flattered as I totally swiped their One Local Summer meal. Though, I added the local cinnamon mocha coffee to my breakfast. I just can't make it through a morning without coffee! And, I doubled the batch. Ya'll know I have many mouths to feed. Here's what cooking for a crew looks like:
My meal this week - Yogurt pancakes with fresh strawberries, butter and maple syrup and fair trade cinnamon mocha coffee.
Flour - Westwind Mill
Eggs - East River Organics
Butter - Calders Dairy
Yogurt - Calders Dairy
Milk - Calders Dairy
Strawberries - from a local Upick, courtesy of my boys!
Maple Syrup - Currey Farms
Coffee - Higher Grounds
Chocolate Milk - Calders Dairy
Cream - Calders Dairy
Cinnamon - Probably NOT local, but spices are excluded, right?!?

Thanks Green Bean and Melinda, this was a super recipe!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't Label Me

I am an 80's child. Born to a generation known to worship the polo horse, the guess triangle, the jordache jean, designer loafers, the Rolex watch and the Gucci handbag. Funny thing was, even in the 80's I just never "got" labels. I always envisioned myself as a Molly Ringwald type, who made their own fashion rules. Except no where near as perky and cute. Oh, yeah, without the boyfriend with the Porsche too...

In college, this theme continued. I fell in love with the grunge look. Flannels, tights, Doc Marten boots, long hair and REM on the radio. Whatever your style, anything goes. Wash your hair? Maybe, maybe not. It didn't matter. Even as an adult there are no sparkly DKNY t-shirts in my closet, no gym wear with words written across my backside and my idea of fashion is something that suits my frame and my personal style, regardless of which store it came from. I don't really want you to know.

My home looks nothing like the Pottery Barn catalog pages I find in my neighbors kitchens and living rooms. My kids decorate their rooms with their collections and finds. My favorite chair? One rescued from the trash heap and restored by a friend as a gift for my first home. My dining room table? Dented, dinged and 100 years old, straight from the pages of Craigslist, but it was my style and I loved it at first sight.

Then, I had kids. I always refused the Spiderman, Spongebob, Pokemon, YuGiOh t-shirts, bedding and coats. Why? Because these were fun for a week, then they would just want something else. I always told my boys, you're not a walking advertisement. Besides, I always secretly thought they looked much cleaner and neater in a striped t-shirt and jeans. And, you never have to worry, when you have boys - any t-shirt goes with any pair of jeans. There never was any whining for a Pokemon t-shirt lurking in the depths of the dryer that they neeeeeded to wear today.

Don't get me wrong. I have a couple of fashionistas in the bunch now. Scruffy, curly hair that must be worn - just so. Jeans with just the right amount of holes. Last year's baseball jersey or warm up hoodie with their last name emblazoned on their backs. That's OK with me though, they are finding their own style. They have picked up some of my habits. Don't wear what everyone else is wearing. Go with what makes you comfortable. Even the 4 year old. His hair looks like the mid-length curly, perfectly scruffy hair of his 12 year old brother, he doesn't want me cut it and he's proud. And I love him for that.

Tonight I opened my refrigerator to grab some milk for a post-baseball thirsty boy and as I peered inside I realized something I never really took notice of before. My refrigerator is label-free. Milk in clear glass bottles. Butter in plain white tubs. Eggs in simple brown cartons marked with my own last name. Jam in canning jars. Vegetables without packaging or bags. Meat without marketing, labels or coupons. Inside my pantry plain paper bags hold my flour, beans and popcorn. My peanut butter has a handwritten label reminding me that Katie, the person who makes it, got a special order of organic nuts, just for our food club.

So, the little girl who grew up disliking embroidered polo horses, triangles on the butt of her jeans and sparkly DKNY labels across the chest of her t-shirts grew up to appreciate local food, handmade goods and all label-free. She grew up to appreciate the friendly hand of the baker, the farmer and the artist. She grew up to raise children who are individuals instead of following the masses. She grew up to appreciate her own uniqueness and idiosyncrasies. Or, maybe that's who she was all along and just didn't know it?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Baseball Update... AGAIN

Still playing...

Principles, morals and commitments to green living growing weary... feeling faint... need food.. need water...

Oasis at baseball fields sells bottled gatorade, scary meat & by-product hot dogs, corn syrup laden treats and lots of plasticy things.. I see myself walking toward the bright, waving ball caps heedlessly throwing quarters and dollar bills on the counter. I need food... I need water...

And then, my husband rattles the cooler with homemade ice blocks keeping pitas stuffed with local, organic peanut butter and SIGGs full of organic lemonade icy cold. I wake up from my dream. Everything will be OK. If they would just LOSE already!

Go Team! Sorta...

Pick Your Own

Scenes from a local U-Pick strawberry farm with 4 boys...

Man, white strawberries are sour.

Dude, white strawberries are really hard.

Sick, the really dark reddy brown ones are rotten.

Stop, I think that strawberry hit my EYE.

Wait, if you throw another one I will catch it with my mouth.

Boys! Is anyone picking strawberries? Let me tell ya, come December, strawberry sundaes will be for PICKERS, not LOAFERS!

Smack! Dude, QUIT throwing strawberries. Seriously!

I don't whike strawberries.... (whiny voice)

Ugh, I feel sick, I ate like about like 50 strawberries like already.

How many strawberries do you have? I have more. I have lots more. See? I'm BEATING you.

Hey, watch. I can throw a curve ball with this one.

Stop it, you hit me again! Jerk! Moooom, he got strawberry guts on my shirt!

Boys! If you don't stop throwing strawberries you are going to sit in the VAN! No wait, YOU are going to pick another 4 quarts of strawberries while I SIT IN THE VAN! .

Holy Crap! Look at that bug. Sick. I think it's dead. Mom, do you want me to pick this strawberry with the dead bug on it?

Mom? Hey! Mom? Can we make strawberry sundaes tonight? Can you make us strawberry sauce for pancakes tomorrow? What else can we make with strawberries? Oh, yeah! I want some of the yogurt with strawberries like a parfait. And, can you put some in the Popsicle molds? That would be good too. I'm hungry. What's for dinner?

Best line of the whole day: Wow, that strawberry tasted like NATURE.

Our haul? 12 quarts of strawberries - yes, the picture is the real deal. Side splitting humor? Endless. Boys will be boys.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's time to make the cookies

We were out of cookies. Again. Having boys home all summer means empty cupboards, cookie jars and refrigerator shelves. The eco 'burban dad even remarked tonight that it's a little bit like the army around here. Tonight at dinner, I filled plates and glasses and within minutes it was all gone, like our dining room was the mess hall at boot camp. And they were asking for more. Only, that was all that I had prepared. And we were out of cookies. So, I made cookies. Again.

In the old days, I wouldn't have fretted about being out of cookies. I would just buy more cookies. Or, dig into the pantry for yet another box of cookies trucked in from Arizona or New Jersey. Today, I make the cookies. I am making so many freakin' cookies these days I feel like a Keebler Elf. Some days, I resent those cookies. Why make cookies when you are so busy? Because now, I can't even bring myself to buy cookies. I don't walk down the cookie aisle, I don't want to buy cookies. I can't buy cookies. I think about all the bad, bad things in cookies. I see all the bad, bad packaging wrapped around the cookies. And how I would be a bad, bad mom for buying the evil cookies. Or, so I think.

In that lies the problem. Sometimes I am too tired to make the cookies, but I make them anyway. Sometimes I am too busy to make the cookies, to stressed to make the cookies, too over extended to make the cookies. But I do it anyway.

I am sure you can imagine - cookies are a metaphor for so many other things in this greener lifestyle. Searching out local food, going out of the way to shop at farmer's markets, looking for products that use less packaging, visiting thrift store after thrift store to find something you need or taking the initiative to write letters, make phone calls or whip up some cookies. Sometimes it's harder, sometimes the search is longer, sometimes the process more complicated, but in the end, we all do it anyway. Why? Because lying in bed at night rethinking the day, I have no second thoughts about local, organic healthy cookies. No guilt for taking the easy way out. No remorse for how I treated our planet.

So, eat the sugar cookies boys. They were made with love, a pinch of stress, a touch of tiredness and a lot of consideration. I will make more tomorrow.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Doing my part... Locally

My husband passed me an article from our small community newspaper last week. First, I should mention he really isn't a reader, so it must have been an excellent article to warrant a reading, circling and passing on. The article described a pilot recycling program called Blue Skies implemented by Allied Waste.

This program - limited to 53 homes in our township - provided each homeowner with a 95-gallon wheeled cart for recyclables. Here's the kicker... This program accepted ALL plastics, even #3 through #7. My god, it does exist! A recycling program like this in our area is like spotting Big Foot! Of course, this was only a pilot program, running for 90 days to measure the materials collected and the consumer's response. However, the response was overwhelming. Here are the facts, by the numbers:

Allied Waste posted a 179% increase in total pounds of recyclables collected - diverting 16,190 pounds of recycling from the landfill. Amazing, considering only 53 homes participated! But, all good things must come to an end. The pilot program ended and, despite the enthusiastic response from the consumer and the satisfaction of Allied Waste, we are waiting on bids, approvals, financials and legal mumbo-jumbo from the township. And, this doesn't even mean that it will actually get approved.

Normally, I would have read the article and thought, what a great program, how sad we can't have it. However, lately every where I turn, I find inspiring political and community activism. Crunchy got me to write to congress about the Farm Bill. And then, after that, she got me to write congress again about drilling for off shore oil. Green Bean works on her city's green task force and is planning a green social movement. I signed the Take Back the Filter petition and wrote 4 letters to Clorox for Fake Plastic Fish and I have a paper envelope (no plastic for Beth!) holding used Brita filters to send her way.

After reading the article in my local paper, I decided it was time for a little activism of my own. Rather than sit idly by waiting for someone else to start a letter writing campaign or petition, I started one of my own. Every single member of the township board, every trustee and all members of the Environmental Department received a letter from yours truly today, requesting the implementation of this recycling program.

I also offered my services to speak at the township and to work as a liaison with the waste company. Earlier this year, I started a similar program for our Little League. Though, on a much, much smaller scale. 15 carts with die cut lids at a baseball park can't compare to 200,000 recycling carts delivered to each and every doorstep. But, I am the Trash Lady, and I can so make this happen. Local activism, I am doing my part for my community!
Update: I have received one response so far, not a committment to the program, but an acknowledgment none the less: "Hello , I appreciate your very thoughtful letter. I, too, am looking forward to full scale implementation of a significantly expanded recycling initiative. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm".

Pardon the dust...

...I wanted to change the header of my blog to include a picture of our lake at sunset. And then I screwed everything up. Now I have to figure out how to undo what I did. So, please excuse the blog construction dust today!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One Local Birthday

It was a little hectic around here this weekend, so I just don't have the pictures to prove my all local mac n cheese. It was made for the littlest eco 'burban boy's birthday. He was soooo hungry that when it came time to eat, we just gave him his plate and let him go at it!

The mac 'n cheese was made like this:

Vita Spelt Organic Elbow Noodles - Okemos, MI
Butter - Calder's Dairy - Lincoln Park, MI
Flour - Westwind Milling - Linden, MI
Milk - Calder's Dairy - Lincoln Park, MI
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese - Clinton Township, MI
Cheddar, Monterrey Jack - Warren, MI
Gouda - Grassfields Organics, Coopersville, MI

The eco 'burban dad enjoyed a side dish of local organic asparagus steamed with Calder's butter and some sea salt and cracked black pepper. Shocking, I know, but I just don't like asparagus. More for him, right?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Green Cooler Chic

Those of you who read regularly know I spend a lot of time hanging out at baseball fields, in the dirt, chaos and heat. This requires lots of cold, cold reusable water bottles. How do I keep them all cold you ask? We tried the re-freezable ice blocks, but alas they melt quickly and the just don't keep things icy-cold. Any boy coming straight out of the catcher's gear in 92 degree heat will tell you, that's just not cold enough, mom.

We loathe buying bags of ice in plastic and even that melts rather quickly, so we came up with what we think in a great idea. Take empty plastic containers - our local butter comes in the perfect, round size - and fill with water the night before. By morning, they are solid cubes of ice which I load into the cooler of drinks. Even today, after7 hours outdoors, there were still disks of ice remaining.

We take the leftover ice disks, toss them into the gardens to melt and trickle water the plants. We take the melted ice water and dump it into the flower pots. Trust me, this water is GREYWATER after dirty boys have had their hands in and out of the cooler all day. And, it means that a tired mom can squeak by without watering parts of the garden today!

So, if you have all sorts of weird plastic containers you can't bear to throw away, but are upset at yourself for buying, don't beat yourself up, they have a second use. And, if you have very thirsty boys, you will never be without a cold drink again!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Baseball Update

All teams still winning. No end in sight. Baseball Saturday, June 21st from 8:45 am until 3:15 pm.

~ Estimated reusable water bottles filled = 12

~ Local pita / local organic almond butter sandwiches = 6

~ Local organic pretzels = 1 bag

~ Visits to the Snack Shack for non-local, non-organic, non-healthy treats = At least 3

~ June 21st? Also littlest eco 'burban boy's 4th birthday = celebration following games

~ Tired, dirty and exhausted = 1 Mom

Earning 3 giant, sparkly plastic Championship Trophies = Priceless


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tag, I'm It...

Just so you all know, I stunk at games of tag as a kid. I would get tired and lie down in a grassy field and pick clover and stuff. But, Joyce managed to find me hiding out in the deep weeds reading a book, so now I'm IT!

1. What were you doing 10 years ago... Well, I was a newly single mother of an almost 3 year old. I had bought my first house - on my own - and was struggling with balancing work, child raising and doing it all by myself. There wasn't a whole lot of money or time, but somehow we made it work and I look back on those days with much fondness!

2. Five things on my To-Do List today... Work, baseball game, wash baseball uniforms, finalize birthday arrangement for the littlest eco 'burban boy who turns 4 this Saturday and walk the dog. Chances are, the dog's not getting his walk...

3. Snacks I enjoy... Snickers ice cream bars from the corner store during walks with the kids and dogs. Carmel corn mixed with cheese corn from Garrett's in Chicago. Texas sheet cake made by my mother. I've tried to duplicate it, but it just isn't the same.

4. Places I've lived... Amboy, IL - small, rural farm town where I lived until age 16. Clarkston, MI - through high school. Dekalb, IL - for college. Clarkston, MI - again - moved back to be closer to my parents. Once you have some kids, being close to your parent's ain't all that bad! Now, West Bloomfield, MI - Happily remarried for 6 years, with 4 kids (all boys), 2 dogs and a cat.

5. Five things I would do if I was a billionaire - a) pay off mortgages and any debt b) arrange retirement, college and trust funds c) invest in the family business d) Take some time out to spend an entire summer traveling abroad with the kids e) Take care of my sisters, parents and in-laws so not a single one of them needs to worry about retirement or debt

And, there you have it! Now, I am going back to reading my book and picking clover... Thanks Joyce, this was fun.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Drilling for oil is the new TV Show?

Did anyone see this or hear about it? Tonight, while aimlessly driving down the road to yet another baseball game AND practice - both on the same night, and across town from each other - I heard a commercial for this TV show - Black Gold. OK, so I was using my fair share of the bubbling crude to get me from point A to point B, but I was still surprised that this is a real, honest to goodness show. A TV show that glamorizes the "tough guy life" of drilling for oil?!?!? With a tag line of "2 miles deep or 6 feet under!" BLECH! Here is what the producer has to say:

"Drilling for oil … is fascinating and dangerous at the same time," truTV executive vice president Marc Juris says. "When we looked at the characters, the stakes and how relevant this world is, in terms of the role oil plays in our lives, it hit on a lot of emotional targets."

He doesn't believe hostility to high oil prices will transfer to the roughnecks and drillers. "They represent what this country is all about," he says. Black Gold "is about American oil, not about being dependent on foreign oil."

Am I wrong to be a little outraged? All of the money, time and resources devoted to making a TV show about the one thing we really need to be cutting back on makes me a little ill. Where are the thrilling and dangerous shows about suburban moms struggling to go green? How about a series devoted to drama and suspense of what is happening at the local recycling centers? Shoot, I know people who don't even know how to use the free bin the township hands out to be used for recyclables, an episode about the little blue bin could be riveting for them!

Or, maybe I am just tired and a little grouchy? After all day packing drinks in reusable water bottles, washing out returnable glass milk containers and running my errands using my canvas tote bags the last thing I want to do tonight is watch a show about freakin' oil - American or otherwise!

Go Team!

It's official. We're still playing baseball.

Like pretty much all the other mothers, we have seen the end of the school year along with it's field trips, class parties and graduations. School related sports, band and special talent shows are long gone. But, the mothers of our Little League just can't get into summer relaxation mode just yet. Why? Apparently because my kids are good at baseball. It's playoff time and my darn kids keep winning! If you keep winning, you keep playing. Until you lose. Twice. Want to know a secret? As much as I love winning. As much as I love my kids. As much as I love watching them. I am ready to lose.

I am tired. Making batch after batch after batch of organic lemonade in glass pitchers, only to pour the entire pitcher into open and thirsty reusable bottles on the counter gets old, quickly. Last year it was just a matter of grabbing plastic bottles out of the fridge and throwing them into bags. Now, when I am making all of the drinks I realize how much they actually DRINK! They don't just need one bottle for a game in this heat, they need two. Don't forget the bottle I need to pack for the youngest, the dad and myself. That's 9 bottles a game or practice, per night, six days a week.

Then of course, there is the business of dinner before we can leave for the game, which has to be made after I get home from work. Let's just say the all-local pancakes I made and then froze one weekend when I had some extra time, have been qualifying as dinner. Does that count?

We only take one car to the games these days, cutting down on both carbon emissions and fuel consumption. That means the youngest has to stay for the entire game. An added green feature to this, is that we are saving tremendous amounts of water at bath time. He just doesn't take one. I am actually not even sure what day he took his last bath. And, that's pretty yucky considering at baseball games he is petting random dogs, digging holes in the dirt with other random kids and eats candy handed out by other random mothers.

And, we're not done yet! After all this is said and done, there is the business of washing the uniforms that smell. Really bad. I have to tell you, the socks can smell so badly, I am tempted to make the wearers ride on top of the van on the way home from games. I have been resisting the temptations to use warm water or bleach or traditional laundry soap. It's the end of the season, the uniforms are looking pretty dingy. I can't exactly remember if they looked this way last year too, when I was still spraying, pretreating and bleaching? Did that do any good, or really is one uniform worn 3-5 times a week to play in the dirt and eat ice cream and pizza in, just going to be dingy no matter what?
So, while being green is good, sometimes it's really tiring. We have another couple of weeks to go before the championship game and I hope I can hold out. If so, by my estimates, we will have saved over 220 plastic bottles from the recycling bin, washed 35 loads of uniforms in the cold cycle with natural detergents and saved 320 miles of driving by taking one car. Now, I need a break. Being green is hard. Now, I just need to find a green way to clean my van...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is anything "Real Simple"?

By that, I mean the magazine. I subscribe, as part of a fundraiser for the middle school. As a rule, I avoid all fundraisers for unnecessary items (wrapping paper, candy, popcorn etc.) but I do like to read so I usually sign up for two magazines during that event. Real Simple was one choice and Frommer's Budget Travel as my second. Now, finding ways to green your child's school fundraiser is a WHOLE different post. The paper, the plastic, the unnecessary junk! I will tackle this issue at the beginning of next school year, I need the summer off.

So, I finally got around to reading the June issue of Real Simple. Not that I usually find much to be very simple about the magazine. Most of the solutions require buying lots of "stuff", the clothing is outrageously priced and the meals a little complicated and surely not very local. So, why do I read it? There can be helpful hints, some recipes I might tackle, but mostly because I really do desire the zen of a well organized life. However, I am rethinking my magazine selections for next year. Budget Travel will stay, thank you very much. Real Simple... might just have to go.

This month's letter from the editor? The excitement over getting a dumpster for the editor to clean her garage and basement in a "scorched-earth" plan. Yep. Throwing whatever she could from her kitchen remodel, along with junk from the garage and basement, right into the dumpster. Not a single mention of Craigslist, Freecycle or a garage sale either. And her exact word to describe the feeling? "Thrilling." There was one short remark about trying to recycle what they could from the kitchen, but if you need a dumpster to clean a garage and basement... That doesn't seem very simple to me. Besides, I had always had this picture in my mind of the editors at Real Simple having a pretty darn organized and well kept basement with all the product freebies I am sure they receive and all.... Maybe the magazine could be renamed "Taking the Easy Way Out"?

Have I just outgrown the magazine? Isn't living lighter supposed to be Real Simple? Or, maybe appreciating the chaos, simplicity and zen of my own life is better than the magazine? Either way, I could use some suggestions for the new school year's fundraiser. Real Simple has become Real Recycled!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dos and Don'ts of Recycling?

We are a family of six. All my kids are boys. Boys eat A LOT. Boys drink A LOT. So, we used to have A LOT of trash. Now, we are down to about 1 bag a week and our recycling is looking pretty sparse as well. With milk bottles going back to the dairy, bulk buying and eliminating all of our bottled tea, water and kids drinks our neighbors probably think we are on vacation or maybe starving our kids... What happened to our trash?

And, then there' s the issue of paper. For the longest time we put all of our junk mail in the recycling bin. You know, the oil change specials from the dealership where we bought the van, teeth cleaning reminders from the dentist, special offers from the local banks, stores and charities. Didn't think too much of it, we shred all of the important stuff so we thought we were fine.

Then a few weeks ago our local eleven o'clock news ran one of their "special segments" in which a news anchor ran around town grabbing stuff out of recycling bins to see just how much information he could get with a quick stop and grab. Identity theft, bank accounts, pant size, brand of milk?? Great, this news anchor (who probably got this crap assignment because he or she is the newbie or is on some kind of probationary period) now has scared the 10 or 12 people who actually recycle into rethinking putting anything into the blue bin and putting it by the street.

So, now my husband is paranoid. He doesn't want anything to go into the bin that even has our name on it. (I still sneak some stuff in between a pizza box or magazine or two - just in case any thieves are reading, woo whoo, our bin is ripe for the stealin'!) He would prefer to either a) shred it all - but then where to we store it all until township recycling day that only happens twice a year? b) put anything with our name on it into the trash - because opening gooey bags is yuckier and harder for thieves I guess? or c) when we have a fire in our fire pit (summer) or fireplace (winter) use these items for starter - cause we all know burning stuff is so eco-cool!

What is the correct rule of thumb for the recycling bin? We finally slimmed down our waste can, I certainly don't want to fatten it up again with useless trash!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 2

I thought this week was going to be a total bust... We were without power for half the week, thanks to some wicked storms. I had a business trip to Chicago - during that power outage - and add to that my kids home from school for their first week of summer break. Meh... who had time to cook or even think about shopping?!? Not I! So, today after baseball games and errands to run, I finally had a moment to think about creating a completely local meal. Most of our day to day ingredients are local - peanut butter, eggs, milk and so on. However, really thinking about each and every ingredient can be challenging!

So, I present to you, after getting really hungry looking at the Green Bean's local graduation platter of sandwiches.... drumroll... Egg salad sandwich on pita with a local brewery beer. Hey, don't knock the beer folks! It's local, less than 30 miles from here and I have 4 boys and it's their playoff season in baseball - some things just go without saying!

My ingredients:

Eggs - East River Organic, Snover, MI
Mustard - Cherry Republic Cherry Mustard, Traverse City, MI
Relish - McClure's Pickles, Royal Oak, MI
Salt - Sea Salt - ???
Lettuce - Local farmer's market, Walled Lake, MI
Pita - Steve's Backroom, Harper Woods, MI
Pilsner - Atwater Brewery, Detroit, MI

Friday, June 13, 2008

Views from my windows...

After our storm, some of my plants are a little better (thanks to the rain!) or a little worse for the wear (thanks to the wind!). Here are some views on what's growing around our soggy, wind-blown yard.

Our favorite this time of year is our steep hill that leads to the lake, which is filled with thousands and thousands of daisies - the pride of the eco 'burban dad. All the neighborhood kids love the "Wizard of Oz" zig-zag path we keep cut through the mob of white petals and sunny yellow centers:
The littlest eco 'burban boy's bean plants, carrots and cherry tomatoes - he found some teeny, tiny green tomatoes and wants to pick them already. Patience is a virtue!

The oldest eco 'burban boy's pea plant - the only one in his science class who got his seeds to sprout, I might add! A hanging basket that apparently loves the humidity!

My herb pot - growing nicely now. And, it looks like there is plenty of sage for some yummy potatoes on the grill for Father's Day!

And, last, but certainly not least... Sunset on our lake. The perfect end to a stormy summer day!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rethinking Summer

My kids are out of school - for a whole four days now. They are already climbing the walls looking for things to do or places to go. The changes we have been making over the last six months or so are kind of putting a cramp in their carefree summer style.

What?!? No more Gatorade? No more Chips Ahoy cookies in the individually wrapped blue pouches? Why is the air conditioning off? (I say, just ask Chile and they wander away making the coo-coo motion around their ears. They have no idea who Chile is...) Can I turn the fan on? Will you drive me to the store? Can I download more iTunes? Where's my book / PSP / Gameboy / gum / basketball / squirtgun - fill in the blank here. Yeesh, I say - When does school start?!?

Oh, I thought I was prepared for summer all right. I bought a bulk amount of organic lemonade that I mix in the glass pitcher in the fridge. Yes, boys, you have to pour that into the shiny new SIGG I bought for you. And, yes, you MUST remember to bring it home from the park. That thing cost me $18. Oh, you're hungry too. Well, then make a sandwich. No, there aren't any premade frozen PBJs in the freezer. You need to get out a knife, find the peanut butter, stir it and spread it on a pita.

Doing all of this used to feel like more effort and work for me in the beginning. Now, I have adjusted and it actually feels simpler to me. There is less to shop for, less to worry about, less to store and organize. However, this is all new for my boys now they are home for the summer. Apparently, they didn't notice the changes throughout the school year. They are middle school students after all. As long as they have lunch money and a ride, they say nothing, see nothing and hear nothing.

This is the part where I realize that the changes I choose to make, affect everyone around me. It's not a bad change, it's actually good for them, but they now are forced to adjust how they go to the park, what they carry with them, how to plan to make their lunch and so on. I tell my husband, it's a good thing. They will grow up to be men who shop at Farmer's Markets and plant tomatoes on the balcony of their first apartment. I hope. Oh, I'm sure there will be fast food and beer and *shudder* girls. But, I hope along with that, the appreciation for farmers, food and family that they wouldn't have gotten from me without going through this change together.

The first week has been a learning curve so far. I am betting though, in another week, filling up the SIGG, tucking it into the handy new bottle holder their Dad installed on each bike, and heading off to the park will just be part of the daily routine!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Back on the Grid

We're Back! Power was restored in the middle of the night and praise the energy gods, we can flush our toilets. Really, that was the hardest thing. I have 4 boys and a husband. ICK. Glad that's over. However, it's funny how quickly things go right back to normal... Air conditioners are humming (not mine, I am trying to stay off air as part of Chile's Challenge), windows are closed up and neighbors that socialized in driveways chatting about the storm, the power and the damage are all back to work and back to hectic, suburban lives.

I certainly was not as prepared as I should have been. We needed more drinking water, we have cut out all bottled water, tea and drinks as part of our reduction of plastics and glass, so we were a little short there. We needed more batteries, more flashlights and better candles. Maybe I just need to hone my survival skills, I am hoping the scorched mark on the bathroom wall will fade or just become a unique interior design feature.

Though, we actually fared pretty well and learned some things too. We were fine without TV, video games and electric powered toys. We took more walks, we ate outside, we found pizza within walking distance. We actually enjoyed the candlelight, went to bed earlier and got up with the sun. My boys slept in a big pile on the living room floor - apparently the thought of no power unnerved them enough to want to be a little closer to their parents and to each other.

So, I might make a few changes to be better prepared. Stock up on some gallons of water, buy a couple of better flashlights and maybe a few more batteries. Keep 5 gallons of gas on hand for the generator. Do I want to live off the grid? No. Can I use less of the grid and still be pretty happy and content. Yes. My fear is that we are going to have to ready ourselves to be less dependent on electricity, running water and natural gas. Might cold showers, greywater flushing and bed times that coincide with the rising and setting of the sun be part of our imminent future? Probably, and I better be prepared for it. The next time there is an eco-throwdown challenge and I think, Nah... who wants to live without electricity, maybe I might think twice and try to tackle it. It might be good training for the future!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Unexpected Eco-Throwdown

Maybe I should have been a little more diligent with Crunchy's Eco Throwdown Challenge. Maybe I would have learned something useful. Maybe I could have been more prepared. Should-a, Would-a, Could-a.
Why? Because I am smack in the middle of an Eco Throwdown like no other. On Sunday, while we were spending time on the lake, we were hit with an unexpected severe storm unlike any thing we have seen before. The weather was hot and humid, maybe a touch overcast, but not foreboding, so we packed up the boys, some snacks and headed out to the cove to anchor and swim with friends. Out of the blue a Sheriff's boat patrolling the area instructs everyone to pull anchor and head for home, a severe storm was on the way. No kidding...

Let's just say our boat, at full throttle, could not outrun the tornadic winds, torrential rain and wall of hail we watched, with wide eyes, as it chased us down the lake. We made it back to the boat hoist, with maybe a single second to spare. However, while being pounded with rain, the winds were strong enough to move 6000 pounds of boat, canopy and metal hoist 8 feet away from our dock, with us still inside. We are incredibly lucky the entire operation didn't tip over and spill us out into the water and dumping the boat right on top of the pile. A small break in the storm allowed us to jump into the water and run 100 feet through the water, then up our hill and into the basement.

Only to find out - we have no power. While we were standing there, sopping wet and listening to the tornado sirens - we didn't know our eco throwdown was just beginning. It's now almost 3 days later. We still have no power. They say maybe by Friday. That's 3 MORE days. We are using lakewater to flush our toilets and a generator to power our fridge, freezer and basic electronics. Yes, computers count, my husband and I both work out of a home office. We have no stove, our grill ran out of propane yesterday. We have no showers, we go to our gym to clean up and use the facilities. Extension cords wind their way though our house as if the reptile house at the zoo opened it's doors into our kitchen. It's hot in here, our kids are crabby and patience is running thin.

Is this an eco throwdown? Maybe. We are getting a sneak peek into what our lives might be like without electricity. Global warming, climate confusion, typhoons, monsoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, melting ice caps, disappearing ozone layers and crazy, stormy weather. Each year, the storms get worse, the power stays out a little longer and the weather gets hotter. Is this our fault? Can we fix it? Or is this the warm up stretch for how we will be living life in a few years? I hope not, living without electricity is hard. Really, really hard. And, I wasn't prepared. More on our eco throwdown survival skills tomorrow. - Right now, I have to go put gas in the generator.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

One Local Summer Lunch

It's still early here in Michigan for eating local. Not that you can't do it, because you can - it's just a little short on the fresh fruit and veggie angle. So, this week's feature is just a quick (and very messy!) snapshot of my lunch on Tuesday. All 4 boys were at school, my husband had a lunch meeting, so I had the house to myself! So, not only was this a local lunch, but it was a calm and quiet lunch. Here is what I made:

Eggs - East River Organics
Butter - Calders
Jam - Cherry Republic - Cherry Peach
Bread - Westwind Milling
Cheese - Gouda from Grassfields

Do I get bonus points in that every item on my plate is from my home state?? OK, so I made it through this week, now that the weather is warm, bring on the fruites and veggies please!

Friday, June 6, 2008

An Ode To Crunchy

In Tribute to Crunchy:

I am relatively new to the blogging game, but had been a lurker and Crunchy-enthusiast for quite some time before I started my own blog. Rather than write a long, mushy post this tribute to the Crunch-tastic blogger will be a list style celebration.

What I have learned from Crunchy:

Craigslist - Boutique for uber-cool ecofashionistas
Buying Nothing - Actually better than buying anything
Freezin' Your Buns - Means snuggle time
Backyards - Are for booty (not that kind!) but the fruit and veggie variety
Books - Are for reading and discussing with friends
Eco Throwdowns - I don't quite have what it takes yet, but I am getting there!
Eco Hotties - Yes, they do exist
Eating Local - Yes, I have what it takes!

Most importantly, I have learned that Crunchy, in the face of adversity, a major health crisis, kids and exhaustion, still finds ways to challenge herself, her family and the blogging community. Without her wisdom, humor and wit, we would certainly be at a loss. Welcome back, Crunchy! We are glad you are here!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How do you Craigslist?

Do you price it high and bargain? Are you fair, but firm? Or do you just price it to make a few bucks and get rid of it? For me, I try to stick with the fair, but firm option, but sometimes when I just want to see something get the heck outta my basement, I am willing to deal, down and dirty-like.

So far, this month I have listed a bunch of misfits from my basement and sold some furniture items and possibly an old Coke Machine that dates back to the 1960's. My husband has been toting this machine from one house to another with him since college. Granted, it's a pretty cool thing - it still works and actually holds the real glass bottles, in the portion-correct sizes of days gone by. We've never actually used it - not even once. The guy who wants to buy it is coming tonight, but I feel a little guilty selling it. Obviously, my husband liked the darn thing enough to lug it around for the last 18 years, but where do you draw the line between trash and treasure?

Someone who will restore it and use it, or maybe even resell it, would make more sense to me - I am not a keeper of things, but is parting with the memories and college shenanigans (said Coke machine used to hold contraband beers...) too much to ask of my husband? He says he is fine letting it go - probably because he still is holding onto a keg-orator from about the same time period that I wouldn't mind listing in the middle of the night when no one is looking...
So, where do you draw the line at keeping a treasure or parting with trash?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Greening my dogs

This is part of my To-Do List, not that the dogs really care one way or the other. As long as there is kibble in the dish and water in the trough, they are pretty cool and happy. Yesterday, Chile commented that I should just stick a bucket under the sloppy puppy when he drinks, 'cause, you know doggie drool could totally be greywater!

Other than that tip, which I am still thinking of how we could get a rubbermaid trash bin under a 50 lb. dalmatian while he drinks, the 'eco burban dad has come up with our first greener doggie tip of our journey so far. We occasionally let our doggies have a raw hide chew and the ones we had been buying from TJs, not only come from China, but are sold in a small 6-pack. A total waste of carbon emission and packaging, when we can go through 6 in a week.

I ventured into Costco yesterday, mostly because we needed softener salt and I was amazed at all the things I bought before, that I no longer feel like I need or even want any longer. That aside, we checked out the price of rawhide chews. $14.49 for 25 huge chews. The very wise 'eco burban dad offered his skillz with a chop saw to cut one of those huge chews (which come of the good ol' US of A!) into 3 chews. Sold!

10 minutes, a serious looking DeWalt chop saw, a very helpful littlest eco 'burban boy who brought along his own play saw to help and a little rawhide dust later - presto! 75 chews that will last months, from much closer than China, and only 1 plastic bag as waste instead of 12 bags from TJs. And... only a couple of weird stares from neighbors when they saw a dad and his boy using a chop saw to disassemble dog treats! Priceless!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Challenging an addiction

I decided that I have an addiction. Not drugs, alcohol, TV, food, cigarettes. Nope, it's worse than that. I have been trying to get off the paper towels for months now and it's real, real hard. ACK! Doggie barf, where's the paper towels? What, we don't have any? Then I get the shakes and sweats and stuff. Clean dog vomit with a real, actual towel? Well, then what do I do with the towel? ICK, you mean I put it in the washing machine with my clothes? OMG!

So, when Chile decided to host a challenge ridding us of our addictions, I thought this might be the time. See, this is just one last thing that I think I needed help getting over. It's more of a habit, mindset and germ-phobic issue than a need for the towels. And, I really believe that ridding myself of this habit will free me of the constant need to run to the store for "one thing I forgot". I have too many kids, dogs and things to do to be running to the store to buy paper!

Today, I am beating down on this addiction - Zero paper towels used on day 1 of the challenge! And, I wiped up doggie drool, mopped the entire house, cleaned the bathroom and a variety of other household chores that would have had me dragging along an ever-shrinking roll of towels. I have about half of a roll left, and I am hoping that it will last me a long, long time. Ending my addiction, one doggie drool puddle at a time!