Help those in need with one click…

Another reason to love Seventh Generation products…I received the following email this week and clicked the link…You should too:

You probably never thought of this, but women’s shelters in the U.S. go through thousands of tampons and pads monthly. Assistance agencies generally help with expenses of “everyday” necessities such as toilet paper, diapers, and clothing, but one of the most BASIC needs is overlooked – feminine hygiene products. (That tells me men are at the helm of the funding assistance agencies!) Seventh Generation, a green paper products and cleaning products company, has a do-good attitude and will donate a box of sanitary products to a women’s shelter in your chosen state – just for clicking the link. Talk about easy (and, yes, it is legitimate)!

Thanks for helping out.

OK, sick of the white stuff now…

It’s snowing again. We’re going on seven weeks of having snow on the ground and frankly, I’m sick of it. When we first moved to Colorado, I had this notion that there would be snow on the ground all winter long. Matt assured me that was only in the mountains and he’s been correct for nearly eight years. Until now. We seem to get warm temperatures (even up to the high 50s) during the week, which just serves to make a nice sheet of ice when the weather turns cold and the snow comes back every weekend. Today is only Wednesday and we’re expecting 4-6 inches, so who knows what this weekend (when we’re supposed to be moving furniture and boxes out of the house!) will bring.
You know it’s bad when our weekly Master Gardener email update has to tell us about things like pink snow mold, a mold that grows on your grass when it’s been covered in snow too long. Jeez. Oh, and apparently all the Colorado dog lovers are out there plowing their back yards so their pooches have a place to squat. Only thing is, they’re decapitating their sprinkler heads when they do this and will likely have geysers this spring. If spring ever comes, that is…

I guess I had more to say…

After nearly a month of posting very little, I seem to be suffering from an inability to shut up this week 😉 I wanted to comment a bit on the process of staging a house before listing it. Our wonderful realtors provide three hours of time with an interior designer to stage your house before it goes on the market and we had our first meeting Wednesday. We came away with a ton of homework–everything from cleaning and tidying in our laundry room to removing tons of furniture to rearranging pictures/furniture to creating some very Martha Stewart plant arrangements in the pots on our front porch (I’ll have to photograph those–even Matt liked how they turned out). The house goes on the market February 8th, so can you all think good thoughts about melting snow, nice green grass, and eager buyers please? It snowed again today and frankly, after six consecutive weekends of snow, I’m done. Spring, anyone? I just know I have some gorgeous bulbs that are just dying to come up under all that snow and honestly I’ve fallen twice and nearly fallen a handful of other times because there is sheet ice under the fluffy stuff due to all the warm weather we had last week. Give us a break, Mother Nature!

No, I’m not a football fan

Although I almost never watch football and do not consider myself a fan in any way, I couldn’t avoid posting about the miracle that is this year’s Super Bowl. I mean, come on…the Bears and the Colts? Even though I’m no fan, I am a child of the Mid-West, from Indiana no less, and I was in Kindergarten when the Colts moved to Indianapolis. I actually remember a Colt (no idea who) came to our class to promote the team. He was bigger than life and I was awestruck by meeting someone so “famous.” Fast forward a few years to see myself and my brother rocking out to the Super Bowl Shuffle (you know you remember it, the hilarious rap “Da Bears” did when they went to the Super Bowl ages ago, featuring Refrigerator Perry). You don’t have to know much about football to know that there hasn’t been much (OK, any) Super Bowl action for either of these teams in a long, long time. This year I may actually tune in to watch the game instead of just doing my usual: analyzing the commercials.

More snow!

Those of you who know my mother will be amused to hear that we have 8.5 more inches of snow, for a total of over three feet in the past 2.5 weeks. Mom prefers sunny Florida, but has been very brave and even took Gabriel out to play a couple of times and helped me shovel this afternoon since Matt is away in California. The pile of snow in our front yard is now more than five feet tall and I’m starting to wonder if it will be there all winter long. This snowfall is certainly thwarting the predictions of a warm, dry El Nino winter…Oh well. We have uploaded pictures of Christmas and early January, including some fun snowshoeing pictures, so take a look! There are even pictures of Lily’s newest trick–pulling herself up to standing!
Oh, and for those of you who enjoyed my list of fun Gabriel expressions, I have to relate a story from Tuesday. I tried to back my car out of the driveway to take Gabriel to preschool, was running late, and totally missed the narrow break in the snowbank. I hung up the passenger side of my car pretty good and had to go get Matt out of the shower to help me dig it out. Gabriel was already in the car and produced the following gems: “Mommy’s car hurt a little bit?” “Why did Daddy put cat food on the snow?” (Matt actually put Kitty Litter on the snow, but it had a picture of a cat on it, so we thought this was fairly ingenious) “Get stuck in snow bank tomorrow on way to preschool, Mommy?” He obviously thought it was fun, the little monkey.

Ode to Super Glue

Oh tiny tube of salvation!
Balm for all toddler temerity!
Ally of frazzled Mothers!
Oh Super Glue, my new best friend. Best handled with care
And stored far from child’s reach
Lest brother glues sister’s eyelids closed
Or fingers to a favorite toy. Oh mender of chip clips, Chistmas ornaments,
Plastic Firemen, refrigerator magnets,
Cranes, and miscellany.
No job too humble for your mighty strength…
Imposer of order on my inchoate world.

Thanksgiving Success!

As challenging as it is to cook Thanksgiving dinner when you have two small children, I have to say this evening’s meal was a fabulous success. Our neighbors cooked a turkey for the carnivores and I made the rest. Not only did we get things done at approximately the same time, but for the first time in our history (and we’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving together since 1996!), Matt actually liked every dish that I made. Before you start thinking that either Matt is horribly picky or I’m totally clueless, I will tell you that part of the challenge is that I have certain foods that I have to have (dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie) in order for me to feel like it’s Thanksgiving. The problem is that pumpkin pie is the only thing on that list that Matt likes. So…I’ve had to come up with a bunch of variations on the dressing, sweet potato, cranberry theme before I found the right mix. If I’d just given up and had Italian (which is what Matt used to eat on Thanksgiving when we were first together), it would have been a snap. So, here’s what we had on the menu at ChezArtz this evening: Mushroom Cashew Pate roast (a hybrid of two recipes from the National Trust cookbook)
Cranberry, Leek, Chestnut dressing (my own creative recipe)
Chipotle Sweet Potatoes Mashed Potatoes with mushroom, red wine, horseradish gravy (my recipe) Patty’s Horn Butter Rolls (yum!) Pumpkin pie & apple pie with coffee
Oh yeah, and copious amounts of wine including Kir Royale (champagne with creme de cassis liqeuer). I’m thankful that it didn’t take me 20 years to get it right 😉 Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂 Julie

Get out and vote!

Back before blogging (or at least before I knew about it), I created my very own Soapbox here on ChezArtz. My very first post in 2002 still seems timely, so I have copied it here:

Soapbox # 1 – Democracy

July 12, 2002

By the People, For the People?

Our Founding Fathers said it best over two-hundred years ago. As Americans, we’re blessed with the right to vote and voting ensures that our senators, representatives, and Executive Branch truly represent the entire population of the United States. Representative government is at the heart of democracy. It is our responsibility both to preserve the ideals upon which our nation was founded and to protect democracy so that the next generation of Americans can flourish as we have. Too many people ignore this responsibility. Even more exercise their democratic responsibility only once a year. But our responsibility doesn’t have to begin and end on the first Tuesday of each November. Why not ensure that our elected officials know how we feel about issues, not just on election day, but every day of the year? But how? How can one individual make such any difference? It’s easy. Put democracy to work for you. For the cost of a stamp and envelope, or the even for the cost of a few minutes to send an email, you can contact your Senators, Representatives, Mayor, Governor, or even the President. And why not? Elected officials know that they have their jobs because of individual votes like yours; they will not ignore you.

How to Make Your Voice Heard

Research can be time-consuming, so I thought I’d save you the hassle.

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Comment line: 202-456-1111
Fax: 202-456-2461

Department of State
2201 Northwest C Street
Washington, DC 20520-0001
Fax: + 1 202 647 6047

  • Don’t just contact politicians, because your consumer dollar may mean even more to Big Business than your vote means to your local Representative. Got a complaint about a business? Do something about it.
  • Write a letter to the editor at your local newspaper. Politicians read these, and so do many other people. Turn that one little voice into many by rallying community support at the grass-roots level.

Silence may as well be acceptance!

Your letter may be the one that rallies someone with more power than you or I could hope to have into action, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Don’t stand by and watch the world go around, do something. Silence is acquiescence in terms of government, business and politics. Don’t let wrongs happen unnoticed or unopposed. Do something about it.

Why does ChezArtz care what I do?

Don’t think for a minute that we’re encouraging you to take action just so that you’ll support the issues we support. The point of this Soapbox was not to create agreement, but to encourage participation. If 100% of registered voters had voted in the last election, we wouldn’t have a complaint in the world. If each adult in the United States knew who their local Representative was, we wouldn’t say a word except “Congratulations!” But that’s not the way things are.

  • Only 51% of registered voters voted in the Presidential elections in 2000.
  • Voter turnout in non-Presidential election years hovers around 38%.

This sends a message loud and clear: 49% of Americans either don’t care who becomes President or are so dispirited by the negative political climate of the last few decades that they just don’t think they have a reason to vote. So we’ll do what we can to encourage anyone and everyone to take part in Democracy, to take responsibility for the Government of the United States and do something to make it better.

Other Important Issues

Did you know that 43,000 women die each year from breast cancer? My grandmother had it, my aunt had it, my cousin had it, and in each case early detection saved their lives. Click here and The Breast Cancer Site will donate a free mamogram to an underpriveleged woman. For whatever reason, man-made or natural, over an acre of rainforest is destroyed each second. Click here to preserve 11.4 square feet of rainforest. Concerned about the environment, but not sure what to do about it? The Sierra Club is the largest environmental lobbying group in the United States and never resorts to the sort of eco-terrorism sometimes seen from members of Greenpeace or PETA. They use collaboration, education, and activism to protect fragile ecosystems and lower pollution.

The 100-Mile Challenge

I received an e-zine article the other day that got me started thinking. The article was from Seventh Generation’s Non Toxic Times and it was about the 100-Mile Challenge. The idea is that you try to buy food that is produced within a 100 mile radius of your house for a month and is meant to encourage people to shop locally for their food. The article summarized the benefits of eating locally-grown and produced food as follows:

  • It protects the environment. Food that travels is food that uses fossil fuels, which contribute to pollution, climate change, and other woes. Locally-produced food doesn’t have to travel much so it’s a lot cleaner. And local food is more likely to come from smaller family farms that generally use more sustainable practices than factory farms.
  • It protects our health. Locally-produced food is a lot fresher so it contains more nutrients. It also tastes better because local farmers are growing their crops and raising their livestock for flavor, not easy processing and shipping. Instead of tomatoes bred to survive a month in a shipping container, for example, we’re likely to get an heirloom variety bursting with juice and taste.
  • It protects and strengthens our local economies. When we buy locally-produced foods, we support local businesses and nearby farms, and keep our dollars circulating in the local community. We also make those communities stronger. In Vermont, for example, if we could replace just 10% of the foods we eat with local products, we’d create over 3,600 jobs, and add $376 million to the local economy.

We made the switch to primarily organic foods when we lived in England because, frankly, they weren’t that much more expensive than conventionally-grown foods and we had the extra cash-flow to experiment. Now, five years later, shopping organic is ingrained in our way of life and, with the opening of a Vitamin Cottage natural food store less than a mile from our house, it’s even more convenient to do so. The next step, in my opinion, is to use my family’s consumer dollars not only to support organics, but to support local businesses. That’s why last summer we signed up for a Community-Sponsored Agriculture program with Monroe Organic Farm. The Monroes have farmed this same plot of land up near Greeley, Colorado, for generations, and they grow muskmelons that surpass even the Indiana melons I grew up on in both flavor and quantity. And don’t get me started about how good their eggs are–there’s a reason that Gabriel frequently demands scrambled eggs for dinner! Anyhow, a CSA program is one in which families like ours pay upfront for a share of the produce grown on the farm in a given season. This provides the farmers with the cash-flow they so badly need during planting season while at the same time guaranteeing that we’ll get a large onion-bag of freshly picked produce every week during the season. This is definitely a learning process–we got so much produce last summer that some was given away and even *gasp* composted. This summer, I have managed to can, freeze, or cook just about every last bit of food we received (OK, I gave away some of those fantastic melons because three per week was more than Gabriel and I–the melon hounds in this family–could tackle!) and have decided to sign us up for a half winter share. The winter share includes anything that they picked and stored in a root cellar up at the farm and should include everything from popcorn (hence our newly-established Sunday night ritual of popcorn for dinner & a movie) to winter squash to potatoes. It should be an adventure, so watch this space to see if we’re sick of root veggies by February. I love the idea that we’re supporting the local economy and family farms. You don’t have to go too far back in either of our families to find farmers (in fact, I have a couple of dairy-farming cousins and Matt’s Mom’s family still has a farm in Sweden), but it seems like the average American these days is so far removed from the farms and ranches that produce the food they eat. I mean, your Big Mac is so farm removed from the original source of the beef, grain, and vegetables that went into it that it’s easy to see how we’ve gotten where we are. Where are we? You might ask…Well, a full third of this country is obese. We’re making bad foreign policy decisions because of our reliance on the fossil fuels used to power our obsession with transporting food, goods, and people thousands of miles. Most children today have no idea what goes into growing the grain that makes up their sandwich and think that Wonderbread is real bread. Not where I want this country to be and not where I want the country to be when my children are adults. So what to do. Buy local. Support local farmers and local businesses. Read about how to make better food choices at the supermarket, or better yet, shop at the Farmer’s Market! Savor your food instead of wolfing it down in front of the television and actually think about what you’re feeding your family. It will make a difference. I promise.

Why I love canning…

It’s August, a time of year when I become absolutely obsessed with canning, freezing, and dehydrating. That’s right, canning is not just for your Great Aunt Mabel, hip (or not) young (or not) people do it too! When we bought our house in 1999, we inherited a home-canner’s paradise in the way of fruit trees, vines, & shrubs. We had two blue concord grapes, a red concord grape, a white Niagara grape, rhubarb, raspberries, an apple tree and two cherry trees. My husband grew up on home-canned grape juice, so I decided to give it a try. Our first batch was canned in the dishwasher (don’t try this at home kids!) and was delicious! I have now graduated to a simple canning bath and for about $100 of equipment, jars, bands & lids, I can now put by enough jam and canned fruit that we don’t have to buy any all winter long! In recent years, I have taken out all but one of the original grapes, cut down a diseased cherry tree, added a sweet Muscat grape (not producing enough for wine, but makes an excellent white grape juice), and added a strawberry patch to the garden. I have also signed up for Monroe Organic Farm‘s CSA & fruit share, which means I’ve added peaches, plums, pears, and apricots to my canning repetoire. This year, I tried a new recipe for plums from that is so good I might have to buy another box of plums to make more. So, top 7 reasons I love canning:

  1. It’s one of the few things that ties me to my extended family’s traditions (my Aunt Amy makes the best pickles you’ve ever tasted and now I make them too!).
  2. It’s good for the environment because I don’t buy frozen or canned fruit that was trucked in using lots of fossil fuels.
  3. I have complete control of the ingredients from choosing individual fruits at peak ripeness to controlling the amount of sugar and salt.
  4. The stuff I can tastes so much better than store-bought and is fresher too.
  5. It’s organic without the sticker shock because organic produce is cheaper when it’s purchased in season.
  6. The look on Gabriel’s face when I feed him canned Colorado-grown peaches in mid-winter is worth the effort!
  7. And hey, I’m a foodie, so I’m always looking for unusual food-related hobbies to pick up!

If you’re interested in learning more about canning, this site will get you started. Jars and other supplies are frequently available (at least here in Boulder County) at your local thrift store! Happy Canning!