Sunday, July 21, 2013

We're Moving!

Please visit this blog at our new location:

Thank you!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 are drinking THAT?!

That's what my family said when I made this:

I have a ton of kale from my backyard garden.  My family hates kale.  So what am I to do with all this kale? Turn it into something that doesn't taste like kale of course!  This really was delicious, even if it doesn't look so appetizing.  Try it and you'll see!  (I feel like I'm reading Green Eggs and Ham here...)


1 cup fresh kale
2 oranges
Handful of ice cubes

Blend in your blender.

Can it get any simpler than that?


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Green Garden Gallery

While I love the fresh and healthy aspect of eating food from my own garden, I also appreciate the fact that there is no waste, no packaging, no travel/gasoline/petroleum or CO2 emissions involved in my food.  My blueberries don't come in a cardboard or plastic box, my green beans don't come from across the country, and my peas don't come in a plastic bag.  I save seeds from year to year, add some compost from our food scraps, water it with our rain barrel's water, and let the sun shine down on the wonderful tiny patch I call heaven.

These are the ultimate green goodies!

Here are some recent photos that my 6 year old took of me and my garden.  It's absolutely wonderful to go out back with the kids and pick our dinner for the evening.  I don't know if my girls will ever go back to store-bought produce after eating these crisp, crunchy ones!

We've had this blueberry plant for about 3 years now and this is the first year it has produced any fruit. 
Good things come to those who wait!  
Update: Slight problem - something has been eating my blueberries lately! When we go to pick them first thing in the morning, all the ripe ones are gone...could it be the birds? Or the squirrels? Or the resident groundhog?

Nothing better than eating green beans an hour after you pick them!

Just hanging around...

Me and my peas!

Here is our littlest one excitedly helping me de-shell some peas.  We'll see how long that lasts. 

Still more to go...

Snow peas getting ready for stir frying

Hope you are enjoying your own harvest so far this summer!  If not, then I hope you are at least enjoying your weekly visits to the local farmer's market to get some fresh produce.  Mine has been a great resource for things I am not growing yet (zucchini) or that have come and gone already (strawberries, spinach, lettuce).

Some of you have asked me to write a post about pesticides and what I do about garden pests/diseases.  I don't use any pesticides!  I let nature runs it's course and only interfere with water and sometimes water and vinegar when needed.  I'll write a more complete post about this soon with some more ideas of how to tackle your pesky garden pests.

Happy green gardening!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Inspiration from the Young

I read this article in this month's Biodiesel Magazine (  In case you don't want to read the whole thing, it's about this intelligent, hardworking Sophomore young lady who has won tons of science awards, etc. from doing a variety of experiments on extracting biodiesel from things like used coffee grounds. 

After reading it, it did two things for me:

1) Made all my high school accomplishments (heck, even college ones) feel like diddly-squat compared to this girl!


2) Inspired me that our youth have not given up hope and in fact are smarter than we give them credit for.

They are out there trying to improve our world, to ensure sustainability of the planet and of humanity, to really make a difference.

So if growing up means giving up hope on bettering things, on making a difference, then I definitely do not want to grow up. 

After 14 years of working in the for-profit corporate world, and focusing so much on climbing the corporate ladder to prove to myself (and selfishly to others) that I can be a serious, successful corporate executive, I will admit the view from up there was not as nice as I had envisioned.

"Growing up" was not so attractive after all. Sure there were plenty of perks, but it lacked something crucial to me.  Something I had when I was in high school and college.  Something I always thought I'd have forever in my studies, career and continuous learning. 

Passion.  It lacked passion.

My passion, my hobby of "greening" our family, our home, our local community, was always just that...a passion, a hobby, something I did for fun. 

Until one day I decided to stop being such a boring grown up and try to get some of that passion back in my career.  I wanted a career that didn't just pay the bills but made me excited to wake up in the morning and thankful when I went to bed at night.  It's not as easy as it sounds to find a job that can do all of those things.

Maybe it was September 11 and seeing the smoke from the Pentagon from my office window or seeing the emergence of army personnel with weapons drawn on the streets and the Metro outside our office. 

Maybe it was sitting in a high level meeting complete with leather chairs and marble tables that screamed luxury in a beautiful downtown office and thinking "I'm helping rich people get richer while poor people get poorer and that just doesn't feel right." 

Maybe it was that my kids started asking me what I did for "work", where I went all day, why I came home so late, or why I had to travel to that city or this one, all the while looking at me with those eyes that said "I miss you" and the hugs that felt like "Don't ever let me go." 

Maybe it was a combination of all these things that made me realize I had to do something about it.  Things don't happen by themselves.  I'm all for going with the flow, but I realized I had been going with the flow for far too long.

It was time to push my limits, just as this young girl, only a Sophomore in high school, has already done. While I wish I had figured this out at her age, you are never too old to push your limits and follow your dreams.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Signs of Spring

Signs of spring in my backyard even on a cloudy day!


Fig tree

Mixed garden (peas, tomatoes, chives, cucumbers, zucchini)

Another mixed garden with rain barrel in background (not a wine barrel!)  :)

Peas and sugar snap peas with some lettuce and other things mixed in!

The key now is to keep the wild rabbits and groundhogs away.  Any tips?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Trash to Treasure

I was very excited to hear that Alexis' Kindergarten teacher gave the children a "Trash to Treasure" project for Earth Day.  She gave about two weeks notice (awesome!) which allowed us to think about alot of potential projects.  The problem was narrowing it down.  Here are some of the ideas Alexis and I initially considered:

Cup holder from large yogurt container
Magazine holder from cereal box
Nature wreath from things found outside with cardboard box backing
Flowers and other decorations made out of recycled boxes and paper
Purse made out of recycled containers
Garden irrigation system from soda and milk bottles
Handmade cards from recycled items around the house (boxes, mail packaging, etc.)
and more...

She finally got pretty excited over the pencil/crayon/marker holder idea.  Here she is with her three recycled items: a cardboard scrap from old box, cereal box, an old 2009 calendar that I had kept for the pretty pictures (we often use old calendars to make envelopes from or decorate things with).
Here she is marking the cereal box with a ruler to know where to cut.  We used one cereal box for all 3 pencil holders (and recycled the scraps of course!).
 She was a little too excited to use big scissors (first time!) but the little kid scissors didn't work very well on the cereal box.  Needless to say there was a lot of parental supervision on this part of the project to ensure all fingers remained intact!
 Maybe it's because kids just love Christmas so much but this Christmas scene for the month of December from the old calendar was the first picture she picked.
 She is starting to see her project take shape and is getting pretty excited about it and telling me how she is going to make one for everyone she knows for Christmas this year or for their birthday or "maybe you know, just because they are my friend".
 Posing with her completed "Trash to Treasure" project.  Very happy recycler indeed!
Do you have any fun "Trash to Treasure" projects to share?  Let me know!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Keep Prince William Beautiful

Check out page 24 of April's Prince William Living magazine for my latest article.  Since it's Earth Day this month and a topic right up my alley, see what I say about the local nonprofit organization "Keep Prince William Beautiful" and some green tips.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Aldi - Green or Not?

Some friends have recently been teasing me about shopping at Aldi so I just had to write about it and see what you all think.  

Compared to other grocery stores, I consider them very "green" and they were green before green was cool.  

  • They don't give you plastic or paper bags for your groceries--you either bring your own reusable bags or you can buy them at the checkout if you forgot them.
  • They make you put a quarter in the grocery carts to make sure you return them, not only saving them money but also making sure the carts don't end up in the trash, side of the road, some back alley, in a dumpster, rusting in someone's back yard, etc.  Less carts they need to buy, less carts need to be made.  Pretty green to me.
  • They don't use fancy signs that change every week thus saving on paper, plastic and ink costs.
  • They mostly use simple pallets that the grocery items were shipped in rather than spending lots on shelving that needs to be maintained, cleaned (by non-green cleaners in most grocery stores), replaced, signed properly, etc.
  • They keep prices low by limiting selection so you aren't overwhelmed with 200 kinds of cereal, but maybe only 20 kinds (which if you have kids like me, this is a good thing, esp. since many of their cereals don't have the kiddie toy attraction boxes like the major brands do at the regular grocery store).
My one big complaint so far was that Aldi didn't carry organic fruits and veggies or organic dairy. And I question some of the products they sell especially since I recently noticed "carbon monoxide" as an added ingredient to their family value pack of tilapia (the regular size tilapia bag did not have "carbon monoxide" listed though...strange).

So I was quite excited when on a recent trip to buy my usual staples of onions, potatoes, carrots, baking staples like flour and vanilla extract, I noticed that they had started carrying organic produce and dairy items!  I guess they are only doing it in certain test markets to see how well it does, so I feel lucky to find them at my local store!

Anyway, so my Aldi top 10 list has evolved now to include several organic items:

1) organic apples
2) organic yogurt or cheese (when they have it)
3) almond milk
4) organic frozen strawberries/blueberries
5) organic dark chocolate (when they have it)
6) onions
7) potatoes
8) carrots
9) veggie hummus
10) wine (no list is ever complete without wine!)

So what do you think?  Do you or would you shop at Aldi now that they carry organic items?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Who Are We?

After a hideous scene at a local coffee shop yesterday I've been thinking about who we are, how we act, why we act the way we do, and why people place so much importance on things rather than on people.

The coffee shop was packed on Sunday afternoon as I stopped by to work on an article I'm writing for Prince William Living magazine.  Everyone, and I mean, everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at this Glittery Lady making a scene with surprise in their eyes.  We all looked around at each other with shrugs, confused looks, throwing hands up in the air as if to say "is this lady really serious?" and even nervous laughter to try and lighten the mood.

Glittery Lady was freaking out about how she spilled coffee all over her "$1,500 Gucci purse--do you realize what kind of purse this is?"  She obviously wanted to make a scene and loudly yelled at the coffee shop employee, a teenage boy working to make some money on a Sunday afternoon, about how upset she was that they overfilled the coffee so much that it "made" her spill her coffee all over her purse and glittery boots as she was getting in her car.  "I come here every day and this is crazy, why would you fill the cup so much to make it spill like this.  Look at my pants, I have spots on my pants!"

They were black pants and I didn't see any spots on them...just sayin'.  Though I did notice my own shirt full of washable paint spots from a craft activity with my kids earlier in the day.

Someone yelled out "you know, there is this thing called a washing machine..."

She ignored the comment and responds to the teenage coffee shop boy with "This is terrible, this has ruined my day. YOU have ruined my day.  And my purse, what are you going to do about my purse?"  I'm still not sure what she expected a teenage boy to do about her $1,500 Gucci purse, but he offered her a free cup of coffee for her trouble.  She responded with "I don't need a free cup of coffee, I can buy coffee if I want.  I want your card, I want to file a complaint because this is absolutely terrible, just terrible! Really, you have RUINED my day!"  The manager comes over, a young twenty something girl and kindly gives her the card with some apologies.

As she was leaving, a middle aged woman told her to "have a nice day" to which she responded nastily with a "How am I supposed to have a good day after all this? LOOK at my purse!!!" and the nice lady said "well, you can try to have a better day, try to smile, because you know spilled coffee is not the end of the world".  I chimed in and said, "yeah, if spilled coffee on your very expensive $1,500 Gucci purse is the biggest problem you have today than you should consider yourself lucky."  Several others chimed in with "yeah" and "seriously lady, worse things could happen." and she walked out loudly grumbling "I can't believe this, this is terrible!"

Those of us left in the coffee shop bonded...we found out that the kind "have a nice day" customer lady had cancer the year before and really was trying to make the other lady realize that spilled coffee really isn't the end of the world...cancer, well, that might be the end of the world for that person...but spilled coffee? Not so much.

So how do we treat each other?  Do we treat our Gucci purse's better than we treat human beings?

With this, I wanted to share a quote from a recent blog I came across:

"A life rich with faith, family, friends & creativity, secure in the idea that a life well lived has nothing to do with what we have but who we are."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thanks LivingWellSpendingLess for reminding us of this very important fact that it's who we are and how we interact with others that matters...not a Gucci purse.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Made In China

Not to sound like an alarmist, but wow, this is a bit alarming especially when you see the video of Beijing over the last 3 weeks.

And to think that we contribute to this every time we buy something that says "Made in China".  Take a look around your house, your closet, your car, your kitchen, even your refrigerator and freezer.  How many things did you find that say "Made in China"?  Did you even realize that jar of chopped garlic came from China?

I know it's hard.  Especially when it's shiny or new or oh, such a great price!  Been there, done that.  Still struggling with that every time I walk into a store (as you can tell from my Cupcake post).  Every. Time.

I'm not against buying anything from China (sort of).  I understand we live in a global business environment and want to support other countries (and vice versa) through trade.  I love the bamboo bowl I bought several years ago through Ten Thousand Villages - handmade by artisans in Vietnam through one of their special arts programs.  I love the scarf I bargained back and forth for in a Portugal flea market.  But there are some countries with very strong, rigorous environmental and human rights laws or with great programs that work directly with struggling artists or crafters.  And there are some countries that, simply put, suck at all that.  We just need to be more aware of which countries those are and put pressure with our purchasing dollars to encourage them to change their ways.

It gets to a point that you have to stop blaming others for the problems we see in the news (like this air pollution article) and take some of the blame ourselves for our every day decisions.

It gets to a point that we can no longer say "I don't care. I don't live in China so this is not relevant to me."

It gets to a point that you look in the mirror and ask what is happening to us as human beings.
Or worse, you look at your child and wonder what it's going to be like for their generation and feel fear for them.

It gets to a point where you stay up late to write a blog post about all this to share with people even though you've worked hard at your full time job all day, cooked dinner, cleaned up and washed dishes, did a load of laundry, read the kids some stories and brushed their teeth and now all you want to do is just crawl into bed and go to sleep.  Even if just one person reads it and thinks twice about their next purchase or the next time they throw something in the trash, it was worth it.

We are all in this together, but individual actions matter.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cupcake Holder Dilemma

So I was at Aldi recently and had a hardcore life decision to make.

Yes, it was good vs. evil.

Angel vs. devil.

One side of my brain vs. the other side.

This was calling my name:

This is a cupcake holder.

Made of plastic.

It was $4.99 on clearance.

And calling my name...

As a Mom to two young kids where cupcakes are almost a monthly requirement for some sort of school event or fundraiser, I really could use this cupcake holder.  But it was plastic...made from non-recycled plastic and sure it had a recyclable triangle on the bottom which means at the end of it's useful life it could be recycled technically, but I really had a hard time with this because I promised I would stop buying plastic.

That is much harder to do than I first thought.

So I ended up putting it back on the shelf and walking away from it.  I reminded myself that I have cupcake pans and pretty dishes and containers I can use to transport and display them.  I reminded myself that I also have muffin/cupcake tins that came with a plastic cover that I can use to transport them.  Sure they aren't as pretty but hey, you just take the cupcakes out of the oven, decorate them and put the cover on and voila, you are good to go.

So even though I thought to myself "yeah, but this means I can make even MORE cupcakes for the fundraisers", I reminded myself that sometimes less IS more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


A recent Facebook conversation with a friend over bread machine vs. kneaded bread and which is truly "homemade" reminded me...what the heck do you do with those "bread butts"? You know, the ends of the bread that no one wants to eat and that sit in the bread bag until the rest of the loaf has been eaten and then goes stale and eventually gets thrown out.  Except in this house.  You know my philosophy on throwing things may consider it even pack-rattery.  But I call it free breadcrumbs.  :)

Take the stale bread ends that no one wants to eat and keep them in a bag in the freezer.  When you have about 3/4 loaf total volume of ends and pieces of stale bread, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and dry them a little more in a 250 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Some of this leftover bread includes pieces that were cut up for New Year's cheese fondue as well as some slices of good wheat bread that had just gone stale from not being used up quickly enough.

Add these ingredients below.

1 tbs basil, 1 tbs garlic powder, 1 tbs parsley, 1/2 tbs onion powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt
Voila--you have your own homemade breadcrumbs!  I keep an old mason jar on hand to store the breadcrumbs in and have attached a label to it with the recipe so when it's time to make more, it's right there on the jar and I don't have to go digging around for the recipe somewhere.  So easy!

So you've recycled what WAS old, unwanted bread into something you can coat your baked chicken or fish with or use in whatever other recipes you have that call for breadcrumbs.  I do recommend keeping them in the fridge though since they are freshly homemade, they go bad quicker than the store bought breadcrumbs.  I can keep mine in the pantry for a month or so but any longer than that and I recommend the fridge.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Christmas Recycling

WAIT!  Don't put all that torn wrapping paper and old Christmas cards you got this holiday season in the trash or recycle bin!

There are a variety of things you can do with all your post Christmas "trash" like Christmas cards, ripped wrapping paper, torn gift boxes, and used ribbons.  Here are some ideas:

Make Gift Tags From Christmas Cards

I take Christmas cards I receive from people, cut out the pretty images from the front cover and hold punch it, tie an old ribbon from past gifts around it and tie it onto a gift.  Or sometimes I skip the hole punch and ribbon and just fold the cut image and tape the back of it to the gift, (esp. if I run out of used ribbon).  Here are some examples of gift tags made from Christmas cards I've received.

Make Notebooks or Scrap Paper Pads from Wrapping Paper Remnants

I took the remnants of torn wrapping paper from the post-Christmas gift opening extravaganza and cut them up into 4 inch or so squares.  Then I took some bruised up gift boxes that would never be able to close again without many feet of tape, and I cut them up into long strips that I then folded over and covered in large wrapping paper remnants with glue.  One staple at the bottom is all it took to then attach the wrapping paper scraps to the "matchbox" style cover and voila! You now have a little scrap pad to keep by the phone, in your purse, car, etc.  I will warn you, wrapping paper is a bit slippery so it's tough to write on it with pencil, but pen works just fine.

What I love about these ideas are that they are green and frugal!   Why buy gift tags or notepads, even if cheaply at the dollar store, when you can get them completely free from what you'd otherwise throw in the trash or recycle bin?  What green and frugal ideas do you have with holiday "remnants"?  I'm sure there are tons of other things out there you can do, so please share if you come across any!