Saturday, July 05, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

A green 4th

Happy 4th of July!

I am blessed to live in a country where I am free to disagree with the administration, where my vote counts (mostly), and where my political or religious views are welcomed, even when they're "different." The U.S.A. has a lot of room for improvement, but today I am grateful to live here, and to reflect on my fortune.

We started the day with a children's parade in the Admiral district, and Tessa woke up SO excited to attend. We decorated her bike with the items we'd picked up for last year's parade (remember? 4th of July 2007 was at Children's Hospital - no parade for us!), including stars, red, white, and blue streamers, and little cloth flags on wooden poles. Tessa added to this by attaching (with Daddy's help) a pony to her helmet, and a stuffed leopard to the cross-bar of her bike. She wore a red shirt with white polka-dots, a denim skirt, and red, white and blue socks. Oh, and two flag lapel pins. The girl looked good. ;-) Tessa threw candy to the spectators (though in this case the parade participants FAR outnumbered the spectators) and she was in heaven. We ran into friends, and that made it all the better.

In the afternoon, we attended C&P's annual 4th of July potluck. (I made an herbed potato salad that was quite delicious, if you ask me, and added radish from our garden - yummmm!)

And here is where I got green.

I thought, "Okay, if we can potluck food" (which I'm all for), why not bring our own dishes, too?"

At first, I thought it sounded too weird. Nobody ever brings their own dishes to a party, ever. But why is that? Maybe it's time to change the paradigm.

The party provided paper plates and plastic cups and utensils....but our family abstained from using them. We used the plastic dishes I purchased when Tessa was a young toddler (knowing that we'd have outdoor events and didn't want to break glass with kids around), and our old silverware (from my first college apartment!). I even grabbed three cloth napkins. And dessert plates.

And you know what? It was easy. It was not weird, it was not inconvenient, and it wasn't was easy.

I carried the potato salad in my market basket (available at Marshall's for $9.99 or, if you prefer to pay more, at Bed Bath & Beyond for $29.99), and then piled a grocery sack with the utensils and plates etc. When they were dirty, I just stuffed them back in the grocery sack, and when I got home I stuck them straight into the dishwasher. Now how easy is that?

While others tried to balance their plates without tipping them into their laps as the plates folded and leaked, we had nice sturdy plates. Cute, too. ;-)
(Here's a picture of our plasticware on our dining room table. Thank you to Heather for the beautiful tablecloth, which isn't at all a part of this post but bears a mention anyway!)

So, here's a green suggestion: avoid the disposable stuff. Grab what dishes you already have at home (don't you have some portable stuff lurking in some cupboard?), throw them in a basket, and head to the party. It'll catch on. If I do it, then you do it, then someone'll be the hot new thing.

Happy 4th! I hope that you, too, had a fabulous day.


PS We were going to bike to Alki to see the fireworks, but after our really busy day we're just not up for it! Tessa THINKS she wants to go, but given how late it is, I suspect she'll be sawing logs when the first one goes off.

PPS According to the numbers on our plasticware, we shouldn't have any BPA in these plastic dishes. I'm still looking for alternatives to plastic dishware, but haven't been able to give up our BBQ stuff because if the alternative is filling landfills with disposable stuff and releasing further toxins into the air to produce more and using up more natural resources on something that just gets thrown away....I can't do it. I'm also not going to carry ceramic, heavy, breakable, expensive dishware outside. I recognize that plastic is NOT my goal, but I'm a bit stuck at the moment, and though we got rid of Tupperware stuff and Saran wrap and don't miss it, this stuff stayed around. I'm hunting down enamalware (you know, the blue/white speckled camping dishes) to use for both camping and picnics, but it may take a while. Plus, we have 20ish plates for BBQs and I don't wnat to put out the cash for more right now.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Project of the day

I feel crummy, and unmotivated, and slow. But I still accomplished something out of the ordinary - I put up curtains in our bedroom.

Why? Because streetlight light and early-morning light is waking us up and interfering with our sleep; because it's a very energy efficient thing to do and should keep our room cooler or hotter depending on the season and lower our energy bills; and finally because there are some provocative studies about women who have light exposure at night being more prone to breast cancer and I have been saying for three years that for that reason alone I was going to do this. The "it looks cool" factor is in there somewhere too, but the other reasons are the real reason I went ahead with this project.

The curtains I chose at Bed Bath & Beyond (after a lot of searching at multiple stores) were labeled "green earth" or something like that, indicating how they were made and that they were an energy efficient variety; they are supposed to cut heating/cooling costs significantly. We will find otu if it's true. I got a double rod and hung white cotton sheers (my favorite were actually, surprisingly, from Target) because then during the day I can let light in but people coming up our front steps will no longer have a direct view into our bedroom.

I actually didn't remove the ugly mini-blinds that are mounted inside the window frames yet. They do deflect some light/keep some heat in, so on the hottest/coldest days I might put them down as well, but since they're so ugly I am glad to have them hidden from sight.
I'm going for a beachy-feel in our room. A year or two ago (I don't remember now...before one of my surgeries...hmmm....) I painted our room a calm, peaceful blue (it's called "Titanic" which is about the worst color name in history, so I renamed it "calm ocean blue" and I'm sticking with it); we have white woodwork throughout the house; our furniture is dark oak (mission style to go with the house's 1920s feel); our bedding is blue and white. Pics show all!
So we have ocean walls, sky bedding, driftwood furniture (okay that's a stretch....wood, anyway) and sand curtains. It's not a theme room, but beach inspired. I have a couple of seashells on my dresser, but mostly it's just a color scheme.

And I like it!
PS The reason the window behind our bed only has the sheer white cotton curtain is that I thought I could get away with only one sand colored blackout curtain on each window. Putting it up showed me my error - it looked sad and wimpy with just one. Two is much better, but now I have to buy two more for the other window.


I have a sore throat, an occassional cough, a headache, and a general malaise. Tessa is with Katie and I'm trying to get things done but I feel awful. :-(

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Garden Pictures - July 1

Garden pictures!

First, our sugar snap peas. The starts from the nursery are not as lush as the seeds I planted - interesting! However, the starts have pea pods on them but the seed plants still only have flowers.

Next, our radishes. They're an heirloom purple plum radish, and I recommend them highly.


Swiss chard (love those rainbow stalks):

A cornucopia of lettuce with the chard crowding it (next year I need to space these way farther apart):

One tiny little spinach plant. You can't even see the tiny plants also in the picture...but this little guy is growing at last.

Basil and garlic in the same row (lettuce ont he other side of the row that is so small it's microscopic):

Carrots (three varieties, mixed up at this point: Scarlet Nantes, Romeo, and Dragon)And my favorite - tomatoes! They looked really far apart when I planted them, but now they're crowded and bumping into one another. Oh well - it is what it is.

And my other favorite: strawberries. Also too close to one another - can I transplant them in the fall to spread them out?


I went to bed too late last night (I was too hot to get much done during the day yesterday, so I got a lot done in the evening instead) and got up early this morning and I'm wiped. More coffee, please. (Thanks Ryan for brewing a pot.)

I can't bear it when the house is a mess, and yesterday it went into the "ewww I can't deal" category. Now I've got things straightened (bathroom wiped down, laundry folded and put away, beds made, counters cleared, swept, etc.) but I need to do some more serious organization. The paper trail is everywhere, and needs to be dealt with. Maybe that will be tomorrow's project.

I made bread yesterday for the first time in a while. We're going to Woodinville to play in the pool and visit Grammy & Caleb, so we're packing a lunch. PB&J with home made bread and Grandma's jam is something to write home about, not just another sandwich!

My body is sore from the yard work of last evening, but I'm so glad I got it done. I will leave the house today knowing that I have happy plants.

On a totally different note....a moment of silence for my iPod. :-( While we were on Orcas, Tessa inadvertently dumped an entire untouched bowl of broccoli soup into my purse. (Don't ask.) I removed all of the contents (I thought) to put the purse in the wash, but I forgot the hidden pocket that safely stowed my iPod out of harm's way. iPods do not wash well, and it was no surprise to me to find out that it is kaput. This is a major bummer to me - I use my iPod a lot.

Oh well. It could be worse....

Monday, June 30, 2008

Garden - end of June

The garden is flourishing. My garden. Flourishing! I can hardly believe it - me, who has never (successfully) grown much of anything, growing an entire garden. I revel in it! I'm not sure who is more excited about it, Tessa or myself, as my delight has the same childish qualities.

Unlike Tessa, who was playing around and then went to bed, I've spent the last two hours in the cooler evening air gardening. I've been pulling weeds, and I even wrestled a six foot long two inch thick poplar root out of the flower bed (the little poplar trees sprout up everywhere and it is so annoying). There was significant grunting and groaning while I did it, but I didn't give up, and I won the battle with that root. (Never mind that there are many many more.)

The weeds pulled, I can revel in the vegetables and flowers.

The cabbages have developed giant heads - each plant is perhaps 18 inches across with a big head in the middle. The onions feel firm when I give them a gentle tug; their greens are strong and something "big" must be going on under the soil, as they were rather delicate when planted. There are two rows of carrots, with fringy tops about 4 inches high. The pea vines have gone insane, and are in flower with pods appearing all over. The chard is tall and ready for harvest, and no matter how much lettuce we harvest it keeps regenerating and we have salads as often as we wish. (Those are from starts. My lettuce seeds are pitiful at best, tiny to miniscule. What's with that? I thought lettuce was "easy"!) There are two beets, not a whole row, but they look like they're developing well. The spinach is small but finally growing with the extra watering. And the tomatoes are as fragrant as any flower, even though they don't have fruit yet. The tomato plants are much larger than I anticipated, and quite obviously rather happy, and little yellow flowers are appearing here and there. And the strawberries - BLISS! A dozen or so a day, and we eat them straight from the vine, popping them into our mouths. The squash is growing in a couple of different places, and tonight I planted a pumpkin and an acorn squash, because I was tired of my seeds doing nothing.

The garlic looks great, and with our new heat wave (finally!) the basil is perking up significantly. One little patch of parsley has sprouted and looks promising, and some of the cosmos and other flowers are coming up, too. I can't remember what I planted where, so surprises await.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but I worked until it was dark tonight and didn't have the camera in time. I'll get pictures eventually.

I started clearing out the back raised bed of weeds, and I'm wondering if it's too late to plant potatoes....I could still do that.

The herbs are flourishing, except that the cilantro bolted. Do I cut that back and let it go again? Or do I have to start fresh? Today I planted more mint because Tessa likes to munch on it (silly girl) and the one little plant had become decimated - I put it in a pot because I didnt' want it to take over. I didn't have time to shop much so I chose an apple mint and a pineapple mint, but I think I want another "regular" mint and a chocolate mint.

We're giving away the radishes, because they are so plentiful and HUGE! They literally look like beets (they're a "purple plum radish" which is an heirloom variety). They have more than paid for themselves: $2.50 for a packet of seeds, and they keep coming and coming. I planted them in a couple of waves so I think we'll be eating radishes all summer. Anyway, we've been sharing with people because it's fun to do so. Today Tessa's friend Derek was over and we let him pull a couple, and it was so fun to see him light up at the process. I'm not usually a huge fan of radishes, but these are different. When you first bite into them they're sweet, and then the mellow sweetness gets spicy after a moment. Yum - in a salad (and our salad greens are more sweet than bitter) they're an excellent complement.

I'm a gardener. Wow! I can almost hardly wait 'til next year because I've learned so much this year that I can't wait to apply. But no, I don't want to hurry - I'm excited with every small harvest.

And on that note, the laundry that I put off today beckons, and i can't bear to leave it another day, mocking me. So I'm off to do that, then to bed. Good night.

Reusable bags

Here's a posting I just put on CoolMoms:

My favorite reusable bag

I have fallen in love with Envirosax bags, and thought I'd post about them here in case anyone else is looking for reusable bag options.

Envirosax are nylon (?) bags that fold up really small and are easy to carry in your purse. I have mine in my purse 100% of the time; if I use it, when I get home, it goes straight back into my purse. This is a key thing: my other bags often get forgotten in my car so they're not with me when I need them most! Additionally, I had been finding that I was in good habit for bringing bags to the grocery store, but what about the pharmacy? Target? the hardware store? Funky Jane's? In those cases, I was accepting their bags, because I wasn't willing to carry around my clunky grocery store bags everywhere or get a purse the size of Texas to put things in.

Envirosax work because of their folding size (small) and their volume (large). They're really strong, and I've been using mine for about a month and it doesn't show any wear and tear. I can stuff a ton of stuff in one.

They come in cool colors and patterns, and they have wide straps so that you can carry them over your shoulder without them cutting into your body because of the weight of the contents.

They are starting to be widely available - in West Seattle I've seen them at PCC ($10 each and a wide variety of colors/patterns to choose from), Edie's ($12 or $12.50 each), and Wild Rose Antiques ($12 or $12.50 each). Pharmaca advertised them but they haven't been able to get them in stock yet, but in their opening flier they said they'd sell them for $7.50 each or 5 for $35, if I recall correctly (not sure if they'll honor that special because their grand opening is over; I keep checking to see if they have more but not yet). Capers was carrying them (that's where I got mine) but a lady who works there said they're no longer carrying them because so many other stores have picked them up and they like to carry unique items.

I like them so much I gave them for teacher gifts at the end of the year, and I've been buying them for my girlfriends, too.

As a result of carrying a bag with me 100% of the time, only two plastic bags have entered my house in the past two months.....and I have no idea how many bags entered my house previously, but two a DAY would be more typical. Finding a bag that works for me (and is cute to boot!) was a part of this success, so I'm sharing.

I still have my half dozen Trader Joe's bags for grocery shopping, but I use my Envirosax for all other shopping.

And no, I'm not affilliated with Envirosax in any way, size, shape or form. I'm just a fan!

Are you wondering why I care about carrying a bag with me? The short version is that one-time-use bags use up precious resources, add to landfills, and put toxins into the environment during their production. Many cities globally are moving to ban plastic bags or to tax plastic bags to discourage people from using them, and I support such a ban. (I'll be attending a public meeting in Seattle on July 8 - want to come? Mayor Nickels is proposing a 20 cent tax on plastic bags, and I support that. San Francisco, Ireland, and China have all done similar things.) Plastic is particularly toxic to the environment, but paper uses resources, too.

Check out these links:

There are THOUSANDS of articles out there, this is just a sampling.

Articles about the banning/taxing of plastic bags:

Articles about the environmental impact of plastic bags:

New York Times articles on the subject of plastic bags: