Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Greener New Year 2010!

First Toast
Originally uploaded by rsvpentertainment

New Year’s I always have good intentions. I plan for a good fresh start, to do better, follow through… and accomplish tasks that I just did not get around to yet.

This year, I decided to look back on the previous year as a gauge. What might I realistically expect of myself in 2010? It is amazing to think about how I do things differently than I did just one year ago.

One year ago, I threw out about 50 laundry detergent and softener bottles a year. Now there is a quarterly ritual of making homemade laundry soap and softener reusing the same plastic bottles repeatedly.

One year ago, I bought a large package of paper plates about 3 to 4 times a year. I bought one small package this year. Most of them are still in the cupboard.

I stopped buying/using plastic utensils and straws. I don’t even want them anymore, it is easy enough to pack what I need and bring them back home to wash. No big deal, really!

When shopping, I opt for foods and drinks packaged in glass jars, most are cleaned and re-used for food storage.

Packing my own lunch & drinks is not the trouble I once thought. While running errands, I no longer need the bags of wrappers and waste that I thought nothing of accumulating and “throwing away”. Now I eat healthier than the days of past when I thought the fast food drive-up was the only way to go.

Cloth bags over plastic – and I now remember to take them into the store! At first, it was hard to remember. This act alone must save about 500 bags a year, or more!

I have started avoiding wrapping paper. Finding new ways to re-use boxes and recycle items whenever possible is now my current routine.

Listing the strides I have made in 2009 creates a spiral thought process that is sure to magnify my efforts in 2010. I’ve been thinking about how everyone in the world gets to live on this planet rent-free. Paying more attention to what we take and use and what we leave behind makes a lot of sense. No resolution needed, the process to reduce my carbon footprint is now embedded into my behavior.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy New Year - Times Square - New Years Eve

Waiting for the New Year..... what might it bring? This year is the marker of a whole new decade! Seems to be a serious turning point! 2010 - wow!

It doesn't seem like it was 10 years ago that everyone was worried about all of the computers shutting down and a possible end to the world! The magic moment came and went sort of anti-climatic after all of the commotion and predictions.

Even still, New Years is a fresh start of sorts... 2009 turning into 2010 deserves some kind of attention, anticipation, a marker of the ages. It will be here soon....

Friday, December 18, 2009

Watch: Eco-gift wrap in a pinch | MNN - Mother Nature Network

Watch: Eco-gift wrap in a pinch | MNN - Mother Nature Network

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Second Chances

Everyday is full of second chances.  Not always are they noticed.  Some are tiny little opportunities to start afresh, or just to look at the same old thing in a new way.  It might be as ordinary as the reorganizing the contents in a drawer.  Not always are second chance opportunities the grand “new lease on life” type, but sometimes they can be. These “chances” can materialize from the most random of circumstances seemingly to plop out of nowhere, often unexpected.

The news that my 82-year-old father would have to face open-heart surgery spurred a series of emotions I was somewhat unprepared for.  Facing many fears of the outcome, I just reacted differently to, well - everything!  I bought a shiny new bicycle, something I had contemplated doing, but now there was an urgency to not wait. 

Something about the sound of the wind in my ears as I rode around the neighborhood totally took me back in time.  I was a young girl again - and a bicycle was my taste of freedom!  It may have been an act of denial that my parents will be here forever, or because this was my own chance to get/stay in shape. Maybe I felt my own mortality slapping me in the face – whatever… it just felt right to pedal around, all out of breath!

I was present for the first surgeon’s consult. Clearly, I had heard what the Surgeon was saying; even some of what others in the room apparently did not take in.  I understood the different consequences that our family might be faced with.  However, there was no other choice than to go forward… and forward my Dad did!  His example was inspiring; he took his fate in stride and forged ahead.  He went through the motions with such bravery…

The surgery was delayed for many anxious hours and his waking took longer than we thought….

My Father finally opened his eyes, still hooked up to life support but was immediately responsive.  He recognized my Sister who had stayed the night so that she could be there when he awoke.  Our best hopes were taking shape but he became agitated and wanted to communicate so the nurse brought him paper and pen.  His aortic valve had just been replaced with that of a cow, he wrote “ M-O-O”.  

From that point on my Dad was the favorite patient and the Cardiac Ward “poster boy”.  Sense of humor intact he faced the challenges of recovery a step at a time with steady motivation and a shear will to live, showing us all that it is never too late!

Thanksgiving is here and I am ever so thankful… I am thankful to God; there are some “gifts” that I will never take for granted.  And thank you to my whole family and the medical staff; you were all wonderful – really!  Thank you Dad, I love riding my bike and my new outlook on Life… In addition, thank you to a special cow… who gave my Dad a second chance.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Processing Pumpkins

Happy October the Season of Pumpkins!  I am amazed at how many people buy pumpkins to carve for Jack-o-lanterns and then throw them away!  Raised on the practice of an annual pumpkin processing day for the Thanksgiving pies, it is a custom that I continue to this day.  I do not mind treats made from canned pumpkin, it is just a different taste.  Once you learn to cook and bake with fresh pumpkin, you will see just how easy it is – and how much better it tastes!

I tried something different this year; researching Latte recipes inspired me to make my own Pumpkin Spiced Simple Syrup.  This syrup, used for the famous Pumpkin Lattes is also very yummy on ice-cream, waffles and even in my oatmeal.  My motive for this recipe? - to use the freshest ingredients.

The cutting of the first pumpkin of the season deserves some ceremony.  It marks the beginning of a new season.  The shift in weather invites the steamy boiling and baking and the accompanied wonderful smells drifting through out the house from the kitchen.  I like to set aside a Saturday morning to start this project.

First, I open the pumpkin, cutting it in half.  Then a large spoon is useful for scooping out the insides.  The seeds I plop into a colander for rinsing and cleaning off the “guts” of the pumpkin.  Thin slices of about one third of this pumpkin are set aside for my syrup, the rest I will cut into thick slices for baking – the pulp later used for other recipes.

Gathering spices for my recipe, I thinly slice fresh ginger root into about four slices and shave off small pieces of a whole nutmeg.  Six whole cloves and four large cinnamon sticks complete the spice choices while adding a couple of pieces of whole vanilla bean to the assortment of ingredients.

I assemble 3 cups of sugar (stored in a mason jar with whole vanilla beans for one month), 21/2 cups of water, the pumpkin slices and the spices into a big heavy saucepan and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes.

While the syrup is boiling, I rinse the pumpkin seeds and I add about 2 cups of water and 1/3 cup of sea-salt in a small saucepan to the clean seeds.  This mixture needs to boil and then simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes.  The larger pumpkin pieces I place side down in a shallow Pyrex baking pan to bake for about an hour at 325 degrees.  This pumpkin I will scoop out of the shell when cooled and loosely pack into mason jars for freezing.
The syrup bubbles through the simmer time and it takes a long time for it to cool before straining the liquid into bottles.  Once cooled, I remove the slices of pumpkin and ginger and place them on a shallow baking pan.  The syrup will keep about 1 month in the refrigerator.  The sugary slices dry in an oven at 175 degrees for about 3 to 4 hours and the result will be "candied" pumpkin and ginger slices to use as garnish or just to eat as a sweet treat.

The pumpkin seeds are done simmering and I drain the saltwater off and pour the seeds into a shallow baking pan, scattering them into a single layer.  They will slow roast in a 200-degree oven for about 21/2 hours.

At the end of my day, I have processed my pumpkins 4 ways.  I am ready for Fall!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Making Pickles

The dog days of August… the days are shorter now with the intense afternoon heat cooling slightly earlier in the evening.  The smell of rotting fruit drifts through the air in Rural Town America as the last of the peaches are trucked away.  The backyard herb garden is ready for another harvesting and the drying the fragrant leaves takes place before winter’s approach.  There are cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes everywhere with neighbors sharing their abundant garden produce and Farmer’s Markets lowering their prices.
I have never made pickles!  I am in my 50s now and it is time to overcome my canning fears and learn this seasonal skill.  I’ve got all the right stuff, cucumbers and bell peppers from my friends garden, canning jars, very big pots, special spices, onions,  and oh…. this is important, my friend, Muriel to teach me the method (and share her very yummy recipe).
First, we sliced the cucumbers, onions and peppers.  We then placed the sliced cucs in a large bowl and tossed them with salt letting them just sit and hang out for about 10 minutes.
Before rinsing the salt from the cucumber slices, we used this time to prepare the pickling sauce:
Muriel’s awesome recipe for “Bread & Butter Pickles”
2 cups Water
2 cups white distilled Vinegar
2 cups Sugar
2 Cinnamon sticks (broken, we used a meat hammer)
2t. Celery seed
2t. Dry Mustard
1T. Salt
We doubled this recipe and it made a perfect 9 quarts of pickles!
We got the sauce cooking in a big pot while our Mason Jars were going through the dishwasher to sterilize. 
Once the sauce came to a boil we rinsed the salt off the cucumber slices and added them and the evenly sliced onions and peppers to the sauce, stirring and turning to get them processed evenly.  They cooked for about 5 minutes just until they looked glossy.
The huge pot that fit the quart size mason jars was boiling at this point, just in time for the next part of the process, the canning.
We spooned the pickles and the sauce from the cooking pot into the sterile jars.  The jars got hot so we had to use dishtowels and potholders. It is very important to keep the rims of the jars from any matter getting on them so the lids will seal properly.  We had to use a paper towel to wipe some of the rims after spooning in the pickles.

Once the jars were closed, we lowered them into the big pot of boiling water and poured more water from a teakettle to make sure the water came over the tops of the jars.  Once there was a full boil with all of the jars completely submerged, we put the lid on and set the timer for 10 full minutes.

Lifting the jars out of the boiling water once the time was up required a special toll like big tongs with big handles.  We set the jars on a wicker tray to cool – sure enough, one by one the lids showed the indentation that shows that they sealed properly.  Muriel reminded me to date the jars before putting them into the pantry.
Finally, I know how to can!  I am going to make some Apple-Pear Sauce this Fall!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mission Control - Plastiki

July blue skies dominated the sky as the fog bank emerged, hugging the coastline before showing the silhouette of skyscrapers that make up my very favorite city, San Francisco. My husband at the wheel, we made our way over the Bay Bridge, escaping the intense Central Valley heat. Our destination; Pier 45, Mission Control – Plastiki!

The story of the Plastiki and the mission of it’s voyage scheduled for 2009, was a story I had been following since early March. The idea of a vessel built out of recycled plastic, that would sail through the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” to bring awareness to our planet’s plastic waste problems got my attention.

The large warehouse type window adjacent to the small front door entrance was fully covered from the inside with 2-liter plastic bottles. The bottle “curtain” did an interesting job of diffusing the July midday sunlight. Kevin Williams and Martin (Marty) Metz were sitting behind the desk when we arrived. As I looked around the room that appeared strangely spacious and somewhat empty, I noticed that the many HP flat screens stationed around the room contrasted with the rugged displays on old wooden tables. Posters mounted about the room declared the inspiration for this mission of the Plastiki, a voyage on a vessel made from plastic 2-liter bottles.

Kevin answered some of my questions about the voyage tentatively planned for October. He explained that the “sea trials” are currently targeted for September and a lot depends on how the Plasitiki performs during those exercises. He showed me on one of the several flat-screens mounted throughout the room how the new 3-D website was partially functional and they are hoping to have full capacity on that website by July 15.

I had read that the 6 member crew intends to grow some of their food during the 4 month voyage so I asked about what types would be grown and Kevin replied “kale and possibly other types of vegetables”.

He explained that fruit would be restocked during the island stops that are scheduled before voyaging through the “Great Pacific Gyre”, also known as “Garbage Patch.” The final destination will be Sydney, Australia.

I wondered about the time of the actual voyage and how long it will take the six-member crew to sail through the “plastic soup” areas… Kevin answered that a few days estimation for the actual sampling of the waters in the region. Reports declare that this “Pacific Garbage Patch” is twice the state of Texas and full documentation will be a concentrated effort during this leg of the journey.

Land control in San Francisco will consist of probably about 3 people, Kevin being one of them. A possible second land control in Sydney, Australia (Plastiki’s final destination) is still to be organized. He explained that the site where the actual construction on the Plastiki takes place is not open for tours. I walked around the room taking in the displays. Mission Control is in the process of opening their doors to school field trips. “David de Rothschild is very much about education,” stated Kevin as he explained that school districts have been contacted by

Intrigued by the bulletin board and table with crayons and construction paper, it was interesting to read sentiments of past visitors. Mission Control opened its doors only one week ago so there are sure to be more “messages” to our Earth posted for viewing in the days to come.

Some call it a “message in a bottle.”

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Prioritizing the Day

The Central Valley is finally heating up after and unusually long Spring of cool breezes and occasional rains. The usual scorching heat-waves of past are sure to make their way into these summer months but I am hoping that the "waves" only last a day or two at a time and that we will skate by without the typical weeks of 100+ degree temps.

Windows open and freedom to glide in and out of the house without the bother of planning each activity around *the heat of the day* is a luxury and after 22 years in this climate I will take whatever relief comes my way! The mountains and coastline are only 2 hours away, so a planned escape will be in order if our summer days start to sizzle once again.

Meantime, got to get ready for spending every minute that I can outdoors. It is the secret to a long life. And if not a long life, then I will take quality over quantity! 6AM orchard walks are now in order and the inside work is saved for the 1 to 6 o’clock time of day that may not be as pleasant as the sun belts out its greatest intensity. Water "early and late" keeps the garden from drying up, a lot of folks forget that California really is a desert!... And schedule in time to relax and enjoy the long days and watch the birds in the trees…

Now this is living!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009


Mothers are what makes the world go round - or at the very least, Mothers are what keeps the world going….


Mothers nurture… they love us no matter what.

They KNOW what is good instinctively, constantly helping circumstances along, trying to keep peace…

Mothers are devoted to their cause…

Mothers exercise their passions from the heart!


This Mothers Day, it is time to recognize Mothers that nurture in the not-so-traditional sense… Happy Mothers Day to those “Mothers” that do not always get the recognition they deserve for the above-mentioned qualities…


The Mother that has adopted her children… and knows that they are her “real” children…


The Mother that “raises” her step-children doing her best to get along with the past life of her Beloved and making a future for continued generations.


The Foster Mother dedicated to helping children through some of life’s most complicated situations.


The Mother that made a heart-wrenching decision to give her baby to an adoptive family that will give her child a home with advantages and stability…


The “Mother” that  endlessly has a soft place in her heart and nutures the animals…. pets, wildlife, even flocks of sheep!


The Mother that does not get to see her children… yet, does not stop loving them…


The mother that could not have children of her own, but found other ways to nurture…


Beth Terry ( used her own situation to “give birth” to ideas that nurture… her friends call her “Mother of the Earth” in spite of her status of not having children.  She has asked Oprah to help her cause…. See her story here.

Happy Mothers Day!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Slow Food: the new Fast Food

Everyday conversation points to the changes occurring due to the recent economic downturn and it seems there is a collective shift in how we think is the result. Budgets, travel plans, careers and even the choices we make in the food we eat are affected. Consideration for different ways of going about daily life are implemented and discussed as the sharing of information spurs even more thought. We all had such prevalent habits before, routines that just became ordinary actions, given little thought.

Slow Food was a term little known during the months and years behind us. Sustainable living not much thought about… and buying local hardly practiced. New ideas are starting to make some sense while our quest to save money and fight disease become more important. It is alarming to note the increasing number of food poisoning incidences and the current news about tainted foods becoming more common. The ultimate control is to grow and prepare our own food. The old habits of fast food for every meal are clearly changing. Are we finally slowing down and thinking more about the effects of our choices?

What could be “faster food” than picking an orange off the tree before rushing out the door? Or grabbing a handful of nuts from a jar, or grabbing a banana out of the fruit bowl? The time it takes to cut some celery or carrots is hardly cause for a major delay and yet it has taken such monumentous circumstances to reevaluate just how we should nourish ourselves. Minds are opening and new ways of going about the ordinary aspects of a given day promise a return to what is wholesome and good.

I am encouraged to notice that taking time for the growing and preparing of food has become the new trend. Victory Gardens flourish and the Farmer’s Markets are buzzing with sales. Slow Food is becoming the new Fast Food!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Worth The Wait

Pink buds and blossoms line the path on either side of me as I stroll through our local orchards for some daily exercise. July will bring an abundance of juicy peaches from these tiny pink blooms. Our area produces some of the best peaches in the world and much tastier than the hard small replicas that are presently being offered in our supermarkets. The “real” ones are worth waiting for.

Cherries are my favorite, possibly due to the very short growing season curbing the duration of their availability. My Dad said you could not pick a Cherry off the tree until June 3rd! Those were the days when the Santa Clara Valley was chock full of orchards, growing cherries, plums and apricots. He grew a vegetable garden in our urban backyard and taught us the anticipation of waiting for each specimen to properly ripen before we could harvest or even taste.

Anticipation builds as I have learned to wait for the Bing Cherries even though they are a later crop. A fully ripened Bing will grace my lips first in a given year. The earlier varieties have their merits but my Bing Cherry ritual of waiting it out has rewards beyond compare.

Slowly the kinks work out of my body as I walk on and my thoughts drift to the time my Sis-in-law visited from Iowa. Off we went to the corner grocery store for munchies and she loaded my cart with six avocados that were $2.99 a piece! (That was when avocados were .50 cents when in season). I choked at the bill and every nerve in my body went off to think that we could not just make do with salsa under the circumstances. This incident was an eye opener to realize that the whole population did not understand the concept of waiting until the local harvest brought the abundance of fresh food. To know that some folks do not even consider the cost and waste of energy that occurs with each shipment of fresh produce.

Waiting – for food to ripen, for funds to be saved for a purchase, for the right job… It seems the lessons at hand have to do with learning patience… and to wait for what is best.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Generational Apology

To My Children,

I owe you an apology! Neglectfully, it was I (*my generation, collectively) that did not pass on to you (*your generation collectively) what was shown to me by my own parents (*their generation) about the concept of VALUE. My belief that “it is never too late” has spurred me to communicate something I* should have communicated to you* a long time ago.

*Value* is what got lost during our* quest to provide for you. We* wanted you* to have everything. We* bought more, worked harder and got more. Overwhelmed, we* looked around at the mounds of “stuff” that accumulated. There was no time to deal with it all. The solution (or so we thought) was to throw away old and buy new. Repairs would require time, time we just could not spare as we climbed the income ladder. Manufacturers complied with our new habits and the quality of items decreased as we filled our garbage bins!

There were two concepts that my parents* practiced while I was growing up and they fell by the wayside when I* raised you*.
#1. Avoiding senseless waste.
#2. Avoiding unwise spending.
Senseless waste + unwise spending = what you see now, a littered Earth during a crumbling economy.

The current times show waste piling up all around us, littering landscapes and filling waterways with toxic material. A new awareness of care for our planet is now mandatory. New ideas of reducing accumulation of senseless waste mandate the changing of our old ways.

Our current economic situation stems from senseless spending. Spending more or spending less will not spur the recovery of our failing budgets. How we spend and when we spend will be the determining factors that will help to redirect the current financial downturn.

You see, *VALUE* is the key… it’s about placing importance on what is important. Now is the time to look around and be aware…everything that is happening now will generate a debt. A bill that you* will have to manage when I* am long gone.

You* are now on the brink of a pivotal era and along with the huge debt left to you will also come some of the biggest investment opportunities that may be seen for decades to come. At the same time, there will be new ideas about how to preserve land, food, and water for your children’s children. Be ready! This could be your biggest break of a lifetime!

… And then you will be the Teachers* …and pass on what you* learned about *VALUE*

Monday, January 5, 2009

Glass Drinking Straws

Prevent BPA leaching into beverages and save our planet from plastic waste. The Founder of Glassdharma is committed to saving the planet... one straw at a time!

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My 2009 Kitchen

Endless kitchen chores continue seamlessly as 2008 turns over the New Year. The kitchen does not recognize this marker in time as the ever-evolving process of what goes on keeps up the constant rhythm of cooking, eating, clearing and cleaning. Stepping back to view the routine has brought an observation that this kitchen has slowly gone through changes. This is definitely is not the same kitchen that we gathered in at the beginning of 2008.

Gradually, eco-friendly choices replace many of the former items in this room. Gone are the stacks of paper plates and Tupperware canisters. Glass, Stainless Steel and Bamboo have made their way into this sacred hubbub of our home. My efforts to reduce plastic use, especially for food and drink preparation, have spurred a very creative thought process. I even had to rethink my coffee maker realizing that I used to start each day with a hot drink, heated in a plastic vessel. Not sure about just how much BPA leaches into our foods through plastic, I have read just enough about phlatates and BPA to not want to ingest the stuff!

Mason jars are my friend. They display pastas and cereals within my pantry doors. Glasses and ceramic cups are plentiful and wooden spoons of all sizes and shapes have made their way into the drawers replacing the different colored plastic utensils once found there. Glass drinking straws catch sunlight as they sit on the windowsill in glass vessels waiting for use by whoever stops in for a drink of iced tea, or a homemade smoothie.

Plastic-ware long gone and efforts to reduce have brought a finer way of living into our home. A sense of style that considers purpose to how we live and what we leave behind reigns here… I am now very satisfied with the function of my 2009 Kitchen!