This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Planning a "greener" yard next spring

Believe it or not now is the perfect time to begin planning for a more earth friendly yard next spring.  Have you ever heard of xeriscaping?  Xeriscaping is landscaping in a way that reduces your dependance upon watering.  While the use of native and drought tolerant plants is nothing new, the idea of planning my yard to make the most of those plants, while still attracting butterflies and bees, was a foreign concept to me.  I thought landscaping occurred by looking at what was already in my yard, adding some stuff to it that looked good, trying not to have too many planting beds so I didn't have to mulch a lot, and calling it a day.

I didn't know I was supposed to plan.

Well now I do and here are some tips I've learned:

1.  No matter where you live many drought-resistant plants have some characteristics in common: they have leaves which are small, thick, glossy, silver gray or fuzzy.  Look for these plants at your local nursery and be sure to ask the nursery attendant for more drought resistant plants.

Creeping phlox is perennial, gorgeous, and drought resistant

2.  Use native plants.  Trying to keep a tropical plant alive in my northeastern climate would require not only a tremendous amount of work, but also a tremendous amount of water.  Forget the exotic palm trees, I'm sticking with silver dogwoods which are, you guessed it, native to the northeast.

3.  Mulch.  Me and my black thumb thought that mulch was just to make the dirt look good for the neighbors.  I didn't realize how important mulch is to retaining soil moisture, insulating plants' roots, and regulating soil temperature.  Mulch layers should be several inches thick.  Beware: colored mulch is dyed mulch so many of the benefits of the mulch are reduced by the negatives of the dye.

4.  Weed your landscape beds.  Having a lot of weeds competing for water may pull water away from your landscape plants causing you to have to water more often.

5.  Use perennials when possible.  Perennials tend to be more drought resistant by their very nature.  Use annuals sparingly because in addition to requiring more water they frequently are not as hearty and require more fertilizer, pesticides, or plant food.

6.  Consider some hardscape:  landscape walls, rocks, gravel, benches, etc., can all be beautiful additions to your planting beds and require no water at all.  I'm not saying you should fill your lawn with garden gnomes (though you'll never hear me besmirch the gnome!), just a few well chosen implements can replace plants quite nicely.

The differing sizes of rocks and mulch fill in this area nicely

If you're lucky enough to have an irrigation system it's a great idea to install a moisture-sensitive monitor so the sprinklers only run when necessary.  If you're lucky enough to have a gardener then thank your lucky stars, give him or her a refreshing glass of lemonade, and go relax.  If you're me then you'll be out there this fall digging up the poorly-placed-too-big-for-the-bed-and-in-the-wrong-place-for-sun-requirements plants and finding new homes for them.

Now go play in the dirt!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The All American Past Time

Picture courtesy of Steve's iPhone

Well, I did it.  It took me 40 years to watch the Red Sox play live at Fenway Park, but yesterday I did it.  I'm not sure I would have put this particular item on my Bucket List had I not moved to Massachusetts, but move I did, and everyone and I mean everyone here knows that you can't really call yourself a New Englander if you haven't been to Fenway.

I didn't grow up attending baseball games.  I wasn't a fan.  When we lived in Cincinnati Steve introduced me to baseball by getting us tickets a few times each year to watch  the Reds.  I didn't fall in love with baseball per se, but I fell in love with attending games.  A TV, no matter how large, cannot convey the energy, the excitement, the sheer camaraderie of being there, with the crowd, singing the silly songs, doing the 7th inning stretch, and cheering and jeering the calls of the umpire.  It's quite magical.

So after a few years of attending Reds' games we moved to Toledo, Ohio.  There I learned what it was like to attend minor league games when we went to watch the Toledo Mud Hens play.  The Mud Hens' stadium is small, the price per ticket is pretty cheap, and the there's not a bad seat in the house.  I liked it.  There wasn't quite the same energy as there had been in Cincinnati, but it was still fun.

Nothing I had experienced before quite prepared me for Fenway.  At Fenway the excitement starts about 3 blocks away from the stadium where the crowds start to gather in pubs and restaurants.  They spill out the doors onto the streets wearing Boston Red Sox caps, shirts, jackets, pants, even carrying purses and backpacks with the Red Sox logo.  As you get closer to the stadium the street vendors increase along with the crowds.  It's impossible to walk without bumping into someone, dodging a ticket scalper, or being blasted by the cries of "Game Programs!  $2 outside the park, $5 inside!  Get your programs!"  The bagpipes begin to play, security works overtime to search bags and get everybody inside, and the smell of hot dogs permeates the air.

Inside Fenway is a tribute to the old meeting the new.  Fenway Park, America's oldest ballpark, is 98 years old.  Old photos and pennants share space with new ads for Comcast Xfinity and Microsoft.  Fenway Franks, Fenway Park's official hot dogs, are sold everywhere and in mass quantities.  Dunkin' Donuts brews gallons of coffee and the beer vendors just keep 'em coming.  The seats are small and the aisles are narrow.  The stadium vendors walk up and down, up and down calling "Hot dogs, get your hot dogs!" and "Peanuts!  Salted Peanuts!"  The cotton candy, popcorn, pizza, and ice cream vendors all add their cries creating a cacophony of sounds, a heady aroma, and a dazzling display of balance and strength as they navigate the steep, crowded stairs.

If you haven't ever attended a major league sporting event, I highly recommend that you do, just once, for the experience.  40,000 people all cheering at the same time, working together to do the 'the wave', singing 'Take me out to the ballpark' during the 7th inning stretch, and clapping whenever a kid catches a foul ball is an invigorating experience. 

It's a great way to spend a day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

She was the picture of class...

This is not the example I wish to set for my daughter

In my entire adult life I have only been in two fights that weren't with Steve.  (Fights with Steve don't count because after 19 years of marriage, numerous home improvement projects, and 8 moves tensions can run a little high...)  I am a huge confrontation wimp.  I will concede the point, back down, wimp out, tell a lie, or feign stupidity to avoid confrontation.  The only exception would be if the necessary confrontation involved defending my daughter but luckily that situation has not yet arisen.  I say all of this to paint a picture of a person who does not like to be at odds with the rest of the human population.

The first fight was 5 years ago.  It actually took place on a Catholic school playground, which makes it all the more pathetic.  I was co-leading a Girl Scout troop and was accused by the mother of a girl on another troop, let's call her Mad Mom,  of placing the "rich" girls on my troop and leaving the "poor" girls for her troop.  Since I was brand new to the area, had no friends, had no idea where most of these girls lived, what their parents made, or even who their parents were, I felt the accusation was a little unfair.  Side note: I actually was seeking out Mad Mom because I had heard she was upset with me.  I didn't know who she was so I had to ask another parent on the playground if he knew her.  Just my luck the parent I asked was Mad Mom's husband!)  It got a little heated with Mad Mom calling me a snobby b*****.  Our kids are playing just a few feet away and Mad Mom is calling me names!   The sun beat down, sweat beaded on her forehead and pooled in her impressive cleavage.  She glared down at me from her 6 inch height advantage and moved toward me to intimidate.  Her face was red with anger and her words were harsh and bitter.  Mad Mom said that she knew my "type" and that I disgusted her that I would use kids to play my snobby games.  She said "don't worry, I know what you are and I'll make sure everyone else does too."  She practically spit in my face.

She was the picture of class.

The second fight was 3 days ago.  I was at the local warehouse club waiting in line at the U Scan.  Side note: our warehouse club has discovered that if they open only one staffed checkout and then provide 5 U Scans they can herd us all to checkout our own purchases.  On this particular day  four of the U Scans all had the added benefit of their "HELP" lights blinking, something which the warehouse employees were working diligently to ignore.  No surprise here, I was in line at the one working U Scan.  I was next in line.  The woman currently checking out, let's call her Rude Woman, was talking on her cell phone while she unloaded her cart.  Side note: Rude Woman was talking on her cell phone very loudly.  She was speaking Spanish.  I have noticed that when people talk on their cell phones and don't speak English there seems to be no attempt to moderate their voices as they believe that the people around them can't understand what they are saying.  Why is it that we need to hear your conversation, whether we can understand it or not?  I don't mind the public phone use but could you practice a little volume control???  Anyway, as you can imagine, holding a cell phone in one hand and unloading your cart/checking out your purchases with the other is a slow process.  I waited.  The line behind me grew.  I waited.  One of the other U Scans actually received some employee assistance and the HELP light went out.  Some people bailed out of my line.  Others came to replace them.  We waited.  Finally the woman is done checking out.  She has all her purchases at the end of the conveyor and is reloading her cart (one handed, of course).  I step up to the U Scan.  I scan my membership card.  I scan 5 of my 7 items.  It is at this point that Rude Woman has finally finished her conversation.  She looks up.  She notices that I have begun checking out my items.  I have my daughter standing toward the end of the conveyor belt to keep our purchases from getting mixed up with Rude Woman's.  Rude Woman looks at me and says "Um, you're going to wait til I'm finished!"  I looked at the 2 remaining items in my cart.  I looked at the long line of people behind me.  I surprised myself by saying "No.  I'm not."  Rude Woman's eyes got wide.  And she lost her mind.  She began yelling at me.  She was dropping F bombs with a liberal scattering of the B word.  Her overblown lips were parted and her black lined, overly mascara-ed eyes were squinched nearly shut.  She was breathing in gasps.  She.  Was.  Mad.  Well, I was mad too.  I mean she is saying these things in front of my daughter!  I told my daughter to switch places with me (I had checked out the last 2 items while Rude Woman ranted) and to pay while I reloaded the cart.  As soon as I stepped toward her Rude Woman backed away, still spewing expletives like some demented fountain.  I loaded my cart and by the time I looked up again Rude Woman was gone in a cloud of cheap perfume, her spike heels clacking, sheer tunic over black bra swaying while her gold metallic leggings gleamed in the fluorescent lighting.

She was the picture of class.

In neither instance did I fight back.  I simply listened to what was said.  Replied that I was sorry they felt that way.  And walked away.  (Well at the warehouse club I turned away).  I didn't raise my voice.  I didn't lower my standards.  I didn't back down.  I didn't escalate the situation.  No matter the conflict, the reason, who is right or who is wrong.  It is always important to me to be:

The picture of class.  (Plus both women scared the heck out of me and would have beat me to a pulp).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Being Green While You Sleep

Image from

Today the Gaiam sale catalog arrived in the mail.  Now y'all know how inspired I get from my catalogs and Gaiam is my Green inspiration that's for sure.  Looking at the gorgeous organic sheet sets (on sale!) has inspired me to make quality, organic bedding a priority.

Sleeping is meant to be a time for healing, rejuvenation, renewal, and rest.  None of those things feel compatible with inhaling toxins, absorbing chemicals, irritating the immune system, or creating allergies but that's exactly what can happen night after night if we sleep is poorly ventilated rooms with chemical-filled bedding.

Imagine if you will a more peaceful scenario: you climb into bed, a bed softened with 250-thread-count organic cotton percale sheets.  Your skin is not going to absorb any dyes or chemicals from the sheets because none were used.  Your window and your door are both open, just slightly, for proper ventilation.  Your mattress is softened and protected  by a pure wool mattress topper or pad.  Your pajamas, if you choose to wear them, are loose, cotton, and chemical free.  Aren't you feeling more relaxed already?

Wool mattress topper from

My bedroom is not all organic.  My bed is wood and veneers with plenty of glue, varnish, and other toxins I'm sure.  My blankets aren't organic cotton.  My mattress happens to be organic cotton only because we had to buy a new one last year and it wasn't any more expensive than a regular kind.  I don't have the money to replace all my furniture and bedding with chemical-free options and frankly, I'm not sure I need to.  As long as my room is ventilated throughout the day and while I sleep the toxins leaching from my bed don't have a chance to build up and I don't actually touch my bedframe while sleeping.  The only thing touching my skin at night are my pajamas and my sheets (and Steve against whom a pretty good arguement could be made that with all those pizza rolls in his system he is also a source of toxins, but I digress) and since I really need to buy some new sheets anyway, why not make them organic?

It was my Gaiam catalog with any size sheets set on sale for $39.99 ( that inspired me, but I've also noticed places like Target, WalMart, Lands End, LLBean, and Pottery Barn carrying organic sheet sets.  My goal is to replace my sheets with an organic option, wash them in eco-friendly detergent, and perhaps, over time, invest in some organic cotton T-shirts and boxers for sleeping. 

A restful night.  Giving my body the opportunity to rejuvenate.  Less pesticides being used on our planet.  Less dyes and chemicals being put into our drinking water, soil, and bodies.  One small step that if we all take together adds up to one big step.

Now go get a good night's sleep.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What would you do if you weren't afraid to do it?

What would you do if you weren't afraid to do it?  Would you publish a book?  Open a restaurant?  Produce a movie?  Cure a disease?  Invent something?  Did you ever set a goal that seemed like maybe you were reaching a little too high but you couldn't help yourself, you decided to reach anyway?

I did.  I do.  And I did it.  I reached.

I'd like to invite you to come along with me as I embark on my next adventure that combines 2 of my passions: reading books and talking with friends.  I'd like to invite you to listen to my podcast.

That's right, podcast.  Debbie and I have a podcast.  If you are a podcast virgin let me give you a little more information: podcasts are audio or video blogs.  Debbie and I decided to create an audio podcast where we will review books, blogs, authors, basically anything written down.  Our inaugral podcast is now live and can be found on our blog or downloaded from iTunes.  Just type deb and beth in the search bar.

In our first podcast we review the Stephanie Plum series written by Janet Evanovich.  For our next podcast we're planning to discuss the combined works from author Stacey Ballis.  Our style is casual, the audio mix a bit amateur, the intro music probably a little dated, yet I am so proud of the overall product that I am just about bursting.  I'd love to have you listen along.  Download the podcast (it's free) and even better subscribe so you get our regular updates.

And while you're listening to us, think about your dream.  And then reach.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Let's Talk about Toothbrushes

Oops, it looks like Green Tip Tuesday is once again being held on a Wednesday.  Sorry!  My last days of summer are kind of running together a bit.  Anyway, let's talk about toothbrushes!  If you're listening to your dentist you are throwing away your old toothbrush every six months or anytime you get sick.  That could add up to a lot of waste.   Luckily, there are some greener solutions.

Powered toothbrushes only replace the toothbrush head

The first solution is to use a rechargeable powered toothbrush.  These kinds of toothbrushes have a base that can be used for years with only the toothbrush head needing to be replaced.  I use an Oral B rechargeable and absolutely love it.  My teeth feel cleaner, I know I am brushing long enough because it has a self timer that tells me when 2 minutes is up, and because I am actually brushing for 2 minutes (instead of what feels like 2 minutes!) I am more apt to do a complete job.  You do have to be careful not to press too hard on your gums or you can cause sensitivity and pain.  The toothbrush head that gets replaced still generates waste, it simply generates less waste because of its size and the fact that a complete toothbrush doesn't have to be manufactured.  Of course my toothbrush base does get plugged into the wall so there is still a carbon footprint.  Also, it can be very hard to find eco-friendly replacement heads that fit the toothbrush.

These wooden toothbrushes are natural but not made from sustainable wood sources

Recycled yogurt containers make up these toothbrushes

Another solution is to buy a toothbrush made from recycled material.  There is an eco-friendly toothbrush manufactured by Recycline, Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts.  The toothbrush base is made from recycled yogurt containers that are supplied by Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt.  It's a great option for manual toothbrush users because you are already re-using what has been re-cycled and re-purposed. carries a line of eco-friendly toothbrushes that are BPA free and phthalate free.  There is only one problem that I have with these toothbrushes: price. 

As you well know from my organic butter ($4.99/lb) I definitely pay a premium for what I consider to be superior products.  HOWEVER, at roughly $7.99 per toothbrush, if you have a bad winter of colds and flu you could bankrupt yourself just buying toothbrushes.  Not to mention that these toothbrushes are not widely available in stores and so you may encounter shipping costs when buying online.  Yikes!

Having said all that, you may want to make the toothbrush investment and here is why: most toothbrushes contain BPA, acrylic, nylon, and phthlalate.  Add to this a nice toxic chemical like fluoride that will help these substances to break down and you have your average teeth brushing experience.  If you're having problems with bleeding gums, mouth sores or ulcers, any kind of mouth, throat, or lip cancers, or have a suppressed immune system it may be worthwhile to consider a natural toothbrush.  Now I suppose the argument can be made that if you're having all those above listed problems you probably want to make a lot of lifestyle changes and your toothbrush may be the least of your concerns, but why add toxins, right?

For the Average Joe who doesn't have bleeding mouth ulcers there is something else to consider: if you have a toddler that likes to chew on toothbrushes invest in an eco-friendly toothbrush.  Wash it regularly to preserve it as long as possible and don't replace it until it is gnawed completely but don't let your babies ingest all those toxins.  Why bother to invest in the BPA free water bottle and then give your baby a toothbrush to chew on?

Whatever type of toothbrush you use the really important thing is to use it regularly.  Having a clean mouth reduces air pollution and that my friends, is Green.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Surprising Areas of Waste & How to Be Greener

Being smug is fun, isn't it?  I'll admit it: as I walk around my house on freshly washed-with-vinegar floors wearing organic cotton socks that will later be washed with Earth-friendly detergent sometimes I just can't help but let that smug little smirk creep onto my face.  Oh yeah, I'm sooo much better than all those Mop-N-Glo-using-synthetic-sock-wearing-folks!  Right?  So my smug-little-self decides to take out the trash (of course a very small bag since environmental smugness and recycling go hand-in-hand) and would you looky here...Plastic baggies with zipper top, batteries, single use Keurig cups, banana peels, a peach pit, and a styrofoam meat tray all getting ready to go to the landfill.  And all completely unnecessary waste.  Perhaps I'm just a mere mortal after all...

So what are the options?  Well, what about trying this:

Most plastic bags can be recycled but they may have to go to a "special" recycling center which can be a pain to find.  I found out that the same recycling bin at my grocery store that will take the plastic grocery bags will also take sandwich style bags as long as the zipper is cut off.  I also know that some people wash and reuse their baggies.  I am  not a huge fan of this option because these bags were not made to be washed and reused.  Aside from the potential for harmful bacterial growth is the fact that the bags are breaking down with use leaching their petrochemicals into whatever you have in the bag.  The best option is to forego the bag completely and find a reusable container that will fit your needs.  This can be super challenging because who is going to pack a glass bowl in their child's lunch, right?  I have found that the reusable bags from snacktaxi ( are a good option, as well as using recyclable plastic containers for dry goods (get a thermos if you're packing anything hot,like soup).

I keep meaning to make the investment in rechargeable batteries.  The problem is that when I remember I need batteries for something tends to be at the checkout when that conveniently placed little package of Duracells jogs my memory.   Despite all my good intentions those old batteries end up in the trash where they get to leach some good ol' heavy metals like mercury and nickel cadmium into the soil.   So if, like me, that rechargeable battery purchase hasn't materialized, be assured that it's actually getting easier to recycle batteries.  A lot of office supply stores are creating drop boxes for battery recycling, as well as bigger chain stores like WalMart.  The best information on how to recycle the battery may come from the packaging itself which frequently gives a website to go to for information.  My plan: hang a bag under the sink, label it 'Batteries', throw all the batteries in there instead of in the trash.  When the bag is full (which will take some time in most households) find a recycling center and take it there.  (Yes that solution did combine two of my favorite things: procrastinating and recycling!)

I'm guilty, guilty, guilty.  We even have the reusable Keurig insert that enables us to put coffee, tea, whatever, into the machine without using the single-use cup.  I don't believe we've ever used it.  Those little cups are so cute, convenient, have great flavors, I can't find my green chai tea in bulk, I've got dozens of reasons why I don't use the reusable cup.  None of them are Green.  The only option is for me to change my wicked ways and use the reusable filter giving the K-cup manufacturers time to develop recylable packaging.  In order to get the green chai tea I love I'm going to have to make it myself.  Here is the recipe:

1/3 c loose green tea
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamom

Mix the ingredients together.  If using K-cup reusable filter, put 1 TBSP into the filter, store the remainder in an airtight (glass!) container.  I like to add rice or soy milk to my brewed cup, but that's just me.  Enjoy!

Banana peels and peach pits.  If I had a compost pile these would be excellent candidates to go on that pile.  In the past I haven't felt too bad about throwing away things that will naturally break down because, well, they naturally break down.  They don't clog up landfills for years and years, they self-compost.  Unfortunately this thinking is pretty flawed.  First of all they do clog up landfills because it's not like they break down instantly, it takes time.  Secondly that plastic bag they are stored in isn't exactly breaking down quickly (if at all) either so what good does it do to have some quality compost trapped in plastic for the next millenium?  My quick fix has been to throw a lot of my peels and pits over my deck and into the woods behind my house.  (Note, I own the part I'm using as a personal landfill so no neighbors' rights are being infringed upon).  However creating a heap of rotting food in my backyard isn't exactly composting, so again, not ideal.  I looked it up and composting is actually easy!  Here's what to do:

Choose a shady spot.  Put down your green compost (coffee grounds, fruit and veggie waste,  grass clippings).  Now add your browns (twigs, branches, etc.).  Now add a little water to moisten.  Keep doing this.  Keep a shovel or pitchfork nearby to mix things up every once in a while and make sure to keep it moist.  Your compost will be ready in a few months.  Note: don't let your pile get too large or get too much sun.

Now this is rudimentary composting, at best, but it will work (according to the EPA website) and so I'm going to give it a shot.

Finally the styrofoam meat tray.  The solution to this one is easy: get your meat from the meat counter instead of what's already been packaged and put on the shelf.  You'll get exactly the amount you want, the cut you want, it's fresher, and it will be wrapped in recyclable paper, not stored in styrofoam.

See how easy it is to be Green?  (And think how unbearably smug I can be once I have accomplished all this Greenness!)