Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Soggy Lettuce Conundrum (and How to Stop It)

Sometimes I lose produce before I can use it.

Well, it actually happens less often since I stuck this nifty sticky whiteboard to my fridge. Now I write down all our produce and perishable leftovers so I remember what's going on in my kitchen (both in and out of the fridge).

I took this photo back in January (probably after a CSA box 
or a trip to the Farmer's Market since there's so much on there).

I have always hated losing produce. It's such a waste, not only of the food itself, but of everything it took to grow that food.

I recently watched this TED talk by Leyla Acaroglu called Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore. I think all 18 minutes are worthwhile. I've watched it twice.

Toward the beginning of the talk, Acaroglu points out that biodegradability is "a material property, not a definition of environmental benefit." That got me slowly nodding my head. She went on:
When something natural [like food waste or paper] ends up in the natural environment, it degrades normally. Its little carbon molecules that it's stored up as it was growing are naturally released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. But this is a net situation. Most natural things don't actually end up in nature. Most of the waste that we produce ends up in landfill. Landfill is a different environment. In landfill, those same carbon molecules degrade in a different way because a landfill is anaerobic. It's got no oxygen. It's tightly compacted and hot. Those same molecules, they become methane, and methane is a 25x more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So our old lettuces and products that we have thrown out that are made out of biodegradable materials, if they end up in landfill, contribute to climate change.
Whoa, what? When I throw the soggy lettuce in the trash, it's destiny is methane? When I toss a piece of paper in the trash, it's destiny is probably methane?? Why did this never occur to me?

Realizing this actually made me glad about two things.

First, that we compost, which means that this:

turns into this:

We use it to enrich the soil and feed the earthworms. :)

However, when the compost tumbler is a-tumbling, I don't add anything to it for several weeks (which is why having two would be awesome). So, second, when I can't add my biodegradables to the composter, I typically toss them behind these lovely bushes in the front yard. 

Here's a close-up:

When I started doing this over a year ago, I figured that even though I couldn't use the compost how I'd like, I was still feeding the earth. Something beautiful will grow there some day.

I'm happy to have another way to care for the earth in my arsenal, and a good reason for doing so!

If composting isn't an option for you at the moment, is there somewhere else you can toss those kitchen scraps so they don't wind up in a landfill? If you don't have a yard, you could always add your scraps to broth or soups to get more life out of them. I bought an eBook bundle once that included one called Don't Compost It, Cook It. I haven't read it thoroughly, but the the author has some good ideas for getting as much mileage as possible out of your food.

How do you avoid losing produce? How do you make use of any peelings and trimmings?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Children's Books for Loving the Earth

Over the months, we have discovered a number of children's books (mostly from the library) that have enhanced our love for the earth and our determination to take good care of it. Here are some of our favorites, just in time for Earth Day tomorrow.

Please share the books you and your kids love!

Uno's Garden 
by Graeme Base
Uno watches his beloved forest home slowly transform into a booming metropolis. As the populous grows, the unique indigenous creatures decline. What can be done to save them? Filled with imaginative beauty typical of Graeme Base, this book is also full of fun arithmetic and a wonderful message about the importance of keeping balance with nature.

The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales 
by Dawn Casey and Anne Wilson
This is a beautiful collection of tales from seven diverse countries. The colorful, captivating writing brought me to the edge of tears several times, but my little boys loved them, too! Along with each story is an activity relating in some way to the culture (e.g. make a cornhusk doll, build a willow den, make a mini water garden).

Earth Mother 
by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
In this light-hearted story, Earth Mother goes about ornamenting and caring for the earth in beautiful dress. During her travels, she receives both the thanks and complaints of a toiling man, a frog, and a mosquito, all of whom have insights to gain about the circle of life.

A River Ran Wild 
by Lynne Cherry
This book chronicles the history of the Nashua River in Massachusetts, from the first native settlers to the industrial revolution, which saw factories crop up along it's banks, filling the river with toxic waste. One woman spearheaded a great effort to return the river to its pristine state. (
Incidentally, we recently finished reading the original Boxcar Children books, and one of the books, "Bus Station Mystery," told a very similar story, but without any proper names. It was written around the time of the big cleanup and in the same part of the country, so maybe the Nashua inspired her, too.)

All the Water in the World 
by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson
A lovely, lyrical presentation of the water cycle.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Creatures
by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton
Illustrated with watercolored papercuttings, this version of St. Francis of Assisi's famous prayer lends a sweet and strong reminder that God loves his creations and we should, too! 

The Curious Garden 
by Peter Brown
Growing up in a city with no plant life, a young boy discovers some dying plants growing along an abandoned railroad track, and decides to take care of them. As his plants begin to spread, so does his passion to cultivate.

City Green 
by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
A little girl inspires her neighbors to join with her in transforming the old, city-owned, junk-filled lot next to her apartment building into a thriving garden. Besides changing the ugly lot, their efforts also change a heart or two.

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard 
by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont
This was a fun read about the ins and outs of raising a family garden, including planning, planting, composting, handling pests, and preserving the bounty. Lots of extra information (provided by chickens) includes a helpful discussion on the food web.

Market Day 
by Lois Ehlert
One farmer family takes a day trip to sell their produce at the market. The illustrations are compilations of folk art from all over the world. 

To Market, to Market 
by Nikki McClure
From the perspective of a boy attending attending his local farmer's market with his family, we meet many of the market vendors and learn about the efforts they make to produce their wares.

Brother Eagle Sister Sky 
by Susan Jeffers
Though the origin of this book is controversial (purportedly from a speech by American Indian Chief Seattle), the message about respecting the interconnected web of life is a good one! 

The Tiny Seed 
by Eric Carle
This is a nice story about the life cycle of a seed. One adventurous seed starts out tinier than the others, but in the end grows tallest of all. 

The Apple Pie Tree 
by Zoe Hall, illustrated by Shari Halpern
Two little girls watch the evolution of their family apple tree from bare-branch winter to autumn harvest.

A Promise is a Promise 
by Eve Tharlet
A little marmot becomes best friends with a dandelion, who eventually asks the marmot to blow her seeds to the wind, and trust that everything will be okay. After a lot of worry and a good hibernation, he awakes to a beautiful surprise. 

Anno's Magic Seeds 
by Mitsumasa Anno
A wizard gives Jack two magic seeds. He tells him to eat one and bury the other, promising that it will produce two more in the fall. A mathematical story of the miraculous multiplying and saving potential hidden in every little seed.

Wangari's Trees of Peace 
by Jeanette Winter
After completing her studies abroad, Wangari Maathai returns to her native Kenya to find many of the old forests destroyed. Beginning in her own backyard, she begins planting trees, eventually persuading other women of her town and country to assist in the efforts. They plant 30 million trees. 

Mama Miti 
by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Another take on Wangari, this book shows in dazzling illustration her confident response to the variety of problems coming from women all over Kenya: "Plant a tree!" 

Aside: in 2004 Wangari received the Nobel Peace Prize for her contributions to sustainable development, democracy, and peace. I read her bio on wikipedia and was amazed at her life! There are many earth-lovers who have made similar efforts and sacrifices. You might enjoy learning about:

John Muir
Rachel Carson
Jacques Cousteau
Gaylord Nelson
And many more, I'm sure!

Here are a few more books that are either educational (without a storyline) or compilations of earth-centered activities. You might like:

One Well: the Story of Water on Earth 
by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods
Earth's water supply is essentially one big well. This book talks all about water: the water cycle, our collective need for water, access to water, water pollution, and becoming "well aware."

What's So Special About Planet Earth? 
by Robert E. Wells
This book encourages kids to value our world by taking a look at how it is suited uniquely for us. At the end he shares some ideas for conserving resources and using energy wisely.

Best Kids Love-the-Earth Activity Book 
This is a terrific compilation of ideas for understanding and exploring the earth. Here is just a smattering from this book: design a nature collage, pound a leaf into fabric, make sun tea, make fresh water from salt water, make wind-powered music, make a bird hangout, host a party for the planet, dye earth-friendly easter eggs (which I tried this year, though not from this book), and LOTS of ideas for reusing various materials.

My First Green Book: A Life-Size Guide to Caring for our Environment 
by Angela Wilkes
Though a little old-school, this book has some good stuff. It includes information on an array of subjects ranging from waste disposal to the rain forest and features activities such as testing your own water and soil, making a water filter, creating a wildlife garden, and campaigning for change.

Love Your World: How to Take Care of the Plants, the Animals, and the Planet 
by Dawn Sirett
This was a favorite for my kids. It contains lots of colorful pictures and little poems about loving and caring for the earth, encouraging kids to make a difference!

(You can celebrate Earth Day as long as you want.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Creativity, Part 2: Drawing, Painting, Typography

Part 2 of my Creativity posts is by my cousin-in-law, and dear friend, Anna Peterson.  She is a wonderful artist (as you will see), and a very insightful, gentle and beautiful person.  Here is what she had to say about the creative process:
A Self-Portrait of Anna
I am so happy to be sharing some of my thoughts today on creativity and inspiration! These are things that make my heart sing and energize my soul.  There just isn’t anything quite like that moment when I watch a likeness become realized on my canvas, or when I discover a new favorite artist.  Despite the thrill and beauty of creating art, over time I have experienced my fair share of anxiety, fear, and worry over how to begin a new project or series.  There are a few things I’ve figured out that have helped me, and I want to share them with you! These are some ways that help me to engender creativity and productivity.

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” –Arthur Ashe

That blank, white canvas is sometimes terrifying. Remembering this quote helps me to calm down and to maintain perspective. It causes me to look around me, to think about the real talents or ideas or resources that I have to draw from when beginning a project, and to have proper expectations for the timetable of its completion, and the quality of the results.

Claim a space for your creativity.

As a mother, I often have to drop what I’m doing at a moments notice, not knowing when I’ll have another minute to start again. Having my own space means I can leave things out so I can jump right in whenever I can. Having to clean off the kitchen table every afternoon before dinner takes precious time away and means I have to pull it all out again.  Make your creativity a priority by giving yourself the room, convenience and resources you need.

Research, research, research.

Looking at lots of images or reading different styles of writing helps you to figure out what your tastes are, and gives you direction for your work. It also helps you to refine your taste as you pick up on things and learn from other creatives around you. Just as scientists shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel, learn what’s out there so you can contribute to the world. If you’re in a rut, pull up Pinterest, your favorite blog, or work from a creative person you look up to. I personally love Pinterest because it allows me to organize my inspirations.

Create now, curate later.

Try to not worry about something being perfect. Just start with something that makes you excited, and see what comes out at the end. To help you start, set a goal for a certain amount of time you’ll spend each day or a target number of completed projects you want to do. After you’ve made a bunch of things, look them over and exercise quality control then.  You can’t always be on your A game. Throw out the things that you aren’t proud of and admire the wonderful work you’ve made and want to frame. I often have to do this with my work. It is so much better to have made something and not have it turn out than to worry and worry and never begin.
I hope some of these things I’ve learned over the years can help you on your creative journey! Remember, the people you admire have worked hard to get where they are, and if you research, produce lots of work, and maintain perspective, you will be amazed at the beautiful things that come out of you!
To see what I’m up to and what I’m working on, follow me here on Instagram:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Missing Microbes

I haven't read the book yet, although I am very inclined.

You can find it here
But here is an NPR interview of the book's author that I found very refreshing.  On April 14th, Terry Gross interviewed Dr. Martin Blaser, the director of NYU's Human Microbiome Program.

Dr. Blaser talks about the human microbiome --- the complex ecological community of microorganisms that live in our bodies and impact all aspects of our health.  We are only beginning to understand the function of many of them, but alarmingly, thanks to our modern life, many of them are already endangered.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:
"Since World War II, we've seen big rises in a number of diseases: asthma, allergies, food allergies, wheat allergy, juvenile diabetes, obesity. ... These are all diseases that have gone up dramatically in the last 50 or 70 years. One of the questions is: Why are they going up? Are they going up for 10 different reasons, or perhaps there is one reason that is fueling all of them.
My theory is that the one reason is the changing microbiome; that we evolved a certain stable situation with our microbiome and with the modern advances of modern life, including modern medical practices, we have been disrupting the microbiome. And there's evidence for that, especially early in life, and it's changing how our children develop."
 This made me glad that we
  • Avoid antibiotics unless there are no safe alternatives (Peter has never had any, and Cam and I haven't in our adult years)
  • Avoid harmful chemicals in all home and body products, not to mention food!
  • Consume raw dairy and other raw foods daily
 This made me want to
  • Get on the fermentation bandwagon!  I think my family needs to consume more probiotics.
  • Continue providing labor support and education to women in my area, to reduce the incidence of unnecessary cesarean births.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"I Love You," and "I'm Sorry."

Once, early in our marriage, my husband and I did a Family Home Evening activity in which we each wrote down ten things we loved about the other person.  I realized that something about my husband's list, which was very nice and should have made me feel great, left me unsatisfied.  It took me a day or two to process it, but then I realized why.  By no fault of his own, his list had only included the things that I do, without listing any of the things that I am.  My list had been similarly oriented:
  • I love you because you take initiative whenever you see something that needs to be cleaned up or fixed around the house.
  • I love you because you work so hard at your job.
  • I love you because you spend time outdoors every day.
  • I love you because you make time for me even when we are both busy.
  • I love you because you never raise your voice to me.
Those are all wonderful things!  But a list like that can end up feeling kind of impersonal.  Compare to these statements:
  • I love you because you are diligent and efficient.
  • I love you because you are adventurous.
  • I love you because you are easy to talk to.
  • I love you because you are believing.
  • I love you because you are kind and generous.
We talked about it later, and he agreed with me that both kinds of expression are important.

My toddler and I enjoy most any Sandra Boynton book.  One of them, Snuggle Puppy, has a fun little poem that a mother dog sings to her puppy:

Well, I have a thing to tell you and it won't take long.
The way I feel about you is a kind of a song.
It starts with an ooh, and ends with a kiss
And all along the middle it goes something like this:

It goes ooh! Snuggle Puppy of mine,
Everything about you is especially fine.
I love what you are.
I love what you do.

Fuzzy little Snuggle Puppy,
I love you.

Maybe everyone else already gets this.  But for me, I learned an important lesson to verbalize my love in both ways: I love what you are, I love what you do!

And on a different note: here is an article I read today on how to teach children to say sorry.  I really liked what the author had to say.  Children (and all of us) should follow an outline like this:
  1. I'm sorry that I...
  2. This is wrong because...
  3. In the future I will...
  4. Will you forgive me? 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Start Planning Easter!

Easter is right around the corner. With it comes great potential for deepening your family's relationship with Jesus Christ and better understanding his great mission.

Last year I wrote a review of a fabulous guide for celebrating a Christ-centered Easter. If you haven't already, you might consider purchasing the book* for the upcoming Holy Week. (I included several ideas from the book in the original post.)

Even with last-minute planning and a husband out of town, I was able to try many of the ideas and activities with my young sons last year. We all enjoyed it and felt closer to each other and to our Savior. We read scriptures, stories, discussed the events of each day of the week, learned about the customs and rituals of the Jews, listened to sacred music, acted out events and parables, made the food of the time, and even had delicious sole and honeycomb for our simple Easter dinner (which I liked preparing so much more than the leg of lamb I did a previous year!). Yet we barely scratched the surface of this book.

What about conventional Easter celebrations? We completely left them out (my kids had never heard of the Easter bunny, so they weren't left wondering). Our week involved so many interesting activities, I don't feel we missed out. This year we might color eggs and have a basket hunt on Saturday the 12th (the day before Palm Sunday) as a celebration of spring and precursor to the true Easter festivities. (I like the idea of doing this on the first day of spring, but we were out of town that week and couldn't swing it.)

Making unleavened bread

After the holiday last year, I followed up with the author about the book review post, and she shared a few other ideas they have implemented since publishing their book. From Janet Hales:
How did your Easter turn out?  Easter day is my favorite -- the compilation of everything we have done and thought of during the week.  We have added two things to our family worship that have been very significant for me: on Saturday, those who can, attend the Temple, to help in the vicarious work now afforded us.  This is such a meaningful activity to me.  On Sunday, those who wish give an "Easter Offering" they have been independently working on throughout the week.  One year I wrote a Psalm of praise, this year it was free verse about Living Water; Joe wrote a lovely piece about "Why Is this Night different than all other nights?" (A question from the script of the Passover Dinner), Kate sang "I Stand All Amazed."  Years ago, one of our young boys had made an "empty tomb" out of Lego.  This was really a reverent and beautiful part of our ending devotional this year.  
The book contains such an abundance that you'll already have to pick and choose, but you might also find yourself thinking of things on your own. Whatever you do, make a plan ahead of time that will work for your family and above all, enjoy this beautiful Easter season! Please share how it turns out.

*No, I'm not getting any kickbacks. ;)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Little Thing

So you know we don't use couches or chairs in our house, and you know why.  You know we wear funny shoes (or often none at all.  I need to write a follow-up post on my shoe wardrobe 3 years later.)

You probably think, "man this is a girl who lives her truth."

Ha!  Gotcha.

I really let "things" get in the way of doing the important stuff.  Like my little "thing," Peter, who interfered so much with doing my exercises every morning that I didn't do them regularly... for like a year.  Even though I knew how much they had revolutionized my postpartum life.  (Another post another time on my experience working with Restorative Exercise specialist and PT Susan McLaughlin, and on reading Katy Bowman's blog.  Though you've heard about them in the above-linked posts).

Well last week I decided Peter would no longer stop me!  I made this time-lapse to prove it.  (One photo per second.)  Enjoy.

At second :22 notice the repeated double-kick in the face.  I admit I cut my spinal twist short!