Saturday, July 31, 2010

Prioritizing purchases: School sale survival

Going Green Mama just survived her first of 20 years of back-to-school shopping.

School supply sales have been in full swing for three weeks here, and I'm ready for it to be over. There's supplies. There's uniforms. There's new shoes and backpacks. It doesn't seem to end. And I realize how, so very quickly, people say they can shell out $500 a family before September hits.

The costs are a reason that many families I know do a dash among the various stores in town. Store X has crayons for a quarter. Store Y has backpacks for half-off. Store Z has cheap pens. And so forth.

For me, supply shopping has been a delicate balance of sale watching and the reality that the drive to the stores - and my time shopping - may not be worth the pennies saved. Consider the wear on your car, the oil, the gas, just to make the miles to the store. Or the fact that the hourly rate you make - which I consider the benchmark for a special trip - may vastly exceed the few dollars saved on an item, particularly when the items may or may not be in stock.

Our family's solution was to watch the sales and piggyback them on errands needed. If the pharmacy has other items I need or I'd planned a run to get a prescription, then it makes it worth it to stop to buy sale supplies. If not, it takes careful consideration whether it's worth the travel and time resources used just to save a few cents.

How do you balance the desire to save cash with the need to conserve resources and time?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Product Review--Williams-Sonoma: The Art of Preserving,


This is my first ever real live product review. (In the interest of full disclosure, I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it here at the Booth.) Last February I bought my very first boiling water canner used on ebay, so I've been looking forward to trying it out. So this book looked like a great chance to do that...

If you don't feel like reading the rest of the review, I can probably sum it up in three words: This Book Rocks. It's one that, if I had borrowed it from the library to see how I liked it, I would probably go right out and purchase as soon as it was due; I can't imagine wanting to preserve anything and not finding more or less how to do it in this volume.

It's divided into fairly clear sections: a basic overview at the beginning with general info on canning, fruit spreads, and pickling. Then come the recipes: Jams and Jellies, Preserves/Conserves/Marmalades, Sweet Butters and Curds, Pickled fruits and Vegetables, Salsas/Relishes, Chutneys, and Condiments and Sauces. Finally there's a reference section with step by step home canning instructions, information about pectin, some additional recipes, and techniques and yields (stuff like how to pit a peach, what to do with the kernel, and how many make a pound). For the most part, it gives not only the how but the why of the chemistry lesson that jellies and pickles have always represented to me--the chemistry and complexity that have always intimidated me from wanting to try them.

The recipes cover the bases from the very simple and basic ("Mixed Berry Jam" to the more exotic and complex ("Pickled Fennel with Orange Zest"). Many of the preserving recipes also come with recipes for how to use them--after the Meyer Lemon Jelly recipe, for example, there's one for Jelly Doughnuts. After the Peach Barbecue Sauce recipe is one for Grilled Pork Ribs with Peach Barbecue Sauce. (I know a lot of cookbooks do this; honestly, most of the time I don't really care for it, but this book was fairly judicious in its inclusions and I didn't feel like "Well heck, I wanted to make applesauce, if i wanted an applesauce cake recipe I wouldn't have gotten it here!") (The Spiced Applesauce Cake recipe, by the way, looks very nice but I would probably never make it--after going to the trouble of making nice healthy applesauce, the last thing I would do is put it in a cake with white flour and a whole cup of butter...) (But I digress.)

Since it's plum season around here (er...which unfortunately in Illinois means we get really good plums from California and they are cheap), and since even conventional plums grown in the States are fairly far down on the "Dirty Dozen" list (34 or so; imported ones are much higher on the list, residue-wise!), I bought a bunch and determined to give the "Plum-Lavender Jam" on page 36 a try. I washed the plums good (with soap, baby!) to get off as much residue as I could, since the skins are where the pectin is found. Something I hadn't known before reading this book. Chemistry lesson.

The details of my adventure will go on my own blog, but suffice it to say that the sample jar I made just to test it out was gone within 24 hours. We're talking spoon here, not actually spreading it on anything. I just ate it. It was amazing. I'd never made jam before--it always seemed too scary for some reason. In reality--not so hard. Messy, but not hard. And amazingly delicious.

Next on my list will be the Eggplant and Tomato relish (page 172), since eggplants and tomatoes are about the only successful things in my garden right now; the Pickled Zucchini Relish (page 173) looks fun too, if I ever get any squash. There are recipes for herbal vinegars, preserved lemons, homemade ketchup, candied citrus peel--way more than I would ever have expected a book on "preserving" to have in it--I figured we were talking jams and jellies and stuff and that would be it. But there's a lot more.

If I had any complaints or reservations about the book, it might be that it doesn't seem to be very "out there" about why some fruits and veggies are safe to do in a boiling water bath and why others absolutely should not--it does say that "high acid foods" are appropriate for home canning, and I have noted that every recipe suggested for the boiling water bath is very well acidified, if not by the primary fruit or vegetable then by the addition of lemon juice or vinegar--but it never actually says, "okay, look, we don't care if you'd prefer your plum jam without the extra lemon juice, if you leave that out and can it you could get botulism and die, so put the lemon juice in, okay?" at any point in the book. (Unless I missed it.) Which for me and lackadaisical-recipe-followers like myself might be an important addition. And I can only trust that the authors of the book did their pH homework in creating the recipes--which do look quite sensible to my inexperienced eye, based on what I've heard elsewhere about which fruits and veggies are acidic enough to be safe to can. (As usual, the disclaimer: I'm just reviewing the book, I don't know enough about safe canning procedures to be someone who's advice you should take about anything, so if you ever should follow any advice I give and get sick or have some bad result, please don't blame me. Do your own homework.) In any case, I will drop a note back to the woman who sent me the book and ask the question about the acid level of the recipes and how they were developed; I will update this post when I hear back from her.

I also sort of wish it had some concrete temperatures for jelling points and such--for example, if I know that jam's "jell point" is 218 degrees, that's the kind of info I like to have. The "wrinkle test" is helpful, of course (that's where you put a glob on a chilled plate and refrigerate it for a few minutes, and if it wrinkles when you poke it, it's ready), but from what I've read in other places, the few minutes between the globbing and the wrinkling could be enough for the jam to turn into candy and go too far. But these are just little quibbles--it's a very solid book, with plenty of really good info for the novice canner.

I'm not a big recipe-follower. For me cookbooks are often an exercise in getting ideas and deciding how to sort of piece together different possibilities that look nice. But this one I can see myself using as a reference for years.

Anyone have any other fabulous references you use for home canning, pickles, jams/jellies, etc? The pickyourown.org website is a great basic site with lots of basic info, and that's what I've used in the past. Any other sites or particular books that are your go-to ones for preserving?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Green Is Fading

The Green Phone Booth welcomes Abbie of Farmer's Daughter for today's guest post.

I gave birth to Joshua on March 12, 2010. I knew that my life would change forever when I became a mother, and one of the areas where I struggle the most is keeping up with my sustainability goals. With a baby in my arms, I’ve found I don’t have enough hands to do everything that I used to, and I’m backsliding. I’m still doing my best to live in an eco-friendly way, but “best” has been temporarily redefined.

Cooking from scratch has been difficult, since I don’t have the time or energy to do things like knead bread, make homemade ricotta, or make my own pasta. I’ve decided that using my bread machine or buying bread, cheese, and pasta are okay for now. I also haven’t had time to can, but I’m really hoping to find time to can tomato sauce later this summer. I still try to support local agriculture and cook with sustainable, local, humanely raised foods, but some nights are just take-out nights.

Our garden has also suffered from my newfound lack of time: filling up with weeds, getting pretty thirsty, going to seed. I’ve decided I’ll consider whatever we pick from our garden this year to be a success, and so far we’ve had lettuce, peppers, peas, and a handful of raspberries. The potatoes, carrots and tomatoes are still looking pretty good, too, despite being neglected.

I’m embarrassed to admit that while I bought a retractable clothesline with the best intentions, we haven’t yet put it up. Our laundry has increased quite a bit and it all goes in the dryer. I can’t wait to see the beauty of sheets hanging out on the line, drying in the hot sun and blowing in the soft breeze. But that might not happen until next spring.

The good news is that it’s not all on hold. Even with my new busy life as a mom, I have been able to adopt new sustainable practices. I’m exclusively breastfeeding Joshua, which is not only good for both of us, it’s good for the planet since there’s no need to produce, package or ship formula, wash bottles (at least until I go back to work), or give money to corporations that don’t share my environmental values. We’ve also found that gDiapers work well for us, since their hybrid system allows us to use cloth liners or biodegradable, flushable disposable liners (gDiapers has not compensated me in any way for writing this.) Knowing that his diapers won’t still be in a landfill 1000 years from now gives me peace of mind.

These successes give me hope that as Joshua grows we’ll be able to regain the sustainable practices we once considered to be normal parts of our lifestyle. After all, I care about preserving the planet so my son can live a long, healthy, happy life. I want to share my love for the environment with him and teach him how to live sustainably. I still have my from-scratch skills, and I hope to use them again someday!

How has having children impacted your sustainable goals?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Conscious Shopper Challenge: Upgrade to an Energy Efficient Vehicle

Most of the challenges in the Conscious Shopper Challenge are designed so that anyone can do them, no matter where you are on your green journey. Most weeks, I focus on small, affordable steps you can take to go green. But this is not one of those weeks. This week's challenge is one of those Marathon Runner only challenges that require some extra commitment...and some extra cash. This week I'm asking you to

UPGRADE TO AN ENERGY EFFICIENT VEHICLE

Photo by vestman

Please don't misinterpret this challenge to mean that I want you to run out tomorrow and buy a more efficient vehicle. It's almost always greener to stick with what you have for as long as you can before upgrading to a new model, and it definitely makes more financial sense to make do with the vehicle you have.

But when the time is right, I hope you'll make your next vehicle choice a green one. Here are some options to choose from, both now and down the road from now:

  • Pick a small car. Maybe you're not sold yet on a hybrid: you're waiting for more improvements in the technology, you don't think a Prius has been around long enough to prove its reliability, or you just can't stomach the price difference. Fine. But do you really need that SUV? Could your family get by without a minivan? How often are you really going to haul things in that truck? In general, the smaller the car, the better the gas mileage.
  • Try a Smart Car. Since we're talking small cars, you might want to consider the ultimate small car. At 36 mpg, it's the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid on the market and will only cost you about $12,000, making it a great choice for commuters, singletons, and DINKs.
  • Go for a hybrid like the Prius (50 mpg), Honda Civic Hybrid (42 mpg), or Honda Insight (41 mpg). If you're ready to upgrade to a greener vehicle right now, a hybrid is probably your best bet.
  • Try a full electric vehicle like the Nissan Leaf (available at the end of this year) or the Tesla Model S (my dream car - available in 2012). One of the main disadvantages of a full electric vehicle is that you can't drive very far before your battery needs to be recharged, but they could be fantastic cars for commuters.
  • Or try a plug-in hybrid electric, which has the advantages of a hybrid, a full electric vehicle, and a traditional combustion engine all rolled into one. Examples include the Chevy Volt (available next year) and the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (available 2012).

My family is stuck with our minivan for at least several more years, but I'm keeping my eye on green car technology and dreaming about what we'll buy next. Oh beautiful beautiful Tesla, couldn't you drop in price about, oh, $30,000?

Do you drive an energy efficient car? What kind did you pick and why?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Down the drain

Bleatings from EnviRambo.




What goes down your drain? Water? Surely. Soap? One would hope. Hair? I'm not sure hair technically goes down the drain. Not down mine anyway. Rather it likes to get clogged there. Chemicals? Eek! Maybe even money? If you are using chemicals to clear the hair clogged there then yes, you have money going down the drain. Not to mention lots of nasty stuff. Nastier than the hair.


There are two types of typical drain cleaner/unclogger: acid-based and caustic. Acid-based drain cleaner consists of chemicals such as sulphuric acid. Sulphuric acid immediately eats away at any organic material it comes in contact with, like hair. That's great when it's the hair clogging your drain, but not so great when it's the hair on your arm. Clearing clogged drains is a messy job, usually involving standing water. It is far too easy to get splashed by this nasty stuff when pouring! Manufacturers recommended wearing gloves and goggles when working with acid-based drain cleaners.

Caustic drain cleaners are made of sodium hypochlorite (bleach), sodium hydroxide (lye), or potassium hydroxide (caustic potash). Caustic drain cleaners are what you will normally find on store shelves. They cost less to manufacture and are a little safer for the home use. Again, you need to use caution and protect your skin and eyes.

There is some debate over the affects these chemicals have on your pipes, plumbing, septic system, and water supply when entering the ground, but there is no debate over the health hazards of these cleaners. Chemical drain cleaners are among the most hazardous household products available to the public. Dangers include severe eye and skin burns, inflammation of respiratory membranes, corrosive burns to all human tissue, vision loss upon contact with eyes, and death if swallowed. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to be sloshing around in. I don't know about you, but this isn't the kind of thing I even want in my house. It's dangerous to store, dangerous to use, and dangerous to dispose of. If you have to take it to the hazardous waste drop off for proper disposal, do you really want to be pouring it down your drain?

This was a decision I recently had to face. Without warning the drain in our shower stopped draining. My usual standby of baking soda and vinegar followed by boiling water wasn't budging it and the plunger only made it worse so more drastic measures were required. Not wanting to use chemicals, I needed an alternative and found it in the way of a drain auger, commonly referred to as a drain snake.


Basically a drain snake is a long spring-like strand of metal that you shove down your drain, twist a bunch of times hoping to grab the hair or whatever it is obstructing your drain, and pull out to clear the clog. It may or may not come with a housing to coil the cable in. I found this mostly metal one for $17.99 at my local hardware store. They come in different lengths, I recommend getting the longest one you can. Mine was 25 feet, plenty long I thought. I was wrong. You can find 50 foot lengths. Go with that.


It took some finagling to get the snake past the drain. Things went more smoothly if I kept the auger vertical and turning while shoving the cable into the drain. I deployed the snake nearly all 25 feet and pulled up a nice sized hair rat. I'll spare you the pictures. I would like to say that this worked and in a round about way it did. Like I said, 25 feet was not enough. After pulling out the hair rat, the drain still was not draining. I tried several more times to no avail. We went back to the plunger and made things much, much worse. By the end of the night the entire shower was full of black crud floating in standing water. It was utterly disgusting. I called a plumber the next morning and he fixed us right up. I was fearful that the plumber would bring in heavy chemicals to get the job done, but do you know what he used? A drain auger! Much like mine, only bigger, longer, and electric. He said the clog was just beyond the reach of mine, so he added a closer entry point under the sink for future maintenance.

The plumber cost 10 times the amount of the auger, but I was on the right track. I'm not sure what the price of chemical cleaners is since I do not buy them, but it must be between $5.00 to $10.00 dollars. A few times purchasing these and you could have bought yourself a drain auger that you only have to buy once. Hey, if it's good enough for the professionals...



Monday, July 26, 2010

Meatless Monday ~ Vegetarian Burgers Five Ways

Welcome back to the Booth for Meatless Monday!

Around here in the Conscious Shopper home, we eat bean burgers at least once a week. Every time I make them, I double the recipe, so we almost always have bean burgers in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner. I am a huge fan of beans and have never met a bean burger I didn't like. My meat-loving husband likes them because they aren't weird like so many vegetarian dishes, and they pair well with french fries. We're always happy to have an excuse to eat french fries.

My favorite type of bean burger uses butter beans, but it's also a great basic bean burger recipe that can be modified to fit any kind of bean.

BUTTER BEAN BURGERS


SERVES 4
COST: $.75 per serving (not including buns or toppings)*

2 cups cooked butter beans (or 1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed)
1 small onion, chopped
6 saltine crackers, crushed (or lately I've been using bread crumbs)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. vegetable oil for frying
  • In a medium bowl, mash the butter beans with a fork.
  • Mix in onion, crackers, egg, cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  • Shape into burger sized patties. Makes about 5 patties.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet.
  • Fry patties until golden, about 3 minutes on each side.
  • Serve on buns with the fixin's.
:: If using pinto beans, replace garlic powder with with 1 tsp cilantro and 1/8 tsp cumin.

:: If using black beans, replace the garlic with some chili powder, cumin, and chopped up green peppers.


Another bean burger we like is kind of like a vegetarian chicken patty. We like to eat it either on a bun like a burger or with gravy and mashed potatoes.

GOLDEN CHICKPEA PATTIES


SERVES 4
COST: $0.45 per serving*

2 c. cooked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
3/4 cup quick oats
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp. oil for frying
  • In a food processor, process the chickpeas with 1/2 cup of water to make a smooth, thick paste.
  • Place the chickpea puree in a mixing bowl andd add the garlic, salt, and pepper.
  • Mix well, adding additional water or oats as necessary to make a mixture that keeps its shape.
  • Shape into patties. I usually get about six patties.
  • In a frying pan, heat a small amount of oil.
  • Fry the patties until golden brown, about 10 minutes on each side, adding more oil as necessary.

The last burger recipe I'm going to share has some unusual ingredients - instead of beans, it uses walnuts and oats - but it comes out with a surprising meat-like consistency. You can also crumble them and use in place of ground beef in recipes like spaghetti or sloppy joes.

WALNUT OATMEAL BURGER
from the Laurel's Kitchen cookbook


SERVES 4
COST: $1.00 per serving (not including buns or toppings)*

3/4 cup walnuts
1 c. quick oats
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
onion, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
oil to brown patties
2 c. vegetable stock
  • Grind walnuts in a blender and combine with oats, eggs, milk, onion, sage, salt, and pepper. Form about 6 patties.
  • Brown patties on both sides in a lightly oiled skillet, then pour the stock into the skillet and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.
  • Serve on buns with "the fixin's" or crumble and use as you would hamburger in chili beans, spaghetti sauce, etc. (We also eat it with gravy like in the last recipe.)
Now what I really need is a really awesome falafel recipe. Anyone have one?

* Costs are based on prices in my area. Your costs may vary.
** Sorry for the lame photos. These are really old before I knew anything about food photography, and I didn't have time to redo them.


Be sure to peek at all of the recipes that were entered last week, and add yours this week using Mr. Linky below.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Superhero Secrets: The Story of Cosmetics

Link love from The Conscious Shopper

What a coinkidink...After posting my ode to Annie Leonard last Sunday, what should pop up in my Google Reader this week but Leonard's latest video: The Story of Cosmetics.


I'm pretty psyched about this video because I know it's a topic that gets a lot of people pumped up, especially when it comes to protecting our kids. Toxics in our baby products???? Oh, no. We're not having that....

If The Story of Cosmetics has you thinking about the personal care products you've been using, here are a few more places to check out:
Here at the Green Phone Booth, we've written our fair share of posts on this topic. Check out this trip down memory lane:
And now that you're convinced this is an important topic, take some time to write a quick email to your representatives in support of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dressed for success for $1.45: My new version of back-to-school guilt

Going Green Mama is dreading that day when her baby's not a baby...

School starts in two weeks, which means we're surrounded by meaningful messages of collecting new school supplies and backpacks for children in need and not-as-meaningful messages of "stock up now" on fabulous new clothes for fall.

And this year, I'm stuck in the middle of it all.

Sooner than I care to admit, my daughter will be taking her first steps to kindergarten. And while we wrestled with the idea - and ultimately settled on - sending her to private school, the reality of school life is just settling in.

Like just how many school supplies and uniforms a girl needs to get through.

Now, I'll be honest in that we're extremely frugal and survivalist green at this point in our lives. So since we made the decision on where to send her to school, I've been consciously scouring resale shops for anything that could meet the Catholic school test.

And I beat expectations. This spring, I landed a stack of shirts, shorts and pants at a fundraising sale for 50 cents each. Aside of a little wear in the knees, they're likely last us through at least this size, given how fast my little weed is growing.

The lunch box? Scored at the used kids store, happily, for a buck. For one dollar, we get a Hannah Montanna lunch box that even if we use just a few times, I won't be upset.

The backpack? A nearly new Tinkerbell backpack, found at another resale shop last weekend. Sure, it can technically hold an Mp3 player, but I've got her convinced one pocket is for her hairbrush and another for her crayons.

In fact, the only "new" items we have for school so far are socks and the classroom supplies, and it's tough to fake a secondhand box of Kleenex.

So yes, shoes aside, I did the math the other day. $1.45 a day for back-to-school duds.

The green and broke side of me applauds it. But the mommy in me wonders, shouldn't my child deserve "better" for school? A new outfit? Something? In a world where we tout new, new, new for fall, is there something just off when the only new thing is on her feet - and that's just because she grew?

So today, my question is this: How are you handling the back-to-school crush? Are you stocking up at the sales, biding your time, analyzing what's in your closet first? Or are you happily saving green at resale stores and garage sales, your children none the wiser?

Friday, July 23, 2010

School Clutter

The Green Phone Booth welcomes back Jess of Sweet Eventide.

This summer, I am working on the Big Purge. I haven't done one for about two years and a lot of clutter has been building up. As I'm going through the mountains of paper, I'm realizing what some of my obstacles are with paper clutter. I read the Happiness Project book several months ago and I remember one specific kind of clutter Gretchen talks about it is "aspirational clutter." I definitely have a problem with this. Stuff will come in the mail or someone will mail me a magazine article and it is something that sounds appealing to do. I don't want to forget about a possible idea so I save the paper for someday. Well someday is this summer and it's ridiculous how many things I never ended up doing. At least it makes the decision to recycle a lot faster and easier after this much time has gone by.

Another significant source of paper clutter in my house is sentimental clutter. I am really struggling with regarding my only child's school work. He just finished first grade and I am having some serious struggles getting rid of his work. Here's but a whiff of the problem.


All these worksheets that he has done (which is not the bulk of his school work), well, I think they are pretty darling. I love his tidy handwriting and I know from helping him with homework, it takes a lot of effort. He works so hard on his spacing of letters and spaces between words, not to mention the punctuation. I haven't even read every single sheet that has come home but thank goodness I didn't toss it all straight into the recycle bin or I would have missed this gem from a worksheet his teacher had him fill out about himself.


Who needs: time with my mom.
Who gives: love.
Who fears: sharks.
Who hopes for: a good life.

Seriously my then-six-year-old son wrote that he hopes for a good life! What is a mama supposed to do? How do you all deal with this kind of paper clutter? I know I cannot keep every single worksheet that comes home from school for the next 10 years. Shoot me! This is not even the artwork which I have in large underbed bins, one bin per calendar year. (I'm out of space after this year).

Sentimental clutter is obviously another hang up for me. I have cards and pictures galore and this is not even saving every thing. I have actually made progress over the years. I can't stand the clutter, I'm out of storage and I shudder at the idea of scanning everything because I already have a photo storage nightmare going on.

I need help! Ideas?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the road again...

The Greenhabilitator is packing her bags...

The family Greenhab will be on the road later this week, heading to New Orleans. I'm already feeling guilty about the fact that we're driving (yeah, I thought 24 hours each way in the car with kids sounded like an awesome way to spend a vacation) but hopefully the purpose of the trip will make up for it. We were invited by friends who are taking a youth group to do some relief work in the area. I'm looking forward to the Habitat for Humanity build since I've always wanted to do one. We'll also have the opportunity to do some work with the homeless and see the effects of the oil leak first hand. Not to mention the fact that I've never been to New Orleans, so I'm just plain excited to see the city.

My soul has been buying theoretical carbon credits in the form of handmade entertainment to make up for the long drive. I seriously considered hitting the dollar store, thinking I'd buy a bunch of little gifts and games to pull out for the kids along the way. When it came down to it though, I just couldn't do it.

Instead, I've been busy making sing along mix tapes (okay, CDs), renting books on CD, and creating games for the kids to play. I made a laminated ABC card the kids can use to play a variety of games. They look for the letters on signs, or take turns naming words that start with each letter.


You can find an easy tutorial for it on my blog. I'm also in the process of making a travel bingo game that will look something like this...


Can I confess that I'm kind of excited to play?

And one of my favorites is the clipboard car caddy. I made one for Fletcher awhile back, but still need to whip one up for Macy. I posted the tutorial on Make it From Scratch a few months ago. They're great to carry in the car so paper and crayons don't end up all over the place and the kids have a surface to press down on.


So tell me Boothers, what are your tricks and tips for long car trips? I can use all the help I can get!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Conscious Shopper Challenge: Learn to Hypermile

A challenge from The Conscious Shopper.

Those of you who've been following my personal blog know that this year I started The Conscious Shopper Challenge, a year-long series of challenges to help you go green without going broke. I recently decided to quit blogging at The Conscious Shopper, so I'm moving the challenge over here to the Green Phone Booth. Right now, we're in the middle of the travel-related challenges. If you want to go back to the beginning and work your way through the whole series (complete with checklists!), you can find the index here.

This week's challenge is...

Learn to Hypermile


While researching for this post, I read an article on Mother Jones about a man named Wayne Gerdes, who apparently invented the term hypermiler and at the time was the world's most fuel efficient driver. The journalist describes going for a drive with Gerdes and deciding that "hypermiling consists of driving like a 90-year-old in a mobile sweat lodge..." That is, until Gerdes takes the 270-degree exit at 50 miles per hour.

You've probably heard of some of the other crazy things dedicated hypermilers do: "drafting" behind semi-trucks, driving with the car in neutral or with the engine off, refusing to using their breaks, etc.

When I say "learn to hypermile," I am not referring to those crazy stunts. It is completely ridiculous to me to put yourself at risk just to save some gas. There are better ways to improve our fuel efficiency. So maybe "hypermile" isn't the most accurate term here. Maybe I should just say that I'm challenging you to be a better, more conscious, less aggressive driver.

To complete this challenge, you can:

BABY STEPS
  • Keep the junk out of your trunk. And off your trunk. And off your roof. And out of your car in general. And definitely don't haul a trailer if you can avoid it. Excess cargo and cargo racks make your car heavier and increase aerodynamic drag.
JOGGING STRIDE
  • Don't be aggressive. Fast accelerations followed by slamming on the brakes are a big no-no if you want to improve your gas mileage and are more likely to induce a foul mood than save you time on the road. According to the Mother Jones article, "one study found that jackrabbit starts and hard brake stops reduce travel time by only about 4 percent—that's 75 seconds on a 30-minute trip."
  • Drive the speed limit. If you're in town, speeding will just lead to aggressive driving (see above), and if you're on the highway, driving too fast can actually lower your fuel efficiency. Most cars get their best mileage at around 55 mph.
  • Avoid making lots of small trips. Instead, plan your errands for one day and plot out an efficient route to hit all of your stops. In cold weather, start with the farthest destination first and work your way back, allowing your vehicle to get warmed up and thereby achieve it's most efficient mileage.
MARATHON RUNNER
  • Avoid using the air conditioner. For the extremists out there - your car will always run most efficiently with the A/C off and the windows rolled up. If you're not into melting every morning on your way to work - my husband heard recently that the magic number for air conditioner use is 45 mph: if you're going slower than 45, keep the A/C off and the windows rolled down; if you're going faster than 45, keep the windows up and turn on the A/C.
  • Anticipate light changes. Pay attention to what's happening on the road several lights ahead so you can anticipate if the light is going to turn red and cruise to a stop rather than hitting the brakes.
  • Ride the ridge. On the highway or interstate, drive with your right wheels on the white line. This lets other drivers know that you're a slow driver so they can avoid you and also gets your wheels out of the watery grooves made by other drivers when it's raining.
Most of these tips could be summarized in two words: Pay attention! My challenge with putting these principles into action has been remembering to pay close attention to my driving, rather than talking to (or yelling at) the kids, grooving to music, or writing blog posts in my head. It's easy to become zombies behind the wheel of a car, but the more attentive we can be, the less gas we will consume.

Will you take the challenge?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Here's the scoop.

Post ice-cream-scooping-environmental-trashing rants from EnviRambo.




I had hoped to be writing this post on better terms, full of encouragement and ideas on how to get people to think beyond the face value of a dollar and realize the true cost of their choices. Instead, I am writing with a heavy heart and conflicted conscience.

As my last Sunday post indicated, I serve on a non-profit committee that is selling ice cream at the county fair to raise funds. "The Dairy Bar" has been a staple at the fair for many, many years, like 50. This is my committee's first year running it. The Holstein Association owns The Dairy Bar and orders the ice cream, cones, malt mix, and root beer. We provide the labor and order the rest of the supplies. We get paid $850 to run it and then the two groups split the profits 80/20, we're on the 20 end. We were given basic instructions on how to set up and what to do along with a supply list that made me cringe.
  • Paper Towels (8-10 pkg) - 6 packs
  • Napkins (4 pkgs - white) cheapest ones - 10 packs
  • Spoons (white plastic - 500 count) - 10 boxes
  • Disinfectant Wipes (pkgs of 3) - 5 packs
  • Rubber Gloves (*the plastic ones do not work with ice cream* - 2 pk containers) - about 5
  • 8 oz Styrofoam cups (used for ice cream when customer doesn't want a cone) - 6 boxes
  • 12 oz Styrofoam cups (for malts) - about 6 boxes
  • 16 oz Styrofoam cups (for Root Beer floats) - about 6 boxes
  • 2 cardboard signs (Markers to write the menu on)
  • 409 Spray (To wash off tables and counter)
  • Water - depending on weather. Last year we went through 120 (24 pack) cases.
All I see when looking over this list is a lot of unnecessary waste. Plastic waste! The bane of my existence. Sometimes people get stuck in a rut and just keep doing things the way they have always been done without questioning it - even if it makes no sense! Coming in with fresh eyes, we wanted to make some changes for things to run more smoothly. I wanted to make some changes for things to run more environmentally friendly.

I threw out a Superhero SOS asking for sources of relatively-inexpensive-more-sustainable-than-styrofoam-and-plastic supplies. You all offered up some great ideas on how to run greener. Serving cones to skip the cup and spoon was a recurring one. I agree with you, and we do sell cones - lots and lots of them - but, malts and floats are one of their biggest sellers (i.e. money makers) and what we sell was not up to us. So the cups, spoons, and straws had to stay. Thousands and thousands of them.

Plastic waste

Plastic waste

Plastic waste

I had hoped to source more sustainable versions of these. One reader (Beth) commented on a site called Green Duck (shopgreenduck.com). They have a wide variety of eco-friendly products, many of which are compostable. Unfortunately at this time there are no facilities in my area with the ability to do so. My little compost pile at home does not get hot enough or have the capacity to handle the amount of waste being produced. All of the waste from "The Dairy Bar of Environmental Destruction" is being sent to Xcel Energy's waste-to-energy plant for incineration. Since it was going to be burnt, I thought my best bet was to find paper cups. Better than Styrofoam, cheaper than compostable.

My initial idea was to ask the local Pepsi company to donate cups. Paper cups, no expense, more profit, I thought they would jump on the idea. Nope. The Dairy Bar wants to promote dairy not soda. {And apparently environmental destruction, although I don't think that has even occurred to them} Okay, I can understand that. {The dairy not soda bit - not the environmental destruction part. That boggles my mind.} Plan B. My aunt owns a restaurant so enlisted her help. We found paper cups through one of her distributors. Wholesale prices, local pickup, still good. Or, so I thought. The rest of the group was not so down with the paper versus plastic price difference.

8 0z cups would cost $158.31 extra for paper
12 oz cups would cost $112.32 extra for paper
16 oz cups would cost $42.09 extra for paper

So in all we would have $312.72 less profit going with paper. The group felt this was too much. Really? I realize that for some people $312.72 is a lot of money. But, in this affluent country, in the grand scheme of things is it?

Let's break it down. Those figures are for the week - 6,000 cups of each size.

8 oz cups: $158.31 divided by 6,000 = 3 cents extra per cup for paper
12 oz cups: $112.32 divided by 6,000 = 2 cents extra per cup for paper
16 oz cups: $42.09 divided by 6,000 = .007 cents extra per cup for paper

I want to puke. No, really. Those numbers make me sick. For mere pennies, those things we cast off as worthless, throw in a jug and never do anything with, or do not even take the time to stop and pick up - for mere pennies we are willing to trash the planet - forever? Sorry, but WTF is wrong with us? Are we that nearsighted that we cannot think beyond the present, get past the immediate gratification, and see through the almighty dollar?

How do you get people to see beyond the face value of a dollar and realize the true cost of their choices? And, how do you do so without being pushy or coming off as crazy environmentalist?



Monday, July 19, 2010

Meatless Monday at the Booth

Forgive me for getting this post up so late today. We're celebrating a cute little boy's 5th birthday today, yesterday was his party, we're renovating a bathroom, and getting ready to go on a big trip. Needless to say, life has been incredibly hectic!

We had some great recipes from last week's Meatless Monday. In these dog days of summer, I keep hearing people talk about no-cook dinners, so I wanted to share a great no-cook meal from Her Green Life whose Caprese Salad Sandwiches are made with fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, basil, bread, olive oil and vinegar.


Doesn't it look good?

Toni of Toni's Treehouse also shared a tip that the Whole Foods website offers some great vegetarian recipes.

Be sure to peek at all of the recipes that were entered last week, and add yours this week using Mr. Linky below.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Superhero Secrets: Annie Leonard

The Conscious Shopper shares her love of Annie Leonard.

There are a few big names in the green movement whose thoughts and ideas I find so eloquently profound that I read, listen to, or watch every interview they've given. Annie Leonard, the creator of Story of Stuff, is one of those people.

I'm guessing that most of you have watched Story of Stuff by now, but have you caught Leonard's latest creations, The Story of Bottled Water and The Story of Cap and Trade? I thought both of them over-simplified the concepts, but with the same cartoon-style as Story of Stuff, they're still good introductions to the concept.

Planet Green ran a series of interviews with Annie Leonard a month or two ago, discussing "greensumption," planned obsolescence, and stuff cravings. You can find the interview here:
In an interview with Fake Plastic Fish from a few months ago, Leonard emphasizes the importance of community-building in the green movement. Around the same time, Leonard was also interviewed by Grist, which you might remember got me thinking about personal vs. political action for the APLS Carnival.

Several months ago, I listened to a speech by Leonard at the Bioneers Conference and loved it, but now I can't remember what she talked about. Guess I need to listen to it again. In fact, I think I'll go do that right now...(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Hope you're enjoying your Sunday!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Should I can it?

Going Green Mama could use some advice...

I confess: I love to cook. I love to harvest fresh vegetables.

But I'm scared to death to can.

I'll be honest, I'm worried about screwing something up. Fear of food poisoning. Fear of screwing something up.

So today, I'll ask your advice: Should I can this year? What's easy to can? Anything I should keep in mind?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Let's Get Physical, Naturally

The Conscious Shopper apologizes to her husband, who is probably wishing she would give up blogging right about now...

A few months ago, Umbra Fisk's column answered a question about the greenest method of birth control, which was followed by a reader who commented, "In your most recent post, I thought there was a pretty big type of birth control missing: Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)...FAM is extremely "green" as it requires no rubbers or chemicals; it is also extremely empowering to women and supports personal health."

I found Umbra's response intriguing: "
According to Planned Parenthood, FAM is as effective a birth control method as condoms."

I had always heard that the natural method of birth control was extremely unreliable, ineffective, and unscientifically sound, and yet here was Umbra citing Planned Parenthood (a group that certainly does not want people choosing a poor birth control method) and saying that it's just as effective as condoms.

I had to find out more...

A short history of my personal birth control

Before I had my oldest, I was on the pill, and I hated, hated, hated it. I will never go back on the pill. N-E-V-E-R! Since his birth, my husband and I have used condoms as our birth control method of choice, but I've intended to look into getting an IUD for a couple of years now. Intending, but never actually doing. You see, I'm not completely sold on it. I know lots of you readers have gotten one and love it (because you've told me so), but it just didn't feel like the right choice for me. So condoms it has been.

But if we didn't have to use condoms...well that is worth looking into.

The Book

So I checked out The Book from the library: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. The 500 page bible on fertility awareness. Weschler describes in great detail exactly how to understand and keep track of your own body's fertility signs so you can act accordingly: either abstaining from intercourse during your most fertile time if you don't want to get pregnant, or focusing your intimacy on your most fertile time so you do get pregnant.

As far as birth control methods go, I'm still not convinced that this one is right for me (and my husband is even less convinced). You have to be able to take your temperature every morning after three consecutive hours of sleep, and that's problematic for me because I totally suck at sleeping. I don't know that I ever get three consecutive hours of sleep at night. I think I'm still running on infant schedule, even though my last baby stopped nursing a year and a half ago.

Plus, during your fertile time, you either have to abstain from sex or use a barrier method (like a condom), and since I have a short cycle, we'd be using condoms almost as much as we do now.

And as my husband says, "If this method is so easy to use, why is the book so long?"

On the other hand, I think every woman should read this book. I think they should require classes on it in high school, or at the very least every mother should teach her daughter about fertility awareness. The more I read, the more excited and empowered I felt. To think that my body had been giving me these signals all along, if I had only known how to read them. As Weschler says:
Imagine growing up being told that your body is a marvel of biological beauty that will orchestrate amazing changes every cycle. Rather than thinking that you keep producing infectious discharges, you'd know to identify healthy cervical secretions as a reflection of the remarkable hormonal system working within. Imagine going to the doctor and feeling knowledgeable rather than vulnerable...

Imagine being able to utilize your body's own fertility signs to provide you with a completely natural, safe, and effective method of birth control that promotes shared responsibility and communication between you and your partner...And if by chance you or your partner really do have a fertility problem, picture a dialogue of truly informed participants. Imagine you, your partner, and your doctor using your own charts to find the least invasive strategy first...
Even if you have no intention of using fertility awareness as a birth control method, I encourage all of you, male and female readers alike, to check out this book and unlock the secrets of female fertility that they skipped in health class.

Have any of you tried the Fertility Awareness Method as birth control? How has your experience been?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

APLS: Fun times at the Farmers Market

The Greenhabilitator learns what farmers markets are really all about...

I missed out on the first season of the farmers market here in our new town. Someone, who shall remain nameless (ahem Mr.Greenhab cough cough), told me it stunk. To be more precise, he said it was small with only one or two people selling a few pieces of produce and the rest were selling expensive jelly.

Men. {insert sigh / eye roll combination here}

This year I've been volunteering with our local sustainability group to collect signatures in support of a community garden and, naturally, one of the best venues is the farmers market where people love fresh, local produce. I was incredibly -- and pleasantly -- surprised by what I experienced on my first trip there.

Collecting petition signatures is not for the shy or easily offended. For each "no" or person who ignored me though, I met just as many supportive community members. We shared stories, the statuses of our gardens and how they were affected by the hail storm earlier in the week. I met older community members who had been gardening for decades, and younger members who wanted to learn more about it.

After collecting my signatures, I wandered around the market for awhile picking up some vegetables for the week. One vendor was selling fresh roasted green chillies, which I picked up for my husband. I asked for medium, telling the man my husband would probably prefer the hot, but that I was too wimpy. He laughed and threw in one of his special extra-hot jalapenos for my husband.

While Mr. Greenhab was correct in saying that there weren't an abundance of produce vendors, what he really neglected to explain was the incredible aura of the event. While there, I bumped into two other families we knew from school and caught up on their kids and all the summer happenings. I spoke with a member of the school administration about ways to pair up the school and the sustainability group. I had a conversation with someone from a nonprofit group who was interested in using the excess produce from the community garden for her clients. I met local restaurant owners and sampled their foods and heard all about how the BBQ man ended up here in Colorado from his home in the deep south.

I left the farmers market that day with only a small bag of food, but a heart bursting at the seems with pride in my little town. Where else can you have breakfast, meet your neighbors, snack all day long, buy handmade gifts, locally grown flowers, freshly baked bread, eat lunch with friends you haven't seen in weeks and learn more about others in your community? If you ask me, it's definitely worth the price of "expensive jelly."

This is my submission to the July APLS carnival, which will be hosted on the APLS blog on July 18th.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sustainable Staging

From the bean of Green Bean.

I turned back at the front door. Had I left the bedroom light on? I trotted back to check. No. Darn it. I flipped the switch and a bright halo filled the room. Much better.

After turning the key, I paused over the new sod and tamped down the surge of sadness. My pollinator garden was now lawn. (Don't worry! I kept the front yard victory garden and raised beds in the back). Sprinklers whirring, I pulled out of the driveway and ticked through the days' activities. Things to do, places to go, anything to stay out of the house and out of the realtors' way. And it always ended the same. With a dinner out or a frozen pizza. Something that wouldn't stink up the house or mess up the kitchen.

Selling a house is dirty business. It's not for the green of heart. But it is, sometimes, a necessary step. One that, in my case, will lead to a large sunny lot with plenty of space for my chickens and edible garden. And, so, I go through the motions. But I take solace in small things.

In freshening my home with fresh air - open windows and screen doors beckoning in soft breezes - instead of Febreeze.

In borrowing instead of buying. A friend's runner graces my dining room table and my mom's tray rests on the family room ottoman.

In raiding my closets instead of Target. Even though I do not use paraffin based candles, I sure am glad I saved the ones that I received as gifts. They add the touch of color our realtor requested perched on the master bathroom counter without a touch guilt.

In embracing my eco-chic by filling jars with saved wine corks, bowls with fruits and sturdy vegetables (in my case, artichokes), and vases with locally grown flowers.

And in remembering my second hand values. "It is better to thrift, than to TJ Maxx." Just this morning, I picked up a throw pillow, table cloth and centerpiece bowl for under $5.

It is not perfect. Not by a long shot. My efforts at sustainable staging are much like carbon offsets. They balm the conscience and make only the slightest of dents. But sometimes, a carbon offset is all you've got to get from here to sold.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hic! (Time to brew the liqueurs...)

Dreams of inebriation in the heart of a harried suburban greenmom...

I love liqueurs. I just think they are delicious and decadent and wonderful on so many levels...delicately flavored, smooth and warming on the palate, and they have the ability to transform a scoop of ice cream into something just a little naughty...

Imagine my thrill a few years ago when I discovered I could make my own. Admittedly, nothing I've managed to brew in my kitchen has matched the glory in that $21 bottle of Grand Marnier, but I've done some pretty good stuff. And these are the kinds of recipes that are honestly easy, if a little time-consuming.

Basic Liquer Recipe

Phase One: Infusing
  • Lightly fill a quart jar (I never do more than a quart my first time out on any recipe; the size of the jar really isn't important; I save big applesauce jars all year for this purpose) with the herbs and/or fruit of your choice. Don't pack it down, just kind of fill it.
  • Pour clear 80-100 proof vodka or spirits over it, to the top of the jar. (The better the vodka, the better the liqueur, of course...however, a cheap and still very nice alternative is a half and half mixture of grain alcohol and distilled water. That makes about 100 proof.) (Distilled water is cheap at your local pharmacy. Don't ever drink it from your stainless steel water bottle; save it for stuff like this.)
  • Put a lid on the jar and let sit in a cool dark place for about 2 weeks; shake every day or so.
Phase Two: Sweetening
  • Strain liquid through several layers of cheesecloth, one layer of muslin, or even an unbleached coffee filter, into a large pyrex container. Squeeze all the liquid you can out of the filter. (When I did this with cherries, the leftover fruit became a really yummy treat! If you save these, label your bottle well so your kids don't get into it!)
  • In a pan over the stove, make a simple sugar syrup: mix equal parts sugar and water and heat to a simmer but not a full boil. You want the same amount of syrup as you have herbal alcohol--if you have 3 cups infused vodka, you want to use 3 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar. This will give you just over 3 cups sugar syrup. (Save the rest to put in your tea or something!)
  • Mix together equal parts infused alcohol and sugar syrup and pour into old wine or liqueur bottles you didn't throw out. Label the bottle with contents and date.
  • Let mellow for about two months in a cool dark place. Honestly, the fridge does just fine for me.
Phase Three: Bottling and Drinking
  • At this point, it's pretty much ready. If you are just drinking it yourself, you don't have to do anything else--just pour and enjoy.
  • To give as gifts, pour into pretty bottles (either saved ones or new ones--I buy mine from Specialty Bottle, because you can get smaller-than-case amounts.) and make pretty labels.
Not bad, huh? Pretty easy!

Some suggestions and hints:
  • If you are using citrus peel, make sure you only use the zest--don't let any of the white pith get into the alcohol, or it will be bitter.
  • Use organic fruits, especially citrus fruits! Remember that you are extracting the alkaloids from the plant material, and if there's pesticide residue you're extracting that too, in higher concentration!
  • For a fruit liqueur, instead of using half grain alcohol and half water, try substituting fruit juice for some of the water for even more flavor.
  • Spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise can also add a really nice flavor. Beware of cloves--they go a long way and will numb your mouth. (I'll do another post later on natural dental care! Clove-infused booze is great for a toothache!)
  • If you are using herbs, and you want your liqueur to be pretty when you're done, you may want to lay a layer of plastic wrap over the top of your alcohol in the jar--any leaves that float to the top will oxidize and turn brown, which won't affect the flavor of the final product, just the color.
And finally, some recipe suggestions:
  • Fresh sweet cherries and two oranges worth of zest and juice (straight cherry, sadly, often tastes a lot like cough syrup.)
  • Lemon Balm leaves with Lavender flowers (Straight-up sleeping potion, this one!)
  • Lemon Balm leaves with 3 lemons worth of zest and juice
  • Fresh mint leaves with 5-6 oranges worth of zest and juice.
  • Fresh grated ginger root with fresh German Chamomile flowers
  • Heck, fresh grated ginger root with just about anything, or by itself! (Great for the digestion!)
  • Almost any fresh (or frozen!) berry mixture--try raspberry, blueberry, blackberry...have fun.
Again, I always recommend the google search (Check out Gunther Anderson's site--dozens of recipes there!)--there are lots of recipes out there. If you try these in smaller quantities, keep really good track of what you put in there, so you can recreate it later if you love it.

I've done a couple of other posts on this--one last summer with fruit and herbs and stuff, one with my adventures with cherries, and another where I found a recipe for homemade Irish Cream Liqueur. Have fun!

And, as always, infuse responsibly!
--Jenn the Greenmom

Monday, July 12, 2010

Meatless Monday ~ Grains

When I first began to observe Meatless Monday, I found myself serving a lot of pasta dishes. Pasta with red sauce, white sauce, lasagna, mac and cheese -- all with veggies too, of course, but I wasn't quite registering other accompaniments than pasta. The more I tired of pasta, the more adventurous I became, sampling whole grains.

Today I thought I would share with you some of the more popular grains in case, like me, you're attempting to branch out a bit.

Grains are the seed-bearing fruits of grasses. Whole, unrefined, grains are great sources of nutrients like soluble fiber, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Zinc, Potassium, Folate, protein, Iron, Thiamin and Riboflavin. Technically speaking, some of the popular grains like buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth not actually grains, but fruits. They're usually included with the grain group though. Quinoa and buckwheat also have an edge over other grains because they're low in fat, sodium and calories but high in fiber, micro-nutrients and minerals like potassium, iron, zinc, calcium, riboflavin and B vitamins. All grains are low in fat and contain no cholesterol. They're also low in sodium, unless added during cooking, and have between 5 and 10 grams of protein per cup.

Couscous

Couscous is a grain product made from semolina or, in some regions, from coarsely ground barley or pearl millet. It's not very flavorful, so couscous dishes are usually made with flavored stocks and spices, vegetables, dried fruits or nuts. I had an amazing couscous dish at a picnic over the weekend with almond slivers, diced apricots and sliced kalamata olives.

Amaranth


Amaranth is an extremely versatile plant. It can be cooked as a cereal, ground into flour, popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted. The seeds can be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fry or to soups and stews as a nutrient dense thickening agent. It resists heat and drought, has no major disease problems, and is among the easiest of plants to grow. (Source) Recipeland.com has a variety of recipes using Amaranth from stew to banana bread.

Quinoa

Quinoa comes from the Andes Mountains of South America. It was one of three staple foods, along with corn and potatoes, of the ancient Inca civilization. It's often called the "Supergrain of the Future."

Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain; an average of 16.2  percent, compared with 7.5 percent for rice, 9.9 percent for millet, and 14 percent for wheat. Some varieties of quinoa are more than 20 percent protein. (Source)

Quinoa should be well rinsed before cooking to remove the saponens, a natural, protective coating which will give a bitter flavor if not rinsed off.

Barley

Barley has a nutty flavor, chewy texture and adds fiber to both hot and cold dishes. Barley is an excellent food choice for those concerned with type 2 diabetes because the grain contains essential vitamins and minerals and is an excellent source of dietary fiber, particularly beta-glucan soluble fiber which promotes healthy blood sugar by slowing glucose absorption. (Source) BarleyFoods has an extensive list of barley recipes from main dishes to breakfast foods to desserts.

Bulgur


Bulgur is a quick-cooking form of whole wheat. It's used similarly to rice or couscous, but has a higher nutritional value. It is best known as an ingredient in tabouli salad. Bulgur is an ideal food in a vegetarian diet because of its nutritional value and versatility. It can be used as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes or a component of meatless burgers. (Source)


Wild Rice


Wild rice -- which is not actually a member of the rice family -- is native to North America and can still be found growing wild in the ponds and lakes of Wisconsin, as well as in neighboring states. 


Millet

Millet is tiny and round and can be white, gray, yellow or red. The most widely available form of millet found in stores is the pearled, hulled variety. Millet is a heart-healthy choice because of its magnesium content, which has been shown to reduce the severity of asthma and to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Magnesium has also been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack, especially in people with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. (Source)


If you're just starting to make meatless dishes, or you're having a hard time finding a variety of foods to prepare for Meatless Mondays, I urge you to branch out and try a few of these popular grains. They are all quite adaptable, healthy and inexpensive.

Remember to share your Meatless Monday recipe with us using Mr. Linky below. Post your name or blog name with the recipe in parenthesis and link directly to the recipe. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Results of Our Survey

A big thank you to everyone who took our survey. Your answers have been very enlightening and will help us improve our posts and make the Green Phone Booth more enjoyable to read.

I appreciated one person's answer to the question about what we should change at the Booth: "I like it just the way it is." We're very grateful that you all enjoy reading what we write and are especially grateful for your comments and the community we've all built, making the Booth a fun place to hang out. But I'm sure you can understand that as most of us have been blogging for awhile now, sometimes we need to shake things up a bit to keep blogging fun.

So here's what you had to say about the Green Phone Booth:

What's your gender?









No surprise that most of our readers are female, though we love all of our male readers!


How old are you?





















Although it looks like most of you are close in age to those of us writing for the Booth, I'm happy to see that we've got some good representation from all of the age brackets.


What is your parental status?































How long have you been a reader of the Green Phone Booth?






















How often do you visit the Green Phone Booth?


















How did you find the Green Pone Booth?



























Are you subscribed to the Booth?









If you're not already subscribed to the Booth, we encourage you to do so by clicking here. You don't want to miss a post!


What are your favorite post topics?


















































I wasn't surprised to see that your favorite post topic is gardening/locavorism, but I was surprised to see that so many of you like posts about crafts/cooking. Those posts often don't get a lot of comments, so its good to have some conformation that you like reading them.


We've brainstormed some ways to change up the Green Phone Booth. What would you like to see?


For some reason, Google docs is messing up the results to this last question, so I don't have a pretty graph to show you, but here are your responses:
  • Keep Superheroes Secrets: 37
  • Keep Meatless Mondays: 35
  • Bring over the Conscious Shopper Challenge: 38
  • more product reviews: 13
  • more guest posts: 10
  • male writers: 12
I also appreciated some of your specific comments:
More personal stories, concrete changes, never read Meatless Mondays, not a fan of reviews or giveaways, it is the relevant eco-storytelling that brought me here to begin with!
create groups for food co-ops, attachment parenting, green parents, etc...
A compilation/list somewhere for the many things that we can do to green our homes and lives. When I first started reading the posts, I noticed references to things I wanted to do, but was unable to find the information I needed to do them. Having a list to refer to would help those of us who are very motivated to make changes we want to make right away rather than having to wait until someone posts something that gives us the information we are needing. Also, more of "Ways to live more green in our homes and lives and avoid unhealthy chemicals in our foods/ education about them. Recipes and ideas for using our produce and other things we can get locally so we can further avoid toxins, etc in foods we enjoy."
In response to the last comment, I think that's a great suggestion, and I'll see what I can put together. In the meantime, please check out the index to the Conscious Shopper Challenge, which provides ideas for changes in many specific areas. And anytime you have a specific question that you need answered, send us an email and we're happy to help.

Thanks again to everyone who responded. You've been a big help!

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