Getting Back to Nature With Kids: Bit by Bit, Bug by Bug

May 11th, 2011

As I look at that headline, I purse my lips and shake my head. It’s hard to admit that even “green Moms” find it challenging to get enough time connecting with nature – for ourselves or our families.

Who isn’t busy? It often seems easier and faster to run an errand by hopping in the car or walking along a sidewalk rather than to take a hike on a wooded trail.

I knew I was in trouble today, with this post still unwritten yet due for this month’s Green Moms’ Carnival. I thought about searching through my camera for pictures of my kids communing with nature. But heck, there’s no time like the present, is there?

I needed to get to the CSA for our weekly pick-up, and had about an hour to spare between a 5 p.m. conference call and the time my son came home off the diesel spewing school bus (one huge irritant, why must they be driven to school when walking is so much healthier?).  Time slowed as he asked for a friend to come over for a playdate. Phone calls, coordination with the other parent, and then the litany of the divine right of children: ice cream. (By the way, Alden’s, you’d sell more if you started calling it Cotton Candy Organic Ice Cream instead of Strawberry Organic Ice Cream. It’s what all the kids call it!)

With 45 minutes left, I decided to chance it – and headed out, two eight-year-old boys in tow, for a walk to the CSA. Normally we’d take the main roads, but mindful of our carnival topic, I headed for the trail instead. Before we had even hit the trail, I knew I had made the right decision: the boys were rolling down the hill, laughing all the way.

Luck was with us. We made it in plenty of time. I was back with nearly 10 minutes to spare for my conference call – enough time to rustle up yet another snack for the boys (this time, cantaloupe).

And the adventures we had!

Bugs to behold!

Scary steps to climb!

And why are they closing this trail anyway?

“Save the trail!,” “Save the trail!” they screamed all the way home.

It’s amazing what happens when you get outside. Exercise, fresh air…and the birth of eco-activists!

When was your last hike?

Leave a comment and share.

Thursday’s Green Mom’s Carnival will be hosted over at The Green Phone Booth. Head on over and read some thoughts and tips from the wonderful women of the Green Moms Carnival about getting outside with the kids.

PS: And if you like this trail, head on over to Facebook and “like” their page here. Looks like they could use some more visibility! Only 66 likes on that site!

– Lynn

 

 

Wednesdays at the CSA: Recipes at Last! 4th of July Potato Salad with Green Beans and Salsa Verde

June 30th, 2010

For years now, I’ve been blogging about my wonderful CSA. I love it. I love everything about it.  The biodynamic food, of course, is delicious – out of this world good. The atmosphere is more Berkeley than Bethesda. It’s like a mini-vacation into another world every time I head over there, a few short blocks from my home.

June 23 share photo

But cooking?

That’s what my husband does.  I really don’t know how to cook.

Now I have a wonderful surprise for you: each week this summer I’ll be featuring a recipe and post from guest blogger Mattie Kahn.  A green teen and foodie, she’s also, as you’ll see, a wonderful writer. And she knows how to cook! She’ll be at culinary school in the fall, but for now, we get to enjoy her explorations with my weekly CSA share.

– Lynn

Think summer picnic. Go ahead. Picture it, you can close your eyes if you need to. If you’re like me, you’re probably envisioning a rolling, green lawn, a checked blanket, friends, family, kids–company of some kind, anyway, maybe, if you’re feeling optimistic, a warm mid-summer breeze, and definitely a picnic basket. The picnic baskets that dot my childhood memories were always filled with some variation on sandwiches, salad, brownies, and watermelon. My siblings and I munched on PB&J in Central Park, tuna-cucumber along the pier on the Hudson River, even an adventurous spread of hummus and veggies on a pebbly Cape Cod beach.

But my most persistent summer picnic memory is the sweet, salty taste of the perfect, cold potato salad, carted along in some container to satisfy every picnic participant, every time. My family’s trademark German-style potato salad–meaning, a mustard-based dressing–was so pervasive, that it wasn’t until I was ten or eleven that I’d ever tasted a potato salad made with mayonnaise. Since then, I’ve been to many more picnics, with families other than my own, and sometimes just with friends. I’ve tasted a LOT of potato salads.

With fourth of July around the corner, and this week’s CSA share list boasting delicious, flavor-packed new potatoes, and brimming with other potato salad ingredients, I thought I’d introduce you all to a potato salad that’s a little more adventurous than your average picnic side-dish fare. This one’s lightly adapted from the geniuses over at Food and Wine magazine, and it’s been a staff favorite over there for ages. Embrace the vibrant flavor of salsa verde as a delicious and unexpected dressing for this salad. In it’s original Food and Wine incarnation, the recipe is made with green beans, but being a green peas lover as I am, and because peas appeared on the CSA sharelist this week, I decided to sub out the beans for peas. Enjoy!

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Potato Salad with Green Beans and Salsa Verde:

Ingredients:

1. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2. 1/4 cup minced chives

3. 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (another CSA sharelist goody!)

4. 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint or cilantro, or a mix of both, depending on your taste preferences

5. 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

6. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

7. 1 large garlic clove, minced

8. Salt

9. 1 1/4 pounds new red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

10. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

11. 1 1/2 pounds green peas, fresh if you can find them! They’re in season.

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil with the chives, parsley, mint or cilantro, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic and season with salt. Let the salsa verde stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water, add a large pinch of salt (Kosher salt, if you have it on hand) and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes over moderately high heat until just tender, about 8 minutes; drain and return them to the saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook until tender, but not mushy, 3-4 minutes; drain. Return the beans to the pot and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Season with salt.
  4. Add half of the salsa verde to the potatoes and half to the peas, stirring to coat. Transfer the peas to a serving bowl. Top with the potatoes, and serve. Keeping this potato salad warm lends the potatoes and added velvety texture, but from my trial experience, it’s just as delicious after being cooled in the fridge!

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

- Mattie

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

A Day In The Life: When Advocating for Green Is Easier Than Being Green

June 19th, 2010

I was amused last week when I saw these tweets from a California conference. “Green is Mainstream.”  “It’s not a differentiator.” “It’s just what everyone does.”

Really? Maybe I need another trip to California. (But of course, that wouldn’t be too green.)

For this month’s Green Moms’ Carnival, Beth of Fake Plastic Fish challenged the Green Moms to write about a “Day in the Life,” reflecting on the “green steps we take as well as the green challenges we face and the hard decisions we have to make.”

As luck would have it, I chose a day that ended up revealing a sad truth: sometimes it’s easier to advocate for green than to be green. Does that make me a hypocrite? Or does it just show how much more work we have to do before being green in Maryland is as easy as being green in California?

But back to my day….It was Wednesday, June 9th, cloudy and overcast, and threatening showers as I closed the front door. I was heading out  to the Bethesda Green Incubator, where my business is located. I was on time (mindful that running late invariably results in taking the car instead of walking), ready for an easy 15 minute walk.

But I hesitated.

The sky was dark. What if it rained? I  had my laptop, after all. I wouldn’t want that to get soaked, would I? I debated. I thought about Beth. I thought about the Carnival. I thought about water seeping through my bag, damaging my laptop. The minutes crept away. I was on the verge of being late. I took the car. It’s not a Hybrid.  It consumes oil, the very kind that’s seeping into the Gulf.

BG entrancephoto

At the Incubator, I walked out to our model-green reception area to meet Ariana Kelly, a Moms Rising advocate and candidate for the Maryland State House.

I told her the Bethesda Green story: how the community came together – business, government, and residents – to take on volunteer projects to make our community more sustainable. I pointed out the cork floors, the low VoC paints, the rain barrel displays, the permaculture exhibit, specimen seed library, and solar panels.

Then we walked across the street for lunch (so far, so good) and ate a lunch that assuredly was not sustainable. (After all, when it’s sustainably raised seafood they charge more for it and advertise it as such, don’t they?)  At least our conversation was green. We talked about all that Maryland was doing with B Corp legislation and the BPA ban, and the Bethesda Green Business Delegation that met in Annapolis recently.

The Bethesda Green Delegation was sure to snap a pic of Bethesda's own Honest Tea on the steps of the State Capitol

Then I ran out to retrieve my car, soon discovering the day’s first stroke of Bad Green Karma. A parking ticket.I should have walked. Not a drop of rain fell from the sky. And now I owed $40. My lunch had suddenly became quite expensive.

Later that afternoon, I picked Boo up from preschool, wincing as he carried some Pepperidge Farm goldfish in a plastic cup out the door. Every day, I dutifully packed reusable containers. Couldn’t they be used to pack up snacks?, I wondered. Must remember to bring that up to the teachers, I thought, as I dashed out the door to my car  (yet again). After all, we had to hurry to make it to the CSA pick-up, and then on to the end-of-year  Cub Scout picnic.

Soon, I stood at the CSA, hurriedly weighing  the fresh-picked biodynamic and organic produce. Scallions? Check. Apples? Natch.  Radishes, swiss chard, kale, fresh-baked bread, lettuce, they all went into my re-usable bag.

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I heard Boo fussing, and asked him to be patient and wait for Mommy.   I was in a hurry, after all, and there were four people behind me, waiting to use the scale.

Then I heard it.

CRASH.

Tiny bits of crushed Pepperidge Farm goldfish – all over the pristine garage  floor of the CSA. Ev eryone froze, looked at Boo, and then looked at me. I sighed and said, “That’s what happens when you dare to bring Pepperidge Farm goldfish to a biodynamic CSA. God strikes you down.”

After the laughter died down, a broom appeared, everything was swept up, and we were off on our way to the picnic.

I was in such a hurry, I didn’t bother to check directions before I left the house. And my in-car navigator (Big Boy) wasn’t with me….he had left ahead of time with his friends and their Mom. So I overshot the park. Sat, idling (burning more of that fuel) in front of an apartment building 1 /4 mile from the turn-off for the park, frantically navigating my iPhone, trying to figure out where I was supposed to be.

(Maybe at this point I should mention my DH was on Day Seven of an extended business trip. The one where he gets to hang out in a castle by the Mediterranean Sea. And I was spent from playing Single Mom for a week).

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Finally, we arrived at the picnic, eager to partake in the festivities. I frowned at the hot dogs and hamburgers, thinking of the heavy burden conventional farming techniques, especially those used to rear cattle and pork, place on our ecosystem. I helped myself to some salad, trying to ignore Boo’s pleas for a hotdog or hamburger, before finally giving in. Their father, the committed vegetarian, was out of town. And we so rarely had meat. They even had a grill! I ended up eating some myself.

waterphoto

But the bottled water? That was just beyond the pale. I hurried out to my car to retrieve my stainless steel water bottle. At least I had remembered that! When I returned, my friend smirked and asked me to look closely at the bottled water. They weren’t drinking water, she said.

wine in waterbottlephoto

I burst out laughing. Cub Scout parents surreptitiously drinking wine from empty water bottles? It brought back memories of alcohol snuck into parties when I was under-age. It was too funny. I had to have some! (Just on general principle!) But how? I only had my water bottle, and Boo needed some water. My not-so-green friend eyed me, amusedly. She knew exactly the calculation I was making.

“I’m not touching those plastic bottles!” I hissed.

I asked Boo if he wanted some more water.

“No, I’m fine,” he told me.

“Drink up, “ I urged. “There won’t be any more water.”

“I’M FINE!!!”

I dumped the rest of the water out of my re-usable water bottle and smiled contentedly as her husband filled it part way with the red wine. It wasn’t that good, actually, but it was the absurdity of the situation that made it worthwhile.

wineincanisterphoto

“Mama, can I have some more water?”

That’s when I gave up and opened one of those darn plastic water bottles.

(And made a mental note to see if we couldn’t procure some large water jugs for the next Cub Scout picnic.)

And decided that I had more than enough material for a  decent “Day in the Life” post.

Easy to be green? Maybe in California. But not where I live.

What about you?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

November 27th, 2009

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No gifts to buy, no religious differences to divide us.  Simplicity reigns. A delicious meal, a gathering of family and friends,  and an aura of gratitude for all we’ve been given  — that’s Thanksgiving.

This year I did something almost as an after thought, but it turned out to be such a moving experience that I hope to make it part of my Thanksgiving tradition for years to come.

csa-thanks-photo

My CSA has a requirement that members take on various  chores throughout the year. When I signed up to help with the set-up the day before Thanksgiving,  I did so figuring it would be a slow time at work, not too cold to stand outside moving boxes,  would find it hard to break away from Thanksgiving preparations  to volunteer.

csasetupphoto

I  didn’t know what a beautiful experience it would be to move bushels and baskets of just-picked food from truck to table.  It was a cold, rainy morning,  and as I shivered and wished I had some hot tea on hand, I thought about the workers who had been out in the fields that morning, picking the crops and packing them up for us to receive.

I remembered how at the launch of the Farmers Market by the White House FRESHFARM Markets co-founder Ann Yonkers stated that farmers were the most under appreciated group of workers in the US.

Suddenly I wondered if we could turn Thanksgiving into a National Day of Thanks for Farmers. Perhaps I’d contact the American Farmland Trust and suggest a new program. My mind raced with all I could do, suddenly in full marketing consultant mode, instead of in the “here and now” of the muddy, raining morning with tot soi, muddy carrots, kale, and more all around me.

moving-potatoes-at-csa-photo

It was then that I realized that we don’t need MORE to do on Thanksgiving. We need to preserve its simplicity. But from now on, part of my Thanksgiving tradition will be volunteering at the CSA on Thanksgiving week as a way of giving thanks to the farmers who feed us year round.

What were you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Any new traditions in your family?  Please leave a comment and share!

Wednesdays at the CSA: Going Local & Seasonal for Good

August 19th, 2009

It used to be that I looked forward to the weekend. I still do, but it’s Wednesdays that I find most relaxing. That’s because Wednesdays are CSA Day, the day when I pick up my weekly share from the biodynamic  farmer’s coop I’ve bought into.

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In addition to the wonderful food, it seems I always walk away with a pearl of wisdom. That’s probably because the CSA is located at an ashram, so there’s often a wise old yogi nearby speaking wise thoughts.

Today’s was: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Boy, was that ever what I needed to hear today!

But back to the food…the tomatoes have just been killing me this season. They’re so fresh, so flavorful, so delicious, that the other stuff they call “tomatoes” that we buy year round at the grocers? Fuhgeddabout it!

That’s right…we’ve been so taken with the freshness and bounty of eating in season, that we’ve decided to try it year-round.

No more wasting money on expensive, out-of-season organic tomatoes in the dead of winter. I’d rather save my money for expensive, in-season, delicious local tomatoes during the summer!

This winter? I’ll stick with purple potatoes, nuts, and other foods we can eat seasonally.  Of course, it’s a lot easier to make that type of commitment now in the heat of summer than in the cold of winter.  I just have to remember that even in winter CSAs are More than Just Kale.

What about you? Have you made the switch to eating all local, all the time? Have you tried it? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

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Great Deals on Recycled Toilet Paper & Why TP Shouldn’t Be at the Bottom of Your Green List

March 2nd, 2009

Perhaps you saw the news a few days ago: reports from Greenpeace, publicized in The New York Times, Fast Company, and the UK newspaper The Guardian, which emphasized the importance of choosing recycled toilet paper over “squeezably soft” brands, which get that softness from wood pulp found only in virgin forests.

Going green involves huge changes in buying behaviors: everything from food to clothing to houses, cars, and even toilet paper gets looked at with increased awareness of its ecological impact.

And for many of us — well, swapping out our favorite toilet paper brand is at the bottom of the list. I’ll admit it: I didn’t give much thought to recycled toilet paper, figuring that I’d just wait until the prices came down and the quality came up. Memories of scratchy paper from overseas didn’t do anything to encourage me to check out recycled toilet paper, and frankly, I didn’t realize the extent to which premium toilet paper is taken from old growth forests. (Read more of this disturbing news here).

So I took a fresh look at recycled toilet paper versus conventional, and found big changes in the marketplace. Did you realize you can buy recycled paper for less money than conventional toilet paper?

CVS recently introduced CVS Earth Essentials, recycled content napkins, toilet paper, and paper towels. I decided that at .89 cents a roll, I could spring for one, and put it to the test versus Scott bathroom tissues, available on the same drugstore shelf for $1.29 per roll, and Seventh Generation, available at Whole Foods for $1.39 per roll.

The verdict? Recycled toilet paper has come a long way. Yes, from the perspective of “The Princess and the Pea,” you do notice a bit of a difference, but it is very slight and not nearly enough to merit being called “scratchy.” The quality is equivalent to the type of toilet paper you find in most public buildings. It’s fine.

And it’s really cheap in bulk. After the successful home test, I returned to CVS to stock up. They’re running a sale on four packs of Earth Essentials, now $3.49, on sale from $4.69 through April 30th. That’s a $1.20 savings per 4-pack. But the savings really add up when you buy a 12-pack for $8.99. That’s less than 75 cents per roll. And if you have a CVS “ExtraCare card,” you may reap even more savings. My initial .89 cent purchase yielded a $5 off any $15 purchase, so when I returned to pick up the 12-pack, I added a few other things in my cart and saved even more.

The CVS Earth Essentials toilet paper rated a “Green Tree” stamp of approval from Greenpeace. (Unfortunately the other Earth Essentials products didn’t rank quite as highly as their toilet paper). Check out the Greenpeace guide here. Other good bets for best buys include the Trader Joe’s house brand and Whole Foods 365 brand. And don’t forget, you can often get 10% off a case of goods such as toilet paper at your local market – just ask! My Organic Market offers this discount plus a “best price” guarantee. Other good sources include CSAs, which often stock paper goods too.

So what are you waiting for? Take the switch to recycled toilet paper off the bottom of your list today!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Gotta Love the Quirkiness of a CSA!

January 7th, 2009

Finding Time for Gratitude Amidst the Chaos of Everyday Life

November 1st, 2008

I normally approach the Green Moms carnival topics with gusto. Global warming? I’m all over it. Back to School? Sign me up. But when my bloggy friend Karen of Best of Mother Earth asked the Green Moms to blog about gratitude, I paused. I procrastinated. As the days ticked by and the deadline passed, I found myself making excuses. I’m sick. The boys are sick. DH has been away on travel quite a bit lately. I’m behind. I have major deliverables for three different clients due within a few days of each other. Oh, and we’re bidding farewell to our well loved nanny of six years and transitioning my youngest into a part time day care situation. I’m stressed.

Busy, behind, call it what you will, but I wasn’t feeling particularly gracious or full of gratitude. Sure, I went through the motions. In our family, we say grace before the evening meal. We go to church Wednesday evening and give thanks again. And sometimes, when we don’t oversleep, we all make it to church on Sunday.

But the fact is, when things aren’t going the way you expected, no matter how good things are – no matter how much better off you know you are than so many others – it can be hard to feel truly grateful. By truly grateful, I mean something deeper, simpler and more profound than that twisted form of  Schadenfreude that strikes Moms who  think “Well, the whole family has been sick for two weeks but at least it’s not cancer.”

At times like this I think of my friend and rector Margaret Guenther, who in her many books has written about the need to be still. You have to get away from all the everyday madness before you can look inside yourself and have the capacity to truly think, reflect, and yes, appreciate.

Perhaps that’s why one of my favorite green things (back to the Carnival theme!) is to steal away to my CSA. I love the simplicity of the place. The clean garage stocked with bins full to overflowing of fresh, mud splattered produce. Sweet beets, stocky carrots, fresh baked bread and more. A chalkboard with the day’s share carefully written for all to see. Old fashioned hanging scales ready to weigh our shares. I always feel refreshed by the time I leave there, canvas bag filled to overflowing with biodynamic produce. It’s like a trip back in time.

But that’s just one green thing for which I’m grateful. The other two?

That’s easy.

OrganicMania and the Community of Green Moms who participate in the Green Moms Carnival. Why? Because of the wonderful people I’ve come to know through both of these online communities.

And I know, I know…I have lots to be grateful for. It’s just that sometimes, it’s hard to stop and really, fully appreciate all that we have been given. But I did stop. Finally. And I do appreciate these three green wonders and so much more…

What about you?

Leave a comment and share!

And don’t forget to check out all the Green Moms carnival posts on Monday over at Best of Mother Earth.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Green and Organic Savings: Sampling a CSA

August 17th, 2008

Big purchases scare many people these days. So when it comes time to sign up for a CSA, worries may kick in.

Will I get more than just kale?,” you may wonder. “Is $900 for a season really worth it?”

The good news is you can sample a CSA’s bounty. Although few, if any, CSAs promote trial periods, the fact is that during the waning days of summer, many CSA members leave town for vacation and offer their weekly shares for sale.

For around $30, you should be able to pick up a week’s share, about two bags full of farm fresh produce, and depending on the CSA, you may also take home bread, grains, cheese, eggs, or even home-baked cookies.

For more information, check out the list of CSAs at Local Harvest. Then email or call the contact person and ask if anyone is trying to sell a week’s share while on vacation.

Good luck and leave a comment to let me know if you end up sampling a CSA!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Stinging Nettles Need a New Name!

May 14th, 2008

Belonging to a CSA is an incredible experience. You gain exposure to produce that you might normally never buy – and certainly would never find at your local market. I’ve posted here about CSA biodynamic and organic treasures such as Jerusalem artichokes, persimmons, celeriac, black radish, salsify, purple top turnips, passionfruit, kabocha squash and sweet white turnips.

But sometimes, trying to expose a kindergartner to nature’s bounty has its challenges.

Just imagine you were 5-years-old. Would you eat stinging nettles? You’d have to be brave, wouldn’t you? After all, “stinging nettles” sound like scary creatures from Harry Potter! They might sting your tongue, don’t you think? And in fact, they really do sting before they are cooked. You saw this warning sign with your own eyes.

stinging-nettles.jpg

But after nettles are sautéed in olive oil with leeks and onions, they are quite delicious, thank you very much. Try telling that to a skeptical boy, eyeing you and the stinging nettles warily!

Fortunately, this kid is well aware of Organic Kid Marketing. So Mom tried to explain that since the stinging nettles come directly from a farm to the CSA, they haven’t been marketed and packaged properly by Organic Kid Marketers. Perhaps he had some ideas?

Yes! Organic Cobra Stinging Nettles, packaged with free stickers of cobras and drawings of cobras all over the box.

Great idea! Cobras are way cool! We love cobras!

Just imagine these nettles came in that cool cobra box. Now eat your nettles!

Not a chance….

Sigh…

Check out some other cool CSA and farmers market fare recipes here at Beth Bader’s Farmers Market Fare and some make-your-own concoctions at Surely You Nest.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania