Category Archives: holiday

random acts of kindness to the earth…

Happy Earth Day!

I hope that everyone lives their daily lives in an environmentally conscious way. Of course none of us are perfect, but we should all do what we can.

Simple changes, even little ones, can make a huge impact on our world. I try to adopt new habits and make small adjustments, continuing to progress slowly. Its less painful that way. We can’t all go out and be “No Impact Man“, but we can be more mindful of our decisions and the effect they have.

Last year I made the conscious effort to quit using regular toxic cleaning products and soaps (more to come on that next week). I’ve known the effect of phosphates on our water shed, but for some reason, I couldn’t let go of that fresh soapy smell. Fortunately many mainstream companies have gotten on board and it is easy to find suitable environmentally friendly products. Beware of greenwashing though. Research your products to make sure they truly are eco-friendly.

I’ve found that I love the natural scent of eucalyptus or sandalwood more than artificial “fresh linen”. I’ve also rediscovered my love of Dr. Bronner’s magic soap. I was on a lavender kick for a while but now its all about the almond scent again.

Here are a few simple, every day things you can slowly adopt:

  • Add vinegar to your washer to get your gym clothes extra clean. It works better than adding extra soap or using harsh detergents or color safe bleaches. Use less soap in general. Most of use twice as much of these highly concentrated detergents than we really need. Old habits die hard.
  • Wash and rinse your clothes in cold water. Hot water isn’t necessary.  The heat of the dryer will kill anything remaining on your clothes.
  • Turn the water off while you are brushing your teeth.
  • Turn lights off as you leave the room. Use Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs. They are more expensive but can save a lot in electricity costs over their lifetime. Plus they use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and lasts up to 10 times longer.
  • Pee in the shower. Seriously. It saves toilet paper and water. Brazil even had a campaign to save water/toilet flushing, by peeing in the shower or showering with a friend…but just not both at the same time 🙂 (click here for a giggle) This suggestion is only for the occasions that you are actually planning to take a shower…don’t just randomly use your bath tub as a toilet!
  • Don’t flush anything down the toilet except what is supposed to go down. Avoid throwing tissues, cotton swabs, tampons, wrappers, condoms, etc down the drain. They just have to be fished back out. More chemicals will also need to be added to clean the water with these products mixed in. Just put them in the garbage where they belong and take it out more often.
  • Recycle the cardboard from your toilet paper roll (you know you just toss it in the regular bathroom garbage…) This assumes that you are already recycling, right? Right!
  • Use cloth napkins. Pack them in your lunch. Keep one at work. Use it a couple of times before you wash it. I go to Pier 1 or Cost Plus and buy single napkins in different pretty designs. They usually have clearance items for $1. We use different colors so we know which one is ours and leave them out on the table until they need washed.
  • Carry reusable bags and USE THEM. Avoid plastic bags altogether. Try to get in the habit of using them at clothing stores, drugstores, and convenience stores, not just the grocery store. My favorites are Envirosax and Bag The Habit. I like these small compact bags because I can leave them in my purse, coat pocket, or glove box. Less expensive single bags are available pretty much everywhere you shop.
  • Don’t buy bottled water. Carry a stainless steel bottle with you and refill it. If you like sparkling water, buy a Soda Stream and make your own!
  • Compost your vegetable waste or start a worm bin. The rich fertile soil you get in return is a reward in itself!
  • Turn off lights and unplug vampire appliances and chargers when not in use.

What little (or big) things do you do? Please share!

Just by adopting a few of these easy habits, you can make a difference in the future of our world. Practice random acts of kindness to the Earth. Whether its good karma that comes back to you, clean water from your tap, or just the knowledge of knowing you helped to do your part, its all worth it!

Happy Earth Day!

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happy (healthy) heart day…

Ah, Valentine’s Day. That joyous day of the year where people in relationships have to prove their love and single people feel dejected. What a great holiday… Ok, I’m not that cynical. I just don’t like Hallmark queuing me to express my love to my husband. I do however enjoy a nice meal prepared with a little love. And I don’t mind being the person who cooks it!

Instead of my regular Meatless Monday post, today I’d like to talk about heart healthy foods and help you put together a delicious, balanced meal with them. Below are recipes for Roasted Beets, Kale Crisps, Salmon, and Molten Chocolate Cake. They are all pretty simple items that need very little preparation. When you put them all together, you end up with a colorful and flavorful plate full of heart healthy food!

I personally love a simple dinner of roasted fish, brown rice, side of veggies, and a salad. It leaves me satisfied and feeling good about what I just put into my body. Basic vegetables are inexpensive, leaving you a little extra to spend on good quality fish.

Wild Alaskan Salmon is an excellent choice. Skip the farm raised salmon! I don’t care if big chain stores claim it is sustainable, most of it is not, and the taste doesn’t even compare. There is something about having to swim upstream that makes wild salmon better than its farmed kin.

A major environmental issue with farmed salmon is that their waste is often released directly into the ocean. Parasites and diseases from farmed salmon can spread to wild fish swimming near the farms, and escaping farmed salmon can harm wild populations. Yes, there are inland tank based farms that are more safe. If you have a fish monger or a place you trust, farmed salmon can be acceptable. Just be sure to do the research!

Wild salmon is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids which help boost the immune system, reduce blood clots, and protect against heart attacks. They also increase good HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels, protect arteries from plaque buildup, are anti-inflammatories, and lower blood pressure.

Choose a few heart healthy vegetables to go with your fish. Kale, broccoli and sweet potatoes are both full of beta carotene and Vitamins C and E. Asparagus and spinach are good sources for beta-carotene as well as lutein and b-complex vitamins. Beets are rich in antioxidants, magnesium, and potassium and also have excellent anti-inflammatory properties. All of these vegetables are high in fiber.

Beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene are carotenoids. Carotenoids are heart-protective antioxidants in many colorful fruits and veggies. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.

Round out your healthy meal with a glass of red wine and dark chocolate, chock full of catechins and reservatrol, which help improve your good HDL cholesterol. Happy Valentine’s Day, from my happy healthy heart to yours!

Recipe: Roasted Beets

4 beets
1 Tbs olive oil (optional)
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/4 cup shelled walnuts (optional)
1/4 crumbled goat cheese (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400. Scrub beets and cut off root and greens. If beets are larger than baseball size, you can cut them in half again. Score them with a knife or fork, wrap in tin foil, place on a cookie sheet (to catch any beet juice that might otherwise leak out into your oven), and roast for 60-75 minutes. Let cool. Skins should easily peel off of fully cooked beets. Use a spoon if needed to help push back the peel. Yes, your hands are going to turn pink 🙂 Wash frequently to avoid staining. (side note: your hands aren’t the only thing that could become discolored when eating beets… )

Dice or slice beets, drizzle with oil and vinegar, crumble nuts and cheese over the top, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy! I think beets are delicious plain too. The above accoutrements are for your pallet’s extra pleasure.

Recipe: Kale Crisps
1-2 bunches of kale
1 tsp olive oil
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to season

Pre-heat oven to 400. Wash kale and remove stem (fold the leaf like a book with the stem as the book end and make one long cut to remove it). Chop into large bite size pieces (it will shrink as you roast it) and place on a cookie sheet or roasting pan, spread out evenly. Lightly toss in olive oil or spray with olive oil spray. Season and roast for 20-30 minutes, turning leaves/tossing on pan every 10 minutes until most of the kale is crisp and paper-like. Serve immediately.

Recipe: Easy Roasted Salmon for 2

1 pound Wild Alaskan Salmon
1 tsp olive oil
1 lemon
salt, pepper, seasoning, herbs per your preference (herbs de provence is nice on salmon or seasoned sea salt adds a nice flavor too)

Pre-heat an oven safe skillet (preferably cast iron) in the oven at 400 for 10 minutes. Rub oil on salmon and season. Wait to squeeze half the lemon juice onto the fish until just before cooking (as the acid will start to “cook” it). Reserve the remaining half of the lemon to squeeze on afterwards.

Put fish into hot pan, skin side down and roast for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness. Broil on high for an additional 2 minutes to crisp up the top. Remove from pan and serve. (The skin will most likely stick to the bottom of the pan, which is fine.)

Recipe: Molten Chocolate Cake

5 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips work just fine!)
10 Tbs unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup flour
Ice cream, to serve

Pre-heat oven to 450. Spray 6 4oz ramekins with non-stick spray (you could use a cup cake pan and reduce the cooking time to about 9 minutes and make smaller cakes or use disposible mini pie tins).

Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk until smooth. Set aside to slightly cool.

Beat eggs and egg yolks with sugar using an electric mixer. When the mixture thickens into “ribbons”, add the chocolate mixture and flour until just combined.

Pour batter into dishes, dividing equally. Bake cakes until sides are set but center remains soft and runny, about 11 minutes. Run a knife around the cakes to loosen them from their ramekins. Immediately turn cakes out of ramekins onto a plate or bowl, top with ice cream, and serve. Eat, enjoy, and revel in how easy that was to make something soooo delicious!

have yourself a merry little christmas…

The tree is trimmed. The Irish Cream has mingled. And I’ve mastered the secret family peanut brittle recipe! (for those of you who don’t know, its not the sticky, rock hard variety you buy in the store). Are we there yet?

I think I did pretty well this year. I didn’t over spend and I only ended up with a few extra stocking stuffers that probably didn’t need to be purchased. My cards turned out pretty darn cute, if I don’t say so myself, and my husband even helped me decorate them with glitter glue!

I’m looking forward to being home in Colorado with my family and partaking in our annual traditions: looking at the lights around the city, finding new pj’s under the tree on Christmas eve, opening our stockings Christmas morning, and eating “monkey bread” with our coffee. I’m not particularly looking forward to traveling, but hopefully the weather and flights will cooperate.

Since my husband is joining in the festivities this year, we are treating him to his family’s “Breakfast Casserole” along with our carb-alicous monkey bread. I’ve also added in a mandatory dinner out at a local mexican restaurant so we can get our “authentic green chili” on. Hopefully the New Belgium Brewery or the Odell Brewing Company will be open for a tasting. And we’ll definitely watch a local Broncos game on t.v. (and cheer them on whether they are losing or not!).

I hope you all enjoy your holiday celebration with your families, practicing old traditions or creating new ones. Take a moment to relax and be thankful for time with your loved ones. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

holidazed…

Welcome to December! All of a sudden, its below freezing and its “finally” snowing here in Chicago after a warm and rainy fall. Decorative lights are up everywhere, stores are playing “Jingle Bell Rock”, and the streets are bustling with holiday shoppers. Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Every year I try to reduce my stress and just enjoy the season. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Around Thanksgiving, I mentally make myself a game plan for what I want my Christmas to look like.

Will I put up a tree? (Yes, a small Charlie Brown tree.) Am I sending out cards? (Yes, and I’m making them this year!) Will I make cookies, fruit cake, and peanut brittle? (Definitely a yes to the peanut brittle!) Should I have a party? (Nah, I just HAD a big party a few months ago…) What kind of presents do I want to give to my family this year? (Possible themes: handmade, local, sustainable, gift cards, charitable, practical, etc.)

For the past few years, my husband and I have opted to “Adopt A Family” in lieu of giving one another gifts. We just don’t need anything and it takes the pressure off finding that special gift for each other.

We do stuff each other’s stockings with fun mementos and that mandatory pair of new socks. It’s still fun to have something to open Christmas morning! Our birthdays are in February and March so there is plenty of time to give gifts. Plus then I don’t feel so guilty picking up a few sale items here and there for myself while out shopping, wink-wink.

My girlfriends and I have decided to go out to a nice holiday dinner and drinks together instead of a gift exchange. I think we end up spending less than buying every friend a present. I also appreciate not ending up with another scented lotion to add to the collection. Again, more fun, less stress!

I’m trying to center my holidays around sharing quality time with friends and family, giving back to my community, creating a comfortable festive space to retreat to, and just basking in the spirit of the season. I’m trying to avoid so much of the commercialism although a little does sneak in. Forgive me for I can’t resist purchasing a new holiday scented candle!

But instead of buying egg nog, I’ll make homemade Irish Cream. In lieu of purchasing bags of candy, I’ll make my peanut brittle. And instead of spending money on disposable trinkets, I’ll spend time with those I care about. And we’ll call it Christmas!