Apologies for the delay with this final installment of my eco-friendly Earth Week favorites. (The neighbor we were stealing wi-fi from suddenly protected his network. The bastard.) So here it is, a list of some socially conscious accessories and toys. Some of these are first steps in making an effort at a greener life, but I always look and hope for the next iterations just around the corner.
1. Beeswax candles Burning 100% beeswax candles are the best way to add a pure, natural fragrance to a room while also cleaning and purifying the air. Burning beeswax emits negative ions that get rid of odors and toxins (like dusts, molds, pollens, and viruses!) by attracting and destroying positively charged particles. Conventional candles and air fresheners are filled with chemicals, just read the label. While these candles are more expensive than others, they burn longer and much cleaner and have the most beautiful natural fragrance. Definitely worth the investment. We get ours from a local nunnery that makes them all by hand, but they are also available at Brookfarm General store.
2. Baggu Bags Always a favorite around here, I love the bright colors and heavy-lifting capacity of these guys. I love that Seattle has banned plastic bags and now charges for paper, so if saving paper wasn’t incentive enough, now there’s a toll to consider. They used to have great mesh produce bags that I still use and love. Since they’re no longer available try something like these.
3. Powerstrip Most of our electronics (TVs, laptops, phone chargers continue to pull power even when they’re not in use or powered on. It’s called Phantom Load, and the power leached is HUGE, so much so that when people switch to using a powerstrip they notice huge savings monthly. Simply plug all of your electronics into a single powerstrip and flip the switch to completely power off the flow of electricity.
Eco- Tip: Instead of buying new, try picking up a used one at Goodwill.
4. Preserve toothbrush These guys are made of recycled yogurt cups, and once you’re done you can send them back to Preserve to be recycled into plastic lumber for picnic tables and park benches. I’d prefer to move away from plastics completely, but at least these guys are doing something other than sending it to landfills. Send your brush back with the pre-addressed packaging, or save them up and drop them off at your nearest Whole Foods. They’ll send them back for you.
5. Coyuchi Organic cotton linens Again, moving away from conventional cotton is better for the environment and for you. Since we use our sheets and bath linens everyday it’s worth investing in some nice organic cotton. We love our Coyuchi’s, and I especially love stealing Andrew’s big bath blanket towels. They are often on sale at One King’s Lane, or check them out at Coyuchi site.
6. Toyota Prius C Until last fall I had been driving my first car (a ’98 Honda Civic) for the past 15 years! It’s not that I don’t lust after a sexy sports car, it was just that I am conscious of every mile I drive, and every tank I fill. With some nudging from mom and dad I started looking for a new car and as much as I fantasized about a badass Audi coupe there really was only one car that was truly me, and that was the new Prius C…a slightly sportier version of the classic Prius. Since I’m smaller I like that there are fewer blindspots in this body style. Perfect for scooting around town. I love my little car, and more importantly I love my gas mileage!
I took an extra few days off from posting to relax and unwind, and really, I didn’t do much of anything. Even the chickies are a little annoyed since their time to run around outside was shorter than usual. They’ve even started pouting when I herd them back into the coop.
Outside of the work with the hens, we’ve spent most of our time researching and collecting seeds for our sexy new raised beds in the soon-to-be garden. I was sure we were making it more complicated than it needed to be, but there are a million varieties to learn about, and our selection is narrowed to only heirloom and non-GMO seeds. We’ve found a couple of resources, but perhaps it’s not us that’s making it so difficult to find. Chemical agriculture is everywhere, and avoiding it takes a lot of work.
GMO OMG A film by Jeremy Seifert of DIVE!
Somewhere in my searches I came across this documentary that premiered yesterday at the Environmental Film Festival at Yale. At once it’s exciting because this very important cause is slowly but surely gaining momentum, but also alarming and sad in that it’s not as well-known or appreciated as I would wish it to be. Regardless though, it’s movies like this that will help the movement along and hopefully add a few more people to the cause.
A quick summary from an article on Rodale.com:
GMOs are not necessary feed the world | GMOs have never been tested for long term health impacts | 60 other countries require GMO labelling | 3 companies control 53% of the seed market | 500 species of bugs are resistant to pesticides and are now “superbugs” | Haiti- one of the poorest countries in the world would not accept GMO seeds after the earthquake in 2010
I still don’t really get what a BB cream (blemish balm) is and to be honest I moved passed it as a silly cosmetic trend, but now that my favorite product and vanity staple has been “rebranded” to include “BB” on the label I guess I knew more about it than I thought.
Like every schoolgirl venturing into the make-up world I tried wearing a mixture of primer, cover-up, foundation, and powder when I was in high school. And after exactly one attempt I knew that routine was not for me. Aside from the process of it all, I hated the cakey and artificial look all those things combined to be. So I quickly moved to a simple tinted moisturizer and have never looked back. A tinted moisturizer evens skin tone with a light coverage, and also provides SPF protection. It’s one step, gives a natural look, and with Tarte’s version it’s as clean as you can get in cosmetics. For me it’s everything, or more importantly free-from-everything:
phthalates | parabens | petro-chemicals | GMOs | sulfates | dyes | fragrances | oils
Who knew we had to worry about genetically modified make-up, but we do, and it matters. Our skin absorbs up to 5 pound of make-up every year. It matters.
I was concerned because with the new BB rebranding the packaging did not mention the GMO and petro-chemical free formula, so I sent a note to Tarte and they promptly responded to reassure that the formula was the same and it is still free from those elements. Too bad those weren’t considered selling points any longer, but regardless, having Tarte’s toxin-free coverage as a cosmetic staple is a great step for cleaner living.
I knew the bees were struggling, but everything I’d read last year and my chats with the apiarist at the farmer’s market led me to believe, or at least, hope that they were doing better. But sadly this article from the NY Times last week confirmed what I knew was the reality. To me there is no “mystery” as to why the bees are dying; it’s pretty freaking obvious. I truly hope that forward thinking farmers and apiarists can help combat monoculture crops and their rainbow of pesticides before we lose our honey bees.
For Seattle friends who want to help support our bees check out The Pollinator Pathway project and see what native and even some foreign plants can help encourage our bees. They have a great list of plants and even some garden designs that will make it even easier to get your planting strip bee ready.
Along with my new wall planner from yesterday, the new year also ushers in a few weeks of fasting. Fasting in the sense that sugar, dairy, and wheat are off limits. Because the last
six weeks three months have been all about feasting, and because I tend to live it up every other week of the year, these weeks of doing without are everything to me, and I actually look forward to it (says the girl who’s been using duck fat to pop popcorn). I’m not going to lie, it’s fucking hard; but, for me at least, after day three it becomes sort of magical. My body never happier, my eyes never whiter, my brain function never higher, and my energy level never more balanced.
I wanted the first recipe I shared to be potent, but easy; tasty, yet satisfying. There was only one option and it’s because I’ve been addicted to it since new sis Mari made it for me a few months ago. She got the recipe from her mom Sachiko but I’ve adapted it slightly. Here it is, the perfect start: not a meal in this rendition, but a snack to help get you through the tough hours between lunch and dinner (says the girl who counts on elevenses and second lunches).
I use wild Atlantic wakame seaweed (from here) that is sustainably harvested in the spring then air dried and packaged in bulk. We get it by the pound and it comes in long strands, but it’s easily found in small packages at Asian grocery stores. Seattleites head to Uwajimaya and have your pick of dozens or do what we do and head to the bulk section at Madison Market.
Wakame is incredibly detoxifying and is also rich in nutrients and trace minerals. Start with this small snack size before you size up to more seaweed…you may feel the detox effects if you eat too much too quickly.
For the dressing
1 Tbs ponzu sauce*
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp tamari (wheat free soy sauce)
1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger
For the salad
3 small slices organic non-GMO tofu
small handful rehydrated wakame
1/4 tsp gomasio (sesame seeds)
- Soak the wakame in filtered water for at least 30 minutes, though I prefer to wait about an hour. (You’ll see why soon.)
- Remove the seaweed and wring out any excess water. Cut into bite-size pieces with kitchen shears. Save the leftover water and refrigerate in an airtight container!
- In a separate bowl mix the dressing ingredients together.
- Assemble the tofu and seaweed in a bowl, add dressing to taste, garnish with gomasio.
* Ponzu is also available at Asian grocery stores. It’s a mixture of yuzu, bonito, and kombu seaweed. Be sure to read the ingredients before you buy. There should be no additives or artificial ingredients or sweeteners.
Forget about coffee in the morning, this is what you should be drinking. It’s probably safe to say that matcha has lost some of its luster. Perhaps due in part to it in ice cream form or maybe from a certain giant coffee company that ruined it with a blended drink containing more sugar than actual matcha. But whatever. Now we can talk about the good stuff.
A fat-burning, antioxidant, amino acid, and mineral rich powder of stone-ground green tea leaves, the anti-cancer properties and health benefits of matcha are higher than basic green tea because you’re consuming the entire tea leaf and not just the brewed water. ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is the scientific method used to determine antioxidant capacity of a particular substance. In testing matcha it has been shown that its antioxidant properties are even higher than those of the mighty acai, pomegranate, and blueberry (which are all amazing in their own rights).
Suffice it to say I really, really, really want you to give this a go.
Frothy, smooth, and comforting, matcha is not bitter like brewed green tea can be (which usually means that it’s been over-steeped and/or scorched with water that’s too hot). With just a few practices making matcha can be as easy as brewing a cup of coffee or steeping a pot of tea. And truly, there’s something so zen about whisking the powder into a proper foam.
Below are links to everything you’ll need. I get all of my tea from Art of Tea online (I’ve written about their Coconut Crème white tea before). They’ve got great stuff and almost everything you’ll need you get here.
How-to: Matcha tea for two
Measure 1/2 teaspoon of matcha powder for two cups of water.
Boil 3+ cups of water: two will be for the tea, the remainder should be used to warm the ceramic bowl, your two cups, and to dampen the whisk. Just swirl around and then toss.
The water for the matcha should be between 180 – 185-degrees. You’ll want to stay in this range in order to get the most out of the tea. Using the digital kitchen thermometer may seem daunting but it’s super quick and easy and after a few tries you’ll have a routine down. If the water’s too hot, pour into a large liquid measuring cup and let it cool slightly while you warm the bowl and cups. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it cools though.
Add the matcha powder to the warmed bowl and gradually add the hot water while you whisk in a “W” shape. Whisk until you have a nice frothy foam.
Whisking it into a nice foam doesn’t take long but it took me a few tries to get the perfect topper. Even since this pic last week my technique has improved.
Here’s the trick: once the powder is incorporated whisk more shallowly, skimming the top half of the water.
Gently transfer to your cups and promise to take a moment to feel how the tea affects you. It’s the most tenderly energizing start to the day (or afternoon).
The season isn’t even in full swing yet and already I’ve heard lots of talk about sniffles and colds. I thought that since the season has truly arrived you might want to take a peek inside my medicine cabinet. Please know that I share these with you because I find natural methods to be healthier and more practical than mainstream medicine. This may not be for you so please only try these products if you see the benefits in alternative practices of medicine.
Tired of the effects of popular over-the-counter medicine over the years I started looking into homeopathic alternatives and eventually settled on a few that worked to help my system power through even the most epic colds. These staples work to help heal the entire body as opposed to simply chasing or masking symptoms. If it’s possible to feel better than you did before you caught the cold, these remedies can help you get there. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Sambu Guard
This stuff is beyond awesome, and not just because it tastes better than a shot of St. Germaine. This stuff tastes GOOD, and and it has been naturally sweetened with honey. It’s actually intended to be taken before you have a full-fledged cold, so more along the lines of when you’re just starting to feel something coming on. It’s an immune booster, so the mix of herbs, Elderberries, Elder flowers, and Echinacea all combine for a potent cold defender. Even if I miss the before part, I still take it during the course of a cold as it’s safe enough to be taken as an everyday supplement. Available at Pharmaca and other natural pharmacies and stores it’s pricier at about $17 a bottle, but truly worth every penny.
2. Cold Snap
This is the ultimate naturopathic defense…a modern version of ancient Chinese medicine and herbology. Containing 20 different herbs these capsules have some serious fighting power and ultimately work to help restore the balance of your body. For really detailed and fascinating information check out the Ohco site and read all about building righteous chi.
Meant more for calming and soothing effects, these gummy pastilles are made of flower and herbal extracts that help in situations of high stress or trauma. Since these types of situations often lead to compromised immune functionality, I have these on hand when I need a little boost. Also great to have this little tin tucked away in ones purse for extra stressful days.
4, 5, 6. Hot Toddy
I’ll say it again, ditch the NyQuil and go for this remedy instead. Lemon is a natural antiseptic, antimicrobial, and has mucus-resolving properties that are essential for helping your body fight a cold. Raw honey, which has been used as a cold remedy for centuries, soothes a dry throat and cough. The shot of whiskey is all too important for napping, numbing aches, and boosting morale. The list of ingredients of over the counter cough syrups really is quite alarming if you think about it. My recipe at the link above adds a slice of fresh ginger to help eliminate toxins and also to comfort tender tummies.
These chalky-candy-like lozenges are bad ass. The inner bark of the slippery elm tree is pure comfort on a sore throat. Free of any preservatives these lozenges are also a trusted source for vocal relief for many singers and speakers (since 1847).
I’m not gonna lie, this is not my favorite part of the cold regimen. This guy is very much like a cough syrup, and unfortunately tastes like one too. Its active ingredient is Guaifenesin, which is also found in other cough syrups, but the benefit here is the addition of herbs, like rose hip and red clover, and the omission of extra additives. I often have to watch my colds and work to ensure they don’t move down into my chest and turn into bronchitis (a curse since childhood), so I rely on the herbal expectorant to help keep my bronchioles clear.
I’ll be making my trip to the pharmacy section of Madison Market this weekend to be sure I’m all stocked up for whatever may be ahead on the sniffle front…but still hoping to avoid having to use any of it. Happy cold season, friends!
Precisely how every meal should be made.
The Cook’s Atelier is a mother-daughter cooking school tucked away in Burgundy, France. The vegetables are from Madame Loichet’s farm. Check out their blog to see all of the beautiful (and simple) food and recipes they share. Notice the small the list of ingredients, and the importance of seasonal eating.
This is purslane. It is my absolute favorite summer staple from the farmer’s market. I crave it. I keep it in a vase so I can pick sprigs to snack on all day.
Until this season I had never heard of it, but thanks to my wonderful guy I am now an addict. We ran out last night and I think I was experiencing withdrawals. (It does contain dopamine, afterall.) But it also contains a ton of other really good stuff, like for example, more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy green. Pretty bad ass.
Common in Europe, the Mediterranean, and throughout the middle east and Asia, purslane has been a culinary and medicinal staple for centuries. While it is a gorgeous summer treat, it’s popularity is also likely due to the fact that it is so resilient. In areas of low water it can switch to a different method of photosynthesis that traps carbon dioxide and ultimately converts it into nutrients. (Read more about it here.)
As far as taste and texture, it somehow manages to be sturdy and delicate with both its crisp stem and tender leaves. It’s a succulent that you eat, but think of it as the texture of a sprout with a slight lemon taste that’s more like an herb…but not strong or overpowering at all.
I love it as a salad, in place of lettuce on a sammie, sprinkled on a pizza (with some olive oil), or sauteed as if it were spinach. It’s just so versatile.
When was the last time you really and truly tried something new? Here’s a simple recipe that showcases the purslane with some other great seasonal vegetables we have now. This is what we are meant to be eating this time of year. Give it a go!
Purslane Summer Salad
- 1 bunch organic purslane (can use the entire stem, just remove the roots if still attached)
- 1 japanese cucumber, thick dice
- 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp brown rice vinegar
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- small dash nama shoyu (tamari, or soy sauce will work too)
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
- pinch of salt
- white pepper
- gomasio (white and black sesame seeds)
Add the purslane, diced cucumber, and onion slices to a bowl. Lightly toss with the vinegars, nama shoyu, and olive oil until everything is evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and lightly toss again. Garnish with the gomasio and serve.
Nama Shoyu is unpasteurized or “raw” soy sauce. Though it is heated above the raw max of 115-degrees, the presence of living enzymes is still present after fermentation.
Gomasio is a blend of unhulled, toasted sesame seeds and varying proportions of salt. Be sure to taste the saltiness of your mix and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Mixing vinegars is a great way to add that secret depth of flavor. Don’t fret about the brown rice vinegar if you don’t have it. You can substitute white rice vinegar here if that’s what you have on hand.
Black Cap Raspberries
Hello sweet thang. I’m a Black Cap raspberry. I’m kind of a big deal. Well, you know…some varieties of berries are considered invasive to Washington state, but I’m actually, ahem, a native variety. Oh yeah. I’m wild.
I’m considered an heirloom variety, but you can just think of me as free from genetic altering. This pretty much means that with me you’re guaranteed maximum nutrient and antioxidant potency. Yeah that’s right, I just said potency. Come to the dark side and enjoy the taste of blueberries mixed with blackberries. Seriously, I taste gooood. Catch you at the University Farmer’s Market next Saturday? Alriiiight.