Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Arbor Day!

Oh what a glorious day to celebrate one of Earth's greatest treasures! We live peacefully with them and depend on them so much, but we too often take them for granted. We need trees more than they need us.

A story in USA Today this week announced that a study showed the United States experienced a greater percentage of forest loss from 2000 to 2005 than did any of the other top seven most heavily forested nations. Shame on us! How could this be? Why are we killing all the trees? Read on to see what the story had to say:

The United States lost more than 46,000 square miles of forest in those years, a size roughly equivalent to the state of Pennsylvania. That's about 6% of the nation's forested land.

"That's the most of the seven countries that have over 1 million square kilometers of forest," says study lead author Matthew Hansen of South Dakota State University.

Worldwide, researchers determined that the globe lost forest cover of nearly 400,000 square miles — roughly 3% of the world's forested areas — during the first half of the last decade. The other countries in the study were Canada, Russia, China, Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The one part of the contiguous USA that experienced the most forest loss was the Southeast, a large chunk of which lost more than 10% of its forest cover from 2000 to 2005, the year for which the most recent data were available.

Hansen points out that the forest loss in the USA isn't necessarily permanent: "This does not mean that (the forests) do not regenerate, and we make no statements whatsoever about sustainability," he says. "But, compared to other regions of the world, a lot is going on."

A lot is going on is an understatement! Why all this destruction to our trees? Paper! Paper is the number one cause of forest lost. Mom remembers being in the corporate world and people talking about saving paper so that they wouldn't kill any more trees. Kill them indeed!

What's that you say? You don't use a lot of paper in your everyday life? What about all the stuff you use that's made made from paper? Americans are obsessed with stuff at every level. Just think about all the 'disposable paper' you either use on a daily basis: toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissue, newspapers, magazines, take out food container, receipts, packaging. The list just goes on and on.

Most of these items are created from virgin paper meaning a tree was cut down just for the purpose of making that item. Clearly there are products on the marketplace that use recycled paper, even post-consumer recycled. This is the paper we should be using to create consumer goods. These are the products we should be buying if we want trees on our planet. But why do we need them so much? They're just trees, right?

The most important thing trees give us is oxygen. It doesn't even seem fitting to call oxygen (O2) a thing because next to water, we need it to live. Period. Everything else is purely secondary from a biological perspective. We are totally and completely dependent on plants and trees for oxygen and they are dependent on us. But why and how?

Take a deep breath. Suck in all that fresh, clean air and then let it all out. What comes out when you exhale? Good old CO2. But wait. Where did the oxygen you breath come from?

In the carbon-oxygen exchange, or cycle as I call it, the exchange of CO2 from us to trees and of O2 from trees to us is continuous. Called respiration, the CO2 that we exhale and that trees use is as important to them as the O2 they give us to breathe. One cannot occur without the other so if we don't have trees we don't have oxygen. And that would be a problem.

In addition to the CO2 trees receive from us, they also absorb CO2 from other things, like automobiles, manufacturing, etc. It is when too much CO2 becomes trapped in the atmosphere that problems occur like they are today. One reason we are experiencing the climate changes we are is because we are cutting down trees at an alarming rate. Mom clearly remembers being in Costa Rica and watching as people clear cut the rainforest to make way for cattle ranches. Just think about that for a second. Old growth stands of trees being cut so that cows could graze on grasslands. Sounds ridiciulous, doesn't it? The same thing is happening all over the world as entire stands of forest are cut in the Amazon, Indonesia, and elsewhere. Without the trees, the world's climate problems are going to get worse.

But how many trees do we need? Clearly we don't need all the trees on Earth and even if we cut some down surely we could plant more, right? Wrong! An area of plants of about 58 square feet is needed to supply sufficient oxygen for just one person. Multiply that by 6 billion (and growing) and the figures are mind blowing. Hey wait! These figures don't even take into account the area of plants that pugs need. Keep multiplying people! Even planting new trees doesn't really fix the problem because new trees called seedlings, cannot absorb the CO2 that tall, old trees can. Replacing one with the other is not solving the problem.

But trees do even more for us than simply providing us with oxygen and absorbing CO2. Trees planted around your home can shade it, thus lowering your electricity bills because the need for air conditioning is lessened. They also slow stormwater runoff and protect the soil. By acting as natural reservoirs they protect watersheds, without which we wouldn't have clean water.

Trees clean our water and air by absorbing pollutants. Many animals call trees home, like my bird and squirrel friends, and many use tree berries as food. Where would all these animals go if they didn't have trees? I think you know the answer.

Let's not forget how beautiful and majestic trees are. What pug doesn't love to sit underneath a tree on a hot summer day and eat a Frosty Paw? Ahhh, the shade trees provide me is immeasureable. I wouldn't be able to stay outside for very long if it weren't for trees.

So on this Arbor Day, as the leaves on the trees are rustled by the gentle breeze, let's give thanks to trees everywhere. They are more important today than ever before.

I decided to give the tree in front of our house a big hug of thanks. Thank you my tree friend, for standing tall even when you were tired. For changing with the seasons despite your desire to move. For letting the mommy robins sing on your branches. And for giving me oxygen so that I may continue to live. I love you and can't imagine life without you.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dear Mother Earth

It was a week ago today that we celebrated Earth Day. I was so excited to learn that a special outing awaited me on that glorious day. It was all I could do to contain my excitement when I learned I would be spending the day at one of your many natural forests with my family. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the Earth than by being outside, surrounded by your wonders and basking it its glory.

While it's okay for me to visit, I cannot leave anything behind. I will leave only footsteps, I promise.

The cool grass beneath my paws reminds me that spring is really here. I tread lightly as I go in search of all that spring has to offer.

I was taking in the many sights and smells when the wonderful scent of these beautiful little flowers pulled me off the path. I stopped to say hello to them and to welcome them back from their winter slumber. How happy they were to see me and to breath the fresh air.

I was not walking alone because I promised Dad I would show him all the beauty to be found around us in the forest. We were silent as we walked, listening only with our hearts.

Your beauty shone ever so lovely on this lake. Where would we be without water, that precious resource that gives life to everything around us? The trees around her stood tall and proud, protecting their life source.

As I walked to the shore of the lake, I reminded myself that I could not enter. The lake is home to so many of my friends, but most are still sleeping. I wanted to place a "Do Not Disturb" sign at the water's edge to let everyone know that even though the lake looks empty, it is filled with wonderful surprises.

I searched for turtles basking in the sunlight on this log, but there were none to be found. My turtle friends were out playing when I arrived and I promised myself that I would be back to visit with them soon.

Even this fisherman didn't notice me as I past him on my journey. I know he was only pretending to be fishing because I heard some of my fish friends laughing at him. They would have played the catch-and-release game with him, but they were too busy enjoying the day.

I came upon a pier and tired from my walk, decided to rest with Mom. She picked me up and placed me on the bench next to her so I would not fall. Only after we had recharged our batteries and were ready to continue did I ask Dad to take our picture. We look so happy, at home in our surroundings.

Can you see the hole in the tree? My woodpecker friends raise their babies in this hole, but they were not home today when I stopped by. I bet they were out flying all around the forest, chasing each other and having fun.

Something smelled really good at the base of these trees. I think my bunny friends had stopped by earlier in the day while they were feeding their babies. Since it was early afternoon, the babies were tucked into their warm furry beds taking their afternoon nap.

Meadows are meant for running through and that's exactly what I did when I came up this one. Run like the wind, I told my tired legs. I ran as hard and fast as I could, Mom and Dad trailing behind me. They finally caught up to me at the end of the meadow, but then I turned and ran back the way I had come, off to finish my stroll on the path.

I was slowing down by this time because I had walked so far. My legs don't work like they use to so I had to stop every now and then to catch my breath. Stopping provided me with opportunities to take in my surroundings. You never know what you might find if you just slow down.
I spotted this lovely lavender flower out of the corner of my eye. I rushed over to pick it for Mom but then remembered that the flowers belong to the forest and must remain there for everyone to enjoy. How quickly I had forgotten about that over the winter while cooped up inside.

Even this pretty dandelion spoke to me. He told me how people don't like him, how they pick him out of his home, and even spray chemicals on him. I looked at him with horror upon hearing his sad story. He is as much a part of the forest as the trees. The birds, mammals, and insects need him as much as they need water. I promised him that I would tell all my friends to respect him and his family because they are important to all of us.

I just knew one of my friends had been to the forest before I got there because this tree smelled like him. The lovely scent of a friend can brighten your day. I wondered if my friend was still in the forest or on his way back home to have an afternoon treat.

Near the end of my walk, I saw this sign that Mom read to me. It is a reminder that we must stay on the path designated for us and to not wander into the lake. We are land animals, not water animals and though our paths may cross, we live in separate worlds.

I stumbled upon a playground on my way back to the car. I pleaded with Mom to put me on the swing but she told me it wasn't safe to swing alone. I started to pout but she scooped me up and placed me on her lap. We swung higher and higher, almost to the sky. She whispered something in my ear and then kissed me on the head, thanking me for spending this wonderful day with her.

I was smiling from ear to ear because this had been the best day ever. I relished the time we got to spend enjoying your creations Mother Earth. I've been reminded of all the beauty so close to home that I can always enjoy. I promise to visit you again really soon.

I tread lightly on your loveliness as I walk with you around me. I seek your wisdom to show me things I cannot see. I speak of your beauty and feel it's touch on my body. I thank you for all that you are for I am one with you.

Your friend,

Stubby xoxo

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

I'm so glad everypug is loving Tasty Tuesday. I love blogging about food almost as much a I love eating it! Today's recipe is relatively new to Mom. When it comes to cooking, Mom takes the KISS approach. She's not opposed to trying new recipes and ingredients but she doesn't like to make a big deal out of food because like she always says, it's just food.

Mom came across this recipe earlier this year and after making it for the first time, declared it her new favorite. Then she started reading The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone and came across a blurb about nightshade foods. Alicia doesn't eat nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, and eggplant) because they contain alkaloids, a group of substances found in these foods that can impact nerve-muscle function and digestive function, and may also compromise joint function. Hmmm. This bothered Mom because she loves these foods and doesn't want to give them up. I did a little research on nightshades and found that the amount of alkaloids is very low in nightshade foods when compared with other nightshade plants, thus health problems from nightshade foods may only occur in individuals who are especially sensitive to these alkaloid substances. Thank goodness! Cooking apparently lowers the alkaloid content of nightshades by about 40-50%, so only highly sensitive individuals may want to avoid this category of food.

Red-Pepper Soup with Basil Cream
Serves 6

3 small cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (15-ounce) crushed tomatoes
1 jar (12-ounce) marinated roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup packed fresh basil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, for basil cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Sauté garlic and onion with olive oil in large pot over medium heat for 6 minutes. Add tomatoes, red peppers, and chicken broth. Cook for 15 minutes.

Add fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, and sugar and puree in a blender or food processor.

For basil cream, stir sour cream and heavy cream together with chopped basil and salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve soup with dollop of basil cream and chopped basil


Mom doesn't eat the soup with the basil cream. She feels the soup is delicious on its own and that it doesn't need an accompaniment. At 152 calories and 11 grams of fat, it's my guess that the basil cream is the source of most of the fat.

There can never be enough garlic in anything for Mom so she doubles the amount.

Marinated roasted red peppers come in a glass jar and this is a good thing because you can reuse the jar for storing the soup. You can also make your own if you have the time. If you belong to a CSA or your farmer's market has red peppers in late August when they are in season, I'd recommend buying a bunch and canning them. This is a surefire way to have them on hand when you need them.

Even though the recipe calls for chicken broth, Mom substitutes vegetable broth.

Refined sugar makes it way into so many recipes. It's amazing how we need to sweeten everything up in order to eat it. Mom has started experimenting with sugar alternatives and will be using brown rice syrup in place of sugar next time she makes this soup. Agave nectar had been touted as a great sugar substitute in recent years but so much bad press has come out how it's no better than high fructose corn syrup.

A regular blender or food processor would do the trick but an immersion blender is the quickest, easiest way to blend soup. Mom can't rave about hers enough. They've really come down in price and it's a small kitchen applicance that you'll never regret you purchased. You'll use it over and over again while wondering how you ever lived without it.

This would be a great first course or meal for Meatless Mondays. Removing meat from your diet one day a week has a huge positive impact on the planet. You may even find yourself not missing meat when Tuesday rolls around as you wait patiently for another Tasty Tuesday installment.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Is Anyone Dreaming About This?

Mom was so caught up with all the excitement over Puglet's video on Earth Day that she didn't even notice PepsiCo's new Dream Machine. Or maybe it was a dream that she missed it.

On Earth Day, PepsiCo announced a multi-year partnership in support of the Dream Machine recycling initiative designed around PepsiCo’s goal of increasing the U.S. beverage container recycling rate from 34 percent to 50 percent by 2018. Dream Machine kiosks are computerized receptacles that include a personal reward system that allows consumers to collect and redeem points for each bottle or can they recycle in the kiosk.

Mom didn't know it but PepsiCo leads the industry by incorporating 10% recycled plastic their soft drink containers in the U.S. That's all? 10%? It's hard to believe that 10% leads the industry, isn't it? You would think that a company that creates so many plastic containers would use more than 10% recycled plastic. These statistics beg the question, what happens to the other 90%? I'm thinking it's a cost issue because clearly there's lots of recycled plastic out there that could be used. All of this brings up the issue of corporate product stewardship and the cradle to cradle model. These are hot topics these day and I'll be talking about them in the weeks to come.

Back to plastics recycling. According to PepsiCo, less than 1/3 of all plastic beverage containers are currently being recycled with only 12% of public spaces equipped with recycling receptacles. Both figures aren't surprising but are sad. Convenience is definitely a key when it comes to recycling and like I've said before, there's no reason not to recycle plastic bottles. If you have an empty bottle when you're out but can't find a recycling receptacle, please hold onto it until you get home.

PepsiCo saw the need for more reycling receptacles and the Dream Machine was born. The Dream Machines will be provided by GreenOps, LLC, which is a subsidiary of Waste Management, the largest recycler in North America. Greenopolis, a division of Waste Management, will operate the Dream Machines by providing the first ever interactive recycling system that brings together online and on street technologies and rewards people for recycling their plastic beverage containers in the machines.

Several thousand Dream Machines will be introduced in popular public venues such as gas stations, stadiums, and public park in the weeks and months to come. Rite Aid is also set to be one of the first national retailers to place them in their outlets, with 150 kiosks to be placed in their North Carolina locations. Keep America Beautiful (KAB) has also entered into a partnership with PepsiCo and 600 local KAB affiliate organizations will be involved to encourage community involvement in recycling.

According to Jeremy Page, Head of the Dream Machine recycling initiative at PepsiCo “It takes only a small change in behavior to make a big difference for our planet. If every household in the U.S. recycled just three more plastic bottles a month, we could divert more than 23 million pounds of plastic from our landfills each month and increase the amount of recycled plastic used to manufacture new bottles." Holy smokes! 23 million pounds is a lot of plastic. And to think it only takes three additional bottles per household each month.

But why is the Dream Machine called the Dream Machine? How does it fulfill dreams? PepsiCo has a great interactive site that explains all the dreams - for the planet, for veterans with disabilities, and for you.

The dreams for the planet concept is that all bottles are collected and recycled at the local level. This is a great thing because this cuts down on the carbon footprint of the recycled plastic.

The dream for veterans with disabilities concept is a program called Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans which is a national program that offers free, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with disabilities. How cool is that?

The dreams for me concept is that recyclers collect points that can be redeemed online for discounts and rewards at These discounts and rewards can be used on entertainment, dining, travel, and personal services from names such as Marriott, Domino's Pizza, Blockbuster and more. You can also earn points by sharing experiences and ideas about recycling and reuse at If you aren't interested in discounts and rewards for yourself, you can donate your points to charities.

There's buzz on the Internet that the energy it takes to build and then run the kiosks is negating any positive impact all the recycling will have on the planet. I'm not sure if this is true and I haven't found any statistics to prove it yet. You may also hear the term greenwashing mentioned when discussing the kiosks. PepsiCo is in the money making business and while there's no doubting the machines intended purpose is to drive consumers to purchase and drink more Pepsi products, my thinking is that anything that raises awareness about recycling and gets people recycling more is a good thing.

Check out this short 2 1/2 minute video on how the Dream Machine works. My only concern about the how it works is that they show bottles being inserted into the machine with the caps on. The machines will accept #1 and #2 bottles, but most caps are made from a different plastic, #5. I know that many companies have changed their caps, but I'm not sure which type of plastic the new caps are made of. I'll be looking into the issue this week.

I'm not advocating drinking Pepsi products. Mom used to be a Pepsiholic but recently gave up it. What I am advocating is recycling plastic, so enjoy the video and get excited about recycling!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

Most of you were not alive 40 years ago. I wasn't but Mom was. She doesn't remember the first Earth Day because it wasn't really a big deal back then, at least not in Chicago. Her first memory of Earth Day was sometime in the 80s. Celebrations started happening, people starting becoming aware of the issues, and a buzz was starting about this one special spring day.

Earth Day grew in scope in the 90s but then really took off once we entered the new millenium. Parties were organized, groups formed, and people really started getting involved. Now, all the events surrounding this one special day have spilled over and turned into Earth Week. Ahh, a whole week to celebrate the wonder that is Mother Earth.

Mom's awareness of her surroundings began with her first sea turtle trip and were then heightened during her first trip to Costa Rica. It should come as no surprise to anyone that it was the presence of birds, like this boat billed heron she saw while motoring down the Tortuguero River, that raised her awareness and made her change the path she had been on. She's never looked back, never questioned her decision to give up her career and start anew.

Many biologists credit Aldo Leopold with their decision to study and teach biology. It's like a light bulb went on over their heads after reading A Sand County Almanac. So poetic yet so simple, this book is like pure prose that flows from the heart of Leopold. You feel like you are with him as he lives with the changing of the seasons, the seasons that make living in the midwest a joy for most, a struggle for some. He not only appreciated that with which he could see, but also that with which he imagined. There's truly something magical in this book that will move you and inspire you to want to get outside today and every day as you begin to understand and feel the beauty of your surroundings.

Mom can't help but think about Rachel Carson today and most days for that matter. The world would be a different place today had Carson not changed the path of destruction the U.S. was on with their use of the pesticide DDT. It was Carson that proved the evils of this chemical and documented its effects on the natural world in her book Silent Spring. Every time you see a bald eagle, please thank Carson for saving them because had DDT continued to be used, they would have long gone extinct.

Rachel Carson died before Mom was born and before Carson herself would realize the fruits of her labor. In death, she was celebrated as having saved the natural world as we know and it's for this that she is credited with starting the modern environmental movement.

It's no coincidence that Earth Day is celebrated in the spring because the renewal of Mother Earth in all her glory, begins anew each spring just like it has since the beginning of time. It was Carson who told us "It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the comtemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility." Oh to be humbled by what we often take for granted. Her words echo through our minds as we are reminded that things are changing, for good and bad, but that we need only step outside because "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." Such comforting words from one of the wisest women of the 20th century.

The first chapter of Silent Spring
is "A Fable for Tomorrow". Mom sometimes wonder if Carson's tomorrow is today or perhaps a few years down the road. The fable was set in a town in the heart of America, not unlike the town we live in today.

Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change...

There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example - where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, troubled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.

This town does not actually exist, but it might easily have a thousand counterparts in America or elsewhere in the world. I know of no community that has experienced all the misfortunes I describe. Yet every one of these disasters has actually happened somewhere, and many real communities have already suffered a substantial number of them. A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality we all shall know.

Mom thinks of this every morning when she hears the birds as they wake up from their roost. These same birds, the ancestors of those Carson heard, are still here for now. But for how long? Carson dedicated Silent Spring to Albert Schweitzer who said "Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth." Silent Spring was published in 1962, a few years before Schweitzer's death in 1965, but these words, a grim predictor of our future perhaps, remain a chilling reminder of a disaster we can avoid.

It is with Carson and Leopolds' legacies in mind that I ask you to go outside today, look around, listen carefully, smell the fresh air and remember that the times they are a changing. We have the power to make changes every single day. Every decision we make affects the planet. By recognizing what we have to live for, we can decide whether or not we value what we have and what we want to preserve. It's like Mom was taught long ago - you can't expect someone to want to save something if they don't love it. Make a connection with the natural world and express your joy as you live in it. Tread a little lighter each day and take time to appreciate what Mother Earth has to offer, for it's the only home we have.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday Wag Out! - Special Earth Week Edition

Mom received a tweet this morning about a cool watch that she knew she had to have. She's been in the market for new watch for a while now because her old school beach watch is on its last leg. She's sad to see the old watch go but excited about her new watch.

I know it's hard to believe that Mom hadn't heard about Sprout until this morning but it's true. She has me doing research all day long, every day but because I've never come across Sprout, she's been in the dark. Until today. So instead of spending the morning with me, she ran out to the store to get the scoop on Sprout.

According to the tweet, Sprout could be purchased at Nordstrom. Mom wasn't happy about this because the closest Nordstrom isn't really close. Instead of going to Nordstrom, Mom decided to check the Sprout website to see if they were sold somewhere closer to home. As it turns out, they are but I bet you'll never guess where. Give up? Sears!

It didn't take Mom long to find the Sprout display in the watch department. The entire cardboard display is made from 100% recycled paper. Very cool.

Check out these watches. Wow! So many choices for Mom and if you know her, you know how she can't make decisions. It takes her forever to pick anything out unless it jumps out at her. These watches were no different. These are the bigger faced watches, aka the men's watches. Mom's not into big watches, so she turned the display to find the women's watches.

Same colors, smaller faces. Maybe even too small. Mom picked 4 colors she liked and then tried them on. After she narrowed her selection down to 3, she decided that the watch face was way too small because she couldn't read the numbers. Eventually, she selected one of the men's watches and rushed home to show it to me.

This is the bottom of the watch box. Can you read what it says? It says "In an effort to reduce paper waste we offer our warranty and instructions on our website." Why can't more companies do this? Most consumers don't read this information and just toss it (hopefully) in their recycle bins. I know there are people who don't have computers but just imagine how many trees we could save if paper warranty and instructions were eliminated from packaging? I'm not suggesting this for all products but at least for products that are self explanatory and that don't require pages and pages of instructions, like this watch. What if companies listed a phone number that consumers could call to have warranty information mailed to them? There must be a better way and I applaud Sprout for taking this step to reduce waste and conserve resources. Hopefully other companies will follow suit.

The back of the watch box tells you all about the materials used to make it. It's definitely cutting edge greenness. The dial is made from bamboo, while the case and buckle are made from a corn resin that's biodegradeable. The strap is made from organic cotton and the battery is mercury free. It's hard to read the bottom of the box but it has instructions on how to turn the box into a grass garden (grass included). I wonder when we're going to do that.

Ah, the ingredient label. My favorite thing for Mom to read to me. This is so cool! There's even a feel good experience at the bottom of the label that equals 100%. The big watch is constructed from 86% sustainable materials while the small watch is constructed from 80%. The box itself is made from 100% recycled content with 80% of it being post-consumer. I couldn't find any information on the ink type, but I'm hoping it's soy based.

I mentioned the grass garden and here are the seeds. I'm a little upset with this packaging because it's plastic. You can read the instructions for yourself but I really want to know what I'm suppose to do with this plastic packaging when the grass expires. Any ideas? I'll be emailing Sprout for ideas too.

Yes, it's made in China. I know what you're thinking - carbon footprint. I said the same thing and got ignored. What gives? Question asked, no answer given. Still waiting. Are there any watches made in the good old U.S.A.?

So here's the cool watch. It's hard to see in the picture but it's green in color with a lighter green bezel. And the bamboo dial is really cool looking. I'm not sure how the organic cotton band is going to hold up with all the sweating Mom does but we'll soon find out.

Nicely labled on the back, don't you think? It looks like a kid's watch and kind of reminds Mom of a Swatch watch. Swatch was all the rage back in the 80s or so I've heard.

A close-up view shows that this eco-friendly timepiece is biodegradable. So it's made from sustainable materials and it will biodegrade. What more could you ask for?

But who is Sprout? They are made by E. Gluck Corporation, a watchmaker that's been in business for over 50 years. According to their website, their mission is to make the most eco-friendly watch they possibly can. It took two years of research and development to come up with Sprout and I think it was totally worth it. They do not claim to be the greenest company around but they are environmentally aware and seek ways to tread lighter on the earth. Of course they do all the things Puglet does in his Earth Day video but as a company they are making even bigger changes such as converting to recyclable and recycled materials for packaging, reducing the size of their packing cartons, and using more efficient transportation methods. They are proving that even a watch company can go green, not just by making a green watch but by changing their business practices.

Today isn't Mom's birthday yet she bought herself a gift. It's not my birthday either but I didn't get a gift. Since the watch is for Mom, maybe the grass garden is for me. I think that's the least Mom could give me given the time she spent away this morning. All in an attempt to get the greenest watch on the eve of Earth Day. She's just keeping it green.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

This is one of Mom's recent recipe finds. She has a thing for lentils and was looking for some new recipes a few months ago when she found this one. I don't know a lot about lentils since I don't eat them so I had to do a little research to find out what it is about them Mom loves so much.

Lentils are one of nature's greatest food. They are legumes and they grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds. They are classified according to whether they are large or small in size plus their color. You can find lentils in so many colors, they are smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser, and they are sold whole or split into halves. Having originated in central Asia, they are one of the first foods to ever be cultivated. There are even lentil seeds that date back 8,000 years!

Mom had only cooked with brown lentils, which retain their shape after cooking until she found this recipe. The red lentils turn yellow and become soft and mushy after cooking. Though the flavor of each variety varies a little, the overall nutty taste comes through no matter which you cook.

Not only do lentils taste good but they're good for you. Here's what the World's Healthiest Foods website had to say about them:

Lentils are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. But this is far from all lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein-all with virtually no fat. The calorie cost of all this nutrition? Just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils. This tiny nutritional giant fills you up--not out.

In addition to fiber, lentils have significant amounts of folate and magnesium, both of which help your cardiovascular system.

I know that you may be thinking - soup now that the weather's warming? Mom's answer to this is a big yes! She eats soups, stews, and chilis year round because they are just that good. This soup is best served hot, but it tastes good at room temperature too.

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup
Serves 6 to 8

5 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup dried red lentils
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped potatoes
8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Add the first 5 ingredients to a large pot; cover and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the lentils and veggies are tender.

Take pot from stove burner and set aside.

In a small saucepan, add the oil; warm over low heat until the oil is hot but not smoking.

Add in the cumin, turmeric, and salt; cook and stir constantly for for 2-3 minutes or until the cumin has released its fragrance (be careful not to scorch the spices).

Set spice mixture aside for 1 minute to cool.

Stir spice mixture into the lentil mixture; add cilantro, stir to combine.

You can puree the soup, in batches, in a blender OR you can use an immersion blender and blend to desired texture (you can leave it a little chunky).

Add in lemon juice; stir to combine


Mom uses almost 4 cups vegetable broth and the rest water. She is working on transitioning from store bought broth to homemade but isn't there yet. There are lots of broths you can buy in the store but remember most cans are lined with plastic. Broth also comes in aspectic containers and many curbside recycling programs accept them. It's always best to choose organic whenever possible, but homemade is really the best option.

Mom has not sourced organic red lentils yet. She's made this recipe a few time now and is currently looking for an organic brand, so please leave me a comment if there's a brand of organic lentils you buy. Buying lentils in bulk is preferred but buying a bigger bag over a smaller bag is always a step in the right direction.

We know from consulting the EWG's Shopper Guide to Pesticides that onions have the lowest pesticide load meaning it is okay to buy conventional. By okay I mean relatively free of pesticides but probably GMO. You have to decide which to buy based on the area of greatest concern to you. Mom buys conventional but is researching non-GMO. Those of you who have been following my blog for a long time know that I did a post on the EWG's guide a while ago. If you aren't familiar with the guide, please visit the site and download a quick reference guide. If have an iphone you can download the app.

Mom has used both white potatoes and red potatoes and the soup has turned out fine. Since she's a garlic freak she adds a little more than 8 cloves. Both of these are conventional, but the cilantro she uses is organic.

Lastly, the first time Mom made this she put in the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice but then decided it was too lemony and that she wouldn't put that much in again. The lemon juice is meant to enhance the other flavors but she felt it was overpowering. And she hasn't used salt and pepper because it really doesn't need it. Oh, and an immersion blender is the best kitchen appliance ever.

Making changes to the way you eat is always a work in progress. Taking baby steps is better than jumping in all at once because the way you eat is so much a part of who you are. Changing from conventional produce to organic is not easy but substituting some produce, like the ones from the EWG's dirty dozen for organic is a good place to start. No one is perfect when it comes to choosing which foods to buy, make, and eat. We can all learn from one another and in the end make better food choices for ourselves and for the planet.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Earth Week!

I'm so happy that Earth Day has given rise to such a flurry of activity and buzz that what use to be a one day celebration has turned into a week long party. My hope is that soon it will be a year long awareness of the best thing we have going, our planet.

So many retailers have special Earth Week giveaways this year. From Home Depot, to Target, to Walgreens, it seems as though the retail world has gone green. This is a good thing, though most of it is marketing. My feeling is that as long as this raises awareness I'm all for it. The more people get on board with the eco-friendly way of living, the greater the chance we have of saving the planet. I'm not advocating running out and buying what you don't need, but what I am saying is that there's never been a better time to make small changes that will have huge positive impacts.

Walgreens has designated a section of each store the "Earth Zone". By featuring products such as Brita pitchers, Green Works cleaners, and Burt's Bees skincare products, they show consumers that they do have options when it comes to choosing everday items. Walgreens is also offering printer cartridge refills for $1 on Earth Day. Refilling cartridges keeps used cartridges out of landfills. In addition, they accept used cartridges and cell phones for recycling in their photo department.

Despite the plastic bag incident Mom had at Target a couple of months ago, she still believes they are committed to doing right by the planet. With an eight page pull-out Earth Week circular tucked into the weekly circular, there are so many ways to go green at Target.

Target started this Earth Week by giving away reusable bags. It's one thing to receive a reusable bag and another thing to reuse it. The easiest way to remember your bags when shopping is to leave them in you car where you can see them. At first, carrying bags into the store make not be easy but it quickly becomes habit. And don't just use them when grocery shopping. Make every shopping trip a reusable bag trip. One advantage to using reusable bags when shopping is that it keeps you from buying too much stuff. If Mom takes two bags in the grocery store, then she can only buy two bags worth of stuff. Seems silly but it works. Refuse plastic bags no matter what!

Back to the Target circular. Not only is Target giving away a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid but they also have lots of eco-friendly products on sale. That cool new Method laundry detergent, Seventh Generation laundry detergent and dish detergent are all products that make the green grade. From LED light bulbs to Energy Star rated LED HDTV's, there are so many opportunities to green your lifestyle at Target.

Mom tweeted last week about the new recycling kiosks Target has placed in its stores nationwide. You can now recycle your plastic bags, ink cartridges, cell phones, and MP3 players in one convenient location. But the coolest promotion that Target is running by far is called Recycle=Reward. Simply send them five Target plastic bags and they'll send you a coupon for $1 off any reusable bag valued over $1.49. They have partnered with TerraCycle on this promotion and what's so cool about it is that the circular has instructions on how to send the bags. You create an envelope from a page in the circular by folding and taping it. Stick the bags inside and mail it prepaid to Target. How cool is that?

Not a Target shopper? Then head on over to Walmart where they've teamed up with Terracycle to sell 60 of its products in stores nationwide. The coolest part is that the products will be sold next to the original items from which they were made. Take a stroll down the snack aisle and right next to the bag of compostable Sun Chips will be a tote bag made from Sun Chip bags. Mom is not a Walmart shopper but gives kudos to them for moving in the right direction. The sustainability policy they launched with their vendors last year is going to change the way so many manufacturers operate. Walmart has been critizied in the press for selling single use, cheap products made by sweat shops in developing countries, but I hope by setting this presedence with their vendors, businesses will start taking sustainability matters to heart and change the way they do business.

The theme at Home Depot this week is water conservation. YEAH! In the spirit of conserving water, Home Depot gave away free faucet aerators to its first 250 customers on Sunday. They will also be holding in-store water conservation clinics to educate consumers on how easy it is to conserve water. And of course, Home Depot has many eco-friendly products on shelves every day like CLF bulbs, composters, rain barrels, and 100% recycled plastic bags.

There's also a flurry of activity at the college this week to celebrate Earth Week. Even though Mom is not manning an Earth Day booth at the Environmental Club's expo this year, she will be attending several events this week starting today at bio professor Elizabeth Martin's presentation on her personal experience of joining a CSA last year. Mom is friends with Elizabeth and remembers her talking about the bounty of goodies she received each week last summer, so the presentation should prove to be both inspiring and educational.

Bio professor Kelly Cartwright is giving a presentation called "It's Easy Being Green" on Tuesday evening. Kelly and Mom are good friends and Kelly is a total greenie. Mom is attending the presentation to support Kelly and also to see the reaction of the crowd when Puglet's video is shown. How cool of Kelly to show the video! If you haven't seen the video yet, you are missing out. Puglet worked for weeks on it and it's the best green video of 2010. Awards and accolades are streaming in for Puglet and he's sure to win an Oscar for his effort. Feel free to post Puglet's video on your bloggie this Earth Day to spread the message that going green really is easy.

The rest of the weeks activity at the college include the very popular "Snakes Alive!" program which draws families from all over the county. The presentation on Wednesday is sure to be a hit once again as a bio professor and a director from a local discovery center present an array of snake species native to Lake County. Mom thinks the coolest part of the program is the natural history of the snakes in our area but all the kids think it's the fact that they get to touch the snakes. Mom is hoping her favorite snake, the indigo snake is there again this week.
Thursday's presentation on preserving open spaces is on Mom's calendar as is Friday's amphibian conservation program which is presented by Mom's former from the forest preserve. The week wraps up with a volunteer workday at a local forest preserve where residents can get involved with habitat restoration.

The whole point of Earth Week is to make people aware of the growing need to tread a little lighter on Mother Earth. By providing opportunities for consumers to change their buying habits and giving residents a chance to attend programs on topics they be unfamiliar with, Earth Week has something for everone no matter where you live. We all have a chance to make some changes this week so please tell me the changes you are making. Big or small, every little bit helps. Don't ever feel like what you're doing isn't making a difference because it is. We're all in this together and together we can change the world.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Cannot Say It

Goodbye does not cross my lips. I just can't do it. It's so final. And so wrong.

I'm just like Mom because she can't say it either. She always says "Be good" instead of goodbye and I think this is her way of letting the other person know that she will see them again one day.

Seeking comfort in each other in times like this is all we have. And so I seek comfort in all of you because my sexy friend Penny has died. Died is kind of final too but it's what has happened. To say somepug has passed or left us makes it sound like they are no longer around when in truth they are. I believe this to be true and find solace in knowing Penny is watching me from the bridge. If I know Penny, she wouldn't want all of us to be mourning her death but celebrating her sexy, beefy life by having some whipped cream.

Penny took me to places I've never been. From her daily trek to Starbucks to her hikes in the mountains around Las Vegas, Penny lived the life we all dream of but few of us achieve. She taught me to throw the rules out the window and live on a whim. Wild abandon was how Penny lived and I laughed at her blog each day as I read about her wild adventures. Starbucks will never be the same for me ever again. And I promise you I'll go through the Starbucks drive-thru and ask for a cup of whipped cream just like Penny always did before I die.

Even though I never met Penny nose to nose, I know I will meet her one day on the bridge. I won't have to look far when I get there because she'll be the one wearing the Sponge Bob hat eating whipped cream. Work it Penny!

Mom and I also want to send a big pug hug to Penny's mom Dana. Mom cannot imagine what Dana is going through right now because Mom is liable to eat Popeyes when I die. Just kidding, Mom! Dana, please know we are here for you and that we will never forget Penny.

Last Goodbye - Jeff Buckley

This is our last goodbye
I hate to feel the love between us die.
But it's over
Just hear this and then I'll go:
You gave me more to live for,
More than you'll ever know.