Monday, September 29, 2008

Challenged by my challenges

Two months ago, I took on the one task that most people thought was laughable: reducing my intake of Diet Coke.

But that wasn't all. I also swore off eating out, added sugar, seconds and processed food, all in the name of exploring what it's like to live without.

On the surface, I failed miserably. I went out with my coworkers a few times for lunch; I admittedly stress-ate (on multiple occasions); I even had a (gasp!) Eggo waffle or two with syrup.

But here's the deal. I really came out O.K.

Not only did I drop 12 pounds in the process, but I also learned a few things about myself. I can actually change my habits if persistent enough (my soda consumption is down 25 percent, and I'm hoping to eventually pare it back more). I'm learning to find other ways to deal with my stress, and while they're not foolproof, they are alternatives that I'm sure I'll need to turn to in the coming months.

I've gotten to know myself a little bit better these last few months, and the reality is sometimes, other things in life take priority. Right now, my family's welfare is taking center stage, as we're approaching the start of month six of my husband being without full-time work. We need prayers, people who support us through our stress, and, ultimately, a paycheck, and that trumps little things like questioning the perfection of every item that touches your lips.

I guess you could say I'm challenged all around by our challenges, both fun and not-so-fun. But realizing where you're starting at is the first step to making changes.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday morning musings

Random thoughts while I wait for the first Diet Coke in 24 hours to kick in...

  • Giving up anything cold turkey is not fun, no matter the reason (in this case, one part financial/one part situational--couldn't get to the store). So this probably evens out my week's attempt at the discretionary challenge. (Chile, this is where you say something really inspirational...)
  • I mentioned in my meatless meals post below that the bok choy from my CSA last week was a mushy mess by Monday. I may have found the reason why. According to the CSA's weekly post, "Choy is probably one of the most precious and fragile vegetables we handle. One little snap of the stalk and the leaf is dying within a day or so." Hmm...could have used the warning last week!
  • Speaking of my CSA, I actually tried okra for the first time this week. It took quite some time to find a recipe that didn't involve shrimp (as in gumbo) or frying (which I tend to stray from for health reasons.) I found a very simple recipe buried online: Slice the okra; slice some onions. Saute both in olive oil. (In retrospect, we would have added garlic as well.)
  • I have to come to terms that summer is over. I finally had the opportunity to go to the Wednesday-evening Greenwood farmers market last night, but it was just too late in the season. There were football players instead of stands. Maybe next year!
  • Speaking of, thanks to those who gave me moral support for my posts earlier this week about the little things we did and didn't do this summer. I think we're all guilty at one point or another at failing to see the little positives in a world where big changes are needed (fast).
  • Finally, I leave you with a great quote I read this morning by columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.: "We are becoming the stupid giant of planet Earth: richer than Midas, mightier than Thor, dumber than rocks. Which makes us a danger to the planet -- and to ourselves. This country cannot continue to prosper and to embrace stupidity."

The name of this Indianapolis CSA was deleted from this post on January 28, 2009. This small green parenting blog has been falsely accused of libel by this CSA and I will no longer promote them by using the name of the organization. The First Amendment is a beautiful thing, please do what you can to preserve it!

On Jan. 30, 2009, I removed links to the CSA's site. I am sorry if you can't handle the fact that the links were left; there were only a total of nine links in this post before I removed yours.

More meatless recipes to share

You'd have to be hiding with your head in the sand to not know what's going on with our economy crumbling, and more and more people are trying to shave what they can from their budgets.

My post two weeks ago on meatless meals got a lot of response, and readers on and offline asked me for other ideas. So, here are a few other recipes to try. I'd like to state for the record that the 3 year old ate them all, so they are kid-friendly!

Otherwise known as "cheesy bread," this is great to make late at night to have on hand for breakfast. Warning: It takes a half-hour to prep and an hour to bake, but we think it's worth it.

I'm including the "base recipe," but you can tweak it by adding such things as Italian herbs, cheeses, bacon, green onions or whatever sparks your interest.

1 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature (set out 2 hrs. early)
1 cup parmesan, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 9-inch cake pan.

Cook milk, butter, salt and pepper in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently, until full boil. Take pan off heat. Dump flour in at once, stir. Return to heat. Stir vigorously until mixture comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat.

Beat eggs one at a time into dough, stirring vigorously until eggs is completely incorporated. Add parmesan. Pour dough into pan; bake 50 min. Make a few cuts with a sharp knife; bake 10 additional minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Pita Salad
Loosely adapted from Every Day with Rachel Ray Magazine, September 2008, this was a great way to use up some odds and ends from my CSA share.

3 pitas, cut into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into pieces

Preheat the oven to 350°. Transfer the pitas to a baking sheet; bake until crisp, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cucumbers, tomatoes, bell pepper, scallions, parsley, mint and pitas. Add the lettuce and toss.

Vegetable Low Mein

We'd planned to make another recipe, but our bok choy in the box was no good. ("Mush," my husband described it as.) So we tweaked the original recipe as follows.

12 ounces vermicelli, uncooked
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup coarsely shredded carrot
1/2 cup mushrooms

Cook pasta according to package. Drain and set aside. Coat a wok or large nonstick skillet cooking spray and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Heat at medium-high temp. (375 degrees) until hot. Stir-fry garlic for 2 minutes. Add onions; stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add broth, soy sauce and red pepper. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add carrots and mushrooms corn. Stir-fry for approximately 2 minutes. Add cooked pasta; toss gently.

[The name of this organic CSA was deleted from this post on January 28, 2009. I have been falsely accused of libel by this CSA and will no longer promote them by using the name of the organization. I only hope that their representatives learn to appreciate the beauty of the First Amendment that we have achieved in this country. As I am open to all opinions and discussions on my site, I maintained their comments even though I disagreed with them.]
[Edited Jan. 30, 2009, to remove link to my former CSA's blog, where the other low mein recipe was posted. Sorry if you wanted a different low mein recipe, but there are plenty online!]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pros and cons of staying with a CSA

My Community Supported Agricuture (CSA) experience will be coming to a close in about six to eight weeks.

I'll be frank that I'm still ambivalent about whether to return, and the last few weeks will help determine whether I'll commit to it for next year. There are a number of pros and cons to using a CSA over shopping locally at the farmers market.

Pros -

  • With a CSA subscription, you are supporting local farmers. (I say this because I know at some farmers markets, such as Kansas City's City Market, they have vendors who come in or bring produce in from out of the region.)
  • You get a weekly share of locally produced produce, possibly before farmers markets are open.
  • You may get a more variety with a CSA plan than if you went to the farmers market. (For example, mine is loaded with tomato stands, and that's about it, it seems.)
Cons -

  • I signed up for this plan because of the wide variety of produce promised, and much of it didn't happen. I felt like I got a lot of expensive tomatoes, lettuce and green peppers, when I could have simply got those at the local farmers markets instead (organic and at a much cheaper price).
  • Sometimes, quality. I've had several weeks where I've had to toss produce before eating it because it was bad when delivered.
  • Cost. You do need to pay for the season up front, which can be cost-prohibitive to many families. You sign up in the winter and do not see a "return" until late spring/early summer.
  • Weather. We were blessed with a cool May and floods in some regions in June, which may have impacted our early weekly shares. Regardless of how much you receive in a given week (and some weeks there was half of what was promised) you have committed financially that amount.
  • You get what you get. If it's a half-cup of broccoli, it's yours to figure out how to flesh that out to make your dish. I felt it forces you to do additional shopping at the store and/or market, whereas if I went list in hand it would be only one trip.
  • Not every CSA has a convenient pick-up location. I looked for a program last year, only to find the closest one 30 minutes away. In contrast, a farmers market or farm stand may be in your area of town.
  • If you miss your pick-up time, you lose your weekly share. In contrast, if you don't go to the farm stand or market, nothing is lost on your end.

If you're considering your options, definitely shop around. Talk to the farmers more than I initially did - in my excitement I just signed up, sight upseen. To find markets and CSAs near you, visit

The name of this CSA, one of the oldest in Indianapolis, was deleted from this post on January 28, 2009. I have been falsely accused of libel by representatives of this CSA and will no longer promote them by using the name of the organization. I urge you to research any CSA program thoroughly prior to investing in shares.

Edited Jan. 30, 2009, to remove link to this CSA that was inadvertently left on the post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In the issue of fairness

Yesterday I whined about the list of things I'd meant to do this summer and didn't. In the sense of fairness, I should report that I wasn't a total environmental slacker.

Here's my report:

How was your summer?

Monday, September 22, 2008

End of summer regrets

I've seen the signs: the slowing trickle at the farmers market, the disappearing children in the evenings, the closure of the neighborhood pool and the opening of my windows at night.

And now it's official: Summer is over.

Fall screams by in Indiana, and it's certain that in a matter of weeks we could be at the risk of snow and freezing temperatures. It's something I haven't gotten used to in the six years I've lived in this state.

Fall is my favorite time of year, but summer is such a close second. But it's a season that hasn't been enjoyed as fully as I used to since having children. The traditions of old have been shortened and shaved to work around toddlers and pregnancies and naptimes and attention spans.

And there was so much I didn't do this year.

Inspired by Green Baby Guide's list of end-of-summer regrets, here's the list of things I'd meant to do this summer but just didn't. My list is longer; chalk it up to Catholic guilt.
  • Start a garden. This is the third year in this house, and the third year I'd meant to plant a garden and didn't. Sure, I've got some container plants and some herbs, berries and green onions planted haphazardly among our mandatory bushes, but a real garden? No. It's time I quit waiting on my neighbor to set up her fence and just move ahead in life.
  • Plan for my garden. Yes, I mentioned I'd wanted to do edible landscaping, but that stopped at the library books after my husband and I had a difference of opinion.
  • Plant my replacement tree. I am certain I will be found out by my homeowners association, when they realize that I am down to one and a half trees. Sorry. After the lightening strike and unemployment, my planned fruit tree is still on the wish list for the backyard.
  • Visit a you-pick farm. It would have been fun for my 3 year old, but the blueberry thing just didn't happen.
  • Fully take advantage of my CSA. As much as I've grouched about the variety, I confess that sometimes I gave up, shook my head and ignored the fact that random produce X was in my box and let it go to waste.
  • Get a compost bin. It's been on my list, and I can't do a "pile" in my neighborhood. I can't tell you how many weeks I've shaken my head as I prepped meals and thought I needed to get a compost bin. It's just not in the budget. (But, my birthday is coming!)
  • Hike or camp. I miss it. But I have a 9 month old. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Naked toes and other lessons of being a kid

Naked toes. They're not just for summer anymore.

The freedom of bare feet is one that doesn't compare in the life of my 3 year old. Even in 50-degree mornings, I'm begged, pleaded, screamed at and cried all over the proposition of possibly having the freedom of "naked toes" in sandals on the way to daycare.

Sometimes as grownups we forget the seemingly simple pleasures in life. Like walking barefoot in the grass to water the plants or simply play outside. Or the ease of talking a walk and having a quiet conversation in a neighborhood that just stops at 7:30 p.m. Or in the amazement of seeing a 2-week-old baby calf, just learning to walk and anxious for something to eat.

That's how we spent Friday night. A visit to Traders Point Creamery in Zionsville was our short getaway. We go to their Friday organic market a few times a year, but the reason for the trip this weekend was to celebrate five days of great behavior and to see the newly birthed calves, which I'd read about on TPC's e-newsletter.

Coming eye to eye with a cow, no matter how little, is a surprising experience for a 3 year old. She squatted and stared up at them, not wanting to come too close, but absolutely entranced. We saw about five calves at the dairy farm, and one brave soul sauntered up to the fence for some attention and the possibility of food. It got the attention, though it would have likely preferred the latter.

And then the magic was gone. My daughter remembered there were chickens here too, and we were off in the hunt to find them.

Too often we're so busy with the clutter of technology and stuff in our lives that we forget to appreciate the little moments. I'm sure not every member of our party was as interested in this little event on a Friday night. But if my child remembers for one day the cow and chickens she saw for half an hour, instead of what was on Sprout or what movie she begged for and failed to get to watch, it's time well spent.

Recipe archive

Whether you're headed out to the farmers market this weekend or simply need to shake up your meal plan, here's a listing of recipes previously featured on my blog. And yes, these have all been kid-tested and (mostly) approved.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Green stress relief

Have you ever taken the life event quiz? The one where you note the stress-causing events (good and bad) over the last year?

According to the test I was given:
  • Score of 300+: 80% higher risk of disease in the next 12 months
  • Score of 150-299: 50% higher risk of disease in the next 12 months
I had a 469. I jokingly asked the speaker after the presentation if I was going to die. No, but I should do something like take a bubble bath by myself. Right, that would last about 30 seconds before I'd have company. Maybe I should buy his book, he said. Right.

So being a working mom, and one who's stress level is about as high as it gets, I started seeking out some low-cost, low-impact ways to reduce my stress for 30 seconds. Here are some to share with you:
  • Take a walk. Even if it's just circling the building.
  • Stop and smell the roses. Or coffee. Or look at the frog hopping by. By taking a few minutes at a toddlers' pace, you can relieve yourself temporarily from a situation.
  • Meditate, pray or even mimic your child's babbles constantly. You'll both wind up giggling.
  • Get herbal. Drink herbal tea or use herbal essential oils.
  • Try deep breathing. Yes, actually getting oxygen into your brain does help.
  • Dance. Dance with a date, dance alone. Dance with a toddler to Aerosmith's rendition of "I love trash" on a Sesame Street CD if you have to....whatever works. Music and exercise both help.
  • And if nothing else, invest in Endangered Species chocolate and feel a little less guilty!
If you have any other ideas, post them here, I may need them to get through the week!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Confessions of a light-green mom

Today I drank from a Styrafoam cup and didn't even blink.

Today I drank my fourth can of Diet Coke after several good days of cutting back, after a sleepless night.

Today I littered the bottom of my car with a few wrappers from mini chocolate bars from a gift basket I chomped on out of stress.

These are my confessions. Today I was a light-green mom, maybe even approaching the tan blandness of the blades of grass in my yard.

But here's the deal about going green. It's one step, one moment at a time. And sometimes we fall back before we storm ahead. Like a dieter, we binge and (hopefully) get back on track.

So for every misstep I take, hopefully tomorrow - or even later today - brings me an opportunity to help make this world a better place.

Does the RNC just not get it?

An election year means all bets are off when it comes to political campaigns. I'd seen a lot even at the local level in my good old days as a reporter. But this one takes the cake.

Let me preface this story by stating I'm a loyal independent who typically errs in the voting booth on the side of helping people.

Now, imagine you get a certified letter in the mail. Your response? Make time, drive to the post office and pick it up.

Now imagine it's a request for money - and it's not a collection notice. Instead, it's a campaign solicitation!

Indianapolis Star political columnist Matthew Tully wrote in Sunday's paper:

To [Lizbeth Maher's] surprise, the letter in question was nothing more than a plea for cash from the Republican National Committee -- a form letter, no less, seeking a few bucks so Republicans could fight against what the letter breathlessly called "the national Democrats and their ultra-liberal allies (who) are raising money at a frantic pace."

Sounding a dire warning, the pitch included what many such letters do: An artificial
deadline. "I must ask you to please use the Emergency Return Envelope and rush
an immediate contribution of $360 today," it said.

Now imagine you are Maher and you're standing there at the Carmel Post Office, having just rushed over to pick up a certified letter that turned out to be a cheesy campaign contribution scheme. And you're not alone. Several other people at the post office received the same letter.

"Everyone was standing there with their mouths open," she said. "They were not happy."Neither was Maher. She called the letter an embarrassment and a waste of $3.02 in postage. Not to mention a thoughtless swipe at people who have supported the party and its candidates.

So here's my question: Is the RNC just out of touch? Had it not realized that people are paying $4.15 a gallon for gas (OK, $3.79 or so when it was likely mailed), and they have to invest time and hard-earned gasoline money to get to the post office? Not to mention when we're debating the dwindling resources for gasoline in this nation?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fighting for something to reach for

I have a first class education, health care, independence, and countless opportunities. I was raised to believe that I could accomplish whatever I set out to achieve. If that's not affluence, I don't know what is.

It is beyond time for us to extend that dream to every child in every corner of the world. The child playing cricket is just as deserving of education and opportunity as a child growing up in Fremont, California or Pleasantville, New York.

We must fight to give all children something to reach for.

And that starts with recognizing what we have. What we were given.

- Arduous blog, Sept. 8, 2008.

Read the entire post. I certainly can't improve on that today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meatless meals for the whole family

Meatless meals. Too often that brings visions of tofu, soybeans or other food that is just too adventurous for some.

But meatless meals don't have to be a scary concept; in fact, there are easy options for even the pickiest eaters. Whether you're trying to reduce the amount of meat you eat because of the impact on the environment or simply on your wallet, there are many family-friendly options out there.

The best part? You're probably already doing it without realizing it.

The most basic meatless meals you're probably already including in your diet at least once in awhile. What kid doesn't enjoy macaroni and cheese? A basic spaghetti marinara is another inexpensive option. It's simple, and it's easy to increase the iron in it simply by using a cast-iron skillet.

Other meatless dinner options include:
  • vegetable fried rice
  • cheese quesadillas
  • black beans and rice
  • grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup
  • "breakfast" such as pancakes or oatmeal
Interested in branching out? Here are some links to get started:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reducing your plastic consumption

Plastic - it's all around us. Whether you're picking up a prescription or a toothbrush, it's nearly an inescapable part of our society.

BBC reporter Christine Jeavans has done what so many of us cannot even fathom how to do: She attempted to go a month without any new plastic entering her home. While she wasn't perfect - and few of us who have undergone environmental challenges are - she managed to reduce her plastic intake by an impressive 80 percent.

Some tips from Jeavans and readers of her blog and her online reports:

Containing your container habit:
  • Switch to a reusable water bottle and a coffee mug. Keep reusable plates and silverware at the office.
  • "The idea of taking my own reusable containers to shops such as the butchers or even the local takeaway curry house - as suggested by some 'zero waste' enthusiasts on the blog - feels a little odd but it is logical and maybe something we will all be doing in future years, just like the way that reusable bags have taken off," Jeavans writes.
  • "Bring a to-go container/utensils with you when dining out to bring home leftovers. Yes, it takes some getting use to to remember to do it," Jeavans writes.
  • Buy bulk, and bring a reusable container to the store.

Eating right

  • "We found we prefer bread from the bakers rather than the pre-sliced loaf so we'll be staying with that on grounds of taste if nothing else," Jeavans writes.
  • Bake or cook at home.
  • Cut back on your soda habit.

Habits at home

  • "The wooden toothbrush, however, was not a winner for me and will be redeployed as a mini-scrubbing brush," Jeavans writes.
  • Use natural cleaning products like baking soda and vinegar - rather than buying a product for every cleaning use.

What other tips do you have?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How are you paving our path?

My friend Judy is an extraordinary woman. She's a survivor, overcoming an abusive relationship, but she's also a thriver, helping other women do the same.

For more than a decade, Judy's run a nonprofit organization in Indianapolis to help families get back on their feet. The reason many people return to their abusers is that they run out of resources and simply feel they can't do it alone, and Judy helps them make the transition.

She could just be giving out handouts. Rent assistance here, meals there. But she goes beyond that.

Judy's organization helps link clients to job training, to housing resources, to empowerment training for them and their children. She's helping stop the cycle of violence by helping clients have the internal strength to address their external needs.

It's the old adage of you can give a man to fish and give him a meal, or teach a man to fish and he can feed himself forever.

Each of us carries with us that same responsibility to pick up others around us. You can bemoan the problems in this society, swear about the increase in taxes or gas prices, and roll your eyes each time the news comes on. Or you can be proactive.

We each have resources that we can offer to make the world a better place: socially, environmentally, however you see fit. And, while it may appear to be easier when you're rich or at least affluent, the reality is making a difference can be accomplished in those little steps we take.

In whether we vote, and not just every four years. Each and every election - from the school board to the state legislature - helps pave the path for our region's future. Rich or poor, our vote is the great equalizer.

In how we use our resources. Are our dollars wasted on junk? Are they used to support the causes we believe in? Do we spend them on environmentally friendly products or just what's on sale? Do we buy items made in sweat shops? How we use our resources says much about our value system.

In how we pave the path for future generations. Are we being responsible in supporting clean air, water and food sources for the future? Regardless of our financial situations, we can make a difference by making small changes where our resources allow to make a difference on our society. Even if you're broke, you can educate yourself, write an e-mail or sign a petition.

In how we teach others. We demonstrate our values by our example. And others - from the very old to the youngest among us - are watching. How do they see you?

Monday, September 8, 2008

I see the moon....

"The moon! Look, Mommy, the moon!" my 3 year old exclaimed the other night. It was far too late, but as she peered anxiously out the window, the bright crescent of the moon beckoned out to her.

Maybe it was the wonderful weather, maybe it was just a whim. But I said, "Let's go out and see the moon!" The two of us trotted outside, sat in front of our tree and peered out at the moon. The clouds drifted over the moon, drifted past again, and teased us with the flickering of the stars. And we watched.

It's little moments like these that remind me that it's never too early to teach an appreciation for our world. Too often we take for granted the business of our lives, the "to-do" list and the technology, and we forget the little things of life. As I sat there, I realized my daughter probably won't grow up watching the stars at night, like I did at campouts when I was young, unless we encourage that path along.

She won't understand that tomatoes come on plants and not on grocery store stands, unless we encourage that path along.

She won't understand that nature is precious, unless we enourage that path along.

Writes GreenStyleMom:

We aren't waiting until our kids are older or waiting for a good green school curriculum. In our house, we don't just act responsibly, we discuss it. We are building a base that will be expanded as they grow. A way of life that is inherent to them as recognizing letters and counting objects.

And so I watch, and wait, and just appreciate those little moments.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Breaking up is hard to do

It's official. It's over. I think.

Like a bad breakup, ending my long-term relationship with Diet Coke is no easy task. Twenty or so years is not a short stretch.

It reminds me of my senior year in high school, when I attempted to break up with my boyfriend Dave over the course of the entire year. Only this is more painful.

Everywhere I turn, I'm reminded of how much I need it. To get going in the morning after a tough night of toddlers and teething. To stay motivated during a hectic day or concentrating after an hour of staring at site maps for the Web site. To sip during a conversation with a good friend, or just enjoy because. Warm or cold, but especially enjoyed on a tall glass of ice, Diet Coke is my companion. I've even been accused of being the spokesperson once or twice!

I've tried giving it up before. I recall vividly a particularly harsh weekend my freshman year in college, when my friends wouldn't let a sip touch my lips. I crashed hard, was cranky, and the experiment was never repeated. I still don't know that I've totally forgiven them.

So why now?

Because I had a bad week.

See, I once again talked the talked but failed to walk the walk about trying to cut back on my Diet Coke consumption of four cans a day. I've made some change, like getting rid of my daily trip to Speedway (with #5 plastic cups) and plastic bottles, but I still hadn't broken the real culprit: the drink itself. Each day, I start with great intentions, only to trip up on the same bad habits.

And then a couple of things happened this week. First, I realized I was wasting about $500 a year on Diet Coke. That's a lot of money under normal circumstances, let alone when your spouse is unemployed. Regardless of the sale prices I'm able to score, I just can't justify it anymore.

Second, I had a particularly stressful week and a 12-pack at my desk at work. Bad combination. I sucked it down fast. And when I actually had a moment when my heart was racing (I think around can 5 or 6 that day), I realized this has got to stop. The 12-pack at work was gone, not to be replaced.

Thursday, I had two cans, the first that I didn't touch until I couldn't take it anymore at 10 a.m. The painkiller wasn't helping the headaches anymore.

Friday, I had four or five. Two at work, one to destress and two while socializing at a friends. (I realize how sad it is - it is almost like I rationalize it like an alcholic might!)

Today, I have had two to manage my searing headache. I'm trying not to touch it again. In fact, the ice tea bags are getting set out onto the counter.

So now I'm going to start trying with a little more fervor. And I'm anxious for any tips to help me make the transition. Pray for me! It's not going to be an easy breakup.

Eating local: Indy Southside secrets

In Indianapolis, the farmers markets most thought of are City Market, Broad Ripple, Traders Point and Carmel. But the Southside has its secrets that are worth a stop.

The farmers markets in Greenwood and Franklin are small but growing over the last few years. Greenwood's is next to the Greenwood Public Library in Old Town and is slowly expanding beyond the usual produce. Franklin's is back after the floods earlier this summer, located in the town square. Both are open Saturday mornings as well as one evening a week.

The Indianapolis Southside is dotted with little makeshift farm stands, and each night I pass signs selling corn, tomatoes and other assorted items on my way home from work. But there are a few family farm stands that are worth a mention.

Copeland's is a family-owned farm just north of County Line Road and east of I-65 in Indianapolis. I've frequented the shop for several years, and just love it. They have a greenhouse for assorted perennials and annuals and also have a produce stand. I've never been unhappy with their homegrown items, though I'll admit the fruit I've picked up there at times (which has been purchased elsewhere) hasn't been as top quality. The stand is open every day but Sundays.

Taylor's Farm Stand is at County Line 750 south of Greenwood and east of I-65. This stand also offers family-grown produce, including melons, tomatoes, onions, peppers, corn and more.

Waterman's is another family-owned market on the Indianapolis South side. They offer you-pick of beans, berries and more, as well as produce you can just buy. They also have seasonal activities such as a corn maze and pumpkin patch.

Further south is my family's favorite (and worth the drive), Apple Works in Trafalgar. Apple Works is worth the visit for three reasons: the scenery, the apple bread and the apple slushies. They have a great country market as well. The kids will also enjoy the small petting farm, and my daughter constantly talks about the "baby goat," even though it's been nearly a year since her last visit!

If there are other "little secrets" in Indy, please post them here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fewer kids - save the planet?

"Fewer kids - save the planet?" is headlining the Wall Street Journal's Juggle Blog right now. In it the writer wonders aloud whether there's an ethical requirement to balance family size against environmental impact.

Blogger Katherine Meyer quotes a recent article in the Chicago Tribune that seems to argue favorably for population control in Western countries, citing such statistics as "each child born in a rich country like Britain or the United States is likely to be responsible for 160 times as much carbon emitted as a child born in Ethiopia."

British physicians are considering just that. A British Medical Journal editorial recently stated:

Should we now explain to UK couples who plan a family that stopping at two children, or at least having one less child than first intended, is the simplest and biggest contribution anyone can make to leaving a habitable planet for our grandchildren? ... doctors should help to bring family size into the arena of environmental ethics, analogous to avoiding patio heaters and high carbon cars.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

Limiting family size is "the simplest and biggest contribution anyone can make to leaving a habitable planet for our grandchildren," the [British Medical Journal's] editorial's authors said. Family planning as a means to reduce climate change has been little talked about in international climate forums, largely because it is so politically sensitive. China's leaders, however, regularly argue that their country should get emission reduction credits because of their one-child policy, and many environmentalists—and even a growing number of religious and ethics scholars—say the biblical command to "be fruitful and multiply" needs to be balanced against Scripture calling for stewardship of the Earth.

I agree that we're called to care for our planet and its creatures, but I have a serious ethical problem in saying we should issue population control for the sake of saving the environment. People are not cars. They are not patio heaters. They are individuals who have the power to make individual, positive impacts on our society and our environment through individual actions. And who is to say that one person should get that choice on who lives or not, based on a carbon footprint?

Shouldn't we be teaching us - and our children - how to better care and manage the resources given to us instead?

Writes Taiyyab Mehmood, Medical Doctor Trainee Surrey, UK/Riga, Latvia, on the BMJ's Rapid Response page:
...don't be shy to have babies. Educate them to not overbuy food (as in UK 25% food bought is binned) and not to overindulge one's desires and ego to have a plasma TV in every room with 4 cars per house - big engines also etc. But don't forget to give them lots of sincere love, protection, care and the gift of wisdom to be ready for the big world.

A green (and red) way to get rid of ants

If ants are around your home, then it must be late summer. But figuring out how to deter them without blasting a lot of ant killer is a challenge.

Water has no lasting impact. And vinegar, a solution I'd read about somewhere, didn't work for my mother, as she's often quick to point out.

In a moment of frustration recently, I asked my husband if he'd seen anything on ants in a green flyer we'd gotten in the mail. He had. The solution? Cayenne pepper. I thought he was nuts.

Good thing we have a large bottle. He grabbed the cayenne, went outside by our tomato plants and dumped the cayenne vigorously. "They spread like crazy," he reported.

According to
You can also apply scents and substances that ants simply don't like for various reasons: vinegar, peppermint oil, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne pepper, whole cloves, and bay leaves. Some of these might be harmful to pets and irritating to curious children.

Yes, but still better than insecticide when little ones are around.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cutting out the CD habit

CDs are a fact of life in my world. As a Web person, I routinely get submissions of photos and other multimedia (even Word files) on a CD-ROM, particularly since my employer is paranoid about zip files.

While we can download music, watch movies online and store photos on Web sites, we just can't break the cycle of saving data, software and just plain "stuff" onto CD-ROMs.

According to Douglas Karr, who writes a marketing technology blog I read:

According the EPA’s poster, Lifecycle of a CD, 5.5 million CDs, their packaging and
millions of other music CDs are tossed each year without recycling. CDs and DVDs
are made from Aluminum, Gold, Dyes, various other materials - but most of all
Polycarbonate and Lacquer. Polycarbonate and Lacquer are generated directly from
crude oil.

The stats continue, every month 100,000 pounds of CDs and DVDs go obsolete as well. There’s no efficient means of recycling the materials either!

According to the Oil Industry itself, about 1.1 gallons of every barrel (42 gallons) of oil goes to petrochemicals.

So obviously the problem is not just the discs themselves but the habit we've caused. A few days ago I wrote about what you can do about those old CDs. But what can you do to break the cycle and keep new CDs from entering your life?
  • Research to see whether the software is available as a download instead of purchasing a copy on CD. Even better, consider using Web-hosted software such as Google Documents instead of purchasing a copy of Microsoft Word.
  • Consider "on-demand" movies or viewing them through online services.
  • Karr writes: "Switch from backing up and transporting data on CDs and DVDs to USB Drives. USB drives hold more data and are portable, faster, and don’t wear out...Buy yourself a large portable drive for backing up your work and transporting it back and forth to work."
  • And, for the diehards, Karr suggests eliminating your CD or DVD drives the next time you upgrade your computer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Buying 'local' at the supermarket?

"Locally grown" is the favorite tagline of produce in the supermarket ads. But rarely, if ever, do you get a real sense of how "local" or not your veggies actually are.

Reports The Star-Press in Muncie, your "local" produce in an Indiana grocery store might actually come from Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky or Michigan. Maybe I'm being too much of a word person, but "local" implies close by - couldn't stores be a little more accurate in saying "regional?"

According to Kevin Keener, a food process engineer at Purdue University, there is no standard definition of "locally grown."

Keener encourages shoppers to ask:
  • where the produce came from
  • how many miles the food traveled
  • what standards (such as organic, sustainable farming practices, farm volume) are used in selecting the local produce.

Looking for a little more "local" Indiana produce? Read on to find links to area farmers markets and more.