May 31, 2009

my happy place

On Saturday mornings I love going to my local farmer's market. This is one of the most exciting times of year for it because so many delicious fruits and vegetables are in season: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, sugar snap peas, artichokes, asparagus, and so much more.

Living in this region makes having a fantastic array of local produce possible, and I don't take it for granted.

There are some other things that make this farmer's market my favorite (even aside from finding my most favorite cup of coffee in the world there).

Two days before the market I receive an email "sneak peak" from CUESA, the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture, which operates this farmer's market. The email newsletter tells me which what produce will be in season at the market, if any new vendors are arriving or leaving for the season, notices about cooking presentations and events, and recipes. There is also a feature I enjoy called, "What's in your bag?" where they photograph a shopper and ask them what they are buying and how they plan to use it.

Another over-the-top feature of this market it the Veggie Valet. You heard me right—we have what is essentially a coat check for your purchases. It is genius! I've only needed to use it a few times. Imagine that as you shop, your basket or bags start to get quite heavy. Perhaps need to take a break from your heavy purchases to use the facilities or grab a bite. Veggie Valet lets you check your bags for free! (Donations are accepted).

I always leave with a smile on my face.

May 28, 2009

JunkRide 2009

The other night there was a great event in San Francisco with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation about Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an endless floating waste of plastic trash between California and Hawaii.

The Algalita Marine Research Foundation, founded by Capt. Charles Moore, was one of the first groups to bring attention to the problem of disposable plastics, most notably seen in the Pacific Garbage Patch.

I wasn't able to attend, as much as I would have liked to. The group was in town as they are in the midst of their JunkRide 2009. They are biking over 2000 miles down the Pacific Coast, from Canada to Mexico in an effort to raise awareness and give presentations about plastics in the ocean.

Last year, they made a raft out of 15,000 plastic bottles and sailed it from Los Angeles to Honolulu. You can search You Tube for videos about that expedition, including an interview with Martha Stewart when they returned (see, their message is really getting out)!

The Foundation has a great list of Frequently Asked Questions on their website.

I don't know about you, but their efforts really do make me think twice about using plastic.

May 26, 2009

better gas mileage

We spent the holiday weekend camping in a beautiful state park. We couldn't help comparing gas mileage with our friends who had driven their car, which is similar to ours. Too bad that with all of our kids and camping gear we couldn't fit into one vehicle!

This video from Howcast, via Hulu, has some good tips about getting better fuel efficiency. Many of the ideas are ones I had not heard before. Nice! I'll be trying them out for sure.

May 20, 2009

maple syrup

Real maple syrup is not cheap. I like to buy grade B maple syrup and have been shopping for value. For awhile I've been buying it at either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, since the packages and pricing seemed quite comparable.

Or are they?

I only just realized that they have some key differences. The Whole Foods syrup is organic and comes in a #2 recyclable bottle. The Trader Joe's syrup is not organic and comes in a #7 plastic bottle. I think you can guess which one I'll buy in the future!

I never understand why companies choose to package items in hard-to-recycle types of plastic when it is perfectly feasible to use a #1 or #2.

And yes, I know that syrup in glass from Vermont is fantabulous. It is just a little hard to find around here.

May 19, 2009

garden poop

I've been faced with one of my first gardening challenges: cat poop. I live in a fairly urban area, where all the small backyards and houses are right next to each other. We have a fair number of neighborhood cats who visit our yard.

Last week I went to plant some new tomato starts and smelled a problem. Someone has been pooping in my little garden plot! I've fantasized about ways to combat the problem. I've gotten some advice from the gentleman at the garden store.

My first step was to clean out the "litter box section" and replace it with nice soil. I then planted the 2 tomato starts and placed metal cages around them (the kind tomatoes like to grow within). Finally, I sprinkled cayenne pepper around the surrounding soil.

I don't know if it will keep the cat out, or perhaps we'll end up with spicy vegetables!

If this doesn't work I'll need a Plan B. Any ideas?

May 14, 2009

penquin water carbinator

My husband is addicted to drinking carbonated water. He was feeling a lot of guilt about all the plastic bottles that came with his bubble-water habit. He wondered if he could make his own carbonated water.

After a bit of research online, he found an interesting contraption that will let him make his own carbonated water from tap, which is great because he had already invested in an excellent water filtering system. Not only will it save lots of bottles over time, this gadget uses glass bottles for the process. He really likes the idea of keeping his bubbly water in glass instead of plastic.

It's called the Sodastream Penquin . From the manufacturer's website:

"Operating without batteries or electricity, Sodastream home soda makers are highly energy-efficient small appliances. Appliances that work without electricity improve the environment by cutting down on the emissions generated by electrical plants, giving us cleaner air and ground water. 
 By operating completely on power supplied by the compressed air in the carbonator — an easily renewable fuel source — Sodastream does not contribute to environmental pollution made by batteries. Empty carbonators are returned to Sodastream to be cleaned, inspected and refilled with CO2 drawn naturally from the air. Carbonators are reusable as long as they remain in good condition. Store bought soda and sparking water travels hundreds of miles from the bottling plant to the store shelf, usually in trucks that get fewer than 10 miles to the gallon. Instead, Sodastream uses the water that's already in your home, saving literally tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere."

If you want to see just how easy and fun it is to use, check out this video on the Williams Sonoma website. I wasn't able to embed it on the blog.

May 10, 2009

custom sigg

Did you know you could customize the art on Sigg bottles at Cafe Press? They offer 7 special edition designs onto which you add your own custom text. Their website has a great preview tool so you can see just how it will look.

The customized 1 liter bottles are $27.99. Could be a fun way to personalize a bottle for a gift or promotion.

May 6, 2009

less is more

Here's an observation from a recent grocery trip. Now, you know that I am a fan of quality whole foods yet also trying to stretch our dollars.

I looked at 3 loaves of bread. All were decent, to be sure.

One is a nice bread from a bakery in Colorado. Seems like good quality.

It cost $4.49

The next bread is the store brand (Whole Foods). I read the label and realized the ingredient list is the same as the first loaf! While both loaves have no hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup, they do have 20 ingredients.

Same ingredients, yet it costs $2.99

And finally, the loaf of bread that I think tastes great. It is made locally and the ingredient list is about as simple as a homemade loaf: 100% freshly stone ground whole wheat berries, water, honey, yeast, sea salt and nothing else.

But it costs the most at $4.79

My question is this: which would YOU buy?

May 5, 2009

my garden

Things are growing in my garden! I am really excited, and also in disbelief. I am crossing my fingers that something edible will appear one day.

If you click on the picture above you will see a larger view of what I am growing. It is a small little plot. I also have another corner of the yard planted with zucchini and peas.

Gardening is all new to me, so I am really enjoying seeing it change. I'm a little late at thinning the lettuce out (it is very crowded!) Wish me luck as I tackle that tomorrow.

May 4, 2009

change starts at home

One of my posts was picked up by Change Starts at Home. I am flattered, yet mostly excited that Home Green Home is getting some additional coverage. The Home Green Home story really embodies the purpose of the Change Starts at Home website—that women coming together can really improve and make an impact on the world.