Monday, October 13, 2008

A Green Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, a mom decided to live a greener life. In doing so, she decided to chronicle her adventures, her triumphs and failures, her thoughts and hopes.

She grew quite a bit - or shrank, depending on how you look at it. She learned a lot. Shared a lot. Made new friends. Became part of a community. And she wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

Then, one day, she woke up and realized that she was doing quite a bit of writing but maybe not as much doing as she used to, as she'd like to. She was too busy typing to research funding for solar panels for her son's school. The garden withered and died and, still, she crouched in front the lit screen and pecked. The scarf she meant to knit lay listless in a dark closet corner. Books piled like mountains. Ideas went on in her head like CFL lightbulbs - a community back to school clothing swap, a green movie night for the whole town, an expanded edible garden for her son's school, a green team for the school district - but burned out before she had time to get to them.

But she loved her keyboard, she thought. It enabled her to shout her opinions and ideas from the mountain top - or about mountain tops. She cherished her cables. They connected her to friends across the globe. She adored her mouse and monitor. They had forged the path to self knowledge and self expression.

She couldn't leave them behind.

And it turned out she didn't have to. Because there were others out there just like her. She liked to write about building community. And now they would build one in a blog.

She decided to join with Burbanmom of Going Green, MamaBird of Surely You Nest and Hannah at The Purloined Letter in a new team blog. Starting on October 20th, she will leave behind Dreams of Green Beans and embark on a new adventure. One with good friends. Regular writing. And a life full of doing.

Please join me at our new blog, the Green Phone Booth, next Monday, October 20th. I'll blog for one more week, here at Green Bean Dreams, tie up some loose ends, and then I'll don my green cape permanently at the Green Phone Booth. Dial in now. We're excited to open the phone lines.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Survival of the Fittest

"It's the only one like this out there." A mottled hand reached over the fence, holding out a glowing yellow orb.

"I can't take that, Bob. It's your only one," I responded.

"Oh, it's an ugly one, alright," he continued, misunderstanding me. "But it'll taste good."

I looked into his blue eyes, through the chain link, and smiled. "Really? Bob? It's your only one. I'm sure it's delicious but really?"

He nodded, his ninety year old eyes crinkling under the battered sun hat. "There's none other like it out there." He gestured behind him, to the well tended vegetable patch at the back of his yard. It brimmed with eggplants, sprawling squash and watermelon vines, and stretching tomato plants.

I took his single, beautiful heirloom tomato in both hands and thanked him. He waved it away and began talking of his days at the farm bureau back in the 1930s. The conversation drifted to various watering techniques and then his favorite fruit trees. When we parted, I cradled Bob's gift in my hands.

There is something special in giving to your neighbors, sharing your bounty. But there is something spectacular, truly humbling in giving not your worst, not your leftovers or extras, but your best. Your only. That afternoon, my parents' elderly neighbor picked the very best from his yard. The only large tomato. And gave it to me - a neighbor's daughter he hardly knew.

I cradled his tomato. Rested it on the counter in my parents' kitchen and then hauled it home to my own kitchen, where it sat atop my fruit bowl, proudly, patiently, reminding me.

This has been a rough couple of weeks. The stock market plummeted. Nest eggs disappeared. Jobs were cut. Budgets were slashed. The bitter division over two Presidential candidates, two schools of political thought, persisted.

Yesterday, at the farmers' market, people frowned. The early autumn sun reached down and faint breezes buffeted. Still, someone barked at another for stepping in front of her. Another customer tossed Sapphira's cauliflower on the table after hearing its price. Horns honked. Elbows nudged.

It was not our finest hour. It has not been our finest year. Or decade.

But as I left Sapphira's stall, she placed her two biggest Sugar Pie pumpkins in my basket. "Please take them," she nodded. "I saved them for you. Your boys will love some pumpkin pie." She waved away my money and told me she'd see me next week.

Toting home my gift, I thought of Sapphira's saved pumpkins, Bob's best tomato.

In this month of lost savings and political division, I learned about what we truly need to survive. The very best of each other. The very best of ourselves.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A is for . . .

Affluent? For some folks.

All? For other folks.

I'm talking about the APLS group. You know . . . Affluent Persons Living Sustainably. A for Affluent has been the topic of much debate and even the monthly carnival for September.

For many folks, Affluent reminds them of their place in the world, their ability and responsibility to make positive changes. For others, though, it is jarring and exclusive. More than one person has noted that they would join the group but for the Affluent.
In the September carnival, Melinda at One Green Generation suggested changing Affluent Persons Living Sustainably to All Persons Living Sustainably.

We invited feedback in the comments and in a poll. While most comments strongly supported retaining Affluent, most votes in the poll supported switching to All People Living Sustainably. Once again, we were divided. As Julie Artz so eloquently argued in the comments, though, America is already divided. We must work toward unification, get rid of lines and classifications that pull us apart.
So that's what we'd like to do - find something that works for everyone, build a group everyone can belong to, work together for a better planet. Here is how we hope to do that:
We challenge you to come up with a new "A" for the APLS acronym.

One that is less controversial than Affluent but that holds more meaning than All. You can change all of the APLS words if need be.

Please submit your ideas here for new meaning behind APLS in the comments here (comment on the submissions too if one strikes your fancy). We'll then narrow down the choices, vote and, as a group, choose our favorite. Whomever submits the winning term will have $50 donated to a charity of their choice by yours truly . . . and the satisfaction of bringing people together.

So have at it. I know there are some gifted folks out there capable of making virtually anything into an acronym.

Contest closes Saturday at midnight. Look for a poll for voting next week.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bottles of Wine Make Good Neighbors

A bottle of wine and puffed clouds strewn across a pink sky. And a trio of boys scootering up and down the sidewalk in bare feet.

A couple of weeks ago, on one of the last carefree days of summer, I joined my neighbor on her front porch. Our boys - dirty and happy yet not quite tired from their last day of summer camp - buzzed up and down the sidewalk, swinging up occasionally to run into one of our backyards or to collapse on my neighbor's lawn to catch their breath.

Almost in tandem, our husbands returned home from work. One emerged with a bottle of local wine. The other with a couple of glasses. Eventually, the sun tucked between the two story homes across the street, taking the last vestiges of daylight with it.

Finally, we dragged the boys in and to bed after darkness fell. After the wine was gone. Dinner cold. A set of Thomas trains richer. With good friends next door.

Getting to know your neighbors doesn't have to be difficult. It doesn't have to be formal. Or even planned. So often, I have thought that it would be hard to meet neighbors. That I would need some sort of event to draw us closer, to pull people from the television sets. So often, others have expressed the same feelings. People are nice, but not in their own neighborhoods, they lament. Or they haven't gotten to know anyone where they live and it's been 4 years. For me too!

But I find that just being out front is often enough to get a connection going. My front yard garden, my exuberant boys, a runaway cat - those are all things that break the ice. That, and a bottle of wine and a pink sunset.

So grab a bottle and out there. Be a good neighbor.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Green Mom Carnival: The Commercialization of the Holidays

'Tis the season! Or at least that's what I've always announced, with a thrill, when I flipped the calendar to October.

I love the holidays. The pumpkins and magic of Halloween. The gathering of friends and celebration of the harvest at Thanksgiving. The joy of giving, the way your heart swells when singing carols. All of those things are wonderful, filled with meaning beyond measure.

Some how, though, some of that meaning, that magic gets trampled ever year. By the sound of stampeding feet, cash registers ringing. This month, Green Moms across the blogosphere take on the commercialization of the holidays, offer suggestions for coping and for re-capturing the true joy of the holiday season. This is the October edition of the Green Moms Carnival.

Kellie, from Greenhab, loves the holidays. Like crazy loves them! But on her own terms. Do you want to love the holidays like Kellie? I do! And thankfully, she's got 31 wonderful things to do in October to get us started. I'm bookmarking this list!

"Put Your Blinders Baby", warns The Mindful Momma, because here comes the retail parade. She discusses how commercialization is seeped into most of our holidays and offers some suggestions for celebrating simpler, greener and more memorable holidays.

Teaching our children not to fall prey to commercials is the topic over at The Conscious Consumer. Here, Erin explores various tools for making our children more aware of marketing and more appreciative of commercial-free life.

Halloween leaves one "hollow" over at Green Talk. After greeting the ghost of Halloween past, Green Talk help us regain the magic for Halloween present - complete with ideas for finding meaning, joy and reducing the marketing mentality.

The Green Parent is dreaming green this holiday season. No longer will the big box stores dictate how she celebrates, she vows! She will embrace the joy of the holidays and celebrate it her way. Are you a dreamer?

Over at Kneedly Knits, Viv explores two very different types of gifts - one bogged down in consumerism and one fraught with meaning. She implores us to teach our children the true of meaning of gift, which, in and of itself, is the greatest gift of all.

What is a green Halloween anyway, wonders Maya at The Gamble Life. Find how what she concludes and she sets about trying to achieve it. Some great ideas - and memories - here.

Best of Mother Earth
poses the timeless question: To Consume Or Not To Consume? She recounts visits to a traditional pumpkin patch - complete with hand pressed apple cider and homemade doughnuts - and how and why those visits came to an abrupt end.

Are you a green witch? Love Halloween and want to share the scary magic with your kids? So does Green & Clean Mom and she sets out several helpful suggestions on how to keep Halloween going but get it going green.

Greenstyle Mom is turning the tables this Halloween with reverse trick or treating. Instead of receiving candy, her children will give candy - and information about fair trade chocolate - on their trick or treat trail. Great idea!

Have children changed that much in a generation? If not, than why have our holidays, wonders the Green Moms Carnival founder, Lynn over at Organic Mania. She has the answer to that question and advice on how to get back to the way we were.

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent
is helping a friend plan a Halloween party. Can she come up with some party ideas that are memorable and green? Oh yeah!

Fake Plastic Fish wonders about Fake Plastic Holidays. Beth questions the very core of holidays these days. She wonders how we can get back the joy and honor we once enjoyed, how we can leave everything that is fake and plastic behind us.

Nature Moms Blog
has a comprehensive list of eco-friendly Halloween supplies and ideas - from what to hand out to trick or treaters to what to wear and how to decorate. Lisa From

Retro Housewife Goes Green
also offers up a great list of green alternatives to your usual Halloween customs - costumes, trick or treating and decorating are all covered. Finally, yours truly set up Three Tricks to Greener Treats - three simple ways to green your Halloween.

At The Green Routine, a green dad traces the origins of a commercial Christmas way back to a Coca Cola bottle. He then offers advice on how to teach our children to value Christmas decor and how to beat marketers at their own game.

At In Women We Trust, Mary gives us a peek in to another family's life: one which raised six kids frugally and thoughtfully. Instead of piles of presents, this family turns the holidays into a time for mountains of memories.

La Marguerite encourages us to move outside our own homes this holiday season . . . and into the mall. Could green moms disrupt the holiday shopping season with some subversive green dropping?

MamaBird at Surely You Nest shares her to-do list for the upcoming holidays. And it is a good one, loaded with ideas for taming the "giving-and-getting beast" and creating the memories and traditions that make the holidays special.

Arduous loves the holidays, but, like most of us, doesn't want participate in rampant commercialism just because it is a ritual. Instead, she shows how we can create our own rituals and inject joy, meaning and connection back into the season.

Big Green Purse is taking a somewhat different approach to the holidays. In their constant quest to use the marketplace to change corporate behavior, they've launched a "Can I Get It In 'Green'?" campaign, starting with the unofficial holiday season Halloween kicks off.

Holidays made by hand is one of the themes over at Tiny Choices. While it may seem commercial to start thinking about Christmas now, if you plan on making any gifts, now is the time to start. Explore Tiny Choice's list and links for other truly green holiday gifts.

What do you remember from holidays past? Was it the stuff? The Smart Mama is betting your answer is "no" even as she debates what to give her children for Christmas and how to fit green into your celebrations.

Healthy Child Healthy World announces Extreme Makeover: Holiday Edition. Instead of following along with the usual, overly commercial and stressful traditions, create some new ones and recover the true meaning of the holidays.

Want to join in the Green Mom fun? Green moms, green dads, green aunts and uncles and "earth mothers and fathers" (those who don't have children but care about the planet) are welcome to participate in the Carnival. Karen at Best of Mother Earth is hosting in November. The topic is, appropriately, gratitude and favorite green things (top three please). Posts are due on October 27 and the carnival will go live on November 3rd. Please submit them to greenmomscarnival(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Three Tricks to Greener Treats

1) Costume Slostume: Remember when you were a kid and you trotted your one of a kind costume up and down your street? Maybe your mom spent weeks making a costume that looked exactly like a chicken. Or maybe you pieced it together yourself - out of your dress up box, your grandmother's closet, and some aluminum foil. The handmade costumes of our youth were not only more eco-friendly than the current rows of polyester Sponge Bob and Power Ranger costumes. They were more meaningful, too.

If handmade costumes don't ring your doorbell, though, you can still go green by reusing a costume (This very well may be my son's third year as Thomas the Train.), swapping one on the mothers' club board or with friends, or scouting out local thrift stores.

2) Green the Halls: Decorating for Halloween can be truly sustainable. Fall leaves gathered from sidewalks can grace tables. Colorful pumpkins, locally grown and hauled home from the farmers market, are transformed into pies, soups and muffins once autumn's holidays are memories. After several years of preschool, I'm stocked for life with Halloween art. Construction paper Frankensteins lounge over the mantel. Ghosts made from small footprints peer out the windows, accompanied by their friends, tissue paper candy corn and thumbprint pumpkin patches. Even the centerpiece of Halloween - the Jack O Lantern himself - is Mr. Eco. He's locally grown, stuffed with a clean burning, farmers' market beeswax candle and the result of some true quality time in both a field alongside the coast and on the kitchen floor with a sharp knife. In the end, all of Halloween's decorations end up in our stomachs, the compost bin or the art box.

3) The Not So Sweet Treats: Here's where Halloween gets a bit tricky for me. I have yet to find something truly "eco" to give the little goblins and ghosts who bang down my door on All Hallow's Eve. Last year, I blithely passed out candy bars only to later learn about the dark side of chocolate. Most chocolate is grown in the rainforest. It's ever-increasing demand has resulted in massive deforestation, dramatic pesticide use, and child labor. Fortunately, those bitter side effects can be ameliorated simply by choosing fair trade and organic varieties. Whole Foods carries some brands, as well as organic lollipops, and other varieties of fair or ethically traded chocolate can be found here and here. Organic raisins, fruit leather or similar healthy snacks that could subsequently be packed in a lunch are also great alternatives. If you want to skip sweets entirely, other treat options include handing out coins, pencils, soy crayons, stickers, tattoos, or others item that will not become landfill fodder.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Some Like It Hot

That afternoon, we all had interesting things to share - thoughts, policy arguments, political movements, ideas to change the world and jelly. Jelly? I almost hate to call it jelly - to reduce the sensation, the assault on the taste buds, the cacophony of flavors that we savored to mere "jelly." But that is it was.

After much licking of fingers and pleading, Jenn from Live Green, Wear Black offered to post her recipe for that "jelly" - a symphony of plums and peppers - on her blog.

I had never thought to add heat to my sweet - to drop a front yard jalapeno into a frothy pot of strawberries and sugar. To simmer habaneros and plums. To mix and match. But when Jenn handed me a baguette slathered with her courageous jelly, she gave me that light bulb of an idea. That permission to can outside the box.

This month, as my front yard hot peppers sprinted to a deep, rich red and as I toted home a bag full of a friend's homegrown jalapenos, I've been dabbling in a spicy new world.

Not only have I made Jenn's delicious jelly (make it hotter than you think it should be), but I stirred up some delicious red pepper jam and strawberry pepper jam. I shared Jenn's recipe with a friend who made it and was then inspired to also make blackberry basil jam - which I'm still waiting to taste (ahem).

They say variety is the spice of life.

They also say some like it hot.

I'll admit it. I sure do!


Strawberry Jalapeno Jam

3 3/4 cups of crushed strawberries
1 cup of finely chopped jalapeno peppers
1/4 cup of bottled lemon juice
7 cups of sugar
1 package of pectin powder

Wash, hull and crush strawberries, one layer at a time measuring 3 3/4 cups. Place in a deep saucepan. Add lemon juice and pectin. Stir to combine thoroughly. Bring to a boil and add the sugar. Stir well to dissolve. Bring back up to a boil and boil hard for one minutes.

Remove from heat and ladle into hot sterilized jars, apply lid and bands and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Remove from canner and allow to cool and set for 24 hours


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