Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Coincidence?

Do you think it is just a coincidence that Ben & Jerry's free cone day is the same day that I start my new exercise program with a personal trainer? I think someone is out to sabotage me!

We love Ben & Jerry's. Great company and even great ice cream. Despite my new exercise program, we might sneak out this evening for a free cone...

And the winners' announcement is coming. Eventually. I promise.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Home

I'm home from my little getaway. Can't wait to blog about it. First got to download some photos. I'm also going to pick the Camelbak winners today. I'll try to post that later today but no promises. I have to love on my babies and unpack first!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Belated Happy Earth Day

A part of me feels guilty that I didn't post anything revolutionary for Earth Day, but, honestly, I was too busy enjoying the day to be on the computer.

Started the day with a great little Earth Day hike with our playgroup. Beautiful day, the kids did great, and we didn't run into any mountain lions! The photos are from our hike.

I also fit in a nice conversation with my friend Jennifer while sitting outside at a local coffee shop, and then rode my bike to my doctor appointment. It went pretty well. More about that maybe next week.
Hope you had a great Earth Day also.

I don't know how much I'll be posting until after this weekend. I'm going to Salt Lake City tomorrow with my friend Ashlee for a mom weekend. She has all kinds of fun things planned for us. Shopping, eating, maybe a hike in Park Cities. Can't wait!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Colors

After pondering Jack's inconsistencies with colors a bit more and doing some internet searches on colorblindness tests for children, I came across this colorblindness test for children ages 3-6. It uses shapes instead of numbers. I quickly gave both Kate and Jack the quick test. Guess what? Jack failed miserably. He can see the square in this picture, but not the circle. I am now pretty confident that Jack is colorblind. It all makes perfect sense now. Why he can't tell blue from purple, but always gets yellow right. I also am realizing that many of the colors that he "knows" are purely learned. Like the color of his Crocs. So no more grilling on the colors in our house. From now on we will be referring to the color AND the placement of lights on stoplights (since the red and the green apparently look the same). It is going to be interesting seeing the world through his color-confused eyes!

BPA-Free Camelbaks - A Giveaway!!

You have heard of BPA (Bisphenol-A), right? It seems to be all the rage (no pun intended!) these days, especially with mommy bloggers. I haven't blogged about it yet. Not sure why. Blame it on time, popularity, or whatever.

I've always been a bit of tyrant in regards to water bottles in our house. I wouldn't let them go in the dishwasher and went crazy when someone (ahem, Matt) would put juice or Gatorade in the bottles. I've known for a long time that "something" leached out of the plastic and that heat and acidic drinks increased the leaching, but until last year, I hadn't paid attention to exactly what. By then it was becoming widely known that it wasn't just our water bottles leaching the chemical but also some sippy cups and baby toys. That "something" was BPA.
BPA is most commonly found in plastic water and baby bottles, food and beverage can linings and dental sealants, but it doesn't always stay there. The chemical has been found to leach into consumed food and liquids. There is some debate about whether BPA is actually harmful to humans (the potential hazards are scary!), but regardless of its effects, I like to keep any chemicals out of my family's bellies.
Because I want our reusable bottles to be healthy both for the planet and for my family, last year we opted to replace most of our plastic bottles with metal bottles. While we love our new water bottles, there are times that I miss our clear bottles. As my mother-in-law pointed out, sometimes it is nice to see how much you have had to drink.
Luckily, Camelbak* now makes a great BPA-free water bottle AND Camelbak is giving BPA-free bottles away to Greenstylemom readers! I have SIX PAIRS of Camelbak's Better Bottles with the Classic Cap to giveaway . These are perfect-sized, 24oz bottles in orange and green. They also have a nice wide mouth - great for filling with ice.
In order to win, please comment and tell me why you feel BPA-free bottles are important OR tell me where you first heard about BPAs. Also be sure to leave a valid email address so I can contact you if you are the winner. The contest will be open until Sunday, April 27th at 11:59pm MST. On Monday I'll randomly choose and announce the winners.
*In case you are wondering like me, Camelbak's hydration paks are all BPA-free also!

This post is participating in the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival! And unable to ship overseas - sorry! And check back next week for another giveaway!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Monday Menu Plan

You'll see a theme in our meals this week. Trying to use up my stores of beans!

Monday - Mexican food out after an afternoon, family hike

Tuesday - Red Lentil and Veggie Curry over brown rice

Wednesday - Slow Cooker Ham and Beans & Cornbread Muffins- First time trying the bean recipe. It was really good, but I'll probably decrease the amount of ham next time I make it.

Thursday - Cornbread Salad

Friday - Pizza dinner on the town with friends

Saturday - Dinner out before a family swim night (great way to get the kids good and tired for bed!)

Sunday - Community Meal (I'm going to blog about community meals soon, I promise!)

Haven't planned for this week yet. Not too many meals to plan as we have a couple community meals plus I am doing a getaway from the family this week. I still have lots more beans to use up. Anyone have any Great Northern Bean recipes they want to share?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

High Altitude Cornbread

We live at about 6000 feet - something that would have meant nothing to me 3 years ago. I never paid attention to altitude until we moved to Colorado. I didn't even know how high "high" was until we moved here. Now I am always curious about what altitude we are at. I even asked Matt for one of those thing-a-ma-jigs that tells you what altitude you are at. Sorta like a GPS for altitude.


Other than breathing a bit harder after walking up the stairs, the only way that living at a higher altitude has affected my life is baking (and cooking beans, but that is for another post!). I find it really difficult to bake. I have yet to make a yeast bread that comes out better than decent. Muffins are flat and dry. Even cookies seem a bit off. Part of it is altitude and part of it is the dry climate. The moisture in baked goods disappears almost instantaneously. I have heard all kinds of theories on how to adjust recipes, but those slight adjustments make it difficult to bake consistently. So I am continually on the search for recipes that work well. Of course, when I find a recipe that works well at home, it never seems to work well when we travel up into the mountains (about 10,000 feet).


This winter I finally found a cornbread muffin recipe that works great at altitude. Makes a nice dome muffin, isn't too dry, and tastes good! Miraculously the recipe works well up in the mountains as well. I adapted it from a corn muffin recipe in the cookbook Baking at High Altitude.


This recipe makes at least 36 corn muffins. We like corn muffins a lot in our house, but that is a bit too many for one meal. I've tried cutting the recipe in half, but it doesn't seem to work as well. (It also doesn't make good mini muffins.) What to do with all that extra corn bread?? I usually make one pan to eat with our original meal, one pan to make Cornbread Salad to eat the next night, and I save some batter to make Corn Dog Muffins for lunch the next day.


High Altitude Corn Muffins
3 cups corn meal
3 cups white whole wheat flour
3T ground flax seed
3T wheat germ
1/3 cup sugar
1T baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional - I usually use about 1/2 tsp)
1 cup shredded cheese (optional)
5 eggs
3/4 cup melted butter
3 1/3 cups buttermilk


Mix all the dry ingredients including the cheese in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix batter well.


Grease (don't skip this!) muffin cups. Fill each section to the top.


Bake at 375 for 25-35 minutes.


Cornbread Salad
1 pan of crumbled corn muffins (this works really well with stale cornbread as well)
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
several tomatoes, chopped
1-2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cups frozen corn
splash of apple cider vinegar
2 cups mayonnaise (more or less to taste)


Mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 12-18 hours




Corn Dog Muffins
Leftover corn muffin mix
hot dogs (meat or veggie), cut into quarters
Shredded cheese (optional)


Fill muffin sections half full of muffin mix. Place hot dog pieces and a pinch of cheese in each section with corn muffin mix (I chop the hot dog pieces up pretty small and put a spoonful in each section). Cover hot dog pieces with remaining muffin mix. Bake as directed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A New Earth

Has anyone been participating in Oprah's A New Earth Web Event? What do you think? Good? Bad? Nothing Exciting? Definitely worth it?

I have been downloading the podcasts on iTunes so that when life calms down a bit (you know, when I'm 60...), I can read the books and listen to the podcasts. I have both Tolle books (The Power of Now and A New Earth) on my bedside table waiting to be read. I'm just itching to get to them, but I also have some other great books waiting to be read sitting on top of them.

It just so happens that I came upon an extra copy of each book. Maybe, just maybe, when I finally start reading and listening to the podcasts I'll give those books away to some lucky blog reader... so keep bugging me to start reading.
(Although I can tell you that I definitely won't be getting around to the Tolle reading until after I do the big giveaway that I have planned for next week!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We Grow 'Em Big

Kate and Jack had their yearly checkups yesterday. We went to our new family doctor's office (which is close enough that we rode the bike). This physician came highly recommended from several friends, and I can see why. I really liked her. My first appointment with her is next week.

Kate and Jack are both healthy and on track. The only concern I brought to the appointment was that Jack doesn't consistently identify colors yet. The doc's assessment was the same as mine. Either he lacks interest (which fits with the not being consistent) or he may be color blind (which is very possible since my father is color blind and I am a carrier). We'll wait until next year or even two years before testing him.

Both kids were 85-90 percentile for weight. Jack is a whopping 35lbs, and Kate is squared with her height at 43lbs on our scale at home. Kate is 95 percentile for height at 43 inches, and Jack isn't even on the charts at 41.5 inches.

Hopefully we won't be back to the doctor until next year!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jet Dry Substitute

When we bought our new dishwasher a couple of years ago, I was paying attention to the energy star rating, but it never occurred to me that the dishwasher we purchased would "require" a rinse aid to work properly. When the dishes weren't getting very clean and weren't drying at all (even with the abhorred heat dry!), I pulled out the user's manual. There it was in black and white. The dishwasher "requires" a rinse aid to work properly. I knew immediately that I wanted to find an environmentally friendly rinse aid (although I admit to using Jet Dry until I figured it out!).

What is a good substitute for Jet Dry? Vinegar! Works great as a rinse aid. Just fill up the rinse aid dispenser once a week or so. The dishes are clean and not nearly as wet!

Check out other Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

mommybar

Have you heard of mommybar? It is a toolbar for moms with links to shopping, websites, discussion boards, the best mom blogs (Greenstylemom is listed as one of the best mom blogs!), and my favorite of their links - coupons! Some of the coupon links are to environmentally friendly companies like Organic Valley and Seventh Generation. Check it out!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bicycle Weather!

Jack and I are going out right now to hook up our child trailer to my bicycle for the first time this year so we ride it to pick up Kate from preschool. Really looking forward to nice weather and being outside all the time!

Follow-up: It turned out to be a fantastic day! After picking up Kate from preschool, we rode to a local park for a picnic. Ran into a few other moms. Matt got off early. Took the kids for a great little hike. Our first hike where both kids hiked the entire way. Granted it was only a half mile, but half of it was uphill! We finished up the day eating Mexican food on the outside porch of one of our favorite restaurants. Life is good.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Brown Thumb

Our seedlings have been doing so well. The kids have faithfully watered them every few days, and it has been great fun watching everything sprout. I was very surprised that every pot sprouted despite being planted by preschoolers.

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day, and I decided to put the seedlings on the back porch to get lots of healthy sunshine (they get adequate, but not great sunlight when inside). And then I forgot about them. And then it froze last night. Just not sure how I am going to break the news to the kids...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Another Quip From Kate

"Mommy, why do you like your computer so much?"

Guess what I am not going to be doing today?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Keeping Warm

After our last swim lesson, I was feeling a bit rushed and tired. We had all showered in the locker room, I was dressed, Jack was finally dressed, but Kate was still dripping wet and curled up in a ball on the floor under her towel.

Me: Kate, let's go. It is time to get dressed.

Kate: Mommy, I'm c-o-l-d!

Me: Well, let's get your clothes on so you'll warm up.

Kate: I need something warmer than my undies and my clothes.

Me, feeling really exasperated: Kate, I don't have anything warmer than your clothes...

Kate: Yes you do. Your snuggles are warmer than my clothes.

Enough to melt even the iciest heart, no?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Just Another Reminder

Just a reminder for both old and new readers of Greenstylemom. I do not receive any monetary profit from my blog. I don't do any paid advertising - not from links, readers using discount codes, giveaways, or from any posts. So while sometimes I might sound like an advertisement, I am never a paid advertisement!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Recycling Plastic Bags

Did you know that you can recycle more than just plastic shopping bags? All kinds of plastic wrap can be recycled such as newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, and toilet paper wrapping! I save any of our plastic bags/wrapping in grocery bag holder (since we started using reusable bags, we don't have many grocery bags anymore!) under the sink and take it to the local Whole Foods or Wild Oats to be recycled.


What Can Be Recycled
Plastic Grocery Bags labeled #1 or #2
Shopping Bags (with drawstrings and handles removed)
Plastic Newspaper Bags
Plastic Dry Cleaning Bags
Plastic Paper Towel and Toilet Paper Wrapping
Plastic Baggies (without zips)
Plastic Bags with Sealed Air for Packing
Plastic Bread Bags
Clear Plastic Bags Labeled #1 or #2

What Can NOT Be Recycled (at the store anyway. If someone knows a place to recycle these items, let me know!)
Plastic Food Wrap
Bags with Food Residue
Prepackaged Food Bags (like salad bags)
Bubble Wrap
Painted Bags
Bio-based or Compostable Bags
Black Colored Bags

Check Out Other Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks In My Dryer

Monday, April 07, 2008

Score Your Diet

This is a pretty fun site calculator. Not only do you get an overall score, but you also get a health score, a environmental score, and an animal welfare score. I did it quickly and got an overall score of 98 (I forgot to remember my other scores!). I want to try again soon and try to be more accurate.
Score Your Diet

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Monday Menu Plan

Sunday - Homemade Tapas Meal - Spanish Tortilla (potato omelet), balsamic asparagus, olives, bread, homemade aioli, assorted Spanish cheeses
Monday - Grilled Chicken, Baked Goat Cheese in Tomato-Olive Sauce (recipe below), frozen edamame (my last minute effort to put something green on the table!)
Tuesday - Wild Rice Soup

Wednesday - I was gone to my photography class, Matt was in charge of dinner, Kate told me that they had PB&J, Matt plead the 5th...

Thursday - Chick-Chick Stew (recipe below)

Friday - Dinner Out - We ate Mexican - I've eaten a lot of Mexican food in my life, but this was my first time to have a fried avocado!

Saturday - Leftover Chick-Chick Stew

Not sure what I am going to do for meals this week. My goal the next few weeks is to clean out the overstock in the pantry. Probably means we'll be eating a lot of beans and pasta!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Baked Goat Cheese in Tomato-Olive Sauce

This recipe is from the USA Weekend pullout of the Sunday paper

2T olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1- 28oz can crushed tomatoes or 3.5 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (I used Newman's Marinara)

16 pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

1 thin baguette, thinly sliced

1 log (about 10oz) goat cheese, sliced crosswise into 3/4 inch thick discs

Place oil and garlic in a Dutch oven, turn heat on med, and cook until garlic starts to sizzle and turn golden. Add tomatoes and olives, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to med-low, and simmer until sauce is thick enough to mound on a spoon, 10-12 min.

Turn sauce into a 9in square baking dish, evenly top with goat cheese rounds, bake until bubbly, about 10min. Turn on broiler, cook until cheese lightly browns, 1-2 min later.

Serve with toast rounds for scooping up the cheese and sauce. Yum!


Chick-Chick Stew
This recipe is from the now extinct Organic Style magazine. My changes are in parenthesis. If This is even better if it simmers in a crockpot all day, but I'm not usually that organized!

2T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup plus 1T chopped fresh cilantro (if I don't have cilantro, I'll add a bit of coriander)
3 cups broth
1 1/4 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I use 2 cans and I don't drain)
2 cups canned chopped or diced tomatoes (I use 2 cans of diced)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives (I use a whole jar and slice the olives in half)
1/2 tsp dried marjoram or thyme
1/2 tsp hot paprika
s/p
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (I use 2 cups or to make vegetarian, skip and add more chickpeas)
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1T unsalted butter (I omit)
2 cups couscous

Heat oil in a large pot over med heat. Saute onion, garlic, and 1/4c cilantro until soft. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, olives, marjoram, paprika, and s/p to taste. Bring to a boil lower heat and simmer 20 min. Add chicken, simmer 5 min longer. Remove from heat, stir in zest and remaining cilantro.

Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water, butter, and 1/2 tsp salt, to boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in couscous, and cover. Let stand 10min and fluff with a fork. Serve stew over couscous.

End of Skiing

We have been up in the mountains all week enjoying the last skiing of the season for our family. It has been a wonderful week full of great moments. Lots of skiing, swimming, making treats, and playing family games.

The only not-so-great moment was when I lost it with the local ski school owner. We took Kate and Jack to their first day of ski school (usually we just take them out skiing). Matt and I enjoyed our morning of skiing alone together, and when we went to pick up the kids, I was livid to discover that my children hadn't skied AT ALL. I was told that the kids "didn't feel like skiing." Well, of course my 3 and 4 year old aren't going to want to ski when given the choice between getting dressed for outside or watching TV. I paid a lot of money for a morning of watching TV?!? I expected them to ski. Not the whole three hours, but at least once up the magic carpet. I was livid. I mean LIVID. And when I get mad, I am not proud to say that it isn't pretty (I get that from my dad!). I eventually got a 50% refund. The worst of it was that Jack was disappointed he didn't get to ride the magic carpet...

But enough complaining. Matt is out doing a few last runs, and I am packing up to go home. It has been a great skiing season. One of the snowiest on record. My only regret? I have intended since November to write a blog post about Vail Resorts' (which includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone) actions to be environmentally friendly. The resorts are 100% powered by wind, all the meat served is hormone free, the dairy products are organic, there is on mountain recycling, and even composting at Keystone! Since I didn't get around to writing a complete post, you can read about Vail Resorts initiatives on their website. Maybe I'll get to that post by next season...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Magic Nuudles

Speaking of being creative with your family...

Before I left for North Carolina last week, I was running a few last minute errands. One of them was at a large craft store to pick up some yarn for a project I am working on (sorry, Kari, it isn't the hamburger dress!). I decided, despite it being our no-buy month, to look for a special project that the kids could do with cousin Hannah who came to watch them. I was getting frustrated as I wandered up and down the aisles of the children's section that all the projects contained lots of plastic or other not-so-environmentally friendly supplies. I was about to give up when I spotted Magic Nuudles. Magic Nuudles are biodegradable building blocks made out of cornstarch. They stick together when slightly damp to build whatever you can imagine. The kids loved them. Jack was a bit abstract in his design, but Kate was actually building recognizable objects. They quickly became a favorite in our house both for the creativity factor and for the green factor.

The Magic Nuudle company also makes Magic Nuudle Stixx, Cornstruction Paper (which I can't wait to try), and cornfetti! They are offering a 10% discount to blog readers who call in their orders (toll free 877-938-6738) and mention "greenstylemom."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Creative Family

I've been following the blog SouleMama for awhile (I think it was another recommendation from Shannon!), and preordered her book The Creative Family from Amazon way back whenever. I had forgotten that I preordered until it showed up in the mail yesterday. I stayed up far too late last night reading almost the whole thing. I can't recommend this book enough if you are looking to be more creative with our family. Some of the ideas are ones we have already done or are planning on doing (felt projects, framing kids' artwork, sewing cards), some are new inspirations (henna painting, finger knitting, embroidering artwork), and some are like answers to my questions - projects I've been thinking about doing but didn't know where to start (placemats, vegetable dying fabrics, etc).

The most immediate inspiration I received from the book was about toys. We have always *tried* to limit the number of toys that we have, but somehow they still accumulate. I have a difficult time cleaning them out for one reason or another. She has a list of what to look for in a toy. I'm going to use the list to help clean out the toys. Is it beautiful? Is it simple? And what is it made of? She compares toy materials to whole foods - the closer to the original source, the better and asks, "Can you picture your toy growing somewhere on earth?"

Love it, love it, love it!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Reality Bites

Yesterday afternoon the kids and I were cuddling in my bed for some quiet reading time together. Kate had picked out the book A Great Day for Pup! which is one we've had for awhile but somehow it got lost at the bottom of the book stack. I am pretty sure that I had never actually read the book. We were reading along about various baby animals and get to the page about lions. I was a bit horrified when I turned the page and saw a cutsie cartoon drawing of a mother lion dragging a deceased deer by the throat. I tried to skip to the next page, but the kids wouldn't allow it. I forged ahead with reading, and Kate asked me why the deer was sleeping. Taking my nature-is-natural-and-honesty-is-best-approach, I casually told her that the deer had died and that the lions were going to eat the deer. Kate was obviously a bit disturbed by this idea and needed clarification,"Mommy, lions eat deer?" Trying not to sound uncomfortable because this is "all natural," I responded, "Yes, just like we eat chicken and fish and other meat for food, the lions eat deer for food." Kate looked at me like I was crazy and said, "But, Mommy, we don't eat real chickens!"

I think in a few years I'll have a full blown vegetarian on my hands. And that book is going back to the bottom of the pile for now...

Big Changes

Matt and I had a big talk last night, and we have decided to make some big changes in our house. Enough is enough. Here is some of what we are planning on doing...
  • Switching back to regular lightbulbs and leaving every light in the house on all the time. It is nice to be able to see where you are going in the middle of the night plus we don't want to expend all that effort to turn lights on and off.
  • All trash is going into one bag. This sorting the recycling is too complicated.
  • Enough of spending so much money on organic foods. And while we are at it, we are going to start limiting our fresh foods. Bring on the processed stuff!
  • No more riding bikes. The kids are too heavy to pull. Besides I don't want the kids exposed to so much fresh air.
  • We are on the hunt for a new house. Preferably one well over 8000 square feet.
  • We are tired of being cold. We are cranking the heat and wearing our summer clothes all winter!
  • Going to start asking for plastic bags at the grocery. And have you noticed how they put far too many things in one sack? We'll ask that there only be one or two items per bag.

Are you a little surprised? Maybe you should look at the date on the calendar...