Check out my new book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You, available from Amazon.

2012 Silver winner in the Health/Medicine/Nutrition Category of the Independent Publishers Book Awards

Friday, August 31, 2007

DivaCup vs. Tampons

The blog title should hopefully scare away any squeamish readers.

Anyway, I'm back from vacation and my first day at work I was greeted with a sign in the women's room with something regarding a plea taped to the mirror. It was begging for better disposal of tampons so that the next person who uses the stall doesn't have to "deal" with the non-flushed item. I'm not sure exactly how one needs to "deal" with it besides flushing again, but what do I know.

My response? I added a note suggesting using the DivaCup instead with the URL to their website.

Don't forget! Tomorrow I'm announcing the new Challenge!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My prickly little friends

Pickling cukesOh, you can run, but you can't hide, my prickly little friends. What? You don't like having boiling hot vinegar poured over your green bodies? That's too terribly bad. Because even though you're trying to hide under that vegetation, I see you. And I'm coming for you.

And, thus, with threatening my own crops, I end "Crop Week".

I'm back in town tomorrow and can hopefully scrape together something a little more lively than cataloguing my backyard foodstuffs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lovely lavender

Backyard lavenderIn spite of this crappy picture, I thought I'd add lavender to my crop week posts for a couple reasons. For starters, they're just lovely. Secondly, these are tasty little guys.

Case in point. My husband and I (well, mostly my husband) made this fabulous Lavender Chocolate Mousse Pie (new recipe post on my food blog) last weekend. I must admit that any cream based food item, infused with lavender, is about as close to heaven as one can get on this earth. I can still taste it. Aah.

I can think of few things that don't go well with lavender, either savory or sweet and if you don't like to eat them, you can always make them into soaps or just sit back and enjoy their wonderful fragrance in your lingerie drawer.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Green tomatoes

Green tomatoesHey, there! I'm still on vacation and still working on my crop week posts! Thanks to global warming, our weather has been unusually mild, with nary a sunny day to greet us here in Seattle.

So my huge batch of tomatoes are still as unripe as can be. It's a little disconcerting - so far I've had a few semi-ripe ones that I eagerly plucked from the plant. And, by the way, my semi-ripe tomatoes taste one thousand times better than the grocery store tomatoes.

Oh, dear. Well, hopefully they won't all ripen while I'm on vacation. If they don't, I saw a great recipe in the New York Times last week for Green Tomato and Lemon Marmalade. So, if they don't shape up soon, they may be subjected to a boiling hot water bath and added to my jam collection.

Listen up tomatoes? Do you hear me? I'm going to eat you one way or another!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Super Short Saturday Question

Eat them weeds!Landscaping goats. Are you for them or against them?

"The University of Washington is using a herd of goats from Rent-A-Ruminant to clear some brush and Ivy along Rainier Vista on campus. The goats are kept in the designated clearing area by an electrified temporary fence."

From the Seattle Times.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Corn!

Ghetto cornAre you still with me? My vacation is continuing with another "crop week" post. This one is about my corn. Who knew that corn grew in the ghetto? No, I'm just kidding, but seriously, who thought that you could grow corn in a raised bed in the middle of the city?

I figured you'd have to have some serious yardage in order to grow some tasty kernels, but apparently, corn grows pretty much anywhere. I was also surprised, when I started looking at seeds, that corn is a grass. I'm always amazed at how ignorant and how far removed most Americans (myself included before this whole crop business got started) are from their food sources.

This particular variety is Hookers Sweet corn. It was developed by a woman who lived in Olympia, Washington. It's a stubby little fellow, making it ideal for growing in a limited space. I believe it is also a purple variety. I have yet to harvest any of them, but they look like they'll be ready soon enough.

Twelve ears of corn in a tiny patch stuffed with zucchini and gourds and they're going strong! Go, corn, go!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A week (or so) of crops

Tarahumara sunflowerI haven't been posting too many pictures of my "crops" lately. Mostly because I've been lazy. But, I went out on a photographic journey of sorts and catalogued crops that were of note.

So, today begins a tour of my crops. I'll be posting pictures and waxing poetic about each one.

By the way, I'm on vacation for the next week, so that's why you're getting such exciting crop information.

Anyway, to start you all off, I planted Tarahumara Sunflowers in the spring. Some of them grew to over 9 feet tall and some of them, well, are still about knee-high. I can't explain why that is so. But the ones that have bloomed so far are beautiful and, once the seeds are ready, I'll leave some for the birds and save some for eating.

They really are cheerful and, mostly importantly, super easy to grow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Plum crazy

Dried plumsI've gone plum crazy. I can't stop thinking about those plums I "saved" from the neighbor's tree a few weeks ago. They were falling off the tree onto the sidewalks and making a mess out of things, so I did some community service by picking them. And stuffing my face with them. Well, actually the kids inhaled them before I ate much of the 20 or so I rescued.

But I wish I had saved enough to make at least one batch of jam since they were the sweetest plums I have ever eaten in my life. They had a hint of pineapple or something I can't quite put my finger on. (I did manage to make a great plum and port wine reduction from some of the leftovers so all was not lost.)

But now. Tons of local, organic plums are available on sale at my local grocery store. And I can't stop thinking about them.

Do I have time to squeeze in at least one batch of plum jam? Should I attempt drying some for my signature Crunchy Chicken Marbella (new recipe posted on my Food Blog)? Do I need a dehydrator? The sun has been non-existent around here this summer, so sun dried plums are out of the question.

How about plum wine? Have any of you had success in making plum wine? Oh, the misery - the choices are endless!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Crunchy Chicken Cooks!

Hello all,

I've decided to start up a new blog and I wanted to invite you to come check it out.

Crunchy Chicken Cooks will be comprised of recipes that focus on seasonally inspired, local and organic foods.

Millions of peaches, peaches for meSince most of the recipes will have some history behind it, whether it be ingredients originating from my garden or something I picked up at a farmer's market, I'll be posting a short description of the new recipe on this blog with a link to the recipe so you can check it out if you are interested.

The first recipe posting is a result of the jam canning jamboree from over the weekend. I made several different flavors of peach jam and was so excited, I wanted to share them with you. I found some delightful organic peaches originating from an orchard down by the Wenatchee River and went to work. There are three recipes in this posting:
  • Cognac Vanilla Peach Preserves
  • Cacao Peach Preserves
  • Ginger Peach Preserves
I'll still be working just as hard as ever on this blog, but since I talk so much about the food I'm growing and cooking, this is a great outlet to share exactly what I'm doing.

I hope you enjoy!

[Stay tuned for Part 3 of my Back to the Basics series tomorrow!]

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I challenge you!

I'm working on a new challenge and wanted to get some input from potential participants as to your interest and availability.

I'm not going to spill the beans about what the challenge is, but it will be two weeks long and will not take much time out of your day. But it will be the craziest challenge yet.

[Update: Challenge to be announced September 1st]

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Super Short Saturday Question

What's your current occupation and, if you could do anything (money weren't an issue), what would you do?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Back to the basics - crazy food lady

Sunday Family Meal NightI'm going to spend the next couple of posts discussing some of my "back to the basics" lifestyle habits. No, I don't mean trying to live lightly, growing my own food and the like. You already know about that.

What I'm talking about are the things we do that are somewhat the antithesis of modern America. Primarily, we don't watch TV. The kids don't watch TV at all and only the occasional movie from our collection of maybe 8 DVDs. They just don't like watching TV for whatever reason. And we don't exactly push it. They weren't exposed at all the first two years of their lives and that probably set the stage for finding other things to do instead.

So, we need something to do to fill all those extra hours that are freed up. To start this discussion, I'll tell you about what I call "Sunday Family Meal Night" wherein any family member in the area is welcome to come over for Sunday dinner. I love to cook and this gives me a great excuse to try out new recipes from my favorite cooking magazines and books, integrating my principles of local and organic eating. This is when we set up the formal dining table, making the night seem more special than the average dinner.

At the very least my mom is in attendance. She's the gorgeous lady in the photo above. No, not the one stuffing her face in the corner - that's me. When my brother-in-law was in town for two months earlier this summer he made most of the nights. He's the one drinking the enormous beer. He recently joked after coming over that it was liked visiting the Amish since we pretty much hand-made or grew everything served.

Hopefully, my brother and his wife will be joining us occasionally once their schedules calm down a little. I suspect there will be times when it will just be my husband and the kids and me, but that's okay too.

I really look forward to these nights. It's not like we need to celebrate anything in particular to get everyone together to reconnect and enjoy each other's company. I also enjoy the planning, shopping and preparations involved. It's not so overwhelming as having a holiday, birthday or other celebration, so it's much more relaxed.

This is a great, casual way to keep in touch with people and it doesn't need to be just for family. As long as people let you know a few days in advance whether or not they are coming, it can be rather stress free. And, if you have last minute guests, they can always bring their own food, too.

By the way, I realize I dropped the ball on The Perfect Meal. I've spent many a sleepless night wracking my brains trying to figure out how I'm gonna wing this one. I didn't want to cheap-out with a vegetarian meal with just grabbing crops from the backyard and stealing some neighbors' fruit. But I don't fish, I don't trust shellfish and the thought of shooting something is beyond my grasp. I'm still working on it though...

Tomorrow, in the Back to the Basics series -- reading. (I know, what a surprise.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

National Day of Discussion

Arctic Tale movieStarbucks is hosting a "National Day of Discussion: Solutions to Climate Change" August 15th (today) at coffeehouses in more than 60 U.S. cities to inspire conversations about the issue of climate change.

Hosted by community leaders and non-governmental organizations with an expertise in environmental science, these discussions are designed to engage local participants in a dialogue about how to modify their impact on the planet by making simple, everyday decisions.

For those of you in the Seattle area, the U Village Starbucks will be hosting a discussion from 7:00-8:00 pm. It will be moderated by Steve Nicholas from the City of Seattle's Office of Sustainability & Environment.

Perhaps, we should start with only supplying reusable mugs at Starbucks worldwide? All those overflowing garbage bins of plastic Frappuccino cups and paper cups and lids grinds my crackers.

Everyone else, you can check out if there's an event in your area by visiting the Arctic Tale website.

I'm not sure if this event will be worth your while, but I thought I'd let you all know about it if you are interested. Even though Starbucks doesn't seem to mind taking over and crushing small, local roasters (ahem), it's for a good cause. I think. Or just to increase movie sales. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Blueberry jam

Blueberry jamI went on another canning expedition over the weekend and made 13 jars of blueberry jam. I was really hoping to go to one of the organic U-pick farms to pick our own blueberries, but we have had just too many things going on the past few weeks that I was worrying we would miss the blueberry season altogether.

So, I compromised. I bought two big flats of blueberries from the grocery store. They weren't exactly local (I missed out on when they were offering those), but at least they are in season and I'll try not to beat myself up too much because now I have all those glorious jars of blueberry jam.

I tried some (blueberries must have more pectin in them than strawberries because it seems like they set up a lot faster) and can't decide which one I like better - the blueberry or strawberry jam. They both have their merits!

Of course, since we hand picked our own strawberries, I have a much nicer memory associated with the strawberries, rather than just picking them up from the store. But at least I got the canning done that I wanted too.

Thornless blackberries are coming into season, so hopefully we can do our own picking of those. The prickly blackberries that grow like weeds around here are too hard for the kids too pick.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wacky weather

Lightning in Astoria, QueensAs I mentioned earlier this week, we are having unseasonably cool weather. It looks like it will be another cool day today (mid 60s F and rainy).

I thought I'd check in with the rest of the world and see how things are in your neck of the woods.

Oh, yeah. Tornadoes in Brooklyn? WTF?

[This is a multiple choice poll (each click is counted as a "vote").]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Super Short Saturday Question

Summertime by Mary CassattA lot of people have family traditions around the holidays, but do you have a summer family tradition?

For example, going to same summer event every year, visiting the same people or places every year, camping at the same spot, etc.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Excuse me, do I stink?

Yes, you stink.Back when I was in college, doing laundry was a pain in the butt. I had to haul my laundry up and down several flights of stairs and running out of quarters was de riguer. So, I oftentimes wore things more than once. Oh, and the sheets and blankets got neglected too.

There, I said it. I know, sacrebleu!

Since those times, I have been spoiled with my own private washing machine and dryer and, over the years, pretty much anything went in the washer regardless of the amount of time spent on my body.

But, in the spirit of conservation, I thought I'd be more mindful and try going back to wearing things more than once before laundering them again. This is mostly to save time, money and energy washing and drying, and occasionally because I don't have enough clothes that fit me.

For the most part, this includes sweaters where I've worn a t-shirt underneath and some jeans that will get two wearings (as long as they aren't dirty with kid or dog goop). So, it's not like I'm really stretching things here. I'm sure there are multitudes out there either with my old laundry situation or that just aren't as fastidious with their desire for sparkling cleanliness. It shouldn't actually be a big deal, right? In fact, I shouldn't even be bringing this up and some of you out there probably think nothing of it.

The reason why I do bring this up is because we live in a culture where cleanliness is a high priority (next to godliness!), where everything from your body to your car to your floors need to be so clean you can eat off of them. At any time. We are constantly inundated by advertising for products that bleach the daylights out of everything -- bleach pens, chemical detergents with color-safe bleach, general purpose cleansers with bleach. And, that's not to mention the tooth bleach gels, anti-bacterial soaps and the like. And anal bleaching. I'll let you look that one up on your own.

Now, aside from the terrible environmental impacts of bleach (because that's not what I'm focusing on here), do we really need to be this "clean"? Are American's standards of cleanliness out of control?

So, now I turn things back to you. Answer anonymously if you like:

What are your personal cleaning habits?

1. How often do you shower/bathe?
2. How often do you wash your hair?
3. Do you wear your clothes more than once? Just bulky items, or are undies fair game, too?
4. How often do you wash your sheets?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Interview with Ed Begley, Jr.

Ed Begley and rain barrelI recently watched the entire first season of Living with Ed, thanks to Greg Glass (who has a hand in producing the show and sent me copies on DVD). I have to admit I don't watch much TV. Well, any TV, really.

But this is one of those shows that I would scrape the dust off the remote to watch, mostly because it's funny and the topic is right up my alley. The second season of the show starts its regular weekly time on Monday, August 27th on HGTV. For those of you who've never heard of it, it chronicles Ed Begley's green lifestyle and the conflicts he has with his family over his green choices.

I had the good fortune to get an interview with Ed, submitting my questions along with some of the reader's questions that were entered in last month's contest.

I thoroughly enjoyed his answers - he's heee-larious. I hope you enjoy them as well:

CC: If you could influence all Americans into making one singular change to living a greener life, what would it be?

EB: Get out of your car! One day a month or one day a week take a walk or ride your bike instead of driving. Use public transportation once a month or once a week. Pick another mode of transportation and get out of your car.

CC: What new and exciting things can we expect from Season 2 of your show, Living with Ed?

EB: We’re going OUT of our house this season to meet up with some of my Hollywood friends and acquaintances who are either doing great environmental things or who are looking for my help and advice as they start their own green journey. We’ll check out Larry Hagman’s amazing solar electric system, and I just recently watched Jay Leno install a new high efficiency gas water heater called the VERTEX that is really cool and very efficient We’re also going to visit some regular everyday folks who need help in their homes too…and hopefully help them! It should be fun. We’ll still have a few projects at the Begley home as well…

CC: The show oftentimes exposes some of the differences in thinking with your wife regarding some of your lifestyle choices. A lot of us face similar situations with our spouses and partners when trying to integrate greener changes into our lives. What advice can you give people about getting them on board?

EB: Don’t marry a crazy woman like I did!! No, seriously, everything is a compromise. I think I’m winning her over…over time. She is actually very concerned with the environment and our carbon footprint – she’s just much more interested in form and beauty than I am – I’m more focused on the functionality of things as opposed to what they look like. I’ve learned a lot from Rachelle – our home, our garden – everything looks much better than it did when I was single. There are great compromises out there. In season 2 of the show, you’ll see how Rachelle solves the issue of having more light in our home by using some new skylights…That is a great compromise.

CC: We hear a lot about some of the bigger things you do such as using solar panels, solar cookers, alternative transportation, etc. I want to go out on a limb here and ask you to describe what you do for more, shall we say, personal habits. Have you thought of a composting toilet, using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper? Do you use 100% recycled paper products? Do you hang your clothes out to dry? Or would some of these be a deal breaker with your family?

EB: Composting toilet – no, that would be a family deal breaker.

Cloth wipes – no, that doesn’t sound right for us.

100% recycled paper products – yes, our toilet paper, paper towels and home office paper are all recycled products.

Hang our clothes out? Yes we do – we’re lucky that we live in Southern California where we can do that almost all year round – and we do it a lot. It’s a great way to save on energy.

Some other things I do:

- Gardening – I grow a lot of food on-site – fruits and vegetables

- Water – I try to conserve water any way I can with shorter showers, rain barrels for watering the yard etc. I need to do more!

- Lights – CFLs all around, and shut them off when they’re not in use. I also have a GREEN SWITCH installed in the house that allows us to have a master shut off to all of the programmed outlets, so we can shut down TVs and other things that draw power even when they’re not in use.

Ed Begley's site: Fixing the PlanetCC: You have a book coming out next year. Can you tell us a little about it?

EB: The book is called LIVING LIKE ED and it’s really a summary of my lifestyle from the 1970s to today – all the things that I have done and continue to do to save energy, resources etc. and live a simple and healthy life. There are a lot of ‘green’ how-to books out there, but this book is more about the things that I have done and tested – it’s really from my personal experience. Every story and every tip in the book is something I have done. Hopefully, it can be a book that helps people start that climb up the mountain too. The book also has some humorous stories in it and some comments from my beautiful wife. The book also has a little checklist / workbook section where people can track their progress as they try some of the things that I do. It’s been a lot of fun working on it. It should be out around April 2008.

CC: I recently had a poll on my blog asking people to rate their favorite celebrity environmentalist and you kicked ass against the likes of Robert Redford and Leo DiCaprio. I think it really comes across that you are passionate about your beliefs and that you are willing to put yourself out there in spite of what people think, which is unusual for a celebrity. It seems like you have quite a few celebrity friends who are environmentalists. Of those, which one inspires you the most?

EB: Many celebrities inspire me – but if I had to pick one, it would probably be Darryl Hannah – she has an even smaller carbon footprint than I do. She is really dedicated.

CC: You have the new season of the show and a book coming out next year. What's the next big environmental challenge you'd like to tackle? Either personally or inspirationally?

EB: Well, as I said, I really want to find new ways to conserve water. Southern California just set a record this year for the least amount of rainfall ever! We really need to lower our water consumption. I just installed a new Toro watering system that should save me some water. My next BIG project is to build an underground cistern for storing all of the rainwater runoff from my roof and also to store certain grey water sources from the house. That is a big project I want to tackle this year!

[And now a few questions from my readers:]

CC: What do you hope to do/buy/not use this year to live greener?

EB: Again, the cistern / grey water system is a big one for me that I want to accomplish this year. I recently added a wind turbine to the roof of my garage which should make a few 100 extra watts. I’ve started looking at LED lighting as an eventual replacement for CFLs.

CC: Has "Living with Ed" changed your relationship(s) at home?

EB: Well, I hate Rachelle a little less than I used to because we are getting paid! No, seriously – we are both working very hard to make the show entertaining and it’s brought us closer together than ever. The production crew isn’t too invasive and they are great people to work with. It’s been fun for both of us.

CC: Do you find the show to be a motivator to do even more?

EB: Absolutely! I’ve gone from just thinking about getting rid of Rachelle to actually going out and hiring a hit man! Ok, jokes aside, the show has gotten a lot of my home projects on track – the wind turbine, the skylights, the new Energy Star appliances, the new cotton insulation, the Green Switch energy management system – these are all projects that I focused on getting done knowing that people would want to see how to do it. It’s been a great motivator. And, I think the payback will really put money in my pocket over the next few years. That’s the best part about it.

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

Thanks again to Greg Glass for arranging the interview, and to Ed Begley, Jr. for taking the time to answer our questions! (See, this is why he wins the most popular celebrity environmentalist polls.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

This is global warming?

Space NeedleSo, here it is mid-August in Seattle, when it is usually quite warm. Well, for around here, it's not too unusual to see 80s and 90s for the month. Not so this year, it's been relatively cool this summer and it doesn't look too promising for my heat loving crops:
"Clouds will be a factor all day Tuesday as a weak cold front enhances our marine flow and really makes for a thick overcast. That front could also touch off some drizzle or mist -- especially along the coast. Highs will be in the 60s all day."

I always find it somewhat irritating when people look at this type of unusual weather and use this as a hammer against global warming when, in fact, this is the type of weather that will be more prevalent around here when the earth's temperature rises. Sure, we'll have more hotter days during the summer, but projections show that Seattle, on average, will get cloudier. If that's possible.

It also grinds my crackers when people point out more inclement weather during the winter (high snowfall, etc.) as proof that global warming isn't real. I suppose it's counter-intuitive -- how can it be colder if the earth is getting warmer? Well, because the earth's weather patterns are complicated, to say the least, and some areas will experience more adverse weather at times. But, in general, the temperatures are higher.

So, in short, maybe we'll only see Mt. Rainier a few days out of the year, but we'll be spending a whole lot more time in coffee shops (just not Starbucks).

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Low Impact Week check up

Low Impact Week: June 1 - 7, 2007It's time for your two month check up!

For all those people who participated in Low Impact Week, let us know how you are doing after two months.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Super Short Saturday Question

If you could be granted one wish, of any kind, what would it be?

It can be on a personal or global scale.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Winners of the Interview Ed Begley, Jr. contest

Ed Begley, Jr.Woohoo!

There are 2 winners in the Interview Ed Begley drawing, each allowed to select 1 or more items from the Living with Ed site, as long as the total does not exceed $30. In addition, I will be selecting one (or more) of the winner's questions to submit to Ed.

Since only 8 people submitted questions, your odds were pretty high.

And the winners are:

1. Raw Vegan Mama
2. e4

Send me an email at crunchychickenblog@gmail.com and let me know what you want!

In the meantime, I'll be forwarding interview questions to Ed and will post them when I get the responses.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma book winner

Omnivore's DilemmaHere is the moment you've been waiting for....

The winner of The Omnivore's Dilemma book giveaway is: Loving Green. Apparently, begging does somehow influence the random number generator gods. Who'd a thunk?

[LG - Email yer info to crunchychickenblog@gmail.com and I'll send it your way.]

For those of you that missed out on the last book club or want to continue with another round, the next book we'll be reading will be Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, based on the reader's poll.

Since almost 20 people are interested in Garbage Land, I might just start up a second book club later in the fall. If those of you who voted for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle are also interested in reading Garbage Land, let me know and I'll wait.

The next book club starts in September, so you have this month to acquire the book and start reading. The first discussion post will start off slowly until everyone has their books and a chance to start reading!

Stay tuned!

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