Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Do It Gorgeously Winner

Oopsies! I forgot to select the winner of my latest book giveaway whilst I'm on vacation.

Anyway, the winner of the fabulous book, Do It Gorgeously: How to Make Less Toxic, Less Expensive, and More Beautiful Products is:

Allie, of the blog, Yum in Tum.

Congratulations, Allie, and sorry for the delay! Please email your contact info to crunchychickenblog@gmail.com and I'll get that book sent to you directly!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Green hotels

I've always been enamored of those hotels that claim that they are green, with water saving notices all over the place and sustainable products available in the rooms. Of course, these hotels generally also claim they are built green, but these places are still far and few between. More importantly, they tend to be expensive and are usually "boutique" hotels. Which basically means they aren't kid friendly. Well, not my kid friendly.

When we checked into our hotel Friday night after finally actually getting on a flight to DC, we were told that the hotel was having issues with their air conditioning and were sending guests over to another hotel. Which meant we had to pack it back into a taxi and check into another hotel. I suspect this was a huge load of BS and they had overbooked our room, even though I had called early in the day to tell them that we would be arriving close to midnight.

Anyway, that one night in our substitute hotel was fortuitous because it did have a few features that I have yet to see in the big chain, mid-budget hotels. First of all, it had the ubiquitous water bottles, but it at least had hangers on them suggesting that you recycled the plastic behemoths after you were done consuming them. Because what's wrong with the tap water again?

The other thing they had going for them is actually two separate bins - one for waste and one for recycling. I've never seen this in a hotel before (even the boutiqueyish one we stayed at in NYC last summer) and was quite excited to be able to separate out my garbage, at least for one night.

Now back in our "real" hotel, they have no separate bins for waste which is annoying the hell out of me. They do have signs encouraging people to save their towels so that they save water, energy and detergent waste in the waterways. It's certainly a start (listen up Hilton), but they have a supremely long way to go.

I haven't gotten the impression yet that DC was all that environmentally friendly as I've seen few recycling bins in cafes (except Starbucks) and no sign of food composting. Which brings me to my next post, wherein I'll cover the food options we've had here in DC.

What about you? When you travel, have you been able to find environmentally friendly hotels? Do you try or are they out of your price range / family friendly requirements?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Our travel travails

Well, in spite of all my planning, our travels have started off with quite a bang. We got to the airport this morning for our 8:40 am flight, got our boarding passes, breezed through security and then sauntered over to fill our water bottles at the water fountain and pick up some snacks for the flight. I figured we had plenty of time, but the lines were long and we ended up not getting to the gate until about 15 minutes before our flight was scheduled to take off.

I figured we would breeze in at the end of boarding and get our seats, but when we arrived at the gate which claimed it was in "Final Boarding", the gate was closed and we were informed that they had already given away our seats and were leaving. Well, I guess that done learned us a lesson. We got rescheduled to the 2:05 flight which was delayed so we spent 6 hours attempting to keep the kids entertained at the airport. It took us a good hour before we were able to stop focusing on our stupidity and just deal with the situation. I was even more upset because I just came down with the kids' head cold.

About ten minutes before we boarded our flight my husband realized his water bottle had opened and had leaked all over our laptop. As you can see, it's fine as I'm enjoying some wifi at 35,000 feet. However, Emma just went to the airplane bathroom and got trapped. She couldn't figure out how to get out of the bathroom, so my husband spent a few minutes yelling instructions about how to get out. The flight attendant eventually came over and showed us the emergency door unlock and Emma came out in a panic, crying hysterically. I don't think she'll be going in there again anytime soon. Since then, both kids' water bottles pretty much turned into geysers due to the cabin pressurization.

Let's hope that we're getting all the craziness out of the way now.

Anyway, so far no sustainable things to tell you about except for the fact that we brought our own food and own water bottles to fill up at the airport, which has limited water fountains, just to ensure that you buy the bottled water at the airport. Our food choices while we waited were abysmal as we didn't anticipate having to pack for two meals.

Given our luck so far, if you hear anything about Alaska flight #2 to DC, please carry the torch for me! I hope to post something more positive tomorrow.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Canning withdrawals = canxiety

We leave Friday morning for a three week vacation, travelling about the East Coast via plane, train and automobile. While I write this, my husband is busy buying carbon offsets for our trip starting in D.C. where I have a meeting with President Obama and Michelle for a private tour of the White House vegetable gardens. Oh wait, that's just me taking an early trip to fantasy land.

In any case, after 5 days in D.C. we are taking the train down to Norfolk, VA to hang out with my brother-in-law for a week and enjoy some Virginia beaches. From there we are taking the train up to Philadelphia for four days to visit with family and then up to New York City for more family action. I'm fairly certain I will be sick of trains by then, but I love the subway, so our week-long stay in an apartment in Greenwich Village will be the highlight of our trip.

I've been trying to think of what all I'll be posting about while I'm on the "road". Expect lots of pictures, but I'm going to try to focus on finding at least one sustainable thing each day during our travels and report on them. Anyway, the above is not at all what this post is about. It is merely a warning of what to expect in the days ahead.

The problem with this trip is that it is during prime canning season around these parts. Just today I noticed that my favorite local strawberry farm has their berries 3 pounds for $5.98. This is the time of the year where I would be making vats of strawberry jam of various flavors. Blueberries should start rolling in soon as well, but I'm hoping that since we've had such a cool spring the harvest will still be going like gangbusters when we come back.

I'm trying hard not to have canning anxiety attacks. Let's just say that I'm "canxious". This will be the first time in about four years that I haven't bought flat after flat of strawberries to can or freeze for later in the year. I suppose I could make a last minute attempt to freeze a bunch, but that still would require a lot of food prep time - time that I don't really have since I'm busy getting everything ready to go for such a long trip.

Why couldn't the season have started just a week earlier? Sigh.

What about you? Do you get canxious when you see or grow produce that you don't have time to can or otherwise prepare for long-term storage?

For those of you wondering why we are taking such a carbon heavy vacation, well, we are going while my husband is having a stretch of good health so he can visit his family. Normally, I'd be more critical of the air travel, but I'm mentally trying to give it a free pass. And, yeah, I know the carbon offsets don't really make up for the impact. Sometimes one choice wins out over another.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ladies totin' guns

This isn't exactly one of those homesteading or survivalist blogs that focuses on stockpiling months worth of food (cough *Sharon*) or equipping the urban homestead with stacks of ammunition to ward off the zombies (cough *Survivor Man*). But, I did run across a blog the other day that brought up the whole concept of girls n' guns, which is a relatively foreign concept for me.

Unlike my redneck husband who grew up shooting shit in the backyard for sport, knows a Luger from a .44 Auto Mag and still laughs at me for thinking you shoot a gun with both index fingers, I know nothing about weaponry and, frankly, find them too frightening to have in the home. On one hand, I think it would be a fun skill to have - at a shooting range, where they are kept under lock and key.

So, I thought I'd ask you, my readers, if you think that having guns in the house for protection is important. Do you have any or do you have any plans for one? Are you concerned about societal collapse such that you would want to have some around? I'm just curious how much this is on your radar...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Do It Gorgeously review and book giveaway

I recently received a review copy of Do It Gorgeously: How to Make Less Toxic, Less Expensive, and More Beautiful Products a few weeks ago and have been thoroughly going through it and plan on using many of the suggestions in the book. I've already mentioned one knock-off recipe I created from what I read, the Homemade Diaper Cream recipe.

Review
I've also tried author Sophie Uliano's recipe for tile and grout cleaner - a mix of baking soda, borax, table salt and essential oils. Since I don't have a child in diapers, I can't test the diaper cream and it will be a few years before I'll be needing it myself, I hope. My success with the tile cleaner was less than spectacular. It didn't clean any more than using plain water but, then again, I have some serious tile cleaning to undertake. She claims that this recipe is "better than all the brand-name scouring powders", to wit I would heartily disagree.

Anyway, this book shows you how to "make nearly everything you would otherwise purchase: From the kitchen to the nursery, from your medicine cabinet to your makeup drawer, you'll be astounded by how easy and inexpensive it is to make safe and eco-friendly products for your family". While these alternatives may be cheap, I wonder how many of these substitutes are as effective? I only wish the author had better tested how these homemade concoctions compared with the store-bought, toxic versions.

The chapters in this book cover:
  • Homemade beauty products
  • Baby and toddler
  • Frugalista (covering clothing)
  • DIY in the Kitchen and around the Home
  • Gardening
  • Being Thrifty around the House
  • DIY Dog and Cat
  • DIY Mind/Body/Spirit

I found this book to be super inspiring and it will get you excited to start all sorts of new projects around the house, but there still remains the issue of whether some of the suggestions are worth the time and (minimal) expense. But, you'll need to check that out for yourself. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading and going through her book (all the dog-ears prove it!) and I'm sure you will too.

Book giveaway
If you are interested in winning a copy of this book (U.S. residents only), please enter your name in the comments of this post by Friday, June 25th at midnight PST. I will do a random drawing and announce the winner this weekend.

Good luck!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The not so ugly rain barrel

Most rain barrels are hideously ugly. They either look like giant plastic oil drums or huge pickle barrels and come in exciting colors like black or red, attempting to look like terracotta. I've always wanted to get one that looked a little more like a garden sculpture rather than a garden eyesore.

It's been years that I've been planning on buying one, but never really got around to doing it mostly because I've been deterred on the idea of rain barrels ever since learning that, with an asphalt roof, you really shouldn't use the water on food crops. The issue has a lot to do with the composite roof deteriorating and collecting in the water. I've seen this happen in our downspouts and drainage and it's really not something I want to put on my food.

Anyway, the other week I had a brilliant idea. Well, at least I thought so. Instead of using the roof run-off, I could use a rain barrel as a giant collection tank for my clean, drinkable shower warm-up water that I save. Water that I have no where to store if it's raining out and can't use immediately (which is far too often around here). Water that I could use not only on my flowering plants, but also on my edibles. So, I done got myself a rain barrel. But, not any average rain barrel - one that isn't as ugly as the standard kind.

It looks like a large clay urn from afar. Up close, you can tell it's plastic, but the cool thing is that it has a planter on top. If you leave the receptacle as is, it can double as a bird bath, but I drilled holes in it, layered it with cloth barrier and planted a cyclamin and two alpine strawberry plants. As you can see from the picture, it's not hooked up to the downspout, but it is right next to the deck and I have it placed where I can lean over the deck to dump the water without too much effort.

Of course, I can always hook it up to the downspout if I decide to use it for that purpose one of these days. Or, if we replace our roof with something that doesn't leach zinc or other petroleum products into the water.

However, the better looks and fancy planter action will cost your more. Mine is an Algreen 81001 Cascata 65-Gallon Rain Water Collection and Storage System that I got through Amazon*, but at least I got free shipping. I didn't think I'd enjoy having a rain barrel so much, but it's been incredibly satisfying so far saving all that water. And, the box it came in has been turned into a rather well-used castle.

Note for the FTC: I am an Amazon Affiliate, so clicking on the product link and buying something from Amazon may just result in a referral kick-back for me to buy more rain barrels :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Green Day: A Day in the Life of a Crunchy Chicken

This month's Green Moms Carnival, hosted by She Who Eschews Plastic, is all about describing a day in the life of a green mom.

When I first started writing this post, I thought I didn't have much of interest to say, that I really didn't feel like I was doing anything all that green yesterday since it was a work and school day. But, upon thinking a little more about it, living a green lifestyle is so ingrained in me that I don't realize that I'm actually doing a lot.

So, here it is. A Day in the Life of a Crunchy Chicken.

  • 6:30 am: Wake up and go to the bathroom
    -Using cloth wipes
  • 6:45 am: Exercise
  • 7:15 am: Make kids' lunches
    -Lunches are 100% organic packed in 100% reusable lunch boxes
  • 7:30 am: Wake up kids and take a shower
    -I save the shower warm-up water
    -Our shower-head is adjustable, so I set it at really low-flow
    -All our bath products are non-petroleum based, low CO2 and non-toxic
  • 8:10 am: Dump saved water in rain barrel
  • 8:15 am: Eat breakfast with kids
    -100% organic cereal and milk
  • 9:10 am: Walk the kids to school and walk back home
  • 9:30 am: Telecommute from home
    -I telecommute two days per week, saving about 1500 car miles per year
  • 12:30 pm: Coffee with husband, combining trip to the library to pick up books on hold
  • 3:15 pm: Walk to the post office box on the way to pick up the kids
  • 4:00 pm: Walk home with the kids and have snack
  • 4:30 pm: Water plants with captured water from rain barrel
  • 6:00 pm: Make dinner and eat at home
  • 7:30 pm: Read to the kids
  • 8:30 pm: Kids bedtime
  • 9:00 pm: Watch Netflix movie with the hubs

    Since it's springish weather, we don't have the heat on (and we don't have A/C) and it stays light out until 9:00pm so we don't use many lights at all during the day. In sum, the main points from the day are water saving, organic food, limited driving, little electricity and 100% non-toxic, low-CO2 products.

    What about you? Do you generally have a green day or is it dependant on the day?
  • Friday, June 18, 2010

    Leave BP alone

    Ha ha, yes, you must think I'm off my rocker, but seriously, I'm referring to the gas stations and not the company itself. Do what you will with BP, but protesting BP gas stations only hurts the independent business owners that have been left high and dry by BP.

    British Petroleum's pockets are deep enough to leave their franchise owners totally in the lurch, the end result is that these small business owners, many of them immigrants, will lose their livelihoods with little effect on BP as a whole. Not purchasing "BP gas" most likely won't do much in the long run because BP sells their oil on the international oil market, not just directly to their gas stations.

    From what I've been hearing, these small businesses are hurting from people boycotting their gas stations and are getting no support from BP. So, what do you think? Are boycotts of the stations sending BP a message or do you think it makes a difference?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Wordless Wednesday

    I'm taking a little technology break (unless it's for work) so I will be posting lightly for a while. In the meantime, I'll be hanging out in the garden with Flora, my new garden friend.


    Monday, June 7, 2010

    Big Dipper candle winner

    The winner of the Big Dipper Waxworks candle giveaway, a trio of scented candles blended from beeswax and pure essential oils, is:

    That Library Girl

    Congratulations! And, library lady, please send your contact information to crunchychickenblog@gmail.com.

    Thanks to everyone who entered the contest!

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    BP oil spill - who's to blame?

    The logical first runner-up is, of course, British Petroleum. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that BP was cutting some major corners on safety and costs and will no doubt argue to their shareholders that they were operating in their best interests.

    Next is the regulators of these operations. Was there no oversight, no inspections, nobody manning the whole shebang? Is our government equally ineffective at keeping us safe from oil spills as it is at preventing food borne illness outbreaks and protecting us from hazardous chemicals in our products?

    Finally, let's not forget the consumers of oil. Yes, folks, that's me and you. Anyone who has a hand in demanding cheap fuel should certainly share some of the blame. I'm not about to suggest that all the above are not party to this horrible disaster.

    But, let's not stop there. Why not blame the "extreme environmentalists"? That's what such noteworthy individuals as Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin have decided to do. In a recent note on Sarah Palin's Facebook page, she goes on a tirade that this whole environmental disaster is, indeed, the fault of environmentalists:
    This is a message to extreme "environmentalists" who hypocritically protest domestic energy production offshore and onshore. There is nothing “clean and green” about your efforts. Look, here’s the deal: when you lock up our land, you outsource jobs and opportunity away from America and into foreign countries that are making us beholden to them. Some of these countries don’t like America. Some of these countries don’t care for planet earth like we do – as evidenced by our stricter environmental standards.

    Extreme deep water drilling is not the preferred choice to meet our country’s energy needs, but your protests and lawsuits and lies about onshore and shallow water drilling have locked up safer areas. It’s catching up with you. The tragic, unprecedented deep water Gulf oil spill proves it.

    Radical environmentalists: you are damaging the planet with your efforts to lock up safer drilling areas. There’s nothing clean and green about your misguided, nonsensical radicalism, and Americans are on to you as we question your true motives.

    True motives? Methinks you are projecting. There are so many logical fallacies and mental acts of legerdemain in her whole note (the above is just a clip) that it's astounding. What's even more shocking is the sheer number of her followers (or "fans" on Facebook) that wholeheartedly agree with her. Over 8,000 last time I checked.

    If you have any interest in showing that you disagree with her assessment, please go and "Like" the Facebook page:

    Let's plug the oil leak with Sarah Palin's big stupid mouth

    Are environmentalists truly to blame here? Discuss.

    Photo Credit: AP Photographer Charlie Riedel

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    There's a book!

    For those of you who aren't getting friendly with me on Facebook, I wanted to let you know that I'm holding in my hands a hot, steamy signed book contract with New Society Publishers, who publish such awesome books as Not Just a Pretty Face, by Stacy Malkan, Peak Everything by Richard Heinberg and Sharon Astyk's books. Needless to say, I'm very excited about the opportunity.

    What's it all about, you say? Well, I'll go into greater detail as I get to writing it and will be explaining a lot of what I'm doing for the book on this here blog, but the gist of the book will be related to environmental toxins. I will be embarking on a six month project, exploring all the toxins in my life and, well, the hijinks that ensue. Think comic book hero versus toxic zombies. Okay, it's not that crazy, but it will involve me being a lab test animal.

    Anyway, I'll fill you in on it all later, but I just wanted to let you guys know as soon as I sealed the deal!

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    Big Dipper Waxworks Giveaway

    If you are like me, you worry about the nasty toxins found in conventional candles. Not only are many candles made overseas chock full of lead in their wicks, the candle itself is made from paraffin, which is a petroleum product.

    A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a local beeswax candle maker, Big Dipper Waxworks, and they sent me some samples of their products. Since I love beeswax based candles so much, I asked if they were interested in doing a reader giveaway and they were.

    Here's some more information about beeswax, Big Dipper candles and the scandalous lack of regulations and ingredients disclosure (my emphasis):
    Beeswax is 100% natural and a renewable resource that actually cleans the air by emitting purifying negative ions.

    Most candles are made with paraffin, a petroleum by-product, which is not natural and is unhealthy to burn. To prepare it for candle making, it is chemically bleached and hardened, then artificially scented. Burning paraffin emits harmful, black soot and pollutes the air.

    Currently, there are no regulations in the U.S. on disclosing ingredients on candle labels. You may find candles labeled "beeswax" that are made with paraffin, or other candle waxes, and contain as little as 1% beeswax. We are very proud to say that we use 100% beeswax in all of our candles, with the exception of a select few that are a blend of 50% beeswax and 50% soy wax, and are noted as such.

    So, here I offer to one lucky winner, The Botanical Collection Gift Set. This is a collection of three candles, blended from beeswax and pure essential oils. Absolutely no fragrance or synthetic scents are used. Included in this set is one 2.1 oz. square glass each of Lavender and Frankincense, Grapefruit and Fennel, and Clary Sage and Ylang Ylang candles. Each candle will burn for 15 hours. Perfect for if you want to recreate Carnal Earth Hour.

    If you are interested in entering this random drawing, add your name to the comments of this post by midnight PST, Friday, June 4th. I will announce the winner over the weekend. Good luck!

    Blah, blah statement: I was in no way compensated for this post by the company outside of samples received.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Wonderful weekend o' gardening

    The weather over Memorial Day weekend here in Seattle sucked. Bad. It was windy and rainy and cold. Except, against all predictions, around midday on Monday the sun came out and it was fantastically warm and beautiful for the rest of the day.

    I just so happened to be at my favorite plant nursery when the sun started coming out as I was on an errand from my herb boy, getting him some basil plants and a shiso for the garden. The fine weather gave me extra time to noodle around and pick up a plant stake for my arbequina olive tree which is growing very nicely.

    Earlier in the weekend, in spite of the weather, I trimmed back the cilantro that was turning in a giant tree, our rosemary, which was about to eat the fence, and our rose bushes, which were just getting out of control. We have one rose bush that I've been trying to kill for years now. Left to its own devices it grows to about 8 feet tall even if I cut it to the ground.

    It has this enormous root ball/stump that has foiled me for years, but yesterday I managed to vanquish it. And, in its place, I planted the cold hardy windmill palm that I bought at the nursery. Because the kids love palm trees since it reminds them of San Diego. And I also bought a banana plant while I was at it. I'll let you know how it does around here.

    I'm fairly certain it doesn't bear fruit at these climes, but it does make for some showy leafiness. Both plants are quite small now, which is fine by me. They are cheaper that way but, primarily, not as heavy and I have enough back problems as it is. In any case, I'll have my Mediterranean backyard villa here in no time.

    How about you? Did you get any gardening in this weekend?

    Photo credits: Daisy and Graham

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