How Green is Black Friday?

November 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

During the holiday season, it’s easy to get swept up in the frenzy of shopping and gift giving. When shopping for gifts, consider how soon your gift will be consumed and end up in a landfill. Is it reusable? Can it be recycled? Consider giving gifts of experiences to share.  Handmade gifts can be unique thoughtful gifts while donations to organizations can support a cause all year.

Give gifts of experiences
Some of our fondest memories are of experiences with friends and family. Give your friends a gift that you can share with them. Give your friends tickets to a game or concert you know they will enjoy. A gift certificate for a massage may be a welcome luxury they may not experience very often. A dance or music class for you and your friend so they have a partner with which to practice may be an especially thoughtful gift. Gift certificates for a dinner out to their favorite  restaurant would be a special treat.

Consider making a donation  

A wide variety of organizations continue to need financial support throughout the year. A donation could help support their work. If you do prefer to give your friends a personalized gift, many non-profit organizations partner with retailers to offer items with proceeds to benefit the organization. These items are often designed so that the wearer or buyer can raise awareness and show others their support for the organization.

Make your friends handmade gifts
A personalized homemade gift expresses the spirit of the season of generosity without the trappings of consumerism. If you have creative talents you can express them in your gifts.Your friends may appreciate a basket of homemade muffins, cookies, or fudge. If they have any dietary restrictions or their favorite ingredients you may want to keep that in mind when considering what to make for them. If you can make jewelry, a beautiful bracelet or necklace crafted from sustainable materials may compliment their taste. If you are a photographer a framed print of a landscape or portrait with special meaning for the
receiver would be treasured.

 

He knows where to find the banjos

March 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

He knows where to find the banjos.

Cookies are a holiday sand mandala

January 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

During the holiday season I make a variety of cookies. I enjoy making beautiful desserts throughout the year so it may be no surprise that I make something special for the season. They can’t just look beautiful, they must also taste good. They aren’t just sweet, the balance of flavors and textures are important among the ingredients that include nuts, cream cheese, vanilla, and coconut. Because I tend to use chocolate all year round for special desserts, I tend not to make any cookies with chocolate during this time of year.

The ritual of preparations takes weeks. It seems I’m making dough, testing  and tweaking recipes for weeks before anyone else gets to taste them.  Then it is a few weeks of making them for lunches, dinners, ad parties when I’ll meet loved ones that will be recipients of tins of cookies. Some would think it isn’t worth the effort…but they probably haven’t tasted them. When so many things are mass produced and often synthetic, I like to make all natural cookies with my own hands and my own time.

As a kid I remember going to the Field Museum in Chicago and watching Tibetan Monks make a sand mandala. There is something about making something so beautiful that will only last a few days that reminds me of the Tibetan Monks. They spent days making the elaborately made sand mandala. They painstakingly use several colors of sand in intricate patterns usually with patterns of squares within circles. Each symbol had meaning and significance. To them it wasn’t an artistic pursuit, it is religious just as other cultures had been making them for thousands of years. The mandalas are never meant to be permanent, the monks pick up all of the sand and leave it in a river or in the case of the Field Museum mandala, Lake Michigan. The temporary nature of the mandala is meant to be a reminder of compassion for others because of our finite time in this state. Dispersing the sand in a body of water is symbolic of the dispersal of the message.

My intent isn’t so grand; they aren’t likely to make anyone more compassionate. I just like to share something beautiful and delicious with my loved ones. I don’t like the recipients of my cookies to know how much effort or long they take to create; that isn’t important. I don’t like taking compliments for them. At times they seem obligatory, I say just enjoying them is the greatest compliment. They are a reminder that beauty is rare and that it is fleeting.

The wonders of bamboo

October 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bamboo...will it be flooring, decking, or maybe a blouse?

If you’ve been shopping recently you may have noticed that there are suddenly more products on the market made of bamboo.  If you’ve been shopping for your kitchen you might have seen cutting boards, bowls, and utensils made of bamboo. Visit your home supply store and you might have seen bamboo flooring and for your yard: bamboo fencing and decking. Textiles for clothing and bed sheets can even be made of bamboo fibres.  It has become popular in the West recently because it’s a sustainable renewable resource.

Bamboo is a desirable material because of a few qualities. It grows and regenerates itself very quickly making bamboo a sustainable alternative to wood, in fact it is the fastest growing plant in the world.  Some species of bamboo grow 6” to 3’ feet a day in ideal conditions without pesticides or fertilizer. With the natural growing cycle of bamboo, it can be harvested every 3 -7 years compared to softwoods that can take 10-20 years. To be clear it is a plant and not a tree as it is a member of the grass family. Still for grass it is stronger than oak and steel in tensile strength. Bamboo has been utilized in construction materials for centuries all over Asia and has even withstood earthquakes.

Bamboo has become a darling of the consumer market with manufacturers and designers coming up with new ways to use bamboo.  What does it mean for you as a consumer? You have several choices for products you consume every day. When you choose a bamboo product, you know that it’s a more sustainable choice than wood.

Carrot Muffins

September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

mmmm phase one of carrot muffins

I have struggled with finding the right carrot muffin recipe. I love a light moist texture with the sweet raisins and cinnamon. I have two versions of the carrot muffin, one with reduced fat without compromising too much moisture or flavor with the addition of applesauce. I often find that I don’t even bother with a glaze or even a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. I like them just as they are, warm from the oven. In a previous post on Wellness Week, I mentioned that these were very popular at our Bake Sale

The recipe was first adapted from an Allrecipes Awesome Carrot Muffin recipe and Alton Brown’s Carrot Cake Recipe and evolved from there.

Ingredients for approximately 18 muffins:

3/4 cup of raisins

2 cups of flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

2 teaspoons of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

2 cups of shredded carrot

3/4 cup of brown sugar or demerara sugar

1/2 cup of butter OR 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/4 cup of coconut oil

Assembly:

1. First soak the raisins in either a little hot water just to cover or if you will be using applesauce, heat the applesauce a bit and let them soak until they plump up. Then removed them from the applesauce before going further.

2. As is typical of the muffin method, you will be assembling the wet and dry ingredients at first in separate bowls. In the bowl you will be mixing all of the ingredients, assemble the dry ingredients the flour, ground cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda and mix well.

3. Assemble the wet ingredients butter OR applesauce and coconut oil with the sugar. Cream the butter. Add the eggs. Then add the eggs. If adding the vanilla, do so now.

3. Now add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients along with the shredded carrot and raisins. Mix just to combine, no need to make it perfectly mixed.

4. Now spoon into lined baking cups of a muffin/cupcake tin and fill about 1/2 to 3/4 up the side. Let bake 15-30 mins. at 350.  Check them after 10 mins

5. They can be finished with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. For the purists a cream cheese glaze or frosting would also be delicious.

Pink Multi-Strand Bracelet

August 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Multiple strands of pink seed beads are attached to a gold clasp. The pink glass seed beads of the same color but of different sizes.

Purple Chandelier Earrings

August 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Purple Chandelier earrings with grey drop beads. All bead are Czech glass.