Saturday, November 20, 2010

Senate Bill 510

Senate Bill S 510, the "Food Modernization Act" is about to go to the Senate floor.  It would give the FDA complete control over the food you grow IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD, as well as on small farms.  Saving seeds, growing organic foods, and selling organic produce at farmer's markets could become ILLEGAL. 

The procedural vote has already PASSED 74-25. So what seems like a ridiculous act, could become law very soon.  I mean, who would have thought that soybeans could be patented, and now look at MONSANTO.

Supporters of the bill are of course major food industry leaders, opponents are small farmers and organic food producers.  Please learn more about this bill at:

To learn more about how so many of our government leaders are in bed, so to speak, with the huge food corporations, please watch Food, Inc.

Please call your senators' offices to oppose this bill.  FYI Californians, Boxer and Feinstein SUPPORT this bill.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vegan and Gluten Free Marshmallows

I am making candied yams for my son's Thanksgiving Feast - and really did not want to put regular store bought marshmallows on top.  They have gelatin in them, and that does not sound appetizing to me, knowing what gelatin is made from.  Here is some info from the Polymer Science Learning Center's website:

What is gelatin used for?
  • binders for paper money
  • cosmetics
  • bonding for the tip of matches
  • bakery products
  • photographic film
  • whipping agent in dairy products
  • medicine emulsions
  • hardening of jams and jellies
  • treatment of wounds as a sponge
  • marshmallows
Exactly what IS gelatin anyway?
Basically it's a protein substance obtained by boiling animal bones and connective tissue. (Hey, you asked!) But where does the raw material for gelatin come from??? You guessed it! The meat industry where all that's left but the moo is converted to gelatin. The end result is a pale yellow, dry powder. The powder is about 85% protein, 13% water, and 2% mineral salts, free of additives and preservatives. Gelatin contains about 18 different amino acids joined together in a chain. Eventually a polymer in the shape of a triple helix (or triple spiral) is the complex form that gives gelatin its unique ability to, well, "gel" things.
I also did not want to MAKE marshmallows.  I tried a "Martha" recipe years ago, and my little Easter Peeps looked like a big pink glob of sticky goo.  Yuck!  
So, I am happy to say, I found Vegan, Gluten-Free Marshmallows made by Chicago Soydairy called Dandies.  They are made in a peanut/tree-nut free facility on dedicated vegan equipment.  And, they taste really good!  Our local market, Henry's carries them.  Check out your local natural foods grocer and see if they have them.  A great alternative!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Montessori?

Why do I raise my son the way I do?

I want him to be compassionate.

I want him to practice a peaceful way of life.

I want to teach him how to be independent.  

I want him to help take care of the Earth, and its people, plants, and animals.

I want to encourage his senses of creativity and spontaneity.

I want him to be able to share the love he has in heart with others.

I want him to see the world.  I want to show him as much of the planet as I can now, so that when he is grown-up, he will continue to explore.

I want him to know diversity.  I want him to have friends of all backgrounds, all races....

I want him to feel good about himself.  I want him to be proud of his actions.  I want him to feel comfortable in his own skin.

I want him to feel brave enough to "do the right thing," even when "doing the right thing" is difficult to do.

These are just a few of the many reasons I have chosen a Montessori education for my son.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plastic Baggies: "Bye, Bye!"

Neither the preschool that my son went to, nor his elementary school allow plastic baggies in the students' lunch boxes. They have "trash-free" lunches.  So, I put everything in reusable containers.  Until recently, I had yet to find a sandwich container that is the right size to hold a sandwich, but is not too big so that it fills up the entire lunch box - leaving no room for anything else.   I struggled with these awkward containers, and then I happened upon something called LunchSkins.

Here is an excerpt from the LunchSkins website, which talks about how LunchSkins began:

"While sitting around a kitchen table in 2008, we heard a staggering statistic - every day, more than 20 million sandwich bags from school lunches go into landfills in the US. We knew that many families were looking for easy, convenient ways to be green and avoid this kind of waste. So we put our passion and energy together and 3greenmoms was born. Our mission - to design a colorful, fresh alternative to the plastic baggie.

It seemed relatively easy... all we needed was a food-safe, dishwasher-friendly, moderately-attractive reusable bag. How hard could that be? Our number one priority was to find a food-safe fabric, so we went straight to the food industry. There, we found a very high-quality European fabric used by patisseries and bakeries certified as food-safe. Conveniently, this fabric is durable and withstands high heat, too - bingo! It can withstand repeated cycles in the dishwasher. We came up with some fresh, modern designs for those of us who want to dress up our bag lunch. Then, we found a family-owned manufacturer nearby in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

It all sounds logical, right? But, after many prototypes, sleepless nights, exhausting early morning flights and late evening telephone calls, we think we’re on the right track. Getting here wasn’t easy, but LunchSkins have now put a fresh face on an old idea. Thankfully, it has been a family affair with husbands, kids and friends sharing advice and support on a daily basis.

Whether you care about our environment, saving money, eating healthy, or looking stylish, LunchSkins are the answer to your plastic baggie blues -- they offer an environmental benefit (reduce landfill waste), a practical benefit (they can be used hundreds of times and save you money over the long run), and a healthy choice (food tastes better in a pastry bag). Welcome to our family!"

And it seems that business has been good.  And landfills are feeling the ease. Look at this!

"In just one year, our LunchSkins customers have taken a big bite out of landfill and ocean waste. With your purchase and use of LunchSkins, more than 12 million plastic baggies have been saved from the landfill. WOW! We’re on a mission to reduce the number of plastic baggies thrown out. Help us reach our 2011 goal of keeping 100 million plastic baggies out of landfills and waterways. Bag the (plastic) baggies!"

We love our Lunchskins sandwich bag.  I can toss it in the top rack of the dishwasher, or handwash it.  It is so durable!  Plus, my son likes the cool design on his.  Check it out.  And think about "trash-free" lunches for your kids!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thoughts On Our New School...

I have been noticing the parents at my son's new school as we are in line at drop-off in the mornings and pick-up in the afternoons.  I don't know many of them yet - this is a new school for us.  "Big Kid School," as my son calls it.  But yesterday, I noticed the Indian mother bringing in home-cooked food for her son's class.  I noticed my son's teacher who came to greet him at the car, wearing a peace emblem on her shirt.  I have noticed the different races of the students at the school, playing on the playground together, and not in cliques.  I noticed the pickup truck in front of me with a antique bureau in the back.  The truck had a bumper-sticker that was pro-environment, and the dad, dressed in flip flops, looked like a surfer.  In a community which boosted many Yes on Prop 8 bumper stickers last year, I am seeing more Coexist bumper stickers now.  Over the summer, many of the parents volunteered to improve the playground and garden.  They gave up many of their vacation days to help the school! And we just finished the first school fundraiser - selling biodegradable SKOY cloths, instead of junky candy and tacky gift wrap.

I am so glad that my son is in a school which embraces all children, of all backgrounds.  I am so glad that the parents are globally minded, respect the environment, and understand that a we should teach our children these things.  I love that the parents are involved in their children's education.  I am so glad he has teachers that read books to the class like "Three Cups of Tea." 

I think all of these things play into an environment that is loving, safe, and supportive.  I think these children will be more open-minded than generations past.  I think schools like this are helping to create a better society for the future.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chemicals, chemicals, everywhere!

Someone very close to our family has been in the hospital for the past couple of days with a severe reaction to a chemical peel done by her dermatologist.  First came the swelling, the anapyhlaxis, next heart problems, and then seizure-like spasms occuring every hour or so.  This is rare and the doctors are getting to the bottom of it as we speak.  They are expecting a full recovery, but nonetheless, this is very, very scary.
This is a perfect example of how quickly and efficiently our skin, our body's largest organ, can absorb chemicals, and how quickly our bloodstream can move chemicals to other parts of our body. About 6 months ago, I read somewhere that it is quite common for a person to slather on, soap up with, and bathe in over 200 chemicals per day.  I was urged to look in my medicine cabinet, in my shower, on my counter.  I scanned bottles for anything I couldn't pronounce.  Words like sodium laureth sulfate became bad words.  I threw out bottle after bottle...items which said "natural" on the front label, but had a list of about 50 unrecognizable ingredients on the back.  
Imagine how many times per day, per week, per year you use lotion, soap, shampoo.  If there are chemicals in those products, imagine how much of them your body absorbs over a long period of time.  Also imagine using those products on a child, whose body is smaller and weaker than yours.  
Take a closer look in your bathroom.  It potentially may house more harmful chemicals than your cleaning supplies cupboard.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


A few months ago, my husband and I were running in the neighborhood, and saw several Amazon parrots perched upon an electric line.  Now, as much I we may dream, we do not live in South America...we are in Southern California.  Needless to say, this was a rare sight.
We were only two blocks away from home, and I desperately wished these exotic creatures would make their way to our yard.  We are well equipped with tons of tropical trees and plants - a haven for these unusual birds.  Sure enough, last month we would see the flock of about 18 parrots fly over our property in the morning, usually around 7:30 or 8.  They flew high, but their call was unmistakable.  They were loud and rambunctious, waking up any sleepers-in.  
A dream come true, they have finally settled into our neck of the woods, at least for a morning treat each day.  The flock spreads itself over two or three trees, calling to one another.  They sit on the electrical line that feeds to our home.  They jostle for the best viewing position of a tree with one spare branch at its peak.  
I know the morning will come when they move on.  It will be soon.  But, 'til then I can enjoy my little slice of paradise each morning.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hey, Mamas - Live Your Life!

Over a decade ago, I had the honor of performing in the national tour of the Broadway musical, "Rent."  A predominant theme of the story is "No Day But Today," meaning "live today to the fullest - who knows what tomorrow may bring."  Now, many years later, here I am...a mom, a wife, an actor, a teacher, a director, a writer, a homemaker, a "wake-up at 6:30-get the boy off to school-come home-feed the pets-pay bills-clean dishes-makes phone calls-memorize lines-return emails-research scripts-vacuum floors-pick up boy from school-help with homework-play Legos-fix dinner-go to the theatre for an 8:00 performance-come home at 11:00-crash on the couch" would have been easy to have let the theme "No Day But Today" evaporate from my daily life.  But somehow, as I move through my third decade, that theme is resonating stronger than ever.

A voice teacher, years ago, said to me, in a melodramatic tone, "Women don't come into their voices until their mid-thirties."  Meaning, that a woman's voice does not fully mature until her 30s.  But, I think there was more to her statement than just that.  There is something about the mid-thirties...the fact that at this point in our lives we have now experienced births and deaths, dealt with emotional ups and downs, made friends, lost friends, reconnected with old friends, made money, lost money...  Many of us have seen the world - it's treasures and it's tragedies.  We now have some "life experience" in our personal tool belt.  And we have opinions, and goals, and passions, and dreams based off of those experiences.  And we have learned how to juggle, to some degree, the home life with the work life.  And we must never forget to seize each day and live it to its fullest.  We are equipped to juggle all those balls in the air and LIVE!

What is that Mark Twain quote?

“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like its heaven on earth.”

What are some of your passions?  How do you live each day to the fullest?    

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Responsible Back to School Shopping

Yesterday, my son and I did some back-to-school shopping.  Continuing in the tradition of his previous Montessori school, we stayed away from the Star Wars backpacks, Power Ranger lunch boxes, and logo-ed tee shirts.  We allow him to play with these things at home, but have always kept the "commerciality" out of his learning experience at school.  He willingly agreed to the more plain backpack - and actually really likes it because it looks like an "explorers" backpack.  
The lunch box and water bottle (made by Crocodile Creek) are both environmentally friendly and still look cool.  The bamboo utensils we bought for his lunch box are made by To-Go Ware, and come in a handy pouch.  When shopping for some of the school supplies for the classroom, we purchased Seventh Generation brand paper towels and tissues.  Also, paper was listed on his supply list, so we were sure to buy paper that had come from renewable wood from certified and responsibly managed forests.  
These days I don't even think twice about shopping in the most responsible way that I can.  Having a child has taught me this.  And raising him through a Montessori education has supported this lifestyle.  I know when my son goes to school, other kids will also bring their lunch boxes, sans plastic baggies.  Many of them will have stainless steel water bottles.  And there won't be the lure of the Transformer tee-shirts or Sponge Bob sweatshirts to distract him from his learning experience at school.  

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rice and Beans

One of my favorite memories of my time spent in Central America is waking up to the smell of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans).  The aroma wafts out of tiny kitchens and into the sidewalks and alleys of cobblestone streets.  The strong scent even flows into the thickness of neighboring jungles.  Somehow it thickens the air, even on the hottest, most humid mornings.  

Mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters make this dish with such pride and such care.  It is warm and it is wholesome.  It fills little tummies as they set off on their day.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tree Hugging

I have a friend who is very accomplished, beautiful dancer, originally from West Africa.  She spent many of her formidable years in France and this worldly upbringing coupled with her free-spirited nature makes her a gem of a person.  
She told me once that her young niece was having some difficulties dealing with some of the typical frustrations that every 3 year old deals with.  My friend told her niece to go outside and find a tree in her backyard.  This had to be a special tree.  She needed to be very discriminating in the chosing of the special tree.  So, after some time, her niece found a tree which she felt some sort of connection to. 
My friend then told her that whenever she is feeling frustrated, or angry, or sad, or anything...she could go to this tree and tell it how she feels.  Now this may seem a little silly to you - but lo and behold if one day my friend looked out the window and saw her little niece hugging the tree.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Buseki-San's Baskets

When I lived in Tokyo years ago, I heard about a man named Buseki-san (Mr. Buseki) who made beautiful baskets out of bamboo.  His shop was in the old part of Tokyo, which, at that time, was rarely frequented by tourists, called Sendagi.  So, one morning, I ventured out to Sendagi in search for a woven work of art made by Buseki-san.

Sendagi station was the first train station I discovered in Tokyo whose signs were not written in romanized letters.  Only Kanjii and Hirigana existed here.  And as well as I could speak Japanese, I could not read a lick of it!  So, I know I was in for an adventure here.  

The streets were lined with little shops that had been around for several hundred years.  Kimono makers, fabric shops, tea shops, pickle shops were sandwiched tightly together in this historic community.  Shopkeepers swept their sidewalks, bicycles brushed by, and little dogs scampered throughout the streets.

Finally, I came upon Mr. Buseki's shop.  It was a quiet shop, at the foot of a long stairway which led, I believe, to a shrine.  I walked in, and was amazed by the small artfully displayed baskets.  Each was placed with great care on little shelves throughout the shop.  Within moments, I had chosen the one I wanted.  I pointed to it and told the basket maker I wanted it.  He said "No."  Well, actually, he didn't really say "no."  The word "no" is rarely used in the Japanese language - which I think is an interesting insight to their way of handling things.  He did, however, tell me to have a seat on the tatami mat and wait.

Buseki-san disappeared into a back room with my basket.  Moments later, he re-emerged through the noren (split curtains in the doorway) with my basket, some flowers, and some scissors.  He place the basket on a little podium, and then went to work artfully arranging the flower (ikebana-style) in the basket.  He told me to wait again.  Once more, he disappeared into the back room, only this time to reemerge with a small pot of tea and two tea cups.  
Buseki-san and I sat and drank tea as we gazed upon the basket.  So much work went into creating this basket, he wanted me to be sure it was the right one for me.  He was not going to let it go to the wrong owner.  Sure enough, after about a half hour, we has agreed this particular creation was meant for me.  He felt I would take good care of it.  And he agreed to sell it to me.

I will always remember this experience when I find myself rushing through daily life.  There is time to sit and think and ponder.  You just have to make the time.

Midori-Ya (tel. 03/3828-1746

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


So, I just got back from a couple of days of Disneyland.  I love Disneyland - yes, it's all smoke and mirrors, but it still feels magical walking through the gates and seeing the "mouse."  Well, maybe the magic happens when my son gets to experience these things, but nonetheless, I always enjoy the visit.

Funny thing this time though.  We went to Innoventions in Tomorrowland.  At first, you get a presentation about conservation.  You know the drill - a presentation on using compact fluorescent lightbulbs over the traditional energy zappers...unplugging appliances when you are not using them...a brief talk on solar and wind power.  And next, with great anticipation, the doors slowly opened to reveal the "HOME OF THE FUTURE."  After our graduation from the Conservation 101 Presentation, I was excited to maybe see the "HOME OF THE FUTURE" stocked full of energy saving gadgets, rain barrels, grey water systems...   Drumroll please....  As we walked through the magical doors, what was revealed to us but nothing but lights, lights, lights and more lights.  Everything lit up and buzzed.  You could practically hear the slight buzz of our power plants at work just to power this display.  

We walked into a cozy living room, warm tones in the decor and family photos placed perfectly on the piano.  But these weren't real photos, they were digital picture frames.  The art on the walls - digital.  The COFFEE TABLE - DIGITAL!?!?!  You could read a digital book or play digital checkers on the digital coffee table.  How about a game of digital soccer in your digital backyard?

Disney, I love you, man.  But, really?  If you are going to present this kind of home of the future, you might as well scrap the environmental chat at the beginning.  Or better yet, why don't you rethink the idea of the "Home of the Future?"

Friday, July 23, 2010


I am constantly searching for better ways to incorporate all the nutrition my son needs into his diet.  I recently came upon this recipe from Dr. Sears website, and let me tell you - it is AMAZING!  The encopresis my son has suffered after a couple of years of chronic constipation, is getting better and better - I believe, in part to this smoothie as well as the ayurvedic approach we take to his diet.  Our doctor prescribed the "mineral oil" solution to his problem - but in my heart I could not bear giving him upwards to 8 tablespoons a day of mineral oil.  Mineral oil is petroleum based - I might as well have bathed him in the Gulf!

Here is the Sears recipe for a smoothie that Dr. Sears gives his own children:

  • 3 cups milk or soy beverage
  • 11/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1-2 servings Juice Plus+® Complete or similar multinutrient supplement
  • one frozen banana
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup each of your favorite fruit, frozen (e.g., organic strawberries, papaya, mango)
  • 2 tbsp. flax oil or 1/2 cup flaxseed meal
  • 4 ounces tofu
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter (optional)
Here is our version of his smoothie.  I basically have cut Dr. Sears recipe in half - it makes a smoothie for me and one for my son:
  • 1 1/2 cups organic 1% milk
  • 3/4 cups organic low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 servings of Amazing Grass Kidz Superfood supplement - berry flavored
  • 3/4 cup frozen organic blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen organic mangoes
  • 3 tbsp. flax oil
  • 3 oz. organic soft tofu
  • 1 tbsp. psyllium husks

"Combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve immediately after blending while the mixture still has a bubbly milkshake-like consistency.

We formulated this recipe based on the principle of "synergy." The nutrients consumed together enhance each other's benefits, so the whole nutritional effect is greater than the sum of its parts. I have prescribed this recipe for several hundred school-children and their parents, and we drink it ourselves four to five mornings a week. It's a powerful performance booster for working parents and school-children.

Because fiber steadies the absorption of carbohydrates and therefore contributes to a steadier blood sugar, we suggest using rich sources of fiber, such as flaxseed meal (i.e. ground flax seeds, containing both the oil and fiber), although flax oil has a more palatable consistency than flaxseed meal. For additional fiber, if you don't mind a grainier texture, add 1 tbsp. or more of oat bran."

The smoothie is yummy!  My son will normally drink the whole thing.  And, I love it, too!  I must say, it has been a great way to start my day - I have only the smoothie and I don't get hungry before lunchtime - an added bonus, in that I have been trying to lose weight!  (And I have!  Yeah!!!)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Across the globe, it is catching on... in an effort to reduce our meat consumption by 15% and to improve the overall health of our planet, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and homes are going "meatless" each Monday in the "Meatless Mondays" campaign.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization the meat industry generates nearly one fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change. Geophysicists at the Bard Center and the University of Chicago estimate that curbing meat consumption by 20% (which could be achieved through Meatless Mondays) would lower greenhouse gas emissions as dramatically as every American switching to an ultra-efficient hybrid vehicle.

The U.N. also found that current meat production methods cause nearly half of all stream and river pollution. Meat also requires a great deal of fresh water to manufacture. The production of a pound of beef takes approximately 2,500 gallons of water, compared to a pound of soy, which requires only 220 gallons.  By switching to soy on Mondays each individual could save about 890 gallons of water a week.

As of 2006, forty calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of U.S. feed lot beef (manufacture, transport and storage included). By comparison, a calorie of plant-based protein only requires 2.2 calories of fossil fuel. If the population of the United States went meatless every Monday for a year, 12 billion gallons of gasoline would be saved.

Last night, we went to one of our favorite local spots, Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, who has adopted the Meatless Monday campaign into their menu.  Even on non-Mondays, their philosophy goes alongside the Slow Food Movement's, in that they only serve local, seasonal, and organically grown produce, 100% naturally raised meats, artisanal cheeses, and are 100% high fructose corn syrup-free.  
Take a look in your area and see what chefs are thinking globally.  Also, Meatless Mondays are a great tradition to bring into your own home.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010


One of my favorite authors is Thich Naht Hahn - an exiled Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Zen master, and peace leader whose teachings have touched millions of lives worldwide.  Read this excerpt from "Peace is Every Step" - it can teach us as parents so much... 

Breathing Room
"I recommend that we set up a small room in our homes and call it a "breathing room," where we can be alone and practice just breathing and smiling.  You may want to have a small bell, a few cushions, and perhaps a vase of flowers.  Every time you feel upset, go to that room, open the door slowly, sit down, invite the bell to sound, and begin to breathe.  I believe that every home should have one room for breathing.  Simple practices like conscious breathing and smiling are very important.  They can change our civilization."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I recently read an article in Natural Home, entitled "Upgrade Your Life."  Mentioned in the article are ways to improve the air quality in your home - by incorporating more house plants into your lifestyle.  Here is a clip from the article:

Surround yourself with houseplants.  NASA scientists searching for the solution to "sick building syndrome" found that common houseplants are some of the most effective air cleaners.  Five to try:

1) Aloe vera soothes kitchen burns and sucks formaldehyde out of the air.
2) Corn plants purify benzene and cigarette smoke.
3) Spider plants absorb carbon monoxide.
4) Peace lilies remove acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde.
5) Dwarf date palms negate harmful effects from xylene (found in paints.)

Check out the whole article in the July/August 2010 issue!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Remembering a favorite moment...
"Polly," a scarlet macaw who lost her mate - on a daily visit to our hut down in the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.  Each morning, we would wake to see her soaring through the skies...come midday, she would pay us a visit by rummaging through our nightfall, she was all tuckered out and would sleep on her perch in the eaves of the roof.  Who needs t.v.?  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Last week, I drug my loving husband and son out to the Keys Creek Lavender Farm.   (They are such good boys - humoring me!)  This is the only USDA certified organic lavender farm in San Diego.  Located in Valley Center, California and only open to the public a few weekends a year (May-June) - the fields are beautiful, lined with many different varieties of lavender.  There is a gift shop (of course), as well as a refreshment stand which serves lavender scones, which you can have with lavender butter or lavender honey.  You can wash it all down with lavender tea or lavender lemonade, if you wish!  Bees buzzed throughout the fields, a sign that these bees are doing quite well!  There was a guitarist whose music echoed throughout the fragrant farm.  My hubby and son even loved it!  We were able to see the distillery where they extract the oil from the plants.  All around, a lovely afternoon.  

Here are some lavender tips:

* When a recipe calls for rosemary, try substituting lavender leaves, in equal (or less) amounts.
* Dried lavender is much stronger than fresh lavender.  (One tablespoon of dried lavender = 3 tablespoons of fresh lavender.)
* Make lavender infused sugar by placing a few tablespoons of dried lavender in a Mason jar with about a cup of sugar.  Wonderful in teas, sprinkled on top of fruits and desserts, or in baked recipes.
* If you are not growing your own lavender, be sure to only use culinary (English, Provence) lavender in your cooking.  Otherwise, you may end of with a very perfumy dish! 
* A little goes a long way - don't let the lavender overwhelm your dish.
* Lavender is best if used within a year a it's harvest date.
* Buy organic lavender!  You don't want to be ingesting chemicals along with that fragrant herb!
* Once your lavender sachets run out of scent, you can re-invigorate them with a few drops of lavender oil.
* Lavender is a very calming herb.  Use it's oil after a bath and before bedtime to help you sleep.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


When I had my son, there were several Mommy and Me yoga classes around for new moms and infants.  But, as he got older - it became impossible to find a yoga class for 3 year olds.  Until, one day, I happened upon Next Generation Yoga and its owner/founder, Jodi Komitor.  Founded in 1998, Jodi, a pioneer in the kids’ yoga movement, created the first yoga studio (in the world) just for kids!  Jodi's take on yoga for kids:  "The mission of Next Generation Yoga: joyful, playful self-expression for children."  Her classes are incredible!  She has family classes, which are a wonderful bonding experience to do with your kids.  She sometimes even does classes on the beach.  After my boy's first class, he said, in the car ride home, "I felt such peace while I was there."  He was 3!  So, if you are in the San Diego area, I would consider this a MUST!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


It is our job as parents to not only protect and guide our children, but to inspire their senses of curiosity, adventure, and creativity.  So, as parents, we ourselves must be curious, adventurous, and creative.  

What are ways in which you are curious, adventurous, and creative?

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Summer rolls around and many parents are left to wonder - "What can I do to entertain my kids?" Well, no worries, parents - your options are endless! Here are 50 low-cost or no-cost things to do during the summer:

1. Get dirty - make mud pies!
2. Make an outdoor obstacle course in your backyard.
3. Put on a family magic show, puppet show, comedy show, or talent show.
4. Play dress up.
5. Moms, let your kids style your hair. Give them all sorts of ribbons and do-dads! If you dare, you can wear your new "do" out!
6. Make bird feeders. Spread peanut butter on a pine cone and roll it in bird seeds. Hang on a tree and watch the birds gobble it up!
7. Hang a hummingbird feeder in the yard so you can watch the hummingbirds from a window.
8. Create a potted vegetable and herb garden. This is easy to do organically, since it is easier to control pests in a potted garden.
9. Plant a fruit tree.
10. Build a tree house or fort outside.
11. Build a temporary fort inside out of sofa cushions, blankets, and pillows.
12. Camp outside.
13. Make s'mores.
14. Make homemade ice cream.
15. Buy a solar shower (about $25 at a camping store) and shower outside.
16. Blow bubbles! Make bubble wands out of string, coat hangers, etc. See how creative you can get!
17. Play ball.
18. Play tag.
19. Color, paint, and draw.
20. Make clay pots.
21. Cut flowers from the garden and make flower arrangements. Deliver the arrangements to loved ones.
22. Make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (individually packed) for your local homeless shelter.
23. Go bike riding. (Wear helmets!)
24. Go on a nature walk or hike.
25. If you live near the ocean, go tidepooling!
26. Go fishing.
27. Get out on the water in a canoe, kayak, or rowboat. (Wear life vests!)
28. Visit a local farm.
29. Go to the local farmer's market.
30. Make homemade pizza.
31. Volunteer at the local animal shelter.
32. Eat breakfast for dinner.
33. Wear p.j.s all day.
34. Write a bedtime story with your kids. Take your creation to the local copy store, and have the book bound. (Should cost around $5 for spiral binding.)
35. Go to the beach and build sandcastles.
36. Collect twigs, stones, and other natural findings and make a "fairy house" in your backyard.
37. Give the car a break. If your market is not too far away, take your wagon and walk to the market.
38. Go swimming at a nearby pool, beach, or lake.
39. Invite friends over (young and not-so-young) and have a summertime potluck!
40. Join a reading club at the library.
41. Cook a meal from another culture.
42. Go to Home Depot or Lowe's for a children's woodworking day. (Normally on Saturdays - check their schedule.)
43. Research local backyard wildlife. Learn about the creatures that call your backyard "home."
44. Line your patio with newspaper. Lay an old sheet on top. Get out the paint and dip your hands and feet in the colors and paint away!
45. Research constellations and go outside at night to discover the wonders in the sky.
46. Have a dance party. Crank up the music and dance, dance, dance!
47. Take a picnic to one of your local symphony's Summer Pops Concerts.
48. Go wild at the zoo!
49. Find a festival! Check out the newspaper for Greek festivals, Scottish festivals, Japanese festivals, etc...
50. Spend a day at a Children's Museum.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Summertime means spending more time outdoors.  It also is a big season for movies.  Why not bring the movies outdoors?  We hang a white sheet on our laundry line and use a projector and computer to watch all sorts of things.  Our son's friends come over and they eat pizza, as they watch anything from animated movies to Discovery Channel programs.  When the kids go to bed, my husband and I hang out in the hammock and get caught up on t.v. shows on Hulu.  Lots of fun.  With tiki torches lit, the garden in full bloom, and the moon out - it doesn't get better than this!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Green Parent - Great Magazine!

I love magazines!  I am a sucker for anything related to gardening (esp. organic gardening), travel (esp. adventure travel), and parenting.  But, the selection of "green" parenting magazines is rather slim.  Until, one day, my mother-in-law brought over this amazing find from the UK.  The Green Parent is a wonderful resource for us sorta-crunchy mamas out there!  Here is a recent feature from their online site:

24 MAY 2010

Make recycled boats

In this project from the latest edition of The Green Parent you can learn how to make these great boats that are fun for all ages and encourage resourcefulness. Boats can be made out of anything that floats, from a simple piece of bark or twigs, to bits and pieces from the recycling bin.

For wooden rafts and boats: small straight branches or twigs, raffia (or string or twine), fabric scraps, needle and thread
For recycled boats: juice or milk carton washing up bottle (any item that floats) discarded paper, twigs, modeling clay

1 The simplest wooden vessel to make is a raft; add a sail and it not only looks more like a boat but the sail will push it across the water. Collect an assortment of small, fallen branches and twigs and look out for straighter wood. Decide how large you want your boat to be, trim the branches to that length and line them up to check the overall size. When you have the size you like, take a long piece of raffia and tie the centre of the length of raffia around the end of one of the trimmed branches. Note: Do not pull the raffia too tight or it might break, it’s okay if the branches are a little loose. Take the ends of the raffia and tie another branch the same way around the end right next to the other one. Keep adding branches and tying them until you’ve tied all of the branches together. Then tie the opposite ends of the branches together with raffia in the same way.

2 Make the boat more stable by tying a support branch across each end of the branches where you tied the raffia. Secure these branches by tying one end with raffia, then thread the raffia around the top branch and down around the lower branches. Continue threading until you reach the end and tie it off. Repeat on the other side of the raft. Make a sail for your boat by cutting a scrap of cloth into a triangle with a 90-degree angle. You may want to cut the triangle out of a piece of paper first and hold it up to the boat to determine the size sail you want; then use the paper sail for a pattern to cut out the cloth. At this stage >
> you may want to decorate the sailcloth with embroidery or patches.

3 Lay a straight twig over the cloth edge opposite the 90-degree angle and fold the cloth over the twig. Using a needle and thread, stitch the twig to the cloth. Add a twig to the bottom of the sail to create a “boom” and attach it with a needle and thread in a few places. Next take a long twig for a mast. Measure it against the boat to determine the height you’d like it to be and add about 5cm to its base (extra length is needed when you attach the sail to the boat). Stitch the remaining edge of the sail to the mast in a few places and leave a little room at the top for a flag. Stitch a small flag to the top of the mast if you wish. Wedge the sail between two of the twigs of the boat. If the mast is loose, tighten it at the base by tieing raffia tightly around the mast base and the twigs of the boat or wedge in a little modelling clay to tighten it. Set it to sail on a pond, stream, a bowl or the bath.

4 Make boats from recycled materials.
Position a juice carton flat on its side so the triangular part of its top points up and cut off one side. The triangle will form the bow of the boat. Take a piece of paper and cut out two pirate ship style sails, one slightly smaller than the other.

5 Trim a stick to the right length to form a mast and thread the sails on to the twig, the largest first. A flag can be attached to the top of the mast.

6 Roll a ball of modelling clay in your hands and centre it in the bottom of the carton and stick it down; then push the mast into the ball of clay.

Note: Boat making is a great summertime activity for a group of children, just provide a pile of parts and see what they build. After the building, hold a regatta. In addition to the boats, small sailors and pirates can be made using materials that float, like clothes pegs or empty thread spools with wooden beads for heads.
Download a template for the sails here

Joan Gorman is a full-time mum, part-time art teacher and contributes the fantastic crafts pages inside every edition of The Green Parent magazine. Visit her lovely blog for inspiration.