A Taste Bud’s Delight: Baked Avocado Fries

Nature's buttery treat!

I recently read a friend’s Facebook status update that said “Avocados have no flavor”…Wait, WHAT!?  Avocados may be one of my favorite foods on the face of the Earth, so I quickly responded that she was obviously eating the wrong kind and needed a grocery store lesson!  While novices may need some help, avid avocado lovers know that not all avocados are created equal.  You have to pick them up, give them a little squeeze, and really FEEL their ripeness to predict their flavor. There is an art to picking the right avocado, and honestly sometimes I get it wrong and am utterly disappointed when I get home.  It’s an ongoing challenge I suppose.

Avocados come in many sizes, colors, and textures, both inside and out.  While on The Big Island of Hawaii, I tasted at least a dozen different varieties of my little green friend, and loved picking out the sensory nuances.  Avocados have that buttery smooth flavor that goes so well with just about any fare, Mexican, Cuban, Japanese, Chinese, Greek — the list goes on and on.   Personally I love to find ways to incorporate them into any dish I make.

Just about the time that I read my friends status update, I also saw what looked to be an AMAZING recipe for baked avocado fries on Pinterest.  So naturally, I tried it last night and these little green beauties were a hit!  The recipe is super easy and quick.

Ingredients

2 firm (not hard) medium avocados, pealed, pitted and sliced into wedges

1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

2 large eggs beaten

1 cup of seasoned panko

Olive oil

Kosher salt and coarse pepper (to taste)

Instructions:

Preheat oven 450 degrees

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper

Dip and coat avocados in flour then egg then panko and place on cookie sheet

Drizzle some olive oil over top and sprinkle kosher salt and coarse pepper to taste

Bake for 20 minutes @ 450 degrees (last 5 min turned up to 500)

Remove, plate, and serve hot with a tasty dipping sauce!

Delicious and nutritious!

I served mine with a tasty tzatziki sauce, but you could really serve it with any sauce of your choice.  The possibilities are endless!  These turned out perfectly crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside.  SUCCESS!  Next time I am going to try it with just one egg and one egg white to see if I can make this little dish even healthier.

Serve these as an appetizer or a side dish at your next meal.  Even better, add them to your St. Pattie’s Day spread and impress all of your friends.  ENJOY!

March 7, 2012. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

A Bit of Wildness in Sophistication – The Art of Scott Avett

Motherhood

This past Friday night I was witness to something remarkable, something magical.  In fact, I was more than a witness to this event.  I was an active part of it, an integral piece in the puzzle of community.  So too were the other 200 people who were present.  No piece was more important than another.  Rather, all were necessary to make the evening as powerful and memorable as it was.

It was to be an evening centered around the art of famed musician Scott Avett, co-frontman of The Avett Brothers and a native to Concord, NC.  However, it became so much more.  The fundraising event entitled, The Paintings of Scott Avett: Exploring Story and Spirituality was the brainchild of local artist Tom Schultz and his wife Sheila Ennis of Empathinc..  It was organized and executed flawlessly by a passionate and dedicated team of individuals, all working towards a common goal–to support one of Charlotte’s most valuable resources, The Educational Center.

I approached the evening with eagerness, curiosity, and excitement.  As I ascended the stairs to the second floor gallery, a mist of celebrity blanketed my thoughts.  This was going to be a very unique opportunity to be in the presence of an artistic genius away from his usual musical arena.  While my endless appreciation for Scott Avett’s talents was the driving force of  my attendance, I was surprised to find an anticipation bubbling up inside of me for something more.  It wasn’t until I walked into the gallery that I began to understand what that “more” was.

The gallery, which was actually an empty second story condominium two days prior, had been transformed into a maze of rooms adorned with Scott’s masterful oil paintings, charcoal sketches, and linocut prints.  People filled each room–mingling, laughing, eating, drinking, visiting, and carrying on.  I was drawn to familiar faces, and with the first hug and smile the mist began to clear.  While I was certainly in the presence of greatness, it was not simply in the form of one man, but rather in the group as a whole.  On that night, in that second floor gallery, community trumped celebrity.

Midway through the night people gathered around the front foyer of the gallery, eagerly awaiting the centerpiece of the event–storytelling by Scott Avett.  First, Sheila took a moment to share her thoughts about the event with us.  She highlighted the history and mission of The Educational Center, as well as its accomplishments.

“[The Educational Center] has been nationally acclaimed [as] a pioneer in research of religion education, particularly in the methodology called maieutics, which is the Greek word for midwife, and it means as a teacher or facilitator, you are not the authority.  You simply help another person work what that person may already know,”  Sheila explained.

As an educator myself, this resonated with me.  So often in formal education we get bogged down by authority and power and lose sight of our mission to facilitate learning.

Tilly Tice (President of the Board of Directors of The Educational Center) followed Sheila and commented on the theme of synchronicity that led up to the evening–a theme that by that point was more than palpable.  She thanked Scott Avett for his support of The Educational Center through his participation in the event, and praised him for being “committed to moving beneath the layers of human stories, of personal history, and experiences to discover deeper levels of spiritual reality and knowing.”

As Tom stepped up to the microphone, the anticipation for Scott’s talk grew even louder.  Tom, like Scott, is also an artist and a storyteller.  Through a few brief stories he explained his connection to Scott and how he relates to Scott’s paintings.

“When you see the color under the arm that is painted so deftly, you are dealing with something wild that is also sophisticated.  When you see one brush stroke that defines an entire toe so clearly and succinctly, you are looking at something wild that is also sophisticated.  I often compare Scott’s work to writers like early John Steinbeck…sometimes I think that there’s an air of grit to the reality that he portrays.  There is a bit of wildness in sophistication.  I hope you recognize that and after looking at these paintings, accept Scott’s invitation to you to find the wildness in you that’s wrapped up in your sophistication,”  Tom shared.

We hadn’t even gotten to the man of honor, yet I was already inspired by the passion and spark that came from Sheila, Tilly, and Tom.  I was not expecting this feeling, but welcomed it freely.  As Scott stepped out before us, his presence alone commanded respect and attention.  Perhaps it was the fact that the majority of those present are inspired daily by the lyrics of his songs, the earthiness and ease of his voice, his humbleness, or his homegrown charm.  The room was quiet, and we were all ready to listen.

Though he admittedly didn’t outline the conversation that followed (“for the past four months I kept this discipline of being really lazy and not planning anything”), Scott seamlessly wove themes of family, discipline, work ethic, and self-awareness together as he danced from story to story.  He was funny, expressive, honest and revealing in front of his audience.  It was plain to see that he came by his storytelling talents honestly, as his dad Jim is the original Avett storyteller–although I suspect there was a long line before him as well.

Scott candidly discussed the push and pull struggle of balancing this learned discipline and work ethic with his innate artistic drive.  He felt best to explain this through the writings of John Ruskin, in particular an essay entitled The Seeing and Feeling Creature.  Scott explained:

“Artists are put on this planet to do…three things.  [Ruskin] says we are here to see, and to feel, and to document.  The artist can try to think but he’s not here to do that.  He can try to explain and analyze but he’s not here to do that.  He can go to parties but he’s not here to party.  He can’t.  He really can’t…As soon as he feels something he has to act on it and move on it.  The documenting, which is the third thing in this description and I believe this is true and I understood when I read it, quite a bit…With the seeing and feeling and the work ethic, there’s a balance that is ongoing for me and at the moment as I think about what I am called to do and my obligations to the visual and through song and through story, it feels in order.  But in the next moment it very well could flip over and find itself off the rails.”

Again, Tom’s theme of wildness in sophistication emerged in Scott’s words.  This theme has invaded much of what Scott Avett shows to the public, both in the recording and art studios.  There is a constant state of re-balancing taking place to keep the wildness at bay, but also to ensure that it isn’t smothered by the sophistication.

As the evening carried on, the energy continued to grow.  Scott had shared with us his stories and his outlook, and now it was our turn to share with others.  We made connections that will guide us along in our spiritual journeys.  Like-minded people from all walks of life created an experience that fostered community, and that was just the beginning.

The next day I returned to the gallery to pick-up the piece of Scott’s artwork that I purchased.  The rooms were quiet and the sun shone in through the windows, creating a new perspective on the space and his paintings.  However, the spark and the energy that permeated through the space the night before remained.  Could we go back and do it again?  I wish we could, but in all honesty it wouldn’t be the same.  The synchronicity of that evening was a once in a lifetime alignment of our lives that we will remember for years to come.

To see some of Scott’s art please click HERE

February 28, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Emotion, Friends, Life. 1 comment.

Fall Flavors: Cozy up with some Butternut Squash Soup

Delicious and Nutritious!

After the northeast was bombarded by a rare snow storm in late October, I figured it was time to experiment with some rustic Fall flavors.  I took a look in my vegetable drawer… a butternut squash, a sweet potato, carrots, and onion…perfect!  With no experience making soup from roasted vegetables, I took a cursory look at a few recipes to get an idea of what I needed to do.  From there I just winged it and hoped for the best.  Give it a try, and put your own spin on it!

Ingredients

1 butternut squash, halved and seeded

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

1 cup low sodium chicken stock

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Place halved, seeded butternut squash (skin side down) and cubed sweet potato on the parchment paper, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper (to taste).  Roast vegetables in the oven for 35-45 minutes until tender.  While they are roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and add onion, carrots, 1/2 cup chicken stock, salt and pepper.  Bring contents to a boil and then turn down to a simmer until roasted vegetables are done.

When roasted vegetables are tender, place them (no skin) in a food processor or blender.  Add skillet contents, remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the blender and puree to desired thickness.  Soup is already hot and ready to eat!  Top it will some sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, decorate with garnish and serve.  Enjoy and stay warm!

October 30, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , . DIY, Food. Leave a comment.

Will you be…..my bridesmaid?

I am less than a month into my engagement and knee deep in planning a beach wedding that is over a year away.  Before setting a precise date and venue, I just couldn’t help but start to get my bridal party in order.  I had already known who I would ask to stand up for me at my wedding well before DH proposed, so that was the easy part.   The challenging part was coming up with a creative way to “pop the question” to my girls!

I didn’t want to call, text, or send an email.  That just seemed too impersonal and cold.  A handwritten note would be a nice gesture, but it still wasn’t quite enough.  So I came up with an idea that would incorporate my creative side with our seaside wedding.  I modified it from another idea, to fit our style and theme a little better.  When Hurricane Irene fell upon us and the power went out, I thought it was a perfect time to finish this project!

“Spe-Shell Delivery”

Cut out a strip of fabric and stamped my message on it.

Be creative with your message!

 Glue it face up into the opening of a seashell

Make sure you glue it in good!

 Roll the message up and tie it with a pretty fabric bow

Wrapped up and ready to go!

Put the “invite” in a cute little personalized box and they are ready to send!

Reuse and Redecorate Stella & Dot boxes!

I was so excited for  my best girlfriends to get these in the mail.  Their responses were emotional and perfect.  They felt super special and loved the thought behind the gesture.  It really doesn’t matter the occaission or your level of creativity.  Creating something from your heart and with your hands is always received gratefully.  Think of your own way to make a special event even more memorable!

September 2, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . DIY, Friends, Life, Wedding. Leave a comment.

Who’s afraid of a big bad hurricane?

Man down!

Well I can check “survive a hurricane” off of my bucket list.

This past weekend Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane.  According to the Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale, a Category 1 can produce winds between 74-95 mph and a storm surge of 4-5 feet.  Our approximation to the Pamlico Sound was worrisome, but we decided to stick it out and stay through the storm.

We had plenty of time to get ready for Irene’s arrival.  So, prior to the storm I made all of the necessary preparations that were recommended:

– Get food, water, cash, gas, ice

– Fill bathtub up with water

– Secure all lawn furniture, garbage cans, windows, etc

– Have plenty of flashlights and candles on hand

– Locate your battery-powered AM/FM radio (or buy one in my case)

– Figure out your “safe spot” in the house, away from windows and preferably in a central room

– Park your cars away from potential falling trees

Despite being prepared, something happened BEFORE the storm that caught us off guard.  One of our pecan trees decided to shed a limb right on our power/cable lines.  Luckily the city responded quickly and got our power up and running before the storm got on top of us.  Only a few hours later the wind speed picked up and the light misty rain turned into a downpour.  Irene was on her way.

Sleep was minimal that night.  Just knowing that at any moment the howling wind could topple a giant pecan tree through our roof and into our bedroom was enough to keep my internal guard on high alert.  By 8am Saturday morning our power was off again.  I was actually surprised that it stayed on through the night.  With no end in sight, we hunkered down and took a front row seat to this massive display of Mother Nature outside our windows.  DH was supposed to go into work, and valiantly tried (crazy I know) but couldn’t make it due to fallen trees and flooding.  I was grateful to have him back home and not out in the storm delivering mail.  Who really expects to get mail during a hurricane?

The power outage gave me ample time to work on some projects I had put on the back burner.  I spent the majority of the day scrapbooking and making gifts, while DH played his guitar, kept a watchful eye on the yard and our cars outside, and even ventured out into the storm to unclog a sewer drain that was causing flooding on our street (how brave!).  We napped, played scrabble, drank, ate, took phone calls from worried family and friends, and listened to the weather updates on the radio.

All the while, the pounding of rain and tree branches on our house and screeching wind began to wear on my psyche.  By late afternoon I was done with the noise, the lack of power, and being cooped up in our home.  I felt guilty the whole time thinking that there were others who had suffered more, especially during Katrina.  I had to try to keep things in perspective, but in the moment it was challenging.

My whole mood shifted when we got our power back that night!  Power meant light and DVDs and recovery efforts!  To celebrate I made White Russians and we sat down to watch The Big Lebowski.  What a great way to say farewell to Irene.

The next morning I woke up and peeked out of our bedroom window.  The sun was out, the streets were  matted with leaves and branches, our yard was full of limbs and debris, and it was quiet.  Ahhhh…the silence was beautiful!  I snuck out of bed, threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera and hit the streets to see the damage Irene left in her path.  Neighbors were out cleaning and checking in on each other.  The river was high but calm and serene,  resting easy after two nights of unrelenting turbulence.

Our clean-up started soon after I returned from my “reporting”.  It didn’t take us too long to drag all of the large limbs out to the street.  My pepper plants took a beating but I was able to get them back in order and secure them with some of the large, fallen branches I picked up in the yard.  After a while, our yard was looking like our yard again.  Throughout the day, as clean-up continued, the streets became lined with hills of debris.  Three days later the debris is still there, but the city will get to it eventually.  They still have their hands full with power outages and flooding, so they will get to it as they can.  Overall I think they have done a wonderful job getting power restored and keeping us safe.

To be completely honest, a Category 1 hurricane might sound wimpy but it is still very scary.  The fears that accompany events like this are real and drive our survival instincts through the roof.  Fears remind us that we are unbelievably fragile and at the complete mercy of Mother Nature.  Her forces will always be more powerful than the forces of man.  In situations like these, all we can do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and help each other along the way.

August 30, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Environment, Life. 1 comment.

Fresh Summer Salsa

After receiving a fabulous gift of ripe tomatoes from my friend’s garden, I decided to make  fresh homemade salsa!  My recipe is simple, quick, and delicious…and a MUST for any get together this Summer.

Ingredients

-Three small ripe tomatoes

-1/4 large white onion

-One small jalapeño

-Two small banana peppers

-1/2 green pepper

-Three small cloves of garlic

-handful of cilantro

-Juice of 1/2 lime

-Salt, Pepper, Cumin to taste

Roughly chop up all vegetables and place in food processor.  Add salt, pepper, cumin, lime juice and cilantro and mix on low to get desired chunkiness.  If you like your salsa with a little kick, do not remove seeds from jalapeños, or use a spicier pepper like a habanero.  You can really just add in any fresh ingredient that you want to make it YOUR own recipe.  Serve chilled or at room temperature with tortilla chips.  Enjoy!

July 23, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Food, Life. 2 comments.

Lessons from Max

Max

A jar full of coins sat perched on the top shelf.  Shiny dimes and nickles, pennies and quarters danced in the afternoon California sun that peaked through the glass patio door.  My grandpa was so proud of his jar of coins, and I, his youngest grandchild, was always in awe of him and his collection placed far above my reach.  Over a lifetime, my grandpa Max experienced more than I can ever imagine…the Great Depression, World Wars, growth of labor unions and negotiations, lasting love, presidential elections and assassinations, birth of children and grandchildren, terrorist attacks, and all of the small, personal moments in between.  He was a man who valued hard work and honest ethics.  He possessed a stoic and strong determination to succeed for the betterment of those around him and his family.

A pioneer in the U.S. labor movement, Max became an integral part of our nation’s history during a time when protecting workers’ rights wasn’t popular.  His work wasn’t always met with the same level of enthusiasm and regard that he believed it deserved, but he understood his mission and he pushed through the barriers.  He was a laborer, supervisor, organizer, and elected official during his 66 years of service.  Even when his brain wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, or his body felt weak and fragile from rounds of chemotherapy, he still woke up everyday to walk his dog, put on his slacks, button down, and loafers, drive to the office, and sit proudly behind his desk, ready to work.

I always loved listening to his stories, even when I had heard them over and over again.  He never completely lost his Arkansas twang, despite spending the majority of his life in Arizona and California.  I loved his voice and missed it when he was gone.  So  much so, that after he passed I called his Arizona apartment from time to time just to get the answering machine and feel a tiny bit closer to him.  “You’ve reached ###-####, we’re not here to take your call right now but if you’d leave your name and number we’ll get back to you…Goodbye!”  Although I haven’t heard that in about 6 or 7 years, I can still hear his twang.  Thank God.

During the 27 years that I had with him, I carefully watched his routine and learned some important lessons that I carry very close to my heart today, and hopefully forever.  These lessons, timeless and true, thankfully sneak into my everyday routine like a dog sneaking up onto the couch or bed to be close to his owner.  The end result is comforting and calming, and I’d surely miss it if those lessons failed to appear.  Not all of Max’s lessons were learned from watching him do something, but rather what I didn’t see him do.  And these lessons were formed from a granddaughter’s perspective, young and naive at times, but boy did I love my grandpa.  I am sure my father, his son, may have seen his father in a different light, and if we sat down and compared “notes” they may reveal a few discrepancies.  But, that’s okay.  We learn from our own experience, and surely I have learned lessons from my dad that were passed down from Max as well.

Lesson #1: Work hard and take pride in what you do – Max grew up during a time when putting in long, hard days on the job was just what you did.  He arrived to work on time, prepared, and ready.  He took pride in how he presented himself, both in his dress and attitude.  He worked hard because he wanted to keep his job, show his loyalty, and take care of his family.  Back then, this level of respect for work was the norm.  Max valued his 66 years of service so much that he wrote a memoir of his life, most of which was his union work.

Lesson #2: Save your pennies for a rainy day – When Max would take his dog Puff on walks in the morning, he would drive down to the grocery store and walk through the parking lot looking for dropped coins.  The money he found on his walks, coupled with loose change in his pockets was placed in the jar on the top shelf.  However, Max’s jar of coins wasn’t for decoration.  Once it was full, he’d roll the coins (before there were automatic coin rollers..which took a WHILE!) and bring them to the bank to either cash them in or put the money in savings.  He was a master investor and saver, but still managed to live a very comfortable life full of nice amenities.  I think this is because while he worked hard to provide for his family, he also valued the smallest unit of currency, the penny, as a very important part of his saving strategy.  This is why to this day, if I see a penny on the ground, I think of him and pick it up for my “jar on the shelf.”

Lesson #3: Reward yourself – A long, hard day at work deserves a reward don’t you think?  Max surely did.  Each night at 5 pm, my grandma Sweetie would fix up two cocktails, a martini for Max and Jack Daniels and ginger ale for herself.  They would have their very own happy hour at home!  Even Puff the dog got a little treat during happy hour (or yappy hour for him!).  If you spend your life waiting for someone else to reward your hard work, you may be waiting for a while.  So take time out of your day to reward yourself and relax.  I love this lesson!

Lesson #4: Keep your mind and body moving – A rolling stone gathers no moss, correct?  Well this goes for people too.  Max stayed physically and mentally active up until the last few months of his life.  He went to work everyday until he was 82 years old.  And even in the later years of working, though he was given less and less responsibilities, every one of his employees and co-workers VALUED his presence in the office and recognized his role in the organization.  He served as a vast resource of information and experience, and was able to use that to stay involved in his work.  Physically, he took time out of his morning and evening to take Puff for walks or perhaps spend 15 minutes riding the stationary bicycle.  Whatever it was, Max made an effort each day to keep a sharp mind and an able body, and that is something admirable.

Lesson #5: Love your family and make sure they know it! – My grandparents raised my dad and aunt during a time when overt emotional expression wasn’t customary.  Family roles were well-defined and for the most part emotions were kept to a minimum.  To show love and respect for your family, you served your role and provided them with things like food, shelter, clothing, education, etc.  While there are surely exceptions to this rule, Max and Sweetie definitely did not show their love as openly and freely as many people do today.  However, as Max approached his last few years of life, I witnessed a change in him.  He began being more affectionate, saying “I love you” before hanging up the phone, and joking around more than he had in the past.  It made me think that he was trying to get caught up on all of those times he didn’t express himself, and I appreciated that about him.  In his golden years, he was able to make a change that made his family very happy.  It’s never too late to let your family know how much you love and appreciate them.  Never.

While the list could be much longer, I think these 5 are the most important lessons that I take away from my grandpa Max.  Even though cultures shift and family roles get redefined, I hope to always keep these simple lessons in the forefront of my thoughts and actions.  He deserves to have his legacy honored and passed on.

June 25, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Emotion, Life. 1 comment.

Springtime Happy Hour – Mojitos!

There’s nothing better than coming home from work, picking fresh mint from your garden and mixing up a refreshing Mojito.  Try one out for yourself!

Ingredients:

10 mint leaves
freshly squeezed lime juice and lime slices
simple syrup
raw sugar
ice
club soda
2 oz. white rum

Pick some mint from your garden.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Combine raw sugar, mint leaves, and a splash of soda.  Muddle.

Add two table spoons of simple syrup and fresh lime juice


Add ice, 2 oz. white rum, and top off with soda. Garnish with a lime slice.

Mix and ENJOY!

May 2, 2011. Tags: , , , , . Food, Life. Leave a comment.

Waste not, Want not

Cedar and Bones Furniture by Dan Phillips

Every now and then I stumble upon an article or video online that inspires me and motivates me to show it to everyone I know, secretly hoping that they think it’s as cool and insightful as I do.  My most recent find was a video that featured a designer and builder by the name of Dan Phillips.  In the video, Dan addressed his audience politely and quickly jumped into his talk about building homes with reclaimed or recycled materials.  Before I knew it, this long-haired hippie had not only captured my attention, but also my curiosity and respect.  With ease and humor he spoke candidly about the specific human behaviors that have created our current culture of wastefulness, particularly in the home building industry.  While anyone can point out the ills of a system, only the creative and brave will point out and attempt to implement viable solutions.  Dan Phillips is one of those creative and brave people, and his 15 minute video has inspired me to evaluate my own behaviors and come up with ways to limit waste where I can.  Watch the video for yourself and hopefully it will inspire you ,too.

Here is a running list of some of my favorite ways to reduce waste:

1. Cook meals centered around what is ready to eat in the garden (if you don’t have a little garden, perhaps find a local farmer’s market or start your own garden) – limits trips to the grocery store and waste from pre-packaged goods, and also challenges you in the kitchen!

2. Visit the local antique/consignment shops and live auctions for “new” purchases before buying new item – limits the “demand” for new goods to be purchased and packaged and challenges you to create a new, unique look with something old.

3. Bring a reusable mug to Starbucks – not quite a new concept, but will limit the amount of garbage contributed to the landfill and conserve our forests (also, bring your own water bottle to the gym, instead of buying plastic bottles each time…water bottles now come fitted with their own filter too!).

4. Reuse containers as much as possible – limits waste and demand for non-reusable items (i.e.-use empty egg cartons for planting seedlings, donate them to a local school for arts and crafts, or return them to the CSA to be used for future deliveries!)

5. Start a compost bin and try to make it out of used materials – limits garbage and creates nutrient-rich material to add to your garden!

6. Wear clothes more than once before doing laundry – while this only applies to certain clothes, it will limit the amount of water used on a regular basis (also cuts down on the water bill!)

7. Make a work of art for your home/office out of material that would typically end up in the trash – limits garbage produced and turns creative ideas into tangible decorations for everyone to enjoy (i.e.-attach a bottle cap to a small magnet and use as a fun and functional decoration on the fridge!)

8. Skip on using produce bags and bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store when you shop – limits garbage produced per grocery store visit.  We already buy so many pre-packaged items so this is one way we can reduce our waste!

9. Find new ways to use your old “stuff” by turning it into something functional in your new space – limits demand for new goods when you can revitalize items and give them new life! (i.e.-refinish/paint an old table to compliment your new apartment; turn your old college t-shirts into a memory quilt; use old instruments as wall decor in a music room)

10. Install a Mr. Fusion in your DeLorean which uses household garbage to power the flux capacitor and make time travel possible – limits your seriousness and makes you laugh!  No one is denying that this is a serious issue, but we can keep it fun and creative while collectively working toward a common goal of reducing our “imprint” on the world.

Watch Dan Phillips’ video, get inspired, and come up with some of your own ways to reduce waste…feel free to steal my ideas and share some of your favorites with me!

April 28, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . Environment. 4 comments.

Take the road less traveled

Take a right at the corn field ahead...

When I was a kid, my family had a running joke that for every short-cut my dad took, our trip time doubled.  Looking back now as an adult, a part of me thinks that perhaps Dad had an ulterior motive when it came to those infamous short-cuts.  Was he really trying to save time, or did he simply enjoy meandering through windy, quiet back roads as opposed to taking a more direct, well-traveled route?  Perhaps being distantly related to one of the world’s most famous explorers, Merriwether Lewis,  played into his travel decisions.  We may never know the truth of the matter, but I choose to believe that my dad helped cultivate what is now my own love for new adventures along back roads (perhaps it’s in my genes too…I mean I am related to Merriwether Lewis, the “greatest pathfinder this country has ever known” :)).

Since moving to North Carolina and purchasing my first new car (fuel efficient Jetta TDI!), I have made several road trips across this beautiful state.  Before heading out, I often thumb through my road atlas to find alternate routes that will take me through the small towns of NC and allow me to appreciate the countryside.  I only rely on the GPS on my phone for emergencies, and firmly believe that GPS devices will ultimately kill our sense of direction (if we let them!).  While highways serve a definite purpose and their signage is often times superior, I just find  my trips to be so much more enjoyable when I get off of them!  I love the unpredictability of it all.  You never know what you will see or find along the way.  For example, the other day as I was driving through the rolling farmlands of southern VA, I looked out to my right and saw a very new foal trying to stand up after an afternoon nap in the field.  His mother patiently watched from a short distance as he got his long skinny legs beneath him and found his balance.  It’s not everyday you get to see that (unless you live on a farm I suppose), and it made me smile.  I would have never seen something so simple and beautiful along I-95.  On a recent trip to Asheville, DH and I stumbled upon a store called River Trail along the 2-lane portion of 64W.  We stopped to get gas and I left with a brand new pair of Lucchese boots, a handmade wooden fire truck for my nephew, and that exciting feeling you get when you’ve made a new discovery.

My most vivid memories from road trips are those that have happened while traveling on back roads.  For that reason alone, I will continue to take the road less traveled.  So for all of you who race to get to your final destination, take some extra time to appreciate the greatness that lies off of our interstate highway system.  I can promise that you will find some of the coolest stuff you never knew you were looking for, and gain a greater love for the simple things in life.

April 20, 2011. Tags: , , , , . Life, Travel. 2 comments.

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