Meat Glue[image source]

In March, Australian TV show Today Tonight did a story on a supposed meat glue scandal. Transglutaminase, known as Activa in the culinary world, is a blood-clotting enzyme being used to “glue” small scraps of meat into what looks like prime cuts to sell for a high price. Pork, lamb, fish and chicken are all being used in combination with meat glue to create these high-priced cuts, and apparently they’re hard to tell apart from the genuine thing.

[Video not showing up? Watch it here]

So what’s the big problem, aside from the fact that you are paying top dollar for a faux product? If you cook your meat rare, you may have a higher chance of getting food poisoning; however, as long as sanitary measures are kept this shouldn’t be an issue.

What’s the best way to stay away from meat glue and get a nice fresh cut? Know the source. Eat at restaurants that buy local sourced meats and purchase your own from your local rancher—be familiar his animal-raising practices (grass-fed and finished, hormone/steroid/antibiotic-free, etc) and arrange to tour their facility. Farmers markets are a great place to start your search.

More on Meat Glue:

Meat Glue: Separating Fact From Fiction

In Defense of Meat Glue

The Trials of Transglutaminase—The Misunderstood Magic of Meat-Glue

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“Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ALS—could it be that some of the cases of spinal cord degeneration are actually due to a sneaky manifestation of Lyme disease?”

Alan MacDonald, MD, Pathologist

Deer Tick : Lyme Disease[image source]

What’s lurking in the bushes and tall grasses may prove to be worse than the infamous worry of lions, tigers, and bears (I’m personally more afraid of spiders but that’s another story). One of the least likely culprits of chronic disease today may be coming from as tiny an opponent as the common deer tick.

Yes, those lovely jumping creatures that enjoy embedding their tiny bodies under your skin and lapping up your precious blood. Apparently, there is a rapidly growing movement in the study of the disease these little bugs spread: Lyme disease. Ticks are now being blamed for not only this disease, but others such as MS, Parkinson’s and ALS—watch the documentary below to find out why.

Trailer for Under Our Skin — A Lyme Disease Documentary:

This documentary began airing for free in May on PBS—see the viewing schedule for your area. It is currently available to watch on “instant” at Netflix and as well as On-Demand.

If a Tick Bites You:

  • Immediately tell your doctor you’ve been bitten by a tick
  • Start treatment right away with an antibiotic such as Doxycycline
  • Watch for Lyme disease symptoms

Symptoms of Lyme Disease:

How do you know you have Lyme disease? Frankly, you may have a hard time self-diagnosing yourself. The symptoms are quite common, but at least you’ll know that the symptoms began after a documented tick bite, so that’s a good starting point.

Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, ALS, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, or being psychosomatic—keep that in mind when telling your doctor about your symptoms.

First Symptoms are flu-like and may include some or all of the following:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle pain
  • “Bulls eye” rash – flat or slightly elevated red spot 1-3 inches wide at the site of the tick bite and may include a clear area in the center

Secondary Symptoms (later stages of the disease) include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Joint inflammation
  • Body-wide itching
  • Unusual/strange behavior

If you have these symptoms, but don’t remember being bitten by a tick, it could be that you were bitten without even knowing. The National Institute of Health says, “Deer ticks can be so small that they are almost impossible to see. Many people with Lyme disease never even saw a tick.” According to the documentary Under Our Skin, a way you could have Lyme without having been bitten could possibly come from your mother if she had Lyme disease in her system during pregnancy and transmitted the bacteria to you through the placenta (yay! more things you can’t control!).

Getting Treatment For Lyme Disease:

Should you get Lyme disease, it won’t be very easy to convince your doctor that you have it and have it properly treated. Doctors who specialize in treating Lyme are up against insurance and pharmaceutical companies…

Charles Ray Jones, MD

Charles Ray Jones, MD

[image source]

Excerpt taken from Under Our Skin:

Dr. Jones, the leading Lyme-literate pediatrician in the U.S., is considered the dean of pediatric Lyme by his colleagues. In his private practice he has treated more than 10,000 Lyme patients, 300 of whom contracted Lyme in the womb, and at least 35 who acquired the disease through breast milk. He has reported success treating the chronic form of the disease with long-term antibiotics. At age 79, Dr. Jones has been in legal proceedings for 2 years, initiated by a divorce-inspired complaint by a non-custodial father in Nevada. The Connecticut Medical Board found Dr. Jones guilty of diagnosing Lyme over the phone and prescribing antibiotics over the phone. His case is currently in appeal.

Joseph Jemsek, MD

Joseph Jemsek, MD

[image source]

Excerpt taken from Under Our Skin:

Dr. Jemsek is one the leading Lyme-literate physicians in the Southern U.S. From 2003-06 his Lyme clinic treated an average of 80 new patients per month from 46 states. A vocal critic of the Infectious Disease Society of America’s Lyme Guidelines, he has reported success treating the chronic form of Lyme disease with long-term antibiotics. For his maverick approach to treatment, Dr. Jemsek was officially sanctioned by the North Carolina Medical Board. The sanction provided a foundation on which Blue Cross/Blue Shield filed suit to recoup fees they had paid for the “unauthorized” treatment. He declared bankruptcy and moved his practice to South Carolina.

More on Lyme Disease:

Now that you never want to step foot outdoors again…happy 1st day of summer!

I am not a physician and cannot give medical advice. This information is purely that—informational and one should always speak to their doctor before making any changes to their health regime.

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“You’ll end up fat, toothless, and dying of cancer. But seriously, regular and diet sodas increase your rise of pancreatic cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, dental problems, and weight issues.”

– Lauren Slayton, Nutritionist

Negative Side Effects of Soda

[image: The Lunch Tray]

Sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, soda has been called Liquid Candy on documentary King Corn. As cases of obesity and type 2 diabetes rise, so do soft drink sales. Tens of billions of this so-called liquid candy is sold each year. Some say we should put a tax on those obesity-supporting drinks to fund health-promoting programs, and many states already do.

How All Soda Causes Weight Gain:


Whether its diet, zero calorie, or just plain ol’ fashioned sugared soda, we all know that soda isn’t the best for you, but what if you’re really craving something cold and fizzy on a hot summer day? Luckily, you don’t have to give up that bubbly, refreshing nectar altogether…

Soda Alternative:

Izze Sparkling Juices

[image: Lovely Package]

Izze — just juice and sparking water. I haven’t tried a flavor I didn’t love! This is our go-to “soda.”

BlueSky — If you’re looking to treat yourself to some store-bought sugary soda for a treat, opt for an all-natural brand like BlueSky or similar that contains no preservatives or artificial flavorings—just sugar, carbonated water and natural flavorings.

Homemade Soda:


Surprisingly, soda is really easy to make…well at least my Fast & Easy version is. For you fancy partiers, try culturing or brewing your own soda, which takes a bit more time, with the other methods listed below.

Homemade Soda

[image: Healthy Republic]

Fast & Easy Soda: Make your own Izze-inspired soda with your favorite juice—we often buy Lakewood Juices because there is no sugar added/sugar substitutes or preservatives and can be found at any grocery store. Add sparkling water (either pre-bottled or via a handy carbonating device like Sodastream) and some ice…voila! A delicious, refreshing soda made fresh.

Kefir Grains Cultured Soda: Use kefir grains to culture water kefir (soda). See the how-to at Cheeseslave and Nourishing Days.

Yeast-Brewed Soda: These brewed sodas use yeast to create the carbonation. See recipe below.

Root Beer (recipe via Mother Earth News ): This recipe uses root beer extract, so it’s the one to try if you want the traditional flavor of root beer. You’ll need a 1-gallon plastic bottle for mixing the soda.

1 gallon water
2 cups sugar (you can also use honey)
2 tablespoons root beer extract
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon champagne yeast

In a large stockpot, heat the water until warm, about 100 to 110 degrees. Using a funnel, pour the sugar and the extract into a gallon bottle. Next, pour half of the warm water into the same bottle. Then add the yeast to the bottle, attach the bottle cap and shake well. Add the remaining water, then shake again. Pour into 2-liter bottles and attach the bottle caps. Leave 1 to 2 inches of empty space at the top of each bottle. Write the date on the bottles and store them in a warm, draft-free place, ideally at room temperature (68 to 77 degrees) for 2 to 3 days. Then refrigerate the bottles. Makes 1 gallon.

Happy Soda-Making!

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Homemade hygiene. After researching natural allergy remedies, I thought it only fitting to list some all-natural *recipes for homemade whitening toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo & conditioner, and lip balm—they also happen to be really cheap to make!

Homemade Toothpaste (Whitening):


Tutorials: Passionate Homemaking, Frugal Granola, Naturally Knocked Up

Revised recipe ingredients from Gorgeously Green:

  • 2 tsp baking soda (aka biocarbonate of soda)
  • 2 tsp hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 tsp vegetable glycerin (adds sweetness and acts as a binder, but has small amounts toxicity) – optional
  • 6 drops essential oil (peppermint, vanilla, etc) – optional
  • pinch of steviaoptional
  • pinch of salt (extra scrubbing power) – optional


Homemade Deodorant:


Tutorials: Simple Mom, The Morris Tribe, Naturally Knocked Up, How About Orange, Passionate Homemaking here and here


  • 5-6 Tbsp coconut oil or shea butter
  • 1/8 cup baking soda (aluminum-free)
  • 1/8 cup arrowroot powder (cornstarch has talc in it, but if it isn’t irritating to you, cornstarch can be substituted)
  • 5-10 drops tea tree oil or essential oil of your choice

Homemade Shampoo & Conditioner (No “Poo” Method):


Your typical shampoo contains many toxic chemicals—including: Sodium Lauryl Sulfates, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Mureth Sulfate, derivatives of Lauryl Alcohol and Siloxanes—that can cause nervous system damage and aren’t so tasty for the planet either. For this reason or simply for frugality’s sake, people have gone “Poo-Free” (read more about why), but I’ve never had the gumption to try it simply because I didn’t want to go through the transition process where your scalp adjusts to not having all of its oil removed on a regular basis—that oily feeling would be just too much to handle unless I was camping…and even then I’d probably have a hard time. I personally use Trader Joe’s Organic Tea Tree Shampoo & Conditioner, but if you do want to try saving a little cash and making an organic, all-natural shampoo or conditioner the recipe is pretty simple. I might try it this summer…anyone game for a challenge?

Tutorials: FIMBY, Simple Mom here and here, Raw Synergy TV, Sorta Crunchy, Instructables

Shampoo: baking soda cleanses the hair and removes buildup

Conditioner: apple cider vinegar balances the hair’s pH level, adds shine, and removes buildup—some people use lemon juice because it does similar job but has a fresher scent. Coconut oil/olive oil can be used once a week as a deep conditioner.

Ingredients (Shampoo & Conditioner):

  • 1-2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s is best) or lemon juice
  • water to dilute
  • essential oils – optional
  • dried crushed rosemary (for dandruff/dry scalp) – optional
  • extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil (put on tips of hair once per week and wash out for deep conditioning) – optional

Homemade Lip Balm:

Homemade Lip Balm

[image: Bath Alchemy]

Tutorials: FIMBY, DIY Bath Body and Home, Design Sponge, Herb-infused lip balm

Recipe #1 taken from Passionate Homemaking:


  • 2 Tbsp beeswax (about 1 oz) – some people complain that beeswax dries out there lips, so lanolin (an oil secreted by wool-bearing animals to protect their coats from water) is a great substitute
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons shea butter
  • 12 lip balm containers
  • honey (optional)
  • vitamin E


  1. Melt beeswax in a small pan or crockpot over low heat. Add coconut oil and shea butter until all ingredients a melted. Add a few drops essential oil if desired. I did not use any essential oil and it is smells wonderfully like honey!
  2. Using a small medicinal dropper, pour the melted liquid into your lip balm containers. Add a few extra drops to the top after filling each container as the ingredients will shrink as they cool.
  3. Cool completely to harden. Cover with cap and decorate or label as desired.

Recipe #2: watch the video here

Lip Balm Base Ingredients: Makes 18 tins of lip balm

  • 1/3 lbs or 151 grams or 5.3 ounces Beeswax
  • 302 grams or 10.6 ounces Shea Butter (twice as much as the beeswax)
  • 1/3 Cup Jojoba Oil
  • 2 tsp Almond Oil
  • 1 tsp Avocado Oil
  • 7.5 ml Vitamin E

Now add flavorings…

Mandarin Honey Lemon Balm: if you use the whole base quantity, you must double these measurements
1 tsp Honey
40 drops Mandarin EO
30 drops Lemon EO

Double Rosemary Lime Lip Balm: if you use the whole base quantity, you must double these measurements
60 Drops Lime EO
35 Drops Rose Absolute
30 Drops Rosemary EO

I realize I could’ve made this resource list of tutorials into 4 separate posts, but I like to have things all in one place if possible, so excuse the length, but hope its helpful and happy experimenting!


A few of you have asked if I have tried these recipes out personally. The answer is no. I haven’t tried these specific recipes myself, but I have tried my own variations in my own experimenting but never followed a recipe. These recipes were just the most popular for each hygiene product that I could find, so let me know if they work for you! I’m going to be trying out the deodorant recipe soon and I’ll let you know how I like it. Currently, I am perfectly happy with the hygiene products that I use: Eco-Dent for toothpaste, coconut oil for lip balm/deodorant/lotion, and Trader Joe’s shampoo/conditioner, but I like to put these posts up for my benefit as well as yours as I’m learning more about a topic. Once I’ve created a post with all of the links/resources I want for that subject, I can go back to it if I need to without having to sort through all of my saved bookmarks! So for any of you that want to try something new that’s cheap and healthy, give one a try and let me know how it works for you—luckily none of these experiments will break the bank!

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Upon waking each morning, the first thing I reach for is a tall glass of clean, delectable water. That luxury has become more apparent as of late. Within the past month, the husband and I purchased some poor-quality “reverse osmosis” water from 2 different water suppliers. The brands: Culligan and Cuzn. We’re not sure if we should be blaming the stores or the suppliers for not changing the water filters but the end result is the same—we returned home with our precious cargo only to find that it tasted like chlorine. Essentially we paid for 10 gallons of tap water at $0.39+ per gallon. Our resolve? Never worry about lugging our 5 gallon jugs of water to and from the grocery store. We’ve decided to buy a reverse osmosis home water filter system.

The Need For Pure Water

After this ordeal, along with having seen a few water documentaries, it has finally become a priority in our family to be as self-reliant as possible in the most economical way when it comes to our water. We plan on having water storage, a water filtering system, and utilizing rain harvesting containers for continuous water collecting.

What’s in Your Water?

EWG’s “What’s In Your Water?” Below you will find my local drinking water’s stats:

Local Drinking Water ContaminantsWater Contaminants Exceeding Health GuidelinesDetected Water ContaminantsWater Pollution Summary[image: EWG]

Needless to say, since humans are like the earth: 70% water, 30% solid, it seems important that we fuel our bodies with more than rocket-fuel, so I’m on the hunt for a good home reverse osmosis water filter system. I realize that some health gurus tout the qualities of the added step of Alkalizing the water by putting the purified water through an ionizing step and then using a Remineralizer to add minerals back to the water that have been lost in the filtering process; however, due to the extra expense this would create, I am currently simply on the market to have a dependable, clean, pollutant-free water source—those other additions are something I’ll need to research further before I plunk down hundreds of dollars more.

What type of water filter should you get?

See the Environment Working Group’s “Water Filter Guide” as well as National Geographic’s The Green Guide.

Why Buy A Home Water Filtering System

[image: Healthy Republic]

Prices run anywhere from $150 (under the sink model) to the thousands (entire home water filtering system). I’m looking at the 5-stage ones from Watt’s in the $200 range only because they have the highest ratings on Amazon. Any recommendations?

Interesting Water Links:

Any suggestions for tried and true reverse osmosis home systems out there?

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Natural Allergy Remedies

by Almira on May 19, 2011 · 1 comment

All-Natural Allergy Remedies

[image: Healthy Republic]

Seasonal allergies were never an issue for me until I moved to Atlanta. Although spring in the south is gorgeous with fragrant flora showing off new buds and greenery, it also happens to be the time when pollen is at its highest. During the month of April, Pine trees coat everything in a fine yellow-green film—most people don’t even bother washing their cars, knowing that it will only be re-coated with pollen hours later. I was quite unprepared for the seasonal allergies I would experience when I awoke one lovely spring morn with swollen, red, puffy eyes and sinuses. Delightful.

As wonderful as allergy symptoms are (sniffles, migraines, sneezing, itching, and fatigue), I wanted to feel like a human again, but I didn’t want to have to resort to over the counter antihistamine drugs due to their negative side-effects including: dry nasal cavities (which further exacerbates the problem), drowsiness and other undesirable conditions. So, through some online research, I learned why our bodies react so violently to allergens and found some natural, side-effect-free sources to remedy my poor itchy eyes and nose.

Why Do We have Allergies?


According to the National Institute of Health:

An allergy is an exaggerated immune response or reaction to substances that are generally not harmful…In a person with allergies, the immune response is oversensitive. When it recognizes an allergen, it releases chemicals such as histamines which fight off the allergen. This causes itching, swelling, mucus production, muscle spasms, hives, rashes, and other symptoms, which vary from person to person…Allergies may make certain medical conditions such as sinus problems, eczema, and asthma worse.

Natural Allergy Remedies

[image: Healthy Republic]

Preventative, Natural Remedies For Allergies:


In the bioflavonoid family and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is able to fight allergies by limiting the release of histamines in the body by stabilizing mast cells. It is found naturally in fruits and vegetables—particularly in the skin of red apples and the outer layers of onion. Eat them raw for highest potency.

  • Quercetin works best if you begin taking it as a supplement (this is the kind I buy) two to three weeks before allergy season to build up nutrient levels in the body and increase its tolerance to histamines and allergens. Take quercetin with Vitamin C and bromelain for best results. Continue to include raw sources of quercetin in your diet as well.

Vitamin C:

Also known as ascorbic acid, is a natural antihistamine that both prevents the release of histamines and increases the detoxification of histamines. It also strengthens our other antioxidants such as vitamins A and E.

  • As a general rule of thumb, adults may take 1000 mg of vitamin C each day, throughout the year to fight allergies or 3000 mg for a limited time to combat serious allergies, colds and flu.

In the chart below, notice that oranges and lemons are not the highest sources of Vit. C, which are always top of mind when we think about that nutrient, they just happened to be the most shelf-stable for long sea voyages and have since become an icon for the Vit C market.

Vitamin C Sources

[image: Wikipedia]


An enzyme found in pineapples that helps the body to absorb nutrients optimally.

  • Take with Quercetin and Vitamin C to increase their absorption.

Neti Pot:

Used for hundreds of year to prevent allergies and relieve allergy suffering, neti pots can most easily be described as a nose bidet in which you flush the allergens out of your nose with water. See video below for instructions:

  • Flush once or twice per day.

Stinging Nettle:

If you need a quick antihistamine burst, try taking stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), which acts similarly to a prescription antihistamine without the negative side effects.*

  • The best way to take stinging nettle is in the form of a strong tea brewed for at least 10 minutes, but you could also take a freeze-dried extract of the leaves instead as a convenient supplement. The recommended dosage would be about 300 mg freeze dried leaves 2 or 3 times daily during allergy season.

* The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider. Stinging nettle is generally considered safe when used as directed. Occasional side effects include mild stomach upset, fluid retention, and hives or rash (mainly from topical use). It is important to be careful when handling the nettle plant because touching it can cause an allergic rash. Stinging nettle should never be applied to an open wound. Because nettle can alter the menstrual cycle and may contribute to miscarriage, pregnant women should not use nettle.

Local, Raw Honey:

You know the story…bees carry pollen from different local flowers, bring it back to their hive and make it into honey. When you ingest honey from your local area, it exposes you in little increments to the plants your allergic to and helps your body to build up immunity to those allergens—similar to getting an allergy shot or doing sublingual immunotherapy.

The only problem with this remedy is: what if you’re allergic to ragweed and your honey bees are collecting pollen from local blooming flowers instead? Seems like you’re out of luck. There’s no way of knowing how much pollen from each type of plant will be in your local honey for that particular season. While this is a nice addition to your allergy-fighting regime, its certainly shouldn’t be the only preventative action you take for allergy relief.

  • Take 2-3 spoonfuls of local, raw honey each day for several months prior to pollen season.

Other Drug-Free Remedies:


I need to do an entire post on the benefits of acupressure. Its fast, easy and you don’t have to go pay a massage therapist for relief. Simply apply pressure—on your own or with a friend—to the pressure point for about 3 minutes and you have relief! See a quick how-to here or study the subject a bit more in depth with Acupressure’s Potent Points: A Guide to Self-Care for Common Ailments (I absolutely LOVE this book—easy to use and understand) or here.


Isn’t easily found in the U.S. but is a common weed in Europe. It got its name from the days before refrigeration when its leaves were used to to wrap and keep butter during the hot months. Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is another alternative to using antihistamine drugs. It has been shown to be as effective as the drug cetirizine, which is the active ingredient in Zyrtec; however Butterbur does not cause drowsiness like cetirizine does. Butterbur is in the same family as Ragweed so it could possibly worsen allergies in some cases.

  • Take 32 mg per day, divided into 4 doses.

Sublingual Immunotherapy:

Different from specific immunotherapy (allergy shots). Rather than giving patients shots over a period of 3-5 years, sublingual immunotherapy is a gentler, shot-free, daily therapy that begins right before peak pollen season and is performed by putting drops of a small dose of allergen under the patient’s tongue for 2 minutes before it is swallowed.

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Use that A/C — don’t use window fans to cool your house as they bring in more allergens from outside.
  • Keep car windows closed when driving to reduce allergens in your car.
  • Clean your home using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or switch to hardwoods flooring if you can afford it.
  • Limit your time spent outdoors when pollen counts are at their highest. Check your Local & National Allergy Forecast to see when those times are. Ragweed tends to highest from mid-August until the first frost.

Have any of these natural allergy remedies helped you?

I am not a physician and cannot give medical advice. This information is purely that—informational and one should always speak to their doctor before making any changes to their health regime.

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Wearable Planter

A Wearable Planter that houses little succulents!

Image via Etsy

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Biodegradable Shoes

by Almira on March 15, 2011 · 0 comments

“The future of fashion lies in a reconciliation between nature and industry. OAT Shoes strives to lead the way to that future.” —OAT Shoes

OAT Biodegradable Shoes

OAT Shoes. I’m almost certain that these would make a terrible meal…even if doused in brown sugar and milk, but biodegradable shoes are a stellar idea.

OAT Biodegradable Shoes

Made with naturally antibiotic hemp, these well-designed, biodegradable kicks are completely compostable—so go ahead and let your dog bury them in the backyard once you’ve gotten your fair share of wear out of them.

Images via OAT Shoes

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“More than 2 million people die every year from waterborne illnesses. Most of them are children under 5 years of age.”Flow: For Love of Water, 2008

Gasland Natural Gas Fracking

After learning of the negative effects of fluoride, I followed up on my curiosities about water with the following delicious documentaries (see trailers below) and finished it off with a cherry-on-top water series called Toxic Waters by the New York Times on how the Clean Water Act isn’t quite so clean.

Gasland: The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. After drilling, residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. The husband and I currently live near quite a few of these natural gas drilling sites and its rather alarming to think all of this could be on its way to our local waterways…something to look forward to.

PBS FRONTLINE: Poisoned Waters: Frontline examines the rising hazards to human health and eco-system via our polluted and deteriorating waterways.

Flow: This documentary may sway you to switch to a Sigg bottle. More on The Story of Bottled Water.

A Few Fun Tidbits From the Movie Flow:

  • Water Systems around the world that essentially own all of the world’s water: Thames Water, Suez, Vivendi
  • Water is a $400 billion industry.
  • Rocket fuel is in our public water supply.
  • Crops in India are inefficient because of chemicals—up to 10% more water is necessary because of this.
  • Bottled water is not regulated
  • FDA doesn’t know what’s in it
  • $100 billion being spent on bottled water per year
  • Top brands of water are not necessarily better for you than tap water and is far less regulated
  • $1.8 million per day is made by Nestle by bottling spring water in Michigan

Blue Gold: World Water Wars: An interesting to peek into the often nasty politics of world water resources and needs.

The Takeaway:

Not to dissuade you from seeing any of these documentaries—its important to be informed—but as intriguing as these are, some left me down right depressed. These worldwide water problems seem so overwhelming that it appears futile to even attempt to convince legislature and deep pockets that being a good steward of our natural resources is a practical idea in the long run.

Instead of trying to fix everything at once, I resolved to simply start with my family’s consumerism. I can put my dollars where they will make the most impact. See my next post in the micro series on water to find out the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

Image via Gasland

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“The Incredible, Edible Fluoride” might have fooled a few people 50 years ago, but today we’re not so mystified. As it turns out, its not all that incredible or edible.

In 1950, the U.S. Public Health Service endorsed fluoridation of our municipal water systems.

Fluoride is a toxic waste-product complimentary of the phosphate fertilizer industry. The fertilizer industry had this fabulous idea to cheaply rid themselves of their production waste by selling it to the government with the idea that hydrofluorosilic acid helps prevent tooth decay if used as a water additive. Hydrofluorosilic acid is an industrial-grade, un-purified and corrosive form of fluoride, and yet, despite the increasing evidence of its negative effects on human health, the American Dental Association and the Center for Disease Control continue to promote and mandate water fluoridation.

The effects are rather ugly.

  • Inhibits proper functioning of the thyroid gland
  • Weakens the bones
  • Kills beneficial enzymes of the digestion system
  • Attacks hypothalamus gland in brain
  • Creates irreversible dental fluoridation in children

Yay. Where do I sign up?

I suppose the overarching question is: why would a toxin so scrumptious be allowed in our daily drinking and bathing water, but more importantly, how to we change that?

What to do?

How can you limit your intake of fluoride?


  • Reverse Osmosis and Activated Alumina filters are two types of filters will remove more than 90% of fluoride in your water.
  • Distilled Water can be purchased or you can have a (rather expensive) distiller installed in your home.
  • Spring Water Dispenser is an easy option to rent/buy. 5 gallon jugs of fresh spring water are delivered to your home on a regular basis.

We’ve taken the quick and cheap path by simply refilling our 5 gallon jugs with reverse osmosis drinking water at our local grocery store every couple of weeks. In order to truly filter all of your home’s water, you’d need to purchase/install a home water filter system—which can be quite spendy. I’m not at that stage yet. I need to do more research. Baby steps…


We use Eco Dent Toothpowder (for reasons other than the fact that its fluoride-free—more on that later), but there are tons of brands out there that do Fluoride-Free toothpaste these days including: Jason and Tom’s of Maine.


Sign petitions with the Fluoride Action Network, join conversations in forums, write a letter to your congressman, etc.

Learn More:

An interesting interview on the great fluoride debate with award-wining journalist and author of The Fluoride Deception, Christopher Bryson, can be viewed in 3 parts (approx. 29 min long): Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.

The Case Against Fluoride




{image: Amazon}

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Cradle To Cradle

by Almira on February 11, 2011 · 1 comment

Architect and designer, William McDonough shares his views on the importance of green design, specifically from his book, Cradle To Cradle, for a TED Conference:

“Design is the first signal of human intentions. So what are our intentions?

How do we love all the children of all species for all time? …we start our designs with that question.”

Watch the clip below.

[Approx. 22 min—Be sure to watch it to the end so that you don't miss his designs for the new green Chinese city. So cool!]

Cradle To Cradle

Learn more by reading Cradle To Cradle.

Happy Weekend!

Image via McDonough

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A Fashion Fast

by Almira on February 9, 2011 · 1 comment

In making a statement against “the ways identity is constructed through clothing” as well as fast fashion, Kristy Powell, therapist and Pilates instructor from New Haven, CT, began a year-long commitment to a One Dress Protest. Yep, she will be wearing the same dress everyday for an entire year.

One Dress Project | Fashion Fast

In choosing a dress, Powell’s 365 attire had to comply with her self-proclaimed requirements:

  1. Made from sustainable materials
  2. Produced by a person she could call by name within 150 miles of  her home
  3. Be versatile for any situation (casual, work, etc)

A dress by The Uniform Project fit the bill and she began the arduous journey of wearing the same dress everyday for one year. Read her full story here. She’s only on day 35—track her progress and send some love and support her way!Six Items Or Less | Fashion Fast

[Click the image above to watch NBC's feature of Six Items Or Less and read about it here]

Try A Shopping Diet:

Feeling like you’re ready to take the plunge and try a little frugality experiment? Check out the following fashion fasts:

  • Project 333: whittle your wardrobes to 33 items and wear only those pieces for 3 months.
  • Six Items or Less: choose just six items of clothing and pledge to wear only these six items for 1 month.

Historic Fashion Fast-ers:

The Uniform Project | A Fashion Fast2009-2010: Sheena Matheiken wore a little black dress for 365 days | The Uniform Project

2005-2006: Alex Martin wore the same brown dress everyday for a year | Little Brown Dress

1991-2002: Andrea Zittel made a dress and wore it everyday for 6 months | A-Z Uniforms project

I must admit that if I lived near some awesome vintage clothing shops like Wasteland (I’ve landed some fabulous, well-made designer finds there), I’d probably be in the position to need a fashion diet. As it is, my fashion fast tends to be out of necessity rather than will power.

To me, fashion a great way for individuals to tell a story about themselves, but getting creative and reducing consumerism of fast fashion is a worthy goal. What’s rather funny—and perhaps even sad—is that I pretty much already wear the same 10 clothing pieces mixed and matched every month anyway…without even committing myself to a shopping diet. I typically wear solids (mostly blacks and greys) and I adorn with a punch of color in the form of a sweater or scarf. I’m not a big accessories person unless its delicate. And I actually wear things until they are worn out…yes, like holes-in-the-elbow kind of worn out. Pathetic, I know, but I hate buying anything that isn’t really well made and that I’m not absolutely in love with. Anyone out there the same way?

Images via: One Dress Project | Six Items Or Less | The Uniform Project

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Brilliant Diamonds | Conflict-Free Diamond Jewelry

No blood diamonds here, just conflict-free diamond jewelry made with recycled gold and platinum. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner—its a fabulous excuse to give or get some lovely new jewelry (ahem, husband…*hint, hint*).

Lyssa Ring | Marigold Ring | Daphne Ring | Cardamom Ring | Plumeria Ring

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H&M Conscious Collection

by Almira on February 7, 2011 · 0 comments

Using organic linen, Tencel, organic cotton, and recycled polyester, H&M is revamping its known business model for turning out cheap, disposable clothing to incorporate a zero-waste, conscious approach to garment production in the form of a sustainable clothing line.

H&M Sustainable Style


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The Alkaline Diet

by Almira on February 5, 2011 · 1 comment

During these cold, comfort-food ridden months I’ve been craving something fresh. The Alkaline Sisters has solved my problem. These two sisters decided to change their eating habits to include more raw foods and focus on foods that decrease inflammation in the body and increase energy and overall health. With beautiful food photography, scrumptious recipes, and great resources for alkalizing and revamping your eating habits (and waistline), I believe I’ve found a new favorite food blog!

The Alkaline Sisters

Dr. Robert Young, Ph.D is the founder of the Alkalarian Diet. According to his theory:

…when the blood becomes too acidic, the body will take whatever action necessary to regulate the acid-alkaline balance of the blood. According to Young, in this environment the body will begin to break down and show signs of disease including cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, yeast overgrowth, flu, skin disorders, etc. Young researches and writes about pleomorphism occurring on a cellular level. Young’s fundamental theory is that the human body is alkaline by design and acidic by function and that there is only one sickness, one disease, and one treatment. Young claims that this one sickness and one disease is acidosis, the over-acidification of the blood and then tissues due to an inverted way of living, eating, and thinking. The “one treatment” is to maintain the alkaline design of the body through an alkaline lifestyle and diet.

Young’s books recommend an alkaline protocol consisting of a low-stress lifestyle and a high-water content, high chlorophyll, plant-based diet. The protocol recommends moderate intake of high-carbohydrate vegetables, some grains, and fresh fish. Young recommends abstaining from “acidic” foods — such as sugar, red meat, shellfish, eggs, dairy, processed and refined foods, stored grains, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, and sodas — because overloading the body’s ability to eliminate excess acidity will result in the body becoming sick and decomposing. Young claims that disorders such as weight gain, water retention, cholesterol, calcium stones, and tumors are all life-saving mechanisms for storing and dealing with excess acidity in the body. Young’s writings commonly explain these theories using a “fish tank” metaphor that compares the environment of the human body to the environment of a fish tank. (source Wikipedia)

Food Ph Scale

pH Scale: a system of describing acidity or alkalinity, ranging from pH 0 to pH 14, with pH 7 being neutral. Values lower than 7 indicate acidity; those higher than 7 indicate alkalinity. Each number on the pH scale represents a tenfold change in acidity or alkalinity. Thus pH 5 is 10 times more acid than pH 6, and pH 4 is 100 times more acid than pH 6; pH 11 is 1,000 times more alkaline than pH 8. In general, plants grow best in the pH range of 4 (very acid) to 8 (slightly alkaline). (Source: Wikipedia)

Alkalosis: a condition reducing hydrogen ion concentration of arterial blood plasma (alkalemia). Generally alkalosis is said to occur when arterial pH exceeds 7.45. The opposite condition is acidosis.  (Source: Wikipedia)

To learn more about alkalizing your body: go here, read Dr. Young’s book The pH Miracle (I read it as a teenager and remember it being an interesting read, but I think I’ll re-read it), and check out the Alkaline Food Chart to see what foods are more alkalizing to the body and which aren’t.

Happy weekend!

The Alkaline Sisters | Balance Ph Diet

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The Monsanto Wars

by Almira on February 4, 2011 · 0 comments

A Little Shout-Out For Farmers

Monsanto and the Frankenstein of Food: GMOs

Local Farmers create an anti-Monsanto symbol on their crops

Upon watching Food, Inc. and David Versus Monsanto (see full version here), I was introduced to the farming world in the U.S and got a sneak peak of some of the struggles farmers face daily. The likes of Monsanto and their industry of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are wreaking some terrible havoc, “If you are contaminated, against your wishes, by Monsanto’s GMOs, you no longer own your seeds or plants. They become the ownership of a corporation, in this case, Monsanto,” says Percy Schmeiser, a canola farmer from Saskatchewan, Canada. He claims his fields were contaminated with the Roundup Ready Canola genes, ruining 50 years of work on his 1400 acre farm in breeding saved seeds. The lawsuit lasted 3 years, and ended in favor of Percy and his wife, Louise. See Monsanto’s defense here.

More recently, an Australian certified organic farmer lost his farm certification due to a GM contamination from Monsanto Canola, but things seem to be just as tricky in Australia as they are here in the U.S against this “Goliath” of a company as its tentacles also seem to just as tightly wrapped around their government policy makers.

A little more about how GMOs work:

Want To Take Action? Fighting against big corporations sounds daunting, but Organic Consumers and Millions Against Monsanto are a good start. The best way you can defeat the likes of Monsanto is by supporting sustainable agriculture everyday: buy organic foods and or organically grow your own food with non-GMO seeds. If there was more of a demand for certified organic foods farmers would support it and make the switch. One farmer from Food, Inc. says, “People have got to start demanding good, wholesome food of us, and we’ll deliver, I promise you.”

Photo by here.

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Chicken Tractors

by Almira on February 3, 2011 · 0 comments

Have chickens do your yard work.

Chicken Tractor

Though your fowl darlings won’t actually be pulling a plow down each row as the name chicken tractor might suggest (I can’t imagine them keeping to a straight line anyway), they will do something even better. Here’s how a chicken tractor works:

Pull the chicken tractor along your garden rows or yard to a new spot every so often for excellent fertilizer, while giving your chickens premium worms and bugs to munch on, and allowing them to eat weed seeds in the soil for you. No clean-up required, just refill their water and food, shut their “bedroom” door at night, and collect the eggs! Watch the video below for more details:

Chicken Tractor

Learn more about chicken tractors, their benefits and how to get your hands on one by reading Chicken Tractor: The Permaculture Guide To Happy Hens and Healthy Soil as well as checking out the Q&A section of The City Chicken.

Chicken Tractor

You can purchase premade portable chicken coops at online coop crafters like Handcrafted Coops or build one yourself!

I should also mention that these sorts of animal tractors are not solely for chickens. Though the design is a bit different for each specie, you can build tractors for pigs, ducks, goats, etc.

Photos from here.

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No Money Man

by Almira on February 2, 2011 · 0 comments

A Year Without Spending Money…

No Money Man | Mark Boyle

For those of you who haven’t yet heard of Mark Boyle, aka No Money Man, feast upon the crazy experiment of a British man who refused to spend any money for an entire year. His daily regime includes dumpster diving, solar showers, and teeth brushing with bone meal and fennel seeds. Delightful. Watch his adventure below.

Read more about No Money Man on Mother Nature Network.

Photo from here.

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Men's All-Natural Skin Care Products

After years of trial and error in search of the perfect all-natural skin care products, my husband has finally narrowed his skin care regime down to just three products—each work their wonders naturally with no harsh chemicals, phthalates, parabens, or sulfates:

Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Ointment

Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Ointment — my husband uses this as an aftershave lotion to prevent and sooth ingrown hairs and irritations—he used to get them fairly bad prior to finding this product. Excellent for chapped, dry skin. (Found at your local health food store and online)

Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Magic Soap

Dr. Bronner’s – though there are other “flavors”, peppermint is our favorite. It leaves your body fresh and tingly—its especially refreshing on a hot summer day! Their travel sized bottles are fabulous for flying and on-the-go. Literally, it’s the soap for your entire body. (Buy at your local health food store, select grocery stores and online)

Every Man Jack | Shaving Cream

Every Man Jack — the husband had been looking for ages for a better shaving cream that didn’t irritate his skin…then he found this. Fragrance free and perfect for sensitive skin. (Purchase at Target, your local drugstore or online)

Any all-natural gentleman’s skin care products that you simply can’t live without? I must admit, all of these products that my husband uses work double-duty since there are no gender-specific fragrances, they work fabulous for me as well!

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[Image source: NYPL, Desert Essence, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, Every Man Jack]

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Designer Audrey Louise Reynolds uses fresh veggies and fruits to dye her wearables. Yum—No harsh chemicals here! All of her ingredients for the all-natural dye ends up costing about the same amount that you would pay (about $5) for your typical Rit dye. See how she does it in this Daily Candy Video:

Video not showing up? Watch it here.


  • 1 blouse (dye should last for about 3-4 blouses)
  • 1 pkg Pantyhose
  • 1 pint Strawberries (cut tops off)
  • Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Water

I can’t wait to try this! Beets would probably work just as well with a bit of a darker more purple hue. I’m wondering how you would do black naturally?

Audrey Louise Reynolds dyes for ecofriendly clothing line Bodkin as well as Wendy Nichol.

[image source]

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Forks Over Knives Documentary

by Almira on December 15, 2010 · 0 comments

This should be interesting…

[Movie not showing up? Watch here]

Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the
degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present
menu of animal-based and processed foods.

In theaters March 11, 2011

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All-Natural Skin Care Secrets

by Almira on December 6, 2010 · 4 comments

Beauty Secrets

When it comes to what I put on my face, I’m fussy. It can’t be too waxy or too buttery and it has to be all-natural—no phthalates, parabens, sulfates, etc—see why in my upcoming review on Slow Death By Rubber Duck. Through trial and error, I’ve found 3 products that give my skin the best results (I have “normal to dry”). The best part about this magic 3? They’re multi-purpose, tend to be far cheaper than the all-natural, organic products you can buy at the store and last much longer—PLUS there are no added ingredients and preservatives! Without further adieu, here are the 3 miracle workers…

Best Blemish Control

Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar — used for a plethora of home remedies, but when I have a blemish, it is my go-to quick pimple weapon. Here comes the fun part: the blemish is delicately lanced and immediately I pour a little bit of apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball and hold it on the open blemish and let it work its magic. This does burn—sometimes a lot—but the results are amazing. Literally, the next morning that ugly pimple will be dried up and out of my life! If you have severe acne, there is obviously something internal going amok, but it is supposed to be beneficial for that as well—you can drink this stuff, but I warn you its not easy going down unless you dilute it with water and add a little honey. Purchase at any health food store and sometimes you’re typical health-forward grocery will carry it as well, and of course you can buy it at ($3.29 for 16 oz).

Can be used for cleaning, cooking, externally for blemishes and internally for health. I keep it refrigerated.

Best Face Wash

Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash — Original | Best Face Wash

Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face WashTrader Joe’s carries this product if you’re lucky enough to live near one, but you can also buy it online ($14 for 32 oz) or in your local health food store—they’ve recently changed their packaging so don’t be discouraged when you see the old packaging on Amazon, it’s still the same product.

If I’m traveling, I just use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, which works just as fabulously. During the winter, you might switch to this Desert Essence formula because its less drying, but for now, I’ve just been adding a little more moisturizer.

Best Face Moisturizer

Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil | Best FaceMoisturizer

Nutiva Coconut Oil — It is certified organic, extra-virgin coconut oil. It will feel a bit greasy at first compared to your typical face lotion, so allow your skin to absorb it a bit before applying makeup. You can purchase it on ($11 for 15 oz).

Got eczema or dry skin? Coconut oil works great for many skin ailments. I’ve even used it on scrapes and let the anti-bacterial properties work their magic!

Don’t forget to throw a bit of that skin-plumping goodness in the baking bowl as well. Coconut oil is one of the BEST oils to cook with or to just spread on toast. With a long shelf life and a melting point of 76 degrees, coconut oil makes a great oil for baking and cooking (even at high-temperatures) because it is slow to turn rancid—and delicious. I’ll write more later on the wondrous benefits of coconut oil as well as some decadent recipes!

Next in Beauty…

Stay tuned, in my next all-natural beauty post I’ll introduce you to my husband’s skin and shaving secrets and how to combat and prevent ingrown-hair blemishes on a gentleman’s face after shaving!

Do you use any of these products in your daily skin-care regime? What all-natural products are you currently using? Any that you absolutely hated?


Photo source: All-Natural Beauty Secrets, Bragg, Desert Essence, Nutiva

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Laundry Tree - Soap Nuts

One of the more shockingly cool things I’ve come across recently is Soap Nuts by Laundry Tree. They are an alternative to laundry detergents and are actually organically grown dried fruit that are biodegradable, antimicrobial and work in HE washers! You just pop a few of these Soap Nuts inside the little white pouch shown above and throw it into your wash cycle and voila! Clean clothes.

How do they do it? This powerful dried berry of the Soapnut Tree contains a high content of saponins which create a soap-like lather in water. Watch them work their magic below…

[Video not showing up? Watch it here]

I need to finish up my supply of Seventh Generation laundry detergent—which we love—before I buy Soap Nuts, but I’m totally going to try these out!

Have you tried Soap Nuts?

Photo here

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“Some of us cook. Some of us grow. Some of us eat.”

Gourmet TV's Diary Of A Foodie - Farm to Fork

Gourmet TV’s Diary of a Foodie is an absolute favorite and lives on despite Gourmet Magazine’s death (RIP). My absolute favorite episode is Farm To Fork (episode 45). I could watch it over and over! It would be such a dream to be able to cultivate all of your edible needs on your own land: roaming livestock along with vegetables and fruits picked at their prime from the permaculture garden…*sigh*

Watch Here: Gourmet’s Diary Of A Foodie – Farm To Fork

One of the things I already do in my baking is omit yeast and allow the natural bacteria in the air to do the work. I was happy to hear that Yannig Tanguy, owner of Crown Point Bread and Baking Co in Crown Point, New York does the same. He uses no commercial yeast to bake his breads. Within 1lb of flour, there are 15,000+ beneficial yeasts and bacteria which work their magic on the dough and only spring water is used because any chlorine kills the live cultures and makes the rising process take much longer.

If you’re looking for an inspirational 30 minute break in the day, this is it.

More to come on Slow Food and recipes—and to those of you who have requested I do some posts on all-natural skin care and what I eat, I haven’t forgotten!

Photo here

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Make Your Own Oil

by Almira on October 22, 2010 · 0 comments

The old adage, “If you want it done right, do it yourself” certainly applies to eating. I’d rather eat meals that I cook at home since I know where the food comes from and it is far more fresh and flavorful than food at any decent-priced restaurant—not to mention, the savings really add up. I rarely eat out, but from the times that I have, I can easily count how many ended up in a doggie bag. One of those occasions happened to be yesterday. The waitress handed me a plastic box with my leftovers inside and I thought back to a time when I’d seen a woman in a restaurant actually bring her own glass storage container and box up her own food. No waste! My husband and I looked at each other in unbelief. That was awesome, but how many of us want to carry around a glass re-usable storage container in case we have leftovers? I certainly wouldn’t remember to bring it—I can hardly remember to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store!

This got me thinking. I began contemplating all of the waste that my simple two-person family must be contributing. We can compost organic materials that are biodegradable, but what about our plastics? It seems like everything comes in plastic! Luckily, a Japanese inventor, Akinori Ito, has come up with an ingenious, but spendy, idea for reducing plastic pollution without CO2 or toxic emissions!

The Blest Machine is an at-home solution to plastic waste. Now, instead of throwing your plastic rubbish in a landfill, you can place it in your Blest Machine and have it electronically heated and converted into usable oil for your car, motorbike, or generator/broiler/stove. Cool!

$9,500 buys you their tabletop model, which can make one liter of oil out of one kilo of plastic—hmm…not sure that’s really in the budget right now, but maybe it’ll be better on Black Friday? At any rate, cool invention in the right direction.

Read more about the Blest Machine.

I guess I’d better start saving my pennies…

Photo here and here

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“Know your limits, but never accept them.” —Unknown


Ultra marathons are 26.2188 mi or longer and many endurance runners go even farther. They run like crazy, and perhaps they literally are. I’m not an endurance runner, but I aspire to be one when I grow up. In the meantime, I like keeping abreast of all their accomplishments and allow myself to be simply inspired to run harder, faster, longer. If they can do it, I can at least run around the block right? Below I’ve listed some links to my favorite inspirations to get out and run! Beyond running, they make me feel like I can do just about anything.

See Jessica’s Daily Affirmation (okay, not running related, but a nice boost to the self-confidence for the day!):

[Movie not showing up? Watch here]


This is such a great segment on what an ultra marathoner goes through while racing. Its so interesting to hear the battles that they face mentally, not to mention the obvious physical strain—some overcome, some don’t, but intriguing just the same.

[Audio only: Go here for a nice listen.]


Run The Sahara (50 miles per day in 100 days). A documentary narrated by Matt Damon that follows three men as they attempt to run across the entire length of the Sahara Desert.

[Movie not showing up? Watch here]


This documentary features a Swiss couple, Serge and his wife, Nicole, who teamed up with a Swiss children’s charity and sold everything they had to fund their adventurous journey to “help the children.” Serge ran through 33 countries and 25,400 miles in five years, with Nicole by his side on a Yamaha motorcycle. See website for more and trailer below.

[Movie not showing up? Watch here]


Tony Krupicka, ultra marathoner, cuts the off the soles and removes the tongues of his shoes to create a more comfortable platform for running. See this trailer for this documentary.

[Movie not showing up? Watch here]


4 Deserts Race

Looking to participate in an awesome endurance race? See the 4 Deserts Race website for more info. Definitely a ‘Bucket List’ item.


Want to get into running or take it to the next level? Magazines are sometimes a nice push in the right direction. Here’s a few favorites:

Runner’s World

Trail Runner Magazine

UltraRunning Magazine

Photos here and here

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Fake Vibram FiveFingers

For those of you who were able to get a pair of the Vibram FiveFingers before the hysteric obsession began and back-orders galore, you may be interested in reading this CNN article on barefoot running knock-offs. Chinese counter-fitting companies are copying the shoes, even down to the packaging.

“Unsatisfied customers, unaware that they bought fake shoes from counterfeiters, have started returning the bogus copies to Vibram itself (often using the fake Vibram return labels provided by the counterfeiters). This is a thorny problem for Vibram, which can’t start issuing refunds on fake products from bogus manufacturers. Sometimes the company extends a goodwill offer, sending duped buyers coupons for Vibram FiveFingers shoes at half off.”

What can you do to protect yourself from purchasing a cheap counterfeit? Bottom line, only buy these shoes from an authorized dealer like REI or the official Vibram website.

For more info, see Vibram FiveFingers and this post by on How To Spot A Fake.

Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport

Does this dissuade me from wanting to buy the latest in the Vibram FiveFinger family? No! I can’t wait to get my hands feet on those lovely new trail running TrekSport or KSO Treck, (though I’ll probably get black again). I love you, Vibram FiveFingers!

I recently did a review on barefoot running and my favorite athletic shoes I’ve ever owned—you can read it here: Vibram FiveFingers.

Photos by: Birthday Shoes and Vibram FiveFingers

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World's Tallest Roses : VeriFlora

VeriFlora is a sustainable farm that grows fair trade, certified organic roses in the mountains of Ecuador, with blooming stems that can reach the heights of 5-6 feet tall. The workers are compensated fairly and their children are provided with daycare and meals during the workday, as well as free classes on organic gardening, finance and other basic skills—and they offer micro loans! We should have companies doing that here in the U.S.!

[Movie not showing up? Watch Frontline's feature here]

My husband just recently surprised me with three dozen roses and I have to admit that I wondered if they were organic, but what was I supposed to say? “I sure hope these are organic, or I don’t want them…”;) I’m not that heartless!

I definitely think that buying certified organic and creating a demand for it with our voting-dollar is great and necessary for change to occur, but they can be hard to come by and slightly more taxing on the pocket book, which makes it less of something that the mainstream will likely be seeking out on their own.

My solution: definitely create a demand (which will make them cheaper in the long run) and ask your local florist to sell certified organic flowers, purchase them if available while supporting the cause of fair treatment to workers and the planet—or just grow your own organic flowers!

GARDENING TIP: VeriFlora’s secret to growing these amazing blooms is found in companion planting with chamomile and mint!

Watch the clip here (its a bit low-quality).

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Photos by: here

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A Living Dress!

by Almira on August 12, 2010 · 0 comments

Today’s Slow Fashion Inspiration: Living Clothes

Living. Wearable. Art. Commissioned to create a piece for the Amsterdam Centre for Architecture (ARCAM), fashion designer Mattijs van Bergen and landscape architect Anouk Vogel crafted this dress out of wool and recycled bicycle inner tubes. The flowers are held in little vases that hold the flowers’ water.

Living Dress | Slow Fashion

I’ll post more on Slow Fashion later (along with a comprehensive list of Eco-designers), but for now, a little eye candy! This would be really funny to watch someone wear—sloshing water everywhere with their delicate flowers. I think I’d choose some light pink peonies to put in my dress.

Living Dress | Slow Fashion

This seems to be the sort of dress for which you’d carry a mini water spray bottle around with you at all times. Tucked away in your purse, you could easily bring it out for a full-body misting if anything began to look weepy—we mustn’t let the little darlings get parched now must we?

So next time you get a flat while bicycling to work, and you’re contemplating cursing that innocent little rock in public for sneaking up on you…you can instead thank the inanimate object for getting you one rubber inner tube closer to making a DIY version of this recycled masterpiece. And I certainly want to see pictures—if anyone does make one!

See more images at Ecouturre.


Photos by: Ecouterre

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King Corn

by Almira on August 10, 2010 · 1 comment

This Month’s Film Review: King Corn, Directed by Aaron Woolf, with co-producers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis

{Available on Netflix and Amazon On-Demand}

On a scale of 1 (gouge my eyes out) to 5 (enjoyed every moment), I rate it: FIVE STARS

Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis, from Boston, MA, became best friends at Yale, where they were very interested in reconnecting students to their food. They worked to bring local foods into the cafeteria, took students on trips to organic farms, and even went as far as releasing sheep on the central campus. After graduation, they moved to Iowa in the search to find out more about the American staple, corn. What they found is “America’s best-kept secret.”

“If you take a McDonald’s meal, you don’t realize it when you eat it, but you’re eating corn. Beef has been corn-fed.  Soda is corn.  Even the French fries.  Half the calories in the French fries come from the fat they’re fried in, which is liable to be either corn oil or soy oil.  So when you’re at McDonald’s, you’re eating Iowa food.  Everything on your plate is corn.”  — Michael Pollan, UC Berkeley, in King Corn


When I think of corn, I think of sweet, hot, buttered and salted ears of golden deliciousness or cool fall nights in a haunted corn maze, where you are constantly on your toes, awaiting the next Chewbacca to jump out at you. But there is apparently a lot more to corn these days than the occasional cob or cornbread muffins. According to scientist, Steve Macko from the University of Virginia, hair is a tape recorder of your diet. When Cheney and Ellis went to visit Macko for a hair analysis, and the result was: “The carbon in your body originates from corn.”

Inspired to find out how most of their cells were made up of corn, this Boston-raised duo had something unusual in common: both of their grandparents had worked as farmers in the same little county in Greene, Iowa. How fitting is was that they should take the experiment back to their ancestral stomping grounds, so they contacted Chuck Pyatt, a corn farmer from Greene, who then granted their request to plant 1 acre of corn on his land.

[Movie not showing up? Go here.

In 1973, Secretary of Agriculture, Earl L. Butz, put the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act (a 4-year Farm Bill) into play and replaced the old government programs of curtailing (paying farmers to not produce), with Farm Subsidies (listen to podcast here; more on Farm Bill here), which supplement a farmers income with deficiency payments. For the 1 acre that Cheney and Ellis farmed, they received $28 from the government for it. After purchasing ammonia fertilizer, Liberty pesticides, renting farming tools, and selling their corn, they actually made: negative $19, despite the Farm Subsidy direct payments they received. Thus the thinking might logically be, farm more corn to make more profits. Farming has become a large-scale business. As farmer Rich Johnson says, "You've gt to be pretty good sized or you kind of get squeezed out."

When the two farmers-in-training did a taste-test on their crop, they responded with this: "It looks good...It's not very good...It tastes like saw dust...I really thought it would taste better."

"If you're standing in a field in Iowa, there is an immense amount of food being grown, non of which is edible. The commodity corn, nobody can eat. It must be processed before we can eat it. Its a raw material. It's a feedstock for all these other processes and the irony is that an Iowa farmer can no longer feed himself." —Micheal Pollen

After the harvest, Cheney and Ellis wanted to find out where their corn would end up. It was virtually impossible to specifically track their corn, but the the statistics said that 32% would either be exported overseas or turned into ethanol, 18% would become sweeteners—like high fructose corn syrup, and 50% would be fed to animals and become meat products.

As half of their corn would be feeding the meat industry, they did a little sleuthing and found that most cattle in the beef industry are sent to feed lots for their last 140-150 days, where they spend their time in confinement, hardly moving and eating up to 90% of their diet in corn, much of which comes from a by-product in the ethanol-making process. This allows them to put on weight quicker and compete in the beef market. Cattle rancher, Sue Garrett explains that it takes several years to reach market weight for cattle that are grass fed on the open range. She further says that once a cow goes past 120 days of being fed a high-corn diet, the cattle's health begins to rapidly diminish with ulcers and can lead to death.

According to Allen Trenkle of Iowa State University, cattle have gone from no grain in their diet to consuming up to 90% of their diets in grain [corn]. This change causes the livestock’s PH levels to drop and develop acidosis, which occurs when more acids are produced in the body than normal—ulcers and illness develop at this point. To combat this acidosis as well as the poor conditions the cattle are kept in, antibiotics are given in their feed. The meat industry makes up 70% of U.S. antibiotic use.

Loren Corain of the University of Colorado states that the cattle raised today are technically “obese” animals. Bledsoe Cattle Co. said, “If the American people strictly wanted grass fed beef, we would produce it for them, but its definitely more expensive. America demands cheap food.”

“You never get something for nothing in the world of biophysics, and what you give up in the bargain is nutritional value. Most of what we’ve done in agricultural improvements, for the most part, have actually degraded our food from a nutritional standpoint.” —Ricardo Salvador, Iowa State University

All-in-all, a great peak into the world of corn farming and the food industry. Stellar work, King Corn! Yet another reason to look into permaculture, growing your own garden, joining a CSA and or supporting your local organic farm or farmer’s market. I highly recommend this film.

[Movie not showing up? Go here]

Further reading on corn can be found in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the Farm Subsidies Database, and King Corn.

Support farmers by getting involved: Environmental Working Group and King Corn.

COMING SOON: The Monsanto wars.

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This month’s book review comes from Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.

On a scale of 1 (major qualms) to 5 (enjoyed every moment), I rate it: FIVE STARS

I must admit that when this highly-recommended book came in the mail, I quickly flipped through it and began to be very disgusted that I’d purchased it—there was all sorts of talk about how you should be eating fat, organ meats, milk/dairy and even lard. I set it aside with the intent of shipping it back to Amazon, but a day later decided to give it one more try.

This cookbook-meets-nutrition, of sorts, was claiming that some of the foods that I had been taught all my life were bad for me were supposedly good for me? I had grown up thinking that butter, fat, dairy, and more recently that meat products (via the raw food movement) were problematic to the human digestion system. Not to mention I have an intolerance to milk and dairy products and have been drinking alternatives like almond and rice milk for years now. Animal fat is good for you? That paradigm shift wasn’t yet ready to take place, but my interest was peaked when I noticed the emphasis on nutrient-dense foods and the importance, and health benefits, of soaking and sprouting all of our grains, legumes and nuts/seeds, and the physical/mental degeneration that follows if we do not. I had been familiar with sprouting from my years being into raw food, but I hadn’t learned about the ancient practice of soaking grains to remove phytates (phytic acid blocks the absorption of critical nutrients). This book is an absolute light in the dark on some issues that I’d had with some of the other popular diets out there such as the Macrobiotic diet, the Blood Type diet, Alkaline diet, and Fit For Life diet (aka natural hygiene).

The first 71 pages is a great intro to nutrition. Throughout the cookbook recipes, studies are quoted relating to each food category. Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. are also a big proponent of coconut oil—as am I. Their book Eat Fat, Lose Fat promotes the consumption of healthy fats, especially coconut oil—its on my long list of nutrition reads. Foods included in a traditional diet can be found late in this post under “What To Eat.”

Nourishing Traditions is based off of the research done by Dr. Weston A. Price, a Cleveland dentist, that has been called the “Charles Darwin of Nutrition” who traveled the world during the 1930′s to observe tribes of primitive people that consisted on non-modernized foods. He found that while their diets were each quite different, they all incorporated animal proteins and fats and dairy in their diets along with unrefined whole vegetation and the use of lacto-fermentation for preserving and enhancing the enzymes and nutrients in their food. All of the 14 primitive groups he studied were free of chronic disease, mental illness and tooth decay. He compared these isolated peoples to those that had left their tribe to be “civilized” and the poor effects that lifestyle had on them. He published his research in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

[Movie not showing up? Go here to watch on YouTube]

The Weston A. Price Foundation was established to study Dr. Price’s research and most especially to research the “X” factor.

Dr. Price discovered an additional fat soluble vitamin that he called “Activator X” and which was also referred to by others as the Price Factor or X Factor, and is now believed to be vitamin K2. It is a powerful catalyst which, like vitamins A and D, helps the body absorb and utilize minerals. It was present in the diets of all the healthy population groups he studied but unfortunately has almost completely disappeared from the modern western diet. Sources include organ meats from cows eating green grass, fish eggs and shellfish. Butter can be an especially rich source of Activator X/vitamin K2 when it comes from cows eating rapidly growing grass in the Spring and Fall seasons. It disappears in cows fed cottonseed meal or high protein soy-based feeds. Fortunately, Activator X/vitamin K2 is not destroyed by pasteurization.

There are so many new (to me), intriguing things about nutrition to be found in this book (2 inches thick!), which has made me dive even deeper into researching this exciting subject matter. There will be more posts to come on topics from this book—from raw milk to phytates and vitamin K2. I highly recommend it! But you don’t have to take my word for it…

A wealth of health topics can be found at the Weston A. Price Foundation website.

[Movie not showing up? Go here to watch on YouTube]

Take the Beginners Tour


  • Proteins — organic, pasture-raised meats
  • Fats — raw and cultured butter, cream, lard and fat from pasture-fed animals; extra virgin olive oil; unrefined flax seed oil in small amounts; coconut and palm oil
  • Dairy — raw, whole milk and cultured dairy products from traditional breeds of pasture-fed animals
  • Carbohydrates — organic whole grain products that are soaked and or sprouted to remove phytates; sprouted grain bread and soaked or sprouted cereal grains; soaked and fermented legumes including lentils, beans, and chickpeas; sprouted or soaked nuts and seeds; fresh fruits and vegetables, both raw and cooked; fermented vegetables
  • Beverages — filtered, high-mineral water; lacto-fermented drinks made from grain or fruit; meat stocks and vegetable broths
  • Condiments — unrefined sea salt; raw vinegar; spices in moderation; fresh herbs; naturally fermented soy sauce and fish sauce

Nourishing Traditions | The Cookbook that Challenges Politically  Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats


See this menu example of someone living the nourishing traditions lifestyle (scroll down the forum thread a few posts to find a couple of lengthy posts by username Hibou with sample menus and task lists of how to keep up with the food preparation required for eating nutrient dense foods).

Recipes can be found in Nourishing Traditions, of course, as well as here and here.

Nourishing Traditions gives this advice for those venturing into bringing more nourishing foods into their eating habits,

Throw away all boxed breakfast cereals—the flakes, shapes and puffed grains produced by the extrusion process. Start your day with soaked oatmeal or other grain, whole grain dishes such as pancakes or muffins, eggs, fish, nut milks, broth or homemade soup.

Aim for a diet that is 50% raw or enzyme-enhanced. Raw foods include vegetables, fruits, meats, fats and milk products.”

A good rule to start your evening meal with a dish containing enzymes—either a salad with homemade dressing, raw meat or fish, or soup containing cultured cream. If your next course includes a sauce made from gelatin-rich stock, easy digestion and a peaceful night’s sleep will be assured.

If the meal you serve consists entirely of cooked foods, then a lacto-fermented condiment is a must.

When preparing a meal, always think ahead to what must be done for the next two meals; put grains and pulses to soak and meats to marinate, as necessary.


Watch this video on phytic acid and when you should soak your grains.


I will not list them all, but here are a few kitchen tools that are suggested to have handy when incorporating more nourishing foods into your diet:

Stockpot, stainless steel cookware (not aluminum or Teflon, more on that later), cast iron skillet, blender, wide-mouth mason jar (for soaking, sprouting and fermenting), food processor, grain mill and roller, juicer.

*It is recommended that the following should NOT be found in the kitchens of conscientious cooks:

Microwave Oven — studies have shown that they have negative effects on fats and proteins and that baby milk should especially never be microwaved, as it alters the amino acids and can be toxic to the liver and nervous system.

Pressure Cooker — food is cooked too quickly using this tool at temperatures above the boiling point. Grains and legumes should be slow cooked.


Raw milk

Soy Alert


COMING SOON: follow the feud between the Weston A. Price Foundation and its plant-based contender, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of  The China Study.

See next month’s Media Club Reviews


Photos by: Amazon and Wellsphere

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Kombucha Tea

When I was a girl, I remember peeking into a bowl which housed contents that I considered gross-looking. Inside of this bowl was a rather transparent brown liquid with a floating squishy ‘blob’ on its surface. Underneath the blob, was its ‘baby’ that would soon be moved to its own bowl to start a new batch. This was too freaky to comprehend—floating blobs having babies? My mother explained that she was making kombucha (yes, the same trendy stuff that you buy for $3 or more at Whole Foods can be made for practically nothing in your kitchen). The so called blob is considered the mother mushroom or the starter culture, made from yeast and bacteria. She was growing it to help heal herself from Crohn’s Disease.

Having been around for centuries in China and Eastern Europe, this cultured tea has been touted as a healing elixir for a slew of health problems. From curing arthritis and cancer to Aids and allergies, supposedly this tonic does it all. According to this NY Times article, people in the bay area are so crazy about kombucha that they not only grow their own cultures, but sell the babies on Craigslist. Perhaps the main reason behind any health benefits, if any, is that there are probiotics found in the tea which is helpful to the digestion system. I would venture to say that there are far more safe ways to get your daily probiotics than from a culture of yeast and bacteria: kefir, kimchi, Sauerkraut, etc.

Mother Nature Network reports from an article via The Portland Daily Sun that many of the commercially made kombucha drinks have been pulled off the shelves due to high levels of alcohol: 1% and above, which the government deems an alcoholic beverage. And you wondered why it was making you feel so good? After companies take the alcohol levels down to 0.5%, they will be back on the market, but it the kombucha companies will need to pasteurize it to make sure it doesn’t exceed the proper alcohol levels. Hmm, if it’s pasteurized, probiotics will be destroyed in the heating process and what would be the remaining health benefits of drinking it?

Dr. Andrew Weil has reported on his website that he does not support these famed health benefits and says,

I don’t recommend kombucha tea at all. I know of no scientific studies backing up the health claims made for it. Beyond that, there’s evidence that kombucha tea may have some antibiotic activity. If so, by drinking the tea you could be unnecessarily taking antibiotics, which could encourage development of resistant strains of bacteria.

Some batches have contained aspergillus, a toxin-producing fungus. This would actually pose significant risks to people with compromised immune systems such as those with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. I would particularly caution pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly, children and anyone with a compromised immune system against drinking kombucha tea.

Perhaps there was a slight amount of fungus in my Synergy Kombucha drink I sampled about a year ago that gave me a bit of a stomach ache after drinking it?

Not to discredit anyone who has had good results from kombucha, but I must report that my mother’s use of kombucha stopped after a while, as she found it was not helping to heal her chronic disease. Any believers out there? I’d love to hear any stories of those who’ve found it helped to heal their particular ailment!

Still not scared? Do you like Kombucha? Make your own Kombucha here, just be very careful. Sanitary precautions have to be kept at all times to prevent any contamination.

Photos by Synergy Drinks and Craftzine

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Whew! Quite the tongue-twister of a title…

Vacation + Conservation = Ecotourism.

Ecotourism: Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” (TIES, 1990)

Rara Avis

My husband and I volunteered at an Ecotourism and Conservation Center in Costa Rica two years ago and loved it. Ever since I’ve been dying to do some ecotourism ourselves! I ever so much would fathom the idea of participating in some of the eco travel destinations that let you do some volunteer projects while sight-seeing. REI Adventures has begun their new Volunteer Expeditions!

Exotic or not, I’ve got a hankering to go exploring. I promise to tread lightly and pack out what I pack in, but please, oh please let me go on vacation! Anywhere across “the pond” or in adventurous Latin America will do. Anyone have room for a stow-away or two (can’t forget that well-deserving, hardworking husband) in their suitcase?

The worst part about my eagerness to visit somewhere international is that the U.S. has so many beautiful and wonderful places to see, and though I’ve seen a good deal of them, there are always little nooks to be had. As the old saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. Parisians probably don’t care too much about making it to the Eiffel tower this year, nor do Peruvians probably have Machu Pichu on their bucket list. Speaking of which, I think I’ll make one—a bucket-list, that is.

Any suggestions for some great EcoDestinations?

Photo by me

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Sundance Channel | Big Ideas For A Small Planet

On a scale of 1 (gouge my eyes out) to 5 (enjoyed every moment), I rate it: FIVE STARS

13 episodes (Games doesn’t work on Netflix, so no-go on that one, but each episode is 25 minutes—so many nuggets of great information rolled into such a small amount of time!

I realize this list is terrifically LONG! But I just wanted to make sure that the links to the resources on these episodes could be found later without having to go back and watch the entire episode. Hooray for time-saving!

Big Ideas For A Small Planet - Music


“As Americans, guitars are so iconic in our culture, and isn’t it ironic that we’re actually cutting down a tree, in some degree destroying the planet, to get an instrument that we’re going to create beauty out of?” —Josh Dorfman

  • Jack Johnson’s Brush Fire Records attempts to loose it’s carbon footprint with a green studio.
  • Sustainable Waves provides solar powered stages and sound for concerts and events, using bio-diesel for transportation—inspiring to the populations to use the bicycle for transportation is the Tour De Fat.
  • Any serious guitar-lover will tell you that the best guitars are those made from extinct or rare woods. Martin & Co. has set out to make a certified sustainable wood. Great idea, but we’ll see if they stand up to the test.


“In the beginning of the 20th century, furniture was an heirloom product. It was something that was precious. oer the years we’ve seen the rise of what we new call “starter furniture,” and that has lead to, both the good and the bad: its made furniture more affordable, but it’s also made it more disposable.” —Reed Krolof

  • Based in NY, Thom Felicia does green interior design and develops furniture with sustainable woods, using low-VOC paints, organic foam, recycled materials and vegetable dyes.
  • “If you keep making stuff and then throwing it away, that does nobody any good.” Rerun Productions creates re-purposed and recycled lamps made by things they found at the dump.
  • Vahid Pourkay and Kathy Henszey of New York, began Cardboard Design to create furniture out of recycled materials and change the paradigm that cardboard is a throw-away.


“If you can solve the unhealthy school lunch problem, the world will be your oyster.” —Kirsten Tobey
  • Jules Dervaes: An Urban Homesteader living on 1/5 of an acre in Pasadena, CA, but cultivate 1/4 of that acre and produce over 6,000 lbs of fruits and vegetables.
  • Burlington, Vermont’s New Farms For New Americans help Africans, that move to America, bring their expertise in agriculture and participate in a community farm and earn extra income.
  • Revolution Foods: swapping unhealthy lunches with healthy ones while improving child development and behavior.

Big Ideas For A Small Planet - Creatures


“We are driving 50,000 species out of existence every year.” —Dr. David Suzuki

  • At Working Dogs For Conservation in Missoula, MT, specially trained dogs are used to help save wildlife threatened with extinction.
  • We cannot recreate the job of a bee. Currently, we rely on trucking honey bees from state to state to pollinate our food crops. Attempting to combat Colony Collapse Disorder in the bee population, Portland, OR-based, Xerces Society works to encourage a native population of pollinating insects.
  • “We’re Number One At Number Two!” Paper made of elephant poop: The Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company

Big Ideas For A Small Planet - Architecture


“Constantly new, constantly disposable is not the best approach to the living on the planet.” —Michael McDonough
  • Reclaiming contaminated waterfronts: Weis/Manfredi Architects builds Olympic Sculpture Park for Seattle, WA.
  • Kieran Timberlake Architects designs buildings with a low-ecological footprint and passive heating, which allows the building to be taken apart and moved.
  • Kit homes have been known as those you’d find in a trailer park, not the case today. In Perryville, MO, The LV Kit Homes Series creates pre-fabricated homes with toxin-free glues and considerably less waste than in conventional home building. $36,000 for 1,150 sq ft. home.


“Corn is a lousy crop to make energy from and it takes food out of the mouths of people who need it the most.” —Vijay Vaitheeswaran

  • Fishing For Energy is an effort to remove marine debris from waters that the fisherman use, burn it and using the steam as energy. Until now, there hasn’t been anywhere to dispose of ocean waste—now there is.
  • Wind energy hasn’t really worked in cities until now. AeroVironment, Inc. has created urban wind farms to start harvesting wind power in the least likely places.
  • Fossil fuels are embedded in our everyday lives and they are not sustainable, so where can we find a more efficient and sustainable energy? Verenium Corp. brews the stems and leaves (inedible waste) of corn plants into cellulosic ethanol without having to grow more crops.

Big Ideas For A Small Planet - Habitat


“It’s kind of absurd that humans should be making homes for animals.” —Fritz Haeg

  • Coral Restoration Foundation: Helping young people understand the importance of saving and rebuilding coral reefs.
  • Preserving species within the urban habitat, Animal Estates works to develop nature-inspired homes for animals that have been displaced from cities.
  • The San Fransisco Museum and Planetarium combines a Natural History Museum, Aquarium, and Planetarium, while incorporating a green roof  covered in native California plants that insulates the building.


“For a long time, the idea was: if a business wanted to be profitable, they couldn’t possibly be environmentally-friendly at the same time. What we’re seeing is a real evolution in that thinking.” —Simran Sethi

  • Grays Harbor Paper is a sustainable, recycled paper company.
  • Pizza Fusion, from Wellington, FL, was created to make a change in the food industry: “Saving The Earth, One Pizza At A Time.”
  • The same chemicals that were used to kill people in WWI in the trenches of Europe are in your typical household cleaning products. Green cleaning products by Sun & Earth are plant-derived, chemical-free and are so safe, they could “technically” be eaten.

Big Ideas For A Small Planet - Art


“We’re visual animals and if we don’t see the consequences of what we’re doing, it tends to be unreal to us.” —Dr. David Suzuki

  • Epoxygreen is a green gallery that also sells green building materials. “It’s the greening of a toxic industry.”
  • Photographing trash is the specialty of Seattle, WA lawyer turned Photographic Artist, Chris Jordan.
  • Smart Glass Jewelry: “Why not take something that’s considered garbage and transform it? That’s just another level of art, another level of creation.”

Big Ideas For A Small Planet - Leisure


“The traditional American concept of leisure is working hard all week so that you can do whatever you want on the weekend. As we’ve had more disposable income, our toys have gotten bigger. American leisure activities have been terrible for the environment.” —Louisa Chu

  • Husband and wife duo of wildlife biologists established Wild Echo Bison Reserve as an eco-destination travel opportunity to get up close and personal with buffalo.
  • The typical surfboard is made with a plethora of toxic chemicals and carcinogens. Cradle-to-cradle designs are put in place in the soy-based surfboards made at Homeblown.
  • Electric motorcycles made by Zero Motorcycles are the highest-performance motorcycles in the world. No noise and no emissions.

Big Ideas For A Small Planet - Communities


“My personal goal is to make sure every human being has access to the same healthy, affordable food.” —Will Allen
  • Student-run Climate Action Club from Maine advocate going green in their school and community.
  • Serenbe Environmental Community in GA (on the edge of Atlanta) on 900 acres where nature and development co-exist. Preserved woods, grey water system, natural landscaping, 8 acre organic farm that supplies their seasonal restaurant—sounds like heaven.
  • Food deserts occur in poor neighborhoods, where its easier to find a fried chicken leg than a nice head of lettuce. The “Minister of Agriculture” founded Growing Power in Milwaukee, WI to combat food deserts with fresh, affordable food.

Big Ideas For A Small Planet - Games


Hmm…so, this was a re-run of “Communities” and wouldn’t show “Games”? Weird. Sadly, I wasn’t able to see this one.

Big Ideas For A Small Planet - Babies


“On average, a baby is born with 200 industrial toxins already in them.” —Simran Sethi
  • “Traditional baby food is highly processed, it’s been cooked at very high temperatures for long periods of time, and it has additives and preservatives.” Tasty Baby was created to give you a break from standing at the blender all day making your own baby food—the closest to homemade that you can get.
  • Fuzzibunz was created to help her baby’s rash go away related to the chemicals in diapers and make a dent in the problem of 30 billion disposable diapers going into the landfills. The average baby goes through 6-10 diapers per day which costs up to $1000 per year in disposable diapers, however the jury is still out on whether disposable or reusable diapers are better for the environment, as reusable require lots of resources (water, soaps, drying) to keep reusing them.
  • Many of children’s toys are made with PVC, which is also called the “poison plastic”—it leaches dioxins that will end up in a baby’s body. We don’t have the same regulations on toys in the U.S. as they do in Europe, so its up to parents to search out healthy, toxic-free clothing and toys. The Little Seed is a eco-friendly children’s store that helps parents find everything they need for their growing children.

What is the consensus? Favorite Episodes? Anything you didn’t quite agree with?

See next month’s Media Club Reviews
Photos by The Sundance Channel

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Sorry folks, I haven’t finished my Media Club review that was scheduled to go up today—it will certainly be up and beaming tomorrow afternoon!

Until then, enjoy this lecture with Pulitzer Prize winner for his E Coli story, Michael Moss (*1 hr):  Michael Moss: Inside The Food Industry

“Food companies are increasingly reaching overseas for lower-cost ingredients that can keep their product prices down.” —Michael Moss

How is it that our food system is so out of whack that we now expect our food to be cheap and plentiful, and don’t worry about how it got there? There is certainly a disconnect. Thanks to documentaries like Food, Inc. and Food Matters, our eyes are being opened, mine included! If you haven’t watched those two films, I highly recommend them! Watch the trailers here and here.

Food Inc. & Food Matters

*Michael ends his speech at 16:41 minutes where they begin the question and answer, so it’s really not too long if you’re just looking to hear his lecture.

Have you Seen Food, Inc. or Food Matters? What did you think?

Photo by, Food, Inc. and Food Matters

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The Backyard Homestead

by Almira on July 13, 2010 · 0 comments

This Month’s book review comes from The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan.

The Backyard Homestead

On a scale of 1 (major qualms) to 5 (enjoyed every moment), I rate it: FIVE STARS

Madigan claims that you can “Produce all the food you need in just a quarter of an acre!” and although I haven’t had the opportunity to put her claim to the test quite yet, I have every intention to at least incorporate some things this summer and certainly more next year. Jumping into a new home mid-growing season has had its setbacks, but I like to think that it has simply given me more time to craft my plans and do research for my dreamy self-sufficient lifestyle—may the homesteading begin!

The Backyard Homestead combines the best information from many other homesteading and food production books like: Carrots Love Tomatoes, Edible Landscaping, Home Sausage Making, and Keeping The Harvest. This is more of a “How-To” manual on homesteading that doesn’t have to be read front to back and I will certainly be coming back to this again and again. Great for newbies and a nice resource of charts and information for the seasoned homesteader.

Book Highlights

If I notated every wonderful thing that I loved and learned about this book, you’d certainly have a lengthy review, so I’ll keep it to my favorites:

One Quarter Acre

Homesteading on One-Tenth of an Acre. Although I actually have a One-Quarter Acre lot, the way the land is setup minimizes what I can plant, as quite a bit of my land is in the front yard. Looks like I’ll have to stick to the One-Tenth Acre plan.

While the list of easiest crops varies from region to region, there are a few super-simple standouts. Radishes and green beans top most gardeners “no-fail” lists. Other easy crops include cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, garlic, leaf lettuce, snap peas, Swiss chard, and kale.

Getting More from the Garden. It has a garden planning chart and assists you in making a garden plan, while showing you how to begin the actual building of your garden, whether you choose raised beds or wide, deep raised-beds. Also included are successful crop-rotation practices, high-yield gardening and succession planting as well as cool and warm-season crops. Extending the season is covered with everything from row covers to cold frames and home-made versions of the French Intensive Method. Vertical gardening and seed saving are discussed and shown with charts and illustrations.

Grapes. As I’ve been dying to grow grapes (and I know its possible in this region of the south because they have a yearly Grape Festival), I’m devising my plans of grandeur on how I’m going to attain the best grapes next year.

Grapes have a reputation of being fragile and difficult to grow. Many northern gardeners do not even consider trying to grow them, yet some vines will flourish in regions of very state and in several Canadian Provinces. A good rule of thumb is that if wild grapes grow in your area, you can grow plump and tasty domestic grapes of some kind.

Raw Milk vs. Pasteurized. I’m very interested in this movement currently, and though I’m lactose intolerant or at least intolerant to dairy in gereral, I’d be interested to see if raw milk, since it still has the enzyme lactase, is in fact easier on my digestion. I’m planning on buying some raw milk this weekend from a cow share. More on raw milk coming soon.

All-in-all a great resource and definitely one that I’d recommend! I haven’t read The Urban Homestead (living sustainably in the city) yet, but it’s on my To-Do List.

Have you read The Backyard Homestead or The Urban Homestead?

See next month’s Media Club Reviews

Photos by The Backyard Homestead

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Almost Barefoot Running

by Almira on July 13, 2010 · 0 comments

I love to trail run. I didn’t, however, always like running just for running’s sake. Hmm…perhaps my lack of desire to run came from some negative reinforcement: when my siblings and I were naughty, we had to run 1/4 acre “laps” on our property as a punishment. Despite my disdain for laps, when I “grew up” I let bygones be bygones and got into running primarily for the weight-loss and the overall health benefits. I am, however, a very environment-dependent exerciser. I detest running if not surrounded by interesting and beautiful scenery and the perfect conditions—unless its pouring down rain. There’s nothing better than running madly in a decent storm. And though I recently wiped-out rather nicely on some sharp gravel while trail running last weekend, I am not deterred. As crazy as it may seem, I will continue to run in the rain.

As a girl, I ran around barefoot like a gypsy all day and developed calluses on my feet that allowed me to run on the sharp gravel that lined our driveway—sounds gross, but I don’t recall them looking grubby. When I heard about Vibram 5 Fingers and how they are supposed to be as close to barefoot running as you can get without running on naked feet, I was instantly intrigued.

Video not showing up? Watch the Barefoot Running video here

The first I tried them on they felt so light and fun, though it did take a couple runs to get used to having something in-between my toes. I took them for a run on my usual loop and loved feeling every bump and lump in the grass and cement. I ran for 20 minutes, feeling as if I could keep going indefinitely, and then it kicked in: a searing charlie-horse up my calves. The next day I could hardly walk down the stairs. Apparently, you’re only supposed to wear them for 5 minutes the first time you wear them, and then work up your time gradually, wearing regular running shoes in between barefoot running workouts. The reason for the pain has to do with how typical running shoes are built as well as the fact that I was striking on my forefoot. Remember this tip from my post on Chi Running?

“Don’t land on your forefoot. That will DEFINITELY create more stress on your calves and ankles. You want to land mid-foot, which is completely neutral and doesn’t require your calf muscles to fire. Try to remember to land fullfoot and keep all muscles below the knee relaxed the entire time you run.”

Though running in a golf course would be the perfect place to run (I would often run laps through a soccer field), I don’t have anything really manicured lawns nearby (just tick-laden fields), so I primarily run dirt trails with a few rocks, gravel, mud, and sticks. I’m careful to dodge anything sharp, and my feet do just fine. Thus far I’ve worked up to 60 minutes of trail running in them. I’ve improved my speed and agility, but my favorite thing: I just love how they feel. Running doesn’t feel like a chore when I wear them. I recently tried running in my trail running shoes and practically couldn’t run, they felt so clunky! I’m training for a nice and short 9-mile trail run coming up in October to test the Vibram 5 Fingers out in their first race. The most I’ve run in general is a 15K trail run, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that in my Vibrams.

Next step: muster the courage (or insanity) to run without any shoes at all and really barefoot run.

See this Harvard study:

Video not showing up? Watch the Harvard Study on Barefoot Running video here


  • Washable!
  • Low-impact on joints
  • Improve balance
  • Get you to be a forefoot striker rather than a heel striker
  • Bring you back to a more natural and efficient stride
  • Allow chronic aches and pains to heal


  • Blisters (at first)
  • Achilles and calf pain when first starting
  • Possible injury from sharp objects if you don’t look before you step
  • Price: $85

Our Story: The relationship I have with my Vibrams is built upon positive thinking: my Vibrams don’t complain that I look sickly and sweaty in the humid summer heat while running and I don’t complain that my feet and toes resemble those of a gecko. You see? It’s a match…or at least a great conversation-starter while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store despite all of your attempts to get in and out incognito.

See more videos on Barefoot Running at RunFearless.

What do you think? Would you try them out?

Learn more with these reads: Born To Run and Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth. Ask your barefoot running questions here.

Looking for something other than Vibram 5 Fingers in the realm of barefoot running? I have something for you, if you’re savvy. Stay tuned.

Photo by Vibram 5 Fingers

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Have something that’s in good condition that you’s like to sell or get rid of? Immediately, I think to give it to Goodwill or Craigslist it. Both great choices, but I didn’t know about option #3 until recently.

Freecycle is a nonprofit movement to “keep good stuff out of landfills.” This network of people throughout the globe is growing as groups and towns add themselves to the Freecycle Network, giving things away and getting “new” things for FREE. I’ve just joined my local Freecycle group, but haven’t used it yet. I’ll keep you posted if I find anything I like!

How To Freecycle gives you the step-by-step (see excerpt below):

1. Find a freecycling group near you at Recycling Group Finder. If you can’t find a group near you, consider starting one, either on your own or through organizations like the ReUseIt Network,, The Freeuse Network,, Sharing Is Giving or The Freecycle Network. Freecycling works best when the group members live geographically close because it’s more convenient and uses less energy when stuff is exchanged.

2. Each freecycle group will have its own rules, so learn and abide by those rules. But commonly there are four kinds of posts: Wanted is you searching for an item; Found is telling others that you got what you were searching for; OfferTaken is informing the group that you found a person who needed the item offered. is letting the group know what item you have to give away; and

3. Before buying something, check to see if any one in your group is looking to get rid of the item you need. Before throwing an item in the trash, post an offer for the item to see if any one needs that item.

From furniture to old appliances and more, see the most popular items to Freecycle at What To Freecycle.

Have you ever used the Freecycle Network? What did you give away or get? Good experience or bad?

Photo by Freecycle

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After Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol recall earlier this year, and consumers complaining of a “musty or moldy odor,” while others suffered vomiting and diarrhea, I’ve been wary of any product that enters my house. Even those that tout “all-natural” can be hiding some really unnerving chemicals and preservatives.

Johnson & Johnson

Although the Johnson & Johnson brand has been supposedly synonymous with safety for years, a month after the recall, we find two class-action lawsuits aimed at Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Wal-Mart’s Equate Tearless Baby Wash because it contained the FDA banned methylene chloride. See OSHA’s lovely definition below of the toxin:

Methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane, is a volatile, colorless liquid with a chloroform-like odor. Methylene chloride is used in various industrial processes, in many different industries including paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, paint remover manufacturing, and metal cleaning and degreasing. The most common means of exposure to methylene chloride is inhalation and skin exposure. OSHA considers methylene chloride to be a potential occupational carcinogen.

I wonder how it could be “tearless” when you’re adding a component that is used in paint stripping? Hmm, more insights for the cosmos I suppose.

Enter Stage Left: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap

I’ve been intrigued by Dr. Bronner since I was a little girl, spending more than my fair share in the shower attempting to figure out exactly what this guy meant when he said “All-One-God-Faith” and things about “God’s Spaceship Earth.” It’s a real treat hear the comments that emerge from the loo when a guest has recently been mesmerized by the label’s flow of run-on sentences explaining The Moral ABC’s. Try watching the documentary—I can’t promise you’ll be able to decipher The Moral ABC’s any better than when you first began, but you’ll get to know Dr. Bronner and his mission to save the world one bottle at a time through the family tradition of soap-making.

Dr. Bronner produces premium products that are made with 100% pure oils and extracts, and are a relief to any of you with allergies to detergents and perfumes or skin sensitivities. My favorite: the classic Peppermint. It leaves you tingly and refreshed. I don’t travel without totting along a mini-bottle. The big bottles can be refilled, which is a great eco-friendly feature. Check your local Co-op or Whole Foods to see if they refill Dr. Bronner products, or ask them to begin!

A stall-worthy product to be sure, Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Liquid Soap is Certified Organic and Fair Trade. With such a product, you won’t have to worry about your precious baby growing a third ear—not that it’s a concern…or is it?

Learn more about Dr. Bronner’s soap-making process here.

Have you tried Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap products? What do you think?

Photos by Johnson & Johnson, MSNBC, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap

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Chi Running Posture

Want to improve your posture, walk and run effortlessly, rid yourself of chronic aches and pains, and stop world hunger? Well, besides that last one, Chi Running is supposed to help you do all of that. Danny Dreyer, author of Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, has set out to teach the world how to run and walk pain-free.

Chi Running Basic Tips:

Video not showing up? Watch the Chi Running video here

Effortless Running Posture (similar to what they teach you in ballet):

  1. Lengthen Back Of Neck and Chin Down
  2. Tuck Bottom, Pelvis Facing Front
  3. Shoulders Rolled Back and Down
  4. Relax: Head, Shoulders, Hips and Ankles Aligned

SoCalRunning instructor demonstrates how to have good form:

Video not showing up? Watch the Chi Running Posture video here

Learn more about Chi Running posture here and here.

How To Prevent Injury To Knees and Hips (Avoiding Heel Strike):

Video not showing up? Watch the Injury Prevention video here

Danny Tip: “Don’t land on your forefoot. That will DEFINITELY create more stress on your calves and ankles. You want to land mid-foot, which is completely neutral and doesn’t require your calf muscles to fire. Try to remember to land fullfoot and keep all muscles below the knee relaxed the entire time you run.”

Proper Pronating When Running:

Video not showing up? Watch the Proper Pronating video here

See Danny Dreyer’s YouTube channel for more clips.

My husband noticed a significant difference in my form and speed after implementing the Chi Running techniques. One question remains: why don’t thy teach this as Running 101 to kids in grade school and above? It is so helpful!

Have you read Danny Dreyer’s Book or put his methodology into your running or walking practice? Has it helped?

Photo by Chi Running

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Au Naturale Home Design

by Almira on July 8, 2010 · 0 comments

A big shout out goes to the bees today and their lovely craftsmanship in home designs.

I’m absolutely in awe. These incredible creations are quite “modern” in their architectural tastes! Check out more about these natural architectural wonders here.

Photos by Treehugger

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Healthy Republic | Media Club

Though it’s quite mid-summer, I thought I’d start start a little Media Club for those breezy hot days under a tree cuddled up with a nice read, as well as for those lovely nights watching an informative and inspiring documentary.


The first and second Tuesday of every month, I will be reviewing media—typically a book (1st Tues) and a documentary (2nd Tues)—related to sustainability, health, environment, fitness, etc. See 3-month schedule below.

JUNE (media review date: July 13th—these were my media for June. I’ll be a bit late this July in reviewing them)

BOOK: The Backyard Homestead

“Produce all the food you need in just a quarter of an acre!” —Carleen Madigan, editor of The Backyard Homestead

Watch a clip here (8 min) on a few highlights in the book from making homemade butter and bread to raising your own chickens and sprouting.

DOCUMENTARY: Big Ideas For A Small Planet (Season 3) | Available on Netflix

JULY (book review date: August 3rd and 10th)

BOOK: Nutritional Traditions*

“Recalling the culinary customs of our ancestors, and looking ahead to a future of robust good health for young and old, Nourishing Traditions offers modern families a fascinating guide to wise food choices and proper preparation techniques. Sally Fallon unites the wisdom of the ancients with the latest independent and accurate scientific research in over 700 delicious recipes that will please both exacting gourmets and busy parents.” —Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions

Check out the Weston A. Price Foundation and their Real Milk Campaign. Watch a clip on Dr. Mercola’s take on Raw Milk (hilarious that he points at the camera at the end).

*As I am lactose intolerant, I’ll be doing an experiment to see how I do with raw milk and dairy. Currently, I primarily follow a plant-based diet with little to no dairy products.

Suggestions for the Fall Media Club? Email Me!

See the Little Shop for reviews on the books above as well as other Wish-Listed books.

Photos By The Backyard Homestead, Big Ideas For A Small Planet (Season 3), Nutritional Traditions, King Corn, Slow Death By Rubber Duck, Frontline: Poisoned Waters

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Healthy Republic | Little Shop

From the gardening and homesteading to holistic healing, nutrition and fitness, you can find many of the Healthy Republic recommended reads and documentaries all in one place at the Healthy Republic Little Shop (the shop includes Amazon items that I’ve simply added to a list for your convenience. When you “add to cart”, it redirects you to the checkout. Pricing is the same, I just get a minimal “finder’s fee” from Amazon when it recognizes you found the product via my site).

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Netflix is another great place to watch those hard-to-find documentaries if Amazon doesn’t have them in their On-Demand. Still can’t find it? Your local library, Craigslist, Freecycle, or a random estate sale may have that precious piece of media you are seeking.

See The Little Green Book for more resources.


Media Club

Nutrition & Healing

Cooking & Uncooking




Green Living

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A Thrifters Love Affair

by Almira on July 2, 2010 · 0 comments

Inspired by the movie Julia & Julia, with Meryl Streep,—which I absolutely LOVED—Marisa, decided to get inspired. She began her blog entitled: A New Dress A Day, where, instead of cooking through the Julia Child Cookbook, she opted to combine something that she enjoys (shopping) with frugality in a year-long challenge:

“I’m going to be spending the entire year without doing an ounce of traditional clothing shopping. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “this girl is outta her gourd”, and I completely agree with you.”

This thriftista gives you the step-by-step on how to spend $1 per day on a dress found at a flea market, garage sale, or thrift store and then how to re-purpose it something a bit more wearable.

$365, 365 days, 365 dresses. If you want to keep up to date on her adventures, go here.

Here are a few favorite turnouts:

Does this inspire you to Julia & Julia something? What would you be willing to challenge yourself to for 365 days? Photography? Exercising? Crafting? Hmm….I’m going to have to put this idea on simmer for a bit and see what sort of reduction I get.

Photos by Confronting The Duck and A Dress A Day

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A designer’s guide to over 150 green solutions (eye candy for non-designers), the Green Design Library was created to be a lookbook of sorts to avoid duplication of design research for green products. Brilliant.

This site is up for a $10,000 grant. Cast your vote here.

Photo by Green Design Library

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Baby Swimming

by Almira on July 1, 2010 · 0 comments

I was mortified when I first watched this YouTube video (below) on infant swimming. The idea of a baby falling into the pool, fully clothed in pajamas and coughing up water made me wonder why everyone, including Child Services, hadn’t banned the idea. It was disturbing at best; however, I’ve known many families that had a baby either drown in their own pool, a river/lake, the ocean, and even the bathtub.

Video not showing up? Watch the Baby Survival Video here

The Foundation For Aquatic Injury Protection reports:

  • More than half of drownings among infants (under age 1) occur in bathtubs.
  • More than 85 percent of drownings among children ages 1 to 4 are pool related.

Video not showing up? Watch the baby swimming class video here

It’s commonplace for a parent to be concerned about their baby around water, but why not add a little insurance to the mix and teach the little one how to swim and save itself while waiting for your rescue?

Infant Swimming Resource Motto: “The Sooner. The Safer.”

I’d love to hear your opinions. What do you think? Would you teach your baby to swim?

Photo by Seriously Fun.

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“Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.” -Gerald O’Hara, Gone With The Wind

There’s something magical about owning your own little plot of land (the above image is not my backyard—it happens to be Oscar De La Renta’s lovely garden) that brings this Gone With The Wind classic saying to life. In my case, it’s a relatively small sized back yard, but I’m not complaining—at 1,740 sq. ft., it’s much bigger than my previous small concrete slab condo patio! I’ve certainly been waiting for years to be able to do a little more than grow sprouts from my condo window. Though, in my gardening research, I’ve learned that there are many resources that teach you how to garden in small spaces (even small patios).

Now that a somewhat self-sufficient lifestyle is possible, I’m absolutely overwhelmed—yet excited. And although, due to my neighborhood covenants, I won’t be able to put in my own grey-water system (more on that later), dry clothes out on a line, keep bees, or raise even the smallest of livestock (no, not even a chicken), I can certainly organically garden year round and create a permaculture within my property, while storing/preserving the excess for food storage, compost, collect rainwater, cook with local (it doesn’t get much more “local” than your back yard) seasonal ingredients, recycle, utilize traditional cooking and food preparation methods (and un-cooking) for superior nutrition absorption, create my own all-natural beauty products and herbal medicinal tonics, and design and sew some of my own clothes using recycled material or eco-fabric. Whew—one step at a time.

Healthy Republic was created in the attempt to create a holistic lifestyle. One that incorporates slow food, slow design, slow fashion—slow everything—into a self-sufficient utopia. Trying to strike the perfect balance in the triad of rest, fuel, and fitness. Sounds silly, and perhaps impossible, but I’m at least going to try!

Let the games begin.

Photo by Richard Felber for Domino via Elle Decoration

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