Saturday, July 26, 2014

Got Ivy?

Growing up, I always thought ivy was a great plant – if it’s good enough for the “ivy league,” it must be good, right?  Wrong!  When it comes to ecology and gardening, english ivy gets an F.  It’s an invasive non-native species that can take over wooded areas and kill trees.  So, this morning I spent a fun-filled 3 hours removing ivy from a tree in my yard.  Wow, that was a good bit of work….20140726124700  20140726124713 , but well worth it.  It’s a 3 step process:

  1. Cut the ivy at the base of the tree and at shoulder height.
  2. Gently remove the ivy along the trunk of the tree (don’t bother pulling off the ivy above shoulder height – you’ll just rain twigs, branches, and bugs on your head)
  3. Remove ivy on the ground by cutting around patches and then rolling up the mats.

Here’s a great instruction sheet with pictures to help!  The best way to avoid english ivy, or other non-natives, in your yard is to “just say no” – don’t plant them and if you see them, take them out!  But once they’ve established a foothold, the extra work is worth it in order to save your trees!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fantastic Falafel

Summertime is a great time for falafel, when you can garnish with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers!  I used to cook up the prepared falafel from a local restaurant, but now that I’ve adapted this great recipe (My Favorite Falafel, Epicurious), I like to make my own.  I’m providing the version using canned chickpeas.  Enjoy!

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1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tblsp finely chopped fresh parsley (about 1 tblsp dried)
2 tblsp finely chopped fresh cilantro (about 1 tblsp dried)
1 tsp salt
1/2 – 1 tsp dried hot red pepper
4 cloves garlic (or 4 tsp jar garlic)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp baking powder
4-6 tblsp flour
canola oil for frying
chopped tomato, chopped cucumber for garnish
tsatsiki sauce for garnish
pita bread

  1. Put chickpeas and onions in a food processor or blender.  Add parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin.  Blend until mixed, but not pureed.
  2. Sprinkle in the baking powder and about 4 tblsp of flour and continue to blend (If you’re using a blender, I recommend you take the mix out of the blender and begin mixing by hand at this stage).  Keep adding flour until dough forms and you can make a little ball without the dough sticking to your hands. 
  3. Place bowl in frig and cool for a few hours (this step is optimal, but not mandatory – it just keeps the falafel from falling apart in the oil.  If you don’t refrigerate, just use hot oil and be very gentle.)
  4. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep frying pan.  Form the falafel into little balls and fry a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. 
  5. Serve in pita with tomatoes, cucumbers, and tsatsiki.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

TBT–Where are our climate change marchers?

There are several big climate change rallies/hearings happening across the nation next week – and you can get involved!  This week’s TBT is a post I wrote last summer after some of the other rallies I’ve attended.  Be sure to get updates on all the greenest news -- "Like" greenmomster on Facebook!

DSC_0087This week our nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, a revolutionary event in American history that helped to encourage racial equality in this country -- truly a great event to celebrate.  But as I looked at the front page of the newspaper today, I couldn’t help but think, “Where are the climate change marchers?  Where are the hundreds of thousands of citizens, willing to march today to change policies that affect not just every American, but every person on the planet?”

On this page, I’ve written about my family’s experiences, marching against the current lack of fracking regulations and for the need for alternatives to fossil fuels.  When the crowds got to 30,000, we were thrilled!  But as millions of people are threatened with permanent loss of their homes due to sea level rise or due to ever-increasing natural disasters caused by climate fluctuations, shouldn’t the climate change crowds be bigger?  As oceans become more acidic, due to man-made input of CO2, shouldn’t our congressional representatives’ phones be ringing off the hook?  As species go extinct because they can’t move quickly enough to adjust to climate change, shouldn’t the outcry be deafening?

I usually try to stay upbeat and positive about environmental issues and challenges, but today’s news for some reason affected me differently.  After over 20 years of scientists warning us of the dire affects of climate change, I just have to ask, “where are our marchers?”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I heart lemurs!

For Mothers Day, my son took me to Island of Lemurs Madagascar 20140703112725 at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.   It’s IMAX, so it’s shown on a screen that’s 6 stories high!  It’s narrated by Morgan Freeman, so you know it’ll be entertaining!  It’s 3-D, so you get to wear the funny looking glasses 20140703111256!  And it’s a great G-rated movie about lemurs and the threats they face in their home of Madagascar.  I’ve posted previously about these beautiful animals and the research center at Duke University.  I thought this movie did a great job of presenting the current state of lemurs and what’s being done, both locally and internationally, to try to protect these creatures.  The photography was stunning, and the animals were fascinating (particularly the nimble sifakas).  My only negative comment would be that the music was, at times, a bit overdone – but that was easily forgiven as the movie closed to Hanitra Rasoanaivo’s rockin’ version of “I will survive.” 

Duke® Bumper Sticker.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

A summertime classic!

This week just a quick plug for a product we love.  In the summer, one of my favorite things to do is go to the fair – next week is our county’s annual 4H fair.  A guilty pleasure is the not-healthy fair food!  But when you really want corn dogs and don’t eat meat, what’s a greenmomster to do?  Try Morningstar Farms corn dogs (photo from – always a hit, and very easy to make if you’ve had a busy day of summertime activities and are a little too tired to cook.  I wasn’t paid for this post – just thought I’d share a great find!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TBT—Fish Tales

We just got back from a fun getaway to Block Island RI, so I’m re-posting this post about clamming and sustainable fisheries – enjoy!  And be sure to “Like” greenmomster on Facebook!

During our recent visit to Block Island, RI, our friend Thom took us clamming!  No one in the family had ever tried this activity before, so we really enjoyed the adventure.  First step, was getting a license to gather clams.  We paid our money and received small metalnewengland59 rectangles with which we had to measure our clams.  If the clam fit through, we had to bury it back in the sand; if it didn’t fit, we could keep it.  We explained to the kids how this was a way to ensure that there would be clams in Block Island the next time we visited.

When it comes to fishing, sustainability is an important topic.   You’ve probably read about many depleted fisheries and types of fish that you shouldn’t order at a restaurant.  Scientists spend much time trying to calculate the number of fish that can be taken from a population without causing the population to decline or crash.  Managers also work to decrease bycatch (non-target species inadvertently caught) and to forge international agreements (think Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin). 

But if you’re a greenmomster who’s not out clamming, how can you help these fisheries scientists and managers?  You can help by carefully researching your fish purchases.  Each time you avoid purchasing fish from non-sustainable fisheries, you’re helping the environment.  Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium website or NOAA’s FishWatch website.  Both websites have background information on sustainable fisheries and instructions on how you can make eco-friendly fish choices.  Next time your family is hankerin’ for a fish fry or a little pasta with clam sauce, you’ll know you made a sustainable choice! 

Want to learn more about the impact of sustainable fisheries?  Check out this informative video on coral reefs from World Resources Institute:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Eggplant–Mozzarella Melt

I found this tasty recipe for an easy “burger” grill in the summer Martha Stewart Living magazine.  I made a few little changes and additions (in parentheses).  Be sure to “Like” greenmomster on Facebook for green news and recipes!

4 slices eggplant, about 1 inch thick
1 large red onion, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds (I used sweet onion, like vidalia)
extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing (I used olive oil spray or mist)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 pound mozzarella, cut into slices
4 brioche buns, preferably with sesame seeds, halved (I used King’s Hawaiian hamburger rolls)
4 small leaves of Bibb or Boston lettuce (I used spinach, because that’s what was in my frig, and all worked out OK!)
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
(we added slices of tomato)

  1. Preheat grill.  Spray eggplant and onion with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill onion until it’s softened.
  2. Grill eggplant on one side.  Flip and add cheese to new side.  Grill until cheese is melted.
  3. Layer basil, eggplant with cheese, onion, tomato, and spinach on roll and enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Green Getaways—Go Ape!


For throwback Thursday, I thought folks might be looking for some green getaways during the summer, so for the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of our past green adventures.  First stop – Go Ape!

If you’re looking for a fun outdoor adventure, I’ve got the place for you!  My friend Karlin (the photographer for the trip) and I decided that swinging in the trees with our boys would be a great way to spend a summer day, and we were right!  Go Ape is a ropes course/zipline company that startedDSC03292 in the U.K., but now has 3 locations in the U.S. (in MD, VA, and IN).  The experience starts with a 30 minute safety briefing and practice run, so that everyone can learn to “clip in” throughout the course.  Adults can only supervise two children at a time and the minimum age is 10 years.  After the fitting of your ropes belt (it’s tight) and the safety briefing, you’re off to enjoy the course!  Each course includes a series of challenges high in the air (I mean high-pucker-factor high in the air – 40 feet high) that each end in a nice, long zip line.  Courses include twisted ladders, net bridges, and tarzan swings.  I enjoyed playing the little piggy and yelling “wee, wee, weeeee!” on each zip line – not at all embarrassing for my 13 and 12 year old boys.  The course also includes signage telling you about endangered treetop animals like chimpanzees and orangutans, as well as the local trees, but I think I’m the only one who read the signs between courses.  Nice to know they’re there, though!

DSC03305The website estimates that your visit to Go Ape will last 2-3 hours, but we were there for over 4 hours – we took advantage of having no groups behind us, did the tarzan swing a few extra times, and perfected our tarzan yells!

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

A green parable for Sunday

bee on liatrisHere’s a little story that our pastor sent to us – I hope you enjoy this thought for your Sunday.  For all the greenest news, be sure “Like” greenmomster on Facebook!

God said: "Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles."

St. FRANCIS: It's the people that settled there, Lord. As in biblical days, this tribe has given itself a name: the Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. When it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You won't to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don't want to think about it anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE: 'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Red, White, Blue, and Green 4th of July!

It’s the 4th of July – one of my favorite holidays!  So how can we make the 4th of July red, white, blue, and green?  Sure, you could forgo the home fireworks, serve organic food, and use re-useable plates and silverware.  DSC_0029But here’s what I suggest for a REALLY patriotic 4th:

  • choose an environmental issue that’s near and dear to your heart
  • find a 15 minute slot of time
  • write a letter or e-mail to your local, state, or federal representative, telling them your opinion about the environmental issue
  • head out and enjoy the festivities, knowing you’ve participated in a truly patriotic 4th of July!

Have a fun and green 4th of July!

fairfax va 4th of july