Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Day!

Happy Leap Day!  Today I'm re-running a post from, you guessed it, 2012 -- it's all about frogs and how we can help conserve these valuable species.

It’s Leap Day, which of course makes me think of one of my favorite animals – frogs!  With over 80 species of frogs and toads in North America and over 4,000 species worldwide (from the Peterson Field Guide for Reptiles and Amphibians), this is a big group of animals.  Frogs are amphibians, which means that they have moist, glandular skin and their toes don’t have claws.  They also have to live part of their lives in water -- usually to lay eggs.  Here are some more fun facts about frogs and toads:

  • Frogs lay their eggs in water; they begin their lives with an aquatic tadpole stage with gills and metamorphose into adults with lungs.
  • Frogs don’t have ribcages, so they breath by a “swallowing” action that forces air into the lungs of adult frogs; oxygen can also be absorbed through the frog’s thin, moist skin.
  • Hundreds of millions of years ago, amphibians were the first vertebrates to live on land (National Zoo).
  • More than 75% of the world’s frogs and toads live in tropical rainforests (National Zoo), but they can also be found in the Arctic Circle and in deserts (Rick Emmer).
  • Frogs and toads are ectotherms, which means that they don’t make their own heat to keep warm.  Their body temperature fluctuates with the environment in which they’re found.
  • Frogs hibernate in the winter – if they’re aquatic frogs, they hibernate near the surface of the water or near water in mud; if they’re terrestrial frogs they can bury themselves in mud, find cracks in logs, or just hide in leaf litter (Rick Emmer).
  • Frogs (as well as other amphibians and reptiles) don’t freeze to death in the winter, because they have anti-freeze (or molecules called cryoprotectants) in their cells!  Specific chemicals prevent the critical cells from freezing, so that the frog can revive as temperatures increase in spring.
  • In my neck of the woods (the mid-Atlantic U.S.), one of the first frogs we’ll hear calling is the spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer).  These little guys can come out when it’s still pretty chilly – I’ve been out on spring peeper walks wearing a heavy winter jacket!
  • You can identify frogs and toads by their vocalizations, just like birds!
two frogs

Unfortunately, many frogs are in danger of extinction worldwide.  One-third of all frog species are in danger of extinction due to a fungus commonly called the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis).  Habitat loss is an even bigger problem for frogs and other amphibians.  Often, frogs are viewed as the “canary in a coalmine” when it comes to the health of various ecosystems.  When we start losing frogs, scientists recommend that we really start paying attention.

So what’s a greenmomster to do?  Locally, be sure to protect frog habitat; the areas where frogs live are often sensitive areas that affect the quality of water.  Is there a new road or housing project being put into your neighborhood?  Have the builders checked for the presence of frogs and other amphibians?  Get busy – maybe this is your chance to “speak for the trees!”  You can also join Frogwatch USA and help with citizen science to keep track of local frogs.  Got a lawn?  Reduce use of pesticides and herbicides that can harm frogs.  Globally, consider supporting organizations involved in frog protection – Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project (for frogs in Panama), Amphibian Ark, or you can even adopt a frog at the World Wildlife Fund.  So many options to help – luckily we’ve got an extra day this year to work on it!

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Three Stooges of Climate Change

Meat-free Friday will return next week!  Be sure to "like" greenmomster on Facebook!

While some issues can be addressed sufficiently at the local level, climate change is not one of those issues.  Climate change must be addressed at the Federal, state, local, and private business levels.  That's why choosing our next president is so important.  That's also why, if you care at all about climate change and your children's future, you should not, not, not vote for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio.  I'm going to let their statements speak for themselves:

Donald Trump on climate change:

  1. His official website,, includes absolutely no information on his climate change policy.  It does, though, include videos on such important topics as "life changing experiences."
  2. He's called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese. Not just once. Just watch him on FOX. 'nuff said.
Ted Cruz on climate change:
  1. His official website,, also includes no information on his climate change policy.
  2. Ted Cruz claims that satellites don't show any warming.  Here's the full explanation of why he's cherry-picking the data. The above video demonstrates Ted Cruz's vast scientific knowledge and understanding.
And if that's not enough to move your hand away from the Cruz button in the voting booth, here's a nice little interview with Glenn Beck that should scare the pants off you:

Marco Rubio on climate change:
The good news is that Marco Rubio's official website does mention energy and climate change.  The bad news is his plan, which includes:
  1. approving the Keystone XL pipeline
  2. opposing any type of cap and trade carbon tax
  3. stopping President Obama's carbon mandates
  4. not "destroying our economy" with climate change measures -- I'll remember that when we have to buy all of our renewable energy equipment overseas, because our government leaders were rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic rather than dealing with climate change.
OK, so now we're done with the three stooges of climate change.  Let's take a look at the candidates who may actually do something to protect our children's future:  Kasich, Clinton, and Sanders.

John Kasich on climate change:

In keeping with the previous three candidates, the John Kasich official website does not mention climate change.  But hope is not lost!  According to an article by Renee Cho in Scientific American (10/28/2015)
John Kasich "believes climate change is real and manmade and has called for action against it, but has not said how he would combat climate change if elected.  While he feels renewable energy should be a large part of our future energy mix and encourages research into new technologies, he supports an all-of-the-above energy policy, which includes approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and oil drilling on federal lands.  Kasich opposes the EPA's Clean Power Plan and would undo all federal fracking regulations."  

Not exactly the greenest choice, but if you want to vote Republican and deal with climate change, Kasich is your man.

Hillary Clinton on climate change

Hillary Clinton's official website has an entire page devoted to her plan for tackling climate change.  From her website, Clinton pledges to:

  • "Create good-paying jobs by making the United States the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.
  • Set national goals to have 500 million solar panels installed; generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America; cut energy waste in homes, schools, and hospitals by a third; and reduce American oil consumption by a third.
  • Lead the world in the fight against climate change by bringing greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below what they were in 2005 within the next decade—and keep going."
Elements of the plan include pollution and efficiency standards, help for coal and low-income communities, reforms of leasing on public lands, and cutting methane emissions.

Bernie Sanders on climate change

Bernie Sanders is so into fighting climate change that it's even got a hashtag on his website (#peoplebeforepolluters)!  From his official website:

"The scientists are virtually unanimous that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world.  And, they tell us, if we do not act boldly the situation will only become much worse i years to come in terms of drought, floods, extreme storms and acidification of the oceans.  Sadly, we now have a Republican Party that is more concerned about protecting the profits of Exxon, BP and Shell and the coal industry than protecting the planet.  While fossil fuel companies are raking in record profits, climate change ravages our planet and our people -- all because the wealthiest industry in the history of our planet has bribed politicians into ignoring science."

Bernie Sanders definitely doesn't hold back.  His plan includes such steps as:
  • accelerating a just transition away from fossil fuels
  • taking policy control/power back from the oil companies
  • revolutionizing our electric and transportation infrastructure
You can read about his plans on the website.

 The take-home:  whether you're republican, democrat, or independent, there's a climate-friendly choice for you in 2016.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Love, Life, and Elephants!

My son just donated to an elephant sanctuary where elephants from zoos, circuses, etc, are cared for as they age.  His donation reminded me that it's probably time for another post about elephant conservation. The work to protect elephants from poachers and the ivory trade is as active as ever. Greenmomster has hosted several posts about elephant conservation and how you can participate (your help is always needed!).  Here's a great video about Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her elephant conservation program -- if you're interested in learning more, be sure to read her book, Love, Life, and Elephants and check out the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Kale Pad Thai

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This week's meat-free Friday gives us a taste of Thailand!  I adapted this recipe for a family of 5 from one I found in a Whole Foods brochure (credit was given to Chrissy Bender, Healthy Eating Specialist in the Mason OH Whole Foods store).  Photo from

  • 2 cups roasted, salted or unsalted peanuts
  • 2 cups Nutritional Yeast (check the bulk foods area of your grocery store)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbls lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs, scrambled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 packages Buckwheat Soba Noodles, cooked
  • Handful of kale, chopped and stems removed
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1) Combine peanuts, yeast, garlic, lemon juice, salt, veggie broth, tamari, water and pepper in a blender.
2)  Toss noodles with the kale, eggs, and tomatoes.  Toss with the sauce.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Urban farming


Readers of Greenmomster know that our food choices have direct effects on the environment, as well as farm workers.  When we decide to eat less meat, the result is a smaller carbon footprint.  When we eat organic food, we decrease the pesticides used in food production (less exposure for the environment and farm workers), but we also increase the amount of land needed to produce food (decreased wildlife habitat) -- a trade-off that each consumer should consider.

Many of us also enjoy growing some of our own food!  Could the "backyard farmer" movement solve some of our food production problems?  Could we reduce use of fertilizer and water, while producing all the food that's locally needed?  According to a new study from the University of Washington published in the journal Urban Forestry and Urban Greening (reported by Sarah DeWeerdt of Conservation, 1/26/2016), while farming within city limits can produce substantial amounts of food, odds are good that we still need farmlands and lots of them.  Be sure to read the summary of the study.

What's the take-home lesson?  A few important points surface as we look at these results:

  1. Greening our cities is an important goal when it comes to decreasing energy costs and cleaning water
  2. Farmland preservation is also necessary to sustain an ever-increasing human population
  3. Food waste should be kept to a minimum in order to reduce food production environmental impacts.  Check out the Think.Eat.Save website for more info on reducing food waste.

Friday, February 12, 2016

So you think vegetarians are wimps?

Once again, we celebrate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, and Greenmomster!  And our birthdays fall on a meat-free Friday!  To celebrate the big day, my boys gave me a cookbook that they said matches my personality -- Thug Kitchen, the official cookbook.  Hmmm, maybe I need to dial down the intensity in the kitchen.  But  I can't wait to try out the recipes!  Not familiar with Thug Kitchen?  Check out their website.  If you're offended by swearing, DON'T check out their website. Seriously.  Don't.

Since I haven't had a chance to try any of the new recipes, here's an oldie-but-a-goodie that we had last night.  Enjoy!

Cornbread Soup

This is actually a recipe that I adapted from a Cooking Light recipe (January/February 2013) for Black-Eyed Peas and Cornmeal Dumplings, but we’ve changed it so much that we gave it a new name.  A big hit here at our house -- you can leave it with its mellow flavor or jazz it up with a hit of hot sauce.  Variety is the spice of life!


  • 9 or more pieces of Morningstar Farms veggie bacon strips, cooked crispy
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tblsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 (15 oz.) cans blackeyed peas, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup chopped spring onions
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tblsp chilled butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • hot sauce (optional)
1)  Saute onion in a large pot with olive oil, for 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute another minute.  Add veggie broth, blackeyed peas, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  If more liquid is needed to make the blackeyed pea mixture “soupy,” add 1 to 1 1/2 cups water or veggie broth.
2)  In a separate bowl, combine flour, spring onions, cornmeal, baking soda, butter, buttermilk.  Mix well and form into little balls by hand.
3)  Drop the cornmeal balls into the blackeyed pea mixture and allow them to cook thoroughly – at least 10 minutes.
4)  Serve immediately, adding hot sauce if you want a little extra zing!  A great side dish for this meal is kale, sauteed in olive oil with chopped red bell pepper and garlic.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wishing you a green Lent!

Lent is here, so I'm reposting some thoughts from 2012 on ways to make your lent more green and meaningful.  Enjoy!

Lent, the Environment, and Jerry Garcia

Well, we’ve stuffed ourselves full of pancakes, the shroves have returned to their nesting sites for another year, the king cake is eaten, and we’re cleaning up the beads.  What’s next for Lent?  It’s time to think green!  Even New Orleans is going green for Mardi Gras and recycling several tons of the Mardi Gras beads.  Although I’m not a big fan of giving things up for lent (we prefer to DO things for lent, like have each of our neighbors to dinner or volunteer somewhere), I can see a role for sacrifice this season.  I propose we give something up for the environment for Lent.  God created this big blue marble; we’re part of the creation and responsible for protecting it.  Here are some ideas:
  • Give up use of disposable bags.  For the next 6 weeks, try bringing your own bags everywhere that you’re usually offered a plastic bag – the grocery store, department stores, drugstores.
  • Give up meat for two meals per week for Lent.  Let’s kick it up a notch and try going beyond the ol’ “no meat on Friday.” 
  • Give up those disposable bottles of water for Lent.  Start carrying your own water in a reuseable bottle – it’ll save you money and keep plastic out of the landfill.
  • Give up one household cleaning product with toxic ingredients.  Try switching your dishwasher soap to one without chlorine – I likeSeventh Generation dishwasher gel, no scent, phosphates, or chlorine.  Or maybe an environmentally-friendly laundry detergent?  I like Whole Foods or Seventh Generation products
  • Give up one car ride per week.  Is there somewhere that you’re driving, where you could walk once a week?  Give up that ride and you may also be giving up a couple of pounds!OR bridge bikes
  • Give up a patch of grass on your lawn.  Plant a native flower butterfly garden or an organic vegetable garden.
  • Give up one degree of heat in your house(frankly, this would be the toughest one for me).  Use a little less energy this Lent by letting your house be one degree cooler.
  • Give up 15 minutes each week to write yourstate or federal representatives about an environmental issue that you care about.  Do a little research and send off a quick e-mail or letter to voice your opinion.
  • Give up the winter raspberries.  Try to buy most, if not all, of your fruits and vegetables in season for the next 6 weeks.  Asparagus is almost ready and the leeks are looking good! 
  • Give up rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.  This is an easy choice for the lazy green momster in all of us.
  • Give up disposable napkins.  Invest in cloth napkins or washcloths and use them at meals instead of disposable napkins.
  • Give up junk mail.  Sign up with Catalog Choice to limit the catalogs you receive in the mail.
  • Give up the long showers.  Try to conserve water and energy by taking shorter showers (ok, maybe this one would be the hardest for me….)
  • Give up a little cash and buy one new organic vegetable per week.  Organics benefit you and the environment by keeping pesticides and herbicides out of the environment.
  • Give up a day to volunteer for the environment.  State and local parks and other environmental groups are always looking for help.
  • Give up your old way of thinking and try to think outside the box on environmental issues.  What can you do to protect the planet?  Come up with a great idea!  At one point in their history, the Grateful Dead actually got involved in rainforest protection.  When asked why they were doing it, Jerry Garcia answered, “Somebody has to do something, it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”  Some days, I agree with Jerry, but during this time of Lent, I believe God is saying that it does have to be us.  So let’s get busy givin’ it up!DSC_0039  Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way!

Monday, February 8, 2016

8 Great Octopus Facts!

I volunteered at the National Zoo's Invertebrate House for several years, and one of the most fascinating animals was the octopus.  These creatures are smart, curious, and as you can see from the above video, can be fond of people!  The book The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery does a great job of describing what it's like to work with an octopus.  Here are 8 great octopus facts about the more than 200 species of octopus:

  1. An octopus has special cells in its skin that allow it to change color
  2. An octopus has chemoreceptors on its arms and suckers -- it can "smell" in the water!
  3. The only hard part of an octopus' body is its beak
  4. An octopus can squeeze through VERY tiny spaces -- the space only has to be as big as the octopus' beak!
  5. You can tell a male octopus from a female octopus by looking at the end of the arms -- the males lack suckers on the end of one of the arms
  6. An octopus can release ink to confuse predators and prey, but this ink also stings predator's eyes and causes their senses to become less acute
  7. An octopus has three hearts
  8. The plural of octopus is.....wait for it........octopuses! (photo:  D.Di Mauro)
Montgomery, S.  2015. The Soul of an Octopus.  A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness.  Atria Books;  New York NY. 

Smithsonian Institution.  Ten Curious Facts About Octopuses.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Superbowl chili!

The perfect Superbowl chili!  I adapted this recipe from a Cooking Light chili.  Don’t be afraid to fiddle with the spices to make it taste the way you like it.  I made a batch for 70 people this week at our church and everyone loved it!  Check out the accompanying cornbread recipe.
Veggie Chili with Indian spices  

  • Cooking spray (I actually use at least 3 tablespoons olive oil, rather than just a layer of cooking spray) 
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 1 ½ lbs fake meat, optional (I used theQuorn tenders from the frozen food section; if you’d rather have a “beefy” feel, try Morningstar farms “crumbles”, also in the frozen foods) 
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 2 tsp minced garlic 
  • 3 tbsp garam masala (see below) 
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon 
  • ¼ tsp ground red pepper 
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg 
  • one 6 oz. can tomato paste 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained 
  • 2 (15.5 oz.) cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed, drained 
  • 1 (15.5 oz.) can light red kidney beans, rinsed, drained 
  • 1 bag frozen corn
Garam masala: I don’t measure out these exact amounts – I just use proportions. So you should have 3 times as much cumin as pepper, etc. 
  • 3 tbsp cumin 
  • 2 tbsp coriander 
  • 1tbsp black peppercorn 
  • ½ tbsp cardamom
  • ¼ tbsp ground cloves
1) Heat oil and sauté Quorn, onion, garlic, and salt until the onion is close to translucent
2) Add garam masala, cinnamon, red pepper, nutmeg, and tomato paste. Saute until things are well mixed together.
3) Add water, vinegar, and tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes.
4) Add beans and corn and cook for about 20 minutes.