Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.25.13

On December 3, I set an ambitious goal for myself — to blog daily on the days leading up to Christmas, with the thought that by taking a series of small steps together we can make the world a better place. 

Christmas is here. I have one final tip. If you are reading this post on Christmas Day…

UNPLUG!

Spend your time with friends or loved ones today.

I hope I’ve made a difference with my daily posts over the last several weeks. If I've inspired you in any way at all, I'd love to hear from you.

Despite at least one prediction that the blog is dead, I’ll be back after a few days of rest.



May your holidays be 
filled with joy and 
your new year with 
peace, health and happiness.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.24.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today I offer up a question rather than a suggestion:

Do These Small Steps Matter?

On December 7th, Wendell Berry — author, philosopher, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, farmer, and 2013-2014 Chubb Fellow at Yale — shared his thoughts in a public forum at  New Haven’s Shubert Theater. Berry, who rarely leaves his farm in Kentucky, answered questions posed by Yale Divinity School Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker and event host and fellow Kentuckian Jeff Brenzel, Master of Timothy Dwight College. I had the privilege of getting a seat in the packed house of 1600. You can watch the event through the “event video” link at the top of this page. The page also contains more on Berry’s life and work as well as the details of his New Haven visit.

Berry stated during this “conversation” that while he is not an optimist, he is hopeful that the little things we do matter, and do make a difference. I like to think that Berry is correct. Otherwise, why bother writing, daily until Christmas, or at all for that matter?

I’d like to share two examples of ways in which cumulative small changes become significant.

The first comes from my experience as a graphic designer. Years ago, when digital typography replaced hot metal typesetting and “desktop publishing” replaced typewriters, it became the convention to use one space after a period rather than two. It created an uproar among traditionalists, but one space after a period is now the norm. The cumulative effect in a short poem or haiku is insignificant. But in a tome like Moby Dick, the number of lines and pages required for printing are reduced considerably by this seemingly small change.

If you don’t believe me, try it yourself. Find a long document in your files. Edit it so that there are two spaces after each period. Count the lines and characters. Now, edit it so that there is only one space. See what a difference removing one tiny space, over and over, can make?

OK, not everyone has that much time for experimenting today. 

Here is another, less involved example. The most recent big win in the Mega Millions lottery was a pot of $648 Million (divided between two winners). With a regular ticket price of $1, and a ticket with Megaplier of $2, at least 324 million tickets were purchased over time for the winnings to get that high. See how $1 here and $2 there can add up?

Now imagine everyone in your circle of friends and family switching to LEDs, or cutting down on food waste, or finding a good home for their excess stuff. Small things do matter when lots of people do them.

That’s it for today. “See” you one more time — tomorrow.

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Meatless Monday: Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.23.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

In honor of Meatless Monday, today’s suggestion is 

Make Some Vegetable Soup…

…if not today, then after the holidays.

Here are some ideas to inspire you.

The Meatless Monday site has many vegetarian soup recipes. You may know the author of this original recipe for Pea Soup with Roasted Root Vegetables. One serving of this soup has 15 grams of protein in its 235 calories, only 8 of which are fat!

One of the Meatless Monday recipes of the day is Roasted Chestnut Soup. If you’ve ever wondered what to do with all those chestnuts you roasted on an open fire, this one is for you.

With a good vegetable stock, you can make an infinite variety of soups. Here is a recipe from food writer Mark Bittman for “Very Flavorful Vegetable Stock in One Hour.”

Be on the lookout for great soup recipes as you flip through your cookbooks as you plan your holiday meals. I discovered some long-forgotten recipes for pasta e fagioli and minestrone in The New Italian Cooking by Margaret and G. Franco Romagnoli. [Published in 1980, so not quite so new anymore.] Keep in mind that just because the recipe calls for pancetta, you don't have to use it. A little extra olive oil will work just fine.

Making soup is a great way to use up leftover vegetables like celery. Don’t be afraid to improvise. If you don’t have time to make your own stock, try stock in a box or add an all-natural vegetable bouillon cube [I like Rapunzel.] to some hot water. If you have almost, but not quite, all the ingredients a recipe calls for, use what you have. 

Vegetable soup is the perfect antidote to rich holiday food.

That’s it for today. “See” you tomorrow.

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.22.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Make Your Own Gift Tags

Instead of discarding last year’s holiday cards to make way for the new ones, turn them into something useful.

Cards like these make excellent gift tags.



Cut them out yourself (or ask a young person to help).

Write your message on the back. There is plenty of room.

Punch a hole in the top. String a bit of yarn through the hole and make a loop. 

Or fold over the top edge and add a piece of double-face tape.

There you have it!

These are way better than the sheets of peel off tags.

That’s it for today. “See” you tomorrow.

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.21.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Wrap it in a Map

Remember these?



Before GPS, or Google Maps and smartphones, paper maps were what one used to navigate from here to there. 

States still print them and give them away at rest stops. Sometimes the governor and his wife appear on the cover, welcoming tourists to the state and urging them to visit the many attractions listed on the back. AAA dispenses them free of charge as part of the membership package, but most people under a certain age just don't need them any more. 


Paper maps are awkward to use, hard to fold up, and, for anyone with motion sickness, impossible to read while riding.

You have to admit though, they are a thing of beauty. Discovery of one of these when cleaning out a desk drawer is bound to stir up memories of a past road trip.  


Although they’ve been replaced by a talking phone, they are too nice to throw away.

Turn them into gift wrap instead.

Choose a map with meaning for the person to whom you are giving the gift.

It's easier to wrap a package than it is to refold a map… 


The photo doesn't do the package justice…

Why buy more gift wrap as long as you have maps in your glove compartment?

That’s it for today. “See” you tomorrow.

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.20.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Honor the Person Who Needs Nothing with a Gift that Keeps on Giving 

You all have people like this on your list. Perhaps they are trying to downsize. Or they only read books on their kindle now. They have a drawer full of new socks and every kitchen gadget imaginable. They no longer wear ties.

What to do?

Yesterday I shared a gift idea for the person who is computer savvy.

Today’s tip is for the person who does not like to go online. 

Consider making a gift to Oxfam America in his or her name.

Here’s how it works.
  • Pick your gift.
  • Your friend of loved one gets a free card (you can download and print or send electronically).
  • Your gift helps someone in need.
Oxfam America is a global organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

The Oxfam Unwrapped program offers a wide variety of gifts in many price ranges. 
They include:
  • Pack of Seeds ($12)
  • Manure (also $12)
  • Mosquito Nets ($20)
  • Computer Training ($35)
  • Emergency Toilet ($50)
  • Bicycle ($85)
  • Donkey Cart ($100)
  • Plant a Forest ($500)
  • Help Build a Girls’ School ($1,500)

There is something for everyone, with a price anyone can afford.

See what Rooney Mara wants for Christmas here.


This is the perfect solution for a last-minute gift.

FYI Oxfam America is highly rated by Charity Navigator .

That’s it for today. “See” you tomorrow.

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.19.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Honor the Person Who Needs Nothing with a Gift that Keeps on Giving 

You all have people like this on your list. Perhaps they are trying to downsize. Or they only read books on their kindle now. They have a drawer full of new socks and every kitchen gadget imaginable. They no longer wear ties.

What to do?

It’s gotten late in the day, so I will do this post in two parts. Today’s idea is geared towards a person who is computer savvy.  

Consider making a gift to Kiva in his or her name.


Kiva is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.

Here’s how it works: You make a gift to Kiva in the amount of $25 or more in honor of someone. Kiva notifies the individual about your gift. The person you honored with the gift searches through the Kiva database and selects a borrower, then makes a loan, gets repaid, and repeats! The choice of who should get the loan is theirs. There are currently over 5,000 loans from which to choose. Learn more here

Since Kiva was founded in 2005, there have been over 1,023,445 Kiva lenders and $507,063,975 in loans. The repayment rate is over 99% Kiva has been awarded Charity Navigator's highest rating.

That’s it for today. Come back tomorrow for an idea for the person who does not go online, for whatever the reason.“See” you then.

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.18.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Sing a Song

‘Tis the time of year for caroling and choruses, on town greens, in churches, in subways and auditoriums. You just can’t escape. There is music in the air, everywhere.

The popularity of singing is on the rise. The number of TV contests devoted to choosing America's next greatest vocal act attest to that.   

In August, 2013, Time published “Singing Changes Your Brain.” 

In her brief article Stacy Horn reported that the number of adults singing in choirs has risen by nearly 10 million over the past six years and that there are over 270,000 choruses across the country.

She also reports that singing has been shown to have both a calming and an energizing effect on people. And that according to some researchers, you don’t even need to be any good to benefit from this activity. 

Scientists are trying to discover exactly why the act of singing seems to impart such good vibes. It may come from the release of endorphins. [I note that the emphasis seems to be on singing with a group and not going solo.]

There’s a whole lot of singing going on this month. Maybe now is the time to lift up your voice and join in.

Google your town and a phrase like “community sing” or “carol singing” to see what is going on near you. Even if most of the holiday events have passed, there is always Christmas Eve. You can always start softly.


That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.” 

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.17.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Do Some of Your Holiday Shopping Locally

It’s another snow day in New Haven, CT, a city where snow often doesn’t make its first appearance until the New Year.

Today’s treacherous road conditions forced many procrastinators to change their holiday shopping plans. I am sure many turned to Amazon. But others ventured out in the snow to explore what was downtown. Judging from the filled shopping bags I spotted during an excursion to the bank, many of them discovered just how much their local shops have to offer.

That was our experience on Saturday, the first of the snow days. We spent a bit more than we would have at the mall, but we received excellent service from an attentive clerk, who then boxed and gift-wrapped our items, and offered us Christmas cookies [sorry, where has to be a secret for now]! We strolled past shop windows decorated with white paper cut-outs, enjoyed a sandwich and coffee at Woodland Coffee & Tea, and a cookie and coffee at Maison Mathis when our shopping was done. We also had the pleasure of using our own calories rather than the gas in the car.  

There are a number of other very good reasons for shopping locally— from supporting business owners who are your neighbors and fellow taxpayers to building community. Perhaps the most compelling reason comes from an economic study conducted in Portland, Maine in 2011. Researchers found that every $100 spent in locally owned business contributed and additional $58 to the economy of Portland. In contrast, only $33 was returned to the local economy for each $100 spent in a chain store.

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.” 

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Meatless Monday: Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.16.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Have Some Fun with DIY Food Gifts  

Since I often blog about food in honor of Meatless Monday, I thought I’d share a few ideas for making homemade gifts of food. 
  • First off, here is a recipe for Cocoa Mix from Whole Foods. Pack it in a Mason jar or special storage container, and you’ll have two gifts in one.
  • Next up are 10 “Timeless Holiday Cookies” from Cooking Light
  • Here are 32 “Edible Gifts to Make” from the chefs on the Food Network. The gifts range from fruitcake to soup in a jar. 
  • Remember Chex Party MixMy Aunt June gave us a coffee can of this every year. Here is Bon Appétit’s take on this classic. You still need to watch the salt.
  • Finally, here is one for Nutter Butter Reindeer. These are fun to make with kids (who don’t have peanut allergies). I made these to decorate a cookie swap tray last year. Too bad about the M&Ms, but I don’t know any substitute.



If none of these ideas strike your fancy, start googling: DIY Christmas food gifts… edible holiday gifts… paleo chocolate chip cookies… homemade holiday gift ideas… You get the idea.

Food is appreciated by almost everyone. You don’t have to worry about the color or the fit or how much space it will take up in a crowded apartment. When it’s eaten, it’s gone. It’s the perfect present.

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.” 

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.15.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Don’t Use Rock Salt

Snow followed by “wintry mix” hit the Connecticut coast pretty hard last night. We devoted a good chunk of the morning to shoveling out which is why this post is late and why ice melt is on my mind.

The best way to keep ice off the steps and walks is to shovel away all the snow before it gets packed down by people tromping by. If the walks are clear, the snow won’t melt when the sun is out and refreeze when the sun goes down.

The real problems come when rain or freezing rain falls on cold sidewalks and steps, instantly creating a sheet of ice. Sometimes the situation calls for some form of deicer, or at least something to provide some traction. Luckily, today was not one of those days, but last night I had my share of worries.

Rock Salt (Sodium Chloride) is cheap and does the job of melting ice quickly. It was the stuff the highway crews used liberally for years, but not without some bad consequences. You’ve seen what it can do the bottom of your car or to a pair of leather shoes. Now imagine all this rock salt washing off the sidewalk into your yard or, even worse, washing off the road surface into the storm sewers, and eventually into the waterways beyond. The heavy use of road salts can lead to damage to vegetation, to organisms in soil, to birds, and to other wildlife, in particular those organisms that thrive in fresh water.

What is a homeowner to do? It is, after all, the homeowner’s responsibility to keep steps and walkways clear of ice.

Sand and kitty litter are safe, but messy alternatives. Ashes from a wood-burning fireplace are another, if they are kept away from food gardens. Beet juice, cheese brine, and sugarcane molasses, are being tested as de-icing alternatives by highway crews in some places, but are not yet consumer products, and the jury is still out on how safe they are for the environment. 

In the meantime, there are a number of more environmentally friendly choices. The Canadian GreenVenture website has an excellent chart on the pros and cons of the options available to consumers. 

The most highly recommended chemical on the chart is Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA). The biggest drawback is its cost, some 20x more than the cost of rock salt. For that reason CMA is not listed in every retail outlet. Ace Hardware does sell a product called QuadMelt of which CMA is the main ingredient. It is available in a 50 lb. bag and retails for around $20.00. 

If you can’t find CMA, at least switch to the less toxic Calcium or Magnesium chlorides, available almost everywhere. 

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.” I expect to be back with a Meatless Monday food tip.

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.14.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Don’t Move Firewood

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire may sound like a grand idea, especially on a frigid day like today with snow blanketing the streets, and forcing changes to holiday shopping and partying plans. Here in New England it's a good day to stay close to home.

But be warned about where you get the wood for your fire. This beautiful little beetle picture below is a harmful invader from Asia. It is the Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis, (EAB), and it is wreaking havoc on America’s ash trees. Since it was discovered near Detroit, Michigan in 2002, the EAB has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees from Colorado to Connecticut, and from Quebec to Texas. EAB has been identified in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and 22 US states, including Connecticut, where it has been officially documented in four counties.
How the EAB arrived in the US, and how it spread so quickly is most likely through transportation of wood — originally on solid wood packing material and now on infested nursery stock and logs sold as firewood.

There  are quarantines and fines in place to prevent potentially infested wood from moving out of areas where the ash borer has been detected. It is against the law to transport wood out of Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, and New Haven counties in Connecticut. 


Generally speaking, it’s not a good idea to move wood even if EAB has not yet been discovered in the area. EAB is in residence long before its presence is noted, usually by its tell-tale galleries discovered in weakened trees. 


Why take a chance? 

I bet this is not the holiday tip you expected. But the danger is a real one, and as a tree-lover and gardener, I take and make any opportunity I can to spread the word about this invasive species.

Please, do your bit and only use firewood of the hyper-local variety. 

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.”

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.13.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Cherish Every Gift Bag  


This one's a no-brainer. I’m not saying you should start buying gift bags, just saying that you should ALWAYS reuse them.

This one came bedecked with curled ribbons — two gifts in one! It still has the price tag on the bottom, which means the next person to receive it won’t even know it’s not new!

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.”

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.12.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Shop for Good  

You could shop at a museum gift shop, an online store supporting a favorite cause, or a holiday craft fair. You could purchase fair trade coffee or chocolate, either at a local store or online at Equal Exchange

…or, you could shop at Ten Thousand Villages. 
I am lucky to live just about a mile from an actual store in New Haven, CT, where I have bought countless gifts. But don’t despair if there is not a store near you. Ten Thousand Villages also has an excellent website, complete with a gift finder and store locator.

Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade retailer, founded in 1946 by Edna Ruth Byler, the wife of a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) administrator, after a trip to Puerto Rico where she met some women artisans. Struck by the poverty in which the women lived, Byler purchased their needlework, brought it home, and began selling it from the trunk of her car to her friends and neighbors in Pennsylvania. For the next 30 years, Byler worked tirelessly to connect individual entrepreneurs in developing countries with market opportunities in North America.

Ten Thousand Villages expanded over the years, becoming a 501(c)3, owned by the MCC in 2000. Ten Thousand Villages now has a network of 390 retail outlets across the US. 10,000 Villages is an exceptional source for unique handmade gifts—jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, servingware, holiday decorations, clothing, and personal accessories representing the diverse cultures of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. You can meet some of the artisans here

One of the world's largest fair trade organizations and a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization, the company strives to improve the livelihood of tens of thousands of artisans in 38 countries by establishing a sustainable market for handmade products, and building long term buying relationships in places where skilled artisan partners lack opportunities for stable income. Product sales help pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. The company encourages artisan partners to use environmentally friendly processes, sustainable natural resources, and recycled materials to ensure each product offered has been crafted responsibly.  Every year since 2008, Ten Thousand Villages has been named one of the "World's Most Ethical Companies" by the Ethisphere Institute and Forbes Magazine. While no longer wholly owned by the MCC, Ten Thousand Villages remains a partner of Mennonite Central Committee.

There is always something new at Ten Thousand Villages, where you can find a gift for almost everyone, no matter what their age. 

There are just 13 days to Christmas. If you still need a gift or two, check out Ten Thousand Villages ASAP. Winter wear is currently on sale at many stores, and the online site offers a deal of the day. 

Shop here and you will bring a smile to your loved one’s face AND a bit of joy to a stranger.

What a big bang for your buck!

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.”

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.11.13

On December 3, I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Give the Gift of Yourself.  

These gift certificates were my best Mothers' Day present one year not all that long ago. But the idea would work for Christmas just as well.




They are part of a larger set, if you can believe it.

This one is my favorite.


Here is one where I was meant to fill in the blanks. The kind-hearted grade schooler didn’t indicate an expiration date. Maybe I could still cash it in!


May these lovingly crafted cards inspire you. 

Even if your “certificates” are never used, I guarantee the thought will be forever cherished.

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.” 

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.10.13

One week ago I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Light Your Tree with LEDs. 

LED (Light-emitting diode) lights consume far less electricity than incandescent bulbs, and that includes strings of holiday lights! According to info found at the US Department of Energy website [scroll down the page for the section on holiday lights], LEDs are also:
  1. Safer: LEDs are much cooler than incandescent lights, reducing the risk of combustion or burnt fingers.
  2. Sturdier: LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass, and are much more resistant to breakage.
  3. Longer lasting: The same LED string could still be in use 40 holiday seasons from now.
  4. Easier to install: Up to 25 strings of LEDs can be connected end-to-end without overloading a wall socket.

If you need any more convincing, check out Energy.gov's estimated cost of electricity to light a tree for one season.


And Energy.gov's cost of buying and operating lights for 10 holiday seasons.


For info on the vast assortment of LED holiday strands available, where to purchase them, and special offers for trading in your old strings of lights for some new ones, check out this article at thedailygreen.

Here are two different options on sale at True Value Hardware.


EnvironmentalLights.com even offers a solar option

I hope I’ve caught you in time, but if you’re tree is already up, there’s always next year!

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.”


“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Meatless Monday: Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.9.13

Last Tuesday I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place. 

Today’s suggestion: Start with a Pumpkin. 



If you picked up a pumpkin or some winter squash to decorate your Thanksgiving table, now is the perfect time to cook it (or them—all of them) before it gets too old. You can always freeze what you do not use; it will make a tasty treat at winter’s end.

If you have a small pumpkin like this one, it’s a “sugar” pumpkin and you are in luck! These are great for making pumpkin pie. If you have a much larger pumpkin, its flesh will likely be too stringy for use in recipes. 

I halved this pumpkin, removed its seeds, oiled it slightly, and roasted it in a 350° oven until tender (about 50 minutes) the Monday night before Thanksgiving. I scooped out the pulp and stored it in a covered dish in the fridge. Tuesday night we warmed it up in the microwave to get it to room temperature, and my husband pushed it through a wire sieve. It yielded just over two cups, the amount we needed for a wonderful pumpkin pie.

The recipe came from James Beard’s classic cookbook, American Cookery

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups cooked, strained pumpkin
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk or coffee cream (I used light cream)
  • Unbaked pie shell for a deep 9 or 10 inch pie or for two 8 inch shells.
METHOD
  • Preheat the over to 450°
  • Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat until the yolks and whites are combined.
  • Add the pumpkin, sugar, and spices. [I used the larger amount of the spices.]
  • Blend well.
  • Add the milk or cream and stir to combine thoroughly.
  • Have the pastry shell(s) ready.
  • This is rather a sloppy mixture to pour, and it is better to dip it from the bowl to the pastry.   
  • Put the pie(s) in the oven. Bake a larger pie for 15 minutes (smaller pies for 10) and then turn the oven down to 300° and bake about 30 minutes longer. [I covered my pie crust edges with foil and removed it for the final 15 minutes.] 
  • The pie is done when the filling appears set when the pie is shaken gently, except for about 2 inches in the center.
  • Cool the pie on a rack and refrigerate once it is at room temperature.
My artisanal pumpkin pie. Don't judge by its appearance.

The night I started my pie project, I watched Martha Stewart tell David Letterman on late night TV that canned pumpkin was OK to use. But take it from a person who has often used pumpkin from a can in the past — this pie was the best. I’m not going back.

Just make sure that your pumpkin is a sugar pumpkin, not one for carving. If you only have acorn squash, that works OK, too. 

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.”

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.