Will a household products subscription help YOU save the earth?

A household products subscription is an arrangement by which a company mails you certain items–like soap, toilet paper, and laundry detergent–on a regular basis.  A number of companies have started offering this service recently.  Some of them only sell environmentally preferable products like plant-based detergents and recycled paper.  Others offer these items among a wide range of products.  Will subscribing to earth-friendly products delivered to your door help you to reduce your environmental impact?

Well, it depends!  Here are some questions to consider.

Would this get you to change to greener products than you’ve been using?  If you’ve been washing your dishes in petroleum distillates because your local stores don’t carry plant-based dish detergent, then buying the green stuff would be an improvement.  But if a subscription just means buying by mail the same products you’ve been sticking into your cart as you walk through your local store buying milk and vegetables each week, then the subscription is actually worse for the environment because of the additional energy used to ship your package and deliver it to your home, on top of the energy you use going to and from the store. Read more of this post

Baby’s First Traffic Safety Lesson

Lydia is eleven months old.  Yesterday, we spent some time enjoying the beautiful spring weather in our small front yard.  Lydia studied the flowers.  She picked up dead leaves (functioning as mulch) and examined their lacy skeletons.  She gleefully wiggled her arms amid the arching green leaves of the daylilies coming up between our sidewalk and the neighbors’, and she pulled on some leaves to assess their strength and find the tearing point.

She also spent lots of time sitting or crawling on the sidewalk in front of our yard, soaking up sunshine, saying, “Hi!” to all passersby.  She toddled along next to our neighbors’ retaining wall, which is just the right height to lean her hands on.  Then she ventured across the sidewalk, looked over the curb, and began to reach for an interesting pebble in the gutter.

I said, “No!” and pulled her back.  She looked surprised.  But just then–perfect timing!–a car came rumbling along our brick-paved street.  “Stay out of the street.  The street is for cars,” I told her.  I pointed to the passing vehicle.  “Cars are big and fast.  We stay out of their way.”  She leaned over the curb again.  “No, the street is not for you.  The street is for cars.  The sidewalk is for people.  Stay on the sidewalk.”

I’m going to have to repeat this lesson a zillion times before she really understands–so let’s get started!  It’s complicated: The street is for cars, but when people get into cars we have to step into the street to get there.  The street is for cars, but people can walk across streets, following safety rules.  Lydia will have to learn that she can’t go into the street alone but can go with a taller person.  I know how to explain that.  But for now, I started with the lesson relevant to the present situation: Play on the sidewalk, not in the street.  A few repetitions did the trick for yesterday.  We’ll tell her again next time she approaches the curb. Read more of this post

Baked Tofu at The Purple Tulip

P1010891This recipe has been in development for more than three years.  Our son Nicholas first suggested it as part of a dish he wanted to serve in his pretend restaurant, The Purple Tulip.  It turned out very well that first time, but we had to make it several more times to be certain of the correct measurements and cooking technique . . . and we don’t eat tofu all that often, once or twice a month . . . and when we do eat tofu, there are several other recipes we like, especially Tangy Honey-Apricot Tofu . . . so it’s taken us a while to get in enough testing sessions to be confident of this recipe.

Baked Tofu is a protein you can serve in a rice bowl, in a wrap, on a salad, as a “meat” with side dishes, or whatever you like.  You can even eat cold or room-temperature leftovers in your packed lunch.  It has a firm, chewy texture and gets crisp at the edges.  The flavor of the sauce soaks in, making this a tasty, hearty food. At The Purple Tulip, we’ve served Baked Tofu in these two ways:

  • with thinly sliced apple and red pepper, wrapped in a whole-grain tortilla.  May also include lettuce and/or a thinly spread layer of beans sauteed with onions and mashed.
  • over rice, with kale and mushrooms sauteed in sesame oil, salt, and a little white pepper.  This is the version shown above, elegantly plated for me by Nicholas.  He prefers to eat his tofu separately from the vegetables, but he actually does eat those vegetables in decent quantity when they are prepared this way and served with Baked Tofu.

To make 6 servings, you will need: Read more…

10 Book Reviews by a 10-Year-Old

This is a guest post by Nicholas Efran.  His book reviews are a lot more succinct than his mom’s! If you want to know more about the books, you can ask Nicholas in the comments.

key:⭐️=1 star  🌜=1half star  😥=so sad  😠=makes me so mad  👎=thumbs down  🆒=cool book  💯=100

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

This is the story of kids who won a writing contest and got to go to the pre-opening of the new library before it opened to the public. They played many games there, but they found out that the last game they were going to play was “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library”. I don’t want to spoil too much of this book, as it is a good book, but I really recommend you read it—and there is a surprise at the end of the book!⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

Elephi, the Cat with the High IQ by Jean Stafford

Elephi is a cat who looks out his window one day and sees a little white car that a man is abandoning in the deep snow. He manages to get the little car into his owners’ apartment. He talks to this car—which I find a little strange, but things in stories can be personified. Eventually the car’s rightful owner comes back and everything is good.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Elizabeth Rew is a girl who discovers magic in a place you wouldn’t expect: The New York Circulating Material Repository, which is like a library of objects. She has adventures with her friends, and they discover who is working with bad or dark magic.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander

We got this book at the library book sale, and since it was about a cat I thought I would like it—but I was almost 💯% wrong. 😠  The book is about a cat who can time-travel and has a strange white mark on his belly. Apparently the cat can talk to his owner, and the owner wasn’t surprised at all when the cat started talking, and apparently all cats can talk and time-travel. Instead of having nine lives, they can live nine lives in nine different time periods. The cat takes his owner places (I only got through two before I quit reading the book) and they have adventures, almost all of which involve getting kidnapped and taken away. Nothing seemed to be explained enough, and their adventures seemed quite repetitive.🌜👎

Redwall by Brian Jacques

This book involved a lot of fighting and things that I thought were just terribly sad, like a mouse and his family getting trapped and forced to do things and being threatened with death.😥  Apparently, when the mice found a fox that was on their side lying injured, they just took him inside their castle, and he could walk up their stairs with no difficulty, which seems strange because mice are a lot smaller than foxes.⭐️⭐️🌜👎

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

This was an extremely good book with many twists and turns in the plot. I really enjoyed reading it, although I think it was a little strange and hard to understand.  Mr. Westing chooses his heirs, and his will describes things they’re going to do as it’s being read. He gives them a puzzle to solve that leads them to the name of his murderer. There are many explosions, and overall I give this book⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

I really enjoyed this book. I remember my dad tried to read it to me when I was about 5, but I didn’t remember any of it, so I wanted to read it again. Claudia and her brother Jamie run away from home to live in the art museum in Manhattan, where they have adventures trying to figure out who made a statue called Angel.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Miranda had a friend named Sal.  However, another boy punched Sal—apparently just to see what would happen.  Every day when Miranda walks home from school, she has to pass the laughing man, a homeless guy who seems kind of crazy.  It’s all explained in the end, but I don’t want to ruin it!  This is a very interesting book, as it involves time travel, and I give it⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

Ghost Cat by Helen Rushmore

Ghost Cat is a book about a girl named Glory who finds a cat she thinks is a ghost, although she doesn’t really believe in ghosts; however, the legend said there was a ghost who looked like the cat.   Overall, I think this was a very good book, and I think you should read it.  I would give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer

The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer is a book about a family who moves into the country in their family’s trolley car.  They had a lot of fun after finding out that they had neighbors who were very nice.  They grow a garden and have a small farm and have other cool adventures.  I liked this book, and overall I would give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

Visit the Quick Lit Linkup for more book reviews!  Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday for more great tips on many topics!

Seder and Holy Week: Family Traditions, Old and New

Welcome to the April 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family History This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, lore, and wisdom about family history. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. ***

My children’s ethnic ancestry is five-eighths Yiddish: All of their father’s grandparents, and my maternal grandfather, were descendants of Eastern European Jews.  We aren’t Jewish–my ten-year-old son Nicholas and I are Episcopalians, we’re bringing baby Lydia to church with us, and my partner Daniel does not practice any organized religion–but Jewish/Yiddish customs are an important part of our family background. seder plate

Daniel’s grandfather, Herschel, is 99 years old and still hosts a Passover seder in his home.  I’d never been to a seder before I started living with Daniel.  Now it’s our annual connection to our Yiddish roots, and I missed it very much the few years we weren’t able to attend.  Daniel’s mother always comes to spend Passover with her father, and she makes the dinner.  Family friends, the Feldmans, come over for the seder and bring dessert.  We don’t make it as formal and reverent as we could, but we all respect the basic structure of the ritual and try to follow the traditions.

Nicholas was three months old at his first seder.  He sat calmly in my lap and even slept through part of it.  Of course he doesn’t remember it.  He was too young to sample any of the food.  But it was very special to all of us that he could participate in this family tradition with his great-grandfather.  (An extra bonus was that my brother happened to be in town that spring, so he got a chance to attend the seder, too, and to meet Daniel’s extended family.)  Herschel exclaimed many times how glad and amazed he was to be a great-grandfather.  Although he knew we wouldn’t be raising Nicholas as a Jew, still we were welcome at the seder table. Read more of this post

Miracle Salve GIVEAWAY!!

UPDATE:  The winners have been announced (at the end of the article) but please read about this wonderful healing product and consider buying some for yourself.

Miracle Salve, made by Kerry’s Herbals, is a wonderful product that I’ve been using for a decade.  I now have the opportunity to share it!  Seven lucky readers will win a free jar of Miracle Salve!  Two winners will get the two-ounce jar (that’s a couple months’ supply, even if you have serious skin problems) and another five winners will get the half-ounce jar (that’s enough to get a good sense of what this green goo can do for you).

Miracle Salve is made entirely of natural plant oils and beeswax.  It truly is green–not only is it less environmentally damaging than a product made from petrochemical distillates, but it’s literally green in color, a shade similar to my Earthling’s Handbook logo.  It has no added fragrance but simply smells like its ingredients: a pleasant, herbal smell that I like a lot better than the smell of petroleum jelly. Kerry's HerbalsThis smooth, creamy salve soaks into irritated skin, soothes the stinging, and speeds healing.  It’s awesome for rashes, scrapes, and super-dry skin.  Kerry’s Herbals says it even can be used to treat corneal abrasion, which means it must be safe enough to put into your eye!  I haven’t tried that, but it’s never caused any discomfort when I apply it–unlike so many treatments that sting at first. Read more…

Elsewhere on Earth

This photograph, which was in Sunday’s newspaper, is the image I’m keeping in my mind this Good Friday.

A Syrian Kurdish boy sits on a destroyed tank Friday in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab. Photo by Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images.

That is a place on this very same planet where I am sitting comfortably in my office.  That is a boy who is growing up in the very same time as my son Nicholas, who is visiting me at work (it’s his spring break from school) and looking forward to a pizza lunch.  Odds are nobody’s going to shoot at us as we walk down the street, and there won’t be any rubble.  The trees here are preparing to open sweet new green leaves.

It is only by luck that we live here and not there.

What is it like to go out to play in that wasted landscape, to find an interesting big thing to climb on that happens to be a recently-disabled killing machine?  I am grateful that I don’t know, but I think sometimes I need to make myself think about it.  I need to think about this one boy, to will him strength and courage to be a better person than many around him.

Today I am thinking of this picture and of these words sung by Phil Collins:

This is the world we live in,
And these are the hands we’re given.
Use them, and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth living in.