Terasol Artisans Holiday Show 12/5

Terasol Artisans will be hosting a holiday artisans show on Saturday, Dec 5th, from 10:00am to 5:00pm. The show, which will feature the work of several talented local potters and woodworkers (as well as my handcrafted bath and body products), will be held in the Chevy Chase section of DC, at 3216 Patterson Street NW, Washington, DC 20015.

For more information, you can call Terasol owner Sabrina Ousmaal at (202) 237-5555 or visit www.terasolartisans.com.

Fresh Food: Healthy Alternatives to Factory Farming

Sign outside of Cibola Farms, Culpepper, VA

Two weekends ago, I had the good fortune of attending a screening of Fresh in Oakton, VA. This film starts by discussing the detrimental effects of industrial farming to the Earth and to our health, including food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Then it takes a positive turn by showing examples of people who are pioneering innovative sustainable farming methods. The screening was followed by a panel of speakers that included one of the pioneers from the film, Joel Salatin.

Salatin, a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist farmer,” is the owner of Polyface Farms in Swoope, VA , who was made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Salatin has developed innovative methods of farm management that utilize the natural interactions of farm animals with the land and with one another. By avoiding chemical pesticides, industrial feed, animal crowding and nutrient depletion in the soil, his animals are far healthier and provide greater nutrition to people eating them, than those raised in industrial conditions. In following these practices, Salatin saves quite a bit of money by not having to purchase pesticides, chemical fertilizers, feed and antibiotics. As a result, he yields a much, much higher profit per acre used than farmers using less natural means.

Buffalo grazing in the fields at Cibola Farms

Impressed by the movie and Salatin’s presentation, I have signed up to receive delivery of his free-range, grass-fed poultry as I have not been able to find good local chicken since my favorite farmers market meat supplier, Cibola Farms, stopped offering poultry. I feel very fortunate to be within delivery range of Polyface Farm. As a matter of fact, one of the great advantages of living in the DC Metro area is being close proximity to a huge range of family-owned farms.

Inspired by Fresh as well as other information I have been gathering about my local farms, yesterday my family and I decided to take a road trip to the Cibola Farms ranch in Culpepper, VA where they raise the free-range buffalo and pork that we still purchase regularly at our local farmers market.

Upon arriving, there was a notable lack of livestock scent to the area. As I walked around, I realized that this was because the animals had huge tracts of land around which they could move. There were herds of buffalo, a few dairy cows, several chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys, pigs, honey bees, and a very gregarious farm cat.

A happy, friendly dairy cow at Cibola Farms

This bucolic lifestyle was in stark contrast to the images of factory farms I had seen in Fresh, and Food, Inc., another movie about industrial farming. The Cibola animals looked relaxed, happy and well taken care of. They were grazing on grass, weeds and insects that exist naturally within the farm’s eco-system.

If you eat meat, it is worth considering where your meat comes from. Ultimately, we ingest what our food sources have taken in, regardless of whether they are plants of animals. By making a conscious choice in the purchase of our food, we have an opportunity to help support more sustainable farming practices and to better support our own health.

Even if you don’t live in the Greater DC Metro area, there are many places throughout the country where you can purchase locally grown, healthy food. A great place to start is the USDA’s website, which has a search page where you can locate a farmers market near you.

This article, which I authored, originally appeared on the Etsy Earth blog.

Reducing Holiday Stress

Recently I found myself behind a car whose license plate read: “IMEDIT8.” I couldn’t help but smile. I had been thinking about how stressful the holidays can get – it seems that everyone I speak with mentions in the same breath how the holidays are coming up so quickly and how busy they will be as a result. Quite often, it’s said in the tone of someone bracing for a huge undertaking.

Every year I find myself taking on a lot of extra responsibilities around the holidays, so I work hard to make sure I don’t overextend myself. I do this by continually reassessing what is necessary and what isn’t, what is possible and what isn’t. For example, during my first holiday season in the DC area after moving from Connecticut, I ended up driving for several hours there and back for Thanksgiving and Christmas. While it was wonderful to spend time with friends and family, I found myself exhausted, and not spending enough time in any one place. This year I chose to limit my travels to just Christmas, but for a longer period of time. So, while it would have been wonderful to spend time with close friends and family at Thanksgiving, avoiding the stress of too much travel will allow me to enjoy the time I do have with them that much more. Plus, I had a wonderful first Thanksgiving in Virginia!

In addition to trying to do too many things in too short a time, a large source of stress around the holidays comes from our expectations (even if only subconsciously) that everything should be perfect – our family will gather in peace and love, everyone’s wishes will come true and everyone will sing in perfect harmony. However, this Norman Rockwell ideal is generally not in line with the reality of the holidays. Often we become stressed striving for perfection that is neither attainable, nor even necessarily desirable.

It is important to be alert to signs that you are under too much stress such as irritability, anxiety, inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, headaches, neck and back pain, or stomachaches. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is probably time to take a breather, delegate, or drop the things that aren’t really necessary. Simplify.

There is an organization devoted to promoting the idea of simplifying our lives by de-emphasizing the material. The mission of New American Dream is to offer resources that make it easier to live consciously and buy wisely. Last year I attended an alternative gift fair that they sponsored, in which several local non-profit organizations were selling donation gift cards, which make great gifts for the people on your list who “have everything.” There is a Holiday Survival Kit that you can download from their website that includes a booklet on ways to make your holidays more simple and more enjoyable. It also features Gift of Time vouchers to print out and give to people instead of physical gifts, tips for a less stressful holiday season, and much more.

Here are some ideas on how to reduce your holiday stress:

1) Don’t demand perfection. Instead, focus on what is most important to you, and be realistic about what you can accomplish given your time and budget. Remember, the holidays are supposed to be joyful!

2) Set boundaries around how you are willing to allocate your time. If you feel overextended, realize that you don’t have to please everyone. It’s okay to spread out your visits, or have shorter ones.

3) Many experts recommend humor as one of the keys to surviving the holidays with family. On a physical level, it lowers blood pressure, releases endorphins, and diffuses tension. And from a mental perspective, it helps you to keep things in perspective – if you can laugh off your quirks and your family’s idiosyncrasies, potentially annoying situations will go more smoothly for you and those around you.

4) Take time for yourself. Make time for fun and relaxation: take a walk, play a game, read, meditate. It’s also important not to let exercise fall by the wayside. Exercise helps to reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase your energy and stamina by increasing levels of mood-enhancing, energy-promoting neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

Happy Holidays!

Trendy Billings

Storefront in downtown Billings, MT

The following post is by blogger, Julia Guarino

In January of 2009, I moved from the Washington, DC area to a small city of about 100,000 residents in the middle of Montana. I came to Billings to perform a year of service with AmeriCorps, and although I looked forward to being exposed to elements of American culture that I had never encountered before, I was a little concerned about being able to maintain a vegetarian diet. After all, Montana is “beef country” (as they proclaim on billboards along the highway), and I knew from some online research that there would be no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Billings, although it is the largest city in Montana and several surrounding states, is just too small to attract that kind of chain. I also assumed that in beef country, where cowboy hats and pickup trucks abound, there would be little demand for tofu, seitan and other meat substitutes.

And it’s true that at times I get a strange look when I confess that I’m a vegetarian. Sometimes I get odd questions, like “Do you drink coffee, then?” or “Do you eat cookies?” For many, vegetarianism is not something they’ve witnessed first-hand; which makes sense in a place where, I’ve been told, you can get the most incredible steak even in the cheapest little places. However, I have been a life-long vegetarian, and it is something I cannot imagine ever giving up, so tofu or no, I planned to forge on.

One of my first stops after arriving in Billings, being an impoverished volunteer, was the Super Wal-Mart. I honestly don’t feel particularly good about supporting a big-box store, and try to avoid them when I can, but I was in need of inexpensive food and cleaning products, and I must admit, I was impressed. Wal-Mart had an extensive array of green cleaning products, carried recycled paper goods, and, to my great delight, had an entire case full of vegetarian meat substitutes.

Good earth Market, Billings, MT

As I began to explore Billings’ trendy and historic downtown, however, I came across a colorful building with big beautiful windows that quietly occupies a quarter block on the western edge of downtown. The Good Earth Market is, to this day, one of my favorite places in the city of Billings (and in fact competes for the best grocery store I’ve ever shopped in). Bright and spacious, with colorful displays and smiling staff, the Good Earth carries a wide variety of natural, organic, local and vegetarian friendly products (though you can get fresh local meat as well). With an incredible deli, salad and coffee bar, cafe seating downstairs or in the loft, and free WIFI, it is also a relaxing place to spend an afternoon. They even have a parking space out front, equipped with an electrical outlet, that is reserved for electric cars! Now I never grocery shop anywhere else.

Off the Leaf Coffee Shop, Billings, MT

In the time that I have spent in Billings, there is much that I have grown to love, and much that has surprised me about this small city. There are incredible pockets of world-class art, performance and music mixed in with the charming western cowboy culture, and I have learned much about another part of my own country, while never feeling deprived of the great cultural opportunities I was used to accessing in more urban areas. And it turns out that being a vegetarian in Montana wasn’t so difficult after all!

And I am not the only person who thinks that Billings has a lot to offer — the November 2009 issue of Fortune Small Business Magazine named Billings as the #1 place to start a small business!

Pumpkin Bread: A New Twist on a Fall Favorite That’s Good for the Planet and the Palette

Image from Simply Recipes

Posted by guest blogger, Kia Guarino

A few weeks ago, my annual fall craving for everything pumpkin kicked into full swing. I found and bought a big can of pumpkin puree at Whole Foods with grand plans…and let it sit. Finally, after staring at it wistfully for a few weeks, I decided to make pumpkin bread today.

After conducting a general Google search on “pumpkin bread recipes,” I figured out a consistent list of ingredients and decided to do something a little different: make it as healthy and eco-friendly as possible.

Two main points that I kept in mind: everything in moderation and natural is always better than processed!

Improved Recipe
1 cup (organic) pumpkin puree
½ cup organic butter (melted)
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 free-range grass-fed chicken eggs
1½ cups locally grown pesticide-free whole wheat flower
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves

Pumpkin Puree:
Having already purchased non-organic pumpkin puree, I let this one slide. In the future I will definitely use organic instead. Either way, pumpkins are full of natural health benefits. Like carrots, the orange color indicates that it is an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant and has been shown to help prevent certain cancers.

Vegetable Oil:
One thing Americans need to learn is to not be afraid to use butter. The original recipe calls for ½ cup of vegetable oil, but I decided to use organic butter instead. Many vegetable oils on the market are made from genetically modified plants and go through extraction processes that can leave behind chemical solvent residues. You can use sunflower or safflower oils if they’re organic and cold pressed, but quite frankly, butter tastes better.

Sugar:
Refined white sugar has had all the minerals, vitamins and other benefits of natural cane removed. In a time when immune system strength is particularly important (to battle swine flu!), it is important to avoid refined sugar, which can lower the immune system and feed bacteria. I decided to use organic evaporated cane juice instead, since it does not undergo the same processing as refined white sugar and therefore maintains its natural calcium, iron and potassium.

Eggs:
Although they appear to be identical products, free-range eggs are much higher in Omega-3 than the factory farmed equivalent. There is also a significant difference between what chickens are fed in factories compared with those that are free-range grass-fed. These differences are then transferred to the egg. Plus, free-range just tastes better.

Flour:
As with processed white sugars, white flour is stripped of most of its natural nutrients and usually bleached. You can buy unbleached flours, but they are still missing the essential nutrients, including fiber. Using whole wheat makes the pleasure of pumpkin bread a little less guilty and is overall much healthier. Using locally grown flour is important on a much larger scale for long-term sustainability. While this might be hard to do, whenever you can buy local, do it! King Arthur flour is a good alternative since they are employee-owned and high quality.

Spices:
The spices used in pumpkin bread and in many fall favorites (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) also have many natural health benefits. Cinnamon and nutmeg have been known to help with stomach and digestive issues and clove with pain management. Cinnamon and clove also have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Cooking Instructions
1 Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease a 9×5 baking dish.

2 In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, melted butter, sugar and eggs.

3 In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, then combine with the other ingredients. Mix slowly.

3 Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 45 minutes to an hour until a thin skewer poked in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let it cool.

This recipe makes one moist and delicious loaf!

A Conversation with Anna from Greetings That Grow™

I recently discovered  Greetings That Grow™ when I was searching for eco-friendly givewaways for a green trade show where I was exhibiting. Their handmade plantable organic wildflower seed gift tags, customized with my company name and planting instructions, proved to be a big hit with my green-minded customers.  I was interested in learning more about the story behind this wonderful company and sharing it with you. So, the following is an an interview with Anna, owner of Greetings That Grow™.

Please tell me about Greetings That Grow. When/why did you start your business?

I came up with the idea for Greetings that Grow™ in the spring of 2008,  but actually became a licensed business in January 2009.  I started the business because I wanted to offer unique cards that were not only eco friendly, but useful as well.

What are some of the challenges you faced when you initially started your business and how did you overcome them?

How and where to market my cards because I was the first to make plantable photo cards, so there was no “market” established yet for them. I have found twitter to be a very useful outlet, both for networking and for learning about marketing through facebook, blogging, etc.

In the very early stages of development, I had to come up with my own technique for making my paper, embedding my seeds, etc. I had to find a great lab to develop my prints (I have used iprintfromhome.com exclusively for the past year). I had to do a lot of research to find seeds that were hardy and versatile enough to grow all over the world.

Hard work, patience, and an open mind have been key for me. My husband and I have teamed up to brainstorm, revise, and refine. We weekly go through my shop and think up ways to better items, new item and picture ideas, etc. There is no such thing as perfection, so we are always striving to better our products–both in quality and selection.

How did you get started in your chosen craft?

I have loved photography and writing since I was a child, and it has been a dream of mine to someday make my own line of greeting cards. When I stumbled upon plantable paper in an Etsy shop in the spring of 2008, I fell in love with it. I had already lost my love for the typical Hallmark (buy and trash) cards in the past year or so, having become much more eco conscious, so it seemed natural for me to come up with an original way to turn plantable paper into cards. I researched a lot and found that no one had made plantable cards with removable photographs, so I started making them.

What’s your greatest success so far as an entrepreneur?

I have been blessed with many successes (in my mind at least!), but I think the thing that has most excited me would be selling internationally. I love that my products are being shipped and grown all over the world.

What are some the eco-friendly practices you incorporate in your business/products?

I am very big (in all aspects of my life) on being eco friendly–my husband calls it obsessed, lol! Business wise, I use only 100% post consumer papers to shred up into my pulps. All of my wildflower seeds are 100% organic and by January 2010, all the rest of my seeds will be as well. I make all my paper by hand and press it that way as well. All my paper is naturally air dried, so no energy is used for that. Most of my tools were upcycled from items my husband and father in law found in our Grandpa’s garage after he passed away. He kept everything and was always finding a use for spare parts. My husband and his dad took these spare (seemingly useless) items and turned them into one of a kind tools for my business.

I use natural items like pine cones and sand and such for props and backgrounds for all my pictures. I take my paper scraps and shred them into confetti that can be planted and used as eco friendly packaging. Anything I cannot sell in my shop, I plant in my garden or give to someone to plant. We recently had planting instructions designed by bearcengic.etsy.com that are printed on 100% post consumer paper with soy ink. Our new business cards are printed by them also, and as such, are just as eco friendly.  We now are using clear biodegradable, compostable bags for our cards and confetti that are made from plants. We are adding new lines of cards that will have paper inserts made from 100% (acid and lignin free) cotton, so that basically our entire card, including its packaging and plantable envelope, but minus the photograph print, can now be planted!

What resource have you found most valuable in running your business?

My husband (who is very good with scheduling and the practical end of business) and Twitter.

What is your favorite product that you make?

My cards obviously because they are my own original creation and I am very proud of that.  I used to make favors and business cards and such, but made the decision recently to get rid of those items so I could focus solely on my cards.

What’s next for Greetings That Grow?

We are launching new lines of greeting cards that will have (biodegradable) paper inserts with customizable printed phrases/sayings (like Merry Christmas) and poems. We are looking into the possibility of adding personalized memorial poems as well. I have been writing since I was a young girl, so adding poems to cards seems like another great way for me to incorporate another of my passions into my business.  I have also been taking lots of new pictures to add to my selection of prints for cards.

an apple a day

child-licks-pig-snout

I love this photo from TreeHugger.com!

The following is a guest post by blogger, Julia Guarino.

I know that for me – and I don’t think I’m alone – when I hear or read “H1N1”, I experience an emotional mix of exasperation and fear. I am pretty tired of hearing about the threat, but as a 20-something with asthma, I am classified as “high-risk”, and a raw egg allergy prevents me from receiving a flu shot (about which there are varying opinions). Whether or not the virus poses a threat to me, I have come to the conclusion that I should seek out other methods of prevention; the natural way of course. Here are some tips I came across in my research.

1. Wash your hands, of course! The first tip I came across everywhere; flu season basics. (But it’s best to avoid antibacterial soap!). This tip also goes along with other general flu-season hygiene; keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth and nose, and avoid others who are sick. Stay home if you have a fever or don’t feel well! (I know it’s hard, but think of your co-workers).

2. Take care of yourself; sleep, and eat well. Avoid sugar and alcohol, sometimes a difficult feat at this time of year, but it’s worth it! Kurt Williamson, virologist and Assistant Professor of Biology at the College of William & Mary, says that keeping your immune system strong is the best way to keep the flu at bay.

3. Get fresh air, and keep your home and office ventilated; air flow is good for keeping bacteria from lingering.

4. Take your vitamins. Vitamin D helps boost your immune function. Williamson says that the best source of Vitamin D is sunshine! Since it is hard to get sufficient amounts of Vitamin D from diet alone, make sure to get outside whenever you can.

5. Supplement your diet. Zinc, elderberry, and Echinacea have also been shown to have some anti-viral properties.

6. WebMD recommends a sauna. Research has shown some correlation between saunas and lower rates of cold and flu infection; plus they feel good!

Want to learn more about flu prevention? My sources were: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WebMD, LiveStrong, and BlackVoices. You can also visit http://www.flu.gov/.

Running and Rocking for Cancer Awareness

N.E.D.
A couple of days ago, I received an email announcing the Inaugural Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Movement (GCAM) Weekend in Washington, DC. I was asked if I would write a piece about this event and the headlining act, and I agreed because this is a topic near and dear to me. In addition to being the Chief Herban Developer of Herban Lifestyle, I also coordinate the scientific review of cancer prevention and survivorship programs, and I volunteer for Inova Hospital’s Life with Cancer program, and I have a couple of friends who are gynecological cancer survivors.

The weekend includes a 5K and half-marathon race to end women’s cancer on November 8th, as well as a 1-mile walk intended to promote awareness for the diseases and raise funds for they Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF). As part of this, a unique band, N.E.D., will conclude the events with a live performance at the post-race party. There will also be special celebrity appearances, including one by Mandy Moore, who is excited to be supporting the cause. Information on the race and associated activities can be found on the GCF Race website.

Interestingly, N.E.D. is comprised of six musically talented gynecologic cancer surgeons, whose mission is to create awareness about gynecologic cancers, to save lives and bring hope to women currently undergoing treatment.

The band and their EP have received support from MTV’s social change site, ThinkMTV where they were a  featured topic and Lifetime Women’s Network, who throughout the month of September, featured their public service announcement pushing women to know the warning signs and get checked regularly for gynecologic cancers.

The band has also created a viral widget to promote the initiative, which provides data/statistics about gynecologic cancers, album/band updates, event info, information about the diseases, the band, as well as links to donate and purchase N.E.D.’s music.

You can download a PDF copy of the Race Flyer here.

Take A Hike, For Your Own Good

Hiking in YellowstoneThe following is a post by guest blogger, Julia Guarino. Photo courtesy of Julia, too!

I am not someone you’ll find in the gym seven days a week. Don’t get me wrong, I fully embrace the importance of exercise, and I notice how good I feel when I am working out regularly, but the treadmill is just not for me. Yoga, dance, spin, zumba, and best of all, getting outside to walk, hike or bike; that’s where you’ll find me. I believe that exercise should be fun.

I have had the good fortune to spend the last year in the small city of Billings, Montana. Although there are many great opportunities to practice fun exercise here, it is our proximity to Yellowstone National Park that I am most grateful for. Yellowstone offers approximately 3,472 square miles (2,221,766 acres) of undeveloped park land, 1,000 miles of trail where you can hike, bike and horseback ride, all while enjoying the western wildlife, and views of some of the most incredible natural phenomena in the world.

But even if you are not so lucky as to live near Yellowstone, or one of our country’s other incredible national parks, hiking can be a wonderful way to relax, get some exercise, and spend the day in the company of people you enjoy. My love of hiking was not in fact discovered in Yellowstone, but in places like Devil’s Den in southern Connecticut; a 1,756 acre (less than 3 square mile) park in the suburbs about 60 miles outside of New York City, where my dad and I used to spend many Saturday afternoons.

But even if you live in a city, far from even a 1,756 acre patch of forest in which to hike, getting outside for a brisk walk can be a wonderful way to replace a dreaded trip to the gym. “Urban hiking” is a great way to get to know your neighborhood, burn some calories and come home energized. In my opinion, exercise should not be a chore (and honestly, if it is, I’ll find an excuse to do something else). The best exercise, as one of my friends put it recently, is the kind where you’re having so much fun you forget that you’re exercising; and that’s the kind you’ll never find an excuse to skip!