The once-a-year cheat

For Meatless Monday, learn about one man’s decision to go vegetarian. This is the third installment of a three-part series. Read the first installment here and second installment here.

By Mark Donahue
I used to permit myself a cheat meat meal once a year, but I gave that up in 2010 after tasting my father-in-law's BBQ ribs, which I used to love. That evening they nearly made me wretch right there on the pool deck.

My in-laws still can't believe I did it, though they've accepted it a little more as the years have passed. They like to imply that I'm whipped or something. I can only ask the straight men among them if they could've resisted a chick in leg warmers feeding them delicious food. And since then, my wife Erika has gone from a pretty good vegan cook to one who puts pro-quality offerings on the table every single meal. It's even become one of our little dreams to start our own restaurant in this lacking local market.

We've been joined in all this by our two children, Ella and Archer, three and two, respectively. We finally have more mouths to help finish the leftovers, which there always were so much of when it was just two of us. The vegetarian diet my kids eat (they get some dairy and eggs) has so blown away any preconceived notions I had about a non-meat childhood it isn't even funny. Both are smart, healthy, extremely energetic and big, particularly Arch, who has exceeded all percentiles for growth. He's the new Mountain Man.

All I can say is that I royally lucked out in becoming a vegetarian by meeting my wife. It was all given to me. But I hope this doesn't dissuade anyone considering giving up meat from another angle, for health or ethics first, as a single person, divorced, etc. It took time, but I did come to understand the real reasons one should do it, and I've embraced my diet as part of my identity. I've even considered going all the way to vegan.

I highly recommend it from a health standpoint, an environmental-impact standpoint and a kindness-to-animals standpoint. For me, it's become about being a good person to all living things and the earth itself. I don't claim to be a great environmental evangelist, but it just seems right. I hope you would consider it too.  

Food compounds slow cancer metastasis

More than 40 plant-based compounds can turn on genes that slow the spread of cancer, according to a first-of-its-kind study by a Washington State University researcher. Gary Meadows, WSU professor and associate dean for graduate education and scholarship in the College of Pharmacy, said he is encouraged by his findings because the spread of cancer is most often what makes the disease fatal. Moreover, says Meadows, diet, nutrients and plant-based chemicals appear to be opening many avenues of attack.

"We're always looking for a magic bullet," he said in a statement. "Well, there are lots of magic bullets out there in what we eat and associated with our lifestyle. We just need to take advantage of those. And they can work together."

Meadows started the study, recently published online in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, with some simple logic: Most research focuses on the prevention of cancer or the treatment of the original cancer tumor. But, it's usually the cancer's spread to nearby organs that kills you. So rather than attack the tumor, said Meadows, control its spread, or metastasis.

He focused in particular on genes that suppress metastasis. As search engine terms go, it took him down many a wormhole in the PubMed research database, as the concept of nutrients and metastasis suppressor genes is rarely identified by journals. It's even an afterthought of some of the researchers who find the genes.

"People for the most part did not set out in their research goals to study metastasis suppressor genes," says Meadows. "It was just a gene that was among many other genes that they had looked at in their study."

But Meadows took the studies and looked to see when metastasis suppressor genes were on or off, even if original authors didn't make the connection. In the end, he documented dozens of substances affecting the metastasis suppressor genes of numerous cancers.

He saw substances like amino acids, vitamin D, ethanol, ginseng extract, the tomato carotenoid lycopene, the turmeric component curcumin, pomegranate juice, fish oil and others affecting gene expression in breast, colorectal, prostate, skin, lung and other cancers. Typically, the substances acted epigenetically, which is to say they turned metastasis suppressor genes on or off.

"So these epigenetic mechanisms are influenced by what you eat," he says. "That may also be related to how the metastasis suppressor genes are being regulated. That's a very new area of research that has largely not been very well explored in terms of diet and nutrition." Meadows says his study reinforces two concepts.

For one, he has a greater appreciation of the role of natural compounds in helping our bodies slow or stop the spread of cancer. The number of studies connecting nutrients and metastasis suppressor genes by accident suggests a need for more deliberate research into the genes.

"And many of these effects have not been followed up on," he says. "There's likely to be more compounds out there, more constituents, that people haven't even evaluated yet."

Meadows also sees these studies playing an important role in the shift from preventing cancer to living with it and keeping it from spreading.

"We've kind of focused on the cancer for a long time," he says. "More recently we've started to focus on the cancer in its environment. And the environment, your whole body as an environment, is really important in whether or not that cancer will spread."

Making the ultimate compromise

For Meatless Monday, learn about one man’s decision to go vegetarian. This is the second installment of a three-part series. Read the first installment here.

By Mark Donahue
For my wife and I, the start of our domestic life together started there in the basement kitchen of the hipster hovel where she resided. Besides tofu, she also fed me seitan, TVP and tempeh — all kinds of fake meat. But I was a little more resistant to everything else, save potatoes (in a concession to my Irishness). Early on I wrote her a list of the vegetables I wouldn't eat, and she took it as a challenge to convert me on every item.

We also went out to restaurants a lot, hitting all the Chicago standards for vegan dining. It soon became apparent that as great as these places were, they were few in number and in need of reinforcements, this city not being particularly sympathetic to non-meat eaters. Such was my introduction to the Us vs. Them situation my girlfriend found herself in when we left the cozy basement kitchen looking for food.

I felt for her — most acutely when we were on the road or stuck in some remote part of the city. Where I could've easily walked into a McDonald's as a last resort, Erika sometimes had to go hungry till we got back to home base. In the time before smartphones it was hard to find a decent ethnic (read: Thai) option if you didn't know the area.

But I never gave her a hard time about how this sometimes inconvenienced me because I did plenty to inconvenience her in the early days. And she kept making me such incredible food. When we moved in together in the spring of 2004, I was fully under the roof of a vegan, and that's what I ate all the time, save lunch.

Lunch was my last vestige of meat. Particularly the grilled and ham and cheese from Big Herm's across the street from my office in the West Loop. I informed her with guilty, mocking pleasure whenever I ate one of these monstrosities. Erika would shake her head. I would laugh. But it was more a matter of me flaunting my last outlet for dietary bachelorism. I was like a travelling salesman on the road.

This gloating was perhaps too much to bear for her, considering how happy it seemed to make her to make me happy with her cooking. It should be all her, as it was in the rest of our relationship. And I know she was also concerned about my health. Even a 20-something young dude can only take so many greasebombs for the team before he starts to get sick in the many ways food can make you sick.

I heard this concern in her voice and saw it in her eyes. So I said I Do. I Do to vegetarianism. And I was equally happy when she said she'd give up her cancer sticks, the final gate to living fully healthy.

Look for the final installment next Monday!

The unexpected vegetarian

For Meatless Monday, learn about one man’s decision to go vegetarian. This is the first installment of a three-part series.

By Mark Donahue
Why did you become a vegetarian? Once in awhile I get this question, though not as much as I used to, which suits me fine because I’ve always hated answering it. And that’s because I've never just cut to the chase to conserve the effort.

I did it for a girl.

This is 100 percent true. I did it for my wife, who at the time of the pact was my girlfriend — or fiancée to be precise because it was a wedding pact. Very simple, really: Erika challenged me to stop eating meat after we tied the knot, and I challenged her back to stop smoking. It was a playful, loving bet borne of our mutual concerns for each other's health. We metaphorically shook hands and sealed the deal when we married on June 18, 2005.

I was 28 years old and had been eating meat all my life. Erika was 24 and a vegan since 15 — she'd started smoking around the same age as well. I was not a "meat lover" or "vegetarian hater." My diet was given to me as a child in a meat-and-potatoes Catholic Midwestern home and survived into my young manhood out of habit and laziness. I had no real attachment to it, save maybe the fried chicken and ribs (and white borscht, and Cuban sandwich — okay, enough.)

Erika's own reasons for being a vegan are more complex, but they were definitely the product of the times. Like me, she was a music-loving leftist in the '90s, and for many people that meant adopting a non-meat diet, more out of politics than health concerns. By the time I met her in early 2003, that cause-conscious epoch had passed, and many young people we knew had slid back into eating meat, along with a lot of other new bad behaviors.

I was impressed by Erika's continued rigor. She and her good friend Marie had never wavered, even as the mohawks and chain wallets disappeared, and it gave me a glimmer of hope. Hope that young people of our generation could actually stick to a good cause, not just to things like, say, a coke habit.

And she could cook. She cooked like no girl I'd ever met, and I soon became her biggest customer, supplanting the starving hardcore boys and coffeehouse crowds she'd fed before. I'm a very liberal person in support of total equality of the sexes, but something stirred in my blood when this beautiful young woman would put a plate of food before me. Maybe one of my Austrian ancestors in some tiny mountain hamlet had experienced the same thing hundreds of years ago*. Of course, he was probably served mutton, not tofu.

Check back Monday, Aug. 27 for the next installment. 

Eat egg yolks, might as well smoke, researchers say

Newly published research led by Dr. David Spence of Western University, Canada, shows that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes. Surveying more than 1200 patients, Dr. Spence found regular consumption of egg yolks is about two-thirds as bad as smoking when it comes to increased build-up of carotid plaque, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. The research is published online in the journal Atherosclerosis.­­­­

Atherosclerosis, also called coronary artery disease, is a disorder of the arteries where plaques, aggravated by cholesterol, form on the inner arterial wall. Plaque rupture is the usual cause of most heart attacks and many strokes. The study looked at data from 1231 men and women, with a mean age of 61.5, who were patients attending vascular prevention clinics at London Health Sciences Centre’s University Hospital. Ultrasound was used to establish a measurement of total plaque area and questionnaires were filled out regarding their lifestyle and medications including pack-years of smoking (number of packs per day of cigarettes times the number of years), and the number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years consumed (egg yolk-years).

The researchers found carotid plaque area increased linearly with age after age 40, but increased exponentially with pack-years of smoking and egg yolk-years. In other words, compared to age, both tobacco smoking and egg yolk consumption accelerate atherosclerosis. The study also found those eating three or more yolks a week had significantly more plaque area than those who ate two or fewer yolks per week.

“The mantra ‘eggs can be part of a healthy diet for healthy people’ has confused the issue. It has been known for a long time that a high cholesterol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular events, and egg yolks have a very high cholesterol content. In diabetics, an egg a day increases coronary risk by two to five-fold,” says Dr. Spence, a Professor of Neurology at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Director of its Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Centre (SPARC) at the Robarts Research Institute. “What we have shown is that with aging, plaque builds up gradually in the arteries of Canadians, and egg yolks make it build up faster – about two-thirds as much as smoking. In the long haul, egg yolks are not okay for most Canadians.”

Dr. Spence adds the effect of egg yolk consumption over time on increasing the amount of plaque in the arteries was independent of sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes. And while he says more research should be done to take in possible confounders such as exercise and waist circumference, he stresses that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Food safety guides for groups most vulnerable to foodborne illness now available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have partnered to create six booklets with food safety advice for populations that are most susceptible to foodborne illness. The booklets in this “at-risk series” are tailored to help older adults, transplant recipients, pregnant women, and people with cancer, diabetes or HIV/AIDS reduce their risk for foodborne illness. The booklets are downloadable in PDF format at To order booklets for your home, office, or organization, call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET, or email requests to 

In the News: How stress recovery is made easier by smiling

Just grin and bear it! At some point, we have all probably heard or thought something like this when facing a tough situation. But is there any truth to this piece of advice? Feeling good usually makes us smile, but does it work the other way around? Can smiling actually make us feel better? In a study forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas investigate the potential benefits of smiling by looking at how different types of smiling, and the awareness of smiling, affects individuals’ ability to recover from episodes of stress.

“Age old adages, such as ‘grin and bear it’ have suggested smiling to be not only an important nonverbal indicator of happiness but also wishfully promotes smiling as a panacea for life’s stressful events,” says Kraft. “We wanted to examine whether these adages had scientific merit; whether smiling could have real health-relevant benefits.”

Green Tip: More summertime energy tips

Cutting back unnecessary energy use is an easy way to reduce energy consumption while saving money. Here are some additional suggestions you can do at home, at absolutely no cost to you.

Turn up your thermostat
Set your thermostat to 78 degrees when you are home and 85 degrees or off when you are away. Using ceiling or room fans allows you to set the thermostat higher because the air movement will cool the room. Always take into account health considerations and be sure to drink plenty of fluids in warm weather. (Save: 1 - 3% per degree, for each degree the thermostat is set above 72 degrees)

Use your appliances wisely
To help prevent electricity outages, avoid running your appliances during peak hours, -- from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. -- or anytime an electricity emergency is declared. Conserve energy by running your dishwasher only when it is fully loaded, and turn off the dry cycle and air dry dishes instead. (save: 1 percent) Turn off appliances, lights and equipment when not in use. (Save: 2%)

Do your laundry efficiently
Use using the warm or cold water setting for washing your clothes. Always use cold water to rinse clothes. (Save: 4%) Line dry clothes whenever you can. (Save up to 5 percent). When you need to use the dryer, run full loads, use the moisture-sensing setting, and clean the clothes dryer lint trap after each use. (save: 0.5%)

Operating swimming pool filters and cleaning sweeps efficiently
Reduce the operating time of your pool filter and automatic cleaning sweep to fourto five hours, and only during off-peak time. (Save: 1-2% per hour of reduction)

In the News: Clif Bar recall

Clif Bar & Company is initiating a voluntary recall of a small amount of 6-packs of Coconut Chocolate Chip CLIF Bars that were distributed to limited Target and Walmart stores. These six-packs may contain Coconut Chocolate Chip CLIF Bars that are mislabeled with White Chocolate Macadamia CLIF Bar wrappers with a Best By date of 16MAY13G1 and do not list coconut in the ingredient statement. Clif is taking this precautionary safety step for people who are allergic to coconut.

It's about time for fashioning change

By Mary Rose Roberts
I recently stumbled across an online article about changing the way U.S. residents make their fashion choices. Let’s face it. Most Americans buy cheap fashions from retailers including Target, Old Navy and Macy’s. These are often throw-away garments: They don’t wash well, they fall apart and are out of season before they leave your closet. Even worse is that fact tiny little kid hands often make those fashions for you--and every time you buy, you support child labor or outsourced U.S. jobs.

Few of us have the time or the desire to build a proper wardrobe, like our grandma and grandpa had. They went to Marshal Fields, bought the best and something that lasted, and had it tailored to fit. We need to get back to this and reduce the waste created by the fashion industry. That is why I was attracted to Fashioning Change, a beta website that helps users find eco-alternatives to their favorite fashion brands. So I checked it, and then interviewed Adriana Herrera, founder and CEO.

For your time, Adriana is offering the following discount to readers:
Promo Code: StyleWise
Discount: 10% Off
Valid: 8/1/2012 - 8/7/2012

What was the thinking behind starting the business?
LBD from Wear This, Not That section of
I grew up with a unique lens on making purchases. My father grew up on Juarez, Mexico, a city that many consumer goods companies outsource to. He had friends and family that worked in many of the factories and knew what it meant for the people and the community to purchase one brand over the other.

He instilled in his children three rules we had to abide by when it came to making purchases:  We weren't allowed to buy things made in Asia; we weren't allowed to wear clothing made of synthetic materials; and we weren't allowed to wear dark clothing because my dad feels that children are the light of the world. From childhood, I was always thinking about where something came from, how it was made, who it was made by, and under what conditions.

I ended up co-founding a product development company and domestically manufactured eco-friendly handbags, opening up connections to designers that also were passionate about socially responsible manufacturing. So many of these designers were incredibly talented in making beautiful products, but they were forgetting the business element of reaching consumers. So to solve the problem, I decided to leverage emerging technology to build a platform that connects shoppers with brands that do fashion better.

Perfect work shirt + guilt-free!
Fashioning Change provides the missing link of providing consumers with sustainable and ethical designs that are direct alternatives to brands they already know they like.

What is Fashioning Change’s mission?
Our vision is simple: to partner with online shoppers and facilitate sustainable positive change to protect health, the earth and human rights. Together, with our partners, our goals are to create applications that help people take steps towards leading authentically sustainable and happy lives and facilitate access to information that creates transparency in what our purchases support. It also is to introduce shoppers to reliable eco-friendly and ethical brands that have the look, quality, and price points of name brands; partner with consumers to drive bottom-up systemic change in the retail and manufacturing industries; and become a partner and resource to social justice organizations that are working on human rights issues and to protect the earth.

What exactly does the site do as far as matching fashion?
Shoppers share price, style, brand and values preferences and Fashioning Change introduces carefully curated alternatives that match preferences and also protect health, the earth, and human rights. Our Wear This, Not That series gives shoppers better alternatives of on trend and essential pieces from top-name brands. We've also launched Share The Goodness, a product recommendation tool that pulls information from your friends on Facebook and provides product matches. So, if your sister loves the beach and motorcycles, you'll be able to easily suggest products that are perfect for her.

What are the challenges? Joys?
Love these socks for winter!
My dad always says, "The number one resource we have in life is time. It's the one thing we can never get back." The toughest thing about running a startup is that there's never enough time to do everything we want to do.  One of the hardest things about my job is to prioritize what we're going to do ensure that I'm creating the shortest path to positive change possible.

It's an indescribable feeling to wake up every day and know that I'm getting to work on something that is creating change and was inspired by the way I grew-up.  Not many people are able to push themselves to take the risk that the Fashioning Change team has taken.  It's amazing to see how far our hard work has gotten us.  We still have a ways to go before we fulfill our vision but it's rewarding nonetheless.

Where can you be found online/social media?
Twitter Handle: @fashion_change
Twitter:  @adriana_herrera
Facebook: Fashioning Change
Pinterest: Adriana Herrera 

Prepare the night before for a nutritious breakfast

By Mary Rose Roberts
Last year, I hurt my foot and it was the first of myriad stumbling blocks to health—including a car accident. I slowly continue to let my body heal with nutrition, stretching and low-impact exercise, such as bike riding and swimming. But now that I no longer regularly run, I have to watch what I eat carefully. I also must consciously boost my metabolism by eating breakfast.

To help, Food Editor Anna Wulff recommended I layout my breakfast the night before. She said deciding what to eat to for  breakfast when rushing out the door is the worse thing to do. That’s when you tend to just grab something fast, like a bagel, instead of making sure it is a nutritious meal.

I heard it takes 30 days to change a habit. So here I go with Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Granola and green tea.  Is this something you would try?

Free app guides lake-goers

Sea Tow Services International released its mobile application for iPhone and Android smartphone users across the U.S. The free Sea Tow App is a multifunction navigation and boating safety tool. The free Sea Tow App, provides smartphone users with fingertip access to current marine weather forecasts, alerts and radar; tide tables and graphs; GPS location; speed and heading; and access to on-water assistance. Simply swiping a finger on the slide bar at the bottom of every screen connects them to Sea Tow's 24-Hour National Dispatch Center. 

Mosaic giveaway from artist co-op

You know the drill. Comment below or on our Facebook page about this post and be registered to WIN A SET OF MOSAIC COASTERS from Marti Hartle and Leslie Compass of Soul Reflections Glass Mosaic Creations, Cape Girardeau, Mo. You have 7 days from today to enter, so don't delay!
What is your art?
Stained glass mosaics

How long have you two been working together?
We have been creating mosaics together for nearly 10 years.

Was running this business a dream?
I think this was more of fulfilling a dream for me than it was for Leslie. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be an artist and own my own store. I always was making something, and I love to decorate. In Leslie's "real life," she is a nurse and I think that fulfills a lot of her ambitions. But she also has that creative side that needs an outlet. I'm so tickled she has been by my side as my best friend and my business partner. It would not be the same without her.

What was the first step you took to making it come true?
We belong to The Cat Ranch Art Guild and the president of the group, Jeanie Eddelman, was having her grand opening of a studio. We stopped in to say hello when she told us about the space for rent next door. We peeked in the window, and I knew we had to have it. Although it wasn't pretty at the time, we knew it had potential. I think the scariest part was to believe that others would want to join us in creating this co-op/studio. After talking with just a few artist friends that agreed to join us, we realized that we could really make this happen. So we contacted the owner of the building and signed the lease in July 2010 and by September had our grand opening.

Now, almost two years later, we have eight members and four guest artists in the co-op including Leslie and me. It is so nice not have to pack up for shows and pay entry fees, and travel expenses. But the best part is we are all such good friends and it is truly a happy place to be.

What are your mosaics made of?
We use stained glass scraps, beads, tiles, marbles, wood, metal, and other materials to create our artwork.

What inspires you?
We draw inspiration from meaningful day-to-day life occurrences, creating pieces from the heart.

Why is it important to reuse and renew?
It is important for us and future generations (as we are both grandmother!), because taking what some may consider "trash" and turning it into a beautiful original piece of artwork.

Where are you on social media?
You can follow us on our Art Studio Facebook page, Mozaic Art Studio or Soul Reflections. You can contact us with questions or orders through e-mail addresses: or

Giveaway rules: Must be 18 to enter. Names will be printed and placed in a sealed box and picked at random/pure chance of winning. The giveaway ends on 12 a.m. Aug 3 , 2012. Any giveaway worth $600 must be reported to the IRS. 

In the News: Does that cola have carcinogens?

Carcinogenicity and regulation of caramel colorings by Michael Jacobson, (Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA), an article due to be published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, states that Coca-Cola sold in California now contains little of the cancer-causing chemical 4-methylimidizole (4-MI). However, the research shows that alarming levels of the carcinogen are evident in soft drinks elsewhere around the world.

The carcinogen is formed during the production of the caramel colouring that is added to cola to give it its distinctive colour. Chemical reactions between the sugar and ammonia result in the production of 4-MI, which causes lung and liver and thyroid cancer and leukemia in laboratory animals in studies conducted by the US government. Colouring is available that does not contain 4-MI but it is four times more expensive, so is not purchased by the beverage companies.

Tests carried out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) will be published shortly in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (vol. 18.3). The CSPI recommends that the US Food and Drug Administration prohibit the use of ammoniated caramel colouring and provide a more accurate description of the ingredient on all product labelling nationwide.

California requires that cancer warnings be placed on any soft drinks with excessive levels of 4-MI, which could lead to a person ingesting over 30 micrograms (µg) of 4-MI in a day. It is estimated that this amount of the carcinogen would cause cancer in one in 100,000 people over their lifetime. This law has led to Californian bottlers using less of the contaminated caramel colouring, with Coca-Cola from the Golden State containing only 4 µg. Elsewhere in the world, Coca-Cola from Brazil was shown to be the most contaminated, containing 267 µg of the carcinogen per can; in Kenya, Coca-Cola contained 170 µg per can; and in the UK, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Mexico there was between 144 µg and 160 µg per can.

How your family can make a change at Hetch Hetchy

By Kathy Schrenk
A few weeks ago, my sons and I took a two-train adventure to San Francisco to help make history with other advocates for Yosemite National Park. We turned in 15,806 signatures to the elections board (we needed 9,702 valid signatures) to get the Water Sustainabilityand Environmental Restoration Planning Act of 2012 onto the November ballot in San Francisco.

This legislation is sponsored by Restore Hetch Hetchy, which is working to remove San Francisco's reservoir inside Yosemite National Park. No other city is allowed to store its water inside a National Park. Why should San Francisco get a free pass, without even studying restoration?  Check out our plan and donate if you are so inclined. Thanks!

Make bath time luxurious with essential oil, vegan soap

By Nikki Golden
I have a confession. I’m a total hoarder when it comes to what I consider “special” items, such as fancy soap or candles. I don’t even buy them for myself because I know they will be saved for that never-to-be-had special occasion.

However, that changed this year, when I was going through a tough time, and my best friend advised that I should do something nice for myself each day as a treat.

Last December, I had been to Navy Pier in Chicago and picked up a soap sample from a natural soup/lotion shop called Abbey Brown Soap Artisan. (Marketers, take note—brilliant way to get people try your product, if possible.) I loved the smell, so I treated myself to two bars of it.

These soaps are hand-crafted and made up of olive oil (58%), with the remaining ingredients are other natural products and essential oils.

I bought bark because of its cinnamon scent. The full ingredients of this bar include coconut, Shea butter, castor bean, and hempseed. It also includes a blend of essential oils, including sweet orange, cassia, vanilla and cinnamon bark. I also should mention this soap is vegan.

My skin is incredibly sensitive. But this soap’s natural ingredients leave my skin feeling soft and luxurious, like I had been to a spa.

And the scent lingers, which is another plus for me.

Abbey Brown Soap Artisan has several lines of natural soaps, which include savory scents, like Basil Me or Clary Sage; floral scents, like Garden Soap; fruity scents, like Juiced, which has essence of orange, pink grapefruit and Clementine; and more. There also is a line of essential oils for aromatherapy.

Soap runs from $5.50 to about $8.50.

Gazpacho is a refreshing summer treat

By Anna Fischer Wulff
Cool and refreshing.  Gazpacho is great after a day of yard work or any day!

Easy Summer #Gazpacho
1 cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoons ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, and red onions. Put vegetables into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess.

After each vegetable is processed, combine with diced tomatoes, garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

Serves 4

Green tip: Summertime energy savings

These tips are designed to help you choose effective ways to reduce your energy bills. Some measures may not be relevant depending on climate, the age of your home and appliances, and past improvements made to your home. The savings numbers are based on your total summer electric bill. Equipment mentioned must be electric powered for estimates to be accurate. The average home spends about $1,900 a year on energy costs. But you can lower your energy bills and help save the environment at the same time.

Be a speedy chef
Nothing is more energy efficient for cooking than your microwave. It uses two-thirds less energy than your stove.

Push a button to wash your dishes
Surprise! Your dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand. Then let dishes air-dry to save even more!

Fill up the fridge
Having lots of food in your fridge keeps it from warming up too fast when the door is open. So your fridge doesn't have to work as hard to stay cool.

Trusting the body’s natural healing functions

By Tonya Yancey
Life is not static, and change is inevitable. Our bodies and lives have been in a state of ebb and flow since conception. Indeed, it is normal to have a loss of health and then to return back. In fact, no one has perfect health and everyone faces some sort of health challenges.

Healing within the body is a natural function as the body is always working toward a state of wholeness and balance.  If you cut yourself, you see in the scab the body’s inherent healing function. When the healing function becomes blocked, overwhelmed or stalled, an illness may be manifesting within the body and then your system needs help.

It is important to make a distinction between treatment and healing.  Healing is a normal instinctive function of the body whereas treatment is something that comes from the outside. We seek treatment, but our body automatically heals or repairs itself at the cellular level.  The challenge is in finding the right support for your body.  Not so easy.  It is definitely a journey and I’m not sure we ever arrive at a final destination, as such is the nature of constant change.

Certainly age and time have a role to play in a body’s healing system to operate at an optimal level.  Young people unquestionably have a more elastic and forgiving body and it is during this youthful time of perceived immortality that habits and patterns become established.  By middle age, at around 40 years of age, the bill comes due.  Our lifestyle choices, habits and even past emotional traumas have accumulated and for many have started to overwhelm the body and create symptoms of discomfort that aren’t as easily remedied.  Our bodies start to nag at us, persistently urging us to change.

A better service of the healing system would be if it gave us these strong messages at younger ages. An immediate effect of consequence being felt in the moment of abusing ourselves would undoubtedly grab our attention. Therefore, the aim is to focus on prevention and to realize that it is not if you are going to face a health crisis, but when you face a health crisis.  Shifting the focus to the intention of prevention then supports your own healing functions to be better able to rebalance.

Indeed most of us desire to have a higher quality of life, especial as we age.  Start today and take action.  Learn to listen to and follow your inner whisperings and realize it takes time to implement those choices into your life.   Action builds energy that leads to motivation and life-affirming habits, so create the intention to support the healing function of the body.

Change is inevitable, life ebbs and flows and we can heal by learning to work with our unique physiology. It may not be easy, but well worth the effort.

In the News: The dropped-food 5-second rule is a myth

Newswise — The hot dog that rolls off the plate, the baby’s cookie that falls on the floor, the candy bar that slides across the table – conventional wisdom has that you have five seconds to pick it up before it is contaminated. Fact or or folklore? “A dropped item is immediately contaminated and can’t really be sanitized,” says Jorge Parada, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, medical director of the infection prevention and control program at Loyola University Health System. “When it comes to folklore, the ‘five-second rule’ should be replaced with ‘when in doubt, throw it out." All items that come into contact with a surface pick up bacteria (and dirt!). How much bacteria and what kind of microbes depends on the object dropped and the surface it is dropped upon, he says.
From Newswise

Conte's Pasta Co. delivers with gluten-free pizzas

By Mary Rose Roberts
My husband and I just got back this week from a long vacation. He spent a week fishing in Canada while I was at the beach in Michigan. And when we finally made it home, we just didn’t have it in us to cook. This means it’s pizza night, and I have to find a gluten-free alternative.

Luckily, I had a package waiting for me from Conte's Pasta Company—a few samples sent to me to try. Inside was a Margherita Pizza with Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil. I heated the oven to 450 degrees, tossed in a DiGIorno’s for my husband and then added my single-serve gluten-free pizza.

Gluten-free packaged pizza is pretty hit or miss, for those who have tried it. It’s usually tough and flat, and not crispy like a thin crust. In fact, I’ve always had trouble getting the right cook on the crust—especially in the middle. This was true whether it came from the box or I made it from a mix.

Conte's version had a nice crust. I cooked it 12 minutes, removed it, let it cool and then cut it into four slices. The bottom of the crust turned out a nice golden brown, while the edges were fluffy but crispy. I was impressed.

I could tell from the taste that the company uses a high-quality mozzarella cheese. And while the sauce tasted garden-fresh, it was a bit bland. So I ended up back in the kitchen adding Italian herbs and sriracha for a kick. Like any boxed pizza, it’s nice to have the option to add my own personal touch--another plus. I definitely recommend this product.

In the news: Kathy Schrenk is given mandate to solve traffic congestion

There’s a new force in Menlo Park and Atherton, and her mandate is to change the way you transport your kids to school. Local resident Kathy Schrenk (and nextgengreen blogger), who’s children attend Encinal and Laurel Schools, has been named the Traffic Safety Coordinator for the Menlo Park City School District. She’s using the summer to plan how she’ll approach the increasing problem of parents driving their kids to school — often one to a vehicle — rather than biking, walking, carpooling or taking the bus.

From InMenlo

Plastic and foam going the way of VHS?

Cities continue to ban Styrofoam containers. 
By Kathy Schrenk
It's probably been a while since you thought much about the effect of county government on your day-to-day life. But in my part of the world, those supervisors are having a big impact.

Last year, San Mateo County (just south of San Francisco) banned styrofoam containers for takeout food. This action affects restaurants (and their diners) within the county, but only in areas that aren't in an incorporated city (Redwood City, Burlingame, South San Francisco, Half Moon Bay...). The county supes encouraged cities to follow suit, and many of them are doing so, some faster than others.

Redwood City is just a couple miles from me, and they have all the good, quick, inexpensive food, and they are finally getting in on the act. That means I will soon be free from nasty chemicals leaking into my food when I get takeout from the restaurant that has the best Indian food, yet the worst service. It seems some restaurants are already changing their inventory; when I went to my favorite taqueria last month they already had cardboard (or maybe plant-based?) take-out containers.

Next up? Plastic bags! How fantastic would that be?

If you aren't lucky enough to live in a city or county that's taking such actions, you can take action: let your local governments know what's happening in other parts of the world and that you'd like them to follow suit. It's not as hard as you think; plus, it's their job! You're their boss!

Ssekos multipurpose sandals help women

By Mary Rose Roberts
While shopping at a local boutique recently, I was introduced to Sseko (say-ko) Designs, a three-year-old nonprofit fashion company that helps young women in Uganda continue their education. I purchased a pair of their base sandals offered with straps in multiple colors and patterns (sold separately). With them came a postcard with images of the different ways it could be tied.

I liked the idea of the sandals' interchangeable nature—making the shoes multipurpose—and that my purchase helps women in Uganda get to the next level. In the country, there is a nine-month gap between secondary school and college. The time off lets students earn money for tuition before continuing.  

According to their website, Sseko hires women to live and work together during this period, while earning money that will go directly towards their university education. “These women will not make sandals forever,” the nonprofit wrote. “They will go on to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers and teachers that will bring change and unification to a country divided and ravished by a 22-year-long war.”

The shoes are made of genuine leather with a layer of foam in the middle and rubber on the bottom. Straps are made in different kinds of fabrics, including cotton and silk, wrote their live chat rep, Laura Corder—who was professional and well informed. Fabric batches vary. Since the company purchases everything in East Africa, it depends on the market from week to week. However, the leather does come from smaller tanneries where the cows are raised on local, family farms, as is typical in that region.

To be honest, I had the sandals about a month before I got around to tying them. I even tried to cajole Food Editor Anna Fischer Wulff into helping me figure it out. She wanted nothing to do with it. Finally, I sat down with the video for the twisted slip style.

At first I thought, “What did I get myself into here?” But with some patience, I quickly tied them.  Now that I’ve tied one, I can’t wait to try my other color, turquoise, in a more complicated pattern.  

The company also lets people host Sseko parties.

Meatless Mondays: Artichoke & Potato au Gratin

Too busy eating to take picture of delicious layers inside!
By Anna Fischer Wulff
This is not your run of the mill potato au gratin.  The addition of artichoke hearts raises the bar a bit, making it a favorite dish for my family's dinner.  Plus, since I'm vegan and my niece and nephew can't eat soy or wheat yet, it's also dairy, soy, and gluten free.  Don't worry. All these ingredients can be found at your local (large) grocery chain, or you can always make it with dairy products and flour :o).

Dairy-, Soy- and Gluten-Free Potato au Gratin
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts in water, rinsed and cut into 1/4" slices
  • 6 red potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 tbls. vegetable oil spread (I love Earth Balance.)
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 c. grated cheddar rice "cheese" (or 1/4 c. nutritional yeast flakes)
  • 2 tbls. arrowroot starch (or 1 tbls. regular flour)
  • 2/3 c. almond or rice milk
  • 1 c. crushed gluten free pretzels or crackers
  • 2 tbls. chopped parsley

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
    Place the artichokes and potatoes in a mixing bowl and season with the salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and toss to coat.
    Butter the bottom and sides of a 2 quart baking dish. Put half of the artichoke-potato mixture in the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the chopped onions, 1 teaspoon of the chopped garlic, and 1/4 cup of the "cheese" (or 1/8 cup of nutritional yeast flakes) and the arrowroot starch. Top this with the remaining artichoke-potato mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup onions, 1 teaspoon garlic, and 1/2 cup "cheese" (or 1/8 cup of nutritional yeast flakes). Pour the almond or rice milk over the mixture.
    In a bowl, mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil with the pretzel crumbs, parsley and season with a pinch of salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, paprika, oregano, and cayenne pepper (or whatever you have on hand). Spread this topping evenly over the mixture. Bake for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender.
    Serves 4-6