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

Biking keeps family together

By Kathy Schrenk
This blog post about a mom who has six kids and no car blew me away. Instead of a car, she has a fancy Dutch bike that carries up to four kids in the front. There's a standard kid seat right behind mom and a trail-a-bike-type contraption coming off the back for the sixth (and biggest) kid.

What an inspiration. But, you might be thinking, my family needs two cars for times when biking isn't possible, and I can't afford the $4,000 bike if I don't sell one of our cars. Not to worry, it's easy to bike your kids around without dipping into their college fund.

When my first son was infant, I got a Burley bike trailer. It was just big enough to fit his infant car seat (aka, the bucket) so I biked all over the place with him in there, attached to either my road or town bike.

When my second son was born less than 2 years later, I got a double Chariot trailer and they rode together in that for a while. Then, I discovered one of my favorite ways of biking with kids, the iBert. Your child can start riding in it as soon as they are strong enough to sit up with a helmet on. It's wonderful for you and your kid because he gets a great view of the ride, and you can easily have a conversation with him. (Just make sure to get him a helmet that's round and not pointed at the back.)

Once my older son outgrew the trailer, it was big-kid time: the Trail-a-Bike. This attaches to the grown-up's bike and allows the kid to practice pedaling and to get an idea about what it's like to ride in traffic. When my younger son outgrew the iBert, he went back to the single trailer, which was attached to the Trail-a-Bike. Yes, it was quite a train. The good news is, it's really hard for drivers to not see you.

If I had a bigger family, I could envision having up to four kids on a bike using a combination of gear: one kid in an iBert, one a trail-a-bike, and two kids in a double trailer. I've even seen tandem Trail-a-Bikes.

Yes, this is a large number of accessories. But you can buy them when you need them instead of spending a lot of money all at once on a cargo bike. All of these items can often be purchased used through craigslist or your local mom's club and have good resale value if you decide to buy new. In fact I bought my iBert used and then sold it for almost the same price when we were done with it. (I bought the double trailer new and sold it for about $100 less than purchase price about two years later.)

These days all I need is the Trail-a-Bike because my older son (age six-and-a-half) can ride on his own and (almost) keep up. (I imagine the mom with six kids only lets her oldest one ride on his own because kids don't always make the best decisions while riding in traffic, and corralling more than one while piloting your own bike-bus can be pretty stressful.)

Oh, and the bike this stuff all gets attached to is a Kona mountain bike that I bought for less than $400 13 years ago at my local bike shop.

Eat your spinach

Nitrate, which is found naturally in spinach and other vegetables, has a powerful effect on muscle strength. Scientists at Karolinska Institute found that mice supplied with nitrate in their drinking water developed significantly stronger muscles – and this at doses obtainable from a normal diet.
Posted on  from Stone Hearth News

Meatless Monday: Three-Bean Salad

By Anna Fischer Wulff
Who says beans are boring? More than a's a meal packed with veggies and protein.

Three-Bean Salad
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces, steamed and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups canned garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups canned dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed and diced
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and sliced in quarters lengthwise and each quarter sliced into 1/3-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss to coat and combine well.  Refrigerate covered overnight.
Serves 6

Giveaway from Amy Pfaffman!

You know the drill. If you would like to win, comment below this post or 'Like' our post about this on our Facebook page! You only have 24-hours to enter!

Amy Pfaffman grew up in Birmingham, Ala. and attended the Rhode Island School of Design. Amy now lives in Marin County, Calif., in a rural area about an hour from San Francisco. With her partner, she volunteers for an organization that rescues orphaned baby raccoons. "We raise them and release them back into the wild when they're old enough to care for themselves," she said.

What made you become interested in eco-jewelry?
I college I took a course about how the design of a product has an impact on the environment (such as whether it can be disassembled for recycling). It opened my eyes to how we all effect the environment.

What materials do you use? Where do you find them?
I use whatever inspires me, and inspiration can hit almost anywhere. I have the most luck at the flea market. I also comb Ebay where I can buy treasures from other countries, like antique porcelain dolls from Germany. Materials include knitting needles, poker chips, antique dolls, vintage brass tags, vinyl records, game pieces, thimbles, watch faces and dominoes.

How do you come up with your creations?
When I see something with potential, it hits me right away. I don't always know how I'll turn it into jewelry, so sometimes ideas "gestate" for a long time before I'm inspired with a design. In every design I aim to show the material or artifact in its best light.

Why use eco-materials?
More and more I think about how much "stuff" is produced all the time, and I don't want to be a part of generating new material for landfills. Whenever I can use old materials, the wearer can experience something new while keeping something out of the waste stream.

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 9 a.m. on 7/7/12.

Gift It Green and never buy wrapping paper again

By Mary Rose Roberts
Did you know that more than four-million tons of trash per year is contributed to wrapping paper and gift bags? I always get teased around the holidays because I insist on collecting gift bags, tissue and ribbon to reuse in future gift giving because it seems a waste to just throw it away. In fact, I have an entire Tupperware container full of stuff. But I no longer have to look so foolish thanks to Gift It Greena line of cotton, reusable gift boxes offered with what the company calls “eco-chic” crinkly tissue paper.

I love how this product reduces waste and, at the same time, keeps a historical account of gift givers and receivers via a tag sewed inside with multiple lines. In fact, they were designed to be gifted forward and let users track how many people and locations to which the gift box traveled.

The reusable gift boxes are designed by the mom of three boys in Chicago, Ill., (shout-out to my hometown!) but are manufactured in China with the company saying “after trying to produce in multiple factories in the United States, we finally resorted to manufacturing in China due to the significant amount of labor that goes into each gig. We continually look for ways to qualify and improve the environmental and labor conditions of all suppliers we work with.”

They cost between $14 -$18. I have asked the company for a sample and will be offering a review in the future. We may even use them to house nextgengreen giveaways. What do you think?

Organic tomatoes contain more "good stuff"

Study conducted at the University of Barcelona shows that organic tomatoes contain higher levels of phenolic compounds than conventional tomatoes. Phenolic compounds are organic molecules found in many vegetables with proven human health benefits. The UB’s Natural Antioxidant Group, headed by lecturer Rosa M. Lamuela, had previously proved that organic tomato juice and ketchup contain higher polyphenol content than juice and ketchup made from conventionally grown tomatoes. Lamuela points out that during the production process of ketchup and juice, there are lower levels of polyphenols; therefore it was necessary to verify that the differences observed in previous studies had their origin in the tomatoes themselves and not in the technology used during the production process. As lecturer Lamuela states, “it must be verified with raw material.” Polyphenols —natural antioxidants of plant origin— are considered to be of great nutritional interest because its consumption is associated with the prevention of cardiovascular and degenerative diseases, and some forms of cancer. The team behind the study has analysed a variety of tomato called Daniela and has determined its phenolic profile by using liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. With this method, the research group of the UB could identify 34 different phenolic compounds in tomatoes. According to Rosa M. Lamuela, “the benefit of taking polyphenols through foods is that they contain a wide variety of such molecules, which are increased”. This would be more beneficial to health than the intake of supplements. Tomatoes also contain lycopene and other carotenoids, and vitamin C. Hence, according to Lamuela, “they contain many beneficial compounds.”

Finding beach treasures

By Mary Rose Roberts
I consider myself a well-traveled person. I’ve been to a few countries, including Japan and Costa Rica, and have seen much of the U.S. Yet one of my favorite geographical locations is the shores of Lake Michigan. There’s something about the lake shore's landscape—the evergreen forests, the moist cool air and people’s laughter along the shoreline. It’s just such a nice place. And there is no doubt I'd like to keep it that way, although it often seems I am losing the battle against the McManisions that keep replacing forested acres. There is no way I can control the building, as money and tax dollars are the core focus of city councils. Plus, landowners have a right to build. Instead, I can do my part to preserve my paradise in small ways—like cleaning up the beach.

Maybe I am strange, but I actually enjoy it. I stroll along the beach as waves crash on my feet. As I see trash—no matter how littleI pick it up. In between, I collect small treasures like beach glass. Beach glass is water-worn remnants, often from glass bottles, found in a multitude of colors along the shore in the rock bed. Green is most prevalent, while turquoise to locals is a special find. You also can find fossils and pieces of clay pots or tiles.

As I move along the beach, the bag of trash I carry always gets heavier. I usually end up dragging it along the sand towards the end of my clean-up stroll. I do my best not to get upset about it, but of course it would be best if everyone picked up after themselves to keep our environment clean and safe.  I can’t control that. What I can do is my small part while also enjoying the lake and getting some exercise.

If each of us walked around our neighborhood with one garbage bag, how much cleaner would the earth be? How about making a commitment this 4th of July to do the same, whether at a local park or waterway?  

Overcoming obstacles only way to meet goals

By Nikki Golden
I’ve decided that I’m well into my late 30s and maybe it’s time to start taking better care of myself. It started with a discussion of my high cholesterol at the doctor last year, and it culminated in my participation in the Dirty Girl Mud Run this past Saturday. In between, there has been a lot of personal growth—a term I’ve always hated but now understand differently.

This year, many things have happened that have driven home the message that life is too short. As a result, I’ve decided to embrace situations I would have otherwise been quick to avoid—those that push me to step outside of my comfort zone.  Some of these have been simple, such as choosing vegetables instead of my beloved French fries. But others have been more difficult, like taking a boxing class by myself. (Boxing is awesome exercise and a great way to de-stress.)

So when a lady I went to high school with started to put together a team to participate in the Dirty Girl Mud Run, I decided to join.

I do not run unless chased, and I had the upper body strength of an 80-year-old woman. So the idea of a 5K obstacle race, where there would be climbing over a wall, was really out of the ordinary for me, coupled with the fact that I was doing this with a group of people I either didn’t know or hadn’t seen in 20 years.

So I trained, adding strength training, like boxing, to my exercise routine and running a mile and a half one day a week. And I started to take better care of myself in terms of my food portions and choices.

Since embarking on this journey, I have lost about 25 pounds and gained definition in my arm muscles.  
I stressed out about my ability to finish a course such as this, tossing and turning the night before over the wall climb. And I actually thought about skipping out on the event all together when I woke up. But I, instead, adorned myself with fake tattoos and my team T-shirt and determined to make the best of it, even if I walked most of the route.

The thing that I liked about the Dirty Girl Mud Run was that it was a women-only event, which to me seemed less daunting than something similar with men. And I was right. The atmosphere was one of encouragement and support. For example, the wall climb was the third obstacle in. There was a line backed up waiting, giving the people space to take their time attempting this obstacle. When someone was straining and taking a long time and looked as if they might give up, the crowd spontaneously started to cheer as the person made it over the top of the wall.

Disclaimer: I didn’t make it over the wall. I got to the top and was too afraid of the height to make it over to the other side. But I give myself props for getting to the top, rather than skipping it all together.

And when I got to the mesh wall that loomed many feet in the air, I took a deep breath, and with a teammates’ encouragement, I made it up and over (albeit with some tears of fear).

Since embarking on this journey, I have lost about 25 pounds and gained definition in my arms. In fact, when I tried to eat a half of victory pizza, which would have been in the past done in two bites, I actually felt sick. That is a sure sign that my overall lifestyle is much healthier.

Finding god in nature

By Mary Rose Roberts
Whenever I am in northwest Indiana, I attend church at St. Ann of the Dunes in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The national park is the backdrop for the Catholic church, and natural themes continue inside as well as in the priests’ homilies. 

According to Christian and Islamic tradition, St. Ann was Jesus Christ’s grandmother and has been canonized by the Roman Catholic church as a saint. I’ve heard a lot of misinformation about the Catholic churches' use of saints, including it being compared to praying to pagan gods in an evangelical church I sometimes attend in my new hometown. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Like Paul used the term “saints of the church” in his biblical letters, Catholics honor those who modeled their lives around Jesus’ teachings. They are just good examples of being Catholic, so we honor them.

I like to go to St. Ann’s when I really need to get my church on, as I feel closest to god when in nature. The church is surrounded by evergreen forests. Inside the entrance, there is an aspersorium (the basin that holds holy water in Catholic churches) shaped like an acorn. The alter is made of shellacked drift wood and is in front of floor-to -ceilings windows, letting light and wildlife inside.

The alter, where the priest 'runs' the mass.
If you are unfamiliar with Catholic church, there are a few songs, two readings, a reading from the gospel and then a homily with communion thereafter. Unlike evangelical church sermons that are theme-based and then backed up using different references from the bible, Catholics read a gospel verse verbatim. Then, the priest's homily offers historical background about the time it was written, cultural issues and more, followed by ways to apply the message in our modern-day lives.

At St. Ann’s, nature always seems to come into play during the homily—especially by one priest who grew up in Utah. His homilies reflect his experience living in a rural area, and his message always touches me.

Indeed, last time I was there he talked about watching the sunrise on the sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan, a short distance from the church. He felt so close to god, he said. Then he encouraged each of us to turn off the TV, store the iPad and silence cell phones and spend time in nature to experience the beautiful world god gave to us to steward, safe-keep and admire.

Outside St. Ann of the Dunes
“God may ask, ‘what did you think of all the wonderful things I gave to you to look at down there?’” the priest said.

The church reinforces my own belief, something written in Christian and other religious texts, that we are expected to be stewards of the earth. That was our first assignment in Eden and, if you are truly religious, it should be one of the main ways you serve god.

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15)

Where is one of your favorite places to be spiritual or close to god?