Monthly Archives: April 2015

One Small Way to Celebrate Earth Day

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It’s Earth Day, a day that has always had a special place in my heart. I admit that my fondness for this day is selfish: it’s my birthday. I was born on April 22, 1970, the very first Earth Day. Declared by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson after a devastating oil spill near Santa Barbara in 1969, April 22 became a day dedicated to saving our planet. By raising awareness and bringing together people committed to making our world a better place, Senator Nelson and others in government (on both sides of the political fence, believe it or not), were able to establish the Environmental Protection Agency and pass the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Of course I didn’t appreciate this at first. My dad’s childhood friend, Jim, a high school history teacher and an outspoken liberal, would remind me about my Earth Day birthday every April, although I had little idea what Earth Day was all about. By the time I reached the age when I could begin to think of such things, Earth Day wasn’t really honored or celebrated. At least not that I was aware of. It was the apathetic 80s, and, like many others my age, I spent my teen years either buying things I didn’t need at the mall, trying to get my hair to stick straight up, or listening to loud music (usually The Cure). It wasn’t until the 1990s, when I was in college, that people began to acknowledge and honor Earth Day, mainly by planting trees or organizing community clean up days.

In some ways, little has changed in the past 45 years. We still have devastating oil spills. We are still way too dependent on fossil fuels. But unlike my generation, my boys are growing up with more of an awareness of our impact on the Earth. We do little things every day to tread lightly. We bring our own bags to the grocery store. We use cloth napkins. We recycle or reuse nearly everything. We buy as much as we can secondhand. My husband and I work from home, so we don’t drive much. We compost. We water our plants with rain water. And we garden. Of course we could do more, and we will. Baby steps. But as I’ve grown older, Earth Day has become less about my birthday and more of a reminder to stop and think. What can I do this year to make a difference?

I begin by thinking small. This year in honor of Earth Day, I offer this fun and easy project from The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book. Not only does it make use of a plastic strawberry carton and salad clamshell box that would otherwise be recycled or discarded, this project also involves planting seeds to grow your own crop of lettuce on a windowsill. What could be better? And it’ll only take about five minutes of your time.

You Will Need

1 16-oz plastic clamshell strawberry container

1 5-oz plastic clamshell container for greens

potting soil

1 package mixed lettuce seeds

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Place the strawberry container inside the greens container.  Fill the strawberry container with potting soil, leaving a 1-inch gap between the soil surface and the top of the container. Scatter the lettuce seeds over the top of the soil and use a trowel to cover the seeds with a quarter inch of additional soil. Spritz the surface of the soil with water from a spray bottle until the dirt is damp. Close the cover of the strawberry container and place in a sunny window. Each day, open the lid, spritz the seeds with water to keep moist, and close the container. The closed plastic lid will act as a mini greenhouse, causing the seeds to sprout within a few days. As the seedlings grow, continue to water them as needed, but leave the lid open. Harvest the mini greens and use to garnish a salad after 30 days.

Inspiration on the road

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I love road trips. There’s something about watching the landscape shift as it zips past, framed by the car window, that puts me at ease. And while I used to spend any time I had in the car doing something “productive” like knitting, reading, or (I can’t believe I’m saying this) working, more and more I’m just letting myself be. And that’s exactly what I did on our trip to New Orleans last week. For the most part, it was heavenly. Our boys travel well and we planned several stops along the way to keep us all entertained.

One of our absolute favorite stops was a bit of an afterthought. We were telling friends about our plans to visit St. Louis to see the Gateway Arch when they mentioned the City Museum. So we went. I have one word for the City Museum: WOW. If you have a creative bone in your body (you know you do), you must check this place out. Housed in an old multi-level shoe factory downtown, the City Museum is basically a huge indoor and outdoor playground for kids of all ages, constructed entirely of recycled items. There are miles of tunnels to crawl through that lead to entire underground worlds, old airplanes to explore, giant metal “bird” cages to climb through, vintage fire trucks to play in, and amazing slides, including one that corkscrews down from a height of 10 stories. (See boys in entrance to one of the outdoor slides above)

But for me I think the best part was noticing the creative ways the museum made use of things that would otherwise be tossed in the trash. Take, for instance, this valance of vintage neck ties (below, left). How cool is that?  Or this nifty use of old floor grates as a unique wall covering? (below, right) Inspiration was everywhere, and I couldn’t stop snapping photos. We spent five hours exploring every nook and cranny and the boys still did not want to leave. I think this might be my happy place.

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We headed on down the road and had lunch the next day at Mammy’s Cupboard, a roadside attraction from days gone by just outside of Natchez, Mississippi. And can you believe this fantastic use of a screen door below? They backed it with cool fabric and used it to block the view into the kitchen. (If you haven’t read it already, check out my earlier post on my fondness for old screen doors.) This place also served a banana caramel cream pie that was to die for, blueberry lemonade, and blueberry chutney. Now I know what to do with the rest of those Canadian blueberries in my freezer.  I was in heaven.

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We did eventually make it to sunny, hot Louisiana, where the air was heavy and smelled faintly floral. In St Francisville (this is where we are above, right), a small town north of Baton Rouge that I absolutely love, I woke up early one morning and headed out for a run through fog so thick I could barely make out the silhouette of the live oaks, draped in Spanish moss, in the park next door. New Orleans was a mess of torn up roads and construction, but I loved it just the same. We visited family (ate), made the obligatory beignet stop at Cafe du Monde (ate), strolled through the French Market, had muffulettas from the Central Market (ate), watched a couple of hours of amateur magic shows in Jackson Square, and managed to find the dog in the mini coffin that plays dead for money (the boys really wanted to see this!). Finally we made our way back north, where it’s been cool and dreary. But I’m still warm, thinking of the sunburn that kissed the back of my neck a week ago today. And best of all, I’ve returned with about a half dozen inspiring ideas for crafty projects bouncing around in my head that I’m anxious to try when I find a spare moment. Those are better than any souvenir money can buy.