…In the News…

I have a guilty confession: I often forget to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store. I know, it’s bad. I always feel guilty when I have all of my items lined up at checkout and the first item lands in a plastic bag.

A better grocery bag?

A better grocery bag?

It seems as though I may soon have more incentive to remember my bags, however, because there have been moves to ban plastic bags from supermarkets and other stores. According to an article in The New York Times, plastic bags have been banned in almost a hundred towns and cities across the state of California. The city of Los Angeles is one of them, and is setting a precedent for other large cities in the United States who may soon consider the ban. Many other cities across the globe have also passed a ban. To deal with people such as myself who have a cart-full of groceries but have forgotten their canvas bags, grocery stores in plastic bag-banned towns offer paper bags for purchase at ten cents each.

Some customers are furious about the ban, arguing that it places an additional burden on them, since they now have to shell out for their own bags. Others say that the ban is a great idea since they, like me, now have a financial incentive to remember those bags stuffed in their trunk or closet. I side with the latter. I think that plastic grocery bags are terrible for the environment, since many are not recycled. Any incentive for me to remember my bags is a welcome one.

Here’s hoping this article will pop up in my mind the next time I’m loading all of the nuggets into the shopping cart, and I remember to load my reusable bags as well.

Here is the link to The New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/us/plastic-bags-come-under-siege-in-california.html?ref=science&_r=0

Image from: Collegelifestyles.org


Natural Rodent Repellant

Natural Rodent Repellant


As the frigid winter temperatures drive us indoors, we are often joined by a few not-so-welcome guests: rodents. Let’s face it, at some point, every home has had at least one of these furry visitors- often a lot more than one.

If you’re like me, and the thought of snapping or sticky mousetraps leaves you feeling woozy, there’s good news; there is a natural and humane option: peppermint oil.

Oh yes, that’s right. Just a few drops of peppermint oil sprayed strategically around your home and you’ll be pest free. Mice can’t stand the smell so they pack up and more to a more hospitable environment.

I tried this after we moved into our new house and was horrified to hear scurrying in the night. Seriously, it worked like a charm. We have been mouse-free for several years. The first time I tried it, I doused about a million cotton balls with straight peppermint oil and stuck them in EVERY corner. The mice fled immediately, but my house had an overpowering candy cane smell. And not in a good way, so don’t go crazy – it isn’t necessary.

Now that the critters are gone, I do a little maintenance by mixing a few drops of peppermint oil with water and sprinkling in corners, between heating vents and near exits – the garage, front door etc. It will smell like peppermint, but if you do it on a nice day and air out your home for an hour or two, you won’t even notice when you return.

Ciao Chow

Here is a great video (bottom of post) of Chef Fabio making Pasta Fagioli. Its a great vegetarian recipe although it does call for chicken broth. If this bothers you, you could sub veggie broth but the flavor will change.

Fabio’s Pasta and Bean Soup

By  | Shine Food – Fri, Sep 7, 2012 1:52 PM EDT

Nothing is better for families on a budget than the classic Pasta E Fagioli, Fabio’s super simple and delicious one pot soup with pasta and beans. It’s so flavorful, you’ll forget that it’s VEGETARIAN!


  • Beans 101- High in protein and virtually fat-free, these delicious pods are versatile and packed with nutrients. The secret to cooking dry beans without soaking them overnight? Choose smaller beans.
  • Find the Perfect Pasta for Your Soup- Soup is a great place to use up spare pasta: break up large noodles, or just add small shapes. Don’t add it until the last few minutes of cooking, and keep pasta on the side when storing soup for later use.
  • Cast-Iron Cookware-The Perfect Soup Pot. Cast-iron is able to maintain and withstand very high temperatures, so pots and pans are able to go from stovetop to oven with no hassle. Their heavy weight distributes heat evenly, ensuring perfectly cooked dishes.


  Image from shine.com

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Recipe by Fabio Viviani

Yield: 6 servings



3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 carrots, diced

1 onion, diced

2 celery stalks with leaves, diced

1 fennel bulb

3 bay leaves, dried

6 sprigs thyme

¾ lb. Borlotti beans

pinch sea salt

4 garlic cloves – grated

2-3 quarts chicken or vegetable stock

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

pinch sea salt

pinch fresh ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

2 cups small shaped pasta

20 fresh basil leaves



Heat a large cast-iron pot over medium heat. Add extra virgin olive oil.

Add carrots, onions, and celery and stir.

Meanwhile, dice fennel. Add to pot and stir.

Strip the thyme sprigs over the pot and discard sticks. Add bay leaf.

Sauté about ten minutes, or until the vegetables caramelize and start to soften.

Add Borlotti beans and grated garlic; stir.

Add stock, canned tomatoes, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Stir, cover, and boil for one hour, or until beans are soft.

Add pasta and cook for five minutes. If you don’t plan on serving the soup all at once, cook the pasta separately, and add to each bowl as you serve it. Otherwise, the pasta will soak up too much broth when stored.

Chop basil and add to pot. Stir thoroughly, and remove from heat.

Remove bay leaves and serve immediately.




Printed Recipe: http://shine.yahoo.com/shine-food/fabios-pasta-bean-soup-175200817.html

Video: http://screen.yahoo.com/pasta-and-bean-soup-30534696.html?pb_list=372289b1-ad1f-4816-8461-4c05591f3a0e

A Natural Air Freshener

Air Fresheners are bad. Really, really bad. Almost all of them contain phthalates and a variety of other toxic chemicals. Studies have suggested that exposure to phthalates causes a variety of problems in humans and animals (cancer, reproductive organ and fertility problems and developmental problems in children). Phthalates are in TONS of different products and the US food and drug administration does not have many restrictions on the use of phthalates- although the European Union does.


Since we aren’t especially interested in filling our home with chemicals, we are really fond of using coffee beans as a natural air freshener. You can use them anywhere- in shallow dishes,

in glass vases etc etc etc. Our favorites are hazelnut and french vanilla. We often get compliments from people who think that I have been baking.

In The News….

The Pope goes Green

Paraphrased from a fox news article that can be found here -> http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/09/05/pope-goes-green-with-electric-car/

Image from Fox News

Pope Benedict XVI has made environmental issues a priority during his papacy, writing about the importance of environmental protection and setting an example by offsetting the Vatican’s

carbon emissions by installing green features in buildings and making donations to environmental groups.

Toxic Lipstick and hairspray?

You may be surprised to learn that the products you put on your body can be just as damaging as the products you put in your body. Unfortunately, the FDA allows cosmetics companies to include tons of dangerous chemicals in their products.

Image from Revlon.com

The environmental working group has created a database so you can check your products to see if they are a health risk. The website can be found here –>    http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

The “Dirty Dozen”

When it comes to buying organic produce, many people are left scratching their heads. Organic stuff is usually (but not always) more expensive, so is it really necessary? The answer is, yes and no.

If money wasn’t an issue, I’d always buy organic because the farming practices are more responsible, and the soil and groundwater aren’t left contaminated. But, like almost everyone else, I do watch grocery spending, so I pick and choose. Some fruits and vegetables retain higher levels of pesticides than others, so you don’t always have to buy organic and it’s important to note that it’s better to eat LOTS of fresh fruits and veggies (even if they aren’t organic) than to limit your consumption to what you can find organic (not always a big selection). 

Image from digitaldesktopwallpaper.com


Here is a list of the “dirty dozen”– fruits and veggies that retain the highest levels of pesticides. You should always try to buy these items organic.

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported are worst)
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries
  12. Potatoes

** Raspberries, Green Beans, and Kale are also on the list so really its the dirty 15 but I guess people don’t think that is as catchy.


Kiwi photo from Talkdelhi.co

The “Clean Fifteen”-  Produce with the least pesticide residue. It is not necessary to buy organic.

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Sweet Potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

*Also bananas but they were left off of the EWG list.

For more information, visit the Environmental Working Group website or google “dirty dozen” or “fruit and pesticide levels.”



….In the News….

Dog Detects Cancer, Saves Owner’s Life. 

I’ve been hearing about this for a few years now, but every time I hear about a specific case, I’m amazed.

Phoenix (one of the family pooches) and Tucker

Here are the details, paraphrased from a shine.com article (http://shine.yahoo.com/pets/dog-detects-cancer-saves-owners-life-142600012.html)

A woman in the U.K. discovered she had breast cancer after her dog spent weeks pawing at her left breast. Eventually, the woman decided to go to the doctor to check it out  and found that she had a tumor. She immediately began chemotherapy, and her cavalier, Penny, stopped paying attention to her left breast.

A few years ago, I read that dogs were actually excellent at detecting all different types of cancers- especially skin cancers. According to a 2011 study, trained dogs can “sniff out” cancer in 71 % of patients.


…Baby Steps to healthy…

So a few weeks ago, Joe (superhero husband and realtor extraordinaire) and I decided to make one healthy change per week to our lives and stick with it. One week, we vowed to eat more veggies (at least one serving per day but preferably the full three to five). Another week, we vowed to go on a date at least once per week (preferably at night but it could be a day date). And a third week we decided that one day (or at least a few hours of one day) per week would be a “family fun day”.

Tucker and his friend, Carter, playing in the yard.

So this week, I’m going to say that I have to go outside with the kids at least once every day for playtime. I know that sounds weird, but there are actually quite a lot of days when I never leave the house. Part of it is because it is the middle of summer and it is super hot and humid, but another part is that I’ve gotten used to staying inside.

So hopefully, posting it on this site will make me feel accountable and I’ll actually get out each and everyday.