Here we are; 52 years into Earth Day

Here we are; 52 years into Earth Day

On this 52nd Earth Day, we can ponder where we are and where our Earth and climate are going. Some say the climate is in dire shape; others still deny there’s any problem (silent scream).

We can make a difference in our homes starting with a crazy, low-hanging fruit suggestion: STOP buying any drinks in plastic. For the most part, those bottles are either already recycled – and you likely cannot recycle that plastic again; the bottle lids likely cannot be recycled; and you have SO many other options. The bottles contribute to the ever-growing amount of plastic ending up in landfills, rivers, streams, oceans and along roadsides.

We’ve grown accustomed to hydrating. “But I don’t LIKE my tap water.” Really?  Most communities have made great strides in filtering water that’s piped into your home. You can also consider a tap filter or filtered water pitcher. Most newer refrigerators that have water dispensers have filters.

My house water comes from a well, deep in the granite ground where we live in New Hampshire. We’ve installed a system that filters radon and other natural chemicals out and we have our well water tested every few years. Filters on the system are changed at regular intervals. We are fortunate to have that system in place.

Buying drinks that come in aluminum cans is an easy answer. A major problem for most consumers who aren’t thinking about being intentional about what they buy, see the grocery aisle with all those soda, water, fizzy water and juice choices that make it so easy to avoid buying anything other than plastic.

Here’s another intentional choice I started making: buy only glass jars. I stopped buying plastic-bottled condiments – from garlic to mustard. I see the issue: glass-bottle products often cost more than the plastic version. I am fortunate to be able to make the more expensive choice. That decision is not so easy for people; it’s another conundrum.

Mesh bags for fruit and produce are an easy solution instead of using plastic bags. Even if the plastic bags at the store indicate those bags are recyclable, that does NOT mean your community recycles those bags or CAN recycle those bags. More times than not, consumers end up throwing those produce bags in the waste can and ultimately into the landfill.  

Answer this: WHY do you need a plastic bag for an onion, a bunch of bananas or two oranges? Just “because” is the answer from most people or they don’t want two oranges rolling in their grocery cart. Again, mesh, drawstring bags which are washable and reusable, have been my go-to for years now. These are available at stores and online.

On this Earth Day, my next attack on plastic is my ban on buying liquid laundry detergent in those huge, plastic jugs. I bought my first laundry sheets after seeing multiple ads.

My favorite sustainability phrase, “There is no such thing as ‘away,’” is reality. You can’t just throw something “away.” That thing – goes somewhere. I keep trying; others do nothing to reduce their carbon footprint. Hopefully, in generations ahead, we won’t be in the history books as the generation that ruined our planet.

Recreational Shopping

I’m convinced there are people who like to shop and others do not like to shop. There is really no gray area. I suppose I am on the ‘like to shop’ side. I really like to shop online – for cloths, gifts, even the car I ended up purchasing started with an online inquiry. A new Whole Foods planned for Cherry Hill will get me to the store for recreational shopping.

WholeFoodsWhat is ‘recreational shopping?’ A former colleague of mine used that term once about going grocery shopping at a market that had different items other than the usual canned corned and deli counter. I’ve enjoyed recreational shopping at Guido’s, a specialty market in Stockbridge and Pittsfield, MA; Wegman’s – the grocery chain has traditional items, but the store is really an experience. Shopping at Wegman’s on any given day at any time makes you feel as though you are in an airport. There are so many different people shopping (if I were single I might think it’s a great place to meet a guy).

Now, a Whole Foods Market opening in 2014 in Cherry Hill, NJ. The store will be about a mile from our home. There’s already a Whole Foods in Marlton, but if you’re like me, you like to grocery shop in a pretty tight geographic radius around your house. It’s been years since I shopped at Whole Foods. I remember the gorgeous displays of fresh (organic) fruits and vegetables and wonderful dairy and baked products. I am certain Whole Foods will give Wegman’s a run for their money tomatoessince the stores will be about a mile apart.

For me, Whole Foods will be recreational shopping: I’ll go to buy special items I probably can’t get other places. I will not be shopping at Whole Foods for paper goods or cleaning products and probably not most meats or canned products. One thing is for sure, I will still shop within a very tight radius of the house – unless I want to run to Trader Joe’s – for now, my favorite place for recreational shopping. I’ll save that for another day.

Turkey Anytime

A turkey dinner with all the trimmings has come to represent Thanksgiving. On a cold, January day, two months after Thanksgiving, the smells of turkey and the trimmings wafted through the house today. After a morning of some work and errands, I stuffed the 10 pound bird and put it in the oven this afternoon. I even made cranberry sauce.

MacCheeseRemember your favorite meal as a child? Was it macaroni and cheese (from scratch – not the boxed stuff)? Meatloaf? Even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be comforting. Food is an amazing trigger of memories. When I think of macaroni and cheese I remember my grandmother’s casserole dish with its wood base. I was really young, so in my mind’s eye, that casserole dish was really big. I loved my grandmom’s mac and cheese. My mother also made terrific macaroni and cheese, which is probably why I have never made boxed mac and cheese.

Tomorrow, we’ll visit our son at college. We”ll be taking along some homemade spaghetti sauce and pasta and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Like mother; like son.

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Until you eat a well-balanced breakfast regularly, you don’t know how that meal kick-starts your day.

Eating the same breakfast day after day, to me, is like watching the same movie over and over; eventually, it doesn’t do a thing for you no matter how much you liked it the first three or four times. When I worked early mornings, I would make the same yogurt smoothie to drink at my desk. Problem is, my schedule was so screwed up, my metabolism never balanced out. Long story short, a varied breakfast menu and working out at least three times a week has helped me look at balanced meals in a whole new way.

My husband and I are doing something new. When we eat out, we often find one entree we like and split it. The other evening, we ordered a cup of soup, steamed little neck clams and the broiled seafood platter. So many times that’s what one person orders. We ordered that for two and it was perfect.

Today at a local restaurant known for its huge breakfast portions and a choice of 200 omelet, I resisted temptation and stuck with a salad topped with a huge scoop of chicken salad. While that chicken salad was probably not so calorie-friendly, it was a lot better than the two to three-person-sized omelets that most people were downing as a single serving. Yikes!

So, think about those restaurant portions and what you really want to eat.

Watching Camden Up Close

Driving into Camden from the South Jersey suburbs brings home the thought that Sacred Heart Church’s Father Michael Doyle has pressed for many years: there are a thousands miles between the suburbs and Camden. When I heard Center for Transformation staffer Andrea Feirich and board president Mark Doorley talk about how Camden became cut off from the region when the Ben Franklin Bridge, Admiral Wilson Boulevard and 676 were constructed, it didn’t mean as much to me until today. My husband, son and I drove to help at the weekly dinner at Joe’s Place. The nondescript building across from Sacred Heart Church at Broadway and Jasper is in the heart of Waterfront South.

Once we turned left onto Broadway leaving Rutgers-Camden, Cooper Hospital and Campbell’s Soup in our rearview mirror, it was if we’d stepped into a war zone. There’d be a few decent homes or businesses on Broadway or a side street, then vacant sites or more likely, boarded up homes, business and buildings that probably won’t see attention for years. We passed what looked like a group of volunteers serving a meal right outside in a vacant lot. Once we parked and got to the St. Vincent de Paul Society building, we knocked on the locked door. Once Burt let us in, we were welcomed by Sheryl and John along with the other volunteers who have given of their time, their hearts and souls to the community. This was our first time, so we were glad to do whatever was needed to serve dinner and dessert to about 60 people from the community.

Precisely at 4 p.m. when the doors opened, the people appeared. Their faces showed a road map of hard life. Women and men came. Their clothes worn and torn. There were a few little girls with their young mother. One man had a very pleasant conversation with himself the entire time he was having dinner. But he looked me in the eyes and asked for his pie for dessert; then he went back to his seat to enjoy his dessert and continue his conversation. Except for one angry man, each person was so grateful for every bite they were offered. Many had two plates of food and two (or three desserts). It didn’t matter. Our hosts supplied the lovely meal. We were glad to serve and share a little of ourselves with others who have so little.

When we were leaving today, dinner was still going on at Joe’s Place. I was getting in the car when a man walking through the vacant field next to the building yelled, “It’s not over is it?” I realized he was a regular at Joe’s Place and yelled back, “No, of course not; there’s plenty left.” The big smile on his face led me to think this might be his only good meal of the day and maybe for the week. He was carrying a plastic grocery bag. I know he was going to be taking some leftovers with him.

We drove just 50 yards from our parking spot. Looking down the side street to my right was a drug deal happening before my eyes. The person in the driver’s seat gave the man standing outside the car the money; the two shook hands. The deal was sealed. There is so much work to do in Camden. So many lives that need tending to. But in reality, it must start with the youngest of the people in Camden. There’s a way out. The many good people doing wonderful things on a daily basis in Camden can make it happen for these children. The thing is, my hope is that the children see the light with the right guidance, then they will show others like them the way out. For now, we can all do just a little more – a day at a time. Inside Joe’s Place, everyone is good and safe and has a full belly.

Let it Snow..and an update

Here we go again! Another bread and milk run; TV news shots of shoppers all-of-a-sudden realizing they don’t have a snow shovel, or the old shovel broke in the December storm. The immediacy of weather information and the advanced warnings whip us into a frenzy. We begin nesting. My husband sent our son out to the wood pile to bring a few stacks of chopped wood to put near the front door so we could have a fire while watching the blowing and drifting snow that’s predicted in this winter blast. I’m heading out to pick up some things we’re out of (as though we’ll suffer for a couple of days without bagels).

Remember when we were kids and there’d be a storm? Weather forecasting was unsophisticated and low-tech. The dropping barometer was an indicator that bad weather was on the way. The direction of the wind or low pressure was all we had to go on. Now, forecasters have tremendous accuracy when it comes to WHEN the bad weather will begin, how long the storm may last and a geographic range showing how the storm will hit over a wide area. Fascinating stuff!

It’s great to look at the storm from inside your house isn’t it? You find all sorts of things to keep you busy. Families play board games. You cook up soups and stews to keep everyone warm. I’m defrosting a turkey we got after the holidays for just a day like this. the bird will be thawed by tomorrow so we’ll have a comfort-dinner to enjoy while the rest of the snow storm hits Saturday.

Meantime, my son’s sophomore cotillion scheduled for Saturday night has indeed, been postponed. We get another week to watch him prepare for his first semi-formal. Let’s hope another snowstorm isn’t brewing somewhere off the west coast or in the Gulf. Keep watching Doppler radar!

From 3 Bucks at a Rocky Gorge (and other boulders) to a Pizza Barn

Madison Boulder in NH

Madison Boulder in NH


Vacation can be full of sensory overload. Tuesday was that day. The Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) is called one of the nation’s most scenic highways. The road stretches through the White Mountains for 34 miles from Route 16 to Route 93. Except for a few National Forest-approved inns and businesses along the first few miles on either side, there are no services; no gas, no snack bars, no souvenir shops, no flush toilets (seriously). While we have traversed the road in a motor-home some years back, our visits have mostly been to a place called Rocky Gorge. We go to what is called the lower falls. Rocky Gorge is about 7-8 miles from the east side of the Kancamagus. Walt Disney or Six Flags have nothing on this water park made by Mother Nature. The Swift River winds along the mountain range and New Hampshire, being the Granite State and all is blessed with boulders the size of Winnebagos. The rocks have been part of the mountains, streams and rivers for eons. In this patch of the Swift River, families from the local area as well as visitors who just happen upon the site, are amazed at the rushing current on one stretch and the babbling brook feel of the cool water. Here is a place where you can climb the rocks find some rapids you can handle and plunge into the river with the current taking you maybe 20-feet into a deeper pool; you quickly swim to one side or the other, or face a waterfall that isn’t so high as it is rough when you hit the rocks below. The veterans at the sport of Rocky Gorge are observed by the novices. The vets tread on the smooth and slippery rocks knowing just where their feet will get a grip. Small children stick to the babbling brook areas with moms, dads and grandparents close by. From age 8 and up, it’s a playground like no other. On a Tuesday morning, there were no crowds, just those of us with some time off, wanting to enjoy what Mother Nature offers for the price of  National Park day pass..$3. Seriously.

Adam, Andrew and Doug negotiate Rocky Gorge

Adam, Andrew and Doug negotiate Rocky Gorge

Earlier, we visited Madison Boulder. A zillion years ago when glaciers were moving the earth, this boulder ended up in the forest. It’s the size of a four bedroom house in the suburbs. Unless you take a left off Route 153 when you see the brown attraction sign that says “Madison Boulder,” you’d never know it existed. Our host at a bed and breakfast we loved to visit told us about Madison Boulder. Now Adam and his friend, Andrew have enjoyed this spectacle of nature. Admission price: Free.

Along Route 16 in Ossipee is a place owned by the Meader family; it’s been around for decades. My husband went there when he was a camper at Camp Robin Hood. Pizza Barn burned down at least once, but it’s been in its current form for many years. It’s..a barn and they serve OK, there’s pasta, salads and the like. Pizza Barn became the site this vacation for our family dinner.

Part of the Breskin-Friedman family at Pizza Barn, Ossippee, NH

We gathered, all 17 of us, for pitchers of cold Tuckerman’s beer and soda; several pizzas, plates of pasta and some caeser salads. Most of all, it was a chance to hang out for a couple of hours. Our family picture will be posted when cousin Sean catches up when he gets back from vacation. Family time is priceless.

Red Goes Green and Phillies fare

There’s nothing better than rooting for the Phillies. For many that’s true when the Fightins’ are winning. For others, including myself, I’ll be cheering whether they’re world champions as they are right now or when they hit a slump. The 2009 season at Citizens Bank Park (CBP) is already underway in my mind. On this damp, dreary, late March day, I ventured to the ballpark to experience the club’s offerings off the field for the new (and champion) season.

This will be the Phillies first full season for the Red Goes Green initiative. The Phillies rolled out the first public efforts to reduce the team and stadium’s carbon footprint last May. This season, fans can more actively take part in the efforts. Around the ballpark concourses are 35 three-stream collectors with an 80-gallon capacity. Global Spectrum General Manager Bram Reynolds says once fans understood the rectangular containers were NOT ad panels for Waste Management, containers that ask for bottles, cans, cardboard and other litter started filling up quickly during games. Staffers work to empty the collectors for more recycling “donations.” Reynolds says when you factor in the post-game cleanup by staff plus what was deposited during a game, depending on attendance from 1 1/2 to 2 tons of cans, bottles and plastic are recycled. Three tons of cardboard is collected and compacted from the average game-day crowd. Factor in the other litter, an average game generates 12 tons of trash. Fans could also find themselves being followed around by “Phil the Can,” and his pal George Colli or one of the other Phanstormers. The Phillies red pinstriped waste can reminds fans to deposit their waste and not leave it behind.
The Phillies are also stepping up a volunteer idea that began last season: giving groups of between 30 and 100 a chance to help the Red Goes Green effort while catching some of the game at the same time. Now, you don’t get a seat at the game. You do get free parking and a meal ticket. Your group fans out, (children under 16 have to be chaperoned by an adult) and you walk up and down the section steps and around the concourses during the game through the 7th inning collecting recyclable plastic and aluminum. Your volunteer group is recognized during the pre-game events. There’s more information on the Phillies site and you can ask for information by emailing
CBP food and merchandise concessionaire Aramark is taking a few more steps to offer more recyclable paper and plastic goods. Director of Concessions at the ballpark, David Lippman says all food containers are bio-degradable or compostable including every plastic cup dispensed at the park. Fry-oil is recycled. He stresses there is no Styrofoam used at the park. Lippman said his wife gave him grief about Styrofoam, so he is likely happy at home and at work.
Those condiment packets that seemed to be stuck to the ground everywhere at the ballpark are long gone. They disappeared last season in place of the condiment dispensers. While the onion dispenser tends to get clogged up and some people are perfect slobs when it comes to tending to the messes they make, the dispensers are a much better alternative than those foil packets.
In the CBP shops, there are 100% organic items for sale including the World Champion Phillies shopping bag and a “onesie” for the tiniest of Phillies fans. Phils spokeswoman Leigh Tobin is a big fan of the organic items, though her baby is probably too big now for the “onesie.”

The Phillies continue to work behind the scenes with their partners in the recycling effort. Everything from office paper to printer cartridges, light ballasts and batteries are deposited in the offices for recycling. “Green” cleaning products are used throughout the park. The club has also committed to purchasing 100% renewable energy this year.
Beyond Red Goes Green efforts, Aramark has tweaked the food offerings with a few more vegetarian and vegan items. Campo’s is now the chicken and steak purveyor at the park and also serving up a tasty vegan “steak” with spicy peppers. Yes, it DID taste like chicken, but extremely flavorful, served in a fresh roll. Planet Hoagie is again serving its vegetable hoagie and is offering chicken and tuna salad hoagies on a healthy wheat roll. The new Alley Grill is featuring selections from Harry the K’s restaurant as well as a southwestern veggie burger. Bull’s BBQ, with former Phillie great Greg Luzinski hosting, is also serving now a “kid’s” platter with a chicken slider, gooey mac and cheese and apple sauce.

While food prices at the ballpark can be a budget-buster in these tight economic times, the Phils allow you to bring in food. While you might want to “brown-bag-it” for your game-day main course, buying and sharing a snack as your treat will save you a bundle. Or, you could enjoy a slice of Seasons pizza from Neighborhood Pizza and take in peanuts you bought at the grocery store.

While the Phillies capitalize on the 2008 World Series victory, it remains to be seen whether the recession will affect the ballpark. The place may be “greener” with the recycling efforts, but it remains to be seen whether the million-plus fans at the park spend any more “green” while they cheer the Fightin Phils.