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Friday, September 30, 2011

Sweet Tea Recipe

One of the simple pleasures I remember from my childhood is iced tea.  My mom would make sun tea on our back patio and it was such a delight!  I can remember watching it brew and then the delicious taste that I equated with goodness coming straight from the sun! 

I feel like this is something I need to bring back into my life since we have so many commercial iced teas around now.  Last summer, when McDonald's was advertising $1 Mickey D's Sweet Tea, my kids fell in love with it.  With it's styrofoam cup, I was not loving it.  I thought about all of the bottles, mostly plastic now, that are being thrown away with each sip of store-bought bottled tea and how much could be saved, financially and environmentally, by making our own.

Here's a link I found to a sweet tea recipe that is close to McDonald's, if that's what you like:

The recipe I use is so simple, but it makes me happy every time I make it:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.  Add 2 family-size tea bags or 5-6 regular tea bags.  Turn off heat and set timer for 3 minutes.  Add 2 more cups of water and squeeze (& compost) tea bags.  Add 1 TB local honey, 1 squeeze fresh lemon, 1/2 c. sugar (more or less to taste).  Stir.  Add 2 more cups of water & stir.  Makes 2 quarts. 

Sometimes we don't use honey, add oranges and lemons instead of sweeteners, add fresh mint, etc.  I taught my 2 oldest sons how to make this and they love to experiment and vary the recipe.

Next summer I will try to make sun tea again.  But for now, we have our sweet tea with no styrofoam or plastic waste - hooray!  Do you have a favorite drink recipe to share that eliminates plastic packaging?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No Impact Transportation Day and Other Random Thoughts

Today (officially yesterday now) was Transportation Day for Yes! Magazine's No Impact Week and I knew this would be my toughest day before the rain even began to fall.  The thought of getting my 4 year old to our preschool (at our district elementary school) without a car is extremely daunting to me and brings to mind images of near-death situations.  I really wish it were not the case, but I don't even feel safe riding my bike or walking alone on most of the streets that I travel, let alone doing it with a child.  Just yesterday I watched in horror as a couple walking their dog was almost mowed down by a speeding car turning a windy corner - good thing for fast reflexes and good brakes!  And then there are my Terracycle would I get all of those boxes to school without my car?  And get home and back to the PTO meeting and do everything else that needed to be done in between on time?

Needless to say, I failed miserably at not using my car today.  I did think about carpooling to the PTO meeting and called 2 friends to see if they'd like to join me, but got no takers.  Something to work on, though, as there are many opportunities to carpool that I don't often take advantage of.  One of the main reasons:  time, or perceived lack thereof.  So what is more important to me?  That's really at the heart of why I'm writing this blog.  What matters?  What is worth giving my time to?  What is worth thinking about and considering?  Sitting behind a truck giving off terrible emissions on my way home from the PTO meeting struck me tonight in a way that it never has before.  Every day, I am part of the problem.  I drive.  I try to drive responsibly, but what does that really mean?  I follow the speed limit.  On a recent trip to visit my brother on the PA turnpike, I drove the speed limit the entire trip and only passed 1 car - this is amazing to me, considering the volume of cars on that road.  The one white-haired gentleman that I passed was driving about 30 mph.  Everyone else seemed to be going at least 70 mph or more.  We are a nation in high gear.  Where are we all racing to?  What are we hoping to gain by rushing through our lives?  So many times if we would allow ourselves to slow down, we would have time to think about the consequences of our actions and that would be a really good thing!

So here's to bike lanes and walking lanes and trails that make it safe for us all to share the road!  And to taking the time to build them, explore them and use them.  Here's to slowing down to consider those around us who are sharing the path on this journey we call life.  We all want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, don't we?  The things we value are not so different when we take the time to think about it.  So let's think and let's act.  Differently....together....better.

Monday, September 19, 2011

No Impact Week With YES! Magazine: September 2011

This week I'm taking part in YES! Magazine's 'No Impact Week'.  There's still time to join!:

Yesterday, we focused on consumption.  The topic of consumption has been on my mind for a while now, so it wasn't the hardest of the challenges for me.  My kids brought home a 'Back 2 School Smencil Gram' flyer, though, so it presented the opportunity to have a little talk.  Did we need any more pencils?  The answer was an easy, 'No!', as we save pencils from year to year and have more than enough to last us for a few more years without buying a new one!  Would they be upset if all of their friends got a Smencil Gram and they didn't?  I didn't get an immediate 'No!' to this question and I could see the wheels spinning.  I asked them if there was something we could do together as a family to show our love for each other instead of sending out the Smencil Grams.  Bingo!  'Can we play Candyland together, Mom?'  An extra family game night sounds like a great idea to me! 

(For those of you who don't know what a Smencil is, it is a pencil made of recycled newspaper which has a scent - there are lots of scents and according to their website, they are "the same as those used to make soaps and candles, which are safe for reasonable personal use as tested by the manufacturers."  They also state that "by using corn-based biodegradable plastic tubes, even Smencil and Smen packaging is environmentally friendly."  While that sounds good, I'm not sure the plastic tubes can biodegrade in the landfill, where I'm sure most of them end up.  If you need to buy a pencil, it seems to me it would be more eco-friendly if it weren't in any type of packaging at all.  I can be a real killjoy, can't I? ;) ).

Today's topic is Trash.  One of the recommendations for today is something that I thought I had done, but their suggestion is much more complete:
Put together a no-trash travel kit for the week with a reusable drinking receptacle for hot and cold liquids, a handkerchief/old t-shirt, Tupperware®, utensils, and reusable produce bags.

So I am adding a few things to my take-along kit!  One thing I noticed that I accumulate a lot of is tissues.  I do buy recycled tissues, but with 3 little boys (one who currently has a cold!), the tissues add up!  The old t-shirt suggestion for handkerchiefs is a good one for me!  I'm going to try to cut some up later today - will try to post some pictures.

Now that's what I call FUN!  Do you have a no-trash travel kit?  How have you used it?  Will you add to it this week?

Want to join me in the fun of the No Impact Week?  I'd love to hear your experiences!

Friday, September 9, 2011