Friday, July 31, 2009

10 Green Ways to Keep Cool(er) Without Air Conditioning

1. Go jump in a lake. Or your bathtub, or shower. Submerge your whole body in cool water for a few minutes--it will stay cool for a while.

2. If you can't stand the heat....minimize generating any heat yourself. Don't cook, turn off lights, no hot showers, etc.

3. Shut it down. Keep blinds and curtains closed until the sun goes down.

4. DIY A/C. Make an old-school air conditioner by placing blocks of ice in front of a fan. This works--I've been doing it myself the last two days. Don't use glass because the water expands as it freezes and will crack the glass even if you keep the lid off (I tried). Fill zip lock baggies with water and freeze into blocks, place in a bowl, put it in front of your fan and point in your direction.

5. Hydrate. Coconut water is my beverage of choice in the heat, as it replaces electrolytes and is very soothing. Drink lots and lots of H20, keep it with you in a bottle. I like to fill my Kleen Kanteens with a little water in the bottom, freeze it (with the lid off), then fill with water. Keeps it cold a lot longer.

6. Dress cool, light, and loose. Wear white or light colored lightweight fabric such as linen. Avoid black or dark colors as they absorb the heat.

7. Wear a hat. It will protect your head, face and neck, but take it off when you get inside or in shade as it will also trap the heat and make you hotter.

8. Spritz. Keep a little water bottle for spritzing face arms and legs. So simple, but it really works. You can keep a couple in the fridge and slip it in your bag when you leave the house. Keep those pulse points wet. A wet bandana tied around your neck is another way to achieve this idea if you don't have a squirt bottle handy. I've been freezing bandanas and then putting them around my neck.

9. Eat for the heat. If you're out, grab some spicy Thai or Indian food. People who live in the hottest places in the world typically have the spiciest diets. That's because the spice makes you sweat and self-cool. Plus it's a delicious treat. If you're home, make foods you don't cook, see my earlier post for some ideas.

Eat foods that contain Lycopene. Studies have shown that lycopene protects your skin from UV light. Not enough to stop wearing sunscreen, but it helps. Foods that contain the most lycopene: watermelon and tomatoes, pink grapefruit and quava. Persimmon and apricots also have some lycopene, but in much smaller amounts. Finally, eat cooling foods like mint, frozen treats, watermelon and cucumbers.

10. Sunscreen. I know we're supposed to wear it, but for me, it's not exactly cooling. It's the opposite of cooling, plus it burns my eyes. I think it is important to note sunscreen as a means to cool, because if you burn you will be anything but cool. Plus it presents a health risk. I finally found one that I can tolerate, it's Jason and it's free of a lot of those nasty chemicals we want to avoid and doesn't burn my eyes. Be sure to scrutinize sunscreen ingredients for carcinogens (more on this later).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I am EXTREMELY absolutely boiling

Book stores, it turns out, are a great place to seek refuge from the heat. And look what we found. Charlie and Lola always nail it for me, I think I love them more than my son does (I know I do because he's starting to want to watch Diego more). I am EXTREMELY absolutely boiling is obviously about coping with summer heat (with a sub-plot), and it's as cool as all the other Charlie and Lola books. With 103 degree heat, it was perfectly apt and made me smile.

They're the only modern cartoon characters that really mesmerize me, almost make me feel like a kid again. If you're not familiar, they're British, very smart and very artful. You can get books and DVDs and it's on tv, but I DVR everything, so I'm not sure what channels. Visually, it's a feast to watch with lots of color and pattern and texture variety, the plots are intelligent, sensitive and funny. They also have a show/book about recycling that got my son very excited about that. If you've never seen them, it's a refreshing treat.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Product Review: Tovolo Rocket Pop Molds

Today is Painfully hot. Brutally Hot. Record breakingly hot. Every air conditioner in town is sold out Hot (I kid you not). Patience are running ultra thin....what's a mom to do? Make popsicles! I just got these wonderful Tovolo popsicle molds this morning and my son is enjoying his first one (about four hours later) as I speak. Boy do they soothe the over-heated four year old beastie.

What I love about these, apart from their cool look (we got rockets and stars), is that you can control the ingredients. When your kid is already cranky, the last thing you want to do is add refined sugar to the equation, not to mention the toxic dyes and who-knows-what that you find in many commercial popsicles. We were in a rush, so we just put some organic strawberry, and mango lemonade in ours and they worked just fine, but I can see some brilliant potential. You could do coconut milk with fruit, green smoothie, pureed watermelon...the options are endless. They would also be great in the winter when your child is sick and won't eat.

Another thing I'm a stickler for--they are BPA free. There's no waste, you can use them over and over, and they are very well made. You can choose from different shapes and colors and they're packaged in a nice box which makes a gift-worthy presentation. They also make a shooting star mold which is the two-flavor concept. These take a little longer to freeze up (because you do it in stages) but look very cool and nostalgic, and are offered in sets of three. Be sure to get more than one set so you can always have one ready to eat. (If you buy them on Amazon, you can get in on the 4 for 3 promotion).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Edgy Fruit and Veggie

I'm a sucker for funky fruit and veggie functional art. Check out these uber cool juice glasses from CB2. They kind of remind me of the juice glasses I grew up with, only a more updated modern version. I love that they're glass and not plastic.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Five Dinner Ideas That Won't Heat Up Your House

Is your house so hot you don't want to turn on the stove? Ours is. The only thing cooking in here is us. Here are five fast and easy dinner ideas that won't heat up the house.

1. Tabouleh, hummus and pita. Serve with Kalamata olives. If you don't have time to make tabouleh, you can whip up a batch of hummus and serve it with pita or crackers and sliced cucumber. (a bowl of my hummus is pictured above)

2. Fresh Spring Rolls. Fill them with Thai basil, cilantro, mint, tofu, lettuce, sprouts, veggies, etc. Very refreshing.

3. Big Salad (remember Elaine on Seinfeld? "It's a salad--but Bigger"). Serve with some whole grain bread.

4. Sushi. It's always a good time for some fresh California rolls (minus the fake crab).

5. Sandwich. How about a little avocado, sprouts, lettuce, tomato on some whole grain bread? Serve with a tall glass of lemonade and some blue corn chips.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Product Review: O.N.E. Coconut Water

If you've ever had the good fortune of drinking coconut water from a coconut (preferably picked yourself, top hacked off by machete), you know how refreshing and sublime it is. There's also nothing else that tastes like it. Coconut water is a slightly opaque water that seems to have a little weight to it (it's not the milk, which comes at a later stage in the coconut's life). The taste of coconut is very faint, and it's super smooth going down. There are few things on earth more thirst-quenching on a hot day.

Since, for most of us, young coconuts are not readily available, coconut aficionados are happy there's ONE Coconut Water. Water is usually my preference for a portable drink---filtered water from your tap in a stainless bottle. But there are times when water isn't going to quite do the job. Coconut water is packed with electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and phosphorous), so it makes for quick hydration. Keep some in the fridge and on hot days like today slip a couple in your backpack on the way out the door. Coconut water is also very useful to have on hand in the winter--it's great for when your child is sick and won't eat or drink.

There is no sugar, it's miles away from any "sport drink" out there, and my son thinks it's a huge treat. The packaging is the eco friendly tetra-pak which supposedly doesn't leach any harmful chemicals (I'm always a bit skeptical these days) and ONE participates in a carbon reduction program. Be sure they are super cold--I like to have them refrigerated a good 24 hours before drinking.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Wednesdays and Saturdays are Farmer's Market days for us, and it's the highlight of my summers. Almost all the produce at our markets is Organic, the Farmers are cheerful and happy, the mood is light, it's a wonderful experience every time. I feel so lucky to be able to have a lovely time at the market, then go home and make a big salad or pasta dish with veggies that were picked that morning.

It's a great feeling to build a relationship with the people who grow your food, I love supporting our Farmers. When you go to the Farmer's Market, you get tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. Your food is bursting with color and vitamins, it hasn't been sitting on a truck in some sort of climate control, it's way more eco friendly and you're insuring that the farmers can continue to grow because they know they'll be supported. It's also a great way to connect with and support your community and grow your local economy. It's a win-win for everyone.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Product Review: Pengoloo

What if there was a toy company that not only used non-toxic paint and wood for their toys but grew trees to replace those used in production? Well guess what? There is such a company. Blue Orange Games actually plants two trees for every one used. If only other companies could be this responsible. They totally won me over with that straight away without ever seeing the toys, I confess. But my first experience with one of their games is a big success in terms of sheer fun factor.

The award winning Pengaloo is visually appealing and features an element of surprise. Players try to find colored eggs (hiding under the wooden penguins) corresponding to the colors on dice. It's a little more involved than straight "Concentration" but basically the same idea, it's a memory game. There are suggestions in the pamphlet for variations and of course, you can make up your own.

I'm a big fan of board games and think it's a great way to bond with your child. On day one, I played this game with my son for a good hour, with lots of "Let's do it again!" Then he continued to play by himself for another hour. He's gone back to it many times since and says it's one of his favorite toys already.

On a practical note, the box, made of recycled and recyclable cardboard, is sturdy and designed to house all the pieces nicely for easy cleanup and storage. I highly recommend this toy. Ages 4+/Blue Orange Games.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Clean Energy Poster

Shepard Fairey, the artist that created the iconic Obama Hope poster during the election, has come out with a new poster. Clean Energy For America is available now from as a two for $20 deal. They are selling in pairs to get the word out faster during a "Cover September in Windmills" campaign to support rebuilding the economy by greening it up with clean energy. You can get yours HERE.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wonderful Watermelon

We all know that watermelon is probably the Ultimate summertime food. It's hydrating, cooling and delicious. But did you know watermelon is a powerhouse of nutrition? Watermelon is high in vitamin C, contains Vitamin A (through beta carotene), B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and is a great source of the cancer fighting lycopene. With such a high water content and crazy good taste, who'd have thought they were so good for you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cool down with Cucumbers

It's Hot. It's so hot that sometimes it's hard to eat. Definitely hard to cook. I have two go-to foods when I need cooling down in the summer: watermelon and cucumber. If you want sweet, go with watermelon, if you want salty, go with cucumber. (We'll talk about watermelon later.)
Cucumbers have a 90% water content and are cooler on the inside than the surrounding temperature. Like a portable oasis.

There's something about cucumbers that just seems...clean. Clean and fresh. They smell clean, they look clean, they taste clean and they actually are very cleansing to the system. Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, folate and fiber are all part of the cucumber's benefits.

Sliced cucumbers can be used topically to releive swollen or itchy eyes, minor burns and other skin irritations. They can reduce swelling and, taken internally (cucumber is great in juice), cucumber's silica content is great for the complexion.

Slice them up vertically into sticks and eat them with a little bit of salt, your favorite salad dressing or chop them up and put them in salad or tabouleh. Make sure you buy organic as some pretty gnarly pesticides are used on cukes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Review: FEEDING THE WHOLE FAMILY, by Cynthia Lair

As the title suggests, along with the enticing Nikki Mcclure artwork on the cover depicting a child participating in the cooking process, Feeding the Whole Family, by Cynthia Lair, is a kid friendly cookbook. From the forward by Mothering Magazine's Peggy O'Mara, to the accessible and practical content, moms will find straight forward information and recipes to nourish their little ones. There is a chapter about "Raising Healthy Eaters," wherein Lair gives tips on being a good role model, not using food in a punishment-reward context, and what to do when your kid "won't eat vegetables." There are also a sections on lunch box meals, and what to feed babies.

I have been eating a whole foods diet for so long now, sometimes it's hard to remember that not everyone eats this way. For those that don't, this would be an excellent primer. Those that do will appreciate this book's simplicity and unassuming tone. I've tried several recipes with success, with the Coconut Peanut Sauce ranking as my favorite so far.

Feeding the Whole Family is Not vegetarian, but leans heavily in that direction and includes many vegan recipes. There are also plenty of options for those that prefer Gluten Free food. Of course I wish it were vegan and I wish it had photos but overall I think this is one of those cookbooks that will be heavily worn in no time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Melts in Your Mouth

Summertime delicacies abound in the plant kingdom. My son's favorite is the magnificent melt-in-your-mouth raspberry. We usually buy them by the flat and have it eaten within a couple days. They are a bit expensive, but they are Packed with nutrition. You get a lot for your money in antioxidant power, vitamins, and luxurious taste. Raspberries are high in antioxidants and are known for containing the anti-carcinogenic substance ellagitannins. Manganese, vitamin C, folate, fiber, niacin, magnesium, are also found in raspberries.

They're good frozen or in jams and spreads, good in smoothies, pies and baked goods, but for me, the best way to eat raspberries are right out of the crate at the Farmer's Market (they never make it home in tact). If you do buy a flat, try to eat them in a couple of days before they start to mold. If time starts to run out, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them individually before putting them in a bag so they don't stick together. Buy plump, deep red organic berries and savor.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Vintage Vegetarian

HBO has been running Author! Author! and no matter how many times I see this movie, when I run across it, I'm charmed. Al Pacino plays an almost-single dad who is a quirky playwrite and vegetarian. You see kids eating a lot of salads which I love, and communicating in a more adult fashion which is amusing and something you wouldn't see in a film today. The fridge is loaded with greens and veggies and the parent is an insomniac--just like our house.

It's warm and funny and I got a big crush on Al Pacino when I was a kid because of this movie. You can get the DVD on Amazon with some unfortunate edits, apparently, but I think it's still worth it until the full version comes out. It's totally dated but still refreshing compared to much of what's being offered in cinema these days. This is comfort coming home to milk and cookies.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Reason to Buy Organic

Finally, a study to state the obvious and yet another reason to buy organic. Organic food is free of GMOs, so if pesticides aren't enough to scare the crap out of you, there has finally been a study to confirm that indeed Frankenfood isn't such a great idea. How it isn't common sense that one probably shouldn't cross a chicken and a tomato and then eat it, I will never know, but Journal of Biological Science has published a study conducted by a group of international scientists, stating pesticides and GMOs make people sick.

This is all frustratingly obvious to many of us, but okay, good, now it's on paper officially (again). The study states, "The health crises may be more important than the international financial crisis because of the lack of transparency of the regulators." Since over three quarters of our non-organic food supply contains GMOs, (and there are no labels alerting you) I would say you're really taking your health in your hands eating this stuff, and that's reason enough to buy organic, pesticides aside. What kind of culture poisons its own food supply to make money? Don't support it! Buy organic!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Product Review: OXO Salad Spinner--Awesome Summertime Kitchen Tool

I will tell you up front, this is expensive. But in my book, anything that encourages you to eat more greens is worth the money. I got this little salad spinner by OXO, and it has completely exceeded my expectations--I use it every single day.

The larger salad spinner was just too big for two people (one of whom is a four year old). This small(er) spinner is the perfect size to clean enough lettuce to make two Big salads. Before, I would try to clean my lettuce in the larger spinner and it would brown before I could eat it all. This one takes up less space in the fridge, it's more manageable, and there is no waste. It's also attractive to look at and you can serve in the stainless bowl. Forty bucks is a lot to spend, I know. But for me, it's worth every penny.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Peas Please!

Sweet snap peas make a perfect summer snack. My kid loves them (I've finally convinced him to eat the whole thing, not just the sweet peas inside) and so do I. We keep a little bag of these in the backpack for a quick snack on the go, we put them in salads and enjoy them sautéed with other veggies and tofu. I look forward to these every year. Rich in B vitamins, iron, vitamin C, K and folic acid, peas are great for heart health, bone health, and energy levels. You start seeing them in the Spring and then they fade away toward mid summer. Choose firm bright green organic peas, preferably from your local farmer's market. Snatch them up if you see them, because they won't be around much longer.