Sunday, October 21, 2012

"The Skinny on 'Gluten Free:' ten years of dietary evolution."

So every year for a New Year's Resolution I usually aspire to lose twenty pounds. 2012 was the year that I've come the closest to that goal. Did I eat less and exercise more often? I would definitely say that the tried-and-true regimen "kickstarted" my progress down from my mid-twenties working professional weight to the normalized BMI that I'd been chasing since college. However, I attribute the overall weight loss to one significant change that I've made in my diet.

In 2006, I was hospitalized on the Panhandle of Florida with a moderate case of "gastroenteritis"- which basically (according to my memory) meant that I had consumed too many highly processed foods, (fresh frozen fruit smoothies- who knew?!) and after a few days of these "healthy" 24oz breakfasts (thank you Smoothie Cafe!) my body started leaching toxins into my body, and I had something akin to Toxic Shock: where my heart raced at 180 bpm sitting down, I was dizzy and Bass Pro Shops made me go to the hospital at the start of the second half of my shift. (Did I mention that it was Tom's birthday?) So Tom drove me to Sacred Heart Hospital (where they pray over the intercoms, and it's very comforting!) and they X-Rayed me and after about four hours, I had been treated. It was there that a doctor first mentioned the Eat Right for Your Blood Type book and some other titles. I remember being surprised- I should actually read these? And thrilled, because these seemed like helpful answers to the questions of my dietary needs, something that had haunted me since high school. I discovered that as the "oldest bloodtype" (O-Negative) that my type hadn't evolved enough to process processed foods. Is there truth to this statement? All I know is that this DEFINITELY applies to me. I realized that I'd been eating the "Paleolithic Diet" since '02- mainly meat, veggies and fruits: all basic 1-ingredient foods. Rx from the Doctor? No more refined or highly processed foods, or I might be hospitalized again. Bummer.

Back in 2002, I had seen a dermatologist who said that I should stop eating dairy to help clear up my face. After three months of this idea, I was never able to process dairy again. (I broke "free" from the pull of the GOT MILK? media campaign which suggests we be the only species to continue drinking milk after birth periods.) Rx from the Dermatologist? No dairy now, or at least minimal dairy, for the rest of my life due to a developed (but natural) intolerance.

So I've adapted my diet, excluding large amounts of dairy, and processed foods, while limiting my sugar, and sticking mainly to: meat, vegetables, fruit and carbs.

In 2010, Rachel and I trained for the 3-Day for the Cure, walking in the ballpark of 550 miles. Many people encouraged us with comments such as, "You two must be losing so much weight!" but in truth, we both lost about 2lbs each during the sixth months. The mistake we made the first time, was to make sure that we didn't become overly dehydrated, or dizzy, so we ate/drank back the amount of calories that we were burning with Gatorade, protein bars, nuts and fruit- all "seemingly healthy" snacks! In fact, on Saturdays, we were eating over the 1,000 calories that we had burned over ten miles or so, by eating lunch at Panera!

So when we trained for the same endurance event in 2012, we knew our body and caloric limits. We burned more calories than we were eating, but in a healthy way, maintaining our hydration and energy levels, by eating smarter and less that we had in 2010. We lost more weight, (I was around 7lbs lighter in July than I had been in January of 2012) and after the 3-Day was over we both committed to continuing our physical training with the Couch to 5K programs.

At just about this time, I welcomed two Chinese high school students into my house and my diet made a drastically different change. I was introduced to rice noodles, rice, authentic and healthy sautéed vegetables and more. While my running times disappeared with my new guardian duties of making nightly meals, and cleaning, my weight continued to drop with the combination of my new Chinamerican diet and one new major dietary change: I found Gluten Free bread.

Cue "the Great Dietary Change of 2012" ---I have now severely limited my intake of gluten based products, dropping and maintaining another 5lbs off of the 7lbs I had slimmed down to. None of my pants fit anymore. I now weigh the same amount as I did in college. I no longer use the term "food baby" on a daily or weekly basis when referring to my swollen or bloated bread belly.

Should everyone do this? Let me clear. I haven't cut all carbs out. I've replaced wheat noodles with rice noodles, wheat bread with gluten free whole grain bread (Udi's is a great brand), whenever I can. Have I noticed a difference? Between training, my Chinamerican diet, (which I am very full, happy and satisfied about) and the "Gluten light" diet change: I have noticed my afternoon energy levels increase, my waistline decrease from a size 10/12/13 to a 6/8, and my overall weight drop about 12-13 pounds this year, so I plan to make this a permanent change.

You may have noticed many other people making this change too. Some, for health reasons: Celiac disease, allergies, health awareness grows, more and more people have been calling the government to demand new labeling for genetically modified wheat and corn (which has been shown to agitate or harm individuals as it becomes harder to digest). As we watch these changes being made, it's important to take a true look at true ingredients in the things we are consuming, and letting our kids consume. Sometimes fresh fruit, when blended with ice, can have invisible toxins from pesticides that literally cause our bodies to go into shock. Even healthy vegetables, when not washed with a fruit/veggie wash, can harm us. So when I can't afford organic- I make sure to wash, wash, wash!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Mars Monday!

It was a pretty spectacular start to the week to see/hear/experience the Mars Rover landing this morning at 1:32AM-EST streaming live on NASA-TV.  Starting an hour and a half early as I worked on my novel in the wee hours of the morning, NASA-TV covered acutely-rendered images and video of simulations of what the entire landing process would entail: and this was a landing feat that I truly didn't believe would happen.

Firstly the successful landing required a multitude of first-ever technology attempts including a supersonic parachute, a rocket powered descent into a "sky crane" and hanging cable rover separation.
(To watch the NASA video "7 Minutes of Terror" click here...) It also required the communication satellite Odyssey (over Mars) to reposition itself to report back on the landing data, which had never been done before, which was also done successfully.

Screen Shot of NASA-TV 8/6/12
It was truly spectacular to receive the successful landing data in real time LIVE on the NASA-TV stream, and to see the pictures come in from the Odyssey link as the scientists and engineers did live as well. You can see their reactions here from my screen shots (at right).

The first two photos which came in (the image on the left of the two boxes in photo right) were horizon images and wheel images only. It was the third shot (below) where you could see the outline of the rover on the surface of Mars clearly, with the dust from the protective lens cover that will come off later.

Photo courtesy of NASA Mars Rover Curiosity 8/6/12.
Considering the fact that the rover had landed only moments before the images came through, mankind has truly made history this morning. GO USA! Check it out before you head out to work today! A great moment for our country!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Upcycling is the new Recycling, Part 2!

1. OLD FILE CABINETS: Before I left the school for Summer Vacation someone suggested to me that I should get rid of my old dodgy grey stained and chipped file cabinet. I considered it for a bit, but then realized that 1) it's huge and heavy, and 2) it's still useable, just ugly. So my focus narrowed to solution based path. How can I make this old ugly thing pretty enough to be displayed in my middle school classroom? And then I turned to Pinterest- because if someone's done it before, it will be on there. Quickly, I found the solution and the ugly "problem" became a creative project! View how-to steps here. 

(Then, while at home in Boston for the Komen 60-mile walk, my uncle showed me his newly "upcycled" file cabinet and walked me through the revamp-process. He had used a citrus-based paint stripper and taken the paint off of his file cabinet first, and then sprayed it with a metal-specific spray paint.)

2. TANK TOPS: These can really pile up over the years! What better than to create a few more "totes" out of the material of things we might have donated anyway? There's a whole tutorial on how to do this, with step-by-step directions here.

3. CREATING ORGANIZED SPACES: I feel like every time I pin these awesome projects to my pinboard on Pinterest, I'm committing some future Saturday off to junk hunting or yard sale scoping, a trip to Home Depot to buy paint and sandpaper and often wonder if I'll ever get any of these projects done successfully. However, with this project in particular, I feel like these "rails" are everywhere to be found! Baby cribs, ladders, rungs from bannisters, this is my next project. I can use one for my things, and Tom could probably use one of these for his garage gear and tools! The tutorial to turn any "railing" into an overhead storage unit can be found here. 

4. MAKE YOUR OWN CRAYONS! I have a couple of readers who have kids and probably have tons of broken crayons at home. Here's a solution! Using greased muffin tins (oven) or paper cups (outside in sun for a few hours) you can make new crayons out of the old broken crayons by remelting them! Directions here! 

5. PET TOYS: Every time I go to the Pet Store to buy Science Diet cat food (because I'm a sucker for those cats) I also usually pick up the ten-count tailed fake mice. Lord knows where they all end up because a month later I can't find any of them, and I buy ten more. So this could be a whole project for a day for me, creating "cat nip" filled cloth balls. This project is pretty self-explanatory, using recycled "extra" materials from old clothes filling them with a squeaky toy or shaker, or cat nip, but if you need directions, head over here...

So there are a few of my favorite projects, but there are 100's of other ideas online if you google: upcycle project, or upcycle ideas. I just found this link today: 100 Amazing Upcycling Ideas Anyone Can Do, which has some more ideas.

If you missed my first "Upcycling" bog post check it out: Upcycling is the new Recycling! 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

RECAP: Boston 2012 Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure!

Aimee & Liz on Day 2!
Throughout my entire life, my mom and I have been on some pretty crazy adventures. From the 13k hike with river crossings in a thunderstorm in Canada when I was a kid, to the unforgettable nightmare hike in hail for twelve grueling miles on the Fourth of July (2009), to many beautiful hikes across Joshua Tree National Park desert in CA, the Blue Ridge, the White Mountains, the Green Mountains, Eastern Canada, and around my home state Massachusetts. We were dubbed by our family members as the "Walkie Talkies" and even had matching hats and shirts for our adventures! That team spirit followed us on our latest challenge in our 3-Day Team Name: The Walkie Talkies!

Now we can add another milestone: the grueling 4-6 month training and successful completion of the 60-mile Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure event! We trained in separate states, across the country from one another, but were able to have many walks together in Florida in March, in California in April, and during two wedding trips up in New England this past spring. I was so proud that my hesitant mother, who loves walking, trusted me enough to sign up, and then see how many people were willing to support her along the way to raising the $2,300.00 needed to walk (which she did with months to spare.) My mother's energy and enthusiasm was relentless (until about 8:30pm each night of the 3-Day) and I enjoyed watching her delight and emotions all along the 60-mile trail. 
Completing an event like the 3-Day requires intense amounts of support. Waking up at 5am on both days of a weekend for months (while working full time) can be draining and I could not have done this without my best friend, and fellow walker teammate, Rachel. Thank you Rachel! As Co-Captains, Rachel and I had talked in the fall about expanding our team. I coerced convinced my high school life-long friends Jenna and Randi to join us. I was nervous about the fundraising, because $2,300 is daunting, but I knew how inspiring our first 3-Day experience in Tampa Bay in 2010 was, and I knew that if we could do this together, we would make a difference. So the challenge began!

Training for and the 3-Day event was not achieved without obstacles. The grueling physical demands of endurance walking has its own set of problems: blisters, blisters on top of blisters (yes, this exists), shin splints, road rash, hyponatremia, chafing, heat stroke, muscle sprains-pulls-pain, dehydration, hypokalemia, and more. Maintaining energy, strength and happiness is very challenging during the event especially when it rained on the camp for hours after we got in after Day 2. Again, I could not have done this without Rachel for the toughest miles on Day 2, the day I spent four months dreading...

But no 3-Day is without its own personal experiences, (like the 3am sprinklers going off on Day 2 into Day 3 on the '10 walk) and the 2012 was no exception. Rachel and I were pulled off the course at 5pm after ten hours of walking, just shy of Camp, on Day 2 for a ferocious thunder and lightning storm and relocated to the school gym of the complex we were staying at. (I was very excited to earn a "2012: I survived a Relo" button for my lanyard. I LOVE flair!) 

One of the best parts of the 3-Day is meeting new people and hearing their stories. The heartbreak, inspiring strength and resilience of these repeat-walkers always moves me to tears. One man, George, had raised his entire amount in eight days for his 9th WALK on the Komen boards because he was so well liked and remembered as "Honey, I'm hoooo-me!"and a "Man with Heart" (a group of men who carry heavy backpacks filled with anything women walkers might need) shared his heartbreaking story for an hour with me and Rachel while we were waiting for my cell to charge on night 1. After sharing some tears and his nail polish, he solidified himself in my mind as the role model for overcoming any and all adversity and loss. To another mother and her daughters walking for a cure,  my mom's "favorite" Walker-Stalker, to the people we all met individually along the trail or at night in camp, the stories create a bond of  strength and connection to these complete strangers, who have come together from all parts of the country to walk for a cause greater than any one of us. Our team, the Walkie Talkies, successfully raised just under $12,000.00 for breast cancer research and community support. The 2012 Boston Komen walk raised over $3M. It was incredible to be a part of that success. 

Even more incredible than the fundraising success, was the personal success of the journey. Seeing my mom cry as she realized the "Victory Tunnel" was a tunnel of thousands of cheering people and not a plastic football tunnel, as complete strangers saluted her efforts and sacrifices for the cure, was a highlight of my life. I am so proud to call these women, Mom, Rachel, Jenna and Randi my teammates and friends. 

If it's time to do something "bigger than yourself", or to spring board into a feasible and achievable fitness regimen, please contact me, and I'd be happy to tell you more about the 3-Day Walk. (Or any other hikes around the USA!) 

A BIG Thank You to our Sponsors, without whom we would not have been able to achieve this amazing achievement!

And finally: a special shout out to our Walker Fans who showed up along the trail to cheer our team on!
Aunt Beth!
Aunt Sue & Uncle Jim!

Aunt Cheryl & Donna!

Sean and Louise!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Surviving an Apocalypse: Real Estate.

Yahoo had an awesome article today which featured the latest in Zombie-proof Real Estate which was ACTUALLY FOR SALE in America. Highly amusing.

One such house in Florida had its own moat for about $10M:

While yet another had an underground Nuclear Bunker for only $800k:

Although, if it weren't for hurricanes (and money), I'd probably buy this Floridian Island near Marathon  for $12M:

And finally, and perhaps the most ridiculous safe, is the "Jamesburg Earth Station" in California, complete with original satellite, working generators, a helipad and a gym. 

Which one would you pick? See the rest at the article, here,

OR: You can check out my "How to Survive a Supervolcano" Eruption Guide and even my original 

Apocalypse Article: "How to Survive an Ice Age."

Friday, July 06, 2012

X-Country Biking Road Trip: Al and Al for Best Buddies!

One of my Facebook friends (Al) is riding across the country with his friend (also Al) to raise awareness for BEST BUDDIES INTERNATIONAL. They started in Portland, Maine, and are spending the summer road biking and camping across northern America all the way to Portland, Oregon!

You can track their cross-country progress on their Public Facebook Group Page:

Al and Al at the beginning of their cross-country voyage!

They chose the Best Buddies International Alternative Break Program to raise awareness and also to raise donations for the Nonprofit:

"Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The money raised will go toward the initiation and expansion of travel programs for people with disabilities, 
creating empowering opportunities for people with disabilities to do service work!" 

I have been following their updates via their Tumblr account, which includes many heartwarming stories of generosity across the Northeast so far, interesting accounts of people that Al & Al have met, and their physical exertions as they have now completed most of the Adirondack Mountain Range. An impressive amount of mileage biked already! Wish them luck, check out their sites, or donate to them here!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Music Review: EVERCLEAR's newest album.

It was a lollipop in paradise when I discovered two days ago that EVERCLEAR had just released a new album. For those of you who weren't fans back in the 90's: Everclear's "So Much for the Afterglow" album was literally my middle/high school soundtrack, and the single "Amphetamine" my anthem for a decade.

My mom even noticed my excitement on Facebook- as I immediately shared this golden nougat of knowledge, asking me to "sing one of their songs" in our most recent phone conversation. She didn't know it- mainly because I wore a lot of giant headphones in that decade while listening to Art's teenage angst filled lyrics.

Imagine my surprise then when learning that EVERCLEAR was also currently on tour in America! Taking the stage with none other than the following 90's powerhouse line-up:

So, in addition to going to that concert at my earliest possible convenience, I bought the new album: INVISIBLE STARS on iTunes for the bargain of $9.99. It exceeded my expectations by far! I was very happy to read: "...they are certainly eager to evoke memories of the past by reworking [successful] hooks...whether this nostalgia--so calculated that the prom queen of "Falling in a good Way" pointedly entered high school in 1995, the year Everclear had their first big big, "Santa Monica" (and this album's "Santa Ana Wind" certainly brings to mind that tune as well)- has an audience in 2012 is almost beside the point; after many years in the wilderness Alexakis [E's lead singer] has once again found the sound of Everclear on Invisible Stars."
 -iTunes Album Review. 

So I journeyed forth to find "new" bouts of nostalgia from my favorite band and as soon as I heard Art's voice, which has not changed in almost twenty years, my heart warmed and I was head nodding, window down in 90 degree Tampa, blasting my Everclear pride to anyone who would listen. Check out these tracks:

1. My favorite track "Jackie Robinson" is a rousing fist-pump towards racial progress in America, which  reminds me clearly of: "I Will Buy You a New Life" ('97). 

2. "Falling in a Good Way": It's almost a sequel to "Amphetamine" ('97). 

3. "Be Careful What You Ask For": I'm sorry, was this track recorded in 1997 and then time-capsuled? I can't tell the difference. Everclear at its best.

4. "Santa Ana Wind" slows us down, like "New Life" ('97)  again picking up into a nostalgic memory of  the 90's. 

5. "I am Better Without You": High gear fun. Great guitar licks. Oldschool Everclear again.

6. "Aces" like "El Distorto De Melodica" ('97) begins with cranked guitar with matching high octane 

7. "Promenade" was the song that in the 30-second demo on iTunes made me buy the whole album. It's original Everclear that you should be here for.

The band in 2012: 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Even Princesses Recycle!

Celebrity Spotlight: Even Princesses recycle! 

Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, recycling outfits in a modern world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Writing a Book: Why you should start now!

National Novel Writing Month

I have lately been rewriting a manuscript of mine for many hours, which was professionally edited this past spring. Basically, I have learned that there's a lot more to writing a book than just having a good story. At the direction of my editor, I have been researching things called "point of view" and "character arcs," "scene conflict, climax, struggle and resolution," basically: all of the nitty gritty not-so-very-fun-stuff. However, four scenes into this new process of mini t.v. "episode"-like scenes and for the first time in years, I'm actually becoming proud of my work. I can see the craft finally reflecting the story. Which leads me into today's topic: novel writing: why you should start now!

Novel writing seems so exciting: the romance of a new idea, the pull of a scintillating character, the shocking climax, the heartfelt resolution, the immortality of printed pages, the hint of success to come, the dream of a monetary advance, the Pulitzer Prize in writing. [Insert guttural laughing here.]

I am laughing now, because I began this process almost two decades ago, with my first "novel" idea in the fifth or sixth grade (pun intended.) That idea has ballooned into a trilogy of fantastical (literally-it's a fantasy) proportions. However the entire project was halted, when at sometime during my advanced high school or early college years, my laptop died and I lost eighty written pages of that manuscript. I had to completely begin afresh with only an old printed version of forty pages or so. A rookie mistake, but heart wrenching, nonetheless. Bridging the gap from teenage to adult writing can be challenging. Teenagers have the ideas but not the craft. Adults tend to have honed the craft, but now have fewer ideas, or time to realize them. This author, "10 Things Teenagers Should Know About Writing" (while trying not be condescending) makes some really good points about the general weaknesses in teenage and amateur writing while giving many tips on where and how to begin the process.

SCROLL DOWN TO his point #2: the more you read and write, the better you'll get at it. 

Point #3: You need to write everyday. 

And the author continues to give seven more pointers about getting into this industry. He also has quite the hilarious follow up article "On teens and the fact their writing sucks" where he apologizes for his initial statement from article one, and clarifies his meaning: that you can only get better, and by limiting yourself to where you are right now (in your teens) you will never improve. 

My advice to teenage and adult writers alike:

CONSUME the information around you and on the internet. 

DIGEST the information.

SPIT IT BACK OUT in a way that floors people. 

Here's my favorite example by J. D. Salinger: 

So while your style might not have that finesse of your future years, it's important to get started. It's important to get those youthful ideas onto paper, because these are the kinds of ideas everyone identifies with. The nostalgia of "going back in time to your youth" that people, adults try to escape to. The ideas that younger children look up to, try and emulate.

Commit to your writing future: get started today. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

June Movie Survey!

It's that time of year again: when I got see almost every movie in the theaters just because it's summer. Mainly this means that I'll write up quick reviews for anyone that may be interested in knowing what's a dud or a gem. In a nutshell?

The Big Screen Winners: Battleship, Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Avengers.
The Small Screen Renters: MIB-3, Rock of Ages, The Hunger Games, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

#1. The Surprising Favorite (that critics hated): BATTLESHIP. I was as surprised as the next person at how much fun Battleship was. Viewers can quickly suspend belief at the ridiculous plot of alien invaders setting up a base in the ocean because the effects are SO GOOD. The aliens have a very STAR TREK (2009) feel and the acting is funny and reminiscent of INDEPENDENCE DAY. I was proud to be an American after this film. It was also a great view of the capabilities of the U.S. Navy, the veterans who have served previously, and had a feel-good ending. It's on its last week in theaters, go catch it! It's better than A.Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

 #2. The Surprising Dud (that critics loved): M.I.B. III. I had very high expectations for M.I.B-3. Especially since it's been TEN YEARS since the last installment, and has been promoted since early 2011. Honestly? It was depressing. While the "Time-warp" gimmick from Tommy Lee to Josh Brolin in the 1960's was UNCANNY and spot on- the film just maintained a level of seriousness that didn't deliver. Yes, there is one "feel good" moment towards the end that explains Will's past, but all-in-all, not what I was looking for from the franchise that used to be slimy, spunk and fresh.

 #3. Just along for the Ride: ROCK of AGES is a going to be a great house-party movie. Eventually, when it comes out on DVD. Worth the $10 ticket price? Eh. The 80's band songs/mashups are the best part of the movie (along with Tom Cruise as the hilarious "Stacee Jaxx") but you can get those on iTunes already. Check out the songs, and rent the DVD. 

#4. AS GOOD AS IT GETS: I fully expect Charlize Theron to be nominated for an Oscar for her role as the Evil Queen in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. She was absolutely thrilling and terrifying (in a good way). It almost made me believe Kristen Stewart's hysteria...almost. Even though Kristen may have only used a half dozen facial expressions, the movie was still worth seeing in theaters due to the beautiful costumes (expect another oscar nod), the other general well acted characters and theatrically epic plot (think The Two Towers even with dwarves! running across mountain range panoramic shots) and scary-good special effects. I fully expect to buy this one when it comes out on DVD. 

 #5. Now everyone knows how much I love the author (Seth Grahame-Smith of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) but I actually hadn't read this one before seeing it. However, the lead Benjamin Walker, played such a believable Abraham Walker, that I enjoyed much of this mind-warping revamp satire. Unlike Battleship and Snow White, though, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had campy special effects that were ridiculously unbelievable at times. (Reminiscent of the original Hell Boy or Sin City.) Advice: Rent it for your plasma at home.

 #6. I have always loved Joss Whedon. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly) but honestly: this film would have been a hit no matter WHO directed it. Waiting out the set up of THE AVENGERS literally for five or six years as: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor and The Incredible Hulk all came out first was painful. However, the wait was worth it, as we all knew it would be. The team was hilarious together in their dysfunctional relationship and I can't wait for the next installment. SEE IT IN THEATERS.

 #7. Another surprising dud for me was The Hunger Games. While it did have decent semblance to the book, it was shot and pieced together too quickly to do the character development or relationship arcs any justice. I felt disconnected from all of the characters, except for Gale, who I identified with "watching this all go down badly." I admit I will still see the sequels in theaters, and probably think the same of them, just like I have for all of those irritating Twilight films, but honestly, if you liked The Hunger Games, read the books: they're better.

#8. PROMETHEUS: I loved it. I think a lot of adults (my husband and best friends) were turned off of this "Aliens Origin" film because the trailers made it look like a horror film, but honestly there was only one or two moments of surprising terror and many more thrilling moments of Sci-Fi fun. Unlike the other Aliens movies, where you expect the characters to be stalked by dinosaur like devils, the movie was more like an Indiana Jones film with that 'What's down there?' sort of explorative feel with some of the best special effects space and technology sequences ever seen. Go see it in theaters!

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Upcycling is the new Recycling."

 "Upcycling is the new Recycling!"

Welcome back to my blog! Today's topic is Upcycling: "...the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value."

Entertainment Seating: layered pallets.
I would love to be an entirely "original" creative person; but in reality, I'm a teacher; and like millions of other educators worldwide my motto is "borrow from the best" of educators and lesson plans to create the best curriculum and lessons for my students. As a result, I've borrowed some of these creative upcycling ideas from Pinterest and Google Images to share with you today. Here are some of the interesting project ideas that I have found for "upcycling" that you can do at home. 

Old dresser planter.
There is a larger project database of ideas that I've collected at this link: which takes you to my "Upcycling" pinboard on Pinterest. (You do not have to be a Pinterest member to view it.) 

So now, my challenge is to wander the halls of my house looking for waste, junk, or useless materials to create some of my own "upcycling" projects of my own. I plan to share them with you here on this blog all summer. 

From clothing hanger to Chip Clip! 
I hope these ideas inspire you to begin some projects of your own! 

If you have pictures, or links to projects that inspire you to "Upcycle" please share them in the comments section below!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My 100th Post: "American Clothing Consumption."

I originally started this blog last year to bring awareness to environmental, social and worldly issues. Today for my 100th post, I return to that mission to discuss American clothing consumption.

"American Clothing Consumption."

Today I learned a frightening statistic: that the average American buys 64 items of clothing per year. In 2009, that averaged almost $1900 per person. Considering overall income: clothing and apparel services was only about 4% of an American's total income: see graph below for the visual economics of expenditures.
(Click on Photo to enlarge.)
However, this number (64 items on average per person) was shocking. Then I thought about how many of these clothing items are NOT recycled, reused, or redistributed and I decided that it's time for a Sustainability Reinvigoration! Please donate your used clothing and items to one of the following charities: (click on linked name for locations) the Salvation Army, Goodwill, the American Red CrossVietnam Veterans "Pick Up Donation" service, and more instead of throwing them out. (If your favorite donation charity is not listed, please add the link to it under the "Comments" section of this post!)

Another fashion issue to consider for increased sustainability is the quality of clothes purchased. The cheaper or more badly made the clothing item, the less "wear and tear" it has and the more likely it is to be thrown out. The "trendier" the item, the more likely it will be thrown out within a few seasons! There was an interesting interview with Elizabeth L.Cline (the author of the new book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashionon the other issues with "cheap fashion" on, about the environmental and human costs as well. Her wisdom? Buy clothing guaranteed to last, that is "classic," and comfortable. 

How do you determine the value of a brand in regards to Sustainability? For this information, I turn to my trusted Better World Shopping Guide. (As a young teacher, my means are limited, but there can be power in every dollar I spend if I spend it the right way.) Check out your favorite brands from the Better World Shopping Guide's Clothing Brand Analysis. To find out how they created these rankings (based on Human Rights, the Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement, and Social Justice) please visit their website here.  

"In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine." - “The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations: The Great Binding Law.

By educating yourself about the sustainability of the brands you buy, by buying better and buying less, and by recycling all of the clothes that we need to get rid of, we can change the world.

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