Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Roundup: Welcome Fall!


Right about now I start looking for signs of change in the winds, leaves and natural elements. Fall seems to come quickly here in the North/Midwest, and blusters in with quick winds and playful colors in the leaves. This weekend we took several nature walks to collect items for our home nature table and look for signs that change is upon us.

Right now I'm reading several titles that will help promote positive change in our lives. Stay tuned for a review or two this week as I've found books of interest as fall brings about fresh rounds of newly published books. Ah, we lovers of books like fall for the fresh releases - - and new opportunities to explore "leaves" of all types.

What are you reading this week? Anything you would care to share with other Wormers? Are the winds of change blowing through your house?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Winner of Mom's Guide to Growing Family Green


And the winner is . . .

Abbie of Farmers' Daughter. Abbie, shoot me an email at greenbeandreams(AT)gmail(DOT)com so I can get your address. Thanks everyone for entering the drawing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review & GIVEAWAY: The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green

Several months ago, I received an email from Terra Wellington, an author, wondering if I wanted to read and review her book, The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home.

I quickly accepted because I was low on books and this one sounded up my alley. But summer came and with it camping trips and lazy days by the community pool and a crazy harvest of tomatoes and I promptly forgot about Ms. Wellington and her book, until last night.

The Mom's Guide is about as thorough a book as I've read on how to live more lightly. Ms. Wellington covers it all and tells it like it is. When I first "went green", no one wanted to tell you that you should stop buying - except maybe Annie Leonard of The Story of Stuff. Instead, it was all talk about green consuming, throwing out the old and replacing it with bamboo or organic. Well, Ms. Wellington doesn't hold back. Buy less, she advises, or buy second hand.

I really enjoyed the garden section. It not only covers greening your lawn, growing your own produce and other "green yard" standards. There's a lot of talk about getting your kids outdoors and getting their hands dirty, which warms any green mom's heart. Moreover, there's some nice tips about inviting wildlife into your yard.

Some of the sections, I felt were very "beginner green". They covered things I had done in my own home right when I first started trying to live more lightly. In addition, I've got a bone to pick with Ms. Wellington over the fact that she listed Target as one of the top four resources for reusables (e.g., reusable bags). Ikea was in the list too. Really!! Target. Certainly she could have found a more environmentally friendly company than Target. Last time I was there, the cashier looked at me as if I had four eyes when I said that I had my own bag.

All in all, though, The Mom's Guide is a useful and thorough book, highly recommended for moms looking to begin their green journey. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

If you are interested in winning my (signed) copy of this book, please leave your name in the comments. Winners will be announced on Saturday, September 26.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Roundup

Happy Monday, fellow bookworms! I hope everyone's life is less crazy than mine at the moment, although we did sell our house last Friday and so I can check that item off of my to-do list. I haven't had time for much reading, lately, but I did start The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It's not particularly green, at least the part I read, but it's well done. The book is a first novel for author Mary Ann Shaffer, which impresses me since my first novel has sold maybe 30 copies. :)

Anyway, The Guernsey etc. is a story entirely told through letters from one character to another. If it wasn't so well written, a reader could become hopelessly lost,. I'm keeping oodles of details straight in my brain right now and I didn't have enough space left to keep track of the characters, but that is not an indictment on the book. It actually makes a lot of sense and I'll read the rest of it some time when I'm more relaxed. Can't give it a rating since I've not finished the book, but it seems to be very good. Anyone else read it and want to comment?

Knowing I'm swamped right now, Green Bean generously offered to post a review later this week. Look for it soon and drop us a line if you've anything to share!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

No Impact Man - The Movie

It's been a long time since I've cried at a movie. But that's exactly what I did last night watching the new documentary, No Impact Man. Not crying really but weeping, appreciation and laughing tears. I fell in love with the whole family it's about; Colin, Michelle and Isabella.

While I was aware from news bites that there was a guy in NY that had given up everything (I never considered what he was gaining) I didn't read his blog or follow. Then Beth at Fake Plastic Fish had an interview post with the guy, Colin, which had me take notice. After that the Green Phone Booth posted a review of his book. I was interested.

I went to the movie with a friend who has never carried a canvas bag; not unlike Colin's wife, Michelle. While I learned new low impact tips from him I was his choir in the audience. More importantly, Michelle related to the audience that had yet to hear the siren's green call. Her distaste for worms, choice words for bike riders; her melt down at giving up caffeine. She spoke from the beauticians chair getting her hair colored and from her air conditioned office at Business Week sucking on ice. And then she cooked her first dinner. We were all changed.

On the way out of the theater my friend asked, "Do you think the growers would refill the plastic shells I buy berries in if I return them to the store?"

I tried not to cry again.

The big ahhh factor is their daughter, Isabella. She was a mimicking sprite; as happy in the dark as she was in the garden.

Admittedly I was biased toward the documentary from the beginning as Colin shopped for local food with flour sack towels and cloth produce bags. He spoke all my favorite things about sourcing food from near by. But he didn't overload our plates with food. He moved on to transportation, household cleaning products, cosmetics; the source of our power. He polished himself up for politics, volunteering, for talking to audiences. And while people were watching him, he was listening to the people doing the watching. Which is where he earned my final respect. He didn't flinch at the truth of criticism but neither did he give up in the face of it.

I'll likely read the book, but the movie was instant gratification, a night out; it was entertainment and inspiration. I give it a five out of five stars and recommend it to any audience. It's a love story, a comedy, drama and adventure. And strange enough to the way most of us live to nearly be considered sci fi.

I'd love to know how the movie impacts you if you have a chance to see it ( here's the schedule). And take a friend. They'll thank you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Roundup

My hairdresser said, Mercury is in retrograde. Communications may be skewed." I'm sure that explains the reason I can't make it all the way through a book lately.

I started Blue Gold, The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World's Water. Very interesting. Depressing. I lost all hope for future civilizations. For some reason I never considered all the water we'll ever on the planet is already here. I thought God renewed it every few years. Or something. It's embarrassing. I returned the book to the library.

Next I checked out Eugenia Bone's book, Well Preserved, Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Food. Nice pictures. The recipes were mostly not food I would eat though. Fresh asparagus and squash blossoms are great; but canned? I did however make two of her recipes from the newspaper; brandied peaches (I used rum) and poached pears. Not my usual fare but they were easy to make. And good. The asparagus are probably good too. I returned the book the next day.

Two weeks later I'm 36 pages into Cheap, The High Cost of Discount Culture. So far it's about the history of retail. I'm sticking with it. I read a mean spirited review of it in an LA newspaper that stunned me. The writer justified the destruction that went along with cheap, claimed it as our American right to pay less. I lost all hope for future civilizations. Again.

My lapses in hope are short lived however. The fact that authors devote their time to study, research and lifting the veil on the myths that surround us is cause for hope. Regardless of how the planets are aligned.

Have you read anything hopeful? Helpful? Despairing? Let us know.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas

Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2009) is more than a stunning pictorial of the vast and varied farmlands of Texas. It's an opportunity to experience farming the way nature intended. Author Pamela Walker brings readers along for the ride as she travels the great state of Texas, profiling 10 organic farms in their efforts to live and work in step with nature rather than in spite of it as has become typical of modern commercial farming.

These 10 farms, whose products range from fruits and vegetables, to shrimp and meat, and finally to dairy, are merely examples of the extensive efforts being done around the state to farm sustainably. More importantly, they are proof that not only is organic farming better for man and earth, it's also profitable.

Walker, will the help of photographer Linda Walsh, takes you inside the operations of each location where readers meet the family, discover what first attracted them to organic farming (certified or not), and experience the triumphs and challenges of growing organically in Texas.

But like reading Joel Salatin, popular sustainable farming author and owner of Polyface Farms in Virginia, these 10 entrepreneurs are far from the exceptions to the rule. They are meant to be a beacon of hope that sustainable farming is alive and well; that it is meeting the demand of a growing community of mindful consumers; and that real people like you and me are making a difference today, right now.

Whether or not you call Texas your home, Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas is a must read. Both farmer and consumer will find the future of farming within its pages. It is this future towards which each and every one of us must strive, supporting sustainable farming one forkful at a time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches

I first heard about The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches: A Practical (and fun) Guide to enjoying Life More by Spending Less, by Jeff Yeager, when it was recommended by fellow blogger, Beany. Like Beany, I was super impressed with the fact that Yeager completed his book tour via bicycle. I mean, seriously? This was definitely a book I needed to read.

As I read through the book, I noticed the theme was wonderfully familiar: Voluntary Simplicity. That's right! Although with Yeager's sense of humor and relaxed manner, he makes being a "cheapskate" (aka living frugally) the cool thing to do - which it is, it's just hard to convince the rest of the consumers of the world. But Yeager shows us just how easy it is... kinda like riding a bicycle.

How about some excerpts?
What I Really Believe: Living on less is a good thing to do. It's the only financial advice that will work for almost everyone. It's about quality of life you cannot buy, a sense of satisfaction you cannot fake, and an appreciation for others that gives life value. It's also about helping save the planet and sharing with those in need. Living on less can be funny, but it's not a joke.

This book is about two things: getting more for less and, even more important, understanding that less is often more. It's about the fact that you probably already have everything you could ever really need or want, if only you'll slow down long enough on the Road to Riches to think about it.
Although I just loved this book (I chuckled my way through most of it), I have one caution. Yeager's books is strictly about being frugal and I believe frugal doesn't always mean it's the right thing to do. For instance, he talks about picking things up at Walmart because it's so inexpensive and warns people that farmers' markets aren't as cheap as they used to be. Even so, sometimes cheap is just cheap. Sometimes cheap detracts from our communities, closes local businesses, and can damage the environment.

So, for those of you taking your very first baby steps into a life of Voluntary Simplicity, this is definitely the book to get you started. But for those of you a little further along in your adventure, it's important to keep in mind that cheap is not always the answer.

Recommended: to anyone looking to simplify life, live more frugally, and laugh while doing it
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Roundup

Summer has drawn to a close and a beautiful fall awaits. For some of us that means admiring the fall colors and for others, we're just happy to lose those 100 degree temps (or the constant threat of heat stroke). Either way, it's a new season with new fresh local foods and some exciting new reads - don't forget No Impact Man's book just came out...

I enjoyed a couple wonderful books this past month to share with you this week. But what about you? Any good books to share?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Book Review: Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything

When I posted yesterday that I didn't have a review for the week, SusanB graciously offered one. I'm definitely going to request this from the library. Thanks, Susan, so much, for offering your review! Stop by The Blogging Bookworm any time.

I didn’t plan on reading Daniel Goleman’s Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything but the title caught my eye. Goleman has had bestselling books about emotional intelligence and social intelligence. I haven’t read any of them. And this book is a mixed bag and probably a repackaging of a lot of other people’s material. Plus, being an ex-academic, I’m kind of a snob about footnotes and bibliographies, and his is the most basic of supporting references to odd facts, statistics and quotes that he uses as illustrations.

Goleman postulates another nontraditional but necessary intelligence for the future of the human race, one based on the interrelationship of environment, biological impacts, and human (labor and social) impacts of what we buy or consume. The tool that he advocates for developing this intelligence is Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and “radical transparency.”

The first third of the book is a bit of a snooze, even though buried within are the swarm rules and other thoughts about hidden assumptions and how we avoid knowing what we don’t know. I love his “swarm rules” for affecting a more fully efficient market: Know Your Impact; Favor Reductions; Share What You Know. If you are substituting glass jars for plastic containers, you will find his use of the LCA for glass jars as an example eye opening. But he also cites examples familiar to anyone reading green blogs for a year and writes in this portion with a style that had me mentally editing his writing for wordiness and clarity.

The latter two-thirds of the book is a quick and interesting read in a less pedantic style about ways to implement radical transparency, about types of information collecting for various products, and how information can affect decisions at the purchase level and how those decisions can change how institutions do things. As current examples of this process in its infancy, he discusses the GoodGuide, the SkinDeep website, and LEED certification. This part of the book seems particularly well-suited to anyone working in a business that sells or manufactures or harvests physical goods. I used to do work in calculating the environmental impacts of utilities so personally I’m a little skeptical about whether any all-encompassing attempt to categorize and rate impacts is feasible at the consumer level. And Goleman acknowledges that the affluent are those most in the position to actually be able to make decisions using this information. Nonetheless, the illustrations of what industrial giants and information startups are doing is thought-provoking.

So why read, let alone review this book? It has one great strength. As a whole, it contains the best argument I have read as to why individual actions make a difference and how consumer actions aggregate.

Three stars, or maybe two and a half. Recommended if you have any concerns about whether individual actions matter, if you are looking for a more eloquent way to shoot down that question when your neighborhood embroiler (okay, I just like that word) poses it while you are discussing why you are taking some green action, or if you are a product line manager. I recommend the swarm rules to all. Light green to mid green; get it from your library.