Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Latest Book Review is up at Central Florida Green Guide



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For those of you interested in the cure for cancer, I just posted a book review on the Central Florida Green Guide: The Only Cure for Cancer. You can read the review for the whole scoop, but I will say I don't think the book got the job done for me. On the flip side, I enjoyed the many resources shared and learned a lot from reading. What do you think? Listen to his interview on Blog Talk Radio at the button above and let me know. The comment link is just below the post:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

10 Organic Gifts Your Friends and Family will Truly Appreciate



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© photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009
Christmas Pillows Make Nice Gifts

This year's unfortunate fall events have left me a bit behind. I'm resorting to old standby ideas for my holiday gift giving. While I sit here for several days supervising the repiping of my home, I am busy making Christmas gifts for family and friends. Some of them are on this list:


1--Handmade Christmas pillows stuffed with reused stuffing from old pillows.


2--Organic cotton towels--no more drying off with cotton that is embedded with pesticides and herbicides.


3--A basket of natural or homeopathic cold remedies for the cold and flu season


4--Home-baked, organic goodies: Check my list of recipes below.



5--Handmade Christmas ornaments or decorations from reused items. The mini Christmas trees at right are made from the chiseled pine cones that my resident squirrels abandon in my yard.


6--A harvested seedling tree, transplanted into a pot for loving care in a safe location. You can even add a bag of compost for occasional soil enhancement.


7--A homemade toy for a dog. Check out mine at the link.


8--A sustainable bamboo cutting board for cooking.


9--A spice rack full of organic seasonings.


10--A recipe box with all your favorite organic creations.


Finally..........give your gift in a reusable shopping bag. Try a Chicobag in the color of your choice for added impact. Add some ribbon or a bow and you're in business.


(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2008

Chicobags 
A Good Carry-Along for Shopping

Happy New Year everyone!


Organic Recipe Posts:


  1. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  2. Gluten Free Goodies
  3. Homemade Kahlua
  4. Banana Bread
  5. Holiday Apple and Pumpkin Tarts

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Recycling Bottle Caps: A New Wave of Recycler Emerges



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(c) photo copyright Alan Harris, Bottle Cap Artwork
The Texas Flag in Bottle Caps


I just published a new post at New Kid on the Green Block, about a sign maker who is recycling bottle caps into art work. Great idea. Go check it out at the link.



Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stretching Your Thanksgiving Leftovers



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(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009
Don't Waste Those Sweet Potatoes!

There are most certainly dozens of ways to enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers. I'm no expert in the kitchen, but I can take it a bit further than turkey sandwiches and reheated Thanksgiving dishes. One of my favorites from my childhood was a layered casserole; we'll call it the No Name Thanksgiving Casserole! Here's how I would do it:

  1. Get out all your leftovers and a 13 X 9 dish to create your casserole in. Each will be different, so enjoy your creative control.
  2. My favorite is to place sweet potato casserole on the bottom, layering turkey slices over it.
  3. Then I slice chilled stuffing like meatloaf and layer this on top of the turkey.
  4. Mashed potatoes go on the next layer with gravy garnishing the top.
  5. If you're missing any of these traditional ingredients, no problem. Just skip them and include anything that sounds good to you.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Test before serving.
Serve your leftover salad and cranberry sauce to round out your menu and you're in business.

Are you a soup lover? Me too! Here's my favorite turkey soup recipe at last year's post: Organic Turkey and Rice Soup. I'm making this right now. Mmmmm! It smells so good!

Don't forget to pair it with some homemade organic bread. With winter looming, I am sooo glad to have my breadmaker around. Soup needs warm bread to be complete--good comfort food. Enjoy!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Guilt and Staying the Course during the Holidays



(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009

My Inspiration
Parties, New Years galas, office holiday events and Thanksgiving celebrations all lead to one emotion for those of us who try to stay on organic foods--GUILT!

A wise person once told me that guilt is a useless emotion. As a mother of three, I have learned that all too well. So many times when I could not be at three children's events all at once, I have felt the guilty pangs and wondered if I had any options.

I now know that the solution is in accepting the inevitable. I will go to holiday parties--more than I can count on one hand--and I will, of course, partake of the goodies. The key is, as my sister-in-law, Jan, always says: "All things in moderation".

It is sort of like the verse you may have seen on many a cross-stitch:

"Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 


the courage to change the things I can, and 

the wisdom to know the difference." 

This Thanksgiving holiday I find myself having to read and re-read this wise verse. Having just lost my father two days ago, it will be easy to drown my sorrows in junk food. I will try to stay the course, but not scold myself for an occasional cookie or piece of pie that is not organic.

I'll draw strength from the many flowers and baskets that are flowing in today, a testament to the wonderful man that my father was. Thank you all for your well wishes.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Dedicated to my father, Roger Johnson:




Friday, November 13, 2009

Grandma's Apple Filled Crumb Cake: Organic and Yummy!

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(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009

Grandma's Organic 
Apple Filled Crumb Cake



It’s finally fall here is hot, humid Florida. While it is almost Halloween, we’re still in the upper 80’s; but even so I still find myself thinking of orange and gold leaves and my favorite fall fruit--apples. I bake with them often, always adding extra fiber for good measure. I’ve made this recipe with all organic ingredients—a change I made a couple of years ago following a cancer scare. The interesting thing about baking organic is that you feel less guilty when indulging in desserts. Try it; you’ll see what I mean.

This cake recipe came down through my mom, from Grandma C, and was always one of my favorites, especially warm. The crumb topping has a crunch that really leaves me wanting seconds. This nice, big pan will serve at least 12 people, so it’s a great dessert to prepare when you have company coming.


Apple Ingredients:

·         4 Cups Organic Apples, peeled, cored, sliced, and cut into small pieces
·         ½ Cup Organic Sugar
·         1 Teaspoon Organic Cinnamon
·         1 Tablespoon Organic Butter
·         1 Tablespoon Organic Lemon Juice

Batter Ingredients:

·         1 ½ Cups Organic All-Purpose Flour, sifted
·         ¾ Cup Organic Sugar
·         1 Teaspoon Double-Acting Baking Powder
·         ¾ Teaspoon Sea Salt
·         ¼ Teaspoon Organic Cloves
·         1/3 Cup Organic Butter, softened
·         ½ Cup Organic Milk
·         2 Organic Eggs, unbeaten
·         ½ Teaspoon Organic Vanilla

Topping Ingredients:

·         ¾ Cup Organic Brown Sugar, firmly packed
·         ½ Cup Organic All-Purpose Flour, sifted
·         ¼ Cup Organic Butter, softened
·         ½ Cup Organic (or All-Natural) Pecans, chopped

Instructions:
  1. Combine all apple ingredients in a saucepan (or microwave dish) and simmer just until apples are tender. Drain and cool while you prepare the remainder of the cake.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Sift together into a medium large bowl: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cloves. I toss in a couple of tablespoons of Benefiber here for the extra health benefit.
  4. Add butter and milk. Beat for 1 ½ minutes.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat for 1 ½ minutes.
  6. Prepare a 13 x 9” pan by rubbing with butter and lightly flour it.
  7. Spread ½ of the batter into the bottom of the pan, spreading evenly.
  8. Spoon ½ of the apples over the batter.
  9. Now pour the remaining batter over the apple layer.
  10. Finally, top with remaining apples.
  11. Prepare the topping by combining the brown sugar, flour, butter and pecans into a crumb mixture. Sprinkle evenly over the top, covering all of the cake batter and apples.
  12. Bake 35-40 minutes until golden brown and crispy looking on top.
  13. Cool on a rack.


The crumb topping on this cake makes for a delicious, crispy complement to a scoop of vanilla ice cream, an addition that many enjoy. It is especially good served this way when warm. I hope you enjoy this tasty family favorite from my grandmother’s kitchen.

Oh! I almost forgot. Do you have one of these nifty apple peeler/corer/slicer gadgets? Three seconds to peel, core and slice up a whole apple. Wow!





One more thing........I just popped out a new guest post at the Central Florida Green Guide: Salvaging Your Over-Ripe Fruit--8 Ways to Enjoy It Rather than Trash It. Stop in and check it out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Kid on the Green Block: The Carpenters are Almost Through....

My new blog, New Kid on the Green Block, is a step up from this Journey.  Officially a DOT COM, and with a bold new name and a cool look, I hope to reach a wider crowd.

I invite you to visit and see the construction zone. I still have a ways to go to get the decorating all done, but you'll get the idea. While I continue working in the background, I will begin writing articles slowly, giving you all time to visit and get your free subscription set up. A few seconds to type in your email address or hit the RSS button, and you'll be all set.

Organic Journey Online will remain here, and I will continue to use it as its name intended--a platform for discussing organics. You will continue to find articles on food, recipes, ingredients, shopping, coupons, money saving ideas, cooking methods and equipment, and more--all related to all-natural and organic food.

If you have a topic you would like me to hit in this genre, please let me know. I look forward to continuing to broaden the Journey, within its same theme.


Green Living More Affordably...


$ $ $

Ever since Day One when I began this blog, I have found information on Mambo Sprouts everywhere on the Internet. I've mentioned it a few times, but here I go again. When you sign up online, you can receive regular booklets of coupons (good ones!), coupons by email, and all sorts of other goodies.

Mambo Sprouts is a site that covers many topics in the area of living green and eating organic, much like Organic Journey Online. However, they are known for their wide assortment of coupons, both printable online, and the booklets. Either way, you'll find the savings to be substantial. If saving money is on your To Do List, Mambo Sprouts is the place to go for coupons.

Before you head off looking for savings, allow me to pop in a little commercial. Organic Journey Online is branching out--well, sort of. I'm creating a spin-off with a brand new look and a new name to go with it. I hope you'll stick with me, reading a few posts here, that will continue with Organic Journey Online. But I also want to invite you to watch for my new site's announcement, coming up shortly. You'll find a big link to my new site on the day I "open for business", so to speak. Can't wait to see you there....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Coming Soon: New Kid on the Green Block

Organic Journey Online has been a great way for me to get back into writing, after a long break. I am enjoying sharing information and tips for living green, eating healthy and pulling it all together to keep yourself as healthy as possible.


I'm busy constructing a new blog to continue this journey. While I will still post here at Organic Journey Online, posts will be less frequent. New Kid on the Green Block is almost ready. You can take a sneak peak now, if you like.

If you are an Organic Journey subscriber, you may wish to subscribe to New Kid on the Green Block. Even if you don't already subscribe, my free email subscriptions and RSS feed are there for the taking. There I will take up the same green staff and journey on. Come join me, fill out the subscription form and don't miss a beat of the New Kid's song. I hope to see you there soon.

Dinner Food Choices: Your Healthiest Processed Foods Options

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

All Natural Chorizo and Potatoes



This is the fourth and final post in a series that has an odd angle. First, allow me to bring you up to speed on what my goal is with this series. While the fact is that your healthiest food choices are fresh, unprocessed foods from the outside edges of the supermarket, fresh is not always an option. These articles were written for those times when you just simply cannot serve organic roasted chicken, fresh organic fruits and vegetables, along with homemade organic bread.


If you have missed the earlier parts of this series, you may wonder where the other meals are. Good question. You can find the whole picture at these links: Parts I, II, and III. Now let's move on to your dinner options and pick a few that will prove healthiest:


Main Dishes
  • Organic pasta and sauce can be a quick dinner on a busy night. We love Walnut Acres Garlic-Garlic-Garlic sauce for both pasta and as a pizza sauce. If you have onions, try my recipe for Pomodoro sauce at this link.
  • Using a packaged organic pizza crust from Whole Foods, I add olive oil, canned sauce, mozarella cheese and top it off with whatever odds and ends I can find in the fridge or in cans. This is a great meal that helps clean up my leftovers. Never, no never, forget the onions!
  • Two other favorites for taking care of those odds and ends in the produce bin are quesadillas and stir fry. I apply the same rule here. Never, no never, forget the onions!
  • And still more: Using canned or packaged organic broth, create a quick soup using all your leftover bits of various veggies, rice, and even bitesize pieces of meat. Serve with bread or muffins and you've got a good comfort-food kind of meal for a chilly day.
  • Chicken leftovers make a great addition to rice dishes, such as chicken and yellow rice.
  • Chorizo, a Spanish sausage with a long shelf life in your refrig, makes a wonderful dinner with potatoes, onions, and garlic. My son brought home a fabulous recipe for Chorizo and Potatoes, that you can find at this link.
Fruits and Veggies

Tomorrow is grocery shopping day and your cupboard is bare, at least of a selection of fresh produce. I try to keep a few longer life produce items in stock at all times: onions, garlic, potatoes, apples, broccoli. There are a million ways to prepare potatoes and apples. When all else fails, though, try these:
  • Packaged, organic apple sauce has a long shelf life for those days when nothing else is left.
  • packaged fruit pieces or canned veggies
  • Use canned juice and unflavored gelatin to make a fresh, gelatin or gelatin salad, if you have some canned fruit to add.
  • Make a small fruit salad of dried fruits, adding a few drops of juice to soften, or topping with fruit yogurt.
  • Add canned corn to your cornbread or corn muffins for extra fiber and flavor.
  • For that matter, pack all your muffins full of fruit, adding tons of vitamins and fiber. With fall here, my favorite is pumpkin muffins. I add 1/2 can of organic pumpkin to every batch and they taste fabulous!
  • Make fruit smoothies with frozen, over-ripened fruit.
  • Use your Halloween pumpkin to cook up a pumpkin soup or the filling for a delicious, homemade pumpkin pie. The kids will never know they're actually eating vegetables!! We should call this Jack-o-Lantern pie (or soup).
Dairy Products
  • Dairy products are tough to come by without getting them fresh, but there are a few choices. Pudding is available in store shelves, although it probably has preservatives. Read the label to know what you're getting.
  • Some cheeses can be stored on a shelf for a while.
  • Milk is available in dried, canned and in "juice boxes", for use in making custards, puddings, and as many things as your imagination can cook up.
  • If you happen to have a product like Egg Beaters on hand, you can create quite a few dishes with these: omelettes, quiche, souffles, and more.
Whenever possible, shoot for trying to eat fresh. Every good cook knows you need to have a Plan B. As a back up plan, keep some of your family's favorites from above in stock, for those nights when fresh just isn't happening. As long as you don't serve spaghetti twice a week, it will always be good!



Thursday, November 5, 2009

Golf Resorts vs. the Water Shortage: What Can be Done?

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Surprisingly, even the flagship publication of the golfing industry, Gof Digest, recognizes their precarious position. While more and more of the population is becoming concerned about our water supply, golf courses continue to be built. Cities give out permits for golf courses to be built, apparently, because they support tourism, which brings income to municipalities. It isn't just the water use that is a problem. Unused land means little tax dollars in the coffers of starving local government accounts. But a golf course generally means there will soon be more tax-paying development nearby, as upscale neighborhoods and shopping will follow. All this is gold to our struggling economy, even as we seek solutions to our water resource problems. Seems like a LOSE-LOSE, doesn't it? 

The USGA knows they have a social problem. But between you and me, they also know they have money on their side. Golf is no cheap sport. Golfers generally have money to spare, and that means water is not as big a concern to them.

One token attempt, begun this year by Golf Digest to soothe the ruffled feathers of environmentalists, is the Green Star Award, an annual award for America's Best Environmental Resorts. As stated in their article on this first year's awards, they seek to "honor golf resorts that best demonstrate the industry's efforts to do no harm to the environment." You have to give them credit for not strictly going after water use in their effort to make light of resorts who are trying to improve their relationship with the Eco-friendly folks who disagree with their resource consumption.


I'll admit I envisioned a group of USGA board members with a short checklist of criteria on which to give this award. I was impressed to learn that the panel of judges all come with exceptional experience in and knowledge of environmental issues.

As I read about the winners and their practices which earned them this honor, I have to say I began to soften. Some of the environmentally sound efforts in motion include:
  • irrigation with effluent water
  • on-site water treatment plants to reduce transit expense
  • landscaping with natural plants, native to the area
  • purchase of wind-generated electricity
  • integrated pest management programs that include use of organic products
  • use of ozone water treatment to reduce water use
  • stepped up efforts at recycling, one that produces enough revenue to pay for itself
  • use of landscape compost as soil enhancement
  • protection of certain natural habitats and ancient live oaks
  • sea turtle sanctuaries are protected by guidelines invoked by resort management
  • drainage recapture systems that collect course drainage, not allowing chemicals to reach our waterways or wetlands
  • employment of  naturalists who educate guests on all areas of nature-preservation
  • organization of beach clean ups
  • Increased effort to use locally caught fishes
  • microfiltered excess water is expelled from one facility into nearby rivers, enhancing the water quality there, and protecting endangered species
  • banning of styrofoam use
  • a dedication to tree replacement in duplicate
  • purchase of local organic flowers, produce and wine, thereby supporting local agriculture
  • use of biodegradable personal care and cleaning products and recycled products
  • use of recycled tissues and organic sheets and towels
While most of the initiatives of these exemplary resorts are far too expensive for the average local course, it is acknowledged that these winners are four of the premier resorts in the country. I suppose it is a given that their income and their clientèle make it possible for all these actions to be funded. You may recognize some of them: Barton Creek Resort in Austin, Texas; Kiawah Island, South Carolina; Pebble Beach Resorts, Monterey, California; and Sunriver Resort in central Oregon.

Even these winning resorts "admit there is still much to be accomplished before their operations can be considered totally sustainable, but all are making strides." As Golf Digest put it, "At least the game of golf is somewhere on the front nine of the environmental movement. These Green Star resorts are the leadoff foursome." Cute wordplay, but as an industry, golf has a very long way to go. Let's just hope they keep finding ways to do more.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Healthy Lunches: When Fresh is Not an Option

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© photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009
Prosciutto and Provolone Rolls
with Dried Fruit and Baked Pita Chips

This post is part of a series on eating healthier. While shopping the exterior of our supermarkets where we find the freshest and most nutritious foods, shelf life and cost can become issues. The objective of this post is to assist you with ideas for healthier eating, when avoiding processed foods is not an option. My goal is to give you some inspiration for making healthier lunches, even when you cannot go with the fresh stuff. If you'd like to get the full picture, check out the first two parts:

Breakfast Foods: Your Healthiest Processed Food Options


Processed foods are located throughout the interior of the store. Because refrigeration is required for most meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables, processed foods have an obvious edge. Additionally, their much longer shelf life and already prepared status makes them a good match for our convenience-driven lives.


It is hard for some of us to think in terms of getting back to natural. Processed foods lose much of their nutritional value and often have preservatives and other no-nos on their ingredients lists. Yet, fixing fresh foods can become a habit with a little work on your technique. More on that in another post. Let's talk about some of the processed foods that are better choices, when ready-to-go is more of a must:


Protein Sources
  • Slices of lunch meat from the all-natural section can include ham, turkey, prosciutto, roast beef and pepperoni. Perhaps you will find others in your own natural foods store. My favorite indulgence at lunchtime is to take a couple of large slices of pepperoni or prosciutto (full sized) and place a slice of organic provolone cheese between them like a sandwich. Then I roll this us up and wrap it for lunch. Mmmm.....mmmm....good.
  • Take the above and add organic bread to make a healthy sandwich without the nitrates of many packaged lunch meats, and lots of fiber. Lettuce and tomato add vitamins, as well.
  • All kinds of nuts are now available at natural food stores in the bulk foods area. You can select the amounts and types of nuts you like and package them in small amounts to augment your protein for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack.
  • Granola is a similar, crunchy treat that is delicious when stirred into a container of organic yogurt. You get the combination of creamy, fruity yogurt, along with the crunchy granola. Don't forget to pack a spoon if you are taking it with you.
  • Edamame, steamed and salted, is a wonderful finger food with loads of protein, healthy fats and fiber. These can be eaten warm or cold. Packaged, roasted Edamame is also available.
  • Bean soups, as well as those made with chicken, turkey, beef or other meats, all make for healthy lunches, even if canned and heated up. Thermoses made with wide mouths are perfect for these takealong lunches. 
  • Assorted cheese and nut platters are a nice lunch, with a little flair. Add some dried apricots for a good balance and it will take on a Mediterranean feel, if you  are packing lunch on-the-go for yourself.
Toss in Some vitamins...the tasty kind:
  • Adding vitamins to your meals usually means fruits and vegetables. When choosing processed foods from the middle of the store, your choices are limited. Start with soups--preferably the ones that are full of veggies.
  • Dried fruits have a longer shelf life and add a nice variety to lunch. The ones in the photo above are Organic Dried Mango and Organic Dried Tart Cherries, both from The Healthy Edge.
  • Containers of jello, apple sauce, fruit salad, and diced fruit (peaches and pears); try to find the fruits that are packed in their own juices, rather than the sweetened ones. Unsweetened apple sauce is also available.
  • Vegetable and fruit juices are available in so many varieties and blends these days; there is no excuse for skipping juices, except cost. If the price tag puts your brakes on, simply add a bit of water to make the bottle go a bit further (about 1 part water to 3 parts juice will hardly be noticed). One more note: Don't forget the reusable bottles; you can do your part to help save the landfills, when packing your take along lunches.
Dairy Products
  • If dairy products are not on your no-no list, you certainly can derive a great deal of Calcium and protein from adding these to your lunches.
  • Yogurt, cheese slices, milk, cottage cheese, kefir or drinkable yogurt all have much to offer in nutrition. Watch the sugar content in yogurt, kefir and drinkable yogurt; some are higher than others.
Side Snacks
  • Try to avoid fried chips and shoot for baked ones, also watching for baked Pita chips and bagel slices. There are many seasoned varieties available now, some made with vegetables for extra vitamins and fiber.
  • Pretzels are generally lowfat, but I would suggest you watch the salt for anyone who may be advised to limit their intake.
  • Air popped corn is a high-fiber munchie that is also quite filling.
  • Baked tortilla chips add extra vitamins when paired with a small container of salsa or guacamole.
Before I put this all in my lunchbox, I should mention that water is king when it comes to beverages. Although I mentioned juices, they should never replace water. When fruit is not available, juice is your next best choice. Just don't forget the water.

I'll be back soon with my dinner ideas. Be sure to check back to read up on selecting healthier dinner options from the processed foods available.


Keep an eye out, too, for upcoming changes in the site. I have big surprises in store for you. Curious? Check back regularly. I don't exactly have a target date yet, but there will be a super duper DOT COM dipper happening here, along with a salon-style makeover. Don't worry guys, it's not a girly thing. Actually, it's so main stream you will probably ALL like it. Keep checking in. Feel free to send questions and comments.


One last thing. Do you like my cheap version of a Bento Box in the photo? I got that at Target for about $10 a couple of years ago. It has a fork and knife in the lid, for handy takealong lunches. You can learn more about it at an earlier article, Bento Boxes meet Target.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Big Changes Coming...



Organic Journey Online will soon be joining the ranks of the DOT COMS. Yes, that's right! And I have all of you to thank for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


In addition to my soon-to-be status as a full fledged website, Organic Journey Online will be getting a major makeover. Stay tuned for more information and surprises, coming soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Natural Pest Control: Bug Brigade is Central Florida's Green Pest Control Provider

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Going greener in my lifestyle has led me down many unexpected paths. Beginning with organic foods, I soon moved toward Eco-friendly personal care and cleaning products. Later, we added organic lawn care, and next up was pest control. This one was a little scarier for me, yet I quickly learned that help was out there. While DIY (Do it yourself) is an option, I'm not very dilligent about bug stuff, so that reduces the success rate.

I interviewed 3 companies in my area, all of whom were advertising natural pest control, using some of the usual terminology:
  • Organic
  • All-natural
  • Eco-friendly
  • Holistic
  • Non-toxic
Each company had various versions of non-toxic pest control, as well as providing traditional pest control to those customers who prefer it. I found one company whose idea of “natural” was far from my own comfort zone and quickly ruled them out.

The company I ultimately ended up with uses mostly “botanical pesticides”, which are merely plant extracts that have a negative effect on insects. Most of these do lack the residual effect needed for outdoor use, but a couple of  products with a bit more of a punch, work as barriers on the outside, without being highly toxic to the environment or my pets.

Finally, after researching the meaning of “Eco-Exempt”, a term found on many of Bug Brigade’s product labels, I found the reason that cinched our deal. Pest control products that contain active ingredients with no known (or minimal) toxic effects to humans, animals or the environment, generally bear this label. I was sold. Bug Brigade was hired.

Bug Brigade also earned my business when they willingly agreed to provide me with copies of the labels from their product arsenal. More on those labels later in the post. Additionally, the owner, Scott Milliron, was willing to modify his use of any products, at my option. It is great to work with a business that will customize their usual service to your particular preferences or needs; this was key to my decision.

Bug Brigade also offers rodent control, a service I learned about when a family of rats moved into my attic. I hadn’t realized what a science it is to eliminate critters from an attic. Bug Brigade’s staff visited every few days, diligently dealing with all the issues of home invasion. These critters can chew (and did!) through dry wall and air conditioner ductwork, as well as crawling through the tiniest of holes around piping, finding their way into garage and attic spaces. Locating these entries was Bug Brigade’s primary approach to catching the feisty rodents. They were ultimately successful, again earning kudos from me.
A year later I can happily report I have found only one or two roaches inside my home (truly a feat in Florida!). Bug Brigade’s dedicated service and Eco approach, coupled with their willingness to consider my personal needs and preferences has continued to solidify our relationship.

I certainly have kept Bug Brigade busy. Just last week we had a talk about the ticks that followed us home from our camping trip. It seems we may have inadvertantly brought whole families into the house, so a plan was formulated to move them out. Scott's patient, willing ways continued through our discussions, again reinforcing my decision to patronize this hard working company.

A multi-faceted program will attack the critters from every direction, hopefully getting control as quickly as possible, without using toxic chemicals:
  • Daily grooming and removal of any parasites found
  • Containing the dogs to one section of the house, to keeping them from transporting the ticks around the home continuously. With a large, screened porch included in their space, and nicer weather finally here, this plan is quite doable.
  • Plant oils and other non toxic products will be used to treat the yard and home, paying particular attention to the cracks and crevices that ticks like to lay their eggs in. Weekly treatments will be required for a while to eliminate all the new families that hatch, as well.
  • After a discussion about the issues with traditional top spot type treatments, we decided on using a non-toxic plant oil spray on the dogs, found to be quite effective.  The day we had our initial treatment, I was fascinated to watch the little critters crawl out of their hiding spaces and die, all the while my home was smelling like a holiday candy cane. This stuff was clearly doing the Ghostbuster thing on the ticks, that I have feverishly vacuumed up.
  • Scott also suggested a product with a bit more residual staying power, if I have continued trouble after our treatments are through. A derivative of the Chrysanthemum plant, Pyrethrin has been found highly effective. You can get more information on this at Doctor's Foster and Smith at this link. Hopefully I won't need this, as Scott generously left me a suppy of the wonderful-smelling peppermint oil to create a household spray (with water) and a pet spray (with mineral oil).
I suppose I should decorate for Halloween with ticks this year. I have quite a bottle of ones I have collected--Eeek! With my yard and home smelling like peppermint, the children will probably all think they are getting candy canes for treats. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, if you're in the Central Florida area, you may want to check out Bug Brigade, or look them up on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Green is Your Hallowed Home this Halloween? One Woofing Wednesday Tip You May not have Heard...



Cleaning up our yards after Halloween can sometimes be a daunting task. Those who Trick, instead of Treat, sometimes leave us with toilet-papered trees, spooned yards, decorations of silly string and the like. As if removing our own fun decorations was not enough, now we have others' to clean up, as well.

But that's not all. Think about your Trick-or-Treaters and their families on Saturday, and do everyone a favor. Go over your yard with a poo bag or scooper in hand, collecting your own or other doggies' droppings that have been deposited in your yard.

Once dark, children often run across our yards to beat their friends to our doors. We can welcome these youngsters without leaving their sneakers smelly--our own version of a Trick! So, treat your visitors with a clean lawn, as well as your chosen treats that go into their pumpkins and pillow cases. Your neighbors will be thankful for your efforts. Happy Halloween!

Got poop? We got a scooper:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Goodies: Sourcing Your Organic or All-Natural Treats

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(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009
Oliver Tests out his Costume at Naptime

Locating a wide assortment of Halloween goodies that are organic or all-natural may take some effort. I find that even with the 4 or 5 stores in my area, I still want more choices. That's why I added printed Halloween coloring pages for the young ones, Halloween word searches and crossword puzzles, to help round out the selection. You can find these at Green Halloween; just remember to use sustainable paper (recycled or bamboo are good).


Before checking out the links to sites where you might want to pick up some goodies, checK out Green Halloween's Ten Easy Steps to Making Halloween Eek-o-Friendly. This site is a virtual smorgasbord of ideas, products and sources. Try these for a good start to your shopping:
Happy hunting!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Breakfast Foods: Your Healthiest Processed Food Options for Breakfast in a Hurry

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Fruit Filled Muffins
 are an Acceptable Breakfast-on-the-Go

In a recent post, I ranted about my frustration with food labeling guidelines, or perhaps I should say the lack of them. With manufacturers and grocers all adding their own rating labels to packaged and processed foods, consumers may as well throw up their hands in total confusion.

You may find this post more helpful if you take a minute to read the first post at the link above.Then you'll understand why the labels on your favorite cereals are so confusing. In an effort to help you find ways around the confusion, I highly recommend working toward eating fewer packaged foods, and using more lesser-processed basics. Unfortunately, in our convenience-driven society, we all want and need certain basics in order to speed up our meal preparation; time is not a commodity.

In this post, I will review some of your better processed food options for breakfast. Later, I'll do the same with lunch and dinner choices, so be sure to check back.

When seeking healthy breakfast choices that don’t break the bank, oatmeal is by far your best option. Oatmeal is high in fiber and protein, and has an infinite number of variations, giving you plenty of ways to serve it. Let's be clear. I'm not recommending instant oatmeal, but the real thing.  You can make it bowl by bowl, if you are comfortable with using a microwave, or put on a pot with a couple of days’ worth and reheat them bowl by bowl. It doesn’t have to take a chunk out of your morning. We all know that weekday breakfasts are the hardest to find time for, so get creative and you’ll be able to work oatmeal in. Adding different goodies to each day’s bowl can really make breakfast a new surprise each day. To avoid boredom, consider raisins, peaches, strawberries, Walnuts, granola, and other nuts or berries, along with the usual honey, cinnamon and brown sugar, if desired.

Cold Cereal is the most touted of the quick breakfast foods, and probably the most popular with youngsters. I have to admit that there is one plus with serving cereal. Can you guess? Most children who are not vegan or lactose-intolerant eat their cereal with milk, and many will enjoy a banana or berries sliced into the bowl, as well. While milk adds Calcium and protein, the fruit brings vitamins and fiber. This is where cereal makes the A list for breakfast. After eating this, they may want a drink, and juice can be served to top off the vitamin splurge. While cereal alone is not my favorite choice, when served this way, it has a fairly decent nutritional punch. One last thing. Choose the right cereal and you'll also be adding fiber. Don't forget you can also stir a little fiber powder into the milk before pouring it onto their cereal, or add the powder to their juice. There's all sorts of sneaky ways to get more fiber into your child's diet.

Fruit —When fresh fruit is not available or is too time consuming to prepare, sometimes dried fruits can fill the bill. My favorites are dates, raisins and dried mango; my hubby loves dried cranberries. Whatever works, dried fruits are a quick nutritional boost and a good take-along snack. Most natural foods stores sell these in bulk, so you can buy just the amount you need. These also make great additions to a healthy lunch. Another perk is the shelf life, which extends far beyond that of fresh fruit.

Eggs—Sometimes our workday mornings are the worst. We can't seem to find time to make a hot breakfast, even when it actually takes less time to scramble an egg than to prepare a frozen waffle. Products like Egg Beaters take the messy preparation out of the problem, minimizing time spent a bit. Boiled eggs can also be purchased in most delis, which make a quick breakfast on the go, when paired with a muffin or breakfast bread. Another option is to boil a half dozen eggs while you prepare dinner, then refrigerate for breakfasts throughout the week. These are also a good finger food for on-the-go noshing.

Pancakes—The healthiest of pancakes are the ones with extra fiber and fruit added. Check your dairy case for the new Organic Pancake Blaster, an organic pancake batter in an aerosol can, with no CFCs. Just add berries as you squirt the batter onto the pan and you’re in business. If you make your own batter, be sure to stir in some extra fiber, using Benefiber, or a similar product.

Fruit juices – Look for organic apple, grapefruit, grape, orange and tomato juices, even in your local supermarket. If they’re still too pricey for your budget, try diluting them slightly. Most family members will never know the difference if you add 25% water (well, maybe the tomato?).

Toppings for pancakes – Fruit compotes can be purchased in the jelly aisle at your store. If you choose maple syrup--the traditional pancake topping--go for the real thing to avoid the high-fructose corn syrup. This nasty stuff has been linked to far too many health problems; it's time to take a stand for your family's health. Finally, flavored yogurts go over well with many and are worth a shot—much healthier than sugary syrup.

Packaged Crepes – Not even close to being a staple, these babies make a special-occasion breakfast really quick, when you have company, or simply want to spoil your family. Filled with fresh fruit and topped with fruit yogurt, this is a favorite breakfast of my daughter, and an attractive choice for company.

Bagels and English Muffins – While hardly a necessity, these too are a nice choice and especially healthy if you choose a whole-grain variety. Whole Foods has organic brands that we find delicious. Top with your choice of low fat cream cheese (add smoked salmon for an extra punch of healthy omega fats and protein) or low-sugar, organic jam.

Toaster pastries of all sorts are also available in organic form in many flavors. Give them a try and you're sure to find something your kids will all like.

Finally, Breakfast breads, made with a blend of dried fruits and nuts, add fiber and vitamins to your quick breakfast, and are available in many bakeries.

While natural, unprocessed foods are still your best choice, the above options are the best of the processed versions, with Oatmeal being your most nutritious and budget-conscious on this list. As often as possible, try to give your family the benefit of fresh fruits, homemade breads and muffins, and a variety of eggs, if you choose to add these to your diet.


Join me soon for a lunch version of this post, where I will help you select the better processed foods from your supermarket.

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