Friday, May 29, 2009

Gluten Free Goodies: Flavorful and Easy

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Blueberry Muffins

Made with Pamela's Baking Mix

When a recent visitor was announced, my ears perked up. No gluten? Cool! I've been meaning to try some gluten free foods, ever since I started doing most of my grocery shopping at smaller, organic markets. They always have such cute, little packages with adorable names like Kinninnick, Chebe and Pamela's. I bided my time, waiting for an excuse to feed my family these foods that they might think unpalatable, knowing that their collective noses might turn up in refusal, for lack of a good reason.

When I told my husband about my new adventure, his response was "What is gluten?" That didn't surprise me much. I once had to look up the meaning of it myself, as well, when I wondered what all that gluten-free stuff was, clogging up half of the aisles at the neighborhood market.
Gluten is a naturally occurring part of many grains, wheat, rye and barley being the most mainstream. Some people's systems simply do not handle gluten well, causing a variety of different problems which can only be solved by avoidance of gluten. This ailment, dubbed Celiac Disease, is basically an inappropriate immune system response to gluten. Approximately 1/2 to 1 percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease.

Complicating this issue is a correlation which often occurs--intolerance of dairy. While not all celiac sufferers are unable to eat dairy, this problem can range from mild to severe, with many being able to tolerate moderate amounts of dairy products.
Curiously, my research found a correlation between the Jewish heritage and celiac, which may be explained by human history, but my lessons here draw the line at history. Why this correlation exists, I could not say, yet I found it documented in many sources.

A girlfriend of mine who has been diving headstrong into a gluten-free diet for some time now, happily guided me through my quest to select the products with the most traditional or mainstream flavors. Thank goodness for that. There are virtually thousands of products on the market for celiac sufferers, a food offering that would have left me aghast without her help. She told me that most of what is available tastes like chalk or cardboard, particularly those products made solely with rice flour. Bummer! I thought rice flour would be my answer to bread-making.

While I cannot and will not try to run the complete list here, I would like to share a few of the successes for those of you who are on this quest. Most notably, Pamela's Pancake and Baking Mix, which I found works well as flour in most recipes, provided a Pancake House delight that surprised us all. Using a mixture of various gluten-free grains, including rice and potatoes, I didn't expect a typical pancake flavor. Wrong! These pancakes were mouth-wateringly delicious.

A later experiment with blueberry muffins, made with the same mix provided the fresh, fruity muffins shown above. I admit to bagging the leftovers specifically for Lauren, labeling them, and then eating them myself. (Is there a symbol for the tail between the legs?)

Lauren's Muffins Were Packaged

with Good Intentions

But Eaten without Self Control

Prior to Lauren's arrival, we taste tested some Quinoa (a gluten-free grain) pasta, finding it quite tasty, despite the fact that I overcooked it slightly. It still made for a nice past with pomodoro sauce. Want to try our favorite recipe for sauce? It's amazingly simple. Check out this link. FYI, this was my very first post on Organic Journey Online, made July 4, 2008. So, you could say that this is a walk down memory lane for me. I'll never forget that day and its many confusing challenges in getting this Internet miracle off and running. I haven't regretted a minute of it. Keep the comments coming; I love hearing from you guys.

Bob's Red Mill Bread Mix was also a delightful surprise, even when it rose so high that my loaf looked like a mushroom. Of course, that could be due to my overindulgence in the yeast department. Oops!

Nevertheless, with a fairly good texture it made a great souffle (Sorry, Lauren, you missed this) and was a tasty dinner bread with a great crust. Isn't the crust half the battle of good bread?

While the bread was yummy and easy to make with the bread machine, when we tried making french toast with it, well, not so much. That's okay, though. It was still a good find.

A Few of Our Successful

Gluten Free Test Kitchen Ingredients

Finally, the Glutino Pretzels, not pictured here, were so good they escaped the photo--hidden, I believe, for a flight to New Jersey. It's okay, Lauren, that's why I bought them! Besides, I ate the muffins. We're even, right?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gator Garden Helper

While researching my gardening ventures that are yet to come, I found the University of Florida's site for growing vegetables in Florida, and the primary source of this post. Since it speaks specifically to my zone in Florida, I can get great information here. If you live in Florida, this is definitely a key site for your garden help. Go Gators!

No-Pesticide Approaches:

  1. Follow the recommended planting date(s) listed for each vegetable. Vegetables planted "out of season" are very susceptible to many pests. Plant as early in the spring (or as late in the fall, depending on the crop) as is safely possible. Use protective covers for cold-sensitive plants.

  2. Rotate vegetables so that the same vegetable (or members of the same vegetable family) are not planted repeatedly in the same areas.
  3. Till or hand-turn the soil well in advance of planting. Insects, such as mole crickets and wireworms, for which there is no good control, are commonly more abundant in gardens that have recently been in grass. The garden should be well tilled and free of weeds, grass, and woody material at least 30 days before planting.
  4. Control weeds in and around the garden because they can be a source of insects and diseases. Weed control is best accomplished by mulching and hand-pulling or hoeing small weeds. Recommended mulches are straw, fallen leaves, and unfinished compost. Wood mulches and un-decomposed sawdust should not be used. Weeds around the outside of the garden and between rows can be reduced by putting down several layers of newspaper and then covering them with leaves.
  5. Choose adapted varieties with resistance or tolerance to nematodes and the diseases common in your area.
  6. Purchased transplants should be free of insects and disease symptoms (such as leaf spots or blights). Avoid transplants that are already flowering. Consider growing your own from seed.
  7. Plants can be protected from cutworms by placing a “collar” around the plant. The collar can be made from a bottomless plastic cup or a waxed cardboard carton. The collar should extend a few inches above and at least an inch below the surface of the ground.
  8. Lightweight row covers (also called floating row covers) can be used as a barrier to insects. Put in place at planting, with lots of excess material to leave room for the growing plant. Remove the cover when plants that need bees for pollination begin to flower.
  9. Keep plants vigorously growing and in a state of good health by supplying appropriate amounts of water and fertilizer. A healthy plant is often able to survive insect attack. Too much nitrogen, however, can make plants more inviting to aphids and whiteflies.
    Monitor or scout the garden twice weekly for pest problems. This includes inspecting the plants from the bud to the soil, including both upper and lower leaf surfaces.
  10. Record notes on pest problems and the performance of different varieties. Include photographs of insects, diseases and beneficial insects that you find. Learn to identify beneficial insects (praying mantis, spiders, big-eyed bugs/assassin bugs, lady beetles, and all wasps). Some of these insects can be purchased, but keep in mind that many beneficial insects exist naturally in Florida, and purchased beneficials will leave if there are no insects for them to eat.
  11. Plant flowers in the vegetable garden. They provide nectar and pollen that attract beneficial insects.
  12. Large insects can be removed by hand and destroyed. Place them in a container of soapy water, where they will sink and drown.
  13. Watch for early disease symptoms. Remove any diseased leaves or plants to slow spread.
    Most plants that produce fruits, pods, or ears can stand a 10 – 20 percent loss of leaves without loss of potential yields. Do not panic and start spraying at the first sign of leaf feeding.
  14. Harvest crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, and beans as soon as they are ripe. Allowing over-ripe fruits to remain on the plants often invites additional insect problems.
    As soon as a plant or crop is no longer productive, remove it from the garden and compost or dispose of it.
  15. Reduce nematode populations temporarily by "soil solarization" – a technique which uses the sun's energy to heat the soil and kill soil-borne pests. To "solarize" soil, first remove vegetation, then break up and wet the soil to activate the nematodes. Cover the soil with sturdy, clear-plastic film. Weight down the edges with additional soil to keep the plastic in place. Soil solarization should be done during the warmest six weeks of summer. High temperatures (above 130°F) must be maintained for best results.
    Add organic matter to the soil to help reduce nematode populations - microscopic worms that attack vegetable roots and reduce growth and yield. Organic matter improves the capacity of the soil to hold water and nutrients and, in turn, improves plant vigor and resistance to pests.

  16. Nematodes are Roundworms

  17. See also EDIS Publication CIR375, Organic Vegetable Gardening, (

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dogs and Plants: What's Safe for Them?

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Garden Fencing

has Separated My Dogs from

Some of their Favorite Places to Explore

Why did I put garden fencing in some areas of my yard? No, it wasn't to make it difficult to trim the bushes or weed the gardens. Clearly, that has been one of the results, though. My main concern and reason for this action is the safety of my stick chewers and flower eaters, namely Oliver and Tanner. I guess Xena is just standing up for them as she howls at me in the above photo.

Tanner and Oliver are like vacuum cleaners. They will eat almost anything they can get in their mouths. That's, of course, much easier for Tanner, being a large Golden Retriever. Oliver's mouth is so small, he is left with flowers and small pieces of mulch. Nevertheless, there are dangers for both.

With Spring here, my Caladiums have appeared, and it seems they're on the list of less-than-healthy snacks for my pups. So once again, I've had to bring out the heavy artillery--lightweight garden fencing that can easily be pressed into the ground to keep the pups at bay. It seems to do the trick. Not that they can't get to the plants if they really want to, but I guess it comes down to being more trouble than it's worth. They've been leaving the Caladiums alone, as well as the Azaleas in the photo of Xena.

I love Spring's bulb flowers, even though here in central Florida we don't have much luck with Daffodils or Tulips. Caladiums are beautiful and easy to manage in shady areas, requiring little maintenance.

If you have dogs, and with them concerns about plants that are safe for them to nibble on, check out the Humane Society of the United States for more information.

Speaking of favorite places to play, my latest post on the Central Florida Green Guide just came out. If you're interested in learning more about making use of our dog parks for some green family fun, stop in at the link for the third of my 3 part series. The links to all 3 are at the bottom of the blog. Just scroll down. See you at the park!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Organic Journey Online Presents GREEN DAY NEWS:

That's right! No more will I avoid current events. I won't spend much time hashing them over unless there are new hazards to warn you about, but I've employed a news service to provide a streaming newspaper. This brief news headlining will keep you apprised of the latest in green, Eco, environmental and organic news of the day. The newspaper will appear, at least for now, just under my profile in the sidebar. Go check it out.

For now, I've named my little newspaper the Green Day News. What do you think about that name? Got a better idea? I'm open. I have total creative control here at Organic Journey Online, where my only boss is, well, my wallet.

If you have an idea for my newspaper's name, send me an email or hit the comment button just below this post and send it to me. I'll be sure to give you a proper thank you on the blog, if you offer up the winning name. Entries begin now and I'll pick a winner by June 15, 2009. If there is no offering that I like better than Green Day News, I'll stick with that, and you'll be stuck with it too. I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Central Florida Green Guide Posts Dog Park Series by Carrie Boyko

Midas is Regular at Our Favorite Dog Park

Dogs and Humans Alike

Enjoy the Fresh Air and Socialization

that Dog Parks Provide

The Central Florida Green Guide has just published the third of my 3-part series on Green Family Fun: Let's Visit the Dog Park. If you're interested in dog park tips, or in visiting a park for the first time, these 3 articles will help you prepare for the fun in store. Enjoy!

This Beagle is a Typical Ground Sniffer!

If you are already a fan of dog park visits, I encourage you to visit Adopt a Dog Park, where you can learn how to preserve our precious dog parks for future family fun and off-leash action. See you at the park!

Anybody read this book? Sounds interesting...............

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Memorial Day Cookout Plan: Kick back with the Dogs

© photo copyright 2009 Carrie Boyko
Oliver, Xena and Tanner
No Finicky Eaters Here!

Memorial Day is coming and I cannot even honestly say we'll be having a cookout. At least not with my family. It's just the dogs and me this year. Everyone else will be off doing their own thing. Perhaps I'll cook up some organic burgers and spoil the furry kids. I know they'll chow down on those babies without any coercion.

My plan, since I'll have several days alone, is to work on getting caught up with some of the blogging tasks that go on in the background. You know, the stuff you can't see that makes this all work. I'd like to say it works "seamlessly", but it doesn't always work out that way.

Of course, I'll have to get some exercise while wrestling with the blog stuff. Oliver has volunteered to get me out for a bike ride.

© photo copyright 2008 Carrie Boyko

Oliver Likes to Run With Me

If you're looking for a cookout menu, check Lazy Cooks' Labor Day Organic Cookout, a post from 2008 Labor Day. It includes Barbecued Organic Chicken, Hot dogs, Baked Beans, Organic Veggie Sticks, Organic Melon wedges, and Organic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. That's pretty much an all-American cookout menu.

Memorial Day could be a different matter if I had company. I'm in the mood for London Broil, since my mom just called and asked for a recipe. That's a turn of the tide. I used to call her for recipes, but now she's forgotten how to prepare stuff that hasn't been on her table for many years.

Perhaps you'd like to try my marinade for a tender Organic London Broil:

Mix red wine and organic Italian dressing with chopped organic onions and garlic. After tenderizing a flank steak, pierce it repeatedly on both sides with a fork, to allow the marinade to seep inside. Poor the marinade over the meat in a well-sealed container, to allow for occasional shaking, turning and stirring. Marinate for 2-3 days for best results, before grilling. Slice it at an angle, in very thin slices, for the best presentation.

If, like me, you prefer to have dishes that can be prepared in advance, try twice baked potatoes, my way. You can make these ahead of time, ready to be popped into the oven while the meat is grilling.

Carrie's Twice Baked Organic Potatoes

  • 4 large Organic Baking Potatoes
  • 1 16-oz. container Organic Sour Cream
  • 1 lb. Organic Cheddar, shredded
  • 2 Teaspoons Organic Garlic Salt

Easy to Make Instructions:

  1. Bake the potatoes till completely done, about 1 hour at 400 degrees.
  2. Cool and slice in half longways
  3. Using a serving spoon, scoop out the potato, preserving the skin in one piece.
  4. Mash the potato in a medium sized bowl.
  5. Mix the sour cream, cheese and garlic salt into the mashed potatoes.
  6. Fill the skins with the mixture, distributing evenly.
  7. These can be baked again immediately at 350 for about 20 minutes, or frozen and baked later, after thawing.
  8. Sprinkle some extra cheddar on top during the last 5 minutes of baking.
  9. Serves 8

Add a generous green salad and you've got a delicious meal that is mostly prepared ahead of time, leaving you able to enjoy your guests. The link above has an oatmeal cookie recipe in it that is to die for--cliche, I know, but so true. Try it. You won't regret it. Have a great Memorial Day. I'm off to play Pack Leader!

The Pack Leader at Work

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ode to a Son: My Brazilian Rosewood Tree

© photo copyright 2009 Carrie Boyko
My Baby Brazilian Rosewood Tree
Our New Drought Tolerant Addition

In honor of my son FINALLY coming home from his South American semester of study, I have planted a Brazilian Rosewood Tree in the front yard. I am told it is drought resistant and grows very fast, up to 100 feet tall. This tree will bear beautiful yellow to orange blooms each Spring.

Adding, once again, to our future shade and lessening our water needs, this tree is the next generation for our cozy home, destined to be greener each year. Although it stands dwarfed by the massive pine in its background, shown here, these native Pines do not live long lives, and this one may be at risk, due to its location in open area.

© photo copyright 2009 Carrie Boyko

Brazilian Rosewood Tree

A few years ago, when hurricanes Charlie and his 3 friends came through our area, each left 2 of these giant beauties lying in our yard or on our house. After losing 8 of them that season, we knew we should begin a planting program to prepare for the loss of shade that appears to be a risk in our Hurricane-prone location.

This beautiful little tree represents the future to me, just as my son does. Let's hope they both continue to grow steadfast and healthy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Power of Touch

© photo copyright 2006 Carrie Boyko
Even Big Dogs Enjoy
a Good Cuddle Sometimes

Tanner has a buddy at his favorite doggie daycare. His name is Zeus and he's a Harlequin Great Dane. If memory serves, he weighs about 175 pounds. You're probably saying that's no lap dog, but think again. Zeus's owner tells me that he enjoys lying across their laps just as much as any Shih Tzu. Imagine that?!

There is something about the power of touch that is healing. Perhaps it is that release we have when therapeutic touch communicates a healing or loving message. It works for massage therapists, just as for loving partners. And dogs are definitely not immune to the results of a good massage or a loving stroke. Most particularly enjoy a good ear or neck rub, and clearly get the message that you are giving affection.

Tanner may be unusual, in that he enjoys being held like a baby. For at 57 pounds, he is certainly a handful--more than most could manage. But not for Toni. She says, "He ain't heavy. He's my brother."

If I've got you thinking you'd like a good massage, check out the American Massage Therapy Association, where you can use their "Find a Therapist" function to locate someone just right for your aching muscles.

Or, if you have a partner, and would like to venture into some therapeutic fun with one another, try this:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teflon Terror!

Teflon warnings and lawsuits are all over the Internet. This is nothing new to me. Having read THE HUNDRED YEAR LIE, by Randall Fitzgerald, I was already aware of the many concerns with this material used in frying pans, cookware and food packaging.

Fitzgerald, a well-known investigative journalist, reports in his book:

Teflon-contaminated tap water is one reason 90 percent of Americans have Teflon residue in their blood. The highest levels of the Teflon chemical called C8 have been found accumulated in children six years old and under and in people over sixty years of age. Lab studies link C8 to a wide array of birth defects and developmental problems (from Edward Emmett, University of Pennsylvania research, August, 2005)

While explaining that we cannot rely upon manufacturers to place our health above profit margins, Fitzgerald shares:

Former DuPont Company senior engineer Glen Evers publicly revealed in 2005 that the company knew that the Teflon chemical called PFOA, widely used in fast-food packaging, microwave popcorn bags, and candy wrappers, leaches into the food in greater concentrations than had been reported to the FDA. "You don't see it, you don't feel it, you can't taste it," Evers, a twenty-two-year employee of DuPont, told reporters. "But when you open that bag and you start dipping your French fries in there, you are extracting fluorochemical and you're eating it."

First approved by the FDA for food packaging in 1967, the chemical
zonyl--used to prevent grease stains from soaking through paper wrapping--breaks down into the chemical called PFOA once it enters the human body. PFOA stays in the body, bioaccumulating for extended periods, and has been linked to cancer and other health abnormalities. An internal DuPont memo from 1987 detailed how zonyl was being secreted into foods at a rate three times higher than had been
predicted to occur, but this new alarming data was never reported to the FDA. Thanks to whistleblower Evers, a lawsuit filed by the U.S. government over this two-decade-long failure to reveal the health threat resulted in DuPont paying $10.2 million in fines during late 2005.

To assure that I've done my due dilligence, I'll include DuPont's statement on this topic. Now go check your pots and pans. It's time to clean the kitchen cabinets out.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tolerate No More: 10 Top Toxins to Toss

Ten Cancer-Causers to Remove From Your Home , condensed and enhanced from the Care 2 site, February 21, 2009:

Given poor government regulation, many of the cleaning products available on the market contain “everyday” carcinogens such as formaldehyde, nitrobenzene, methylene chloride, and napthelene, as well as reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. Not to mention other ingredients that cause liver, kidney and brain damage, allergies and asthma.

One of the best things you can do to detox your home is to create a non-toxic cleaning kit to use–most of the ingredients you probably already have on hand. More on this in another post.

1. Air fresheners: Often contain napthelene and formaldehyde. Try natural fragrances from essential oils.

2. Art supplies: Epoxy and rubber cement glues, acrylic paints and solvents, and permanent markers often contain carcinogens.

3. Automotive supplies: Most are toxic. Keep them safely away from the house and

3. Automotive supplies: Most are toxic. Keep them safely away from the house and dispose of at a hazardous waste disposal center.

4. Candles: Avoid artificially scented paraffin candles that produce combustion by-products, including soot. Beeswax only, with cotton wicks.

5. Carpet and upholstery shampoos: Use only wet-clean, natural ingredients. Club soda is your safest and most useful tool for soaking up stains. It bubbles them right up to the top, without leaving any sugary residue behind, that will collect more dirt.

6. Dry-cleaning: Choose clothes that don’t need perchlorethylene to clean them. Ask for the wet-cleaning option at your local cleaners, or seek dry-cleaners that use liquid C02 or citrus juice cleaners. Check out my post on Green Dry Cleaning.

7. Flea, tick and lice control: Check out my post at the All Things Dog Blog, Flea Season is Here. What's Pup to Do? Be aware that spot treatments are dangerous; read this post at Dog Travel & Lifestyle News.

8. Paints and varnishes: Always chose low- or no-VOC finishes.

9. Household pesticides: Go natural. Check out my great find here.

10. Microwaves: Never microwave or heat food in a plastic container. More on this in another post. Stick to glass.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Finding a Local Farmers' Market

American eating habits have come full circle during my lifetime. While my parents’ families both had victory gardens during the war years, the prosperous 1950s, 60s and 70s brought an increasing amount of consumer demand for year round fruits and vegetables, which spawned importing in massive quantities.

We have now become aware that this diet we are spoiled with, including year round bananas, pineapples, berries and fruits from all corners of the Earth, has a price tag that goes primarily to the oil companies. Transportation costs represent an increasing amount of the price tag, when foods are imported from other continents.

Enter local farmers markets and we’re beginning to see a move toward more interest in buying local foods. Consumers are asking about the origin of produce so often, that produce managers are now labeling their produce with the country of origin. Some even indicate the state, when the produce is from the U.S.

If you would like to count yourself among those who wish to minimize the petroleum industry’s portion of our food costs, check out these resources for more information on your local farmers’ markets:

With 3500 farmers’ markets registered with the U.S. government, you’re bound to find one nearby. And this does not include the small roadside stands that rural residents find throughout their areas.

One final place you will find many listings is the yellow widget in my sidebar. Just fill in your home zip code and it does all the work, bringing you a list of farmers’ markets, organic restaurants and stores, organic caterers and schools, and much more. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Just keep in mind, shopping for local produce means buying foods that are IN SEASON. There’s no getting around that little speed bump. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Flexible Hips are Healthy for Pups

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Tanner Shows Off His Flexible Hips

Hip displasia is an ailment that plagues many dogs--particularly larger breeds and dogs who are over weight. Therein lies the tip for helping to prevent this in your dog as he ages. Keeping your pup active and lean will do more than anything to avoid the problem.

My dogs, fortunately all have healthy hips, and often lie in these frog-like positions, showing off their flexibility. I have read that this flexibility is a good sign of healthy hips, so I'm always glad to see the pups enjoying this silly looking position. I temporarily nickname them Froggy and we tease them lovingly. They probably don't have clue what it's all about, except that they do know they are the center of attention. That should be as good as saying "We love you!"

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Oliver's Version
is a Bit More Like a Body Surfer

If healthy pets is high on your priority list, you might find this article, from Doctors Foster and Smith, helpful. I would also like to invite you to visit my other blog, at the All Things Dog Blog. As the name indicates, I write about all sorts of dog topics, many of which come down to keeping your pets healthy.

Healthy happens in so many ways. Discipline, healthy food, exercise, preventive health care, and natural remedies are all topics of regular appearance here. I hope you'll stop in and check it out, if for no other reason that to enjoy some of the photos of my pups' antics.

Feel free to spoil yourself with a free subscription, so you can easily receive my posts, each time they appear on the blog. Happy tails!

FYI, just as in humans, glucosamine preparations are great for helping to keep the hips and joints healthy. Be sure to consult your veterinarian for advice, if you think you'd like to try this natural preventative measure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Living the Organic Lifestyle

According to, one of the definitions of Organic is developing in a manner analogous to the natural growth and evolution characteristic of living organisms; arising as a natural outgrowth. Or as another resource says, "naturally occurring."

When I think about life and its organic nature, I think about the way we were intended to live. Pairs comes to mind first. Most of us seek to find a mate.

Today, as my sister in law prepares to take a 3 month road trip alone, I am celebrating my good fortune of having a wonderful, supportive husband of 31 years, and not being alone. But also I am excited for my children's likewise good fortune in each finding a love on their own, at least for a time. Although none are married yet, they are on the right track to learning their needs and how to fill that void that occurs when you are not in a committed relationship.

That's not to say that single people cannot be happy. Many are. I'm speaking mostly to our instinctual sides as I digress today, on the heels of exciting news about a visit from, well, a significant other. Is that politically correct enough?

I am ready. Ready to open my home to the possibilities of eventually bringing more into the fold of those whom I can call family. I consider myself to be easy to get to know. I wouldn't make much of a poker player. When I'm happy and I know it, I clap my hands, as the song goes.

Meaningful work, friends, hobbies, family and pets are among the most common enjoyments in my life. It is pleasing to watch my kids grow up and find each for themselves.
For what it's worth, this is one of the books my husband and I found most useful as we built our lives, both separate and apart, together. Families, work and personal goals are all considered in this book that is all about building balance into our lives. Even today, years after its original publication, Steven Covey continues to write on this topic with more depth and insight than ever. There's definitely some good messages to be gleaned from this one:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fly Eradication--Naturally!

Fruit Flies are My Problem Today

We've all had the frustrating experience of picking up a piece of fruit, only to be swarmed with fruit flies. Short of toxic pesticides, how can you roust the nasty creatures, once they take flight?

As a child, I was taught how to make a simple fly catcher, for use while camping. I remembered this one day recently, and gave it a try yesterday, when I had a swarm attack from under a bunch of rotten bananas. My poor husband was chasing the illusive flies all over the house. Once I put my technique to work, we found that it does slowly attract the flies and grab them.

Take a shallow container, such as pictured above. I used both methods, to see which worked best to start:

Honey Caught a Few Fruit Flies

  1. Orange Juice in the shallow container is sweet and ripe, naturally attracting the bugs for a taste. Sometimes they get stuck, but some of them are wily and get away.
  2. Honey was the more successful of my first two efforts, as its naturally sticky texture did not allow the flies to get away, once they stopped in for a taste.

After sharing my results with hubby, he suggested an improved design. Combine the two. I painted the edge of the bowl of orange juice with honey, to trap the little fellas permanently when they checked in for the OJ. This worked great, and after a few hours I could see the results were excellent.

Orange Juice with Honey
Around the Bowl Edges
was the Most Successful Fly Catcher

One final note about this method of catching flies. You probably already guessed it. It's safe for you, your children, your pets, and even guests. If they see a bowl of honey or orange juice they won't get all squeamish on you like they would a fly trap in plain view. Good luck.

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!

Organic, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies in Three Easy Ingredients

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

With a little inspiration, I've begun dabbling in gluten-free cooking. What better place to start than dessert, right?! This recipe was passed along verbally from a new friend, with only a guess at the time and temperature, but my version turned out just fine.

These peanut butter cookies are super easy to make, with only 3 ingredients. You can make them and clean up, all in 30 minutes. Check it out:


  • 1 Cup Organic Peanut Butter, room temperature
  • 1 Cup Organic Sugar
  • 1 Organic Egg


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix the egg and sugar together, blending thoroughly with a fork.
  3. Now stir in the peanut butter, mixing until evenly blended.
  4. Spoon rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets, about 1-2 inches apart.
  5. Bake 15-18 minutes. These cookies will not melt down, but retain most of their shape. They will appear dry looking when done.
  6. Cool on a rack.

You won't miss the flour in these cookies, and of course, not the extra carbs from it either.

Have you got a favorite gluten-free recipe you'd like to share. I'd love to hear from you. Click the comment button below and tell me about it. Or simply send the recipe to me in an email at . I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Crabgrass Gotcha Down? Try These Eco-Friendly Solutions...

Crabgrass is the bane of nearly everyone who has a yard to care for. I get a lot of requests for this information, so here goes. I have found two helpful Eco-friendly solutions, if you have small patches of crabgrass you need to kill, before replanting with sod or plugs.

These methods are also safe for your children and pets, so no worries about where they play. You really don't have to use RoundUp or any of those chemical weedkillers that leach into the groundwater, leaving who knows what to be passed along to future generations playing in your soil.

There are 2 proven crabgrass killers already in your kitchen: baking soda and vinegar each work their wonders to kill this nasty stuff. Experienced gardeners say that full-strength vinegar, available at hardware stores, works better than the household stuff you buy at the grocers, so perhaps you might start with baking soda, to save the trip. Either way, use the same process I describe below.

I've used baking soda on a few spots with success. Whichever product you decide to use as an herbicide, if you leave any crabgrass in the surrounding area, it will grow back into the spot you replant with grass. Be sure to pull all remnants out and recheck it regularly, until the new grass is well established and thick. Your best bet is to use sod, rather than plugs, as its thickness will help to control incoming weeds.

The application process is quite simple. Just sprinkle generously on the crabgrass, taking care not to get it on any area where there is no weed growth. The baking soda will kill grass also, if applied to it. Reapply each time it rains or your sprinklers run, and within about 2 weeks you'll find your crabgrass is pretty well toast. Dig or pull it all out. This is the most important part. Removing some of the soil to place sod in at the same level will also help to remove left-behind crabgrass seeds that could germinate later.

Each day when you water the area, check for any new growth of crabgrass, and pull it up promptly. Keep it up until the sod incorporates itself into the surrounding grass. After this, try to check it weekly and stay on top of it. This is key to your success.

Today my post on the Central Florida Green Guide explores further the topic of Green Family Fun: Let's Visit the Dog Park, Part I and Part II. If you have a furry friend who might enjoy some off-leash play time, you can check the link for part 2 of my series. Inside the post, you will also find a link to Part I. Comments are encouraged. See you at the park.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Warm Weather Activities Return

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Tanner Enjoys a Double Fetch
in Warmer Pool Water

With temperatures back in the upper 80s here in Central Florida, Tanner is swimming for longer periods each day. No more shivering while he fetches; the water is quite nice for him.

Tanner's buddy, Oliver, needs warmer air and water to enjoy a good swim. Topping out under 9 pounds, Oliver's body mass is not sufficient for him to swim comfortably. When the water temperature reaches 80 degrees, he'll be back in the pool, doing his fox imitation. For now, he enjoys chasing crawly, hopping things in the grass during his outdoor play time.

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Oliver is Content

to Enjoy Chasing Bugs in the Grass

Until Summer Warms the Pool

The lake I live on is proof that Summer is almost here. Our neighborhood beach, where sunbathers occasionally visited during the winter, is now frequented by swimmers and boaters of all types. Kayaks, canoes and ski boats are all taking their turns in the water, enjoying the thrills that each provide.

Nearby, in one of our state parks, we plan to canoe the Wekiva River again soon. On my last trip, my photo opportunities were diminished when the camera slid to the other end of the canoe. Too bad I did not get a picture of the Alligator or the Gray Heron. Hopefully, this time I'll be able to share some of our wildlife here in Florida.

Canoeing is a wonderful way to get back to nature. Watching the fish and turtles swim by is peaceful, while larger creatures can give you quite a thrill. Green fun like this is 5 minutes away and costs a pittance. For $11 a person, you get the canoe and gear for 4 hours of exercise and nature. If hiking isn't your thing, check out canoe rentals in your area. How many species of birds can you identify? You won't regret it.

If you're interested in checking out the action at your local dog park, I've got just your ticket. I recently posted two articles on Green Family Fun: Let's Visit the Dog Park, Part I and Part II, with a third coming at the end of the month. You'll find these at the link just above, or check out Central Florida Green Guide.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ready to Make the Switch to Organics? What's First?

From time to time I hear the same refrain: "I'd like to switch to organics, but it is all so expensive." This is true, of course, if you compare item by item. One of the keys is to switch to whole foods at the same time, giving up prepared and packaged foods. Cooking from scratch is something not as many of us do these days. I know; I was one of them for a long time. But if I can reform, so can you. I actually found that cooking became more fun when the creativity was put back into the job. How can Kraft Macaroni and Cheese be an invigorating dinner selection to prepare?

Ours is a society defined by convenience these days, yet convenience brings with it more of the rush hour styled life that we say we would like to give up. Here's your chance!

I'm not suggesting you go cold turkey. It doesn't work for smokers, drinkers or over-eaters, so why would it work for switching to organic foods? I'll give a couple of tips that helped me, and then you can comment or email me ( )if you need more help.
  • Start by trying to eat whole foods one meal or menu item at a time, until you get in the habit of it and it isn't an overwhelming production any longer. Then add one item at a time.
  • If you feel your grocery budget cannot possibly make the stretch to include organic produce, meats and dairy....well, I'd pick beef and dairy as my first changes. Why? Because on top of the pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, and even some food colorings added, you also have hormone and antibiotic treatments to top off the toxic load in your meat and dairy purchases. This is where your money will be best spent, IMHO (in my humble opinion).
  • If you need to choose between food and non-food changes (natural soaps, cleaners, lotions, etc), it is tough for me to give advice. I want to leave the Earth a cleaner place, yet I also want to live long enough to see that happen, so this decision is all on you. Go with your gut. On the other hand, if you really simplify your cleaning regimen to vinegar, baking soda, natural vegetable soap and lemon juice, you'll actually save a bundle on your house cleaning, while leaving no toxic residues on surfaces or running it down the drains. That's half the battle on the non-food side.

I hope this little commentary has been helpful. It was tough for me to break it down to the most critical changes. Although I could be wrong, hopefully I have given you a reasonably well-informed Opinion. Just remember that's all it is. The O word.

One last thing that I can offer are some prior posts on strategies for saving money on organics:

Good luck!

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day Play Day: Green Seniors Enjoy Playing Too!

Every Kid Should Experience
Listening to the Ocean
inside a Seashell

Isn't it amazing how our society is growing old so much more gracefully? I don't mean Botox or facelifts or tummy tucks. What I am referring to is the increased activity level of our older generations.

Recently my aunt and uncle visited Florida from the north and enjoyed outdoor activities every day they were here, for nearly a month. I certainly hope I can do the same in my 70s.

I have been surprised at the number of senior citizens I see in the sport of dog agility. There have even been a few competitors using walkers or "scooters" during competition. To me, that was heartwarming.

Many seniors are no longer content to sit on the front porch and rock all afternoon. Look around you. They can be seen swimming at the gym, playing tennis, taking evening walks, taking the grandkids bowling, and gardening. I can remember feeling that gardening was not much exercise, until I got more into it as an adult. Sometimes things can really surprise me.

Gardening is great exercise, and the therapy derived from working the earth and harvesting what you sowed cannot be described adequately. I find it invigorating to eat Bruschetta made from my own, home-grown basil.

For all you grandparents out there who are looking to enjoy a May Day with your grandkids, I thought I'd propose a few of ideas for something green to enjoy together:
  • Aside from growing a garden together, there can be great fun in going to a farm during "u-pick" season. I remember doing this with my grandmother and thoroughly enjoying it. Perhaps making jam or a special dessert together could be a project for the next day.
  • Making a time capsule together could be a fun project for 2 separated generations. Picking the items to include could be quite an adventure. Choosing small, yet meaningful, culturally-significant items will be a joint challenge, particularly if you keep the theme Green. Don't forget to also enjoy the process of burying it in a special place where another generation will likely find it later.
  • Take a nature walk or canoe a nearby river. Grandparents are a wealth of knowledge about nature, and can be seen by their young charges as masters of the universe, while describing the way a bird builds a nest or how a Raccoon washes all its food.
  • If you live near the ocean, a walk on the beach to collect shells and watch sand crabs could be as exciting for you as your grandchild. Don't forget to bring a guidebook along:

Perhaps you'd just like to make Organic Bruschetta together. If you'd like to make a quicker version, use Hoagie rolls or a baguette, sliced in half lengthwise, and then into slices for eating. Add the toppings and pop them in the oven. The result will be a soft inside, with a crispy exterior. Sometimes this is easier for kids to eat, and a little less crumbly. Easier cleanup is always a plus.

If you'd prefer a more kid-friendly recipe, try my Organic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They're super healthy and packed with lots of fiber and nutrients. The grandkids and the big kids will all love them.

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