It isn't easy being green - especially when you're urban and love Thai take out. But I'm sure gonna try.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A few newsworthy items

Please note that I am taking an indefinite hiatus as I wrap up work on my current novel. Be sure to check back from time to time for updates on my status! Thanks.

In the meantime, here are some interesting articles worth reading:

Cleaners Hall of Shame 
The Environmental Working Group's collection of the worst home cleaning products on the market. Check your closets ... despite my passion for going green, I've used Comet and Tarn-x in the past.

Does High Fructose Corn Syrup Make Kids Forgetful?
A recent piece in Mother Jones raises questions about corn syrup's effect on the brain and memory.

Best Sunscreens of 2012
Environmental Working Group's yearly round up of their best (and worst) sunscreens.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Product Review: Meow, Meow, Tweet Deodorant Cream

I've never been a deodorant person, and I wondered if I was alone until 2008 when I heard Julia Roberts confess that she doesn't wear deodorant either. I've glommed onto this fact since this is probably the only thing Julia and I will ever share.

As a teenager, I struggled with antiperspirant and deodorant. The scented kind caused me to break out in rashes; unscented sticks and roll-ons left me with white stains everywhere. I didn't sweat that much and so I rarely used it. One container lasted half a year. I showered regularly and rinsed under my arms when I was getting smelly.

But post-kids, I smell sweaty more often. I'm definitely on my toes more, and exercise is a far bigger part of my life. Maybe it's just that I spend so much time caring for others that there's less time to groom myself. Still, this green mama, with an OCD need to find the best products on the planet, needed to find a solution.

I began the quest for an effective all-natural deodorant a few years ago. In my experience, these products are rarely as effective as the conventional, chemical-filled kinds. But the sales person in my local Whole Foods explained that I wasn't using them right. For all natural deodorants to be effective, they need to be applied twice a day instead of once in the morning. The purpose of these products is not to prevent you from sweating but rather to kill the bacteria (the smelly part) that grows in your armpits. (A little gross, but good to understand.) Still, who has time for multiple applications?

After some trial and error, I settled on Terressentials roll-on deodorant. Terressentials works very well most of the time, but I didn't find it effective for emergency quick changes when I had no time to shower. In those cases, I smelled like sweat ... and citrus. The product also goes on wet, and it takes a little longer to feel dry.

On a whim, I recently decided to try deodorant cream from a Brooklyn-based company called Meow, Meow, Tweet.  ($12.00 for 2.5 oz)

I was, at first, admittedly, put off by the goop in the jar.  I cringed at the strong tea tree smell and at the way the cream went on slightly dry and tacky.

But something crazy happened ... it worked. Better than any of the previous natural products I'd tried. Even better, it goes on dry.

Just a dime sized dollop of cream under the arm keeps me dry and smell free for most of the day. (I never remember a second application, and I rarely need one.) And, if I do sweat, I can put a little more on, and it masks the smell almost immediately. The tea tree smell is pungent, but it wears off quickly. I suspect it's this tea tree that kills the bacteria, eliminating the smell rather than masking it.

I would say my only reservation about this product would be travel. I can't imagine throwing a glass jar into a gym bag or overnight bag without having to protect it in some way. I certainly couldn't imagine a teenager toting around a glass jar of deodorant for after school sports either.

For toting times, I'll continue to use my faithful Terressentials roll-on, but I'm finding myself turning to the cream more and more.

Check out Meow Meow Tweet's unique deodorant. It goes on dry and eliminates odors without chemicals and additives, and a little goes a long way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lousy Stories Part Two...

As my daughter scratched her head last night, it occurred to me that it was time to do another lice check. I'm behind in adding part two to this blog, so what better timing?

Once you've established that your child has lice, there are two different approaches. Brace yourself,  because each is time consuming, but worth it. I would never put pesticides on my child's head, personally, but I know lots of folks who wouldn't hesitate to do so. Regardless of whether or not you use the chemical shampoos, though, you still have to pick out all the nits.

APPROACH #1 (As outlined by a professional nit picker)

1) OLIVE OIL: The night before you tackle lice, apply 1/4 - 1/2 cup of olive oil to your child's (or your own) head. Massage the oil in well and sleep with the oil in your head. This is super messy (even if you cover your child's head), and I highly recommend spreading old towels on your bedding and removing comforters. If your child has very thick/dry hair, apply 1/4 oil about an hour before bed and then add another 1/4 right before going to sleep. Olive Oil suffocates live lice.

2) WASH: In the morning, wash hair first with dish detergent and then shampoo as many times as it takes to remove all the oil. Dry thoroughly. Comb through hair to remove all knots. (If your child has very curly hair, you will find it easier to straighten his/her hair before beginning the process.)

3) GET COMFORTABLE: Seriously. Set your child up in front of the television or a computer or whatever it takes because you are going to be here a while. NOTE: It's important you do this in a location with good lighting.

4) LIGHTING: Bring a lamp where you can control the direction of the light and aim it right at your child's head, more specifically, at each section you tackle.

5) LINT ROLLER: Place a lint roller by your side with a fresh piece of sticky tape.

6) HEAD PREP: Using multiple metal clips, divide your child's hair into smaller sections and twist them up so that you only work with a small amount at a time.

7) PICK AWAY: Using the back of a fine comb begin taking small, thin sections of your child's hair. Lift each section up, making sure the light is shining directly on the hair. Look carefully for the nits. If you see any or even if you don't, take your nit comb and comb through that tiny section two or three times. Press all the teeth of the comb onto the lint roller tape, so that it makes full contact. Any nits or lice picked up by the comb will stick to the tape. Move onto the next section and repeat. NOTE: Some hair is so thin that you will need to use your finger nails to remove the nits.

8) COUNT: As gross as this sounds, when you are done combing through the entire head (anywhere from three to six hours later), you will need to count the number of live bugs and nits you've found. Write the numbers down.

8) REPEAT: It sucks, I know. But you need to do this process again the next day, and the next and the next. If you find live bugs again the following day, your safest bet is to repeat the olive oil within the next two to three days, too. Checking will get faster, and the number of nits and bugs you find should decrease dramatically. By the end of a few days, you will hopefully be checking, but finding nothing.

9) CHECK FOR TWO WEEKS STRAIGHT: Yes, I said two weeks. This isn't necessarily because you will find more bugs or eggs, but you might have missed one or two that hatches and then lays more eggs. Also it's likely other kids near your kid have lice, too. The last thing you want is a re-infestation.

10) CHECK REGULARLY: Now that you've gotten the hang of it, you might want to make checking part of your routine. It's much easier to deal with an outbreak early in the game than it is to once it's become an infestation. (During the peak of our school's outbreak, I found one live lice on one kid's head and three nits on the other's head.)


1) COPY STEPS 1, 2, 3, & 4 from above.

2) CONDITIONER and TOWELS: Arm yourself with a roll of paper towels and a full container of white colored conditioner.

3) SLATHER: Cover your kid's head with condition. A lot of conditioner.

4) HEAD PREP like step 6 above.

5) BEGIN TO PICK: Using your nit comb, comb through small sections of hair. Wipe conditioner filled combs onto the paper towels. Nits and bugs should come off in the conditioner and will be present on the paper towel. You can throw live bugs directly into a trash can or plastic bag. (They can crawl, but they can't jump or fly.)

6) REPEAT. You simply need to repeat and repeat and repeat this process until you stop finding bugs and nits. (Again this could take hours.)

7) Follow steps 9 & 10 above.

NOTE: Some parents find approach #2 much easier. I have tried both,  but I ultimately find approach #1 to be more effective first time round, and I can't help but cringe at the wastefulness of throwing away all those towels.


If you're concerned that you may have contracted lice from your child, your best bet is to practice approach #2 in the shower. Make sure you comb your hair backwards and forwards and from side to side. Spend at least a full ten minutes combing through with gobs of conditioner. If you find anything suspicious, you may want to have a friend or your partner check you or contact a professional nit picker. It's very hard to treat lice on yourself. And the last thing you want to do is re-infest your family.

Lice will turn your family upside down no matter which technique you choose. Between your laundry and your picking, your time will seem to fly by. Be good to yourself. Order pizza for dinner and don't sweat the small stuff. A lot of parents spend more time cleaning their house than they do checking their kids' heads. This is a mistake because the lice would much rather hang out on your head than on your chairs. Definitely do a thorough bagging, washing and vacuuming, but then focus on the hair.

Good luck and happy picking!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Louse Stories from the Front, Part 1

Our school has been infested with lice since September. Just when we thought it was safe, news of more outbreaks came pouring home. My older daughter has had a full-blown case once and tiny cases twice. My younger daughter and I have each been infected once.

By tiny case I mean that a bug landed on her head and laid eggs, also known as nits, but because I was checking her vigilantly I pulled them off immediately.  By full-blown case, I mean she had upwards of 400 nits and 150 live bugs. I know this may sound like a shockingly large number, but apparently it can be much worse.

We got our full-blown case when I decided to be the laid back mom who doesn’t drive her kids crazy with weekly neurotic check-ins like: “Is anyone sick? Puking?” “You need to put your hair up!” “You know you can’t wear fashion boots to gym?” It was during my calm mommy phase, “Sure, use the cucumber smelling shampoo instead of the lice repelling tea tree if it makes you happy,” that my daughter was infected. And then my other daughter was infected … and then I was, too.

I decided to suck it up and pay an exorbitant amount of money to have a nit-picker come to our house. It’s not that I wanted to flush a short trip’s worth of cash down the toilet, it was more that I knew I had lice. And I had no one to take care of my curly, coarse, thick hair. We learned a lot in our seven-hour session, and I thought I would share our new found information with you:

1) Your best protection against lice involve the following steps:

-       For boys and girls: never share hats or sporting helmets.
-       Girls should have their hair up in a ponytail or braid, AND they should wear a wide fabric headband. Lice apparently use wisps of hair, generally along the sides of the head, as bridges.
-       Check your child’s head for lice every week or so.
-       Run a lint roller over the surface of any fabric, public seat, including airplanes and movie theaters, before sitting down.
-       Do not rely on lice protection products. Our nit picker told us she recently treated an entire infected family that used Fairy Tales hair products religiously. That said, there is some anecdotal evidence that neem shampoos, tea tree shampoos, and even some strong dandruff shampoos do kill live bugs. (Not the nits.) I used Babo Botanicals tea tree shampoo on my younger daughter and actually found dead bugs on her shoulders afterward. I now use the shampoo and the conditioning spray regularly in addition to regular checking.

2) If there is a case of lice in your child’s classroom, check your child vigilantly IN GOOD LIGHT. This was where I messed up during our first outbreak. My daughter’s head was itchy. I kept checking her over and over again, but I didn’t see anything. I was in the wrong light. Sit your child in a chair near a window and/or with a lamp directly above their head. Look carefully and take your time. I divide the head into four sections and check section by section using metal clips and the back of a comb to lift small amounts of hair.

2b) If you are checking regularly and find that these sit-down searches are taking long periods of time, another option is to lather your child up with white colored conditioner and comb through with a real nit comb, I like “Nit Free”. Comb each chunk in four different directions. This is how I found my second tiny outbreak. After each combing, I wiped my comb on a white paper towel. When I saw tiny brown eggs, I knew we had to take action immediately. (This conditioner method is also a great way for moms to check themselves.) This check should take at least ten minutes.

3) Look for BROWN nits (or live eggs). Not the white ones. White eggs are no longer living, they are just the shells of already hatched bugs. Brown nits are incredibly hard to see and they actually blend in with most shades of brown hair. (It is apparently easier to spot lice on blond or black hair.) When working with a light, angle your lamp so that the light mimics sunlight. Nits will glitter, like tiny jewels.

For tips on what to do if you actually find that your child has an outbreak… stay tuned for part two.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What is Eco Friendly Fashion?

I'm not a fashionista, and I'm about as far from a diva as they come. But in the past year or so, I've had a resurgence in my desire to look good when I leave the house. 

As part of this process, I purged my closet of things that are either grossly out of style or simply too banged-up, ripped-up, stained or pilled to be worn in public. Unlike years past when I might have just thrown things away, I'm trying to be more thoughtful. Ripped cottons were turned into rags.  Beat up shoes were sent to Africa, and I'm passing out bags of clothes and gear to friends, acquaintances, and charities who can better distribute them.

But what does one buy when one wants to be conscientious? Simply the acquisition of something new means that at some point, it will need to be disposed.

Have you noticed how poorly made clothes are today? I bought three pairs of jeans on sale at Banana Republic about two years ago, and they all ripped through the knees within a year. Remember when a pair of Levis lasted a lifetime? Those days are long gone. Name brands feel like nothing more than letters printed on labels.

Even brands claiming to be eco friendly are sometimes poorly made, with fabrics that rip and snag easily or are so thin they are practically see through. What's more, many of them have been imported from abroad making me wonder if the fuel used to fly the product here cancels out the bamboo or organic cotton.

I don't mean to pan all brands. I've had great luck with Green Apple Active (often found at TJ Maxx) and my girls are wearing hand-me-down Hannah Andersson pajamas that are at least five years old and still look like new. But even these higher quality and often more expensive brands will need to go somewhere once we're done with the clothing.

Recently, I've embraced the idea of second-hard. Consignment shops are everywhere, and you can buy quality clothing and home goods. Second-hand furniture (if old enough) is far better made than the disposable, low-quality items produced today.

I'm also rethinking the idea of a 'deal' or a 'steal.'  A few years ago I invested in a pricey pair of jeans. At the time, I chastised myself for spending so much. Now, years later, these jeans still fit perfectly and they don't have one hole. In the end, they were a great investment. Moving forward, I'm more likely to spend a little more if I know products are high quality and long-lasting.

Eco-friendly shopping isn't what it seems. Yes, we should embrace and support  brands trying to do things differently, but at the same time, we need to remember that being eco-friendly is also about reducing consumption and reusing existing, perfectly-good products.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More reasons to embrace the imperfections of organic:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Imperfection is Organic

There's nothing like apple picking in New England. For years, my family has enjoyed this fall tradition.

We've visited farms with train rides, hay rides, corn mazes, gourmet donuts and ice cream, petting zoos, pony rides, barbeques and playgrounds. These theme-park orchards provided great entertainment, but they could never provide us with one thing: organic apples.

They say that it is impossible to grow organic apples, pears and stone fruit on the east coast. They say these crops will quickly be devoured by molds, fungi and pests.  I've spoken to many vendors at my local farmer's market, and they all sing the same refrain: we do our best, we use as little spray as possible, if we didn't spray you couldn't eat these.... But that's not entirely true.

For the past two years my family has visited Old Frog Pond Farm, a 25-acre pick-your-own orchard owned by a local artist. Our first year there, it was sleepy and quiet. The trees were short and looked sparse. The apples were tiny, lopsided, disfigured and covered with black and brown splotches.

"Are these safe to eat?" I asked the young man who worked there. He smiled and informed me that these blemishes were a natural part of the apple, perfectly safe for human consumption. "Organic," he said, "is not perfect."

Still, we were a bit fearful, so we took them home and baked pies and cooked applesauce instead of eating them raw.

Over the course of the year, his words remained with me: "Organic is not perfect." It got me thinking about my perceptions of the world and myself. When I shop I seek out perfect products. I exercise in hopes of a more perfect body. I write aspiring to the perfect manuscript. I child rear with earnest desire to be the perfect mother ... wife ... citizen.  I keep searching for the aha! moment when I realize that it has all come together perfectly.

In a world of shiny, glossy, beautiful people, products and produce, it's hard to accept anything less.

This year, we decided to go back to Old Frog Pond Farm. My kids discovered hidden sculptures, designed by the owner, nestled between the trees and along the edges of the field. The orchard seemed busier, the trees seemed fuller, the choices seemed greater, and the apples seemed less blemished. When my kids asked for samples, I didn't bat an eyelash at the black mottled skins.

The apples were not beautiful by traditional standards. Not even close! But they were grown without toxic chemicals and they were delicious.

I've finally begun to understand that imperfection really is natural, organic and healthy. It's the mottled moments that make us human and the lopsided apples that give us something to write about.