Monday, April 25, 2011

Save our buzzing, pollenating friends!

I was writing in my journal in the sunroom earlier, I was distracted by a bumble buzzing against the glass. It sounded almost like a tap-tap-tapping. One would go away, another would come, and it went on for about an hour. 

Funny thing was, I was writing a journal entry about being aware of signs and signals from the world around us. 

I've been highly concerned about toxic pesticides for sometime now, but for me, today was the day to act. 

I hope you'll check out this message from, an organization that seeks to bring people-power to politics and policy making in a new way, and sign their petition to the US Environmental Protection Agency. There are some great articles linked below if you want to read and find out more from great sources like The Guardian in the UK and Business Insider. 

With love, Signe

Dear friends across the U.S.,

Silently, billions of bees are dying off all over the country and our entire food chain is in danger. Bees don't just make honey, they are a giant, humble workforce, pollinating 90% of the crops we grow.

Multiple scientific studies blame one group of toxic pesticides for their rapid demise, and some bee populations are recovering in countries where these products have been banned. But powerful chemical companies are lobbying the Environment Protection Agency hard to keep selling these poisons. It’s up to us to defend the bees and our food supply by calling for a US ban now.

We have no time to lose -- a recent study shows 96% of our four main bee species have been wiped out. Let’s build a buzz across the nation calling on the EPA to outlaw these killer chemicals and save our bees and our food. Sign the emergency petition now and send it on to everyone and we’ll deliver it to the top decision makers:

Bees are vital to life on earth -- every year pollinating plants and crops with an estimated $40bn value, over one third of the food supply in many countries. Without immediate action to save bees many of our favourite fruits, vegetables, and nuts could vanish from our shelves. .

Recent years have seen a steep and disturbing global decline in bee populations and scientists have been scrambling for answers. Some studies claim the decline may be due to a combination of factors including disease, habitat loss and toxic chemicals. But increasingly, independent research has produced strong evidence blaming neonicotinoid pesticides. France, Italy, Slovenia and even Germany, where the main manufacturer Bayer is based, have banned one of these bee killers. But, Bayer continues to export its poison across the world, and the US is one of its biggest markets.

This lethal issue is now coming to a boil as major new studies have confirmed the shocking scale of this problem. It is urgent that we get the government to act, but it won’t be easy. A leaked document shows that the EPA already knew about the pesticide’s dangers, and ignored them. The document says Bayer’s "highly toxic" product is a "major risk concern to non target insects [honey bees]".

We need to make our voices heard to counter Bayer’s very strong influence on US policy makers and scientists -- they fund the studies and sit on policy bodies. The real experts -- the beekeepers and farmers -- want these deadly pesticides prohibited until and unless we have solid, independent studies that show they are safe. Let's support them now. Sign the petition below, then forward this email:

We can no longer leave our delicate food chain in the hands of research run by the chemical companies and the regulators that are in their pockets. Banning this pesticide will move us closer to a world safe for ourselves and the other species we care about and depend on.

With hope,

Alex, Alice, Iain, David and all at Avaaz


Bee decline could be down to chemical cocktail interfering with brains

Bee briefing

$15 Billion Bee Murder Mystery Deepens

“Nicotine Bees" Population Restored With Neonicotinoids Ban

EPA memo reveals concern that pesticide causes bee deaths

Beekeepers want government to pull pesticide

Bees in freefall as study shows sharp US decline

Pesticide industry involvement in EU risk assessment puts survival of bees at stake

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A faery Special Guest Post

Everything I Know about Faeries I Learned from my Four-Year-Old
From Syndicated Humor Columnist Robin O'Bryant

 “Momma, dey can fwy weally high and dey hab wings and dey don't want you to catch dem.” Emma nodded her head, excited, her blue eyes wide and serious. 

Her knowledge regarding the fae, it would seem, is limitless. But my six-year-old, Aubrey, a skeptic, couldn't help but argue with her little sister as Emma attempted to share her wealth of knowledge with us.

“EMMA! Faeries are NOT real!” Aubrey said with her hands on her hips. “They are just pretend, just like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus-- but they don't like it if you catch them.” She contradicted herself without even realizing it.

      I think I just heard you gasp. That's right, my kids don't believe in Santa or The Bunny. 

Some people might call me a Bible thumper and they might be a little bit right. I grew up in the church and I'm raising my kids that way, which means we celebrate our holy days in very traditional ways. I hope you won't hold that against me because we spent an entire morning talking about faeries, and I really want to share it with you.

      Signe was my neighbor in Charleston for a very short time. She moved in and I moved out in only a few weeks time. When we met and realized we were both writers, we immediately started quizzing each other on what the other was reading, writing, and who we knew.
      Signe told me she was working on a book about faeries and I assumed it was fiction. When I learned it was non-fiction, I assumed Signe was wackadoo. (I kid. I thought she was amazing and lovely, because she is.) But I didn't understand exactly what she was working on.

     I was intrigued but skeptical as I read Faery Tale, but after falling in love with Signe in person, I knew there had to be substance to the book. As I read, I found myself agreeing with Signe's insights again and again.
     I'm not one of those Christians who thinks she knows everything, and I realize there are a lot of those around.  From what I've seen of it, God's creation is big. If he exists, and I think he does, he must be even bigger. I'm teaching my children to love and respect everyone around them, regardless of how they look, dress or what they believe. And I am raising my children to believe in themselves, in the power of their creativity, in the power of their imaginations and that sometimes magical, unexplainable things happen.
    I believe that there are spiritual things in other realms that we cannot comprehend and I think anyone would be ignorant to say they know what lies outside of what we can see.

    Are faeries real?

  I really couldn't say from my own experiences. But I spent Saturday stretched out on a quilt under the dappled sunlight of an extremely old pecan tree captivated by my daughters' imaginations.

Even my six-year-old cynic, Aubrey, while she firmly maintained her stance that faeries were only make believe, couldn't help but get swept away in our conversation. Aubrey mused that faeries must have saltshakers full of dew to sprinkle on plants and spider webs while we sleep.

      Emma, the most mischievous and mechanically minded child I have ever encountered, borrowed an image from Disney and explained at length about “Tinks,” faeries whose job it is to fix or tinker with all things broken-- and believe me, Emma knows about broken things.

      Sadie, my roly-poly, dimpled toddler strapped on some sparkly wings and giggling, ran through the grass with her bare feet, occasionally pausing to flap her arms.

To me, faeries are the glitter and the sparkle in my daughters' eyes. 

They are the possibility of magic and something more. 

They are at the heart of imagination and imagination is at the heart of faith. 

How do we believe in anything if we can't first imagine it exists?

     I don't know exactly what faeries are, but I know they turned a hum-drum Saturday at my house into an outdoor adventure full of magic and imagination my kids will remember for years to come, and that is worth believing in.

Robin O'Bryant is a syndicated humor columnist, author and tweetaholic. (@robinobryant) She blogs about the ridiculousness and hilarity of motherhood over on Robin's Chicks, which she hopes is never used against her in a court of law, because that would totally suck.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

To be or not to be... Vegetarian.

First, I feel I should preface my Facebook claim of "Day 1 of Vegetarianism" in its proper context:

I am not a confirmed, do or die vegetarian. It's not that I don't want to be. Well, kind of. But making life changes takes time, and patience, and I've learned that making concrete proclamations about things is a sure sign that I'm not going to follow through on it.

So instead, I try to go easy on myself and listen to my body.

It told me to please stop drinking coffee, so I gave that a whirl, finding that drinking tea made my body feel cleaner, lighter, and my heart even stopped doing that poundy-thing it had been doing when I was nervous about something. But if there's one thing I learned from Faery Tale, it's that once we begin to listen to our intuition, there's no turning back. Er, you could, but that wouldn't be very magical at all!

Lately, the conversation betwixt me and my body went something like this:

"Uh, is this meat?"
"No thanks."
"Yeah. Don't want it."
Okay. So.... (awkward pause) I guess that free-range chicken in the freezer is out of the question?

The texture, the flavor, the... meatness of it just didn't feel right. I found I was craving green things, and plant things, and so I decided as an experiment, to go veg for one week. Day One I half-assed my way through some white bean chili (lacking such essential things as green pepper, green chilis, onion or cilantro) but it turned out pretty darn good actually, and I felt like such a pioneer, soaking the dried beans in water and then boiling them. I am a survivor! I thought. All in all it was a good day. Plus there were so many leftovers, lunch was taken care of on Tuesday. Tuesday night I made my mom's spinach lasagna and garlic pan "roasted" brusselsprouts, which were freaking phenomenal, and after a few buddies wondered about how I made 'em, I promised to post the recipes on-line.
Vegetarian deliciousness

Linda Johanson's Spinach Lasagna

I box lasagna noodles
1 extra large jar Classico Four Cheese Pasta Sauce
1 pkg. shredded reduced fat mozzerella
2 pkgs. frozen spinach
1 large container of fat-free ricotta cheese
1 oz. chopped fresh basil
1 oz. chopped fresh parsley
1 oz. chopped fresh oregano (can substitute smaller amounts of dried for all three if fresh is unavailable)  
1 egg
pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper
1 can Kraft Parmesan cheese

Thaw the spinach in a colander and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot put the pasta water up to boil and cook noodles in a pinch of salt until tender. While the pasta is cooking, empty the ricotta into a large mixing bowl. Create a little divet in the center and crack the egg into it. 
Toss in the basil, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and stir to combine. 
In a 9 x 13"  metal or glass baking pan spread a thin layer of red sauce, and on top of that place one layer of noodles. 
Gently layer your toppings  on top of the first layer of noodles in this order: 

Ricotta mixture
Spinach (be sure to squeeze any extra moisture out of it!) 
Red sauce 
sprinkle of Kraft parmesan

Layer your noodles in opposite directions in each new layer -- so if you laid them down the long way on the first layer, lay them across the width of the pan on the second layer, using scissors to trim them to the right length. On the final layer -- when you can fit no more -- put only noodles, red sauce, and parmesan. (My mom claims the mozz. is ill-fitted for the top layer because it's faster to burn, and I don't question Linda Johanson.)

Bake for 30 minutes, until the dish is bubbling slightly. Remove and cool for 10 mins before serving.

Tobias John's Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts
This recipe comes from KP's husband, a gardener and outdoor adventurer extraordinaire, and he made it for us over Thanksgiving, but I love brussel sprouts anytime of year!

Rinse brussel sprouts well in a colander under cold water. With a small paring knife, cut the white bottom from each sprout, and peel off any tough or brown outside layers quickly. Cut each brussel sprout into quarters (this allows them to cook sufficiently in the pan, so size does matter, heh-heh) and set aside.

Peel 2 big cloves of garlic and mince (or have your garlic press at the ready).
In a medium frying pan heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium high heat.
Add the sprouts and stir every minute or so until they begin to turn darker green and bit of them begin to brown. Add the crushed garlic, sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper, cook for 3 minutes more, and serve.

This week marks the beginning of our CSA boxes from Ambrose Family Farms.... grown with the gentle aid of South Carolina Fae, I'm certain.... I can't wait to dive in. Eric and I are ridiculously excited about this first box of vegetables. Write me with any great spring recipes!