Barbara Kingsolver would be proud

As the temperature hovered in the 60s yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel that autumn is quickly approaching. The cool weather inspired me to finally make some headway with food preservation for the winter. I’ve done a little bit of preserving thus far – mostly freezing blueberries and strawberries – but I haven’t been motivated to do much more than that. While I spent a lot of time last year canning, I haven’t been excited about doing any this year (perhaps because we still have lots of jam left) – yet.

This weekend, however, I tackled zucchini and yellow squash. While I’ve only grown one measly zucchini in my own garden so far this year (which I pureed with a can of black beans and made into Black Bean & Zucchini brownies*), I managed to score enough off of Freecycle to make me a happy camper. On Friday evening I picked up 17 lbs of zucchini and yellow squash from someone in a nearby town. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it all when I got it, but I knew I would figure something out. In the meantime, the kids played with it. :)
(Please excuse the quality of these pics. They were taken w/ my iPhone.)

On Sunday I got to work. I shredded and froze 16 cups of zucchini to use during the winter for baking or adding to soups.

I also used 3 additional cups to make a triple batch of Barbara Kingsolver’s Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies (from the awesome book Animal Vegetable Miracle).

Then I used one huge yellow squash to make Kingsolver’s Disappearing Zucchini Orzo for dinner (I added spinach to it to give it a little more color and tomatoes as a garnish).

After all of that, I still have two large yellow squash remaining! I may chop and freeze them and throw them into a casserole at a later date.

*Below is the recipe for Black Bean Zucchini Brownies. The other two recipes (cookies and orzo) can be found on the Animal Vegetable Miracle web site. I was very skeptical of the idea of beans in my brownies at first, but now that I’ve made them, I can’t imagine going back to the traditional way. They are sooooo good (and, as Jody will tell you I like to argue, healthier!) Yum!

Black Bean Zucchini Brownies
1 box brownie mix (I prefer the kind that has chocolate chunks in it)
1 can black beans (do NOT drain)
1 small zucchini (Optional. You can make the brownies with just the beans and they will turn out just fine. If you want to add a little extra vegetable in though, add the zucchini.)

Puree entire can of black beans (including the liquid) in blender or food processor. Add the zucchini and puree until smooth. Add the beans and zucchini to the dry brownie mix. Mix well. Pour into greased pan and bake according to directions on the brownie box. You may have to bake a little longer than recommended on the box because there’s a fair amount of liquid added between the beans and zucchini. You could also add in some flour (maybe a 1/2 cup or so) to even it all out. When a toothpick or knife comes out of the brownies clean, they are done. Cool, cut and serve.

Jody, the kids, and I loved these brownies. And yes, I told them what was in them. Nobody cared. :)

Nearly 17 lbs of squash used or preserved in one way or another this weekend. I think Barbara Kingsolver would be proud.

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The big SIGG BPA letdown

Water bottle manufacturer SIGG has found themselves in the hot seat recently after they revealed that their bottles, which many environmentally-aware, health-conscious consumers and parents fell in love with, have actually contained bisphenol-A (BPA) all along. SIGG claims they never said their bottles were BPA-free, but only that they “did not leach BPA.”

Z Recommends was one of the first blogs to break the story with their very thorough and informative post:

“Swiss sports and children’s bottle maker SIGG has admitted what many consumer advocates have suspected for years, but never proven: That the epoxy lining used for years in SIGG bottles – which they secretly swapped out for a new liner last summer – contained the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A.”

How do you know if your SIGG bottle contains BPA? According to SIGG, “all SIGG bottles made since August 2008 contain our new BPA free EcoCare liner. SIGG bottles manufactured prior to August 2008 have the former water-based epoxy liner which contains trace amounts of BPA. These bottles have been thoroughly tested and showed 0% leaching of BPA.

The photo and information below (from SIGG) should help you determine which liner you have.

New SIGG EcoCare Liner Former SIGG Liner
* Dull pale yellow coating*Special powder-based co-polyester liner certified to be 100% BPA and Phthalate Free*Utilized in the manufacturing of SIGG bottles since August 2008 * Shiny copper bronze finish*Proprietary water-based epoxy liner thoroughly tested and showed absolutely no leaching of BPA*Found in SIGG bottles manufactured prior to August 2008

EcoCare Liner:

Former Liner:

In case you didn’t just do the math, SIGG is saying they have been manufacturing bottles with the new liners since August 2008. But wait, what year is it now? Oh yeah, 2009. Which means they’ve been sitting on this information for an entire year. Ouch.

Lynn from Babble discusses the problems with bisphenol-A in her post BPA: How Bad Is It? Get ready to clean out your cabinets.

It is a type of compound called an endocrine disruptor, which means it mimics or alters the effects of a particular hormone — in this case estrogen — in your body, throwing everything out of whack. It is bad for you, and your pregnancy, and your kids, and it is, almost literally, everywhere: in baby feeding items, water bottles, soda and soup cans, PVC pipes, carbon-paper-style sales receipts, dental fixtures, the water supply, even in the goddamn air. (And probably in your body: the CDC has detected BPA in 93 percent of people 6 years old and up.)

… BPA is thought to cause disorders of the neurological, cardiac, immune, and reproductive systems, with adults, children, and developing fetuses all exposed and at risk.

To say that people are upset about SIGG’s admission would be an understatement.

Alison from Green Me feels deceived and wrote an open letter to SIGG expressing her outrage.

While pregnant I drank from my SIGG bottle 4 days per week as I had a long commute to a college campus where I did not have easy access to water. When my son was born I breastfed him and carried my SIGG bottle around with me to have water on walks and at the store. Last year, when my son turned one we got him a big boy SIGG water bottle. I would not have made any of these purchases had I known your products were lined with BPA.

I am outraged…

Cool Mom Picks feels disheartened at the news. “It’s disheartening to support a brand like SIGG for making safer, BPA-free drinking bottles for kids and adults when it turns out that nope, that wasn’t the situation at all. Or as the old saying goes, ‘we was played.'”

Miriam from Tripletly Blessed said she will take the replacement bottles from SIGG and donate them because “I have no intention of supporting a company that would blatantly mislead their consumer base.” She also plans to tell others of SIGG’s betrayal. “Yes, SIGG technically did nothing wrong. They never stated that their bottles were BPA-free. However, the manner in which they marketed themselves left many people with that impression. I’m not a lawyer but I don’t see that there is really a case here, though some are suggesting it. What I am, though, is a mom and a blabbermouth. Would you like to guess what I’ll be talking about for the next few weeks and whenever I see someone with a SIGG bottle?”

Kellie from GreenHab: The Browns Go Green is feeling disappointed. “I’m feeling kind of like I did when I found out that John Edwards cheated on his wife. It isn’t the worst thing to ever happen in this world, but I still feel really disappointed because I thought SIGG to be a genuinely green company. They say ‘never trust a politician.’ I guess we shouldn’t trust companies that claim to sell green products either.”

Despite all of this, Sonja from Girl with Greencard says she will continue to use her SIGG from the early 90s. She said she has two old SIGGs, and she’s going to keep using both of them. Why? Because “test shows BPA doesn’t leak and SIGGs are pricey and I don’t use mine on a daily basis.” She said she also has no qualms about letting her 1-year-old son drink from her old SIGG bottles either.

Jeremiah from Z Recommends said:

Whether or not you are comfortable using a bottle that contains but does not leach BPA, for us the real story here is how a company using BPA that would have been absolutely sidelined by consumers seeking BPA-free alternatives managed to make itself a central player by carefully controlling information about its products, challenging consumer advocacy organizations when they made statements that were unproven but that the company knew to be true, and “coming clean” only when it suited its own purposes.

Alicia at The Soft Landing believes it’s an issue of proprietary versus transparency. She said, “It’s not about the ‘mere presence of BPA’ or that their studies didn’t show any leaching – it’s about the principle of trust. We as parents, consumers and advocates should demand transparency from companies who build their entire foundation on being healthy and green.”

While SIGG encourages dissatisfied customers to contact their customer service department ( to trade in their old SIGG bottles for ones made with the BPA-free EcoCare liner, many bloggers would rather find more transparent companies to support. In case you are concerned about what will happen to the bottles that are turned in to SIGG, CEO Steve Wasik assured Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green that “All ‘retired’ SIGG bottles that we receive are always sent to recycling.”

Lisa from Condo Blues suggests four BPA-free water bottle alternatives.

Over at Mamanista, Candace recommends Stainless Steel BPA-free water bottles.

I also wrote a post earlier this year about several different reusable water bottles.

Lastly, Z Recommends has some additional information about possible problems with the new BPA-free SIGG liners that you should take a look at before you email to get your replacement bottle. Unfortunately, this information might turn off even more consumers.

What are your thoughts? Are you surprised? Upset? Fine with all of it? Will you trade in your old SIGG bottle for a new one or will you seek out an alternative?

I have to say the only reason I’m not fuming mad is that we never splurged to buy SIGG bottles until a few months ago when my husband Jody got one for Ava and one for himself. Thankfully, they both have the new liners. While I had been thinking about getting my own SIGG bottle in the near future, after learning all of this, I’ll stick with my BPA-free Camelbak for now, thankyouverymuch.

Related posts:
SIGG Controversy: Older SIGG Bottles Have Bisphenol A (BPA)
SIGG Bottles and BPA
Really? SIGG bottles contain BPA

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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The first day of kindergarten – Wordless Wednesday

Dress and shoes courtesy of Tar-jay (Target)

A blueberry pancake for breakfast

Landscaping Balancing rocks in backyard courtesy of my friend Julie’s neighborhood (i.e. they were free!)

A beautiful smile

Love courtesy of daddy

Kids Konserve lunch bag courtesy of Kids Konserve, SIGG bottle (the BPA-free version) courtesy of SIGG (and daddy’s paycheck) and cucumber and strawberries courtesy of our garden

BPA-free, phthalate-free, eco-friendly backpack courtesy of Eco-Gear (and mommy’s paycheck)

Another great smile

My tree-hugger in training (with her eco-friendly backpack & lunch bag) following daddy and Julian to line up for class

One last smile – You can tell she’s thinking, “That’s enough pictures, Mom!”

Ready to head in for her first day!

Want to read more about my thoughts on sending Ava to kindergarten?

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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A 5-minute healthy lunch idea: tortilla pizzas

I’ve been buying Stacy’s Organic Tortillas in bulk lately and using them primarily for making sandwich wraps. The kids love the wraps and they worked well in their camp lunches this summer and in school lunches for Ava in kindergarten. I admit I enjoy them myself as well.

However, I may have found a new use for the tortillas that I love even more than the wraps. Thanks to my friend Melissa, I am now making 5-minute tortilla pizzas! I know I said they were for lunch, but I’ve made them for dinner too on those nights I need a quick meal.

5-minute tortilla pizzas

– Tortilla (white flour, wheat flour, whatever you desire)
– Cheese (shredded mozzarella, goat cheese, soy cheese, whatever you prefer)
– Sauce (store-bought tomato sauce is easy, but so is homemade canned sauce – provided you made it prior to this, pesto works well too)
– Optional: additional toppings. I would make sure they are already cooked and don’t add too many or it could affect the quality of the pizza. Also, because the crust is very thin (it’s a tortilla after all), you don’t want to weigh it down with an overload of toppings.

Lay a tortilla on a pizza pan, cookie sheet or baking stone. (I recommend only one tortilla per pan unless two fit well. They didn’t cook as evenly when I tried to put two on one cookie sheet.)
Spread a thin layer or sauce on tortilla. (Add additional toppings if desired. Remember, don’t add much or it will weigh down your tortilla too much.)
Sprinkle with cheese. (The kids can totally help out with making these too, though that might add a little extra time to the preparation.)

Put in oven under broiler until cheese melts. This only takes a few minutes so definitely keep an eye on it.

Remove from oven, let cool, slice and serve or save to pack in a school lunch the next day.

The kids love them and so do I. Easy, peasy and oh so cheesy! ;) Thanks again, Mel!

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A mama’s thoughts on sending her daughter to kindergarten

Last Wednesday, my little girl grew up a little bit more. She went from attending a small home-based Waldorf preschool to attending kindergarten in a classroom of more than 20 children (I think there are 27) in a school of more than 400.

As I said previously, I’ve been filled with a mix of emotions with Ava starting kindergarten in “the big school.” There are some things about it I’m not fond of: like that they use hand sanitizer before lunch and snack instead of washing hands, that Ava – who is normally a social butterfly – said she was an “only lonely” at recess on Friday, the not-so-healthy snacks, that the hot lunch program is pretty much all fried, unhealthy foods, and that after two full days of school her teacher doesn’t appear to know her name yet.

I could be overreacting. I mean, I want my girl to be happy and safe and healthy, but it was only the first week of school. Perhaps once they get into their routine, hand washing will happen more regularly instead of hand sanitizing (the teacher did tell me that washing was her preference – if there’s time). And I’m sure her teacher will learn her name soon. This week they are focusing on “making and keeping friends” and maybe that will help Ava fit in a little better.

Yet, regardless of all of this, there was something about taking Ava to school that first day that just didn’t feel “right” to me. I’ve made a lot of parenting decisions in the past five years and I have to say I’ve felt peaceful about pretty much every one of them. Sure, I made some wrong choices here and there, but as for the big decisions, I’ve felt good about them. However, there was something about dropping Ava off that didn’t feel peaceful to me.

Last week I reread a post I wrote almost a year ago called Is Home Schooling Right For Us? At the time, I was leaning toward home schooling, but wanted to keep my options open. Jody and I ended up visiting a few public schools including a charter school, a regular public school and an International Baccalaureate World school (also public). We made our decision and hoped for the best. Somewhere in there the idea of home schooling got lost in the shuffle. Also, I was dealing with some heavy duty anxiety as I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder this winter and didn’t feel like I could add another thing (home schooling) to my plate.

Now here we are, a week into the school year and I’m reconsidering home schooling. There’s a great, very active home schooling community in my area and I feel like, if I wanted to pursue this, I’m in a good head space to do it now. However, I am not going to make any rash decisions. We are going to see how it goes for now. I’m going to do more research. There were a slew of helpful comments with links in my Is Home Schooling Right For Us? post and I need to read up on them. What I’d like to do is supplement a bit at home while Ava is in kindergarten and see how she responds to that and how I do with it too. If the supplemental home schooling goes well and I feel like she could learn from me and if I don’t fall in love with her school over the next several months, then we might give home schooling a try for first grade. We’ll see.

For now I’m going to try to stay positive (especially around Ava) and go to a volunteer orientation this week so I can start volunteering in the classroom and do some reconnaissance help out and see how it all works. I’ve already been emailing with the principal about the possibility of donating a Clean Well wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispenser for the classroom (by the way, I’ll be giving away some Clean Well products soon!) and to obtain the Material Safety Data Sheets (boy, are those a fun read :P) so I could take a look at what kinds of cleaning products are used in the school. I hope I’m not coming off as a pain in the ass, but rather a parent who’s concerned about the health and well-being of her child and all children in the school. The principal did encourage me to stay in touch, thanked me for my interest and said “parents like you are what make “X” the great school it is!” That last part struck me as a bit form letter-esque, but I’d like to think that she means it.

I like that I have choices and the option of changing my mind. I like that I can get involved and maybe make a positive difference. And I will keep asking my questions because knowledge is power.

I’ll be posting the rest of Ava’s first day of kindergarten pics soon. (Yes, I finally picked up my SLR again after a several month hiatus and it felt good.) :)

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Kindergarten! – Wordless Wednesday

This is one of those “not quite Wordless Wednesday” posts. ;)

I snapped this picture with my iPhone of Ava at our “meet the teacher” night Tuesday. She starts kindergarten Wednesday morning and will be going two full days and one half day each week. The first day is a full day.

I’ve been filled with a mix of emotions (excitement, nervousness, sadness, happiness, pride, and even close to a panic attack this evening) about my girl starting kindergarten and I hope to write about it soon. This new school is such a big change from what Ava’s used to (a Waldorf home-based preschool with eight kids at the most). Yet I have a lot of confidence in her ability to adapt, make friends and fit right in. She’s proven to me on so many occasions that she is fully capable.

And so, although I might have my worries, I will be strong (at least outwardly), put on my proud mama smile and let her spread her wings. After all, that’s a mama’s job, right?

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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