Mile High Mamas Night Out (with fully-clothed swimming)*

*Alternately titled: When Mamas Go Wild

On Thursday night of last week, I joined Julie, Heather and Melissa for a drive down to the Warwick Hotel in Denver where we met up with more Boulder county bloggers Nicole and Alison and a whole lot of other Mile High Mamas (and an auntie) for a night of fun.

There was lots of mingling, eating, laughing and drinking wine tasting, all while supporting a good cause. Mile High Mamas teamed up with #GNO (Girls Night Out) Mom It Forward to support Office Max’s national initiative A Day Made Better to provide one million dollars in school supplies to teachers in need. Many of us brought school supplies to donate to the cause.

I saw many familiar faces, but met some new fabulous women too (like Chris, Megan, Melitsa, and Kellie).

After the party on the patio of the Randolf Restaurant officially ended, we were invited by the hotel staff to go see the pool up on the rooftop – the only rooftop pool in Denver. I don’t know if they realized they were asking for trouble when they extended that invitation or not. ;)

Once the mamas broke into their Charlie’s Angels poses, it all went downhill from there (or rather, that’s when the fun really began). Is this not the best pic evah?!

We decided to dip our toes into the warm water which soon turned to kicking and splashing.

Photo credit: Heather

And that’s when it happened. Aimee and Jyl were the first to JUMP INTO THE POOL (fully clothed, is there any other way? Oh yes, there is. Ask Julie and Alison about that. *wink*), followed by Heather (who was celebrating being cancer-free now!! Woohoo!) and Julie. Alison went in next, then after consulting Twitter who urged me to jump, I decided to step daintily down the ladder and went into the pool myself. I was greeted with lots of splashing. :P


Photo credit: Greeblemonkey

More Charlie’s Angels and synchronized swimming ensued.

Finally, we got out and dried off (and turned back into proper ladies) and made our way down to the bar for some more chit-chat before heading home.

There’s no telling what a bunch of mamas will do when they get together. Next time, however, I’m bringing my bathing suit – just in case. Even with the heated seats (what a nice touch, Julie), that car ride home was still awfully wet! ;P

Thanks to Mile High Mamas, Amber, Barb, Jyl and the Warwick Hotel for a great night out I won’t soon forget. :)

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Urban fruit gleaning – harvesting homegrown produce for free

I’ve always been a fan of free stuff, especially when that “stuff” equals healthy food for my family. Although we aren’t struggling to put food on the table, I can still appreciate using food that would otherwise go to waste. It wasn’t until recently that I learned there is a phrase for collecting and using other people’s fruits and vegetables – it’s called urban fruit (or vegetable) gleaning.

So far this year I’ve gleaned 17 lbs. of zucchini and yellow squash, a large bowl of strawberries, a couple pounds of plums and several pounds of apples. Last year I gleaned a couple bowls of raspberries, cucumbers and enough concord grapes to make 20 jars of jelly.

Fruit and vegetable gleaning is a practice that has been going on for ages (traditionally, it is “the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest”), but it’s slowly moving into the spotlight recently as websites devoted to finding locations for giving or harvesting produce pop up across the Internet. Neighborhood Fruit, Veggie Trader and Fallen Fruit are three such sites.

  • Neighborhood Fruit allows users to both share and find fruit, vegetables and herbs, including the ability to register fruit trees on public ground or on your own property
  • Veggie Trader is “Your place to trade, buy or sell local homegrown produce”
  • Fallen Fruit – “‘Public Fruit’ is the concept behind Fallen Fruit, an activist art project which started as a mapping of all the public fruit in our neighborhood.”

You can also list your excess produce on sites like Freecycle (where I scored 17 lbs. of squash this year) or Craigslist.

Why glean fruit?
Tressa Eaton from Serious Eats says, “Urban fruit-harvesting engages a community, makes community members aware of their own local (and often organic) food resources, provides an opportunity for neighbors to meet over the boughs of fruit trees, and brings up important questions about public space. And in this economy the price is right.”

There are some “rules” or rather proper etiquette involved in urban fruit gleaning.

  • Ask for permission first – While technically any fruit that is hanging over or fallen onto public property is legal to take (according to a report done on KCRW’s Good Food), it is best to ask the owner first. Last year my brother-in-law (with eight kids to feed) had no qualms about knocking on people’s doors asking them if they were going to use all of their apples, pears, or whatever and if not, did they mind if he picked some. Most people are happy to see the fruit go to good use. Or as Granola Mama says, “If you are like me and have a fruit tree in your backyard, reaping the harvest can be both exciting, and well… a major pain in the ass.” After trying to harvest as many of her plums as she could, she called the “gleaners” to pick the rest and take to a food bank, which I will talk about more below.
  • Don’t take more than you can use
  • Be friendly and appreciative
  • Optional: take some of whatever of your finished product is (jar of jam, apple sauce, muffins, etc.) back to the person who gave you their produce. It’s a nice way to say thank you.
  • It’s also suggested that you arrive on foot, bring a friend, share your food, and say hi to strangers

Other ways to give or receive produce:
Using sites like Neighborhood Fruit or Freecycle aren’t the only way to find homegrown produce in your area. At the office where my husband works, someone recently brought in some of their excess zucchini and sent out an office-wide email to let people know where it was in case they wanted it. Others thought it was a great idea and now people are regularly bringing in their extra fruits or vegetables. Just this past weekend we stopped by the office and found several pounds of apples and plums there for the taking.

Ask friends or relatives if they have any produce to share and vice versa, let them know if you have any.

I also recommend walking or riding your bike around your neighborhood and paying attention to the trees in the yards. On a bike ride yesterday I discovered 10 apple trees (several of them just loaded with fruit) within a few blocks of my house, and a couple pear trees in my nearby park. I’d been down these streets many times before, but without really looking for the trees, I never noticed them. I hope to stop by one or two of the houses to ask about gleaning some of their fruit. I’d love to pick some for my family and then donate a few bags to the food bank which brings me to my next point.

Donating to local food banks:
Another excellent option for getting rid of your unwanted produce is to take it to your local food bank. The Society of St. Andrew “is a grassroots hunger relief ministry that relies on volunteers to glean nutritious produce from farmers’ fields and orchards after harvest and deliver it to people in need across the United States.”

A post and video on Cooking Up A Story tells of an organization that harvests produce to help out the local community.

Portland Fruit Tree Project provides a valuable service that helps communities benefit directly from local resources. Fresh fruit that grows on neighborhood trees is collected by volunteers, and dropped off at local Food Banks for distribution to those in need. The great thing about this program is that in large part, the fruit would not be harvested or eaten by anyone—if not for fruit gleaning.

Whether you glean for yourself and your family or to give to others, remember the etiquette above, feel good about all of the food you are keeping from rotting on the ground, and have fun!

Related posts:
From Sarah Gilbert at Wallet Pop: Picking the parking strips: the gleaning fruit movement
From Kim Severson at NY Times: Neighbor, Can You Spare a Plum?
From Kyeann Sayer at TreeHugger: Fallen Fruit: Free Produce on Los Angeles Streets
From Katy at Good is in the Air: Three Ways You Can Donate Food by Gleaning
From Julia at Homesteading – Mindful Living in Minnesota: Apple Picking!

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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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
Ingredients:
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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Zucchini pasta & marinara – a raw food experience

Raw zucchini pasta with raw marinara sauce
Raw zucchini pasta with raw marinara sauce

This weekend my family and I went to our first slow food potluck. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase slow food, it’s “an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.” The goal of our slow food potluck, organized by my friend Melissa and hosted by my friend Alison, was to use as many local ingredients as possible. In addition to local foods, we also had local drinks including wine, beer, mead, cider and a few flavors of homemade kombucha. I will write more about the potluck and delicious foods everyone brought later.

After reading about and seeing a picture of a Meatless Monday meal – zucchini pasta and marinara Leslie at Recycle Your Day made recently, I knew that was the dish I wanted to make for the potluck. She sent me the link to the YouTube video (produced by Larry Cook at The Beginner’s Guide to Natural Living) where she got the idea. It’s a very simple meal to make – using zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, as well as a vegetable peeler and a food processor – and it tastes delicious.

Because my garden isn’t producing much more than strawberries, cucumbers, and a few tomatoes at present, I went to the farmers’ market to get the bulk of my ingredients. I got the zucchini, tomatoes, and garlic there, had the spices at home, and got the peppers and sun-dried tomatoes at Vitamin Cottage.

I was happy to hear that everyone liked it, even those who were skeptical at first. Even my husband who’s not a big zucchini or tomato fan thought it was really good. (I’m holding him to that and planning on making it again!) :) What I found really interesting is that the pasta, which is just thinly sliced zucchini (I used my vegetable peeler to make ribbons), tastes so much like “real” pasta when you have a flavorful marinara all over it.

More on the rest of the slow foods potluck, including pics of all of the tasty dishes, later.

Related posts:

Have you written about eating local, slow foods or have a raw recipe to share? Include your link in the comments and I’ll link to you. :)

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Confessions of a first-time BlogHer attendee

My first BlogHer experience is over with and I’m left wondering how it can already be done. While at times it seemed like the weekend would never end (or rather that I would never sleep again), it also seemed to go by in a blur. I already miss the women I got to know better over the weekend – women who are more than just blogging buddies, but who are friends. I decided to compile a list of sorts with some of the things from the conference that surprised me, made me smile, had me laughing out loud, saddened me and even made me cry. Without further ado, here are my BlogHer confessions.

Once my husband and kids dropped me off at the Denver airport Thursday afternoon for my trip to BlogHer ’09 in Chicago, I didn’t really have any anxiety the whole weekend. I did take 1/2 Xanax Thursday night, but only because, after lying in bed for hours, I could not fall asleep and I was hoping it would make me tired enough to finally crash. It did.

I don’t usually dress the way I did at BlogHer. I rarely accessorize, but I wore a necklace every day I was there – sometimes two different necklaces in one day. I bought nearly everything I wore there new (or second-hand) before the trip. I definitely used BlogHer as an excuse to get myself some new duds.

Thanks to Twitter, I found another BlogHer attendee to share a cab with to the Sheraton and, during the drive, discovered we had quite a bit in common.

Annie from PhDinParenting and me
Annie from PhDinParenting and me

My roommate Annie was much taller than I expected her to be. She was also very nice, considerate and quiet as a mouse when she woke up in the morning before me.

Allie from No Time for Flash Cards, Casey from The Beautiful Letdown and Jenni from Zrecommends
Allie from No Time for Flash Cards, Casey from The Beautiful Letdown and Jenni from Zrecommends

Three of the women I hung out with the most (other than my roomie) were Jenni, Allie and Melissa, although there were so many others that I met up with for a couple seconds, to a few minutes, to several hours. In other words, way too many names/blogs to list. Just know I enjoyed meeting every single one of you. I have no complaints!

I often felt torn on who I should spend my time with. There were so many fabulous women and so many places to go and only so many hours in the day/night that it was hard to pick where to go and who to hang with.

When “they” tell you you don’t have to go to every session and you should take time to just chill and relax during the conference, believe it. The weekend, while amazing, was incredibly exhausting and I wish I would have purposefully scheduled in a nap or two.

I confess I didn’t recognize some people who introduced themselves to me. However, upon going home and seeing their Twitter avatar or going to their blog, it then clicked who they were. A-ha! I think everyone should have their Twitter avatar on their name badge. It would make identification so much easier. :)

I approached a few women thinking I knew them, but it turned out I did not. It was fine though. I’d rather say, “Hi, do I know you?” than regret never asking.

I didn’t take nearly enough pictures, but I’m happy with the ones I did take.

Katja from Skimbaco Lifestyle and me at Bowlher
Katja from Skimbaco Lifestyle and me at Bowlher

I teared up after running into Katja on the elevator and then having a chat about our past struggles with anxiety in the hallway (after she teared up). Chatting with her was one of the highlights of my trip.

I dripped “juice” from my chicken sandwich down my shirt and into my cleavage while enjoying room service on my bed Friday night. Even though my bra had dried “juice” on it, I wore it on Saturday too.

I woke up with a killer headache and threw up once twice Saturday morning and didn’t emerge from my room until noon. I don’t see how I could have been hungover (since I only drank two and a half glasses of wine the night before), but I think the combination of getting very little sleep for several days, not eating the kinds of food I’m used to, and having so much going on just all caught up with me. Thankfully, once I got a little food to stay in my belly, I was fine the rest of the time.

Sommer from Green and Clean Mom and me
Sommer from Green and Clean Mom and me

I was surprised by how much fun I had with Sommer and Jennifer Friday night. They were both a riot! I laughed so hard my face hurt.

I was kind of disappointed by some of the breakout sessions I attended. I walked out of one of them (I felt the content was seriously lacking) and felt another one I went to was rather lacking too.

Inspiring green bloggers - Maryanne from MCMilker, Beth from Fake Plastic Fish, Lisa from Condo Blues, and Lynn from Organic Mania
Inspiring green bloggers - Maryanne from MCMilker, Beth from Fake Plastic Fish, Lisa from Condo Blues, and Lynn from Organic Mania

I surprised myself by raising my hand to talk into the microphone during the Green Blogging session. Public speaking didn’t kill me! (Though it did make my heart race for a few minutes.) I hope to write more about the green blogging session (which was easily my favorite) at a later time.

I packed way more clothes than I wore, but forgot to pack my toothbrush and razor. Thankfully, the front desk had both.

I didn’t have to pump the entire weekend, but I did manually express milk a couple times. Never got engorged – thank goodness.

I didn’t make it to either of the BlogHer sponsored cocktail parties.

I watched too much HGTV on the plane ride home and have all kinds of projects in mind for myself (and ones we will need to spend good $ on) on how to stage our home for selling next year. Just what I need – more projects!

I was surprised by how excited and crazed some women seemed to get about swag (free stuff). The consumption and waste I witnessed at times throughout the weekend saddened and frustrated me.

Although I rarely drink soda (pop), I had a Pepsi at lunch on Saturday to help me recovery from my headache and upset stomach. It was one of the only things that sounded good.

I was pleasantly surprised that a few women deliberately checked in on me to see how I was doing (with my anxiety and all). I thought that was super sweet of them.

I was also surprised that The Blog Frog wanted to do a short video interview with me.

I didn’t really truly miss my kids until I was on the plane ride home. Then I missed them terribly and couldn’t get home fast enough. (For the record, Jody and the kids did great without me.)

A small piece of me hoped my 2.5 year old son Julian might forget how to nurse while I was gone. He remembered and I was honestly relieved.

Jenni from Zrecommends, me, Ivy, Steph from Adventures in Babywearing, and Tara from Feels Like Home
Jenni from Zrecommends, me, Ivy, Steph from Adventures in Babywearing, and Tara from Feels Like Home

I was surprised by how many amazing, talented, funny, inspiring, sweet, eco-conscious, adorable blogging women (including several local bloggers from Colorado) I kept running into and yet I still left the conference with a long list (in my head) of more I never got to meet. (Next year, right?)

Annie - PhDinParenting, Jenni - Zrecommends, and I on the red carpet at Bowlher
Annie - PhDinParenting, Jenni - Zrecommends, and me on the red carpet at Bowlher

Someone told me that as soon as BlogHer ended this year, I would already be looking forward to doing it all over again next year. She was right. BlogHer ’10 is in New York City (be sure to register early so you get in before it’s sold out) and I’m already planning on being there.

For those of you looking for more pictures, check out my BlogHer09 flickr stream.

Lastly, thank you sooooo much to my sponsor Stonyfield Farm and their organic Oikos Greek Yogurt for helping me with my trip expenses. I really appreciate it! (And everyone I gave an Oikos Greek Yogurt coupon to was thrilled.) :)

Edited to add: Oops! One last thing! I got so many compliments on my photo cuff bracelet at BlogHer and I wanted to tell anyone who’s interested in getting one where you can buy them – Check out Smoy.net. Wonder if I can get them to sponsor me next year. Ya think? :)

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Lookout BlogHer, here I…tiptoe (an intro to me)

BlogHer '09 In Real Life

Tomorrow afternoon I will embark on an adventure unlike any I’ve had before. I will kiss my kids and husband goodbye and travel alone (for the first time in more than five years) to the windy city of Chicago. I will arrive at the Sheraton hotel and likely not know what hit me as I join 1,500 other women bloggers for the sold-out Fifth Annual BlogHer Conference. There will be general sessions and break-out sessions, the community keynote, hugging, swag, friendships forming, more swag, networking, and more parties than you can shake a stick at.

I had been feeling really overwhelmed and anxious about it all, but honestly right now I am mostly just excited. This definitely isn’t something I do everyday and I’m excited to be a part of it all – to learn and grow as a blogger and to meet sooooo many women who, up until this point, I’ve known only virtually.

Yes, I will still be nervous and will be keeping my bottle of Xanax on hand just in case, but I am hoping I can push through the anxiety and turn it into an unforgettable experience.

Over at BlogHer, Denise recently suggested folks write a blogging primer on themselves as a pre-BlogHer get-to-know-you kind of post and here’s my go at it:

My name is Amy. I live in Colorado with my husband Jody (yes, he’s a guy) and our two kids Ava (5) and Julian (2.5). I’m currently a stay-at-home mom (hence the “Domestic” part of my blog name) and I also write as a contributing editor for BlogHer. I love finding new ways to “green” the way we live (hence the “Crunchy” party of my blog name) – from organic gardening to composting to cloth diapering to biking to using environmentally-safe non-toxic cleaners to making my own yogurt and granola (the best!) and much, much more. I like to post the occasional Green Challenge to motivate others (as well as myself) to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

I try to raise my kids using the Attachment Parenting philosophy, though I admit most of what I do is just parenting by instinct. I sometimes make mistakes though and am thankful that tomorrow is another day.

In addition to writing about parenting and eco-friendly living, I also enjoy writing about maternal health. I am a big believer in the power of a woman’s body (both to give birth and to nourish her baby) and I had my son at home with the help of my midwives.

I also consider myself an activist and most recently was involved in campaigning for Barack Obama and trying to get my city to allow backyard chickens. (I finally got the OK to get a permit!)

I grew up in an alcoholic family which is something that, after years of repressing, I am tackling head-on now. I kind of felt like I had no choice after I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at the beginning of 2009. There are a lot of things in my life I am tackling head-on now (thanks to therapy) to help myself be a mentally and emotionally healthier person.

I sometimes struggle with how much information to share on my blog. There is a lot that I want to share that I don’t feel that I can out of respect for others who are involved. However, I often find myself sharing quite a bit anyway (things about myself and my anxiety disorder) and feel comfortable doing so as long as it’s not going to harm anyone.

Anyway, I bring up the alcoholism in my family’s past because growing up in those kind of conditions definitely shaped who I am today – which is a mostly quiet, reserved person, at least until you get to know me (or I have a glass of wine *wink*). Sometimes people thing I am just being snobby or stuck-up because I don’t talk much (especially in larger groups), but I’m just shy like that. I prefer one-on-one or small group conversations to those with several people. I feel more comfortable that way.

I love to write and am also a photography nut (and did portrait photography professionally for a while), though I haven’t picked up my SLR in months. I imagine that I will get back into again someday soon. I consider myself kind of crafty, but just don’t have the time to do much. However, after Jody recently suggested I make my own business card holder for BlogHer because “it would be the ultimate crunchy thing to do,” I had to take him up on the challenge. I sewed that by hand last night with some fabric I had and I cut a button off an old shirt. ;) It’s not perfect, but, provided it doesn’t fall apart, should work just fine.

My favorite quotes are, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi (I had that printed on some stickers I will be passing out at BlogHer) and “Knowledge is power.” I try to live by both of those mottos.

I’m looking forward to meeting many of you at BlogHer (tomorrow, eeep!!!). Please remember that if I don’t immediately jump into a conversation or run up and introduce myself to you, it’s not because I’m stuck-up, I just move at my own pace (though would welcome you running up to me to introduce *yourself*). ;) If you have time, write up a “getting to know you” post of your own and then link to it over on BlogHer and leave me a comment here with the link too so I can read about you before I meet you. :)

And if you aren’t going to BlogHer (I will miss you!), but want to know what I’m up to (hiding in a corner? sneaking away for a nap? eating some Chicago-style pizza? partying with my roomie PhDinParenting?), I plan on tweeting while there so be sure to Follow me on Twitter. You can also search flickr for photos tagged “Blogher09” – maybe I’ll turn up in some. :)

Lastly, a big THANK YOU to my sponsor Stonyfield Farm for helping me with my trip expenses. If you are interested in trying some of Stonyfield Farm’s new organic Oikos Greek Yogurt, track me down at BlogHer and I’ll give you a coupon for a free container of it. :)