Sunday, August 30, 2009

Slow Sunday

It's that time of year when I feel like everyone is back in the ville and turned the frazzle meter to mock 10. No more vacations, staycations, breaks. Sign ups, disclosure statement signatures, deadlines, bills, car inspections, are all due the same day and I've somehow managed to miss the majority of them! Case in point, the "new set of markers" on the 3rd grade back to school list. "Mom, I had to borrow Joseph's marker because you're Betty and won't buy me anything with plastic!" Grrrr. What next? My mom will be calling to figure out the Thanksgiving menu?! Calgon...I mean all-natural dr. bonner's all-purpose soap... take me away, right?

If you feel like this, I recommend embracing a SLOOOOWWW Sunday. A car-free Sunday. An Earth-filled, breezy, lazy, Sunday! Ignore all the shoulds and have-tos and stressers and recharge.


Embrace the 3 P's: pause, patience, and play!

The kids and I took a picnic lunch and the Better World Beagle and went to the creek for a picnic. But this wasn't a normal nature walk. We were on a hunt. A hunt for cool nature objects to collect for our fairy house. Actually since I have two boys, we called it a Nature Landscape. We were inspired by the a man/woman artist team we met in Salt Lake City who build ginormous tree houses, including fairy furniture, out of everything they find in Nature. You can imagine me in front of their farmer's market booth, wide-eyed and ready to abandon my family right then and there and apprentice with these two magical folks.

Ours was a valiant effort for our first try, as pictured above, don'thca think? The more important part was the process of connecting to Mother Nature miraculously at play - the caterpillar we spied in our search eating a maple leaf and the surprise and excitement at Mugsy finding a snake.

Going slow, just being invites the love, the grace, and the gratitude back in to what often feels like rushing, chaotic, stressful lives.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Betty's Top Ten Back-to-School Tips!

Save money, trees, resources by using what you already have...

1- Use last year's backpack. (If you buy a heavier duty one like our favorite Land's End you will pay a bit more up front, but it will last - my 8 yr old is on his third year with the same backpack)

2-Raid your junk drawer, home office, old backpacks, etc. for pencils, pens, scissors, and markers. You may very well have many supplies already in the home.

3-Bring a reusable water bottle to school instead of disposable plastic water bottles.

4-Use last year's lunch box (not a paper sack), pack using reusable containers and a cloth napkin (voila: a zero-waste lunch)

When you purchase...

5-Buy recycled paper and pencils: just google recycled money pencils or recycled pencils and you'll find a bunch of great links. (Crayons: soy-based are your non-petroleum based option.)

6-Opt for canvas or cardboard binders, instead of the plastic ones. (Check Staples eco line, Whole Foods, Blue Ridge Eco-shop)

7-Look for TREE-FREE notebooks - i.e. made of recycled paper or sugar cane (that funny word Bruce said on the radio show)

8-Encourage others to reuse school supplies, pencils made of old/unusable money or leftover sugar cane waste are so cool your friends will want one!!

9-Make sure your classroom and school is recycling (All county schools have an extensive recycling program beginning last year)

10-If you see excess, be an advocate by asking questions, and sharing your concern and desire to see a "less is more" attitude

10+: bike, bus, or school pool ( - check their school pool list!)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Going West...

So you'll have to excuse the self-indulgent attempt below at waxing poetic about my recent (and only) summer travel. I'm no Rachel Carson or John Muir, but we just returned from Utah (a place near to my heart, having spent almost 20 years there before moving to Charlottesville 10 years ago) And I have to share!

Not many people know that Utah contains FIVE of the nation's most beautiful national parks: Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Capitol Reef. My fondest memories of growing up there include biking Slick Rock in Moab, backpacking in the High Uintah mountains, and repelling 50 ft into the Narrows in Zion National Park. Nature beckons you to play there and it's so accessible. Last year my girlfriend and I found ourselves at the base of pristine mountain lake within 15 minutes drive from the Salt Lake Valley. I believe people there may tend to take Mother Nature and her beauty for granted. I know I did.

This trip was for the Kent family reunion, so I wasn't able to soak up as much as I would have liked the red rock desert solitude, hundreds of miles from any billboard or 7-11(don't take that personally, family).

But we were able to squeeze in a tasty visit to Salt Lake City's farmer's market (above), a peaceful raft down the Provo river (minutes away from Robert Redford's Sundance) - the picture above is Bridal Veil Falls, a hike at the base of Mount Timpanogos (not pictured), and a visit to see ancient petroglyphs at Parowan Gap (last picture above).

Did you know that Utah has more Native American petroglyphs and pictographs that any other state?

And I was lucky enough to visit one of the most prolific galleries concentrated in one area: Parowan Gap. When I stared upon these rocks and looked beyond them at the horizon of desert sagebrush, I felt gratitude for being there: a witness to another being's tool for communication from centuries ago. And I longed to know more about what they were telling us. The meaning of the petroglyphs isn't fully understood - tribes, archaelogists, historians have different stories to tell. Some (the sheep) are more clear than others (stryations forming a zipperlike shape).

For me, the only certainty I left with was how connected ancient peoples were to the land. And a taste for how I can help our community be even hungrier for connection to our planet.

I thought about all of the quick and easy ways we can connect and communicate in today's world - cell phones, internet, blogs, email, FB. But to what end? Late night you tube surfing, internet shopping, quipping and out-clevering on facebook?

I'm not trying to pass judgement here. I do all of these things too. But I ask you this admist all of our quick ways we can connect to others today: How "well-connected" are you? Do you include a favorite tree, butterflies, other friends of the natural world? (The first tree I would "friend" on my FB is that amazing magnolia between Park and Rio Road!)

I like Terry Tempest Williams' wider lens: "I believe our path toward the future is as it has always been - a people in a place with a commitment to community. Staying put. Slowing down. Listening. Learning... the names of our neighbors. Which she includes the pronghorn antelope, sego lily..." If we are to live in better balance and harmony, we must include the plants, trees, animals, rivers. And "friend" them in ways that go beyond this e-venue.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Don't Bug Me

You can also read this month's article in Abode.

Not that I would know from experience (wink, wink) but if you’ve got unwanted guests like ants, mosquitoes, gnats and flies in your kitchen, there are some ways to evacuate the varmints without using hazardous pesticides.

The simple solution: sanitation. You may not want to hear this, but the best way to deter critters is having a cleaner place than your neighbor. Frequent vacuuming or mopping along with regular vinegar wipe-downs work well, along with keeping a tight lid on trash containers, compost pails and stored food items. Also, be sure to take up pet foods at night.

Alternative critter concoctions. First locate the path of entering pests, sealing any cracks or openings. Once you find the source, apply one of these eco-friendly alternatives:

• baby or talcum powder
• lemon/orange rinds
• cayenne or chili powder
• peppermint oil (or Dr. Bonner’s Peppermint Soap)

Feeling less friendly? This ant hotel recipe might do the trick. Combine 1 cup borax and 1 cup sugar water and pour over loose wads of toilet paper in a reusable jar with holes poked in the lid. Place in strategic areas and hope for a sugar-induced overdose. (Don’t use if you have young kids and pets).

Homemade flypaper. Collect unwanted winged creatures by making your own flypaper. Combine 1/4 cup of your favorite syrup with 1 Tbs. of brown sugar and 1 Tbs. of white sugar. Brush 18” strips of a recycled brown bag, dry and hang.

As for mosquitoes, citronella products are great, once you’ve eliminated any areas of standing water.

And remember: Keep your spiders around because they like their steady diet of bugs!