Sustainability: An Essay by Organic Needle

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, family

Can you tell I was an English teacher? Probably not by my misspellings and dangling modifiers, but…even English teachers aren’t perfect. Closest thing you’ll ever find…but not quite. Anyway…the APLS crew has given its first assignment and as the good little Lisa Simpson that I am…I have done my homework.

Sustainability…A Journey to a Joyful Life

Saying that I have been on a journey to “green” my life feels a little insufficient to me. The actual environmental part of the quest has kind of been a byproduct more than anything else. For me the journey is more about reaching deeper levels of sustainable happiness. A happiness that is NOT reliant on the trappings but on feeling fully satisfied with my role as parent, partner, sibling, friend, neighbor, and general Earth dweller. The secret to my happiness? Easy…connections. Being truly connected to the people and experiences in life is my definition of joy.

The journey certainly isn’t a straight forward path. I find myself often thinking of time past spent as a child with my grandparents who made everything from scratch, not because they were “green” or poor but because it was just foolish to waste anything and enjoyable to create…period. (Besides, Norwegian whaling villages don’t exactly have Targets. Well, sadly, maybe they do now.) They made their own clothes, soups, soaps, furniture, preserves, wine, even soda. My grandfather even built their house and my parents’ first house. They gardened extensively even though they both worked, she as a seamstress and designer, he as a carpenter and lodge owner. As a child I had no idea what a tremendous education they were providing me. But it certainly wasn’t lost on my obliviousness. Whenever I am having a “how to” issue I have a wealth of memories to draw upon. And the beautiful thing is the “how to” doesn’t come alone…it comes with a deep felt connection to people and places of the past that I can carry in my heart forever. And with the skills learned and stories to tell I can bring my boys into that world too.

For me it is also about being connected to the present and to what we DO. Baking bread with my kids is a whole different experience than buying a loaf at the store. The miracle of yeast isn’t lost on them. Planting, caring for, and harvesting our own basil is a true experience, verses tossing a plastic tub of it in the shopping cart. When my husband explains to them about how over plucking the plant won’t allow it to flourish he is teaching much more than general horticulture. Spending afternoons strolling through the Botanical Gardens, talking, playing, just enjoying each other’s enjoyment of nature and life beats any day spent in front of the TV. In these moments it is as if doors of my heart that I didn’t even know existed are bursting open.

And now that I am a mother, enjoying a rounded full and happy life is more important than ever. I don’t want to make my kids happy…I want to teach them how to be happy. How to find the joy that comes from really experiencing all of life. While many of the ways we have found to connect to our past and to our present will hopefully lead to a more sustainable & healthier future on this planet, it hasn’t been my main motive. For me, it has been about not wasting any opportunities for the priceless pure joy of it all.



CSA Update: My New Friend Purslane

Posted by organicneedle in csa, CSA/ Local Food


Meet my little friend Purslane. Not much to look at, but darn tasty and apparently quite the little power hitter. Loaded with Omega-3s. I will say my new friend, although good for me, is a tad high maintenance. It took me about 20 minutes just to pluck the leaves off. It took the boys about 20 seconds to devour the harvest. But they LOVED them. (Yes…they defy then laws of toddlerdom each and every day with their veggie freakitude, but they’re my little freaks.)

Also included this week:

Red Gold Potatoes…creamy and delicious, chives, carrots, cucumbers, 1 lone tomato, more, yes more zucchini, an eggplant, mystery peppers, a big bag of apricots and one bag of peaches

*The positive…besides meeting a new little green friend, is that this is the first week I can remember in the history of the world that we ate entirely local fruit. Up until now we have been getting a few pints of berries that are lucky if they see the inside of our fridge, let alone feed us for the week. I have had to ration the fruit to 4 pieces a day per kid to make it last the week, but it looks like we have had our first local/seaonal fruit week. Taaadaaaaaa.

* The negative…can’t say the same for veggies. Potatoes…delicious but a starch. Eggplant same deal. Zucchini goes straight to freezer. Carrots and cucumbers go in the snack category. Chives…garnish/enhancer. Tomato…baby is allergic and big brother won’t eat as an act of solidarity. That leaves me with the green peppers which may be hot or sweet. I will definitely eat everything that came but will need to supplement the green zone. Oh…wait..I still have swiss chard from last week. Won’t the kids be thrilled.



Organicizing my Tea : Organic Oolong

Posted by organicneedle in product review

Since “giving up” the evil juice I have been drinking more tea than ever. (Now…I haven’t totally kicked the monkey off yet…but I did stop buying it and having it in the house which has cut consumption by about 95%. Not shabby.) Enough about my inability to do anything whole hog, on to the tea. Now that my tea consumption is insane and the boys want in on some herbal action, I decided to explore the pesticide free zone. First up. Oolong…China Organic Oolong Restaurant Style Tea. teaIf you aren’t familiar with oolong, it is a very deep woodsy earthy tea…not anything like English style teas. I find it very palette cleansing, but depending on the brew strength it can be a bit barky. Well…this organic version tasted exactly like any other oolong I’ve ever had. The name says it all…Chinese Restaurant Tea…which I like …so…I like the tea. Just a warning…it is really easy to overbrew this one and have it go from refreshing to forest floor in about a nanosecond. I really like it as iced tea too.

*All teas were ordered from Tealuxe. I have been using them for about half a decade now and have received nothing but great products and customer service. (No…they do not send me free tea to say so…although they certainly could if they wanted to…hint hint…Tealuxe.) Orders often show up within 2 days. Free shipping with $50 purchase. Plus they offer samples of most teas for $1-2. So it is perfect for the newbie trying to figure out what he/she likes and your average tea freak. Most teas come in little brown bags or tin containers for larger amounts. The bags are lined with either wax or plastic so not sure about their recyclability. (They are really cute so I end up reusing them as snack bags.) Tealuxe has stores too, if you want to avoid the bags and bring your own containers. They get no points for selling a local product…but ..hey…it’s tea people. Relax, will ya, and have a cup of tea.



Single Tea Bag Reviews: My Test Piggies Have Spoken

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, organic cotton, organicneedle, organicneedle bags, product review, projects, sewing

My Single Tea Bag with Tagua Nut Tag inspectors have spoken.inspector Great feedback guys. Now I was hoping all of you would write me telling me how your lives have been forever changed; you are making more money, your teeth and eyes are shinier, your neighbors no longer scurry away when they see you coming etc. etc. But I guess I will settle for…they brew tea without exploding. There is definitely some tweaking that needs to take place.

Allie’s Review:

I’ve been using the tea bag you sent and LOVING it!

I thought it might leave a lingering taste in the tea, but it didn’t seem to at all. I think my metal grabby tea spoon thingy actually alters the taste of the tea more. It’s easy to clean out — actually easier than the metal steeper, because the tea doesn’t get stuck in the holes at all. I just rinse it and hang it out. It gets doused with boiling water every time it’s used, so I figure that keeps it clean and sanitary. Some tea got caught in the corners, but it wasn’t hard to get it loose.

The weight works nicely and is so attractive.

The first time I used it, there were a few threads that found their way into my tea (from the fabric, not sewing thread), but hey, extra fiber! And it didn’t happen with following uses.

I drink tea that has fairly large leaves. I’m not sure if a finer tea would fall through, but if it would, it would on my metal steeper as well. I’m guessing if you drink fine tea you’re used to a little silt at the bottom of the cup.

1) The mesh fabric can fray along the seam. I have ways of dealing with such disobedient threads…don’t you worry.

2) Excellent point about gunpowder teas seeping through. (For you non tea drinkers…gun powder is not actually made from ammunition.) As a big leaf gal myself, I forgot about that. I will definitely put a note explaining that in the description on Etsy. But like you mentioned…the holes are finer than a tea ball…so….

Joilie’s Review:

I like it a lot. The only possible room for improvement I can see is that it sometimes comes open when I don’t want it to. Maybe I’m not cinching or tying the top tight enough? I love the shell/bead thingy!

Excellent observation. I originally intended for it to be tied by looping the nut through the string but thought that might be a pain to do and undo. However, that would totally prevent the escaping of the tea. I could either go with the original tying idea and include a handy-dandy diagram…or maybe a bead. If I put a bead on the 2 strings together it could be slid up and act like cinch. I will have to think about this one. It would have to be a natural material and not take away from the simplicity of the design and not actually poison my customers. I find 9 out of 10 tea drinkers DON’T enjoy being poisoned. I do my research.

Arduous Review:

I tried the tea bag and it seems to work pretty well. I guess I’d have to try it a little longer to see how it works after a week’s worth of uses etc.

The only thing I’d ask is there a way to have the bag opening a little bigger? It’s a little small for a normal sized spoon so it’s a leetle difficult to get the tea in there.

But the bag is very pretty and seems to work quite well with the tea brewing.

I could change the dimensions to make the top wider by 1/2 an inch or so. That would definately mean adding some sort of closing bead or creating clear instructions on how to loop the nut…(oh lord who will show up on mint now)…which would increase difficulty of use.

You gals gave me a lot to work with . Thank you for all of your hard tea drinking efforts. Since you all did such a great job I’m going to get you a bigger wheel for your cage!




Why Yes…I am Peppermint Scented from Head to Toe: Burt’s Peppermint Shower Soap Review

Posted by organicneedle in green cleaning, plastic, product review

But….why are you sniffing my toes Strange Man on subway? A few months back we discovered the very cool Burt’s Bees Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar . Well…it has completely replaced the big ol’ plastic shampoo bottle in our house with surprisingly no complaints from the family, unlike my recent dental care swaps. (Yes, my husband actually took the time to go out and buy his own tube of Colgate. Some husbands cheat, gamble, dress up like Cher. Mine squirrels away conventional toiletries. Such a bad ass, no?) Yes, yes, there is an actual review coming. soap Loooove it. I smell minty. And it has little gritty bits to buff… everything. At $4.89 a bar it is not the cheapest…but not insane. Packaging couldn’t be better: paper box with NO plastic wrapper inside or out. The only real problem is that it is exactly the same color as my shampoo bar. After a few washes the carved letters indicating which is which go bye bye. I’m sure I will be able to think of some complicated system for keeping them straight- like two separate soap dishes. Certainly don’t want to be washing my head with my hiney soap. Although…now they are equally as minty.



Just in Case You Needed More Motivation to Climb Out of the Gap

Posted by organicneedle in Gap Ban, random rants

Gee…I’d like my stuff to be made more locally…but this isn’t what I had in mind. Read all about our local sweatshop. Sponsored by You-Know-Who. sweatshop



Product Review: Tom’s Whole Care Peppermint Toothpaste

Posted by organicneedle in family, product review

It actually doesn’t taste like potpourri or camel butt. Imagine that. My husband still isn’t convinced it will work as well as the Colgate Total, our usual brand. Both claim to whiten, reduce tarter, & prevent cavities. Tom’s makes no gingivitis claims, as does Colgate, but I like to live dangerously. (FYI…if he ends up having a case of gingivitis at his next cleaning appointment I may need a place to crash for a few days.)tomsPrice wise it is about the same…around $4.50 a tube. I switched the kids over to the Tom’s Mango awhile back and they seem content and still seem to have the power to bite one another at the speed of light. Packaging is a mixed thing. Tom’s comes in a paper box, as does Colgate. Tom’s tube, however, can be recycled with metals and Colgate cannot. But…the metal tubes seem to split…and have sharp edges when they do. Anyone else have this problem…or is it just me that lacks the skills and coordination to load a child’s toothbrush properly without severing a finger?



Just for the Record…Buying a Shirt, Wearing It, Stinking It Up, and Returning It Is Not, I Repeat NOT a Method of Consumer Reduction. So Knock It Off Stinkpit!

Posted by organicneedle in random rants, recycling

If you are looking for designs, chat about greening the house, or just delightful banter of any kind…today is not your day. Pure 100% rant day. Over the weekend I was granted a few precious hours to shop…by myself…for a few dressier outfits for my upcoming vacation. Something really fancy…like with no snot or peanut butter streaks. Now my choices are fairly limited by my Ban on the Gap and a rather short shopping attention span. (Yeah, the ban is STILL on baby!) I like Ann Taylor. They have a lot of petites that still look like adult clothes and, in general, I find their clothes hold up pretty well both in style and construction. (Plus wooden hangers :).) Background story: awhile back I bought a nice little top at the same store. Brought it home. Thought about how cute I looked for a few hours. Tried it on with some pants and suddenly caught a whiff of foul play. The shirt was preBOed! Uggggggg. Not normal human BO either…swampthing level BO. The kind of BO that makes you beg for the sweet smell of a potato so rotten it has liquified. But it was REALLY cute so I soldiered on and washed it with my crappy eco detergent…twice. Life continued. (I have yet to find an eco detergent that actually cleans…but that is for a whole other rant day.) armpitNow flash forward to this weekends outing…found a couple of cute shirts on the sale rack. My size and a good price. Versatile. Perfect. But oh no…the smell. The same wretched BO. Some woman in my neighborhood, the same size, with the same obvious good taste is buying my potential clothes stinking them up and returning them! SO NOT COOL STINKPIT! Despite whatever stink haze has permeated your brain & caused you to believe this is a valid way of reducing your consumer goods tally…it is so not OKAY. Watch out…I’ll be sniffing for you.



Green Power? I Just Can’t Buy It

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, energy, random rants

Now…I love Burbanmom. She is like my little blogspiration in a can. When she started her new challenge…I said sure sign me up. Laundry…yes I had already thrown in the towel on account of NYC mugginess…but out of love for her I did manage to smuggle all my sheets and blankets upstate for a dance in this neat thing they have up there called wind. Grass eating cows…not a beef eater…so sailed through that one. Compost…you all know my worms well. But her energy source switch challenge has got me in a pickle. Here’s the deal…my energy company is EEEEEEEEEEVIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLL. Seriously…ConEd has actually killed people and their dogs.

And their Green Power program is a little too wishy washy for me. Well…more like a joke. They say they use the extra money paid for green energy to “create a market for green energy.” WTF? Yes…they could use the extra money to create new wind or hydro powered grids. Yes…they could. I could also paint myself green and change my name to Super Pickle. I guess they just don’t want to bother customers with the pesky details of exactly where each nickel is going. I just pay the extra money and they will figure out how to handle it. I don’t need to worry my sweet pretty little self about it. Well…I’m the kinda gal who wants to know whose wasting my money…besides me.mean green
Actual Photo taken at Con Ed Meeting

Ummmmmm. So to summerize…I’m suppose to trust the company whose CEO gave himself a 24% raise and is about to raise NYC’s rates 22% to use my extra money to buy green “credits.” The same company that was responsible for a 9 day blackout that wiped out 1/2 the small businesses in Astoria and said they didn’t have enough money to actually pay for their mistake. (They offered businesses $7,000. 9 days of no business plus ruined inventory. Most businesses were out 10s of thousands and many more were just plain OUT.) Oh…and this is also the same company that blew someone up last year. Pick, pick, pick.

I don’t know Burbarino…I just don’t know if I can do this one. I would feel better donating money to a company that had a clear cut energy plan than to trust that my corrupt monopoly of a zapper is going to do anything but pay out lawsuits or stuff their little fat pants with it. How about I just promise not to buy each of my worms personal air conditioners? See…I can sacrifice too.



Freezing My Niblets Off For Winter

Posted by organicneedle in csa, CSA/ Local Food, projects

I’ve aways lived a slightly crunchier than average life (hippie parents)…nothing extreme. Grew up not wasting stuff or energy, buying used, recycling, eating primarily grains and veggies, etc. etc. (Isn’t it funny how “greenness” comes hand in hand with being poor?)The basics were there…just needed fine tuning. However, the whole local eating thing is fairly new to me and a wee bit of a challenge. My mother was taught to cook by her Mexican stepmother and she in turn taught my brothers and I to love the flavors with a passion. (Hence my insane avocado addiction. Blame her.) Also…my childhood was heavily influenced by the flavors of Norway and Poland. Now I’m married to an Italian. And all these cultures demand a voice in my cooking…and don’t care that the ingredients can’t necessarily be grown locally. Now…whereas I am not willing to give up my little green creamy pods of joy or smoked fish, nor my husband his olive oil and “real” pasta, I can’t say Omnivore’s Dilemma was completely wasted on me.


Even with the best of intentions, I do have a major issue though. NYC is not the easiest to go local. Especially year round. This summer we have made huge strides with the CSA. My out-of-area produce list has been reduced to lemons, bananas, and creamy pods of joy, and apples, which do grow here but not organically….but more rant on that later in the week. But come November we are done with the sweet ride. (Yeah, yeah, CA…stop shaking your winter tomatoes in my face. I know all about your extended growing season.) So will I just give up over the winter? Well, probably…but not without a half-assed attempt at goodness. I’m going to let some summer goodies spend some time with my buddy Bumble. I’ll be freezing zucchini, carrots, rhubarb, & corn. (Maybe berries if I can stop piling them into my trap before they even get out of the CSA box.) What else is easy to freeze? I mean easy. Like a cat could do it if you drew detailed enough pictures easy. And not a very bright cat. With a touch of narcolepsy. And perhaps a missing toe.