Plastic Straws Are the Enemy?

September 22nd, 2016

There’s a lot of iced coffee being served. And have you ever seen anyone take their own reusable straw to a coffee shop?

It typically doesn’t happen unless said person is also taking along a reusable coffee cup. And I don’t see that often either.

Image by Horia Varlan flickr

Image by Horia Varlan flickr

Is it a big deal? According to a new post at treehugger, How to banish plastic straws from your life forever, yeah, it is.

Did you know that we use 500 million plastic straws daily? That’s just in America. Read more about the numbers at the National Park Service.

Image by Dann Toliver

Image by Dann Toliver

There’s no recycling number on plastic straws either. Most people don’t recycle them. And I have to admit that I still haven’t checked with my local recycling center to see if they’re accepted.

What’s the answer? Check out the treehugger plastic straws resource to learn more about alternatives (reusable straws or even pasta straws), and catch up on the growing movement against plastic straws.

Perhaps giving up the plastic straw will be a New Year’s Resolution. Hmm?

Christmas with Terra Cotta Pots

September 21st, 2016

I didn’t make this Santa and elves, but I did take the image while leaving a restaurant last year.

Also meant to take a picture of a similar terra cotta nutcracker I’d always see on walks, but you get the idea.


While I haven’t laid eyes on terra cotta snowmen, gingerbread men, reindeer or Christmas trees,  I know you can make them too!

The truth: I’ve never made one of these. I’m a lazy admirer of the terra cotta arts. Yet, I’m also a lazy holiday decorator. It has something to do with having two cats who attack anything that can be broken.

If you’d like to tackle the terra cotta arts this year, here’s where you can go for inspiration and directions:

Snowman Candy Jar

Terra Cotta Santa and Terra Cotta Snowman

Terra Cotta Pots Wreath

Flower Pot Reindeer Bell Ornament

Before you get to work, make a pot of hot chocolate, and enjoy. Seriously, make hot chocolate, not hot cocoa. You’re celebrating the holidays, after all.


Image by Jason James flickr

Bonus inspiration: Make non-holiday themed terra cotta projects to give as gifts. Look at what you can make:

Garden Mushrooms



Wind chime

Merry making of stuff.

Five-Second Rule for Dropped Food Debunked by Researchers

September 11th, 2016

Food waste is bad, but if you drop it on the floor, do not eat it anyway.

While we’ve all heard the “five-second rule” repeated as if it’s scientific fact, it may be safer to have a zer0-second rule! Recently, researchers at Rutgers set out to determine if it’s safe to eat dropped food that’s picked up within five seconds.

Photo from flickr internets_dairy

Photo by flickr internets_dairy

It’s Complicated: Surface, Moisture and Time all Matter

If there’s any truth to the five-second rule, it’s that the longer the food is left on the contact surface, the greater the bacteria transfer. However, scientists call the five-second rule a “significant oversimplification” of what occurs when bacteria transfers from a surface to food.

Bacteria Transfer Can Happen in an Instant

Researchers found that while type of surface, moisture and contact time all contribute to contamination of food dropped on surfaces, bacteria can transfer to dropped food “instantaneously.”

Researchers noted that it’s possible for bacteria to begin its transfer to food in less than one second! So, unless you’re some type of superhero, don’t take the chance!

Photo bt flickr Barta IV, Photographer

Photo by flickr Barta IV, Photographer

Where to Find the Research on the Five-Second Rule

Read the published research at Applied and Environmental Microbiology: “Longer Contact Times Increase Cross-Contamination of Enterobacter aerogenes from Surfaces to Food.” Or read the press release: Rutgers Researchers Debunk ‘Five-Second Rule’: Eating Food off the Floor Isn’t Safe.”

Hungry for Food not Dropped on the Floor? Consider a meatless tomato and hummus sandwich. Or feast on creole red bean soup with shrimp.

Make Greener Decisions to Honor Earth Day 2016

April 21st, 2016

Earth Day, April 22, is a time to stop and think. To mark Earth Day, you don’t have to go to any official event, though you can! But what’s really important is that you consider how your decisions affect the earth.

I’ve listed some ideas to help you make more earth-friendly decisions in 2016 and beyond. There’s a bonus fun cat picture if you make it to the end of this post.


Eat fruit instead of packaged snacks.

Apples, bananas, etc. They taste better than you remember! I know it’s tempting to reach for those convenient plastic-wrapped snack bars that likely have chocolate in them. But think about your health. Think about all that packaging. Eat fruit as a side dish, as part of breakfast, or as a afternoon snack.

Image converted using ifftoany

Repair when you can. 

So, sometimes it makes sense to buy a newer, more energy-efficient appliance or car. But, often we rush to buy a whole thing when repairing the old is actually a better choice. And when you see an estate-sale find that needs some love, don’t be afraid to have it fixed. If you don’t have the skills, others do.

Here’s one example: Your recliner is looking so gross. The underlying frame is fine. It still reclines, but the fabric is worn and the padding has shifted in all the wrong places. Do you toss it?

If you’ve invested in a good quality piece of furniture, repair is usually an option. Just get on yelp or call your local fabric store and ask for a recommendation for an upholstery repair person. They do keep such lists…

When you repair, you’re helping a local small business and also saving yourself money. Think about other things you can repair: clothing, shoes, decorative pillows, stuffed animals, window treatments, and lots of other google-worthy things.

When you buy, think into the future. 

eifflel-tower-rainLike, go deep into the future. Will this item fit into your lifestyle in a year? Does buying it prevent you from achieving any long-term goals? Just as you read ingredient labels for food, think carefully about each thing you accumulate, especially if downsizing is anywhere in your future.

Here’s an example. Your dream (long-term goal) is to travel the world for a year. Think carefully about every single item you buy. Is that belonging worth placing in self-storage? Is there another way to solve your problem? Will purchasing it take too many funds away from your savings for travel? Is it something you can borrow or rent instead?

Traveling the world for a year may sound like an extreme example, but the goal is to be honest with yourself. Don’t allow stuff to get in the way of your dreams! Buy only the things you really need, and save your cash for what matters in life. That’s earth-friendly and people-friendly advice.

Recycle. Why aren’t you recycling? Give me a really good reason. I’m waiting. Here’s a cat in a basket image to look at while you try to come up with a good reason not to recycle. He got in there on his own. Don’t worry.

Once you form the recycling habit, it’s so hard to break. That’s good, because that means it’s easy! If you’re not already recycling, start and you’ll be amazed at how your level of trash declines. So, recycling saves you money on trash bags.

Plus, if you have kids, they will admire you for recycling, and for teaching them to recycle.

Have a great Earth Day 2016. Think about it!

Easy, Cheap Solution for Dog Food Mats

January 31st, 2016

After my dog first crossed the threshold into our lives, I bought one of those terrible silicone food mats with a bone design on it. It always had a weird white film, even after you cleaned it. Then, for a while, I just didn’t use a mat, but I was always cleaning up splashed water on the floor.


Use a Simple Everyday Little Rug

So, finally I decided to open up my linen closet and use a cloth mat that I already had but never used. It didn’t have a dog design, but that was OK. It can be machine washed too. If you don’t already have a simple mat like this, you can easily obtain one of these ubiquitous things at a garage sale or the clearance rack at a home store.

Note: This is in an area where I don’t walk. If you’re going to walk around the area where you’re placing your dog’s food and water bowls, you may want a mat with a slip-proof backing.

Reuse Ignored Dog Toys… for Decoration

My brilliant dog improved upon it. She loves to move her toys about the house, but she pretty much always ignored the Nylabone I had given her as a puppy.

A few months ago she decided to move said Nylabone to the mat right beside her water bowl. And she never moved it again. I thought it was cute, and decorative, and I’ve left it there.

So, the moral of this story is that if you have an ignored dog toy, use it to decorate your doggy mat. You don’t have to worry about the dog moving it. Speaking of, here she is in 2014.


Sweet and Simple and Cheap (Not the Dog, Well, Maybe)

The plain rug graced with a dog toy is so much cuter than a loud dog mat with random dog faces or “bow wow” written all over it. Who designs those things? It’s subtle, unlike my dog when she wants a walk. And it didn’t cost me anything. I just used things that were hanging around, waiting to be purposeful.

Oh, and you may be wondering where her food bowl is located. In our house, the two cats gather to be fed near the laundry room where I keep their food. So, this is also where the dog waits to be fed. (She has to do everything they do.) So, I just place her food bowl on an area rug near the laundry room, and the bowl is empty in two minutes! However, she prefers her water bowl in the kitchen.

What do you use under your dog’s bowls?

Your Disposable Cake Dome Isn’t So Useless

January 31st, 2016

I’m a baker, but I know not everyone is. Those plastic cake domes are a thing. Cakes get sold from grocery stores. I get it. But is there something more to the modest plastic cake container?

Perhaps! All cleaned up, could it be used for storage or packaging? One vendor at my local antique mall thought so. Check it out.


I spied this plastic cake dome reuse in September, but it took me this long to share. Forgive.

Why I love this.

What really caught my eye most about this? The wooden Christmas ornaments. Oh, nostalgia. My favorite childhood Christmas ornament was a wooden snowman driving a stagecoach covered in red gingham fabric with a wreath on the side.

Leave the pesky sticker on already.

Here’s another view of this plastic cake container reuse idea. You can see the Kroger sticker still on there! No need to pretend it’s not a cake dome.


Disposable cake dome, thy name is handy!

The vendor was offering this whole cake dome of charming vintage wooden Christmas ornaments for something like $20. I didn’t bite. My two adorable cats make Christmas trees too difficult a task to muster. Bet they would like that bird too.

How should you reuse a plastic cake container?

Whatever you’re nostalgic about and can’t find a proper container to house, think about your humble plastic cake dome. Or, maybe save those domes for an antiques dealer, if you know one. Or.. glue a handle on the top and use the lid to cover food for picnics.

Do you have other reuse ideas for the sweet, the meek plastic cake dome?

It’s Alive. Grizzly: The Bears of Greater Yellowstone

October 2nd, 2015

No, you wouldn’t want the long-clawed yet adorable grizzly in your living room, but now you can have the next best thing!




Grizzly: The Bears of Greater Yellowstone is the culmination of 10 years of work, and it’s one of the most timely books to be published this year.

The bears almost became extinct due to logging, mining and poaching in the area in the 1970s. The Endangered Species Act saved the grizzlies, but they’re once again facing a threat from us.



 © Thomas D. Mangelsen


Believe it or not (I had trouble believing it!), grizzly bears may lose their federal protection. It may soon be legal to pursue them in trophy hunts right here in the United States.

Are you shocked? Read more about the status of grizzly bears at the NPS. Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.


Grizzly 610 and cubs walking along Pacific Creek Road.

Grizzly 610 and cubs walking along Pacific Creek Road.

 © Thomas D. Mangelsen


More about Grizzly: The Bears of Greater Yellowstone

This monograph is not only a great gift for the nature lover in your life, it also has all this:

  • The book honors and follows the most famous family of grizzly bears on this planet—matriarch 399 and her adorable offspring as they roam the Greater Yellowstone Park and the Rockies
  • More than 150 crisp and lovely (see for yourself in this post!) images from nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen, who tracked and photographed the bears for 10 years
  • A dramatic story of the near annihilation and ultimate survival of grizzly bears told by environmental writer Todd Wilkinson
  • Life-and-death stories, including those focusing on the relationship between people and grizzly bears
  • Forward by Ted Turner, whose foundations work for our safer, healthier future by addressing wildlife conservation, and other causes
  • High-quality 13” x 10 ½” hardcover that spans 240 pages with a nice cover hiding behind that also-nice dust jacket (What I’m saying here is that it will look good in your house, or inside a reusable gift bag)


Grizzly 399 and her three cubs cross Buffalo Fork in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Grizzly 399 and her three cubs cross Buffalo Fork in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

 © Thomas D. Mangelsen


This book will be released by Rizzoli on October 13, 2015. Follow the Rizzoli link, and you can find out where to buy the book locally or online.


Grizzly Bear 399 and cubs walking over snow-covered sagebrush in Grand Teton National Park.

Grizzly Bear 399 and cubs walking over snow-covered sagebrush in Grand Teton National Park.

 © Thomas D. Mangelsen


Let’s close with what Tom Brokaw had to say:

Tom Mangelsen is a photographic genius at bringing nature’s greatest creatures into our lives—and his work with the magnificent grizzly bears of the American West is a gift for all generations. We have grizzly visitors in Montana—usually a mama and a pair of cubs—and their presence stirs the soul for they are the essence of wild. Tom’s photographs and Todd Wilkinson’s narrative capture all of that without the need to find an escape route!” —Tom Brokaw


© Thomas D. Mangelsen

Would Automatic Voter Registration Be Greener?

August 20th, 2015

The upcoming election year hovers above us like smog. Maybe that is bleak-think, but apparently many people don’t like elections much. Just look at low voter turnout rates.

I’m excited that I no longer have cable and will be spared the never-ending negativity/sense of doom encased in most political commercials.

Image by flickr.biofriendly

Image by flickr.biofriendly

Right now, around a quarter of Americans eligible to vote haven’t bothered registering. But one might ask: If voting is a right, then why do you have to register?

In fact, many politicians have been asking that question. Well, at least democrats have been asking it. So, now I’m asking you these questions:

  1. Would automatic registration increase voter turnout? Take a wild guess.
  2. Have you ever wanted to vote in the past, but couldn’t because you didn’t register?
  3. Would everyone be mailed voter registration cards, or would an ID suffice, saving paper and money?
  4. Would automatic registration encourage voters who are concerned with the environment to show up to vote?
  5. If automatic registration became the law all across the U.S., would anyone really want to opt-out of that process? (If so, please explain why!)

Don’t leave me hanging. I really want to know the answers to these questions.

How to Get Cats to Drink More Water

May 29th, 2015

Do you also struggle with an elusive water drinker? For years, I filled my cat’s little water bowl. I never saw him drink from it, but I refreshed it anyway.

After an emergency room visit for a bladder problem years ago, I  had to make sure he got plenty of wet food. I think this was his plan, but that’s another story. So, now I see my kitty cat of 12 years drinking water all the time. You know what changed?



The Solution: A Dog Bowl

My cat started drinking out of the large stainless steel water bowl belonging to my 70-pound dog.

No, he doesn’t like dog-slobbered water, but he’s commandeered the dog’s second water bowl. The dog learned to make do with one water bowl at most times.

I think my cat likes the dog’s bowl because it’s large. But the stainless steel bowl is great because it’s easy to clean, and healthier than plastic. And it’s unbreakable!

Cheap and Easy Alternative to Pet Fountains

So, if you’re considering spending a lot of money on one of those fancy plastic motorized contraptions (cat fountains) that require tedious cleaning and replacement filters (I hear, but I’ve never had one), don’t do it. Get a big pan of water instead!

You can buy a nice steel water bowl designed for large dogs for about $10. I would recommend against getting one with a rubber bottom, as those have more of an odor. Place the bowl on a mat to prevent skidding.

Do it! And watch your kitty drink at last. But still give him wet food. Cats rule, and they deserve to eat like royalty. Of course, cats have distinct personalities, and you’ll never know for sure if this will work until you give it a try!

Appreciate the Kitty Kiss

February 13th, 2015