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5 Thing Friday

11 Apr

All week I’ve been reading about cool things and this is where I dump them:

1.  Beers Of The Burgh Festival – This weekend is the inaugural Beers of the Burgh Festival, which will be held in Lawrenceville and showcases over 30 local craft brewers.  General admission is sold out, but you can still purchase VIP tickets!

 

2.  40 Towns Create Land Bank – I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS FOR A LONG TIME.  Finally.  Finally some action on blighted properties in my community.  If you aren’t aware of what happens when a region is dependent on a single industry (ahem, steel) and then all the industry packs up and leaves:  blight.  Empty, rotting houses and overgrown brush in abandoned lots, riddled with garbage.  An analysis done by local municipalities found that:

“20,077 vacant lots and 7,158 parcels with blighted structures that cost local governments more than $10.7 million a year in direct municipal services, such as police, fire and code enforcement. They also account for nearly $8.7 million in lost annual tax revenue. But the biggest drain was on neighboring non-blighted properties, which the report found suffered a total loss of between $218 million and $247 million in property values.”

Some Pittsburgh neighborhoods were hit harder than others, but the creation of this land bank is huge!  To me, it may mean that we are finally able to combat blight and attract a more stable tax base to effected areas.  Some people oppose these types of strategies because it gives government control over private property.  I, on the other hand, stare at abandoned buildings all day long.  In my opinion, if you aren’t able or willing to fix up your janky property then you shouldn’t have it to begin with.  The boroughs’ hands are tied because the properties ultimately belong to someone – and many times those people can’t be found or don’t want to be found.  The borough has to deal with the problems associated with the property but can’t actually do anything about it.  A land bank would allow municipalities to generate tax income, sell properties, attract new property developers, and to improve the overall aesthetic of a neighborhood.    That is HUGE for boroughs like Homestead and Braddock.

 

3.  16 Ways To Kick Plastic – This is a quick read but it’s got some great ideas on how to use less plastic.  My 2 favorite ones are: 1) Just say no to disposable straws, carry a few BPA-free reusable ones with you 2) Bring your own doggy-bag container when you go to a restaurant.

 

4.  Cyclocable Bike Lifts In Pittsburgh?! – This is basically exactly what I need to become an avid adequate let’s just go with cyclist.  If it’s good enough for Norway, it’s good enough for me.  DON’T JUDGE ME PEOPLE.  THOSE HILLS ARE NO JOKE.  Somehow I doubt that even Bill Peduto could make this one happen.

 

5.  Check out this list of 42 Flowers You Can Eat…I can’t see myself throwing chrysanthimums on my salad but hey the list also includes herbs and spices.  If I’m every stranded in the wilderness somewhere (LIKE FRICK PARK because my God I get all turned around on those trails), I will be able to survive.  Or maybe someday I will be go all rogue with my cooking and makes virgin tear soup with hibiscus garnish.  Ew.

 

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Service For The Soul

10 Apr

Each year, April brings quite a few things back into my life.  Things like rain and the promise of green things to follow, fresh air, BASEBALL, racing season, and tons of other stuff mostly having to do with being outside.  I prefer the transitional seasons, but spring is the most inspirational because the world is starting to wake up.  Things are starting to peek out of the soil.  Green leaves and small buds are starting to appear on bushes and trees.  The sun remembers that it can provide heat and not just light.  To me, April is like taking a big deep breath of fresh air for the first time in months.

Spring-Flowers-Phipps

As I stared at my calender the other day, I realized that there is one thing significantly lacking from my life:  service.  I’ve volunteered for as long as I can remember: candy striping in high school and even more in college, where I was involved in about a dozen organizations.  It was an easy way to find spiritual and emotional gratification, probably because it was so accessible.  On a college campus, organizations basically recruit free labor every day so I rarely had to look far for a great cause.  Since graduating from school, my priorities have shifted.  Now, much of my expended energy is self-serving.  All day is focused on myself, my home, my relationship, my business, me, me, me.

Yesterday, I registered to volunteer with REI in South Side for Earth Day and that got me thinking all the other non-profits in the ‘burgh.  After a few clicks, I was able to sign up for a few other service days with different organizations.  I’m excited to network and meet some eco- and community-minded people while making my city a better place AND I’m excited to report back to you guys!

If you are planning ahead for some family-friendly Earth Day celebrations in Pittsburgh, I highly recommend checking out:

Earth Day 2014 w/ Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy & Frick Environmental Center

Wild Earth Day @ Pgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium


How do you celebrate Earth Day?

If you’d like me to promote your Earth Day activity, just shoot me a comment!

Easter + Waste Management

2 Apr

I’m officially another year older – the big 2-9.  Needless to say, I see many more 29th birthdays in my future.  I plan on staying this age for…ever.  🙂  My birthday happened to fall on Easter this year, and since I share a birthday with my now 15 year old sister (eeeek!), we decided to get a little more creative than usual with the birthday cake:

Bunny Cake

I adore this cake.  It broke my heart a little to cut into it and end its cute streak, but it was so worth it.  My sister has an artistic streak, so sculpting the fondant was right up her alley.  She was assisted by her little friend (whom she now refers to as her boyfriend) and Brother (because Brother Bakes, duh!).  It was a low key holiday, which I appreciate.  We normally spend our holidays running between 2-3 different places, so it was relaxing just to go to one place and enjoy a meal and then go home!  Also, please take note of my trashtastic, unflattering birthday attire:

BirthdayGals

While this is un-birthday related, we bought a garbage disposal and she♥ is  installing it.  The timing is too good to pass up, so I am telling everyone I got a garbage disposal for my birthday!  Many people claim that garbage disposals have negative effects on the environment, so I did a little bit of research.

Garbagedisposal

There are pros and cons for garbage disposals, much like every other consumer choice and I believe that you should always do your research and make an informed decision.  That’s really what sustainability is all about – thinking about how each aspect of each choice affects systems.

Pros: 
Less garbage is trucked to landfills each year.
Rotting food waste at landfills creates methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas.  Diverting some of that waste can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Most water treatment plants are equipped to handle small scraps.
Some wastewater treatment facilities are now equipped to capture biogases (like methane) for energy.
Garbage disposals raise the value of your home when its being appraised.
We purchased ours from Kitchen Aide, which claims to use around 7 kWh annually.
 
Cons:
Food waste was never meant to be released into our water systems.
Releasing nutrients from food waste en masse into the water system can cause eutrophic algae blooms in local waterways, which can destroy aquatic ecosystems.
People commonly pour grease into garbage disposals, which can cause serious damage to sewage systems and have serious implications on the environment. (This seems more like user error than the fault of the garbage disposal.)
 

The bottom line is this:  nothing will ever have less environmental impact than composting food waste.  Composting uses no energy, diverts waste from landfills, reduces greenhouse gases, improves soil quality and creates renewable, chemical-free fertilizer all while making soil more drought resistant, and composting improves public sanitation by diverting food waste from dumpster and garbage cans which attract insects and rodents.

These are all factors to take into consideration when you determine what is the right choice for your family.  We truly have very limited kitchen scraps.  I try to waste very little when I am cooking and many of the veg scraps get fed to the dogs.  They love all veggies, in fact Liberty even eats lettuce!  I’ve been really great at portioning things out for just two people and anything leftover normally gets eaten for lunch the next day.  Until I am able to figure out a way to compost without all three of my dogs breaking into the compost area and eating out of it – so disgusting – then we are going to use our garbage disposal sparingly and responsibly.

Do you have a garbage disposal?

Do you compost?

Do your pets eat veggies?  If so, what is their favorite? 

Friday Things

8 Feb

There are so many things I want to say about Wednesday’s post, but I will have to save that for another day. 🙂

Today has been busy and its not even halfway through my day yet.  We’ve got some help at the house today and I’ve been told that the kitchen will be wired and dry-walled by the time I come home tonight.  YIPPEE!!!!!!  I made sure to take some before pictures late last night as I was emptying the kitchen of its contents.

This morning, I had to do diaper & laundry deliveries by myself.  Stressful doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about doing deliveries by myself.  I always manage to get all turned around, even though I know exactly where I’m going.  I constantly find myself in the wrong or slow or turning lane.  And I do NOT deal well with detours.  After arriving at my first delivery several minutes before what would be considered “LATE” (<– my least favorite thing in the world), I decided to catch my breath and calm my nerves with coffee.

If you are from Pittsburgh, you know there are about a million coffee stops near Shadyside, but parking is always an obstacle for me.  I decided to swing by Coffee Tree Roasters in East Liberty for several reasons.  One, there is always access to parking.  Two, it was on the way to my next delivery.  Three, I love Bakery Square.

Bakery Square

The East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh is one of those in-between neighbors which is in the process of changing from a crime-riddled ghetto to one of Pittsburgh’s now re-gentrified destination spots.  It butts up against one of the most posh urban neighborhoods (Shadyside) and one with the worst reputation (Homewood).  Within a one mile radius, there is both an Anthropologie, a prestigious all-girls private school, and several low-income housing projects.  I think that its a neighborhood that is slowly assuming a new identity, but in a sustainable way.  The neighborhood needed some new life breathed into it, I just hope that as it grows it does so by welcoming people of all income levels.

The development at Bakery Square was a turning point for East Liberty, in my opinion.  The development of several blocks of vacant, run-down warehouses into luxury offices, storefronts and living space gave people a reason to give East Liberty another chance.  The fact that Google opened offices in the Bakery Square development surely didn’t hurt.

Nestled front and center is Coffee Tree Roasters:

CoffeeTreeRoasters2

Feeling crunched for time, I just ordered a large black coffee and grabbed one of these vegan energy bars at the register:

HeartThrive

I know the quality is a little bad, but that’s what you get for taking pictures while driving.  I should include the disclaimer here that I am not a vegan or gluten-free, nor do I have any real desire to be.  This was an impulse buy – kudos to whoever the genius was who realized product placement was a good idea.  These Heart Thrive bars by The Healthy Baking Company (also the makers of the California Suncake) were dense.  And dry.  It wasn’t bad though.  It was just different that what I’m used to.  They claimed to contain ingredients with a low glycemic index, which sustain energy over a longer period of time instead of causing energy spike and dip in one spurt.  I’d say that was accurate.  Normally, I spend mid-morning in an english muffin or bagel-induced carb coma and I wasn’t feeling sluggish at all after these two cakes.

HeartThrive2

Also, I chose Cranberry simply because the only other option left was Raisin Spice. After checking out their website, I will be keeping my eyes peeled for a Chocolate Chip one.  I would definitely try these again, but in a different flavor.  Cheers to trying new things!

CoffeeTreeRoasters

And to the little Transit that could.  She’s being quite a trooper while she waits for her bumper to come in (its on back-order until March).

transit

Our CSA: How It Works

12 Jun

Remember when Amanda and I went to the Farm To Table Convention?  Well between that and a networking event that she♥ and I attended at Chatham, we had a lot of options regarding what CSA to chose from.

After meeting with so many different growers and comparing all the variables between packages, we♥ finally committed to Clarion River Organics!

A lot of people asked us, what factors affected our decision?

1.  The price:  The full share is $25/week.  The half share is $15/week.  The CSA runs for 22 weeks, which means we♥ will be spending $550 for all of our locally grown, organic produce.  We pick-up our share in the South Side, which is only 5 miles away from the house.  That saves us the gas we would have to spend driving to the farm (yeah, right)!

2.  The options:  Clarion River Organics allows you to add on bread and eggs to your order!  Not all CSAs have this option.  We added eggs:

3.  The portions:  Each week, we were told to expect 6-10 different items.  Here is the photo which we are provided with in our “what to expect email”:

We received:

Pretty happy with what we received, its just exactly what I thought we were going to get and it has been the perfect portion for us throughout the week. Since its early in the season, we received corn flour instead of a fruit or veg.  This was a pleasant surprise!

I would have never purchased corn flour in the store, but now I get to experiment with it AND feel satisfied in knowing that its locally.

4.  The people:  The way these guys handle CSA members is great!  Each time I was confused about something, it was addressed and cleared up right away!  They send a weekly newletter letting you know what’s happening in the 10 CSA farm participants, specs on the vegetables, recipes, etc.  The volunteers at the pick-up location are really nice and helpful as well (we pick up in South Side).  The whole experience has really opened my eyes to new kinds of dishes.

BONUS: Since we are not huge veggie eaters, this is a way that we have been integrating more SOLE food into our day to day meals.  AND we are creating urban partnerships with regional farmers who strengthen our food system.  I am 100% happy with our choice!

Things I’ve Learned:  Collard Greens are huge!  There are these things called garlic scapes.  I have to return my CSA bags next week – I took mine home by accident!  Its cool to try something out of your comfort zone.  There are things that grow in my community that I never knew existed.

 

Have you ever thought of joining a CSA?  Did you?

What affected your decisions to join/not join?

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