Adventures in Greening: Green from your couch


By Catherine Moran

Almost everyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a big movie buff. I’m lacking a lot of “classic” films from my movie repertoire, much to the astonishment and shame of my film-loving family members and friends.  However, while I go to see films on the big screen very rarely, I’m a bit of a tv addict. Long-form stories give the viewer more time to make a connection with the characters, as well as plots that can unfurl at a less-compressed pace. And, in this day and age, it’s very easy to sit down and marathon seasons of television shows; all it takes is one day of beginning a marathon (curse you, headcolds), and suddenly you’re spending all of your free time catching up to current episodes. I’m not alone here…right?


How does my love of television relate to being green? Well, it’s the perfect time for me to do some green activities. Sometimes, life gets hectic. And if you’re a (wo)man on the go, you try to consolidate activities. A lot of green activities require time, an element of one’s day that can sometimes feel like a luxury. So, I try to make use of my time in front of the screen. Here are a few suggested green activities that you can multitask while watching television:

• Making your own laundry soap. Grating up a bar of soap by hand can take awhile, let me tell you. I would never do this task without something else to occupy my mind, unless I was using it as a meditative exercise, but I definitely prefer to take my mind off how long the process is (my grater is fairly small; I’m on the hunt for a larger one to possibly help me speed up the process). I feel pretty accomplished when this task is done, and I try to do more than one bar in one sitting, so I don’t have to worry about grating a new bar for awhile when I run out of the first batch. Plus, it works my arm strength, what an added benefit! Good preparation for becoming a green superhero.


• Ripping the windows off of any envelopes that come your way, mostly from junk mail, or mail that includes a windowed envelope for you to return a payment or other information. In NYC, you can’t recycle envelopes with clear plastic address windows because they don’t dissolve in water (there’s an interesting Reddit thread on this subject and other recycling queries, for interested parties). This is a fun one, because you get the satisfying sound of paper ripping to go along with the task. (Again…just me?)


• Making Stuff. Get to work on illustrating those homemade birthday cards or knitting beanies for the holidays. Even if it’s summertime, it doesn’t hurt to be forward-thinking; you’ll save time later.


Of course, this list will only be useful if you’re watching a show that doesn’t require constant vigilance, or includes commercial breaks, or doing a task that doesn’t require strict attention. You would have found me very hard-pressed to draw my eyes away from the first season of True Detective. No multitasking during that hour, no way. Even blinking felt costly.


There are plenty of other ways to make use of your television-watching time if you so choose, but those are just some of the things I do to save myself some time during the week. It’s all about getting things done sooner rather than later, so they’re not on my mind, and I can free up time for other things later, television-related or otherwise. And watching a show as a purely downtime activity when all else is down is pretty darn enjoyable, too.



Adventures in Greening is a column running on every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Change and Challenge


By Catherine Moran

I’ve been thinking recently about challenges. It’s no surprise that life is full of unexpected (and expected) uphill battles. They can occur in our relationships, our careers, our physical bodies; you name the staging ground, there’s most likely a challenge that could play there. Living a greener lifestyle is definitely filled with challenges, as is any lifestyle change. Change is the operative word here: it’s a scary thing to contemplate.

I was trying to think about what the first change was that made my lifestyle a bit greener, and other than an L.L. Bean backpack that I had throughout grade school (no need to buy a new one every year!), I think the first item that began my transition to less stuff was my iPod. Now, I’m not singing the praises of Apple here, because their use of planned obsolescence maddens me to no end. But mp3 players, in general, are a step forward.


For the purpose of these ruminations, I am not discussing all of the resources used to construct a music-playing device, or how ethically or environmentally-sourced these materials are (topics for another time, methinks). So, back to the iPod. I’ve talked about my first iPod before, but not how it changed my life.

I’m a big music fan. Okay, huge music fan. I’m lucky enough to work in an office that allows me to have headphones in all day (you’ll be hard-pressed to find me listening to anything but Spotify, music junkie that I am), and teaching yoga on weekends allows me to share music with students. I’d always loved music, but when Napster became the Big Thing, I really went to town on a search for new, unheard-of artists.



My CDs went with me everywhere. Choosing just five to fit in the Snapple carrying case I’d won in a giveaway was an agonizing process. When I went to college, I left with a larger carrying case, one that fit up to 500 CDs (without cases). I would tote this case between college and home for every visit (did I mention it was nearly full?)


I had no problem carrying around hundreds of CDs. My family, on the other hand….well, let’s just say they were wiser than I. I accepted the iPod with reluctance (I know this might sound mildly spoiled of me, but I liked the way I was doing things; it took me ages to come around to Spotify, which is my preferred service for music listening these days, though my iPod is still much beloved). It took some time, but I eventually fell for my iPod, and it traveled (and still travels) with me everywhere. I have so much music at my fingertips that it is thrilling, and I refuse to travel further than a subway ride without music. I’m able to carry more than 500 CD’s worth of music at one time, and it weighs so very little.


Change is hard for many of us, even if the change we are making is a change for the better (add a few letters to the word change, you’ll get challenge). Even after making a conscious effort to go greener, I find myself stumbling. I can’t avoid all plastic packaging, especially when all I want for dinner are some Buffalo Chik’n pieces, or when I forget my travel mug at the coffee shop (this post from Beth Terry is great on Guilt and the Green Lifestyle). And, sometimes, there are changes that I could make, but either run out of time (i.e. making my own almond milk, which just requires advanced planning, which I don’t always make time for), or am just not inclined to try (like forgoing shampoo and its friend, plastic packaging – yes, it’s a movement).

The best we can do is take it one step at a time, and do what we can. And who knows how something we do today will affect us in future? If I hadn’t received that iPod, it’s not hard for me to imagine myself still rockin’ the CD player and lugging around a lot of CDs, instead of using digital downloads, and wanting only digital downloads for my music and movie/television purchases nowadays. We don’t have to do everything all at once, and we don’t have to do “everything,” either. Small changes may not change the world at large, but they’ll change the world around us, and if that translates to something larger, great, but making a change that betters ourselves and the planet, even a bit, means we’re doing well.


Adventures in Greening is a column running on every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kathleen’s kitchen – monkeying around in the kitchen

By:  Kathleen Neafsey


I enjoy reading, mostly mysteries, but pretty much just reading in general.  Some of my favorite books are ones that involve bakers, cooks, and caterers that include recipes in their stories.  I have been reading Diane Mott Davidson’s books with her Goldy Schultz, town caterer character for years.  This week I stumbled across Joanne Fluke and her character Hannah Swensen, owner of the town coffee shop and bakery, The Cookie Jar.
Both authors provide fun, quick reads with interesting characters and some great recipes.  In Ms. Fluke’s Red Velvet Cupcake Murder she included a recipe for Monkey Bread.
Monkey Bread has long been a family favorite since my mom started making it back in the 70’s.  Neither my mother nor I have made it in ages, so seeing this recipe in the book made me think that this was the perfect time to try a new recipe and share it with you.

Here’s what you’ll need:

* 1+1/4 cups of granulated sugar
* 1+1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
* Four  (7.5 ounce) cans unbaked refrigerated biscuits (like Pillsbury)
* 1 cup chopped nuts ( I used pecans) – OPTIONAL
* One (6 ounce) bag chocolate chips – OPTIONAL
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Let’s get down to business…..monkey business

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
* Spray the inside of a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Set the pan on a cookie
* In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon.
* Open one can of biscuits at a time, and cut each biscuit into quarters.

* Roll each piece in the cinnamon/sugar mixture, and place them in the bottom of the bundt pan.

* If you’re using the nuts and/or chocolate chips, sprinkle 1/3 of each on top of the first biscuit layer.
* Open the second can of biscuits and repeat the steps of quartering them and rolling them in sugar.  Place them in the pan, and top with the nuts and chocolate chips.

* Repeat these steps with the third can of biscuits.
* The fourth can of biscuits should be quartered and rolled in the cinnamon and sugar, and placed on top of the nuts and chocolate chips.  This is the top layer, do not use any more nuts or chips.
* Melt the butter, and add any remaining sugar and cinnamon.  Stir to mix well, and pour over the top of the biscuits in the bundt pan.

* Bake, on the cookie sheet to avoid any spills, at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

* Remove from oven and cool IN THE PAN on a wire rack for ten minutes.
* Find a plate large enough to fit over the top of the bundt pan.  Using potholders, place the plate over the top and turn the pan upside down to unmold the monkey bread.

* Cut into slices, or pull the bread apart.  This is best served warm.

My family recipe traditionally doesn’t call for the nuts or chocolate chips, but I wanted to try them and see how it would turn out – While it was absolutely delicious, I probably wouldn’t use the chocolate again because, in my opinion, it put the sweetness factor just over the top. I prefer it as more of a “coffee cake” than a really sweet cake / bread.  Again, that’s just my opinion.

I guess I should also mention that no monkeys were harmed in the baking of this bread…..and where this yummy treat got its’ name is anybody’s guess – I did find this link online that shares a few different theories as to how the name was derived.

Kate’s Book Club: Q&A with genre-bending author Kate Racculia

Kate Racculia, This Must Be the PlaceBy Kate E. Stephenson

In this first week of March 2014, I hereby call to order the 32 meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every meeting, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate. If you missed our last meeting, feel free to get caught up.

Club members, this week meet Kate Racculia.

Kate Racculia grew up in Syracuse, New York, and attended college at the University of Buffalo, where she studied illustration, design, Jane Austen, and Canada. She has her MFA from Emerson College and now calls Boston home.  She teaches workshops in novel and genre writing at GrubStreet, Boston’s non-profit creative writing center, and has been a bassoonist, a planetarium operator, a coffee jerk, a designer, a children’s bookseller, a proposal writer, a prospect researcher, and a karaoke god.

She posts many pictures of her cat on the Internet and is a total sucker for a saxophone solo.

Her first novel, This Must Be the Place, was published by Henry Holt & Company in 2010. Her second, Bellweather Rhapsody, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in spring 2014.

Find more Kate on her website, Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook!

Without further ado, Kate answers all your questions: Continue reading

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Adventures in Greening: This is Just to Say

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By Catherine Moran

that plastic bag
in the tree
still present
gripping the branches
still ugly
in tatters
once again
please leave this lone tree
you still
spoil the view

Inspired by the plastic bag outside my window, first addressed in April 2013, and by the William Carlos Williams poem, “This is Just To Say.”

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Fabri-Kate: give ‘em the brush off

By:  Kathleen Neafsey

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pointless to keep my makeup brushes in my makeup case.  They get squished, and the bristles get bent.  I don’t own many, but my daughter, Bridget……..well, that’s another story.  This was actually Bridget’s idea to begin with – I just kind of ran with it.  So fasten your seat belts because this is going to be the quickest, easiest Fabri-Kate craft to date; and it only requires two supplies!!  That’s right, only two – unless you count the brushes – in which case, you’re on your own.

Let’s start with our supplies:


One large, decorative glass bowl – can be found in the craft store or the dollar store.

Decorative accent stones in the color(s) of your choice – they, too, can be found in the craft or dollar store.

Step One: 

Wash and dry bowl to remove any dust or fingerprints.

Step Two:

Open bags of stones and pour into clean, dry bowl. Stand your brushes in the bowl, and you’re done!


This makes it so much easier than dumping out a makeup case to find the brush you need.  Now they’re all there at your fingertips.


Fabri-Kate is a column running on every other Tuesday. It is written by the crafty Kathleen Neafsey, who wields a mean pair of scissors. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat and look for a brand new craft next time.



Kate’s Book Club: Q&A with Bree MacGowan Mystery maven Kate George

Kate George, Crazy Little Thing Called DeadBy Kate E. Stephenson

In this fourth week of January 2014, I hereby call to order the 29th meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every meeting, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate. If you missed our last meeting, feel free to get caught up.

Club members, this week meet Kate George.

Kate George is the author of the popular Bree MacGowan mystery series. She was born in Sacramento, California, and has been, in no particular order, a paste-up tech, a motorcycle safety instructor, an actor, and the assistant to the dean of a medical school, all of which provide fodder for her stories. Currently, she lives in an old farmhouse in the backwoods of Vermont with her husband, four kids, and three rescue dogs. Feel free to visit Kate’s website and email her.

And the answers are… Continue reading

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Adventures in Greening: What Do I Do With My DVDs?


By Catherine Moran

I don’t know what to do with my old DVDs. Well, I guess they’re not old, but they’re underloved and underappreciated. In this new regime of Digital Technology, I would very much like to be able to trade in my physical DVDs for digital copies of the same film, but that does not seem to be an option anywhere that I can find. It’s not as if I have very many DVDs; on the contrary, I don’t have very many, but I have a lot of boxed tv series, and those babies take up space. I’ve been slowly distributing my DVD collection over the past year, but there are some shows and films that I want to hang on to.


The closest service for turning physical DVDs into digital copies that I have found in my searches is VUDU, which was only available at Walmart when it was launched in 2012. However, the downside of VUDU, for me, is that it is a program. That, and the fact that you have to pay for the service of converting the films. I want to have my purchased movies and television shows available on storage devices, and not accessible only through a program–and you must have VUDU on any device you wish to watch your films on. That sounds like it’s restricting access to something I already own, so I’m not ready to go this route just yet.

Amazon has a trade-in option, but it’s only for certain titles, and they give you a pittance for the product, an amount that does not equal the cost of purchasing a digital copy of your film. You can’t give me $2 for my Harry Potter films when the digital copy is $10! I won’t be magicking my copies into digital any time soon, thank you very much.


Another sell-back site I found is Zumu, but if I thought the rates at Amazon were abysmal, Zumu is even worse. I am not selling back my DVDs to make money, but I would like to be able to afford to re-buy the DVD that I am selling (I own it for a reason!) Zumu is interesting, in that: “Here at Zumu we don’t just recycle your pre-loved DVDs, CDs and Games by finding a new home for them, we also turn what can’t be re-homed into baby bottles and other useful stuff! “ So, if I do find a way to get digital copies of movies I already own as physical copies, Zumu might be the best place to go to make sure my DVDs are properly recycled.

The search will continue. I am trying to de-clutter my life of Stuff, which I believe is in line with green living: these DVDs could be recycled, or given new life with new owners. If you have any suggestions for legal ways of making my DVDs into digital copies, I’d appreciate it. I have a feeling this is something other greenies would want to do (especially if they live in New York apartments!) Thank you in advance for any help!

Stay well, greenies.



Adventures in Greening is a column running on every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kathleen’s kitchen: hearty food for snowy nights


By:  Kathleen Neafsey

Good morning, and welcome to the kitchen!  Sitting home on a recent snowy day – and there have been lots of those lately – and thinking of what to make for dinner, brought homey, hearty foods to mind.  Aside from soup, which I could probably eat seven days a week, my favorite meal for a winter snowy evening is pot roast.  My kids often ask how I learned to make this food, or that.  “Did Nana teach you to make that?”, is one of their more popular questions.  My mom is a great cook, and baker, and I have total recall for some things that she has taught me in the kitchen – pot roast is not one of them.  I only have vague recollections of having pot roast as a kid.  I do remember that it wasn’t always easy to find one thing that five kids would like for dinner, but she aimed to please each one of us and we surely never went hungry!

Getting back to the pot roast…..I think it was just something that I kind of threw together myself, having a general idea of what goes into it and how to cook it.  For those of you who’d like to try it, here goes:


Here’s what you’ll need:

One bottom round roast – about two pounds

Two tablespoons olive oil

Prepared horseradish (in bottle)

One tablespoon of minced garlic

One medium onion, chopped

One half – to one pound baby carrots

Salt and pepper to taste

Five cups of water

First things first – In a deep pot, heat oil on medium.

While the oil is heating up, coat the meat in the horseradish, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Carefully place the meat in the pot with the hot oil, you don’t want to get splattered with the hot oil! Turn the heat down, and let the meat get brown on all sides and the horseradish forms a sort of crust.


Once the meat is browned on all sides, add water to the pot – I start out with about three cups of water.

Add the carrots and onion to the pot, turn the heat up to medium-high and let it come to a full, rolling boil.


When it has reached a rolling boil, turn the heat down to medium-low, be sure that it’s still simmering, and cover the pot.

Check the progress of the meat every 15 to 20 minutes, and add water accordingly.  The carrots soak up a lot of water, so you’re going to need to replenish it.  Remember though, as you add water you’ll probably want to add more horseradish, salt, and pepper – keep tasting each time you check on it to be sure.

Generally speaking, a two pound piece of meat should be done in about 2 to 2-1/2 hours.  Leaving it in longer will make it even more tender.


Remove the meat from the pot and put it on a cutting board.  Let it cool for five to ten minutes before slicing.  Serve with the gravy and carrots over potatoes or egg noodles.  Some people even like to cook the potatoes in the same pot as the meat and carrots (I’m not one of them), but by all means, go for it!

Enjoy this hearty meal on a cold, snowy night.  It’s even better as a sandwich the next day!  Stay in, stay warm – there’s more snow headed our way tomorrow!

Kathleen’s Kitchen is a column running on once a month. It is written by the amazing Kathleen Neafsey, who loves trying new recipes. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat. And make sure to look out for her amazingly fun column, Fabri-Kate.


Kate’s Book Club: Q&A with Butterfly Clues author Kate Ellison

Kate Ellison, The Butterfly CluesBy Kate E. Stephenson

In this fourth week of January 2014, I hereby call to order the 29th meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every meeting, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate. If you missed our last meeting, feel free to get caught up.

Club members, this week meet Kate Ellison.

Kate Ellison grew up in Baltimore, MD, the progeny of a visual artist and a local karaoke star. She has a BFA in acting from The Theatre School at DePaul, and is also a poet, visual artist, performer, and educator. She loves words more than sugar, and would make baked goods out of them if only she could figure out how. Some authors, poets, playwrights and writers who make her weak in the knees include Philip Pullman, Mary Karr, Yannick Murphy, David Foster Wallace, Donald Barthleme, Natalie Angier, Lorrie Moore, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Naomi Wallace, Caryl Churchill, and Eduardo C. Corral.

Show Kate some love on Facebook. Then check out her illustrations, poems and other writing experiments, and website.

Now for some answers… Continue reading

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Adventures in Greening: Feeling Bubbly


By Catherine Moran

I’d mentioned in a pre-holiday post that I was hoping that I’d be the recipient of a Penguin Sodastream, and I was very lucky to indeed receive such a generous gift from my lovely parents. They’ve been very supportive of my efforts to go green, even if they still think I’m a bit strange for composting (kidding, I think I’ve won them over to my side on that one, since they dropped off some compost with me once!)

SodaStream basically has the market cornered for home soda makers. There are a few other brands out there (like Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach, and Primo), but the reviews for these brands aren’t as strong as those for SodaStream. They have many options for soda makers, ranging in price and design to suit individual needs.


The Penguin is the highest priced model, because it is made of metal and plastic (as opposed to the nickel plating/plastic and plastic only models) and because it comes with glass carafes instead of plastic carafes for water storage. The Penguin was the model I went with for these reasons, and because it is the preferred model of the ever-awesome Beth Terry.

I’ve been using my SodaStream daily. I can indulge in some fizzy liquids without having to feel guilt over adding new plastic bottles to the recycling assembly line. It takes about 30 seconds to make a new carafe of liquid, no wait involved! I’ve been experimenting around with flavors, adding lemon and lime. But my favorite has got to be a syrup I purchased at Whole Foods, made by Morris Kitchen: it’s ginger syrup. My homemade ginger ale tastes like I added grated ginger to the bubbles, and less like store bought ginger ale. It’s absolutely delicious. I’m inclined to stick with Morris Kitchen for my syrup needs because they have some great flavors, use fewer ingredients, and sell their products in glass bottles (they also have a great page of featured recipes). The flavored syrups from SodaStream all come in plastic bottles.


Do you have a soda maker at home? If so, I’d love to hear of any fun concoctions you’ve dreamed up. Recipes welcome!


Adventures in Greening is a column running on every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kate’s Book Club: Q&A with historicals addict Kate Furnivall

Kate Furnival, Shadows on the NileBy Kate E. Stephenson

In this fourth week of January 2014, I hereby call to order the 29th meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every meeting, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate. If you missed our last meeting, feel free to get caught up.

Club members, this week meet Kate Furnivall.

Kate says “I never had any ambitions to become a writer. It sort of crept up on me and now I’m hooked. Born in Wales, I studied English at London Uni and worked in advertising. Married, and reared two sons and numerous cats. A normal busy life. Then the bombshell hit. I discovered that my grandmother had been a White Russian in St Petersburg who escaped from the Bolsheviks and fled to China. What??? I had to rethink myself. I plunged into all things Russian, and out of my notes grew my first book—The Russian Concubine. Now I have written six books and live by the sea in a crazy world peopled by wonderful fictional characters. I LOVE it.”

Find Kate on Facebook and Twitter. She’ll you there!

Drum roll please…….. the answers! Continue reading

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