Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vegetarian Fried-Rice

For as long as I can remember, I've loved to cook.  There's something so amazingly rewarding about creating a masterpiece in the kitchen that keeps me hooked.  However, as much as I love to cook, there is always a point where I become completely bored/burned out with everything.

One afternoon while at the library, I was stressing about what to make for dinner.  I was mentally running through what I had at home in my pantry and what veggies I had from my CSA... when all of the sudden inspiration hit me-- Fried Rice!!!  I had never made fried rice before, but I knew that I could totally make a meal out of it AND it could be 100% plastic-free!!!!  With renewed confidence and purpose, I headed back to the "Cooking" section of my library and grabbed "Simple Chinese Cooking" by Kylie Kwong then headed to Tidal Creek Co-Op :)

Yeah, I was excited to cook dinner.  And once I was finished I was even more excited to eat dinner!! Homemade fried rice is AH-MAZING because a.) I know what's in it, b.) it was fast and easy and c.) plastic-free!!! Ahh... the quintessential Chinese take-out food made with love :)

Vegetarian Fried Rice
4 main dish servings

4 cups steamed rice (1 1/3 cups uncooked jasmine rice* bring to boil with 2 2/3 c water.  Let simmer for 10 minutes then turn off heat and let steam for an additional 10 minutes.)

1/3 c vegetable oil*
4 free-roaming eggs (mine come from my backyard hens), lightly beaten
1 small carrot*, diced
1 small onion*, diced
1 TBSP freshly minced ginger
3 1/2 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms*, sliced
1 tsp sea salt
2 TBSP finely chopped cilantro or parsley (optional, but nice)
1 TBSP tamari* (or soy sauce)
2/3 c spring onions

* = Bought in bulk using my own jars or bags.

Other veggies to add: Finely shredded Chinese cabbage, fresh bean sprouts, red pepper or whatever you have on hand that sounds good :)

On med-high, heat half of the oil in a large skillet or wok until shimmering.  Pour beaten eggs into pan and leave to cook for about 10 seconds then fold the mixture over onto itself with a spatula and lightly scramble until almost cooked through.  Remove eggs from pan and set aside.

Heat remaining oil and stir-fry veggies and 1tsp salt.  Add rice, tamari (or soy sauce), cilantro, and eggs and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Use a spatula to break up the egg into smaller pieces while cooking.  When finished, toss in spring onions until well combined.  Season to taste with salt.

Serve with extra tamari and some steamed green veggies (broccoli, green beans, snap peas, kale... whatever you have on hand.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 111

Ever since we moved to Wilmington, it has been a sort of tradition to go to the beach at Christmas.  True, it all started as a way to brag to our family and friends in the midwest, but now we find it's sort of a way to brag to ourselves about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place and how much we love it here.
There is something so amazing about spending Christmas at the beach.  AND... since I'm not much for cold weather... this was one of the best Christmases ever!  This girl doesn't need snow...   Running around and playing on the beach barefoot is my kind of Christmas!! :)
Of course, we did more than play at the beach.  Christmas is about giving... so my kids and I gave Wrightsville Beach the gift of a 20 minute beach clean up!
At first, the beach didn't look too bad.  Some littered cigarette butts along the tideline, but overall not much... UNTIL... at about 5 minutes into the clean up I decided to go up to the beach grasses... then I found a huge area packed full of caps, straws, styrofoam, various plastics, and cigarette butts.  As I was picking up all the litter, I heard a rustling in the grasses... and then saw a rabbit dart away from where I was. :)  In that same area, I found a couple of tubes of Chapstick which immediately made me think about the plastic-free Organic Essence lip balm that I recently purchased through the recommendation of a friend.  Besides being plastic-free (the tube is paper and compostable!!), it's also petroleum-free... and I dig that :)

I also dig it because I'm a believer in the fact that change has to start somewhere.

20 minutes on December 25, 2011 at Access 38
Litter by weight: 14.3 oz
Cigarette butts: 588
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach in 111 days:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 110

When I first started this beach clean up project in August of 2010, I set a "goal" to do at least two beach clean ups a week.  Some weeks I have done way over two and others... well... not so much.  As the end of 2011 is approaching quickly, I'm attempting to do my best and get out to Wrightsville Beach more often.  With us having a beautifully mild winter this should be easy!

We made it out yesterday on Christmas Eve and found the usual amount of litter-- caps, straws, wrappers and cigarette butts.  Now that the beach is less busy, I haven't found many plastic bags in a LONG time. That's a good thing, but just because I'm not finding them on the beach doesn't mean that I'm not finding/seeing them elsewhere.  In fact, I'm seeing them EVERYWHERE.  I often wonder if I decided to clean up a section on the side of the road how many plastic bags I would find.  Not long ago, my friend Bonnie decided to do just that.  A small stretch on the side of the road with too many littered plastic bags.

Bag Bans are popping up all over the country and our world.  We're ready to Ban The Bag Wilmington!!  Want to help?  Join us at Cape Fear Surfrider :)

20 minutes on December 24, 2011 at Access 16
Litter by weight: 5.2 oz
Cigarette butts: 301

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach in 110 days:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 109

Well... would you believe that we had another warm mid-70's winter day!?!  Last year, I was begging for warmer weather... and here it is Winter Solstice and it feels like spring.  (I am not complaining!!)  Today is officially the half way point to both summer and my birthday... and that makes me happy!!! :)
Before sitting down to write this post, I caught up on reading The Daily Ocean... and seems that as usual Sara and I are on the same wavelength.  After doing so many beach clean ups, what the heck is there to say about the same litter picked up over and over again??  It's difficult sometimes.  Sometimes, I'll come back from the beach with too much to say... then other times... well, the words are lacking.  Tonight,  I asked my friend Tracy, "What do I say??"  She said, "Come on people... pick your shit up!!! :)" That works, though I think I've said that before. (Yup)
Whether we're the ones who made the mess or not... it's so very important that we take the time to pick it up.  Last week, I was reading about the death of a gray whale whose stomach was filled with plastics... everything from duct tape to a Capri Sun.  Soooooo sad :(

"He reached his hand inside the whale and removed a piece of plastic. Then, a length of rope, a golf ball, a plastic bag, a piece of cloth. Another piece of plastic, more cloth. Duct tape. A towel. Electrical tape.Fishing line. More rope. Surgical glove. Plastic funnel. More plastic bags. A huge piece of fabric – it was half a pair of sweatpants. Work around us stopped and everyone gathered, stunned. Over twenty plastic bags in all were removed from the whale’s stomach."  (For a full list of  items and photo of the stomach contents of the whale, click here.) 

Everything we do (or don't do) impacts the world we live in.  It's true.

20 minutes on December 22, 2011 at Access 37
Litter by weight: 1 lb .2 oz
Cigarette butts: 138 

Total amount of cigarettes removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 109 days: 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 108

Cigarettes.  The most littered item worldwide.  Somewhere around 2 billion cigarettes are littered daily.  In regards to my efforts cleaning up the most littered item in the world... some may say, "Why even bother??" or "What's the point??"

The other day, I was reading my friend Harry's blog "The Flotsam Diaries".  If you haven't checked out what he's been up to in Maine... you MUST!! :)  In his post "Hope, Despair, and that Strange Place In-Between" he sums up quite perfectly why he keeps doing what he does... cleaning beaches even though really there is no end in sight.  He writes:

"So I do what I do because I love my daughter and I think the world is beautiful and I want to preserve it..."

... 'Hoping' puts the burden on someone else. "Doing" puts the burden -- the control -- in my own hands. So no, I can't change the world. But I can change my part of it. And no, I can't make it better forever. But I can make it better for today. This one moment when the beach is deserted and the gulls are crying and the surf is pounding and the breeze is carrying salt on the air... and the sand is clean.

And it just might stay clean long enough for the next lonely wanderer to look down. And notice.

Sometimes, the point isn't to do the right thing because you hope or think something awesome will come from it. It's because, it's the right thing...."

20 minutes on December 16, 2011 at Access 36
Cigarette butts: 95

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 108 days:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 107

Well... after an18 day beach cleaning hiatus...I have finally made back to Wrightsville Beach!!  AND... today was the most beautiful amazing day!!  Mid-December and it was 72˚!!! I kid you not... it was colder in the beginning of October!!!
  It is such a pleasure to go to the beach in the winter and not freeze... it's days like today that I'm reminded why I love living here.  Why I can't see myself ever living somewhere without a beach.  *sigh* :)  I just love everything about it.
As I sit here thinking about the fact that I've done 107 (plus) beach clean ups (whoa!)... I can't help but think of my friend Sara, who writes the blog The Daily Ocean.  Sara has done a whopping 241 (plus) beach clean ups.  In those 241 days, she has removed over 900 lbs of trash from a small stretch of Santa Monica beach and has inspired countless people to get out and start cleaning up our world.
Inspiring people is what it's all about.  Creating ripple effects with simple actions is a huge catalyst for change.  Earlier, I watched a video from Peaceful Protest Against Litter .  I love the video because of its simplicity in pointing out that anyone can make a difference and together we can do so much....
1 becomes 2
2 become 4
Before you know it
You got yourself a movement

 Yup, a movement is happening.  Beach clean up revolution! ;)

20 minutes on December 15, 2011 at Access 16
Litter by weight: 4.8 oz
Cigarette butts: 181
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 107 days:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Salt Dough Ornaments

I wouldn't normally consider myself a crafty person-- maybe it's the season or maybe it's me taking time away from the beach...I'm not sure-- but as my kids and I began making salt dough ornaments.... a wave of creative inspiration came over me.
  ....and I created this ornament with a cookie cutter and plastics removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC. 
(yes, I'm proud)  

So what is it??  Salt dough painted with water colors, decorated with small plastics that I found on Wrightsville Beach... and it's hanging from littered fishing line (that I also found on the beach).

Wanna make your own?  YAY!!  It's super easy and lots of fun.  <--- says the very uncrafty girl ;)

Salt Dough Ornaments

1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups hot tap water
4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325˚ F.  

Dissolve salt in hot water.  Mix flour into salt water until completely combined.  Kneed briefly until soft and pliable.  

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough ball out into an even thickness of about 1/8"- 1/4".  Cut shapes using cookie cutters, then add a hole at the top. (TIP: I cut the dough ball into 4 pieces... one for each of my kids and me)

Place on cookie sheets and bake at 325˚ F until hard, about 40 minutes to an hour.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Decorate:  Get crafty and use what you have.... or go hit the beach for some inspiration ;)

P.S.  Before we decorated them, my husband thought they were cookies and took a bite! YUCK!!  Do your loved ones teeth and taste buds a favor and let everyone know that they are not cookies! ;)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 106

Ever since we got home from California, the weather here has been down right perfect.  I'm not sure that it can get much better than mid-70's in late November!  Knowing the warm days are numbered, we've been trying to spend as much time at the beach as we can.  Sunday afternoon-- after a couple of hours playing in the sand-- we met our friend Bonnie at Access 43.
 Not long ago, Bonnie went to Access 43 and picked up litter for 20 minutes... her focus is on plastics... but she took the time to count the 390 cigarette butts that she collected.  I've added that amount plus the 118 cigarettes that Bonnie picked up last night to the Community Count (on the sidebar).  Bonnie's addition pushes the Community Count for Wrightsville Beach to over 10,000!!!
Big things are happening with Bonnie.  She was recently selected as a finalist in the international competition "IN SEARCH OF INCREDIBLE."  I was sooooo thrilled when I found out that she was a finalist because 1.) I told Bonnie about the competition and encouraged her to enter.  2.) Others are recognizing how AWESOME.. err... incredible she is.  3.) Her art is something that everyone needs to see.  AND... 4.) An opportunity to create more awareness about plastic pollution in our oceans.
More awareness to this problem of plastic pollution is the opportunity to reach more people.  Believe it or not... there are people who don't know about the Pacific Garbage Patch... there are people who don't know that sea turtles mistake plastic bags as jellyfish... there are people who have no idea that albatross are eating plastic and feeding it to their young... and dying on one of the most remote islands on earth.
Last night, we picked up 179 bottle caps in 20 minutes.  In those bottle caps, I see Midway.  That makes me sad.  So I continue to repeat myself... I don't want to miss anyone.  I make no assumptions... even if I think you know... I just want to make extra sure, because this is important.  One of the most important things we can do is to stop using single-use plastics.  I started with something simple: I stopped buying/accepting/drinking beverages in plastic bottles.  Every time I see the photos of the albatross, I am reminded that my decision makes a difference.

20 minutes on November 27, 2011 at Access 43
Litter by weight: 1 lb 14.8 oz
Cigarette butts: 448
This is the area that we focused on for 20 minutes.  The section that is "turned up" looking is the section that we cleaned.
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 106 days: 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 105

Since today was "Buy Nothing Day"... I really had the best of intentions of not buying anything... but, I couldn't help myself from buying this amazingness from the comfort of my own home ;)  Then, while many people were spending their day shopping, my family and I took it easy at one of the most relaxing and fun places we know... umm... yeah, that'd be the beach!!  We turned "Black Friday" into "BLUE Friday"... and I think a new tradition may have been born!
Last week, my family and I were in California... we had such an amazing visit!!  One of the highlights of our trip was seeing our friends Sara & Garen in Monterey Bay!  Our timing to visit the aquarium couldn't have been better as Sara had just spoken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium O.N.E Teen Summit and was getting ready to head back to Santa Monica.  It had been over a year since I last saw Sara & Garen...  they're awesome awesome people... wish that unexpected visits could happen more often! :)  After we visited with our friends, we spent several hours at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  NOW... We've been to a lot of aquariums, but this visit is one that we'll remember for a long time to come... ever see an albatross in person? (We did.)  Ever have an animal educator ask you to reduce the plastics you use and refuse single-use plastics like bags and straws?? (You can and more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium) 

My son and I picked up 19 straws in 20 minutes today.  Can you guess how they got on the beach?? (See photo for hint)
Also during our California vacation, we had great evening hanging out with Beth Terry (My Plastic-Free Life), her husband, and Manuel Maqueda (co-founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition).  As a family really striving to reduce the amount of plastic we use... it was great to share dinner, straw-free drinks ;) and conversation with others who are striving to do the same (or more) and connect over our common bonds.  One of the many things we talked about is how one of American Idol's sponsors (cough Coca-Cola) isn't happy about a video with Season 10 American Idol contestants asking us to REFUSE single-use plastics.  So in order to appease their sponsor, the company the produces AI threatened to shut down Plastic Pollution Coalition's YouTube Channel if they didn't remove the video.  The video is still up (woot!)... SO... If you haven't watched the video yet, watch it now... then share.  

Are you afraid to REFUSE disposable plastic?  

(if you are, don't be... I'm here to help)

20 minutes on November 25, 2011 at Access 36
Cigarette butts: 96

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 105 days: 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 104

There was a scent in the air as we walked onto the beach yesterday afternoon.  My son Henri said, "It smells weird."  I started to wonder if we had been away from the beach too long... BUT... as we approached the shoreline we figured out exactly where the smell was coming from...
Thousands of dead jellies lay strewn about the shoreline.  My kids were completely mesmerized.  How did they get here?? Why did they die??  ....and then they felt compelled to start burying them in the sand.  While my kids were busy examining and burying jellyfish... I swept the beach for 20 minutes at Johnnie Mercer's Pier.

I forgot how enjoyable it is to go to the beach in the cooler months.  During the summer months, I often find it hard to just sit back and do nothing.  In the summer, a walk to the shoreline ends with me making several trips to the trashcan.  BUT... now... it's different.  There are few people on the beach and fewer people means a lot less litter than during the hot summer months.  I can relax.  I can take time to not think about anything but the waves, the sand, the birds.... my kids :)

My kids are pretty awesome.  I would gladly admit that they are the driving force behind nearly everything I do.  It's true... I want to help make this world a better place for them.  ....And through doing that they learn how to live connected and in "harmony" with the world.  Through this litter project, my kids have learned about how personal responsibility (or irresponsibility) impacts our world.

I had to explain to my kids yesterday, that as much as we pick up cigarette butts...  because somewhere around 4.5 trillion are littered every year... we will never be able to get them all.  To explain to them how large of a number that is... I shared with them (a scaled down version) of an interesting calculation from my friend Harry of The Flotsam Diaries:

A cigarette butt is about 1" long. The distance from the earth to the moon is 238,000 miles -- 15.1 billion inches. 5.5 trillion cigarettes are made each year. If even 90% were disposed of properly, enough cigarette butts are littered to reach the moon once every 10 days.

Think about it.

20 minutes on November 8, 2011 at Access 16
Litter by weight: 6.8 oz
Cigarette butts: 182

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 104 days:


Monday, October 31, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 103

Well, I guess it's really official...cold temperatures mean that summer (gasp) is over. (boo!) With the rushing in of cold weather, no longer are our feet going to burn from the hot sand or will we get a glowing tan from being at the beach...nope... now starts the season of cold fingers and sniffly red noses.  It was so cool here yesterday, that when we headed to Wrightsville Beach, I had to break out a long sleeve shirt, my "winter" jacket, and shoes!! AND... I also broke out all my new beach cleaning bags from Green Bag Lady!!     
Now, as excited as my kids were to use their new bags... the cold northerly winds and cold sand put them in a constant state of whine and they only lasted about 5 minutes before they called it quits!! *Sigh*  It's more fun when they call it quits because they're running to play in the water...    
For the month of October, our beach clean ups have been few and far between.  In fact, with this clean up... we ended up doing only 3 clean ups for the entire month of October.  Realizing we hadn't been to Access 36-- our adopted beach access-- since September 9... my husband and I agreed that we needed to go there.  The beach was empty and the amount and type of litter we found is starting to change. However, somethings just don't change.  Through the changing of the seasons, we have found that we always find large amounts of cigarette butts.
One thing I wasn't expecting to find a lot of yesterday, was straws.  With the oceanfront restaurant Oceanic at Access 36, we always find loads of plastic straws that blow from their dining pier.  BUT... I thought with the weather being fairly cool that we wouldn't find many straws.  Boy was I wrong!!!  We collected a total of 35 straws... AND.... 31 of those straws came from Oceanic!! (shocker)  Some black, some clear... and some-- like this one I found at the steps leading up to the pier-- still in wrappers.

If you recall, I've been in contact with the district manager of the company that owns Oceanic.  This problem along with an employee smoking area, has been something that I've been assured they're working on.  I have to say, that I was very impressed to see very little cigarette litter under the pier... BUT... BUT... BUT.... the amount of straws from their restaurant that we found on a cold day at Wrightsville Beach... is completely ridiculous.  Since I've talked to Oceanic about this problem... they know it exists.  They know that they are part of the litter problem at Wrightsville Beach...and they don't want to be known as the littering restaurant.  But... 31 straws, 6 coasters, 10 candy wrappers and a mix of other various items... I hate to be the one to let them know ------> When you offer (or use) single-use disposable products... you are part of the littering problem.  I recognize this fact in my own life and because of this connection we choose to make changes. ...So, if Oceanic (or anyone else) wants to change that trend... if they truly want to be part of the solution, they have to start making changes. RETHINK, REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE   .... Guess it's time to make another phone call...

20 minutes on October 30, 2011 at Access 36
Litter by weight: 9.3 oz
Cigarette butts: 198

The pile on the left are littered items that are specific to Oceanic: coasters, straws, candy wrappers, coffee creamer, cracker wrappers.

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 103 days: 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 102

After over 20 days, I finally made it back out to Wrightsville Beach last night to do my 102nd beach clean up!!!  My husband and three kids had some things to do... so, it was just "me" and one of our brand new beach clean up bags straight from Green Bag Lady!!

Teresa (Green Bag Lady) made special beach bags for several of us that do beach clean ups... and sent us 5 for our family to use!!  Now, I attempted to make a video showing what sets Green Bag Lady Beach Bags apart from the rest... but *sigh* I just can't listen to my recorded voice!! (must figure out how they made me sound good in my FilterForGood film ;) )  Anyhow, the bags are made of vinyl with MESH bottoms... a mesh bottom means that all of the sand falls through and stays where it's supposed to-- the beach!!!  YAY!!  No more piles of sand in my driveway!!  Thanks so much Teresa!! I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE our new beach bags!! So AWESOME!!!! :)
When I saw this single use plastic spoon on the beach last night, I immediately thought of the poster-- "The Spoon" by Max Temkin-- that I shared on my FB page back in September. (Thanks Sean!)  If you haven't seen the poster, check it out here.  It may seem like an absolute no brainer to not use disposable plasticware, but it's easy to get stuck using the stuff.  So... my advice: Either buy a nice travel set of utensils or grab some out of your drawer and keep them handy! Please and thank you :) 
Still picking up cigarette butts on Wrightsville Beach... and still no resolution as to how the Town of WB is planning on dealing with the problem.  As beach season is now over, I have no doubts that this issue will be (once again) put off until next season... guess I'll be at this longer than I anticipated.  

No worries though, because I decided a few months ago that I'm going to continue doing the 20 minute beach clean ups until Sara finishes her 365 non-consecutive day goal (She just finished up with Day 227)  Here's to at least another year... and our awesome awesome community! :)

20 minutes on October 23, 2011 at Access 29
Cigarette butts: 132

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 102 days: