After events like the recent Boston Marathon bombing or the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, my initial reaction is to be frozen as if shot in the gut with a laser gun set on stun. It’s hard to breath, to speak, to choke out words of any meaning. I will cry, watch too much news for a couple of hours, then something in my immediate world will draw me back. The dog needs to go out, my bladder wants to be emptied or some mundane act of living forces me to move, to break the paralysis that keeps me stuck to the couch with a silent scream stuck in my mouth. Inspiration is hard to come by.
It seems somehow wrong to have a nice meal or a soothing shower or to be happy to see my loved ones come through the door after being absorbed in the media world and drama that encompasses tragic events. I was hyper-aware when I stood up on my own two legs, how lucky I was to have them both after seeing images of one poor man in a wheelchair who had only bone sticking out from the knee down — several times. This is what finally made me turn it all off. That poor guy is going to see this footage and be reminded of those moments forever, not that he would forget, but sometimes shock and nature have a way of allowing us to erase certain harrowing moments or at least softening them. If that were the case for this guy, some idiot will surely show him the footage.
Sadly, these kinds of events aren’t new to the world, but the frequency and intensity has stepped up here in the U.S. in the last few years. If you lived in Northern Ireland or England in the 70s and 80s or inIsrael or Afghanistan or Uganda . . . these kinds are events are no less horrifying, but less unexpected and shocking perhaps.
Platitudes suck almost as much as blame does. There’s always some DB that wants to claim that God is pissed at us, because we love gay people and allow abortion and this is his retribution. Seriously? Sorry, but this is NOT any god I would worship or put any kind of faith in, and trying to convince me otherwise during these times only infuriates me and makes me . . . well, actually, it makes me a bit aggressive and want to scream at the TV or the computer or the newspaper and maybe even throw things. Interesting.
The Dalai Lama usually gets it right for me at times like this. I dig my stubborn little heels in and refuse to be dragged into darkness. I reluctantly turn on the lights, breath deeply, smile at my neighbor, prepare a delicious healthy meal, and drink in life unabashed and unashamed — in tiny sips to start. I cling to hope, when it would be easier to collapse in despair and just eat chocolate all day and weep with the TV about the tragedy of it all (and sometimes eating chocolate all day and weeping on the coach is okay too!).
I hate funerals. Loath them. And yet I go and mostly I’m uplifted by the spirit of hope that usually ripples through the crowd. This was the case with my dear friend and spiritual mentor’s funeral this week (two days after another woman from the same circle’s funeral!). Jean Brookwell was a wise woman with a fantastic sense of humor and a wonderfully deep New England accent. She moved around a LOT, and there were long periods of time we wouldn’t see each other over our 17-years of spiritual experimentation. But, we’d always get on the phone and her voice is so distinct in my head still, “Megaaan, you have to embrace it all! The dark, the scary, the deep unknown.” She would often pepper me with Pema Chodron quotes, and tell me to meditate, which seemed impossible, when I was in such a state of desperation. But, it always worked. I can’t say how exactly, but the unwinding of the most dreaded thing in meditation always revealed a pearl of bright bubbly light and some new tiny piece of wisdom to be gained.
Thank you Jean. In this week of tragedy, my heart breaks open even more and I weep for my mentor, my friend, for her new reality, for my loss, for my new perspective, for her new perspective (hoping she finds a way to share it with me), for her family and their loss, for the unknown finish line we will all cross at some undetermined point whether by terrorist, cancer or old age.
I was sitting at my desk last week staring at my tea cup, which is ALWAYS full of some form of earl grey tea during the daylight hours. My love of this tea goes back far enough that I’m not really sure when I became hopelessly hooked, but it was probably my summer in England in the early 80s. THAT is a whole other story, but I know it was before I met and dated my wild Englishman for several years in the later 80s, because to my shock and horror he drank plain ole Lipton’s (although he did school me on the proper way to prepare a pot of tea – yes, there was a cozy involved).
Tea is one of those commodities that should be subject to Fair Trade standards and in my humble opinion should be organic and non-GMO as well — for the enjoyment and health of the tea drinker as well as those who work on the farms, which are often in faraway places where the potential for unsafe and unfair practices has been common.
It was in my afternoon early grey haze that I pondered the journey this tea made to my pantry and while I knew the brand I was drinking was all of the above (fair trade, organic, non-GMO), I wondered about how some of the other popular earl grey brands would compare . . . ooooo! An idea?
GD Mizar, Gina and I decided to each do some research on one popular brand and see what we could come up with. Because there are literally THOUSANDS of types of tea, from white to green to black to red and too many herbal and flavor combinations to try to categorize, we decided to just focus on one type of tea. As I was writing this, one additional company, which is worthy of a mention got my attention with a timely press release, so there will be 4 brands featured.
The main questions we asked were:
1. Where was the tea grown?
2. How was the tea grown? Using chemical fertilizers and pesticides or organically or other?
3. Who actually grew and harvested the tea, and how were they treated?
4. How much does it cost?
but first . . .
Who is this Earl Grey anyway?
The 2nd Earl Grey was prime minister of England back in the 1830s, when tea drinking was already a national obsession. There are several stories about the origins of Earl Grey tea in England. One debunked legend that one of the Earl’s men saved a young Chinese boy from drowning and the grateful father presented the Earl with tea that was flavored with the oil of bergamot, which is an aromatic citrus fruit — a small orange tree (Citrus bergamia). Of course, as it turns out the Earl never went to China, so there goes that fun story. It is likely that a Chinese diplomat presented the then prime minister with a gift of this specially flavored tea, and apparently he liked it. Jacksons of Piccadilly claims to have been given the original recipe by the Earl himself back in 1830, and continue to produce it as it was originally formulated.
There are many variations, like one of my favorites, lady grey, which is generally earl grey tea with lavender and Seville oranges. But, if you are like me, you become accustomed to your favorite blend.
A little more about black tea in general
Most of us know that tea originated in China as a medicinal drink way back around 1500 – 1050 BC. Tea played and continues to play many roles in Asian cultures from a formal tea ceremony that originated in China, but was developed by Buddhist monks in Japan into a mindful art. India, which is now well-known for growing some of the most popular brands of tea in the west, was introduced to tea by the British, who were fed up with the Chinese monopoly of this addictive commodity, in the 1800s.
Tea was introduced to western culture via Portugal via priests and traders who had dealings with the Chinese in the 16th century. The English, who elevated tea drinking to a cultural obsession, didn’t catch on till the 17th century. In my research, I found a page devoted to the history of tea in England that is pretty informative for anyone who is interested. Then you have the defiant Americans, who were as attached to their tea as the Brits (remember, they were still English at that point), who got all uppity because of the oppressive British tax on tea and dumped a mess of tea from English ships into Boston harbor in 1773 making tea (or the addiction to it) a catalyst in a historic revolution.
The many colors of tea
Black, green and white tea is made from the camillia sinensis plant. Their ultimate color is determined by how they are processed.
I’ll take mine black – the leaves are crushed and fermented. Black tea is fully oxidized. Black tea contains theaflavins and thearubigens, which help to reduce bad cholesterol and lower the risk of stroke and heart attack. And, of course it has 2 to 3 times more caffeine (unless it is a decaffeinated variety).
Go green – the leaves are withered and steamed. Green tea is un-oxidized, which is why it retains its color. Green tea has loads of a powerful antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is lost in the fermentation process of black tea.
White tea? – well it isn’t actually white, but because it is made from the buds and the leaves and is oxidated in a certain way, it has a silvery appearance. It’s all good. And while it has all the health benefits of its black and green siblings, it has the most antioxidants.
Health benefits of black tea
There are literally thousands of claims and studies about all varieties of tea and it’s benefits to our health – well, we have to rationalize this socially acceptable addiction, right? From increasing cardiovascular function to decreasing chances of many cancers to its effectiveness in treating intestinal stress because of its high level of tannins, tea also is credited with some surprising things.
Did you know . . .
black tea prevents tooth decay because of the fluoride it contains
black tea is loaded with antioxidants, such as flavonoids, and is known to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, preventing damage in both the bloodstream and at artery walls, and lowering the risk of heart disease
a compound in black tea called TF-2 causes some cancer cells to go into apoptosis (cancer cell suicide – yes!) while normal cells stay healthy
all tea has phytochemicals. studies show that tea drinkers have stronger bones than non-tea drinkers, and these phytochemicals are the likely cause
the list goes on and on and on . . .
Here’s what we found out about
4 different brands of earl grey tea
No one was assigned this one, but I got a press release at the last minute and I have always liked Numi teas, so I asked if they had an early grey we could feature and they did. I haven’t tried this one yet, but hope to soon!
Where is it grown? Numi works with the Sewpur Tea Estate, a cooperative consisting of more than 330 workers in Assam, India.
How is it grown? Certified Organic and Verified NON-GMO
Who grows it? Sewpur Tea Estate has been working with Numi for two years. Fair Trade funds have been used to build a new school and provide scholarships; distribute fuel-efficient cooking stoves (chullas) and mosquito nets; build new roads; and develop women’s empowerment programs.
This is my current go-to tea that started this fun project. Love the taste, love the price, and I love paisley designs. Here’s a silly pic I took of the inner bag, which is plastic, but I can’t help admire the design: anyway, about the tea . . .
Where is it grown?
How is it grown?
Organic. Only natural, approved fertilizers are used
Where is it grown? Kenya, Sri Lanka, China, some is even grown in Poland. Everything is processed, packaged and produced in the UK
How is it grown? The majority of their tea is conventional and grown with the use of pesticides, but they do have an organic blend
Who grows it? They weren’t clear on exactly how the conventional tea growers were treated, but they stressed their new fair-trade certified varieties meeting the EPP (Environmentally Preferable Purchasing) standards.
How much does it cost?*
$3.00 – 25 tea bags
*as I wrote this question down for these last two that are not organic or fair trade certified, I wish I had the time, energy and brain power to calculate the REAL cost of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides — for the people working on the farms and the environment. Also, what is value of a worker, who is fairly treated and is afforded reasonable living conditions? There are costs for the abuse of people, whether it is economic, ethical, spiritual or cultural but I believe it all of those. I hope that the demand for safe, sustainable tea (and food) becomes great enough that no matter WHAT the cost, it is the standard rather than a specialty.
I was the youngest in my family – by 8 years – and thusly spent most of my life trying to catch up. I never loved being the baby all the time, yet always found myself attracted to older people and perpetuating my role as the baby. But this week, the delusion that I was still the baby was finally crushed beneath that mother of all birthdays (at least in my current limited perspective) – 50.
I hadn’t really paid much attention to this as a big deal, but EVERYONE around me keeps saying, “oh, no – 50 is a BIG deal.” Oh. Ok. So, I should take this thing seriously?
Growing up hasn’t been my strongest attribute, but perhaps here at the half-century mark, I will consider it more carefully . . . nah . . . that hurts my wee brain. In fact, the phrase ‘half-century’ makes me want to dig in my heels and consider how awesome being a kid at 50 might be.
50 tried to kick my butt with a big dose of phlegm and bronchitis – my big event on my actual 50th birthday was to get carted off to the doctor by my oldest daughter. My potential future as an old woman flashed before my eyes as I sat in her passenger seat and felt like a pain in her @ss. This just boosted my resolve to be healthy, stay healthy and kick some middle-aged booty, because no doubt the next 50 years will bring this scene in sincerity all too quickly – must enjoy the time between as much as possible!
I’m not big on birthdays and gifts and all that hooha (at least for myself), but the universe gave me one of the most awesome unexpected gifts I could imagine – our new furry girl, Gracie Mae. We have always had dogs and at one point in the last 10 years, we had 3 big ones – 2 newfies and 1 very large golden (over 300 pounds of serious woof love).
The last one passed 2 years ago and we have been looking to rescue another furry family member for over a year. It isn’t easy to find a large breed puppy, but my husband and I felt strongly that because of our awesome grand babies, it was important to get a young dog that could socialize with the wee g-babes and they could all grow up together. We really never considered getting an adult dog, so as the months passed, we tried to trust that we would find our new baby, and we would know her/him when we found her/him. We fell in love a million times via internet, met a few dogs (not pups) that just weren’t right and almost gave up.
But, about 10 days before I crossed the invisible boundary into the second half of my life, we stumbled (literally) into our Grace. We had seen some pics online of some newfie mix pups and were running around trying to find them and the kind folks at Eleventh Hour Rescue said we had to go to their adoption center and sign up to be first on the list when the pups came up from wherever they were coming from. So, slightly discouraged from yet another future, maybe, hopeful excursion, we showed up to sign up in person (rather than online) for these puppies, but before we got to the desk, there was Gracie Mae (whose name was Mae) sitting with a volunteer. We stopped, stood, stared, gawked and I think we both cried before we spoke because we knew she was our girl. She came right over to us, kissed us both and offered her paw politely and we were smitten. There was no question, we barely uttered words, but we all knew what had happened and within minutes, there were papers and we were shopping for supplies for our new girl.
She is 5 years old and not what we were looking for, but she was patient – unlike us – and we finally caught up. Wow! We all bonded as if we had been together for 5 years. Grace found us and her exuberant energy is exactly what this green diva needs. She is amazing. May I gush just a wee bit? Of all the dogs I’ve loved, she is probably the smartest. She embodies many of the various favorite attributes of our best dogs in one miraculous package behind those soulful, sweet brown eyes.
So, I trudge this Road of Happy Destiny* with my husband on one side, my best furry girl on the other and the rest of my awesome family all around us. What a party! If I had any thoughts of being bummed out about turning 50, they are gone. I have been salvaged – yet again – I have been recycled and repurposed. I have been rescued by Grace (Gracie Mae that is).
*pg. 164 of the Big Book (if you don’t know what this is, don’t worry about it)
We had a fun show last week. Thanks for some kind of satanic tech vortex we were unable to record the show and get the podcast out (but we do have some good notes, including a fun and easy DIY gift idea from GD Mizar - check out the show post for deets.). . . but by some miracle, we had an excellent show! Our Green Dude Segment was with Green Dude Antonio, who is a water purification expert with Pur2o. I’m always surprised by how much I actually don’t know and probably don’t want to know! Anyway, that segment inspired this post about water and water conservation.
By 2025, 1 800 million people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions
According to the World Water Assessment Programme (of the UN), half of the world’s wetlands have been lost since 1900
In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply
Projected increases in fertilizer use for food production and in wastewater effluents over the next three decades suggest there will be a 10-20 per cent global increase in river nitrogen flows to coastal ecosystems (not exactly sure what this means, but it doesn’t sound good!)
Once we acknowledge that there is indeed a problem not only with water resources diminishing, but also in terms of contaminants and the need for safe, clean, accessible drinking water for everyone; then we need to be more aware of how we interact with water and start making changes.
Step 4 – No more bottled water
According to MSNBC, the use of water bottles increased dramatically from 3.3 billion sold in 1997 to 15 billion in 2002
National Geographic estimates that 17 million gallons of crude oil is used on an annual basis to produce plastic bottles
Get a water filtration system and make your own bottled water using glass bottles! Check out our Green Dude Antonio’s excellent system, Pur2o and learn about the differences in systems and what you should be looking for.
Turn off the faucet! This seems like a no-brainer, but it takes a while for some of us to remember to shut off the water during times like brushing teeth or washing dishes or food preparation.
Flush less - If everyone in the United States flushed the toilet just one time less per day, we could save the equivalent of a lake full of water about one square mile and four feet deep every day
Check laundry water levels - First, be sure to wash only full loads; second, make sure that you set the machine to the appropriate water level needed
Power shower - Some of us love to linger in a lovely hot shower, but please take only 5 minutes in the shower and if you need to run water for a time to get the temperature right, consider capturing that water with a bucket and using it to water plants or something else.
Update water appliances – consider getting more efficient toilets and shower heads or at least when it is time to get new ones make sure to get the most water-efficient kind!
Use biodegradable cleaning products – I did some research on this and it is scary what toxins lurk in our cleaning products and how bad they are for us AND our environment, particularly our water systems. My post on non-toxic cleaning.
Step 6 – Help those that do not have clean, safe water
The UN suggests that each person needs 20-50 litres of water a day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking and cleaning
More than one in six people worldwide – 894 million – don’t have access to improved water sources
Today 2.5 billion people, including almost one billion children, live without even basic sanitation. Every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of poor sanitation. That’s 1.5 million preventable deaths each year
According to the UN, in developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply
One way to help is join Matt Damon and others in finding solutions and making safe water accessible to millions through the efforts of Water.org.
Step 7 – Educate others
As you educate yourself and change your water habits, you can help others by the power of example. You can be like my sister, Green Diva Lisa, who is the water police and has been known to lunge at sinks to turn off water in other people’s kitchens. Talk about it. Write about it. Don’t be shy about it. But, please try to be diplomatic and friendly to those that are still on the learning curve – lecturing and making people feel guilty isn’t very effective.
Morning shows are fun, but they are kind of rough on a Monday morning! I have a new respect for all those morning show professionals who do it 5 days a week!
We had a great time with Ebru Today talking about getting greener in the kitchen. I kept my tips to things that were relatively easy, low or no-cost or in fact saved money. My philosophy on having a Green Diva kitchen is pretty simple and involves for basic ideas: a Green Diva Kitchen should . . .
produce yummy food
Watch me having fun on Ebru TV and learn some simple tips for having a greener kitchen:
6 Easy Ways to Have a Green Diva Kitchen
1. Use Cloth Napkins
Paper products currently account for one-third of the municipal waste in the U.S. – great case for using cloth napkins and dishtowels
Paper products: paper v. cloth napkins – manufacturing cloth napkins takes a little more energy, however to wash and reuse them multiple times makes up for it and saves a LOT of trees
you can also easily make your own from remnants
2. Buy More in Bulk
Buying bulk for dry goods can save on packaging AND money! Example: Organic dried cranberries on average are 98% less expensive than their packaged counterpart
Between a quarter and a third of all domestic waste is packaging: much of it food packaging