Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Environment: There's An App For That

It would seem there's just about an app for everything these days. 
The environment? Sure, even for that! 

In fact, there are a few:

Think Dirty

The personal care industry is chocked-full of a whole lot of chemicals and potentially toxic ingredients that sometimes are packaged in earth-friendly and healthy labeled bottles with greenwashing claims of being "100% organic," "natural," and "eco-friendly"...when in fact they may not be. With the help of the Think Dirty app, you can scan the barcode and find out what's really inside the product you are buying. It will also give you "cleaner" alternatives to the product in your hand. As an independent source, you get the true "dirt" on what exactly you have in your hand and might be putting on your skin, face, or hair. They currently have over 850,000 products from the cosmetic and personal care departments in their database from most American & Canadian companies. In addition to rating products and shopping lists, it also can help you track how you are "cleaning up" your bathroom products.

Compilation Lists:

These 3 lists have some go-to apps to check out if you want to be sure to travel a little lighter on our planet.

Apple's App Store "Lend a Hand from Home" Page

Here you'll find a dozen or so apps that will help you do a variety of things to help our Earth from ways to repurpose clothing, plant trees via web searches, cook and eat greener, eliminating junk mail and more.

Here, author Shelby Brown mentions a few of the same apps mentioned in the Apple App page above, but also includes others like how to find: water stations for refilling your water bottle, vegan/vegetarian restaurant, and gardening tips to darken the shade of your green thumb. 

Deccan Herald's Earth Day 2020 Top 5 Must Have IOS Apps to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint 

Again, you'll find more of the same (which should really emphasize the point that these apps are top finds)... however, I included this one for the "Seek by iNaturalist" app mentioned. It's a great way to connect with nature (for young and old alike) by helping you identify the flora and fauna you encounter on your hikes or out in your backyard. 

"There's an App For That" image created at, Video from, "Lend a Hand from Home" screenshot from,

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Snow & Ice Sculpturist Andy Goldsworthy

Outdoor art and creativity must really be speaking to me. A few weeks ago I shared Simon Beck's snow drawings. Here's some more winter-inspirational artistic snow-goals, this time from Andy Goldworthy. His "Ice & Snow Ephemeral Sculptures" showcase the beauty of winter.

To learn more, check out the post "Andy Goldworthy's Ice & Snow Ephemeral Sculptures" over at AesthesiaMag or Andy's work and bio over at ArtNet. Additional information about his environmental ideas and nature mediums is over at "Living Your Wild Creativity."

Images from

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Inagural Impressions

The memories of Wednesday's Inauguration are swirling still in my head in so many ways. So many powerful and patriotic visions: 

The National Mall, adorned with nearly 200,000 flags. These flags represented the missing spectators due to the pandemic due to travel and gathering restrictions. Additionally, double that number and it serves as a poignant visual, mirroring the fact that we crossed 400,000 Covid deaths on Inauguration Eve.
The Capitol Building draped in flags and regalia, like a superhero standing strong. A compelling icon of resilience after the insurrection on January 6th. It may have been damaged, but but certainly not destroyed nor daunted nor diminished. Instead: durable, determined, stalwart, steadfast, and a symbol of our strength as a nation.

The symbolic purple our first female Vice President Kamala Harris (and others) wore that day. Vice President Harris words it as a nod to Shirley Chisholm (one of her personal political inspirations) and the first black woman elected to Congress. Additionally, reports are that some wore purple as the color of suffragettes (along with white and gold). Electing our first female to this powerful office is certainly a suffragette moment. Additionally, what do you get when you blending of red of Republicans and the blue of Democrats? A passionate purple, creating a visual representation of bipartisanship and unity.

The pearls Kamala wore. This has become a style statement of hers, tying back to her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority days and the symbolism of pearls to them. Many people, myself included, also wore pearls that day as well as Election Day. Mine came as a birthday gift this past fall from my husband as a nod to Ruth Bader Ginsberg (for both her infamous collars and her passing on Sept. 18th, 2020). Other people also wore pearls on both Election & Inauguration Day to commemorate the the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote along with a female on the Vice Presidential ticket. I've been calling mine my "pandemic pearls" and wearing them throughout the entire Election-to-Inauguration season.

The heartfelt words of unity, hope, healing, and empathy in President Joe Biden's inaugural address. He knows he has a big task ahead of him as president to a very philosophically divided country. I don't envy his job, but I am thankful that he is taking it on, and doing so with such compassion.

The amazing grace and confidence of 22-year old poet laureate Amanda Gorman as she gave her inaugural poem. Words worth hearing again. PBS NewsHour has put together lessons plans for middle and upper school graders centered around Amanda's Poem "The Hill We Climb." 

With the start of this new administration, I certainly honor President Biden and the enormous task he has ahead. It's my hope that these visions that are swirling in my mind are ones that can help us all as a country heal. We need to remember we are the 'United' States of America. May we all listen and learn from each other so we all can all lend a hand and lead! And may we take these words that Amanda shared to heart:

We've learned that quiet isn't always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we've weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Images from: 
Capitol Building picture by Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, & Hillary Clinton in purple from
Amanda Gorman's text from the transcript of her Inaugural poem here:

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Inauguration Day 2021

January 20th every 4 years we have the American tradition of transferring (or continuing) power based on public elections every four years. The reason: we are a Constitutional Federal Republic, with state and national governments where we elect representatives to exercise the power of the people and our laws are based on the US Constitution. The 20th Amendment (adopted January 23, 1933) moved the Inauguration date from March 4th to January 20th every 4 years. 

Dating back to 1801 and our second president John Adams, we have had a peaceful transition of power at the heart of our government, national election, and inauguration. The reason it fell on our second president is that our first president, George Washington served his two terms and then opted out of presidential limelight. John Adams, former friend and now political rival to 3rd president Thomas Jefferson, was not a fan of his predecessor at this point; however, he set the stage for a peaceful transfer of power in our country. Based on his example, it is now a lasting piece of our democratic history for this political "passing of the torch" to be peaceful for the sake of our country.

While this year (more than ever before) has been fraught with drama and controversy in this department after a volatile, partisan election season and sadly the insurrection in January 6th. Not everyone comes to today as happy campers, however in the events from two weeks ago, we are more wide-eyed and aware of what can happen when people get out of control. 

Ready or not, Inauguration Day is here. It is on Inaguration Day today that we watch President-Elect Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. become President Biden; and, we make history as we have confirm our first African American, Asian American, female Vice President Kamala Harris. Together they pledge to be a Presidential team that unifies rather than divides

Watching it via multiple channels on the TV, live stream, and Internet will be easy here this Inauguration Day, where crowds in DC will be kept down due to both health concerns of the pandemic and the invasion of the Capitol on January 6th.

In the meantime, here are some fast facts on the Inauguration that you might not have known.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Rethink Recycling Student Art Virtual Gallery.

The proverb "One man's trash is another man's treasure" is at the heart of recycled art. 

As part of 2020's America Recycles Day on November 15th, Maryland's Department of the Environment [MDE] created "Rethink Recycling" sculpture contest to promote recycling and innovative thinking. The contest was opened up to Maryland High School students this past fall.

Click here to see MDE's Secretary Ben Grumbles' video introduction to the contest. You can then go to the MDE's Online Sculpture Gallery of 70 students' creative artworks created entirely from recycled materials. 

In the past, this annual competition has been held in person--of course, it's no surprise that this year, due to Covid, the contest had to be held in a more innovative way online. Students created their sculptures from repurposed and recycled items, photographed their finished products, and then submitted them to the virtual gallery where online voting chose the winners, who were publicly announced November 24, 2020,

This year's winners were both from Linganore High School in Frederick:

In Schoolhouse Rock Style: "I'm A Vaccine"

As a product of the '70's, I grew up as a Schoolhouse Rock kind of girl. I knew them all and could sing along: "Conjunction Junction," "Interplanet Janet," "Figure 8," "Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here," "Elbow Room".... I could go on and on. 

Perhaps that's why the folks at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health decided to consult their inner Schoolhouse Rockstar element when creating their new "I'm a Vaccine" in the style of "I'm Just a Bill." (This was an all-time classic Schoolhouse rock favorite, on the tip of everyone tongue who grew up in the 1970's and sat glued to Saturday morning TV. Given that, this is an incredibly smart move on the part of the creative geniuses over at JHU!)

"I'm a Vaccine" is a cartoon created by Johns Hopkins to explain the steps through the Phase 3 clinical trials. Just like "I'm Just a Bill" goes through the hypothetical process of how a bill becomes a law, "I'm a Vaccine" does the same thing, showcasing the innovation it takes to get through he processes of creating a vaccine for a virus we're all on a first name basis with. 

As with anything new, potentially scary, and somewhat controversial, it takes education. Additionally, it's necessary to make that information accessible to all in an easy to take dose. We've all seen in the last year how many vantage points there are on both Covid & the speedy creation of this necessary vaccine. Speaking the common, familiar, comfort language of Schoolhouse Rock is a good place to start.

To learn more about Covid, the vaccine, and more, check out the Covid page at JHU's Bloomberg School of Public Health portal.

To trek further down memory lane to other favorites in the Schoolhouse Rock genre, check out their Disney Wiki Page.

Video from, Schoolhouse Rock image from

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Sauntering & Wandering In The Woods

One of the best parts of being a teacher is the rest and rejuvenation that comes during the Winter Break. This year I definitely felt it more than ever before with the exhaustion that has come from 2020, pandemic restrictions, the election, racial noise, hybrid teaching and more. 

Winter Break for me also took on an almost "supporting character" role, as we had to do a lot of rethinking about how best to celebrate the holidays in a physically distanced way. Plus, with more time on our hands due to not doing our traditional Christmas travel to visit my family, the 4 walls sometimes close in. After 9 months of pandemic restrictions and quarantining, we all know a little bit about that!

Of course, with it being winter, escaping the 4 walls becomes more difficult as the weather dictates what you can and can't do outside in a different way. With 40 degree weather dictating most of break, I found that you had to get more creative--or at least dress the part when going outside. Bundling up for bonfires & walks & other outdoor adventures was the way to go. For those of us who aren't fans of the cold, this provides some challenges. 

But, sunny days dressed accordingly made for good days for walkabouts, either alone or with friends. I had a couple of really great, rewarding, masked walking adventures with friends which served as a great way to unplug, catch up, soak in community, and commune with nature. I, too, personally agree with John Muir.

Take some time to reverently saunter and wander the woods this winter.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Creativity & Connection In the Time of Covid

During my Winter Break, I had a grand opportunity to catch up with my college roommate from our senior year. (Side note: College was over half a life time ago!!) Facebook of course has been doing a fabulous job of connecting everyone for the last dozen years, but I haven't "seen seen" her in probably 2 decades--if not more! This time, however, it was "live and in person." Well, as "live and in person" as you can in the middle of the pandemic when you live on opposite coasts. We met up in a Zoom creative workshop that she was hosting on collage making. With a whole lot of extra holiday time on my hands due to not traveling, taking part seemed to be a no-brainer.

In former days gone by, I was a big time scrapbooker.... but these days, most of my art and photographs tends to be digital. is how I make a lot of my GTG art. I live on my computer! But, I still have a lot of good supplies, and I know my way around scissors and a glue stick. As I suspected, the hands-on, physical nature (tied in with the open forum to let my creative juices flow) did this girl's body and mind some good that afternoon!

Our 3-hour class was intimate with only two other folks (whom I had never met before)--one from the upper Northwest and one from Mexico. But truly, with Zoom, less is more! Too many people becomes hard to jockey for conversation. And, those 3 hours easily turned to 4 as we all parallel played with our creating in true quilting bee fashion. My old former roommate (Old?! We're not old!!) and I picking up without ever missing a beat AND she got drive-bys of my kids--something you don't get in Facebook photos alone! Plus, I got to meet two amazing new people. We all chatted of our own personal pandemic pandemoniums, covering a range of 2020 topics, trials, & tribulations, as well as the upcoming new year. 

My college collage pal was open and flexible in her facilitating, and it ebbed into each of the 4 of us having our own approach to the workshop. I went in with an open mind, not really sure what I was going to create... and sometimes that is the very best way to do it. I loosely went with my One Word "Heal" ponderings, and as I went to retrieve some material to slice-and-dice for collage making, my 2020 wall calendar (along with a holiday catalog) seemed like the absolute perfect medium to chop to bits. There certainly was something cathartic and healing about destroying such a rough year--then rebuilding it to something better. An excellent creative use in repurposing!

My final product ended up being a poster of sorts, with a pocket of motivational cards that I could switch up or revisit as needed. For right now, I'm not sure where I'm going to hang it, but I'm feeling like it will land on the wall of my office at school. Here's my "collage-a-majiggy poster-y thingy."

And here are my cards which live in their 2021 pocket:

One of the things that was particularly satisfying at the end of our collage quilting bee was the variety of the everyone's outcome. One of our collage-mates had a wonderful board book where her creations could live. Another fellow artisan had drawings mixed with paint and collage. My style was probably somewhere in the quirky eclectic contemporary neighborhood (or something like that). Our fearless leader's style rests heavily in vintage--a wonderful way to repurpose items and tap "into the rich history that was." In fact, you can learn more over at her hooray4lala Etsy shop. Be sure to click her "Read more" which definitely delights my heart!

Catching up with old longtime friends AND meeting new, inspiring, interesting people definitely does a heart good. So too does a dose of creativity layered on top. Perhaps that right there is the best collage yet, and just perfect in the time of Covid!

Banner screenshot for @hooray4lala's Etsy shop from; Other photos of my handiwork from this collage workshop!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

One Word 2021

One of my traditional first posts of the new year for the last several years has always focused "One Word" of the year. I will admit, I'm a bit mixed about it. Just like New Year's resolutions, I always start strong and it flitters and fizzles somewhere by mid year.

Last year's word of "Vitality" seems rather ironic in a 365 day retrospect on all the mysteries that I didn't know then about 2020 but certainly know now. "Vitaliy" was a hard bargain sometimes in the age of Covid, remote & hybrid Learning, civil unrest, and a very contentious election. Much of 2020 for me was mind numbing, which is quite the opposite of vitality. But thats said, I did have 243 days of exercising, mainly on my real or my stationary bike. This rounds out to 4-5 times a week. This is by far a first for me to have a continued year long maintenance of an exercise program. Some pounds were dropped--not as many as I would have liked, and it offered some good escape & bingewatching time during a harsh year. Schitt's Creek, Downtown Abbey, the entire West Wing series, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, Hollywood, and Virgin River were some of my favorites. (Sorry, no Tiger King for this kid!!)

So clearly this one-word business isn't an exact science with me, but it does offer the glimmer of hope and direction.

It reminds me of memories of curling up with my journal as a kid and writing lists of resolutions and plans for the year ahead. I appreciate that midwinter reflection after all the gifts are unwrapped, time to sit and think about what is really important, and the ability to ponder ways I need to shift going forward. It's at least a good exercise for me in January.

In thinking about the year ahead, one can't do so without thinking on everything we endured. I saw a meme of 2020 that had January and February calendars at the top, a whole mix and mingle of the in between months, and then December. 2020 in so many ways feels like this exact jumble--one perhaps of about 700 days long. I alluded to some of the highlights of the year in my last post.

However, in thinking about words for the year ahead, in relation to the year prior, "Heal" keeps coming to mind. I think we all have walked away from 2020 a bit broken. I think we all may have a collective case of PTSD. Watching shows, I feel like people are too close. I can shut my eyes and hear the air scrubbers in my school. Masks are part of our fashionwear. Hand washing & sanitizing feels a little obsessive compulsive. It's going to take a long time to feel "normal" again.

Teachers and healthcare workers are tired from the demands of the pandemic. Mental health is more of a concern than ever before. Entire sports seasons and prom events and college & high school rites of passage like prom and graduation have disappeared. We have an Innaguration ahead in a few weeks with the entire country more angry than ever. Stress is high on all levels, and many of us feel beaten down in our own homes due to sacrifices to families, jobs, economy, and more. As a planet, we are literally trying to heal pandemic populations through newly released and administered vaccinations.

2020 was such a hard year for so many.

I ran across this poem by Christine Evangelou from "Beating Hearts & Butterflies" and was struck. May we all be these stronger people in 2021, better now than before. Richer due to surviving hard experiences. Healed.  

One Day

One day, you will heal
One day, you will be grateful for the deepest cuts of pain
One day, you will glance at yourself
And see a stronger person through your reflection
One day, you will kiss away your hurt… gently, and with grace 
Until then, use it all to propel you forward
Like a white-hot pyre through your star-spangled eyes
A fire to regenerate every shadowy cell
And open your heart to every experience
Knowing that one day
You will search your heart
And understand that love is the only thing to ever hold onto

*This was written and scheduled to post on January 6 well before the events in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. Certainly, glued to my television watching events unfold as people overtook one of our most sacred governmental buildings, it certainly reiterates my choice and our collective need to "heal." 

Calendar meme from, One word image for 2020 & 2021 created at

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Repurposing Your Christmas Tree

Depending on when you take your tree down, this post may be in the category of "day late & dollar short." Or maybe it's perfectly-timed given you decided this was the year to hang on to holiday cheer and keep your tree up a little longer, because, know...2020. Or, it could happen that the point is mute due to having an artificial tree which just goes back in the box until next year. Or perhaps this post will serve as inspiration for next year's Christmas season. 

Whichever it may be, at some point your holiday decorations come down, as does your Christmas tree. If you had a real one, you have to do something once it's stripped bare of ornaments and lights. In the past when we have had a live tree (versus the artificial one we have now that will ultimately go back into the garage), we have pulled our tree curbside for recycling & the making of mulch. Repurposing the tree in that way is a good use of resources, and be sure to watch your local municipality for its curbside-tree-dates if you decide to go that route. 

However, the thought of returning the tree to nature as a gift of the season as a respite and home for wildlife struck me as a warm one this year. Kudos goes to The Nature Conservancy of Canada for posting the idea of leaving your old Christmas tree in your backyard. In doing this, you've taken a circular loop  approach. In fact, more things should come with this kind of closed loop (or circular economy) concept. Here, instead of the "throw away and replace culture we've become used to, we'd adopt a return and renew one, where products and components are designed to be disassembled and regenerated." 

In nature, with a Christmas tree, the closed loop is simple: bring it outside. By leaving it in your backyard, especially during the winter, you've now created a habitat for birds and other backyard wildlife. You've also widened your own backyard biodiversity. All the more so if you decorate it with peanut butter and bird seed covered pine cone ornaments. 

As the tree looses the needles and starts to decompose, not only will it continue to provide shelter to animals, it also will start to break down, which ultimately will add nutrients to the soil. According to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, many fir trees break fairly quickly given the makeup of the wood. You can speed up that process by drilling holes in the tree trunk. 

If your backyard doesn't accommodate that, has some other suggestions for ways to repurpose your tree. Check in with your local community to see if you can find places that would take your tree to use in these ways:
  • Fish feeders in private fish ponds
  • Soil erosion barriers to assist with shore stabilization 
  • Hiking trail path material
Like I said, ours will be going back in the box for the next 11 months, living it's own level of closed loop here at our house. But if you have the ability to give it back to nature, the birds and your local wildlife will thank you!