World Toilet Day

Did you know that 2.6 Billion people in the world don't have access to adequate sanitation?  It's such a simple thing, that so many of us take for granted.  Seriously, when was the last time you were thankful to flush a toilet?

To raise awareness of this issue, which claims the lives of an estimated 5,000 children a day, today is World Toilet Day.

Go to WorldToilet.org to learn more about the worldwide sanitation crisis.  Spread your knowledge, and be thankful for the basic necessities that so many go without.  Because, after all, everyone poops.


Apple Baked Oatmeal

Ok, I know this isn't really a food blog, but I love to cook (and to eat!)... so a bit of food blog-ery is inevitable.

The other day, our office had "Apple Day".  We have a Wellness Committee that does healthy, educational activities every quarter or so.  Anyway, we were all encouraged to bring a tasty apple dish to share.  I'm a big fan of big breakfasts, so I decided to make Apple Baked Oatmeal.

I'd never made baked oatmeal before.  I only knew that I loved the oatmeal from Alterra, and that I could probably recreate something akin to it.  40 minutes of internet trolling later, I had a few recipes to cull from.  From there, as is my standard practice in the kitchen,  I winged it.

Here's what happened:

The house smelled amazing.  Despite having had a large dinner, my mouth was watering.  Did I really have to share??  But I did share.  And it was a huge hit.  And now, I share it with you:

Apple Baked Oatmeal
2 c  Rolled oats
1 1/2 c  Steel Cut Oats
5 1/2 c  Water
1/2 c Apple Cider
2 medium Apples, diced (I used Fuji, for their texture and tang)
2  Eggs, beaten
1/2 c Brown Sugar
2 teas. Cinnamon
1/2 teas. Ground Nutmeg
1/2 teas. Salt
1 teas. Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp. Melted Butter
1/3 c Dried Cranberries
1/3 c Chopped Pecans

Mix all ingredients in a greased 9 x 13" baking dish.  Bake, Covered at 350 for 40 minutes.  Stir well.  Bake uncovered another 30 mins, or until set and slightly browned on top.
*This recipe is very forgiving.  Take this as a starting point, and modify to your own taste/ dietary needs.

You can bet I'll be keeping this one in the quiver for the next time I need to feed brunch to a crowd!


Saner Gift Giving (Part 2) - Charity

Every Christmas for the past 5+ years, it's been the same story.  I call home and ask my parents what they want for a gift.  They respond: "For God's sakes!  Don't get us any more STUFF!  We've got too much STUFF already!!"

Since I'm one of those people who truly loves giving gifts, and am always looking for ways to show my parents how much I appreciate all the things they've done for me over the years, their response presented a conundrum.  Until, that is, I began the tradition of making a donation to a charity in their honor.

For my parents, I chose to start making annual donations to Heifer International.  This well established organization provides livestock to poor families all over the world, thereby increasing the family's food security and allowing them to begin a family business to pull themselves out of poverty.

Under the tree goes a card telling my parents what sort of animal we've gifted in their name, and a small ornament depicting that animal.  As the years go by, when they trim the tree with their Christmas menagerie, they'll remember all the good that has come from their gifts.

And that's the real beauty of charity gifts:  They're truly the gift that keeps on giving.  Plus, there's a charity for nearly every interest or hobby!

Got an animal lover?  How about the Wisconsin Humane Society (or your local shelter).  A boater or fisherman? Try Alliance for the Great Lakes or River Revitalization Foundation.  An avid reader? Donate books to your local library!  Trust in the power of the internet, folks.  Just type your recipient's hobby or interest into google and add "charity" to the end.  You'll come up with something!
(A word of caution: be sure to thoroughly research your charity of choice, especially if they're non-local. You can check with the Better Business Bureau for peace of mind.)

The other great thing about giving to charities in lieu of gifts, is that it translates to any occasion throughout the year! For their kids' birthdays, my friends Heather and Tracie ask the kiddos to bring an item to donate to their chosen charity, instead of more unnecessary toys for the birthday boy or girl.  I love how they instill the spirit of philanthropy in their little ones.  Way to go, gals!

image courtesy tsj photography

If you don't think that a charity gift is quite right for you or your loved-one, stay tuned!  There are still two more parts to this Saner Gift Giving season!


Milwaukee Treasures

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in our fair city.  Cream City Pooch and I took the opportunity to hike the East Bank and Beerline trails along the Milwaukee River.  The Milwaukee River Revitalization Foundation  has done amazing work to bring this amazing resource to us all.  Thanks to them.
Now, get out and enjoy some late-fall goodness!

Trail entrance at Gordon Park

Guerrilla knitwear

Winter's Harbinger

Feeling a million miles from the City


Saner Gift Giving (part 1)

The holidays are right around the corner.  The stores are already packing their shelves with more red and green merchandise than the GDP of a small nation.  It's easy to get caught up in consumerism this time of year. (Lets be honest, China is churning out some seriously cute plastic trinkets these days!)  But how do we stay true to our mission of creating a simpler, greener, kinder, saner life while still expressing our love and appreciation for the people in our lives, and not being a total scrooge??

Here are a few of the options I've come up with:

- Shop Local
- Donate to charity
- Give useful gifts
- Gift an Experience

(image via)

Part 1 - Shopping Local

As the great folks at Our Milwaukee will tell you, shopping local carries a host of benefits.  One of the most important (given the current economic climate) is that buying local keeps more money in the local economy.  One study found that of every $1 spent in a locally owned business, $0.68 remains in the local economy (compared to only $0.43 of every dollar spent at a big box chain store).

Shopping local also helps to keep our community vibrant and unique.  It encourages further growth by creating an hospitable environment for other entrepreneurs.  Plus, local businesses give, on average, 250% more to non-profit organizations!

With the "one stop shopping" convenience of malls and big box stores, the idea of buying all your gifts from local businesses can seem daunting.  Here's a few ideas to help you out:

- Get ideas from Our Milwaukee.  Their Local Business Directory will help remind you of just how many local options we have, and just how cool they are!

- Check out a craft/gift fair, or two!  There are lots of them coming up:
                     Art vs. Craft is Nov. 27th
                     The Holiday Art, Craft and Gift Expo at State Fair Park is Nov. 26 - 28
                     Outpost's Alternative Gift Fair is Dec. 5th
                     The Holiday Artisan Market at Discovery World is Dec. 4-5
Lots of churches, schools and ethnic centers have craft fairs this time of year, too.  There's way too many of those to list!

Craft fairs can be a great way to spend an afternoon with the kids, or a girlfriend.  And you're guaranteed to find a unique gift!

emilee rose designs

- Consider homemade.  It doesn't get much more local than your own kitchen or living room.  Do you bake? Knit? Crochet? Draw? Paint? Scrapbook? Decoupage?   Homemade gifts are always some of my favorites - you can feel the love that went into making them.  And an added bonus? A homemade Christmas can save you beaucoup bucks!
(Just be sure to be conscientious about your crafting supplies!)

image via

Next time we'll explore the world of Saner Gift Giving through donations to charities.

Happy Gifting!


The Hidden Costs of Consumption

Now that Halloween has come and gone, it's officially the Holiday Season.  A season full of conspicuous consumption.  A season where we all fall victim to "needing" to buy things - as gifts for others, as decor for our homes, as wardrobe for a fancy party, and the list goes on.

So much of what we buy these days comes from overseas.  These products are generally significantly cheaper than items made here in the U.S. of A.  Many of these companies aren't restricted by minimum wage and worker's rights laws, and environmental protection often doesn't even exist.

I came across this pictorial the other day, and really wanted to share it with you.  Photos like these rarely make it into the mainstream news-cycle.  But they should.

Please, take a few minutes to view these beautifully powerful photos.  And next time you're at your Big Box Store of choice, about to throw another disposable plastic whosit, whatsit, or bauble into your cart, remember these photos.