Monday, December 20, 2010

Slow Season!

Warmest wishes and deepest apologies for the lack of posts lately. The holidays are a busy time of year around here! Please feel free to spend some of your Internet-browsing hours looking through old posts here on Just Saying or on the following sites/blogs/links/stories that have captured our attention lately:

Mental_Floss: 18 Fun Facts About Your Favorite Christmas TV Specials

MSN 'A Year of Mystery Meat' - Read about the experiences of a Chicago area public school employee who ate school lunch every day for a year

Green-Up Your Computer with ECO BUTTON

Recent GMO News - Bt Cotton Failures in India (also here)

Get to know The Fabulous Beekman Boys or just watch Farmer John's Goat Cam!

And if those happy Beekman goats made your heart grow three sizes, consider making an end-of-year donation to one of our favorite organizations, Heifer International, to gift a goat or a share of one. Learn more and donate here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


While finding yourself beneath mistletoe in North America during the holiday season traditionally implies luck and increases your chances at stealing a smooch, the trees that the partially-parasitic Phoradendron flavescens are commonly found growing from are not so lucky.

Botanically speaking, the plant is a 'hemiparasite,' which means that it is capable of producing its own food by photosynthesis, but more often it sends out roots to penetrate the branches or trunk of a tree and steal nutrients. The seed is spread by bird droppings in the crown of trees and because mistletoe is an evergreen, like Christmas holly, it is most visible in the winter when the leaves of host trees have fallen. Perhaps most interestingly, the familiar Christmas decor is often "harvested" by shotgun. How romantic.

So how did a parasite become a symbol and tradition during holiday festivities? I don’t know for certain, but some say the answer lies in Norse Mythology. In ancient Scandinavia, if enemies met by chance beneath mistletoe in the forest, they would lay down their arms and hold a truce until the next day. This custom went hand-in-hand with the Norse myth or Baldur, whose mother, Frigga, made every object, animal and plant promise not to harm her son except mistletoe, which she overlooked. After a mischievous Norse god killed Baldur with a spear fashioned from mistletoe and brought winter into the world, his mother declared the plant sacred. Baldur was eventually resurrected and Frigga ordered that any two people passing beneath it must celebrate Baldur’s life by kissing.

More recently, Washington Irving wrote about a now often-overlooked aspect of the mistletoe tradition in a footnote of “Christmas Eve”

“The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”

Those berries, by the way, are poisonous despite the fact that they have long been considered an aphrodisiac.

So if you find yourself beneath a parasitic plant this season, think of traditions of peace and the tree that is now free of a nutrient-thief. Or, if you need an exit strategy, distract the smoocher by spewing the fun facts you’ve just learned!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 Holiday Gift Guide

There are only two more shopping weekends before Christmas and you know what that means: It will be near impossible to find a parking spot at the Columbia Mall. The good news is, you've been to that mall before, know the national chains that have stores there (and a bit more about their respective carbon footprints), and can get those items online in plenty of time if need be. So why not take the stress and uniformity out of this holiday and do a little out-of-the-mall shopping?

The Baltimore Sun has made unique, local shopping and gifting super-easy with their all-encompassing Holiday Gift Guide and Top 100 Baltimore Stores. They also point readers towards one of Just Saying's favorite places to pick up unusual knick-knacks, art, and home decor: Museum Gift Shops.

Speaking of art, if you happen to be out and about in Annapolis this Sunday between 10am and 5pm, stop into the Sheraton Annapolis Hotel for the 8th Annual ALS Artisan Boutique featuring 55 artists selling handcrafted jewelry, pottery, painting, original children's clothing and accessories, woodworking, photography, confections, and luxurious bath and body products to benefit patients and families battling Lou Gehrig's disease. Admission is free and raffle tickets to win an iPad or iPod Touch are $10.00. If you or your children are fond of the Corduroy childrens' book series, toss your fave in your purse because the illustrator, Lisa McCue, will be making an appearance. McCue has illustrated tons of famous childrens' books on your shelves, not just ones about every one's favorite bear, so check out her library for additional titles (Cork & Fuzz, Fuzzytail, Sebastian and so many more) you may be gifting.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

File Under: Adorable

I see this every morning on when I drive into the University of Maryland, College Park entrance near the Greenhouse and the Comcast Center. I hope to witness dozens of feathery family crossings in the spring.

Friday, December 3, 2010

'Tis the Season...

...for JustSaying to remind you about our favorite simple ideas to help make the holidays more green (and to post pictures of cute holiday animals).

  • Get a real tree. Ideally, one grown locally as opposed to say... shipped to a Home Depot near you. Not only will your home smell like lovely pine without any artificial sprays or candles, but you are contributing to a business that is good for the planet. I know, I know: Instinct dictates that cutting down trees = bad. But that isn't exactly the case in the business of Christmas trees because higher demand = more trees planted.  Christmas tree farms are a big business. We're talking about 56 million trees bought each year that grew and absorbed carbon dioxide for 5-16 years before gettung tied to the roof of your car. Read all about it in an earlier year's post, "Purchase the Pine, People." (By golly gosh, those are some cute sisters in that picture!)Of course, purchasing the tree - roots and all - to be replanted after the holidays is the absolute greenest of the green but not everyone has the land for that.

  • Make your own gift tags from last years Christmas cards. Or email me to receive a bag full of them for free in exchange for donating your old cards. Each year, JustSaying gives our home-made, re-purposed tags to friends and family and they are always a hit. 

  • Consider purchasing gifts that give back through organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. Not only will you be donating to an important cause, you'll get on the mailing lists for similar organizations that send out holiday-themed return address labels and wrapping paper made from recycled materials (and a request for a small donation).

  • As far as online shopping,Amazon is one of our favorites because of their eco-friendly frustration-free packaging. If you can't find what you are looking for on there, be sure and sign up for an account on your favorite sites so that you can save items in your cart until all your purchasing is complete and can be sent in a single shipment. Save yourself the shipping fees and save the packing materials and shipping miles.

  • Use LED lights and put them on a timer. If you aren't fond of the bright-white, grab a colorful strand instead.  

If you've got any tips for the season, please feel free to share them in the comment section as this is the first of several holiday posts.

Thursday, December 2, 2010