Cheery Observations

Celebrating the Unique, Sustainable, and Creative

Penn Quarter Farmers’ Market: July 2nd July 3, 2009

Justin and I went to FreshFarm’s Penn Quarter Farmer’s Market yesterday and had a wonderful time wandering around.  We went with the goal of getting eggs and peaches, but left with two bags full of delicious produce and flowers.
Penn Quarter Farmers Market
We started off grabbing two pain au chocolate from Quail Creek Farm, a bakery outside of Hedgesville, West Virginia,  and an iced tea from nearby Teaism, as we were feeling too hungry to control ourselves and probably definitely would have started buying everything in sight!

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

After we felt somewhat satiated, we picked up some broccoli and green onions for a stir fry.   The garlic they were selling was perfectly shaped!

Perfect Garlic

Perfect Garlic

We also grabbed some peaches and snap peas (mmm, stir fry) from another farmer and eggs from yet another farmer.  We  bought a bunch of beautiful purple zinnias from Wollam Gardens, an outdoor grower of cut flowers, located in Jeffersonton, Virginia.
flowers wollam
We completed our Farmers Market rampage with delicious bacon from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Red Apron Butcher.  Besides at Farmer’s Markets, Nathan Anda sells his hand cut and cured meats at both Planet Wine’s shop and as part of Buzz’s delicious paninis.

We have already cooked the bacon and scrambled the eggs:  a perfect start to a holiday weekend Friday!

Red Apron's Pepperoni and Soppressata

Red Apron's Pepperoni and Soppressata


Twisting Away Waste June 30, 2009

Filed under: Environment,housewares — meaghin @ 6:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

In my constant effort to live in an efficient, sustainable manner, I’m always looking for ways to alter my every day mundane actions using products or tools that make a difference environmentally.   If I have to wipe down countertops or clean dishes, I feel slightly better knowing that my boring actions will ultimately result in less waste.  Not every green action has to be ground breaking!
We have been using Twist loofah sponges and bamboo cloths for the past several months.  Our paper towel bill was becoming astronomical and come on, except in the commercials, I’ve yet to be able to ‘re use’ my Bounty Quicker Picker Upper.
The Twist cloth is genius because it acts as a paper towel stand in.  (Disclaimer:  we still use paper towels for some of the bigger messes, but we’ve reduced our paper towel consumption by at least half).  You can use it dry or wet—it can wipe up pretty much anything, and then yes, you can actually wring it out and use it again…and again…and again.  The cloth can go in the dishwasher/boiling water to sanitize it.  The packaging claims one cloth is the equivalent to 80 paper towels.  Hmm.  One thing that Twist might want to consider is making these cloths in other colors.  No matter how clean you make your cloth, after one use, it’s never going to be as white as it once was!  A green or brown cloth would be more visually appealing.

The loofah sponges are bio degradable and unbleached.  They hold up surprisingly well.  I don’t need a bright blue and purple sponge—just one that does its job and I feel comfortable throwing away after I’ve destroyed it!


Making a Necessary Errand ‘Greener’ June 25, 2009

Filed under: Environment — meaghin @ 5:17 pm
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Oh, dry cleaning.  Every time I pick up clothes from the drycleaner, I wince.  Not just because of the bill—the bill I can ‘stomach’, most of the time.  It’s the waste:  horrible wire hangers, each item individually bagged.  Bags that are unusable in another form, except as a ‘must be supervised toy’ for my cat.  She loves dry cleaning bags, but I am not in agreement!  The frustrating thing about most dry cleaners is that even if you take something in to be tailored-not dry cleaned-it ends up in a plastic bag.

I am planning on purchasing a ‘Dry Greening’ tote and then convincing my dry cleaner to use it.  The purchasing is the easy part; the convincing might take a bit more work!

The totes are sturdy, water-repellant, and ultimately recyclable (when they wear out, of course).
dry cleaning tote
So, you put your articles of clothing in the bag, drop it off at the dry cleaner, and then in theory, the dry cleaner flips the tote inside out into a bag.   Happy customer, happy environment?  One can certainly write an entire article on why dry cleaning is bad for the environment.  However, when something has to be dry cleaned, this can at least alleviate a bit of waste.  It’s not an earth shattering step, but progress comes from each individual making small adjustments.


Virginia Farmland Supper June 24, 2009

In honor of the Summer Solstice and in support of both our favorite group of restaurants—The Neighborhood Restaurant Group—and local farmers, Justin and I went  to the Virginia Farmland Supper last weekend.  This ‘farm to fork’ experience was absolutely one-of-a-kind.

The event took place far out in Loudoun County, VA (practically West Virginia) at Moutoux Orchards.  I am somewhat familiar with a few local farms, but was unfamiliar with Moutoux before this event.  Their orchards and farm were the perfect venue!  Moutoux Orchards is a family run operation and pride themselves on growing their fruit and vegetables without pesticides.  Peaches, strawberries, and a variety of grains (wheat, spelt, and rye) are their main focus, however apples, cherries, plums, and pear trees were recently planted and should be bearing fruit within several years.  If you are local, you can check out Moutoux at the Vienna fruitstand and Arlington and Dupont Farmers’ Markets.
Farmland Supper Collage 2
We are frequent guests at all of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s restaurants (in fact, Buzz Bakery is making our wedding cupcakes!).  We’ve been to several of their other events (OctoberFest and Neighborhood Cookout) so we knew we couldn’t miss this event!

After waking up to torrential rain, I find it unimaginable how perfect the late afternoon and evening weather was.   The night started with passed appetizers:  housemade sausage with vegetables, grilled summer squash, beets (!) and an amazing sparkling Viognier from Horton Vineyards.   There were 4 bluegrass musicians playing nearby and we were able to wander around the farm and visit the chickens.
farmland dinner collage
We walked about a half mile further into the farm to a massive table set up in the field, near lush swiss chard and wheat blowing in the wind.  Each course came with a wine pairing from Horton Vineyards.  Highlights of the meal were ‘This morning’s deviled eggs’, the best crabcake I have had locally, and chevre cheesecake (as light as air).  We sat near two of the farmers working at Moutoux and some local foodies.  It was a refreshing and authentic night and the perfect way to start summer:  supporting sustainable farming and a community restaurant group!


Trayless Cafeterias: A Positive Way To Lose that Freshman 15? May 5, 2009

Filed under: Environment,food and recipes — meaghin @ 8:19 pm

A few weeks ago I read an article in the New York Times that made me hopeful.  Some, mostly small, colleges have enacted a small change that could ultimately lead to big results both for the environment and (maybe) for the future generation’s awareness of their impact on the environment:  how a small change can help themselves and the environment simultaneously.

This quote from the article provides a good summary:

The Sustainable Endowments Institute, a research organization that tracks environmental practices at the 300 colleges and universities with the largest endowments, said that 126 of them had curtailed use of trays, some of them banishing trays only from certain dining halls, and some introducing, for example, “trayless Tuesdays.” Such moves are often part of a larger push to embrace environmentalism that includes hiring sustainability coordinators, introducing solar panels, composting dining-hall waste and encouraging students to turn off lights with catchy sayings like “Do It in the Dark.”

This trayless policy, as the article goes on to say, saves gallons of water (from washing trays), money (due to less food waste) and students’ figures/waste lines (and self esteem?  Perhaps a stretch!).  Going trayless means that students must put the food they’re interested in one plate, instead of grabbing everything they may want to eat and putting it all on one tray (guilty!).  This forces the student to think about what they’re eating instead of mindlessly taking anything and everything.  It also helps curtail a student’s desire for unnecessary seconds.   A negative of this is that lines *may* be longer, but honestly I would say in most dining halls that effect is minimal (as the lines are already long!).


Working in an elementary school has reminded me of how much waste exists in everyday life.  It’s too disheartening to really wrap one’s mind around for too long a stretch of time because then the mind just multiplies all the waste seen in one elementary school to all other elementary schools in the district, to middle schools, to high schools, to the tri-state area (ETC…).  And then it’s easy to use those thoughts as a jumping off point for almost any business!

Besides the ‘obligatory’ paperwaste that is bound to happen, especially with old technology floating around, the food waste and every waste associated with the cafeteria is really mind boggling.  The students at my school all have styrofoam trays:  styrofoam–aka that tray won’t decompose for 2 billion years (slight exaggeration)!  I also usually see about half the food end up in the trashcan, and don’t get me started on the plastic bottles that have one sip taken out of them and then are chucked.

Certainly what colleges are doing with plastic trays is not feasible in an elementary school setting.  Most kids can barely balance their milk with their slice of pizza, much less have everything on one plate.  But reading the article made me hopeful that when these students move on to higher education, there might be even more environmentally friendly policies in place.