Monday, June 28, 2010

Get Ready for a CSN Store Review

I'm very excited to do a review for CSN Stores! If you haven't heard about CSN Stores, they have over 200 different stores and more than one million items, including beautiful dining room tables, children's furniture and cookware. Best of all, they offer competitive pricing that you can't find on other retail online stores. Their goal is to become a household brand name. From what I can tell, they're well on their way!

Stay tuned for my upcoming review of a CSN Store item, which is a product that helps keep your homegrown herbs fresh. Since we're in the throes of gardening season, it's important to try and keep your fresh produce fresh.

Be sure to check back soon!

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Green and Frugal: Connect by Hertz Car Sharing Comes to Hoboken, NJ

Car sharing is a great way to be green and frugal because it limits the number of cars on the road and you use -- and pay -- a car only when you need it.

Connect by Hertz global car sharing club, announced it's added Hoboken, NJ to its list of more than 200 U.S. and international locations that provide members an economical, convenient and socially conscious alternative to car ownership. The expansion also marks the country's first citywide public-private partnership between a municipality and a car sharing company, as Connect by Hertz was selected as the exclusive supplier for Hoboken's Corner Cars program.

The Corner Cars program is designed to provide Hoboken residents the convenience of having access to both a car and a reserved parking space in their neighborhood. For the first phase of the roll out, Connect by Hertz will place 40 vehicles, including Smart Cars, Toyota Prius, Volvo C30, and the MINI Cooper, in 20 different Corner Car locations spread across the city. As the program expands, cars will continue to be placed in additional areas, with the goal of serving 100 percent of the community, improving convenience and removing even more cars from the street.

Through June 2012, Connect by Hertz is offering 2 years of membership for free ($25 application fee applies) and is providing a $75 driving credit when using the code: Hoboken at time of enrollment. Residents who surrender a Hoboken parking permit at the Hoboken Parking Utility will be provided with a special promotion code for a $100 driving credit in addition to the free membership (the two offers cannot be combined). Connect Membership also includes insurance, fuel, roadside assistance, maintenance and cleaning. Once enrolled, members receive a smart chip enabled Connect Card, which gives them 24/7 keyless entry to any car in the fleet that they reserve. Members also have the option to reserve and use vehicles in other Connect by Hertz locations, including nearby New York City and Park Ridge, NJ as well as Connect's international locations.

Since its launch in December 2008, Connect by Hertz has formed successful partnerships with a number of companies, organizations and universities around the world including Marriott International, USAA, Ohio State University, Pepperdine University and University of North Carolina. For more information, visit

Have you tried car sharing? What did you think?

Bookmark and Share

Monday, June 21, 2010

Green and Frugal: How to Make Strawberry Jam

Who doesn't like strawberry jam? I came across this great post from our friends at The Greenest Dollar. Enjoy!

Ok, making jam has been on my Dreams list for years. I’d made it once with a friend years ago, and the experience was a little, well, traumatic.

I haven’t done it since then because I’ve always been a bit intimidated by making jam, thinking it was beyond my skill level and I’d invest all this money into supplies (fruit, pectin, jars, canning pot, lifters, etc.) and fall flat on my face.

Well, I finally said “Boo Hoo” to that negative self-talk this year. And, I MADE JAM! WHOO-HOO

How Easy Is It?

I was at the grocery store a few days ago, buying my canning supplies. The woman behind me looked at my cart, and said “Oooooh, are you canning?”

I nodded.

Then she said, “Well, GOOD LUCK. Canning is SO MUCH WORK. And you’ll have some kind of mess when you’re done.”

Just what a scared, first time canner wants to hear, right?

Let me tell you something. Canning is not hard. I did not have a kitchen that looked like a disaster zone. And my strawberry jam turned out amazing.

Am I a heretofore unrealized canning genius? Hardly. Here’s what I did to make sure I succeeded:

I used a reliable recipe, from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This book rocks, and it’s the Bible of home canning recipes.

I read all the directions a gazillion times before I started, to make sure I fully understood each step.

I made sure I had every piece of equipment, and every ingredient, I would need. I laid it all out on the counter so I wouldn’t have to search for anything.

I pre-measured out all my ingredients so I wouldn’t have to do it once the process started. This step, especially with the sugar, is really important.

The Recipe

Home Canning supplies!

The recipe for Strawberry Jam that I used is on page 8 of Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
Here’s what you need:

7 cups granulated sugar

8 cups whole strawberries

4 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 pkg (1.75 oz. to 57 grams) regular powdered fruit pectin

To can, you also need:
One large stock pot

One rack, to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot

jar lifters

jam funnel

empty jars with band lids

Instructions (Abridged)

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids. If you’ve never canned, you’ll want to buy the book or look up instructions online. You cannot skip these prep steps; doing so could result in food spoilage or serious health risks.

2. Premeasure sugar and berries.

3. In a glass pie plate or bowl, place a single layer of strawberries. Crush berries and transfer to heavy saucepan. If you use 8 cups of whole strawberries, you’ll end up with 5 cups of smashed strawberries.

4. Add lemon juice to crushed strawberries in pan. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and, stirring constantly, and return to full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and, using a large spoon, skim off foam.

5. Fill one jar at a time. Remove jar from canner and empty hot water back into canner. Place jar on towel-covered counter and put in your canning funnel. Ladle hot jam in, leaving 1/4 in. headspace. Slide a non-metallic utensil around the jam to get out air bubbles. Add more jam to adjust headspace. Clean rim with damp cloth. Center the hot lid onto the jar, and tighten with band.

6. When all jars are filled, take the rack out of the canner and fill with jars. Lower rack back into canner and ensure jars are completely covered with at least 1 in. of water. Bring to a full rolling boil, and then set timer for 10 minutes. At the end of processing time turn heat off and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, remove jars and, without tilting, put them on a towel in a draft free spot. Let them sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours.

7. Check lids for seal. If you can push down on the lid and hear it pop, it hasn’t sealed. These jars must be refrigerated and used immediately.

So, that’s the abridged recipe. The actual one is fairly long because this recipe is for beginners, so it lays out every single step in complete detail. If you have never canned, you’ll want to buy the book because there are detailed instruction on preparing the canning equipment; you cannot skip these steps.

But, don’t think that just because the recipe is long it means it’s complicated. It’s NOT. I’m a complete novice at canning, and I did just fine. You can too!

Advance prep work was key. I cleaned the kitchen, started the water boiling and measured out all my ingredients.

Last Word…

I can tell you first hand that if you’re feeling nervous about canning, STOP.

I enjoyed every step of the process. I didn’t think it was a lot of work. And I ended up with literally the best strawberry jam I’ve ever tasted, thanks to the lovely farmers at my local farmer’s market.

What am I doing next?

Well, I’m sure as heck buying more strawberries. I opened my first jar of jam this morning, and it’s half empty now. I only have 7 jars left. And I’m trying to resist the urge to hoard them. So, lots more jam in the weeks to come.

I’m also going to start pickling: beans, watermelon rinds, okra, squash…the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving book I used has over 400 recipes for canning. And some of them (like Sundae in a Jar, on page 43) look absolutely divine. The Sundae in a Jar recipe calls for strawberries, raspberries, sugar, liquid pectin, and chocolate liquer. Yes, this divine concoction goes on Ice Cream. And I’m making it before strawberries go out of season.

So my point is this: don’t be afraid. I’m a complete novice with canning and I did this successfully. You can too. I have such pride in my 8 little jars of jam, and I can’t wait to move on to the next recipe!

Bookmark and Share

Friday, June 18, 2010

TGIF: Best Blog Posts of the Week

Summer is in the air. Gardens are starting to produce some yummy veggies. Hopefully the weekend will bring us some fabulous weather.

Here are some great blog posts to get your weekend started right...
Are there any good ones that I may have missed?

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Green and Frugal Father's Day

I know, I know, I've been MIA for the past week or so. Last week I was in Florida, half for business and half for pleasure. All I have to say is that it was HOT!

As you may (or may not) know, Father's Day is this Sunday! Tell me about it, I'm so glad that I did a little pre-planning and was able to get my hubby something he really wanted that was on sale, plus I had a coupon. He'll be enjoying a nice cup of fresh-brewed coffee on Sunday with his new Keurig (shhh, it's a secret).

Thinking Electronic Gift for Dad? Think Green!

Dads tend to love electronic gadgets and on Father's Day, who doesn't want to give dad what he craves? The challenge is fulfilling dad's wishes while staying aware of the environmental issues raised in the making, using and disposal of electronics.

The best gadget would use solar or human power, be made locally of recycled materials, come in no or minimal packaging (which is compostable), contain no harmful materials and would be fully recyclable when dad is done with it.

Dream on!

We have yet to reach electronics nirvana. But there are options that meet at least some eco-expectations. Choosing one of these is certainly better than ignoring the issue.

If given the choice between two items that perform in the way your dad wants, see if one of them is better on the green front.

Look for:

Products powered by the sun, gravity, human power or at the least, rechargeable batteries. Solar chargers are widely available as are items like cool, hand cranked flashlights and radios.

Products that are comparatively energy efficent. Computers, TVs and printers are some of the products that companies are working to make better in this department. Check out Energy Star labels where available.

Products made with fewer hazardous materials. All electronics contain hazardous materials (PCs, for example may contain lead, cadmium, mercury and flame retardants in plastic casings). This is why they should never be thrown in the trash. Look for electronics that meet European standards which, while not perfect are better.

Products containing recycled content. Moblie phones and computers are just two of the items available that use some percentage of recycled materials.

Another great idea is to upgrade what dad already has instead of buying a new unit. Adding a larger internal hard drive to his computer, paying for a professional "tune up" so the computer will run faster or purchasing extra memory for a camera are all eco-friendlier alternatives to buying new. And of course, buying the item used, but usable is another green option.

How about gifting dad with a surge protector that turns off power to idle devices eliminating electricity usage and saving money?

As a bonus gift for dad, whether buying electronics or not, offer to recycle any he's ready to get rid of. Electronics make up 70 percent of all hazardous waste and very little of what could be recycled actually is.

So collect dad's outdated gadgets, head to Earth 911 and find out how to recycle them close to home.

Enjoy a happy, green Father's Day! I'd love to hear how your celebrating Father's Day. And if it's green and frugal -- even better!

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Green and Frugal: What is Up with BP?

Honestly, is there anything more damaging to our environment than a larger-than-life oil spill? Ever time I read about BP, I get ticked off. I'm not sure what's more annoying -- their executives playing the blame game or the numerous animals, sea creatures, beaches and people impacted by this tragedy.

They're devastating Louisiana's tourism. Hasn't that state gone through enough?

I've heard reports that the leak could go on for weeks. I'd love to hear what the people who are against wind farms think of this. I think a few wind turbines off the coast is less invasive than oil leaking into our ocean. This oil spill proves more than ever that we desperately need cleaner, alternative energy.

What do you think? Do you like how BP is handling this crisis?

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Green and Frugal: Toxic America Report on CNN

CNN will be running a feature next week entitled Toxic America. To give you some background, the show is hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta and will run over two nights (June 2 and 3) with the first night, dubbed Toxic Towns USA, focusing on CNN's year-long investigation into the residents of Mossville, Louisiana, who for decades have claimed that toxic chemicals in the air have been making them sick. The second night, Toxic Childhood, delves into effects of unseen chemicals on ALL of us, particularly how much of these toxins are being passed onto the babies of pregnant women. Here's a few of the show's findings - crazy stuff:

* Exposure to car and truck exhaust in the womb has been shown to result in lower IQ at age five.

* Babies enter the world with more than 200 dangerous chemicals in their blood, including flame retardants, dioxins, substances in non-stick coatings like Teflon and hormone-like compounds found in plastic.

* Out of the 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States, the EPA has only tested about 200 and only banned five.

CNN is also calling on viewers to submit their own video or photo reports of toxic conditions in their own area. I'd love your help in getting the word out. Check it out here:

Bookmark and Share