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Living Naturally During COVID-19

March 26, 2020

Suddenly, we found that our world has been turned upside-down, shaken up and spilled of anything resembling normalcy as we knew it. As we adjust to a different—and hopefully very temporary—way of life, I mourn those lost to COVID-19, wish a full recovery to those who have fallen ill, and hope that the rest of us are staying well by staying home whenever possible and practicing common sense social distancing to combat this virus.

Humans are resilient, and we’re finding creative ways to adjust to different lifestyles. The current stay-at-home order still permits people to get outdoors to get fresh air and exercise, which can be essential for our physical and mental health. Milwaukee’s vast lakefront parks are spacious and would typically allow room to enjoy lakefront beauty while still practicing social distancing; however, with many people home and getting antsy, along with a stretch of mild spring weather, popular parks such as Bradford Beach and South Shore Park have so far proven to be too crowded to adhere to safe social distancing.

Larger lakefront parks such as Lake Park or Grant Park might allow for better social distancing, as would neighborhood parks like Washington, Brown Deer, Dretzka, Jackson, Greenfield and Lincoln, each spanning more than 100 acres. Visit https://county.milwaukee.gov/EN/Parks/Explore/Find-a-Park for park addresses and Google directions. (Note: park facilities and playgrounds are closed during the COVID-19 crisis).

The human and economic cost of the COVID-19 crisis is devastating, but this is also predicted to have an environmental impact. While fewer vehicles on the roads has temporarily reduced air pollution, grocery stores and retailers have prohibited reusable grocery and produce bags due to possible virus transmission. Try to ask for paper bags instead of plastic whenever possible, which will eventually decompose, unlike plastic.

Other tips:

We still have water everywhere! To date, no municipality in the Milwaukee area has reported issues with drinking water quality, so consider skipping bottled water; a commodity that has been panic-purchased in large quantities, along with toilet paper and certain foods. Those single-use plastic bottles add up to a glut of litter (and no, they don’t always get recycled).

Speaking of toilet paper, I’ve noticed that in addition to a run on TP, the shelves have also been cleared of “flushable” wipes. They are not flushable, despite what the package claims. They cause backups in the system, get caught in sewer laterals and contribute to a buildup of foreign materials in the water processing system. If you must use wipes, dispose of them in the wastebasket.

Take up baking as a new hobby. Cooking and baking meals from scratch is not only healthier but reduces plastic packaging. You can still “stock up” with homemade foods; meals such as homemade lasagna, casseroles, soups and stews can be made in large quantities and freeze well, as do dessert items like homemade cookie dough.

Disposable cleaning cloths come in handy for wiping down computer keyboards or other delicate or intricate surfaces. But like anything disposable, it eventually ends up in a landfill. To sanitize larger bathroom and kitchen surfaces, mix bleach and water (see the Center for Disease Control’s formula and directions here https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/bleach.html) in a bucket and use a clean rag to apply to surfaces. Wash rags with soap and hot water in the washing machine after each use.

May good health, courage and resilience be with you during this crisis. Together, we can beat this. Be well!

Sheila Julson is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

 

Natural Remedies for Dry Winter Skin

March 1, 2020

The biting, cold winds of this recent cold snap were not kind to my skin. Despite keeping my hands protected with gloves whenever possible, they feel like sandpaper, and the skin on my face is dry and taught. And then there are the chapped lips. Hundreds of commercial skin care products out there promise a cure, claiming to miraculously make dry lines and wrinkles disappear, giving you the skin texture of a baby. Uh-huh. Sure.

Claims aside, many of these products contain chemicals that can be harsher than Wisconsin winter winds. In my 20s and early 30s, my bathroom was stocked with almost every fruity, flowery scented skin product available. But it wasn’t until later into adulthood that I started to question why pure lavender essential oil is clear, but the lavender-scented body wash I used was bright purple. And really, how can a hand lotion manufacturer succeed in trapping the fresh scent of the ocean into a bottle?

The answers were in the paragraph-long lists of unpronounceable ingredients on the back labels. I gradually learned to screen those marketing gimmicks aimed to sell skin care products chock full of synthetic scents and artificial colors that can actually dry the skin (to sell more lotion?) and cause sensitivities.

These days, I’m a minimalist when it comes to body care products, and many ingredients right in my own kitchen provide nourishment for not only the inner body, but also for the outside. Pure coconut oil makes an excellent moisturizer and heals dry, cracked skin. Just dab a little right from the jar and blend into any dry areas on the skin. I use it around my eyes, on my legs after shaving, and on my hands.

Olive oil is also a good moisturizer. It’s a greasier than coconut oil, so swipe just a tiny bit from the lid of the bottle and massage it under the eyes or on the back of the hands.

Many lip balms are also full of artificial ingredients that do little to actually soothe chapped lips, and they also come in plastic tubes that are not recyclable. I make my own lip balm by blending one tablespoon of coconut oil, one teaspoon of almond oil, and one- half teaspoon of grated beeswax into a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on low for one to two minutes, until the beeswax has melted. You can also heat it on the stove. Stir the ingredients until well mixed and pour mixture into a small, clean container and let it cool completely. If you want to add a scent or a flavor, stir in a drop of essential oil or flavoring extract you would use for baking (like vanilla or orange) into the mixture just before pouring it into the containers.

Spring is just around the corner, but in the meantime, these few gifts from nature can help keep your skin healthy and well.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. 

Green Luminaries Light the Way

February 7, 2020

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s (MMSD) Green Luminary awards highlight exceptional projects using green infrastructure to collect and harvest rainwater within the MMSD service area, improving water quality in our rivers and lake.

The Green Luminary award is given to businesses, organizations, and communities that not only invest in green infrastructure to clean our water, but also inspire us through education and engagement.

We invite you to explore the newly updated Green Luminaries water story through the Milwaukee Community Map, where over 40 project videos showcase a wide variety of green infrastructure designs across various scales.

The Kaufmann house transformed the exterior of their property with green roofs, porous pavement, bioswales, and rain gardens. The residential project highlights the environmental benefits of managing rainwater where it falls. The Kaufmann house also serves as an inspiration to other community members in converting components on their own home to better serve the environment while beautifying their yard.

Poblocki Paving converted a parking lot into porous pavement, collecting water in underground tanks that in turn is reused to supply water for their business. As a result, the paving company saves money, time, and gas–illustrating the business case for green infrastructure. Poblocki is a proud example of a for-profit company helping the local environment and directly benefiting from their green infrastructure.

The Urban Ecology Center, with three locations throughout the Milwaukee area, incorporates green roofs, rain gardens, and rain barrels at all of its campuses. All the water collected is kept on-site, used to irrigate gardens and flush toilets. Thousands of kids and adults visit the Urban Ecology Center annually, meaning that education about the value of green infrastructure reaches a diverse cross-section of Milwaukeeans.

Catherine Trowbridge is a current master’s student at the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Science, graduating in May 2020. Both her personal and professional passions include protecting the environment, specifically water resources, through policy and public engagement. Currently an intern at Reflo, Catherine focuses on maintaining and creating stories within the Milwaukee Community Map to educate viewers on the City’s sustainable and innovative developments.

Michael Timm is a writer, editor, and game designer who worked seven years as a hyperlocal journalist and holds a master’s degree from the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. Passionate about connecting and engaging general audiences with stories hidden in plain sight, he manages Reflo’s Milwaukee Water Stories program where he piloted a place-based app, co-created a digital role-playing game inspired by Milwaukee’s water history, and curates the Milwaukee Community Map.

Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions                                                                                              As a Milwaukee nonprofit organization, Reflo’s mission is to become a leader in sustainable water use, green infrastructure, and water management in urban environments.

Milwaukee Community Map
The Milwaukee Community Map is a free and amazing tool that uses the power of Google Earth to visualize stories never before experienced in one place. The data informing these stories is shared by community, public, and private entities and curated around the theme of “Water & Community.” The nonprofit Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions curates the map. Funding was provided by Brico Fund and in part by Wisconsin Department of Administration, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office for Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Grant #NA18NOS4190091.

Chase Away the Chill with Hearty Winter Soups

January 31, 2020

Maybe you’re the type who likes to bundle up, strap on the snowshoes and head outdoors in even the harshest Wisconsin winter weather to get fresh air and a dose of nature. Or maybe you’d rather stay indoors, close the blinds against the snowy gloom and dream of sandy, sun-drenched Florida beaches. However you choose to handle what seems like a never-ending winter, a warm dose of nourishing soup can provide a physical and mental boost to get you through the day, as we sit tight and await springtime blooms.

Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, and this rich, creamy tomato soup has a healthy dose of this versatile nightshade. The addition of honey cuts the tartness of the tomatoes. The immune boosting onion and garlic helps ward off winter colds.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

2 stalks of celery

1 small onion

2 cloves fresh garlic

½ cup butter, cubed and divided (or vegan butter for a non-daily version)

2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

1 (14.5) ounce can/box of vegetable broth

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese (or vegan cream cheese for a non-daily version)

3 T. locally sourced honey

In a food processor, add celery, onion and garlic; pulse for 20 seconds until puréed. Pour purée into a saucepan. Add half the butter to the vegetable mixture. Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes, broth, half the basil and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and reduce heat to low; simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cut the cream cheese into cubes and place in food processor. Carefully ladle out 1 cup of the hot soup and add to the cream cheese in the food processor bowl. Process in high until cream cheese is dissolved. Add cream cheese mixture, honey and remaining basil and butter to hot soup; stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

This easy-peasy soup contains immune-boosting ginger and anti-inflammatory turmeric. 

Indian Curry Soup

6 cups vegetable stock

1 T. freshly grated ginger root

1 T. freshly grated turmeric root

3 T. curry powder

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups cauliflower florets, chopped

2 red or yellow peppers, chopped fine

1 t. cayenne powder

1 can coconut milk

In a large pot over low-medium heat, bring vegetable broth, turmeric and ginger to a simmer. Add curry, onions, cauliflower, peppers and cayenne. Bring to a simmer decrease heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, stir to combine and cook for 15 mixtures more.  Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

Microgreens Pack Macro Nutrition, Flavor

January 19, 2020

It wasn’t long ago that microgreens were found only on the menus of trendy, upscale restaurants. Now, microgreens, the seedlings of vegetables and herbs that are smaller than baby greens and bigger than sprouts, have found their way into most grocery store produce sections and casual restaurants as a staple in wraps, salads and soups. Several publications including Medical News Today reports that there is evidence to suggest that microgreens have a high antioxidant content, which can help prevent diseases. They’re also rich in vitamins.

And then there’s the taste: microgreens are a staple in chef’s kitchens due to their bold flavor profiles, ranging from sharp and peppery (arugula) to sweet and earthy (kale. Swiss chard). Common microgreens include amaranth, arugula, broccoli, kale, parsley, radish, sunflower and Swiss chard. Their dainty, deep green or purplish appearance adds an artistic flair to entrées.

Microgreens can be grown indoors, even in the tiniest homes and apartments and don’t take up much more space than houseplants. Microgreens are ready to be harvested in about one to two weeks within planting the seeds. This quick turnaround allows for a continuous supply of healthy, nutritious produce, even in the dead of winter.

It’s easy to grow your own microgreens. There are reasonably priced kits available online, but you can make your own D.I.Y. microgreen kit with household items. To begin growing your own bounty of microgreens, gather:

Seeds: chose the microgreens you’d like to grow and purchase the seeds

Containers: gather a couple of long, shallow containers, like gardening flats, repurposed plastic food trays, or aluminum pie or lasagna pans.

Soil: Use looser, lightweight soil, such as potting soil.

Spray bottle (for watering)

Scout a location in your home for your trays. A south window is ideal. I happen to get a lot of afternoon sun through the west windows in my dining room, so I cleared a spot on my dining room table for the microgreen trays. You can also use a grow light.

Place about an inch of potting soil in each tray and smooth it out, without packing it down too much.

Evenly scatter your seeds over the surface of the soil. Because microgreens are harvested so young, you can place seeds closer together than if you were planting outdoors in a garden.

Lightly cover seeds with a thin layer of soil. Spray the surface with a mist of water, using just enough water to moisten the surface. Don’t waterlog the seeds by directly pouring water in them.

Place the trays with the seeds in the sunny window space. You can also use a grow light.

Mist the trays with water a couple of times a day to keep the soil from drying out.

The microgreens will be ready to harvest in about two weeks. Harvest by snipping the microgreens at the base near the soil’s surface. To start another crop, remove the roots and replant seeds in the existing soil, or dump the whole tray of dirt into your outdoor yard garden or compost pile/bin. Fill the tray with more soil and repeat above steps to replant.

Playing with earthy scented dirt and watching your microgreens sprout is a fun way to satisfy the gardening bug on these snowy winter days. The boost of flavor and nutrition from microgreens isn’t bad, either!

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Random Acts of Kindness

December 27, 2019

One of the most inspiring things for me about the holiday season is seeing people be a little kinder and more generous toward each other. Throughout December, I’ve seen more smiles, received countless “hellos” from strangers, and observed people openly sharing food, money and other goods with neighbors or those less fortunate. Then that generosity sometimes fades as we become absorbed by the daily grind

As we head into 2020, I’ve made it my personal mantra to “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” The quote, an uplifting twist on the more disturbing phrase, “commit random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty” is widely attributed to Anne Herbert, a California woman who wrote her version on a restaurant placemat. Decades later, that quote is even more relevant in this age of divisive politics, bullying, road rage, and unchecked social media rants. News headlines can be flat-out depressing, and while I’ll still pay attention to local, national, and world events, no matter how despondent they might be, I’m determined to practice resiliency through kindness. Here are a few ways to spread senseless acts of beauty:

Brighten someone’s day with a compliment. When walking past a neighbor’s house as they work diligently on a garden or yard project, let him or her know how lovely it looks.

Smile! We all can’t be happy all of the time, but when you are, share that good aura with a smile. Maybe a person will return the gesture, or maybe not, but chances are you’ll make someone’s day a little brighter.

Thank people working in often-unappreciated jobs. Thank the retail clerks you encounter or the janitors at your workplace. Show gratitude for anyone who performs a service that makes our lives a little easier.

Reward service industry employees with a generous tip. Restaurant servers, bartenders, airport skycaps, bellhops and others in the hospitality industry receive the majority of their income from tips. When possible, make a server’s day by giving more than a standard tip.

Go beyond the “leave a penny.” Most gas stations and convenience stores have the “take a penny, leave a penny” cup. Maybe add some spare dimes or quarters—that could add up to help a motorist a little short on gas who is trying to get to work, or a person who needs just a few cents extra for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. Plugging spare change into a vending machine can also pay it forward to the next person with a free item.

Pick up trash. Despite all of the “Keep America Beautiful” campaigns and public awareness efforts, there will always be litter. Trash also blows off of trucks and out of overflowing garbage cans. While taking walks, jogging or bicycling, carry a bag to pick up and properly dispose of trash on the streets or in our parks. Even picking up stray debris in front of your home can make a difference.

Don’t take things personally. This inadvertently plays into random kindness, as every one of us will encounter a person at some point who challenges our attempts to be kind. Our reactions to people and situations can affect whether we commit random kindness, or if we use words or actions that turn to violence. People we see while going along our daily business might do ignorant things like cut us off in traffic, stop abruptly in a crowded pedestrian area to check their phones, open a car door into our paths while we’re bicycling down the street, let an unleashed pet run into ours or our pet’s space, refuse to hold a door open for us when we’re behind them . . . the list could go on and on.

Sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to confront strangers who commit these acts and call them every four-letter name in the book, or flip them the one-finger salute, but that causes situations to escalate quickly and unnecessarily. Take a deep breath and try to remember that the person likely didn’t wake up in the morning with the sole intention of bringing misery to your day. It could be that that person is having a bad day and isn’t thinking clearly, it might be because that person isn’t in the moment nor has awareness that he or she is committing an offense—or that the person truly is self-absorbed and uncaring. But chances are that we’ll never encounter that person again, and that fleeting brush with his or her ignorance eventually becomes just a blip on the day’s radar. Put it behind you and, to quote another famous phrase, keep calm and carry on.

Wishing everyone joy and kindness in 2020!

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

 

Discover Our City of Neighborhoods

November 28, 2019

Events like the Christkindlmarket, Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival, Santa Cycle Rampage, Mitten Fest, and other community festivals that get people outdoors, even during Wisconsin’s cold winters, remind us that Milwaukee is a City of Neighborhoods with immigrant identities woven into the fabric of our culture. Do you know the stories of our neighborhoods? How did Pigsville get its name? Where was Milwaukee’s “Little Italy”? What does “Harambee” mean?

We collaborated with historian John Gurda and Historic Milwaukee, Inc. to create an interactive companion to the popular book Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods. Check it out through the Milwaukee Community Map.

Once you have accessed the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop, find the “City of Neighborhoods” layer under the section called Basemaps. Fill in its circle to turn it on, then click on each neighborhood shape to see a preview paragraph on its story and each colorful poster created by Jan Kotowitz. You can toggle on/off “Our Water Stories” layers on top of this basemap to see which neighborhoods feature different water-related projects.

Michael Timm
Michael Timm is a writer, editor, and game designer who worked seven years as a hyperlocal journalist and holds a master’s degree from the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. Passionate about connecting and engaging general audiences with stories hidden in plain sight, he manages Reflo’s Milwaukee Water Stories program where he piloted a place-based app, co-created a digital role-playing game inspired by Milwaukee’s water history, and curates the Milwaukee Community Map.
Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions
As a Milwaukee nonprofit organization, Reflo’s mission is to become a leader in sustainable water use, green infrastructure, and water management in urban environments.
Milwaukee Community Map
The Milwaukee Community Map is a free and amazing tool that uses the power of Google Earth to visualize stories never before experienced in one place. The data informing these stories is shared by community, public, and private entities and curated around the theme of “Water & Community.” The nonprofit Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions curates the map. Funding was provided by Brico Fund and in part by Wisconsin Department of Administration, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office for Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Grant #NA18NOS4190091.