Don’t Get Tricked into Passing Out Palm Oil This Halloween – from ‘Sierra Magazine”

What was one of the scariest stories of 2019? The massive wildfires that were visible from space as they raged across the vast Amazon rainforest, spreading from Brazil into Bolivia, Paraguay, and Peru. The crisis followed the election of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing ideologue who swiftly weakened environmental protections and encouraged deforestation of the Amazon.

Beyond being the world’s largest carbon sink, the region is home to one in 10 species on Earth. When tropical rainforests burn down, or are destroyed to develop industrial plantations for palm oil—which is added to chocolate and baked goods, turned into fry oil, and added to all manner of snacks, cosmetics, and soaps—these tropical creatures are pushed from their habitats and driven closer to the brink of extinction. The equivalent of 300 football fields of rainforest is destroyed every hour to make way for palm oil plantations, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature—and in the African and Southeast Asian rainforests, this has decimated the populations of vulnerable creatures including tigers, elephants, and rhinos. Orangutans and other primates are particularly besieged, as studies suggest that most areas suitable for growing palm oil overlap with their habitats. Palm oil production impacts humans, too—Indigenous people have been forced from their lands, and plantation workers sickened by pesticides and contaminated water.

According to the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), palm oil appears in roughly half of packaged grocery store foods. (US Food manufacturers increased their use of the world’s cheapest vegetable oil after the FDA started enforcing limits on trans fats in 2005.) The good news is that consumer purchasing power can play a major role in rainforest health.

One step you can take to curb deforestation is to get wise to the details on product packaging. Fewer ingredients mean you’ll have less of a chance of a palm oil encounter, which has dozens of ingredient list aliases—vegetable oil, palmate, cocoa butter equivalent, glyceryl stearate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and glyceryl stearate, to name a few. Of course, you can always demand that your favorite food companies clean up their acts by either finding alternatives to the stuff, or sourcing their palm oil responsibly. (Check out RANs handy scorecard, which keeps track of product manufacturers that have pledged to limit deforestation,—and contributions to the climate and humanitarian crises—by switching to more sustainable forms of palm and other oils.)

Thanks to consumer action and grassroots activism, the candy industry has made some strides in recent years, with major corporations including Nestle and Hershey removing palm oil from many beloved Halloween staples. How can you help keep Big Candy accountable? Here’s a handy list of classic candies that are nostalgic and easy to pass out but that do not contain palm oil, compiled with help from Products Without Palm Oil( which provides fantastic free resources for consumers). Remember to stay vigilant for labels’ hocus pocus, as ingredients can vary within a single brand’s offerings (looking at you, M&M’s and Reese’s), and don’t be tricked by those discount bags of mixed candy: Stick to one type (or make your own mix), and it’s easier to shirk the dreaded industrial palm oil.

Safe* Trick-or-Treat Classics

Atomic Fireballs

Boston Baked Beans

Black Forest Organic Fruit Flavored Snacks

Brach’s Candy Corn (including all Candy Corn varieties, and Mellowcreme Pumpkins)

Dots

Dove Milk and Dark Chocolate Promises

Dum Dums

Endangered Species chocolate bars

Ghirardelli chocolates

Goobers

Good ‘n Plenty

Haribo gummy candy

Hershey’s Kisses, Bars, and Nuggets (Milk Chocolate, Skor, and Special Dark are safe, but keep on eye on slick Mr. Goodbar; versions with and without palm oil are both in stores. And don’t buy bags of mixed nuggets—the assortment contains a flavor with palm oil.)

Jolly Ranchers

Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups

Kirkland Signature Organic Fruity Snacks

Lindt truffles and chocolate bars

M&M’s (Plain, Dark, Almond, and Pretzel varieties are safe for the moment, but last year, Mars changed the Peanut M&Ms recipe, which now includes palm oil, as does Dark Chocolate Peanut.)

Nerds

Nelly’s Organics (all chocolate bars)

Nuubia Chocolate

Raisinets

Red Hots

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (Read labels to be sure, but bagged, individually wrapped snack size, and standard-sized cups and generally palm oil-free.)

Ring Pops

Tony’s Chocolonely (all chocolate bars)

Saf-T-Pops

Sno Caps

Wholesome Organic Lollipops

Yum Earth Candy (including Organic Pops, Organic Candy Corn, Organic Hard Candy, Gummy Bears, Gummy Worms, Organic Sour Beans, and Gummy Fruits)

York Peppermint Patties

*For the purposes of this story we mean “safe” in the context of palm oil. Many of the candy options on this list are high in sugar and use plastic packaging. For a healthier, less cavity-inducing Halloween, seek out dye-free, low-sugar options that are free of corn syrup

Meatless Monday: Flavorful Fall Recipes

FROM MEATLESS MONDAY: “It’s officially fall! And the perfect time for apple picking, visiting the pumpkin patch and exploring the local farmers’ markets for seasonal vegetables, like broccoli and eggplant. Trying new meatless recipes is a great way to utilize all of the ripe fruits and vegetables coming into season. We’ve gathered delicious plant-based recipes from our Meatless Monday bloggers and influencers featuring fall produce. Enjoy the hearty tastes of fall!”

Hope you find something here that appeals, even if it’s not autumn where you live!                  ~Becky

Heikki Lunta and Story Publication!

fantasy Heikki Lunta (2)

For many years, I lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I wasn’t a native “Yooper,” however, and never heard of “Heikki Lunta” while living in the Lower Peninsula. In the past, people had come to the U.P. from many different countries to work in the copper mines. There’s still an especially recognizable Finnish influence in many areas.

Finland
Finland

When I first heard of Heikki Lunta, I assumed that it was a mythological Finnish goddess or god. I was on the right track, but not quite right. Ukko is a god of weather, and Vellamo is a goddess of storms. There was no supreme being specifically for snow, which seems surprising, given that’s such a snowy part of the world.

Fast forward to 1970. As the story goes, U.P. promoters for an upcoming snowmobile race were concerned because not much snow had yet fallen that winter. A record was aired on a local radio station in which the singers pleaded with “Heikki Lunta,” a snow god of sorts, to send more of the white stuff. The whole idea took off, or “snowballed,” you might say.

Heikki Lunta sign (2)

These days, businesses like this one on the right often put up signs asking that deity for more snow. By spring, there are sometimes signs asking him to stop! At least one town in the Upper Peninsula has named its yearly winter festival after Heikki Lunta.

What does all of this have to do with my story being published, you might ask. Now living in Texas, I’m struck with the fact that many of the children here (and sometimes the adults) wish dearly that it would snow!

A few winters back, we did get a pretty healthy dusting, here in the North Dallas suburbs. My two youngest granddaughters were thrilled, and my daughter let them stay home from school to play in the snow. That’s the day my idea for a meeting of reality and myth, in “Welcome to Texas, Heikki Lunta” was conceived. I’m thrilled to report that my fictional story for kids and families, alike, now appears in U.P. Reader #3.UP Reader #3

Texas snowman
Texas Snowman

cowgirl boots b&w

Talking with Kids about Water

water-no attrib req.

World Water Day returns this week, along with the first day of spring. Renewal, rebirth, hope. Today’s children know all about safe tap water, bottled drinking water wherever they turn, a shower or bath whenever they want, trips to the beach, lawn sprinklers, and swimming pools. How familiar are they, however, with places in the world where clean drinking water is not a given? What do they know about activists who fight to keep our waters safe? Check out the following amazing books that can help to get the conversation started!

From BookPage in 2010:

“Few children can imagine walking eight hours a day or digging by hand deep into the mud, just to find water for their family. But the backbreaking work under the hot African sun is just a typical day for 11-year-old Nya, growing up in Sudan circa 2008. She rarely complains; it would do no good.

Salva, also 11, is from a prominent, upper-class Sudanese family. As the Second Sudanese Civil War erupts in the mid-1980s, Salva is forced to run as bombs hit his village. Fleeing quickly and leaving his family behind, he joins up with bands of strangers—all headed out of their war-torn homeland to Ethiopia.

Difficult as it may be, both Nya and Salva come to accept their own long walks to water—each peppered with challenges and each tied to family and survival. Nya’s sister becomes very ill; Salva loses several loved ones. But Newbery Award winner Linda Sue Park’s brilliant dual narrative provides a soulful insight into both journeys.

Both Salva and Nya are urged on by their individual reserves of hope—for a better tomorrow, a better future—but neither really knows what lies beyond. The book’s denouement, however, intertwines their stories in a soul-satisfying and optimistic way.

A Long Walk to Water is based on Salva Dut’s true story of perseverance amid adversity. But beyond that, it’s a touching narrative about strife and survival on a scale most American readers will never see.”

Watch an interview with Salva and the author, Linda Sue Park

Recommended by AICL (American Indians in Children’s Literature) in 2018:

“The ‘about’ page tells us that the author, Aslan Tudor, was eight and nine years old during the period depicted in the book, and a citizen of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas. Information provided is his first-hand account of time spent at the camps when he was there in 2016.

Told from the point of view of a child, Young Water Protectors is a rare kind of story of a unique period of activism with Native people from so many nations standing together to fight a company exploiting people and hurting earth’s resources.

There’s a lot to think about, packed into this slim book. Tudor touches on the school at the camp, and what he learned there but he also notes that activity at some of the construction sites wasn’t safe. It was safer for kids to stay in camp. For readers who want more information about that, adults can fill in the gaps according to what they know about the reader.”  (Photographs by Kelly Tudor)

What can we each do to spread the word and help ensure safe water for all? Write, read, listen, draw, share, march, donate, protest, and be good examples!

This week is also the return of my own birthday, and I wrote this blog post toward fulfilling a  personal goal for the year. Water is truly life.               ~Becky

 

All That Glitters

sillhouette valentines

Valentine’s Day always made me nervous as a kid. What if none of my classmates gave me cards? Would the little boy who I had a “crush” on bring me one? A certain year that comes to mind must have been when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. Teachers at that time in our small Michigan town didn’t allow an entire afternoon of fun and games on that particular holiday. We waited in agony until almost the end of the school day to pass out our cards. With relief, I saw a reasonable number of valentines being deposited into my decorated shoe box and hoped that those I had given out were well-received.

I was a “walker,” living just a block from my school, and took a few extra minutes in the cloak room to look over my “haul” before putting on my coat and boots to head home. A little boy who had signed his valentine to me with just the initials “T.F.” sidled up close and said that he wanted to give me something else. He held out his hand, as did I. Into it he placed a golden ring with a clear stone that sparkled like glass. I’d been given rings by boys, before, remembering several that had purple or red stones and appeared to have come from the local “dime store.”

 

This one seemed different, somehow, and I remember feeling kind of troubled by it. Sticking the ring into my coat pocket, I became rather speechless and doubt that I even said “thanks.” Arriving home, I put the valentine box on our dining room table so Mom could see my cards. It took me until that evening to get up my nerve and show her the ring. “This looks real,” Mom said. I didn’t even know what she meant. After asking who it was from, she went to our black telephone in the hallway and took out the phone directory, skimming her finger until she arrived at the “F’s.”

Mom returned to where I stood by the table in just a few minutes with a mysterious look on her face. She gently explained that I wouldn’t be able to keep the ring, since it was a diamond my classmate had taken out of his mother’s jewelry box! I felt very silly, but I suppose it was T.F. who really should have been feeling embarrassed. His mother suggested that I just bring it back to school the next day and evidently wasn’t overly concerned. If memory serves me right, she was no longer married to the boy’s father and may not have been all that attached to this particular reminder of the past. I looked the ring over one last time, and my mom placed it in an envelope for me to deliver back to “my admirer” the next day.

This wasn’t to be the last ring that I would give back to a boy or man over the years, but I HAVE managed to hang on to a few!          ~Becky

couple on bikes

 

 

January 23 – National Reading Day — reblog from Celebrate Picture Books!

Make sure to check out the book giveaway at Celebrate Picture Books through January 29!     ~Becky

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirabelle's-missing-valentines-cover

About the Holiday:  Celebrated in schools across the country, National Reading Day was established to encourage students in PreK through 3rd grade to develop a love of reading, which is the basis for becoming a lifelong learner. Schools, libraries, organizations, bookstores, and parents provide activities to connect young readers with books they’ll love. Sterling Children’s […]

via January 23 – National Reading Day —

Broken Bubbles

Noma_bubble_lights

The rear compartment of my father’s station wagon often carried mysterious cargo. During much of my childhood, he worked as a sales representative for a “sundries” company selling most things that drug stores carried, other than the actual medications…stationery, sunglasses, toys, personal care products, and many handy helpers for the household.

Dad traveled from our home in Northern Lower Michigan to client stores all over the state, taking orders. The back of his trusty station wagon was typically used to carry product samples meant to show the buyers, or sometimes he also brought “returns” with him that needed to be sent back to the company in Detroit. We often got a peek at the exciting goodies in there, and once in a while even got to keep something small, in the case of a discontinuation or some similar situation.

christmas-station-wagon
Our station wagons were usually much plainer than this ‘snazzy’ model!

One very cold December, I remember that Dad ended up with a package of Noma bubble lights in his car. Christmas was quickly approaching, and he would have to hang onto them until after the holiday. They were meant to be used indoors, and he was afraid that the liquid in the bulbs might freeze and break the glass if he left them outdoors in the car. One thing led to another, and to my delight, they eventually ended up on our Christmas tree!

bubble lights vintage

In my mind, they were magical, with many different colors of bubbling liquid that made the surrounding ornaments shimmer. Our tree seemed almost alive. Some of the bulbs didn’t bubble very well, and my parents were too busy with other things to fool with them and discover that they needed to be almost perfectly upright to work effectively. I didn’t care and absolutely loved them. After the holiday, those lights disappeared from our lives.

Many years and Christmases passed, and as an adult with a tree of my own, I never again came across those types of Christmas lights. The year that my mother died, the leaves were already starting to turn color near my home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was still married at the time, and my husband was teaching at a university quite some distance from our town, which required him being gone during the week. Even with my new job as a preschool director and our home and dog to care for, I had way too much time on my hands to think and feel sad about Mom’s passing. I needed a project!

The project that I decided upon that autumn was to re-style our Christmas tree with new lights and ornaments with an overall vintage appeal. My first thought was BUBBLE LIGHTS. I searched far and wide and finally found some through Ace Hardware that needed to be ordered. My husband also surprised me by bringing some others home one weekend that he had found “downstate.” We ended up with two different types, but that worked out fine and looked lovely with the old-fashioned style of ornaments I had bought at various shops. The tree was beautiful and offered me that sense of connection with the past and my childhood just when it was most needed. Those decorations were enjoyed for many years.bubble lights plain

One fall a few years ago my world turned upside down, and I left my home and that life behind. At the time, bubble lights or any kind of Christmas decorations weren’t exactly uppermost in my mind. They remained in the house, hidden away in the little storage space under the stairs. I honestly don’t know if those beauties ever again saw the light of day. They didn’t appear to be on the tree when “First Dog” and I made a visit (in spirit:) last Christmas, and I’m guessing that they’ve been forgotten or dumped. Kind of sad.

A small, pre-lit Christmas tree in my current home nicely shows off a few new vintage-style ornaments and several that were salvaged from my past only because they happened to be packed in with other things. I’ve recently been yearning for the look and feel of those bubble lights, again, but the size of this current model will definitely not support them. I saw an ad the other day for a single bubble night-light and was tempted, but shoved the idea aside in my mind, since I was getting ready to go out-of-town for the holiday. To my utmost surprise, one of those very lights, fashioned in red, was proudly bubbling away in the room when I reached my destination. Might be fate or life trying to tell me something? Not sure, but I think that a bubble night-light is on my shopping list for next season. Something to look forward to…small but special.

If you’re celebrating, have a safe and pleasant holiday. I hope that each and every one of you will experience a healthy, productive and happy 2019!   ~Becky

 

 

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