Black Bottom Cupcakes

10/31/2014

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Recipe collected by Karl Novak
Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese
1 egg
0.25 cups cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1.33 cups sugar
2 pinches salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1.5 cups flour
1 cup milk
0.33 cups canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray cupcake or muffin tins with a non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix egg, cream cheese, sugar and a pinch of salt until smooth. Stir in semisweet chocolate chips to the cream cheese mix and set aside. In a separate bowl, blend together flour, the remaining sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, the remaining salt, milk, oil and vanilla extract until the mixture has a uniform consistency. 
  3. Begin filling the muffin tins with the cocoa mixture about a third full each. Dollop spoonful of the cream cheese mixture about an additional third. The cups should no be completely filled before you put them in the oven. 
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cream cheese starts to turn very light brown. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

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Jalapeño Poppers

10/22/2014

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Recipe collected by Karl Novak


Ingredients:
12 jalapeño peppers
6 oz. cream cheese
1.5 cups of mozzarella cheese
0.5 tsp. cumin
0.5 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1 tbsp. milk
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
0.5 cup of  flour

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and spread a non stick spray on a baking sheet.
  2. Add the mozzarella, cream cheese, cumin, and cayenne to a bowl and mix together until smooth. In another bowl, beat together the eggs and pour in milk. Retrieve three shallow dishes to lay out the flour, panko bread crumbs, and eggs/milk mixture in each dish.
  3. Cut the jalapeño peppers in half and remove all the seeds and the stem. Dollop the cheese spread into each half of the jalapeños. Then with one half at a time, dip each jalapeño in the flour follow by the eggs/milk mixture and finally the panko bread crumbs until the jalapeños have an even breading covering their surface. If necessary, repeat the coatings until the peppers are fully covered. 
  4. Place the cut peppers with the cheese mixture side up on the baking sheet and heat in the oven for appx. half an hour. Remove when the filling is melting and the crust breading is a golden brown color. Allow to cool for a few minutes before enjoying!
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Sweet Potato Casserole

10/20/2014

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Recipe collected by Yaritza Guillen
Ingredients:
Sweet Potatoes
Water
Salt
Sugar
Cinnamon
Pecans (optional)  

Method: 
1)   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2)   Peel the skin off of the sweet potatoes.
3)   Place the sweet potatoes in a medium sized cooking pot.
4)   Add water until it covers the sweet potatoes.
5)   Add salt to water if needed.
6)   Put in oven and let boil up to 45 minutes to an hour to soften.
7)   Once soften place the potatoes in a casserole dish and mash up.
8)   Add sugar and cinnamon, as much as desired and stir it into the mashed sweet potatoes.
9)   Top the sweet potatoes with sugar and cinnamon include pecans.
10) Let bake for around 30 minutes or until the top crust is lightly brown.
11) Let it cool.
12) Eat and Enjoy. 

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Shrimp with perilla frutescens leaves 

10/20/2014

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Recipe Collected by Phoenix Chen


Ingredients:
-15 shrimps (with heads attached)
-7-9 perilla frutescens leaves 
-3-7 tablespoons of soy sauce
-1 tablespoon of oil
-a pinch of salt
-2 cups of water
-rice cooker or pan or wok
-steaming rack


Methods:
1. Pour the shrimps into the sink. For each shrimp, take out the shell and get rid of everything except for the skin part of its head and tail. If possible, leave the shrimp blood inside its head.
2. Use a knife and cut across the back of each shrimp, exposing its vein.
3. Rinse the shrimps thoroughly and carefully. Try not to wash away the shrimp blood.
4. Put the washed shrimps in a dish that is alleviated slightly at an angle so that unnecessary water will slide to one part of the dish.
5. Once all the shrimps are washed and put in the dish, cover the shrimps with one hand and empty the water from the dish.
6. Gather about 7-9 perilla frutescens leaves and wash them.
7. Chop up the perilla frutecens leaves into tiny pieces. It is best if they are chopped into a paste.
8. Add the chopped perilla frutescens leaves to the shrimps.
9. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, 3-7 tablespoons of soy sauce, and a pinch of salt.
10. Mix all the ingredients and the shrimps together. Then, spread the shrimps out evenly on the dish.
11. Pour 2 cups of water into a rice cooker and put the steaming rack in.
12. Put the dish of shrimps on top of the steaming rack.
13. Steam for 5-6 minutes.


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Garden Creatures

06/25/2014

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It was hard work manipulating the metal, but the final product filled me with a sense of pride. The fact that I could share that experience with my father made it that much more enjoyable
Story Collected by Sharanitha Sampath    

When people walk by Joanna Colligan’s house, there are two things that people notice instantly. Firstly, it is the intoxicating smell of her flowers that waft through the air. Secondly, it is the beautiful sculptures that litter her garden and light it up at night.

At the beginning of every summer, my neighbor, Joanna goes to work in her garden. She slowly transitions all of her decorations out of the garage and places it throughout her yard.  At night, the scene is brought to life by the wonderful lighting fixtures and decorations she has incorporated. Each figure resembles animals and insects that are found in nature and gardens. One particular sculpture is a butterfly made of recycled metal wires. Another is a metal frog that sits on a lily pad. The lily pad itself is constructed from a mosaic of green tiles. Light will sometimes reflect off the glass and paint the wall beside it in vibrant shades of green.

Joann’s father, Bruce Colligan, is the man responsible for creating all of her decorations and sculptures. Bruce used to be an engineer and now dedicates his free time to his hobby of metalworking. The art of manipulating metal is a skill set that has been passed down for generations in their family. “I never cared to learn how to do it at first,” Joanna admits. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when she went back to Iowa to visit her family that she began to show an interest in her dad’s hobby.

It all started when she asked him to create some sculptures for her garden with solar powered lighting. Bruce decided to take his daughter on a trip to scavenge for scrap metal. Her interest was piqued when she looked at the types of materials that he picked up. Many were acquired from side streets where people had thrown out old furniture or were donated to him by his neighbors. He would take materials like the wire coils from couches and mattresses to reuse. Joanna remembers getting especially excited when they would find kitchen utensils that could be incorporated into her father’s sculptures.

At first, she left the actual practice of metalworking to her father, but soon he had her involved with that too. “It was hard work manipulating the metal, but the final product filled me with a sense of pride. The fact that I could share that experience with my father made it that much more enjoyable,” Joanna reminisces. She recalled the hours she spent hammering out strips of metal and twisting them in order to create the antennae for the butterfly. One of her favorite memories was about the creation of her penny flower. Joanna was in charge of taking their old pennies and running it through a flattening machine. She would run the coins through, elongating the pennies until they took the form of a petal shape. Her father would then sear the pieces together to form a sort of metal flower composed entirely of copper petals.

To this day, anyone who visits her house will spend time outside admiring her garden and the sculptures that are laced through it. At night, people are greeted by the sight of her lit pathway that is fueled by the energy from the sun. Her father’s habit of repurposing materials has now overflowed into her own life. She will take old glass jars and use them for storage or to drink lemonade out of in the summer. Joanna hopes to learn more about her family tradition of metalworking when she visits her father again this summer. Perhaps she will even add few of her own creatures to her garden when she returns. 

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Nature and Relationship Building

06/25/2014

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It is the perfect, stress-free environment for relaxing while getting good exercise, and it allows us a chance to talk to one another without having any distractions
Story Collected by Karl Novak 

To collect themes around nature, I decided to interview my friends Sam and Brian that I already knew to have a connection with the environment, despite having developed the friendship with them in the concrete jungle of Chicago. Both of my friends in this interview appreciate the outdoors either through activities (like sports and hobbies) or relaxation.  Sam and Brian shared memories of hikes through nature in a familiar forest preserve near our houses in the northwest suburbs named Deer Grove.

I focused on the fact that my friends and I actively pursue opportunities to go to the woods when we are all at home and this interview allowed me time to reconsider our relationships with nature and why we continue to practice this behavior. I asked myself and friends why we even started going to the woods. Brian quickly responded that since living on an urban campus (a few years ago at UIC in the dorms) did not allow us much time to spend outdoors, we were left longing for something we had previously taken for granted - green space. This was taken away from us by moving to the city for two obvious reasons: there is little open space within close proximity to practice the outdoor hobbies we enjoyed growing up as kids and we had to be more mindful of our safety living in the city - basically being on curfew at night to avoid crime that plagues the city. Sam agreed that this was a contributing factor, but he also mentioned how he enjoyed hiking to absorb all of the fresh sensations given by the woods - the clean smell the air carried, the bright colors from new growth, the songs chirped by birds and even the differing textures we felt from leaves and ground.  

Sam, Brian and I all agreed that we enjoy hiking in the woods better together. Although our senses experience the same with or without the company of others, there is something special about experiencing a beautiful thing with someone else to recall the good memory later. In addition, my friend also shared how it is fun to spend time with others in the woods to converse with and share stories. "It is the perfect, stress-free environment for relaxing while getting good exercise, and it allows us a chance to talk to one another without having any distractions," stated Brian.

I realized from previous experiences that we pool our resources and knowledge together to observe and help identify what is naturally occurring around us. It is enjoyable for my friends and myself to recognize earth systems taking place in front of our very eyes, and see how we as humans fit into this delicate process, either in or away from nature. This, we all agree, shaped our perspective on life and even influenced what courses of study we pursued in college (anthropology, earth and environmental science, civil engineering). The more time we spend in the woods, the more we learn about the space and the wildlife in it. Sam, Brian and I are also adding to the demand for open, green space just by walking through the land and demonstrating its intrinsic value, along with the other visitors of Deer Grove. Collectively, visitors call for the area to remain an undeveloped oasis by using the space for whatever recreation or purpose they like. Sam finished by stating how his motivation for being outdoors outweighs some barriers that may prevent himself or others from enjoying the forest preserve. Sam mentioned: "…the woods can either be a scary place or a sanctuary, and for a long time fear inhibited me from enjoying the woods at night. But - with a few friends also concerned for their safety - I can explore the woods at night and we have extremely productive conversations around big, philosophical ideas. It refreshes my mind, body and spirit."

As long as the weather remains dry and one of us has the means (a car) to travel there together, we will go despite the barriers. I believe Sam, Brian and I will always share this common interest and continue to spend time hiking outdoors.

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A Medina Family's Sustainability Story

06/13/2014

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I don’t have a built swing set, I have ropes hanging from trees, and so it’s within the natural environment. You don’t have to have machine built things for the kids to have fun. We have used all things that interact with the environment instead of destroying the environment - like the tree swing. Instead of buying a man made swing set, we got a 100 ft. rope and put it over our tree to use with a recycled tire.
Story Collected by Lucia Whalen    
The Medina children are not your average children. For the Medina children, summertime is marked by the emergence of peppermint, which means that it is time for tea ceremonies. The Medina family is comprised of Rosalio, a native of Nicaragua, Claudia, a native of Colombia, and their three children Maria Teresa (Teeny), Gabriel (Chippy), and live four doors down the street from my door, and initially connected with my family through cultural heritage shared by Claudia and my stepmother and a love of music shared by all.

According to Claudia,
They’ve had tea ceremonies since they were little, so they couldn’t wait for the peppermint. Yesterday, they figured out the peppermint had come back, and they all sat down with their tea cups and had a special tea ceremony with their fresh herb tea. How many little kids sit down and have tea ceremonies? They invite their friends over and that’s the big thing - they all sit around and talk.

For Claudia Medina, an educational consultant, university professor and full-time mother, there is no greater connection to sustainability than through her children. By engraining a love of nature, learning, and imagination as natural parts of her family’s lifestyle, her three children, ages 6, 8 and 12, have all been raised in a way that radiates a pre-industrialized-American sustainability – one where children play outdoors until the sun goes down and know that summertime means picking tomatoes fresh off the vine.

Most American homes are adult-centered, and children grow up envisioning independence as leaving home for good and entering the world of capital and consumerism. In an act of ultimate sustainability, the Medina household has been made to be kid-centered. The Medina’s property, which was historically the neighborhood farmhouse, has maintained its identity as the core of the block, and sticks out with a massive yard which functions as a garden, hub for celebration, and child sanctuary. According to Claudia, “The kids don’t want to leave the house, they just love being here. Making your kids just want to stay at home is really sustainable, instead of wanting to go to a movie or go out anywhere to spend money. Instead of going to Chuck E Cheese, I put a zip line in the backyard. They have so much more fun just being here, [where] food is good and all their friends want to come. “

According to Claudia, environmentally friendly practices are a natural habit in the kids’ lives, as exemplified in their methods of play.

She explains,
I don’t have a built swing set, I have ropes hanging from trees, and so it’s within the natural environment. You don’t have to have machine built things for the kids to have fun. We have used all things that interact with the environment instead of destroying the environment - like the tree swing. Instead of buying a man made swing set, we got a 100 ft. rope and put it over our tree to use with a recycled tire.

This type of creativity puts her children in the mindset of wanting to create their own fun, instead of needing to buy it.

A giant inflatable water slide, which the Medina’s recently added to their backyard haven, would be seen as wasteful and unsustainable to the passive eye. However, the most recent addition reveals an intersection between sustainability and family values.

She says,
The inflatable water slide is not the most environmentally friendly, but if you think about how much fun it will bring to the yard, and just the fact that they love it so much…it keeps them home and makes family important to them. Everything we do is so our kids can be happy. Because if they love being here, they’re always going to want to come back, and if they come back, then our grandchildren are going to be part of our life. It’s controlling in a way, because we’re guiding, but we’re not on top of them - they’re very independent and very creative. The more time you give them to play and be outside, the better. In our house, the rule is you’re not allowed to use electronics until it’s dark.

For the Medina’s, environmental sustainability naturally coincides with a love of family, learning, imagination. She explains, “The message since they were little has been, ‘What did you learn today? Did you make the day count? Did you do something for someone else?’ And so, they are taught to share, and they are taught to care for the environment.”

By integrating nature into the everyday, the Medina children have developed a natural desire to live in an environmentally friendly way – one that they do not refer to as sustainable because of how natural it is to their lifestyle. So, how do we foster a culture around sustainability? In the case of the Medina’s, put children at the center. 

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Coming to North America in the early nineties and experiencing the luxuries of the Western world did not change her for the worse. She took advantage of the opportunities available, but also stuck strongly to her culture and her ways. She raised her children to appreciate all they had, reusing clothes until they were so worn that it could only be used as a rag. And even then, she would use it as a rag to wipe the kitchen floor. She taught my sister and I to speak first in her native tongue, Kannada, and second in English, so that the importance of our heritage would always be instilled in us.
Story Collected by Akhila Gopal

India, specifically Bengaluru, over the last several decades has transitioned into to becoming more and more urban, and along with that it has become more and more polluted. In my eyes, I see the people there sacrificing the environment for the sake of status. Apartments and condominiums are being built in an area that is already crowded with small shops and homes. Hundreds of rickshaws, cars, and motorbikes are bustling and honking their way through the narrow streets—swerving to avoid the cows that roam around freely, sniffing and picking at the trash everywhere. Even the culture is becoming diluted into the Western ideals that everyone praises so much. But it wasn’t always like this. While talking to my mother about her experience with eco-friendly practices in her life, she began to speak of an India which I had never seen; an India in which the culture and the environment sustained each other.

Chandrika Gopal grew up in Bengaluru in a different time, and with a different perspective on the world. Born in 1967, she and her two younger siblings were raised by their grandmother on only the income of her father who worked in another city, far away. She wore a uniform and braids to school every day, learned to cook and clean from a young age, and was explicitly told that she was not allowed to participate in sports (though she rebelled a bit on that one). But being in a situation where she and her family had to make the most of everything, she learned that eco-friendly practices can make a little go a long way.

Lentils, a staple in a vegetarian diet, were eaten almost every day. In preparing the lentils, Chandrika would wash them in water in order to clean and remove and debris. But rather than just pouring the lentil water down the drain, she would set it aside in a bucket so that the plants could be watered with it later. Similarly, vegetable peels were saved in a bucket to feed the local cows. Water and food were, and still are, incredibly important and unfortunately scarce resources in some places, and preserving them in any way possible was not only beneficial to her family, but also to the earth.

Having been on a limited budget and in a limited space, Chandrika’s family did not have a washing machine or a dryer. This meant that she had to wash her own clothes, and then hang them out to dry. Though tedious, the clothes still were cleaned, and in the process she saved not only money and water, but also electricity and energy. She continued to hang her clothes out to dry even after she got married and moved to Canada.

Coming to North America in the early nineties and experiencing the luxuries of the Western world did not change her for the worse. She took advantage of the opportunities available, but also stuck strongly to her culture and her ways. She raised her children to appreciate all they had, reusing clothes until they were so worn that it could only be used as a rag. And even then, she would use it as a rag to wipe the kitchen floor. She taught my sister and I to speak first in her native tongue, Kannada, and second in English, so that the importance of our heritage would always be instilled in us. With the help of her husband and children, she learned to live life her own way in a country that was not common to her.

Though Chandrika lives in a big house now with gorgeous crown molding and hardwood floors, she still tries to save water, food, and energy in any way she can. She doesn’t necessarily use vegetable peels to feed the local animals, but she does take shorter showers, cook meals with organic vegetables, and chooses to open the windows on a warm day, rather than blasting the air conditioner. My mother is proof, that having a status in society and being environmentally friendly are not mutually exclusive parts of a lifestyle. She is an example of the fact that moving from a low income family in India to a wealthy neighborhood in the United States over a period of 26 years does not mean having to completely drop old habits and assimilate to a new culture. When it comes to the good habits that help sustain a family, a culture, and the earth, some things shouldn’t change. 

 

Corn is a-MAIZE-ing

06/10/2014

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Once you harvest the corn you can use it for many different things. The leaves can be used to wrap tamales up. You can use the actual corn for a multiple number of things. You can make corn tortillas and really nothing is wasted. Back in Mexico, the tortillas that are left over are still used not just simply thrown away. If the tortillas turn hard from being out too long after being cooked people make them into tostadas. You fry the tortilla and you don’t need to buy corn chips anymore. 
Story Collected by Tania Sosa

I recently spoke with my mom, Vicenta Sosa, about her Mexican heritage and the familiar practices that have defined who she is as an individual. I specifically asked her about practices that she did that were seen as eco-friendly. Among many that she shared with me, there was one in particular that stuck out. My mom talked about corn and how versatile a plant it was.

She started off by saying that here in the states we have become very wasteful and one thing that made her miss her home in Mexico was the fact that even in Illinois (where we grow corn) we do not make use it to its full potential. Here she explains the process of how to cultivate corn and the different things that you could make with it.

When you plant corn you have to take care of it. You have to make sure the soil is healthy because what you plant is only as healthy that the soil it is in. So you lay down compost and take out the weeds, keeping the soil as healthy as possible.

Once you harvest the corn you can use it for many different things. The leaves can be used to wrap tamales up. You can use the actual corn for a multiple number of things. You can make corn tortillas and really nothing is wasted. Back in Mexico, the tortillas that are left over are still used not just simply thrown away. If the tortillas turn hard from being out too long after being cooked people make them into tostadas. You fry the tortilla and you don’t need to buy corn chips anymore.

You can make your salsa, ceviche, or tinga de pollo and you have the corn chips or tostadas right there for you to eat. People do not throw away a single tortilla. If the don’t want/need tostadas they make some chilaquiles. With the maize you can make tamales, and clascales, which is a type of dessert bread. Gorditas con carne can also be made. Along with picaditas, sopes and quesadillas, really the possibilities are endless when using corn.

I ask for one of her favorite recipes that used corn and she said enchiladas verdes con pollo.

Enchiladas verdes con pollo
Ingredients:
garlic, onions, jalapeños, green tomatoes, tortillas, chicken

Make the salsa by blended some garlic, onion, jalapeños, and green tomatoes. Fry the salsa in a pan.
Then (if you would like) dip the tortillas in a bit of oil and put them into the salsa that is frying
Next, boil the chicken. Once it is fully cooked, break it apart into thin pieces add it to the salsa and tortilla.
Roll up the tortilla and serve.

You can add cheese, sour cream, and some onion on top if you would like.
It is delicious, simply, and easy!

I then went on to ask my mom where she learned about the versatility of corn. She said that her dad was the one that planted and took care of the corn back in Mexico. When her dad had harvested the crop, her mom was the one that did the cooking. My grandma is the best cook in the family, and she was the one that always tried to make the most of what little that they had. My grandma learned what she knows from her mom, the knowledge being passed down from generation to generation. My mom said that she missed being back home because of the many things that they did that was not only beneficial to her family and coincidentally also very good for the environment. She hopes to bring some of those things from the past back into our lives so we can all benefit from them. 

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Environmentally-Friendly Practices at Home

06/10/2014

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From the list of environmentally-friendly practices there were only four items that my mom marked as things she or we do at home. Among those things she marked down recycling, using energy-efficient light bulbs, using drapes and curtains to regulate temperatures, and hanging clothes to dry.
Story Collected by Ian Torres

Initially, I was planning on interviewing my grandmother for the Environmentally-friendly Practices interview, but I decided that I would interview my mom instead. It occurs to me that for all the things that I do, I would always involve my grandmother but rarely had I included my mom in the things that I did or believed in. It so happens that the reason why I tend not to share too much about what I do with my mom is because our ways of thinking are very different. She is a little more conservative and is often difficult to get through to her. This was the perfect opportunity to include my mom into a little bit of what I do and in the process make her see and understand, in this case, why we should be engaging in more environmentally practices.

From the list of environmentally-friendly practices there were only four items that my mom marked as things she or we do at home. Among those things she marked down recycling, using energy-efficient light bulbs, using drapes and curtains to regulate temperatures, and hanging clothes to dry. When I asked her why she engaged in these practices she said that she mainly participated in them for the purpose of saving money, aside from recycling which was a practice that she said was her way of contributing to help the environment. The list was very extensive yet she only marked down four. I asked her if she would have liked to mark down more practices than the ones she did and she said yes and that she would like to engage in more activities but she feels she does not have enough time.

At that moment I asked her to mark three other practices that, though she marked down as things that she only did sometimes or never, she would like to do more. She marked down outdoor recreation and relaxation, gardening, and capturing or diverting rainwater. Out of these three practices the one that really called my attention was the practice of capturing or diverting water. She told me that when she was younger she used to capture rainwater with my grandmother for things like washing dishes, cleaning, bathing, watering plants, among other things. She said that my grandmother use to do this because that was a way of conserving water. She then understood that many people engage on these practices on the list because they have a cultural meaning to them, but at the same time these practices are still very relevant to us today, and in fact they are eco-friendly practices.

My hope with this interview was to be able to expose my mom more to the work I do and the way I think. My hope with this is to create some conscious in my house that for so long has been disconnected from our environment, from our community, and from our society. I did feel like at one point she might have felt a bit guilty for not engaging in some of the practices in the list, but my hope is that from now on she will be more conscious about the things she does and the things that we should be doing at our house. I hope to break that indifference in my house and in my family members, and hopefully we will be able to reconnect with our environment, and with our roots by engaging in environmentally-friendly practices.

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