Author: Kathleen Cantrell

Kathleen Cantrell lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and daughter. Mrs. Cantrell has received a bachelor’s degree in English from Villanova University, as well as a master’s degree in Secondary Education from Duquesne University. She currently is an online English teacher working on a writing center website. One day she aspires to write children’s books. But more importantly, she is a mother.

my shade of green

I would call myself a ‘light’ shade of green. I am the kind of mom who wants life made easier for herself and her family. At times being ‘green’ requires work that I simply don’t have time for, but since April is earth month, I thought I would attempt to make a few small steps to be more aware of my environment. My first step was a trip to the book store; every good ‘greenie’ needs to do their research.

The book that I choose was Green goes with Everything, by Sloan Barnett. It was an easy read and well organized. After reading the book, I must admit that I was a bit disturbed by all of the chemicals I was using inside my own home. I was making my home a toxic landfill of sorts. Geez, no wonder my asthma was getting worse with all of my spring cleaning. So, I decided to do a little test. I clipped coupons online, went to the store and bought all organic cleaners with ingredients I could actually pronounce. After a week of using these products, I can truly breathe easier. My little one can even help me as I clean, whereas before I was so worried about her inhaling fumes. My husband even noticed and mentioned that he felt as though his asthma subsided. Instead of using sprays to freshen the room, I open the windows to let the real ‘fresh air’ in. If I desire a scent within the room, I’ll simply light a soy scented candle.

This month I learned that regardless what shade of green we are, we can all do something for the environment. Quite often, what we decide to do improves our well being just as much as it helps the environment. I am even teaching my little one about cleaning, and we can actually breathe while we clean! I can teach my little one that the way we clean impacts everyone on the planet; we are truly learning about being little citizens of the world.

Below are two green recipes that my friend Amy gave me. I hope they assist you on your venture towards becoming a ‘greenie’ regardless what shade you intend to be!

The Green Germ Killer

2 cups rubbing alcohol

12 drops of a scented oil of your choice (I prefer ylang ylang oil)

Wood Floor Cleaner

(And it leaves no sticky residue!)

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup hot water

10 drops sweet orange oil (or essential oil of your choice)

journaling on your journey

This past week, I did quite an abundance of spring cleaning and came across an old travel journal from college. As I sifted through the different entries, I felt as though I was immediately transported back to my travels through Greece. All of the sights, sounds, emotions and experiences of that time seemed to surround me. It got me thinking that perhaps I should continue to journal during my travels even when it isn’t required for a class. Not only do my entries take me back to my own experience, but they help me to share my experience with others. Let me share an experience with you:

June 2, 2001

We have been traveling most of the day. We left Tolo early this morning to visit a few sites. Soon we will come to Mycenae. We arrive. I step off the bus and a cold chill runs down my spine. We walk up the palace steps, the very same steps that Agamemnon walked to his death. We pass through the lion’s gate, shaft graves on our right with more steps to the left. We climb. I wander off on my own, passing through chambers where some say the murders of the House of Atreus took place. I climb further to where there are no walls, no ceilings; only dark blue mountains and damp air surround me. It is quite hot out, but I feel a coldness in the air. What sights those towering mountains must have seen. Our professor once told us that we can have ‘conversations’ with rocks, trees, wind and water. I wonder what those frigid mountains could tell us.

Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, but words, unlike photographs are subjective to our emotions and experiences at the moment. Be sure to not only record the images of your trip, but also the emotions and ideas that you explore along the way. Your family could even swap journals at the end of a trip to view another person’s perspective of the journey. This could be a resourceful activity for a long plane or car ride. Reflecting in this way enriches the total experience for you and your family for years to come.

a chic state of mind

I never was one to obsess about my style of dress, or for that matter, care if I even matched. My perspective on clothing certainly changed after a trip to Greece. From the picturesque side-streets to the amphitheater, everyone seemed to have a certain air of elegance about them. From time to time I could imagine ancient Greece around me in the very way the Greeks used to simply drape fabric around the human frame. Those ancient garbs certainly had an impact on modern day Greek style. The dresses and skirts that women were wearing seemed to float upon their bodies; the very clothes themselves had a life of their own. It seemed to be infused in the very air. I even got a whiff of it!

While in Greece I purchased an item of a stylish quality that I shall always remember. There was this pair of shoes that distinctly reminded me of the stylish icon Audrey Hepburn. They were these black, ballet inspired, backless shoes with just a hint of heel to entice the wearer. When I wore them walking around the streets of Athens, I felt divine, empowered. They had a certain understated romance about them that I adored. Perhaps it reflects the hint of confidence in Greek clothing that I had observed in the locals, understated, without airs, but decidedly striking at the same time.

It was at this moment that I saw the connection between art and fashion. Just as a painting can have an impact on the viewer, so can a beautifully draped dress or a fabulous pair of shoes have an impact on the wearer. Fashion is a state of mind, reflecting the very thoughts and beliefs of the one who wears a particular style. To obtain clothing from diverse areas of the world is to begin to have an understanding of those areas. Dressing our children in clothing inspired by styles around the world is a wonderful conversation starter about diversity, breaking the stereotype that one particular group of people must dress in a uniform fashion. Perhaps I cannot afford to take my daughter to exotic locations as of yet, but I can certainly bring some of it back with me via Tea Collection.

little italy in our kitchen

I have fond memories of cooking along-side my father. Perhaps I was the sous-chef, but I felt like I was a part of something significant. I can distinctly recall the smell of fresh tomatoes simmering in basil, olive oil, garlic and red wine. My father always told me to add just a touch of salt to bring out the garlic and just a bit of sugar to counter the acidity of the tomatoes. There is nothing quite like the taste of marinara sauce that has simmered away all day. There is such love in the dish. It is that kind of love for Italian cuisine that my father has taught me to pass on to my family as well. It is not just the Italian love for food; it is a love of all that is good in life. It is about savoring the moment whether that moment is a soft breeze that passes swiftly along your cheek, the smell of a newly blooming gardenia, the genuine smile of a child, or the pure taste of fresh pasta sauce.

My father did not simply bring Italy into our kitchen; he actually sent all of his children to experience Italy itself as well. My sisters and I studied abroad in Sienna during our years at Villanova, while my brother, mother and father are currently visiting Tuscany as I type. During my stay there I immersed myself in Italian culture. I read the renowned works of Dante. I studied Italian works of art from the Etruscans to the Renaissance Period. I walked along the picturesque streets of Rome, Florence and Venice. I painted watercolors of Sienna’s hillside, nearby valleys, as well as the quaint homes and side streets. And I learned enough of Italian to shop, dine, and of course, buy my favorite flavor of gelato. It was a time that I will always cherish.

Today, my two-year old daughter, Hope, is my little sous-chef. Although she is certainly limited by her age in the kitchen, that does not stop her curiosity. She does not know many words, but one of her favorites besides ‘mommy,’ ‘daddy,’ and ‘more,’ is ‘pasta.’ As I blanche the tomatoes one by one she screams, “Pasta!” When the tomatoes cook down and I begin to add the other ingredients she shouts, “See!” I then place her on a tiny stepping stool so she can view the luscious red mixture. Near dinner, when I begin to boil the spaghetti, she knows that a delicious meal will soon be hers. But before the pasta is nearly done, she walks toward me, gives me a hug and whispers, “Taste?” The image of her mouth covered in velvety red sauce is one of my favorite mental pictures. Someday I imagine her walking along the simple streets of Sienna, perhaps on her way to purchase a gelato or to paint a lovely picture of a quiet side-street, or maybe, just maybe, she simply wants to take in the scenery.