Sunday, August 30, 2009

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins: 4 years after Katrina: Lessons from the Gulf Coast

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins: 4 years after Katrina: Lessons from the Gulf Coast

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Red Hot Thrift Store Finds

Across the street from one of my best clients is one the area's top rated thrift/vintage shops. Fortunately, I will have to make several calls on my client to keep them happy, which puts me in a great position to visit this fun establishment. Cool 70's soft rock, pop and R&B tunes drifted in the background and the employees had me cracking up during my entire lunch hour there. The gold purses pictured here, were all priced under $19 and the pearl necklaces were a steal! I nabbed two fine necklaces (one made in Japan) for under $8 each. I remember paying about $35 for these types of necklaces at Ann Taylor. It gets better. At the cash register, the wise cracking employee (previously a policewoman), reduced the prices further! Oh yeah, I'll be back.

Pearls, African Art and Nature At The Thrift Store

I picked up this signed eight inch Shona sculpture for five bucks at the thrift store. In addition, I acquired some very nice and unique jewelry at sweet prices. I paid about $30 for all of the items featured here. I'm a believer! The key to thrift shopping happiness for people like me that don't have the time or inclination to pick through unedited stuff or drive around all day looking for bargains, is to find thrift/vintage shops that have received high word of mouth ratings and more frequently today, high published ratings via the web or the local paper.

Thrifty Banker

Sporting my eco-friendly pearls. Thrift and vintage shopping is a great way to save money and the environment.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

If I was an "urban gleaner", I would be all over the tremendous pear tree located behind the parking lot of this midtown building and above a large innerstate highway. I have parked under this tree for a couple of years and just noticed all of the perfect pears. There were hundreds of them, right in the middle of the city, in the most unexpected of places. I learned in the book "The Scavenger's Manifesto", that an urban gleaner is a person that seeks these specific types of urban harvesting opportunities in the city. If any gleaners are curious, this bodacious fruit find is located in the Taste Buds building parking lot on 30th and Superior. Taste Buds is a popular family run restaurant in this area that offers several vegetarian and vegan options and is going green. The owner is also an artist. I wonder if she knows about the pears?

Ground Breaking For New Green Arts Center In Cleveland

The Rainey Institute has been providing an arts education for children in Cleveland, Ohio for 105 years - in the same house. I had the fortune of participating in the ground breaking ceremony for its new green building, to be constructed by next summer. This was a great day as it was 14 years in the making and many people were instrumental in seeing that children of all backgrounds have an opportunity to be exposed to the beauty and experience of various art forms. Rainey works withkids in all age ranges, from the cutest pre-schoolers to the most charming teens. Art, music, dance and leadership skills are taught and sometimes, the teachers are the best role models some of the children have in their lives. I'm proud to be a donor (very small) and part of history. Donations are still being accepted, click here to learn more about Rainey and donor opportunities.

Socially Responsible Investing Part 2 of 3

Okay, I know I was supposed to post this yesterday, but I was too geeked up about helping my friend with his green building project. So today, we will highlight trends in Socially Responsible Investing.


A rapidly growing number of investors are factoring a company's environmental, safety and corporate governance (ESG) practices into their investment decisions. Some for social reasons, others fear the risks associated with violations, regulation, competition and public relations when companies don't have strong ESG performance. ESG is especially important given the growth of "emerging market" funds. These are funds of businesses operating in high growth developing countries, including China, Brazil, parts of Africa and India There is growing evidence of a positive correlation to financial performance and sensitivity to the triple bottom line over time. Currently there is a push among blocks of investors, for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require its member companies to provide ESG reporting. The most recent data suggests that SRI dollars account for 11 percent of all dollars invested, this represents a growth of 18% from 2005 to 2007. Typical institutional investors include governments, universities, hospitals, foundations and religious organizations that want to align their mission and values with dollars invested. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)represents 300 faith based institutional investors and has over $100 billion in capital in the SRI market.

Financial Performance or "Show Me The Money"

Recent studies have demonstrated the superior performance of SRI funds over non-SRI funds and indexes. According to Social Investment Forum, the oldest SRI index, The Domini 400 earned 8.43% from 1990-2008, compared to the S&P 500, which returned 7.78% over the same period. I am considering investing in The Appleseed Fund, given its 35.21% year to date performance and 12.42% one year return. Another one I'm considering is the Pax World High Yield Bond Fund with year to date returns of 27.42%. There are several other indexes which have outperformed comparable non-SRI indexes in the past decade. The Dow Jones Sustainability Index World is one of these. Wow! So it sounds like you really can have your conscious cake and eat too! All investments have some inherent risks, so be sure to do your homework, understand your comfort level with assuming risk versus return, your time horizon for needing your cash, your goals and review with a certified financial advisor (they should ask you for this information -if they don't- walk away).

Act Now

If you are a member of a credit union or union, donor to or board member of a non-profit or foundation, employee of a large corporation or member of a religious entity you can now ask if your institution has included ESG or SRI requirements into its investment policy (a written internal document that outlines rules, regulations and guidelines for investments) and if not, suggest that they do. If you are an individual investor, you can purchase shares of SRI funds and indexes for as little as $500 (save up monthly until you accumulate this amount or use your tax refund, gift money, etc) or part of a company's stock through Sharebuilder for an even smaller initial investment. There are many investment firms and advisers that specialize in this type of investing, we will touch on these in my final post of this series on socially responsible investing.

For a more detailed report on this topic, click here, there is a lot of good information about guiding your organization's dollars in this direction, in addition to general information on SRI.

Van Jones: The Face of Green Jobs | The Big Money

Van Jones: The Face of Green Jobs | The Big Money

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Tax Credits for Going Green - Big Solutions for Small Business

Tax Credits for Going Green - Big Solutions for Small Business

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Friday, August 28, 2009

ARRA and a Green America: Understanding The Small Business Opportunity

ARRA and a Green America: Understanding The Small Business Opportunity Great list of resources for small business owners looking to go or build green.

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Changing the Construction Landscape - Become a Green Building Leader

Changing the Construction Landscape - Become a Green Building Leader Tips and resources on greening your residential contracting business.

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Green Building Opportunity

A good friend of mine is looking to acquire a commercial building and has asked me to help him green it up! I'm so excited! I will be eagerly researching green building renovations. Better go on ahead and get my LEED certificate.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Is Socially Responsible Investing

Part 1 of 3 posts. Left my notes at the job, so I'm freestyling from memory a bit on this post. I met with a consultant that specializes in this type of investment, so I'm comfortable with my understanding of it from memory, so don't you fret.

Socially responsible investing or SRI shares the goals of a truly green company, pursuit of maximum return to the triple bottom line - profit, people and planet. ESG is another term frequently used in association with SRI. ESG is short for environment, social and governance - consideration for the planet, employees and how the company conducts itself. There are three prongs to SRI. 1) Social and Environmental Screens 2) Shareholder Advocacy and 3) Community Investing.

Screens - Negative examples include avoidance of companies that produce weapons, tobacco, alcohol, adult material, have poor labor practices and invest in Darfur. Positive examples include companies that have climate change policies, fair labor practices overseas, ecological sustainability

Shareholder Advocacy - Groups of shareholders use their power and influence to highlight specific social and environmental goals that they want the company to pursue, usually at shareholder meetings and with shareholder votes. See today's post on a successful advocacy effort at an Idaho utility.

Community Investing - Reinvestments back into low income and disadvantaged communities, primarily through loan programs funneled through special community development banks, loan funds and credit unions.

Individuals, governments, large religious institutions, pension funds and unions are some of the biggest investors in the SRI market. Currently over $2 trillion is invested in this manner and is one of the fastest growing categories. We learn more about trends tomorrow.

A Historic Win for Green Shareholders |

A Historic Win for Green Shareholders Thank you @greenlifetoday for sharing this information. Shareholder Advocacy, one of three prongs of socially responsible investing (SRI) was responsible for this historic decision by an Idaho (of all places) utility company to curb greenhouse gases.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Fair Expectations: Rainforest Alliance v. Fairtrade

Fair Expectations: Rainforest Alliance v. Fairtrade One of these fair trade certifications is not like the other. View the chart in the article to learn which is "fairer". UPDATE: Click here to see read the response by the Rainforest Alliance to the article. I don't think 12 hours passed from the time that I shared the original article to the time that I received a comment sharing the response from the Rainforest Alliance.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Socially Responsible Investing

I finally feel ready to get back in the market again. No, not Whole Foods, I'm still boycotting that place, but the stock market. I'm actually kind of excited because I'm going to be investing with a new attitude! Cautious can describe my new attitude (who isn't after last year), but consciousness is the perfect descriptor. I am going to be a socially responsible investor (SRI) and invest in companies that not only perform financially, but also meet certain employee/community relations, social governance and environmental metrics. The good news is that these types of investments have performed as well as and in many cases better than their peers. The Domini 400 (400 SRI companies) has outperformed the S&P 500 over the years. I plan to speak with my broker about a few mutual funds in this category that are doing well so far this year, Appleseed Fund (35.21% ytd) and Pax World High Yield Bond Fund (27.42% ytd). I will also inquire about Ariel Funds, founded by African American John Rogers, Jr. Click here for details on these popular SRI funds and others. You can go to any bank and ask to speak to an investment officer and there should be someone available to service your needs, even if you are new to investing and have minimal dollars. Don't be surprised though if they are ignorant about socially responsible investments; while SRI's have been around for decades now, and hold assets of $2.71 trillion, some brokers are clueless. So you want to be armed with a little homework. Stick with me this week and I will share my research with you.

Show me the money baby! Hmm. Now, show me how you made it.

Mars Follows Cadbury on Sustainable Cocoa Sourcing

Mars Follows Cadbury on Sustainable Cocoa Sourcing Mars and Cadbury have made some sweet moves towards its farmers and the environment. But where is Hershey's? They have provided a long and defensive response to critics and claim to have taken steps in the right direction on the cocoa farming/child labor/pesticide issue. Apparently it is too much to ask of them to make a commitment to fair trade like their peers. Well, it is too much to ask of me to put an Almond Hershey's in my shopping cart (they taste kind of waxy these days anyway) . Uh oh, I better stuff my face with a Mars Twix before I say too much!

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Environmental Health News And Green Tidbits

Be sure to check out the Above The Fold daily environmental health news from around the world, featured in Black and Into Green. This weekend's highlights, I found to be particularly relevant:

  • Pesticides found at dangerous to human levels in water system (use a water filter)
  • Makers of BPA, found in plastic and canned food/formula, to lead an overt and covert tobacco industry like attack to protect its tarnished reputation (cancer, heart disease, reproductive disorders). Yeah. I will take mine in glass, stainless steel or ceramic please.
  • Swine flue vaccine contains mercury and squalene - tied to lupus, multiple sclerosis
  • Landfill garbage located in low income Wilmington area, may topple into Delaware River
  • Green alternatives being developed to replace toxic pesticides. Scotts Lawn Co to be one of first to test in products. Yay! (Vinegar makes a great spot weedkiller)
  • Great Lakes fish linked to diabetes via pesticide DDE
  • Rainforests being cleared at an alarming rate to raise soybeans, primarily to feed cows in an attempt to meat the growing global demand for meat
  • Ingredient to watch - palm oil. Forests being cleared unsustainably to grow palm plants. Found in food products and soap.

Other green tidbits:

  • Use lemongrass oil or eucalyptus oil instead of DEET to ward off bugs
  • WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures are most efficient
  • Cuisinart GreenGourmet nonstick cookware is eco-friendly and safe to use
  • Search for cool back to school accessories like jewelry, purses and belts at thrift/vintage stores
  • 30% increase in colleges going green (a whole new enlightened generation being formed)
  • Green stimulus dollars are hitting your local governments and nonprofits, stay on top of the opportunities through your government rep and
  • Eco-Mondays at Twitter are days to show some love to your fav green tweeples

That's all folks!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Greenwashing Index: You Be The Judge

It seems that so many businesses have taken up the green banner these days. Or perhaps they are just seeing green, as they promote phony eco-friendly values to exploit growing consumer interest in socially responsible companies. Not sure? The Greenwashing Index provides user generated critiques of any company ad that promotes it's "greenness" and rates the ad on a scale of one to five to determine how likely it is to be a greenwash or not. Check it out.

Another Reason To Switch To Soy Candles

Soy candles rule! They don't have that awful smell when you blow out the candle, they are better for the environment and haven't been linked to lung cancer. According to this article in the BBC News, there is evidence to suggest that paraffin based candles have issues beyond the biting fumes you experience when extinguishing one.

Shade Tolerant Plants In The Late Summer Garden

Late summer is not the best season for flowery perennials, so it is important to incorporate plenty of interesting foilage plants in your garden for all season interest. These are shade tolerant.
Strawberry begonia

Ostrich fern

Leathery fern

Hosta "Sum and Substance" - Huge and bright

Hydrangea and daisy (daisies like sun) surround an ancient bench.

This Week In The Garden: Leaf Power!

Shade Tolerant Tropical Looking Plants


Elephant Ear

Hydrangea "Annabelle"

Hosta "Sum and Substance"

Ferns (around with the dinosaurs). I'm starting a fern garden in this deeply shaded section of the front garden.

This Week In The Garden: A Few Bright Spots

Coleus - A leafy shade plant

Sedum - Great color and leaf texture

Hibiscus - Tropical looking beauty, winter hardy

Black Eye Susan - Native and long flowering

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Universal Sisters

Imagine this scenario. Email: Gloria are you interested in serving on a panel to educate women on finance? It's August 15th, 8am-5pm.
Reply: Sure! I'm all about educating a nation.
Prepare to Put on Calendar: Saturday? What?! I don't know about taking my whole Saturday. Hmph!
Ultimately: Give in - with the stipulation of arriving at 9:30am vs. 8am.

Result: I was blessed to have the opportunity to mingle with 1,200 African American women at the 4th Annual Universal Sisters Health Conference. There were workshops on everything from domestic abuse, to menopause, to balding, to incontinence. Free health screenings were provided by the staff of The Cleveland Clinic, there always a group of women in the hallway trying out some Zuumba dance moves and there was a great, very well attended session titled "What Your Mama Didn't Tell You About Sex", that was presented by two female physicians and a nurse. Let's just say when the nurse starts quoting Madea - "Cling, cling, shut it down!", it was a very real, open and honest session. You're never to old to be educated on that topic.

I presented with three other ladies on the topic of financial health. I was able to share my experiences as a commercial banker serving nonprofits and governments, a women business owner advocate and a board member to provide insight to small businesses and nonprofits on how to succeed in this economy. My clients have had lots of practice this year trying to survive! I spoke about how important it is to stay active to drive revenue. This includes, networking, using social media, talking to your government officials and giving presentations to targeted groups. Then I discussed the importance of trimming the fat by reducing expenses. I provided lots of ideas, but my favorite one was......go green! Anyway, I have since shared greening and marketing strategies with a very well known family business in the area and have been asked to be a resource for non-profit news from one of the newspapers reporters in town.

Lesson: Kharma baby! Give a little, get a lot.

Thank You Readers!

I just want to personally thank all readers of Black and Into Green for your time and interest. The comments are always so timely, motivating and encouraging. I know there is so much to read out there and so little time to read it all. Tis a shame. There was a great Twilight Zone episode about a man who looooooved to read, but could never find the time for his passion. One day, after sneaking into the bank vault at work to feed his reading jones, he discovered upon his return from the vault, that the world been destroyed and he was the only person left. After getting over the initial shock, he realized as he passed the library, that he could finally spend all of his time reading.! Hallelujah! He could finally read all of the books his heart desired. However, (it is the Twilight Zone) he stumbled on his way up the library stairs and broke his reading glasses. Tragic. Sometimes, I feel like that poor readoholic.

So, anyway, I really appreciate you sharing a part of your day with me.


Oil Industry Memo Calls for Rallies Against Climate Bill

Oil Industry Memo Calls for Rallies Against Climate Bill Many of the big oil companies (you know the ones with the record breaking profits in 2008, when the rest of us were getting our behinds kicked), have decided to pursue the town hall strategy of our nations' insurers and conservative groups. Since it is becoming more apparent ever year that we need to reduce our consumption of fossil fuel, disarmed with a lack of innovation and imagination, these companies are turning to their plan B - confuse, distract and misinform the masses. Hey it seems to be working for health care reform (at least that is what is being reported); so why not climate change? They seem to be saying "Let the remaining 92% of the world's population that doesn't control much wealth starve to death, fight over water rights and lose their homes to fires, rising sea levels and hurricanes, we just need to keep making shockingly huge profits - by any means necessary."

So I post this article to prepare you for the barrage of misinformation that you may be hearing or reading about in the next month. African American communities will be targeted with the threat of the loss of employment (Hello, that happened ten years ago) and rising utility bills. I just caution you to know who is behind the information and to really think through some of the talking points. The good news is that Greenpeace is on it and ready to defend our planet, its animals and its people.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Reform Facts: Read The Bills Here

Everything you want to know, compliments of AARP. Check it out here.

Eco and Budget Friendly Shopping in D.C.Area

Express Night Out Styles The Deal World: A Slew of New Vintage Stores Make Fashion Frugal Check out this article featured in The Washington Post. When you consider all of the money in that town, it makes sense that one could do some serious vintage shopping.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obama Health Care Reform Riles Up Whole Foods CEO John Mackey - ABC News

Obama Health Care Reform Riles Up Whole Foods CEO John Mackey - ABC News Interesting. The CEO of Whole Foods is a libertarian. Anyway, as someone who is a strong supporter of health care reform for many reasons, I have taken steps to go support two locally owned grocers in the area. I will miss Whole Foods, but I am deeply disturbed over Mr. Mackey's stance on this issue. I was already feeling occasional pangs of guilt when I thought about the manner in which he handled Wild Oats, a former competitor that the grocer bought out. He was on the internet making disparaging remarks about Oats under an assumed name, all the while attempting to take them over (perhaps at a lower stock price?). I acknowledge that Whole Foods is a great employer and supporter of the organic foods movement and realize that employees may be impacted by these boycotts, but sometimes it's best to keep certain opinions to yourself. I may return to my former favorite grocer in the future, but "someones got some 'splaining to do", before that happens.

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Battling inflammation, disease through food --

Battling inflammation, disease through food --

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Celebrities That Buy Vintage

Photo) An awesome $8 vintage purse I found on my very green birthday.

I was perusing through a few fashion magazines recently and discovered that there are many celebrities that seek out vintage and thrift items. Included in this mix are Beyonce (she sported a vintage Versace gown at the 2005 Oscars), Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz (no wonder), businesswoman and former super model, Iman and Rosario Dawson.

As I find great vintage stores or websites, I will add them to the fashion section of Black and Into Green.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

This Week In The Garden

A paste "tomater", fragrant phlox, a dogwood tree displaying signs of a waning summer, hydrangea, japanese hakone grass.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ranking Members of Military Say Climate Change A Threat to National Security

Didn't want you to miss this story. I haven't had time to completely read this or analyze this article found in today's NY Times, but when ranking members of the military speak of climate change as an threat to national security, we all better pay attention.

New York's Best Vintage Shops

New to vintage shopping? Need some guidance? Or just like to look at great fashion photos? Check out these books which introduce you to one of the most environmentally and budget friendly ways to shop. You can find them by entering the "Amazon Green" portal on this site.

Anyway, the purpose of this post was not to sell books, but to provide you with an alternative and eco-friendly shopping option on your next trip to New York, a city with one of the nation's lowest carbon footprints. The September issue of Lucky Magazine has organized a directory of New York's best vintage stores. You can peruse the magazine at the library or click here for the list. If you do a search for "vintage shops" on the site Lucky Mag, you will find online sources as well as featured shops from other cities. I recently discovered vintage shopping (at least for clothing purchases) and I am loving the bargains, one of a kind pieces and interesting folk behind the counter. I think you will too!

Delicious Vegan Antipasti - You Won't Miss The Cheese or Meat!

I mean it, you won't miss the cheese or meat in this outstanding vegan antipasti salad. I was tempted soooo many times while preparing this recipe to add a little mozzarella or turkey pepperoni, but I decided to stick it out and trust the original recipe. Glad I did because this vegan dish even passed the male teen taste test! I did add some marinated artichoke, roasted the asparagus and used supersize capers.The marinated and grilled tofu served as the perfect fill in for the cheese and the soy pepperoni, which I normally don't like, absorbed the flavors of the dressing. You can serve it as a main dish with some crusty bread from your local bakery or as a side salad with some pasta or as a safe to eat dish at a picnic. This salad will definitely win converts to the world of vegan eating.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

2nd Annual Very Green Birthday Photos

After a morning feast of peanut butter pancakes with strawberry lemon syrup, I headed out for an afternoon of eco-friendly vintage shopping (not before posing in the side garden though).

2nd Annual Very Green Birthday Photos

$18 for this Ann Taylor shift. Michele would be proud!

The Cleveland Shop, with its very neat, clean and well edited display - was closed on Tuesdays. My son wants to go back though, given its apparent wide selection of men's clothing.
Below: Me in front of Vintage Fair Antiques. Picked up a couple of fantastic painted metal rose pins.

The cute little 70's inspired turquoise knit above, was only $10 bucks!
What I really appreciated about each store - no strange musty odors. Thank you Lord!
In the words of Ah-nuld "I'll be back!"

Very Green Birthday Eco-Friendly Shopping Trip

Eco-friendly, with the exception of driving to the west side. The good news is that most of the shops were within 5 miles of one another and the majority were on the same street. I make the claim of eco-friendly, because our goal was to purchase exclusively from vintage and resale stores. I thought it would be a nice lesson for my son, as part of his back to school shopping, though we did make a side trip to Urban Outfitters! Lessons learned:

  • Call first, we were disappointed to learn that apparently vintage stores are closed on Tuesdays. I made the mistake of comparing them to thrift stores (closed on Mondays)
  • There are often directories dedicated to antique stores, vintage and resale shops. My targeted stores were found by Googling "cool vintage stores, Cleveland area" and an article published in the local paper last year
  • Look for resale shops that specialize in well edited designer finds - we found some unbelievable deals on polo shorts, purses and graphic tees
  • Excellent places to find gowns for formal affairs that you know you will wear only a few times
  • Consider vintage, resale and antique stores for purchases of accessories, jewelry, dishes and dining sets
  • Most of these establishments can be found clustered in the same general vicinity
  • Get to know the staff, so that they can call you upon reciept of items on your list
  • Definitely not as convenient as going to the mall, but much more satisfying (mentally and financially) once you get the hours down and get to know the staff. Be sure to enjoy breakfast or lunch in the area from a local proprietor.
  • You will learn that you can save lots of money, while wearing one of a kind, unique pieces or wardrobe basics and save the environment

Pacific Garbage Patch Studied OR That's Where All That Plastic Goes

Pacific Garbage Patch Studied

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More Hiking Photos

The Timberlands came through in the mud, on the hills and over the creeks!
The stick featured above - a lifesaver on the hills, in muddy areas and rough terrain.
On the left - not what you think!
Below - Indian Ghost Pipes, a rare plant found only in extremely mature wooded areas. Sorry about the blur - hikers were approaching from the rear, so I had to snap on the go!

Hiking at The Cuyahoga Valley National Park

As planned for the four day Very Green Birthday Palooza, I crashed an off trail hike with Ranger Rebecca Jones and a group of other hikers on Sunday. It was all good though, I met some new hiking friends and plan to go back as I had a blast. This national park was part of the Underground Railroad. Though their experience was much different than mine. We passed prehistoric fern filled areas, waterfalls, ravines, traces of 19th century industry tucked between trees, meadows, fields of tall weeds, muddy hills and rare plants. I was sweaty and sore when we finished, but was still about to make home in time to shower, throw on a dress and head to church! God is good!