Archives for December 2012

  • Hardware Co-ops Help Revitalize Neighborhoods | 12.27.2012

    Revitalized homes in Logan Circle

    Logan Circle is a storied neighborhood in Washington, DC enjoying an urban renaissance; and Gina Schaefer, proprietor of the Logan Circle ACE Hardware is part of it.  Logan Circle is remarkable for its stock of Victorian row houses, many of which are now on the National Register of Historic Places. However, in the hundred years in between when Logan Circle was established and now, the area fell on hard times and experienced the fallout from the 1968 Washington, DC riots. The neighborhood’s Victorians got subdivided into apartments and rooming houses, and the area became derelict and unsafe. About a decade ago, people began to see the value in restoring these properties, and Logan Circle has once again become an attractive place to live.

    Schaefer was driven to do something for a neighborhood in the process of rebuilding. In the urban core of Washington, DC, hardware stores are few and far between. People in the district’s neighborhoods need a hardware store that can cater to the specific needs of hundred-year-old homes and fixer-uppers. Schaefer believed she could make the most of the chance to serve this community by joining the retail hardware co-op ACE Hardware.

    Hardware is a very competitive business; the big box chain Home Depot did $68 billion in sales last year alone.  Being part of a cooperative makes it possible for small scale, locally-based owners to compete. There are three hardware co-ops headquartered in the United States: ACE Hardware, Do It Best, and True Value Hardware.  ACE Hardware is the largest with 4,600 member stores in 60 countries, Do it Best has 4,100 stores in 47 countries, and True Value has 4,700 retails in the U.S. Combined, the three hardware co-ops do $18 billion in annual sales.  They are all organized as retail cooperatives that provide members technical assistance and competitive pricing through their mutually-owned warehouses and distribution channels.

    “I figured that by joining a co-op I’d get more support getting started,” Schaefer said. “I liked the fact that they have regional and district support people who could answer questions.”  She believes the ideas she’s gotten from ACE have helped her grow and be a better retailer.

    Another significant benefit of being part of the ACE co-op is being able to network with other hardware store owners in the U.S.and even abroad.  Currently, Schaefer is in her second term as an active member of the ACE board of directors and she appreciates the opportunity to continue to learn from and give back to other members of her co-op.

    Today, Schaefer operates five neighborhood hardware stores located throughout Washington, DC, and two in Baltimore, MD, all with the same dedication to serve their local communities. Customers like knowing her stores are part of the ACE co-op because many of them specifically want to support co-ops and local enterprises, be it a food co-op, restaurant or an independent bookstore.  Schaefer thinks that this approach to supporting the local economy is a strong factor in Logan Circle’s revitalization. “It’s why we are growing so much,” she said.

    Reposted by permission from Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at


  • Eat Seasonally: Sweet Potatoes and Greens Gratin | 12.18.2012

    Sweet PotatoesSweet potatoes are a culinary staple from Japan to Peru. Baked, boiled, stewed or roasted, they bring a mellow, sweet flavor to any dish. They are extremely nutritious; a single serving of sweet potatoes contains more than twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, almost half the vitamin C you need every day, and four times the recommended daily allowance of beta carotene. Choose sweet potatoes with thin, unblemished skins, and store them in a cool dry place. Try adding pureed or mashed sweet potatoes to quickbreads, muffins, or biscuits to increase moisture and nutrition.  


    Sweet Potatoes and Greens Gratin

    Serving Size: 8
    Prep time: 30 minutes active. 75 mintues total.

    2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced about ¼-inch thick
    ½ pound kale or Swiss chard
    1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    Black pepper
    4 tablespoons butter, melted
    1 ¼ cups heavy cream
    ¼ cup shredded Parmesan or smoked Cheddar cheese

    Preheat the oven to 375°F., and butter or oil a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish.  Wash, shred and blanch the kale or chard for 3 minutes in boiling water; squeeze out any excess liquid. Line the bottom of the casserole dish with half of the sweet potato arranged in a single layer, with slices overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with half the smoked paprika, half the chili powder and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Spread half of the kale or chard evenly over the sweet potatoes. Drizzle with half the melted butter.  Repeat with another layer of sweet potatoes, spices, kale or chard, and butter. Pour the heavy cream evenly over the top.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the cheese evenly over the gratin, and bake another 10-15 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is just beginning to brown.  Serve warm.

    Reprinted by permission from Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at

  • ‘Tis the Season: Maintain Your Health During the Holidays | 12.14.2012

    Winter seems to bring its own set of challenges. The key is to be ready for them, armed with the right tools.

    Are you ready?


    Challenge #1 – Less Daylight
    If the shorter days bother you, make use of what sunlight is available. Take a few minutes to enjoy the outdoors, even if it IS cold. Go for a walk on your lunch break; the fresh air is invigorating and the physical activity is a bonus. Add or increase your vitamin D, as studies now show most of us in North Americaare deficient.  Check with your doctor if you are unsure which amount to take is right for you.
    Product Suggestion:  Natural Factors Vitamin D3

    Challenge #2 – Virus Exposure
    Everyone around you seems to be getting sick, and your guard naturally goes up. It’s been said a million times, but I am repeating it because it works – wash your hands! This has been proven to be the #1 most effective method of warding off those winter bugs. Need more cold and flu fighters? Try astragalus, echinacea, elderberry, garlic, ginger, and medicinal mushrooms, for starters. For earaches try mullein/garlic ear oil. For sinus problems, how about a neti pot?  Another simple decongesting method is steam, with a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil added.
    Product Suggestion:  Nutribiotic Defense Plus, a blend of herbs for immune defense

    Challenge #3 – Hair and Skin Issues
    Deep condition your hair weekly. Use argan oil after every shampoo to repair and strengthen hair, and to increase shine and manageability, a little goes a long way. Moisturize your skin, especially the areas most exposed to the elements–your face and hands. And if you are a skier, don’t forget the sunscreen!
    Product Suggestion:  Goe Oil, an allnatural oil blend for any skin

    Challenge #4 – Stress
    We all have it, and, for some, the tension increases during these colder months. Plan ahead for the holidays, de-clutter your party schedule, and keep it simple! Prioritize time for endorphin-producing exercise (daily!). If you are not already taking one, this is a great time to add a mood and brain boosting omega oil to your daily supplements. Eat healthy, whole-food-based balanced meals, avoid processed foods, and avoid going overboard on the festive drinks (there are natural hangover ‘cures’, just in case!). Last but not least, pay attention to your body, your stress level, how you feel in mind and spirit. Take a break, do yoga, meditate, or catch up on much-needed sleep.
    Product Suggestion:  Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega

    Make each day an adventure. Maintaining a positive attitude can make all the difference.  Bring on the winter!

    Dolly Fansler, GEM’s Wellness Manager, has a life-long passion for encouraging the well-being of others.  She is available in the wellness department to answer your wellness questions and provide the best product to suit your needs.

  • Drinks to Warm Up Your Holidays | 12.04.2012

    Hand off a hot beverage — to dinner guests, neighbors who drop by or kids during story time — and you instantly warm both tummies and hearts. Make sure you treat yourself too; wrapping your hands around a warm mug in the midst of a cold day can help you unwind!

    Traditional favorites include hot cider, cocoa, teas and coffees — all so good there’s no need to look for replacements. But by adding just a few of the right spices, you can transform these everyday winter drinks into extraordinary festive fare.

    Tips for Spicing Up a Variety of Hot Drinks

    * Mull to be merry. Mulling a beverage simply means heating and spicing it. Sometimes sweeteners and/or other beverages are added, too. Mulled apple juice or cider is classic, but why not mull other favorites, like cherry, raspberry, white grape and cranberry juices, as well as red and white wines? Just be careful not to boil the wine or you’ll ruin the taste and evaporate the alcohol. Good mulling spices include allspice, cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, orange peel and star anise. Have fun experimenting — or streamline your routine by stocking up on a mulling spice mix.

    * Give the crock a workout. Fill your crock pot with an aromatic and warm spiced beverage and keep it on low throughout the day. You’ll have a ready-to-serve treat at any time, and your home will be scented, too.

    * Make an impression with homemade gifts. For simple but lovely homemade gifting, combine the dry ingredients for a special hot drink in a small jar or canister and tie with a festive ribbon. Punch a hole in a recipe card with mixing directions and attach to the ribbon. For even easier gifting, simply place a package of beverage mix — like those mulling spices — in a festive mug and tie with a ribbon. Or choose a special tea and deliver it in a pretty cup and saucer.

    * Stock up on cinnamon sticks. Indispensable for mulling, cinnamon sticks also spruce up hot party drinks when used as swizzlers.

    * Spruce up your black teas. Add cinnamon sticks, orange peel and/or lemon peel to any black tea. Sweeten, if you like, with honey or brown sugar. To richen the flavor even further, add a tablespoon or two of cognac.

    * Enliven green teas with crystallized ginger and sliced fruit (like pears).

    * Think ethnic. For Spanish flair, add black pepper and chilies or cinnamon to hot chocolate. For French influence, thicken cocoas with cornstarch or arrowroot and stir in some Grand Marnier and vanilla extract. Top with a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg.

    * For a mocha drink, simply use strongly brewed coffee in place of some of the liquid in your favorite hot cocoa recipe.

    * Add quality flavorings or extracts for an instant flavor boost. Frontier Natural Products offers every option from almond to walnut for any hot beverage — including milk, cocoa, tea and coffee.


    Here’s the recipe for deliciously rich toddy that adds delight to any gathering:

    Visions of Sugarplums Toddy

    4 cups milk, divided in half (dairy, rice, or soy)
    2 Tbsp. honey
    1/8 tsp. cardamom powder
    4 oz. white baking chocolate, chopped
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1/4 tsp. nutmeg powder
    4 6-inch cinnamon sticks

    Warm 2 cups of the milk, honey, cardamom, and baking chocolate in a saucepan until chocolate is melted. Add remaining milk and heat until warm. Stir in vanilla. Pour into cups, sprinkle with nutmeg and add cinnamon stick stirrers. Substitute almond extract (or another flavoring, like peppermint extract) for the vanilla now and then. At a toddler’s tuck-in time, serve without the chocolate to induce slumber. Makes about 4 servings.

    Reprinted with permission from Frontier Natural Foods Co-op.