I'm very excited to announce the winner of my first giveaway, generously sponsored by Amazing Grass, an awesome San Francisco-based company.

Congratulations to Lisa Sharpe!

There were a total of 9 comments for entries, and the random generator from random.org chose lucky #3!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered. Lisa, I will be in touch with you so that I can get your mailing information to send to Amazing Grass.
The first day of spring has come and gone, inviting our sleepy world to start blooming once again.

For anyone planning a vegetable garden this season, it's time to start the seeds. With so much concern for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) ending up in our produce aisles and on the grocery shelves, this is where you can take control. Choose a seed company that is reputable and aware of the issues. Companies that sell heirloom seeds are often good choices because they are preserving the diversity of the plants. Rather than selling 5 popular tomato choices, they may offer 15 varieties of seeds. A little searching can go a long way when it comes to choosing your seed company. I have personally chosen Happy Cat Organics this year - a company local to my area and dedicated to sustainable heirloom seed production. More on Happy Cat later!

Starting seeds can be a tricky task. Go into any garden supply store and you will find all sorts of trays and heaters and watering systems promising a successful start to your seeds. Buy those, reuse items at home (egg cartons are great) or find something creative in the middle.
A trip to the hardware and garden store resulted in two 1-square-foot tiles and a seed starting kit. This is the simple version - no heating pad or self-watering tray. Just 72 peat pellets, a tray and a lid. With a large enough radiator in front of a sunny window in the living room, I created my own heated base. The tiles provide a level surface on top of the radiator while still conducting the heat to the tray. The peat pellets are clean and simple, and with 72 spaces, there is room for lots of seeds!

Not only is this innovative set-up saving space, it's also sparing the budget. Together, the tiles and starter kit were less than $9 and can be reused for many years.
You've read my review of Amazing Grass Berry Green SuperFood, and now it's time for you to get some of your own Amazing Grass products!

You can enter to win an incredible sample pack that includes one of each of the following Amazing Grass items:

8gm pkt of Wheat Grass Powder
8gm pkt of Green SuperFood Powder
8gm pkt of Chocolate Green SuperFood Powder
8gm pkt of Berry Green SuperFood Powder
6gm pkt of Kidz Chocolate SuperFood
6gm pkt of Kidz Berry SuperFood
22gm pkt of Amazing Meal Original
29gm pkt of Amazing Meal Pomegranate Mango Infusion
32gm pkt of Amazing Meal Chocolate Infusion
1 bar of each, Green SuperFood, Chocolate, Berry and Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein

There are three ways to enter this contest:
One comment per person for each type of entry, please.

+ 1 entry: Leave a comment telling me why you want to try Amazing Grass products, or why you already love them!
+ 1 entry: Announce this contest on your own blog, and leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
+ 1 entry: Tweet "I want to win Amazing Grass from (anne)vironment" and include the link to this entry. Leave a comment on this blog entry with a link to your Twitter profile.

It's that easy! The contest is open from Monday, March 22 to Sunday, March 28. All contest comments may be posted beginning at 12 a.m. EST on March 22 and must be posted no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on March 28. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday, March 29. Be sure to include a valid email address when leaving your comments(s) so that you can be contacted if you are the winner. Email addresses will not be visible to others. The winner's prize package will be shipped directly from Amazing Grass in San Francisco, CA.

Many thanks to the Amazing Grass company for generously supplying the items to sponsor this giveaway.
This is Wheeler, my nearly four-year-old American Staffordshire mix. Going to work at a City of Raleigh lake on a summer day in 2006, I heard a jingling behind me while I walked across the parking lot. Turning around, I saw a cute little dog running around my feet. She had a shoelace tied around her neck, and clipped to it was a short metal leash, dragging on the ground. After an unsuccessful search for an owner or information, Wheeler came home with me and she's been by my side ever since.

This past Friday evening, I experienced perhaps the biggest pet-related scare of my life when Wheeler began having a seizure. I heard her walk through the living room with a strange rhythm, and as I turned to look, she came walking around the corner glassy-eyed and with her front right leg stiffened up. She began collapsing on herself. Thinking she may have been choking, I took off her collar and began rubbing her neck. It wasn't helping, and she was getting worse. More of her body began seizing and I was terrified. I picked her up and ran downstairs to a friend's apartment for help. She was unable to hold herself up due to the spasms in her legs, so I sat on the ground holding and rubbing her while phone calls were made to get some information. Since her body was so tense from the seizure, there were not any visible signs that she was breathing, as it was probably nearly impossible for her to take deep breaths.

After a couple of minutes, she came out of the seizure. Muscles in her hind legs continued to twitch a little longer, but she was standing up, drinking water and saying thank-you to friends by licking their faces. I was so glad she was okay.

The experience left me with a lot of questions - mainly, what would cause such a thing to happen to my young, healthy dog? After talking with a friend who had two similar experiences with her dog, I learned about the severity of canine epileptic seizures. I've never experienced such a thing with any other dog I've had as a pet. In addition to ways to help the dog through the seizure, what to do afterward, what sort of information to take to and get from the vet, we discussed diet. Little did I know, there are so many potential seizure triggers in your standard dry dog food.

After searching several websites (links provided below), I found out that many of those potentially hazardous ingredients were in Wheeler's food - a dry dog food I'd expected to be a medium-grade choice. After carefully reading the label, I found that it contains the preservatives BHT and BHA, both of which can cause seizures, among other severe health issues. Food dyes, particularly reds, can also contribute to seizures, and that is in her food as well. It is a good idea to avoid other chemical preservatives and just for good measure, animal by-products. According to some sources, wheat, barley, rye (the gluten grains), soy, corn and dairy should be excluded as well. The top choice for feeding dogs prone to seizures is a home-prepared food; recommended next is a premium dry food that is free of gluten, dyes and animal by-products.

A big lesson to link this to environmental health is that we are so often concerned with what we are feeding ourselves, but what about our pets? When it comes to our diet, we ask questions such as: Is is organic? Will it benefit my body? Is there potential of genetically modified organisms to cause allergies or other, possibly more severe, problems over time? How often do we stop to think about what we are feeding our pets in such a way that we begin reading the labels of their food and treats as well?  

I am happy to say that Wheeler has been back to her normal, spunky self the rest of the weekend. We've been playing with toys, wrestling and even found a break in the rain to get outside for a walk and to play fetch. Now that I am aware of this health issue and the potential hazards, I have been doing my research and shopping around for healthier food and treat options. There is now a slight fear in my mind that this may happen to her again (and how scary, if I am not there to help her!), so I want to be sure I am doing what's reasonably possible to keep her in good health and prevent future seizures.

For more information about canine epilepsy, including recommended diets, visit the following websites:

DogtorJ.net - Home of the G.A.R.D.
Canine Epilepsy Guardian Angels
The Role of a Natural Healthy Diet in the Management of Canine Epilepsy
Canine Epilepsy Resources
Spring is right around the corner and I am so excited! I really loved the record-breaking snowfall Philadelphia experienced this winter, but a couple weeks ago I swear if I saw one more snowflake fall from the sky, I would scream.

For the past two summers, neighbors have shared a nice garden space in the backyard. It's yielded a bounty of squash, tomatoes, herbs, pumpkins and other veggies in that time. To prepare for this season, I will be attending the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Spring Garden Tenders Basic Training - a free(!), eight-part course for groups interested in community gardening. Since I've only been involved with gardening at a hobby level, I'm excited to learn more skills and tips for gardening and for sharing the space with community members.

Growing your own food can be such a rewarding experience. It involves careful planning, labor, care and finally, enjoying the delicious produce. When I think of veggie gardens and summertime, I remember summer evenings at my grandparents' house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As we prepared dinner, my grandma would send me to the backyard to pick the ripe tomatoes and peppers for our salad. Nothing tastes quite as good as when it comes just steps from your door and has grown as a result of your own hard work. You control the quality and types of produce, and can choose to grow them in an environmentally safe way.

This training course has seven sessions once a week through the end of April, each of them three-hours long. An eighth session will be a workday. Be sure to check back as I update about the progress of the workshop and the garden. Once the training workshop has been completed, be sure to visit the Reviews page to read about my experience.
Hi friends! After seeing my review of the Berry Green SuperFood, the awesome folks at Amazing Grass have offered a coupon code for 15% off products ordered through their site! Be sure to use coupon code healthy123 when you check out to get your discount. Thanks so much to the Amazing Grass team for allowing me to share this discount with my readers.
Mambo Sprouts, the "one stop resource for healthy and organic living" has a great giveaway for the month of March when you pledge to do your part for the planet! Sign the Mambo Sprouts bag pledge stating whether you will give up 1, 5 or 10+ plastic bags per week, or that you're already plastic-free and you'll be entered to win one of 3 starter kits or 2 chill bags from Blue Avocado:
Entries must be received by March 22, with winner emailed on or around March 23. In addition to filling out the pledge online, here are even more ways you can enter:

1. Spread the word about this giveaway on Twitter and include #mambopledge in your message

2. Blog about this giveaway and let Mambo Sprouts know by emailing the URL to your blog post to [email protected]

3. Become a Mambo Sprouts fan on Facebook and post your pledge on their Facebook fan page
The alarm buzzes, just like it does at the beginning of every other workday, signaling that time for sleep is over and your feet better hit the floor and get this day going. But there's something different about today. In fact, it's not day at all - it's 10:45 p.m. and, headlamp partially covered, you're quietly sifting through your things to find black pants and a long-sleeve black shirt. After pulling them on, you tip toe past the other rooms of the bunk house to the darkened night, alive with chirps of bugs, crashing waves and the occasional howl of a nearby monkey.

It is there in the yard that you greet your co-workers - a few others dressed like night time ninjas, all with backpacks and headlamps, double checking to be sure all necessary supplies are in tow. You are the turtle protectors, and the "work day" you're about to begin is four hours of patrolling several kilometers of beach where nesting leatherback sea turtles will soon swim ashore to drop their clutches of eggs.

You arrived at this moment in your life in a bit of an extraordinary fashion. Deep inside, you had the desire to do more, be more, give more. Back in the office in the city from which you came, you filled out your vacation request months in advance and sent the papers off to the next in line for a signature of "OK." Setting up your out of office reply and packing your bags, you were ready for a working vacation.

The idea of a working vacation is starting early in the lives of many young people involved in church youth groups, community service organizations or clubs in high school or college. Students may take an alternative spring break - one that sends them not to the must-visit party location of the year, but to a place that desperately needs the help of outsiders to stay afloat and carry on.

It is in giving to others that we receive. It is in the opportunities that we may find ourselves. If only for a week, you live the life of another, or experience your dream job in a distant locale. While your vacation from work may not exemplify the most understood definition of detach and relax, you will likely still return refreshed, eyes open, ready to tackle the next obstacle in your way.

Have you ever participated in an alternative spring break program or taken a working vacation? Leave a comment about your experiences. If the organization you made your trip through has a website, be sure to leave the link so others may check it out as well. Pura vida, friends!
Photo: Anne-Marie D'Onofrio excavating a leatherback nest at Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica.