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Sheila Velazquez

Sheila Velazquez has 26 articles published.

Sheila Velazquez is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in more than 100 print newspapers and magazines, including Grit, New Woman, the Hartford Courant, the New Haven Register, the San Antonio Express-News and Bay Area Parent. Her awards include two from the Society of Professional Journalists for a syndicated column. Sheila has contributed to online websites, including commondreams.org and dissidentvoice.org. She served as contributing editor of Organic Producer magazine and wrote biographical material for reference collections that include “Contemporary Authors,” the “Encyclopedia of International Biography” and “Notable Sports Figures.” Feel free to send her an e-mail.

Water, water, everywhere
Nor any drop to drink

Photograph: Public water fountain. Newly installed public water fountains in high traffic/athletic areas grant near luxury-level access to the most basic of human needs; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Newly installed public water fountains in high traffic/athletic areas grant near luxury-level access to the most basic of human needs; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

The title is a line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, spoken by a sailor surrounded by a salty sea. The sailor had no choices, but we do. We have available fresh water, for now, and can choose to use tap water, filter it or not, and bypass the aisles of bottled water when we shop. We can choose to help ourselves and Mother Earth.

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To buy or not to buy, that is the question: Wary shoppers slow retail sales

Mannequins doing their best to incite consumer desire; photo by George Shervashidze, from Pexels
Mannequins doing their best to incite consumer desire; photo by George Shervashidze, from Pexels

Quarterly financial reports often portend the future. The retail apparel numbers are out for the first quarter of 2019, and they aren’t pretty. Sales dropped by 24 percent, the biggest decline since the first quarter of 2008, when they were a bellwether for the last recession. People aren’t buying clothing. Maybe some of them read my article about how Fast Fashion is contributing to climate change. If not, they should.

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Spring tonic

Green River, Williamstown, Mass.; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Green River, Williamstown, Mass.; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

Within minutes of my house, the Green River meanders through a small park along the edge of a cemetery. In a twinkling I can be there, park by the rows of silent neighbors, and carefully make my way through wild edibles, ferns, and other flora wet with mist to sit on the bank and watch the foam rush by. Birds and insects are my only distraction. 

Here I feel my mood lift, pulse rate drop, and general overall feeling enhanced. I will not stay long. I don’t need to. More important is that I do this often. Breathe deeply, think deeply. 

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Plástica non grata

Photo by Nikki Dawson; via Pixabay
A distressingly familiar sight at beaches all over the world. Image by Nikki Dawson, via Pixabay

China doesn’t want our plastic crap anymore. What do we do with it now?

This week’s hot topic seems to be the banning of plastic waste. Google “petition, plastic,” I dare you. It’s as if the primary occupation of our progressive population is writing and circulating petitions. Moveon.org is a great place to start. They have a “petition” section where you can sign up to ban plastic bottles, straws, bags, and Styrofoam. I didn’t make it to the end of the list. Add that Trump is behind it, in favor of it, promoting it, etc. and people climb over each other to sign up. As though we haven’t been doing this for decades. China has absorbed nearly half of this waste since 1992. And now it has nowhere to go. But signing petitions isn’t going to solve the problem.

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Fast Fashion: The environmental threat hiding in your closet

Photo source, Pixabay.com.

When we think of pollution, we tend to think of single issues like air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, and the bottom line, the climate change that is exacerbated by the production process. But the fashion industry encompasses all of these — the “Four Horsemen” if you will. And it destroys lives.

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Glyphosate: Why we need a clean food revolution

Pl77 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Liquid spraying equipment at work in a corn field, by Pl77, [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“If it was bad for us, they wouldn’t sell it.” This was the response I got from the maintenance man when I objected to his spraying weeds with Roundup. Well actually, that isn’t true. “A number of cities, counties, states and countries throughout the world have taken steps to either restrict or ban glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer,” notes Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman PC here in a recently updated list. The firm has links to several lawsuits brought against Monsanto by plaintiffs who claim their cancers were caused by Roundup, including the action of Edwin Hardeman, which was settled on March 27, for more than $80 million in damages.

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The Amazing African Violet

First new plant to bloom in 2019; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
First new plant to bloom in 2019; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

The houseplant that blooms year-round to add beautiful color inside when the landscape outside is gray is the African Violet. Growing and propagating them is much easier than you might imagine. And while spring is the time when we look forward to our outdoor gardens, an African Violet begun now from scratch will begin flowering at about the time your garden begins to fade and die. It takes two to three months for the plants to appear, and about as long until first bloom. It is time well worth it.

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Colcannon, soda bread, and an Irish ditty

A super-nutritious (and satisfying!) staple of rustic Irish Cooking, colcannon can be prepared in a multitude of ways; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
A super-nutritious (and satisfying!) staple of rustic Irish Cooking, colcannon can be prepared in a multitude of ways; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

The traditional St. Patrick’s Day feast is corned beef and cabbage. Potatoes round out the meal and can be boiled or mashed. I make them as colcannon, mashed potatoes into which butter, milk, salt and pepper, and cooked and chopped kale is mixed. So simple, so good. I used the remaining container of frozen kale from last year’s garden to make the batch shown. Make extra, because it goes well with everything. I especially like a scoop on a plate of eggs. 

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That elusive third party everyone might like to see get crankin’.

Rally in Bozeman, Montana; photo by Sheila Velazquez
Rally in Bozeman, Montana; photo by Sheila Velazquez

What if we had a party, and everybody came. Well, it wouldn’t have to be everybody, just the majority of Americans who haven’t been invited to the parties of either the Democrats or the Republicans, the folks whose interests aren’t served when the toasts are made and the swag handed out. Now that would be some party.

I haven’t voted for either a Democrat or Republican presidential candidate in a long while. I would have if the DNC hadn’t sabotaged Bernie’s campaign. That’s one I supported with all my heart and one to which I contributed. Not a huge amount, but considering what a cheapskate I am (ask my kids), it was a lot for me. 

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Year of the Pig: If only politicians were more like them

Your average pig tries to live a pretty clean life, and would likely avoid the Beltway if at all possible; photo by Jason Velázquez.
Your average pig tries to live a pretty clean life, and would likely avoid the Beltway if at all possible; photo by Jason Velázquez.

My image of our leaders in Washington is of a herd of pigs wallowing in the muck. But that’s a disservice to pigs. I love pigs, and I really wish politicians were more like them.

I raised pigs for several years, beginning with Milda, a Yorkshire I had every intention of raising to 150 pounds and putting in the freezer. Like a pink puppy, Milda was soon following me around and visiting the other animals. She was a “Babe.” I decided, “Hey, I like pigs. I want more!” When Milda reached maturity, I trucked her off to a friend with a boar. The union resulted in a litter of fourteen. Of these, I kept five females, rounding out the herd to a half dozen. An extension that included a maternity wing was added to the barn, three roomy straw-filled pens for my girls. And Milda became the matriarch of hogdom.

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Turning Cabin Fever into Cabin Solace

Ice garden on a very old (1847) north-facing window of Lawrence Hall, home of the Williams College Museum of Art.
Ice garden on a very old (1847) north-facing window of Lawrence Hall, home of the Williams College Museum of Art; photo by Sheila Velazquez

A friend made the comment that “February is good for nothing.” I’ve never felt that way. I enjoy the peace and calm of the month to which “cabin fever” is so often attributed. Instead, I think of it as the month for cabin solace, the calm between frantic end-of-the-year activity and the longer days leading to spring. 

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Tea and Sympathy

Bulk spices and teas make luxury highly affordable, particularly when you buy with friends; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Bulk spices and teas make luxury highly affordable, particularly when you buy with friends; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

The sympathy is for those of us, including me, who can’t seem to shake whatever bug it is that has invaded our chests, heads and thinking. The tea is part of that sympathy, because a hot cup of tea with honey and lemon, and perhaps a warm muffin, is the next best thing to mom holding you on her lap, wrapped in a blanket, rocking back and forth in time to the lullaby she is humming.

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