Thursday, August 26, 2010

Head in the Sand

That's what I get for planning a bunch of goals around money. Didn't make a single one this week. Not. A. One. I just hate budgeting. Rather than look at a budget, I just crapped out on my goals. So every goal is a roll-over goal for this week. Lame.

So let's talk food.

In addition to paper towels and pop for me (another goal I failed on, I've been sneaking the Mountain Dew) we're also out of the giant Costco boxes of Rice Krispie Treats & Quaker Granola Bars that I usually keep stashed in the pantry as kid-filler. I've been buying a bunch more produce. What's been happening is, Girl 1 (aka Stealth Ninja, aka Miss MacGyver) has switched from her sneak-eating of "Christmas Treats" (Krispie Treats) over to fruits and veggies. She eats the caps of mushrooms. She noshes on carrots. She scarfs down apples, plums, even tomatoes whole. Every time I turn around she has something in her hand, in her mouth. I need more produce. I need a fridge lock.



Still, it's a pretty great problem to have.

Now that the guys are back in school, we have the cold lunch to think about. I used to throw in a fruit, a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a krispie treat/granola bar type snack. I'm trying to make their lunches healthier, and reduce packaging. We haven't bought the individually wrapped chips in a while, but their lunches don't seem filling...I found some good resources for ideas to put in their lunches at Kitchen Stewardship: Lunches to go and Kelly the Kitchen Kop: School Lunch Alternatives. Tonight over dinner I'm going to talk to the boys and find out what types of things they'd like to bring to eat. Boy 1 is eating us out of house and home (he's 12 and playing football) so I want to make sure he's getting enough to eat. The younger two boys just need more variety. The baby carrots have already returned home uneaten twice this week.

We're still doing a meatless meal or two a week. Last week the man made grilled cheese, and I made Eggplant with Tomato Pepper Sauce.

photo: Diana Rattray and About.com 
(one day I'll remember to take pictures of my own food.)

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that eggplant is weird. The texture is just funky. I never ate eggplant as a kid, but for some reason eggplant seems earthy. Like if I'm going to be this super hippie ultra-earth conscious mom, I should be able to cook eggplant. It's local. It's meat-like-ish. It's...it's just weird. Not bad, just weird. So I'm trying out different ways of cooking it.

The kids loved this recipe, but really more for the sauce and ricotta filling than the eggplant. As we were squeaking and sponging our way through the meal, I realized I could have made the same recipe with manicotti shells instead of eggplant. Still meatless. Still healthy. I think I'll try that next time, if I can let go of the idea that I need to be an eggplant connoisseur in order to be green. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Slackin'

I haven't been doing as well this week, which makes it harder to get motivated to post. I decided to stop drinking pop, so I didn't buy myself any at the grocery store yesterday. I promptly fell off the wagon and began drinking my husband's Mountain Dew. I need to find an alternative that's low calorie, low packaging, cold, and delicious. Or learn some restraint.

Today's garbage...awful. The can is full to the top. I don't know why. It's discouraging to regress, especially after last week was so good.

And it's HOT today. It's in the 90's, and it's still. There's no breeze. We walked home from school today, and I was roasting. Caved in and turned the a/c down. I'll bump it back up tonight...but still, it's like cheating on a diet.

I haven't worked on many of the goals, I seem to have stalled out. Still, I've had a couple of people come up and compliment me on my efforts here...and that's really encouraging. It feels good to be read and heard. So I have to get back on the wagon.

To end on a positive note, here's a really bizarre, unbelievable article that I really hope is true:Gulf Oil Plume Gone, Eaten By Newly Discovered Microbes

Monday, August 23, 2010

Point of No Return

We're out of paper towels.

I knew this was coming, we've been low for a while. I've watched the rolls diminish and I've resisted replenishing. We're going paperless.

I week or so ago I bought a pack of 18 cotton washcloths for $4 or so. They're brightly colored and about 12" x 12". I forgot to take a picture and we've been using them, so they aren't photogenic anymore. They're terrycloth squares. You get the idea. We're using these for surface cleaning, kitchen messes, etc. No more paper towels for spills. I actually feel a little anxious about this. I don't know why. We're kind of paper towel people. I don't even own cloth napkins. That's something else to rectify soon, especially now that we're out of paper towels, and I'm committing to buy no more.

I've never cleaned a mirror with anything other than paper towels. I'm kind of sheltered. :)

I'm also out of pop. Coke. Pepsi. Soda. Caffeinated carbonated fizzylicious goodness. The man still has his cache of Mountain Dew, which I am resolutely staying out of. Well... more like "lip-biting finger-crossing hopefully staying out of". But I'm going to try. I'm giving up pop.

I have been drinking around 2-3 cans of pop every day for years. I've quit before, and I'm not sure how well I'm going to do this time, but it's time. First, it pollutes me. It's crazy unhealthy to put soft drinks in your body. Even though I love them. Love love love...

Anyway.

Even though we recycle the cans and the boxes they come in, it's still using up a lot of energy (and TONS of water) to make the pop, package the pop, ship the pop, recycle the packaging...etc. All for something that's bad for me, and I really don't need. (Once I'm over the withdrawal.) So I'm quitting. I am. Okay.

I also realized that there's no reason to wait for my own bike, I can borrow back the one I gave to Boy 1 to do some errands. I hooked up the little baby trailer to the bike, put the girls in it, and rode to pick up diapers (insert cringe of guilt here...still stewing on the diaper issue). The girls are HEAVY. Good grief. I made it to the store and back, but I didn't realize just how out of shape I am, nor how hard it would be to haul them in the trailer. Felt like I was pulling them through molasses, and I'm all tired now. So I definitely need to get away from this monitor and out moving more often.

Reading over this post, I'm feeling like an unhealthy blob. Ugh. I suppose it's good I'm doing something about it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Goals 8/20-8/26

GOALS FOR 8/12-8/19

House:
Electricity: I'm going to search for that support post. In the meantime, I'm also going to see if I can get our computers to "sleep". Our old one used to have a sleep function. These...I don't see it.
I still haven't found the support for the line. My parents gave me a good idea for using a branch. Now I just have to find one. 
The computer sleep thing is done. It's called "hibernate" and is found under Control Panel, Power Options. Who knew? Ha.

Natural Gas: I'm going to turn off the stove burners/oven for the last few minutes of cooking to conserve.
I did a crappy job of this. Trying again this week.

Water: I'm going to find cheap egg timers for our bathroom & the boys' to time showers. 6 minutes a shower is the goal. 
Done. The boys and I are taking 6 minute showers. The girls take a half-hour bath with much splashing and hilarity. 

Car:
You know, we really don't use the car much...this week I'm going to RSS bike sales on Craigslist. I gave Boy 1 my bike, so I need my own, but it has to be cheap. Then I could do grocery trips on my bike. 
I actually found a new Cruiser that I love, and it's super duper crazy cheap (for a bike), but with all the school shopping, we're going to wait a bit to buy it. 

Secondary:
Food: I'm going to look further into composting. What I've found so far is a little overwhelming, but I'd like to get it started for next year's garden.




I'm going to build one of these: 




Like I said in my last post, we're still looking for pallets. I found some that are free on craigslist, but they are 72" long, which is bigger than I want to go. I'll keep looking for the 40" x 48" size, and at worst the man should be getting some in at work in about a month. 

Cleaning products: Roll-over. Fiddle with the all-purpose cleaner to make it less gritty. I also want to look into making my own floor cleaner.


Done. Added a bit more vinegar, now it cleans great. Can I replicate it later? Probably not. 
Reusing: We have a lot of plastic grocery bags. I'm going to research what I can do with them. I'm also going to take the plastic produce bags I'm saving to the store with me this week.

Yeah. It's better just to take them back to the store, or use them around the house. Cutting them for crafts is a waste of time and makes a bunch of little dangerous scraps all over the place.

Recycling/Waste: I'm going to research cloth diapering. Girl 2 generates a lot of trash in that department. I have serious reservations about the cloth diapering thing, but unless I research, I'm not giving it a fair shot.  


I'm thinking that the best thing to do here is to buy some really cheap cloth diapers for the baby to wear around the house, but put her in disposables when we go out, or when she sleeps. It seems the best way to keep things inexpensive while still cutting down on waste. 





GOALS FOR 8/12-8/19

House:
Electricity: I'm going to price high-efficiency dishwashers and create a budget for buying one down the road. This covers water for this week too. 

Natural Gas: Roll over- I'm going to turn off the stove burners/oven for the last few minutes of cooking to conserve.

Water: See electricity

Car:
I'm going to create a bike budget too. If I'm going to make serious changes, I need to have serious plans...even though I hate money/finance stuff.

Secondary:
Food: I'm going to keep looking for pallets for the compost pile. I'm also going to try some of the dry mixes from the bulk section of the grocery store. I have brownie mix and I'm going to try a cake mix next week.

Cleaning products: Roll-over- I want to look into making my own floor cleaner. (Lost track of this one.)


Reusing: I'm going to try & make gift bags out of newspaper. Birthday season is approaching quickly, followed by Christmas. I'm going to see if I can make cute recycled bags. 


Money, money, money. Seems to be the theme this week. Bleargh. 

Progress

Before I do my goal check in, I wanted to talk about waste. 


We received an update from our waste/recycling company that recycling in the Boise area has skyrocketed since they began no-sort recycling. I'd like to quote that pamphlet directly, but we recycled it. 


From the Allied Waste website: "In the first month of the new no-sort program Boiseans recycled a whopping 50% more than in months-past.  Residents who struggled to fill their old blue bin now report (with smiles!) that their 95-gallon blue carts (equivalent to 3 garbage cans) are not big enough to hold their recyclables. Many folks who didn't buy in to the blue bin program have signed-up for blue carts and are now recycling advocates.

As we passed our one year anniversary of "Curbit" we are pleased to announce that residents are recycling 100% more than last year (36 pounds per household per month)." 


That's awesome.

Treehugger today has a good article on "Pay as you throw" waste management. I think this could be a great system. People would be thinking about packaging more, and wasting less. The cynic in me wonders if people would just start driving their junk into the woods and dumping it...or stashing their trash in a neighbor's can in the middle of the night...or in a nearby dumpster. Still, I think it's a good concept.

As far as the trash battle here, we're making progress. On July 21st, when I started this blog, we were filling our trash cart to the point where it wouldn't close, every Wednesday.  Over the last five weeks, our waste has dropped considerably. Yesterday my husband came back in from taking a trash bag to the can. He asked if I'd seen the garbage this week. I hadn't.  Turns out we are making noticeable progress: 

Half empty. (from this optimist's POV)

I'm pretty flippin' excited about that. And, I know we can do better. I'm inching closer to the composting thing, we're going to do it, we just have to agree on where in the yard to put it, and we have to get the pallets to make it. Still, I'm hoping to start that in the next week or two. We're still reducing packaging, buying as much from the bulk bins as possible, buying more fruits & veggies, and fewer individually wrapped snacks. So I think we can reduce that waste even more. I'm pretty pleased.

On a side note, the kids are responding. They are currently cleaning the playroom and Boy 2 just came upstairs with a broken flip flop. He asked, "Mom, should I throw this away, or can it be recycled?" I don't think he would have asked that a month ago. We can't recycle it, but we're looking for a way to reuse/repurpose the pair. 

It's coming together. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Baggin'



I've been looking for fun ways to reuse plastic bags. We use them to haul things around, and as small trash can liners, but that doesn't use very many. I knew there were some crafts to be made from them, so I researched what was out there.
These are the sites I found: Artists Helping Children and Green Living Tips

I tried making a jump rope for the kids out of bags. Since the bigger boys are in football, I thought it would be fun for their conditioning, plus ropes are great for imagination play. But the problem I encountered is that most of the crafts require you to cut off the handles, making little plastic waste all over the place. It seems like more of a hazard than the whole bag. I know it stressed me out as the little thingers flew around the kitchen with Girl 2 underfoot.

It was also stupidly time consuming, and half-way through I bailed on it. I've decided there is just no redeeming plastic bags. They're a menace, pure & simple. Since I've switched to reusable bags, I shouldn't be acquiring any more plastic bags, but I already have a significant stash. I'm the room parent for Boy 2's fourth grade class this year, so I think I will try to use some of the bags up to make crafts at their parties (there's a cute ghost craft that would be great for Halloween). Any other bags are going to be taken back to the store to be reused there.

Blog Hop


Here's the weekly link to the blog hop I've joined.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The view from inside the box

A few posts back I shared a link to Greenpeace's website and a chance to tell our government to put an end to drilling. I received a reply from my congressman. Here's a snippet:

"There is no doubt that this is a national tragedy, and I am deeply concerned about the long-term impact of this oil spill. However, I am also concerned that some of my colleagues are attempting to use this oil spill as an opportunity to prevent future drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Our top priority right now should be stopping the spill and figure out what went wrong, not making rash, far-reaching policy decisions based on what we want to believe rather than what we know. As tragic as this spill has been, it hasn't changed our country's growing demand for oil and natural gas. I strongly support a diverse, all-of-the-above energy portfolio that includes wind, solar, hydropower, and nuclear energy, but the reality is that we are now-and will continue to be in the foreseeable future-heavily reliant on carbon-based energy.

Energy production is an inherently risky business, and I am hopeful that what we learn from this incident will make the energy industry safer, rather than setting back our ability to become energy independent for 20 or 30 more years. While we may disagree on this issue, I value knowing your views. As Congress continues to examine what went wrong and how to stop the spill and clean up the oil slick, you can be confident that I will continue to keep your thoughts in mind."

This aggravates me. While it's an oversimplification, in my ever humble opinion this is like a junkie saying, "Well, I'm currently addicted to heroin, and will be for the foreseeable future. Shooting heroin is dangerous, so what I'd like to see is a safer way to get high. In the meantime, I'd like to make sure I can get my fix from a local source, rather than being dependent on foreign heroin. Thanks for your concern."

Um. Okay. 


Crap

The kids go back to school on Monday, so we're in the prep zone. While I'm still working on getting my green on, I haven't had the time to put my fingers to the keys.

I've been researching cloth diapering. Why is it so confusing? While there are a lot of sites out there that explain the different types of diapers, how to fold them, where to buy them, I'd love a practical discussion of how well these methods work in real life. I just can't figure out practicality vs. effectiveness vs. cost.

Girl 2, aka "the Baby" is almost 10 months old. If she's like her siblings, we have a max of a year and a half left in diapers. When I look at all the prices out there for cloth diapers, it's just too expensive. I can get disposables pretty inexpensively, especially if I bargain shop and use coupons. If I was on my first child, and could reuse the diapers, or even if I'd started cloth diapering when Girl 2 was born, it might have been worth the cost. But the learning curve, the chaos in my house, and the price are just too much. I've also looked for biodegradable disposables, but so far the only kind I've found are also too expensive. 

I'm feeling sad and frustrated by this. I know that we're making a lot of waste, and LASTING waste with the way we're diapering now. I also know that we are on the run a lot once school starts, and I'm not sure we can learn how to cloth diaper on our fifth child. I really want to cloth diaper, but I don't think we have the time or money to afford it. 

To add to my guilt is this. I'm not going to look back at the number of diapers we've sent to the landfill with the first four, because there's nothing I can do about that, and it's just discouraging. But looking ahead, and assuming the Baby is in diapers for 18 more months, we're looking at a lot of waste.
Basically:
18 months = 547 days. 
Assuming 5 diapers a day 
= 2735 diapers or so until she's potty trained. 

And while I'm not looking back...there's a little mathematician in the back of my mind trying to calculate 2.5 years of disposable diapers for each of the 5 kids. I'm squelching that voice, I can't fix the mistakes I've done...but I feel the emotional weight of them.

So do I just decide that there's nothing I can do, so I should just keep on the way I have been? Or do I ignore our time & money limitations in order to be a better environmental steward? Is there some middle ground I'm missing?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Waste Not

This article makes me so ashamed.

Americans waste 40% of the food we produce??? That's...it's insane. What if it were money? What if we literally threw into the trash 40% of the income we made each year? Why is it okay to toss food? And SO much of it? Especially when so very many people are going without. It's appalling. 

If we can hire someone to figure out how to pinch every last penny in business, how to be the most efficient, why can't restaurants & grocery stores do that with food? We don't need the shelves stocked to over-flowing. We don't need enormous portion sizes that we can't finish when we go out to eat. It's terrible.

At home, I know I waste food. We scrape leftovers into the trash. Tupperware containers grow mold in my fridge. Potatoes sprout gnarly eyes. I can do better. We are going to do better. 

I've been planning meals around what we have in the cabinets, pantry, & fridge. I'm starting to buy from the bulk bins so that I only get the amount I need. And I'm really working on only buying what we are going to eat, trying to eliminate impulse buying. 

The cool thing is, it's so much cheaper. By making things myself, buying more produce & less packaged goods, buying less meat, and basing meals off of what is in the pantry, I've spent in the last two weeks what I used to spend in one. We aren't filling our shelves with food just to have it. 

Five kids. One husband. Two of which are kinda picky. All of whom are good eaters. Two of which have begun football practices and all of the ravenous hunger that goes with it...

and not a single complaint. 

No one has said, "There's nothing to eat." We have enough. They're eating fruit, yogurt, homemade zucchini bread, and they're happy. It's really exciting. I feel...fulfilled. Self-sufficient. We're learning so much. 

We've had two meatless meals recently. The first was a simple pasta dish: bulk bow-tie noodles, couple of jars of spaghetti sauce that were lurking in the cabinet, a few mushrooms, and garlic bread. They loved it, and I think in part because we usually have penne or spaghetti. Some how bow-tie noodles= special. Girl one even asked for, "More butterflies, please." :)


The second meal was Bean Quesadillas. This was a bigger risk. It's full of peppers, onions & tomatoes, which are a tough sell sometimes around here. I used this recipe from allrecipes.com, with a few tweaks:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
  • 12 (12 inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat, and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Mix in beans, bell pepper, tomatoes, and corn; cook until heated through.
  2. Spread 6 tortillas with equal amounts of the bean and vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with equal amounts of the Cheddar cheese, and top with the remaining tortillas to form quesadillas.
  3. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place quesadillas in the skillet and cook, turning once, until cheese is melted and both sides are lightly browned.



The tweaks:
I doubled it, not knowing how filling it would be. I used a red pepper and a green one. I had some canned jalapeƱos from a friend of mine, so I chopped a few & added those. I added cumin and pepper too. When it came time to fry up the tortillas, I folded them in half and just used a little olive oil to coat the pan. I used a ton more cheese. 


It was Fan.Tas.Tic. Kids loved it, the man loved it, everyone had seconds. There were some leftovers, which I ate for lunch today, and there will be more tomorrow. I'm thinking the filling on corn chips would be awesome. No meat. No complaints. Win.


I've also started making baby food at home. I did spaghetti squash yesterday. Girl 2 adored it. It was really easy, and half a squash made a ton. I didn't realize how difficult it would be to cut into the thing, but other than that it went really well. I used the second half of the squash as a side dish with the quesadillas. I added some sugar, honey, and a little vanilla. I've never made squash anything before, so I was a little nervous, but it was good. 


The food side of things seems to be going well. We just have to keep eating our leftovers. I'm still researching composting, but that should help the waste issue too. Off to make dinner...

Goals 8/12- 8/19

I have so many things I want to post about, and I'm not sure where to start. For accountability's sake, I'd better review the goals I set last week. 



GOALS FOR 8/4 - 8/11

House: 
Electricity: I'm going to build a clothesline this week to line dry our clothes Done. Still need a support for the center, but it's in use (when it isn't raining, lol).
Natural Gas: I'm going to use lower water heat settings for laundry I went about half the week before remembering this one. Started turning the temp down to "cold/cold" on everything but whites.
Water: I'm going to set a timer and time my showers to see how long I take, and then set a goal for reducing that time. Totally spaced this for myself, I'll start today...if the kids let me shower. I did encourage the boys to get their shower to under 6 minutes after football every day. They can do it in 4 and still be clean. Pretty awesome. 

Car: 
I'm going to look into carpooling the kids to & from football practice.This one is a no-go. Tried, failed. Still, football is only 5-10 minutes away, so it's not a HUGE issue. Still, would have been nice. 

Secondary:
Food: I'm going to buy a steamer and start preparing some baby food at home. Free steamer! Made baby squash yesterday. Details in a later post...
Cleaning products: I'm going to fiddle with the all-purpose cleaner mix, it's leaving a gritty residue Nope. Still need to do this. 
Reusing: I'm going to make a good storage place to put reusable items, right now they're just in a bag hanging from a cabinet in the kitchen I used a box from Costco to store the containers in, and put it in the basement. I also made a spot in the kitchen for the smaller bags we put produce in at the grocery store. I can grab them on my way to the store & reuse. :)
Recycling: I'm going to research all the rules & regs of our local recycling center to make sure I'm not screwing that up. Easy-peasy. I made a little chart with pictures for the kitchen so that the whole family would know what can be recycled. 


There are some successes, a failure, and some oops-es. Things I spaced get rolled over to this week: 

GOALS FOR 8/12-8/19

House:
Electricity: I'm going to search for that support post. In the meantime, I'm also going to see if I can get our computers to "sleep". Our old one used to have a sleep function. These...I don't see it.

Natural Gas: I'm going to turn off the stove burners/oven for the last few minutes of cooking to conserve.

Water: I'm going to find cheap egg timers for our bathroom & the boys' to time showers. 6 minutes a shower is the goal. 

Car:
You know, we really don't use the car much...this week I'm going to RSS bike sales on Craigslist. I gave Boy 1 my bike, so I need my own, but it has to be cheap. Then I could do grocery trips on my bike. 

Secondary:
Food: I'm going to look further into composting. What I've found so far is a little overwhelming, but I'd like to get it started for next year's garden.


Cleaning products: Roll-over. Fiddle with the all-purpose cleaner to make it less gritty. I also want to look into making my own floor cleaner.


Reusing: We have a lot of plastic grocery bags. I'm going to research what I can do with them. I'm also going to take the plastic produce bags I'm saving to the store with me this week.


Recycling/Waste: I'm going to research cloth diapering. Girl 2 generates a lot of trash in that department. I have serious reservations about the cloth diapering thing, but unless I research, I'm not giving it a fair shot.  


It's a little research-heavy this week, but I'm trying to pace myself. I don't want to burn out and crap out. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Culture of Mindlessness

Even though I didn't have the support post for the line, I decided to try a regular load of laundry on the line yesterday. The sun was out, and it was crazy hot after lunch, so I figured it was a good time to do a test load.

Hanging wash out on the line feels green. While I've been doing things around the house to conserve, there's something about standing out in the sun with a basket of damp clothes and a clothespin in your mouth that just feels...earthy. Normally I'm cooped up in the house, air conditioned and insulated. In fact, there are days when I don't get outside at all. Sad, really. All of my daily work centers around the computer, the kids, and the house, so getting out into the fresh air is nice. Wholesome.

Still sagging, but functional. I'm using the little iron arbor to hang more. 

The trick is, you don't have to look at all of the sky when you use a dryer. However, if you're going to be line drying, checking the horizon, rather than the patch of sky over the yard...might be a good thing. I put the clothes on the line, took Boy 3 to gymnastics and the grocery store, and returned home to soggy laundry because it rained while we were out. Duh.

It highlighted for me how removed I am from nature. Our society protects many of us from having to think about the weather, the elements, etc. We are in our houses, our cars, our offices with the air blowing and the windows shut. We don't have to pay attention. We can, but it isn't necessary to our survival. If it rains, we go in. If we're hungry or thirsty, we just hop in the car and go buy something. We go camping and lament that there's no shower. A lot of us are spoiled rotten.

I wonder if that's why it's so hard to get people to realize that we have to take care of the planet. We're so good at shielding ourselves, separating ourselves from the natural world...the consequences of our actions, and our inaction, only register with many of us when they seem to lead toward a major catastrophe. Because science is pretty adept at finding solutions to all the "inconveniences" our screwing around with nature causes (SPF 75, anyone?) only a pending cataclysm gets our attention...and even that isn't enough.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Knock. It. Off.

There's all this talk about domestic oil, foreign oil, off-shore drilling...

We need to stop it. All of it. No new wells, no more drilling. Instead of putting all this time and money into sucking oil out of the planet like some sort of undead petroleum vampire, we need to put our energy and focus into changing the infrastructure, changing the way we live, and looking for clean energy sources to support those new ways of living. 

Oil = death...and it's everywhere.

Please click on this link to go to Greenpeace's website & write your representative about putting a stop to drilling. We have to radically change the way our world functions, and now

And if you're looking for another reason to get pissed off, check this out: U.S. Military & Oil

Sad 'n' Saggy

Lame.

I found a retractable clothesline at Fred Meyer this week, which cost about $20. I'm a little worried about how I'll like line drying, and if I'll be able to stick to it. Some people are more likely to stay the course with something if they have laid out money for it. I'm not that way. Once the money is gone, it's gone, so I'm not inspired to stick to things just because they were expensive.  Twenty bucks isn't a ton of money, but I was pretty sure I could do it cheaper.

I bought a skein of clothesline, two eye bolts, a couple of openable links, and some clothespins for under $10.



Our yard really isn't the right dimensions for a clothes line, no trees and it's 35 feet or so across. Putting in the line was a tad annoying, looking for the right size drill bit (it turned out to be in the hammer drill, I couldn't get it out, so I ended up just sticking with the hammer drill. That thing is LOUD.), trying to work around the ivy on the porch which the previous owner stapled to the supports to help it climb, finding out that while one link opened wide enough to accommodate the eye bolt, the other didn't. Just little diy nuisances.



I finally got the thing installed. We have high efficiency front-loaders, so a lot of the water spins out. I'm hoping things will dry quickly on a line. I started with a lighter blanket that I washed last night; I wanted to see if I need a center support for the line. Answer:

Pay no attention to the dying grass...

Uh, yeah. I need a support

I was hoping to find something to repurpose as a support, but there isn't much around here that would work. I tried turning the ladder ball PVC piping into a T...yeah broke that. So I have to shop around. I would have had this same issue with the retractable line, the yard is just a little wide. Hopefully I find a way to support it, I don't want to put the money into an umbrella dryer or the kind that bolts onto the house.

Here's a great resource to see all the options out there: Tip the Planet

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back to it

We went out of town this weekend, up to visit some friends in Portland. As we were driving up there (and now that I've started this journey, the gas expenditure seems like a guilty pleasure) we passed some wind turbines outside of Condon, OR. I really love the way they look, all across the hillside. I would be furious if there were housing developments in the same place, I hate seeing developments creep up a the foothills. But there's something sort of majestic and exciting about turbines. I wonder if that's just because they're relatively new? Or because they signify clean energy? I worry that some day science will discover that they disrupt the air stream, or are bird hazards, or something. But for now, the massive energy pinwheels delight me. 


As far as around the house, we've really cut down on our dish water consumption. If you remember, running the water when I pre-washed the dishes used a sink-full of water: 

So we've been putting just the tiniest bit of water in the sink to rinse all our dishes. While it's even more disgusting than the sink-full, it's saving a lot of water: 

We've also been using the bucket in the shower while we wait for the water to heat up. We have one stretch of lawn along the side of the house that is a pain to water with the sprinkler because it's so narrow between the neighbor & our place. We're using the bucket to water that stretch of lawn. 

I'm excited to start local veggie shopping for baby food. I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was going to start steaming my own veggies, and I needed to buy a steamer. I had planned on buying the kind that goes in the bottom of a pot, but she had an electric steamer she doesn't use. She gave it to me. w00t! 


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Slapdashery

I need a plan. An organizational system. A method. I've been snatching and grabbing green ideas out of the air as they appeared kinda like this guy (only with out the badass mullet and mustache):  


If it sounds doable, I've been doing it, with no real rhyme or reason. I need to figure sift out a method in all this madness, so I can see where action still needs to be taken, and what's going well. 

So today's recap day. Looking back at the carbon footprint calculator that I started with, here's the analysis of what we've done so far using the site's categories:

House:
- Electricity
  • Raised the temperature on the air conditioner to 78 degrees 
  • Opened the windows at night to help the upstairs cool
  • Turned off the dry cycle on the dishwasher
  • Changed dishwasher setting from "Heavy" to "Normal"
  • Installed small night lights in/near the kids' rooms so they wouldn't sleep with the bathroom lights on
  • Been extra vigilant about turning off lights when we leave the room
  • Only turn lights on when sunlight just won't cut it.
- Natural Gas
  • Turned down the water heater from 145(ish) degrees to 130 degrees  

- Water
  • Stopped pre-washing with running water, use small amount of water in sink
  • Use kitchen timer to remind us to move the sprinkler
  • Put bucket in shower to catch water as we wait for the water to heat up, use the bucket full of water in the yard
Car:
  • Walked more (we walked home from the music festival, we also walked to & from the video store)
Secondary:
- Food
  • Made one meatless meal per week
  • Bought in bulk when possible to save packaging
  • Planned meals based on what was in the cabinets (rather than what sounded good at the time) to purchase less
- Cleaning products
  • Made our own toilet cleaner
  • Made our own all-purpose cleaner (stored in a reused pop bottle)
- Reusing
  • Bought & used reusable shopping bags
  • Made pop bottle banks and toys
  • Used baby snack canister to store bulk baking soda
  • Started a bag to collect containers for future reuse
- Recycling
  • Recycle everything possible
  • Put recycling container in the office for paper waste

Not bad for two weeks at it, actually. I think a goal a week in each category is doable, so that's the plan. I'll do a weekly recap on Wednesday, and set new goals.

GOALS FOR 8/4 - 8/11

House: 
Electricity: I'm going to build a clothesline this week to line dry our clothes
Natural Gas: I'm going to use lower water heat settings for laundry
Water: I'm going to set a timer and time my showers to see how long I take, and then set a goal for reducing that time.

Car: 
I'm going to look into carpooling the kids to & from football practice.

Secondary:
Food: I'm going to buy a steamer and start preparing some baby food at home.
Cleaning products: I'm going to fiddle with the all-purpose cleaner mix, it's leaving a gritty residue
Reusing: I'm going to make a good storage place to put reusable items, right now they're just in a bag hanging from a cabinet in the kitchen
Recycling: I'm going to research all the rules & regs of our local recycling center to make sure I'm not screwing that up.

Wow...that's a lot. Here's hoping...



Blog Hop

My first time linking to a green blog hop...




Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lasagna recipe

Last night we had another meatless dinner. This one was an old standby, super simple.

Lasagna

12 oven-ready lasagna noodles
2 jars spaghetti sauce
30 oz ricotta
2 c. mozzarella
2 eggs

Mix 1 cup of mozzarella with ricotta & eggs.

Layers (from bottom up):
1c sauce
4 noodles
1c sauce
1/2 of the cheese mixture
4 noodles
1c sauce
1/2 of cheese mixture
2c sauce

Bake 1 hour, top with remaining mozzarella, bake 10 min. more.


Next time I can buy the noodles from the bulk bins, which will cut down on the little bit of packaging. I saved the ricotta tub in my new "bag of containers & things I can reuse". So very low waste. Too bad I have to run the oven for an hour.

I'm beginning research on making my own baby food. More emotional food issues with that one...

Monday, August 2, 2010

On a roll

Today has been a fun one for reducing and repurposing.

I finally got to the store yesterday,  to buy from the bulk section. I bought a gallon of vinegar and a pound of baking soda. The whole lot cost $3.18. While I was there, I perused the bulk goodies to see how I could cut down on packaging. Dog food, pasta, pancake mix...why have I not been buying everything in bulk? It's cheaper, less waste, I can get exactly the quantities I want...I'm all over this.  (I even used a Gerber baby snack canister to store the baking soda once I got it home.)

Today, it was Boy 3's turn to clean the toilets (they're on rotating chore detail) so we made toilet cleaner using the recipe I found the other day. The boys were tickled by the frothy craziness (a volcano of toilet cleanliness) that ensued. It's the first time they haven't complained about toilet cleaning.

Boy 3 and toilet cleaner fixin's

We also made an all-purpose cleaner out of 1/2c vinegar, 1/4c baking soda, and 2 liters of water. The little spray bottle I had wasn't big enough for that much cleaner, but awesomely enough, the nozzle fit the top of the pop bottle.

Pop bottle of all-purpose cleaner

The toilets turned out clean, there were no nasty chemicals, we saved on packaging and cost, AND we repurposed one of the oodles of pop bottles we have around here.

Speaking of pop bottles...

We've had several get-togethers at the house lately and we've ended up with a lot of extra 2-liter bottles. While they're recyclable, we decided to look for ways to reuse first, to cut down on our waste. The kids have been making money this summer, mowing lawns, taking out the trash, and caddying for Grandpa on the golf course, but not a one of them has a piggy bank or a wallet. They've never really had money before this summer. So today we made banks out of bottles.

Painting pop bottles on the back patio

We painted the bottles with paint samples we inherited from my sister-in-law that have been sitting in our craft room collecting dust. We cut a slot in the top to put money in, and when they want it out, there's a little trap door cut in the bottom back. They had a blast making them and it didn't cost a thing.

I didn't need a piggy bank, so I made a "submarine" for the girls. They played with it in the bath this afternoon, floating Army guys & Littlest Pet Shop animals around the tub.



Submarine on the open sea

I'm feeling like I can do this.

Holding e-hands

I'm beginning to add other blogs & resources to my Google Reader in an attempt to learn as much as I possibly can as we go green around here. Turns out there are a bazillion and one (or so) green mom blogs out there. This exciting in that I have a wealth of resources to draw from. It's discouraging in that every time I find some new exciting tip or piece of information, it seems like I'm behind on the learning curve.

When I moved out of my parents' house at 18, I knew nothing. I remember one time I called my mom to ask her how to make hot dogs on the stove, because I didn't know how. I couldn't cook anything. I remember her laughing as she told me to put water in the pot, put the hot dogs in the pot, and boil for 3 minutes or so. That story gets told every now and then at family gatherings, and usually it highlights how far I've come.

Anyway, this journey to greenness feels similar. There's so much I don't know...and posting it for the world to see is more than a little humbling. Still, I'm hoping there are other people out there who would benefit from my inexperience.

On that note, there is a group of green bloggin' mamas out there and I'm learning to network with them, so I'm  beginning to follow them, and hopefully have some of them follow me to guide me along. One day it would be great to look back at me and my giant bins of trash and laugh at how far I've come.