Saturday, December 3, 2011

Deck the Halls with Trash & Rubbish

I was sitting waiting for Boy 3 to get his haircut, flipping through a Family Fun magazine and read an article about having a gingerbread party. While I have zero interest in throwing such a party, one of their ideas was to decorate with gingerbread people made out of brown paper bags.


Whenever I go to the grocery store & forget my bags (it happens FAR more than it should, lately) I use paper. Then we use those bags to line the bathroom trash cans and whatnot. But we still have more bags than I know what to do with. So I decided to use the template here and make a gingerbread Advent calendar!

It's so easy, it really doesn't require a tute, but:

  • Print the template, cut it out.
  • Trace it on your brown paper bags (try not to have any printing on the front or back). I got about 8-9 gingies per bag. You'll need 25 gingies when you're done.
  • Cut out your gingerbread peeps. (Ginger bread peeps! Easter idea...)
  • Decorate the front as elaborately or plainly as you'd like (I jotted faces & buttons with Sharpie. You could go all out)
  • Create or steal 25 good deeds/activities/crafts and write or glue them on the back of each gingerbread person. Boy 1 had a list of things he brought from youth group like, "Buy a package of heavy warm socks & donate them to a homeless shelter" or "Write a letter to a friend you haven't seen in a while and thank them for being in your life". We copied those & glued them to each cookie man.
  • Hang a string/yarn/rope/etc. in a visible place.
  • Clothespin (or tie up, or whatever) the guys across the string
  • Flip one each morning leading up to Christmas, and then do the activity sometime during the day.

That's it.

The important thing is NOT to buy ANYTHING. You can make this out of printer paper, magazines, used gift wrap, anything. This is about crafting, thinking about others, and wasting less.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Preempting Christmas Wastefulness

I'm prepping for the holidays and trying to avoid wastefulness. The Black Friday ads are pouring in...I am doing everything I can to resist the manic over-buying frenzy. That's bad for my wallet, the environment, and my sanity.

Usually we have the kids make Christmas lists on Thanksgiving or the day after. They think about stuff they've seen on t.v., or they flip through the Toys 'R' Us Big Book, and they impulsively make long lists of random toys. We try to choose the ones they really want, and then they end up with a bunch of things they play with once and never use again. Talk about wasteful.

This year I'm giving them a sheet to fill out with the following prompts:

  • 2 Books I’d Like to Read:
  • Something I’d Like to Learn How to Do:
  • Some Clothes I’d Like/Need (hats, jerseys, accessories, etc.):
  • 2-3 Toys I want to Play With:
  • 2 Video Games I’d Like to Have:
  • Anything Else:

My hope is that by focusing their thoughts, they'll choose a few items in each category that really appeal to them, and we won't end up with a bunch of things that 1. aren't good for them and 2. will end up in the donate pile within 6 months.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Can Game Tute

Yesterday I blogged about Fair Day 2011, and promised a quick tutorial on the can game I made. It's so easy it seems kind of silly to post a "how-to", but it's a fun way to reuse, so here it goes:

-10 aluminum cans(mine were a mix of Pepsi Max, Mountain Dew, and PBR)
-heavy duty tape (somewhat water-resistant, like duct tape)
-Water, enough to fill each can 1/4-1/2 of the way full
-Wrapping paper (or scrapbooking paper, or brown paper bags, or printer paper you drew on...whatevs.)
-scotch tape
-bean bag or tennis ball

Grab your ten tin cans (I know they're aluminum, but does that sound as fun? No.) Rinse them out, and pull off the tabs so that the top is smooth. You can recycle those, take them to Ronald McDonald House, or save up a stash and make them into accessories.

Fill each can a quarter to half full with water. This gives the cans more weight so the wind doesn't knock them over, and the game is a little more challenging.

Then you cover the hole in the can with your heavy duty tape. I couldn't find the duct tape, so I used this roll of red stuff we had in the garage. I have no clue what it's really for, but it felt kind of like duct tape, so I used it. The garage contains many mysteries for the uninitiated (like me).
Mysterious red tape...
Then you dig through all your scraps of paper. I had a sheet of wrapping paper that was getting all wrinkly in the closet. 

Cut 10 rectangles out. Each piece should be 4" by 10". This won't cover the little beveled edges at the top & bottom of the can, but it will cover the rest. I just wanted to make the cans look more festive (and hide the fact that I drink PBR. High class all the way, baby.). If you wanted to take the time to cover those little edges, more power to you. I am too lazy pants for that.

Wrap the paper around the can (make sure the can is wiped dry first!) and tape it on with your scotch tape.

Perfection, thy name ain't Aytch Rae. 
Then you stack the cans up in rows of 4, 3, 2, 1, from bottom to top. And your game is set up!

See how I put the same color can edges in each row, so it looks like I planned it? Crafty!

All you need is to decide how close your contestants can stand, give them a bean bag or a ball, and let them have at it. I gave each kid 2 throws per turn, and gave them a small piece of candy (Jolly Ranchers, taffies, etc.) for every 2 cans they knocked down. They kept playing until the cans were too beat up to stand anymore, and the water was starting to leak out.

(No carnies heckled, and no children were swindled during the course of this game.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

That's not Fair

Today is the last day of the Western Idaho Fair. When I was younger, I LOVED the fair. I loved the churros, the snow cones, the spin art, the Zipper...all of it. I haven't been to the fair without a pack of kids in probably 15 years, so it could be that if I went as myself instead of going as "Mom", I'd enjoy it.

But going to the fair with kids is pretty awful for me. I am constantly freaked out about losing one of them. I'm always saying, "Where's Girl 1? Do we have everyone?" and doing head counts. I'm terrified of someone getting lost or stolen.

It's hot. It stinks. It's hot.

I have to watch the kids' intake of foods and weigh that against the spinning, hurling, flipping motion of the rides we're piling them into. Puke lurks around every spin of the Gravitron.

The heckling of the lame.

And the cost...I think we figured it would be $200-$250 bucks for all 7 of us to get in, ride the rides, and eat the food. We could do Disney for close to that.

AND think of all the electricity...

Anyway. If I could turn off my responsible brain, the fair would be a ton of fun. But I can't.

This year my friend Mia had a great idea to have a Fair Day at their homestead. Mia writes Family, Food, and God a really great blog about living simply, spiritually, and sustainably. Mia and her family hosted and fed us all (10 kids, 4 adults) and our family provided the games and prizes. I worked to make all of the games out of household items, or repurposed waste.

 I made a can toss out of pop cans and wrapping paper. I'll post a tute on that tomorrow. It was really fun.

Mmmm...Lemon Heads....

We used a set of stacking cups and they had to land a golf ball in each. Everyone got a piece of candy for trying. The winner got 4 more pieces.

We did some chillaxin'. Boy 1 has GIANT feet.

Wouldn't be the fair without face painting. This is what you get if you allow your wife to decide what gets painted on your face.


We even had rides. Sort of.

We got to pet Beefy and Jerky.

 And we all tried milking Christina. She was very patient with us.

We filled a box with packing peanuts from The Man's work and then hid prizes and candy in it. The kids had 20 seconds to grab out as much as they could.

The glasses they dug out were a hit.

Glow sticks!

The kids got to help grind the corn for the corn dog batter, they picked cucumbers and tomatoes for snacks. We had Zucca bread, organic all-beef corn dogs, homemade donuts, and TONS of candy. All the kids agree that it was so much better than the "real" fair. We're thinking about making it an annual tradition.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What Wagon?

I've fallen off the wagon. Hard.

It's so easy to make excuses say things like, "I can't line-dry, the puppy will eat the sheets." which is sort of true. But the reality is, I've lost my zeal. Stick-to-it-ness (perseverance, if you're boring) is not my strong suit. So I've slacked off. Paper plates have appeared in the house. The counter composter started attracting fruit flies. Rather than trying to find creative solutions, I've crapped out.

But now this: BP Spill in Alaska And another in Yellowstone.

It has to stop. I have to get back on the wagon  because waste really is a matter of life an death, not just for my family, but for ecosystems everywhere.

I'm recommitting. I'm not excited, but I'm determined. Maybe that's better.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roughing It

We go camping anywhere from 2-5 times a summer. The kids and The Man like to fish, I like cooking out in the open and soaking in the sun and fresh air. Sometime between the 18 and 24 hour mark, this feeling settles in, it's a slowness, a calmness of mind. Your muscles slacken, your movements slow. It's earthy and peaceful. We abandon the world of screens. I can't do laundry. There are no phones to answer. The sound of video games or the 700th viewing of Bolt are completely missing. I don't have to think, "What should I be doing? What's on my list today? When do I need to start dinner? Oh I need to call..." In the mountains we have no Facebook, Google chat, texts, emails, no constant communication. After a day away from town, marinating in the quiet of the mountains, I am hollow.

This weekend we went to Cold Springs Campground, near Council, Idaho. We've never been there before, but at 4800 feet, the elevation is right for June. Some of our favorite camping spots are still closed this time of year due to snow. Saturday morning we headed over to the Lost Valley Reservoir. When we got there, I was disgusted. The shoreline was packed with pickup trucks and boats. That's normal for an in-town lake, but even out in the middle of nowhere, it is becoming more common. People were everywhere. The sounds of motors, the smell of exhaust...these are the things we go camping to get away from. People haul up generators, lights, some people bring televisions. RV camping with refrigerators and air conditioning are tempting, but motoring around the trails at light speed on an ATV? 

I think about the gas that ends up in the water, the smog filling the air from dozens of exhaust pipes and I want to cry. I think about the transformation that could happen if those campers were to dismount their four-wheelers, climb to the top of the pine-covered mountain, lift their face to the sky, and just...breathe. If they were to stop creating so much poison and racket, if they closed their eyes and listened to the river of wind in the trees, the chipmunks skittering through pine needles, to feel the sun slowly sink into their skin...would they be so quick to flip on their portable T.V.s? Would they tear up the shore with their trailers? Rip up the hillside with their toys? Would they be so quick to toss their cans, their Caprisun pouches, their cigarette butts on the ground?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pipe Dreams

Last summer we watered the lawn with a small travelling sprinkler attached to a hose, the kind that I used to jump through as a kid and pretend was a magical rainbow.

Talk about a water waster. We'd forget to move it, leave it running all night, it leaked at the hose bib...we are not aware enough to pull off this type of lawn watering.

So the Man and his pops spent two weekends putting in auto sprinklers in the yard. They did a great job, and now we have a timer that makes sure we don't water too long. Grass is not eco-friendly, but it is the norm. If you're gonna have it, auto-sprinklers are the way to go.

And on a pipe-related tangent, I saw this awesome summer project at Mom's Crafty Space and just had to try it. Marshmallow Shooters!

So cheap, so easy, and the whole family (except for Girl 2, who has a fever and watched Tangled instead) had a blast. We're taking these things camping, no question. If you have some 1/2" PVC lying around, this is a super fun way to reuse it. The link doesn't give lengths, so we did four 6" pieces, and one 8" piece per shooter. They really zing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Remember approximately 700 years ago when I posted about our Vertiginous Veggie idea?

We started construction in late February and let's just say...I completely underestimated the difficulty we'd have conceptualizing, constructing, and finishing the plan. But, after much rain, a bazillion trips to Home Depot, numerous pallet runs, quite a bit of circling, discussing, redrawing, circling, and head-scratching, our raised beds are finally finished!

Ta Da!!

My husband is amazing. That thing was an ENORMOUS pain in the butt to build. The digging in clay, cementing it in, getting it all level & lined up...I did a lot of constructive spectating. I held some boards. The Man is the one who made it happen. 

While the sides and posts were new wood, the bottoms are made from reused shipping pallet slats. (Note: taking apart pallets is not as easy as one would think. TIL, right?)

So it's June...I'm still going to try and plant in it. Hopefully things will still grow. If not, we're all set for next year. 

We have had so many questions about it. "What is that?" "How are you going to weed?" "How will you water?" and my favorite, from the substitute mail carrier, "Can I take some pictures? My wife can't picture what I've been telling her."

I'll keep you posted about the planting. Hopefully something grows!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cantastic Crafts and Buckets of Awesome

The Man decided that this weekend was the weekend to clean out the garage. That's pretty much his domain, it's where the tools and chemicals and other boring (to me) whatnot hangs out. I was enlisted to help determine what  should be kept, what could be reused/repurposed, and what needed to be tossed.

In one corner of the garage are built-in shelves which until this weekend housed every can of paint ever used in this house by every owner ever. Maybe. The oldest date we actually saw was 1992, but still, there was an insane amount of paint. I saw all those cans & couldn't stomach throwing them out. This is where my mind went:

from FunInTheMaking

I'm probably going to make a few of these with stars & suns for our patio. They'll be cute for BBQ decorations.

And look at all these ideas from the ReUse District!

So I spent a good part of yesterday pouring paint from 1 gallon cans into a big 5 gallon bucket that only had a couple of inches of paint in it. All those remnants filled the bucket, and we still had 12-15 cans left. So. Much. Waste!

I got a little giddy from the paint fumes and stirred the bucket while I poured, having fun seeing the color combos. I wish I had pictures, but I rarely think of things as bloggertunities until after the fact. 

I didn't want to hazmat 5 gallons of paint if we didn't have to, so I posted an ad to the "free stuff" section of craigslist. It read: 
After living in our home for nearly a year, we decided it was time for an archeological exploration of the storage space in the garage. We unearthed every insane color the previous owners had painted this house and decided to combine them all into one five gallon bucket of paint. Dozens of remnants combined into a new creation.

What color is the paint in this five gallon bucket of pure awesome? A new, unheard of, never before named hue. YOU get to name the shade! No more being constrained by the wannabe greeting card writers who name the paints at Home Depot! To whet your appetite: imagine you had a chocolate milkshake and a strawberry milkshake. Then imagine you poured them into a bowl, stirred them, and let them sit for a week or so. Voila!

Come and get it, free to the first taker. It's heavy (the bucket is filled nearly to the brim). Paint your horse, the undersides of your tables, the inside of your vomitorium (just to set the mood).

I thought it was funny. Within the hour we had someone come by, look at the 5+ gallons of pinkish-brownish slop, and take it to paint a room in their house. We had another couple come by a few minutes later & they were disappointed it was gone. So weird. 

Moral: Throw nothing away. Someone out there will want it and use it. Freecycle or Craigslist everything. And a little wacky humor helps. 


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Paper Mache Easter Eggs!

A week or so ago a phone book appeared on our doorstep. The interwebs are rife with "how to opt out" posts, but I forgot. A friend sent me a link (which I have lost, typical) full of reuse/upcycling ideas for phone books. The one that really excited me? Paper mache!

First you get to take out all your forgot to opt out frustrations on the phone book by ripping it into long strips. Don't cut, rough edges blend better. Then you need a balloon, some flour, water, a tolerance for messiness, and patience.

Flour & water are mixed here. Tolerance & patience not pictured
Basically your paste is flour and water mixed until it's soupy. I like it the consistency of Elmer's glue, but I don't think it matters too much. I actually added a glop of Elmer's to give it a little extra stickiness.

Some people use a paint brush or basting brush to apply the glue. But why? Fingers work way better. So you slather on the paper strips on the balloon this way and that, overlapping, going different directions, covering them completely with the paste, until your whole balloon is covered.
Then you let it dry.
Then you add another layer.
And then you let it dry.
And then you add another layer.
Etc. etc. etc.

I did 4 layers. 
Then you can pop the balloon, if you've left the nozzle end uncovered. If not, no harm done. It's just kind of fun to hear the balloon deflating in there.

Then you paint! I used leftover wall paint, plus some dollar store acrylic paints we had stashed in the closet.
Easter Egg!
I think I may have found a new addiction. Paper mache is awesome.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thrifty Minute

Just a quick couple of pics of another thrift craft project. Took a muumuu, made it new-new.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nifty, Thrifty, and Counter Cultural

I woke up this morning ready to tell you why you should shop at thrift stores and consignment shops rather than buy new. But I don't have to, because even if you don't know already, other writers have exhausted the topic all over the interwebs.

If you'd like some basics:
Want to Be Eco-Friendly? Visit a Thrift Store
Green Shopping: Don't Say 'Eww' to Thrift Stores

For some reason, there's this cultural aversion to buying at thrift stores. The advent of the consignment shop seems to be alleviating this some, but as a culture we have a long way to go. People seem to think there's something shameful or nasty about buying used.

I say ABSURD!  :D

Some points to ponder:

  • The minute I wear something, it's used. If I don't want to wear used clothing, I might as well start throwing every outfit away after the first wear.
  • Anyone can walk into a department store and put on what the headless mannequin is modeling. It takes creativity and ingenuity to create new outfits from thrift/consignment stores. Would I rather be a dummy or a designer?
  • The creative possibilities are endless at the thrift shop, you aren't hemmed in (pun!) by this year's soon to be out of style fashion. I have a plethora of eras/designers/styles/sizes to choose from. Just wait until you see the amazing 1960's polyester dress I'm getting ready to turn into throw pillows!
  • While shopping can be an utterly depressing endeavor  because of the expense and the fit of clothing (at least, if you're me it can be), thrift shopping is an exciting adventure. I'm not constrained by price or love handles. If I can imagine it, I can make it. At the thrift store, I conform the clothes to my body, rather than agonizing over how my body doesn't conform to the standard. 

Yesterday I showed you the swegwarmers I made out of a thrift store sweater. I plan on using a bit of ribbon to finish off the sleeve holes of that same sweater and turn it into a little hooded vest for Girl 1.

 I spent 2 dollars on that sweater at the thrift store. A quick Google for legwarmers shows that they cost anywhere from $5-$32 (what?!?) a pair. While Google did find a used girls hooded sweater vest for $3.99, most cost $16-$20. One thrift store purchase and I saved $6.99-$50.00. 

Adorable clothes, cheap prices, low carbon footprint, and I'm keeping textile waste out of the landfill?


Monday, February 21, 2011

What Else Can I Do With That? - Swegwarmers!

It has been three weeks since I've posted. I haven't felt inspired. While I'm still keepin' it green, there hasn't been much new to report. I've been thinking on the REpUrpoSE line, and "percolating" (this involves a lot of brainstorming, net-surfing, and swirling around of ideas while I lie in bed at night or mindlessly click away at Zuma Blitz).

The Man seems a little worried that I might be turning into a hoarder. I can't seem to throw away anything that could possibly maybe have the slightest itty bitty chance of becoming something else later. We have cans, jars, containers, and plastic bags coming out our ears. I have piles of clothes with little stains that I might be able to cut apart and sew later. My motto is becoming, "What else can I do with that?"

The difference between hoarding and repurposing is actually making stuff.

It's time to get a-craftin'.

Stripey goodness

So for my first attempt, something easy. I've been wanting a pair of leg warmers to wear with skinny jeans and heels. However since I rarely wear heels, I didn't want to spend the money to buy a pair that might not get worn before they go out of style and back to the 80's from whence they came. However, a thrift store sweater with striped sleeves and little button detailing on the cuffs? Hmm...

Cutting lazy-style.
I cut the sleeves off the sweater, leaving the hem on the sleeve side, so they wouldn't ravel and I wouldn't have to sew.

The nice thing about leg warmers (other than the total adorbs-ness and warmy goodness) is they bunch up, so I could roll under the cut edge. It won't fray, but it looks cleaner if you roll it under.

Sleeves sans-sweater

Rotated and saved this 5 times. It still won't stay. Wha?

All that's left to do is put them on over a pair of skinny jeans and heels. Voila!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Let's make stuff

I find this exciting and beautiful, and now have an irresistible urge to start gluing plastic together.

One Plastic Beach from Tess Thackara on Vimeo.

h/t Yes! Magazine

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vertiginous Veggies

I'm looking forward to spring and summer, so that I can improve our eating locally and seasonally. I'm also excited to start a garden. I've never really had a garden before. Our first home had some raised beds so I decided to plant onions. I forgot all about them and the neighborhood cats used the bed for a litter box. So that was a failure.

This house has a tiny back yard, a tiny front yard, and nearly no sunlight. In my research I'm discovering that nearly all veggies need full sun. This poses some problems. We've talked about giant ceramic pots, vertical potato farming, edible landscaping...

And what we have settled on is a Living Wall. We have a strip of grass between our driveway and the driveway of the house next door. It is 4' x 27', and right now it's home to a bunch of dead grass. It gets sun nearly all day long, it's the only place on our property that does. The nice thing about a living wall is, we can start with a few posts, and add more if it seems to be going well. This year we are going to do 4 posts, but we have room to add 2 more. I spent all morning trying to graph the thing, and this is what I think we're going to do:

No wonder I failed handwriting every year as a kid. 
It's tiny, and hard to read, but basically the two beds that sit on the ground will have tomatoes (on the south end) and zucchini (on the north end). I'm going to try romaine, basil, strawberries, carrots, and onions this year in the raised beds. Hopefully no cats feel frisky enough to climb the thing and "fertilize" it.

I'm a little nervous about this, since I really have no clue what I'm doing. I'm going to run my plan by someone with some know how when I go to buy seeds/sets...hopefully I don't get laughed out of the store.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Environmentalism and Social Justice

Food for thought on systems and implications. I know sometimes it's hard to sit and watch vids, at least it is for me, but the impact of this one is at the end. It's worth the time spent.

h/t Sociological Images

Friday, January 21, 2011

Green listed

The other day I blogged about my brief vacation into minimalism and suggested that before you make a purchase, list what you have and carefully consider if you really need to buy the item. To buy less is to green more, usually. Every time you don't purchase something you are saving resources.

After publishing that post, a friend of mine sent me a link to another kind of list, this time to see what people really need to be packing around on a daily basis, and what is superfluous stuff.

So now I'm thinking...all this awareness list-making, where can I take it next?

As a dovetail to My Plastic Free Life's "Show Us Your Plastic Trash" challenge on awareness raising, I have a new kind of list to try:

Keep a piece of paper in your kitchen. Every time you throw away, or even compost food waste, jot it down. I'm thinking the ends and stems of things probably don't count for this challenge. But if it's something you could have eaten, but didn't, something that wilted, molded, rotted, soured, or just got tossed, write it down. Take a picture even, if it moves you. But make a list of all the food you wasted in a week, things you scraped off plates, forgot in the back of the fridge, whatever.
Image credit: Word of Mouth Blog

Don't cheat this week either. Don't leave nasty things lurking in the fridge or pantry just so you don't have to list them. Clean out all that waste. Got leftovers in the fridge that are no longer fit for human consumption? Are you sprouting a mold farm in your Tupperware? Clean it out. Write it down. Take a long, honest look at the food you're wasting.

Do this for a week, share it if you want. I'll link to any of you bloggers next week if you blog about it, just let me know. After looking at my food waste for a week, I'm going to take a good hard look at our eating habits, and our grocery shopping. Because if we aren't using it, why on earth would I buy it?

For more green blogs: 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A not so minimal blog about minimalism.

This weekend we drove to Seattle. We left our suitcase lying lonely by the side of the bed. We had all the things we were hauling up their for our friends, but not our stuff.

I always over-pack. For a Friday-Sunday stay I'd packed (not including what I was wearing Friday in the car):
  • 3 shirts
  • 2 sweaters (one short sleeved, one long)
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • undies
  • bra
  • 7 socks (I only own mismatched socks & wasn't sure which to bring)
  • hair dryer
  • hair straightener 
  • hair brush
  • big ol' thing of eyeshadow
  • mascara
  • foundation
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrush
  • lotion
  • deodorant
  • and probably a bunch of other things I've forgotten to list
And that's not counting all the stuff The Man packed. 

Instead, we showed up with the clothes on our backs. We walked over to a drugstore to pick up the essentials, two toothbrushes, a small tube of toothpaste, a deodorant to share, and a tube of mascara. The hotel gave us a small comb.  I winced at all the unnecessary plastic that this slip-up generated.  Our friends loaned us t-shirts (extras they had packed), and we wore the same pants all weekend. 

It was great. I felt pretty loved by the number of people willing to lend us clothes. Since we just borrowed a couple of t-shirts, I didn't have to think about what I was going to wear. I didn't have to get up early to put on my make-up. Best of all, there was very little laundry to wash when we came back. 

Between this (small) forced exercise in minimalism, and the No Impact Experiment, I've begun to contemplate what we actually need.

For example, Chucks are on sale right now. I really want a pair. I only have a pair of running shoes, a pair of slip on casual shoes, a pair of crocs, several pairs of high heels, a pair of ladybug rain boots, various assorted flip flops... They're all beat up, of course, because I haven't bought myself a new pair of shoes in over a year... but see, that's why I need these, right?


I want them (a lot) but I don't need them. Will they make me happy? Maybe a little bit for a little while, and then they're just another pair of shoes. 

And something I'm noticing now, as I type this? What an eye-opener it is to list your stuff. It's disgusting. I don't own those adorable boots that everyone is wearing right now, and I don't own my beloved Chucks, and if you were to ask me last week about my shoes, I would have told you that I really don't have any. I could have told you in all honesty and seriousness that I don't own any shoes worth wearing. Because I don't wear them. And I feel frumpy half the time because I haven't bought new shoes in so long. And then I made the above list and it's shorter than what you'd actually find in my closet, because I became so embarrassed halfway through. There are so many people out there with so little, and I'm bummed because I don't have a particular style of shoes. Ugh.

So here's a challenge: 
Think of something you want. A pair of jeans, a new gadget, a watch, a phone, whatever. Now make a list of what you have that falls into the same general category. If you want jeans, list all the pants you own, and I mean all, sweats, khakis, jeans, dress pants, whatever.  

Think about how much satisfaction the purchase is really going to bring you. 
Would my family be better served with me in new shoes, or money being saved for a vacation? Duh.

Think about the homeless. 
Is there someone who needs shoes more than I do? Absolutely. 

Think about the carbon footprint of manufacture and transportation. 
Is the waste created by that purchase worth the good it is going to do? 

Do you still need it? Do you still want it? Or is there some better way to use or save that money?

I'm not saying don't buy anything, but the challenge is to put what you are buying in context, and make sure it's what you really want to spend your money on.

For more green goodness:

Monday, January 17, 2011

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

I've never been one of those people with a niche. I haven't fit into a category, dressed in a particular style, listened to a distinctive type of music, or had a job that somehow gave me identity. Almost all of my identity has been bound up in being a mom, first being a very young mother, and now being the mother to a lot of kids. Still, the distinction of being a parent isn't particularly distinct. I've always been kind of like cottage cheese, the neutral accent to the peaches or berries I hang out with.

That may make no sense outside of my head...

So when I really started cracking down on our impact, blogging about it, and sharing those posts with my Facebook friends, suddenly I began to have an identity in a new way. I'm the green one, the eco-mom. It's not something I consciously created, but it's more true every day.

I am not trying to actively convert people. I get so angry when someone questions the way I parent, cook, clean, whatever. People who say things like, "Oh you shouldn't do that." or "I would never do it that way." or "Here's what's wrong with your way." are much less effective and far more off-putting than those who just live the lifestyle. Part of the reason I clung so long to disposable diapers was the way many cloth diaperers lectured me about my parenting. Same thing with breastfeeding. I've always been a "You can't tell me what to do" kind of girl.

 If I bombard you with judgments, are you going to change the way you live? No. You're just going to avoid talking to me. But if I just live my life in a way that says, "I am trying to change. And it's hard." I'm not pushing you away, I'm drawing you in. The changes I make don't work for everyone, and I would never force my way of life on others. We all have our own journey.

What I am finding is, being gently open about my personal lifestyle choices impacts those around me to be more conscious. When talking to me, people think about their waste. Someone said to me "You would be so proud of me, I got four uses out of that paper before recycling it." or "I put sheets of paper on the floor...recyclable paper of course...". And I am excited by it, and amazed that they care what I think.

 Just being in conversation with someone trying to live a green life plants the seed (oh look, an eco-metaphor...) in their mind about the choices they make. This is what awareness raising is. It doesn't mean blasting people with articles, or preaching about the dangers of processed foods, or shouting from your soap box whenever you see someone drinking bottled water. That's not raising awareness, that's raising hackles, and it often forces people to dig in and resist.

I really hope to continue to live the life openly, and be the change humbly.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Miss Scarlett and a little foot-stamping.

In response to my frustration at not knowing how to eat local and organic, my sister-in-law told me about a little store called Brown Box Organics. Yesterday while Boy 3 was at his gymnastics class, Girl 1 and I did a little local market reconnaissance. It is a beautiful shop and the staff is really friendly and helpful. They have local, organic, non-GMO foods, and I learned a lot just roaming the aisles. I ended up buying a leek and a bag of Chippery BBQ chips. 

What I'm learning is, I picked the wrong time of year to try and go local and organic. It's funny how what a late-onset realization this is. It's winter, and I'm out looking for fresh, local, organic produce. I am so detached from the growing cycle, and from where my food comes from. I have no idea what grows well in Idaho. I have no clue what is in season and what isn't. I think that's probably true of a lot of people. So now I have some catching up to do. I keep having flashbacks to the days when I used to read Jean M. Auel and her Ayla adventures. I thought that longing for greens was a cave person only problem. Turns out there's like, this whole natural cycle. Duh.

Looking back over my No Impact Week posts, I realize that I spend a lot of time being frustrated. I want to live this perfect green lifestyle NOW. I get so frustrated by what I don't know, what doesn't work, or what we can't afford. And the more I research the more I realize just how very expensive the food part of the green lifestyle can get. I am not saying it isn't worth it, I'm just saying there's no way we can go whole hog right off the bat. We just can't afford it.

Doing things in baby steps means not every aspect of our lives are green all the time. I worry about hypocrisy a lot, the need to be consistent is part of my identity, and I don't want to be accused of lying, cheating, or not living up to my values. I want to do things right, and I'm tempted to give up when I can't do it perfectly. There was a good article about this today on TreeHugger: In Defense of Hypocrisy- In Search of the Sustainable Double Standard

So, here are some truths and then I'm just going to move on and stop judging myself so harshly:

  • We have a ton of plastic bags in the basement. The things are like herpes, easy to get, impossible to get rid of. I can't throw them out, but I often fail to remember to bring my reusables. 
  • I bought Kraft Macaroni & Cheese this week, along with a slew of other non-organic processed foods. When one lunch of mac & cheese requires 4 boxes to feed the fam, I can't afford Annie's all the time. I buy what I can, when I can, but I can't do it all at once.
  • We use disposable baby wipes. Not going to quit that, it's too cumbersome and gross. Sometimes we use disposable diapers. 
  • The laundry room is disgusting again. 
  • My compost heap is frozen. I am failing on that one.
  • I love my gadgets, my iPod and laptop and such. I use them a lot.
I'm sure there are a million more failures, but the thing is, every day I try to improve something. I'm not giving up, and I'm probably going to crap out more often than I succeed, but every day I try. If I'm inconsistent? Oh. Well. Tomorrow is another day. Fiddle dee dee? Maybe. But at least I give a damn enough to try. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

All Hail the Red Knight!

Okay. I really want to shoot off a snarky post about this, but I'm going to try and be productive.

I tend to focus on the home front with my politics. I make changes in our home, I try to teach the kids to make good choices and to question the world around them. I write about simple, personal changes people can make to change the world. When something in my sphere of day to day experience is out of whack, I look for ways to change it. I rarely focus on politicians. I vote in every election, and I research who and what I'm voting for (or against) but day to day neither the state nor federal government is often on my radar. I'm not oblivious, but my limited time and resources force me to choose my foci.

My g-Reader has been full of articles on the Cornwall Alliance and their campaign against the "Green Dragon". I've scanned these, and I dismissed them, because every cause has a mission and a end-times documentary to back it up, and I assumed these people were just the flip side of my coin. Not much I can do about it, I figured. Here's a promo video, in case you haven't seen:

I'd love to watch it, to see what the arguments and talking points are, but the cost is $50 and 12 weeks that I don't have. There is a book coming out soon, and when that hits or the library, I might pick it up. If I am going to be grounded in my beliefs, I should research all sides both to "know my enemy" (a phrase that does more harm than good, IMO) and to make sure I've explored all the nooks and crannies of my own world view.

And not exactly related, but it certainly smells similar is this: Congressman Simpson lands Chairman of Interior Appropriations

This is my congressman. I should be excited, right?

Except I'm not. Because as the above mentions, Congressman Simpson is a proponent of nuclear energy (which is economically good for Idaho, I get that. I also understand that what is economically good for Idaho isn't always what is best for Idaho.) as well as an opponent of the EPA (at least, as it stands now).

 The EPA is the scariest agency in the federal government, an agency run amok....Its bloated budget has allowed it to drastically expand its regulatory authority in a way that is hurting our economy and pushing an unwelcomed government further into the lives of Idahoans. As Chairman of this subcommittee, I look forward to bringing some common sense to the EPA and some certainty for our nation’s job creators.

So I'm not excited for my congressman to be this particular chairman. I've written Congressman Simpson letters and emails in the past, when a particular issue seemed to merit writing. He has very polite "Thank you but no thank you" notes. I'll give him that much.

So, here's the question of the day: When your representative espouses many convictions directly opposed to your own, and when all past attempts to educate/inform/change that representative's mind have hit a steel wall, and when that representative has been your rep since 1999 and probably will remain so for all do you not get discouraged?

RRR Room by Room- Playroom Deep Clean, or "Off With Their Heads"

I'm jumping to the playroom today because it is in desperate need of a cleaning. I'm only about halfway finished cleaning it up, but I plan on getting the kids involved with the rest, so blog break time.

Clean Side
When we were house shopping, we knew we wanted a basement with a playroom for the kids. We wanted a space where the kids could relax, be loud, and make a mess. The house we are in now has a great playroom, lots of space and light, away from the rest of the house so they can scream, wrestle, and just go crazy. My obstetrician told me when we had Boy 3 that we should pad the walls of one room, put a cage over the light, and  just let the boys go nuts in there. This playroom is about as close to that as we're going to get, and all of us love it.

The problem with the kids having their own space is that I am not around to supervise all the different things they get into. The kids "clean" the basement at least once a week, but really what they do is stuff and hide and scootch things around the room. Last week was even messier because I banned television and video games as part of No Impact Week. They were into everything. When I ventured into KidLand today to do a deep clean, I had to wade through Lego bits, random train tracks, and all sorts of board game shrapnel. Most girls with big brothers have decapitated Barbies, and our girls are no exception. They should make a series of dolls with the heads already off and save everyone the trouble. I can see it now, "Barbie Antoinette", "Barbie Queen of Scots"...ooh my repurpose wheels are turning...


What the crap does this have to do with RRR? Well, the lack of putting-away-ness of my children means that many board games, Lego sets, Nerf darts, Barbies, end up trashed. We have two new Lego board games the kids got for Christmas, and as I'm cleaning I'm finding bits of them all over the place. The chances of us being able to recreate what was originally in the box? Zilch, I betcha.

And the batteries...oh man.

So, I'm beginning by cleaning this room the way I clean everything:

  • Starting in the far corner of the room from the door.
  • Clean the room in rows from left to right, top to bottom
  • Sort things into piles as I go. Example: a Lego pile, a train track pile, a book pile, a pile of things that don't go in this room. 
  • Nothing stays where it doesn't belong. 
  • Once the whole room is in piles, figure out the best storage and then put them away
  • Dust
  • Wipe
  • Vaccuum
  • Beat the children if they don't keep it this way (Kidding.)
Dirty side

Like I said, I still have the other side of the room to deal with, but what I need to research now is finding ways to make it simple for the kids to put pieces away when they're finished. I could watch them every time they play with anything, but that would just make everyone unhappy. I've been to homes where the toys are all sorted by type and the kids all put them back where they came from...maybe I'm a bad role model. I've never been good at keeping things clean or organized, and I don't know how to create a system or motivation for my kids. Ideas?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Here's the mail, it never fails...

Girl 1 looked out the window today, saw the outgoing mail sticking out of the box, and ran to the door with excitement. "Mom! Mom! Mail's here!" I had no idea she was so enthusiastic about mail. Her little face fell when I told her that the mail carrier hadn't arrived yet, and we needed to leave that mail in the mailbox.

Inspiration time!

I think I may have mentioned my hoarding...I have an ever-growing stash of boxes, canisters, bottles, and yes plastic bags, in my basement. I try to use them for all my bulk buying, and now that we're committing to less processed food it should be less of an issue, but still, I have a pile of empty junk lurking. Right now it all fits in a cabinet, but I need to be more proactive about reusing it all.

One of the things that was down there, oddly, was an empty fridge pack for Pepsi Max. Not sure why it didn't get recycled, maybe the craft-gods knew we'd need it. Another awesome coincidence was that we had opened it at the wrong end, so it didn't have the can dispenser hole. Instead, we had just opened the flaps at the wrong end. Score! We were going to make a mailbox for Girl 1.


First we cut the two big flaps and the bottom small flap off the (incorrectly) opened end.

Mail goes in

Then we finished punching in the handle-hole bit on the top of the box, this would be our mail slot.

Mail comes out

Then I had Girl 1 pick out colors of construction paper and I taped it on to the box. Not so pretty, but she was in control and liked picking the colors herself. We cut a piece of construction paper to fit the open end of the box and taped it to the remaining top flap. This would be how Girl 1 would reach in and retrieve the mail.

Behold the evil grin. 

    Girl 1 colored while I taped.


After the box was covered in paper (leaving the slot in the top uncovered) Girl 1 decorated it with markers. If we'd had stickers that would have been so cute. Maybe the next time we get junk mail from Disney Movie Club we'll add 'em...

Here's the mail, it never fails!

We put it on our "catch all" so Girl 2 can't reach it. So far her Daddy, Boy 2, and I have all written little love notes and put them in the box. Today when she was sleeping, her cousins stopped by and while they were here I had them put a note in the mailbox.

She LOVES getting mail.