Saturday, October 31, 2009

Buy It Used Home Tour: Bedroom and Bathroom

Today I take you to my youngest son, Everett's, bedroom. Here you will find the toy chest above. This traveled to my home from my mother's. She bought this one, and the same one in green (which is in Tucker's room) about 20 years ago. It's the place where she stored school projects, report cards, etc...for my brother and me. These now house toys in the boys' rooms, but every time I see them they make me happy and bring back memories. Plus I think they are pretty cute for toy storage.

This changing table is almost 30 years old! It was my husband's when he was a baby and it has now been through both our boys. When the youngest gets potty trained, I am planning on repurposing it (maybe as craft storage or more toy storage, suggestions?). Hopefully we can keep it around long enough for our kids to use it too if they so choose.
The last thing I want to show you in Everett's room is this dresser. This was passed down to my mom, was in my childhood bedroom, and has now been in both boys rooms at some point. I think it's a beautiful piece and another one I hope to keep around.

And there is one more thing I want to share with you today, which is not in a bedroom. It is actually this piece we picked up at the same sale where we got the living room table. We used it originally in our first home where we had no storage in the bathroom. We now live in the home built for storage, but I still love using this piece. It's in the hall bathroom (the boys' bathroom) where it holds a laundry basket for guests, little extras, etc...It just goes to show you that when you find a great piece, you can use it, reuse it, and repurpose it anywhere.

Any stories from your home? Any pictures? Anything? Bueller?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Buy It Used Home Tour: Living Room

My living room is the largest room in my home, and therefore, the one with the most furnishings and used furnishings. Let's start with the table above. My husband and I got the the table itself for our first home before we were even married at an upscale consignment shop boutique place that was moving for 1/2 off! The clock on it was given to us and I have had the lantern since high school. This is another great way to do environmental good. Treat the stuff you love well and hang onto it forever.
This frame hangs above that table. I found it on Craigslist for $10 and use it as a bulletin board for all my son's art work. This way his creations can be displayed as the true works of art they are and when he makes new stuff, I can take a picture and recycle what was there.
I found this end table at a garage sale for $50 about 3 years ago. If you are thinking "Willo, that sounds a little expensive for a garage sale." I was totally with you. But here's why it is completely worth it; it's sturdy, I like the look of it, and it just wipes clean when someone sets a drink on it/my kids spill the milk they aren't supposed to have in the living room all over it.These two chest were acquired about 6 months ago from my local village consignment shop. I had been looking for something that would hide the kid's toys nicely but they could still access easily and I wanted something that loosely matched the afore mentioned end table, but not exactly. When I found these I knew they were perfect. I got them both for $40. The tiny wooden rocking chair was given to my oldest when he was about 1 by a family friend. It was a family heirloom that had reached the end of the line in that family and gained new life in ours.

This bookshelf is a recent Craigslist find and for $30 it was the addition to this space. Someday I may get something bigger that takes up more of the wall, but right now the kids play there. The lamp was given to us by my husband's Grandma who wasn't using it in her home.

So there you have it, the living room. What do you have in yours that's used and you love?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Buy It Used Home Tour: "Dining Room"

One of the pieces of feedback I got on what y'all would like to see more of is that you wanted to see my place and how we do things around here. That spurred this idea in me that I could share with all of you, all of the things in my house that I bought used (or was given) and LOVE using every day. Now you can see I practice what I preach. And while my house will never be in Better Homes & Gardens, it works for us. And buying (or getting) used can work for you too. You just need a little patience, a love of the environment, and/or a real appreciation of the story inside each item.

So to start our Buy It Used Home Tour, let's hit my "dining room" (pictured above). I say that because we do not have a formal dining room. This table sits in our large kitchen...but it is the dining room as we know it. This table and chairs were given to us for free (can't beat that price tag) by some friends who were getting a new one. I am big on not spending a lot on furniture while my kids are young. I don't want to pay a ton of money for anything, let alone anything that's going to be drawn on, oatmeal encrusted, and sneezed all over before 7:00 am everyday.

The wooden high chair like, well, chair is something I picked up at a garage sale over 3 years ago for $3. It has been through two kids. The light fixture was here when we moved in. The birch branch candle holder was given to me by mom who got it from a friend who was giving it away. All these people giving great stuff away. Turns out that thing they say about one person's trash being another's treasure is true!

Now I want you to share your pictures this week too! Today take a look around your kitchen/dining room. Any great finds from garage sales? Craigslist? Consignment stores? Stuff you were given? Please share!

Monday, October 26, 2009

So You Say It's Your Birthday!?!

Today is the happy day that I turn 28! I have always kind of loved birthdays. Everyone's. Mine included. But you know what I find I always get asked on and around my birthday (other than how old I am)? "What did you get?" Specifically, "What did your husband get you?"

Well today you lucky folks, I am letting you in on my secret. Because the answer is the same every year. What Paul gave me today, and what he gives me every year (and the same thing I gave him), is MEMORIES.

A while back Paul and I decided that for all the major occasions (birthdays, anniversary, holidays) we would stash some money away and use it to DO something special with one another. It's not that there aren't things I want, or even need. But things come and go. Memories are much more precious to me and are here to stay. Plus, they have a small carbon footprint.

It's not for everyone. I know some people really like the actual opening of presents on special days. I get that. But I hope maybe on my birthday I can give you the gift of a new idea. A present to you, your loved one(s), and the planet! Happy birthday indeed!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Skin Brushing

On Wednesday I shared some ways that my family and I try to stay healthy. But today I want to focus on one activity I engage in daily to help protect and promote my overall health. Every day before I get in the bath or shower (ok, bath. It's my environmentally unfriendly vice. There, I said it.), I take my dry skin brush (pictured above) and brush head to toe. Ok, not really head, face sometimes though, and all the rest of it.

And here's why skin brushing is great for you. I found this website that gave me the top 11 reasons for skin brushing. And this, I adore because 11 is my lucky number. So here you have them:

1. Removes cellulite

2. Cleanses the lymphatic system

3. Removes dead skin layers

4. Strengthens the immune system

5. Stimulates the hormone and oil-producing glands

6. Tightens the skin preventing premature aging

7. Tones the muscles

8. Stimulates circulation

9. Improves the function of the nervous system

10. Helps digestion

11. AND it’s easy, inexpensive and invigorating!

Because I am a woman, I know what you women are thinking. "Did #1 say, remove cellulite?" Yes it did my friend. Plus all those other great benefits to you without any harm to the environment. So what are you waiting for? Get your skin brush and get on it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Staying Green and Healthy During Flu Season

Here in Michigan we are in the midst of a huge flu outbreak. Tucker's school is cancelled yesterday and today due to illness and everyone is in a tizzy over vaccinations, staying in, and staying well. We really aren't worrying about it that much in our house, but we are taking some basic, green, precautions to stay as healthy as we can. Whether you are a flu worrying fanatic or just someone who wants to stay as healthy as possible in every way possible, here are some things that are helping us:
  • Start healthy. We try to always eat a balanced diet with lots of (organic when possible) fruits and veggies. Yogurt is a daily staple for everyone (Ok, almost everyone. I can't get my husband on board yet.) because it is filled with the good bacteria that helps keep your system balanced and restore your body to where it needs to be, especially if you are taking antibiotics. We all take multivitamins daily. The truth is, if you keep your immune system up, you are less likely to get sick even if you are exposed and if you do get sick, you will get over it quicker.
  • Wash your hands. This is common sense right? But sometimes it's tough. Like yesterday when Tucker kept putting his hands in his mouth and I literally had to ask him to wash his hands with soap over 20 times. Also, the kind of soap you use is important too. There a lot of studies now saying that over using anti-bacterial soap may be weakening our immune systems. So try to get a soap that's as chemical free as possible. If you want a hand sanitizer on the go, try for something that will still do the job chemical free, like Babyganics hand sanitizer.
  • Change your toothbrush. It's a good idea to regularly change your toothbrush anyway, but even more so when you or someone in the house has been sick. Try Preserve toothbrushes (for adults and kids) that are made out of recycled toothbrushes and try to recycle yours when possible.
  • Get the chemicals out. This may seem counter intuitive when you are trying to stay healthy, but being surrounded by chemicals constantly can actually make you more sick and weaken your immune system. Kind of ironic if the very thing you are using to clean is making you sicker. I try to wipe down high traffic areas (faucets, light switches, computers, cell phones, door knobs) every day with vinegar and water and a microfiber cloth. Remember, vinegar is the original disinfectant.
  • Try not to stress. Worry and stress will knock down your immune system. So take the precautions you can and then try to let it go.
What are you doing to stay green and healthy (which are basically the same thing right)? What more do you want to do?

I am wishing all of you the very best health this crazy season!

Monday, October 19, 2009

How To Go Green On The Cheap

I hope that throughout almost a year of posting this blog, I have helped you realize that going green doesn't have to be expensive. But I realize that some of you are new to Green Gracious (welcome!) and two hundred twenty some posts can be a lot to sift through to find the really affordable stuff. Plus one of my favorite fun bloggers always says that things are just easier with bullet points. I agree. I am a bullet point kind of gal. So here we go, how to go green on the cheap-bullet point style.
  • Make your own where you can. Start with the really simple stuff like vinegar, water, and baking soda to clean. You won't believe how much you can save just on cleaning products. Then if you want, you can reinvest that into some more pricey green purchases.
  • Reuse. Cloth napkins, taking furniture from one place in your house to another, washing ziplock baggies (that haven't been used for meat), these are all great examples of reusing things in your house to keep from having to buy more and thus, save money. And there are about a million or so more.
  • Buy used. Before you head to the store, make it a habit to check out the local consignment store, garage sale, Craigslist, or Ebay. You would be amazed at what you find. I keep a running list of what I need (right now measuring cups are on there) on my phone so I can reference it when I am out and about.
  • Sell used. Think about listing your things on Craigslist, Ebay, or having a garage sale. I list all the bigger items we don't need anymore (furniture, large toys, etc...) and keep a running rubbermaid bin in a closet for our annual garage sale.
  • Look for a bargain. Because organic is becoming more popular, it is coming down in price a little. And more mainstream brands are realizing that going green is a good idea. Look at places you shop frequently (my big one is Target) for organic alternatives when you are out and you may be surprised at how they compare in price to what you were using.
  • Learn something new. Doing it yourself is one of the original green secrets. Learn to sew, bake, cook, garden, etc...and you will feel empowered, talented, and be capable of doing a lot more green good.
Simple. Easy. Bulleted.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What do YOU want?

I want to start today's blog by saying, THANK YOU! Thank you for coming to Green Gracious. Thank you for the comments and encouragement. Thank you for following, subscribing, being Facebook fans, etc...But most of all, thank you for being committed to making our world better!
You all make me smile.

So today I want to ask you, what do you want from Green Gracious? What do you want to see more of? What do you want to see something of? Anything you'd like to see less of? I was thinking about starting to share some vegan recipes that my family enjoys. Would that be a benefit? We get a lot of action on days where I post a Green Gracious Flea Market. Want more of that? Suggestions, feedback, constructive criticism? Bring it on! This is your blog too!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Product Review: Bubble and Bee Lip Balm

In a previous review of Bubble and Bee I mentioned that the Pit Putty wasn't exactly what I was looking for. Although, to be fair to the Pit Putty, I still haven't found a safe deodorant I am happy with. But I ordered that Pit Putty in a pack that came with two organic lip balms and I am back today to tell you how over the moon I am with them.

My purchase came with the unscented and peppermint cocoa lip balms. Both are creamy, smooth, healing, and go on like a dream. I find they are especially perfect for applying under my lipstick so that it goes on smooth and looks shiny. But let me just a rave a little more for a minute on the peppermint cocoa scent. This is divine! It smells/tastes great. I find myself reaching for it to give my mouth that fresh scent and feeling. And I have found the added bonus that sometimes because of the cool peppermint and indulgent cocoa smells, I feel like I have given myself a little treat without having to actually eat one.

But maybe the very best thing about this lip balm, whether you get it in the peppermint cocoa, unscented, karma apple, coconut & lime, root beer, orange, or new rude rasberry, is the price. Each one is only $3.99. For an organic lip balm! Or you can save even more and try even more with the sample pack (6 for $19.99). A treat for you, your wallet and the planet!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Come on Baby Light My Fire

Brrrr! It is COLD here in Michigan! And I hear rumors that it is going to be the coldest winter in 10 years. Yikes! I know I have mentioned that around here we heat primarily with wood stove. There are some definite positives to heating wood, especially when you heat (as we do) with fallen trees. But like anything, that can be debated.

Whether you heat primarily with wood, or you just like a nice toasty fire in your hearth, there are greener ways to light your fire. You can make your very own fire starters using materials found in nature.
  • On a dry fall day gather small sticks, pine cones, pine needles, and dry leaves in a bucket.
  • Wrap them in little bundles with paper-you can use newspaper, or I used packaging paper. Make sure each bundle has a little bit of everything and tie with raffia or small string.
These little packages serve as kindling and paper all in one and make a wonderful smelling, family and earth friendly alternative for starting cozy fires.

Has anyone tried this? Something similar?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Product Review: Skinny Skinny Body Oil

When I recently ran out of my more toxic perfume and body lotion, I tried to find something that would sort of fill both rolls. So on reference from another blog I love, I purchased the Skinny Skinny Organic Jasmine Green Tea Body Oil. I was hoping that applying something that was safe to my skin with a light smell after my bath, that I would kill two birds with one stone by hydrating and scenting my skin at the same time.

I will say that the oil worked very well to hydrate and I was quite impressed with how little went so far. And the scent was subtle and pleasant. It would probably be perfect for a woman who doesn't really like much scent. It wasn't enough for me, but it was a nice, safe, organic addition to skin care. And it left my skin feeling soft and silky all day long. Ultimately I don't know that I would recommend it as a perfume replacement, but definitely a great, safer solution to most lotions.

Has anyone else tried this? Anyone planning on it?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How Cool Would This Be?

Today I am going to ask you to join me in fantasy land for a minute. But first, a confession. I love QVC. Yes, the home shopping channel. Watching it relaxes me. It is my guilty pleasure. I listen to it like most people listen to the radio. It is one of my little joys. I am listening to it as I type this. And I will admit that every once and I while I get something I need from there, because I hate traditional shopping. I hate driving to the mall, searching for what I need, probably not finding it, driving to another store, and starting all over again.

But I admit, I do feel guilty. Because I know these things are manufactured cheaply out of plastics, non-natural fibers, etc...I know they don't benefit (99.9% of the time) artisans or causes. So I got to thinking, how great would it be if there were a channel like QVC, or maybe just some shows on QVC that were dedicated to selling organic products, products made in the USA, products made by hand artisans, or products that met the above requirements and also benefited other causes. Wouldn't that be cool? Think of the awareness it could raise! Think of the good it could do!

I know, I am probably living in la la land. But if anyone knows any big shots in the home shopping world and wants to make it happen-steal my idea! Go! Do good!

And come join me in fantasy land...tell me what you think? Tell me what green ideas are brewing in your little heads? The grand? The not so grand? Let's think big and small and green!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First Guest Post! Trillium Organics Review

Welcome to our first guest post in over 215! This one by my darling husband in his very own words...

I recently tried the organic body polish from Trillium Organics at the request of my loving wife. I had finally run out of my usual shaving gel, so it was time to try a more environmentally friendly option. I will admit that I don’t spend much time or money on personal hygiene and the associated products. I take a minimalist approach. You know, just enough not to get funny looks at work. Needless to say, the exfoliating scrub was a new experience for me. The directions indicated that I should apply the body polish to my face, scrub as desired, and then rinse with water. After the rinse, I was to be left with a layer of oil that would protect my skin as I shaved. It sounded reasonable and simple, so I gave it a try.

The body polish came in a fist-sized jar. It fit nicely in my mirror medicine cabinet. The polish was a dense mixture of salt crystals soaking in an oil. On the first day, I hesitantly scooped up the polish and brought it toward my face. I dropped some as I moved my hand from the jar to my face. As I scrubbed my face, more fell onto the bathroom counter and into the sink. It was a messier situation than I was used to. I rinsed with cool water (rinse with cool water for a thicker oil layer; warm water will thin it out), and began to shave. It was apparent after the first stroke that my protective layer of oil was not up to the task. I made a mental note to get more oil and less salt when I scooped the next day. Well, scooping more oil leads to more drips on the counter top and on my shirt, but it also led to a thicker layer of oil on my face. I shaved with minimal discomfort, but it still was not as good as my usual shave gel. I experimented for a couple more days, varying the consistency of the polish, the amount of scrubbing, and the temperature of the water I rinsed with. I found that for some areas of my face, it worked wonderfully. I had a close shave, no irritation, and a pleasant smell. But for other areas, I just couldn’t seem to get it right. The body polish just wasn’t staying where it was supposed to and was not doing its job. There is a distinct possibility that I just wasn’t using the polish the right way. Maybe I needed handfuls of the stuff. Maybe I needed more rinsing. Maybe less rinsing. The fact that I had good results sometimes leads me to believe that someone out there could get good results all the time. But not me. So for now, I am going back to the shaving gel.

Looking back at my trial of the body polish, I think it is a great exfoliator and body polish. It smells clean and natural. I found it enjoyable to do a really good scrub and get that fresh feeling for my skin. I may even encourage my wife to try it for shaving her legs. But, when it comes to my face and the daily routine of shaving, it just didn’t meet my needs for ease of use, neatness, and consistently great results.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Green Halloween

Halloween is my favorite holiday! So we have had things in full swing for quite a while around here. Just this weekend my mom was in town working on Tucker's costume (Buzz Lightyear) and I got to thinking that maybe we should share some tips with each other for a green Halloween. Here are some of mine:
  • Decorate with nature! Gourds, pumpkins, corn, hay, mums, all found in nature, all beautiful green decorations. Or...
  • Pick up great second hand decorations. Check out Craigslist, Ebay, and (best yet) local consignment stores for some great festive decor.
  • Do the same for costumes! I have found all kinds of costumes for kids and adults (all of the costumes in these pictures were garage sale or consignment finds) on Craigslist recently and the consignment stores near us are running great specials.
  • If you can't find the costume, try making it (or asking/hiring someone). Handmade ensures that the costume is one of a kind and made out of love. It also prevents a lot of plastic packaging, processing, shipping, etc...
  • Get creative! (And save money!) There are so many great ideas for costumes using things you have around your house. My husband has put on a Detroit Tigers shirt and had me draw on whiskers with eye liner. What about "Iron Chef" (wear a chef's hat and carry an iron), "Quarter Pounder" (a quarter in one hand a hammer in the other), "Freudian Slip" (iron on picture of Freud on slip), "Stick in the Mud" (wear all brown and put sticks on you. What are your ideas?
  • Think outside the bag of candy. Individual wrapping means lots of extra packaging and lots of extra impact. What about apples? Money? Popcorn balls? What are your ideas?
  • Pillow cases rock! You don't need a special Halloween bucket (often made of plastic). Grab a clean pillow case and hit the road. Extra bons-they hold more!
  • Stay local! Try to stick close to home to do your candy collecting. This will prevent extra driving and help you get to know your neighbors better.
What do you think? Doable? What am I missing? What are your ideas for a green Halloween?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lessons in the Clouds

Tucker and I have a tradition of going on dates to the movie theater. I have always loved the movie theater, and this allows me to share that love with him. So we pack up our reusable straws and popcorn bucket and head to the show. This week we saw Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs which turned out not only to be a really fun movie for parents and kids alike, but is was strewn with little hidden lessons that are good for us and the planet. This is, of course, right up the Green Gracious alley. So here are a few of the lessons I gleaned and tried to pass onto (Tucker) and now you:
  • Gluttony can be a really bad thing. It can make us unhealthy and divert our focus from the important things in life (which are mostly not things but people). In the movie this is about food, but really it can expand to anything (facebook anyone?).
  • We need to be careful with our food. Food that has been mutated beyond recognition or for which you don't know the source can spell bad news.
  • Creativity, not easy answers will brighten our sluggish economy. Green energy anyone?
Now did Tucker understand these things as I explained them to him and asked him questions about them? Probably not as much as I did. But that doesn't mean that he wasn't picking up anything. He probably (like most things) learned more then I give him credit for.

Did you see the movie? What did you think? Any lessons I missed? Any other green movie lessons hidden out there?