Saturday, January 31, 2009

Come here Money Monster!

Raise your hand if better money management was one of your New Years Resolutions.  How are you doing with that a month in?  

Like so many today, that was one of my biggest resolutions.  I made it to save more, pay off debt, and consume less (remember the Story of Stuff?).  Much to my husband's dismay, I have never been good at managing money.  I was never really taught how.  But this year I am succeeding!  

Part of it is my newfound dedication to benefiting the planet through consumption of less new stuff, heck, less stuff in general.  But another big part of it is the fact that found this handy online tool called Mint.  Have you seen this?  It's a free online budgeting service that links your money directly to an online budget that you create. 

This has been incredible for me because I am a visual person, and this allows me to see in pie and bar graphs (I know, I never would have dreamt I would be excited about graphs) what money has been spent, where, and how much I have left for the month.  

This is a great motivator to spend less.  Nothing is better than seeing the money spent line behind the days of the month line.  It's a great motivator to consume less.   And as if that wasn't enough, it's great for the planet because it is a paper-free way to help you keep your resolutions and become a smarter consumer, or non-consumer.

Have you done something like this?  Does it help you?  Any other helpful tips on embracing the money monster?

Oh, and if you are in need of some great stuff that is earth-friendly on the cheap, check out Ecosteals.  A new website launching tomorrow that sells one green product at a time at a 40%-80% discount until it's gone (holy discount Batman!).  Visit the website and sign-up for email notifications.   Even if you don't need it, it's cool to window shop and see how many Mama E lovin' options there really are.

I am off to the handmade art market today.  I am so excited and will post on it soon.  Y'all have a great Saturday!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hugging the Monster

I heard a man say yesterday that in these difficult times we have to "Hug the Monster."  This phrase struck me because lately my oldest has been hiding from a monster in our house.  It seems like our whole lives lately revolve around this monster.

And I think that's how it is for a lot of people right now.  They might not have the literal big black blob hiding in their house, but they may be battling the monster of a lost job, tougher than normal economic times, foreclosure, etc...

We are all faced with the monster of what's happening in our world and to our planet.  And the news became even more bleak this week.  I know in times like these it's easy to give-up, panic, do nothing.  But ignoring the monster doesn't make him go away.  Hiding in our rooms with the door shut like my 3 year-old doesn't make him go away.  Most of the times, monsters leave on their own, after they have been stared down and told "You will not get the best of me!"  

And so my dear friends, though it may seem hopeless, that's what I am going to try to do.  That's what I hope you will try to do with whatever monsters you face on whatever fronts.  Because in the end, taking even the smallest of actions is empowering.  It makes us stronger and the monster weaker, and it shows us that we can make a difference.  And though the difference may be small, and it may seem confined to your own little world, trust me when I say that it isn't.  You having courage helps me to have courage and that means something!

Have you hugged a monster lately?  Are you hugging one now?  How do you get through it?    Please share your story and your courage with us.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The numbers don't lie

Why is this man so happy?  Because he lowered his cholesterol!  I know, it's cheesy, but it's great!  I never guessed 6 months ago when I became vegan that my hubby would follow down the veggie trail.  In fact, this meat and potatoes boy has gone almost completely vegan too (he does indulge in the occasional cheese pizza)!  And it has paid off.  

You see, the hubby can be deceptively unhealthy.  He is skinny and he can eat a ton without gaining weight (I know, sometimes it makes me wish I was deceptively unhealthy), but he has a family history of high cholesterol.  Which is why at wellness testing last year is cholesterol was...gasp...220!!!

But 9 months later (5 of it being almost vegan) he has dropped his cholesterol too...wait for it...

In case you, like me, are not a math whiz, that is 53 points!!!

Now, my dear readers, you may be asking, what does this have to do with the environment.  Well, a couple of things...

1. Eating less animal products benefits the environment.  The short way of explaining this is growing grain to feed animals instead of you is double the energy usage, in fact, more than that because....animals (especially cows) produce large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.   A great book on this is "In the Defense of Food."

2. When you eat less animal products and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and waistline, you make less of an impact on the environment.  You take up less space, less product, less gas, less toxic (even if life-saving) medicine, less trips to the hospital and use of machines, etc...Less, less, less!  And when it comes to Mama E, less is more!

I am not jumping on the vegan soap-box (I will save that for another day), but just think about the impact that maybe cutting meat out one day a week would have.  Do you think you can do it?  Do you have any great veggie recipes to share?  Do you have meat or no meat stories to share?  Cholesterol stories to share?  I wanna hear em! 

And just in case you were wondering, the technician said my cholesterol reading was the lowest she had ever seen at...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Let your fingers do the walking...

I want to thank Michele for inspiring today's post!  After talking about catalogs, the clever Michele asked, yes, but how do I stop my Yellow Pages from coming?  Talk about a huge waste of paper right?  Today most of us use the internet for just about everything, including looking up names and addresses for people or businesses.  And yet, these tomes of information still get delivered to our house every year (at least).

I want to thank Simple-Green-Frugal for teaching me how to do this just last week so I can pass it on to you!  If you no longer use your yellow/white pages and want to ensure that your reserve precious resources by canceling your delivery, just visit Yellow Pages Go Green, and opt out of service.  It's simple, it's easy, it's earth saving.

Now I know we have an many international readers (thank you!).  Can any of you comment on something similar you may have found in your respective countries?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Salt

My husband and I go in for wellness testing at today.  Hopefully I will be posting those very positive results Thursday.  But I thought today as we go in to have our blood pressure and cholesterol screened, it might be a really good day to look at other uses for salt than making french fries even more delicious.

I got these tips from my local zoo newsletter and I was amazed at how many I hadn't even heard of before:

1. Polish: Mix salt and vinegar into a thick paste, use a soft cloth to buff onto brass and silver, rinse with water.

2. Pick-up: If you drop an egg, or oil, or other slimy mess, sprinkle with salt to make clean-up easier.

3. Defrost windows:  We need this in Michigan right now!  Wipe down the inside of car and home windows with a sponge dipped in saline solution and dry.  It will keep frost from forming.

4. Germ-killer: Soak your bacteria laden (believe me, they are) kitchen sponges in saline solution to disinfect.

5. Weed-killer: Mix 1 part salt to 3 parts boiling water and pour directly on weeds to kill.

6. Cutting board clean: If your cutting board smells, it's probably because of bacteria.  Rub salt into the cutting board (and lemon if you like) and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  Rinse with water and allow to dry thoroughly before using again.  Your board will be germ free and smell like new.

7. Put our fires:  Keep salt nearby in case of small grease fires. Throw some on to put them out.

8. Iron cleaner: Sprinkle salt onto paper and run the iron over it.  Then shoot steam out of the jets to clean them out and wipe the face of the iron clean.  This will remove all the junk buildup from the iron and ultimately your clothes.

9. Drain cleaner: Pour equal parts salt and water down drains to degrease and remove smells.

10. Prevent creosote build-up:  I am SO trying this one.  If you use a fireplace (or woodstove like us) toss a handful of salt onto your fire occasionally to break-up build-up in the flu and prevent flu fires.

And what do I have to add to the list...only my mom's tried and true method for sore throats and stuffy noses.  At the first sign of a sore throat, gargle warm salt water to disinfect and ease pain.  For stuffy noses, you can actually sniff salt water to clear things out or use a Neti pot if you want to do it the fancy way.

Alright, it's your turn...what are your favorite salt solutions?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Catalog Craziness

Look what came in the mail this weekend...

...760 pages of virgin tree paper, printed with toxic ink, wrapped in plastic.  Bet you never thought the JCPenney catalog was pure environmental evil.  Believe it or not, neither did I until it came to my house on Saturday.  

I don't know what my fascination is with the Penney's catalog.  I think it has something to do with the nostalgia it evokes of a time when a younger Willo used to peruse the pages, dog-earring the ones that had school clothes I wanted in the fall, or ripping out the ones that would make my perfect Christmas wish list in the winter.  

But I am not that younger self anymore and when I saw it this weekend all I could think was, "I don't have time to look through this.  I don't need anything in it, and even if I did I could just find it online.  It's just going to go in the recycling bin, what a complete waste."  

So the real question is, how do I keep this from happening in the future?  This morning I am visiting the JCPenney website and those of any other catalog that comes to my house and I never read to cancel the subscription.  I am also going to Catalog Choice, a site that allows consumers to limit their catalog (and some junk mail) choices to those they really want and use, thereby saving money, paper, and other precious resources.  

If you get a chance, stop by and limit your choices today.  And if you have any suggestions of how to reuse old catalogs, your catalog stories, or anything else, as always, I would love to hear them!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Old Mother Hubbard...

I organized my cupboards this weekend.  I know, it's a thrilling life I lead.  Try not to get too jealous.  Anyway, my point is, I was struck by the beauty of the glass jars all lined up there holding our food items.  They are a symbol of my family's efforts over the last few months to stop waste in its tracks, starting with what we bring home from the grocery store.  We have been trying harder and harder to buy in bulk and store in repurposed glass jars.  

Obviously there are still a few items we haven't found a way around yet (anyone have a good suggestion from reducing the waste of packaging with cereal bars?) but for every glass jar I see in my cupboard, that's at least one plastic container that didn't even have to be made, let alone recycled.  That is beautiful to me all the way around.  

What about you?  What do your cupboards look like?  What ways have you found to reduce waste at the front end of grocery shopping?  Please share!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Maybe Winnie the Pooh Had It Right

Happy Weekend!!! My mom called me one morning a couple days ago to tell me about something she had seen on her morning news show. This isn't an uncommon occurrence as we do not watch TV and therefore always miss out on the "the latest studies" my mom calls to tell us about. This one was about a pediatrician who had found that sometimes giving your children honey works as a cough suppressant. Perhaps you saw it.

 The main idea is that often cough medicines are unsafe for young children and that a spoonful of honey might work just as well for children over the age of 1 (honey is a no, no for children under that age according to the medical gurus that be). So the other day when our youngest, 14 month-old Everett, developed a hacking cough that caused him to lose his pacifier, start screaming, and wake us up all night long, you better betcha I broke out that honey. 

And guess worked! A spoonful of honey before bed and nary a cough all night long. My sanity and I say thank you to the sun, the bees, the flowers, the earth for this little magic remedy that lets us all sleep better.

What about you? Have you had success with honey for a cough? Honey for other things?

And on a side-note, how do you like the new layout? I am playing around with things, so please share your feedback. Good or bad, bring it on, this is your page too!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Everything AND the kitchen sink

For this last day of lemon cleaning, I tackled my most difficult kitchen challenge, the kitchen sink. This area proves incredibly difficult because...

A. We have no dishwasher so all manner of things gets piled in here
B. We have no garbage disposal so all manner of things stayed piled in here
C. It is a light color and prone to staining and looking generally gross

And I must admit, up until I tried lemons, this is the one area of my house where I was harboring a potentially toxic cleaning tool, the magic eraser. It was the only thing I could find to keep stains and grime from sticking around. I should have known Mother Nature had a much better solution. You guessed it, the lemon (rind in this case).

Here is the infamous sink ready to get the scrub down:

OH, the embarrassment!!! But I must show you the drain covers. Ewwww!
And after about 5 minutes of some good elbow grease, I sat back, inhaled deeply the beautiful aroma and enjoyed the sight of this:

There you have it my friends, three less than desirable kitchen tasks all accomplished in about 15 minutes on less than .5o cents with sweet, clean, delicious smelling, and need I say earth-friendly results.  Did you try any of them this week?  How did they work?  Did they inspire you to try something else?  Do share!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lemon v. Tea

I love tea.  I adore it.  It makes me happy.  What does not make me happy is the stains left behind by my liquid love.  So when I heard that scrubbing with a lemon rind will remove tea-stained cups and counters I was thrilled.  

Here are my cups.  No matter how hard I scrub them with dish soap they remain dingy.

Here is the counter where I keep my tea pot and pour my tea and generally spill tea all over (accidentally of course) several times a day,

I took the left over lemon after squeezing it into my microwave cleaning mug and got to work.
After about 5 minutes of scrubbing, I was left with these results and the divine smell of living in a lemon tree grove...

What do you think?  Now here's the thing, because I don't drink it, I have no idea if this will work on coffee.  Does anyone else know?  Anyone willing to try it?  Come back tomorrow for a look at what sink v. lemon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Passing on the love!

I am new to this whole blog world and am just now realizing that when receiving an award, it is good and kind (and maybe expected) that you pass it on.  So I would like to pass on the Lemonade Stand Award:

Given for being...
“positive, show gratitude, and of course: make lemons out of lemonade!”

To my new pal, Lucy Pursglove at Semi Self Sufficiency in Suburbia.  To become Self Sufficient is commendable in and of itself, but to do it in Suburbia is truly blooming where you are planted.

When life gives you lemons...

...Clean your kitchen!  So, the Lemonade Stand award last week gave me the inspiration I needed to try something I have been meaning to do for a while.  I am attempting to clean my kitchen with a lemon.  I bought one organic lemon from the store (99 cents) cut it half, and went to town on my kitchen to see how many different ways I could use it.  Over the next 3 days I will show you the three different (and I think really cool) ways I was able to use half a lemon to clean.  

Today we are going to venture into scary territory, my microwave.  The first thing I did with the lemon was cut it in quarters and squeeze one quarter into a mug. As we are cleaning the microwave, I would suggest a mug that is microwavable.  Here are pictures of the microwave before:
I put the mug in, set the microwave for 8 minutes, and made my kids lunch while I waited.  You could probably get away with 6 minutes but mine needs 8 for some reason.  When I heard the ding, I removed the mug (very carefully) and used a microfiber cleaning cloth to wipe down the microwave.  

The water/steam loosen the stuck on food and the lemon helps to get rid of old food smell and leave it, well, lemony fresh.  Check in tomorrow for tea tackling, the lemon way.  And in the meantime, fill me in on your "green" lemon or microwave cleaning tips!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

10 uses Tuesday: Chalk

What a beautiful morning! On this morning that is truly the coming of a new dawn for the United States I couldn't help but share with you this gorgeous view from my bedroom window. Looks like Mother Nature is smiling with me.
In addition to one of the most significant days in American history, it is 10 uses Tuesday. I know, totally anti-climatic, but no one can really compete with that.

Today's 10 uses Tuesday is all about chalk. Anyone with kids probably has it lying around and who knew it could be used for all these things! I especially like the degreasing a collar tip. But I have to admit, most of these are for people far handier than myself. Which is why my use is super simple.

Last summer we had a problem with tiny little ants coming through this tiny little hole between the floor and the wall. Now who could blame them really with all the yummy crumbs and smears of jelly my kids leave around, but that doesn't make me want to welcome them into my home. So I heard somewhere that if you put chalk in their path they won't come over it. For some reason they don't like walking over it. So we tried it....

And no more ants! Through that hole any way. Feel free to share your own ingenious uses for chalk, or getting rid of ants, or anything else you might want to get off your chest. And...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sweet Tooth

Sunday is usually our day to go grocery shopping around here, so my cupboards are now stocked full of yummy treats.  This chocolate is one of my very favorite!  Since becoming vegan 6 months ago I have desperately missed really great chocolate.  But I finally found this delicious morsel that is 55% cocoa and has pieces of of almond in it and now I must have at least a few bars in my house at any given time.  

Why is a good chocolate so hard to find?  Well, first off for me because I need dark chocolate (most dark chocolate is usually vegan and much better for you...if chocolate can be better for you) and then there's the matter of getting it fair-trade and organic.  Now most of the time things I do around here to help us and the planet end up saving us quite a bit of money.  This is one thing I have to splurge on.  

Buying fair-trade chocolate means that you are making sure that the farmers who farm the cocoa and make the chocolate get paid a fair price for the product they produce.  It also ensures that there is no (often unpaid) child labor being used to produce the chocolate.  

Buying organic means that the cocoa and other ingredients weren't smothered in pesticides and other chemicals before reaching your cupboard.  It also usually means that the beans were shade grown, not only preventing chemical use, but providing necessary habitat for hundreds of types of animals and insects.

So whether you are buying your sweetie goodies for Valentine's Day or just feeding your own sweet tooth, make sure you indulge responsibly.  Ultimately that's always the most satisfying way.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sniff Sniff. Wheeze Wheeze.

To say that it has been cold here in Michigan would certainly be an understatement.  Every morning I wake up to my trees blanketed in snow and smile.  And then I hear it...sniff, sniff,'s my family, and sometimes me.  We have become a bunch of snuffleupaguses with stuffy noses, runny noses, sore raw red noses.  And we are cold and snowbound all day just passing it back and forth to one another and going through more kleenex then anyone ever imagined possible.  

The worst part about the snuffles is that it keeps my babies from sleeping...which means it keeps me from sleeping...and I need sleep.  A lot of people use vapor rub, but I am suspect.  For one, it is petroleum based product which equals bad news for you and Mama E.  And, it isn't recommended for children under the age of 2.  No wonder with ingredients like "spirit of turpentine."  Am I the only one beginning to wonder if I can't put it can't be used on a  baby then maybe everyone should give it a second thought?
So I was over the moon when I discovered this simple, inexpensive, and most importantly, effective solution.  PEPPERMINT OIL!  I took a whif of it a while back and it totally cleared me up.  That got me to thinking, if this works for me, it's bound to work for the little guys.  So I started putting a few drops on the mattresses (for the smallest one) and pillows of all who were stuffy and they stopped sniffling and coughing and started sleeping like the proverbial baby!  All night long!  They even woke up less stuffy!  That's what I call a little miracle in a bottle.

If you don't feel comfortable putting it right on the pillow, try a few drops in a humidifier in the room and make your own vaporizer.  If you don't just have peppermint oil, I found this great place where you can grab a bunch and save a historic mint farm from foreclosure.  

And stock up because not only have I found peppermint oil great for easing stuffiness, but it's a huge blessing when I have a headache or want a refreshing bath.  What about you?  Are you a fan of peppermint oil?  What for?  

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ocean Hair

Does my hair look like I just got out of the ocean?  I have to confess, I haven't actually been in an ocean in over 4 years, so the image of what my hair might look like when I emerge from the salty waters is far from fresh in my mind.  But I can tell you this.  I wish my hair looked like this when I got out of any body of water, including bath tub.  

I recently tried John Masters Organics Sea Mist - Sea Salt Spray with Lavender which claims it will make your hair look like you just stepped out of the ocean.  I love it!  Now I have to make clear that I have thick wavy/curly hair to begin with so I have no idea what it would do with other types.  But I have been looking for something to replace the toxic gels and things I used previously and this is perfect because it gives me the look of wavy not frizzy hair without any crunch or buildup.  And the ingredients are:  Water, Sea Salt, Lavender oil.  That's it!  Which is great because:

A. Those things are all super natural, non-toxic, good for me and Mama E, etc...
B. I totally have them laying around my house and can try making this on my own!!!

And I am going to try as soon as I run out, which I estimate will take at least 2 months.  However, if any of you want to try it before then and let me know how it goes, I would love to hear.  Just make sure you don't forget the lavender oil as it is the "secret ingredient" that keeps the hair from drying out.  Speaking of drying out, I better go dry my hair.  In subzero temperatures I can only afford to have beautiful dry ocean hair.


Thank you to Melinda at One Green Generation for our very first award in the blog world.  This is such an huge deal to me and I am so grateful!  And thank you all for continuing to read, comment, and share the page!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Skin Deep

I have all these reviews I want to post about different products but it occurs to me that I need to lay a foundation for it first.  So here it goes...

The beauty and skin care products you use are so important for two reasons. The first is that your skin is your largest organ.  Do you really know what you are feeding it?  Whatever you put on your skin goes directly into your body.  The second is that these are the products that often get washed down the drain and into our soil and water.  Oh wait, and there is a third...products with synthetic  and toxic materials rather than organic ones take more energy to produce.

Do you take a look at what is in your products you and your family use?  If you did would you really know what it all meant?  I have been working on this for a long time and I still can't figure it out sometimes.  Especially when there is so much "green washing" going on nowadays.  Everyone is rushing to put "all natural" (which really means nothing), "natural ingredients," etc... Even when you think you are making good choices, you may just be getting duped by the latest company to try to cash in on the craze.  

So here are some basic things to look for in your products.  Do you see any of the following on your product:
  • fragrance (the very thing that makes you love the smell of your baby, may be bad for him)
  • hydroquinone (check your moisturizers for this one)
  • coal tar
  • aluminum
  • lead or mercury
  • triclosan (take a close look at antibacterial creams)
Those are the big bad boys.  You should try to avoid these products with these ingredients all together.  It can be a little more complicated with other ingredients and items so check out this great skin deep cosmetic database that breaks it all down for you and literally helps to give you a red, yellow, or green light on over 40,000 different products.  Just type in the one you are interested in and see the rating.

I know what you are thinking now, but then what do you use?  I didn't believe it either but there are healthy alternatives to well, everything.  I haven't found one thing that didn't have a healthy alternative yet!  And those are the things I am going to share with you here.  In fact, check back in tomorrow for a review on an great hair product!  And if you have other things you want me to blog about or look into, feel free to leave a comment or post a question on the Facebook page (which you should "fan" if you haven't).