Saturday, December 13, 2008

Top 10

Even though we don't live there anymore, we still own a home and will always be connected to our cohousing community. I'm pretty excited to report that the community was rated #4 in Natural Home magazine's list of Top 10 Green Cohousing Developments!

ps - my camera is broken (over-exposing all the images??) so I haven't been very motivated to post lately. I like having photos with my posts!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Have You Heard About the New CPSC Law?

I don't really have time to compose a thoughtful blog post, but I wanted to get something up about this subject. I haven't really even had time to research and process this information. I'll try to get a more organized post done soon.

Apparently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Congress have just passed a law which requires ALL MAKERS of CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS in the US and importing to the US to have their products and components tested by a CPSC-certified, third-party testing laboratory FOR LEAD CONTENT.

On Feb 10, 2009, all businesses which do not comply with testing will be in violation of federal law, guilty of selling banned products and subject to fines and jail time. This will affect Etsy sellers, crafters, wooden and organic toy companies, baby carriers, ect.

Here are several links for you to consider.

National Bankruptcy Day

Handmade Toy Alliance


Reportedly a hearing has already been scheduled for this coming Wednesday that may delay or significantly change this law with respect to this problem.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Charity Month

I am going to attempt to devote the month of December to blogging about giving and charity. About mid-way through the month, I'll do my charity giveaway like last year. I'm really looking forward to the responses.

I feel very fortunate that our family is in a position to give regularly. And while we aren't donating enough to have a wing of the hospital named after us (maybe someday... *sigh*), it does feel good to donate what we can. I've heard that the more you give, the more you feel you have. I believe it.
It is very important to me to instill an attitude of giving in my children. I want them to learn to be giving with their money, their time and their energy. I want them to be thoughtful and empathetic. I don't really have a game plan for passing along these values, but here are a few examples of what we do:

- Tell them every time we give money, "Who can lick this envelope for me? We are giving money to the college where mommy went to help students that don't have enough money to pay for college."
- Take the children to donate food at the food pantry regulary (I'll blog about this sometime this month).
- Give to programs to which children can easily relate like Toys for Tots
- Plan to encourage children to give their own money (we are going to start allowances in January so I'll blog more about our plan once we start)
- With guidance, let the kids pick out household items such as outgrown clothes, old toys, etc. to be donated to charity or friends. "These shoes don't fit you anymore. Can you think of someone that we could give them to?"
- Let the kids help when making baked items or dinner for someone in need. Make sure they are with you when you drop the food off.
**The photo is from one of our visits last March to a local food pantry. I can't believe how much my kids grew since then!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sticky Situation

For our first holiday season in Colorado (2005), my friend Gretchen gave all the moms in playgroup a jar of homemade lemon sugar scrub. It was probably one of my first experiences with homemade beauty products, and I was an instant fan. I still remember how good I felt after scrubbing with it in the shower. Gotta do a lot of exfoliating in this dry Colorado climate!

The following year (2006), I decided to make and give the same lemon sugar scrub to many of my friends and family. I like to get me holiday shopping/making done early, but Gretchen warned me not to make the scrub to far in advance so it wouldn't spoil. Mid-December I made up a big batch. My jars didn't look nearly as cute as Gretchen's jars, but it did get rave reviews from some of the recipients.
Fast forward to a month ago when I am unpacking a bathroom box after our big move. I happened across an extra jar of the sugar scrub that I had made for gifts almost two years earlier (I made a few extra jars for those "emergency" gift situations!). I was tired and stressed and thought that a good scrub in the shower would surely rejuvenate me!

Before I go any further with my story, I need to add a disclaimer that at the time I mistakenly thought that I had made the scrub last Christmas (10 months earlier) not two years ago. It wasn't until afterwards that I calculated the actual time that had passed. Although my guess is that the outcome would have been the same at 10 months as it was at 22 months!
So there I am in the shower all ready to scrub. When I opened the jar, it had a bit of a funky smell to it. I should have heeded the nose warning and stopped there. But I am not one to waste, so I thought I would use it anyway. The scrub didn't come out of the jar very easily and had a bit of a funny, sticky texture. But did I let that stop me? Oh, no! I proceeded to scrub my arms and my legs with a glob of stinky, sticky sugar.

Then I went to rinse it off. And it wouldn't come off. At all. Not with soap. Not with more scrubbing. Not with more soap. Not with really hot water. Not with rubbing alcohol. On my arms, legs, and hands! I was stinky and sticky for two days while it slowly wore off. Even my clothes got stinky and sticky. And when I tried to wash the remainder of the scrub down the sink? It stuck to the sink. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck

So make your own products, but use them up before they go bad!

Check out the current December issue of Martha Stewart Living for some great homemade beauty recipes - Body Scrub , Lip Balm, Bath Snowballs, and Bath Fizzies!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Green Beauty Guide

I've written before about making my own self-care products so when I had the chance to review the book The Green Beauty Guide: Your Essential Resource to Organic and Natural Skin Care, Hair Care, Makeup, and Fragrances by Julie Gabriel, I jumped at the chance. I knew I was going to love the book even before I read the first word. Flipping through the book for the first time, I could see recipe after recipe for making your own products.

The book starts out discussing many of the ingredients found in commercial products - both the good and the bad. I knew to avoid many of these ingredients already but admit to occasionally straying when tempted by a pretty label or smell. After reading in depth about the effects of some of these ingredients, I vow to stay on the straight and narrow.

I've already mentioned all the amazing recipes. There seemed to be a homemade recipe to replace every beauty item in my bathroom. I haven't actually tried any of the recipes (same old excuses I always use: busy with kids, the move and the holidays...), plan to try most of them. Another great thing about the book is that the author recommends store products for those of us who occasionally are a bit too overwhelmed to make our own products.
My only complaint about the book it the author's recommendation to use bottled water over tap water. Admittedly she recommends filtered water first and suggests using water in glass bottles, but I don't like to see any encouragement of bottled water. However, since I know that most readers of this blog are already conscious of avoiding bottled water, I won't let that stop me from recommending the book.
In fact, I sorta didn't want to blog about the book because I plan to give a few copies away as gifts this season (hint, hint: if you are one of my family members and think I might be giving it to you, don't go out and buy one for yourself!!)
Tomorrow I'll share a funny story about one of my homemade beauty products!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More My Style

Remember what Jack was for Halloween?Jack actually like Princess Mulan. Even gave her a hug. Here is his self-portrait with her.

Princess Overload

We saw so many princesses while at Disney World! My Princess Kate loved them all...
Snow White
Sleeping Beauty
And, our favorite, Ariel
But Jack wasn't so thrilled. His response to Ariel... "I can't believe you are making me sit next to the mermaid!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I had intended to blog about the Tell Disney to Go Green! National Day of Action that took place in late October before we left for our Disney trip, but you know how that often goes around here! LOL

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) launched the Disney Go Green campaign two years ago and has since been asking Disney to eliminate toxic cleaning products from their parks and hotels. This was important to me before our trip, but after being in Disney World and seeing for myself how busy the parks are and the vast number of hotel rooms, it seems like an even more important cause.
I plan to write Disney a letter this week to express my opinion. I'll share it with you when it is complete. I hope you will write a letter or email also.

And if you are on Facebook, you can show your support by adding Green Mickey as a friend!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Family Fun at Disney

On our Disney trip, we stayed in the Yacht Club hotel (we chose this one because Matt's conference - our excuse for the trip - was being held there) which is on the Disney property. We were walking distance to Epcot and the Boardwalk so we had lots of dining options. The pool was amazing and had a sandy bottom! They had big areas of sand where the kids could dig and build sandcastles. The sand areas were zero entry into a large, shallow pool. They also had a big water slide that landed in a larger pool with a whirlpool, waterfalls, bridges, etc. We could have spent the whole week just playing in the pool.

Kate coming down the water slide (I should have taken more pool photos!)
Because we were staying in a Disney hotel, they gave us a complimentary copy of the Disney magazine Family Fun. While it isn't specifically an eco-friendly magazine, there were a ton of craft ideas and homemade fun. I'm sure I'll be posting about some of them later this winter when we spend more time indoors doing crafty things.

Family Fun magazine is currently looking for Green Tips from families. If your tip is chosen for publication, you will receive $25. Go to the submission page on their website to enter your green tip. Deadline is Nov 30th.

Monday, November 17, 2008

GreenStyleMom in Real Simple Magazine

Be sure to check out the current (December) issue of Real Simple Magazine. I am quoted in "Your Words" about my Charity Giveaway. I will be repeating the Charity Giveaway again this December.

A big welcome to any new readers coming from the magazine!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Belated Halloween

As I am downloading Disney photos, I found all our Halloween photos! Even though it is over 2 weeks late, I still want to share. With all the moving hubub, we didn't even go to get pumpkins until Halloween afternoon. We went straight home, pulled out the pulp, separated the seeds and carved. We discovered that Nina Sprinkles loves to eat pumpkin pulp! I planned to cut up our pumpkins and put them in our worm compost bin until I discovered that the pumpkin faces had been chewed away overnight. Seems Nina isn't the only one who likes pumpkin!
We left the pumpkins out for the squirrels while on vacation. When we arrived back home, one pumpkin was completely gone and there isn't much left of the other! The rather plump squirrel couple that lives in our backyard are still gnawing away at it.
And one last photo of my kids in their Halloween costumes. Jack is a monster (supposedly it is Sulley from Monsters, Inc. but we didn't know that as we have never seen the movie), and Kate is a princess (original, huh?). Both costumes proudly came from the thrift store.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

America Recycles Day

Don't forget that today is America Recycles Day. Their website has lots of great information. I was hoping to have my new recycling system in our new home all organized to show off for today, but it isn't even close to being organized! Currently pick-up recyclables are on a corner of the kitchen counter waiting to be taken out to the big bin, plastic bags are in a big plastic bag on the floor of the mudroom, CFL lightbulbs are in a brown paper bag hanging on a hook in the mudroom, bottle caps are in another bag on a hook, and styrofoam pieces are in the empty dining room being used as bridges for toy cars. For my sanity, we need to organize our system soon.

In our cohousing home, we had 2 sets of simplehuman pull-out recyclers in a cabinet. We had one can for trash, one for paper, one for plastic, and one for glass, styrofoam and cardboard (because they went to a separate recycling area in the cohousing trash bins). I am still not certain how we will do it in our new place.

In our new neighborhood, we arrange for our own trash/recycling pick-up through private companies. I have no experience with private companies as all our previous homes have been multi-family units where trash pick-up is included or have been homes with city pick-up. I was a little annoyed that the 96-gallon trash can was less expensive than the smaller versions, and we barely covered the bottom of the bin our first week! I am a bit horrified to think that a family might actually fill a 96-gallon trash bin every week. A separate and smaller recycle bin is included with our pick-up. It will be interesting to monitor the amount of trash and recycling our family produces every week.

I have some ideas for how I would like to organize the recycling inside the house but have yet to find the time to get it done. If you have a good system for recycling, I'd love to hear about it!

Just Back

We've been on vacation at Disney World in Florida! Can't wait to show you photos and share my "green" observations of the parks. Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

ps - the new house is still a disaster, but I am getting closer to taking some photos and blogging about the place!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

After over a week of mostly staying home so mom can do things around the house (unpack, arrange cabinets, plant bulbs - I planted over 80 bulbs on Monday - youch!), we decided we needed an outing last Tuesday. Despite being a bit chilly and overcast, we headed to the zoo. The sun came out as soon as we arrived, and we basically had the place to ourselves. It was a leisurely trip, and we didn't even see our first animal until 20 min after we arrived. The kids climbed and played, we spent over 45min just watching the hippos get in their pool, poop in the pool (the kids are still talking about the hippo poop!), and play with their ball. Then we headed over to the ape house. Again we took our time mingling running and jumping on the big step bench and watching the orangutans swing around outside. Our arrival coincided with the zoo keeper's training session that Kate watched intently. Afterwards, Kate was full of questions for the keeper - Why do you wear a mask? Why do they climb so high? Are they cold outside? The keeper happily answered our questions and then even let Kate and Jack help her put down treats in the orangutan's enclosure...For information about the endangered orangutans and palm oil, read my Palm Oil Lessons at the Zoo from last year.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Alma Mater in the News

My father-in-law sent me this news article. St. Olaf is my alma mater. With the penalities that the professor faces for pulling political yard signs, I cant imagine the trouble my college friends and I would have faced for what we occasionally took out of yards! LOL

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mouse in Our House

The moving and settling in is coming along. Not getting done quite as fast as I expected, but it is getting done none the less. We are slowly starting to get back into our routine, but I am anticipating something will come along again soon to throw us off! It always does...

About the same time we moved into our new house, a new friend arrived in our lives. His name is Mouse. He apparently lives at a Target in California (although this morning I heard that Mouse has moved into a new house in California.) It takes him 10 airplanes to get to our house to visit, and his favorite colors are purple and red. Mouse is 3 and has and older sister who is 4. He goes to preschool and likes to eat candy. I haven't figured out if Mouse is an animal or a person as Mouse is Jack's imaginary friend.

I have heard of other kids with imaginary friends, but I never really expected my kids to have one. At least not one that is so vivid, detailed, and consistent (the consistency amazes me!). I also find it interesting that Kate has accepted Mouse into our lives without hesitation. She doesn't question his existence, tease Jack, or even make up details. If she wants to know something about Mouse, she asks Jack.

I hope Mouse sticks around for awhile because I am really looking forward to the Adventures of Mouse and Jack.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I have been very remiss in posting about the Green Moms Carnival that I have participated in the last 2 months. It is a great carnival with lots of post from great eco-friendly moms. This month the theme is Gratitude/Favorite Green Things. It has been a long time since I've done a gratitude post so I am looking forward to this one. I am going to express my gratitude with the little attitude adjustment from "have to" to "get to" that I learned last year. I really need the adjustment after my cranky attitude all day. The last three are my favorite green things!
  1. I am grateful that I got to deal with tired, cranky children all day. We got to spend extra time with my family before leaving late last night.
  2. I am grateful that I get to spend the next several days unpacking all my belongings. I am lucky to have so many nice possessions, plus it gives me a chance to sort out the items I no longer need.
  3. I am grateful that I get to plan and fix dinner this week. My family has plenty of food and is never truly hungry.
  4. I am grateful I get to go out in the cold tonight to empty the compost. Our worms are thriving!
  5. I am grateful that I get to clean out the hundreds of emails in my inbox. I have family, friends, and blog readers that care.
  6. I am grateful that I get to update our budget. We have money with which to budget!
  7. I am grateful that I get to get up early tomorrow to exercise. I have a healthy body that lets me do almost any activity I want.
  8. I am grateful that I get to re-roll my reusable bags to put back in my purse. I have the most awesome reusable bags ever!
  9. I am grateful that I get to wash the dishes tomorrow. I have several great reusable bottles that we used today.
  10. I am grateful that I get to winterize my garden. I am lucky to have the space, knowledge, and time to garden.

That felt GREAT. I am going to try to get back to a regular gratitude practice again.

Eco Stamps

We spent our first night in our new house last night, and I am happy to report that I slept really, really well! Not sure if it is the house or shear exhaustion. We flew home from Dallas late last night (with kids already in PJs!) and went straight to the new house to put the sleeping kiddos into bed. It was sorta strange to see all my furniture and possessions in what still seems like someone else's house! LOL

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed today. The "to do" list is at least a mile long. Call the phone company, call the garbage/recycling company, call the cable company, officially change our address, etc. One of the first things I did after we closed on this house was to get a new address stamp for mail. My mother-in-law always uses address stamps. In fact, she has several for frequently used addresses. I took her idea and use our address stamp not only for letters but for filling out all kinds of forms as well. As I was looking up stamps online, I was very pleased to find that there is an eco-friendly stamp option!

StampXpress carries a green line of eco friendly rubber stamps. They are made from 60-80% recycled plastic, use water based inks, are reinkable, and are even packaged in recycled packaging. You can also use their website to customize a green stamp with your own uploaded images. (I have a great idea for a holiday project using customized stamps that I will share with you soon - maybe after I am a bit more settled and can actually start thinking about the holidays!)
StampXpress is offering GreenStyleMom readers a discount on their Green Line stamps. Use the coupon code GREENLINESTAMP for $5 off on the Green Line. This code is good only on the Green Line Stamps. For other items on their website, use coupon code $3DISCOUNT for $3 off any order over $15. Plus StampXpress offers free shipping on any order over $10.
XStamperOnline also carries eco friendly stamps, and check out their eco markers (I'll review them soon). They are offering readers $7 off a $25 or more purchase using coupon code is ECOSTAMP. This is good on the eco stamps and any other product on the site. Plus they also offer free shipping on any order over $10.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lots of Happenings

I've had a really busy week! My nephew Sonny was born on Wednesday morning, I flew to Dallas with the kids on Thursday morning (under the premise of wanting to see Sonny although I've had the tickets for months), had a surprise 60th birthday party for my mom on Saturday night, and Matt is moving us into the new house today!

I love holding and smelling the new baby! I always forget how small newborns are until they are in my arms. Kate is very enthralled with the lil' guy. Loves his little toes and keeps talking about his funny belly button.

I think my mom was genuinely surprised with her birthday party. I had told her so many fibs over the last week or so that I couldn't keep them all straight! It was a good party with lots of yummy appetizers and a German chocolate cake (my dad's favorite... *rolleyes*). It was also good to see my aunt and uncle and cousins.

Last Wednesday night was a sad one as it was the last time that the kids and I slept in our cohousing home. Matt has been working like crazy this weekend to get everything moved to the new house (for the record, I worked like crazy all last week to get the smaller items moved!). Tonight will be our first night in the new house. I'll try to get take some photos this week to share, although I imagine the place will be a disaster for quite awhile.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Big Step For Me

Let me preface this post by admitting that some of you are going to totally roll your eyes at my "big step," but, trust me, it is a big step for me.

I've known the importance of reusing for a long time, but for me, reusing has always been reusing the yogurt tub for crayon storage or reusing holiday cards to make craft projects, etc. While other bloggers were praising the used items in the thrift store, I just couldn't see myself ever becoming a thrift store shopper. I would tell myself that I like new things. That unlike my sister who can come out of a thrift store looking totally cool and hip, I would come out looking like a bag lady. That I didn't have time to be frequenting thrift stores every other day looking for a great deal. That the new I was buying was pretty eco-friendly so it was okay. I did occasionally buy some used items on Ebay, but that was pretty few and far between.

Then my friend Dimity passed on to Kate the cutest pair of jeans that her mom had gotten at a thrift store but didn't fit Dimity's daughter. Oh so cute! Add the desire to be more green and the small feeling of guilt from buying only new clothes for the kids. Combine all that with a few extra minutes on the way to the grocery store, and I found myself in a local thrift store "just to check it out." I knew nothing would be to my standards, and I would feel justified in my current shopping habits.

Well, I have been converted. I found 4 really cute dresses that rival Hanna, Mini-Boden, and Garnet Hill for Kate - all priced under $4.99! I did have to sort through a bunch of rejects to find those dresses, but no worse than regular shopping. I didn't get to look at the boys' clothes as the store was closing, but I did pick up two books, a leotard for Kate and 2 items for our dress up box on my way to the cashier. Then we went back as a family the next night and picked out Halloween costumes (wait until you see how cute!).

I still believe that pushing thrift shopping to someone newly trying to go green and accustomed to buying everything new isn't always going to work immediately. I view it is a process that varies for everyone. I certainly was very wary despite making other changes to our lifestyle. I doubt that I will ever do the majority of my clothing shopping at thrift stores as I just don't have the style sense (although a few wraps caught my eye), but I am planning on hitting the thrift store for the kids and for books fairly regularly. I'll still supplement with new items, but every little bit helps, right?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Painting and VOCs

The new house is keeping me busy! We are very fortunate to be able to get this work done before we move into the house. Like I said previously, as some of the wallpaper has come down, we found that sections of the 100+ year walls appear to be 100 years old and required replastering. Nothing too terrible, but it is an added stress.

I have also been a bit overwhelmed picking out paint colors. I can easily pick a color for a single room, but choosing for almost the entire house and wanting everything to flow well is another matter. I bet I spent at least 8 hours early this week looking at colors. Then I spent even more time picking out a new green shade when the original "thyme" color sample looked like moldy pea soup on the walls. Yuck. All of the colors are a bit out of my comfort zone. (Actually, anything other than white is sorta out of my comfort zone.) Most of the rooms are a color called "Kansas Corn" which is very similar to the middle sample yellow/gold in the photo. The dining room will be two colors. Above the chair rail will be "Butterfield" which is more intense, darker shade of Kansas Corn. Below the chair rail will be a chocolate brown. The kitchen will be a dark sage green color similar to the sample in this photo. My office is a blue also similar to the blue in the photo. I'll take photos once they are finished with all the painting.

Our painters prefer to use Devoe Paint, and I was pretty pleased to find that ICI Paints (which is the manufacturer of several brands of paint including Devoe) has a vision "to develop, produce,distribute and market its products and services in a way that does not cause damage to the environment." They were also the first North American paint manufacturer to develop and market VOC free latex paint back in the early 90s.

I've learned a bit more about VOCs in this process (actually I knew very little about VOCs other than a vague understanding that they aren't healthy). VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds and emitted as gases from some liquids and solids. VOCs are found in thousands of products ranging from paint to adhesives to plastics and even The organic solvents found in paint fall into this category, and our painters explained that VOCs tend to be more concentrated in coloring added to paint than the paint itself. So paint might be labeled as low or no VOC (which is an unregulated marketing term), but the coloring isn't low or no VOC. As the paint dries, organic solvents evaporate (you often hear it referred to as "off-gassing" - I have enough info for another post on off-gassing) and combine with nitrogen oxides and sunlight to create ground level ozone or smog. The EPA has found that indoor VOC concentrations can be 2-5 times higher indoors than out and can be up to 1000 times higher after certain activities such as paint stripping. Yikes!

There is some information on the EPA website about some of the health effects related to VOC exposure as well as information on other sources of VOCs. The site also lists ways to reduce your VOC exposure. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Increase ventilation (open those windows!)
  • Use household products according to manufacturer's directions
  • Buy limited quantities of products containing VOCs
  • Keep exposure to newly dry-cleaned materials to a minimum (yet another post that I've been meaning to write...)

I thought I had published this post last week, but I mut have made a correction and saved it as a draft accidentally! The painters finished up Monday morning so I'll have to take some new photos. I'm not sure I love the color in the kitchen nor in the office, but I'll live with them for awhile before I switch.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crazy (Like Always!)

Life has been just a bit crazy with getting our new home move-in ready (surprise, surprise - when you pull wallpaper off 100 year old walls, many of the walls need re-plastering!) and a few other events that have been collectively taking up my time. So I haven't really been in a good place for blogging, but I feel totally lame that I never got around to blogging last week about poverty for Blog Action Day...

I had this great post planned for Blog Action Day that has been rolling around in my head for a long time. I was doing a conference call for bloggers (that Crunchy Domestic Goddess referred to me!) with Brighter Planet (which I also never got around to posting about!). The question I posed during the conference call was how could they reconcile their credit card program that encourages spending and consumerism when many who are trying to be greener are attempting to decrease their consumption of goods. The response (wish I could find my notes to tell you who responded!) was a very good one. The premise was that while the environment is certainly an pressing issue for the world, poverty is an even bigger one. Many trying to overcome poverty depend on us to purchase their goods. We can help fight poverty and be environmentally responsible by purchasing goods that are fair trade, made of recycled materials, etc.

I'm obviously not going to write out all my thoughts that I had saved for that post, but I thought I would at least give you that thought to chew on.

We should be totally moved in the next week or so. Hopefully I'll be back to regular blogging before then!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Getting Big!

Look at how much bigger Nina Sprinkles has gotten! I wish we had taken a photo of her every week next to something like a shoe or stuffed animal so we could really compare her growth. Since we didn't, these photos of her on my desk (excuse the mess!) will have to do. The first one is from the first week she was with us, so about 7 weeks old. The next is from last week at about 14 weeks old. Notice I was blogging in both photos!
I am amazed at how much hair she has gotten and how much longer her tail is! She is still pretty small, but when Nina Sprinkles moved in with us, she was almost too small for most of the commercial collars and leashes that I saw at the pet supply store. I am glad I waited to buy anything, because like everything else nowadays, I easily found a more environmentally friendly option. I am ordering a hemp collar and hemp leash from Earth Friendly Goods. Even better, Earth Friendly Goods is offering 10% off purchases using coupon code FALL08.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Blog Action Day

Don't forget that Blog Action Day is next Wednesday, Oct 15th. Last year the subject was the environment. This year it is poverty. Hope you will join in on your blog!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Nina Sometimes Sprinkles

Our puppy Nina Sprinkles is getting so much bigger... at least 4lbs now! LOL I need to put up some new photos of her. She is so darn cute! And even though she is mostly housebroken, she does occasionally live up to her name. Fortunately most of her accidents are on our hard floors, but there have been a decent number of "sprinkles" on the carpet. Fortunately I had pulled a recipe for a natural carpet stain remover recipe from a Natural Health magazine last winter. It has been working great on puppy spots!

Mix equal parts of liquid dish soap (I used Clorox Green Works - they sent me a sample of their dish soap and even though I was a bit doubtful about the products when they first launched, I admit that I like the dish soap!) and hydrogen peroxide (make sure it is relatively fresh - old stuff doesn't work as well). Apply to stain with a sponge. Blot and reapply if necessary. Use warm water to rinse (I just blot with a clean, wet towel). Allow to dry. Hopefully the stain is gone!

Check out other Works for Me Wednesday ideas at Rocks in Your Dryer.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Garnet Hill Discount

I've mentioned before that Garnet Hill is one of my favorite places to shop online. I love that they have a great selection of organic and green cotton, plus I love the quality (and style!) of their clothes. Garnet Hill is having a Family and Friends Event starting today. Take 20% off your order* when you use the source code P8KPROMO. It is only good today through Wednesday, Oct 8th.

*Applies to merchandise total on in-stock itmes only and does not include gift cards, gift packaging, shipping and processing, monogramming, or sale and clearance items.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Itzy Ritzy Discount

Had to pass this discount along! Itzy Ritzy is offering 20% off purchases on their website when you enter the coupon code DONNY. The savings is good through the end of October. Itzy Ritzy carries eco-friendly burp cloths, blankets, and nursing covers made of organic cotton and bamboo that doesn't use pesticides or chemicals. An added bonus is that the products are made in the USA.

Almost makes me want to have another baby...

Last Child in the Woods

I am so excited! Tonight I am going with my friend Ashlee to see Richard Louv the author of the book Last Child in the Woods speak. Can't wait to share what we learn!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Up Close at the Zoo

Back in August, Matt and I went to a really fun fundraiser at our local zoo. The fundraiser is called Art on the Hoof and benefits one of the zoo keeper associations. Local artists donated animal themed art of all varieties - paintings, sketches, photography, murals, sculpture, pottery, etc. All the art is on display at the event. Every couple's name is put into a bowl, and as the main event of the evening, names are drawn out. As your name is drawn, you get to pick out a piece of art to take home with you. I was thrilled to get a painted footprint of Maggie, one of the zoo's hippos that had recently died. (You can see me with Shannon and our art on her blog! She is a bit more timely in blogging about events...). I also got to meet the hippos' zookeeper April and talked to her for a bit about how special Maggie was. There was also a silent auction. Matt and I opened up the bidding on a up-close experience with the elephants. We were quite surprised and pleased that no one else bid on the item, and we won!

Last week we got to have our up-close experience. The kids loved it. We started out talking to the elephant zookeeper and learning about elephants. The kids favorite fact is that elephants wear mud as sunscreen. The zoo has two elephants. One elephant named Lucky is not so fond of visitors. She even flung dung at us while we were waiting! The kids thought it was hilarious. The keepers led Lucky to another area, and we got to go beyond the viewing fence to meet the other elephant Kimba. We got to feed Kimba carrots which she took out of our hands with her trunk. Then we all got to help give Kimba a pedicure. We scraped the dirt from the bottom of her foot, cleaned her foot with a bristly brush, and applied a lotion to her toenails. The keeper also brought out an old tooth, a piece of broken tusk and some elephant tail hairs for us to feel. It was an amazing experience!

But the day got even better. We strolled around other parts of the zoo and went into the hippo house. I saw the zookeeper that I had met at the fundraiser. She was just getting ready to feed the hippos, so she let us help! Feeding a hippo consists of the hippo opening her mouth (hippo fact - they can open their mouths 150 degrees!) and you throwing food in. The kids each threw a cabbage in while Matt and I got to throw in whole cantaloupes! It was pretty amazing to be so close to a hippo mouth!

It was an amazing VIP experience that I hope we can repeat again someday.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Moving On

I can't believe it has taken me a full week to find the time to sit at the computer and share our big news. Most of our friends and family already know, but last Monday we closed on a new home. That means that we will be leaving our cohousing community. It was not an easy decision for us to make, and Matt and I both waivered in our decision on multiple occasions. We are very nervous about leaving an already made community of people... many who have become good friends.

But, it happens that a few months ago we found a house that we didn't feel we could pass up. It is an old house built in 1905. It has squeaky fir floors, an old coal cellar (soon to be my root cellar!), large trees, a big backyard and a view of the mountains. A home that seemed just right for us.

Our new neighborhood is very alive with people out walking and socializing. We haven't even moved in yet and already we have invites for dinner, housewarming gifts from neighbors, and several new friends. We will still be walking or biking distance to most of our favorite places. In fact, we will be walking distance to the cohousing community, so it should be easy to maintain many of our friendships.

We won't be moving in for another few weeks yet. We are in the process of taking down wallpaper (there is wallpaper from floor to ceiling in almost every room!), painting walls, and a few other projects. Totally overwhelming to try to do these tasks in a healthy and green way. Fortunately we found a woman who takes down wallpaper with just water, and I am amazed at how accessible low and no VOC paint now is!

I hope to be blogging about our attempts to develop community outside of cohousing and our attempts to green a 100 year old house.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reverse Trick-or-Treat

As soon as my birthday is over, I start seriously planning for the holidays. I start thinking about Halloween costumes (although Kate has been telling me since August that she wants to be a Chinese Princess - no idea where that came from!), fall decorations, holiday meals, and holiday presents. But first Halloween. Last year I scrounged the candy aisles looking for candy to pass out that met my requirements - no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial coloring and no palm oils. Let me tell you, I don't think it exists in the mass market. I can't even remember what I settled for, but I definitely settled.

I am still formulating my plan for this year. We are expecting far too many trick-or-treaters (over 300!) to get anything too pricey, but we are going to try something new for the kids while trick-or-treating. It is the reverse trick-or-treating campaign by Global Exchange to increase awareness about the problems in the cocoa industry - child labor, low prices for farmers, etc. Trick-or-treaters surprise adults by handing them a sample of fair trade chocolate with a card explaining the problems in the cocoa industry. The bonus? Global Exchange supplies the sample chocolates and cards for free (while supplies last - deadline to order is Oct 13th)! I also couldn't resist getting the Fair Trade Trick-or-Treat Action Kit. Although I can't get enough for all 300 kids, I am hoping to hand out quite a few of the postcards. And I can't wait to get the "Fair Trade is Boo-tiful" sign up on my door!
Hope you and your family will join in for the cause.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

I need to do some catch-up blogging! So much has happened the last couple weeks. Some of it is BIG changes for us. I am excited to share it all on my blog, but I need to find a little down time first. Hopefully soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cohousing Community Garden

This post is finally finished thanks to the pressure from my friend Melissa. I've been promising her photos of my garden for far too long!

I have been meaning to blog about our cohousing community garden all summer, and this post has been half written for well over a month. (The photos are a bit old also, but it shows you what the garden looked like the end of July/beginning of August!) I have never been a part of any other community garden, so I am unsure how much it differs from others. I would love to hear any comparisons.
The entire community garden is fairly large. It is made up of individual plots that are roughly 3x5 ft (they all vary a bit - my main plot is funny shaped so it is 3ft on one end and about 5 on the other). Along the edges of the garden are some true community garden space where rhubarb, strawberries, and misc herbs are grown for use by anyone in the community. A native grass area around the garden serves as our orchard. Many of the trees are new this year, but we have several that were planted when the community was started and are bearing fruit. There are peach, apple, plum and cherry trees. And several varieties of each.

In late winter or early spring, a garden coordinator begins assigning plots to community members. First priority is given to gardeners from the previous year. They indicate which of their current plots is their first and second choices on plots. Your first choice is pretty much guaranteed. There are 30-something plots for 34 households, but not all community members garden. There is almost always the ability to have more than one plot. This year I have my plot, another plot that I was going to share with a friend (that didn't happen and I just took over the whole plot), plus half of another plot that yet another community member opted not to plant this year. Except for a few exceptions (like invasive mint), you can plant whatever you want in your plot. The plot plantings vary from a variety of vegetables to only pumpkins to annual flowers. By July, the garden is a mass jungle of crops. A beautiful mess!
My plots this summer contain beets, carrots, radishes, jalapeno peppers, green/yellow/red peppers, arugula, vine beans, bush beans, purple bush beans, broccoli, strawberries, butternut squash (almost ready to harvest!), mixed greens, romaine lettuce, speckled romaine lettuce, spinach, eggplant (still harvesting... hope to get another few weeks of eggplant!), yellow zucchini, green zucchini, yellow squash, marigolds, cut flowers, and multiple herbs. Most of my herbs are close to the house in a small rock garden and in pots. I also have tomatoes in self-watering containers against the house (remind me to blog about growing tomatoes in Colorado next spring!).

The garden is really slowing down. We have had unusually cool weather that started in mid-August. I imagine we'll get a frost within a few weeks. Then everyone will winterize their plots. Most of the cuttings will go in a large pile to compost over winter (anything that doesn't decompose in the pile will be added to the community compost next spring). Some people plant cover crops like rye grass. Others just let the ground sit.

I love, love, love having a garden, but I admit that by this time of the year, I am getting a bit weary of tending it. I start to look forward to the frost and a good reason to close shop. By January I'll be getting the itch to start all over again!
1 - Aerial view of the garden (from my neighbor's balcony)
2 - My corner of the garden
3 - Eggplant blooms (we've since eaten the eggplants from those blooms - we are going to have some more for dinner tonight!)
4 - Yellow peppers
5 - Purple string beans (the kids LOVED the purple beans that turn green when cooked!)
6 - Butternut squash (they are now turning a lovely apricot color and are almost ready to harvest - I can't wait!!)
7 - Orange cherry tomatoes (These little devils were like candy. None of them went into any dishes. We just picked and popped them into our mouths as we walked by. Tomatoes are definitely Matt's favorite garden item. He raves about being able to walk out the back door, pluck a tomato, and slice it for a sandwich)