Tag Archives: green

Twelve Posts of Christmas–Ethical Gifting

I was recently listening to WBEZ, Chicago land’s Public Radio and heard someone throwing around the term “ethical gifting.” And it wasn’t in a story about ethical gifting, it was just casual conversation thrown about during an end of year donor drive. The speaker tossed this phrase around as if everyone should know what it was. Sheepishly, I admit it was the first time I had come across it. I thought, however, that I immediately understood the term.

When I went to research the term later, I realized that there really is no cohesive application or understanding of the term. Many seem to apply it to green-giving. Then there are those that apply it to practical or useful gifts, and those that use it for creative gifts, anything bought from small shops, particularly if those shops contain goods made by people in under-developed nations. I also saw it applied to gifting with a charitable aim, which sometimes meant buying something that gives some or all of proceeds to charity and sometimes it just meant giving to charity in someone’s name. However, the other thing that popped up quite frequently was ethical gifting in a business environment. At first, I brushed this off as the wrong kind of ethical gifting, but then I realized that this no-strings-attached type of gift giving corporations advocated should be a part of ethical giving, at least, my ethical giving.

So what is ethical gifting? I have concluded that it is different for everyone and that it essentially giving that reflects your values, which we often forget at this time of year in our panic to just buy things for people.  For me, ethical gifting is giving gifts that are immediately useful with a focus on recycling that will produce little to no waste. Yes, sometimes that means I make things, and sometimes they are actually really nice and sometimes my family is just really nice.  I like to support small shops, too–though that can be in direct conflict with getting the best deal on something.  But that is okay.  It is less important to me to be frugal in gift giving than it is to buy a gift that will be useful–and used.  This is a lot easier to justify when you are not buying a gift for every single relative.

For kids, my husband and I look for gifts that are educational,which to me takes precedent over Eco-friendly–though more and more, the two are compatible.  Still, we try not to add mindlessly with piles of toys pulled off box-store shelves. This is sometimes tricky because you want to buy them the fun, hot toy of the year.  The immediate satisfaction they will experience will probably be much greater than opening something useful and will catapult you to the top of the “best aunt and uncle in the world” list.   But then I remember the ethics of corporate gift giving.  My gifts are not to buy someone’s affections or to influence someone’s actions.  They are given being thoughful of both the gift-giver and gift-receiver.

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Twelve Posts of Christmas–A Gift for Mother Earth

Not to repeat myself, but… Well, actually, I am fully intending to repeat myself because this is an important topic. I invite each and every one of you to be creative and to use your imagination to wrap gifts in recycled and reused items. As I just mentioned, I previously posted about this, but this is the time of year when we are particularly abusive and create garbage bag upon garbage bag full of stuff that will end up in the landfill. We can do better. I will admit, though, to having been previously very impressed by various family members’ matching presents wrapped in beautiful, shiny, thick wrapping paper. It looks so nice under the tree and everyone knows exactly who it came from. Very fancy.

However, I think you can make beautiful packages with just a little forethought and imagination–and maybe some planning throughout the year. For example, brown paper bags make excellent wrapping paper and a wonderful earthy background for those saved ribbons, scavenged twigs and berries, and home made gift tags. What other materials can you use for wrapping paper? How about old road maps that you haven’t thrown away yet even though you haven’t used them for more than seven years? Or, saved newspapers, park maps or large foldable brochures from an awesome vacation used it to wrap gifts for the people that went with you on that awesome vacation. And save colorful comics for the kids to wrap gifts. Using cloth and fabric to wrap gifts is a popular alternative, too, kind of hobo-chic. For other ideas, especially for creative decor, see these slides from Martha Stewart. Also, did you know that those poofy Christmas bows only look hard to make? Follow this link for step by step instructions. You will amaze yourself.

Now, if you’ve saved decorative boxes or bags, the work is almost all done for you! During this time of year, offices across the country are flooded with gifts that come in fancy boxes and bags. Lay claim to them, as well as all the ribbons and tins. If you don’t they will probably just end up in the trash–and that is what we are trying to avoid, people. You can also make your own boxes. The internet machine has loads and loads of ideas. You can use card stock, backs of notebook paper, the bottom of fancy paper bags from the mall, etc., as material for the boxes. Check out this link for tons of fabulous ideas using salvaged items to make your own boxes.

Yeah, even recycled wrapping will likely get thrown away, filling garbage bag upon garbage bag. Perhaps, a few suggestions? Save the gift bags and boxes for re-use next year, and fold the tissue paper to save for use throughout the year. Helpful hint: if you choose wrapping materials that can be used at other holidays and occasions, you can maximize their use, i.e., don’t get santa clause tissue paper. As to what you cannot re-use, which hopefully will be a smallish pile. Shred the paper and use as packing material or throw it in the compost pile. From what I learned in research for a previous article on paper re-cycling, wrapping paper can probably go into your local recycling program, though you need to do your research. For example, my county recycling, SWALCO,,will accept wrapping paper, but my local Chicago-area Paper Retriever will not.

I know, I know. My intentions to make every gift exchange I participate in zero-waste are impractical–especially at other people’s houses. I was, in fact, unsuccessful last year in swaying anyone to separate the paper wrapping from the ribbons and bows and plastic in order to recycle the paper and minimize the trash. We had a huge family Christmas and produced a lot of garbage that was frantically shoved in bags to try and keep order. However, on a personal level, I have not bought wrapping materials in more than three years. And I know that further change will not happen overnight. I slowly hope to influence my family members, one by one. Even the family member that proudly buys beautiful wrapping paper every year.

When I actually buy some present and wrap them, I will take photos to show you that presents using salvaged materials can be pretty!

Can’t Touch Dish

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I have been experimenting quite a bit with making my own products, mostly for cleaning, though I have ventured into beauty products. Some projects have been a huge success, some have been failures (big ones), and others… I can’t figure out and have no scientific proof that it’s working or not working–though everyone on the internet seems to say it is. In a previous post,  I went through my odyssey to create a safe, cheap, green alternative to expensive and chemicall-y all-purpose surface cleaner.  That was one of my huge successes, by the way. I absolutely love the solution I have created.  If you missed that article…well I just linked to it like five times, so go read it!  As noted above, though, other experiments have been a little less successful, as you will see below. 

In this post I want to talk about the dishwasher and my quest for the right detergent. Let me begin by explaining that while I am sometimes motivated by avoiding harsh chemicals, in this product that was not my primary motivation. I mean, you don’t ever really handle dishwashing detergent, so it is hard to get a sense for its harshness.  It was different with the all-purpose surface cleaner where I was concerned about what was remaining on surfaces, what I was inhaling, and what might unintentionally get on food.  Also, I don’t have allergies, and quite frankly, have never even heard of an allergy to dishwashing detergent like you would for laundry detergent.  It wasn’t so much the chemicals in my dishwashing detergent, it was the cost. The stuff is expensive!  When my husband and I finally committed to our weekly grocery budget, I decided staying out of the household cleaners aisle completely would go a long way towards staying under budget. 

However, I put off trying to make the detergent for a while because my sister-in-law assurred me it wouldn’t work.  Shaking her head in her been-there, done-that wisdom, she said, “no, it leaves stuff all over your dishes.” In the end, it’s not that I didn’t believe her. It’s just that I had decided my situation was different. Maybe it was her hard water, I thought. (honestly, I don’t even know if they had hard water… that just seems to be the go-to excuse with things being washed or rinsed.) Or… maybe she had a different recipe. Plus, I had already purchased Borax and Super Washing Soda for Laundry Detergent, so I pretty much already had all of the ingredients.  And all these people on the internet said it was soooo easy and perfect. So, why not!?

Like always, I hit the internet and found a recipe for the kind of detergent I could mold into shapes.  These recipes were essentially the same as the powder detergents, but added a bit more of a wet ingredient to allow it to clump together.  Recipes on-line were all very similar. They all pretty much used borax and super washing soda and some thing for an acid–vinegar, lemon juice, kool-aid (yes, kool-aid). 20131101-130614.jpgSometimes recipes also used regular baking soda, essential oils, and castille soap. I went with borax and super washing soda, vinegar, and a dash of Sal’s suds–not castille soap because we all learned from my eco-heroine, Lisa Bronner,  in this amazing post that vinegar and castille soap do not mix. I mixed everything up until it clumped like sand for a sand castle and then pressed it into my little molds.

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I have these nice silicone cupcake cups that I used, though I have also used plastic candy molds. Both work well, because the little guys can be popped out when fully dry.  Depending how wet the mixture was, it would take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to dry. Like usual, my science wasn’t exact, so it varied a lot. Sometimes I had a sloppy mess from trying to remove the wet detergent from a mold too soon, or when I put in too much Sal’s Suds. More often than not, though, the stuff hardened up and I could place them individually in a re-used jar. And voila! I had loads and loads of detergent for mere pennies.  

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I was so proud of my self.  I felt like I was single-handedly saving the planet and our budget.  But I was pre-maturely smug.  And this is where I feel the internet and many blogs often lead us astray.  They don’t really honestly explore the question about how well something works after someone brilliantly, cheaply, and easily makes something with their very own hands in their very own kitchen for the first time.  You can often get a better sense of how something actually works from the comments to post than from the post itself.  

In my different batches, I would make little changes here and there…more vinegar, less vinegar, added vinegar to the wash cycle, or sometimes vingear soaked in citrus peels for some additional essential oils. I also added sometimes added essential oils, reduced the borax, etc. It really didn‘t matter what I did, my dishwasher left most of my dishes clean, but also left a white deposit on many dishes. It wasn’t necessarily a film (thought sometimes it was) it was more like these white Rorschach-test splotches on some of my dishes that I would have to scrub off before the next cycle or it would get caked on. Was I putting in too much detergent? Or was I putting in too much of one ingredient into the detergent, Borax or Super Washing Soda? I put in less… made adjustments to all of it. I still had the same problem. I don’t have hard water or soft-water, so I couldn’t figure it out.

Still, I was stubborn. I convinced myself, and my husband, that it was not my beautiful, little, pressed pods that were a problem, but our dingy 15 year-old dishwasher. I felt sure that once we got a new dishwasher, everything would be spotless. So, we bought a new dishwasher (Aside–this was not as flippant a decision as it sounds. The dishwasher had not been performing well, was staring to leak, the nozzles were not nozzling and every cycle was leaving behind a lot of dried food particles. Plus we gave it away for free, so it lessened the guilt a bit about replacing an appliance.) We did not buy a top-of-the-line dishwasher, but solid, inexpensive one. I remained in denial for four cycles. And then had to admit that my dishwashing detergent was still leaving white stuff all over everything–though all the other problems were solved. We received two little Sample liquid pods of a name brand detergent that clearly did not leave the same residue behind.

I admitted defeat… except, that I still have some thoughts about this. Perhaps the trick is to make my detergent liquid–or buy a Bosch, which we did not do, by the way. Sadly, I will not buy a Bosch but I will continue to try to experiment with the detergent…partially out of stubborness, but also because the stuff I am now using isn’t perfect, either. I actually switched to store-bought dry detergent (previously I used a name-brand or store-brand gel detergent). The store-brand I now have is fairly inexpensive per wash. However, I have noticed that while it does not leave large white splotches like my home made cleaner did, it does leave a white, cloudy layer on certain items. Especially over time and on plastic.

So I am going to keep experimenting with making dishwashing detergent. I am not defeated.  I am going to look for a liquid recipe. I even bought some citric acid because it was super cheap and is apparently the magic solution to crystal clear glasses. Meanwhile, the little pods I made are actually great for an all-natural scrubbing agent, kind of like a substitute for Comet. In fact, I just used it today to clean the shower.  It worked beautifully.  I also use some as an abrasive to get the tea and coffee stains out of our mugs–because no matter how good the dish washer or the detergent, those do not come off unless scrubbed!

If anyone has any suggestions or comments, I would be happy to hear them! And I will keep you posted on my future experimentation. 

Paper chase

Lately, I’ve been putting in a lot of energy into paper. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “[p]aper makes up 28 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW), more than any other material Americans throw away.” Although, according to the hand dryer I used at the rest stop the other day, paper makes up 40 percent of land fills.  I am not sure if MSW does not all end up in landfills, and if that accounts for the disparity in percentages, but, in any case, paper makes up a lot of our waste.  Fortunately, paper seems to be the easiest thing to try and keep out of landfills.  Unfortunately, it also accumulates so quickly! Between the cereal and pasta boxes, mail, business papers, packing and wrapping materials, toilet paper rolls, catalogues and little bits of random paper is tough to keep up with. Even with the outdoor composter and the worm composter (two different systems!) I almost can’t keep up with it. But I am trying.

I am conscientiously trying  to stop using paper as much as possible. Luckily for any future guests, I will not give up toilet paper, but I have stopped using paper napkins and drastically reduced my paper towel consumption.  My mom is not pleased.  And even though I really dislike doing dishes, I no longer buy paper plates.  Admittedly, it took a little while to get accustomed to cloth napkins for daily meals use, but it’s getting less weird with time. I didn’t even have to buy new cloth napkins. I’ve had some for years that sat lonely in the curio cabinet waiting to be used for the three to four dinner parties I might have a year. Now my husband and I use them regularly.

I have also tried to reduce my dry good purchases that come in cardboard boxes such as boxed rice mixes. The cardboard boxes I do end up buying, like cereal and tea boxes, I actually hand shred and take to either of my composters.  I am toying with the idea of making my own pasta.  So far this is ambition and optimism over reality and time, but pasta continues to account for one of my major boxed dry-good purchases, so I will continue to search for a solution.

I save tissue paper for either gift wrapping or packaging for shipped items. In fact, I seek out tissue paper from others. Whenever I am at a present-exchanging event, I go so far as to remove tossed tissue paper from the big plastic garbage bag and fold it up into neat squares that I can save for later.  It’s kind of weird, but most of the tissue is brand new.  People shop at the last minute, grab a gift bag and tissue from the store and “wrap” the present on the way to the party, barely bothering to unfold the tissue paper. I know this to be true because it is my husband’s inevitable method of purchasing gifts.

Mail continues to be a challenge even in this day and age.  I have switched over to paperless on those accounts that allow for it.  I’ve even tried those sites that are supposed to help reduce catalogues and junk mail, but they don’t work. The mail just keeps coming. In any case, I try to machine or hand shred it all, even the catalogues and magazines, to stick in one of my compost bins.  Letter mail gets to be particularly tedious because you have to remove the plastic windows from the envelopes since it won’t compost.  I even put some machine shredded magazines and catalogues aside for future packing material.   The pages are light-weight and colorful and work really well in place of foam peanuts or bubble wrap.

But even with all these efforts, it is still difficult to keep up with the paper.  One time I made recycled paper pots out of shredded cardboard.  They worked brilliantly and next year I plan to make bigger, better pots. But this was one additional use for the excess paper and maybe removed three boxes from the cycle.  There is still so much more.  Neither of my composters can keep up with it and I can only save so much for packing.  I can easily stick it in the recycling, but I feel that this is me being lazy and putting the burden on someone else.  Besides, I am not sure that it will not end up in the landfill anyway and I want to remove it from the system entirely.

Many municipalities have a composting program.  These are wonderful resources for any community, resulting in cheap or free compost for the residents and a convenient place to take your compostable items.  Sadly, my community does not have such a program.  One of the reasons that I took so long to put up this post is that I was sure I would be able to find a composting program in my area that I could dump off my excess paper.  What I found out, instead, is that if there are programs in my area, they don’t accept paper and they charge by the cubic yard to accept your waste.  And the municipal programs in my area restrict the drop-off to residents with purchased stickers, which does not mean me. So annoying.  As often happens when my desire to be both ecologically and financially responsible meet and disagree, I am a crossroads.  Even if I could find a place that accepted paper to compost, I might have to to spend money to get rid of it.

As I was researching local composting programs, I noticed that none of them actually encouraged using paper as composting material.  This was odd to me since I had been giving paper to my worms for quite a while.  I dug a little deeper to see what the deal was.  As to the harms and benefits, I ran across this post which provided a thoughtful answer to the question.  Basically, that guy doesn’t like it.  And his reasons made sense (that while it may compost, it lacks nutrients and may leach toxic chemicals into the compost, especially glossy magazines).  But he also goes on to say that rainwater, animal manure or scraps from produce are also not 100% free of chemicals. He also says that he doesn’t bother with paper because it can be recycled easily.  I tend disagree that just because it can be recycled it is actually getting recycled and that all the recovered material is being sold, but I have to admit I am not basing that on fact, but by a tendency to automatically believe in the inherent inefficiencies of any system. I looked through a few websites pretty thoroughly, including this one about the paper industry to soothe my skepticism.  However, I couldn’t find a straight answer about what percentage of paper that is purposefully recycled and bundled up and sent to a processing plant is actually used as a commodity to produce more paper.  There are only figures about the amount of paper consumed that is recovered, or the amount of paper in landfills,  which isn’t an accurate reflection of what I am after.

So what started out as a righteous, self-congratulatory post about the part I am playing in keeping paper out of landfills became a post full of questions and doubts.  Am I spending too much time thinking about paper? Am I doing the right thing by keeping it out of the landfill and trying to compost it? Does it even matter that I don’t buy pasta in boxes since I can throw it in recycling and have it end up  as a commodity that uses less energy to process than raw wood? I feel like my obsession with paper is kind of like a radish rose–kinda impressive but everyone wonders why the heck anyone would take the time to make a rose out of a radish in the first place. I will have to continue to give this some serious thought and continue to do research. In the mean time, I can always focus on plastic.

Thank you for reading my post.  Don’t forget you can visit my site at http://www.lifeimproved.org for other mind-blowing posts and perspectives–and some fluff.  As always, please feel free to share, quote, praise, and reflect kindly upon my blog!

Don’t leave home without them

Many of us work hard to be conscientious about the environment at home. We take a lot of steps to reduce our consumption and our waste. And to recycle and reuse. But something weird happens when we leave our little biodomes. Maybe it’s because we don’t buy the supplies at the office, or take out the trash at the Starbucks. Or maybe it’s because it’s inconvenient and extra work to care enough. Or, quite simply, we forgot. I am not casting stones. I do this constantly and get really irritated with myself for not having a re-usable cup handy at coffee shops and for using disposable items at the office. This is especially frustrating to me because I really do put a lot of effort into these things at home. I mean, I hand tear the mail and cereal boxes for the composter, for Pete’s sake.

What I have realized, though, is that it is all about small transitions. My habits are much more eco-conscientious today than they were last month. And I am light years from the neanderthal I was a year ago. ( Irony Alert: Neanderthals were actually, probably pretty eco-friendly. Really, I just mean I used to buy a lot of paper plates and stuff). So every once and again I try a new eco-thing and eventually it just becomes habit.It just becomes part of your routine. But let’s not forget what happens when we leave home.

Let’s start with work. Our office spaces don’t always make it convenient to be green. Paper cups –or horror of horrors, styrofoam cups–are usually readily available. Sometimes there is no storage for our ceramic or reusable mugs. Or there is no where to wash the mug from time to time. Also, there is often just no culture for it. But it can start with you. This is when you hear some inspirational song in your head, like from Rocky.

If you are in management, think about getting a set of office mugs with your company logo. Encourage your employees to use them. One sneaky trick: take a while to stock up the paper cups to force people to use the office mugs. Or, think of creative contests where people are rewarded for using mugs. Do the same thing with re-usable plastic drinking glasses to encourage people to use those for water. Yes. Some people will complain about washing their own cups. But we are adults and can probably handle this task. Laziness is not a good excuse for all that waste and cost.

If you are a mere employee, then let the change start with you. Make it a point to bring your own cup/mug. Start a dialogue with your colleagues. No one wants to admit they don’t care about the environment. It’s like admitting that they hate puppies or that they just punched grandma. Maybe once you have converted (or shamed) some people into joining your I-guess-I-don’t-want-dolphins-to-die-and-the-world-to-go-dark-and-cold club, then you can talk to management about implementing a mug culture. You can event back it up with facts–not necessarily about dolphins dying–but about cost savings and stuff.

For example, in my small office space of 20 or so employees, let’s assume 3/4 of the people use at least one disposable cup a day, so that is 15 cups per day, multiplied by 253 ( rough, rough calculation of days in the year, minus weekends, minus holidays). That is 3795 cups per year. My office puchases these 16 oz. “foam” cups from Quill, an office supply company, that cost around $55 per 1000 (if you buy by the case). So even by the most conservative estimates, my small office is spending over $200 a year just in cups. And that’s for the cheap cups. My old office of roughly the same number of people bought those paper cups with the weird bubbly skin on the outside. The cost of providing those for an office for one year is over $400. Throw in the cost of post-it notes and legal pads, the costs of sending mail by post, and the costs of printing memos and other documents. If you are a business person, you know that these things add up. Someone who did a lot more work than I did put together this fabulous and startling article about going paperless. And, here’s another article covering things from coffee filters to water usage at the office.

The office is just one place in which we forget our good habits. Getting a latte or water when you are out and about is another. Did you know that roughly 250,000 plastic bottles are dumped every hour and that plastic bottles constitute close to 50% of recyclable waste in the dumps. Even worse,
it takes an average of 700 years to decompose in a landfill. ( Read about those and other statistics here). Now, I have gotten pretty good about brining a re-fillable water bottle with me, but I am just horrible about remembering a mug for my chais and lattes, and occasionally, my chai lattes. I make lots of excuses for myself: My husband took them all, they were all dirty, it’s not as big as a tall or grande latte so it’s not that good of a deal. These are all excuses. The truth is that I just don’t think of it. But, once again, getting into the habit can mean keeping the habit. So I just have to start. You, too! In the meantime, you can read this cool, slightly snarky article that reveals a lot about this issue. The authors are a lot cooler than I will ever be–they live in Portland, after all–but my message is the same: “‘Switching to a reusable mug carries with it the perception that it’s inconvenient only because it is different than the norm. Change is scary … But once commuter mugs become the norm … it’s no big deal. ‘I mean, sometimes you’re going to be out and not have a mug with you, … but if you have one in your car/bike/office, it becomes part of your normal routine’.”

Tank top up cycle

So I had this ratty old tank with a hole in it that I had been hanging onto for who knows what reason. It was just so soft and I thought a use would eventually come to me.
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See…the hole is pretty obvious. I was finally inspired to cut it up when I saw this great head band idea on Pinterest. This I could totally do. Here is my version of this project.

1) Cut a long strip about 1 1/2 ” thick. Make sure to use the seam here as a natural end for the headband.

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2) Measure the strip so that it will go around your head, but so the ends just meet. The jersey material is stretchy so don’t worry you’ll go too small. Cut the strip into three strips only up to seam. Do not cut through stitching of seam.

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3) braid length of strip making sure it doesn’t get all twisty. Secure end with something if you are not going to sew right away.

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4) place ends together and fold the braided end into the seam so there is a nice, smooth finish.

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I was so proud of myself. These were easy and now I didn’t have to get those elastic headbands from the store. You can get creative, too and make them a little fancier. I took one strip, about 1/4 inch thick and cut that into three really thin strips (like, thin enough to thread beads). Cutting the ends at an angle helps to thread the beads. 20130421-211117.jpg20130421-211719.jpg
I originally intended to do this braided thing where the beads always end up on the outside but my tank fabric was not structured enough for this. So I just threaded several beads per strand and then randomly spaced them out. 20130421-211727.jpgIt turned out really cute.

Of course, this project doesn’t use up all the tank. Even if you made a dozen headbands, you would still have scraps left over. I had the seams from the neck and arm holes and small strips I had cut of from the length.

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I didn’t want to throw them away. So I started making flower pins.

The seams were perfect for a rosette because they are already folded for you! It made a very contemporary, compact flower.
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The strips I ruffled by using a running stitch and then pulling taught until I got the ruffle I wanted. 20130421-211210.jpg20130421-211154.jpg<I then sewed the ruffle around until I got a the desired effect. 20130421-211159.jpgTotally adorable. 20130420-131123.jpg20130420-141521.jpg20130420-141528.jpg

I also made a third type of florette. A simple string of five circles, folded in half and connected with a running stitch.

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The Actual Juice Experiment- Part 1

It was a slow start to the experiment.  By the time we got done with some errands, including grocery shopping for the impressive array of produce, it was basically Sunday evening. We excitedly got home and picked our “meal”, which I decided should have beets in it. My husband hates beets. Now, I didn’t pick beets because I was being cruel, but because my husband kept saying that he was hopeful that this was a way he could finally consume those veggies that are really good for you, but that he can’t stomach–even delicately steamed and deliciously prepared by his talented wife. So I chose something with beets.

The recipe called for one beet, four carrots, two cups kale, one cup spinach, two apples and a thumb of ginger. It was interesting. The color was beautiful but the smell was very green. Surprisingly, the flavor was nice. The ginger was key here and I don’t know if we would have had as positive of a start without it. Unlike a fine wine, you don’t want to inhale too much.
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We “ate” early, like around 5:00 pm, which meant we had aaaaaalllllll night to think about how unsatisfied we were. I ended up eating two bananas. Hey, Joe from Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead ate fruit, too, so it’s okay. I also drank several cups of tea. My husband had some crackers with peanut butter and a banana. I noticed I burped a lot. By 11:00 pm I was starving and more than ready to go to bed. I was thinking about food, a lot.

Monday was the first full day of juicing. I was nervous. Just look at how much I bitched about measly six hours the night before. But I did not wake up particularly hungry, which I thought was a good sign.

I persevered and stuck with my juice… and fruit. I had a banana after breakfast and an apple after dinner. I also had a “snack” juice and a “dessert” juice, which is recommended from the rebooting program. I was proud of myself.  Food stared me in the face all day. Particularly this one can of soup. I just imagined it being all nice and warm and chunky. I really liked looking at it, almost so I could have a goal to work towards, thinking, “I get to eat this when this is all over,” Which was nuts because I wouldn’t normally eat canned soup, and it certainly wouldn’t be the thing I would want to eat above all else.  But for whatever reason it called to me.

Below are a couple of samples of our “meals, ” which were then reduced to less than two pint glasses each time.

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By 10:00 pm on Monday I was starving! My stomach was rumbling and had been all day. Hunger or digestion? I dunno. I was also a little nauseated. My husband ate various sources of protein throughout the day: eggs, chicken, tuna. I  resented him a little. But he was worked out that night, so I gave him some slack.

I drank a lot of water but still felt sluggish throughout the day and I was sooo thirsty. I also had a bit of a head ache. Any physical was activity was draining. Basically, all the text book side effects, except the body odor, of course.

Tuesday, dawned earlier than anticipated once I realized that I needed to attend a fundraiser breakfast. It was torture. I still made a juice in the morning and counted on eating just fruit at the breakfast. And I figured orange juice was okay.

The breakfast went swimmingly. Well…except for the scrambled eggs I ate. But I could only take a little bit of fruit because I was one of the first to pass it around. And eggs are mushy any way. But so good. So good. I still count this a win because I did not eat the Danish, donuts, bacon, and hash browns. I also attended another meeting that afternoon where skittles, milk duds and cookies were passed around. I easily passed those up…but I did grab a diet coke. For some reason this really annoyed my husband who considered the diet coke more egregious that the eggs. Really?

My husband and I constantly asked each other how we were feeling. It was like couples therapy. And should I talk about the gross stuff? Well, let me put it this way, don’t be surprised when because you drink a lot of deep, intense color, a lot of deep, intense color comes out.  The beets are particularly shocking.

On Tuesday evening we went on three mile walk, something we always try and do if the weather is nice. My husband was wiped out after the walk. I felt okay. I think the calorie difference was really starting to affect him. While he was supplementing somewhat with sources of protein, he was still consuming substantially fewer calories.

The first part of the week was challenging but exciting.  All these experiences were fairly new to us, with new tastes and colors and veggies we don’t normally consume.  Check back in a couple of days from now to see how the rest of the week went.  I’ll eventually set up another page with the recipes we used, too.  But adding them here might have made this post too long!

Stop the Madness

This year we had a death in our family.  It was sad.  He had been with us for about seven or eight years, and always faithful, consistent and reassuring.  It wasn’t a pet, it was our coffeemaker.

Despite now having reached a new level of awareness, my husband and I have often been victims of falling for the “newest thing”.   This includes one of those press one button, pod, instant coffee machines. Our machine of choice was the Tassimo. Yes, we know we basically chose the laser disk of the coffee pod machine world, but we were loyal and committed, even as Keurig began to take over the world and Tassimo pods were harder and harder to obtain.  Plus, the Tassimo made cappuccinos and caramel macchiatos, which the Keurig never did (and still does not!).

We originally converted from a regular coffee maker to the Tassimo because only my husband was drinking coffee and he wanted a single serve machine that was convenient and low fuss. And it truly was convenient and low fuss. I mean, how easy: choose pod, insert pod, push button and voila, instant, good coffee for one person. As time went on, though, we realized that it was an expensive habit.  A package of regular coffee, with 16 servings would run about ten bucks, maybe less if you had a coupon, and many packages, especially of the larger servings had fewer pods. So if my husband wanted two cups of coffee a day, we would be spending close to $40 a month…on coffee.  If I spent that much on Starbucks a month, I can assure you my husband would have given me a talking to.

But that was only one aspect. We were also aware of how much we were throwing away with each serving of coffee. Sometimes I would remove the coffee to feed to my worms, but that was tedious and I was still throwing away the pod. Yes, once again here we are telling you what you should do, only after we splurged on what you shouldn’t do…we’re like your parents in that way. But as much as we hate to admit it, parents know what they’re talking about, right?

Still, we didn’t want to spend money on a new coffee maker when the Tassimo was still working. And we didn’t really know in what direction to go, so we just kept using it. It was almost a blessing when it started to crap out. Though, being conscientious, we tried quick fixes we found on the internet.  They worked! And Tassimo gained another eight months of life.

In the end, though, we decided when the last round of expensive coffee was done with, we would retire the Tassimo.  We spent a long time researching our options. My husband still wanted a coffee maker that would only make one cup at a time and now we had a new goal of not generating pod waste every day. Consequently, we wanted a machine where we would be able use our own coffee.

At this point we seriously considered a keurig or a keurig compatible machine, which honestly was, like, 99.9% of the single brew market. (Completely made up number.) There were so many options and brands, too.  With many styles you could buy your own K-cup and use your own coffee.  Plus you could always splurge on one of the billion flavors of coffees, teas, and hot chocolates in pods–you know, if you were into that kind of waste. Let’s not pretend I would be above that. We thought for sure we would end up with a Keurig, or K-cup compatible machine…I mean, really, do they make any others? Why, yes, they do.

We decided on the Hamilton Beach Single Serve Scoop Coffee Maker. http://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Beach-Single-Serve-Coffee/dp/B005GUGBS4.  It is everything we wanted in a coffee maker.  Convenient, single-serve, very reasonably priced and we can use our own coffee.

With my husband as the judge, it makes a really good cup of coffee. And there is nothing to throw away but the grounds.  It has a double filter system which they advise you clean out after every use.  Amazingly, my husband does this step, which really just amounts to rinsing out the grounds and occasionally giving it a good rub with the sponge. Easy enough. Some reviews complained about excessive splashing on the backsplash, but that is because they either didn’t realize or were to lazy to move the platform up.  It adjusts for your cup/mug.  It can accommodate any size mug, and most normal sized travel cups. This was actually something annoying about the Tassimo.  It did not fit many of our mugs, and none of our travel mugs. The Hamilton Beach Scoop only has two options, regular and bold, hence two buttons.  This is a definite advantage over the Keurig machines since I think their machines are often confusing and difficult to maneuver–and I am no button-maneuvering slouch.  I know my way around buttons and menus, and Keurigs are plain tricky. This machine takes the “choices” out of the equation.  You only get the amount of water out that you put in and you measure a the coffee in your scoop according to your preference.  It may take a couple of cups to get it perfect, but even your trial runs will net a pretty good cup of coffee.

Because you are brewing your own grounds, this machine could still work for a large family or a fanatic coffee drinker. There is the extra step of rinsing out the scoops, but 1) it’s easy and 2) they actually give you two of them. So everyone can have the exact cup of coffee they want.  I like flavors, my husband doesn’t, now it’s a win-win. An six ounce cup of coffee is plenty for me and he wouldn’t mind drinking a 16 oz cup.  We can both have it to order and the coffee doesn’t have to sit around to thicken like office coffee if we’re on different schedules.

Just to be clear, my snobbery does not override my common sense. We did not resist a K-cup machine just because we had been loyal to the underdog, Tassimo, but also because the reviews for the re-usable filters were pretty unfavorable.  Plus the machines themselves were much more expensive.

Now, instead of spending $40 a month on coffee, we are spending around $15.  We still buy good coffee, like Starbuck, Gevalia and Caribou Coffee brands. Incidentally, have you noticed how they now sell coffee in 10 oz and 12 oz instead of a pound? Sneaky marketing bastards. We could spend even less money and get cheaper coffee, but let’s not be too hasty.

It doesn’t do espresso…but then again, neither does the Keurig  (though the pricey Starbucks Verissimo does.)  It just makes a solid, consistent cup of coffee that meets our goals of being less expensive and producing less waste.

One last thing, to try to decrease the amount of waste we would generate by disposing of the Tassimo (it wasn’t in good working order, if you recall) we gutted the Tassimo and listed the parts on ebay.  This idea may have been a few years too late.  We still have all the parts.  But at least it made me feel a little better about throwing away the entire thing.

First… admit you have a problem.

My dear, beautiful sister was always so proud of herself for getting such fabulous deals on after-holiday items, decorations and wrappings.  Perhaps the best example was Christmas.  Every year, she would buy her wrapping papers, tissues, foils, boxes, bags, decorations on super sale after the season and put them away for the next year.  She got such fabulous savings!

When she moved from Illinois to Arizona three years ago she brought out from under the house FIVE bins of Christmas stuff, much of it never opened. Together, with hands held, and tears in our eyes, we acknowledged she had a sickness.  If you buy things and never use them, it’s no deal at all, no matter how cheap it was.

Now, I will admit, I took a lot of it…she couldn’t take it with her and we weren’t going to throw it away…it was all free for me.  But, I have to be honest,  it will be years before I actually go through it all.  Especially since I have made a vow to never buy wrapping paper and gift bags again.  Once you make a conscientious effort to save tissue, gift bags, cellophane, bows, ribbon, fillers, foils, and boxes, it adds up very fast.  People may look at you strangely at a baby shower when you are folding all the tissue into manageable folds, but you’ll be glad you did. (Baby showers are gold mines for tissue paper, by the way).  There are so many uses for tissue paper.  You can shred it and use it for easter baskets, shipping delicate products, and gift baskets. You can even wrap presents with it. You can use if for decor on gifts of plain bags, such as making tissue flowers, bows, or taking some watered down glue and decoupage-ing.

At Christmas time, I collect the ribbon and tissue and bags that people otherwise throw away. And they throw so much away! Everyone so far has rolled their eyes at the idea of shredding and composting the wrapping paper, but I hope to put that into effect soon.  I also collect small boxes and ribbons like the ones that come with all those yummy office gifts. Even if it’s too small to actually use to wrap, ribbons are great for crafting.

Occasionally my husband also has a good idea. Sometime ago he collected a handful of flight maps that the local flight school was getting rid of.  They have now become his signature wrapping and everyone remarks on how clever it is.  Repurposing things like maps, comics, your kid’s coloring book pages, instructions, newspaper, magazine pages, and tissue as wrapping paper is a great and FREE idea. Don’t forget to shred and compost after wards (I know…I haven’t gotten around to that yet, but I WILL.)