Archive for February, 2010

So, in my efforts to be green on a shoestring, it turns out that there are so many things that can be done around the house to help out the earth, our bodies, AND our wallets.  It doesn’t all have to be fancy, expensive accessories!  Although there is always room for improvement (and I expect to hear from you about other improvements), here are a few tips I can offer to get started on Green-ing the paper trail on your home.  

First Action: Always reduce the amount you use.  This includes less toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, facial tissues, computer paper (remember to use BOTH sides always!), junk mail, etc… 

A few words about junk mail: I spent many minutes on the phone calling catalog companies and asking them to stop sending me catalogs.  This has helped my want for things I don’t need and since I’m computer savvy, I can browse the entire “store” online when I do need something.   I also called people I do business with (credit card companies) to stop sending me solicitations and statements.  There are also do-not-mail lists that actually work (Warning: some require your Social Security Number, but they’re generally legit–be savvy.). 

I am proud to be a two-rolls-of-paper-towels-per-year kind of lady.  How?  Read on, my friends.

Second Action: Use 100% post-consumer recycled paper only (or as close as you can get).  This can actually drive up the cost of one’s household expenses, but if rule #1 above is applied, it can even out or be cheaper.  Half the consumption for less than twice the price makes it cheaper.  Also, when combined with coupons, wholesale clubs and price comparisons, it can be as cheap or cheaper than the non-recycled/less-recycled, virgin wood paper–even if you haven’t reduced your consumption.  In our house, paper towels, toilet paper and computer paper falls into this category. 

Third Action: STOP USING PAPER!  Okay, this can be difficult when you need to print out your plane tickets and such (see Second Action), but there are ways to totally eliminate other paper streams:

USE TOWELS.  FOR EVERYTHING.  I actually forgot to mention paper napkins in my riff above.  We’ve used cloth napkins for so long, I forgot that they even made paper ones.  Cloth napkins (C’mon folks, 50c at the thrift shop will pay back in a month), rags and dish towels can solve any clean-up you have in the kitchen.  (True Confession: I do use paper towels for one thing only–cracking and peeling a boiled egg.  I guess we all have our vice, but being able to crack and peel an egg, rinse it off and then pat it dry with the same paper towel is very satisfying and easy clean-up.  Then I can stuff the whole thing (sans egg, of course) into the compost bucket, something which always is in need of brown matter).  Do not fool yourself into thinking that the extra laundry (soap and water) will negate the green-ness of using towels and cloth napkins.  Nice try.

Our family’s stash of not-so-fancy facial tissues.

The other thing I forgot to mention at the beginning (and had to go back and insert it) was facial tissues.  I only remember these when I visit other people’s homes.  While we use these for everyday use as well, when you have a dastardly cold, cloth tissues will save your face (and your wallet).  They are so much more soft!  And easy!  All you need to do is take a pair of pinking shears to flannel from anywhere (your fabric cabinet, your old pj bottoms, your partner’s favourite shirt…) and cut approx. 6″ x 6″ squares.  Done!  find an unused basket or other storage receptacle and make it kid-accessible.  When we’re sick, we keep a special bin on the washer for “snot rags” and throw them into a hot, hot wash to make sure they don’t actually pass germs around.  Otherwise, they get tossed in with all the other laundry.  Ditto on passing the buck with the “extra” laundry.

An additional, and perhaps more radical solution: The Family Cloth.  Many of you know about the FC, perhaps some of you use it.  It takes a strong will and certain brashness to do the FC.  Lost?  A brief explanation: replace your disposable and flush-able toilet paper with reusable cloth.  (And, though the term insinuates it, there isn’t just one, you can have many family cloths.)  Just like the facial tissue I just mentioned.  They can be made in the same way (perhaps a wee bit bigger), or you can purchase inexpensive ones like these from my favorite retailer.  If you cloth diaper, it’s a logical next step, especially if you use cloth wipes.  Just throw a wet bag next to the toilet and throw the contents into a diaper wash (or the cycle you used for diapers if they are no longer a part of your life–lucky you!).  If you’re worried about odor, put a wet bag in a step-lid trash can with a charcoal filter (available in most places that sell trash cans) and take it out when the bag is full or you’re ready to do laundry.  That’s it!  Imagine if you had a stash of these in your car and had them available for unanticipated field potty breaks!  No more foliage identification crash courses! 
This is actually something that my family hasn’t signed onto yet, but a few times when the toilet paper has run out and I’ve refused to buy the cheap virgin bleached stuff, we’ve re-appropriated my youngest’s wipes for our toilet use and it was just fine and there were actually no complaints….hmmm, makes me wonder why I haven’t switched before now!  Perhaps that’s our next step.  A little closer every day. 

What’s your next step?


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Hand-Made Breakfast

My family has been in revolt as of late.  The dinner-time battles are starting to wear me down, with a 4-year old who has decided that anything I make is “disgusting,” a toddler who doesn’t want to eat anything but cheese and flavored crackers and a partner who tries so hard to be enthusiastic about healthy food, but is painfully transparent as the first bites go down…but I refuse to be daunted.  In addition to soliciting input about menus and grocery lists, I try new things at least once a week–regardless of the enthusiasm at the table.  My latest breakfast-table newbie: Apple Walnut Pancakes.  Now, you have to understand, I have a family that would eat cereal for breakfast every day of their lives.  Pancakes in this house are finally wheat, but still topped with maple-flavored high-fructose corn syrup, and only recently without the butter “flavor.”  So, this was a leap.  But, in the end, a successful one!  The whole family ate heartily (except maybe G, who was looking around for the cheese) and even used the real maple syrup (since we inadvertently ran out of the fake stuff).  Clean plates in the end make for a happy mama who keeps trying every day, despite the moans and groans.

Apple Walnut Pancakes (Taste of Home)
1 C unbleached white flour
1 C whole-wheat flour
1T brown sugar
2t baking soda
1t salt
2 egg whites
1 egg, beaten
2C milk
2T canola oil
1 medium apple, chopped
1/2C walnuts, chopped
Mix ingredients together, pour onto hot, greased pan and turn when bubbles pop and sides are firm.  Enjoy!

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Project: Complete

Well, I was able to finish Em’s lap quilt in time for cozy quiet time yesterday…not the most fancy or meticulous, but made with love and hopefully durable!  I did a simple 10″ square, 4-by-6 quilt and backed it in a light yellow flannel.  I finished the edges with a zig-zag stitch with varigated thread and tied it at the center of each block and at each corner with thicker, silk DMC floss.

Cozy up on the couch…

…and a little game of drag your sister around the house.

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Getting Rich Quick!

I’m feeling so much better about my parenting these days.  I’m not sure if it’s because my eldest is growing out of some craziness and settling into herself or that the wee’est is starting to talk and communicate better, or if I’m putting into practice all of the helpful ideas I’ve been reading about and getting from friends.  But, whatever it is, a big Thank You to the Universe.

I was sure I wanted to be a stay-at-home mama.  During my maternity “leave” for Em, I tried everything to figure out a way I wouldn’t have to go back to work.  I was desperate.  We lucked out, both having places of employment that allowed us to bring our daughter to work.  My eldest didn’t see the inside of a childcare center until the age of 2, and then it was only 2 days a week for some additional exposure to other children, since we had few friends who were parents.  By US standards, we were very lucky and privileged. 

By the time the 2nd came along, I was able to quit to be at home.  YAY!  But, once the reality set in, maybe not so much “yay.”  The transition was hard from one to two children, and it turns out that being home with my eldest day in and day out was another major transition.  Add to that my transition to being around adults many days of the week to nearly none, I was struggling.  My solution was to push away.  To wish for longer naps, for somewhere for Em to go for part of the day.  I started calling preschools to see if there were any open spots mid-year.  We settled on re-enrolling her back into the Waldorf-inspired preschool she had attended for 18 months before her sister was born, which added an additional layer of financial strain.  Still for 2 days a week, it took some pressure off and helped me gain a bit of composure and footing–after 9 months of struggling.  We enrolled Em in the local preschool for this school year due to constrained finances, but they only had a full-time program, 8-2 Monday through Thursday and Friday mornings.  I didn’t want her to be away so much, especially as an aspiring homeschooler, but she needed social and physical resources I could not provide with such a small baby and such a cold winter.  We’re generally satisfied with her experience and she sure loves it, but I still struggle with a way for us to have a wonderful time when we are all home together.  That, in part, is what inspired this blog, and what inspires most of my reading and internet time.

Then, along came Rahima Baldwin. (I know, for some of you, this is OLD news, but I’m a newbie!)  I love her.  At the suggestion of a fellow blogger, I tramped down to the library and got her book “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.”  Here it is!  Helpful, practical, solutions for being creative myself, entertaining young children with art, crafts, music and natural play.  Not solutions of TV, movies, video games or obnoxious electronic or plastic toys. 

Em telling an elaborate story about her family-room picnic.

Resources.  Real resources.  For me as a parent on how to better engage with both of my children.  Insights into how they relate to me, the world around them, with and through their playthings and how to gently guide them into thinking for themselves, building the capacity to think more complexly and completely when they’re older and, finally, a hug. 

A virtual hug from a total stranger who’s been tooting this horn for more than 20 years.  To say that bigger, faster, more is not better.  The Waldorf world can be expensive.  Beeswax for modeling, wooden toys, playsilks, watercolors and all the off-shoots of art and music classes!  And, we foot that bill as much as we can, but to know that scraps of fabric, scraps of wood, songs sung on our own–these are valuable parts of childhood.  As well as wee versions of grown-up work, these are what makes a child’s world rich, and therefore our family life rich.

A little family time before bedtime rituals.

We are rich in the fact that we have one parent available all of the time, and another most of the time, that we as parents actively try to find ways to make our children’s lives better, as our parents did for us, and theirs before them.  But, we are choosing to go backwards.  We are turning away from the loud, bright, overstimulation of computers, and baby-education.  We are turning toward the past.  To simplify, reposition our values to focus on time, quality food, creating and working with our own hands, and playing with things that are readily available in the natural world.  We are truly rich.

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Projects in Progress

We have been battling the winter demons: sick germs. Our house has been riddled with colds, pneumonia and all sorts of sickness that has taken out 3 of 4 occupants, including me. However, because it has been so long since the last post and because sleeping children make for more mama-crafting time, I have pictures to show you about my latest projects:

These are the fabrics I chose to make my daughter Em’s lap quilt.  I was hoping to inspire a feeling of oldness, to capture a simpler time when the quilt of one’s grandmother felt like hugs from generations past and was so helpful in times of illness.


G got a new pair of soft wool leggings, repurposed out of a thrifted wool sweater that I felted.


Em and I sat down to make some paper heartstrings and talked about the kind of people and things we hold in our hearts.  Some of the hearts are named after family, friends, teachers at school, and the elements like Sun, Snow and Rainbows.

Having Em home from school all week because of illness gave me a newfound wish to keep her home and homeschool her.  It might have been that sickness made her physical needs less, or maybe it was that she’s getting closer to being 5 years old, but it was delightful to have her around to talk to and project with, even though we were all sick.  It was such a nice change from the daily battles I seem to have with her.

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