Archive for ‘Simple Living’

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

the fixer

I was so encouraged by the spirit of this post about reusable bags, in part because it touched on my love of all things inherited.  Lucky for me, Tara[ “tar” (the road stuff) – “uh”], aka The Organic Sister, is way cool and allowed me to share her words with you.  Check out her story, I’m incredibly envious of her family’s up and coming adventure.

. . .

These canvas shopping bags are about 20 years old. They belonged to my mom; proof we’ve been living green before I even knew what it meant.

The average reusable bag has the lifespan of over seven hundred disposable plastic bags.

I love the fact they have lasted so long! Canvas shopping bags are the best; their durability is obvious. I’ve seen some reusable bags that were poorly made and had holes or broken handles within a year.

Repairing Vintage Grocery BagsThe red is even still bright!

Using canvas bags can save an average of 425 plastic bags per person, annually!

Our “vintage” bags (as the store clerk calls them) only recently broke a couple straps. We load them up pretty heavily and the stress started to show in two of the 8 bags’ handles.

Their canvas material makes them easy to repair: I just overlapped the two halfs of the broken handle by a few inches, and machine-sewed vertically and horizontally until it felt good and secure. Nothing fancy and it shortened the handles a bit but it extended their use at least another decade!

An estimated one million birds and 100,000 turtles and other sea animals die of starvation each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags which block their digestive tracks.

Other than some day owning family heirloom bags, want some more interesting reasons to switch to reusable bags? Click here:

Go Reusable Bags!

. . .

Yeah, hey, hey
When somethings dark, let me shed a little light on it
When somethings cold, let me put a little fire on it
If somethings old, I wanna put a bit of shine on it
When somethings gone, I wanna fight to get it back again

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fight to get it back again
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

When somethings broke, I wanna put a bit of fixin on it
When somethings bored, I wanna put a little exciting on it
If somethings low, I wanna put a little high on it
When somethings lost, I wanna fight to get it back again

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fight to get it back again
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

When signals cross, I wanna put a little straight on it
If there’s no love, I wanna try to love again

I’ll say your prayers, I’ll take your side
I’ll find us a way to make light
I’ll dig your grave, we’ll dance and sing
What’s saved could be one last lifetime

Hey, hey, hey
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fight to get it back again
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Fight to get it back again, yeah, yeah, yeah
Fight to get it back again, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

A new favorite song of mine, fitting no?

Monday, October 5, 2009

the beauty in life

I’m feeling uninspired these days.  At least when it comes to my blog.  I have tons of thoughts about creative projects I’d like to do and plans I’d like to make.  But I just don’t seem to have much to share about the Compact, how it’s affecting my life or what I’m doing about it.  I’m not sure what to write or if I want to write at all.

So instead I thought I’d share a few of the images that do inspire me.  Our trip to Portland and subsequent drive down the Oregon and California coastline has reminded me of one thing…

Get outside.  Life is happening all around us.

IMG_7304this way

IMG_7306that way

IMG_7307over here

IMG_7315stop and smell the roses


IMG_7326and up

IMG_7382a little boy in a great big world

IMG_7384may we always keep that sense of wonder


IMG_7410ahhh, brotherly love

IMG_7418my perfect family

Monday, September 14, 2009

no impact, man

no impact man

I missed the L.A. screening by a mere two inches.  Has anyone seen this yet?  I’m hoping to get to a showing in Pasadena when it opens on the 18th.  Anyone planning to go?

Although I don’t think Colin would approve of the distance I’m driving or the movie-going itself just to see his story.  Irony.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

the green party


I can’t believe it’s true.  Toddler L turned two yesterday.  And with kids’ birthdays comes birthday parties.  Luckily for me Toddler L doesn’t have a favorite cartoon character or TV show (he says TV when we turn on the radio, no TV may just warp his mind).  He doesn’t have a favorite book and he hasn’t requested his room be covered in dinosaurs or cars.  So for this year at least I got to choose what his birthday party would look like.  What was the inspiration?

Beans.  Yup, Heinz beans.

Not just any beans though, the baked beans in tomato sauce that are imported from England.  (Yes, a U.S. company makes a product only available in another country that is then brought here and sold as an import.)  When we found a big tin of them I thought they would be good for the party.  Then I looked at the tin and found inspiration in the colors.

We used Pingg for the invitations.  As much as I would have loved to send out handmade paper invites to all the kids we did the responsible thing and used their parents e-mail instead.


We were at a fabulous wilderness park with some less than fabulous metal picnic tables.  Decision 1 – cloth or plastic?  I heavily considered renting tablecloths but couldn’t justify the expense for a 2 hour party.  So we went with plastic that could at least be recycled after.  (I’m kicking myself for not bringing them home and using them for kids’ craft days.  I blame lack of sleep for that faux pa.)

Table decorations were kept pretty simple.  Beans tins (lots of beans were consumed in the making of this party) with flowers – some real, mostly paper – and a picture of Toddler L that I printed at home and attached to skewers.  The pictures are already being recycled into another project.  I also put out some rice filled bean bags I had made using the circles on a pillow case found at the thrift store.  The colors matched the tins perfectly.  The bean bags were later used for games.


We borrowed two canopies and put up some paper poms.  They were pretty easy but very time consuming.  The banner was printed at home and I strung the pieces on ribbon.  It now hangs in Toddler L’s room.


The food was kept simple.  We served pretzel Goldfish (Toddler L’s favorite food), pb & j sandwich cutouts, fruit, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (lovingly made by the husband), mini burgers made with organic beef (not pictured as they were cooking) and, of course, beans.

All of the serving dishes were from our kitchen.  We used compostable plates, cups and cutlery.  And thanks to some friends they actually got composted.  Along with the pillow case I found a sheet that matched the teal color.  I cut it up to make napkins which have since been added to our home collection.  There can never be enough napkins with kids around.


These are the burgers.  Aren’t they cute?  I think they were a big hit with kids and adults.


We did have bottled water as it’s a must for these hot summer days.  We had some large bottles for the adults and these smaller bottles for the kids.  I’m not a fan of plastic water bottles anyway but half full ones left lying around really get my goat.  We also had Sprecher root beer.  It’s the best root beer I’ve tasted, it’s from the husband’s hometown and it comes in glass bottles.  As a final option we made an apple, peach lemonade.  (It was delicious.  And it made me break the Compact.  I just didn’t have a pitcher big enough.  So I bought a beautiful glass dispenser with a tap.  I’ve never seen one in a thrift store, I’ve wanted one for years and I know I will use it forever, so I don’t feel too bad about the purchase.)


I don’t know many toddlers that need to be hyped up on sugar, they really have enough energy already.  (At least the one that lives with me does.)  So I thought mini cupcakes would be perfect.  For the kids at least, the adults got regular size indulgences – I need a full chocolate fix.  They came from BabyCakes Baking Company and were amazing.  I rented the cake stand from the shop so no added waste from making or buying one, and it was way cute.  The cupcake toppers were printed at home and will be recycled into whatever projects I can come up with.


The true highlight of the party though was the pond.  We bought a bulk supply of ranger approved food and handed it out to the kids to feed the ducks, fish and turtles.  It was better than any games or activities we could have brought with us.  It might have been better than the cupcakes.

All in all I’m pretty happy with how green the “teal” party was.  I don’t know that we had any trash as everything was either brought home for another use, recycled or composted.

Could we have made less of an impact and stayed true to the Compact?


Would it have been as fabulous and beautiful?


So in this give-and-take life I’m pretty happy with what I did to get what I got.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

weekly accounts


I am pretty good (or pretty bad depending on your perspective) at making decisions that have a major effect on my family.  Joining the Compact was a big one.  Now I’ve decided that we are limiting our meat intake (at home) to what is healthiest for our bodies and our planet.  Namely organic.  Needless to say, we aren’t eating a lot of meat anymore.  I was vegetarian for years so this doesn’t really bother me, the husband on the other hand has been adjusting.  More because I had gotten into the habit of cooking meat with almost every meal than because he was a die-hard fan.  I could make plain spaghetti every night and he would be pretty happy.  Now that meat is no longer a habit (and that’s really what it had become, strange I know), what will we be eating?

Saturday – spinach and rice

Sunday – buttermilk french toast

Monday – yellow curry with cauliflower and tofu

Tuesday – brown rice salad with tofu

Wednesday – pizza (still doin’ but requires more thought as I am off dairy until Baby S has better digestion)

Thursday – pork fried rice (last piece of pre-organic pork in the freezer)

Friday – brats with homemade buns (I love that I have homemade buns – sad and geeky I know, but true)


Using a system that is somewhat based on $80/week for grocery and non-edible and the $50 a week budget of $125 we are well and truly overextended this week.  It’s amazing how it adds up at the end of the week.  I wasn’t really paying attention this week as I knew we weren’t buying meat (although I did buy almost 3 lbs of organic ground beef for an upcoming party).  I thought it would be easier to stay under budget without that expense.  Not so much apparently.  We did go to Costco as I needed vanilla, yeast and apple juice – all great buys there.  We also had several fun events, including major league and minor league baseball games, that hit our eating out budget.

eating out – $116.13

grocery – $120.87

grocery non-edible – $7.65

All in all a bad week.  But a good reminder that we need to pay more attention as the week progresses.  And make the shopping list early and stick to it.  And spend less money.


In other news, I’m having a great time planning Toddler L’s birthday party.  I can’t believe he’s already 2.

I am probably more Martha Stewart than Edith Bunker when it comes to throwing a party but I am loving the challenge of doing it on a budget, with thrift store finds and in an eco-friendly manner.  Since we don’t have a backyard we are hosting at a wildlife preserve, so we’ve got that part of the green theme covered.  If all goes well I may post some pictures when it’s all said and done.  More planning and thrifting and crafting before we’re there though.

Friday, August 21, 2009

getting real about the high price of cheap food


For anyone who has not yet seen Food Inc., Time magazine has a great article outlining the reality of conventional farming versus organic farming.

Just because the price tag is low doesn’t mean there isn’t a much higher cost to that package of 80% lean ground beef.  Diet, supplements, environmental impact and human impact all play a part in keeping the prices down.  Most of us would rather not have to spend so much time and energy worrying about our food.  But if we don’t think about it what price are we paying?

How willing are consumers to rethink the way they shop for — and eat — food? For most people, price will remain the biggest obstacle. Organic food continues to cost on average several times more than its conventional counterparts, and no one goes to farmers’ markets for bargains. But not all costs can be measured by a price tag. Once you factor in crop subsidies, ecological damage and what we pay in health-care bills after our fatty, sugary diet makes us sick, conventionally produced food looks a lot pricier.

Consider this a primer for Food Inc., a must see if you are concerned about your health or the health of this planet we call home.

Friday, August 21, 2009

path to freedom

If you’ve ever wondered how to live like a pioneer in the heart of the city, these guys can tell you.


Not only is this family living on 1/10th of an acre that is a self-sufficient farm they are also working on greening their home and cars all while blogging about it.


The food looks fabulous and it’s all grown right there at home.  I think my menu plan is feeling a little envious.

If you live in the Pasadena, CA area and are interested in an evening of lively discussion, food and possibly a little garden swappage check out their Film & Food Night.

What: Film Screening of SEED HUNTER & Local, Vegetarian Potluck

When: Sunday, August 23  (6:00 PM – 9:50 PM)

Where: 626 Cypress Ave, Pasadena CA (see map)

Cost: $10 (children under 12 are free) A small entrance fee is required to help pay for facility rental, dvd screening fee, sound system, and purchase of eco friendly compostable dinnerware

Space is limited so please RSVP by calling 626.844.4586 or filling out the online reservation form

Event Schedule  (entire event will be held outdoors so please note time change)

6:00 PM – event starts / Freedom Gardens Swap N Meet

6:30 PM – 7:45 PM – local food potluck

8:00 PM – SEED HUNTER (50 minutes)

9:00 PM – discussion / pop quiz and win prizes!

9:30 PM – event ends

I love their thoughts regarding the potluck portion of the evening…

If not FROM BACKYARD then locally produced.
If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic.
If not ORGANIC, then Family farm.
If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business.
If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Fair Trade.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

not perfect but perfectly happy

It was a dark and stormy night…  Okay, it wasn’t stormy and it was only kind of dark.  But it was an  evening of fate back in December of 2008 when I told my husband we should live a year on The Compact.  We started the year with our best intentions and a pretty strong resolve.  We are almost two thirds of the way through the year and I’d have to say I’m pretty happy with what we’ve accomplished.

Much to his own surprise I think, the husband has become a true clothes hunter.  He runs for the children’s section of any thrift store we enter.  I am happy to let him shop while I peruse kitchen and housewares.  All of the birthday gifts we have needed thus far have been purchased second hand.  That’s not to say they were all used items, just that they were purchased at a consignment or thrift store.  But that issue is for another post.  Today I’m looking at what came from the other stores.  You know the ones.  They have shelves chock full of stuff that has never been outside it’s packaging.  Yup, those stores.

What have I bought?

And why?


clear plastic bins – We needed to store the clothes Toddler L has grown out of.  I don’t like cardboard boxes for a myriad of reasons and I couldn’t find anything close to this by the usual “used goods” route.  These allow me to sort the clothes by size, see the contents and they will make moving easy.  They will also be with us for many, many years to come.


glassware & pizza peel – I broke one of our juice glasses (the short glass in the picture).  This was a pretty big deal for me because I like things to match and I like complete sets.  I’m kind of OCD about it.  I know it and I’m okay with it.  So the missing glass bugged me.  As soon as I was given a Crate & Barrel gift card I ran over to replace my broken glass.  And I bought the pizza peel which gets used every Wednesday for pizza night.  It’s a must have.  I love gift cards.


shelves & brackets – This one is a bit harder to justify.  If that’s what I’m doing.  We needed shelves in the nursery to store Baby S’s stuff.  Babies have a lot of stuff.  Diapers, cloths, creams, clothes…  We had these brackets already in the room for Toddler L’s stuff.  Toddlers have a lot of stuff too.  I like things to match, see above.  I decided I would prefer to go back to the source and get the same brackets even though it would be a non-Compact purchase.  I’m still okay with that decision.  And the room looks nice too.


Cambro container – I searched for almost two months in all of our thrift stores for a container that would hold my Artisan Bread dough.  I kept coming up empty handed.  It was really quite frustrating.  I even searched online for used restaurant supplies.  With all the restaurants that don’t seem to make it I still couldn’t find a used Cambro.  Considering I finally bought a new 6 quart one for about $4 with the lid I guess there wasn’t much profit in selling used ones.  Too bad, I would have been happy to put my dough where someone had once stored coleslaw.  I had been using a large glass container (it was actually a flower/candle holder vase thingy) with a pot lid.  It worked but was incredibly heavy and not terribly safe since Toddler L learned how to open the fridge to get whatever he thought he needed.


tank tops – I will be nursing Baby S for at least another year.  That means nursing bras every day.  Since I also have him in a wrap most days the easiest thing to wear is a tank top.  It’s not easy to find stretchy tank tops that haven’t lost their stretch at the Goodwill.  At Christmas I got a gift card for Banana Republic (thanks Grandma and Grandpa!).  I saved it to splurge on post maternity clothes.  Finally, I’m post maternity.  So I splurged.  I bought a couple new tops which I will wear almost every single day for the next year.  Then I got an offer for 30% off and another offer of free shipping.  As the tanks were already on sale at a huge discount I went off Compact and bought 2 more.  Since I will be wearing them almost every single day for the next year I’m okay with that.  (and no, that is not me modeling my new tank top.  But I do have brown hair.)


wedding gift – I claim no real responsibility for this purchase.  The husband’s family decided to do a group gift for a family wedding.  The choice was his & hers gift cards from the wedding couples registry, we chipped in our share and were grateful to pass on the shopping.  At least the idea of his and hers is cute right?

So these are my “not used” purchases for the past 7 months.  Am I a perfect Compacter?  No.  Am I perfectly happy with my Compact year so far?  Yup.  Tell me if you think I should get kicked off the island.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

monday – menus and more


Okay, I know it’s Tuesday.  But I like order and systems.  Chaos makes my head hurt.  It makes my eyes go all twitchy.  Menus go up on Mondays.  I’m sure it must still be Monday somewhere.  Even if that’s only in my head.  Bear with me while I get through this.  I’m sure things will be back to normal next week.  (yeah, you can stop laughing now.)  Let’s see what we’re eating…

Monday:  stir fry

Tuesday:  chicken parmesan sandwiches (actually monterey jack, but who’s checking?), mashed cauliflower

Wednesday:  pepperoni pizza

Thursday:  something from the pantry, sauteed carrots  (some days are just harder than others)

Friday:  london broil, green beans (didn’t get to this last week either)

Saturday:  beef stroganoff

Sunday:  french toast


Our budget was $80, we spent…

Vons – $25.81 (savings = $25.69)

Target – $3.60 (savings = $2.49)

Trader Joe’s – $11.49

Sprouts – $30.33 (savings = $0.05)

Cost Plus – $9.46

Smart & Final – $21.03

Okay, so I actually thought we were on budget, then I realized I was missing a receipt.  At $101.72 I should feel pretty good about the 27% savings of $28.23 but it really just shows that we aren’t really taking this budget thing to heart.  Too many “want” items that put us over the edge.  More fruit than was really needed (is there really such a thing?), canned soda and bottled specialty root beer, English Heinz beans… all makes for a delightful fridge but not exactly being our most frugal.


On the topic of eating well.  I was introduced to Cari, Adam and Emily this week.  I encourage you to make an introduction.  They all seem to be lovely people with some interesting things to say about food.  And how much to spend for it.  I feel a true kinship with Cari because she is trying to feed her family well without sacrificing things like organic vegetables, eggs and dairy.  She is also making the bread her family eats and grows many of her own vegetables.  I know, I don’t actually do the growing thing, but I still relate to her thinking.  And I would at least consider trying it if we didn’t live in a small apartment on the second floor with a balcony that works really well for storage but not potted plants.  I don’t anticipate I would be successful but I would consider trying.  That’s something right?

I’m also considering a hiatus from my $80/week grocery budget to try $50/week food challenge.  Now that’s $50 per week per adult (plus an additional $25 dollars/week for Toddler L).  Sounds like a lot huh?  But considering we buy organic eggs and dairy and produce when we can, it goes fast.  Also, that $50/week is for all food.  So that’s groceries, restaurants, snacks when out and about, the whole enchilada.  Sounds a bit tougher now, huh?  Not that we eat out that much, definitely less than once a week, but a single meal out can be half that budget.  I am thinking we’ll be rolling over our savings for the times we do go out to make up the difference.  So really, the budget could be considered $200/month/adult (unless it’s those weird months that have an extra week and then it throws everything off, like pregnancy, which is considered 9 months but it’s 40 weeks so really wouldn’t you say that’s 10 months because most people consider one month to be 4 weeks).  Conscious stream writing is really just one long run-on sentence isn’t it?!  At least when it’s my conscious stream.

For a while now (certainly since seeing Food, Inc.), I’ve been re-evaluating what our family eats.  We are really cutting back on meat so that we can stay within a budget but still be good stewards to our health and environment.  We are going to try only buying organic meat, which means not buying it very often.  I would also like to buy mostly local produce from the farmers market instead of the grocery store specials.  It may not be organic but at least it’s helping our community and not being transported from other continents, countries or states.  We have made huge strides in eliminating the processed food we eat but I’d like to keep working on that.  The husband loves him some granola bars, I’m going to try making those and see if they will meet his satisfaction.  Also, I’m a real 1970’s kid in that I love mac n’ cheese from a box (the one with the cheese sauce mind you, not the powdered crap).  I am going to try to kick that habit and bring in the homemade.  We all have to make sacrifices.

Which would you choose, $80/week for all grocery including paper goods and toiletry or $50/week/adult for everything you put in your mouth?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

compacting – act II

We have officially started the second phase of this Compact adventure.  (It’s a coincidence that we’re also halfway through it.)

Early Monday morning (so early most people would consider it Sunday night) Baby X joined the family and officially became Baby S.  Now that we’re all back home and setting up a routine I have started to think about how the Compact will affect our newest family member.

When I decided we would follow the guidelines of the Compact this year we had a toddler.  All in all, toddlers don’t need that much stuff.  At least, this one doesn’t.  Or at least he doesn’t know he doesn’t have or need much.  We have had great success finding clothes and other necessities for Toddler L at the thrift and kids’ consignment stores.

Since we have said toddler we already had most of the baby items we needed.  Bonus that they are both boys so I don’t have to dye pink bedding or traumatize a boy with a Strawberry Shortcake car seat.  Are there other baby needs I don’t remember or am too tired to realize yet that we can’t meet in a Compact world?  I don’t think so but I guess it’s all part of the adventure to find out.

I was very happy to see some changes in what the hospital thought we needed too.  As we were at the same place Toddler L was born I remembered them being so nice and wanting to give us so many goodies when we were checking out.  It wasn’t until I started to go through it that I realized there were at least three diaper bags and numerous cans and samples of formula.  I already had a diaper bag and these “freebies” were all heavily branded by the formula companies.  Another product I wasn’t really in need of.  More than anything I remember the nurse’s surprise when I tried telling her I didn’t want any of it.

Just because something is free doesn’t mean I need it.  (That goes for you too husband.)  Other families might, so I will happily leave my share for them.

This time the bag of goodies arrived and I was the surprised one.  The bag was full of diapers.  Now that is something every new baby needs.  (Yes, yes, I know all about cloth diapers and am a huge supporter, we just can’t use them – a story for another day.)

I only hope they re-distribute the many papers and pamphlets we were given that I carefully left behind after reading.  Re-use comes before recycle.


On a completely different train…

If you have any suggestions for watermelon I’d love to hear them.  We were given a good size one for the 4th that I assume needs to be cut into soon and with only the husband, Toddler L and I I’m not sure how we’ll get through it all.