Showing posts with label Frugality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frugality. Show all posts

Sunday, October 20, 2013

getting ready for Halloween!

Ladybug Girl and Princess eat apples after our local farm's spooky hayride

The Halloween countdown is on. Every year Vivi impresses me by being more excited about the holiday than the year before. As a kid, I never put as much effort into the planning and decorating as she does, so it's fun for me to create new traditions with her. Here's a shot of one of the two banners she made completely by herself:


Read more >>

Thursday, October 10, 2013

it's beginning to feel {not at all} like Christmas

I know it's insanely early to discuss such things, so if you are a person who is easily offended by the slightest whiff of Christmas talk prior to Black Friday, this is not the post for you.

But if, on the other hand, you are a planner like me who is petrified that her girls will get more pink plastic crap instead of games and toys that challenge their minds, then step on down! You are the next contestant on...

The Price is Wrong...But We're Buying It Anyway Because of Guilt and Competitive Parenting

Tell them what they've won, Bob!

A Brand New Scooter!

Friday, August 16, 2013

should we join Costco?

costco logo


We've been pondering whether to join Costco Wholesale Club. Generally speaking, a way to buy food in bulk--both to save on cost and cut trips to the store--appeals to me. I do also have one very fond memory of an epic shopping trip at Sam's Club with my mom as a teenager, and we stumbled upon what could only be described as a pallet of medjool dates. Heaven! However, as a family committed to eating unprocessed, local food as much as possible, we are undecided about the discount price club movement. Would we be able to purchase enough to justify the $55/year membership fee?

I set out on the internet to discover the opinion of fellow real foodies. A few articles are positively persuading me that it is a decision that would make sense for our family's desire to eat real, sustainable food:
They do seem to carry plenty of organic products! Who knew?! Based on the articles I read, I have decided to give it a shot. Here's my shopping list (not all in one go, since we're still trying to go unprocessed and local as much as possible, but these are the products I could see us buying at some point):
  • Kellygold grass-fed butter and Dubliner cheese
  • organic sugar
  • organic coconut oil
  • Gilt organic unbleached flour
  • Newman's Own caesar dressing (the hub's absolute favorite, must-have salad dressing)
  • organic strawberry jam
  • organic peanut butter
  • organic tomato sauce & diced tomatoes
  • Harry's organic creamy tomato basil soup
  • organic carrot juice (the girls love it and think they are getting a treat!)
  • Annie's organic fruit snacks (I'm not proud, but they are excellent tools of bribery. Look away!)
  • Clif organic fruit rope (ummm, organic fruit by the foot? heck yeah!)
  • TruRoots sprouted rice and quiona blend & sprouted bean trio
  • Tazo tea
  • raw honey (they carry Nature Nate's, which has a nice explanation of what raw honey is)
  • organic frozen produce (peas, corn, edamame, etc.)
  • Amy's frozen lasagna
  • Morningstar frozen veggie sausage
  • Alexia organic frozen french fries
  • Larabars & Clif bars
  • raw nuts
  • Mary's Gone organic crackers
  • canned fish (tuna, sardines, salmon)
  • Kirkland Toscano olive oil (see this guide that gives Costco oil a thumb's up)
  • Made in Nature organic preservative-free dried fruit blend
  • steel-cut oats
  • almond butter
  • organic ketchup
  • vanilla beans
  • Izze soda
  • Better than Bouillon
  • white vinegar
  • baking soda
  • eco-friendly dish soap
  • Oxyclean
  • cat food, wet and dry

I'll report back with how it goes and will make an attempt to calculate my savings. In the meantime, tell me, are you a member? Do you love it?

Image Credit: Steve Lovelace

Monday, May 06, 2013

Vivi's laissez-faire birthday party


The little dears have finally moved away from the age when a group photo involves children standing higgledy piggledy and wizz wuzz all over the place to the age when they put their arms around each other and smile. Or pout, as it may be, but look at the camera all the same.

If you know me only through the blog and not in person, it is possible I have not communicated to you the extent to which my elder child ADORES having a birthday. This little human schemes and hatches her party plans year-round. Some days she wants a Batman rainbow unicorn cake, and some days she wants to go to a water park (dear God why), but the universal components are friends and food. I like that she understands the important aspects of party-planning and doesn't get bogged down in details, which allows me lots of wiggle room.

For me, it is important that party-planning and execution be simple and relaxed. A core element of my personality is that I can't be bothered to fuss when entertaining guests. Adding a secondary layer to my character onion, I think all the focus on children's birthdays has become bananas, and I refuse to take part. The expense, the cheap plastic crap, the stress. What are we teaching our children? I won't go into details since it's a well-covered topic, but I will share my favorites of others who have covered it, e.g. UMN Birthdays without Pressure, a Boston Mamas article, and a Minimalist Parenting article.

Thus, about three weeks before Vivi's fifth birthday, I started running the potential itinerary by her, and darned if she didn't accept all my ideas graciously and even enthusiastically, bless her. I enjoyed sharing her party last year (see my original post and/or when it was featured on Apartment Therapy), so I thought I'd share the party details again this year.


Genevieve's laissez-faire fifth birthday party

The Planning

Going off our rule from years past, she was allowed to invite 5 friends, one per year of age (plus siblings. Poor Charlie had to endure a confusing moment when Vivi said "You don't count at my birthday, Charlie." Her pouty bottom lip will slay you). She has two best friends at school, so I cleared some possible dates with the moms ahead of time, figuring if they couldn't be there, it wouldn't be worth having a party at all. Really, this kid is a fiercely loyal friend.

The Activities

I knew from last year that 2 hours was a good amount of party time and that we only needed one or two scheduled activities. A few months ago, her grandparents gave her and C tie-dyed t-shirts from their island vacation, and she was enamored with the dye process as I explained it from my summer camp days, so I knew we had settled on a good activity with tie-dying shirts.

Tie-dying might be good for older kids, but for five-year-olds, it was mostly me & moms doing all the work. Meh.

Because we normally plan her party close to Cinco de Mayo (giving me a good excuse to serve my favorite snacks, salsa and guacamole), I mentioned to a friend we might get a piñata, and she told me about this great kind with ribbons the kids pull instead of beating it to death a la Steve Martin. Sold!


An activity we didn't do that I still love the idea of is to get an old big white sheet for a picnic, and then when everyone's done eating, give the kids fabric pens and let them draw on the sheet. What fun that would be!

The Food

On the morning of her party, I did a quick shopping trip to our local farm and Trader Joe's to get everything except the avocados and kiwis, which I purchased a few days ahead to give them time to ripen. The kiwis are part of another birthday tradition I started with her last year, which is to buy her exotic fruit. She gets to watch it ripen all week, which just adds another layer to birthday excitement.

I got veggies and strawberries at the farm (a rare time for us to buy out of season). At TJ's, I bought all of the other party stuff: that tray of four kinds of hummus, a bunch of various chips and salsas, and brownie bites and lemon squares. For refreshments, Nate got beer and hard cider (an elderflower type from Angry Orchard, so good), and I got a bunch of those fancy sparkling juices from TJ's. The kids had a big serve-yourself juice container of watered down pink lemonade.

As for the dessert, we have noticed she doesn't love birthday cake but obsessively craves ice cream, so I brought up the idea of an ice cream sundae bar. YES YES YES! I knew at that point we were all set. The kiwis and strawberries went into a bowl, and the brownie bites and lemon squares in another bowl, to serve alongside the ice cream sundaes. Thanks to my mom, who bought Vivi some cooking supplies at Christmas, we already had a bunch of fancy sprinkles to go on top. Oh, and I got the ice cream and mini cones in bulk at the supermarket for cheap a few weeks ago and stashed them in the basement chest freezer I love dearly.



The Party

When the guests arrived, the kids ran around the backyard playing with our hastily purchased dollar store accoutrement, sidewalk chalk and butterfly nets. Watching them enjoy the unscheduled play time, I realized that even with short activities, I was still over-orchestrating the whole event. Next year I'm filling up the galvanized wash tub with water and bubbles and putting some tea pots and cups out there, and I have no doubt it will be enough. You should have seen them chase each other around the yard with those nets, trying to nab their friend's heads instead of bugs. The parent crowd eyed each other, shrugged, and passed around more food and drinks. Three cheers for good friends!



After-Party Run-Down

Here's another party tip: have the right adults present. I had fretted over the possibility of Vivi getting a bunch of crap we don't need for her gifts and pondered the idea of telling them not to bother ("Your presence is the present" kind of thing), but in the end I opted to let them make their own decisions, and it worked out perfectly! All the gifts she got were thoughtful and not what I would call a waste of resources. A fairy garden, a date to paint pottery, and some retro games like a Jacob's ladder. As time goes on, I am more convinced that all I need to do to raise good kids is to surround myself with a good tribe. The rest of the details fall into place on their own, if I have the courage to let go.


Tie dye was a bit of a mess. The kids were into it for about three minutes, until they realized the moms were doing most of the heavy lifting, and then they slowly wandered off. It was nice to be able to send everyone home with a t-shirt, but it wasn't an expected addition so I wouldn't do it again.

The ribbon piñata was fun in that it's much easier and more civil to have the children take turns without having them blindfolded, dizzy, and swinging a heavy bat, but I will tell you that the ribbons did not make the dang thing open. In the end, Nate still had to do the Dad Maneuver (sans wood saw, fortunately) and rip it apart.


To my surprise, the kids didn't dive in and elbow each other to get candy; they were all first-timers, so most stood there with dazed expressions, except for one girl who wisely grabbed a butterfly net and shoved it under the ladybug just in time to catch the spilled candy guts. I high-fived her mom for raising such a practical kid. My mom found these adorable peanut butter and jelly wallets on sale, so we let the kids put their piñata score in them, and I counted those and the tie-dye shirts as "goody bags."


I'm repeating myself with this last party rule, but it's worth saying again, as it is probably the most crucial element: invite a close friend of family member you can boss around, preferably of the female species. Of all the days I say "I wish I had a wife," the day of a party is the day I most need a clone. Last year we had my friend Liza, who stepped in beautifully to pull off the Spiderman (and Spiderwoman!) cookie cakes. This year my mom agreed to come and help wrangle, and I couldn't have done it without her. You want her and Liza on your party-planning team. Thanks Mom!


Saturday, May 04, 2013

in with the new

Spring is finally here to stay. With it came all the bargain shopping experiences you know I love. Negotiating ain't my thing, but if the price is set, I'll buy--and the last hour when everything is half price is fun too.

This weekend was my church's rummage sale, which is always a favorite. The children's book section is where I make a bee-line during the volunteer pre-sale. Check out some of these "awwww"-inducing finds:



Last year I volunteered during sale week by marking prices on breakables, but not being a tchotchke collector, I was worried I did it badly and found the experience stressful. This year I stuck with sales, which I liked because it involved talking to people. I met lots of the congregation who come to the 11am service. They all sized me up to be a 9am-er, "because all you 9am-ers have small kids."Yup.

The hardest part about sales was the rush at the end of the half-price sale. Everyone seems to assume you will give stuff away for nearly free just to get them out of your hair and because you don't want to cart the goods off to charity. They are mostly correct in this assumption, but I must tell you a hard truth. This segment of society--who haggle with volunteers at a rummage sale from which the proceeds go to a good cause--they weren't raised right by their mamas. My fellow fraught cashier could be heard a time or two exasperatedly bristling, "Oh all right, have it your way." I just laughed because laughter is how I handle awkward folks. Well, laughter and judgmental blog posts.

The adult book section--by that I mean books for grown-ups, not of the three-x variety--also had some great finds, so I think my summer reading selection is nearly complete. I put it up on Goodreads in case you're on there too and want to follow along or comment. If you're an avid reader and not yet on Goodreads, check it out! The combined inventions of GR and Pinterest mean I almost never miss a book recommendation these days.


Would you count Faulkner and James as summer reads, though? Hmmm, perhaps not. What do you have on your current book list?

p.s. I've already read Stumbling on Happiness, but I gave it away years ago and thought I could use a refresher. Do you give away books you liked? I can't handle clutter, so I find it's easier for me to get the book again later from the library or a used book sale than it is to lug it around for years. If I keep it, I just end up resenting it gathering dust. Plus, giving it away means I get to share book-love, which is one of my favorite life activities!

p.p.s. I admit that pic above of the books isn't great to show off the titles, but I wanted to squeeze in my other new purchase. That little bowl on the left is also a find from the church sale. Three bucks! I've been looking for a bowl for all the cell phone hoopla, and this one fits the bill nicely, doncha think? Here's a better shot of the books:


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

methods of conserving water: a gardening season primer


I'll never forget my first lesson in conserving water. I was at summer camp, and our head counselor stood in front of the group and explained how we could use less water when brushing our teeth by turning off the water when not using it. As an adult who has been doing this practice most my life, it seems so elementary as to require no explanation, but I remember feeling astonished at this news as a child. Oh, right, I don't need to run the water when I'm not using it!

Friday, March 01, 2013

spring cleaning update to your kitchen: {guest post}

How are you doing on your New Year's resolutions? I wised up this year and didn't announce my resolutions, thereby (in theory) circumventing guilt when I did not fulfill them. However, being a person who seeks self-improvement, I did make some mental notes on areas of my life and home I'd like to tinker with this year. One area I highlighted for renovation is the kitchen. But despite loads of inspiration on my Pinterest boards, I am having trouble getting started. Cue those guilty feelings.

With the beginning of March comes thoughts of spring cleaning, so it feels like a good time to put aside the fear and guilt and get moving on some of those resolutions. Today I'm bringing in a guest with expertise in the field of home improvement, and she's going to give us some frugal ideas for where to begin on updating your kitchen. Be sure to read to the bottom for Jillian's bio. Take it away, Jillian!
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Ikea kitchens
Image Credit: Ikea

This year when you're doing your annual spring cleaning, don't just clear out the clutter from your kitchen; –make it better by improving the organization, updating the design, and maybe even doing a bit of renovation.

Here are several great ideas to make your kitchen the best room in the house.


Ikea Kitchens
Image Credit: Ikea


Organize(rs for) your drawers. 

How many times have you cleaned out your drawers and made everything look fantastic, only to open them a few weeks later and discover that everything has gotten cluttered again? No system is perfect, but there are some great drawer organization systems that can go a long way towards helping. Ikea offers these simple drawer organizers that help you to divide your cabinets with clean lines, and several manufacturers are even applying this idea to dinnerware with pegged dish organizers. You can move the pegs around as you need to fit your particular plates, bowls, and saucers, and never worry about where they're supposed to go.


My mom's kitchen after recent updates (note the mirror and newly painted cabinets)


Do it with mirrors. 

Everyone knows that mirrors work wonders at making spaces feel bigger, but few people think to use this knowledge in their kitchen. If you have a cramped cooking area, you can make it appear larger by adding in a mirrored backsplash. You'll open the space up with reflections and create a brighter, cleaner look.


Provide a facelift. 

Redoing your entire kitchen can be prohibitively expensive, but that doesn't mean that you can't use frugal tips to make it look like a new room. Convince people that you replaced your cabinetry by getting new doors. Some places even offer them unfinished for as little as $9.95 per door! Alternatively, you could paint your current doors a different color and simply pick up some fancy new hardware.



Ikea KitchensSink and faucet. 

Another piece of hardware that can make a big impact is your sink and faucet. Change out both, and you can have a truly different look in your kitchen, especially if you're going from a traditional metal sink to one made of stone, china, or even glass. Of course, some sinks can cost in the thousands. For many, that's probably too expensive, so if that's you, make an impression with a new designer faucet. You can even help the environment by getting one that's low-flow.


Hang around. 

One great way to get organized and revitalize the look of your kitchen is to utilize the vertical space – especially the space underneath counters. If you’re really feeling in the mood to change things up, you can get a cabinet that suspends your microwave over the stove and free up more of the counter. Those looking for something a bit easier, though, may want to try a hanging pot rack or a hanging wine rack.


Ikea Kitchens
Image Credit: Ikea

Change out your chairs. 

If you have a small table in your kitchen or a breakfast bar, the kind of seating you use can make a big statement about the room. Are you stately and refined, or sleek and modern? Even changing out something seemingly small like your seating can greatly affect the overall look and feel of your kitchen. Perhaps just as important, smaller chairs can give you more space and make your kitchen feel bigger than it really is.


About the author: Jillian Watkinson is a DIY expert and has written about home and gardens for many years. You can find other examples of her writing on The Design Inspirationalist, The Kitchen Blog, and Pegasus Lighting. When she’s not writing, you can find her covering Community Home Supply and other useful supply companies for various projects.

Editor's note: This post is part of LHITS DIY Linky and The Homestead Barn Hop.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

frugal living

Welcome to the February 2013 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Finances
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we balance finances, family, and simplicity. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.
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When we bought our first Mac laptop seven years ago, it helped us in many areas of our lives. Perhaps the biggest way was that we started using Quicken. I smile when I ponder the pre-Quicken days of writing down every expense on a paper tablet, but that is one instance when I can say for sure I don't long for the Good Ol' Days.

Although Quicken did help us establish our first budget, it wasn't until we took on a frugal living challenge last year that we really began to analyze closely our needs versus our wants and attempt to make cuts to family spending. The frugal living challenge was a 23-day experiment in which we redefined "enough" and discussed the merit of each individual purchase we make on a regular basis.

We altered our lifestyles greatly after the challenge to be more frugal. For instance, we got rid of cable (for a year; we're back on cable now in our new house). One area that took lots of time and soul-searching to change was grocery-shopping. I realized in doing the challenge that so much of my coupon-clipping was to purchase items we didn't really need (e.g. toilet bowl cleaner can be made at home for pennies on the dollar!). Upon that realization, I decided once and for all to cut out coupons from our lives; I shared the results and my tips for shopping frugally without coupons on the blog.

 I have written several posts about living frugally, so if you're pondering how you can live more simply and within your means, come pull up a chair and learn from my foibles and follies on our path to frugal living:




How do you live frugally? What does frugal living mean to you?

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Thanks for reading the Simplicity Parenting Blog Carnival! We hope you’ll take time to read these other great contributors’ posts (Note: Links will all be live by 3pm ET on February 26th): SimParCarButton150x150
  • Keeping Finances Simple - Becky at Crafty Garden Mama shares how using the Neat scanner, price books and setting a budget helps her family keep their finances simple.
  • Living Within Our Means - Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM discusses how her family attempts to simplify their financial life by not spending money they don't have.
  • A Confession: I'm a Cheapskate - Jade at Faith in the Shade confesses her frugal nature and shares the stresses of simplifying her budget in all areas of the home.. even the most hated- groceries.
  • frugal living - Justine at The Lone Home Ranger recaps how participating in a frugal living challenge last year changed the way she approached family spending.
Thanks to all the fabulous writers and readers for being a part of our simplicity parenting community! Stop by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM to see how to join us for a future carnival.


Editor's note: This post was shared with The Homestead Barn Hop.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

on making our own lard

{Secondary/Alternate Title: Yes, We are Those People}

My plan was to publish a post today about pocket meat pies. That post will need to wait a day because to make a meat pie, you need a sturdy savory crust. I believe that crust should start with one surprising but important ingredient: lard. I've gotten on my lard soap box before, so rather than beat it to death, I'll simplify the conversation today and boil it down--so to speak (hardy har)--to a few quick paragraphs.

Why lard?

In the middle of the last century, well-meaning scientists told us saturated-fat-containing ingredients like lard caused heart disease, and law-abiding citizens ran fleeing from it. Since then, we've learned that the replacements for lard--like vegetable shortening--contain trans fats, which are much worse for you than saturated fat. Not only that, but lard also contains monounsaturated fat that is necessary for brain function. Even leaving health out of the discussion for a moment, I am sold on the idea of lard because I am a firm believer in nose-to-tail cooking. Hence, we actually eat tail from time to time.

In a nutshell, lard is not your enemy, and the people who want you to go on believing it is have ulterior motives.  Set aside what you think you know, do your research, and make your own decision.

Where can you buy lard? 

To make lard, you need to get your hands on pork kidney fat called leaf lard. The reason you want leaf lard is that you can render it into a neutral fat that doesn't taste of pork, assuming you cooked it low and slow enough. I'll get to that part in a minute. We get our leaf lard for a $1/pound from a cooler at our monthly meat CSA. If you don't have a CSA, I bet you can strike up a deal with any pork seller at your local farmer's market if you're friendly. Heck, you might even be able to get it already rendered from your butcher if you're lucky.

Remember how I said I was going to start saying yes to ideas, even if they sounded scary or impossible? Ahem. To be frank, the rendering process is not as pleasant as I'd like it to be. But then, with a process called "rendering fat," did you expect it to be pleasant? For one thing, it's messy, in that "fat gets on things and won't come off things" way. For another thing, it doesn't look good. Mine wasn't even photographable. For a third thing, it's smelly. Not "I'm frying up some bacon" good smelly, but "I've been working in the kitchen of a 24-hour diner" bad smelly. I advise you to make a giant batch in one day, then hang on to it in your freezer for the next six months. Let it be a warm enough day that you can crack a window--for us, that's around 40 degF, but our standards are influenced by the chilly Beantown climate.


Nourished Kitchen
Image credit: Nourished Kitchen

How do you render lard?

Now that we've gotten the purchasing and caveats out of the way, let's get down to cooking. The actual directions couldn't be much simpler, so rather than reinvent the wheel I'm connecting to blogs that have already written them. If you are making a batch of savory lard and you don't mind a slight porky flavor--in fact, you might even be going for that--you can make it in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. If you want it for sweet pie crust and don't want it to taste like pork at all, then you should probably make it in a slow cooker. For either method, you'll want to start by chopping the fat into small pieces (Note: if you're getting it from the butcher, you can ask to have it ground, or you can do the grinding yourself if you have one of those sausage attachments on your stand mixer).

Here again are links to the two methods:

Tomorrow, we'll delve into the fruits of our labor and discuss delectable meat pies. I promise it will all be worth the stinky effort.


Author's Note: This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Tasty Traditions, Real Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Monday, February 04, 2013

call for February carnival submissions: {finances}


Thanks to everyone who participated in the November Simplicity Parenting Carnival! It was a great success! We hope you'll join us again, Justine at The Lone Home Ranger and Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM, for another simplicity parenting carnival. If you’re joining us for the first time, feel free to check out the May, June, August , October, and November 2012 carnivals as well! Read more about our carnival and future topics here.

February 2013: Finances
How do you handle finances while living simply? Are your finances complex despite your simple living priorities? Do you wish your finances were simpler?

Monday, October 29, 2012

sausage pizza: fun & inexpensive weeknight meal

I have much to say on the topic of pizza eating. For my toddler, pizza can be a vehicle for toppings she wouldn't consider eating on their own. Figs? Arugula? Onions? Olives? Broccoli? Foggetaboudit. But on pizza? Peesa! Yef pwease! she says as she slams the first piece in her mouth.


My four-year-old finds pizza-making a shade even more fun than pizza-eating, and I can see a special glimmer light up in her eyes when I tell her what's on the menu. Homemade pizza, yes!! I slide the learning tower up to the counter, and the two of us get to work rolling, slicing (yes, I hold my breath as I hand her a dull paring knife), and spreading.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

homemade room and linen spray

We are moving in a few weeks. I don't want to get into too much about it now, lest I jinx the process, but sufficed to say there are lots of cleaning and arranging movements happening around here. Hence all the talk of purging. I've also been getting this house ready round the clock for new potential renters to come check it out.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

paying it forward with baby gear

When I was pregnant for the first time, I had a few showers given by friends and family, and they were a great way to celebrate my peanut and to get some of the gear I needed. Even more helpful, and completely unexpected, were the gifts from moms of hand-me-down clothes and toys. I received several large boxes over the years, and I would guess they saved us easily $1,000 and gave us the nice feeling you get from reusing instead of buying new.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

thoughts on "natural" skin care & the oil cleansing method


I'll get to the tips in a moment, but first I have to tell you what led me to ponder this subject in the first place, when it's so out of my typical element. Stick with me--we're going somewhere. During my girly weekend, I happened upon the Bobbi Brown makeup counter in a Lord & Taylor department store. How I wound up there is in itself a small novel.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

back to basics

Welcome to the June 2012 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Green Living
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we find ways to be more natural parents and stewards of the environment. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.
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A few months ago I wrote about my switch to the "no poo" method of washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. In case you didn't read it or my updates, I still love it and have never looked back. My hair is shiny, less greasy, and never has tangles. I also wash the girls' hair in baking soda, and when combined with Vivi's pixie hair cut, I basically never need to brush her hair. It's like magic!

Using more natural personal care products has motivated me to find other green and natural uses for these magical kitchen items that previously took a back seat on the shelf. Prior to having kids, my method of being "green" was to buy Seventh Generation and leave it at that. But once I started delving deeper into the types of products I use, I realized you can go so much further toward sustainable, earth-friendly methods of cleaning without even needing to purchase new items. A little know-how goes a long way.

Just in time for my desire to learn, I stayed with my grandmother for a week, and she gave me some great tips. My great grandmother used to work at a professional laundry service, and as a result, she passed along some wonderful cleaning advice. For instance, did you know the "treat animal with animal" stain trick? If you soak blood stains overnight in milk, they come right out!

Friday, June 15, 2012

wardrobing 101: {guest post}

Hey y'all,
I don't think I needed to tell you this post is by a guest because you've likely heard by now that I am completely without fashion sense. I either missed the gene or the boat, but either way the proverbial ship has sailed, so I rely heavily on the advice of others. Enter the fabulous, sage wisdom of my blogger friend Sheri. If you haven't seen her other guest post on recession-era gardening, you should check it out; it's one of the most popular posts ever. Also be sure to read through to the bottom of this post so you can check out her bio and a link to her blog.
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Why is getting dressed so complicated? Even for women who work in a traditional office setting, there are still nights and weekends to contend with. And for those of us who work from home (either part-time or full-time), “casual” can easily slip into “I’ve given up.”

I’ve been self-employed for 10 years now, running my own landscape design firm from home. When I’m on a job site, my outfit consists of a t-shirt, cargo pants and gardening clogs. Easy. But what about the rest of my week? I have 3 kids –ages 21, 15 and 3 - and my “typical” week consists of working from home (on garden plans or my blog), meeting with clients, playground adventures, and the occasional lunch with friends.

On most days I wake up at 6am and am dressed and ready for the day by 8. My goal – as often as possible – is to NOT have to change clothes during the day. Which means that I have to look pulled together, be prepared for any number of scenarios, and of course – be comfortable.  As I am also of “a certain age”, I’ve been getting dressed for a long time and have pretty much honed my wardrobing down to a science.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

recession-era gardening

I invited some fabulous bloggers--and fellow home rangers--to write guest posts on The Lone Home Ranger for this entire week during Vivi's Spring Break (called "April Vacation" in Beantown). These lovely ladies will be bringing you features focused on healthy, natural, and simple living. Enjoy!


Today's post comes from Sheri over at Donuts, Dresses, and Dirt. Be sure to read through to the bottom of the post to see her bio and link to her blog. I've also written a few of my own thoughts about her post.

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Coconut lime echinacea
 As a professional landscaper and a homeowner, I understand the challenge in figuring out where and how best to invest in your home and property. It may be tempting to let those overgrown shrubs go for another year.

But keeping your property in good shape is critical to maintaining (and even increasing) its value. Landscaping is an investment that actually improves over time as plants and trees grow and mature. And if you are in the process of selling your home, creating “curb appeal” is essential to attracting interested buyers and reducing the amount of time your home is on the market.

Proper landscaping has other benefits too:

It lowers your energy costs – strategically placed trees can shade your home and reduce the need for air conditioning – lowering your electric bill in the process.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

cod with apples and onions {kid-friendly meal}

I was raised Catholic, and although we are no longer of the Catholic faith* and don't participate in Lent, I still tend to abstain from meat on Good Friday out of a fondness for my childhood memories (ditto hot cross buns; I tried Pioneer Woman's recipe this year). When we lived in Wisconsin, we adored the Friday fish fry tradition, which is held year-round as opposed to just during Lent. I miss Fried Fish Fridays! (or as they would say up there..."Do ya' miss Fish Fridays at all?" "Yah, I miss 'em").

Sunday, April 01, 2012

canning round-up [squared] & my first of many mistakes

Making yogurt is easy.

I'm beginning with the above affirmation, both because it's the message I want you to walk away from this post with and because I am adopting it as a new mantra after my less-than-easy first experience. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As part of my Urban Farm Handbook challenge, I made it a goal to make yogurt (in keeping with the dairy theme of March) by the end of the month. It was a modest goal considering all I technically needed to take on the task was...leftover yogurt with active cultures and milk. Seriously, that's all. I say 'technically' because I knew there a few other items that would make the experience more user-friendly, so I opted to grab some canning jars and a jar-extractor-thingy from my favorite local hardware store.

Monday, March 19, 2012

my minimalist manifesto

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While you read what I'm sharing today, I'd like you to ponder the following question: When is adequate enough? In other words, when is it okay just to be normal instead of the best at everything? When is it okay to have less than others, but enough for you?

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