Showing posts with label The Three Rs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Three Rs. Show all posts

Saturday, March 22, 2014

3 uses for citrus peel {that you can start doing now}




Long lists intimidate me. I'm skeptical of their fancy promises. 101 places you can hide your elf on the shelf! 500 uses for dryer lint! 28 ways you can improve your routines!

More like 28 ways you didn't know you were doing it wrong all along.

A few years back, I heard I wasn't supposed to put many citrus peels in the compost. I've since learned that old rule isn't true, but it sparked my interest in finding other ways to use the peels. I looked for how-tos on the interwebs. One suggested I should keep my peels in a giant bag in the chest freezer. Good idea! But wait, she wasn't finished. Then, when the bag was full, I should put all the peels on a baking sheet and dehydrate them in a warm oven for many hours. THEN, I should grind those dehydrated peels into powder, and only after all those steps could I turn them into a scouring scrub. Ain't nobody got time for all that.

I'm not making any promises or offering long lists today. I'll just tell you the three ways I store my leftover citrus peels right when I'm cutting up the fruit. It will take you thirty seconds longer than tossing them in the garbage, and I promise (okay, one promise) you'll be glad you have them on hand.

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!

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!


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!

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, December 17, 2012

salmon burgers

I'm getting excited about the holidays, mostly because I get to cook both lots of comfort food I love and new dishes I've been hanging onto until a special occasion. I'm getting back into the swing of the blogging thing, so in the spirit of the coming resolutions I'm planning to blog (and exercise!) every day of the end of the year, starting today--well, to tell the truth, exercise will commence when I shake this virus (UGH). I'll share a few recipes too, also starting today.

As indicated in my last recipe post, we are a seafood-loving family. As a kid, I would only touch canned tuna sandwiches and fish sticks, but my horizons are much broader now. I'll even dig out the cheeks and eyeballs if served a whole fresh fish. YUM. I've probably told you about Vivi's obsession with fish. The kid can be found circling her dad like a hungry cat if he breaks out a can of smoked herring. HERRING!

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.

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, April 27, 2012

go see Vivi's cardboard town!

DSC_0001-3


Hey y'all, I have some fun news. I have a guest post up at hands on : as we grow today! I am super excited to share it with you and not at all ashamed to boast about it. I've mentioned previously that I'm not the crafty sort, but I am proud of how this craft project turned out. I've you've got a minute, go check it out and leave a comment letting me know what you think.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

fostering a love of the Earth


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Welcome to the Earth Day Blog Carnival
This post is part of the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt Junction.  Each participant has shared their practices and insights of earth friendly, environmentally conscious, eco-living. This carnival is our way to share positive information and inspiration that can create healing for our planet. Please read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. Happy Earth Day!

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Robbins Farm Garden


Happy Earth Day! I've been looking forward to Earth Day this year because it's the first time Vivi--at almost four years old--understands the word Earth and what it means to protect it. I'm certain my children's understanding will grow and change with age, and I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge and passion for environmental stewardship with the girls over the coming years.

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.

***


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.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Earth Day resist painting

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 Marnie Craycroft. Be sure to read through to the bottom of the post to see her bio and link to her blog, Carrots are Orange.
***

We fell in love with resist painting this past fall working on Letters then again for Valentine's Day. The best part about resist painting is that your kids get a great sensory experience and get to be messy! In the end, the result always seems to be beautiful.

 Here is how we created an Earth resist painting.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

coming to a freezer near you...

We freeze food, water bottles, and ice.
Day five of the frugal challenge is about saving on groceries. Although I already posted about how to shop frugally without coupons last week, I did not mention a key player in our grocery savings: the chest freezer. While I lived without one for 14 years, I don't know what I would do without it now.

Why buy a chest freezer? For us, the answer is simple; we wouldn't be able to participate in a meat CSA as we are now. We are also considering purchasing a quarter of a cow to get more bones for stock and grass-fed ground beef, our tots' favorite. While your meat situation may be different, if you are frugal like me, the freezer will provide you many other rewards.

I admit that freezing is not the most environmentally friendly way to store food, but when you consider that we make food from scratch (thereby reducing our package waste and cost of travel) and support a local farm to raise sustainable, humane livestock, I hope it more than evens out our carbon footprint.

Friday, November 18, 2011

approaching the discontent of my winter

The unceremonious end to autumn has arrived and brought with it the arm-crossing, hurried pace of moms across Massachusetts trying to pick up their kids from school as quickly as possible. Gone already are the days of standing in the warm sun and lazily chatting with each other as one of us (maybe) keeps half an eye on the kids running amok in the parking lot or on the playground.

Oh, and Charlie has slunk off to a corner to eat wood chips in peace.


I miss those days acutely!

Although I whinge constantly about the upcoming weather, I can't pretend that we haven't had a divine--and even prolonged--fall. The girls and I have eaten up every moment of it, all the while gluttonously begging for more.


As the days and my patience grow shorter, I am adding new ways to entertain the kids to my repertoire. You know, so I don't go nuts during the impending abominable snowdump. Temporarily, raking and jumping in leaves is providing some good laughs. Eventually, I'll actually move the leaves to the compost bin. I got a great idea from the Interwebs to request coffee grounds from a local coffee shop to add nitrogen to the mix.

Museums are another newly introduced diversion. I would call my first jaunt into the city (to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum) only mildly successful, due to illegal picture-taking on the part of Triathlete Mom, followed by constant supervision of the uptight guards. Relax, man! Undaunted, we plan to try again, this time at more kid-friendly options like the Children's Museum and Aquarium.


In the realm of outdoorsy activities, I am fully committed to relying on locals to teach my kids how to ice skate. I've already recruited a friend to the cause. Remember Laid-back Mom, from Vivi's school? She's Canadian, so of course her kid has been skating since she started walking. She gave me a lesson today on the difference between figure skates and hockey skates. Mine are figure, Nate's are hockey, but I really had no idea there was a difference beyond that girls use figure and boys use hockey. Apparently, she has hockey skates because they are warmer, and something else I can't remember. You see? I'm already a wealth of information on winter sports.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

this week in happiness

We've been having some good New England fun with the in-laws over the past few days, visiting Revolutionary War sites and picking apples. The girls loved seeing their grandparents, and Nate and I were just as enthusiastic about the visit. Nate's mom made apple pie with some of our bounty, and we all tried to outdo each other with our slice sizes and mountains of ice cream last night. Nate won, of course.





This morning we bid adieu at a rental car lot, and they are off to see New Hampshire for some leaf-peeping and a much needed break from the still-90's weather they have back in Florida. Our goodbye was a tad less sorrowful because we are planning a trip to see them during the holidays. Holy sticker-price shock, Batman! It is reee-donculously expensive to fly from Boston to Tampa during peak travel season. After swallowing some flies, we closed our mouths long enough to charge the new-couch-sized sum to our credit card and aren't looking back. It's all about the memories, right? And hey, this is the last year we can fly without paying for a ticket for Charlie, so it's only going to get worse from here. A little something cheery to ponder on my Wednesday.

In addition to my blissful mini-break of family fun, I am also in hog heaven over my new compost bin. As backyard lawn art goes, I suppose a large black cylinder isn't so chic, but I'm in love already. I made a huge pot of veggie soup yesterday, in large part so I could fill up a ten-quart bucket of scraps to carry out back and mix into my wet leaves and shredded newspaper. Folks, it doesn't take much to please this girl. I'm helping the environment, saving money on soil for next year's garden, and our kitchen garbage is about a trillion times less smelly already. Winning!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

showing the mason jar some love


The rule of three strikes again, this time with mason jars making it into the forefront of my psyche. I noticed our hydrangea bush was getting a little out of control, so I did some pruning and made floral arrangements in my favorite multi-useful vases, mason jars. If you've ever been to my house, you know of my attachment to them because we keep mason jars as drinking glasses. Then I went to a farmer's market and picked up homemade jam in, what else, a mason jar. Finally, I read a few blog posts and found more interesting mason jar discussions. Here are my favorites:
  • The Single Nester's instructions on how to dye your jars blue (via CentsationalGirl). Genius!  
  • Ethel's Gloves' ode to mason jars
  • Chiot's Run's post about freezing food in glass jars; a very helpful tip given our switch to glass from BPA plastic, and now that we have a big freezer in the basement
  • Hounds in the Kitchen's ideas about making your own jam (via Attainable Sustainable)
  • When pondering the question "how do I make food in jars?," look no further than the trusty Internet (aka a website aptly named "food in jars")
A wise uncle recently pointed out to me that with the current economic climate, many people are about to find out for the first time what it's like to make an honest attempt to live within their means. While the frugal side of me (what am I saying? there's no unfrugal side) thinks we've always done our best to live within our means, rising grocery prices are testing that assumption. And with regulatory agencies routinely falling down on their job to control agribusiness and the food industry, we are turning more local for our food purchases. Perhaps it's time we made the biggest leap of all local choices and make some of our own food. I am finally trying my hand at composting, so I'll report back when I have more to share about that experience. Next up, gardening and canning? Why not!

What are your favorite uses for mason jars? Anyone tried making your own food?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

the organizing loves of my life

My house still needs a lot of work, but the trees sprouting some leaves have inspired me to do a bit of spring cleaning and organizing. Oh how I love to clean and organize. Some days I fantasize about somebody coming to take my kids for an entire day so I can put on my music and work gloves and get down to business. Alas, no neighbor in shining armor has come to sweep my kids away yet, so I have to take the hour or two as I can get them. Boy am I mourning the daily nap thing. I get about 1-2 naps a week now with Vivi. Sigh. Guess they have to grow up some time, and it's wrong to give them cough syrup just to get them to sleep...or so I'm told (kidding!).

Anyway, since I've touted myself as an organization guru, I thought I should share a few of my current favorites:

What started as a bookcase has become a great place to store my food stuffs "stockpile."

Expensive kitchen organizer from the Container Store. 
When we bought this we had zero $, but it has stood the test of time and been a great investment. Wish my kitchen in this house was big enough for it.

I love my rolling laundry sorter! 
I put Nate's clean work shirts on the bar and can move it out of the way. Perfect.

These two big black metal shelves from Target have been worth their weight in gold, but luckily they were very affordable. Wait for a sale. You won't be disappointed.

Hand-me-down Ikea bookcase. This is actually on the smallish side as storage goes, but it keeps me from accumulating too many books. I read it and then set it free unless I'm sure I'll reference it again. It's very liberating.

Grocery bag organizer! I've always wanted one and now I have it. I'm much more careful now about bringing my reusable bags to the store if I know my organizer is full. No more yanking zillions of bags out of the bottom of a closet.

Plastic bins are the answer to life's "what do I do with all this tiny crap?" dilemma.

If you are not a person who's into cleaning, this next paragraph is best skipped (Note: I wasn't paid for this endorsement, I just love my mop!!). Though I don't have a picture of it, I also have a great new mop-like instrument for cleaning my kitchen tile and wood floor. If you are as into the whole reduce-reuse-recycle concept and as cheap as me, you'll appreciate this new gadget. Libman came out with a Swiffer-ish mop, BUT it has a reusable pad instead of the disposable kind and a refillable bottle for the cleaning product. I've never been a mop girl because I can't stand the thought of rubbing that old nasty sponge all over the floor just to spread that bacteria around. But I also can't stand the thought of throwing the pad away. With this one, you throw the pad in the wash EVERY TIME YOU USE IT! AWESOME!

We also have a Eureka steam mop for the once-a-week sanitizing, but I just couldn't get into the idea of plugging that thing in every day. This way, I can mop to my heart's content and then lean it against the wall when I'm done. No fuss. And it sure beats getting down on my hands and knees with a spray bottle and a rag, which was my previous modus operandi.

Update (5-14-12): We gave up our steam mop a few weeks ago to our church's rummage sale. I still use the Libman mop and still love it just as much, but when I'm feeling a deep-cleaning frenzy, I get back down on my hands and knees and scrub. There's just no better way to sanitize.

Friday, March 25, 2011

opting out of junk mail

Getting away from junk mail has been a life-long quest for me that has been on the back burner up until now. It has always seemed like an impossible battle to fight the steady stream of paper nonsense flowing to our mail box on a daily basis. Remember how I mentioned my low tension level in my last post? Well, here's another thing raising it. I suppose you could sum up the cause of my anxiety in one word: junk. I don't have it, and I don't want it. When you are as into recycling and not wasting paper as I am, the very idea that someone is going to send you vast quantities of paper you don't want is some kind of cruel joke.

With this move to Boston, I decided to start with a clean slate and fight junk mail as it happens. I WILL CLAIM VICTORY! I owe my first glimmer of hope to some friends who recently moved across the country. Because they didn't know their new permanent address when they needed to begin having mail sent, they opted for a temporary PO Box. Eureka! Behold step one in Justine's plan of attack: when you move, forward mail to a PO Box instead of your house to foil the current junk mail senders. This decision requires you to update addresses manually for mail you regularly need (like your insurance and bills), but trust me when I say it's completely worth it to help stop your unwanted mail from following you.

Step two also came to me somewhat accidentally. A non-profit organization I had discovered years ago recently sent me an email requesting me to update my information. When I first heard about Catalog Choice, they did little except stop some catalogs from coming in the mail...which was useful to me when I desperately needed to kill the Victoria's Secret onslaught. I had completely forgotten about CC, but I decided on a whim to log in to my account and see if they had updated their services. Boy have they ever! For a small donation of $20/year, they will assist you to opt out of unwanted mail. This fee has been worth its weight in gold.

The third step is one that everyone should know about, but somehow I missed the memo. The Federal Trade Commission runs a phone number (888-5-OPT-OUT) that allows you to stop the credit bureaus and other companies from sharing your information for promotional purposes. The free call will take you about 3 minutes and will stop mail for five years. Oh so worth it!

Unfortunately one of the most annoying types of junk mail we receive has become requests for philanthropic donations. Save the wildlife, save the people with lupus, save the children. Phew! It's exhausting, and if we gave every time we got a request, we would have gone broke a long time ago. We've gotten more address labels than we could ever use, and I spent far too much time digging through envelopes to remove nickles stuck to the paper. And so my final step is really more of a side-step: if you want to donate to organizations like these, rather than donating via check, I recommend donating online if you can somehow avoid providing your address.
 
I am happy to report that because of these four easy steps, we no longer receive ANY junk mail! Our PO Box is another story, so I look forward to canceling it. Goodbye junk.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

spring bargain fever


Rarely do I ever feel anxiety, but when I was pregnant with Genevieve I was very anxious about the amount of stuff I was about to accumulate. A combination of a desire to be environmentally friendly, my thriftiness, and my penchant for getting rid of my possessions added up to make one very panicky lady. Then I discovered the abundance of mommy consignors just waiting to sell me their used goods cheaply in an organized manner in giant warehouses. Yay! I HATE regular shopping, but I love consignment shopping for the girls' clothes and toys. In fact, I am sooo cheap ("How cheap are you?") that I always patiently wait for the sales' last day half-price extravaganzas. Sometimes I will occasionally splurge on full-price used items at a great store near my mom's house in Roswell. If you're in the Atlanta area and haven't yet been to Ladybugs and Lizards, I highly recommend it. She stocks very beautiful items from all the fancy brands...of which Ralph Lauren is the only one I can remember right now. A word of caution: The owner is a mom and closes the store somewhat randomly with the school calendar. Call ahead if you're coming from far away to be sure it's open.

My crocuses (croci?) tell me spring is on its way and with it come bargains galore. The girls are actually all set on clothes, so I'll just be in search of toys, movies, and books. Along with consignment sales and the fact that I have 2 girls, allowing me to pass clothes down, I have also been the lucky recipient of many boxes of hand-me-down clothes from a very generous friend in Wisconsin. And we aren't talking cheapo items here; Vivi has been decked out from birth in a variety of gorgeous flowery print hand-made dresses and OshKosh B'Gosh overalls. So cute! I have purchased exactly 4 outfits for Charlotte's first year of life. Gotta love frugality! What am I doing with all of the clothes Charlotte grows out of, you might ask (if you're like me)? For now, I am boxing them up and storing them in the "you never know" section of the basement. I am hoping eventually to pass them along to Nate's sister if she has any girls. Hint, hint. :)

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