Monday, October 31, 2011

Last day of October

Right now, I am...
:: marveling that a whole year has gone by since my sweet little Grandbaby, Olivia was born.
I'm one!!!!!!!
Dad + Shan = Shananigans!
:: tired from a wild party-filled weekend. It was great fun to celebrate My Father-in-love's 70th birthday, Olivia's birthday, and Halloween. I'm glad that we will celebrate my sister Meghan's birthday after her trip, so we can savor it.
:: laughing at our ridiculous costumes that we cavorted around the neighborhood in!
Mother Gothel from Tangled, Chewlivia and Nate, the Got Milk? cowboy
My Mom is the one good witch
Super relaxed Ninja
:: overwhelmed by the amount of food that was prepared and consumed over the past few days.
:: pleasantly surprised that we had a million kids trick-or-treat at our house this year. It had been dwindling down to nothing over the years and we almost ran out of our candy (more than 8 bags?????)
:: wondering  how fast Thanksgiving will get here!?
:: grateful for visits from my Mom and Bret. It is so nice to spend time with them and their visits are treasured and appreciated.
Bret and Dad having a special moment
My Mom and Jamie, looking gorgeous!

:: hearing  super mario music stuck in my head.
:: going to try to stick to my tried and true way of eating after a lot of over-indulgence.
:: planning to seriously finish knitting the socks I started in April. Seriously.
:: digging my worms. I am in love with my slimy vermicomposting babies.
:: knitting myself a bandana cowl as soon as I finish those damn socks!
maybe something like this????
:: listening to kiddos snoring after an exciting day.
:: saying "good job!" to my Mom-in-love for putting together the birthday that my f-i-l wanted to have. Not easy to prepare for such an event, but it was a great day!
:: inspired to continue my yogurt making after my first successful half gallon. all for the price of the milk. Sweet.
:: happy birthday Olivia and Megs!  Two of the best gals in the world sharing one Halloweenie birthday!
:: delighted by the depth of my Husband's love, patience and generosity.
Here he demonstrates his love of  my homemade trifecta: cheatballs, sauce and bun.
:: waiting to hear all the details of my Sister's trip to visit my brother, Ian.
:: being thankful for a chance to hang out for a little while with my uber-talented Sister-in-love Wendy and some very special cousins (one which is a canine) and a tres magnifique Aunt.
Check out that cake!
:: wishing my Mom could stay longer! But, alas, snow is coming, so I know she won't stay!  Damn beach bums!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grandma Jo's birthday!

I finally got to the business of uploading the pictures off my camera. I have to share with you now a little of the fun we had celebrating my Mom-in-love's birthday. We got to hang out with her all day and bask in her birthiness! We went out to our favorite orchard for apples. We "did lunch" at a fave restaurant where we ate things like "Taste of Nirvana", vegetarian squid rolls and gigantic "Crepe Fantasia". They have a sweet waitress there that we enjoy. Unfortunately for her, she has a condition that makes it very difficult to walk, she speaks only a little English and is possibly hard of hearing. These non-waitressy qualities make us do things like set our own tables up, meet her halfway so she doesn't have to walk so far and beg for our food. I swear, I could not convince her to give me some tea. It became an epic battle to trick her into giving me tea. I won because I did actually get some... for dessert. While this sounds terrible, it can be hilarious, especially when we are the only ones there. Plus, it is always funny when almost everyone at this big table orders the same dish.
Vlad tastes Nirvana with the birthday Grandma
Robs and Jas Nirvana it up too
Sweet Nirvana! Two more orders please! Surely they must be running out by now.
Olivia demands to crawl around the place. Maybe to get me some TEA!
These guys check out the Crepe Fantasia. It has tofu skin. How do they get skin from a tofu?

     Then it was back home for naps, coffee and that perennial birthday favorite, the wrinkled cookie oval. I swear it was perfectly round prior to baking. But it was delish!
The lovely bday gal keeps Hermes from gobbling up the cookie

Wishing time!

I hope someone wished for ice cream, because that was next on the agenda for this group. We finished up the day at Sweet Moses with homemade ice cream!
     Thank you Jo, for letting us make all kinds of merry with you on your day! It was the BEST!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 6 of the No Impact Week Challenge: Save the H2O

This is my beloved rain barrel, we have a long and loving history

     I love my rain barrel. So much so, I included this picture of her in our family year book a few years ago. She continues to trudge along, year after year. I now put her on a pedestal (literally, I made a pedestal for her out of old bricks) which gives her more water pressure. Soon I will retire her for the winter, allowing her to bask in the warmth of my garage until we finally thaw next year. But, I hope to add another rainbarrel come spring, to the other side of the house so I don't have to haul water as far and won't run out between rains. I can barely believe how full this barrel was this Summer since all it did was rain!
  Over the past 2 years we have replaced all of our spigots in the house with water-saving aerators. The pressure is great and they use so much less water. We also repaired 2 leaky toilets during that time. We got a water-saving front loader (energy star, naturally) washing machine when our washer broke, and we try to run only full loads.
     But today I finally took the plunge and carried a bucket up to my bathroom to start a new habit that I have meant to do for awhile. Now, when I need to run water to heat it up (in the winter it seems to take forever!), I will run it into the bucket, then put it aside until I need to use it to flush the toilet. I am happy to finally have found the motivation to start this.

 Interesting Lake Erie info:

Sustainable Heights requests that we clean out the storm sewers on our street and reduce our water usage on rainy days because the storm sewers are heavily taxed during rainstorms and can combine with waste sewage that flows into Lake Erie along with the trash in our sewers. I love the Lake and hope we all can try these two simple things to keep Lake Erie beautiful and thriving.


Here are some things that are awesome:
1. snuggling with my guys.
2. Hearing my Grandbaby say "Mama"
3. Taking a break during homeschooling to start reading "Pippi Longstocking" and having your kids love it so much that they beg you to keep reading and after most of the morning cuddled up on the couch you realize you ended up reading the whole book!
The illustrations in this book are fabulous!

4. Fresh picked apples.
5. Hot cornbead with creamed honey.
6. Booberry, Frankenberry, Count Chocula. In no particular order.
7.Galoshes, especially after we just broke the record for most rainfall.
8.Listening to rain when you are in bed with lots of covers.
9. Patricia's cloth gift bags.
10. hematite.
11. Running late for an appointment, Wolf yells, "Drive like you mean it, girl!" I gun the engine and he responds, "Go, kiddo, go!"
12. Vlad yells out in his sleep, "Damn you!" What the heck is dreaming about?
13. Vlad now introduces himself as Spike. Jas reflects, "Which is weirder, Spike or Vlad?"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day Five of No Impact week Challenge: ENERGY

     Today we attended  a home school class at the Natural History Museum on the subjects of weather and climate.  The kids did an interesting experiment that went like this:
     They set up 2 thermometers, one out in the open and one in a plexiglass tank and aimed infrared lamps at them.  Because of refraction and reflection, the thermometer in the  plexiglass tank was warmer than the one out in the open. This was to show the greenhouse effect of our atmosphere in a very basic way. Then they decided to see the effect of increased CO2 emissions. So, they dumped baking soda into the open topped tank and then poured in vinegar and let it fizz away with the top open. The temperature went up by several degrees over the next few minutes. Then the instructor blew into the tank to disperse some of the CO2. Immediately the temperature dropped by about 3 degrees.  I was floored by how easily and quickly the temperature was affected and how long the elevated temperature would have hung on if we hadn't cleared out the CO2.  This was a good lesson for my kids (and me) today because now they are slightly better able to understand my nagging to "TURN OFF THOSE LIGHTS!"
     We found it easy to make some very basic changes years ago in an effort to decrease our energy consumption. The wonderful thing about those changes were that we were rewarded financially for our efforts by lowering our electric, gas and water bills.  But, we haven't made any further progress since that point.  Even worse, we have done some backsliding recently.
      We replaced all the lightbulbs that we could with CFL's. We were even able to find yellow anti-bug CFLs for our porch lights and a CFL spotlight for our security light. These things really do last as it has been years since I replaced one. The cost has gone down since then and there are so many more options available now including LEDs.
     We kicked the habit of leaving phone, laptop, razor and toothbrush chargers plugged in. We also try to charge them when we are around to unplug them as soon as they are charged instead of leaving everything plugged in for a whole night or day.
     We installed surge protectors at our TV/entertainment station and at our microwave. We hit the switch when we aren't using them to prevent the remote controlled appliances from draining phantom power. Who needs an extra clock on the microwave to beam on all day and all night when there is a wall clock, a wristwatch and a cellphone eager to give me the time?

     When we updated our hot water tank we opted for an energy efficient model that was the proper size for our household. We switched to cold water laundry washing without any ill effects on our laundry.
     But once again, I ask myself, "What else can we be doing?"  I have really wanted to do an energy audit, but was worried that it might be too expensive. I see now that there are ones available for around $50 and that seems doable. I know we can do something about the cold floors in the addition part of our house and I think an audit could help me to track down the most efficient answer to the problem.
     As for the backsliding and nagging... I am finding that now that it is getting darker earlier we are leaving lights on in areas of our house that we aren't in. So, I have been trying to go around and shut them off. I see my efforts paying off as I think everyone is getting sick of my pestering and have started paying attention again. Funny how it just takes only one person to notice something and with a little pushing a whole household can change their habits. That is why I am glad I took this challenge. Small changes can add up. One person can make a difference. Don't ever feel silly for doing the small things that it takes to lower your consumption. Of course, the big things are nice too.   :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 4 of the No Impact Week Challenge: FOOD!


  I started off today thinking I was doing really poorly in this challenge. But as I examined our habits, I discovered that we do better than I thought. I think my food inferiority complex came from feeling like a CSA  failure. We have a great CSA opportunity in my neighborhood. You sign up and then show up every week on a certain day to pick up your goodies at the local library. I did it for one season and then I quit. I found that the plan for my family's size was just too expensive. I bought into a smaller plan, but it wasn't enough, plus the larger plan had a better selection. I suffered from veggie-envy as I watched people get to choose the stuff I really wanted but wasn't available on my plan. Also, I might get a bunch of something we didn't need as much of and almost nothing of another item I use a lot of. I was still having to buy a lot of produce outside of the CSA.
     I have also been bad about using our farmer's market. The few times I went, there wasn't really any produce, just pies, ice cream and other things that were sweet and delicious and a little too tempting. I guess the season was just getting started when I went. But, it knocked the enthusiasm for Farmer's markets clean out of me.
     Our biggest challenge is that as a household with 7 vegetarians under one roof, we go through a lot of produce. I don't have a huge food budget. In other words, I need max nutrition for the least amount of moolah.
     So what are we doing right? I had been feeling so much food guilt, I hadn't noticed what we did right.
First of all, we are vegetarians.
 "It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cow flesh, whereas it takes about 180 gallons of water to make 1 pound of whole wheat flour." ( Marcia Kreith, “Water Inputs in California Food Production,” Water Education Foundation 27 Sept. 1991.)
    We grow some of our food. I grow many herbs, tomatoes, lettuce,c hard, cherries, juneberries, mulberries and bell peppers. I am thinking of converting more of my yard next year into garden. Then I could plant trailing veggies too.
     We visit local farms and orchards and "pick-our-own" food. This year we picked blackberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches and apples. We also bought corn and other goodies from farm stands. It is so much fun to pick your own food or at least meet the farmer or visit the farm where it grows. You experience food by smell, taste, sight and touch, but this adds a whole new way to connect to the rhythm of the food. It is so important to give children this experience as well.
     We have noticed that Giant Eagle, Aldi, Heinens and WalMart all have local offerings as well, and I try to take advantage of that. Stores are starting to see the value in selling locally grown food. I hope this isn't a fad and it continues and grows.
     I contact farms (stickers on produce may have a website listed) and comment positively or negatively on their choice of packaging so that they know it matters to consumers.
     If produce isn't going to last, I try to freeze it so I don't waste it. I have read  that 30% of U.S. food gets wasted. Just look in the garbage cans of a school cafeteria to believe it. Think about how much gets thrown out when you clean your own fridge. Add the waste from restaurants and grocers, etc... and 30% could be a low estimate. When my refrigerator died on me, I opted for a slightly larger energy star model and vowed to stop wasting food. We are darn good at eating leftovers around these parts. But I also stopped making so many spontaneous purchases, especially on fancy condiments and dressings because no one ever finishes them. Having a slightly larger fridge means I can see everything in it. Nothing hides anymore, ambushing me after it has turned fuzzy, green or slimy. The air circulates better so I no longer get frozen salads or apples.
     Where do I feel like I can make improvements? I can give the farmer's markets another try next season. I can grow more food. I might even try an indoor lettuce garden or a cold frame. I can check for other CSA options that might suit us better. I put a "dirty dozen" list in my purse so I can start buying more of those pesticide-laden fruits and veggies as organic instead.

Fun food tidbit for Day 4:
     I made a recipe and video for cooking "Cheatballs", or vegetarian meatballs. Check it out if you like, but remember that a very easy meat-free dish is spaghetti and Marinara sauce. You won't scare off veggiephobes with it. If you really feel devious, add half a can of pumpkin to the sauce. It makes it thick and creamy and yummy!
Click here for my recipe for "Cheatballs"

Click here for the video tutorial

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day Three--Getting From Point A to Point B

Oh my gosh, this is the hardest day yet.  I knew it would be hard because this has been a nagging issue for me all summer.
     First, a little ancient history. I used to ride my bike to work about 11 miles each way. It was fabulous and I loved it. I got more than 100 miles a week while enjoying the ride with a friend that worked with me. My legs got strong and my endurance was better than ever. Until some unpatriotic hobo stole my bike on the fourth of July. I bought a granny bike and strapped a crate to the front of it, but it was never the same. Despite my love for biking, that was the end of my cycling career.
     Fast forward to more recent history.  Baby + stroller= walk anywhere.  Sunshine, vitamin D, exercise, window shopping, talking to strangers. Two kiddos + tandem jogging stroller = more of the same, more or less. It is large and doesn't fit into the door of every store I needed to run errands to. I had to carry a bike pump because if the tires deflated at all it became very hard to push, especially as the kids got bigger. Now that the oldest is 6, he is really too big for a stroller. So, this Summer was a bummer. Where we used to walk places everyday-- the grocer, post office, other errands, we were relying more and more on driving. The trouble is, the kids just can't walk that far and they are as slow as molasses. I think what I really need is the no impact rickshaw that Colin tooled around N.Y. in.
BUT, this was custom made and I can't even fathom what it would cost or where I would find someone to give me a quote. I love to DIY, but this is way out of my league. So, I am still stumped because most "kiddie trailers" only go up to 100 lbs., which we already surpass.
     This brings me to public transportation. I used it extensively when I was a kid and up to when I moved from Cleveland to a city without public transportation. It was economical, I was without a car and it ran to where I needed to go.  But now, I find that it doesn't suit our family's needs at all. I am not ready to sell my car first of all. The price of riding the RTA has gone up so high that I can't maintain a car and take it. I recognize that it works for some people, especially if you recoup some savings by not having to pay to park downtown, but we don't work downtown. It would be an addition of multiple hours of transporting to/from work for my husband because of where he works related to where we live. Taking it to work on Saturdays and Sundays would take time away from the precious family time we have. I am not willing to make that sacrifice. Also, I was mugged once on Van Aken while waiting in early morning hours by myself to go to work. Working weekends where I work means walking alone in the dark under bridges and past supposedly abandoned buildings. Mugged once, twice shy.
     I believe in public transportation and wish that the RTA was more streamlined, easier to use and cheaper. I understand why it costs what it costs (I think so anyway) and think it is a great and/or necessary choice for many people. I wish it worked better for me. I think it is important to introduce your kids to it so they won't be afraid to use it if they need to (how do you pay?, what is the procedure?,etc...). We took our kids downtown to the Soldiers and Sailors monument on the Rapid. It cost us waaaaaaaaay more than driving there and parking would have, so we won't do that very often. But it was exciting for them and a fun addition to the day.
     Carpooling doesn't work for us as I work alone and fluctuating hours. My Husband works at multiple facilities and needs access to his car and doesn't always leave from the same place. So that doesn't help him either.
     What are we doing regarding transportation? Well, I try to group my errands so we run to neighboring places together in the same trip. We keep our tires inflated properly and maintain our vehicles. We try not to keep big, heavy items in our car that aren't needed. We try to walk to local stores for things we need as much as possible. I am still trying to figure out how to get some type of trailer for my bike that will work so I can take two kids and haul some things all by myself. Sometimes, I just don't go places. Those days when you just want to do something, but don't have to. I opt for not going anywhere if it means by car.
     This will continue to be a hard one for me, and an evolving problem as our needs change. I have a feeling this might be one of the hardest days for many people in this challenge.  Let's face it, it is really scary to think about not having the security of your car. Oh, yeah, and snow sucks.

Fun tidbit for Transportation Day:

If you need to take the kids with you on walking errands and they are bored or don't like the stroller/wagon/wheelbarrow, try a scavenger hunt. Make a list (or use pictures) of things you might see on your trip and let them check them off as they find them. You can have them hunt for shapes (impress them with your ability to find an octagon (stop sign) or pentagon (school crossing sign)---fancy.) Colors, letters and numbers make good scavenger hunt themes too. Here's one we made:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day Two-- Let's Do Some Trash Talking!

     Today's subject is trash, kind of appropriate as this is the night I take my trash to the curb.  In the past, I used to look at my pile with a great pride, especially the trash night after a big holiday. I would see trash containers spilling out up and down my street and then give myself a big pat on my own back for our one can of trash with nothing spilling out and our HUGE pile of recycling.  "Oh look at all that recycling, you are one recyclin' fool, you are!" I would say to myself.  Until one day it hit me... I WAS a recycling fool. I was foolish to think that putting out a great big pile of recycling was something that should make me feel proud.  Making very little trash AND very little recycling was something to really aspire to.
     So I embarked on a wild and wonderful trash journey, which I continue on today. I started a compost bin, which in a household of vegetarians, turned into many compost bins!  My garden thanks me for it every year.  I started shopping differently. First of all, I vowed to never buy another bottled water. We bring water with us in mason jars in a soft-sided cooler when we are out and about and it works great. We try not to buy juice boxes (we did get weak while on a long car trip to Florida and one to Chicago, I'll admit it) and when we buy juice, we buy frozen juice in the little containers instead of the ones in the gigantic bottles. We do a lot of bulk shopping, and I found that most places will let you bring your own jars and weigh them before you fill them so you don't have to use those plastic bags. This is great because I buy the amount I want to store and don't have to repackage it when I get home. I also learned to bring my funnel with me because there was the "great couscous disaster of 2011" in aisle 8 that one time. Embarrassing.
     I shifted to cooking from scratch more, including making our bread (not nearly as hard as I expected it to be), reusing jars and bags. I learned to make cool tote bags by cutting off a tshirt's sleeves and sewing the bottom shut. A kid's shirt takes up very little room in a purse, so I always have a bag handy and I get to appreciate old favorite tshirts long after they are outgrown by the kids.  I shopped our house for all those free tote bags that I got over the years and put them in one place. They make great lunch bags.
      We have become trash-free lunch black belts in our house. We start off with our tote bags. We put yogurt in a small jar, have glass containers for our salads and entrees. We *gasp* take real silverware and cloth napkins (made from an old worn out sheet, but hey, it was a Ralph Lauren sheet, and it was only 25 cents at a garage sale because it had a tear).  My roundhouse kick to trashy lunches was discovering stainless steel straws for the kids! They came with a tiny little brush and are dishwasher safe and they. are. awesome.  Any fruit rinds come home in the yogurt jar for composting--take that, trashy lunch!
     I decided to take the plunge today, in honor of trash day, and start something new that I had been putting off... vermicomposting. Indoors.  I know, worms. Sounds gross, stinky, way too granola. But while out at the discovery center at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, I saw that they were vermicomposting with a gadget called Can O'Worms. I put it on my birthday list and forgot about it.  My supersweet Husband, Matt, actually got it for me!  But, it sat, unopened from July until today (yes, my head hangs in shame). My generous and brilliant neighbor, Ann, offered me a herd of composting worms! I quickly prepared their future home.
Preparing the coconut coir bedding 

Look at those glorious Red Wigglers

Ann, proud worm mama and my generous benefactor
Then I headed over and gratefully received my worms (funny, usually it is not a  good thing to get worms). I am all set up and ready to begin my experiment with vermicomposting in my basement. Thank you NIW Challenge, Matt and Ann!
     Where do I need to really look to making changes related to trash? I work weekends, and I notice that come Monday morning, there is usually some leftovers or produce gone bad that needs to be thrown out or composted. I need to pay careful attention Friday night to freeze large amounts of leftovers and prepare produce for the family or cut it up and freeze it for use later in the week. I would also like to learn to make our yogurt, which would cut down on a lot more packaging,
     I hate to say it, but I am squeamish about switching to different, less wasteful types of  feminine protection.  I need to look into that with a more open mind. There are a lot of different options, even including ones with less packaging or even recyclable packaging, which wouldn't be as big a deal as switching to a Diva cup or the moon cup.

Fun trash tidbit for Day two:
What about too brown bananas? Just throw them in your freezer, right in their skins!  Then defrost them and squish them into this delicious recipe.  The best part? This recipe is also freezable, so you don't have to worry about eating the whole cake at once (ummmmm, I never have that problem.)
 Granny Shanny Bananny Bars 

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup yogurt (I use lowfat vanilla, plain would work just as well)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour (even better, 1/4 cup of ground flax seed and 1 3/4 cups ww flour---yummy!)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
3 medium bananas smooshed (I freeze them in their peels when they go brown and just nuke them for 10 seconds when I need them.  Then they squeeze out like tooth paste, already mashed for your pleasure)

1 package of cream cheese (8 oz.)
1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 3/4 - 4 cups confectioners' sugar 

1.  Mix 1/2 cup butter, softened and 1 1/2 cups sugar.
2. Add 2 eggs, 1 cup yogurt, and 1 tsp vanilla.
3. Mix in 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 Tbsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp salt
4.Mix in 3 medium bananas smooshed.
5. Pour into a greased 9" x 13" baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 min. A toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.
6.  Let cool and proceed to frosting it in the pan.
7. Beat cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter or margarine softened and 2 tsp vanilla extract
8. mix in 3 3/4-4 cups confectioners' sugar until desired consistency
9.  lick beater like no one is watching.
10. Spread over top and enjoy! (Refrigerate this cake as it has cream cheese frosting, and it is really good  cold) Freeze it right in the pan if it has a lid, and enjoy it later! If you can resist it's temptation!

No Impact Week Challenge!

    Today is the first day of Sustainable Heights No Impact Week Challenge. Each day you are asked to make a specific change or examine the way you do things. I have accepted this challenge, mainly out of curiosity. My family works hard to lessen our impact in many ways. Every year we add new changes, resolutions and reassess what is going right or wrong with our efforts to be less of a burden on the environment/natural resources and to be less beholden to a consumer lifestyle. Over the past few years it has been harder to find new ways to meet those goals, so I thought this would be a good way to discover some missed opportunities. Also, with eight people now in the house, our consumption has gone up and I have less control on how much waste is generated and resources used. I figured this challenge could shake things up for me and get me motivated again.
     Today's challenge deals with consumption. Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of Annie Leonard's "Story of Stuff". If you haven't watched this short film, please do so. It really inspired me in so many ways. I look at all my purchases differently now. I try to avoid cheap, convenient and disposable and look for quality, reusable and classic. I have been able to avoid buying cleaning products in general by using baking soda, vinegar, tea tree oil and castille soap.
     My toiletry budget has significantly decreased since I started imposing certain restrictions. I look for things that are natural. I need to be able to look at the ingredients and easily recognize them. I look for toiletries that serve multiple uses. Lastly, I look for as little packaging as possible, and easily recycled containers (especially glass). So this has led me to create most of my own products. We use homemade deodorant made from coconut oil, baking soda, corn starch and a little essential oil. We use a bar of castile soap to wash our bodies and our hair. It rinses out so easily and lathers like a champ. I moisturize with coconut oil for my face and I made a lotion bar with coconut oil, beeswax and cocoa butter for the rest of me. When I started researching how to make my own hair pomade, I found that my lotion bar can double as pomade. Boo-yah! Yet another multi-use product.  The cocoa butter also makes a great lip balm. The cool thing is that these items can be purchased fairly inexpensively, some from a regular grocery store and they are quick and easy to make. There were tons of recipes out there, some were complicated and needed a bunch of expensive hard-to-find ingredients. But with more research and a little experimentation, I figured out how to make the things we need cheaply, easily and more naturally.
    Today's challenge was an easy one for me as I rarely look to buy new. I first "shop at home" for things I need, which is much more successful than I thought it would be, maybe because I am a pack rat?! If that doesn't work, then I hit the loop-- freecycle, Craig's list, thrift stores and garage/rummage sales. I will also admit to being unable to pass anything usable on a tree lawn. During my apartment years I did my share of dumpster diving.
     Unfortunately, I have not written a blog on how my daughter and I created her wedding with almost nothing disposable, almost everything second-hand and found ways to keep the decorations out of the land fill. One day, I will finally write that one up. But, I did write about using old clothes and jewelry to create her bouquet. I invite you to check it out and I challenge you to find a way to use something old to create something new and exciting, I guarantee it will become addictive!

     So, what can I take away from today's challenge? I am trying to buy more locally when I do buy new, if that is possible. I will try to get people to give me gift lists for birthdays and Christmas so I will give them something they want and will use. If not, I will try to gift "experiences" where they are appropriate. I will continue to maintain and mend things that I have so they last longer. I will continue to buy things with less plastic and mechanized parts that can break down (ie. a reel mower vs. a power mower, a percolator vs. a coffeemaker). Also, I will continue to try to use second hand supplies for my craft projects.
    Day one was an easy one for me (but they won't all be): I don't shop often, I shop second hand when I do, I utilize the Heights public library as often as humanly possible rather than buy materials I may only want to use once, I make most of my cleaning and beauty supplies. Is there room to improve? Yes!  We all probably tend to have weak moments when we use shopping as a way to provide retail therapy. Even shopping second hand can be problematic if you buy things you probably won't use (But it was SUCH a good deal!) and don't leave them for someone that will use them (and junk up your house, making you feel depressed which makes you want to shop for something new to cheer you up, etc... and so on). I anticipate that some of the other challenges are going to be much harder for me and I know I have some homework to complete before I start a few of them.  Here's to the start of the challenge, I'm warmed up and ready to go!

Fun idea for Consumption Day:
Replace shopping with fun things like a family photo shoot at the local park!  Get to know how to use the camera you have better while enjoying some fun time with friends or family in a beautiful, FREE setting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apple Picking 2011

     Apple picking is one of my favorite traditions for our family. I think I lke it better than Christmas even. There is no prep, no gift purchasing, just good old fun and delicious treats. We go to Burnham Orchards each year, which includes a visit to the bakery for apple fritters, slushies made from peach or apple cider, kettle corn popped in a gigantic kettle that looks like it should be filled with molten metal, not sweet and salty popcorn wonderfulness. We feed goats, admire bees and chat it up with the Grandfather-type guy that collects the money out in the orchard. We picnic and eat apples like it is our job. This year it was hot, in the 80's, which was strange, but nice because the sky was blue, blue, blue.

We participated in an ancient and mystical ritual  devoted to the worship of Sugar.

the Hoffamily enjoy the orchard

Apparently eating apples can lead to glowing ears and other appendages.

A more serious tribute to the star of the day, the lowly apple.

we like to tease him about this by asking him why he was naked at the orchard. He accuses us of "mocking him", and he will not be mocked.

a short hike down to the river

Ole Farmer Bangsy

There were indeed donuts. With orange fosting.

Feeding of the goats, a family tradition continues

My keebler elves.

We always manage to smooch a little. the fresh air brings it out  of us

Even my two girls got in on the apple action

We stopped off for a bite to eat and some ice cream, because at this point, why the hell not?!? We acted like idiots that had never been out in public before and managed to have a fine old time of it.

We managed to also fit in a whole "turning one" photoshoot with the Divine Miss O.
Ain't she the sweetest little Pumpkin in the patch?

All in all, it was a great outing this year. Now it is time for making applesauce and perhaps a pie. Such  wonderful things, apples are.