Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wiping it up: An introduction to cloth baby wipes

Cloth rags, napkins and towels are common alternatives to their paper cousins. But one thing I don't see people clamouring over is the cloth baby wipes.

I stumbled across this at the Indy Winter Market just before the baby's first birthday. Ragamuffin Diapers sold cloth diapers, baby wipes and femimine items made from "recycled flannel." I needed something in the baby's gift bag. I had a moment of weakness (and honestly didn't have enough cash for the homemade diapers, seeing they required covers).

Yes, nothing says "Happy 1st Birthday" like flannel wipes for your tush.

And so they sat, through the holidays. And I finally became brave enough to experiment with them. Logistically, they were a challenge. Bathroom on one side of the house; changing table on another. But I had an eager runner who was all too happy to put water on wipes for me.

And then I found recipes for baby wipe solutions. You can find several variations at Diaper Jungle and But I settled on a makeshift simple three-part solution of baby oil, baby liquid soap and water, now bottled in a small plastic squirt bottle that once held blue Crayola bath soap for my daughter.

I even opted to make more wipes on my own, after finding a pair of my husband's flannel pants in his drawer - despite having a 4-inch rip in them. Well, I suppose they were clean. After a couple of hours of cutting and hand-sewing while catching up on a show, I had doubled my stash. (It's not difficult to do - double up your fabric, cut a large square, then whipstitch together. It would have likely been faster had I actually learned what to do with my sewing machine instead of letting it collect dust!)

Using cloth wipes has settled into a fairly easy routine. Have I given up "regular" wipes in favor of cloth completely? Not yet. There are times when it's just easier to use traditional wipes, such as when cleaning up after one injests blueberries. ('nuff said.) But at least I'm getting braver about it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Of Asa, Oswal and making sense in this crazy world

We had a few unexpected holiday guests. Even worse, they haven't left yet.

Sometime before Christmas, "Asa" joined our household. Asa embodies all that is good in a 3 year old's world. Asa shares. She picks up. She takes naps. She is a good friend. She comes over to make brownies - and thank goodness, she has always cleaned up her mess as I've never seen the evidence.

And a day or two later, another friend joined our imaginary mix. "Oswal" (no d, as in Lee Harvey) personifies the naughtiness we have. He hits. He pushes. He says bad words and makes a huge mess. He calls people names and is not a bad friend. In fact, he has yet to be allowed to grace our home with his presence.

Asa and Oswal are my daughter's way, I suppose, of sorting out right and wrong in this world. If it only was as simple as black and white.

Sometimes, I think we see living more responsibly as a black and white issue. We're good (fill in religious faith). Or we're not. We're green. Or we're not. We're great parents. Or we're not. We make a difference. Or we don't.

And when we take that right-or-wrong approach, we limit ourselves and set ourselves up for failure--or at least feeling that way.

So we can opt to take a positive approach. We can make attempts to make a difference in some small way in our community - whether it's reaching out to a neighbor or someone in need, reducing our consumption, adopting a stray pet, whatever. And we can accept we're making steps to a positive change -- think of it as a "pay it forward" mentality.

Or we can live in fear/anger/whatever, believe this world is going to hell in a handbasket, quit caring and live for ourselves alone.

Hmm... Personally, I'll take the first.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

CSAs in Indianapolis and Bloomington

Searching for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Indianapolis or Bloomington for this summer?

There are many options for you to consider. CSA programs range in season length, variety, delivery and share size.

Here are some of the CSA programs serving the greater Indianapolis metropolitan area and/or Bloomington:
Please note that not while a CSA may state it serves Indianapolis, it may or may not serve your area of town.

While I'm sitting out due to financial considerations in 2009, I am eager to hear about others' experiences this season!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Attacking my very being

I have been accused via e-mail of trying to sabbatoge an Indianapolis CSA, of libel, of slander, and refusing to work with this CSA for a positive gain. The word enemy is a very strong word.

Yet, this CSA has not corrected with details any innacuracies they see, only that I am spreading "lies" about their organization. If I failed to recognize kale, for example, please let me know when it was delivered to me and what it looked like.

I also would like to state I offered to work with this CSA to develop an educational article/Q&A about organic farming, the challenges of a CSA or a behind-the-scenes look at how CSAs differ from a "farmers market" vendor, and I was responded to that "the proposal was inadequate."

Here's the deal. I'm sorry that this CSA owner is so fearful of me and what I have to say on a small green parenting blog that they have to lash out at me. I'm sorry this person doesn't believe in the First Amendment when the opinion differs from him or her. I'm sorry this person came out attacking me from the get-go instead of calmingly correcting any perceived innacuracies or asking to take it offline.

But the reality is this person chose to attack my very being. I pride myself on being an honest person and a person of my word. It's part of my faith. It's part of who I am. And by attacking the core of who I am, this person created an adversarial environment. Frankly, I feel like I'm being bullied with the threat of legal action.

Despite the fact this person has yet to acknowledge that they will retract their claims of libelous behavior from my blog, I will be the better person and remove the name of the CSA from this post per their request. I am also retracting my four-star review on LocalHarvest.

If you are researching CSAs and would like to know more, I will post a link to Indianapolis-area CSAs within the next day and am happy to share with you my positive and negative experiences in fairness with you via e-mail.

Back to your regularly scheduled green mommy blog!

Enabling OpenID commenting

I'm sorry to have to do this, but given the amount of negativity that has been posted in my comments by anonymous person(s), I am enabling OpenID commenting for the near future. This means no more anonymous postings.

I realize this is an added step for posting, but I believe that if people stand by their words, they should be mature enough to put their identification along with them.

Are snow days green days?

Today we were blessed with about 11 inches or so, give or take a bit for snow drifts. It's the first significant snow of the season, and needless to say the area has been shut down. We didn't have our neighborhood streets cleared until an hour or so ago.

There are some distinct benefits to being stuck at home. First, my commute is pretty good -- I trudge to the PC. This saves time, money, gas for me (and whoever would have to rescue me!), wear on the car, etc. (I say this, realizing that my actual time worked and submitted will be about half of a typical day anyway.)

Second, I don't have to worry about pressing an outfit for today. (Who am I kidding? I'd be in a sweater if I did get out.) So more time and electricity saved.

Third, meetings get cancelled. Never a bad thing. (And you can argue more gas savings there, as I work off-site and inevitably have to commute.)

So I can quietly count my carbon offsets, right? Not exactly.

The quiet was shattered by snowblowers blasting through the snowdrifts on the driveways.

The heater was taxed as the garage door was open, letting in the cold air. And the in-and-out of a 3 year old who desperately wants to play outdoors in the snow but has a difference of opinion over the temperature outside.

The trash count in my home goes up exponentially as the oldest discovers papers of stickers and a box of Band-Aids, all of which decorate her ball, her kitchen, her body, the table.

For now, though, all is quiet. The kids are resting, as are the local snowblowers. And for now, I'll sip some tea and enjoy the beauty of the sun sparkling on the snow, a sight I haven't enjoyed in nearly a year.

You be the judge

My experience with the Indianpaolis area-based organic CSA I subscribed to in 2008 is the subject of some heated conversation on my blog yesterday.

A commenter on my blog has stated he or she gotten an attorney involved over comments I made about my CSA experience with one of the area's oldest CSAs, claiming I made "attempts to damage our business" and goes on to accuse me of slander and libel. Obviously I disagree.

This poster requested that I remove the end-of-the-season survey about my experience. Despite my beliefs of the First Amendment and the truthfulness of my comments, I will remove Nature's Harves Organics' survey questions from the post.

However, I am summarizing my responses here, because these are my words and my commentary of my experiences of the 2008 season with this particular CSA.

  • The organic CSA went beyond my expectations in providing shitake mushrooms, which was not listed on the original listing of produce for 2008.
  • I enjoyed the recipes provided and would have used them more if we had larger amounts of certain types of produce in the featured recipes.
  • I felt that at times we could have had better instructions on identifying produce. I stand by this due to my cilantro cooking disaster and to my frustrations in trying to identify the various greens.
  • We had some challenges due to the crazy early summer weather, which impacted the produce selection for farmers in Indiana. I felt that I had too many tomatoes, peppers and lettuces as a result.
  • I felt that at times the variety and quantity wasn't what I had expected.
  • I did feel the pick up was convenient.
  • Many of the items promised were never delivered* or were not delivered in usable quantities for the recipes. I signed up for this CSA because of the distinct variety promised and felt that didn’t happen for our family.
    * These included: arugula, beets, thyme, parsley, lavender, mint, chamomile, garlic chives, kohlrabi, leeks, kale, melons.

You can read my back posts on the 2008 CSA season here. I encourage everyone who is considering CSA participation to research a variety of sources when making a decision.

As I stated on my blog earlier today, these are challenging times. 50,000 people lost their jobs in one day alone, according to our local paper. Our state's unemployment is 8.2 percent, one of the worst in the nation. More than a quarter of a million Hoosiers are unemployed.

I think it is a sad statement that a local CSA is threatening an attorney at a former customer because their business is down, given the challenges of today's economy.

Written later Jan. 28: I am deleting references to this CSA's name. I am tired of the bullying and the name-calling by this particular person. I offered to compromise with a written Q&A with their article to educate people on the challenges of running a CSA and organic farming and was told that the "proposal is inadequate." I feel as if I am being threatened by their representatives with legal action. Thank you, CSA representatives, for ruining my perception of your CSA operations in less than 48 hours. The funny thing is, I'd planned to re-sign up once my husband found work. I am glad to know there are many, many other options from which to choose.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bobbing for applesauce

Spending a cold winter's day cuddled with blankets, books and a warm fire is no longer an option in Mommyland. But spending the morning baking is.

Paired with my favorite little chef, I spent Sunday morning getting caught up on my cooking. Menus were planned, "cheesy bread" was baked for the next morning's breakfast and applesauce simmered in my crock pot.

And of course, my favorite helper was there for the festivities. As she's too young for knives, her task is to wash the apples for Mommy to slice. And so she did.

The water turned on. The water turned off. And drip, drip, drip, the water trailed its way from our bathroom to the kitchen counter as one by one, my daughter brought each freshly scrubbed apple my way. And then I heard a large rush of water.

I raced to our bathroom, where I found: My daughter. With a sopping wet towel that was splashing water over each side of the sink. And a dozen apples bobbing up and down inside the basin.

Sigh. At least she helped!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Giving you the respect you deserve

So much about being green is about the future. But the part we often forget is we're part of that future, too.

I was reminded of that today when reading a post by Steph at Greening Families, who shared her struggle to make greener choices, step by step.

The first choice was picking her battles. Check.

The second was a bit deeper: "Asking ourselves if a decision would give us more choices or fewer choices in the future." Provocative, certainly. If you make a purchase, it limits your funds for later. If you buy something that supports chemical use, that may limit your choices in the future as well.

The third, though, touched a nerve: “Would I share this product/food/experience with my child?”

Sure, as a mom, I have thought about that 100 times. My 3 year old has not (to my knowledge, anyway) sipped a soda. She gets her naps, like it or not. She didn't eat cookies or cake or similar treats until her first birthday. And she is never turned down when she asks at the store for a (yuck) green pepper or other healthy treat.

But the reality is I don't confer that same respect to myself as I do to my kids. I was asked, point-blank, yesterday, "Mommy, why do you drink so much Diet Coke?" (And to make it worse, her coloring page from daycare, which included a can of soda, was colored Diet-Coke grey.)

I don't give my body the exercise or sleep it needs. I don't manage my stress. And I certainly don't eat as healthy when my kids aren't around. Sure, I have great intentions. But that batch of cookies a coworker brought in sometimes gets in the way.

Paving the way to a healthier environment, bodies and future for our children is a beautiful thing. It's just too bad when we forget to extend that same respect for ourselves.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday afternoon catch-up

As many people know, I’ve been guilty of more than one occasion of having things pile up in my inbox, flagged and then forgotten. It is the curse of a thinly spread working mom.

About two months back, Rebecca at The Green Baby Guide tagged my blog. And I thought, OK that would be fun. I'll do that. And then a funny thing happened on the way to my computer.

Life (you know, those things that happen when you’re not online) got in the way.

We had holidays. And family crisises. And work crisises. And personal crisises. And work crisises. And a crisis of faith. And more work crisises. And somewhere in there, I needed to sleep, feed and diaper the kiddos and pay the bills with the miracle money that’s not in my checkbook. It gets a little overwhelming at times.

So, after a week of not blogging and getting my head back on straight, I’m back. And we’ll start with something fun: the past-due tag.

Here 7 fun facts about myself, and they have nothing to do with being green today:

  1. I was dangerously close to a brown belt in tae kwon do in college. (One bad flying roundhouse kick, and it was over.)
  2. I asked God for my husband to go back to the Methodist church, where his family celebrates, and for him to get a job. I am getting instead an unemployed Catholic. Which proves God has a sense of humor! (We do have a plan though, and things are falling into place somewhat.)
  3. I am starting to train for my fourth half-marathon this spring after putting off taking care of myself for the last year. Needless to say, I will not be up with the Kenyans!
  4. My dream was to be a bestselling novelist with the white-picket fence and a house overlooking the ocean and two kids by the age of 25. By the age of 25, I was an ex-reporter, going through a career change, no kids, no house and was reading lots of bestselling novels. Though someone did tell me the other day I should write a book...Who knows?
  5. I am addicted to Harry Potter and John Cusak movies. I can’t enjoy either because 1) Who has time to read with kids? And 2) John Cusak movies aren’t always family fare.
  6. I have kayaked in both oceans and puked in only one. (Gosh, by reading this list, you’d think I was athletic or something…ha!)
  7. My dream is to visit Ireland, Italy, Alaska, Australia and New Zealand. I would settle for breaking those up into separate trips.

Here are seven non-friend, non-work-related blogs I enjoy reading, which I will share in case you are killing time on a Friday afternoon:

  1. May Dreams Gardens, a local gardening blog. Personally, I’m also glad to know IT people have creativity and a sense of humor!
  2. In My Kitchen Garden, which is always inspirational – even in the dead of winter.
  3. Biblical Womanhood, which helps push me with some inspiration on many subjects when I seem to need it
  4. Feed Me, Drink Me, an Indianapolis blog that focuses on local food. There’s a passion there, and I always appreciate passionate writing.
  5. 5 Minutes for Going Green. An interesting mix of greenness geared toward parents and people who love old-fashioned note writing and notecards.
  6. The Green Parent, who has recently taken on “Waste-Free Wednesdays” as examples to others.
  7. Money Saving Mom. While not a “green” blog, it focuses on extending your tight budgets and making the most of what you have.

And, because it's tradition or something, here are the alleged rules for this tag game, which may or may not be broken:

  1. Link back to the person who tagged you and share the rules on your blog
  2. Share 7 facts about yourself
  3. Tag seven people and list their links in your post
  4. Tell those 7 people by commenting on their blog

This all being said, I plan to enjoy our unseasonal 50-degree weather this afternoon while it lasts.

Have a happy weekend!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cloth diaper giveaway winners announced

Thank you to everyone who entered the cloth diaper giveaway from KnickerKnappies. There were a lot of great tips for starting out on living green - and some that were new to me. Check them out.

We used the purely scientific random method of picking winners - in other words, my daughter chose a few numbers.

The winners are:
kenan and tree

Thank you for entering!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Little green lies

Want the truth about going green? It's not easy. In fact, it's a lot of work.

You have to think consciously and cognizantly and be a responsible grown-up about your actions. You have to think beyond yourself to the generations ahead of you. You think about the generations today, and the wildlife around (and not so around) you. It's a hefty responsibility. And maybe all you wanted was a clean toilet!

Whew. It's little wonder we start slipping into little green lies. With the mounting pressures of the world around us, being environmentally responsible can start to take a back seat.

So like everything we do with good intentions, we start to slip a little.

Maybe it's too cold outside or you're too rushed to run back to the car to grab your bags for your grocery shopping. One time won't hurt, you reason. (Yet the average person uses enough plastic bags each year to use up a half-gallon of gas each, the plastic manufacturing industry admits.)

Maybe it's the Styrofoam cup you grab at the cafeteria because you were there, you were thirsty and you didn't keep a cup at your desk that day. Just this once, you figure. (Yet there's no Styrafoam recycling for at least 100 miles around the Indianapolis area, according to earth911.)

Maybe it's the 100-calorie pre-porportioned treats you bought at the grocery store, paying far too much for because you didn't want to make the time or the hassle of buying a normal or bulk-size package and counting out the baked chips or cookies yourself. It's more convenient this way, you rationalize. I don't have to think about it. (Yet people tend to overindulge on the "just this once" 100-calorie packs, adding to weight gain and the amount of trash consumed.)

Maybe you decide to run through the drive-through just this once. After all, I had a long day at work, the kids are cranky, and so am I! (Yet Central Massachusetts University found at that the average McDonald's drive-through window, vehicles spent more than 37 hours combined idling each day. One hour of idling burns about a gallon of gas. Do the math.)

Maybe it's just another little green lie we tell ourselves.

Visit the APLS Blog Carnival, hosted by Cathy at VWXYNot? on Jan. 22 for more contributions on the games we play to talk ourselves in and out of green decisions.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cooking up chips alternatives

Chips are the ultimate comfort food for my husband. A little salty, a little crunchy, a lot greasy. And in the midst of basketball season and bowl games, they tend to be on hand.

Trying to come up with alternative munchies in our home - for my weight's sake and for my children's healthier habits - can be a challenge. After all, home-cooked treats can be healthier and generate far less waste and cash than the pre-packaged alternatives.

We stumbled on a few recipes that we recently tried with some success. While alternatives to the butter and salt-encrusted bowl of popcorn abound (with varying degrees of healthiness), here are other ideas to consider:

Roasted chickpeas
Sounds strange I know, but hear me out. I stumbled across this recipe in Cookie magazine and figured it'd be a way to use up the random bag of dried chickpeas I had. My daughter has been happily munching on this every chance she gets.

The magazine calls for 1 cup of dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas), soaked overnight. I essentially doubled the recipe by using the full one-pound bag.

1 pound garbanzo beans
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt

Soak beans overnight (or at least 8 hours). Drain on paper towels and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl toss the oil, sugar and garbonzo beans. Spread the beans in a single layer on a ungreased cookie sheet. Roast them until they are crunchy and no longer soft in the middle, stirring a few times to prevent burning. (Note: The original recipe called for 45 minutes, however, it took closer to 1 hour for a double batch.)

Immediately toss the beans in a bowl with cinnamon and salt. Cool and serve. Store in airtight container at room temp for up to a week.

Baked pita chips
Leftover pita bread pockets
olive oil
garlic salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut each pita bread into 8 triangles. Place triangles on cookie sheet.

Brush each triangle with oil mixture and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Bake 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy.

White bean dip
The original recipe came from Whole Foods, but I rarely follow it anymore, instead basing it on what I have had on hand. Dress it up as "White bean crostini" or dress it down as dip and crackers or chips. The kids and I happily made a meal of it this weekend.

1 can canelini beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
roasted garlic (or other herbs)
1/3 to 1/2 cup water (until desired consistency)
1 cup parmesan

Blend in a food processor or blender. Serve it over bread (sprinkled with additional cheese and baked) or serve as dip with crackers, pita or baked chips.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Feed me, friend me: Are we a nation too attached to our PCs?

Death notice by Facebook.

Yes, that's how a colleague learned of someone's passing recently: An update on Facebook.

It's possibly the coldest, most uncomfortable way to learn of someone's death, aside of the cell phone call I got in a public restroom while I was hanging out with my breastpump. At least it wasn't texted to me.

Yet, this is what this world has come to. We keep up on each other's lives not by calling, not by e-mailing (the day of "forwarding a joke and they'll know I'm thinking of them" has passed). Instead, we follow Twits and feeds from people who may or not be our friends in the living, breathing world.

As a Web person in the real world, I've often shied away from how much computer time I actually spend in "talking to the virtual wall" communication. Yes, I blog, and I participate in a few message boards, LinkedIn and a few other communities, but being a working mom, I've set my limits as to how much time and how many venues I'm actually putting a stamp on my presence. I'm a little strange in that rather than use the shotgun approach at trying to do everything, I'm trying to do a few things well. And frankly, I have little time for the vices I do have.

Even so, I know through my reader how people are doing. How my friend Christy's battling her triplets' dance with chicken pox, or how we've got another event going on with our church group. We're so busy we forget to call. We sometimes neglect to e-mail. But we friend, and we feed. And on a really great day, we'll comment back on that virtual wall.

I miss the old days when we just stopped by to say hello.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

She ought to be in pictures

My trusty digital camera has survived two operating rooms, trips on either coast, hiking through several national parks and countless adventures with children. Given that I once had a habit of destroying my not-so-childproof cameras on an average of once a year, it's little wonder that I'm thrilled to have made it 3 1/2 years on this one.

And then one day, our resident wanna-be photographer got some pint-size competition.

It all started when a playmate received a Disney princess digital camera for her birthday. I think another one of her friends did too. And a good friend of mine confided that her daughter, not much older than mine, got her first camera as the "big sister present."

Does someone really need a digital camera before they can legibly write their name? It's hard for me to fathom, even though I recognize we're tumbling through an increasingly digital era.

I wondered what to do. And then my answer came.

Buried inside an old curio cabinet lay, untouched and forgotten, a decade-old APS camera. One that once proudly shot panoramic shots and more. In a digital world, it was passed over. After all, there's something to be said about realizing your shot was lousy before you pay for it being developed.

Dusty and tired, it sat in the cabinet, as its owner couldn't part with it but didn't know what to do. And then someone (admittedly who wasn't supposed to be in there) came proudly marching in the room. The flap for the flash stood at attention. The lens touched her eyelids. The film slot flapped open.

And a ever-so-proud little girl yelled, "Say cheese!" And she took my photo, flipped the camera around to show me how it turned out, then turned to take her brother's photo. And ever so predictably, he mugged for the camera.

Maybe we can hold off a little longer on kiddie digital cameras and worries about an SD card popping out on the floor and into her brother's mouth. Because a dusty, battery-less camera and a little imagination is all it takes.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can you live without plastic with preschoolers?

I'm always impressed with people who make a conscious effort to abandon the plastic habit. I admit I want to reduce my consumption, but I feel like I cheat all too often.

Yes, I've abandoned two-liters, but I grab a soda or bottled water now and then at work. Worse, in the cafeteria, we're stuck with styrafoam.

Yes, I try to take my own totes, but without the kids in tow, I forget my bags are in the backseat. So I tell the cashiers to bag paper. Which they forget, and grab plastic. I correct them, only usually to get home and find that they bagged the plastic bags in paper.

I save my plastic bags with the great intention of taking them to Wal-Mart or Kroger to recycle, yet never get them outside of my pantry.

So when people aim to rid themselves of plastic, and they are working parents with myself, I take notice.

When they do that when they have infants or toddlers, I stand impressed.

A few months ago, I wrote about the BBC chronicling a monthlong attempt of living without plastic. Even a week though can create upheaval, as Trine Tsouderos of the Chicago Tribune reports.

Tsoderos's life is so parallel to mine. A three-year-old. A baby. And a job. And yet, she pledged not only not to bring new plastic into her home but also to keep the plastic in her home out of the family's use for an entire week. Quite a task. And she managed to be very successful, cutting her family's plastic use in half.

It's something that's a bit inspiring to me, I have to admit, as I'm making baby steps toward changes.

Right now, I admit that we're in a financial crisis, so how quickly or extensively you flip the switch to greenness has to be a personal decision. When making the switch - particularly a drastic one - there's going to be a significant cash outlay. New toiletries or cleaning products. Paper (which I didn't even know existed) or cloth diapers. Stainless steel sipppy cups or water bottles. Glass containers to tote your lunches to work (if you so desire). But the reality is, you'll likely save money over the long haul. Those Pyrex containers I bought on sale at the grocery store this summer have paid for themselves over and over, given that I usually lose or ruin plastic lunch containers. Months later, mine aren't warped, stained or otherwise out of use. It's the same concept as buying something quality and hanging onto it, instead of the cheapie version that you have to replace over and over again.

Another thing to consider when making the switch is getting the buy-in from your family on the trade. If you're going to have meltdown over breakfast because it's not Cheerios or served on your plastic princess plate, you might be in trouble. Or your morning routine might be switched from the stop at the convenience store to bringing your beverage with you. Or stocking - and restocking - those reusable bags in your spouse's car and resisting the urge to get on his case when he still brings home the groceries in plastic.

It all takes change, and patience from all parties.

But the hopeful thing is, it can be done.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Feminism vs. Greenism: Can't there just be a tie?

Are The Feminist Movement and The Personal Environmentalism Movement Compatible? That's a headline if there ever was one. And it begs a question: Can you be a green mommy, a working mommy and a feminist mommy at the same time?

Perhaps it's a bit of a simplistic idea. But let's face it. A lot of the green blogs out there (likely myself included on occasion) tirelessly journal the things grown, made, canned or cooked, all in the name of greenness. How we diaper our children in last year's sweatshirts or dressed our kids in the old drapes a la The Sound of Music. How we're talented or resourceful enough to educate our children in four languages and teach them how to be completely self-sufficient by the age of 10. How we're able to can enough to feed the neighborhood in case of the impending blizzard. And there's nothing wrong with that. The beauty of the First Amendment and the Internet is that each of us can write about whatever we please.

As someone who juggles (sometimes more successfully than others) four jobs - career woman, wife, parent and (sort of) housekeeper - I can understand how critical the juggle is. And how somehow things get off balance. And how my Catholic, green or mommy guilt - pick your choice that day - colors my perception of the world.

Does it make me less of a feminist if I choose to cook my meal versus ask my husband to take it on - or gasp, order a pizza - if I don't feel up to the task? Or if I rely on my husband instead of myself to fix the toilet that's now clogged with an entire package of toddler toilet wipes that I bought in a moment of complete frustration over my daughter's hygiene habits?

Writes Ruchi at Arduous Blog:

... The truth is, we're never going to address gender imbalance when one set of people, largely women, are consistently being told "you should enjoy cooking and
cleaning, and if you don't, you're not feminine." Or that if you don't enjoy making organic baby food from scratch you're not a good mom. Because the truth is, you can be a good woman, and you can be a good mom even if you would rather pay a service to wash your baby's organic cloth diapers. Or you would rather buy $8 jam from the farmers' market. Or you think that if the toilet only gets cleaned once a month ... well, no one will die.

There's something to remember to this. It's not all about gender balance or imbalance. Let's be realistic; how many "traditional married" households are there these days anyways?

Being green is not a cookie-cutter lifestyle. Just as generations ago, pioneer women didn't all live on vast homesteads, we all have the benefit of sprawling lots or apple orchards in our backyard. We can make general choices that help our environment or the community (such as using CFL bulbs, using less gas or frequenting a farmers market). But we can take it a step further as we may desire, with varying results. And there's nothing wrong with whatever we do. Because it was our cumulative efforts that got us into this mess in the first place, and it's our cumulative efforts that will help us get out of (or at least improve) it.

With choosing to be a woman marries her talents with her responsibilities to this world, whatever they may be, we have the ability to make choices. And those choices can be just hire someone to do your toilets, bully your teenage son to use your green cleaner himself , just suck it up and accept the messiness and the disorder that is life, or tackle the task on your own.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cleaning up those candy canes

Candy canes. I'm not sure how they come into my home, as I don't purposely buy them. Yet every year, they enter my home, one by one, ultimately gracing my tree.

I admit they usually go into the trash. I don't eat candy canes as a rule. But this year, things are different. I was inspired by a recipe I'd found for peppermint sugar scrub for the bath and attempted to make it myself.

I ended up making a "poor man's version." No essential oils, no vitamin E. Instead I pounded a package of candy canes into tiny crumbs. (A great activity for a 3 year old with energy to burn and a metal measuring cup, by the way.) Then I mixed it with a cup of sugar.

Rather than add the oil at the time, I'm storing the base as-is until needed, then measure out about 1/3 cup of the mix and adding a small amount of olive oil to make a paste. This way, I don't have to worry about even stickier messes if the kids find it, or if the olive oil goes rancid in case I forget about the mix.

Anyway, I tried it, and it smelled and worked great.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The holidays are over. Now what?

The Christmas tree is staring me down. It's a week and a half after Christmas, and I'm feeling the guilt of not having taken down my decorations.

Each year, I'm faced with the question of now what? What can I do with the decorations I'm not in love with, the Christmas cards I'd gotten or the tons of Christmas bags my kids received?

The truth is, I can reuse or recycle most of them.

Holiday decorations
While you've likely heard of Christmas tree recycling in your neighborhood (it usually is tied with trash pickup), you can also recycle your dying Christmas lights as well. You can mail old lights to organizations such as or The copper, glass and plastic can be stripped and recycled. You could also extend the usefulness of your Christmas lights by using them in your garden with a cold frame. ]

Your unwanted Christmas ornaments can be donated instead of trashed. A domestic violence organization I work with locally collects Christmas decorations in good condition to help spruce up survivors' new homes.

Have a live wreath? Toss it in your compost bin or use the needles for mulch.

Greeting cards
You can reuse your greeting cards in a number of ways:

My husband's aunt introduced me to the idea of using previous year's cards as holiday gift tags.

You can repurpose them into new cards. You can do this yourself, have your kids do it or send them to St. Jude's Ranch.

You can use them for kid art.

Gift wrap
Gift bags can find a second, third, fourth or fifth life by being reused as long as they remain in good condition. If you're feeling crafty, you can just add a little reinforcement to keep the life up.

Hang on to your leftover wrap. Whether it's bows or paper in good condition, you can reuse them for next year.

While gift boxes can be recycled, they can also be stored for next year (unless you're dying to buy more) or find a new life as a children's art project or diorama.

OK, now I know I have no excuse not to clean up...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New year, new attempts

I'll admit it. It's day 4 of 2009 and I have yet to write any New Year's Resolutions. The weight thing? It hasn't changed for a decade, despite various attempts.

The organization thing? To the outside world, I may be beyond hope.

So rather than write a bunch of useless pratter, here are a few things I do want to achieve by the end of 2009. If you have great expectations, I hate to let you down. Right now I'm about baby steps and getting through life.

Curb my passion for paper. As my coworkers can attest, I have a very difficult time letting go of the paper trail (a problem made worse by computer systems that don't track records of changes). This year, I hope to make decisions quickly and opt to reduce my paper output when I'm able to, hopefully stopping the problem before it builds. (Note that I did not say I would clean my desk or any other empty promises. I'm just cutting back printouts!)

Grow a little more. Our gardening plan for 2009 is to grow more fruits and vegetables (yes, we've decided our two mandatory bushes we have to replace will be blueberries). Ideally, we'll have the funds to put in raised beds, as we're apparently not allowed in our subdivision to have anything that gives the faintest appearance of dirt without grass. If not, we'll look into renting a community plot from the city to save on the initial costs this year.

Give greener. Ideally, this means more eco-friendly and heartfelt gifts. If I can't go greener in the traditional sense, I'll at least plan to buy presents that foster creativity, feed a passion or help someone learn something new. It certainly beats a blinking, beeping pile of plastic that will soon be forgotten. (By the way, thanks again to my family for the noisemakers...Whatever happened to the batteries-aren't-required toys?)

Plan my menus. This will help reduced any unplanned or unbudgeted splurges at the grocery store and cut back on those additional shopping trips or last-minute decisions to grab a rotisserie chicken or a take-and-bake pizza on the way home from work. When my husband and I wait until the last minute to plan the night's dinner, that's when we end up settling for the least healthy option. Also, when I plan I can better take advantage of specials, what's in season and piggy-back to make multiple meals and work lunches (for less work and money than if I did them separately).

Spend wiser. While I've been vigilant for months on watching our budget, I want to work on ways to buy smarter with the funds we do have on hand. Our resources are limited, so I want to make sure that I'm not buying duplicate things, generating a lot of trash in the process, coming home with lots of plastic bags or collecting more stuff in the process.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

You, too, can grow lemons in Indiana

Sure, the gardening experts say you have to live in the deep South to truly grow lemons outdoors. Not so, I recently learned from my 3-year-old resident green thumb.

As she was squeezing juice from a lemon the other day, she calmly noted, "We can just squeeze the juice out of the lemon and take out the strings and seeds. And put it where the tree grows in the ground, and we will grow more lemons!"

And now you know.