Monday, December 29, 2008

By the Way...


So, a few months ago now, we bought a new sofa. This alone is not blog worthy, but in my continual attempts to be greener, I bought my sofa second hand. Eww, right? Only it's darling and antique and doesn't quite have the same gross out factor that most second hand sofas have.

I looked and looked and looked online for a sofa that would compliment my two wood and gold velvet captains chairs that I got from my parents. I grew up with these chairs, and when Mom and Dad decided their tastes had matured past this elegant style, I decided mine had hit the mark.

It took me months of patient internet shopping to finally come across the one sofa that was 1. the right type, 2. the right price, and 3. in decent condition. We plan on reupholstering the piece eventually, but in the mean time we hit a big number 4. The right color. It almost matches the gold chairs perfectly. And it certainly has completed our room.

Kitchen Reno-Vation

We are also doing some slight remodeling in our kitchen this week as well. As if the studio spackling wasn't enough! However, this work isn't being done by us. A friend and mutual friend (same person) "does walls," so he came over today and ripped out the framing for the so called spice rack cupboards that came with the house. (The picture above is old-- before we moved the microwave and added the antique cupboard-- but it was the best shot of the spice racks I could find.) The idea of the cupboards wasn't bad, it was the cardboard shelves that did it for me. Out! It was a wonderful sound hearing that framing coming down! The job should be done by the end of the week. Keep watching the blog for more pictures!

Also-- since the spice rack cupboards (that are now gone!) had the same hardware that the rest of the kitchen cabinets has, I now have a couple of extra and have decided to replace the handles on the wooden cupboard that we added. Now everything will be consistent. Love it.

Putting the Tomatoes to Bed

Snow came early to Ohio this year, but it was still probably well past the normal season for Ohio tomato crops. I don't know why I held on so long! The good news is, I learned a ton from growing my own tomatoes, and I am really looking forward to doing it again next year. I am even considering expanding my crops to include other vegetables. I am also now armed with an entire arsenal of canning equipment, so you should all expect wonderful jams, jellies, and salsas for Christmas presents in '09. Just warning you. I'm going to be a Canning Monster!

Renovation Among Us!

I am so excited to announce that I have finally begun remodeling my studio! One of the big draws to buying this house back in March was that it had a Man Basement for my man, and a "4th bedroom" for my studio. I have never had my own studio before, except if you count the tiny loft space in college that all the seniors were assigned.

This room was designated mine for it's shear lack of potential to be anything else! It is covered with knotted (holey) wood paneling, has low dingy ceilings, orange shag carpet, one old window, no heat, no air, and built ins that will not let go. For the average person this room would be called "the pits," and I am sure that the previous owners thought just that. I don't think they ever even used it-- maybe for storage, but when I first saw the house with my realtor it was indeed staged to be a 4th bedroom (complete two little twin beds tucked into the built ins.) I saw beyond 60's facade and recognized all those built ins would nicely hold my art supplies, that the weird sectioned walls would give me "nooks" for rug hooking, painting, and there was space enough for my desk and maybe even room for my computer. The possibilities are endless.

The big problem of course, was that all of these dreams of mine would require hard work to get the room where I wanted it to be- and there would be no creating anything in this room until all that hard work was done.

So. Again. I am proud to announce that the hard work has begun! The first step is to fill in ALL the knotty holes in the wood paneling. Two jugs of spackle and several hours and sore hands later, one wall is done! Yeah!


Keep checking back over the coming week for more updates. I'm now having dreams about this room so I am finally highly motivated.

New Year New

I just wanted to drop a quick post to all of my friends and family who follow my blog. We just celebrated a fabulous Christmas 2008, and are about to embark on the wonderful adventure of 2009. I can't tell you all how excited I am about the upcoming year and the unnamed possibilities of health and happiness that it holds. I always see the new year as a time for setting priorities, reevaluating life, and refocusing on the things that are most important. For me, that is my husband, my family and friends, my girls, and my creative work. I look forward to sharing upcoming developments with all of you over the coming months. Cheers to you, and Happy New Year!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Now News is Good News

It has been such a long time since I last posted an entry on my blog that I am finally sitting down to post just to post. I'd rather have something earth shattering and wonderful to share with the world, but as it is, all is well and calm and stable (regardless of the economic crisis) in our lives. (For the most part!)

We have been continuing with our efforts to live "greenly," but have not really taken on any new challenges here of late. I did finally purchase the Doggy Potty-- the pet septic tank system, but I haven't gotten it installed yet. It requires a post hole digger, which we do not own, to create a four foot deep hole in yard, and now that it has started getting cooler here in Ohio-- that hole may just have to wait until spring! It is a great idea, though. Instead of leaving poop on the ground (which is not even an option in our tiny yard,) and instead of using plastic bag after plastic bag to pick it up and throw it away, the doggy potty breaks it down into a safe, non toxic material that can be reabsorbed into the earth without contaminating ground water. It's the best thing I have found to deal with the "problem" of pet poop.

Well. Enough about that. In other news, I am still picking tomatoes off of my two huge plants. Yesterday I pulled 12 good ones off and about 8 bad ones (ones that were left too long!) I then made a delicious homemade marinara out of the good ones that will be used later in the week to make homemade pizza. Yum! What a good feeling. To grow your own vegetables and then be able to enjoy the benefits. I have eaten several of the tomatoes already, but I have not made anything out of them until now. I will have to post pictures of the pizza when it is done!

My husband and I finally had our first camping trip of the year! It was really late for us as we usually camp in the spring as well as the fall. But moving across the country this past spring kind of derailed our usual plans. This fall trip was not only our first camping trip of the year, but it was also our first adventure into the great wilds of Ohio! We had gorgeous Indian Summer like temperatures, but the color and look of autumn on all of the trees. I'd like to go again before it gets too cold, but I may already be out of time. My husband keeps asking about snow camping.... !!!

Right now, my efforts and stress levels are focused on Christmas. I am the person who strives to have all of her shopping done by Thanksgiving. As that holiday is only a month away, I am ready to get things started and done with! I would love to give green, recycled, earth friendly gifts this year, but that simply may not be possible. I also played with the idea of giving homemade gifts, as I consider every year, but that always ends up being so much more stress than I can handle. Right now I am in research mode. If anyone has any good ideas, don't hesitate to share!

That is all for today. Hopefully there will be more to share as the month goes on. Thanks for staying tuned in through the lull.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Seeing Red!

The tomatoes are taking over! Grown from 6 inch little baby plants-- these two tomato plants are now taller than me. It must be the warm Ohio days... fertile soil? I have never seen anything like this! (Granted, these are my first tomato plants-- my first vegetable plants at all.) I am continually impressed by these beauties. They grew tall fast, but took their time producing buds, then took their time producing fruit, and then I never ever thought they were going to turn red. I almost thought they were a fluke and that somehow, instead of buying regular tomato plants, I had bought Green Tomatoes... only good for pickling and frying. But this week-- finally! finally! A little gold has started to grow.

I feel like a proud a mother. Three good sized fruits started to turn, and one looked so good and ready that I couldn't help myself and plucked it down. Unfortunately, and this is the lesson that I learned this evening: looking ready and being ready are not necessarily the same thing! The sweet little tomato was ruby red on the bottom but golden yellow on top! Oh well. It looks beautiful in my kitchen window.

Now that "summer" is finally here, i.e. my tomatoes are coming to fruition, the weather is starting to turn ever so slightly towards fall. I think it is fair to say that my first growing season in Ohio has been very educational. Next year I will start earlier, start indoors, and plant more variety! I can't wait!

(I also can't wait to eat some tomatoes -- the whole point of me growing my own! I am dreaming of tomato, mozzarella, and basil salads... fresh salsa.. tomato soup! Yum!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tomato, Tomahto

I think it must have been back in May when I first purchased my two little tomato plants. It was one of those love at first sight moments-- I saw the little sprouts from across the aisle, looked upon those scrawny stems and knew instantly that they had to be mine! At 6 inches tall they were anything but impressive, but I have wanted desperately to start gardening produce, and tomatoes seemed like the perfect place to begin.

There is a little corner of dirt that wraps around the side of our garage that gets full, hot sun most of the day. So I had the perfect spot. However, as soon as I brought them home I realized that I knew nothing about growing anything. But with a little internet research and ingenuity (if I do say so myself) I got it all pulled together. I knew that they would grow tall, and in doing so, would need some type of support. But being impatient, I refused to put off the planting in order to go out and buy something proper. Instead, I found (what I later learned is a "for sale" sign post) a metal "H" that was perfectly 24" wide, and what I thought would be the perfect height. (They have now outgrown my "H") With a little love, water, and fearlessness (oh my word, there are a LOT of WORMS in Ohio!!) I got the little ones growing.

In any case, I am thrilled to be the proud parent of two, gigantic tomato plants. Today I counted a whopping 8 little green fruits on their way to deliciousness! What more could a woman ask for.






Monday, June 23, 2008

Aiding and Abedding

One immediate issue that we faced in our new kitchen was a lack of space. Our kitchen is MUCH bigger than the one we had at our old house, but somehow there was still a considerable lack of counter space and storage. We managed to find a place for all of our things, but when it came to recycling, we just couldn't figure out where to PUT the stuff.

There are lots of containers out there, but we had no room to place one. We have nice, large, cans outside to contain the recyclables before they head off to the centers, but we needed a spot INSIDE too. So. Wall-ah. We figured it out. Not only did we add more counter space which helped the entire kitchen feel bigger overall, but also, since we already had a place for pots and pans, the new under storage became a fantastic little recycling center for us. So far, it's working out great. And, I will proudly boast that this little piece of furniture was sold with love from a woman who owned it for 20 years, and it smells perfectly of antique furniture. So it, is itself, recycled. Yeah!! I feel like such a do-gooder, plus the bonus that I actually like the look of this little cupboard. The base is wood-- paint and natural, and the top is enamel.

There's room for a large tub (that we already had) to hold mixed containers (glass, plastics, odd sized paper) and then a top shelf and a hanging basket on the door that are working perfectly to hold paper, magazines, and newspaper. Oh, and it's also provided us with a new drawer for clean cloth napkins, and a drawer (hamper) for "used" cloth napkins, and a drawer for potatoes. Everyone needs a potato drawer, right? Hmmm... and speaking of potatoes... stay tuned, I think I will post my new, fantastic and healthy baked potato ship recipe.

Do Something Drastic...

Cut the plastic!

If you have been reading my blog over the last few months, you know that my husband and I are trying, daily, to cut down our use of plastic bags. We have three reusable bags now-- all of different designs and all working for varying, wonderfully handy purposes. I am going to bring it up again, since my cousin in DC was so sweet to send me some new statistics. They are pretty astounding and I think, simply worth mentioning. So here we go.

1. If you use a cloth bag, you can save 6 bags a week from going to our landfills.

2. That's 24 bags a month.

3. 288 bags a year.

4. 22,176 bags in your lifetime.

That depends of course, entirely on your personal style. (How often do you shop? How regularly do you stop in at the pharmacy, at the grocery store, at the shoe store, buy one item, and walk out with a plastic bag? I honestly think that these numbers are conservative. Especially if you watch people coming out of the grocery store with 20-30 plastic bags on each arm.)

5. If 1 out of 5 people in our country alone cut out the use of plastic bags, that adds up to 1,330,560,000,000 bags over our lifetime.

6. And it's interesting to point out the phrase "in our country alone." Here is a list of countries that have either banned the use of plastic bags or are on their way to getting them banned. Please notice which one is missing.

Canada
Israel
Western India
Botswana
Kenya
Tanzania
South Africa
Taiwan
Singapore
Rwanda
Bangladesh
China

7. Even more interesting, to me, is that Ireland started TAXING the use of plastic bags in 2002 (instead of banning them) and by doing so, in 6 years has managed to reduce plastic bag consumption by 90%.

8. There is ONE U.S. city that has banned the use of plastic bags: San Francisco. There are two more on the way: Oakland, CA and Boston, MA.

9. When you stop using plastic bags, you reduce the amount of oil used in manufacturing them (Yes-- plastic bags are made from oil. The same oil you are paying $4.00 a gallon for at the pump.)

10. China banned the use of plastic bags and will save 37 million barrels of oil each year in doing so.

In conclusion, I'll repeat a favorite old saying from years gone by:

Give a hoot, don't pollute.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Compost, Oh Compost

We finally purchased a new composter to replace the one that we left behind in Georgia. The newer version is very much like the old one, except square instead of round-- and not quite as shiny! But we are already off to a great start filling it up! And just a quick sales tip if anyone out there is interested in buying a composter: We got this one from Sam's Club for about half the price of the cheapest one I've seen any where else. I've found it online since our purchase and it's selling for almost three times as much as what we paid. It is not the most high end of products, but it does get the job done.

We also managed to purchase our very own reel mower this week. Pictures to come later. It is very much like the one we borrowed and tried out from our friend, but this one came with a basket to catch the flying grass. In theory, the basket is a great idea since we have found that cutting the grass outside without picking it up creates almost as much grass inside the house as we have in the yard. In theory, a basket would catch the grass and make the whole process nice and tidy.

In practice, it doesn't quite work as well as all of that. The grass still flies every which way in a crazy flurry that is almost comical to watch. The majority of it does somehow, pile up and make it into the basket, but there is still enough grass that doesn't that I feel comfortable claiming that I am fertilizing my lawn with the left over clippings.

I think the upside to the basket, for me, is that I still get the clippings on the lawn, which is healthy for it, but I also get tons of basket clippings for my compost-- which is healthy for that! You could say it's ended up being a win win.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Spring Days

The temperature is still hovering around 50 degrees here in my neck of the woods, but the flowers have come bursting forth anyway. They are stunning. I wish that I could take some credit for them, but we've only just moved into the house, and these were blooming shortly after we transitioned in.







Friday, May 16, 2008

The Reel Deal



Nothing like a little light lawn mowing on a late Saturday afternoon! We borrowed this reel mower from our friend and neighbor since we haven't gotten around to making this purchase ourselves. After months of talking about it, seeing it, and pricing it, we finally got the chance to try it out. What fun! Our yard-- front and back, is rather small, so it makes mowing pretty painless. I think the tricky part will be staying on top of it, as the work does get harder when the grass is long. The mower pushes the blades over instead of chopping them off. One thing I am excited about: Our lawn has some bald spots in it, and I am hopeful that the cut blades will nurture the grass to grow back where it needs to. I can't wait to get our own.

(Video of this exciting process coming soon!)

As promised, view this video by clicking on "Reel Deal" to the left, under the "Video" title.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What I've Been Learning...



About Meat...

Raising animals for food is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.
--United Nations


There have been a lot of changes in my life over the last year, especially when it comes to being more eco conscious. It has become a serious quest of mine to minimalize my impact on the planet in any way and every way that I can. My husband and I started recycling, started composting, switched to energy efficient light bulbs, started using reusable shopping bags, cut out paper napkins in our household and started using cloth instead... the list goes on. Little things, but little things that we can EASILY do that honestly don't make that huge of an impact on our daily lives. They do, however, little by little, make a GIGANTIC impact on our footprint on this planet.

It's been our goal to grow in this adventure, and as we've traveled along, looking for the next steps to take, I've been learning more and more about FOOD. It's fascinating to me in every regard to learn more about where my food comes from, and from an environmental stand point-- what types of resources it takes to get my food to me. It's our goal to eat more locally (check out the 100 mile challenge if you are REALLY interested in this. http://100milediet.org) and in doing so I have decided to finally stop eating meat. Ugh! I like meat, and eating cute little furry animals has never really been an issue for me. (Although my husband will testify that we do not eat crab because I can't handle ripping their little legs off!) Anyway, my decision is based entirely on the Saving the World Standpoint, and here to support my decision is a little bit of information.

Global Warming:
According to a recent United Nations Report, the meat industry causes more global warming (through the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) than all the cars, trucks, SUVS, planes, and ships in the world combined. Researchers at the University of Chicago determined that switching to a vegan diet is 50 percent more efficient than switching from a regular car to a hybrid car in reducing you impact on global warming. I have been wanting to switch to a hybrid car, but am honestly not ready to go through the actual PURCHASE of a new car... so I'm very excited that there is something even more effective that I can do!

Water Resources:
More than half of all the water consumed in the U.S. is used to raise animals for food. A totally vegetarian diet requires 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat based diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day. Consider that when you are trying to take shorter showers to conserve water.

Pollution:
Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the run-off from factory farms pollutes our rivers and lakes more than all other industrial sources combined. And we thought factories were bad.

All in all-- this will be an experiment for me, just like everything else has been. I am still eating fish (it's been about three weeks on the new diet so far) but minimally. And as time goes on, that may change as well. Who knows!



On a side note: while doing some research for this blog posting, I came across a LOT of information about the conditions of factory farm raised animals. It's appalling and it's horrible. I feel like I got a lot of information from propaganda websites, so I will try to take it with a grain of salt. (Hello PETA). But at the same time, knowing where your food comes from can be VERY educating. I wanted to become a vegetarian for environmental reasons, but if you saw some of the web sites that I did, you might become one yourself based on compassion alone.

Here's a quote from www.goveg.com

"More than 30 billion animals are killed by the American meat industry each year-- in ways that would horrify any compassionate person and that would be illegal if cats or dogs were the victims."

Guh.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Keys to the Castle

We got the keys to our new house last night. That makes us officially HOME OWNERS. How exciting and scary all at the same time. Could it be that we are finally adults? That we have finally come of age? I hope nothing breaks.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day


Some Earth Day tips to keep in mind.

UNPLUG UNUSED ELECTRONICS AND SAVE $256 PER HOUSEHOLD PER YEAR.
Snag a book from the library or a used book store and curl up by a sunny window. Take a walk or go for a bike ride. Just spend a few hours every week electricity-free. And while you’re shutting things off, consider unplugging less-used electronics, small appliances, lamps and other gadgets until needed; it reduces standby electricity loss, which means lower bills. Or group your electronics on one of the handy power strips featured below!

PAY ONLINE.
If all Americans viewed and paid bills online, we'd save 18.5 million trees EACH YEAR. Take time this week to switch all your bills to paperless or e-statements. Consider canceling unwanted catalog and magazine subscriptions and sign up for a junk mail monitoring service, which removes you from mass mailing lists for small fee. Your letter carrier — and local landfill — will enjoy the lighter load.

Check out these websites and help STOP the garbage
http://www.41pounds.org
http://www.greendimes.com

PLANT SOMETHING
It's starting to get gorgeous outside. Get out there and take advantage of the warmer temperatures and update your landscape. Plant deciduous trees near your house. As they grow, the trees' lush leaves will shade your home from the warming sun. In winter, their bare branches let that sunlight through, which means less stress on your heating system and utility bills. Plus, more trees means cleaner air. AND-- for you composters out there... more trees means more leaves to make that rich dark compost!

CUT WASTE
Start keeping track of how much trash you generate by eating out and making trips to the store, I guarantee you'll be amazed! Yuck! All of those bags, paper and styrofoam cups, and containers really add up and are stuffing our landfills to capacity. Bring your own plastic/metal boxes to your favorite take-out joint. You'll save resources and save them money. Use reusable shopping bags whenever you go to the store. Say "No Thanks" when the pharmacist or fast food clerk tries to put your one or two items in a bag. Don't be afraid to speak up! Use reusable cups for coffee and other beverages including for soda and fountain drinks. And, reuse some of the extras at home - keep extra napkins and reuse plastic cups and cutlery.

We have actually stopped buying paper napkins at all. At Christmas when people asked me what I wanted as gifts, I requested nice, easy care CLOTH napkins. Now I have tons and they are easily washable with a regular load of laundry, look nice on my table,and surprisingly, the switch has dramatically cut down on the amount of paper towels we use as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Energy Saving Power Strip


Ok-- Tell me this is not cool. A power strip that knows when to work, what to work, and what to turn off. It makes saving energy easy as pie. Last year, my husband I and tried to start a normal practice of unplugging our electronic devices when they were not in use, but sadly, it turned out to be such a pain that we quickly gave up on it. Our entertainment system is one of those things that all of the cords feed together onto one power strip and then get hidden behind a huge piece of furniture making it virtually impossible to daily plug in and plug out. And then there was the TiVo issue... Ahem. How can Tivo work if it's not plugged IN?? Well, I am not sure if this answers the TiVo dilemma, but it certainly is ingenious for everything else. I want one for every room in the house-- it would even be great for our computer set up-- printer, scanner, computer. All linked together!

From the Manufacturer:
Ten outlets work together, auto switching your devices on/off automatically, to save you money on your electric bills. 2875 joules of surge protection keep your equipment safe from even the harshest power spikes. Conveniently-spaced outlets and a 45-degree, angled space saver plug make the Smart Strip a friendly addition to your electronic systems.

A better write up from Grist.org:
Household gadgets often suck up electricity even when turned off. To stop these "vampires," you can plug your gizmos into a power strip that is easily turned off with the flip of a switch. The $40 Smart Strip takes this idea one step further with a feature geared toward computer and home-entertainment systems: when the device plugged into its "control" outlet is turned off (say, a TV), the Smart Strip cuts off the current flowing to peripheral devices (like a DVD player and VCR). That's smart, all right.

Customer Reviews:
Plug and Play
I highly recommend this product. It was easy to install. I'm able to shut off several devices that I used to leave constantly on by just shutting off my computer.

Great product at a great price
This vendor was fast at shipping and provided a great competitive price.

This thing is great! Effortlessly saves energy. Would have reduced usage 100% except for the devices in the "Always On" outlets. I highly recommend!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Simple Shoes

Made with sustainable materials like recycled car tires, hemp, bamboo, and PET (recycled plastics.) They have several different lines, including sneakers, sandals, and sweet little earth friendly ballet flats.

http://www.simpleshoes.com/






Friday, April 11, 2008

More Info on Indoor Composting

After talking with several of my friends about the Nature Mill Indoor Composter, I decided that more convincing, compelling reviews were needed to convince people that this is a fantastic invention.

Here are several posts, reviews, and ads that I found all over the web that all support me in my belief. (I did not find ANY that contradicted) The articles with the boxier, white Nature Mill are a few years older, and I think they refer to the older model, which has since been upgraded to something even better!

If you can't read the small type, please click on the picture to see it bigger.