Day 78 – Back on the wagon

Oops.  As my hubby would say, I lost my mojo.  Apparently writing a blog is much like being a runner – it’s addictive so long as you don’t take a break.  Once you do, it’s hard to get back on the wagon.  I took a day or two off because I had a really tiring week, and suddenly twelve days had gone by.  Twelve days!  I ask for your forgiveness, dear readers!

I actually did a bit of navel-gazing over the last week or so.  Not real navel-gazing… I haven’t done much of that since I took out my belly button ring…I mean the kind where you get all introspective and debate your next steps.  I seriously considered giving up the daily aspect of my blog. Gasp.  Are you horrified at my weak resolve, less than a third of the way though my year-long commitment?

Given that I seem to be averaging 5-6 posts per week (before the impromptu hiatus), I wondered if I should be more realistic and start posting only a few times a week, instead of every day.  But I’m very concerned that if I back off my daily promise, I will lose the motivation.  A few times a week will become twice a week, will become weekly, etc… etc… Next thing you know, blogging will become one of those things you have to do from time-to-time but don’t want to, instead of a daily routine I look forward to.

However, almost three months into this 365-day resolution, I do think it’s time to change things up a bit.  Inject some romance into our blogging relationship, if you will.  To that end, I’m going to change my blogging promise a wee bit.  Instead of posting a daily green challenge that I have to adopt, I’m going to post just a green lifestyle tip.  For example, I would not typically have posted about not littering, because this is not something that it would even occur to me to do.  But as I watch people pitch their cigarette butts on the ground day after day, it seems perhaps there are a lot of people who would benefit from a post on this subject.  And I grant most of my readers are not guilty of this gross crime, but you never know how a sermon will be heard beyond the converted.

This approach was inspired by the many dear people who have lately told me that they not only enjoy my blog, but that they share it with friends who are wanting to start green-ing their lives.  For those folks, a post about the value of using CFL bulbs might be really helpful, even if that’s a switch I made ten years ago.

Lastly, if you readers won’t find it too banal, I may start to post more about general musings relating to my life, and attempts to “keep it green”.  As I move to a new house, adapt to a new city, and change my work lifestyle completely, I would like the freedom to not only use my blog to reflect about it, but get some feedback from all of you, my wise and witty friends.

As this is one of longest posts I’ve ever written (making up for lost time?), I will brief regarding today’s green challenge.  Yes, I do think a true resolution is in order, given that I’ve gotten off scot-free for the last 12 days.  I’m going to give up paper towels.  I use them very little compared to some, but I do still keep a roll around for inconvenient, or particularly gross, spills.  No more!  Instead, my mop will be within handy reach in the kitchen, and each room of my house where spills will happen (e.g. kitchen, bathrooms) will have a reusable cloth holder (fashioned from a re-purposed disposable wipe holder) and a wet bag for disposal (made from lovely up-cycled fabric, thanks to http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheStraightStitch).  It might mean a bit more laundry, but a lot fewer trees will be consumed to clean up my messes, and less energy used to produce/recycle/transport a fundamentally unnecessary product.  So if you’re visiting me in the near future, try not to spill anything, okay?

Day 77 – The 100-Item Challenge

A couple of months ago I read a really inspiring article about a family who decided to simplify their lives by limiting themselves to 100 items each.  And they were hardcore about it – they counted sheets, towels, clothes, dishes, you name it.  It led to all kinds of cool lifestyle changes for them, including having to work way less because they needed less “stuff” and, accordingly, less room for their stuff.  You can read about it in Canadian Family online, here: http://www.canadianfamily.ca/2012/09/100-things-how-one-family-discovered-that-less-is-more/

And while I briefly entertained the idea of taking on a similar challenge, the truth is I’m not even remotely that hard-core.  I started to think of all the things that would have to be considered surplus… my necklaces (for some women it’s shoes), my cooking gadgets, my craft gear, my many, many books.  I got sad just thinking about parting with all of it.  Though it is tempting to think about embracing a truly minimalist lifestyle – the freedom, the disposable income… but in the end, I know myself, and I’m not just not an extreme personality.

But I was drawn to the spirit of the idea, so it’s been stuck in the back of my brain ever since.  And with our pending move, I finally figured out a way to honour the idea, without having to live without my hair dryer.  As we move into our new, larger home, it’s going to be tempting to fill it up with not only our current belongings, but all kinds of new purchases.  We’ve already made promises about not going out to buy a bunch of new stuff all at once, but instead to buy things slowly and deliberately, sourcing locally, second-hand and conscientiously.  But what about the mountains of stuff we have in storage, that we’ve clearly learned to live without in the last few months?  While there are some things that I miss desperately, I’m sure there are lots of things I’ve forgotten I even own.

So I’m planning a massive purge.  In the unpacking process, I will put two giant containers in every room, labelled “donate” and “toss”.  And I promise that we will get rid of at least 100 items. In response to my partner’s question, no, a box of screws will not count as 100 items.  It will count as 1.  A pair of gloves will count as 1.  If we get desperate I may count each spoon or mug individually… I’ll endeavour to keep a list of most of what we get rid of, so you can live vicariously through my purging, and perhaps be inspired to do your own.  Or maybe you’ll find some useful things amongst the list, and we can barter!  Though I’d have to give you two things for each one I took, in order to stick to the pledge…

Day 76 – My new old house

To quote a friend, “when everyone says you’ll be sick all the time when your kid starts daycare, they’re not messing with you.  That s#*t is for real”.  This perfectly sums up the last two weeks of my life.  Kid got sick, I got sick, hubby got sick, I’m still sick, kid is sick again.  Sigh.  However, thanks to lots of honey, lemon, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, and, I admit, some ColdFX and Advil thrown in for good measure, I might finally be seeing the light at the end of this mucous-y tunnel.  There’s a nice metaphor.

And on a lighter note, last week we finally bought a house!  As if that weren’t exciting enough, it lives up to all the green pledges I made about my “future” house.  It’s within biking distance of my daughter’s daycare, and walking distance of downtown, groceries, parks, my daughter’s future school, AND the river!  And given that I work from home, it’s also within walking distance of my work.  It’s almost a 100 years old, has a ridiculously efficient if old furnace, and thanks to fully landscaped front and back yards, not a blade of grass to mow.  Did I mention there’s a treehouse ?  Not sure how that’s environmentally friendly, but it’s darned cool.  We’ll be doing a couple of renovations and improvements, including a bathroom reno and a new roof, so I’d welcome suggestions on eco renovation products – toilets, tubs, sinks, tile, etc…  We’re thinking steel roof as it lasts much longer than shingles… any enviro thoughts on the material?  Lots of research to do in the coming weeks.  And I’m sure the whole process will be inspiration for a bunch of new green pledges.

On that note, the first house-related green pledge is to install a dual flush toilet in our newly renovated bathroom.  The ones with two buttons, so you can flush less for #1, and more for #2.  I’ll still be following my “if it’s yellow” rule, but this will help for all those who don’t embrace that particular practice.

You know you’re getting old when you’re excited about toilet shopping…

Day 75 – Just when you thought plastic was safe…

I posted this link on my FB page earlier today, but wanted to re-post it here for anyone who reads my blog but isn’t a FB friend. http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/even-bpa-free-bottles-might-leach-worrisome-chemicals-1.978033

It talks about the health risks associated with plastics, even BPA free plastics.  In my mind, weight is added to this article by commentary from Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defense.  His book, Death by Plastic, is on my reading list for later this year.

I’ve always tried to avoid plastics, but with a toddler I have definitely made some exceptions.  Some of her bottles are glass, but given that she totes one around at bedtime, we also have some plastic ones.  I’ll be tossing those and only using the glass.  Similarly, she has plastic bowls, plates and sippy cups.  I’ve tried wood bowls, but find them a pain to clean.  Metal is great, but expensive.  Glass is a non-option at this stage.  So I’ll give wooden bowls another go, and maybe think about buying some small metal mixing bowls in place of fancy metal kid bowls.  As for sippy cups… she has one metal one at home, but it leaks like crazy.  So I’ll keep the plastic one for bedtime and in her crib, and maybe just make the move to real cups at meal times.  Cutlery is all metal (plastic handles, but she doesn’t chew on those).

I generally don’t use plastic tupperware for food storage, but I’ll phase out those I do have, and keep replacing them with metal and glass.  It’s not the cheaper route, but well worth the extra expense if the plastic products could be leaching estrogen mimicking chemicals into our food.  Eek.

My pledge is to reduce the amount of plastic food and drink containers we use, and I would strongly encourage you to do the same, particularly if you have little ones.  I always try to avoid being preachy in these posts, but in this case it’s out of concern for your health.

Day 74 – The way my great-grandma did it

My partner and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary this weekend.  We had grand plans to be in a canoe in Algonquin Park, but are both suffering from colds.  We decided that sniffling and hacking our way through a cool and rainy weekend in a tent didn’t sound very romantic, so we opted to go with a cushier plan B.  In addition to two nights in a lovely Haliburton inn, we spent an afternoon meandering and shopping around our favourite haunts in Bracebridge and Huntsville.  Key amongst these – second-hand book shops.  We’re both book junkies.  He loves history, I usually prefer literature and fiction.

On this trip, we discovered a true gem of a bookstore – a second-hand shop specializing in antique books.  At first I thought I would just be window shopping, until I got to the “domestic arts” section.  Now I’m a far cry from domestic, but you can’t embrace a year of green life changes without dabbling in cooking, crafting, and natural health remedies.  So when I found this book (see picture), I couldn’t help but buy it.  In case you can’t read the small print, it’s a “a practical family physician, home remedies and home treatment on all diseases: an instructor on Nursing, Housekeeping and Home Adornments”.  And it’s from 1894.

I bought it in the hopes that I would learn some good old-fashioned home remedies, like those that my grandmother and great-grandmother would have used.  Ways to get tomato sauce out of a white shirt without bleach, cures for runny noses and coughs, etc.. etc…  It has all of this and more.  It’s also equal parts hilarious and terrifying.  Example: the lengthy section of the role of woman as the “angel” and “queen” of the home, and the chapter dedicated to “figure, form and dress”, including “how ladies should dress”.   In case you’re curious, “great latitude is allowed, but the aim of the gentle sex should be simplicity and taste”.  So… no leopard print?  Got it.

As for the terrifying part… there are endless ingredients in this book that I don’t recognize, but that sound more like motor oil additives than medicines.  Their suggestion for cutting a hole in a piece of glass (not sure why you’d need to do that?), is to “pour into it a little melted lead”.  Eek.

Long story short (and it is long – 522 pages to be exact), it’s going to take a lot of additional research and reading before most of this book can be of any use.  But I’ve already gleaned some useful tips, such as how to make a basic flax-seed poultice, that I will be sure to try.  The green pledge in all of this?  I’m going to try to cure/clean/bake/fix it the way my great-grandma would have.  At least as it doesn’t involve ingesting “subnitrate of bismuth”.  Gulp.

Day 73 – Sniffles

My lovely new handkerchiefs arrived today.  The timing is perfect, as I’m entering week two of my cold (thanks daycare), and I’ve been going through way too much tissue.  They’re nice and soft, and have a sweet floral pattern.  Best of all, they come with their own carrying case, solving the problem of what to do with them post-sniffle.

I’ve been waiting for them to arrive so I could more genuinely make the pledge to start using hankies.  I’m not going to pledge to give up tissue altogether, because there are some allergy attacks or colds that hankies just can’t keep up with.  But if I use hankies the other 95% of the time, I should drastically reduce the number of trees that get cut down just for the comfort of my schnoz.

Day 72: Mmm… smells yummy…

I’m so excited about this post!  A friend suggested a while ago that I start making my own home scents.  I haven’t used candles in ages, mostly because I find a lot of them too strongly scented, and I’ve never used chemical air fresheners.  I was hesitant about making my own scents, because I assumed it would require my to keep the stove on for hours, wasting electricity.  However, this great site not only has recipes, but also suggests using a candle to spread the scent.  I’m going to stock up on beeswax candles, and make myself some yummy smelling mixes!

www.theyummylife.com/Natural_Room_Scents

Day 69 – 71: Getting personal

I have a cold.  Mostly had a cold, but it’s hanging around enough that I sound like a cigar smoking old man.  And it’s had me in bed by 9pm the last two nights, hence the lack of blog posts.  However, I have been green pledging my way along, even if I haven’t posted about it.

First off, I used natural remedies to manage my gross head cold.  Specifically, a tea made from pouring boiling water over a jellied mix of honey, lemon and ginger.  Super tasty, and actually helped my throat a lot when nothing else would.  Thanks FB for that tip!

Second, I am potty training my kid.  The green connection is obvious, because we won’t have to use diapers or wipes any more.  If the challenge part of it isn’t obvious, you’ve clearly never had a toddler.  My girl is barely 20 months old, and not terribly verbal, so toilet training has some interesting moments.  Today’s highlight was her squatting, bare bum to wind, over her potty, in the parking lot at the dog park.  This was made even better because it was cold out, and she had a warm coat and toque on.  Perhaps we should have done this in August?

And last, but not least, what will perhaps be my favourite green pledge of the whole darned year.  I’m going to stop shaving.  Okay, not entirely, I’m not that hard-core.  But I’m cutting back to once a week.  Okay, sometimes this will be an increase… sue me, I hate shaving.  I don’t promise to keep this up once shorts weather returns, but in the next 6-7 months of Canadian fall/winter/cold spring, I’ll add some natural furry-ness to my insulation.  And significantly cut down on the use of disposable razor heads to boot.

How was that for a pleasant blog post?  You got to hear about my gross cold, my kids toilet habits, and my hairy legs!  Tune in tomorrow for more!

Day 68 – Buying in bulk

I recently had to buy red pepper flakes for a recipe.  I didn’t want to buy a full-sized container because I don’t have any other recipes right now that call for it.  So at the suggestion of a very helpful grocery store employee, I headed to the bulk section and was able to buy a small portion of the various herbs I needed.  The downside to this approach, at the moment, is that I’m using small disposable plastic bags to store them in.  When we move and I have access to all my mason jars and what not, I can take these containers with me and fill them at the bulk food store.

In addition to spices, I’m also pledging to buy all my pasta and baking supplies (flour, sugar, etc..) at bulk food stores.  And at a friend’s suggestion, I’m going to use reusable bags and bottles for these items.  Bonus – bulk food stores usually have yummy fair trade chocolate too… Mmm… chocolate…

Day 67 – Cuz I’ll look really smart…

I’m going to buy a refillable pen!  A colleague of mine has hounded me about this for years, and she’s absolutely right.  It’s ridiculous that we buy and throw out so many plastic, disposable pens every year.  So while I’m not going to go full-on fountain pen, I am going to get one that I can refill the ink.  The one my colleague has is lovely, and I’ve often admired it.  There’s something more sophisticated about writing with a good quality pen.  “It has to feel good in your hand” to quote my favourite West Wing president.

So added to my shopping list is a refillable pen.  I’ll post a pic of my new purchase once I’ve tracked one down.  Or perhaps a pic of myself writing with it, looking all smart-like.