Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Last year on Earth Day, we made a resolution to go paperless in the kitchen.

The switch has been relatively painless and I have been amazed at the money we have saved and how much less full our garbage cans are!  

Even if going paperless in the kitchen is not appealing to you (I fully understand the love of the paper towel), a very easy change you can make is in using cloth napkins.  

Cloth napkins hold up MUCH better than their paper counterparts and in the end are so much cheaper!  

You can make them any size you please and you can make them to be fancy, casual, seasonal, decorative or just functional.  I made some standard sized napkins and some that are smaller for my kids.  My daughter loves using them for tea parties and for her babies, too.  And cloth napkins clean up a toddlers messy face much better than paper.

There are so many tutorials out there on making them, but one of my favorites comes from the Purl Bee. Their napkins are classy and elegant, yet could be used for every day.  

Go check them out and consider whipping up a batch for a Christmas gift this year.  

Happy dining!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Travel Mugs 101

Last week, I dumped an entire cup of coffee on the backseat of my car. The $40 interior detail made me realize it would have been worth investing in a few more travel mugs.

Since I'm typically an iced coffee drinker, I figured it's also time I ban plastic cups altogether. Thus began my search for new travel mugs.

The problem is that I'm pretty picky. My travel mug has to be cute (it can really impact your outfit), but often the cute ones leak, fog up, and aren't dishwasher safe.  I'm hard on my coffee mugs, so they have to be able to offer a leak-proof, temperature-maintaining, easy-to-clean guarantee. 

Below are a few of my favorites...

For the simplest: I am Not a Paper Cup from Nubius Organics.  It's clever, simple, and eco-friendly.  Although I typically prefer brightly colored mugs, the plain white cup is kind of appealing.

For the prepster: Lilly Pullitzer Coral Me Crazy. It's super cute and the interior is stainless steel, which is one of the most highly recycled materials around.  There's no denying that the bright colors would warm me up all winter long.
For the uber eco-friendly: It's certainly better to use a travel mug than to use paper cups everyday, but if you still don't feel like that's quite enough, try the Green Travel Mug from Amazon. Not only is it made from recycled materials, but the mug itself is recyclable.
Or, if you're uber eco-friendly and a brainstormer, opt for the Chalk Board version of the Green Mug. If you're ever inspired while drinking your coffee, you have a recycled chalkboard right at your finger tips.

And finally, for the more refined: Ce n'est pas une tasse de plastique. This is still not a plastic cup, even though it's written in French. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Green Gifts

Happy Black Friday. If you're like me, you'd rather not be fighting with the crowds, looking for great gifts. Honestly, I'd like to be shopping online and watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas, instead. Giving to family is and should be fun, so here are a few eco-friendly gift ideas to get you started.

For the little peanuts in your life:
Buy him his first truck. It's made from 100% recycled milk jugs. It is also sent to you in fully recyclable packaging.  My son loves his! (Also, check out the recycling truck and firetruck.)
Green Toys Dump Truck

PlanToys Roller

This roller will encourage crawling or rolling to chase it around the room. Plan Toys use manufacturing methods to reduce energy consumption and waste. You can feel good about where these toys come from!

For the toddlers:
Let them make music with a xylophone. Plan Toys makes this colorful xylophone out of recycled rubber wood.
Plan Toy Oval Xylophone

MiYim Simply Organic Good Earth FairyI know several little girls who would love a sweet fairy. You can feel good about your little one snuggling up with this 100% organic cotton Good Earth Fairy. She is dyed with plant and mineral dyes instead of chemicals. (MiYim has lots of other adorable plush toys, including their Jane Goodall collection--the lion is too cute!)

For the older set:

Elenco Snap Circuits Green - Alternative Energy KitAn experiment is at their fingertips with this green electronics kit. If you have kids in your life who want to take the stereo apart to see how it works, this is the perfect gift.

This building kit is decidedly feminine, so it would be fun for the girl in your life who likes to create. The recycled cardboard kit is also fully recyclable.
Totem Nature By Kidsonroof

For the Big People:
I am loving these vintage sari scarves. They are handmade from entirely recycled materials. I think the cinnamon one is the loveliest. It would certainly brighten my mood on a dreary winter day.

My husband might be getting this dopp kit for Christmas. Every man needs a sturdy bag to transport his bath products. It's repurposed mountain bike tubes and is even made in Colorado!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

happy thanksgiving {bonus make. gobble!}

Happy Thanksgiving! 

In need of a last minute DIY? Check out this burlap sack project.
The image can be transferred to any material, but I think the burlap sack is pretty stinking cute.  It would be ideal for some last minute grocery shopping

If you're not up for the project, I hope you find other ways to enjoy your day of thanks and are able to spend lots of time with those you love. Gobble gobble!


Did you know that your shoes are most likely dirtier than a public toilet seat?

One very simple step you can take to reducing the dirt and carcinogens you bring into your house is to take your shoes off as soon as you cross the threshold of your home.

Think of all the places your shoes have been - a beautiful lawn recently treated with chemicals, standing in a puddle of gas at the gas station, public restrooms, hospital floors...the list goes on and on.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that shoes never be worn in the house.  It is believed that 85% of the dirt in a home originates from our shoes and our pet's paws.

As a family who spends much time on the floor of our home, we decided it would be a simple step the four of us could take to make our home healthier and safer for all of us.

Our daughter has had the concept ingrained into her and it is literally the first thing she does upon entering the home (so immediately that she completely blocks all of the remaining traffic trying to enter!)
When she was only about two, she would somewhat bossily exclaim to people walking in "shoes off!" almost to our embarrassment.  And while we don't insist our guests do the same, it is nice to have a little helper in protecting our health!

 And an added bonus: your floors stay cleaner!  Hooray!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Song and Dance

It's so easy to just flip on the television for background noise, isn't it? If I'm alone and doing jobs around the living room or kitchen, I often find myself mopping or emptying the dishwasher with HGTV or the Today Show to keep me company. While I do find occasional inspiration and frequent amusement from what I'm watching, I've been trying to keep the TV off more often.

Our home was full of noise and people when we were kids. Silence is not really my favorite. So, when I don't want the television to be my companion, music is. Cleaning my floors is much more enjoyable with the cast of Glee singing alongside me. I find more and more often, however, that whatever I listen to really sticks with me. Recently I have been wanting to listen to music that speaks to my soul, rather than just having a good dance (or cleaning) beat.

If you want some honest, moving music, The Brilliance is what you should be listening to. The lyrics and the music are beautiful. While you may not be dancing to this, your soul will be singing. Watch the video on their website to find out how you can get a song that is not included on the album.

The BrillianceGreat and Small

As kids, we listened to the Songs from the Loft cd on repeat. We loved that worship music and I long for music that my son will love in the same way. Butterflyfish just might be it. During the trickiest parts of the day, I find myself turning this music up and dancing around my kitchen with my little one. It is fun, joyful music with a message. This is kids' music that I don't mind having stuck in my head.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snack Bags.


I have been trying to reduce the waste my family creates in the kitchen over the last year.

One easy and inexpensive change we have made is to pack lunches that generate no waste.  

I have made a handful of snack bags that we use in place of plastic baggies.  They are very easy to make and don't require much at all.  I am no expert seamstress and this is an easy project to whip out in 20 minutes.

Materials needed:
- Cotton fabric and nylon fabric of equal sizes.  You can use any size you please.  I tend to prefer about 6 inches x 8-12 inches, depending on what I plan to use the bag for.  You can measure a plastic bag you prefer to use to copy those dimensions or create your own!
- Velcro
- Pins
- Thread

A few notes:
- I have made many of my snack bags out of upcycled fabrics.  I have used t-shirts, scraps of muslin, fabric scraps I have not used to completion...anything you want.  It does not have to be cotton, but you do want it to be something that is safe for food to be stored in.
- You will find many snack bags with a PUL interior.  This has not been adequately studied to ensure it is safe for food storage.  Although waterproof, I would not line my bags with PUL.
- Water resistant ripstop nylon is safe for dry foods to be stored in.

To make:

- Cut your cotton and nylon into equally sized rectangles.  Again, I often like mine to be about 6 inches x 10 inches, but you can vary that as you please!

- Pin the fabrics together, right sides facing, and sew across the short ends.

- Turn the fabrics right side out.

- Cut the velcro to make it about a half inch shorter than the short seam you just sewed.  Pin the soft velcro onto one of the short sides of the nylon.  Pin the rough velcro onto the other short side of the nylon.

- Sew a rectangle around each of the pieces of velcro.  You can even sew around it twice if you are worried about wear and tear. (I have just sewn around mine one time and we have been using them daily for months with no problems.)

- Turn the fabric inside out again and fold in half with your top seams lined up.

- Sew down both sides of the rectangle leaving about a 1/4" seam allowance.

- Turn the fabric right side out again and stitch back down the sides of the rectangle leaving again about a 1/4" seam allowance.  Adding this additional stitch helps the bags to be durable in the long run.  I make sure to sew all the way to the top of the bag, since this is the area that receives the most wear and tear.

And now you have a reusable and cute snack bag!  

A few washing tips:
- We don't necessarily wash our bags daily, but we do dump out any crumbs when we return home with them. 
- When I do wash them, I turn them inside out so that the inside of the bag gets clean (and it doesn't remain sealed with velcro though the wash) and wash it on cold.
- Our bags are holding up perfectly and we love using them!

Happy packing!

Monday, November 22, 2010

pumpkin muffins

If it were possible for adults to get Carotenemia, I would undoubtedly have a lovely orange glow from all the pumpkin I eat. I just can't get enough of it.  

I normally try to wait to eat pumpkin products until it really is fall - so at least until October.  But, it's hard to wait now that candy corn comes out in August and Starbucks changes their cups to the holiday version in October.  How can I resist?

Now that it's almost Thanksgiving, pumpkin-flavored-food-season is in full swing.  

One of my favorite fall treats are pumpkin cupcakes (or, if you want to eat them for breakfast, pumpkin muffins).  They're insanely easy to make, and, amazingly, fat free.

They're perfect to make for your Thanksgiving feast this week.
1 box spice cake - I prefer Duncan Hines
1 small can of pumpkin 

(that's it! for real.)

  1. PREP: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin tins. 
  2. MIX: In a mixing bowl, combine the can of pumpkin and the spice cake - it will be pretty dry, so mix until the pumpkin has absorbed all of the mix. 
  3. POUR: Pour batter into muffin tins (more likely a scoop than a pour).
  4. BAKE: For 18-21 minutes.
  5. Enjoy!
Happy Thanksgiving Pumpkin Eaters!

photo via
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