Friday, September 7, 2012

Meal Planning

Eating primarily organic, grass-fed, cage-free, etc is not exactly cheap. And trying to cook from scratch using whole food ingredients takes time, so when I went back to work after a wonderful, leisurely summer home with our 18 month old, continuing to eat in the style we've enjoyed seemed a little daunting. After finding several blogs about once-a-month cooking and talking old-school with my parents and in-laws, I decided I'd give weekly meal planning a try.
Pepperplate, Plan Cook Share

First, I had to find the perfect app (of course!) to make this endeavor work. Enter Pepperplate. I LOVE this program. I can enter my own recipes or import from many websites. I can sort the recipes as I wish. Then I can create weekly, monthly, yearly meal plans by pulling in the recipes. Then (this is the best part) I can just add recipes to my shopping list. Finally, I can add any other random items to that list. And my shopping list is done for the week. 

This has been a huge time saver for me. I used to find myself deciding during my lunch what I wanted to eat for supper. Then I would have to run to the grocery store after work several times a week, cutting into my precious walking time with the dog. Now, I go to the grocery store once a week. I don't find myself impulsively buying extra things we won't eat just because I'm there. And I can prep anything I need for the next day's meal the night before, leaving me more time to play with my son, talk with my husband, and slow the pace of life down.

Organic has finally become quick, easy, and more affordable.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stink Free Poo

I know it's rather taboo to talk about poo, and all of us ladies know that our poo doesn't stink. But we also know that our men's poo does stink! Follow this link to Crunchy Betty's blog for a great way to prevent poo stink!

I just had to give it a try, so I bought the smallest bottle of eucalyptus oil I could find, put 2 drops in the toilet, and voila! No stink for me, er, I mean my husband! Because girl poo doesn't stink. Everyone knows that. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nail Polish

When I was pregnant with A, I quit nail polish because it was one of many questionable items that I knew I could live without. Even after he was born, I would wait until he was asleep and paint my nails outside, just to make sure the fumes stayed out of our home. When wedding season rolled around this summer, I had to paint my toes to match my new dress. I had never taken the time to research nail polish; I just assumed I wouldn't find anything I could afford that I could also feel good about.

Photo Source:
However, today I made a trip to Mississippi Market and just happened to pass a lovely display of 3-free Savina polishes. This means they are free of DBP (Dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde). I have no idea what DBP is, but I try to avoid phthalates and formaldehyde as much as possible. At under $5 a bottle, I had to try one.

The color is rich. One coat covered nicely, and so far has held up very well. My favorite part is that it didn't smell up the whole house as I painted! I think my stash of stinky polishes might have to go.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Go Johnson & Johnson!

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Johnson & Johnson has made a pledge to remove several toxic chemicals from their products by 2015! WOOHOO! This means I won't have to spend hours trying to discern if a new product will be safe for my family or not!

Thanks, Johnson & Johnson!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


This post is pretty basic. I went back to work this week after 8 weeks off (one of the perks of being an educator) and I was reminded of how much money N and I save by packing our own lunches. Then I realized how much healthier it is, and how much the environment benefits too.

On Monday, I baked a lasagna, which I prepared Sunday night so it was just a quick toss in the oven after my first day of work. Our family of 3 polished off a 4th of it Monday night, leaving me with leftovers for the week. I pack in glass so I can reheat in our ancient microwave at work without worrying about what might be coming off plastic.

I bring my own silverware from home (and usually a few weeks into the school year after forgetting a fork one too many times, I wind up just leaving a set at work).

By packing my own lunch, I'm eating healthier food, smaller portions, decreasing waste, and cooking in bulk with inexpensive organic food rather than pre-made pricey food.
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer with an 18 month old

Apparently I've lacked inspiration over the spring and summer to blog. I've been spending way too much time on Pinterest trying to find recipes to cook and activities to keep the little man busy since I have summers off with him, and we've been having a blast! Some of the socially responsible fun we've had this summer includes:

  • Visiting the Maplewood Nature Center 
  • Creating art out of "treasures" found on our nature hike
  • Homemade finger paints (which we've used for all of our painting projects)
  • Painting with corn (corn supplied by a local farmer) 
  • Visits to the Maplewood and St. Paul Farmer's Markets
  • Visits with friends
  • Story Time at the Maplewood library 
  • Checking out the Ramsey County Fair
  • Family vacations
  • Shopping at thrift stores for new toys
  • National Night Out (to which we were invited to bring our own plates and silverware in an effort to reduce trash...nice!)
I return to work soon, and I'm sure it will be a tough transition. I'm excited for old routines and returning to my old definition of myself as a school counselor. The summer has flown by, yet my professional identity seems very far away. We'd love to hear any more ideas we can use to stay busy and socially responsible for our final days of summer! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Since I'm a terrible blogger, and I can't think of anything new to post, and the sun is beating down on us 2 months early, and my eagerly walking son insists on being outside every moment possible, I thought I'd write a quick post on the topic of sunscreen.

I think I've shared before that I love to consult the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetic Database when I purchase personal care products. In doing so, I find myself depressed about the fact that it is nearly impossible to avoid all the harmful and potentially harmful chemicals in skin and body care products. Endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, cellular level changes, neurotoxicity, reproductive and developmental concerns...My husband says I'm an alarmist and I agree, but when it's easy for me to find products that I can guarantee are safe and they work, why wouldn't I spend a few minutes researching and getting safe products for myself and my family?

When I went to buy sunscreen to send with my boy to day care, I had to whip out my EWG database again. Sunscreen is even more concerning because the most commonly found products use oxybenzone and octonoxate, possible hormone disruptors.

We know that zinc oxide is safe and effective, and so is sun protective clothing (although I'm fast learning that raising a boy means I have a child who loves to run naked). Since the research suggests that zinc oxide is safe while the jury is still out on oxybenzone, I opt for zinc oxide.

After spending way too much time in front of sunscreen, I bought Banana Boat Natural Reflect Baby. I hope you are able to make your selection faster and spend more time enjoying the sun this summer! 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Clementine Art

A short and sweet post...

I just discovered Clementine Art. Since my 1 year old eats the crayons more frequently than he colors with them, I thought these might be good for us. The supplies are all natural, environmentally friendly, and non-toxic. They are designed to be open ended to encourage creativity in your child. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Greasy Shirt

In my haste to finish cooking supper a few weeks ago, I spilled beef broth on my iRead shirt (Wednesday's are "Drop Everything and Read" day at school). I didn't have time to clean it that instant, but threw it in the wash over the weekend and it came out stained. I did some Googling to find an eco friendly way to remove the stain with stuff I already had in the house. My first attempt was to use corn starch. I sprinkled some on and let it sit overnight. When I washed it later, I forgot where the stain was located and held up the shirt to N saying "it's gone!" He says, "No it's not." The stain was about 2 inches above where I was pointing.

So next I tried hand washing it in our Seventh Generation dish soap. It worked! No more stain! 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Formula Warning

Organic Dairy Formula Back in August, I had to start giving A formula to get him enough to eat due to a dwindling supply. I discussed my search for an organic formula here. I decided to go with Baby's Only organic dairy formula by Nature's One. You may have noticed Nature's One made the news recently, and not in a good way. The first ingredient, brown rice syrup, has been found to have dangerously high levels of arsenic. Nature's One is responding that they use reputable third party distributors and will test all their products for high levels of arsenic. Thankfully, A has moved on to whole milk. We had 2 cans of formula we were going to finish up, but I guess we won't. The news seems inconclusive right now, but until you know for sure, I would avoid products with brown rice syrup, especially if it's one of the first ingredients. My second go-to formula during the time A was using formula was Earth's Best Organic Formula. This would be my suggestion, as A took it well and didn't have any problems transitioning between the two. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dryer Balls

Yep, the title of this post is Dryer Balls.

I used to love line drying clothes, but when our little guy came along I just couldn't make the time. Since then, we've been using the dryer without fabric softener sheets. It's been fine, but in the winter I find our clothes a little static-y. I learned that wool dryer balls can help prevent this. By drying clothes with dryer balls (some people use tennis balls), you can reduce the amount of time required to dry, naturally soften laundry, and reduce static.

My original plan was to make my own. When I started shopping for wool yarn, I discovered already made organic wool dryer balls for cheaper from The Willow Store. So I bought some, and tried them out tonight while drying A's diapers.

They are obnoxiously loud (but our dryer is directly below our living room), but they did the job. The diapers came out dryer and softer. I'm looking forward to seeing if they help dry our clothes faster, but laundry day isn't until Friday night. 

My Prius Buddy!

The absolute highlight of my week is that my brother got a Prius! My republican, conservative, military "all man" brother got a Prius! I'm practically giddy with "I told you so" attitude. He claims that it has nothing to do with being green, but I know I'm rubbing off on him. He says it has everything to do with the cost of gas. He figured that with how much he and his wife drive, he'd safe over $1800 a year! I told him he'd have to burn a lot of plastic chairs to compensate for all the good he's doing on this planet by driving a Prius.

I'm so thrilled to be such a good influence on my family :)

Friday, January 27, 2012


During my consumer buying rampage on Black Friday I got sucked into buying myself a pillow that appeared to be made purely of petroleum. I did return the pillow because I didn't want the chemicals in the house, or on my face every night. In addition, I got a fantastic deal on a pillow from Natura on Cyber Monday. I've been sleeping on my natural wool pillow for a couple months now, and I am loving it!

In addition, N has been coveting my pillow for a while, and his was more beat up than mine, so he also has a "new" pillow because he's now sleeping on my old one. Reuse is the 2nd "R"! 

Buying American

On my drive home from work yesterday, I caught the middle of a report about KEEN shoes and how they were opening a factory in the United States. It got me thinking about the economic aspect of social responsibility. The reporter was polling people asking if they knew products were American-made, were they more inclined to buy the product? Most of the consumers in the report stated that yes, this was important to them. I realized that without really thinking about it, this has become something I look for, in addition to environmental and health responsibility, as well.

A few years ago my brother and sister-in-law requested gifts that hadn't been made overseas. My brother had just returned from a military deployment in Korea, and there was a scare with chemicals in some toys with China. It was nearly impossible to find reasonably priced toys that were American made, or even simply not made in China.

Since then, I've been more inclined to buy from company's that proudly boast their American made products. With my brother's recent deployment in Iraq and the economic downturn of our own American economy, I continue to find it more and more important to support manufacturing in the U.S. In addition to financially supporting my home country, I find it more environmentally responsible because the goods don't have to travel quite as far.

I bought my own pair of KEENs this summer simply because I wanted the toe protection while walking my dog. Now I will wear them even more proudly this coming summer, knowing that KEEN is doing more to invest in American manufacturing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What to do with your old meds?

It's been nearly a year since I was all doped up on giant Ibuprofen and Tylenol with Oxycodone (because of my c-section, not because I'm a recovering narcotics addict!), and as I was going through the bathroom closet, I noticed my old prescriptions. I pulled them out to remind myself that I had to figure out how to dispose of them. Interesting timing, because the next day I was diagnosed with the most painful strep throat I remember ever having. The doctor offered me some Vicodin, and I said if it was okay with her, I could just take my Oxycodone. Clearly, you need to be in more pain (like post-surgery pain) to not notice the major side effects of this drug, because I don't remember being so looped when I took it last year.

Anyway, I'm digressing. After I took one of those for my strep, I decided the side effects were worse than the pain, so I re-shelved the drugs and made a mental note that I had to figure out how to get rid of them.

It used to be recommended that you flushed your old drugs down the toilet so that little kids and addicts couldn't get a hold of them, but then they figured out that all the little water microbes and fishies and animals that eat the fishies were getting doped up on our old narcotics. So they had to come up with plan B. Thanks to Representative Paul Gardner, new regulations have helped solve the problem.

Conveniently, Ramsey county sent me a little postcard around this same time explaining how to get rid of our drugs. They now have a medicine collection program in which you drop off your drugs, and they dispose of them by burning them and converting that to energy.

Here are more reasons why we need to dispose of our drugs this way.

I'm sure there are programs in your city/county/region that allow you to dispose of your drugs. I encourage you to find out how to do it. Or, you know, wait til you have strep and knock yourself out for a few hours. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

E-Reader Vs. Library Card


We never owned a ton of books, but I was a voracious reader as a child, because my mom and I would go to the library weekly. I'd come home with armloads of books, and organize them from shortest to longest to decide which one to read first because I just couldn't decide where to start and that seemed the most democratic. (Looking back, I guess it's a more socialist notion).

Within the last year, my mom purchased a Nook because her local library started providing books electronically. I also downloaded the Overdrive app on my iPhone, which allows me to borrow electronic library books. However, the selection is limited and I find myself still reserving the hard copies through the library.

My husband keeps saying I should buy an e-reader because we'll save money, and I keep telling him we will spend more money because I'll have to buy the books I want to read rather than borrowing them from the library. But it made me wonder about the economic impact of reading library books versus buying them on an e-reader. So I did some research. I found the following:

Taken from
Okay, so once you've purchased 20 brand new books, you'd be better off with an eReader. How does this translate to the library? For me, I need the library to have the books I want electronically in order for it to be worth it to make the switch (both for my interest and for my wallet). So, I'll continue to browse my e-library, but I think it will be a while before I make the full electronic switch. However, if you are a book buyer, I'd recommend an e-reader for you! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Melissa and Doug

We were happy to receive a Melissa and Doug Shapes Sorter from Uncle J and Aunt M. Melissa and Doug toys are sustainable products made of wood and non-toxic paint. The company is also based out of the U.S. They leave a low carbon footprint and use high quality, long lasting materials. For more details about Melissa and Doug, visit their website

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Homemade Chicken Stock

I love to buy whole chickens at the St. Paul Farmer's Market and from my parents' good friend who grows delicious, giant free range chickens, but I'm less inclined to cook them for just two adults. So when we had another couple over for dinner and New Year's festivities last night, I was excited to bust out a frozen young chicken.

I was inspired to save the leftover bones and skins to make my first chicken stock after reading about how much healthier it is than store-bought broth or the bouillon cubes I typically use when a recipe calls for chicken broth.

By cooking my own stock, I was guaranteed a healthy, organic, free range broth that didn't require an extra trip to the food co-op.

Here's what I did:

Stick the whole carcass in the crock pot. Stick in a celery stalk cut into slices, a handful of baby carrots, a small onion quartered, and a clove of garlic. Season with spices as you wish. I included 5 sprigs of thyme (which I have growing in a pot after plucking the plant from my garden-I can't believe it's still alive!), a bay leaf, some dried parsley, and a dash of course grind black pepper. Cover the whole shebang with water-I used about 6 cups.

I cooked on high for about 7 hours, and it wasn't tasting like much more than gross water, so I turned it down to low and cooked another 3 hours. Much better!

Strain the whole thing and stick it in the fridge. Tomorrow, I'll skim the fat off the top and voila! Chicken broth for the chicken soup I'm sure I'll be making soon, inspired by the recent snow!


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