Christmas Around the World

In a stand against Black Friday, I’m posting this instead of going shopping. ¬†ūüôā

Ok, Thanksgiving is over, it’s time for Christmas season! ¬†Check out this blog (click on image below) which is hosting a month of Christmas Around the World. ¬†If you have kids, this is very cool–each day she will add a new country with links to information about that country. ¬†You can tailor it for younger kids or make it more complex for older kids by adding library books to read about the country for that day, etc.

Anyway, thought I’d share because this is a great way to learn about other cultures around the world instead of focusing just on Christmas presents this holiday season.

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Earth-Friendly and Child-Friendly Cleaners

You see those cleaners at the store marked as “earth friendly” or “green”, right? ¬†Do you believe them–are they really “green”? ¬†Do they really work and get the cleaning job done or are they just a wimpy, watered down version of regular cleaners? ¬†Is it worth the increased price for those environmentally friendly cleaners?

Don’t ask me! ¬†I wouldn’t know…I don’t use them.

As I’m getting ready for Thanksgiving by doing some house cleaning, I thought I’d share some of my favorite cleaning items. ¬†And guess what? I didn’t buy them at the store (well, I bought the ingredients at the store, but I “made” them myself). ¬†And guess what else? ¬†I spent pennies to make them instead of paying tons of money for those name brand cleaners. ¬†And there’s even more! ¬†They work just as well, even better in some cases, than those name brand toxic cleaners!

Since dusting is on my agenda this week, here is the recipe I use for dusting:

Homemade Furniture Dusting Spray

I did alter it a little, so my dusting spray recipe actually looks more like this:

2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1 3/4 cups water
1 tbs. lemon juice (this is in place of the lemon essential oil listed in the original recipe from the “Make Your Own” blog)

Here is the used, old spray bottle container I had on hand that I washed out and put my new concoction in (with my little helper):

So is it environmentally friendly? Yes!

Is it child friendly? Yes! (Heck, they can even drink it if they really wanted to–but more importantly it means they can help you clean and you don’t have to worry about what they are being exposed to!)

Is it more expensive than storebought cleaners or “green” labeled ones? ¬†No! ¬†Just pennies per bottle!

Does it work?  Yes! In my opinion, it actually cleans better than Endust or Pledge or those other sprays.  It seems to leave my wood tables even shiner and more beautiful than the name brand ones.

My only issue…and I really mean my ONLY issue being such a minor one…is that the olive oil and water/vinegar want to separate of course, so as you are dusting you have to gently shake the bottle around a little. ¬†Not a big deal though. ¬†You can also do a shake dance every time you shake the bottle. ¬†Makes it more fun. ¬†Really. ¬†Dusting is not fun, but you add some shakin’ goin’ on and all of a sudden it’s almost fun. ¬†Note: I said *almost*.

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Money out the windows

We have 23 windows. ¬†That seems like a lot doesn’t it? ¬†You never really realize how many windows you have until you start counting them. ¬†Which I did today because we need to replace some of them. ¬†Our home is only 12 years old so you’d think we wouldn’t need to replace windows already but if any of you bought a standard builder home like we did, you know they skimp on things sometimes. ¬†Windows are one of those things.

So what do windows have to do with green living? ¬†A lot actually. ¬†It’s all about energy efficiency. ¬†I don’t want to pay to heat up the neighborhood in the winter nor do I want to feel the guilt of wasting all that electricity (which in my region probably comes from coal or nuclear). ¬†In the summer, you don’t really notice the heat coming in through the windows, but boy oh boy do you feel those drafts in the winter. ¬†Just stick your hand by any of our windows and you’ll feel the cold air by the cracks. ¬†Not to mention you can tell they are the thinnest, cheapest, standard windows a builder can put in and get away with it.

So it’s time to get new windows! ¬†We had 4 major windows done a few years ago by Thompson Creek¬†(local Maryland company) and were very happy with them, so we are getting the windows upstairs done by them too. ¬†We had REALLY drafty windows in our family room and since the new Thompson Creek windows were installed we have noticed quite a big difference. ¬†They are pretty expensive though so even though we wanted to do all our windows, we couldn’t afford to do so. ¬†So we did those 4 “biggies” first since ¬†we knew money was literally going out the windows due to the big cracks and other issues with them. ¬†But now it’s time for 5 more windows upstairs.

Can I just say I’m so excited about this?

I’m not one to be excited about buying new things, esp. when I try to buy anything I can secondhand or recycle old things into new things, etc. but you just can’t do that with windows. ¬†And as far as being “green” sure I can go and try to find some bamboo made windows or something like that, but I’m going to stick with a local company who actually makes them here locally, not somewhere in China, so GHG on transportation is minimal since they are being transported locally. ¬†But I also found out from Tony Testa, our sales guy today, that Thompson Creek actually takes your old window and recycles every bit of it! ¬†The glass, the vinyl, any metal pieces, etc. ¬†That makes this green gal very happy. ¬†That and the fact that they are having a 30% sale this month. ¬†I may be trying to live as green as possible, but I’m also trying to live as frugally as possible.

So I’m curious, what do you do to try and minimize your home energy costs? ¬†Any ideas or tips to share?

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Plastic, Plastic and More Plastic

Many of you know I have an issue with plastic.¬† Anything with plastic.¬† Food containers, shower curtains, raincoats, shoes, disposable utensils, cell phones, appliances, my mouse, my laptop, paintbrushes, eyeglasses, hangers, prescription bottles, peanut butter jars, trash bags, water bottles, McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, and yes, even balloons.¬† As much as I love them and my kids love them, I have a serious issue with balloons.

Some of these things you can recycle so they can made into “new” plastic things.¬† But many of them can’t be recycled or are simply so darn toxic (plastic #3 being the worst) that you don’t want them recycled and made into another toxic thing.¬† And remember, in the U.S. we still have a very low recycling rate (I think last I heard it was around 30% of all recyclable material was actually recycled by households?).

Now some of these things have non-plastic versions.¬† Like paintbrushes–many kinds out there are made with a wood handle and real boar’s hair bristles, not plastic.¬† Why am I ok with wood if a tree had to be cut down to make it?¬† Or a boar shaved of their hair for the bristles?¬† Because it’s about choosing the lesser of two evils.¬† Because trees can be replanted and hair regrown. Because both decompose and return to the earth if I put them in my compost pile or bury them in the back yard.¬† Because they aren’t toxic and don’t have BPA in it.

We are human beings who consume resources no matter how hard we try not to.¬† So when we need a paintbrush to express our inner artist, we make a choice. When we tell the carry out clerk “no thanks to plastic utensils” or the food court guy, “no thanks, I brought my own reusable utensils”, we make a choice.¬† When we go with the pretty fabric shower curtain liner instead of a PEVA toxic plastic liner, we make a choice.¬† When we donate our laptop or cell phone or used plastic eyeglasses to a charity instead of chucking it in the trash, we make a choice.

So what choice are you making today to make tomorrow better?

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Figs, Figs and More Figs!

Since my last post was about excess plastic, it seems fitting that a post on the excess figs in my freezer follow.¬† After all, my 20+ pounds of figs have been stored since August/September in my reusable plastic containers and bags.¬† However, a few of the plastic bags got tears in them from two little ones smashing them with their fingers and poking them with their play kitchen utensils, so into the trash the torn bags went.¬† I felt very non-green at that moment and was wishing I had enough glass containers…and enough room in my freezer for 20+ pounds of figs in glass containers.

Did I mention I had 20+ pounds of figs leftover from my two fig trees in my backyard?  I say 20+ pounds because I lost count around there and only labeled some of the containers before freezing them a few months ago.  I gave many more pounds away to friends and family who love figs and eat them right off my trees and to coworkers in my office.  It was quite a year for figs here!

So what the heck do you do with 20+ pound of figs from two beautiful fig trees in your yard? Why, you make fig jam of course!

So I started with thawing them out of the freezer (this is only 8 pounds of the 20+ pounds of figs):

Thawing figs

Add some sweetener (I use sugar since it helps the jam set better than other sweeteners):

Some added sweetness!

Then I boiled it for a while (I forgot to take a photo of that step-sorry!).  I cooked the figs for about an hour before adding the pectin and sugar at the very end to help thicken it up.

Then I filled up the clean canning jars, put lids and rings on tightly and submerged in the boiling water for 10 minutes to get them to seal.

Then you let them set for 24 hours before putting them away in a pantry for a year (or decorating them to give to kids’ teachers, family, etc. for Thanksgiving or Christmas!)

 

All done! Eleven beautiful sealed jars of fresh fig jam from my backyard to carry us through the winter and into next year!

Know what the funny things is though?¬† I get to do this canning thing all over again tomorrow!¬† I still have 8 pounds of figs in my fridge that I couldn’t use today because 1) my gigantic pot wasn’t big enough to handle all 20+ pounds of figs at one time and 2) I ran out of pectin.¬† So much for being prepared!

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