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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My 'treatment' for the Rainy-Day Blues

I wouldn't last a day living out on the West Coast!  It has been raining for one whole day and I am already feeling 'melancholy' (even though we DESPERATELY need the moisture - our lake is drying up for heaven's sake!)  Anyway, when I am feeling blue, I try to focus on all of the things that are going right - instead of those that are going not-so-right...

So, here is my list of the 'Top 10 things going right' with this project:

  1. My son (aka 'snackman') loves the homemade crackers that I have been making - in fact, he just finished dragging me over to the cupboard to fill up his bowl.
  2. I haven't used my dryer since I unplugged it back in February - and I sure do love the smell of my line-dried clothes/sheets/towels.  Nothing like it, seriously.
  3. Meatless Mondays are getting less painful for my family members every week.  To quote my husband this past Monday, "This is the best one so far hun".  Thank goodness for Mollie Katzen and her amazing veggie recipes!  On top of that, I have drastically reduced the amount of meat that I cook with during the rest of the week. 
  4. My hygiene regimen is getting greener (and simpler) each week.  As I gradually run out of the toxic products, I have been replacing them with natural ones or often, none at all.
  5. My sewing is going really well... I am about 50/50 for projects that have actually turned out!
  6. The grow-op continues to be a success.  The broccoli has been moved outside and the bigger plants have been transplanted to bigger pots.  A few more weeks and they can move outside!  I went to a local horticulture presentation a few weeks back and learned some catchy techniques for saving water for them too, so I am excited to try it out!
  7. My new library card has already been so well-used that I am practically becoming a fixture in that place!  Chephren loves the visits (and the new books!) and it has been a fabulous motivator to force me to read books from start to finish in a reasonable amount of time.  (I used to read 4-5 books at a time over months - can you say ADD?)
  8. I don't miss shopping... at all.  And I have learned to be patient and when I do actually need something... it goes on 'the list'.  I know now that I'll find it eventually.
  9. We have ditched the Teflon pans in favor of the cast iron ones... we had already done this years ago (the cast iron ones were in our 'camping gear'), and I can't remember exactly why we switched back to using the Deathflon... anyhow, we have righted this wrong and are back on track.  My parents have made the switch too... sweet!
  10. I have connected with a wonderful group of people from this project - some old friends and some new. Your input, advice and support have made this project that much more enjoyable. 
There.  And yes, I do feel a little bit better.  Although I think that I'll go and pour myself a glass of wine now, just to seal the deal :)

Happy Humpday Everyone!


Sunday, April 25, 2010

I am going "No Poo" - are you?

Well, the no impact week is ending today, and I would say that for me, this project was only minimally effective/successful.  That being said, I think that it would have been the perfect project for me to begin my one year of living with less - as it would have been a wonderful way to awaken my eco-consciousness and become aware of all the changes that I would be trying to implement in the coming year.  Over the past week, I found that with each of the challenge areas: Trash, Consumption, Water, Energy, Transportation, Giving Back; that I am already making huge life-changing efforts.  Of course, you can always do more, but for me, I think that success lies in making slow, steady changes.  For example, one of the areas that I have been focusing on of late, is to try to reduce the levels of toxins in our home environment.  From the food in our cupboards to the hygiene products in our bathroom, I am going through each of the products one by one and trying to figure out which ones have been filling our bodies with poison (I know, I know, sounds dramatic right?)  Well, the reading that I have been doing lately has made me think that maybe that statement maybe isn't so far off.  One of the first changes that I have made is to switch to the 'No Poo' method of washing my hair ('No Poo' is slang for giving up traditional shampoo/conditioners - and no, I didn't make that up myself - it's a real technique!  If you are interested in reading more about this method, click here).  Don't worry, I didn't jump into this one lightly - I actually read up it first (for once)!

I have been 'No Poo' for about a week now, and so far, I am actually quite pleased with the results.  I have really fine hair and I was extremely worried that my hair would turn into a greasy, stringy mess, but so far, it hasn't.  Also, it may not spell like apples anymore (aka hormone-disrupting phthalates), but it doesn't smell bad either.  Actually, according to Trent, it doesn't really smell like anything... I can live with that!  While I have started with the shampoo/conditioner and soap in the shower, I will be gradually phasing out my other cosmetic products... it makes me sick to think about throwing away half full bottles of stuff that I paid a lot of money for... that is the 'frugalista' in me (which in this case, wins over the 'ecodiva').

All of that being said... you would tell me if I was stinky right?

Marebare :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Days 3 & 4 of No Impact Week

Happy Earth Day everyone!!!  We were joking around at the table last night about my husband and my dad riding the tandem bike into the city today in celebration (the tandem is my husband's nemesis)... I would have made him do it too, but he had to do a work trip in the opposite direction today (how convenient!)  Anyway, what are YOU doing for Earth Day?  Feel free to post your favorite Earth Day celebration acts in my comments for today. 

Again, to avoid redundancy, here are my posts from Days 3 & 4 of the No Impact Week Challenge:

Day 3 - Transportation

This one is a really tough one for me. I live about 20 kilometers from the nearest town, and 60 kms from a major city. While living out in the 'boonies' is wonderful for a lot of earth-friendly activities: composting, gardening, outdoor clothes-drying, playing in the woods/fields etc., it isn't so great for the transportation issue. I do try to bike into town whenever possible, especially on weekends, however now I have a one-year-old as my faithful sidekick. I do own a bike trailer and my son loves to ride in there, but it just isn't safe on the roads out here (80 km/h speedlimit, with no shoulder, and most drivers go WAY faster than that b/c there is very little policing out here). So, it is just not a risk that I am willing to take. Now that it is nice out, when I need to go into town (like today for example), I often throw my bike/bike trailer in the vehicle and take it into town with me. Then, while I am in town, I can use it to ride around and run my errands rather than drive.

That being said, I only go into town about 1-2 days during the week and maybe only once on the weekends, in which we always carpool with my parents (five of us in one car). So, even though our situation is less than ideal, we are cognizant of our carbon footprint with respect to transportation. I have often thought about moving into a center (ideally somewhere in BC), but right now it just doesn't make sense for us... we are enjoying a healthy, communal lifestyle with my parents living next door and I am working from home/mothering from home. So, life is pretty good.

Anyway, that is my take on 'transportation'... I promise, no more trips into town (until Saturday - and then I will be carpooling!)

Day 4 - Food

The food challenge has actually been underway since January for our family. I find that slow, steady changes lead to lasting ones, so we are taking it one day at a time, trying to make good choices for LIFE! Some of the things that we have done so far include: phasing out any/all processed foods (we are almost there!), going meatless at least one day per week, starting a garden indoors this year to extend the growing season, experimenting with lots of new/different (and in season) vegetables, buying organic produce when possible, and making a lot of my own food: bread, crackers, cinnamon buns, soft pretzels, etc. We have also drastically reduced the amount that we eat out or take away food and drink. I have kicked my 'starbucks habit' and I haven't eaten fast food in years, so that really isn't an issue anymore either. All in all, things are going well for us on the 'food front'. My biggest challenge remains to find good on-the-go snacks that my son will actually EAT. I got him hooked on natural fruit bars, but the problem with those is the darned packaging. My first go at fruit leather was kind of a bust, so I am still sorting that one out. Happy Earth Day everyone!

Another thought:

One of our biggest challenges also has to do with where we live: Alberta, Canada. Our growing season is extremely short (from late May-early September) and therefore, out of necessity, the vast majority of our food comes from far, far away. I do drink coffee (organic, fair trade), and I do use a lot of spices in my cooking - however in the case of spices, at least a little tends to go a long ways (pardon the pun).

Every day is Earth Day. ~Author Unknown
Marebare :)

First picture: not mine but find it here on the web
Second picture: Produce Stand in Chile, taken in 2007

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Days 1 & 2 of the No Impact Week Challenge

Sunday was the first day of the No Impact Week Challenge, and the topic of the day was Consumption.  As you well know, this really wasn't that big of a challenge for me as of late, so I didn't have too much trouble avoiding excess purchasing.  The next day however, was a different story...

Day two was all about Trash: specifically, making less of it (or ideally, none at all).  To avoid redundancy, here is my blog comment from the experiment:
I have a couple of thoughts on this one... first of all, my family and I have only been attempting to dramatically reduce our trash for the past week or so. We have always recycled everything that it is possible to recycle in our area, and I have had a compost bin for years, so that helps a lot... other than that, I didn't worry too, too much about the excess trash that I was making. In other words, I wasn't really keeping the packaging in mind when making my purchases, etc. Since stumbling upon 'No Impact Man' - and also the folks over at Clean Bin Project, I have really started to see my trash-making habits in a different sort of way.

A big strategy that I use to reduce trash is to make a lot of my own stuff (whenever possible). For the past three months, I have been making all of my own bread, buns, pretzels, cookies, etc. More recently, I have started to make my own crackers and fruit leather as a snack for my son. I find that I lot of my trash these days comes from trying to 'use up' some of those things that are already in my cupboard... namely, pre-packaged snacks for the little guy. I have come to the conclusion that while they might be convenient, the DIY alternatives are surely just as tasty and quite often, much healthier.

Other than the 'leftover' trash in my cupboards, I am really struggling with soft plastics. Our city will recycle plastic shopping bags (which I don't ever use), but that is about it for items in that category. So, looking in my trash bin from the past week (I started collecting it last weekend), I notice that there are a lot of tricky pieces of soft plastics that I am not sure how to avoid: The seal on a yogurt container (under the recyclable lid), the wrappers on cheese and tofu, the lining inside the box of my tea leaves, etc. ARGH! It seems to be everywhere! The great news is that my city is working on a biofuels initiative which will be able to take virtually all materials that are currently not recyclable or compostable and turn them into biofuels by 2013. This is great news, however until then, my 'No Impact' project will be more like, "As little impact as possible". It is not ideal, but I can live with it I guess...

To elaborate on my discussion with the City of Edmonton - I was called to task on a comment that I had made on the blog saying that they had not yet replied to my concerns... 

After spending almost an entire Friday on the phone trying to find a municipality and/or private company in my Province that would recycle my soft plastics, I sat at my computer in despair and wrote a letter to the City of Edmonton expressing my frustration.  I printed the letter and there it sat on my counter, waiting to be mailed until the next time I went into town.  Early the next week, I received an e-mail from the City, alerting me to the fact that they hadn't received my letter (although I did have a brief e-mail dialogue with someone from the Waste Management department, again, I hadn't mailed the letter!)  Anyway, I e-mailed them my letter and got a prompt reply.  Here is what it said:

Hello Maren,

You are correct in identifying the fact that some of the smaller soft plastics you mention (the wrap on cheese & tofu, the seal on yogurt containers, etc.) are currently not accepted for recycling through the City of Edmonton's residential recycling programs.

This is not as much due to the fact that these items are not recyclable but because the current technology employed at the Materials Recovery Facility - the plant where collected recyclables go - cannot capture these items due to their small size.

In regard to the bags in cracker and cereal boxes, these are unacceptable due to the wax lining. Other items such as polystyrene foam and polyvinyl chloride are not currently accepted because the technological infrastructure needed to process these materials into new products is either currently not available in the region or distance makes the transportation of these goods to facilities where they could be recycled economically unfeasible.

With that said, the good news is a solution for these items is on the horizon. New processes are being put in place at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC) to deal with non-recyclable and non-compostable materials.

The Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility is the new facility that replaced the Clover Bar Landfill, which reached capacity in 2009, at the EWMC. It will be instrumental in creating feedstock (refuse-derived fuel) using waste that cannot be composted or recycled for the planned Waste-to-Biofuels Facility which will be constructed at the EWMC.

The Waste-to-Biofuels Facility will use state-of-the-art technology to convert plastics, textiles and other materials that can't be recycled into methanol and ethanol.

It is anticipated that once the Waste-to-Biofuels facility is fully operational, somewhere around 2013, Edmonton will be able to divert 90% of its residential waste from landfill, including the items you identified.

In light of the fact that the letter you reference in your blog had not been mailed, we would appreciate it if you would remove your comment about your disappointment about not hearing back from the City of Edmonton on your concerns.

Thank you and best of luck with your continued research. Your articulate comments and example of how living on less can be achieved is valuable and inspirational.

And yes, I hastily took down my comment from the blog...  Just as in life, I need to remember to 'think before I speak' or in this case 'write'.  I made that comment in frustration, and I really did not anticipate a real response from the City.  That will certainly 'learn me'.

How is that for a piece of humble pie?

Sorry for the long rant - lots to say on this one!

Marebare :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dancing with the Devil

On Friday night, Trent and I stayed over with some friends in Edmonton while my parents kept the little guy for us.  Our mission, aside from having a really nice evening with some great people, and some fine food & drink, was to wake up on Saturday morning and run 'errands'.  In other words, we had some consumer activities in which to participate in (hence the sinister sounding title).  Our first stop?  West Edmonton Mall... barf.  For those of you who don't know, WEM is one of the biggest malls in the world... actually it is what Edmonton is mostly famous for (again, barf).  Usually, I try to go to that place as little as humanly possible, however we had to return a gift that Chephren had received at Christmas that didn't fit him.  So, off to an extremely expensive children's store we went.  As soon as we entered the mall the first thing that I noticed is the smell of that place - it smelled of... chemicals.  Maybe it was just my imagination (I am reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck right now).  At the children's store itself, we were literally taken aback by the prices of those tiny little clothes.  They wanted $32 for a pair of shorts that would barely fit on my arm for crying out loud!  Anyway, we did manage to make a really good decision in there: we exchanged for a long-sleeved rash top (great for swimming outside in the summer which we will be doing a ton of) and a pair of underwear for the little man - potty training will happen eventually right?  As a bonus, we were left with an additional store credit of $3.42 - which we gave to a lady in the store who was going to town and buying up the store.  She was delighted, and so were we, vowing never to step foot in that store again!

Our first mission accomplished, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves, so we stopped at a cafe for a few bagels which we enjoyed whilst sitting on their patio in the sun.  Our next stop was one that we were greatly anticipating - we had a $300 gift certificate at MEC (MEC stands for Mountain Equipment Co-op, a huge outdoor store, which to us, is the equivalent of a shopping mecca).  We had been holding onto it since Christmas, saving it for something that we actually 'needed'.  A few weeks ago, I went to see a sports medicine specialist who informed me that I have ITB syndrome (an overuse injury from running) and that I needed to be wearing my shoes with orthotics at all times (even inside), invest in yet another new pair of shoes, and possibly a pair of birkenstocks for those summer days where runners are just too hot (more on this later).  After testing out the hip/knee yet again this past week on the indoor track (I was in agony after 20 minutes), I decided that new shoes were definitely in order.  I had been agonizing over this decision for weeks, feeling like I really didn't want to break the 'rules'.  Luckily, I figured out that MEC actually sells a suitable shoe for my running needs and we were in business (gift certificate remember?)

So excited to be going to MEC with those GC's burning a hole in my pocket, I practically skipped through the front doors of the store.  Upon entering the store however, my drunk monkey brain immediately took over and I went into MEC 'auto-pilot'.  After wandering aimlessly through the first part of the store, I eventually got to the shoe section.  I tried on the shoes that I had picked out online, and threw them in the bag - so easy, just like that $165 gone - poof!  Drunk monkeys don't think like that though, and instead, my little monkey friend decided that I should invest in some new socks as well.  After throwing four of those in the bag as well, I moved on to another section of the store.  Next, we picked up some new Aladdin take-and-go coffee mugs - a reasonable purchase as well given that they are eco-friendly and practically bomb-proof.  Then, following our 'usual' path through the store (old habits die hard), I ended up in the clothing section and decided that I 'needed' a new pair of shorts.  I found the perfect pair and after modelling them for Trent (my monkey brain didn't even bother to hear his feedback), they went in the bag too.  I was feeling pretty pumped about the shopping experience until I got up to the till and (sound of a record coming to an abrupt halt) our total was $332...  Not knowing what to say/do I pulled out the plastic and paid for it... feeling the drunk monkey return to the recesses of my usually-more-rational brain.  The first thing I felt?  Embarrassed, hence why I just took my excessive purchases and ran!  Upon walking out the doors of the store?  Regret, deep, deep regret.  And by the time we got to the car I had already decided that the shorts were going back. 

A day after this experience, I am still feeling quite weak and ashamed at my behavior.  I do take some comfort in the fact that MEC will take the shorts back with no worries and that at least some of my gift certificates went to things that are important (I really did need those shoes and I also bought my parents two of those amazing cups which we lovingly use every day).  However, I am really alarmed at how quickly I fell back into my 'old ways'.  Not cool.  Here I had thought I had grown so much in the past three months, and it was discouraging to find that I haven't, not really.  The good news is that I am almost out of gift certificates (finally)! 

Now, with my Shoppers Anonymous confession time over, I am pleased to share that I am 'back in the saddle' and focusing on new horizons.  Today is my first day of the No Impact Week Challenge and today's topic is (drumroll please), consumerism - ironic hey?  This week really will push the boundaries of my experience so follow along as I blog daily about the experience.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."

Friday, April 16, 2010

365 Days of Stuff (that I don't need)

Remember a few weeks ago (or was it longer) when I posted about 'the great purge' that was occurring in my house?  Well, I got through one room - my bedroom, and I quit there.  The rest of the rooms just seemed SO overwhelming!  This prompted me to go about things in a different way, I started to take at least one thing EVERY DAY that we don't need, and put it into a box in my closet.  When the box is full - it goes to the thrift store.  So far, I am amazed at what I have been able to come up with: 2 boxes of perfectly intact 'burner trays' for back when we had a stove with coil burners (!)  I guess we don't need those anymore!  What else?  There are a few more of my clothes in there, some candles, some dishes, etc.  I am sharing this with you simply because I know that there are some of you there who would love to 'purge' but just get overwhelmed by the thought and never start.  If you are one of those people, then this is a strategy for you!  Also, don't be afraid to limit yourself to just one item per day... some days I go through a drawer for instance and pull out two or three things for 'the box'.  The way I see it, one drawer is a lot less intimidating (and way less time consuming) than tackling an entire room!

One more idea: as you are going through your closets, cupboards and drawers, don't be afraid to set aside some 're-gifts' as well.  I have already freely admitted that I am a re-gifter (I am trying to bring it into the mainstream).  Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that re-gifting actually can be a way to show your affections for another, especially if it is done with a great deal of thought.  Sometimes someone gives me something that I really like, but that I don't need, and I think, 'I know someone who will appreciate this even more than me'.  What I am saying is, don't just set aside random 'stuff', but have a person in mind who you think might really enjoy that item (that way, it also ensures that it will eventually leave your house!)  if you are interested in re-gifting but worried about the etiquette, click here for a list of suggested 'rules' for regifting.  I will admit that I don't always follow these rules... I have been known to re-gift stuff like appliances (espresso machine, bread maker, etc.).  The key to my re-gift was to make it a lot more personal: I added specialty flours with the bread maker, bread machine yeast, and some hand-written recipe cards and with the espresson machine: some specialty coffee, etc.  I was also upfront about the fact that it was a re-gift and that it had been used... (don't worry, I cleaned them both up just like shiny new!)  Think what you want about re-gifting, but I am sold on its virtues!  Agree or disagree on this issue, I would love to hear from you, so I am once again going to poll the audience (this time I refuse to abide by the results however, I am a die-hard re-gifter!)

So, this week's poll choices are:
  • You should NEVER re-gift.  It is thoughtless, cheap, and rude.
  • Re-gifting is acceptable on certain occasions, as long as it is done with thought and some degree of re-gifting etiquette is employed.
  • Re-gifting is the best.  Anything is fair game!
(For the record, I would vote for number 2...)

There's no such thing as bad regifts, just bad regifters. - Quote from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Happy re-gifting (or not if that's the way you roll)

Marebare :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Taking off the blinders

Of late, I have become the 'master of repairs' in my house.  I used to have a pile of stuff that sat for years in a 'to be fixed pile'.  I am sure that some of you have the same kind of pile: clothes with buttons missing, clothes with holes in them, books with the binding coming apart, etc.  Today I actually got to the bottom of the pile and have officially fixed everything (that I was capable of fixing) in my house.  While not being able to buy anything new was certainly powerful motivation to put some of these items 'back in circulation', it was also just wonderful to have accomplished one of those tasks that just never seems to get done. 

On a completely unrelated topic, I have been attempting to decode the food labels of the products that are already in my house.  It is not good news.  I have unknowingly been poisoning myself and my family with some of those 'crazy additives' that I alluded to in an early post.  Included in these items are:
  • Salad dressings
  • Some crackers
  • Cans of soup
  • Cereal
Don't those items sound innocuous enough?  Not so my fine friends, not so.  The salad dressing contains BHA and BHT, some of the crackers contain MSG, cereal contains trisodium phosphate which is most commonly used as a cleaning agent and has the ability to corrode metal (!) and canned soup often contains MSG as well.  Gross right?  Luckily, I have come up with substitutions for all of them: I recently made a batch of homemade crackers which are delicous (and thank goodness the 'cracker man' of the house, aka Chephren, approves of them).  Salad dressings are also easy enough to make, I just have to get into the habit of making them on a more regular basis.  While I will definitely miss the convenience of canned soups, I am willing to give them up (assuming that I can't find a more suitable alternative to my current brands at the grocery store).  And cereal, well, Chephren is going to have to give up his Cheerios.  Thankfully he loves toast, oatmeal and eggs so we won't be strapped for breakfasts.  It looks like we are well on our way to eliminating some of those dreaded additives from our pantry. 

Sorry to burst your bubble if these were facts that you were happier just 'not knowing'.  I hear that.  Food additives are literally in almost everything and trying to eat foods without them is quite an arduous task these days.  However, it is not my intention to be the 'voice of doom' or to look down my nose at anyone else and the choices they make, I simply want to see whether or not I am able to eliminate these items from my pantry... and of course, I plan on sharing my strategies with you.  Take or leave the information as you like.

You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action.  - Tony Robbins

Here's to 'knowing' and doing something about it!

Marebare :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Recycling Envy

I spent the better part of the weekend trying to figure out how to 'do it better' with regards to my waste and recycling process.  While I used to believe that Edmonton had one of the best waste/recycle programs on the planet, I have been reading about other cities' initiatives and I decidedly have recycling envy.  Currently, I have two huge composters in my yard which I alternate between as they fill up.  Every fall we dump them on the garden and start again.  Our County takes all numbered plastics (which is quite new and really exciting) as well as the usual glass, cans, assorted paper and milk cartons.  Of course, we also take our bottles in to the bottle depot for some 'mad money'!   Recently, I found out that I can take my plastic shopping bags bags (not that I use those anymore) into Edmonton for dropoff at their eco-stations.  Sounds like we have it covered right?  WRONG - I am left stuck with all of the soft plastics... you know the ones, they are the wrappers that come on well, virtually everything!  Your tofu, your cheese, the seal on your yogurt container, pasta bags, rice bags, etc. etc.  So, as it turns out, we still make quite a bit of garbage in this house.  Also, there are no private recycling companies in Edmonton that will take them either.  Actually that's not true, there is one fellow who told me that they would accept them by the 'dump truck full'.  I had a crazy idea that maybe I could get a hold of my friend (who runs a Country Waste Management company) and ask her if she would be interested in helping me take him up on his offer.  I will keep you posted if I have any success on the 'soft plastic' issue.

I'll bet you're wondering what the heck this has to do with 'living with less' right?  Well, the truth is, my project is evolving.  As I alluded to in the last post, what started out as a really simple project of not buying anything new, has mutated into quite a complicated project that calls into question my day-to-day living practices as a whole.  'Living with Less' feels like such a good choice for myself and my family, that I find myself increasingly motivated to expand its horizons.  I had an interesting debate with a friend (MH) yesterday about this phenomenon.  He, being a self-proclaimed cynic (a label with which I agree whole-heartedly), was questioning my methods of achieving my outcome(s).  In his view, it would make more sense financially and be more effective environmentally if I went about it in a completely opposite way: Work hard to make more money, and use my money to create bigger influence and change in the world.  His view is not without merit, however it is not a strategy that appeals to me at all.  This caused me to re-assess why exactly I am doing this in the first place, aka the ultimate source of my motivation.  On the surface, it presents as being a mainly financial decision to many people.  What I realized yesterday during my debate with MH is that ultimately, this project is based almost entirely in values, with the money-saving part of things purely a bonus (and a good way to to get my extremely rational husband on board).  That being said, I am very aware that in order to keep my head above water, I am going to need to take my own advice from the last blog post: take things one day at a time!  Change will be easier (and more effective) if it happens slowly... plus my husband is already poised and ready with his hand over the 'panic' button after listening to me rant all weekend.  Not to fear dear, I promise not to do anything rash!

Speaking of ranting, I'd better sign off for today!

In a lifetime, the average North American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage. This means that each adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 lbs. of trash for his or her children.  Click here for more recycling facts that will boggle the mind!

Happy recyling!

Marebare :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Baby Steps

I am evolving... I am not yet three months into this project and it at this point, it absolutely seems like second nature.  Follow 'the rules' has become so easy that they don't even feel like rules anymore, just common sense.  I find myself with more time, more money and feeling well, happier. 

With all of my extra time, I have been doing some research.  It has occurred to me that I could be doing more for myself, my family and the environment.  This kind of started a while back with the movie Food Inc. and the introduction of 'Meatless Mondays' (which is going very well by the way).  Actually, upon reflection over the past few weeks, this has been a re-occurring theme in my life over the past 10-12 years or so.  In the past, I have gotten totally frustrated with the way things are in this messed up world, decide that I am going to do something about it and try to make extreme and radical changes overnight.  For instance, I lived as a vegan for 6 months a few years back.  That's right, I went from being an oblivious meat-eater to being a complete vegan overnight (this change was so impulsive and spontaneous that I actually had to look up what the 'rules' of veganism were!)  Looking back, I can see that while my intentions were certainly well-founded, my method couldn't have been less effective.

Change is hard.  It is hard for everyone.  To make it easier, I believe that the key to lasting change is to make small changes over time.  That is what this project is doing for me.  While I did jump in headfirst (as I tend to do with most things), I have allowed myself the time to slowly grow fully into the project and all that it entails.  The point is, more changes are a comin'!  Of late, I have been reading into food additives (scary, scary stuff) and trying to discover more effective (and creative) ways to reduce my waste.  I have been reading a blog called The Clean Bin Project about a couple in BC who lived without making virtually ANY waste for one year (included in their rules was not buying any 'stuff' so it makes for really good reading for me).  Check it out, it left me truly inspired.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  - Maria Robinson

Here's to making small changes, one day at a time!

Marebare :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A day on the town

What a rush being a part of a community can be!  As I have alluded to in previous posts, my family and I live quite a ways out of town... like about 20 km or so from the nearest town (and it is a just that, a small farming town - we are about 50 km away from the 'big city').  While there are definite advantages to living out in the 'boonies' (HUGE garden, lots of room to bike, run, ski & play, easy composting, etc.) one of the main limitations of living out here is the necessity to rely on a vehicle to get us back and forth to/from 'civilization'.  (Why do they call it that anyway?  I don't live there but I would consider myself quite civilized nonetheless!).  Anyway, now that it is spring, and given that we are trying to live as simply and as thriftily as possible these days, I have been biking a lot these days, sometimes into town and back to run errands, get groceries, etc.  My parents do the same thing and we all agree that it is a really great way to get outside and get some exercise.  (My husband doesn't bike if he can help it.  He suffers from ESAS* which doesn't allow him to bike without copious amounts of swearing and belly aching).  Unfortunately, my rides into town have to be limited to the weekends, as the roads just aren't safe enough to pull my son in the bike trailer... although he just adores to ride in there. 

Today, inspired by the spring weather and the promise of sunshine, I threw my bike and bike trailer into my vehicle and drove into town.  I parked on main street (such an adorable little street) and rode my bike all over town running errands, with Chephren in tow of course!  We went to the post office, the bank, the library (that was a huge hit) and the grocery store.  While it isn't a perfect solution to my problem, it was a great way to spend the morning and left us both in super high spirits!

Here is to riding bikes and getting out on the town!

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”  - H. G. Wells

Marebare :)

*ESAS: Extremely Sensitive Ass Syndrome

Monday, April 5, 2010

Put Yer Money Where Your Mouth Is!!

What an absolutely lovely long weekend... now those are two words that belong together (long + weekend = glorious!)  Instead of spending the weekend inside attached to my computer, I spent most of the weekend working at living, learning, loving and laughing!  In other words, living with less, which as we know by now, means actually living with a whole lot more.

To be a little less vague, I spent the weekend mostly at home, enjoying a lot of time outside with my son and husband, weeding, baking, cooking, and yes, sewing.  I have now made two items that are actually wearable.. only one of which I would be caught dead in but hey, I'm learning right!?  I read a quote today that said "10 percent of life is what happens & 90 percent is the way we react to it".  I sure needed to hear this in order to gain some perspective after having finished a dress that looks more like a pillowcase than a dress!  All is not lost however, I did learn a whole bunch of new sewing techniques in the process and I didn't spend any money on the material, so, really, it was a great experience in the end. 

My adventures in the kitchen have also taken me to new heights.  I made fresh pasta for the first time (by hand): A butternut squast/goat cheese stuffed ravioli.  It was absolutely delicious!  I also made my ultimate favorite coffee time treat: white chocolate mixed berry scones.  They are to-die-for!!!  Also, I promised Alison that I would start to post some recipes on here so here it goes:

2 & 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 cup soft butter

Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and cut butter in (pastry-style) until the mixture is the size of small peas.

1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup yogurt (I used vanilla but you could use a berry kind too)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl and add to dry ingredients.  Stir to moisten (You might need to add a bit more milk - I just kind of played it by ear until the mixture was like a batter that you could drop by spoonfuls...)

Stir in 2 cups of frozen mixed berries & 1 cup of white chocolate chunks (you should be able to find these bulk)

Drop by 1/3 cupfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle with icing sugar when they come out of the oven.

(If I hadn't been so busy scarfing them down this weekend, I would've had the forethought to include a picture of them... sorry!)

Finally, I just wanted to comment on something that my reader Rebecca (from Denver) wrote to me a few weeks ago... "Once you stop hanging on to things so tightly, you realize that stuff just flows in and out of our lives, and trying to control it only blocks up the flow!"  I just wanted to point out that this has never been more true for me... since I have started this project, I have given away more stuff than ever before and yet, new and different 'stuff' just keeps pouring in the from the front door!  It is amazing!  Thank you so much to those of you who have showered me with items that will/have helped me on my journey! 

One more shout out - to all you vegetarians and vegetable-advocates out there!  Thank you SO much for all of the fantastic recipe ideas.  My family is getting more and more used to the meatless approach and I am absolutely loving the new and fun cooking routine.

Y'all are the BEST!

Marebare :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

What Happy People Know

First of all, thank you to those of you who voted (and commented) on the fabric issue.  Cudos goes especially to Rebecca who really made me think about the REAL reasons why I might be taking on another project.  (If you want to know what I am talking about, read the comments from the last post).  Secondly, this entry is going to be a bit 'heavy' so if you aren't in the mood on this lovely long weekend... bookmark it for Monday's reading! 

Rebecca's comments have really made me think about things... Her last comment especially spoke to me (I might be focusing on being more of a human 'doing' instead of a human 'being').  Anyone who knows how perpetually busy I constantly am will probably back her up on this one!  It's not that I don't like to just 'be'... it's that I have a really hard time giving myself permission to do so.

I am currently reading a book entitled "What Happy People Know" by Dan Baker.  I found this book on a 'free' shelf in a library many moons ago.  I know, I know... you should never take a self-help book out of the 'discard' pile!!!  Well, I did, and I read it, but I apparently wasn't ready to hear the message back then because it didn't 'speak' to me in the slightest.  Having recently picked it back up again, it would be safe to say that I am certainly ready to hear the message now!  Anyway, one of the main themes of the book is looking at the fundamental qualities of happiness (love, appreciation, choice, etc.) as well as the polar opposite of happiness: which, according to Baker, is the state of fear.  Baker tells us that there are two fundamental fears in life: the fear of not having enough (which drives our consumer economy), and the fear of not being enough.  Personally, I feel like I have 'laughed in the face' of the first element of fear via this project, however it is the second fear that continues to haunt me. 

Now, I know what you're thinking, what they heck does this have to do with sewing?  Well, I have figured out that my reasons for wanting to sew are two-fold.  The first reason for wanting to sew is all about me.  I have always loved to create something from nothing... I find it so satisfying.  So, I think that this is a 'good' reason to sew.  The other reason (and here is my 'fear' rearing its ugly head) is that I am having issues with 'not being enough'.  Let me explain.  This morning, my husband and I were lying in bed chatting when he asked me what I missed most about buying new stuff.  I thought about it for a minute, and I honestly couldn't think of anything (not even Starbucks!).  I told him so (feeling secretly overjoyed), but a few minutes later, as we started the day, I started to mull his question over and over in my brain while I sipped my delicious (& cheap) cup of coffee...  Here is the conclusion that I have come to.  I have guilt.  Guilt over not being able (or I guess no longer willing) to buy my family and friends 'new' presents (which they inconveniently continue to do for me).  It is making me crazy!  Hence, the sewing, and wanting to buy fancy fabric.  I really want to be able to reciprocate the gifts that my friends and family are lavishing on me... Otherwise, I am left feeling 'cheap' and 'guilty' (aka, the fear of not being enough). 

Ironically, this whole damn thing started in part due to my abhorrence of extravagent gift-giving... and yet I apparently haven't been able to wrap my brain around this apparent catch-22. 

So, the bad news is that I still have ISSUES!  The good news though?  At least I know what they are!!!

“People love others not for who they are but for how they make them feel”  - Irwin Federman
(Just keep telling myself that right?)

Marebare :)