Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blog-O-Versary Giveaway!

It's my blog-o-versary!

One year ago, I began chronicling my family's journey toward a greener, simpler and more sustainable lifestyle. I've recorded our failures and successes and broadcasted them for all the world to read and in return, have been absorbed into a community of supportive and like minded people who welcomed me with open arms. Thank you for your friendship and encouragement. Your kind words and knowledgeable suggestions have furthered our efforts and mean more than you know!

To celebrate this little milestone, and to thank you all for sticking around, I believe a little giveaway is in order! One lucky reader will receive not one but TWO books! The first is called The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers by Josh Purcell and the other is called Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting by Michael Perry.

Both are hilarious accounts of two different families who risk everything in pursuit of simpler, more honest life. Everyone's journey is different but we all have one thing in common: we want better. We want real. It's nice to read about people who fought the status quo and are actually living the life I dream about. It IS attainable!

A couple things:

1) To enter, you must be a follower of Green's Going Green. If you aren't, just wander on up to the top of the page and click follow. There. That wasn't too painful, was it?

2) The giveaway ends Tuesday, April 5th at midnight, MST. You may enter once a day until then but remember....you must be a follower! Winner will be announced Wednesday, April 6th.

Good luck and thanks again....so much....for sticking with me. I'm excited about what's to come!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Bees Knees

It was a Saturday morning like many others. The hubby was sitting at the kitchen counter, drinking coffee and staring out the window. The kids were slurping down Cheerios and cracking each other up with their milk mustaches. I was in the shower, savoring the secondary adult presence that allowed me to take a shower in the first place. My hubby poked his head in the bathroom and told me that if I should wander out the front door to do so slowly and quietly and not to wear perfume. Huh? What kind of weirdo request is that?

 When he meandered down the drive to fetch the paper, my dear husband noticed a large, vibrating mass perched in the lower branches of our mesquite tree. That quivering bundle turned out to be a very large swarm of bees. Thousands of bees. And though seeing this interesting phenomena up close and personal is very cool, I'm not exactly crazy about thousands of bees setting up shop in my front yard. We moved the cars to the far side of the driveway, banned all foot traffic along the front path, warned our neighbors in case anyone had allergies and then, per our city webpage's advice, we called the fire department.

The swarm measures almost a foot and a half in length!
The valley area actually has quite the bee problem. Some genius introduced African Honey Bees into our general population some time ago and as a result of crossbreeding, many of our local bees are prone to aggressive attacks. The city set up a page to report such hives so that they can be removed for the safety of the public. The fire department came and assessed the situation and concluded that our winged visitors were most likely an Africanized species but that they would move on in a few days time. They said swarming is an instinctive part of the annual life cycle of a honey bee colony and that it provides a mechanism that allows the colony to reproduce itself. During the swarm cycle, the bee's only concern is to keep the queen happy until she's rested enough to move on and therefore, are generally non-aggressive during this time. However, they warned, if the colony becomes aggressive or doesn't move on within three to four days, it's time to call a bee removal service.

Buzzing Bees

Why MY tree bees?
I was crossing fingers and toes that the little buggers would just rest up and move on by themselves. Killing thousands of bees, even mean Africanized killer bees, make me feel nothing but guilty since bee populations are steadily declining around the world. Many of the crops we depend on need bees to pollinate them. If plants aren't pollinated, they don't grow. And if plants don't grow, we don't have food. If we don't have food...well, you get the picture.

We called a local bee keeper and he assured us that the fire department was correct. Arizona's bee population has been severely "contaminated" and most swarms are scary, invasive, honey bee killing, bees. If for some reason the swarm doesn't leave, they will start to build their new home in my tree. As they come out of the swarming stage and start building combs, they will become dominant and aggressive toward any "threat" in their home area.

When we reached the 48 hour mark and there was still a ball 'o bees in the tree, we decided it would be safest  to have the bees removed. Watching the bee keeper spray the nest was amazing. We watched (from inside of course) and I could not believe how many bees there were! They bombarded his bee suit in protest and threw themselves at our windows. As terrible as I felt about being a chemical using bee killer, I'm glad we called when we did. They were starting to build combs which meant they had planned on staying.

The keeper at work.  Photo taken from the safety of our home office!
I'm sorry little killer bees. I'm sorry I annhilated your colony. But just like you, I have to make sure my family is safe from harm. Having an angry mob of killer bees living by my front door is just NOT conducive to ensuring my family's safety. If any of you survived, fly off and tell your cousins, the sweet little forager bees, that they are welcome in my garden any time. But you and your ferocious little friends better stay away. I'm not afraid to call in the cavalry...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pretty, Pearly Whites

I have a confession to make...my children have never been to a dentist.

At ages 4 and 2 respectively, this may not seem like a huge deal but it is certainly time to get them checked out. And those little teeth could use a good cleaning too, since trying to get my kids to brush their teeth is like...well....pulling teeth.

But there are a couple of reasons I've been putting off the whole dentist thing.

a) Even though my city boasts a FANTASTIC pediatric dentist who has been recommended by nearly every Mom I meet, I'm not exactly ready for a public tantrum in place where there are sharp objects present.

b)My daughter is a thumb sucker and has been since she was a month old. Her teeth show it. I'm nervous about being lectured for continuing to let her suck her thumb (like I can stop her) and my heart may just stop if they give me an orthodontic estimate. I KNOW she'll need braces. I'm just still in denial about it.

c) I'm afraid my kids will have cavities and/or super plaque build up. My kids don't eat a ton of sugar but as I mentioned, teeth brushing is NOT a favorite activity in my house. I fight many battles during the day and sometimes, I just don't want to hold down a squirming kid and scrub those pearly whites. So I don't. Judge all you want. After you've been bitten a few times, you tend to ease back on the forced brushings.

d) I don't use fluoride and I'm not going to. I feel very strongly about this and I don't want to be given that "you're screwing up your kids teeth" look because I won't use the bright colored, super sweet, sparkly toothpaste.

Toothpaste was one of the first personal care items to "go green" in our house. I'd been reading about the dangers of fluoride for some time, but when I dug a little deeper, I realized that fluoride was just one of many nasties I was scrubbing all over my mouth, and my children's, twice a day. Some common toothpaste ingredients include:

  • Fluoride-Before being sold under the guise of healthy teeth maker, it was used as a rat poison. It was also a popular insecticide, but discontinued as it was found to injure and kill plants. Granted, we use much less fluoride in common toothpastes now, but it's questionable past is enough for me to want it out of my house. My mother and sister in laws are allergic to fluoride and I've seen similar symptoms in my daughter when I use fluorided toothpastes on her.

  • SLS- I've talked about sodium laurel sulfates before. It's hard to escape. SLS is what makes things foam and is found in shampoos, conditioners, lotions and toothpastes. SLS is an irritant which isn't all that great for your gums and it enhances your mouth's ability to absorb other products into your bloodstream. 

  • Saccharin-Remember when the FDA tried to ban saccharin in the 1970's because numerous studies found it to be carcinogenic and cause cancer in lab animals? Yup. They put it in toothpaste. It's what give it a sweet taste. And thanks to the SLS, you are better equipped to absorb it into your body!

  • Synthetic Dyes and Flavors-When I was a kid, I brushed my teeth with bright blue toothpaste that tasted like bubblegum. Sometimes, it had sparkles. But man made colors and flavors are made with chemicals, and are quite often derived from coal tar. COAL TAR! GROSS!
Lucky for me, I'm not the only one concerned about my toothpaste. There are several brands of "natural" toothpastes that work great and will put your mind at ease. We are a Tom's of Maine family. Tom's has both fluoride and fluoride free formulas and their kids toothpastes come in lots of natural flavors. My daughter has declared cinnamon and mint toothpastes "too spicy" so our favorite is Silly Strawberry. They don't use artificial sweeteners like saccharin and have great botanical ingredients like fennel and myrrh. Tom's toothpastes DO CONTAIN SLS. Eventually I would like to step away from all products containing SLS but for now, I just like a foamy a toothpaste. Baby steps people, baby steps....

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oops! I Did it Again...

Oh me oh my. When will I learn?

This weekend was full of family, friends, and food. Heavy on the food part. Oh so heavy on the food part. Dinner out every night, pizza delivery and not one but TWO outings to the local ice cream parlor...it's a wonder I can waddle down the hall! I'm feeling digusting right now, and it's my own damn fault. I get caught up in the social aspect of food. Think about it. Almost everything we eat is shared. We come together with the ones we love and yuck it up over a plus size plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Rarely (at least in my case)  do we think much about the actual nutritional value of the food when we are eating socially. It tastes good, it feels good, and everyone else is doing it.

I've been trying my hardest to combat Candida and a host of other problems, most of which I believe, can be vastly improved or even remedied by changing my diet. I do well for a week or two and then one social outing blows me off course and leaves me feeling squishy and grumpy. But it ends today. I've got two words for you people: MEAL PLAN.

I used to be quite good a the whole meal planning thing. At one point, I was even planning out a month's worth of dinners at a time. Because I now shop in season and with coupons, month long meal plans aren't as practical for me anymore but a week's worth is completely managable. I've recently invested in some fab vegan cookbooks and it's time to use them. If I know what we're eating and I have the ingredients with which to make it, those foods that make me feel squishygrumpy are much less likely to end up in my mouth.

My meal planner is nothing fancy. I typed it simply because I'm anal about symmetry and have tacky handwriting. But really, a sheet of recyled notebook paper will do just fine.This time around, I included lunch plans to make sure I'm not just eating a handful of cashews and the kid's sandwhich crusts to fuel me at midday. I also listed any social events where we might be eating, like at my neighbor's birthday party this weekend. Healthier eating...one week at a time.

A few tips on meal planning:

-Veteran meal planners suggest making a 21 meal list. This is a list of the 21 or so recipes that your family regularly cycles through. For us that would be things like tacos, fritattas, grilled chicken, ect... If ever you just can't think of what to make, you can refer to your handy list and hopefully find something to fill the gaps.

-Shop with your ads and coupons. Store ads come out weekly. Use the ads to plan your meals around what's on sale. In season produce is usually much cheaper than those Chilean grapes your kids make you buy. Eating in season is better for your health, your planet and your wallet. Winners all around!

-Have a planning party. Who doesn't love a party? Invite your friends over and ask them to bring five copies of their three healthiest and easiest recipes. Hand out blank calenders and wine. Swap recipes and fill in those meal plans!

-Plant a garden! Growing food in the backyard is one of the easiest ways to make sure you have nutritious food to eat at every meal. Before sitting down to make out your weekly plan, take a quick jaunt around the garden and decide what needs harvested and include it in your meal plan. This will help you avoid baseball bat sized zuchinnis and bolted salad greens.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


bio*phil*ia \ n.\
 The human desire to spend time outdoors among plants and trees.

In the past twenty years, there has been a 50% decrease in the amount of time American kids are spending outdoors. Instead, they are watching TV, playing video games and surfing the internet....for more than SIX HOURS a day. Six hours!! And at the same time, the childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing,and more and more children are going on medication for ADHD, depression and anxiety.

Is the solution as simple as sending your kids outside to play? I'm not sure. But before the desert sun is scorching us to oblivion, my kiddos will be out and about as much as possible (slathered in eco friendly sunscreen of course!) This I know for sure...

Mud is better than TV. Mud is better than cookies. Mud is better than everything!

Puddle jumping is one of the finest forms of exercise.

The crook of a tree  is an excellent vantage point for dropping pebbles on your parents.

Momma will never say no to running if it's done outside.

You are allowed to eat things covered in dirt if you dig it out of the garden.

You can scribble all over the floor if it can be washed with a hose.

Sometimes, it's just nice to hold someone's hand an go for a walk.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and have some fun!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunscreen Queen

I'm about to make my snow bound readers very jealous. Are you ready? Here it goes......

It's going to be 90 degrees today.

In March. It's early, even for us, to have it be that warm, but it is what it is. The flip flops are out, the windows are open and my kids are salivating for a chance to dive into the first pool they can find (which happens to be the one at our gym. It opens for outdoor swimming in April!) Warmer weather also means adding an extra step to our morning routine...holding down wiggling, squiggling kids and slathering them head to toe in sunscreen.

My husband has affectionately nick named me "The Sunscreen Queen." All summer, every summer I'm chasing him and my children around with sun sticks and hats. This is the desert, I tell them. Don't want to be all wrinkly and brown when we're old, do we? My summer diligence has slipped into other seasons as well and my kids have been seen lubed up with sun protection at Thanksgiving dinners and Easter picnics. I've been slopping sunscreen on myself since I was a teenager due to my pale complexion. It was either lube it up or burn like cheese on a hot skillet. My poor son has skin like mine, unlike my daughter and my husband who rarely burn and turn the loveliest golden shade even with layers of sunscreen applied at timed two hour intervals. J and I, well....we're either white or painfully red. There's not much in between.

My little mermaid, post swim.
Though it might be a little early for the rest of you, I thought it might be a good time to prep you on green sunscreen basics.I could go on and on about the horrible chemicals in most mainstream brands but I won't. Just know that what much of what you can buy at your local grocery store it crap. Also know that natural sunscreen has come a long way in recent years. New formulations are highly effective, waterproof, and don't leave you with that pasty white sheen that is often associated with non chemical sunscreens. I got this information from the Environmental Working Group's website. They area FANTASTIC resource and I highly recommend you take a look at their annual sunscreen report as well as their Skin Deep Database, which rates body care products and their toxicity levels.

When Choosing a Sunscreen.......

  • Oxybenzone
  • Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate)
  • Added insect repellent
  • Sprays
  • Powders
  • SPF above 50+
Look For:
  • Zinc
  • Titanium dioxide 
  • Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX  
  • Cream  
  • Broad-spectrum protection
  • Water-resistant for beach, pool & exercise
  • SPF 30+ for beach & pool 
If you need help picking a sunscreen, the EWG has a sunscreen database that can help you find one that is safe and effective. They give high ratings to brands that provide broad-spectrum, long-lasting protection with ingredients that pose fewer health concerns when the body absorbs them. I ditched my Banana Boat (one of the worst offenders when it comes to harmful chemicals) for a brand from Purple Prairie Botanicals, a Mom and Pop shop in the Midwest. It was ranked in the EWG's top ten safe sunscreens and I love it. No white cast, absorbs quickly, and it doesn't make my kids break out like many of the drugstore brands used too. Reasonably priced too! The make a sunstick that I LOVE, especially for those little noses and cheeks.

Before you get all up arms about parting with your beloved store brand, SPF 100 sunblock spray, go the EWG's website and look around. I promise you'll change your mind. You'll be clamoring for the chemical free variety before you can say water slide! Be kind to your body and your planet. Here's to a safe and chemical free summer. Happy swimming!  

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Backyard Campout...

The perfect marshmallow!

Who likes sleeping in the backyard? I do!

Momma, J and K
Daddy and K make a campfire treat!

S'more face!

Do I have chocolate on my face?
Hope you all are having a good weekend. See you Monday!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jam Session

Jam. It's just so good. Even better when it's made in my kitchen and not in some factory where there's a good chance the worker who screwed my lid on just finished scratching his butt...

I recently invited my friend D over to join me for a jam session. She, like many other friends, has been asking me to teach her about canning ever since I gifted her and her peanut butter and jelly loving kids with a jar of homemade blackberry preserves. I was all too eager to share what I know and catch up on a little girl time in the process.

The recipe of the day was blueberry jam. Yes, I realize it's not blueberry season but our local grocer was having pretty good sale and my jam stores were running low so I decided this would be a good opportunity to make more. And when I mentioned my weekend plans, D dropped some not so subtle hints about how she would LOVE to learn how to make jam.

After shooing the kids outside, I morphed into a high school home economics teacher.Though canning is fun and highly satisfying it is super important that you pay attention to what you are doing so I put aside the girly gossip for a minute and got serious. I wish I had a pointer and a chalkboard. Anyway...things must be measured correctly and timers must be set to avoid injuries and nasty jam. Yes, I said injury. What's so dangerous about canning you ask? You've obviously never canned with me. I burn myself. Everytime. I have scars to prove it. But I digress...

I rattled off about rusty screw bands, foamy jam, pectin (we used low sugar, my first time with that particular product), set, and seal. Besides burning myself twice with the steam from the canner ( I told you!!) and a flurry of last minute jar prep (I grossly underestimated how many jars we would need) things went off without a hitch. We ended up with ten jars of yummy, wholesome, homemade blueberry jam to share.

D and her first jar of jam!
Canning is certainly a more enjoyable experience when there's more than one cook in the kitchen. Two sets of hands not only make everything run more smoothly, but the companionship and camaraderie that arises when a group of women get together and feed each other's family is just incredible. I imagine way back when, the females of a family, peeling, mashing, slicing, stirring, sweating....catching up on family business, reconnecting with each other over boiling kettles and roaring fires. Hard work? Of course! But so much more than just a necessary task. I had so much fun canning with D I'm thinking I might host a Put 'Em Up Party for my girlfriends. Fruit, steam and maybe.....wine? Sounds like a good time to me!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Quilt That Never Was

It started out like any other project. With a fire in my belly and twinkle in my eye. I wanted to make a quilt. I was tired of lusting after every rail fence and crazy quilt I came across and keeping myself awake at night mentally sorting my scrap bin by color and then by theme. I've been wanting a cozy quilt for my living room since we moved in to this house. I need a pop of color in that room, something snuggly to accompany me when I read or to protect me from imaginary ghosts and aliens that I swear I hear/see when I'm working through a DVD season of X-Files. 

I asked my family's quilting expert, Dearie, if she would be so kind as to produce a nice throw quilt in certain shades of greens and reds (not Christmas colors....deeper) to grace my sofa. She said no. Dearie taught me pretty much everything I know about sewing and she thinks that I am competent enough to make a quilt all by myself. I think she is crazy. I've barley mastered sewing straight lines and you want me to measure, cut and sew together something as beautiful and intricate as a quilt? Pardon me while laugh uncontrollably. Dearie told me to stop being a weenie, start small, and call when I ran into trouble. Tough love I tell ya....tough love.

K has been asking.....no begging.....to make a doll quilt for her dolls. She's just as much a fabric worm as I am and she's constantly rifling through my scraps oohing and ahhing over this scrap or that one. I let her choose her favorites (okay, I gently guided her to make sure she chose all cottons and all florals....but other than that it was her pick!) and I started sewing. I decided a postage stamp type quilt would be easiest to start with...lots of strip sewing and minimal cutting and use of my arch nemesis. El Rotary Cutter.

Making sure size and length would cover said dolly.

The strips sewn together
To my delight and surprise, my seams lined up (pretty much) and it didn't look half bad.I used an old receiving blanket for the batting and had my quilt sandwich ready for quilting. A quick call to Dearie and an hour of "how to machine quilt" tutorials later, I was ready to roll. I even put the quilting foot on my machine without cursing. I loaded up, peddled down and.....nothing. Well, the needle moved but for some reason the bobbin thread wasn't doing it's job and the stitches came out with a gentle pull. Rethread bobbin. Nope. Wound new bobbin. No. Poke screwdrivers and scissors in bobbin cavity to see what crap is going on. Nada....

Looks crooked in the pic but isn't, I swear!
This went on for DAYS. I consulted the manual, Dearie, my super crafty friends and no one could figure out why. Sadly, I removed the quilt that never was from my machine, folded it neatly, and placed it in the UFO basket. That's unfinished objects to you non-crafters. I whipped up two pairs of jammy pants for J, a pair of capris for K and  a receiving blanket for a friend due any day now to soothe my soul and puff up my deflated feathers a bit. I'll try to get it quilted again someday. Or maybe I'll just turn the patchwork part into a little tote bag for K. In the meantime, my living room still needs livening. Maybe some new pillows!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Handy Work

Success! Hubby has installed our new computer and we are up and running. It's new, it's shiny and we got it on SALE. Hubs got all the pictures, music and documents off the old computer and transferred them to the new one without batting an eye. I, on the other hand, can barely turn the thing on...thank goodness for tech savvy spouses!

Today brings sunshine and warm breezes. We are supposed to hit 80 degrees here in the valley, even warmer tomorrow. The kids are in shorts and my clothesline has been full since 8 am. Desert springs are especially lovely and we are out and about every minute we can spare. Before long the mercury will shoot up and stay over 100 degrees and our outside time is spent lolling by the pool. But now, we are busy. We're gearing up for spring cleaning, planning yummy (meatless!) meals with new spring veggies and planting, staking, digging and just flat out playing in the dirt!

This flurry of activity, though welcome and enjoyed, is hard on the hands. I'm hard on my hands anyway, and am anti-glove. The change in the weather combined with all the washing and digging leaves my hands sore and dry and "old lady-ish." I promised a few posts back to share the recipe for a hand oil I've been using every night to keep my hands in good order. It's easy, it's natural and it feels indulgent. I keep it in a little dropper bottle on my nightstand and rub some in each night before I doze off. It's a combination of two recipes; one from Grow Your Own Drugs by James Wong and The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Worwood. The recipe is flexible, especially with the combination of essential oils. If you don't have something, don't sweat it. Here's the lowdown on how I make mine:

Luxurious Hand Oil
2 drops carrot oil
2 teaspoons avocado oil
10 drops jojoba oil
1 teaspoons evening primrose oil (I used the capsules....just poke holes in them and squeeze)
2 vitamin E capsules

Blend your oils well. Then add:

2 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops geranium essential oil
5 drops lavender or rose essential oil (true rose is VERY expensive. I used lavender)

Funnel your oil into a a tincture bottle (those little brown bottles with the dropper lids) and swirl to combine. Use a few drops when your hands need some lovin'...a little goes a long way.

And that's all !I get most of my essential oils from Rose Mountain Herbs. You can find their link on the right side of this page. As mentioned, I have a bottle next to my bed but I'm thinking I may mix some up to keep by the sink for a little post dish washing treat.  This oil would make a great gift too, maybe with some homemade bath bombs and a couple of crocheted shower scrubbies. Hmmmm.....crocheted shower scrubbies. I think I need to make some of those...off to find a pattern!