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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thrifty Green Thursday

My printer is full of FREE paper. Yours can be, too.

In an effort to reduce my paper consumption I started printing on both sides of the sheet. It wasn't enough. Then I started keeping digital logs of client's emails rather than printing all of them. It still wasn't enough. Switching to recycled paper made me feel a little bit better, but I still wanted to do more.

One day it struck me. I can kill three birds with one stone.
  1. Reduce my paper consumption.
  2. Reduce my paper waste.
  3. Save money by recycling my own paper.
It's simple. Any 8 1/2 x 11 paper coming into our household that has a blank side goes into the printer paper tray. Whether it be junk mail, donation requests, church newsletter, school information, the children's old assignments, anything. As long as it has a blank side it can be reused. And, it does not matter if it has been folded, hole punched, or stapled. It all goes through just fine, I promise. Just be sure to remove any staples first!


I have managed to buy far less paper by scavenging any half blank sheets I can find. I have reduced the amount of paper that ends up in the trash by reusing it. Sadly, our municipality does not recycle paper, only newsprint. Ridiculous! And, I have saved money by recycling (reusing) all the free paper floating around the house.

People are freely giving it to you. Why not use it? I submitted this as a challenge suggestion to Carbonrally in hopes of inspiring others to make this simple change. Do some good for the planet and your wallet at the same time. Put your mail to work!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Clearinghouse...still

Purge list:
  • t-shirt drawer
  • cami drawer
  • work out drawer
  • pajama drawer
  • underwear drawer & bra/swim drawer
  • sock drawer
  • junk drawer
Workout drawer.

Looks like next on the purge list is my workout lounge wear drawer. Okay, let's get real here. Sure this drawer is full of "workout" clothes, but closest I have come to "working out" is working out how sleep a half hour longer and not be late for my morning meetings. I used to go to the gym five days a week, but that only lasted until the first holiday they were closed for rolled around. It only took one missed day for me to completely blow the whole thing off. Now I just pay the fat tax. You know, that gym membership fee I cough up every month but do not use. How pathetic am I?! Talk about waste. Ugh!

But, I digress. Still working in the nine drawer dresser (a little less) full.

Taking stock:
Contents = 13 "workout" items


Twelve pairs of lounge pants and yes, one more camisole. This one is a racer back though, so it's completely different, right? Riiiight. Finally a drawer a little more manageable. Thank god I did not have 30 pair of pants in there!

So I have decided to keep five pair of pants for lounging around on lazy days, i.e. summer. Three will be transferred to my pajama drawer. It gets damn cold in Wisconsin! Especially at our house; I keep the thermostat locked at 64 degrees October through May. Which is the same excuse I will use later to justify my sock drawer. Three will be added to the sell/donate pile accumulating in my workroom. And, two will be turned into cleaning rags. Actually, the green pants on the bottom are what I stole the drawstring out of for the cami tote bag. I may swipe the pockets off for later use as well.

This week's weight loss is only three pounds. Due partly to the fact there were not as many articles in this drawer as there were in the cami and t-shirt drawers; but, also because several pieces relocated to another drawer. I was in need of PJ's as you will soon see.

Running Total = 18 pounds of clothing removed.

To catch Clearinghouse from the beginning and why I started this crazy closet diet in the first place check out:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tofurrific!

I am very proud of this meal for several reasons. First, it is home cooked. Second, I made the sauce from scratch! A first for me and quite a feat, I must say. Peeling and seeding tomatoes was an interesting and messy experience. Third, the tomatoes were heirloom, organic, and local purchased at the Farmer's Market. Mine are just starting to ripen. Fourth, I ate Tofu!!! Never in a million-quadrillion-bazillion years did I think I would ever utter those words. And I lived to eat it again another day. And fifth, Hubby ate it, too. And loooved it!! Ha ha! (He didn't know it contained tofu and never will. *wink*wink*)

I was a little apprehensive to eat it at first since I knew what lurked inside that seemingly innocent creamy white center. Hubby was so impressed that I made the sauce myself,

"You made the sauce!? From tomatoes?"
Now last I checked tomato sauce was made from tomatoes, but I just smiled and replied, "uh huh."


that he was completely oblivious to the secret hidden ingredient. Dah ta-da tah! Another ewww, healthy item I can sneak past the family. I cannot wait to try this one out on the kids. I am always slipping stuff in their food. They ate asparagus once thinking it was green beans. I peeled the stalks and cut them into lengths resembling cut green beans. *hee*hee* Maybe I will tell them when they are grown.

Here's the recipe for anyone who has four hours they don't know what to do with. Or, if you just feel like being evil like me and pulling a fast one on the family.

Fresh Tomato Lasagna
SAUCE:
4 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 3)
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chopped seeded peeled tomato (about 3 1/2 pounds)
1 cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (6-ounce) cans Italian-style tomato paste

FILLING:
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 (15-ounce) carton fat-free ricotta cheese
1 (12.3-ounce) package reduced-fat firm tofu, drained

REMAINING INGREDIENTS:
Cooking Spray
12 cooked lasagna noodles
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh parmesan cheese

  1. To prepare sauce, heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato and the next 7 ingredients (through tomato paste). Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. To prepare filling, combine dried basil, ricotta cheese, and tofu in a bowl; mash ricotta mixture with a potato masher. (I used my electric hand mixer.)
  4. Spread 2 cups sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles (cooked) over sauce; top with 1 cup filling, 1/2 cup provolone cheese, 2 tablespoons parmesan, and 1 1/2 cups sauce. Repeat layers twice, ending with noodles. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup provolone cheese and 2 tablespoons parmesan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 8 servings
CALORIES 391 (26% from fat); FAT 11.1g (sat 6.3g, mono 2.9g, poly 1g)
PROTEIN 27.7g; CARB 49.5g; FIBER 4.4g;
CHOL 33mg; IRON 4.2mg; SODIUM 886 mg; CALC 476mg

Monday, August 25, 2008

Paper, Plastic, or Cami?

Two weeks into my closet diet and already I have begun to amass quite a pile of shed clothing. Today while sifting through the pile, I was sorting the camisoles into sell/donate and cleaning cloth categories when Eureka!

Have you ever noticed that a camisole looks a lot like a tote bag? The handles are already built in. Which is good for me, because I am very much a beginner sewer.

The materials:
One paint splattered camisole and the drawstring from one pair of paint splattered pants were all I needed to make a super easy tote bag. Well, and thread of course! I started by pinning the drawstring that I removed from the pants to the underside of the elastic on the shelf bra inside the camisole.
Finding the center of the back side as the starting point, I worked my way around to the front. Half on the right and half on the left. The elastic will be folded over the drawstring and sewn shut. Prior to doing this I sewed a button hole for the drawstring to be pulled through.

This is what it looked like after being sewn shut. I also stitched a line on the back center through the drawstring to hold it in place. I hate it when the string gets off center and either sucks inside or gets pulled out completely! This will assure that does not happen.

Next step is to turn the camisole inside out and pin the bottom hems together.
Sew the bottom shut. Turn right side out and your done!



This was so easy and has lots of uses.
  1. Farmer's Market
  2. Produce Bag
  3. Child's overnight sack
  4. Gym bag
  5. Dirty laundry from camp
  6. Shoe bag for suitcase
  7. Clothespin carrier
  8. Lingerie bag for washing
  9. Wet clothes from the beach
  10. Garbage bag for the car
  11. Picking morels in spring
  12. Picking apples in the fall
  13. Store winter hats/gloves by the door

Get creative and find ways to repurpose your castaways. What have you turned yours into? I have a whole pile awaiting transformation. I would love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Clearinghouse Continued

Next up on the purge list: camisole drawer

Continuing on in the nine drawer dresser full, my cami collection is next to succumb to the three R's.
Taking stock:
Current contents = 30 camisoles


Man. This is no better than my t-shirt drawer! Apparently I needed one camisole for every t-shirt I owned. What am I doing with so many camisoles you say? Well, I HATE bras. So instead I wore these. Why I needed 30? I only do laundry once a month. Or, I'm a clothes whore. If you chose the latter, you would be correct.

It has been so long since I have worn some of these that they still smell like my old laundry detergent and dryer sheets. I quit using dryer sheets last October! Makes you wonder what they put in that stuff!?! 24 of these no longer fit. Clothes shrink while sitting in the drawer. Did you know that? It's true, ask any woman.

So I have decided to keep the six that still fit. Pass eight on to my daughter. Turn seven into cleaning cloths. And sell/donate nine. This week's weight loss. Six pounds!
Running total = 15 pounds of clothing removed.

Fifteen pounds in two weeks! This is the easiest weight loss program I have ever been on. There is something so uplifting about living lighter. Everything becomes easier. Less to wash, less to put away, and less time spent in the morning deciding what not to wear.

From packed to the gills, to what's the point of using a whole drawer. I might as well combine these with my newly purged t-shirt drawer. I have never had an empty drawer in my life. I just do not know how to react to that. It seems like such a waste...


Lord, give me strength not run out and buy more just because I have the room for it. Let me see empty space as a positive, rather than a negative void that must be filled. Help me resist temptation from clever marketing ploys designed to drain my pocketbook. Give me courage to live a simpler life in a materialistic world and the fortitude to focus on what really matters. Amen.

Previous clearinghouse posts:
Clearinghouse
Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Clearinghouse series: clearinghouse

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hogan's Heroes

After reading all of Heather's (from Simple - Green - Frugal) wonderful posts on baking bread and drooling over all the pictures, I finally got up the gumption to try. This was my first ever attempt to make bread.

I had this recipe for Barbecued Flank Steak Sandwiches served on hoagie rolls from a Cooking Light magazine that I wanted to try. So, last night for dinner I did. My local bakery does not have hoagies and I did not want to drive into town for a bag of buns. I know, I can make them! A quick internet search led me to this recipe. I only needed four rolls and it makes 18, but I thought I should have some backups in case something went horribly wrong in baking. (I have an extremely unpredictable oven.)

I gathered all my ingredients and noticed I was out of yeast, damn. I am not a bread baker, but I always have yeast on hand for one dish chicken parmesan. (Which we like to call deep dish chicken pizza. Hubby calls it lasagna??) So, it's off to the store I go. The small local grocery store, not the one I would have to drive to in town. As I am pedaling to the store, I remember it is Wednesday. Farmer's Market! Picked up some lovely tomatoes for tonight's lasagna and the flowers in the background. Back to the bread. I have all my ingredients gathered and food processor ready. Making the dough itself was fairly simple and straightforward, thanks to my food processor. Even the kneading went well. Time to rise. Left the dough in a giant bowl on top of the fridge while I tended to the laundry. 45 minutes later I had a nice big bowl of dough.

This is where things got a bit sticky for me. The recipe said to divide the dough into 18 pieces and shape into an oval. Okay.... a long oval? small oval? large oval? flat oval? I do not know. I know what hoagies are supposed to look like. You know, when they come out of a bag. I made some long and flat and some small and puffy. Good thing I had 18 to play with. Okay, so I got them all shaped and covered to rise another 20 minutes. Unfortunately I only have three baking sheets and can only fit three rolls per pan. So I left the rest to rise on the counter. I remembered I had a bowl of egg whites in the fridge leftover from the lemon bars, so I decided to give them an egg wash. I know I have seen this done before. Haven't I? Well, the first batch of egg washed ones came out all shiny, but not very dark. Butter. I saw Emeril put butter on biscuits the other day on Emeril Green. For color and flavor he said. Well, the butter ones were even lighter than the egg wash. Hmm??? How do you get that beautiful golden color on baked bread?

The recipe also said with scissors to cut a 1/4 inch slash across the top of each. So I did. I cut a 1/4 inch long slash running parallel with the roll. Once baked you couldn't even tell it was there. More like a dimple than anything. Okay.... maybe it was supposed to be a 1/4 deep slash the length of the roll? That made more of an impact. Kind of opened the top of the roll up, making it wider.

All was going well. My rolls didn't look much like hoagies or have any color. But they smelled great! Then I got to the ones resting on the counter. Note to self: Next time put resting dough on parchment paper! They were stuck to the counter and when I moved them they deflated. Those one came out somewhat flat. Sliced in half they fit perfectly in the toaster. I had one for breakfast with natural peanut butter and homemade strawberry jam. Yum! We used them as hot dog buns at lunch. They also worked well as garlic bread with tonight's dinner.

All in all, it was a good experience that I will try again. Just wish I could get more rise and more color. But as Heather said, "even the mess-ups taste good".

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Get Flocked


Get the Eco-Minded Browser!


Flock is a free web browser you can download for your computer. It works with Mac, Windows, and Linux. I use it with Mac OS X. It comes preloaded with tons of green websites, news feeds, a blog editor, people sidebar for you to easily connect with Facebook, Flickr, You Tube, Twitter, etc., and web mail for AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo. It works with tabs rather than having a bunch of windows open all at once, although you can do this if you prefer. The address bar alerts you if there is a feed or media stream available on the site you are visiting. It also gives you lots of search options.

If you download Flock's Eco-Edition, they will donate 10% of search proceeds to an environmental charity of choice, as deemed by the voting of the community of Flock’s Eco-Edition users at the end of this year. That means you! (if you are using Flock)

What's better than having all the green goodness at your fingertips and doing some green goodness with it to boot?!

Be one of the Flock!
FlockEcoEdition

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lemolicious



Creamy Lemon Squares

The lemon bars of your dreams take just 15 minutes of prep: Stir together a mere three ingredients to create a sunny, puckery filling for a buttery shortbread crust. Makes 16.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan.
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, plus more for dusting.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.
  2. Make crust: Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, and mix on low just until combined. Press dough into the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan; prick all over with a fork. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together yolks, condensed milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Pour over hot crust in pan; return to oven, and bake until filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
  4. Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 2 hours or up to 3 days. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares, and dust with confectioner's sugar. Enjoy!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Clearinghouse

In my previous post, Somewhere over the rainbow, I talked about the three R's; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle as it applies to my vast clothing collection and impending purge.

Let the purge begin!


I have decided to focus on that large nine drawer dresser full. Beginning with my t-shirt drawer.

Taking stock:
Current contents = 36 t-shirts

Geez louise. I could wear one everyday for five weeks without doing laundry! And that's just wearing each for one day. I tend to re-wear my clothes before laundering if they are not soiled and pass the sniff test. So, unless I have been in the garden, playing with the compost, or taken a cross country bike trip, I could easily double that. Two months without laundry!

I decided I could pare down to keeping 12 of the 36 t-shirts in my drawer. One third of what I was currently storing! I would give eight to my daughter to use for the upcoming school year. She's 12 and growing like a weed! Less money we need to spend on next week's back to school shopping. Yay! They are all solid, plain colored t-shirts. No one will know they were once S-mom's. (I'm a Step-mom) So it's cool.

Twelve will be transferred to the sewing room to be used as scrap fabric for re-purposing. More on that later. These were all stained or so faded that no one would possibly want to wear them anymore. And a measly four are destined for the pile of other castaways currently in the garage awaiting a new home. They are still in good condition, but I never wear them and will be better served on someone else's torso.

This is what remains. Previously it was so packed I could barely get it closed and even had to stuff a few in the front. Now I have room to spare! I removed nine pounds of clothing from my drawer. Talk about taking a load off! Averting nine pounds of "waste" from the landfill also feels good.

According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year, and clothing and other textiles represent about 4% of the municipal solid waste.

The next time your about to hand over that pesticide laden-overpriced-polluting-sweatshop-child labor produced gotta have t-shirt to the sales clerk, STOP! Take stock of what you already own. Do you really NEED it? If so, why not buy second hand? Sure it is all of the above, but it was already in circulation. The less we buy, the less they will produce.


Waste products from a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, spill into a stagnant pond.
Zed Nelson/Panos Pictures


A worker in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, rests on the floor of a garment factory.
Mikkel Ostergaard/Panos Pictures



The owner of a textile factory in Dhaka threatens a child laborer, who works for 10 hours a day to earn $1.00 US.
G.M.B. Akash/Panos Pictures

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Somewhere over the rainbow...


Pretty, isn't it? Like my own personal rainbow in my closet. Well it's making me blue. In my pursuit to live a simpler life I have been slowly ridding our household of unnecessary, unused items. I feel another purge coming on!

Let's face it, I have way more clothes than one human could need. Three closets, in fact. Two for clothes - one for shoes and out of season clothes. Plus, a large nine drawer dresser full.

There was a time when I actually used all of these. Honest! Six years managing a store in the mall, it was a requirement of the job. Tisk, tisk. All that money wrapped up in clothes. Makes me feel foolish now. These days, I would say I wear MAYBE 25% of my current wardrobe. So it has got to go.

But, where?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Reduce
I am not big on garage sales, but I have quite a stockpile of purged items in the garage waiting for a new home, so it is an option. The Salvation Army and Goodwill have been recipients of my previous purges.

Reuse
Most of it is good quality in good shape. However, the few pieces that are past their prime I'm thinking of re-purposing into something new. A reusable shopping bag perhaps? Maybe some dinner napkins? Tablecloth? I am up for any suggestions you may have. What have you turned your old clothes or scrap fabric into? Found an alternative use for them? Let's hear it.

Recycle
I have done some digging and textile recycling is few and far between. I know old denim can be recycled into a green insulation, but how do we get the denim there? Patagonia will take back some of there used apparel for recycling. But what if you didn't buy it there? Then what?

U'SAgain is a textile recycling company with a few locations throughout the US. Since none of these are near me I have a few other ideas to pursue first.

Freecycle is a free local forum where members list items they would like to part with - for FREE! You can post items you want to give away, plus items you are looking for. Need a new TV? Get one for free! There is probably one in your area. Type your location in the search box and start riding that Freecycle.

Rehash is another free website where you can trade clothing, accessories, and books with others online. You post what you have to get rid of, peruse the other listings, find something you like and offer to swap.

I don't have any friends, so a swap party is out. Or, is it? Hell, maybe I will host an online swap on my blog. Up for grabs one like new blouse size 4, will trade for??? Books? Homemade jam? Sewing pattern? I'm open. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sustainable Living

Sustainable living for me has a lot more to do with materialism than preserving the environment. At least that is how is started.

Five years ago my then spouse and I were living the American Dream. Successful dual-income family, living in a brand new house, two cars in the driveway, toys in the garage, closet spilling over with clothes, eating out, weekends at the cabin, coming and going as we pleased without a care in the world. Spending money without batting an eye.

Fast forward one year... despite my working three jobs, fourteen plus hours a day, and his income we were bankrupt. No house, no marriage, no life, but a whole hell of a lot of debt. Some dream!

Two more years past. Remarried, dual-income family, I cut back to one job - eight hours a day, two kids in the mix, living in a mobile home park, two used cars in the driveway, two toys - don't own a garage, closet full of clothes, freezer full of convenience foods provided by the Schwan's man, having fun and loving life.

Fast forward one year... Still married, single income family, now a stay at home mom volunteering to fulfill my work addiction, bought a refurbished 100 year old house, two smaller, nicer but not new cars in the driveway, bicycles in the garage, garden in the backyard, closet waiting to be purged and listed on freecycle, pantry full whole organic foods, freezer full of homemade stock and spring berries; finally at peace with not equating my success with number of material possessions my salary will allow and sometimes beyond what my salary will allow, but with the harmony my family has at home. Quality not quantity.

What does all this have to do with sustainable living? My first marriage was hardly a sustainable one. We were spending more than we made, working on our careers more than our marriage, putting our individual wants before the needs of the family, and generally had our priorities out of order. Something had to give. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on the way you look at it) everything did.

It was a good life lesson.
  • I do not need a giant house to impress family and friends; that never visit because I am always at work to pay for giant house, that is merely a pain to clean and requires four paychecks to heat.
  • I do not need a vehicle the size of a tour bus, complete with dvd to entertain me on the exhausting half hour drive, and navigation to keep me from getting lost on the same route I take every day to work.
  • I do not need a garage full of toys that teach my children to covet material possessions when the best things in life are free.
  • I do not need to work three jobs to pay for an overflowing closet full of clothes that will be out of style before I could ever possibly wear them out, requiring replacement.
  • I do not need to feed my family nutrient deficient food in five minutes or less with an ingredient list that takes longer to read than prepare.
It was not until I let go of all the things Americans use to define themselves that I began to find sustenance in my life.

Spending time with family.
The partnership with my husband.
Pride of growing our own food.
Gratitude of a home cooked meal.
Assurance of natural products.
Heartwarming of helping others.
Safety of living below our means.
Comfort of a simple life.

Priorities now:
Do I need it or do I want it?
Will it benefit the family/household? Short-term? Long-term?
Is there an alternative? (safer, cheaper, reusable, re-purpose, already own)
What is my motivation?
Is there something of greater importance that should come first?

Slowing down, making less money, and having fewer possessions has led me to a happier, healthier, sustainable life. Going green was a welcome byproduct of the transformation. I believe the two go hand in hand. We cannot sustain our current lifestyles. We will consume and consume until we become consumed.

Only through a sustainable living it is possible to reach the highest of all human goals, to permanently be able to experience inner peace, happiness and harmony (self-realization).

Learn to live with only what is needed to sustain life. You will be far "richer" for it.

For whom enough is too little - nothing is ever enough.






To read more about sustainable living and what it means to other "greenies" check out the APLS Blog Carnival.
This month's topic: Sustainable Living is being hosted August 15, at Better Living.



Monday, August 11, 2008

The fruits of my labor.


After countless hours of digging and planting earlier this spring, I finally get to reap the first fruits (veggies) of my labor.

BEANS! GLORIOUS BEANS!

Fresh from the garden with the dirt still on them. Cannot get more local or organic than growing in your own backyard. I love it!

This year is very much an experiment. Since this is my first garden, on a very shady half-acre lot full of walnut trees (apparently they are toxic to other plants), I wasn't sure anything would grow at all. Now I am thrilled to be harvesting from it!

Other plants doing well: tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, peppers. Struggling: peas (planted late), broccoli (eaten by rabbits), watermelon, corn. All of my plantings are heirloom from organic seed. Zone 4.

Does anyone have experience gardening near walnut trees? What plants survive and which you should avoid?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Apart from the flock.

Last October something flipped a switch inside me. Suddenly I was seeing the world in a whole new light. My husband and I had been trying to conceive for two years with no success. After extensive testing and one failed IU fertilization, I started searching for answers. That's when I stumbled across EWG's Skin Deep Database. I obsessively entered every shampoo, soap, toothpaste, lotion, cosmetic and other miscellaneous personal paraphernalia we had in the house. I was horrified!! Why would the government let companies sell this stuff? Why was I so naive to believe it was safe? Cigarettes....who knew? Someday we may be saying, "Pantene...who knew?" From that moment on my life was irrevocably changed.

Since then I have taken control of my family's well being, whether they like it or not. Heavy on the NOT. I started by replacing a few of the daily products we use with more natural, eco-friendly versions. Hubby refused to give up his toothpaste. Then we started recycling. This one actually wasn't too difficult. Organic food followed. Much to the children's dismay. Paper products were next. Paper towel and napkins went all together. But, it was when I switched the ultra plush Charmin for a recycled non-chlorine bleached version of TP that hubby nearly served me with divorce papers! We made it past that one, bums and marriage still intact. Whew! Planted a garden, started composting, reuse our own bags, drive less - bike more, switched to cfl's, put everything on power strips, line dry, adjust the thermostat, forgo the AC, the list goes on and on. So does the plight of the remaining household unit. Hubby tells outlandish stories about his "hippy" wife, the children seize every opportunity to chug "real" soda while cramming handfuls of crap down their throat - usually supplied by Hubby while outside the "green-zone", friends ask, "Are you still doing that "green" thing?", and my extended family believes I am on a slippery slope to birkenstocks and living off the land. Like that would be so bad? Well maybe the birks....I love shoes. Anywho, I have always considered my crazy family to be a whole flock of black sheep. How did the tables get turned?

Suddenly, I'm the
green sheep! baaa...baaa....