Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nice Weather and the End of Summer

This has, by far, been the most pleasant weather in August I can remember. Usually in Maryland, August is hot and sticky...really humid. This August has been different...sunny and pleasant, warm but not too hot. A great by-product of this is that we have hardly had the air conditioner on this month.

At the beginning of the summer we decided to try to keep the a/c off as much as possible. We stuck with that and pretty much only turned the air on once the temperature hit 90 degrees. And that hasn't happened too much lately. We've had a lot of 80-85 degree days, windows open and a nice breeze. For once, I can't wait to get the BGE bill!

Our summer ends tonight and tomorrow we head back to school in my household. I'm sad to see this summer end, but the new school year is always exciting. So I will be back to work but will still be doing the blog :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New "Beanswax" Yankee Candles

The Yankee Candle Company must have caught that my sister and I stopped buying their candles...their stock must have dropped dramatically! They are now making soy candles they call their "Beanswax" line.

I stopped using "regular" scented candles for these reasons: they contain paraffin, a petroleum by product. Not earth friendly and possibly unhealthy when burned. Soy candles burn longer, cleaner and are made from a renewable resource.

I was recently at a Yankee Candle store and a really nice sales person saw me looking at the Beanswax candles. She was very nice in explaining all the scents. To be honest, though, I wasn't too impressed with the scents. Don't get me wrong, they weren't bad, just kind of...there...and not very strong.

They also were a little expensive. The 18 oz jar cost $24.99 plus shipping. I've been buying my soy candles from Swan Creek Candle and their most expensive candle is $19.30 for 24 oz. Plus they send one free candle (usually 6-7 oz) with each order. I love their scents...especially the Thai Pear (and, no, I'm not on the Swan Creek payroll- I just LOVE their candles).

So I applaud Yankee for getting with the "green" program, but the cheap side of me will stay with the Swan Creek candles.

P.S. For those of you who read the "I'm scared of my compost bin" entry...I survived!!! It wasn't bad at all :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Recycling Juice Pouches and more!

I was pleasantly surprised to find out there are ways to recycle two items I previously thought had to go in the trash: cookie package wrappers and juice pouches.

Terracycle has a program where you send them your empty drink pouches (without straws and not torn) from Capri Sun or Honest Kids they will donate 2 cents per pouch to a charity of your choice. Any other brand of pouch, they'll donate 1 cent. You send them in a prepaid mailing pouch (the only drawback is you have to drop it at a UPS store or drop box).

You can do the same with Chips Ahoy or Oreo cookie wrappers.

Terracycle makes new products from these things. Looks like a win-win situation...less trash in a landfill, money goes to a charity and Terracycle continues to make and sell recycled items.

While we don't drink from drink pouches very often, I do buy them on the rare occasion (Honest Kids juice pouches just happened to be on sale this week!). So it may take me a while to get the 100 pouches needed to mail in the envelope, but that's ok. Now cookies, on the other boys LOVE their cookies. In an ideal world, I'd make homemade cookies but that's not happening any time soon. I do buy both Chips Ahoy and Oreos for them, so I know that envelope will be filled faster (it only has to have 50 wrappers).

This whole program was exciting to me and I've signed up for it. Have any of you participated in this?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Sunday Morning

I don't have a specific topic for today, but there are a couple thoughts I've had over the past few days that may be cheap and/or green but are basically unrelated. So here's the randomness:

1) There's way too much waste in malls. Yesterday my son and I were in a mall. We rarely go to malls because it's the best way I know how to NOT spend my money. I have little self control around a Crate and Barrel. while we were there I thought about all the bags people seems that it is socially acceptable to take your own bag grocery shopping but if you do it at a mall, you're a freak.

And the trash at the food court...TONS. So many of the food places even use styrofoam. There was no place to recycle soda/juice/water bottles (I sense another one of my annoying letters coming on). Don't you think those places could use the kind of cafeteria trays with separate compartments for food? I mean, they wash the trays anyway...

2) I'm afraid of my compost bin. I have been a bad composter lately and have not stirred it up or added enough browns...and it's a little stinky. I'm going to empty the decayed stuff in my garden. We'll see...wish me luck!

3) There are a lot of little things that I forget about when trying to be green. For a long time I just threw the toilet paper rolls in the trash because there was a trashcan in the bathroom. One day it hit me...duh...toilet paper rolls are paper- why am I not recycling them? So I'm going to try not to overlook the obvious :)

4) I have sunflower seeds to plant. My aunt gave me some sunflowers chock full of seeds to plant. She even gave me a HUGE one (about a foot in diameter) full of seeds. This big one was named "George"and my uncle was sad to see it go. So if I am lucky, next year I can have sunflowers in my yard.

5) Coupons are awesome. Coupons used for sale items at the grocery today saved me A LOT. I can't believe people throw out coupons (or recycle them, LOL). My bill at the grocery today BEFORE I used my bonus card and coupons was $142. After bonus card and coupons....$78. That makes me feel a little better with all these rising prices.

Okay, I'm off to tackle the compost. Let's hope my next entry isn't about how I discovered Bigfoot in the compost bin...although at this point, that's what it looks like in there!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sewing a Spy Bag

About 3 years ago I got a really nice sewing machine for Christmas. I have used it on and off over the past couple years, but I am one of those people that really has to be in the mood to sew.
This morning my son was saying he wished he had a spy bag (translation: messenger type bag to keep his spy related toys in). Since our summer is rapidly disappearing, I figured that could be a fun project for the day.

We rooted through my fabric drawer, chose some fabric and I started.

I've never taken a sewing class or had any sort of instruction, so I can get something together but I know while I am doing it that I am not doing it in the most efficient (or even correct) manner! But in the end, things look ok, maybe not as finished as someone with more experience or talent, but my end products are useful and ok looking.

Well, my son's "spy bag" turned out pretty well! I even put some little pockets in it with extra fabric. It doesn't have a lining inside, which I considered but figured it wasn't worth the effort.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Freecycle is cheap and green!

I love Freecycle! For those of you unfamiliar with Freecycle, it's an online network, locally based, where people give away and can get things for FREE. The purpose is to keep things out of landfills.

Freecycle has been great in the year or two I have been using it. It's been a life saver as far as decluttering goes. I rarely have something that I post that doesn't get picked up. Granted, you occasionally get "no shows" but the overall good experience outweighs the bad.

Some things I've received from Freecyclers:

a lilac bush
rice cooker
bread maker
kids' clothes
soccer cleats
an exercise bike

I've been able to pass on to others kids' clothes, an old (but still working) chest freezer, a desk, shoes, records, baskets, a chandelier, kids' toys...all stuff that I knew someone would still want. We even had a "free-for-all" after our yard sale. I posted on Freecycle that anything on our driveway was a freebie. Two hours later, it was pretty much all gone.

Today I picked up a huge bunch of iris bulbs from a kind freecycler. I'm not quite the master gardener, so I am always hesitant to spend money on plants that turn brown at my touch :)

The lady that gave me the bulbs (which I will be planting this afternoon) told me that if I get any dark golden irises next year, they are very old and came from her grandmother. How cool!

So Freecycle is a really good way to eliminate clutter without trashing stuff...people are out there that do want your old stuff! It's also a great way to find things you wouldn't want to go out and buy (like the breadmaker). I love it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Great Depression

Everyone (including me) has been complaining about the recession, rising prices of groceries and gas. It amazes me how much the cost of things has risen, while salaries remain about the same.

My inherent cheapness is bothered by spending much more at the grocery store for the same things I bought last year for a lot less. I try to fill my gas tank when it is half empty so the total on the pump doesn't send me into shock!

Last night I watched "Cinderella Man" on dvd (checked out from the library, of course). The story takes place during the Great Depression. There are scenes in it that are hearbreaking: a little girl with one spoonful of food, asking for another and there isn't one to be had...the mom watering down a bottle of milk...having no electricity in the winter...a child burning up with fever but no money to take them to the doctor.

It made me feel lucky that the current economy is only making me feel uncomfortable...but no where near as bad as the people (like my grandparents) had to deal with during the Depression. I think of so many of the frugal things I learned from watching my grandmother and I know these things came from her experience in the Depression.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Classes on being green

The local community college in my county just published their fall courses. I always read the course offerings because they have so many classes and lectures that are non-credit courses that are inexpensive and meant to enrich the community.

They have fun kids classes like robotics, theatre and kids cooking, but what really interested me were their "green courses". This fall they are offering 1 session classes in Greening Your Home and Really Recycling. While the Greening Your Home sounds interesting, I don't think they'd have any information I haven't already read online or in books. I am interested, though, in the recycling class because they are going to tell about the "behind the scenes" part of recycling...what happens to your recycling after it is picked up curbside. Best part- it costs $19.

What about your local community colleges? What kind of cheap and green offerings do they have? You might be pleasantly surprised!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Eating Green(s)

I am not a salad person. I know there are people out there who actually eat salads, um.... because they like them! And I've always wanted to like salads (I love veggies in general), but I just have never really gotten excited about them.

So when I started eating healthier foods in order to get my acid reflux under control, I thought I'd try salads. Healthy, filling, and they keep you trim. Tried it, and, well...nah...Not that I thought they were gross, just bland.

This summer I thought I'd give it another go. I've made salads and my main goal was to make them more exciting. Although a standard lettuce, tomato, carrot salad is easiest, I knew I needed to jazz it up...a lot!

So I've been eating salads with fruit thrown in, various cheeses and meats and all kinds of different dressings. Believe it or not, I've been eating 1-2 salads a week. Now this may seem like nothing to those of you who eat salads daily, but for me this is a HUGE change. I think if I can manage to do a little planning ahead, I can manage to make salads my daily lunch.

Anyone have any salad combinations that you love and want to share?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A month without plastic ?!?!?

Christine Jeavans, a writer for the BBC, is challenging herself to a month without buying, or accepting, anything plastic. The story is here.

She's keeping a blog to update everyone on her progress.

It's a REALLY challenging thing to do. As much as we have reduced waste in our house, certain things...well, I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't buy them because they were packaged in plastic.

I think about bread...I guess I could make it if I had to. And peanut butter for my son's lunches...well, there may be someone out there who still packages in glass. Hmm...maybe this isn't as difficult as I thought? Unless it's Christmas time and you know how packed in plastic toys are.

Whether I could do it or not, it is interesting to think about.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Wind Turbines!

Recently, we were up in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Near the Blue Knob State Park, they are building wind turbines as alternate energy resources.

The company that makes the wind turbines is Gamesa. The group of wind turbines you see in the picture is officially called the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm.
We were surprised to see them building these last summer. They are truly awe inspiring. The pictures don't do their size justice!
If you look at the truck in the second picture, you'll get an idea of the size of the turbine. We drove around and couldn't stop saying, "wow..."

It's exciting to see real examples of alternate energy sources in action. And while there are some residents that are pursuing legal action against the company because they feel the noise lowers the value of their property, we were pretty close to one that was spinning and I didn't really hear anything.
I also found a video taken from a plane that shows the wind turbines from the air. Pretty cool. Enjoy!