Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Food Waste Challenge check-in: week 4

Well, today wraps up the last week of this year's Food Waste Reduction Challenge. We did fairly well and I was responsible for composting only the following:

1 cup cooked Cream of Wheat
1 cup corn cereal
1/2 grapefruit

I must admit I would have not thrown these foods out except for the fact that I had the stomach flu all week long (Monday through Thursday). Since I didn't actually eat anything during those days, it was easy to reduce the food waste generated to some degree. By the same token, I couldn't eat the leftover grapefruit that I left out on Sunday for fear of hurling it back up.

When I was able to eat again, I overestimated the amount of Cream of Wheat I could stomach. Particularly since, after a few hours, it turns into an unpalatable gelatinous mass. Same deal with the cereal. I thought it would settle my stomach, but it just made me queasy. Anyway, I'm definitely feeling better, but still not able to eat what I'd like to. Oh well. At least now I'm down at my goal weight :)

How was your last week of the challenge? How did this year's challenge help you be aware of the food waste you generate? Did it help at all?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Unidentifiable vegetable objects

I'm attaching a rather eye-opening clip that's a preview to Jamie Oliver's new show that starts in March. Jamie goes into a 1st grade classroom to discuss vegetables. First, he uncovers a table of vegetables, to the horror of the class and then proceeds to ask them if they know what he's holding up. It's short (less than 2 minutes):

Now, initially, I was rather horrified myself that the kids couldn't identify rather routine veggies like tomatoes or potatoes. It's not like he was holding up Bok Choy or sunchokes here. So, I immediately decided to quiz my own children to see if they could pass the test.

Between my 2nd grader and Kindergartner, they got all the vegetables in the seed catalog I was using as a test except for the beets (and the exotic heirlooms). They even managed to correctly identify some vegetables I know they've never seen or eaten, like eggplant. I know they can do this because we grow these foods in our backyard and they look at the colorful seed catalogs and pick out what we will grow each year. And, they get it served or watch us prepare these foods.

So, I got to thinking. Growing up, I don't think I could identify these either as a first grader. I'm pretty sure we ate only canned vegetables because fresh was too expensive. Except for maybe a stray celery and a rare carrot here and there. I think today it has a lot to do with poor diets in addition to financial issues.

What about you? Do you think you would have been able to answer these questions as a child? Can your children correctly identify these vegetables?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Spring has sprung - 4 weeks early

As with many areas of the country (and unlike others), Seattle had the warmest January on record and it is looking like we will have the warmest February as well. As such, all the plants and critters around here are very confused.

Last weekend people were out mowing their lawns in full force. According to the teacher of my beekeeping class that I took last night, his bees are already out and actively collecting. This is way earlier than normal.

So, for all of you still under a foot or more of snow, I took some pictures to share. Enjoy!

Cherry blossoms (ornamental):


Crocus (these have been coming up for a few months now):

Pansies (these never stopped blooming since I planted them in the fall):

Other (I have no idea what this plant is, but it's blooming):

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Body wash and plastics

Did I miss something? Do you or your man need a manwash?

I've been watching the Olympics and started noticing all the advertisments for men's body wash. I'm used to seeing the myriad products for women out there, body wash being a large part of the market and I generally just ignore them. But, the men now, too? Am I the only one that thinks this is a bit weird?

Now, before you get your panties in a knot and accuse me of being sexist, I just don't get the whole body wash fascination in general. I prefer bar soap, mostly because I can't stand the overly perfumed glop that comes as a body wash and I've never gone out of my way to find a "natural" version of one.

The thing that struck me most in the last week of watching these commercials is that there is so much extra plastic waste associated with using a body wash over a bar soap. I find this disturbing. Many would argue that the containers are recyclable, but if the trend is for every person to start using plastic encased body washes over bar soap, that's a lot of plastic that needs to be recycled and that kind of plastic can only be downcycled so many times before it's garbage.

In addition, most people use some sort of plastic scrubby object with their body wash. Oh, I'm sorry, for those manly men, it's not called a pouf, it's a "Deck Scrubber" (from Old Spice) or the "Detailer" (for Axe products). As described in the NY Times:
"An experienced seaman knows the gentler sex is unlikely to board a vessel whose deck has not been scrubbed as clean as the shiny inside part of an oyster shell,” states the package for the Deck Scrubber, which like Axe’s Detailer is a pouf ensconced in a rubber grip.

What about you? Do you use a body wash? If so, help me out - what's the appeal?

And, because I can't stop watching this commercial (because it's hilarious), here's a men's body wash commercial for your viewing pleasure. It was shot in one take:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Contained blackberries

Call me crazy, but I really want to grow my own blackberries. Yes, I know they grow like weeds around here, but I want to pick blackberries from a bush that doesn't bite me back. And eat berries that aren't covered in car exhaust (why are most of the blackberry bushes around here off of major highways?).

We've gone blackberry picking at a farm with thornless bushes, but that gets expensive. I want my own bushes, dammit. And I want a bush where the kids can graze without getting poked since I know they will pick it clean.

Everyone I've talked to cautions against growing my own, simply because of the nature of blackberries to spread far and wide. Since I don't exactly have the space to deal with meandering blackberry bushes and since anywhere I plant them they would be very close to my neighbors property line, I'm going to try an experiment.

When I went to the plant nursery last weekend to pick up some floating row covers, I saw that they had bare root blackberry plants on sale. So, I picked myself up a Triple Crown Thornless blackberry plant. Just one. I figured it can't hurt anything, right?

Well, my plan is to grow the blackberry in a large container to, uh, contain its growth. Needless to say, I'll keep you posted on my experience with this technique.

For those of you interested in learning how to grow blackberries in a container, you can check out this article as a start. A lot of people who live in apartments or condos and don't have the space will grow blackberries or raspberries in pots on a deck or patio. So, if you love berries and don't have a yard, you might consider it yourself!

What's your experience with growing caning berry plants? Have you tried out the thornless varieties? Have you tried growing them in containers?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thermostat Poll

For those of you officially (or unofficially) participating in the thermostat reducing challenge, Freeze Yer Buns, I thought I'd check in with you all and see where you are keeping your thermostats these days.

Half the U.S. is experiencing bun freezing weather and the other half has seen warmer conditions. How has this affected where you keep your thermostat? Have you found that, as the winter has worn on, you are keeping it at lower temperatures, the same or raising it because it's so dang cold?

What do you keep your thermostat temps at during the day when you are home (in degrees Fahrenheit)?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Food Waste Challenge check-in: week 3

During the third week of the Food Waste Reduction Challenge we, well, fell down kinda hard. Aside from the usual kid food scraps (which are minimized by doling out food a little at a time), we had a bunch of food that didn't get eaten, for whatever reason.

So, to make a long story short, here's the summary:

1 banana
1 large strawberry
4 small tortillas
1/2 bagel
1 cup cooked chicken
1 cup roasted potatoes
1 cup refried beans
2 cups whole milk

Some of that could have been consumed, but I refuse to feel responsible for all the leftovers by myself just to consume it. And some of it was looking sketchy and I've had enough stomach issues lately that I didn't feel like proferring my guts up to the sacrificial intestinal gods yet again.

One more week left in the challenge and, hopefully, we'll go out with a bang. How was your last week, food waste wise?

Mission: Sustainable pilot now online!!!

For those of you who missed the pilot episode of the green makeover show, Mission: Sustainable, you can now view it online! I am the personal care consultant on the show. For notes on the pilot episode you can check out the Pilot Companion page.

To watch the pilot episode, click here.

Enjoy! To view it full screen, click on the 4-way arrow at the bottom right hand of the video. You can also watch it directly on the Vimeo page if you run into problems with the embedded video.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Urban Farming 2010 - Week 1

This weekend I spent a lot of time outdoors preparing the backyard for this season's food growing. We've had some really warm weather here in Seattle and spring has arrived about 4 weeks early. All the cherry trees are in full bloom and our daffodils have been in full blossom for the last week.

Friday I started some seeds inside, mostly varieties of lettuce. Yesterday I dug up and prepared one raised bed and planted Jersey King asparagus, and flat-leaf parsley and cilantro starts. My Italian oregano and chives are already growing like crazy this year.

I prepared the old strawberry bed, which will now be the space for lettuce, spinach, carrots and radishes this year. I also prepared a spot for a pumpkin patch since we have a ton of seeds left over from some sugar pie pumpkins.

Today I'll prepare the third raised bed and maybe start some peas and beets. I still have to transplant my columnar apple trees (which miraculously survived last year's debauchery) and am contemplating growing thornless blackberries in a container just to see if I can.

This week is my beekeeping class, so I'm excited to get everything started for the year, even though there's a lot left to do and see grow. Where are you in this year's preparations? Are you still under a foot of snow or have you started some seeds inside or outside already?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Another DivaCup convert

For those of you following along at home, the pilot episode of Mission: Sustainable involved me doing a personal care makeover on a family. To find out all the things I covered in this episode, you can read about it here on the Pilot Companion Guide.

One of the things I covered with the mom of the family (who is in her late 30s) is the environmental impact of menstruation. Why did I go there? Do you expect anything less from me? I wasn't sure how many shows were going to be filmed and I wanted to make sure that I squeezed in the education on menstruation for all to see. The producer and director didn't know that I was going to cover it, I just sprang it on them. But, the segment worked really well.

I found it very interesting that, in some of the test audiences who previewed the pilot, they were very uncomfortable with the topic and it completely turned them off. Same thing at the pilot premiere. One blogger just couldn't get past the fact that I suggested a menstrual cup. What can I say? Difficult subjects still need to be talked about and, since I don't have a problem talking about it, I might as well jump in! [Along that note - the video for my Sex & Sustainability seminar should be up online soon.]

However, Shannon (the mom) was very open to the idea and I spent some time outside of filming going over hints and tips on how to use the DivaCup that I got for her as part of her mission. I've been wondering how she's been faring using it the last few months so I was delighted to get a chance to see her at the pilot premiere.

As I was leaving she pulled me aside to tell me how much she loved it and was surprised that she had never heard of it before because it was so awesome. Needless to say, I was very pleased that she was so happy with it.

One down, a couple hundred million to go.....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What we are up against

There are a lot of niggling details being argued over in climate change and environmental circles. 350 ppm. Peak oil dates. Number of species gone extinct.

But, I've come to the realization that many of these details are, for the most part, irrelevant. We've got a much bigger problem. And it's called apathy. Actually, it's much worse than apathy because apathy suggests something more hopeful. No, what we've got is distrust, disbelief, the desire to prove wrong and more, importantly, hatred.

Until these issues are addressed our message (whatever it is) will just bounce off the heads of those we are trying to educate or encourage. Take my low-heat challenge for example. Plenty of news agencies have covered it and, what I'm suggesting isn't that people totally turn off their heat. I think the message is pretty tame - turn your heat down a few degrees and save money and lower your carbon footprint at the same time. Does it sound nuts to you? I don't think so - it sounds intelligent.

What's the general reaction?
Well, one group goes nuts claiming that there's no such thing as anthropogenic warming (human caused global warming). Their eyes get so crossed by their ideas about it, they don't see the underlying message: reduce your expenses and reduce your energy usage. Instead, they see the suggestion as a threat. By participating in lowering their energy usage, it might seem like they agree with climate change.

The next group takes great pride in doing the opposite. In other words, they state they will turn up their heat just to make up for us idiots who are lowering ours. They are happy to dig their heels in and spend more money just to prove a point.

Another group is the nitpickers. They relish pointing out errors (or perceived errors) in the message without acknowledging that generally interviews are comprised of quotes taken from a much broader conversation or, in many cases, taken completely out of context. The message is lost on them because they are too busy trying to find fault and too busy self-congratulating to listen.

The last group feels threatened. Somehow, reading about how others haved changed the way they live threatens their way of life as if it's some sort of conspiracy to force them to do it too. Just offering the information = "communist environmental takeover". I find it quite confounding. I'm not enacting legislation. How is lowering my thermostat a threat to your lifestyle? Because it just might become more socially acceptable?

It's easy for all of these folks to relegate environmentalists into a hippy, dread-locked, patchouli-wearing, non-shaving group of people that they can ignore because they are easy to spot. So, when the idea is presented by someone mainstream looking, is it even more threatening to them? I would imagine it's easier to ignore someone who fits the stereotype but not so much if we look like them. I think there's a fear that we are infiltrating their camp, disseminating a plot to take over their consumerist lifestyle.

Now, it's not like I'm suggesting that these people start peeing on their plants or doing anything outrageous. Just turn their heat down a tad. If we can't get even a simple message across to the masses, what hope is there for more complicated behavioral changes that actually cost money or take more time (rather than saving it)?

Just when I think I'm sending out a milquetoast message that should be acceptable to the average Joe, I'm taken aback by the vociferous resistance, both social and emotional. So, how do we reach these groups and their knee-jerk reaction to environmental/energy issues? Any suggestions? Do you see this as hopeless or not?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DIY Life article - Living without heat

Here's another article that came out yesterday that mentions the Freeze Yer Buns challenge. It's called Making News: People Who Live Without Heat By Choice.

The most interesting thing about these articles is reading the comments. My post tomorrow will address some of the issues I keep seeing crop up with the general public's response to the challenge.

Globe and Mail article

Here's the article about Freezing Yer Buns in the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, titled My war on the heating bill: I’m buying slippers. It all sounds rather reasonable to reduce the heat, no?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Food Waste Challenge check-in: week 2

The second week of the Food Waste Reduction Challenge went really well. Again, I'm not going to count the food waste generated by the kids since their waste is slightly difficult to predict.

Mostly, I don't want to give them negative food issues by making them eat something when they are no longer hungry. I'm not giving them the guilt trip that "there are starving kids in Poland" that I got as a kid growing up. But, that's an issue for another post entirely.

So, this last week's waste included:
  • 1 apple - I had cut it up and left it on the counter in a container for far too many days before I was going to get around to eating it
  • 3 slices of turkey - this was actually from before the Food Waste Challenge started that I forgot to get rid of and have been dutifully ignoring
  • I'm sure there will be more lettuce casualties soon, but I'm ignoring it for now
How about you? How did the last week go for your Food Waste Reduction Challenge?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Glass menstrual cup

Just when you think you've heard it all. I was doing some research the other day and came across a new menstrual product that's not yet available in the U.S. yet, but may be making its way to our shores soon. It's made in Central Europe (Slovakia, I think) and it's a new menstrual cup.

So far, there are menstrual cups made out of medical-grade silicone (like the DivaCup) and natural latex rubber (the Keeper). But many people are averse to using either one because they are either allergic to rubber or don't want to use a plastic product. For those of you who want to use a cup instead of reusable pads and these are issues for you, you might be interested to hear that this latest product is made out of glass. Recycled glass in fact.

Apparently, due to economic circumstances in Central Europe and their excellent glass recycling program, using recycled glass in products has really taken off because of its affordability. Since it's easier to manufacture a solid glass cup rather that the complexities of a silicone or rubber one, and since they are virtually indestructible, the glass cup is making inroads throughout the region. The product is called, Papuča Sklo, which translates, more or less, to Glass Slipper or something like it. I like the fact that it's a pink, frosted glass, which adds a real girly look to it.

I would imagine that getting it in and out is a bit of a problem, but the benefits are great in that you are taking something out of the waste stream (recycled glass) to make this product, rather than contributing to it like with the silicone and rubber ones. Plus, you can really sterilize these cups since they are glass, which means you can boil them, put them in the dishwasher or whatever you like.

If this product becomes available here, I'll be sure to host a giveaway so some lucky reader can try it out! And, if you've gotten this far in the post and still believe a word coming out of my mouth, then I've got some property in Florida I want to sell to you.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Premiere excitement

Wow. Just wow. I really don't know what else to say about last night's screening and premiere of the pilot episode of Mission: Sustainable. I don't know what the final head count was, but there were over 1,000 people that RSVP'd to the event. Even though the event was free, it was considered SOLD OUT. The doors opened at 7:00, but people were lining up outside at 6:30. From what I heard the line was so long it wrapped around out through the Seattle Center. Just wow.

Our fantastic emcee, Gabriel Scheer, (who is the reason why I am even associated with the show because he sent me the email about the auditions last summer), kicked off the evening. He runs Seattle Greendrinks and is a partner in Re-Vision Labs, along with Melinda of One Green Generation. Melinda was there as well, filming the event (see picture at left - thanks Melinda!).

I had seen the pilot before down in Eugene, but they had done some tinkering with it over the last few weeks and the final version was really well edited. It was fun and I felt glamorous sitting in the front row and watching the show up on the big screen. I have to say I was totally giddy and nervous at the same time. People laughed at all the right times and were exceedingly receptive to the show.

After the screening we all (cast and production crew) got up on the stage for some accolades and, as we were walking out, Gabriel pulled me out of the line to let people know about my dress - that it was made from used men's neckties - so I took a turn for people to check it out. The production crew had been promoting it on Facebook, so many people already knew about it.

We then did a lot of mingling and eating and I got to meet some readers of my blog as well as chat with a ton of people who had watched the screening. There were many people interested in checking out my dress and, hands down, everyone was amazed at how awesome it looked. And, if I do say so myself, it looked awesome. The funny thing was walking around and people looking at me like they knew me and smiling and coming up to talk. I felt like a movie star.

We then headed down to a swanky club in Belltown for the afterparty and I had a great time catching up with some cast members and others. Alas, I was going to turn into a pumpkin if I didn't get home by midnight, so we wrapped up my Cinderella evening. Even though I was exhausted I had a hard time sleeping last night - I was so high from the excitement, but mostly, just happy.

Thanks to all the cast and crew and fans for such a wonderful evening!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sneak premiere preview

Well, I did a dress rehearsal last night with some hair and makeup and thought I'd share some pictures for those of you who won't make it to the premiere of Mission: Sustainable so you can see the dress I'm going to be wearing. I apologize in advance for the poor picture quality. Also you can click on the pictures for a larger version.

I know tomorrow night it will be crazy getting out the door and I'll forget to take some pictures, so better now than never. I'm having a hard time deciding on hair down or up, but I think I'll wear it down since I'll need the extra warmth.

As you probably remember, the dress I'm wearing is make entirely of recycled men's ties. The designer did alterations to it so that it will fit me properly and, even though it is strapless, it fits really well.

I did forget to put on the "belt" that comes with it for these pictures. It's really a matching cumberbund type thing that laces up the back and gives it some definition in the middle.

The dress is not as heavy as I thought it would be. It is, however, quite thick, almost like wearing a quilt or a sleeping bag or, say, a whole bunch of ties made into a dress.

This isn't a problem because I know I'll be cold since it will be about 40 degrees outside Thursday evening. Here's a close-up of the bust of the dress so you can see the edging of the ties. The bustline is the narrow part of the tie and the fat end is at the bottom of the dress.

It's been sewn to give the ties a swingy curve around the hips. I don't know how she did that, but it's a neat effect. Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What kind of critters would you raise?

I heart goatsSince yesterday's post about garden favorites was pretty popular, I thought I'd do a follow-up post in the same vein.

I know we all have space and legal limitations about what kinds of animals we can keep that prevent us from raising them. Now, I'm not talking about the usual "pet" animals (dog, cat, fish, bird), but something more along the lines of a homesteading critter.

So, today's question for you is kind of a multi-part one. What kind of critters would you raise (do you raise) if you could?

1. Do you already raise animals? If so, which ones and why (companion, meat, fur, fiber, milk, etc.)?

2. If you had the time/space/ability, which animals would you raise and why?

I would love to have some chickens and honeybees in my urban environment. If I had more space (lived out of the city), I would consider waterfowl (ducks) and turkeys as well as pygmy goats, rabbits and those childhood fantasy horses.

I still can't believe my parents wouldn't let me keep a horse in our suburban backyard! What were they thinking? There was plenty of space :) Needless to say, I was totally obsessed at the time and it seemed like such an injustice.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What's your favorite food plant to grow?

I was reading something-or-other yesterday and the question came to me... what's my favorite plant to grow, if I had to pick just one? For some reason I was excited about the question, mostly because it's so hard to decide. And, since it's impossible to pick just one, I figured I should split it up a bit into my favorite fruit, vegetable and herb plants.

My favorite fruit to grow has to be strawberries. This one was tough because I love our blueberry plants, but they just don't compare in taste to strawberries. Our fig and grapes have yet to really produce anything and our cherry tree is still quite small, so, at this point, it's going to be the strawberry.

My favorite vegetable to grow is the tomato, even though it's really a fruit. It is, hands-down, one plant that can be a total failure where I live, but the anticipation of them producing their delectable goodies is exciting even when faced with that failure. And, the reward of fresh tomatoes from the backyard is phenomenal.

My favorite herb to grow is rosemary. This plant grows like crazy in the Pacific Northwest and, no matter what you do, it thrives. I don't think you can kill it even if you tried. I love our sage and go nuts over our lavender, but for year-round satisfaction and utility, it's the rosemary that gets my vote.

So, I thought I'd pose the question to you guys as well. If you could only grow one of each type of plant, what's your favorite to grow and why? Feel free to include where you live, because that might help the rest of us gardeners as well!

1. What's your favorite vegetable to grow?
2. What's your favorite fruit to grow?
3. What's your favorite herb to grow?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Food Waste Challenge check-in: week 1

The first week of the Food Waste Reduction Challenge went fairly well. I think I managed to reduce the amount of waste generated from the kids, mostly by being a little more on top of metering out their food.

But, still, the most food waste came from them. My kids are picky to some degree, but mostly the problem is they eat like birds.

As for me, I composted a perfectly good slice of onion and a few slices of tomato and lettuce. I just was too lazy to find a home for the food. The biggest throwaway was a head of lettuce that got funky (I wish they sold half heads of lettuce :) and about half a thing of triple cream brie that my husband didn't end up eating and got fuzzy. I had the misfortune of eating some of it Friday night without noticing the fur and spent most of Saturday with really unfortunate stomach pains that I attribute to it.

Anyway, here's the run-down (I'm not including the kid's half-sucked on scraps):
  • About a cup and a half of onion and tomato
  • One head of lettuce
  • 4 oz of brie
Anyway, all in all, not too bad. How did you do?

Gaia's Garden winner

The winner of the fabulous permaculture book, Gaia's Garden: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture is.....

Butternuts of the blog, well, Butternuts.

Congratulations! Send your contact information to

I'll be sending out the books and things won in recent giveaways this week (for those of you waiting for yer stuff).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Reality TV Goes Green

For those of you curious about the green makeover show that I've been working on, there is a great write-up about it here.

Here's a little snippet for your reading enjoyment:
These days, there are reality TV shows that will make over your wardrobe, your weight, your car or your love life — is there any area of life that hasn't been tinkered with yet? There is indeed: Mission: Sustainable is poised to make over your environmental impact. And it's set right here in Seattle.

The one-hour show features eco-unfriendly people who have been nominated by their friends or family for a lifestyle makeover. Environmental experts assess the nominee's current level of sustainability in all areas of their life, from the food they eat to their transportation to how they wash their clothes, identifying the three areas in which they’re leaving the largest footprint. Three specialists then jump in and help them to go greener.

"We want to be super-green [but] we want to reach out to the middle America crowd. We don't want to preach to the choir," explained Mission: Sustainable producer Rose Thornton. "On the whole, it's a really lighthearted show. This is not the drill sergeant saying, 'You must change your ways; you’re destroying the planet!' kind of show."

The pilot, which will be screened at Seattle Center's Fisher Pavilion on Feb. 11, features a local family.

"It's a fairly typical Seattle family: a mom, dad and two kids living in South Seattle," said Thornton. "Their products had a lot of 'green' labels, or 'all natural' ... [nevertheless], there was a lot of work to do with them; a lot to improve."

"We live in a really old farmhouse style house which is extremely energy inefficient," admitted nominee Shannon Saxton. "I felt that as far as our food choices went, we were doing okay. I knew that some of our cleaning products weren’t the most green."

Her husband, Ben Saxton, begged to differ...

Good sports, the Saxton family agreed to leave their house while Mission: Sustainable consultants spent the better part of a day going through the entire house, top to bottom, searching for signs of unsustainability.

When the family returned, the experts were ready for them.

"They had one person who was the food expert, another who was the product expert, another who was an energy expert. Each one went through the cupboards and the drawers and the medicine cabinet and said, 'this product's a good choice; this one's not so good; here's an alternative,'" Ben explained.

The experts assigned to help the family green-up included personal care consultant Deanna Duke, who investigated all those so-called "green" and "all natural" products in the Saxton home....

To finish reading the rest of the review, check out the original article, Reality TV Goes Green. And, for the record (because I'm a total anal retent), the shower head flow valve upgrade was one of my recommendations.

Next Thursday is the premiere of the show at the Seattle Center and it should be great fun. There will be close to 1,000 people there! If you live in the Seattle area, don't miss out on a chance to see the show!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Slow parenting

My kids started off this morning like in a scene from a barroom brawl. Words were spoken, insults were tossed and it ended in milk being thrown across the kitchen at each other. No, there were no glass milk bottles broken off at the stem, but a quick intervention was needed. As the director of Mission: Sustainable quipped on my Facebook page, it was like "Roadhouse-lite". Indeed.

It's been downhill all day. Needless to say, the short school day didn't help (why do they have off every other day and half-days the rest of the time, tell me?). The afternoon escalated into messing up one person's room and screaming from the affected party. I, on the other hand, was trying to sleep on the couch since I felt like crap. So, in my not-so-finer moments, I barked instructions from the living room to help placate the problem.

The nuttiness has been going on pretty much all day. Approximately 5 Lego sets were taken away for the remainder of the week. I can't say it helped immediately, but it made me feel slightly better.

Parenting can be particularly difficult. We've been trying to eliminate the yelling as it becomes a habit that is not only hard to break, but one that is the only effective method that works. The kids tend to escalate and can't hear or respond to anything except outright screaming. I hate it. I don't think any parent in that position likes it or feels good about it.

I've been trying to employ more "slow parenting" techniques. I really have no idea what that actually means, but the intent is to slow down and not get too overwhelmed by the craziness that is having children. So, while I may not be totally successful in my interactions with the kids, I am certainly more mindful of my responses, even if I don't always achieve optimal success.

What about you parents out there? Have you found a happy medium in dealing with the kids? Or do you fantasize about putting them up in a listing on Craigslist?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gaia's Garden - book giveaway

I've got my kid's cold and, as such, don't have the operating brain cells to write a coherent post. So, I decided to do a giveaway today! Today's book is Gaia's Garden: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture.

This book is pretty much the bible for home permaculture and this is the second edition of the book. It covers:
  • building and maintaining soil fertility and structure
  • catching and conserving water in the landscape
  • providing habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and animals
  • growing an edible "forest" that yields seasonal fruits, nuts, and other foods

This edition also features a chapter on urban permaculture, designed especially for people in cities and suburbs who have very limited growing space. Whatever size yard or garden you have to work with, you can apply basic permaculture principles to make it more diverse, more natural and more productive. Best of all, once it's established, an ecological garden will reduce or eliminate most of the backbreaking work that's needed to maintain the typical lawn and garden.

If you are interested in entering the giveaway for this book, you have until midnight Friday, February 5th, PST. Just leave your name in the comments to enter. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pioneer Skills: make a rag rug

There is all sorts of information online regarding how to braid a rag rug, so I've distilled down the easiest way of making one in, hopefully, an easy to understand set of instructions.

The instructions that follow are for making a braided rug using three strands. If you know how to braid using 4 or more strands, by all means, go to town. You would just need to create that many long strands for your project.

A quick note about the width of the strips: if you are using heavier fabric, you'll want a thinner width (close to 1" wide); if you are using a thinner fabric (like old t-shirts), a width of 3" will be more ideal. Just be consistent and keep the same width throughout, unless you want a lumpy rug.

Strips of rags cut into 2" wide lengths (the longer the better)
Sturdy thread (quilting or carpet thread is ideal)
Thick needle or curved upholstery needle

Prepare the Strips
There are several methods to joining the strips of rags together. You can sew them together (on the diagonal) or you can knot them together. Basically what you want to achieve is three very long strips of cloth. If you knot them, the knots may be visible in the rug, so if you are using thicker cloth, sewing may be the way to go.

The longer your three strips end up being, the larger the rug. But you can always clip your work and sew more strips on later if braiding with really long pieces is driving you nuts. Anything over 8 or 9 feet is difficult to braid. So, add on as you go.

Get Braiding
To start, sew or knot the three strips together. You can attach the start to something heavy or have someone hold the end for you while you braid. This can be fun for kids since they get to help out and watch the process while they are at it. Once you've braided far enough down where it doesn't twist, you won't need your helper. When you reach the end of your braid, sew or knot the loose ends together.

Sew it Up
Coil your braided rope on the floor, starting at the center for a circle. If you prefer an oval shape, start with one foot length and coil around that. As you coil (or when you are done if you want to check the shape), sew the rows of coil to each other, lacing them as shown in the picture on the right. When the coils are secured tightly, fasten off.

A small or medium size rug is ideal, because you can clean it in a washing machine without too much of an issue. I'm planning on making some bath rugs for the kids with a bag of old clothes!

If you are a more visual person, here's a video instruction of basically the same method:

Braided rug making instructions
Rugmaker's Homestead
A brief history of rag rugs
How to make a flat braided rug

Monday, February 1, 2010

Getting fat from eating scraps

Welcome to the first day of 2010's Food Waste Reduction Challenge!

As I went through all my posts from last year's Food Waste Reduction Challenge, I remembered how kinda gross I felt after the month-long experiment. I pretty much felt forced to eat more than I normally do, just to prevent having to throw out food. And I think I gained weight over the month.

And, do you know what I finally just now realized? I'm fairly certain that we buy more food each week than we can possibly eat. Now, by Friday or so, it seems like the fridge is looking fairly empty, but we have a bad habit of overbuying just so we have a couple options on hand in case we don't have time to make some of the things we have planned. Meals with ingredients that will keep are generally punted first, but inevitably, you end up with more food in the house than you need.

Over the weeks, this sort of adjusts itself since I take into consideration food on hand that didn't get eaten the previous week, but it only really works for dry or frozen goods. Fresh food will only keep so long. So, we tend to buy less fresh broccoli and the like on the off-chance that it doesn't get eaten. I've noticed that we've done that more as a result of trying to eat local during the winter months - there just isn't a huge variety and we tend to stick to things we froze last summer or local vegetables that we can buy frozen.

Anyway, this time around, I'm not going to overeat just to keep things out of the compost. But, instead try to plan better to keep things from going bad.

One last thing, if you find foods or leftovers of things you don't know what to do with, feel free to ask for suggestions on the Food Waste Reduction Challenge posts. I'll try to offer up some recipe ideas as I'm sure will other readers!

And, if you still haven't signed up yet for this year's challenge, you can do it here.