Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I wanted to make any readers aware of a contest for restaurants (which I visit quite often) to do a green makeover of their kitchens. One restaurant will win a $40,000 kitchen makeover, which is a wonderful prize. If you're in the industry, check it out.

Green Commercial Kitchen Giveaway

Monday, June 30, 2008

True to My Word

I said I'd keep a log of my purchases, so here goes:

I did surprisingly well early in the week. The only thing I bought was lunch out. 

On Thursday I ordered a birthday present for one of the boy's friends. A German-made toy off of the moolka.com website. (Some sort of build your own toy car project.)

On Saturday I splurged. (Does it count as splurging when you couldn't go a week without?) Husband took the boy to the car show with Grandpa, and I went to the mall with Grandma. She bought matching dresses for the girls for upcoming birthday party. I got emergency outfit for baby after spit up accident (should have had extra clothes in bag) and 4 shirts for the boy for next spring--they were on sale. I also got two shirts for myself that were on sale that I had been watching for a while. One from Boden and one from 9 West. The kids clothes were from the Gap. 

I bought a copy of How Fiction Works by James Wood off Amazon for work. 

And today I ordered some hair bows from Etsy for the baby. 

Suddenly it sounds like a whole lot. This may be good for me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Shopping Ethically

My desire is to shop ethically, spiritually, soulfully. My experience up to this point in my life has been to see something in a store, like it, and buy it. Or even just think it's okay and buy it. Sometimes I have even bought things I didn't like just because I "needed" it at that point. Case in point, the shorts I bought when the Boy wet his pants at the mall and I hadn't planned ahead to bring a backup pair with me. My goal was to buy the cheapest thing in the store. 

However, the problem lies in the fact that the cheapest thing is probably such because it was made with the cheapest materials by the cheapest labor, possibly at the cheapest quality. Instead of assuming that these items magically appear in the mall out of nowhere, I want to start thinking about where they come from. Who made this sippy cup? How were they treated in the process? What did they use to make it? Is it full of harmful chemicals? (I recently read that baby mattresses often contain too-high levels of rat poison.) Will my owning this item actually benefit me and my family?

If I stop and think about these things before I buy I'll spend a lot less money. I may be able to afford the portrait of the kids I want to commission. Or a nice handmade piece of jewelry I've been eyeing. 

With birthdays falling this month for the kids, it's hard not to waste lots of money. Overspending on toys, party favors, paper plates, cake decorating supplies, etc. And most of it gets thrown in the trash. 

I'm going to start keeping a diary of things I buy. I think if I do that, it will waken me up to what comes in and out of my house. If I'm brave enough, I may even post it here.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Well, we've kind of stalled out on the idea of buying land at the moment. Real life has taken over. And we were hoping I'd be selling a big project at this month, and that didn't materialize. So, the goal is to focus on this house. 

Did you know that the amount of petroleum it takes to make 14 plastic bags is enough to fuel one car for one mile. And we use like 380 billion plastic bags a year. That's crazy. I'm trying to remember to bring my reusable ones when I go shopping other places than just groceries. I got a cool one from Chronicle Books at BEA last weekend that folds up really small, so I'll keep that one in my purse from now on.

And I just ordered some low-flow shower heads from Let's Go Green. They've also got biodegradable plastic bags. This is good, because it's useless to have all the biodegradable diapers if I just put them in plastic trash bags. And the prices are pretty reasonable there, I thought. They even have one of those "rain" style shower heads. And if you enter FRIEND in the promo code box at checkout you get a 25 percent discount.

By the way, we are loving our CSA membership. Our son loves going to pick up our food each week from "the farmers," and he eats fresh strawberries the whole way home. The food has been great so far. 

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nature Babycare

So, we've been using the Nature Babycare diapers for about two weeks now. These diapers were made by a "Swedish mum" who read an article in the newspaper that  said every year of a baby's life results in a mountain of used diapers weighing half a ton. That's a lot of dirty diapers. These diapers are chlorine free, breathable, and corn based. And instead of spending millions on TV advertising, they put that money into the product itself and rely on their "ambassadors" to spread the news about their product.  
So, in that spirit, here's my review: They've been every bit as good as "regular" brands--no major blowouts or leaks. My only complaint is that the sticky tabs that fasten at the waist don't stick to the main part of the diaper, so when I try to wrap dirties into a little ball they won't stay closed. But that's no huge deal. The price is right--$9ish for 34 diapers at Target. Also note that they run a bit small--my baby is usually a size three, but their size three is a little small for her. (But maybe she's just having a growth spurt, hard to say.) Overall, I've been happy. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What We're Doing Now

While we're looking at house plans and hoping for a great deal on good land, we're trying to make some good choices at our current home.

G-diapers. I've heard a lot about g diapers, and I recently decided to try them. The biggest problem is the expense and the learning curve. I had no problem getting them figured out, and really had no leakage issues. But when I took the baby to the church nursery, they didn't change her for a few hours (couldn't figure it out? didn't have time? no idea why).  So she was wet all the way through her clothes. Also, Grandma said, "Be sure you don't send her over here in those fake diapers." I think people who aren't interested in eco-issues aren't willing to learn a new style of diapering.
But the real problem is the cost. They're about $.50 per diaper, whereas Huggies are more like $.35. So, I bought some Seventh Generation ones to have on hand and am enjoying them. In fact, I think they're better than Huggies on performance. And I have a package of Target's new Nature Babycare brand, recommended by Sophie Uliano, so we'll see how those are too.

Speaking of Sophie Uliano, I'm reading her book Gorgeously Green and loving it. It's full of great practical advice for real people--not bread-loaf shoe wearing people, as she describes her hippy neighbors who "recycle everything." My favorite thing I've read so far is this site called Skin Deep. You can enter any beauty product you have and it gives you a rating in terms of toxicity. Beware: it's addictive.

Friday, May 9, 2008

You're Hired?

Today we had our first meeting with a potential builder. The gold-chained contractor met us at the door on his cell phone and gave us an "unh" to indicate we were supposed to leave our shoes at the door. This seemed highly unusual, yet coincidental to me, as my book club meeting last night discussed Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies. However, the eco-contractor was not of Indian descent.

Back to the story, we went into his office where he whispered "she's a talker" to us while covering the phone with his hand. We sat down into his leather love seat, which nearly swallowed us with it's depth. I felt as small as a school child in the principal's office, but without any of the fear. In fact, it was I who was growing increasingly exasperated with his ongoing phone call. It gave me time to read the notes on his bulletin board--one from "wifey" that said something about going green for God. And he had a nice collection of Christian books and Gore family-related works.

Finally he hung up the phone and addressed us . . . I think. As he talked he was looking out the front window of his house. Not sure what was going on out there--I was busy picking up Cheerios that baby had thrown all over his floor. He was talking about building green as if he were trying to sell us on the concept, but we were clearly already sold on that. I wanted to know his experience, his pedigree. He's built eighty-eight homes in five years, he tells me. Most recently they finished the Gore house, refitting it to be LEED certified. "But I can't give you a cell phone for reference on that job! Heh heh heh. We took some pictures of the work but had to be careful because of paparazzi." In Nashville? It took him a while to finish name dropping, but when he did I think he managed to make himself somewhat credible. And again, being in the house made a difference--you could tangibly tell a difference in the air quality and crisp coolness. It was nice. He said it's heated and cooled using a geothermal system. Quite interesting. 

Ultimately, we think the lot we've been looking at right now isn't right--it's too wooded, no yard, and no room for the kids to ride bikes, etc. So we're still a ways out on making any real decisions. But he said we should expect $100 to $125 per square foot of the house. 

For now I'm going to keep looking at house plans. This guy recommended Frank Betz.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Plat Maps, Is that what they're called?

We went to walk some land this weekend. Yesterday we went to the Cherry Hill property. It's close to our current house and has a great school zone, but the lot is not situated right. It's a 3-acre lot, but almost 1.5 acres of it is just driveway. It's an L-shaped lot, so a lot of the land is unusable. 
Then we went to another lot on Poplar Creek. It's beautiful back there, and this was a big 8-acre lot. It's in a decent school zone--good for elementary but not so much after that. But the lot itself is nice. A heavily wooded area, but a good flat space we could clear for a yard, etc.

Here's what I'm confused about. I cannot get these real estate agents to call me back. It's bizarre. You'd think they'd want to do everything they could to sell this land, especially in the current market. Todd says he thinks it's because my voice sounds young and they assume we can't afford it. But I could be some big movie star or whatever. It's just strange to me that they won't respond. It's bad business. When I worked at the publishing company we were required to return phone calls within 24 hours. And we had to call back same-day to authors or agents, even if it meant staying late, etc. I just don't understand not calling people back when they want to buy stuff from you.

Tip of the day: walk the land, even if it looks great or terrible from the street. (unless, of course, they're some obvious neighborhood issue that makes it a definite no.) But even better, have an agent walk the land with you so you know exactly where the boundary lines are and you have someone to answer the questions you have while you're there.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spring Fever

I'm not sure if it's the weather or something else, but lately I've felt a tremendous pull to clean house, eliminate junk, keep only what I need, and use less. It's been in the 70s and 80s here lately, really beautiful weather, if a little hot in the afternoons. But I have done my best to keep the AC off in the house and the car. I've got the windows open and the fans blowing. The benefit is that right now I feel like I'm sitting outside in a lovely breeze, rather than actually being inside looking out my wall of windows while sitting in my comfy leather armchair (a hand-me-down from my parents, who got it for $15 at a furniture store sale). 

I think this weekend we're going to do a major evaluation of our personal property. We just don't need the things we have. However, I still feel a pull to buy more. I'm going to start asking myself these questions before I buy:
  1. Do I need it? (Or is it more likely that I already have a handful just like it at home)
  2. Do I love it? (Not just like it, but love it. Does it inspire me in some way?)
  3. Is it worth it? (The space it will take in the house, the effort to keep it clean and in good shape, and the money that could be spent elsewhere . . .)
On a related note, I stopped by Whole Foods to get my groceries yesterday. It was ridiculously expensive. I can't do that again. But I'm excited because our farm share starts next week--fresh veggie and meat straight from the farm. Yay!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Location, Location, Location

We've been looking at land. I was up 'til 1:00 last night searching realtracs for property in our price range, school zone, and acreage amount. It's not been easy. A few popped up last night that looked good. One had this amazing view. What the pictures don't show, however, is the massive power plant immediately to the left of the shot. In fact, I think they PhotoShopped out some of the wires. Not exactly the view you're looking for when you're going for an environmentally friendly house. So, back to the drawing board. We're still hoping that the property my parents' neighbors own will work out. That would be amazing. Heard today that it's 16 acres of meadow on the other side of the big hill they live on. Sounds beautiful. 

On the house side of things, we're trying to research some eco friendly builders and architects in our area. Haven't found many yet, but I'm sure they're out there. The struggle is finding green options in a moderate price range. It just doesn't seem to be widely available yet; it's still quite pricey. I want to make decisions that will help the earth we live on, but I need to be able to pay the mortgage at the same time. And no luck so far finding much on cottage-style homes with an eco bent, most are contemporary or modern. Still looking. If anyone has any resources, please let us know!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nothing to Report

Nothing to report. I've asked agents (via email) to meet us at the property, but with no luck. My parents' neighbor has a lot of land behind his house that he is considering selling. That could be ideal--we'd be so close to them. And we've spoken to some friends about the idea of buying a bunch of land and splitting it up among us. I think that would be an amazing opportunity for community. 

About the house, it's been interesting seeing our different opinions come to light. We've never had a hard time agreeing on a house before, but now that we're talking about building the house we'll live in for the rest of our lives, most likely, it's a whole new ball game.  One this is for sure--we don't want a modern house. Our look is much more traditional--even the idea of a Federalist-style house is appealing to me. The challenge will be doing a "green" house in a traditional style. I've only seen contemporary or modern designs in magazines, etc. I want something that feels like home to me.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Day 1

Just two years ago the idea of living an eco-friendly life way out of the fringe of society--at least to me. The environmentalists I knew were mainly in the music industry, a little hippy, definitely Democrat, and usually pretty cool. I live a small life: I'm the mother to two, I work from home, I'm not cool. I'm a most-of-the-time Republican and I'm deeply religious. But I've become convicted. It's time to make some changes.

We joined a CSA. We quit buying paper napkins. My baby drinks from glass baby bottles. And I buy most of the kids' clothes used at consignment sales. And I don't think anyone notices, which I count as a good thing. My point is, we're not freaks. We're not extremists. We're normal people making small changes for a big difference, I hope.

A long-time dream of ours has been to build a house on a few acres of land. My primary reason is aesthetic--I love the idea of seeing beautiful, rolling landscapes out my kitchen window every day. Second: I want the kids to have a yard to run around in. Our 0.18 acres on a steep incline isn't conducive to play. So why not merge the two, build a sustainable, eco-friendly home while we're at it?

Today was the beginning of that journey. We found a couple pieces of land that look promising, and we've called the real estate agents. One emailed me the plot graphs, which are completely confusing to me. This is going to be an interesting road we're traveling!