Having a Green Friday?
November 19, 2010 at 6:00 am
I saw a flyer at a store this week advertising that their Black Friday sales would begin this year on Thursday.
That’s right. Thanksgiving.
Apparently, people are officially so excited to start buying bargain crockery that they might skip the very reason that they probably have Friday off in the first place.
I know there are a lot of reasons people go out early the Friday after Thanksgiving to shop sales, not the least of which being that a lot of us feel we have to buy so much, that any savings helps the holiday budget.
Some of our extended family members have made Black Friday shopping part of their tradition, and it brings them a lot of happiness to get up early in the morning and literally run into Wal-Mart for free doughnuts with their DVD player.
But I’m actually not a big fan of holiday shopping anyway, and the idea of the crowds, people fighting, the noise … it is not for me.
So I have been interested lately in the idea of “Green Friday,” or other twists on Black Friday that involve spending money differently or even not spending money at all.
There is a movement of people who boycott Black Friday, either to send a message about the negative environmental impact of many gifts or the way those gifts were manufactured, or because of they want to avoid the consumerism sometimes associated with the day after Thanksgiving, and the winter holidays in general.
Another philosophy is “Green Friday” — buying gifts that are fair-trade or environmentally responsible. An extension of this organic celebration involves spending the the day doing something earth friendly. People use this extra day off of work to connect with family and nature though hiking, or maybe doing a community service like cleaning up a park before it becomes covered in snow.
Bill McKibben says in his book Hundred Dollar Holidaythat materialism has replaced our connection with nature this time of year, and that the “something’s missing” feeling many of us experience comes in part from a lack of connection to what use to be so natural … nature.
We are having an action-packed Thnksgiving this year. Relatives are coming to stay, and we will be hosting dinner at our home.
And I know, that I will be torn the day after Thanksgiving. I will want to get a jump-start on my holiday shopping. I’ll want to start making lists and getting organized. I will look at the holiday cards already stacking up in the basket and wonder how every year friends get these greetings in the mail so efficiently.
But I hope, after the busyness of the day before, I will spend the day after Thanksgiving collecting myself. Because there is still a lot of busyness ahead.
I think someone else will need to eat all the free doughnuts. Although I probably won’t turn down some Thanksgiving leftovers.
Co-op Buying to Save Money on Organic and Natural Products
November 18, 2010 at 6:00 am
Once a month, usually on a Friday, our doorbell rings.
I then curse my poor upper body strength as I lug a box bigger than my car through the front hall and into the dining room, where I proceed to make a really big mess.
Because once a month at our house it is Co-Op Delivery Day.
I am a member of two local buying co-ops. Along with several other families in our area, we buy items at wholesale prices and split taxes.
One is a bulk grain co-op. Our family buys things like rice, beans, flours and sweeteners. The other is a natural products co-op, and from that company we order products like essential oils, shampoo, toothpaste, castille soap and supplements/homeopathic remedies, etc.
These co-ops work because so many families take part — we not only save on shipping, but we get most of the products at 30 to 50 percent off the prices we would pay in stores.
Most of us still shop the local stores too, but co-op buying helps us have access to hard to find items, while also helping us spend less on items that we use regularly.
I currently help coordinate our order from Frontier. Our group places one order a month. Everyone e-mails their orders to me and I use Frontier’s online ordering system to place our group order.
When the order comes in, I sort the orders, do a bunch of math, and then each family picks up and pays for their items.
Not only is this monthly ordering a small price to pay to get access to products at lower prices, it is also kind of fun. Our order always comes with lots of boxes, so each month we make at least one house for the cats or a puppet theater or something fun and cardboard-y.
I also like the way this ordering puts me in touch with like-minded parents.
In our community, I sometimes feel a little like the weird parent — the only one whose kids have never had a Happy Meal. So connecting with these other parents gives me a warm feeling — that there are other parents out there like me. Some live only a few miles away!
Getting started with a co-op is pretty easy. Ask around to see if there is one in your area. Most of the time, unless the group is getting too hard to manage, groups are very nice about taking on new members.
You can also start your own. A few to check out are United Buying Clubs, Frontier and Country Life Natural Foods.
If you are looking for members, you can post a notice at your school, natural foods store or library. A lot of churches also coordinate buying clubs.
Once you have a few families, you can begin placing orders and divvying up work.
I used to belong to a group so big that everyone was assigned a job: watching the youngest children in the house or yard; weighing bulk items split up by the pound; unloading the truck or placing items in various families’ piles. It was 30 minutes of straight chaos once a month, but again, kind of fun, in an odd, we’re-all-in-this-together kind of way.
A Holiday Note: I find bulk co-op buying especiall nice this time of year when I am looking to make gifts like yesterday’s Vanilla Sugar.
Are you part of a local buying group? What tips would you share?
Holiday Making: Vanilla Sugar
November 17, 2010 at 6:00 am
It is the easiest Holiday Making project so far — Vanilla Sugar.
So easy, that it can be explained without words at all. Ready?
And … done.
OK, just for fun, here’s a few words:
We made a big batch (32 oz of sugar, two split and scraped vanilla beans) by combining organic demerera sugar (which is sort of big and chunky and nice for sprinkling and topping).
We’ll let it sit for a while, and then put small amounts into these 4 oz. tins, label them, and give them as gifts.
I think this will make a good stocking stuffer, and a nice small gift for those people who have made the year a little brighter — our friends from the library, maybe, or the kind woman who cuts Owen’s hair and talks to him at length about cats.
We’ll also save a little tin for our own use … vanilla sugar is so nice for topping muffins, adding to tea or sprinkling on toast!
Lightening the Load … Responsibly
November 16, 2010 at 6:00 am
Last week I posted about our family’s fall cleaning routine, which includes sorting through clothing, books and toys before the holiday season.
I referenced that we like to give old toys to friends or a local domestic violence charity; books go to the library, friends, or a local shelter and clothing to places like Goodwill.
But one of the comments I received brought up an excellent point. Sharon said:
“I love to lighten the load, but I hate throwing things like unusable old clothes and broken toys and old CDs and computer disks into the trash. I hate sending them to a landfill. But I’m at a loss for alternative disposal options. Any suggestions?”
I think a lot of us are in this place. We want to simplify, downscale or otherwise cut some of the clutter, but we also can’t bear the thought of our belongings filling up a landfill.
In our house, and it hasn’t always been this way, we have in recent years started thinking a bit differently about stuff.
- We are trying harder to “pre-cycle” meaning that if we think a toy is going to break or get ruined really quickly or decompose really, really, really slowly, we try to help the kids make a different choice. Same thing goes for clothing, shoes, and adult purchases like purses, electronics, etc.
- We try to buy things used when we can, taking into account safety issues like lead paint in furniture or dishes.
- We try to live a little more like my grandparents did, meaning that something has to be really, really broken to throw it away. We are not the handiest people, but the Internet is a lovely thing in that regard.
- We also try to give things away when they are in good shape, but no longer useful here. We have a practically new crib mattress upstairs that was given to us by a well-meaning grandparent, but was never used. We have tried giving it away numerous times, and cannot bring ourselves to simply put it on the curb. (Which reminds me, anyone want a free crib mattress?)
- But we also try not to beat ourselves up. Sometimes, stuff is so old, nasty, gross or disgusting that it has to be disposed of. But by trying to reuse, recycle and repurpose as much as we can, it helps us a feel a little better when the dog bowl gets melted on the stove and even copious amounts of duct tape just will not bring it back.
And luckily, there are often ways to recycle, reuse or repurpose all kinds of things like the stuff Sharon mentioned.
I read an article recently about how a lot of clothing that is donated to places like Goodwill and Salvation Army is in such terrible shape, it is not able to be resold. So then those stores end up dumping it anyway.
So if I have something that is stained or ripped, or the zipper is broken, I try to find some other way to repurpose it around the house. Adult shirts and sweaters (especially wool) can be made into diaper covers or pants for little ones.
Other fabric items, like old fitted sheets can be used for table covers when painting or during baking. We have repurposed a stained table cloth into cloth napkins.
And many fabrics can be torn into cleaning rags.
There are a ton of great resources out there on repurposing fabric into everything from curtains to rugs to bags to keepsake pieces (think old baby clothes).
As far as toys go, we sometimes have to take a toy out of circulation for a while (we call it Taking it to the Toy Hospital) but when we take a good look at it, it can be sewn, glued, or otherwise fixed.
Toys that the kids have outgrown can be passed down to a friend even if it is missing a non-essential part or piece and as long as the toy is still safe to play with.
We noticed some friends had an old airplane teeter-totter on their curb last year and we asked it they minded us taking it home. The propeller is broken, but the kids still have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it. We plan on using it for a while and then hopefully passing it along again to another family to keep it out of the trash.
Lots of charities also appreciate donated toys as long as they are in reasonably good shape. Sometimes doctor or dentist waiting rooms will take old toys too.
Some local toy recycling programs
Tips on recycling toys from Earth 911
You can also get crafty with old toys …
Recycling old toys, games and puzzles
CDs and Computer Disks
CDs and computer disks are tricky, unless you are into really interesting Christmas tree decorations.
One potential use for old CDs is in the garden to keep birds away. The reflection makes them think other birds are hanging out with your chard, so they move along.
Computer disks can also become works of art, but if your decor is more farmhouse than coffeehouse, you can recycle them too.
Recycling old CDs
Recycling Floppy Disks
I’m really grateful to Sharon for bringing up such a great question — and I know a lot of you out there probably have all kinds of creative ideas for “responsible decluttering.” Please share them with us in the comments!!
Season to Season at the Park
November 15, 2010 at 6:00 am
It took me about a year of being a mother to discover how special a day at the park can be.
Using up that little kid energy on slides and monkey bars a few times a week makes our days go so much more smoothly.
But here’s what I really love: I love seeing the way my kids grow and change in a single summer.
We live in the Midwest, which means that if we stretch it, park whether starts in March and goes until maybe November.
But during the 6 to 7 months that we can visit the same park on a regular basis, I see so much change in my kids. They grow braver and more sure of themselves.
Sometimes, the same things continue to bring them pure joy. Like Owen and this hill. The boy loves this hill. It is his special spot. A place that brings him such happiness …
Returning to the same place time and time again gives me a measure of how my children are growing. Our little park is like a growth chart for me, except instead of marking numbers, I am marking each tiny achievement.
My babies … not really babies at all any more.
But that feeling of being so lucky to by their mother — summer to summer, season to season, –it just grows and grows.
A Simple Sunday
November 14, 2010 at 6:00 am
There was a time, not so very long ago, when each week followed a rhythm and Sundays were a day of rest.
In our family, we are trying to recapture that feeling of having a day of peace, togetherness and reflection.
This isn’t always the easiest thing. Dishes need to be done, groceries bought, clutter … uncluttered.
But our family has recently made a commitment to try to slow down and simplify, and focusing on Sundays seems like a good place to start.
Will you join us for A Simple Sunday?
“Peace is always beautiful.” ~ Walt Whitman
A Very Good Week (and a winner!)
November 13, 2010 at 6:00 am
An assortment of recipes, books, blog posts, or other things that inspired me this week.
“Everything will be Okay” (scroll down a bit!)
What babies remember
Yoga Poses for kids
10 Ways to Make Today Magical
I am loving the Knitmore Girls podcast. Listening to them makes grocery shopping so much more enjoyable!!
And now, to give-away some sweetriot! The winner is:
My best chance at keeping my “intentions” on track are to write myself notes and ToDo lists. Somehow, coming back to the original thought staring at me in black and white helps to keep me on track and accountable for what I accomplish and/or why I didn’t.
I like the idea of a chalkboard or family note center to help to keep everyone on track, whether it’s with the chores that need to be done, the meals that need to be made or eaten, or just a theme for the day.
Teamwork always helps!
Thank you everyone for your ideas on living more intentionally! They are all very much appreciated here. And thanks to the lovely folks at sweetriot for their generosity and support!
And here’s one more chance to get involved — please comment below on what is inspiring you this week. Links are encouraged!!
Just Put it in a Pita (or More on Beating the Lunchtime Rut)
November 12, 2010 at 6:00 am
Last week, I talked about lunch being the hardest meal of the day for me to plan and execute.
I think that it kind of relates back to this post from Monday, where I talk about how quickly things can get off track when you have little ones, or, you know, life, to lead you in an unexpected direction.
So I’ve been thinking again this week about lunches — how to make them fun and interesting, but also how to make them easy. I feel a series coming on …
And so today I want to talk a little about pitas. In our family, pitas are counted in a different category than bread because of the pocket. I know that’s too simple of a selling point for grown-ups, so I’ll add that the pocket thing makes them easier than a sandwich for little hands to handle.
Also, by cutting a little slit in the top but not cutting the pita fully in half, you can cram all kinds of goodness in there while keeping your pita portable.
For the past several weeks, we have been carefully documenting all the crazy stuff you can stuff into a pita (and then you call that lunch!).
I was inspired in the quest by the New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook, which is an oldy (1987) but still packed full of 13 vegetarian pita sandwich ideas.
If you are not a vegetarian, that is certainly OK too — you can shove all kinds of meaty-type ingredients into your pita. But at our house, we eat primarily vegetarian, and those 13 ideas sure come in handy, even if Idea 12 does involve sauerkraut and Russian dressing.
This cookbook also has a recipe for making pita bread (and a recipe for apple cake that will blow your mind). We adapt it here and have had a lot of success with a wheat-free version using spelt flour.
There’s lots of recipes out there, though, like this gluten-free one, and plenty of places like Trader Joe’s make great pita bread , so you don’t have to make your own.
In fact, instead of talking pita bread making today (which is actually super fun, what with the rolling things into balls and watching stuff puff up in the oven), let’s talk fillings.
Here is a list of things that we have, in the recent past, put in a pita. I am not embarrassed to say that some of them seem a little silly. For instance:
- leftover spaghetti
- hummus and vegetables like lettuce, tomato or cucumber
- leftover stir-fried vegetables
- nut butter and jelly
- nut butter and honey
- nut butter and banana
- nut butter and apple slices
- apples slices and cheese
- scrambled eggs or tiny omelets
- last night’s salad and a little dressing
- taco fillings like beans, cheese, avocado, olives, salsa, etc.
- leftover beans and greens (like sauteed chard and white beans, for instance)
- fruit and yogurt (more of a brunch pita)
- sauteed spinach, onion, garlic and basil (like a calzone)
- bean salads
- sliced hard-boiled eggs
- and the list goes on and on …
The thing I love about having pitas on hand is that last night’s dinner can be served as leftovers, but in a new way. And the possibilities are practically endless. The sandwiches can be hot or cold, and if you are up for doing some chopping, you can set out a pita bar of sorts so kids can fill their pockets with their favorite fillings.
(Ellery loves this and now calls pitas, “stuffies.”)
Because of the pocket, stuff is much less likely to fall out. Small items like beans or vegetables like corn or peas can be used more easily, especially with a glue like nut butter, hummus, or guacamole to keep everything on board. Not that I am advocating putting all the things in the last sentence together willy-nilly.
That could be disasterous …
I wanted to thank Laura and Traci for their comments last week on making fun number lunches and shape lunches.
Please, everyone, keep the ideas coming!!
And don’t forget that today is the last day to sign up for the sweetriot giveaway. You don’t want to miss your chance at some yummy free chocolaty goodness, right?
Books that top my holiday wish list …
November 11, 2010 at 6:00 am
There’s an idea that has been floating around for a while about simplifying holiday gift buying — the idea is to give others something they need, something they want, something to wear and something to read.
And I love this idea. We are even talking about putting it into practice in our little family of four.
But I have a secret — the list of things I hope for each holiday is actually a lot shorter: some new yarn and a really good book.
Those couple of things bring me so much joy, especially after the business of the holiday season when I just want to curl up with a cup of tea and the ones I love.
I’ve mentioned before that we adore books here. We have a lot of them, although very few are aquired new. But if I do get a new book this year, I really hope it is one of these listed below. They aren’t all new books, but they are books that seem right for this season of life for me … maybe you’d like some of them too?
1. The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kennison. Katrina Kennison authored one of my very, very favorite books, Mitten Strings for God, which you can literally buy online for a penny. This would be a penny really well spent, in my opinion. I reference that book often in my day to day mothering journey, and it always seems to have a few words that pick me up again, and remind me of the importance of this work we do as mothers. I really want to read Kennison’s new book, and if it is anything like her first memoir, I really want to crawl inside its pages and spend a few post-holiday days there.
2. Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenrider. You may know Tsh as the editor of Simplemom.net and the creator of Simple Living Media. She is definitely a guru in the realm of living simply and with intention. Yes, please!
3. Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. You know, because I’m a teff groupie.
4. Making a Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom. Who doesn’t need practical ideas to make their home … homier?
5. And I don’t know what yet, but I would also really like a silly, improbable, goofy series to start. Because life cannot be all self improvement and house cleaning. There has to be time for nonsense. Any ideas?
And what books are making your holiday wish list this year?
Holiday Making: Bulky Neckie
November 10, 2010 at 6:00 am
It’s a quick and easy kind of day today, so for today’s holiday making, I wanted to talk about this quick and easy knitting pattern that uses bulky yarn and big ol’ needles.
I knit this cute neckie (I am just not crazy about the word “neckie,” so I think of this in my head as a “bulky neck warmer”) in just a few hours. And after seeing how it turned out, I am super excited about producing a few more to give away as holiday gifts.
My very favorite part was choosing a fun button to go with the yarn. This one came from my grandma’s button collection, and those buttons always make me so happy.
If you are new to knitting, this is a really simple pattern — just basic knits and purls. The hardest part is the button hole, and that comes at the very end but is just a few stitches.
I knit this is a super soft baby alpaca. It is a little slouchier than the ones pictured at the link. But it is so soft and warm, I want to wear it while inside.
And of course, that’s always the sign of a good neckie, right?
A quick programming note:Due to some technical issues, there is a change to this blog’s url. You can now find the blog at www.imorganic.com/the_very_next_thing. And you can always find it by going directly to I’m Organic’s main page and clicking on blogs. So please update your bookmarks accordingly and keep coming back often!
Also, there’s still time to sign-up for the yummy sweetriot giveaway. Just leave a comment here!
Are you doing some holiday making? Please share your projects by linking to them in the comments below!