Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

advice, news & freebies

Start Composting Now – 8 Steps to Carefree Composting September 17, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 2:03 pm
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I will plant my first vegetable garden spring of next year.  I will.  I really will… I hope.  It makes me nervous, actually, but I’ve just got to take the plunge. 

If you also aspire to grow your own food, you’ll want to get started this fall.  Yes, gardening starts in the fall!  The very first step is to start composting.  Here’s an article for all composting newbies, posted with permission from the Healthy Child Healthy World Blog and authored by Aviva Goldfarb:

8 Steps to Carefree Composting

Compostingis one of Mother Nature’s miracles – it turns organic waste (like grass clippings, raked leaves, veggie peelings, fruit rinds and other produce leftovers) into rich soil. And it is one of the easiest things the average family can do to reduce their footprint and help the environment naturally. Just think, by turning everyday waste into compost, you can not only reduce the amount of garbage picked up curbside, hauled by fossil fuel operated trucks and dumped into landfills, but you will also gain free, 100 percent natural, organic fertilizer for your garden, flowerbeds and lawn.

While many of us have heard about the benefits to composting, we have hesitated starting this project because we are afraid it is complicated, messy and yet another household chore that is unlikely to get done. But in reality, there are easy ways to get started, and the benefits are vast. Here are some tips for composting simply without the mess and fuss.

1.  Start small. One of the most common mistakes of any gardening project is to get over ambitious, and then stare at a half complete project for months, drenched in guilt. You can simply start with a plastic bin or a designated corner where you dump organic refuse. As you enjoy the results you can expand to a larger area.

2.  Pick a convenient location. If your compost pile is far from your kitchen or your garden, you will be unlikely to visit it when the weather is cold or rainy. You don’t really even need a “bin.” You can simply make a pile of leaves in the corner of the yard and add material to it. Keep a plastic bin (with a tight fitting lid, of course) under your sink for compostable kitchen waste, and add it to your bin (or pile) when it’s full.

3.  Stay with “brown” and “green” materials. Brown materials, as the name implies are dried pine needles, leaves and dead plants. Green materials are “wet” fresh grass clippings and kitchen waste, such as vegetable peels, orange peels, watermelon rinds, egg shells (without egg contents), and coffee grounds (with filter paper). You can even add shredded newspaper and brown paper if you’re feeling adventurous.

4.  Avoid adding meats, oils and fruits. While Mother Nature eventually breaks down anything, these materials are also likely to attract rodents and slow down the overall composting process.

5.  Keep things moist. Water is needed to attract worms, bacteria and fungi. If you live in a dry area or have dry seasons you can water with a hose and then place a plastic cover on top to conserve the water and heat.

6.  Mixing optional. Contrary to many guides, turning your compost pile is not necessary – it merely accelerates the process.

7.  Compost season. While you can compost year-round, compost will develop more quickly during the warm growing season when your garden and lawn is at its peak. So, don’t worry if you seem to be adding material every day or two during the spring and summer because nature will also have the composting process on overdrive.

8Finally (after 6 – 12 months) you can enjoy the “fruits” of your labor! Sprinkle your compost on your lawn and garden, once it turns into dark and sweet smelling dirt, and enjoy the beautiful flowers, vegetables and fruits that your own rich soil will inspire.

 Aviva Goldfarb is the author and founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble®, an online weekly menu planner and cookbook to help busy families put easy, healthy and delicious meals on the table each and every night.

healthychildhealthyworldCourtesy of Healthy Child Healthy World: a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit inspiring parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.

 

SouleMama’s “Handmade Home” August 17, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living,Family Culture — Rachel @ 7:09 pm
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On Saturday I found a very special package awaiting me at the mailbox – my pre-ordered copy of Amanda Blake Soule’s “Handmade Home:  Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures” plus “Bend-the-Rules Sewing” by Amy Karol.  Both are gorgeous, inspiring books written by popular bloggers.  I’ve just began to sew, having only accomplished: 1 flat valence curtain, 1 crayon roll, and 1 blanket repair!  Of all of the sewing how-to and household project books I checked out from the library, “Bend-the Rules Sewing” was my favorite.  It has a concise, illustrated guide to basic and somewhat advanced sewing a techniques (from sewing a seam to sewing a buttonhole), plus a large selection of adorable, unique projects that are very up-to-date.  I liked the book and projects so much, I decided it was worth owning.  And, what better way to treat myself than to purchase “Bend-the-Rules” along with the soon-to-be-released “Handmade Home”. 

For weeks I’ve waiting, and now that Amanda’s “Handmade Home” finally hear, I cannot be more pleased.  I bought the book on faith, seeing as how there are no Amazon reviews.  My faith was based on my love of her first book “The Creative Family:  How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.”  That magical book is responsible for beginning my adventure into all things Waldorf!  It is “family culture” at it’s finest and an excellent gift for any mother of little ones.      

I wasn’t sure what I’d get in “Handmade Home”, but now I can tell you!  The first part of the book is a primer on the eco-friendly art of reusing old materials.  It’s filled with tips for getting the best finds at thrift stores, garage sales, etc.  She shares what to look for, even with reminders to leave behind those great deals that one doesn’t need for the next thrifter – it’s “thrifting karma” says Amanda.  Excellent advice!  There’s also brief ideas for setting up a sewing space in a small area.

The second part is a large collection of 30+ projects organized by categories: Nourish (as in kitchen items), Nurture (as in wellness), Play, Seek (as in adventure) and Retreat (as in decor).  The categories are loose, but they do give you a peak into the scope of the projects.  And they are not “the usual” projects.  No patchwork quilts or aprons here.  Those are useful patterns (and can be found in “Bend-the-Rules Sewing”) that anyone might want, but not what you’ll find in Handmade Home.  Amanda Soule’s book brings many ideas that incorporate childrens’ art – “Portrait Bookmarks” – or make use of fabric scraps – “One-Word Banner”.  She includes several non-sewing projects, often using decoupage.  There are useful, but “alternative” patterns for items like cloth diapers, rag bags and women’s cloth.  And then, there are memory-preserving projects like the “Memory Tree Quilt Art.”  Everything is beautiful!  And, just as with her blog SouleMama, everything is presented along with inspiring photography.  Along the way she shares “crafty tips” and “earthy tips” – both of which share ways to craft smart, making safe, eco-friendly choices. 

I have only begun to absorb the goodness to be found in this little volume.  But, just this weekend, I have finished an embellished bath mat and have begun a “One-Word Banner” for my son’s room, using my husband’s discarded wool sweater and fabric scraps from my son’s crib bedding and nursery items.  I think that “Handmade Home” will enrich the life of many a “Green Mama” interested in creating and reusing.  Enjoy!

 

Respect and Preserve the Ocean this Summer July 25, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 9:10 am
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It seems I have never posted about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Do you know about this?  It’s an area in the Pacific ocean of dense, floating plastic garbage that amounts to an area… oh,twice the size of Texas!!!  I didn’t need another reason to hate plastic, but here it is.  You can easily get a feel for the problem and how it effects our world through this brief YouTube video The Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch gives me the willies.  But there are other concerns.  Chemical sunscreens (which are also unhealthy for humans) kill coral reefs, runoff from our gutters pollutes the waters, and people tramping through sand dunes lead to erosion and loss of habitat.  

A trip to the ocean is a wonderful summer excursion, one that only gets better with kids.  Let’s enjoy the sea – responsibly.  Here’s a great article Save Our Shores! Go Green to Keep the Ocean Blue, by Elizabeth Barker, that has some helpful tips, including reminders to:

  • Respect the Reefs
  • Find a Safe Beach
  • Choose a Safe Sunscreen
  • Reduce Run-off

I especially appreciated the suggestion to make gathering trash at the shore a regular part of my family’s trip to the ocean.  What a simple way to teach our children about the importance of caring for the earth, even doing more than “our part” to be part of the solution!

 

Today’s Green Mama June 25, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 5:34 pm
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_MG_5784Next spring I’ll have a vegetable garden fueled by my own compost.  This weekend I bought a sewing machine.  Last month we installed a clothesline.  Earlier this year, I learned to make my own sandwich bread.  Who am I?  I’m today’s “Green Mama.” 

Whereas our mother’s generation pushed forwards searching out new styles of living, new standards of mothering, new products; today’s mothers are rediscovering grandma’s lifestyle.  What’s green?  So often, it’s the “old” way of doing things.  From the slow-food movement to cultivating a simple life, we’re finding wisdom in the ways of the past. 

  • Traditional, labor-intensive agriculture – not pesticides.
  • Organic cotton and wool bedding – not polyurethane foam and fire retardant chemicals.
  • Food made at home, preferably purchased from local farm – not fast food or processed convenience foods that travel thousands of miles to reach our door.
  • Line dried laundry – not routine machine drying.
  • Cloth diapers – not disposables.
  • Breastfeeding – not formula.
  • Wooden and cloth toys – not plastic.
  • Homemade cleaners of baking soda, vinegar and essential oils – not commercial products.
  • Making our own and buying from artisans (such as on Etsy.com) – not relying completely on mass-produced merchandise

_MG_5750The list could go on, and it’s not to say that choosing a green lifestyle never involves using new technology.  For example, dishwashers are reportedly more efficient than hand washing dishes.  The point is that for the most part, today’s eco-aware, modern mamas are embracing lifestyles of days gone past.  We’re finding that slowing down, simplifying, savoring the family and creating a handmade life offer more meaning and joy than other paths. 

As I share these reflections with you, it occurs to me that critics describe the “green” movement as a fad, or worse as a marketing strategy.  While some interpretations might stray, the truth is that this movement is a lifestyle.  It’s as unique as the people living it.  And, it’s alive – changing, growing and deepening everyday.  I’m proud to be a part of it.  I hope that this blog encourages you as you make your way down your own path.  Thank-you for walking it with me.

 

Etsy Find: Chic Clothespin Apron June 8, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 5:17 pm
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apronAnyone who uses a clothesline will know that clothespins can be a problem.  As in, um, where are they?  

As an addendum to a popular post The Best Clothesline Ever, I’d like to share a great Etsy find.  With my clothesline, I cannot hang the clothespins in a pouch on the wall (which works with a reel clothesline), nor can they be placed in a pouch that is pushed along the line (which works with a stationary line clothesline).  Instead, I need the clothespins to be on my body.  An apron is an ideal, albeit old-fashioned, solution.  Whether bending down to grab some more clothes or reaching up to take clothes down, a large apron pocket is always with me, located in an efficient path of motion. 

Momomadeit over at Etsy.com makes an impressive variety of chic household aprons.  I had her sew up her half-apron that’s ideal for clothespins in a custom fabric that matches my laundry room.  Because, why not have it match my laundry room, right?  While she was at it, I also had her make a painting apron for my son.  His yucky plastic one had disintegrated after a few months of use.  Both have since been put to good use, with happy results. 

One might ask, why spend $25 on a clothespin apron?!?  Well, it is a bit much, but if it makes it easier both practically and psychologically (isn’t it so cute!)  for me to commit to hanging ALL 5 loads of laundry each week… I say it’s worth it.  And, actually, my husband agrees.

 

The Best Clothesline Ever May 21, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 6:12 pm
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So, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but I am quite thrilled with my new clothesline.  It’s one of those umbrella-shaped clotheslines that looks like it’s from outer space…  But – WOW- does it do the job well!

1.  It holds 6 loads of laundry.  I can wash all of our clothes on laundry day and hang everything.  Hello energy savings and a reduced electric bill!

2.  It rotates.  I can stand in one place and access every single line without straining a bit. 

3.  It only needs a small patch of sun.  We didn’t want a long stretch of clothesline.  This design is compact enough for an urban backyard.

4.  It closes up.  Were we to throw a lovely garden party, I could ask my dear husband to collapse the laundry umbrella, so that it looks basically like a post.  Or, even better, he could take it out of the hole entirely and put it in the garage.  Nice.

 

Organic: A Choice for our Children April 6, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living,Healthy Living — Rachel @ 7:54 pm
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What parent would turn down the chance to give a child delicious, healthy food that is convenient, a good money value, that the child loves – and then responds with a, “Thank you, Mommy, that was great! May I help clean up?”

In practice, though, many powerful forces determine our food choices. Our children have tasted artificially flavored, partially hydrogenated, day-glow snack foods and clamor for more. Our kids tell us that their friends’ “parents let them eat” the latest processed food fashion. Huge sums of money pay for artists, musicians, toy manufacturers, psychologists, and marketers to work together to carefully manipulate your child’s food preferences.

We’re busy and want something simple, quick, and preferably inexpensive. We return to the ruts of the unhealthy foods we ate ourselves as kids or that we know our own kids will like. We feel guilty because of our busy lifestyles and don’t want to say “no” to our kids – especially if it means yet another battle.

And the last straw – we hear conflicting information about what is healthy. High carb or low carb? Low fat is good for kids. Low fat is bad for kids. Sugar doesn’t affect behavior. Sugar causes ADHD . Aspartame is totally safe. Airplane pilots aren’t allowed to eat foods containing aspartame because it affects their judgment.

Phew! What’s a parent to do? Thankfully, making healthier food choices is simple and clear. Increasing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet makes the diet healthier. Especially in our antibiotic-flooded age, eating foods that contain live active cultures of beneficial bacteria makes our diet healthier. Decreasing artificial chemicals in the diet and the environment, makes us all healthier.

Nutrition is not an all-or-none activity. The goal is to keep making choices that make the diet a little better.

A Stitch in Time
DDT used in the United States before 1966 may have caused an epidemic of premature births that has only now been detected! According to a fascinating study published in the July 14, 2001 issue of The Lancet, scientists who studied stored cord blood samples from mothers who had delivered at that time found elevated levels of DDT breakdown products among the group who had premature deliveries or low birth weight infants. This would make DDT responsible for a host of medical problems and the deaths of many children – but the link wasn’t proven until more than 30 years later! DDT use in the United States was stopped in 1972 because it caused reproductive damage to birds (the bald eagle and brown pelican were nearly extinct), but DDT is still widely used in developing countries for insect control. I’m certain that the dangers of some chemicals in common use in the United States today will be proven in the future. I believe that toxic chemicals are one of the biggest health threats to our children. We may not prove the links until they are grown, but we must not wait until then to provide them with safe food, water, air, homes, and schools.

On a personal note, my wife has now recovered from a very malignant form of breast cancer. She has no family history of the disease, but toxic chemicals were used on her farm when she was a child.

What we now call ‘conventional farming’ is actually something very new. In the 20th century, our naïve optimism about science led to the over-exuberant use of antibiotics, infant formulas, surgery, pesticides, hormones, and fossil fuels. It’s time to bring this back into balance.

Organic food has long been the standard for human nutrition. In contrast, many chemicals and hormones introduced post World War II do not have proven long-term safety. Some of them may be fine. Time will tell. I prefer organic for children where there is a good choice.

An excerpt of an article written by Alan Greene, MD, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, Attending Pediatrician at Packard Children’s Hospital, and Senior Fellow at the University California San Francisco Center for the Health Professions. He is also founder of DrGreene.com and author of Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care.

Courtesy of Healthy Child Healthy World: a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit inspiring parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.

 

PaperbackSwap.com – Recycle Your Books! March 5, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 4:27 pm
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Speaking of books… if you love to read or simply love to recycle, start a free account at www.PaperbackSwap.com.  I’ve been using this site for a few months now, and it’s really a great idea.  You post unwanted books as available to other members on the site.  If someone requests one of your books, you mail it to them and pay the postage yourself (which tends to be around $2).  Everytime you ship a book, you get a credit for a free book for yourself.  So, when you find a book on PaperbackSwap that you want, you request it and the other member pays the shipping.  Great!  You also get two free credits just by starting your account and listing a certain number of books. 

PaperbackSwap has much more than paperbacks.  I’ve scored books for my kids, as well as an inspirational Christian read and current bestsellers.  I even found one Waldorf book in the system!  Of course, the more of us that use the site the more variety their will be.  This is a great way to expand your pregnancy or parenting library, as well as pass on books you no longer need.  It’s recycling that helps everyone!

My wish list is full of books I’d love to have, so you all get on their and start posting!

 

Secondhand for Baby: What’s Safe & What’s Not January 27, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler,Eco-Friendly Living — Rachel @ 3:00 pm
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I’ve saved many a pretty penny by purchasing baby clothes, baby strollers and even a baby carrier secondhand.  If you’re pregnant and looking to buy the best, safest products for baby, I’m sure your shopping list is looking a bit pricey.  Here are some tips from Healthy Child Healthy World that will help you cut costs where it’s safe to do so:

Bath Products:

Safe: Used baby bathtubs are fine as long as the lining isn’t full of mold or mildew.

Not Safe: If the tub has an odor of either of these, say no thanks because they can be hard to remove. Also, skip secondhand bath seats, bath rings, and inflatable tubs since they have been responsible for many deaths among babies.

Healthy Child Recommendation: In addition to mold and mildew, look for scratches or other signs of wear and tear in the plastic. Old plastics are more apt to leach chemicals and the scratches can also harbor for bacteria.

Car Seats:

Safe: A car seat that has all its original parts and labels, has never been in a crash, and fits your car and child is OK.

Not Safe: Products more than six years old are outdated, and most likely too run down to be considered safe.

Healthy Child Recommendation: It is dangerous (and illegal in some states) to reuse a car seat that has been in an accident. Only accept a hand-me-down from someone you trust. Don’t ever buy one from a yard sale or thrift store.

Cribs:

Safe: Any crib that was manufactured after the year 2000 should be fine, as long as it is not broken or missing any pieces.

Not Safe: Prior to 2000, cribs were held to different safety standards, and will not be acceptable for your baby, even if you slept soundly in them. Any crib with cutouts in the headboard, and corner posts over sixteen inches pose serious risks for a child’s safety.

Healthy Child Recommendation: Use the money you saved on the crib for a nice organic mattress (or at least an organic mattress cover). Your baby will spend most of her daily hours with her face nestled into her mattress.  Make it a healthy one!

High Chairs:

Safe: Say yes to a hand-me-down high chair if it has a five-point harness to prevent your child from climbing out and a fixed crotch post that prevents him/her from sliding out the bottom.

Not Safe: Old-fashioned wooden high chairs with removable trays or arms are considered dangerous and uncomfortable for the baby, in addition to not being up to newer product safety standards.

Strollers:

Safe: Strollers made after 2007 when new safety standard were published are safe.

Not Safe: Any stroller made prior to that date, or has missing, loose, or broken

pieces is not.

Healthy Child Recommendation: Accept the stroller, but ditch the PVC rain guard.

Toys:

Safe: Stuffed animals and most children’s books make fine hand-me-downs. In the case of lead in used toys, there are many home lead inspection kits which can be purchased for under twenty dollars which will tell you whether the toys have surface lead contamination.

Unsafe: Avoid any toys that are chipped, as well as any small parts that can fit through a tube of toilet paper, since they present serious choking hazards for small children.

Healthy Child Recommendation: Toss stuffed animals in a dryer on high heat or in a freezer for 48 hours to kill any dust mites (especially if your child has dust allergies or asthma). Make sure books don’t smell moldy. Politely decline plastic toys (especially if they are worn or if they are made from PVC (#3), PC (#7) or an unknown plastic).

Used Clothing:

Safe: As long as buttons and snaps are on tight and none of the thread is unraveling from the fabric, the used clothing is fine.

Unsafe: Pass on any article of clothing with drawstrings because they pose a strangulation hazard.

Healthy Child Recommendation: Recently, many children developed rashes and skin burns from children’s tag-less clothing. Watch for these items and monitor your child for any reactions.

by Janelle Sorensen

Courtesy of Healthy Child Healthy World: a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit inspiring parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.

 

In the Spirit of the New Year January 2, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living,Fashion & Fun — Rachel @ 3:41 pm
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It’s 2009, a fresh new year.  My daughter, Aria, was thrilled to be told yesterday that it was the first day of the whole year.  A change of month, plus a change of year was just so much fun for her.  She kept saying, “It’s January, the coldest month of the year!” with great enthusiasm.  Perhaps it helped that we baked a chocolate raspberry New Years cake together… but really, she just loves to mark the days. 

I don’t like resolutions.  They always seem birthed from the negative as in “I’ll eat better,”  “I’ll exercise more,” or “I won’t neglect the garden.”  But, in the spirit of the New Year, I’m reflecting on some goals for 2009.

  1. Build a set of compost bins and start composting
  2. Start dancing again for exercise (and therapy… oh, what an hour of ballet can do for my soul!)
  3. Get a flock of egg-laying chickens
  4. Research and plan our vegetable garden for 2010
  5. Develop my cooking skills with an eye towards economics and health.  Specifically, I hope to learn to cook our sandwich bread and salad dressings, buy/cook beans in bulk, and find our way into a weekly dinner rhythm that allows our afternoons to fall together without stress and with savings!  
  6. Enrich our lives with  more Waldorf inspired ways – more simple traditions, more seasonal festivals, more time outside, more crafting, more beauty in our home.  A lifestyle of togetherness, spirituality, and less is more mentality.   
  7. Worship and honor God in all that we do.