Saturday, August 30, 2008

Compacting Update

Not anything too exciting to report. I realized that I broke my pledge again the other day in Flagstaff when we ate at Wendy's. Not such a biggie but still breaking the rules.

Other than that I am doing OK. I have bought some gifts from the downtown farmers market, and from a small family owned toy store near us so that is good. I also bought K some tops from a consignment store nearby. She has grown so fast this summer she will need some new winter clothes so I forsee a trip to Goodwill next week, and maybe a garage sale if I can find one nearby.

My mind set is definitely shifting away more and more from shopping as a recreational activity, and I am spending less which is great for our budget. I have been writing down everything I spend for the past few months and it is amazing how quickly things add up.

Almost half way through now. We are away again visiting family overseas in a few weeks so that may present some challenges. We shall see.

Friday, August 29, 2008

On Thin Ice

This story about rapidly melting summer sea ice in the arctic from NPR's All Thing's Considered this afternoon made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Especially sad is the image of the mother and cub swimming out in open water in a wasteland of melting ice. Very sad. Makes me feel like there isn't much hope I am afraid.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mount Humphreys

Today my sweet, funny, and hardcore outdoorsy friend C and I hiked Mount Humphreys which is the tallest point in Arizona standing at 12,637 ft.

Our good and kind husbands both happened to have the day off, and agreed to watch all the girls for us which was jolly nice of them considering we were gone for quite some time!

Here are some views from the way up

A picture of us once we reached the summit which took us considerably more time than we had thought it would. Well the air is very thin up there you know!

And some views from the top on a clear and perfect northern Arizona day. We could even see the Grand Canyon although I don't think you can in these!

This was the sunset that greeted us when we finally made it back to the parking lot!

A marvelous and hilarious day was had by all, well maybe not all, I don't think the guys had quite as much fun as we did!

Now I am exceedingly sore which is a testament to my lack of recent, (? any), mountaineering fitness, but it was totally worth it for such a fabulous day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Green Update- Energy

I plan on posting over the next few weeks with updates of the efforts we have been making to live more sustainably. Today’s update is “energy”.

The main issue we have is that our house is a total energy hog, especially at this time of year! Phoenix is of course one of the most perfect locations on earth for the utilization of solar energy, and my dream would be to install solar everything and live off the grid! Not surprisingly though we don’t have a spare $20,000 lying around for that purpose, so for now conservation has to be our goal.

We have kept our thermostat set at 83 degrees all summer. It feels OK. We also close the shutters for most of the day to keep the heat out, and of course make sure doors and windows are closed, and well insulated. We also use our ceiling fans which make things feel a lot cooler.

We are gradually phasing out all of our conventional light bulbs and changing to CFL’s. We probably have 50% of each right now. It is amazing how long a light bulb lasts when one is waiting for it to go!

I am being careful to make sure that lights are turned off.(Yes Mum I am almost you now!) I am also more mindful of appliance use generally, and will only run the washing machine when it is completely full. I rarely use the dishwasher. This causes controversy in our house which I will speak more of when I do our green update on "water". I am also much more aware of the need to unplug appliances that aren’t in use, like cell phone chargers for example.

I used to love taking long, hot baths, but summer here rather puts me off that idea so I seldom do now which saves on energy for heating water. The girls and I will often shower together as well so that also saves a little. I would love to install a solar hot water heater which is apparently a good place to start with solar, but unless our current boiler goes out, that too is unlikely right now. (You watch, now it will!)

I line dry most of our washing. I have been line drying less recently than I was a few months ago, but I can still say that 80% of our washing is dried using our solar dryer! Ironing is another issue entirely though I am afraid, and I always have a big ironing pile. We have a strict iron-to-wear policy in this house. Good job R doesn’t have a job that requires he wears shirts that need ironing!

I have worked hard on reducing our gas usage. I combine many trips now, and plan routes so that I can get most errands done in one trip. Many days I find I only have the school run to do, which is only a couple of miles from home. I have vague thoughts of trying to car pool but haven’t got far with that yet. I am also mindful about my speed on the freeway, staying at around 60 miles per hour. (This is also an indication of my rapidly approaching 40th birthday I am sure).

I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home, and while R’s commute is unavoidable, it is only about twenty five minutes or so which isn’t too bad. He has also changed his hours to four longer days a week which helps. Our recent vacation of course made a mockery of our gas conservation measures, so we actually have a lot of catching up to do in that area.

I think that is about it. Not dramatic I know, but small changes are a start. The main thing is that I am consciously thinking about everything I do from a sustainability standpoint which is a base for change.

The next few weeks I will do more green updates on "water", "waste", and "consumption".

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Tribute To Talent

I have been thinking a lot recently about the amazing creative talent and productivity that surrounds me within the various blogs that I love to read frequently.

In a world where it is all too easy to buy any "thing", or pay for any service one desires, it is very inspiring for me to see what others are creating with their own home made talent, and hard work.

People like Amy with her amazing cake, Leaner with her gorgeous sewing, Esther with her original and inspired pastels and prose, Titania with her stunning garden, and endless knowledge of plants, Sugarcreekstuff with her breathtaking needlework, Midlife Midwife, and Rachel, both with the most amazing and productive urban farms, Thomas with his clucky urban chickens, Lisa with her beautiful hummingbird garden, and BODAAT with her witty and funny view of the world.

If you haven't checked out some of these blogs I strongly encourage you to do so. You will see some very great things!

And for all of you fellow bloggers, this is a tribute to you, and all that you do. Thank you, and please keep on posting because I very much love what you do!

Green Summit

This Green Summit here in Phoenix looks good. I think it is focused more towards professionals within green business, but it looks interesting nonetheless.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oops Again!

K has been sick, really sick, so much so that I, who usually doesn't get easily panicked by my children and illness, rushed her off to the Dr yesterday. She needed to go, and I am glad we went because she is already feeling, and acting much better today.

On the way back from the Dr's office we stopped off at a well known pharmacy chain to collect her prescriptions. There was a very long wait, K was so sick, and E was getting rambunctious, and in a moment of major weakness I agreed to buy them both something small to keep them occupied. (This is totally out of character for me, I VERY rarely buy them random gifts when we are out and about. It is just not something I do). K predictably chose a princess coloring set, and E chose some little doggies, and they were both so surprised, and so happy, that I also felt a bit happy too. It wasn't that I had forgotten my pledge, rather that I had conveniently filed it away in the back of my mind for a little while.

So, there it is, I did it again, made two completely unnecessary new purchases against the rules of my pledge. The girls are still happily playing with their new toys today though, and that makes me feel like they do really appreciate the things that they have, and that is good I think.

Oh, and I almost forgot, we ate at Sweet Tomatoes after we had been to the museum last Sunday. Another pledge breakage I am afraid. This compacting business is harder than I thought it would be!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day At The Museum

Today we went downtown again, this time to the Phoenix Childrens Museum. It has only been open a month or so, and I have heard great things about it from a couple of friends. I have also read some bad reviews online that surprised me rather now that I have been and seen it for myself, but I suppose it all comes down to personal expectations, and these often differ from parent to child.

There are areas within the museum that are yet to be completed, but overall I think that it is great value at $9 an admission if one stays for as many hours as we did today!

It is located within the refurbished Monroe School Building, which has been a downtown Phoenix landmark since 1913. It makes so much sense to me to use an existing building, rather than building from scratch, especially when the building is as appealing as this one is. It has been refurbished in a very innovative way, and the museum has very clear and thorough environmental policy practices, which of course appeal to me greatly.

"The Children's Museum of Phoenix's "Common Sense Green" environmental initiative will provide an over-arching roadmap for creating a museum that lives and breathes healthful choices."

The ground floor is huge and had some lovely art work displayed on the wall, and suspended from the high ceiling

Here is a small taste of some of the activities available

Phew! I think that if one utilizes all that there is available, this museum provides a great day out in Phoenix. There are ongoing plans for changing activities and exhibits which will keep things fresh. We had to practically drag the girls out, and so did the friends we were with. It was also really nice to see all the kids engaging in simple play activities, and loving every minute of it.

Phoenix Childrens Museum is the most ideal place for our long, hot summer days when nowhere outside in the searing heat is suitable for kids. It really is a great place, and I am excited to see it develop and grow.


Yesterday morning we went to collect our organic bounty from the veggie co-op we sign up for. I was again very happy with the quantity and selection, and am so glad I discovered this great co-op.

Then we went downtown to The Farmers Market to attend the chicken class run by Phoenix Permaculture Guild. We didn't make it all the way to the end though because the girls were getting rather restless, but I learned a ton of stuff about keeping urban chickens. Unfortunately we don't have enough room per city code to keep them without written permission from our neighbours, so our chicken keeping exploits will most likely need to wait until we move in a year or so.

Next my good friend C joined us with her lovely girls and we pottered around the market. It wasn't too hot because it was quite shady, and they had enormous fans which the girls enjoyed standing in front of.

I bought a beautiful pair of silver earings as a gift for a friend back home. I was glad to be able to buy local. There are loads of places for buying lovely local gifts at the market. I also discovered a stall selling "Tepary Beans" which are a native bean from right here in Arizona. The guy said they are like pinto beans, and that they have been grown for many years. I definitely want to try some next time we go back.

Then we wandered around for a while enjoying the sights.

Yesterday afternoon I planted two types of corn, two types of zucchini, snap beans, and cucumbers in my newly prapared beds. I added a load of compost from my compost bin so it should provide a good and fertile area. I feel strangely pessimistic about it all growing though, maybe because I haven't ever grown anything from seed at this time of year. We shall have to wait and see what sprouts!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Eat My Words

Was it not me who proclaimed just three days ago "I have had no desire at all to go and browse the shops and I have realized that the reason for this is because we already have everything we need, and more!" Well apparently I need to eat my words because I broke my pledge TWICE the past couple of days!

I went to Trader Joes to pick up a few groceries and saw this very cute plant in the equally cute pot, and just had to buy it. It was as if I had no pledge I wanted that plant so much! Perhaps the plant could squeeze through and pass, but the pot certainly can't. It is an amazing plant though isn't it?

I also decided I wanted to play around on the old drum kit and when I went to find some sticks, I couldn't find any that matched, or were intact. So, of course I needed to buy some more, and of course I got new ones because buying second hand drum sticks rather defeats the object of buying them at all.

I pledge to do better from now on, and to not be nearly as smug as I was a few days ago!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fun In The Garden

The weather was pretty nice this past Saturday, humid but only 102-ish. So, after I finished work I decided it would be the perfect time to go outside and do some long overdue yard work.

The big storm last week brought down a branch from one of my Palo Verde trees, so I cleared that up first.

Then I started work on making more space for my fall veggies. By this time I had one furry helper!

Soon after I acquired more helpers, some furry,

some not so much.

We all worked very hard.

And before long I had more space for planting, but had run out of time to actually plant anything!

We all went inside very sweaty and dirty. It was a fun afternoon!