Monday, June 30, 2008

How Green Is Your Vacation?

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The answer for us is not very green at all!

We are taking a road trip, a long road trip up to the northwest, one that we have been planning to take for years, and one that we finally decide to take the year gas prices have exploded. Perhaps that should be telling us something?

I found this green vacation quiz which is fun to do if one has the time, although the results aren't really that surprising. We will be driving a gas guzzling mini- van, eating at lots of chain food places, staying at hotels, and drinking endless amounts of bottled water no doubt, so that wont get us many bonus points.

Vacations just aren't really that green are they? The way we get to them, the things we do when we are there, and all the stuff we consume along the way? Not green at all. But they are fun, a lot of fun usually, and fun is important sometimes, so of course we are still going.

Our enormous mini van is not green at all, I know this, but what to do? We really aren't in any situation to buy a Prius right now I am afraid. (I am also one of those hypocritical people who place environmental bumper stickers on their gas guzzling monsters. Not good).

Anyway, I am very excited for us to get away from the heat, to see new places, drink lots of beer, and to meet up with some dear old friends and family. Yes, I am definitely ready to get away.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saving Energy

We have been forced to conserve energy this weekend because our AC is out! Not the best news on a hot June weekend in Phoenix, but really not the end of the world either.

We have completely shuttered every window and door possible, and much to my surprise it is still only 85 degrees inside our house now at about 2.15 pm. It will get a lot hotter later, and of course the house get warmest towards the end of the day, but it just goes to show how much energy it is possible to save on AC when one really tries, (or is forced!)

I am interested to see just how hot it will get. Our AC man can't get here until Monday due to high demand, so viewing this as a fun green endeavour will make the weekend pass a lot quicker I am sure. (We'll see how long that lasts!)

06.30.08 Update- So it got pretty miserable, and HOT, especially during the night! Good news was though that the AC guy was able to get here yesterday and sort it out. So, we are back to our lovely, cool, and extremely un- energy efficient home. Not an experiment I wish to repeat!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bad Hair Day

Today I decided that I needed to get my hair trimmed. I usually get my hair trimmed a couple of times a year. I usually go to a salon that is average in price, but with my new frugal way of thinking and living I decided that this would be too expensive and that a local franchise hair cutting place would probably be OK. $13 for a hair cut, billy bargain right?

Everything started out OK, but as the lady snipped away I grew a little concerned because it just didn't seem that she was making even a fair attempt to cut straight. My hair is wavy so doesn't need to be cut precisely straight, but a little bit straight is always good, no?

I could tell about half way through that things were definitely not good. Did I stop her and tell her? No, of course not, I sat there chatting away as happy as can be, and here is the result. Not good!


Now, I am not vain by any stretch of the imagination, but I ask you? Even with the wave in it you can tell how bad it is. The ends look horrible!

You are thinking aren't you that I refused to leave the place until the situation was rectified right? Wrong. You need to know that I am one of the least assertive people you will EVER meet, so instead, I thanked the lady, payed, left a TIP, (!!!!) and walked out of that place as if I was the happiest customer they had ever had. I ask you, exactly what am I teaching my girls about being assertive women? (And about getting a decent haircut for that matter).

Now that I am home and have trimmed off the piece at the side that was an inch lower than the rest I feel a little bit better and have had a good laugh about it. R will be home later and he will be able to trim the odds and ends. Like I said, at least my hair is wavy so you can't really tell, (unless you cut hair for a living). I wear it tied back most of the time too.

This has me thinking though, maybe there are a few things that it does not pay to be so frugal with? I might splurge next time and go back to my usual place. Can't imagine what they will think when they see this though, probably that one of the girls cut my hair!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Home Sweet Home

cabideiro
It has been another predictably hot weekend here. I haven't left our home all weekend! I have been busy though, really busy doing stuff around the house and garden.

The monsoon storms are coming, and I want everything to be OK outside, the trees all trimmed so that they don't get damaged by monsoon wind, and the other plants trim and well cared for. I have almost finished pruning all the trees. I will post some before and after pics when I am completely done. I have thinned them out considerably and that has taken away from the lovely shade they provide, but it had to be done. The mesquite tree I did a few weeks ago is growing back already. They don't waste much time in growing back foliage to shade their trunks these hot weather trees!

My veggie garden is looking a little dry and sad, though we are still getting tomaotes, and zucchini on a daily basis. The pepper plants are growing, and had flowers, and yet no peppers?! The cucumber vine is also growing like crazy and has lots of baby cucumbers. I hope that they grow. I have planned out what I will be planting in August for the fall, and I need to start getting some more beds prepared by de-compacting the concrete like soil we have here, and dumping some compost on top. Back breaking work, especially in this heat. Did I mention that it has been hot here??

I have just done a stack of ironing. I used not to like ironing but now I rather enjoy it. I listen to NPR and day dream. I also mended a sheet that was ripped with some iron on fabric I already had. It looks great and I am so glad I did this! I am a little ashamed to admit that a while back I would simply have gone out and bought another sheet, but not now that I am the new super improved frugal Mo.

I have really been enjoying the series on NBC nightly news called "Staying Afloat: Survival Guide" which describes how one can live well, and still penny pinch in these somewhat tougher times. They had a story about buying groceries from 99 cent stores last week and featured "The 99 cent Chef" who creates gourmet menu's from 99 cent store groceries.

*Edit, I had the incorrect link for above story previously.

It seems that frugal living is becoming somewhat trendy these days. It is ironic to me in that many, many people have been living this way for years, but it is only when things start affecting the masses that it becomes newsworthy I suppose. And still we have so much. I have been amazed how much money I have been saving by being more aware of what I am spending, and this is even before I start compacting proper! It is all a mindset, and one I am enjoying I have to say.

Oh, and I have been looking at plans to build a chicken tractor . It seems more and more likely that we will get a couple of chooks in the fall, after I have done way more research of course.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pesto

It seems that here in Phoenix once temperatures exceed 110 degrees which they have been doing for the past several days, and are predicted to do for the next few at least, all everyone can talk about is how hot it is. I know, it sounds totally obvious, but still every person one meets speaks bitterly of the heat and how miserable it is. This is a yearly phenomenon, and one that I conveniently forget about from October through about April. It is at this time of year that I am reminded wholeheartedly of why I want to move up to the cool green-ness of the pacific northwest. (The rest of the year I still want to move there, just not this much!)

Today as I released my poor hot, sweaty girls from their car seats and dashed into our extremely un-environmentally friendly, yet cool house, I was thinking about what might make us all feel better. I came to the conclusion that something from a place that has fairly normal summers would be nice, like somewhere in Europe. That got me thinking about Pesto and how good it would be to make some so that we could all feel a bit normal again, even if just for a little while.

After we had cooled off a little, I dashed outside and quickly harvested most of the rest of our basil, gathered together olive oil, salt, garlic, pine nuts, and pecorino cheese.


Then I blended it all together and here it is, fresh, yummy, green, cool, aromatic pesto.


I do think I feel a little better. And as I take in the wonderful aroma, and think about how I will be sharing it with you tomorrow Amy during what might be our last get together for a while, I am trying not to think about how much I am going to miss you!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Compacting Pledge

I have been thinking great deal about my compacting pledge over the past week or so. The main premise behind it all is to not purchase anything new, with the exception of certain items such as food, toiletries etc. I haven't heard back from the lady at Mama's on the Compact as yet, but whether I do or not I am going to to do this anyway, and will record how it goes here.

I have been thinking a lot about how much stuff we already have and have become somewhat appalled considering that I moved to the states from the UK with little more than the clothes on my back. I did have some books and other sentimental things shipped later, but to start with I really had to start from scratch. Compacting at that time would have been a real challenge, but of course one that I wasn't ready for then. I was decidedly intoxicated by the consumer opportunities offered here!

I plan to start compacting for two months starting August 1st. We are on vacation through much of July, and I know regretfully that whatever good intentions I may have during that time, it will be nearly impossible to stick to my pledge of not eating at any chain food outlets while we are away.

The items that are exempt from the compact for us are as follows:

Shoes for the girls.
Underwear and swimwear for us all.
Gifts, although I will make every attempt to purchase these from local, small and independent stores so that at least I will be supporting these.
Within reason certain DIY stuff such as paints etc, although I will make every attempt to salvage, and obtain raw materials for projects as much as possible.
Seeds and plants for the yard, though again I will attempt to seed and plant share as much as possible.
We will avoid eating at any chain restaurants or fast food outlets. (We hardly ever eat out anyway but if we do, we will eat at locally owned places).

Everything else I will obtain second hand.

I have joined my local Freecycle group, and researched the locations of all the thrift/ consignment stores in my area, so I feel that we are all ready to go. Watch this space for my progress!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Catalog Choice

Are you tired of your mail box getting filled up with unrequested, and unwanted catalogs? If so think about signing up for the service provided by Catalog Choice. This is a free service provided by The Ecology Center, and endorsed by some of the big hitters in the environmental world such as the National Wildlife Federation, and The Natural Resources Defense Council. It allows you to choose which catalogs you want to receive, and which ones you don't.

All you need do is sign up on the Catalog Choice website, and start declining catalogs that you no longer wish to receive. The many vendors that have also signed up for the service are informed of your wish to no longer receive information about their products. Some of them take a little while to stop, and a very few vendors still require that you call them personally to decline their catalogs. (I am still not sure why they would want one to do this when they have signed up for the service themselves).

Overall though this is a great service and we are starting to see a reduction in the amount of unwanted catalogs arriving in the mail since I signed up in January.

If we all do this it will save lots and lots of trees!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Planet Green

Not quite sure how I missed this but apparently the discovery channel now have a new one called Planet Green. It is described as "the first and only 24-hour eco-lifestyle television network." I'm not even sure how long it has been going but it surely looks interesting to me. I really don't watch a great deal of TV, don't have much time, but I will be checking this out to see whether there is anything of value. Hopefully there will be in the 24 hours each day that it is on!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mama's on the Compact

While I was reading some other green blogs yesterday I came across this great site called "Mamas on the Compact". It is basically a group of Moms who have pledged that they will buy nothing new for a specific period of time ranging from two months, right up to a year. When I first read this I was thinking it to be near impossible, but you know what I think that I am going to take it on! Obviously there are certain things that have to be bought new like perishable items, toiletries etc, but most other things, well, they can most certainly be bought second hand! It may not be easy at times, but definitely do-able, and it ties in so much to the philosophy of my blog, and the way we are trying to live these days. I have made significant efforts over recent months to reduce the amount of "stuff" I buy. I have been buying mostly second hand, but I do still get those weak moments when I see items on sale at Target.

In order to get started with this, (once I have emailed the lady running it), I need to compose a pledge statement that outlines a few exceptions to the rule of not buying anything new. These are personal to each person, and I already know that one of them will be to buy new shoes for the girls. I am very particular that they get shoes that fit, and that last until they grow. I have a few other things to add as well, and will spend the rest of the day thinking over my pledge. I am excited I love a challenge like this!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Green Blogs

Green living

I briefly investigated some other green blogs today via Best Green Blogs. I could have spent literally hours perusing the many amazing and beautiful blogs focused on sustainable living but alas, I had things to do today.

In the time that I had however I managed to find several that I will definitely be visiting again in the future for ideas, and for their sheer beauty! Many have the most amazing links to sites and schemes pertaining to environmental issues.

Here are a few I read and admired. There was "Green Me Healthy And Green By The Day", "Greenhab: The Browns Go Green", "Mothers Going Green", and "Little Beach Homestead". All inspiring, and educational blogs that got me thinking about what we are trying to do, and how we can do it even better.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Tastes, (And Smells), Of Summer


I made this sandwich yesterday for lunch, and just as I was about to eat it I realized that I had either made, or grown most of the ingredients! I baked the bread, and grew the tomato and basil. The ingredients I was not involved in producing were the mozzarella cheese, olive oil, and salt and pepper, but it tased delicious, and was quite the summery snack.


The sights and smells of summer fruits always take me back to the English summers of my childhood, especially the smell of fresh raspberries, and strawberries. I grew up in rural England, and we had loads of raspberry bushes growing in our back garden. We would pick them straight off the bushes. We also used to go strawberry picking at farms nearby, and gorge ourselves on the juicy fruit. Sadly I had no part in growing these fruit, but don't they look beautiful? The girls thought they tasted pretty good as well.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sorry, Nothing To Do With Being Green

** Warning, this post has absolutely nothing to do with green living, frugal living, water conservation, vegetable growing, reducing carbon footprinting, or any other blog relevant subject.

I can't contain my excitement any longer. I have become totally, and utterly OBSESSED with this song! I can not stop listening to it. I really can't quite remember the last time I was so completely and utterly entertained by a song like this. It makes me want to throw my algebra books out of the window, (I have been feeling like doing that for a while), run outside, jump up and down, and dance, and sing, and maybe even dust off my poor old dirty and neglected drum kit and play a few solid grooves.

What a FAB tune!

Believe It? Or Not?

I have really enjoyed hearing about this story which has been circulating around various media sources for some time now.

Apparently UPS have for a long time planned their driving routes to make mostly right turns. It is calculated that as many as 90% of the total turns made by their drivers are to the right. Sounds unbelievable doesn't it? Really it's not!

This has significantly reduced the amount of gas wasted while sitting idling at intersections waiting to make left turns, reduced distances travelled, and it has of course cut down on air pollution, and carbon emissions. In turn it is saving UPS a whole lot of gas money and time. What a brilliant, and deceptively simple idea!

Shade

Something that we crave a lot of this time of year in Phoenix, although it is still relatively cool for this time of year.

In my humble opinion trees are the answer, and lots of them, although having lots of trees also brings with it a lot of work with the summer monsoons rapidly approaching. Trees can get severely damaged in the high winds of the monsoons, many are blown over completely. I love the shade our trees provide, and begrudge the fact that I have to thin them out so much each summer, but they always grow back.

Our Mesquite trees are in the grass so they get way more water in the summer than they need, and as a result get much thicker and bushier than they should, and thus require lots of pruning to thin them out so that the wind blows through them, instead of taking ahold of them and blowing them over.


The object lessons here are firstly not to have mesquite trees growing in grass, and secondly not to have any grass! I was recently horrified to see that our water consumption DOUBLED the month we resumed irrigating our grass. I had not realized that we were using so much, and we tend to under water believe it or not. I am in a serious "green" dilemma over this believe me. If we were planning to stay here I would have the grass out in a jiffy, but because we aren't, it may have to stay I am afraid. We aren't in any situation to be undertaking any major landscaping at the mo, and besides, bermuda grass is a devil to remove by all accounts. Anyway, this weekend I can see that I will be pruning some trees, not something I am an expert at by any means, but I usually do an adequate job of it.

I have this beautiful vine growing on the north side of our house. It seems to have many names. I thought it was called "Queen's Wreath" according to my books, but I got a different vine under that name when I searched for it. Although I am not in any way a gardener that uses correct botanical names much, if at all, but for purposes of identification, the botanical name for this pretty vine is "Antigonon Leptopus." The northern exposure of the house is much too shady for it, and although I have provided a trellis for it to climb upon,


It much prefers the more more natural support of an agave that also gives it more sunlight. Very clever! In a week or so it will have a riot of pink flowers all over it and will look so pretty.


R spent a lot of time at the weekend constructing me a more permanant shade structure to save my poor fried veggie plants. He worked very hard, and it is great.



I need to buy a bit more shade cloth which I will then wire onto the chicken wire on top, leaving the front unsecured but weighted down so that I can lift it up for more sunlight if needed. I have also put in drip lines so I don't have to crawl underneath to water. So far even with the little shade netting I have it is working well. It was all made with stuff we already had so it didn't cost more than the shade netting.

Don't you just love the shady spots?!