Friday, January 30, 2015

Real Food Challenge - Week #5

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Warming Up to Wallpaper

When I was a kid, the idea of wallpaper got us downright irritable. We lived in a gloriously large (by our standards) house that my mother slowly but surely made into a home. I like to romantically liken it to Mary Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life." I'm positive it wasn't actually like that, but sometimes it's nice to live in our imaginations.

Regardless, I'm not sure if my mother was responsible for it or a previous owner, but our dining room was wallpapered. It had either been applied incorrectly or with an old-fashioned paste that made it damn near impossible to peel off with any efficiency. Instead, whenever we were on the phone (corded, kids), we would sit mindlessly scraping with an old paring knife, one chip of paper at a time. If nothing else, it taught me that, come hell or high water, you must do things the right way. Even if it took years of tedium.

So, when I first started seeing wallpaper come back 'in', I raised an eyebrow. There's so much to hate about it.

But, after seeing it more...and more...and in incredibly modern, bold prints or subtle, classic designs...I warmed up. The fact that all the blog posts I read tout how simple and easy it is to apply (and just as easy to take down) made it less and less scary.


Okay. So, I won't be applying the stuff in our current house anytime fast (unless we suddenly decide not to move in the next year), but it gives me thoughts about fixing up places we may consider in the future. But, I have stipulations.

I'm not into papering an entire large room. Even with the most modern of prints, it seems to have an overpowering, almost Victorian style to it. Too busy, I guess. That said, I'm also not an "accent wall" girl; at least, not in a large living area. I also wouldn't pick any of the styles they carry at, say, Lowe's. They seem like all the other outdated, flowery options. 

So, what WOULD I do with modern-day wallpaper? I'm kind of into the idea of papering a closet (especially a bedroom one, emanating inspiration and a mood change every time the door is opened), small bathroom (large prints can actually do wonders in a small space), or maaaaaybe as an accent wall in an office or nursery.

The other cool trend in wallpaper is the forms that it can take. Traditional adhesive-backed or moveable vinyl or even a stencil used to look like a large pattern, you can customize it to your preferences. Whatever mood you hope to evoke, you've got it. Whimsical? Got it. Feminine? Of course. Moody? Sure thing.

You can shop around online and, luckily, purchase swatches before committing. There are several discount stores, although I could drool over Spoonflower (far from discount) for hours. The coolest part about this site? You can literally custom-make your own. But, really? How can you not want to just pick one of the genius designs they already offer? (This isn't a sponsored post, BTW. I just like the site.) 

What do you guys think? Is wallpaper a trend you'd rather see go away? Or do you have some that you love in your house? Are you on the fence about it because of the "PITA to put up" factor?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Today's Tip - First Edition!

I'm starting a new series that I'm lamely calling "Today's Tip." I'm hoping to share little tips and tricks (or "life hacks" as the kids these days are saying) to make your life just a wee bit simpler. The topics will range from parenting to cleaning to green living to just general time savers...and anything else that pops into my brain.

"Today's Tip" is a super simple way to cut back on waste that'll save you time, money, and one by one, the EARTH!!!

{dramatic pause}

No, really. If you're not already doing this, it's completely worth the tiny amount of time and effort to get on it.

I know, I know. This tip has been around forever. Yet, I know a ton of people who still buy over-priced bottles of water at work or go through the {oomph} effort it takes to lug the &$#%@*$ case of water home from the store. Switching plastic for reusable and filling it with filtered water at home is by far one of the easiest switches we've make, and has made a huge impact on the sheer number of water bottle waste we produce.

I also have seen several news sources cite that there's a possibility of increased cancer risk (particularly for females) caused by drinking water from a plastic bottle that has, say, sat in a hot car (due to the leaching of chemicals into the water). I know that there was a time that I did this -- regularly. I'd rather not take my chances if making such a simple change can possibly help.

Now, we happen to live in a state that now charges a 5-cent fee per bottle (meaning that you can redeem it when you bring back your bottles and cans). But, between the effort of taking back ALL those bottles and cans, and the energy used to recycle that bottle into another (and, by the way, that's not a never-ending process; one day, the plastic will no longer be able to be melted into another item...and where do you think it goes then?), it's still a drain on our time, energy, and environmental resources. And, really, we used to have to bring bottles back at least monthly. Now, it's a couple of times a year (more in the summertime...ahem, beer and hard cider).

The bottle that we happen to use is the Ello flip-top glass bottle (mine is in turquoise; Dave's is in gray). We love the glass since it's completely free of chemicals or leaching, and the silicone provides an extra layer of protection from breakage. Dave bought me a gorgeous glass one awhile back with a wood top and beautiful design, but a student knocked it on our *cushioned* library floor and, oye, what a mess. Still can't believe that tempered glass broke. 

And one open-and-honest caveat: With our particular model, we have to keep an eye on the latch and ensure that the top is properly screwed-on. Totally user error stuff, but I've had the entire contents of my purse completely submerged (a couple of times). So, yeah. Keep that in mind! 

You don't have to get this kind, though. Klean Kanteen provides durable aluminum options that are pretty cool, too. Just be sure that whatever you purchase is at least BPA-free and suits your needs. Some people like buying a larger option to ensure that they'll get the recommended amount of water for the day; others want a smaller, more portable option. It totally doesn't matter. Whatever you get, just be sure that it meets all of your own criteria.

And, remember that the price is a one-time thing vs. a continual cost that adds up over time. We grabbed our bottles at Target, but they were around the $15 mark. It sounds like a lot, but if you estimate a bottle of water is $1 (in our work vending machine it's actually $1.50, but it's far less if you buy in bulk, so let's take the average), you'll be paying it off in about two weeks' time. I kid you not, though: I love having more than one on-hand to bring along (kept in a cooler...or not, doesn't matter) when we hit the road. It's worth its weight in gold since I'm far less likely to grab a beverage along the way.

So, raise your hand if you already have/use your own reusable bottles! What kind do you like? Do you use them for hitting up the gym (not I, says the pig) or for daily use?

The above post may contain affiliate links. This just means that, if you happen to buy the item (or anything else from Amazon purchased after clicking that link), you'll be supporting this blog. Win-win! You're under no obligation to buy anything.    

Friday, January 23, 2015

Real Food Challenge - Week #4

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I'm hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here's how it works. I'll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the "rules" for that particular week. It's up to each participant as to whether or not they'd like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There's also a very active Facebook group (I've actually joined an offshoot that's super supportive and far more focused) that's there to share, answer and support.

Review of Week #3: So, this week was all about cutting back on meat consumption and eating only locally-raised meat. I loved the idea of the thing, but had to get a little creative to get our hands on some. Our favorite local market was during a different weekend, so we missed it. Instead, I sent my savior husband to a local store that happens to provide local, organic, grassfed meat. I was disappointed at the cost of pork and the fact that they had no chicken, so we grabbed two pounds of ground beef and went with it.

I've just gotta say that during this whole challenge, the way to succeed is MEAL PLANNING. I do it in a casual, less structured way -- by creating a list of possible meals for the week rather than saying "Tuesday is taco day and it's set in stone!" For example, we usually eat pizza on Fridays, but for some reason I was jonesin' for it on Wednesday. So, I sauteed some onion and a handful of the beef (our first meal with meat for the week) to top the pizza with, served it with salads and TADA! Simple. Plus, keeping the list written on our fridge's dry erase board lets me get home from school and start cooking right away rather than racking my brain for ideas.

So far, so good. We still have the weekend to go, but we're doing fine. I had to run to the store for some supplies last night, which delayed my cooking (but I didn't have the stuff on hand to make a slow cooker soup...double-edged sword), but it's a first-world problem.

Week #4 Challenge: This week is going to be E-A-S-Y. The challenge is twofold: No fast food (sit-down restaurants are okay, which is AWESOME because we've got a date night planned) and nothing deep-fried. We don't use things like hard taco shells (deep-fried) and if we eat fries, they are healthily baked. I'm also thinking that I'd like to try baking some chicken fingers just to see how it goes; I did it once before, but I didn't like the mess of the method.

Soooooo, purdy easy. We have the option to either stack the challenges (so that by the end we're doing all 14 things habitually) or try each week separately to see how it works for our families. Right now, I'm trying to maintain the 6-fruits/veggies a day challenge, having little to no sugar in my coffee/tea, and now think that I'll try to keep more local meats in the freezer and attempt more vegetarian meals each week. It's actually easier than I thought, although I'd like to put more thought into the balance of nutrients we're getting. So, I'd say that we've got a "modified stacked" approach going on, and I like it.

Here's my meal "plan" for week #4:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why We Do What We Do

It's pretty obvious that I'm sporadic about my blog post topics. Welcome to my brain! For being a boring librarian (psht, if you believe THAT, you don't know my librarian friends...), I have a million different interests. Things that I'm incredibly passionate about. Sometimes I'll talk your ear off about them; other times, I don't want to come off as a lecturer, so I'm pretty silent. So, depending on what's boiling to the top at the time, it's what I post.

I'd like to have more focus, but ultimately it's important for me to say this: Just because I'm not posting about it doesn't mean that it's fallen off of my priority list. I may be "living it" or quietly doing my thing without telling the whole world about it.

Whenever I do a reader survey, I find out that everyone reads for different reasons - yet another reason I'm sticking to my "variety is the spice of life" posting style. But, I also tend to get questions about things that I might have posted about several years ago. Namely, our green practices and eating habits.

So, today I'm getting into it. Why we make the choices that we make.

We eat (mostly) organic. Currently, we're taking part in a challenge to try to weed out a bit of our processed foods a bit. Why? Several reasons. We're more mindful about the food that goes into our bodies. It has value to us, unlike "Value Meal" items (which degrade the lives that were given for the meal). But, most importantly, we have read and looked into the connection between pesticides/chemicals and cancer rates (and other health issues), and would like to lessen our chances at any cost. So, yeah.

We care about the lives of the animals we consume. Believe me, I only wish we could be vegetarians. I do. Deeply. We adore animals, domesticated and wild. We're trying to get back into a healthier flexitarian diet. But, ultimately, we do our best to buy locally-raised (generally grassfed and humanely treated) meat and poultry, but at least look for a "humane" seal on packaged meat bought elsewhere. It. Just. Matters. An animal died for your dinner. Shouldn't it have at the very least had a non-abusive life lived close with nature? We think so.

We don't eat locally, but we'd like to more. The main reason we don't purchase all of our food locally is probably the reason that a lot of people don't - convenience. With our work schedules and a little monkey to chase after, it's a miracle that I get to Hannaford weekly/bi-weekly (and the rare times that I get to Aldi). Another reason is that it's difficult to get to the infrequent farmers' markets during this cold part of the year. Between hopefully purchasing a CSA share and hitting up the markets more when the warmer months hit, we hope to amend this.

We're conscientiously green. I say it this way because we're not yet to the height that we'd like to achieve, but we're doing our best. We use reusable lunchware and natural toiletries, cosmetics and cleansers. We try to use rags and other reusable items and minimal disposable goods. The list goes on, but we're far from zero waste. 

There are several reasons that I like to think of us as "green family." When I was a teenager, I loved the old hippie movement. I idolized the motivation it took for a vast group of people to stand up for their beliefs (namely, that of equality and peace), despite the opinions of the older generations. I listened to their music, wore their clothes, and allowed many of their views shape my current thinking. I longed for my own movement to support, but nothing concrete showed itself.

As time went on, though, my life became normalized and responsible, and I grew further from the true social issues that have been bubbling and developing. I felt that I couldn't ultimately have a say or truly create the change I had hoped for, anyway.

Instead, however, I discovered my priorities. Along with a husband who shared my views, I gradually learned that those early Earth Day lessons from elementary school had stuck, our opinions about animals were passionate, and our views on all things based in chemical nastiness had no place in our lives (or damaging our world).


I'm sure I'm missing some things that people have wondered about over time, so feel free to leave a question in the comments! Ultimately, our lifestyle has become such a natural one (in more ways than one) that I forget to post about things that have become routine.