Monday, October 31, 2011

Minimalist Monday: Relaxing Over The Holidays

I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays, and I'll tell you why.  I love that stores are decked out with Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations, but I don't like how it always makes me feel like I have to get something new to add to my already existing stash.  Do we really need a new ornament for the tree?  I love that the weather in Texas has finally started to cool off, but I dislike having to go through the kids' closets to see if they still fit into their winter clothes from last year, because if they don't, that means more shopping.  I love planning holiday dinners and getting to eat oh-so-scrumptious meals with all the trimmings, but I definitely do not like the gluttonous feeling I seem to always have after I've stuffed myself with every kind of food in sight.  I love that there are charities who are asking for help to assist those who are less fortunate during this time of year, but I don't like how I feel guilty not being able to contribute much when I'm wondering how we ourselves can afford anything to give to our  own children.  I love that the holidays is about spending time with family, but I'm not fond of the fact that our closest relatives are hours away, and my brother will be spending another Christmas serving in Afghanistan away from his wife and daughter.  I love that the holiday season is fast approaching, but I do not like that it means the year is coming to an end - another reminder of all the things I had set out to do but never got done, and all the things I was supposed to get rid of and are still hanging around the house.  So what's a girl who loves the holidays but always seem to be stressing out about it to do?

This year, I am taking it easy.  No extra shopping that will only add more stuff to our existing stuff.  I plan on making all our gifts this year from as many things that we already have in the house (frames, fabric, scrapbook paper, paint, etc.) using ideas I have found on Pinterest.  I am looking forward to having our first organic Thanksgiving dinner.  We have done a great job of eating well and in smaller proportions, so we hope to indulge in all the great fixings of home-cooked Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners without the guilt we usually feel afterward.  We still can't afford to donate money to charities this year as we're still trying to get ourselves out of debt, but we are going through all of our things to see what we can donate to Goodwill or The Salvation Army.  It helps us minimize our home while helping others out.  

My husband always calls me out on how I love hostessing and entertaining family and friends, but I always seem to stress out about it.  There is so much going on this time of year - buying groceries, cleaning the house, purchasing gifts, sending out Christmas cards, etc.  This year, I'm going to make our lives easy by simplifying our meals, gifts, and holiday plans.  Besides, how can anyone truly enjoy the holidays when we're too busy "doing" instead of just "being?"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Cupcake Curiosity

Don't forget to enter this week's giveaway:  My Memories Digital Scrapboking Software.  Open WORLDWIDE until 11.03.2011.  It's perfect for all these photos we share weekly.

Do you have a Wordless Wednesday post to share?  Link up!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review & Giveaway: Digital Scrapbooking Software (and an Introduction to my Family)

If you are anything like me when it comes to photography, your ginormous-sized camera card is filled with hundreds of photos of just about everything - from the kids playing, eating, and sleeping to the food you cooked or the cupcakes you just baked, from the giraffes and elephants at the zoo to the silly faces your newborn makes at 2 o'clock in the morning, from planes, trains, and anything that your son considers to go zoom zoom to all the flowers your daughter can't stop saying "ooh, Mommy, look" at - and that's just from last week.  And if you're anything like me when it comes to organizing photographs, the pictures have a tendency to stay in the card, the computer, or the hard drive, unattended to for days, weeks, maybe even months.

For the past few years, we have used an online photo hosting site for organizing and sharing pictures with our family and friends, which I will share with you at a later date.  But for showing off in a fancy, colorful and exciting way, I (would love to say I) scrapbook, and during my first two pregnancies, I did just that.  I have two beautiful scrapbooks filled with photos, ribbons, stickers, buttons, and so many other embellishments.  Both books took the length of my pregnancies and then some.  Unfortunately, this last pregnancy wasn't too kind to me.  Uncomfortable, painful, and dreary can't begin to describe 3rd pregnancies.  And with these feelings of anguish came laziness.  So my plan to make a scrapbook fell far behind everything else that was on my to-do list.

I still would like to make a scrapbook to share with my 3rd child, even if I don't get started on it for awhile, but when Liz from My Memories contacted me to do a review of their digital scrapbooking software, I realized just how perfect was her timing.  My Memories Suite Version 2.0 is a software that allows you to choose from hundreds of backgrounds and themes (many of which are free), text options, embellishments, and many other doodads to create a layout perfect for your photos.  You can even add videos and/or music to each individual page or to the entire album.  When downloaded, the software is already packed with lots of goodies, such as papers, ribbons, brads, shapes, etc.  You can find many more on their website. When you're content with what you have created, you can save your work as a movie or DVD, slide show, calendar, photo album, or greeting card - all email-able, blog and site embeddable, and/or printable, depending on how you choose to share your masterpiece.

I had originally made a video out of my pages to share on this post, but unless I uploaded my video to YouTube first (which I wasn't willing to do, and it's the only option Blogger gives you right now to add a video), I was unable to add it here.  Instead you'll be viewing my pages without the slide show and music.  So, using the pages I created from My Memories, I introduce to you the cast of the posts and reviews you have read about thus far - my family:

You can make your pages simple, or go all out with embellishments galore depending on your style.  There is no limit to what you can create.  The perfect part is that no matter how many times you change your mind about the design, photos, text, music, colors, etc., you won't be throwing anything away as you would an actual scrapbook page that has spelling or grammar mistakes, glue stains, or any other errors you may discover hours after working on it.  You won't be wasting money discarding your pages and starting from the very beginning.  Everything is digital, so there are no cluttered desks, paper scraps on the floor, scissors that may be scoured by little hands, glue globs on the table, or misplaced buttons, stickers, flowers, and so on.  Everything you need is organized neatly under your My Memories Suite folder on your computer.  Talk about being green, frugal, and minimal - my kind of product!

You can view this YouTube video to get a better idea of all the things you can do with My Memories Suite, and how fast it can all be done:

BUY:  You can download My Memories Suite Version 2.0 for $39.97.  To get $10 off the software,  click on the banner below and use my promo code:  STMMMS66448:

WIN:  My Memories is offering one (1) lucky The Green House reader My Memories Suite Version 2.0.  This giveaway is open to residents of the US, Canada, and Worldwide.  Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win!  You can do one (1) or all of the tasks to get as many entries as you'd like.  Good luck!

The Green House Disclosure:  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.  I received one or more of the above mentioned products for free to review.  All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Upcycling Those Broken Crayons

Remove paper around broken crayons.

Place in desired silicon trays on top of cookie sheet in a 225-degree oven for about 15 minutes or when the crayons have melted down.

Freeze for about 30 minutes.

Carefully pop out of trays.  Enjoy your new crayons!

Do you have a Wordless Wednesday post to share?  Link up!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Minimalist Monday: Reducing Online Time

I love the Internet.  It's one of the best things, I believe, that has ever been created.  You can learn just about anything on the world wide web.  Everything I know about being green, being frugal, and living a more simple life has been from reading articles, books, blogs, interviews, and news - all online.  We have learned about some of our family's illnesses from webmd.  My hubby has repaired, replaced, (re)DIY-ed so many things in our home and with our cars just from researching various websites.  I have downloaded coloring pages, craft ideas, songs, movies, and so many games for the kiddos.  And with a newborn in the house again, I am (re)learning the 411 on nursing, cloth diapering, and everything else that I can expect the first year.  The Internet is definitely something that I sadly can admit that I can't live without.

BUT, one thing that I know I can live without is being online too much.  An important lesson that I have learned about this great development is that you can easily find yourself in front of a computer screen for hours and hours on end.  If you get hungry, you can go fix yourself a sandwich and munch on it in front of the monitor.  If you need to go potty, run errands, or cook, there's a smart phone for that.  If you need to go to sleep - well - some people don't.  If you really wanted to, you can be on the Internet for almost a whole day without taking your eyes off your computer.  I can say that I don't do that.  But, I am on the computer quite a bit during the course of a 24-hour time period.  And I have quickly seen the consequences of that since I started these weekly blogs.

Even though my 12-week-old son slept like a log for almost 10 hours straight last night, I woke up feeling overwhelmed and agitated.  I felt rested, but as I looked around my untidy bedroom, I realized how unhappy I was feeling about the home we are living in.  I spend a good amount of time every week cleaning our house, and no matter how much I try to keep it organized, not a day goes by that it doesn't become cluttered almost immediately.  Of course, that all comes from having too much stuff - a problem that I am constantly battling with and working on fixing.  And as I have said before, when you have too much stuff, you spend too much time cleaning, gathering, mending, etc.  And when you spend most of your time doing that, you hardly have any time left for the really important things in life.

I don't know how all the other bloggers do it.  Every day, I receive emails with new blog posts from the same people, and I think to myself, "How the heck do they do that?  How do they find the time to come up with different articles every day?  How do they have time for anything else?"  I don't know.  But I know that I definitely don't have the time or the strength to do that at this present moment.  With two active young children to home school and a newborn to bond with, I realize that my being online to write up different posts every week, along with hosting reviews and giveaways, is not nearly as important as spending time with my family.

With that said, I have decided to reduce and schedule my weekly postings to "whenever I have the chance."  I will still be adding reviews and giveaways, but I just don't have the energy right now to do any more than that.  I applaud all of the bloggers who continue to do such great work every week, and I envy your time management skills, for I know I definitely do not have that mastered (yet).  I love receiving emails from all of you, and I enjoy posting information that has helped me and I know will continue to help me.  As I learn to better simplify my life so that in the future I may be able to post more without waking up overwhelmed, I hope I to pay it forward and share the same tips and suggestions with you, regardless if you blog or not.  Am I disappointed that I am not continuing these weekly posts like I set out to do only a few weeks ago?  Yes, of course.  Am I embarrassed that I can't be as great as these other bloggers who can do everything, including be a wonderful parent and spouse?  Nope.  If anything, I'm proud that I can admit where I'm weak and know that I need help in those departments.  Do I feel like a failure because of this decision?  Honestly?  A little bit.  I'm a bit of an overachiever, and when I don't accomplish my goals, I have a tendency to feel like I not only let myself down, but also those who care and support me.  So what does this mean then?  I'm taking one step back from spending my life online to take many steps forward in carrying out what my blog and mission is all about:  living green, frugal, and simple.  Not being on the computer as long as I normally do on a daily basis saves electricity, money, and time.  I couldn't be happier knowing that this is the best decision for me, for my family, and for the future of The Green House.  Thank you for your understanding and continued support.  Mahalo nui loa!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Save Our Planet Saturday: Recycling vs. Upcycling

The words recycle and recycling have been around forever.  (Most) people know what they mean, recognize the symbol, and many people actually participate in this activity.  But the words upcycle and upcycling is not in the Webster dictionary, and it's not a common word that people understand let alone do.  So, what is the difference between recycling and upcycling?  I researched for a good way to define the words, but I decided that this diagram will describe it better:

One of the many things I am pinterested in are upcycling ideas and projects. I am awed by how many things you can make out of old window panes, crates, and pallets.  Some of them just make you go, "Now, why didn't I think of that?"  I just love this pallet garden.  It's a great way to upcycle an old pallet, be green, and utilize limited space - my type of project for every type of home!

If you have children, how can you not be tempted to create their own one-of-a-kind kitchen?

That's something to think about if you are out at garage sales or flea markets this weekend.  And one of my favorite projects I've found so far is creating new outfits and accessories from old clothes that I would have otherwise donated or sold in a garage sale.

The list is endless, and your imagination is without boundaries.  You can find tons of ideas online, so before you discard that old dresser, shirt, jar, or baby crib, do a search on what you can make it from it that you could possibly use in your home.  That's one less thing you'll be spending (more) money on than you would like, right?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Frugal Living Friday: One Person's Trash is Another Person's Treasure

I love a great deal, even if the item is used! There is something about getting an incredible find at an awesome price that is both thrilling and rewarding. There are many ways you can find used (and many times, brand new) items at a fraction of store prices.  Here are some of our favorites:
  • garage sales or estate sales:  you can usually find one every weekend in almost every neighborhood.  We have found everything from tools to toys to kitchen appliances for practically nothing.  We purchased the pave stones in this picture (and then some) for less than $35 from a neighbor's garage sale.  He bought these for more than $200 new.
  •  we have bought and sold so many things on this site.  You can find a listing for almost every major city in the US, including many countries worldwide.  We found our current vehicle on there, and we couldn't be more happy with the transaction.
  • The Freecycle Network:  great thing about this site is that it's a non-profit organization of individuals who barter and trade for free things - basically recycling whatever they don't want or need for what they actually do.
  • ebay:  although this site is set up as a huge auction-based shop, most owners offer a "buy it" now price, and at times with free shipping.  You can find many new and unused items at a lower price than at well-known (department) stores.
  • used bookstores:  I could spend an entire day at Half Price Books going down every aisle and not leaving without at least a couple of books that probably cost me a buck or two at the most.  Most of our shelves are lined with books from HPB or a library book sale, ranging from Nicholas Sparks pocketbooks to Dave Ramsey workbooks, from Harry Potter hardbacks to Rachael Ray cookbooks.  I would be surprised if I paid more than $3 each for any of them. 
  • flea markets:  basically a garage sale shopper's heaven!  Find almost anything in one place, from clothes to electronics, from furniture to kids' toys.  Most items are new, but a lot of flea markets have a "garage sale" area where sellers have used items.  Best part is that most markets have food vendors and weekly entertainment.  You can literally spend an entire day there!
  • thrift stores:  the website link includes listings for non-profit shops (like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity Re-store), church stores, and mom and pop shops.  I love myself a good coffee cup, and I was ecstatic to find this beautiful cup around $1. 
  • consignment stores: similar to a thrift store where you can find used items at awesome prices.
  • pawn shops:  garage sale under one roof.  You can find deals on tools, entertainment systems, sports equipment, jewelry, etc.  Not really my favorite or first stop for a good deal, but people seem to love them, as I've never seen a pawn shop that didn't have a packed parking lot.
  • classifieds:  lots of different sites offered online, including those of your local newspaper.  Great alternative to purchasing the paper at the store or having it delivered to you.
  • great site to buy (and sell) new, used and certified vehicles in the US.  We found another vehicle on here advertised by a dealership.
There are many other sources, be it online or actual establishments, where you can find exactly what you're looking for.  It may take a little time, but if it means you saving money, it's all worth it in the end.  And with the holidays just around the corner, being a smart shopper the last months of this year will help steer your 2012 budget in the right direction.  Happy frugal shopping!

      Wednesday, October 12, 2011

      Wordless Wednesday: My Search For The Perfect Coffee Mug

      ...or tea cup
      I just love the feel of a great cup of hot coffee or tea in my hands on a cold morning.

      Do you have a Wordless Wednesday post to share?  Link up!

      Monday, October 10, 2011

      Minimalist Monday: Re-evaluating Your Clothes Closet

      How many times have you looked into your closet and thought, "What am I going to wear today?"  Morning after morning, you run into the same dilemma of finding something different to wear, whether it's for work or just for the day.  But the problem is not even that you have nothing to wear but rather that you have too many to choose from.  You rummage through your shirts and shorts, you scramble through the piles of sweaters and pants - nothing!  But how can that be?!

      You stare at your closet, look at the clock, then realize 10 minutes has just passed by, and you still have nothing on.  Finally you force yourself to pick something out, because you know that if you don't, you'll end up standing or staring in the same spot for another 10 minutes.  You start to get ready, look in the mirror, and notice that you have just put on the exact same outfit from last week.  What?!  So many clothes to wear, and you pick the same ones every time.  The problem?  You know exactly which clothes you like and which ones fit you well, but you choose to hang on to the other ones.  Now why is that?  Well, let's see, it could be that:

      1.  you are pretty sure that it won't be long until you can fit into them (again),

      2.  you bought the clothes on sale, still have the price tags on them, but again, they still don't fit right,

      3.  the clothes were given as gifts from a family member or friend, and you don't want to offend the giver by not keeping their presents, even if they do not fit or are not your style,

      4.  the clothes have sentimental value, because it was a gift from your Mom or an old flame, or

      5.  maybe one day, you'll find a reason to wear it (again) (i.e. interview, costume party, vacation, etc.).

      Whatever it may be, the reason can't be good enough to hold on to the clothes that you haven't worn in years and may never wear (again).  They are just taking up closet space and confusing you when you need to pick something out.  Donate the clothes, sell them to get extra bucks to buy something you know you can actually wear tomorrow and be happy with, or upcycle them into something else that you may like.  But don't go through another (work) week wondering what you're going to wear next only to put on the same outfits all the time.  Go for something new if you can dare yourself to be adventurous, or go with what is comfortable and second nature to you.  Whatever you choose, be glad as to how much new space you're reclaiming and how more organized and less cluttered your closet will look.

      Saturday, October 08, 2011

      Save Our Planet Saturday: Carpool

      I consider myself very lucky to be able to stay home with my children.  I am given the opportunity to schedule out our days, our ins and outs of the house, field trips to the zoo or museums, or play dates with other stay-at-home families.  There are a lot of us who are fortunate enough to not have to get out of the house unless we have to or choose to.  But if you’re part of the population who has to work outside the home, you may find a lot of your time in your car.  And if you live in a major city, you already know that if you don’t leave your home by a certain time in the morning, you end up jam-packed with other drivers getting to work, taking their kids to school, driving to an appointment, or running errands.
      Prior to becoming a SAHM, I was fortunate to be able to ride with a co-worker for many months.  It made what would have been an hour in the car take less than 30 minutes since we were able to take the carpool lane.  Plus, it was much more fun having someone to talk to and laugh with.  At my husband’s last job, he was also lucky enough to carpool with a colleague for almost 2 years.  It saved us all a lot of money on gas, time away from our families, and wear and tear on our cars.  It has almost been a year at his current job, but my husband has finally found someone else he can carpool with again, even if it’s only for a day or two out of the week.  Something is always better than nothing.  If there is a carpool program at your place of employment or in your community, see if you can ride with someone for a while and vice versa.  Perhaps you’ll end up enjoying the company while saving time and money.
      In the North Texas area, we have mass transit systems that people can ride on that costs mere dollars in comparison to the money you’ll spend filling your vehicle up with gas and possibly for the repairs it may need from the daily use and abuse.  Depending on where you work, a lot of companies will pay for your fare.  The same goes with riding on the bus.  Another great advantage of taking public transportation is that you never having to worry about parking.  You can save some dough if you are headed to the downtown, zoos or museums, stadiums or arenas, fairgrounds or amusement parks.  Parking can be atrocious at some of these places, and the money saved can be better used to have a good time with your family or friends.
      But if you absolutely cannot find a carpool partner, or your city or town doesn’t have a public transportation system, try giving your car a break in the evenings, on the weekends, or during your days off.    Run your errands on the way home from work, ride your bike to the store, or walk to the park or church.  If you’re going out with family or friends, see if you can ride with someone.  You can return the favor later and give their vehicle a chance to cool off, too, especially during the summer season when cars can overheat and use up more gas having the air condition set on high, or during the winter months when the heat is always turned on.  Not all of us are lucky to live in a place where the temperature is a steady 80 degrees year round.
      When deciding to make a change that will help the environment and save you some major cash in the long run, choosing to ride-share or take advantage of public transportation is smart thinking for your finances and for the planet.  Any small effort you make to help lessen the number of vehicles on the road is one huge step towards a cleaner and greener tomorrow.  If you have little ones in your life, they will definitely thank you for it later.

      Friday, October 07, 2011

      Review & Giveaway: Babiators Children's Sunglasses (Plus A $1000 for Education Photo Contest)

      The first time I heard of Babiators, I had been skimming through one of the many (Mommy) blogs I follow.  Looking through the photos, I was curious as to what made these sunglasses so special.  I remember thinking, "Sure, they're pretty cool and sleek looking, but are they really any different from my daughter's Dora sunglasses or my son's Lightning McQueen shades?"  Let me tell you - they are!  When I first received my Classic Babiators, I first thought, "Oh how cute!"  It arrived in such a small box that I was afraid I might break it just from opening the package. 

      I chose the Black Ops Black color since it was the most gender neutral of the other shades so that both my 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter can wear it.  Of course, my son was not in the sharing mood.  So, yes, the Babiators passes with flying colors in the "appearance" category of my review.  Besides looking cool and casual enough to wear to a birthday party or to the park, it's also attractive and classy enough to wear to a wedding or more formal event.  Once the kids got their hands on it, I immediately feared having to clean it up every 5 seconds.  Nope!  These sunglasses are practically smudge-proof!  Definitely a plus in my book. 

      So now, let's answer the questions that are probably going through your mind like it did mine, shall we?  Is it really as durable as the site really claims it to be?  Are these sunglasses really impact and shatter resistant?  Will it withstand the activities that growing children go through with their things, such as being thrown or smashed or being sat on?  Well, since we've finally been getting some nice weather in North Texas, we took the kids to the playground to test out just how great these sunglasses really are. 

      Now let me say something first.  Our kids are used to us telling them "Don't throw that.  Don't break this.  Don't play rough with your toys."  So when we told them to do the exact opposite, they kind of looked at us like we had just lost our minds.  Although my son had an "Oh yeah" look on his face, he still hesitated.  My daughter simply said, "But, I don't want to."  It made us wish they were always like this with all their things.  We went on to explain to them that it was okay to be rough with this one and that Mommy needed to see if these sunglasses would be good for their cousins and friends to wear.  So after they finally let their guards down, they played with it, threw it down the slide, dropped it on the gravel, messed with the frames and lenses, and even sat on it.  Our conclusion?  Virtually unbreakable.  Practically scratch-proof.  And definitely still looks brand new.  Would our $4.99 sunglasses from the toy store have done the same under similar circumstances?  They haven't in the past.  We've gone through broken frames, scratched lenses, and loose screws - and that's with two children.  With a third one now in the mix, I'm not too sure we can keep shelling out five bucks here and there every time one of their shades break.  Considering I'm a pretty frugal Mom, and I winced at the thought of spending $19.99 for a pair of kid sunglasses, is it really worth the price, and would I actually pay for it now that I've tested it?  Absolutely!  And since Babiators offer a one year Wear and Tear Guarantee, I don't have to worry if the kids break their glasses today, because it'll be replaced for FREE!

      "Babiators’ lenses offer 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays" without skimping out on style - perfect match for what we as parents need in a product and what our kids' want in fashion.  And because "Babiators are made without BPA, without phthalates, and without lead-based paint," I can relax knowing that these sunglasses are safe enough for when our 3-month-old starts putting things in his mouth.  These practical but oh-so-sassy sunglasses can make your kid look like Maverick, GI Jane, Bon Jovi, or Rapunzel, and with other colors available, they can easily coordinate with any kid's wardrobe.

      Want something more for your children?  Between now and October 13, 2011, you can enter the Babiators $1000 for Education Photo Contest.  Capture a photo of your child(ren) wearing his or her Babiators and enter it in the contest that could be a great start for their college fund.  Wouldn't that be a wonderful surprise for when they're college-bound?!

      BUY:  Babiators can be purchased online or at various retail shops in the US and Worldwide.  Retail value:  $19.99, plus shipping & handling where applicable.  This would make an awesome gift for the holidays!

      WIN:  Babiators is offering one (1) lucky The Green House reader a pair of Babiators sunglasses in their choice of size and color.  This giveaway is open to residents of the US, Canada, and Worldwide.  Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win!

      The Green House Disclosure:  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.  I received one or more of the above mentioned products for free to review.  All opinions are 100% my own.

      Frugal Living Friday: Make Your Own Pot of Coffee

      Did you know that more than 150 million adult-aged Americans drink coffee on a daily basis?  Imagine that each one buys their cup of java at a convenient store or coffee shop.  If you're lucky, you can get your coffee for less than a buck.  But, if you're like the many iced late, caramel cappuccino or mocha frappuccino-lovin' people out there, it'll cost you a lot more than that dollar in your pocket.  Now think about how much that adds up to if you have a need or want for it every day.  You can be spending anywhere from $10 - $50 every week, if not more.  That's about $520 - $2600 a year!

      But say you decide to buy a bag of coffee from the grocery store and brew it from home instead.  A good bag of Dunkin' Donuts or Seattle's Best coffee will set you back $8 or $9, maybe less if it's on sale, and you're purchasing it with a coupon.  If my husband and I drank a cup of coffee every day, the bag may last us 3 weeks, maybe 2 if we decide to have an extra cup.  In that case, for two people, it would cost us about $200 - $300 a year.  I'm sure we can all come up with something worthy we can use to spend the huge amount of savings on if we just decide to skip the lines or drive throughs to get that morning kick.  So this weekend, purchase your favorite coffee in a bag, and if you don't have a coffeemaker, you can get a fairly inexpensive one for $20, if not less.  Try it for a week or so and see if the thought of saving that extra money will convince you to keep at it.  I bet the smell of freshly made coffee first thing in the morning will help change your mind.  And oh, don't forget your reusable coffee cup if you're headed out the door.

      Wednesday, October 05, 2011

      Wordless Wednesday: (Pinterest) For My Family

      For my husband and two sons

      For my daughter

      For myself

      Do you have a Wordless (or not so wordless, as in my case this week) Wednesday 
      post to share?  Link up!

      Monday, October 03, 2011

      Minimalist Monday: Recycling Those Old Magazines

      This week's MM tip will be short and to the point for most of us will be familiar with this situation.  You walk into the living room, sit down, and see some magazines on the coffee table.  Or you walk into your bedroom, notice a stack on your night stand, or maybe you have a basket full in the bathroom.  Perhaps there are some food or DIY magazines on the kitchen counter or at the mail area.  You pick one up and notice the date on it:  March 2009.  You pick another one up and see a reoccurring date theme.  Hmm...these are all from way back when.  You think to yourself, "Have these really been here that long?"  Yep, they have.

      We have kept these magazines around thinking that we'll get to reading them, but then they keep arriving in the mail, and the ones you were supposed to read never made it to the top of the stack.  You have too much going on, too many books on the list to read, too many shows to watch on the DVR, too many phone calls to make or return, etc.  Whatever the case may be, these magazines have been long forgotten.  So, what do you do?  Continue to keep them in hopes that maybe this week you can manage to find the time to read 50 or so magazines?  You hate the thought that if you get rid of them, you might miss out on some interesting article about this or that.  Guess what?  More than likely, that article will show up again in another magazine, or better yet, on the web.  And it's not like you've missed it in the first place.  So again, what do you do?  Recycle them! Go ahead, take the plunge, and just do it!  I have stared at my stack of magazines for too long, moving them from one room to another, telling myself, "I WILL get to these."  Nope, haven't done it in 2 years, and I'm pretty sure, since the magazines keep coming in the mail, I probably will never get to them.  So, what are you waiting for?  Say goodbye to those old magazines and start with a fresh slate:  more space in your home, more time to read your current issues, less things to collect dust, and less thinking that there is so much to do, because now you have one less thing on that list.

      Saturday, October 01, 2011

      Save Our Planet Saturday: Go Paperless

      When I'm talking to people about being more green, I'm often asked what are some things they could do in their own lives and homes.  Most of the time, I'll talk about recycling, composting, or not wasting water.  But one inexpensive way to lessen your contribution to the landfills is to switch to using cloth.  If you (and your family) are used to paper towels and napkins in your home, this might be a grueling change that will take a while to get used to, but consider an upside to this:  you get to go shopping!

      Instead of paper towels, you can substitute them with bar cloths or microfiber towels that can be found online or at your big box stores.  Grab a large pack or two, keep a handful under the sinks in your home, and you'll always have a towel handy for easy clean-ups by any member of your family.  I've also seen these "unpaper" towels listed on etsy that are more attractive to have available when you have guests visiting.

      Paper napkins may be a little tougher to eliminate from your grocery list, but imagine how great the challenge would be to find and acquire enough reusable cloth napkins to use on a daily basis for every meal.  You can purchase traditional plain Jane napkins to keep the hunt simple and easy.  But you can always add variety to your collection. I read about these very cool napkins by People Towels from a Good Girl Gone Green blog post.  The eco-chic napkins made with 100% certified organic Fair Trade cotton have different words and designs on them, any and all appealing to everyone's taste.  You can also find a wide range of handmade kiddo napkins that young ones wouldn't mind finding in their lunch boxes.  If you want to take another step to being more green, pack your own cloth napkins to use at work or when you eat out.  Yes, you may get some curious looks, but perhaps you'll end up influencing someone else to follow in your footsteps without you even saying a word.

      Speaking of eating at work, how about ditching those paper or plastic sacks and purchasing a reusable tote instead?  Etsy shops offer many different types of handmade lunch bags that will make even your most skeptical coworker green with envy. You can use these totes for picnics to the park or to a soccer game, and they're easy to clean and compact to store away.  If you have school age children, perhaps they will opt for a bag in their favorite character design as opposed to having a plastic or metal lunch box.  Don't forget to include their cloth napkins with their lunch.

      Flu and cold season is upon us, and with the seasons changing comes lots of tissue paper purchases.  Consider switching to handkerchiefs instead.  Maybe your shopping hunt will turn up some cool looking hankies for all the members of the household.  On my last garage sale trip, I saw these unused vintage looking handkerchiefs that were part of the family's collection from decades ago.  They were selling them for 10 cents each.  I don't know why I didn't grab them right then, but 5 minutes later, I went back to see if they were still there, and sure enough, they were gone.  Maybe you'll have better luck than I did on your next adventure to a garage or estate sale or to the thrift store.

      These are just a few small examples of changes you can make in your home that won't make you feel like you're sacrificing too much of what you have been used to.  If you have diaper-age babes in your family, you can choose to say good bye to disposable diapers and hello to cloth diapers.  After having had 2 children, we have finally made the switch with our newest addition.  I'm not going to sugar coat the truth, so I'll tell it straight to you:  it's yucky, it's icky, and yes, at times, inconvenient, but is the change worth the money we're saving every month?  Heck yeah, by about a 3 to 1 difference.  Think about all those 'sposies that we have kept from going to the landfill that will take forever to decompose?!  It's a great feeling knowing that we're doing our part in helping Earth stay a little greener longer!

      And if you're really up to the challenge, you can always stop using toilet paper.  I'm not sure the potty trained members in our family are ready for that yet, but we are about to stop using baby wipes and go cloth all the way with our little one. 

      How many of these little changes can you take on this week?  I bet you'll find it easier than you think.  Who knows - it may end up being fun, too.

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