Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mmm... more great homemade skin care

I got a great suggestion for a homemade facial cleanser from a friend at church. This feels heavenly when applied to your face!

Almond-grape facial cleanser

Add 1/2 cup of slivered almonds and 1/2 cup of white grapes to a blender and puree.


Because the resulting mixture can spoil easily, I split it up between several 2 oz containers and froze all but one. I placed the remaining container in my refrigerator. I take it out at night, wet my face with warm water, massage a little of the mixture all over my face, and then rinse off with warm water again. Moisturize when complete.

After I use up this container, I'll take another out of the freezer.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gotta love thrift shopping!

Think it's hard to find what you need at a thrift store? Think again. I often find that I have just as much (if not more) success looking for something I need at a thrift store than a mainstream department store.

Like kids everywhere, my daughter is growing so fast! She recently outgrew her boots, and a pair a hand-me-downs from a friend that are couple of sizes too big keep slipping off her feet. She's also taking swimming lessons, and her swimsuit is becoming too tight.

Boots are everywhere right now, but since it's neither the beginning nor end of the winter season, sales are unlikely. And who wants to pay full price? And where can you find swimsuits at this time of year? Maybe a sporting goods store, but I'd have to call around to know for sure.

Instead, my daughter and I went to Goodwill and Value Village today. We found a cute pair of boots in excellent condition in her exact size for $8 at Goodwill, but no swimsuits. At the end of one aisle in the girls' section of Value Village, however, there was a small selection of swimwear. We found a suit she likes that also fits well (with a little room to grow into) for just $4.

In fact, my daughter made another special find today. She has a wooden rocking chair we bought at Value Village for $7 about two years ago. Recently, she commented that she wishes her Baby Alive had a rocking chair, too. Guess what she found today for $2 at Goodwill? A doll-sized wooden rocking chair!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is my compost toxic?

I'm always getting green tips from the internet or books, and composting is no exception.

I have two bins I started on my porch last summer, and in each I did something based on a recommendation I'd read. Since then, I have been afraid I've ruined both batches.

For the first, I added a few briskets of charcoal. I read this recommendation in a children's book about going green, which suggested the tip as a way to reduce odor (the charcoal absorbs it).

Since then, I've read that charcoal should be buried as deeply in the ground as possible, away from anything you're trying to grow, because it's so toxic.

In the second bin, I added shredded personal documents. I read this recommendation in several places online, as a good way to get rid of documents you don't want to add to your recycling bin while still intact because of identity theft concerns. Shredded paper shouldn't be added to recycling bins either, because the small scraps are difficult to recycle, and they are hard to separate from everything else, thus corrupting the other materials (e.g., glass or plastic) to be recycled. So shredding these documents and adding them to a compost bin as part of your "browns" (i.e., paper and leaves) should be an ideal solution, right?

Well, other sites say no. Newspaper is OK, because most newspaper is printed with soy ink. But the ink generally used on business paper is more toxic, which can then contiminate your bins, harm your plants, etc.

So have I totally ruined these two bins? Should I just bury the stuff, or are the naysayers exaggerating the issue? (With both bins, the amount of charcoal and shredded paper I added was minimal compared to the total content). Any guidance on this will be appreciated!

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm thankful for the GOVERNMENT

In solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin, today, I'm thankful for the GOVERNMENT. I turned on the faucet this morning, and realized that I can thank my local public water treatment plant for clean water. I don't have to fear getting dysentery or other water-borne illnesses from drinking the water.

For a safety net
I thank the government for unemployment benefits and food stamps that helped sustain my family last year when hubby and I were both unemployed. Without those things, I doubt that he and I would be working again today. We probably wouldn't have been healthy enough to conduct our job searches, and we certainly wouldn't have had money for gas to travel to job interviews.

For libraries
I'm also thankful for the public library and state-funded job centers, where I could use the Internet (and print resumes and the like) for free to conduct my job searches. And I thank the library for books and movies that help keep my family informed, engaged and entertained. (We gave up cable and haven't resumed it).

For health care for children
I'm thankful for the government-run SCHIP program (State Children's Health Insurance) that helped keep my daughter healthy when we were unemployed.

For public parks
I'm thankful for the local public parks system, where my daughter takes ballet and swimming lessons for an affordable fee (cheaper than the Y!). And where we can go for a walk or play on a nice day.

For public transportion
I'm thankful for the public transportation system that allowed me to get to work for several weeks while my car was in the shop. Yes, commuting was a pain (it took 2 hours to get to work!) but I'm thankful I could travel to work and didn't lose my job because of lack of a car.

For student loans
I'm thankful that I have a college degree, paid for in part by government-backed student loans, college work-study and Pell grants.

For benefits for seniors
I'm thankful for the Medicare and Social Security benefits that are helping to support my mother in her senior years.

For public schools
I'm thankful for public schools. My kindergarten daughter learned fiction vs. non-fiction from her school librarian, she learned “pianoforte” from her music teacher, she just finished reading her first entire book independently ("Bear Hugs"), and she does math in her head. "Three two's makes six, right?" she asks me. "You're four years older than me!" she tells a 9-year-old. Thanks, public school teachers!

There are some who might dismiss my words here--they might consider me a freeloader for having had to rely for a while on food stamps and SCHIP (although I've paid plenty of taxes and have worked most of my adult life). But I doubt that those people haven't relied about as much as I have on government services. Almost all American families use libraries and publicly funded roads. Ninety percent of Americans are educated in public schools. A majority of seniors rely on Medicare and Social Security. Even the wealthy need to government--it provides the laws and security that protects their businesses and investments, the roads they drive on, the clean water I mentioned at the start.

So the next time you want to complain about the government (not that there isn’t always room for improvement), remember all the ways that you benefit from it, and from the tax dollars that sustain it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cheap green tip: foaming hand soap

I know I haven't finished my series on "But what about charity?" I'm still without a car, so my days are really long, which makes blogging hard. But I do plan to revisit it!

Meanwhile, here's a cheap green tip: foaming hand soap dispensers are a big saver of liquid soap. The soap and water are mixed in the dispenser at a ratio of one part soap to four parts water.

To keep this going, purchase large soap refills when your foaming soap runs out. However, this can be a challenge. It's hard to find large soap refills that don't contain tricolsan, the antibacterial agent that's contributing to so much antibiotic resistance. The greener alternative is to buy a gallon of castille soap--but that costs about $55.

So here's an alternative to both bad-for-the-environment and green-but-expensive liquid soaps: I use dish liquid instead. I can buy a 135 oz. jug of Kirkland Environmentally Friendly dish soap at Costco for about $8. I take a large container (a clean, empty gallon milk or juice carton, for example, as long as it has a resealable cap), fill it one-fifth full with dish soap and the rest with water, and give it a good shake. When I need to refill one of my smaller hand soap dispensers, I shake the large carton again just before doing so. I have found that pouring in pre-mixed soap creates better suds than if I mix the soap in the hand dispenser itself.

A gallon of this mixture (cost: about $1.50 for less than a quart of the dish soap) lasts about 6 months, while filling up hand dispensers in two bathrooms and the kitchen!