2012-11-28

Wordless Wednesday

See if you can spot what is happening on both sides that is so depressing to me.

2012-11-23

Time to shave

We got a new razor a while back. We got tired of the expense and trash associated with the Mach 3.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the Mach 3. It was virtually impossible to cut myself with it. I remember only one injury, and it was caused by stupidity. The razor had gotten stuck on some hair on my upper lip, and I foolishly pulled. Hard.

So we've abandoned the relative safety of the cartridge razor in favor of an "old-fashioned" safety razor, where apparently "safety" is a misleading term at best. To sum it up, it's only safe if you don't allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security by the name.

Trash-wise, we've saved a bunch of plastic from the cartridges. Each blade is wrapped in cardboard, packed in a cardboard box. There is still some plastic wrap around that box, at least the one we received with the razor. We may be able to avoid that when we need more razors, which will be quite a while. We're still on the first one and it's been three months.


So first, a before shot:


Using the razor made me, at first, a little nervous. It seemed difficult to get it tilted at the right correct angle to cut without cutting. Before you get used to it, I understand the trick is to put it against your skin perpendicularly, and then tilt until the blade is at the angle needed to cut hair. And from my experience so far, the "safety" seems to come from the fact that if you tilt too far, you're not pushing the blade directly into your face because of the lip of the head.


During this first shave, there was one real injury. I think it was caused by a large zit or other imperfection in the skin on my neck. I haven't cut myself since.

Here's the after. For this first go, I didn't want to deal with anything so challenging as a chin, therefore I present to you my very best Deadwood:


The chin puff went away after a day, and I found that it's not all that much more tricky to shave a chin with this than any other razor. And that's the story of how I started wearing a moustache most of the time.

I've found that overall the razor does a great job. But it's difficult-to-impossible to get my chin smooth as an Android's bottom, especially under the corners of my mouth. Jess has even made the switch and uses it successfully now. Though I'll never understand her lack of shaving cream.

2012-10-26

Failed experiments

So, I've been working on a few projects that I was originally excited about only to have them end in fail sauce. This particular post probably won't help anyone, but at the very least it may reassure you that in your own eco-friendly endeavors, when there are bumps in the road, that's okay. At least we are trying. Not everyone gets homemade projects correct the first time...right? Perhaps it's just me.

Anyways, failure #1 homemade lip balm.



It was going to be such a neat post about how you to could make your own lip balm...sadly, even though the finished product LOOKS like a success, the reality is it isn't really soft and can't be rubbed onto your lips because it's too hard. I don't know what happened. I seriously followed the instructions I had to the letter, oh well. Perhaps I will try again one day, until then I guess I will still get lip balm from Whole Foods.

Failure #2 I did try the arrowroot change in the homemade deodorant.

Still no success. It worked a little better for Rob, but eventually he still had irritation. I thought it would work better for me, but it ended up not doing the trick. I caved after awhile and just went back to using my Dove deodorant/antiperspirant that I still owned. Yet, I had that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I really shouldn't be using antiperspirant or a product that puts aluminum on my body, etc. So, I broke down and bought these since I wanted a middle ground and all my homemade trials had currently failed:

I hate to say this about a natural product, but oh my goodness Jason's Apricot pretty much made me smell 100 times worse than if I would just go without anything at all. I don't know what the deal was. Rob, however, seems to have found relative success with the Natural Grooming one and is still using it, yay! I tried to stick it out with the Jason's, but it was just too awful, for serious. I decided to try Tom's. I am still using it for now, it's a bit better I think, but still...I used to be able to skip a day or so a week shower-wise (if I wasn't really going anywhere anyway and to save water) but with these deodorants I have not had that luxury. Even if I stay home all day, without seeing a soul, I can't stand myself! That's embarrassing and sad. So, I have to shower every day and reapply each day. A deodorant should work better than that. Well, then I got to thinking...and yes, I know this is tmi, but the horrible smelliness also coincided with me now being pregnant. Could the new deodorants really not be working at all, or am I just smellier due to being with child? It was a crazy notion, sure. But, lo and behold, an Internet search revealed to me tons of other pregnant women wondering the same thing! Apparently it's a thing. Some speculated that it was just because as pregnant women, our noses are more sensitive, but others confirmed that their husbands pointed out their new rankness. So, long story short, I'm not going to write off these natural bars (or toss the Jason's just yet) until after pregnancy, so I can give them a truly fair shake. I'm also still up for trying more homemade recipes, it just seems that I keep failing on them though.

And last but not least, failure #3:

We have found out that we are not allowed to take our kitchen compost to Whole Foods to drop anymore. Good thing we have a house now, but currently we are just throwing away the compostable things because we just moved and need to buy or build an outdoor composter for the back yard and figure that all out. I've really started to miss it because you get so spoiled with your trash not stinking. I will be glad once we get that all back on track! Most definitely will need to do this before winter. Once you are in the habit of composting it's hard not to do it. So, at least this is a failure we can potentially remedy soon.

There you have it. Hopefully you will see some successful stories in the future.

P.S. On the plus side, now that we live in a house vs an apartment we have curbside recycling and it is great!






2012-10-24

Wordless Wednesday

These are simple blog posts that feature a photo capable of conveying a message that needs little to no written description.

Girl or boy?

It's a boy!

2012-09-19

Missing in action

So, where have we been lately? As you may have noticed, the past two months we haven't been posting as much as we normally would. Obviously the blame is squarely on our shoulders and we should just accept said blame. But, instead, I will give you our excuses.

Okay, here we go.
  1. Summer (it causes one to be lazy).
  2. Rob got a promotion of sorts and has more responsibilities at work to focus on at the moment.
  3. I found out I'm pregnant! Which is such a blessing, that has also caused me to be more focused on reading pregnancy/baby books, taking a Bradley childbirth class, researching, etc. rather than posting on the blog as much.
  4. We have been in the process of buying our first home! I know, a lot of stuff all at once. But, it's exciting. We hope to close on the home at the end of this month.
Although these life events have distracted a bit from posting as often, I have confidence that several of them will soon lend themselves to writing more. For example: crunchy mama posts and exploring less waste with a baby in the house? Home ownership and ways we can improve energy efficiency? Adventures in growing our own food? Eco-friendly home projects? All are budding ideas.

Also, I have a running lists of things to eventually write about, we just haven't done them yet. So, long story short, I just wanted to let you know that we will not be going away any time soon. I will do my best to keep you informed on the things we have been trying and continuing to do on our journey to living with less waste and keeping a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

I will leave you with these :)

Our cute little house
Our cute little baby

2012-08-29

Wordless Wednesday

These are simple blog posts that feature a photo capable of conveying a message that needs little to no written description. 
We got ourselves some compostable toothbrushes and they work great! Can you even fathom the amount of plastic waste we create when every human goes through 2-4 plastic sticks a year?

2012-08-09

Taking out the trash

So, previously I had mentioned how we were pleased that we had finally got to a point where we only needed to take the trash out about every two and half weeks using this one trash can. Now, I am even more pleased to say that we are able to go a whole month before having to take this trash can out. We have successfully done this for the past two months now. As far as cat waste goes, we bag that with the paper bags we've collected and just walk it out to the dumpster so that it's not stinking up the trash can that now sits for a month. It's been working great.

Not only is progressively limiting ones waste eco-friendly, it means you get to be lazy and not have to take out trash all the time. Win-win! How often are you taking your trash out? What are ways to work on stretching that?

2012-07-02

A zero waste pizza restaurant

We discovered, by way of a Google Offer coupon, a new pizza restaurant whose website says is a "zero trash facility". Their ovens are wood-burning!

It was pretty good stuff. Though we're not big on toppings, it was nice to see a restaurant that uses local, organic produce when possible for its toppings. But one of the coolest things about it was the LED lighting and the fact that in the next few months they'll be running off their rooftop solar panels.

Trash-wise, there was still a little, but the sources of trash are the sorts of things I imagine may be difficult to avoid in a restaurant.
  • Napkins are a potential source, though they could be composted. I'd guess it's likely these kind of napkins came wrapped in paper.
  • They did use plastic gloves to top the pizzas ,which was odd given that they did not wear gloves to work the dough before topping them
  • I also saw waxed paper cups. I'm still unsure if waxed paper cups are actually waxed or if they're plastic-coated.
  • There were also honey bears, which would be partially recyclable at least.
  • Pizza boxes are a trouble spot too, because many of us can't recycle greasy cardboard.
  • There was a soda fountain. I was unable to tell definitively but I think it was probably bag-in-box, so there's a plastic bladder to throw away in the end, though at least each five-gallon bag will serve many customers.
  • I'm curious about the non-produce toppings. It might be difficult to get the cheese and meats without plastic.

Anyway, it was a cool place, and pretty cheap. $8 for a 10 inch pizza, with any toppings you want. At dinner time it's $9 for the pizza, a salad, and a drink, but the fine print of the coupon we had forced us to buy only pizzas. That's ok though; I didn't need a salad. So we just got three pizzas and brought one home!

Go there.

2012-06-28

Submitting our plastic challenge to Beth Terry

Here are the links for the four weeks we participated. They are now up on the site:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Have you considered taking the challenge? I'd love to hear from people who are willing to try it!

2012-06-23

After driving the car for a little bit

After driving our new car for a couple months, I am happy to report that I'm quite enjoying the experience. More than just resting safe in the knowledge that my car will start up in the morning (and every time I take my foot off the brake at a stop light), it's a pleasure to drive. I'll be honest, it's pretty likely that almost any new car would have been fun for me. I may have been used to the quirks of my old car, but it's nice to have a car where I don't have to know any quirks.

Our car is a 2012 Honda Insight. The Insight is a hybrid, more specifically it's a mild parallel hybrid. It's mild because the electric motor is used primarily to enable the idle-stop feature and as a little extra boost of power when accelerating quickly or driving up hills. What this all amounts to is that our car can't (or won't) operate in electric-only mode. I've decided that the main purpose of the electric motor in the Insight is simply to boost fuel efficiency by reducing the need for extra gas in higher performance situations like entering the highway or going uphill.

Here's a view of our instrumentation:


One of my favorite things about this car is that it's got a digital speedometer. It's so much quicker and more accurate to read than a needle.

On the right there's a fuel gauge, in the middle the tachometer and little computer display, and on the left we have a little meter to show us whether the car is using the electric motor, charging its battery, or neither. The little green leaf in the upper left corner indicates that the Econ mode is on. What that really means in relation to fuel economy I have no idea.

I'm not much of a car reviewer, so I'd really rather just describe the way I've altered my driving style in a small effort to increase my fuel efficiency without going to ridiculous extremes.

Speedometer efficiency indicator
Not sure what to call this. Behind the speedometer there's an arch of color that's supposed to indicate how efficiently you're accelerating or braking. It has three colors: green, teal, and blue. The greener it is, the more efficiently you're driving. You can see a little of it in the picture. But I question it sometimes. More on that below.

Efficiency indicator screen
I'm not sure what to call this one either. It's just a different view of the same information the speedometer version gives you. Instead of different colored lights, on the computer screen there's a horizontal bar and a progress-bar-like thing starts in the middle and moves further left or right depending on how efficiently you are braking or accelerating.

Electric motor assist gauge
When the car isn't using the electric motor, the needle points to the middle. When the car is using the electric motor to slow the car while charging the battery, the needle starts moving toward the green side. It can only capture so much energy though, so once the needle gets close to the bottom of the gauge the speedometer efficiency indicator turns blue. If you're accelerating quickly or the engine needs a little extra boost to keep from wasting too much gas, the needle starts moving up into the blue to indicate "how much" it's using the electric motor. The efficiency indicator turns more blue the more electric motor you use.

This needle and progress bar are besties.
Instantaneous fuel efficiency
One of the modes on the computer is an instantaneous fuel efficiency screen that shows a progress-bar-style display of your current mpg, and also shows a numeric value indicating your trip-average mpg. There are two trips, A and B, and we have A set to reset at every fill-up. We use the trip average as part of the data we keep to track how we're doing and we'll use the B trip to watch the average over a road trip if we ever get to go on one.

Coasting gives impressive mileage.
Session-average mpg
The screen after the instantaneous efficiency screen is one that shows your average mpg for the current session (since you turned the engine on), and the previous three sessions. You can see it in the image at the top; I was excited to see that on my way home from Walmart last night I got around 57 mpg. It makes driving a game: try to beat your previous score without pissing off the cars behind you!

How I use it all
I've decided that the color-shifting and equivalent computer display of the acceleration/braking efficiency is relatively useless. My reasoning is that there are times where it's valid to give the car a bit more gas. The car will judge you for it, but there's nothing you can do about that, so it's not worth worrying about. In fact, that's one of my tactics these days.

Give it gas
I read somewhere that one way to increase fuel efficiency is to speed up as quickly as possible. I'm not suggesting peeling out by any means, just smooth but strong acceleration. On a normal transmission the idea is to get you into more efficient gears quicker. Lower gears, if I've understood things, are good for getting started but horrible for distance On the CVT with the electric assist motor, my feeling is that it makes the most real use of the electric motor. Under what the car feels is efficient acceleration, you barely use the electric motor at all. Plus, it takes forever to get up to speed. Basically, the sooner you get to the speed limit, the sooner you can coast some.

Coast
Whenever possible, coast. Apparently, many engine control modules will cut the gas if you're coasting, and allow the motion of the car to continue driving the engine. This is born out in my experience in coasting situations where, like in the image above, the car will indicate "100" mpg. If there's no injection it's more like  ∞ mpg. Really helps your average.

Speed on your way down hills
Within reason, of course. Don't be too concerned if your speed drifts a few above the limit on your way down a hill. If it's a gentle hill you may even help it out a little by giving it a little gas. I say a little because if you have a light enough foot, the car won't actually give you gas but will just lay off on the battery charging and let you coast a little more freely. The idea here is that if you pick up a few mph on your way down a hill, there's a little less work the car has to do on the way up the next hill.

Brake sooner
If you know you'll definitely have to stop, slow down as slowly as possible. Given no cars behind you, this would preferably be done mostly by coasting. But if you've got to use the brakes, the idea is to use them as little as possible. In fact, though it's hard for me to tell for sure, I think our car will avoid applying the brakes even as we push the pedal if we're not pushing too hard. Instead, it allows the weight of the car to turn the engine and in turn the electric motor to charge its battery, slowing the car a bit more than when coasting and reclaiming some energy in the process.

Idle-stop as soon as possible
While slowing slowly is good, it's also good for the engine to be off. The auto-stop feature engages if you were moving at a speed greater than 7 mph and then slow down using the brakes to under 7 mph. Also, once you slow to 10 mph or so while coasting, your instantaneous efficiency starts to drop as the engine starts using fuel to maintain its idle speed. When the car auto-stops, it turns off the engine and leaves you in a peaceful silence at stop lights. Don't worry though; it'll use its battery pack to start the gas engine when you take your foot off the brake. Or if you sit there too long it'll think you are getting too hot, so it'll start back up to keep you cool.

Keep an eye on your gauges
I ignore the green/blue thing. But I watch the needle on the left and I usually keep an eye on the instantaneous view. Lately I've also been watching the previous-sessions screen a little to try to get a better idea of what driving behaviors affect each trip.

So we're happy with it
Like I said, any car newer than our old ones would have been wonderful. But with this one we feel like we're doing what we can to save on gas. We're also down to just the one car. That's going pretty well too, with the occasional day where Jess has to take me to work. After a few more tanks, we'll give you an update on how we're doing efficiency-wise. So far our average based on gallons pumped and distance driven is about 42 mpg.

2012-06-11

Green beans

Whenever we have pasta, we steam some green beans.

This time, even though we missed our farmers' market on Saturday, we found that Whole Foods had a few local produce items. So this time, we skipped the organic green beans from Mexico in favor of the conventional green beans from Milo, MO. Sure that's still a hundred miles away. But that's a heck of a lot better than 1400 miles, right?

So tell me, is it better to get organic if it has to travel a long distance, or is local more important?

2012-06-09

More deodorant experimentation


Now, you may recall that we've already been trying out some homemade deodorant ideas. And what we did try does work, but I began to notice that it was starting to be a bit irritating for my skin. So, I thought I'd experiment with some more recipes, why not?

First, I tried a spritzer bottle of vodka with a few drops of tea tree oil. The irritation was no more! But, the smell was not that great :/ Back to the drawing board.

Next, I tried:
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup baking soda
5 drops of tea tree oil
4 tablespoons of coconut oil
Kept in a container in the fridge and then used as you would a bar (doesn't stay solid at room temp)

This seems to be over all less irritating for the skin than just the baking soda and corn starch alone, and smells much better than the vodka in my opinion. But, after awhile, it too began to be a bit irritating (granted not as bad).

So, it's a process. I need the best of both worlds: smells good AND soothing to my skin.

For now I will continue with the coconut concoction, but when this is gone I plan to try using arrowroot instead of cornstarch. I have read that that proves less irritating than the cornstarch. I plan to try it in both the coconut bar recipe and the powder recipe. Rob started to have some irritation from the powder, but otherwise preferred it to the coconut bar, so he wants to try it with arrowroot to see if it is more soothing.

Anyone have deodorant experimentation stories to share? I'll be sure to check back in when I try the arrowroot.




2012-06-07

Water saving tip



We put some small bricks in the toilet tank to help save on water. Have you tried this? I've also heard of using a filled plastic bottle. That's the first water saving tip. The second, the old saying "if it's yellow let it mellow". Granted, we don't do this when we have guests over. What are other water saving tips/ideas?


2012-05-30

Plastic challenge, week 4

Total weight of plastic trash total: 601 g
224g regular plastic tally + 377g from the packaging our new TV stand came in. So, I'd like to say lowest yet (as 224g would be the lowest of this four week challenge) but with the Styrofoam from the TV stand, it becomes the highest amount of the challenge.



Items:
  • Charmin wet wipes package (apparently we are going through these too quickly and will have to be mindful of this)
  • Plastic wrapper from toilet scrubbies (I plan to switch to this brush if they ever get some more in stock) and then start making my own bowl cleaner to go with it.
  • Vitamin bottle (recycled)
  • Plastic ring to new vitamin bottle (this time we got whole food vitamins in glass)
  • Plastic ring from new fish oil bottle
  • Empty Advair and plastic sleeve it comes in
  • Empty Tums bottle (recycled)
  • Two milk rings and caps
  • Moment of weakness Blizzard lid and spoon
  • Two mint wrappers
  • A sauce container, from Domino's (recycled)
  • A mini pile of plastics bits, screws, glue, etc. from inside the TV stand box
  • A cat treat package
  • A bit of plastic from installing child proofing for said cats
  • Two plastic sleeves neither one of us could remember the purpose for :/
  • A few plastic windows from mail
  • A bubblewrap-lined envelope
  • Not pictured, two straws from HuHot because we didn't get our wishes communicated in time 
  • Big box of Styrofoam from TV stand (gets its own picture)
Fun Notes
  • Man, I really love our new TV stand, but I'm saddened by all the waste it produced. It's just a reminder to consume less and be very conscious of all purchasing because each time you buy something it adds up.
  • I'm happy that besides the TV stand waste, our tally progressively declined with each week! This challenge was really good for us and has helped us to identify problem areas to work on.
How did your personal plastic challenge go? We have finished our four week challenge, but it's never too late to do your own. It really is an eye opener. 


Wordless Wednesday

These are simple blog posts that feature a photo capable of conveying a message that needs little to no written description. 
More of our friends are getting Lifefactory bottles. Did we start an eco-trend?

2012-05-22

Plastic challenge, week 3

Total weight of plastic trash: 344 g (lowest yet)



Items:
  • Cat food bag
  • Fish oil bottle (recycled)
  • Charmin wet wipes package
  • Herbal Essence shampoo bottle (recycled and the last one, Rob is now using the bulk shampoo I've been using)
  • Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo bottle (recycled and the last one, this was a special shampoo I used once a week, but now that it is gone I'm going to try to not get any more. Perhaps if I have build up issues I can try a more natural home remedy)
  • Hand sanitizer bottle (recycled, I still have several of these. Once I use them up I may make my own or do without)
  • More milk rings and lids than I would have thought
  • Nasacort nasal spray bottle
  • Medicine bottle (recycled)
  • Wrapper from a bar of chocolate (that was fair-trade, dark, and something we shared and made last for over a month)
  • Lid, ring, and agitator thing from a bottle of pre-made Margarita (enjoyed on our mini vacation)
  • Two little Parmesan cups (recycled)
  • Wrapper from a block of local cheese
  • Wrapper from a box of gum (last one. I found out gum itself is plastic. Maybe sometime I will get my hands on these. Until then, I may just try to find mints in glass or tin containers.
  • Two plastic bits from mints (I still have several peppermints to use up, individually wrapped, that I keep in my nightstand for when I have an upset tummy)
  • 4 fruit stickers
  • a band-aid (when this box is gone, our next box is fabric band-aids. I'm sure we could go a step further and just get gauze and paper tape or something, but this is the step we are taking for now)
  • Some plastic windows from mail
  • Shake cups/lids (recycled the cups. We went inside Winstead's for shakes and discovered they had betrayed us. We had no idea they stopped serving them in glass until they brought them out to us in plastic. Sad. Can we not get shakes without plastic or Styrofoam anywhere?)
  • 4 straws (two from the shakes, two red ones from...well honestly neither of us can remember)
Fun Notes:
  • Not sure if this one is really "fun" news, but we decided to try to get some loaves of bread from a local bakery. This sounds great in theory, but they refused to put bread in our bread bags even though their bread was loose. Guess we will not get bread there. I have to say I was kind of surprised by this one actually. Since Panera and Whole Foods do it, you'd think a small place like this would. Oh well. I guess this is just one example of how we refused (refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot) so I thought I'd add it here since it meant that those plastic sacks did not end up in our tally.


2012-05-21

Quick sauce warming tip

It's actually a little embarrassing that I didn't figure this out sooner. I just stumbled onto the greatest idea to save a tiny bit of energy when you're using the oven and need to warm up some sauce.

Put your sauce pot on the exhaust vent from the oven! Now I can heat up the pasta sauce without turning on the burner, just by the exhaust heat from the oven that's warming up our loaf of bread.

2012-05-19

Pizza night

Most weeks Jess and I have a pizza night. Pizzas night, actually. It's good cold, but it's great when it's fresh from the oven. I used to do this quite a bit differently, but over the last few years I've made a few adjustments and at this point I'm pretty happy with it. There are still a couple things I want to try sometime, but it's hard to mess with a good thing. I wanted to share the secret with everyone!


The hardware
Now, I use a dough whisk to mix everything up. You could use a stand mixer with a dough hook or whatever else you like to make dough with. Other than that, all you need is a bowl, a kitchen scale, and a scoop of whatever size fits into your flour receptacle. I only use my little measuring cup as a scoop for the flour, because it's in a big jar that would be difficult to pour from. Also, it lets me sort of loosen up the flour as I scoop it into the bowl. For everything else, I just pour straight from the jar or get my hand down in there.

The software
Put your bowl on your scale and turn it on. Scoop or dump in the following into your bowl, in order:
  • 400 g whole wheat flour
  • 30 to 40 g flax seed meal
  • 30 g gluten
  • 15 g bread machine yeast
  • A pinch of salt
  • A little sugar (only for the yeasties, a tablespoon or two)
Stop! Whisk all these dry things together. And then also add:
  • Some olive oil (a couple tablespoons)
  • A bunch of honey (3/4 to 1 cup)
For later you'll also need:
  • A cup of warm water (around 100 degrees-ish)
  • A couple tablespoons of extra flour just to keep things from sticking to everything. 
  • Cornmeal to keep your pizza from sticking to your stone or pan.
  • More olive oil to brush on the crust.
  • Pizza sauce, about five spoonfuls per pizza.
  • Shredded mozzarella.
  • Oats. Mine are rolled, not sure if steel cut would work any differently.
Make the dough
Whisk everything that's in your bowl. The honey will make it a little clumpy. Pour the water in the middle and start whisking some more. It's not vital but might make it easier to get going if you whisk in the middle and only bring in a little additional flour from the edges at a time until everything's wet. Keep whisking until it all sort of comes together in one big clump and it's a pain in the butt to pull the whisk through the whole lump.

Sprinkle the table with a little bit of flour. Dump your dough out onto the table and knead for several minutes. I'd say at least ten minutes, but I get lazy and quit after five or six usually. Use a little more flour as needed, but only enough to keep the dough from sticking to the table and your hands. Measuring the flour by weight means that we're more or less set on moisture content, so we're not trying to dry things out any here.


Take a nap
The dough needs to rest some, and so should you. Form the dough into as much of a sphere as you can manage, and put it in your bowl with a little oil to coat the dough. Cover it with a damp towel and let it sit for an hour. Go find something to do. This is the point where I occasionally get impatient and will move on after 45 minutes. Especially if I didn't start this whole process till it was already 20:00.

Preheat your oven to 500°
If you have a pizza stone, make sure it's in the oven before you begin preheating. My stone said I should let the stone sit in the preheated oven for 45 minutes before baking, but I ignore that completely and get things going as soon as the oven says it's ready.

Make your crust
While the oven begins its long slow journey to 500, you might as well begin preparing your crusts. I usually make two pizzas with this amount of dough, but you could do whatever. The same dough would work for three if you wanted several toppings, or four or five if you want to do individual pizzas. After splitting your dough, try to make each hunk into spheres again. And then let them sit for a few minutes, if you don't have a starving spouse waiting.

You'll need a little more flour here, but only a tiny bit to sort of soak up the oil that you coated your dough with while it was rising. And then maybe a tiny bit more so you're not peeling your dough off the table to move it around.

Take your more or less spherical balls of dough and flatten it a little so there's enough surface area to fit your fist. Push your fist down in the middle of your disk of dough, and then rotate and repeat a few times so you've got a deep circular indentation. Do the same thing a little more to widen the circle some. Pick up the dough and vigorously pass it from hand to hand. The idea is to move it fast enough so it stretches itself out a little bit each time.

I've not had a whole lot of luck tossing my dough, and I kind of worry that using the whole wheat flour makes it a little more fragile anyway. So instead, I lay it back on the table and use the backs of my fingers to stretch it, turning it after each stretch. What I'll do is push down with the backs of my fingers, and sort of twist the tips of my fingers toward the outside edge of the circle. At the same time I move my hand out so it pulls the whole thing a little larger. Then I turn the dough a little and repeat, in an attempt to make my crust round.


After forming both crusts, I sprinkle corn meal on my pizza peels and lay the crusts on them, up toward the front edge. I use a basting brush to brush some olive oil around the edges of the crust. This seems to help the crust get a little more browned and slightly crisp. I usually end up also lightly coating the whole thing with whatever's left on my brush.

The newest addition to my pizza is some oats. Before putting the sauce on, I sprinkle a couple handfuls of oats on the crusts. It makes spreading the sauce a bit trickier, but I like the idea of getting some oats in with my pizza.

I use about five spoonfuls of sauce on each pizza. This is quite a bit more than I used to use; in the past I would only use enough sauce to coat the whole thing. Now we're trying to focus on the sauce rather than the cheese.


I've never paid attention to exactly how much cheese we put on, but it's just enough so that when it melts, it all comes together. Since we usually get the cheese in half pound blocks, this might mean it's about a quarter of a pound between the two pizzas.

When we have it, we will add torn up spinach leaves. Completely cover the pizza. The spinach shrinks a lot. And we do have spinach right now, but it's a little funky, so we'll stick to just the cheese this time.


Slide a pizza onto your stone in that 500° oven, and let it bake for 6 or 7 minutes. I like to keep an eye on the cheese. My preference is for a couple small areas of cheese to brown a little, but a lot of times I end up taking it out just before that happens while the cheese is still bubbling merrily.

Hopefully, it'll look something like this. All that honey we used results in a nice sweet crust. But don't worry, if you cut these into eight slices, you'll only end up with around a tablespoon of honey per slice.

Oh, one more thing. After you take it out of the oven, if you let it sit for a few minutes before cutting, the cheese will have cooled enough to cut cleanly, thus avoiding stretching a string of cheese across the table as you serve your family.



Edit: This post also shows on a blog hop, dated 2012-05-29 here:

2012-05-16

Wordless Wednesday

These are simple blog posts that feature a photo capable of conveying a message that needs little to no written description.
Our baby mourning doves. We seem to grow them every year.

2012-05-15

Plastic challenge, week 2

Total weight of plastic trash: 368 g (a little less than last week)


Items:
  • A bottle of cat odor remover (recycled)
  • A bag of cat treats
  • A razor cartridge and plastic case (last one, now we will be ordering a safety razor, that does not require plastic replacement heads)
  • An Arby's cup (recycled, but no excuse...I should have taken my water bottle)
  • Plastic rings from the tops of two half gallon ice cream containers
  • A yogurt container and lid (recycled)
  • Plastic wrap from a block of cheese
  • Plastic price sticker for meat that we got in our jar
  • Two lids and rings from glass milk products
  • A wrapper from a fortune cookie
  • Four small plastic containers that contained Parmesan and marinara, due to getting pizza out (some recycled)
  • A sticker telling me of a discounted price
  • A tag from a container of flowers
  • Plastic window from mail
  • Plastic sleeve from our checks that were delivered to us in the mail
  • And then the entire right hand side of the table is due to Compassion. I put on a Compassion Sunday event at my church, which is a great organization when it comes to helping children in need, but not as great as far as plastic waste (Mailing plastic, individual plastic sleeves the sponsor children packs came in, the DVD that was shown at church, etc.). I was able to get seven children sponsored, so I'm saying it's worth it in this case, but do wish that they could cut back on the waste in some way.
Fun notes:
  • Realizing our cats cause quite a bit of our plastic waste, but what can we do really? I may get to the point of trying to make some of my own cat treats, but we aren't there yet. I am going to try out some homemade odor/stain removers though, so maybe that can be a helpful step. And, we're considering the toilet training option.
  • We just took out the trash (first time in two weeks), so there is the added plastic from the bag. Eventually when we have finished off these trash bags we will be switching to bio-degradable ones.
Still two weeks left in the challenge, plenty of time to join in!

2012-05-12

Doing the dishes

We got some new dish soap. I'm really excited about this, because our previous dish soap was a bit of a disaster.


You see, in the interest of reducing our waste, we had decided to try using a bar soap for the dishes. We got Dr Bronner's bar soap for the job. It turns out that using a bar of soap for hands is awesome, but using one for doing dishes is quite a pain.

Not to worry, surely we can make our own liquid soap by simply melting down the bar and adding water to dilute it and keep it liquid. I've lost the link to the "recipe" I tried to use, but basically it involved a large quantity of water, a shredded bar of soap, and a couple hours of simmering.

Sounds easy; I'm good at shredding soap.

The result was a good deal more painful than if I had stuck with the solid bar. Using the soap at this point involved immersing the bottle in hot water for fifteen minutes or more so it would re-melt and become suitable for use. This meant just to prepare to do the dishes, there had to be some vessel large enough to contain enough hot water to cover most of the bottle we keep the soap in.

Let's just say that the dishes stacked up.

To be fair, I may have used less water than the recipe indicated. I had started out with at least twice as much shredded soap as called for. But, I tried to help things by adding even more water when my soap was in its heated liquid phase. That didn't help; it remained stubbornly solid.

The point is, this is one homemade item that I don't have the patience for.

We've decided that it's an acceptable trade-off to purchase a gallon jug of liquid castile soap. While we would prefer to avoid it anywhere we can, plastic is the only way to get it. We'll eventually be able to recycle the bottle, and possibly even the lid. We considered the option of filling up our own bottle from a store, but then we realized no matter where we get it, it's going to be plastic for someone. Unless we can convince Dr Bronner to package it in glass...

We got the lavender. It smells great. Works great too!

For doing the dishes, we're using a glass bottle that used to contain some garlic herb olive oil / balsamic vinegar. We found that the plastic lid from an old bottle of Seventh Generation dish soap fit the oil bottle perfectly. The soap is pretty watery, so it sort of comes out of the bottle a little like Tobasco sauce.

The soap in its natural liquid form is super concentrated. The mix Dr Bronner's suggests for dishes is a ratio of 40:1 water to soap. The bottle we have holds about a cup. When I make it, I mix a cup of water and a little dribble of soap. I haven't actually tried to be precise about the soap measurement, but 1/40 of a cup is 1.2 teaspoons. At this rate, I'll be able to fill this bottle around 640 times. It took me a couple weeks to use the bottle, so unless we find some other uses for it, I expect we'll be finishing this gallon of soap around November 2036. That should make up for the plastic.

Edit: This post was actually written by Rob, the dish-doer.

Edit: This post also shows on a blog hop, dated 2012-05-15 here:

2012-05-08

Plastic challenge, week 1

Total weight of plastic trash: 391 g


Items:
  • 2 cat food bags
  • Charmin wet wipes package
  • 2 dead pens
  • Plastic bag from hatch huggers for new car bike rack
  • Medicine bottle from Augmentin (recycled)
  • Plastic bag from cornstarch (on the lookout for cornstarch in bulk)
  • Wrapper from a mint
  • Flosser head (last one, now will just be using up regular floss instead of individual flossers)
  • Five envelope windows from junk mail
  • Plastic coupon card for Kay, which we just discovered was actually meant to be for a neighbor. A comment will be left on their Facebook page regarding the silliness of printing plastic coupons. Everyone should comment!
  • Plastic bits from our new box fan that held the feet together
  • 2 big stickers, one in English and one Spanish, also from the new box fan
  • 1 apple sticker
  • Top from bag of cat treats
  • Strawberry box (recycled)
  • 2 milk caps with rings
  • Earplugs from an MRI
  • 2 license plate brackets from new car
  • Frank Ancona vanity plate pre-attached to the front of the new car
Fun notes:
  • The cat food bags were 121 g together. We'll always have these every so often for the foreseeable future, but Virgil turns 1 in a few days, so we can at least buy bigger bags of adult food from now on instead of having to get both an adult cat bag and a kitten bag.
  • The Honda advertising was 158 g, which was 40% of our total. Assuming no additional car purchases in the next week, we should be looking pretty good at our next weigh-in.
  • That new box fan helped drop the interior temperature by 5 degrees in just a couple hours. More on that later.
Joining us for week 2 of the challenge? Let's here from you. Here we go.

2012-05-02

Wordless Wednesday

My first "Wordless Wednesday" post:

These are simple blog posts that feature a photo capable of conveying a message that needs little to no written description. 



2012-05-01

Plastic trash challenge!

Today is May 1st, and this month we will be doing the plastic trash challenge. Please click on that link, read the rules, and join us on our adventure!

It's simple to get started, we will just be collecting all our plastic (recyclable and non) and will tally it at the end of each week. We will do this for the entire month of May and see how we progress. At the end of the month we (and hopefully anyone else we inspire) will fill out the form provided in the link and send it in.

As for our blog, we will post a picture of each week's collection and write about it in hopes to better analyze our plastic footprint.

Here we go.

2012-04-26

Gardening

Check out what our friends over at The Kersten Haus are doing. Their most recent post touches on raised garden beds, composting, and rain barrels. Fun! Kudos, you two.

Rob and I look forward to having our own garden one day. Currently what I plant on our shaded apartment balcony doesn't always seem to do that great. I may try setting some things out front by our apartment door, but not sure how well that will work. I had at one point brought some plants inside, but our cats like to destroy things. Currently we have one little living plant on a window ledge that the cats cannot reach. Tell me your tips and stories.

Edit 4/27/12: Just found this relevant link that I think fellow apartment dwellers will appreciate.

2012-04-25

Lint brush

So I got the alternative to the single use, sticky square, lint rollers of the day. I have to be honest here, it may not work quite as well as the roller did, but it works well enough for me to keep using it over throwing away sticky plastic squares each time I want to get hair off my shirt. I found this one at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Limited packaging as well; I think it was just in cardboard, which I then recycled. By watching what we throw away, we can inspire ourselves to discover alternatives we didn't even know existed!

2012-04-20

Plastic-free tea

Mostly. For a long time I've been looking for a way to get iced tea in sufficiently large quantities from QuikTrip without using one of their big plastic throwaway cups. I had hoped to find some sort of large stainless cup with a lid.

During Lent, I came up with a solution. I just wasn't able to try it out until after Easter. I had been using a quart milk bottle as a water bottle at the office, and I realized the half gallon variety would be perfect for tea from QT. The only plastic involved is the lid and the little handle.

Besides being less plastic-y, this is great because I use ice from the ice machine at work and drink it from my office pint glass. That means I get more tea in my bottle when I fill up. Plus, 64 oz still fits in the 99-cent refill category.

Don't be fooled by the lid.
This bottle contains no whole milk.

2012-04-13

Deodorant follow up

I just wanted to check in after my two mile mostly-run this evening. Jess, I'm happy to report, has indicated that my arms do not smell like much of anything.

I am curious sometime to try the coconut-oil-related suggestions from Miser Mom and our anonymous friend. My only problem there is that I don't really care for the smell.

Anyway, I'm loving the new deodorant.

2012-04-12

Homemade cake and frosting

To celebrate Rob turning 29 I made him a yummy chocolate birthday cake! Here's my slight modification of the recipe on the back of a Hershey's Cocoa box.
Cake recipe:
2 cups sugar (I can't think of the exact name right now, but the kind of sugar we get in bulk is just a tad bit darker and less refined than regular white sugar. I'll check next time we go to the store then come back here and edit when I find out)
1 and 3/4 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup of cocoa
1 and 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1 and 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of sea salt
2 eggs (local, free range)
1 cup of milk (local, whole, glass bottle, Shatto milk)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil (using up what I have left and then plan to only use healthier oils in the future)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
#1 Rub just a little bit of olive oil around to "grease" your pan and also add a bit of flour. Have a basic rectangle cake pan, I believe mine is 9x13. #2 Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. #3 Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on med. speed 2min. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour into your pan. #4 Bake 30-35min or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 min. Remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Then frost. 


















Frosting recipe:
1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter (you can make your own butter by getting cream in a glass jar and basically just beating it with a KitchenAid until it turns into butter. I then drain off the buttermilk and put in cold clean water to beat some more to rinse, then get rid of all the liquid and form the butter into a stick)
2/3 cup of cocoa
3 cups of powdered sugar
1/3 cup of milk
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
#1 Melt butter. Put cocoa into mixing bowl. Pour melted butter in with the cocoa. #2 Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on med. speed to spreading consistency. #3 Stir in vanilla.

All dry ingredients were found in bulk bins except: cocoa, powdered sugar, and baking powder.

For the future (when I run out of what I currently have) I have a new way to make my own powdered sugar that I might give a try. According to our friend Amanda, you can finely grind your regular sugar in a mini prep or blender, adding around 1 tbsp of corn starch to 1 cup of sugar, to create powdered sugar. I will need to investigate my cocoa and baking powder options. Whole Foods does not carry them in bulk, but I need to check the Merc to see if they have them. I may, at least, be able to find them in glass somewhere.

This was my first time making homemade frosting and the feeling of making your own verses buying a tub of frosting off the shelf, well, it was exciting :)

Enjoy!



2012-04-09

New car!

We recently took the advice of many of our family and friends and bought a new car rather than waiting until we could afford a decent down payment on a house. And we couldn't be happier.

We got a 2012 Honda Insight LX. The LX stands for "cheapest one with cruise control".

For me, this was the fulfillment of a 12-year-old dream of mine, ever since my dad and I test drove one of the first Insights that was only a two-seater.

I'll put together more of a review sometime in the next couple weeks, but now that we've filled up our tank for the first time after bringing it home, I wanted to at least report that we got 49.87 mpg on our first tank, which took us 409 miles in just under 9 days. And show you a couple pictures taken while my phone wasn't wearing its glasses.
Someone help us pick a front plate, something that doesn't give free ad-space to the dealer.
We're excited to have a rear wiper for once.
Opening the hatch reveals plenty of room for whatever baggage you might be encumbered with.

2012-04-07

No more store-bought deodorant

I ran out of deodorant the other day and I"m not buying any more.

Partly motivated by our zero waste thing, and also partly because I'm tired of spraying aluminum on my armpits, we've decided we'll just make our own deodorant from now on. Jess still has a little left of her current stick, but she'll be joining me soon. Oh, and it's virtually free.

One of the other motivations for me is the realization that it's probably not that good to be using an antiperspirant in the first place. If sweating is a normal bodily function, why would I want to stop it up? It's the odor I don't want, after all. And the odor isn't caused by the sweat, anyway.

So how do we make it? It's simple: just a 1:1 mixture (by volume) of baking soda and cornstarch. We found a little stainless steel lidded cup at Whole Foods to keep it in. Every morning, I just put a little under each arm and go about my business.

How do I put it on?

Good question.


We found the brush at Target. We couldn't find any that didn't come wrapped in plastic, but this one is at least made from recycled aluminum. It says the bristles are "cruelty-free", so I like to imagine they poured the boar a drink before they shaved it.

You just dip the tip in the powder and that gives you enough for one arm. I'd lean over the sink to apply it if I were you, so as to avoid giving the entire room a nice baking soda dusting.

How well does it work? Pretty great, so far. It's only been a week, and I haven't done a whole lot of physical activity, but my underarms don't really smell. So says Jess, anyway. We'll see how well it does after I go for a run on Thursday.

2012-03-30

Eco-friendly feminine hygiene products


The title says it all. Men, feel free to skip this post if you wish. But ladies, I have to say that I've made the switch and I couldn't be happier. There are many eco-friendly feminine hygiene options out there. We aren't forced to pick between disposable pads or disposable tampons; there are other choices. Please read the following link: This article says it best.

For those who are use to tampons: The Diva cup or the Sea sponge option could be for you. If, like me, you prefer the less intrusive option of pads, there are many reusable cloth pad options out there. You can buy some right at Whole Foods I believe. The diva cup can be purchased there as well. I know you can get the sea sponges at The Merc at least. But, let me tell you about the product I've decided on. I went with a local etsy user at Cozy Folk. And since she was local, I was even able to pick them up in person while I was already in Lawrence instead of having them shipped. Jenn King at Cozy Folk Creations did a great job and I'd recommend her products to anyone. 

My reusable cloth pads are way cuter than conventional pads (pads can be cute?) and they feel so much nicer! What sounds better to you, sitting on aggravating paper/plastic or soft, comfortable, breathable natural cloth? They are actually pretty low maintenance, cheaper in the long run, obviously much better on the environment, and are better health wise. If you are looking into making the switch and have questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer. I've used them several times now and do not see myself switching back. They even have wings with a snap. Sweet. 

Thanks for letting me get personal. I know it can be an embarrassing topic, but it's an important point to make. Have a happier period!