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.


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!


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.


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.


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 :)



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.


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.