Friday, January 29, 2010

Go Green, Save Green

Earlier this week, I was inspired by Amy's post about tackling "nagging" tasks. While I wish the following hadn't become a nagging task, I finally felt motivated to get it done. To what am I referring? Last year, right before Natalie was born, I read a book titled Go Green, Save Green by Nancy Sleeth. It was very informative and practical, and I really wanted to process it and share it with all of you.

There are way too many tips in this book to highlight in a single post, so I'll just share some of my favorite ideas and quotes:

I love the prayer in the introduction of the book, which was written by the author's husband, Dr. Matthew Sleeth: "Give me a thankful heart, and free me from my wasteful habits." Amen!

The book is divided into 11 chapters that address various areas of our lives such as home, entertainment, school, church and community. In the chapter about "greening" our homes, Sleeth's simple and straightforward plan is to "consume less, save more." She includes a list of no-cost changes we can make to save both energy and money, such as doing laundry in cold water, adjusting the thermostat 3 degrees up/down depending on the season, and reducing shower time by just two minutes. This chapter also inspired Eric and me to sign up for an energy audit for our home, a topic which I will save for a separate post.

Nancy shares a list of household items that total about $100 in initial cost but are an investment for saving in other ways: 10 reusable grocery bags, 1 water filter pitcher (to encourage drinking H20 instead of other beverages), 2 spray bottles for mixing homemade cleaners, 5 CFL bulbs (we gave these to our dads and brother-in-law for Christmas this past year), 2 low-flow showerheads, 10 handkerchiefs (eww, I haven't gotten to this point yet!), 2 power strips (to decrease your use of phantom energy), and 1 furnace filter. (Later in the book, she suggests packaging some of these items together to make a practical wedding gift, which I think is a neat idea!)

Another awesome aspect of this book is that each chapter ends with a checklist for ways to reduce consumption and save money, followed by ideas for sharing some of your savings with others in a relevant way. For example, in the chapter about food, Sleeth suggests you bake your own bread and grow garden produce. With some of your financial surplus, you could donate to an organization that fights malnutrition or a ministry that seeks to provide clean water in impoverished areas. Very cool.

Love this quote, which was actually taken from Serve God, Save the Planet: "Our relationship to God's gifts can be one of entitlement, ignorance and gluttony, or one of praise, thanks and temperance." That last word is the one that really hit home with me while reading this book--temperance: avoiding excess, using resources in moderation, showing self-restraint.

The transportation chapter was enlightening for me, as it's not something I think about very much. Sleeth writes that driving an SUV that gets 13 mpg for one year wastes more energy than leaving the refrigerator door open for 6 years or the bathroom light on for 30 years! She also listed a site where you can evaluate the energy efficiency of your current car. I looked up both of our cars, and you can see the corresponding data if you're interested by clicking here.

You might be surprised that a book on green living contains a chapter about honoring the Sabbath. But as Sleeth states, we must shift our focus "from productivity to rest, success to service, material gain to spiritual good, and from the god of money to the God of love." She says that of all the steps her family has taken in the area of environmental stewardship, honoring the Sabbath has given them the most joy! They don't run errands, they have a simple noon meal of soup and bread and they restrict their use of technology. Definitely food for thought.

I hope you've read thus far--I know this post went all over the place, and I just made a drop in the bucket in regards to sharing about the book, but that's an appropriate metaphor for my own green journey! I'm glad I finally (smile) got around to writing this review. I enjoyed skimming the book again, and hope some of you will check it out!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Birthday re-cap

Yesterday was my 31st birthday. We mostly celebrated on Saturday, due to some church commitments, but it worked out well since I wasn't feeling great on Sunday.

In keeping with our tradition, Eric made me breakfast in bed (fruit and monkey bread, at my request). I got to have lunch with a dear friend, and supper with just my husband. Nice! At supper, Eric said he didn't have anything planned, and asked what I wanted to do. I said playing games would be fun, but didn't add that I would be thrilled to go to bed early since I'd been awake since 5. (Ahem, Natalie!)

After we got home from our meal, we were hanging out in the living room when the doorbell rang. I answered it, and a friend from church was standing on the porch with a plate of cookies. I of course invited her in, but I was flustered, because I wasn't expecting anyone, and I was also heading upstairs to put Natalie to bed. So I'm afraid I wasn't a very gracious hostess! While I was feeding Natalie, I was trying to listen for additional knocks or voices, but I heard none. Back in the living room, we sat around talking for awhile, and then the doorbell rang again. This time, eight women arrived at once! I was pretty confused, especially because it was a fairly random mix of people!

Eric stumped me again. (He has a knack for that, don't you think?) He invited a dozen women from church to come over for games; in addition to lots of talking, we played this and this. He'd also encouraged them to bring lots of snacks--and that they did. My goodness! There was no way I could sample everything, but a friend who makes cakes as a profession brought a carrot cake that I couldn't pass up. And someone else made caramel Rice Krispy treats. Delish!

It was a great night, and I am thankful for Eric's thoughtfulness. It was also fun to hear the details of the plan and read the e-mails he'd sent. Clever and sneaky! And when I accused him of lying (Remember he'd said he had no plans?), he assured me he said he had no plans for us. Tricky!

As if that wasn't enough, Eric still hadn't given me my official present--you may recall we give each other "experiential gifts"--and on Sunday, I opened an envelope to find this:
Isn't that hilarious? Eric and his brother created a spoof of this popular movie poster. It's too perfect--look at our names! Carolyn is someone Eric met through our community garden, and she agreed to spend a morning with me, either teaching me about canning or helping me work on bulk meal prep--my choice. Isn't that awesome?! I love the idea, and this poster totally makes me smile. Thank you so much, Eric!

Many people helped make it a special weekend, and I am grateful. I also took the time to re-read all the amazing comments I received last year when Eric invaded my blog, and it was encouraging once again. Thanks again to all who shared kind words!

In talking about birthdays, I have to mention something cool: last year, my mom shared my "birthverse" with me. There is a website that has assigned a Scripture passage to every date. For example, since my birthday is 1/24, my verse is Jude 1:24 "To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy." Isn't that neat?! Go look up your verse!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another mish-mash post

Thanks for all your thoughts on Friday's post. It's been very exciting to see all the ways people are reaching out to our neighbors in Haiti!

I use a daily calendar in praying for Nathan and Natalie, and interestingly, the trait for the 15th (Friday) was generosity! And this verse was written that same day on a Scripture calendar I use: "He [the man who fears the Lord] has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor." Psalm 112:9

I thought that was pretty cool.

And now for some other random stuff:

*Just curious if anyone has tried an alternative to fabric softener sheets, like these or these? Monica made me a neat wool dryer ball, and it's been great in the summer, but in the winter, we have a ton of static on our clothes, especially all of our fleece items. I'm not sure what to do . . . I recently read that adding vinegar to the washer helps with static--have any of you tried that?

*I drink a glass of this stuff when I'm on the edge of a cold. I really think it works and often recommend it to others. I was excited to see that Target has released a (cheaper) store-brand version, and hope it will be just as effective!

*In addition to hunting pheasant, Eric usually goes out one weekend to hunt deer. This is the first time I can remember that he hasn't brought one home. (He was in a new location this time around, and I think his group only saw one deer the entire day, which is quite unusual.) Anyway, we know another couple who has a steady supply of deer meat, but the husband no longer hunts for pheasant. I decided to ask them if they'd be interested in swapping some meat. They were delighted to do so, and I was really glad I asked. I often read about bartering/swapping, and I'm usually blank on what to offer, but this time it worked out great!

*I wanted to give a shout-out to my dear blog friend Katie who recently surprised me with a copy of this. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I am looking forward to a date or two with Anne with an E! You are a kindred spirit, Katie. Thank you!

*Thanks to all who sent crockpot ideas when I requested them. I have quite a few I hope to try soon!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Praying for compassion

You may recall me mentioning that before Nathan was born, Eric and I chose 3 different character traits that we wanted to pray for for him. One of the traits we selected is compassion. It is so awesome seeing this value developing in my young son. Yesterday at lunch, Nathan was talking about a big storm that had happened far away, and he told me that some people were hurt and lost their houses. I asked if he meant Haiti. And he said, "Yes, Haiti. We should give food and toys to those kids." Yes, dear boy, we should. It confirmed for me that we should send our grocery money right away to Haiti, where it is needed far more than we *need* another box of crackers.

It is so difficult living in this tension, isn't it? We have been given so much, and we want to do what we can for the hurting people in Haiti or elsewhere, but we also have the details of our daily lives to attend to. I think about this tension a lot.

I want to teach my kids to be sensitive to the needs of others. And I want to teach myself that, too. Along these lines, I appreciated this post this morning.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


My list of things I want to blog about is rapidly snowballing, so I realized that rather than expanding on various topics, I need to just compose a mish-mash post.

*I can hardly believe January is almost half over already! I've been participating in my own version of the popular pantry challenge, and am finally getting around to posting about it. For me, the overall goal is a financial one. I'm aiming to spend half (or less) of our usual monthly food budget. (Of course, this will translate into buying less, but I'm not limiting the amount of trips to the grocery store in January.) If I meet my goal, I want to bless someone else with the surplus, and I also want to tighten the reins on our food budget for the rest of the year (and maybe beyond). If I can make half the amount work for one month, I don't know why I can't live within a reduced amount all the time. I feel pretty motivated, and will plan to check back at the end of the month with further thoughts.

*It might seem silly to start thinking about next Christmas already, but I like to be on the lookout all year long for goodies for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. If you're interested in participating next year, I thought this post was very inspirational: this family filled 45 boxes for just $45!! OCC is a very cool program, and they have a new option where you can track the destination of your shoebox. We just found out ours went to Honduras. How exciting!

*I've been wanting to share a link to a fun boutique that my friend Amanda is participating in. If you're looking for cute and sturdy reusable bags, or a variety of accessories, you should check out this site!

*Crockpot dishes are becoming a mainstay for our Sunday dinners. We don't get home from church until 12:15 or later, and it's wonderful to have our meal ready to serve. I'm running out of ideas, though! I just perused the recipes on this site, but am looking for some additional inspiration. We're tricky, because I don't eat any red meat or pork, and Eric is allergic to tomatoes and citrus fruits. If you have a crockpot recipe you think will fit the bill, I'd be most grateful to hear from you!

*Lastly, if you've been reading my blog for awhile, you may remember that I did some part-time work at a local college last year. Well, they've called me to pinch-hit again, and I'll be helping them out with some big projects for the next 6 weeks. Thus, I may be a little more scarce around here . . .

Thanks for reading, and stay warm. It's in the 20s here, which sadly feels warm after having temps in the NEGATIVE 20s!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

10 on the 10th!

I've been wanting to participate in Mer's monthly celebration of lists called 10 on the 10th, but I've never been prepared when that date rolls around. I thought the first 10th of the year 2010 would be an appropriate time to join the fun. Plus, I found some funny "material"--I came across a list I made in junior high of names I wanted to give my future children. What a hoot! I had written down several combinations of first and middle names; even better, I also wrote down the origin of each name (what an English major!)

My list took up an entire notebook page. How many kids did I think I would have, anyway? Oh, well. Without further adieu, here is the list of 10 names (5 girl, 5 boy) I liked back in the day:
  1. Kierra Aspen (I remember thinking this would be the coolest name! Kierra means "sun" in Persian.)
  2. Anna Delisa
  3. Ariel Brooke
  4. Samantha Kate
  5. Jessica Michelle
  6. Tyler Jordan
  7. Adam Eric (!)
  8. Hunter Daniel
  9. Brian Scott
  10. Justin Joel
How about you? Did you daydream about your future kids' names, even when you were a kid yourself? And has your taste in names changed like mine has? Check out Mer's blog for other fun "10" lists.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Holiday highlights

Since my last post, we've driven almost 2000 miles, and narrowly missed an epic snowstorm in our area. We are so thankful for traveling mercies, especially since we had to adjust our travel plans at both the beginning and end of our trip due to weather--it's been quite an adventure!

It was good to be with Eric's family, and I wanted to post some pix from our time together:

Grandpa had his hands full, as you can see. It was fun to watch Addison and Natalie experience their first Christmas together!
My in-laws have a gorgeous backyard that runs into a series of trails. Here is a pic of the scenery, followed by us "sibs" in our cross-country ski garb*. It was good exercise, I didn't fall (a first!), and we ended our trek with homemade cider and donuts. A fun winter outing!
Such a cute idea: Eric's cousin crafted costumes for the younger set to wear in a (very informal) "re-enactment" of the nativity story. I thought Nathan made a pretty darling shepherd.
That's some of what we've been up to in the last two weeks. Hope you all had a meaningful holiday, as well!

*See that sploosh of snow on my head? My husband may or may not have thrown snow at me right before this photo was taken!