Thursday, January 29, 2009

It’s cheaper being green

In my quest to switch over to natural cleaning products, I’ve discovered that it’s actually often cheaper to use green products.

1st switch – I was pretty much addicted to cleaning wipes because of how convenient and easy they are to use, but they get to be expensive and wasteful, not to mention how toxic a lot of the ingredients are. So, when Target had all of the back to college stuff marked down cheap at the end of the summer, I bought a huge stack of plain white wash cloths for about two bucks. I use these with a non-toxic all purpose cleaner to wipe down everything from kitchen counters to bathroom surfaces. I pop the cloths in the wash once a week, but if any of them ever get too gross to re-use, I don’t have to cry over it because of how inexpensive they were.

2nd switch – Our bathroom sink is prone to the occasional clog and I’ve found a cool new way to fix them. Drain cleaners are full of gross chemicals, but there is a simple and fun way to get rid of the gunk. Start by pouring some good old baking soda down the drain. Be pretty generous. Next, pour some plain white vinegar over it until you get a little volcano fizz a la 5th grade science fair. Wait until it stops fizzing, and then pour a little more. Repeat until the fizzing stops. Leave the drain alone for a few hours and it should be as good as new. Really gross clogs may need a second dose.

3rd switch – Speaking of vinegar, it is seriously a super hero. You can use it to clean pretty much anything. I buy it in a huge jug and use it all the time. You can use it to clean everything from mirrors to toilets. If you add half a cup to a load of dingy whites it brightens them up. It is my favorite thing to use to clean the coffee maker. I usually run a cup mixed with two cups of water through the machine about once a month.

4th switch – No more dryer sheets. I had a really bad skin reaction a few months ago, and in an effort to figure out what was causing the irritation I stopped using dryer sheets. I don’t miss them one little bit.

Any other ideas for inexpensive and natural ways to keep things neat?



I can’t stand clutter, but I seem to attract it like static cling. As much as I try to pare down the amount of stuff we have, I just can’t get rid of enough things to make areas like the top of my dresser and the kitchen counters look neat. In an effort to corral all the stuff, I have come up with a few ideas for keeping things easily accessible, but out of sight.

For my dresser top, a vintage train case proved to be the perfect hiding place. Inside I can fit my makeup bag and all of my jewelry. I found a few cardboard boxes at Ben Franklin, spray painted them white, and labeled them earrings, bracelets, etc. Since I don’t wear that much jewelry, they work perfectly for organizing my little baubles within the case.
I also use a thrift store basket for holding moisturizer, vitamin E oil, pomade, and other toiletries. On the other side of my dresser, two tea cups hold the beaded necklaces I wear the most often and a few small skin care products. In the morning I can find everything quickly and easily, and it all looks neat and stylish when I’m done. A bonus to this kind of organizing is all of the junk you find to throw away. I filled a trash bag with old makeup, dried up hair products, and broken ponytail holders. I’ve also been replacing all of my products with organic or natural versions as I use them up. A lot of these products do double duty (EX: Burt’s Bees lip shimmer can also be used as a cream blush) so I should ultimately end up with even less to store!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A little switch = big savings

I’m always looking for simple ways to spend less. Brad and I changed the way we make one of our favorite meals, and it has really cut down our weekly grocery bill. We like to eat salmon once a week because it is yummy and full of healthy omega 3’s. For almost a year, we purchased pre-packaged lemon butter salmon fillets and pre bagged salad mix. It made for a fast, healthy, and fairly cheap dinner. However, this meal still cost about seven bucks for both of us, and I felt like I could make a homemade version for less.

Wal-Mart has these great wild Alaskan salmon fillets in the seafood section. A bag of four is only four bucks and change - less than half the price of the pre-packaged kind we used to buy.

When I get home from work I pull two out of the freezer and stick them in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes or so. Once they are almost thawed, I melt a smidge of butter in a grill pan over medium heat. You can also use a plain skillet. I like to use Smart Balance 50/50 stick “butter” for this, but you could use pretty much anything. While the butter melts, I grind some of Trader Joe’s awesome lemon pepper over both sides of the fillets. I usually add an extra dash of plain ground pepper to Brad’s.

The fillets only need to cook for five minutes on each side so it’s a super fast dinner. While the salmon is doing its thing, I make a salad. I used to love the pre-shredded bagged salads because of how fast and easy they were to just dump in a bowl. Fast and easy does not equal cheap, however. Now I buy Trader Joe’s organic hearts of romaine.

It really only takes a few seconds longer to wash and tear a few leaves for a salad, and it tastes so much better. Plus, you get twice as much lettuce for almost half the price, and it stays fresh for about a week longer. Back to the salmon - once it flakes with a fork, I pull it off the heat and squeeze lemon juice over each fillet. Fresh lemon is great, but they make some pretty good organic stuff in a squeeze bottle. Add some bread and you have a cheap, healthy, and yummy dinner in about 30 minutes. Who doesn’t love that?



Sunday, January 25, 2009

I’ll be your valentine Charlie Brown

I love Valentine’s Day! It shouldn’t be too surprising that I love a whole day devoted to love and my favorite color. I didn’t really decorate last year, so I was determined to create something pretty to spruce things up this year. For my kitchen I had to go red and vintage. I found these amazing retro cards from the 50’s and 60’s in a flickr set. I just used white paper clips to attach them to some vintage red seam tape, and voila – instant sweetness.

In the living room, I went for a more subtle look. I pulled out the gorgeous red leather album Brad’s mom gave me, and a cute vintage book of love poems and marriage vows. Then I just moved the hobnail vase from the hall table and stuck some red scrapbook paper in trifold frame with some cropped photos of Brad and I and our dearest friends. It took maybe ten minutes to put the whole look together, but I love how it turned out. Is it sad that I like to sit on the sofa and stare at my handiwork? Yes, yes it is.

What great ideas do you have for easy Valentine's Day fun?

Book Shelf Bonanza

Because I am a bibliophile librarian, I have collected quite a lot of book over the years - enough to fill 5 bookcases in our roost. While I like to keep them somewhat organized, I really don’t want to bring the Dewey Decimal system home from work. So, a few weeks ago I tackled the job of re-organizing my books so they were easy to find, but also looked visually appealing on the shelves. This took much longer than I thought, but I think the results look so much more fun than the haphazard look I had before.

Before, everything was in alpha order with a few trinkets propped against the books.

I started by dividing the books into categories: children’s, YA, Fiction, decorating, art, poetry, etc. then I arranged each section by size, from largest to smallest. This pretty much made it impossible to alphabetize (I know! Gasp!) but each section turned out to be small enough that finding things hasn’t been a problem. Some of my art books are so big, that I decided to stack them in flat piles, rather than on their ends. I loved the way this looked so much that I stacked some other books, like the Harry Potter series, that way as well. I actually ended up with more shelf space, which means I don’t have to feel guilty next time I bring home a new book!

I think it looks so much warmer and more organized.
I really like the children's book shelf!

The bookcase across the room looks cute too!