Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Soap Opera

DAY 183

Turns out hot water and an SOS pad takes paper labels and label goo off of plastic jars - good! A little more elbow grease required but I did not have to use nail polish remover or Goo Gone...not sure if regular steel wool would work - maybe with a little soap? Will let you know. Worked to remove permanent marker from a travel size lotion bottle too. It did make some scrape marks but no big deal...I am only going to be using the former cashew container for future homemade granola (in my upcoming, pending, ideal, hope-so free time).

Additional cleaning discovery this week - Thieves spray cleans up cat gak off the wood floors very nicely...note to self.

Started the natural health and beauty product search last night at Wegman's...the brand Avalon is looking good - no animal testing, fully recyclable packing including the cap and seemingly harmless ingredients for all concerned (people, animals, planet). I do remember reading somewhere that the sudsing/cleansing ingredient in shampoos and soaps, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can be troublesome - I did a tiny bit of research and I am not sure what to make of it. Dr. Andrew Weil, health and wellness expert summarizes:

"SLS has a long history of use in shampoos and other personal care products and overall I don't think you need to worry about it. If you'd rather not take any chances, you should have no trouble finding alternative products that do not contain it."

Click here for his complete response:


No doubt there is some great info at http://www.organicajane.com/ as well - thanks in advance Amy Jane Stewart!

October is going to be interesting! More shampoo news to follow (or "realpoo" as my Dad used to say - maybe my Mom too - funny household - get it, real not a "sham", get it?).

Haha - Have a Nothing New Day! Kristin

Sunday, September 26, 2010


DAY 181

About to experience the joy of doing laundry once again...part of the special travel process of unload, unpack, laundry, pack, load, repeat. Things will settle a bit after this week – excellent!

End of September is coming soon (yikes!) so I’ll be preparing for next month’s challenge that starts on Friday. I am going to switch to natural health and beauty products, cosmetics, shampoo and all that...I have always been on the no-animal testing route and made-in-USA when possible (almost never it seems) but have never really insisted on recycled or recyclable packaging. I have a feeling it is going to get more difficult the more specific the products get. Easy enough to get handmade (local) soap for the shower but is there non-petroleum mascara in bamboo tubes out there??? This and other important questions to be answered in the month of October...stay-tuned.

This challenge month of Natural Cleaning Products has been quite do-able and I am grateful...It has been an ongoing effort nonetheless to keep the discipline of buying nothing new. I confess...I have slipped and will be making a fat contribution to my Nothing New Account. Have you seen “Ugly Dolls”? Wacky, colorful stuffed “animals” – bats, robots and things. Poe and Ninja Batty Shogun are now in their new home in Fort Lauderdale because I did a little early Christmas shopping for my nephews...hard to resist the fun of giving presents to my boylies. I probably could have made them myself – grrr. I was not prepared to say no and I got caught up in letting them pick out the ones they wanted and the bonding in the whole experience of buying something on line together. Even better when I got to talk with them on the phone the day the packages arrived...Jon took Poe to his swim meet and Xander sleeps with Ninja. Very hard to resist.

I think the rest of holiday giving season will be good – I have plans for making some goodies and orchestrating some shared experiences...back on track now. By the way, my Nothing New Account - amounts I contribute if I do buy anything new - is now $230 ($1380 if I include new tires and new shingles for the back porch roof repair). From now on, I will be doubling the cost of new items as more of an incentive. The main thing is to NOT buy a new item in the first place, of course.

I did make some good choices of bringing my own food with me on this past road trip...picked up some organic homemade jelly at a farm stand on the way home. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has Farmers Markets on Sundays at certain Mass Pike rest stops – nice! I think NYDOT does the same thing on the Thruway.

That’s all for now – have a Nothing New Day!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


DAY 178

It is officially Fall but...feels like a late summer night what with the warm/cool wind coming through the windows and all...let's say it's still summer please?!

Finished up some laundry tonight as I launch another road trip...dried some in the dryer and hung some around my house - a good habit from my "No Lights" Month (which started out as no electricity month - not do-able for me!). I did use my dryer that month but decided that I always had to hang half on the line to dry. I am still doing that with every load...towels and sheets, rugs and jeans still get hung up and hung out. Inherited a great over the door rack-thing (thanks JoeyO!) that makes it easy to hang shirts and tops too. Good. Along with flossing regularly after a "scared straight" talk from my dentist, you can call me Good Habit Girl.

I will examine my electric bill from my summer months, compare them to last year too and report some numbers next time...I do think we (I) get a little complacent with conserving electricity in my town - we have community owned power so our electricity bills are very low. More on that later.

Fall always brings TV back to the land of the living...I only watch a few shows, really..one less now that As the World Turns is over - I am depressed - I have watched that show since I was child (on black and white TV) - feels like my whole life. My Mom and my Grandma and I would compare notes, "Did you watch The Story today?" Anyway, I digress...so, I watched an episode of a new show called "Outsourced" tonight...anyone see it? I thought it would be entertaining but I mostly just felt sad. It is a about a US novelty company that sold itself (its soul?) for cheaper labor in India...the items in the company catalog were all useless plastic, NOT MADE IN USA, c.r.a.p. such as...fake vomit, cheese-head hats (and this from a Green Bay Packer fan even!) and other embarrassing "American Culture" items. The gist was that the Indian staff not only had to learn about the items in the catalog to assist customers with their order, they needed to know the back story of the various trinkets, gadgets and contraptions. The main character Manager explained that the stuff really had no purpose but that was OK because in America you can do whatever you want even it if has no purpose. Nice. If I were a bettin' gal, I'd bet the show lasts a season if that.

On a similar note, I am done buying trinkets for my Teamworks programs unless they have a purpose. One year (a long time ago before I was older and wiser, like now, yet aging gracefully), I spent thousands of dollars on giveaways...a lot of plastic NOT MADE IN USA. I am now in search of pens that are reusable, or made of recycled or recyclable plastic, paper or something that will not go in the landfill. Found a company that makes these great bamboo jump drives...sustainable bamboo - well, he said they were supposed to be bamboo...but NMH (Not Made Here) - darn it! I will find something...no doubt it will cost more...will keep you posted.

Enough ranting for one blogging session...good night - have a Nothing New Day! Kristin

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


DAY 176

Hello! Happy Tuesday...

I used some Thieves Spray to clean porch chairs today - it was a great! I love that my day can be made by a sparkly seating fixture! Is that bad?

The most challenging thing about this month of "Natural Cleaning Products" is that, except for dish soap at the sinks, there is not an intense every-day-all-day feeling of habits like I had with the "Local Food" month. Therefore, it seems harder to remember to NOT use the "other" products like Goo Gone for removing label goo and the ever-so-handy bleach stick in the plastic, non-recyclable container for stains - argh. They are so quick, easy and effective that it is hard to let them go...I need to find some good substitutes.

I did get some liquid laundry soap to complement the Borax which did not seem to really clean my clothes. Thanks to a great cheat sheet from Amy Jane Stewart (http://www.organicajane.com/), I settled on Seventh Generation - $8,49 for 50oz (33 loads, pricey, I know) but concentrated so hopefully it will be economical. You know, once you make the initial transition in buying the new products it does seem to get easier...I am still using up some old products which you can do too, so as not to waste what you already have. You could do it gradually - replacing old with new as you run out instead of getting everything at once like I did.

Although my learning curve is still on the rise, I am convinced that what I am doing is better for everyone, everything, everywhere. As for me and my house, I am doing the best I can which is all I really can do - if I can influence a few others with what I am doing and learning... well, then good!

If you are looking for some reasons to convert to natural cleaning products, or trying convince that special roommate, partner or spouse - read below:

This is from the Environmental Protection Agency
(you can copy and paste this site address for more info)


9/3/2010 WASHINGTON--A report issued today by key environmental and scientific federal agencies assesses the increasing prevalence of low-oxygen “dead zones” in U.S. coastal waters and outlines a series of research and policy steps that could help reverse the decades-long trend.

The inter-agency report notes that incidents of hypoxia—a condition in which oxygen levels drop so low that fish and other animals are stressed or killed--–have increased nearly 30-fold since 1960. Incidents of hypoxia were documented in nearly 50 percent of the 647 waterways assessed for the new report, including the Gulf of Mexico, home to one of the largest such zones in the world. [this research was done before the BP incident]

Unnatural levels of hypoxia, which occur mostly in the summer, are primarily the result of human activities that deliver nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous into waterways. Fertilizer runoff from agricultural, urban and suburban landscapes, sewage discharges, and air pollution are major contributors. The supply of added nutrients entering bodies of water supports blooms of algae, which in turn are decomposed by oxygen-depleting bacteria. The resulting hypoxia can suffocate animals that cannot move away, such as shellfish, and—depending on how quickly the hypoxia develops—either kill or force into less suitable habitat free-swimming animals such as fish, shrimp, and crabs.

Those are enough reasons for me - I like to swim in oceans, sail on lakes, and eat fish...I want my nephews to inherit the clean, happy version of these! I can decide to contribute to the problem or the solution...I choose solution...I am in, sign me up!

Have a Nothing New Day! Kristin

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Washing Machine - aka Kristin

DAY 166

A day for remembering so much...take a silent minute for yourself...what you have, who you love, who you miss and why you do what you do...

I remember my Dad every day and especially this time of year. Fall was his favorite season - we did a lot of fall foliage day trips as a family to Kettle Moraine, Wade House, Dundee Mountain and loads of other great WI state parks (for you Cheeseheads out there). He always had a hundred questions and was uber-interested in knowing the back story - of the park staff, of the people eating their picnic lunch next to us, of the ghosts of "State Park Past". John Kenneth Skarie was a learner, a researcher, a reader, a conversationalist, a humorist, a teacher.

I am sure I appreciated those trips at the time - even more so as I continue to realize that who we are *now* as a family is because of my parents' dedication to keeping our core strong. (This will relate to greener living in a moment I promise!) The lessons, the love, the support, the faith and the fun all wrapped around each other and I see it in how my Mom still leads us and how my brother and sister-in-law are raising their children.

My Dad reinforced many messages in our home about food safety, cleaning and general organization. He kept receipts, owners manuals, newspaper articles...and labeled everything. Before expiration dates on food were a standard, he would write the purchase date on salad dressings, milk, meat etc. to make sure our frig stayed safe. He also believed that along with the soap there needed to be some friction to actually get the item in question clean. It wasn't enough to touch the soap you had to make some movement with it! In fact, he would test us by hiding a nickel under the bar of soap in the bathroom to find out if we actually picked it up or just camouflaged our sudsing activity with a splash of water from the faucet.

Last week, I spent nearly 60 minutes one day cleaning the dish drainer pad in the kitchen sink with baking soda and Thieves spray. During the experience, I was reminded of the importance of friction in the cleaning process. I had dreamily envisioned being able to leave the baking soda sitting there long enough by itself to remove the black "matter" that had accumulated in the 168 little ridges on the back of the pad (what is that stuff and why is it black? ugh. don't judge me). Not the case, so over the course of the day I would revisit the pad and scrub for a bit with a toothbrush - a dedicated cleaning toothbrush to clarify in case you were worried - then go away to do something else. Finally clean at the end of the day, I was able to move on from the dish drainer pad to other (more important) tasks.

A day later while dragging my suitcase through the Chicago airport I wondered why my right elbow was so stiff and sore. Oh. Right. The dish drainer pad...soap + time + friction = clean.

I am not sure any cleaning product would have worked on its own as I had hoped like "set it and forget it" oven cleaner, and if it did it would most likely have some undesirable toxic elements in its DNA. The trade-off of convenience (no sweat) for non-toxic (workout) is worth it. Look for some great EPA research on the effects of toxic cleaning products with phosphates in my next blog...

Lesson? Good and greener cleaning takes time (and effort) which will probably serve to be another source of lovely procrastination for me...I am the Goddess of Procrastination - ask my friends who have witnessed me polishing silver on tax day.

As my laundry rotates with non-toxic Borax and I prepare to clean my kitchen floor with Dr. Bronner's natural soap and psyche myself up to mow my lawn with my electric mower, I could feel smug in my efforts to green my home. BUT, I know there is still so much else I should do...AND I know that every small significant step is a good one.

What one product can you replace today with a green one? Oh and remember to remember....

Have a Nothing New Day - Kristin

Monday, September 6, 2010

Clean Green Living

DAY 161

Had a little photo shoot yesterday with my new cleaning products...check them out on Facebook!

The "before" shot includes 16 products, estimated cost $53:
Dish soap, Dishwasher soap, Comet, Laundry soap, Oxyclean stain pre-treat, Room spray, SOS pads, Bleach, Windex, Goo Gone, Murphy’s Oil, Easy Off, Greenworks cleaner, Greenworks Toilet, Dishwasher Jet Dry, Bleach stick

The "after" shot has 10 products estimated cost $84:
Dr. Bronner’s Soap, Palmolive dishwasher soap, Baking soda, Borax, Thieves Household Cleaner, Vinegar, Distilled water, Essential oil, Spray bottles, Steel wool

I am really interested to see how the cost/benefit piece plays out here - natural products are more expensive at first glance....AND many of them are concentrated so will last longer...and, oh by the way, are better for the environment. Phosphates and other chemicals present in many cleansers enter our waste water system then can become runoff that affects our streams, soil and drinking water...in a nutshell.

I had a quick conversation with the young man at the grocery check out - he wanted to know why a bottle of soap (Dr. Bronner's) cost $11.99. When I started to explain about chemicals and waste water and runoff , his eyes glazed over - I think he was expecting the "short answer"! His response was that we don't really have to worry about the cleaning chemicals unless they somehow get out of the "system". He was pretty sure that the system (you know, pipes and things) would contain everything...hmmmm. I had no time to really reply (he was glad I'm sure!) since he was scanning my last item - he took my payment and sent me on my way. I am still learning about this aspect of "green living" so I was a little relieved as well...My guess is the main objection to natural products is cost, followed by effectiveness, then necessity. I want to be able to counter all of these! Let the learning begin :)

What little knowledge I do have right now about natural products (besides being a former Girl Scout, liking the smell and having a gut feeling that maybe, just maybe, there is a link between the chemicals we use and the health of our water, air and soil...hmmmmmm) is thanks to my new friend Amy Jane Stewart from Ithaca, NY - her company is Organica Jane http://www.organicajane.com/home.html

I went to one of Amy's "Home Green Home" classes in July that was truly eye opening - so many everyday cleaning products actually have pesticides in them! Nice. She has researched hundreds of products and is a smart, cool and fun professional in the essential oils education, natural health and green living world. Sign up for her newsletter and blog for great info on products, recalls, remedies and check out her Organica Jane line of health products! Oh, and take a looky loo at her TV debut on the Dr. Oz Show!!!

So, I will confess that yesterday....I cheated (already!) and used up a Clorox Bleach Stick to remove a Pumpkin Spice latte stain from my white shirt...I did not try very hard to use the alternatives - that will have to change! So as of NOW, all my old products are put away! Maybe you could use up what you have then replace them with more environmentally friendly products?

Start small - just start!!!

Have a Nothing New Day - Kristin

Friday, September 3, 2010

Local Living

DAY 158

Still new into this Challenge Month of using only "natural" cleaning products! Going to the store today to get stocked up - will keep you posted...

I am still wrapping up the Local Foods Month - need to finish the great read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver and keep searching for local chicken...Made a list today of what I need from the Public Market tomorrow - this and the other good habits in place-hooray! Have not been to the store after a week away, so I finished up some of my non-local foods from before...pasta and tortilla chips from somewhere, canned pineapple, a lime (clearly not from NY) and agave nectar for my tea (really great taste, lower glycemic index than honey or sugar AND a product of Mexico)...I am sure I will find homemade local pasta and already have a honey source-nice! Picked some lettuce, lima beans and basil from my garden - will make another batch of pesto tonight and rhubarb sauce tomorrow. My life has been changed for good - Wicked good :)

I hope you are inspired to eat locally! I like bananas as much as the next person but now maybe as a treat or if I go to Columbia!? Eating food from your area is a "green" move - most of our food travels 1400 miles to get here...really? Trucked, refrigerated, stored then sold...Why not get yourself some local peaches - picked then sold - from 14 miles away instead (see below)?

Do what you can....try it for one month or even one week - even one local meal a week is more than most people do...Remember, it is not at all about deprivation, it is about taking advantage of what you have in your area! Allow yourself some goodies you love and let some others go OR only enjoy them seasonally or geographically if you travel :)

Check out these cool learnings and commitments from Shelby (Thank you!!)

* If you can (jar) a LOT of tomatoes and then tell your friends, they will trade you for things like their own home made pesto, peach jam, etc. NICE - WILL TRADE YOU SOME PESTO!

* If you make arrangements to go TO THE FARM to pick up cases of tomatoes, the farmer will cut you a big deal. $10/case for the best organic tomatoes in all of central PA. Normally at market they are about $10 for 8 tomatoes. NEED TO FIND THIS IN NY - I KNOW IT'S HERE!

* Delicata squash is really good. I have never had it before tonight. Saute in butter and rosemary. Fabulous! ON THE LIST

* The market I went to Saturday (Forks Market) had a sign reporting that the food at the market traveled an average of 14 miles to get there. That is a lot different than the national average of 1400 miles to the grocery store. LOVE IT - IT'S AMAZING REALLY - WE GET SO SPOILED TO HAVE GRAPES YEAR ROUND...

* Using a bread maker is just NOT THAT HARD. I've had one for YEARS and used it about twice. I've used it about six times this month. So easy. I WANT THAT - ANYONE SELLING A USED ONE????

* Dehydrating things is really easy and you can often get used dehydrators for $3 at thrift stores or garage sales. HMMMMM - INTERESTING...

Here are the things I've given myself permission to buy even though they are not local:

* Coffee, tea
* Sugar
* Spices (although next summer I'm going to work on growing herbs and drying them myself)
* Olive oil
* Seafood - I still buy this from the fish store as opposed to the grocery store. They screen for responsible fishing which is helpful.
* Tofu
* Rice/Quinoa/Pasta
* Avocados
* Bananas (trying really hard to buy organic)
* The occasional pineapple
* Nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, and almonds)
* White Flour (though I've found a local miller of locally grown wheat flour, I have not yet found local white flour).
* Beer (though I stick to PA breweries as much as I can)
* Wine (though I am now trying to stay within the US)
* Citrus (in the winter only, when it's from FL or CA)
* Mushrooms (though my roommate is going foraging for some tomorrow, so who knows, maybe I won't need to do that either).

Happily, since Turkey Hill is from my home town, just 1 hour and 40 minutes away, I can consider my ice cream LOCAL! LUCKY YOU!!!

So....What can YOU do?

More tomorrow - will report on "better living through baking soda"! - Have a Nothing New Day!