Eco-Reviews

Howdy! I’ve talked a lot about our food choices (isn’t food one of the most important inanimate things, after all?!) and our cat goods, but we’ve also been trying some non-edible eco-friendly products, too! After all, there seem to be a million ways that people can go green. So, here are some of the products that we’ve tried, and what we’ve thought of ’em:
Picture from
Valley Naturals
Toiletries
As far as toiletries go, I’ve been more adventurous (to a fault) than Dave. We have lots of non-eco stuff stocked in our home that he’s doing a good job of trying to use up first. I was so excited to try out the items that I tend to swap between the old and the new. In general, the shampoos don’t do it for me. I consider myself to have “normal” hair (not too greasy, not too dry and flaky), so it’s been disappointing to find that the eco-friendly versions tend to completely strip my hair of any natural oils, making it completely impossible to comb through afterwards. Bummer! I currently have Nature’s Gate Daily Cleansing Herbal Shampoo and alba shampoo. Maybe I need to rethink the beauty regime ideas I’ve been cultivating since elementary school; I’ve changed the way I think about eating and shopping, after all. Either way, I’ve had MUCH better luck with alba’s facial scrub and body wash, though!
We’ve also been using Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and neither of us has had a single cavity at our recent dentist visits. I guess we don’t need to rely on Colgate or Crest so much! (Plus, I’ve grown used to the taste and kind of prefer it now. It took awhile, though.) On another “weird” point, I’ve started using Tom’s deodorant, too. I don’t hate the stuff, although it smells a little…manly (a hint of Old Spice or something I can’t put my finger on)…and I have to reapply at least once a day. Yes, I like it, regardless. 🙂 I think it’ll just take some trial and error on what works for me, but we all have our preferences. I can’t WAIT to try more Burt’s Bees products, as suggested by my future sister-in-law (can’t wait to cut out the “future” part!).
Paper Products
All of our paper goods, from tissues to toilet paper and paper towels to napkins, have been replaced by Marcal’s SmallSteps brand items. The price is comparable to the usual products PLUS there’s a coupon in our weekly paper at least once a month, which helps. It seems to always come out just as we’re getting low on one item. How convenient! (Oh, there’s an occasional Tom’s coupon, which helps, too.) By the way, if you’re interested in any of these products, just Google the item and “coupon” and it’ll help with the initial going-green wallet drain.
Clothes
Picture from Zappos
I’ve dreamed about going green as far as wardrobe is concerned, but the best I can do is shop at thrift stores, which, honestly, is a challenge. My wardrobe is one of two things: professional (hard to find anything not circa 1980, and I’m NOT rockin’ the 80s comeback, thanks) or incredibly casual (mostly a variation of tee-shirt and jeans, both pretty disgusting when you find them at Goodwill — pit stains or nearly see-through material). That’s probably one of the biggest issues I’ve had with going green — knowing about sweatshop conditions and feeling guilty when I purchase ANY new article of clothing. I’ve done lots of research on eco-friendly clothing online (and even more “window shopping”), but the prices are just too steep for me, and the designs leave a LOT to be desired.
However, today I made a big step. I’ve been in dire need of new running sneakers (still another item I won’t buy from Salvation Army or Goodwill…sorry! Sometimes ya just gotta put your foot down — pardon the pun), and even with all the back-to-school sales, I just didn’t feel right purchasing “regular” ones. So, after still more research, I placed an order on 6pm.com (INCREDIBLE prices!) for a sneaker called END Stumptown (hee hee). For $32, these sneakers give the support I look for with recycled webbing and lacing, bamboo-infused lining & a Biosmart midsole made partially of recycled materials. Better than nothin’, and the price couldn’t be turned down. The only thing I’m worried about was that they had limited availability, so I had to order one of my two possible sizes (I’m a 9 or 9 1/2, depending), but that’s a concern anytime you order online. So, one small step (again with the puns!) towards a more eco-friendly wardrobe…let’s see if I can find my traditional work outfit of black slacks made of organic cotton at a good price!

Cleaning
The biggest winner in our household by far has been for cleaning: Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. I use it to clean pretty much anything and everything, and it smells AWESOME. (Currently using peppermint.) Plus, it lasts FOREVER since you only need to use a drop. It’s by far our favorite product. For other cleaning, I’m trying out different laundry detergents (can’t wait until we have a water-saving washer! Saving up and dreaming and researching, oh my!), but I’m most impressed by adding good, old-fashioned 20 Mule Team Borax. I love that all they had to do was change the packaging from the 100+ year-old version to the green yuppie-pleasing kind to make it marketable again, lol. I mostly love picturing the women (hate to be sexist, but isn’t that how it was?), and mostly, my ancestors, who used it to give their soap a boost. Plus, the price ain’t bad ($.86 a pound)!
There are other cleaning products that we’ve been using for awhile, like the GreenWorks line. The one thing I have to say about them is that my mother is wrong. Before she knew that I was using green products (I’m still not sure that I’ve “come out” to her completely about our new eco-mindedness; I’ve just spouted off knowledge here and there, probably hinting about it…and she’s seen my hotdogs, so she must be aware), she told me that a friend of hers tried eco-products and that they didn’t cut grease or do a good job at all. I don’t see where that’s at all true, but then again, I’m a really good scrubber. 😉
Image from Amazon.com
Oh, and we’re trying to use more rags and I purchased some microfiber clothes at TJ Maxx for good ‘n cheap so that I can dust without spreading chemicals about the place, especially with a cat with really bad respiratory problems and two humanoids with allergies (and, at times, asthmatic tendencies).
Final Thoughts (Nope, you didn’t just tune into Jerry Springer)
It just makes sense to start these trends now for several reasons. If we can balance our budget to make room for things like organic foods and all natural cleaning products now, we’ll be in the habit of doing so when our budget is much more strapped (hint, hint: future babies). Also, I’d like to know that our kids are surrounded by as few chemicals as possibly, hopefully lessening their possible issues that our poor genetics will inevitably giving them — I wonder how much of my asthma, major allergies, and generally “always sick” childhood could be attributed to genes vs. environment. All-in-all, we also want our kids to be aware of their environment, inside and out, and the idea of how precious it is; to teach a general responsibility and accountability for actions, not just “don’t hit your sister”, but “don’t keep flushing the toilet” and “littering is being mean to the Earth”. Hopefully, they’ll be well-rounded and aware, moreso than we ever were. We’re grateful for our upbringings or else we probably wouldn’t be as sensitive these days; we’re just considering how to make the place better for the future inhabitants.
If you have any suggestions on eco-products or web sites, please feel free to comment! Sharing is the best way to get reliable, valuable (and free!) information.

Unexpected Farmers’ Market

Just writing a quick entry to let you know I didn’t fall off the planet. I’ve got a larger entry in the works, but don’t have the time to get my pictures uploaded quite yet. Ever since my wedding shower last Saturday, I’ve felt more of an urge to work on wedding planning. If you’d like to know how that’s going, check out our wedding web site at www.momentville.com/daveandmeg2010.

Last Friday, Dave and I made our annual trip to Old Forge, specifically to go to Enchanted Forest/Water Safari. As tradition, we go there for a little over half the day, then wander the town, play putt-putt golf, and stop in to some shops and incredible little cafes. This year, we bought Beardslee an organic cotton collar at the hardware store, Dave “got it in the clown’s nose” for a free game (Happy 50th Anniversary to Nutty Putty!), and we had what we like to call a “casual gourmet” meal at one of the cafes on Main Street.

While walking through town, we spotted a sign for the Old Forge Farmers’ Market — which, wouldjyabelieveit, was happening that afternoon. What luck! Plus, it was incredibly close to where we had parked the Kia. Nice! So, our final jaunt of the day would be to a backstreet parking lot filled with all types of vendors.

I think I noticed at least three Amish tents, two local wineries, several farmers selling eggs/meat/veg, and a random maple syrup seller. We ended up coming home with:

– Two bottles of wine (one “Cranberry Bog” (great for the holiday season) and a Riesling (Dave’s fave, and I do like my white wines) — both from the North Country)
– Some maple BBQ sauce (which, FAIL, has ketchup in it — 2nd ingredient, HFCS…CRAP! And they were such a nice old couple, from quite near Herkimer)
– Incredible Amish bread
– A head o’ broccoli
– 5 or 6 pounds (I think the 6th was free) of grass-fed beef (from another familiar name, a Little Falls farm close by; they even gave us tons of ice so that it’d make it home safely)
– And I’m sure something else. Dave would remember; he was the one who had to stop me from purchasing so much. *ahem*

And, it’s a good thing I didn’t get any zucchini because the next day at my shower, my lovely aunt brought enough for everyone to take…

Simple (But Spectacular) Side

Image from kettlechips.eu
(They have balsamic sea salt chips!
Why is this the first I’ve heard of this?!)

Although I made some tasty fish in foil packets and brown rice for dinner tonight, the star (in my book) was the veg. We had green and yellow beans from the farmer’s market (grown in Mohawk, woot!) so I threw them in salted boiling water for 8-10 minutes until they weren’t crisp anymore. I then drained them, threw in some salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

And, then I got inspired. As I’ve said before, I’m a huge balsamic vinegar fan. So, I threw some in a small frying pan, along with a drizzle of olive oil and a teaspoon or so of raw sugar. While that reduced, I turned to realize I had clipped some rosemary from our garden. Moments later, a tablespoon+ was chopped finely and popping in the frying pan. Another minute, and it was ready to drizzle over the beans.

There’s something about rosemary and balsamic together! It’s the simple things, I tell ya. 🙂

Oh, and speaking of simple things that make us very happy — dessert was homemade old-fashioned strawberry shortcake. The shortcake was just that — buttery, slightly sweet, and the polar opposite of the sponge cups you buy in the store — and the hand-whipped cream had a shot of amaretto. I’m enjoying this whole cooking thing.

All Ice Cream is Not Created Equal

Courtesy sodahead.com

My awesome fiance brought home dessert last night. He does a great job when he goes grocery shopping when it comes to buying natural, but is sometimes a little unsure — I think mostly because his job keeps him so busy and I’m the one sitting on my tush doing the research and most of the buying. SO, when he showed up with two brands of ice cream, I couldn’t really complain, could I? 😉

One was mint chocolate chip, and it was all natural — by Breyer’s. I looked over the ingredients and was pretty pleased; aside from using raw local milk and making it myself, it did as well as it could. Plus, it was my favorite flavor and definitely won’t go uneaten (ie inedibly freezer-burned).

The second kind was one that we rely on quite a bit from Hannaford –Nature’s Place (a Hannaford specialty that often is slightly cheaper than other healthful alternatives; we also get their organic milk, among other items) chocolate and vanilla. Upon looking over the ingredient list, I noticed that one of the ingredients was corn syrup. Oye.

While it’s not as bad as high fructose corn syrup, seeing the term sends alarms off in my head. It’s still a corn-based product used for sweetening, but less “dangerous” — I’m still concerned that our intake of corn isn’t a “natural” amount, and after seeing Food, Inc., I’m wary. I prefer agave nectar or raw sugar for sweetening, but I’ll even take refined white sugar to corn syrups. It may be correct, it may not be, but it’s my level of comfort.

*** This post requested by above-mentioned fiance. Not the compliments about him, just the “surprise” about the ice cream. 🙂 ***

Our Cat is Greener Than We Are

While reading up on simple ways to go green in the ever-popular blogosphere, I read a short blurb from a Best Green Home Tips article stating:

“Got pets?: Let them go organic too. Many people forget their pets but currently there are many organic varieties of pet foods, green pet homes, and toys out there.”

It made me think…and furrow my brow…and do some counting (fingers were involved). Given our little guy’s daily life, around 90% of it is completely eco-friendly. Here’s the run-down:

– His very important food choices (which took us weeks to get down pat) are either all-natural, organic, or both. We use Science Diet Nature’s Best Adult Cat Food, Chicken & Brown Rice Dinner for his everyday crunchies (we were ecstatic when we found it while looking at the Science Diet lineup, where our vet had steered us — even moreso when we discovered he LOVES it). We throw the occasional wet food down for him, too — the only brand we try to use is By Nature’s Organics line (turkey & chicken flavors ONLY). We had an issue with anything containing fish meal, regardless of its organic status. So, this stuff is not only organic and fish meal-free, but he loves it. Bonus!

– His potty time is even eco-friendly. You’ve all seen the commercial — we’ve got “World’s Best Cat Litter”. While it isn’t completely smell-free (do you emit zero smell when YOU poop?), it is pretty darn convenient and less smelly than the usual stuff. We keep an old Cool Whip container near the pan so that, whenever he goes, we can scoop it and bring it to the human commode to flush. I usually wait until he’s gone a couple of times so that we’re flushing less (our water usage has decreased A LOT since we went “mellow”). It’s strange to be so happy flushing cat feces, knowing that clay mines aren’t being stripped just for my cat’s poop. Pretty cool shhhh….stuff.

– And Boo’s #1 favorite toy is a green one that I bought for under $4 at a recent vet visit. It’s only a long dowel with a jute rope and a cute mouse (remnant fabric) at the end. He tends to love anything that “hangs” for playtime — including Mommy’s hair.

But, Beardslee hasn’t been a 100% green kitty, I’m afraid. From day one, we had gone into panic mode since he was so sick, just wanted to give him an opportunity to go potty and eat — so, poor Dave went into Hannaford (and *gulp* later, Walmart) to stock up on goods. None of it was eco-friendly, much of it was cheap. So, the cat pan is plastic. Many of the toys we have (several as gifts) are plastic. The cat tower isn’t the DIY project that I’d envisioned using old carpet for. But, we’d rather USE ’em than fill a landfill with them and be unappreciative. 🙂

The “important stuff” that we have to buy regularly, though, is very green. Beardslee’s on his way to being greener than we are — and we’re so proud!

How to Be a Child

Lately, I’ve been itching for something more creative in my life. I do theater, but it’s on hiatus for the summer, and I’m feeling pretty durn anti-social. I’ve tried writing, and will continue to try it, but it’s not quenching my proverbial thirst. Although, I must say, GoogleDocs is our new best friend in the McCoy-Dellecese household — you can write from anywhere, share it with anyone (or no one), and you don’t need a server of your own.

The more I think about it, I’d like to delve into painting and drawing again. As children, when we were bored, our go-to activity was always drawing. The question we had back then holds true today — “Mom, what do I draw?” (delete the “Mom” part — and, no matter if it was my mother or grandfather, the answer was always “a barn”). Then, throughout childhood and adolescence, we turned to music and experienced less art — mostly because art classes were electives held during the same periods as band and chorus (and we were in both — “we” meaning my sister and brother; Bill was more of a band geek than a drama guy).

So, when I reached community college and needed some artistic electives, I decided to take drawing AND painting — all in the same semester, with the same teacher. There wasn’t a lot of direction, which I loved. Mostly inspiration. “Bowl of fruit, go.” I’d throw on my Walkman (how out-dated) and just paint…or draw. Always loved charcoal. And acrylics, but mostly for their clean-up factor (and color — there’s only so much life you can give to charcoal).

It’s not that I’m even very good. I’m not, really. But, how do we get good at things without trying?

So, while I have no idea WHAT I’ll paint (or draw), I’m going to get the drawing pads back out and purchase some new paint (I have found ZERO eco-friendly acrylic-style paints worth their price or even make-your-own paint recipes! Grr!!) — at least to possibly get some artwork in a couple of our bare rooms. And, if the mood strikes me, I’ll keep working on those just-started works on GoogleDocs. 😉

I think that simply the process of creating something forces you to let go of your self doubt and questioning and, in a way, become a child again. Kids don’t say “that sucked, I quit” (unless they’re O.C.D.); they don’t care if someone else likes it or not. And, of course, when you get better and make something that you can be proud about, your self esteem rises, and isn’t that just great? Kind of reminds me of how I feel when I make a successful recipe.

So, off to Michael’s and PetSmart (and, possibly, TJ Maxx) to keep life happy — a happy cat, some room decor inspiration, and trying to “practice” at something again.

Local, Organic Comfort Food

Sunday was a nice, quasi-typical Sunday for us. It was highly-relaxing (after an uber-busy work week, plus a garage sale thrown in for fun), we got some stuff completed, and while it was still humid, was kind of dreary. If it had been colder, it would have felt like an autumn day — which are our FAVORITE types of days. Dave’s a “drizzly” fan and I’m an autumn fan, which is why we’re risking a possibly rainy wedding day in October.

From workman.com

Regardless, I was going through several of my new “real food” cookbooks and pondering what we had to cook. My decision came down to free-range chicken soup or chili — and the newly-popping jalapenos in my garden helped me to decide.

I used the cookbook Food to Live By by Myra Goodman. It’s an enjoyable book to simply read, given that the author is a mom who raises her kids on a working farm, so I figure “If she can do it, certainly I should be able to.” Here’s my version of her recipe:

“Foggy Day Chili”
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 c. diced yellow onion (for me, it was 1/2 an onion)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1-1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (mine was from a Herkimer farm)
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. dried oregano
several good sprinklings of cinnamon (my addition)
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, undrained
1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans, undrained
1 can (28 oz.) crushed or diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 tsp. salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1 minced jalapeno pepper, seeds removed (depending on how hot you like it)
A handful or two of semi-sweet chocolate morsels (optional — I added them to my bowl since Dave could “taste chocolate” — if I hadn’t told him he had it in his bowl, he wouldn’t have noticed )

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until onion and garlif are soft, not browned, about 1 minute longer. Add the beef, and break up with a wooden spoon.

2. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the spices (except the red pepper flakes). Cook, stirring frequently, until the mean is cooked through; ~7 minutes.

3. Add the beans and tomatoes, with their liquids, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the chili simmer, gently stirring occasionally until thickened and the flavors are concentrated, about 45 minutes. (If it’s not thickening to your liking, remove the cover to evaporate some liquid.

4. Add the salt and taste for further seasoning (including the pepper and red pepper flakes). Add minced jalapeno and chocolate (if using) and stir. Serve with cheddar cheese or sour cream, if wanted (we didn’t).

We ate the chili with a simple corn muffin that Dave prepared — his first ever. All we did was add Jiffy corn muffin mix with a handful (give or take) of thawed frozen corn and a diced jalapeno, baked off, and enjoyed with butter. It was the perfect pairing. Delish!

Seriously, this was a pretty easy meal to make. You should try it! It’s my new go-to chili recipe. Oh, and the onion and garlic were from the Herkimer Farmers’ Market, as I said, the beef was local and grass-fed (and the jalapeno was from my backyard), the beans were organic (one wasn’t, but I felt better because it was locally-made), as was the can of tomatoes; pretty much everything except the spices and chocolate were either locally-grown or organic. Not too shabby, I think. At least, it was absolutely delicious. I foresee it being dinner tonight, as well. 😉

*By the way, the picture is a royalty-free image from the Internet, not my stove top. I miss a gas stove, and only wish I had gorgeous pots like that, but I’m lucky to have what I do. 😉