Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cleaning out the medicine cabinet

My weekly cleaning routine entails cleaning a different part of the house each day of the week. And whatever part of the house I'm cleaning, I try to tackle one extra chore in that room, in addition to the regular weekly cleaning. So on my last kitchen cleaning day, I decided it was time to tackle the medicine cupboard. It had been long-since neglected, and it had become more of a junk cupboard - a place to stick things when we didn't know where else to put them. (Sorry I didn't take any before pictures - just trust me when I say it was bad!!). One thing I've figured out is that the best way to avoid sticking things where they don't belong is by labeling!! Once there's a label on something, I'm far less likely to put something there that doesn't really go there.

(I know that's a funny place for our keys to go - it looked more normal when it was our "junk" cupboard!)

We're also gradually moving away from traditional, over-the-counter medications to more herbal remedies, so I wanted a shelf just for the herbal remedies that would continue to grow as we eliminated the other stuff. Being able to see them there, separately, makes it easier to see how we're doing in that regard.

There were lots of expired medications in there, as well as some medications that were recently deemed unsafe to give children under the age of 6 (according to Health Canada). That list that you see on the cupboard door lists all of the ingredients that kids under 6 should not be given. I figured by the time my kids were 6 those meds would be expired anyway, so I might as well go ahead and pull them out of there now. I bagged up those meds, plus the expired ones, to take to the pharmacy for disposal (so that they wouldn't end up in a landfill).

I love how great it feels to organize just one tiny area of my home. It seems so insignificant - just one little cupboard - but every time I open it, it's like a choir of angels is singing to me. :) And doing one little cupboard here and one little drawer there adds up to a lot of organization over time. And brings just a little more peace into my day.

Monday, October 26, 2009


We have an annual Hallowe'en tradition of going to Flemming's Farm to pick out our pumpkins each year, and this year was no exception.

Norah seems to have found the perfect pumpkin.

Owen, of course, picks the furthest one he can find!

See just how far he was...

The pumpkins were all looking a little green this year. Not sure what that's about. Mrs. Flemming said it had something to do with the weather. Everyone's pumpkins were green this year. Any ideas for some green Jack - o - Lanterns??

One more gander... just in case she missed one...

...a view of the pumpkin field. I was sitting, cozy, in the van... nursing my hungry babe and watching the action, while Bruce wielded the camera and the children.

Happy Hallowe'en week, everyone!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Off to the Eco Expo

One of our favourite events to attend each year is the Cape Breton Eco Expo. I don't know that the kids fully understand what it's about, but we take them anyway! There are some great kids' exhibits (like a constellation tent!), so they definitely get some entertainment value out of it. Last year there were some really great booths, and I'm hoping that it has expanded this year. There was a booth of handcrafted items made from recycled materials, which I loved. And someone was selling handmade cleaners, and someone else was selling handmade personal care products. I think there was a candlemaker there too, if I recall correctly. And lots of information booths from various organizations. Nova Scotia Power was there, talking about their renewable energy goals. There will be a presentation from the Cape Breton Vegetarian Society, talking about the benefits of a plant-based diet for both us and the planet, which I will definitely be attending. No matter how far we've come, we still have so much to learn, and I love any and all opportunities to do so! And it's fun to meet with like-minded people, or those who are just beginning their journey.

Have a great week-end! See you next week.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Project: Garbage-Free

Yesterday's post made me realize that we are inching closer to our goal of being garbage-free. There was a time when I would never have thought that this was achievable. The days when our garbage was overflowing with disposables of all kinds. The days before we began composting, when all of our food scraps, shamefully, landed in the landfill, instead of being returned back to the earth where they belong. The whole idea of a landfill rubs me the wrong way. The fact that, as human beings, we are so incredibly wasteful that we actually had to create an entire industry around collecting people's garbage, week after week, and dumping it into a big pile. When the pile gets too big, we cover it up with some nice grass, and start a new pile. It's completely appalling. If you haven't already, I encourage you to watch this video: The Story of Stuff. It's one that I watched in the early days of our journey, and it's very eye-opening and inspiring.

I recall reading awhile ago about a culture (for the life of me I can't remember what it was) that doesn't even have a word in their language for garbage. Everything they have and use either continues to be used, or gets returned to the earth in some manner. That just goes to show how completely unnecessary it is. With just a little more effort and consciousness, I think being garbage-free is completely attainable.

I know that we've come a long way. When we first started this journey, over two years ago now (wow, has it been that long??) we took out a kitchen-can sized bag of garbage every single day. That was just part of my evening kitchen clean-up, was to empty the garbage. And it was full. Now I would say that, on average, we empty the kitchen garbage once a month. How have we done it?

  • As I mentioned, we've ditched the disposables
  • Our community started a curbside compost pick-up (if your community does not yet have one available, I strongly encourage you to lobby your municipal government to start one), but soon we will be starting our own backyard composter
  • Just generally become more conscious of what we purchased, so that we don't have much crap to throw away
  • Started buying flushable, biodegradable kitty litter
  • Stopped buying processed foods, which are often packaged in non-recyclable packaging
  • Started repurposing things that would otherwise have been garbage
  • As of yesterday, started buying recycled and recyclable toothbrushes. :)
Really, those were the major things. And yet, we're still managing to produce a bag (albeit a small one) of garbage a month. I'm more determined than ever to stop producing garbage. :)
So how are we going to do it? Well, when we first started budgeting our money in a purposeful way, the very first step was to track our spending. Every penny. You can't possibly know where you're going unless you know where you've been. In order to know what you're wasting money on, you must first write down every itty bitty expenditure. At the end of the month, you add them all up, categorize them, and stand, with your mouth gaping open, at all the waste. Well, I've decided to track our garbage production in the same way. Enter, the Garbage Log:

I tacked a piece of paper above the garbage can, and anyone who throws something in the garbage must write down what it is. I figure this will achieve two things: One, we'll think twice about what we put in there. Is it really garbage? Is it compostable? Recyclable? Are we just not sure? Do we need to call the recycling hotline (yes, we have one of those!) to find out? Can it be re-used? Freecycled? Re-purposed? The remaining things, the things that we determine are, in fact, garbage, will require more thought. How did we acquire them? Why? Is there a garbage-free alternative? Was it something that someone else gave to us? (Which, admittedly, happens often... packaging, etc. from things other people give us, that we have to dispose of - things that come from the Dollar Store, etc.). Can we find a way to tactfully refuse such things, or request garbage-free alternatives?

Just this morning, it occurred to me that one of things we throw away are the rubber bands that hold our broccoli together. We just have so many of them, that I really couldn't justify keeping them any more, so I started throwing them out. (I guess that's a testament to how much broccoli we go through around here. lol). Well, it occurred to me, that Hank's, the place we go to get our produce, would likely be very happy to have these back! I'm going to start saving them up in a ziplock bag, and returning them there.

It also occurred to me that if we only bought clothing made from natural fibers, it could eventually be composted when it was completely worn out. (After being used as rags, and whatever other use we can get out of it). So no more polyester purchases.

These two things occurred to me just from putting up that Garbage Log - before I had actually written anything on it!

Anyway, that's the plan! I'm on a mission to be garbage-free. I also think this is going to be a very cool homeschool project! Environmental Science, anyone? :) I'll update periodically with our progress, and I'll post what things are on the Garbage Log so that you all can help me eliminate those things. Does anyone care to join me in this?? I'd love some company in this so we can challenge and encourage each other!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Preserve Toothbrushes

I just discovered the coolest thing. I had toothbrushes on our shopping list this week-end, because all of ours are getting a little ratty. I walked down the toothbrush aisle at the grocery store and just couldn't bring myself to do it. EVERY kids' toothbrush is plastered with TV characters. I dare you to try to find one that isn't! And they were $3.49. Each. And totally environmentally irresponsible. They're made with new plastic, and as far as I know, aren't recyclable. We use them as long as we can, but ultimately, they land in the garbage. So I did what every concerned toothbrusher would do. :) I came home and hopped online, determined to find a more eco-friendly alternative. And lo and behold, I found these. Preserve toothbrushes are made from 100% recycled plastic, including Stonyfield Farm yogurt cups. Each package features a different endangered species. How cool is that?? I'll take that over a TV character any day! Oh, but wait. That's not all! Each toothbrush comes with a stamped return envelope, so that you can return your toothbrush to Preserve to be further recycled into other products!! Oh, and did I mention that a portion of each sale goes to support the National Wildlife Federation? It just keeps getting better. But are they available in Canada, I wondered? Indeed they are! You can find them at For, get this: $2.99. Yep, cheaper than the grocery store variety. But what about the carbon footprint of having something shipped to me, you ask? Well, Home Depot offsets the carbon footprint of everything they ship. Yaay, Home Depot! And I figured I might as well make the shipping worthwhile, so I bought 15 of them. Yep. 6 adult ones and 9 kids ones. Then we'll just save 'em all up and send them back all at once for recycling.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Basic Weekly Plan

Something I've been working on lately is my Basic Weekly Plan. It's easy to let each day and week slip away from us, without having a clear vision of what it is we hope/need to accomplish. I find it often leads to frustration, as I figure out it has been weeks (months??) since I've done things like update the baby books, or work on photo albums. In general, it seems that if I don't have a plan for things to get done... they simply don't get done. There are no magic cleaning fairies or photo album fairies. :) (Much to my dismay...).

Included in my basic weekly plan are all of the things I hope to accomplish over the week, and includes my cleaning focus area, laundry, focus task, meal type (so we don't eat the same kinds of dishes too often, and also makes meal planning MUCH easier), and an evening task. Next year I will include homeschooling activities in this plan as well. Of course, no plan is perfect, nor do I expect to follow it perfectly. It is simply a guide, one that I do my best to follow, a roadmap of sorts. But it's okay to take a detour once in awhile. Bumps in the road are inevitable, but I always love having a smooth highway to return to when things get back to normal. (I'll stop with the driving metaphors now!!).

You can find more detailed information on my cleaning schedule here.
More detailed information on my simple meal planning technique here.
And how I fit it all into my day here.

Also, diaper laundry is done every 2nd night after the kids go to bed... I found that much easier than trying to fit it into my regular laundry routine.

As is the nature of my life, things have changed and evolved a bit even since writing those posts, but the general idea is the same.

So here is what I've come up with so far:

Cleaning Focus Area: Bedrooms (do an extra-thorough cleaning on a different bedroom each week)
Laundry: Colours & Sheets
Supper: Stir-Fry
Task: Memories (baby books, photo albums, etc.)

Cleaning Focus Area: Bathroom
Laundry: Whites & Towels
Supper: Beans & Rice
Task: Ironing

Cleaning Focus Area: Upstairs Hall/Stairs/Entryway
Laundry: Darks
Supper: Casserole
Task: Mending

Cleaning Focus Area: Living Room/Dining Room
Laundry: Colours
Supper: Pasta
Task: Library

Cleaning Focus Area: Kitchen/Laundry Room
Laundry: Whites
Task: Meal Plan & Grocery List
Supper: Burgers/Potatoes/Steamed veg.
Evening: Date Night

Focus Area: Yard/Van
Laundry: None
Task: Shopping & Errands
Supper: Homemade pizza
Evening: Family Fun Night

Cleaning Focus Area: None
Laundry: None
Task: Food prep for the week (I'd love to get this done on Saturdays but it just doesn't happen)
Supper: Soup/Salad/Bread

I would also like to add in some personal fulfillment goals at some point. It seems that meeting and fulfilling my own personal goals is the easiest thing to neglect, so I should definitely be penciling those in. Wouldn't it be lovely to have a scheduled bubble bath? Or pedicure? :) Will we really give those things to ourselves if we don't plan for them? This is definitely an area I need to work on.

I love how laying things out and writing things down brings me such clarity. In the same way that budgeting allows us to spend purposefully, planning our time allows us to spend our time in a purposeful way. This is really just a rough draft, and I'm sure it will evolve and change as time goes on.

Do any of you follow a simple plan like this? Has it helped you to establish rhythms to your days and weeks? Has it evolved and changed during different periods of your life?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taking up knitting...

As I've mentioned before, sewing is pretty much a no-go these days. My sewing time used to be in the evenings, when the house was tidy and quiet, I would sip my tea and work on whatever project I had on the go. I loved sitting at the machine, the quiet hum had such a calming effect. It was my time to unwind and process the day, and think ahead to tomorrow.

And then there was Gavin. :) There is so much hustle and bustle to our days, that Gavin would rather be part of the action than to settle down and nurse. Oh, he has a little nip (HA! No pun intended...) here and there... but no serious nursing. So now, in the quiet of the evening, my time is spent laying on the couch with my nursing babe. I needed a new "unwind" activity that could be done while laying down on the couch. (Gavin is definitely a lay-down nurser). I've had my fill of dishcloth crocheting. I do believe there is a point at which we have enough dishcloths. :) So I decided to take up knitting. I think knitting and crocheting both have their merits, and are each good for different things, so I would love to become somewhat proficient at both. Since I'm also striving to hand-make as many of our things as possible, I believe this Christmas will be mostly a knitted handmade Christmas. (Knitted pajamas, anyone??).

So here is my first real knitting project, almost complete. A wool diaper soaker. I've been wanting to use wool for a long time now, as I love the thought of using all natural fibers on my baby's bum. I've met a lovely new friend by the name of Katrina, who has been kindly putting up with all of my silly knitting questions and helping me through this new venture. I'm still debating whether or not to add a cuff to those legholes. Part of me just wants to be done, and I'm admittedly intimidated by the whole picking up stitches thing... but I think I would be more pleased with it if it had cuffs. I also think I'll felt it a wee bit, since it goes almost up to Gavin's armpits.

I think the other reason I feel the need to craft, is to have something to show for my day that doesn't get "undone". As moms, particularly those of us who stay home with our kids, our days are filled to the brim with seemingly endless chores that have to be done over and over again. We clean, it gets dirty. We put something away, turn around, and someone has gotten it out again. We change a diaper, it gets peed in. We wash, dry, and put away clothes, only to do it all again the next day. We spend hours cooking meals that get eaten (or worse, not eaten). For me, crafting means actually making forward progress on something that won't get undone. It's my saving grace on a day when I feel I've gotten nothing "accomplished". Even one row of knitting is one row more than I had done yesterday. It allows me to meditate and think of my children, who are typically the recipients of my crafting endeavours. I love that what I create, even with its imperfections, is stitched with love, and I hope that my children feel the love that is present in those things. Try getting all THAT from something you bought at WalMart.