Recycling Christmas Cheer

Christmas is coming, so now is the time to plan your strategy for setting out less post-Christmas garbage than any other family on your block!  (We often achieve that goal, and we’re in a mostly Jewish neighborhood.)  Reusing things not only saves you money and helps the environment but also creates a treasure trove of things to use next year that are already imbued with happy memories–and they just get better, year after year! Read more…

What’s the grossest thing you’ve done to help the environment?

A while back, I got into an online discussion on the topic, “What’s the grossest thing you’ve done to help the environment?” started by someone who thought it was really, really gross that she had swished her smelly dish towels in a mixture of hot water, vinegar, and tea tree oil with her bare hands, rather than throw them away and buy new ones.

The poor dear.

Here is what I posted: Read more…

How to Do Everything!

This article is linked to the greatest tips edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, where the hostess explains how to get a human on the phone when you call customer service, and more than 178 people have linked to their own helpful tips on how to do all sorts of things.  Here are my own greatest tips:

7 ways to eat less meat.

40 ways kids can help around the house.

13 ways to use less electricity for your lighting.

Toddler discipline in 3 easy steps!

7 product recommendations (NOT paid endorsements!). Read more…

Links

Here is my new list of links.
Here are the previous ones:
September 2008
April 2008
January 2008
November 2007
August 2007
I make no guarantees that any of these links still works. All of them are things I found worth reading at the time, and I hope you’ll enjoy them, too!

Visit the surreal town of North Pole, Alaska, where it’s always Christmas and a bunch of kids plotted a killing spree.

At least one brand of those scary alcoholic energy drinks will be converted into automotive fuel, and the aluminum cans will get recycled, too!

The 3-part series Staying Positive When Life Is Positively Nuts gives great advice, particularly for at-home parents of multiple young children, but applicable to anyone who’s too busy and distracted.

Super-thrifty, practical strategies for getting by when you need food, from a family that has bought almost no food for several years!

Insisting on public recognition of Jesus as “the reason for the season” in December may not be the Christian thing to do.

Here’s why moving to the suburbs is NOT better for your kids.

A mother who took spanking for granted explains why she quit spanking her children and how it’s improved their family life.  In another article, she tells the touching story of throwing away the wooden spoon.

Did you see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith?  If not, don’t bother, because this abridged script hits all the main points and is much more entertaining!

Here’s a place to donate worn-out clothing if you’re not going to reuse it yourself.

I’ve never been thrilled by the term “babywearing” for carrying a baby in a baby carrier, but I was surprised by this interesting discussion of whether or not “babywearing” is offensive and disrespectful.

How to make a public school good enough for your kids to attend, with specific examples from Chicago.

Preventing pregnancy with the Fertility Awareness Method or Natural Family Planning is better for the environment than artificial contraception, regardless of your religion.  These methods also help when you want to get pregnant and also prevent menstrual periods from catching you by surprise.

My brother, the fledgling home energy auditor, gives detailed advice on how and why to connect appliances to a power-strip.

Tobacco and cocaine use are not just bad for your health, they’re bad for the environment.

Have you heard claims that abortion is a racist plot, “proven” by statistics showing that African-American women have a higher rate of abortions than other American women?  The truth is that African-American women are more likely to have unwanted pregnancies.

Here’s what’s wrong with Fiji Water.

Grapes should be sliced in half before being served to toddlers, to prevent choking…but who has time to slice every individual grape, while supervising a toddler??  Here is the solution!

70% of hamburgers sold in the United States are made with pink slime, which is made by sweeping up bits of meat off the floor of the slaughterhouse and soaking them in ammonia.  Yum.  Yet another reason to eat less meat!

Sock Locks are handy gadgets to keep socks in pairs, even in the dryer!

Amul gives helpful instructions on how to come off as a racist idiot.

Here are some cool gift ideas for children that encourage independent learning.

Children who eat more candy are more likely to grow up to become violent criminals.

A punny cartoon [not animated, just an image] from Shawn Knight.

A very interesting article about how children perceive race, what adults should tell them, and the role of school desegregation.

Power Rock and his sidekick Spurt star in a comic book so crappy, it looks like a parody…but it’s an actual propaganda effort by Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy, an organization that doesn’t allow families to join it!

Plastic made from corn does not solve environmental problems. I put two cups and lids made from this stuff into our compost four years ago, and they’re only breaking into smaller pieces (which have really, really sharp edges!!), not decomposing in the slightest.

My brother’s award-winning science fiction short story “This Is Your Brain Online” is now…online!

A clear explanation (with links to research) of why eating less meat helps to reduce global warming.

Abstinence-only school lunch programs are ineffective at preventing teen obesity.

5 Reasons Why Whiteboards Are the Greatest Parenting Tools Ever. Somewhat exaggerated, but the author has found some very helpful ways to use the whiteboards. It brings back happy memories of the chalkboard in my grandparents’ kitchen.

My brother is writing a collection of essays: Second Wind: How bicycling around North America changed my life, about his travels in 2004-5. You can buy this online book for just $10 and be notified as each chapter is completed. You also can use the links from his page, at no charge, to read his original letters from the road and see his photo albums. I had a great time following along with Ben’s journey while it was happening, and I’m looking forward to reading what he says about it in retrospect.

Boys Advocacy & Mentoring looks like a really cool program! I was intrigued by this book in a catalog I received at work, so I ordered a copy for myself. My four-year-old son asked what it was about and then wanted me to read it to him…and he had no patience for the dry explanations of psychology and social issues, but he was fascinated by the examples of meeting activities and discussions! We’ll have to see if we can get a BAM group going when he’s a little older.

Two of my friends have posted entertaining and insightful translations of traditional religious stories. Sensitive readers, please note that these contain Possibly Offensive Language.

A very funny story about a dog persistently eating raw sweet potatoes. I tell you, as someone who is normally not amused by dogs and their ways, this is VERY FUNNY!

Instead of expensive, chemical-laden electrolyte-replenishing beverages, try drinking homemade Laborade when you are hot, tired, recovering from illness, and/or giving birth. I’ve tried this, and it’s amazing how much it perks me up!

Science fiction writer Steven Barnes explains why large-scale human immigration to other planets is just not the solution to population growth.

Two articles about research showing long-term health benefits for mothers who breastfeed.  The really interesting part, for me, is the alternative explanation for why my chronic headaches were so much less frequent while I was pregnant and nursing: Oxytocin relaxes blood vessels, so since migraines are caused by uneven constriction of blood vessels in the brain, maybe my increased oxytocin level was helping to prevent that problem.

Speaking of headaches, here’s some nutritional advice.  I’ve been taking fish oil for a few months now, after reading much vaguer advice about it somewhere, and I’m pretty sure that’s helping…apparently by balancing my thromboxanes…even though I haven’t been taking as much as this article recommends; I have noticed that taking an extra dose during a headache seems to help.  I also was taking a calcium-magnesium supplement already, but it’s good to know not to take it with the fish oil.  (No way am I giving up coffee!)

The same nutritionist advises eating lots of beans to prevent pregnancy nausea.

The Boy Scouts of America’s Explorers program is now training teenagers to hunt down terrorists, immigrants, and marijuana growers.

“Baby Einstein” and similar videos may actually slow down babies’ development!

If you’ve ever received a multiply-forwarded e-mail listing “expert” advice on avoiding becoming a rape victim, read this.

Here’s an interesting speculation: The “uncanny valley” phenomenon may be the flip side of the perception that people of other races are not quite human.

This company is recycling old military aircraft into jewelry advocating peace.

Ten ways to occupy a toddler–many of these worked well with Nicholas when he was younger, and some of them still are fun now that he’s four years old.

A mother newly enamored of cloth napkins explains how she got just the right ones for her family by making them out of a tablecloth.  Thrifty, easy, unique, and I think that fabric is just gorgeous!

This mom made her kids’ school lunches more appealing by enclosing a daily joke.

Wow! This is the most amazing mommy-blogger of all!  She got her toddler to clean the toilet!!!

My brother is enjoying his person-powered lawn mower.

These would make excellent handkerchiefs, and they’re available in a kazillion cool prints!

Childhood obesity is linked to chemicals in plastics.

Here are some facts about Canada’s health-care system from a writer who’s lived both there and in the United States.

How to use a ruined batch of bread.

Mothers of only children are the happiest!  Nyah, nyah.

This Crowded World

Today is the entertaining tips edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, but I don’t feel very well equipped to give advice on entertaining since we don’t have guests nearly as often as I’d like; I’m one of the people who needs to read the host’s article “Entertaining Even When You’re Reluctant” and possibly the book she mentioned, since its Commandment 7 really speaks to me!  I expect that many of this week’s WFMW posts will be about how to entertain beautifully in your home and the wonderful virtue of hospitality, and I certainly agree that this is an important thing and look forward to picking up some tips.  (Actually, a quick glance at the links shows me that a lot of people chose to write about other topics despite the theme.  Oh well, those are probably good tips, too!)  But the idea of hospitality has connected with something else I’ve been thinking about recently, so I’m going to write about hospitality as treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way outside our homes, and about how sharing public space has reduced the amount of private space I feel I truly need. Read more…

Running Things into the Ground

We often buy used stuff.  Sometimes we buy new, high-quality stuff.  Sometimes we buy new, low-priced stuff.  What all our stuff has in common is that we wring every last drop of usefulness out of it! If we feel unable to do all the wringing ourselves, we pass it on to someone who can use it.  This conserves resources and saves money, and it’s really satisfying!  Here are some examples: Read more…

Reflections on a Bathroom Renovation

(I really, really want to say “Restroom Renovation” just for the alliteration, but I know this article will be more relevant to people searching for “bathroom renovation,” so I’m stuck with this title!)

We had our house’s main bathroom completely renovated last month.  We are thrilled with it and learned some things in the process that we want to share with anyone contemplating a major renovation.

We lived with a bathroom we didn’t really like until it was wearing out and falling apart so that we felt completely justified in starting from scratch!  We highly recommend that approach because it makes the new stuff even more exciting and luxurious by contrast!  It may actually be more environmentally friendly to renovate less often using conventional materials than to rip out stuff that’s still good to install a bunch of “green” materials. Read more…

Precocious Infant Stories

Another post from the past, written in March 2005.

My son will be 3 months old tomorrow and usually sleeps all night except for nursing, but this morning he was awake and complaining 3:30-5:00. When the alarm went off at 7:00, he (sleeping on his side) flung his top arm above his head and began smacking the bed…so I flung up my arm and smacked the snooze button; I figured that’s what he was telling me to do! Read more…

my baby in the World of People

Here’s a post I wrote on a discussion board on February 17, 2005, when Nicholas was just seven weeks old.

It’s not like this anymore, but back when I was a Girl Scout the badges were divided into main topic areas called “Worlds”. I was reminded of this yesterday as I watched my baby interact with the Brownie troop where I’m now a leader. It is just amazing me to see him opening up to becoming a part of the human family.

He’s been to Brownie meetings at three weeks, five weeks, and now seven weeks old. For the first two, he slept essentially all the time, waking to nurse and then going back to sleep. This time, though, he woke in the middle of the meeting,and when I adjusted the sling so he could see out, his bright little eyes caught sight of a dozen girls in a flurry of construction paper, markers, and cut-up magazines chattering, “Where’s the red marker?” and “Please pass the glue!”…and he was entranced. He just soaked it up for 20 minutes before he remembered to be hungry! As the girls noticed he was awake, one or another would pause in her work to come over and smile at him or talk to him or stroke his little hands.

He’s joining right in with the church family, too. We belong to a small parish that gets one new baby per year or less, so everybody was following my pregnancy with interest. I brought the baby to the Feast of the Epiphany when he was 13 days old, and he got a joyous welcome, but he was mostly asleep and sort of blank-looking when awake.But at last Tuesday’s pancake supper, he was alert and happily looking around at all the different types of people and what we were doing. He seemed so receptive to learning how to be one of us.

He used to sleep the entire time I was walking with him in the carrier,unless he was uncomfortable. Now he’s awake about half the time and looking at our fellow pedestrians, things in shop windows, traffic,houses…. I love our diverse and walkable neighborhood, and it’s overwhelmingly wonderful to see him taking it in and imprinting on this as the way things are.

I enjoy the quiet times at home, too…but wow, it’s wonderful taking him into the outside world!

Important tip for Liquid Paper users

If you need to use a lot of Liquid Paper (or other brand of white-out or correction fluid) in a short time, particularly if it is the variety that says FAST DRY on the label, you will soon find that it is all gummy and impossible to spread and it seems like there isn’t any more in the bottle.

This does not mean your bottle is empty.

It does not mean that the remaining white-out in your bottle is ruined. Read more…

Favorite Fall Recipes

I’m the sort of person who hates being cold.  You might think I would choose to live in a warm climate instead of Pittsburgh, but I like it here for other reasons, and I like having four distinct seasons even though three of them can be chilly and the coldest one often seems very long–it just feels right to experience all of these seasons in the cycle of the year.

To keep myself calm about the encroaching evil coldness, I have a number of practical rituals for welcoming the new season by getting out things that have been put aside during the summer.  First I start wearing my long-sleeved shirts and purple hoodie jacket; then I unpack my sweaters and silk underlayers from the storage bin and put away my shorts and sundresses and summer nightgowns, and I get my wool coat out of the back of the closet and start wearing it, and I finally wash my down jacket (which has been at the bottom of the laundry pile since March, most years…) so that it will be ready to wear when the really cold weather comes.  We move the clutter away from the heat vents and move my son’s bed away from his drafty window.  And we start making our fall recipes! Read more…