Become a Temporary Vegetarian!

This is one of the easiest things you can do to make a positive difference in the world.  Every time you choose a vegetarian meal instead of meat, you conserve some resources.  You don’t have to be vegetarian full-time or forever to make a difference.

Meat production has a huge environmental impact.  Growing plants and feeding them to meat animals uses more water, fuel, pesticide, and fertilizer, per calorie of person-food, than just eating the plants ourselves.  The waste products of meat animals pollute our drinking water.  The use of antibiotics on meat animals contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can kill people.

Lent begins this Wednesday, March 1.  Whether you’re a Christian or not, you can use Lent as a 40-day free trial period to make the small sacrifice of changing one habit to a less wasteful habit.  You will make a difference, and you will learn something.  After Easter, you can reflect on what you learned and decide whether to keep the new habit permanently, modify it, or go back to your old ways and try making a different change next Lent.

Daniel and I gave up meat (including fish) for Lent 15 years ago.  It led to a permanent change in our eating habits.  We’re really glad we tried it!

Click here to read my article at Kitchen Stewardship with lots of advice on trying a less-meat or no-meat diet!  I’m always available for tech support on this topic, so please feel free to ask me about your specific meat-replacing questions.

Visit the Hearth & Soul Link Party for more great food-related articles!


DIY Vegan Bacon from Potato Peels!

I’m excited to share this recipe because it seems to be unique or at least not well-known.  I did some web-searching, seeking tips for perfecting my recipe, but all I found were recipes for making vegan bacon from other (more expensive) ingredients or for making stuffed potato skins using store-bought vegan bacon.

We had this idea when we were peeling a lot of potatoes to make cream-of-potato soup.  We were talking about how the tastiest potato soups have a little ham or bacon in them, and about how a crisp slice of bacon makes a delicious garnish on top of a bowl of soup, and meanwhile we were looking at all these long curly strips of potato peel . . . and someone, I think it was 12-year-old Nicholas, wondered aloud if maybe we could fry up the potato peels into something kind of like bacon.

potato peels fryingYes, we can!  Even our first try was pretty good.  After several rounds of experimentation, we’ve decided that we’ll never be able to get anyone to think this actually is bacon, but it’s a yummy, smoky, salty, greasy, crispy food that makes a better substitute for bacon than anything else you can make out of garbage in 5 minutes!

It’s especially practical if you want something bacon-ish to go with your potato-based meal.  But if you’re peeling potatoes for something else, and you want the “bacon” for another meal, just stuff those clean peels in a glass jar and refrigerate for a day or two until you’re ready to cook them–or cook them right away, refrigerate, and reheat in a skillet when ready to eat . . . or just eat some out of the jar with your fingers every time you open the fridge, because they really are that good.

What you see here is a 12″ skillet containing the peels of 4 medium-sized potatoes.  This produced a little over 1 cup (loosely packed) of finished “bacon.”  This recipe is not written with specific quantities because the amount of peel we’ve been working with has been different each time, and the seasoning is really a matter of taste. Read more of this post

5 Fish-Free Family-Friendly Meals for Lent

It’s the third week of Lent, and if you observe the custom of fasting from land-animal meat on Fridays (or on all the days of Lent) but you normally eat lots of meat, by now you’re probably getting tired of fish sticks and macaroni-and-cheese!  It’s time for something different–and less expensive, too.

Here are 5 legume-based meals my family really likes.  Our kids are 11-year-old Nicholas and 21-month-old Lydia.  Most of these meals also have been eaten happily by Nick’s elementary-aged friends at some point.  If someone you’re feeding doesn’t like spicy food, though, you’ll want to be cautious with the pepper and ginger–maybe try half the amount the recipe specifies, or just leave it out, depending on your sensitivity level.

My family could eat all these meals in a week.  If you’re unaccustomed to eating legumes, don’t start out with too many as they may upset your digestion–but one meal a week should be fine.  Why not legumes on Friday instead of fish on Friday?  (Is it just because legume doesn’t start with F?)

All of these meals are gluten-free and vegan, unless you choose some of the optional embellishments or side dishes. Read more of this post

All-Natural Vegetarian Non-Refrigerated Convenience Foods

This is not a sponsored post.  This is a recommendation of products I tried and liked.

Daniel and I try to make enough real, from-scratch, healthy food that I (working in an office) can take leftovers for my lunch every day and he (working at home) can get something ready to eat within a few minutes rather than spend time cooking at lunchtime.  It works out better at some times than others.  In the past year, with the additional distractions of getting our baby daughter ready to go each day, I’ve had more days when I didn’t have time to pack a lunch, couldn’t spare the attention to figure out what leftovers were available, or wasn’t able to carry a lunch because I was bringing something to work (like dish detergent) and there’s a limit to what I can carry along with Lydia and all her gear as we commute by bus!  I was grabbing Trader Joe’s meals from our freezer sometimes and eating in restaurants much more often than normal.  I like restaurants, but at $6-$9 per lunch, that gets expensive!

One day I was buying some milk for my coffee and mixed nuts for snacking at the CVS store half a block from work when I noticed a sale on foods in pouches and noticed that many of these were vegetarian foods.  I took a closer look and saw surprisingly unobjectionable ingredients.
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Top 3 Veggie Burger Recipes

Daniel and I have tried dozens of varieties of veggie burgers in the past 15 years or so, since they started appearing in stores and restaurants.  We gave up meat for Lent in 2002, and since then we’ve never gone back to eating as much meat as we used to eat.  In particular, we really don’t eat hamburgers anymore, after learning that grinding meat causes any bacteria on the surface to be distributed throughout the meat and that ground beef and chicken are the meats with the highest risk of food poisoning.  But we do like to eat a tasty chunk of protein on a bun with ketchup and pickles!  We buy frozen veggie burgers sometimes, but they tend to cost around a dollar per patty, and they’re packed in plastic, and they’ve been shipped across the continent in a freezer truck, and many of them feature large amounts of genetically modified, isolated soy protein.

Here are our 3 favorite recipes for homemade veggie burgers, and then some tips on how to cook and freeze them.  All these recipes work well for making “meatballs” or nuggets instead of full-size burgers, if you prefer. Read more…

Grildebeen Burgers (homemade veggie burgers)

Most supermarkets these days sell convenient frozen veggie burgers.  We’ve eaten a lot of these, and most of them are quite tasty and nutritious.  But they tend to cost around a dollar per patty, and they’re packed in plastic, and they’ve been shipped across the continent in a freezer truck, and many of them feature large amounts of genetically modified, isolated soy protein.

This is one recipe for homemade veggie burgers that we really like.  Four years ago, I explained how we were still calling them by the original recipe’s name even though it didn’t make sense with our modification of the cooking instructions…and how that made me think of a future animal, the Grildebeest.  In the comments, my brother asked if we’d now be calling the burgers Grildebeens.  Ultimately, yes, we modified the recipe to be a little more to our taste, and we are still making these burgers regularly and calling them Grildebeen Burgers.  So here’s our recipe! Read more of this post

Four Weeks of Pesco-Vegetarian Dinners (winter, with a baby)

A pesco-vegetarian is someone who eats no meat except fish. That’s what we do when we’re at home and most of the time when we eat in other places.  Our 8-month-old daughter, Lydia, is abstaining from cow’s milk until after her first birthday, because I have some family history of dairy allergies that may have been triggered by too-early exposure to cow’s milk.  However, she’s an enthusiastic eater of just about everything we’ve let her eat!  We also have a 10-year-old son, Nicholas, whose preferences have some effect on our menu.

I highly recommend the book Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair, not so much for the specific recipes as for a laid-back, nutritious approach to feeding a baby, toddler, or preschooler.  I’ve been looking at it often to get ideas for ingredients we could set aside or prepare a little differently for Lydia, and to support my conviction that we can (again) raise a child who’s open to trying lots of interesting foods.  The Picky Eater’s 30 Family-Friendly Recipes are great inspiration, too!  Unlike Nicholas when he was little, Lydia is not keen on being fed ground-up food with a spoon but prefers to feed herself, so we’re constantly looking for soft foods that can be picked up in blobs and for foods that are firm enough to be cut in chunks but soft enough to be bitten and chewed without teeth.

Here’s what we ate for dinner for four weeks in December and January.  I plan our menu up to a week in advance and do the weekend cooking and some ingredient preparation during the week, while Daniel cooks our weeknight dinners so that we can eat as soon as I get home from work.  Lunches are usually leftovers and sandwiches.

Week One:

  • Sunday: Masoor Dal over rice and lettuce leaves left over from making the salad to go with our Christmas Stuffed Shells. Plain yogurt on top for the dairy eaters.  Lydia loves Masoor Dal as much as the rest of us!  We didn’t even tone down the spices for her.  She was wearing a large bib, and I kept pushing up her sleeves, but still she managed to mash oily, turmeric-seasoned lentils all over her clothes.  I changed her outfit and doused the stained one with Bac-Out immediately after dinner!
  • Monday: Sauteed mushrooms and kale, in lots of olive oil with lots of garlic, over whole-wheat couscous.  I mixed some nutritional yeast flakes into mine.  Lydia sampled a mushroom slice but had trouble with it–she doesn’t have any teeth yet–so her main course was leftover Masoor Dal.
  • Tuesday: Falafels made from bulk mix.  Cucumber slices.  The last of the lettuce.  Yogurt.  Lydia was happy eating just the falafels.  We make them small (easier to get them cooked all the way through without burning or crumbling) so they were an appealing size for her to pick up, hold, and gnaw on.
  • Wednesday: Japanese Udon Noodle Soup with daikon radish, sweet potato, mushrooms, and nori seaweed.  I got to cook this meal, after leaving work early on New Year’s Eve.  I made the daikon and sweet potato into strips about 1″ x 1/4″ x 1/4″ and cooked them soft, but not falling apart, so that Lydia could hold and eat them.  She loved them!  Each of us older people also had a scrambled egg in our soup.
  • Thursday: We thawed out quarts of Mexican rice and black beans that I’d brought home in November, when somebody had ordered far too much food for an event at work and the leftovers were up for grabs.  The only meal cheaper than beans and rice is FREE beans and rice!  We also had avocado with this meal.  Avocado is a great baby food, and I remember Nicholas loving it, but Lydia ate only a few strips in favor of totally chowing down on the beans!  We couldn’t believe she packed such a large volume of beans into her little body!  An almost equal volume of beans was scrubbed off her highchair, face, neck, hair, arms, and floor…and the hideous black stains were completely removed from her clothing by Bac-Out!  I expected some diapers filled with masses of obvious black beans, but in fact she digested them quite fully.
  • Friday: Whole-wheat spaghetti with homemade marinara sauce from the batch I’d made for the Stuffed Shells–similar to this sauce.  Lydia ate a lot of saucy spaghetti (as well as admiring the wiggly noodles and tossing them about) and 24 hours later had a diaper rash from too much citric acid.  We need to be more careful about tomatoes and other acidic foods until her digestion matures.
  • Saturday: We visited Daniel’s grandfather in Ohio for his 99th birthday!!!  We had an excellent brunch of baked oatmeal and various egg dishes at the Green Marble Coffee Shoppe, where Lydia enjoyed the fruit served on the side–it seems cantaloupe is her favorite–as well as a jar of apricot baby food.  Then we visited with Herschel at his home until late afternoon.  We got home around dinnertime and decided to go out to the New Dumpling House, the Chinese restaurant near home, for hot and sour soup (contains pork), tofu with black mushrooms, and mixed vegetables in garlic sauce.  Lydia had been asleep in the car, fell asleep again as we walked over to the restaurant, and stayed asleep in the sling carrier while I ate most of my dinner!  That was nice.  She woke up in time to enjoy some tofu.

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Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and animals.


When my cousin Samantha was three years old and I was in college, I was visiting her family and we were eating chicken for dinner when Samantha asked, “What is chicken made of?'”

Her mother took a deep breath and said, “Well, chicken is made of a chicken.

Samantha’s eyes widened. To make certain she really understood what her mom was saying, she asked, “Chicken, buk-buk?” making a pecking motion with her hand. Her mom confirmed that the meat on our plates was indeed parts of a chicken who once pecked and said buk-buk. Samantha didn’t freak out, but she was surprised and sad and didn’t eat any more chicken at that meal.

The idea that people can eat animals startles many children when they first hear about it. Some parents want to prevent children from knowing that meat is animal flesh until they’re much older, to prevent objections that might complicate family mealtimes. I don’t like the idea of hiding such a basic truth about food from the people to whom it’s served, so I’m glad I witnessed Samantha’s response to this fact a decade before I became a mother; it gave me plenty of time to think about how I would handle my children’s questions about meat-eating. Read more…

A Week of Vegetarian Lunchbox Lunches

Daniel is the lunchbox-packing parent in our family. He was in charge of grinding up leftovers for baby Nicholas to eat at childcare, and he has packed a lunch for Nicholas to take to school every day for the past three grades and to day camp every day for the past two summers. We love the Planetbox lunch kit and just recently replaced the carrying bag after three years–the box itself is still going strong, along with the Little Dipper and Big Dipper containers for holding moist foods.

When Daniel went camping for a week, I took charge of packing Nick’s lunch. I had noticed in the preceding few weeks that Daniel was grumbling about having trouble thinking of things to put into the lunchbox that Nicholas would eat. For a long time, I’ve been irked at Daniel’s tendency to ignore the lunchbox when it comes home and not clean it until the next morning, just before repacking it–and then complain that any uneaten food in it is no longer edible and therefore wasted, and that it is hard to clean because food has dried onto it. I also knew it was crucial to allow time for packing the lunchbox, since it’s not part of my normal routine and the public transit schedule this summer is such that leaving the house just a few minutes late means Nicholas and I have a long wait for the bus and get to camp 15 minutes late!

Therefore, I set myself up for success: Each night after getting Nicholas to bed, I poured the remaining water in his water bottle onto the garden and put the bottle in the dish drainer, then opened the lunchbox, ate any remaining food, cleaned out the box and Dippers with a soapy cloth, and set them to dry. While I was doing this, I thought about what I might pack for the next day’s lunch and maybe made a few notes. I listed what I packed each day at the side of my dinner menu page for the 4-week period, to help me remember what I’d already packed that week, to have some ideas to pass to Daniel when he got back, and to be able to write this post! I set my alarm clock 10 minutes earlier than normal so I’d have time to pack the lunch in the morning.

Why didn’t I just pack the lunch the night before? I’ve often seen this advice. But we were having refrigerator problems that caused unpredictable puddles of water; I didn’t want the lunch to get soggy. I wanted to pack some foods that are stored and eaten at room temperature; if I refrigerated them overnight, they might get wet with condensation when they came out into the hot, humid weather. In my experience with packing my own lunch, some foods change texture or just seem “less fresh” if cut up the night before.

Here’s what I packed in the five lunches:

Read more…

Four Weeks of Pesco-Vegetarian Dinners (early spring)

A pesco-vegetarian is someone who eats no meat except fish.  That’s what we do when we’re at home and most of the time when we eat in other places.

Here’s what we ate for dinner (plus weekend lunches) for four weeks in March and April, including Easter, trying to make the most of seasonal produce sales (mushrooms, sweet potatoes, string beans, kale) and leftovers from my church’s Easter receptions and Daniel’s family Passover seder.  I plan our menu up to a week in advance and do the weekend cooking and some ingredient preparation during the week; Daniel cooks our weeknight dinners.

Week One:

  • Sunday:
    • Lunch: Leftover Mexican Pizza.
    • Dinner: I made this Thai soup using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, tofu instead of shrimp, kale instead of spinach, and regular orange sweet potatoes.  It was pretty good.  I liked it better than the guys did, so I had the leftovers for lunch Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday!  When I bring soup as my lunch for work, I put it in a reused salsa jar, which seals well and can be microwaved–I just need to use my napkin as a potholder when I pick it up because the jar gets hot.
  • Monday: Whole-wheat spaghetti, sauce from a jar (Classico makes many varieties that have no added sugar, soy, or corn) with extra tomatoes (left over from a bag of frozen diced tomatoes that I’d thawed to make the Mexican Pizza), and sauteed mushrooms.
  • Tuesday: Tangy Honey-Apricot Tofu, Salty String Beans, and rice.  It’s unusual for us to have tofu twice in one week, but this time we did.  This is one of our favorite meals.  Daniel cooked extra rice to use the next day.
  • Wednesday: Fried Rice with carrots, mushrooms, and cashews.
  • Thursday: Spinach sauteed with garlic and olive oil and chopped pecans, over baked potatoes.  The spinach was frozen; I put it in the refrigerator to thaw the night before.
  • Friday: Bean Burritos.
  • Saturday:
    • Lunch: We attended the memorial service for a friend who had been an enthusiastic participant in our church’s many food-serving events, so of course the service was followed by a reception with sandwiches, fruit, orzo salad, and other goodies!
    • Dinner: I had the idea of trying to make a different flavor of baked lentils, using a lentil recipe as a guide for the ratio of liquid to lentils and using a tetrazzini recipe as a guide to flavoring.  Unfortunately, this didn’t work out so well.  The lentils absorbed all the water and didn’t burn, but they also didn’t cook completely, and they sank to the bottom while all the tasty stuff went to the top, so we had crunchy bland lentils with a yummy topping–and the guys liked it all right, but I was very upset!  I think that eating undercooked lentils may have a physiological effect that makes me anxious and depressed, because I have reacted like this before to lentil experiments that went wrong. 😦

Read more…

Four Weeks of Mostly Vegetarian Dinners (winter)

I’ve posted several accounts of our family meals that are all-vegetarian or include a little fish.  That’s the way we eat normally, and it’s the way we ate during most of this four-week period, but this was one of the rare times when we purchased some chicken to eat at home and ordered some in a restaurant, as well as eating quite a bit of ham at a party.  You see, we aren’t strict vegetarians.  We believe that eating meat infrequently is better for our health and the environment, but we like to be flexible.  Sometimes it’s more polite to eat some meat than to make a fuss about what we’re served as guests.  Sometimes we’re away from home and need to eat in a restaurant with limited options.  Sometimes one of us feels a craving for a particular meat, and because of our generally healthy metabolisms we believe that our food cravings are a sign of genuine physical needs.  Sometimes we eat meat just because it tastes good–as is the case with the incidents here!  Moderation in all things. This four-week menu is still mostly vegetarian.  I plan our menu for dinner every night and lunch on days when there’s no school.  Daniel cooks on weeknights, and I cook on weekends and days off, because he works from home whereas I don’t get home from work until just before dinnertime. Week One:

  • Sunday:
    • Lunch: Leftover Apricot Lentil Soup, cheese, and crackers.
    • Dinner: Salmon Tetrazzini made with canned salmon, whole-wheat pasta, and frozen peas.  Side dish of canned pineapple.  Tetrazzini is just about the only recipe for which I can be bothered to make a white sauce, a task I find annoying but worthwhile for this deliciousness!  My tetrazzini recipe came from a magazine years ago, probably Redbook; it called for turkey, but at various times I’ve made it with salmon, tuna, tofu, or vegetables in place of the turkey.
  • Monday (New Year’s Eve):

Summer Vegetable Sunflower Blop

Sometimes I have trouble thinking of a good name for a recipe, especially when it’s something I have been making for myself without talking to anybody about it, because in my mind it can be called “kind of like what I made the other day” or “mmmmm” or “RY3A0128” or whatever.  The name for today’s recipe comes courtesy of the Hearth and Soul Blop Hop, a recipe linkup that may just have a typo in the name this week, but I am feeling inspired by the idea of a Blop Hop, which sounds so much more lively and charming and Dr. Seussian than anything involving a blog, a word which still really sounds to me like it refers to something slimy and smelly that washes up on the beach.  You wouldn’t want to eat that, but try my delicious Blop! Read more…

Three Weeks of Vegetarian Dinners for Late Spring

Hearth & Soul HopFood on Fridays

I’ve previously posted four September/October weeks and four January/February weeks of my family’s pesco-vegetarian menu, including a few seafood meals among the vegetarian ones.  In these three weeks in May and June, we did not include any seafood in the meals we made at home, so this meal plan is vegetarian.  However, we ate in restaurants a little more often than usual during these three weeks, and I’ll admit that we did eat seafood in some of them and even a little chicken.  To make up for the missing dinners, I’ve included our lunch menus for the weekend days.  Weekday lunches are mostly leftovers and frozen meals for the adults and mostly PBJ sandwiches for the seven-year-old who still prefers them to any other lunchbox main course!  Why only three weeks this time?  Well, I write our menu on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of scrap paper, and this time only three weeks fit on a sheet instead of four! Read more…

Four MORE Weeks of Pesco-Vegetarian Dinners (winter)

Food on Fridays CarnivalMenu Plan MondayHearth & Soul Blog Hop

A pesco-vegetarian is someone who eats no meat except fish.  That’s my family’s policy when we’re at home.  Four weeks of our dinner menus made a popular post, so I’m posting another four weeks.  I hope these are helpful to other people who want to eat less meat but aren’t sure what to eat instead!

We made these meals in January and February.  This winter, we bought a winter farm share in addition to the summer one, so every two weeks we have been getting a crate of produce that was either stored through the winter or grown in a greenhouse.  We also got a mushroom share, which gives us a small paper bag of mushrooms from an affiliated farm, delivered along with our veggie crate. Read more…

Four Weeks of Pesco-Vegetarian Dinners (early autumn)

A pesco-vegetarian is someone who eats no meat except fish.  That’s what we do when we’re at home and most of the time when we eat in other places.

Last week I explained my family’s approach to menu planning, which is that I write the menu and do the weekend cooking, while Daniel cooks weeknight dinners following my instructions.  Here is our menu from one sheet of paper=four recent weeks.  I hope it gives you some new ideas! Read more…

How a kid can cook burgers indoors on a hot day

Last month, my brother commented on my article about the Grildebeest that a George Foreman grill is a handy way to cook things with minimal supervision and better energy efficiency than a stove.  I hadn’t considered buying one of those grills before.  (We have a small kitchen, so we try to avoid owning a lot of gadgets.)  Last week, the smallest size George Foreman grill was on sale at Target for $15 and I got a Target coupon for $5 off any size George Foreman grill, so I decided to give it a try.

It’s a cute little thing and very lightweight.  I was skeptical about its usefulness.  But I thawed some veggie burgers, I read the instructions (all about meat) and washed the grill, and my six-year-old son and I attempted to make dinner.  He was very interested in learning to use the new machine.

We cooked a burger for one minute.  Warm, but not very warm.  We cooked it for a second minute.  It smelled good, looked brown, and was too hot to touch.  We tried toasting a bun in the grill for one minute.  Perfect!  One burger ready to go in 3 minutes. Read more…


I’ve done it again–suddenly thought of a word that nobody else ever used or, at least, that Google says nobody else has written on the Internet.

Scientists will breed the grildebeest especially for barbecuing.

This raises the deep moral question of whether it is very sad for the grildebeest or the grildebeest ought to be happy to exist at all.

I bet the grildebeest won’t be a very deep thinker, though. Read more…

Two Weeks of Meatless Menus for Late Winter

It’s Lent, which means that a lot of omnivores are keeping meatless Fridays, and some have given up meat for the whole six weeks.  Daniel and I used to eat a lot more meat than we do now, and giving up meat for Lent in 2002 was one of the biggest steps in our journey.  Since then, we’ve found more and more meatless foods to enjoy!

If you’re accustomed to having meat in every meal, it can be difficult to figure out what else you might eat, so we’re sharing two weeks of our family menu to give you some ideas!   Read more…

Speedy Sushi and menu planning with a six-year-old

Our lives go so much more smoothly when I write up a menu for what we’ll have for dinner in the next few days!  I have a full-time job outside the home; Daniel is unemployed right now, so he picks up Nicholas from kindergarten, and they can start dinner before I get home . . . but if they decide what to make on the spur of the moment, we end up eating a lot of easy-to-make, not-so-great, incomplete meals, and we don’t use up perishable ingredients.  Menu planning is something that just doesn’t come easily to Daniel, but he’s happy to follow a plan I wrote! 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…