March 31, 2010

Boot Camp (from your desk)

When a friend asked me if I was interested in a Going Green Boot Camp in honor of Earth Day's 40th anniversary on April 22nd, my first reaction was, "No way! I'm overscheduled and overwhelmed. I don't have time for ONE MORE PROJECT."

But after I took a deep breath and my heart rate returned to normal, I found out what was involved: receiving an email a day for 20 days, covering an array of tips on green living.

Okay. I can do that. I can receive, and even make an effort to read, 20 emails over the course of the month that will help me live a greener lifestyle. I'm not making any commitments about what I'll do with all that great advice, but I have a hunch at least some of it will make its way into my daily routine.

The awesome all things green website Your Daily Thread says it's an effort to get you into Tip Top Green Shape before Earth Day, even if you've never even recycled before.

If YOU'D like to sign up for the Going Green Boot Camp, sponsored by YDT, click here to find out all about it. It took me about, um, five seconds. Boot Camp starts Monday, April 5th, so sign up now!

Spring Savings Ideas

The following is a guest post from Fred, who writes for Best Credit Cards.

Spring is an exciting time of the year filled with new growth, longer days and warmer weather. So as you begin enjoying the changing of the seasons, look for ways you can also make some spring savings.

1. Seasonal spring fruit and vegetables

The arrival of spring brings with it a new crop of fruits and vegetables which have probably been missed from your kitchen table. Therefore, take the opportunity to buy seasonal produce as this can save you money in planning healthy meals to avoid having take away and wasted food. Buying seasonal produce also saves on food miles and helps the environment.

2. Spring on outdoors

With the weather warming up and the sun staying up for longer too, take the opportunity to get outside with your friends, family, partner or your dog. Heading outside in spring not only means you can get more fresh air and exercise, but it also means that when you leave the house you are turning off the lights, the TV and the game consoles and in turn conserving power and reducing your energy bill.

3. Take notice of the changes in the weather

Going from the office to your home and back again every day, you can easily miss the change in the seasons. Instead, make a point to open your curtains and your windows and let in the new spring changes. The weather really is getting warmer as spring settles in, so open a window to let in a breeze before automatically turning on the heater, and open up the curtains to let in more natural light, rather than turning on the lights inside your home and consuming unnecessary power.

4. Make your spring garden affordable

It is hard to stay out of the garden once spring has sprung so make some money saving changes to your gardening habits to save money outside this spring too. For example, if you are planning a new lawn for your backyard, plant lawn seeds rather than spending money on expensive instant turf. Spring is also the perfect time to start your own veggie garden so you can enjoy free fruit and vegetables for your table all through the warmer months.

5. Spring cleaning saves money

There are a number of ways you can save money as you commence your spring clean this year. For example, if you are looking to replace new appliances or install a new air conditioning unit for the coming summer, be sure to look at the energy ratings on your new purchases. If you’re looking at new appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers, check their water ratings to save on your water usage bill.

It's easy to find spring money saving ideas around your home and garden if you just start looking, so make this spring the tastiest, freshest and most affordable one yet.

Fred is a personal finance writer. He helps people to compare the best credit cards online.

Readers, please share your own spring savings ideas in the Comments section.

March 30, 2010

My Perfect Birthday

My husband took this photo of me last week on my birthday. We went on one of my favorite hikes and it was an absolutely gorgeous day. The air was clear, the hills were green from all the rain this winter, and there were flowers everywhere. These yellow flowers are coreopsis, and we were lucky to see them because they're only in bloom a few weeks a year.

The main thing this photo says to me is, "Buy a new hat!" Because even a non-consumer can't afford to eschew fashion or style entirely. This ugly hat has been featured in far too many pictures, and its days are numbered. I think a visit to REI for an entirely new hat is in order. I don't want to buy a used hat, there's too much sweat involved. And I don't have time to "keep an eye out," this is an emergency situation.

Aside from the lack of style, my birthday was perfect.

After tea and homemade granola, we drove out to Malibu through the greenest hills I've ever seen in Southern California. Our hike was a 5-mile loop through canyons, meadows, fields of flowers, a view of the ocean, and even a pond that had been dried up for the past several years.

Just about the time my feet were getting tired, we came to the end of the hike, when it was time to have dinner at our favorite beachside biker hangout, Neptune's Net in Malibu. We shared peel 'n eat shrimp, fried calamari, and a beer, and watched the dolphins swimming by.

On the way home, just as it was getting dark, we stopped at a roadside stand for strawberries (a guy selling them out of the back of his van). I bought 3 containers of local berries for $7, and then he gave me 4 more containers FREE because they were almost overripe.

At home, my husband asked me if I wanted a special birthday drink, but I really just wanted a glass of wine so we opened a bottle of Fess Parker, in honor of the TV-star-turned-winemaker's recent death (in his 90s).

My husband gave me a card with a simple sentiment so direct and honest it made me cry, and a DVD of Season 6 of The Mary Tyler Moore show (it was our favorite when we were little- we both wanted to grow up and move to the big city).

Then we watched a terrible 1970s comedy. It was great, in that way only really bad films can be.

So, in addition to spending the day with my favorite person, my birthday was studded with so many of my favorite things:

Taylor's of Harrogate yorkshire gold tea!
homemade granola!
Mary Tyler Moore!

And except for the MTM DVD, it was entirely non-consumer.

Luckily for me, my birthday falls during my favorite season: spring. What are your favorite non-consumer spring activities? Please tell us in the Comments section.

March 29, 2010

Meatless Monday Recipes

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit organization that's committed to encouraging people to give up meat one day a week, for their health and the health of the planet. Click here to find out what it's all about. If you sign up to participate in Meatless Monday, you'll receive a weekly email packed with recipes that might make you consider going meatless even more often. It's a lot easier to eat less meat when you know how to cook easy and delicious vegetarian meals.

I've got some great reader recipes for you today:

First, Amanda from Sweet Madeline recommends this pizza dough recipe from The Pioneer Woman. Amanda says they eat a veggie pizza at least once a week with either Follow Your Heart or Daiya (faux cheese), and it's an easy recipe that always garners compliments. That sounds like a great vegan alternative.

Next, "gteamhj" says she's rediscovered the joys of canned beans with a dinner of red rice, black beans, red pepper, cilantro, and hot pepper sauce on corn and flour tortillas. I second the excellence of beans, canned or dried. I love just about any of them.

Alea from Premeditated Leftovers suggests a baked potato bar for Meatless Monday. She tops hers with leftover cooked vegetables. She also shares this pasta recipe for an easy lunch to serve with a salad. Alea says the recipe is very flexible, and she likes to change the veggies depending on what's in season.

Beth at Saving Money While Eating Clean says one of her favorite meatless meals is lentil soup and she offers this recipe. I agree that lentil soup is a delicious and inexpensive meal, and it's also easy to make.

And finally, Frugal Kiwi believes there are a world of vegetarian options available, and one of her faves is Sweet Corn Chickpea Fritters, which is gluten-free since it uses chickpea flour instead of wheat flour. I know some of you will be happy about that option. Yum.

Thanks readers for all your terrific ideas! Pretty soon we won't be eating meat at all, since I'm collecting so many great meatless recipes. If YOU have an easy meatless recipe you'd like to share, please tell us about it in the Comments section and I'll include it in the next Meatless Monday recipe post.

March 26, 2010

Friday Food Waste plus Free Music!

Too much food waste this week for my liking!

Since the key to wasting less is to keep track of things, it's a lot easier when I'm home. When I'm out of town or working away from home, we have more waste. This week involved both factors. The soy milk was a couple of weeks too old and I had forgotten to use it or freeze it when we went out of town. The apple I had bought outside our CSA to make a dessert for my husband that was forgotten about (actually we had been eating too many sweets), the lemon went bad in that plastic bag, and I made the peanut butter sandwich for our hike the other day and only ate half of it. The next day the flattened sandwich couldn't compete with all the fresh CSA goodies that had been delivered.

Throwing food in the garbage is bad for the environment, and it's also a waste of money. If you want to learn the details of how it breaks down in the landfill to create harmful gasses, plus get tips on how to reduce your waste, visit Wasted Food. And if you're curious about how you compare to other families, check out The Frugal Girl for the weekly food waste carnival. Nearly everyone admits that their food waste goes way down as soon as they start tracking it, and especially when they commit to taking a photo to show to the world.

Are you watching your food waste? How did you do this week? Feel free to share your best tips for wasting less in the Comments section. I'm determined to do better next week.

FREE STUFF ALERT: I've got a great freebie for you! It's free music from the National Public Radio website All Songs Considered. It's easy to listen to the music on the website, and download if you like it. There's a huge range of indie music: folk, rock, blues, country, and more. Lots of unknown small bands playing great music. Click here to check it out. Let me know if you take advantage of this freebie.

March 25, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y Outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is from Goodwill, a thrift shop, a consignment store, a yard sale, ebay, craigslist, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Nicolle, who found these separates at the Australian-based secondhand shop Savers. The entire outfit costs less than $16. Maternity clothes strike me as something particularly smart to buy secondhand, since you're changing sizes so rapidly, and may only wear each article of clothing for a month or two.

Nicolle thinks she looks grumpy in this photo, and says it's because her baby is due. That was two weeks ago, so by now I'm sure congratulations are in order! Although she warns that for the same reason, she might not have time to read this blog for awhile. But in case she does: Nicolle, I hope you and your baby are both well.

I think she looks cute, plus I can't believe she took the time to send in this picture. So a great big thank you to Nicolle! Readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite thrift store score, snap a photo, and send it to me at Isn't it fun to see the great bargains people are finding secondhand? I can always use more photos, and my challenge to male readers stands (I know there are a few of you out there!)

Please share your best tips for shopping for used clothing, plus compliments and congrats to Nicolle, in the Comments section. And click here to check out all the previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

March 24, 2010

Best Frugal Blogs

I've just learned that Christy and Kate over at "Tucson on the Cheap" have included My Year Without Spending on their list of the Best Frugal Blogs of 2010. Thanks ladies! This site is new to me, so I'll be checking it out as soon as I have a chance. And I look forward to perusing the 75 blogs relating to frugality that made their cut.

What are your very favorite frugal blogs? Please share them in the Comments section, especially if you've never heard me mention them here.

March 23, 2010

Girl Time

That's me with my 7-year-old niece. We were able to get in some quality niece-aunt bonding during our visit last week when we slept together on the floor two nights in a row. My husband took this cute photo. I am so lucky to have such a sweet niece, she actually says things like, "Aunt Angela, can we have some Girl Time tonight?" and "We need to do more cuddling tonight."

She's a born non-consumer. Her 8th birthday is still two months away, and she's already got a plan written down for her slumber party. I think she calls it a sleepover. She's written down the names of the six girls who are invited, plus what they'll do: cake and ice cream, change into pjs, watch a movie, get into sleeping bags, and bed talk (talking while you're in your sleeping bags- the best part!). Pretty simple stuff, but infinitely exciting when you're "almost eight." And decidedly non-consumer activities.

Maybe at heart, that's all any of us really need to be happy: cake and ice cream, pajamas, and watching a movie and spending the night with your favorite people. To me it sounds perfect. I wish adults could have sleepovers! Who says they can't? Maybe I'll start planning one for my birthday next year. The problem is that some of my favorite people are men, and I don't think middle-aged people can have coed slumber parties without people thinking they're swingers or just bonkers.

What do you think? Coed sleepovers for middle-aged friends? Great idea or seriously stupid? This could be the biggest craze since the hula hoop. Please leave your thoughts, rants and opinions in the Comments section.

March 22, 2010

CSA Delivery Day

It's CSA day: yay! It's also my birthday, so I've just got time enough to post this photo before my husband and I leave for my birthday hike, the first of many I hope to take during what promises to be an amazing spring. It has rained so much this winter that the hills are deep green and will be covered with wildflowers soon.

In the meantime, I'm thrilled about this delivery and particularly happy about the baby artichokes, one of my favorites. And red carrots, wow. I feel like I'm in Wonderland.

I'll be back later to finish this post, including a list of what we received. Let me know if you have any recipe suggestions for anything you see pictured here.

UPDATE: Thank you for all your birthday wishes. I had a perfect day. I'll tell you about it and share a few photos later this week.

Here's what we got in this week's delivery (roughly clockwise from the back): black kale, red romaine, cauliflower, snap peas, red carrots, Ferrano beets, collard greens, banana fingerling potatoes, fresh English peas, mixed mushrooms, chamomile, lavender, and sage bundle, Snickerdoodle cookie treat, artichokes, clementine tangerines, cilantro, giant brown onion, baby turnips, and Bloomsdale spinach (in plastic bag).

On the menu tonight: mushroom risotto and a romaine salad. I'll have to come up with a few other good ideas to use all of this up. Remember, we only get this delivery once every two weeks. We could never eat this much in one week. If you're thinking of joining a CSA, keep in mind that most of them have that option. Most also (along with ours) ask you about produce you don't want in your delivery, but since there are very few things my husband and I don't like, we didn't ask for any restrictions. He doesn't like beets, and I don't like green peppers, but other than that we're open to almost anything.

Click here to learn more about CSA and to find one near you. And please leave preparation ideas for anything you see in the photo in the Comments section.

March 19, 2010

Food Waste Friday plus Favorite Blog Post of the Week

It's a giant radish! My husband was a champ and actually ate about 4 or 5 of these huge things, with no help from me. But once we got the new CSA delivery, the smaller, crunchier, zestier radishes beckoned and this one was left in the dust (or in the vegetable crisper, in this case).

That was our only food waste for the week, and it will go in the compost bin, so I'm pretty happy with that. We used up a lot of odds and ends, and froze one meal to have at a later date. Today's lunch was a multi-ethnic concoction of basmati rice, black beans, sauteed mushrooms, and salsa.

I've been tracking our food waste for about a year now, and we're creating much less trash and saving money to boot. If you want to know why food rotting in a landfill is bad for the environment, visit Jonathan Bloom's blog Wasted Food. He's the authority on food waste.

And at The Frugal Girl, Friday is the day when a whole lot of bloggers come together to share their food waste for the week. It's quite a party! A bunch of people taking photographs of rotten food might not sound like fun, but don't knock it until you try it. But seriously, there's something about being publicly accountable that really does help people waste less. It works that way for me, and apparently it works for other people too.

My favorite blog post of the week goes to Betsy at Married With Luggage. I've already given her that dubious distinction once before, but since it's one of my very favorite blogs, it's no surprise that she's making an appearance again. This post, called "How to Have a 24-hour Meltdown," I found both hilarious and surprisingly useful. The idea is that most of us are overbooked, overworked, and overwhelmed these days, and instead of trying to "grin and bear it," if you just give in and have a one-day pity party for yourself once in awhile, you'll probably get sick of your own self- indulgence pretty quick. I'm definitely going to try it the next time I'm having "one of those weeks."

Please leave your thoughts and ideas about food waste, scheduled meltdowns, or anything else on your mind in the Comments section.

March 18, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y Outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, ebay, craigslist, a yard sale, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Non Consumer Girl, back for the third time on Thrifty Threads after debuting as the original TT model. It's still cold in most parts of the United States, but not in Australia, where she's from. They're still enjoying summer Down Under.

Non Consumer Girl put together this fabulous outfit from her local consignment shop, which carries a selection of designer clothing, handbags, scarves, and shoes (which must be new!). The black top is a quality jersey fabric from David Lawrence and cost $9. It has an interesting twist of fabric feature on the shoulder, and NCG estimates it would have cost about $99 retail. The asymmetrical, lined, chiffon animal-print Rodney Clarke skirt was $20. NCG says it's flowing and feels lovely to wear, and again, would have run at least $100 new. And the black leather never-worn sandals cost just $20, a fraction of the original price.

That's just $49 for a stylish and pretty summer outfit that would have cost several times that amount new. NCG became a brilliant shopper last year while she was following The Compact. In fact, she discovered this consignment shop that's just a five minute walk from her home. Now she's following a simple living plan that keeps her out of the mall, and focused on her family and keeping their lives healthy and happy. I love this post about how she went shopping with some girlfriends and found two handbags for an excellent bargain, but ended up taking them back. She really didn't need them because she likes the bags she already has. She says her Buy Nothing New year has had a lasting effect, and her consumption habits have changed for the better.

I can relate to that. When you spend so much time decluttering, everything that comes in has to go through a much more rigid screening process. Check out her blog and get inspired by her ambitious decluttering goals, her project to grow her own lettuce, her mixed results with composting in a small space with a Bokashi bin, the super-cute book bag she made for her daughter, and much more.

Thanks again Non Consumer Girl for that excellent photo! As always, you look fantastic! Now readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite thrift store score, snap a photo, and send it to me at I can tell you I've been so inspired by your fabulous finds that I've done a bit of secondhand shopping myself, and I'll have a photo to show you soon. But I always need more, so keep them coming.

Please share your tips for secondhand shopping in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

March 17, 2010

Going Organic

This is a baby-steps challenge of sorts. After reading this post by Vanessa at Green Ness, I'm determined to switch to organic personal care products. Over the past few decades, I've tried to buy products that don't test on animals and that practice fair trade and are good for the environment, but it seems I've put my health at the end of the list of these purchasing considerations. Because of a few changes in my overall health picture as I get older, I'm more determined than ever not to buy products that have been linked to cancer.

So this is a baby steps challenge, but I'm giving myself the rest of the year instead of one month. To be honest, I simply can't afford to replace everything all at once. So I'll be replacing products as they run out. And let me tell you, some of them are going to be hard to give up. I'm very attached to a few. It's taken me years to find things that work for me, and I hate the trial-and-error process that's ahead. It's bound to yield some waste. But it must be done, so ONWARD!

Here's the list of what I need to replace:

Shampoo- I use Paul Mitchell, and have for over 20 years. I don't think it's easy to find organic shampoo, because the ingredient that makes it suds up is the toxic one.

Sunscreen- I found one I love about fifteen years ago, and it's going to be tough to give up because it works so well, is non-greasy, and doesn't show. It's called Peter Thomas Roth and unfortunately it contains some of the dreaded parabens.

Moisturizer- I use Jergen's body lotion, Bioelements facial moisturizer, and Clarins hand cream. I'm pretty sure they all have to go.

Makeup- I don't wear much makeup, just lipstick and sometimes eye shadow and eyeliner. I've been using Clinique for decades, but I don't think they're organic.

Soap- We use Yardley for every day.

Deodorant- I switched to Tom's of Maine years ago and it works fine for me. I know it doesn't for a lot of people, so I guess I'm lucky. This is one item I don't need to replace.

I used to buy more products from Origins, and I still use some of their facial cleansers and a few other items. I think I'll see what else I can find there, their prices are pretty reasonable. I'm also going to investigate Aveda, which I've flirted with a bit in the past. And I'm really excited about a brand that's new to me called Weleda. They've got a great all-natural philosophy and their products don't seem to be exorbitantly expensive. But I can't recommend it until I try it. I've also just checked online and learned that L'Occitane is organic, and I've always loved their hand cream as a splurge. I especially adore it when it's a gift, because it's hardly a frugal purchase.

Do you use organic personal care products? PLEASE share your favorites with us in the Comments section. I could use recommmendations in any of the above areas, and I'm sure we'll all benefit from each other's research and experience. I'm particularly interested in finding a good facial sunscreen that's not greasy, at least 30 SPF. And I'll report on my progress as I slowly replace my bathroom drawers and cabinets.

March 16, 2010

March Birthdays

I've successfully navigated another Birthday Season on The Compact.

March is Birthday Heavy in my world. A lot of friends and acquaintances were born in March, and my husband, my brother, and my father all have birthdays within a week of one another. And those are birthdays that require acknowledgement. It was no problem to do it without breaking The Compact.

For my husband, I baked him the cake pictured above. It was a new recipe, a "mocha" cake from scratch. I frosted it with storebought Pillsbury milk chocolate frosting, because that's what he likes. The cake was really moist and delicious, and he ate it three days in a row with coffee for breakfast. I also came home with a blue streak in my hair, which I have yet to get a photo of, but I'll post one soon, I promise. He loved it! He was really surprised that I did it, and I actually kind of like it. We also went out to our favorite French restaurant which is right down the street. It's a bit of a splurge, but it was delicious as always. The whole celebration was tres non-consumer.

For my brother, I bought him a gift card to a brewery that he'd been wanting to visit in Portland, where he lives. They have sample platters and at least twelve different beers on tap every day. The subject line in his thank you email was "I love it!" I knew it would be a hit.

For my dad, I gave him a gift certificate for two "wine flights" at a restaurant where he and my mom can go and watch the sunset and enjoy a wine tasting. It's a place they like, but don't often treat themselves to anymore.

I haven't had any problem thinking of great gifts while being on The Compact. I love to receive experiential gifts, and I think most people do as well.

What are your favorite non-consumer gifts? Please leave your ideas in the Comments section.

March 15, 2010

Meatless Monday recipes

The following is a reprint of a previously published post, my very first "Meatless Mondays recipes," where I offer our favorite easy meatless meals.

A few months ago, I signed up for Meatless Mondays. You can read all about the worldwide movement by clicking here. Why go meatless? According to the website, "Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel."

That sounds like a great win/win to me, and when you add in the fact that you'll probably save money too, the whole Meatless Monday idea becomes a win/win/win... what Katy over at The Non-Consumer Advocate calls a trifecta.

For me, signing up was absolutely no sacrifice. To give you an idea of how much it has changed our lifestyle, I don't think I've ever mentioned it to my husband. That's because we already go meatless several nights a week. We don't even think of it as "going meatless" because it's just the way we already eat.

In fact, it's almost incomprehensible to me that people would have trouble coming up with ideas for meatless meals. Forgive me if I'm repeating myself, but I will never forget something I saw on the news during the riots in Los Angeles in 1992, after the infamous Rodney King verdict. A woman was being interviewed in a supermarket where they'd run out of meat. And she said, "What am I supposed to feed my kids, beans on toast?" The fact that she had no other ideas boggled my mind.

If you sign up for Meatless Mondays, you get an email every Monday with related news of the week, plus some great recipes. But I thought I'd offer up some of our favorite meals, everyday stuff we enjoy that's quick and easy and delicious. And this is still leaving out tons of things we eat regularly, like veggie burgers, main dish salads, and stir frys.

1. Pizza- My husband's specialty, he usually adds mushrooms, but the possibilities are endless.
2. Pasta- His other specialty, again the possibilities are endless. One favorite is a version of puttanesca: cooked tomatoes, garlic, capers, and kalamata olives.
3. Soup- I love to make soup. Some of our favorites are lentil, vegetable, carrot, tomato, and minestrone. All vegetarian.
4. Tofu/Spinach- This is an easy staple we love. Saute tofu, spinach, and garlic in olive oil next to each other in a large pan. Drizzle with a mixture of soy sauce and hot chili oil.
5. Egg scramble- One of our favorites is "Mexican" style with onions and cheese, served with salsa, guacamole, and black beans. A tortilla on the side is great, but it's also good with toast if you don't have it.
6. Risotto- We love it with tomatoes, basil, garlic, and mushrooms, but you can make risotto with almost anything. Get creative. Mastering risotto will make you feel like you're eating in a gourmet restaurant. I'll do a post on my method soon.
7. Stuffed potato- Top a baked potato with a stir-fry of your favorite veggies.
8. Burritos or wraps- Again, the possibilities are endless. Wrap your favorite cheese and vegetables or start with beans and add cheese, avocado, peppers, and salsa.
9. Vegetable curry. Click here for my crockpot recipe.
10. Mjederah lentils. Click here to try this super-easy meal.

Those are just a few of the dinners we eat regularly. I think the key is to get away from the whole concept that you're trying to "replace" meat. Don't worry too much about not getting enough protein, especially if you're only doing this once or twice a week. And if you add more lentils, beans, chickpeas, and grains to your diet, you probably won't have to worry at all about a protein deficit.

What are your favorite meatless recipes? Please share them in the Comments section.

March 13, 2010

The Secret Is Out. Spread the Word.

Last night we finally watched "The Cove," the winner of the Academy Award for best documentary feature.

It is brilliant filmmaking that will move you, anger you, and inspire you. A phenomenal film that must be seen. It's about so much more than what you might have heard, and it's impossible to describe how many layers of meaning unfold as it casts its spell over you.

It does everything a good film is supposed to do. In a twist of the Nike motto, "Just see it."

It's available on Netflix, and the DVD contains some stunning extra underwater footage.

Click here to get involved in exposing this horror to the world, so that it will finally end.

March 12, 2010

Food Waste Friday plus a Freebie

It's Friday, and we've got no food waste this week! So if you came here looking for a photograph of rotting food, check out The Frugal Girl, where other bloggers join Kristen in keeping track of their waste, and you're sure to find a photo or two.

Why are we all taking these silly photos? Why do we care about wasting food? Because cutting down on it is good for the planet AND your wallet. Check out Wasted Food or Love Food, Hate Waste if you want to learn more about how waste negatively impacts the environment.

While we're far from Zero Waste every week, we're tossing MUCH less than we used to, and these are the best tips I've learned over the past year:

1. Buy less than you think you need. This is the category where our best intentions end up as food waste. Don't randomly buy tons of "healthy stuff" without a plan for how you'll prepare it and when you'll eat it. Also, remember that while you might have the best intentions about cooking from scratch every night, there will be nights when you're too tired to cook, or you're invited to dinner at a friend's house, or you go out for a special occasion. What works for me is to plan only three meals a week and then have pantry and frozen food for a pinch. I'll cook at least one meal that will have leftovers, like chili or a crockpot meal, my husband makes pizza or pasta one night, and we nearly always go out once a week, even if it's just for tacos.

2. Have a plan. This is closely related to #1. Some people have a strict plan for every meal, I have a very loose plan, but without any plan you'll be too tired to come up with meals.

3. Keep an eye on the pantry and freezer and refrigerator leftovers. If you forget about them, they're sure to get wasted.

4. And along those lines, think of creative ways to use what you have. For example, last night we ate a version of Guadalajaran Swiss Chard Quesadillas, substituting some collard greens that were just starting to turn yellow. This recipe works with just about any greens, and is one of the only ways my husband likes kale, chard, and collard greens. I can eat greens cooked just about any way, but with our CSA delivery, I've had to come up with different ways to cook them they'll he'll go for.

5. Label your leftovers. This was the very first thing I did to cut back on our waste, and it helped immensely. Click here to read that post.

6. And finally, create an Eat Me section of the refrigerator. We're still doing this, and often the only waste we have has been left outside the section. My husband is a great partner in the Waste-No-Food challenge, because he's very trainable, will eat odds and ends in burritos and other concoctions he puts together, and doesn't mind eating leftovers several times if necessary. These aren't the reasons I'm in love with him, but it does make my life easier.

I hope some of those suggestions will work for you! And please let us know about what works for your family in the Comments section.

FREE STUFF ALERT: I've got a great freebie this week! Audio File magazine is offering a free digital download of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, read by Michael York. Click here to take advantage of this marvelous offer, good until March 16th. That sounds like fun now that the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie has gotten us in the "Alice" mood. Have you seen it yet? What did you think?

March 11, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y Outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, a yard sale, craiglist, ebay, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Carmen, back for the second time on Thrifty Threads with this lovely casual outfit. Carmen blogs at Life Blessons about "the blessings and lessons of this little life of mine." She describes her blog as the "stories about my life as a Christ follower, a new bride aspiring to set up our home sweet home, a girl growing into a woman, learning each step along the way." Carmen muses about life and faith, and posts about things both abstract ("Are your prayers big enough?") and concrete ("Kitchen Tip for Easily Chopping Potatoes").

This entire outfit is thrifted, which is how Carmen prefers to shop. The dark denim jeans are from Banana Republic, and when she bought them they were in near-perfect condition. The salmon-colored, snap-front top is from the Gap and she pairs it with a gray cardigan and flats for this casual but put-together look. She found everything but the cardigan at her favorite thrift store in her hometown of Cincinnati, and the total cost for the ensemble was less than $25.

Click here to see the other outfit Carmen modeled for Thrifty Threads, and to read the story of how she's been thrifting her whole life because she learned it from her parents. They were avid garage salers, thrifters, and collectors, and since Carmen enjoys the vintage aesthetic, she took to thrifting in a big way. She says she enjoys the treasure hunt aspect of it, and loves uncovering a one-of-a-kind piece with some lived-in and well-loved history. And it's not just clothes that she buys secondhand, the chair she's sitting on is a vintage piece she had reupholstered.

Thanks Carmen for sharing that fantastic photo as well as your story. You look great. Readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite secondhand outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at We all want to see your fabulous finds! I promise I'll run any photo that isn't indecipherable or obscene. I'm still waiting for a submission from a man, a plus-sized model, or anyone over 50, but all photos are welcome. It's inspiring to know that you don't have to spend a lot of money to look stylish, or give up fashion if you become a non-consumer.

Do you wear secondhand clothes? If you don't want to share a photo, share your tips for finding the best bargains in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

March 10, 2010

Recycled jewelry

I admit this is a strange way to photograph jewelry, but my husband mistakenly thought I wanted to sell this pendant on ebay.

This is the recycled version of a necklace that my parents gave me when I graduated from college back in the 1980s. The old version was very "modern," and apropos of the era, it was asymmetrical. There was a lot more gold, sort of twisting and winding its way around the stones and taking center stage.

I wish I had thought to take a photo of it before I recently took it to a jeweler to have it remade. It had been sitting in a box in the top drawer of my dresser for over twenty years, and I knew I would never wear it again but didn't really have the heart to get rid of it.

Luckily I had the idea to have it remade when I realized that I might actually wear it if the design was more classic and less trendy. So I got a recommendation from a friend, and took it to a jeweler. The small diamond was from my grandmother's wedding ring, and I was going to have it set above the amethyst, but the jeweler suggested leaving it off to the side and just removing most of the gold accents. I liked the idea and this is how it came out. I love it!

And the best part is that not only do I have a lovely "new" piece of jewelry to wear, it cost me nothing because the price for the redesign was paid for by the extra gold that was removed.

So if you're craving some luxury but can't afford anything new, I suggest you raid your jewelry drawer for something that can be refashioned.

Have you ever remade/recycled fine jewelry? Please leave your stories in the Comments section.

March 8, 2010

Meatless Monday recipes

It's Monday, time to share readers' favorite meatless recipes.

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit initiative whose aim is to get people to give up meat one day a week, for their own health and the health of the planet. Click here to find out more about it. If you pledge to go meatless on Mondays, you'll get a weekly email packed with recipes and news in the world of food.

It's easy to go meatless when you know how to cook easy and delicious meatless meals. And who doesn't like macaroni and cheese?

Today's first reader suggestion is from Catherine at The Vegan Good Life, who offers this vegan spin on the old favorite. I'm going to have to try this one, because I can't imagine mac & cheese without cheese!

Catherine also shares this Lentil Shepherd's Pie as the "ultimate comfort food on a cold blustery night." I'm sure we've got a few more of those before spring is here, and I have been loving lentil recipes lately, not to mention anything with potatoes.

And this Winter Vegetable Pot Pie comes from Emily via Good Housekeeping. Emily says it's super tasty and while it uses chicken broth, you could easily substitute vegetable broth. This recipe highlights some of my favorite winter root vegetables like sweet potatoes, and it's topped with a biscuit.

All of these sound so delicious that I'm going to try to make them all this week. Can you see how it's easy for us to go meatless nearly every night these days, between the gorgeous produce in our CSA delivery and these amazing recipes? Seriously, who needs meat?

Thanks readers for all of your fantastic suggestions! If you have a favorite meatless meal, please tell us about it in the Comments section and I'll share it in the next Meatless Mondays post.

March 6, 2010

Good Girl!

My brother raised $426 for the Humane Society's spay and neuter program by entering this photo of his dog Gracie in their annual pet photo contest. He even came very close to placing within the Top 100 out of over 32,000 entrants with this great photo.

Yay! Thank you to all who contributed to the effort. You helped save pets' lives.

March 5, 2010

Food Waste Friday, plus a Freebie and Favorite Blog Post of the Week

It's Food Waste Friday, but I don't have a photo to show you due to a combination of camera malfunctions and computer problems. A bad tech week!

But unfortunately, we did have some waste. Here's what it was:

*Whipped cream! Yes, a strange thing to waste. There wasn't much left, and neither of us ate it after the dessert I made it for was gone.

*About a cup of chicken stock from a Tetra Pak.

*A couple of bites of salad that my husband said he would eat the next day but didn't.

I would attribute our waste to my constantly changing schedule. It's hard to plan meals when you don't know where you'll be from one day to the next, and my work schedule has been busy and erratic the past two months.

If you want to know why we're monitoring our food waste, it's because throwing out food not only wastes money, it's bad for the environment because food in a landfill creates harmful gasses. Check out The Frugal Girl where Kristen's experiment of documenting her family's food waste has inspired a lot of other people to join in the effort.

And while you're there, you might as well stay and check out this post about her 4-year-old daughter's birthday party, because it's hands down My Favorite Blog Post of the Week. What do you think of when you picture a birthday party for a 4-year-old? I think of a bunch of screaming kids jacked up on sugar, over-the-top gifts that must be opened and displayed, and gift bags filled with made-in-China plastic crap that will be in the landfill practically before the sun goes down. At Kristen's house, a child's birthday is a low key, family affair with a homebaked cake, a few modest gifts from siblings from Goodwill, a visit to the fish store to pick out two new fish for her aquarium, and a hodgepodge dinner chosen by the birthday girl (nutrition goes out the window for the day).

All this adds up to a birthday much richer than the blow outs some parents seem obligated to provide for their kids. And the pictures prove Zoe's birthday is everything she dreamed of. Just when you think you've seen the sweetest photo in the world, of her brother presenting her a ring she'd been eyeing at Goodwill, there are more adorable and funny photos still to come. And that's true even if, like me, you don't have kids and "cute kid" blogs aren't really your thing.

And finally, a FREE STUFF ALERT. It's the first weekend of March, and that means it's time for Bank of America's Museums on Us program. Just flash your debit or credit card to get in free to tons of museums across the country all day Saturday and Sunday. My brother and I took advantage of this last month and not only had a great time at the Pittock Mansion in Portland, we saved almost twenty bucks. Click here to find out which museums are participating in your area.

March 4, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y Outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, ebay, craigslist, a yard sale, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

The Academy Awards show is on Sunday night, and I thought it would be appropriate to get into the spirit with a black-tie edition of Thrifty Threads today. Dana is back for a repeat performance in a lovely gown she wore to an Emmy awards ceremony, where she attended as the producer of a call-in show called It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle. The program won the award in its category 7 times, in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C .

Dana bought this dress for under $10, and she says she's never purchased a dress for these events outside of a thrift store or consignment shop, and she never will. She got her jewelry free, for helping a friend clean out an estate sale of someone she knew. And she purchases the shoes on clearance. Click here to see Dana in another glamorous gown.

So if you're going to an Oscar party and you feel like dressing up, you just might be able to find something in a thrift store for less than the price of the wine you'll be bringing. Dana, thanks so much for sending those amazing photos. Readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite thrift store outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at We all love to see what you're finding out there in the secondhand universe. Anyone is welcome, no matter how young or old, and I'm still waiting on a man brave enough to join Alan, the sole Thrifty Threads male model so far.

Do you shop secondhand? Please leave your best tips and advice for finding secondhand scores in the Comments section, and click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

March 3, 2010

Canned Tomatoes: Recipes

When I did a giveaway last week of this kit of canned tomatoes from Muir Glen, I asked readers to submit tips and recipes in the Comments section in order to be eligible. I'd like to share some of those great ideas here. Anywhere in the U.S.A., we've got at least a few months to wait for fresh ripe tomatoes, so this canned organic variety is a great alternative in the meantime.

Catherine at The Vegan Good Life says she loves Rachael Ray's tomato and spinach soup.

Angela from Delightful Doings likes to mix Muir Glen tomatoes with a little garlic, dill and feta and serve them over pasta. It's a fast and easy dinner.

Kristen at The Frugal Girl uses canned tomatoes to make a pink sauce, which is a creamy tomato sauce. That's a favorite of mine as well, and one that goes well with added peas and sauteed mushrooms.

And a few of you asked about this fire roasted tomato soup from the recipe book in the kit. My husband and I both loved it. It's super simple, and super delicious.

Click here for a bunch of other Muir Glen recipes.

Melonie: I'd love to post your recipe for Bison Tomato Sauce, but I couldn't find it on your blog! Please leave it in a Comment if you're reading this.

Thanks again for all your ideas! Readers, feel free to chime in with your favorite recipes for canned tomatoes in the Comments section. In my opinion, in the winter, canned Muir Glen tomatoes are better than fresh, non-local supermarket tomatoes any day.

March 2, 2010

How to generate less trash

Last night I got some tangible proof that our efforts to waste less food and create less trash are paying off. My husband mentioned that he was going to call the city since we didn't need our trash picked up every week anymore, and so maybe it would cut our bill. I asked him how much he thought we had cut our trash output, and he said we were generating less than half of what we used to have.

Awesome. I actually think it's even less than that, but either way, it's great. And it makes a lot of sense. I had a heaping plate of "produce debris" waiting to go out to the compost bin that in the past would have gone into the trash. So in addition to keeping it out of the landfill where it creates harmful gasses, and creating compost to use in a garden, our new habit also keeps the trash from smelling rotten. It's a win/win/win, one of those brilliant intersections that Katy Wolk-Stanley at The Non-Consumer Advocate calls a trifecta.

Composting is one of the main reasons we're creating less waste, the others are:

*Cooking from scratch more often and buying less packaged food
*Refusing to buy products with over-the-top and nonrecyclable packaging (as much as possible)
*Throwing away a lot less food by participating in Food Waste Friday

That's it. Those four things have contributed to cutting our household waste by more than half.

My husband generally abhors what he considers banal conversations about household management and the like, preferring abstract topics like what makes you care about a character in a short story and what makes an individual vote against their own self-interest. It makes him fun to live with, especially since he can always come down to earth long enough to perform useful household tasks like taking out the trash.

Are you creating less trash these days? Please leave your tips and advice in the Comments section. And if you need inspiration, visit My Zero Waste and follow the saga of the Green family in their attempts to cut waste.

March 1, 2010

CSA Delivery: I'm overwhelmed

Our CSA delivery for today was so packed with greens I could barely fit everything on the table.

It was also really late so I've got to run but I'll be back later when I have time to give you the full rundown of what we got. Meanwhile, I have to figure out what to have for dinner. A salad, definitely. And maybe some kind of quiche or frittata.

UPDATE: Here's what we got (roughly clockwise from the back): a mess o'greens including collard greens, green oak lettuce, dandelion greens, and spinach, English shelling peas, snap peas, nante carrots, chiogga beets, fresh spinach pesto, chamomile, kiwis, oro blanco grapefruit, navel oranges, rainbow swiss chard, fennel, celery root, and French radishes.

My favorite thing has got to be that container of fresh spinach pesto. Yum!

Let me know if you have any great ideas or recipes for snap peas or fennel. You can barely see it from this angle, but the fennel is over on the left side, partially covered by the rainbow chard.

Today we are rich in produce at our house. Click here to learn more about CSA and to find one near you.