Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Yarny goodness from Storied Yarns!

Okay, I don’t usually do a lot of giveaways, but I couldn’t resist offering up this one. Jess of Storied Yarns is offering a $10 digital gift certificate to her store to help me celebrate 1000 fans.   She’s also having a sale through today – 20% off with the coupon code SUMMERTIME11 at her Artfire shop.  Don’t spin, but you see a batt or roving you just love?  For July only she’ll also spin it  just how you want it for free!

Jess dyes yarn and spinning fiber inspired by books, tv, and movies, and her colorways are just fantastic (I have a couple of them!)  Her pictures really don’t do justice to her items, but I can attest to the quality and beauty of everything she makes.  She’s about to have a knit-along with a very cute “winged” shawl and a shrug to choose from.  I’m knitting up the test shawl, and I think it’s going to be gorgeous.

So here’s one of the items I got from her:

"Finding Nemo" luxury batt by Storied Yarns

Beautiful, right?  On the inside is even more orange, and I can’t wait to spin it up. I bought a BFL braid from her a few months ago and it was so fun to spin.  My five-year-old son saw the beautiful blues and immediately claimed the yarn:

"I Dare You To Move" by Storied Yarns, spun by me

Anyway, sorry, I’m a little obsessed with pretty batts right now. 🙂  Storied Yarns has an artfire shop (you don’t need an account to buy) and an Etsy shop, which I linked above.

How to enter: Check out Jess’s shops, and if you want to win the gift certificate, comment below with what you think you might buy if you win the certificate!  I’ll give you 3 extra entries if you buy something from her shop, too – Just comment three times for your purchase.

Here are the rules:  You must be 18 to enter, you must live in the US and Canada to play.  If you live elsewhere, you can still play, but you will be responsible for shipping and customs duties and taxes if you win.  You must put your email address somewhere in your post (I believe you will have the option to put it in when you comment, and only I will see it.)  If there is no email address, or you do not answer my email saying you are a winner within 48 hours of the email, I will draw another name.

I will use random.org to generate the winning numbers, and I will go down the list of items from top to bottom.  So the first number I generate will win the first item here.  I don’t want to make this complicated. :)

The contest will run as soon as this post is published until Friday, July 22nd, at 11:59:59 PM Central Standard Time.

Good luck!

Can consuming make you healthy and wealthy?

Our culture of consumerism is damaging to both our earth and our wallets.  One of my goals with this blog has been to document our steps away from the greed and gluttony of first world society and toward a more sustainable life – both monetarily and ecologically.  Fortunately they go hand-in-hand.

I haven’t approached this before on this blog, but between student loans and credit card debt from a previous failed business as well as our own poor financial planning, my husband and I have found ourselves deeply in debt – and almost dangerously so.  We have been working the past few years to erase that debt – although in the past few months we have finally become truly serious about it.  We’ve started using Dave Ramsey’s plan, which in theory is brilliant.  With the right attitude, I am confident it will work – because it’s about changing our mindsets about consuming, not just about getting out of debt.

I think that’s the key to changing our ecological habits, too.

If we can overcome the mentality that our self-worth is in what we own, instead of who we are, we can overcome the consumerist mentality.  We can overcome the burdens we’ve put upon ourselves in our search for satisfaction and adoration.

The problem with “going green” in the US is that it’s marketed as a salable lifestyle. Shop at whole foods, buy the right (and expensive) cleaning supplies, cash in your clunker, and install solar panels.  If you buy the right things, you will be so ecologically friendly.

These companies see green alright – in the form of cash.  But do their products really make the world cleaner?  Sure, that organic cotton t-shirt has fewer chemicals in it, but how much water did it take to grow the cotton so you could buy another t-shirt to add to your overflowing closet?  How much gas did it take to transport the cotton to the processing plant, the fiber to the spinners, the spun thread to the weaver, the fabric to the factory, and the finished product to the warehouse, where it sat until the store called for it?  We don’t see anything but the end product, so we don’t think about all of the resources it took just to make those items.  In the end, the fact that the cotton is organic is only an insignificant change in a long series of events that are no better than they ever were.

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But it’s reached a new low. Yesterday a new commercial came on as I was watching a cartoon with the kids, and every time I saw it, I grew more disgusted.  The commercial advertised a book called “The Green Millionaire” by Nigel J. Williams  (Free with a trial membership to their emagazine, which is expensive  and probably impossible to cancel.)

The premise of this book is that there are ways to be green that will make you rich.  Most of the ideas appear to be fairly obvious and require purchases.  Some of the claims from the website:

Would you buy a used car from this guy?


“Get your share of the billions that will go unclaimed in Government “green” money.”

“Learn how to keep your gas tank full for free.”

On the commercial, the author talks about “making your electrical meter flow backwards” and getting cash for greening up your automobile, your appliances, and your home.

First of all, many of you have probably figured out exactly what he’s talking about with a lot of this.  The electrical meter – installing solar panels or wind generators may mean you can sell energy back to the electrical company.  But installation on that scale is still expensive and requires a good investment of money.  You won’t get rich on that, though I have heard of people making a small profit.  And what about the manufacturing process for the panels?  And disposal of old electric systems?

Gas for life?  Complaint boards are full of explanations – the book tells you to buy a diesel vehicle, install a biodiesel converter (more buying), and find a source of free used vegetable oil.  Where do I start?  Raw vegetable oil is not a legal motor fuel and will cost you in expensive government fines if you got caught using it.  It has to be converted to biodiesel to be truly efficient, which for the average person, could be costly as well.

Cash from the government for your clunker?  That program is over, and even when it was running, you wouldn’t see a dime of the money in your pocket.  It was a rebate – a discount, basically – off a brand new car.  When we bought our Chevy back in August, it simply meant we got a better deal. But we still paid $18,000 out of pocket in the form of a loan.  We aren’t getting richer, my dear readers.

We won’t even head in the direction as to whether or not the program was effective – considering an estimated 25% of the lifetime emissions on a vehicle is from the manufacturing process, it probably wasn’t.

And cash for your appliances?  That’s over, too, though the story is the same.  You may save some electicity, but the manufacturing and transporting process probably required a lot more than you will ever get back in green brownie points.

The book appears to talk about government grant money for “green” improvements.  You don’t need Williams’ book to get that information – it’s right here. And it’s free.

I could go on and on, but that’s not my point.  Everything this man advertises is scammy – not only is the internet fraught with complaints from consumers about this guy and his book, but nothing he says seems to come close to actually helping the environment or his readers’ wallets.  Every suggestion from the book that has been publicized requires buying stuff! Stuff that the average person doesn’t need to buy!

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The most “green” thing a person can do is not consume unnecessarily. Buying new things when what we have is perfectly serviceable is not ecologically friendly, and it’s not frugal.  (I also don’t think it’s morally wrong, just for the record.)

Here’s my plan to help the earth and grow my wealth:

1. I’m going to remove my financial obligations to others by paying what I owe so I can put future money in the bank.

2.  I’m going to buy what I need, and only a little of what I want, so that I have more cash to put towards those debts/savings and so I have less that requires manufacturing and disposal.

3. When I do buy, I’m going to buy mindfully – buying used when possible and choosing products that have a minimum of packaging – particularly packaging that can’t be recycled or reused.  I’ll also try to choose products that are as whole as possible – that is, they are as close to their natural state as possible, with fewer chemicals, dyes, chemical fragrances and preservatives.

4. And I’m going to consider whether or not I really need it.  Can I do without?  Can I use something else? Instead of buying the $10 all-purpose cleaner, can I use vinegar?  Baking soda?  Can I use potent essential oils to scent my house instead of buying fake smelling air freshener?  Could I use cloth napkins instead of paper or cloth menstrual pads instead of tossing away uncomfortable paper ones every month?

Ultimately, I know there will be purchases I make that will be unnecessary.  And that’s okay with me, as long as I’ve considered the things above and made a purchase bought with thought rather than compulsion.  And we must think about these things – our society is capable of change only when we change our minds about the necessity of consumption!

Review: Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent

One thing about my family: we go through lots of laundry.  Clothing, sheets, towels, quilts, mattress pads – if my boys don’t spill food or pee on it on a daily basis, we’re doing better than normal!

When I got to Minnesota, I intended to go out to buy our own laundry detergent, which was reinforced by the nearly overwhelming smell of my mom’s fragranced detergent (no offense, Mom.  I think I’ve gotten sensitive!)  I ran over to the local grocery store to get something that wouldn’t knock me off my feet with chemically-perfume smell and discovered Seventh Generation’s Blue Eucalyptus and Lavender Laundry Detergent was on sale, making it about the same cost as what I’d normally buy.

I really like that it’s concentrated (especially since I have very limited space right now) but more than that, I liked that there were no perfumes.  There were only essential oils scenting the detergent, which means that it smells really natural and clean compared to the flowery perfumes put in most commercial detergents.

SeventhGenerationLaundryDetergent

Photo from SeventhGeneration.com

But did it work?

So far, so good.  We’ve gone through about half the bottle in the past week and a half (I told you we go through a lot of laundry!  But we’re also washing some of my parents’ stuff, too.)  I’ve washed regularly soiled clothing, pants and shirts with mustard and red sauce stains, pee-soaked sheets, and even four versions of vomit from Thing Two’s bedding and clothing (he was coughing so hard he threw up last week.)

We did use Shout! for some of the stains, and while Seventh Generation is no miracle worker as far as stains go, it’s another case of me being impressed that a plant-based cleanser not only works as well as the petroleum based cleaners out there, but even slightly better!  Our clothes are coming out with no detergent residue, fresh smelling and clean.  Even stain removal was more than comparable to petroleum-based cleaners.

I definitely recommend it.  It’s a great alternative to other detergents.  I’ll actually be reviewing two more laundry products coming up soon – so keep reading!  There are so many great alternative detergents, I’m sure I’ll cover one you’ll enjoy!

Coolest. Diaper. Cake. Ever.

Okay, it’s not a cake:

Cloth Diaper Sushi Roll from EnchantedDandelions

Cloth Diaper Sushi Roll from EnchantedDandelions

I got a diaper cake when I was pregnant with my first, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever, too.  It didn’t take me long to use up all those newborn and size 1 disposables!

But this really takes the cake, if you’ll forgive my pun.  I’m not one to be extremely enthusiastic about products I haven’t tried, but hey, this is so creative, I know the woman who made it, and what can I say?  I love sushi.

I saw this in someone’s etsy favorites, and then I realized that it was from EnchantedDandelions, one of my fellow Etsy Cloth Diaper Team members. She also puts my soap bits in many of her cakes. It has prefolds (good for both diapering and spitup!) and a few really cute washcloths in a variety of fabrics – perfect because I thought I loved fleece wipes until I tried flannel and terry.

I don’t want you to buy this, though, because if you buy the bigger cakes, you get some of my soap bits in there, too. (Hint, hint.)  Plus, if it’s still in her store, I get to see it whenever I browse my etsy favorites. LOL.

Get this one instead:

Cloth Diaper Cake from EnchantedDandelions on Etsy

Cloth Diaper Cake from EnchantedDandelions on Etsy

Trimsies Diapers

There are days when I want to reach for the disposable diapers and there are days when I’m truly motivated to continue cloth diapering.  Today is one of the motivated days!

A lot of people don’t like cloth because it can get messy.  Me?  I don’t like them because I can’t fit E’s clothes over his big fluffy bottom! I’ve tried a lot of brands and just was getting more and more frustrated.  The diapers worked wonderfully, but E’s bottom was bigger than his head, and it just wasn’t going over well.

Now, I’m not trying to convince anyone to use cloth (not in this post anyway) so if it’s not your thing, feel free to skip this post.  Perhaps you’d like to look at the gratuitous pictures of my kids at the end? LOL

A few months ago I heard great things about the Trimsies brand diaper so I purchased a copy.  Since then I’ve made two – yes, a whole whopping TWO – diapers and I think I’ve found a diaper I can live with!  Trimsies are just what they are called – trim.  I can easily fit clothes on E that would fit him in a disposable.

E's First Trimsies Diaper

E's First Trimsies Diaper

I am not receving any compensation to say any of this!   I truly love this diaper and want to share it with you all.  I know many of my customers (and readers) know the value of using reusable products, and they don’t just treat themselves with cloth, they think it’s important for their children, too.    But I’ve talked to many, many moms who are looking for a trim diaper that is still absorbent.  This new pattern is it.

There are several diapermakers who are licensed to sell diapers made from the pattern.  You can go to the Trimsies website I linked above if you are interested in buying the pattern or finding a licensee.  Definitely worth it!

And now – shameless pictures of my cutie!

See?  No big butt!

See? No big butt!

So trim!

So trim!

“Are You Green?”

That’s the question ModernMotive is asking Etsy sellers (and others) on her blog in the next couple weeks.  From people like me, who look for ways to skip disposable products to people who use only recycled materials to handcraft their wares, it should be interesting to see what creative ways people are helping conserve resources and lessen their impact on the earth.  Be sure to check it out and subscribe to her blog!
Speaking of being green, I thought I’d mention some things my household does that lessens our environmental impact.  And the wonderful thing is, not only are they “green” things to do, but they are financially friendly!  (We’re all feeling the squeeze right now!)  Of course, there are many common and obvious things we do, but I’d like to touch on some that may be new to some people:

~ we use cloth towels instead of paper towels.  More and more you hear the phrase “unpaper towels,” which is basically what we are using.  It does make you think, however, as to where we’ve gotten as a society when towels have become either “paper” or “unpaper,” doesn’t it?  However, paper towels are, to me, so passe, when I realized that it would cost me almost $16 at Sam’s Club for 12 rolls.  Ugh.

I’ve linked to the cloth towels I sell (they also make great burp rags – I’ve used them since day 1 for that) but you can make your own – scour garage sales, clearance after holidays, and thrift stores for any little kitchen towels on the cheap.  I get a lot of mine from my Mother-in-Law, who teaches third grade and can only use so many Santa-embellished dish towels.

~ I use cloth nursing pads, cloth pantyliners, and cloth menstrual pads. Sounds gross?  Well, it is.  But no grosser than using the paper pads.  Since when is our cycle a pretty thing?

Just throw them in the washer and you are done.  Benefits include not paying $8 or more for disposables every month, lighter, less painful periods, fewer infections, and being more comfortable in general.  Another great thing is that they can be made to fit your body.  Every pad designer makes them slightly different, and you can find the brand that’s best for you.  And they are often completely customizable!  So you can buy them or make your own – patterns abound on the internet.

~ And then, since this post is getting long, one more thing: We reuse, reuse, reuse, and then recycle.  (Or the other way around.)  Much of what we own is not new.  Our dining room table is not the one I would have picked out, but it is beautiful and an heirloom.  Contrary to the impression I get from many home decorating magazines (even “green” ones), my house doesn’t have to match perfectly.  There is something about being surrounded by things that you love – things that have a history.  The dining room table belonged originally to my great-aunt’s in-laws and was brought from California to North Carolina and now to Ohio.  The side table in the living room was something I picked out (and haggled for) at an antique shop in Stillwater, Minnesota shortly after I was married.  The memories are precious.  My mom’s Good Housekeeping cookbook sits on the shelf in the kitchen, and it’s rare for me to pick up any other book (not to mention it tells you how to cook things from scratch – another good “green” tip.)

When we are done with something, I try to think if it can serve any other useful purpose for us.  If not, and it’s still good, or if I won’t get around to doing anything with it soon, we give it away.  We get a lot of our things from other people who have gotten their use out of the item.  It’s a great way to reduce packaging, money flow, and trash!

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