One woman's quest to save money, save the planet and save my sanity

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I have been busy with gardening and the other things that I neglect when blogging. It seems one or the other. I can keep up with this or that. At this time of year there is a full day worth of work to be done outside as well as in so something is always  being overlooked. Then there are the sudden occurrences that throw the whole day out of whack. Like last night when Noah had a friend over and I was making dinner and the phone rang and it was my neighbor telling me that a fox had one of my chickens in his yard. He just wanted me to know so I could lock up the rest. Of course, our first fox attack has to take place on the most gorgeous lawn on our street and right in front. Nice. David was in a meeting at work so I was on my own to deal with it. The other chickens had run home so I had the kids quickly round them up into the coop and take a head count. I went to investigate and certain enough, there she was and the fox was still running around like crazy. I was a bit sad, but mostly mad. I put a lot of work into that chicken. A ton of work actually and this fool fox was just having a grand old time. I guess I can't be too upset because this is just a part of the circle of life. But he ran off and left her there and I had to collect her and rake up the feathers. I spent this morning digging a hole and burying her beside the other chicken that we had to put down a few weeks back. I was rather proud that I handled the whole thing on my own. Sometime I surprise myself.
My good friend Aris (although everyone calls her Lollie and I always forget that is her real name) who is an unbelievable artist and mother and creator of the beautiful blog, Peekadoo, has tagged me and I am compelled to participate. I have never done one of these before, but here goes.
Seven Random Things About Me
1. For most of my self-dressing childhood I insisted on matching my underwear to my shirt.
2. My car is a filthy pit of squished crackers, kids books, loose change and barrettes.
3. I really wish I was into yoga. Something about it always call to me.
4. When I was little I used to sit on the toilet and make up stories about my imaginary older brother named Troy.
5. My grandmother was 4'9" and was blind most of my life. I used to watch cooking shows with her like Julia Childs, The Frugal Gourmet and Yan Can Cook. Since this was before the advent of the internet it was my job to write the recipes down in big, thick, Sharpy marker letter so that she could see them. One of my most vivid memories was staying with her one night when my grandfather had gone to the Red Sox game and then the power went out and we cooked dinner and did the dishes by candlelight, standing side by side on step stools.
6. I always fall asleep at the movie theater.
7. I love silence, but in order to be productive I really need to listen to something to occupy my mind.

Not sure what I make of that list. It was just what popped into my mine. So now I tag Virginia, S, Julia, Vampdaddy, Penny-Wise, I can only think of five. That will have to do. For now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Announcing the Soap Nuts Winner!

Congratulations to...

You will receive you Soap Nuts Starter Kit in the mail. Just email me your address and you're good to go. Not a bad Earth Day surprise!
Also, stay tuned for another greener cleaning related review and giveaway!

Earth Day Wishes

* A very quick note: You have until noon today to enter the Laundry Tree SoapNuts Giveaway. It takes two seconds and is so worth it!

Of all the secular holidays that there are; Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Mother's Day, and on & on, is there any one that can be as meaningful to all people as Earth Day? No matter your color, creed, gender, age, orientation, class or political persuasion, we all share a single home. The health of the planet affects all of us and we can all celebrate our small patch of this world and find ways to preserve and improve it. We are all environmentalists, even if we don't know it yet. It's difficult not be cynical. For some reason, my passion for the planet is the one place that skepticism has yet to infiltrate.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Get Growing!- Announcing the Terracycle Winners!

Happy Day! I am announcing the winners of the first ever Simple Butta Giveaway! The two readers that will each receive a Terracycle Kids Vegetable Gardening Kit are...

I used to generate the numbers (8 and 34) of the winning comments and then, of course, I had to count down the list of comments because I am not technically savvy enough to figure out how to get blogger to number my comments. No problem, I like old school skills like counting.
If you didn't win this giveaway, never fear. There is another one running right now through Thursday at noon (Earth Day baby!) and you could win a Laundry Tree Soap Nuts Starter Kit.
And definitely head down to Walmart to get some of the awesome Terracycle products available there through the end of the month. It is on my list for tomorrow while I am kid free for a few hours. Is it sad that when I am without my children I am buying them stuff? Maybe a cute bag for me will have to make it's way into my basket.

Giveaways! - Endings and Beginnings

Just a reminder that today is the last day to enter to win one of two Kids Vegetable Gardening Kits from Terracycle. Contest closes at midnight tonight and the winner will be announced tomorrow. And don't forget to head over to your local Walmart to see the Terracycle products available only through the end of this month.
In the vein of "when one window closes, another door opens" I am pleased to announce another awesome giveaway. You may recall my recent post about my new love affair with Laundry Tree Soap Nuts and since then I have continued to use Soap Nuts in every room of the house. The solution I made from water, vinegar, and the Soap Nut Soak is my new all purpose cleaner and I love it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yogurt Gives Back

Yogurt is an absolute staple in our house. Being out of yogurt is like being out of milk. It means an immediate trip to the store. We always have at least a quart of vanilla, a quart of plain for the chickens and cooking purposes, and usually a quart of either strawberry of peach. We only buy yogurt in quarts so we are limited to whatever flavors are available in that size. When the kids go to Grammy's they love to raid her individual yogurt cups because they know they will never find them in my fridge. Mainly because it is a billion times cheaper, but also because I think it is a waste of packaging and, sometimes, product. If we get the quart size I can control the portions. In any event, hopefully buying yogurt will someday be a thing of the past when we have our goats giving us milk and I learn how to make my own cultures.
In the interest of transparency I must tell you that I don't often buy organic yogurt. Believe me, I know that Stoneyfield yogurt is better for us, it definitely tastes better than the store brand, and it is a NH based company and, for me, that's local. But it is twice as expensive as the store brand and that kills me. Every week I give it a longing glance, but then the Frugal Fanny in me opts to cheap out.
I am a super fan of the company and all their green initiatives, but it is one of those dilemmas that I wrestle with all the time. When does cost win out?
I may have found a new strategy though as I just joined myStoneyfield Rewards. Maybe everyone on Earth knows about this already, but I didn't. It caught my eye when I went on to enter the Farm Getaway Sweepstakes. With the Rewards program you can enter codes of the products and earn point that can be redeemed for merchandise ranging from free yogurt to cool drinking glasses. It only took me a minute or two to register. So now if I opt to spend more for the better yogurt, at least I'll feel like I am getting something extra.
It would also be worth your while to go enter the Farm Sweepstakes where you can win a trip for two to an organic dairy farm in Vermont where you will get to stay in a B&B, eat an organic breakfast and help out with farm chores. Screw the Caribbean. This is my kind of vacation!
You can find all the info, plus much more, on the Coupons & Offers page of the Stoneyfield website. There is a bunch of stuff to check out and next on my list is the "Going Greener Guidebook" that you can download for free.
I am generally not a name brand kind of a gal, but sometimes your roots call you home and your taste buds want to come along for the ride. That and the factory tour is really fun so maybe it's time for a change.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spreading the Love - Terracycle Updates

When I was at Walmart to pick up a prescription yesterday, I took a minute to check out the Terracycle display and was both saddened and pleased to see that it was slim pickings. They were out of the Kids Vegetable Gardening kits and I was bummed because I wanted one. I decided I am going to buy each of the kids something from Terracycle for Earth Day so I had them all show me which things they liked best and I will go back another day without them.
The displays actually looked great and each product was either featured beside the the packaging it was made from (Capri Sun Lunch Bags next to Capri Sun drinks, etc.) or next to other "green" items that are being featured for Earth Day. Next to where the gardening kits should have been there were lots of recycled rubber mulches and organic plant foods.
Apparently it's not just my Walmart because I got this message from one of my oldest and dearest BF's:
"Hi Heather! I am happy to report that I went to Wally World today to make my Terracycle purchase, and the racks were nearly empty. Seems they have been popular here! I bought a little Starburst bag that Libby can use as a diaper/snack bag when we go out. Not only that, but I told two different people about the products while I was in the store. Should I be getting paid for this? And finally, did you know that the products have tags on them with a card to send in and get a free gift. So it's two for one! Yay!"
The love has reached Iowa! Go mid west!
There are also lots of other blogs having giveaways this month so be sure to check out the Terracycle Facebook Page where many are being listed. I would tell you to go to the Terracycle Twitter page, but I might get you lost. Twitter has got me on the mental run.
There is an great giveaway going on at a blog I just fell in serious L-O-V-E with, Green Lifestyle Consulting. As I was reading through some of their posts, I was like "Yes. YES. YES!!!!" Just a quick scan through revealed discussions about everything from energy efficiency to greener birthday parties. They are totally speaking my language!
And of course, don't forget to enter the Simple Butta giveaway which ends Monday night. Kick your Earth Day celebrations off right!
Well, I'm off to curse the rain and daydream about planting.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Introducing....the goats!

So here they are. These pictures were taken when they were about a week old. From left to right they are Edward, Bella Swan and Jacob. Yes, they are our little Twilight goats. I didn't name them. I've never even read the books. The breeder named them, but I think they are perfect so they are staying.

The Lazy Composter

One of my goals this year is to actually use the compost that we have been creating since we moved here a few years back. Up until now we have just been piling stuff in a big heap where there was a set of three sided bins when we moved here. This is what our current compost situation looks like.
Thank goodness it's tucked away at the back of our property because not only is it useless, it's hideous to look at. It is technically "composting" but very passively. It's only help is the occasional churning by a chicken and which you may detect some tail feather in the left bin. Off tot he side is where we pile branches and bigger items, but this system makes it nearly impossible to turn it and it's location makes it inconvenient to take kitchen scraps out there.
I know even less about composting than I do about gardening so it seems like a good time to make some improvements. Last week I assembled the Soil Saver compost bin that we got recently. Incidentally, I paid half of what the website says it retails for. I picked this one because it seemed simple and inconspicuous and was made of 75% post consumer recycled plastic.
I set it up in between the garden and the chicken coop which are located off the kitchen side of the house. In other words, it's in a very easy location for loading it up. According to the directions, every six inches or so you want to put in a layer of soil or chopped leaves. I didn't want to spare the dirt, but I have a ton of chopped leaves that I raked off my garden. I wanted a place to keep the leaves until I need to put on the next layer so I built a makeshift "bin" out of some wooden stakes and leftover chicken wire. I put it right next to the Soil Saver and if I don't use all the leaves it will just keep composting and make more garden gold.
I was pretty pleased with myself for building this. It took about an hour and I got my hands somewhat scratched up, but at least it wasn't something else I added to the never ending "Honey Do" list. The disadvantage of having a super handy hubby is that you never have to build anything yourself. But right now David needs to get me ready a new chicken coop, a brooder box and a goat shed so I figured I could at least take this on.
So far so good and apparently it gets the chicken seal of approval. Go ahead, take a dump in there, it will only make for better veggies.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Some Earth Day love. A Terracycle Giveaway!

You may have heard me say it before - I am not artistic and I am not crafty. When I am called upon to whip up a homemade project or party favor, I utilize the one medium that I feel truly comfortable working in - garbage. Whether it's juice lid Christmas ornaments (in the hectic holiday season that post didn't make it up) or milk carton bird feeders, if a craft project can be made out of materials that would have otherwise ended up in the trashcan, I am far more likely to give it a go.
So you can see why seeing a single episode of "Big Ideas For a Small Planet" that featured Terracycle was a transformative experience for me. Although it was several years back, I distinctly remember the thrill I got when I saw their worm poop fertilizer which was packaged in reused plastic bottles. Not recycled, reused. Better. No process needed. Feed the worms some organic waste, put the resulting liquid in old bottles. In fact, this was the world's first product "to be made from and packaged entirely in waste!". David and I were all "Why didn't we think of that?" and knew that Terracycle was on to something.
Since then, Terracycle has expanded their line to include everything from backpacks to Skunk Odor Remover and they are one of the world's fastest growing environmentally friendly companies. Masters of upcycling, they sponsor brigades where you can collect specific types of trash and earn money for your school or organization in the process. I love how they are involving the masses to transform the way we think about how products are made and where our grabage goes.

I have a garden dream

I can't say it enough - I have no idea what I am doing. I am such a totally amateur gardener and there is an infinite amount to learn. I read some books, do some online research and take my best guess at what might work. This is our third season with our garden and each year I try something new, change or get rid of what didn't work previously and grow more or less of certain things. It's really just a big experiment and even the very helpful folks at the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden over at Cooperative Extension say they are always learning. Some stuff works, lots of stuff doesn't, mother nature hates you or loves you and then the seasons change and it begins all over.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Soaking in Soap Nuts - A Review

When I originally wrote about discovering Soap Nuts, it was purely because my curiosity was peaked. So much so that based upon Easy Eco To Go's write up, I ordered some from Laundry Tree and waited patiently for their arrival. At the same time, Easy Eco was having her Soap Nuts giveaway and since I already did a bunch of stuff needed to enter (like writing on your blog) I figured I should give that a whirl as well. Little did I know the success that would follow. Not only do I lovey, love, lover, loveness my Soap Nuts, but I won the Easy Eco giveaway. Double my pleasure!
So armed with a decent stash of Soap Nuts, I have set about transforming my cleaning of everything from underwear to windows. Here are some of my findings.
In my opinion, the Soap Nuts did an equal, if not slightly better job of getting things clean compared to regular HE detergent. The first load I tried was on wet dishtowels and the cloth napkins and washcloths we use at the table. This is usually the stinkiest stuff in the laundry as it has been very wet and has usually wiped up food, spilled milk, etc. The Soap Nuts got these perfectly clean and funky odor free.
I am a psycho about stain removal because there is nothing I hate more than a perfectly good piece of clothing ruined because somebody slopped chocolate down the front. I tried running a few things without applying any stain pre-treatment, but the stains remained. I pulled those items out, did my usual stain spray ritual and ran them again. The stains were gone. So I had to use a pre-treament, but I also have to use it with regular detergent. I am continuing to look for a reliable "green" alternative for stain removal. Sometimes, stains get better when the clothes are hung out in the sun to dry, but not always.
If bought in bulk and using the number of loads that Laundry Tree estimates you can do, the cost per load is about 17 cents. This is virtually the same as my regular detergent when purchase in the 150 fl oz size. If you want to use the Soap Nuts in the traditional method by throwing them right in with the wash, you will need some of the little bags and those are two for a $1.00. This is a one time investment. Purchasing the essential oils to add a nice scent to your laundry can add an additional $5, but it will last forever and is completely optional. Obviously if you buy in smaller quantities the cost goes up. If you don't need enough for 175 loads, you might consider splitting an order with someone.
In order to wash on cold, which is the most energy efficient choice, you need to make the "Soap Nut Soak". This could not be easier. Boil water, throw in your nuts. Let it sit overnight. Fish our your nuts. Done. I think this is the way to get the maximum amount of loads out of the Soap Nuts. Even the Laundry Tree website says "If you use hot water washes, your soapnuts will quickly release all of their saponin, and they won’t be good for as many re-uses". I found that I got two to three washes when I did them on warm, but they are never as foamy as the first load. With the Soak, you know that each load is getting the same amount of soap and it eliminates the guesswork.
Ease of use:
Overall, it could not have been simpler. Throw a few nuts in the little bag and toss it in. Much less messy than my regular liquid detergent which is constantly dripping all over the place and I always feel like so much is wasted in the measuring cup and left in the bottle. The only thing that was a challenge was finding the bag in the mass of wet laundry before I threw it in the dryer. A couple of times I ended up drying it because it was caught up in something. So now I am just more careful when transferring things.
Final Laundry Results:
I have to admit I was cautiously optimistic, but I can honestly say that the laundry has smelled better (with or without the addition of the essential oil) and is MUCH softer. Even the line dried stuff is softer and doesn't have that "chemicaled to death" feel. I have also seen a difference in my darling Josie's skin. She has super sensitive areas like (she is going to kill me) her butt cheeks. They are always red. Since I have been washing with the Soap Nuts they look way better because her underwear isn't irritating them anymore. Either that or she is getting around naked more and I just haven't noticed.
Other Cleaning:
One of the things that most intrigued me was the amount of other household cleaning that the Soak can be used for. I made the window cleaner by combining a bit of the soak with water and vinegar and it worked awesome! I did my sliding glass doors and they came out great. I also took the opportunity to try something I have always been skeptical about. I used newspaper instead of paper towels and  it worked just as well. Phasing out paper towels has been a struggle for me, but I may have stumbled upon a solution. Stay tuned for some love in that department!
I also used the soak to do a full kitchen cleanup and the counters got super clean. Plus, I always feel oogey about using chemicals (even the cleaners that claim to be "green") on food surfaces. Even if there was any residue from the soak it's natural so go ahead and eat right off the table kids. No need for plates anymore.
There are a bunch of other uses for the Soak and the one I still want to try is as a shampoo. I have previously mentioned my infrequent hair washing and I have been looking into the "No-Poo" method. I am thinking I will do a big experiment and try out some different things, but that will take a bit since I need to go a while between "poos" to get a true result.
So I honestly think I am sold on Soap Nuts and Laundry Tree should probably start harvesting double time because I may actually stay on top of my laundry with the added "feel good" appeal that washing now holds. Combine this with the ability to get stuff on the line on a regular basis now that's it's Spring and I may just become the Basket Master that I always wanted to be. Now if I could just teach the chickens to fold towels, I'd be in heaven.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Five super simple ways to start saving money and resources right now.

1. Cut down on how often you wash your hair. Less frequent shampooing is actually better for your hair. You can still shower, less frequent personal hygiene is not necessary better for you or your social life. You can either wear a shower cap or wet your hair, but not wash it. I rinse my hair in the shower everyday and then just put on a dab of leave in conditioner and comb it out, but I only shampoo and condition about once a week. I can make a rather small bottle of shampoo last for months and I have some seriously thick hair.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Name Game

So I am thinking about changing the name of my blog before I go too much further. I had originally wanted "Ecocheapo", but that was taken, as well as a few variances of it that I checked. I like Simple Butta, but I am sure people are like "What the heck is Butta?". Well, I am. Butta was my nickname for a great many years when I attended, volunteered at and, ultimately, worked for NH Teen Institute. We were all about nametags and one time, someone wrote "Is smooth like Butta" under the "Heather" on my tag and the Butta ended up being more visible than my name and the new attendees started calling me that. It sort of caught on and sinced there were about 10 other Heather's (I think my parents thought they were being real original, but so did everyone else in the 70's) it helped to have a different title. Some old school Teen Institute folks and others from youth retreat days still call me it. I don't mind, I'm still pretty creamy.
But now I am thinking I should have a more befitting moniker for my blog. Maybe EcoFriendlyFrugal? Or Earthy&Frugal? Cheap&Green? I am open to input. So if you happen to notice that you are redirected to something other than Simple Butta, don't be alarmed, it's still me. Just with a new nametag.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Meatles Monday - Just Wanna Sprout About It!

With the gorgeous weekend weather, I have good reason to believe that we have bid our final farewell to winter. Our garlic is on the grow and I am beginning to prep the garden beds for the season.
Garlic shoots *photo by Josie, age 5
Last fall we chopped leaves by running them over with the lawn mower (which David didn't think would work - It did!) and covered the raised beds with them. I read that this would help to introduce more organic matter into the soil and so far it looks to have done the job. When I raked the leaves off the strawberry bed the soil was dark and rich. I worked the remaining bits of leaves into the dirt and then put the rest in the compost pile.
It is great to get back out into the garden and get my hands dirty. My work here has taken on even greater meaning after our inspiring trip to D Acres yesterday and I can't wait to share that with you.
But for now, let's talk sprouts. Last week was my first venture into growing my own sprouts and we enjoyed them on the ride up to D Acres. Sprouts are another throwback my youth when my mother used to send me sprout sandwiches to school and kids used to moo while I ate. That's OK, I forgive them. They didn't know what they were missing.
I am using a Bioset sprout grower that I got from Johnny's Selected Seeds and I am very impressed with how easy it is and how simply I incorporated it into my daily routine. Basically, you just spread the sprouting seeds (there are special seeds for this, you can order those form Johnny's as well and they are mostly organic) in the trays. Then you stack them up and fill the top tray (white) with water while holding your finger over a small valve on the bottom. You place the watering tray on top of the stack and the water flows down through each level and is collected in the bottom which you then empty out. There are little grooves in each tray that hold onto just the right amount of moisture. I fill the tray twice per day so I probably spend about 2 minutes total on this per day.
My first batch was broccoli sprouts which are nice and spicy, just like me. The package said it would take 2-5 days. There was lots of action during this time, but I harvested them on Day 6. I now have my all time favorite sprouts in there, alfalfa. I added many more seeds this round. I only put about half as much as I could have the first time since I wasn't sure how much space they would take up once "sprouted". I should be dining on these by the end of the week.
From seed to sandwich in 6 days.
There are countless ways to enjoy sprouts. I like them on salads, but my favorite is a sprout sandwich. I love pita bread, but I also use whole wheat. I love it with some grated carrots and some cheddar cheese. For creaminess I either put a little mayo on the bread or some sliced avocado. OK, now I'm drooling. Give it a go and you'll be like "Cold cuts? I don't need no stinking cold cuts!" Try it and then give me sprout!

Friday, April 2, 2010

This Bunny Says "Cheap"

I'm not sure when Easter turned into the second coming of Christmas, but it is ridiculous how extravagant the store displays have gotten. Although any secular gluttony seems a bit weird to me since our standard Easter goodies were typically a bookmark that said "He Is Risen" and a package of yellow Peeps. If I haven't mentioned it before, my mom is fairly religious (Episcopalian) and we didn't "do" stuff like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. We gifted and celebrated and had egg hunts, but always with the "reason for the season" in mind. I never felt jipped and although I am not nearly as dedicated to matters of faith as my mother, I try to remind my kids how these holidays came to be and that they are not merely an excuse to get stuff.
So when I am putting together Easter baskets, I am truly wearing my EcoCheapo hat and trying to assemble them using a little "new" as possible because even better than something that was made in an environmentally responsible way is something that was not "made" for this occasion at all. In the immortal words of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, "It's already out there".

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wicked Cool Wednesday - The grass can be greener

I'm from New Hampsha so "wicked" is a way of life and since my photography skills are actually wicked bad, I don't feel bold enough to declare this post "Wordless".

Monday, March 29, 2010

Meatless Monday - Dining Out Can Be Divine

Ideally, I would make a grand and glorious meal breakfast, lunch and dinner from lovely, local, wholesome ingredients, but we all know that life is hardly ever ideal and if I didn't live in the land of reality pre kids, I sure the hell do now. Although it kills me to spend the money, there are times when it becomes necessary to grab something to eat while we are out and about. Times like when you are heading to the grocery store after picking up kids #2 & 3 from preschool and realizing that if you don't get them something to eat beforehand things are going to get very, very ugly. So what to do?
Shamefully, we occasionally have headed through the drive thru under the golden arches and being American children, they would love it if I did this in every pinch. But I can't bare it and I am compelled to seek alternatives. I am rarely impressed by dining out experiences so it is rare for me to frequent a restaurant but I am totally in love with a little spot about ten minutes from my house and Meatless Monday seemed like to perfect time to shout about it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Growth Spurt

A very exciting day indeed! Today I... my seed order in the mail. I didn't get off my butt to start seedlings this year so this is all my direct sow stuff. I will have a list up of everything I am going to grow, or at least planning to.
...along with the seed order came my Bioset sprout grower. I have converted the children to sprouts and got them off cold cuts for sandwiches. I have always wanted to try this.
...ordered new chicks which will arrive in May. Our current flock of New Hampshire's is near and dear to my heart, but is driving me clucky with the way they peck each other. We selected them for their status as a Heritage breed as well as their cold hardiness, egg production and because they are considered to be "dual purpose". Yes, we will be dining on these when their egg days are over. OK, maybe not Bertha. We have since found out that they are a fairly aggressive breed and we have tried everything to get them to quick eating each others feather, with no progress. It's all very high school.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From Soap To Nuts

Yes, I realize yesterday was Monday and I am, once again, a total bloser (my new name for Blog Loser) and missed Meatless Monday. I might not have even redeemed myself today with a post, but I was catching up on some of my favorite blogs when a post about laundry caught my attention and wouldn't let go.
Everyone knows that the L-Word is my least favorite household chore. I curse it on a daily basis. David likes to ask if I am going to charge the baskets rent when they have lingered in the hall a bit too long. Last weekend, I did gain some momentum when spring sprang into action and I was able to hang all the laundry out on the line without it freezing solid. I am definitely more apt to stay on top of it when I can do part of it out in the sunshine and also feel the satisfaction that comes with doing something the old fashioned way.
So when I came across Easy Eco To Go's post about a SoapNuts review and giveaway, I knew I was in for a new adventure.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Just Gotta Poke Around

I know it's Monday, well technically Tuesday since it's after midnight, and I should be throwing out a veggie wonder, but I am pooped and the foodie in me really wants to discuss the amazing egg pizza I made this weekend. I can't get it out of my mind and therefore, I don't want to talk about other recipes until I have time for that one. So there.
I do want to get some yummy thoughts out there though, and so, I decided to glean my title from "Shakedown Street" and to encourage you to keep hunting for local goodness as you go about your food shopping. March is tough times. Most of the storage items and preserved harvest from last year has run out (we are down to our last jam) and spring is taunting us with inklings of garden goodness. There is, of course, the amazing culture of the winter farmers market that seems to have exploded this year. I have been loving the apples I have been getting there. My kids were so excited to have this fresh fruit a month or so back and now when I serve them yet another apple they are like "Seriously? We want a banana woman!" and I just give them my standard reply "When you can grow a banana in NH you can have one." Is it any wonder they call me the "meanestest mother in the whole worlds!"?
But I have been pleasantly surprised to find some fairly local stuff at Hannaford as well. Potatoes and butternut squash from Maine were huge hits on our menu last week and I found them very reasonable. It takes me a bit more time, but I have now trained the kids to look for signs indicating where the produce was grown. Even in the big chains I find that most of it is labeled as "Product of Wherever". So first we rule out anything other than USA and then start to get as geographically close as possible, although I am sure there is some extra mileage in there when we take into account the crazy distribution system. For some insight into this you should take a listen to this episode of This American Life, my favorite NPR program and current addiction. And if, in your audio wanderings, you happen to catch some good Dead tunes, you'll be that much better off.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Meatless Monday - Youth Gone Wild

As a child with a myriad of food allergies and a poncho wearing, draft counseling mother, I grew up eating some pretty funky stuff compared to my peers. I was completely fructose and lactose intolerant well into elementary school. I was the kid bringing sugar free jello to birthday parties having no clue why the b-day boy or girl didn't want to forgo the cake for the jiggling delight I had brought for them. The ice cream truck was never my friend and even once my stomach grew todigest the dairy and treats that the universe had to offer, I never became a sweet lovah.
I have, however, held onto many of the favorites that my mother made part of my diet including...(drum roll please)...Chick Peas!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meatless Monday After Midnight - Can You Say "Classic"

Slacker. There is no other word for it. I am a Blog Flunky. Maybe more of a Disstracker since I haven't just been lounging around, but more buzzing about with the goings on of life with children and various other beasts. So here I am, in the wee hours, putting down the words that have been swimming in my brain for weeks now.
I actually can't believe that this recipe was not Week One of Meatless Monday since it is not only in the bible of vegetarian cooking, but was probably my first introduction to the V-Word. The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas is one of two cookbooks that I associate with my mother, The Joy of Cooking being the other. And the recipe for Corn and Cheddar Cheese Chowder is probably my all time favorite thing that my mom made. It brings back warm, winter memories of ski vacations and wool socks; of my Dad's satisfied grin and footy pajamas. The book itself is a time capsule that has made it's way into my permanent collection.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Upcoming Events

Feb 18th - Storytime at The Divine Cafe in Exeter, NH at 10am. This is part of the new, weekly storytime where I will be reading from some of my favorite Barefoot Books. It's a natural fit with the Divine's motto of "nourish the body, respect the earth". This will run about half a hour and is a great opportunity to get out with the kids during the long winter months.
Feb 20th - Newmarket Winter Farmers Market at the Stone Church in Newmarket, NH from 9am-1pm.  I will be in the cozy, corner booth and will be helping kids to make Collage Bags. Collaging is a great way to utilize bits of household materials that would normally be thrown away. Kids love to create with these items and we will be creating a community collage at the market.
Feb 25th - Storytime at The Divine.
March 4th - Storytime.
March 6th - NOFA (Northeast Organic Farmers Association) NH Winter Conference in Concord, NH. A wonderful event for farmers and those that support organic and local agriculature. Tons of amazing worksops for kids, teens, and adults. I will be presenting as part of the childrens conference and will also have a table set up in the Green Market. Hope to see you there!

More events on the way!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Meatless Monday on Wednesday

I was planning to do a mind blowing post on falafel this week, but between forgetting to soak the chick peas overnight on Sunday and then realizing that I needed to get a little more in depth to sell falafel virgins on the idea, I got a little behind. But rest assured, the treat from the middle east  is coming to a Monday near you ASAP.
In the meantime in between time, I have whipped up one of my favorite, but often forgotten dishes that is so much easier and yummier than you might think. This one comes from the good ole Joy of Cooking, my kitchen bible, with a few tweaks.

Barely and Mushroom "Risotto"

6 tbl butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
8 oz diced mushrooms, shitake are awesome, but others are fine
1 cup barley
2/3 white wine
1 tbl crushed garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 cups stock, vegetable stock makes it truly meatless, but chicken stock works great too

Monday, February 1, 2010

Meatless Monday- Postponed till Tuesday.

Momma forgot to soak the beans overnight. It will be worth the wait.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Somebody IS Out There

I received this link today from a old and dear friend. One who knew me pre-Ecocheapo. To say that it made my day would be like saying it's a bit chilly out when your snot is freezing to your face while you're still indoors.
She gets it. People are getting it. This article from The Huffington Post by Stewart Acuff is the high tech version of EcoCheapo. Good for your wallet, good for your world. We are not alone.

Meatless Monday - South for the Winter with Beans & Rice

When birthdays roll around for my children,  two out of three in December which was horrid planning on our part, it is tradition that the B-Day person gets to pick what they want to have for dinner. At this point, I don't even know why we bother asking because the answer is always the same - Mexican! Burritous, tacos, quessadillas and their assorted variations and sides are the all time favorite meal around here. Back in my early culinary days, I used to have only one side dish option in my repetoire which was Mexi Rice. Basically, I would cook rice and then add spaghetti sauce, taco seasoning and cheese. Nasty. It seemed good at the time, but now we know there are so many better options.
As a side or as the main event, beans and rice is staple fare that has nourished people around the world forever. I am sure there are a zillion variations, but this is the one that we use.

Simple Black Beans & Rice

1 cans (15.5 oz.) black beans, undrained
2 tbsp olive oil
half an onion, diced
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 package taco seasoning
1 cup water
2 tbl cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste
4 - 5 cups cooked white rice

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and then add the onion, pepper and garlic. Saute 5-10 min over medium heat until tender. Add all other ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat a simmer about 20 minutes. This will be very saucy and that's how you want it. The juice is the best part! Ladle over the rice in large bowls.
*This recipe opens up endless possibilities for adding on. We like to sprinkle shredded cheese on the top. You can also add some diced tomatoes, corn, broken tortilla chips, etc. This also makes an excellent filling in a tortilla. Experimento!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Will Work For Local Food

Are you the type of shopper who goes to the store on a mission? List in hand, meals planned out, rarely straying from the preappointed items and skipping whole aisles because you don't really need anything in them? Or maybe you're the type who has a few "must gets" and then kind of pokes around and might try something new or get inspired to create a meal around something that happens to be on sale? Or maybe you are like my mom who was notorious for making multiple trips to the store each week because she was forever buying cream cheese and no bagels or stocking up on more canned potatoes than any human should ever have to even look at, but forgetting to buy milk. I can't blame her though, she was married to a man for nearly forty years that ate a very well balanced diet from his own personal four food groups - coffee, Coke, mayo and salt. Seriously.
I would say that I am definitely a list girl, but if I see a sale on something I will definitely jump at the chance to stock up and occasionally that leads me to change my meal plan. The thing about Farmers Markets, is that they can really throw someone like me for a loop because they are very Forest Gumpy Chocolates. You never know whatcha gonna get. Last month's market was a prime example of this. I went in vowing to strike out to get more shopping done than the previous month, but my plan was thwarted by the very evil placement of the Sunflour Baking booth directly across from mine. I was starring at all their insane goodies while thumbing the predesignated spending cash in my pocket. Finally, I could fight it no longer and hopped down from my cozy corner booth and attacked a Cinnamon Beast. Selfish, but oh so worth it.
I was definitely interested in checking out the Fleur de Sel table and perused it with great interest. I am definitely a salt snob. I am also my father's daughter and, therefore, salt goes on and in everything except maybe pudding. Although if it was pistachio....hmmm. I have come to know and love Kosher salt. Oi! So good. But the price was a little steep and if I came home and said I spent the whole lot on a jar of salt I think David would have known that I have finally lost it and revoked my market privileges.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Read For Relief - Show Your Support for Haiti

As much as I do try to avoid the gloom of the news and to focus on the positive, there are times when we can not look away and are called to action from a world away. Such is the case with the growing crisis in Haiti and, as a mother, I am filled with sadness and compassion, particularly for the children caught in the chaos that inevitably results after a disaster of this magnitude. With stories and images of increasing violence, it is easy to become jaded and disillusioned. But in the first few days after the earthquake hit, there were countless stories of the Haitian people coming together to dig with their hands, care for the injured and carry the dead. At nearly a week out, though, desperation has begun to set in as the most basic of needs are not being met. People seem to want to attribute this to cultural differences, but I am forced to ponder what would unfold should a crisis of this magnitude befall us in this part of the world. Even in the often sheltered world of the Northeast, it is not difficult to see that when a breakdown of basic goods and services goes on for any length of time, any "every man for himself" mentality would quickly set in.
I have found and am following the blog of a American missionary couple living in Haiti with their large family. The 24 hour transition from posts detailing their adventures abroad to the quick and frightening updates post-earthquake are a jarring reality check. It is very worth checking out at
And now on to the work that we can do from here. I have done the best thing I could think of and set up an online fundraising event on my Barefoot Books website. My official title with Barefoot Books  is "Ambassador" and I can think of no greater purpose for this role than to support the relief efforts in Haiti. Now through January 31st, you can make a purchase and I will donate 100% of my profits to UNICEF. In an effort to get funds there quickly, I won't wait for my commission to come from Barefoot (that's how it works for online sales). As soon as the 31st is here, I will cut a check to UNICEF. I think sometimes people need to get a little to give a little so this is a chance for folks to get a wonderful book while making a contribution. If you would like to support the role of UNICEF during the crisis in Haiti, please consider purchasing a Barefoot Book by clicking on the button below.

I am encouraging people to make a selection from the World Cultures category, but it is not necessary. There are many selections for under $10 that are beautiful books with wonderful stories. During this event, I have displayed some of my favorite Barefoot Books about other cultures in the My Favorites section. In "Tales of Wisdom & Wonder", one of the seven amazing stories is a traditional Haitian tale that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. Right now, this beautiful hardcover collection is on sale for just $9.99.
If you do choose a book about another culture, please spend time reading to and talking with your children about our part in the global community. I have used this as a way to talk to each of my children about what is happening in Haiti. Even a three year old can understand the sadness and fear that would come with being lost and alone and children truly have a servants heart. They all wanted to know what we can do to help. This is it.
Please consider bringing stories from around the world into your home as you reach out to those in desperate need. If you know of others who would care to be a part of this campaign, you can forward this post or direct them to where they can scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Support This Event".
Right now, UNICEF is deploying clean water and sanitation supplies, therapeutic foods, medical supplies and temporary shelter to Jacmel and Port-au-Prince. UNICEF will also be focusing on children who have become separated from their families to protect them from harm or exploitation. UNICEF was established in 1946 and is "the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. They have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality." To find out more about UNICEF's emergency aid in Haiti please visit

And now, words so wise and powerful they move me to tears:
"Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." - Robert F. Kennedy

Peace be with you all.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Meaningful Meatless Monday: All Together in One Pot

It would have been easy to forget that today I was due for my second post on meatless meals. Days off from school always throw me off my game a bit. Combine this extended weekend with a very heavy snow falling all around us and it is enough to render me lazy and disoriented. But on this King of Holidays, I find myself reflecting on the vision of MLK and how that relates to my hopes and dreams as an environmentalist. Dr. King saw a better world where people would come together and strive for a deeper understanding of one another. Where we would live in harmony and peace with our fellow man and challenge ourselves to rise above and shed the complacency that plagued our society for so many years.  He dared to dream of a new way of living for future generations. We are honored and humbled by his leadership and we show a formal display of our gratitude on this day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

For the Recycling Birds

If there is one thing I am truly afraid of it's birds. I know, this from a chicken farmer, but chickens are OK because they can't really fly high enough to dive bomb my face. That is what I am actually afraid of. Not that I have some traumatic childhood memory a la Hitchcock or anything. I was, however, pooped on by a seagull when I was in middle school which was particularly cruel. It may have been because I was wearing a hideous polka dotted balloon pants number and the offending avian thought it was the Drop Zone. That outfit probably deserved it.
So mortal fear aside, I do like to watch birds from the safety of my own kitchen window and so does the rest of the fam. Especially in winter, we like to fill our bird feeders and wait for the show to begin. I am no bird watching expert, but I do like chickadees in particular.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Start of Meatless Monday: Tomato Cheese Pasta

I am far too verbose and much too crappy of a photographer to participate in Wordless Wednesday, so I'm goin' rogue and participating in Meatless Monday. I hereby proclaim that on Mondays, I will post a meatless recipe.
You don't have to be a rank and file member of PETA to see the benefits of eating more vegetarian meals. The demand for meat production puts extreme pressure on natural resources and is quite unsustainable. According to an article by USA Today and the Society for Advancement of Education, 56,000,000 acres of U.S. land are utilized for the production of hay for livestock. Only 4,000,000 acres are used to produce vegetables for human consumption. Water, feed and fuel are also disproportionately allocated to sustain meat product. The health and wellness of livestock animals suffers from these burdens and, thus, the risk of disease is passed on to us.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Crock of Hoo Ha

My fruity and frugal friend, Nurse Hoo Ha, received a crock pot for Christmas and put in her request for some recipes to put in it. This fit right in line with my New Years resolution to post more of my favorite recipes. This vow is much easier to keep than some of my others since I am much more likely to be inspired to blog about food than to cut back on how much I'm putting in my mouth.
This recipe is one that I have been making for a very long time. It is adapted from a cookbook called "Sweet Aromas: A Collection of Cherished Family Recipes From the Kitchen of Audrey Brann Hamlin" written by Audreys' daughter, Tracey Hamlin-Landry. I can find no mention of it online and I am doubtful you will find a copy as it was written by a woman that my husband worked with when we first got married. In fact, it was one of my Christmas gifts our first year together. I still use it all the time and it's stained pages let you know how loved the recipes are in my kitchen. David has always been an amazing gift giver. It's kind of nauseating, actually.
The "Crock Pot Chicken" recipe in the book isn't quite the same as mine, but it was definitely my jumping off point and I surely needed it back then as a very "green" (and not in a good, environmental way) cook. This is a simple, hearty meal that will give you a very full belly on a cold winter's night.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brushetta Outta Here

I miss avocados. I miss bananas. I bought a tomato on New Years Eve and the guilt is eating me up. But, I will say that my bruschetta was worth the cheat. In case you want to try it out...


1 loaf italian bread (I buy it from the Day Old markdown rack for 90 cents a loaf and throw it in my freezer)
1 jar of pesto (in season you can make this fresh and I'll tell you how when we get there)
1 large tomato, diced
fresh grated parmesan cheese (I buy the wedges and grate it myself. SO SO SO much better than what we used to call "sprunkly" cheese out of a can)
1 lemon, sliced into wedges (optional)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Credit History

I often find myself starting posts and then saving them because I feel they need a bit more background. That the true inspiration for many of my thrifty thoughts needs to be told before I proceed. I have known what I wanted to say for some time, but just haven't put it out there yet. So before I discuss one more idea, experience, recipe or tip, I must first give credit where credit is due.