I've decided to expand this blog to include some personal posts.  Not every post will focus on ecothriftiness, but I'll try to keep any new info I learn circulating through this blog.

Monday, June 8, 2009


My various attempts at composting have not gone well.  I really want to start a compost bin that will not be a possum magnet, won't give the dog something to roll in, and won't make my husband throw up when he has to bring food to it.  Any ideas?

On a happy note, my garden is, so far, 100% organic.  No pesticides or herbicides used.
I used old curtains to keep the weeds down between the rows.  The weeds were getting totally out of control as this is the first time we've tilled this part of the yard.  Wish us continued luck!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Earth Day Party

Between several crises, my trip out of town the weekend before, a migraine, and sheer procrastination, my toddler Earth Day Party was only a small success. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day & the kids were able to spread out and play!

I fed everyone organic snacks, but since I'd had a migraine the day before, I had to go to Earthfare. I spent close to $50!!!!! Yikes. Next time I'll try to shop around.

For one activity, I had kids glue dandilions (we had quite a crop to choose from), sand, and various weeds onto recycled newspaper as an art collage.

For another, I let the kids plant carrot seeds in Yoplait yogurt cups. I washed the cups, drilled drain holes in the bottom, and let the kids put in the potting soil and seeds. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any organic potting soil at Earthfare in my hurry, so it was a fertilizer based soil. However, the yoplait cups worked great. Being slightly bigger at the bottom, they kept the kids from spilling!

I also found some great reusable picnic plates made from recycled plastic, and little trays made from fallen palm leaves. However, I will say that I got several splinters from the leaf plates!

Next year, I'm going to focus on planning more ahead!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Here are my sketches for the Sand-Water Dilemma!

The drain I created in the sand side of the table.

Disassemble the plug.  Save the nut and top for when the table isn't in use.  Slip sock through hollow tube, flip sock around tube, insert back into table.  Tie off.

Recycling?? Well, I try!

We live about a mile from the city limit, which means that the city doesn't pick up our recycling.  The problem lies, not in the collecting of the recycling, but in the act of taking it to the center!

Well, last week I was babysitting my girlfriend's kids, and they were all playing in the sand and water table.  They began to fight over some of the containers.  I was so thankful (for once) that I had a garage full of bags of recycling!!!!  I pulled out a bunch of clean spice shakers, juice bottles, coffee containers, soap dispensers, etc.  They had more than plenty for all three to scoop, dump, sprinkle, and spray the water and sand!!!

One hint that I have:  Our sand and water table has two tubs.  Automatically, my son dumps the water into the sand side, and we have a big mushy mess.  It takes HOURS for the water to evaporate, if not days.  Last summer, I realized that the sand side needed to drain.  I took an old trouser sock of mine and looped it through one of the pug holes.  Now, that side can drain!  I place a bucket underneath the table to collect the water, and use it to water my plants.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Plastic Food? Hmmmmm

So, my dad and his girlfriend came up to visit this weekend.  They knew that I'd been thinking of getting Jack a play kitchen as he is always "play cooking" and loves his friends' kitchens.  My dad's girlfriend, Jean, found a small play kitchen at Good Will.  Score one for recycling!

So, my first response was, let me run out and get some play food for it before you bring it, yada, yada.

Of course, I forgot, and they gave it to him while we were outside playing.  It suddenly dawned on me, while I was watching him "cook," that I've been ignoring the fact that:
1-  The last thing this world needs is more plastic toys baking in the sun to later be thrown away or recycled.
2-  Giving my son fake food robs him of the chance to use his imagination.  The old measuring cups I'd given him last year for his sand box are now his pots.  The left over pebbles from the patio are the "beans, peas, and carrots."  The mound of dirt we got from the neighbors to fill in mole holes has become the "fried rice."  We even went as far as to pick the green onions sprouting all over the yard to add.

Why is it that, even as conscious of the environment and money as I am, I still felt he NEEDED plastic play food?  I didn't have it when I was little.

Well, life lesson, once again, taught to me by my 2 year old son!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tired of the dog ripping up your kids' expensive toys!?! Me too!

Someone in my MOMS Club group recommended that I try a spray on deterrent.  She recommended "Bitter Apples," but my husband, the ex-chemist engineer, wasn't fond of the isopropyl alcohol it contained.

We found another brand, "Bitter Yuck" on sale.  It only contains water, baking soda, and rosemary extract.

Our dog Pretzels has really turned out to be a great member of our family.  He's housebroken, calm, loving, and does superbly with our toddler friends.  He doesn't even chase the cat!  The one problem we've had with him is chewing.  Although they say he is 2yo, he's been chewing ALOT.  After getting on to him for the thousandth time, I bought the spray deterrent.  Its incredibly easy -- spray it on, let it dry, and it tastes like hell.  I went to work!

Well, of course, Pretzels got his first taste, and that was it for chewing on Jack's toys.  It took two tastes of his favorite steal, big purple bunny, to conquer that, but hey, no one is perfect!  However, Jack kept putting his toys in his mouth!  Of course, the taste is terrible, and hard to get rid of. 

The first time I gave him a mint to suck on.  The second time, he brushed his teeth for 30 minutes (well, sucked on the toothbrush anyway).  Finally, I had to scrub his mouth with tons of toddler toothpaste.

Pretzels has learned, but Jack is a little slower on the uptake!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


So, I found out today online that marker plastic isn't recyclable.  Jack loves markers, and he can take off the caps like a champ.  However, even when he puts the cap back on, he doesn't push it hard enough to clamp it down.  So, we end up with a lot of dry markers even though I try to rustle through them when he's done.

I put a question on Yahoo Answers today, and I got a great idea.

What I did was take a medicine dropper and placed drops of a vinegar/water solution (that was recommended) onto the markers.  The cheapy markers have a bottom that will pop off, but I couldn't get the Crayola bottoms off no matter how hard I chewed.

I found that this worked fantastically.  The Crayola markers actually have a little groove that vents out air.  As you trickle water onto the marker pad, air bubbles escape.  This keeps them from spilling all over your hands, and having to wait a few seconds every time to let the liquid soak in!

I am pretty sure I've at least heard of ink refills for markers.  I'm definately going to have to look into that!  No matter how much water you put in, a marker drained of all ink is going to leave no mark!

Cool New Blog!

I found this blog today while searching for some info on reusing Jack's markers.  Its like she's read my mind, but actually keeps up with hers!

Here is the link!  Eco Child's Play

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

this makes me wonder . . .

I read a sign at the Hands on Museum (an awesome place to have a membership if you have a toddler).  It says, "Sitting in the yard with your dog?  Get up and take your dog for a walk instead!"  "Sitting with your dog burns 50 calories.  Walking your dog burns 175 calories."

I automatically thought to myself, "Well, it seems like it would be easier to sit with my dog for 3.5 times the amount of time I'd walk him and I've burned the same amount of calories!"

Monday, February 2, 2009

Please be aware of this story!

This doesn't have anything to do with being green or thrifty, but it pulled on my heartstrings and I wanted to share it. 

Here is the link to the website, www.bringseanhome.org

Here is the letter I sent to the State Department:
To Whom it May Concern at the US State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, and Office of Children’s Issues:

It is my understanding that Sean Goldman was abducted by his mother and held in Brazil without contact with his father, David Goldman, for 4 years.  It is my understanding that she is now deceased, and that he continues to be held by his stepfather.  It is my understanding that Sean Goldman was born on American soil, and therefore, is a US citizen.  Why has your office not put your full power behind bringing home a kidnapped American citizen?  If the courts of Brazil are intimidated by the stepfather of this child, then they might too sway at the influence of the US government.  I am both appalled and ashamed that your office has not ensured that this child will be returned to his biological father.

I am horrified that his man has spent over $300,000 on legal aid to again and again be turned away by the Brazilian courts.  It should not be solely his responsibility to bring this child home.  No American citizen should have to bankrupt himself to fight a foreign government that is refusing to follow the treaty upon which they have agreed.

If we cannot expect our government to help return kidnapped citizens to our soil (and this child's Brazilian home is certainly a matter of public record), then what is the intended purpose of your department?

And so it goes . . .

2009 hasn't been kind to our family or any of our friends.  We have been lucky, so far, to avoid many of the major catastrophes that many of our fellow Americans are dealing with right now.  So I must say that I don't feel I have the right to bitch too much.  Here's just a simple list of things plaguing our family and friends:

Our old house still hasn't sold, and its still bleeding us dry in mortgage payments
My roof starting leaking
Later that week, a large chunk of it that wasn't leaking blew off
We burst a pipe in the garage
I fell off the couch and sprained my ankle
My son and I have suffered through the annual seasonal cruddiness and colds
Friends' children have been both moderately to severely ill
Family members have developed new health problems
Friends' family members have been hospitalized suddenly
Friends have been unable to find work
Friends have had their hours cut at their jobs
Friends have lost health insurance

Please send kind thoughts, good vibes, or prayers this way.
So, my mind hasn't really been on ecothriftiness.  I hope 2009 turns around a little for us all so that we can refocus on our larger goals.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Yeah! Christmas is over!

Well, I must admit that I tried really hard to keep hazardous toys out of my house.  I'm sure some crept in, but what can you do?  I tried to be vigilant without spending a ton on designer toys.

I heard a really sad story on Nightline a week or so ago.  It seems that the international market for recycled materials is pretty much dead right now.  Companies that collect recyclables to sell to refineries/manufacturers are pretty much collecting stuff that they have no where to store and noone to sell it to.  That's pretty pathetic!

Here is the story!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why is this so hard?

Okay, so I'm gonna vent a little.  This is only marginally related to ecothriftiness, but whatever.

So, I agreed to buy Jack's presents from my mom, her boyfriend, and my sister partly because I wanted to make sure it was safe and partly because I didn't want a bunch of crap in the house that we didn't need.  My mother informed me that it was really important for her boyfriend to buy him something expensive that was "really special" days after I agreed.  No pressure right?

So, I get a friend to babysit and Mark and I head out to shop.  We tried to shop at the specialty store, but that wasn't as easy as we thought (see post below).  So, we head out to Toys R Us.  After wondering around the store, we finally made a decision.  Mom's boyfriend can buy him a "big boy" toddler bed and the bedding.  Mom can buy him additional train set pieces for the train he got for his birthday.  Sounds easy.

Well, not so fast.  Toys R Us is sold out of the green, orange, and yellow Elmo bed that matches his "Safari Green" room colors.  No one has the time to paint and redecorate at this point, right!?!  No prob, I think, I know that Elmo beds have to be popular, right?

WRONG.  Toys R Us has the Elmo bedroom in a box there, but it wasn't the same colors.  Strike One.  I go to Walmart.  Strike Two.  Don't carry Elmo beds.  I rush over to Target before they close.  Strike Three, don't carry Elmo.  Rush over to the 24hr Kmart running on adrenaline and disbelief.  Strike Four, don't carry Elmo.  I swear to God that I couldn't have tripped and fallen and not landed on a freaking Elmo bed last year.  Now?  Only Toys R Us carries them and they are sold out.  CRAP.  At this point I couldn't care less if it was Elmo or Jeffrey Dahmer as long as it matches his room and I don't have to repaint.  Backyardigans?  Purple.  Pixar Cars?  Red and Black.  Dora?  Girly.  Princess?  Come on!

So, I head home and hit the computer close to midnight.  I find a Thomas the train bed for TWO HUNDRED FREAKING DOLLARS.  I email the lady and she refuses to budge.  Okay, I think, I can always repaint later.  I talk to my mother and she agrees to keep a look out for the Elmo bed.  After all, I went ahead and bought the bedding and washed it having total confidence that the Elmo bed crisis was imaginary.

She finds one. We're set.  EXCEPT when I mention to Jack that Santa might bring him a big boy bed for Christmas (to psych him up before the change), he gets excited and exclaims, "Train Bed!"  

Are you freaking kidding me?  No, I say, maybe something else?  He's adamant.  Train bed.  Too bad, I think, you're only two.  But now I'm worried my mom's boyfriend will be crushed if Jack sees the Elmo bed and pitches a fit.

So after long deliberations between all parties, we've decided to keep the FREAKING Elmo bed.  He'll get over it or he won't, haha!

So on the very cool train loop-de-loop I bought from my mother.  It very easy knocked over.  Too mature for his motor skills.  AND, It doesn't fit on our table.  Train table?  Once again, not at Walmart, Target, K-Mart, and we can't afford the one on Toys R Us.  CraigsList?  Sorry, sold.  Here we go again.  So that goes back to the store and my mother is totally on her own.  

Why is this so freaking hard!?!  How can spending $225 dollars on a kid at Christmas be THIS FREAKING DIFFICULT!  Argh!

Well, the idea was great anyway. . .

So here is the thing.  I went to the super expensive toy store to buy  my son's presents.  I really, really  meant to buy the Plan toys.  I couldn't do it.  I mean, the prices, OH MY GOD.  3 teeny cars for $10.  A small, plain, wooden playhouse for $120.  The playhouse with dolls and furniture for $180.  A drum set that would fit in two shoe boxes, $50.  A block car the size of a small tonka truck for $20.  A recycled and reclaimed wooden/plastic truck the size of a Little People van for $50.

I couldn't.  I mean, I'm ecoTHRIFTY.  For real.  There was no way I was going to be able to rationalize that.  

So, I just bought from name brands and looked them up on the website.  Luckily, I found most of it on the web and they were all safe.  I'll just make sure he doesn't put a few things in his mouth, I guess.

I mean, this just makes me soooo mad.  Why should I have to spend DOUBLE or TRIPLE the money on toys that won't cause cancer, infertility, and global destruction?  Why isn't our government stopping the spread of these toxic toys?  We all know the reasons:  poor funding for testing, self-regulation, China owns us in our national debt -- the list goes on and on.

It makes me sad, but I did the very best I could with the money I had and the time I had to shop.  I guess that is something to feel proud about.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Card Recycle Idea

I got this idea from my Mom's Club pal, Allison:
Hey ladies, I thought I would share with you what my step-mom-in-law does to help recycle. When she receives her Christmas cards she cuts the design off the front of the card, punches a hole in it and uses that as her gift tags for her Christmas gifts the next year. I also have seen that some people cut the front cover off, sign it and use it for a Christmas card the next year....sort of like a postcard in an envelope. It's an additional fun way to look at your cards when you get them....aside from the warm greetings being sent to you by your friends.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Plan Toys Response to Lead Questions

Today I received this response from Plan Toys in regards to the HealthyToys.org report that there is high levels of lead in the farmer and his wife dolls.

Hello Hannah,


All of our toys have been tested and have passed all USA and European standards. The US standard for lead content is 600ppm (parts per million) or less. The European standard is 300ppm or less. All of our toys have been tested under these standards and have passed with flying colors. I have attached the copy of our test report.

Now www.healthytoys.org used a different test method to test our products and obviously came out with different results. Therefore, our team in Thailand is re-testing all of our product as well as looking into XRF test method that the healthytoys website used.

If in fact our test results come back and any of our toys do not pass the European standard at the least, they will no long be shipped.

Our company is based around safe green products for our children and never would we knowingly go against our word. Quality and safety are of the most importance to us.


If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me personally. Thank you so much for being a valued PlanToys customer. Have a wonderful day.



-Alyse McIntosh

Customer Service

PlanToys Inc.

Tel: 650-968-4783

Fax: 650-968-4947


PlanToys made with sensitivity toward our environment.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I got this info from the Moms' Rising website.  They seem like a very cool organization that supports national grassroots campaigns.
"MomsRising is working to bring together millions of people who share a common concern about the need to build a more family-friendly America. Started in May of 2006, MomsRising has gained over 150,000 citizen members and is rapidly growing. More than 85 national and state organizations have signed on to be aligned with MomsRising."
National Campains include:
Paid Sick Days for All
Fair Pay Now
Support Breastfeeding Moms
Turn Out the Mom Vote
Stop Toxic Baby Bottles
Stop Cutting Care for Kids!
Keep Our Children Safe from Toxics!
Vote Yes on Fair Pay
The Power of ONEsie
We mean it.  No toxic toys for our kids!

Healthy Child Healthy World

I found this website (mentioned in the PBS article).  It seems a little preachy, but it has a few things worth mentioning.
Pocket Guides for "easy" shopping

On PBS - Avoid Toxic Toys

I found this article on PBS's website entitled, Finding Non-Toxic Toys.  (To provide more info to you faster, you should assume that any info I give credit to another source is a direct quote.)

Most interesting, I found out that there is a service through Moms Rising.org where "Parents can simply text "healthytoys" and the name of a particular toy, a type of toy or a toy manufacturer or retailer to 41411 to find out whether a toy is toxic. MomsRising will respond instantly with a message."

A representative from Healthy Child, Healthy World gave these stats:
  "People assume that products must be proven safe before they can be sold and that the government wouldn't allow unsafe toys to be sold. These assumptions are false. Government regulations are very outdated and weak when it comes to the burgeoning world of chemicals and their use in consumer products, despite our growing scientific understanding of the potential hazards of many of these chemicals."
  • The government doesn't require companies to fully disclose to consumers what's in their products, or to label them so consumers can make their own choices.
  • The office in charge of regulating children's toys, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), does not have the authority to ensure that toys are safe. The CPSC cannot legally test children's products before sale and would not have the capacity or funding to do so even if they wanted to. Recalls are mainly voluntary, rarely happen and generally only do after damage has already been done.
  • Even if the U.S. had tougher regulations in place for local manufacturers, imported toys would still slip through the regulatory cracks given the CPSC's current capacity. Right now, there are only 15 staff people watching hundreds of ports of entry (down from a peak of 970 staff 27 years ago).
  • The fact of the matter is that the chemical regulatory system needs an overhaul. Around 80,000 chemicals are registered for use in everyday products and roughly 2,500 new ones are introduced every year. Few of these have been adequately tested for potential health impacts on children or developing fetuses despite their known unique vulnerability to these chemicals. And none have been tested for cumulative effects (i.e., how they may interact with one another), but that's how we are exposed to them every day.
" . . .Manufacturers are committed to safe, PVC-free toys including:
Brio, Chicco, Early Start, First Years, Ikea, Lamaze Infant Development, Lego, Little Tykes, Playmobil, Primetime Playthings, Ravensburger, Sassy and Tiny Love.
Toys "R" Us has begun phasing out PVCs in its own line of products and 
has announced that beginning in January 2009 all products sold in any Toys "R" Us or Babies "R" Us store in the United States must be produced without the addition of phthalates that have raised concerns about infant safety."

Send your congressman or congresswoman a message!

Healthy Toys Website

I have found this website to be invaluable, and have mentioned several times in my posts.  This website, healthytoys.org, lists tons of toys and what toxic chemicals they contain.  You can also create your own list to save toys that you want to check out later!  I've even emailed them asking them to test a toy that isn't listed with their "Test My Toy" link.

Alex brand and Melissa and Doug

Melissa and Doug's Safety statement:
Additionally, we specifically test our paints and coatings very frequently, to be sure our toys meet or exceed government recommendations limiting heavy metals and lead in children’s items. We have cabinets full of thousands of passing test reports, and these passing results have been verified by 3rd party independently accredited testing laboratories, considered by many to be the best scientific laboratories in the world.

***However, check www.healthytoys.org!  Some of M & D still rank medium for toxic chemicals, while most are low.

Alex brand:
This is strange.  Although some of their toys/crafts are on the "Best" list, several are also on the "Worst" list.  Be sure to check it out before you buy it!

Plan Toys

Caution!  I found the farmer doll on www.healthytoys.org as "High" in lead.  I wrote the company, and I'll let you know what they say.  Every other toy listed was catagory "Low."

I spent a good deal of time at Bears & Friends Toy Store this morning looking over different products.  Although they are terribly expensive, there are some brands that are earth friendly and safe for our kids.

The first brand I'll talk about is "Plan Toys."  They are absurdly expensive, but they are safe!
  • They include tips on their website for choosing toys for your child's age and developmental level.
  • They state that they meet both the EN71 toy safety standard (European Union) and ASTM International (ASTM) standards.
  • They produce everything from playhouses, dolls, baby toys, construction sets, train sets/ auto sets, blocks, etc.  There are too many toys to put here, so check out the website.
  • Their "Green Concept" is ". . .Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Our manufacturing processes are designed to reduce waste and save energy. We reuse materials, and have introduced innovative methods to recycle paper and other products. . ."
  • Their "Policy" states:  "Wood free from any preservative chemicals is used to design toys. It is carefully processed, shaped, cut its sharp corners, and carefully assembled under respectable requirements before being coated with non-toxic colors to ascertain that it is not detrimental to children’s health and sanitation. . . "
  • Awards:  "With high-quality workmanship in all manufacturing processes, Plan Toys has received strings of honorable awards both at the national and international levels including Reddot Design Award and German Design Prize."
  • Their Policy includes, "our toys are created with the joining forces of toy designers, educational specialists, and child psychiatrists to ensure that every product is instrumental in enhancing creativity and skill development of the children of all ages."
  • Their Social & Environmental Policy:  PlanToys® is the first rubberwood toy manufacturer in the world who successfully uses rubberwood from rubber tree that no longer provides latex as the main material to create toys. Meanwhile, paper used in our packaging is also recyclable which absolutely helps reduce a large amount of garbage to the world and simultaneously maintain the ecological balance. We also initiate work-generating scheme for villagers so they can upgrade their standard of living. Besides, we provide an opportunity to the people with disability to work in our company. 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fields of Grace Update

Good news.  I learned this week that Fields of Grace has been shut down!  I had heard from friends that someone in that area was trying to find homes for farm animals, and they had the suspicion it was the owner.  'The Powers the Be' did take us seriously.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

More toxic stuff for our kids this Christmas?

I very (and I mean very) rarely watch news, especially the 24hr networks.  However, today I was in the mood for a little soapboxiness.  I watched Lou Dobbs, and was horrified at a report that 
1 out of every 3 toys on the shelves this Christmas contains toxic chemicals.  Yes, that 1 out of every 3!  Of course, there is a law going into effect saying that companies can no longer produce toys with some of these toxins (such as phthalates, cadmium, arsenic, and lead) as of Feb '09 (yep, just after we fill our households with presents for our loved ones).  However, these toxic toys will be allowed to be sold if they were produced before that time.  So, they will be on the shelves for a much longer time.

Phthalates have been linked to "premature delivery, reproductive defects, early onset of puberty, and lower sperm counts" (for men exposed during 0-3 years of life), according to a report, "Trouble in Toyland."  Per Wikipedia, "Phthalates are used in a large variety of products, from [coatings of] pills to . . . gelling agents. . . adhesives and glues, agricultural adjuvants, building materials, personal care products, detergents and surfactants, plastic objects, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products and textiles. . . and toys made of so-called "jelly rubber."  The Phthalates Information Centre of Europe states that phthalates "are the most commonly used plasticisers in the world."  They've been used for at least 50 years to make plastic soft and flexible.

Lead has been linked to lowered IQ, delayed mental and physical development, and death.  Read my post from earlier this week to learn more about a very common lead danger.

Per the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) spokesperson, "In February 2009, toys with a phthalate content that exceeds 0.1 percent will be banned. Currently, the phthalate content of some toys is 40 percent. . ."  She also stated, "In this year's report, the examples that we have were all made in China."

Per the Washington Post, " [China] produces about 80 percent of all toys sold in the United States."

I couldn't find a link on Mr. Dobb's website, but click here for this article in the Washington Post.

Here is the CNN story.  It states that "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children's toys have less than 40 parts-per-million of lead."  Beware of Hannah Montana jewelry, some of which didn't even max out at 660ppm "toxic level."

Something new I learned today . . .

So, who doesn't love Sesame Street, right?  I mean, Jack is suddenly obsessed with it, and I totally can dig this new obsession.  Way better than the previous obsession with Zoobomafoo -- and the Yo Gabba Gabba phase was starting to wear me down a little.

But, I never thought the damn show would teach me something.  

So, that instrument I gave Jack from my childhood?  The glorious xylophone.  Yes, it is responsible for his first black eye (he dropped in on his head while laying on his back at about 6 months).  I thought he almost broke my toe with that damnable thing the last time we had it out.  But wait, here's the kicker.  Its not a xylophone at all, apparently.

Okay, so apparently a xylophone has wooden chimes, and since ours has metal it is a. . . 
wait for it. . .
a glockenspiel.

I always thought a glockenspiel was a freaking clock.  But, it took a couple of puppets and Randy from American Idol to teach me something new.

Whattya know.  Now I can tell people that Jack got his first black eye by way of glockenspiel.  That sounds cooler anyway.

Okay, so what's the deal?

Well, let's just say with the surgeries, the complications, moving to a new city, and meeting tons of new people, I got a little burnt on this blog.

But, I'm back!

However, I decided to personalize it more.  I'm still being as ecofriendly and thrifty as I can.  But. . . . that gets boring after a while, right!?!

So, I've decided to start putting other thoughts here too.  Here we go . . . 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Is lead poisoning the reason for our jolliness?

Here is some disturbing information I learned.  After putting up and taking down both our old tree and our new tree twice, I found out the hard way that everyone is just trying to make a buck.

Click the title to learn more.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ugh, More infections

Sorry I've still not been around.  I'm having another round of infection, high powered antibiotics, and I just returned from visiting family in North Carolina.

I'm going to make and effort to get back to my online obligations before the week's end.

Talk to you soon!

Monday, September 8, 2008


I apologize for the long delay in postings.  I recently had surgery, and unfortunately, several complications from that surgery.  I've been out-of-commission for several weeks, but hope to be back on my feet soon.  Talk at  you then!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How to Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Here is a problem I need help with:

My in-laws refuse to recycle even though they live in a N.C. city that will pick it up by the curb.  My father-in-law purchases and throws away several different newspapers a day.  They drink several beverages from plastic bottles a day.  They filled my recycling bag (the one I keep upstairs that I collect for a couple of days before I take them to the garage to sort) in an afternoon.

How do I convince them that recycling is not only extremely simple for them, but a "must do?"

Anytime I mention it, they sigh and say that they've been meaning to start.  However . . . . 

Please comment with some advice.  Don't worry, they don't have a computer, so they'll never know you wrote in!

Fields of Grace Faux Update

Here is what I call my 'faux' update!  I must say that I feel like quite a big shot since I was written by the General Counsel of a TN Department!

From: "Theresa Denton" <Theresa.Denton@state.tn.us>
Date: August 20, 2008 10:05:48 AM EDT
Subject: Fields of Grace

Ms. [W]:
Your question about "Fields of Grace" has been forwarded to me for response.
I do not have any knowledge of or information about this case.
I am sorry that I cannot be more helpful in answering your question.

Theresa H. Denton
General Counsel
Tennessee Department of Agriculture
Ellington Agricultural Center
Post Office Box 40627
Nashville, TN  37204
Ph: (615) 837-5280
Mobile: (615) 618-1883
Fax:  (615) 837-5011

Monday, August 18, 2008

Update on Fields of Grace 3

I received a posting from my Mom's Club from a woman who had a similar experience at Field's Of Grace.  Apparently, I'm not off the mark on this one.

I emailed the newspapers, the TN Dept. of Agriculture, and the USDA APHIS East Team for an update.  I'll let you know if I hear back.

Here are the email addresses in case you want to contact them yourself asking them to please update me, and thereby you, on this case:
Elizabethton Star Staff reporter:  bstevens@starhq.com
Johnson City Press reporter:  jbrooks@johnsoncitypress.com
USDA:  aceast@aphis.usda.gov
TN Dept of Agriculture:  tn.agriculture@state.tn.us

Please let them know we want this resolved!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Update on Fields of Grace

I have heard through the grapevine that a large animal vet did go out to the "farm" by request of the USDA.  So, at least we know that they have my complaint and took at least part of it seriously.  I'll keep you guys updated if I find out more.

However, I have yet to hear from either of the reporters to which I sent the email.  Argh.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I need this!

Okay, so I went shopping for my birthday and left my reusable bags in the car time and time again.  So, I am walking to and from my car with my purchases in my arms -- or worse yet -- in a horrible plastic bag.

Why do I keep forgetting them, I lament!?!

Well, here are a few reasons:
1-  I am always in a hurry because its either past nap time, past dinner time, just about nap time, Jack's tired of shopping, I'm on the phone with a friend I've not seen since I've moved, Mark's called for the 4,000 time today and I've not yet had a chance to call him back so he thinks we've been kidnapped by the hillbilly mafia or something, I just gotta stop in to one more place before I go home . . .
2-  I have to carry my purse (with diapers, wipes, pacifier, extra change of clothes, wallet, cell phone, hand sanitizer . . . )
3-  I'm also carrying Jack.
4-  OMG, where are my keys to lock the car?!  I just had them!  Hitch Jack on hip, try to check both pockets with one hand, dig around in purse without success, put purse on  hood of car, start unloading it, realize Jack is setting off car alarm -- oh yeah, I handed him my keys.
5-  I'm also carrying my drink, and probably Jack's as well.
6-  I'm trying to remember where I put the list.  Resume search of pockets and purse with one hand.  Repeat steps #1-5 of #4.  Oh yeah, its on the table back home.  Crap!  What was I coming here for anyway!?!

The solution?  The new green shopper.  Its a full-sized reusable shopping bag that folds into a tiny weeny bag that fits into my pocket - - or god forbid -- my black hole of a purse.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fwd: Serious concerns regarding 'Fields of Grace' Petting Farm

I just wanted to let you guys know that I just sent this out.  Wish me luck!

Begin forwarded message:
From: Hannah W 
Date: July 30, 2008 3:42:03 PM EDT
Subject: Serious concerns regarding 'Fields of Grace' Petting Farm

To whom this may concern:

I have spoken to representatives from the Carter County Mayor's Office, the Carter County Health Department, made unsuccessful attempts to reach Carter County Animal Control (as I am told there is no officer at this time), spoke to Dr. Brunkhorst at the USDA Animal Care office in Nashville, TN, and have spoken to the USDA APHIS representative for the East US region in Raleigh, North Carolina.  All of the individuals I spoke to at the county government level were very helpful, but unsure of who would have jurisdiction over this matter.

I and several other mothers (including a veterinarian) took our toddlers to "Fields of Grace" petting farm near Elizabethton, TN after reading a positive article about it in the Johnson City Press online newspaper (dated 5-07-2008).  Another article in the Elizabethton Star was dated Sept. 18, 2005.

Unfortunately, as we toured the "farm," we all became very concerned for both the health and safety of the children visiting and of the animals exhibited there.

The owner claimed that the animals were trained for "therapeutic" service, and assured us that all were safe to pet.  However, the USDA representative stated that there was no license for this "farm," and it was not registered with the agency.

As I have many complaints, I felt a bulleted list would be most effective in relaying the cruel, unsanitary, and unregulated conditions of the "farm."  
  • The animals at this farm appeared undernourished, in horrid conditions, and some exhibited signs of serious illness per the opinion of a veterinarian.
  • Many of the animals were housed in a large barn that had approximately 6 inches of soiled hay underfoot.  Most were in rusty and dirty cages with barely enough room to move.  Most were without clean water, and none had food.  When our children began to feed the animals from the feed bags we'd purchased, we were all concerned that the animals appeared frantic and trampled each other to reach the food.
  • Most of the pens and cages for the animals were filthy, too small, dark, and appeared to be of an improper function for the animal inside.  For instance, she had a large chicken in a small birdcage, several chickens in a cage barely big enough for a hamster, and several pigs in large wooden boxes with little ventilation.  One chicken was housed in an old child's playpen with old window screens secured by wood planks on top.  Several Guinea pigs were in a small hamster cage, and one was in a bird cage turned on its side.   
  • Most of the chickens on the property were missing some or all their feathers on their backs, and some were missing feathers on their necks and sides.  Our veterinarian acquaintance saw open sores on the chickens.
  • The veterinarian stated that a pig (one which the owner encouraged our children to pet), had a skin disease.
  • Our children were encouraged to walk through stalls and pens that appeared to rarely have been cleaned.  Our children were encouraged to pet diseased animals, and we did our best to decline those opportunities.  
  • The owner appeared to have no education or concern regarding the proper care and maintenance of these animals, how to ensure safety of the public, and how to avoid spreading disease.
  • At one point, she asked us to place our children into an above ground swimming pool that contained many rabbits (some caked in feces), rabbit feces, and many rusted or dirty toys.  Of course, we declined.  The newspaper article states, "One popular attraction is the rabbit garden, where kids can sit in a pen with rabbits hopping about."
  • During this trip, the children were encouraged to hand feed animals one after the other, and there were no hand-washing stations available.  Luckily, I had brought hand sanitizer with me.  
  • Several large dogs were in pens near the petting area, and one in particular seemed very aggressive.  The dog pens smelled strongly of feces and urine.
  • From my non-expert reading of the USDA regulations for Animal Exhibitions, Ms. Pilkington is breaking most if not all of them.

Certainly, we did our best to protect our 2 year-old children the best we could once we were in the maze of the "farm."  This "farm" appears to be marketed to small children as the newspaper article states, "Fields of Grace has just opened, and the first buses to arrive have been from Head Start and special education programs, but [the owner] sees her audience as ranging from preschool to youth, with an emphasis on church youth programs."  Obviously we were concerned for the health and safety of the animals.  More importantly, however, we felt that this woman should not be allowed to market this "farm" as a "storybook environment," as she was quoted in the newspaper.

I am greatly concerned that this is a hazard to these animals and to the general health and welfare of the community as it is advertised as a safe place for children to interact with animals.  In my opinion, it is a matter of time before a small child contracts salmonella, TB, or E. coli from the soiled environment and animals which are known to spread these and other diseases.  

I will be sending this email to the USDA offices, the Carter County governmental agencies, and the newspaper that wrote glowing articles.  Please keep me informed as to the progress of any investigation that may be begun by my concern.  The owner of this "farm" is a woman who appears to be very well-intentioned, but is not running this for-profit business in a healthy way.

Hannah W

Information on Fields of Grace:
"Fields of Grace" is located at:
2615 HIGHWAY 91
ELIZABETHTON TN  37643-6922 

Articles on the Petting Farm:
Fields of Grace Petting Zoo article, "It's a ZOO! - Fields of Grace Petting Farm offers fun for kids in a storybook setting" by By James Brooks, Press Staff Writer, Johnson City Press

"'Fields of Grace' offers kids simplicity, play with animals"
By Bryan Stevens, Elizabethton Star Staff

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Organic Food, Where?

Hey guys!  Just to let you know that I've found a bunch of organic food at Big Lots lately.

I found organic oatmeal, fruit and grain bars, sodas, crackers, etc.

I know that buying organic can be very expensive -- believe me, I wish I could buy all organic.  However, its nice to get a deal on organic food at Big Lots.  Yeah Big Lots!

Plastic Bag use

I was sent this by my Dad and by a friend, that I thought I'd share it!

Click here to be convinced that you need to invest in reusable cloth grocery bags.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Please keep our old church in your prayers.  Yesterday a man walked in with a shotgun and killed 2 and injured 7.

Click here for article on the shooting.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rain Stick

In honor of the last blog entry, Jack and I made a rain stick from things we already had around the house.

We found a piece of PVC pipe from the garage (one end had screw threads) and an open threader for the pipe.

I found that a gatorade bottle top fit perfectly into the open threader making it both colorful and closed.

I took a length of aluminum foil and wound it around the bissell handle to form a spiral, and inserted into the tube.  I attached the foil to both ends of the tube (using superglue on the open side and pressing it firmly into the threads on the threaded end).

I poured in uncooked corn, rice, and salt.

I closed the other end with a top from the vitamin bottle that ran out yesterday, and superglued it to the open end.  I added a couple of layer of masking tape for support as the pipe is smaller than the bottle top, and I was afraid too much pressure on the cap would break the glue bond.

Since the PVC open threader cap clamps down tightly, Jack can't get it open.  However, it was nice to be able to open it to remove and/or add things to the stick for me.  

Here is a link I found with instructions to make a rain stick.  It uses a mailer tube (which I didn't have), but use anything you may have at home!  The website has lots of instructions for home made things.  It is called "Family Fun,"  and I believe its affiliated with Disney.

I'm going to try to find some metal washers around the house to make the tap shoes also shown on this website!

That's Music to My Ears!

Jack and I attended a Mom's group today in our new city!  During the group, there was a demonstration from a Kindermusik instructor.  It jogged my memory a bit, and I wanted to share a forgotten project from before this blog was started. 

Musical Instruments are sooooo easy to make with items from around the house.  Several of the "instruments" and other toys used by Kindermusik (and Mother Goose through Helen Ross McNabb) are fancy and expensive when you attempt to purchase them through the group.  When we attended Mother Goose, Jack loved the egg shakers and rain sticks.

After Easter, I was about to throw his cheap plastic Easter eggs in the recycle bin.  I realized, however, that those 2-part eggs are perfect for making egg shakers.  I filled one with rice, another with a couple of egg noodles, another with loose tea, another with ground coffee.  I superglued the top to the bottom and let them dry.  Viola!  Not only did Jack have shakers the perfect size for his hand, each had a different sound.  This brand of plastic eggs had 2 very small holes on the bottom.  This was a bonus as they didn't let out any of the contents, but allowed him to experience the smell of the tea and coffee as he played with them.

These shakers were a great hit!  When he got tired of them, I recycled them.  My friends' infants loved to play with the shakers when they came to visit.

Another great way to make a shaker is to reuse the Gerber graduates fruit puff containers.  Once two were empty, I filled one with rice and another with pennies.  The plastic containers are already shaped with a curve that is perfect for a toddler grip.  I glued and/or duct taped the tops on, and, Viola again!

Of course, you would always want to supervise your infants and toddlers with these shakers.  After all, they are made from cheap "disposable" eggs and food cartons.  There is no guarantee that your kid won't break into either if he or she is very determined.  I don't recommend using pennies for this reason, but dry rice and tea probably wouldn't be such an issue.

We also reused a Folgers coffee plastic container as a drum.  Jack often has trouble playing his store-bought bongos because he finds it difficult to hold one and bang on it at once.  The sound is far less satisfying if the open bongo bottom is placed on the floor or couch.  However, the Folgers container had a big handle and a large opening.  The big handle helped him hold onto it while he drummed, and the large opening made a deep sound!

I found a whole article about reusing Folgers plastic coffee containers through the Associated Press.  Click here for the whole article!

I also found a website with tons of ideas for homemade musical instruments built with reused materials!  Click here!

Monday, July 21, 2008

More about Freecycle!

The following is from the home page:

"Welcome! The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,553 groups with 5,493,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free."

You do have to have a Yahoo Groups account, which is they way I've joined other civic groups.  Its also free!

I saw groups for almost every county in TN, counties in NC, and the larger cities in both states!  I didn't check outside our area, but I can see that they seem to have a group for everyone!


I just heard about this website today!  How awesome is this!!

You just put in your city or your county and join the Yahoo group.  The idea is to help the environment by giving away things that you'd throw away to someone who wants it!  

How awesome is that!  Its right up my alley!

Monday, July 14, 2008

TN Convenience Centers

I posted this in the comments, but I thought more of you might see it if I made it a solo post:

I'm pretty sure that every county in TN has at least one "Convenience Center."  Its paid for by tax money.  Most people refer to it as the "dump."  Not only can you take trash there, but you can recycle many different things there too.

Here is the website for all 3 Loudon Co. centers including the contact info, hours and days of operation, and what they can accept for recycling.

Here is the website for Washington Co.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Most Brilliant Reduce-Reuse-Recycle Game

I emailed my blog group asking them for their best ideas.  I put the list on the side bar for a while, but I am removing it as I now have a new email game going!  
Enjoy these answers!

 RebW: (pr) "I don't pick up after my dogs with the plastic bags that are at all doggie stations.  I leave it on the ground so that that little area of land, will be fertilized and fed."  Can't you hear the sarcasm?

Mom 2 3: She made the kids a bug house by re-using a butter tub. She poked holes in the top, cut a square section out of the side for a viewing window and then taped clear plastic film on the inside. Can be recycled, and keeps tupperware clean and in the kitchen where it belongs!!!

S Panda: She goes thru her little girls old clothes to see if old pants can be capris or dresses can be swing-tops. Best of all: She works from home via the internet!

J Schaef: She only runs the self-cleaning function of the oven during the winter to save on AC, and she unplugs appliances and chargers when not in use (good one!).

Jacob's Mom2B: Household game to save money by clipping coupons so it's easier to afford organic. Instead of plastic baggies, and to save on saran wrap and foil, they use the washable canisters with lids.