Friday, February 27, 2009

Burned by the Burner

The tip in "The Green Year" is so appropriate for me this morning! Our stove has 4 burners, 1 small, 2 large and the "main" burner (right front) has a switch that allows it to be used either as a large or small burner. My husband cooked us lunch yesterday, using the small saute pan, for which he always switches the main burner over to use small burner heat.
When I went home last night and started cooking, I used the larger sauce pan and after awhile, realized my water wasn't boiling.
"This is the main burner," I told him. "Quit switching it over to the small one and use one of the other small ones!"
I was irritated because I was hungry and had just wasted time - and some energy - trying to boil water in a larger pan than the burner could accommodate.
Jodi Helmer has a good point about using the right burner for the size pan you're using when cooking. "if the circumference of the burner is larger than the size of the pan, you're leaking unused heat into the air. Also avoid using a pot too big; it takes a lot of extra energy to heat the contents."
My husband is right to use the smaller burner for the small pan. I just wish he would use the other small burner and leave "my" burner alone. :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Controlling the Mail Part II

One of the best tips I've gotten from "The Green Year" is to stop/control the number of catalogs coming in our mail. I think I was on everyone's list. I only buy from a limited number of companies and I really hate the waste - as well as taking the time to shred the mailing labels. is great. If I get a catalog now that I don't want anymore, I just go to this website, log on, input the information and if the company participates in their program, they do the rest. If the company doesn't participate, I also call them, just to make sure I'm removed.

Today's tip in "The Green Year" suggests going to online billing. This whole electronic-world only is a new thing for me, but I finally did sign up for online banking last month. My next step is to stop the paper statements and chose one bill at a time to do online bill pay.

Baby steps...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grinding the Garbage

There are a lot of great tips in Jodi Helmer's "The Green Year." Today, the tip happens to be not to throw waste into your garbage disposal.
When we built our house here, my husband refused to believe we could have either a dishwasher or a garbage disposal because of the septic system. Whether that is true or not, like many things here, I've learned that we really don't need a garbage disposal.
I don't have an official compost pile yet, but I throw potato peels and other natural waste into the woods, where it either breaks down naturally, or most likely, is eaten by the woodland critters.
For those of you in the burbs, Helmer says throwing waste into the garbage disposal uses lots of water and eventually takes that waste to streams and lakes where it kills fish and algae.
Helmer suggests using a compost pile, or putting it into your regular trash. Unlike most of our waste, natural peels etc. will eventually biodegrade.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Update on New Products

Two weeks ago, I started buying all natural cleansers and soaps at Nature's Way, the natural health food store in Mountain Home.
I started using antibacterial soaps some years ago when I had problems staying healthy in the winter.
Turns out, that might not be such a safe thing to do. The clerk at Nature's Way told me that some studies suggest that these soaps cause cancer. I did a little checking and it turns out that some chemicals added to some antibacterial soaps may cause dioxin when mixed with water - which is known to cause cancer.
I checked my soaps I'm using up from Bath and Body Works and couldn't tell if they had the offending chemicals or not, so I think I'll just stop using them.
I really love natural body products made by Indigo Wild in Kansas City. I've interviewed the owner for a story I did on them and they are really a cool company. Not only are they dog friendly - meaning they allow their employees to bring their dogs to work - they make all natural products for dogs as well. They're at
As for the products I bought at Nature's Way - Seventh Generation dishwashing liquid and all natural, enviro-friendly bleach, I like both of the products.
I also did buy an all natural lavender hand soap made by Avalon Organics at and really love it.
The thing I don't like about both of these products is that they aren't packaged in environmentally friendly packaging. They are in small plastic containers that have to be replaced, instead of just buying a large bulk refill.
The clerk at Nature's Way suggested I email the companies and ask them to make bulk refills to save plastics from the landfills. If enough customers complain, they might do it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pantry Pests and Other Unwanted Critters

Call this country living a bit of a learning experience. I've learned about many different kinds of animals and insects here in the woods. One thing I had never encountered was a problem with Meal Moths. My mother always kept a sparkling clean house and we never had a problem with bugs. That explains how I didn't know what a cockroach looked like when I took my first full time job, which happened to be in apartment management.
I won't say my house is clean all of the time, but during our 23 year old marriage, we have managed to keep our house clean enough to keep pests away.
There's almost nothing I hate more than a bug in my kitchen.
So, imagine our surprise when we learned that what we thought were harmless little moths were actually a "pantry pest," or Indian Meal Moths, as nasty a critter as the cockroach and just as destructive to food - both human and dog.
It's not uncommon to have a stray moth fly in our house, we're usually invaded by ladybugs in the fall and thought this was just another critter that slipped in the door or an open window.
In all our years of having pets, we've never encountered this problem before, but apparently, these things usually hitch a ride in on dry pet food or treats, or birdseed - all of which we have in our pantry.
We realized we had a problem when we spotted more than just the stray moth flitting around the house.
When I learned that these icky things were probably nesting in our house and helping themselves to whatever was in our pantry, I immediately began researching eco-friendly ways to rid ourselves of them and their off-spring. I found that first, almost everything that is open in the pantry needs to be tossed. Thoroughly cleaning the suspected infected pantries with straight vinegar (including removing all of the shelves as these things are hard to spot in egg and larvae form) and cleaning all cracks and holes in the pantry will usually do the trick. (I even found nests in the round peg holes where the shelves can be move. Ugh).
I used a combination of Clorox spray (purchased before my quest to go chemical free)and vinegar to clean the pantry. Luckily, I only found evidence of the moths in one pantry. Next, my husband bought a bunch of plastic containers that seal tightly before we brought anymore food home. Finally, I read that both lavender and whole bay leaves will keep them, well, at bay. I used both. I hear there are also non-toxic sticky traps, but we have yet to find them - although we're still on the look-out, just in case.
The only other bug problems we've dealt with here are spiders in the house, for which we also use non-toxic sticky traps. Spiders have a very big part in the food chain - they keep away mosquitoes and other pests away - they just need to stay out of our house.
In Kansas City, we also had a problem with ants each year - until we put out the Torro liquid bait, which was nothing more than a sugar/water/Borax solution.
My friend in PA frequently has a problem with mice, and I give her credit that they use live traps and relocate the critters far from their house.
I would like to know more about eco-friendly ways to keep pests from the home.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Music and Memories

Jodi Helmer's tip in "The Green Year" corresponded to an article that ran in The Kansas City Star this morning.
Jodi recommends downloading your music online, rather than purchasing a CD, which takes raw materials to produce. Not only is the CD not very eco-friendly, the packaging also harms the environment.
The Kansas City Star this morning ran an article about music store owners trying to compete in such an Internet based digital music world.
I have a lot of fond memories of visiting the record store on a Saturday morning, sometimes with my brother, who taught me the appreciation of rock and roll at a very early age. Going to the record store was a right of passage for my generation, not just to pick up the latest tunes, but to also purchase concert tickets.
If you're over 40, how many Saturdays do you remember standing outside of a record store waiting for the greatest concert tickets to go on sale!?
It is a different world today, one where we have to be mindful of the impact we're making on the planet through everything we do.
I'll admit, I only just downloaded my first YouTube music video awhile back, so I have a long way to go (I don't even know how to operate an iPod) but learning to help the environment gives me more incentive.
"The Green Year" recommends visiting to download your favorite tunes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Ok, coming from the home of Hallmark cards, I admit it, I'm still a sucker for paper cards. I know, I know. The trees, the energy it takes to make them. Still, this is one environmentally unfriendly thing I still can't resist.

Jodi Helmer gives some tips on "The Green Year," for a more environmentally friendly day for love:

Order organic bouquets if you are going to give flowers (there are many companies on the Internet)

Prepare a candlelit dinner at home for you and your beloved. Turning out the lights will not only save energy, but not going anywhere is good for the environment too.
And in this economy, who can afford a grand meal out anyway?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Biodegradable Toothbrushes

Interestingly, the first time I ever saw one was in Wal-Mart, and I loved it. I bought 3 before they stopped carrying them.
Jodi Helmer talks about biodegradable toothbrushes in her book "The Green Year," saying that 50 million pounds of garbage each year in landfills comes from toothbrushes, which are made of plastic - which never breaks down.
When I was in the natural health food store last weekend, I looked for such a brush, but all they had were brushes made with natural hair, but they still had the regular, plastic handles.
"The Green Year" points consumers to two websites:, which makes toothbrushes from recycled yogart cups. When you're ready for a new toothbrush, you just mail it back to the company in a postage paid mailer and the old toothbrush will find yet another life - maybe as outdoor furniture. makes the handles from Nebraska Maize and you simply replace the head when it's time for a new one.
I'm hoping the natural health food store in Mountain Home will find one to carry, but if not, my toothbrushes might be arriving in the mail with my Netflix!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Chemical Free

When I was talking to a friend of mine in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago, she told me she was trying to make her household totally chemical free.
It's a good goal, although a tough one for generations of us brought up to think that chemical cleaners are the smell of a nice, fresh house and chlorine bleach is the only way to keep our whites nice and white.
The weather has been so beautiful here in the Ozarks these past few days that me and my friend and neighbor, Rae, went into Mountain Home yesterday to hit some of the antique and junk stores. On the square, we found the coolest health food and supplement store. We're told Nature's Way has been on the square since the 1970s.
They have more than just food and supplements, they have a whole store of soaps, lotions, cleaning products, deodarant and toothpastes.
We had a blast talking with the clerks and learning more about natural and whole products available in this area. I did learn about a natural food store that sells some organic, free range meat (but they were closed when we went there) and some disturbing stuff about antibacterial soap (I'll post it if I find it to be true).
I've tried the Green Works line of cleaners. Specifically, the toilet cleaner, which is very good. However, while in Nature's Way, I decided to try the Seventh Generation line of dish soap and natural bleach that is safe for the environment.
I'll post updates on those later.
Now, for those environmentally friendly toothbrushes Jodi Helmer mentions in the "Green Year."
I'll post more about that quest on Wednesday...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Mailing Lists

I spent an entire day after we got our power back going through a week of mail, which consists mostly of catalogs and credit card offers. It's time consuming because I shred all of the pages with our personal information on them.
My junk mail has doubled the past two years. When my mother died and I put in a change of address to have all of her mail forwarded to me, the catalogs, credit card offers, charities and AARP also received the information.
I hate getting junk mail. Turns out, "The Green Year" is talking about that this week, giving advice on how to get off of catalog mailing lists.
Jodi Helmer says 8 million tons of trees are used in the production of catalogs each year. She advises to go to and have yourself removed from any catalog lists you don't want. "You can continue receiving catalogs from your favorite retailers," Helmer says. "Just be sure to recycle them when you're finished with them."
I've also started taking the time to call AARP and non-profits my mom's name was on, advising them to please remove her name.
As for our pre-approved credit card offers, there's a toll free number you can opt out of these: 888-567-8688.
Because mailers are pre-printed, you might continue to receive junk mail for a few months, but it should start to substantially decrease over time.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I'm back after an 8-day nightmare that began with a historic natural disaster here in Arkansas. An ice storm hit us on January 26. In the early morning hours of January 27 we lost our power, and by that night, we were hearing trees throughout our woods snapping. It sounded as if someone were in the woods with shotguns. After the snap, we would hear the sickening sound of swoosh, as tops of trees and full trees, came crashing down. The result, across the entire landscape of northern Arkansas is an entire region that looks as if it has suffered tornado damage. There are trees and limbs that took utility lines, entire utility poles and in some instances, roofs down with them. Luckily, we didn't suffer any damage to our house or buildings.
After speaking to a friend yesterday and having her remind me of a weekend long ago when I had gotten food poisoning after we went to a restaurant in Kansas City, I have to say this past week ranks right up there with that experience as one of the most memorable - and not in a good way.
However, it didn't have to be.
My husband and I should have been more prepared for losing our power, and more importantly, being stranded in the woods for nearly a week before the ice melted enough to get up our mountain.
After witnessing the response of our county government, FEMA and to a lesser extent, our utility company to this disaster, I'm convinced this country is in no way prepared for a disaster of a large scale that would take away our modern conveniences, such as power.
We learned that we have to prepare ourselves and count only on ourselves, if there is another - or larger disaster.
At the height of the anxiety around here, we couldn't find any generators and grocery stores were running out of food and water.
While we had stocked up on food and we had heat with a wood burning stove (and certainly plenty of wood to heat with), we didn't have enough water, nor did we have a generator large enough to power anything larger than the refrigerator.
As we researched generators so our neighbor could bring us one today from Kansas City, we wanted to go as "green" as possible, choosing a model that would be fuel efficient. We finally chose a higher end Honda, as they are fuel efficient and should last us awhile.
Propane is the cleanest burning fuel, but cost is a consideration for us at this time.
After meeting with our utility company yesterday afternoon and being told it would be the end of next week before power was restored, we came home to a pleasant surprise of having our power on.
At least we'll be better prepared next time. I'll write a future post on disaster preparedness plans that all families - not just those in the country - should have.