It ain’t easy cookin’ & cleanin’ green

So this is the kitchen/cleaning edition of trying to be sustainable in the home, whether a homeowner or a renter like me.

A little research has taken me a long way in developing better habits when it comes to cutting back on my waste products in the kitchen. Yes, there is an initial pay-out of money up front that “looks” costlier, but when broken down, it ends up being money-saving in the long-term.

So, let’s get started with the cleaning side of things.

Most cleaners you but in the stores have a list of chemicals a mile long and unpronounceable. The ones that are “natural” can be quite pricey and still come in plastic, toss away bottles that most people don’t recycle. My goal was to get away from those things.

1. Standard all-purpose cleaner. We all want something that’s going to clean our stove, counter, spills in the fridge and on the floor and an all-in-one product is less costly and environmentally friendly. My go-to these days is semi-DIY with Dr. Bronners Hemp Baby Unscented 18-1 Soap.

DrBronnersThis soap is super concentrated so a 32 oz. bottle will last a long time. Opting for unscented means you can add the essential oils you prefer for your specific purposes (more on the oils later in the post). Or for those sensitive to scents, you can use it as is. This stuff can be ridiculously gentle or remove the nastiest stove/oven build up you can throw at it, depending on your level of dilution.

I purchased a pack of glass spray bottles of various sizes to use for various needs. I found the 8 oz. bottle work best if you plan on using specific scents for specific cleaning purposes.
Amberbottles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Bronners can also be used for dish soap, but I’ve found that it doesn’t rinse as thoroughly as some dish soaps, so this is one are where I don’t DIY. I do buy Method dish soap, as it seems to have the least amount of ingredients, and you can purchase refill bags that are 100% recyclable. I cook every day, at least 2 meals a day—and I’m not frugal with my use of pots, pans, bowls, or utensils and this pump and refill bag has lasted me since January (and no, I do not have a dishwasher).

 

Though it’s not “technically” kitchen, the washer and dryer are close enough. Laundry detergent is ridiculously laden with chemicals that are not only nasty for the water supply, but also tend to break down the fibers of your clothes quicker than should be happening (sometimes blaming the “quality of the clothes” is wrong, it’s really your detergent, amount of detergent, how often you wash, etc.–and Tide is one of the biggest corroders (is that a word?) on the market, FYI).

For some ‘recipes’ for clean cleaners, see this post from April.

I did some research and found these interesting little fellas….Soap Nuts. For a good rundown on what they are and how they work, Wellness Mama (one of my fave sites) gives you some info. soapnuts

The only addition I would make to her instructions are that if you’re using them to wash with cold/cool water, first soak them for about 15 minutes in hot, filtered water–this releases the saponins from the nuts. I’ve found that I can use 5-7 nuts for about 4 standard loads of laundry. IF you have heavily soiled laundry, you can do one of two things for the stains—use the above mentioned castile soap spray to spot treat or buy the Soapnut X10 liquid, dilute it and utilize it as your stain treatment.

***I will be changing my brand of soap nuts, when mine run out, to Econutssoap.com. This company helps create additional jobs in areas where the soap nuts (berries) are harvested, thus giving them much-needed income***
This brings me to drying. Fabric softeners are also a massive chemical compound, typically with lots of silicone involved. And the thing about silicone? It stops moisture absorption (which is why you’ll find it in every anti-chafing product and make-up primer out there). So, if you use it with your towels, wash cloths, cloth diapers, cloth menstrual pads, etc. you’re losing out on their actual absorbancy–the thing you bought them for in the first place!

Instead of using liquids or sheets, I’ve moved on to dryer balls (there’s always the fun of saying “I gotta throw my balls in the dryer”). I purchased the Fluffies brand, based on my original research of their fair trade, organic, etc. balls.

dryerballs

I throw a couple (XL) balls in with a load of clothes and the clothes come out fluffed, wrinkle free, and they tend to dry faster because wool absorbs some of the moisture—so, energy-saving as well. And if you, like me, want your clothes to smell pretty, then all you need to do is spritz the balls with a diluted water/essential oil mixture (usually 10-15 drops of oil per 3 oz. spray bottle of water will work) until they’re damp all the way around, then toss them in the dryer.

Before we move on to the more kitchenly items, let’s chat about essential oils. Yeah, they’re all the rave these days, but really the hippies in the 60s had the drop on us with their patchouli oil (which I still love, so piss off-with love). But, as time and research and whatever have gone on, studies have shown that many oils have various properties that make them not just smell nice, but also serve a purpose: antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, brochiodiolators, anti-inflammatories, digestives, etc. And most of the time, that doesn’t matter because we just want things to smell nice!

And I’m admittedly kind of serious about my essential oils…evidenced by:
essentialoils.jpg
This container holds 70 oils and I have at least another 10-15 bottles that are too big to fit in it!

If you choose to use essential oils for your DIY products, there are a few tips and tricks that are good to know:

Look for oils that say 100% pure-grade essential oil and/or the only listed product is the oil producing product. Sometimes oils will be placed in a “carrier” oil which dilutes the efficacy and potency of the essential oil.

Oils should be in dark colored, glass bottles. This stops the light from getting through and tainting the raw oil.

With the exception of a few oils (citrus being a main one), oils should be clear in color, unless they are blended and then you may get color because citrus is usually added to most blends.

Price isn’t always a guarantee of quality. There are a lot of “pyramid” type sales for essential oils these days and they cost a pretty penny but aren’t of the best quality. Your best bet is to do some research on multiple online sites reviewing oils to determine the best ones.

Ok….now we’re on to the kitchen gadgetry that is eco-friendly.

My first one is the easiest thing possible: A reusable coffee filter. coffeefilter Coffee drinkers are probably going to use anywhere from 250-365 coffee filters per year. That’s a LOT of waste hitting the landfill. Wet filters will decompose quicker, but once they dry out, they take just as much time as any other paper. Plus there’s the fact that if they’re white filters, they’re made with bleached paper–is there a guarantee that’s not leaching into my god knows how many cups of coffee per day? And all you really need to do is give the reusables a good rinse and then was once a week to get the oily residue off (which is natural in coffee beans).

Now on to my new favorite kitchen toy…The FOSA Turtle. (No I did not buy it just for the name!) Turtle

This is a vacuum sealing product that uses containers instead of the disposable plastic bags that most sealers use. The containers aren’t glass, unfortunately, but they are BPA free hard plastic that can take a flying leap out of your hands onto the floor without breaking (impromptu testing on my part).

This isn’t an inexpensive bit of gadgetry, but it won’t break the bank either. For $60 you get the vacuum and 3 containers. And there are additional containers you can buy in various sizes depending on your needs.

I did a little test on this while I still had my 30-day Amazon window of return. I put some grapes in the FOSA container and vacuumed the air out. I put an equal amount of grapes in a rubbermaid container, set them side-by-side in the fridge and went on a long weekend to Michigan.

I didn’t keep the results of the rubbermaid because it was pretty gross and I ate the evidence of the FOSA.  So, needless to say, the FOSA grapes were not a slimy sludge in the container like the other one. And at this time, I still have cheese in one of the containers that I also sealed up before that vacation and it is still fresh and tasty.

As a single person, I was seeing a lot of fresh produce waste that I wasn’t happy about. This seems to be one of the better ways of saving that food for a much longer period of time….which brings me to the next food storage item that I love.

The reusable, silicone “ziploc” bags. Again, not the least expensive thing on the market at $35 for 6 bags, but the payoff for me is that I’m not tossing bags that take 200+ years (according to the EPA) to decompose completely, not to mention leaching chemicals iziplocnto the soil and ground waters.

And if you use them for storing things in the fridge, as I did—well, again there’s the longevity of life of that food. Less air gets through, so food stays fresh longer. I managed to keep mushrooms fresh for 2 weeks in one of these bags and we know how quickly those suckers slime up in a bag or plastic container–EWWW! They’re also FOOD-GRADE TOXIN-FREE SAFETY… FDA certified silicone without BPA, BPF, PVC, BPS & latex free and dishwasher safe, making the clean-up that much easier.

And my last one, which is probably not as convenient for families as it is for one person and it seems a little weird, but hey, would you expect anything less from me?

It’s reusable food wrap (to replace foil, plastic wrap*, and my former fave, press & seal.

foodwrap

Again, not a “cheap” product at $42.00 for 7 various sized wraps, but does anyone really have 7 things saran wrapped in their fridge?

It takes some getting used to, but being able to just wash it and dry it, then use it again is such a great way to cut down on the waste that comes from the other disposable wraps.

*Disclaimer: I still use plastic wrap when I make big batches of freezer burritos/breakfast burritos, which is because I really can’t afford to buy anywhere from 40-60 pieces of this wrap and because I can’t microwave these either (I know, I SHOULD NOT microwave the plastic wrap–I will find a way around it one of these days).

So that’s it for the BSmeter round-up of eco-friendly products for your kitchen (and laundry).

And though my carbon footprint isn’t as small as I’d like it to be, and never will be if I continue being a carnivore–which I will because BACON! STEAK!, it’s much smaller now that I’ve implemented these measures (along with composting, more robust recycling, refurbishing and upcycling items, etc.).

 

 

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Imprisoning the bewbs without breaking the bank

Guys (and other women) may find them fascinating. Small-breasted women may wish they had them. But, let me be straight-up. BIG BOOBS SUCK ASS! They tend to not be perky. They get in the way of a lot of things. PMS bewb pain is worse (from my research). They cause back and neck pain. And your bras are expensive as hell without being remotely pretty OR sexy, much of the time.

So, one gets over worrying about have an entire drawrer full of pretty bras and just wants bras that decrease pain, pull the girls up where they should be, and don’t cost 1/4 of a paycheck to purchase.

And I’m happy to say I’ve found some! Yes, it’s true. Unlike the unicorn, leprechauns, and finding a decent man as a life partner after 40, they do exist!

*All the bras I’m reviewing have been worn more than once, washed, and put through their paces of all day wear, workouts, and even (GASP) sleeping in them.*

1. Knix Evolution 8-in-1 Bra

KnixEvolution

When you first put this bra on, you’re going to think “no way, this is too tight. it is not a good fit”. This thought will be wrong. The amazing thing about this bra is that it stretches in a way that forms to your body. It’s like the Birkenstock (shoe) of bras! Even better? IT’S WIRELESS! No poking, pinching, too long, too short, gapping between your boobs wire issues to be seen. Plus it does a great job with the moisture wicking. Let’s face it, those of us with big girls have serious under-bewb sweat issues and it’s not fun.

It’s also reversible (with a second set of matching straps) and can be worn standard or X-style across the back—or even possibly the front if you’re wearing a high front, low back dress or some such.

For the $55 price tag this means you’re only paying $27.50 per bra. Actually, if you want to get nit picky, it would be approximately 5.50 “per bra” (they say 8 ways to wear it, but that X front will give you 10. You can’t even find a bra that cheap at the dollar store!

2. Knix V-Neck Evolution Bra-$55

EvolutionSportStrap

This bra will also have you thinking what the 8-in-1 did. Same rules apply. This one isn’t quite as “versatile”, but the V-neck is obviously great for your V-neck needs. It also “sports” a wider strap that isn’t removable, so it offers a bit more support. I wore it out for a quick-paced walk and there was minimal bounce of my DDs and it moves with your body nicely so it’s great for yoga, tai-chi, or qi-gong. I don’t think it would be great for a hard run, but for less impactful exercise, it’s quite comfortable. It can also be worn stand or X-style.

3. Delmira Women’s Full Coverage Front Closure Wire Free Back Support Bra-$19.99

I’m one of those women who’s boob are close to east-west facing instead of front facing. Even with a DD, it’s nearly impossible to get cleavage–how sad is that?

Let’s also add in that in my dotage I’ve been having a lot of shoulder, back, and neck pain that is exacerbated by the fact that I lay on the sofa with horrible posture and spend a fair amount of time hunched over a computer. The pain was getting bad enough that 1600 mg of ibuprofen was barely cutting through it.

Weeeellll. Enter the Delmira.

Sure, it’s not the sexy-time bra you’re gonna wear to get lucky. It’s the bra you’re going to wear to feel good. The sides are wider than most bras so it ‘pushes’ the girls to the center. The front hook/eye closure creates a great deal of support, even without a wire. But the best part is the reinforced X across the back. These panels put a little pressure on your shoulders when the bad posture monster rears up, causing you to almost automatically adjust your shoulders in a back & down position that is better for your back. The straps are slightly wider, so there’s no cutting into your shoulders causing serious discomfort.

This is the bra I willingly wear at home (typically a bra-free zone) when I’m going to be spending a fair amount of time on the computer. It also offers enough support for light exercise. And….

cleavage
IT GIVES ME CLEAVAGE! CLEAVAGE I SAY! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Glamorise Women’s Plus, No Bounce, Wire-Free Sports Bra-$28.82

Baywatch1

BEWB BOUNCE HURTS, BISHES!

Baywatch may have glamorized the running boob-bounce, but women with big or small bewbs will tell you that shit HURTS!

When I started cycling and hitting bumps, lumps, gravel, and everything else on my bike, I realized that the cheap-o sports bras I had were not going to cut it. My chesticles needed to stay put, not hit me in the chin!

And the hunt began. I won’t even tell you how many different sports bras I tried. The number and $$$ spent is a bit embarrassing. But FINALLY, I came across these Glamorise beauties. And they really are quite cute (I bought the black/pink and the turquoise).

This bra keeps things where they’re supposed to be without giving you the full-on smashy uniboob. I also like that it is higher in the front than most sports bras (exercise is not a time I care about having or showing off the cleves). The reinforced back band gives great support across the bottom of the shoulder blades, which is great for anyone on a bike, as that area gets a lot of pressure and fatigues, even if you don’t realize it.  I’d guess because of the arm pumping motion, a similar issue could exist for runners too.

 

Bottom line, this is the bra that you can wear on a serious, foot-pounding run and know you won’t be in discomfort during or after. Or you know, just wear it for the hell of it!

And there you have it…reasonably priced, non-sexy, quality bras for those of us who have been “blessed in the chest”.

For the record, I don’t think I’ve ever typed or said in my head the word “boobs” at any given time as much as I have in this post

♥♥♥♥♥     BOOBS BEWBS BOOBS BEWBS BOOBS BEWBS BOOBS BEWBS BOOBS    ♥♥♥♥♥

 

Why are those needles still in my leg?

I have been getting acupuncture done over the past month or so in hopes of helping the pain in my neck, shoulders, back, sciatica area.   I do believe this modality could help me a lot because I  believe in how our energy is affected by pain and illness.

But, I realized that though this is an Eastern Medicine modality, it’s being treated by this practitioner as a Western style medicine and that there’s no element of the mind-body-energy connection that I believe is necessary for it to work appropriately.

When I tried discussing meridians during my first appointment, she looked at me blankly, but ok, that may not be how she learned it. But, after three appointments in which I use a computer to show what areas my pain is most prominent and she comes in, sticks the needles, in without really discussing anything, and then leaves. When the time is up, the receptionist comes in and removes the needles.

Today, I got up from the table (which is hella uncomfortable, btw–especially when it’s your back and neck being worked on) to find three pins still in my leg. WTH?

I accepted that this wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in an acupunture therapy because it’s done in a noisy office that also does chiropractic work and it’s not exactly a relaxing atmosphere to have the experience that most Eastern Medicine tries to encompass. But, to look down and see that needles were carelessly left in my body is just a lack of attention that one doesn’t really want in ANY sort of medical practice.

So yeah, that will be my last treatment there and now I will have to drive almost an hour away to a practitioner that actually works within the modality of Eastern Medicine when it comes to Acupuncture.

This is the bane of small town life—not having the diversity that allows for this kind of “non-traditional” (which is hilarious since these practices date back a good century or more before this country even existed) treatment.

I will find that smaller town/community that does encompass what I want in life…someday.

 

The Snowman

I’ll probably post a review after I’ve watched a couple times, but initially, I’m not going to complain about seeing Michael Fassbender (yes, I’m aware he is a problematic man) shirtless, in boxer-briefs.

Also, the playing of this song made me inappropriately guffaw in the midst of a movie about missing women, murder, and mayhem.

These are the things that save potentially bad movies…

So yeah…review later.

Uncompromising: A plus or a negative?

via Daily Prompt: Uncompromising

When I see the word “uncompromising”, my knee-jerk reaction is the thoughts of narrow-minded, unyielding, stubborn, etc. But, is that really what uncompromising is when viewed across the spectrum?

Yes…and no. All of those words have negative connotation, but what if we look at it from a different point of view and utilize different words that mean the same thing.

Example A: A woman or a man has decided that they choose to not have sex prior to being married. They are positive this is the right path for them to take. It alligns with their core values and beliefs. Is this uncompromising? Yes, it absolutely is. Is it a negative? No it absolutely isn’t. This choice is part of who they are at the deepest level. By adhering to it, they are being true to themselves. They are living their truth.

Example B: I’ll use myself in this one…

I am an adamant, sometimes a bit rabid pro-choice woman (I’d go so far as to say I’m pro-abortion). I firmly and deeply believe in every part of my being that the choice to have an abortion is one that should be decided by the woman who is pregnant and her alone.

Of course she can (and in some cases should) discuss it with those she feels close enough to do so, as well as with her doctor, but ultimately the choice is hers to make.

Because of this, I will not date or even create close friendships with people who are pro-life (in the manner of believing that NO WOMAN should be allowed to have an abortion…not in the “I would not have one, but every person has to make their own choice manner.”) because I feel that this is a value-based issue and is an indication of that person’s values extending out from that. This decision has come from 25+ years of listening to, befriending (and losing), reading about, talking to, etc. people who are pro-life. These experiences have taught me that a vast majority of pro-life people have a bevy of other value-based beliefs that also do not align with mine. So, my choice is to keep them at a distance because we will not be able to make a deep connect based on these core beliefs.

Some people, of course, see this as me being negatively uncompromising. I, and those who share my beliefs, see it as being positively uncompromising because I’m not bringing relationships into my life that will most likely prove to be toxic to me and it also holds spacefor others I can share a solid connection with on many different levels.

In a nutshell, being uncompromising comes down to your reasons. If you’re doing it on a shallow, superficial, or negatively influencing yourself or others, possibly even being abusive verbally, emotionally, or physically…well, of course it’s negative.

But, if  you’re doing it with a deeper level of thought, being true to who you are, or doing it in an effort to not harm others, then there’s nothing wrong with not compromising. It’s not only a positive trait, but one that a person should be proud of.

 

Movies we should all watch…books we should all read…

It’s Black History Month so lists of black movies, black books, and everything in between. And for most white people, it’s the only time they actually pay even one iota of attention.

I try to do better. I succeed at times, I fail at times, but I keep trying. And I’m hoping that by posting things outside of the norm when it comes to artistic endeavors such as movies, literature, theatre, art, music, etc. I can do a little bit to help others become aware of just how much POC have shared with us. Not only their art, but pieces of their soul through that art.

So, I’m giving you a few lists, in hopes that you’ll join me in watching or reading some or all of the artistic endeavors included:

NY Times Movies starring, written, or directed by POC. *I add that I think they are highly remiss in not including Friday, Barber Shop, and Beauty Shop in this list*

IF you don’t read VSB (Very Smart Brothers), I suggest getting on it. It’s good stuff and a learning opportunity at every turn. This is their list and I think the title says it all quite well:  “Get Out” And 10 More Films About The Existential Terror Of Existing While Black In America

And if you’re a documentary geek like me, PBS put out a round-up. *Also, Hidden Colours is glaringly missing, as is American Roots Music, though not just about black musicians, it does a wonderful job at showing just how much black musicians influenced almost every genre of music that exists today.

This list goes beyond black literature, but encompasses a great deal of excellent reading material. And though it was assigned as a textbook, I recommend Doing Race, anything by Zadie Smith or Roxanne Gay, as well as I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi (it covers serious topics in a way that will, at times, have you snort-laughing–it’s a brilliant book). Also, So You Want to Talk About Race, Americanah, The Color of Water, and Mudbound (which might just piss you off for reasons I won’t go into).

With this, I leave you with what I consider one of the most beautiful, most haunting songs that has ever been written about racial issues in America, by the amazing Nina Simone.

It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Beautifully Green!

Since I’m embarking on a degree in sustainability, I thought it would be really hypocritical of me to live a life that was not green or sustainable, to the extent that I can.

Renting, of course, makes things a little tougher. I don’t get a say in many things regarding the structure of my abode. But, I can do what I can for the interior of it in small ways.

I make tooth powder from bentonite clay, charcoal, cocoa and (minty) essential oils. No, it’s not the best tasting, but the ingredients are extremely beneficial to tooth structure and combatting gum disease.

My mouthwash is made from aloe juice, coconut oil, and (minty) essential oils, along with a dash of cinnamon oil. Again, all excellent ingredients for combatting many bacterial issues in our moufs!

My lotions are made from shea butter, magnesium, coconut oil, and essential oils (our bodies can always benefit from more magnesium). I made additional ones with hemp and arnica oils because they have properties to speed up the healing process of bruising and alleviate aches and pains.

Instead of buying epsom salts for the bath, I buy 5 pound bags of magnesium flakes and add the essential oils of my choice to the bath water. Magnesium flakes have a higher concentration and melt quicker in the water than epsom salts do.

There are certain areas that are harder than others–like soaps. You can buy kits, but they tend to have non-sustainable ingredients, so for the time being, I buy bar soap to cut back on the plastic bottles (I previously ordered from the Soap Opera in Iowa City, but they closed in 2014, so now my go-to is The Soap Opera. which was the inspiration for the IC store and is located in Madison, WI). My goal is to make soap from scratch one of these days, but the idea of dealing with lye is a little scary.

I do buy a few products for my face ‘regiment’. Because of my rosacea, my skin care game has been upped a bit more than it was when I was younger. I use a purchased glycollic 30% peel once a week and a Salicylic 20% peel once a week. I also use a 2% salicylic solution nightly, along with a retinol serum. Unfortunately, these aren’t exactly “DIY” so purchases must be made.

A far as facial cleansing, I utilize a base jojoba oil with essential oils (energizing citrus for in the morning and a mix of lavender, chamomile, and a drop of tea tree oil at night). I steam my face for a few minutes (either in the a.m. or p.m.) and then wipe the oil off with rose-water “toner”, which is very soothing for the skin. To moisturizer I use a small amount of evening primrose oil with a drop of whatever essential oil I feel like (I’m partial to sandalwood, ylang-ylang, any citrus, or chamomile)

I know that all of this sounds time-consuming, but really these are all simple things to make, most within 5-30 minutes, and by using these ingredients and re-usable bottles, I cut down on my waste products and keep a lot of chemical ingredients that I can’t even pronounce off my temple…I mean body!

My next installation of It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green will be kitchen-related, so stay tuned…if you want to!