Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Greening Up Your Holidays

With the economic pinch forcing families to rethink their Holiday spending, consider the traditional route when it comes to gift-giving!

Crafty Cards
You can make a thoughtful, heart-filled statement making your own Holiday cards! You can buy blank note cards or folded cards and pair it up with scrapbook backgrounds and scrap paper. Here's a great hint: Holiday scrapbooking packs. They have stickers and patterned papers that are already color coordinated. For extra eco-friendliness: collect Holiday paper packaging from stores and simply reuse them.

Baked goods make an easy Holiday treat, and can be a great present in itself. Many stores sell Holiday-themed tin boxes that you can easily line with wax paper and fill with baked goods. For extra eco-friendliness: Purchase a tin box from a thrift store or reuse one from last year.

Sewing is Not Just for Housewives
If you took home economics in middle or high school, chances are that you can sew. You don't have be so advanced that you can make an elaborate outfit. Anything retangular will make a great beginner's project; like pillows, bags, and even knit skirts. For you more advanced sewers, reconstructed clothing revitalizes worn and old clothing into something completely new. For extra eco-friendliness: Use an old sheet or old clothes to reconstruct into something new. You can make a patchwork quilt, new scarf, or even a shawl.

Needlework Fun
The younger, crafting generation has taken needlework by storm! The beautiful think about knitting and crocheting is that they are extremely versatile; from toys to clothing to household decorations. You might want to rethink your grandma's old blanket and put a modern twist to it. Scarves make a great beginner's project and if you want to up the coolness factor, consider making a snake scarf, or scarf of toasts, or other neat things. If you like miniature, cute things, consider the Japanese art of amigurumi. For extra eco-friendliness: Look for yarn at thrift stores on clearance, or pull apart an old sweater for yarn.

Paper Goods
The scrapbooking boom has made it easier to make personalized, thoughtful scrapbooks for friends as well as family. Consider making a genealogy scrapbook or even a framed page for grandparents. You can also purchase a $1 paper box, wooden trinket box, or dish from a craft store and embelish it with patterned paper. In most cases, a clear veneer of shellac can be used to seal the paper in to give your items a nice, glossy finish. For extra eco-friendliness: Collect paper from grocery stores, recycling bins, magazine clippings, and more.

Hand-Painted on Glass or Ceramics
You can create beautiful designs with simple dots or diamonds on dinnerware. You don't need to know how to paint landscapes in order to make a great piece. After creating your piece, consider its use. If you painted a glass vase, present it with fresh local flowers. If you painted a glass dish, present it with treats or a savory food. For extra eco-friendliness: Purchase glass or ceramic dinnerware from the thirftstore.

Whatever you choose to do this Holiday season, consider these budget-saving ideas and have a little fun while doing it!

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Thankful Thanksgiving

In America, it's customary to welcome the Holiday season with a huge family meal, also known as Thanksgiving. For those who are health-conscious, vegetarian, or vegan, Thanksgiving may bring in a sense of dread or wonder, especially when considering the meat-eaters out there.

About 46 million turkeys are prepared for the Thanksgiving feast. For those who believe in animal rights and the liberation of all sentient beings, abstaining from turkey is a statement of, shall we say...taste.

So what do vegans and vegetarians eat on Thanksgiving? The good news is, they still enjoy mashed potatoes, yams, cranberries, and even corn. They also enjoy vegan-based gravy and most often families work together to cook their own recipes. You can always get help with the vegan communities for ideas and considerations.

And there is always the legendary Tofurky or Celebration Roast. It's basically a blend of tofu, tempeh, and seitan (wheat glutten) to make a kind of meat analogue. The stuffing, of course, is still purely vegetarian as it can be full of bread and spices.

Another interesting aspect of a "thankful Thanksgiving" is Adopt a Turkey, pretty much a turkey pardon on a large scale. Many families extend their kindness towards rescuing a turkey from not only slaughter, but allow them a peaceful life thereafter.

Many people may be turned off at the thought of a vegetarian dinner, but the surprising revelation is that many Thanksgiving dishes are already vegetarian in nature (remember the potatoes and yams already discussed earlier?). Although it is agreed that a centerpiece dish is often the talk of the day, you won't have to spend 5 hours basting a turkey when you can simmer a Tofurky loaf in rich spices and gravy for only an hour. Turkeys are rich in fats and other nutrients that you probably are already receiving from side dishes. Mass-raised/produced turkeys have been injected with harmones and other unnatural additives. Unless you've raised the turkey yourself, there is no sure way that your turkey is even healthy at the time of being processed.

The bottom line is; turkeys are not necessary for a great Thanksgiving dinner. If anything, you might benefit more out of a turkeyless dinner. And if that's too extreme, simply substitute a few ingredients like butter and gravy to make your Thanksgiving a little bit more "thankful".

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Discount Shopping

In these lean economic times, it's necessary to begin trimming down your expenses. There are thousands of ways to save and be resourceful. While the rest of the world lives on a different standard, one should realize that it's not difficult to adjust your lifestyle to fit frugality. So what are the secrets to saving up?

Live Within Your Means, and Simply
Don't buy that new entertainment system if you don't need it. Don't splurge on that fancy outing because you don't need that, either. The keyword here is need. Many people, especially in the United States, live way beyond their needs. Enjoy a few nights playing board games over watching cable television, even enjoy a candlelit dinner with home-cooked food.

With the internet helping, searching and looking for coupons can be a cinch! Check your mail for penny-saving coupons and keep an organizer handy. Sometimes it's best to keep a coupon book in your bag or vehicle and check sales and advertisements on sales.

Used is Good!
A lot of used items can be reused, such as clothes, dishes, and even appliances. Check out your local thrift store for a variety of great items. Eliminate the word new from your shopping list as much as you can. You don't need to buy that new couch when you can get the same item for half the price at the thrift store.

Walk Around
Try the public transportation system or walk around to where you need to go. Biking is also an excellent source of transportation and travel. You can also sign up for a carpool to keep you using less gas and to also meet a few people along the way. You can also snatch a few naps while someone else drives you to where you need to go.

These are but a few tips on how to save money during these tough economic times. Start a savings of at least 6 months' salary to really solidify your back-up plan, in the event that the economy depreciates further.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ways to Save Money On the Holidays

When you walk into your current discount store or even your local mall, one thing seems evident. The Holidays. Every year it's creeping further and further up past its due time. Christmas decorations are in line with Halloween decorations. "Why are there Christmas decorations already?" you might ask yourself. Either way, how will you save money during these economic times?

One word makes it very simple: time. Although time is indeed money, not many Americans today sew their own costumes, roast their own chicken, or hand-make their Holiday gifts. Some individuals believe they lack the talent for making their own gifts, whether it be clothes or food. But, if you boiled your own water before, you're bound to make jelly and jam preservatives just fine. You can offer sun tea with a pretty ribbon on it as a gift. Bake a cake if you can, and give it to your folks as a present.

Presents and preparations for the Holidays do not have to be bought at the mall. They do not have to reflect commercial interests. Homemade items are unique and thoughtful, and truly from the heart. Although it is no longer acceptable to pass out hand-made treats during Halloween, if you are in the need for sweet treats you may want to make your own caramels. Decorate your home with stretched out cotton balls and tape to imitate webs.

For Thanksgiving, virtually anything homemade will turn heads. Implement a potluck if there is none already, cook your own dishes and decorate using your natural surroundings. If you're experiencing beautiful foilage now, take some of the leaves to press onto homemade pieces of seasonal art.

During the Holidays, you can also make various handmade, homemade gifts like mentioned above. Cards made from the heart seem to resonate more strongly to their recipients. Take the time. The weekends are bound to have a few hours of peace. Schedule yourself and formulate a plan. And don't worry about doing things early! The stores aren't, so why should you?

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Having an Eco-Conscious Halloween Costume

Halloween is coming up and I am already panicking. I came to the conclusion that my 8 year-old, 5'3" sister would probably have some difficulty finding an age-appropriate costume. While we were at the store I was horrified when she handed me a military mini-skirt costume with words "Major Flirt" as its nametag. She had no idea what the words meant.

I was happy that she didn't, not for a few years at least.

There is a huge satisfaction in constructing your own costume. You are given creative freedom and can, with a little bit of thinking, be just about anyone or anything. For my little sister, she came into the store hoping to find a leopard costume. Unfortunately none of the stores carried anything akin to a catsuit, and she left the store a little downhearted. The furthest we found was an "instant leopard" set, of a tail, ears, and mask.

I reassured her that I could, yes I could, sew a costume together for her. Since she is within my own dress range this year, I figured that we could spend a few afternoons together working to make her a leopard suit using my sewing patterns. Yet, we are missing one crucial part, where can we find leopard print fabric?

After a bit of thinking, we've decided that we should take a trip to the thrift store. Thrift store, not crafts store, because animal prints are bound to be somewhere in that treasure trove, and it's more eco-friendly as well. Bedsheets are the thrifty way out of buying yards of fabric. I have made last years' costume out of a red and white polka dot sheet (I was Minnie Mouse).

And of course, you can find used costumes at the thrift store, making it even easier to go about your Halloween shopping. You don't have to be a sewing pro to pull together a costume, either. A friend came in with a peacock blue corset with a shiny yellow skirt and a peacock fan pinned to her tailbone. Another friend came in with a white shirt and black pants, which we spruced up by pinning brown felt patches on top of them, gave him a brown moneybag, applied eyeliner for a rugged beard, and gave him an empty bottle of Captain Morgan. Instant pirate!

On the green side, you are doing the world a lot more good by recycling old thrift store clothes and giving it new life, even if it is for a brief night. When you're done with it, simply give it back or swap costumes with a friend who wears a similar size.

The thrill of Halloween is about making a costume from the heart. With the mass production of costumes, it's much like risking going to prom only to bump into some girl with the same dress. Sometimes it's better to go custom because you want to show the world what it is about you that makes you interesting. For my little sister, going to school as a leopard speaks volumes about her love of cats (she has 11 of them) and her fascination for wild animals.

Of course, there is the pride in saying that you constructed the outfit together, as well.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Shopping at the Farmer's Market

While it seems that the Western world has invested in building mega markets, such as Costco, Sam's Club, and other one-stop-shopping experiences, the rest of the world has its deep roots in open-air markets. So what are the differences and what's the advantages and disadvantages of each? While we are born and raised in a megastore-centric economy, there are a lot of perks to shopping at your local farmer's stand. These perks include:

1. Fresher produce. That's right. These farmers probably picked those fruits and vegetables early that morning. In grocery store chains, produce is picked while it is still raw so that it could ripen through the transportation process. This could leave your apples and oranges from fully obtaining the nutrients it needs.

2. Less gas emissions. These farmers sell their produce locally. Local is good, because it means less transportation and that means less toxic fumes in our environment.

3. Supporting community. Supporting your local farmers by buying their produce grows community health. Also, you are doing them a lot more good by buying direct.

4. Shaving off with savings. You're not paying for the middle man to get you that delicious tomato. You're buying straight from the source, which helps take off the unnecessary fees.

If you need assistance locating your nearest farmer's market, look no further than to ask around, or simply web-search it. Several online directories offer advice and farmer's markets are often held weekly at convenient hours for the average American consumer. If you cannot make it or find it too tedious to attend, your local swapmeet is also bound to sell a few nuts and produce to help you get through your week!

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Living in the Wild Challenge!

Some of you may think, why should we escape the comforts of our homes to suffer in the cold or heat? Throughout the centuries the human race has fought against nature and tamed her, creating our own habitats out of stone and harvested energy. What we fail to realize that is in most other parts of the world, nature still rules.

Americans and most of the western world has an extremely unfriendly approach to life in regards to our environment. The farming lifestyle is seen as crude and primitive, as well as adopting greener habits such as buying clothes second-hand. Our culture really does not have much room to be completely green, and in being so we are left to depend on power stations and electronics.

But you don't have to go all out Survivor to be green! Consider spending a weekend day with your family without using electricity. Instead of watching TV after dinner, consider playing a board game with your children and cooking over fire instead of a microwaved dish. Hang-dry your clothes and wash delicate clothing in the tub. If you're even more adventurous, try taking a shower using the least amount of hot water tolerable. You can also bask in the warm sun for most of the day or take a trip out to the pool or beach. None of those activities require electricity.

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