Monday, January 30, 2012

Change the World Wednesday - de-cluttering

This week's CTWW involves cleaning out our closets and finding alternate places for the items.

This week, begin creating a list of unneeded household items to donate to nonprofits. Perhaps you have clothing, pillows, books or sports equipment which could be given to men's and women's shelters. Animal shelters are always in need of towels and food containers. So look around your home and see what could be offered. Donating keeps stuff out of landfills & supports local nonprofits that need all the help they can get.

Or ...

If you've already cleaned out your closets, please share other ideas on how we can keep "stuff" out of landfills.

Perfect timing with this challenge.  A couple of weekends ago Husband and I cleaned out one of the hall closets.  It wasn't that it was over-flowing with stuff, I'm actually a rather organized person.  He just happened to be in it one day and realized we didn't use half the coats hanging up or other items in it.  He mentioned we needed to go through it and make some room for baby girls stuff.    It didn't take us long to go through the closet but we managed to pull out almost everything and set it aside to get rid of it.  We actually have 6 shelves in that closet and two places to hang things up with hangers.  We went from everything being full to having only 2 shelves with stuff on them and one side with coats.

Where is the stuff now? Well, it's actually still in the soon-to-be nursery awaiting proper homes.  We had a vacuum cleaner that works great, but we don't use it and don't have a need for it anymore. That will be going on Craigs list.  We could take it too a goodwill and donate it, but we've had great luck getting rid of things on Craig's list.  We usually try to list things for a small amount and most of the time we are able to sell it.  If we can't sell it for even a small amount, we make the decision to either list it for free or take it to a donation center. A lot of things we'll list for free because they are too bulky or just weird items that we think a donation center would have trouble getting rid of.  

As far as the coats, those I'm going to take to a Veteran's donation center one weekend.  Husband recently went through his closet and pulled out a lot of clothes he doesn't wear anymore and they are in a pile waiting to go out the door as well.   Many times when we have clothes I'll contact a Veteran's charity to come pick it up but I noticed a drop-off donation center opened up not to far from us and we drive by it a lot of the weekends. I prefer to donate clothes and other items I feel they can use because I feel we need to do what we can for our vet's.  I would rather see the items go to vet's or be sold and the money going to a veteran foundation than just a normal donation center.

Some of the items we are getting rid of are also pet items and toys that our dog doesn't use.  These I'm going to contact local animal shelters to see if they need/want.  Since the items are used I'm not sure what they will take but want to make the offer. Otherwise I'm not sure how best to get rid of these.

Now that this closet is cleaned out, we're pretty much done. I love (cuz I'm nuts) to organize so throughout the year I will go through drawers and closets and re-organize and pull out things we don't use anymore.  So unless Husband finds a closet I've forgotten about, I'm done for awhile.  That is, until baby girl starts growing up and I have all of that stuff to deal with.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Easy Brownies from scratch

I mentioned before that there are basically two cookbooks I own for baking and that's because so far they are the only ones I've felt worth it.  Clinton St. Baking Company is a heck of a cookbook.  The recipes are all from the cafe of the same name that can be found in New York.  I can't tell you how much I hope to eat there one day.

I wanted to share their recipe for brownies.  Hopefully you'll make them and this will entice you to pick up a copy of the book, if you do I don't think you'll be disappointed.

The brownies are super easy to make and taste wonderful.  I personally have all the ingredients in my house most of the time so it's not something where a special trip to the store is required.  psst..I've posted the Flourless Chocolate cake recipe on my other blog in the past, this one has become a favorite dessert for my husband. He rates it as the best dessert he's ever had. I'm not as huge a fan but admit it's good. I actually prefer these brownies. Oh, and as I'm typing this Husband is going through the recipe book picking out the next item for me to make.  He's mentioned 3 so far. haha!


2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks (I just use a bag of chocolate chips)
2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed
5 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.  if using a convection oven, set it at 325.  Lightly grease a 9x12 pan, line with parchment paper to prevent sticking and grease paper (I just spray the pan).

Melt the chocolate, sugar, and butter together in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave on high heat.  stir at 1-minute intervals.  The total time to melt this mixture will be 2 1/2 - 3 minutes. Or melt the mixture in the stainless-steel bowl of a double boiler.  Let cool.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract into the warm chocolate mixture.

Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl.

In two stages, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet batter until combined.

Evenly distribute the butter into the prepared pan.

Bake the brownies for 25 minutes, until the top is cracked and the center is still fudgy.

Allow the brownies to cool in the refrigerator overnight and cut into approximately 3-inch squares once cooled.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Rooted Tree Test

You Are Freedom Loving

You are laid back and easygoing with people. Too much intensity tires you out.
You believe that there is a lot to still be discovered in this world, and you're hoping to find some of it.

You are blessed with an enormous amount of self-confidence. You love who you are.
Structure and rules bore you. Even worse - they make you feel stifled.
I WISH I had an enormous amount of self-confidence.  Maybe one of these days.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Change the World Wednesday - Road Blocks

It's a new year and glad to get back to the Change the World Wednesday challenges over at Reduce Footprints.

This past week the challenge was in regards to road blocks. What roadblocks do I encounter when trying to be green.  This one was rather easy for me.  The greatest roadblock I have is in my desire to buy local.  There are several farmers markets during the summer but non that have been convenient for me to get to.  There is one in Tower Grove Park that I hear is wonderful, but it's at least a 30 min drive. When I drive 35-40min each way for my commute to/from work 5 days a week, I just don't always want that commute on the weekend (plus the park is by my work so it just feels like I'm headed to work again).

There is a farmer's market closer to where I live but it is during the week and closes around 6pm. That just hasn't been a possibility for me.

However, I was able to change my hours at work this past fall and now I normally work 7-3, which gives me plenty of time to get to the farmer's market close to my house.  However another roadblock is that baby girl is supposed to arrive in early May.  My life is about to be turned upside down, in a good way.  I think, though, that buying local and fresh produce is important enough to me that I could hopefully make this an outing we can do together.  Sure, as an infant she'll have no clue and it'll be tougher for me to get around, but I'm hoping I can get into a routine and make it a habit.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Running Breakthrough

It feels good when you finally realize that a dream of yours is within reach.  It might take some planning, it might take some training, but to have that realization that yes you can do X, that's an incredible feeling.

I had such a breakthrough not too long ago.  I've been kicking around the idea of training for a full marathon for awhile.  It took me forever to convince myself I was capable of running a half marathon. Once I proved I could train and run one, I started thinking about a full marathon.  However 26.2 miles is a long way to run. I have way too much self-doubt about my abilities and my mental strength to fully commit.   It was something that I kept thinking about but wasn't ready to do.  Then when I found out I was pregnant I knew I wouldn't be able to train for a Spring marathon like I was thinking about.  I was ok with that.

Something crazy happened though.  While I'm still able to workout I'm having to pay close attention to my heart rate.  This means I'm running at a much slower speed than normal.  This also means that I've been able to keep up my distance and increase it for my weekly long runs.  I'm not putting as much effort into the runs, because I can't, so my legs aren't as tired and my body isn't fatigued and I can go further.   Up until recently the longest distance I have ever run consecutivly was 13.1 miles, a half marathon. 

A couple of weekends ago I decided that my goal was to run 12-16 miles for my long run.  12 was doable as that's what I've been doing.  16 was a pipe dream.  I came up with 16 because the route I run at a local park is roughly 4 miles, although I've been adding extra routes in to make it a tad longer.  So 12 mile would mean 3 loops, 16 miles would be 4 loops.  Hmm.   I met up with a couple of othe women for the first time.  The one runs slower so she offered to run with me most weekends since I've been lonly and missing my normal running group (I can't keep up with them right now).  She then found another girl who wanted to run with a group.   So we started out and they were super cool and stayed at the pace I needed to go.  We did 9 miles together because that's what their goal was for that day.  I was feeling good.  My legs were incredibly sore from the workout I had done the day before, but I felt good.  I ate part of a banana and headed out for another loop around the park.  I got close to my car and was at 14 miles.  I felt good.  I ran further and then decided to only push it to 15.  I do believe at that point my thought process was "You crazy f***, you're pregnant, what are you doing running 16 miles." 

When I hit 15 miles I stopped and walked  back to my car.  My legs were on fire, they were so sore from the previous days workout.  The rest of my body felt great.  My mental state was awesome. I've been dealing with a lot lately and have no way to relieve stress.  This run did it. Not only did I finally feel like I got in a good workout, I did 15 miles.  15!  Who would have ever though I could run for 15 miles?!  Nobody!

I was estatic. I was pumped. I got back to the car and looked at my phone and saw it was almost 11:30. I had been running for almost 3 hours.  I panicked. I called the husband thinking he was probably freaked out and when he answered I said "I'm alive".   When I said that I realized just how alive I felt. I felt on top of the world.  I was estatic.  I wanted to yell, I wanted to scream. I wanted to tell somebody but had nobody who would really care so I just had my own little happy party and patted myself on the back.  I just freaking ran for 15 miles and I felt great. I felt like I could have kept going.   I realized, for the very first time, that I could run for 26.2 miles. I could run a full marathon.  Sure, I might not be able to do it at the pace that I want to, but the first one is just about finishing isn't it?  Once I can finish a marathon I can work on pace for another one right?

This feeling, this feeling of realizing that you can accomplish something that you thought about doing but didn't really think you could achieve, that's the most amazing feeling in the world. 

I do realize that running 15 miles is probably not the best thing to do while pregnant, even though my body is fit and I've been keeping up with my workouts.  So I won't do it again.   I also realize that once Baby Girl arrives my priorities will change.  I realize that I'm not going to have 3+ hours to devote to running on the weekend.  I realize that training for a marathon takes a huge time commitment and I'm not going to be able to do that for awhile.  But that's ok.  I'm ok if I have to wait 2 or 3 or 4 years before I can train for a marathon.  Because I know I'll remember this run and I'll know how it felt to realize I could do it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Altra running shoes - review

I recently did a review of the Eve shoe by Altra for a friend's blog, RunBreak.  Be sure to check it out if you are interested in running shoes. Actually, I don't run in them, I wear them to the gym and out and about and they are super comfy. So check them out even if you aren't in the market for new running shoes.

It's also exciting that Altra recently had two of their shoes awarded the Best Debut award by runners world. You can read more about that on Altra's blog.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Story of Stuff

If you haven't watched any of the video's produced by The Story of Stuff Project, you are in for a treat.  Annie Leonard makes some really good points in the videos.  Even if you don't believe it all, I think it still makes you question things and look at how you live.

I recently watched their video The Story of Stuff and wanted to share it with you.  There were several good points that she makes.  For one she mentions that recycling isn't enough.  Seeing as how I've done a lot of reading/research within the last year on living green I already knew this.  However I used to think I was doing my part if if recycled, heck, I kept it out of the landfill didn't I?  But it's true that it's not enough. We need to look deeper into what we buy and why we buy things.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes and Buttercream Frosting

We had my family over to celebrate my Mom's birthday the other night and my Mom had requested chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing for the dessert.    Since I refuse to buy desserts I turned to one of my trusty cookbooks to see if there was a recipe before I went searching on the internet.   I found a recipe for chocolate cupcakes in the book Flour by Joanne Chang.  If you live in Boston or have been there, you might be famliar with the Flour Bakery.  Man I hope to get there one day. I actually have to admit that so far I only have two cookbooks and both are recipes from bakeries and both are awesome. The only cookbooks I've felt worth spending money on so far.  However..let me get back on track.

This was the first time I made the cupcakes so of course we didn't know what to expect. I tend to make new dessert recipes when people are coming over, no better way to test it all out.    These cupcakes weren't hard to bake, a few different steps, but not hard.  While I love chocolate I'm not a huge fan of chocolate cake.  I have to admit that I've been eating my share of these, they taste wonderful.  Everyone who had one also commented on how good they are (and I don't think it was just to make me feel good since I baked them).    I didn't make the icing recipe included with that recipe as it wasn't for a chocolate recipe. Instead I used a chocolate buttercream recipe that I've had for several years, found it on the internet but don't remember where.

If you feel like a chocolate cupcake and are up to baking from scratch, definitly give these a try.

Chocolate Cupcakes from Flour by Joanne Chang

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¼ cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
⅓ cup water
½ cup milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt

In a heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and cocoa powder.  In a small saucepan, heat the sugar, butter, and water over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Pour the hot butter-sugar mixture over the chocolate-cocoa mixture and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is homogeneous.

Whisk the milk, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed.  Dump the flour mixture on top of the chocolate mixture.  Whisk until the dry ingredients are totally mixed into the chocolate mixture.  Let the batter sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (This allows the liquid to be totally absorbed into the batter, so the batter thickens up a bit and isn’t so soupy.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups to the rim.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tops spring back when pressed with a fingertip.  Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

**I did make only 12 cupcakes but some were pretty large and overflowing.  Next time I make these I won't fill the cupcake cups to the rim and I'll make more.

Buttercream Frosting
6 tablespoons butter, softened
⅓ - ¾ cup Cocoa powder
2 ⅔ cup powdered sugar
⅓ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cocoa powder - for light chocolate frosting us ⅓ cup cocoa powder.  For medium chocolate frosting use ½ cup cocoa powder.  For dark chocolate frosting us ¾ cup cocoa powder.

Cream the butter.  Add the cocoa and powdered sugar, alternately with milk.  beat to spreading constistantency, add more milk if needed.  Blend in Vanilla.

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes
**Note: I use this recipe for non-chocolate buttercream frosting too, I (obviously) just don't add the cocoa powder

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wool Dryer Balls

I became aware of wool dryer balls sometime last year while browsing different green blogs.  The purpose of using wool dryer balls is to elminate the need of a dryer softener sheet when you dry clothes.  The sheets contain chemicals and cost money.  By using wool dryer balls you not only save money but you also keep chemicals from getting on your clothes.  Win-win.

I had looked into purchasing some but then found a tutorial on how to make some using wool yarn. I saved that and then never did it.  I happened to run across another blog article late last year that gave a tutorial on how to make them using wool sweaters.  This seemed more my style as I could pick up some wool sweaters pretty cheap from Goodwill.

I found the tutorial at Eco Friendly Homemaking and it seemed easy enough. Buy some wool sweaters (at least 85% wool), wash them in hot water, dry them, cut them into strips, sew the strips into balls (roughly the size of a tennis ball). That's it!  Ok, I can do this.  

I got the sweaters and then sat on my lazy bum and did nothing with them for awhile. I finally realized I was almost out of dryer sheets so I needed to get my arse in gear and make these so I could test them out and see how they worked.  Would they work as promised? Would I like them? Or would I have to find an eco-friendly dryer sheet to use. 

In the tutorial the poster says she made about 11 in an hour. I must be really slow because it took me a lot longer than that.  It wasn't that it was hard, it was just more time consuming than I expected.  However she also states the dryer balls should last 2 years.  The first handful I made I didn't sew at the beginning of the strip and the end, I only did at the end. I soon found this was a problem as they started to unravel in the dryer.  I think by not sewing them at both ends I wasn't wrapping them tight enough.  The second batch I sewed I sewed at the beginning and end of each strip and pulled tighter.  These have stayed together, for the most part. I've noticed the last trip coming loose on some.   This hasn't been hard to fix though, I just put it back together and sew the sides.   I made about 15 dryer balls and have all in the dryer for each use. 

How do I like them?  I can't say that I've noticed the dry time speeding up, that's one thing mentioned in the tutorial..that the dry time is faster.   However I don't have any static on my clothes.  Well, there is on exception. I"ve noticed my workout clothes can have static.  I do all my workout clothes in the same load and most of them say not to use dryer softners/sheets.  I don't notice the clothes being staticky when I wear them, just when I take them out of the dryer sometimes.  I pretty much wear all the tech clothes too, so I'm sure it's whatever material is used that causes the static. 

Other than than noticing those two issues, neither of which bothers me and I actually consider an issue, I love using these.  They were super easy to make, I just made them while sitting in front of the tv, and they'll last about 2 weeks. Sure I'll have to fix some of mine, but I imagine as I make more and get better at it and find a process that works for me I won't have this issue.

Now, you might be saying that this is too much trouble when dryer sheets aren't expensive.  So let's take a look at it.   I looked online and Walmart (ugh I hate that store and rarely shop there) has a 160 ct box of Bounce for $6.84. This comes to roughly $0.042 per sheet.   I don't know how many loads an average household does with kids, but for a household of 2 we do 4-5 per week.   So it would be $.21 per week or $10.92 per year. Still not a lot.  Ok, so let's go further. I'll be using cloth diapers and we decided against a diaper service. I'll be washing them every other day.  So let's just say I'll be doing at least 10 loads of laundry a week, no idea how many loads I'll do of baby girls clothing.  Now I just doubled my cost, at least. It's going to cost me $20.92 a year.   However I wouldn't be using Bounce. I would be using a brand such as 7th Generation because I feel more comfortable with it.   I looked online and a dryer sheet by that brand would run me about $0.062 per sheet, $0.62 per week or $32.24 per year.  The dryer balls will last me two years, it cost me about $7 to buy the sweaters.   So for two years I've spent $7.  If I used dryer sheets I would be spending at least $64.48. 

You might look at that and say your time is worth the $65.  You're right, time is important.  However I'm going to stick with the wool dryer balls.  We watch money pretty closely in our household and I spend more on products from eco-friendly companies and products are better for me and the environment. So I already have some areas where I spend more. This means I look for areas where I can save.  This is one of those areas where I can save a little bit of money. It's a small amount but it adds up in time.

Let's also factor into this that when you purchase dryer sheets the environment is effected.  Chemicals, utilities, etc were used to create those dryer sheets, to ship those dryer sheets etc.  Not to mention the waste that was created to make them and package/ship them.  For the environmentally concious person making your own wool dryer balls from used sweaters is a very easy way to lesson your carbon footprint.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I really want to get into triathlons.  I wanted to do a sprint tri last year and wasn't able to since I didn't have a road bike. I actually still don't have a road bike but I'm hoping to complete my first indoor tri within the next couple of months actually.  Fingers crossed I feel well enough and baby cooporates.  

While I plan to start off with a sprint tri because the distances are all relatively low and I feel it's a great way to get my feet wet with this sport I have to admit that to one day even train for an Ironman is a dream of mine.  I mean, I have to like tri's first, so doing a couple sprint tri's will let me know if I want to continue with this pipe dream.  But if I do find that I like them I plan to do an Olympic distance and possibly a half-ironman once baby girl is bigger. 

A full ironman, most days that seems like a pipe dream. It seems like something I could NEVER do.  These athletes are crazy!  Ok..actually I don't think they are crazy, I think they are AMAZING.   Anybody wyo can swim 2.4 miles, then bike 112 miles, then run 26.2 miles is amazing.  Shoot, anybody who trains to do that and goes for it is worthy in my opinion.

The below video is very motivating for me. It's people who are at their breaking point but they keep trying. They Try to finish something they started. I think we can all learn from that.  I also have a feeling if I ever compete in an  ironman I'll make it on a video like this one. haha

Friday, January 6, 2012

How do you get your point across?

One of the book blogs I follow, Kittling: Books,  posts these quizes and it's always fun to see what others get and how many of us are similar or how many different answers there are.  I thought I might start posting them on this blog.  Many times these answers are actually spot on, other times I just don't see it.

This one, I'm not so sure about. Some things I know are correct though.

You Get Your Point Across by Discussing

You are an indirect person, both with yourself and others. You are never sure where you're going.
You prefer to open things up for discussion and see where the brainstorming takes you. You don't have expectations.

You are open-minded and flexible. You don't see things as set in stone, and you like to leave yourself open.
You are a good listener, and you think that you can learn from everyone. You know you're not always right.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Another year bites the dust

2011 was an interesting year.  Interesting good, interesting bad.  

I started off the year in high hopes because I had finally begun seeing a fertility specialist (unless you've had diagnosed issues in the past you normally have to wait 1 year before a specialist will see you) and felt that things were finally moving forward.  Only to go through tests and surgery and find that nothing was wrong, the body was just broken.  Then of course incredibly happy when I found out that the drugs finally worked and I was pregnant.  The only issue is that this happened when Husband I were going through some issues.  So in my mind that puts a dent in the happiness factor.

I started off the year training for a 15k trail run and a half marathon. Training on my own. I did awesome, for me, at the 15k trail run and had a very disapointing half marathon.  I then met some local runners and started to run with them and things picked up.  I ended up hitting my time goal for the fall half marathon and being incredibly happy with my training for the year.

I had started eating healthier in 2010 and continued doing that in 2011.  I slowly started to get more organic and all-natural items into our diet. This is still a struggle with Husband as he looks at cost and nothing else. So it depends on who does the grocery shopping. 

I really started to make changes to make our life more eco-friendly.  It's something I had always been interested in and I started doing it in 2010 but 2011 saw me making some major strides. I have indoor laundry lines, I haven't bought cleaning supplies all year, instead I make my own.  I tried my hand at growing tomatoes and was happy with the result, although the lettuce didn't work out.  I cleared land for a vegetable garden for this coming Spring.  I even have a compost area now. 

The year was full of ups and downs for me.  For some reason the end of the year seemed to be the hardest for me and while I want to blame it on the hormones I'm not sure that's actually what's going on.   I found myself doing a lot of searching inside on what I want and what makes me happy and I'm not sure a conclusion has been made yet. I suppose this is probably normal for a lot of people while awaiting their first child.

I can't say 2012 has been off to a great start, heck we're only 4 days into it.  However some major changes are coming and while I'm paranoid about the main one, I'm also looking forward to it and feel I'm ready.  You don't deal with the ups and downs of infertility just to not feel ready when the time approaches.

Here's hoping we all have a great 2012.