How Low Can I Go With My Thermostat?

It’s that time again – time to start thinking about when to turn the furnace on. We usually like to hold out until October which is… tomorrow ūüôā It’s definitely fall in New England, the trees are turning color, the pears on our pear tree are ready for picking, the air is crisp…

…and its getting pretty stinkin’ cold in our house.

We used to set the thermostat in cold weather to 68-70 deg F and that was definitely comfortable. But… sometimes we were hanging around the house in tee shirts and even the girls (when young) would sometimes be comfortable in just their diapers.

One day, it occurred to me that I should put my collection of lovely sweaters to use and see how low could we go with the thermostat.

I was also insprired by a gal that owns a shop in¬†town that said her doctor suggested she keep the thermostat at 60 deg F all the time to prevent her family from getting colds or the flu. I don’t know if I really buy that advice…(comment if it is really a legit thing), but it was a paradigm changer for me nonetheless because that’s the point where I thought… you know, I could go cooler and just wear a sweater.

So, How Low Can You Go?

It turns out that with appropriate cold-weather indoor wear ~ socks (or slippers), long pants and a shirt with a sweater or sweatshirt we can comfortably set the thermostat at 65 deg F. Oh, and I am pretty sensitive actually if it falls below 65 – I can definitely tell when we are on our way to 64 or 63 and I don’t like it, so I think we’re as low as we can go.

What About  at Night?

At night, we let the thermostat slip to 60 deg F- I’m sure there are arguments for going cooler… we’ve thought about it but haven’t done the night-time how low can you go challenge yet.¬† My excuse for not doing it before was that Megan still slept in a crib without any blankets but I don’t have that excuse anymore now that she’s bigger and in a real bed.¬† Maybe I will try that and then write a post about it.¬† It occurred to me that long ago, people would wear hats to bed, I don’t know if I am that hardcore.

With our propane heat costing upwards of $3.00 per gallon, and needing 1-2 tank fills per year,  our heating bill defintiely adds up. So, looks like our how low can you go challenge and our sweaters are saving us some money in the long term.

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What do you keep your thermostat at during the day? What do you keep it at during nighttime? Would you be willing to try the how low can you go challenge?

DIY Kids Fun Recipe Round-Up

Yes, I’ll admit it…I am totally into¬†Pinterest (yeah, like join the club, right?).¬† So, I¬†have been pinning fun¬†things to make with¬†or for kids that¬†is¬†also easy on the¬†environment.¬†¬†¬†These recipes also happen to be quick and easy and¬†made of things that you probably already have in your cupboard (or are easy to find at the grocery store).

Here are my favorites from Pinterest; if you click on the pictures they will bring you to the recipes and instructions.

Sidewalk Paint

Such a simple recipe of just cornstarch, water and food coloring¬†– I’ll plan on trying this one first.¬† I would imagine that it looks¬†pretty spectacular when it dries.

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Clay Handprints

This one looks like a fun idea for a meaningful Christmas ornament gift for family.  You could even get creative and use make other things with this homemade clay.

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Bubbles!!!

Love this bubble recipe because it uses corn syrup, which is easy to find in the grocery store (compared to glycerin).¬† Oh and corn syrup is not as evil as high fructose corn syrup, but I’m sure that’s debateable…

Have fun with these ideas!

Do you have any tried and true kid-fun recipes?  Have you tried any of these?

My Composting Adventure ~ Total Disclosure

Okay, so I still love my compost bin and I am still enjoying not-drippy garbage.¬† However, upon returning from our vacation we found that an animal (most likely a raccoon) had overturned the compost bin and foraged the contents.¬†¬†It was easy enough to just put the bin right back into place.¬† Easy because the bin is so light – and although it has a closed top, it has an open bottom… making it very easy for a raccoon to tip over.

I had realized this was probably a flaw when I first put it together.

Lucky for me, Mat had just built a Racoon proof bin for our garbage cans.¬† I could probably sneak-in my compost bin and it will be safe and sound in there.¬† Sooo, I’m going to try to make this one work.¬† But, if you are (still) thinking of your first compost bin, (and Mat hasn’t made you a Raccoon-proof box) I would suggest a nice heavy, homemade bin or a totally enclosed compost tumbler.

Nice, heavy homemade wooden compost bins

If you are handy (or know someone that is), there are a bunch of different styles of homemade wooden compost bins.  Some that can even be made from leftover wooden pallets.  This huge DIY compost bin was featured in the blog Apartment Therapy:

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Totally enclosed drum-style compost bin

This kind is a good choice, not only because of it’s total-enclosededness (is that a word?) but because you can easily tumble the contents.¬†¬† This one I found on Amazon.com, it is a little pricey but I think you could find one of this style for cheaper:

Did I Mention the Yellow Jackets?

Okay, so my Facebook friends heard me complaining about this Рand so in the interest of full disclosure our compost pile is enjoyed by yellow jackets during the sunny hours of the day.  In order to not get stung, I just dump in fresh compost when it is starting to get dark or first thing in the morning when the yellowjackets are away.  In order to discourage them from building a nest in dry compost, I keep the pile wet by watering it once in awhile.

Please share your experience with me – do you compost?¬† What kinds of things have you done to discourage pests?¬† What style of compost bin do you have?¬† Oh, and if you were thinking of composting did this post¬†push you off the fence onto the ‘not having a compost bin’ side?¬† ūüôā

Why Antibacterial Soaps Stink

What icks me out is when I go for the soap dispenser when I’m not at home and out comes¬†that stinky antibacterial soap.¬† What I’m talking about is soap fortified with Triclosan¬†which is an¬†antibiotic and antifungal agent.¬†¬†It seems to be in so many products¬†nowadays, but do we really need it and is it even causing us harm?

Is Antibacterial Soap Really More Effective than Regular Soap?

Tummy bug, influenza, common cold, warts are all viruses, all these undesireable¬†viruses are not afraid¬†of antibiotics.¬† Oh no, these guy aren’t scared because antibiotics only kill bacteria.¬† Plain old soap and good old proper handwashing technique¬†is what is going to wash these guys away.

In fact, plain old soap and antibiotic soap remove the same amount of cooties from your hands.

So, it’s A Draw Then?¬† Doesn’t Matter What I Use?

Actually, there are a lot of problems with  Triclosan Antibacterial soap:

Bio Accumulation ~¬†Triclosan is fat soluable and can accumulate in your fat stores.¬† It has been found in breast milk and umbilical cord blood.¬† Additionally, it is considered ‘persistent’ in the environment¬†because it doesn’t break down easily.

Endocrine Disruption ~ Triclosan can alter hormone regulation in people and wildlife.  There is even concern that it could be linked to breast cancer.

Antibacterial Resistance ~ Antibacterial soap kills all but the 0.4% strongest bacteria who make bacteria babies that are very likely to be resistant to antibiotics.

Oh… and it smells nasty.¬†

Please share your thoughts with me РDo you avoid triclosan too?  Are you surprised that it is used in many different products?  Has antibiotic resistance touched your life?

Top 5 Reasons Why I Dig My Reuseable Shopping Bags

I’ve been using my reuseable shopping bags for about 7 years now and I really dig them.¬† I started out by buying five or so and got some free and sort of accidently stole a few from my mom.¬† Yeah, I’m pretty sure everytime the girls spend the night at my mom’s house their stuff comes back in a Trader Joe’s bag.

(I’ll give them back mom…)

Without further ado Рhere are the Top 5 Reasons Why I Dig My Reuseable Shopping Bags

1.  They Hold A-LOT of Stuff

This was actually the main reason why I took the plunge into buying myself my first 5 reuseable bags.¬† I remember walking in from my house carrying¬†3-4 plastic bags in each hand, noting that each bag only had a few items in it.¬† I wanted something beefier, that could hold some more items.¬† I wanted to carry… one grocery bag per hand.

2.  They Stack-Up Real Nice

I like the satisfying way they line right up next to eachother solidly in my car.  They behave themselves and sit nice and upright on my counter too (on my floor actually but the counter was cleaner so it won the photo op).

3.  I Use Them For Everything

Well, not eeeeverything but I use them as beach bags, overnight at grandma bags, pick-up toys around the house and transport them to the playroom bags.¬† I also use them as “uh oh, houseguest in 20 minutes, need to stash all the junk on the coffee table in the closet” bags.

4. Reuseable Bags Are Good to Mother Earth

Newsflash!¬† Just kidding, I know you know¬†this is the most obvious one.¬† Plastic bags mainly end up taking up space¬†in landfills¬†and are easily airborn so they end up as litter and harm wildlife.¬† Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they just break down into smaller and smaller bits of plastic polluting water and land.

Seriously, they even wrote a song about it:

5.  This Bag

Seriously… is This the Cutest Grocery Bag You’ve Ever Seen?

Instead of Hannaford it should say ‘Kate Spade’ or something.¬† I want to buy a whole set of these in all of the patterns and colors¬†but…¬†alas I already have as many as I need (except for maybe when I give my mom hers back…)

That bag is actually made in New England too which is a bonus.  I think it is made in nearby Lowell too which wins double bonus points in my book.

How To’s¬†of Reuseable Shopping Bags

So, using these bags for 7 years has taught me some good tips for using the reuseable shopping bags:

  • Use one bag to¬†hold all of your other¬†bags neatly.
  • Keep them in a handy place where you can just grab them and go.¬† I keep mine handy under the kitchen sink.
  • Don’t Worry if you forget your bags, just remember next time.¬† I forgot to bring mine the first few times and eventually I did remember.¬† Now it is just a habit and I instinctively go for the bags before I leave the house.
  • It’s OK if you don’t have enough bags for your entire cart worth of stuff.¬† I just have the ‘overflow’ go to plastic or paper bags.
  • You might¬†feel a little insecure the first few times you use the bags, but eventually it starts to feel natural.¬† Also, it made me feel more at ease that the baggers are used to packing the reuseable bags and don’t seem to pause one bit when they are handed a bunch of them.

Please share your thoughts with me on reuseable grocery bags.  Are you using them now?  Do you think  you might want to try them?  How do you remind yourself to bring them to the grocery store?  Do you use your reuseable bags for anything else?

How to Rid a Kitchen of Flour Moths Naturally

I guess I have been lucky because I’ve been living in New England for 12 years and this is the first year that I have been plagued with flour moths.  I had noticed that many New Englanders put unusual things in storage containers such as the contents of a box of cereal.  I always thought… so why would you do that if there is a perfectly good box and bag that the cereal already comes in?

Why?  Because of these guys:

But, where to get a bunch of containers ASAP?

Well, it turns out I didn‚Äôt need a bunch of containers ASAP because I had to throw most of my dry goods away pronto.¬† Bag after bag of rice, nuts, beans were infested with their little tiny eggs and maggot-looking larva.¬† The larva can actually eat right through an unopened plastic bag ‚Äď and they can eat right through a cardboard (think oatmeal) box or cylinder.

Okay, what’s grosser than gross?  Before I realized that these foods were infested, I’m sure I ate some of those eggs mixed in with powdered sugar or flour.    Uhg… extra lean protein I suppose.

It was time to consult with Google, who directed me to the following resources:

Wikipedia: Indian Meal Moth

Colorado State Extention

What to Throw Away

Anything that wasn’t in a glass, metal or hard plastic container was dumped into my beautiful compost bin guerilla style.  It was really gross when I discovered a really infested bag of something.  It was also tough to let go of that much food, even though it was infested.  I think it was a win-win situation though; I get them immediately out of my house and they get to live in a giant bin of food.

So, the next thing to do was to vacuum out the cabinet, making sure to get all of the eggs that were expertly crammed into the corners and along the edges.  Also, I had to vacuum up two gross cocoons that had appeared on the ceiling.

Are you still reading?  Hmm Рokay cool, I’ll go on…

Moth Proof Containers are the Only Ones Left Standing

Cleaning out the Cabinet

Finally, I sprayed the whole cabinet down with my trusty vinegar and water spray to kill any missed eggs.  Some websites recommend spraying bleach cleaner but that all you need to do the job is vinegar.

Good.

Eggs gone ‚Äď check

Access to food gone ‚Äď check

Keeping them Gone Long-term

So, to knock them out for good; anytime I bring home something in a plastic bag or box the contents will need to go directly into a tightly sealed storage container.  Effectively removing Indian Flour Moth larva supply of food and stopping their lifecycle dead in its tracks.  You can buy pesticides to spray in the corners and traps for the adult male moths but this should do the trick without any of that nicely.

About gaining containers, I did get a bunch of containers from Mat’s grandma’s yard sale pile.  Also, my Hannaford Brand Organic coffee tins provide a slow but steady stream of medium sized containers.  I know I could go out and buy a bunch and I probably will need to buy some however I would rather try and find things used or reuse stuff.

Do my Green Cleaning Products Make the Grade?

I am very excited to finally get to play around with the newly released Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning.  EWG has a searchable database of safety ratings for cleaning products. 

I try to buy things for cleaning that are safe for¬†my family and also have a low impact on the environment.¬† Up until now, I have tried to choose items that are a ‚Äėgreen‚Äô brand or seem pure with having ‚Äėfree and clear‚Äô on the label.¬† Here are my main go-to products:

I know the Labels are Backwards… Struggling with WordPress…

Well, what do I clean the toilet with then you ask? 

I don’t do toilets. 

…Just kidding, I scrub with the Bon Ami and disinfect with the vinegar.  Okay, so I’ve made a serious attempt to be crunchy here with my cleaning supplies.  For information on making your own green cleaners, I suggest the book Organic Homemaking by Ellen Sandbeck or this free cleaning recipe website with cute printable labels.

How did my cleaning products grade with the EWG ratings?  Not Good.  (Moi???)  So, in an effort to bring up my grades, I have some suggested future purchases (when I’m done with the bottles of what I have now):

What I noticed is that A or B rated products are common products that are available in most grocery stores.  Upgrading cleaning products is a totally do-able thing with good and affordable alternatives.  That sometimes it is just a matter of being selective of which product you buy within a brand.  This kind of information is so valuable because it shifts buying patterns and it influences companies to change formulations for the better of all. 

Cool, thanks EWG.

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