Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Snow

There is a kind of magic that only comes with the first snowfall of the year. An exhilarating, hopeful and childlike magic. A feeling of hope and a sense that everything is right with the world if only for a moment.

Everything that once looked dead, dark and tired now looks clean, bright and new. The once boring backyard turns into a wonderland. Kids and adults alike can't help but to smile and look toward the heavens.

Angels land on uninspiring driveways.

Stay tuned in February for another snow related post entitled "What is With All of This Freakin Snow!"

Friday, November 28, 2008

End of a Good Run

Just over a year ago I decided to really kick-up my family's commitment to conserving electricity. Every month our kilowatt hours slid further down and the reading the newest electric bill was a pleasant experience. Replacing conventional bulbs with CFL bulbs, unplugging unused appliances, showering in the dark. All of those changes added-up in a great way.

The newest Gruppie family electric bill arrived this week. It's flat. No change from November 2007. Bummer.
So how do I kick my electric usage even lower? Threaten the kids when they don't turn off their lights? Stop watching reality shows? Become a raw foodist? I'm open for suggestions.

Friday, November 21, 2008


The teachers and families at my children's elementary school are working on a green initiative this year. Sure, I've read all about the many sustainable schools around the country...Walls made of hay bales, kids growing their own organic food, solar panels on the roof, protected wetlands on the property... Amazing, right?

But what do you do if you are a high-performing school public school on a shoestring budget with standardized testing and budget cuts constantly looming? You get creative.

The newest step in the school's initiative is a shoe collection. The school has partnered with Kinderschuhe to collect new and gently used shoes of all sizes and styles for Soles4Souls. Kinderschushe's friendly owner Kimberly has graciously offered to pay for the shipping of the collected shoes and provide us with marketing materials.

Unlike Recycling, reusing doesn't use any additional resources. Reusing our possessions should be our ideal goal. For example, reusing shoes helps other people while at the same time lightly treading on the earth. (punny huh?) Both reusing and helping others are ideas that young children can really understand and get behind.

Many of us take something as basic as shoes for granted. Will I wear the patent leather pumps or the stacked boots today? For many other people in the world, something as simple as shoes can mean the difference between attending school or going without an education. Shoes can mean the difference between looking professional and landing a job or having to stay in a shelter.

After collecting the gently used and new shoes, Soles4Souls distributes the donated shoes both domestically to 45 states and abroad to 61 countries.

Domestically, Soles4Souls gives the donated shoes to victims of natural disasters who may have lost all of their possessions, to women in shelters so they have professional shoes to wear to job interviews and to summer camps for disadvantaged children who may not have adequate footwear.

Abroad, the donated shoes will travel to village women who have to walk long distances to obtain water for their families, orphanages where shoes are scarce and to people who have to sort through landfills in order to meet their basic survival needs.

Next time you go through your closet and find a pair of shoes that just isn't your style anymore, please take a minute to visit There you can find a list of local drop-off sites where you can give your old shoes a new life.

No More Paper Towels

Thank you to the friendly people over at United Methodist Church of Hartford for sending me such a sweet note and these nifty handmade hand towels!

My new hand towels are an excellent replacement for paper towels. Not only are they helping my family to save a tree or two, but they look so darn cute!

Whenever I wipe my wet hands I will not only be saving a tree, I will also be reminded of you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You Spin Me Right Round

Isn't it funny how summer can make you forget what cold weather feels like?

Now that the cold weather is starting to settle in for lots of us, it's time to reverse those ceiling fans.

In order to more efficiently force that hot air down from your ceiling to where you can feel it, simply reverse your ceiling fan direction. Clockwise in the winter to draw down the warm air.

My bedroom ceiling is pretty darn high. Keeping the fan on a slow speed during the winter has cut down on my heating oil use.

Happy spinning!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tastes Like Plastic

On Sundays, I always make it a point to read the Travel section of the Hartford Courant. Sitting at the kitchen table on a dreary Sunday morning always makes me long from someplace distant and exotic.

This Sunday I noticed a travel advisory for Australia. Could they be throwing tourists on the barbey?

Apparently a crocodile was moved from a remote area to a locale 600 miles south as part of a wildlife relocation. After the move, this same crocodile began showing up on tourist beaches. Shortly after, it was found dead.

Officials found 25 plastic shopping bags in the crocodile's stomach. These plastic bags prevented the crocodile from digesting food. The plastic bags starved the croc to death.

Sadly, animals will often mistakenly view plastic in the water as yummy jellyfish, small fish or even plankton.

After reading this disturbing story, a friend and blog reader named Jean sent me an email outlining her journey to ditch plastic shopping bags for good.

Jean openly admits that she is far from green. Still, she is really trying to make an effort. Jean's first plan of action was to buy and use canvas shopping bags.

The first time Jean intended to use her reusable bags at the food store, she forgot them at home. No worries there. Jean asked for paper bags (in our area paper is required to be in a brown paper bag for recycling...counterproductive...I know). Since Jean was busy doing things like watching the scanner for prices and refereeing her children, she missed the fact that the bagger had bagged all of her groceries in plastic bags and THEN put the plastic bags in paper bags.

Fast forward to the next week. Jean remembered her canvas shopping bags! Again there was the price checking and kid threatening. The grocery bagger placed the newly purchased food in plastic and THEN put the plastic bags in the canvas bags.


Bringing reusable bags is not a new concept for stores. My bags have been accompanying me for the last eight years. Others before me have been doing this since the advent of merchants. How do these stores not take seven seconds of their training to talk about reusable bags?

Keep on trying Jean! Try bringing those bags to the sporting goods store, the pharmacy and the mall. Think of all of those happy crocodiles that are busy eating yummy tourists because people like you have said "no."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Soap Nuts

Recently a friendly woman named Gail emailed me with an offer to try her soap nuts from Soap in a Nutshell. Nothing dirty about her nuts she claimed. Just toss them in the washing machine in lieu of detergent and you are done.

Gail said that after the soap nuts have shrunk (4-5 washes), they can be boiled down to make dishwasher soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner, pet cleaner...the list goes on and on. An all natural product with no plastic waste. Sounded great to me!

I emailed Gail the soap nuts lady back and mentioned that my friendly neighbor Lauren and I were just talking about how the skin is our biggest organ and how easily it absorbs toxins. The conversation turned to safer detergent alternatives. (Jealous of our fabulous bus stop conversations?)

Gail surprised me by sending out two packages of soap nuts. One for me and one for neighbor Lauren. What a great surprise.
Neighbor Lauren agreed to write a review of the soap nuts for Soap In a Nutshell. Enjoy!

My neighbor gave me these great soap nuts! I had heard about them and always wanted to try them out.

My first reaction was that they had no smell. Its kind of strange a product like this can clean your clothes just the same a laundry detergent. But I was pleasantly surprised!

My clothes smelled naturally fresh and even got out food stains on my kids clothes. I have used the same 4 soap nuts 5 times and now will boil them and make an all purpose cleaner. I am pleased with the soap nuts and like the fact that the soap nuts have multiple uses! I will continue to use them.

Thanks Gruppie !

Thank you Lauren! But I still have one question for you. You promised to provide "adult drinks" every Friday now that the bus stop us at your house. Where are those drinks? Still waiting...

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I have been a bad blogger. I've been too distracted to blog.

But I have some really good excuses...

  • My cat ate my computer.
  • I have a running blog in my head. Now if technology could just come up with a way to get those thoughts on the computer without me having to open the computer.
  • I got a job at the local children's museum teaching a class.
  • My laundry is all done, folded and put away for a change.
  • Being Grand Poohbah of the PTO is a lot more work than I guessed.
  • Hubby has been traveling a ton.
  • Spreading organic fertilizer for the winter sure is time consuming.
  • Obama has distracted me with his perfectly-presidential speeches.
  • I'm still recovering from the field trip from hell.
  • Third grade homework is tougher than I thought.
  • It's not easy being green.

Let's hope for less distractions and more writing next week.