Sunday, May 31, 2009

Staying Green on a Budget

Whether the economy is up or down a person should be proud to find Green ways of living at a good price. Here are some simple things a person, at little cost, can do and be proud of.

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse

Yes your recycle bin is the place to begin. Make sure it is full each week and walk it to the curb with pride. In our case our toddler likes to drag it out with giggles while exclaiming Choo-Choo. Imaginative play is a bonus.

Are you remodeling? For hard items like removing old sinks, cabinets, windows, tubs, and even bricks, see if you have a Habitat for Humanity's Restore, a non-for-profit like Buffalo Reuse or just drop it at your local Amvets Thrift Store or Salvation Army. You'll get a tax deductible receipt, make sure it is dated. Also, consider looking for replacement materials in the news paper classified, at the Habitat store and other reuse facilities.

Kids toys do not need to be new. Head to garage sales, the classified, or consignment stores. You can often find out where all the garage sales are through the local news paper or even on Graig's list under the name of the city you live in or near. To find consignment stores you can Google the name of your city and the words "consignment store". Be diligent shopping at the consignment stores and do not e afraid of telling the owner to watch for certain items. I recently asked my local store to look for leggings in a certain size.

My grandmother always said (which was told to her, by her mother) no matter how much funds we have coming in, we will always either make or buy clothes on consignment. The point was made as a reminder that it is not the retail price you pay but the quality of the sowing, handiwork, and the highest quality garment for the lowest dollar spent at the store that makes a woman. Quality, Quality, Quality.


The products you use for cleaning have a hug effect on your family's health. Good cleaning products go a long way at protecting your children. In my house we prefer EcoCover - "no sent" for dish washing detergent and Seventh Generation for laundry- "no sent". The "scents include in many detergents always give me a headache. Natural scents like the ones in Ecocover and Seventh Generation were the first ones not to cause the brain pain. I have always been the canary in the coal mine even when I worked in laboratories and factories. Despite the fact I have a poor seance of smell I could always tell when the ventilation of the fume hoods were not functioning well. The fume hoods were suppose to suck the air, that was filled with chemicals like acetone and methyl chlorine, out of the room and through a cleaning funnel. I always could tell they were not functioning even before the emergency sensors went off.

Yes, safe, healthy cleaning products cost more then the non-healthy ones. The non-healthy ones are cheap because they are made from materials sane people do not want. So, how do you save? We save by buying in bulk, by the case or two, on We get free super saver shipping to our door. So we save both money and time by ordering on line. I did a spreadsheet to demonstrate this. Bulk shipping saves on gas too. Having a year's supply shipped once rather then buying by the bottle is a big difference. Plus we get to budget our money.

Great Birthday Gifts for $20 or Less

Seems as though the cost of everything is on the rise. Many of us are trying to think of ways to tighten up household spending without losing certain standards of living such as affording healthy foods, good books and still putting away savings for retirement. See post here.

I think birthdays are another way to save. The below presents are all under $20 and some less then $10. I think these presents are worthy gifts for family, friends or one's own child.

Handmade Gifts

One of my friends is getting sheets of felt, cutting shapes and sewing crowns. Her child will bestow these special gifts at each party he attends. I was informed by the crown crafter, that the most recent birthday honoree wore his crown during the whole party with pride !

If you are not a crafter then head to Esty it is a great website to find handmade items. The site allows artist and crafts persons to have on-line shops to sell their creations. Most toys are made of felt, cloth, wood, or recycled materials.

A search under "handmade" for "wooden waldorf", will give you a list of handmade toys. I bought some wooden figurines; a gnome ($6.50), trees, hedgehogs, mushrooms, a Leshiy (forest creature $10.00) from the artists called "Mamaroots" and "Youreinspired". The products were well constructed, painted and delivered well packaged. They both have items under $20.

Books - you can never go wrong with a great book.

Many Dr. Seuss books can be had for under $15 per book. We have a few of Dr. Seusses books, as does many parents. "The Foot Book" is fun for small children. Our daughter gets to get a kick out of it. "The Sneetches and other Stories" is another great book. The Sneetched are divided into those with stars on their bellies and those without. The stories goes on to tell how the Sneetches came to realize that it is not what a Sneetch has, but who they are that matters.

Another favorite author of mine is Shel Silverstein who's books are between $12 and $20. Silverstein stands out for me because it was my first grade teacher that use to read "A light in the Attic" or "Where the Sidewalk Ends". She was a the sweetest woman and I remember always feeling warm and intrigued when she read to the class.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Uber Urban Wildlife - Butterflies

Butterflies - There are many kinds of butterflies but these are two that fly close to the ground where little children can find them. The hard part is not chasing them but in stead, waiting for their wings to open and snapping a photo.

The Karner Blue, (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), is a small, blue butterfly which is endangered "because of its restrictive habitat that has been dwindling due to such things as land development." The size of a postage stamp and rounded wings.

Clouded Yellow or Sulphurs they have rounded wings and often are in shades of yellow, orange, burnt orange and sulphur. Unlike the Karner Blue butterflies, Sulphurs are abundant.

Ways you can help butterflies are by supplying food, water and shelter. Shelter is usually in the form of a butterfly box which is similar to a bird house though with smaller openings for entry. Growing plants that are native to your state will also provide food and a healthy resting place.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dr. Elizabeth Pierce Olmstead

I did not know Dr. Pierce (Ross) Olmsted ," a pioneer for women in medicine". She graduated from the University of Buffalo's school of medicine in 1939 and "invented the diffraction lens used in the treatment of crossed and lazy eyes. The doctor was also one the the area's first female pilots, serving as a lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol in the early 1940's."

I first heard about her a few years ago when my neighbors told me that she once lived in the house I just bought. She had also told them how both she and the neighborhood children would all take turns on a swing that was hung from the large Silver Maple in my back yard. Apparently my backyard was the IT spot to play 80 years ago.

What made me think of her was that I was thumbing through a red book of "Complete Works of William Shakespeare with notes" that I acquired one day at the estate sale of the doctor's home. I did not intend nor did I know about the sale ahead of time. But when I see those "Estate Sale" signs, I follow. I have been on the look out for books, art and old wooden toys (for my daughter). And I found a beautiful yellow with butterflies enameled picture frame and the collection of Shakespeare plays. As I was sitting at my desk about to start reading I realized that there were news paper clippings in the book. I began to think that this was a college text book with a snap shot of thoughts from a young woman's journey through college. There was a photo clipping of graduates from Lafayette High School. A poem by Dr. Frank Crane called "The Pressure". A problem solving article for the card game Bridge. A poem called "The Eulogy of the Dog" very sad. And lastly, a stiff card with a picture in blue and black on it called "Ex Libris". It is a night scene with a castle on a mountain and what looked like tiny knights on horse back in the foreground. It was like moments in a college students life. Together they almost told a story of someone enthralled with the drama and tragedy of Shakespeare, possibly feeling the pressure of school, death and sadness, and the fantasy of a far away land.

So, did the doctor own my house at one time? I was curious so I pulled the deed to my house. As I first scanned the deed I looked for an "Olmsted" and found no one by that name. Then realized that that was a married name. Then there was a Edward J. Liebetrut, a prospecting pharmacist from the East Side, sold the house to one William H. Pierce on October 30, 1919. William Pierce left the house to Clara K. Pierce, who was his wife, in June 10, 1912. Clara left the home to her daughter Elizabeth Ross and son William Wright Pierce on October 26, 1959. They kept the house until 1968. So, from what I can tell the stories are true. I wish I had a chance to ask the doctor some stories about the old house. And now it seems odd that her picture frame and old college book now sit on a shelf in the same house she once owned.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Solid Pine Kitchenette

I was gawking at all the great items on again. I come across this solid pine kitchenette while searching under the word "Waldorf". It is for about half the cost of other handmade, solid wood kitchens and thought I would share the good news. Check it out Here

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Age Two - Don't Hold Back

I often catch myself admiring my child. I watched each day as she made the transition from being a baby person to being a little person. She has always been independent and social. But I think she realized cause and effect. This tied in with the occasional impulsiveness desire, intense dedication to her friends and dollie, and determination to be self sufficient has caused me to fall even more in love with her. OR is it more complex? It may be that along with the intense love I have also developed admiration and...pride?

I have never been a proud person before. Yes, I have accomplishments but I am always pressing ahead to the next task so there is not much room for pride in what I have done. This, I think is different. I understand that my child is not perfect in the technical seance of the word. But she keeps me in awe.

She is outgoing in a way I am not capable of nor do I hold her back. I instead smile and hope I can learn a thing or two. Yah, a few locals last year have pegged her for a socialite. Often when we arrive at a shop or store it is marked with sales people, cashiers, etc extending a cherry wave with Hello dispite the task they have at hand. It has gotten to the point that as we leave the grocery store my child is waving and announcing bye bye so jubilantly that all the cashiers plus whoever is standing in line all wave and bid farewell. The first time this happened I felt as though we were at a ship launching. And I not being the most socially apt person smiled, said bye bye, while crouching my head lower as I really do not like attention. I had very mixed feelings. I so dearly work against my own personality just so my child can be herself. That is was I selfishly want. For my child to find herself, embrace herself, and go for it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Man's Last Message

I posted this video over a year ago. I though this video was worth posting again.

I think for many times people now, times may be a bit hard. But no matter what we need to be reminded sometimes that...well...

This is the last lecture given by Randy Pausch.

See his last lecture

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Food, Memories, Gardens and Families

Food from gardens is something near to my heart. For a few reasons. One my great grandmother, Lillian Finn, went to college and became a nutritionist when she was 35. Second I split my time between the East Side of Buffalo where I was born and my home which was the old Singer's Orchard in the South Towns. We raised apples, cherries, pears, plums not to mention the the 16 garden beds and a 40 by 40 veggie bed. Third, I was raised on PBS. Who often interjected about the importance of community, health, and loving life.

The east side of Buffalo and our orchard near the Boston hills were worlds apart. I got to see both sides. I participated in events like the Love Joy Halloween parade on the East Side. Yet, I was throwing nets over cheery trees so the crows didn't steel them all. I would take a quarter my great grand mother Lilly Mae gave me, cross Filmore Ave as she waved me on from her second floor apartment, walk to the corner vending machine, and out fell a frozen carton of milk. Then again harvest time meant climbing into the plum tree and eating the purple drops of lushness while bouncing on a branch.

I remember my mom making cherries jubilee lighting the flames and presenting it to the table. Or the rhubarb crisp, apple pie, and mammoth berries off the rod. All pies were made in sheet cake pans about 16 by 24 inches. They last longer that way.

The wild animals loved the food. And the deer were kept healthy all winter long digging up the apples that were left on the ground. Which brings me to another thought. Farming and gardening is done differently in the city.

Last year, as people walk by my wild front garden, they would point to a plant asking for its name (which I often do not know) or comment on how much it has changed from two years ago. Even a seasoned "Garden Walk" participant asked how we got the plants to maturity in only two years. As I watch other gardeners I began to realize that many of the gardeners in cities and suburbs are different then in small towns and small farms. I have a few rules of I follow mostly because they worked for my mom. Much of what I know has been past down in my family. And every time I listen to my mom I am reminded of how little I know.

For example here are some things that are different between city and country:

1. If you want to remove a vine from a building cut the vines at the based from the roots. Let them die over winter. Then you may have a chance at scrapping them off the wood.

2. Rake your leaves ONTO your garden before the first frost. It should not be a foot thick or you can get rot. But a healthy 1-2 inches allows normal microbial breakdown, sustains nutrients in the ground and it is free.

3. Never ever KILL the microbes in your garden. You are better off with a few grubs and a ton of good fungi and bacteria then a sterile garden and or lawn. Sometime I walk by a lawn and I see a pretty green lawn with short dandelions. And sometimes I see a lawn that obviously has damage soil. These are the lawns that are deep green in the spring. They suffer from synthetic fertilizers and even pesticides. The owner thinks the deep green is a sign of a well maintained lawn. Deep green like that usually means the plant is pumped up on chemicals, will be short lived, die back, get sun burn, and only causes more work. Most of these lawns I see are homogeneous which is a lawn made of one species of grass. This is an odd thing to do to a lawn. A healthy lawn will have about 15% minimum of weeds and at least a couple species of grass. Some "weeds" are good for gardens as well. The lawn is an easy and obvious example.

4. Do you need to kill off grass? Spray vinegar ! The type you can get from a grocery store is perfect and then cover the ground with a tarp. If you are only killing grass and dandelions, a few weeks will do it. You also do not get the die off of the beneficial microbes. But if you have a creeping plant, with runners, you can over the ground in fall and come spring the ground should be ready to go. That is what I did with a front section of my lawn. It had an invasive weed that would choke out other plants. Now I have perfectly cleared ground to work with. I did get some weeds growing on top of the tarp but they popped off the ground when the tarp was lifted up. I also did no harm. My yard is carcinogen free. It is safe for children, dogs, my friends, family and me.

I have also been learning a lot about family. Right now with a toddler I can only work in the backyard or risk her running into the street every time she sees the neighbor's dog when in the front yard. But sometimes I get to go out and just work on the front garden. I enjoy working on my garden. It is not very old. Developing a healthy lush garden does not happen over night. I sometimes just focus on what I am doing. Other times I think about my relatives back when they had farms and what it was like for them. I have recorded the foods they grew and where they were sold. I have recipes from each relative that came to live in Buffalo whether they were from Italy or North Carolina. I have my great grandma Lilly Mae's southern cole slaw and biscuits. I have my Great grandma Lucy's Florentine mint cheese over sized ravioli. I have my mom's pizza, cherries jubilee, and sheet cake pan apple pie. And my Dad's lasagna. Though I am a vegetarian I have my... let me think here, yeah, great great grandma Maria's Abruzzi lamb/beef mint meat ball recipe. Wow, food is good. I just realized I have a food associated with each person in my family. There are more but I'll stop the the flashbacks now. It has been 4-5 generations since anyone made farming a living in my family. But we always maintained land, gardens and trees despite our careers. The foods and recipes each family member favored is reflective of the farms and places they were from.