Thursday, November 19, 2009

Update on Goings on Here at the Eco-ing Myself House

Cooking is still going well (the above is a tofu stir fry I made with brown rice. YUM. And pretty too!), and as for the 'eco-ing myself' part of this blog, I am doing well with that also! I really find myself thinking before I do a lot of the things I used to and making changes based on what would be greener. For instance, I used to print out tons of things at work. Mostly because I read better off paper than off a computer screen, so I liked to print things out to work on and then follow up with the document on the computer. Lately though, I have been thinking about all the poor dead trees before I push print. "Do I really need to print this?" runs through my head before I do and most of the time, the answer is no, so I don't. Sometimes it takes a little more effort, especially when I'm switching between multiple spreadsheets, but I'm working on getting better at it and it's working!

I also think twice before throwing things away- I have found all sorts of uses for old jars and bottles that I never would have thought of before. All it takes is a little creativity.

So things there are going well! A special thanks to all my friends who frequently Tweet and post blogs about little ways to be greener- they really help keep me on the straight and narrow earth wise. I guess I have developed an eco-conscious, and am hoping to find even more ways to improve. You know, when you start with little things...going greener really doesn't take that much more energy and time, all it takes is a new mindset.

To close, below is a picture of the card I made for my dad's birthday with fabric scraps I had left over from sewing projects. It would have looked much better had I not used super glue- it was all we had in the house and came through the fabric and left little crusty looking spots after it dried. But was still a cool card and my dad liked it, which is all that matters anyway. I paired it with some cocoa chip muffins that I made by leaving the coffee out of the mocha chip muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance. My dad isn't a mocha fan, but the muffins were a hit by leaving it out! :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More Cooking

I've been really successful with my cooking projects and am really finding that a) I enjoy it and b) that it has really helped me save money because I actually PREFER to eat at home because the stuff I make is yummy. This is unheard of in the Hope Mentality. In the past I eat at home because it's necessary...not because I want to. So that's awesome, because it helps me in my goal to transform into Scroogy McFrugalson due to the nature of the family finances (babies are SO PRICEY! Yikes.) I could stand to learn some frugal techniques, and not eating out is really helping me get a jump start. I've also made it into a game, so that's been my sanity saver. I'm kind of having fun seeing where I can cut corners to keep the dough residing in my wallet. Coupon cutting anyone? (Thanks to The Mindful Merchant for letting me know about Mambo Sprouts!)

Today's adventure is trying to find the brand of cat litter I use at the lowest possible cost to me. Woohoo!

But anyway, back to food. Here's some things I've made lately:

These are the herb potatoes from Vegan with a Vengeance, which are a big hit with the fam. I always have to make extra for lunches the next few days. YUM! (Note: This is not meant to be a Food Blog, so I know the pictures are crappy and make the food as appetizing as it actually was. I'm just trying to document my progress here.)

This picture is of the tofu scramble (also from VWAV) I make to go with the herb potatoes. Also tasty. Even my non-vegetarian husband likes it. It's especially yummy when made into a breakfast burrito with tortillas, salsa, and guacamole.

And HERE...are the cupcakes I made to take to Pumpkin Night- a night of fun and pumpkin carving my family always stages around this time of year. It was also my cousin's birthday, hence the candles. They were a hit, and I told no one that they were vegan. :)

I also made frosting...that didn't quite do what I wanted it to do. It didn't firm up enough to spread on the cupcakes without being a TOTAL mess, so I left it in the bowl and it became "Pourable Frosting", which totally worked because in the end, people were dripping it over ice cream and dipping fruit into it. Multipurpose! I figured it was a major success when my cousin told me I should bottle it up and sell it.

YAY for a non-cooking person being a success at cooking!

I haven't posted in awhile, so I thought I'd start with....

... your LEMUR OF THE DAY! Courtesty of Cute Overload.
(No, this has nothing to do with anything- I just really like lemurs.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pin Cushion Project

Last week, I made the most beginner of beginner projects in the Sew Everything Workshop Book, which was the pin cushion. It served two purposes- I needed a pin cushion, because I didn't have a pin cushion and it gave me a chance to jump back into sewing. The project was successful, and in the process I was able to re-purpose a pair of fuzzy socks that had holes but which I hadn't thrown away because...I have problems throwing things away. So I used the socks to stuff the pin cushion instead of buying polyfill. Economical AND environmentally friendly. Not to mention emotionally friendly since I didn't have to throw away the socks that I clearly had some unnatural attachment to. (I'll say right now because anyone reading this will probably find out eventually anyway- I have a real issue feeling sorry for inanimate objects and therefore have trouble doing things like....THROWING STUFF AWAY.)

But I digress. I was very successful in my pin cushion project and made something that is super cute AND functional!


The only problem was that I didn't use my sewing machine. It was a small project and I sew pretty quick by hand, so instead of learning how to use my new machine, I just went ahead and sewed it by hand. It didn't even take me an hour from start to finish, which was cool, but before I do any larger projects, I need to learn my machine!

So that's my goal for the weekend. To learn my machine and make a pillow. I have the fabric cut and all I need now is to bite the bullet and get acquainted with my Brother. :)

I think I should give it a name. Make it a friend. I'll think about it and let you know what name I come up with for my new sewing friend.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Successful Thursday Mealtime

Tonight I made the Maple Dijon Potatoes and String Beans from Vegan with a Vengeance and can I say...AWESOME. I also had a pack of tempeh in the fridge that was getting dangerously close to it's use by date, so I used the glaze on that too (my husband used it with chicken) and it was ALL AWESOME. Smiles all around. And leftovers! Whee!

Not only that, but last night I finished a painting for my friend's housewarming.

(The painting is way more vibrant in real life, it's not the greatest picture...but whatever...I'm trying to get more comfortable posting things I've painted, so...there it is.)

It's been a successful week of making stuff!

I have another yummy meal planned for hopefully that will set off a successful week-END of making stuff. We'll see how it goes. :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where I've Been and The Slightly Altered Focus of this Blog

Where have I been lately? Good question! I've been...MAKING STUFF! It all started with finding out that cheese is not my body's favorite. See, since I didn't eat much meat before, and now eat even less now that I'm trying to be vegetarian, cheese was my primary source of protein...along with a frequent veggie burger. So with cheese out, most of my diet disappeared.

So I got to thinking, if I want to, you know, get some nutrients once in awhile, I'd better start cooking. So I went online and got the awesomest cookbook EVER: Vegan with a Vengeance. I've made cookies, and muffins, and tofu, and stir fry, and stuffed shells (sans cheese = AWESOME!), and tacos, and...more cookies and muffins.

This is amazing to me, mostly because I am not someone who ever had a desire to cook- I found it an annoying necessity and relied mainly on frozen microwavable entrees and take out. Needless to say...that's not that good for you (at least as much as I was doing it) and it’s also expensive...and being that I am also now on a pretty strict budget...this is good for both my health and my wallet. It’s also better for the environment with less packaging, less animal products, and less chemicals used to produce the food I'm eating. The biggest discovery during all this though, is that I'm enjoying it! I LIKE cooking… make things that are actually EDIBLE...and all while having...FUN?!! Who knew!?

Well...THAT’S NOT ALL! As I was cooking and realizing- “Hey...I can do this!”- I was also trying to do more reusing and 'repurposing' of household items to, again, help my budget and the environment all at the same time. One of the things I wanted to do was to repurpose some of my extra sheets and comforters I have laying around to make a DIY dog bed for my poor geriatric Pomeranian and THAT idea led to the purchase of a sewing machine from which led to wanting to make my own placemats (I never could find any I liked)...which led to my mom getting me the Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp...which led to...a crafty DIY addiction! (And yes…I’m a little late to the DIY game…)

This "I can make stuff" mindset led me to look around at all the paintings I have sitting around my house (I’ve taken a watercolor class every Wednesday for the past three years)…which led me to think...I could sell prints of these...which led me to think "and note cards! I can make note cards!" which led me to think...I can make prints, note cards, AND stuff I can sew...which led me to think...I should open up a shop on Etsy!

So. That's what the last few weeks have been for me: Lots of new ideas and a sort of refocusing of my life, which was LONG overdue.

So as a result, this blog might be changing focus a little and I'm going to focus more on posting the various projects I undertake using my goals to be greener by reusing things I already have (sometimes with the help of an awesome sewing machine), cooking my own vegan food (I'm not totally vegan when I'm out, but I don't make anything for myself that isn't), and attempting to raise some money for my family (and a favorite charity) by selling some things on Etsy! Still Eco-ing Myself...still going vegetarian...but with a new and improved focus!

Stay tuned...and if anyone is still reading this...thanks for sticking around. :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mayo Shmayo

I am trying to go Vegan...more on that later (in short- I found out I was allergic to cheese after many years of digestive system issues dairy. Cheese being the main reason I wasn't considering vegan in the first place- I figured...well, since cheese is out...might as well go all the way! It's a slow process, mostly regarding baked goods and things where animal ingredients are more 'hidden'...but there you go. I'm trying.)

ANYWAY, I used up all my regular mayo- since I'm not throwing out things I already bought...just using them up and then replacing them with their vegan alternatives when they're gone- and was in the store looking for a vegan mayo replacement. I have never had vegan 'mayo' so I didn't really know how this experiement was going to go. At this particular store, my choices were limited I picked that up and left.

Here's what I got:

Enter Nayonaise.

Once I got home...I still wasn't sure how fake mayo would taste, so with much trepidation...I opened the jar and tentively tasted just a smidgeon. And then another smidgeon. And then a more generous smidgen.


And do you know WHY I now think Nayonaise is the best thing since sliced vegan bread?! Because (at least in my warped opinion), it tastes just like Miracle Whip. And I LOVE Miracle Whip.

Now, I know that Miracle Whip is kind of an aquired taste. My dad loves it and therefore, I ate it at his house. My mom on the other hand...thinks it's absolutely disgusting and banned it from her refrigerator shelves. So, I suppose the moral of this story is...if you aren't a fan of Miracle Whip, you might not like Nayonaise, but you might!...try it for yourself!

Bring on the Facon Lettuce and Tomatos!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Disposing of the Daily Dirt- UPDATE

Two of the blogs I follow recently posted on the issue of dog waste and how best to dispose of it. Both have good ideas so I wanted to share them:

The Mindful Merchant found some biodegradable bags that actually degrade and she did a trial with actual doggie messes to see if they were up to the job. Answer: They were! Check out her post for more info!

The Greenists also had an interesting discussion on the issue. Here's the poop!

These ideas coupled with my friend Lucy's suggestion to keep one bag (until it's full, instead of one bag per 'deposit') in the backyard and to use a shovel for pick up means that I will now be a little more environmentally efficient when picking up after my dogs.

So thanks guys, I now I know what to do with poo. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Disposal of the Daily Dirt

I was over at The Greenists today (which is a really cool site- thanks to The Daily Tannenbaum for the link) and I happened upon an interesting post that looks at the environmental impact of plastic grocery bags. This is an important issue and one for which I would like some insight. I posted something similar in the comment section over there, but thought that I might post it here as well in an attempt to get some suggestions.

I live in the city and have two dogs. Two dogs that poop. Being a good resident and neighbor, I pick up that poop. Normally for that purpose, I use the plastic bags that I get from the store-or that my parents get (they give me their extra for that purpose)- so I’m re-USING, but not really re-CYCLING since in the end the bags still end up in the trash. The greenest option for shopping is of course the re-USABLE bag- I have one and use it when I remember to bring it (Note to self: get better at remembering this!)- but reusable bags don’t help me pick up and dispose of the dog poo I'm faced with on a daily basis.

I would really appreciate any suggestions on the greenest way to clean up after your pet. Just to give you an idea of what I have to work with, I live in a small row house with a tiny backyard, so space is at a minimum. I’ve seen biodegradable poo bags, but are they truly ‘green’?

Please leave suggestions in the comments if you have any ideas for me. I would really appreciate any insight and would like to make whatever earth-friendly change I can while dealing with a daily chore.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Taking the Steak Out of Cheese Steak

This is yet another post about food. Whee!

Friday I had a was my stepmom's birthday and in keeping with my family's long and glorious history of Celebratory Subs...we were going out for cheese steaks for her birthday. Now normally...this is one of the times, like at Five Guys, where I give in and eat meat just because it's easier. Unless I want a pizza sub, there aren't tons of veggie sub options that appeal to me- and lets be honest, sometimes you're not in a pizza sub kind of mood. Added to that is the All Meat All the Time mindset of my dad's family, and I'm a 'go along to get along kind of person'. I wish I was one of those people that could just do what I do and not worry about the comments of others...but unfortunately...I am definitely NOT one of those people when it comes to my family and I dread the 'So you're not eating meat now?' convo. Yes...I'm a wuss...I'm working on it. (My mom is easy though- she's already a vegetarian. I'm trying to learn from her.)

So, for all of those reasons, I woke up kind of indifferent to my vegetarian goals that morning- Hey, it happens!- and was thinking I would just go ahead and get the meat, but I arrived...I thought 'HEY- what I really like on subs is the toppings anyway!' Just like at Five Guys! SO why not just get the toppings for the cheese steak! BRILLIANT! (Like I said...I don't always think of these logical solutions first...)

So I got a cheese steak sans steak- lots of cheese, fried onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo...the whole bit. It wasn't so vegan, but it WAS meat free- and DELICIOUS! I will definitely get the same in the future.

Full disclosure: When faced with the peculiar looks from the family when I nixed the steak on my sub- did I proudly say it was because I have goals of going vegetarian?! No...*sheepish*...I used my post pregnancy weight loss goals as the explanation (which is true...but also not the Whole Story.)

Apparently...standing up for my beliefs is ALSO something I will be working through on this blog.

( dad's family is interesting, they eat mostly organic and use tons of natural products in their homes- including using essential oils for ailments!-but meat is a touchy thing with them...I think they think of vegetarians as all crazy militant environmentalists- I know...environmentalists!- what terrible people THEY are! ;-) - and it's a hard preconceived notion to get past. I HAVE talked about how I don't agree with the factory farming practices in this country and so forth, and they mostly agree; but VEGETARIAN is a word I will have to get used to bringing up. I'll let you know what kind of progress I make on that front as well.)

Five Guys Go Vegetarian

Confession: I love Five Guys Burgers. I think they are the best burgers on earth and it is one of the few restaurants that I frequent that I do not even consider a vegetarian option. The burgers are just TOO good.

BUT...since I'm writing this blog and keeping track, I feel like it's holding me accountable, so when a friend and I made plans to go to Five Guys last Saturday...I was determined to find a vegetarian option.

Besides the Yummy Factor of the regular burgers, another reason I had never gone veg there was a perceived lack of veggie options. There is a grilled cheese, but WHO gets a grilled cheese when what they WANT is a greasy burger!? Not I.

There is also a 'veggie sandwich' but it's not a veggie burger- it was described to me as 'veggies on a bun'. Now, I like veggie burgers, but I am NOT a fan of grilled vegetables. I'm just not. Grilled veggie sandwiches first of all, usually contain veggies I don't like- namely peppers. I HATE peppers of any kind unless they are used in a recipe. I hate them by themselves, grilled or otherwise, so most veggie sandwiches just don't do it for me unless it's like a Powerhouse type thing. So in the past, when an employee described it thus, I said 'screw it' and got the burger.

However, given my new goals, I was determined to find something- so I did research on the Five Guys website. There I found a different description of the Veggie Sandwich, which said basically, that it was a bun on which you could load as many toppings as you want.

Ohhhhhh TOPPINGS you say!!! Now that's DIFFERENT!! I LOVE toppings! In fact, when I get the burger there, it's the cheese, mushrooms, lettuce and tomato that make the whole burger in my opinion. So...that's what I got: A yummy toasted bun piled with grilled mushrooms, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mustard. And it was FAN-tastic!

So there you have it- my affair with Five Guys (hee hee) does not have to be at the expense of my Veg Goals.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Taco Tuesday Success!

Wondering if I succeeded in making Taco Tuesday dairy free? I did-and it was EXCELLENT!!! I didn't even miss the cheese and sour cream, which is amazing because I. LOVE. CHEESE. I had three soft tacos with black beans, tomato salsa, medium salsa, corn, lettuce, and guacamole. So yummy. WAY yummier than I had anticipated. I shall make Taco Tuesday dairy free in the future.

Faux Ham is Good Ham and Taco Tuesday Goes Vegan

Well...Operation Recycle is still in the Find a Bin stage. Yes...I know. How hard is finding a receptacle to throw your recycling in?! Not hard. But unfortunately...this is Wants to Be Green meets Huge Slacker with More than a Pinch of Procrastination. Basically...I suck. I just haven't gotten down to my basement to find something to put the stuff in so that we're not All-Trashcan-All-the-Time. I'll get there- I promise...

So why don't we talk about something else. Lets talk about...SMARTDELI!

I love it. I have been trying to be budget conscious and take my lunch to work with idea that usually dies within two days because I get so bored with what I pack, but not so this time! It's been almost three weeks (a record, believe me) and I attribute that to the fact that I love the sandwiches that I make with Smartdeli faux ham slices. Just Smartdeli (I don't even need a full serving which is four slices. Two are plenty, which helps the package last longer) a slice of cheese or two, mustard, and a dab of mayo. So...not so vegan, but vegetarian for sure. I'm sure you're thinking from that description...boy she's a simple soul're right. It's not even fancy mustard. It's YELLOW. What can I say, I have cheap taste, but if it helps me keep my spending down by bringing my lunch (in my reusable lunch bag of course!) and helps me keep lunch vegetarian...than whee! I shall rock on with my simple cheap tastes.

Speaking of vegan's project is VEGAN lunch. I bring my lunch every day but Tuesday- which is Taco Tuesday for me and a friend. We go to Chipotle and usually I'm not even quite vegetarian because I get the pinto beans...which have bacon in them. So I have been trying to get the black beans instead...but it's been a slow change because the pinto beans are slightly yummier. Probably BECAUSE of the bacon. DOH. Today's challenge though is to go VEGAN with it...just to see if I can find a combination of ingredients that will still get me as revved up for Taco Tuesdays as my former combination, but without the cheese and sour cream (which...I'm not going to lie...are kind of my favorite part).

Wish me luck and I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Operation Recycle Continues

Well, I got to the store to get a receptacle for recycling and realized...that I didn't want to buy a receptacle for recycling. I was much more intrigued by the soy candles that were WAY cheaper than those of the Yankee variety. I also realized that I needed a new shower curtain liner because (TMI alert) mine is turning orange, and new shower curtain liner plus soy candle (even on sale) equals no more budget for recycling bin.

But THEN, I realized...why am I BUYING a receptacle for recycling (even if it's the cheap kind) when I could just as easily dig something out of my basement that would work just as well. Yeah I know....DUH.

This brilliant idea might have come about because I spent my recycling budget on a candle to make my house smell like candy corn (I didn't know they made such a thing either!), but that's ok, it's my usual habit to think of the most logical solutions last.

I also found a bug spray that's supposed to be ok for babies, and as far as I could tell from the ingredient list, wasn't full of chemicals. I can't remember what it's called, and I'm too lazy to get off my couch to go look, but I'll be sure to post whether of not it works at a later date.

Random fact about me unrelated to the purpose of this blog but related to what I'm doing right now: I will suffer through the first 3/4 of Walk the Line just so I don't miss the scene where he sings at Folsom Prison.

Operation Recycle

Ok, today begins operation recycle, which entails the monstrous and muy difficult task of...finding a receptacle. My neighborhood has recycling pick up, we don't even have to sort it anymore, so all it takes is one bin. Seriously? Is that all that's been keeping me from doing the number one easiest thing to help the environment?!


But...ah well. I'm doing it now right?

The other project on my list for today is to find a bug repellent for a three month old that doesn't make me feel that slathering him in it will cause him to grow a third arm. It's been really wet this summer and the mosquitoes are killer, and to make it worse, my front porch seems to be where they all congregate to loiter around like juvenile delinquents. So he really needs something, but I have no idea what would be ok for him and which isn't made from 100% scary chemicals. If anyone happens to be reading this (...anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) please let me know if you are aware of an effective natural mosquito repellent for a wee babe.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Allow Myself to Introduce...Myself

I've been meaning to start this blog for awhile now, I go! I have also been trying to go vegetarian for a long time now (I'm ALMOST there...) and I would like to live much greener than I am currently. So this is my forum to journal the changes I'm making, motivate me to make even more steps towards my goals, and to hopefully get tips and advice from others who may be walking the same path.

If you happen to find this blog and start reading- please keep in mind that 'cold turkey' is not realistic for me. I am working hard to make small changes that will add up to the big picture- so please be kind in your comments and suggestions. I know I'm not perfect- but I'm trying! That being said, I DO want constructive comments and suggestions! Most of what I already do I do because of the thoughts and ideas of others- so post away.

Thanks for reading and helping me reach my goals! :)