January 29, 2024

Green Living: Whole House Water Filtration

I'm in the throes of a washer that won't drain water (of course in the middle of a load of dirty diapers), so forgive me if this post is a bit hasty. I've spent the morning manually draining water from the tiny hose in the front of the unit, and I'll be spending the next nap time taking apart the hoses that connect to the pump. I'm thinking there may be a baby sock or something yucky stuck in there. I actually enjoy taking stuff apart and figuring out what's wrong, but I'll save that for another post.

I was thinking of something to post for today's Thrifty Green Thursday, and remembered that my husband and father-in-law had recently installed a whole house filtration unit on our main water line. It's been wonderful, not having to use the bulky PUR sink filter or filling up a water filter pitcher. Here's what it looks like
That's the filter on the left, and the main water line coming in on the top right. The water goes through the filter before zooming around through the pipes throughout the house.
Please ignore the makeshift hanger for the filter (clothesline and some brackets). It would probably embarrass my father-in-law if he knew I posted a photo of that, since he's very meticulous and by-the-book in his work. Our local hardware store did not carry the proper hanging equipment when they installed this, but it'll be correctly hung soon.

The unit and filter were under a hundred dollars, and apparently one needs to replace the filter about once a year. We have a unit for a family of 4-5, but they make larger ones too.

Some of the benefits of a whole house water filter are
  • Not having to buy bottled water, since tap water is filtered (less plastic bottles in landfills)
  • Having filtered showers, so you aren't inhaling hot, vaporous chlorine from the water. Also, less chlorine in the water leaves your skin softer and not as dry (I've definitely experienced this)
  • Less residue in the laundry, sinks, showerhead and toilets (no need to use harsh cleaners to remove gunk)
  • I don't have to run downstairs in the middle of the night to get a glass of filtered water. I just go into our bathroom
  • Less buildup in your pipes from calcium and lime (which our water has a lot of)
If you're interested in buying one for your home, you can find them at home centers like Lowe's and Home Depot. Again, if you install it yourself, it should be under $100.

January 28, 2024

WW: Part Two (with Toothbrush)

We made it outside today after all, despite the rainy mist after the snow. SoJo loved it!
He had a little tumble on the sidewalk, since SoJo was not used to wearing boots.
And yes folks, that is a toothbrush in his hand. It's his toy du jour.

You may remember his previous obsession with dental tools over the summer.
Here he is back in August holding a rubber toothbrush/gum stimulator. That's the one my husband freaked out about one day at lunch when he thought it was a pregnancy test! SoJo loved chewing on that, and my husband's heart rate when down when he realized I was not pregnant.

He was so happy watching us shovel and watching the cars go by. And of course being cuddled by mama.

Wordful Wednesday: Snow Day

We've been blasted with a lot of snow this winter in the Northeast, most of which have brought only an inch or so. Last night we got a few inches, with more on the way. Mr. Geek is home from work today as the university has closed, so we'll be spending the day with SoJo drinking tea and being together...my favorite kind of day.

I think someone would really like to go outside today for a first taste (literally) of snow.
He loves standing at the front door looking outside. I'm considering taking him out in the snow today, since we do have a snowsuit for him. However we don't have any boots that fit him, but maybe will put on the ones Naomi sent, which are still a little big.

I'll post more photos if we end up taking the plunge into the white fluff.

For more Wordful Wednesday posts that are more interesting than this one, visit 7 Clown Circus.

January 22, 2024

Green Living: Clementine Boxes

Like many of you, I hate throwing away those sturdy boxes that clementines come in. It's not often that you find products packaged in wood boxes, which seems nostalgically along the lines of tea and biscuit tins. But if you go through as many clementines in the winter as we do, these boxes can quickly overwhelm your kitchen.

We have a high chair with a shelf underneath the seat, which is great for storing bibs and cloths for wiping up messes. However, the shelf itself was starting to become a mess with fabric and dishes.
{Should have taken a "before" photo}
I was thinking of something to put under there to corral the chaos, and remembered the clementine boxes.
Although pretty in their own right, sometimes you might want to dress up a clementine box. You can paint them or decoupage them with wallpaper or scrapbook paper. I took a box and glued some striped paper onto the sides using Mod Podge, an acrylic-based glue that's great for decoupage.
To decoupage, you just spread the Mod Podge or glue on the side of the box, lay the paper down (first cut to size of course), and then put a layer of glue/Mod Podge over the paper. This creates a smooth surface that is somewhat protected, unlike plain paper.

Because the box has some large staples on the side that hold it together, I had to cut some slits at those spots so the paper didn't bubble up. Then you just smooth those areas down when your gluing. Mod Podge takes very little time to dry, so I had my box in place within the hour.
Much better!

Here are some other ideas to reuse your boxes

1. Use them for all kinds of storage throughout the house (duh!). An entire shelf of these painted or decoupaged in coordinating colors would look great. They stack nicely too.
2.. Make a window sill herb garden by lining the box with plastic and sitting some small pots inside the box. Tie some twine or garden-esque ribbon around the box for decoration. There's a nice photo here. You could also just add dirt to the box itself and plant some things.
3. After decorated, use it as a shadow box on your wall or for a classroom project like a diorama.
4. Use it for packaging a gift, like a kitchen gift box with a dish towel, a bottle of wine, or some cookies.
5. Turn it into a doll bed by adding a cushion and a tiny blanket. Or just a cushion for a cat bed (my cat is too fat for this).
6. Use it in the pantry to hold sticky and messy things like oil, honey, and syrup so that the bottom of the shelf doesn't get yucky.
7. Fill it with deer moss or real wheat grass and use it as a centerpiece for Easter. You could nestle eggs in it too.
8. You could fancy-up one of these and store extra toilet paper in it, either on the bathroom floor or on the back of the toilet.

Feel free to add some of your own ideas in the comments. I'd love to hear them.

January 21, 2024

WW: Winter Swim

I mentioned that SoJo and I have been spending our Mondays at the pool (indoor, albeit). This week, Mr. Geek had off from work and joined us (not in the water), but he took some photos. I can't believe I'm posting this pic, since I look awful.I desperately need a new "junk" suit, since I don't want to use my good ones at this pool. The chlorine eats them away, and since most of the patrons are elderly, I don't really care what I look like!

SoJo had a great time in the water, especially when they bring out the mat, which is a thick piece of foam, about 3'x5' that the kids climb on. He LOVES crawling on that. He's comfortable going under water now, and I'm trying to teach him not to fall into the water when he sits on the side of the pool.
For more Wordful Wednesday, visit

January 20, 2024

Inauguration Day

I can't recall being as excited about inauguration day as I am today. I was either too young or too cynical to feel much of anything in the past, but today is different. I really like Barack Obama, even though I'm not one of the people who acts like he's some kind of god or savior. He makes me hopeful for our country, not just domestically but globally, and so far, he seems sincere in his words and actions. Let's hope that doesn't change, the deeper he gets into Washington. So today I'll have the TV on, which is not normal for our household, and I'll be listening intently to his speech and getting goosebumps when he takes the oath on the Lincoln bible. I hope you enjoy your day too, whether it is celebrating our new president, or just going about your daily routine. The only bump in the road for me is that SoJo is battling a cold, and has been miserable all morning. In fact, I'm going to rescue him right now from his crib, where he's howling. Happy Inauguration Day!

January 18, 2024

Beans for the Buddha

After the holidays, it's easy to forget those in need. We participate in the big push towards getting turkeys and toys for families, and donating to our favorite causes but what happens after the new year? It's not like these needs suddenly evaporate when the last bottle of champagne is emptied.

Our family tries our best to give throughout the year. My husband has a wonderful little ritual that he does at work. He keeps a small white tea bowl on a shelf at work next to a statue of the Buddha (which he does not worship, it's more of a reminder of the Buddha's teachings of mindfulness and being present in the moment). Every morning when he comes into work, he takes a few coffee beans from a bag he keeps in his desk and places them in the tea bowl. When the tea bowl is filled, he makes a donation to charity. He then empties the coffee beans and starts over again.

This practice helps cultivate his heart, both in giving and in gratitude for the blessings of food and comfort we have received. Since his office doesn't permit smoke or fire for obvious reasons (typically one would light a stick of incense as an offering), he needed to be more creative with his offering practice. He chose coffee beans for a few reasons:

~the sound of the beans hitting the bowl and the other beans (pleasing to the ear)
~the smell of the coffee (pleasing to the nose)
~the contrast of the black beans against the white bowl (pleasing to the eyes)
~coffee is a luxury that we're thankful to be able to enjoy
~coffee reminds him of his Zen teacher, who is a coffeeholic

If you're looking to cultivate a charitable spirit during 2009, you can try using oatmeal instead of coffee. Quaker Oats' Start with Substance campaign to donate up to one million bowls of oatmeal to those in need. From January 12 through February 28, for every UPC from a Quaker Oatmeal hot cereal product families enter at www.startwithsubstance.com, Quaker will donate one bowl of oatmeal to Share Our Strength, a childhood hunger organization. You’ll need to be a Facebook member to participate.

“This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company.”

January 15, 2024

Hard Proof

Here's our drunken sailor, so you can see for yourself that he's actually walking. It makes me laugh every time I watch it, as you can hear in the video.

January 14, 2024

Wordful Wednesday: That Day Has Arrived

It's finally happened...
SoJo is walking! It's both exciting and frightening. He was showing off for GG (my mom), but he's taken off with sheer joy, shuffling all the way across the living room on his own.

He occassionally takes a tumble
But is back up in no time, as long as there's something or someone to grab onto to hoist himself up again.

I can say with certainty that he's so much happier now. He's been sleeping through the night again and is laughing and having fun. This kid has wanted to stand and walk since he was 3 months old, when he wanted you to stand him on your lap when holding him.

Go SoJo, Go!

For more Wordful Wednesday, visit Angie at

January 11, 2024

Stuffing Away the Holiday Leftovers

Driving to the grocery store last night, I was pleasantly surprised to see Christmas trees still glowing in the windows. Those lights are such a mesmerizing sight, and I'm a little sad that I took down the tree and put the decorations away on New Year's Day. However I like starting the new year off by packing up the old and organizing (as I've written about in many posts last week), and this year was no exception.

One thing that helps me organize my ornaments and decorations is to save those heavy vinyl bags that sheets and curtains come in, and use it to hold ornaments. When we moved into our house a few years back, I had to buy curtains for nearly every room, since we have 84" windows.
I kept all of the clear bags to use for something, and that Christmas, I found a purpose for them. It's nice that they're durable, and often have zippers on them. It makes it really easy to see the ornaments inside too. I used a large bag that contained a bedspread to store my wreaths. I just cut a piece of cardboard to fit inside it to give the wreaths some support.

I also use hangers to store my garlands in the attic. Rather than de-garland-ize them, I just hang them over the inside of the hanger (where you would put a pair of pants) and drape a garbage bag over it to prevent dust. Then I hang the hanger on a nail from the rafters. It saves me from having to untangle it every Christmas.

If you're interested in other homekeeping tips, the new SC Johnson website--Right@Home--is the place to go to learn something new. And check out The Parent Bloggers Network for a chance to win a $250 Visa gift card, just for blogging about your post-holiday organizational tips.

January 8, 2024

Capping My Sweet Tooth

After all of the goodies and sweets from the holidays, you and your kids may be trying to cut back on sugar. I believe sugar is as addictive as crack cocaine, and I'm always struggling to cut back on it in our diets. It's so hard because it's in nearly everything! Even foods you might consider to be salty (I'm definitely a salt tooth) can have hidden dextrose and sucrose and the evil high fructose corn syrup in them.

One way that you can reduce your sugar intake is to de-sweeten juices you drink. I love cranberry juice, and to avoid some extra calories, I cut it with water, about half and half. I actually prefer it less sweet, and not only am I saving some calories, but I'm saving some pennies too by stretching the bottle of juice.

Another thing I do when I have more time is to brew a pot of herbal tea, like Red Zinger, Lemon Zinger, or any of the fruit-flavored, non-caffeinated herbal teas. I personally like Celestial Seasonings, which are available in nearly every grocery store.
Red Zinger contains herbs that would be safe for children, including Hibiscus, rosehips, peppermint, lemongrass, orange peel, and wild cherry bark.

I basically just do a mixture of 1/2 cooled, brewed tea to 1/2 juice. Apple, cranberry or grape would be great. I'd stay away from the OJ, which obviously wouldn't taste so good. But if that's your preference, good for you.

So there you go. Good luck with fighting those the sugar cravings. I'm right there with you.

January 7, 2024

Wordful Wednesday

We finally moved that dresser downstairs to replace the sheet music cabinet that was overstuffed with papers and junk. See my post from yesterday for photos if you wish.

I brought the drawers down and guess who thought they were toys?
He was running back and forth in them, having a grand old time.
He even gave a standing ovation at the end, where he was clapping (his new thing). And of course, he got lots of hugs and kisses from mama.
But he was still more interested in those darned drawers!

Finally, a bad photo of the dresser in its new home. It's great for storing all the papers, pens, and even the diapers.
For more Wordful Wednesday, visit Angie at

January 5, 2024

My Goodness, My Guinness!

It was almost like an episode of Iron Chef around here for dinner, where the secret ingredient was Guinness! We had 2 cans of it that my brother brought for Christmas, so I had to find a use for them. Let me tell you that I have never had an entire Guinness in my life, and can barely swallow a sip of it, so there was no way I would be downing one in a frustrated mama moment.

My sister-in-law gave me a pretty jar mix for Christmas for beer bread. It's from Tastefully Simple, but the recipe can be pilfered (not pilsnered) online. It's basically:

Bountiful Beer Bread
1 12 oz. can or bottle of beer, soda or other flavored, carbonated beverage (you can even use diet)
3 Cups Self-rising flour
3 Tbsp. Sugar
Optional (but worth it)--3 tsp. melted butter

(Quite healthy, I'd say). You mix the dry ingredients and then add the beer, stirring quickly until it is just combined. It will be lumpy. Put it into a greased bread pan and pour the melted butter over top, if you wish. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.

This is what it looks like when baked.
And sliced. The outside is crunchy and chewy and the inside was soft. It did fall apart a bit on the outside when I was cutting it, but it still tasted yummy.
It was soooo good! And I actually liked the taste of the beer in the bread.

But I mentioned that Guinness was the secret ingredient for the whole meal, and I thought I'd make a quick French onion soup with the other can. But that was a mistake. It seems like the French and the Irish don't get along. The soup was bitter, despite the addition of lots of water. I'm sad that I wasted two vegetarian "beef" bouillon cubes. C'est la vie. And Erin go bragh.

We tossed out the soup, but still had a simple salad and some Tipperary cheddar, which was quite appropriate. Truly a meal fit for a serf.
(yes, it's that tablecloth again!)

On a related note, I learned a bit about Guinness from some online research. Did you know it has less calories than skim milk and orange juice? I've heard about it being a meal in itself, but that's just not the case. And also, it's not a vegan/vegetarian product since it uses the swimbladders of fish to filter the beer.

Any beer recipes you'd like to share? I still have some Sam Adams Winter Recipe in the fridge.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

After the glut of the holidays, I feel compelled to scale back and simplify my life. We've gotten rid of all the cookies and candy and started going for walks again (albeit quick ones due to the cold weather). Once the Christmas decorations are down, it's nice to give the house a good scrubbing and start going though papers and bills. I've finally found places for all of the toys and gifts that SoJo got for his first Christmas so I'm moving on to some other areas of the home.

Here are a few of my goals:
  • Clean the coffee maker. My father-in-law just installed a whole-house water filter for us, so I'm thrilled to have gotten rid of the broken, bulky PUR one on our sink. Now I just need to run a pot of vinegar through the coffee pot and our coffee will hopefully start tasting better again. With our SIGG bottle, we haven't needed to buy jugs of bottled water for the last year.
  • Sort through baby clothes and take some of them along with outgrown toys to the baby consignment shop in town.
  • Move the dresser from the guest room into the living room. Sounds a little crazy, but I like to "shop the house" (as The Nester says) rather than buying something new. With a little ingenuity, you can repurpose a lot of what you already have.
We have this lovely antique sheet music cabinet that I got from my grandma when she died, and since I don't play any instruments, I've been using it for storage in our living room.
It's like our little wooden "secretary" which holds our phone books, stamps, envelopes, pens, tech gadgets, and just about anything that we don't know what to do with.
Clearly, it's a mess, and the short shelves that were meant to hold sheet music just aren't good for holding much else. I've heard more curses from Mr. Geek at this cabinet than anything else in the house. The latch is hard to open and close, and papers get crammed in the back. And of course his beloved collection of Japanese incense is stored in boxes in here, so he hates having to fight with this cabinet to burn a stick.
So the dresser is going to replace this, and hopefully be a place for keeping a blanket or two for chilly evenings on the sofa. I have some boxes and baskets that can fit into the drawers for storing small items, but I think a lot of the stuff in the cabinet is going to be purged. I'll post some photos after we move the dresser downstairs.

January 4, 2024

Back to Blogging

Why is it so hard to get back into a routine? I've been thinking of things to post about and am just coming up empty. I could write about how I keep saying that I'll start eating better tomorrow (I just ate A LOT of lo mein noodles today and chocolate). I could write about how I'm already feeling guilty for not finishing knitting and sewing projects, and for leaving a colleague hanging over a magazine spread that we've been working on. I could write about how happy my son is, now that he's nearly walking, and that he nearly slept through the night last night (was up pretty early to nurse though). Instead, I'll just post one of our first videos of SoJo. There's nothing special here, just SoJo and Mr. Geek playing. Forgive the less-than-stellar cinematography--you won't find the influence of Cocteau here. I was just tinkering with the camera I borrowed from my parents.

January 1, 2024

New Year, New You Giveaway

New Year's Day is a great chance to begin again. I put away the holiday decorations, took the tree down, swept up the evergreen needles from the corners of the living room, and have started reorganizing things around the house. I've even organized and backed up the files on my computer, which I've been meaning to do for months. I also carved out a little play area for SoJo where the Christmas tree was.
I tend not to make New Year's resolutions because I make them all year round (and break them all year round too). My main goals are always in rotation--greener living, healthier eating and exercise habits, simplifying my life. But I would like to add more craft time to the mix. My plan for a birthday present to myself in April is to move SoJo into our guest room and reclaim the nursery for my studio. I want this year to be the start of my own business, whether it be knitting, sewing, or selling crafts in general. I have my name and business cards already, it's just a matter of getting together some decent inventory.

To inspire some changes in your lives, I've decided to compile a few items to offer as a New Year, New You giveaway of sorts. It's a mix of books, an organic, reusable shopping bag, a sample of Soap Nuts natural laundry detergent, and a few other things that represent topics that I work on improving in myself.
The books are New Day Revolution: How to Save the World in 24 Hours, a great green read which is signed by the authors Sam Davidson and Stephen Moseley, and Living Simply: Choosing Less in a World of More by Joanne Heim (also signed by the author), which is a very down-to-earth inspiration for simplifying your life. I'm including a beautiful handmade blank journal from Small Meadow Press with an inspirational quote from Gandhi on the cover. It reads "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Quite fitting for the new year.
It would be great for keeping track of some of the changes you make in your life this year. Cue Bowie---Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

I'll probably throw in some other goodies too to help you start living greener and simplifying your life. Kind of an oxymoron, huh, giving you more stuff to simplify your life. Anyway, I'm not publicizing this giveaway like I normally do. It's just for my regular readers and bloggy pals, or anyone who just happens to stop by. I'll be mailing it out myself, and am allowing Canadians to enter as well.

To enter, leave a comment here with something you'd like to change or improve in your life for 2009. The giveaway will end on Saturday January 10th. You can get a second entry for blogging about this too. Good luck and Happy New Year!

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