31
Mar

How Green is My Ride?

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

My Car

Yesterday I was driving to pick my son up from school and I was sitting at a light behind an aging, maroon colored car. I could see from their temporary plates and dealer plate holder that they had just bought the car and at that moment I realized that I have changed so much on this green journey of mine. I have always been something of a car snob I guess. I liked new cars with that new car smell and every car I have had was fresh from the factory with that stylish car payment that says “I am so successful that I can afford to waste money on something that will depreciate significantly just by driving it off the lot.”

It only took about a year before I was upside down on car worth versus loan amount still due but hey it was a NEW car. When the car started to look not so new it was time to trade in and when I got married of course both hubby and I both had to have our own cars. Then we started trying to live with a lighter eco footprint and we bought a used vehicle. About two years after that we decided we needed something with better gas mileage even if meant downgrading to a car once again… like we had pre-kids.

Since hubby’s vehicle was a company owned 18 wheeler I got to choose my new-to-me car and I chose the one above. It was an 8 year old car in great condition with only 40,000 miles. It had a sun roof, a remote starter, lots of trunk space, and it cost half of what I would usually spend on a new car. I did initially get a loan on it but I paid it off after only a couple months. I love this car and I plan to keep it until it tanks out on me. Just this week I had to put out $500 for a new tie rod, internal maintenance, and four new tires but considering I have no car payment and good gas mileage I am happy as a clam…I just passed 100,000 miles.

When I saw that rather ugly maroon car in front of me yesterday my first thought was COOL. I wondered if it ran well and how many miles it had. I realized that I now have a used car mentality. Gone are the days when I see a new car and get a twinge of jealousy. Now I just smile to myself and remember that I have a car that meets my needs and no car payment. I also have a more affordable car insurance premium from buying used, though I know this can vary by car model. I am not throwing away my money on bank interest or higher insurance rates, and by buying used I am recycling. That feeling is so liberating I can’t even describe it.

Another good feeling comes from deciding to only have one vehicle. When my hubby quit his trucking job we had a little problem…two people, one car. But we really didn’t want to buy another car so we found some work arounds. Hubby got a night job so we both had the car when we needed it. I found that at first I was irritated about not having a car from 4:30 PM to 8:00 the next morning but quickly I realized that it was saving me money. I stopped making quick shopping trips to pick up “one” item that quickly turned into a shopping cart full of crap I didn’t need. I also couldn’t get lazy and decide to take the kids out to eat if I didn’t feel like making food. It turned out to be a blessing.

But then the economy tanked and my hubby was switched to day shifts. This was very bad for us since we now had two children in two different schools that did not have bus service. It wasn’t feasible to drive my husband to work since I would have to get the kids up at 4:30 in the morning so they could ride along. We were going to be forced to buy a new car and I was really bummed. But we got creative and borrowed a car for 3-4 days a week until he got switched back to the night shift (this week). I did end up buying a used motorcyle as a backup for good weather days too. The gas mileage on it will be a big money saver for us in the summer months.

At some point we may decide to become a two car household again but I am confident that we will do it only if it becomes necessary and not because it is merely convenient. I am also confident that we will not get sucked back into the new car consumer trap until the time comes when green car technology really does make a new car the more eco friendly option. As it is now, it is just more eco friendly to buy used.

But it is very nice to catch yourself mid thought and realize…I am not the same person anymore… in a good way. ;)

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

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30
Mar

Fruit Salad and Blackberry Flowers

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

Dessert tonight was a favorite among the kids and the adults. It is amazing how something so simple can be so delightful. To make I just cut up some strawberries and mango and then added some blackberries and a nice squirt of raw agave nectar. It was soooo divine. ;)

Fruit Salad and blackberry flowers

Blackberry flower with almond petals

Fruit Salad

Fruit Salad

30
Mar

Video – Making Green Smoothies

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

Last week I shot a quick video of my daughter making a green smoothie in the kitchen with the help of our Kinder Perch. I just have to smile when she says “yummy, spinach”. And in case anyone wonders I stopped the camera to let my son put his little spinach leaf in…LOL.


 

Be sure to check out my Green Smoothie Recipes book.

27
Mar

The Kinder Perch – A Mother's Best Helper

Kids in the Kitchen

Over the years I have heard many a mom sing their praises but I admit I did not quite understand what all the hoopla was about. To me they looked kind of big and oddly shaped and just not very practical. I don’t have a huge kitchen so this just looked like a big piece of furniture to maneuver around. Of course that all quickly changes when you actually USE one. Then it becomes your right arm or your best kitchen helper and you wonder what life was like without one. You want to shake the hand of the man (or woman) who made it for you and tell them that this is the best thing to happen to your kitchen since the Vita-Mix.

What exactly I am talking about? Why these marvelous kitchen stands for kids of course. They are all the rage and I can see why. They basically act as a booster for kids so they have a safe place to stand, play, help mom, observe, or learn at the kitchen counter. I love to have my kids in the kitchen with me helping or playing but this means they end up sitting on the counter or we have to pull up a couple chairs to the counter and I have to worry about them falling off AND not having enough space to work with anymore.

So many times when my kids asked if they could help make meals I just couldn’t deal with the hassle of worrying that they would be in my way or that one of them would go toppling to the floor and get hurt. It really was heart breaking to me that I had become so hesitant to let them in the kitchen when I was making our meals. Or to let them wash dishes, something they find fun at the moment. I was also not using the best space available for making play dough and mixing up homemade finger paints… the kitchen counter… because pulling chairs up just wasn’t safe. Kids want to be in the kitchen because that is where all the action is at and they should have a seat front and center.

This is why the Kinder Perch has really become indispensable in our house. We got it from Down to Earth Toys, a wonderful online store with an amazing Natural Toys selection and we use it constantly! The kids get to help with meals, make their own smoothies and snacks, observe me while I work in the kitchen, work on messy crafts. etc. It fits flush against the counters so they can reach everything and the side bars prevent them from falling off. When we used chairs to boost them up I always had to make sure I got my toddler down before I walked over to the frig or pantry because I was afraid that while I was gone he would fall. Now I don’t have to worry. They can dance a jig in there if they want to and not have to worry about falling.

It holds up to 500 pounds so it is VERY sturdy and it has multiple levels so that it grows with your children. The “floor” piece of ours sits on the highest rung right now so it is perfect for my toddler. When he gets bigger we can move it down as needed and since it locks in place I don’t have to worry that it will slip while they are standing on it.

Close-up of the KinderPerch

As you can see above, it comes un-painted which I really like. You can make it match any kitchen decor that way. I think we may just get a safe varnish and leave it as is to keep the natural color. My daughter has already started personalizing it with stickers anyway. :)

My husband put this together in about 20 minutes and was impressed with the quality of the design and construction. He loved the fact that it is joined together with metal to metal joints. This means he can assemble and disassemble as much as needed without having to worry about stripping the wood. It also has two wheels on one side so that you can move it around easily. You just tilt towards the side that has wheels and roll it wherever you need to. My husband WAS a bit leery that we needed something like this but now even he is convinced. Especially after his surgery recently and he couldn’t lift the kids at all for two weeks. The fact that they could jump in their Kinder Perch themselves when they wanted to see what was going on in the kitchen or wash their hands for dinner was very helpful.

My mom is convinced to. She saw it sitting in the dining area (where we put it when not using it) and asked what is was. I told her and she asked why I would even need such a thing. But not long after that she used a rare day off from the tax office to make cookies with the kids and the two youngest used their Kinder Perch to observe and help. Now she sees first hand why it is so awesome. They can see everything up close while still being somewhat out of the way of the action and they are safe even though they are up at counter level.

Making cookies

In addition to using it as a booster they also play in it. They hang towels and sheets over it to make a little house and they can even put on a  puppet show if they want to. Who knew it would have so many other uses. ;)

There are a couple different companies making kids kitchen stands. I think the most common one is the Learning Tower but we like the Kinder Perch from Down to Earth Toys the best. I have a friend who has another brand and I just don’t think it is as well built and substantial as the Kinder Perch. Other brands are made in China too and most styles are painted which could mean unsavory elements in the paint, like lead. I LOVE the fact that Kinder Perch is completely unfinished, allowing me to choose the perfect color AND the safest paint.

And while buying China made often means a lower price tag, it is just not so in this case. A US made Kinder Perch, constructed with Ash wood from New England forests, is about the same price so making it and getting it into my hot little hands has much less of an impact on our planetary resources. It is the more eco friendly option by far and buying it means supporting other US families which is important in this economy.

Finding something really, truly useful that you want to purchase is all the sweeter when you can buy green too! Be sure to check out the KinderPerch and Down to Earth Toys which is run by a Michigan family. They have tons of other earth friendly, natural, safe products for kids.

And much thanks to Jon at Wicked Decent Woodworks who makes the Kinder Perch. We love it!

Making Green Smoothies

At the kitchen counter

Kinder Perch

26
Mar

Another Great Etsy Find

by Tiffany in Tidbits

I am addicted to Etsy I tell ya! Oh well, if I am going to spend then I guess I can feel proud that I am sending my dollars to other moms at least. I did need a new cover for my pink Flip since I lost the flimsy one that came with it, at the Disney on Ice on show.

The Esty seller twofloridagirls had just what I was looking for…

flip holder

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

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