Our “little” garden

Anyone out there renting? We are, and one of our biggest worries was that we would not be able to start gardening until we owned our own home. However, with a little creativity and a some hard work, we were able to create a little place to practice and grow some grub!

20120509-105007.jpgWe turned one of the flower beds on the side of our house into a garden. So far we have planted Swiss chard, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, romaine and kale, and we plan to add more as soon as we have our last frost.

Everything is looking so amazing right now. (to the right is the spinach we grew from seeds!)

Since this is our first time doing a garden, we were a little scared to start straight from the seeds so we did a mix of both seeds and seedlings. We bought heirloom seeds through the Seed Savers Exchange. If you aren’t familiar with what heirloom plants are, you should definitely check them out. Our seedlings are from a mix of different places, some were gifts from my husband’s parents and others we picked up from a few different stores. What’s so awesome (and surprising) is that our seeds are what really have taken off!

The beginning (left).     A week ago (right). Look at that growth!

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< Yummy kale

Living in an apartment complex or somewhere else where garden is simply not an option? Check out these vertical gardens! Such a great idea… all you need is somewhere to hang it!

Recipe Friday: Yummy Vegetable Fajitas

What do you get when the store finally has not only decent sized zucchinis and squash, but also at a decent price? Vegetable fajitas!

I am a huge Mexican food fan myself and when your husband tells you that the meal you made is almost as good as the meal we get at the local restaurant we frequent, it’s a big deal!

Vegetable Fajitas

  • 1 medium size sq20120416-160548.jpguash
  • 1 medium size zucchini
  • 1/2 medium size onion
  • 1 pepper of your choice ( I used green because it was on sale)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • olive oil (enough to get your veggies to start cooking)
  • salsa of your choice
  • tortilla wrap of your choice

Seasoning Mix

  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 vegetable boullion cube
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

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Directions

  1. Cut veggies into bite size pieces
  2. Start cooking rice
  3. Add a little bit of oil to a skillet and saute veggies with the seasoning mix added until veggies are soft
  4. Warm up up an ungreased skillet on medium to medium-low then place your tortillas on there until they are soft.. careful not to burn them
  5. Mix your rice and veggies, place mix on your tortillas, and add some extra salsa if you like
  6. Feel free to add beans to this recipe too!
  7. Enjoy 🙂

The Oil Cleansing Method

SunflowerI have a real passion for healthy skin. In fact, I often compliment people for having nice skin.

For years now, I have been on a quest to find the best products to help our biggest organ look its best. Some products have worked great.. others.. well I wish I could have that money back.

As part of my new year’s resolution, I have slowly started to move towards only using natural stuff. So after changing my cleaning products, tooth paste, shampoo, etc.. it came time for my skincare. Why, you ask? Think about all the harmful chemicals they put into lotion and skin care.. a lot of people do not realize they all get soaked into the body through the skin. No thank you!

After a trip to our local natural health food store I thought I landed a winner. However, my experience was less than hoped. I have roscea so my skin constantly looks irritated if I am not using the right products, well after two trips to the store I was still at a loss. That was until I discovered a pin on pinterest linking to this blog post.

The Oil Cleansing Method

I know what you are thinking, “Are you crazy?” or “Who would want to add oil to their face?”. Well after trying it, I can tell you who.. this girl! My skin has never looked better. In fact, after washing my face with it, you can’t even tell that I am not wearing make up (aka no redness at all).

The blog I looked at used this recipe:

  • Normal Skin- One part castor oil with one part sunflower oil
  • Oily Skin- 2-3 parts castor oil with one part sunflower oil
  • Dry Skin- one part castor oil with 2-3 parts sunflower oil

Directions

Moisten skin with the oil mixture, place a warm cloth over your face until you feel it cool and then wipe off. Sometimes if my skin is feeling extra dry, I will put more on and let it soak in while I sleep.

Some of the other places I researched used different oils other than sunflower oil like jojoba, almond, argon, olive, grapeseed.. the list goes on. Sunflower was easy for me to find at the store and so far has worked perfectly!

Spring Cleaning!

It’s that time of year! It really is quite funny how excited I am about cleaning my house but this year, besides getting everything sparkling clean, I had a new mission in mind. To actually do it all… and do it naturally!

Before I set out on this journey, I did some research for the best “recipes” for homemade cleaning products. I found two really great cleaning sprays, a furniture dusting spray and a multi-purpose cleaner.

Multi-purpose Cleaner

  • Mix equal parts water and vinegar
  • a few drops of essential oil

Since I try not to be wasteful, I reused my spray bottle from my Green Works cleaning spray that recently ran out and 4 cups water and 4 cups vinegar nearly filled it up. I also added some lemon essential oil to help cover up the vinegar smell. In the future I may add more seeing as my grandpa asked me later in the day what I had been doing with vinegar.

Furniture Dusting Spray

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp lemon essential oil
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 3/4 cup water

I bought a spray bottle for this since I did not have one on hand. Overall, this new experiment cost me so much less than going out and buying harmful cleaning products. For an idea of the cost let me share this with you…

  • Vinegar- $3 for a gallon bottle
  • Lemon Essential Oil- $4.99 from a local store or you can find oils on Amazon ( and you only use a couple drops for an entire bottle so it will last for years)
  • Olive Oil- already had on hand for cooking
  • Extra Spray Bottle- $1

Will I be doing this again? You betcha!!! Everything looks so amazing and clean. I think it is important to also note that the vinegar smell doesn’t linger (well maybe on your hands a little). Best part? It is completely non-toxic and my little children (aka pets) are safe too!

See doesn’t she seem happy about it?

Now let’s see…. what other cleaners can I make myself…

Lent

SpringIts that time of year again! For those of you who are still trying to think of something to give up for Lent or for those looking to try to make a change for the next month or so I have some ideas for you. Although I am not Catholic or part of a religion that practices Lent, I always like to take advantage of this time of year as it allows me to walk in the shoes of those who have to go without some of the things we are so dependent on ( aka the things we usually give up for Lent). I know that we should practice this year round but that is not always easy to to do and with everyone else doing it at this time of year, you have the benefit of having support from your friends and peers.

Every year, I hear people struggle coming up with ideas of what they want to give up. Why not give up something that will benefit others instead of just giving up facebook, pop, or sweets?

Need some examples? Here are some great ones 🙂

Give up meat or all animal products- Estimates show that the average vegan saves up to 100 animals per year! If you chose to omit meat and dairy from your diet for a little over a month, that means you could be saving about 10 animals just by giving up meat or animal products for 40 days! Please note: if you are considering doing this or already doing it, please be sure to big up some literature on the subject to help ensure that you are getting the nutrients your body needs! Although salads may taste good, you can’t live off of those alone for 40 days!

I suggest renting some cookbooks from the library! There are also a lot of fab non-fiction books that give great tips on how to eat healthy without meat or dairy in your life.

Give up using plastic- When going to a grocery store, bring your own reusable bag. Carry around your own water bottle so you do not have to use plastic bottles or paper cups. When packing a lunch, use a reusable container instead of a snack bag.. you get the idea 😉

Stop eating or using palm oil- Ladies and Gent’s check those ingredients.. if they say palm oil  don’t use them for a whole 40 days! ( FYI palm oil is also in a lot of soaps, lotions, and different kinds of makeup) Hard to do? Just look at this little guys face…

Does that help ? 🙂 Good because you’ll be saving them!

Already give up something for Lent?

Here are some fun twists you can add to what your already doing:

Gave up Coffee? Instead, give up using plastic and stryofoam cups to drink it out of. This will force you to have a cup with you in order to get coffee. Chances are you will forget and not only will you not be able to have coffee.. you will be saving the planet too 🙂

Gave up Candy? Allow yourself to only eat vegan candy. This will make you pay closer attention to the ingredients and may steer you away from most candies that are on the market. PETA has a list of different candies that have no animal products in them.

Gave up sugar? Allow yourself to keep eating sweets but make a stipulation that it has to be made from natural sugar alternatives. Terra wrote an awesome post on this a couple weeks ago!

Gave up pop/soda?- Instead of giving up soda pop, tell yourself that for every soda you drink, you have to recycle the bottle or can. If it is a pain for you to find a way to do that.. you won’t drink it.

Anyone else have some great green lent ideas or fun twists that you can put on your current one? I would love to hear 🙂

Teryiaki Tofu Lettuce Wraps

As I get stricter on my diet, I am finding that I am also trying to coax my other half to join me. The best thing is that this really takes no coaxing at all!  The secret to the veg lifestyle is that you can eat just as deliciously without meat! Something I am always trying to show my skeptical friends and family.

As we were getting in a recipe rut due to my crazy busy studying schedule, I thought it was time to discover a new favorite recipe. Being in the mood to be bold and different, I decided it was time to do some experimenting with tofu, something I had never cooked before ( and I have been a vegetarian/veganish for how long?)

This recipe was awesome and after we ate, we were counting down hours until our leftovers lunch the next day!

Teryiaki Tofu Lettuce Wraps

ingredients

1 carton of tofu

1 cup brown rice

as much mixed veggies as you choose I used corn, carrots and broccoli

your choice of sauce- I used teryiaki as seen in the name ;-).. I think next time we might try orange!

one head of romaine lettuce ( if you want to bump up the nutrients I suggest kale)

Directions:

1. Open tofu package and get the water out of the tofu. To do this I cut the tofu in half and placed it between two towels then put a book on top of the towels to let the water soak out. I did this for about 30 minutes

2. After you drain the water, you want to marinate the tofu by letting the tofu sit in a boal covered by the sauce. I let this sit for about 30-45 minutes.

3. Cook rice according to package

4. Steam vegetables

5. Empty tofu and marinate into a skillet and let simmer for 10 minutes being careful not to let it burn, stir occasionally

6. Add rice and veggies to skillet and stir. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes

7. Put contents into bowl and spoon out amounts onto the pieces of lettuce then roll them up 🙂

Amazing 🙂

Girl Scout Cookies and Palm Oil

This morning I came across a fabulous article in the Huffington Post that discusses girl scout cookies and the use of palm oil in them. The makers of girl scout cookies in Britain have omitted palm oil from their cookie recipe and have replaced it with a much healthier and earth friendly option, olive oil.  Girl scouts across our country who have learned of how they’re clear-cutting orangutan habitats for palOil for ape scandal - report imagesm oil are urging  America’s Girl Scout bakers to do the same.

For those of you not aware of palm oil and its harmful effects on orangutan’s please see the excerpt from terra’s previous post on terra, not terror:

“Orangutans are truly beautiful apes that live in SE Asia, and we share 96.4% of our DNA with them. Their habitat is threatened by clear cutting and other sprawl. One reason their rain forests are being destroyed is to plant palm plantations for use in food, etc.”

Please support the Girl Scouts of America in making this change. Not only will it save some orangutans, it may even help your waistline! They will be cookies you can feel good about.. now how often can you say that? 🙂

Monday Money Saver!

Going to goodwill is one of my most favorite things to do. I really love to shop, however, I hate spending all that money! Since my new years resolution is to buy nothing new, when I discovered some of my spring wardrobe staples were in much need of a revamp, I made my way to the local goodwill.

This trip, along with everyone in the past, proved to be super successful! One thing I am always looking for is a cardigan. I am a cardiganholic ( if that’s even a thing). I am also very particular about my cardigans because I hate when they are made of materials that stretch super easily. I was beyond thrilled when I found a white cardigan made of quality fabric. If I were to shop for something like that in a department store, I would be looking at paying $40.00-$50.00! That is for sure something I cannot afford being the broke grad student that I am. This shirt was brand new, never worn and I got it for the large sum of $3.50!! WAY AWESOME!

My next major bargain was these work out pants. I am really big into working out and hate that all you can find anymore are super short shorts. I don’t want to be walking around the gym and stretching in front of people in those! My boyfriend has also gotten me really into biking and short shorts+ a hard bicycle seat= some very uncomfortable thighs!! After seeing women sporting these spandex capris around the gym I knew I had to get my hands on some. I saw some at kohls around christmas time running at about $30.00 for one pair and there was no way I would be able to afford that. I found these babies at goodwill for $3.25!My Workout Capris!

My last awesome clothing find… black heel slingbacks! I have to dress up everyday for work and hate to spend money on heels. They are so expensive and let’s be honest, they are not worth the $60.00 seeing as they will most likely never see a floor beyond my place of employment. I got these shoes for $2.00!

My other half and I are also starting to collect some stuff for our own place so I am now on the look out for stuff. The that day I went to goodwill they happened to have all of their housewares marked down 50%! I bought these super cute blue rimmed dishes (the picture is only showing one set of them)! His favorite color is blue and he is thrilled he will get to eat off these.. who would have thought someone would be excited about that!

Cute Dishes!

My total at goodwill plus a 20% off coupon for donating my own stuff: $12.40

YOU CAN’T BEAT THAT! 🙂

The Kindle… Is it Eco Friendly?

This past Christmas, I received a kindle and was beyond excited! Not only am I an avid book reader but I also love books… however, i hate them too. Confused? Let me explain. I love to read but I hate actually having a book for two reasons

1. on most occasions I only read them once, after that they take up space on my shelves (unless I give them away or sell them)

2. on most cases I only read them once –  that’s a major waste of paper! Think about how many people out there only read a book once and just let it sit on their shelves at home!

… enter the kindle

For those of you who do not know what the kindle is, it is an electronic device that allows books to be read on it without the actual paper production of the book. On the kindle, you read e-books.

This brings up the question that many ask in regards to the amount of energy it actually takes to make the kindle and how one can get rid of it once it is no longer of use. Will these factors make it less eco friendly than books?

According to ecogeek.org, unless you get 22.5 books in a year, then it will actually be worse for the environment to get the kindle than actually buying the books. You’ll save even more if you get your newspapers and magazines on the kindle as well. Typically, I read a lot so this is something I am not too concerned about and after reading that roughly 125 million trees are cut down annually for books, I am sold.

Even if you are concerned that you may not read that much in a year, if you are a student, something to consider is the fact that you may be able to buy your textbooks on kindle. I actually did that just this year and let me tell you it is way cheaper AND wayyy easier on my back 😉 In fact, some universities like Princeton, Case Western Reserve, and Arizona State are participating in a program that will have students use the kindle to access their textbooks so that they cut down on how much printed paper they use in a year.

The kindle is also great for teachers and professors because they can just create their notes and make them into PDF files so students can easily add them to their kindle device.  I have done this multiple times with notes from my professors as well as with knitting patterns and well… anything else I can possibly make into a pdf file!

Here are some stats on the kindle:

I found this information on Greenwala.com

  • According to amazon. com, they are selling more kindle books than hardcover copies (this could for sure mean a point towards being eco friendly if enough people are doing it)
  • In the past three months, for every 100 hard cover books amazon sold, they sold 143 kindle books
  • In the past month, for every 100 hard cover books amazon sold, they sold 180 kindle books

With so many ways to use a kindle, I definitely think it is worth looking into if you are a dedicated reader or student who wants to save money on textbooks and not suffer from arthritis in your back when you reach the age of 25 (ok, maybe not arthritis, but you’ll really lighten your load).

If you do decide that it is more enivronmentally responsible of you to continue using books, here are some suggestions of things you can do to make sure they live their full life:

1. Donate the book to your local library. If its a newer book they may not even have it on their shelves yet! If they do, they will sell it in one of their books sales.

2. Sell it. I have sold a lot of my used textbooks and books on half.com and amazon.

3. Give it to one of your friends or family memebers. I have borrowed a myriad of books from my brother when he finishes them! I have also lent alot of my books out to friends. This saves money and paper 🙂

4. Share books with strangers. There are plenty of websites online where you can do trade books with fellow users for free. Some that I think are really cool are bookcrossing.com and PaperBackSwap.

Do you knit or crotchet?

A couple of days ago, a good friend of mine posted some information about  the Scarves for the Special Olympics program. Her son is special needs and partakes in the special olympics every year. After the games, the participants are given scarves that are hand-made by donators as a reward for competing. If you can knit or crochet I definetely suggest helping out for this awesome cause. My friend said her son is always thrilled to see what his will look like since no two are ever the same!

For more information visit the website! You’ll be sure to make someone smile! 🙂