Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Printing in Disappearing Ink

I was a little confused when I first read this article, because I had just watched this cool video on how to make an invisible ink printing cartridge. (so cool!) But the buzz is really all about creative ways to save paper, not sending secret messages. Where invisible ink is still there, just invisible, this dissappering ink is actually a photo-sensitive chemical that fades with time, allowing you to reuse the same piece of paper over and over! Yes, it will require special paper and a special printer, but as the article happily points, there is an incredible amount of energy savings, because so much goes into the paper making process. The new method of actual printing is also very energy efficient!

Xerox was quoted in the article saying that "44.5 percent of documents are printed for one-time use and 25 percent of all documents printed get recycled the same day." And Lyra Research estimates that "15.2 trillion pages get printed worldwide a year, a figure that will grow 30 percent over the next 10 years." I am just sitting her imagining the countless pieces of paper that I print, use for a day, then toss, and how having a reusable paper would drastically reduce that number. But think of it on the scale of a medium-sized business! It would not only lower costs, and waste, but the amount of energy and resources that would be consumed would also make a significant drop.

I think for a person to have to make the decision, "Do I want to print this on reusable paper, or regular paper?" would also have a huge impact of how much we print in the first place. I know that it is often impulsive for me to push the print button, but if I had to stop and think about the paper type, I would also think more about if the item I am printing is really worth it in the first place. Or could I just e-mail it instead? Making reusable paper an option would not only save resources, but also make us more conscientious paper consumers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Green Day

Well, it is Earth Day today! To celebrate, we walked to the grocery store this morning, and we paid with paper, not plastic. I did buy the only local produce they carried, East Texas Yams (which I will make home-made baby food out of) and also bought some hot sausage made by a local guy. I did forget the re-usable bags, unfortunately, and our small local grocer doesn't sell them himself yet. (*kicks self for forgetting re-usable bags on Earth Day*) I do re-use the horrible plastic grocery sacks as diaper pail/trash can liners, so at least I don't BUY plastic bags. But still... oh well!

Speaking of plastic, I know everybody has been so upset about the plastic baby bottles and kids cups lately, with the BPA leeching. Why haven't I written about it before, you ask? Well, I try to be wary of scare stuff, and before today I really hadn't found any articles about it that weren't either scare, propaganda by plastic companies (or those they fund), or just too little real information to be useful. But today on cnet one of my favorite bloggers on Green Tech turned his diligent attention to a nice multi-page write up about the different types of plastics. He kinda came at it from a recycling viewpoint, but very kindly mentioned the toxic chemicals by name in each type of plastic, which is something that I haven't been able to find anywhere else. You'll see over the pictures they have the links to the rest of the pages in the article. I don't know why he only has them at the top, it frustrated me for a moment because I was like, "Is this first page the whole article???" But no, read all 9 pages, please, if you have any questions about what's up with toxic plastic, you'll be glad you did!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Baby Gizmo Buying Guide

I am an avid reader. Okay, so not as much as I used to be, now that I have two kids, but the time I spend away from books, I usually make up researching on the internet. That's why I was really excited to receive a copy of The Baby Gizmo Buying Guide. The book was written by two sisters who enjoy motherhood wholeheartedly. Their book, and website, grew out of their passion for their children (5 between the two of them), and to find the best, safest, and most useful products for those precious kiddos. That being said, they also appreciate the need for a budget and are quick to tell you how much things should cost, and what items are more important to spend the bucks on.

Now the book is a little thicker than I would probably prefer. It is sorta written for those who are currently pregnant with their first child, i.e. they have a lot of time on their hands, and are especially concerned about doing it right the first time, if you know what I mean. As a mom of two, I knew pretty much 4/5th of the information in this book already, though their humor makes it a very enjoyable read, none the less.

However, there were two very helpful sections in this book, that even I find myself astounded by the amount of research and effort that was put into these product categories. And we're talking about my favorite, "I'm so paranoid about these" categories! Yep, you guessed it, Carseats and Strollers. Everyone will admit that those are the biggest, hairiest purchases you make for a little person. You might not spend as much money on them as you do on your crib (though after reading this book, you may reconsider that!) but there are many more things to consider as far as safety and practicality than with the simple "Do I want a convertible crib or no?". And let me tell you that after reading it, though I am still happy with my current stroller choice, I am saving my pennies to buy BOTH my kids new carseats! (Yeah, so convicting... *nods*)

Other nice and helpful things this book includes is the "Oh my gosh, I've been looking for this everywhere" chart on page 118 giving approximate weight and heights of kids through age 8, and the exhaustive glossary of baby gear terms at the back. Their "Secret Money Saving Rules" and "10 Things We Wish We Knew When We Were First Time Moms" sections are good reminders even to us old pros, as are their lists of questions to ask yourself about any product you are considering buying.

However, they also have a list of "The Perfectly Packed Diaper Bag Items". You can completely throw that out, or throw your back out, if you choose to follow it, your choice! I, being a professional diaper bag packer, have previously posted on the 10 Diaper Bag Essentials. This list is designed to make sure you have everything you need, nothing you don't, and what to do with the other items you may, but probably won't need.

But forgiving Baby Gizmo Gals' propensity to pack everything in sight to take with them wherever they go... the book is, as a whole, well thought out and practical. It would be a great gift for your sister who just found out she is pregnant for the first time. Or even if this is your second or third time around, and you compulsively need to know everything about baby gear, you would also find it very beneficial. This book is not really for people like me, who generally don't enjoy shopping, buy as little as possible, and are pretty laid back about the whole thing. But, if you identify with me, remember what I said about the carseats! Sometimes we need a good reminder how important safety really is!

I have a few copies of The Baby Gizmo Buying Guide to give away for free, so if you'd like one, post a comment telling what your favorite baby item is, and be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I can contact you if you've won! I will be randomly selecting winners from all those who comment before May 1, 2008. One entry per person, please, but feel free to invite your friends to participate

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Monday, April 14, 2008

It's Greek for Me!

My sister-in-law is such a kindred spirit to me. She is incredibly frugal, and loves to cook. (She loves card-making too, whoop!) We were discussing our cooking ahead strategies, and I mentioned turkeys. A whole turkey is a lot of meat, and can frequently be found for about $1.40 per pound, but during the holidays they can be found for as little as 39cents! The meat is very low fat, has a million uses, and there are less bones per pound than other less expensive meats (leg quarters for example). You can use roasted turkey meat in any recipe that asks for cooked chicken, so all your chicken casseroles, pot pies, enchiladas, quesedillas, and even homemade pizzas can be made as turkey dishes. Plus, husbands get happy when you say you are cooking a turkey! All of this means that roasting a turkey is a great way to cook ahead, eat healthy, and save some $$$.

So now that I've got my S.I.L roasting turkeys on a semi-weekly basis, we have been creating and sharing our turkey recipes with each other! Here is one of my inventions. It's best on a fresh homemade pita, but excellent on plain old bread as well!

Greek Turkey Salad
1 & 1/2 Cups cooked turkey chopped into small chunks
1/2 Cup Cucumber, sliced and quartered
2 Tablespoons minced onion
1/4 Cup sliced black olives (kalamata is best!)
1/4 Cup light Mayonnaise
A drizzle of Olive Oil
Greek Seasoning to taste
Feta Cheese Crumbles (optional)

Stir together everything but the Feta. Pile it on a sandwich or pita, then sprinkle the Feta on top and Opa! Greek Turkey Salad!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Nursing Aprons

Here's a great DIY baby gift for moms who are planning to breastfeed. I absolutely could not live without mine, and have made them for several friends who also bf. You've probably seen these sold at boutiquey places, or found the largest manufacturer online http://www.bebeaulait.com/ . I, of course, didn't want to pay $35 plus shipping for one of these things, so after studying the pictures, I have put together a pattern for them here. Hopefully these instructions and pictures will enable you to make one for yourself! Please leave comments/feedback so I can clarify these instructions as needed!

Materials Required:
  • 1.5 yards of an 100% cotton fabric, pre-washed and ironed (you do want to do this, I know it takes time!)
  • 1.5 inch D-rings (see picture)
  • Featherlight Boning (you'll need about 13 inches worth)
  • Iron and Ironing Board
  • Scissors, pins and thread
  • Sewing Machine
  • Yardstick or see-through ruler (like what quilters use)
Step One:

Lay out fabric and fold in half so that it measures 45 inches wide (along fold) and 25 inches from the fold, leaving 4 inches below the top layer. Once everything is nice and square, cut off the 4 inch strip. This will leave you with a doubled fabric that is 45 by 25. 45 inches is pretty wide. I like wide because I'm self-conscious about my sides showing! But if you hold it up to yourself and are like, "This is way too much!" now is the time to cut some off! If you are tall and slender, you may elect to cut the 4 inches off the 45 inch side, and make it 41 by 27 doubled over. Once you have it cut, and the corners are nice and lined up along the "top" iron a nice sharp crease along the "bottom".

Step Two:
Sew the 4 inch strip wrong sides together 3/8 from the edge and flip though to make the neck strap. I like to make a point at the end for easier threading. Make sure you iron everything nice when you are done. Then cut 33 inches from the pointed end to be the neck strap, and cut 8 more inches to fasten the D-rings. You'll have just a few inches left, which you can discard if you like.

Step Three:
Fold your fabric right-sides together so that it is 45 by 25. Now fold it again into quarters, and find the center. Measure 6 inches from the center on the top (open sides, not the fold) and mark the wrong side of the fabric. That mark will be the inside line of the straps. Unfold it from quarters to half. Now pin the straps hanging down between the layers on the inside at the top of the fabric, and again about 3 inches from the top. You will be sewing the layers together 1.5 inches from the top. Make sure your D-rings are threaded onto the attaching strap before you pin it.

The picture shows that I've folded down the top 1.5 inches, but I will actually be sewing where the fold is. I decided it's a little sturdier if I let the straps go all the way to the top of the fabric because then they are sewn in twice, as you will see in just a sec... After you sew the line along the 45 inches across the top, fold down that part and iron (so it will look like the picture, but your the tails of your straps will be longer!)

Step Four:
This is the tricky part! Now we will be putting the boning in place. Cut the boning so that it is about an inch longer than the distance between your straps. (hopefully about 13in) Scootch back the fabric from the end of the boning and cut off half an inch, and round the end so that the plastic corners of the strip of boning aren't sharp. Do the same on the other end. So the plastic part of the boning is 12 inches (or slightly less than the distance between your straps) but the fabric casing is about half an inch longer on both sides. You will be sewing through the fabric casing to attach the boning to the collar of the apron. Lift the ironed over edge and pin the boning so that it is under the top side of the fold, but not too tight to the fold. You need a smidge of lee-way so you can fold it over and it doesn't bunch. Pin it so that the casing ends overlap where the straps are on the inside. You will then sew both ends securely, along side each of the straps on the top side of the fold. (The straps are sandwiched inside the layers, on the other side of the fabric you are sewing)

When it is done, it will look like this, though you will have longer strap ends sticking out the top of yours. Now turn the fabric right side out, and pin the fabric underneath the boning so that it is somewhat tight, and nice and flat. The boning can be stubborn sometimes, so try to work with it, not against it. You will not be able to sew right up under it anyway because of it's thickness.

Step Five:
We now just have to finish everything off. The fabric should be right side out, pins along the collar holding the boning tight inside. Now we'll close in the sides, so fold in (under) about an inch of fabric on each open side of the apron. Iron the folds to nice crisp creases so that when you sew the sides it will have a nice finished off look. You may need pins to accomplish this. Sew along each side as close as you can to the edge, making sure that the folded under/creased edges line up just right. (again, pins!)

So, now we have it all enclosed, but we need to secure the boning permanently, and go around the other edges one last time for strength. Starting at the top left corner, give yourself a half an inch before beginning your seam that will go across the top, securing the boning in place. Sew about 3/4 inch from the edge all down the top, being careful when you get to the boning not to get in too tight to it because your pressure foot will avoid it giving you a nice jag in your seam right in the front of your apron! Continue the seam until half an inch from the end, turn the corner and proceed all the way around the apron, a half an inch from the sewn/creased edge. This will give it a nice finished look and keep everything from twisting/separating. There you have it! You are done! I like to store mine folded in half (bottom to top), then in thirds, and rolled so that the collar keeps its shape.