Friday, August 22, 2008

On a small break...

Hi -

Just wanted to let you know that we're still alive--however, some really exciting and important stuff has come up, so we're both trying to get that situated before we come back to this blog.

Hope you have been enjoying your summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Too long for a comment...

To follow Missy's article up, Frugal Living in the WWII Generation, I would like to leave more than a snippet attached to her comment board. This was an excellent piece to include, and I think our blog actually beat the media over-coverage on this one!

I definitely agree that this style of living should be part of everyone's life somehow--as it looks, at least here in the States, we're going to have to incorporate complete re-use techniques in the near future anyway. Luckily, Missy and I have been exposed to this sort of thinking our whole lives, so it comes easily.

A good point, though, is that there's really nothing wrong with owning a DVD player or any "fancy" electronic device--it's learning how to fix it when problems occur and not throwing it out or sending it away for a cost. Television sets and radios were considered high tech during the first few years of general availability, and those frugal citizens eventually figured out how to repair them. Perhaps it would benefit our generation and beyond to actually find out about our electronics. But then again, TIME to learn is a problem with this day and age...cost of living raises haven't been seen in awhile, people work more, yet prices for everything in life are on the rise! Nonetheless, someone has to know how to fix it...if a repair person comes to the house for a cost, or it's sent away to a shop...

In other words, maybe a good start for our generation is only buy what you know you could somehow figure out how to repair on your own. And if you're unsure of your capabilities, either find friends who do know how...or get used to the reality that you may not have the knowledge and do something about it!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Laugh for a Sunday!

Eco Friendly Kitteh  Hugs Tree
see more crazy cat pics

Frugal Living in the WWII Generation

I thought I'd pass on another great article I found.
This is a beautiful eulogy to a friend who grew up in the Great Depression.
Personal Finance Advice

There's so much we can learn about what is truly important in life (and not just "stuff") by seeing what it's like to live without. I don't mean to romanticize the Great Depression, but those who lived through it learned a hard lesson about wants and needs that most of us today have not learned.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hybrid vs. Gasoline

I came across an interesting article comparing hybrid cars to their gasoline equivalents, and I thought I'd pass it along. Million Dollar Journey

It's strictly based on how long it would take to repay the premium price of a hybrid with the gas savings. It isn't the final word on gas v. hybrid, but it does present the straight up price comparison very well. However, there are still many factors to consider, such as:
-Do you drive mostly highway, or mostly city/in traffic?
-How much would you pay for decreased emissions (aka, 'the green factor')?
-What's the depreciation?
-How much more would a hybrid cost in maintenance?

Personally, I would get a hybrid if my situation were different. We currently have two sedans with decent gas mileage, our primary vehicle gets around 35mpg, our secondary gets about 24mpg. We're finishing off the loans for both vehicles, and plan on keeping them until they fail us. Perhaps when that time comes (please don't let it come for at least another 100,000 miles!) the market will be a bit different and we can consider a hybrid.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Small Tomatoes Does Not Equal Small Plants

I seriously overcrowded my little container garden.
Here's a photo of what my plants looked like 10 days ago:

I took out two of the tomatoes and two of the peppers (leaving one of each) and planted them in some pots I had from a previous attempt at growing things. Look at them now!

The tomatoes took off! The peppers didn't shoot up nearly as much, but they look healthy, too. I'm so glad I fixed it. The good news is the chives are still thriving in the over-the-balcony box. If nothing else, at least I've had fresh chives on my potatoes several times already this year.

Hopefully, the next post will include little tomatoes or little peppers!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kids' Day in Green Bay!

While looking up Green Bay area farmers' markets, I stumbled upon the website for Green Bay's Kids' Day!

Kids' Day is held every year on June 25th (six months from Christmas). It's a fun community day for kids in Green Bay, with lots of FREE activities.

Some of the best picks include: educational programs at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary (and free corn for feeding the geese and ducks), free admission to Bay Beach Amusement Park, free swimming at many area pools, and free admission to the Neville Public Museum.

Kids are required to get a wristband in advance for the events, there's a list of locations to pick up wristbands here.

Kids' Day is MSG because:
1. It's FREE - saving money is definitely wise.
2. It's close - you don't have to travel far to have a blast (think of the gas you'll save!)
3. It supports the community of Green Bay.
4. Wildlife Sanctuary - need I say more?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Green Bay Farmers' Markets

One good post deserves another! Inspired by Di's posting of farmers' markets in the Appleton area, here are the farmers' markets up in Green Bay, and like Di I will post any additional ones I find.

Downtown Green Bay
Saturdays from June 7th - November 1st
7am - Noon
On Monroe St., between Cherry and Pine streets

Broadway Farmers' Market
Wednesday Evenings (I couldn't find the dates, but I know it started on the 4th of June)
3pm - 8pm
On Broadway, downtown Green Bay, between Dousman & Walnut

Oneida Farmers' Market
Thursdays from June 26th - October 9th
2pm - 6pm
Oneida One Stop
W180 Hwy 54, Oneida

Appleton Farmers' Markets.

To elaborate on the comment I left for Missy a couple of days ago, I'd like to pass on some addresses of Farmers' Markets in the Fox Valley area. Each has a variety of fruits and veggies, so wherever you happen to be you'll find a great selection.


Appleton Downtown Farmers' Market
College Ave. (Between Appleton St. & Morrison St.)
Every Saturday from June 21st - October 25th (No Market Sept. 27, 2008)
8:00am - 12:30pm

Festival Foods - Both Locations
1200 W. Northland Ave. (In front parking lot)
Every Wednesday from June 11th - October 29th
8:00am - 1:00pm

W3195 Van Roy Rd (In front parking lot)
Every Sunday starting July 6th - October 19th
8:00am - 1:00pm

Jim's Produce Farm Stand
5280 N. Richmond St.; Corner of Hwy. JJ & Hwy. 47 (Northside Citgo Parking Lot)
Open everyday from June 1st - October 31st
10:00am - 6:00pm


Sleepy Hollow Farm Stand
W6121 County Trunk KK (Kwik Trip parking lot)
Open everyday starting June 30th - October 31st
10:00am - 6:00pm


Wagner's Market Stand
310 N. Main St. (Corner of Hwy. 54 & Hwy. 47)
Open everyday from June 1st - October 31st
8:00am - 6:00pm

There are probably a few missing, as well as in the Green Bay area which I am unfamiliar with, so if anyone comes up with other locations, please let me know and I will post them!

Monday, June 9, 2008

How come everything's a green trend?

I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio last Saturday morning; a show called Calling All Pets.

The guest was author Hannah Holmes, who discussed her latest book Suburban Safari. The basic synopsis of the book is that there's a world of wildlife in your backyard, you just don't know about it.

It was fairly interesting, but I couldn't help but laugh when the guest mentioned that you could increase the wildlife in your backyard with a trend called "freedom lawns." A freedom lawn basically means you don't put any chemical insecticides or fertilizers on your lawn, and allow a natural variety of plants and bugs.

Freedom lawns? Seriously? Do you know what I call it? A YARD! My parents once again prove to be on the cutting edge of the trends! We never put anything on our yard. My mom's philosophy was that if you waste money making grass grow faster, you have to cut it down more frequently. (And she likes dandelions, thank you very much.) Apparently, not dousing your lawn with poisons is a new concept to some people. That's just too funny.

(A quick footnote: I believe that Holmes was mentioning freedom lawns in jest as well. Less chemicals=good for nature. That's not rocket science. She was doing it and discovered it had an eco-trendy name.)

"100 Thing" Challenge!

Are you up for it? A growing phenomenon has been attracting new believers since last July, when a blogger guynameddave came up with the concept on his site.

We actually came upon a reference to the article not more than a week ago through Time Online, after dave announced he'd be rebuilding the site to show his progress towards the 100 piece goal. I personally think it's a fantastic idea, though a little bummed that we haven't heard of it sooner. It seems to have fallen into our hands at the right time, as we are trying to make sense of unused items to make way for baby.

As far as our own personal revisions, clothing isn't too much of a clutter issue, it's the rest of our junk sitting in a closet that is. Realistically, we don't make use of most of the stuff. Those items have just been getting shuffled back and forth to make room for more junk that's never used. So with this in mind, I'm going to spend most of my time this week making a list of what's important to our family. Whatever doesn't fit on this list,'s going to be hard. I'll let you know what happens along the way.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Speaking of Gardens...

I should probably first share with you that we’re expecting in November! With this news, this awesome twosome decided to get back to our “roots”. Getting back to the way we were both raised, on garden-grown foods, living off the land more successfully and permanently. Not to say we haven’t been kind to the environment already, because we have both kept childhood practices in tow, but now that there’s someone else to think about, it’s about time we solidify our choices and stand by them for good.

With that in mind, we were able to discuss our options and secure one of the gardens at my parents’ house. In it, we will have a full selection of foods we can eat now and foods for baby! Squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes fill part of baby’s list, while we’re going for peas, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and musk melons. Huge list, but I know my appetite will be just as large for these healthy home grown items once they’re ready. We will also provide some pictures along the way as the growing season develops.

In addition, I will be posting about the other various decisions we’re making about our little one before he or she arrives this fall. Yay!

Monday, June 2, 2008

My First Container Garden

I planted a container garden a few weekends ago. This is my first one, so I'm still learning about it. The plants didn't die yet, so I figured I could put up a picture.

The left is bell peppers, the center is chives and the right is grape tomatoes. I'm afraid I may have crowded the tomatoes too tightly, but we'll see!

I'll continue to post as the garden progresses. Here's hoping I'll be enjoying fresh veggies soon!

Friday, May 30, 2008

My Whole Family Has a Cold!

I haven't been posting for a while; my daughter, husband and I all came down with a rather nasty cold. It's been many nights of fevers, coughs, runny noses and body aches at my house.

Back in October, the FDA released a statement recommending that OTC cough medicines no longer be given to children under the age of two. Since then, there has been additional research that cough medicines aren't effective for children under six. The dosage is too small to do any real good, and a larger dose could be harmful to a child. With that information, I'm hesitant to give cough syrup to my two year old.

And for myself, I have unpleasant side effects from most cold medicines, so I rarely take anything.

But never fear! In the usual MSG fashion, I revived an old standby solution that my mom taught me. Chances are good you've heard this one, but it never hurts to repeat it.

Mix equal parts honey and lemon juice in a small container (I used an old baby food jar). You can warm it if you like, I usually don't. For a child, give a baby spoonful. For an adult, a teaspoon should do the trick.

*WARNING* DON'T GIVE HONEY TO CHILDREN UNDER ONE! Young children could develop infant botulism from eating honey.

The honey coats the throat, soothing the cough. The lemon juice helps break up the stuff in the back of the throat. As an added benefit, little ones who want "Doctor Mom" to treat them will get the comfort of medicine.

The best part about this is you can use this as often as you like, no waiting 4-6 hours. Plus, it tastes great (much better than artificial cherry).

For the cold I currently have, the honey and lemon works the best for when I wake up in the middle of the night with a dry, scratchy throat. I just love it when the simplest solution turns out to be the best!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

MSG does home facials.

There’s nothing like a treat for both your face AND your bank account! For today’s post, I have decided to share some really easy facial scrub recipes that can be found in the kitchen. I’m not sure about you, but I have personally jumped between homemade and commercial scrubs for as long as my face has needed attention, mostly to find something that actually works!

Quick background: I’ve learned a ton over the years that I should have been sticking to the natural regimen the whole time. Being a teenager in a wasteful town it was hard to stick to my “real guns”. I remember it was the poor person’s way to use homemade facials (which my mom ALWAYS made me try to stick with, but whenever I saw a fancy colorful bottle at a friend’s house I got really needy and embarrassed when they poked fun at my plain reusable jar.) But ever since I’ve come to my senses for a few years now (a big WTH-were-you-thinking here, and an apology to my mom there), my complexion has never been better!

Here are some recipes that I’ve used throughout my life. Some from the family, an antique cookbook, and one from a cosmetologist friend of mine. Enjoy! (Notes: These aren’t intended for everyday use. Most of the time your face only actually needs specialty scrubs two or three times a week. My personal preference is to rinse with water only every other day. I need to also mention that these recipes are not perfect for every single skin type. If you feel weary of breakouts, try a test patch first.)

1) Set aside at least 10-15min (or 20min to include mask) to take care of your face, as most natural scrubs and masks need to set before you rinse.

2) Always rinse/soak/steam with comfortably hot water to open your pores.

3) (optional) If you have small children, let them help you mix it up…It’ll keep them occupied, give you help, and teach them about being MSG! J

Peppermint Steam:
1 peppermint teabag
1 1/2 – 2 cups boiling water

Boil water. Add teabag and water to large bowl or container and allow to steep 3 minutes. Lean over bowl; cover head with towel and sit for 10 – 12 min. while breathing deeply.

Simple Exfoliating Salt Scrub:
2 tbsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Mix two ingredients together until a textured paste begins to form. Apply to face with circular motion, avoiding eye area. Once salt fully dissolves, rinse remaining oil from face with warm water. Pat dry. (I have also been told that lemon juice is a good substitute for olive oil but have not tried that method myself.)

Honey Mask:
1 egg white (normal/oily skin) OR 1 egg yolk (dry skin)
1 equal part honey (1 – 2 tbsp.)

Mix ingredients together. Spread evenly over face, avoiding eye area. Leave on 10-15 min. or until dry. Rinse with warm, then cool water.

Easy Oatmeal Scrub:
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. plain oatmeal

Combine ingredients by using enough water to form a paste. Apply to face and neck using circular motion. Rinse off. Pat dry.

New Aspirin Mask:
1 tsp. water
1 tsp. honey
3- 4 uncoated aspirin

Dissolve/crush aspirin in water. Should mix with honey to form a thin paste. (If not, crush in another aspirin) Apply to face and let sit for 15-20 min. Rinse with warm, then cool water. Pat dry.

Last word...all of these recipes can have substitutions and/or additions, so don’t feel limited. Bananas can be added for wrinkle prevention, avocado for its moisturizing attribute, or yogurt for pore refinement. Feel free to let me know what works, as I’m always up for something new!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

There's no place like home.

It’s been too long…

During the past couple of weeks, I was hoping things would work out a little bit better than they have been—I never expected to meet the other half of my new family over a death. Nonetheless, the trip had to be taken. And with it, we discovered our own economical way to make things work. How, you ask? Here’s your answer:

Since our home usually only has one working vehicle at any time, (with our luck it usually turns out that one car needs to be repaired immediately after the other was fixed) we decided to look into fast and efficient ways of getting down to Kansas from Wisconsin instead of trying to use one of those cars. Amtrak, car rental, carpooling, Greyhound, plane tickets…we had a lot of options to go through in a short amount of time (being that we had only about 12 hours to get there). Luckily, my sister-in-law hadn’t left when we got the news, so we let her and our nephew get in on the decisions. She agreed that any of those choices would be fine along with using her Blazer as a last resort, so we began narrowing down our options.

The first to be crossed off was the plane ride of course, with tickets obviously expensive in a twelve-hour time frame ($600 and up each). Next was the Greyhound. Not necessarily because of price, (about $580 for 3 adults & 1 child round trip) rather he fact that it would take almost twenty-four hours to get to our destination, when the trip straight through should take no more than eleven, and we would need to rent a car in Topeka because everyone who left before us also carpooled. The same was for Amtrak, although it was a bit cheaper than Greyhound (coming in at about $550), we would have wound up paying a weekly car rate in Chicago, which was the only available station traveling to Topeka, so with driving one of our cars, plus the parking rate, plus the rental car fees and mileage around Kansas…you get the picture.

Our last feasible option was turning out to be the rental car. However, the first obstacle in our way was the fact that none of us have a credit card. Yep, you read that right. Each of us deserted that crutch years ago, which happened to be a funny story we all learned about each other. (I call it a crutch for several reasons, and hopefully one of these blogs I’ll get around to it.)

Anywho, this was not something rental car businesses enjoy hearing. We took turns calling, and almost every place asked us the same idiotic question: “Why don’t you have a credit card?” When each of our responses was to say, “Because we don’t believe in using credit cards. Cash is just fine.” the general responses were to either laugh, or tell us we could rent a car as soon as we could provide them with a card number. Seriously? That question, to me, is like when friends ask me why I don’t have a new car. Or a new house. Or tons of shoes and clothes. (One shouldn’t really have to explain, especially to a stranger and/or company as long as you’ve got the money,) I guess now that I’ve looked at it in this manner, they all go hand in hand. If you don’t have a credit card in today’s world, you’re somehow not considered to be a reputable citizen.

So, after our FIFTH attempt to secure a vehicle in little ol’ Appleton, we found one place that would help us. (It turns out that cash works for car rentals if the city has non-airport locations to rent vehicles.) So we rented the car and took the trip. Everything wound up working perfectly.

I’ll skip the middle story (it’s a sad one anyway) and let you in on a little secret—this was the most economical and affordable way for us to travel. I know there are some of you out there who would disagree, but for those who have older cars, or nothing at all, this is your best bet. Who could argue with a new car that gets incredible gas mileage for its size, full insurance provided, unlimited mileage, and comfort in knowing that if something were to happen to the car, a replacement would be swapped? Here’s what we paid for about a week:

$150 cash deposit
$213 car rental fee (2008 Mitsubishi Galant figured at a full-size price, plus 1 wk deal)
$75 full insurance on the vehicle
$45 unlimited mileage for our use
$150 gasoline (our trip cost; mostly highway - we came up with 27.85 mpg each fill up)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
$670 with tax
- $150 deposit
- - - - - - - - - - -
$520 ($173.50 each person)

Not too shabby considering our “last resort” Blazer only gets between 14 – 15 mpg highway and the transmission was on its last leg. I would much rather pay for a rental car than have the stress put on our family because of an iffy car. The price of course will vary throughout the states, but comparatively it still seems reasonable. Not to mention that new cars have emissions ratings, so the Galant we drove was an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle. This means that it spared the state of Kansas from either one of our cars’ (a ’91 and a ’95) moderately high hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides emissions. That also seems VERY reasonable.

ULEV and SULEVs (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, like hybrids) are usually available upon request at any car rental business, as several chains are trying to phase out vehicles that aren’t as “ozone-friendly”. We were told that some SULEVs will be harder to come by because of demand, so if there’s an emergency like the one we had, chances are slim. Nonetheless, it is nice to see that environmentally friendly options are available for anyone wanting to rent a vehicle.

In addition to the rental, we chose to bring food from home for the trip there which consisted of fresh fruit, juice and tea in reusable glass jars, and doughnuts. Upon our return we received “take home snacks” from family in Kansas, and only stopped to eat once on the way back at a local restaurant. Essentially we were only paying for a couple of meals, so some good advice to anyone who’s on a strict budget would be to take what you have at home in a cooler—dollars to doughnuts it won’t be good when you come back anyway! And try to eat locally wherever you can…this choice not only extends your funds (local restaurants are usually cheaper than chains), it supports local economies and keeps the vacation fresh.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This Hairband Keeps Me Motivated

(Please enjoy the world's worst jpeg, courtesy of yours truly.)

A week ago, I snapped this hairband while trying to put my hair up. I tied a knot in the hairband and trimmed off the ends. It works just fine. In fact, it's in my hair as I write this.

I scored a great clearance deal on hairbands, I got a pack of 250 for $.49. At about two-tenths of a cent, it wasn't going to break my budget if I threw it away. From an environmental standpoint, one tiny hairband has a very small impact on a landfill.

So, why would I bother? I did it because there was no reason not to do it. It only took a moment, didn't cost me anything, and works just as well now as it did before.

We've been trained to think, "Throw it away, buy a new one." That's not a sustainable way to think. I'm retraining myself to think, "How does this still have value?" The hairband still had value, so there was no reason to throw it away.

Now that I've fixed it, it has even more value. It serves as a reminder that I shouldn't throw something away without a good reason. When I'm not wearing it, I usually keep it wrapped around my pen, where it reminds me several times a day to question whether something heading for the trash still has value.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

With Apologies

Because of a family emergency for one of the MSG'ers, and a minor illness for the other, we have called off "A Post A Day."

We apologize to you, the reader. We will return to regular posting as soon as possible.

Thank you for understanding.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Reflections on Mother's Day

Yesterday morning, my daughter called me into her room. I sat on the floor by her bed, talking to her and feeling sentimental over Mother's Day, and what being a mom means to me. She sat up and gave me a big hug, and I thought, "This is why I do what do." The little girl is the reason I cringe when someone tosses a can in the trash, or I see the yellowish smoke belching across the sky from that factory near the bay.

I think of the world I want her to live in, and I owe it to her to make it the best I can for her. That's why I'm striving to live greener. I also want to model good behavior for her, which is why I try to reduce my consumerism and be less wasteful.

I once read a mean-spirited comment on another green blog that has stuck with me. The person who made the comment was charging that if you cared about the environment, you wouldn't have children. That comment continues to bother me, because in truth, without children, why would anyone care about the environment?

If there weren't a single young person in your life (be it child, relative or child of a friend), would you really care about what happened to the environment? The Earth's only gotta last you another eighty years, tops. If there weren't a child that I cared about, I would see little reason to care about what happens when I'm gone. (One might argue that you'd care for other children you've never met, but I don't think many people would sacrifice having children to save the future for the offspring of people who wouldn't make that sacrifice themselves.)

No, I don't live green for myself. I do it for a two-year-old girl with strawberry blond hair. And that's all the reason I need.

photo by: planetka

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How Mom Taught Me to Be MSG

Like most, I learned much from my mom. The majority of my beliefs regarding living green, spending money wisely, and being self-sufficient (MSG's mantra) stem from things my mom taught me.

In honor of Mother's Day, I've compiled a list of the top six ways Mom taught me to be MSG. (I know, most lists are five or 10, but six felt right to me.)

1. There's a right way to thrift/bargain shop. Mom taught me how to check out clothes for stains and holes, and always went armed with her trusty tape measure to find out how big those pants really were. Most importantly, she taught me that you shouldn't buy something just because it's cheap. She'd say, "If you wouldn't buy it for $20, you shouldn't buy it for $2."

2. Cooking and baking aren't as tough as people will have you believe. I frequently bring leftover spaghetti to work, and I can't begin to count the number of times I've been asked if I made the sauce myself. The first few times, I answered (somewhat confused), "Well, I did start with tomato sauce..." My brother gets a similar question when he bakes a cake. People can't seem to believe he didn't start with a mix. I've baked cakes both with and without a mix, and I'm going to reveal a great big secret. It's just as easy to make a cake from scratch.

3. The joy of barefoot gardening. A big reason I want a house is so that I can have a garden. There is nothing I've found that will connect you with the Earth better than feeling dirt between your toes. And when you eat something that you grew from that dirt, you truly understand how you depend on the natural world to survive. Once you have that connection, it's impossible to not care about the environment. You care about the Earth's well-being as you care about your own.

4. Don't waste food! Mom saved cereal crumbs for meat loaf, bacon grease for frying eggs, butter wrappers for greasing cake pans, and so on. I somehow lost some of these lessons for a while; I just starting saving my crumbs in the last year. But now I'm back on track. By the way, cereal crumbs are a great way to sneak in some extra fiber, especially if you eat high-fiber cereals such as raisin bran or shredded wheat.

5. Fix it first. I watched my mom darn socks, sew buttons, patch holes, and even take apart the telephone. Mom taught me that many things that are damaged still have value, and can be repaired or repurposed.

6. The amount of money you have has nothing to do with being rich. As you may be able to guess from the first 5 lessons on this list, I wasn't born into money. I'm the youngest of four and we frequently went without "things" growing up. But I know that tomorrow, when we're all at Mom and Dad's, loudly laughing and talking over each other around the dinner table, not a one of us would trade our great big family (now at 12 and counting) for cable TV, a super nintendo, or name brand jeans.

Thanks Mom, for all you've taught me. And you always said you weren't good at teaching!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

You tried it, you hated it. Now what?

Now that Wisconsin finally seems out winter, spring cleaning is upon us! While cleaning out my bathroom cabinets, I found several open bottles of health and beauty items that for one reason or another I no longer use. Throwing them away would be wasteful, both for the environment and for my checkbook. Here's a list of ways I've come up with to deal with these products:

Re-purpose it
-Mediocre conditioner works well as shaving cream. Be sure to rinse your skin well afterward. (I can't speak for whether it would work to shave your face, but it seems like it might clog pores.)
-Bar soap can be made into laundry detergent, if you're feeling adventurous. The Simple Dollar gave some detailed instructions recently. (You must check this out!)
-Liquid body wash makes great foaming hand soap, as I recently discussed.

Mix it
Combine a so-so product with a different brand (of the same type of product) can stretch the good one. I did this with a toner that left my skin feeling tacky. I mixed it with a different toner, and ended up with twice as much toner that I did like. Do a small amount of this at a time. You don't want to send good product after bad, and waste an entire bottle of something you really like.

I also used to do this frequently with nail polish. When a color lost it's appeal, I mixed it with other colors to create something one-of-a-kind and really fun.

Change the scent
Add some soap fragrance to liquid soap. This works best with lightly-fragranced soaps or by adding a compatible scent. As with mixing it, try this with a small amount before pouring an entire bottle of fragrance into something stinky. I last did this with a generic brand body wash, which smelled vaguely of toilet paper (kind of dusty, not bad, but not what I want my skin to smell like). I was able to cover that smell easily with citrus soap scent.

Pass it on
If there is nothing really wrong with the product, but you just didn't like it, there's no reason you can't give it to someone else. One caveat, be sure you know the person won't take offense. And offer the item in the right way. You don't want to come off as sounding like, "I can't stand this product, but it's good enough for you," or worse, "I thought you could use this anti-wrinkle cream." I'd stick to family and very close friends for this.

I hope the above tips help you clear out some cabinet space in your bathroom. Plus, you can act like a mad scientist, which is always fun.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hi guys & gals...

I have to postpone my post for tonite, as my folks are over discussing some important matters that took place a few hours ago...I will actually be able to tell you about it in one of the next few posts, which will work out great for the blog! (It does have to do with MSG!) So until then...a hint at my next post:


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Vote with your dollar

Whether you think it will help the economy, or make things worse, you've got stimulus money coming. If you're planning on spending that money, spend it on things you believe in.

When it comes down to it, companies aren't going to do things that don't make them money. It's not a difficult concept, it's the foundation of capitalism. So if companies can make money by doing the right thing, they will. It doesn't make them evil (although greenwashing does).

With that knowledge, you have tremendous power to change the world with every dollar you spend. When you purchase anything, you are voting your support in that product, that company, and that company's policies. That doesn't mean you need to understand all the dealings of every company whose products you buy; it just means you should shop your values.

If you don't like the lack of standards and horrible human rights in products made in China, stop buying things made in China. If pesticides give you the creeps, buy organic. It's pretty simple, and it will have a change in the way companies run.

I've found an excellent resource on this topic, It is geared primarily toward women, since according to the site women spend $.85 of every dollar in the marketplace. The site features info on how the power of your dollar can lead the environmental movement, and easy ways to shift your spending to greener options.
I'm especially fond of the Big Green Purse Shopping Principles :

1) Buy less.
2) Read the label.
3) Support sustainable standards.
4) Look for third-party verification.
5) Choose fewer ingredients.
6) Pick less packaging.
7) Buy local.

And I love the bottom line from that same link:
Ignore boasts that a product is eco-chic, earth-safe, or planet-neutral. Stick to the principles above to ensure that your Big Green Purse has the kind of big green impact that will make a difference both in the marketplace and on the environment.

That sounds like MSG if I've ever heard it!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Make Your Own Foaming Soap

When you buy foaming soap you're paying for a lot of water and a foaming pump. So, if you've already purchased the pump, you may as well use it again (and again), by mixing foaming soap at home.

Step one, decide what kind of soap you'll be making. I make both hand soap and dish soap (think Dawn Direct Foam). After that, you need to get your hands on a foam pump. You can buy these through Pampered Chef or online, but I'd just buy a bottle of foam soap at the store and save the bottle. Or ask a friend for one, if it was just headed for the recycling bin.

Next, it just comes down to proportions.

For handsoap:
Start with one part liquid soap to about five parts water, and adjust until you get the consistency you like. Hand soap is a little more forgiving than dish soap. The best part is that you can use up all kinds of liquid soap leftovers. Bubble bath works great, as does any body wash that does not have any "bits" in it. You can also add soap scents to mix it up. I personally like to use a bit of Soft Soap style hand soap and a squirt of bubble bath.

For dishsoap:
This can get a little tricky, and will depend on what brand you use, as some are more concentrated. I use Palmolive, and put 1/2 ounce of soap with 12 ounces of water. If you use too much, the soap will clog the pump. Too little and it won't have any cleaning power. The dish soap is great for when you have just one dish you need to wash (for me, that's when I discover the pan I need to make dinner is dirty) and you don't want to use a lot of soap or water. Of course, you can use dish soap to make hand soap, too. In fact, it smells really nice and cleans well!

Once you've mastered your perfect proportions, use a marker to note how high to fill the soap. That way, you don't need to measure every time.

I'm sure you can guess why this project is MSG, but I'll give you the rundown anyway.
-Reduced packaging by not buying all those pumps
-Lessen the carbon footprint of your soap (imagine truckloads of single-use bottles of foam soap traveling across the country, and smile as you refill your bottle)
-Saves LOTS of money
-Use up small portions of soap that might otherwise go wasted
-Less trips to the store to buy soap = less temptation to consume

Pretty significant impact for one quick project!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Some Boredom Killers...

For my "Post-A-Day" kickoff, I'd like to give readers a few sites for enjoyment and/or discovery:

The Green Quiz

Just How Green Are You?

Measure Your Eco-Footprint.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Should You Buy CFLs if You Live in an Apartment?

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) are a mainstay of articles both on living green and on saving money. But the high up-front cost can be hard to justify if you are only planning on staying someplace for a year.

Why pay more for CFL bulbs so the next tenant can reap your savings? (According to the Energy Star website, a CFL bulb saves $30 or more over its lifespan.) Of course, it’s the environmentally-friendly choice, but it’s not always possible to make the green choice when money is tight.

A clever solution is to purchase CFL bulbs, but keep the halogen bulbs. When you move, return all the halogen bulbs to the light fixtures, and take the CFL bulbs with you.

Alternately, if you move to another apartment, you can switch the halogen bulbs from your new place to the old. (I’d only do this if the old place had halogen bulbs when you moved in; otherwise it’s a down-grade and a bit of a rip-off for the landlord.)

When my husband and I moved into our first apartment, we replaced all of our bulbs with CFL bulbs. We moved five years later and took those bulbs with us. (Actually, we had far more CFL bulbs than we needed for our new place, and left several there.) It was another year before the first of the CFL’s finally burnt out.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

MSG Proudly Announces...

Every day this month, we'll be posting fresh content!

Check back daily for interesting articles, including special Mother's Day tributes to the people who taught us how to be MSG.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

In the past few weeks, I've encountered more and more green new stories, magazine articles, radio spots, TV commercials, etc. All of it lead up to today, a storm of greenwashing larger than any I remember.

It could just be that I'm now more aware of it than before, or that more companies are actually developing a sense of social responsibility. But it seems to me, and forgive me if this seems trite, that Earth Day is being marketed as another reason for thoughtless consumerism.

So, to bastardize a phrase heard at Christmastime, Let's Keep the Earth in Earth Day.

Here's my suggestion. Since Earth Day is our one and only "green" holiday, let's treat it as a Green New Year. A chance to look back on your last year, and make resolutions for the year ahead.

I'll put myself out there first; here are my green resolutions for the year ahead:

Stop Wasting Food. I am terrible about knowing what's in the back of my fridge. Many a green pepper and bowl of leftovers have met their demise back there. To do this I'll need to plan the weekly meals to best use the food we buy, and remember to take those leftovers for lunches.

Cut Down on Unnecessary Driving. That means no more trips across town just because I "feel like going to Target." Now that the weather is nicer, when I get cooped up, I should go outside instead of clearance shopping.

Instill My MSG Values in My Daughter. At her age, that comes down to showing her the beauty of nature (lots of time outside), and the rewarding feeling of doing something for yourself (baking bread for example).

Just like on January First, the challenge here will be to remember these resolutions, and not let them fall to the wayside by mid-May.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What do YOU think?

Should the news of "food chain destruction" make us want to live greener faster, or is it too late? Is this just another scare tactic, or something we should really be worried about? I found this article a few minutes ago and couldn't help posting it:

Why Flowers Have Lost Their Scent

It's not too in-depth, but it makes you think about both sides of the story. Should we believe in our country's research teams, or should we believe news that comes from other countries (while considering our own media)?

I personally found the comment section to be very worthwhile...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Cat Litter Chronicles Part II

Read Part I of the Series here.

While reading up on alternative cat litters online, I was excited to find several that were touted as flushable, including Feline Pine and World's Best Cat Litter. The idea made sense to me - no litter in the landfill, no stinky cat box garbage can.

At the pet store, I read the packaging of a box of World's Best, and found a warning saying that the state of California prohibits flushing cat feces. I was confused by this. The best guess I could venture was that since California has such a tight water usage, flushing litter was a waste of water.

A few weeks later, I came upon this article on Feline Pine's website. Basically, it states that the parasite Toxoplasmosis Gondii that some cats carry (the reason pregnant women shouldn't change cat litter) can survive sewage treatment and make its way to the ocean. Once there, it is harmful to marine life, most notably the sea otter. According to the site:

While Feline Pine & other alternative cat litter varieties are flushable, and while that aspect may seem convenient to cat owners, we at Nature's Earth strongly urge our customers to dispose of their cat's feces in the garbage - especially if you live in a coastal community.

I take away two lessons from this discovery. First, the seemingly environmentally-friendly choice may not always be so. Second, every action we take has some impact on our world. It's our responsibility to weigh those impacts and choose our actions wisely.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mainstream Green Does Kids' Birthday Parties

My daughter recently turned two. Here's how I made it Mainstream Green, and suggestions to help you do the same for your next party:


Use things you already have. My girl's party was teddy bear themed, so we put groups of her teddy bears on the tables and an over sized bear to greet the guests.

Find natural rubber balloons, which are biodegradable. (Remember to closely supervise young children playing with balloons, and take away any that pop.)

Use beach balls instead of balloons. These cute ones would be great for a tropical theme (maybe next year). They would also make nice take home favors.

Skip the crepe paper and paper table cloth. No one really remembers those, anyway.

Make the snacks double-duty. Find snacks that go with the theme, and put them out in bowls. We used Teddy Grahams and gummy bears. Colored Goldfish crackers would be great for that tropical theme mentioned above.


Let's NOT do lunch - or dinner. A morning or afternoon party with snacks, cake and drinks is just fine. Since my daughter naps in the afternoon, we planned a light brunch.

If you can, Enlist help for the food. We are fortunate to have three sets of grandparents all willing to help with their granddaughter's party. If you can get help, use it!

Keep the menu simple to prepare, and more healthful, too. In my experiences, fresh fruit or a plain fruit salad goes over better than any whipped cream or marshmallow fluff concoction. And it's easier to prepare, too. Just keep an eye out for what's in season, as fruit can be pricey.

Location, Location, Location

Hold the party somewhere centralized. Both my husband's family and my family live about 30 miles from us. It made more sense for us to drive that distance than to have everyone come to us. In green terms, we had one vehicle driving 30 miles instead of six vehicles.


Use the phone. I have graphic design experience, so this was a difficult decision for me. But in the name of all things green, I skipped the paper invites and picked up the telephone. Just be sure the guests know that the call is the official invite.

If you must do paper invitations, use postcards. You'll save on postage and use less paper, too.

The typical birthday party leaves parents with an empty wallet and a bag of trash. Concentrate on what's really important (for me, celebrating with all sides of my family) and cut the unnecessary. By thinking outside of what is "expected" for a kid's party, you can save cash and be a little greener.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Get a Free Shopping Tote from Earthbound Farm!

Take Earthbound Farm's Conservation Quiz, score at least 9 out of 10 and they'll send you a free shopping tote! The questions are fairly easy if you have some knowledge about environmental issues, and if you get stuck there are links to articles with the answers.

Here's the fine print from the website:

Offer good for US and Canadian residents only, while supplies last. Quiz must be completed before Midnight PDT, April 30, 2008. One bag per mailing address. Bags will be shipped to recipients in June, 2008

More and more grocery stores are offering discounts if you bring your own bags (Festival gives me a nickel a bag!), so this is a gift that keeps on giving!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Turn Off Your Lights at 8pm March 29th

The World Wildlife Fund is hosting its second Earth Hour on March 29th. Last year's event was based in Sydney, Australia. This year they are taking it world-wide.

You can participate by turning off your lights from 8pm to 9pm on March 29th. You can sign up to participate on Earth Hour website, and while you're there you can learn more about the event.

There is some other interesting info on the site, including a carbon footprint calculator for Facebook (for those who have Facebook pages).

As for me, I might just participate with the Mountain time people. I get my daughter ready for bed around 8pm, and I don't see her taking too well to brushing her teeth and reading stories by candlelight.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

MSG Loves Seventh Generation!

"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."
-From the Great Law Of The Iroquois Confederacy

Wow. That's some pretty heavy stuff when you're perusing all-purpose cleaners at the supermarket. But you know what? It's the little things that count for me, and if a company is gutsy enough to use this law as the basis for itself, sign me up for a lifetime supply!

I've been using Seventh Generation's Natural All Purpose Cleaner for the past few months, and it's one of the BEST small changes I've made in the process to becoming more responsible.

I say responsible, because the whole idea of using products that actually contain natural materials (and not a newfound chemical created in a lab) should be the obvious choice to anyone looking to clean. How did it get to the point in our society that basic compounds are labeled as trivial and useless, while new "cleaning cocktails" are considered trustworthy and useful?

Trust is important especially if you have children or pets, because you never know who can get where no matter how much proofing is done. How much do I trust Seventh Generation? This is what's found under the warning section:
"Keep out of reach of children. In case of eye contact, flush with water for at least 15 minutes. If swallowed, drink a glassful of water."
There it is. Cut and dry.

A glassful of water? What? Nothing like "CALL POISON CONTROL IMMEDIATELY" or "SEEK PROMPT MEDICAL ATTENTION"? That seems like it's too good to be true...but it's not.

However, I would like to mention that a cut and dry explanation can also be harmful. Bleach and ammonia are very poisonous, and I do not endorse any kind of assumption that either is acceptable to use under every cleaning circumstance. But if those are the only two products you know the most about under your sink, should you really have to worry about 6 or 7 other products that contain unknown substances? Shouldn't using green products with natural substances make you feel better about your parent or pet owner responsibilities?

To answer my own question above, I completely trust Seventh Generation over name brand cleaners. I know it has made me feel safer about what I'm putting on my counter and down the drain. The extra few cents we pay for a green product in our home is worth lives we care about, not just for the sake of being a "trendy green".

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Cat Litter Chronicles Part I

I’ve been struggling to find a decent cat litter at an affordable price. We have two cats in our apartment, so odor control is very important.

I’m concerned about the environmental impact of traditional clay litters. They are strip-mined, and there is some concern about the effect clay dust can have on a cat’s lungs (mentioned in this treehugger article).

However, alternative cat litters are more expensive. And since different types of litter have varying weights, it can be difficult to compare price per pound. Pine litter, for example, is very light-weight. There is a greater volume of litter for the weight. To add to the confusion, every type of litter seems to receive mixed reviews in terms of quality and environmental friendliness.

I am currently trying out Feline Pine Scoop clumping litter. On their website they offer a rebate for one free 4 lb box, so it was easy to justify trying it out.

A four pound box of Feline Pine Scoop costs $7.99 at Petco, as compared to Petco's brand of clay litter, which costs $6.99 for a 16 pound refill jug. (You pay more when you first buy the jug, and get a discounted price when you refill it. Even that is a step in the right direction!)

At first glance, that seems like a huge price difference, but I found that the four pounds of Feline Pine last almost as long as the 16 pounds of clay litter. As I mentioned above, the pine litter is much lighter for the same volume. In that light, you are paying $1.00 more for nearly the same supply of litter.

The Feline Pine doesn't scoop as tightly as clay litters, but it does a fairly good job. It does MUCH better with odor control than some of the clay litters I have used. The only time we notice a cat box odor is right after they go, and I don't think there's a litter in the world that could tackle that! There is a little bit of a weird smell when I scoop, but it's a vast improvement over the overwhelming dust or fake floral smell I've encountered before.

My one complaint about Feline Pine is that it is too light. The closest I can come for comparison purposes is pencil shavings from those old crank sharpeners in grade school. The cats carry some of it out of the box with them (one of the cats actually sat in the litter, and it clung to his fur). This also makes it more difficult to scoop; the clean litter doesn't sift through as quickly as clay litter.

Overall, I am pleased with the quality Feline Pine Scoop. I wish that it were a little bit heavier, and a little bit less expensive (we are on a tight budget). I'm going to continue searching out different solutions for the litter box.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Welcome to MSG!

Welcome to Mainstream Green (MSG) Online. As we kick off 2008, our resolution is to provide you with interesting, educational, and thought-provoking articles that espouse our core values: living green, being self-sufficient, and spending money wisely.

We know there are many great blogs on these topics (just check out our links section). But the one thing that sets us apart is balance. First, balance among the three values. Second, balance between those values and your personal fulfillment. We will have plenty of articles illustrating this concept in the coming weeks.


We believe that living a Mainstream Green life is not an all-or-nothing preposition. It’s about making small changes today, and continuing to make additional small changes in the future. We respect that while living green, being self-sufficient, and spending money frequently overlap, there are times when one must choose one of these values at the expense of the others.


We are not here to pass judgment on others' decisions, or to belittle anyone for attempting to find the right balance in life. We welcome differing ideas and lively conversation, but ask that all comments be kept constructive, cordial, and non-judgmental.

We thank you for visiting Mainstream Green today, and hope that you come back again soon.