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.