February 28, 2010

end junk mail + usda letter by this wednesday

two actions for you

1. if you want to stop getting credit card offers (for 5 years or forever!), check this out from the FTC. there's also a lot of info about stopping other kinds of junk mail here, but i don't know who sponsors this info. seems good though.

2. the usda is accepting public comment about GM alfalfa until this wednesday. here is the USDA email page. here is some wording from credo:

I am writing in regard to Docket APHIS-2007-0044, and I demand that the USDA reject Monsanto's application to market genetically engineered alfalfa. The USDA may not believe it matters if GE alfalfa contaminates organic and other non-GE crops, but I certainly do.

Consumers must be able to avoid genetically engineered products. Farmers must be free of the threat of contamination and the USDA must not put organic farmers' livelihoods at risk. The USDA admits that approval of GE alfalfa will make transgenic contamination inevitable. This is unacceptable.

Therefore, I urge you to reject Monsanto's application to sell genetically engineered alfalfa.

here is more info from credo on the matter. (you can also send your email through the credo site, but then you get added to email lists.)

February 25, 2010

spring napkins

in the few warm days we had last week, i started daydreaming about outdoor fika and picnics, complete with china and cloth napkins.

for the ridiculously longest time, i've been meaning to use cloth napkins at home. i'm usually just cooking for myself, and i often don't use any napkins, so i've put off buying/making napkins.

a couple of times i have almost bought these beautiful hand printed napkins from linea carta. my friend jen has these cute ones from wonder thunder. but i figured i should use some of the fabric i already have. from my stash i sewed these napkins for my parents for christmas. it's fun to give something useful that will also hopefully lead to less paper towel usage.

finally this weekend i made these pinkies for myself. the floral side is cut from a thrifted pillowcase. the other side(s) from left-over quilting fabric. i like to mix floral and geometric patterns.

although i have made quite a few quilts, i am a terrible sewer. i don't know the names of stitches, and i pretty much only sew (somewhat) straight lines with the default stitch. (occasionally i'll go crazy and zigzag). my point is that you don't need to be a seamstress to make these.

1. cut two squares (or rectangles) of fabric.
2. pin the sides that you want to eventually be on the outside against each other (right side facing in).
3. sew a line around the edges of all four sides (about a quarter inch in from edge), leaving a space at the end of one line so that you can turn the square inside out.
4. turn it inside out.
5. iron it. (i often skip this step, because as you can see, i'm not a perfectionist when it comes to sewing.)
6. sew four more straight lines around the edges (tucking in the open parts—no hand sewing required!).

i am sure there are more elegant ways to make napkins, but this is a pretty easy option.

did you see stephanie of 3191's simple, yet classy indigo napkins?

cheers and happy fika-ing with cloth napkins!

ps. check out how seattle rocks with their big urban gardening plans!

February 18, 2010

brown bagging / bento

one of the things i've been thinking about lately is how to pack food economically and safely and in a more environmentally friendly way. it's no secret that packing a lunch is a great way to make sure you know what you are eating and to save money. with my little girl it's also becoming increasingly important to have snacks available at all times ! [nothing like being able to pull out a healthy cracker when she signs eat in line at the drugstore].

i'm trying to avoid using plastic bags of any kind - even ones like evolve - ziplock's "environmentally friendly" bags. i do use recycled content kitchen trash bags - which i feel guilty enough about.

anyway - above is a wrap-n-mat which you can use to wrap a sandwich or snack.

granted, you could make one of these yourself [i was thinking maybe oilcloth would be a good thing to try it out of - double sided] - but i spied these in a store and couldn't resist the ease of purchasing them. i do like how they disclose that some of their product is made in china, and that they have versions that are made in the USA. they also use a plastic for the lining that is BPA, lead, and phthalate free. [more info here ]

they work really well - keep leaky peanut butter and jelly from getting on anything else and are easy to clean up. they also double as a place mat - which can come in handy. if i end up actually trying to make any i'll try and post a tutorial.

i also really like boon's snackballs. they are stylish, hold a lot for their size, and double as a distraction toy with the little if need be.

my husband and i are also just a little bit into japanese bento boxes. we've collected quite a few and my husband actually uses them quite often to take leftovers to work. i wonder if i'll be able to make great bentos for my daughter when she goes to school [i have a few years to practice]. if you just want to be inspired by bentos - try just bento . or if you want all the gear - lunch in a box has a great online store list .

anyone out there have any great brown bagging tips?? [minus the brown bag of course]

February 11, 2010


Valentine's Day giving typically consists of cards, chocolate, roses, & jewelry. While nice, those items can have a pretty serious environmental impact when done en masse. Here are some environmentally friendly and socially conscious alternate suggestions to make your Vday non- corporate and meaningful.


"The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, behind Christmas." [source ] That's an enormous amount of paper used, and subsequent trash created. So instead of sending a card, plant a tree. Tree Greetings has an ecard that plants a tree per sale [link has sound]. Arbor Day also plants a tree for cards, even though it does offer a paper card.

Or go to your local nursery and pick up a tree to plant.
On my parent’s first anniversary, my dad gave my mom a baby tree to plant in the yard; when they moved, 25 years later, it was the tallest tree in the neighbourhood. That tree represented their relationship and growing love. How's that for a love metaphor? Advice on how to plant a tree can be found at Tree People.

100% post-consumer waste paper is also an option if you want to send a card, but a lot of that paper is bleached using chlorine. So look for cards labeled PCW [post-consumer waste] and PCF [processed chlorine free].


Unfortunately for chocolate lovers, according to Tree Hugger, "most chocolate sold in the U.S. comes from cocoa farms where farmers work in unsafe conditions, receive below poverty wages, many of them children under 14 years old who are forced to work and denied education". Typically, any factory that does not respect workers, does not respect the environment. Make sure any chocolate you buy is certified fair trade. Global Exchange has several fair trade boxes here and I have heard wonderful things about Equal Exchanges chocolate, but I am not a huge chocolate lover so I don't have any personal recommendations, so please leave yours in the comments.


Flowers are tough- I love cut flowers and I love a good flower arrangement. Unfortunately flowers have 50-1,000 [In California!] times the pesticide use allowed in food. The Environmental Working Group reports "There are no regulations in the U.S. governing the use of pesticides on cut flowers, and therefore, importers are not required to monitor pesticide levels." Since flowers are not food [to humans], they are completely unregulated; flowers are expected to be "pretty" and bug-free making the use of pesticides rampant. Not a very rosy situation. What makes it worse is that "Studies show that women -- who represent 70 percent of all rose workers - - have more health problems since many sort the flowers without wearing masks or latex gloves. Children under 18, who make up more than a fifth of the workforce, display signs of neurological damage at 22 percent above average." From Organic Consumers. And that pesticide flows right into groundwater and air- spreading through ecological systems before it gets passed on to the consumer.

Solution? Buy organic flowers. I found a few venders here, here and here. You can also go to your local nursery and pick up seeds to plant your own organic flowers that can be enjoyed all year.
Or you can you join a CSA and enjoy edible plants all year long. That is a delicious & healthy gift that keeps on giving.


Diamonds are extremely controversial. From Amnesty International: "Some diamonds have helped fund devastating civil wars in Africa, destroying the lives of millions. Conflict diamonds are those sold in order to fund armed conflict and civil war. ...Wars that have cost an estimated 3.7 million lives." Right now there is no safe way to guarantee that a new diamond is not a conflict diamond. Here are some alternative suggestions:
Vintage jewelry- Vintage pieces are gorgeous and have a history [hopefully unlike the conflict diamond]. If you can keep it in the family even better. Not only green & sentimental- but the vintage styles are classic and gorgeous. Try your local thrift or antique store to find the perfect piece.

Etsy has tons of handmade jewelry- and a lot that use recycled materials. I started searching and got lost in a web of awesomeness. Again, leave any specific recommendations in the comments. To do:

Now that gifts are covered, here are some suggestions for you and you loved one [inlcudes pets & children] to do:

Donate your bras. Instead of buying new lingerie clean out your bra drawer and send them off to be donated and repurpurposed with The Bosom Buddy Program. I have always been wary of donated bras to thrift stores since I feel that they will get tossed and not sold. With this program you are sure that your ill-fitting, or nursing bras will go to someone in need.

Give Blood. You can save a life by donating blood. Make this an annual v-day tradition, and replenish with some fair-trade chocolate afterwards.

Find a local V-Day theater performance. The proceeds from your ticket supports local anti-domestic violence organization. "V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues, A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer, and screenings of V-Day's documentary Until The Violence Stops, to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities." Visit the website for performances in your area, or start your own.

And finally, volunteer or donate money that would have been spent on flowers or gifts. Domestic violence is the opposite of love and this is a perfect time to volunteer at a local shelter or donate. From the American Bar Association, "Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States." The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers a Valentine's Card for a donation; you can always donate and skip the card. Find a local shelter in your area and see if they need volunteers. You can also volunteer for a local V-Day performance [see above].

So that was an exhaustive list but I hope you are inspired to make this Valentine's day more green & sustainable.

*Images of hearts cut from my daughter's drawings.

February 8, 2010

make a sock monster draft-blocker

{cross posted from f.pea}

Many days on end of cold, wet, icy weather have led to short bursts of creativity around here with the materials we have on hand.


Dyrrwurm is now guarding our back door, keeping out the nasty, cold draft that was coming in under our vintage 1952 door (which really ought to be replaced with a more insulated model). He was made from two pairs of identical socks that HWWLLB gave me recently for the purposes of sock monster making. Before his reincarnation as two pairs of men's socks, Dyrrwurm lived at the back door of the land of the giants, in the far, far north, where his hobbies included writing epic poetry, collecting pictures of his idol, the Earth Serpent, keeping out the cold draft, and doing pedicures for his dragon friends.

You can make your own door dragon - it's quite easy, even for sloppy, inexpert sewers like me. This project was done in two bursts - it took me one naptime, and one visit from the Little Pea's favorite Auntie to complete. You will need:

- 2 pairs of heavy socks in a dragoney color
- matching thread
- sewing machine
- a few pins
- polyester fiberfill or some other stuffing (rags are fine too)
- something heavy for inside - I used sand, but you could use dry beans, rice or pebbles
- four or five repurposed plastic bags to hold the heavy stuff

My door dragon is only three socks long, since my door is narrow. But for a standard-width door, you will need to make the dragon four socks long.

door monster tutorial 2

Cut the toes off all the socks except one - this will be the head. Sew the socks together cuff-to-toe, right sides together. Try to keep them lined up so that all the heels are basically running in one line down the dragon's back. Turn right-side out and admire your long, wiggly new friend.

door monster tutorial 7

Starting at the head end, put a small amount of stuffing inside each heel, flatten and pin down. Then sew the heel shut to make a fin. You can add some decorative stitching as I did to make it more fin-like. Repeat for each heel.

door monster tutorial 1

Use one of your cut-off toes to make front flippers if you like. Lay the toe flat and cut it in half up the middle. Turn inside-out and sew it into a triangle, leaving an open gap for stuffing. Turn the flipper right-side-out and stuff with a small amount of stuffing. Smoosh flat and sew shut. Add some decorative stitching to flatten the flipper and make it fancier.

Turn the dragon inside-out again. Cut a hole on each side of the foremost sock. Stick the flipper through so that the flipper is now "inside" the dragon and the sewn-shut edge is facing towards you. Sew the flipper into place. Once you have the flippers in place, turn right-side-out again.

door monster tutorial 8

Stuff the head firmly with stuffing, but leave the body un-stuffed. Isn't he cute?

Get out your heavy stuff - sand, dry beans or rice, pebbles, whatever you have on hand - and put a bit inside four plastic bags (repurposed bread bags worked nicely for me). Tie them each tightly. Pull one into your dragon, all the way up to the head, and secure in place (you can sew it or be lazy like me and use a safety pin). Use your stuffing to lightly stuff and shape the dragon around that heavy bit. Repeat with each bag of heavy stuff until your dragon is fully stuffed (and heavy). Leave the heavy stuff out of the very end of the tail if you can. Now your dragon will lay heavily in place on the floor.

door monster tutorial 5

Stuff the tail end very lightly with stuffing. Sew the tail shut across the final sock cuff. Add some fancy stitching to make the tail flatter and more tail-like. Embroider on a face if you like. Enjoy the new absence of a draft under your back door!

door monster tutorial 4
honey, you need a pedicure!

February 3, 2010

d.i.y. valentine's robot

wont you be mine?

i never cared
valentines day.
just another one
of those holidays
convince you
that you
to buy

those long lines
at the drugstore
of men buying
last minute
stuffed animals
and candy
on valentines day
depress me.
but then again
how sweet
is it to
a handmade card
homemade edibles
from a

and bunnies
are nice
but robots
are so much better,
don't you think?


wouldn't it
be nice
to make
a robot pillow
for someone you love?

this robot
is made completely
out of felted
thin cashmere
work the best
but any old sweater
will do...
it's a good time
of year to
get rid of
that favorite sweater
with moth holes
or that doesn't fit
or hit your
local thrift store
and get a couple.
my advice is
to get men's sweaters-
they always are cheaper
and bigger.
bigger means
more felt- woohoo!
remember that
the sweater has
to be 100% wool or
cashmere, or
animal fiber.


so here we go!


put on this song
to get you in the robot mood.

felt all your sweaters
(read instructions here).


make sure to cut
the arms & legs
out of
the sleeves:

now you are
ready for these
easy steps:


you can use
a machine
or sew by hand.
i did mine
by hand using
blanket stitch.



arms & legs:
stuff after
sewing bottom
and sides.
then seam top and attach.
after i was
all done
i stuffed
the bejesus
out of his head
and then put
the pillow in.
you can resize
the pillow
to fit the body
(i had to).
or just make
a robot-shaped
pillow insert.

what the back
looks like:


decorate your
any way you'd
use real buttons
i used a small
fabric button maker.
i got at
the sewing store
for $3.
you can make
your own fabric
this guide.

i got
some ideas
jes hutch's knitted robots.


let me know
if you
have any

robots:  thrifted wooden

try not
to fall
in love
with your
new robot.

i did.

it's breaking
my heart
to mail
him off
to his



on my blog}