Spring Awakenings

7 04 2011

Longwood Gardens, Spring 2010

When most people think about spring doings, cleaning and yard work jump to mind. I would like to propose that awakening be on our agenda.

What projects, plans and dreams have you postponed, either since New Year’s or indefinitely? Did winter bog you down under blankets and gray skies? Throw off your misgivings! Today is never too late, but if not now, when?

My own Spring projects include: writing regularly; continued career movement; and reading an educational book on my lunch break.

While I may not be in a job of my preference, I decided that my lunch hour is at least 30 minutes in which to stimulate my brain with continuing education. Besides – and you may not be much different in this respect – I have many “educational” books I mean to read but which, in the evenings, end up playing a sad second fiddle to magazines and fun fiction. First up: Off the Grid, by Nick Rosen. Review will follow!

I’m sure I will throw more cleaning in there, too. After all, there is a reason Spring cleaning remains prevalent – we feel the ancient urge to mimic nature’s blooming with new growth in our own lives. Allow your cleaning to inspire you.

What are your Spring awakenings?

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Eco-friendly Christmas Gifts

7 11 2010

I’m brazenly breaking my own rule about discussing Christmas before Thanksgiving. However, it’s fun and often necessary to think about the presents we’ll give to others well in advance – especially when making them. In that spirit, I give you a sampling of ideas you could use with little prior crafting or cooking experience. All are a great way to reduce the price tag and wastefulness of holiday gift giving.

  • A Storybook Life has an easy-peasy idea for ornaments or gifts that look and smell fantastic.
  • Right@Home is the source for simply elegant jar gifts. Not seen on that page are their inventive cocoa mix jars.
  • Consider gift baskets! My husband and I had a fun and impromtu date night one Christmas making a basket for extended family members with dollar-store items. There was something in it for everyone, and the creativity involved kept us entertained.
  • For many more homemade gift ideas, visit Martha Stewart’s Santa’s Workshop.

Obviously, the degree to which a handmade gift is also environmentally friendly depends both on the source and type of materials needed and the alternative gift you would have given. Some things to consider:

  • Source. Do I or someone I know already have some or all of the materials I need, or things I could substitute for them? Not consuming new materials is always the gentlest choice for the earth.
  • Type. If you must purchase materials, are there some that are made of recycled goods, and/or that can be reused or recycled when the recipient is done with them?
  • The Alternative. What would you likely have given that person instead? Would this object require more energy waste or pollution than what you will make?

Finally, if you are interested in reducing the “stuff” focus of your holiday season, check out this refreshing guide from Postconsumers.

Do you have any signature handmade holiday gifts?





Making It Yourself

1 11 2010

Let necessity be the mother of your inventions. When you have a need or want but would rather not spend, see what alternative you could make yourself. Examples:

  • Recently, I was bored with my selection of pants, so I dug out the pair I had been unhappy with and figured out (with not much formal sewing knowledge) that I could make a little alteration. Voila – favorite new pants!
  • Since all the billboards began popping up in September, I’ve been craving a pumpkin spice latte. Today I realized that there are usually internet instructions for store-bought favorites. Sure enough, I give you: DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte. It is cheaper than Starbucks, if you have the ingredients on hand and use the rest of the pumpkin for something else.
  • Finally, something I can’t wait to try, courtesy of Martha Stewart: accessories made with old jewelry and ribbons.

One caveat: these do-it-yourself projects can become addicting. That being said, do you have any good and crafty links to share?





Making Do

25 10 2010
Vintage Tupperware and Fire King

There’s a Depression-era concept if ever I heard one: making do. How often, nowadays, does someone flatly proclaim that they will “make do”? It may be an attitude ripe for revival in our culture. Take me, for instance: I tend to whine about my current financial situation, but the truth of the matter is that there are blessings in making do, such as:

  • Discovery. One of the first things one can do when faced with a money shortage is really using what one already has: reading the books on the shelves, wearing the clothes seldom worn, playing the games rarely played. It’s like shopping – in your house!
  • Creativity. The other day, inspired by French tartine sandwiches on an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, I made mock versions with ingredients I had on hand. It made me feel chic – and cheap, in a good way!
  • Contentment. While I certainly struggle with wanting things outside my reach, there are times of realization and satisfaction that I have all I really need, that I am blessed beyond a majority of the human population.
  • Good, old-fashioned smugness. Let’s admit it: sometimes there’s a guilty pleasure in knowing you cheated the system and saved some dough, or simply that you can be just as happy with a lower cost of living than other people.

Can you think of other blessings to be found in making do with what you have?





Going “Moneyless”

21 09 2010

Spending a year without spending a dollar

As I am newly unemployed, the idea of purposeful unemployment intrigues me.

In 2008, businessman Mark Boyle went on a one-year hiatus from making money and lived in a trailer on an organic farm, trading labor for rent and foraging for all of his food. Now, the “Moneyless Man” has published a book about his experiences, which he describes as overwhelmingly positive. The book offers tips for reducing your expenses, as well as your carbon footprint.

I wonder if Boyle was motivated more by his economics training, a desire for sustainability, or an escape from the rat race? Many ethical issues arise here, from foraging for food in supermarket dumpsters to the fact that Boyle was still technically earning a living, only in exchange for accommodation instead of cash. I am definitely interested to know more about what he sought to demonstrate or learn through his experiment, and I love his idea for a  “freeconomy community,” in which members teach each other skills at free events.

Are you interested in Boyle’s story, or do you think he went too far to prove a point?





Because it’s there

8 09 2010

Most of the time we do things just because they present themselves to us first.

We tend to the screaming child, when the silent one has needs unseen. We do the chore most visibly urgent. We read the magazine on the table, not the books on the shelf. We talk to the people we see daily, forgetting long lost friends.

I think that this kind of rut is entirely different and more dangerous than ordinary laziness, because non-lazy people do it, too. We all do it. But remember how good it felt to reconnect with that person, or complete that scrapbook you had to dust off to hold? Change up your life by moving things around on your shelves and tables. Really look out your windows and appreciate your wall hangings. Take a deep breath, a long look, and what can you find?

Do one little thing differently every day, and you will begin to see how easy it really is to change habits when you change this one habit of seeing something just because it’s there. Your creative flair will flourish.

You might find it’s also easier to pick up a habit that gives back – taking a few moments to find local produce at the store; grouping your errands to save more gas. Green habits are one form of daily creative rebellion, and that’s something we all could use.





Creativity and Being “Green”

5 09 2010

There is something funny about creativity. Mention it and people get nervous. I think this is why some invent inaccurate meanings for it; they don’t understand creativity, and this makes them uncomfortable.

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, a boss told me I was not as creative as my predecessor. He said it so matter-of-factly that I almost laughed in that “are you serious?” way. I, of course, am heartily inclined to disagree, not because I have proof to the contrary, but because I believe he has no right or means to make this assumption. And I have to say, this may be the one thing of value I gained from his leadership: the will to prove him wrong.

Recent research shows that we can actually cultivate our creativity, even when we may not have a genetic predisposition to certain aspects of it. Other research shows that the traditional ways we try to encourage creativity, such as “brainstorming,” don’t work. We need to feel safe, not forced, to be creative. This was the issue with this boss of mine, and this is too often the issue with people who feel they aren’t creative. They simply don’t feel that they have permission from the world to create they way they would if left to their own devices.

I believe that more people would live a “green” life – making more alive and gentler choices on the earth – if they felt free to expand their thinking beyond the 9 to 5, beyond merely getting by. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs supports this; we cannot care about being the best person we can be without our basic needs of nourishment and love being met. But we needn’t wait for others to give us permission and freedom to create; we can be the authority in our own lives!

I am recommitting myself to creativity. To not caring if some, in their small view, find me less creative than others. In reality, they don’t know us – who we really are when given the freedom to expand to our full potential.

How will you expand?








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