Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Greenify Your Laundry

When it comes to greenifying my laundry routine, I was a little nervous. I tend to be choosy about my soaps and dryer sheets and I wasn't sure I wanted to throw my old, non-green favorites away. But after a single trip to the Whole Foods laundry aisle, I can just about promise you that I'm never going back. There were a ton of great, natural, affordable (and nice-smelling!) options there that I couldn't even start to go into them all. But here are two of my current favorite laundry products:
For laundry soap, I wanted something that would be effective at cleaning but not at all harsh on my clothes. Ecover Ultra Ecological Laundry Wash does the trick for me. It's nice to my clothes, doesn't fade the colors, and leaves them clean and smelling nice. The lavender scent is plant-derived (unlike the synthetics at the regular grocer which I actually hate) and I find it herbal but light. It's also a high efficiency product, which cuts down on product and packaging waste.

Dryer sheets are one of those products that aren't strictly essential, so if I really wanted to be green I could go without them. But I really like the way they make my clothes soft and non-staticky, plus their scent usually lasts longer than that of a detergent. I found true love in Mrs. Meyer's Dryer Sheets, which are biodegradable and the essential oil scents are strong enough that I only need one for a large load at the laundromat (vs. the two or three I used to use). I like the Lemon Verbena scent currently, but they also come in Lavender, Geranium, Baby Blossom, and Basil. And at $8 for 80 sheets, they're not too expensive to use frequently.

So there you have it, my new "green" laundry routine and I'd love to hear your thoughts or suggestions. :) Have you ever used "green" cleaners?

PS: If you aren't much for dryer sheets, you could scent your laundry by adding essential oils (like lavender) to your wash to lightly scent the clothes- just make sure whatever you add won't stain or bleach. You could also add a drop to a clean washcloth and add it to the dryer for the same effect without the waste.

Images: Laundry wash from Vitacost, dryer sheets from Mrs. Meyers Clean Day

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fitness Confessional: I Don't Stretch

Lately I read an article (which I promptly lost, or I'd reference it for you all) about the importance of stretching. We all know that stretching is good for us because it helps maintain flexibility and reduce muscle and bone injuries. But how many of us actually do it?

I, for one, rarely stretch. The last time I stretched regularly was a year ago when I still did daily yoga. Even before a run, I'll maybe spend 2 minutes stretching my calves before I head out the door. But just as an experiment the other day, I tried full-body stretching before my run, spending a good 10 minutes making sure my arms, legs, and shoulders were all loose and ready to go. Wow did it make a difference! I felt like I had SO much more energy at the start of the run, probably because I didn't need to spend the first five minutes warming my muscles up. Also, stretching out my back and shoulders after spending the day hunched in an office chair really seemed to help my posture (which is terrible).

So now I'm making the resolution to stretch more often, perhaps even daily. And I wanted to hear from you all: do you stretch very often before or after a workout? What about on the days you don't work out?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Comfort Food: What's Yours?

I've always had a thing for homemade potato soup. There is something so simple and familiar about it, and it always brings me back to when I was little and my grandma made it from scratch for me. If I'm ever craving comfort food, potato soup is my go-to.

Today I stumbled on the Wikipedia page for "comfort food" (there is a Wikipedia page for everything) and got to reading about comfort foods throughout the world. Potato soup isn't on the list anywhere, but chicken noodle soup was one of the common comfort foods in the States. Other common ones included pizza, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, and applesauce (mmm). Canada is similar to the States, while the United Kingdom prefers "bangers and mash" (sausage and mashed potatoes) and Ireland likes boiled stews, soda bread, and butter. Other popular choices include fried eggs with fries or rice in Spain and miso soup in Japan. You can read the full Wikipedia article here.

Also according to Wikipedia, comfort food is usually something simple and familiar that is associated with childhood. So I guess my love of potato soup isn't so far off after all.

What's your favorite comfort food? And, just for fun, do you think it's related to where you live?

Image: chicken stew via Cambell's Kitchen. Nom.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Local Goods (the Etsy way)

We all know that buying local is good for us. Local goods don't require as much packaging and fuel for transportation, making them green-friendlier. Plus buying local supports your city's economy and keeps small businesses afloat. The trick, of course, is finding local goods that you actually want to buy. Which is one of the reasons I'm in love with Etsy's "Shop Local" feature (thanks to my friend Hilary for introducing me to it!). Using their Shop Local search, you can buy handmade products (and some vintage too) made right in your very own home town, or at least very near by.

I did a search for my city and here are just a few of the things I found:
A cute clutch just big enough for summer essentials (wallet, keys, sunglasses, chapstick).
A mellow scent (the seller claims it can calm a rowdy 2 year old).
Black and white photography (my favorite)- this one is titled "blight 2007."
All-natural with an attitude. This tank is made from organic cotton, and the print is "inspired by the art nouveau movement and modern tattoos".

Go here to search for Etsy shops in your area. But before you do, tell me- do you ever try to buy things locally?

All images belong to their respective Etsy sellers (see links).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Let's Discuss: Birth

Has anyone been keeping up with the blog Pacing the Panic Room? The author Ryan Marshall recently wrote about his wife's at-home water birth, and I found it totally fascinating (you can check it out here).

I'll admit that I've never been much for the idea of at-home births. I've heard enough stories to know that even normal, healthy births often require emergency medical attention for some reason or another. Often the window of opportunity for that attention is mere minutes- meaning that even a quick car ride to the hospital could put off treatment long enough to put someone (mama or baby) in trouble. And while, yes, our great-grandmothers may have successfully given birth to 12 children at home, it's probably not a coincidence that their rates for infant mortality and birth complications were a lot higher.

That said, reading the Marshalls' birth story still has me intrigued at the idea. Maybe as our medical knowledge of birth and its risks increase (and as we develop medical technology that's easily transportable), safe home births will become a reality for more women. And being able to give birth in a comfortable, familiar environment versus a sterile hospital DOES sound a lot better.

I thought I'd open the floor up for discussion: what do you think of home births? How about the recent increase in birthing centers, which are designed to give the feel of a home while being close to medical help if needed? I'd love to hear opinions! Just remember to keep it nonjudgmental, we're all friends here :)

Personally, I feel like we still need more impartial, unbiased information. What's the risk of birth complication in a normal pregnancy? How about a pregnancy with slight complications? Will being at home increase any of those risks or decrease them? If the risk of complication is low assuming there is a midwife present, then maybe home birth is a viable option.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Running Playlist

I never had a workout buddy until Ernie. All through high school track, I used to run solo, just me and the road. Then a couple of years or so ago, I found Ernie and it was love at first sight.

Ernie is my ipod.

I inherited him from Nathan, who moved on to a newer and better ipod. Ever since I got him, I've been totally addicted. I love having music that I can carry with me, especially when I'm running. It's like fast, upbeat songs make me forget (well, distract me from at least) my tired legs and side stitch, so I can run faster and longer. And it turns out I'm not making that up- some research studies have found that people burn more calories when they work out to music.

So in the name of calorie-burning, here's some of what I listen to when I run:

The Rolling Stones- Jumpin Jack Flash
Franz Ferdinand- Take Me Out
Franz Ferdinand- The Dark of the Matinee
Muse- Stockholm Syndrome
Muse- Hysteria
The Clash- Should I Stay Or Should I Go
The Mars Volta- L'Via L'Viaquez
Michael Jackson- Smooth Criminal
Modest Mouse- Dance Hall
Creedence Clearwater Revival- Fortunate Son
Queen- Another One Bites the Dust

...and that gets me through just about any workout :)

What songs do you listen to while you work out?

Image by Per Briehagen via Runnersworld

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sunny Days

Yesterday I spent the entire day lazing around the local pool with my sister and cousin. I haven't been to the local pool since I was a little girl, and I was surprised by how much it changed. What used to be just a regular pool now includes two huge water slides, diving boards, and a lazy river that you can float on for hours. Of course, there are some things that never change: kids were still running around screaming and splashing their parents, the snack stand was quickly selling out of $2 popsicles and $3 bottles of water, and the teenage lifeguards were all lying around in their getting deep brown tans.

For reasons of health (skin cancer!) and vanity (wrinkles!) I avoided tanning the whole day. I was actually pretty impressed that my sunscreen held up to the hot afternoon sun. I got zero sunburn and barely any tan, which is what I was going for.

Here's what I used to protect my pastiness:
Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Sunblock has high SPF and is water resistant. It's designed for babies but ideal for adult skin too, especially sensitive skin as the physical blockers are less irritating than traditional chemical ones (and more green-friendly). The sunblock goes on white like most physical blockers, and it takes some rubbing to get it to sink in- this will probably leave a white cast on dark skin. But it was gentle and kept me from frying all afternoon.
Blue Lizard Australian Suncream for Sensitive Skin is one of the few sunscreens with high SPF that my face can tolerate without breaking out. It has SPF30 and is water resistant and, like the Neutrogena one, this takes some rubbing to get rid of the initial white cast. It also goes on really sticky, but that fades after 10-15 minutes and it leaves my face less shiny than most sunscreens do. I like it because it's stable, chemical-free, and inexpensive (~$10) so that I can actually afford to use it.
As for everyday protection, I like to use a moisturizer with SPF. Right now I'm using Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion with SPF15. I wouldn't dare use this on a day where I'm going to be outside a lot, but for normal everyday running-around, it works for me. It's inexpensive ($11 for 12oz.), easy to get ahold of, and easy to slap on in the morning.

What about you all: do you wear daily sunscreen? What do you rely on for sun protection?

All images:

Friday, July 10, 2009

The upside to the economic downturn...

Yesterday I picked up a copy of the August issue of Real Simple and I really loved the article "anything for a buck" by Julie Rottenberg. It details how before the economic crisis, the author used to deal with scrutiny for her penny-pinching ways but now that the economy is in a constant downturn, her frugality is much more accepted. I like how she finds the silver lining to our economic woes through its effects on our society. I too have always thought that, while it's not a good thing that people are losing their jobs left and right, it has spurred some positive social changes. Being spendy is no longer the popular thing to do, extravagence is seen as wasteful, and conservation is back in a big way. I've never been much for extravagence anyway, and I think that this current economic climate has forced us as a society to question our values. Are things really that important? Do we really need the latest this-or-that, especially if it won't be popular in two months anyway? Studies have already showed that recessions are better for people's health by reducing work hours and increasing healthy habits like cooking at home, and maybe they're better for our wallets and bank accounts in the long run as well. While I naturally would love for the economy to pick up a little (so, ahem, the government will stop trying to cut my college grants) I also hope that we can come out of this a little financially smarter.

I know I have some very intelligent and thoughtful readers out there, so I'd love to know what you all think of this. What positive effects have you seen from the economic downturn?

PS: Have a great weekend everyone! And if I haven't commented on your blog lately, be patient. I'm still catching up on all the reading I missed last week :)

Image by Howard Sokol via

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In Case of Vegetarian Kitty: Check for Toxic Plants

Every cat owner knows that cats tend to have their quirks. Some cats love singing at odd hours, some love swimming, some have a thing for licking the walls. My cat Tigger? She loves eating plants. It's odd because technically cats should be strictly carnivore, but in the 9 years that I've owned her, I've seen her attempt to eat cut roses, daisies, a mint plant, corn husks (her fave), cactus (not her fave) and a whole myriad of other green things. This is the cat that turns up her nose at store brand cat food, but if I bring in anything even remotely plantlike, she will try to eat it. She's even tried to eat the fake plant I have sitting in a corner. Seriously.

For awhile now I've been thinking about bringing in some houseplants to make my apartment look more "alive" but I was worried about potential ill effects on Tigger if she got ahold of it. So on the recommendation of a friend, I looked up the ASPCA's list of Toxic and Non-Toxic plants for pets. Turns out most of the plants I wanted are highly toxic to cats, causing everything from vomiting to seizures if eaten. A big bummer for me, but I'm glad I looked before I bought.

You can check out the ASPCA's list of toxic and non-toxic plants here. Also- I'd love to know if any of you cat and plant owners have any advice for me and my vegetarian kitty. :)
Tigger: vicious plant hunter

Images: Aloe, ASPCA website (see link). Tigger, mine.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Greenify Your Makeup: Part 1

Over the past month or so I've been testing out natural makeup brands to replace some of my old, chemical-laden stuff as it wears out. The website MakeupAlley (MUA) has been a great help for finding some of the lesser-known makeup brands and in learning how to apply them. I'm not even close to having replacements for all of my old makeup (especially since I'm only replacing things as they run out) but I have found a couple of rave-worthy brands already.

100% Pure was one of my first favorite green beauty brands, and I've written about them before. Their products have great, mostly natural ingredients lists without synthetic chemicals or any artificial fragrances. They're not cheap, but they do come highly rated and might be worth a splurge every now and then. I'm currently loving their Pure Peach Concealer in White Peach. It brightens dark undereye circles and contains both caffeine and antioxidants like green tea to nourish the sensitive skin there. You can easily get 100% Pure products through QVC, Amazon, or their website.
The first time I tried mineral makeup, I hated it. It itched my face and made me break out in horrible cystic acne all over my chin. It turns out that many well-known mineral brands contain a lot of talc and bismuth, which act as skin irritants for many people. Thanks to MUA, however, I discovered Everyday Minerals, which creates affordable mineral makeup that is free of talc and bismuth. Their makeup comes in tons of colors and it doesn't itch my skin at all. Right now I'm craving Net Surfing eyeshadow, a gorgeous amythest with pink shimmer (above). The best part is the prices, which (unlike 100% pure) don't send my wallet away crying. A set of 6 full-sized products of your choice goes for $34 on the website, and you can get a sample kit containing 5 sample products of your choice for free- just pay shipping, which only ran about $3 for me. You really can't go wrong with decent minerals that run less than the stuff at the drugstore.

Have you ever tried any "green" beauty/skincare brands? Would you?

Images: Concealer, Eyeshadow,

I'm Back

I have to apologize for my recent absence from the blog. I was feeling uninspired and a little stressed last week, plus working a 40+ hour week so I took a little blogging vacation. But now I'm back and I've got a fun lineup of posts for the rest of the week, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's a picture of one of my favorites gorillas at the local zoo (I know, I'm random). I nicknamed him (her?) Bubbles for his/her habit of hanging off of the exhibit fence and blowing spit bubbles at passerby.

I hope everyone had a wonderful week/weekend! :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Leg Therapy

I normally don't have too much of an issue with tired legs. I run and walk a lot, and I'm rarely bothered by soreness. But this week, after working at a department store (read: on my feet for 6 hours at a time), weight lifting for the first time in years, rock climbing, and running more than usual, my legs are shot. AND I work at the department store again tomorrow, so it'll be another 5 hours standing. Oy.

When I ran track in high school, we used to do ice baths or, worse, showers alternating between hot and cold for sore muscles. It's kind of excruciating at first (if you hate being cold like me anyway) but it really does help.

I also discovered this nifty little leg gel from The Body Shop. It's made with peppermint oil, which is supposed to cool and help revitalize your legs (without some of the nasty ingredients in Icy Hot, or the funky odor). I won't say it works miracles, but it does cool my legs and moisturize them a little bit without being at all greasy or smelly. And bonus- the smell of peppermint is supposed to be an instant mood-lifter.

Share your sore-leg cures with me in the comments!