It’s Not All Mary Poppins

My frugal heart

I bought these for the older kids. An excellent activity for those who no longer need naps, but who are NOT allowed to disturb Mary during that precious afternoon quiet time.

The problem is, they’re a use-once, throw-away sort of book. It’s not the expense of this that bothers me most — though that does bother me! It’s the WASTE. Hate that. I am an eco-friendly sort primarily because I loathe waste. Buy an entire book so that your kid can roar through it in half an hour and toss it? I think not.

Besides, in your average family, you have toddlers around for what? Four or five years, depending on the number of children and their spacing? I have had toddlers around for twenty-two years now… I can’t conceive of the heap of paper I’d have tossed, buying individual books for that many children over that many years.


But these are useful books, Educational, even. Parents love to see them scattered about, and heck, they may even teach the children the odd skill.


You slice out each page with a craft knife, and then slip each one into a page-protector. (I’m not normally a big fan of those things, either, but in this case I’ll make an exception. In the balancing of relative evils, plastic, used once for a long time, trumps paper used once and tossed, to be replaced by more, and then more, and then more paper, all to be used once then tossed. Perhaps I’m deluding myself, but such is my reasoning.)

You put your page protectors into a small binder, and provide the child with a dry-erase marker and a tissue. (For dry-erasing.) You would be wise to peek in at said child once in a while, lest you be requiring cleansing doses of Purell after too long a period of suspiciously quiet play. (Though why should I be suspicious of quiet play when quiet play was precisely what they were instructed to do? One of the conundrums of my profession…)

Ta-dah! Hours of fun. Emily has completed the entire tracing book every single day for a week. When she tires of it, William will have a go. A few years back, Darcy and George loved these books to bits, and maybe next year it’ll be Tyler and Noah. These two books are now six years old. SIX YEARS OF CONSTANT USE from what was designed to be a throw-away book.

Aaahhh… Warms my frugal heart, it does.

November 25, 2009 Posted by | books, crafts | , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

I hereby resolve: March Edition

Remember my New Year’s Resolution? I was going to post one change each month that I was going to implement to make my impact on the planet just a little lighter.

I had one all planned for this month. Since it involved an actual PURCHASE, I’d done my research. I’d looked at various types of the product, the pros and cons of each, the prospective price range. I’d chosen one, I’d found my source, and then, because I’m a walker/bus rider now, not a driver, I called ahead to make sure of my price and its availability.

Good thing.

Because what I’m after, see, is deemed a seasonal item, and won’t be available until… well, they weren’t sure when. But it sure wasn’t available in winter.

So much for that idea. It’s still on the agenda, it’s just not going to be this month’s item. I have yet another idea, but that, too, is seasonal, in that I need the snow to be gone.

I thought I was two months ahead. HA. Instead, I was floundering for this month’s idea. Floundering, that is, until I followed Zayna’s ping-back.

I am totally stealing her idea. Starting this month, I am going to stop using toxic cleaning products where possible, and less-toxic products where some degree of toxicity is unavoidable. (Cleaning the oven springs to mind…)

To that end, meet my friends: Baking Soda and Vinegar.
They are the core of my Clean Cleaning products. I already use vinegar and newspaper to clean my windows, just the way my grandmother taught me. In the past I’ve used baking soda, salt, and vinegar with a boiling water chaser to keep my drains running freely, but I’d lost the habit. Don’t know why.

So this month: Green Cleaning.

How about you?

March 3, 2009 Posted by | health and safety | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

My New Year’s Resolution: February Edition

No, I haven’t forgotten! I just had to deal with Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day, it being such an Important Holiday and all…

So. My eco-friendly change, which began on Sunday. Here’s a hint:

What is the common theme joining all these things?







I’ll bet you’ve figured out what they’re all for, except perhaps one.

Starting in February, I have decided to reduce (and perhaps eventually eliminate) all disposable paper products in my home. So, from top to bottom, we have:

– the basket of cleaning rags in the kitchen, replacing paper towels.
– hand-made handkerchiefs, replacing disposable tissue
menstrual sponges
– the basket of cleaning rags in the bathroom
– my in-process hand-made cloth napkins, replacing paper serviettes (or, more likely in this house) paper towels.

But what about that last one? What could it possibly be? Hint: It’s not a measuring cup. Not any more.

That, my friends, is now a tabo. A tabo is a gizmo used in the Phillippines. It eliminates the need for toilet paper. I’d heard of these things before, but had to go direct to a Confidential Source to find out the nitty-gritty of just exactly how one uses the things. However, I have it all sorted now– features of a good tabo, necessary posture, good technique — and so both tabo and basket of towel squares (for drying), reside neatly in the bathroom.

In fact, this tabo lacks the lip that my CS says is useful for getting the water where you need it. I may be hunting down a better one. I’m sure the Dollar Store is full of likely candidates.

I doubt I’ll eliminate disposable paper products from the home entirely. I’m not trying to convince my family to go the tabo route; in fact, I haven’t mentioned it to them at all, though I likely will at some point. And the menstrual sponges (which I’ve used for years) are not sufficient unto the task every day of That Week (nor are those rubber Keepers, which I’ve also tried) — but they certainly do substantially reduce the amount of disposable ‘feminine hygiene’ products I need. (I do know women who use both these products without any difficulty at all.)

As with everything, it’s a process. Our home is now using no paper towels or napkins at all. That’s a significant step forward, and it hasn’t been difficult at all.

What changes have you made? Post about them, and I’ll link to you! (And you can link to me. Linky love.)

February 3, 2009 Posted by | health and safety, memes and quizzes | , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

I hereby resolve…

I have not made a New Year’s Resolution since I was a teenager. (Longer ago than some of you, my sweet readers, have been alive…)


This year, however, I’ve been doing a lot of very interesting reading, most recently The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, both by Michael Pollan. They are fabulous, and I strongly recommend you all read them. (I hereby need to give copious and public accolades to my long-suffering, ever-supportive husband, who almost never sighs in exasperation at having his own reading interrupted by yet another “Hey, love! Listen to THIS!”)

Both books highlight, in a most tangible way, the fundamental interconnected-ness of life on this planet we inhabit. What, after all, is more basic than sunlight, soil, water and food?

And with that notion of interconnectedness, I decided to make this my year to consciously and systematically work to tread a little more lightly on the planet.

By North American standards, my family does pretty well already. We don’t own a car. We don’t own a dryer. We live in a significantly smaller-than-average (North American) sized house. We bought locally-grown, organic vegetables last summer, and will certainly do so next year. We eat meat only once or twice a week. We recycle, we regift, we re-purpose. We carry our own shopping bags for errands, our own mugs for coffee, we use re-usable bins, not bags, for our groceries. We have a single room air-conditioner, which gets used a handful of nights in the heat of summer.

There are more I could list, but you get the idea. None of these things have reduced our quality of life one bit; many have increased it. (Those organic veggies? Oh, MY, they were good! And what better way to escape the unending grind of being the household chauffeur than by simply not having a vehicle? It’s the inarguable ‘out’ in transport negotiations with lazy demanding active teens.)

(Before people launch into reasons why they couldn’t possibly do a, b, or c? I’m not suggesting you should. There are probably things you do that I don’t. That’s fine. Just so long as we’re all doing something.)

And me, I’m seeking to do more.

So my New Year’s Resolution, my first in decades…

In order to tread a little more lightly on the planet, I resolve to make one permanent, planet-healthy change each month.

Anyone care to join me? If so, please leave a link in the comments. I’d love to have company! On the first Monday of each month, we can all post about our change for that month. Won’t that be interesting? (And, potentially inspiring: we can steal each other’s good ideas!)

This month?


I am beginning a herb garden in my kitchen. I’ve ordered a few packages of seeds, which I’ll set up in pots under the nice, west-facing window. Fresh herbs, all year round! And by so doing, I reduce the number of little glass (or plastic) jars in my cupboard, I improve the quality of food my family eats, I need that teeny bit less truck-shipped produce (and all its associated carbon costs). And I’m sure the tots will be interested in this one.

The seeds should arrive within ten days. I can hardly wait!

January 5, 2009 Posted by | commemoration, food, health and safety | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Join me for Earth Hour


Here’s a painless way to make a positive impact. On March 29, at 8 p.m., my family will turn off every light in our home. We will leave them off for an hour. So far, there are 652 other people from Ottawa, 24,816 others in Canada, and 84,652 globally (up 500 from three hours ago, when I signed up) doing the same.

The movement started in Sydney last year. The 2.2 million individuals and 2,100 businesses that participated lowered Syndey’s power usage by 10.2%. The energy saved was equivalent, so the site tells us, to that saved by keeping 48,000 cars off the road. For a year.

When you sign up, you will receive an email with a link to your very own page on their site. Through that page, you can invite your friends, and they will track how many people you were responsible for bringing into the event.

It’s such a simple thing to do. When I explained it to my 14-year-old, her response was heart-warming: “That’s so easy, mum. Why don’t we do that every day?” Why not, indeed?

March 29, 8:00 p.m. Earth Hour. Won’t you join us?

March 7, 2008 Posted by | Canada, health and safety, Ottawa | , , , , , | 6 Comments