Thursday, December 31, 2009

TGIF: Best Blog Posts This Week...and Happy New Year

I've been slacking on my blog posts courtesy of the holidays. No more excuses after January 1st. Here are this week's best blog posts. I hope you have a safe and fabulous New Year.

I set at least 10 resolutions each year. From breaking my 5K race time to going to church more often, they range from health-related to home improvements. Do you make New Year's resolutions? Have an interesting New Year's resolution you'd like to share? Or ways that you stick to achieving your resolutions? I'd love to hear all about it.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Frugal Tip Tuesday -- Returning Gifts

Whether it's Christmas, Hannukah, a birthday or some other gift-giving occasion. There's always the off chance that the gift you receive isn't exactly what you wanted, doesn't fit right or is the wrong color. I always thought I would insult someone by returning or exchanging a gift, but if it's just going to sit in your drawer or closet, you're wasting money and creating clutter!

Within one week, you should return the item for cash or store credit, or exchange the gift for something you will use.

How many unused gifts do you currently have sitting around the house? Dig them out and post them on Ebay to make some quick cash.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Product Review: Pangea Organics Skincare Discovery Kit

By filling out a simple online form, I received a free sample of Pangea Organics Skincare Discovery Kit. Inside were three tiny samples of their facial cleanser, facial scrub and facial moisturizer.

In addition to coupons, I received a little brochure outlining all of Pangea's products. Their philosophy is that "the face has its own special skin, distinct from the rest of the body, and needs to be treated with care." How true! Pangea's "products are designed to create and maintain balance in your skin."

Facial Cleanser -- Egyptian Calendula & Blood Orange
Felt silky smooth and had a very distinct smell, similar to eucalyptus or a relaxing spa.

Facial Scrub -- Egyptian Geranium with Adzuki Bean & Cranberry
With just the right amount of gritty-ness. The scrub made my skin feel very soft and smooth.

Facial Cream -- Italian Red Mandarin with Rose
The final step was applying the moisturizer. The fragrance matched the cleanser and scrub, but was a bit overwhelming. The cream was easily absorbed and a small amount went a long way.

I felt refreshed and energized after using the three products. Best of all was the packaging. The box contains blue spruce tree seeds and can be planted. How great is that? Plus, the label is printed on 100% post-consumer paper with vegetable-based inks, so everything is recycled and recyclable.

Want to try Pangea Organics? Every Friday they give away a free product at

Let me know if you try any of their products and what you think.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Frugal Tip Tuesday -- Plan Ahead

As you may know, I work a full-time job. With an on-site cafeteria and no microwaves or refrigerators, lunch can be very costly. I had written a post about lunch and snack options for But a girl's gotta eat, right? I try to limit myself to eating in the cafeteria on Fridays. That means I have to plan ahead for the other four days of the week.

So that's this week's tip. Plan ahead. No matter what it is, a little planning can be green and frugal. Here are some examples:
  • Meal planning for family meals can help you create (and stick to) a shopping list

  • Bring those recycled bags when you go grocery shopping -- save money and be green

  • Planning ahead can help with dieting and exercise -- plan your meals and your exercise sessions and you'll be more likely to stick to the routine
What do you plan ahead for that's helped you be more frugal or green?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Taking a Green and Frugal Break to Focus on the Little Things

I'm a bit off topic today. But I think you'll enjoy this post nonetheless. A friend sent this to me and I thought it carried a wonderful message.

The Little Things

- By Author Unknown

As you might know, the head of a company survived 9/11 because his son started kindergarten.

Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike because of an auto accident.

One of them missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.

One's car wouldn't start.

One went back to answer the telephone.

One had a child that dawdled and didn't get ready as soon as he should have.

One couldn't get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning, took the various means to get to work but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.

Now when I am stuck in traffic, miss an elevator, turn back to answer a ringing telephone ... all the little things that annoy me. I think to myself, this is exactly where God wants me to be at this very moment..

Next time your morning seems to be going wrong, the children are slow getting dressed, you can't seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light, don't get mad or frustrated; God is at work watching over you.

May God continue to bless you with all those annoying little things and may you remember their possible purpose.


I know when I'm running late, the kids aren't listening or any other annoyance, I immediately begin to yell and get completely stressed out. From now on I'm going to make a concerted effort to take a deep breath and remember that everything -- no matter how trivial -- happens for a reason.

How do you normally react to everyday stress? Did this post resonate with you?

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Great Green Holiday Gift-Buying Tips

It's a fact of life--most Americans' wallets (and credit card limits), are slimmer this year. But that doesn't mean we should give up our eco-conscious ways. Why would we when there are so many opportunities to save green while celebrating green?


If your young children are pining for expensive gifts, it's hard to deny them (not that a bit of denial isn't good for us!). A few solutions--there are others--just say no, find ways for your child to raise some cash toward the dream or see whether you can find a used gift. (You might be surprised that a clean, used toy without the packaging is just fine with most kids.)

To find a previously loved toy:

  • organize a toy swap in your neighborhood, at a school or community center
  • ask in your online or other groups, whether someone has a toy they'd be willing to sell or trade
  • give your child a temporary substitute for the gift and buy it after the holiday when it may be on sale

Help your child contribute toward the purchase by going through his current toys, selecting as many as you like and selling them on your local Craigslist.

Another idea is to discuss the situation with your child and ask, "Would you be happy if you only get this one gift this year?" If the answer is "yes," and you have friends and relatives who normally gift your child, ask for a contribution towards her heart's desire.


When it comes to teens, think "downloads." What teen doesn't love music or movies? Purchasing music and movies online is inexpensive and eco-friendly.

Ask your teen to give you a list of chores she doesn't like to do. Your gift can be doing one or more for a limited period of time. (We know this won't be a favorite of yours, but it costs nothing but your pride and patience!)

Teenagers also may be much more willing than you anticipate, to help others. Especially when times are tough, learning that there are others worse off than you are can help quell the self-centered longings adolescents experience. You can give teens a real gift by inviting them to participate in one or more volunteer activities during the holiday season. Let them experience the real meaning of giving. We know one teen who, after volunteering at a home for abused kids, told his parents he didn't want anything for Hanukkah except to make a contribution to the organization.


Of course, if you're crafty, you already know that amazing gifts can cost next to nothing. Short on ideas? Two great sites are Instructables and eHow, though you can google just about any item and find out how to make it.

And if you're "all thumbs," great green gifts are available by the truckload, many for under $25. There are many sites featuring inexpensive gifts. Here are a few. Find more by doing a search for "green gifts under $25."

But the best buys from an eco-perspective, are those made and purchased locally. Check out local eco-friendly stores as well of course, as holiday craft fairs.

Other excellent eco-friendly gift buying habits:

  • Look for companies that give back. Many for instance, are members of !% for the Planet (an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations.)
  • One of the most eco-friendly things you can do when buying a gift for someone of any age is to be sure the recipient will like and use it. This is especially true when it comes to food that if not eaten, may spoil and end up in the trash.
  • Avoid buying gifts with layers of packaging and/or whose packaging cannot be recycled.
  • When it comes to wrapping, think about whether you really need to wrap the gift at all. How about hiding it? Kids love this, but even adults (at least those with a sense of humor), can get into it as well. A few additional alternatives to buying new gift wrap:
    • Fabric you already own. Scarves are wonderful. And any fabric wrapping can be used again and again. For ways to beautifully wrap any gift: or
    • Magazine pages
    • Maps
    • Children's drawings
    • Paper bags decorated with drawn or stamped on images
    • Decorated glass jars that can be reused for food storage
    • Decorated cardboard or plastic boxes
Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Real or Fake? What To Know Before Buying A Christmas Tree

With less than two weeks before Christmas, here's another great post from our friends at The Greenest Dollar...

Real or Fake Christmas Tree?

My grandmother and I in front of her real Christmas tree last year...

Yep, I rarely put pictures of myself on the blog, but there it is: me and my sweet grandmother in front of her “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” last year.

It was one of those scrawny trees that are full of holes and personality. And, it was one of the last ones on the lot. She, of course, fell in love with it. In fact, she insisted we bring it home simply because she felt so sorry for it.

And as you can see in the picture, it turned out beautiful. That scrawny tree made her entire home smell like a fresh forest, and it gave her weeks of delight. I can’t wait to go pick out another one with her this year.

When it comes to Christmas trees, there are two camps: those who think real trees are better for the environment, and those who think fake trees are better.

So what’s the truth?

Well, I have to admit I used to be on the fake side. I used to abhor the thought of “cutting down a tree”, just for Christmas. It seemed so, murderous. So, I bought a fake one and reused it year after year.

But, that’s before I started this blog. Now? Now I know better. Real Christmas trees are actually better for the environment. Let’s look at why.

The Dangers of Fake Christmas Trees

It’s really astonishing how bad fake Christmas trees are for both our health, and the environment.

Strike One: reports that almost all fake trees come from China. PVC chips (one of the most dangerous forms of plastic) are melted down to form the tree “needles”. Several carcinogens like dioxin, ethylene dichloride, and vinyl chloride are produced during the production of PVC, and these pollute neighborhoods, as well as the food chain, around the factory where the trees are made.

The workers who make artificial trees only get paid around $100 per week. They work in dirty, horrendous factories, and spend all day breathing in fumes from this melting plastic.

Strike Two: ABC News reports that some artificial trees may be made with lead. And when they heat up (with lights, a fireplace, or a sunny window), that lead can release fumes into your home. Not good. And it’s not just the lead you have to worry about: several other chemicals found in the plastic can end up in your home.

Need another piece of horrifying information? Yeah, I thought so! The State of California puts warning labels on all plastic trees, warning of lead poisoning, and they advise people to wash their hands after handling. Do you really want something like that in your home? Yikes.

Strike Three: Earth 911 reports that artificial Christmas trees are made from non-recyclable plastic. Which means that once its life is over, it’s over. Yes, you get to reuse it for years, but every time an artificial tree gets sent to a landfill, it’s going to stay there.

Are there benefits? Sure there are.

Like I said earlier, artificial trees are reused year after year. The longer you keep using one, the better. And, reusing your artificial tree also saves you money each year when you don’t have to go out and buy a new one.

The Perks of a Real Tree…

Ok, I know it can be hard to walk around a Christmas tree lot and look at all those cut down trees. But hear me out here…

Perk One: Christmas tree farmers grow trees. Which means that for each tree that’s cut down, Christmas tree farmers plant 1-3 seedlings in its place. And while these trees grow (usually over 8 years), they’re helping remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Perk Two: When you buy a live Christmas tree, you’re supporting a farmer. And, probably a local one. Instead of helping support the Chinese economy, live Christmas trees keep your money local. The Smithsonian reports that the Christmas tree farming industry helps support over 100,000 American jobs. This industry makes a big difference to a lot of families.

Perk Three: Live Christmas trees are recyclable. Most cities pick up trees after the holidays and chip them up for mulch, which is repurposed elsewhere. If you don’t live in an area that picks up your tree curbside, you can check to find a local recycling facility.

Perk Four: The smell. You just can’t beat that wonderful, live Christmas tree smell. I’d way rather breathe in the natural fumes of a Spruce than the plastic off-gassing from an artifical tree.

Perk Five: When you buy a live tree you also cut down on the gas and pollution it takes to haul those fake trees all the way from China.

So, what are the downsides to live Christmas trees?

Well, many farmers do spray pesticides on their trees each year to help them grow better. These pesticides, just like with any crop, run off into the local watershed.

Plus, you have to buy a new one each year, which adds up.

Last Word…

Compared to all the negative consequences of artificial trees, I think live trees still come out way ahead. I’m going out to buy a live tree this week, and I have to admit I’m super excited.

One tip: If you want to do double good when buying a live tree, see if any local charities are selling them. For instance, here in my neck of the woods the Howell Nature Center is selling Christmas trees. The Howell Nature Center takes hurt animals (like squirrels hit by cars, foxes that are shot by hunters, or birds that fly into windows) and rehabilitates them so they can be set free again.

Proceeds from their Christmas tree sales go to help fund their animal infirmary. So, my dollars are doing double-duty when I go buy my tree from them.

Check your local paper or do a Google search to see if any local charities in your area are selling trees to raise money.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

TGIF: Best Blog Posts This Week

Let's get ready for the holiday season with some fitting blog posts. From gifts to entertaining, here's what I found this week:

Have one you'd like to share? Let me know if there are any that I missed.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Top Picks for Green Shopping -- Gifts Under $10

Shopping this weekend. Here are some gifts where you can be green and save green -- their all under $10. Not all the gifts in the stores below cost less than $10, but all these online shops carry a number of great gifts at this price point.
Brought to you by Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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Friday, December 4, 2009

TGIF: Best Blog Posts This Week

Here's this week's round up of top blog posts:

Let me know if I missed any. Was there a blog post in particular that you enjoyed this week? Pass it along.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Green and Frugal Ways to Fight a Cold

It started with a scratchy throat on Friday and has progressed to a nasty cough. I won't get sick without putting up a fight. I was tempted to call out of work today, but forged ahead thinking that getting back into the daily routine would help me feel better (it didn't).

Then I got to thinking, what are some green and frugal ways to prevent or alleviate a cold? Here are a few ideas:
  • Halls Cough Drops -- I think it's something about the vapors that makes you feel so much better.

  • Hot tea -- Nothing soothes a sore throat and helps congestion than some nice, hot tea.

  • Chicken noodle soup -- The cafeteria at work must have known I was under the weather since they were serving some yummy chicken and rice soup

  • Nyquil -- Since I have a nasty cough that makes sleeping difficult, I thought I'd give Nyquil a whirl. This stuff should be by prescription-only! I could barely wake up this morning and I felt like I had a hangover.

  • Sweat it out -- Since I didn't have a fever, I did a light workout at the gym this morning, just enough to get a good sweat going.
Hopefully I have just a few more days of feeling under the weather. Do you have any tricks when you're not feeling well? I'd love to hear them.

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