Oscar Green Carpet Dress

by Katy Green

Livia Firth - Photo by Jason Olive

The Oscars are a love for many for multiple reasons - the winners, the speeches, the glam but what is twittered, spoken, viraled and expressed a zillion times the day after? Not who won but which star wore what designer?

Oscar fashion is a big deal so it is great to see that Colin Firth's wife Livia Firth went for a greenista approach and decided to wear a recycled gown composed of 11 reclaimed dresses according to Ecorazzi.com.

Can you believe that all the pieces that were we are used to make the dress are from the same era as The King’s Speech.
This is a wonderful approach to green glamour.

For more information on Livia Firth, check out her blog post on Vogue.com

Little Chili Pepper

Today, I feel like Gumby.  After a whirlwind weekend of Friday night cleaning and grading, a Saturday of running and hosting friends from out of town, and a Sunday away at the 9th Annual Toads Chili Cook-On, I feel like I was stretched in about a million different directions this weekend.  Last night, I started feeling sick and ended my weekend shivering from chills under a pile of blankets.  Fortunately, Cruz was worn out too, and the three of us were in bed by 9:00.  And although I probably should have listened to my hubby and opted for a sick day today, I'm picking my foggy head off my desk and attempting to make this week count.  Just two weeks 'til Spring Break...

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

And although it seems I'm nursing one crazy weekend hangover this morning, it was a good one.  A weekend that included a trip to the mall with Mom and Cruz, where Cruz held his very own bottle BY HIMSELF in his stroller while his mama scored all kinds of amazing deals at Younkers.  A weekend that included the most phenomenal roast beef sandwich at Newton's Cafe in Downtown Waterloo, followed by a night of board games and baby time with great friends.  A weekend that included some Dash and Jersee time, a handmade chili pepper shirt, and 27 different chilis.

Beau had lots of people come out to support his quest for his fourth consecutive win in the 'People's Choice' category of the Chili Cook-ON.  His unique, 'Farter Starter,' chili is getting quite a name for itself, as we heard it referred to over the loudspeaker several times throughout the day.  It's no surprise that Beau took away medals for 'First Pot Gone,' as well as, 'Best Presentation.'  After waiting in line for what seemed like hours, I didn't even get to sample my hubby's creation.  I guess it was more fun to hang out with our little marketing campaign anyways...

Unfortunately, Beau's chili did not reign supreme.  The Farter Starter came in 2nd place to Big Al's Chili, a close competitor the last few years.  If it weren't for those bacon-topped sticky buns...

We are still proud of our chili con questodore.  Cruz and I dig your chili.



Fun, Easy & Affordable Ways to "Green" Your Cleaning Routine

34 weeks
Hello greenies, for those of you who know me well, you know I love to declutter, organize, and just plain clean things! My love for cleaning began when I read books like: Lose 200 Pounds This Weekend: It's Time to Declutter Your Life by Don Aslett and Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke...both of which I highly recommend. But my "urge to purge" doesn't stop with clearing out old papers, clothes, or trinkets from years past, I love to dust, polish, and the get rid of dirt and germs.

Yet, last year when I was reading up on all things green in preparation to get pregnant, I discovered that some cleaning products are actually more harmful than the germs and dust we're trying to get rid of! Ever had a "cleaning hangover" where all the fumes from the sprays, polishes, and soaps you use give you a headache or make you feel dizzy? I know I suffered from them in the past, but no more! Time to go clean and go green, I've got a baby on the way and I can't be breathing these chemicals in now, let alone when she's born and crawling all around!
Making my own
cleaning products!
In my journey to "green clean" my home, I about went broke buying all the fancy and green cleaners at my local health food store and so I knew I had to look for another option. Time to research again...this time it was to find some homemade green cleaners and boy did I hit the jackpot with this book: Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan. From this book I learned about a number of recipes I could make at home for a very low cost that cleaned my house very effectively, so after nearly a year of trying them out and loving them, it's time for me to share them (as well as many others) with you! Below I will list some traditional cleaners you may have at your house, as well as a green alternative that you can either make yourself or buy. My advice would be to just try one at a time and see how that goes...no need to break the bank or overwhelm yourself and family by throwing out and changing all your old cleaners. As with anything, baby steps work just fine! Now it's time to begin the green swaps!

Green Cleaners You Can Make:
Multi-Surface Cleaner

1. You may use...."Multi-Surface Cleaner". Now try..."Merlin's Magic All-Purpose Spray" from Clean House, Clean Planet. I absolutely love this spray and I use it just about daily on my kitchen counters. It has such a great clean, fresh smell (from the Tea Tree Oil mainly) and because of the antiseptic properties of the tea tree oil, I know I'm getting it clean! I just use a cloth napkin when cleaning with this spray. No need to take 2 steps forward with this green cleaner and 5 steps back by using paper towels! Use a cloth napkin or towel and throw it in the laundry after your done so it's ready to go for next time. Here is the recipe for this cleaner (as taken from this website) and below is a pic of all the ingredients you need to make it!
"Merlin's Magic All-
Purpose Spray"

Ingredients (as seen in the picture below):
 Directions: Fill a 16 oz. spray bottle nearly to the top with water. Add 3 Tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and 20-30 drops of tea tree oil (or 1/2 tsp.). Shake it well and spray it on bathroom or kitchen surfaces, floors. Wipe off with a damp cloth.
Ingredients: funnel, spray bottle, tea tree oil, Dr. Bronner's
Castile Soap, water.
2. You may use..."Pledge Furniture Polish". Now try..."Dust to Dust: Furniture Polish" from Clean House, Clean Planet. This is one awesome green trade out, because it costs so little to make and it works just as well as the fancy furniture polish you buy in the store! One thing that I've found to give this green cleaner a boost is to use a special microfiber towel, as seen below. I found this towel at Wal-Mart and for $3-4, it really helps pick up and hold the dust. Here is a link to learn more about it. Now for the recipe...
"Dust to Dust Furniture
  • 16 ounce trigger spray bottle
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil ( vegetable oil)
  • Lemon essential oil -1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
  • hot water (enough to fill bottle)
Mix 20 drops of essential oil, olive oil, and vinegar with hot water in bottle. Gently shake mixture. Now you're ready to dust! I always make sure to shake this bottle a bit each time before I use it so the oil mixes back up with the water. Have fun dusting and polishing!

Ingredients: spray bottle, olive oil, vinegar, lemon essential oil,
vinegar, water, microfiber cloth.
Windex-type cleaner
3. You may use: "Windex Glass Cleaner". Now try, "Club Soda". Sounds too simple right? But it's true! For this recipe you just buy some club soda, put it in a spray bottle and spray it on windows and mirrors to give them a nice, fingerprint-free shine! Just as with the furniture polish, I've found that using a special towel is key to making this cleaner work.

As you can see in my pic below, I use a blue towel which you can find at Wal-Mart or any other grocery store (here is a link to it on Amazon.com), and the special fibers in the "Glass Cleaning Cloth" really make a difference. When I first started using the club soda cleaner on my mirrors, I was bummed that the only way I could get a good streak-free shine was with paper towels. But now that I've found this special glass cleaning cloth, I get streak-free windows every time and I'm saving some trees from being cut down...bonus! One word of caution, you may have to wipe for a few extra seconds with this club soda cleaner as it doesn't dry quite as quickly as traditional glass cleaners, but this extra time serves you well because you can make sure and wipe away any streaks as they arise.
Ingredients: club soda,
spray bottle, glass-
cleaning cloth
  • spray bottle
  • club soda
  • glass cleaning cloth
Directions : Pour as much club soda as you would like into a spray bottle. Spray onto mirrors or glass surfaces and wipe clean with a special glass cleaning cloth. Enjoy the shine (minus the ammonia and other fumes normally present in glass cleaners!).
Nice clean mirrors...minus the toxins!
4. You may use..."Traditional Toilet Cleaners". Now try: "Hollywood Bowl" from Clean House, Clean Planet. So I get that cleaning toilets is not exactly the most fun thing to do in the world, but when you give this great smelling cleaner a try, you wont' mind it quite as much anymore. It's kind of crazy to think about all the toxic chemicals lurking in traditional toilet cleaners and how most people are perfectly content to have those chemicals nearly touching our most private and sensitive areas...eek! Don't get me wrong, this isn't an excuse to have a dirty toilet, I just think we need alternative ways to get them clean! Enter..."Hollywood Bowl Toilet Cleaner" from Clean House, Clean Planet. And although I couldn't find the exact recipe, I found this recipe from online, and the only difference is the addition of 1/2 tsp of tea tree oil at the end (this will help with disinfecting...a must for toilets!). So here's the recipe...

"Earth Scrub Tub and Tile Cleaner"/"Hollywood Bowl Toilet Cleaner" from Clean House, Clean Planet
  • bowl for mixing
  • 16 ounce flip-top bottle (I use a mason jar because it seemed to always get stuck in the cap when I was trying to pour it out)
  • 2 cups of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap, I love peppermint here as well
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • (1/2 tsp. tea tree oil if using to clean toilets)
  • dish scrubbing brush
Ingredients: jar, Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap, Baking Soda,
tea tree oil, vinegar, water, mixing bowl, scrubbing brush.
Mix baking soda and liquid soap in a bowl. Dilute with the water and add the vinegar last, as it will fizz like your 4th grade volcano project! Add tea tree oil, if using on toilets. Stir until the lumps are gone. If you can pour it into the container easily you have the right consistency. If it's too thick, add more water. Use funnel to pour into bottle. (Or just pour it into a mason jar). Keep the cap on bottle because this mixture will dry out. Shake well before using. For future uses, add more water if cleaner seems dry.
A great store-bought
toilet cleaner.
To clean toilets, I pour some onto a dish scrubbing brush, which you can see in the ingredient picture below and scrub away. If doing this be sure to keep the brush in a place where you know it will only get used on toilets. ( :

Update June 2011: Now that my daughter Avery is here, I don't seem to have as much time to make this cleaner, so I've gone to a store-bought version: Ecover Toilet Bowl CleanerEcover is a great, affordable, green brand and this cleaner has a nice minty-pine smell that really gets the job done...plus saves me time!

5. You may use..."Traditional Dish Soap". Now try..."Castile Soap and Water". No fancy recipe for this one, all you do is just fill a soap container about halfway full with castile soap and then fill the rest of it with water. Feel free to add more castile soap if you feel that the diluted version is not cleaning as well as you would like. This soap also doubles as our hand soap...and I use the same recipe for our body wash! I just love Dr. Bronner's Castile Liquid Soap, it's ingredients are so pure and simple. Just a head's up, if you are a "suds fan" you will not see the bubbles and foam you are used to with traditional dish soaps. No worries, your dishes are getting clean, they just may not seem that way because you didn't have mountains of bubbles and a mega-strong clean scent. This may be one cleaner you have to ease yourself into using, since it is a bit of a change. Also, if you find that the castile soap is not doing the job that your toxic dish soap once did, use a dish brush! It's funny how we rely on chemicals to clean, de-grease, and remove baked on food...when all we need is a little elbow grease! A simple $2-3 dish brush or potato scrubbing brush from Wal-Mart is what we use and it works wonders.
Ingredients: funnel, soap dispenser, Dr. Bronner's Castile
Soap, water.
6. You may use "Store-bought Fruit and Veggie Wash". Now try..."Vinegar and Water". Sounds so lovely right? LOL-trust me, once you start making this cleaner, you will not want to buy it at a store ever again! Here's the recipe...so easy and cheap!
Cleaning produce on the cheap...
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 spray bottle (I just use my the old Fruit and Veggie spray bottle)
  • funnel

 Directions: Pour the vinegar and water into the spray bottle and shake up. Add a few drops of essential oils (lemon, orange, etc.) if you do not like the vinegar smell. I used to not like it, but now I don't even notice it! Now just spray this on your fruits and veggies to get them nice and clean, without breaking the bank!
Ingredients: old fruit and veggie wash spray bottle, vinegar,
funnel, water.
Scent Ball and Essential Oils
7. You may use..."Air Fresheners". Now try..."Essential Oils and a Scent Ball". I am definitely not a fan of any perfumes, air freshener sprays, and even scented candles. Maybe it's because I know about the toxic chemicals that were used to make them or I just have a sensitive nose, but either way, I keep my distance from them. But every now and then you just want a nice scent in a room...I use this mainly in my classroom at school. So, I use something called a "Scent Ball" or Aromatherapy Diffuser that I found on Amazon. They run about $10-14 and basically you put a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a small pad, slide it onto a ceramic plate, and then plug the ball-like diffuser into an electrical outlet. The energy from the outlet will then heat the ceramic plate, thus heating the scent and diffusing it into the room. The scent usually lasts for about an hour or two.

Just slide in the pad, plug it in, and
enjoy the non-toxic scent!
Granted you may need to put a little money in up front to buy all the essential oils that you like, but just like the tea tree oil...they will last forever. My advice would be to start with one and see if you even like the scent it creates. My absolute favorite scent is peppermint and I use it nearly daily in my class. I also have: Tangerine, Lavender, Orange, Vanilla and Lemon. A word of caution about the scent pads, I try to mark them in specific ways so I do not mix the different essential oils, you could try a small colored dot on the back of the pad and then making that same dot on the bottle of the essential oil. Now all the pads need to get a good scent going is about 4-5 drops of your preferred essential oil, but you may find that some essential oils are stronger than others, so play around with it. I know it's a little non-traditional when it comes to adding a scent to a room, but it's non-toxic, pure, and very simple to do- give it a try!
8. You may use..."Drain-O". Now try..."Turbo Snake". I don't know about you, but my long, curly hair clogs up my sink and shower drains all the time! So instead of using Mega-Toxic Drain-o, you might want to give these "Turbo Snakes" a try. Basically they are just thick, rubber-covered wires that you shove down your drains and then pull back up. There is a textured piece on the very tip that drags back up whatever it comes across. Although it probably can't unclog a drain with a big problem, it sure helps with maintenance and to keep things from taking forever to go down. It's very reasonably priced on Amazon.com ($6.50) and you get 2 total units (that's 4 turbo snakes total- 2 for sink drains, and 2 for shower/tub drains)...that's about the price of a bottle of Drain-o! So next time your drain is running slow, give the Turbo Snake a try.
Turbo Snake for cleaning drains.
Green Cleaners to Buy: These are the cleaners that I tried making on my own and even though some of them did a fairly decent job...others just weren't cutting it! So I shopped around to find ones that were lower priced, but still got the job done. Now since prices and your cleaning appliances (dishwasher, washer, dryer, etc.) may vary a bit from mine, don't feel limited to just these choices! Do as I did...try, try, and try some more until you find what works for you (and your wallet)! Here are my picks for favorite green cleaners bought from the store:

Dishwasher detergent/tabs
9. If you use "Traditional Dishwasher Detergent". Try..."Ecover Automatic Dishwasher Tablets". I went through a phase where I was determined to make my own dishwasher detergent. There were plenty of recipes online and everyone made it sound so easy and effective, unfortunately it did not work well. I used a recipe that was 1 Tbs. of Washing Soda (a different version of Baking Soda) and 1 Tbs. of Borax, and although I could tell the dishes were clean, there was tons of white residue all on the backs of the plates and on the glasses. I was willing to sacrifice it to go green, but my hubby wasn't on board-lol! Time to go to the store. When there, I made myself dizzy comparing all the different brands and how many loads you get for your money and I think I found the best one...these Ecover Automatic Dishwasher Tablets. These tablets are very green and very effective-no streaks-yeah! Plus there isn't that bleach-like smell that always steams out at the end of the load when using the traditional dish washing detergents. Give them a try!

Ecover Dishwasher Tablets

10. If you use..."Traditional Laundry Detergent and Bleach." You may like..."ECOS Free and Clear Laundry Detergent and Seventh Generation Free and Clear Chlorine-Free Bleach". So, as I mentioned above I do not like fake scents and perfumes when they are in cleaners, room sprays, and even personal care products, so I definitely don't like them in my clothes. On top of that, with a baby on the way the last thing I want are perfumes and chemicals rubbing up against her sweet little skin. So the name of my laundry cleaning game is "Free and Clear" I want a product with no perfumes or fragrances. Plus, I have sensitive skin myself so it's best for me to keep it free and clear all the way around. Once I knew I had to have my laundry detergents fragrance free, it was time to try searching for a green one at a good price. The one I found is: ECOS Free and Clear Laundry Detergent. To add to the cleaning power of this detergent I also use, Seventh Generation Free and Clear Chlorine Free Bleach, which I use with both dark and light loads of laundry. Search around and see what good, green laundry detergents you can find and that work for you!
ECOS Laundry Detergent and Seventh Generation
Chlorine-Free Bleach
Alright green friends, so that sums up my favorite green cleaners, both homemade and store-bought. I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can "green" your cleaning routine in fun, easy, and affordable ways. Do you have any favorite green cleaners you make at home? Share them below! Happy Green Cleaning!


This morning, one of my ninth graders wandered up to my desk and announced that she could not begin her memoir because she had a case of 'writer's block.'  I, of course, proceeded to give her a number of prompts, brainstorming ideas, and lists to help her fill pages and conquer the daunting blank page staring her in the face.

And now tonight, as a freshly bathed and clean pajama'ed Cruz lazily sways in his swing, I sit and stare at my blank computer screen.  Writer's block has settled in my pores.  My fingertips shy away from the keyboard for fear of failure, and my pinkie has spent too much time on the backspace button this week.  So, in hopes of conquering my own blank page and foggy head, I will practice what I preach. 

It's called a stream-of-consciousness write.  A writing exercise I often give my students to help unpack the thoughts that fill their hormonal heads.  A chance to write whatever it is that is taking up space in one's mind, hoping that the process will puncture a hole that allows the creative juices to flow freely on the page, and that in a swarm of words, something thoughtful, meaningful, or worthwhile will spill on the page. 


...Cruz got his first phone number today.  One of his cute, blond daycare girls followed us out the door this afternoon and shyly said she put a 'note for Cruz' in his school bag.  She wanted to know if we had a baby-sitter for him and that if we didn't, she was interested.  She said she loved our son and would love the chance to watch him outside of daycare.  And sure enough, in his bag, there was a little note with Cruz's name on it, along with his very first set of digits.  I'm just glad to know there are some girls out there who can look past his terrible smelling toots...

...Cruz has been battling another cold this week, and had his first 'guy's day' with Dad on Wednesday.  And thanks to a suggestion from a fellow Mama, we discovered a wonderful little life-saver with a somewhat disgusting concept.  It's called the Nosefrida, aka, 'Snot Sucker.'  "Doctor invented and Dr. Sears recommended," it's basically a nasal aspirator for parents who kick ass.  This is because in order to get the snot out of the baby's nose, you suck through a tube-like device that connects the baby's nose to the parent's mouth.  Trust me, it's "snot" as bad as it sounds.  The tube is quite long, and there's a sponge that serves as a stopper in the middle of the tube.  The baby phlegm doesn't get close to your mouth, and it works like a dream.  Possibly one of the best finds we've scored since bringing home baby.  And besides the fact that we kind of feel like we're performing brain-sucking experiments on our little man, it doesn't bother him at all. 

...I'm ready for spring.  It's been so dreary this week, and after that 62 degree 'teaser' last week, winter has become slightly depressing.  I'm ready to clean windows, plant flowers, and play Superman with Cruz on a quilt in the middle of the backyard.  I'm ready for nightly walks, grilled burgers, and sunshine.  I'm ready for dates at the park, ice cream cones, and tulips.

...To nurse my weary winter blues, I found a few treasures to brighten up my living room and feed my need for a little season change.  Our living room has become a baby haven, and the burp cloths, baby toys, and blankies have slowly taken over.  So, while Cruz watched from his jumper, I slowly replaced pacifiers with fresh votives, Baby Einstein toys with a pot of tulips, and fleece blankies with a new pillow. 

It did the trick.

...Tonight, Beau is brewing with his guy friends and I am soaking up a Thursday night at home with my baby boy.  I held him extra long while he slept, smelled the top of his head, and pressed my cheek against his little forehead.  He was so tired, the kind of tired that allowed me to cradle his limp little body like a sack of potatoes.  These little moments are the kind that make me wish I could stay present all the time.  The moments that leave me a little out of breath knowing that every day he's growing bigger and someday, he's not going to fit this way in my arms.  

...We have a busy weekend in store.  A weekend of cleaning and laundry, friends, and chili.  Yes, the Annual Toads Chili Cook-ON is this weekend, and my husband is going for his fourth win.  More to come!

Happy Birthday, Charly Grace!

Today, my niece Charly is ONE!  One year ago, her dark little head of hair and sweet personality entered this world.  She's a little dolly to all of us, and has been such a joy to watch grow this past year.  

Last week, we celebrated her special day with a party at Jordan and Kelli's.  We watched her twirl around the room like a ballerina before opening her presents, hug her new dolly, and timidly inspect her very own birthday cake.  We watched her smile, giggle, and walk around the room, and I fell amazed at how fast little babies change in just one year.  What a blessing these 'littles' are to us...

Happy Birthday, Charly Girl.  Your Aunt Ashley, Uncle Beau, and Cousin Cruz love you to pieces and can't wait to see the little girl you become in year two!   

Uniball Vision Micro

This review pretty much speaks for itself. This pen really doesn't have a place in my selection anymore. I am not trying to slam anyone's preferences but, if you like this pen, there are probably several better ones out there that you would like more. I do like some of the other pens in the Vision line, but I can easily pass on this one. 

New Whirlygig Doll Quilts

I had a lot of fun making these little doll quilts. I make them the same way as the Charmed Whirlygig patttern but cut the rectangles 4" by 4.5" and used just 12 squares.  I loaded them together on my quilting frame  since my machine quilting skills on my domestic machine could use some work. ;-)
 "Bliss" by Bonnie and Camille for Moda
 "Quite Contrary" by In a Mind's Eye for Riley Blake.

I hope everyone is doing well,