Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nursery Decor

For the first 20 weeks or so of my pregnancy, I swore I was having a boy. And then we had the big ultrasound and there was no mistaking The Good Baby was going to be The Good Daughter.

Now this presented a dilemma for me. Number one - I hate pink. I really don't like pink-ifying babies and little girls. Yes, I am a crazy feminist like that. Number two - this was going to be the first of (hopefully) five children so I wanted something that would be gender neutral enough for any following babies. Number three - my favorite colors are blue and green, so it was a challenge to find something in those colors that wasn't too masculine.

About the 30th week I started to register for baby bedding. I found one I loved that was modern, blue and green polka dots. And then it was discontinued the day after I notified everyone about my registry. So I registered for another bedding, but again that one was discontinued too.

After a tearful phone call to my mom and several stressful hours trying to decide on new bedding, I was finally able to pick one that seemed not too masculine and could be used for later babies.

I like polka dots and I like mint chocolate chip ice cream, which is ironic since ice cream was one of the things I craved during pregnancy. I think my lust for a gallon of the sweet stuff poisoned my brain and in a sugary fog, I picked this bedding as a subliminal nod to my dairy lover.

So, I had to have the entire bedding set. The thing is, is it didn't come with cute wall hangings like other bedding sets did. So I got a little crafty and made these letters.

Now I know they way they are displayed present a safety issue, but rest assured, TGB has never slept in her crib and soon I hope to get some floating shelves to sit the letters on. I would hang them individually with some ribbon, but how would I hang the Y? Besides, since our house is less than a year old, I do not want to put five holes in my virgin walls. Two holes will be my limit.

I was able to paint these letters in one weekend, taking my time to sand them before I painted them. The project cost less than $30 and I was able to give TGB something made with love.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Gift Basket

Each year I try to make something homemade for family. Last year it was buckeyes, noodles and pasta sauce and Italian bread.

This year I decided to do a soup mix, a bread mix, two seasonings and candy.

The basket featured:

Spiral Soup Mix

Beer Bread Mix

The Good Wife Italian Dressing

The Good Wife Chilli Seasoning

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Besides the buckeyes I made last year, this is only the second time I have made candy. It was so super easy that I might play around with the combination and make several different kinds.

I used button mints from the bulk candy aisle at the grocery store. I wasn't able to smash all of them into nice small pieces, so I might buy a pack of candy canes for the next time. I also stirred the powdered mints into the white chocolate before I sprinkled the larger pieces on top, hoping for a red studded white chocolate. I think it turned out well.

I would recommend letting the bark come to room temperature before breaking, so you don't end up with jagged edges like I got.

1 pound chocolate (I used semisweet but I think I will use a combo of SS and dark next time)
1 pound white chocolate
30-40 button mints or 1 package of candy canes, crushed

~Melt the chocolate over a double boiler until smooth. Pour in an even layer on a wax paper-lined baking sheet, using a spatula to smooth out the chocolate. Place in fridge to harden, approximately 2 hours. You can also place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

~Melt the white chocolate over a double boiler until smooth. Add some of the crushed mints to the white chocolate and stir to combine. Spread on top of the chocolate layer. Working quickly before the white chocolate sets, sprinkle the crushed mints on top and gently press into the chocolate. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

~Allow the bark to come to room temperature and break into pieces.

recipe by: The Good Wife

The Good Wife Chilli Seasoning Mix

This is my basic chilli seasoning mix recipe. It is rather mild with a strong garlic flavor. You can always add crushed red pepper flakes it to or cayenne pepper if you like more heat.

1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3 teaspoons chili powder

The Good Wife Italian Dressing Mix

I use this recipe in place of packet Italian dressing mix you can buy at the store. This is the equivalent to one packet. You can use it to make Italian Beef or use it as a dressing.

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried celery flakes

Sprial Soup Mix

2 TB dried basil
1 tsp celery flakes
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup dried onions
4 chicken bouillon cubes, crushed
1 box tri-color spirals

~Sort the pasta by color. Layer the ingredients in the jar, starting with the spices.

To make the soup:
1 jar soup mix
2 cups crushed or diced tomatoes
8 cups of water

~Bring water and tomatoes to a boil in a large soup pot. Add the soup mix and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until pasta is tender.

Beer Bread Mix

My aunt introduced me to this bread. It is a wonderful quick bread and with all the different beer available, you can really vary the flavor every time. I wouldn't recommend a super cheap beer, but you also don't have to use the premium stuff either. A nice bottle of Sam Adams would be nice in this bread.

2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic and herb seasoning
12 once beer at room temperature

Directions to make:
~Mix all the ingredients and pour into greased pan.

~Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why I buy recycled toliet paper

I will admit that I used to be an ultra plush toilet paper girl. I loved the fluffy soft feel of plush toilet paper. It was like wiping my butt with clouds. I didn't even like using public restrooms because of the tissuepaper thin quality of the tp. Only once did I buy a single ply, no name brand while in college after spending all my money on beer.

It chapped my ass. Literally. I swore never again to turn my back on Charmin.

Then I read this in the New York Times:

February 26, 2009
Mr. Whipple Left It Out: Soft Is Rough on Forests
Americans like their toilet tissue soft: exotic confections that are silken, thick and hot-air-fluffed.

The national obsession with soft paper has driven the growth of brands like Cottonelle Ultra, Quilted Northern Ultra and Charmin Ultra — which in 2008 alone increased its sales by 40 percent in some markets, according to Information Resources, Inc., a marketing research firm.

But fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them.

Customers “demand soft and comfortable,” said James Malone, a spokesman for Georgia Pacific, the maker of Quilted Northern. “Recycled fiber cannot do it.”

The country’s soft-tissue habit — call it the Charmin effect — has not escaped the notice of environmentalists, who are increasingly making toilet tissue manufacturers the targets of campaigns. Greenpeace on Monday for the first time issued a national guide for American consumers that rates toilet tissue brands on their environmental soundness. With the recession pushing the price for recycled paper down and Americans showing more willingness to repurpose everything from clothing to tires, environmental groups want more people to switch to recycled toilet tissue.

“No forest of any kind should be used to make toilet paper,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist and waste expert with the Natural Resource Defense Council.

In the United States, which is the largest market worldwide for toilet paper, tissue from 100 percent recycled fibers makes up less than 2 percent of sales for at-home use among conventional and premium brands. Most manufacturers use a combination of trees to make their products. According to RISI, an independent market analysis firm in Bedford, Mass., the pulp from one eucalyptus tree, a commonly used tree, produces as many as 1,000 rolls of toilet tissue. Americans use an average of 23.6 rolls per capita a year.

Other countries are far less picky about toilet tissue. In many European nations, a rough sheet of paper is deemed sufficient. Other countries are also more willing to use toilet tissue made in part or exclusively from recycled paper.

In Europe and Latin America, products with recycled content make up about on average 20 percent of the at-home market, according to experts at the Kimberly Clark Corporation.

Environmental groups say that the percentage is even higher and that they want to nurture similar acceptance here. Through public events and guides to the recycled content of tissue brands, they are hoping that Americans will become as conscious of the environmental effects of their toilet tissue use as they are about light bulbs or other products.

Dr. Hershkowitz is pushing the high-profile groups he consults with, including Major League Baseball, to use only recycled toilet tissue. At the Academy Awards ceremony last Sunday, the gowns were designer originals but the toilet tissue at the Kodak Theater’s restrooms was 100 percent recycled.

Environmentalists are focusing on tissue products for reasons besides the loss of trees. Turning a tree to paper requires more water than turning paper back into fiber, and many brands that use tree pulp use polluting chlorine-based bleach for greater whiteness. In addition, tissue made from recycled paper produces less waste tonnage — almost equaling its weight — that would otherwise go to a landfill.

Still, trees and tree quality remain a contentious issue. Although brands differ, 25 percent to 50 percent of the pulp used to make toilet paper in this country comes from tree farms in South America and the United States. The rest, environmental groups say, comes mostly from old, second-growth forests that serve as important absorbers of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. In addition, some of the pulp comes from the last virgin North American forests, which are an irreplaceable habitat for a variety of endangered species, environmental groups say.

Greenpeace, the international conservation organization, contends that Kimberly Clark, the maker of two popular brands, Cottonelle and Scott, has gotten as much as 22 percent of its pulp from producers who cut trees in Canadian boreal forests where some trees are 200 years old.

But Dave Dickson, a spokesman for Kimberly Clark, said that only 14 percent of the wood pulp used by the company came from the boreal forest and that the company contracted only with suppliers who used “certified sustainable forestry practices.”

Lisa Jester, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble, the maker of Charmin, points out that the Forest Products Association of Canada says that no more than 0.5 percent of its forest is harvested annually. Still, even the manufacturers concede that the main reason they have not switched to recycled material is that those fibers tend to be shorter than fibers from standing trees. Long fibers can be laid out and fluffed to make softer tissue.

Jerry Baker, vice president of product and technology research for Kimberly Clark, said the company was not philosophically opposed to recycled products and used them for the “away from home” market, which includes restaurants, offices and schools.

But people who buy toilet tissue for their homes — even those who identify themselves as concerned about the environment — are resistant to toilet tissue made from recycled paper.

With a global recession, however, that may be changing. In the past few months, sales of premium toilet paper have plunged 7 percent nationally, said Ali Dibadj, a senior stock analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, a financial management firm, providing an opening for makers of recycled products.

Marcal, the oldest recycled-paper maker in the country, emerged from bankruptcy under new management last year with a plan to spend $30 million on what is says will be the first national campaign to advertise a toilet tissue’s environmental friendliness. Marcal’s new chief executive, Tim Spring, said the company had seen intense interest in the new product from chains like Walgreens. The company will introduce the new toilet tissue in April, around Earth Day

Mr. Spring said Marcal would be able to price the new tissue below most conventional brands, in part because of the lower cost of recycled material.

“Our idea is that you don’t have to spend extra money to save the Earth,” he said. “And people want to know what happens to the paper they recycle. This will give them closure.”


I cried as a kid when I saw the devastation of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and made my mom donate to the Wildlife Relief Fund.

I almost cried when I read this article and I switched to the Marcal recycled tp.

My ass has not been chapped and it is a good thing for Mother Earth.