Archive | Holidays

Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub – EASY!

Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub - EASY!

As the weather gets colder, my hands start to feel like alligator skin.  Well, what I would imagine alligator skin to feel like since I am totally freaked out by any sort of reptile and could never touch one!  But I digress, back to my hands – rough, dry skin that catches on everything.  This hand scrub does the trick!  And it’s so easy.

A few years ago a friend of mine and I took a girls weekend trip to a spa in Arizona. It was lovely.  The spa had this wonderful scrub in the bathroom.  Our hands felt incredible after using it.  Every time we did I analyzed it, sniffing, rubbing, trying to figure out what was in it.

So here is my closest approximation to that wonderful spa scrub.

 

Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub
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Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup sugar
  2. 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  3. 2 TBSP Apricot Kernel Oil (could substitute olive oil or almond oil)
  4. All of the ingredeints below are totally optional
  5. 1 tsp vitamin E
  6. 1 tsp vegetable glycerin
  7. 3 drops each lemon, lavender and rosemary essential oil
  8. 1 TBSP aloe vera gel
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients until combined completely
To Use
  1. Take a bit and rub all over your hands, rinse with warm water only, no soap.
The Greening of Westford http://thegreeningofwestford.com/

As much as I love the benefits you get from using several ingredients, it can be a bit much when you are just starting to make your own beauty products.   Start with a few key ingredients and build from there.  This recipe could be made with the first 3 ingredients only, even the first 2 honestly!  It will be a bit stiffer without a liquid oil (like olive oil), but coconut oil is a great moisturizer on it’s own and the sugar scrubs.

I think next time I’ll try using some real rosemary from my garden! 

As you add more ingredients to your arsenal, add to this recipe.  I’d suggest  Vitamin E  and one (or more) of the essential oils.  (disclosure: affiliate links)  They are easy to purchase and can be used in a variety of products.

By the way, wouldn’t this look so cute in your guest bathroom!

Easy Homemade hand scrub

 

Put this in a cute glass jar, label it, maybe a ribbon.  Voila!  Holiday gift!

Have any good tips for rough hands?

 

This post has been shared at Natural Living Monday

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Thank You for a Great 2012

greening of westford helpful tips

As 2012 comes to a close, I just wanted to thank everyone who reads my posts and Facebook messages.  I hope you find them helpful.  I started this blog and Facebook page a couple years ago in hopes that I could inspire and help people.  I have throughly enjoyed it and have learned from all of you as well!    It can take a lot of work, education, research and searching to “go green”.   Plus there is the added hurdle – most people don’t even know the full story on products we use, eat, the air we breathe and more.  I remember how deceived I felt when I discovered that apples are one of the most pesticide laden fruits.  I used to give my son (3 years old at the time) an apple almost daily as a snack.  Granted, this was a much better snack than chips or other processed snack, but I had no idea I needed to be careful about pesticides in food.  My hope is to open people’s eyes and give them practical, workable alternatives.

 

I firmly believe you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  I hate doing work twice!  That has always been a thing with me.  As an engineer, I always checked to see if someone had already solved whatever problem I was presented with.  9 times out of 10, someone had.  Their solution may not have worked 100% of the time, but I usually came out ahead by learning from it. 

I’m not one for making New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I would like to concentrate on a few things:

Eating less meat
Reducing our food waste
Reducing the clutter in my house

That last one seems to be a never ending battle!

I would like to know what you are interested in learning about.  Please let me know!  Leave comments here or on Facebook or email me at thegreeningofwestford at gmail dot com.

Happy 2013!

Photo taken by Stephen Gunby used under Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Green Gift Guide {Buy Small, Buy Local}

bowl made from record album
Record Album bowl


The holidays are here.  Have you made your list and checked it twice?  All those gifts to buy!  Does the thought of buying all that stuff drive you crazy?  You don’t have to abandon your beliefs to give a gift.  There are many ways to do both.  

paper bead necklace green gift
Paper bead necklaces made by Ugandan women


Crafts and Handmade Jewelry  If you are not into making something on your own, there are plenty of local crafters available to do the job for you.  I found some great gifts at the Westford Academy Holiday Bazaar last weekend!  In case you missed it, there is craft fair this weekend at the Rockingham Mall in Salem, NH and several more listed here.


Membership has its privileges  Give your favorite greenie a membership to Sustainable Westford.  Not only will this support great programming like the farmers market, Upcycle It! and Healthy Kids Coalition, members receive free admission to 4 fabulous films and 10% off all workshops hosted by Sustainable Westford this winter.

Starter Eco-pack   Is there someone on your list that is intrigued by your greenness but doesn’t know where to start?  Put together a starter kit for them.  One year I gave my parents this “Eco-Pack.”   I filled a reusable grocery bag with CFLs, homemade all purpose cleaner, reusable BPA-free water bottles, travel coffee mugs, and information on recycling in their area.  You can personalize it to their needs to help them get started.  Do they need some convincing?  Check out this amazing gift pack from Plastic-free Beth Terry. It includes her book (which is awesome), Bag It The movie, and a cloth gift bag!  
 
Family photo  Arrange for your whole family to have professional pictures taken.  Great gift for the grandparents!  
 
Give “Experience” gifts  Museum passes, tickets to a show, lessons or a special day out.  The idea is to give an experience instead of a material item. 
Gifts for the imagination  For younger children, that old saying about having more fun with the big box the toy came in could not be more true!  Feed that imagination.  One of the best gifts we gave our children was a play grocery store – the kind in children’s museums with small grocery carts and fake food.  I saved food containers and glued or taped them shut.  We used wooden bookshelves, added a cash register, and voila!  They loved it!  When they outgrew it, we recycled the “food” and re-purposed the shelves. They still use the cash register 7 years later.  
 
For more great ideas, check out the Green Holiday Blog Carnival.

What’s on your list?



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Dyeing Easter Eggs Naturally: Lessons Learned From Our First Attempt

In our family, we always have reddish-brown Easter eggs.  We are Armenian and the Armenians dye their eggs this color using yellow onion skins.  My aunt still does this every year.  It’s not the most exciting for kids though.

This year I finally took the plunge and made my own natural dyes.  It was a lot more work!  But the eggs came out pretty cool.

First of all, plan to prepare the dyes early in the morning or the day before you decorate the eggs.  The dyes take a while to make, plus they will need a few hours to cool.

Choose Your Colors

There are plenty of websites out there listing different spices or veggies that make certain colors.  

We kept it pretty simple this year and did 4 colors.

RED – 1 can of beets and cranberry juice (in place of water) – Lesson #1: Ours turned out more ugly brownish grey.  Next time I wold try using fresh beets and more of them.

DARK ORANGE – 2 TBSP chili powder – Lesson #2 – Use more Chili powder

YELLOW – 2 TBSP Turmeric

BLUE – ½ of a head of red cabbage (chopped) Lesson #3 – Turned out great!

Other color choices:

GREEN – spinach, blueberries

BROWN – strong coffee

PINK – cherries

Anything that stains your hands could be used.
Note:  If you remember your preschool color combinations, you should be able to make green by combining yellow and blue, purple with red and blue.  I tried to do this, but totally forgot my color combos and mixed red and yellow thinking it would make green!  Oh well, on the bright side it did make orange. 
Make the Dyes

Lesson #4 – Definitely plan on doing this early in the morning or the day before.
Add the color ingredient of choice to 2 cups of water and 1 TBSP vinegar.  Simmer on the stove for 20 – 30 mins.  Strain the liquid and let it cool to room temperature.

Lesson #5 – Turmeric “stains” your pot.  I think it’s actually that the turmeric is really hard to get off.  Make this color last!

Decorate!  
We used rubber bands to create stripes.  We tried to use white crayons to draw on the eggs before dying them, but that didn’t seem to work so well.








Lesson #6 – Rubber Bands worked well, white crayons not so much

Our Results




From left to right – Red cabbage, Turmeric, chili powder, beets.
None of us were impressed with the beets.

Lesson #7 –  The red cabbage dyes the eggs pretty quickly.  The rest we let sit in the coloring overnight in the refrigerator.  Turmeric did well, but something weird happened with the others, especially the beets.

Lesson #8 – Would totally do this again!


For more green Easter ideas, check out Big Green Purse’s Easter Blog Carnival!

Have you ever used natural dyes?


Update 4/7/12:  For more ideas on how to dye Easter Eggs naturally, check out Kelley’s Passion for Nutrition.




This post is part of Frugal Days Sustainable Ways and Crunchy Betty’s Outside the box Tuesday.

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Struggles with Going Green




 

Each week Reduce Footprints presents a challenge to her readers called Change the World Wednesday.  This week’s challenge is to:

 
This week, please share road blocks to green living. For example, perhaps you’d really like to compost but don’t. We’d like to know why. Maybe you don’t recycle … let us know why. We’re looking for all the reasons for NOTadopting a green activity. If you’re not struggling with any road blocks at this time, then please share ones which you’ve heard from others. For example, one of the most common reasons is that it’s too expensive.

Then …

Take a look at the road blocks shared and offer solutions. For example, to people who say green living is too expensive, we might share examples of how green living is actually frugal. The idea of this challenge is to help us all find solutions and “bust” all excuses for not living green.

 
I know that I am not perfectly green by any means.  There are lots of things, I’m sure, that I don’t do and maybe should.   What has been bothering me most lately is when I give in and do the not so green thing because of what someone else may think – including my children.
 
I wrote an entire article on how to Have a Green Halloween.  In it I talked about costumes and how not to buy a brand new one each year.  I was all set with this one in early October.  My oldest daughter found a great Spanish Dancer costume at a yard sale.  It was an old dance costume, well made and $1!  My son decided he wanted to be Frankenstein.  Great!  I went to Savers (it’s basically a huge indoor yard sale) and found a blazer for $4.  I figured he could wear jeans and a T-shirt.  I would figure out how to use old wine corks for those head bolts and just needed to look into some eco-friendly face paint.  Two down, one to go.  My youngest daughter decided she was going to be a witch and wear her sister’s old costume.  Yeah!  I did it!!!!
 
Then, the two younger kids changed their minds.  Less than 2 weeks before Halloween.  I sort of brushed it off and thought I could convince them to go with the original ideas.  No dice.  My son now wanted to be a Ninja.  Daughter #2 still wanted to be a witch but now refused to wear her sister’s costume.  Ugh!  Now what?!  Do I “force” them to wear the other costumes?  How do I explain this to them so they want to reuse another costume?  Why do they think a new, cheaply made costume is so cool?

I ended up giving in and bought 2 costumes.  I consoled myself by remembering that my kids love to play dress up.  These costumes would be used many more times. And when they were done, I could donate them to other children to use.

Update: I meant to explain a little more on why I gave in.  As I re-read this, people may think my kids were being bratty and I gave in because of that.  Not the case.  For my son, he rarely asks for anything and is quite happy, most of the time, with whatever he is given.  So when he expresses a real opinion on something, I want to listen to him and honor that request when I can.   As for my daughter, she is the younger of 2 girls.  As soon as she could express herself, she has copied her older sister on everything.  As flattering as people might think this is, her older sister did not this flattering.  Much tension over this exists.  So, when she does express her own interests, no matter how small, I like to recognize and encourage her to be her own person.  Now, I probably could have found a way for them to be what they wanted without buying brand new costumes.  I did try, but couldn’t find used ones and I am not terribly crafty so making them myself wasn’t going to happen.  So there you go!

There are lots of things my kids do that others may not – we use cloth napkins all the time (even for school lunches), they recycle, upcycle, have reusable water bottles and snack bags, etc.  At times though I don’t want to risk alienating my children or making them feel they are sacrificing just for my ideas.  Of course, I hope these also become their ideas, but they may not.

As far as what other people think, I don’t want to become that person.  I rarely tell people about environmental issues unless asked.  I don’t want to come off as preaching even though at times I am biting my tongue.  Every soccer season I cringe when the parents in charge of the snack bring out the individual drinks and individually packaged snacks for everyone.  I can’t help but do the math in my head – X teams in the town, Y games per season, then multiply this by all of the towns in the state, country – how much plastic is being used on fields each Saturday morning.  And that’s just one sport!!!!   What is wrong with a big jug of something to drink and their reusable bottles (which most kids bring).  The communal snack, well, it can be muddy and maybe not the greatest idea for each kid to be grabbing into a bowl, but there has got to be a better way.  Each year I say I am going to suggest that kids bring their own bottles to refill, but I don’t.  I didn’t play sports as a kid so I have no idea what was done then.

I am, by nature, much more private and non-confrontational.  So putting myself out there is not natural for me.    But at this point in my green journey, I feel like I should be more active in educating people and pointing out things they could do or at least do them myself and hope that some will follow.  For now, I do it in this blog and Greene Westford column – sort of passive.  Maybe that’s enough?????

Any suggestions?  How do you deal with other people?

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Have a Green Halloween



Here is a repost of my latest Greene Westford column from Westford Patch.


With a little effort, your Halloween can go green and stay fun.


Being conscious of the environment can be woven into anything you do.  Even Halloween.  It’s about Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, in that order.  The goal is not to use more than you really need, so there will be something left for future generations.   When done with thought, it can simplify your life and even save you time and money.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend $6.9 billion this year on Halloween.  The bulk of the money will be spent on costumes, followed by candy and decorations.  You can save some money, save the planet and still have a blast this Halloween.
Costumes
  • Make Your Own.  You don’t need to be a seamstress.  There are many easy ideas online for some really great costumes. 
  • Swap or Borrow Costumes.  If homemade is not your thing, try swapping costumes with friends.  
  • Reuse old costumes.  Perhaps a younger sibling wants to be a witch this year.  Look at old dance costumes or search yard sales or thrift stores.
  • Donate old costumes.  If you have costumes you will no longer use, donate them.   Roudenbush Community Center has teamed up with From The Pumpkin Patch to collect gently worn costumes for local children in need.  A collection will also be held at the Westford Family Fun Fest this weekend.
Treats
  • Upcycle your candy wrappers.  Save your candy wrappers and the bags they came in and bring them to an Upcycle It! drop off location.
  • Try alternatives.   Honey sticks such as those sold by Nissitisett Apiaries at the Westford Farmers Market are more natural and you know how the kids love those!
  • Try non-food items. Tattoos, stickers, pencils and other small items are always a favorite.  According to Care 2, an environmental website, kids of all ages would be excited to see these items as a Halloween treat.
  • Don’t waste the candy you do get.  Chop it into your favorite cookie or granola bar recipe, use some of it to make a ginger bread house, or freeze it for later.  There is even a Halloween Candy Buy Back program sponsored by area dentists.  The candy is sent to deployed U.S. military troops.
Decorations
  • Use Natural Elements.   Pumpkins, apples, gourds and other natural elements make great decorations and can be composted.  You may even find them around your yard saving you money.  
  • Yard sales are another good source.  If you love Halloween and will decorate year after year, invest in things that will last.  
  • Make your own.  The internet is a treasure trove of DIY ideas using items around the house.
Don’t for the rechargeable batteries for the flashlights or a reusable bag for gathering your loot.
Happy Halloween!

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Take the Trash Out… of the holidays that is

So the Holidays are in full swing. Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day alone, Americans produce an extra one million tons of trash per week compared to any other time of the year? And that one year’s worth of holiday cards would fill a football field 10 stories high! That’s a lot of trash! Not good for Westford’s efforts to reduce trash this year.

Here are some ways to reduce that waste.

Holiday Cards

Reduce – don’t send paper cards. Go electronic! There are sites out htere, but I think I’m just going to produce my own with a photo and family letter.

Reuse – Some people like to keep cards and look through the old ones – especially the picture cards. I have a stack too! But after you are done with the other ones, try reusing the cards you get for gift tags or postcards

Recycle – obviously you can recycle your holiday cards in your curbside bin or you could donate them to St. Jude’s – St Jude’s will accept any occasion cards year round. The cards are turned into new cards that are sold (on their website) to benefit St. Jude’s.

Green Gift Ideas

Go with less, obviously. Less packaging, less stuff! Who needs more stuff?! My mother-in-law is famous for doing this. She will usually get my husband tickets to a Patriots game and he reciprocates with tickets to the Red Sox for her birthday. It’s a great day for both of them. She has also given us tickets to something along with her baby sitting services for the night.

Give the gift of an experience

Tickets to a show, concert, sporting event, day at a museum, the list is endless!
If you have younger children, consider going to a local performance. Dance Prism is a local performance group. They perform in several small venues throughout New England and the ticket prices are very reasonable!

Family Membership to a museum – There are so many in the area. For a long time I had a membership to the See Science Center in Manchester, NH (currently the price is $70). The great thing about this one is that is also lets you gain admission to over 270 other ASTC museums across the country, including some local ones – the Boston Children’s Museum, EcoTarium (Worcester, MA), Museum of Science, Harvard Museum of Natural History among others. You can practically make up the membership price after a trip to one of these.

The gift of imagination

When my children were 2 and 4, Santa gave them one of the best gifts ever – a stage and a pretend grocery store. Santa made a simple triangle stage, put up a curtain rod and red curtains. He also added to our dress up box with clothes and other costumes and accessories that other children had outgrown. Five years later, I am waiting for the next performance to start! The grocery store was like the ones at Children’s museums. The Elves saved old plastic and cardboard food containers and glued or taped them shut. Add a cash register and you have years on fun!

Give the gift of Green

Make up a “Go Green” gift pack of your own. A few years ago, I made my parents one of these. I filled a reusable shopping bag with 2 reusable water bottles, CFLs, the Direct Marketing Association reduce junk mail form, another reusable shopping bag, their town’s recycle bin (yes, my parents were NOT recycling at this time), homemade cleaners and planted trees in their name. You could tailor this to the person you are giving it.

Homemade gifts

There are so many ideas on the web. This is a great one for kids to give each other or grandparents. Here are a few we are trying out this year:

Tissue paper decorated glass – my daughter made this at a birthday party recently. I thought it was so cute. We pulled out some other glass objects I had in the basement and made more for other grandparents. The possibilities are endless, flower vases, glass jars (the ones spaghetti or jelly come in), wine bottles, old drinking glasses…. We also used some of the wrinkled tissue paper I had been saving. It is very simple, but click here or here for more instructions.

Paper bead baubles – I found directions for these as I was roaming the net. They looked really cool and I loved that I could use old magazines! Right now I am just making a ton of the beads out of colorful magazine pages and my old scraps of scrapbook paper. I am going to try making them into napkin rings for Christmas Eve and wine charms for a gift. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

Homemade food – who doesn’t love delicious homemade food! Fudge, cookies, biscotti…..

Gift Wrapping

For the most part I use and reuse gift bags for most of my gift wrapping. This year, I am going to try to go even further.

Bows

You can make bows out of magazine pages or even a chip or candy wrapper! These are my creations. Here are some instructions. This one has nice step by step instructions. Although she uses a brad to secure the bow. I didn’t have brads, so I used a glue gun to secure each section, then to secure all the sections together. You can also use a stapler.
This one uses a candy wrapper for a foil bow.

Gift Tags

Use old Christmas cards (as suggested above) or scrap paper cut into a cute shape. I simply use a Sharpie and write decoratively.

Gift boxes

Make your own gift boxes from cereal or cracker boxes with these templates or step by step instructions. This would make a great one for gift cards. I use this for my business cards.

Reusable bag as a gift bag

Reuseable grocery bag or any kind of tote bag that the person can use again for something.

Old fabric – This Family Fun article gives you instructions on how to turn a piece of fabric into gift wrapping.

What will you do this holiday season?

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Yummy Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers

What to do with those leftovers?! I have to admit that I am not the best with leftovers. They sit in my refrigerator until I finally don’t feel guilty throwing them out. I really don’t like just heating up the same meal.

But I also tend to cook more than we need. I am Armenian. Food is central! Think Italian families. The table is full of food. To not have at least double what you think you will need is a sin! So I finally learned to reuse my leftovers as ingredients for a new recipe.

I love making pizzas with leftovers. I’ve made BBQ chicken pizza, Greek pizza with left over turkey burgers and feta, and white pizzas. You put anything on a pizza and it tastes fresh again! One tip – I hardly ever use spaghetti sauce on these pizzas and always use just plain mozzarella cheese. I either brush the crust with olive oil or use some other sauce like pesto, BBQ sauce or, on the Greek pizza, I like olive tapenade. You could make a pizza with your Thanksgiving leftovers. It might be interesting.

Here are a few others.

1) Use the turkey in your favorite enchilada or burrito recipe.

2) Turkey pot pie – you can use the turkey and some veggies.

3) Potato Pancakes with the mashed potatoes.

4) Soups – think beyond turkey soup. With leftover sweet potatoes or squash, you can make a really delicious and simple soup. My mother-in-law makes the most delicious roasted squash soup. You roast the squash in the oven, saute onions, add the mashed up squash, chicken stock, salt and pepper, let it simmer, then puree the soup. You can also add a little ginger if you like. She adds cream or half and half. I use evaporated milk. Even without the roasted flavor, this soup is really great. If you want to freeze it, don’t add the milk.

5) Sandwiches – again think beyond the turkey sandwich. Try a Croque Monsieur. Typically they are made with ham, but try turkey and a different spread.

6) Sweet Potato Bread – with lots of sweet potatoes or squash try this quick bread. My kids LOVE it.

7) Cranberry Pork Roast – if you have lots of cranberry sauce left, try this recipe. It is amazing!

Now, the first R in the 3 R’s is REDUCE. But like I said above, this isn’t really an option for my family especially on Thanksgiving. If you plan for your leftovers, then there is no waste. Plus, you might even be saving energy. To cook a larger turkey or more sweet potatoes doesn’t take more energy. Heat up your oven once and eat twice! Have any recipes to share?

Bon Appetite!

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A Greener Thanksgiving

We just finished Halloween, Christmas decorations have been in stores since late September and Thanksgiving is around the corner. Such a busy time!

Since I was born, my Thanksgivings have been spent at my grandparents’ or parents’ house with my huge extended family. Now, the extended family consists of several cousins, their spouses and children and of course the aunts and uncles. With all of these people, the paper plates, plastic cups and (gasp!) Styrofoam coffee cups come out of the woodwork. Who wants to do dishes for a crowd of at least 30! Not me. We have come a long way at Mom and Dad’s house. A few years ago, I gave them my version of a “Go-Eco” gift pack for Christmas (more on that in a later post) After a little nagging and guilt from the grandchildren, they have taken it to heart. But, the crowd of 30! So here are some things my mom and I are going to try this year to green up Thanksgiving.

– Instead of using zip top baggies or plastic wrap to send leftovers home, we are saving large yogurt, cottage cheese containers and any other large containers with a lid, to reuse. Auntie Marie can pack herself some leftovers and recycle the containers at home.

– I will be bringing our reusable bottles and encouraging the rest of the family to do the same. As a backup plan, a permanent marker will be placed near any plastic cups so people can write their name on the cup and use the same one all day long. Of course, these will then be recycled.

– A clearly marked recycle bin will be placed near the trash and the family will be told what items they can put in the recycle bin. I will be enlisting the kids on this one. If I tell them what is recyclable, they can “police” the grown ups. The grown ups will think this is so cute coming from them.

– So those yummy leftovers don’t go to waste, I am researching recipes now that use cooked turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and anything else we normally have leftover. I will be posting these for you as well. If you have any favorites, please share them!

– We normally use paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils and Styrofoam coffee cups for these events – again dishes for 30! My Mom has enough dishwasher safe dishes, utenseils and coffee cups for everyone! The dishwasher will be ready to go, so no dish pan hands. As for cloth napkins, I’m still working on that one. We don’t quite have enough for everyone and my Mom is crazy about ironing everything which puts a lot of work on her since I hate to iron. If we can work something out, then great, but I figure we ditched the paper plates, plastic utensils and the coffee cups so that’s a great start.

– We will be saving a little electricity and dining by eco-friendly candles.

Other green options include going organic and/or local with your food choices. For now, I’m sticking with these. I think this is the right dose of green for my family. What will you be doing this turkey day?

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