Monday, October 17, 2011

Limited choices, and you know something big is happening when it happens here

We have limited options at our in-town grocery and Wal*mart stores. You can find pretty much whatever you want, or at least what you need, but the selection isn't what it is at the larger (or smaller stores) in the town where we work.

It isn't so much the products that we can find (juice, soda, canned goods, frozen stuff, deli, produce, all of that), but rather the types of said products offered. Finding an organic brand of nearly anything at the local grocery is nearly impossible. But there are a few options for "natural" peanut butter. I think there is one barbeque sauce in the whole store that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup. And that says nothing of my poor uncle who has a recently diagnosed soy allergy: out of  wall of salad dressing, there were maybe 5 bottles he could eat. One was a spice packet where you add your own oil and vinegar. The others were locally produced brands.

Since I've just started making the leap to baking soda/vinegar for some cleaning needs (certainly not all - yet), this has presented a challenge for us.

What has been exciting as of late, is the emergence of more eco-friendly brands and variants on the shelves, and at prices that are at least comparable to the conventional ones. For example, dishwasher detergent. I picked up one of 2 bottles that declared itself eco-friendly with no phosphates and my husband rolled his eyes. "Are we really that rich that we can... oh, it isn't that expensive." True, a smaller bottle of the store brand was much cheaper, but every other option was within 50 cents of the bottle I picked. Some were even more expensive. Score!

Then, at Wal*Mart (groan if you must) Tom's of Maine is being stocked. I've read a few places (can't remember now, so apologies for no links) that some people are upset as a result of changes since they were bought by a larger company, but I'm still very happy to see 2 different toothpastes (one with and one without flouride), and at least 2 different Tom's deodorants (plus a Crystal liquid roll-on). As we needed toothpaste, we got some. Still using the deodorant I picked up at Trader Joe's in California while on a business trip. (Really, my checked bag on the way back from these trips is hilarious now - shampoo, deodorant, all sorts of organic and natural personal care products I can't find easily in my small town.)

Small victories, I know, but I get a small thrill buying these products at my local grocery and Wal*mart because I know that somewhere in the vastness of information and reporting, another ping is going towards the more eco-conscious shopper.

In an attempt at full disclosure, I initially wrote this in June 2011. I tweaked a few tenses here and there, and it is up-to-date.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Carpets no more

In July, we celebrated our anniversary. Initially, we were planning to take a long weekend trip somewhere, but ultimately decided that new floors would be an even better present to ourselves.

In case you don't know, our house was completely carpeted, save for one closet and the bathrooms, when we bought it. Yes, even the kitchen was carpeted. Thanks to the one closet that was uncarpeted, we were fairly certain hardwood floors were just waiting beneath all that carpet. Refinishing the existing hardwoods worked for everyplace but the kitchen and sunroom. Since we didn't know what was under there, and didn't have the resources to address it if it was damaged or bare subfloor, we left those areas carpeted.

Walking through Lowes one day, we decided to scrap the long weekend-away plans for our anniversary (at that point, it was still months away), and get new floors in the bathroom, kitchen, and sunroom. (linoleum with a few rips, carpet, and carpet, respectively)

By the end of it, we had settled on a darker tile for the bathroom, which will work nicely with the redesign we have in mind; a slate-looking tile for the kitchen, and cork for the sunroom. (seeing other people putting cork in their kitchen sometimes gives me pangs of regret. I thought about it! But was talked out of it. I now live in fear of the day we drop of glass or plate on our pretty tile floor!)

There isn't much frugal to say about the floors themselves. Even though the tile will be freezing in the winter, I'm glad to be rid of the carpet. No carpet means that the vacuum isn't necessary, and that any Minnie-dog accidents can be cleaned up with a paper towel or rag. The steam cleaner may be retired. I also think that the non-carpet will benefit us when we do eventually sell this house. Cause the floors are so pretty!

While we may have been able to install the cork ourselves (it is a floating floor deal), since we were already having the installers come out to do the tile, we opted to let them do what they are paid to do! My husband did do a tiny bit of vertical tile work in the shower before we officially moved in. Learned there that tile layers get paid for a reason. Especially when it is vertical tile!

What we did do to save a bit of money was prep the areas, so all the installers had to do was come in (move the toilet) and lay the floors. This involved ripping up the carpet and carpet pads, removing carpet staples and tack board, removing any quarter round or base boards we wanted gone, and of course, moving furniture and appliances.

Everything was shoved into the dining room. It was an interesting sight.

We did run into a stumbling block, though. Turns out that our kitchen carpet had been laid during a small window of time when "they" used a rubber backing to essentially glue the carpet to the floor. That rubber backing was not fun. We didn't take it up, but the installers said it needed to come up. That stuff did not want to leave the floor! Our installers were awesome, though. They assessed the job, and were able to knock it out pretty quickly, and for less than we were willing to pay not to have to do it!

The lack of access to our kitchen for a few days made the endeavor more expensive than we had initially anticipated, but the floors are awesome. Overall, we are very happy with the new floors. Especially with the fact that they are not wall-to-wall carpeting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Aloe there!

It has been a long time, hasn't it. But time passing means I've actually done a few things that could actually warrant a post or two.

Recently, my husband got some local college football tickets for cheap. Someone at his work was trying to get rid of tickets for (now this past) weekend. While watching a football game without the benefits of commercial breaks or other stuff to do isn't usually my idea of a great Saturday, my husband loves college football, and one or two games a season I can handle. At that rate, it can even be a fun day out!

The game itself started out with an exciting rush (a kick off return for a touchdown! against an undefeated team!), but ended on a high-note for the visiting, still undefeated team.

It also ended with the left side of my face and neck a little sun-burnt! I had managed to save my ears from a similar fate by keeping my hair over them (score one for long hair!).

Months ago, my uncle gave us an aloe plant. He had several, and we were fortunate to get a very full pot of aloe. (I still need to split some of the little plants into separate pots!) When we got home, I picked off a leaf, and squeezed. I was there in our living room, slathering aloe-straight-from-the-plant all over my face and neck.

Gotta tell you, it felt great. The aloe was soothing, cooling, and moisturizing. It is working so well that I've been foregoing my jojoba oil as moisturizer after washing my face since Saturday. Pretty sure I'll return to jojoba and vitamin E oil once the sunburn fades; have to preserve the aloe plants!

All in all, it was a great day. Inexpensive tickets (that were in a great location!), overpriced-but-budgeted-for stadium concessions, and a free, as well as natural sunburn remedy.