Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dinnerware Dilemma, Part 2: Would you like some cancer with that?

While searching online for a new set of dishes I came across something quite scary and sobering. I found a set of dinnerware with a warning statement! This set of Cream Dream Dinnerware comes with this warning in the product description - WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity. What!? Can someone tell me how it's legal to sell dishes that contain cancer causing materials? I can't imagine that any manufacturer would knowingly make and sell food-related products that are potentially hazardous. This is really disturbing. It causes me to wonder how many dishes that we use everyday contain these same dangerous materials? Does this mean we're serving up toxins to our family every night at dinner?

I did a little digging and found one article where the CDC warned about dangerous lead levels on dinnerware. Then I found an equally upsetting bit of news on SpringerLink about radiation emissions from uranium-glazed dinnerware. But neither came with an accompanying list of manufacturers. Good grief! I see statements that explain while most agree that high concentrations of lead-containing dinnerware is rare, low-level concentrations of lead are allowable. There's an extensive list of low-lead china patterns, but it's not been updated since 2001. I can't imagine why someone hasn't seen fit to keep this list current. I don't know about you, but I really don't want to serve up a side dish of lead on any occasion! Seriously, does any of us want just a little bit of cancer? Or a tiny hint of neurological disorder?

The Environmental Defense Fund has great information here about lead in china dishes. I'm planning to use their buyers guide as I seek out my new dinnerware set. The buyers guide link also has a list of manufacturer phone numbers to call and ask if the dishware you already own contains lead, uranium or other hazardous chemicals. If you don't see your manufacturer listed here, you can always purchase a lead test kit to see if your dishes are safe.

All this is making me lose my appetite and then some. I'm off to find some healthy alternatives for safe dinnerware. I'll share my findings with you in my next post. In the meantime, I urge you to look into the links above and see if your dinnerware is safe for you and your family. My guess is that your standards, like mine, are alot more strict than the governments when it comes to the health and safety of your family.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Grinding Sea Salt

I picked up a container of Reese Coarse Sea Salt at a discount grocery store this weekend. A serious bargain at just 99¢! I made the jump from regular table salt to sea salt about 5 years ago and haven't looked back. The flavor just can't be beat. I use it for cooking, baking, in my shakers...everything. But be warned, the folks at Reese aren't kidding when they label this coarse. This stuff is really chunky. Too chunky in fact for my personal liking, so I popped it into the blender and ground this sparkly goodness down to a more manageable size. Now it will easily fit in my salt shakers. Though I understand shakers are out and salt pigs are in. Whatever. It seems the extra-coarse salt isn't selling as well at grocery stores and many are slashing prices. So if you see a good bargain on the chunky stuff, go for it. You can grind it down for everyday use pretty easily with a blender. And I would imagine a food processor would work even better.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Survivor Chicks

Looking for a fun way to support breast cancer research this upcoming holiday season and beyond? These little boxes of yumminess are available at and at specialty retail chocolate stores near you. {Note that the photo above shows two boxes together, the individual box size is about the same size as a lipstick box.} I'm thinking these Survivor Chick Chocolates would make great stocking stuffers or gifts for your best girlfriends and office mates alike. Be creative! Think of filling a basket on your entry table for take-away hostess gifts at holiday gatherings, or add your guests name to a box and use them as place cards at dinner parties. Your friends will enjoy these tasty treats while you bask in the glow of knowing that every penny of your purchase went towards the cause. That's right, Seattle Chocolates donates 100% of the profits from these truffles to help in the fight against breast cancer! Who else donates 100%? Just one more reason for me to love Seattle Chocolates (like I needed another reason).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dinnerware Dilemma

I have this thing with dishes. In all my adult life, I have yet to find a set that I can live with for very long. I use dishes every day for meals, snacks and desserts. I love to cook! Why is it so hard for me to decide on a set of dishes? It didn't take me this long to decide on a husband, whether or not to have kids, which cat to adopt from the animal shelter or even which house to live in. I just don't get why this is so hard for me.

My first set of dishes when I was in art school were shiny black art deco. Very chic...for a while. Just after I got married, I moved onto slightly oversized earthy-colored stoneware. Then, I decided to go all white. I found a complete service for 12 at a thrift store and used them with abandon until about two years ago. Those too grew tiring so I bought a set of solid blue dishes from Target and thought that would be the end of it for a while. But I got sick of the oversized blue plates and recently resold them at my booth in the Greenwood. I now have three random antique dinner plates and four random dollar store luncheon plates AND guests coming into town over Thanksgiving. I refuse to buy paper plates because I don't want to promote or support that industry. I need to get serious about a new set of dinnerware.

I was talking with one of my best girlfriends about this the other day. She's been asking me the same question for 10 years, "Have you decided what color you want your kitchen to be yet?" Though I love her dearly, she's the kind of person that only colors inside the lines. I don't want my kitchen to be just one color. People ask me if I have a favorite color. Not really, just favorite shades of almost every color. So what to do? I feel like Elizabeth Taylor looking for the right husband when it comes to picking out dishes. But the game is afoot, with company coming in a few weeks I've got to find something that's both affordable and appealing. Hoping that I can also make a choice I can live for more than a season.

I think it's time for an intervention so I'm taking you with me. That's right, I want you to hold my hand and help me through this seemingly mundane, yet important life decision. I am accepting any and all suggestions for places to shop, specific patterns, etc. Please let me know why you do or do not like your dishes; what helped you decide which dishes to buy, etc. Feel free to ask me questions to walk me through this. Seriously I need some help here!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Woolen Bowls

Sometimes I have trouble finding my words. So I thought it might be a good idea to keep a few favorites nearby; just in case. Meet my newest crafty creation: the little woolen hand-crocheted bowl. Perfect for storing favorite words, fall candies, sewing notions or any small what-not. I'm thinking of making a few and putting them up on etsy. What do you think? Are they etsy worthy?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kitty Cats & Cameras

About a week ago I played a little game on Facebook where I announced receiving the world's coolest hand-me-down and let my friends guess what it was. The answer: a gently used Nikon D50. Seriously. It's a big step up from the Fuji S700 I was using. I have much to learn and relearn about f-stops, apertures and film speeds. I spent some time this weekend playing with the nikon, shooting pics of my daughter and our two orange cats.

The leap to this camera is also motivating me to get on board with an online photo sharing resource. I have been uploading my pics to Blogger directly which I understand is a no-no. When I make the switch to my own domain in a few months I will lose all my existing photo links and will have to re-upload everything. So I'm curious, how do you handle your blog post photos? Do you use a third party resource like Picnik, Flickr, other? I would really appreciate your feedback and advice as to what you use, why you like it or don't like it, etc.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Four Trees

I sat on the bank of a lake looking at a tiny island near the middle. On that island, I saw four trees growing closely together. I could see the clear lake wrapped around the island and the colorful mountains surrounding the lake. Yet my eyes returned lovingly to these four trees; beholding them as the most precious sight before me. They are a part of the world around them, yet so separated from it; isolated on that little patch of land in the middle of the water. Each of the four, growing independently, seemed to draw strength from the others. The treetops were hard to distinguish one from another as they visually blended into a dance of limbs and leaves. When storms come and the wind gathers itself across the expanse of the water, the trees stand together to take the hit. The force is absorbed and the stress is less on each tree because they bear the brunt together. I was reminded that there is nothing to fear. God's beauty in nature is all around us. Every moment, every molecule, every thing. If you want to hear God, you have to listen. You have to create a space where He can enter in. That space is called your heart. I am grateful for the lessons that I continue to learn. I am thankful for healing through times of great stress, trouble and loss. And I am thrilled when wisdom and acceptance are lovingly penned into my heart through scenes like this one.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Etsy Fab Four

I thought it would be fun to share the etsy goodness of four of my very best girlfriends today. I'm grateful to have each of these beautiful, wonderfully talented and truly sweet women in my life. So pop over to their shops and check out their handmade fabulousness.

bebe + alice

Eco Friendly Bird Decor by bebeandalice - Aren't these birds lovely? Heather has a nice variety of refashioned and eco-eclectic goodies. Her ideas are so fresh and inspiring.

Time Travel Tea Party

I just love this Time Traveler Necklace. Courtney has an amazing variety of steampunkable and vintage findings. Her store makes me feel like I'm treasure hunting in an old attic.


I really love the look of Julie's August Fields Frenchy Bag. A great casual bag for everyday! She's also has some great farmers market bags at her shop.

Pesky Cat Designs

The Offbeat Messenger bag with bird applique. How yummy is this bag for fall? I love Elisa's design style; her mix of colors, fabrics and textures bring sophistication and fun to every one of her creations.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Buying in Bulk - Go Green & Still Save Money

Last spring I embarked on an experiment. I had decided that I wanted to shift the everyday household items we used over to organic products. Every year I go a little further to the greener side of commerce and it was time to make the switch for things we used daily like detergents, deodorant, bath soap, etc. The catch was that I couldn't spend more money on these items; in reality I needed to cut expenses. I was concerned about being able to afford the switch to organic products, as I'd found them to be more expensive than traditional ones at local chain stores. So the trick was to go greener and somehow save money at the same time.

I thought about the fact that these items would have to ship to me so I grouped the purchases together in two different orders, as I could afford it. It would save me multiple trips to the grocery store which seemed to offset the shipping given that it's 2 shipments versus probably a dozen or more grocery stops. The UPS man goes down my street every day so no extra trip on his part either. I used my local Whole Foods store as a benchmark for individual prices and found a few of the same items at Target for comparison. But they didn't offer products in bulk or carry Country Save or Canus. I considered signing up with Frontier Coop but they didn't carry these products either.

I took my search online. I spent several hours researching to find the best selection, lowest prices and reduced or free shipping. I was being very conscious about what company I bought my products from. I wanted to be sure I was making good choices and supporting companies that cared about producing good quality organic products from sustainable sources. I knew that buying in bulk would reduce the unit price but I wasn't sure if that really applied to organic products, since I'd never seen organic products available in bulk before.

Enter They had the best prices and Free – thank you very much – Shipping. I spent more up front because I was buying in quantity, but as you'll see from the breakdowns below it's been a total win-win experience for me so far:

Country Save HE Laundry Detergent Powder
80 standard loads, 160 high efficiency loads per box
Case of four 10 lb boxes for $62.15 ($15.54 per box)
I have a heavy-duty top load washing machine and wash for a family of four. I bought this case on March 17th and I'm only half way through the second box. That means each box is lasting about 4 months so this should be enough laundry powder to get me to July of next year, conceivably. Dare I say this was the first time I'd used Country Save laundry detergent and went on recommendation alone. I know, risky move to buy something I'd never tried before in bulk, right? I absolutely LOVE this detergent. My daughter, who struggles with allergies, does fine with this. It cleans wonderfully. It doesn't have a heavily perfumed odor, the clothes just smell fresh and clean. One thing I really like about this is that it's the best detergent I've found to keep clothes feeling soft when line dried outside. It's safe to say I am officially hooked on Country Save!

Seventh Generation Dishwashing Powder
Free & Clear, 75 oz box, Case of 8 boxes for $49.77 ($6.22 per box)
We bought a new energy efficient dishwasher last year. We cook, bake, eat and dirty plenty of dishes daily. Our dishwasher sees action at least once every two days. I bought these on January 31st and seriously I am only about halfway through the 2nd box. I am impressed! I'd used this detergent before and found it was the only one that didn't spot or streak dishes and glassware. It's a wonderful product. I'm averaging about 4 1/2 months per box which amazes me. That means I have enough of this on-hand to last me until January 2011!?

Seventh Generation Dish Liquid
Lemongrass & Clementine Zest (also available in Free & Clear and Lavender Floral-Mint)
25 oz Bottle, Case of 6 Bottles for $18.13 ($3.02 per bottle)
Okay, for those of you that don't know me in-person, doing dishes is not my favorite. I used to hate doing dishes. Now, in a strange way, I find it a little therapeutic; is that wrong? I actually credit this dish soap with the transformation. {Mom, if you're reading this, I'm sure you'll agree it must be a miracle product if it helped *ME* to actually enjoy doing dishes.} It smells so wonderful and for the first time ever I've found a soap that doesn't cause my hands to break out in a rash from doing the dishes. I love it so much I refill our foam pump dispensers in both bathrooms with it and bathe our pets with it. I bought this on March 17th and I am about to finish the 2nd bottle. At this rate I'll have enough to last me until this time next year. Oh Joy! (oops sorry, wrong brand)

Canus Goats Milk Bar Soap

Four 3-count boxes, case of 12 bars for $20.32 ($1.69 per bar)
I've posted about this soap before. I am so grateful for this product, you can read about why here. I have 4 bars left and 2 newly opened ones in use so my best guess is that I won't need to buy more bath soap until April of next year. I think this would have lasted longer but my son was going through a phase of drilling his finger all the way through a bar of soap just to see if he could. We've since curbed that behavior.

So you see, it can be done. I'm a very thrifty girl and unfortunately more economically-challenged than I would like to be. If I can afford organic products, anyone can. I know this isn't rocket science. I just want to encourage you, you can buy healthier products for yourself and your family without spending more money. You just have to do your homework, be thoughtful about the products and companies you're supporting and order from the best resources you can find.
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