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12/10/2014

It’s our favorite time of year again—time to celebrate the people we love by giving the most thoughtful, perfect gifts. Those gifts are made even more meaningful and joyous when they are made by people who were treated well and with materials that honor our planet. That might sound like a lot of requirements, but fear not! Our handy eco-friendly gift guide will help you find the perfect special gift for every friend and family member on your nice list.

For the Cozy Home-Body

Boll and Branch Cable Knit Throws

Boll and Branch Cable Knit Throw, $99
These luxurious cable knit throws will cozy-up any corner of your home. Curl up on the couch with a soft, 100 percent GOTS-certified organic cotton blanket made ethically in India. And, as an added bonus, a portion of every sale goes to Not For Sale to help end forced labor and human trafficking. Pick from nine beautiful colors to add a touch of warmth to any room. Though this item is a bit expensive, it’s worth it—this high-quality blanket will warm your loved one for decades to come. Order soon to jump on the limited-time sale—$99 and free shipping!

Forever Candles (Prosperity Candles)

A Forever Candle from Prosperity Candle, $65
These delightfully scented candles are hand-poured by women refugees who are working to build their families a better future. Though this may seen expensive for a candle, it comes with FREE LIFETIME REFILLS—you can even mix it up and try each of their signature scents. Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Agraria Petitessence Diffuser

Agraria Balsa Flower Diffuser, $50-$95
Instead of traditional reed diffuser sticks, Agraria’s lovely PetiteEssence home diffuser collection uses thinly sliced pieces of naturally grown balsa wood folded into Sola flowers to diffuse the scent and also add to the ambiance. Choose from Agraria’s eight essential oil blends or, for the indecisive gift giver, get a collection of four scents for $95.

For the Discerning Beauty

Pacifica Perfume Wanderlust Trio

Pacifica Perfume Wanderlust Roll-on Perfume Trio, $19
These roll-on perfumes are the perfect size to travel with. Whatever you’re doing, you can bring Indian Coconut Nectar, Island Vanilla, and Tuscan Blood Orange with you. All Pacifica Perfumes are made without phthalates, parabens, carmine, beeswax, lanoline, mineral oils, petroleum or peanut oil—plus they’re 100 percent vegan and cruelty-free. They also have a great selection of make up to gift (or keep for yourself).

EWG Gift Basket

EWG Donation Gift Box, $150
For a $150 donation to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the nation’s leading nonprofit working to change the debate over environmental health, you get a magnificent holiday gift basket that includes the Weelicious Cookbook, the EWG’s A Year of Healthy Living booklet, Klean Kanteen stainless steel pint glasses, a ChicoBag travel zipper pouch, Core bamboo kitchen tongs, two ECO LunchBox cloth napkins, To-Go Ware RePEaT Utensil set, Earthbound Farm’s granola, Seeds of Change certified organic seeds, and more than $70-worth of savings in coupons from EWG-approved companies.

Brilliant Earth Silver Charm Pendant

A Brilliant Earth Charm Pendant, $75
This lovely silver charm pendant is made from recycled silver and is ethically sourced. And, with each purchase before December 11th, Brilliant Earth will make a donation to the International Rescue Committee that provides creative and comforting toys to kids in need. If you want to spend a bit more, they also have a lovely recycled silver wave pendant with an ethically sourced sapphire.

For the Green Thumb

Back to the Roots Mushroom Farm

Back to the Roots Organic Mushroom Farm, $20
Grow your own organic gourmet Peal Oyster mushrooms in just 10 days! This kit comes in a box ready to go, just mist and watch the mushrooms pop up—this is also great for kids! There are larger options available, like this Shittake or Pearl Oyster Mushroom Log from Terrain.

Boskke Hanging Plant

Boskke Sky Planter, $18
For your surrealist gardener friend, try this upside-down hanging planter made of recycled materials. An internal reservoir system gradually feeds water to plant roots, and makes a super cool modern room decoration!

Hanging Tillandsia

Hanging Tillandsia, $32
Hanging plants is all the rage—this dainty and adorable aerophyte (meaning, it can live on the air alone) can be placed in a little glass bauble for a perfect self-sustaining terrarium. This could be a perfect space-brightening gift for someone with a…not-so-green thumb?

For the Eco-Techie

GoalZero Solar Recharging Station

GoalZero Solar Recharger, $75
This portable solar panel and USB re-charger has your back when you need to re-charge your phone or other small electronics. With just 4 hours of full sun, you will be fully loaded and ready to go!

Eco-Amp

Eco Amp, $10
This environmentally-friendly iPhone speaker amplifier is constructed from FSC-certified 100 percent post-consumer paper and printed with soy-based ink for a bunch of funky cool patterns.

Driftwood iPod Dock

Driftwood iPhone Dock, $62 (limited time sale)
This supercool iPod dock is constructed from driftwood found on the Maine shoreline. Each is unique and adds a modern, natural style to your room. It amplifies whatever you are listening to by resonating through the hollow wood. There are also options for iPhones 4, 5, 6, and 6 Plus.

For the Tea-Lover

Aiya Ceremonial Matcha Tea Set, Deep Soil

Aiya Matcha Tea Set, $88
This Japanese tea ceremony kit includes a 30 gram tin of matcha tea, a bamboo whisk and scoop, and a matcha tea bowl, plus a 20-minute documentary explaining the proper method of preparing traditional matcha tea. There are various options for style of bowl and you can upgrade the type of matcha: ceremonial, organic or premium.

Numi Flowering Tea

Numi Flowering Tea Set, $40
Winter is the perfect time to start a new tea-drinking habit, and this flowering tea set is as fun to brew as it is to drink. This tea set comes with a 16-ounce glass teapot through which you can watch a hand-sewn tea and flower ball blossom into a beautiful exotic flower suspended in the water as it brews.

For the Foodie

Theo Holiday Chocolate Bar

Theo Holiday Chocolates, $16
Give the gift of fair trade, organic, non-GMO and tasty chocolates this holiday season! This collection of four bars of holiday chocolate is $16, though any option from Theo really is delightfully delicious.

Mockingbird Meadows Medicinal Honey Sampler

Mockingbird Meadows Medicinal Honey Sampler, $62
Try these herb-infused raw honeys for a multitude of health benefits, including relieving stomach aches and carsickness, inducing restful sleep and boosting immune function. These are produced by contributing Mother Earth Living writer, ethnobotanist and author, Dawn Combs.

Home Cheese Making by Rikki Carroll

Home Cheese Making by Rikki Carroll, $17
Another gift that keeps on giving! If you know someone keen on food experimentation or homesteading, encourage them to make their own cheese, following recipes from Rikki Carroll in this wonderfully comprehensive guide. This is a delicious addition to any cook’s shelf. Also, check out more Mother Earth Living approved books at the Mother Earth Living Bookstore!

Nibblr Snack PackNibblr Snack Pack, Chai Mix

A snack subscription from Nibblr, $23
Give the gift of healthy snacking with a subscription to a healthy snack service. Nibblr provides healthy nut and fruit mixes, as well as some sweet and chocolate-y mixes delivered right to your door. This holiday season, they’re selling a four-box gift subscription for $23.

Natural Home Products 9-piece cookware set

Natural Home Products Nine-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware, $89
Nothing says “I love you” better than durable stainless steel! Natural Home’s recycled stainless steel is high-quality, dishwasher safe and scratch-resistant. This nine-piece nesting cookware set, including three saucepans with lids, two skillets and a bamboo slotted spoon, costs only $89 (marked down from $170!).

Mother Earth News Peace Blend Coffee

MOTHER EARTH NEWS Peace Blend Coffee, $11
This fair-trade organic coffee is subtle and smooth—a perfect addition to your morning routine. There are three roasts to choose from, and whole and ground options.

Natural Home Products Pizza Cutter

Eco-friendly kitchen gadgets and utensils!
One great way to subtly ask for a build-your-own pizza party invite is to give your friend an eco-friendly pizza cutter, made from recycled stainless steel and bamboo, for just $3!

For Kids

Eco-Stars Crayons

Eco Stars Recycled Wax Crayon, $10
These fun, star-shaped crayons are 100 percent recycled and recyclable (including the packaging!), are nontoxic, and made in the U.S. A box set of 20 crayons offers 100 points of color!

Eco-Dough

Eco-Dough, $20
These earth-friendly eco-doughs are made with organic fruit, veggie and plant extracts and essential oils—no strange ingredients or chemicals for your little one’s hands! A package comes with five fun, vibrant colors.

EarthOpoly

EarthOpoly, $25
Your kids will learn about keeping the Earth clean and happy as they work their way around the board becoming caretakers of parks and beautiful places, collecting Carbon Credits and trading them into Clean Air. This game is made with recycled materials and vegetable-based ink.

Mancala board

Mancala Board, $20
This popular African stone game is crafted out of locally sourced, sustainably harvested pine, and comes with 60 beautifully colored stones.

Little Nursery Rhymes

Little Nursery Rhymes, $16
This adorable set of 10 tiny books, each filled with a beloved nursery rhyme, is made from recycled materials with vegetable-based ink, and includes 10 classic nursery rhyme stories including “Little Miss Muffet,” “Twinkle Twinkle” and “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”

For the Eco-Conscious

Klean Kanteen Classic 18oz Water Bottle

Klean Kanteen Water Bottle, $18-33
Show that you care about someone’s health and hydration with a nontoxic, reusable water bottle. These stainless steel water bottles are free from all BPA and other toxins, and is unlined and uncoated so you don’t have to worry about plastic or epoxy leaking into your loved one’s water.

Brush with Bamboo Starter Pack

Brush with Bamboo Toothbrushes, $20 for 4
Is someone you know trying to convert to zero-waste living? Give them a helping hand by introducing them to Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes, USDA-certified biobased product with no BPA or toxic chemicals, with a biodegradable handle and recyclable nylon bristles that comes in compostable packaging. They also sell bamboo drinking straws!

Be Good Pixley Socks

BeGood Socks, $20 for 2 pairs
These comfy and fun socks are made from organically combed cotton and local sourced yarn, plus every purchase gives 12 gallons of purified water to rural areas in Kenya and Uganda.

Subscription Options to Mother Earth Living

Mother Earth Living Gift Subscription! $15
If you love our magazine, then everyone you know will love it too! Give a one-year (6 issues) subscription to your friends and relatives. Print and digital subscriptions are available! Bonus, you could keep your print issues in a special MOTHER EARTH NEWS binder.

Check out some easy DIY gift ideas, too!
Don’t forget to wrap everything in earth-friendly wrapping paper, or at least try not to use tape!

Happy gift-giving!



12/8/2014

A staple in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, turmeric is one of the world’s most versatile herbs. When ground, turmeric’s rhizome (underground stem) yields a vibrant yellow powder that’s abundant in health-boosting properties—as little as 1/4 teaspoon a day has measurable healing effects. This powder also makes a wonderful addition to homemade body-care products, home crafting and—most deliciously—cooking. A member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), turmeric stains whatever it comes into contact with so use it with caution.

Uses For Turmeric 

1. ANTI-INFLAMMATORY: Chronic inflammation can stress and injure cells, which in turn can trigger disease—everything from heart disease and cancer to joint issues and skin problems. Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. Curcumin, the active substance in turmeric, lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

2. REDUCE ARTHRITIC PAIN: Thanks to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, researchers believe turmeric may be effective at relieving osteoarthritis pain, as well as reducing swelling. Curcumin is often combined with bromelain or piperine (found in peppers) to help increase its absorption in the body. Doctor Andrew Weil recommends 400 to 600 mg of standardized 95 percent curcuminoids, three times a day for patients with arthritis.

3. CANCER PREVENTION: There has been a great deal of research on turmeric’s anticancer properties. Research is ongoing, but evidence suggests curcumin may help prevent, control or even kill several types of cancer, including breast, colon, prostate and skin cancer. This may be because curcumin is a strong antioxidant, protecting the body’s cells from molecular damage.

4. ANTI-FLU: Test tube and animal studies suggest turmeric may effectively kill bacteria and viruses. Mix the following ingredients to make a deliciously warming turmeric toddy to prevent and treat cold and flu: 12 ounces hot water, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root, 2 pinches cayenne powder, 1 tablespoon honey, juice of 1/2 lemon. Drink up to three times a day. You can also sprinkle turmeric powder over a slice of honey-drizzled toast.

5. BRAIN BOOST: Curcumin may also prevent the onset of dementia, as it has been shown to break down amyloid-beta plaques in lab-based studies. People who eat curry two to three times a week may have a lower risk.

6. SKIN POULTICE: Use turmeric powder to make a poultice to treat skin inflammation. Mix 1 tablespoon ground turmeric with enough water to form a paste. (For an even more powerful poultice, add a little curcumin extract.) Spread the paste between two strips of gauze and place on the affected area and cover with an elastic bandage. Make sure to change daily.

7. BRIGHTEN TEETH: One of turmeric’s most surprising uses—especially considering it stains nearly everything it touches—is its ability to whiten teeth. Mix about 1/2 tablespoon dried turmeric powder with a small bowl of water to form a thick paste. Apply paste to toothbrush and brush as normal. (Be sure to rinse well, and maybe follow-up with an additional brushing.) On top of its whitening powers, turmeric’s antifungal and antibacterial properties will boost oral health, as well.

8. FACE MASK: Turmeric is wonderful for skin. Use it to reduce signs of aging, decrease the appearance of dark circles and clear up acne via a DIY face mask. To make, combine 1/4 teaspoon turmeric with 2 teaspoons flour, a few drops of honey and a few drops water. If it’s too thick, add more water; if it’s too thin, add more turmeric or flour. Massage paste into skin using circular motions, let sit for 10 minutes and then rinse with a warm wash cloth.

9. TREAT SCALP CONDITIONS: Another of turmeric’s body-care benefits is its ability to deter dandruff and improve the condition of your scalp. Mix turmeric with a good-quality carrier oil, such as olive oil or jojoba, and massage into your scalp. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then shampoo and style as usual.

10. HENNA: Before henna became a part of Hindu bridal ceremony tradition, turmeric was used to ornament brides. Use this golden spice to fill in beautiful red-hued henna tattoos, creating a lovely contrast of color. To apply, dampen a small paintbrush in water and coat it in turmeric. Paint the area of the henna pattern you want to stain yellow; let dry, then wipe off the excess. Don’t wash the area until 12 hours after applying.

11. DYE EGGS: You can also harness turmeric’s staining powers to naturally dye Easter eggs. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons ground turmeric to a boil, then let simmer, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature; strain. To use, pour mixture into a glass jar, stir in 2 tablespoons white vinegar and submerge hard-boiled eggs until they’ve reached the desired yellow.

12. SCRAMBLED EGGS: In a skillet over medium heat, sauté a tablespoon of turmeric in olive oil, then spread around the pan. Pour about four whisked eggs into the pan and stir while cooking until no longer runny for a delicious and healthful breakfast.

13. CURRY: Turmeric’s most commonly used in curry. For an inexpensive recipe, check out this Potato Peanut Curry recipe.

14. GOLDEN MILK: Use this wonderfully pungent herb in an Ayurvedic concoction known as Golden Milk. Mix 1/4 cup turmeric powder with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil and cook until a thick paste is formed. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of this turmeric paste with 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon almond oil. (Save the remaining paste in the refrigerator for future use). Flavor the mixture with honey, stir over low heat and bring just to a boil. Finally, blend until you have a foamy and delicious healing beverage.


Gina DeBacker Headshot Gina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living, where she manages the health section of the magazine.



11/28/2014

Menstrual Cup Variety 

Menstrual cups have been around since the 1930s when Lenoa Chalmers patented the first one. Women didn’t take interest and they fell off the radar until the 60s to similar fanfare. It wasn’t until the 70s to mid-80s that reusable menstrual cups hit the market—and stuck. The Keeper was the first menstrual cup to succeed where others had failed and it's still widely available today.

Just the Facts

70 percent of American women use disposable feminine hygiene products. On average that equals 11,000 tampons or pads.
• For a box of 36 tampons, average prices hover around $7 per box.
• Tampons and pads must be changed at least every 6 to 8 hours to avoid leaks, health concerns and other unwanted problems.
Average menstrual cycle lasts 5 to 7 days, from ages 12 to 50.

Let’s assume every woman buys one box of tampons every month. That’s close to $90 per year. Given these figures, one woman is likely spend more than $3,000 on her period alone during her lifetime, not to mention the many other costs associated with female reproductive organs. Thankfully there’s a simple, affordable solution: reusable menstrual cups.

Now I know what you may be thinking:

“OMG, I am not sticking something up there!” or “No way, that’s so gross!”

Having been there myself, I assure you it's not as gross or horrifying as you imagine it to be. If you use tampons you “stick something up there” every month anyway. Plus, once you get over the initial gross-out factor, it’s really not that bad. I swear!

The Diva Cup

The Diva Cup comes in two sizes: One for women who have had children and one for those who have not. I used the smaller of the two—for women without children—for about a year. At the time I loved it, but unfortunately due to some health issues its use was discontinued.

Diva Cup, size 1 and 2

PROS
Longevity:
Although the company recommends replacing your cup annually, I know people who have had the same one for several years without a hiccup. Even at $40 per year, that’s still cheaper than a year’s worth of tampons!

Freedom: Who’s really going to complain about 10 to 12 hours of leak-free protection?! No one! I was able to go hiking, camping, rock climbing and swimming without worrying about if and when I’d need to head to the restroom or if I’d packed enough tampons.

Easy to find: I’ll be honest, I had no clue about the world of menstrual cups until a friend ranted and raved long enough to convince me to try a Diva Cup. Luckily, they’re easy to find at local natural-food stores or some chain supermarkets such as Hy-Vee.

CONS
Ease of use:
I could just be bad at following directions, but it wasn’t just a simple insert cup like this and go scenario. One of two things happened: I wound up spending more time in the bathroom making sure things were accurately situated, or I was making more frequent trips to the restroom to adjust things because I was uncomfortable sitting or moving in a certain way.

Flexibility: To insert a menstrual cup, you first have to fold it in some fashion. I didn’t find the silicone to be very pliable. This made it more difficult to hold the cup in its folded shape long enough to get it comfortably inserted.

Comfort: It made life in general more comfortable in terms of worrying, but physically I always felt a bit of discomfort. The stem was rigid and sometimes felt like it was poking me, and I could always kind of tell it was there.

Cleaning: Be warned: Prepare for gross-out feels. The stem is a short, hollow tube meant to make removing your cup easier. Removal was easy enough, but occasionally menstrual blood would get into the open part of the stem. There were also measuring lines on the inside of the cup. Both of these made it difficult to clean thoroughly at times.

Most of my gripes are, more than likely, just personal. No two bodies are like, and as such no two vaginas are either. As a woman in her mid- to late-20s, without children, I ultimately decided that The Diva Cup was too large for my body. Even though I was using the smallest size, it always felt present, which made emptying and reinsertion less than optimal.

Lunette

Once my health concerns were under control, I still wanted to use a menstrual cup for all the pros I had experienced with my Diva Cup. At this point, I had learned that menstrual cups have a cult-like following, so like any internet-savvy girl would, I hit up Google to help me make a decision! I knew it would be easy to find real-life reviews and comparisons on YouTube and blogs. However, I didn’t realize there were so many options.

After a lot of reading and YouTube watching I decided that Lunette, a Finnish company, would be the best to try next. There are women out there who have tried them all (or close to it). If you’re on the fence about which cup to choose, watch one of these informative videos.

Lunette 

PROS
Comfort:
Lunette is also available in two sizes and runs around $40. After my experience with The Diva Cup, I still opted for the smaller of the two cups (Model 1). Although this is often recommended as a “starter cup” for younger girls, this cup has been perfect for me. I don’t even notice it’s there except when it's time to empty it or it isn't sitting right in my body (which is a much easier fix than it was with The Diva Cup).

Longevity: The company says to replace your cup when any signs of damage are observed—this could be holes, any kind of abrasion or drying/flaking. I’ve had my Lunette cup for close to a year; I’ve not seen any signs of wear, but I also follow the care instructions to a tee. Keep in mind: If you choose to buy a colored cup it may be more difficult to notice discoloration.

Freedom: Again, no one is going to complain about 10 to 12 hours of protection. Since using the Lunette cup, I’ve begun aerial dance classes without fear or worry (on top of the activities I was able to do freely with The Diva Cup.)

Ease of use: This cup is so easy to use! Both models are made of "softer medical grade silicone" and it's so flexible! The cup easily holds its folded shape making insertion extremely easy.

Cleaning: Care instructions for most cups are pretty universal with a few caveats here and there. The stem on this cup is flat and sealed. Both the inside and outside of the cup are free from lines or ridges (perfectly smooth). These simple features make cleaning a breeze. (Try the Lunette Feelbetter Liquid Wash, which is specifically designed for silicone and smells heavenly.)

CONS
Easy to find:
At the time of purchase, Lunette wasn’t available at any of my local stores. There was one location offering them in the neighboring city, which I choose to order online from. However, there is now a U.S.-based online store on their website that makes purchasing even easier. Check “Where to Buy Globally” to support local retailers and business owners.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about my experience with Lunette. It’s far more comfortable in every way, and just as affordable as The Diva Cup. Sure, I can’t just run to the store and a buy a new one tomorrow, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. I also like that it comes in a variety of colors and has several “accessories” to pair with it. Quite frankly, I’m kind of in love with it.

Make Menstrual Cups Your Product of Choice

I would suggest getting familiar with your body and natural cycle to best choose which cup is right for you, even if it's not the Diva Cup or Lunette. The Lunette site has a wealth of information about understanding your anatomy and cycle that can be helpful to women of any age.

Regardless of your choice, menstrual cups are great for the environment, will save you a ton of money and give you peace of mind. If you’re new to menstrual cups, give either one of these a try and if it doesn’t suit you, move on to the next or a different brand entirely. Lord knows, there are plenty to choose from!

What do you think about menstrual cups? Have you tried a number of brands available? What's your favorite reusable feminine hygiene product? Share your experiences, thoughts and tips in the comments below to help others find the perfect, natural solution that fits their lifestyle.


Ashley Houk is the web editor for Mother Earth Living. When she’s not producing online content, she’s probably reading or writing blog posts of her own. Find her on and .



11/28/2014

Creating art with leaves and nature can be fun, interesting, meditative and inspiring. Plus, it can connect you with the outdoors in an enjoyable and relaxing way. Here are a few great ideas to get you started.

Lily collecting leaves
Photo by Kristy Severin

1. Collecting Leaves

This can be such an enjoyable activity, whether you're alone or with family or friends. Spending time outside in nature and taking the time to look closely at the world around you can bring such a sense of peace and wonder as you may find something unique and wonderful or even something you've never noticed before. Take notice of the brightness of a particular red maple leaf or how different trees lose their leaves and change colors at different times. Once you've collected your leaves, you can begin creating art as you wish.   

Leaf Rubbings
Photo from KC Edventures

2. Leaf Rubbings

This can be the start of a small project or an extension of a layered piece of art. It's a simple way to create art with leaves that can be done alone or with children of all ages. By simply placing paper on top of your leaves and rubbing them with crayons, you can create a detailed leaf in any color and preserve its beauty. 

Leaf Mandala
Photo from Pinterest

3. Leaf Mandalas

Mandalas, a meditative process of arranging the leaves in a circular patterned shape, can act as permanent or temporary art. 

Leaf Garland
Photo from G Sheller

4. Leaf Garland

Arranging leaves in patterns by stringing them through yarn, twine or string can be a lovely decoration for your home or even a great gift for a friend. 

Leaf preserved in beeswax
Photo from The Magic Onions

5. Preserve Leaves in Beeswax

This is a natural way to preserve the beauty of a leaf.

Leaf Book
Photo from Pinterest

6. Leaf Identification Book

Another enjoyable way to arrange some of the beautiful leaves you may have collected, start your very own leaf identification book. 


Kristy SeverinKristy Severin is a mother of two, a certified art instructor, photographer, painter, writer and cook. She earned her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, East Africa. Inspired daily by her children and love of the earth, you can find her fine art and writings at The Art of Green Living.



11/17/2014

Holiday season is right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me now is the time to start crafting all of those handmade gifts. To make life a bit easier, here are a few craft hacks to make all of your holiday DIY experiences less painful and stress-free.

Check out our Pinterest page if you’re in need of some inspiration for DIY projects.     

DIY Bow           

1. The Perfect Bows

Make the smallest of embellishments, for cards or packages, with this hack for making perfect bows using a fork. Simply weave ribbon in-and-out of the fork tines before fastening it in the center with another piece of ribbon and trimming the ends to size. Via Slow Robot.

Bonus Hack: remove creases or wrinkles from ribbon with a light bulb. Via Plaid Crafts.

Clean up extra glitter

2. Excess Glitter

As any DIY-er or craft connoisseur will tell you, glitter makes a mess. No matter how careful you are, it still manages to get all over your work surface before you’ve finished a project. Clean up the glitter-bomb that is now your table quickly and easily with a lint roller. Via Buzz Feed.

Bead Organization

3. Store Tiny Bits and Bobbles

If you’re a frequent do-it-yourself, you’ve probably accumulated quite the array or supplies. Bobbins, beads, buttons, stamps and the list could go on and on. Consider utilizing those unused ice cube trays that are probably just sitting in your freezer. This is an extremely convenient (and cheap) solution for keeping things organized, especially if your other storage containers are filling up fast as they tend to do. Via Handi Quilter.

Crochet in comfort

4. Knit and Crochet in Comfort

Get excited for school supplies again and prepare for some reminiscing. Personalize your knitting needles or crochet hooks with pencil grips. The added diameter will keep your hands from cramping, and the fun patterns and colors will add a touch of personal flair. Via Crochet Concupiscence.

DIY Stamp

5. DIY Stamps

There are several ways to make your own homemade stamps. One of which we all learned, once upon a time, in elementary school: a potato. This is still a viable option, but if you’d rather not waste food just for crafts try using a piece of Styrofoam instead. The lid of a takeout box will work just fine. Cut out the center and size as necessary, sketch your design onto the Styrofoam with pencil, cover in paint and apply the stamp to paper, cardstock or the desire material. Via Coisas Que Gosto.

Let us know in the comments below if you have used any of these craft hacks, or have developed any hacks of your own. We’d love to hear them!



11/13/2014

Last weekend we asked our Facebook community to share stories and photos of their tiny homes. The stories were varied, and everyone had their own reasons for choosing to downsize and try this lifestyle on for size, but one thing held true for all: They love their tiny spaces!

From traditional, modular tiny homes to small houses with a plot of land for gardening, teepees to houseboats, our readers know how to live large in small spaces.

Tiny Empty Nest

Name: MJ Boyle
Location: Oregon
Square Footage: 196

After helping design and supervising the construction of two full-sized homes earlier in life, MJ Boyle decided that once her youngest headed off to college she would build a space all her own. In March of 2014 she officially settled on the mission of building a tiny home.

DIY Tiny Home In-Progress 

“Nothing is life goes according to plan.” Boyle says this is one thing she’s learned in all her years on this great green Earth. Luckily, a tiny home can often go wherever life sees fit to send us and this is part of the appeal. After acquiring a sponsor and designing her own 196-square-foot home, Boyle set to downsizing. Her journey is still in progress, but she’s well on her way to having the home of her dreams. Keep up with her progress on her blog.

Downsized Haven

Name: Holly Dormeyer
Location: Arizona
Square Footage: 565

When Holly Dormeyer’s mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, Holly quit her job as an attorney in Arizona to move back to New York to spend their last months together. Upon returning to Arizona, she realized it was time to revamp her own life.

She permanently left the law firm and a six-figure paycheck to focus on making a living in a way that she enjoyed. She also cancelled construction on her new, larger home and moved into a 565-square-foot house instead. “I think what makes my house feel a bit bigger is that there is no carpet and no hallways. The laminate and tile make the space feel larger, as do the white walls,” Holly says.

Arizona Tiny Home 

She has lived in the space, with her three beloved dogs, for almost three years and can’t imagine living in a larger space. She has even considered going smaller!

Wilderness Home

Name: Rohn Amegatcher
Square Footage: 400

Reclaimed Materials Tiny Home 

This 400-square-foot home was built with reclaimed materials in just four months! Rohn Amegatcher uses wind and solar energy to power his tiny home year-round. An upper level, loft-style space allows him to comfortably host four, when necessary. His home also has a rainwater cistern to provide residents with water and inner walls provide storage with a built-in pantry.

Mobile Life

Name: Ashley Morin
Location: Washington
Square Footage: 240

Upcycled RV Tiny Home 

Two adults and 3 pets live, without regret, in a mere 240-square-feet. Almost a year ago, Ashley Morin and her boyfriend decided they were tired of paying rent on a place they’d never own, but unsure of where they wanted to settle down they opted for a house they could take with them. Their vintage 30-foot RV has been upcycled into a tiny home to serve just that purpose.

Roughing It

Name: Dandelion Perfect
Square Footage: Unknown

Wilderness Tipi 

Although we weren’t provided any information about Dandelion Perfect’s style of living, this tiny home is certainly unique! Not unlike a yurt, teepees can serve as temporary or permanent living spaces, even in our modern world. (Tipi, in Lakota, means “living in.”)

For the month of November, we’ll be asking our readers for more submissions that will be turned into blog posts. We got a huge response for this post, in particular, and would like to thank everyone for participating!

Like us on Facebook for your chance to submit your stories and photos, and to keep up to date on all things Mother Earth Living.


Ashley Houk is the web editor for Mother Earth Living. When she’s not producing online content, she’s probably reading or writing blog posts of her own. Find her on and .



11/4/2014

We are deep into an age of human innovation. New creations are beginning to shape our lives in ways not seen since the industrial revolution. We now carry computers in our pockets and soon might be wearing them on our wrists. Life is constantly being shaped, for better or worse, by the wonders of human invention, and yet we continue to utilize outdated non-renewable energy resources that have a debilitating impact on our environment.

The struggle to achieve clean renewable energy has been one fraught with frustration, from both a technical and political point of view, along with the actual logistics of harnessing energy in a similarly clean fashion. The grasp of the oil and coal industries are so tight on the political spectrum that putting forth long-term plans or legislation that could potentially hurt them is often met with fast and harsh opposition. But the true tragedy of the quest for renewable energy, thus far, has been the simple fact that one of the most viable forms of clean, renewable energy has been right under our noses all along—or I guess I should say above our heads. Solar energy promises to be one of the defining technological leaps of our generation and, despite it’s critics, is finally to the point where it’s ready to be adopted on a large scale. What follows are 5 reasons why solar energy is ready to take hold as the energy source of the future:

1. Dwindling Existing Resources

Perhaps the most pertinent argument in favor of moving away from traditional energy resources lies in the simple fact that resources such as oil and coal are non-renewable. When they are gone, they are truly gone. Crude oil can take millions of years to form, meaning that the likelihood of supply keeping up with demand is quite literally 0%. Humans use nearly 93 million barrels a day as of March of 2014 according to the International Energy Agency. Sunlight on the the other hand is plentiful and will continue to be plentiful long after humankind is gone from this Earth.

2. Cost Effective

Solar energy also provides an extremely affordable alternative to other energy resources. Unlike oil or natural gas, sunlight is readily available to anyone at anytime (nighttime excluded) and even better, it’s free. After the initial investment of installing a solar energy system, whether it’s 25 year panels on the roof or a solar powered water heating system, savings begin to pile up rather quickly. Between using less city- or county-provided electricity and the local tax incentives or rebates that often accompany the installation of a these systems, both residential and industrial structures promise to benefit financially by adopting a solar energy.

Solar Energy System
Solar panel installation has never been as widely available as it is today.
Walmart Corporate via photopin cc

3. Wide Availability

One of the early limitations of solar energy was it being not readily available to consumers on a wide scale. Thankfully, that has now changed. Multiple online outlets allow everyday consumers to investigate the realities of having solar panels installed on residential properties without spending an arm and a leg have begun cropping up. As the integration of solar energy into both residential and industrial sectors becomes easier, the mass adoption of the technology promises to get closer and closer.

4. No Emissions

Unlike traditional energy resources, solar energy has the distinct benefit of releasing zero emissions. Even the production of the panels themselves creates surprisingly low carbon dioxide emissions, and even the amount it does create is up to 30 times less than traditional energy resources such as coal.

Carbon Emissions Graph
Wikiversity

5. Ability to Expand Rapidly

Solar energy has some unique benefits that are not available to other resources. Solar energy systems can be installed quickly and inexpensively while offering a high reward through yearly energy savings and tax incentives or rebates. This allows the solar industry a leg up as it can expand rapidly through multiple industries in relatively little time. This is not attainable by the oil, coal or natural gas industries as implementation of those systems are not only more expensive, but also more difficult and complicated to install and maintain.


Alicia Hobbes is a freelance blogger who is passionate about the environment, renewable energy, and green initiatives. In her free time she enjoys reading Ann Rice novels and spending time with her family and golden retriever, Calvin.





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