Help Save Handmade

Okay I must admit, I am addicted to  I love browsing the handmade crafts, especially the stuff for children.  I dream about the stuff I can buy for Tom and Jerry when I find out ages and genders.  The sad thing is there is a new law that is about to go into effect that could end handmade stuff for kids.  The Hand Made Toy Alliance has this on their website:

The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008.  Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number. 

For small American, Canadian, and European toymakers, however, the costs of mandatory testing will likely drive them out of business.

  • A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
  • A work at home mom in Minnesota who makes dolls to sell at craft fairs must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
  • A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
  • And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.For small American, Canadian, and European toymakers, however, the costs of mandatory testing will likely drive them out of business.
What can you do?  Well the Hand Made Toy Alliance has provided a sample letter.  Please write your Representative and your Senators.  It is easy and takes less than a minute.  They are not asking for the law to go away completely, but rather for changes to be made, so small toy makers can stay in business and crafts can still be sold.

What to buy

What do you buy for the person that has everything, is impossible to buy for, is an eco-dork, or the consummate philanthropist? How about buying them gifts that keep on giving?

The World Wildlife Fund has tons of animals you can adopt and your recipient will receive a gift also. Some adorable examples are the frogs, giraffe, or penguins.

Sustainable Harvest has gift options that improves the standard of living for families and preserves the environment.

Heifer International has gifts to help families become more self-reliant. You can give goats, bees, ducks, and trees and many other items.

You could buy them shoes:

Or you can give the simple gift of water for Christmas.

Shopping for Fair Trade items is always a possibility. Check out Global Exchange or Serrv International.

Those are just a few of the gift ideas I have to share. Please feel free to share any you have.

Farming in the City

I think this is a great idea if you are looking to start a CSA, but can’t purchase land. Another idea I see that could stem from this is sharing your yard with apartment dwellers. A lot of homeowners have yards and want organic, local produce, but do not have the desire or the time to work in a garden. I am sure a number of these homeowners know someone who has the desire to grow their own food, but does not have the space. The homeowners could allow their friends to farm their land and use their water in exchange for some fresh produce. Both parties get something they want out of the deal and it is better for the environment.

Retote Offer

For those of you who frequently shop at Target, I know many of you do, they are offering a free reusable tote if you send in five Target plastic bags.

Reusable bags are easy to use and one great way to help the environment.

Friday Update – 10/17/08

Adoption Update: No referrals this week, but several families received their court dates. We also decided this week to expand the ages we were requesting. We are now waiting for two siblings 0-42 months with one being under 18 months.

Life: Matt’s Grandpa found out this week he has cancer. Please keep him in your prayers.

Running and Push-ups: Yep still doing those, being consistent, but not progressing super fast.

Gardening: I finally transplanted my little seedlings and they are going through some major transplant shock. Maybe it is because they want from a nice humid little house to the dry desert air. I hope they perk back up soon.

Random: I finally have decided what I want for Christmas. Solar Panels! Our local utility is finally offering a rebate for the purchase of them (up to $15,000). A system for our house would run around $33,000. With the Federal and State credits we only need about $15,000 more. Now if my money tree would start producing I would be set!

Friday Update – 10/03/08

Adoption Update:  Five referrals this week, four infant girls and one infant boys.  Congratulations to the lucky families!

Running Update:  I ran one day this week!  I was also going to run today, but woke up with a headache and I am not dedicated enough to run with a headache.  I did walk every day this week.

Push-ups:  I completed the last column of week 2 this week and will be finally moving on to week 3.  The sets are getting harder and harder for me, and instead of advancing a week at a time I have decided to advance a column at a time.  I don’t really care about getting it done in six weeks (obviously, it has already been more than that) so I will take it slowly.  I am sure I will get to 100 before Tom and Jerry get here.

Gardening:  My seedlings are doing great,  I will probably be able to plant most of them in the garden this weekend.  It is still fairly warm, but I think they will survive.

Jackson noticed the water droplets in the seedling starter boxes and attacked, it was pretty funny until he tried to bite through the plastic

Random Stuff:  There are two more tractor tires in the field behind my house along with several smaller ones, I plan on rescuing some of the smaller ones in the future to make a potato container in the spring.  If anyone is interested in rescuing tires just let me know.

A solution to the obesity epidemic in America.

I also learned about the Phoenix Permaculture Guild this week.  They have some interesting classes and a good tree buying program.

Friday Update – 9/26/08

Adoption:  There were no referrals this week.  The courts reopen October 9 and hopefully things pick up then!

Running:  I walked a lot again this week, hopefully next week I feel up to running.

Push-ups:  I so wanted to keep up with the push-ups this week, but I had a clicking pain in my right shoulder (probably from all the lifting I did on Monday and Tuesday) so I took a couple of nights off from the push-ups, but Matt kept up on his.  He is getting pretty buff!  

Gardening:  The tire gardens are full of dirt and ready to plant!  I just want to get a little fence up to keep the dogs away from the gardens, then the real fun begins.  I did plant a few other things this week.  (Well Matt did the hard work of digging the hole for me.)

Pomegranate Tree

Artichoke Plant

Gerber Daisies, because a girl has to have some flowers

My seedlings

Carter keeping the seedlings company

My New Toy

My Solar Oven finally arrived this week.  I figured since we lived in one of the sunniest places on the planet we should put all that sunshine to good use.  So, now the sun dries my clothes, makes my garden grow, and cooks my food.  

I put it to use the very next day to make of all things cookies.  Yes Matt asked me if I would make him cookies in the solar oven.

I made basic chocolate chip and they turned out just fine.  I think they are a little crunchier than from the oven, but they taste the same.  It was so nice not heating up the kitchen to make cookies.  It is a slightly longer process because I cannot fit very many cookies in the oven and it takes an hour and a half to bake.  I just kept the dough in the fridge and made it a day long project.  I even left the cookies in the “oven” and ran some errands.

I was making this pie last night which uses butternut squash and sweet potatoes and both had to be pre-cooked.  I put them in the solar oven in the morning and was able to make the pie by the afternoon.  They smelt so good and were cooked perfectly.

I didn’t actually bake the pie in the solar oven because the instructions discuss making cookies and cakes but not pies and I didn’t feel like doing any research yesterday, so I used the oven to finish the pie.

It gets topped off with marshmallows:

I forgot to take a picture of the pie before the neighbors and us dug in:

It was yummy!

The solar oven can be used similarly to a slow cooker and I will soon be making some meals in it.  It is so nice to be able to cook without using electricity.  

Solar cooking is similar to slow cooking. Slow cooking retains flavor, moisture and nutrients and makes meats tender. Recent studies indicate that foods cooked at moderate temperatures may be healthier.  Solar cooked food is succulent, moist and delicious.

You can learn more about Solar Ovens here.

So Tired!

. . . and a little sore this morning.  Why you ask? (okay you might not be asking but I am going to tell you anyway)

Yesterday morning I was walking Taffi and minding my own business when I noticed that someone had dumped a tractor tire in the field near our house.  I thought to myself I must tell Matt, because believe it or not we had just discussed tractor tires this weekend.  I know we are weird.  Anyway I decided we must have said tire.  I figured it would make a nice sandbox or garden.

Matt came home last night and asked why I hadn’t brought the tire home.  Ummm because it is a large tire and I thought it would be fun easier to do together.  I had to remind him we needed to do this before the sun went down as it was in the middle of the desert.  He was still being slow because he thought how long could it take to bring home this little tire, yes apparently in his head it wasn’t all that big.

Here is Matt standing next to the tire:

For those of you who don’t know my husband is over six feet, so it is a decent size tire and I couldn’t even lift it by myself.

Lucky us when we got there we spotted two more smaller tractor tires and decided to take one of those home too.  Here is me with my tire:

It took as around 30 minutes to roll the dang things home!  I dropped mine way too many times (believe it or not they didn’t roll all that well).  Matt managed to keep his upright the whole time, he must be super strong.

In the end we decided to use the tires as gardens.  I checked and it is a safe use for gardens, at least according to the internet.  We were planning on building raised bed gardens this weekend out of wood and now we will have less to buy.

For anyone interested in the Maricopa area there is still one of the smaller tires left.  I will gladly show you where it is if you are interested, but I will not roll it anywhere.  Okay I might, it was a really good workout.

Here is a picture of how dirty I got rolling the tire home, for some reason Matt wasn’t nearly as dirty:

Scary Lightning


Wow are we having a massive storm. I mean the biggest lightning storm of the year. 

I was daring enough to go out with the new camera

The new birthday lens was great. Thanks to all made that happen for me!

Here are some pics that I took




Recently I have been feeling very overwhelmed with my commitment to the Carbon Account Challenge and feeling guilty from what I had learned in that first month. I was very frustrated with the fact that the efforts we had made to make our lives a more sustainable one had not come as far as I had hoped. It was very daunting to see it there in black and white. So, mid-way through August I just stopped tracking, thinking I would just put guesstimates in when I felt up to it. Then I read this blog and one very wise suggestion reminded me that it is okay to take changing our lives a little at a time:

Start with one or two things (take the bus one day a week, use cloth bags, etc) and make it a habit. Then move on to another and another.

I have decided for now to not track every little thing, but to continue making little changes to our lives, and check our progress every few months with the carbon account.  Sometimes I need to be reminded that I can’t do it all at once, but I can and will eventually get to where I want to be.

Eden Reforestation Project – Ethiopia

Thanks to Kellie for posting about Eden Reforestation Project – Ethiopia. I had looked a while back for a tree planting program in Ethiopia and hadn’t stumbled upon Eden’s website. I am so happy to have read her post today because reforestation in Ethiopia covers two of my greatest passions, taking care of the earth and Tom and Jerry’s homeland.

Tesfaye from Chronicle Project on Vimeo.

There is also a free coloring book download for those of you with kids or who are teachers.