Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Class It Up

I used to love classical music.  I still like it, but my weary brain generally prefers pop as its drug of choice, so naturally I love a pop-classical remix.  Here's a smattering of songs which I think are improved by a touch of Old World class.










Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Random Domestic Thought of the Day, Vol. I

While combing Netflix for my background TV entertainment while crafting, I came across TLC's "Extreme Cheapskates."  I clicked on it because I consider myself a sort of soft-core cheapskate, and I'm always looking for reasonable tips.  Some of them are doing things I've done in the past when we had barely enough money to live on, such as picking up spare change on the street and reusing paper towels.  I still unplug most appliances when not in use and tear my dryer sheets in half.  Not extreme measures by any means, but every little bit counts.

In many instances, the show reveals some of the affluent snobbery of the first world.  People who would rather vomit than pick the meat off the head of a cooked salmon have never been truly hungry.  I wish more establishments would set out the slightly abused produce and yesterday's bread with proper signage and a reasonable discount.  I abhor waste.  However, I'm probably not likely to make salad dressing by pouring apple cider vinegar into the dregs of a jelly jar, nor to use a wad of old tin foil inside a plastic onion bag as a dish scrubber.  More power to them.

I have no problem with cultivating slightly unusual habits to save money in the privacy of your own home, but when the fixation becomes highly inconvenient and/or publicly obnoxious, it's time to reevaluate the reason behind the behavior.  Are you really trying to get by, or would you just rather have a free ride?  There's a fine line between frugality and outright theft; fast food restaurants don't put out ketchup packets so you can leave with a pocketful and refill your ketchup bottle on their dime.  It is incredibly rude to pay a large restaurant tab with a huge bag of small change.  It is unreasonable for a man of means to have his wife (who has exhibited good financial judgment) on an allowance of $20 a week.

Today's random thought, however, deals with a cost-cutting measure which is neither rude nor unreasonable, but neither is it incredibly effective.  That thought is reusable cloth toilet "paper."

Toilet paper is tricky.  Buy cheap, and you're likely to need to use more in order for it to be effective.  Buy better and need less, but spend more.  There's a point after which effective toilet paper cannot be cheaper.  Anything more expensive is like buying a disposable quilted memory foam pillow for your butt -- extravagant and (in my book) unnecessary.  Your butt can suck it up.

The first world reels in shock and horror at the thought of reusable toilet paper.  Eew, urine and feces!  The family in question used old rags and cut up clothes for this purpose, a basket of clean pieces hanging from the toilet paper rod, a plastic trash can below collecting the dirties for washing.  It may not be as far-fetched as it seems, but it probably isn't worth the effort.

PROS:

Allegedly, using reusable toilet paper is "free," eliminating that expense from the budget entirely.  One of the appalled neighbors replied that she could never "contaminate her washing machine" like that.  Why not?  What about those reusable diapers that are making such a come-back?  What about reusable puppy pads like the ones I use?  There's at least one or two loads of dirty doggie laundry done around here each day.  When the washer smells a little funky, we run a cycle with one of those washer cleaner packets.  Not so shocking after all.  This is a real trend.  It's called "family cloth."

CONS:

Reusable cloth toilet "paper" isn't actually free, so I find it hard to believe it's worth the effort from a purely financial perspective.  The cost of toilet paper is negligible at best, especially when considered against the electricity, water, detergent and man hours required to maintain a clean supply of the cloth alternative.  If you can throw them in with a batch of cloth diapers being washed anyway, that's great.  Otherwise, I can't see washing them with anything else (except maybe doggie laundry).  I can see approaching it from an ecological standpoint, but I simply choose to pay a little extra for recycled toilet paper.  Two ply, of course.  In the end all the fuss and bother doesn't really seem worthwhile.

Hey, maybe you don't do it for frugality's sake.  Maybe you just like the idea.  In that case, there are lots of fancy options on Etsy.  These snap together for a look-alike toilet roll.  Might as well pay for the good stuff, right?  Brown is probably a prudent color choice.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Products Natural AND Domestic

While we're talking about toxic Chinese products, I thought I'd highlight some of my favorite natural consumables I have in the house right now.  I prefer a natural alternative when I can get it, and the great thing about these products is that they're pretty mainstream.  I found most of them in the specialty section of Food Lion.  The other perk is that most natural products don't seem to come from China.  Long live the resistance.

1. Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap 

Yeah, it's the pantheistic soap with the ranting label.  Just ignore that part.  It's a very mild natural soap with no detergents or extra foaming agents.  However, it is very effective.  The short list of ingredients includes coconut oil, olive oil, hemp oil and jojoba oil, all of which are organic.  It is very proud of being certified fair trade and packaged in a 100% recycled plastic bottle.  Even better, it comes in two of my favorite scents of all time, peppermint and almond.  The liquid soap is concentrated, so I keep some diluted by half in a little travel bottle in our shower caddy.  It also comes in bar form.    I had to search the label for a while, but eventually I found the stamp: "Made in U.S.A."

2. Jason Aloe Vera Shampoo and Deodorant

I've been searching for years for the perfect shampoo and conditioner combination for my hair.  I've tried wash-out treatments, leave-in treatments, the vitamin shampoos, the exotic oil shampoos.  I finally gave it up in favor of a shampoo with no carcinogens.  This moisturizing 84% aloe vera shampoo has no parabens, SLS or phthalates, and my hair has never felt better.  Many of the ingredients are organic, and the product has never been tested on animals (for those who are concerned about such things).  It's such a great natural shampoo, though, I've considered testing it on my dog.  Again, "Made
in USA."

I also use a deodorant of the same organic aloe vera line for sensitive skin.  It is a deodorant but not an antiperspirant, so it is aluminum free and paraben free, with no animal by-products or testing.  One of the active ingredients seems to be a derivative of Chamomile.  "Made in USA."

3. Tom's of Maine Toothpaste

I like that Tom's has a fluoride-free option.  I have mixed feelings about fluoride.  When we were kids our teeth were yellow because there was too much fluoride in the water, a fact that was apparently explained on our water bill.  Anyway, fluoride-free, antiplaque and whitening is the trifecta for my toothpaste.  Available in classic peppermint.  No artificial colors, flavors, fragrance, or preservatives.  Packaged in a recycled BPA-free plastic tube.  "Made in U.S.A."

4. Petco Natural Dog Toothpaste

While we're talking about toothpaste, I noticed that the dog's toothpaste was also "Made in USA."  It's a natural enzymatic toothpaste that doesn't require rinsing, thank God.  It's hard enough to just get the brushing done.  Supposed to whiten teeth and freshen breath, also highly desirable.  I never thought I'd actually be brushing a dog's teeth, but at least I know I'm not poisoning her.

5. Anything Burt's Bees

I love Burt's Bees.  If nothing else, I always have some of their lip balm around.  Gotta love the peppermint.  The primary ingredient is, of course, beeswax, but it also contains coconut oil, sunflower seed oil, peppermint oil, rosemary leaf extract, soybean oil, canola oil, and vitamin E.  No animal testing.  35% post-consumer content in the packaging.  No parabens, phthalates, or petrochemicals.  I've just realized that Burt's Bees has an entire line of pet care products.  "Made in USA."

6. Earth Friendly Products Ultra Dishmate Soap

I was initially drawn to this product because they had an almond-scented option.  I love almond.  The very short list of ingredients is water, coconut oil derived surfactants, and almond oil.  Of these coconut oil derived surfactants, it claims they do not contain 1,4-Dioxane or Cocamide DEA.  I'm not even sure what that is, but ok.  It says it's biodegradable and recyclable, the latter of which I assume refers to the bottle. Smells fabulous.  I also remember an orange and a pear variety.  "Made in the USA."

7. Vitafusion PreNatal Gummy Vitamins

I am not a natural pill-swallower, so I finally went looking for some grown-up gummy vitamins.  I found these at Food Lion for the last pregnancy, and I still take them now even though I don't need them for prenatal purposes.  They are the multivitamin and the DHA supplement combined, made with naturally sourced colors and flavors.  These natural colors are apparently purple carrot juice concentrate, black carrot juice concentrate, blueberry and carrot concentrates.  The fish oil used has been tested for mercury and PCBs and comes from sustainable fisheries.  Comes in a BPA-free plastic bottle.  Best of all, they're "Made in the USA" with a proud little picture of an American flag on the label.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Death By China

I've been watching documentaries again.  Here's a goodie, available on Netflix and YouTube.

I knew the situation in China was terrible, I knew the cheap stuff was inferior quality and possibly dangerous, and growing up I had some vague notion that if everything was made in China our economy would probably suffer.  For a while I was just apathetic, because there didn't seem to be too many ways around it.  There aren't too many products out there with a "Made in USA" alternative.  But now I'm just mad, and determined to look for an alternative whenever one might possibly exist.  This will tie in with that later post wherein I will scour Target and Wal-Mart for those elusive "Made in USA" items and compare the two.

Oh, and I'll never order fish at a restaurant again, at least not unless I can verify it came from this hemisphere.  Not that fish farming anywhere is AMAZINGLY healthy.  Bah.  Fish are difficult.