Four Simple Ways to Go Green at Home

Monday, July 30, 2012

I have a love, hate relationship with going green. I like knowing that we're using less resources and putting less chemicals into our bodies and the earth. It feels good to be less wasteful. But, let's face it being more responsible is often a choice between convenience, price and effort.

I started feeling so guilty about so many of the things we were buying, I knew we'd need to make changes. We are not the greenest household out there, but we're making progress and steadily adopting new habits with results I can actually measure. Here are a four environmentally products we've been using that have a made a difference in our house.

Vapur water bottles
I can't remember when I first saw someone using these bottles. They stuck with me and I bought two about mid way through the last school year. Since I bought them, I've almost completely cut out juice boxes and pouches. I fill these the night before school and add single serve flavored drink powder. In the morning, I put them in the freezer while we get ready for school.

Vapur water bottle eco friendly
They hold more liquid than a juice pouch so I know our son is staying hydrated and they double as an ice pack. This school year, I'm going to try cutting back even more. My plan is to not buy as many drink powder sticks and instead make pitchers of juice and refill. The Vapur bottles aren't super expensive but you will get mad if one doesn't make it home from school. I'm spending less on lunchbox items and drastically reducing our waste. We took them on our last trip Disney World and it was so nice to be able to refill cold water all day.

Reusable hemp coffee filters
We drink a lot of coffee. No really, a lot. Even though I was buying the brown, non-bleached filters, I felt bad about how many we go through. We were throwing away two filters a day at least six days a week. I looked for another solution and settled on a hemp filter. I bought one to start with to make sure we like it and will use it.
Re-usable hemp coffee filter
I was worried about mildew since it's cloth but buying additional filters and caring for them according to the directions should keep them mildew free. With more than one filter, we'll always have one clean, dry and ready to use. For heavy coffee drinking households like ours, I think 5-6 filters would be perfect. The coffee tastes the same as a paper filter. I bought ours from BonaFide Green Goods.

Copco reusable travel drink cups
I've talked about these before, but since I love them so, so much I'll talk about them again. I adore my Copco cups. They're permanent fixtures in my car. My husband uses one hot cup every day and we each have them when we know we're going to be at the ice rink for more than an hour. Last week, our family was in town camping at the beach. I took an iced coffee with me every day.

Copco re-usable cups eco friendly
These cups last forever, they save at the coffee shop since sometimes they're considered a refill, they maintain the temperature better than the disposable cups, they make an affordable gift and since I always have Starbucks Via in my purse, I can make a drink whenever I want to.
Reusable produce bags
I had some credit on a daily deal site and bought these Essie produce bags about a year ago. They were another purchase born out of guilt. I hated bringing home the plastic bags since there's nothing else they can be used for. These bags are great. People stop me to ask where I got them.

An added bonus is buying more produce. I like using them so much I bring home more fruit and vegetables than I ever have before.

Those are just a few of the ways we've been greening up our lives. I'm always on the lookout for more small changes we can make. Being green is definitely a lifestyle choice and takes commitment. But, it's something we all need to do and sets a great example for our kids.

What are your favorite green products? 

This is post five in a series of sponsored posts and sweepstakes for the San Diego Honda Dealers Association. Visit and comment weekly for a chance to win Amazon gift cards! Some affiliate links used.

Hockey For Dummies | Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Renewed Health and Fitness Resolutions

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hello, my name is Melanie and I no longer fit into my clothes. Over the past few weeks I've realized I'm no longer at a weight that is healthy for me. This year I've put fitness squarely on the bottom of my To Do list and now my bottom is paying the price.

The biggest thing I don't have in my life is training for the Breast Cancer 3 Day. I didn't realize just how much all the walking was keeping me fit. At my best, I could walk 10 miles in just under 3 hours. I may not be participating in the 3 Day but I need to pretend like I am. My health depends on it. There are three changes I need to make to get my weight under control and live a healthier lifestyle.

1. Buy ice skates
My son plays hockey. I am now team manager. I will be living at the ice rink this year. It makes sense for me to buy my own skates so I can jump on the ice during open sessions. Any exercise that requires maintaining  balance is great for developing core strength. Skating also helps work the thigh muscles. Muscle burns more energy than fat.

If your kids are into sports, use their practice time as your time, too. I remember my my mom and her friends used to walk the fields during my brother's soccer games. Fitness can happen anywhere. I need to stop making excuses and use my time more wisely.

2. Find a buddy
The 3 Day is in November. Generally, once our son heads back to school I'd join groups and train with others who were walking the event too. Having regularly scheduled sessions that I had to RSVP for before the slots filled up kept me accountable. Left to my own devices, I won't get as much exercise as I need to. If you're like me and need an extra push to stay motivated, finding a partner is the best way to make sure you will stick to a routine.

3. Drink more water
When I was training I had two refillable water bottles with me and would usually finish both. Now I drink my morning two cups of coffee and that's about it. Occasionally I'll drink something with dinner. That's not healthy. My skin looks terrible. My nails are weak. My hair is brittle. I put my 3 Day water bottles away since I'm not walking. It's time to break them out again.

I went to the store and stocked up on Crystal Light and other single serve drink powders. I know, I know. I should just use cucumber or lemon slices. But I know me and I won't do that. I don't like the taste. I used to feel guilty buying the powders, but if it's a choice between no water at all and zero calorie flavored powder? I'll choose the powder every time.

Sure, I'd love to fit into my size 6 jeans again, but it's about more than that. I'm creeping towards 40 and I'm starting to feel it. It's not as easy to lose weight as it was just two years ago. My metabolism has plummeted. If I'm going to get healthy again I have to make changes. Plus, I want to be an example for our son. We tell him all the time that he's an athlete now and he needs to take care of his body. Well, I want to make sure I'm around to see my little athlete grow into a big one.

What are your best tips for renewing your fitness goals? 
How do you stay motivated and on track? 

This is post four in a series of sponsored posts and sweepstakes for the San Diego Honda Dealers Association. Visit and comment weekly for a chance to win Amazon gift cards!

Family Road Trip : Books, Tech and Gadgets for Kids

Monday, July 16, 2012

I have a confession to make: we've never taken a roadtrip. Sure, we've taken to the freeways to visit family, but we've never loaded up the car with the specific intent of driving up the California coast or heading to Yellowstone (both are items on our family bucket list). So, I've never really had to worry about keeping our son occupied for more than a few hours. That said, we do have several items we always bring with us for car trips.

Headphones: They are a must. Our son has to use them for the DVD player, the Nintendo DS, the iPod Touch, the iPad and anything else that will make enough noise to bother everyone else in the car. We have a pair of Skullcandy headphones and they're great. When he's wearing them we can't hear any of the blips and beeps from his games.

Tech toys: As I mentioned, we're a gadget loving family. Before we head out on the road, I make sure all our apps are up to date on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch and we look for new games to download. I make sure all my magazine subscriptions have the current issue downloaded. Even though I charge everything before we leave, I make sure we have our car kit, too.

Camera: Our son is picking up my photography habit. He's really starting to enjoy taking pictures. Even though he can take them with his iPod, I like to give him our point and shoot as well. If your kids have iPods too, there are a ton of free and easy to use photography and video apps they can use for the vacation photos.

Books: This is a no brainer. Since our son loves to read just as much as we do, a trip to the library is a must. Right now, our son is really into a few series. He's reading The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Secret Series and The Heroes of Olympus series.

It's no accident that I try to steer our son towards books with a high page count! He reads too fast to buy many short books. And yes, we know we're blessed.

Family games:  In addition to the things we played as kids like the license plate alphabet and license plate states game, I found a cute road sign bingo on Pinterest. You can download the bingo template from Oopsey Daisy.

Video camera: Right now my son is on vacation without us. I wish I'd had the foresight to order a waterproof video camera for him. He'll be riding a SeeDo, going fishing, kayaking and inner tubing for the first time. I'd love to have video of those moments captured from his perspective. This DB Power Waterproof Action camera is perfect for water activities.

Hopefully we'll be able to tackle some of the items on our family bucket list soon. There are so many cities, national parks and attractions we want to see. To quote Amy Foster from our trip to Disney this past spring, we only have 18 summers to spend with our kids. Make sure they are all memorable!

What ideas, tips or resources do you have to make road trips easy for everyone? What has been your 
favorite road trip destination?

This is post three in a series of sponsored posts and sweepstakes for the San Diego Honda Dealers Association. Visit and comment weekly for a chance to win Amazon gift cards! Affiliate links used. 

Renting A Camera Lens | Works For Me Wednesday

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I really wanted to take nice photos of my brother's wedding. I have two lenses for my Canon Rebel and neither was going to cut it. I went to a local business, Calumet Photo, and they helped me choose a lens to rent for the weekend.

The staff at the rental counter were really nice. I told them I'm new to all this photography stuff and they were very patient with me. I told them where I would be (outdoor, day and evening) and what I needed the lens to do. I wanted a good all-around lens so I wouldn't have to worry about changing lenses out or carrying our big camera bag (which isn't a bag, but an ugly backpack not stylish enough for a wedding). 

They recommended the Canon 24-105. With it, I would be able to take close up and distance photos and, along with the speed flash I also rented, would work well in the dark, too.

I really liked this lens. Most of the photos I took were really crisp. There was a little bit of a learning curve to it. I tried some close up shots that ended up being blurry. In the evening, the speed flash caused the camera to run really slow.

I missed several shots of my brother and mom dancing because I was waiting for the flash to re-charge. I also wasn't prepared for how fast my battery would run out. The camera died early in the evening and like a dummy I left my point and shoot at the hotel. I've never needed a back-up battery until this. It's something I'll be investing in soon.

I also wasn't prepared for how heavy this lens would feel by the end of the day. Not only was my neck really sore, so were my arms. After carrying this around all day, mono-pods made a lot more sense.

Renting a lens was a little expensive. Because I picked up the lens on a Thursday, I paid for a three day rental. Still, $100 is a small investment if you're considering buying a lens. The Canon 24-105 ranges from $800-$1100 depending on whether it's new or used. I'd much rather rent it once to make sure I liked it before dropping that kind of money. Renting a lens was a great experience and I'm sure it's something I'll do again.

Have you ever rented a camera lens? How was your experience? 

Pamper Me: How I Make Time for Me and What Makes Me Feel Special

Monday, July 9, 2012

Since I've been a work at home mom, I've had to redefine a lot things to fit our lifestyle and budget. When I had my office job, I would meet people for lunch, now I meet for coffee. I used to keep regular appointments to get my brows waxed, now I only go when I travel for blog related events. Manicures and pedicures are reserved for special occasions. Trips to the spa? Pretty much a thing of the past. I definitely had to re-think the way I defined 'me time' and being pampered. I know taking time for myself is important. I get really grouchy when I don't and then I make my family miserable.

Most women of color will tell you that getting their hair done is less a matter of vanity and more necessity because our hair can be pretty hard to take care of. In fact, before we married I told my husband that getting my hair done is and always will be a line item in our budget. He's never complained. I've learned the hard way what can happen when I don't visit a professional. There's a reason I will gladly drive 38 miles one way to see my stylist every 9 weeks. Because she's a miracle worker.

Even though I consider going to the salon a necessity, I still manage to turn the trip into a nice day out for myself. Before I get there, I usually stop for a smoothie or coffee. I bring a book, some magazines, snacks and my iPad. When I'm finished, me and my bouncy hair will try to meet up with a friend at My Happy Place for dessert at The Cheesecake Factory.

If no one is available to hang out, I spend some time window shopping at the mall and then popping into stores we don't have in my part of town. DSW, Loehmann's and Saks Off Fifth are some of my 'must visit' places. A few hours alone in the stores looking at new trends and scouting clearance racks is a great way for me to recharge my batteries.

As for being pampered, I'm lucky I get to feel that way all the time. I feel pampered when my husband opens doors for me, pulls out my chair or holds my coat open so I can slip it on. I feel pampered when my son opens the car door for me and kisses me good morning every day. Spa trips are great, but I will take these little endearments from my boys over a mud wrap any day. By adjusting my thinking a little bit, I realize I don't have to spend a lot of money or make a lot of effort to feel special.

Honda Likes Moms Sweepstakes
This is post two in a series of sponsored posts and sweepstakes for the San Diego Honda Dealers Association. Visit and comment weekly for a chance to win Amazon gift cards!

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Friday, July 6, 2012

I just left the airport and my heart is breaking a little. Tyler is on his first vacation without us. Yes, he went with family, but it's not the same!

This feels like that moment where our kids stop being just our kids and truly become part of the world at large. I have a feeling Tyler will return from his two parent-free weeks away feeling more mature and responsible. He will, quite possibly, feel he does not need me as much anymore.

Of course, I know that's what we want for our kids. Confidence, street smarts, independence and having a good head on their shoulders are things parents work hard to instill in their kids.

But watching Tyler walk away, knowing he may come back a different kid, tore me up a little. He's growing up so fast. I thought I was ready, but this morning I decided I don't like it. Not one bit.

It's the Thought That Counts?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Since the roots are still attached, I have a sneaking suspicion these were pulled from the neighborhood landscaping.

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