‘Itty Bits’ Category

Itty Bits: Good Habits

Posted on April 14th, 2011 by Tonia No Comments

I feel like a mama bear, creakily stirring in her den after a long winter sleep. It’s warmer outside, and the sun is shining, but I’ve been snoozing cozily in this dark, safe place for so long and my muscles are used to being contracted and my eyes are accustomed to the dark. Although the outside is attractive for many reasons, I can’t seem to uncurl…I just keep circling around in there, squinting in the harsh light at the opening of the cave…Are you sure it’s safe to come out? It’s not going to snow again, is it?

Photo credit: shipskaptindan’s photostream

Mike and I usually take advantage of every nice-weather day- no matter the season- to get outside and have fun {whereas the nasty-weather days are for inside-stuff like cleaning and laundry and extravagant meals that take all afternoon to prepare.} But the end of winter {February and March} is usually full of so many nasty-weather days that I get used to being inside a lot more than usual, and then when spring finally rolls around with its temptingly awesome weather, I’m all frazzled by the sudden change, and it takes a sec for me to adapt.

This is a pivotal time, because it’s when you set up your routine for the rest of the season. The habits you start now will either make or break your summer {which is a short-lived season in the Northland, so you have to make the most of it or it will pass you by and you’ll be like “Oh crap! I didn’t do half the stuff I intended to!”} So, the Itty Bits Challenge this week is to make at least one good new habit for yourself/your family this spring.

For instance, running. I need to start running again {I do not run in the winter because I am opposed to treadmills and I’d rather not kill myself running outside in subzero temps on icy paths, thank you very much}, like, right now. But it’s hard. Running really sucks when you start up again after months of not doing it. It doesn’t matter that we played hockey almost every day all winter long- I guarantee my first 10 runs of the season will be pathetic, and not very much fun.

But then you make it over this invisible wall, and running suddenly feels awesome and you look forward to doing it. It’s the starting- the habit making- that takes work and persistence and high pain tolerance. It’s actually very reminiscent of the time I decided to stop using paper-towel around the house…I wanted to go back to my old ways so bad, because it was easier…but I stuck with it and now I am capable of cleaning up without consuming paper every time, and it rocks.

Other good habits we will be trying to establish around here:

1. Plan meals for each week so that we use what our garden produces and visit the grocery store minimally {would love to cut our trips down to once a week}.

2. Establish a holy laundry day and stick to it, for the love of God. Laundry is the bane of my existence because neither Mike or I like to do it…so we don’t. Until we REALLY need to. And then at that point, it’s this HUGE chore that takes all day. I need to just make it a once a week thing. Also, Mike, if you’re reading this, you need to help me with this, sweetie. Yesterday when the gas guy came to check out our dryer to make sure it wasn’t leaking, he had to dig through the pile of clothes to find the dryer. {Why do most of the positive changes in my life stem from really embarrassing moments where I realize I really need to make a change? Can’t I just be the type of person who learns lessons the easy way? Noooooo!}

3. Make a household budget, and stick to it, and start to save some money. Really save, not save-for-something-we-want-to-buy.

4. Create less trash. As a result of fixing up the cottage and settling into our homestead, there is a large amount of crap being trucked over to the local dump. Some of it was stuff left around the property by previous owners {scarp metal, scrap wood, etc.} and some of it is stuff that came with us in the move but now that we’re here we realize we don’t want it {old furniture, old lampshades, piles of magazines, etc.} anymore. We’re donating or selling a huge amount of the stuff that is usable, but a lot of it is just trash. After we purge our house, garage, and yard of this crap, we’re going to be very picky about what enters it. We’re declaring it a trash-free-zone, and nothing comes in unless we consider it beautiful or useful. ……..And that goes for friends too, so those of you who aren’t cute should really go figure out how to be of some use. ūüėõ {Kidding….you’re all super cute.}

5. Make things instead of buy things. This goes along with creating less trash, because the less stuff we bring home from Target now {which we have to drive an hour and a half to get to now}, the less stuff will end up in the landfill later.

Things we can make ourselves and therefore never buy anymore: Laundry soap, household all-purpose cleaner, most kitchen utensils {wooden spatulas, spoons, etc.}, most toiletries {face wash, masks, scrub, toner, and moisturizer}, wood furniture {dining room table, coffee table, desks, shelves, etc.}, pillows and pillow cases, curtains…..I’m sure there’s more but that’s just off the top of my head.

Things we want to learn how to make ourselves and therefore not have to buy anymore: Chickens and eggs, cheese, clothes, dog treats/food, and I should really let Mike add on to this list because he wants to be able to make everything himself. Any time I ever see anything that I want to buy for the house, he says, “Mehhhh, I could make that.” Annoying, but he has a point.

6. Attend as many local events as possible. Because our town has some insanely energetic people in it who make some great events happen {plays, concerts, film festivals, community sports, community gardening, etc.}, but there’s only 2,000 of us here to support everything going on and make them sustainable. We all need to turn out to these things and show that we like them in order for them to keep happening! And besides the long growing season, the awesomesauce community was a big reason we moved here.

7. After work, get off the computer, get outside, and get things done. There’s more daylight now, which means more time for work and play {unlike in the winter where our motivation goes down with the sun at 4:30 PM…} I’d like to have dinner ready and eaten by 6 every night so we can spend the evenings gardening or doing something active outside together. This will be tough- we’re chronic late-eaters…by the time we’re done with work and we go grocery shopping and we make the meal, it’s usually 9 PM. Sad-face.

Phew! I’m a little overwhelmed right now by this list, and am fighting the urge to just crawl back into my warm, lazy bear cave…but a sustainable and healthy life means more than grocery shopping with reusable bags or driving a hybrid. We need to streamline our lives so that we’re using less stuff and living more productively and efficiently. I’d love to hear what your good habits are going to be this summer, so please leave a comment- even if you’re just implementing one new change, the small things add up to make a big difference.

Before I go, a couple links from around the web that I think are worthwhile:

He Sowed She Sewed writes about spring, family, and starting seeds.

Kind of a Slideshow writes about family and technology {this reminds me so much of how I grew up, our first computer, my dad, etc.}

Itty Bits: 100-Mile Thanksgiving

Posted on November 12th, 2010 by Tonia No Comments

Thanksgiving is an awesome holiday for many reasons, the main one being it is a chance to gather and give thanks for the many, many blessings in our lives.¬† The other main reason being that¬†the holiday centers¬†around the Three Holy F’s:¬† food, family, and football.¬† My three most-favorite things!¬† ūüėČ

We have so many things to be grateful for this year- it’s a little ridiculous.¬† I kind of feel like we hit the celestial jackpot in 2010…Mike’s brother got married to an incredible woman,¬†Mike’s sister & brother-in-law¬†had their first child {making us an aunt and uncle for the first time in our lives}, we got married and took an incredible honeymoon, we purchased our dream-hobby-farm and moved, I started working from home {a very welcome change that makes having a somewhat-boring-full-time-job¬†a WHOLE lot more bearable}, and so much more.¬† AND the Packers aren’t half bad this year.¬† WHEW!

In other words, this Thanksgiving is kind of extra-special because of the remarkably fantastic year it has been, and I am really looking forward to the big feast and the moment just before we all dig in, when we bow our heads and collectively lift up our prayers of thanks.

SO!¬† For Thanksgiving 2010, I¬†challenge you to break the status¬†quoe and try something a little different.¬† It’s called the 100-Mile Thanksgiving Challenge and it’s brought to you by TreeHugger, which is a fantastic website and you should check it out if you don’t already have it bookmarked and read it religiously every day…ahem.¬† I’m slightly addicted.

The challenge is very simple: make your Thanksgiving meal local.  Buy groceries that were grown/raised within 100 miles of your home.  Send TreeHugger your 100-mile menu.  They will be voting on the best local Thanksgiving meal and announce the winner on the week of Thanksgiving!!

Eating local is one of the most important and best things we can do as a society.¬† It’s good for the economy AND the environment.¬† Mike and I are thrilled to live in a town that is highly supportive of local farms.¬†¬†The bakery down the road uses locally grown wheat for all their goods, we’re able to get our milk, cheese, and ice-cream¬†from a dairy that is about¬†five minutes from our house, there are apple and cherry orchards everywhere around here, and 15 minutes to our north is a beautiful free-range pig farm where we get brats, bacon, ribs and the likes.¬† You’ve never seen happier, healthier pigs.

This challenge will be more difficult for those of you living in urban areas, I know, but get creative with it: do you have a relative coming to visit from a farming area?¬† Ask them to bring along some local produce or meat if they’re able.¬† And if you’re not able to make everythingon the table be from local sources, at least try to make some of it be- the turkey, the sweet potatoes, the green beans, the cranberries {this one shouldn’t be tough for anyone in WI…it’s the cranberry STATE!¬† So I don’t wanna hear no excuses.}¬† ūüėõ

We haven’t done an Itty Bits Challenge for some time now, so you’ve been off the hook.¬† Make this one count!¬† Happy Thanksgiving!

Itty Bits: Making the Move to Biodegradable

Posted on October 12th, 2010 by Tonia 6 Comments

It’s official- we live on a little farm.¬† We completed the move last weekend with the help of many friends and family.¬† It feels absolutely awesome to finally be home in this place we have pined over and dreamt of for nearly a year.¬† Now, if only we could sell our Duluth house, we’d be REALLY happy!¬† I promise, a whole big long awesome post will be coming soon with pictures of the new place.¬† I want to get it somewhat set up and looking cute before I let you all see it!¬† Currently there are still big boxes…everywhere.

Day 1 at the farm, it became pretty obvious that our lives here are going to be very different than before.¬† First of all, this place is much more rustic than our Duluth house.¬† It’s an old, charming, romantic farmhouse…but with all that charm comes certain idiosyncrasies.¬† The stairs are squeaky, for example.¬† There is a colony of mice living quite the comfy life in the walls of the guest cottage¬†{an issue that needs to be remedied immediately, if we ever hope to rent it out.}¬† And the previous owners converted the plumbing to a¬†gray-water system…meaning we have to use biodegradable soaps and cleaning supplies.¬†

This last issue might not seem like an issue to some of you.¬† You might be thinking, “awesome! everyone in the world should be using bio-deg stuff!”¬† And you’re right…it’s ridiculous that it is normal for us to pour products with toxins and all kinds of terrible pollutants down our drains daily.¬† I know this, and yet I am finding it difficult to part with many of my favorite products.


Photo from: www.footprintmag.blogspot.com

For example, personal hygiene products.¬† Let’s be honest…bio-deg shampoos and conditioners JUST DON’T WORK AS WELL.¬† I’m speaking from personal experience here.¬† I have yet to find a bio-deg brand that doesn’t leave my hair feeling kind of sticky, looking flat, and definitely not shiny or smooth.¬† Boo!¬† What’s a girl who desires to live a low-impact life, but enjoys soft, silky hair to do?

I wrote Aveda’s corporate office an email, asking if their hair products are bio-deg, in hopes that I would not have to kick my Aveda addiction upon arrival at the farm.¬† They wrote me the following confusing message…

Dear Tonia,

Thank you for taking the time to contact Aveda.
Aveda products contain biodegradable surfactants, essential oils and other ingredients which are readily treatable by municipal sewage treatment plants, and are considered non-toxic.
Hair care products in general should not be released or discharged directly into the environment.  Even if the product is biodegradable, states like Minnesota do not permit usage of shampoos or cleaners in open lakes, rivers or ponds.
Should you need further assistance, please contact our Consumer Relations team at 800.328.0849 between 8am-5:30pm Central Standard Time to speak with a Customer Service Representative.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns.


AVEDA – Customer Relations – Blaine
Aveda Global Consumer Communications

Ok so, your products are bio-deg, but I shouldn’t use them like they are?¬† Hmmm… Maybe this is just Aveda’s way of subtly reminding us that gray-water systems are not exactly legal.¬† That’s right,¬†most state¬†governments- lacking any real way to control whether or not people would just dump all kinds of toxic crap down their drains- made gray-water systems against the rules altogether.¬†


Photo from: www.dnr.state.md.us

So, shhh, don’t tell anyone we’re doing this.¬† But maybe there’s a real good reason for this law?¬† I mean, how much harm are we doing by depositing all this soap into the ground?¬† Even if it is bio-deg, how quickly does it break down?

Of all the environmental buzzwords ‘biodegradable’ has perhaps been the most misused and the most difficult to understand.¬† Because in the past there have been no guidelines or regulations, many products have called themselves biodegradable without any real justification.”

This quote was found on this website, which has a great article on the matter.¬† It’s true, you can’t¬†take these claims at face value, you must always read the ingredient list to make sure there’s nothing nasty¬†in it.¬† I also read this article¬†that states that bio-deg soap made with essential oils {like avocado oil}¬†breaks down quickly in soil, and will actually help your compost pile decompose quicker, if you add a small amount to it.

All the research I can find says that soil does an excellent job of breaking soap down¬†quickly.¬† But we will have to be extra careful that none of our soapy water is getting anywhere near a fresh water source.¬† Soap deposited directly into a body of water {like, if you take a “shower” in¬†a lake or river} does not break down.¬† SOIL is the key elements here.

It looks like I am just going to have to deal with sticky hair from now on.¬† I am sure I will get used to it, but hey, if I have to suffer- so should you.¬† ūüėȬ† The Itty-Bitty Challenge this week is to use bio-deg soap {in the shower, for your dishes, everything!} for at least a week.¬† Make the switch permanent if you can!

Itty Bits: Summer Daze

Posted on July 7th, 2010 by Tonia 6 Comments

Summer is in full swing, and we’re melting.¬† Yes, even in Minnesota, the weather gets hot.¬† And we of course refuse to install central air in our house, or to even keep fans running all the time…so¬†as a¬†result, we’re pretty sweaty, all the time.

It maybe wouldn’t be so bad if we were just sitting around with iced tea in hand, but this summer has been the opposite of leisurely.¬† As you all know, we’re planning our wedding {two months away!}.¬† But what you may not know is that we are also getting our home ready for sale {are we crazy?? Yep.}

The pull of country life has just become too strong.¬†¬†Mike and I¬†both grew up in rural areas, and we can’t kid ourselves any longer.¬† We constantly crave more space, more quiet, and more flexibility.¬† We love Duluth.¬† Love it.¬† And we love our beautiful house and cute neighborhood.¬† But…

We found our dream hobby farm {and I mean, OMG this place is awesome} about an hour from Duluth, and we have not been able to get it off our minds ever since we first stumbled upon it.¬† It is everything we have always talked about someday having.¬† After much thought, we’ve decided to get our house on the market as quickly as possible, and make an offer on Perfect Magical Dream Farm.¬†

So, instead of working on my wedding tan and sipping iced tea, I have been painting walls like a mad woman.¬† They look awesome, by the way.¬† Anyone want to buy a beautifully restored¬†old Victorian {everything is brand new in it, we were the first folks to live in it after it was restored}¬†home on Duluth’s west side?¬† It has really been an amazing place to live…I am going to be a total wreck on the day we drive away in the U-Haul.

house 1 

The probable move to the country brings up an itty bitty issue……Itty Bitty Impact has always been about how to live greener while still being a “normal” urban person/family.¬† So, the nature of the blog might be changing in the near future.¬† I am a little bummed about this, because I¬†think more people can relate to our current urban situation…Whereas I don’t think very many of you live on a solar-powered hobby farm.¬†

But I hope that I can keep the blog¬†relateable, helpful and interesting for everyone nevertheless!¬† And, many of the topics that I will likely be writing about “from the farm” are totally do-able in an urban setting as well {canning veggies, gardening, solar-power living, keeping chickens, etc.}¬†

Speaking of urban vs. rural…which is the greener way to live¬†anyways?¬† I think it totally depends.¬† That issue would¬†make a great blog post…but for now, I must get back to beautifying our house so we can sell it!!


Bits of green from around the interwebs:

Green cleaning for your car.

Stay cool.

Make some festive 4th of July jewelry from a recycled plastic cup.

Eat an orangelo.

Pick berries, and freeze them.

Go enjoy some peonies.

Something funny…or, at least we think it’s funny, because we’re obsessed with our dog. :)