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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What's all the buzz about? An introduction to mason bees

I don't know about you, but I am loving this uncharacteristically warm and dry February weather. And even though I know very well that the rain will return, the blooming trees and daffodils in our neighborhood have me dreaming of spring and summer.

This time last year Josh and I were just starting to plan out our backyard overhaul in time to start our garden, and it's no different this year. In fact, Josh and I spent last Sunday combing through a seed catalog and made a list of what we plan to grow this year, which I can't wait to share with you in a few weeks.

But aside from plants, there are a few other things we will be raising this year, things that are essential to the success of our garden - bees!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Five paper-reducing life hacks that will change your life

Am I the only one who is just now hearing the term "life hack?" Until a few months ago, I had never heard the term, but as a regular Pinterest browser, I can't help but notice the increase of these so-called amazing life hacks "that will change your life".*

If you're not familiar with a "life hack," it's basically a tip or trick that is supposed to make your life better by solving a problem or making a task more efficient. Of course our lives are already full of ways we've been able to make regular tasks easier, but until recently I didn't know there was a term for it. Most of them are pretty obvious and already part of many peoples' normal routines, but apparently everyone (including me) wants to share their life hack discoveries now, because a quick Google search brings up several websites, dozens of videos on YouTube, and even a Facebook page dedicated to them.

Whenever I read a list of life hacks, I either think they're a great idea (Take a picture of friends holding things you've lent them so you can track them down later? Genius!) or completely ridiculous and obvious (Buy a plunger before you need a plunger. Duh!). But the funny thing is, I can never remember any "life hacks" I came up with myself, even though I'm sure I've come up with plenty over the years.

Until now!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A place for everything and everything in its place

My Pinterest account, which I've had for about three years, has 29 boards and almost 1,300 pins and I can still count the projects I've actually completed on one hand. I do use most of the recipes I've pinned but my boards for home improvement and organization have sat relatively untouched.

If you have a Pinterest account you can probably relate to this. Sure, you have great intentions of actually completing projects, but then you get lazy busy and realize you don't have the tools (or sometimes, the skill) to get the job done.

Josh and I both took some vacation around the holidays in December so we took the time to get a project done that's been on our radar since we bought our house - redoing our laundry closet. 

We have basic bedroom closets, but we don't have a linen closet or a garage, so we've struggled with finding good places to store the things we use frequently. And even though we moved in almost two years ago, we've had to do several rounds of purging belongings that we just don't have room for. 

The one place we do have an adequate amount of space was the laundry closet. But the existing shelves were installed too far apart and too high for me to reach easily, and as a result they were disorganized and underutilized. It was too much of a pain to get a stool every time I needed to reach something on the top shelf so I'd just toss things on the top shelf haphazardly.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Budgeting for sustainability

There is often the perception that being sustainable is expensive. While that can be true, it doesn't have to be. In fact, the goal of my blog is to show how we live sustainably without spending a lot of money. And while I think I've done a pretty good job of that, I thought it might be helpful to show how we actually make it work.

If you have spent enough time with me and Josh, you'll know that we stick to a very strict budget. It hasn't always been that way but now that we own a house, have careers and are planning to start a family, our goal is to live below our means and save for our future while maintaining an active, fulfilled life. And we do that by budgeting very carefully.

Josh and I both have stable careers in our field of choice and make enough money to meet our needs and contribute to our savings every month, but not so much that we don't feel the pinch of life's expenses. Of course we would like to make more money but we are very thankful for where we are at and want to make sure we take advantage of this situation because we know it could change.

We currently have some pretty major financial goals that we are working toward. The most important and short-term goal is financing a domestic adoption without going into debt. Our other goals, both short- and long-term, include buying a second car, upgrading to a new and larger home, saving for retirement and traveling.

If all you can see are dollar signs when reading that list, then we're right there with you. Reaching all of those goals will require a significant financial investment. But we have figured out how to balance our spending in a way that will set us up to meet them, and believe it or not, it's by living a sustainable lifestyle. 

Here's how we do it:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

An introduction to DIY attic insulation installation

An introduction to DIY attic insulation installation.
An introduction to DIY attic insulation installation.
An introduction to DIY attic insulation installation.

Can you say that fast, three times in a row with out messing up? 

Yeah, me neither. 

But, what I can do is tell you what DIY attic insulation installation involves, and how to do it, because after attending a three-hour "Guide to Insulating Your Attic" workshop with Community Energy Project, I am now well-versed in air sealing and insulation speak, and could even tell you what a baffle, dropped soffit and a mushroom vent are. 

I've only been in our attic once in the two years we've owned our house and honestly, it was not fun. It's dusty, dirty and scary because if you lose your balance and take one misstep off of a joist (another term I learned), you'll fall right through the ceiling.