March 1, 2017

Eco Friendly and Super Stylish and Comfy Clothes

Angela Wrap Tee $98
I want to share with you a brand of clothing that I have absolutely fell in love with for the past couple years! Not only is this brand beautiful, and comfortable, but everything is produced in a eco-friendly and ethical as well. The styles are timeless and versatile, I find myself pulling them out of my closet time and time again.

Did you ever wonder why a blouse from a department store can be discounted time and time again, making you feel like you got a great deal for 80% off plus another 15% off or something like that, but actually, the original price was grossly marked up to begin with? Even after such ridiculous discounts, they are probably still making money. The reason is that most of our clothes are made in countries like China, Vietnam, India where labor laws tolerate child labor and poor working conditions. The cost of each mass manufactured piece of clothing is next to nothing. Even major brands do this, it is really sad and appalling.

Further, the quality of these garments are questionable as well. I have owned many brand name pieces of clothing that fall apart after about 1-2 years of heavy use. Pants start to fray at the seams, and dresses lose their shape. While this might sound not surprising to you, I would argue that it wasn't always this way. Clothing used to be made with care and attention, sewed in such a way to prevent damage from wear. Just 40 or 50 years ago, it was not unheard of for quality pieces of clothing last 10 or even 20 years. Nowadays, we are trained to buy more and buy often. When clothing becomes worn, it's time to buy new clothes, change into new fashions and styles. I personally love clothes so I have no problem with this theory, but practically, it does eventually break the bank and create more work in storage and organization issues.

Let's not forget the fabrics themselves. Conventional cotton is the world's dirtiest crop, grown with a ridiculous amount of pesticide since it is not regulated as a food crop. The result is depleted soil and poisoned fibers. It would not be surprising to think that cotton clothing can carry a trace amount of pesticides with it. But even if there isn't, just the fact that the 5 of the top 9 cotton pesticides are proven carcinogens (cancer causing) should make you alarmed. Should we be supporting an industry that releases so much dangerous pesticides into our rivers and streams?

Is it possible to have fashion, style, and sustainability all in one brand of clothing? And most important, can we still afford it? In comes Amour Vert, meaning green love in French. My first piece, Donna Softest Leggings. These black leggings are made from Modal and Spandex. Modal is a fiber from the beech tree harvested sustainability. The first time I put these on, I knew I would never want to take them off. They are super soft and sleek, breathes well, and goes perfectly under any dress, long t-shirt or tunic. I think I literally wore these everyday or at least 4 out of 7 days of the week for a solid year, they are that good. The thin fabric makes it a perfect for Summer, Fall, and Spring. This year would be the 6th year since I made my first purchase, they are still elastic despite being through hundreds of washes. I finally decided to lay them to rest since a hole has developed on my left knee... but I consider this $68 money well spent for 6 years of constant wear. I'm already putting in my pre-order to get a replacement. Trust me, it's a closet staple you wish you owned years ago.

donna softest leggings amour vert black
Donna Softest Leggings $68

February 18, 2017

Big List of Things I Love from Amazon

This list is going to be a work in progress. I seriously have a love-hate relationship with Amazon. They just make it so darn easy to buy things from my phone! It's almost dangerous. Over the years, we have certainly made some good purchases that we love using everyday or at least a few times a week, and have stood the test of time! I hope this list helps you in your purchasing decisions. Please also feel free to share your favorite purchases in the comments.

Home Appliances/Cooking

Cordless Dyson Vacuum
Lightweight enough for kids to use. They actually fight over who gets to vacuum. WIN! The rechargeable battery powers for about 15 minutes of heavy vacuuming. Plenty enough for daily cleaning. We just recently replaced the rechargeable battery after more than 5 years of ownership, and still runs like new! Love the incredible durability and power of Dyson.

Non-stick Pancake Pan
Trust me, you need this pan! No more waiting, flipping individual pancakes while the hungry fam whine and complain. This pan makes 7 small-ish pancakes at a time. In my opinion the perfect size for portion control and for kids! My friend first introduced this to me because she uses these to make pork buns. Think small omelets, tiny crepes... the possibilities are endless!

Air Fryer
After a few months of contemplation, (Did I need another kitchen appliance? More importantly, do I have space in my kitchen?) I finally pulled the trigger on the air fryer. It certainly lives up to the hype and worth the money. So far I've tried chicken nuggests, fries, kale chips, sweet potato fries, friend chicken breast. I still prefer to do kale chips in the oven, (larger batch size) but everything was excellent! If you or your kids like deep fried things, and feel guilty about using a ton of oil, this little air fryer is an excellent tool. Healthy and easy to use. Highly recommend!

August 29, 2016

Life Hacks

1. USPS Shipping from Paypal, save a trip to the post office: Create Label Now

August 25, 2016

Sibling Rivalry Seminar

We had the honor and privilege to host Susan Bahlatzis, Director of Noah's Ark Preschool at the Chinese Fellowship Bible Church on Saturday August 6th. For those who couldn't make it, or those who would like to listen again, here is the link to the recording. I also have hardcopies of the handout, so let me know if you'd like a copy.

Sibiling Rivalry Workshop - Listen Now

October 28, 2012

How much water do you use?

I just finished writing an article on OEIC (our energy independence community) on sustainability of cotton versus man-made materials and it got me thinking about how much water we use daily. Ok, you're saying, I use it for cooking, showering, and watering the lawn... Right, but did you know that it takes over 700 gallons of water to produce 1 T-shirt? Or how about nearly 1800 gallons of water for one pound of beef?

Clean water is a disappearing resource. We are all responsible as stewards of our planet to educate ourselves on the true cost of our choices.

Check out this interactive way to learn about water use courtesy of National Geographic!

May 5, 2012

Decorating our living room

We have moved in this house for more than 2 years now, and we are still trying to make it our "home" by personalize it and finding furniture and other items to decorate rooms. I want to share with you our progress with the living room, which had come a long way from an empty room to where it is now.

We refinished the hardwood floor and then moved in at the beginning of 2010. We came with a mission style coffee table that we got at an antique store somewhere near Ithaca on a road trip some years ago. When we had visitors, we would use our black metal folding chairs from Target as seating. There was nothing for window dressing. The walls were all white, and there was a prominent wall next to the stairs that had an old style wallpaper.

Living room when we moved in; after floor was refinished

The wall on the right of this picture had wallpaper that we removed (this was Dec. 2009)

February 16, 2012

Finding A Great Nanny

Photo by: healingdream
When it was time for me to go back to work, Micah was 4 months old and I wanted him to be safe and well cared for. After all, daycare is comforting since they are usually licensed, and many eyes are watching. But I didn't like the 4-1 baby to caretaker ratio that applies for all babies under 18 months old. Since I was going to work part-time, we decided that hiring a nanny was the best option for us. But how to find someone we trust?

Having someone work in home can be a bit intimidating to say the least. Will she be honest and trustworthy? Will she treat my child like her own? Will she be experienced enough to make the right judgement calls?

Fortunately, we had fantastic experiences with the nannies we've worked with. Here are the steps we took to identify and build relationships with our awesome nannies:
  • Use a site like Sittercity or to browse nanny profiles. Sign up and contact nannies you are interested in, about 1 month before you need services to begin. It typically costs $15-$30 for a monthly subscription in order to access their contact information. It's free to browse though. I would cancel the subscription when you've found someone you like.  Don't forget to also ask friends for references of great nannies they know or have worked with.
  • Setup phone and in-home interviews, call references. See how they interact with your baby. Ask relevant questions regarding ages of children they have worked with, tasks they are comfortable performing (feeding, changing diapers, laundry, cooking, etc.), hourly/weekly rates. 

November 4, 2011

Save Money by Insulating Your House

Winter is upon us and some nights are dipping below freezing. One task on my mind is to improve the insulation of our house for better energy efficiency and comfort. Currently, I am focused on the garage. Although the garage is usually considered an unheated space and not insulated, this is not completely true in our case. We have a raised ranch house with the bottom floor being the 2 car garage, laundry room, and family room. The 3 bedrooms we have are above the garage, and the rest of the upper floor is the living room, bathroom, and kitchen. The floor of our master bedroom is often cold, and I suspect that the insulation between the floor and the garage below is not very good. Heat also leaks from the family room and laundry room into the garage through a thin wall. To make matter worse, the north side of the garage exterior wall is currently not insulated. It is just 2x4 wood studs with exterior sheathing and wood siding, on top of 9" concrete block foundation. The insulation R-value of this wall construction is about 2, which is pretty low.

We can calculate how much heat is being lost to the outside by measuring the temperatures on the two sides of this wall. I used a hand-held infrared thermometer to measure the temperature at 9PM on November 3rd, 2011. The outside temperature was 39.4°F; the inside of the exterior wall was 53.3°F; the temperature inside the garage was 57.6°F. With these 3 temperature readings, I can calculate the R-value of the concrete foundation to be 2.9, and the wood stud wall above it has a temperature reading of 51°F and a corresponding R-value of 1.9. Based on a rough area estimate, the heat loss is about 1000 BTU/hr in this mildly chilly night. We use a 95% efficient natural gas furnace for heat, so this amounts to about $10 a month in heat that’s lost. If I add the heat lost through the 2 garage overhead doors and the concrete floor, it’s about $30 a month in heat loss!

November 2, 2011

Parenting 101

Ever wish there were training classes on how to be parents? How about take classes, get a degree, and then getting to know everything there is to know on how to be perfect a parent? If only that were true...

While no class can possibly prepare you for every situation, having some basic framework and skills sure help! Our good friends recommended some fantastic parenting material that's a joy to go through. We will share them here with you! Keep in mind, we are still working through these so we will be coming back with updates often. Also, we would be interested to hear about your reactions to the material and any recommendations you'd like to share. So please leave comments!

The Village Church Parenting Class - The series is divided up to 6 one hour sections, and taught by Jeff and Jennifer Wilkin of The Village Church in Texas. The class is based on the Christian faith, but you don't have to be Christian to appreciate the learning points. Applicable to children ages 9 months to ~15 years old.

Care Group - Various lecturers from the Xenos Christian Fellowship.  The goal is to provide relevant teachings on parenting using biblical principles from experienced, mature Christian parents.  Topics include: "Boys and Girls: Developing and Nurturing Each One" and "Understanding your Child's Personality"
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