My New Year's Resolutions

>> Sunday, December 20, 2009

Check out the resolutions of all the Green Moms at Non-Toxic Kids.

We've had a very enjoyable and joyous holiday season as we've completed each of the activities on our advent calendar. But...

I have to admit that as the time grows closer and closer to Christmas, my eco-standards have started to slip a bit. It has been all about saving time: We started driving to and from my son's school instead of walking. I slacked off on line drying our clothes. We swung by fast food restaurants a couple times while running errands. I even broke down and tossed a gingerbread house kit into my grocery cart one day to replace the more time-consuming handpainted wooden nativity we had planned to make.

Although the only gift we bought from a store this year was a Holiday Angel Gift for a child at my son's school, our handmade, tradition-filled holiday has still been very, very busy. Possibly more busy, in fact, than in years past.

So my #1 Resolution for the new year is to Get back into the groove.

And here are the rest of my resolutions for 2010:

Resolution #2: Re-assess my green side with The Conscious Shopper Challenge.

Resolution #3:
Push myself a little bit further with monthly Extreme Challenges.

Resolution #4: Reduce my monthly mileage to 500 miles a month.

Resolution #5: Reduce my household garbage production to 2 trash bags a month.

Resolution #6: Plant a garden.

Resolution #7: Learn to knit.

Resolution #8: Improve my photography skills with my new camera.


Books I would like to read next year...

I love to read - have you read any books lately that I just have to read?


I'm taking the next two weeks off for a Holiday Blogcation. I'll be back on January 3rd to start the Conscious Shopper Challenge. I hope you'll join me!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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How to...DIY

>> Saturday, December 19, 2009

Here's a list of the Make Your Own posts that I've written:

Food from Scratch

Household Cleaners
Personal Care Products
Miscellaneous

And always remember, Do It Yourself, But Do What You Enjoy!

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Green Journeys

>> Friday, December 18, 2009

My green journey began the day I started college. "I'm a vegetarian," I told my new roommate. Little did she know that I'd only been a vegetarian for, oh, two hours. But I stuck with it, I gave up meat "cold turkey," and I even waded into the vegan waters for a year.

After that first very big change, my green-formation went very. very. slowly...Granted, for awhile I was the only person I knew who carried cloth bags and knew what a CFL was, but beyond those surface changes, I didn't do a whole lot that was green.

And then I turned 28. Which doesn't sound like a very important birthday until I remind you that 28 means you've been an adult for an entire decade. I have a very clear memory of having a discussion with my husband on my 28th birthday - we were in the car turning onto Georgia Avenue - and I said, "I'm a completely different person now than when I was 18. I still claim to have the same values, but I'm not living those values. What am I doing with my life?"

I decided it was time to green my life. And more importantly, to get involved. Fast forward three years, and here I am. Blogging almost daily about going green. Working on building up Raleigh's public transit and community gardens. And dreaming of the garden I'm going to plant this spring (though the chickens and the bees are still far in the future).

If you want to read what happened between my 28th birthday and now, you can visit this post I wrote over at The Green Phone Booth about how I became The Conscious Shopper.

I think December is a great month to look back at how we've done and plan for the future ahead, and on that note, I've enjoyed reading all of your posts about your green journeys for December's APLS Carnival. Such progress we've made!

:: Cherie at Renaissance Garden traces her journey back to some eye-opening books and writes that her biggest struggle is now plastic.

:: Kellie writes at The Green Phone Booth that "there was no grand catalyst or life-changing event that caused our decision. It was just something we knew had to be done. Plain and simple."

:: Connie at Penny Basket describes going green in Malaysia, which she says is "not one of the greenest countries in the world, but we're getting there."

:: Rae at My Zero Waste says that her green journey began with being pregnant: "I became aware that 60% of what I put onto my skin would end up inside me. And inside me was a perfect, healthy and growing baby. I wanted to keep her that way as much as I could, so I started looking at the products I was using and was horrified by what I discovered." I think many mothers can relate.

:: At Going Green Mama, Robbie also traces her green journey back to becoming a mother, and her efforts at going green have revolved around her children. She writes, "These days, though, I’m focusing on launching a quiet attack – by teaching my kids habits that can last for this generation and the next."

:: Alison of Green Me describes how she was "outed" as a treehugger. Her life sounds awesome, and I now wish that I lived in Boulder, CO.

:: Steph at Greening Families cites finances, medical issues, and having a child as her green impetus. She adds, "Now that our daughters are a little older, the lives lived by other families is becoming the driver of change for us. We want all children, human and animal, to have the chance to grow up healthy and strong."

:: Hannah at The Purloined Letter writes that for many years she was resistant to environmentalism....until she and her partner were in discussions over the number of kids they should have. At that time, she read Bill McKibben's Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families and it "changed [her] life in the way few books have."

:: Jenn at It's Not Easy Being Green describes how her parents (in particular her parents' garden) impacted her green journey.

:: Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green also had a green mom who was so influential Lisa was already concerned about recycling by age two! She writes, "My dad went to throw away a glass baby food jar to which I said 'no daddy we cycle.'"

I hope you'll take a few minutes to check out these wonderful stories! Thanks to everyone who participated in the carnival.

If you are interested in serving as a host of a future carnival, simply contact Robbie from Going Green Mama at goinggreenmama[at]gmail[dot]com.

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December Round-Up

>> Thursday, December 17, 2009

Monthly Spending (budgeted amount in parentheses)

  • Groceries: $654.33 ($650)
  • Transportation: $107.49 ($150)
  • Energy: $79.10 ($150)
  • Utilities: $42.54 ($50)
  • Entertainment/Miscellaneous: $492.37 ($400)
  • Clothes: $0 (no set budget)
  • TOTAL: $1,375.83 ($1,400)

The Numbers:
  • Trash: 4 bags of trash (13 gallon bags); 1 recycling bin with plastic, metal, and glass; 2 paper grocery sacks of paper
  • Miles Driven: 697
  • Average daily electricity use: 21 kWh
  • Average daily water use: 122 gallons

Best of...

Next Month I'll Be...

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Pecans for All

>> Tuesday, December 15, 2009

There's a pecan tree in an empty lot across the street from our house.

My dad discovered it when my parents were here for Thanksgiving, and he and my mom took the boys out to gather pecans. "There are lots more still in the tree," my dad announced, laying a sack of pecans on the kitchen table.

I made a mental note to collect more pecans, but there never seemed to be time.

One night, there was a crazy thunderstorm, and when we went outside the next morning, the street was littered with pecans, many of them crushed from cars taking a shortcut down our street. I figured that must have been the last of the pecans and resolved to do better at collecting them next year.

A week later, I saw a man lingering around the tree in the empty lot. He was thin, disheveled, and dirty, and he carried a bulging, bumpy pillowcase. He paused as I stepped out my front door, looking slightly uncertain, as if he was worried I would tell him to leave. But then he went back to what he'd been doing - collecting pecans and dropping them into the pillowcase. I couldn't believe how many he'd found and wondered if some of the pecans in that bag had come from other people's neglected trees. Either way, I figured, that was the last of the pecans.

Today after running errands, I noticed a "clunk, clunk" sound as I stepped out of my car. I glanced over at the tree and noticed that it was filled with birds who were busily knocking pecans from the branches. The nuts would crack open as they hit the street, enabling the birds to feast on the meat inside.

After the birds left, my boys and I decided to check out what was left of the pecans. We hovered close to the ground, nudging aside the leaves with our toes- but we still filled our pockets and then some. I plan to use the nuts to make some kind of treat to deliver to our neighbors when we go caroling later this month. Somehow, it seems fitting.

From one pecan tree: food for a man in need, food for the birds, food for my family and our neighbors.

It's these little snippets of life that remind me why I love the planet we live on.


(And oh yeah, I got a new camera for Christmas. Thanks, Mom and Dad!!!)

Related Posts:

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I Need...Makeup

>> Thursday, December 10, 2009

Once as a teenager, I camped overnight in a cave with a group of youth from my church. I don't remember much from that trip (beyond a vague memory that sleeping in a cave is really spooky and not very comfortable, as is peeing in a cave) but I do distinctly remember the tour guide commenting that bat poop is used as an ingredient in mascara.

I'm not going to dwell on that disgusting tidbit of information (a quick Google search reveals mixed results about its authenticity), but I will say this...How many of us have a clue about what really is in our mascara? Our lipstick? Our blush?

Most of us apply these products to our skin, mouths, and eyes without a second thought. But considering that the cosmetics industry is one of the least regulated industries - according to the Environmental Working Group, only 11% of the more than 10,000 ingredients used in personal care products have been tested for safety - we shouldn't be surprised that independent researchers are finding that many of the ingredients we use every day are actually not good for us.

Besides the potential health problems, makeup also comes in those pesky little non-recyclable plastic containers. It's like cosmetics companies don't even try.

So what can you do?

BABY STEPS

JOGGING STRIDE
  • Look up your products on the Skin Deep Guide, the Environmental Working Group's cosmetic safety database. They have tested thousands of products for toxicity and rank them on a 0-10 scale, with 0 being the best and 10 being the worst. Even some products labeled as "natural" rank high on the scale, so it's important to check out all products before you buy.
  • Avoid the Dirty Dozen. These are the ingredients that have been most commonly linked to health problems.
  • Look for products with better packaging. Fake Plastic Fish had a post the other day about a cosmetics company (Organic Essence) that has a few products in recycled paper packaging and is working on more innovative packaging solutions. I know a number of companies are working on this, so keep your eyes peeled for better makeup packaging in the future.
  • Switch to mineral makeup, which is made of natural minerals instead of synthetic chemicals, like those listed on the Dirty Dozen.
  • Set aside one day of the week to be slouchy. Pick a day, pull your hair back into a pony tail, and lay off the make-up. You even have my permission to skip the shower if you want. And I'm over-ruling What Not to Wear's insistence that you shouldn't wear pajama pants to the grocery store. On slouchy day, it all goes.
  • Wear makeup for special occasions only. Maybe you could save the makeup for work. Or church. Or just for weddings.
MARATHON RUNNER
  • Go without. Set the makeup aside for good and show off your inner beauty.

Where I'm At

When it comes to make-up, it's a lot easier to hand out advice than to follow it. Last summer, I left my makeup kit at a relative's house while travelling, and since these were the type of relative who never mails things back to you if you forget something at their house, I realized it was time to begin my quest for eco-friendly make-up.

So I carefully copied down this list from Smart Family Tips of EWG approved and readily available cosmetics and headed to the drugstore. Which did not carry a single item on my list. I don't know if it was just that particular drugstore or if those products are actually discontinued, but it does seem like the cosmetics industry is constantly thinking up new products that we must. buy. now.

But rather than going to another drugstore, I decided to head to Whole Foods because although they sometimes carry products that don't meet my standards, most of the time I can trust them. I think.

"Oh my freakin' crap!" (That was my exact thought as I stared at the price tags at the makeup counter at Whole Foods).

So I decided to look online. Once again: Oh my freakin' crap! People actually pay these prices for make-up?! (Not me. If I'm going to have to replace my mascara every three months, I'm going to buy the cheapest kind possible.) And besides that, I didn't really want to buy makeup online because who knows what colors I'd end up with.

So back to the drugstore I went, and I stared and I stared, and I thought and I thought, and I read every single stinkin' label. And I went home with foundation, a bronzer/blush duo, two shades of eyeshadow, and mascara from the Physician's Formula Organic Wear line. It doesn't rate too badly on Skin Deep (though not too great either), the blush and eyeshadow come in paper packaging, and it's affordable. But I'm not 100% satisfied with it.

The search continues...

Have you tried finding eco-friendly makeup? What do you use?

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Noteworthy Green: Drink Pouch Brigade, Toilet Paper Advent, Ribbon Spool Ornaments, and More...

>> Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth:

Drink Pouch Brigade


I don't have much time to write a post tonight. I spent the evening up to my elbows in soapy suds tainted with the sweet smell of slightly fermented "juice"...I've joined my son's school's drink pouch brigade.

Rotating with three other mothers, I pick up the week's load of drink pouches from the school cafeteria, snip the tops off, wash them out, dry them, and then return them to the school. All so the school can get $.02 per pouch.

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And elsewhere on the Internet:

:: Grist's Tom Laskawy has a very interesting article about the pros and cons of Whole Foods' plan to build mobile slaughterhouses.

:: maya*made's toilet paper roll advent calendars from this year and last year are da bomb. Can I gush anymore about how much I love maya*made?

:: Pragmatic Environmentalism writes, "To save energy, use the dishwasher?" Yes!

:: Imagine Childhood has one very awesome way to get a Christmas tree.

:: The Daily Green claims that "everything you know about going green is wrong."

:: KitchenStewardship provides an extensive list of ideas for repurposing kitchen containers.

:: Quince and Quire has come up with a way to recycle ribbon spools and last year's Christmas cards in the same crafty project.

:: My favorite food writer, Tom Philpott, writes at Grist about our inequitable food system. Besides his own great comments, all of the articles linked to in that post are worth a look.


I'm now using Twitter to keep track of my noteworthy green reads. If you'd like instant knowledge of what I find interesting, you can find me on Twitter as
consciousshoppr.

And don't forget to send me your submissions to this month's APLS Carnival!

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The Conscious Shopper Challenge: Coming in 2010

>> Sunday, December 6, 2009

I've mentioned before that I am an obsessively organized person. I'm talking seriously, seriously organized. To the point that it drives my husband crazy.

One day, I was thinking about my green journey, and I thought how nice it would have been to have a nice organized guide to going green - maybe even with little boxes for checking off when I completed each thing.

I also thought that it would be nice to reanalyze my green side, make sure I'm still committed in some areas and push myself a little farther in others.

So here's what I've come up with....


The Conscious Shopper Challenge: A Year to Go Green without Going Broke

I hope you'll join me as I systematically green my life with categorized challenges and weekly goals, from baby steps to jogging stride to marathon runner. And I promise any other obsessively organized people out there...there will be plenty of little boxes for checking off.

In 2010, you can...

1) Calculate your carbon footprint

Challenge #1: Trim Your Waste-Line

2) Keep track of your trash for a week
3) Switch to cloth bags
4) Start using a reusable water bottle/thermos
5) Make your own household cleaners
6) Dispose of your disposable paper products
7) Go green in the bathroom
8) Dispose of your disposable diapers
9) Reduce packaging
10) Start composting
11) Recycle everything
12) Pack a waste free lunch

Challenge #2: Energize

13) Change your bulbs
14) Get a home energy audit
15) Save energy through heating and cooling
16) Save energy when cooking
17) Save energy when washing dishes and laundry
18) Slay your vampires
19) Upgrade to energy star
20) Support renewable energy

Challenge #3: Water Down


21) Reduce your indoor water use
22) Reduce your outdoor water use

Challenge #4: Travel Sustainably


23) Walk
24) Bike
25) Use public transportation
26) Keep up with your car maintenance
27) Learn to hypermile
28) Upgrade to an energy efficient vehicle
29) Travel sustainably over long distances

Challenge #5: Non-Consumption

30) Avoid temptation
31) Buy used
32) Reuse/repair
33) Start a swap network
34) Have more fun, less stuff
35) Observe an ecosabbath

Challenge #6: Green Your Grocery Bill

36) Shop sustainably
37) Shop smart
38) Learn to cook
39) Eat less meat
40) Eat seasonally
41) Buy local
42) Buy organic
43) Plan a garden
44) Limit your special occasion foods

Challenge #7: Beyond Your Front Door


45) Vote
46) Bank sustainably
47) Get involved
48) Get to know your neighbors
49) Plan an act of eco-service
50) Pay a tithe

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Seasonal Recipes for Late Fall

>> Thursday, December 3, 2009

Here's what we've been doing with our CSA produce...

What's in season in December?

To find out what's in season in your area, you can google "produce availability" and the name of your state, or choose your state on PickYourOwn.org. The latter has to be the worst designed and yet most valuable website I've seen. Anything you want to know about pick-your-own farms and preserving foods can be found there.

If you live in North Carolina, you will likely see the following fruits and vegetables at the farmer's market this month: apples, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, leafy greens, letttuce, peanuts, pecans, sweet potatoes, turnips.

In My CSA Box


Week 6:

  • We used the tsunga in a stir fry. Tsunga seems to be an extremely bitter green, but in a stir fry, it didn't taste too bad.
  • The red russian kale went into a soup. I'm really liking this kale - it's a mild enough green that I can sneak it into practically anything and the kids will eat it without complaint.
  • Radishes are also surprisingly good in soup.
  • We saved the mesclun salad mix for the next week.


Apparently forgot to take a picture of this week's box.

Week 7: Thanksgiving Week!
  • We mixed the mesclun salad mix from this week with last week's salad mix to make a great big salad for Thanksgiving.
  • I used the swiss rainbow chard in a stir fry. (We really do eat a lot of stir-fries.)
  • The watermelon radishes and scarlett turnips were roasted together with a little olive oil and sea salt following a recipe from the CSA. None of us liked it much, but the watermelon radishes are sure pretty!



Week 8: (This week)
  • I'm using the red romaine head lettuce in a salad served alongside pizza.
  • I used the red russian kale in yet another stir fry.
  • I'm going to try the red radishes and scarlett turnips in a soup. My husband really doesn't like turnips, but hopefully a soup with lots of other vegetables will cover it up enough for him.
  • I'll be making the collards Southern-style again alongside vegetarian sloppy joes. (Basically this recipe for walnut oatmeal burgers but with tomato sauce and italian herbs rather than veggie broth, and then break up the burgers into pieces like ground beef.)


Other great recipes for late fall:

:: I love this recipe for Savory Bread Pudding with Butternut Squash, Chard, and Cheddar from A Veggie Venture.

:: fresh365 has a great Harvest Hummus, and I've also got my eye on this Asiago Sweet Potatoes recipe.

:: I think this Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake from the Smitten Kitchen looks divine and would be a great baking pick-me-up after my own apple pie disaster.


Related Posts:

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Countdown to Christmas

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth: Countdown to Christmas.


Getting ready for Christmas with The Conscious Shopper

STEP ONE:

After a month of gratitude, we spent an evening ceremoniously removing leaves from our gratitude tree and remembering all the people we're thankful for. (I had a picture of the tree overflowing with leaves, but I can't find it now. You'll have to trust me that it was a beautiful reminder of how blessed we are.)

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More (Holiday) Fun, Less Stuff - Raleigh Event Guide

>> Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Looking for a fun and free way to celebrate the holidays? Look no further!

Here's my Raleigh event guide to help you have more fun with less stuff for the holidays:


:: December 4: Raleigh Winterfest. 5 PM to 11 PM. FREE

:: December 5 & 6: Christmas Colonial Open House at Joel Lane House. Colonial demonstrations, children's activities, and free hot wassail. 1 PM to 4 PM. FREE

:: December 5: Sleigh Rides and Cider: A Winter Night at Oak View. Horse-drawn carriage ride, hot apple cider, holiday stories, and St. Nick. 5 PM to 7:30 PM. FREE

:: December 6: Boylan Heights ArtWalk. 12 PM to 5 PM. Over 100 artists sell and display their artwork from homes in historic Boylan Heights. FREE

:: December 12: Miracle on Fayettevile Street. Watch Miracle on 34th Street at the Raleigh City Museum, along with cider and snacks. 1 PM to 4 PM. Suggested donation of $5 per family.

:: December 12: Governor's Tree Lighting and Holiday Festival. Tree lighting and musical performances on the Capitol Grounds. 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM. FREE

:: December 12: Holiday Open House at the Mordecai Mansion. See the home decorated for the holidays. 10 AM to 4 PM. FREE

:: December 12: Oakwood Holiday Scavenger Hunt. In conjunction with the annual Oakwood Candlelight tour, the Oakwood neighborhood is hosting a fun family scavenger hunt. Pick up your clue sheet at the Tucker House on Person Street. 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. FREE. Contact Nick Sadler at (919)329-5994 for more information.

:: December 12 to 13: Christmas in the Carolinas during the Civil War. Visit Bennett Place to find out how Christmas was celebrated during the Civil War in the Carolinas. 10 AM to 4 PM.


***More Fun, Less Stuff is a slogan of one of my favorite organizations, the New American Dream.

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Send a Green Mom to Copenhagen

The following was written by Jennae of Green Your Decor. I think Diane is an amazing woman, and although I haven't read her book, I love her blog. She was also the interviewee of one of my favorite Fake Plastic Fish posts. I'm endorsing Diane for the Huffington Post's contest to send one citizen ambassador to Copenhagen, and I hope you'll take a few minutes to read more about Diane and then to head over to the Huffington Post to vote for her.

-------

The potentially monumental climate talks in Copenhagen are upcoming, and it's important to have a real person there to represent the interests of "regular" people who care about the environment.

My friend, author, green blogger, fellow Green Moms Carnival member, and environmental activist Diane MacEachern (http://greenwoman.typepad.com/biggreenpurse/) is taking part in the Huffington Post's contest to send one citizen ambassador to Copenhagen, and I am happy to give her my personal endorsement. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/19/hopenhagen-ambassador-con_n_363672.html?slidenumber=QCjRGmul2Ak%3D

If the name seems familiar, it is because Diane is the best-selling author of "Big Green Purse," a manual all of us should have on our shelves to refer to while navigating the often confusing world of green issues and green business. As a mother, she is particularly commited to the health of children, and she is a tireless activist and fantastic writer. Her interest in climate change comes from a deep sense of compassion and commitment to social justice. It would be so great to have one of our own representing the interests of real people among the politicians and "experts" meeting together this month to determine the fate of the Earth.

For more information about Diane, take a look at the following links:
http://greenwoman.typepad.com/biggreenpurse/
http://www.biggreenpurse.com/
http://fakeplasticfish.com/2009/08/personal-changes-do-make-difference/

To vote for Diane:

1) Please visit this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/19/hopenhagen-ambassador-con_n_363672.html?slidenumber=QCjRGmul2Ak%3D
2) You will need to login to the Huffington Post web site or register if you are not already a member. You can also login using your Twitter or Facebook account.
3) Please rate Diane's entry with 10 stars.

As you will see, Diane also needs blogger endorsers. If you feel moved to write a post in support of Diane on your blog, please email the link to submissions+copenhagen@huffingtonpost.com, saying "Here is the link from xxxx blog endorsing Diane MacEachern for the citizen ambassador to Copenhagen", along with the link to your post.

FACEBOOK? If you have a Facebook page or fan page, it would be great if you could mention the contest and provide the link so your friends and fans can vote as well.

TWITTER? If you're on twitter, we'd appreciate it if you tweet about the contest using #votehope and @huffpostgreen.

Voting ends in just two short days, on December 4, so Diane needs as much support from you, your friends and your readers right now as possible. Please help us send this deserving green mom to Copenhagen (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/19/hopenhagen-ambassador-con_n_363672.html?slidenumber=QCjRGmul2Ak%3D) by voting now and spreading the word!

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Adventures in Experimental Cooking from Scratch

>> Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth: Adventures in Experimental Cooking from Scratch.


A Recipe for a Yummy (if slightly disastrous) Dinner from The Conscious Shopper

SERVES: a family
COST: Priceless experience

1 batch of Chocolate Crinkle cookies
1 Pumpkin Gingersnap pie for inspiration
1 disagreement about the potential tastiness of a caramel apple pie with chocolate crinkle crust

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Copyright

© 2008-2010 The Conscious Shopper

You're welcome to link to any posts at The Conscious Shopper, but please do not use images or content from this site without my permission. Contact me at consciousshopperblog@gmail.com.

Disclosure

I do not accept money for writing reviews, but I do accept products for review and to giveaway. When posting a review, I fully disclose any free samples received from the company. I include information provided by the company in my reviews, but all opinions about the product are my own and I will not provide a good review for any product or company just because they sent me some free samples.

Disclaimer

The ideas on this blog are my opinion and are provided for informational purposes and entertainment only. I am not a financial advisor or medical professional. Please do not misconstrue the information on this blog as advice.

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