Yo I say we READ it out!

8 Aug

I was the epitome of  a “bookish kid”. Hair always a little unkempt for school, not very fond of (or successful) in sports, more content to lose myself in a story – missing many meals, reading through many nights – hiding under the covers, flashlight in hand, with one eye on the page and the other on the bedroom door. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the hours spent hanging in bookshops – ones like The Red Balloon, Mac’s Backs Paperbacks on Coventry, or Thackeray’s Books in Toledo (which has since gone out-of-business, but still operates a FB fan page here). But, at every turn it seems, what I remember most about reading+childhood are the times I was read to. Man, everyone I KNEW read to me! Pictures in old albums, special notes in booksleeves, copies of old library cards, endless memories – all evidence the same resounding truth: I was a kid who was read to.  Being sans-kid in an era of Kindles and Nooks and IPAD apps, I’ve often found myself wondering what it must be like to be the “bookish” sort in the 21st century. Do they still go to libraries? Do they open a new book and take a quick second to smell the pages (god, that sounds fetish-y)? And maybe most importantly – are people still reading to them?

Though there are tons of scientific reasons kids should be read to – I am here to make the simple, honest arguments for it. Do you remember anything about being a kid?? It’s fun to pretend! You get to do voices! You get to snuggle* (*uhhh..if they’re YOUR kids or family). You’ll learn stuff you never knew about your little listeners. You’ll re-learn stuff you ALREADY knew but forgot – a new way to look at something, a reminder of something you used to enjoy. And hey – here’s an added bonus in this scary decade of recession – it costs NOTHING.

Truth be told, at heart, I’m STILL a bookish kid. Every summer I re-read Charlotte’s Web and Peter Pan (and yes, maybe that indicates a psychological complex, but the kid in me has chosen to ignore that for the moment). I still love a good children’s book – and, as a graphic designer, I gather inspiration from children’s illustrators and the books and pictures I loved as a kid all the time. Whilst searching a Barnes & Noble for books to send to my niece I was horrified to find that NONE of my favorites were to be found on the shelves….like TIME HAD PASSED or something. So I made a list of my classics – some well-known, others forgotten – ALL great books.

If you find yourself inspired to find one of your old favorites and would rather solicit an independent bookstore near you try IndieBound’s Store Finder. OR  find a library. And if you want to rediscover the joy of reading but are short on listeners check out the Reach Out and Read Program – I’ll be moving to NYC soon and just signed up to volunteer as a reader myself –  a bookish kid was destined to become a bookish adult – I’m kind of glad I turned out that way…(shout-out to the faammmily!)

And if you still need convincing – why not take a second to watch this CLASSIC video gen-X/Y’ers? 2 WORDS: RAG. BASKETBALL. Everything about this very first episode of Reading Rainbow from 1983 is awesome. What can you do with very little money? That’s what LeVar and the young narrator of the featured book, must face. To set the tone for the entire series, LeVar shows a friend a wealth of fun at the local library – there is even a library MUSICAL NUMBER.  Almost 20 years later, this episode highlighting kids coping with hard times, is quite possibly even more appropriate for a current generation than it was for the kids of ’83 (like me).

Reading Rainbow – Season 1, Episode 1: Tight Times by Deon_Flood

So, without further ado…

A List of MY Favorites:

Anno’s Counting Book and Anno’s Counting House by Mitsumasa Anno

Roar and More by Karla Kuskin

The Graphic Alphabet by David Pelletier

Simon’s Book by Henrik Drescher

There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly by Jeremy Holmes

Miss Nelson is Missing  by Harry Allard

George and Martha by James Marshall

The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne

A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis

An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Strega Nona and Pancakes for Breakfast  by Tomie dePaola

Black and White by David Macaulay

Round Trip by Ann Jonas

People, Circus and Rain by Peter Spier

Doctor De Soto by William Steig

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber

Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel

Island of the Skog by Steven Kellogg

The Frog Prince, Continued and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

Just A Dream by Chris Van Allsburg

Next Stop Grand Central by Maira Kalman

It’s MY Birthday! by Pat Hutchins

The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

Big Big Book of Mr. Small by Lois Lenski

Babar’s Anniversary Album by Laurent deBrunhoff

The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base

Bea and Mr. Jones by Amy Schwartz

Tuesday by David Wiesner

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp by Mercer Mayer

No Jumping on the Bed by Tedd Arnold

Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea by Vera B. Williams

Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Christmastime in New York City and The Inside-Outside Book of New York City by Roxie Munro

Imogene’s Antlers by David Small

Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World by Ed Emberley

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frank… by E.L. Konigsburg

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Best of John Bellairs a collection of stories by John Bellairs

Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Lists of OTHERS’ favorites:

The New York Public Libraries Recommended Reading List for Children

The Children’s Book Guide “Top 100 of All Time”

The ALSC’s List of Caldecott Medal & Honor Books

Teachers’ Top 100

Kids top 100 pics

Reading Rainbow Episode List with Featured Books

NPR’s 2011 Reading List for Young Adults (and Adults alike)

And for those times you JUST CAN’T – some links to help them learn:

NPR’s story on new reading apps (with links)

Interactive reading activities for kids through PBS

Celebs read to your kids!

Uhhh – this looks awesome – I haven’t thoroughly checked it out, but you and your kids can create, print, read and share stories through Storybird!

Stories for kids, read by kids

Animated story readings online by Tumblebooks


A National Geographic online book club with reviews by kids


Slow Down* Wednesday’s Menu

27 Oct

All of this cooking means…I’m running low on blogging time! But I do have to say… today after slowing down and preparing my meal…work tonight seemed easier, the quality was better, and I truly felt like there was more brain power there. It could just be the placebo, but it is also possible that I’m becoming a slow genius. Check back in another year or two for the results – jury’s still out on that one.

Without further ado – tonight’s menu… (I am a freak for Mediterranean, so this is about my favorite thing other than pasta to cook – but I’ve got to tell you – the recipes here are time-tested and damn good).


  • 2 16-oz cans of organic chick peas
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 3 T. tahini
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1 c. plain yogurt** (Top secret! If possible try to find Laban at a Lebanese market!)
  • 1/2 t. cayenne
  • 1/2 t. cumin (if desired)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. If necessary thin down hommus by slowly adding more olive oil, yogurt, juice from chick peas, or water. After blended serve drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

(*Note: for other flavors add roasted red peppers or artichoke into the mix!)


  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 grilled chicken breasts as an accompaniment

Place the bulgur into a large heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling water over it, stir and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender. Drain any excess water from the bulgur. Stir in the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley, and mint. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, zest, cumin, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the bulgur mixture and toss well to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or more. Serve chilled.


  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. Parsley
  • 1/4 c. Mint Leaves
  • Diced Green Pepper
  • Diced Green Onion
  • 1 t. sumac
  • toasted pita pieces


  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. Olive Oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 t. salt
  • pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix thoroughly and enjoy! Again – if you can find it, Zatar (a thyme and sesame seed blend) is a great spice to sprinkle on top of this for added zing.

Slow Down* Tuesday’s Menu

26 Oct

Oh. My. God.  Well, I’m not gonna lie ~ yesterday’s menu took me about 4 hours to make. I realized at some point while I was writing my post that dinner was going to be very, very late – filling me with that all too familiar anxiety and nervousness. About 1 hour into chopping vegetables and straining tomatoes I thought I might just grab a box of Rice-a-Roni, throw the “finely” chopped vegetables in and call it a night. But I reminded myself this was what the exercise was all about and I have to tell you…come 10pm I decided the hard work was TOTALLY worth it. The sauce smelled fantastic and was a beautiful reddish-orange (hint – if you like your sauce a little…saucier…use an emulsion blender in the last few minutes before serving).  The salad was clean and fresh and the bread was carb-tastic. I couldn’t ask for more from a meal.

Today I’m going to make a little compromise – I’m all for slow, but frankly, this experiment can’t trump my absolute deadlines ~ so I was on the lookout  for quicker (i.e. NO 4 hour prep times) clean recipes today  – don’t get me wrong – I’m still all about taking it slow – but even spending an hour on a meal is new for me – I figure it still counts. So tonight I’m making a meal that my friend Carly first made for me in Encinitas, CA – it’s healthy, it’s delish, and best of all, it makes me feel a little like she’s right there in the kitchen with me whenever I make it…

Carly’s Warm Chicken & Asparagus Salad

  • 12 Baby-Red Potatoes, halved
  • 6 boneless, skinless, organic free-range chicken breasts or slow-baked tofu
  • 1/2 t. each of pepper and salt
  • 1.4 c. white wine
  • 1 T. minced fresh basil
  • 1 T. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 2 c. mixed greens

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Steam the potatoes in a large pot filled with about 2 inches of boiling water – cover and steam about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Heat chicken in a pan on the stove for a few minutes, slightly browning the outside to seal in the moisture. Put the chicken in a baking dish, season w/salt pepper,  add wine (and save some for yourself – MMMmmmm!), basil and parsley. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on the outside. Cut chicken into strips. While chicken is cooking cut 2 inches off the bottom of asparagus stalks and place upright in a couple inches of water to steam for about 3 minutes or until tender and bright green. Lay, let cool, and slice lengthwise. Place all ingredients on greens and garnish with radishes or other fresh vegetables of your choice.

Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette

  • 1 lg. shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 T. white wine
  • 2. T. chopped fresh dill week
  • 1/4 t. salt or to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and pour over salad.

Just a note regarding fresh vegetables

I get all of my fresh veggies from a CSA (only available during the spring, summer, and fall around here unfortunately) but it is the ABSOLUTE BEST way to go. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. To find one near you visit Local Harvest. It will make you feel better about what you’re eating and support local farmers. Our CSA even lets us work at the farm to work off share costs – playing farmer is a GREAT way to spend a day!

Every week 330 farmers are forced to leave their land.

Slow Down

25 Oct

This week I’ve been reading In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore. You can actually read quite a bit of it online here! The book explores the  quiet revolution known as “the slow movement,” which is attempting to integrate the advances of the information age into a lifestyle that is marked by an “inner slowness” & gives more depth to relationships with others and with oneself via slow food, medicine, exercise, new urbanism and leisure activities.

Inspired by a Saturday night out on the town that caused a forced slow down on Sunday, I decided to take the entire week to celebrate slowness. Though I’ve usually been a pretty easygoing, peaceful person ~ lately, I find I’ve been throttleing it into fifth gear. I work all day and late into the night ~ checking off one project and moving right on to the next.  I have a list of calls I have to make each day that I speed through. My exercise of choice is running. I like to be social, and try to fill my schedule with as many friends as I can fit in. But within the last month, even when I have free time it’s become hard for me to enjoy it ~ already thinking about the next activity I have to get to. This is not me. Suddenly, everything about my life seems a little too speedy for my taste – I feel like I’m getting through it, but losing the connection.

So I’m starting to back away from it with baby steps – this week, to kick off an attempt to eat clean, learn more about cooking, and slow down, I’ve decided to make all of my meals from scratch. This isn’t an exercise in calorie-counting, and although most of the recipes are low-fat  healthy and simple ~ the emphasis here is on the quality of food.  All organic, all fresh, and all homemade. I’ll document the results and some more information online this week, with a few of the recipes I’ve used. Read on for tonight’s recipes…

Amanda’s Basic Marinara

  • 1/2 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t. each of sea salt and black pepper (add more to taste)
  • 10 large tomatoes -OR if unavailable – 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (strain seeds if possible)
  • 2 dried bay leaves (*this is KEY!)
  • Pinches of sage, thyme, and fresh parsley (add more to taste)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat –  throw in onions and garlic and sautee until the onions are translucent (usually about 10 minutes). Add celery carrots, red pepper, salt, pepper. Saute another 10 minutes until all of the vegetables are soft. Add crushed tomatoes and bay leaves and let simmer on low heat for at least 1 hour – couldn’t be easier! Season the sauce with more salt & pepper to taste and serve with fresh parsley. This makes about 2 quarts, so throw leftovers in the freezer (for up to 3 months)!

Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 t. grated lemon zest
  • 1 t. grated orange zest
  • 2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 T. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 t. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 t. honey
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients and shake to blend. I like to use over a mixture of spinach, oranges, almonds, red onion, fresh beets, salt and pepper – you could also add some grilled chicken marinated in the dressing – maybe some gorgonzola – and easily make a meal of it. Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

Low-Fat Yogurt Bread

(NOTE: This makes a RIDICULOUS amount of bread, so if you aren’t planning on eating tons or giving it away half or quarter the recipe!)

  • 12 c. white flour
  • 2 c. white wheat flour
  • 1 c. coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 3 packages of instant-rise yeast
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 T. sea salt
  • 2 1/2 c. nonfat milk
  • 2 c. nonfat plain yogurt (I actually used my own yogurt, but it’s not necessary)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat – when just hot remove from heat and whisk in yogurt. Stir liquid mixture into dry ingredients stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Mix until it gets too heavy to use a spoon and slide dough onto a floured surface to knead for another 12 minutes, give or take. The beauty of this bread is that you can let it rise….or….not if you’re in a hurry. If so, put the kneaded dough into a buttered bowl for about an hour and a half to rise. After rising, take it out of the bowl, punch to release the air, and knead for another 4-5 minutes. Cut dough into 6 equal pieces and free form into circular or rectangular loaves. Place on cookie sheet that’s been covered with a thin layer of cornmeal and back at 375 for 35 minutes. This is going to be insanely dense and crusty – PERFECT for soups or sopping up extra sauce!

Love our planet’s life source…

7 Jun Twilight - Moonlight Beach - Encinitas, CA

I grew up spending most of my summers splashing around Lake Seventeen in Northern Wisconsin and then bodysurfing the Atlantic in a sleepy surf town in the Outer Banks of NC. Of the three streets I lived on while in San Diego, two of them ended at the ocean. I moved back home to a farming town in the Midwest 7 months ago, miles away from any kind of water source, the closest thing to the shimmer of an ocean being the wave of a glistening yellow cornfield during a strong August wind, and I miss it more than ever. This week’s pictures of the oil spill finally hitting beaches and impacting wildlife, to put it simply, makes me sad – and I can’t help but feel I didn’t do enough for it while it was (almost literally) right there in my backyard.

Did you know our oceans are home to…

  • …the largest animal ever on our planet: the blue whale (and has a heart the size of a Volkswagen!)
  • …the largest living structure on earth: The Great Barrier Reef
  • …heat! The top 10 feet of the ocean hold as much heat as our entire atmosphere – part of the reason oceans play such an integral role in our weather
  • …real estate: the ocean’s provide 99% of the earth’s living space – less than 10% has been explored by humans
  • …50-80% of all life on earth
  • …the greatest supply of protein on earth: fish
  • …the greatest supply of food on earth: more than 3.5 billion people depend on the oceans for food – that number could easily double in the next 20 years
  • …the least protected area of the world: The High Seas (covering nearly 50% of the earth’s surface!)
  • …the largest continuous mountain chain
  • …a rich history: life began in the seas 3.1 billion to 3.4 billion years ago
  • …a new form of life: based on chemical energy rather than light energy

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.  ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

Love It, Learn It, Live It

Sunset over the Pacific

The ocean takes care of us. Now it’s our turn to return the favor. Many people are overwhelmed by all of the problems our ocean faces and wonder how they can protect our ocean and coastal plants, animals and habitats for the future. Zero in on specific ways you use, enjoy and appreciate the ocean – from eating oysters, to laying out on a beach – even just drinking purified water. Learn about some of the current issues that could be affecting the future of your favorite past-times, foods, animals, etc… determine your personal impact. Finally make the commitment to live differently in order to save the future of what you love. Read on for some resources to help you start…

Here are some of my favorite links for catching up on ocean issues. The things that are happening out there – the things we are a doing – will blow your mind…

Filthy water cannot be washed.  ~African Proverb

And HERE are some links for information on helping AND a list of things you can do TODAY to start living differently to protect the future…

Fortunately, there are simple ways you make a difference every single day. The 10 actions below are some of the ways you can show the world that you’re committed to protecting the ocean.

  • Recycle used motor oil. Don’t let motor oil spill on the ground because rain will wash it into the storm-water drains, and from there out to sea, where it can harm or kill marine life. Always recycle used motor oil at your local gas station, auto parts store or wherever you get your oil changed. NEVER pour motor oil down any drain. Find an oil-recycling center near you: click here.
  • Put garbage and recyclables in their proper place. If not disposed of properly, plastics, Styrofoam and other garbage can enter our creeks and rivers and wash out to sea. These materials can choke marine birds and mammals, so dispose of them in the right way. Don’t release helium balloons – winds often carry balloons far away where they can deflate and end up in the ocean. Sea turtles can choke to death after mistaking deflated balloons for edible jellyfish.
  • Carry and use non-disposal bags.The most common litter found in the ocean is plastics. Instead of disposable plastic bags, carry and use you own reusable bag at the grocery and other convenience stores. In addition, pack your lunch — and your kids’ lunches — in reusable, airtight bisphenol A (BPA)-free plastic containers. BPA is a substance found in hard plastics thought to mimic hormones in our bodies.
  • Use reusable coffee cups and water bottles. Each year, people use and discard more than 25 billion disposable coffee cups and bottles for water and soft drinks. Invest a few dollars in a travel mug and a water bottle. This step eliminates the thousands of disposable cups and bottles you would use, saves trees and oil, and makes certain that no disposable cups, bottles or plastic lids will end up in the ocean as marine debris or litter.
  • Cut up plastic six-pack rings. If six-pack rings get into the marine environment, they can strangle marine birds, sea turtles and mammals. Cut up the plastic rings found on six-packs of soda and other beverages to eliminate this possibility. Better yet, choose to buy items that are not packaged with six-pack rings whenever possible.
  • Respect vulnerable marine life. Tread lightly, or not at all, on tide pools and rocky shore habitats because you can crush the marine life that lives there. Keep your distance from sea birds, seals, sea lions, otters and other ocean wildlife as you could disturb their feeding or resting. If you see a marine mammal in trouble, report it to the Marine Mammal Center. The International Bird Rescue Research Center can provide information on how to help an injured bird.
  • Maintain a healthy lawn and garden.Excessive use of chemically based pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers can run off your lawn into storm drains and into the ocean. Use these chemicals responsibly according to the instructions or, better yet, change to organic products. Consider options such as less-toxic insecticidal soap as a pesticide before using a toxic one. Or plant a native garden that doesn’t require lots of chemicals or water. For more information, see the California Integrated Waste Management Board’s sustainable landscaping Web site.
  • Conserve water and use it responsibly.The less water we use, the less runoff and wastewater will pollute our ocean. In addition, this leaves more water for coastal streams for salmon and reduces the need for converting ocean water to drinking water. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean you driveway and/or sidewalk. Take shorter showers, and turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. For more tips, go to the USEPA’s Watersense Website.
  • Make smart seafood choices. Buy seafood that you know is being harvested sustainably and doesn’t contain heavy metals, such as mercury, that pose a risk to human health. Consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood guide that identifies the best choices to make to help preserve these fish stocks for future generations.
  • Don’t flush kitty litter. Cats can host a deadly pathogen, called Toxoplasmosis gondii, which appears to contribute to nearly 40 percent of the mortality in California sea otters observed in the past several years. Dispose of kitty litter in trash receptacles instead of flushing it down the toilet.

The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.  ~Isak Dinesen

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Start downsizing…now…for real…

23 Mar

You know the old phrase “it drives me to drink”? Well, my “it” is STUFF.  Stuff has caused me to break out a bottle of wine mid-spring clean more times than once (or twice!) (Ok – sometimes I’m not cleaning).  In fact, we have SO much stuff that some of us pay extra rent to keep our extra stuff off-site – it’s not important enough to keep in our actual living space, so we find ANOTHER space for it, because for SOME reason it IS important enough to keep in a community garage. Here’s a bit of  the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of “stuff”:

  • Unspecified material
  • Household or personal articles considered as a group
  • Worthless objects

HEY-O Merriam AND Webster! Way to tell it like it is – because at the end of the day, that’s all stuff is – worthless objects. Of course there are things we need to be productive, to get on in society, for basic living – but if you were to sort through the storage unit, the basement, the garage, the car, the rooms in your house, closets – how much of that stuff would you really feel like you had to hold on to? In fact, I feel like anything that is unimportant enough to be  lumped under the blanket description of “stuff” instead of its actual name deserves immediate downsizing attention.

“The Story of Stuff” – an animated short about the life-cycle of material goods – has been around since 2007, and yes, of course it has a political agenda and is a little one-sided, but its worth a watch (or even re-watch). It serves as a reminder that we should start thinking twice about the stuff we have, the stuff we need, and the stuff we get rid of. So instead of dredging on and on, I’ll just present “The Story of Stuff” and extend the invitation to take 20 minutes to watch it – start thinking about the kind of “stuff” you really need in your life…

Ready to start downsizing? Try these out before straight up trash-slinging…

  • BookMooch: A book exchange program
  • Swaptree: A website that allows users to barter for books, video games, DVDs, and more – with a helpful user rating system similar to Ebay
  • Freecycle: A grassroots entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills
  • Gazelle: A place to safely and securely sell your old electronic equipment
  • Cell Phones for Soldiers: A non-profit 501(c)(3) company, who’s mission is to turn your old cell phones into prepaid calling cards for U.S. troops stationed overseas
  • The National Cristina Foundation: A non-profit that fixes broken, donated digital cameras or computer accessories and sends out to classrooms across the US in need
  • Earth911.org: One of the fastest ways to find the closest recycling centers
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