Going Paperless

a photo of a five-drawer filing system
A picture (or in this case, a scan) is worth a thousand file folders...

This winter I finished a project I started in June of 2010 and posted what I thought was this innocuous little picture of what is left of my paper-based filling system–a tiny set of file drawers that fits next to my desk and is small enough to fit in a suitcase–on Facebook. It set off a lively discussion that continued right into the next morning at school drop-off and I realized that a blog post was in order. It’s a sad fact of life that expat life, no matter how amazing, is unpredictable. And moving your entire life to a new country is never easy. It’s even more difficult, however, when your filing system resembles the Library of Congress in size and complexity.

Last year I wrote about decluttering your child’s artwork and about the huge purge we did in anticipation of our international move, but now I want to focus specifically on how I moved my filing to a paperless system.

  1. Choose your tool
  2. Start with the present
  3. Purge & scan
  4. Maintenance Tips

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Country Mouse, City Mouse

a picture of me in my straw cowboy hat
Country Mouse headed to the big city...
You remember that children’s book about the country mouse who trades places with his big-city cousin and ventures to the city to see what it’s all about? It occurred to me this afternoon that I am that mouse. Despite having a rather big-city penchant for the opera, fine wine, fancy restaurants, and shoes, I think at heart I’ve always been a little more John Denver than Lady Gaga.

Growing Up – Definitely Country Mouse

I grew up in strip mall hell the suburbs of Indianapolis. It is by far the biggest city I’ve ever lived in, and (apologies to all my Hoosier friends & relations) Read more

Choosing a Seed Company

In December last year, the first gorgeous, glossy seed magazine arrived in my mailbox. After fleeing to a private spot to drool review it in detail, I started thinking about how we choose where to buy our seeds. If the early bird truly does get the worm, Seeds of Change, sender of that first beautiful catalog, would have gotten my money this year, just as they have the past several years. But this year, I’m choosing my seeds from other sources and perhaps explaining my reasoning will help you make your decisions too. Read more

Planning the Perfect Pot Garden – Primer Part 3

This is a great example of container gardening, taken from Permaculture 4 Renters.
This is a great example of container gardening, taken from Permaculture 4 Renters.

I’ve already talked about growing herbs indoors to beat the winter blues, but I know a lot of gardens in urban landscapes are looking to maximize growing space using containers (no, not that kind of pot!) to garden outside too. Whether you’re planting a few herbs in a sunny windowsill inside or growing a large container garden in your yard, a few tips will help make things easier. Read more

Birthday Cake – Localized

cakeToday is my darling husband’s birthday, so this morning the kids & I baked him a cake. I chose my Grandma’s Fresh Apple Cake recipe in part because I had ingredients on hand and in part because it was one I could adapt so that it used mainly local ingredients. Oh yeah, and also because it’s moist and delicious and one of Matt’s favorites 🙂

I’ll give you both the original recipe and the modified so that you can make it how you like, but also so that you can see how easy it is to modify your favorite recipes so that they use local ingredients. Happy Birthday, Love! Read more

Why Climate Change is Irrelevant

My five-year-old explaining why snow does not mean that climate change doesn't exist
My five-year-old explaining why snow does not mean that climate change doesn't exist

The recent spate of snow has brought out the crazies. And I’m not talking about Shaun White. I’m talking about those who, through reductionist thinking, have convinced themselves that this particularly cold winter disproves climate change. But honestly, I’m not even going to get into that debate, because frankly, as I recently posted on a friend’s FB feed, I’m a bit bored of the argument. The truth is that many climate change deniers that I know are informed and intelligent people. And they’re still never going to believe that climate change exists. It might be a little too much WSJ. I know for some people, it has a lot to do with a vehement hatred of Al Gore, who is the poster child for climate change. In the end, the whole debate is irrelevant. Read more

The Eat From the Pantry Challenge

EFTP_button_300 This month, Life as Mom is hosting the Eat from the Pantry Challenge. The idea is that each family spend the month of January trying to eat their way through the bounty in the pantry/freezer/cupboards to save a little money in the New Year.

I am a bulk food addict and I belong to an awesome organic bulk-food co-op. That’s a dangerous combination that explains why I currently have a life-time supply of such staples as quinoa, dried beans, and rice in my pantry. I also love tea. Matt & I have been on a tea-buying moratorium for over a year now and still have probably another year’s worth (and we drink lots of tea). So the idea of burning through some of this excess, while saving a little money, appeals. Read more

About those adorable Christmas Cards…

The Artz Family, November 2009
The Artz Family, November 2009

Last year, I would have liked to use protecting the environment as an excuse for not sending out the annual Christmas card, but the truth is I just ran out of both time and inclination. But that year off gave me quite a bit of time to think about Christmas cards, what they mean, and whether I could live without them in the name of less waste and less greenhouse gasses.

I couldn’t find a precise estimate of what the environmental impact of all these Christmas cards floating around actually is, but if you imagine the millions, even billions (one site in the UK estimates a billion cards sent in the UK alone!) of cards that are produced and then mailed around the globe, the impact cannot be small, even if you opt for recycled paper cards and avoid glitter & foil, which render the cards non-recyclable.

I love one UK company’s idea to produce edible Christmas cards, and Treehugger has some ideas for greening your cards, but I’m not going to do either this year. Read more

The skinny on lead in crockpots – It may surprise you!

crockpotI don’t like ambiguity, especially when it comes to the health of my children. So I was alarmed when I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer to the question: “Do modern-day crock pot glazes contain lead that can leach into my food?”

While lead in crockpots has been an issue for as long as we’ve known about lead poisoning, the crockpot debate heated up several years ago when KUTV newsman Bill Gephardt reported that many commonly-used kitchen products contain lead. One of the items highlighted in the article is a Rival brand crock pot. Read more

Bisphenol-A – It’s even worse than we thought!

Update: Some additional resources for more information added below!

With controversy still raging over Sigg’s recent admission that their original water bottles — often touted, even by this blog, as a safe/BPA-free choice — contain minimal amounts of Bisphenol-A, a Consumer Reports study released yesterday illustrates that the BPA problem is even worse than we thought.

What it found was that even BPA-free canned food (like that produced by Eden Foods with special BPA cans made by Ball) still contain trace amounts of this toxic chemical, which has been shown to increase risk of both cancer and reproductive abnormalities in animal studies (and, even as the American Chemistry Council continues to deny that BPA is dangerous–the chemical’s FDA approval being their main evidence – Nice!–another study released this summer linked BPA exposure to heart problems). Read more