Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Troubleshooting Slow-Cooker Yoghurt and Home-made Ginger beer.

I've talked about making yoghurt in a slow cooker, and making ginger beer, and after a few attempts, I wanted to share what I've learned so far, if some of you have made attempts and been discouraged.

Slow Cooker Yoghurt Troubleshooting
  • I've only used pasteurized milk (not ultra-pasteurized) but I hear that you shouldn't use ultra-pasteurized.
  • Among pasteurized milks, it's easier to use Whole Milk when you're starting out your yoghurt-making life. Once you get the hang of things and if you like, you can use 2% or 1% milk.
  • Amongst Whole Milks, some work better than others. For example, Crescent Ridge milk works well, but Trader Joe's organic milk works less well.
  • It's hard to get Whole Milk Yoghurt in the U.S.; most are reduced fat. It's ok to use whatever plain yoghurt you can find. I would recommend trying different personal size plain yoghurt until you find one that works well. Once you have good yoghurt you can reuse the yoghurt you have for the next batch. Greek yoghurt sometime works really well, but again, it seems to depend on brand a bit. Stonyfield has been good.
  • Temperature matters a lot. Add the yoghurt to the milk just as it dips below 110F, and try to slow the cooling process. I usually put the oven on for a moment until it gets warm-ish, then switch it off and put the towel-wrapped slow cooker in for the day (if I started the yoghurt first thing in the morning) or the night.
  • Once you've tried a couple of times, it get really easy. You may not need all the above info to be successful, it's just if you've tried and it hasn't worked too well.
Home-Made Ginger beer Troubleshooting
  • My first ginger beer batch was made exclusively with powdered ginger. It was really good, if a little bit sweet.
  • My second batch was made with a mix of powdered ginger and very finely diced fresh ginger. It was ok, but less fizzy and gingery.
  • My third batch was made with finely diced fresh ginger only. It was really awful.
  • The lesson I draw from this is that it's better to use powdered ginger. It's more concentrated and there's nothing there to ferment. But the freshness of the powdered ginger matters a lot. If you aren't a big ginger user, I'd recommend going to a store with bulk spices (such as Harvest or Whole Foods) and getting just enough for a batch. It should cost about $1.00.
  • Use less sugar than the recipe requires, until you find your sweet spot.
  • Weird stuff growing in the ginger beer hasn't been a problem. If it tastes good, I'm pretty confident only the yeast fermented.
  • I'm going to experiment with pineapple juice as sweetener. I'll let you know how it goes!
Thoughts? Other fermented/cultured foods you've been trying out?

This video made me want to make beer just so that I had the leftover grain to use in bread:

Monday, August 29, 2011


[Yesterday's hurricane Irene brought strong winds but Eug and I kept asking eachother "should we be making this more of a big deal?" because we really didn't stock up. That said, a massive (20-30ft?) tree in our parking lot-- and by parking lot I mean tiny strip of alleyway where our apartment parks-fell. Mercifully, it fell sideways and the cars were not there. If it had fell on our apartment or the houses behind us, there could have been much more damage.]

I almost bought $100 Japanese toothbrushes last week, because they cause some kind of ionic reaction in your mouth, they're solar powered, and you don't need toothpaste. I thought this would all be very cool. Eug said "Sure", as is Eug's way. I decided to wait a week in case they were an impulse buy. Indeed, they would have been an impulse buy. For all their awesomeness, they're very expensive and they're plastic-- the heads need to be replaced often, as with regular toothbrushes. So I've been considering better, more no-waste options might be out there.

This has gotten me thinking about toothpaste: the tubes (and the toothbrushes themselves) are a bit annoying if we're trying not to have trash. A fairly minor source of trash given all the food packaging trash we still generate, but annoying nonetheless. Baking soda is a good alternative, but it's also pretty abrasive and can remove your enamel over time, apparently.

A colleague of mine was recommended not to use toothpaste by her dentist, since it's also abrasive. Much more important was the brushing action; that, and flossing every day.

So I've been trying out using less or no toothpaste. I use baking soda a couple of times a week, and at least once a day I use nothing. Learning from my Somali colleagues, who clean their mouths before prayer, I now wash my mouth out and brush at work. I'm still using toothpaste (right now, Tom's of Maine) about five times a week, and flossing fairly religiously. Floss involves regular waste, also, but it doesn't involve putting too many chemicals into your mouth. Flossing, says my health educator, is even more important than brushing. I'm just beginning to find low-waste floss options.

Of course, one big question here is around fluoride. In Boston, our tap water (which I use for drinking) is fluoridated so toothpaste does not need to supply fluoride. That said, the jury seems to be out on fluoride, at least a little bit, so I'd love to hear from parents especially. Cape Town water is NOT fluoridated, so we'll have to decide whether or not to give Noah fluoride tablets or use toothpaste.

Here are a couple of good links to choices around sustainability and toothbrushes, Toothpaste, and general oral hygiene.

I'm in no position to recommend anything to anyone. But if anyone out there wants to weigh-in on their natural, or not-so-natural tooth care habits, I'd love to hear. Like stopping facewash, this is a small shift that may or may not stick- it's more a fun and liberating experiment than an earth-shatteringly impactful one.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Down to Just a Couple of Boxes. (that's the goal)

The last few weeks we've made progress purging. We even made progress on digital purging, and have a 500G tiny hard drive to clear electronically down to only one computer. We're still deciding whether we can share a computer, lest you find us self-righteous. Do we look like we can share?
Young in Cape Town
Trying to avoid being stressed in this process seems to be a recipe for disaster. It works better for me to be ok with the stress and own it, and then ask [God] if I can let it go. Sometimes I'm hard on myself for not managing my world better-- when it's actually helpful to be kind to myself, because then I'm kinder to other people. It's fake to be hard on myself and then affirm someone else's day-to-day struggles as normal.

Eug's first time on Table Mountain, soon before Noah was born. Pictures like this makes the purging less painful. Though not the farewells.
So far we're focused mainly on giving away and selling things that we don't use every day (certain curtains, linens, books, knick knacks, blankets, etc.) Later, when we're closer to our move date, we'll start to get rid of furniture, clothes, etc.) There are plenty of things in the mix that we wouldn't ordinarily get rid of-- curtains, blankets, sheets, pots and pans. These are not bad things to have. As such, it's unsettling to set aside just a couple of boxes of photos, books, and baby clothes.

Soon before Noah's birth we got to go to Florida!
So getting rid of everything is hard; it reminds me of a scene in The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. Eustace, the "odious cousin" is changed into a dragon, and the lion Aslan comes and digs his claws deep into the dragon's flesh, peeling off layer upon layer until Eustace is a boy again. Eustace describes it as painful but not painful at the same time. And at the end of it, he's himself. Perhaps this image is a little deep for the mundane act of letting go of stuff, but perhaps the process can be shallow or deep, depending on my choice. I figure if I can get  that feeling of refreshment, I'll take it!

Older, with more of us

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Make Face Wash Without Leaving Your Home

I finally finished our bottle of face wash a couple of weeks ago. My old face wash had about forty ingredients, including parabens in a couple of different forms. I've always been prone to pimples and used a clear, anti-acne gel.

It was a moment to try out some alternatives. So for the past couple of weeks, I've been trying cucumber blended with the liquid over from making yoghurt (the whey). A website suggested cucumber blended with milk-- the only reason I didn't do this was because the whey lasts longer and is cheaper and I'm pretty protective of our fancy milk. I put it in the bottle, keep it in the fridge and use it as I would regular facewash.

It's easy. It's very cooling, so maybe it's better to use this ice-cold facewash during summer rather than winter. My skin feels great. I'm riding around 10 miles/day, in summer, and I don't seem to be getting pimples.

Depending on the time of year, there may be extra cucumbers hanging around that are no longer in their prime.  I tried this recipe largely because it was free this time around. I love that if the ingredients are already in the house, you don't need an extra bottle or an extra shopping trip. The chances are high that you already have the ingredients for at least one of the natural facial cleanser recipes out there.

The second alternative facewash I've tried is 1 part extra virgin olive oil, three parts castor oil (You can change the proportion towards olive oil if you have more dry skin). It also seems great, but I've only tried it a few times so far. You need more time to be able to rinse well and do the whole relaxation thing. I could see this combination removing any need for a moisturizer.

I'm going to be trying out a variety of different natural face washes over the next several months. In general, I'd like them to be cheaper and healthier than commercially made stuff. I'm not sure of the impact of using commercial soaps over a lifetime. There have been studies that have found parabens to mimic estrogen and to be present (in small amounts) in breast cancer tumours. Which is not something I spend a lot of time worrying about. I just don't like things that have a ton of ingredients that I know nothing about.

Apart from the fact both face washes actually seem to work, I find it liberating that there are all these household products-- cucumber, whey, olive oil, oats, plain salt, baking soda, egg and so on-- that you can use with very similar result to using something made by professional skin care people in a factory or lab. Does that mean we're all professionals on our own skin?

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm Learning How to Knit, and Other Stories

1. In a sudden twist, I've been learning how to knit. It snuck up on me. Granted, I can currently only knit squares, but I could knit squares all day and be quite content. Particularly if I had chocolate and television. (I call the squares "dish rags", and use them for dishes, together with some of the puffy petticoat from my wedding dress, for something more scratchy.)

The next step is learning to knit socks. I decided that I should specialize in two things: socks and dish rags. Functional, potentially beautiful, humble. Leah is going to teach me, and I'm going to follow the directions on the Vogue Knitting The Ultimate Sock Book. If I specialize, I don't need much gear, and maybe I'll get extraordinarily good at knitting socks.

2. I inadvertently got rid of my bike. Someone stole it. I wasn't exactly using five star security: I thought it was junky enough that nobody would want it (it was locked with a combination lock, which is not famously effective).

The amazing news is that my friend is lending me her bike until we move to South Africa. I don't want to sound like Pollyanna but I'm kinda glad this happened, because I feel so much gratitude for the loan.

The bike is wonderful and when I road it home this afternoon, I got my first bike compliment from another biker! Usually bikers are just whizzing past. This time, someone said, "hey, I like your bike!" and I said, "Yeah, my friend is lending it to me! I'm just riding it home from her house!" I felt like a biker/cyclist person. It was awesome.

3. We got rid of curtains, beads, toothbrushes, albums, books, clothes, and more this past week. (to add to Eug's bike, the crib, and more the previous few weeks.) Every pass at our stuff, we get rid of more, so it feels less unsafe. There's no pressure to let go of things we're not ready to let go of. We just look at it again in a little while. Our house is still very messy, but it's getting closer to, well, not being messy.

We keep on saying things like "we're never going to buy anything again", but it's actually really difficult to navigate between the dream of "one day when we never buy anything" and the now. The present seems somehow separate, where different rules apply, particularly to waste. There's a tension in navigating what we're hoping for and the throwing-away-and-fairly-packaged-food-now.

I'm always re-learning that tiny choices in the now are helpful: Ice cream in a carton, cup or cone. Arborio rice from the tiny vacuum sealed plastic bag or from the bulk bin. Refusing bags. They may sound somehow puritanical, but to the contrary, in a time of transience it's a matter of making the choice just once. For today. If I feel brave. And if today I don't, that's ok.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Am I the Crazy Housemate?

Even though I haven't seen Caitlin for at least six years, I still claim her stories as my favourites, and retell them as my own.

One such story is of the summer she was learning Somali in Athens, Ohio. She had two housemates: I'll call them The Survivalist and The Fruitarian:

The Survivalist did interesting things like build stoves outside, hunt squirrels for meat, and make his own clothes out of fabric he wove. He wanted to live as though he was in eighteenth century Britain, I believe. I felt sorry for the unwitting squirrels.

The Fruitarian always looked like she was going to collapse dead from lack of nutrients. She only ate things that had died, and was a raw foodist I believe. At the same time, only eating things that had already died limited things quite a bit. She could only eat fruit that had already fallen and got all eaten by bugs, basically. She did try to sprout stuff, which doesn't seem totally consistent-- sprouts are totally living.

I would laugh a lot at the stories she told-- given that Caitlin is a good mix of hippy crunchy and practical herself-- but found The Fruitarian, at least, almost impossible to live with. Recently, I was thinking about the two roommates, and realized that, rather than mocking (which had been my original motive, I think), I had some admiration mixed in. There are probably many things that they did that I'd be excited to do. Yay roommates for being radical! Which made me wonder if I've become the Crazy Housemate.

I'm going to say that I'm not, because I recognize and own the fact that my life demands the death of at least some living creatures (be they plants or animals- hopefully fewer animals). The dead squirrels are another line, though I have a lot of admiration for The Survivalist. Perhaps that, together with the poor health of The Fruitarian, is the indication that she crossed an invisible line that I hope not to cross. But there are plenty of other lines I've crossed. Any lines you're toying with crossing, or have crossed?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Our Morning Routine

The past month has brought with it a predictable, though strange routine: Catch a mouse at night. Look up famous people's birthdays and name the mouse (this is The Queen Mother) Take it to Brookline and free it at the park in the morning. Twelve times so far. (except one we forgot to drop off so we freed it in the Ikea parking lot--there's lot's of greenery around. And one at Wellesley College in the forest next to Dower- That's gotta be mouse paradise). We found out it's illegal. But that's me, living on the edge. We seem to ONLY catch mice on the days where I'll be around the following morning to free it. 

But the point of this post is to show off my beloved WASA shirt, resewn for Noah (Leah made it a little big so that Noah can wear it a bit later... I let him wear it once for these pictures.) On the back it says "If we stand tall it is because we stand on the backs of those who came before us." 

When Noah runs, he runs with passion. Arms flapping, head forward, as fast as he possibly can go.

It seems that his snack was a hunk of bread. He likes it. I promise.

No, not an ad for Klean Kanteen. Just evidence of my need for coffee at the park.
Noah doesn't like having to leave. Saying goodbye to the mouse is also hard. But as we're walking back to our apartment, the rest of Boston is just waking up. Which feels good, somehow. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Wore Thirty Items for Three Months

Three months have passed and I finished my first round of wearing Thirty Items for Three Months. This has been one of the most successful things I've tried over the years (probably along with stopping shampoo).

There's the psychological and the practical side of the challenge.  From both sides, there are pros and cons. There's the fear of not having enough clothes, and the practical challenge of actually not having enough clothes (which varies depending on your climate and lifestyle).  There's the wondrous freedom of not having to choose what to wear, and then there's the practical freedom of having a very manageable, simple closet.

What I like about the challenge is that it limits you temporarily, so my big fear (and practical concerns) are minimized.  At the same time, I experience many of the freedoms.

I've also felt emancipated-- at least a bit-- from those deeper fears of not having enough or of not having something because I gave it away. As a result I've been able to give away much of my clothes and Noah's clothes. Giving away Noah's clothes felt like letting go of his babyhood (yes, I'm melodramatic), but also letting go of the fear of wasting money or not having enough resources if a new baby joins our family. This makes sense for us because we're moving and not taking much with us. It may also make sense for you if you don't have basement or other out-of-the-way storage. And we gained a surprising relationship with our downstairs neighbors by giving them a huge amount of clothes for their tiny son.

There were quite a few things in my 30 things that I didn't wear for much of the three months-- mainly because my size is still in flux and my belt broke, meaning my two pairs of work trousers were out of commission. Today, I'll choose a new set of items for the next three months.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Poverty and Voluntary Simplicity

I'm not ok with debt, but I'm ok with what would technically be considered poverty in U.S. terms.

Financial poverty is ripe with possibilities if you have time, education, political power, infrastructure, and so on. I.e. you can be poor and resource rich at the same time. This is the kind of poverty I'm probably fine with. In fact, stressed as I am by choices, I actually enjoy a lack of financial choices. Far from being a virtue, this is actually something I'm working on, because it can get annoying for people who I would like to hang out with.

With that aside, I want to think more about poverty that is much more than financial-- this is usually poverty that's entrenched and spans an entire family or community or swathes of a country. This kind of poverty is an assault to dignity, to possibilities, and it's profoundly limiting. It changes characters.

In the simplicity movement, there's sometimes a sense that that poverty is somehow similar to voluntary simplicity. Voluntary simplicity is full of possibilities. It's an intentional limiting to gain amazing freedoms.

On the other hand, poverty is characterized by lack of freedom. Sometimes it seems like both groups have the same resources and live in a similar way. In the U.S. case, one of the most profound explanations as to why this is not the case is in the stories of Barbara Ehrenrheich in the brilliant Nickle and Dimed. If you can't get enough money together for first and last months' rent, you can't rent an apartment. You can't buy in bulk. You can't live in a cool tiny house. Even if the amount you're spending every month is the same, the lengths you need to go to to earn that money, and what you're able to buy, are very different.

The key thing is that poverty is not something you leap out of into voluntary simplicity. They're two very different things. That said, one dream I have is that people practicing some kind of voluntary simplicity (including our family) could live in poor neighborhoods and impact those neighborhoods by being available, being present, and being resourced. Even though it's a big leap out of different kinds of poverty-- spiritual (which is clearly not the exclusive domain of those who are financially poor), financial, emotional, educational; it's a potentially small financial leap from financial poverty to voluntary simplicity.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bridget sent this to us. I'm not sure why.

Visiting the Milk.

Cheap person that I am, switching to good milk has been hard. I now have a budget line for milk.  Noah was the precipitating factor in the switch.

We get milk in glass bottles from Crescent Ridge Dairy. They don't claim to be organic, but they're local (in Sharon, MA) and you can see the cows when we visited the farm-- they seem very happy, as cows go. And the farm uses glass to store their milk, which helped us reduce our use of plastic a lot and is the real reason we drink their milk over all the other organic kinds that cost about the same. They also deliver to homes, but that's only economical if you're a family of 12.

A few weeks ago we decided to visit since we were down at Ikea, which is nearby, and we had coupons for free ice-cream. The dairy was lovely. The ice cream portions were HUGE, and the ice-cream was incredible. Unfortunately, the ice-cream was served in plastic, which I thought was unnecessary, given that it's pretty easy to serve in paper containers. I'll write to them and let you know what they say.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sewing as a Way of Life

This article over at the NY Times spoke to the type of fun sewing I'd like to learn to do. In the meantime, I'm knitting up a storm of washrags (also known as small squares)! More on that, soon.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Elimination Communication is Great. Even when it doesn't work.

Sometimes people ask me how Elimination Communication is going. I blush, mumble, and try to steer the conversation in a different direction.

To recap, read here.

Even though Elimination Communication isn't really "working" for us at the moment (Noah poops and pees in his diaper or uhhh... on the floor-- after our move into our new apartment Noah stopped using the toilet), I still count it a success. I'll revisit my thoughts when Noah is out of diapers and I have the benefit of hindsight. And I'll gladly do EM again if we're blessed with another baby. Without the winter and a full time job, I think there's a strong possibility it could work [even] better.

One success up to now is that Noah is pretty aware of his bodily functions. This may have been so even if he hadn't had some EM, but he seems really aware. He doesn't seem to care if his diaper is dirty, but he does immediately start pointing and squeaking if he starts peeing on the floor. As one would hope, I suppose. And he helps with cleanup (though it's not a punishment, it's just that he loves using the vinegar spray and the rag).

And accidents on the floor, he has plenty of. This will horrify some of you, but I'm actually really glad about how comfortable we are with it. We use a lot of baking soda and vinegar, and usually messes are just on the wood floor. When he wakes up in the morning, he often is in underwear (or naked) for a couple of hours before we switch back to diapers. Sometimes, I even take him out with just underwear (and regular clothes, and I bring a change of clothes and a diaper). Part of the reason I like to do this is because I want Noah to avoid diaper rash, and I want to be able to start telling him that he should go to the toilet (I usually just point and say toilet, then take him to the toilet).

I'm not sure how this will ultimately turn out, but I like that with EM, diapers are not the absolute normal state of being for babies, even if EM is practiced only occasionally. So it's been good, even if hasn't produced "results" per se. And it's not as messy as one might suppose.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Power of Time Off

About seven months ago, I wrote about planning a mini-retirement. In this video, Stefan Sagmeister talks about the power of sabbaticals. For Stefan, the time off informed his work time. He was more creative as a graphic designer. It also meant that he could realign "job"-- something you do 9-5 for the money with "calling"-- something that is inherently fulfilling. Time off offered him opportunities for re-calibration.

So mini-retirements can bring work and calling into sync. We can work less to work really well. Working "less" is relative. It doesn't mean trying to do things better than everyone else, or figuring out something that noone else has figured out (ala The Four Hour Workweek). It could mean 40 hours/week, or 20 hours/week outside of the home, with 20 hours inside your home.

This idea has helped to loosen the sense of what career success means to me, even as I've been praying NOT to be driven to "change the world".

If you feel as though a mini-retirement is not really something that will work for you, is there some practice that could help you bring your work and your calling more in line with one another?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thinking About Plastic (Again)

I recently completed Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. It was super nerdy and interesting and, well, balanced. That is, it didn't just trash-talk plastic. The book told  a story of the ascendancy of plastic and the kinds of trade-offs that happened as the plastics industry grew to being the multi-billion industry it is now. The story helps me parse out some of my feelings about plastic: it's light and durable, but it never goes away.

So there may be times (when you're going to use something for twenty years, for example, and it's not something you eat out of), where life-cycle analysis will come out in favor of plastic. But the problem came  when plastic was encouraged as a means towards a carefree "throwaway lifestyle". And when it became incredibly ubiquitous in packaging. The other problem inherent is plastics is that there are so many different kinds-- that often look identical-- making them really hard to recycle.

I was struck once again by how plastic is derived from something that took millennia to develop deep inside the earth, yet, in the case of single-use plastic- we use it in a few moments then toss it, to exist on the planet for millennia more (plastic does not go away).  Not unlike gas/petrol, I guess.

I'm going to put a discussion of multiple-use plastics on hold for now. While I try not to buy new reusable plastic containers (I still use the ones we have, though), it's more difficult to wrap my head around things like toilet seats, earphones, computers, etc. Plastics are truly everywhere. Some of those things I hope to get to at some point.  Others are not a high priority (toilet seats).

What's been helpful in reducing my use of single-use plastic
  • Having a Kleen Kanteen I really like has helped a lot for hot drinks.  I have 12oz- the smallest size- so it works great for hot drinks, but it's relatively small for iced drinks or milkshakes.  
  • I discovered that Starbucks has ceramic cups and glasses, that they'll use if you ask for them.  Starbucks itself is another discussion. The great thing is that you can buy a tall frappucino (which I know, costs about a million dollars anyway) and you get the hugest glass on the planet. I can drink for an hour and still not be done. It also provides all my calories for the day.
  • Grocery shopping at set times.  It's a big deal when I go grocery shopping, so it's easy to remember all the bags (big and small) and so on.
  • We don't use many cosmetics/health/beauty stuff.  I should qualify that. We still use cosmetics that were already in the household, but we haven't bought cream, lotion, shampoo, conditioner for over a year. Our soap comes in bars wrapped in paper, and we use bicarb/baking soda as deodorant. I use baking soda as shampoo also; Eug uses soap. We DO still buy toothpaste in plastic tubes-- we'll switch from Trader Joe's to Tom's of Maine toothpaste this month for this reason.
  • Farmer's market. When we make it there, it's packaging free.
Difficult stuff (Our typical week of plastic)
  • Meat packaging, if we eat meat-- usually about once a week.
  • Cheese packaging-- we eat cheese ALL the time.
  • Sour cream packaging
  • Pasta packaging (the Whole Wheat Trader Joe's pasta is packaged in plastic)
  • Impulse drinks- such as soda or Friendly's milkshake (don't stop reading the blog, it's more of an occasional vice that I'm working on)
  • Convenience foods- such as Trader Joe's dumplings
  • Berry containers, if I don't buy berries from the Farmer's Market.
I notice that our trash output increases significantly when we're busy, which may be a strong argument for being less busy. 

For inspiration, I saw this video of Bea Johnson and her family. While the style of her home is very New York Times, I felt like much of what she does is possible if there's a gradual escalation over time.

Converting the trash can into a really large worm bin is now my (copied) genius plan in South Africa, as a large number of worms may also be able to handle all the mixed cardboard and paper produced in a household. But, as that would mean we wouldn''t actually have a trash can/rubbish bin, spousal buy-in will be important. I'll keep you posted. Any crazy plans on your side to become a zero waste household?

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Power of Thirty Day Challenges

Is there anything you'd like to try for thirty days? I'm a dismal thank you card writer (or dismal with real mail altogether), so this month I wanted to send a piece of mail, or give something to someone, every day.  I failed, but I still sent many more thank yous than in previous months, and even got to send a couple of real packages. I was also much more conscious of the needs of the people around me.  So, a failed thirty day challenge but a successful month.

Eug decided to learn a new word every day.  I stopped asking him on the days that I'd failed to send something by mail, but I think he did it!

I'm thinking of what to do this next thirty days. I like that Thirty Day Challenges mark the passing of time, more than the specific need to be constantly goal setting, which may be setting ourselves up for failure unless they're small, fun things. Any suggestions?