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A California Christmas

24 Dec

This will be my first year spending Christmas in California.  Since I’ve moved here, I had a job that allowed me to travel home for two weeks every year at Christmas.  I recently got a new job (which I love) so now I only get Christmas Day off and I decided not to try asking for more time off after only three months.  I guess because I’m spending the actual holiday here, I’ve been noticing the more distinct ways Californians celebrate the season.

1. Rain is an acceptably dangerous meteorological condition for staying off the roads.  Fog counts, too.

2. You can go kayaking to look at Christmas lights.  And decide that the jacket you wore might be a bit too warm.


3. There’s a minor earthquake and people talk about it for about five minutes before forgetting it ever happened.

4. You insist on wearing a jacket, scarf, and hat while sipping a peppermint mocha even though it’s pushing 75.

5. When you say you’ll miss having a white Christmas, someone suggests going to the mountains.

6. All the amusement parks are open and decorated for the holiday.


7. You don’t have to juggle your giant winter coat while ice skating across a frozen parking lot to do your last minute shopping.

8. Every house has a fire in their fireplace.  Seriously, most people I know in Ohio don’t even have a fireplace.  My apartment here has a fireplace.

9. Tamales are a common Christmas dinner.

10. People decorate their boats.  And parade them past people who can’t afford boats.  It’s very jolly.

11. Every now and then shopping centers will erupt in fake snow.


Wherever you are this Christmas, have a happy one.  I’ll leave you with a kind of melancholy Christmas song that Robin shared with me this week.

~ April

Wedding Craftiness

13 Oct

When we started planning our wedding, I was most excited about all the crafty projects I would get to work on.  Okay, that and marrying the love of my life, but let’s focus on what’s important here. I feel pretty privileged to have planned a wedding in the age of Pinterest.  I’m not even sure what people did way back in early 2010 before it arrived on the scene.  Naively, I thought that since we weren’t planning to have ice sculptures and fire dancers, putting a wedding together would be pretty straightforward, but sometime between the millionth paper flower and the fourth out-of-budget dress, I realized that even without those extras, planning a wedding is still planning probably the largest party of your life.  And it’s a lot of work to entertain, feed and decorate for so many people, especially with pretty much everyone one you talk to subtly, or not so subtly, hinting that you’re doing it all wrong.

Luckily, even with the stress of the event that I tried so hard to avoid, I absolutely loved our wedding.  Besides being surrounded by loved ones, I was also pretty proud of all the DIY projects we worked on.  We ended up turning an Elks Lodge into an outdoorsy retreat.

All the pictures in this post were taken by our awesome photographer Richard Fadera from Shuttered Light, unless otherwise noted.

Greg and April

One of the things I was happiest with were the bouquets.  I knew I wanted to do paper flowers, even though some of the succulent bouquets were pretty tempting.  I had all of the bridesmaids tell me what their favorite books were and I used them in the bouquets.  I used this tutorial.  We had some great moments like The Red Wedding, the black speech of Mordor and various other wedding-inappropriate passages.  My mom helped me make the flowers and Amanda, my maid of honor helped assemble them the night before.  I purchased ferns, baby’s breath and lemon leaves from Blooms by the Box.

Copyright Richard Fadera, Shuttered Light

For the fathers and groomsmen, I made little buds with a burlap leaf wrapped with twine.  The groom’s flower was made from lego instructions.  The mothers got corsages made from a fabric flower with a burlap and lace leaf attached to a ribbon.  The bridesmaids and flower girls had the same kind of flower in their hair.

Greg and April

After a few frustrating conversations about our hatred of ring bearer’s pillows we finally bought a piece of wood (used for smoking on the grill) from World Market and my husband wood burned it with our initials.  I decided against a wedding band because I like my woodsy fair trade engagement ring too much.  His ring has a meteorite band through it.

Greg and April

My husband is a Lego fan so we wanted the Lego cake topper, but he kept worrying that it would look cheesy.  Instead of leaving it as it was, he wrapped the cardboard arch it comes with in twine and added the lego flowers.  We also switched the lego people’s heads so they looked more like us.  You can’t see it, but he’s holding a lightsaber.  I have the One Ring.

Greg and April

The letters were painted by my mother-in-law for my bridal shower.  My husband made the hobbit sign as a surprise (it’s still in our living room) and he made the wooden trees (sequoias and pines) that were on every table.  His nephew even collected pinecones for us.  There are a few sequoia pinecones courtesy of Robin, but they were responsibly removed NOT from National Park land.  We’re good stewards. :)


We didn’t get professional pictures of the favors, but we had napkins that my husband’s aunt and sister spent all day sewing while we went cake tasting.  We tagged them with a note like this.  One Saturday, my sister-in-law and I spent the day making and decorating tree cookies for all the guests.  Turns out, people don’t think they’re Christmas trees if you serve them in August.

There were tons more things… bags I made for the bridesmaids, the starry backdrop behind the head table, the save the dates and invitations, the National Park signs at all the tables… Not to mention the alterations Robin did on her dress!  We just couldn’t capture it all, but I think every detail was worth it.  Even if we didn’t have an ice sculpture.  Now, who’s getting married next?  Pinterest is still full of ideas and I think I’m about ready to get started crafting again.

Greg and April


~ April

Earth Day: 2014 Earth Day Index

30 Apr

Earth Day Banner

For being reluctant to commit to another 30 Days of Earth Day, I think this year’s series has been very successful.  At the end of last year’s festivities I published the Earth Day Index which includes all the links we shared during Earth Month.  I really didn’t expect to add much research this year since our whole theme was Keep It Simple, but it turns out that we added a bunch of new resources and I think it’s time to update the index.  Below are all the links from last year’s index with new links from this year added.

If you’re reading this on the day it’s published, I’m on a plane right now to Ohio to spend time with friends and family.  I’m so excited and it feels completely appropriate to be finishing this series as I focus on working on another big project.  The other thing about our month of Earth Day series is that I’m excited about blogging again.  I’m going on some great trips this year and have lots of projects going so I hope to share those with you in between my blocks of traveling.

I hope you enjoyed our 2nd Annual 30 Days of Earth Day.  You can see all our Earth Day posts here.  Stick around Without a Map for great content all year and looks like we’ll probably do this again in 2015.

~ April

The Earth Day Index (updated for 2014)

Ways to Go Green
Some pieces of gym equipment are more eco-friendly than others (2014)
Good for your buns, good for the environment (2014)
Green gyms focus on high-power workouts, low-power usage (2014)
Click Clean (2014)
How to Save Energy by Eliminating Phantom Loads
How Smart Power Strips Work
10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green
Saving Money by Going Green
Earth Friendly Tips for a Lush Lawn
19 Easy Home Winterization Projects
2 Household Appliances You Should Unplug to Save You Money
How to Turn Down Your Hot Water Heater
10 Tips for the Thermostat
Pledge an Act of Green
Audit Your Home’s Energy Usage

Going Green in the Kitchen
How to Go Green: In the Kitchen
8 Ways to Go ‘Green’ in Your Kitchen
Go Green in the Kitchen
5 Simple Kitchen Composting Tips
Refrigerators: Cooling Down Your Electric Bill

Going Green in the Laundry Room
A Clothesline will Save Big Money, Energy and Carbon Emissions
8 Trips for a Green Laundry
Washing Machine Water Usage
Chronic Over-Washer?
Go Green in the Laundry Room
Green Laundry Tips
How to Go Green: Laundry

Going Green in the Bathroom
Navy Showers
The Great Unwashed
How to Convert Any Toilet to a Low Flush Toilet
If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow
Replace Your Kitchen and Bathroom Faucets
10 Ways to Green Your Bathroom
How to Go Green: In the Bathroom

Going Green on the Go
Take a hike: the benefits of outdoor activity (2014)
The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all (2014)
How to Ditch Your Car and Bike Everywhere
How to Start a Carpool
Save Gas, Money, and the Environment with Properly Inflated Tires
Public Transportation Benefits
Environmental Benefits of Bicycling

Every Last Drop (2014)
Drip Irrigation vs. a Soaker Hose (2014)
How to fix a leaky outdoor faucet (2014)
National Geographic Water Footprint Calculator
Grace Water Footprint Calculator
Kemira Water Footprint Calculator
Of Farms, Folks, and Fish
California’s Water-Energy Relationship
Water-related Energy Use in California
A New Plan to Fix California Water System
How to Check for Water Leaks
Fixing Leaks Around the Home
Earth-Friendly Water Saving Tips

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse
Cheat Neutral (2014)
How Recycling Bias Affects What You Toss Where (2014)
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Revisited
Online Catalogs
Paper Karma (app)
How to Dispose of CFLs
How to Make a Party Box
Paper, Plastic, or Something Better?
Council for Textile Recycling

The Planet, Nature, And Us
The Cosmos TV Series (2014)
Environmental Health (2014)
The Economic Impact of Climate Change
The Environmental Justice Movement
Almost Everything You Need to Know About Environmental Justice
Race and Poverty Matter, Even on Earth Day
Environmental Justice Organizations
Greenbelt Movement
Give Us National Parks, But Please, Not Its Regulations
Diversity in the Outdoors
We’re Rich! (In Nature)
National Wildlife Federation
Outside Mom
National Get Outdoors Day
National Park Foundation
Trust for Public Land
Nature Deficit Disorder
National Park Service Volunteer Page
Plant a Tree
Benefits of Parks
Health Benefits of the Natural World

On Miner’s Lettuce: America’s Gift to Salad (2014)
Starter Vegetable Gardens (2014)
Environmental Benefits of Organic and Local Food
Local Harvest CSA Locator
5 Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water
Cannery Launches a CSA for Seafood
Community Supported Agriculture for Meat and Eggs
Smoky Tomato and Lentil Soup
Seafood Watch Ocean Issues
Unhappy Meals – Michael Pollan
Organic vs. Pesticides
The Carbon Footprint of Food

Interactive Education
Without a Map’s Earth Day YouTube Playlist
OpenYale Courses
Harvard Open Courses
MIT Open Courseware
Open Education Database
Intro to Environmental Science
iTunes U
TED Talks: Environment
Good Dirt (podcast)
Living on Earth (podcast)
NPR Environment Podcast
NPR: Climate Connections Podcast
Monster Talk (podcast)
Slate’s Table to Farm (podcast)
Radiolab (podcast)

Clever reuse ideas for plastic bread tags (2014)
Bread Clip Monster Garland (2014)
Upcycled Bread Clip Picture Frame (our most popular Earth Day 2014 post)
T-Shirt Bag (2014)
Bottle Cap Magnets (2014)
Big Box Detox
How To Make Plarn
T-Shirt Surgery
Upcycling on Craftster
Upcycling on Pinterest
Rolled Kitchen Towels Tutorial
Green Crafting Round-up
20+ Unique Bird Feeders
How to Make Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent

Buying Green
AmazonSmile (2014)
What’s the Scoop on Bulk Foods? (2014)
Zero Waste Home (2014)
Upcycling Becomes a Treasure Trove for Green Business Ideas
Good Guide
Save the Environment with Thrift Shopping
Alternative Reuseable Menstrual Products
Online Shopping: Better for the Environment?
Better World Shopper
How to Shop Green

Green Products & Companies We Mentioned
High Country Health Foods (2014)
Eel River Brewing (2014)
Pizza Port (2014)
Bear Republic (2014)
Great Lakes Brewing Company (2014)
Stone Brewing (2014)
Alchemy Goods
Klean Kanteen
Platypus Bottle
Bobble Bottles
Energy STAR Qualified Products
Go Glass
Contigo Autoseal Mugs
Ecologix Daily Planner
Glad Rags
Diva Cup
Energy STAR Light Bulbs 
Soap Nuts
Folding Laundry Rack

And Some Other Fun Stuff…
Cloud Computing’s Hidden Green Benefits (2014)
Energy Efficiency Potential of Cloud-Based Software (2014)
Searching the Planet to Find Power for the Cloud (2014)
If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online
Earth Day Events
Captain Planet
Where Does a Mother’s Time Go?
The Future of Leisure that Never Arrived
5 Marketing Lessons from the Bottled Water Industry

Earth Day: More Reasons to Drink Craft Beer

28 Apr

Earth Day Banner

I’ve already extolled the virtues (both green and tasty) of craft beer, but now that you’ve been trying a variety of eco-friendly brews you may have built up a collection of bottle caps. Even if you don’t drink beer at all, you can always find cool root beer or pop bottle tops instead. I had been hoarding collecting bottle caps for year before I finally decided to do something with them.

At craft stores you can usually find small circular magnets. You want to try to find the thickest ones. The edges of the bottle cap will probably be deeper than the width of the magnet anyway. When attaching them to your bottle caps you have at least two options. You can pound out the cap a little so the edges are flatter and your magnet pokes out beyond their depth.

I chose the other option which involves a two-step gluing process. We cut small discs out of a dowel rod that were smaller in diameter than the bottle cap. First, you glue the wooden disc to the back of the bottle cap and then glue the magnet to the disc.


Here I should put a note on glue. I used an e6000 glue for all my gluing, but there’s probably a better option. It’s been months since this product and about 70% of my magnets are in working order. A stronger glue or gluing system probably would have helped. Next time I’ll visit this site for other options.

Here’s the finished collection! This is a great simple project to reuse a material you’d otherwise throw away and to show off the cool artwork that many of these bottle caps boast. Now I just need to figure out what to do with all the bottles…


Earth Day: Weekend Images

26 Apr

Earth Day Banner

Chipmunk in Bristlecone Pines


Earth Day: Please Drink Responsibly

24 Apr

Earth Day Banner

You know how some people get all snobby about wine?  I’m not one of those people.  I know I like dark, dry reds, but whether it’s from Sonoma County or Trader Joe’s, I don’t really care.  When you start talking about beer, it’s a different matter.  I’m pretty sure I have a certain expression reserved solely for when I see someone drinking Coors Light.  And a different one for Budweiser.  I have been known to snub a restaurant simply because it doesn’t meet my beverage requirements.   I can give you an informed opinion on no less than four IPAs brewed with habañeros.  I’m a beer snob.

People who shop, and drink, locally tend to be environmentally minded so it’s no surprise that craft brewers are committed to sustainability.  Balancing the focus on green beers versus good beers can be tricky.  I’ve had my share of beers that I chose because of their environmentally focused label only to be disappointed by the taste, but there definitely doesn’t have to be a conflict.  Many eco-friendly beers don’t put that front and center on their label.   Here are a few of my favorites.

Stone Brewing: Stone is one of the most recognizable names in craft beer.  Before I knew what craft beer was, I knew about their famous Arrogant Bastard Ale.  If you’ve visited Stone’s brewery, you know it not only has amazing beer, it’s also a fantastic place to enjoy an afternoon.  Their sprawling gardens are undoubtably beautiful, but it turns out they’re also sustainable.  With the use of native plants, salvaged materials and onsite food production, they’re able to green their brewery while still creating a peaceful retreat.
Beer of Choice: Enjoy By

Great Lakes Brewing: If you live in Ohio, you know that come December everyone becomes a craft beer aficionado with the release of their Christmas Ale.  You probably also know about the Burning River Fest, an event using the famous Cuyahoga River fire to raise awareness for water quality today.  Great Lakes Brewing supports the event by releasing some of that delicious Christmas Ale from their stores.  Outside of major shindigs, the food for their brewpub is grown at a local organic farm.  They’re also committed to recycling everything from the usual suspects to brewery grain and unsellable beer.
Beer of Choice: Christmas Ale (sorry to be so typical…)

Bear Republic: Whenever I want a good, standard IPA that I know is pretty easy to find, I’ll turn to Bear Republic’s Racer 5 (or Racer X or Racer 15, etc.).  I was happy to discover that one of my favorite beers is doing its part for the environment.  Earlier this year, the brewery installed a system that reuses waste water for power and water needs.  Breweries can use up to 10 times the amount of water for beer produced, so this system will help reduce its impact on an already drought-stricken area.  They are also helping to fund wells for their county.
Beer of Choice: Racer 5

Pizza Port: When I think of pizza these days, I want nothing more than to finish an entire medium by myself from Pizza Port.  Not only are both their in-house and guest beers to die for, their pizza is nectar of the gods.  I cannot wait until they finally decide to build one closer than a half hour away.  Okay, I’m done drooling on my keyboard.  Some of their facilities are powered at least partially by solar panels.  They even have programs to teach their community about the benefits of solar energy.
Beer of Choice: Doctor Brew (if only for the name and TARDIS next to it)


Eel River: Right after I told Robin I wanted to d a post on green beers, I went to Total Wine and found a beer called Earth Thirst.  I took it as a sign from the gods that I should drink it.  While it falls under the eco-label category, it is also a pretty good double IPA.  Their brewery was the first certified organic brewery in the US and they follow environmentally friendly practices like reusing spent grain and pre-treating their waste water.  They also source 95% of their hops from within a few hundred miles.
Beer of Choice: Earth Thirst is the only one I’ve tried, but it’s recommended

These are only a few of the hundreds of eco-minded breweries out there.  Take a look at your favorite brew and you’ll probably be surprised at their practices.

~ April

Earth Day: In the Cloud

22 Apr

Earth Day Banner

Yesterday I heard a story on NPR about cloud computing.  I’m a big fan of keeping documents on the cloud.  I use a lot of different computers and I like to be able to access my data from any of them.  I use Evernote, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Flickr and iCloud and that’s not including things like email, social media, and, yes, WordPress.  I knew about the security concerns of these services, but the NPR story was the first time that I heard anything about the environmental impact of cloud computing.

Searching the Planet to Find Power for the Cloud

If you don’t have time to listen to the four-minute story, the gist is that powering one cloud storage facility uses enough energy to power 57,000 homes.  They use millions of computer servers that all need to be constantly cooled by air conditioning.  Facebook actually has a data center near the Arctic Circle so that they can naturally cool their servers.  Apple, Box and Google run their clouds on renewable energies.

Greenpeace is one of the environmental organizations with initiatives to green the cloud.  Their Clean Our Cloud program spotlights companies using green technologies and lobbies for changes in those that don’t (they’re looking at you Microsoft,  Amazon, and, sadly, Pinterest).

After hearing the story, cloud computing seems pretty wasteful, but compared to the alternative it actually cuts energy consumption by up to 87%.  This makes sense when you take into consideration that, like buying in bulk, it’s often easier to streamline energy savings in a fewer large-scale operation rather than in numerous inefficient personal setups.

Many of the studies I found were commissioned by providers of cloud services, so they can only be trusted so far.  They’re trying to acquire cloud customers so these studies intend to negate the impact of data center energy consumption.  I wouldn’t put my money on the exact percentages they report, but the general principles are sound.  I think as wasteful as cloud services seem now, they will become more efficient and greener fairly quickly.  With just financial incentives, companies will be motivated to make more efficient data centers as time passes.  Even if environmental improvements are just a side effect of their cost-saving measures, the benefit still stands.  An article in Forbes also points out the impact that e-commerce in general has had on the environment, citing the rise of telecommuting, online purchasing and the decrease in brick and mortar stores and paper use as benefits of the move to the online economy.

I think that the move toward cloud-based services is a positive direction, but the implications of that still need to be studied and improved.  As  individuals, there isn’t much we can do to improve the efficiency of data centers.  I would suggest using companies that take advantage of renewable resources and demonstrate responsible environmental practices.  You can see a list of the good and bad companies as well as guides for calling them out on social media at Greenpeace’s Click Clean website.


Earth Day: Weekend Images

20 Apr

Earth Day Banner

Itsy Bitsy Spider
Spider at the Austin Botanical Garden

Happy Easter Everyone!


Earth Day: Go Camp

18 Apr

Earth Day Banner


Yesterday Robin called asking me to put up a post since she was heading into the wilderness. I quickly agreed to switch days since I’m heading out to camp today.  Of course I proceeded to immediately forget our pact as I gathered up my camp gear and then sat on the couch and watched a movie instead.

Our camping plans did remind me that this weekend is the start of National Parks Week. And on April 19 & 20 you’ll get free entry into the parks.

Join Robin and I in celebrating National Parks Week, getting outdoors and shirking obligations. You won’t regret it.


Earth Day: UGH!

16 Apr

Earth Day Banner

From the department of “You’re Totally Missing the Point” comes this gem:

Cinemark, a fine paragon of film, but not so much of environmentalism, delivered this to me as my weekly coupon today. Putting aside the fact that $2 off a bottle of water when there are water fountains in the lobby is considered a deal, offering a discount on bottled water for Earth Day is equivalent to free bacon on Passover.  Lots of stores will be running Earth Day promotions this year, but it’s important to judge whether or not they’re really earth friendly.  Is owning another reusable bag all that green when you already have 42 languishing in your back seat?  Probably not.  It’s fine to take advantage of deals that you’re going to use, but before you jump on an Earth Day deal, think about it for a second. That will certainly be longer than Cinemark considered this partnership.


P.S. This coupon is only good once so if you try and use it and it doesn’t work we’ll all know someone else missed the point.


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