Category Archives: consumer culture

Dr. Bronner’s Soap & Film

It may be a bit nerdy, but Hubby and I love a  good documentary. Over the weekend we rented Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox from Netflix. It was a really intriguing film about the legacy of a man, and now a family.

Since my parents were some of the hippies who flocked to his “magic soap,” I’ve grown up on Dr. Bronner’s .  I’ve always loved the tingly feeling of the peppermint, and the fact that it’s biodegradable. I enjoy their lotions too, and have the lavender one at my bed side.

I remember sometime in childhood asking my Mom about the religious/spiritual messages on the soap labels…all-one seemed like a unifying belief, but I wasn’t so sure how the rest of it fit together…Dr Bronner’s philosophy blends lots of different truths to create his own unique truth. 

Dr. Bronner lived a fascinating life, and was steadfast in sharing his truth. CIA files labeled him as a “nutty,” although it’s to know if his shock therapy in the “nut house” only made his preaching more emphatic. Disturbingly, he sacrificed his children for his cause, and they grew up in orphanages while he traveled sharing his gospel.  I don’t want to give away the whole film, but the trailer is below and you can start to get a feel for the zany scientist/soap-maker/spiritual speaker. 

I also learned some more reasons to love Dr. Bronner’s soap:

  • First to produce a 100% post-consumer recycled bottle.
  • Organic and proud of it – they’ve been working hard to keep the standards high
  • Fair Trade – and not just their supply chain – DB’s top execs make no more than 5 times the lowest paid employee, and all staff have health care and retirement plans
  • Advocates for industrial hemp – hemp’s high omegas make it great for soap!

Dr. Bronner’s granddaughter is a mom, and has a blog all about her ways of going green.

As suggested, I use it for both personal hygiene and household cleaning. I have yet to try all of the ways they suggest using it though, and I’m planning to get more adventurous in my usage. If you start using Dr. Bronner’s religiously, I promise you’ll save your family money and promote sustainable and people-friendly business practices.

Here’s the trailer to the film about the magic soap maker:

Does your family use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Low Tech Family Fun

I hate to admit it, but my well intentioned birthday gifts have been mostly a bust. I envisioned our Big Guy showing us his moves on the Wobble Deck and Girly giggling like she does when anyone dances, but it’s truthfully gone almost entirely unused. I’m hoping that as Girly gets bigger it will peak their interest, but at this stage games need to be a family affair to keep their attention.

All fun was not lost…instead our Big Guy invented his own version of indoor bowling from four big tumbler glasses and the two Sky Balls Santa brought them. After a weekend of playing it BigGuy was just giddy, and the next day at school he was telling his teachers about how he couldn’t wait to go home and play more indoor bowling. Naturally, in this day and age she assumed that he was talking about wii bowling, and was surprised that he was so excited by such a low tech game. 

On top of the kids getting lots of energy out, literally running back and forth across the house to collect balls and set up the “pins,” our Big Guy is also advancing his math skills. Maybe he would have been learning regardless, but since we started playing we’ve seen a marked increase in his addition skills. He’s now adding up the score each time, and calculating how many each player needs to get to win.

The real test is time though, and two months later he is still captivated. Soon he’ll start t-ball and we can finally play outside again, but I have a feeling that indoor bowling will become a perennial game in family…returning when the rain and darkness come…

While on the birthday topic, I want to share how close friends of ours saved on their son’s birthday party. Like us, they didn’t want to exhaust themselves with all the set up and clean of hosting a party. So they decided to “hire” their teenage niece and family’s exchange student. The girls came the night before and helped clean the house, they put together a puppet show, did face-painting, a standing version of musical chairs, and a piñata. Then they helped clean up after the party, and earned themselves each $50. We don’t have any older cousins in town, but this option sure does seem like a win/win. 

Lastly, I haven’t regretted the other gifts, but I am starting to purge a lot of unused toys…there comes a time when parents need to let go.

Do you ever have birthday remorse?
What do you regret?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Just Between Friends sign-up

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m buried in outgrown kid clothes/stuff and am anxious to purge them (even though it is hard to let go a cute outfit like this one). Some of the clothes and gear I’ve already passed on to friends , but honestly there a lot of value still left in them and I’m reluctant to pass them all on without recouping some of cost. Any way about it, it’s going to take a big effort, but I want to be as efficient as possible and get the most return for my time, energy and kid stuff . Plus, any proceeds from my sale are earmarked as spending money for our Denmark trip, so I’ve got an incentive.

So, I had heard about  the Pass It On sale  from my friend Stacy, and was about to research it some more when I was on UrbanMamas and saw an ad for Just Between Friends at the Portland Expo, April 30th – May 1st . This one appealed to me more, since it’s on the MAX line, so I’ve signed up as a consignor and a volunteer.

My goal this spring was hold a huge yard sale, but honestly the idea of sitting around all weekend hawking kid stuff isn’t my idea of relaxation. I’ll probably still do a household porch sale, but at least I won’t be buried in kid stuff. Plus, I don’t really think I would be able to get the same volume of sales as at a huge consignment sale, like Just Between Friends.

Also, the idea of selling at consignment stores was even more daunting. I’ve taken a some clothes to Bella Stella, but out of several bags of high quality in season clothes, they took about a 1/2 bag. Then in order to get the credit I have to go back and shop within six months…which reminds me that I need to shop soon!

“Just between friends” if you’re interested in getting first look at some of my stuff, get in touch. Also, let me know if you’d like to shop together for sale itself.

Have you consigned, shopped or volunteered at a consignment sale?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Cost of Christmas

Christmas already feels like months ago, but our family budget is just bouncing back. We tried to keep our expenses reasonable, and bought gifts we hope will entertain, educate, and endure for years to come.

We also had lots of fun signing carols, exchanging cookies, and spending time together.

The grand total did surprise me though, perhaps because I’ve never actually calculated the cost of the holidays. I don’t feel any real buyer’s remorse, and some of our “expenses” were for charity. But I do plan to get creative next year to cut down the tab…

Big Guy
WeeRide Pro-Pilot Bicycle Tandem Trailer  – on sale for $99.99
Frosty the Snowman – $9.99
Green Toys Jump Rope – $8

Smart Gear Smart Balance Bike (on sale from Zulily) $49.99
Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star  – $5.99
The Animals’ Advent – $4.49

Oregon football hat – $22.98


Eco nail polish $14
Adidas workout outfit – $52.50 (Hubby)
Kitchen Kabooble – food processor – $46.80 (Kiddos)

Twin Sis’ stocking
Eco nail polish $14, World Map notebook $10
Second-hand outfits $40

Cousin’s gift exchange
Ecoist clutch – $35.84

Christmas Charity
Toy Drive  $10 (two puzzles from Ross)
Sponsor-a-family clothes $65.95 (coat, hoodies, jammies from Ross)
Extra tithe for Grace – $100
Plus canned food drive

Christmas tree permit – $5
Holiday cards – $131.25 (Hubby loves his traditional cards, but next year we’ll either make them or go electronic…)
Annual julefrokost – $230 (lots of food and booze, but lots of fun too 😉

TOTAL: $1018.24 ($446 on gifts)

Note – the total is approximate…p lus stocking stuffers…p lus Christmas dinner…

Do you know how much you spent on the holidays?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.


I like to give (and get) pretty utilitarian gifts. That’s why bags always come to mind. There are a lot of great bags made from recycled materials these days.

I’ve been toying between two bag-type gifts for my niece (really Girly buying for her cousin in our gift exchange). I’m partial to shopping local, so I’ve also been considering buying her an accessory from Queen Bee Creations. I splurged and bought myself a purse there over the summer, and I’ve really been enjoying it. There are almost too many pockets, but it is a really handy size to fit a lot without looking like a diaper bag. If you are in the market for a hip diaper bag, they have some really nice designs. They are a bit spendy, but very durable and the adorable.

Ecoist also  has some really chic purses made from recycled wrappers. I could definitely picture her sporty it at NYU.  They also have cute baskets if you’re looking for some utilitarian home decor.

I also love Sherpani bags (found at REI). I have one for my work bag, and it’s fantastic. Very functional, comfortable, and stylish (at least for Portland’s standard 😉 They now have a ton of sizes to fit almost any need…the carry on luggage styles are very tempting. They even have child backpacks.

My Twin Sis bought me the cutest little bags made of recycled yoga mats. My only complaint is that they are a too small for most of my needs, but Girly loves them!

My co-worker got a really hip black bag on her recent trip to visit her daughter in Columbia, Cyclus bags. Fair warning, the prices are in Columbian pesos, so you may experience sticker stock initially.

While a little simpler in style, KEEN also has some nice bags made from recycled materials. This is the type of bag Hubby would love…if he didn’t already have an REI bag.

There’s also always the option of the traditional grocery tote to help nudge a friend or family member to kick the plastic habit.

What’s your favorite eco-bag?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.