Third cup’s a charm?

I’d been using the Diva cup for a little over a year when I found out I was pregnant with Gabriel, and the menstrual cup was relegated to the bathroom closet for over two years (9 months of pregnancy + 17 [wonderful] months of lactational amenorrhea).

Once I started cycling again, I wanted to continue using a menstrual cup, but I was uncertain about using it with an IUD, since some people talk about the suction from the cup pulling the IUD out of place.  Some cup manufacturers said, “no big deal,” but some said “check with your doctor.”

To be honest, I doubt many GYNs are terribly familiar with menstrual cups, so my doctor saying that it “should be okay” wasn’t all that reassuring, when the IUD being in place and doing its job was all that stood between me and another pregnancy.

But I didn’t want to go back to tampons, when I knew there was a more sustainable, and, in most ways, more comfortable alternative, and I had a perfectly good menstrual cup sitting in my bathroom closet.  (Note: the Diva cup manufacturers recommend replacing the cup every year, but manufacturers of other silicone cups, like the Moon Cup, claim you can use a cup for up to 10 years.  I had already decided that I was going to get more than a year out of my cup.)

The Diva Cup comes in two sizes, and, at the time I bought mine, the smaller size was for women who had never given [vaginal] birth.  In the months after G’s cesarean birth, this seemed one small positive — I could still use my smaller size menstrual cup — yay!

But for some reason, my trusty Diva cup wasn’t working.  I remembered there had been a bit of a learning curve when I first started using it, so I double checked that I was doing everything correctly.

In the process of hunting around the Diva cup website, I came across their updated sizing recommendation, that ALL women over age 30, regardless of having ever given birth (and all women, regardless of age, who have given birth vaginally OR by Cesarean), should use the larger size cup (Model 2).

Humph, so much for getting more use out of my original cup!

I shelled out the thirty-five dollars for a new, “Model 2” Diva Cup, only to be met by more failure.  I couldn’t get either size Diva Cup to fit correctly and comfortably and not leak, and I was almost ready to throw in the cup!

Then I came across Glad Rags, and their 90-day, money-back guarantee on the Moon Cup, another silicone menstrual cup.  After consulting with a customer service rep, I chose the larger size Moon Cup (size A), placed my order, and hoped for the best!

After several months of use, I’m pretty happy with my Moon Cup.  It is very similar to the Diva Cup, but, for whatever reason, it works for me, while the Diva Cups don’t (even though the smaller Diva had worked for me, for over a year).  Both are medical grade silicone, but the Moon Cup seems to be slightly more flexible (and perhaps thinner?) than the Diva.

Moon Cup on the left, Diva Cup on the right

My only complaint: The Moon Cup does not work when I am lying down.  This means that I still have to use a tampon sometimes, usually overnight on my heaviest nights, which averages out to about three nights a month — not perfect, but not bad!

I’ve also realized that, thanks to the comfort level with my body that developed while using a menstrual cup, I can use tampons without applicators, which really cuts down on the waste when I do need to go that route.


Winterizing the sun porch

After a morning trip to the Botanical Garden, we spent a good chunk of Sunday afternoon winterizing our sun porch.

When we found this apartment, we were really excited about the south-facing sun porch, since it would get lots of sun (and solar heat) in the winter, meaning we could leave a lot of our potted plants out there instead of crowding them inside with us.  And while the porch did get fairly cozy last winter (except on the cloudy days), the heat dissipated all too quickly once the sun went down, leaving our plants vulnerable to freezing temperatures.

Our first step was to buy a small space heater.  It’s a milk house heater, and it has a setting where it will only kick on when the temperature dips below 32°F (this feature is not perfectly reliable, but it worked alright last year).


We realized that even on the lowest, “prevent freeze” setting, this thing was going to be running all. the. time. on our drafty, uninsulated porch.  So at some point in the middle of last winter, we bought one of those window plastic kits in an effort to seal things.

It really made a difference in how much heat the porch retained, especially on windy days.  When spring arrived, we peeled off the plastic and realized it was in good enough shape that we could probably fold it up and reuse it.

The double-sided tape, however, definitely needed to be replaced.  The big box home improvement store we visited only sold the entire kit (which meant new plastic that we didn’t need), but we found a small hardware store that sold just the double-sided tape.  Of course buying the tape alone cost more than buying the kit — argh!

In the end, we had enough tape leftover from the two kits last year, and our reused plastic sheets worked quite well.  We rearranged the tables and shelves to maximize sun exposure and cleaned up a bit, while we were at it.


You can’t really see the plastic in the photograph, but it’s there.  This arrangement leaves enough space at the table for me, so I can spend some time out there on the warmer days.  We got this up just in time for the cold weather tomorrow.

On the one hand, it seems a little crazy putting the various resources (our time, electricity, plastic and other materials) into keeping some potted plants alive, but the fact that a number of them are edible (herbs, lemon and key lime trees) justifies our efforts a bit, and it really is a lovely space now.  With the exception of very cold, cloudy days, the heater will only run at night, and perhaps not every night, depending on the severity of our winter.

O Christmas Tree

Well, I’ve finally recovered from Thanksgiving (let’s just say our travels were a little stressful), which is a good thing, since Christmas is now upon us.  Unlike last year, when I was quite “blah” about the festivities, I’ve really been looking forward to them this year.

Maybe it helps that we have a bigger apartment, one without a queen-size bed in the living room, which gives us space for a tree and a few decorations.  We also have a mantle where we can hang our stockings.

When we moved here in June, I noticed a few items tucked under the basement stairs in a storage area, left by previous tenants long gone.  It smelled musty and looked dark and spidery, so I didn’t investigate too closely, but I noticed an artificial Christmas tree.  I assumed it was more or less junk, but you never know, so early last week, I braved the spiders and dust, and pulled out the box.

My efforts were rewarded with a simple 6-foot tree that was probably used once before, quite clean and in great condition, complete with a string of lights.  I set it outside to air out for a day anyway, and set about the more difficult task, convincing Matthew that this once, just this one year, it would be okay to have an artificial tree instead of a real tree, and it would save us the time and effort of hunting down a real tree* and the constant sweeping up of pine needles.  And heck, compared to last year, when we didn’t have a tree at all, this marked a real upgrade.

We agreed to use my found tree, and, with that decided, we spent Sunday making our apartment nice and festive.


I have some fabric somewhere that will make a decent little tree skirt.  All of the ornaments on the bottom branches are made of wood or fabric, safe for curious little hands.  So far, Gabriel is nonplussed by the tree; unless we’re over by it, he more or less leaves it alone, which is fine by me.

Environmental-impact wise, both artificial and real trees have their downsides.  Finding a used artificial tree (whether that’s one that just happens to turn up in your basement, or one from Craigslist or a garage sale) certainly reduces the impact, but there are other options.  Instead of having an official Christmas tree, my MIL is decorating the fruit trees in her front yard, as well as her houseplants for indoor decorations.   While Christmas trees are a well-rooted tradition, there are plenty of ways to create a festive holiday space without a tree.

*While there are a number of tree lots in town, as well as cut-your-own tree farms nearby, most conventionally grown Christmas trees are sprayed with chemicals that I don’t want in my house.  In years past, Matthew went out to his grandparents’ and cut down a small field tree (i.e., a tree growing in an unmowed field where it would eventually be cut down anyway).

An ode to my spatula

I don’t like waste, and wasting food, particularly very good food, ranks quite high on my list of things to avoid.  In some cultures, licking one’s plate is acceptable (or even expected) — in that sense, the privacy of our apartment is perhaps its own little subculture.

Licking your plate avoids food waste and ensures that you get every last bit of goodness, plus, you can put the plate straight into the dishwasher, no rinsing required (saving water), or set the dish aside to be reused.  But what about those pesky mugs and bowls where you can’t reach the bottom?

Enter the spatula.

Most any spatula will do, but a few years ago, I discovered the perfect implement at our local Italian grocer — a spoon-sized spatula with a silicone head and a wooden handle.  What started as a sometimes-used item quickly became an essential part of my place setting.

Eventually, I bought a second one to keep at my desk at work, and I often tuck one into my bag if I’ll be eating when out and about.  The spatula accompanied me to Portland, as well.  I still feel the need to use it discretely, but, where I would not lick my bowl in the lunchroom at work, I used my spatula with only minimal hesitation.  I believe I have yet to actually use the spatula in a restaurant, but that may only be because we don’t eat out all that often.

The spatula’s usefulness is not limited to the end of the meal.  You can use it throughout the meal to keep the sides of your dish clean — if you wait until the end of the meal to bust out the spatula, you’ll probably have you cooled, dried food that is impossible to remove.  Using the spatula as you go eliminates that problem.

While it may not be incorporated into dining etiquette books anytime soon, my place setting is incomplete without this useful, practical tool.

Do you go to great lengths to clean your plate or otherwise avoid food waste?  Please share your tips and ideas in the comments.

A greener move

Despite our original plans for one of us to bike to the new apartment with the trailer (since we only have room for two of our three bikes on the trunk rack), I didn’t bike at all on moving day.  I certainly didn’t move by bicycle (while I think this is a cool idea, it was never in the game plan for us).

Don’t have a contingent of friends lined up with cargo bikes and trailers to help move you?  Fear not, there are many ways you can make your next move a little lighter on the planet!

Lighten your load
Know you’ll be moving sometime in the next few weeks or months (or even years, if you like to plan ahead)?  Now’s the time to embrace minimalism and overcome your hoarding tendencies. Attack any drawers, closets, sheds, or other storage-type spaces.  Depending on your time frame, this can be an ongoing project, not something you do all at once.

Sort items into four boxes/bags: 1) Donate/sell, 2) Recycle, 3) Trash, 4) Keep.  If you’re questioning whether or not you need something, you can probably just ditch it, but you could add a fifth “think about it” box.  Follow through on actually getting the items in boxes 1-3 out of the house.  It will feel good!

When it comes to moving, less stuff means less packing, fewer boxes for you or the movers, a smaller truck, and a faster, cheaper move.

Even with using this method, I was horrified by how many boxes we packed.  I would have liked to make more serious cuts before the move, but time ran out.  While I am eagerly opening the boxes that contain functional items that we use frequently (mostly kitchen boxes), there are others that I open and slam shut again, wishing I could just toss the contents into a big bonfire.  Moving on . . .

Rent reusable moving boxes
Several weeks ago, I read about reusable moving boxes over on Daily Garnish.  Emily rented her plastic boxes from a company in Seattle called karmaboxx.  I excitedly searched for plastic moving box rentals in St. Louis, only to find nothing.

While more expensive than reusing cardboard, renting plastic may cost less than buying new boxes, and, while I’m a bit skeptical about how many moves the plastic can handle before wearing out, you can check out this explanation and comparison between plastic and cardboard and decide for yourself.

If they had been available here, I would have been willing to pay a bit for the convenience of not having to deal with packing tape and breaking down boxes on the other end.

Collect used boxes
Ask friends, family members, and coworkers to save any moving boxes that are in good condition.  True, heavy-duty cardboard moving boxes definitely have more than one use if broken down carefully and stored in a clean, dry space.

We already had a good start on collecting used cardboard moving boxes, both some saved from the last move and many more from Matthew’s mom.  I was quite confident we had plenty of boxes, and then, in the eleventh hour, we had to run to Home Depot for a few more (thank goodness we found someplace open on a Sunday evening).  Lesson learned: You’ll probably need more boxes than you think you will, so collect extra.

Ditto for packing materials
If you don’t get a newspaper, ask others to save them for you.  Newspaper that’s headed for the recycling bin makes great packing material — reuse first, then recycle on the other end.  Towels, sheets, and other soft items that you have to move anyway can be useful packing material as well.

Get the right vehicle for the job
We made a few car and [borrowed] minivan runs for items we wanted to move ourselves, including our potted plants and framed pictures, plus a few last minute moving-day items.  Everything else fit on the truck — although it was close in the end (see earlier section on excessive boxes).

Unless you’re moving by bicycle, having a larger moving truck that can fit everything in one load will be more efficient than a smaller vehicle making multiple trips.

We are sloooooowly making progress on the unpacking front.  If we’re lucky, perhaps we’ll finish before finding a house we love and moving all over again!

Your turn!
What are your tips or tricks for more sustainable moves?