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The moment anyone mentions energy-efficient cooking, the term “Crock-Pot” often pops up. Although this appliance is a tried-and-true method to lower cooking costs, there are other tools and strategies out there ready to be explored. You don’t have to buy any extremely expensive tools either to make your household as green and low-cost as possible.

Crock Pot

Give the old crock pot a break and try these other energy efficient cooking tools instead.

Copper is Your Conductive Friend

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, copper-based pans pose a better conductive surface for cooking than other materials. Copper’s pure metal makeup allows heat to flow swiftly and evenly across a cooking pan. This heating prowess reduces cooking times substantially, lowering energy bills as a result. Although copper cookware is slightly more expensive than other types, they last for years with the right care.

The Obligatory Heat Wave

With today’s volatile climate across the nation, there’s almost always a temporary warm up during the winter. Take advantage of these sudden summer days to break out the propane-powered barbeque. Grill up all the family’s favorites, including hot dogs, hamburgers and steaks. All this cooked meat reheats quickly during the workweek, reducing the use of indoor appliances and lowering energy costs. The propane to power the barbeque is typically low-cost even when an entire refill is necessary.

Break Out the Small Appliances

If it’s just you relaxing at home, there’s no need to turn on a major appliance. Pull out those small appliances packed at the rear of the cabinet. Make yourself almost any meal you like with a rice steamer, panini press or toaster oven. Although small appliances use electricity as their power source, they don’t require much wattage compared to an entire stovetop or oven. If you’re at home alone for much of the day or week, you could see considerable energy savings.

Cook Big and Reheat

When the entire family is ready for a meal, there must be a large food volume for everyone. If you need to cook big on the stove or in the oven, prepare more food than necessary for one meal. All the leftovers can be reheated throughout the week in the microwave. You’ll spend the energy to cook the food initially, but save on fuel as you consume the leftovers with minimal reheating times afterward.

Defrost!

A tried-and-true method of many cooks when dealing with frozen meat is to either cook it for a long time at a low temperature, then raise the temperature, or let it thaw under running water. These two methods might work well, but they’re resource-wasters. Reduce energy costs and overall cooking times by defrosting meats in the refrigerator a few days ahead of time. For homes with avid cooks, you’ll notice the cooking time changes dramatically.

Wintertime is traditionally known as the baking period, with comfort foods galore on the menu. You can still have all your oven favorites, from lasagna to rib roast, without getting a huge energy bill. Be aware of your cooking habits and alter them to drop both the gas and electric bills substantially.

For more energy ideas to help you save money visit Modernize.

Guest post written by Jane Blanchard.

Nothing sparks conversation around the table more than unique dinner pieces – and Natural Wood Decor plenty of them. Each made from sustainable wood, these pieces make entertaining easy, stylish, and eco friendly. For example, the small driftwood tea lights are made from naturally fallen wood and the honeycomb three bowl server and three-section appetizer disk are made from reclaimed mango wood. Finally, the square plates, wine racks, and cheese boards are made from Chinese Fir stumps left by logging operations. Removing these stumps to create such pieces encourages faster reforestation.

 

Driftwood Fruit BowlRoot Wood Square Plate - Set of 2

 

The pieces are not only sustainable; they’re also functional. Natural Wood Decor’s root wood wine rack can hold up to six bottles of wine that pair perfectly with an array of cheeses that are made more elegant by the root wood cheese board. You can easily separate each delicious appetizer in the reclaimed mango wood pieces, while the driftwood tea lights set the dinner table aglow and bring a tranquil vibe to any gathering. And guests will want to gobble their food up fast just to be able to gaze at the beautiful work in the hand-carved square plates.

According to www.dosomething.org, the average person creates more than four pounds of trash per day. We, as humans, can do better – and it’s easier than we think. We’ve all heard the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but there’s more to reducing our waste than repeating a mantra and separating your glass and paper from the trash. Don’t get us wrong; recycling is great. It is one important way to reduce your waste. It’s just one of the most commonly known ways. We want to give you something more. Here are a few quick tips to reducing your waste that you may not have thought of before.

Reuse
Yes, “reuse” is in that aforementioned mantra, but we’re including it in our tips because there are a few new reusable products that we want to highlight. Companies now sell reusable snack and sandwich bags that can not only be reused, but also washed. They also come in a number of designs to give your lunch a little style. Along the same lines, bring your reusable take-out containers to restaurants with you, so you won’t have to put your leftovers in harmful Styrofoam containers. Since Keurigs hit the market, they’ve been under scrutiny about the amount of waste they create with their K Cups. If you need that instant coffee, enjoy it through a reusable K Cup filter. Ladies, you know first hand the amount of waste that comes with feminine products during that particular time of the month. There have been great strides in creating more eco-friendly products for this. Companies now make such products as washable cloth menstrual pads and reusable menstrual cups.

Lunch Skins

Read from the Screen
Reduce your paper waste by investing in a kindle and various subscriptions online. Newspaper and magazines have some of their content online for free, but there are also subscriptions on their websites that are sometimes cheaper than the paper subscriptions.

Avoid the Trash Can
Reduce organic waste by composting such leftover kitchen scraps as fruits, vegetables, eggshells, and coffee grounds. You can use the compost to condition your soil and add nutrients to plants.

Compost Container

Shop Second Hand
Not only can you reduce your waste, you can reduce others’ waste by buying it. Shop at second-hand stores to purchase a few items that would otherwise be filling the landfill. You may find a hidden gem at an extremely reduced price.

BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag
Instead of deciding between paper and plastic (paper is way better), use your own bag. You can purchase reusable, cloth grocery bags at a number of different stores. The best part is that they are reusable and more durable than most paper or plastic bags, meaning you can fit more groceries in them.

Baggu_SailorStripe_Enlarge

 

layering area rugs

For anyone who has trouble with decorating, the idea of layering area rugs can seem daunting. Between various colors, textures, and patterns, it can get a little overwhelming and tricky. Luckily, we’ve got some ideas and products to help you layer with success.

Change Patterns, Not Colors

Play with patterns, but keep everything together by using the same color scheme. If you are a decorating novice, it may be a good idea to stick to similar but different patterns. Try layering two different tribal prints or rugs with different size circles. Make sure your furniture and décor doesn’t have any busy prints and wild colors. You don’t want too much going on in one room.

Don’t Hide the Hides

You may think animal hides belong in a hunter’s house or in some dark castle, but they look great layered over another rug. Use a hide to draw attention to your furniture or to add a little shape to a more linear design.

Contrast Colors

Tone down a bold colored rug by layering it with a dark color, perhaps from our collection of dark bamboo rugs. Lay a black rug over our red bamboo rug, allowing just enough of the vibrant color to pop out. 

Red Bamboo RugBlack Bamboo Rug

Add Texture

If you don’t want to gamble with colors, pick one color and change up the texture. Layer our Andes Jute Rug over our Kingfisher Sisal Rug for a subtle change.

Sisal Rug Jute Rug

Soften Up High Traffic Areas

High traffic areas call for a more durable rug. These can often look harsh. Soften them up by adding a plush rug to an area that doesn’t see as much traffic, perhaps under a table or piece of furniture. The cloud-like textures of our Paper Shag Rugs add softness to our Sabertooth Seagrass Rug in a dramatic way.

 

 

When it comes to tableware, we often see it as serving a basic function – allowing you to eat and drink After all, you can’t eat well (or neatly) without utensils and it’s pretty hard to drink liquid when it isn’t contained in something. But tableware is so much more important than that. It says something about who you are. Bright colors may reveal your colorful personality, while mismatching patterns may show your eclectic side. Our picks of wood tableware may show a sleek side, a nature-inspired lifestyle, and an eco-friendly mindset.

Root Wood Plate

Round Wood Plates

Our 8.5” circular plates come in a set of two and have a natural color that compliments any table setting. Made from Chinese Fir stumps left after logging, these plates are designed in carving villages and finished with a food-safe lacquer. The best part of these plates is that they are made of wood. Meaning, you won’t have to worry about chipping or breaking.

Teak Wood Utensils

Teak Wood Utensils

These teak utensils from Stonewall Kitchen make cooking easy and stylish and come in numerous pieces that are handcrafted from leftover logging materials in Thailand. Because of this, no additional trees had to perish to make them.

Avocado Mango Wood Utensil Vase

Mango Utensil Vases

Throw your teak wood utensils into our Mango Wood Utensil Vase, made from the reclaimed wood from mango trees. While the inside is smooth, the outside is a honeycomb texture and painted in various colors including red, chocolate, and avocado (pictured). Prefer the natural color of mango? You can order the natural mango wood utensil vase.

Chocolate Mango Salad Bowl

Mango Salad Bowl

Dress your salad up – and we don’t mean with ranch or thousand island. Just like the wood utensil vase, these salad bowls are made from the reclaimed wood from mango trees and come in a variety of colors.

Olive Wood Handcrafted Cup

Olive Wood Cup

 

These cups have a unique hand-carved design that features natural grains that are treated with olive oil. The cups are made from older olive trees that no longer produce the fruit. Beldiworkshop makes these cups – and all of its products – without destroying the tree. The shop also never uses bleach, dyes, and chemicals when crafting its materials.

 

 

For those who love gardens and are passionate about gardening, the winter season may seem to drag on with no end in sight. The frozen ground may make it impossible to plant anything and the blistery air, snow, and ice would kill anything that somehow magically sprouted through.

Luckily there’s something for every gardener – even the light gardener – to get his or her fix this winter.

Wear Your Garden

Living Moss Terrarium Necklace

Living Moss Terrarium Necklace

Carry your garden wherever you go with this little eco-system that is not only cool, it’s fashionable. Each tiny terrarium comes with pebbles, dirt, and mosses from a North Carolina garden.

Enjoy Minimum Care

Air Plant Terrarium

Air Plant Terrarium

Air plant terrariums are home to small, exotic gardens that do not require too much care. Air plants do not need soil to grow and only require indirect light and a mist of water every few days.

Implement Decor
Living Wreath

Living Wreath

Wreaths aren’t just for Christmas. They can be used to decorate the home throughout the winter season. Living wreaths provide gorgeous décor and a living garden right on your door or wall. Woven with air plants, the wreaths only require indirect sunlight and a few spritzes of water two to three times per week.

Mimic Nature

Rainy Pot

Rainy Pot

With a Rainy Pot, you’ll bring a garden inside and the natural way plant’s get fed. The pot mimics raindrops and provides a gentler watering process than just pouring water into the pot. Plus it allows plants to hang on the walls, creating adorable décor.

Living Moss Wall

We fell in love with the living moss wall when we first found it for our blog post on bathroom design inspiration.  In that post, we learned that you can cover an entire wall in flora and it looks fabulous.

Moss Wall

Grow Your Own Veggies

You’ve heard of growing your own herbs indoors, but have you heard of growing your own avocado tree or celery stalk indoors? By keeping the seed from an avocado and suspending it over a water-filled glass (covering about an inch of the seed), you can grow your own avocado plant. If you place the heart from your celery bunch in water and provide it with good sunlight, you can grow a new stalk, which can be harvested at eight inches (after you transfer it to soil when it is two inches tall).

 

 

 

The bathroom may not be the first room your guests see when they walk into your home, but it is one of the first rooms you see when you wake up in the morning and prepare for the day ahead of you. It’s the place you go to cleanse your body and, with the right décor, it could be the place you go to cleanse your mind and soul. Here are a few of our favorite bathrooms that had decorators who understood the importance of an exquisitely decorated bathroom.

The porcelain pieces in this room pop – and it isn’t just because of their bright color in an otherwise all-wood interior. It’s also because of their contemporary design in a traditional barn setting. We also love the soft lighting that pairs well with the warm interior and the just-enough-sunlight popping through the small window above the bathtub.

We can’t get enough of that wood accent wall, which stands in grandeur amongst a gorgeous marble interior. The terracotta statue is an intriguing addition that enhances tranquility and matches the color scheme perfectly.

All we can say is, that wall! This custom living wall comes covered with herbs, geraniums, and mosses and adds textural and natural elements to the room. The freestanding, soaking bathtub below the wall provides the perfect fit for Natural Wood Decor’s teak bath bar.

We fell in love with this gorgeous makeshift outdoor escape the second we saw it. From the palm tree and big plants to the wood stepping stones and natural light pouring through the ceiling, this bathroom is the perfect example of an oasis hidden in the middle of a home.

The various textures – soft curtains, stone, wood, and even antlers – coexist beautifully in this rustic bathroom because the colors all meld together very well. The deep bathtub and large windows allow bathers to curl up in a warm soak while peering out into a wintry scene. Natural Wood Decor’s teak bath decor would also go great with this bathroom design.

The décor really plays up the length of this bathroom, which features a number of vintage elements that give off an incredibly elegant vibe. The tub fits perfectly in its little nook to keep from taking space in this narrow, transitional bathroom.

Christmas is a time for family, holiday cheer, delicious dinners, and….waste. According to the EPA, household waste increases more than 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, which amounts to about 1 million extra tons of waste per week. While it is the season for giving, we’ve found some ways to keep you from giving to the landfills this holiday season.

Christmas Lights

Traditional Christmas light illuminate the home both inside and out, but LED Christmas lights do it brighter and with less energy. In fact, they can lower energy bills by 90 percent. Without a filament to burn, LED lights have a greatly lower chance of overheating and emit less heat than traditional lights. They also outlive traditional lights by thousands of hours, thus reducing the amount of light strings in the landfills and increasing the amount of money in your wallet.

LED Christmas Lights

Natural Décor

Stocking up on decorations can be as easy as a trip to the grocery store. Display a collection of apples, as they are naturally the colors of Christmas. Form cinnamon sticks into Christmas and glue them onto canvas for a creative and scent-filled gift. You can also dry slices of orange and lime to hang on the tree and emit a citrus scent.

Bring outdoor pieces inside for eco-friendly Christmas decorations. Make sure you are only using fallen, dead pieces of nature. Do not pick off anything that is living. Grab fallen sticks and branches and stick them in a vase for a wintry theme indoors or collect pinecones to place in a bowl.

Bowls Filled with Holiday Cheer

One of the simplest ways to decorate for the holidays is to fill a bowl with holiday candy or décor. Natural Wood Decor’s Extra Large Root Wood Bowl is large enough to hold a number of holiday items including candy canes and chocolates, ornaments, and garland. On top of that, the eco-friendly bowl is made from Chinese Fir stumps that are left by logging operations, which encourages faster reforestation.

Extra Large Root Wood Bowl

Christmas Tree

We can’t talk about Christmas décor without talking about the Christmas tree. A staple in Christmas tradition, the Christmas tree often gets a bad rep for being highly wasteful. While you can save tons of trees from being chopped down by purchasing a fake tree, you are still erecting a tree that is made from non-biodegradable plastics and possibly harmful toxins. If you choose a fake tree, purchase an eco-friendly design. You can find ones made from natural wood, sustainable poplar, LED lights, or 100% natural, recycled cardboard.

And speaking of recycled, if you want to buy a real tree, why not recycle it instead of tossing it to the curb on December 26. Use the branches for decorations that smell fantastic including centerpieces or wreaths. Or, you could saw the tree’s trunk into thin, round pieces to make natural coasters. You can also place your tree outside to serve as shelter for birds. Put some peanut butter on the branches and you now have a bird hotel with a free buffet. If you want to reuse the tree next year, buy one with roots so it could be planted after the season.

Festive Tree

 

Whether you are shopping for gifts or yourself, check out our sister sites Natural Wood Decor and Natural Rug Co, they are having a 30% off sale today through Cyber Monday! (Natural Wood Decor’s sale is site wide and Natural Rug Co’s is on select bamboo rugs.)

You’ll find great kitchen and dining products like the Root Wood Party Platter below at Natural Wood Decor and stylish and easy to clean bamboo rugs that are perfect for the entryway at Natural Rug Co.

Have any foodies on your shopping list? Take a look at our gift guide. We also have our Stress Free Entertaining Guide and post on Getting Your Home Ready for the Holidays.

Happy Holidays!

Root Wood Party Platter

Root Wood Party Platter

Bamboo Rugs

Bamboo Rugs

Throwing a party can sound like a great idea – until it’s the day of and your stress limit is through the roof while you run around crafting cocktails and entrees and making sure everything is in place. While it may feel like your stress won’t leave until the last guest does, there are various steps you can take to enjoy stress free entertaining. Here, we list our top 7 ways to entertain your guests without feeling the stress and pressure of hosting.

Keep Up with Your Calendar

Plan ahead and do as much as you can before the day of the party. Organize your rooms and give your home a deep cleaning a week in advance. Then you’ll only have to do light cleaning one or two days before. Shop for your party a few days in advance – buy any produce or things that need to be fresh (like flowers) the day before or the day of. The day before your guests arrive, set the table and prepare any cold appetizers and entrées or ones that taste just as good when they are reheated. Plan what you need to do each day leading up to the big day and stay on track with those errands.

Keep Lists

Lists will help you stay sane and organized. A shopping list will help you know what’s been purchased already and what you still need to get. It keeps you from over spending and over shopping – as long as you stick to it. In the same way, a to do list keeps you on track – especially if your attention span is limited. It will show you what’s been done and what you still need to do. And it just feels so good when you cross something off; you may feel a sense of relief with each task that’s completed. To keep from crafting a lengthy, intimidating list, break each list down by the day you can complete each task. That way, each day will have a smaller list.

Keep it Simple

While those spectacular cocktails may look simple on Pinterest, believe us, they’re not. Making really complex cocktails may wow the crowd, but trying to master it could eat up precious planning time and it could get expensive. Usually, multi-faceted cocktails require a number of ingredients, including expensive liqueurs, muddled fruits, and a variety of spirits. Along with that, some cocktails call for exact measurements or more refined tastes. Guests might be impressed by the way a drink looks, but the way it tastes is more important. What’s the point of a drink if no one wants to drink it?

Keep it Familiar

Now is not the time to try a new recipe. There’s too much risk involved including messing up the ingredients to overcooking the food. You might cook it perfectly, but without tasting it beforehand, you may not even know that you just don’t like the entrée. Stick with tried and true recipes. Stick to an entrée that you’re known for and that has received a ton of compliments from your guests. It’s ok to give them what they’re expecting. At least you know they’ll be happy.

Keep it Real

This goes along with keeping it simple and familiar. Nothing will stress you out more than trying too hard to impress others. Your guests are invited for a reason and hopefully that reason is because they are close friends or family and they enjoy spending time with you. Read that again: they enjoy spending time with YOU. Don’t stress over trying to be someone you’re not and throw a party that is just your style instead. It’ll be easier to plan and put on than something you are not accustomed to.

Keep Your Guests in Mind

Without guests, you can’t entertain. So make sure you make your guests happy. Keep them in mind when planning your menu. Find out if any of your guests have food allergies or dietary restrictions. Is your best friend vegan? Have a meatless option. Is your aunt severely allergic to nuts? Keep nuts absolutely out of the party. If the allergy is life threatening, make sure your other guests know not to bring anything with the allergen in it.

Along with knowing your guests diets, know their personalities. Do you have a friend who always brings extra guests? Plan for a few extra, uninvited guests. If you have two friends who can’t stand to be in the same room together, maybe invite just one of those friends. If you have a guest who always drinks a little too much, have a guest room or cab company ready for them.

Keep Calm and Just Have Fun

Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your own party. Some things just happen and there is nothing you can do about it. The sooner you accept that, the less stressed you’ll feel.