Greening McHenry County, One Family at a Time…

Our journey to build green, design sustainably and reduce our carbon footprint

Our house, is a very very very fine house. 

We are officially residing in our new home! Let me just say, moving is for the birds. Even with a hired moving crew it’s brutal. 12 years of stuff doesn’t seem like a lot, until you actually see all of the crap that has accumulated. Oh the things I found while packing! Number of salt and pepper shakers one can own…well? (8, the answer is 8, as in “sets”) Also, not surprising at all- apparently, I have a thing for decorative dish towels. Who knew? Bar glasses? We have OVER 100. Just a stupid amount of dishes if you ask me.  But my favorite “find” during our whole packing process was the glow-in-the-dark constellations that I had put up for my oldest (who is now 9) when she had a big thing for constellations (at age 3). We had forgotten all about them. Mostly, because once her brother was born, we had to move her to the opposite side of her bedroom. Bless her, but she is completely oblivious to the amount of noise she makes. So…for 6 years the stars weren’t close enough to a lamp to be able to charge their glow magic. Needless to say, when I rediscovered them, I balled like an episode of This is Us. As much as I wanted to leave that house, it was so much a part of our story. 

O.k., moment over. Things I learned about moving…

1. It is the WORST. 

2. Your hands will come out looking like you just did a week fully exposed to the elements. 

3. Your back will hurt everyday for, well… forever. 

4. Must PURGE before packing.

5. Do NOT throw anything reusable away. Take it to the thrift shop or donate to a shelter. I know…it’s so much easier to throw it in a plastic, whale-killing, garbage bag and get curbside pick-up. But, human WASTE (and no-not that kind of waste) from consumer goods, particularly textiles, occupies about 5% of a landfill’s total space. The average consumer discards approximately 70lbs of textiles annually.  That’s some pretty heavy stuff to think about…literally. 

6. Make a lot of friends beforehand and then invite them over. Because DAMN it’s a lot of work for one person. 


I can see the finish line…about a mile down the road

Today is cold. Real feel -20. The day when the garage pop explodes, black ice takes down many unsuspecting school children at the bus stop and Elsa is outside singing Disney ballads. Today seems like a good day to visit our construction site!

As of today- the exterior is 95% done. The missing 5% is the front door and the gutters(I don’t know if my percentages are a proper representation…just go with it). 

The interior is chugging along…like a steam train that gets going, but has to slow down for the damsel in distress, tied to the tracks. We have walls, most of the floors, paint has been selected, lights are on standby, trim is going up and cabinets are going in. But no…cabinets ARE the damsel. You would think that plans and drawings and measurements and meetings would prevent problems, but you would be wrong. We went with a cabinet company that we have worked with before. Even when our builder offered to build them himself. But we said “no, we have a guy”. Well, so far we have had not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different issues with the damn cabinets. Don’t get me wrong, they are really nice cabinets. I just know they are gonna end up being the only thing standing in the way of our move-in date. Without cabinets, you can’t measure for counters.  But, if cabinets are the only thing- let it be cabinets. 

Now all we have to do is sell our current house (wanna buy it?). It’s a nice house- our first home. I remember when we moved in how I thought we would never be able to fill it. I thought it was so big. Then we added 3 kids and a Labrador. Seemingly overnight, we were bursting at the seems. We added storage in every possible nook and cranny- and still felt like we were on top of each other. Our issue is not space, it’s layout. 

We’re a cooking family. A family that invites you over to cook for you- we have a deli slicer and a mosaic tiled Komodo grill for crying-out-loud. That’s our thing. It’s what we do. 

Our kids spend 80% of their time in the kitchen, snacking. So. Many. Snacks. The baby doesn’t play with toys- she plays with pots, cereal, cans, onions (she thinks peeling the loose skin off onions is everything) and chairs- because you haven’t lived until you have pushed all of the kitchen chairs around!  

Bottom line- our kitchen is the “end-all-be-all” in our life. The new house, it revolves around the kitchen and I cannot wait for that. But wait we shall. 

Here’s some pictures to tide us over…

Coloring on the Walls

Hi friends!

It’s been a really long time since I have blogged. And who can blame me? The Cubs just won the World Series!!! But in reality, that only accounts for like two weeks and lets be honest, I haven’t written in months. Let me just remind you all that I have kids x 3. That’s 3x’s the activities, 3x’s the meals (because no one could possibly eat the same dinner- has to be 3 separate dinners. Every. Single. Day.) 3x’s the laundry. Remember, when someone says “third time’s a charm” they are lying to you. Anyway…you get the idea. 

So, lots of big things have happened. Almost our entire exterior is finished- minus the front door which is being built in Honduras that is another 5 weeks out. The copper roof is up and shiny-like-a-penny. (For my OG readers that is the same copper roof that the HOA told me was the only acceptable metal we were allowed to use as roofing) 🙄. The solar panels are in, and really blend in with the roof quite nicely. The Tesla Powerwall is installed. Drywall is almost all up…all good things. 

Now is the time for colors…wall colors. 

I was an art major in college (don’t worry, I won’t let my kids make the same mistake, lesson learned). So here’s me…making color choices…it involves making a color wheel out of Sherwin Williams paint chips. Anyway…long story short, I tell my kids (two of the three because #3 can’t talk) that they can choose their room color. You know, as a consolation prize for having to move. Big mistake for any mom who has even a tinge of OCD. My son, bless him…picks the five most hideous colors from the paint store and brings them to me. “Which one?” I say. “All of them” he says. “One for each wall” he says. 

No. So much No. He settled on one wall being blue. Crisis averted. 

My daughter…she is loud. He voice is loud, she walks loud, she closes doors loud, brushes her teeth loud. Naturally, her room color choice is also LOUD. 

This basically glows like radioactive goo from the Simpsons. “Hey, maybe we want to go lighter? Just a smidge?” Then my loud daughter says…”you know what mom? I think I want wall paper.” Smh. 

Ok…let’s find some…

Choice one: 

Ok…cool. One wall of this is doable. Until I see that it is $300 for a roll of 105 sq. ft. We need 130 sq.ft. for her wall. So, “honey, I love you…but NO.” 

Choice two:

This one is $226 for 130 sq. ft. Sold! Let’s just quietly hope that when she gets to be a teen, she doesn’t deface the butterflies in a fit of angst and parent-loathing. 

Ok- how do paint colors relate to green living? The colors don’t. But the paint does. 

Old school paint is a huge environmental offender. It contains upwards of 10,000 chemicals, hundreds of toxins and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOC’s release Ozone. Ozone is bad for the environment. Paint is the number two highest VOC emmitter- ranked second to automobiles. Thus, the low VOC or No VOC paint was developed. 

Enter Green Seal, Green Guard and Green Sure  paints. Paint labeled with these  “Green” logos are held to a higher environmental standard and must meet performance requirements. 

Moral of the story- buy low VOC paint- no matter what the color is. 

The great landscape debate

This morning  I met with a landscaper. Our main objective with landscaping this eco-friendly Shangri-La of ours is to keep everything as native as possible. Here’s why…native plants are adapted to soil and climate conditions of the area they are indigenous to. Native plants require no fertilizer and fewer pesticides. Native plants prevent erosion and require less water. Native plants promote biodiversity. Basically, native plants are BOSS. 

Here’s the funny part…

So the landscaper proposes this “no-mow” turf that prevents erosion (Environmental check and check). He seems like a nice guy. I like his ideas.  Then I say, “well…ideally, we would like to use as many native plants as possible”. “OK” he says…then proceeds to tell us (as we are having solar panels installed, mind you) “if you eventually decide to do away with the “no-mow” all you have to do is spray it with round-up”. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when my alter-ego showed up. This is what she said:

“Listen, the one thing we will NOT be doing, is spraying it with Round-up. I will be on my hands and knees pulling out individual blades of grass with my bare hands before I spray Round-up on my property.”

He didn’t get it. Did not even register. Round-up is the fall of man. You think I am being over-dramatic? Nope. I am serious as a heart attack. 

Round-up is glyphosate, a chemical created by Monsanto as a systemic herbicide for crops in the 1970’s. Since the introduction of Round-up, Monsanto also introduced genetically engineered crops to be used in conjunction with the glyphosate. GMOs people. GMOs. Round-up has recently been labeled as a likely carcinogen by the World Health Organization, while the European Food Safety Authority assessed glyphosate as likely to be genotoxic. For those of you still with me, genotoxic means it negatively affects DNA. 

Take your Round-Up as far away from me and my family as possible. But I do like your ideas. 


You guys! I need to choose one of the three colors in picture one for our house. 

The second picture is my “inspiration” house. Obviously, architecturally our house is a little different, but that is the overall look I am going for. High contrast, classic black and white with warm accents. This house is painted in Sherwin Williams Wool Skein. SW Wool Skein is the color on the far right of picture one. 

The third picture is our house as of 15 minutes ago.

So, help! Do you think Wool Skein looks too dark? Do you think it has the same look as my inspiration house? I think the far left color (Sherwin William Natural Linen) is too pink…but the middle one is kinda nice, in a really sterile white operating room sort of way. Which one do you guys think????

House Blog, version 2.0


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So, really funny story but…I got all mad one night and deleted my first blog. Like, the whole thing. All 10 posts. Which, when you think about it, probably means I wasted at least a good 12 hours (conservatively) of my life…all for naught. That was such a “me” thing to do. But there is a silver lining.

I went to an anniversary party and had a great discussion with a childhood friend. Who, as it happens, read my blog. She said that one day she brainstormed all of the possible things she could write a blog about…and I mean, there are SO MANY things to blog about (kids, food, clothes, fitness, cats). But I realized after talking to her that I have an advantage here…I am blogging about a relatively remote topic, one that if enough people read about, might become popular (I’m talking, Cher Horowitz from Clueless popular).

Green building is such a broad term. Now there are so many more “hardcore” green terms when it comes to homebuilding. Zero Energy…that one is pretty intense. Tori Amos in your angsty teen years, intense. The basic requirement for a Zero Energy home is that it, in theory, uses ZERO ENERGY. Let me explain via Wikipedia in all her knowledgeable glory…

“A Zero Energy building is a building with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site”. 

Another über green term being tossed around nowadays is the Passive Home. This one is my favorite because it’s like the house now has it’s own personality. I bet this Passive House is also a total tool.  Again, relying on my homegirl Wikipedia: 

“The term passive house (Passivhaus in German) refers to a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint.[1] It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling”.

So which kind are we building? To be honest, I really never was a “labels” person. But our house is somewhere in between.

Anyway, my dear readers, I have decided to forge on with my blog. Maybe now that our Permit saga has ended the blog will be less dramatic and more informative (In a heard it from a friend, who heard it from her mom, non-journalistic sort of way).

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