Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Enough with the Vinegar Already!

So, I know I've gone on too much about the wonders of vinegar (to everyone who will listen,) but, really, can you think of anything more amazing than this: 

"Turn a chicken bone into rubber by soaking it in a
glass of vinegar for three days. It will bend like

You might wonder what possible use you could have for such a fact? I've got a couple of ideas. Perhaps you could craft a nice pair of earrings for your mother-in-law, "blessed" by a voodoo priest? Or, make a trick wishbone to fool your nieces next Thanksgiving? 

On the serious side, vinegar is my most favorite household cleaner and fixer of miscellaneous problems. I've used it as a drain cleaner, fabric softener, air freshener, carpet cleaner, stain remover, wood floor cleaner, ant repellent, etc, etc. I've included some links below to various vinegar sites. There are a myriad of uses for this wonder liquid. If you have a wonderful use for vinegar, please share it in the comments. 

This will be my last vinegar post for a long while. I think I've said enough.




Monday, January 25, 2010

Creativity: "I saw it in the window and I just couldn't resist it!"

New Handbag

Kitchen Curtains

My family has a longstanding love of silly things. Growing up we watched Carol Burnett Show Specials (on vhs,) as a whole family, laughing uncontrollably at skits we'd seen dozens of times before. One of our favorites was Carol Burnett as "Scarlett O' Hara" wearing the drapes of her antebellum mansion as a beautiful "gown."  (Note: This clip won't be funny unless you've seen "Gone with the Wind" and, even then, it might not be funny unless you're hanging out with your nerdy family wearing matching outfits with your sister who is six years younger than you.) 

Because of all those silly family viewing parties, I've long wanted to make a dress from my drapes. Last week I settled for a handbag. I had some fabric left from the curtains I sewed with a friend of mine, last summer, and decided it was perfect! I made a lined handbag for everyday use that I love, love, love.  (Another friend of mine, had recently pointed out that I'd been using the same canvas tote for five years and, perhaps, I should consider a new bag. Needless to say, my old bag looked like Scarlett's tattered dress.)

So, now, if anyone should ask where I found my new bag, I'll, of course, respond, in my best southern belle drawl, "I saw it in the window and  I just couldn't resist it." 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Instant Karma in the Form of Vegetables

I love to volunteer. I've been doing it for years and I can truly say, time and time again, the rewards far outweigh the time investment (That's not to say I haven't had a couple of bad experiences. I can think of two right now. But, it's just like anything some bad, but mostly good.) Once you become a volunteer, you can't help but talk about it because you want others to share the joy and rewards of helping. 

The organization I volunteer with now, Operation Frontline, teaches healthy nutrition and cooking skills to underserved populations. I assist with the classes by packing take-home meal bags, helping the students as they prepare recipes, doing dishes and eating the food they prepare. That's right. I get to eat delicious food at the end of every class. Sometimes, I feel the reward is much larger than the labor. The food is so good and so healthy, the people I work with so kind and the students so appreciative. You really can't ask for more.

Yesterday we made an eggplant stir-fry and roasted root vegetables. I'm a huge fan of roasted veggies. If you haven't tried roasted turnips or parsnips, you haven't truly lived. Ok. That might be a slight exaggeration, but not really. We cut turnips, parsnips, beets, carrots and rutabaga into even sized chunks doused lightly with olive oil and a few shakes of salt and pepper and roasted in the oven. Try it. You'll like it.

And, please, consider volunteering with Operation Front Line in your area. You'll get the satisfaction of knowing you truly are making a difference and instant karma in the form of happy faces and delicious food.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Pursuit: Trying to Do Better without Behaving Like an Ass

No one can be good all of the time. And, more interestingly, being good can sometimes be bad. For instance, sometimes when visiting relatives or friends, they may use paper plates, paper towels (in the bathroom even!), paper napkins, etc. But, I would be a horrible ass if I were to a) state out loud to the people who are giving me a free place to stay and providing me with delicious meals that paper plates are wasteful or b) refuse to use the paper plates and throw an environmental hissy-fit. Both of those options are absolutely inexcusable in my book.

That's not to say that I wouldn't have made a scene ten years ago or last month at my mom's house (because she expects it from me.) I've been there. I've railed against American excess and wastefulness. I've loudly lamented the disposable, consumer society we live in. And, really, all that resulted from my loud protests was me looking like an ungrateful punk.

In my experience, the only way to truly be a good environmental example is to do just that. I try to do the best I can in my own life and, hopefully, at some point, some of it rubs off on other people. I'm still going to speak my mind about excess and wastefulness like the goody-goody that I am, but I'll keep my audience in mind and mostly preach to the choir or to small children who can be easily brainwashed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Tips: My clothes are soft and they don't smell like vinegar.

I am a big extoller of the merits of vinegar. I love to use it to make cleaning potions and to solve household problems. Growing up my mom would clean the coffee pot every once in a long while by running it through a cycle filled with vinegar. That process, if you've never tried it, has an incredible aroma that cannot be called pleasant. So, that was my solitary experience with vinegar as a household miracle worker, and it stunk.

But, a few years ago, I decided I didn't want to pay exorbitant prices for "green" cleaners and started researching my options. I love, love, love reading books about the olden days so I knew vinegar used to be a common cleaning agent, but I didn't fully understand its powers. Flash forward to today, and I'm all over it, baby!

In the upcoming weeks, I'll share my common (and uncommon) uses for vinegar starting with one of my favorites: Laundry Softener. I fill the liquid softener cup on my machine with white vinegar, add a few drops of essential oil (usually lavender,) and wash. That's it. Couldn't be simpler. My clothes are soft, fresh and don't ever smell like vinegar. I can see your raised eyebrows from here, but trust me, it works, it's cheap and you know exactly what you're wearing against your skin all day every day.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Creativity: Ultimate Risk-taking

As a member of the Etsy Artists of Color Team, I decided to participate in the January challenge to reinterpret something that is already for sale in my Etsy shop. I had already had it in mind to do another set of these coasters, but wanted to choose new colors. I love the other set, but they remind me of harvest and pumpkins. I decided to take a risk with the new set. I used pink. A new year with new challenges will undoubtedly require some risk-taking on my part. So, here it is, brazenly announced to the world, "I've used pink yarn and I am not ashamed."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Pursuit: Trying to Do Better Every Day

A few thoughts about trying to do better:

  • Sometimes it hits me like a lightening bolt, I can’t believe I didn’t notice something so obvious. A behavior so completely counter to the sustainable lifestyle will be right in front of me and I’ve been doing it for years. There aren’t as many of those moments anymore. But, I’m still confronted with the fact that it is a challenge to live sustainably.

  • The challenge of living sustainably often creates an inner conflict. There is an element of puritanical behavior in sustainable living that makes me sometimes want to fly in the face of my own ethics and throw some shit away without even worrying if it's recyclable or reusable. But, of course, those moments are brief. I quickly realize that I am just being myself by pursuing this lifestyle. It's what I actually like. I don't preach to people so, at least, I'm not a puritan preacher. And, I can be somewhat pagan when it comes to plants. So there!

  • I realized last night that my family uses disposable, plastic sandwich bags to bring sandwiches to work and school. I didn’t really ever think about it because I eat at home and they pack their own lunches. Seriously, why have I not made reusable sandwich bags for lunches? We spurn paper napkins and paper towels because of their disposable nature; we use cloth. But at least paper napkins are biodegradable! So, there it is, another moment where I find myself feeling like a hypocrite. There is so much to do better. I’ll keep trying.

  • In the pursuit of sustainability, I have been gardening for years. Each year I grow my garden a little bit more. I dream that someday the food I grow in the summer will last through the winter, but I’m not there, yet. I’m trying to be as local as I can by growing food myself and buying from a local farm all summer long, but winter comes and I still haven’t reached the level of squirrelness that I seek. Not enough nuts and acorns to get through the winter.

  • I love lemons. They don’t grow locally in Colorado. So, I guiltily buy bags of them from the grocery store. Other women fantasize about a dream house with a beautiful master suite with a walk-in closet (I know this is true because I’ve seen them on HGTV) while I dream of a greenhouse with lemon trees and lots of other wonderful rarities. I once read that you can grow vanilla beans in a greenhouse. How awesome would that be!?

  • If I were lucky enough for life to give me lemons, I would make something better than lemonade, I’d make lemon-basil margaritas.

  • Next sustainable pursuit: chickens. I’ve wanted a chicken coop since I was old enough to read “Back to Basics” and I’m going to have one filled with chickens if it’s the last thing I do! I’ll be researching (and documenting that research in the journal) through the winter and would love suggestions and advice on how to proceed.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Natural Ways to Clear the Air

I'm a continual experimenter with essential oils and vinegar. My husband can pretty much expect that my solutions to almost every household problem will include vinegar. But, surprisingly, my air freshening tips do not. Add Image

While I was perusing in the book store last week, I stumbled upon this little gem: Put a few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball and place it in your vacuum cleaner bag. Every time you vacuum it will freshen the room. (I don't remember what book I was perusing. I'm pretty sure it was published by Reader's Digest.) I tried it. It works. I put about 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil on a cotton ball, stuffed it in a new bag (it was time to change it anyway,) and started vacuuming. The whole room smelled glorious.

My other smell freshening tip is simple. Get a spray bottle. Fill it with water. Drop in a few or more drops of your favorite essential oils. (Mine are lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint.) Spray when the need arises. One thing I will say about this natural alternative: it doesn't hang in the air for long, but it does clear out a bad smell.

Happy smelling!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Movie Review: Thought for Food

This weekend my husband and I watched, Food, Inc. a well-done documentary, if a bit limited in scope. The basic premise of promoting consumer awareness about the origins of the foods we buy is a good one. The work done by Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan in this area is undeniably the most important food-related consumer-awareness promotion of recent years. Their combined written works and films have given us a body of information on this subject that no longer allows us to claim ignorance.

Food, Inc. takes us through the agricultural factory system now in place in the United States. The idea that food comes from pretty, little farms is, of course, proven to be a conceived national mythology of the worst sort. The majority of food now comes from factory farms which bare little resemblance to the farms of yore or the farms prominently featured on most food packaging.

For those of us, who already know about CAFO’s and Monsanto, the film was just another stunning reminder, a renewed slap in the face, of the incredible importance of fighting this system. Fighting seems a strong term, but really, it is a fight. I fight with my compost and garden tools. Others fight with their reusable shopping bags at the farmer’s market.

Unfortunately, the fight is often seen as a Starbucks/liberal elitist fight against the masses. But, truly, it is the opposite. The food that is sold to lower-income communities in this country is abominable. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would think that the food factories made a deal with the health factories to keep them supplied with diabetic, overweight people far into the future.

For the future to be different, food will have to be different. Food Inc. should be required viewing for every citizen or, at least, for every student. It is imperative that this system be uprooted. And this is where I think the film could have done better. The solutions are a brief afterthought. A common problem with the environmental movement and many movements in general: here are the problems, they are terrible, it will take a monumental effort to change them…buy local and organic. While I don’t disagree with buying local and organic, it’s my preferred method as well, I want to hear about more options and more ways to change our food system.

Also, Food, Inc. did not do enough to highlight the environmental degradation caused by our current agricultural system. In the words of one of my most favorite historical figures, George Washington Carver, “A nation can only last as long as its topsoil.” The current system is quickly destroying our nation’s topsoil with no remedies in place for the future.

All in all, Food, Inc. is another valuable asset to the stock library of food education. I hope that those who need to see it most will be given the opportunity.

p.s. I've included some of my favorite food awareness reading and viewing in my Amazon picks.


About Me

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Colorado, United States
Dreamer, Compiler of Facts, Idealist, Compulsive Yarn Handler, Last Person Picked for Kickball, Willing Participant in Mayhem