Monthly Archives: April 2010

Weekend upcycle: the wire hanger

The weekend felt like a crazy whirlwind of never sitting down, but I did sneak a few minutes to complete a quick upcycle project using old wire hangers, some glass bottles, and a pair of “benders.”

Use the pliers, or bending tool of your choice, to unwind and straighten out the hanger. Rewrap the hanger around the neck of a glass bottle (being careful to tuck any pokey hanger ends). Use whatever method you like: you can wrap from one end of the hanger, from the middle, or whatever you think will give you the design you’re after. I went with the wherever-the-hanger-is-easiest-to-bend method. Don’t worry too much about a perfectly smooth hanger. Leaving some of the original kinks in the wire ads interesting texture.

Fill the jars with water, cut some flowers, and find an old fence. Et voila!


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An Earth Day rant

Thursday, April 22nd, is Earth Day. Sadly I know many people who scoff at Earth Day; who bristle at the idea of their children’s teachers talking to them about environmentalism; people who think reducing waste and recycling is a silly waste of time. Their reasoning?

They don’t believe in climate change.

Pardon me, but that is an entirely illogical justification. Don’t believe in climate change? Fine. I happen to disagree with your interpretation of scientific data, but whatever. For the sake of argument, let’s just say you’re right and climate change is a bunch of bullshit thought up by Al Gore and a bunch of conspiring scientists. Okay. Now explain to me how that excuses you from your obligation to act responsibly with regards to your consumption of resources and resulting waste. Your  disbelief that the global climate is changing does very little to obliterate the literal mounds of evidence that humans are wreaking havoc on the environment.

Take, for example, the gray whale that died at Arroyo Beach in West Seattle last week. An examination of the whale found “more than 50 gallons of largely undigested stomach contents consisting mostly of algae but also a surprising amount of human debris including more than 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, plastic pieces, duct tape, and a golf ball.”

Do sweat pants in a whale’s belly need to cause the global temperature to rise in order for you to feel alarmed? Are you so entrenched in your opposition to the very idea of climate change that you can’t see the myriad other reasons to reduce waste and tread a little more gently on the earth? Reasons like, I dunno, SWEAT PANTS INSIDE A WHALE’S BELLY perhaps?

Consider this:

Americans generate 10.5 million tons of plastic waste each year and recycle only 1-2% of it. (That plastic, as you know, is made from oil, a limited resource.) An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash is dumped in the world’s oceans every year. Thanks to our throw-away culture we’ve inadvertently created the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating “island” of mostly plastic debris reputed to be roughly the size of Texas.

We are an exceedingly wasteful people, and our feigned blissful ignorance of the mess we’re making is irresponsible, disrespectful, lazy and, quite frankly, dumb. If everyone in America simply separated the paper, plastic, glass and aluminum products from the trash and tossed them into a recycling bin, we could decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills by 75 percent.

That’s just recycling. Imagine what we could do if we went a step further. Because, while recycling is great and all, it’s not a perfect solution. Recycling takes a fair amount of resources too and many things can only be “downcycled.” Take those plastic water bottles, for example. They’re downcycled into lower grade plastics, which doesn’t curb the demand for new plastic for new disposable water bottles.

Imagine if, instead, we followed that much repeated recycling mantra: “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” It’s simple, really. Step One: Reduce your consumption of new “stuff.” Instead of buying case after case of disposable plastic water bottles, purchase one or two reusable vessels and you’ve suddenly found yourself at Step Two: Reuse the stuff you already own. And then, when that stuff has finally outlived it’s usefulness, then recycle.

It’s really not that hard, I promise. Buy second hand when possible. Use reusable cloth napkins instead of disposable paper ones. Pack your lunch in a reusable lunch bag instead of a paper one. Use glass storage containers instead of plastic baggies; canvas totes instead of plastic or paper grocery bags. Use the same tea bag for multiple cups of tea. Save pretty paper and ribbons to reuse as gift wrap, just like your favorite grandma used to do. The list could go on and on, and the best part is, most of these little changes take virtually no more effort on your part.

The fact is, humans (Americans, in particular) are behaving like greedy house guests in the home of Mother Nature, taking more than our share of the bountiful dinner she provides, and then insisting on taking the few remaining leftovers home with us. We leave our trash on her front lawn, burp toxins into her central heating an cooling system, and finish off by taking a colossal shit in her swimming pool.

So while I encourage all of us to consider every day to be Earth Day, one day is a good start. Even if you don’t believe in climate change.


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Local product find: Twin Brooks Creamery

One of the things I hate about buying things is throwing out their packaging and containers when I’m done. I’ve been known to stare wistfully into the recycle bin after a discarded tub of sour cream, mourning its short life. I’m not even kidding.

So I love products like the milk from Twin Brooks Creamery. It’s bottled in… well… bottles, which I prefer over cartons and certainly over plastic jugs. Glass has a delightful way of not messing with the flavor of things, you know? Their milk is pasteurized, but not homogenized, and comes from Jersey cows rather than Holsteins.

I honestly don’t know what the difference is between Jersey and Holstein milk but, according to the Twin Brooks Creamery website, Jersey cows give milk higher in protein and buttermilk fat. This, combined with the non-homogenized milk in glass bottles, is supposed to enhance the flavors of the milk.

As someone who doesn’t particularly care for the flavors of milk in the first place, enhancing it is no something I’m really after. (In fact, I have some qualms about drinking milk at all, but that’s a topic for another post.) But I do appreciate that it tastes a lot like the milk I remember from my childhood, which came from the cows at the neighboring farm; cows that were grass-fed and milked the old-fashioned way.

The creamery offers a number of different sized bottles, so I can purchase only as much as I’ll actually use (we don’t go through much milk in this house). And they offer all the standard “fats”: heavy cream, half and half, whole,  2%, 1%, nonfat, plus extras like chocolate milk and eggnog. And, best of all, when it’s gone, I rinse out the milk bottle and return it to the grocery store, where it’s picked up by the dairy and reused.

No more staring wistfully into the recycle bin after milk cartons.

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Make it work: Recycled maternity fashion

I think a lot of times when we talk about “going green” we think very lofty thoughts; loftier than need be. Going green, in my opinion, doesn’t require that all of our efforts be complicated and expensive endeavors. Simply consuming less is a HUGE part of being eco friendly.

You know the phrase: “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” There’s a reason “reduce” comes first.

It’s the reducing that I was concentrating on during the earlier part of my pregnancy, as I tried to stretch (literally) my regular wardrobe to fit my expanding belly. I took a number of photos of my efforts, but realized weeks later that my camera was on some weird setting that made most of the shots quite blurry… so, these are the ones we’re left with. (Click on any of the images for a larger view.)

The classic jeans and tshirt. Thankfully, I had two pairs of jeans that are usually just a little too big in my non-pregnant state. They faithfully saw me through that awkward phase when regular pants are too small but maternity pants are too big. Thankfully, too, I’ve completely bought into the bohemian Anthropologie-esque flowing tops, like this white tank. My mini gray cardi was an expensive purchase, but I’ve worn it so often in the years since that it’s more than earned its price. The necklace is a Target find that I get tons of compliments on every time I wear it. And that’s why I love Target.

See? There’s that mini gray cardi again, this time paired with a sleeveless empire waist dress, gray tights, and my squeaky black boots. This necklace by a local artist. I picked it up at Sweetie in West Seattle, but I’ve also seen the same artist now featured at Fireworks. The dress is Nordstrom BP, tights are Target, boots are… squeaky. Did I already mention that?

Long sweater from Target, black shirt from Antrhopologie, skinny jeans by Fossil (this is the other pair that’s a little too big in non-pregnant life), headband from Anthropologie, necklace from my dad who got it somewhere in Mexico, those same squeaky black boots.

This is an important outfit to have on hand when you want to look like a pregnant school girl. Headband from Cost Plus, mustard long sleeve shirt from Target, jumper from Sweetie in West Seattle, gray patterend tights from Target, boots by d’Arte.

Let’s take a closer look at those boots, shall we? These are another pricey purchase, but totally worth it for how often I’ve worn them. I’ve almost worn through them at this point, and it will be a sad day when I do.

All of the above outfits (and the many others I photographed, but screwed up) are made entirely of non-maternity clothes. Though I started sporting a pretty good bump at 3 1/2 months, today is the first time I’ve worn an actual maternity top (at 4 1/2 months).

I expect I’ll slowly transition into full-time maternity gear in the next month or so and, in preparation, I’ve been searching local consignment stores and eBay. I’m determined to buy as much 2nd hand as possible. Anything I purchase new, I’d like to be wearable after pregnancy as well.

So far, so good. I did buy two new pairs of maternity jeans from Target. Everything else I’ve picked up has been 2nd hand. Thanks primarily to eBaby, I’ve been able to buy about 30 maternity pieces for under $200, including shipping. I hadn’t really intended to buy so much, but one woman was selling her entire pregnancy wardrobe and I managed to pick it up for $35. I couldn’t resist. And, even better, several of the pieces will transition into post-pregnancy wear quite nicely. Naturally, I’ll pass on everything when I’m done with it, back to the consignment stores, thrift stores, and eBay.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

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Get growin’

I’ve been wanting a backyard vegetable garden for some time. For me, it’s far less about the joy of gardening and far more about really knowing the food I eat. I’m a big fan of knowing where my food comes from, how it’s raised/grown/harvested, how it’s processed, and what’s added to it. I’ve been an organic junkie for a long time, and a label reader for even longer. I love that my local grocery store includes state or country of origin on all its produce. I love farmer’s markets where it’s fairly certain that everything is local and where (often) you can actually talk to a person who helped grow the food you’re about to purchase.

But nothing compares to pulling something out of your own earth knowing that it’s free of pesticides and genetic alterations, and carrying it zero miles to your kitchen at the cost of zero gallons of gasoline.

Or so I’ve heard…

Let it be known: I am not a gardener. Aside from helping tend to a fairly sizable vegetable garden on my dad’s farm when I was but a wee one (8 or 9, maybe), I have zero experience growing anything but my own offspring. My lack of knowledge coupled with my single mother lack of time has meant no vegetable garden for me.

But with the help of my unstoppable boy friend (Mr. Legume), who has both gardening know-how and the magical power to make me much less single, all of that is changing. Behold, the beginning of our garden:

Look! We’ve already sprouted giant sticks!

Mr. Legume worked on it all weekend in the rainy Seattle weather, after weeks of gathering all the necessary supplies and soil amendments. My only contribution was accompanying him on a few of the shopping trips and absent-mindedly locking him out of the house while he was preparing the soil mixture. Even my mom contributed more than I did, donating the wood used for the frame (the leftover remnants of her own now dismantled garden).

There is still work to be done before our little sproutlets can be transferred to their new home. In the meantime, they continue to live in the basement worshiping their grow light.

Currently sprouting are peas, broccoli, kale, lettuce, dill, and parsley. And one black sharpie.

I even helped with this part. I buried tiny little seeds in tiny little peat pellets. I also made labels for the lid (not shown) so we wouldn’t forget what was what. But, again, Mr. Legume did all the important stuff, like remembering to water them.

The bed itself should be completed this weekend, including the trellis that Mr. Legume is making from the limbs of an ugly overgrown shrub (those giant sticks you saw in the first picture). Our sprouts, I’m told by a fretting Mr. Legume, need to get into real ground and drink from the real sun. And, of course, there are the next round of seeds to get started.

And so the gardening adventure begins…

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