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April 16, 2018 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

nobody’s perfect and you should question the people who pretend they are

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time because who doesn’t want to hear about someone else’s epic failures when they’re constantly talking about all the good 79a4aeb1b79b7c3abe7355327befa066they’re doing! I have been quite busy though with little thought for blogging since we bought a house last summer (yeah!) and most of my time has been spent oscillating between trying to fix every friggin aspect of this house and desperately trying to learn how to relax and not run myself (and my husband and marriage) ragged. It seemed like the perfect time to highlight some of my failures as I’ve explored how to create a lifestyle that produces less waste, because nothing says “zero waste fail” like rolling the 64 gallon garbage can to the curb for the second week in a row (thanks for the 30+ unusable paint cans you left under the porch, previous homeowners! Don’t worry, I’ll take care of those for you!). So ignoring all the tried-this-and-just-didn’t-like-it episodes for just about everything from kitchen counter wipes to dressing recipes to produce bags, here are some of my more interesting mishaps which I can now look back on with some humor and only a little anxiety.

Ordering cocktails and straws: I drink water, coffee, and beer, and occasionally wine. Asking for a glass of water without a straw at a restaurant is second nature to me now, and the rest of my typical drinks are served plain and simple. On the rare occasion when I feel like ordering a mimosa, margarita, or moscow mule (why do they all start with m?) I ALWAYS forget that for some reason all cocktails are served with two mini straws, a plastic sword with fruit on top, and possibly a mini umbrella. My horror at the gaudy display of fruit and plastic has turned from embarrassment over my choice of drink to embarrassment that I’ve incurred the most ridiculous and useless plastic trash. Nobody serves a double IPA with accouterments, and there’s no need for it in my copper mug, thank you, but it is on me to try and remember for next time.

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Step 5: Grinding away my anger

Homemade blush from beets: I found a recipe for making your own blush from beets and figured I would give it a try. I sliced, roasted, and pureed the beets, and what was supposed to be a powder at that point was just little hard pellets. Since the first few steps were actually quite time consuming and a little messy (it’s beets mind you!) I wanted something to show for my efforts so I then tried to grind the pellets with my mortar and pestle. This is when it became apparent that there was still moisture in the little turd pellets, since rather than becoming powder, this just mushed it all together. I was so pissed. But not pissed enough to just throw it out: I held onto the dried mushed pellet mixture for maybe another year, tucked away in some glass container waiting for me to find a use for it, because that was sure to happen…it didn’t and I think I just threw that crap out after about 18 months of hating the sight of it in the kitchen (c’mon, I composted it).

Homemade almond milk: For a while I was making my own almond milk, and while I wouldn’t really call this a fail since it tasted fine and I made it for months, it goes in the category of “not worth my time”. It was incredibly easy to make, but required planning ahead since it would take a day or so to make, and that got old after a while. First the almonds would need to soak for at least 12 hours, which often meant more than just overnight, so I’d set them to soak before I go to bed, and then they’d be ready in the middle of work the next day. Then I’d come home from work, blend the almonds with water and strain out the pulp from the milk. Again, very simple, but I’d often leave the cheesecloth of pulp straining for an hour or two to make sure all the moisture that could be strained out was, since the cost-benefit of making your own almond milk was more than just the milk (ready at this point) but then letting the pulp dry out completely, roast in the oven for a few hours, and then puree into almond flour. Because of course I’m not roasting the flour for 3 hours in the same evening that I’ve strained the milk, it would take me days to remember to do that step, and I often forgot it and had rancid almond pulp in my fridge since I still didn’t learn that I’m lazy and it should just be stored in the freezer for longer. The little bit of almond flour that I did make was fine, but I don’t have a gluten allergy and I eat tons of wheat bread, so it really wasn’t that important to me to get this added benefit of the almond flour. So, as soon as my city started allowing carton recycling, I immediately began buying it and saved all that time for making from scratch other items (or just more Pinterest, but who’s checking).

Coconut oil “treatment” for my hair: I stopped using any products in my hair just over a year ago including shampoo and conditioner (more on that if I ever write the blog about beauty and personal care!), and while I’ve been really happy with the switch, about a month ago I suddenly decided to do a deep conditioning treatment with coconut oil, because, you know, Pinterest. So I massaged the coconut oil into my hair and scalp, really making sure to cover every strand end and root, and after waiting about an hour I jumped into the shower to rinse it out. Except that it didn’t. I rinsed my hair like normal, massaging my scalp to loosen up dirt and debris, but as my hair started drying e2518975533ffd7c5fcb674c007b60472f15171610002923af592f726b41434cafterwards I could tell that there was still a significant amount of oil left in there – and it was noticeable. This wasn’t “oh I forgot to shower after a run” greasy, this was every hippy stereotype of greasy locks, minus the Grateful Dead playing in the back ground. Thankfully, it was the weekend. I proceeded to rinse/wash my hair with hot water two more times (hot water to loosen the oil, which completely contradicts not using shampoo since cold water is what helps seal the hair follicles smooth), and finally out of desperation I rubbed in some of my homemade dry shampoo (cornstarch and cocoa powder) to put some sort of abrasion in my hair as I hopped into the shower once more to scrub away at the oils. After a year of not using any products on my hair, the last thing I wanted to do was use a product to strip the oil out of my hair since the reason I gave up using products was because they strip all the oils out of my hair! After going through all this over the course of two days, the coconut oil finally seemed gone, along with any conditioning element of the treatment. Maybe I’ll actually read a tutorial before I try another one, or better yet realize that my hair is actually amazing without any products and stop buying into the idea that I regularly need to put products in my hair.

Plastic versus metal snow shovels: I broke one of our plastic shovels while out shoveling this winter and pushing it with my foot to get better leverage. So of course when I went to the hardware store I was excited to see that they carried metal shovels! Hooray earth! I gladly purchased it, and immediately regretted it as soon as the next storm hit. The snow stuck to the metal for some scientific reason which I really don’t care about, and after every shovel-full I would need to hit it against our porch (which is not nearly strong enough to take my weakling poundings along with 22″ of snow) in order to loosen up the snow so I could go move another shovel-full, and hit the shovel against the porch and shake off the remaining snow, and curse the snow gods for not providing a non-gas-powered-nor-plastic-made method of effective snow removal. When next at the hardware store, John bought a new shovel, and while it was again plastic, it was a much thicker and more durable plastic and has a welded foot step on the back so I hopefully won’t break this one as quickly and it should last much longer. He’s the best and knows me better than myself.

Homemade toothpaste that nearly stripping the enamel off my teeth: A few years ago I found a super easy recipe for homemade toothpaste and when our last tube was done I swapped us over to my baking soda and salt concoction, and my teeth had never been whiter. I quickly adjusted to the taste and loved not having the minty after taste when I drank my coffee, and even John said that he liked the homemade stuff. My dentist commented on how clean my teeth were and acknowledged that the baking soda mix

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I didn’t have any pics of my toothpaste fiasco so here’s one of when I didn’t bring my own container and still got delicious roti to-go in Styrofoam because the food is just so good. Side note: the restaurant owner loves when I do bring my own container, most have no problem putting take out orders your Pyrex or whatever.

was typically used before commercial toothpaste. It worked fine since it really doesn’t matter what toothpaste you use, it’s just the abrasion of the brushing that removes the food bits that really matters. Well, apparently brushing your teeth every day twice a day was also not a thing before commercial toothpaste, since apparently that’s enough abrasion to start removing the enamel from your teeth which I realized painfully on about December 29th right before my dental insurance ended along with the year (long story, but I was trying to save some money since my new job – which will remain nameless but is the largest hospital in the state of Massachusetts – charged an obscene amount of money for your first year of employment on health and dental). In a panic, I got an appointment with the dentist on December 31st and he told me I had been scrubbing away all my enamel near my gums along with all those coffee stains, which was causing the extremely painful sensitivity I had been experiencing. Thankfully after a month or so of using Sensodine my teeth felt back to normal, and we were back on Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. I’m sure the baking soda paste would work great for those who aren’t already prone to scraping away at their gums, but apparently I’m too aggressive for that shit.

Using vinegar as a regular cleaning solution: This works great but John hates the smell, so now whenever he asks how to clean something I tell him that undiluted white vinegar is the best method. He loves it. This isn’t a fail, I just wanted to share that fun point of tension in my marriage.

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Everyone has their weaknesses. Mine are the snack foods at H Mart – just look at all that unrecyclable plastic packaging and delicious mochi 🙂

These are just a few of my fails but I’ve had plenty more since I’ve been making these lifestyle adjustments for years now. Sometimes my life feels like one big Pinterest fail, but I know that I’ve been able to successfully, and happily, implement many others and can honestly say that it’s been worth it, even while it may be frustrating at times. So if you’ve tried several lifestyle changes or swaps and have hated them or they’ve gone terribly wrong, just know you’re in good company and it just means you’ve got a great story to tell now and I’d love to hear it.

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July 23, 2017 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

the other rooms

As I move away from the kitchen, the biggest culprit in creating trash, I found that for most of our other rooms, the living room, bedroom, and office/music/craft room, all I really needed to do was remove the waste bin in order to better divert those items to recycling or compost. Perks of a tiny apartment means it’s just a few more steps away to the kitchen, where paper from the office can be recycled and snacks from the living room (like the kernels in a popcorn bag) can be dumped into the compost. Without having a trash bin within arm’s reach, it makes you think twice about where you’re

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I have a collection of my great-grandmother’s handkerchiefs which look dainty next to my rubber ducky in the bathroom

tossing items. Also, since we’ve done away with tissues (except for the box in the closet for guests if they prefer), I’ve made sure to have a handkerchief at my beside and on the towel rack in the bathroom so they’re easily accessible and I’m not tempted to just use toilet paper when I have a sniffle.

Since nearly everything is digital now, we got rid of our printer years ago, and that has helped us to drastically cut back on excessive printing. My husband and I both work office jobs with access to printers, so I’ll print off my Amazon return labels and student loan forms there when necessary. Sometimes we get into a pinch when either of us forgets to print off or bring home from work the needed paperwork, but friends have been willing to let us pop over and use their printer if it’s absolutely necessary, or we just get creative! I like the fact that it really forces us to think about whether something really needs to be printed off, and the answer is usually no. Recently though my husband has been asking for us to reinstate the printer since he needs to print off music for church each weekend, so even if we end up snagging a used one again I’m happy that we were at least able to learn to go without one for so long and really utilize our digital databases like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
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leftover condiment and pill bottle make great organizers for office odds and ends

When there’s nothing (or very little) being printed in the house, then that means we’ve also cut back on our use of staples, paperclips, and other office supplies which is great. I still keep these items around for stuff like medical or tax information, and also because paperclips are super useful for many other things (like using them to poke open the SD card on my cell phone) and not everything that gets stapled is paperwork. Also old notebooks and notepads get reused until there’s nothing left – I don’t care what logo is on them. I haven’t needed to buy office supplies in several years which makes me very happy.

I also hold onto and reuse padded envelopes and other large mailing bags so that they get at least one more use (and I’ve noticed that some of those plastic mailers now have a second line to peel and seal which makes me so happy!). I just choose the size of envelope that can handle another fold on the open end, slap on the new mailing label, and tape that sucker up. I’ve never had an issue with mailing these so far, but be sure that you remove all previous bar codes (that can get a little tedious, thanks Amazon). While I am trying to scale back my online shopping, sometimes I deem my pile of left-over envelopes too large to hold onto, and when I’ve offered up the extras on any of the recycling or trading groups I’m a part of on Facebook, I’ve had no problem with others wanting to take them all. Side note: find your town’s “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook or join Freecycle.org – they’re amazing.
No one likes getting junk mail, but if you’re trying to cut back on waste, you become very acutely aware of how difficult it can be to push back this onslaught of unwanted paper. Most companies are actually very helpful and after one phone call or email or online form completed, I never hear from them again. I make sure to tell the stores that I know how to find them online and prefer to browse there than through the catalog, and many of them are very gracious about it (LL Bean of course!). And then there are those companies that you can call several times, write dozens of emails, get promise after promise that you’ve been removed, and yet you will still get promotional offers that praise how great their products and customer service are!  You’ll know at that point if you ever want to do business with them again (I’m looking at you, Verizon, Comcast, and Capital One!!). When I was first getting started, there were so many companies to contact that I would save one piece of mail from each (recycle the rest) and save them for either a long lunch break at work or stretch of road trip when I’m not driving, and just make all the calls/emails then. Now I get them so rarely that it’s not as daunting to just quick send an email out. Also, just a note that to be removed from all those credit card offers (apparently except for Capital One because they suck) you will need to contact a third party company (the credit companies will give you their information) and you’ll need to mail in a form with your social security number since it’s tied to your credit ratings. I wish I could remember the name of the company that handled that, but please just be sure it’s an actual credit agency and not a scam for your SSN!
If you’re transitioning to more digital and cloud-based information, then you probably also have a plethora of CDs laying around useless (and let’s be honest, you don’t really want to make them into a craft). I found a place that will recycle them, along with several other e-waste type items:  Backthruthefuture.com. They don’t take jewel cases (but those crafts are better then the CDs anyways), but check out their website for information on how to send in your pile of free AOL online hours.
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my mess of a desk: gift cards waiting to be sent for recycling and envelops galore. good thing the desk closes up to hide all this.

And finally gift cards – what everyone actually wants for Christmas. If you’re buying them, please do the gift recipient a favor and don’t get ones with glitter on them (in fact, please don’t ever buy anything with glitter on it – those note cards and gift wrap are not recyclable and you can never get rid of the glitter, ever). This will also allow them to be recycled, either by asking at the store whether they will reuse the cards themselves once the balance is used up. If so, let them hold onto the cards. And if not, send them to EarthWorks! Fill out the form to get your local shipping address, and send them your gift cards, old ID badges, store rewards cards, etc.
And speaking of giving gifts, do we really need to always use wrapping paper? I know how special it is to give something with a nice presentation, and at least gift bags can be used many times, but wrapping paper is literally made to be used once and then throw it away (unless you’re that person who is actually able to save the paper nicely, I am not). Often, though, the nice paper bag from the shop you bought the item in looks great with just some plain tissue paper, and when that’s a little wrinkled from reuse it can still carry donations to the thrift store. Even better, I love to give Lush’s knot wraps as gifts since they’re so versatile, and I use them to wrap up the other part of the gift I’m giving. Nice scarves or handkerchiefs would also do well to serve as pretty packaging, or going the route of giving the gift of experiences rather than things (outing to a museum, movie, theme park, forest park, paint night, dancing lessons, karate lessons, music lessons, or repairs on a car – I know, I’m very practical and it speaks to my heart). There are still some family members or situations like bridal showers where I feel like my reusable options either are too casual or won’t be understood, so I end up having a roll of gift wrap on hand for those. Otherwise I like the opportunity to demonstrate an alternative to creating waste while still showing the recipient that I care about them.
When I have the time to think creatively, I can still give nice gifts and be organized, and produce a lot less waste than usual. This isn’t always the case (we’ve all picked up a gift en route to the party and wrote the card before we walked in), but I find that by knowing other options ahead of time it makes those alternative much more accessible.
May 28, 2017 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

let’s eat!

When thinking about what to cover for this post, it can pretty much be summed up in one phrase: don’t use disposables, use real items. This is probably the easiest area of life to eliminate a lot of potential waste, stuff like plastic forks and paper plates, items that can easily be replaced by things you already have – you don’t even need to go shopping! Just look in your cupboards!
We have a set of cloth napkins that we keep on hand on our table, and you can see the

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The fish s&p shakers guard the napkins and protect your tastebuds

folded ones in front that I’ll reuse a few times until they should be washed (for those quick wipe of the mouth corners and brushing of crumbs). I also have a much larger set of cloth napkins for when we host a lot of people for parties or cookouts. Both sets I’ve found at thrift shops, but if you want to get all fancy there are tons of beautiful cloth napkin options out there. I prefer ones with patterns so that they hide any stains from beets, wine, oils, etc, so my guests and myself don’t question their cleanliness.

As for plates, just use your regular ones. Your guests will appreciate the fact that they’re not being served a cheap, flimsy paper one (and spilling their food on their legs because they’re eating on their lap at a cookout). This goes for silverware, too. Ditch the flimsy disposables and give the people some real utensils. If you need to get another set of dishes and silverware so that you’ll have enough for company, it will probably be worth it if you host a lot – just think of how much money would be spent on the disposables over the lifetime of a few extra plates! And if you purchase them from places such as Target or Ikea, not only will they be cheap but if one breaks or you end up wanting more, you can buy individual plates so you’re not stuck with another pack of 10.
sofie and i

I don’t have any pictures of my cookouts, so here’s an old pic of my niece showing me up with her use of a reusable sippy cup.

Now this may seem like a lot of extra clean up, but let’s be honest, washing all those extra dishes really doesn’t take that much longer – plates are the easiest things to wash, even if by hand. Utensils are not my favorite, so I usually dump them in whatever bowl or large container that also needs to be cleaned, and let them soak overnight in hot soapy water, and wash them the next day. I do have a dishwasher now which makes it easier, but we would host parties of 30+ people before, and trust me, the pile of dishes looks much more daunting than it really is, especially when your spouse is also cleaning. And if yours doesn’t clean, then maybe you should look at replacing that, too.

If you must use disposables, there are some great compostable options out there, just

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My leftover compostable items from my 30th birthday party (the silver star cups kept it classy).

make sure you get ones that are certified compostable and not just “biodegradable plastic”. That’s not a thing. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. See rant here about that. Anyways, I order the supplies for my church now and there’s a bunch of great looking and sturdy options for plates, cups with cute designs on them, and utensils made of corn resin that hold up really well.

If you’re hosting a big party like a cookout, make it easy for guests to know where to place items. At one big party, I had a small table set up next to the recycling bin outside – a basket for napkins (with one tossed in for an example), and a bucket for utensils (again an example utensil) and a bag for the compostable plates and cups. If you want to get all Pinterest and make cute signs for everything go for it, I don’t have time for that but it would probably help to prevent careless guests from tossing their bottle caps in the compost bags. This is particularly great because it also works as a conversation starter on why you’re so obsessed with trash and not making it, and how we need to be responsible consumers – you know, what everyone wants to talk about at a party!
If you’re going to someone else’s for a party and bringing a dish, a great saran-wrap alternative is using a beeswax cloth to cover your dish. The beeswax allows it to stick a bit to the side of the bowl and keeps food from getting nasty on the cloth, and just a quick warm water rinse gets it clean again! It’s not as secure as saran-wrap, but if I have

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The edges of my beeswax cloth are starting to fray, but that’ll happen after a few year’s use. Also, I have a set of 4 of these metal mixing bowls with silicone bases to keep them from sliding around, and secure lids – one of the best investments I’ve made in the kitchen.

something very liquid to transport, I’ll put it in a closed container anyways, or one of my bowls with a secure lid. When I first saw them, I thought the cloths were a bit pricey so i tried making a few myself. They work great, but if I ever need to replace them I will definitely not be making them again. That is one item that was not worth the effort, and it’s worth it to buy the professionally-made ones since you’re saving so much money on not buying disposables anyways!

So start hosting! And when guests compliment you on choosing to use real plates and utensils, feel free to brag about how much money you’re saving and waste you’re preventing. And then accept their offer to help clean up! Or relax and spend time with your guests, and let the dishes wait until tomorrow, they’re not going anywhere.
April 22, 2017 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

this one crazy simple trick to being green, and you’ll never guess what it is!

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Happy Earth Day!

Reducing one’s trash output is just one way of having less of an environmental footprint, and it’s just one way to measure your impact (especially considering that it requires big changes in what and how much we consume). But there are many other ways to have a big impact as individuals, and I want to highlight one in particular. It’s very easy to do, but most people don’t realize how much of an environmental impact this has.
So, you want to green your routine quite a bit, right? Well, you could…
Save water by not showering for a year
and
Save just over 3 gallons of gasoline by not driving your sedan about 100 miles
 and
Save energy by not leaving the lights on – for a total of 480 hours, or 20 straight days.
 Or, you could not eat a 1/4 lb hamburger every week for 3 months.
That’s right. Choose to not eat meat. Occasionally, or regularly. Dairy too. The production of these foods have huge environmental impacts.
If one person eats one less burger per week for a year, it’s the equivalent of not driving for 320 miles, or line-drying your clothes half the time.
If a family of 4 skips meat and cheese 1 day a week for a year, it’s the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 5 weeks or shortening everyone’s daily shower by 3 minutes.
If a family of 4 skips steak one day a week for a year, it’s the equivalent of taking your car off the road for almost 3 months
If everyone in the US ate no meat or cheese just 1 day a week for a year, it would be the equivalent of not driving 91 billion miles, or removing 7.6 million cars off the road.
(These facts and more here!)
And we’re just talking energy used and water consumed! I mean, the meat industry does produce more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector (cars, trains, planes, buses, etc). Never mind the massive amounts of pollution that come from the refuse of 56 billion animals (that’s a lot of manure, and it has to go somewhere. Sometimes it’s our fresh water sources, other times it’s the ocean) Or all the pesticides used for the soybeans and corn for the animal’s feed, or the fact that all that land is being used far less efficiently for feeding animals rather than feeding people. Or the fact that the meat industry is the main contributor to deforestation, especially of the Amazon. And we haven’t even begun on the massive human rights and workers violations that happens in the slaughterhouse and meat processing facilities because the meat industry has worked so hard to keep any external investigations out of their facilities! Or would you prefer if I talked about the abuse of the animals first? Or how filthy the meat processing facilities really are? And don’t even get me started on the fishing industry!
Whew, so many reasons, and I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface.
My point has always been this: what we choose to consume has a big impact when we look farther up the production stream and down the waste stream. The meat and dairy industry have worked very hard for consumers to not know the true cost of our food. By reducing our reliance on these products, and swapping them out for healthier alternatives we can also have a huge environmental impact, in a good way.
If you want more information, follow any of the links I’ve provided here or just do a quick Google search. I also really enjoyed the documentary Cowspiracy, which is available on Netflix . It’s all about how this is such a huge problem that no one is talking about, and most people don’t know about.
I became obsessed with reducing my trash, and all related lifestyles changes, because it was something that I could quantify and measure my progress, challenging myself to do better. I like the data, and I like to see my progress. Not eating meat and dairy is a simple switch, and this single action has a much higher impact for such a low amount of effort. I really like that.
And honestly, when I get lax about my trash efforts and indulge in something that came in plastic packaging or have a delicious West Indian vegetarian roti that I know will come in a Styrofoam container, I tell myself it’s ok, because I don’t do it that often, and I haven’t eaten meat in so long that this far outweighs my little bit of packaging. It’s all about balance, and right now, our food system is anything but balanced.
April 8, 2017 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

home brews

Coffee gets it’s own dedicated post because, it’s coffee. I’ve garnered a lot of interest over my interesting “contraptions” so I figured I’d give them more than just a quick shout out, cramped into another post.

Before I even started obsessing over reducing my waste output, I was realizing how much money I was spending on k-cups for my Keurig (a sweet gift from my husband years ago for Christmas). The Keurig had been a nice addition for a few years, but honestly the coffee wasn’t that great, and my local grocery store had only one option of fair trade and organic k-cups, and it just wasn’t cutting it for me. I’m not that sensitive to flavors, but I think the taste of coffee brewed in plastic was getting to me (never mind the fact that it wasn’t fresh). I thanked my husband for the thoughtful gift that had served me well for years, sold it on Craig’s List, and I bought the supplies for a single-brew cone.

Just a note though that there are inserts for Keurigs that can be filled with your own grinds, so you’re not throwing away pods and can use whatever amazing coffee of your preference and freshness. I’ve heard though that it’s hard the find the right size inset for the updated Keurig model though, and it sounds like a scheme to just keep people buying the k-cups (like a perfect example from my marketing class of “creating loyalty” through limiting consumer’s options. Yes, I have an MBA. No, my classmates didn’t know what to do with me).

Anyways, my equipment of choice was a ceramic cone that sits over my cup (from Amazon) and a 2-pack of organic cloth filters from CoffeeSock (also available on Amazon). I love them.

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The Dream Team: glass electric kettle, pour-over brew, and my diesel Zojirushi travel mug (with my reusable baggie drying in the background)

At first I was hesitant that it would take so long (I have to boil water? and then slowly pour it over the grinds? but that takes minutes!) though I actually really enjoy either the slow wake-up as I watch the grinds steep (weekends), or I multi-task and pack my lunch

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This is what they call the “bloom” while brewing

in between pours (weekdays). Every other month or so I boil the cloth filter, along with my dish sponge and scrubber – though each individually, to remove the build up of the oils so the filter still brews a mean cup, and the sponges aren’t harboring too much bacteria. I don’t find this extra step to be a bother, I just boil away and forget about each one as I’m doing other stuff in the kitchen, and swap them out as I remember them and usually before the water evaporates. The fact that each of those items last long enough to be cleaned many times before tossing is wonderful: the first coffee filter lasted me probably a year and a half, and while it was probably still a little more money than paper filters would have been, it’s still saving me a lot of money from all those friggin k-cups, and the quality of coffee is so much better. I can splurge on the good stuff with all the good “labels” (fair-trade, organic, non-GMO, bird safe…) and even I can taste the difference. And coffee is one of the few products that many stores sell in bulk, so you probably don’t even have to find a “green grocer” who will allow you to tare out your glass containers before filling up or let you use your own bags (though the woman at my local grocer remembers the tare weight of my container that I bring in, so clearly I’m there frequently).

My husband got all into it, too, with figuring out the right coarseness of grinds specifically for this pour-over method, and the percolator. He wanted a manual grinder so we could finely-tune the coarseness of each batch of coffee. I told him one click to the left of “auto-drip” at the in-store grinders was good enough for me, but I guess we each have the items we’re willing to spend time on.

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Hand grinder with storage vessel, decaf grinds, percolator grinds, pour-over grinds, and measuring spoon (i.e. vintage soup spoon), and the box that stores all coffee and tea items. No minimalism here.

And yes, we have a percolator, a vintage, glass, brew-it-on-the-stove percolator. The

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Just like your grandma’s

pour-over cone is good for one or two cups, but after that the filter needs a good rinsing and is better after it’s dried, and not to mention the time it takes to brew 3 or more cups that way. So when I saw this sweet thing at a market I nabbed it for when we have guests over. There’s no filter needed, the aluminum basket serves that function as well, and it’s fun to watch it brew on the stove. I was initially concerned about using glass on the stove, even though that’s how the percolator is made to be used, but after the first use I got over my fears and now have no problem gently tossing it on.

When we’re done brewing, the grinds get scraped into the compost bin (or in the summer I’ll mix them into the soil for my tomato plants since they love it!) and everything gets a rinse. Easy as pie!

Also, I totally forgot to mention in my last post about my produce that I store at room temperature! I probably forgot because it’s so boring, but here it is. Everything goes into the bowl, except onions and garlic which go into the basket, to keep them separate and in a dark but ventilated space. Squash goes on the counter when that’s in season. Thrilling, aren’t you glad I made sure to put that in here?

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The produce gets stored with other important things on the sideboard, like my paper to-do pile and wine.

March 25, 2017 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

keep it fresh

Now that we’ve gone grocery shopping with all our cute cloth bags, you don’t want to just bring everything home and cover it in Saran wrap. That kinda defeats the purpose of saving all those plastic bags from the store, and I will judge you for it.

I must give credit where credit is due: the Berkeley Farmers Market Produce Guide is my go-to on how to properly store produce, and without plastic. I found it on another blog, and have since printed it out and leave it clipped to the side of my fridge for easy referencing. I highly recommend doing the same since it taught me how to extend the life of my produce (hint, not everything goes in the fridge, hence the celery in water on the counter in my previous post), which prevents the produce from spoiling before I get to it. While not comprehensive of all fruits and veggies, it’s a great start.

Next, I have an assortment of both glass and plastic containers that I reuse to store veggies, cooked dishes, and bringing food to work for lunch. My plastic containers consist of Ikea’s stack-able set of food storage containers, and to-go containers from restaurants. Besides getting a bunch more use out of the to-go containers from a restaurant, I still like using these when items will not be heated up in said plastic – salads for lunch, leftover pizza, soup that will be portioned into mason jars or bowls for heating, half an onion, etc. They tend to be the very large or very small containers which are hard to replace.

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My basket of plastic and shelf full of glass jars (lids on the door). The cabinet is low, so being able to pull out the basket to rifle through the mess is lovely.

For everything else I use glass jars: I have a bunch of mason jars, both wide- and regular-mouthed, that I’ve found at the local thrift shop, but I’ve also accumulated a great collection of leftover jars from condiments, pasta sauces, salsa, and pickles. Why put these in recycling when you can reuse them yourself for that half a cucumber? I started looking for better jars when shopping, and if an item was a tie between two brands based on it’s nutritional content and level of organicness, then the winner went to whichever jar seemed like it would be the most useful once emptied. It took a while, probably a year or two, to slowly rotate out those jars that were oddly shaped and were more of a pain to deal with, and accumulate the good brands (wide-mouthed pasta jars are the best!), but it was totally worth it, and now I know which jars are perfect for half a lemon or avocado so I know which ones to reach for!

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The CocoaPuffs are my husband’s, but the seltzers are my addiction (it’s ok cause it’s aluminum cans, right?)

For securing the snacks, I’ve opted for clothespins rather than chip clips. I have yet to have one break on me, and when they finally do it’s just scrap metal recycling and compost for the wood. I also don’t ever throw out the rubber bands that come from bunches of produce or other packaging: the cat litter get shoveled into an empty chip or pretzel bag (did I just get rid of your last excuse for using plastic shopping bags?), throw a rubber band around it to secure, and that there is the majority of the trash we create. If I ever get an excess of rubber bands that I know I won’t get to, I’ve offered them to the guy at the farmer’s stand in town and he was thrilled to get an assortment of bands for his produce.

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My preferably sparse pantry and cooking cheat sheets.

As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to be able to see everything in my pantry cupboard so items don’t get out of sight and out of mind. This is about an average amount of what is kept on hand: some items that can be quickly prepped like pasta and sauce or soup, and other staples for larger recipes such as dried beans, rice, nuts, etc. I also find that this keeps my shopping (and thus spending) more minimal since I know what I currently have or want to use up.

And yes, that is a handful of Ziplock baggies next to my basket of reusable baggies and wraps. These are bags that have been sent home with me with delicious leftovers from others, and those that were currently in use when I phased out using Ziplock bags a few years ago. That’s right, I haven’t bought any Ziplock baggies in at least 3 years, so spending $7 on a single cloth baggie doesn’t seem so bad now does it? And those Ziplocks that are still kicking around get washed and reused and sent home with others with leftovers many times before they finally puncture a hole and are sent to plastic film recycling (at most grocery stores), though it also helps that I just don’t use them very often anyways.

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My hummus looks holy with this lighting, but it’s hummus so it already is.

And now for the fridge. Along with the basic half an avocado in a container and homemade dressing in a mason jar, you can see a few of the ideas from the Berkeley guide put into use here: beets wrapped in a damp cloth in a bowl (on left of middle shelf), carrots in a closed container with a damp cloth, and my leafy greens in the crisper that I haven’t yet taken out of the cloth bag. One that’s not in the guide – cilantro (bottom shelf, put the bunch in a jar with some water like a vase and cover with a plastic bag, I reuse the same one over and over again. Replace the water every few days and it’ll last over a month. You’re welcome).

One thing you’ll notice is a lack of meat. I am a vegetarian, though my husband is not, though fortunately for our trash production he is also not a chef since meat generates a ton of trash. I try to steer him toward buying more sustainable meats from local farms (buy less of higher quality meat) which typically means a frozen whole chicken or leg of lamb and less packaging, though occasionally he comes home with a Styrofoam tray of low-grade beef cubes wrapped in a thousand layers of Sarah wrap, and it’s then that our marriage is put to the test, and the next several weeks or months it takes to cover all that nasty packaging in the trash bin when we finally fill it and I no longer have to look at it. But I try to not judge him for it, too much.

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Leftover soups in the tall cartons and veggies scraps waiting to be turned into stock. And a whole frozen chicken that’s been waiting to be cooked for a long time…

It took me a while to figure out how to handle less waste in the freezer since I wasn’t keen on using all glass, even though I’ve never broken a jar. I came across the idea of reusing milk cartons, and I love it. I hold onto my flax milk cartons for soup (I typically make a

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I pour the condensed stock in 1/4 cup pours into my silicone muffin pan to freeze and then pop them out into the carton to grab quick while cooking.

double batch and freeze half), homemade stock (made from veggie scraps and made very condensed so a frozen 1/4 cup gets me 1 cup of stock), and homemade veggie burgers. My smaller creamer cartons are perfect for sliced ginger and other smaller items. Whenever I freeze berries, ginger slices, green beans, etc, I make sure to lay them out on a cookie tray first and leave them in the freezer until I remember they’re there and then transfer them to a carton. This helps prevent them from all freezing together into a blob.

I do like to have frozen veggies on hand for those weeks when I didn’t do a good job in meal planning, so I make sure to buy the brands that have recyclable bags since many brands have switched to using a non-recyclable type. Maybe next year I’ll be better about stocking up at the farmer’s market when items are at a discount and freezing them for later, but that clearly didn’t happen last fall.

And that’s about it! Storing veggies without waste is definitely not about having fancy storage containers or anything, and as you can see a lot of what I’m using are items that would’ve been destined for the recycling bin anyways. When you start thinking about what waste will be created when purchasing an item and if there’s alternatives to buy or a way to utilize that waste, it really starts to add up to a lot of waste saved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 6, 2017 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

you look just like someone i know…

It happened again today: I met someone for the first time and they said I looked really familiar, had we met before? Or I look just like someone they know, from back home.

I get this a lot, and it’s usually a nice feeling since it’s always said in a pleasant and warm manner, and it seems like the other person enjoys thinking back on this person that they know. I’ve learned though to just say “yeah, I get that a lot”, rather than “I have a very generic face so I’m typically confused with any other white millennial woman with long brunette hair”.

It’s true though. I have a fairly generic face with no real distinguishing features. My cheekbones are of average depth, my forehead isn’t too big or small, and my nose is only identifiable by the small gold ring around my right nostril (and a small bump on the bridge hidden by glasses). When enough make-up is applied, I can be quite pretty. And when I don’t get enough sleep and don’t care to put on make up, I look quite haggard. I can already tell that bags under my eyes will soon be a distinguishing feature so maybe I’ll stop being confused with that person you know.

And I’ve only recently realized how much of a blessing that this mediocrity of aesthetics has been. I was never made fun of for having big ears or a small mouth, for being too fat or having a ton of freckles. I did self-inflict a bad hair style or two until I realized how important it was to bring a picture to the hairstylist. I was also too shy as a pre-teen to tell the hairstylist that I looked like a boy and this was definitely not the cool pixie cut I had in mind can you please fix it? That was a defining year of puberty for me, though mostly out of self-consciousness than taunting.

On the flip side, I’ve also realized how much unwanted attention I’ve avoided because I don’t turn heads as I walk down the street. I’ve only had a few occasions of strange men trying to talk to me at bars despite very clear signals that I’m not interested (like having my laptop open and several research books spread in front of me. Yes, I studied at bars in grad school, it was usually a great place to get some work done). I also don’t remember solely being complimented on my looks or outfit as a kid, though this could have been because my mom let me dress myself, and it was the late 80’s/early 90’s, so there wasn’t much to compliment me on other than how many patterns I was wearing at once and whether I was clean. I’ll take it though over the unintended consequences of having such adorable kid’s clothing now. I really struggle with not only buying my niece super cute clothing all the time, but then also letting that be the focus of our conversations. Just like I was complimented as a kid, I want my niece to hear how polite she has been, how creative or smart she is, or just simply to have an engaging conversation about what she did, felt, saw, thought, reacted, etc, without it revolving around how she looks.

And it wasn’t until I was thinking about how much of a blessing this neutrality has given me that I also realized how sad it was that I could be happy about this. I’m so happy that I’m not too pretty or ugly so that I’ve avoided a good amount of socially antagonistic situations. That’s a pretty sad reflection on our culture.

Every once in a while I get really frustrated when someone posts a group picture with me in it on facebook, and inevitably there comes the typical comments: “such beautiful women!”, “looking gorgeous!”, “so beautiful, inside and out!”. I know they’re well-intended, and what the extended friends and family are saying is kind, but why do we always need to reaffirm the women in our lives that they’re beautiful? Why can’t we just share a photo of a group of people having a great time together, sharing their time and life and energy with one another, and then just reduce it to whether or not I’m aesthetically pleasing at the moment? Let’s be honest, I’m blinking in half of the photos I’m in, so let’s talk about the great weekend we had instead or accomplishments that were made?

You may say that I have it easy because I’m already married, and I know that this is partially true and is definitely a benefit of marrying young – I’ve never been single and of age to go to a bar and try to pick up a date. However I’ve always maintained a level of not caring what others think of me that was much higher than my average peers (hence I don’t mind talk to strangers about my trash, makes more sense now huh?), which I’m now realizing I can attribute to my plain looks: I never expected the compliments so I didn’t try hard to receive them. I’m not saying that it didn’t hurt when I saw others being complimented all the time when I wasn’t as a teen, but I’ve come to embrace my “girl next door” looks, as that overly-friendly guy on a red eye flight once told me (thanks buddy, I woke up just to have breakfast, not to chat from across the aisle).

This feminist is tired that the conversation is still revolving around beauty, granted one that is more inclusive than it used to be, but still about the one thing that I don’t have any control over. Can we please move the conversation past what the gene pool doled out for me? I love the line from Grey’s Anatomy where Dr. Yang proclaims “Oh, screw beautiful. I’m brilliant! If you want to appease me compliment me on my brain.”

In the meantime, I am happy to be confused with your cousin or childhood best friend or that lady from yoga last week. As long as she wasn’t all dolled up and looking for superficial compliments, I’m sure we look just alike 🙂

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