Friday, June 29, 2012

reduce, reuse, recycle

this seems to be a theme with me...

a couple of things from today that made me happy: 1. i went to the bank to get quarters for laundry and they actually came in the old paper sleeves! i was so happy not to have the extra plastic to throw away. i think next time i go in, i'll specifically request paper instead of plastic if they have it. 2. i took our cans and bottles to the local CRV (california redemption value) recycling center and found out that they will recycle things even without a CRV code on them. they have to be drink containers, have a recycle symbol and you won't get money back, but they'll take them. i was thrilled! milk jugs and wine bottles were saved from the landfill (actually from my in-laws recycle bin) but happy day none-the-less.

now, here are a couple of ideas for the rest of the stuff i'm unable to recycle at our apartment complex.

1. you know those plastic nets that potatoes and things come in? my mother-in-law gave me the great idea of cutting them up and using them to scrub dishes! brilliant! they work so well and they don't get stinky like some dish scrubbers can.

the yellow one on the left has been cut and i've used the top part. if it gets grungy, toss it out and cut off another piece. these two bags are going to last me forever! 

2. my husband and i love sandwiches. we eat them almost every day for lunch. we've found these lunch meats that we enjoy by oscar meyer called carving board. they are chunks of meat, not puny little slices. they make delicious sandwiches and nice chunks for salads. cool thing is, they come in plastic containers that work perfectly for storing, what else? sandwiches! i've found that i can make my husband a sandwich, wrap it in a select-a-size paper towel, plop it right in there, snap the lid on and put it in his lunch. that way, i don't have to use a ziplock, the sandwich maintains it's shape and there's no danger of it getting moist from the ice packs he uses. really, you could use these to hold lots of different things: chips, cookies, left-overs to send home with someone and not worry about getting your tupperware back, crayons, markers, crafty bits, etc.

3. i'm always trying to come up with uses for the keurig machine k-cups. i'll admit, i still don't have the perfect solution. but, what i do have is fertilizer for my garden and a bunch of cute little rinsed out cups waiting to be turned into something fabulous.

have you ever opened one of these up? here are the guts:

 you have your coffee

 and under that a filter
(this one has been partially ripped out)

i have been taking the foil tops off and emptying the coffee grounds into a coffee creamer container that i cut the top off of. once i get a good amount of grounds, i will use them in my garden. (google "coffee grounds as fertilizer" for more detailed instructions.)

i then take out the paper filter, rince my cups out and stack them nicely in a counter wipe container that i've saved. i'm thinking since the cups already have a hole punched in them, i'd like to try making a string of patio lights. maybe cut them into daisies? i'm not sure yet. i need to find some little christmas type strand of lights and give it a try. whatever i end up doing with them, i'll post it... granted it turns out worth a damn.

anywho, those are my tips for the day. hope i've inspired you to get creative to keep a few more items out of our landfills. let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions or have any items you'd like help thinking of an alternative use for.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

chirp, chirp, cheap, cheap, cricut

any cricut lovers out there? this one's for you!

i happen to love my cricut, but i did fight getting one for a long time. my mom bought a small one and when she decided she wanted a big one, she offered me hers, i declined. about a year later, my mother-in-law did the same thing. this time, i said sure. even after i got it, i still wasn't convinced i'd use it that much. i've always loved crafting and making things, but i kind of felt like it was cheating. silly, i know. i started out thinking i'd just use it for scrapbooking, but i love it so much, i've started making cards as well. heck, i even made art for the wall in our old bathroom to match our shower curtain. woodland creatures, of course :)

that being said, there are two things you should know about me: 1. i don't like waste and 2. i don't love spending money. so, two of the things i really like about the cricut are that i can always get my paper either on sale or with a coupon and that i can start anywhere on any scrap of paper, i don't have to use a new sheet every time. one of the things i wasn't too happy about was that once a cutting mat ran out of sticky, i'd have to buy a new one. that meant, i had to spend money and i had to throw away unrecyclable plastic. double boo! but, not any more. here's a step by step on how to wash and re-stickify your mats. it's easy, really. and you probably have some of the items already.

1. start with an old used mat

2. wash it off, but how? at first i tried regular old soap and water with a plastic scrubber. that was taking too long and wasn't getting off all of the old sticky stuff. i tried a corner with nail polish remover and found out that was a bad idea because it not only took off the sticky, it took off all the guides as well, oops. 

 nail polish remover, bad.

i looked online and saw that you can use brake cleaner, but i thought, "hey, i have WD-40, let's give that a whirl." what do you know? it worked! 

after i sprayed the WD-40 and let it sit for a few minutes, i started scraping it with a pallet knife. it came right off. see that line of yellowy, lumpy stuff? that's the sticky coming off. i started at the bottom and worked my way up. once i got it all off, i washed the mat with soap and water to get the residual WD-40 off and hung it out in the sun to dry. (i wouldn't suggest drying it with a towel, it will get fibers on it)

3. i masked off the edges with painter's tape so that when it runs through the machine it's not sticky under the wheels.

4. and lastly, i sprayed it with a low-tack spray adhesive. this particular brand is easy-tack by krylon. wait a few minutes, pull off the painter's tape and voila! good as new. now my conscience and my wallet are happy.

happy crafting!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

so easy, even i can do it

today, i'm just going to share a recipe. one that i got from my mom and modified. really, i modify it just about every time i make it. have fun with it! it's funny, i never thought i, of all people, would ever be sharing recipes, but here i am at my second one.

this is a cold vegetable soup called gazpacho. here's a wiki link if you'd like to know the origin and whatnot... i made a fresh batch today for dinner tonight, and i didn't even have a single disaster, yay me! i hope you like it...

Yields: enough for my husband and i to each have a bowl for dinner and me to have lunch the next day

  • 8 oz. V8 juice (i buy generic and it tastes just as good)
  • 12 oz. spicy V8 (also generic, but if you have Snappy Tom in your store, it's yummy!)
  • about a 2 second pour of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 pinches of cumin (i use BIG pinches, i love the stuff)
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • cucumber
  • a couple of stalks of celery
  • green pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic (more or less, it's up to you)
  • about a cup or so of italian bread crumbs
  • rosemary or other herbs from your garden?
  • i like to mix all the liquid ingredients, salt & pepper together first to get the taste how i like it before i start adding the veggies
  • cut up all veggies into bite size pieces and add to mix (i like to keep mine in pieces, but if you'd like a creamier soup you can throw the veggies in the cuisinart) try other veggies, too. these are what we like, but i'm sure it would be great with your favorites.
  • today i'm trying something new, fresh rosemary from the garden. i chopped it up into fine little pieces and threw it in (about a teaspoon or so.) i just thought though, you could probably put in a whole stem or 2 of it and then take it out before you serve it, hmmm.
  • add bread crumbs
  • chill in the fridge for a couple hours or overnight to marry the flavors
  • enjoy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

i know better than to cook

when we moved into our apartment we were having some issues with the garbage disposal. sometimes it would work great and other times it would shake the whole sink and counter so badly it would shut the water off. finally one day i took out the rubber piece in the drain and saw some plastic in there. weird. i took it out and it was some really thick industrial type plastic. i have no idea where it came from and thought i better alert the manager. i talked to the maintenance guy and he told me it was a brand new "very expensive" disposal and i shouldn't put plastic in it. duh. i said, i didn't, i thought maybe the previous tenants did. he said, it was installed since then, "what did someone come in and put plastic down it before you moved in?" yeah, jerk. my theory is, when they installed it, it had some plastic pieces that were supposed to be taken out and weren't. in any case it was working regularly now.

that brings us to yesterday afternoon. we were invited to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's place for bbq and i wanted to bring something. i remembered a friend at the audubon society had made a delicious fingerling potato salad for one of our events, so i decided to try that. one of the ingredients was lemon juice so i bought a lemon and was squeezing the juice into a little liquid measurer that my mom had gotten me. it's basically a shot glass with measurements on it. i finished with it, put it in the sink and went about preparing the rest of the ingredients. i steamed the potatoes in the pasta boat my mother-in-law got me and when i took the potatoes out, i put the boat in the sink and filled it with hot soapy water. i washed everything and had some lemon peels that i wanted to put down the disposal to make it smell nice. the sink was still full of suds so i dropped a peel down where the drain was and started the disposal. oh. my. God. the noise was awful! in my stressed haste i inadvertently turned of the water instead of the disposal, of course, so it ran even longer, oops. i stopped it and took the rubber piece out of the drain (which doesn't fit all that well and has a very large opening for things to slip through into the disposal) and saw what looked like ice. i didn't remember putting ice down there. i reached in and realized when it cut me that it was actually glass, not ice. oy. well, at least it wasn't plastic! he hadn't mentioned no glass in the disposal, hehe. so, it was glass, but from what? oh, wait, where's my little shot glass measuring cup? aha, oops. i started telling my husband, damon, oh no, this is my fault, i did it this time! shit. now what? the last thing i wanted to do was call maintenance!

part of me thought, why not just run it and finish the job? it seemed to me, it would sharpen the blades. besides, i already got the big chunk out when i reached in before and it had done a great job with the rest of it so far. i looked online and what do you know? that's exactly what it said to do, run it. i guess back in the old days salespeople would even encourage you to throw a glass coke bottle down there from time to time. i turned it back on and voila, it chewed it up like a champ. so, would i encourage you to throw glass in your disposal? no. but if it slips in, don't sweat it too hard. it will sounds terrible and i would be careful of pieces flying out, but otherwise, it'll be ok.

oh, and the potato salad was a hit!


Fingerling Potato Salad with Gremolata Dressing
Great for salads because they hold their shape once cooked, these fingerlings are steamed, which enables them to retain more nutrients than boiled. (I couldn't find fingerling potatoes at Trader Joe's anymore, so I used their "teeny tiny potatoes" instead) The gremolata-inspired dressing (with parsley, lemon, and garlic) adds a twist to this side.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup)

  • 1/2  pound white fingerling potatoes
  • 1/2  pound red fingerling potatoes
  • 2  tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1  garlic clove, crushed and minced
  • 1  tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1  tablespoon capers, drained
  1. Steam potatoes, covered, 12 minutes or until tender. Cover and chill.
  2. Combine juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; slowly add oil, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in rind and garlic; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and capers.
  3. Cut potatoes into quarters; add potatoes to juice mixture, tossing to coat.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

for the love of wildlife

every monday morning i drag myself out of bed to head down to the local wildlife care center to volunteer 4 hours of cleaning cages and doing mountains of dishes and laundry. i have to admit, some days i would rather just keep sleeping. i do love going, but if you know me, you know i love sleep at least as much. funny thing though, the days when it's hardest to get my butt down there almost always seem to be the most rewarding. yesterday was one of those days. i hit an extra snooze and had a twinge of a headache that i secretly wished had been just a bit harsher so i'd have a reason to call off. but, i got up and out the door and i'm glad i did!

the wildlife care center i currently volunteer with does not deal with many raptors: hawks,  falcons, owls, etc. we're mostly seabirds: pelicans, seagulls, herons, murres and other more common creatures like ducks, opossums and raccoons. when i lived in oregon, however, the wildlife care center i volunteered with dealt mostly with raptors, so i have handled and fed quite of few of them. therefore, i am dubbed the raptor expert at my current center on my shift, yay me!

yesterday, i was told we had a juvenile coopers hawk that had not eaten all night and i was going to have to coax him into eating something. that woke me up! my heart began to dance and i admit, i kinda teared up a little. i went over to peek in the cage of the not so little guy and he was precious. his head looked like a dandy lion with those baby bird feathers sticking up all over. i immediately fell in love. my job for the morning was to cut up some mice and hand feed this little guy with forceps (long tweezers.) i grabbed a hind portion of a mouse with the tail attached and kinda pulled it across the bottom of the cage to simulate the mouse running and watched him track it. i then dangled the mouse part over his head, he began to kind of click his beak and he ate it! i was a proud momma. i got him to eat another half of a piece and then he was done. i am always so honored when an animal in captivity will take food from me. believe or not, they can be very particular about it. it wasn't too vital that he eat a lot at our facility because, since we don't deal with raptors, he was going to be transfered over to the local raptor center shortly. before i left i thought i'd peek in on him and see if he wanted any more. he was sound asleep with his head buried deep in his back. it didn't even phase him when i opened the door to his cage. i could relate to being that sleepy, guess we're not all that different after all.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

hippie guilt

went to target today to get a few things and had a real struggle... after i'd talked about reusing and recycling, i was trying to be conscious of what all i was buying that was plastic. it turns out it was a lot more than i'd hoped.

we went to target to get some toiletries, but then i thought, well, we're here and they have groceries, let's just get it all done in one trip. 1st pang of guilt: i had only brought one reusable bag with me. next, we went over to get some bleach. knowing i had a plastic container at home from my hair dye, i wanted to just buy a small jug of bleach. turns out, there's no such thing. not at target anyway. i then looked in the cleaner section and there started a debate in my mind. i could buy the much too large bottle of bleach to put into the small container from my hair dye i already had at home for bleach, or i could buy a cleaner with bleach in it specifically for the bathtub grout. they were both in plastic containers. the bleach was larger and cheaper, but the spray was more space saving (we have a small apartment, i don't need costco sizes of things) and convenient (that's a dangerous word, right jello biafra?). if they're both in plastic what does it matter? i decided on the bleach. i figured with the spray, the spray part was not recyclable and the bleach on its own was more versatile anyway. 

that brings us to the next issue: laundry detergent. i had 3 reasonable choices. 1. the regular old bottle of generic (i almost always buy generic anything for cost) 2. seventh generation detergent in a cardboard, not plastic, biodegradable container, or 3. method brand concentrated detergent in a small plastic bottle which i would later buy a flat plastic refill container for. here are how they each measured up. 1. cheap, $7.00 for like 60 loads or something, came in unscented (which is important for me, i'm allergic to everything and a lot of scents make me ill) 2. i liked the seventh generation cardboard container, but it was $15.00 and it was not unscented and 3. the method brand which was unscented and $7.00, but not as many washes as the cheap generic stuff. also, the refill containers are $20.00, but they are good for like 90 washes or something ridiculous. so, i opted for the method starter bottle. now, my struggle was with, ok, the method has the flatter plastic bag, but it's not recyclable, ugh. in reading the container they made me feel better by saying it took less energy and plastic to make it originally. 

shopping should not be this hard. these were real struggles i was having. so much so that i was taking these items off the shelves, walking away and then going back and re-thinking my decision 2 and 3 times. and this was just the toiletries part. groceries are in nothing but plastic! plastic yogurt containers, plastic lunch meat containers, plastic around the lettuce, around the bread, plastic everywhere! by the time we left the store i was guilt ridden, exhausted and cranky. my poor husband.

so, i guess the moral of the story is: i can only do so much, right? i recycle and reuse as much as i possibly can, i pick up random trash when i see it and i make a conscious effort to not buy overly packaged things. i'd be happy if everyone did that much, i should be happy i do.

Friday, June 15, 2012

what? no recycling?

when we first moved into our new apartment, one of the things that bothered me the most was that there were no recycling programs. i am an avid recycler, and preach the benefits of it to anyone who'll listen. this was going to be bad, really bad.

turns out, i'm doing pretty well with it. i put all food waste down the disposal (ultimately, i'd like to compost), i compress anything i can down to the smallest size possible before throwing it away (our big cardboard boxes we used for moving, we flattened and gave away on craigslist) i take the bottles and cans (just clap your hands) to the local crv recycling center and plastic that i don't have a secondary use for i take to my in-laws to recycle, thanks mama Jeanne! now, i need to figure out what to do with those pesky keurig cups, grrr.

but, really, it has made me use everything differently. i guess i used to think, it's ok to use more, i recycle! but now, i use a lot less in general. for instance, ziplock bags have never been recyclable so my usage of them wouldn't be affected anyway, right? wrong! i use tupperware-type containers for everything and when i must use a ziplock, it gets washed out and reused until it's falling apart. i must admit, i'm guilty of never doing that before. i did use tupperware-type containers, but i also used a plethora of ziplocks without feeling too badly about it. recently, i used a milk jug to make a watering can to administer my homemade, organic pesticide for the garden and today i used the empty bottle from my hair dye to put bleach in to clean the grout in the shower. before, i would have recycled these items and bought other plastic bottles to put these products in, why?

oddly enough, another thing i've realized i've improved greatly with is not wasting food. i used to make dinner and if it didn't get eaten that night we'd wrap it up and pretend we'd eat it another day, but never did. now, we finish everything! if there's left over dinner, it's now lunch the next day. i still may throw a heel or 2 from bread away, but everything else in our home gets eaten. granted, i know this is not a new idea, but one i didn't have much use or time for before.

really, i think it all has to do with what we've gone through in the last 6 months. when you go from having everything to having nothing, you really start to appreciate things more. i know it sounds cliche, but it's true. if today, someone came up to us and offered us our "old" life back, we wouldn't take it. life is what you make of it and for us, we choose to make it happy.


as some of you know, my husband and i both lost our jobs and therefore our condo in oregon in september of 2011. although it sounds sad, i'm here to tell you ultimately why it's been great. don't get me wrong, at the time and for months afterward, it hurt like hell and i wanted to get revenge on anyone who had wronged me, but in hindsight, i'm happier than i've been in a long time and i learned a lot about myself. here's the long and the short of it...

first of all, i had to let go of thinking of all that we'd lost: our jobs, our community of friends and neighbors, the roof over our heads and probably the hardest of them all, the life savings we had put in as a down payment on the condo. $50,000. yeah, ouch! it was a lovely condo, but it was much too big for just the two of us. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths spread out over 3 floors, way more than we needed. when we purchased it, we bought that large thinking it would be good for resale, well, we know how that turned out. so, here we were, no jobs, no savings, huge student loans from putting my husband through school and feeling like we'd hit bottom. thankfully, we have amazing family who welcomed us back into california and their homes.

we took up residence in a room in my in-laws house for 6 months. we were going from 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths with a garage and a lovely view off our balcony, to one room and a shared bathroom, but, we were thankful to have it. those 6 months were hard, losing our independence, visiting our stuff periodically in storage just to remember we actually had a life at some point, and all the while still paying $275.00/month for HOA fees and $30.00/month for condo insurance.

we had opted to just walk away from the condo thinking that trying to even short sell would take too long, we needed to get back to california to get our life going again, we didn't have time to waste. we started the deed-in-lieu of foreclosure process with bank of america because we left the condo in pristine condition and the quicker we could get out from under it, the quicker we'd be free of paying those ongoing monthly fees. we had gotten to the point of getting an appraisal and bofa sold the loan to someone called green tree. oh God, now we had to start all over. all the back taxes, bank statements, monthly bills, letters begging them to just take the damn thing back from us was all for naught. it felt like getting kicked in the stomach all over again.

so, what can you do? we started all over again... this time we got a couple more months into it and i get a call from fannie mae saying that all the work i had done this second time was again for naught, that i should actually be dealing directly with them. are you kidding me? we're trying to give you a condo, people. it's clean, it's beautiful, it's got stainless steel appliances and laminate floors and you're going to get back at least what we owe, if not more. why must you drag it out and torture us like this?

so, i started all the paperwork for the 3rd time and waited, and called, and waited. shortly after i sent in the 3rd set of paperwork, green tree called and wondered why fannie mae was involved. now, i was dealing with 2 companies who were not communicating with each other, yet each of them said i had to deal with them. i almost gave up, i really did. i almost didn't send in anymore HOA checks and just waited for them to garnish my wages for the rest of my life. i did call the insurance company to see if i could at least lower that. the man on the other end was really nice and had a whole story about how his sister was going through the same thing so he was going to get my payments down to $18.00/month, but encouraged me not to cancel it just in case a pipe burst or something inside the condo because, of course, it had happened to one of his clients before. i fell for it. the next bill i got was for the same amount as before i called and talked to this nice man who really cared about me and my situation, yeah right. so, i called back telling them the whole story again. this time they were going to look into it and have someone call me back to get it straightened out. i never got a call, instead i got a letter saying that they could no longer insure the condo because there was no one living in it. on the plus side, i didn't have to pay them anymore, but on the negative side, i had to have insurance for the deed-in-lieu to be processed, otherwise, they were going to make us pay through their selected insurance company for much more than we were paying. damned if you do...

in the meantime, the house next to my folks was finally being taken back by the bank. the neighbors had lived there for over 2 years without making a payment, however, they had bought new cars and gone on trips and lots of fun stuff. when the bank finally did take it back, they did it through a program called cash for keys where the bank said, if you leave the home in resalable condition, we'll pay all your moving fees, the fees to set up your utilities, first and last on your new apartment, etc. wow. cool. we were leaving our place in re-salable condition, i didn't see why we wouldn't get the same deal. i talked to fannie mae about it and they said to bring it up once the dee-in-lieu was complete. so, we waited and we called and we waited...

that brings us to the end of february when we got a letter saying that we had been approved for the deed-in-lieu. praise God. it was all coming to a close. there were, however, conditions. we had to be up to date on our HOAs and on our property taxes. thankfully, we had ben paying those damn HOA fees all along so we didn't have to worry about that, but we did, in order for them to take back this beautiful condo from us, have to send them a check for almost $2,000 for back property taxes. ok, well, here was my chance to ask about the cash for keys program. how could they say no? we were fine upstanding citizens that went about everything the right way. wrong. when i asked, the lady on the line was surprised and asked how i had even heard of this program. i told her i knew some people that did it and that the fannie mae people had told me to ask for it. she put me on hold and came back on the line to tell me, nope, if you leave your home willingly they won't give you crap. if they have to force you out, they will pay you. screwed again. so the moral of the story here was if you do everything the right way you get wronged? wow. i was flabbergasted. at that point a weaker person would have decided to go the low road... i however, maintained. at least this nightmare was over and we could start to rebuild.

by the end of march things were improving. my husband was now working and we decided it was time to find an apartment. we found a 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment in a beautiful park-like complex 1 mile from the beach. getting 3 bedrooms of stuff into a 1 bedroom apartment has been a challenge, but it has been so worth it. we have our kitties back (they were staying about 70 miles away with my folks cause my in-laws are allergic) we have better neighbors than we ever had in the condo and we have a trailhead at the end of our street that leads into the wetlands. i've learned a few things about myself through all of this. 1. family is everything, without them who knows where we'd be. 2. less is more, i have all the things that really matter, my husband and our cats, the rest is really just stuff. 3. even when times were tough and i felt we were being treated wrongly, we were still able to keep our integrity and that's important. life may not be fair, but at the end of the day you have to look yourself in the mirror. be proud of who you are regardless of how you've been treated.