Wednesday, January 27, 2010

plastics update

Here is the link to the Diane Rehm show, I believe if you click on the left side where the show is listed it will play the audio.

I am so glad that I listened to this last night. Good info and an important discussion. I did some of my own research, too, because I have many more questions. Leaf and I then cleaned out the tupperware cupboard. We kept a few containers to store/freeze leftovers in. Most of what we had in there is #5. I found numerous sites on the web stating that #2, 4, & 5 are safer plastics to use for re-use. They do not contain BPA. However, they do contain other chemicals that can be carcinogenic of heated. We do not use a microwave and have always washed our re-used plastic by hand, so this aspect does not concern me. What I did think about is putting warm leftovers into containers.... my solution: just let it cool completely. We use glass (pyrex) for storage as much as we can, but run out sometimes. With the addition of stainless containers for picnics and going to work (they won't break like glass can), I feel good about our system for now.

We had held on to a few plastic children's dishes that my sister gave us for when they come over, but after what I heard and read, I posted them on freecycle (not really wanting anyone else to use them and feeling a bit of contradiction within myself about it). We have wooden bowls that visiting children can use if their parents feel they would not do well with the china dishes. As for drinking vessels, we use mostly glass and ceramic. I am working on getting a few more tiny "Todd mugs" from our friend Todd Springer whose mugs have withstood numerous drops to the concrete floor! Leaf can also share her Kleen Kanteens if needed.

A big concern that I am not sure what I will do about is BPA in the lining of canned goods. We have a shelf of canned beans, some pumpkin purees, and a few soups. I have always liked having these on hand for when I haven't soaked beans overnight. I learned that Eden Foods is the only company that has BPA free cans. While I will contact other companies to inquire about their cans, what do I do with the food on our shelf that we have been eating? I think I will use them sparingly, really try to plan meals ahead so that I have time to use the dry beans, and maybe donate some to a food pantry. I do feel a bit strange about giving other people things I do not feel safe using or eating, I have concluded that it probably better for them to at least be eating organic beans instead of the other kinds that may be available to them.

Those are my thoughts on this cold and snowy day. To balance all of the cerebral work, we had a day full of art and tactile bliss~~~~~
baked 3 dozen vegan cookies, 2 loaves of bread ( and Leaf made a mini-loaf), sculpted with beeswax, and painted for 4 hours!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

another small change

My intention for change this last month was to stop the influx of new plastic produce and other food bags into the home. So far.... it's working!! I'm not referring to what we bring the groceries home in, we have been using tote bags and boxes for years; I mean the bags for spinach and dried cherries. I am loving the Ecobags for kale, bulk beets and carrots, herbs, dried beans,.... and they are easy to wash. I am happy to report that I enjoy each time I do NOT reach for a plastic bag. So glad that I finally implemented this overdue change... and that I am no longer washing plastic bags. Ugh. With the addition of a portable dishwasher from J's parents (thank you thank you!), our kitchen is much cleaner. We have a great recycling business locally where I can retire the old plastic bags.

About a week into January, I was inspired by Suzy from HipMountainMama to bring back the family cloth.

Leaf was already using only cloth, a leftover habit from diapers, it only made sense to have the rest of the family on board. I decided to ease into it with just for #1 or for the final cleaning after #2. This can get graphic so I will leave it at that. We have both options set up in the bathroom and a small stainless trash can with a removable bucket for the used cloths. This way, guests can choose their own method, as well. I am pleased with this set-up. So far, our toilet paper consumption has significantly decreased, especially because I drink a lot of tea!

Now we move towards the next month and another small change. There has been a lot of discussion lately about research done on chemical additives in plastics and other products. Noteably, the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck. I am so glad that more people are talking about this. I missed the interview on the Diane Rehm show, but will look for the transcript.
While driving home last week, I began to think about what I have in my household that is "unknown plastic" to me. Not much, but one comment I did catch from the authors is the importance of keeping it away from consumables. Well, the only place we really have plastic is in the "tupperware cupboard." Re-usable food storage containers, or re-used yogurt and other containers. I don't know if these plastics contain harmful and leaching chemicals. Last summer, I moved to storing most leftovers in glass bowls (with plastic lids), and now I will be moving farther with the addition of stainless steel containers. I ordered some and hope to have them tomorrow. I don't think this will be our only change for the month, especially because there is a lot more I need to research, but it is another step. I question the use, procuring, and production of steel as well. With almost anything, I want to know everything I can about it before making a choice I feel I can promote to others. And sometimes all of this thought and time seems ridiculous to me because it feels like it is spent on things. Things that are insignificant in the long run. Not that protecting my family from toxins is insignificant, what I mean is why don't I just go out and carve a bowl from one of the fallen trees near our house? I can go so far with my thoughts that I need to just pull back and recognize that I need to take steps, too.

I will be pondering what other changes I can make towards a truly sustainable lifestyle.

Tonight, we enjoy another meal of leek greens we harvested last spring. Enjoy the picture from then and thoughts of the seeds that are busy within the earth. Now is a perfect time to dance outside, it helps to wake those seeds up and to honor mother earth. I recommend a good stomping dance to celebrate Imbolc!

Friday, January 22, 2010

january picnic

Beautiful days of sunshine, no time for the computer! We spent the day as a family (a rare thing with Jayson's work schedule) creating and laughing. We hiked into our woods and all worked on the "nest," the recent addition to our special space - made from downed branches. I will post pictures when I have some (they are on J's phone). After a magical hike home where Leaf was the Cross Country Cat (yow meow!), we had a picnic in the snow. Such magical and memorable moments. J went to work and Leaf and I sang songs about sunshine for the remainder of the day.

We spent the weekend at the lovely Neahtawanta Inn for a Bioneers planning retreat - the work for the annual October conference is underway!
Today is a gray slushy day, good for baking cookies and reading stories. I usually have somewhat of a slothy day when I return from being away. I enjoy the slow pace and lots of tea!

Monday, January 4, 2010

the crafting day!!

Yesterday was a perfect day for making things. I was prompted into action when my daughter came to me and said, "Snoopy doesn't have a doghouse. Can Mama help Snoopy find his doghouse?" I dove into the recycling, found some sturdy cardboard and we were off!After Snoopy had a new home, it then became necessary to make a home for the fox and the bears. We built a cave out of rocks for the bears, and made a nice nest in a basket "den" for the fox. It was then requested that we have some birdies for the nest, too. After a quick story about foxes and birds, it was decided that the birdies should have their own nest. I took some carded and plant-dyed wool and we wet felted three bluebirds and a nest of their own. It was Leaf's first time felting!

Next, we made some felted food for the dollhouse. The dollies had been getting quite hungry since Christmas. Leaf and I felted 2 apples, 2 oranges, a loaf of bread, and a pumpkin. When they were finished and dried, she told me that the dollies needed a refrigerator for their food. Wow! So into the recycling bag again, and I found a Yogi Tea box. Perfect!

It felt so good to have simple and quick projects with tangible and functional results. I am excited to do more.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

the first loaf

I finally made a loaf of bread using yeast. I bake so often, yet it took me this long! And long it did.... 5 hours! I thought I might be partially insane and not following the steps correctly, but I read them over and over during those five hours. It turned out beautifully (whew!). And came out of the oven ten minutes before Jayson came home. Mmmmmmm, perfect.
My baking is all vegan and sugar-free, usually limiting wheat as well. It has been an on-going experiment in the kitchen with no two batches ever the same. One might think that all of my training as a chemist would lead me to be very precise and scientific about it, taking notes and measuring..... hah! I generally feel like the mad professor put on a homemade apron and began juggling ingredients until the bowl was full. My friends think it's hilarious and have repeatedly asked to come over when I bake. I have even giggled while daydreaming about teaching an intuitive baking class.

Back to the most recent experiment, I mostly followed the directions on the packet of yeast. Since this is an area I have absolutely no experience in, I decided that when dealing with living organisms I should give them the best possible chance for a fulfilling life. 1 cup of flour (whole spelt) mixed with 1 cup of warm water and the packet of dry yeast. Let sit 45 minutes by the woodstove. Play the hilarious new game from Santa (Piscari by HaPe)

and laugh until everyone has tears. Add 2 more cups of flour, 2 Tbs oil, a few pinches of sea salt, and a BIG spoonful of honey! (We love our Bee Guy, Greg, whose bees pollinated our CSA farm this year)

Knead and set aside for 1-2 hours. Read books, paint, do floor puzzles, run to the mailbox and back twice,
hang the laundry, return phone calls, sing songs, write a letter to Great Grandma, open one from her in the mail, eat lunch, watch birds, hang more laundry, sort toy animals, make paper lanterns, then knead the dough and form into a loaf. Drop into a greased pan and place by the woodstove until double in size (about another hour). Make dinner, watch home movies, read another book, make pretend smoothies for the elephant and bear, clean up the toys, take down the laundry, bring in more firewood, shovel the deck for the second time, explain how playclips work, send pictures to Nana and Boo, preheat the oven, and finally bake the bread at 350 for about an hour.

The timing was perfect and the bread delicious... I will post photos when the sun is up.

And the house smells delicious!

Friday, January 1, 2010

1 january 2010

The Gregorian calendar ticks on and here we are. I am feeling oddly comfortable in this new computer world, motivated to write a blog based on a friendly suggestion to make positive and sustainable changes in my life. The strangest part for me is the computer. I lived for so long without one, that I feel (in part) that this is a step backwards in sustainability. However, I did make an agreement with myself to flow with the changing world and work within it. In course, I have changed much, as well.

This One Small Change project/collaboration

helped give me the last nudge to just be done with some things. I was there, but this gives me a concrete and defining moment of change. It also gives me the support of a community, and the accountability to others. Even though my New Year began with the Solstice, I am a student of numerology and appreciate the change in years to mark a new beginning.

With much self and home clean-out to come between now and the Chinese New Year/Spring Festival/Imbolc/Candelmas/(pick your time to begin sprouting your personal seeds)..... I will also make one small change each month that can have great impact as time travels on. My thoughts go around about it. When we take something out, we need to fill that space with something else (i.e. less time on the computer becomes filled with more time playing). So, if we introduce a new behavior, does an old one need to go?

Well, my first change is very simple: I am completely done with bringing home any more plastic bags. We have tote bags we use for groceries and other shopping, we wash and re-use the plastic that does come home,.... but we still end up bringing more home! When I lived alone I was much better about bringing my jars to the food co-op to fill with bulk ingredients, but since I had a family, I find myself sliding in my resolve. There are times when I end up at the market, unprepared, and bring home a new plastic bag of coriander or dried blueberries. Well, the market is carrying Eco-bags produce and grain bags made of organic cotton muslin, as well as glass jars and other receptacles. I will gladly fill one with spinach and never again wash slimy greens from the inside of an old plastic bag. We will no longer have the pile of dirty bags on the counter that everyone saves until last to wash. So, if I find myself at the store, unprepared,.... I suppose if I really want those goji berries I will have to carry them home in my pocket!

Happy new day to all of you, and let's keep the good work going.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead