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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

The Pantry

It was a productive Saturday!

I spent Saturday cleaning out my bedroom and kitchen. I sorted out clothes I haven’t worn for two years to give to charity, and a few nice pieces to pass on to a person who has lost a huge amount of weight and some pieces in my “in case I lose weight” pile might fit her.

The reason it is important to clean out my bedroom closets – aside from the fact that last time I went out it took me over an hour of trying on clothes to find something that looked good and fit – is that I have food stored in one of the closets. I have 20 pounds of rice, and sealed containers of flour and sugar and extra bottles of water, jars of jellies and stored in there, and I needed to rotate some of this.

The next order of business was cleaning out my pantry. Now, I am fortunate that I have a fairly large pantry with deep shelves for food. I do not have a walk-in pantry, as a friend of mine does, but, alas, we do what we can. I have put in additional shelves so I can make the most out of the space I have available.

Shelf by shelf I went through my pantry and threw away items that had expired. One that had never been opened but had expired in 2005, one a box of pancake mix that had expired in 2007 and something that did not have an expiration date on it, but it didn’t look quite “normal.” Also to go, a bag of sugar that never made it into a sealed container and had formed itself into a rock.

Then I placed like items together. The higher shelf had “baking” items on it. Things like sugar, flour, corn meal, brown sugar, oils, boxed brownie mix (I know, bad for me, but I love chocolate and it is easy to make) and my back-up coffee (mostly because there was space and it is not something I grab on a regular basis.)

The next shelf is for pasta and other starches. Since pasta has a long shelf life (up to seven years in air tight containers), I have purchased a large amount of it during the 10 for $10 sales at a local grocer. I have several large food grade storage containers and in each container I have placed a different type of pasta – at least the kinds I use a lot. I can get 20 boxes of spaghetti into one of the containers, and all the containers stack well, so it is a real space saver. I also purchased pasta sauce on sale, and it has another year until it expires. Also on this self are containers of rice, barley, beans, split peas, dried tomatoes, and cheap storage boxes filled with packaged items like roman noodles, cornbread mixes, and other easy to make items I have acquired over the years. I could probably live for two months on the food on this shelf alone!

The next shelf contains canned soups – all purchased on sale (50 cents a can). I can easily store 88 cans of soup on this shelf. This shelf is where I keep the canned tuna and cranberry sauce (the shelf is for shorter cans) and a long thin box where I keep tons of microwave popcorn. OK, perhaps you see a trend here – Julia Child I’m not!

The next shelf is for canned veggies, tomatoes, broths, and all things that were “canned” and are in jars.

Finally, there is the misc. shelf that has all things tall – like jars of peanut butter, oatmeal, containers of powdered hot chocolate, individual packets of flavored oatmeal given to me by a friend who decided she didn’t like it, and other misc. “boxed” food things.

Once I organized these shelves, I began making notes about what I needed to better use some of these foods, or items I was running low on. I also noted that I could free up space for things I really like once I ate things that I had forgotten I had (perhaps because they weren’t my most favorite food.)

This cleaning project also got me thinking about the foods I eat and how much processed stuff I still have in my kitchen. I’m slowly learning how to fix foods that use more fresh foods, but it is a matter of changing habits – and that takes time. Now, let’s not get crazy here – I’m never going to part with my macaroni and cheese in a box, microwave popcorn, or powdered hot chocolate mix. But, there are other items which I hope to eventually have fresh or fresh frozen rather than from a can.

Next I cleaned out my spice drawer. Yes, I think it is funny that I have a spice drawer when I don’t cook – but I have lots of them, and actually found two or three of some items I’ve never used. I tossed all but one of each spice, and checked expiration dates and tossed those that had expired years and years ago. Now my once full drawer now has a single row of spices, names facing up, so I can see what I have and perhaps learn how to use them.

When all that was done, I fixed myself a bowl of microwave popcorn, a mug of hot chocolate, sat in front of my fireplace and watched a little television. I figured I had earned the break.

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OK, after my comments yesterday I pulled the sheets off the line in the afternoon and they were bone dry… and they smell so good! I decided I didn’t want to have to tumble dry unless I really had no other choice. So, today was another low humidity day and slightly warmer so I did another load, and this time I grabbed some of those reusable gloves people sometimes wear to wash dishes (I use for cleaning out the gutters – and had a new pair available). These kept my fingers away from the water and cold, and I was able to line dry my jeans, sweatshirts and sweatpants. They are taking a little longer than the sheets – but they should be dry soon.

Yes, line drying in the winter is doable – just not as enjoyable as during the spring, summer and fall.

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Line Drying in the Winter

It is 15 degrees outside – with a negative 1 degree windshield – and I took a few wet sheets outside to dry on the line.

THIS IS INSANE!

OK, those of you who do this on a regular basis… how do you manage without freezing your fingers with the wet fabric? I was only out for a few minutes and only had three large sheets to hang, and by the time I got back inside I thought my poor fingers were going to fall off. The knit gloves I was wearing did me very little good.

I have one sheet hanging in my sunroom on a line, and several towels and pillowcases hanging off of hangers in the laundry room. It is about time to do jeans and sweatshirts, and I’m not sure how I will dry all of these smaller pieces inside – or handle them outside with the cold.

I may very possibly break down and take my wet laundry to the laundry mat to dry, which really defeats the purpose of me not having a dryer.

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It is January – a new year! The sun is shining and even though it is three (3) degrees outside, I am thinking about GARDENING.

It seems to fit – a new year, new beginnings, the possibilities of a new garden and all the wonderful tasty foods that can be grown.

Yes, I am looking forward to the next time I can get out and look at the vegetable seeds available in the stores. And, in a few weeks, I will plant the tomato and pepper seeds and set them in my sunroom so they will get a nice long growing season.

On this cold January day, thoughts of gardening warms my soul.

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Warm Gifts

Yesterday a friend of mine gave me a scarf she had just finished crocheting. Crocheting is a new activity for her – but the short scarf was very well made, and rather stylish. The best part… it was made from recycled soda bottles! She saved me the yarn wrapper to show me.

I remember as a child reading the Little House series. I couldn’t understand how the children could be excited about warm socks or a scarf. I now appreciate such things – especially when the gift is made or given because it really represents who I am. The scarf is so warm, it may never leave my neck.

Also, yesterday, I was given a small space heater. It had made its way to the church from the home of a member of the church who had recently died. In attempting to clean out the store room (so I could access items in it) I came across this heater. I asked the rector if she wanted it in her office (she freezes) – but she said her office was fine and didn’t want it – and she told me to take it if I could use it… and I can. I will close off my newly insulated office and be able to heat just the small space in which I spend so much of my time. All this in an attempt to reduce my carbon footprint.

Now, for those who may have followed my blog for a while may know, I keep the temp in my house in the low to mid 50’s during the winter. Most of my friends and chosen family know this about me, and while they give me grief for it and won’t visit during the colder months of the year, they also support this decision by passing along used warm socks and sweaters to wear. They know I appreciate the recycling factor involved in passing on clothing that one probably won’t wear again. Other than a few “personal” items and two blouses, I haven’t purchased any clothing for 5 years. This, quite frankly, is fine with me since I truly hate to shop!

This year the few gifts I do give will be much like other years: gift certificates for me to perform a task for the recipient. One friend specifically asked that his gift be a gift certificate to tear out all the old caulking on his tub, clean the area well and apply new caulking. In the past I’ve given gift certificates for landscaping or the crafting of a wooden bed frame and headboard.

If you can cook, a gift of a special meal is a wonderful gift, if you have music to share – share it.

Whatever holiday you may be celebrating during this last month of the year, have a joyous time and try and stay warm 🙂

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Well, the mild weather we have had here in St. Louis has given way to cold and freezing rain and lots of wind. We are expecting snow today.

As is usual for me during the winter, I have my thermostat turned to 52 degrees. I bundle indoors an have two tied quilts (made for my by my grandmother) and a comforter on my bed (which to me is the most comfortable way to sleep!)

On Sunday I was at church and it felt like I was in a roasting pan. Yes, I have gotten fairly comfortable in my 52 degree house, so when I go places that have the heat set on 68 degrees I am most uncomfortable. And, I had shed down to just one layer in preparation for the warmer temps – and it was still uncomfortable. Today I will be visiting my 100-year-old lady, and she keeps her house at about 75 degrees during the winter. I think I will wear a tee-shirt under my sweater and peel down to just the tee while I am there.

My office is feeling much tighter and warmer since friends and I insulated it a few months ago, I still don’t have all the new boards in around the window to add additional insulation (I’ve been busy and haven’t taken the time to purchase these) – so I have put up plastic over the single pain glass and metal windows. It helps. I still haven’t found my hair dryer… I’m not sure I own one anymore.

My toes have been cold lately walking around the house. Then I realized that I was still wearing my Crocs – those comfy shoes (that I live in) with all the holes in them. Great sole insulation, but lets a lot of cold air in through the top of the shoe. I think I need to invest in slippers with thick soles. A friend of mine who also works at home and keeps her house on the cold side wears insulated winter boots in the house all day.

Some days I take short walks in the back yard to collect fallen branches and twigs for kindling for future winter fires. I snap them into smallish pieces and put them into a old yard cart that I destroyed a number of years ago – one I have drilled holes in for water drainage so I can keep the kindling fairly dry outside near the house. Actually, it’s not a tough task – I have been picking up branches all year long and putting them in the back of the property – so all I have to do is wander over there and snap away.

I admit, I am already thinking about what plants to start from seed again. January can’t come soon enough!

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To follow is a post I wrote about this time of year two years ago. Since then my grandmother has died and I have explained how she made her tied quilts.

I love quilts – they are the ultimate form of recycling and they are just plain WONDERFUL!

…………….

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is that I start using all of my quilts.

I am most fortunate that my grandmother (who is also grandmother to 53 others) loved to make quilts – and I have been a fortunate recipient of two of them. Most of her quilts were “tied” quilts – basically two large pieces of fabric (usually flat sheets) with batting or older blankets that were worn and torn in the middle, and then with her cardboard template she would pull yarn through all the pieces and tie it with a knot, leave about an inch of yarn and cut. Many times I would help her with this. The true skill came in the hemming – all done by hand – and all done in one evening. Her nimble fingers would make quick work of that project. I have one which she did for my 16th birthday and one from my wedding (she didn’t approve, but still sent a quilt). I even have a quilt framing rack just like my grandmother’s that my grandfather made for me before he died, and I really need to take it out, set it up, and start making my own quilts.

I also have a friend who quilts. She made a beautiful quilt for her daughter and when her daughter didn’t want it anymore I offered to take if off her hands. It is the newest and the largest of the quilts I own.

My chosen mother had a number of very old and worn quilts that her mother and grandmother made for her. When she downsized, she gave them to me. I also use these from time to time.

Quilts are comfy and cozy and cause no additional carbon emissions. In many cases, quilts are the ultimate form of recycling. They can be used over and over and provide the same warmth… the heat from the furnace is here, and then gone, and then new heat is generated. Quilts (once purchased or received) are free warmth. They are fun to share with others, too.

So grab a quilt and someone you love and share that heat!

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