Archive for January, 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

strays and stays

pillows

Just a couple of quick thoughts here.

On a recent post regarding an undying desire to own a salad spinner (yes, I know, low expectations keep me in check) I received a comment about using a pillow case.  This definitely rang a bell, albeit a really faint one.  I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen it done but it seemed like a familiar idea.

So tonight, when I was cutting up heads of lettuce to prepare for upcoming salads I gave it a spin.  (I get ’em where I can folks.)  Worked like a charm!  I just cut up all my lettuce (those who say you shouldn’t cut lettuce – shoosh, I read a great article that I completely agree with), tossed it in an extra pillow case and shook away.  I ended up with a very wet pillow case and the lettuce appeared none the worse for wear.

Of course it did help that I happened to have enough lettuce to feed 12 people, I don’t know if I would have felt the effort worthwhile for a single dinner salad.  Maybe I can find a smaller pillow case for single servings?  I like that idea.  Although I’m not too keen on the idea of buying used sheets to put my head on, so would I really want to put my food in it?  Either way, thanks for the tip.  A pillow case makes a great lettuce dryer.

♦ ♦ ♦

heavyhaulertruckmaiike

And for all of you who love to shop etsy or your local crafters, artists, etc. for great kids finds you should have no problem finding those handcrafted goodies for another year.  The CPSC has granted a one year stay of testing requirements for all products (clothing included) intended for children 12 and under.  All manufacturers (large and small) must follow the guidelines as set forth but they are not required to submit their products for testing.  Yet.  This is great news for everyone making beautiful, handmade goods that can’t afford thousands of dollars to test the product for lead and such when they know quite well where all the ingredients came from.  A great breakdown of how this will affect everyone is given on the CPSIA Blog-In:

As parents and concerned citizens I’m sure most of us at one time or another have been confronted with the question of lead poisoning.  But have you asked yourself what your government is doing to protect your children from lead contained in toys?  The answer?  They’re banning toys, taking books from schools and libraries, hurting low income families, killing entrepreneurial spirit and risking putting the economy in an even greater depression than we’ve seen in decades.  I’d like to introduce you to their solution: the CPSIA.

Do you know about the CPSIA?  No?  Then I ask you to take a few minutes to find out about it.

The CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of laws that will come into effect on 10 February, 2009 and will impact many, many people in a negative way. Make no mistake, this is very real. View it for yourself. If Forbes, the American Library Association and numerous other media are paying attention, perhaps you should too.

How will these new laws affect you? Well, here are a few examples:

To the Parents of Young Students:
Due to the new law, expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren’t originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under 12.

To the Avid Reader:
Due to the new law, all children’s books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them. That’s okay though, there’s always television. Our children don’t need to learn the love of reading after all.
Article from the American Library Association

To the Lover of All Things Handmade:
Due to the new law, you will now be given a cotton ball and an instruction manual so you can make it yourself since that blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it’s passed testing. It won’t even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.

To the Environmentalist:
Due to the new law, all items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can’t sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can’t even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.

To the Second-Hand Shopper:
Due to the new law, you will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for second hand. Many resale shops are eliminating children’s items all together to avoid future lawsuits.

To the Entrepreneur:
Due to this new law, you will be forced to adhere to strict testing of your unique products or discontinue to make and/or sell them. Small businesses will be likely to be unable to afford the cost of testing and be forced to close up shop. Due to the current economic state, you’ll have to hope for the best when it comes to finding a new job in Corporate America.

To the Antique Toy Collector:
Due to the new law, you’d better start buying now because it’s all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase. “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren’t certified as safe.”

To the American Economy:
Already struggling under an economy that hasn’t been this weak in decades, the American economy will be hit harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake.

To the Worldwide Economy:
Due to this new law, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses.

If you think this is exaggerating, here is a recent article from Forbes

And for those of you prepared to be stupefied and boggled, The New Law

I’m not a preacher, I can’t tell you what to do with this information.  But I’m glad you’ve got it.

[photos: Nova Natural Toys, Maiike]

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Friday, January 30, 2009

a look back

me-mirror

It’s almost the end of the month and it is the end of the week.  It sounds like a good time to take a look at where we’ve been.  Or how far we’ve come.  Or what we’ve done.  Or haven’t done for that matter.  But you get the idea.  We are a month into this here Compact year.  How’s it going so far?

Well, ever since I wrote that post about forgetting my bags I haven’t forgotten my bags.  I guess I just needed to verbalize my issue.  I should keep that in mind.  Maybe I’ll just start writing about all my problems.  Hmm, I might lose a few of you.  I think I’ll stick to the topic at hand.  What was that again?

I’ve also been doing a lot of cooking at home.  And I mean a lot.  More than I ever thought I would want to do.  And guess what?  I’ve been enjoying it!  Shhh, don’t tell my husband.  I cook, he does laundry.  If he thought I enjoyed the cooking we might have to change our deal.  And it works so well for me.  But in addition to actually enjoying my cooking I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can go to the farmer’s market, buy a bunch of different produce and actually make real meals out of it.  It’s kind of a learning curve you know?  I started with fruit and have worked my way up to cabbage, bok choy, various lettuces and so much more!  What’s next?  No, not that.  It won’t happen.  If there is any baking going on it won’t be me.  I’m quite happy with my Organic Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Trader Joe’s.  A handful of those a day and I am golden!

We’ve had to buy four birthday presents this month and I was able to find great gifts (at least I think they were great, I hope the getters did too!) all at our local thrift and consignment stores.  I think we’ve been to Target twice and it was for soap, toothpaste, kleenex (I know, I know, I use hankies but husband just can’t get on that bandwagon, what’s a girl to do?) and Nature Babycare wipes.  All in all, I think we’re doing great on that front.  I was also able to score 11 linen napkins at the flea market last Sunday for only three bucks!  And I really like them to boot!  Got a new (circa 1979) bookshelf to be used as a TV stand in a friend’s apartment too.  A coat of paint and that will be one sweet find.

That friend’s apartment…it’s a design job I’m doing.  More like a favor really.  A favor she’s doing for me.  I’ve wanted to spruce up this place for years.  Now’s my chance.  And my first order of business (after finding the bookshelf) was to select all low VOC (actually Dunn Edwards NO VOC!) paints.  It’s truly the best.  Playing with furniture, fabric and paint in an eco-conscious way with someone else’s money (on a budget – I like a challenge).  This rocks!  Okay, I know that was a major digression.  Back to my Compact accomplishments.  (Wow, does that sound like a pat on my own back!)

We’ve been back to Walser’s with all of our pre-sorted recycling.  Did you know they even take the metal hangers that (annoyingly) come from the dry-cleaners?  They are so great.  Really.  And yes, we dry-clean.  My husband’s work shirts.  I don’t iron.  Not like that anyway.  I know it’s not environmental (although we do try to use the green cleaners) but that’s why I try to do so much else.  I am working to find the balance.  I take small steps.

And to keep things honest and real – I’m ashamed to say I threw away some celery today.  Granted the whole thing only cost me a dollar at the farmer’s market.  But still, I’m not happy about it.  I was making soup and had taken as much as I could use for that already.  The rest was so limp it bent like a willow branch in a strong wind.  I couldn’t think of a use or how to save it until I could think of a use.  I’m sorry.  I feel terrible.  I just thought you should know.

To end on a positive note though, I will say that I am really looking forward to the next month of this adventure.  And the one after that.  And I promise to have more pictures tomorrow.  Pictures make everything so much more fun don’t they?  Well, to hold you over until then I will leave you with this…

what's the message?  no message.  just a pretty picture.

what's the message? no message. just a pretty picture.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

precycling

precycle

According to Wikipedia precycling is a form of waste minimization.  Specifically,

“Precycling is the practice of reducing waste by attempting to avoid bringing into the home or business items which will generate waste.

Those that participate in the precycling movement may carry with them a “precycling kit” when they are outside of their houses. Such a kit might include a re-usable lunchbox, a set of cutlery, a cloth napkin or handkerchief (instead of paper tissues) and a thermos or reusable water-bottle, etc.; all items might be carried in a cloth bag that can double as a shopping bag.

Precycling, then, includes any such attempts to reduce the production of waste.”

I gotta say, I had never heard the word before or really thought that there was a concrete concept to how I try to live.  It’s interesting to find out you are following a dictate without ever having realized the dictate exists.  Does that mean I am very forward thinking or way behind the times?

love these

love these

I spend a fair bit of time with small children and their parents at play dates and such.  It’s always so interesting to me, when I pull out my bambu spork (which I absolutely love by the way) and explain why I use it.  At first it’s “wow, what’s that?” and then a look of complete confusion when I say I use it so I don’t have to use the plastic utensils they have.  Like I don’t get that the plastic is free.  Why wouldn’t I use it if it’s just being given to me?  And I’ve pretty much come to expect this from parents and kids alike.

At least when I pull out my hanky and explain that it belonged to my great-grandmother they just think I’m sentimental.  I’m so much better with that than “crazy lady”.  Although my son is 16 months old and I already have a note to myself to look into bento boxes for when he goes to school.

So maybe crazy isn’t so far off.  Or that bad.  I mean have you seen what you can do with a bento box?

amazing artwork by Sakuraku Kitso

amazing artwork by Sakuraku Kitso

And no, I don’t really expect my son’s lunches will ever look like this.  But I can dream.  I can also dream that one day he might eat such a healthy looking meal.  But that’s another story.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

fun and frugal – what more could you want?

Arctic Circle by Alex Hallatt

Arctic Circle by Alex Hallatt

♦ ♦ ♦

And if that’s not enough for all of you, my favored readers I give you this…

lat-thriftyMan, what a bargain

Typically I will refrain from simply posting links to other stories but I just thought this was too good to pass up.  It actually came to me from my husband.  He might be a little unsure about which bag a particular item of trash get’s recycled into but he is always thinking of you, dear readers.  Or thinking of my thinking of you.  Whichever is the culprit he passes this nugget on and so I give it to you.

A reporter for the Los Angeles Times wrote an article for the Business section about thrift stores.  And this is not the article you might think.  It is not about how well thrift stores are doing in this time of recession and spend-thrift.  Or about how thrift stores are lacking for goods as people are hanging onto their stuff longer instead of replacing everything at break-neck speed.  Both of these may be true, I don’t know, I haven’t done any studies.  Or asked anyone for that matter.  (Digression, I know, I know.)  This great article is about how this particular newsman gets his fabulous, high end, designer wardrobe from thrift stores!  And if you live in the Los Angeles area he even names names!  It makes me want to run out just to see what I can find.

Hey, maybe I can find a Chanel suit and that elusive potato masher!  What’s the best thing you’ve found at a thrifty?

Monday, January 26, 2009

exceptional updates

the ultimate salad spinner

the ultimate salad spinner

It’s that time.  I have found things I can’t live without.  Okay that might be a bit extreme.  But I have thought of some new things to add to the exceptions list.  Of my own ponderings and some recommendations I have the following additions:

  • toddler shoes – although I will continue to hunt and peck through the consignment and thrift store shelves I have also resolved to buy new shoes for Toddler L if need be as foot binding is just not my thing.
  • hardware – this one was less obvious in the beginning but if I need a certain do-hicky/screw/latch thing to fix something I am running straight to my locally owned hardware store (just being ridiculously clear here, you might be saying “duh, no shit sherlock” but I like complete clarity).rings
  • jewelry – now this is a very specific ring so I’m allowing myself a free pass.  When our son was born my husband gave me a ring with his birthstone (the baby’s not my husband’s).  It’s part of a set.  I get jewelry with every labor and delivery.  It’s only fair.  And I’m not letting this one go just because a kid is being born this year.
  • salad spinner – I promise to hit all the nearby thriftys and on-line for this first but if I don’t find it soon I’m going native.  I figure this one eliminates the waste of food so it’s a wash.
  • potato masher – this one follows the same logic as the potato spinner.  I’d love to make mashed potatoes but can’t figure out how without a way to mash the suckers.

That’s it.  I think.  What do you think?  Is it just that I’m losing my resolve already?  Or have I found some justifiable needs?  Are these things my shower curtain?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

how much would you change?

Artwork by Aaron Piland

Artwork by Aaron Piland

What if your electric company said they were going to help you get smart?  I think mine is about to.  I could use the help right now.  I was part of a focus group yesterday discussing energy, technology, conservation and the like.  From what I gather my dear (read: monopoly) SoCal Edison is looking into the feasibility of the Smart Meter.  What Ed is proposing is a meter that is installed inside your home that can tell you in real-time information what your electricity usage is and offer financial information so you may opt to change your usage to cheaper times of day.  It would also automatically tell them when your house was experiencing a power outage.  So they could fix it of course.  Maybe they will actually get to you before all the meat in the fridge spoils next time.

SmartMeter

SmartMeter

Does this sound big brother-ish to you?  Remember, you have a meter on your home giving you (and them) your usage information already.  But this would be IN your home.  For you to see.  For everyone to see.  Would you feel the need to hang a cloth over the thing if a friend came over and laundry was going at 2 o’clock in the afternoon in July and your meter was spiking through the roof?

Personally I think we’re pretty safe.  For now.  We don’t have a dishwasher.  Or a washer/dryer.  Or any major appliances that run on electricity.  Other than the fridge.  I guess I could benefit from knowing how much my usage spikes from me standing there staring at the contents waiting for inspiration at lunchtime.  I’m guilty, I know.  But we turn all the lights off all the time and we only run a small space heater in the nursery and our bedroom during the hours we are sleeping and only on the really cold nights.  It’s something right?

I’m all for more information = more power but apparently Ed is still weighing the options.  Would it matter to you?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

now what?

I broke a glass.  Not really a big deal right?  Unless you’re like me and are ubber-design conscious about every fork, dish and cup in your house.  I have a set of 12 matching all white dishes – plates, cups, saucers, the whole bit.  I have 12 glass dessert bowls to match.  I have 6 white soup tureens, matching egg cups and salt cellars.  It may be an obsession but I like things to match.  And I like white dishes with simple, clear glasses.  Like this:

a mid-size glass works for anything

a mid-size glass works for anything

So 20 days into my Compact I broke a glass.  Now I don’t know if I should replace it (buy new, search eBay for a $4.95 Crate&Barrel glass, buy one that doesn’t match – Uggh!) or have 5 matching glasses.  Even just saying that sounds wrong.  Five glasses.  Things like that come in even numbers.  It’s just the way it works.  I know I’m letting you in on my neurosis.  You can leave now if you like.  But before you do, can you tell me what I should do?

Also, before you go, I have to mention my visit to Recess.  What a treat!  If you’re in the LA area and want a great manicure or pedicure I highly recommend this chill, lovely space.  If you are green-minded like I am I can only recommend this place.  If you’re not in LA, love a good mani/pedi and are green-minded like I am maybe you should start your own Recess.  Just don’t forget who gets a discount for life, right?  And remember, DON’T THROW AWAY YOUR OLD NAIL POLISH, IT’S TOXIC!  RECYCLE!!

Now you can go.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

climate change and funny penguins

Arctic Circle by Alex Hallatt

Arctic Circle by Alex Hallatt

Monday, January 19, 2009

catalog choice

catalog-choiceFor those of you that don’t already know, you have a choice.  Well, you have lots of choices actually, but the choice I’m referring to is whether to browse through all those catalogs that only make you depressed because you wo n’t be buying anything from them any time soon.  Yes, you can get them and immediately hide them under your bed.  That is one option.  A better one might be Catalog Choice.  At least it’s better for the tree that made the catalog that made you feel lousy.  Head over to Catalog Choice, register (yes it’s free, yes it means giving your personal info. but that’s already out there isn’t it? – on the back of that catalog you don’t want) and just say no.

It takes a few weeks for the ball to get rolling so if you are one of those lucky ones that gets a catalog from the same company every week you will still get some before they stop.  And if you’re one of those people that gets catalogs from Liberty Street Stamp Collecting or Cool Widgets You Gotta Have you may have to contact the company directly.  Catalog Choice works with a huge selection of businesses but some of the more “unique” houses just aren’t listed yet.  But go anyway.  Try it.  Your mail carrier will thank you.  Maybe they’ll even be giving you a gift next Christmas.

I’m headed there now.  Goodbye hanna Andersson.  Don’t take it personally.  I just won’t be shopping with you this year.  So I don’t want to see all the adorable children wearing your coordinated plaid hats and courduroy jumpsuits.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

do giveaways count?

giveaway

There are so many things for me to still figure out about how this year is going to work.  I do my best to hold seanses and go back to the night the San Francisco group began The Compact in 2006 to see what they were talking about.  It hasn’t worked yet but I’m still trying.  To me, they were like the tribal council.  The rules were set and if you wanted or needed something you could present it to them and yea or nea you could get it. I know the exceptions of The Compact are individual and what you need them to be.  But what would they think? I miss that tribal council.  Now the followers have grown in such large numbers it’s hard to get a consensus.  I love the story of how one of the original group needed to buy a new shower curtain liner.  The council said “no”.  Word was put out among the tribe and a liner was found.  I know, I know, there’s Craigslist, Freecycle, thrift stores… But it’s not the same as working within a small community.

define free

define free

I would love to ask that original group “what about giveaways?”  I know The Compact is about not spending as much money but isn’t it also about addressing our overtly consumer-istic ways?  Yes, a giveaway is getting something for free.  Always nice.  But doesn’t it also say “Go ahead, keep producing mass quantities of stuff, we’ll take it if it’s free”?  Or is this one of those be strong, become a better person life-lessons where I’m supposed to only put my name in if it’s something my family really needs?  I don’t know if I have that much restraint.  Have you seen some of the giveaways today?  Just today I put my name in for a beautiful Whustof Santoku knife (it’s an investment piece, a need really) and a Wii Fit (I didn’t know I would still have to buy the Wii.  Now I hope I don’t win.)

Obviously I haven’t made the decision whether giveaways count for me.  I’m still struggling with that.  Maybe another seanse will help.  Will you hold my hand and say “Ooooohmmm”?