Saturday, April 28, 2012

This and that

I'm trying to keep up guys, I swear. But before I get to blog, I have to catch up with my own life first... so let's do it together, shall we?

First, my daughter turned 12 a few weeks ago. I planned on writing a whole post about that but time has passed and I still haven't been able to get a good photo of her birthday necklace. That was our idea for keeping the overload of presents down when she decided to invite her friends over: a birthday necklace. We asked that in lieu of a gift, every friend was to bring one special bead so that she could make a necklace out of all of the beads. It was quite a good idea (if I do say so myself!) and I will certainly try to find a reason to post a photo of it down the line. The party was an evening cookout and bonfire and we totally lucked out with a beautiful day for it in mid April! I was only a little concerned about how the girls would react to our zero waste attempt at a big group meal, but I don't think anyone even batted an eye.
Before we ate, I explained to all of the girls that we don't use disposable products in our house. I told them that they could serve themselves whatever they wanted, and when they were done they could give any scraps to the dog (I deliberately didn't feed him much during the day) and then take their plates inside and wash them. You know what? They all did it! It's not that I'm surprised really, the kids in my daughter's class are all great kids... but it was so nice to come into the house and find a dish drain filled with clean plates! Very helpful.
Cups and water were set out with labels so that everyone would know which cup was theirs. We also had spritzers in cans which were redeemed the next day at work.

And of course, we had cake and marshmallows.

Overall, it was a hit. And I had most everything cleaned up pretty quickly before I went to bed.


My kids have also been growing and it has come time once again for clothes and shoe shopping (woohoo). I am grateful that they all understand why we don't buy things new and are learning the ways of shopping at second hand stores. There was also a bi-annual kids consignment sale that even had clothes that fit my 14 year old boy - if you have an older boy, you know that most clothes don't make it to become second hand in decent condition, so this was certainly a score.
I found my youngest a pair of shoes that match his older brother's shoes exactly:
So freaking cute.

We also hit a salvation army, which I didn't have high hopes of when we first walked in... but we actually found exactly what my oldest needed: a suit jacket for his graduation in June and a pair of skinny jeans that fit him (I know, I know... ridiculous). We found more too, but those were the important things.

We do have a rule though, if you bring "new" stuff in, you must get rid of older stuff. Ideally one to one, but sometimes I make my daughter purge more... it's so easy to find her hand me downs and good second hand stuff that she has way more than she needs most of the time - plus, I love being able to pass her older stuff on to certain friends that I know will give them a new life with their daughters.


One thing that has been happening recently that I hesitate to mention is that customers have been giving me gifts. Now, normally I wouldn't accept gifts from customers because it's doesn't really feel right, but these have been odd circumstances where accepting was pretty much unavoidable.

One day I was helping a customer to her car and when she opened up her amazingly clean and pristine trunk, there was one lone bag in there. I put the box of groceries in and she picked the bag up and told me that it was a neck pillow that she had bought but never used - would I find someone who could make use of it? At first I was going to turn her down, but she looked so desperately like she needed it out of her life... and at the same moment I had a flash of how my kids fight over the one neck pillow that we keep in our car for when we traveled... so I politely accepted it. She was so pleased! My kids were too, consequently (it's much nicer than the one we have).

Another day, a customer was complaining about having too many cards in his wallet. So may cards! He pulled them out to show me, he was visibly annoyed by them all. Then he told me that most of them were gift cards that people give him. He grabbed a random one to a local package store (if you aren't from MA, that's like a liquor store that sells everything) and told me that he doesn't even drink. Trying to be polite, I asked him what he was going to do with it then... and he handed it to me and asked me to please make use of it. Once again I went to say "no thank you" but he really didn't want it. He told me that I could throw it away or give it to someone if I didn't want it... so of course I had to take it. What the heck.

And then just last Sunday I was having a random conversation with a customer while I was working at the front desk. We were talking about birthdays and when he found out that mine was two days after Christmas, he instantly had sympathy (that I no longer ask for by the way - I'm over it)... he looked thoughtful and then drifted out the front door without saying goodbye. Ok, whatever. People come and go all day and you never know what to expect.
And then, just like that, he returned and put a bunch of tulips in my hand while I was busy chatting with another customer. And then he was gone.
I didn't even get a chance to turn this one down, and I'm glad.
Happy spring to everyone!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I have to start this post by telling you about my friend Alana. She just wrote this amazing book that speaks to me more than she might realize. It's all about making things at home instead of buying them already made.
Here, meet her herself:

I have to say that I feel a special connection to Alana since she and her husband used to live in our house - they had their first child in our recording studio even. I am also very honored that Alana used one of my favorite recipes in her book!

But enough about that, let's talk about marshmallows.

Alana's book came out last week and I bought it right away. I flipped through the pages in awe of the things that I now feel even more empowered to make. I went to her book signing where she served a few of the tasty snacks from her book (and some maple popcorn too!) - and that's where I had the marshmallow. See, my daughter's birthday is on Saturday and we decided to have a cookout and bonfire for her party. As I bit into that marshmallow I realized that bonfires required marshmallows and that I had been subconsciously ignoring that fact until just that moment.

So, I went home and opened the book and tried my first attempt at making my own marshmallows.
Besides having to shop somewhere other than my cozy co-op for the ingredients, it was easier than it seemed. The end result was pretty satisfying, if I do say so myself... although, I can certainly see how this particular recipe will only get easier and tastier the more that I make it.
Here they are, 63 delicious marshmallows waiting patiently for Saturday to come (there were 64, but we has to try one of course). Obviously I can't give the recipe away since it's in this newly released book, but you can buy the book yourself and make your own!

Now, how do I keep the troops from testing a few before Saturday??
Thanks Alana!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Natural egg dying

Ultimately, I'd like to bypass the obligation of holidays these days... but that's pretty lame of me so I suck it up and make the best of each one that comes. I try to keep them as simple as possible and with minimal waste.

Easter is one of those holidays that I tried to ignore, but of course my 5 year old is excited about it. Egg dying, egg hunts and chocolate... ok, I can make this work without making a big deal of it. I do have to work on Easter, but I don't mind. I will make time in the morning to satisfy the 5 year old's needs for the day, then be glad that I don't have to cook a... ham? I think that's what people eat on this holiday. The more simplistic I try to make our lives, the less I understand some of these holidays or the need for them. That sounds kind of scrooge-like, I know - but really I feel like we should be celebrating life and nature always. Appreciate things in every moment, why only once a year?

Anyhow, you might have been hoping to read about egg dying, not my philosophy on life, so I will move on.

I decided that it was time to start working on my natural egg dying skills, which, until now, didn't exist. As always, I try to take the simplest (ok, easiest) route, so I opted to only dye two colors: yellow and blueish teal (or whatever color it turns out as. I basically went for the colors that involved ingredients that were cheapest and easiest for me to grab.

Before I tell you about my experience, let me start by sharing a decent chart of natural ingredients that work for egg dying (taken from this blog):

LavenderSmall Amount of Purple Grape Juice
Violet Flowers + 2 tsp Lemon Juice
Red Zinger Tea bags (Celestial Seasoning brand)
Violet BlueViolet Flowers (no lemon juice)
Red Onion Skins (boiled)
Red Wine
Hibiscus Tea
BlueCanned Blueberries
Large Amount of Purple Grape Juice

Red Cabbage Leaves (boiled)
GreenSpinach Leaves (boiled)
Fresh Basil (boiled)
Greenish YellowYellow Delicious Apple Peels (boiled)
Fresh Parsley (boiled)
YellowChamomile Tea
Orange or Lemon Peels (boiled)
Celery Seed (boiled)
Ground Cumin (boiled)
Ground Turmeric (boiled)
Green Tea

Carrot Tops (boiled)
Golden BrownDill Seeds
BrownStrong or Instant Coffee
Black Walnut Shells (boiled)
Black Tea
OrangeYellow Onion Skins (boiled)
Carrots (boiled)
Chili Powder
PinkRed Grape Juice
Fresh Cranberries / Cranberry Juice
Juice from jar of Pickled Beets
Lots of Red Onions Skins (boiled)
Canned Cherries with Juice
Pomegranate Juice

I decided to use turmeric and red (purple) cabbage. I start by boiling both ingredients in separate pots. It would have been cool to do a third pot with both of them together to make another color - I will experiment more next time.
Once it had boiled, I cooled it down with ice to move things along and drained them, then transferred them to bowls.
As you can see, we used brown eggs for this experiment. I think that next time I will try and buy the organic free range white eggs before they sell out at our co-op, but meanwhile I'm not entirely disappointed with the results from the brown eggs. However, white would have been much more impressive for sure.

Once transferred to bowls, you will need to add approximately one tablespoon of white vinegar for each cup of liquid that you have. My daughter pulled out her caran d'ache crayons to draw on the eggs before we dropped them in the dye, which was a nice touch on the end. Once we dropped them in, I was glad that I had chosen large bowls because I realized that they would have to sit there for a lot longer then when we used to use those commercial egg dyes. In fact, I decided that it would be best if they just sat in the dye in the fridge overnight.
In case anyone is curious, six eggs fit nicely in one wide mouth mason jar... you might even be able to fit a few more. I think I might just put the dye right in the jars next time and plan for overnight dying in the fridge for maximum color.

This morning when I took them out, I decided to add one more color to the mix - I poured some red wine into a bowl, added vinegar and dropped a few of each of the eggs in there to see what would happen. Once again, white eggs would have made a huge difference, but it still added a nice subtle red shade to what we had. I wouldn't suggest leaving eggs in the wine for too long, I noticed that it starts to take off color a bit.
Here is what we ended up with. I kind of like them actually... and I look forward to more natural egg dying in the future! I can see that this is an art that I might just have to master.