Laundry, Revisited

With the start of school, we are all still adjusting to the new schedule and routine change. Like most teachers….I’ve been exhausted.

That exhaustion just seems to compound itself…..I’ve been getting home late, skipping a run, and going to bed as early as I can.

Then last week, I got a sore throat and a nice head cold – started losing my voice – and I started going to bed even earlier…

(ya, gotta love the reintroduction of about a million little kid germs into your life…)

So even though I’ve been having ideas for blog posts on an almost daily basis….the blog’s been one of the furthest things from my mind.

Besides the slight guilt about not maintaining it.

But let’s get into the main topic of today – it’s Laundry, Revisited.

See, in the past month or so – we’ve finally gotten to our last bottle of laundry detergent.

Ok…that picture doesn’t accurately represent that it’s our last bottle of detergent, but I’m not really sure how to show that. But it is! Trust me!

Not only is the beginning of the school year exhausting (at least for this teacher), but the added stress had led to doing some online retail therapy. I’ve actually been window shopping necklaces on Etsy – but then I’m like “eh, I don’t need one and shouldn’t spend the money on it…”

And then I go and buy something of the zero waste variety, because that’s “useful”.

Yes….I am well aware of the irony and irrational-ness of my thoughts.

Even though I would really have liked to have gotten an oxidizer so I would never have to buy laundry detergent again, we’ve had the common homeowner excitement of having necessary, expensive repairs happen in groups of 3 recently, so I didn’t feel it was the best time for that kind of splurge.

So I went with the EcoEgg.

They used to have a lavender scented one which I could no longer find since when I first looked at them last winter, so I went with the Spring Blossom.

When I first opened the box, the smell was a little overwhelming but a few loads in, there’s no noticeable smell.

Granted, my sore throat – possibly transitioning to a sinus infection right now – and head cold has made me stuffed up so perhaps it is still overwhelming and we’re all walking around smelling like this completely artificial bouquet of flowers.

The EcoEgg is small – it fits in my hand – and the ease of just tossing it into the laundry basin is pretty sweet.

It’s full of these little detergent pellets – one bag of these dark gray…tourmaline? pellets that never get replaced and then filled the rest of the way with the white detergent pods. Those get replaced as they disintegrate and then you can continue to buy replacement pellets.

I believe those plastic bags are recyclable with the flimsy plastic recycling at grocery stores (but I’m not 100% on that…).

So far, it’s been great. I mean, it’s not like my clothes are literally sparkling when I pull them out, but I haven’t noticed a difference in the look or feel of my clothes. Which is awesome. And I’m hoping that this $35 EcoEgg will literally last for 3-4 years and the 720 loads it says it will (not that I will track all those loads…I mean, I love data as much as the next special education teacher, but that’s just…..yeah….)

Additionally, I cut out fabric softener years ago and we’ve never really been a fabric sheet kind of family.

In the fall, my mom and I like to go to several big craft shows and we recently went to the Yankee Peddler festival with all of our sisters (well, minus one of her sisters who we really missed).

That’s not the point. I’ve been wondering about using some of my wool fabric scraps and trying to make my own dryer balls.

Well we were at the Yankee Peddler and we came to one of my favorite tents with all of these cute, little ladies all spinning wool in their period costumes. Last year, I chatted with them for a long time and ended up buying my own wool roving to felt my own soap (which I did and it was a really cool experience!) and I enjoyed their conversation so much.

So this year, I bought some more roving from them (blue this time, last year I bought white and green) and I saw that they had dryer balls for sale. I was planning on making my own, but I thought of my exhaustion levels and my lack of time and the fact that I would really love to support the cute little ladies who spin wool together and have fun with it and will talk at length with strangers and tell them how to felt their own soap and dye wool…..so it didn’t take me long to decide to buy 3:

We have an interesting situation with our dryer. Our dryer vent is open and close to the ground…..and we believe earlier in the spring/summer…..we maybe had a chipmunk crawl into the dryer vent….and….die.

And we know this because there was a funk and my husband took apart the vent and found some bones….

Yep….apparently that’s a thing.

Even with cleaning it out, there’s still a lingering funk.

I’ve been putting drops of lavender essential oil on each of my wool dryer balls before tossing them in, which helps a little with the funk, and I’ve noticed the clothes are a little less static-ey. But after going so long without using dryer sheets or fabric softener, I don’t know if I’ve noticed a difference.

The last thing that I want to transition is finding a zero waste stain remover. I still have a bottle of Shout spray that I’ve been using and I previously made a recipe on Pinterest using blue dawn dish soap to help with stains, but I’d like a bar of stain removing soap that is already available and I can use it in the moment.

So far, the prices seem to range from like $20 to $6 for zero waste stain removers, but my search has just begun. If anyone happens to know of a good one – I’m all ears.

It feels good that a zero waste laundry routine is feeling within reach. Slow transitions, but good transitions. 🙂

Next goal transition – become accustomed to being back at work so I’m not exhausted by 6 PM each night.

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Straws for Sea Turtles

Today I had the opportunity to hand out reusable straws in the Lyndhurst Home Days parade.

It’s funny because I didn’t know where the parade was or what it was for until I arrived this morning.

My sister was walking in the parade with her church and when I was worried about being able to get rid of my reusable produce bags after being denied at different grocery stores, she mentioned this parade as an option.

Then the produce bags flew off the tables and encouraged me to sign up for my last do-gooder grant of 2019 quickly so I could hand them out at this parade.

I wanted to do reusable straws. Since I didn’t know the name of the parade, it was marked on my calendar as “Straw Parade”.

Compared to my turn around time with my last do-gooder project, this had a fast production. I knew what I wanted to buy – I found the straws and brushes I wanted quickly, calculated the number of sets of straws and brushes I needed faster than one of the nerds on the Big Bang Theory, and I was able to format a new smaller flier super fast.

I didn’t use my seed money for the fliers and opted to print them at home since they were all black & white and I was able to fit 4 to a page. I really wanted to maximize the amount of straws I could hand out, in order to promote zero waste and change everyone for the betterment of the planet. And the sea turtles.

School had started and to be honest, with the start of the school year…..my stress level has increased….causing an uptick in the amount of online shopping I’ve been doing.

There seems to be a package arriving daily at my house and I don’t always remember what it is, until I open the package.

So when this big, heavy box was sitting on my kitchen table….and I had no idea what was in it….I had a brief wondering that maybe I really should seek some medication or professional help for my memory….

I bought 20 boxes of these reusable straws from Amazon and I bought extra brushes too since through discussions, we thought people needed a way to clean them and not get disgruntled with their free reusable straws and complain about them on social media.

Now there’s no excuse angry people on social media!

Some of the items came wrapped in plastic…..sigh……

But they were a most beautiful rainbow bouquet of straws! I kind of wanted to put them in a vase and admire them on my dining room table for awhile.

Putting the silicone tips on the straws and wrapping them and tying these tiny little bows with my hemp string ball that’s leftover for my teens/20’s was no small feat. I started wrapping them last weekend and had to force myself to do a box or two each night this week (hence the lacking blog posts) and thankfully my husband started helping too, which sped up the process.

My thumbs still hurt though.

I went with one tall, one short, one straight, one bent straw per pack and a straw brush, so each person got 2 straws. They looked like this:

I was anxious before the parade because I knew people would probably decline them and as we turned the corner at the start of the parade, my comforting thought was, “well….when I have extras – I can always take them to work because I know there would be lots of people who would like them there.”

And I think we were just both excited to get out and do some good and promote something that we both believe in.

The first couple of people on my side seemed interested and there were a few “what a great idea! this is amazing!” comments which made my heart happy.

I came up to some dudes and I offered them to the first guy I came to, “Would you like some reusable straws?” and he declined – but all the next 4 people took them. While I was handing them out to those people, the first guy walked over to me and was like, “Actually I would really like those!”

And I knew we had a hit on our hands.

Especially when I looked at my sister across the street getting mobbed by a group of teenage girls who wanted to choose the colors of their straws. I barely eeked out a picture as the girls were walking away from her.

We had people asking for an extra set for their children – people were saying things like, “They come with a straw so we can clean them??? Awesome!” “I can throw these in my purse!” “I’m saving a sea turtle!” We even had people getting out of the floats around us to ask for some.

Soon we were at least 100 meters behind our designated float area and we barely made it through one third (maybe even a quarter) of the people watching the parade.

So at the end of the parade, where everyone was sitting because it was close to the festival, I was just this weird lady with a toddler on her back who was picking up candy in the middle of the street for her children.

I think both my sister and I were really encouraged by doing good and the reception the straws received. I told her next year, she should spearhead this as a project for her church and add in their church flier with the zero waste flier. And since it’s a Lutheran church, more people have the opportunity through Thrivent to get these small grants so they could do a bunch of mini-zero waste projects for the parade.

Even 8 months into this journey, I still feel awkward sometimes when I am in public doing zero-waste things, but this is just more reinforcement to be an example for everyone and to keep promoting the small things that people can do to make a positive impact for the planet.

A Hodge Podge of Zero Waste

After a summer of nearly no writing at all, it’s time for some updates of this journey.

This morning, my husband was a sweetheart and let me sleep in. In fact, I woke up to my 4 year old setting my yellow yarn skein for reusable water balloons on my belly and saying something along the lines of, “Mommy, you need to get started making balloons.”

In my head, I wanted to gently push him aside with my foot, but nothing was functioning on my body at that point except for my ability to produce drool and flutter my eyelids as I came out of a dream of my Superintendent coming up behind me without me knowing while teaching a lesson and yelling at my students.

#teachernightmares

Actually – side note – I don’t watch zombie movies because when I watched 28 Days Later, I had dreams for months of being trapped in school as a substitute during a zombie apocalypse.

Ahem….

But today we had a family reunion in the Toledo area on what would have been my Grandmother’s 98th birthday. I used the time in the car to crochet with my yellow yarn.

I think my Grandma would have really gotten a kick out of these crocheted water balloons. 🙂

By the time of this writing, as we lost daylight outside, I crocheted 12 yellow balloons.

And even though it was 67 degrees outside, my sons and nephews were promised a pool party, so gosh darn it – they got in the pool. And they got to try out the green water balloons.

They floated at first, but as they became saturated with water, they sank in the pool.

There was talk that when thrown hard at close range, they can hurt. But there was lots of laughter and diving for the balloons, which I think was the goal. And I personally have always thought they’d be better running around the yard throwing them at each other.

My chicken stock from yesterday froze beautifully in my mason jars. No worries whatsoever, which makes me hopeful for some more zero waste freezin’ fun.

My hand looks super creepy in this picture….it was cold….

There seemed to be some need for clarification on my honey lemon jar that I keep in my fridge. First of all, I think I read about it on this blog way back in the day. But basically, you infuse the honey with lemon and keep it in your refrigerator. The lemon never gets bad (at least not in my experience). As you use it, you keep adding new lemons and new honey to it. I need to add some more to my jar, since it was lost at the back of my fridge.

Over time, it kinda starts to crystallize and become glumpy and I’ll scoop those glumps up and put them in a mug. Pour some hot water over top of your glumpy scoops of honey and lemon and strain out anything you don’t want (for me….usually lemon rinds.). I’ve also heard of putting ginger root in there which would probably be yummy and really good for you too. I think everyone except my youngest has used this while sick.

One thing I’m still not feeling great about is my chapstick.

There were 2 things that really started to bother me about my chapstick from FreeWheelin’ Market on Etsy. First of all, it started melting in my pocket.

Wop wop…….

It’s since been demoted to my bedtime chapstick because it is a gloopy gloopy mess, but in order to not waste it, I use it for my pre-bed application.

Second, as a white lip balm with no tint, I wasn’t happy with the white tint it was putting on my lips. I felt like I looked like one of the zombies from my teacher nightmare instead of the substitute teacher who led the few living students to safety by shooting her way out of the building (how I got a rifle at school….don’t ask me….). My lips naturally have a darker color and I wanted something to blend a little better.

Essentially….I want Burt’s Bees pomegranate chapstick in a cardboard tube.

Hmmm…..I should send them an email and suggest that….

After searching and searching on Etsy, I finally found some red tinted chapstick from Rainwater Botanicals that was flavored pink grapefruit and paid $8 a piece for 2 tubes.

Ouch….not a fan of the price….

And then it showed up in this tiny cardboard tube! I completely expected it to be the same massive size as my first zero waste chapstick. I did feel better after comparing the amount to my last few remaining Burt’s Bees chapsticks and found that the grapefruit was larger in quantity.

I’ve been rarely using the grapefruit stuff. First of all, I keep misplacing it. I currently cannot find it – all I remember is packing it for school one day this past week.

Second of all, it’s not super glossy – it’s more of a matte finish and one of the reasons I wear chapstick is because the glossy finish feels soothing to me.

And it’s a little too red.

(I know, I know – will anything EVER make you happy, Julie???)

I’m a firm believer that the perfect Zero waste chapstick is out there waiting for me somewhere.

….Perhaps……we are just two ships…..passing in the night…

I am STILL loving my Merkur, zero waste safety razor. Seriously – it hasn’t been one of the most uncomfortable switches I’ve ever made (it’s been relatively easy) – but one day over the summer, it was still in my travel bag and I still had a lingering disposable razor in my shower so I used it.

It was terrible going back. I hated the way it felt. So I put it in my stockpile of trash in my basement to send to Terracycle.

I think I have finally found my preferred razor blade from my little variety pack that I ordered. Granted – I still haven’t tried EVERY blade in the pack to know for sure….but I think my blade is The Shark.

There was one blade over the summer that I got a lot of knicks from – of course, I didn’t save the wrapper so I could remember to never use it again – but the Shark has given me a nice shave with minimal knicks.

But perhaps….one of my favorite things this summer was the feedback I got from people. I’ve been told by many people how they’re starting to implement some zero waste changes in their own lives.

My absolute favorite has been hearing from TWO of my friends that they have purchased Diva Cups.

My one friend asked me about it way back in May (ironically, we were on the same cycle), so last month, I remembered to follow-up with her to see how she liked it and she said (and I quote):

“LOVE it. Total game changer. I haven’t had any trouble with it so far. It’s only been 3 cycles though. I tell all my friends about it.”

My other friend and I go WAY back and we live far apart now, but occasionally get together. So this summer, when we got together she brought it up and said she had bought a Diva Cup.

Cue my internal nervousness about seeking the approval of others and hoping that things I recommend work for everyone and I can make everyone happy and the world will be filled with sunshine and rainbows.

I mean…..it’s not asking for much….

And she said something along the lines of it’s only been this summer, but it’s been great. She also said that her only regret….

….Sharp inhale…..oh my goodness…..this is the longest pause ever…..

…..Is that she didn’t get one sooner. If you recall, I’ve had mine for about 11-12 years and we’ve been friends since 2nd grade. She said, she remembered me talking about it when I first got it and thinking, “Oh my gosh – why would anyone EVER want to use that??” …….and now she said she wished she had gotten one before.

So seriously….if you are a menstruating female….just know that I have not heard from anyone who has bought a menstrual cup and not liked it and wished they had done it earlier.

I mean….I don’t really want to break my winning streak now by any means…..BUT it’s one of my most highly recommended zero waste items.

While I have more updates, it’s almost midnight – I’m not editing this (typical) and I’m going to bed. Night y’all!

Chicken Stock

Two quick updates before I get to something I did for the first time today.

First of all, last night I finally finished my green skein of yarn for the reusable water balloons.

As you can see, I did not have enough yarn to fully create my last water balloon – so instead it’s this somewhat deformed water balloon but as always, we will welcome it and use it because it can still perform it’s duty which is to hit my husband and splatter him with water.

While I can’t confirm this and (I’m not taking the time to confirm it now), I thought I had read somewhere that one skein would make 8-9 balloons.

I got 17.5 out of this green skein:

These are green – not blue

I feel like my balloons have the Cheerleader Effect from How I Met Your Mother. Together, they all don’t look so bad, but when you pull one out individually and look at it….yeah….there’s a lot of flaws.

And I thought it was odd that I got SO MANY more. But I ordered more of the yarn on Amazon because I saw some great prices (around $8 a skein. I’ve seen them for $4 for ONE water balloon on Etsy or like $6 for FOUR – made with much superior quality, let’s not forget that).

But perfection is not the goal with these. Fun is the goal.

Anyways, I got yellow right away because it was in the $8 range and then I ended up buying the light blue about 30 seconds after I ordered all my reusable straws for my next do-gooder event because I saw it also went to the $8 range. And then red. But here’s what red looked like when it arrived:

It’s so dinky in comparison. I mean….if you don’t require your own chair as a skein of yarn….I’m not sure if I want you around.

Not to mention, I’d like to have a somewhat equivalent number of each color, so I may return the red and get a larger one. But moral of the story is, I’m on to yellow now. And I can crochet them a lot more quickly now and I have about 4 hours in the car tomorrow….

So today, I cleaned out my refrigerator. And not like just getting rid of expired things – we like emptied the WHOLE thing and gave it a good scrubbing.

I didn’t get a before shot, but suffice it to say that the bottom of our fridge had pooling, gelatinous soy sauce and other substances – sprinkled with a mixture of crumbs and little broccoli leaves.

All easily cleaned up with a wet microfiber cloth and nothing else. No chemicals – no soap. Just water.

Food waste makes me really sad and in full disclosure – it still happens at my house. We try to compost everything we can (including our rotten food) and I try to put the things we don’t want in our compost into our “weed bin” so they decompose outside and not in a landfill, but we still encountered things today that simply got trashed.

Our kitchen was trashed for awhile and I refound MANY items including one thing I wanted to share. In my refrigerator, I keep a mason jar with lemon slices and honey.

I never toss it – I only add to it – and over time it makes this lovely, sugary honey lemon mixture that is great when you have a cold and/or sore throat. Just spoon some into a mug, add some hot water, stir it up and it makes a lovely, soothing beverage. It’s especially great if you regularly use lemons and have leftovers – then they don’t go to waste. For me, it’s rare I buy lemons and I tend to buy them only for this.

As you can see, my mixture is a little low and now that we’re getting into the full swing of school, I’m going to add to it so I have it prepared by the time my first cold hits.

….it could be at any time…….germs lurk everywhere in elementary schools….

Anyhow – I also found a rotisserie chicken carcass from this week in our fridge (so it was still in good shape), and some veggies that were on their very last leg and I decided to make something that I’ve been WANTING to make for a LONG time – chicken stock.

I don’t use a ton of stock in general, but homemade chicken noodle soup happens to be one of my favorites as the weather starts to cool. So today was MY DAY to make it.

It was ridiculously easy.

I directed my husband to put the carcass in our Dutch Oven and then to roughly cut up some celery and carrots while I was wiping out the refrigerator.

Then we switched roles and he wiped out the door of the refrigerator while I added an onion (roughly cut), some bay leaves, and some peppercorns to the mix. I then, filled up the Dutch Oven with water on the stove, brought it to a boil, then took it down to low and simmered it for an hour.

It filled our house with some amazing, Thanksgiving turkey smells. I wanted to turn on the Macy’s day parade, put on my stretchy pajamas, and snuggle.

…..I didn’t get to do any of those….

After it simmered for an hour, I turned off the stove and left it sitting on the stove because I was fearful for my safety of trying to strain the stock while it was still ridiculously hot.

…..It had nothing to do with the fact that I wanted to take a nap during my window of opportunity while my youngest napped and my husband took my oldest to go miniature golfing……

So about 5 hours later (….you guys….the first week of school is really exhausting….stop judging….) I sleepily stumbled out of my cave and strained it. It was no easy task and some of it went down the drain, but I ended up with 2 full quarts.

And then, since I knew I was going to freeze them and started to panic about my first time freezing things in mason jars, I sloppily poured some into this old salad dressing jar that I haven’t quite finished getting the label off of.

I labeled the lids with the date and what it is and set them in my freezer. I will report back if they shatter. And if it tastes good or if it just plain sucks (that could still happen as I did not sample this after my Saturday hibernation). Oh, and I used this website (Garlic and Zest) as a reference – although I didn’t have parsley and I think I added a lot more water. And they gave options for making this in a crock pot or instant pot also.

I’ve been realizing that to be truly zero waste in the kitchen…sigh…I feel you have to make everything homemade.

Yeah…..I’m not doin’ that……

But this was super easy and I think definitely something I could add to my homemade routine since A) it will be so infrequent that I would do this B) it’s so easy and your chopping and preparation doesn’t have to be nice and C) I could stop using the plastic/foil cartons of stock from the store and use what I have instead.

I’ve been hearing a lot about bone broth lately also – which I’ve been wanting to make for awhile – but this I feel was my first step into the world of homemade broth. And to think, all these years, I’ve been making turkeys at Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas and I was missing out on a great opportunity to make it go further.

While I have some updates I want to post, I really need to start talking about my frustration of cutting out plastic in the kitchen. It will (hopefully) be coming soon.

Summer Reflections…and…Confessions

On this, the eve of my having to have a 5 day work week (Eep!)….with the windows open and the Nickel Creek station playing on Pandora (or as it was affectionately called this weekend, “Julie’s hootenanny music”)….it feels like Fall is right around the corner.

Even if it is going to return to be blazing hot this week, the start of school just screams FALL!!!! At the top of its lungs.

Tomorrow is my first day of school and it’s making me reflect back on the summer.

I had an AMAZING summer! Even though the blog suffered this summer….I have no regrets – except for maybe not squeezing in more trips and adventures.

We swam in the ocean:

We climbed mountains:

We saw animals (I Fangirled loudly with the bears):

We slept in a lean-to!

Hi, Mom!

The red head lamps I got the boys for Christmas were all the rage too (lots of monster attacks while wearing those….)

Just GREAT MEMORIES that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

However….

With all the travel I did…..I feel like I have a major confession to be open about….

Here it goes…..

There were many many moments this summer that I was thankful for plastic.

I know, I know – I was shocked too.

But there it is….out on my little corner of the internet for my four readers. I said it.

Whew – I’ve been wanting to get that off my chest.

I only feel slightly bad about it.

If you haven’t been following along (I can’t blame you…..) we traveled from Ohio to Florida, from Ohio to Virginia, and then from Ohio to New York/Vermont/New Hampshire. With small children.

I’ve been attempting to buy as much food and snack-type things as possible in bulk (not totally possible….) and I’ve been storing them in glass jars in my cupboard (oh boy, do they look purdy!).

…..Yeah…..I wasn’t going to take glass jars on our trips…..

At this point, I own ONE stainless steel bento box and while I did pack some snacks in it, I needed more. And I also had the thought, if they’re all stainless steel and you can’t see inside, how do I know if I’m grabbing the almond/cashew mixture instead of the gummy bears?

Can any other mom see the disaster lurking in that situation??

After the briefest moments of panic, I felt completely stupid because like most suburban American people…..I have an entire cupboard full of plastic Tupperware.

And as I was transferring all my bulk foods into the Tupperware, I was super thankful that they stacked together and that I could see what was inside each of them. (The gummy bears naturally got the prime spot in the stainless steel bento box – like other bears, they stayed hidden.)

I also forgave myself for buying food that came in single use plastic, but was a little more travel friendly. For example, when we travel – my boys will just eat croissants. Croissants for breakfast, croissant sandwiches for lunch – I have to hide them so they don’t just go sneak around eating croissants while wearing berets and doing terrible French accents. (Where did they learn to stereotype so horribly???)

They’re SO CONVENIENT…..and I wasn’t about to make them myself. Nor do I know of a bakery nearby that would sell them in a paper bag or let me bring my own.

I also bought……ahem……applesauce pouches……

Oooh……that confession hurt……

To the chagrin of my husband and my basement, I’m still collecting them all to send them in to Terracycle when they’re finished. But they are also a very convenient way to travel and get fruits and veggies into my children.

So I decided to be thankful for them and realize that I’m not at a point of perfection and I also don’t want to turn my children into supervillains by depriving them of certain things.

One of those things that I do deprive them of is juice boxes. In fact, if my son is somewhere with other kids with juice boxes, he will ask for one. Nothing is cooler to him than a pouch of Capri Sun.

I have these:

Reusable, refillable, washable PLASTIC juice boxes. If you’ve followed for awhile and have a phenomenal memory, I previously lamented about how my son took the marketing of line of “nearly indestructable” as a personal challenge and broke the lid on the green juice box relatively quickly.

I really didn’t want to pay for a replacement lid that was plastic…..

But after many pained arguments in my head and wallowing about it to my sister, I bought a replacement lid for our trip to Florida.

And I am a little ashamed to say that I loved it. Each kid had their own juice box at the beach and in the car…..less fighting = happier mom. (I still feel like I should have bought something stainless steel, but I didn’t like any of the options.)

The problem was…… each kid only. had. one.

So when they finished their juice, unless we brought along the bigger container – they were out of juice.

We were in Florida.

In JUNE! Do you know HOW HOT it is in Florida in June????

My 2 year old, who could barely talk at the time, quickly learned the phrase, “too hot” and we would open the van door at the beach and when we got him out he would turn his head in disgust and say, “too hot! too hot!” (I shamelessly taught him to say Mommy Hot – hoping people would interpret that for my looks instead of temperature ;))

So on the drive home from Florida….are you ready for this???

.….sigh……here it comes…..

I ORDERED MORE.

That’s right. Amazon Prime – two day shipping – I got a 3 pack of the updated version (which I like a lot more).

And when I took the boys and the juice boxes to Shenandoah….they were everything I could have dreamed of and more!

Those little plastic suckers were amazing.

Not only did each boy have 2 juice boxes at their every beck and call…..I got one too!!!

Which is why I took peach and white grape juice with us. And let me tell you…..I have some great memories of sucking that juice out of the purple juice box under a tree at the visitors center with our croissant sandwiches spread out on the beeswax wraps I made with all our plastic tupperware containers spread out with grapes and gummy bears and cashews with craisins. Including the memory of my two year old deciding to stand on the bench of the picnic table and then jump up and down out of excitement and fall down.

And since I’m just confessing all of my dirty little secrets on the internet right now…….I ENJOYED EVERY SECOND of holding him on my lap while he cried afterwards and rubbing my cheek on his head and sniffing his head and taking in EVERY SINGLE MOMENT that he would still let me do that.

That’s right – that’s the mom I am!!!!

(Oh come on…..I didn’t push him off the bench so I could do it….I even warned him he would fall….I gotta get some points for that – he learned a lesson and I got snuggles. Just…stop judging, ok??? Geez…..it’s confession time….pretend you’re a priest….)

Ok, where was I???

I was also seriously thankful for my plastic Bumkins reusable bags this summer.

I really wanted to LOVE the waxed canvas bags that I got off Etsy and could compost when they’re finished…..but yeah….Bumkins are the winners for me.

I do use the waxed canvas bags to carry wet wash rags to wipe up my children after they eat (since it looks like they ate out of a trough with just their faces). So I don’t consider them a waste whatsoever. I just feel like with the beeswax, it made the food taste different, so maybe over time that will fade.

Ok, this isn’t a summer confession – but while I’m spewing my guts I’m getting this out too….I haven’t been back to Duma’s meats to push the issue of them packing meat in my own containers.

And the thing is, even going there and getting their wax paper wrap would be better because I’ve been throwing the wax paper from our butter wrappers into our fireplace as fire starters. I’d do that with the Duma’s packaging instead of the plastic Giant Eagle or Aldi packaging. It got to be too much. Maybe this Fall, I try a little harder with that again.

My craft stuff is mostly put away and I can’t wait to share some of the upcycling/crafting I’ve been doing in my evenings instead of writing blog posts. But we start back in our routine tomorrow, so I imagine the blog will be slightly more prevalent once again.

I also like to dip sour cream and onion potato chips in cottage cheese…..I occasionally put a slice of cheddar cheese on my french toast….I watched both Pretty Little Liars and Long Island Medium A LOT while I was pregnant with my first kid…..and I don’t need to be pregnant to watch Ghost Hunters or The Girls Next Door.

That may be everything that I’m prepared to share on my corner of the internet. Happy?

So as the sun sets on my summer vacation and my reflections….(eh? eh? see what I did there??)….I can only look forward to carrying them into the Fall weekends.

2019 was a Summer to remember. On to the next.

Doing Good

I forgot to mention in my birthday post from 7 days ago (that was 3 months late), that my sister-in-law also got me these reusable bags from Target:

And they work really well! After a summer of travel and trying all these different reusable food containers, my absolute favorite are the Bumkin brand snack bags:

Santa can ABSOLUTELY bring me more of these for Christmas. Especially the turquoise mountain pack. 😉

#noshame

So last Sunday, I followed through on my project of handing out reusable produce bags at my church. I FINALLY got my flyer finished. It was challenging because I had so much I wanted to say, but I didn’t want to sound too much like a granola munching tree hugger (even if that is what I am) or too elitist.

…Or just stupid.

But I think where I landed was OK, even if I had a lot more to say. I stuck with the teacher principle – KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). And I decided to be proud of it, make all my copies, and move on.

In total, I had 270 reusable produce bags in 3 different sizes. The sets that I ordered from Amazon had 3 Large, 9 Medium, and 3 Small. It didn’t take long for me to have them sorted by size….

And then to have my 4 year old “help” my laying on top of them all and saying he had to nap RIGHT on top of the bags and that I had plenty of space.

#lifewithlittleones

I had no idea how to go about bundling them. Should they just be a single hand out? Hand out 2 to everyone? How can I attach 2-3 together without plastic or rubber bands?

With being declined by 3 different grocery stores to hand them out, I got nervous about getting rid of them all. I really didn’t want to be left with a lot leftover or have to drag this out for a long time.

So I finally opted to bundle 3 together (some had one of each size, and some were all 3 Medium-sized), while wrapping my flyer around the outside and securing it with the cinch string from one of the bags.

Is it weird to say I was proud of how they were bundled? I’m going to say it anyways: “I’m the most amazing person in the world for figuring out how to bundle reusable produce bags and a flyer and nobody else could have done it like this.” 😉

So after setting some aside for people at school who said they were interested in having some, and after several episodes of Paw Patrol and the Handmaid’s Tale (depending on who was in the room at my house at the time) – I had a reusable grocery bag full of my bundles.

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get rid of all of them. In fact, before handing them out at my church, I even checked with a couple other people about handing them out at their churches too….just in case.

During church, I got up and made a little spiel explaining what they are and why I was handing them out. My husband took a lot of pictures of me (and my boys) and apparently, I just walk around looking odd and making crazy faces when I talk or interact with other people, because I look absurd in every photo he took (except for the one that I’m posing for).

My boys were so excited to hand them out and did a fabulous job! We only had one bundle left over after we handed them out. People were really interested in them and several asked to take some for their kids or grandkids that were “really into this kind of stuff”.

I had such an amazing feeling afterwards and I kept thinking….if each of these bags gets used one time and only one time, that’s 270 plastic produce bags that won’t be used, have to be recycled, or that won’t end up in the ocean or in a tree.

That’s enough to put a smile on my face. 🙂

I liked this “project” so much, I went home and applied for the next one.

We’re already approved for something I titled, “Straws for Sea Turtles”.

I found a great set of 16 reusable stainless steel straws on Amazon and I’m hoping to pass them out at a parade/festival on September 8th. If I print my own flyers and don’t buy any straw cleaners (still debating on that though….I feel those are necessary….) I can buy 400 reusable straws.

Spreading the love….one straw/3 produce bags at a time.

Water Balloons

Recently, a friend posted crocheted reusable water balloons on our Facebook group:

All I had to do was look at the picture and I was like:

Actually, at first I was going to buy some on Etsy because it seemed like they were cheap. But then when you actually look at the prices, they were way too expensive for me, so then it was CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

I am not a gifted crocheter. My grandma (who passed this summer), used to crochet the tops of dish towels so they would hook around the oven handle or a drawer handle.

In a full confession and being completely honest…… as a teenager…..I thought they were ugly.

Maybe it’s because most of the women in my family had like “country scenes” with ducks and snowmen or something like that in them. (Sorry Mom…..but Hi Mom!)

Plus….I always kind of felt like the loop that my grandma would crochet at at the end looked rather….ahem….phallic…..(picture coming up).

But while I taught outdoor education in my early 20’s and when I would visit her on weekends in college, I had one night where she was crocheting some dish towels and I realized that this may be my one chance to learn how to crochet these dish towels from my grandma.

I was all about learning and trying everything I could in my 20’s – something I’m trying to get back to.

So after a brief shopping trip to Kohl’s to buy some dish towels, we sat in her living room watching reruns of Lawrence Welk and Antiques Roadshow and she taught me how to crochet the tops of a dish towel while I took detailed notes.

(I crocheted the one on the left and the purple towel is one my grandma crocheted….and therefore I may never use…..)

However, my notes were like take the loop and make another loop and loop it up. Wrap your hook and pull through 2, then turn it around in a circle. And I drew pictures to help me remember and I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who could ever decipher these directions.

So, even though I think I’m totally amazing and talented and can crochet….yeah, I have no idea how to read crocheting directions. At all.

I prefer to crochet in rows. They’re simple. And I crochet for function – like dish towels and dish rags:

Balloons are most definitely round.

I CANNOT DO ROUND. Wow….it is a challenge. Not to mention, trying to decipher the crocheting directions on the website for the water balloons – well, I had to look up each of the stitches individually on a youtube video because I had no idea how to do a slip stitch or how to do a dc2tog (what in the world is a tog???).

Also, I was attempting to crochet my first balloon as I was also playing Throw Throw Burrito with my family at my nephew’s birthday party. So I was looking up these videos while people were having throwing burrito duels and I got a lot of weird looks and comments from my family.

It’s expected. 🙂

So my first water balloon took me a long time. Several hours from start to finish due to a taco buffet and kids playing outside and getting stung multiple times. Oh, and my 2 year old deciding that the massive ball of yarn used for these water balloons is an excellent play toy and starting rolling it around and batting at it with his feet like he was a cat hyped up on catnip who had never seen anything so amazing before in his life.

Do you see his feet next to my yarn ball taking a brief pause as he tried to steal a burrito from the table?

Yeah…..my balloon wasn’t great. I really tried to stretch this out to give it some semblance of a water balloon for this picture.

But the whole point of a water balloon is to focus on soaking your opponents as much as possible. I’m pretty sure that no one in my family – my kids or nephews or ruthless siblings (including the ones who married in) – are going to pause during a water balloon battle to be like, “Wow Julie, it really looks like you missed a stitch here and your tension on row 3 compared to row 1 just really isn’t working for me”.

And if they decide to do that…..they will feel my wrath. Which is about as scary as a cute fluffy bunny baby.

My next water balloon was much faster. I didn’t have to look up the stitches this time and the pattern is so simple, I had it memorized after making one:

Told ya – massive yarn ball.

I had a 3rd one made by that evening although I still wasn’t thrilled with how mine were turning out. I mean, when I get several rows down, all I can think is that they look like little asparagus hats for pet gerbils.

I’m in my workin’ clothes….

I mean – could there be a market out there for gerbil asparagus hats??? I need to check up on that because with a little bit of elastic, I think these suckers could be in high demand.

The really cool thing about crocheting these is that they do go pretty quickly. I haven’t exactly timed myself, but I think I’m probably around 20-30 minutes for one, depending on how many times my husband and/or children want to talk to me. And due to interruptions, and my lack of talent, I don’t think I’ve crocheted a single one according to the pattern yet.

But, it’s also not the easiest. I mean this yarn ball requires it’s own chair:

Also, when I’ve crocheted other things (only dish towels and dish rags), it’s been easy to count the stitches and know right where I am. The Bernat yarn used for these water balloons is well….rough.

It is so fuzzy that all I can think of when I crochet with it is that I’m crocheting with Muppet fur. Thankfully, Kermit is a slightly different shade of green or I would constantly be worried that he was shredded to make this yarn. The stitches all seem to blend together in this soft, fuzzy mass and between the asparagus hats and the Muppet references, it’s a constant battle for whether the theme to the Muppet show is playing in my head or the theme to Veggie Tales.

At the time of this writing (the current time is 10:30 PM), I have 4 made. Or as my husband puts it, time for a battle because we can each have one. For the record, I did NOT try to fluff these to make them look like balloons.

If you know me at all, you must know how challenging it is for me right now to not be buying this yarn in every single color so that I can alternate the color of the balloons I crochet – of course, in rainbow order. This yarn takes up so much space that I am DETERMINED to be an adult and use all the yarn per my one skein before I purchase another one.

It’s slowly killing me inside. I want the rainbow now.

Oh, and for the record – I used the pattern straight from Left in Knots (I mean not exactly, because I seriously have no idea if I actually do 16 stitches in Rows 3 and 4….too much fuzz…..) and she has some excellent videos that show you EXACTLY what to do, so if you have any interest, head on over there and check it out.

And of course, I’ll post a rainbow when I get to that point….sigh…..