Monday, December 8, 2008

Gift Wrapping

This year, I'm using up my wrapping paper from previous years (I may well be doing that next year, too!), but I heard recently that there's more paper in landfills than diapers, so I feel awkward about buying more wrapping paper. Thus began my search for a good (inexpensive) alternative.

One idea is to just reuse the disposable wrapping. If you're ambitious, you can wrap with paper and avoid the use of tape, and then just re-use the paper next year (assuming it's not ripped). I suppose if you're a scrapbooker, you may want to even used the ripped pieces for some Christmas pages. Obviously, though, paper can only be reused for wrapping so many times before it inevitably rips and is no longer useful for wrapping. Paper gift bags can be reused many more times (as can the tissue paper that you might stuff them with) than regular wrapping paper.

Martha Stewart had a lovely piece on wrapping with newspaper. I love this idea, it's beautiful, but I wonder how it would look with just regular old american newspaper. Also, since I don't get newspapers, I'd have to find someone who did that would give me some. I have been thinking I might use brown paper bags that we get from grocery stores when we buy too much to fit in our reusable bags. I was thinking I could let my kids go nuts with some Christmas stamps on them first and that could be cute. Throw on some ribbon and that would be pretty nice, I think, plus it's a fun Christmas project for my kids.

The most sustainable idea, I think, is wrapping with cloth. I've heard of various ways to do this, but it all seems to cost about the same as buying paper gift bags (well, some ways are pretty expensive), but are more reusable than that, so in the long run it's cheaper. First, there's wrapsacks. These are beautiful, colorful, and not much more cost than buying paper gift bags, but if you consider you can re-use them (or hopefully get everyone you know to use them, too, and have free ones given to you...) the cost is not bad at all. You can buy the variety pack too, which are on sale right now. They seem like they wouldn't be too difficult to make your, though, so I was thinking I might try. I'm planning to buy christmas fabric on sale after this season and use it to make next year's gift bags.

An idea I've heard is to use a cloth grocery bag as a gift bag. Just put the gift in and add tissue paper as you would with a normal gift bag. Something I did for a gift was use one of those canvas bags you can get at craft stores - the ones meant for you to decorate them - and bought an iron-on decorative patch and ironed it on. Voila, a long-term reusable gift bag! Alternatively, you could use fabric paint and paint or stamp on the bag to decorate it. Yet another fun Christmas craft for the kids!

My favorite (although, maybe the most expensive?) idea, though, is furoshiki. It's gorgeous and actually looks like a lot of fun! I think some of the Christmas fabric I get after Christmas may be devoted toward this end next year. Also, some of the craft stores have scarves that may be perfect for this, and can be acquired much more cheaply than you might see on that website (although their cloths are gorgeous!).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Crazy Things We Can Put In The Washing Machine

Ok, so maybe I'm behind the curve on this, but I'm a little shocked at the number of things you can stick in the washing machine to get clean. Maybe it's having grown up in a throw-away society, I'm not sure.

For instance, we have a simple clear plastic shower curtain liner that we use. Well, needless to say, it gets grungy from soap scum, etc, every so often. Up until recently, we'd just sorta wash it by hand every now and then and when it got to the point where that wasn't enough, we'd trash it and get a new one. Well, the last time my mom was here, she mentioned that we should just toss it in the washer. I was (strangely) shocked. So, I did it, with a little dish soap and some bleach. It came out practically perfect! I was so excited. Anyway, I'm saying this is both frugal AND green because although I used a touch of bleach, it's certainly better for the environment than getting a new plastic one every year or two!

Other things that I've tried in the washer that you might not think to put in there:
  • sneakers
  • slippers
  • bath toys
  • the bath mat (maybe this is too obvious)
  • stuffed animals

Getting the Most Bang for Your Organic Buck.

Organic Meat is not cheap. At more than $10 or $15 for a small (whole) chicken, you're looking at some fairly high prices compared with regular ol' factory farmed chicken. But, as you may know, organic chicken tends to be better for the environment because it uses less antibiotics (although, with modern "organic" and "free range" farming methods, it may simply mean fewer antibiotics going into the soil and waterways and not much else - for more information, read "the Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan). Local meat likely has a smaller carbon footprint, but may have a higher price tag. The cost being what it is, it's helpful to stretch the chicken into several meals. There's a show on the Food Network that focuses on making multiple meals using the same few ingredients which may be helpful for this.

I want to recommend what we usually do, which is to roast the chicken and then the next night make something with the... uh... leftovers.

To roast the chicken, just rinse the chicken (make sure to remove the bag of gizzards, etc, from the inside, if there is one), dry it, stick it in a roasting pan. What I do is cut up some root veggies like carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beets, onions, toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper, put the veggies as a bed in the bottom of a pan and put the chicken on top. Then you just want to rub some olive oil on the chicken and I like to sprinkle it with some spice mix - Emeril's Essence is good, Old Bay seasoning works, or sprinkle on whatever you like, even lemon pepper would probably be tasty. Then you just put it in the oven at 375 for 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. You'll know it's done if you can wiggle the leg and it sorta comes apart pretty easily. Carve it up and enjoy!

Ok, so when you're done with dinner, put what's left of the chicken, covered, in the fridge (or freezer if you can't get to this for a few days) and the next day you put it in a big pot, cover it with water and simmer it for several hours to make broth (or as many as 24 for a fuller, more nutrient-dense broth). I like to add celery salt because I'm not a big fan of celery itself, but if you have celery on hand, throw that in too, along with some carrots and some onions. I like to chop them in large chunks, because I expect to strain them out when I get the chicken out. If you want your broth to be yellow (and look like broth from the supermarket) add a bit of turmeric, though if you use a yellow onion and just leave the onion skins on, it colors the broth nicely and doesn't leave a flavor to it . If you're not adding celery salt, you probably want to add salt to taste, also add pepper. How much of these really depends on how much broth you're making, obviously. If you're making a lot, you'll want to add more salt, pepper, and spices. Just taste it and see if you like it, if not, you can try adding more... just go slow so you don't end up overdoing it.

Now you'll want to strain this broth and get the chicken bones, etc, out. I do this by putting my strainer in another large pot and then pouring it all into the big pot, thereby straining out big chunks. You can now use this broth for whatever you might want. I usually do soup. If you spend some time and pick the rest of the meat off of the chicken, you can usually get a fair amount for the soup. I also usually chop up any left over meat from the night before and toss that in the soup. Then I add carrots (you can use the same ones from before or new ones... or just wait and only put the carrots in after), egg noodles, and thyme. I let the soup simmer until the noodles are soft, then I toss in some other veggies, usually peas, corn, or green beans... use whatever you like or have on hand.

So, there you go. Two meals from one chicken, twice the bang for your buck. If you make a lot of broth, you can freeze some and use it for something else, too!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trying my hand at fair isle

I finally got around to doing some interesting color work. I found this pattern in Cool Knits For Kids. I couldn't find any errata for the pattern, and the pattern isn't even imputed on ravelry yet, but the pattern seems to be missing a chart, so I did my fair isle stuff mostly from the picture. It worked out, though - looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. I also picked an alternate color scheme (the one in the book is pink) and took out the heart intarsia on the ear flaps and replaced it with a random fair isle pattern. I'm really happy with the result! Now, if I could only get my toddler to wear it!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fibonacci Hat

Well, since the other hat didn't fit my son's ginormous head, I ended up giving it away and trying again. This time, I used JoAnn Sensations Kashmira yarn (which is DK weight, in case you're wondering, but for some reason it's not labeled). I really like the JoAnn Sensations yarn. I didn't think I was going to like it this much but, for cheap wool, it's REALLY smooth. Not soft, really, so much as soft like cotton might be sorta soft. It doesn't feel scratchy at all like normal wool feels. I tried to felt it before though, since the label says "100% wool Felt-able" but the felting was terrible.

The colors I had I wasn't too sure about, so I had read on some blog someplace that if you use the Fibonacci sequence for the stripes it is more appealing to the eye than just straight stripes w/colors that don't necessarily go well together. I had about the same gauge (as far as I can tell) as with the patons classic marino, so I went with it, but I believe I cast on 113 this time to make up some circumference and also did 9 iterations of the increase part of the pattern. I love how it turned out. I'll see if I can get him to hold still enough to get a pic of him with it on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Baby Hat take 2

Ok, so since they didn't give a gauge (or dimensions), I think the hat I made turned out closer to 0-6 month size. At least, it's tight on my 6 month old, but maybe he has a giant head. here's the pic, though. I guess I'll try a bigger number cast on :)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baby Hat

One of my friends did her own rendition of this hat pattern, which I got to see when we were at a playdate. OH SO CUTE!! So of course, I set out to try out my own rendition (she didn't give me the website, I had to search it out). The pattern is translated from a Norwegian pattern, and I don't know about you, but I've never even *seen* a 2.5mm circular needle (I believe that's a 1 1/2 size, US). And of course, I wanted to knit it right away instead of waiting until I got a chance to go to a yarn shop, so I had to go with what I had. I *do* have a size 3 circular needle, which I figured I could use and get a fairly small gauge, and the Patons Classic Wool Merino comfortably knits to a pretty small gauge, so I decided to go with that from my stash. The gauge in the pattern is 28 stitches to 10 cm (about 4 inches), so instead I wound up with 24 stitches per 4 inches with the combo I used. I wanted to make a 12 month size hat, so I calculated out how many inches it would be using their gauge and then used that to decide to cast on109 stitches. That puts the in between straight stockingette sections at 16 stitches instead of 18 or 19.

Ok, I'm off to knit. I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Finished Braidy

I finished it, finally. And just in time to give it away as a christmas present. It turned out well, but I think if I were to do it again, I'd go with the worsted weight and a smaller gauge. probably a 6x1 rib. The chunky yarn was just a bit too thick, I think, but good for a men's scarf. I'm extremely happy with how the cabling turned out, though.