Are you swapping?
July 25, 2011 at 6:00 am
Are you part of Paperback Swap?
I recently joined after cleaning out a lot of books that we didn’t really need anymore.
I like to buy books used — I like the savings (in this case, the books are free, although you pay to ship your own books) — I also like the “recycling” aspect of not always buying new books.
So far, I have been a little overwhelmed with the e-mails from Paperback Swap. I listed a lot of books because we had a lot to share. Many had been previously requested, so almost immediately I got multiple requests to send books. BUT, I almost immediately got some credits too!
As I get the hang of things, I think Paperback Swap could be a lot of fun.
I mean, what isn’t great about getting a book in the mail essentially for free, while clearing space on my bookshelves too?
If you are or have been part of this swapping community, share your experience! I’d love to hear how it worked (or didn’t work) for you!
Recycled Bottle Bird Feeder Project
June 22, 2011 at 6:00 am
In our family, we try to use reusable water bottles and cups as much as possible. But there are times (not very often, but those baseball games and festivals require factory-sealed bottles) when we are away from home that we buy a bottled beverage.
Our resident ornithologist came up with this cool bird feeder that you can make from a used bottle and a few twigs.
The kids and their dad used a drill to make the holes in the sides of the bottle and in the cap (for the hanger).
The birds love it. It draws grackles, chickadees, robins and one very brave squirrel.
It also draws two young children, who love watching the wildlife in our backyard.
It’s Already Here …
May 25, 2011 at 6:00 am
It occurred to me, as we strolled up and own the aisles, that a lot of it was junk. Sure.
But a lot of it was good — it was well-made, in many cases handmade, and it was beautiful.
I mentioned on Monday that we visited Viroqua, Wis. over the weekend. One of our stops was the flea market.
We don’t have a real flea market where I live. To be fair, there is a place that calls itself a flea market and sells 12-packs of socks for $2 socks and (frighteningly) puppies out of a box, but it isn’t really the same thing.
I have been spoiled by the flea market in Nashville, Tenn., that we visit when we are there to see my sister. It is a destination — almost overwhelming in its vastness. I think you could find about anything there, and easily spend a day.
The Viroqua Flea market is smaller than that, of course – it is a much smaller town. But there are treasures.
There are treasures in a lot of those places — antique stores, flea markets, second-hand stores, and even garage sales. You just have to know what you are looking for.
We weren’t looking for anything, really. We were browsing through record bins, because that is what my husband does. But we really didn’t intend to buying anything.
It was more a chance to look at what they had. To see what brought up a memory, or a feeling. An old cologne bottle that still carried its scent reminded my husband of his grandfather.
Shoehorns — can you even buy a new shoehorn anymore? — always remind me of my grandfather.
And then there are the jars of buttons, racks of aprons, mismatched cups stacked high … the things that bring a little inspiration. For what, I’m not entirely sure yet. But they just give off something — an energy maybe.
When I visit places like this, I am reminded that so much that we need is probably already out there, waiting to be rediscovered.
Sometimes, the very thing you need already exists. It just needs to be recycled, repurposed, reloved. It needs the chance to shine again.
What is your favorite flea market or second-hand find?
The Outside Bag
May 19, 2011 at 6:00 am
A Waldorf early education teacher I know first gave me the idea for an outside bag.
She actually had an outside basket. The children in her care play outside almost every day — even when it is cold, even when it is rainy.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather,” she says. “Only bad clothes.”
Knowing the importance of a little preparation and planning, she had an outside basket in which she could carry everything her students would need when they went outside. This kept her from having to dash back indoors for a band-aid, or water, or sunscreen.
I had an outside basket for a while, until it occurred to me it would even better be to have an outside bag for when we wanted to play outside away from home. It’s the same basic concept, but has everything at the ready for trips to the beach, the park, the woods, etc.
When we are hitting the road for an adventure, I know I usually have most of what we need ready to go. When we use our bag, I can change out whatever needs to be laundered or replenished and if necessary, I can even throw the bag itself in the washer before our next outing.
In our bag, I try to always have:
- A beach towel or blanket (or sometimes both)
- A full change of clothes for the kids (one of our favorite destinations has a fountain!)
- insect repellent
- hand sanitizer
- a couple of non-perishable, non-squishable snacks
- a wet bag (tutorial to come!)
- an umbrella
- sunglasses and sunhats
- a first-aid kit or at least a couple of bad-aids, Arnica gel and Calendula gel
- a book! I like to bring one to look through that doesn’t require a lot of concentration and can be put down and picked up frequently
- and perhaps most importantly for summer, emergency ice cream money
Having all this stuff ready in one bag makes it easier to be spontaneous and hit the road when the mood strikes. It also makes it easier to let my kids be kids — get muddy, get wet, touch toads, etc., without worry.
Do you have an “Outside Bag” too? What is your favorite type of summertime outing with your kids?
MYO: Simple Upcycled Produce Bag
May 13, 2011 at 6:00 am
There are a couple of neat things about bringing your own produce bags to the farmer’s market.
First, by bringing your own bags of all sorts, you are cutting down on the farmer’s cost, which means you could just maybe pay a little less for your tomatoes. Second, unlike at a major grocery store, the farmer knows what you are putting in those produce bags, and can ring you up accordingly without any hassle of “What’s in the bag?!”
I made a few simple produce bags last year to stuff in my larger shopping tote when I go to the farmer’s market. They have worked great to bring home everything from corn to cucumbers. And when I unload my bounty, I can just throw them in the washing machine with everything else!
For this upcycled produce bag, you will need a clean, old pillowcase, thread, scissors, a seam ripper, at least 3 yards of ribbon or yarn or something similar, a safety pin, a sewing machine, and about 15 minutes. Really! You can make four of these in an hour — especially if you have your sewing machine set up and ready to go.
(A couple of things: First, you don’t have to use an old pillowcase. You could use any fabric and just sew it into the basic bag shape. And second, you don’t need a sewing machine, but it makes this project so quick and easy!)
Step 1: Cut the pillowcase. Laying it flat, I cut mine so it was about 12 inches across the bottom and 16 inches tall. Important: Make use of the seams already there! Just cut up from the bottom and across the top, keeping the bottom seam and left side seam intact.
Step 2: Flip your cut bag inside out, even everything up, and sew up the right side seam.
Step 3: Flip the top two inches of the bag over and sew all around.
Step 4: This is the trickiest step. Line up the bag in your sewing machine and make two sets of zig-zag stitches back and forth perpendicular to the seam. You are making it so when you create a hole in the seam it can only go so far.
Step 5: Using a seam ripper, cut the stitches between the two zig-zag lines. Now you have a little hole.
Step 6: This will be familiar if you have ever heard of sweatpants. You want to clip the safety pin to your ribbon or string and push it all the way around the opening. This will be your drawstring.
Step 7: When you have both ends out of the opening, tie them together so you never have to repeat Step 6 again. (Unless you make another bag).
You now have a quick, easy produce bag made from an old pillowcase! Wasn’t that fun? You can make some more … make a little one for radishes or cherry tomatoes. Make an extra long one for rhubarb or greens.
Bonus: These make great bread bags for homemade bread!
Have fun! And Happy Summer Produce Shopping!!
Treasures and Oddities
April 27, 2011 at 6:00 am
I want to tell you about this place we visited in St. Louis, because it is amazing and so unique and because it has taken the green concept of repurposing and recycling to an insane level.
But I’m not even sure where to begin, because words don’t really seem to capture the place. It is surreal, and beautiful, and a little creepy.
I’m talking about City Museum, if you have heard of it or been there. It wasn’t somewhere we were planning to stop, but it rained on Saturday, and a friendly hotel employee sold me with these words: “It’s all recycled materials and the kids will love it.”
Because we had promised the zoo, but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate, this sounded like a very good way to spend our morning. And hearing “recycled” intrigued me, although that word doesn’t even begin to tell the story … not that there’s much I can tell.
City Museum is a former shoe factory — I got that from the lady who works at the aquarium (yes, there’s an aquarium). As a nod to the place’s origin they make shoelaces now on the second floor out of giant spools of floss.
The museum opened in 1997, and is the work of a man named Bob Cassilly, as well as several artisans who apparently worked under his direction.
Before I knew any of this, I had commented that the aquarium brought to mind a really, really wealthy person’s basement. There are the fish — of course — and what appears to be an inground pool full of stingrays. And then there’s the tunnel, through a separate shark-filled pool, and as you climb out of the tunnel you find yourself in a glass-bottomed boat, because, you know, why not?
You can see where this is going — the aquarium only takes up perhaps half a floor of the 600,000 square foot, four-story factory. And a lot of people might say it isn’t even the main attraction.
So what is?
Probably depends on your mood. Feel like playing in a room filled with sponges? What about riding a tiny train? Getting lost in a cave that probably isn’t big enough for people in the first place? Or how about just staring at the world’s largest pencil, jutting out of the side of the building, and knowing the whole time that it isn’t even close to the weirdest thing you’ve seen that day.
And where is a good spot in this post to mention that the upstairs is a vintage clothing store/espresso bar?
Yes, City Museum is weird. And wonderful, in a horror-movie-meets-kids’ playground-meets-they-have-a-gift-shop-and-snack-bar-so-how-freaky-can-it-be kind of a way.
Apparently, it is always changing too, which is why they don’t like to talk about it much. There’s no written information available, and during our three hours there I’m sure we didn’t even began to scratch the surface.
What is clear about the museum is that it has come together by way of found and salvaged materials. It is recycling and repurposing in a way that makes you slightly afraid of what a few thing used to be, and also a little irked that someone threw it away in the first place.
There is just no way to begin to describe it, and yet, if you find yourself in St. Louis, I would encourage you to visit and see for yourself what can happen when an artist mixes lost items with a lot of paint and even more imagination.