Tiny House Tuesdays: Ball Jars & Bulk

I know, I know.  Ball jars are getting a bit cliched.  BUT there is no easier, cheaper solution to storing bulk goods in your pantry.  You can find them at your local thrift shop or, worst case scenario, at Target.  The large, gold topped, plain bottles I purchased at Target came with minimal packaging - only a paper insert.  Not zero waste, but getting there. 

Another option is French canning jars and I must admit these are way classier...but, $1.99 vs. $12.00 made it an easy decision for me.  I was able to order screw top gold lids on Amazon for about $12.  Using the screw-top, single piece lids for non-canning purposes makes the jars a bit friendlier.  

I have been using the mesh bags I purchased on Amazon to purchase bulk items with.  I have contacted them and asked about their ethical standards of treatment for the people making them.  *fingers crossed* They have been useful for everything from salt to coffee.  You can actually make your own bags, with a few stitches, if you have a few pillow cases lying around.  I'm waiting for a rainy day to make those happen.  Bea, of Zero Waste Home, has plenty to say on the matter.  


I know it's Thanksgiving-time and I hope each and every one of you stop, and say thanks, for the absolutely amazing life we are allowed to live. 




Soothing Sundays: Breaking Bread With Friends & Family


Not gonna lie, I'm a born introvert.  If I need to recharge, I do it alone.  If I'm feeling down, I hide.  If I'm sick, I'd rather suffer in silence. 

In the face of an upcoming crazy holiday week, my knee jerk reaction to a dinner invitation is "eh, I'm gonna go ahead and stay in bed".  Here's the thing though...I've found that when I don't feel great and want to hibernate, the best thing for me is to be around others.  Friends, family...it lifts me up and boosts my spirits, no matter how terrifying the prospect of being around people.  

So, my self care challenge today was to say yes to dinner.  If you are presented with the opportunity this week, before the Thanksgiving chaos, to break bread with friends and family, I urge you to do it.  If you know someone who's going to be alone on Thanksgiving, reach out to them and cook something simple like spaghetti.   If you get invited somewhere, all the better.  Less to clean up! ;-) 

We need community.  It's good for your soul.  


Libraries Rock.

Pop Quiz: Do you know where your local library is? 

No? Get on it. These places are magical.  I feel like I rediscovered the lost kingdom of Atlantis or something.  

I hadn't been to a library since 2012 according to the expiration date on my card.  Fail.  So why now? 

Well, there was a book suggested on my favorite podcast, The Mind Palace, that I really wanted to read.  However, between reading Zero Waste Home and Mr. Money Mustache, I was feeling guilty about the excess packaging and expense that comes with getting a book on Amazon.  I realized I could kill two birds with one stone if only I would just borrow the damn book from the library. 

The benefits were more than I expected.  Beyond less waste and more money in my pocket, I saved the transportations costs of shipping the book, got in a 2 mile walk to the library, saved on emissions and gas by NOT driving my car, and decided to shop at a local store on my way back home, rather than driving to Trader Joe's.  Sure, I spent $2.47 for a small head of cabbage, but at least I feel accomplished.  

Less packaging waste, more money in my pocket, more knowledge for my head, less clutter in my house (the book is being returned), more exercise, fewer emissions, less gas, and supporting a local grocer.  Not bad for a day's work.  

Your local library.  Try it, you just might like it. 

Simplified Saturdays: Holidays Part 3 - Christmas Cards

If you're anything like me, you get totally stoked when a non-bill, non-junk piece of mail winds up in your mail box.  It's for this reason alone that I keep sending out Christmas cards.  Maybe if I pay it forward, a few cards will wind up in my mailbox. 

That being said, when am I supposed to find the time to fill out and mail the darn things?  Last years' arrived somewhere closer to December 27th.  Oops.  Also, this job falls under the "not all that enjoyable, but worth the payoff" category.  So this year, I started thinking about ways to make this process easier and more joyful.   

Here's what I came up with:

Step 1:  Sigh and give up on ever taking a family Christmas photo, choosing the perfect layout and font, having it printed and actually sending them out before Christmas.  Not gonna happen. Settle for a box of cute cards at Target.

Step 2:  Realize that while I have all my contacts on my phone, it's still a pain in the ass to search for everyone.  And that screen keeps going dark when I'm halfway through writing out an address.  Grab a glass of wine and make a list of my favorite people's addresses on a Google Doc.  Print said doc.

Step 3:  Refill wine glass.  Sit down at table with box of cards, list of addresses and stamps. Turn on Christmas music to get in the mood.  Light some candles and tell everyone to leave me alone for the next hour.  

Step 4: Enjoy thinking of each person as I write them a brief message, while enjoying the cozy atmosphere.

Step 5: Cards done.  Refill glass of wine, I earned it.  Set cards by front door for dropping off at post office after Thanksgiving.

Takeaways - The joy of writing cards comes from the joy of thinking about your loved ones as you write them.  The wine helps.  Make it easier by having your cards, stamps, address stamp ($8 on Vistaprint) or labels, address list and pen all gathered together when you start.  Make it an assembly line.  After you've written each card and addressed each envelope, THEN stamp each one, followed by using the address stamp or label on each one.  

Try to stick with one box of cards.   16 to 18 tops.  You can narrow your list down by just sending to immediate family and best friends.  Use a digital card for acquaintances, Facebook friends, coworkers, etc.  At the end of this holiday season, see who sent you a physical card and add them to your address list for next year.  If they are bothering to send them, they probably love receiving them.  

Soothing Sundays: Love and Baking

Well, I'm out in Lodi with family, a fire is burning in the wood stove, the wind is rustling and it's threatening to sprinkle a bit more.  I'd say fall is definitely here.  

On days like today, I used to love to bake something. Then I worked as a cook and stayed the hell out of my own kitchen for the following decade.  I'm just now dusting off my mixing bowls and measuring cups...or in this case, Mom's.

My goal is to reclaim the magic that comes from mixing simple ingredients together, popping them in the over and having something altogether different (and delicious!) emerge.  

I invite you to join me.  I don't care if it's a package of Betty Crocker "just add an egg"  cookies or a recipe you found in a battered old cookbook.  Just promise me you'll bake something today.   There is something so primal and satisfying in cooking something.  About knowing you have the power to create something to feed yourself.  And that something may as well be a bit sugary and delicious!  Your kids will love you for it.