Friday, May 28, 2010

Boards by Joel

Photo from Canoe

I've been eyeing these absolutely gorgeous crosscut boards on Canoe (which is an awesome online shop in general). They ran out of the 12" board, but upon zooming in on the image, I saw that the lightly engraved words on it are "boards by joel." And lucky for me, because you can buy directly from boards by joel, a Minnesotan business. The 12" Ash board was a mere $20, and the coasters were $3.50 each. Definitely cheaper than buying from Canoe, as much as I like supporting Portland. I had to get them, not because I needed another cutting board (the cork ones are doing great!), but because I love love love solid pieces of grainy wood. Maybe I can hang it up in the kitchen.

I also made a quick trip to the Home Depot today for a canvas tool apron. It was a mere 77 cents, but it was also unfortunately made in China. I plan to test out the apron while cycling for storing my wallet, cell phone and keys. Objective two was to check out their Klein Tools selection. An employee asked if I was an electrician, and I remarked that I simply liked Klein Tools canvas bags. I got a zipper pouch. Also went across the street to Marshalls for an Anchor glass measuring cup and glass container with lid. I'm trying to slowly building my BPA-free food storage collection. Besides the apron, everything I bought today was made in the USA. Woohoo!!

I'm currently reading Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I definitely recommend it for a breezy summer read. It has all the catchy elements without being cheesy- intrigue, romance, drama, and book love.

Going to Dallas for Memorial Day weekend. To be honest, I never really look forward to the trip, but by the end of it, I'm always happy that we went. It is good to see my family and get to know B's family a tiny bit better. Last time, we took Mema to a highly rated on Yelp Japanese restaurant. What made it stand out were the $1 sushi specials and authentic dishes rarely seen in American Japanese places, such as okonomiyaki, ramen and oyakodon. I suspect we'll be going there again. Also, according to my brother, there is a stellar chicken and waffles joint as well. I'll report back on that. Oh, and I gotta remember to pack my sleeping pad and bag. Sadly, the guest beds at my parents' house are close to 20 years old. They are abysmally uncomfortable. Last time we tossed and turned for hours and woke up with searing neck and back aches. Not good. They may or may not be moving in the near future, so replacing those in not high on their list of priorities. We'll probably head back on Monday. Any readers up for an impromptu afternoon trip to Krause Springs or another swimming hole?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Life Less Stuff

These past few weeks, I've been looking for ways to reduce my usage and tossing of stuff, particularly plastic. The reports I've read of BPA, a synthetic estrogen, being not only in plastic, but in the lining of most metal cans are frightening. We've all grown up drinking canned sodas and using tupperware. It's still too early to tell what the long term effects of having it in our systems are, but the short-term effects are definitely not good. And then I got to thinking about landfills and my personal contribution to them. It's a lot. I prefer buying things online, because I can do price comparisons. But my packages come with so much extra stuff. Why not try to reduce for the good of people who have to live near landfills and for future generations? It's a no brainer. I hate thinking that in just a few generations, we have quickly turned parts the earth into an irrevocable dump.

Our friends the Peters had just moved into their new house and decided that it would be a good time to implement changes they had been thinking about for while, such as eliminating all plastic from their kitchen and using cloth towels instead of paper towels and paper napkins. Of course, I got all revved up about it and thought of the stuff I'd go buy the next day to do the same. I realized that I would be buying more stuff, so it depends if the health risk of using plastics (and just not heating them up in the microwave) is worth continuing. I ended up snagging 5 Italian glass containers with BPA-free lids from Marshalls at a reduced price. B still uses our tupperware though. We also still have 4 fat rolls of paper towels to use up, so I have a bit of time to figure out a cheap but reliable alternative. Kitchen cloths are pricey, even at places like Walmart, so I looked in flour sack cloths and even hand towels. My friend Jocelyn pointed me to some cheaper toweling from her quilting company. I have yet to learn how to use my mini sewing machine, but if I can master finishing edges, then I'm thinking this will be the best and most enjoyable option.

Each trip to the grocery store, I pick up so much packaging, mostly plastic. I am aware that by buying less processed foods, we could reduce this. I have also stopped using those thin produce bags to separate fruits and vegs. It requires a little bit more work on the part of the checkout guy/girl, but they seem to be OK with it. The meat we buy comes in a styrofoam tray and is wrapped in plastic wrap. I don't see another alternative to this, except stop eating meat or asking the store to ask the farm to find other packaging. Because I am married to a diehard carnivore, the former is not going to happen. I pinged Wheatsville Co-op and this was their immediate response: "We package some and get some already packaged. The general consensus is that there isn't a very good quality choice for a greener package than what we're using. There are alternatives out there, but they have performance issues that concern us. Anything you buy from our full service cases are usually placed in butcher paper or can be for the most part." Hm. Well I am glad they have already looked into this.

I've been reading up on shampoo bars and the baking soda "no poo" wash. While the latter seems too intense for me, I ordered some bars from Chagrin Valley. Great name, huh? The soaps are packaged in paper, so no more plastic bottles in our shower if they work out. I've seen Dr. Bronner's bar soap mentioned as a replacement for dish soap too.

Also I did get around to getting a bucket for the cat litter so we wouldn't have to continue to collect plastic bags. I used to fake forgetting my bag just so I wouldn't get heat for bagging in plastic. Terrible, huh? So we bring our cloth bags to the store when we remember to.

I am aware that I could possibly not even need kitchen trash bags if we composted (and did not eat meat). But we do live on the 2nd floor of a house and don't have any ground space to do that. And I am grossed out by worms. One day, perhaps. It is largely dependent on if we decide to move in August. We are thinking 78704 or 78703, if we can swing it.

This blog, Life Less Plastic, has been an invaluable resource to me.

I'm trying not to stress myself out about this while I'm still figuring out what works for me and us as a couple. It also stresses me out thinking of people in general and people I know who don't care about this and continue to buy and toss. We are friends with a certain group of people we see regularly a few times a week; they don't recycle, drink HFCS, drink milk, eat conventional red meat, don't buy local, live in the suburbs- they don't embrace any of our lifestyle values. And I know it's unrealistic to stop using plastic and disposable items completely. I'm not ready to rethink toilet paper, feminine products, medical supplies, or floss just yet. Hopefully both companies and consumers will get on board and opt for greener and safer packaging. I just think the costs of rampant plastic usage, both hidden and open, are too great. Now, this isn't some personal passion of mine and I don't spend the majority of my time mulling over these issues. I know I can be a more responsible steward while figuring out how to live my life. And the real issue for me may be the 1st R: reduce. I love stuff. I love researching it, buying it, and using it. B made the point that he uses everything he buys, while I use one thing at a time and leave everything else untouched. This was in light of the new jacket I bought (it was more on sale), as if I needed any more. It's true that I tend to turn towards materialism when I am bored or anxious. Gotta work on that.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Toe Woe

That is my nasty looking big toe! I dropped a 15 lb weight bar on it yesterday during a class workout. I was about to laugh it off, but soon realized that the pain was deepening quickly. I laid down and managed not to wail in front of everyone while my trainer inspected it. Eventually, someone called B to come and pick me up. They suggested that I go to the ER because it was swelling so much, but I just went home. I'm still kicking myself for having this gap in health insurance. June 1 seems so far away... Anyway, I've been icing it, but it doesn't seem to be improving much. It feels feverish and kinda feels like it's going to explode. I'll try to go to my general practitioner tomorrow and possibly get it drained (subungual hematoma), though the thought of that still makes me squeamish. X-rays are expensive, and if it's broken, you just let it heal on its own, right? I've never broken anything, and I feel like a ninny for freaking out about this. I just don't like not knowing what is going on with my body when it's hurt. So far, the Shelleys aren't doing too hot in our boot camp. B has been out because he has knee pain due to weak hamstrings and strong quads. We were going to take a running clinic to Saturday, but I that's not going to happen. I really hate being lame, literally. Going to go pop some ibuprofen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


In the spirit of Shit My Kids Ruined.

Note: I'm pretty much over all of this, because I had to for my sanity's sake. Nobody wants to be around a clean freak. Also, I very much love my cats and would be very lonely without their constant company. This is not an attempt to dissuade anyone from getting a cat. Be warned that there are some consequences, though. Like the inability to keep things nice and 100% hair free.

Hand towel.

IKEA cloth couch. We loved it so much when we saw it on display, but didn't think about putting a guard on the side until it was too late. Hence the lame tape strips, and what little is left of it. So much shredding action. The covers are quite expensive to replace too.

Moon poster (pre-framed). Somebody must've gotten bored.

Guest bed. It is their playground and main nap spot. We have to change the sheets *right* before anyone stays over, and make sure to kick the cats out of the room.

Inbox/desk. So much hair everywhere all the time! But Boyd's cuteness sorta makes it OK.

And all black clothing gets covered in hair! Thankfully, I finally convinced B to not pick up the cats before he goes to work, especially if he is wearing his black dress shirt.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


A large fault of mine is that I regularly become infatuated with consumer products that I heavily research, and it sometimes ends with me dropping way too many dollars on something that I promise to use for a lifetime. Because my tastes never change. (Wrong.) Like this kitchen knife. I drooled over it for two days, and then ordered it. It's a beautifully constructed tool, but I didn't realize how high maintenance it was until I used it. You must dry it immediately after washing, otherwise it will be corroded the next day. Lesson learned. I appreciate having two chef knives; however, my no-frills, black handled Spanish J.A. Henckels chef knife occupies the large slot in the knife block. (It is still a large step up from my old $15 stamped santoku knives that needed daily sharpening. Don't go this cheap!) Understandably, fine products take a bit of extra upkeep. Anyway, so I was going down this route with wood cutting boards. They can be such a work of art. I'd much rather hang it up than toss some raw meat on it and grind a blade against it. Then, I recalled how much fun I had building our two tables, and I decided to try my hand at making a cutting board. Get a piece of hardwood and finish it by hand. Can't be too hard, right? I bid on and won a large slab of curly black walnut wood on eBay, for $35. I got the seller to cut into 4 medium-size pieces of 14" x 9.5" x 1" before shipping it to me. If I had purchased something like that instead (4 of them), it'd probably cost at least $80.

This is the first one I sanded and finished with 3-4 coats of mineral oil. I'm still unsure whether it could serve as a cutting board, as it felt less smooth after a rinse. As I will probably give most of them away, the last thing I want to do is put anyone in danger by turning it into a bacteria pit. Bread/serving boards, perhaps?

The second slab I chose to work on still had bark on it. I know carpenters have some sort of special tool to remove it, but I had to painstakingly chip it off with a screwdriver. Whew!

Three sandings.

Halfway there. Fine sanding, then oil. Notice that little knob? It's part of the growth. But first, break. Sunday ride time!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

What Seneca Said

Lately, I have been experiencing an acute awareness of the shortness of life. The days are long, but the years are short, right? Things won't just figure them out. I have to make them happen. Wasted time can never be retrieved. You don't know how long you will live, even if you take extra precautions. Scary thought.

And so we, in particular, do things like watch humorous TV and action-packed movies, mindless entertainment. Heck, I just spent the last two hours in a jam-packed theater watching Iron Man 2. It was alright. Stuff like that momentarily eases the burden of life, if it's good. And if it's not, like most entertainment is, then you feel cheated.
A few days ago, we were informed that one of our good friends found out he has cancer. What a blow. To youth, health, vitality, adventure, unbridled creativity- simply, to the 70+ awesome years he is supposed to have. I'm still shocked at the news, and I can't imagine what he and his wife must feel. Like good troopers, they are keeping their heads way up, and have decided to start a blog (or two) about the life-changing journey they have just begun together. They have our support, along with the support of so many others. YOU CAN DO IT, BRANDON! (Sorry Brandon, I stole your photo above because I liked it so much. I also don't know how to resize it properly..)