brown bagging in style.

i like to think of myself as a person who puts in some semblance of an effort to be environmentally friendly. i participate in recycling, i bring my own bags to the grocery store, and sometimes i use my bike instead of my car. so naturally when it came to deciding how to bring my lunch to work, i clearly selected the reusable bag option. my search started in target, where i discovered that insulated lunch bags cost $10-15. whaaaaat?!?!?! that was not gonna work for me. luckily i found a rather wimpy, but serviceable bag at another store for only $3. 

this bag proved to be a bit of a challenge as reusable food containers were not typically inclined to fit inside. somehow the mister has not had such difficulties, so after almost two years in my care, this flower-encrusted bag was passed on to him for his culinary needs. it does not take a genius to realize i was thrilled when the p.t.a. at my school decided to give all the teachers an insulated lunch bag. a bag big enough to hold all my favorite food containers. yahoo! at the time i did not realize that this bag would not last long in day-to-day life with yours truly. the bag's demise started when the lining started separating from the bag. eventually it was so bad i ripped out the lining. i was not prepared for what i found. a crumbling layer of floppy foam that also had to be removed. the end result? goo. it was at this point that i added "lunch bag" to my list of sewing projects.
a few months later a fellow blogger shared her adventures sewing these "buckets" from the stitchin chicken. at the time, although i recognized that they were a clever creation to bookmark in the noggin, i had no idea that these buckets would factor into my lunch bag conundrum. but yesterday i had an epiphany. the buckets are designed to maintain their shape via the insertion of batting, which could double as insulation. voila, a lunch bag!! luckily, months back, upon the downfall of my p.t.a. bag, i had added rain-gear fabric to my stash for the eventual day when i would create a new lunch bag. so, on the heels of my inspiration, i quickly decided on dimensions and got to work creating my template and cutting out my fabric.
since this is a lunch bag, i made a few modifications. i added a pocket to hold my utensils, elastic straps to hold my water bottle upright, a strap and button to hold the bag closed, and longer handles for carrying. the final product makes me squeal with joy. i am actually eager for the weekend to end, so i can use my new lunch bag. okay, fine i do not want the weekend to end early, but i definitely think that i might now have in my possession the world's most adorable lunch bag.


finders keepers, losers weepers.

throughout the course of my life, people have been griping at me to stop walking with my eyes on the ground. various reasons have been given, but the favorite seems to be that i am ruining my posture. i expect that these folks imagined i would grow up with some massive poor-posture-induced deformity. i saw no reason to follow the advice to lift my eyes from the ground. after all i could stare my fellows in the face and wander about with my head in the clouds OR i could keep my eyes on the prize...the coins that mysteriously find their way to sidewalks. yup, i am the kid who picked up coins. i still am. perhaps some see this as a sad existence..eyeing endless avenues of cement in the hopes of finding two or three cents, but i find absolute delight in the discovery of FREE money. typically my finds are pennies, but as any coin-picker-upper knows, there are occasional nickels and dimes and even the rare quarter. i have been duped by random bits of metal and even once in south beach, a nickel glued to the ground (sob!), but most of my finds are a financial boost.
two sundays ago (valentine's day to be exact) i wandered to the grocery store in the evening. i stepped out of my car and as per usual had my eyes on the ground. i started walking to the store when a glint on the ground caught my eye. yesssss! and then i looked closer. this was not a coin. no sireee bob, it was a bracelet. a sort of gaudy silver bracelet with a heart. not exactly my style, but i pick it up and drop it in my pocket. i figure i might as well take it home, because i can dismantle it and use the bits and pieces to create new jewelry. perhaps i should think about the person who lost the bracelet, but no. i am a horrible wench. i have absolutely no sympathy. i find the purty bauble, and you cry. too bad, so sad. i did my grocery shopping and headed home. by the time i arrived home i would have forgotten about the bracelet if it was not banging around in my pocket.
just for kicks i take it out and give it a cursory glance to check for the tell-tale "925" designating it as sterling silver. needless to say i was completely shocked to find "tiffany & co. 925." uh. wow. suddenly the bracelet seems rather stylish! i might have limp-noodle posture, but i am now the proud owner of a tiffany bracelet. happy valentine's day to me!!!!!



i am still coming to grips with the fact that i am a capable cook. i did not grow up in the kitchen. well actually, that's not true. i DID grow up in the kitchen, but i was stealing cookies, not cooking. in the last few years i have not only become comfortable in the kitchen, i have actually become obsessive. pair that with a desire to do less shopping and suddenly i find myself baking our daily bread. whaaaaat?!?! yup-a-roni. like my current shopping reductions it all started during my peace corps service, where i learned how to bake bread on the stovetop. this education was strengthened by my peace corps mom. she quickly seized on my clay wedging skills, transferring them to kneading bread dough. in the process, she also taught me how to make bread in the oven. so now, armed with my limited bread making experience and my overzealous kitchen confidence i decided it was high time i start baking bread. after all, how hard could it be?

i did a little internet searching and found the ny times no-knead bread recipe that was supposed to be foolproof. it was. the first time. the loaf turned out so lovely it was featured in a january post. the second  attempt resulted in a gooey sticky mess that refused to do anything it was supposed to do. i chalked that up to letting the dough sit with a lid over the bowl rather than the requisite plastic wrap. fine fine. as it was an unrecoverable failure i dumped it in the garbage with little fanfare. bye bye yucky dough. after having discovered my plastic wrap "mistake" i confidently started on attempt three. twenty hours later i discover that it too failed. foolproof? either i am a fool, which is certainly possible, or this recipe is not proofed. with a bit of research i have come to the conclusion that my use of bread flour was likely my downfall - apparently when a recipe says "all-purpose flour", you are supposed to actually USE all-purpose flour. right then, no bread flour when making bread. huh? well that makes no sense. i need a recipe that fits in to my logic-based world. after some more internet searching, i opted for a lovely beginner's bread recipe. it does require kneading, but i find this to be a relaxing process. the bonus is that from start to finish only takes about 3 hours. not bad for homemade bread. after three successful loaves of bread, i think this is the recipe for me. i am not yet exactly sure about the economics behind it all, but it seems that i will be able to extract six loaves of bread from a bag of flour, so no matter how you slice it, there is a whole lotta money savings going on. better yet, we are eating good in this neighborhood.


death to shopping.

four and a half years ago i returned from my two year tour as a peace corps volunteer in lesotho. my experience in southern africa was life-changing and mind-altering, but somehow living in a tiny village, in a mud hut with no electricity or running water, was not enough to extinguish my yearning for STUFF. what stuff? any stuff. don't get me wrong..i joined the peace corps, not a nunnery, so while i lived a simple life, i did not see a need to completely eradicate consumption. whenever i went to town i invariably wandered through shops to peruse all the goodies and often ended up buying things that were far from necessary. on one hand i was supporting the local economy, on the other hand i was simply engaging in the consumerism that comes so natural to americans. you can take the girl out of america, but apparently you can't take the america out of the girl. at least not this girl.
before i left lesotho, i promised myself that i would do my best to continue living a simple life. nothing extreme...i was not about to turn down living in a house with electricity and indoor plumbing, but i wanted to try life with less possessions (not zero possessions, just less, less, less). upon reentry into the united states i felt that immediate tug to consume like a starving glutton. on my first day back i went to target. it was like sending a lamb to the slaughter - i wanted EVERYTHING. then within my first 12 months, i bought a car, acquired furniture, and bought a condo. and i have been wallowing in the murky waters of consumerism ever since. i might not yet be in need of a twelve-step program, but i am surely on my way to being addicted to shopping.
since i have no desire to be featured on the discovery channel as a hoarder, this past friday i drew the proverbial line in the sand. i have forbidden myself to go shopping. the only exceptions are food and any other items which the mister and i agree are needed. my goal is to save my time, my money, and my sanity. most importantly this will present me with a little more time and energy to enjoy the things that we already have. since my declaration i have cleaned up the clutter that was taking over our house and happily unearthed goodies about which i had forgotten. like a scandalous quantity of tea light candles -- thank you ikea. candles make me feel warm and fuzzy, so the past few days i have been merrily burning my way through our heap of candles. i have barely made a dent. i also rediscovered a stash of coasters. i dont know about you, but my mum ingrained in me that one must always use coasters. not surprisingly, i get excited about the wee little buggers. little did i realize how many we have acquired. so now my curiosity is overwhelming. i cannot wait for the myriad of possibilities that await me within the world of stuff that is our home. i am going shopping...in our closet.



a few days ago i was at the grocery store, in the produce section to be exact. i was totally engrossed in my efforts to pick the perfect apples for the mister. he likes any varieties that have that marbled red & yellow coloring, but prefers honeycrisps and pacifics, which seem to be available only three days a year. he also wants BIG apples. not regular sized apples, but the mondo probably-grown-with-steroids kind of apples. i have tried to figure this out to no avail. i once suggested that when ginormous apples are unavailable he could take two small apples. i was given the look of divine patience.  you know the one when they look at you and summon a heavenly calm, before lowering themselves to the dubious task of having to explain the mundane to a mortal. right then. BIG apples. got it.

anywhooo..i was merrily minding my own business selecting some large and unbruised fujis, when a lady called out to me from the banana display. she was holding up a tiny yellow blob and asked me if i had ever tried one. i am quite certain i gave her an utterly blank look. not out of disrespect, but out of sheer ignorance. i had absolutely no idea what she was holding. she explained that it is a baby banana and her friend "just loves them." since i was unable to give her any type of recommendation, she made the wise decision to buy one figuring if she loved it she could come back and get more. well now of course i have abandoned my pursuits with the mister's apples and am entranced by these little darlings. also called nino bananas, ladyfinger bananas, stubby bananas, and  finger bananas. they lack the graceful arc of a traditional banana, favoring a more rotund appearance similar to large and pudgy fingers (hence some of the nicknames), but they are unmistakably bananas.

at this point curiosity absolutely wins and i have no choice but to buy a baby banana myself. in fact, i buy two. one for me and one for the mister. he is a funny cat, sometimes he wants nothing to do with my food finds and other times he feels sadly neglected if i do not buy one for him. i erred on the side of caution and bought him his very own baby banana. i am sure you are all dying to know how a baby banana tastes and well....it tastes like a banana.


it has been about a year since i felt any inclination to clean our house. wait, let me try that again, lest you think that the hubby and i are living in filth. to rephrase, it has been a loooooong time since i had any motivation to put away all the nonsense that finds its way into our living space. the mister regularly (okay, semi-regularly) cleans the house, as in sweeps, dusts, mops, etcetera. unfortunately, he is not typically given to putting away "stuff." clearly it does not help that yours truly is a wee bit particular about how and where things are put away.

the end result is that we start creating little heaps of things. unfortunately those collections are like the spawn of the devil, because they grow and grow until they have babies and the next thing you know, you are living in a house of heaps. everywhere you turn there is a conglomeration of stuff that is wanting to be dealt with. needless to say, after twelve months we had about oodles of these jumbled collections.

but NO MORE! as if by magic, i woke up on saturday morning with a sudden inclination to put everything away and get rid of all the stuff we do not need. whaaat?!?!?! yes. you read that correctly. i am not sure what prompted this, but i went with it and surprisingly, this impulse persisted throughout the weekend. thus far i have cleared off the dumping grounds otherwise known as our kitchen counter and dining room table, whisked away the chaos that was the top of our dressers, reorganized my entire paper stash (gasp!! although some might think it as muddled as ever), and rearranged our "office." next up? the closets. ah well, if this motivation persists, i might need to pursue a second job, otherwise you might come knocking at our door and find us living in an empty shell. maybe then my life would qualify for the 100 things challenge. sadly, short of exempting my crafting supplies from the challenge, which would probably be considered cheating, i am probably incapable of living without all my goodies. i love the notion of simple living, but hate the reality.