The O.K. Chorale: Where the Wrapping Remains Green

If you think I’m a green freak (Amigo does), you may be right. But if you think my attitude toward wrapping paper minimizes the colors in the pile under the tree, you’d be wrong. Oh, well, maybe this isn’t the best picture. It illustrates the “before” pile rather well, though.

Gifts and wrapping

In case you think I’m obsessive about it, and you’d be correct, take a look at the second pile. From left to right: recyclable cardboard boxes, broken down; reusable ribbons and wrapping paper; gift bags ready for re-use. The garbage pile was so small, I didn’t bother with getting it into the photo.

Rabbit imitating a tribble on the right

In fact, we forgot to buy tape this year. We were down to the very last role.

A little time organizing, and we’ll be all set for next year. There will be no need to buy wrapping paper. Tape, yes. But no more paper, right family? Right?!

Readers, I’d love to hear more ways to green the holiday season. Please share.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

I haven’t posted lately because we’ve been – yep, you guessed it – very busy. Let’s skim the high points.

Chuck has a new job! He’s no longer making sure the news gets on the air. He is no longer driving and running and repairing live trucks and satellite trucks. He is now installing electrical components in brand new fire trucks. He’s been training for a week now, and it looks like this job is a fabulous fit for him. His official title is Electrician, Fire Truck Division.

Maybe he’ll actually enjoy the NFL playoffs this year instead of huddling in a corner crying out “No, no, don’t send me on the road again!”  

In other news, it’s Christmas concert season for Amigo and the barbershop chorus! He’s already sung in two shows in two weeks, and the third comes up in a few days. He looks very festive in his elf costume, and his sense of humor keeps rehearsals light.

For example, consider the following. Dress rehearsal at the restaurant that will host the Barbershop Bistro. Risers are set up, guys are in place, lights are adjusted. Director scans the chorus and asks, “Is there anyone who can’t see me?” Think on this for a minute.

Amigo, he of the white cane club, gleefully raised his hand. The chorus members were beside themselves with laughter. When I picked him up two hours later, the guys were still chuckling. He livens up a party, all right, my Amigo.

My holiday shopping spreadsheet is in place, and I’m filling in the blanks. Wrappings and trimmings and trappings are organized and ready for use. The Christmas music CD collection is accessible – those albums not on my desk at work, that is.

The O.K. Chorale is settled in for the remainder of December. The blog might even reflect that – when I have time.

Attitude. And a blind sense of humor.

I almost – almost – feel for the director of Amigo’s barbershop choir. But really, he set himself up for this one.

Director Man had the risers set up, the festive scenery in place, and the lights on the choir. He stepped back, looked over the group, and asked, “Is there anyone who can’t see me?”

Without a pause, Amigo raised his hand, the hand not holding his white cane, and the choir erupted with laughter.

They were still chuckling when I arrived to pick him up two hours later. Spark plug, indeed. They’ll have a hard time picking a new recipient for that award!

Amigo in his Elf costume

Amigo in his Elf costume

Fun with Canning Jars

The project started like this.

Jars from estate auction

Jars from estate auction

Then we gave the dishwasher a try.

They all fit!

They all fit!

Almost all came out clean. Those that didn’t, well, I might scrub or soak them, or I might just use them for something other than food preservation.

Then we visited one of my favorite vintage and antique stores. I saw all kinds of ways to use canning jars – other than canning.

What is the candle sitting in? More wax?

What is the candle sitting in? More wax? I have marbles. I could do the one on the left.

Simple. Clean them up, surround them with greenery.

Simple. Clean them up, surround them with greenery.

And people are charging amazing amounts of money for these. To give you an idea, the two blue jars surrounded by pretty green decorative wreaths were priced at about the same amount of money that I paid for the entire table full (see top of post).

I can do this. The only question is – will I do it? Will I make the time to do it?

Stay tuned, readers. Daisy has a project in mind.

Cranberry Sauce – Daisy’s Way

1-2-3 Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
2 cups sugar
3 cups cranberries

Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes or until all the berries have burst. Add cinnamon to taste. Serve warm.

Now, the backstory. I brought this recipe home from kindergarten on a sheet of construction paper. We made it at home since it was so easy. It became a standard at Thanksgiving dinner, the tradition lasting long after the original paper faded.
A generation later, my kids started helping me make it every year. If we have leftover cranberry sauce, I use it in jello or add it to muffins. This little piece of my “saucy” childhood continues, along with Thanksgiving memories that will never fade.

Have a wondering Thanksgiving, readers.

Excuses for the Things I Haven’t Done List

It’s sort of like a to-do list. I’ve accomplished a lot in getting the garden put away for the winter, but there’s still a great deal left to be done.There’s always an excuse, er, a reason, though. Let’s see.

Drain the rain barrels. But it’s still warm enough that there’s no danger of freezing. I use the rain barrel water to rinse out the litter boxes and the kitchen compost containers. Can’t I keep the rain barrels running for a little while longer? (she says plaintively)

Take out the last tomato plants.

It's a jungle out there.

It’s a jungle out there.

Cut back the flowers, such that they are. This is a low priority task. If I don’t do it, the small furry creatures will do it when winter sets in for real. 

Spread compost. This is an ongoing task. I’d rather spread it now than in the spring, but I can do this in the spring if need be. But if I don’t do it now, will there be room in the compost bins for the winter’s kitchen scraps? Well? 

Plant the walking onion bulbs I procured through foraging. It’s okay. I had permission. If I plant these now, they’ll come up in spring with little or no help. But before I put the bulbettes in where I want them, I have to weed that space. Yes, folks, it’s true. I need to weed the garden in November. Do you see why I’m procrastinating? 

Trim the lemon basil plant. This plant isn’t happy indoors. Maybe it needs a trim and a grow light. Maybe I should just cut it off and hang dry it, once and for all. 

Take a load of cast-offs to a thrift store. The pile I call the “Next Goodwill Load” is overflowing the laundry basket that holds it. But first, I really wanted to empty a couple more drawers. It’ll make room for hiding birthday and Christmas gifts.

Speaking of gift shopping, I need to get my annual spreadsheet in place. Ugh. It’s a necessary evil. Keeping track of what I’ve already bought will help prevent overspending. And since I started shopping in August – hey, don’t roll your eyes. Art in the Park (a local summer art festival) is one of my favorite shopping opportunities.

Rake leaves. It’s windy out. That’s enough, isn’t it?

But seriously, I’ve gotten a lot done recently. I cleaned out the main garden plot and the plot behind the garage. I’ve stirred both compost bins and added water to the smaller one to keep it from drying out. Rain barrel water, in fact. I’ve kept up with bunny’s litter boxes, and I add those to the garden soil, too.

Most important task of all: I voted. I voted early at City Hall. That’s a deep sigh of relief.

Readers, have you voted yet? All the other tasks can wait.

Goals, goals, goals and resolutions.

My school-related goals get set in August, as the agrarian calendar puts the school year in place. The arrival of the New Year, the number change in the ones place, is a whole different animal.

Goals with gimmicks are most likely to catch the attention of readers in the blogosphere. Remember A Year of Slow Cooking? A blogger decided to use her slow cooker every day for a full year. I use mine a lot, but 365 continuous days would be unrealistic. The standard weight loss and nutrition goals always suggest themselves. Household chores – clean more often, clean more thoroughly – those go on the “should” list. Gardening chores – aren’t chores, really. Garden goals are enjoyable. Some of those plans get set in the fall, too. I planted onion and garlic bulbs in October. With this odd El Nino winter, who knows what will happen?

But back to goals.

We have a saying in our family: Progress in Baby Steps. To make progress on any goal, small steps are the way to go. Take my garden and canning hobbies for examples. I started growing tomatoes and a few other plants I’d bought as seedlings in the spring. The plot got bigger, and I expanded into growing a few plants from seed. One year I started tomato and pepper plants from seed – and the rest is history. But if I’d started a large plot totally from seed in the first years, it’s likely I’d have gotten poor results. Canning, too. That first batch of raspberry jam in Green Girl’s kitchen certainly was the “gateway drug” to putting up more and more. We haven’t bought commercially made jam, salsa, or pickles in years.

In that light, no big goals for January 1st. I might set short term goals and attempt short term projects. I’ll blog some of those, in particular if those short term goals are successful and lead to long term results.

Readers, what are your plans for New Year’s Goals and Resolutions?

So far, yet not far enough.

While shopping in a small kitchen specialty store, I pulled out my own reusable shopping bag. As I unzipped and unfolded it, the young clerk remarked, “Ooh, are you being green this holiday?” I took a deep breath to prevent saying anything rude or stupid, and just said, “I’ve been carrying my own shopping bags for years.” I mean, it was 2009 when I posted my conflict with a local Sears store that wouldn’t allow me to use my own bag, despite the irony of it being Earth Day and that the Target store down the hall was actually giving away reusable cloth bags.

So here we are, six years later, so I’ll offer a few observations as noted in the archives of Compost Happens.

Here’s the historic post from the Earth Day not noted by Sears.

The long day of teaching that ended with me not using my own lunch bag, something unusual for the eco-conscious Daisy.

A couple years after that Earth Day conflict, La Petite and I went out late in the day on Black Friday armed with our own bags.

Some things stay the same. Here’s an example of a midweek farmers’ market, complete with pictures of my usual bags.

The Pharmacy That Shall Not be Named has gotten better. They ask me if I need a bag, and when I say no, they also remove the unnecessary papers. These papers still end up in the recycling, though. The staff at the pharmacy could make improvements.

My thoughtful analysis is this: if I was already carrying my own bag often enough to be shocked at the refusal at Sears, I must have been providing a reusable shopping bag long before Earth Day, 2009. If this young cashier thought it was unique and cool to be green this holiday season, she’s a bit behind the times, but she’ll catch up.

Readers, do you run into resistance or disbelief when you provide your own shopping bags? I hope the comments will show that it’s getting easier to be green.

The Wrapping Battle – the prequel

A big box store ran an ad in the Sunday inserts: Buy $20 worth of merchandise and get a $5 store gift card! I almost bought it – er, bought into it. Then I read the ad again. To get the $5 store credit on a gift card, I would have needed to buy $20 worth of gift wrapping material. What?!? Friends, if you’re spending $20 on gift wrap, you’re spending too much. When it comes to wrapping paper, a green philosophy is also frugal.

Now that the den floor has been cleared, the tissue has been stored, and the boxes are stacked awaiting their turn at recycling, let’s look at my other attempts to minimize the use of commercial wrapping paper.

Wrapping Tip: Look for opportunities to reuse.

Wrapping Tip: Look for opportunities to reuse.

The large bag is festive on its own; I brought home supper in it last week. The red and white and fun tissues are all reused. The only part of the wrapping that was purchased new? The curling ribbon holding the tag (made from last year’s holiday cards).

Box decked with bag

Box decked with bag

I covered the Popcorn Factory logo with a seasonal logo cut out of a paper grocery bag.

Center: wine bag repurposed

Center: wine bag repurposed

Another wine bag - repurposed with grocery bag cutouts

Another wine bag – repurposed with grocery bag cutouts

another wine bag, sitting beside a reused bucket

another wine bag, sitting beside a reused bucket

I could buy a large quantity of bows, curling ribbon, or maybe clear tape. It would take an awful lot to reach the $20 minimum. I think I’ll stick to my green and frugal wrapping habits. Readers, what’s your preference? Do you reuse and reduce, or do you go for the trappings and trimmings of wrapping?

The Wrapping Battle

I keep trying. Wrapping paper, to me, resembles a single use plastic bag. That is, wrapping paper is a waste of money and creates massive amounts of trash destined for landfills. Almost none of it is recycled or recyclable. Very little can be burned in a fireplace due to the chemical content. Unless it comes from a thrift store or the dollar aisle, wrapping paper is not cost effective, either.

My family disagrees. This year, they took pleasure in making a mess of any wrapping paper they could. Their goal: prevent mom from saving big sheets of paper for reuse.

the chaos after opening gifts

the chaos after opening gifts

Well, I did what I could.

garbage, below salvaged tissue for reuse, above

garbage, below
salvaged tissue for reuse, above

Given the sizable stacks of gifts, I can’t feel too bad. The stack of reusable tissue is almost as big as the bag destined for the garbage bin. I also managed to set aside this collection.

cute box filled with gift bags

cute box filled with gift bags

Despite the family’s efforts to undermine my green goals, I managed to save more than we threw away. And that, my bloggy friends, is itself a gift.