A Review of a Couple Books

IMG_0916
If you look carefully, you can spot a chihuahua sitting amongst the cushions.

Both of the reviewed books were borrowed from the library. The cover on this one is a bit worse for wear, which I interpret as that it has been checked out and read a lot.

The cover here tells the story: Bea Johnson has created an ultimate guide to reducing household waste. Her family’s story is one we have heard before. They had the large home in a nice area with a long commute and spent their free time taking care of the house and the yard and in the car. They relocated to a city home that was half the size, and this started them on the path to simplifying their lives in other regards as well.

While reducing the family’s landfilled trash output to less that a quart per year is an amazing achievement in our culture, I don’t think that that aspect of their adventure simplified their lives.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your trash output, this book will give you lots of good ideas: some simple, some complicated.

Best tip from the book: Look at the stuff that you put in your trash can and recycle bin and ask yourself how to find a way to keep from putting it there. Easy options include using reusable bottles and shopping bags to replace single use plastic bottles and plastic bags. More challenging options include making your own yogurt and buying clothing second hand and creating a compost. Probably too difficult for most of us include taking your own glass jars to the cheese and butcher shops so the staff can deposit their wares directly into your containers and teaching your elementary-aged children to say no to party favors.

Worst tip from the book: putting a brick in your toilet tank to reduce the water flow. Don’t do it! I have heard/read from several reputable sources that the bricks deteriorate over time soaking in the water and will cause plumbing problems.

IMG_0917
More challenging than getting your fish in a jar? Growing it yourself!

The Toolbox for Sustainable City Living will teach you how to grow your own vegetables, chicken, fish and small mammals for consumption in a city setting.

The techniques laid out are easy to understand and the supplies required affordable. It would be useful to own your own property before implementing these methods, but information is given on how to do so on abandoned city lots as well. There are plenty of diagrams and photos to help the reader replicate what Kellogg, Pettigrew and their community have achieved.

The environmental, economic and political benefits of this type of farming are also discussed in the book. I have added to my Travel List a visit to their community in Austin, Texas both to see the husbandry in action and to learn how they work as a community to get the work done.

Simple Winter Décor

IMG_0911
A little evergreen and a little light for the early evenings.

Here is my holiday décor for December. When the rest of your space is simple, it doesn’t take over-the-top flash to make it feel cared about and fresh.

The plate was in my kitchen. The cedar branches with berries came from a tree in the apartment complex’s yard. I was careful to trim from a side where the branches were not desirable (rubbing on cars in the parking lot.) The candle was .99 USD at IKEA.

After the holidays, the plate will go back into the kitchen, the cedar will be composted and the candle will either make it’s way to my meditation space or to the household emergency kit. Frugal, stylish and sustainable. Exactly what QuakerStylist is all about.

And I need a dose of restrained style, because this is our front door for the next two weeks.

IMG_0907
… and his mustache moves. Sigh….

Frugal Greeting Cards

IMG_0885
My basic card making tools.

My stash of home-made cards was getting pretty low, but I have been waiting to make more. The librarian at our local library told me that she clears out the circulating magazines at the end of the year and they are offered first come, first served to the general public. She even offered to reserve a few for me!

 

IMG_0882
I requested two copies of these three titles, because I thought they would have good pictures.

And they did not disappoint! I cut out any photo or illustration that appealed to me. I had purchased a package of 25 blank note cards with envelopes from the local craft store. They were on sale for $5 USD. Based on the size of the note cards, I created a cardboard template from a empty cereal box. I used the template to crop and frame the pictures I liked in a way that appealed to me.

IMG_0891
I just move the template around until I have an interesting frame of the image and I mark inside the template with a pen.
IMG_0890
Here you can see my template marks, ready for cutting.
IMG_0892
Most of the cards are made from a single cropped image, but a few are collages, like this one.
IMG_0894
26 varied, beautiful, handmade cards created for 20 cents each! Honestly, I like these way better than what I can find in the shops.
IMG_0895
I did not make these cards today, but the exact same process applies to making holiday cards.

Any two dimensional image can be used. For past cards I have used antique photos, old calendars, used greeting cards, magazines, interesting tags that came on purchased clothing, parts of a playbill, a politically incorrect children’s book that the library was giving away.

I have a file folder where I collect interesting images for this purpose. When I have enough, I buy the blank note cards and get busy!

A Few Things I’m Grateful for This Thanksgiving

IMG_0878
This is where I usually park my car.

We had some high winds Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and when we woke Wednesday morning, we were greeted to this tree crashed down onto what is my usual parking spot. I’m ever so grateful that I parked in a different spot when we got home from the movie Tuesday night.

IMG_0879
Half of the flatware and plates in this photo are borrowed.

I hosted a dinner at our apartment Wednesday evening for my children and their families/partners. Due to my minimalism and recent multiple moves, I did not have enough plates and flatware for 8 people, but I was easily able to borrow the needed items. No less than three people offered to loan me plates and flatware for the event.

(And by the time dinner was served, the electric company had cut down the tree hanging on the power lines and another crew came and hiked the electrical cords back up to their normal, safe height.)

IMG_0880
All of my kids and their families/partners were able to attend the large family gathering this year, which is the thing for which I am most grateful.

Dear readers: I would love for you to share in the comments what you are thankful for this year. International readers, please chime in also. Surely, gratitude is not confined to federal holidays.

 

Bathroom Tile Project

IMG_0720
Sloppy painting, sloppy caulking and dirt have been accumulating for some time.

From the moment that I moved into this apartment last February the grime and careless workmanship of the tile repair bothered me. I knew that tackling the tile and grout was going to be an intensive task. I undertook some easier ones elsewhere in the apartment first, so that I could have some success under my belt before I took this on.

IMG_0777
It turns out some of those tiles were only being held up with paint and edge caulk.

And it got worse before it got better. I scraped out the filthy grout before gluing the cleaned tiles back in place.

After the glue set, I laid down fresh grout.

IMG_0871
So much prettier!

And the corner that set me off–

 

Christmas Wrap

IMG_0854
The ladybug came off a bar of soap I bought. I have been saving it all year just for this application.

I know it seems a bit early for a post about wrapping Christmas gifts, but my family is travelling here for Thanksgiving and I won’t see many of them near the Christmas holiday. We have developed a family tradition of sending the wrapped gifts home with each other when we gather at Thanksgiving to save on shipping costs.

IMG_0852
The wrap and gift tags.

I use the same paper for gifts all year long. I just dress it up differently according to the occasion. I bought this large roll of cream drawing paper at IKEA from the children’s section. Here. I’ve been working on this roll for a couple years. The brown paper is reused from a framing job I had done. The gift tags were all cut from an 87 cent piece of cardstock. I’m still working through a large stash of ribbons and string that my mom collected over decades and passed on to me. I usually color on the gift tags in colors that coordinate with my ribbon or string.

IMG_0855
I think the pile of presents makes a charming vignette in the corner for now.

My cost this year was just the cardstock. Everything else I had on hand. The paper can be reused and recycled. The fabric string and ribbon can be reused and composted.

Clean Threshold

Beloved Readers-

I realized this is the second kind of lame post in a row. The bathroom tile/grouting project is time consuming and I can really only work on it when my son is visiting at his dad’s because there is no second bathroom to use while work is underway.

In the meantime, I amuse myself with small projects I can knock off in an hour our two. Here is one from this past week.

IMG_0848
Here is the threshold to our apartment with decades of grime in the crevasses.
IMG_0849
And here it is a couple hours later.

All that took was a bit of vinegar, a toothbrush and some elbow grease.

And it makes me happy every time I cross the threshold.

PS. I did not get the house that I made the offer on, so back to the property search.

Butternut Squash Soup

IMG_0843
My new favorite soup!
IMG_0844
I used a whole chopped onion and 2 tablespoons of butter, because that is how I roll.

Things that are on the horizon, but not yet complete: the cleaning and re-grouting of the bathroom tiles, the acceptance/rejection of the offer on the hot mess net-zero house, a minimalist remodel of the apartment living room (whaaat? who puts that kind of effort into a rental?)

And this really is my new favorite soup.

Why There Is No Blog Post This Week

Well, okay, there is this….but there is no real content.

That is because I have been busily working behind the scenes to create content. Like the cleaning/repair/re-grouting of the bathroom tiles. I have devoted a couple days to this project and will likely need one more before it is done. And I so wanted to wait until I had Pinterest worthy before and after photos. They are soooo satisfying.

One of the other big things I did this week was put in an offer of a hot mess of a house. It hasn’t been condemned, per se. But the city basically told the owner to either fix these structurally unsound things or sell off. And they decided to sell off.

IMG_0788
Southern exposure–one and a half stories of solar gain!

Here in one photo, you can see all that attracted me to the property–the collapsing deck and stair, the defunct hot tub, the cheap, disintegrating siding, the native species weeds in the back yard.

What really attracted me was the location in a walkable city, in a market that has been increasing in value in recent years, the above mentioned one and a half stories of southern exposure, a highly rated school district and the price, which was set to ensure the interest of rehab flippers.

And one of those flippers may get the property. So for now, I wait, and rest up….because if my offer on the property is accepted, I will be working hard to gut/rehab it for several months.

Just think how many blog posts I can get out of this wreck of a house!

Three Kitchen Hacks You Might Not Have Tried Yet

 

IMG_0565(1)
Can you guess which ones are hard-boiled and which ones are uncooked?

Minimalists are always trying to figure out how to live well with less stuff. Not to make life an unbearable grind, but because we find it extraordinarily fun to be efficient, we like to use our creativity in the service of humanity/earth and we have discovered it is the path to freedom.

I figured out a couple decades ago that American-sized refrigerators are waste creators. They as so big that people overbuy fresh foods and restaurant meals and then park the hopeful meat and vegetables and take-home boxes on the vast shelves. Then life happens. Work goes overlong and there is only time for fast-food or microwaved pizza rolls. Someone ends up in the hospital and there is only time for vending coffee and chips. Someone breaks up with you and the only thing that makes you feel better is ice cream and Netflix. I get it. And all that food that you bought when you were full of energy and a plan-to-get-fit turns into refrigerated compost.

I am a huge advocate for small refrigerators. Parisians have the right idea, but think smaller. Think dorm-sized fridges-just don’t fill them with beer. I have been using a refrigerator that fits under my kitchen counter for a couple decades, even when I was cooking for a family of four. When you can see everything, you are not as likely to waste it.

Many fridges come with a plastic partition for holding eggs. It is there, taking up your expensive refrigerated space, whether you have eggs or not. My system, photographed above, does not waste space. If you take a few of your dozen eggs and boil them, just indicate it in some way-a Scarlet H, or Sharpie happy face or stickers that you removed from the avocados you bought. Also, if space is really tight in your half-fridge (which does happen from time to time, I admit) you can Trim The Carton To The Number Of Eggs You Have. Even the bits are recyclable.

And speaking of refrigerator compost–

IMG_0757
Where the compost goes before it makes it to the big container…about once a week.
IMG_0758
Where the yellow compost container goes.

Even in my half-fridge, I have room for the small compost bin that some people keep on their counter top or under their sink. I learned a long time ago that refrigerating the compost keeps down stink and bugs. The difference between me and the big-refrigerator folks is 1) my compost is all gathered together, rather than in individual plastic bags rotting in the produce drawer 2) My compost is what is left after I have used the fruits and vegetables that I purchased. Rarely does edible food go to waste here.

IMG_0730
See that small spring clip at the bottom?

Minimalists are always on the look-out for new tools that perform multiple functions. The mighty spring clip is one of those tools. You see it here as a prop for the recipe cards. (I don’t have a lot of recipe cards due to me simplifying our diet and virtually any recipe being available via an internet search.) It also works as a bag clip for spinach or frozen peas or any foodstuffs that come in a plastic bag. ALERT: not kitchen hint–It works great to hold fabric bits inline during an assembly of a creative reuse of second hand fabrics, whilst still being so creative that safety pins would be too much of a commitment. You can use it to hold bunches of paper together (boring!) or combined with a shoe string as an emergency tourniquet (I haven’t had to use this one yet-as a matter of fact in 30 years of nursing, the only time I have had to apply tourniquets was to plump up the veins to draw blood-no emergency.)

I know my readers to be the most helpful and creative of people. What are your favorite kitchen (or household) hacks?

P.S. I know a couple of you (i.e. 20% of my readers) signed up to follow the net-zero house story. I am spending a fair amount of my time tracking down the right property. I have real estate agents looking for it. I am looking for it, via online searches and then I drive to any viable listing. Other people, who are just excited about the concept of creating a net-zero house in boring old St. Louis, send me links every week. And I check them all out. So never fear, progress is being made…if it is only eliminating about 200 properties per week that will not work for one reason or another. I assure you, once we find the right property, the blog about it will be way more interesting. XOXO, Fawn