Month: December 2016

A Succinct Summary of My 2016

2016 is just about over. Hallelujah.

Aside from all the craziness the world had to endure for the past 360-ish days, this was my first full year of blogging.

What started as a tiny creative outlet, has turned into something much more. I get excited about writing new posts and love hearing friends and family talk about my blog.

A lot has happened this year.

I  purged a lot of my belongings before moving downtown,

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started composting,

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got a recycling bin for our building,

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became a Chicago Conservation Corps leader,

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cleaned up multiple beaches,

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stopped buying new clothes for myself,

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tested out bamboo toothbrushes,

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And crafted up a storm.

 

Look out for my post on what to expect for 2017! Coming soon!

 

 

 

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The Wrapping Paper Aftermath

When you are trying to reduce your waste and consumption, it is important to remember that everyone is not always going to be on the same page as you.

For example, I received Bee’s Wrap as an alternative to plastic wrap and my older brother just couldn’t understand why I would want that, let alone ask for it for Christmas.

So after all the presents have been opened, I always take it upon myself to make sure each piece of wrapping ends up in the proper place and not just all into the landfill.

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First, I sort out all that can be reused for another holiday season. That includes:

  • tissue paper
  • bows
  • ribbon
  • gift bags
  • gift boxes

As I sat there Christmas morning folding up tissue paper, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my grandmother who used to iron wrapping paper to use it again. Ripped up tissue paper can serve a purpose too. I plan on using that to wrap up my ornaments and fragile Christmas decorations when I pack them away.

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Second, I divided up all the packaging that could be recycled. Since fancy wrapping paper usually cannot be recycled, only a small portion of paper wrapping was able to go into the blue bin. Foil and glitter wrapping paper, on the other hand, cannot.

As for that Amazon box, I may use it to send some stuff to Goodwill through the Give Back Box program.

Everything else, unfortunately, had to be thrown away. 😦

 

 

Only 1 New Clothing Purchase in 4 Months

The year is almost over and about 4 months ago I decided not to purchase any new clothes for myself for the rest of 2016.

I am proud to say I have made it!

There were plenty of times where I was tempted to purchase things, but my view on consumerism has really changed. Do I need something or do I just want it? I completely opted out of The King of Consumerism that is Black Friday and actively avoided browsing online.levis-jeans

When I did need to get a pair of jeans for work, I bought them from Goodwill.

Unfortunately, I did end up buying one piece of clothing, a pair of fleece leggings. If you live in Chicago (which has been colder than Mars the past couple days), you would understand this purchase.

2017 might be the year I don’t buy any new clothes. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

How Much Food Waste Can You Create in 5 Months?

I started composting for the first time when I moved to the City.

That does not sound like it should be an accurate statement, right? But it is! You can learn more about how I started to compost in this previous post.

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It wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided to start keeping track of how much food waste I was collecting in my composting bucket. To do so, I first weighed an empty bucket with my hanging scale. Then when it was time for me to put out my bucket for pick up, I would weigh it again and subtract the weight of the empty bucket, leaving me with the correct amount of weight.

August through December of 2016, I diverted 51.36 pounds of organic waste from the landfill!

That is only the measurement of me (and sometimes K) contributing for only 5 months of the year. Think of what we could do in a whole year!

My bucket and I have now been through all the seasons together. In the spring, I kept a potted plant on top of it. In the summer, the bucket smelled a bit when it was opened so I tended to do that outside. In the fall, we were happy campers, and in the winter we have already worked through some freezing and thawing cycles.

I am so glad to have started this composting journey. Not only have I learned a lot, but everyone else around me has learned a lot whether they wanted to or not. K’s friends even ask him how the composting is going. I know it’s in jest, but at least they are talking about it!

The Beauty in the Handmade, Secondhand, and Hand-me-downs

Originally, I had zero intentions of doing a post specifically on how I decorated for the holidays. I am not an interior designer.

But, the below picture changed my mind.

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Yesterday, some family got together to bake our traditional Christmas dessert, linzer torte. I was so proud of my work that I wanted to document its beauty.  Looking at this picture reminded me of all the beauty of the decorations I have found secondhand, made with my own hands, or were handed down to me from loved ones.

The Dining Room*

*It’s not really a dining room, I just don’t know what else to call it

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I scored this beautiful glass jar from a garage sale long ago and knew it would come in handy. My original plan was to fill it with seashells from K’s hometown in Massachusetts, but I have yet to acquire more than one. So now the jar gets to be seasonal! It currently holds my collection of cookie cutters. They are too pretty to hide away in a drawer.

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Christmas M&M’s were a staple in my house growing up. After picking some up, I realized I had nothing to put them in! Luckily, I took home a bunch of these mason jar mugs that were wedding favors at a friend’s big day. I couldn’t bare to see any left behind!

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Yes, there is a pumpkin in this picture. He didn’t make it into last month’s compost pick up, so I have been holding on to him until the next. I figured I would have some fun with it and have him wear an elf hat. Why not?!

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This enamel tray was found at an antique market in Northern Illinois and I knew it would be perfect for my kitchen table. The pinecones have stuck around since the fall, and all I had to do was add some festive ornaments.

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Over our closet is a vintage paddle we hung up to pay homage to K’s love of fishing and boating. Since I had an extra string of garland, the paddle got to be decorated too! Next year, I am thinking of wrapping it in lights.

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On our door hangs the newest edition in handmade decorations. You can read all about it here.

Living Room

 

Christkindlmarket is a big deal in Chicago. It is a traditional open-aired German Christmas market right in the middle of downtown. If you are brave enough to battle the crowds, you can get a delicious pretzel and some hot mulled wine, called glühwein, in a souvenir boot mug! I have gone many times with friends and family and displaying the mugs on our bar makes perfect sense.

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Bet you don’t realize our thermostat is in the middle of that picture right? It is usually a blank space on the wall, but now it is home to our Christmas card collection. The delightfully tacky Christmas banner was my parents and I have fallen in love with it over the years and ended up claiming it as my own.

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Last fall, my friends and I spent an evening crafting blanket ladders in a garage. It was such a blast, and I am so glad this piece provides me with memories that one bought from a store could not.

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K had this awful red IKEA pillow that he brought with him when we moved in together. It’s obnoxiously crinkly so it had been banned to the giveaway box in the basement. That was until I decided to give it some new life by turning it into a Christmas pillow. I already had the green and brown felt, so I stitched us a whole new decoration.

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This is the first year I have actually had my own Christmas tree, so that means I had nothing for it. A tree skirt is often common practice, but I saw no reason to waste any money on such an item. We had a red and black plaid blanket that works perfectly wrapped around the tree.

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Knit bunting is now my new favorite decoration. I made one for fall and now one for Christmas!

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No vintage Christmas collection is complete without a creepy Santa Claus! I found him at a garage sale and just couldn’t pass him up. You better watch out! He’s watching you!

No! Not the Recycling Drop-Off Centers!

Compared to other major cities (or any city), Chicago’s recycling rate is pretty dismal. Like really really dismal.

Only 10% of waste gets diverted from landfills.

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That is compared to San Francisco’s 80% and Seattle’s 60%. Yikes.

Anyway, that’s a topic for another day.

The City of Chicago is phasing out its 6 recycling drop-off centers. Back before it took me 79 days to get my Blue Cart, I relied heavily on these drop-off centers to unload my recyclables. I basically used my car as storage until I had enough to warrant a drive over to Lincoln Park.

recycling drop off

Come January 1, all of these will be gone. The new ordinance calls for every Chicago property to have its own recycling program. That is awesome and all, but the drop-off centers should not have to go!

The reasoning for their departure is they need constant servicing and are often contaminated with garbage, clothes, and construction debris. Since all buildings should hypothetically have to recycle or be fined, officials deemed it was ok to scale back on the drop-off centers.

I say hypothetically because larger apartment buildings were already mandated to provide recycling, but it basically was not enforced to the point that the frustrated Chicagoans created www.mybuildingdoesntrecycle.com.

The drop-off centers should stay.

If it took 79 days to get my Blue Cart from the City, I highly doubt buildings are going to get recycling programs set up any faster than that. The centers are great for when you have a lot of large boxes or items that you don’t want to overflow your own Blue Cart with.

For example, our cart is split between the 4 apartments in our building. That’s a total of 9 people and probably some of the neighbors. I can’t just shove a bunch of boxes in there and think it will be fine until it is picked up in 2 weeks.

 

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9 people’s recycling has to fit in here for 2 weeks

To be honest, I have not used the drop-off centers since getting our Blue Cart, but it was still nice to know that it was an option.

If the City is worried about our recycling rate, I think taking away centrally located recycling drop-off centers is a step in the wrong direction.

 

 

 

Tis the Season For Frozen Compost

“Baby, it’s cold outside”

So cold that my compost bucket (which we keep outside on our fire escape) had frozen shut.

After a weekend of numerous home cooked meals, our compost bowl was starting to overflow, and its contents needed to retreat to the outdoors.

There was no way I was getting the lid off the bucket, so I figured I would bring it inside to warm on up.

 

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Nice and cozy compost bucket

When I got back from work, I soaked up the remaining water and was able to add my food scraps no problem.

The bucket is back outside now,  but I am sure that will not be the last time it gets to dodge the fire escape’s winter chill. Stay tuned!

 

How To: Gracious Gifting

My Christmas gifts are all finished, and they have been for awhile. If you pay attention to the people you are giving to throughout the year, it is fairly easy to come up with something. For example, I keep a note in my phone with gift ideas for my friends and family.

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Giving and getting experiences is by far the best type of gift. Even if that isn’t an option, I want to be able to give something that truly has meaning to the receiver, is a need, and stimulates the local economy at the same time. Sorry, department store Christmas commercials, I will not be buying people random sweaters for the holidays.

Here is what you can do to be a conscious gifter:

Go Local

Help a small, local business out and get your gifts from them. To avoid a physical gift, gift cards to a favorite restaurant are always a good option.

Go High Quality

Make your purchase worth it. Going handmade and local usually means it’s going to be of higher quality compared to store brand. Go for brands that have lifetime satisfaction guarantees like LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, or anything on Buy Me Once.

Make It

The most memorable gifts I have ever given have been ones I have made with my own hands. One Christmas I spent countless hours knitting my dad a cable knit scarf and he wears it ALL THE TIME.

Have Someone Else Make It

Sometimes the thing we want to give others is beyond our own ability. If so, employ a local artist or someone from Etsy to help get your message across. I have sent get well cookies to sick friends and personalized flower vases for newly married couples.

Wrap It (Or Don’t Wrap it)

Wrapping paper is a huge waste. I refuse to buy it ever again, especially when we are daily subscribers to the Chicago Tribune. That provides plenty of newspaper to be used for wrapping. Additionally, I save every gift bag and bow I receive so I can pull those out if necessary.

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DIY:Leftover Yarn Christmas Wreath

This weekend, Chicago is getting smacked with a good snowstorm. The grocery store was packed as everyone prepared to huddle inside. On top of the weather, I am also sick, so basically that means I sat on the couch all weekend watching Christmas movies under 3 blankets.

I wanted to be somewhat productive, though, so I did some minimal effort crafting. With a bunch of red, green, and white yarn leftover from this previous project and a few others, I decided to put together my own pom pom Christmas wreath.

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I made 3 different sized poms, large, medium, and small, using different weights of yarn for added texture. Hours later, the floor was covered in yarn fuzz, and I had a pile of varying size multi-colored yarn balls.

I needed something to affix them to, so I headed to the basement where I happened to keep this gigantic Target box. I knew it would come in handy! I used an Exacto knife to cut a wreath shape and then wrapped it in what was left of the green yarn.

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After arranging the pom poms into a decently looking order, I tied them to the green yarn that I had wrapped around the cardboard. To help keep the poms attached, I used some hot glue as well.

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I popped it on our door and admired my handiwork. Not bad for some sickly crafting from the couch.

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DIY: Knit Bunting Volume 2

Back in the fall season, I made, what I thought, was a super cute knit bunting. I loved it so much that I wanted to make one for Christmas as well. I followed the same pattern I used for the previous one, but changed colors and motifs.

I wanted to stay pretty generic so I went with a star, tree, and stocking. The buttons were reused from my grandmother’s button box. Did your grandmother/mother have one of those too? Our tin is overflowing to the point that it has to be rubberbanded to keep the lid on!

It turned out so cute! It isn’t perfect, but I like that it has imperfections, and know that it was handmade with love.

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