A Table Fit for Four

It has been a bit of process getting our kitchen table. At first, we were going to go secondhand, but as with shopping secondhand, what you are specifically looking for is not always available at the time you want it.

So, then we decided to just design our table instead. With my dad having the access and the know-how on woodworking we sent him a picture of what we were looking for and the custom dimensions we wanted for our small space.

And then we waited.

Months later (he’s a busy guy!) our table started to come together.

dining table

With every new picture update, we got even more excited!

dining table2

Before we knew it, K and my dad were finagling it up the stairs to our apartment.

And BAM!

We suddenly had a real kitchen table.

That more than two people could sit at.

chairs2

It is glorious and more beautiful than anything we would have ever bought in a store (and way better because I get to say my dad made it).

We are so cautious with it now, whereas with the old table we just threw whatever on it. Now everything must be gingerly placed on a placement or coaster.

At the time we received the table, we only had the 2 IU library chairs to sit on, so instantly inviting people over was not an option. Luckily, I had perused Craigslist the night before and inquired about a set of West Elm chairs that I have been pining over for ages. Each of those chairs retail for $249 A PIECE!

Thank goodness I acted quickly and followed up that I could pick them up the next day because I got all 5 chairs for $200 total!

chairs

Within two days we went from tiny garage sale table that fits two to the amazing custom table and bargain chairs that fit four (actually 5 but we cant fit that chair anywhere right now).

Come on over for dinner!

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The Good & Bad of our First CSA Box

It’s been 25 weeks of eating local foods.

We received 11 CSA boxes, and now we are officially done. Overall, how did we like our experience? Read more to find out.

 

The Good

There are a number of aspects of the CSA that we really liked.

The location

We were lucky enough to live very close to our pick up location at Green City Market. It was easy to just walk over there on a Saturday morning, as opposed to having to get in the car and drive somewhere.

The variety

One of the reasons we picked this specific CSA is because it included fruit, which was important to me. We received a lot of different produce throughout the season, and it provided us with a lot of new experiences.

The quality

Our fruits and veggies were some of the most flavorful produce we had ever tasted. If you have grown up on commercial supermarket strawberries and then taste an actual strawberry, the different is life-changing.

The meal planning

It was nice to get our box and then plan the next week’s meals all around it. It also helped us make sure we got the most out of the box.

The Bad

There were also aspects of the CSA that irked us a bit.

The lack of flexibility

If you are out of town the weekend of your CSA box, basically you are out of luck. There is no holding of your box somewhere, and you can’t get an extra box another time. Luckily, we were only out of town once and I finagled my cousin into coming to get our box for us and leaving it at our apartment.

The quantity

Our CSA options were a full share (once a week) and a half share (every other week). We consulted with the farm to see what was the right size, explaining that we cooked pretty often. They suggested a full share, but we were still concerned that would be too much, so we chose the half share. Thank goodness we did! The sheer quantity of produce was almost mind-boggling for our tiny kitchen and fridge. Every other week we had to play Tetris to fit everything in.

The pressure

This goes along with the quantity issue. We felt so much pressure to cook and eat our produce before it went bad, or before our next CSA box came. Half the time I would open the fridge and feel like, “OMG we have to eat the kale NOW!”

The waste

Waste also goes along with the quantity and the pressure. If we did not use the produce fast enough or did not figure out what to do with it fast enough, we often ended up with some rotten veggies. We do have compost, so we were able to at least use that, but I would have liked to not waste anything in general.

Overall

I would say it was worth it and we will most likely do it again next year. For now, though, we are going to enjoy being free from the pressure and only purchase produce we know we can eat in a timely manner.

Save the Date with Less Waste

We received our save the date postcards in the mail the other day.

Now, all we have to do is slap some stamps on them and bring them to the post office!

There is no envelope stuffing required because we went the less paper (and easier) route of doing postcard save the dates. Recipient and return addresses are already printed on them!

save the dates

I already have a thing about envelopes. People instantly toss them in the trash and maybe (probably not) the recycling bin.

So I figured we could go without them!

I know, I know, I could have just emailed everybody about the date, but that is no fun. No one is going to print out my email and put it in their fridge.

But if you are a reader who happens to receive one of these babies in the mail, put it on your fridge and stare at it for the next 8 months, and then please properly dispose of it in your recycling bin! K Thanks!

 

Buying Local: Week 24

It’s our last CSA box this week. I am kind of sad, but am also kind of happy. We have an unreal amount of apples for the size of our fridge (which is not even full size). I have to play Tetris to get them all to fit in the drawer.

That means I am going to have to do some baking or giving away. Anyone want some apples?!

Next week I will be reviewing our entire CSA experience. So look out for that!

last CSA

What We Bought:

  • Bread from Local Foods
  • Sausages from Local Foods
  • Eggs from Local Foods
  • Mustard from Local Foods
  • Spinach
  • Delicata Squash
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Assorted apples
  • Leek
  • Russian Blue potatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Green Beans

What We Learned:

  • Look out next week for when I review our whole local foods/CSA experience!

 

Where Does that Water Go When it Rains A Lot?

I did something super nerdy yesterday.

I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago‘s McCook Reservoir and Mainstream Pumping Station.

 

MWRD

The circular entrance of MWRD is approximately the same size as the tunnels

 

Have I bored you already? Just wait.

The Mainstream Pumping Station is one of three stations designed to capture combined sewer overflows (where both sanitary and storm flow go through the same pipes) from an area of 375 square miles. Remember when I wrote about all the poop in the Chicago River? This would help alleviate that from happening.

When it rains a decent amount, all of the impervious surfaces of the city (roads, sidewalks, buildings) keep the rain from seeping back into the ground, causing it to run off into the city’s combined sewers.

The station is part of the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan which is designed to eliminate waterway pollution caused by combined sewer overflows and provide an outlet for flood waters. Phase I of TARP, intended primarily for pollution control, is made up of four distinct tunnel systems including Mainstream.

It consists of 31 miles of tunnels 240 to 300 feet below ground.  Sewage and stormwater entering the tunnels are carried to the Mainstream Pumping Station, where it is pumped to Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, the largest wastewater treatment plant

IN THE WORLD.

The McCook Reservoir is currently under construction and, when completed,  will have a total capacity of 10 billion gallons. It will be as long as 17 Soldier Fields stacked side by side (or it was 11, can’t recall exactly what the tour guide said!). When fully completed in 2029, the McCook Reservoir will provide more than $143 million per year in flood damage reduction benefits to 3,100,000 people in 37 communities.

MWRD2

McCook Reservoir will be ready to handle stormwater by the end of 2017.

 

So here is an easier explanation of how this works:

  1. It rains a lot
  2. The rain runs over sidewalks and roads and into the sewers
  3. When enough stormwater enters the sewers it can combine with the sewage sewer, resulting in a combined sewer overflow
  4. To prevent this, the stormwater drops into deep underground tunnels
  5. The water travels to a reservoir like McCook
  6.  The reservoir acts as a giant holding tank where stormwater is held until the water treatment plant has the capacity to handle it
  7. When it does, the Mainstream Pumping Station will pump the water to the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant
  8. The water is treated
  9. The treated water is released into the waterway
  10. Flooding and CSOs are prevented

That’s it!

It is finally starting to feel like fall.

Finally.

It has been a bit too warm for a bit too long (climate change cough cough).

Now that there is a chill in the air, I can finally fully embrace it.

When the stores become inundated with “Happy Fall Ya’ll” pillows and pumpkin spice candles in August, it can be hard not to go overboard.

I have been trying to keep decorations to a minimum and keep them secondhand, handmade, or natural.

pumpkins7

Both of these pumpkins came from garage sales.

pumpkins6

Last year I knit this fall themed banner with leftover yarn.

fall banner

Halloween can also be celebrated without having to purchase a brand new costume each year. In college, I went as a Jedi solely from stuff I found at Goodwill.

halloween1

So go enjoy the season, but do it wisely!

 

Buying Local: Week 22

Thank goodness apples keep for a long time because we are overflowing over here. I already gave some away to friends on Saturday and am even considering bringing some in for people at work.

This week is the end of the sweetcorn, which I am kind of happy about because I am corned out. Too much. And we still have some in the freezer…

csa week 10

What We Bought:

  • Green Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Empire and honey crisp apples
  • Arugula
  • Red mustard
  • Yukon Potatoes
  • Kalettes  (Kale sprouts)
  • Sweetcorn
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Apple cider
  • pumpkins (for decorating, not eating)

What We Learned:

  • K pickled his first batch of green beans, we shall see how they taste
  • I think I said this before, but omelets are great ways to use up some produce, paired with some homemade home fries

 

Buying vs. Renting Wedding Stuff

There comes a time in the wedding planning process where you realize how much all that fancy, cute stuff costs from the rental company.

This is a very contradictory situation for me. I want to save money, but I also don’t want to be wasteful.

There were two main pieces I wanted for the reception: cake stands and lanterns.

I checked around at some vintage rental companies and found that renting a single cake stand can range from $15-$50.

For one cake stand!

 

Nimble Well at Indie Wed

Nimble Well vintage jadeite, gold, and pink milk glass cake stands and vases, photo by Amanda Megan Miller.

 

Overall, it is cheaper to buy a couple cake stands, and then re-sell them as a set to another bride, all while keeping my favorite(s) for myself.

So, that’s what we did. We scoured garage sales and Homegoods to come up with our own set of vintage looking cake stands.

We did the same thing for the lanterns. The perfect lanterns happened to be at Target and all on sale as outdoor summer items were moved off the shelves to make way for fall. These lanterns were only on sale in stores and in small quantities, so there were plenty of trips to Targets all over the Chicagoland area. (Sorry you got roped into that dad!)

Once the wedding is over, I plan to keep these items in the wedding rotation by re-selling them to another frugal bride. There are a couple options for that:

Here is more information on where to buy and sell used wedding materials online.

The whole thing definitely is more work on our part, but I am okay with that. I know my purchases will be put to good use.

 

Buying Local: Week 21

We are in the middle of a CSA box from last weekend, and it is one of the last boxes we will receive. Our CSA ends at the end of October. 😦

Some homemade chili tied us over for most of the zombie jetlag last week and we did not eat at home a couple nights.

Now that we are a week and a half out from vacation, we are fully back in our regular schedules, and getting back to eating regularly and normally. Eating 6 large pretzels over 3 days is not normal (I am looking at you Munich and Oktoberfest).

 

DINNER

Our first real homemade meal back. 

 

What We Bought:

  • From Local Foods
    • Whole chicken
    • Milk
    • Sausages
    • French bread
  • From Nichol’s Farm in Marengo, IL
    • Carrots
    • Broccoli
    • Green beans
    • Mixed Greens

What We Learned:

Inspiration

This blog does not get an unreal amount of traffic.

My page views are not off the charts.

And I am totally okay with that.

That’s because I love hearing from friends and family (and those on the internet) about what they have learned from my blog. It makes all of it worth it.

I have had friends in Washington reach out about recycling questions. I have had family friends in Maryland send me food waste articles. Followers now know what to do with their old running shoes, their old Apple products, and their old jeans.

 

I had a friend from DC message me the following:

“I love following your blog and seeing all that you do to help the environment. It really inspires me to do little things to do my part. I realized how awesome cloth napkins are for EVERYDAY!”

So much excitement about cloth napkins!

compost bucket7

Another friend has started composting, like real composting in her backyard. I am so proud!

Just being able to make one small difference is really what this blog adventure is all about.

So thank you.