chicago

An Audit of Our Recycling

Yeah, our recycling in Chicago is pretty much the pits.

I am pretty skeptical that anything we put in the recycling bin actually gets recycled, and that is why many people don’t even bother. I totally get that.

But recycling is a habit that I don’t plan on breaking.

We have a legitimate recycling bin in our house and it was one of my most favorite Christmas gifts. That’s right, I wanted and received a recycling bin for Christmas a number of years ago! I feel no shame!

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Our bin gets filled up every week or so, depending on what is going on. When it is full, I take it downstairs and dump it into the recycling tote sans bag like you’re supposed to.

Since I basically recycle on autopilot, I wanted to actually pay attention to what is in my recycling bin by taking an audit of what’s inside. 

Below is probably about a week’s worth of recycling. 

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 We have:

  • 1 dishwasher detergent bottle
  • 1 cardboard beer caddy
  • 4 glass bottles
  • 1 aluminum can
  • 2 plastic salad containers
  • 3 cardboard boxes
  • 1 plastic bottle
  • 1 aluminum takeout container
  • 1 milk carton
  • 3 paper bags
  • 1 pile of junk mail, envelopes, newspaper and paper

That’s not too bad. We can definitely do a better job of buying plastic-free lettuce, and we usually get milk in returnable glass bottles. 

Each week is different and I am going to start noticing what goes into my bin more and see where I can make changes.

Up next, a waste audit! Yup, going to go through the garbage. Stay tuned! 

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My Xmas Gifts Were (Mostly) Made in Chicago

I haven’t been to the mall for any of my Christmas shopping (I did purchase a few things on Amazon though, not going to lie).

Actually, most of it got done at the Chicago Plumbers Hall…

…which is where the Made in Chicago Market is held.

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Everything there was handmade in Chicago, so it made picking out gifts super easy because I knew where they were coming from. They were not shipped over from China. They were painstakingly made by hand by artisans in my own city.

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After an initial lap, I started to formulate gift ideas in my head. Of course, I cannot discuss any of my purchases here because some of my most dedicated readers are the recipients!

This season, not only did I find unique items, but my purchases helped an individual maybe make ends meet, or provided the capital for improvements to their business.

It is a win-win situation.

If you missed the Made in Chicago market, there are still plenty of Chicago holiday markets running from now until Christmas. Which ones will you go to?

Chicago Confronts Climate Issues

Most Sunday nights in December you will find me in comfy clothes and huddled inside.

This past Sunday, however, I pulled myself from my cozy couch, got dressed, and went to the Field Museum.

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I have not been to the Field Museum since elementary school, but I was not going to see Sue or King Tut, I was going to meet up with a community of people concerned about climate change.

The Chicago Community Climate Forum brought together over 60 organizations and OVER 2,000 PEOPLE in the climate movement.

 

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Chris Wheat, Chicago’s Chief Sustainability Officer

 

This gathering preceded Monday and Tuesday’s 2017 North American Climate Summit, where over 50 mayors came together to discuss climate change on a local level here in Chicago.

 

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Packed hall listening to great speakers

 

For the public gathering on Sunday, a plethora of speakers and performers provided a dialogue on what we can do on a local and community level. Afterwards, there was an opportunity to mingle and network, as well as sign the Chicago Agreement on Climate & Community (which you can sign here.)

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Overall, it was a really moving experience. Sometimes, especially with this administration, it can feel very frustrating and the future can look dismal. But seeing the passion and drive of all the attendees on Sunday calmed my anxious heart a bit.

Chicago is defiant.

Chicago is strong.

And Chicago will show the nation and the world that just because this country is is the only one IN THE WORLD that has not signed the Paris Agreement, we will persevere.

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!

 

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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.

 

Garage Sale Finds into Framed Art

K & I have a small obsession with maps.

We already have a map of Cape Cod Bay and Washington DC in our apartment.

So when I stumbled upon a copy of the Charts of the Illinois Waterway at a garage sale, I knew I had to go back and get it. K also told me I had to go back and get it.

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It has maps of the Mississippi, the Chicago River, the lock system, and the canals that helped reverse the flow of the Chicago River.

K was thrilled with the purchase. We knew right away they would make great additions to our growing map collection.

The maps hung around for a few months until I finally got around to finding frames for them, even though we did not have much wall space left anymore.

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We picked our favorite two: one of the waterways of the U.S. and one of the downtown portion of the Chicago River.

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They look pretty good over the TV and am happy with the purchase and placement of them. It is also always a way better story when you can say you got something at a garage sale!

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Buying Local: Week 16

We are ALMOST FINISHED WITH AN ENTIRE BOX!!

The cauliflower is on the meal plan for tomorrow, and I eat an apple every day. Now what to do with all those cucumbers?

Sixteen weeks into this journey K has finally figured that we should take a closer look at a more plant-based diet. We shall see where that takes us.

Our CSA box runs through October and it is already time to start thinking about signing up for a fall box that would last through December. It is definitely something to consider!

CSA week 16

What We Bought:

  • Brussel sprouts from Marengo, IL
  • Spring lettuce mix from Marengo, IL
  • Oberweis milk from family farms around IL and WI
  • Turano bread from Berwyn, IL
  • Corn from the Midwest (grocery store was not very specific…)

What We Learned:

  • How to freeze apples, beets, corn, and tomatoes. The apples and beets will be used in smoothies and the tomatoes for sauces.
  • How to blanch tomatoes.
  • K tossed some of the frozen corn into our chicken and bean quesadillas the other night and it was super convenient to have cut up corn on hand.
  • We did end up getting additional corn from the grocery store, but both of us have declared that farmers market corn tastes way better.

Beach Clean up with Zero Waste Chicago

Cool things are happening in Chicago, and the creation of Zero Waste Chicago is one of them.

They host monthly events and this month they asked me to lead a beach clean up since I am an Adopt-A-Beach Team Leader. (Check out my other clean up posts here, here, here, and here.)

We headed down to 31st Street Beach, a beach I have not been to or cleaned up before.

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For a Tuesday night, it sure was hopping. Families were out barbequing and kids were splashing in the water, trying to squeeze the last few days of summer before back to school.

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A great crew of volunteers showed up and spread out all over the beach armed with bags and litter monitoring surveys.

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Overall, we collected 35.66 lbs of trash, recycling, and compost!

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Some highlights:

  • 609 cigarette butts
  • 221 food wrappers
  • 200 pieces of plastic
  • 135 metal bottle caps
  • 110 pieces of foam
  • 94 pieces of glass
  • 69 balloons
  • 56 pieces of paper
  • 54 plastic bags
  • 46 straws
  • 18 band-aids
  • 7 hair ties
  • 1 razor
  • 1 tampon
  • 1 condom

 

 

Buying Local: Week 15 & 6th CSA

We have really been rolling with our box this week.

K made a tasty veggie ragu Saturday night, then we used the cucumbers in a tangy yogurt sauce Sunday, and we also tried our hand at cooking green beans two different ways.

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We are going to attempt to finally get through an entire box without any of it going to waste. I will keep you updated if we accomplish that. Fingers crossed.

What We Bought:

  • Bell peppers
  • Red thumb potatoes
  • Mix tomatoes
  • Jersey mac and pristine apples
  • Mira sweetcorn
  • Candy onions
  • Newhall Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Assorted cucumbers
  • Green Beans
  • Jalepenos

    veggie sauce

    veggie ragu sauce

What We Learned:

  • Thank goodness we have compost because we are creating a lot of food waste when we don’t get to something on time.
  • To use up some of the veggies from the previous week and a couple of the new ones, K made a fantastic red vegetable sauce. We ate some and then froze the rest.
  • You can freeze corn! We got 6 ears of corn in our box so we are going to save a few by cutting the kernels off the cob and freezing it for later.

Buying Local: Week 14

CSA week 4 (2)

We have eaten just a bit of everything so far, but haven’t been able to fully get through any produce from last week’s CSA box. I had a couple beet smoothies and made a big batch of roasted veggies to take for lunch this week. For dinner the other night, K made some omelets with a mish mosh of veggies folded inside.

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As usual, I ate most of the fruit from last week, so popped over to the farmers market to get some more this weekend.

What We Bought:

  • Dozen eggs from Benton Harbor, MI
  • Raspberries from Benton Harbor, MI
  • Blueberries from Bangor, MI

What We Learned:

  • We are getting better at incorporating our produce into basically all of our meals. A piece of my breakfast, lunch, and dinner, can easily have something from our box in it.
  • Basically, any vegetable chopped up and added to an omelet is delicious!

5 Reasons Why I Love Living in the City

I have lived in two major cities in my life so far.

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The nation’s capital, Washington, DC

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and the pride of the Midwest, Chicago, IL

While living in the city does has some setbacks (so many sirens), city life has become a part of me in many ways.

Without further adieu, here are

The 5 Reasons Why I

Love Living In the City

1. Being able to walk everywhere

I can pretty much access all of life’s necessities via my own two feet. Within just a few blocks are my gym, the mailbox, the bank, the pharmacy, a grocery store, tons of restaurants, a farmers market, a zoo, and Lake Michigan.

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Just steps away is Lincoln Park Zoo

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A few steps more and I can dip my toes in the Lake

In DC, I had the ultimate luxury of being able to walk to work. The 20-minute walk to and from was my favorite way to begin and end the day. In the year and a half I lived there, I never once took the Metro to work. I walked rain or shine.

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Not many people actually live in downtown DC, but I lived smack in the middle in Chinatown

2. If I can’t walk, public transportation is always an option

Yes, there are some things that are a bit farther outside the radius of the distance I would casually walk to. But there are also some times I will make a day of it if it is nice out, like the one time in DC where I decided to walk 4 miles to and from Trader Joes.

Our location here in Chicago is right near the L and many bus lines heading into the Loop. In DC, I lived a block from the one Metro stop that could connect me to all other lines.

3. Never far from something interesting

Living in a city basically means there is ALWAYS something going on, much to the chagrin of drivers and people trying to go about their daily lives without getting stampeded by Lollapalooza attendees.

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See a movie in Millennium Park

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Go to antique and vintage markets

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Play softball on the National Mall

 

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Attend a march for a good cause

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See your favorite sports teams play

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Pick up your produce from a farmers market

4. So many spaces to exercise & explore

A lot of people think that when you live in the city it becomes harder to exercise. That is absolutely not true. While I am a bit further away from acres of undeveloped green space, I do have access to some of the greatest spaces to work up a sweat.

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Go for a run along the Lakefront Trail

Not only are there so many cool places outside to go work out, there are also so many different kinds of gyms that everyone can find something they are interested in. Aerial yoga? Got it. Trapeze lessons? Got it. American Ninja Warrior gym? Got it.

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Running the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

 

I became a part of a great fitness community while I lived in DC called November Project. It’s free and we worked out all over the Capital. From the Capitol building steps to underneath the cherry blossoms, we were everywhere. Now in Chicago, I meet up with November Project at the Bean and everywhere else in between.

5. Being able to be a part of so many different things

I am involved in almost way too many things. I serve on a non-profit associate board, regularly volunteer at beach clean ups, and participate in numerous environmental functions.

 

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Election day didn’t turn out like I thought, but I was able to serve as an election judge at my district’s polling place.

 

 

 

 

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Last year, I became a Chicago Conservation Corps leader. I can partake in projects that better my community and environment.

 

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Marching with thousands on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC’s March for Climate

 

 

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Cleaning up Montrose Beach

 

So that’s it! Do you have any additional reasons for why you love living in the city? Obviously, these are not all the reasons, and city living has some downsides, so let me know! What did I miss?