Just Almost

This one has been sitting at almost open for days. I’m getting impatient. Same goes for my daffodils, though I think at least one might be open today. Sadly it is foggy and misty and on the nasty side, so I’m not sure I’ll get any pictures today.

At some point this week, I WILL get downstairs and finish up my PMC charm I’ve been working on. It seems that lately, before I even have time to think about getting to work on it, 10 other things pop up that I need to do instead. Hopefully the majority of those side things that I didn’t really plan are out of the way. Hopefully.

Makeshift Dance Floor Project

Absolutely amazed at how impressive this turned out. Seriously didn’t quite expect it to look this good. And.. it was relatively cheap to do!

I used the most inexpensive wood laminate flooring I could find for the surface. Normally, if you were actually installing this as a permanent floor, you would use an underlay material. Since this wasn’t intended to be permanent, my only concern was making sure the flooring didn’t slide or attempt to separate, so I found some, also inexpensive, rug gripper mats to put underneath the flooring. I ended up using 2 different pieces to get to the size I needed, but it works.

Gripper Mats for Floor Base
Gripper Mats for Floor Base

Also because this wasn’t intended to be permanent, I didn’t need to worry about any cutting. Just put the pieces together and done.

Start of Dance Floor Project - First Rows
Start of Dance Floor Project – First Rows

The first couple of rows were an absolute bitch to get together. BG helped as she had already finished up all her school work for the day and we did some trial and error on the best way to get this going before we got into a rhythm. Once we figured out the basic trick, the rest of the project flew together in no time.

Dance Floor Project - Half Way Done
Dance Floor Project – Half Way Done

I went down around 12:30ish to get the floor cleaned up and mopped then had to wait for a little bit for it to dry before I could get started. I finished up around 2:45. That is how easy this was.

Wood Laminate Dance Floor Area
Wood Laminate Dance Floor Area

The really cool thing about this? As long as the edges don’t sustain too much damage, I will be able to take this apart when she no longer needs it and put it together in my craft area so I have an even nicer space to work in than I do now. I even have another box of flooring that didn’t get opened that I can use to cover more area.

As with any construction type of project, it cannot be done without at least a little injury. FYI… don’t be leaning on a seam when you knock it together. It really doesn’t feel all that great. (Skip the following image if you are even a little bit squeamish as blood blister pinches aren’t very pretty) Of course it is on my forearm in the area that I normally lean on and keeps hitting on every single damn thing this afternoon. Oh, well. Project done and it is a HUGE success! I’m a happy momma today.

Construction Injury - Blood Blister Pinch Area
Construction Injury – Blood Blister Pinch Area

So Many Changes

Today is our first day of a completely new normal.

Over the weekend, our mayor put our city on a shelter-in-place order, so all non-essential business are shut down. We were already pretty much treating it like that, so it won’t be a massive change for us, though I’ve heard/seen a lot of people complaining or stressing over this order. For us, we are just going to keep doing what we have been and doing our best to not be a part of the problem.

The kids are starting to learn their new routines for their online classes. It is going to be interesting for my kids as they are both so self motivated, they will probably have the week’s worth of assignments done by the first day of the week, depending on how the teacher posts assignments. It is going to be an interesting process for them. I joked with BG that with the online stuff she could get the rest of her high school finished before MC graduates and they could graduate together (not that that is an option, just a statement about how quickly she gets her stuff done).

We also got more information from BG’s dance studio. They have opted to do what they could to shift their classes to online. I’ve got to say, with what I’ve seen so far, I’m absolutely blown away with what they’ve managed to put together. I’ve always liked her studio and how they do things, but this goes so far above and beyond. They could have just as easily said we are just shutting down, but to keep these kids going and to ensure that all the staff at the studio still gets paid, they are doing everything they can to make sure that the “show must go on” while keeping everyone safe at the same time. I’m a little in awe at their dedication and determination.

As part of that, I’ll be working on getting BG a safe space to dance. It is something that I promised her a while ago since trying to dance on our concrete floor in the basement is too slick. She has come close to falling a couple of times in the past. Now, I get to build a makeshift dance floor. I have all the stuff, I just need to get it done, so that is on my project list for today. I’m hoping like crazy that it works like I think it will.

I should have some daffodils to photograph soon. The buds are on and getting bigger, but they aren’t quite open yet. My hyacinths managed to hold on through two freezes over the weekend. We absolutely need some color and beauty right now.

 

Playing In The Studio

I’m playing with sterling PMC for the first time in years. I had forgotten how much I loved it. It is amazing that a small lump of clay can be fired into a finished sterling silver piece. It doesn’t look like much yet, but it is going to end up being a book charm for my charm bracelet.

I REALLY need to spend more time in my studio creating things rather than just sitting around thinking about it.

Graphics For Envie! Magazine

So… that graphics project I mentioned? I was asked to redo the logo for Envie! Magazine as well as work up a badge for their blog awards. In the process of working on those, we decided it would be really awesome to make a badge for any of the staff members that wanted them for blogs or websites.

The designs are now officially done and I can share them, even though they haven’t been put in place everywhere just yet and the staff badges still need to be personalized.

It has been a while since I had the opportunity to really play with any graphics outside of creating a t-shirt design for science club. Getting to work on this was such a blast! Yes, it was technically work, but for me it was fun. This is the kind of work I love to do. I especially love it when I’m working with great people that make the project even more fun.

I’m so thrilled with how these turned out and so grateful that I got the chance to work on these.

New logo:

Envie! Magazine Logo
Envie! Magazine Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Award Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Blog Badge
Envie! Magazine Blog Badge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Member Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Staff Badge
Envie! Magazine Staff Badge

 

Northern Lights Cake

I finished!

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

Seriously glad it is done, though. It was a blast and, for the most part, it came out really well. I was hoping to add more color, but with that base teal, it didn’t work out. I had several of the issues I kind of expected to have with some color bleeding and in not being able to use the pink or purple because it changed the color too drastically when I attempted to paint it on the base (looked more muddy than pretty).

Northern Lights Cake - Base Paint
Northern Lights Cake – Base Paint

I started by painting the whole thing a lighter version of the sky color I was going for. I realized really quickly that this ended up working in a similar way to my favorite drawing method, the eraser technique, where you put a base color down and either add more to go darker or remove color to go lighter (you can see a tiny bit of that on the left edge of the above photo).

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

I don’t love the tree silhouettes, but they aren’t total garbage. One of the issues I ran into is that my base fondant started to bubble on the bottom tier making my cake look like it isn’t level or that I jacked up the alignment on the top tier. It really isn’t. I didn’t notice until I was taking pictures, so it wasn’t something I could go back and fix.

 

Mostly, I’m thrilled with how this turned out. Even more so after BG finally got a look at it and saw what it was. She is kind of crazy over the northern lights like some teenage girls are over the latest boy band so when she saw this she went nuts. As far as she is concerned, I knocked this one out of the park.

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

Just A Hint

Here is a tiny peek at what I’m working on. It will be finished later today. So far, it is turning out really well. The next step is the part where it could all go wrong which is making me a nervous wreck. If I don’t screw it up, this may just be one of the cooler cakes I’ve ever made. If I do? It could be the ugliest. No pressure.

It’s That Time Again!

I’m in full on cake mode, working on BG’s birthday cake. She still has no clue what I’m doing yet. This is going to be so fun if I can manage to pull it off.

The cake got baked yesterday along with getting the icing mixed up. I have to make my fondant and start putting it all together today. I am limited to working on this while BG is at school so she won’t see it until it is completely done. That means I have to get off my butt and get busy!

Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me that this doesn’t turn out to be one of those projects where my creative ambition outstrips my actual ability. Pictures of the finished cake will be posted tomorrow after BG gets home to see it for the first time.

Snow & Ice

I am hopefully wrapping up my work on a graphics project sometime today and will have the amazing finished project to share soon. I’m really excited about what I’ve been working on and that I got the chance to do it.

I had honestly thought that things wouldn’t really start getting crazy around here until at least next month, but things have popped up and seem to be just cramming themselves into my schedule. I’m going to be a giddy mess in a few weeks if things work out because I’ll get to take BG to see Swan Lake performed. I have never seen it and thought it would be a perfect time since their pointe performance this year is to one of the songs from Swan Lake. I’m just waiting on confirmation from her dance friend’s mom that they are going with us.

I also have MC’s scholarship awards ceremony coming up in a few weeks. I’ve shuffled things and made arrangements so I actually get to go. There was a conflict with dance, but our dance friend will be taking BG to class for me that night so I can see MC being rewarded for all of his hard work and determination.

I may complain left and right about feeling like crap with this stupid cough, but… when I stop and look at all that is going on and what my kids are doing, the amazing guy I pulled on all the lucky stars to get, I’m one seriously happy girl and I’m surrounded by some incredible people that keep the joy flowing all around.

Out Of My Comfort Zone

So, this is very, VERY different for me. I don’t do photos of myself. EVER. But… I’ve officially taken on a staff roll for Envie Magazine as a book reviewer and a profile pic is part of the gig. Both the photo and the spot at the magazine are taking me so far outside my comfort zone I have to keep reminding myself to not freak out, but I’m still excited about it.

The position is a volunteer thing as the magazine’s goal is to remain free to subscribers and to those that want exposure, which I love and is one of the reasons I finally caved after lots of cajoling. My first review is already featured in this month’s edition that came out today.

This is going to be interesting and challenging for me. On the surface, it should be easy to come up with one book review per month, but I’m so picky as a reader and a reviewer, it might be harder than I think to find one I’m willing to recommend every month.

I really love what this amazing group of people are doing for the writing community and indie authors. It is going to be fun to be a part of it.

Bake Sale Time Again!

It is that time of year. The bake sale at Hubby’s work is next week and I’ve committed to participating again. They have informed Hubby they are making sure to bring in extra tables this year so they have room for everything. They also said some crazy nice things about the cupcakes in the email announcement for the sale. No pressure.

I really wanted to do something different this year, but I have my standards that are expected, so those HAVE to be made. The chocolate cream cheese cupcakes and the pumpkin cupcakes are a must. I’ll also be doing my candied pecans and peanut butter cookies. I’d love to do an additional cupcake, but I just don’t know what to do that is different enough from the other two and still fit the season. I have decided to attempt some sugar cookies since those came out so well around the holidays last year. If they don’t turn out as pretty as I hope, oh well! I guess we will just have to eat them.

Bake sale time also means not a whole lot of time for other stuff. I’m going to try and keep up with things here on the blog, but I might go quiet for a couple of days. I will be posting some photos of the mess along the way. The recipes for my standards are already on the blog, but I’ll link to those as I get them done.

*Photo is last year’s contribution.

It’s A Baby Lemon!

Yes. I know. It isn’t yellow.

I was making homemade lemonade and was inspired by the mess and all the seeds to attempt to grow a tree. I honestly didn’t expect the seeds to sprout as much of what you buy in a store has sterile seeds unless it’s organic. I didn’t know one way or the other with what I’d bought. A little over 2 weeks later, I had a sprout. I planted 8 pots, a couple I dropped more than one seed in because it looked a little anemic. I now have 9 little sproutlings growing (2 of my pots have yet to show) and I have no clue what I’m going to do with them all as lemon trees don’t grow here. I figured I’d get lucky to get one.

Still, it is really cool. My kids, even being teenagers, got crazy excited about these. They’d come home from school and most days would make a beeline to where they were to check to see if they’d sprouted yet.

My goal is to attempt to keep at least one of them alive to live in the house. I’m not a black thumb when it comes to plants, but I tend to forget they need water. The few I do have living have been so well conditioned, they could probably now survive the worst drought in history.

Plastic Free July – Wrap UP: Reuse Where You Can

All of my Plastic Free July posts really focused on some of my biggest plastic uses that end up in the trash which means it was mostly centered around what I do in the kitchen. There are SO many other areas where we use plastics that end up in the trash and they are all areas that I’m working on trying to address, either by finding alternatives or finding ways to reuse what I have in other ways.

As someone who has way too many hobbies and does way to many projects, there are tons of ways I can reuse a lot of plastic that would otherwise be disposable. I’ve set aside a bunch of random smaller containers that I couldn’t recycle and didn’t want to trash with the intent to use in those craft projects. Some I intend to use for storage, others will be used with paints. All can be reused again and again as long as I take the time to clean them when I’m done. Old toothbrushes are amazing in helping me do that.

A few minutes with your friend Google and you can probably find at least 5 alternative uses for just about every single plastic item ever made. Just because it is the end of July, doesn’t mean I’m done working on reducing the amount of plastic I use. I’m just done shoving it in everyone’s faces for now. If I’m really lucky, these posts have maybe inspired someone to do their part or gave them ideas of ways they hadn’t come across just yet. I may post other plastic free posts in the future if I come across something I find particularly useful. Feel free to tag me in any ideas you come across as well. I’m always open to new ideas and options.

Reminder: Indie Author Book Blogger Support Project

I’m reposting a longish summary of this because I realize I didn’t get it posted in a couple of places.

This is a concept that I’ve tossed around for a while and decided, what the hell? It can’t hurt, so give it a try. If it helps someone else out, awesome. If not, it only took some of my time a little space here on my site.

I’d like to put together a listing of book bloggers that want to actively support indie authors and are open to reviewing their books. There are a few places for similar listings, but they often have more than just a listing of bloggers or the listing covers all kinds of bloggers regardless of indie interest. Those lists are still helpful and I’m not putting them down, they can just be a bit much to weed through when you are only looking for indie friendly book bloggers.

For this listing, at least for now, I’d like to keep it to only those interested in reading and reviewing fiction in an effort to narrow the focus and keep it manageable. Once I get a few, I’m going to do my best to keep it organized in a way that it is quick and easy to find what you are looking for, mostly by genre, but that could change as this grows and if there is a different need I’m not yet seeing.

If you are a book blogger that wants to help support the indie community and are willing to take review requests from indie authors, please contact me and I’ll see about adding you to my list. I do ask that you provide a link to your blog (be sure you have a contact page) and links to any places you post reviews, a link to your review policy and a brief list of the genres you are willing to read. I will not list bloggers without their express permission as I want to be certain those that are listed actually want to be a part of this.

If you aren’t a book blogger that is interested in this, but know others that might be, please let them know or share this post to help spread the word.

The ultimate goal is to create a network and partnership between indie authors and the bloggers that want to help support them. This is a project I want to do because I see a need and I have the time and space to attempt to put it together. It is something I’m offering free of charge with no expectations other than people potentially finding it useful. This will be a work in progress and I’m more than willing to take suggestions to improve and grow it as time goes on.

Plastic Free July – Part 6: Mesh Bag

One of the things that really started bugging me when I wanted to try and go more plastic free was the fact that I couldn’t get most any fresh fruit or vegetables without them either already being in plastic or having to put them in plastic after making my choices. The produce section isn’t the only place you have those rolls of bags for customers, but it is the one I tended to need the most, so of course I went looking for alternatives.

There are lots of choices when it comes to mesh bags, but my goal was to try to find the most ecologically friendly ones I could. That meant natural fibers and no plastic parts, which was actually kind of hard to find. I did find some and they have been working wonderfully. They are all cotton and have a metal locking mechanism for the draw string.

Mesh Produce Bags - Color Coded Tare Tags
Mesh Produce Bags – Color Coded Tare Tags

I was concerned about the difference these would make to things that get weighed at checkout since they are heavier than the bags you would use in the store. These DO have tare weights printed on brightly colored tags, so this shouldn’t be an issue, but it does require that the person checking you out actually take the time to look for this and make that adjustment (so far, they haven’t taken that time with mine).

Those colored tags also help you to see right away the size bag you are getting as these are all slightly different sizes.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Plastic produce bags used in grocery stores.

Pros:

  • No need for store provided plastic bag for produce
  • Reusable
  • Washable
  • Ecologically friendly materials

Cons:

  • Issues with tare weights when checking out
  • Not a tight mesh so can’t use for very small things like spices or grains
  • Looser mesh weave makes putting odd, spiky shapes (pointy carrots) interesting and is a bit of a learning curve
  • A little difficult to see through so may be annoying to cashiers that have to open to hunt for tags or stickers
  • Cost

I’ve really loved these so far. My kids got a kick out of laughing at me trying to put carrots in one the first time, but otherwise, these have been wonderful to use. I just keep them with my normal grocery bags in the back of my car so I don’t forget to take them with me when I go to the store.

I love the size ranges this set came in. Some are long with the drawstring on a narrow end and others are smaller with the drawstring on the wider side, so you have bags to fit just about anything. These would work for all kinds of things that weren’t produce as long as it wasn’t too small (seeds and grains), but that’s all I’ve tried them on so far.

Plastic Free July – Part 5: Silicone Lids

Silicone lids are another partial alternative to plastic wrap and even, in some cases, plastic bags. These actually came as part of a package with something else, though I’ve forgotten what, so it was a good chance to try them out. Like so many of my plastic alternatives, these aren’t a direct 1 to 1 replacement for anything.

There are a lot of things to like about these. They are on the stretchy side, so can fit a range of sizes and shapes. When fit properly, they do form a liquid tight seal, but sizing is key on that.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Some plastic wrap or bag uses.

Pros:

  • Eliminates the use of some plastic wrap and some bags if willing to use a container instead of a bag
  • Reusable
  • Microwave, Freezer, Dishwasher Safe
  • Liquid tight seal
  • Slightly stretchy for versatility
  • Potential long lifespan

Cons:

  • You need a variety of sizes because even though they stretch, that stretch is limited
  • Fit is essential to getting a seal. If you undersize or oversize your lid to your container, you may not get that seal
  • Cost

I have used these on a variety of different bowls and even over smaller plates and they have worked wonderfully. My one complaint is that there isn’t much of an overlap between sizes, meaning if you had two of the same size dish to cover, you would only be able to cover one. At least with this small selection of sizes that I have. I really need at least one, if not two more sets to really make these work for how I’d use them. I also really need lids that are MUCH larger than what I have in this set. My largest lid wouldn’t cover a regular size dinner plate and I would love to have one large enough to cover my massive mixing bowl.

These do come in a wide range of sizes and colors, so more than likely you’d be able to find the lids to fit your needs. This is one of those that is still new to me and I need to do a bit more research to see if I can find some to fit my needs. There are even a couple of different styles that may work a little differently, but I’ve only tried these.

New Project: Indie Author Resources/Support Listing

This is a concept that I’ve tossed around for a while and decided, what the hell? It can’t hurt, so give it a try. If it helps someone else out, awesome. If not, it only took some of my time a little space here on my site.

Basically, I’m attempting to put together a few different lists of resources for indie authors, mostly those that I’ve found really helpful. There are a few other places I’ve run across recently that have some similar listings and I’ll link to those as I come across them as well. There may be some duplicates between my lists and theirs, but the more places that have these lists, the easier it is going to be for indie authors to find what they are looking for.

One of the pieces I’d really like to focus on is a listing of book bloggers that want to actively support indie authors because there just aren’t many places that have a list like that. At least not that I’ve found (feel free to point out any you may know of). The ones I have seen aren’t easily navigated in a way that makes it easy to find the bloggers that might fit your books. Those lists are still helpful, just a little cumbersome.

I want to take my list one step farther, at least for now, and keep it to only those interested in fiction. I say this because the range of subjects indie authors write in is HUGE, making that search even more difficult to weed through. The general umbrella of fiction is already massive, so any chance to narrow it a bit helps. Once I get a few, I’m going to do my best to keep it organized in a way that it is quick and easy to find what you are looking for, mostly by genre, but that could change as this grows and if there is a different need I’m not yet seeing.

That means I’m yet again asking for help. If you are a book blogger that wants to help support the indie community and are willing to take review requests from indie authors, please contact me or comment below and I’ll add you to my list. I do ask that you provide a link to your blog (be sure you have a contact page) and any places you post reviews, a link to your review policy and a brief list of the genres you are willing to read. I will not list bloggers without their express permission as I want to be certain those that are listed actually want to be a part of this.

If you aren’t a book blogger that is interested in this, but know others that might be, please let them know or share this post to help spread the word.

This is a project I want to do because I see a need and I have the time and space to attempt to put it together. It is something I’m offering free of charge with no expectations other than people potentially finding it useful. This will be a work in progress and I’m more than willing to take suggestions to improve and grow it as time goes on.

Plastic Free July – Part 4: Glass Food Storage #2

This is a slightly expanded version of my glass food storage post the other day, focusing specifically on an alternative to prepackaged frozen dinners/microwave meals. Like so many other products out there, there just aren’t a whole lot of alternatives to the quick and easy frozen dinner that you just shove in the microwave for a few minutes. Especially if you have kids. Don’t get me wrong, I do a ton of cooking, but every once in a while I just don’t want to do that. I especially can’t stand having to cook 3 times a day over summer break, hence the frozen meals.

Most all of the frozen meals we’ve gotten over the years have come in a crappy plastic container with a thin layer of plastic over the top to seal it all in place. I’ve run across one that has switched their containers to a paper/cardboard version, but it still has the plastic film. Where I live, most of the containers are not recyclable, even if you wash them. The worst are the ones that my kids love for quick lunches over the summer a couple of times a week, so I really wanted to see if I could find SOMETHING that would work to replace them.

I found these awesome glass containers that are sectioned off, kind of like you see on little kids’ dishes. It is like the other containers I’ve bought where it has the silicone seal to give it a liquid tight fit. The cool part about that is that it has an additional line of that across one of the dividers to keep the sections from slipping into each other. The two sections that run parallel to each other, are not sealed from each other, so you’d have to pick and choose what to fill these sections with carefully.

For my first trial, we went with their top picks. A crappy fish stick and macaroni and cheese meal. The other one was pretty much identical, except it had chicken nuggets. We did some research and found a fish stick that came in a box and no plastic. We used the basic Kraft macaroni, though I knocked about 30 seconds off the cook time to try to keep the noodles from becoming mushy when reheated. We also found some chicken nuggets, but none that came in anything other than a plastic bag.

The fish sticks had to be cooked first, which was a little extra work, but I did all this on a day I planned to cook lunch so it didn’t require too much extra time. I just made more than what they were going to eat that day. Same with the macaroni. The nuggets were already cooked, so I didn’t do anything to them and left them frozen until I was ready to put these together.

Once the fish sticks and macaroni were done and cooled off, I divided everything into the different sections. The kids decided on a blend of their two favorites and these ended up being both fish sticks and chicken nuggets. Those went in the parallel sections and the macaroni went in the sealed off section. I did also add just a tad bit more milk in the hopes that this would stay on the creamy side.

Sectioned Glass Storage Container For Frozen Meals
Sectioned Glass Storage Container For Frozen Meals

Once these were all put together, I just popped them in the freezer. MC had one for the first time and they seem to have come out really well. Granted, these have only been in the freezer for about a week, but the plan seems to work. We still have a few bugs to work out on the cooking timing, but we got it really close with a defrost for about 45 seconds and then cooking it on high for another minute or two.

In this entire prep, I was able to recycle all the boxes and only threw away the macaroni cheese packets and the plastic chicken nugget bag. Out of that, I got 4 frozen meals and a different ratio of items for lunch for both kids that day, so a total of 6 meals. It eliminated tossing 6 plastic containers and 6 plastic films if I’d gone with the prepackaged meals instead.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Alternative to prepackaged frozen dinner/microwave meals.

Pros:

  • Eliminates most if not all plastic in the prepackaged meals
  • Reusable
  • Microwave, Oven, Freezer, Dishwasher Safe (minus lids on all except freezer and storage)
  • Liquid tight seal on outside and between large sections
  • Potential long lifespan

Cons:

  • These are glass, therefore breakable, but not easily (most have good warranties against breakage)
  • You are limited on using and cleaning the lids because of both the plastic and the silicone.
  • Recommended hand washing the lid because of the silicone seal (even needing to remove the seal to dry)
  • Physical space needed to store when not in use
  • Plastic lids
  • Potentially shorter freezer life for meals
  • Time invested in prepping the meals
  • Cost

This was only a test run, but my kids were suitably impressed with this. There are downsides. If you aren’t someone that does a lot of cooking, this may be too much. You CAN potentially work these up with leftovers, whether you make the food yourself or you buy from a restaurant. You just don’t have control over things like I did with the macaroni to ensure it isn’t overcooked and mushy when it is reheated unless you make it yourself. Not all foods freeze and reheat well, so it is going to be a lot of trial and error, but I really like this whole concept. There are so many different options to this and your only real limits are size (MC thought this was almost too much for a lunch) and what does well frozen and heated this way.

The only other major downside to these (and a couple of other styles of glass containers) are the way these lids are made. They are a solid unit, including the snapping flaps. The plastic is just thinner, like a score line, where it bends rather than having separate pieces connected with a hinge (my set from the other day is hinged and I like that better). I don’t think that with these it is a question of whether or not that is going to break so much as when it is going to break. You can bet I’ll still try to find a way to make those suckers work if that does happen.

 

Laundry Room Project

We have been in this house for a little over 15 years now. I have spent the entirety of those 15 years irritated as hell at myself that I didn’t demand a better design in the laundry room. It is plenty big, just a little poorly laid out so that there is a ton of wasted space.

Hubby and I discussed having someone come in and do some work, including building a pantry cabinet and adding a couple of other shelves. We even started looking at people to do the job. Then we realized that getting our back door and framing around said door replaced couldn’t be put off another year or we would potentially have it fall out of the house because all the wood around it is rotting out. Have I mentioned that our builder did a shit job (I’ve lost count of the major issues we’ve had in this house)?

I did some math (yes, it actually hurt to do the math part) and some planning and decided I could hold off on a bigger project for a while if I could just get the shelves in because attempting to keep everything on the tiny little counter or the floor just wasn’t working. Those issue get made worse every time laundry is done since both BG and I hang up a huge portion of our tops and other things rather than dry them in the drier.

So I really had two different issues to solve. The first was shelving to get some of the stuff off the counter and floor. The second was figuring out a way to expand the room for hanging clothes up.

Laundry Room Project - Before Clothes Drying area
Laundry Room Project – Before Clothes Drying area

Again, this space is decent, but it isn’t well used at all. I did some research and found an expandable drying rack that you could mount to the wall. Once I got it ordered, I discovered it has the same problem as most wall mount products. It does not take into account that the wall studs you need to mount it to aren’t in the location you need. To fix the issue, I got a large 10 inch wide board that I cut to length, painted and attached to said studs. I was then able to mount the rack to the board without any worry that this is going to get ripped off the wall the second a couple of shirts gets hung on it.

Laundry Room Project - After Clothes Drying area
Laundry Room Project – After Clothes Drying area

The fact that this is expandable means that I can keep it against the wall when I don’t need it or if I have something long that needs to be hung up.

Laundry Room Project - After Clothes Drying area
Laundry Room Project – After Clothes Drying area

Expanded, this gives me probably close to twice the space, if not more, than what I had before. It also means that there aren’t shirts hanging off of every available surface on laundry days, including laundry baskets and over the small step ladder I have in there. That leaves barely an inch of space to get to the washer.

Laundry Room Project - Before Sink Area
Laundry Room Project – Before Sink Area

Ignore the mess, that is part of the problem, as you can see. This is the second part of the project. I wanted a small, shallow shelf directly above the sink for all the smaller things I use most in that area. Detergents, stain removers, a couple of cleaners and a few other small bottle type things. I also wanted a much deeper shelf higher up that would span the entire space so that I could store some bigger things, often the back up items or bulk items I use to refill smaller bottles (like cleaners).

Laundry Room Project - After Sink Area With Shelves
Laundry Room Project – After Sink Area With Shelves

The smaller shelf is only about 8 inches deep and only goes across the space above the sink. It was fun attempting to get it to work with where the studs were, but I managed to pull it off. The higher shelf is a 12 inch deep shelf and needed additional support in the middle because it is much longer. I did use a support that can hold a bar if I decided I still need a bit more space for some shorter hanging things in the future (BG’s dance clothes would be perfect for that space).

Both of these were made with really inexpensive lumber that I just painted with my trim color so it would blend with what I already have in there. I probably need to caulk up a few places (where the screws are and a couple of bigger gaps in board seams), but for the most part this is completely done. I am going to add a no slip liner to the smaller shelf to help protect it. I was also able to get it all done in a day, painting, cutting and mounting all boards. I do still really want a cabinet in there, but this is already a hundred times better than the mess I had before.

As with pretty much every single project I work on, I now feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. It also means that I didn’t get to read because it did take all day. At least the temps dropped a bit so it wasn’t crazy miserable in the garage while I was working.

The next project is going to be that back door, but that is way outside my DIY ability and I have some great guys scheduled to work on that in August.

Plastic Free July – Part 3: Glass Food Storage

This is another one of those things that doesn’t exactly have a direct, 1 to 1 replacement. There are a lot of different ways to use glass containers instead of plastic, but most of those are for replacing plastic that is already reusable. Initially, when I went looking for these, it was with a specific purpose in mind.

We used to get ground beef from someone we knew that raised cows. It was great because we could get it in a 1/4 of the whole cow instead of a whole or half that most people that raise and butcher cows allow. The last time we did this though, we realized we really don’t eat enough to use it all up before it starts to show signs of freezer burn. And we were eating less and less as time goes on.

The convenience of having those 1 pound packages wrapped in freezer paper in my freezer at all times was an amazing thing, though. The problem is that getting meat from the grocery store meant that I’d have to either freeze it in the packaging it came in or package it myself. The store packaging was either a plastic wrapped foam tray or a very lightly wrapped bundle in butcher paper. The first option isn’t something I like to do. The second, is better but still not ideal. The way I’d have stored it in the past would be wrapped in plastic wrap for one layer and then an additional layer of foil. Again, not the option I want if I’m trying to reduce plastic.

When I was looking for alternatives to plastic zipper bags, I ran across people talking about using glass. There were other options, like silicone bags, but I liked the idea of the glass because it seemed more versatile. I already have several large glass baking dishes, but the idea of the smaller sizes opened the door for a lot of different uses.

So far, I’ve used these for freezing ground meats with really great results. These, and many others similar to these, have a silicone band under a plastic snap on lid (yes, it is still plastic, but if cared for well, should last for a really long time) that creates a seal between the glass and the lid.

Glass Food Storage Containers - Silicone Seal
Glass Food Storage Containers – Silicone Seal

I’ve also used them to to store and freeze deli meats (worked better than I expected) and a couple of other things that I’m leaving in for a while to see how well they do over longer periods of time. I do think they have a slightly shorter freezer life in these than if they were in plastic wrapped packages or plastic bags, but I’m not certain yet by how much. Wrapping things inside something like parchment paper (biodegradable) before putting into the glass containers may be able to add some time to that number, though.

Outside of the freezer, these can be used in a huge number of ways. In the refrigerator, oven, microwave (minus the lid for oven and microwave) and to seal off just about anything you need to store. The fact that there are so many different sizes and shapes when it comes to glass containers, the sky is kind of the limit. These particular containers are geared for food prepping and say they are 34 ounce volume (assuming liquid). They are slightly on the large size for what my Hubby uses for his lunch leftovers, but will be in the mix for him to use as they still fit in a lunchbox.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Some common plastic zipper bag uses as well as some plastic wrap. Excellent replacement for any reusable plastic storage as well.

Pros:

  • Eliminates some plastic wrap/bag use
  • Reusable
  • Microwave, Oven, Freezer, Dishwasher Safe (minus lids on all except freezer and storage)
  • Liquid tight seal
  • Comes in a variety of size options for versatility
  • Potential long lifespan

Cons:

  • Is not a 1 to 1 replacement for any single use plastic. You will need other alternatives for other types of uses.
  • These are glass, therefore breakable, but not easily (most have good warranties against breakage)
  • You are limited on using and cleaning the lids because of both the plastic and the silicone.
  • Most recommend hand washing the lid because of the silicone seal (even needing to remove the seal to dry)
  • Some recommend keeping a layer of plastic between the seal and glass (have only seen this on one type so far) when not in use.
  • Physical space needed to store when not in use
  • Plastic lids
  • Potentially shorter freezer life for foods
  • Cost

So far, these have been some of my favorite alternatives because they are so versatile. I have a different set that I’m in the process of testing as a potential replacement option for frozen microwave dinners (post coming soon on that). While cost on these will be a concern for some, if they are well maintained and cared for, they should last for a very long time. I will say, I like the way these lids work better than others. That and the fact that they are plastic make the lids a weak point for me. Another upside is that lidded glassware like this is more likely to be readily available. Maybe not these specific ones, but others that would work just as well.

If I had one really harsh gripe on these at all, it would be that in all the sets I’ve purchased (3 small ones so far), every single one comes coated in a layer of plastic film and a massive amount of foam.

Plastic Free July – Part 2: Plastic Wrap Alternative #1

When looking at the plastic I used, I tried to find the areas I used the most plastic that gets thrown away. For me, that happens in my kitchen, so my initial goal has been working on reducing that waste first. With the amount of cooking I do, there is always plastic that ends up in the trash that isn’t recyclable. Something I realized, is that I use a lot of plastic wrap, so finding something to replace that has been one of my focus areas. Sadly, I have yet to find something that is a direct, one to one use replacement because I use it for so many things.

Common Uses:

  • Covering Dishes
  • Wrapping Leftovers
  • Wrapping Food for Freezer Storage (partial layer)

Uncommon Uses:

  • Wrapping around meat when tenderizing to prevent splatter and excess damage
  • Rolling out pie dough between layers to prevent sticking to surface and for easy transfer
  • Easy clean up for icing decorator bags (trick I learned to keep it less messy in use and clean up)
  • Covering rising bread dough bowls (holds in warmth and helps rise better while keeping dough moist)

I’m sure there are loads more that I’m forgetting or ways other people use plastic wraps. Because there are so many different ways to use it, there really isn’t a single replacement for it. At least, not one I’ve found.

The most common use, covering and wrapping food or leftovers, has a few different alternative options. The first one, and the focus of this post (another alternative option coming soon) is beeswax wrap. It is basically a biodegradable fabric that is coated in beeswax. It comes in several different forms and is reusable to a point. Once it reaches that point, everything in it is organic and can be put in the trash or compost.

To test these out to see how well I liked them and how many ways I could use them in place of plastic wrap, I bought these sets that had 3 different size squares in each packet.

Beeswax Wraps
Beeswax Wraps

The largest size is big enough to cover a standard size dinner plate, so you are limited on what you can use these for. You can get a roll of it and cut it to size, but I didn’t want to make that investment (again, not exactly inexpensive) if I wasn’t going to like them.

The way these work is beeswax is somewhat pliable and softens with the heat from your hands. It is also on the slightly sticky side so it clings to itself and whatever you are covering. When used correctly, it does create a liquid tight seal. You can cover dishes or even directly on food as it sticks really well to itself. You simply rinse it in cold, soapy water after each use and hang it to dry before storing it.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Some common plastic wrap uses

Pros:

  • Eliminates some plastic wrap use
  • Reusable
  • Biodegradable
  • Liquid tight seal
  • Comes in a variety of size options for versatility

Cons:

  • Is not a 1 to 1 replacement for plastic wrap. You will need other alternatives for other types of uses.
  • Beeswax is sticky and can leave a residue on whatever you cover, including your hands, and isn’t always easy to get off (my experience is with glass).
  • Because of the way you have to clean this, cold water, I would be hesitant to use this in covering raw meats. I haven’t attempted to use any kind of a bleach solution, so I don’t know if that is an effective disinfectant method. Using hot water will melt the wax and either reduce the lifespan or make it completely unusable.
  • Limited longevity: I haven’t had these all that long so I’m not certain of their lifespan, but they will need to be replaced over time.
  • Does not stretch, so there is a bit of a learning curve if you are used to stretchy plastics.
  • Seems to not hold in odors as well as plastic.
  • Cost: Like most other plastic alternatives, these are not inexpensive. Since they do have a specific lifespan, that may make these cost prohibitive for some.
  • Questionable on freezer use: I haven’t attempted this trial. The fact that this will stiffen in colder temps because of the beeswax, I would think there may be some issues with the sealing function of these in freezing conditions.

I haven’t quite decided whether I like this alternative or not. The limited use is an issue for me, so is the stickiness. I’ve debated getting the roll as most of my need for these is larger in size than these packs provided, so I’ve struggled to fully test these out.

I think this is one of those products that some people will really love and others won’t, depending on how they use it. It IS a viable alternative for some common plastic wrap uses and in a one use plastic throw away versus a multi use biodegradable, the biodegradable still lands you on the better side of things.