Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Getting the Plastic Out: Kitchen Edition, Wrap-up

Part I: Dinnerware and Storage

Before I start telling you about my efforts (i.e. frustrations) in reducing plastic food packaging, let me tell you about my big, falling-off-the-buy-nothing wagon purchase in February. One morning last month, C broke Z's sapphire blue Fiesta cereal bowl. Z was, understandable, upset. However, I assured him that I could get him a new one. While I was at it, I figured, why not order three additional cereal bowls and three more tumblers, so we can get rid of all of the plastic bowls and cups we use when the ceramic ones are in the dishwasher? And maybe get M a dessert-sized plate to go with his set, and E and Z each luncheon plates? With shipping and handling, it all added up to over $70. But if I spent $100, shipping would be free. So I threw in three more tumblers and three more cereal bowls and a cake plate for myself, which tipped the total to just over $100. Now if I had just driven down to the Cook's Emporium in Bath, I would have seen that the cereal bowls cost $2 more in the store than they do online, and I would either have bought only the bowl or nothing at all. Isn't it amazing how easily the Internet can trick you into spending way more money than you ever would in real life? The worst part is that the dishes came in a huge box full loaded with foam packing peanuts (despite my request for non-plastic or recycled packaging). I did drop them off at a mailing center for re-use, but so much for eliminating plastic!! (But don't they look purdy? And I have to say those tumblers are the best! Very heavy-bottomed so you have to try pretty hard to spill your milk, unlike plastic cups that tip over if you breathe on them!)

Here's the bag of plastic plates and bowls--destined for GoodWill--they're going to replace. I put the plastic cups in the bathrooms for tooth brushing and saved out a few cups, plates and bowls for outdoor dining and picnics. (The yogurt containers I'll save for freezing strawberries and other garden produce this summer).

I am keeping most of our plastic storage containers. They are handy for lunches, and since they're all #5 (polypropylene), I'm not too worried about chemicals leaching out of them (I know there have been some reports of chemicals associated with #5, but I spend all of my work days reading about chemicals in consumer products, and that's not an area where concern has risen above a few blogs). Plus, we never heat up anything or put hot foods in them. And, from a solid waste perspective, I think it would be unconscionable to just toss perfectly good items such as these:

When they do finally die, though (many of the lids are cracking already), I want to replace them with more of these:

I do love my Martha Steward Every Day glass storage containers (despite their plastic lids). Though I suppose I'll need to get more of the glass-lidded types. I'd love to get more antique ones like that blue Pyrex, but C hates them because they're not dishwasherable. For portable food (can't exactly pack glass in school lunchboxes), I bought E, Z and M each one of those LunchBots. I really like that they're rectangular(ish), rather than round, and this model has a divider so I can send them two things in one, but the paint started to chip off the lids, so I was not going to even consider getting more, until last week they (completely unsolicited--I hadn't gotten around to emailing them yet) sent me replacement lids. Apparently one batch had bad paint jobs. So if the new lids work out, I'll probably be buying more in the future.

And we do use some plastic bags--we don't buy them, but they make their way into our home in various ways, and we make use of them until they begin to fall apart. Here's our bag-drying system:

Part II: Food Packaging
I must say that trying to reduce (I don't even consider elimination an option at this point) the in-flow of single-use, disposable plastic in the kitchen department has been, for the most part, an exercise in frustration. I received this comment from Lone Star Ma on my previous kitchen post:

"I really don't get how you do all this stuff while working and raising kids. I would be impressed if you were an at-home mommy, but as it is, I am just baffled. I have one less kid than you do, and mine are girls, and so probably can go longer without getting hurt/fighting and I already get much, much, much less sleep than I truly need to, not to mention practically no exercise except in the summer/other vacations resulting in my dangerous fatness, and I cannot imagine forgoing all of the convenience crap that is sending me to hell for sure because I just don't think I can function well enough or drive my kids around if I cut the sleep allocation down to three hours a night. Are there two of you?"

Amen, Sister. No there are not two of me, and no I sure as hell do not make homemade crackers and cereal every weekend. That was, truly, a one-time experiment. Though the cereal was not difficult to make, it was time-consuming and it only made enough to fill one small (plastic) container--about two cups, I think, or, in other words, four bowls of cereal (M wouldn't even touch it because it looked soggy). No way in H E double hockey sticks am I doing that every weekend. So it was back to granola, which, I may have mentioned, I don't really think is all that healthful (all that maple syrup! And are partially-cooked grains even digestible??). One evening last week, as I was sitting down to sew, I remembered, "Oh, sh*t, I have to make granola!" And once I started making the granola, I remembered that the homemade deodorant that had been almost gone for a month was really and truly gone and since I was in the kitchen already, why not make more? And my commentary on all of this: "My life sucks!"

To really and truly eliminate incoming plastic from the kitchen would be a full-time job, and while I greatly admire what Beth at Fake Plastic Fish and Kyce at Old Recipe for a New World have done and continue to do in this realm, I am not ready to take on another full-time job. I can handle baking bread every week--I've been doing it for a couple of years and it is by now almost a mindless task (though I was cooking two other things in the kitchen last week while making bread, and I kind of forgot about the loaves, which deflated by the time I put them in the oven, so a bit of mindfulness would be helpful). In a pinch, I mix, knead and raise the dough in the evening and put the loaves in the oven to rise overnight; as long as I remember to get up early enough to put them in the oven, we can have fresh hot bread that morning. I can also handle making yogurt--if I make two jars at a time, I only need to make it every-other-week; and with out farm-fresh milk, it is completely plastic-free, as long as I don't run out of old yogurt before I start new. Beyond that, we make most of our food from scratch (pasta sauce, tortillas, soups, etc.). C even makes homemade pasta once a month or so (him being the one with the Italian genes). But still, we need ingredients for all of these things.

There are not a lot of bulk-buying options around here, but I do get many things through a natural foods co-op (or buying club). I buy flour (white, whole wheat and pastry whole wheat) in 50-pound (paper) bags and rice in 25 pound (paper) bags.

Coffee, though, comes in 4- or 5- pound plastic bags and tea (green and black) in one-pound Mylar bags. C is the coffee and green tea drinker; I only took up black tea recently.

Canned tomatoes (for our sauce and soup) come on a flat, shrink-wrapped. Next time, though, I think I'll buy the BioNatura pureed tomatoes in a jar. Even though there are 4 ounces fewer and the jars cost nearly a dollar more each, it will reduce our BPA exposure (the lids of glass jars still have BPA), and my plastic. I had already switched to glass ketchup and oil bottles last year, so that (other than lids and tamper-evident seals) all of our bottle things come in glass.

Spaghetti comes in a five-pound box, with a plastic bag inside. Ditto quinoa and red lentils. And cheese--we buy in five-pound blocks, you guessed it, wrapped in plastic.

And "splits"--where we break down a big case of something into smaller portions for people, usually get bagged in plastic, depending on who is doing the breakdown. At our co-op meeting, I quietly suggested we go plastic-free, but I think I need to get more assertive in may campaign.

I have also started buying a few bulk items from the limited selection that I recently discovered at a local grocery store. At first I agonized over how to package them--reuse old plastic bags? No, they get lost in my car and usually already have a different price label on them. Make cloth bags? No time, no time. Finally, I remembered one of C's relatives, for some reason, gave us a package of 100 brown paper lunch bags. The boys have reusable lunch bags, so they were just languishing on the craft supply shelf. Now I keep a couple of them with me, so that I can fill them up (and reuse them if I don't buy something greasy) when I'm at that store. The only problem is I usually just end up buying snacks instead of staples (and I do feel bad that I'm taking business away from the small, locally-owned health food store...which prepackages all of is bulk foods in plastic bags)! I have also found that the grocery store has the following unpackaged organic produce (most organic produce is bagged or shrink-wrapped on Styrofoam trays, which kinda defeats the point of it being organic, doncha think?): collards, Swiss chard, beets, lettuce, fresh herbs, scallions and sometimes oranges (though they cost way more than the ones at the health food store). I put these into a nylon grocery bag (which doesn't stop the moisture from leaking through, but who cares?).

The Bottom Line

The problem of our oceans becoming a soup of plastic bits is a global environmental crisis of ozone-hole proportions, and is going to require international action of the Montreal Accord stature if anything meaningful is to be done. But I don't see it as an issue that has even made a bleep on the radar screens of our world leaders. Which sucks, because plastic right now, for the consumer, is the default option. It is just too much to expect consumers to "vote with their dollars." Especially when, as far as I can tell, most people don't even get it, or care. And most of those of us who do, can't make a full-time job of avoiding plastic.

As for me? On Monday I sent C to the store to buy a (plastic) bag of breakfast cereal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Furniture!

Sunday morning, after writing group, I popped into a nearby antiques mall and picked up this little sewing cabinet--on sale!

It came stocked with old polyester thread of Styrofoam spools, a bag of ribbon snippets and various old notions--bias tape, yellowing elastic, ancient zippers.

There were a few wooden spools, though, and a velvet strawberry (a friend of mine tells me these are stuffed with emery, for sharpening dull needles),

and these little "cotton mushrooms," made in West Germany, which tells you how old they are. I don't know what one does with cotton mushrooms, but they're pretty darn cute anyway.

I cleaned it up with some strong black tea (I rarely listen to advice from my mother-in-law, but she tells me she learned this trick from the Antiques Road Show, and it seemed to work well--I could smell years' worth of Lemon Pledge lifting away), and replaced this mess:

With this:

Don't you think it looks especially classy next to the giant Rubbermaid container of fabric? Oh well, baby steps.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Craft(ing) Versus Writing

I know lots of people expecting babies in the imminent future, so I've been working on this pile of baby shoes. They're from this tutorial at baremaked. Very simple, very easy and a bit miraculous the way they come together. I have no idea how people come up with these things, because I've already finished four shoes and I'm not altogether sure how it works. It just does.

Anyway, the outside is this super-cute Japanese print of The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids (thanks to our Storytelling efforts, I now know what the heck is going on there) that I bought last Thanksgiving. I only know that one baby is for sure (as sure as anyone can be about these things) a boy, but why can't girls wear adorable powder-blue shoes, hmm?

Right next to my sewing table, above my "writing table" (a.k.a. old telephone table), I have posted this list, "10 Methods to Find More Time to Write." The first item on the list: "Prioritize your time. If writing habitually ends up at the bottom of your priorities list, you can hardly expect to accomplish much."

Sitting there, sliding tiny elastics through tiny casings one night after work last week, I wondered about this. Should I have been spending this precious quiet hour, between lights out in the kids' room and lights out in mine, writing, instead of turning teeny tiny shoes right side out with a chopstick?

Why do I choose to spend my quiet moments crafting (yes I have finally broken down and turned that blasted noun into a verb...I never thought it could happen to me) instead of writing? My skill level is not, and never will be, above "intermediate," so it's not like I'm churning out one-of-a-kind object d'art that the world would suffer without. After thinking it over for some time, these are the reasons my hands more often find their way to handwork than computer work in my downtime:

--I spend eight hours a day, five days a week staring into a computer screen. My eyes get tired. My wrists ache. The last thing I want to do when I get home is go anywhere near a computer.

--I spend all day working with words--one day last week I had open in various windows five documents on one topic, ranging from 60-odd to 900-odd pages; I read them all and gleaned enough information to write, oh say, a paragraph in my own document--when I get home I want to work with something I can touch: color, texture, cutting and putting together, a final product that is real and solid. It's less of a right-brain/left-brain thing than a language-centers/tactile-centers thing.

--It's cheap. I cut all four pairs of shoes from one fat quarter, and even though it was a pricey fat quarter, it comes down to less than $1.50 per pair, if you count the thread and elastic (which I already had; the flannel I used in the lining was destined for a dumpster and given to me free).

--It feels good to give a handmade gift (even if it is obscenely cheap), and nice that the labor was sweatshop-free.

--It gives me control. I imagine what I want, and then I make it to my specifications, limited only by my tools and skill level. I like being in charge.

--I love beautiful things, and if I can surround myself with beautiful things I made myself, so much the better (especially since I can't afford beautiful things that other people have made).

I guess this means that I have prioritized my time, and writing, unfortunately, does not rise to the top. Right now it hovers around the 5 a.m. timeframe (I can face the computer before I've been at it for eight hours). I am taking another writing class this summer, which I'm very excited about (the advanced version of Mother Words), and for a while, at least, I'll rearrange my priorities so that writing sits in the place of honor.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Being Outside

Saturday, the Spring Equinox, turned out to be an incredible 71.1 degree day, sunny, with not a touch of wind. I don't think it even got that warm all last June! Seriously.

The boys spent almost the entire day outside, M and Z in their forts or foxholes or whatever in the gravel pit, and E helping C out in the garden. After much cajoling I convinced them to go on a hike in the woods with me after lunch [the promise of Papa coming along too, before he had to head to the dreaded Town Meeting, clinched the deal. Can we talk sometime about boys, once they reach a certain age, preferring the company of their dads? Despite all Mama has done (and continues to do) for them. Ingrates.].

E, all on his own asked if we "could do that thing what we did last spring?" Meaning EarthScouts. I'm kind of bummed that EarthScouts didn't catch on like I'd hoped, and that I gave up, for the most part, after last spring (there was an entry in our EarthScouts journal from November). But I was happy that E remembered and wanted to wear his vest and carry his bag. Z wanted his bag, but I ended up carrying it (it was a handy place to keep the journal and camera, so I didn't mind).

Once we got down to the river, which is quite low, C crossed over on some willow logs, and M shimmied (or, rather, ooched) over after him and explored a bit on the other side. There are only a few days a year, in Maine, where you can sit completely still outside and not either be freezing your tukus off or being devoured by blood-sucking insects. This was one of them and it was oh-so-luxurious (though E and Z did come in after playing out all day on the much cooler Sunday covered in little red bumps that looked suspiciously like mosquito bites, and everyone in the family has now had at least one tick crawling on them, while poor Z has had two latched on behind his ears!).

As I sat and watched the boys throw logs in the river, and explore I kept thinking about the feature in this month's Brain, Child (yes I'm going to just keep dropping those words every five minutes, so get used to it), in which the author takes issue with the movement to get kids outside more.
Admittedly, I only read the first two pages because I got sick of her complaining about Richard Louv's tone is Last Child in the Woods. It's been a while since I read the book, so I don't remember much about his tone, but I've read plenty of books where the author's tone rubbed me the wrong way, yet the information was still valid, and useful. In any case, it was a gripe I thought worthy of maybe one paragraph, not two (or more) pages. I also got the sense she was trying to justify a family trip to New York City that she felt guilty about. I would love to take my kids to New York, or any number of other big cities, and I want them to spend as much time as possible outside in nature. I don't see why the two should be mutually exclusive, and I don't think anyone in the No Child Left Inside movement is suggesting they are.

Even if there were no measurable benefits to my kids in terms of gross or fine motor skills, balance, muscle development, a healthy dose of dirt, cardiovascular fitness, brain development or even the making of memories, I would know that being outside is good for them. Perhaps the best thing for them, because I can see they are happy. They are having a great time. And, on days when they don't get inside (interminable days and weeks of indoor recess because teachers and daycare workers don't want to get wet or cold), they are cranky, whiny, clingy, grumpy, mentally exhausted and physically wound up. They are royal pains in the buttocks on those days. In fact, I find it hard to believe that the crisis of kids not getting outside is as dire as it's reported to be, because who would NOT want to throw their kids outside when they start fighting, or whining, or begging for TV?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Out with the old...

This is my favorite load of laundry of the year:

(Is it possible to enjoy doing laundry? Yes, I was looking forward to doing this load for the last two weeks!)

I knew I was courting disaster washing all of the coats, mittens, hats and snowpants in March, but it was over 70 degrees on Saturday!! And even if winter is not over, I am over winter. (Here is the same photo, two years ago, only taken in late April. It is truly nothing less than a miracle that we will be hunting Easter eggs in grass, not snow. I may actually have to go out and actually create an Easter egg hunt this year!)

Of course it snowed all day today (not enough, or not cold enough, to stick, fortunately). I did leave out one coat each (yes, we actually own enough coats for each child to have more than one!) and they have plenty of fleeces, rain coats, rubber boots, etc. that they will not freeze. I folded most of this stuff away in the Coats for Kids bags, putting a few things in the "will still fit next winter" bins and some of M's stuff in the "will fit E and Z someday" bins. I just noticed the coat I bought M in kindergarten, which still fits, but which he suddenly decided makes him "look dumb" was not in this load. I hope he didn't intentionally "lose" it!
In other organizing news (I know you just sit on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what I'll be organizing next, don't you?), I dealt with my piles this weekend. Other than the box I showed you in my room (which stuff I had crammed in there in the months preceding Christmas, because I didn't have time to deal with it), I also had a much larger, much fuller box to deal with downstairs.
Things had really gotten out of control in the loose paperwork department, between papers brought home from school by each of the three boys, junk mail, magazines, forms, letters, things I keep putting off and never getting to (like correcting the address on and resending a Christmas card to my brother!!)
M was late (again) with his reading log the previous week and, though I do expect him to keep track of and remember it himself (in the hopes that by the time he's in middle and high school, I won't need to remind him to take his homework to school!), I did feel somewhat responsible because so much paperwork had accumulated on one end of the dining table, the end of the counter, the art table, the kids' table, the mudroom dresser and pretty much every horizontal surface that it was almost impossible to keep track of anything.
I forced myself to sit down Sunday morning and go through each and every piece of paper in both boxes and read, file, recycle or otherwise deal with all of it. I got our Census form filled out, and M's baseball registration. I skimmed and recycled several back issues of various magazines. I even entered our "Christmas cards received" into my spreadsheet and put them in the bag in the basement that I swear one year we'll turn into fabulous crafts (yes, I am an odd mixture of anal and slob). I gave C our property tax update form, which I'm pretty sure I should probably take back and deal with myself, because if I've got piles, that man has got mountains. We're a bad combination.
This happens every so often, the paperwork becomes so overwhelming that I have to spend a good solid hour or two figuring out what everything is, where it goes, catching up. I need to make a concerted effort to deal with things as they come in the door: cute art onto the art strings (which also need to be weeded; I just keep pinning new art on top of old!); tests, report cards and memorable school work into files; one-sided paper in the scrap bin; read magazines; file bank statements; give C the bills; fill out and return forms immediately; recycle anything not immediately necessary and useful. And maybe set aside five or ten minutes each day, or a couple of times a week to deal with those little niggly things like correcting addresses, sending thank-you's, etc. that I tend to set aside for "some day" and never get to.
Do you suffer from piles? How do you handle your condition?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Check it Out!

Guess who's in the new Brain, Child?

E's New Favorite Outfit

I made these bandanna pants for M when he was two.

He cried when I tried to put them on him. Even at that age he would not wear anything bright or showy.

E wore not only the pants (which are more like capris, or maybe gauchos now, at age nearly five), but also leg warmers on both arms and legs, and rainbow socks three days in a row last week.

Nature or nurture?

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I just finished this Simple Yet Effective Shawl over the weekend.

This has been my Process project. It's knit with sock yarn (Noro--yummy!) on size four needles, and you start out casting on seven stitches and end up with around 300 on the needles, so there's no end in sight for a long time. It's all about the knitting, not the final product (just before I finished--with only half a row left--I thought I had lost it, which would really have made it all about process). And it is the project on which I became a Knitter. Look, I even blocked it (unheard of!).
It turned out a bit ridiculously tiny (especially after all that process), but it's kind of nice to have on hand at work, to take off/put on as I get chilled/warm. In fact, I like it so well (the shawl? the yarn? the process?) I'm about to start another one in even more rainbowy yarn.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


My attitude toward the early-melting snow (hurray!) has made me very unpopular among the winterophiles around here (and there are a surprising number), but Saturday, when I saw some tiny, tiny green plants poking through the gravel at my ex-step-mother-in-law's I almost jumped up and down for joy. And yesterday? Sixty-one-point-two degrees. Woo-hoo. Granted, I spent that lovely warm weather driving M to an eye doctor appointment and sitting in a completely windowless room, but still, it was out there, all warm and stuff. Want to know why I'm so excited. Look at last year's Spring Equinox here, and the year before? Seven degrees on March 11 (with photos of the previous year's Easter snow bunny). Explains why a little unseasonable warmth can make one giddy. I know I should totally shut up right now or it will rain for the next three months solid, but I'm just too spring fevery. Hurray!

I haven't done much to prepare for the season. Our Valentine's decorations still hang limp and dusty (and in some cases broken), but I did manage to refresh a corner of the Nature Table for St. Patrick's Day.

(See that oval object that, to the untrained eye appears to be a rock? It's a Leprechaun egg. Bet you didn't know they reproduce oviparously, didja?)

M was all excited with his idea for a Leprechaun trap over the weekend (he was going to bait it with fake pearl earrings), but ran out of time/enthusiasm before carrying it off. A couple of years ago, I made a little green elf shoe (I ran out of time before making the second one) and left it in a corner St. Patrick's day morning. M was so thrilled. He really wanted to believe it was from a real leprechaun. But being Mr. Logic Brain, had his doubts. He kept asking me if I sewed it (to which I prevaricated). I thought about making the other one this year, but I guess I ran out of time/enthusiasm too. Maybe next year, for the twins to find (guess I'll need to make two so they don't fight over it).

On Sunday the boys (the little boys, that is, M preferring to play games at the US Mint website--the closest thing he'll ever have to a video game machine, I hope) and I made some felted Easter Eggs, following the directions in the Spring issue of Rhythm of the Home.

It was fun spending a rainy afternoon getting all wet and soapy and using every color in the wool bag (they both wanted to make their eggs "rainbow."

I always seem to have trouble with weird lumpy masses when I wet-felt. I'm hoping I can repair them with the felting needle after I take the wooden egg out.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Finger-Knittin' Good

(Sorry, couldn't resist!)

Even though my mom was (and is) and expert knitter, I learned finger-knitting at school, from a girl named Aimee Hanson (it was probably the most benign thing I learned from Aimee; she had a shockingly detailed--if inaccurate--knowledge of sex for a second-grader).

I forgot all about it, though, until reading about it in The Creative Family. I tried to get the boys interested last fall, but it seemed too complicated and we got distracted by other things.

Then I saw this amazing bit of fingerknitted rainbow wonderfulness and was inspired.

I bought a skein of handspun rainbow yarn at the end of buy nothing month (33 yards of yarn makes for three very very tiny balls).

And got the boys going. First I started with M, who picked it up easily.

Then I worked with E over a couple of sessions, until he was able to work the yarn on his own.

But it's been Z who really took off with it.

Twice I've set him up with his finger knitting before I went away and have come back to the thing having grown by yards.

From the Waldorf Connection lecture on handwork (by Heather of Shivaya Naturals), I learned that this kind of activity can calm little ones, so that when the boys start bouncing off the walls or trying to kill each other after a long day, I get out the finger knitting.

The other day, Z was running back and forth between his room and mine, crashing into my bed on every turn, which really drives me bonkers.

"Do you need to finger knit?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied eagerly.

After he was settled in with his little rainbow rope he said, "I have a feeling about finger knitting."
"What is your feeling?" I asked.

"That it's magic," he replied.

I think he's right.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting the Plastic Out, Kitchen Edition, Week 1 (and a half)

So the first couple of weeks of trying to reduce (with the goal of eventual elimination) new plastic introduced into the kitchen has not gone as well as I had hoped. I had wanted to do a full inventory of the kitchen, like I did with the bathrooms, but both of the last two weekends have been fully packed. So instead I decided to take it one meal at a time, starting with breakfast.

On weekends, C and I split breakfast duty, with him making pancakes one day and me making muffins or scones the other. Our weekday breakfasts are eclectic affairs. C makes himself Ployes every single day. I have one egg and two slices of toast. The boys usually eat cereal. I bought C a 25 pound bag of Ployes mix through our co-op last month, that came in a big paper bag (rather than the five plastic bags an equal amount purchased at the grocery store would have filled) and he made his own syrup last year, so that's all in glass (he's not sugaring this year, so I'll have to buy out all of the stock of our local farmers who also package in glass). We get our eggs from friends--sometimes they come in plastic cartons, but they're re-used, and I give them back--and I bake all of our bread, so that's a pretty plastic-free process (except the yeast, which does come in individual plastic bags from the health food store, or one huge vacuum-packed plasticy thing from the co-op, the flours I buy in gigantic paper bags, the honey in a glass jar; our molasses currently is in the worst--PVC--plastic, but someone gave that to us--remind me to go on a tangent some time about how weird it is that my in-laws are always giving us random food items--I'll replace that with some blackstrap in a glass jar when it's all used up).

But now onto the cereal. I only buy those huge bags of Nature's Path flakes, that are supposed to be 60% less packaging than the boxes, but yet they are plastic bags. When C goes to the store, he stocks up on yummy cereals like Shredded Spoonfuls and Puffins (our poor kids will curse us some day when they discover Cap'n Crunch!). I determined to try and go plastic-bag-cereal-free this month, though, so I made granola. I tried feeding them only granola two summers ago, when we did the 100-Mile Diet, and it did not go over well. I was hoping E and Z's jaw muscles would have toughened up by now so chewing would not be as much of a chore. They seem to like it OK, except the walnuts I put in it (how can you not like walnuts???), but M didn't care for it at all (I think he finds it too sweet--ironically I went from feeding them cereal with no sugar to a full cup of maple syrup per six cups of oats).

So this weekend, I tried making some flakes (I know--crazy) using this recipe, only substituting corn for bran and honey for sugar.

It wasn't as hard as I expected, but definitely more time-consuming than granola, and did not yield a whole heckuva lot.

And M look one look at it and declared it to be "soggy" and refused to touch it. Plus, making one tiny batch required four sheets of parchment paper (which, I suppose is better than plastic, maybe--what is silicon anyway?--and which I will try to re-use, but still...not ideal).

Before starting this process, I thought there was no way I would get up earlier to make oatmeal or toast or eggs for the kids' breakfasts, but after spending a couple of hours in the kitchen (there were other things going on in there too--bread and crackers and nachos), I began to rethink this declaration. In any case, we're going to try to get through this month convenience-cereal free, then decide if it's worth it or not. I'll letcha know.

Now, onto the crackers. Since I was in the kitchen up to my elbows in flour, I figured why not give these crackers a try as well.

They turned out not-too-bad. No one would mistake them for Ritz, but they do have a nutty, wholesome goodness. I figured out after the first batch that I need to salt them, and the ones I rolled out more thinly came out crisper and more cracker-like. The thicker ones are kind of pie crust-ish, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. They definitely did not get any crisper with storage (and we're not even having humid weather!) but the kids seem to like them and they make a tasty, easy snack (once they're made, that is).

I do think I'll make them again, with some modifications, perhaps, like more butter. Also, I was making rye bread at the same time, and rolling everything out in the same place, so that some caraway seeds found their way into the crackers, which turned out mighty tasty, so I think that'll be the direction I head with the next batch.

Food-related purchases with plastic packaging in the last two weeks:

--At the Farmer's Market I bought one plastic shrink-wrapped goat meat salami for my dad's (shockingly belated) birthday present. And I bought a bag of local, organic, greenhouse-grown spinach. I suppose I could have emptied the bag into one of my own and handed it back, but that would have seemed rude. Plus, after a winter of no greens, man, I couldn't help but buy them.

--Shopping over the weekend with my friend, I bought a bag of these lovely pale green and lavender and white French mints for the kids' Easter baskets. When I went to hide them the cellophane bag broke and I had to try them...and ended up gobbling them down over the next few nights (they are so terrifically, awesomely, amazingly good!). At another store they had bulk Jelly Belly's. I got so excited about the wax paper bags (please don't tell me wax paper is actually plastic--or, worse, perfluorinated chemicals!!), that I bought a shockingly expensive lot of them (and my kids, who have only ever gotten organic fruit-juice sweetened jelly beans, dried papaya and yogurt-covered raisins from the Easter Bunny are going to be in shock--sugar shock!). I did resist buying this really wonderful cut paper mobile that I very much wanted for my cubicle, because it was in a plastic package.

--At the health food store, I bought many pounds of oranges and apples and lemons, all bagless and plastic-free (except those stupid annoying stickers!!). But I did buy a broccoli that was bagged and a small bag of Earth ball chocolates to keep at work. I tell you I am out of control.

--On a return trip to the health food store, I bought two bottles of spectrum safflower oil (glass, with plastic lids) and a bag of potato chips. I have no idea where this craving came from, but I just felt driven to get some salt & vinegar potato chips, and I was totally lulled into complacency by the fact that the bag looked kind of papery on the outside (while of course I knew very well it was not). And then I ate almost all five servings in one go. I'm quite disgusted with me.

Next week, onto lunch and, hopefully, the beginnings of the full kitchen inventory. Whew!

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