Little Changes and Bamboo Toothbrushes

A friend posted this article recently, http://www.sarahwilson.com/2016/09/8-bits-of-plastic-you-can-quit-right-now/, and it reminded me all over of how important it is to me that I not become complacent just because I don’t think that I need to be obsessive about every environmental thing. It’s such a small thing, grabbing the bamboo toothbrushes over the plastic ones, carrying reusable cutlery and tupperware that I always want to have handy anyway. I want these things to be habits, easy, not notable.

I think this is the way changes will be made, not by shaming or overwhelming people with the impact of trash but by noting the fact that a drink without a straw is less wasteful and, well, pretty much the same as a drink with a straw. I like that she doesn’t just tell people “these things are bad” but immediately says “and its so easy to avoid them in the future.” This is the approach that I need to keep caring about environmentalism, about not wasting and about recycling. I need to find habits that make a positive impact, and then carry them out over time, rather than having ardent pushes where all I talk about are environmental concerns, and then months of exhausted lack of concern after that.

What do you do to be less wasteful in little ways? I don’t necessarily mean in order to “save the Earth,” if that’s not your pet cause, but just ways that you find to be a good steward of what you’ve been given and not waste what you have?

Recycled Plastic Bag Yarn, Turned Doormat

No matter how a cute a doormat is when I get it, the years of dirt, salt, snow, rain, and who knows what else always tend to wear them about the same – a greyish-blackish blob meant only to be scuffled by boots. That’s why I’m turning the ever-piling-up bounty of grocery plastic bags in my house into doormats.

Obviously, the ideal would be to use the 4 or 5 reusable grocery bags I have lying around the house, but a couple times a month I forget those, and a few other times I get more groceries than they can hold. Over time, that’s become a very packed pile of grocery bags, and because I knew you could make yarn out of them, I chose to try that for my latest crochet project. I have some detail work left to do on two projects for my in-laws, but this is a nice break because it’s mindless for the most part.

  1. I start by flattening out the bag and cutting the bottom and the handles off, so I have a uniform rectangle shape, but it’s actually a circle of plastic.
  2. With it flattened, I cut “strips” that are actually rings of plastic. I try to keep them between 1/2 an inch and an inch, but the final yarn is variable and it all kind of stretches, so don’t stress about width. Just make sure it isn’t less than 1/2 an inch because it’s liable to break.
  3. I loop the rings of plastic through each other and pull tight, to create a “chain” and then add more and more rings to it. Each plastic bag can add 12, 20, even 24 feet of yarn if you make it uniform and thin.
  4. Then I roll it up into a ball and use it just like regular yarn. The more you can make ahead of time, the faster the projects themselves go.

It’s not ideal for us to turn plastic bags into doormats instead of just reducing our use of grocery bags, but it makes me happy to see something useful come out of all this – I save the handles and the bottoms of the bags to stuff in the middle of two layers of doormat to make an extra-thick mat that also uses every single part of the buffalo, I mean every part of the bag. I’ll post a picture when I get one completely done!

Fried Green Tomatoes… Messy Goodness

I don’t like having gunk all over my fingers, but there are circumstances that call for it. Fried green tomatoes are now one of those reasons.

My friend C counseled me on how to use all the beautiful green tomatoes I had still in my garden – it’s frustrating that as soon as they ripen up, I have to snatch them up or risk disease or pests getting them. Green tomatoes, on the other hand, are often beautifully firm and shiny and I was itching to try eating them. C mentioned that a simple egg wash, a dry coating of corn meal and flour mixed together, and a quick dip in some hot oil would yield a tasty treat, so I tried it! It got my fingers quite messy, but I still vote for it!

I started by mixing corn flour (not corn meal, but I think they’d be even more crunchy if I had used that) and regular flour with some salt, pepper, garlic, and a little paprika. In a separate bowl, I mixed a little milk and an egg (I had to replenish with a second egg; you guys know I’m terrible with proportions). I then sliced all my green San Marzanos length wise; I wanted larger surface area to coat because my tomatoes are pretty petite to begin with. They took three dips (dry, wet, dry) while I heated up a quarter inch of canola oil in a big frying pan. It was more than just a coating on the bottom, but not enough to float the tomatoes. Once it was nice and hot (medium-high), I put the coated tomatoes in to sizzle.

While I would recommend doing this with a friend, Husband was busy working on our monthly budget at the kitchen table while I scrambled to have enough hands: I was cutting and breading more tomatoes, flipping the cooking ones once they turned brown, pulling the finished tomatoes out onto a plate with paper towel on it, and seasoning them with more garlic and pepper, all while accidentally getting goo on my fingers and having to wash it away. That being said, this is a delightfully active cooking experience; no set-it-and-forget-it. The tomatoes fry quickly and I had to adjust the temperature of the oil just to keep up.

What resulted was firm and tangy but mostly just tasted like fried batter – i.e. wonderful. Husband dipped his in Frank’s red hot sauce, and I made a garlicky, peppery mayonnaise for dipping. I want to say I ate something else for dinner, but let’s be real – this is all I had. High marks!img_4806