Just a Bit of a Break from the Norm

Summer solstice has come and gone, and we are speeding toward the 4th of July. Time for a little reflection on my goals and projects.

Saving the earth

Let’s talk about green living first. Some practices have become so ingrained that there’s no need to mention them, like composting and recycling, and using cold water for doing wash (except for sheets and towels). Others, I’m still working on.

With the start of summer, I’ve been trying to use the A/C wisely. Luckily, it hasn’t been all that hot. We have yet to even install the upstairs window units — the nights haven’t been bad at all. Every morning, I open the windows and turn on the ceiling fans downstairs. I hold off on turning the wall unit A/C on until I get moderately uncomfortable. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but if it’s not bothering me, or the kids, what’s the difference?

Using bottled water: I was pretty good over the school year about sending the kids in with their reusable”juice boxes” (small Tupperware containers with straws), although I did keep real juice boxes on hand for those mornings where I would sleep through my alarms and had 10 minutes to get ready. For our summer excursions, water is a must, and I’m trying to stick with the reusable boxes. Personally, though, I don’t like drinking out of that type of plastic. I need to get myself a metal container  like I used to have. (I had the opportunity recently to go to Costco with my mom and bought some bottled water there — I couldn’t believe how cheap it was. So I have been using that here and there…)

Hanging wash on the line: still a pretty regular practice. However, I don’t always plan the wash around the weather. If it’s nice out, I hang it up; if it’s not, I use the dryer. Thinking ahead and coinciding wash days with nice weather would be the next step.

Not using paper towels: not happening. I try to use rags, but there’s just so many instances where paper towels are easier, like cleaning the guinea pig cage.

And the infamous reusable shopping bags? I’ve gotten in a groove where I consistently use them at Wegmans, Whole Foods, and the farmers’ markets, but nowhere else. I guess those “Did you remember your totes???” signs in the Wegmans’ parking lot make a difference.

Things I’d like to implement: using a rain barrel to catch water for the garden (I do try to reuse things like the kids’ pool water for the plants), buying more items in bulk so that there is less packaging, and making the house more energy-efficient. Sometimes I toy with the idea of getting rid of the lawn-mowing service and doing it myself with a push mower. But that seems like a special kind of insanity (with our double lot). I also need to call the solar company that installed our panels and say wasssupp? They told us it would take a while for PSE&G to come out and do what they have to do to get our panels turned on, but this long?

Self-sufficiency

Not much going on in this department. I haven’t given any haircuts in a few months, even though Aidan says he prefers for me to do it. The garden is my main stab at self-sufficiency now, I guess. I’m using regular laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent. Aww, that was fun when I used to mess around with making that stuff, but in the end it didn’t quite seem worth it.

Frugality/budgeting

I still have my budget, but it continues to be more of a retrospective look at what I spent then a prospective, proactive tool. It would be better if I had an envelope system going or something like that. For the summer, now that I’ve spent a bunch on the pool membership and the different classes for the kids, my main setting is “No.” Our Maine trip is coming up, so between now and then we are definitely laying low and not spending much. No movies or other excursions. Going to the pool, having playdates, going to our classes, playing outside here, eating at home. (We did go to Friendly’s to celebrate excellent report cards.)

I’ve put off getting my hair cut, and I just recently got new makeup after cutting open my foundation tube and scraping every last bit out. This past week, I put off grocery shopping a few days, so that we could be sure to eat up what we had. And this coming week, you can be sure we are going to eat up everything in the house before leaving for Maine.

The kids’ summer wardrobe is all from the thrift shops or hand-me-downs, except for 2 new bathing suits for Gemma and new water shoes for everyone. Aidan has recently taken an interest in Nike brand clothing. I’ve helped him look online and try to get an idea of the prices, and tried to get him to think about whether he really wants to spend $20 on a pair of socks. I also demonstrated to him that Nike stuff can be found at the thrift shop (and he liked what I bought). But he still ended up getting a few things at the nearby Nike outlet, paid for by my husband, who was sympathetic to his desire for name brands. Aidan was supposed to chip in with his own money, but I’m not sure if that debt was ever called in.

Eating local

Oh, my most ambitious project. It’s been difficult, not gonna lie. The number one difficulty is probably getting out of old habits and food preferences. Our dependence on good old apples and bananas, for example, has been hard to break. The other main difficulty is the confusion brought on by the competing factors of the food’s physical origin, organic/nonorganic qualities, manner of harvesting/making, and price — all of which lead to me standing in the supermarket aisle looking stupefied.

A good example is our trip to the Wednesday evening farmers’ market this week. I wanted to get eggs and fruit. I ended up with eggs, corn (first Jersey corn I’ve seen!), green beans, and a chicken croquette from a local farm-to-table restaurant. There were peaches and blueberries, but I hesitated, knowing the kids probably wouldn’t eat them. At the last second I grabbed some Braeburn apples. Only when I got home did I look at the stickers on them and realize they came from Chile. D’oh!

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It used to bug me a little, when I was younger, that my mom would always start the day talking about what we should have for dinner. I couldn’t understand her seeming obsession with planning dinner until I became a mom, of course. If you don’t start planning dinner in the morning, or even further ahead of time, you end up with pizza or cereal or worse for dinner. If you want that dinner to consist of completely local, in-season, organic food, with elements that you grow/make yourself, you are going to be thinking about dinner every waking moment. And let’s not forget breakfast and lunch. Life becomes an endless search for and construction of ingredients. And that’s fine, and that’s sort of the point, but man. I’ve got other stuff to do, too.

Anyway, I won’t let perfect become the enemy of good. We keep chugging along, trying to learn and make good choices. Today’s farmers’ market was fun. I really felt inspired — there was lots of variety. Gemma was with me, and she was a cheery companion, at least once I bought her a box of popcorn.

I bought Jersey asparagus and strawberries — probably the last time they will be at the market. I’m thinking about making strawberry jam. Also a cucumber for my husband’s salads, a portabella mushroom cap, cheddar cheese from Hillacres Pride, and sourdough bread from Wildflour Bakery. Went home and made the best grilled cheese evah with the bread, cheese and mushrooms. Then for dinner, I did a chicken stir-fry with Wednesday’s green beans, carrots, and the asparagus, over white rice. Left the mushrooms out only for the sake of my husband. Delicious, especially after swimming at the pool! And, the kids ate plain rice and plain stir-fried chicken without too much complaint.

After dinner, Sebastian and I harvested 16 carrots from the garden. They are a small type of carrot (“Little Finger,” and it’s a perfect moniker). Some were probably not quite ready to come out; I realized too late that we should have been judging readiness by the thickness of the stalk. So I left the rest alone — there’s at least another 20 out there in that bed, and more elsewhere.

The guinea pigs will get the carrot tops. The carrots went into a container of water in the fridge, to keep them crisp.

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Strawberries are forming on my plants and the tomatoes and cucumber plants have flowers. The pumpkin plants are growing quickly, except for the one that Neon the cat killed. Oh that cat… His “mischief hour” seems to be around 7:30 pm. That is when he starts attacking our ankles and jumping in my garden beds. I had to start squirting him with a water gun to get him out of them. Tonight the boys wore him out, throwing a ball for him to chase. I feel like God sent us a dog-cat to make up for the dog we couldn’t keep.

Well, it’s time for me to go read some more of my e-library book (Game of Thrones!) and maybe eat a brownie from the freezer since my frugal self froze the leftovers from last weekend’s party 🙂

P.S. Can you name the tune I pulled the post title from?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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