Friday, March 29, 2013

Natural resource: cardboard boxes

One of those "natural resources" of  modern living is cardboard. Cardboard boxes are so common that we often don't even notice them. Almost every product we buy - even some groceries - come in cardboard boxes.

What do we do with them? Many of them are thrown away with no other use at all. What CAN we do with them? A lot. Here are a few ideas:

As a receptacle for branches, grass, weeds and other spring clean up trash. Cardboard boxes don't develop holes or stretch too far like plastic bags do and they're biodegradable and they're free if you save them from other things.

Use cardboard boxes as containers, of course, because that's what they are. Store things in them for the garage or closet, but if you need a container that needs to look good, too, a cardboard box can be painted or covered with cloth or paper (check your Christmas paper stash). From Christmas ornaments to yarn storage, cardboard boxes are perfect.

Table, anyone? If you need a side table, find a cardboard box the right size, turn it up and put a cloth over it to cover. Or paint it and put a scarf or other cloth over the top to camouflage it. Or make a play table or dining table for tots by turning a large cardboard box upside down and cutting the sides out about half way up. (Great for those family get togethers!)

You probably already use at least some of these:

  • Shoe boxes to hold tax receipts or other papers
  • Odd shaped boxes to hold gifts
  • Small boxes as drawer organizers
  • Small to medium boxes as desk top organizers
  • Toy boxes for small pieces or collections
  • Clothes basket (line with plastic bag)
There you go. You knew there was some reason you were saving those cardboard boxes, didn't you?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Water Savings

With the drought continuing in many places, using fresh, treated water from the tap for everything is beginning to seem very wasteful. If you want to save water and save money, too, there are a lot of ways to do it.

For instance, at any given time you walk into my kitchen, there will be a glass or glasses set back on the counter with varying levels of water in them. I fill each one as water becomes available from leftover drinking water and melted ice from drinks. It's then used to water the house plants or to dump on the floor for a quick mop up.

There is at times a bucket just outside the back door that holds rinse water from doing dishes or water that's run to heat up or cool down, or water that I've rinsed my hands in. I use it to water outside plants or sometimes to mop the floor.  I've washed the car with it and even washed windows with it. It's plenty clean enough for things like that.

Water that has been used to rinse dishes with is sometimes recycled in the bathroom to wash the sink or toilet - and again, the floor.

There's always the shower water which can be used to flush the toilet, pour out on plants or lawn, scrub the floor or wash the car.

When I'm cooking, I leave a pan of water in the kitchen sink to rinse my hands between tasks. When I stopped to pay attention, I was amazed at how many times I turned on the water for that.

Leftover tea or coffee waters plants, too. Put the sugared drinks on outdoors plants to avoid attracting insects into the house.

Go to Extremely Frugal and search for water. There are many, many ways to reduce the amount of water we use.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Here Comes Peter Cottontail! It's Nearly Easter

Hopping down the bunny trail...
Hippety, hoppety, Easter's on its way!

And so it is. Easter is early this year, so if you'd like to do something a little different, it's time to get started. I'm making Easter baskets and remembering those nights before Easter when the kids were little when we used to color eggs. What a mess it made! It was fun, though. I didn't realize at the time how much more fun dying eggs with natural foods could be. 

If you want to try dying Easter eggs without having to buy the dye, here is what I finally figured out. First, you have to start now to save the various foodstuffs in time.

  • Get your Easter eggs ready to dye by washing in mild soap and warm water to remove any 'sealer' or residue.
    Longer boiling or soaking will make the color deeper.
  • Eggs keep better the longer they're boiled, anyway, and a half hour won't hurt them, texture or taste wise.
  • Use a teaspoon of vinegar to help set the dye in these. Add it at the same time you add the egg.
  • Make designs on eggs with plain crayons before coloring. You don't need a special clear wax crayon to decorate Easter eggs.
Easter egg colors and how to get them:
  • Light green - Save the water from canned or fresh cooked spinach and boil eggs in it, or pick a few dandelion leaves to boil them in.
  • Pale Yellow - Add carrot tops, celery seed or orange peel to water for boiling eggs.
  • Deep Yellow - Put ground turmeric in the water with boiling eggs, or use yellow onion skins to dye them a deep yellow.
  • Orange - Yellow onion skins, at least two cups full. Boil them for a half hour, then add eggs and boil until the eggs are done. If you don't have many, boil what you have in a small pan, with just enough water to cover an egg.
  • Tan - Coffee or tea.
  • Blue - Red cabbage leaves will dye eggs blue. Boil leaves in water, then use the cool liquid to dye boiled eggs. Or let the eggs set in juice drained from canned blueberries.
  • Pink - Use the liquid from canned or pickled beets, or boil along with a fresh beet, or chopped rhubarb stalks, red onion skins. Beets make an especially pretty Easter color.
  • Lavendar - Purple grape juice makes a good dye for a pretty Easter color.
  • Red - Red onion skins. This takes at least three cups full to a quart of water and you have to soak the eggs in it for a half hour or so after boiling. Red is a hard color to create with natural dyes.
  • Bright Yellow - Inner bark of apple tree bark. Scrape the bark into a pot of water and boil for a half hour or so. Don't use vinegar in this, but add a half teaspoon of alum to each quart when cool, to bring out the color. 

Experiment and have fun. As long as it's a food or food safe product, you don't have to worry about it hurting the Easter egg or the eater thereof!