2012-05-30

Plastic challenge, week 4

Total weight of plastic trash total: 601 g
224g regular plastic tally + 377g from the packaging our new TV stand came in. So, I'd like to say lowest yet (as 224g would be the lowest of this four week challenge) but with the Styrofoam from the TV stand, it becomes the highest amount of the challenge.



Items:
  • Charmin wet wipes package (apparently we are going through these too quickly and will have to be mindful of this)
  • Plastic wrapper from toilet scrubbies (I plan to switch to this brush if they ever get some more in stock) and then start making my own bowl cleaner to go with it.
  • Vitamin bottle (recycled)
  • Plastic ring to new vitamin bottle (this time we got whole food vitamins in glass)
  • Plastic ring from new fish oil bottle
  • Empty Advair and plastic sleeve it comes in
  • Empty Tums bottle (recycled)
  • Two milk rings and caps
  • Moment of weakness Blizzard lid and spoon
  • Two mint wrappers
  • A sauce container, from Domino's (recycled)
  • A mini pile of plastics bits, screws, glue, etc. from inside the TV stand box
  • A cat treat package
  • A bit of plastic from installing child proofing for said cats
  • Two plastic sleeves neither one of us could remember the purpose for :/
  • A few plastic windows from mail
  • A bubblewrap-lined envelope
  • Not pictured, two straws from HuHot because we didn't get our wishes communicated in time 
  • Big box of Styrofoam from TV stand (gets its own picture)
Fun Notes
  • Man, I really love our new TV stand, but I'm saddened by all the waste it produced. It's just a reminder to consume less and be very conscious of all purchasing because each time you buy something it adds up.
  • I'm happy that besides the TV stand waste, our tally progressively declined with each week! This challenge was really good for us and has helped us to identify problem areas to work on.
How did your personal plastic challenge go? We have finished our four week challenge, but it's never too late to do your own. It really is an eye opener. 


Wordless Wednesday

These are simple blog posts that feature a photo capable of conveying a message that needs little to no written description. 
More of our friends are getting Lifefactory bottles. Did we start an eco-trend?

2012-05-22

Plastic challenge, week 3

Total weight of plastic trash: 344 g (lowest yet)



Items:
  • Cat food bag
  • Fish oil bottle (recycled)
  • Charmin wet wipes package
  • Herbal Essence shampoo bottle (recycled and the last one, Rob is now using the bulk shampoo I've been using)
  • Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo bottle (recycled and the last one, this was a special shampoo I used once a week, but now that it is gone I'm going to try to not get any more. Perhaps if I have build up issues I can try a more natural home remedy)
  • Hand sanitizer bottle (recycled, I still have several of these. Once I use them up I may make my own or do without)
  • More milk rings and lids than I would have thought
  • Nasacort nasal spray bottle
  • Medicine bottle (recycled)
  • Wrapper from a bar of chocolate (that was fair-trade, dark, and something we shared and made last for over a month)
  • Lid, ring, and agitator thing from a bottle of pre-made Margarita (enjoyed on our mini vacation)
  • Two little Parmesan cups (recycled)
  • Wrapper from a block of local cheese
  • Wrapper from a box of gum (last one. I found out gum itself is plastic. Maybe sometime I will get my hands on these. Until then, I may just try to find mints in glass or tin containers.
  • Two plastic bits from mints (I still have several peppermints to use up, individually wrapped, that I keep in my nightstand for when I have an upset tummy)
  • 4 fruit stickers
  • a band-aid (when this box is gone, our next box is fabric band-aids. I'm sure we could go a step further and just get gauze and paper tape or something, but this is the step we are taking for now)
  • Some plastic windows from mail
  • Shake cups/lids (recycled the cups. We went inside Winstead's for shakes and discovered they had betrayed us. We had no idea they stopped serving them in glass until they brought them out to us in plastic. Sad. Can we not get shakes without plastic or Styrofoam anywhere?)
  • 4 straws (two from the shakes, two red ones from...well honestly neither of us can remember)
Fun Notes:
  • Not sure if this one is really "fun" news, but we decided to try to get some loaves of bread from a local bakery. This sounds great in theory, but they refused to put bread in our bread bags even though their bread was loose. Guess we will not get bread there. I have to say I was kind of surprised by this one actually. Since Panera and Whole Foods do it, you'd think a small place like this would. Oh well. I guess this is just one example of how we refused (refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot) so I thought I'd add it here since it meant that those plastic sacks did not end up in our tally.


2012-05-21

Quick sauce warming tip

It's actually a little embarrassing that I didn't figure this out sooner. I just stumbled onto the greatest idea to save a tiny bit of energy when you're using the oven and need to warm up some sauce.

Put your sauce pot on the exhaust vent from the oven! Now I can heat up the pasta sauce without turning on the burner, just by the exhaust heat from the oven that's warming up our loaf of bread.

2012-05-19

Pizza night

Most weeks Jess and I have a pizza night. Pizzas night, actually. It's good cold, but it's great when it's fresh from the oven. I used to do this quite a bit differently, but over the last few years I've made a few adjustments and at this point I'm pretty happy with it. There are still a couple things I want to try sometime, but it's hard to mess with a good thing. I wanted to share the secret with everyone!


The hardware
Now, I use a dough whisk to mix everything up. You could use a stand mixer with a dough hook or whatever else you like to make dough with. Other than that, all you need is a bowl, a kitchen scale, and a scoop of whatever size fits into your flour receptacle. I only use my little measuring cup as a scoop for the flour, because it's in a big jar that would be difficult to pour from. Also, it lets me sort of loosen up the flour as I scoop it into the bowl. For everything else, I just pour straight from the jar or get my hand down in there.

The software
Put your bowl on your scale and turn it on. Scoop or dump in the following into your bowl, in order:
  • 400 g whole wheat flour
  • 30 to 40 g flax seed meal
  • 30 g gluten
  • 15 g bread machine yeast
  • A pinch of salt
  • A little sugar (only for the yeasties, a tablespoon or two)
Stop! Whisk all these dry things together. And then also add:
  • Some olive oil (a couple tablespoons)
  • A bunch of honey (3/4 to 1 cup)
For later you'll also need:
  • A cup of warm water (around 100 degrees-ish)
  • A couple tablespoons of extra flour just to keep things from sticking to everything. 
  • Cornmeal to keep your pizza from sticking to your stone or pan.
  • More olive oil to brush on the crust.
  • Pizza sauce, about five spoonfuls per pizza.
  • Shredded mozzarella.
  • Oats. Mine are rolled, not sure if steel cut would work any differently.
Make the dough
Whisk everything that's in your bowl. The honey will make it a little clumpy. Pour the water in the middle and start whisking some more. It's not vital but might make it easier to get going if you whisk in the middle and only bring in a little additional flour from the edges at a time until everything's wet. Keep whisking until it all sort of comes together in one big clump and it's a pain in the butt to pull the whisk through the whole lump.

Sprinkle the table with a little bit of flour. Dump your dough out onto the table and knead for several minutes. I'd say at least ten minutes, but I get lazy and quit after five or six usually. Use a little more flour as needed, but only enough to keep the dough from sticking to the table and your hands. Measuring the flour by weight means that we're more or less set on moisture content, so we're not trying to dry things out any here.


Take a nap
The dough needs to rest some, and so should you. Form the dough into as much of a sphere as you can manage, and put it in your bowl with a little oil to coat the dough. Cover it with a damp towel and let it sit for an hour. Go find something to do. This is the point where I occasionally get impatient and will move on after 45 minutes. Especially if I didn't start this whole process till it was already 20:00.

Preheat your oven to 500°
If you have a pizza stone, make sure it's in the oven before you begin preheating. My stone said I should let the stone sit in the preheated oven for 45 minutes before baking, but I ignore that completely and get things going as soon as the oven says it's ready.

Make your crust
While the oven begins its long slow journey to 500, you might as well begin preparing your crusts. I usually make two pizzas with this amount of dough, but you could do whatever. The same dough would work for three if you wanted several toppings, or four or five if you want to do individual pizzas. After splitting your dough, try to make each hunk into spheres again. And then let them sit for a few minutes, if you don't have a starving spouse waiting.

You'll need a little more flour here, but only a tiny bit to sort of soak up the oil that you coated your dough with while it was rising. And then maybe a tiny bit more so you're not peeling your dough off the table to move it around.

Take your more or less spherical balls of dough and flatten it a little so there's enough surface area to fit your fist. Push your fist down in the middle of your disk of dough, and then rotate and repeat a few times so you've got a deep circular indentation. Do the same thing a little more to widen the circle some. Pick up the dough and vigorously pass it from hand to hand. The idea is to move it fast enough so it stretches itself out a little bit each time.

I've not had a whole lot of luck tossing my dough, and I kind of worry that using the whole wheat flour makes it a little more fragile anyway. So instead, I lay it back on the table and use the backs of my fingers to stretch it, turning it after each stretch. What I'll do is push down with the backs of my fingers, and sort of twist the tips of my fingers toward the outside edge of the circle. At the same time I move my hand out so it pulls the whole thing a little larger. Then I turn the dough a little and repeat, in an attempt to make my crust round.


After forming both crusts, I sprinkle corn meal on my pizza peels and lay the crusts on them, up toward the front edge. I use a basting brush to brush some olive oil around the edges of the crust. This seems to help the crust get a little more browned and slightly crisp. I usually end up also lightly coating the whole thing with whatever's left on my brush.

The newest addition to my pizza is some oats. Before putting the sauce on, I sprinkle a couple handfuls of oats on the crusts. It makes spreading the sauce a bit trickier, but I like the idea of getting some oats in with my pizza.

I use about five spoonfuls of sauce on each pizza. This is quite a bit more than I used to use; in the past I would only use enough sauce to coat the whole thing. Now we're trying to focus on the sauce rather than the cheese.


I've never paid attention to exactly how much cheese we put on, but it's just enough so that when it melts, it all comes together. Since we usually get the cheese in half pound blocks, this might mean it's about a quarter of a pound between the two pizzas.

When we have it, we will add torn up spinach leaves. Completely cover the pizza. The spinach shrinks a lot. And we do have spinach right now, but it's a little funky, so we'll stick to just the cheese this time.


Slide a pizza onto your stone in that 500° oven, and let it bake for 6 or 7 minutes. I like to keep an eye on the cheese. My preference is for a couple small areas of cheese to brown a little, but a lot of times I end up taking it out just before that happens while the cheese is still bubbling merrily.

Hopefully, it'll look something like this. All that honey we used results in a nice sweet crust. But don't worry, if you cut these into eight slices, you'll only end up with around a tablespoon of honey per slice.

Oh, one more thing. After you take it out of the oven, if you let it sit for a few minutes before cutting, the cheese will have cooled enough to cut cleanly, thus avoiding stretching a string of cheese across the table as you serve your family.



Edit: This post also shows on a blog hop, dated 2012-05-29 here:

2012-05-16

Wordless Wednesday

These are simple blog posts that feature a photo capable of conveying a message that needs little to no written description.
Our baby mourning doves. We seem to grow them every year.

2012-05-15

Plastic challenge, week 2

Total weight of plastic trash: 368 g (a little less than last week)


Items:
  • A bottle of cat odor remover (recycled)
  • A bag of cat treats
  • A razor cartridge and plastic case (last one, now we will be ordering a safety razor, that does not require plastic replacement heads)
  • An Arby's cup (recycled, but no excuse...I should have taken my water bottle)
  • Plastic rings from the tops of two half gallon ice cream containers
  • A yogurt container and lid (recycled)
  • Plastic wrap from a block of cheese
  • Plastic price sticker for meat that we got in our jar
  • Two lids and rings from glass milk products
  • A wrapper from a fortune cookie
  • Four small plastic containers that contained Parmesan and marinara, due to getting pizza out (some recycled)
  • A sticker telling me of a discounted price
  • A tag from a container of flowers
  • Plastic window from mail
  • Plastic sleeve from our checks that were delivered to us in the mail
  • And then the entire right hand side of the table is due to Compassion. I put on a Compassion Sunday event at my church, which is a great organization when it comes to helping children in need, but not as great as far as plastic waste (Mailing plastic, individual plastic sleeves the sponsor children packs came in, the DVD that was shown at church, etc.). I was able to get seven children sponsored, so I'm saying it's worth it in this case, but do wish that they could cut back on the waste in some way.
Fun notes:
  • Realizing our cats cause quite a bit of our plastic waste, but what can we do really? I may get to the point of trying to make some of my own cat treats, but we aren't there yet. I am going to try out some homemade odor/stain removers though, so maybe that can be a helpful step. And, we're considering the toilet training option.
  • We just took out the trash (first time in two weeks), so there is the added plastic from the bag. Eventually when we have finished off these trash bags we will be switching to bio-degradable ones.
Still two weeks left in the challenge, plenty of time to join in!

2012-05-12

Doing the dishes

We got some new dish soap. I'm really excited about this, because our previous dish soap was a bit of a disaster.


You see, in the interest of reducing our waste, we had decided to try using a bar soap for the dishes. We got Dr Bronner's bar soap for the job. It turns out that using a bar of soap for hands is awesome, but using one for doing dishes is quite a pain.

Not to worry, surely we can make our own liquid soap by simply melting down the bar and adding water to dilute it and keep it liquid. I've lost the link to the "recipe" I tried to use, but basically it involved a large quantity of water, a shredded bar of soap, and a couple hours of simmering.

Sounds easy; I'm good at shredding soap.

The result was a good deal more painful than if I had stuck with the solid bar. Using the soap at this point involved immersing the bottle in hot water for fifteen minutes or more so it would re-melt and become suitable for use. This meant just to prepare to do the dishes, there had to be some vessel large enough to contain enough hot water to cover most of the bottle we keep the soap in.

Let's just say that the dishes stacked up.

To be fair, I may have used less water than the recipe indicated. I had started out with at least twice as much shredded soap as called for. But, I tried to help things by adding even more water when my soap was in its heated liquid phase. That didn't help; it remained stubbornly solid.

The point is, this is one homemade item that I don't have the patience for.

We've decided that it's an acceptable trade-off to purchase a gallon jug of liquid castile soap. While we would prefer to avoid it anywhere we can, plastic is the only way to get it. We'll eventually be able to recycle the bottle, and possibly even the lid. We considered the option of filling up our own bottle from a store, but then we realized no matter where we get it, it's going to be plastic for someone. Unless we can convince Dr Bronner to package it in glass...

We got the lavender. It smells great. Works great too!

For doing the dishes, we're using a glass bottle that used to contain some garlic herb olive oil / balsamic vinegar. We found that the plastic lid from an old bottle of Seventh Generation dish soap fit the oil bottle perfectly. The soap is pretty watery, so it sort of comes out of the bottle a little like Tobasco sauce.

The soap in its natural liquid form is super concentrated. The mix Dr Bronner's suggests for dishes is a ratio of 40:1 water to soap. The bottle we have holds about a cup. When I make it, I mix a cup of water and a little dribble of soap. I haven't actually tried to be precise about the soap measurement, but 1/40 of a cup is 1.2 teaspoons. At this rate, I'll be able to fill this bottle around 640 times. It took me a couple weeks to use the bottle, so unless we find some other uses for it, I expect we'll be finishing this gallon of soap around November 2036. That should make up for the plastic.

Edit: This post was actually written by Rob, the dish-doer.

Edit: This post also shows on a blog hop, dated 2012-05-15 here:

2012-05-08

Plastic challenge, week 1

Total weight of plastic trash: 391 g


Items:
  • 2 cat food bags
  • Charmin wet wipes package
  • 2 dead pens
  • Plastic bag from hatch huggers for new car bike rack
  • Medicine bottle from Augmentin (recycled)
  • Plastic bag from cornstarch (on the lookout for cornstarch in bulk)
  • Wrapper from a mint
  • Flosser head (last one, now will just be using up regular floss instead of individual flossers)
  • Five envelope windows from junk mail
  • Plastic coupon card for Kay, which we just discovered was actually meant to be for a neighbor. A comment will be left on their Facebook page regarding the silliness of printing plastic coupons. Everyone should comment!
  • Plastic bits from our new box fan that held the feet together
  • 2 big stickers, one in English and one Spanish, also from the new box fan
  • 1 apple sticker
  • Top from bag of cat treats
  • Strawberry box (recycled)
  • 2 milk caps with rings
  • Earplugs from an MRI
  • 2 license plate brackets from new car
  • Frank Ancona vanity plate pre-attached to the front of the new car
Fun notes:
  • The cat food bags were 121 g together. We'll always have these every so often for the foreseeable future, but Virgil turns 1 in a few days, so we can at least buy bigger bags of adult food from now on instead of having to get both an adult cat bag and a kitten bag.
  • The Honda advertising was 158 g, which was 40% of our total. Assuming no additional car purchases in the next week, we should be looking pretty good at our next weigh-in.
  • That new box fan helped drop the interior temperature by 5 degrees in just a couple hours. More on that later.
Joining us for week 2 of the challenge? Let's here from you. Here we go.

2012-05-02

Wordless Wednesday

My first "Wordless Wednesday" post:

These are simple blog posts that feature a photo capable of conveying a message that needs little to no written description. 



2012-05-01

Plastic trash challenge!

Today is May 1st, and this month we will be doing the plastic trash challenge. Please click on that link, read the rules, and join us on our adventure!

It's simple to get started, we will just be collecting all our plastic (recyclable and non) and will tally it at the end of each week. We will do this for the entire month of May and see how we progress. At the end of the month we (and hopefully anyone else we inspire) will fill out the form provided in the link and send it in.

As for our blog, we will post a picture of each week's collection and write about it in hopes to better analyze our plastic footprint.

Here we go.