Hippie Lite

In the past couple of weeks I’ve gone completely earth-mother. Fully tree-hugger. If I were any more of a hippie I’d be high and in a drum circle somewhere.

I exaggerate, of course, but I’d imagine my sudden interest in the zero-waste movement has got my employers looking at me like I’ve sprouted dreadlocks and toe rings.

IMG_20170524_115711769

I hung these up in the bathroom and when Mr. Parent came in to check the (broken) towel rack, I swear he gave me a Look for the rest of the day. It’s just Tolkien! Everybody knows Tolkien! What’s the matter with Tolkien?! Tolkien!

I’m not really that hardcore. I’m tentatively exploring the zero waste movement by giving up the things that most dedicated zero-waste people hardly even think about anymore, and I’m complaining the whole way. Who knew there were so many uses for paper towels? Why do all the really tasty foods come wrapped in plastic?

So reusable shopping bags, of course, and reusable produce bags, and refillable liquid soap containers to buy liquid soap in bulk, and a slightly crushed soul.

IMG_20170524_112441410

I’ve been using up my old plastic and disposable things before starting on the new reusable items, because just throwing the old stuff away is sort of everything the zero waste movement has ever been against. Everything that can be recycled will. This stuff will stretch.

I’ve collected a lot of neat reusable items recently, some of which aren’t pictured. These are things like:

  • A metal safety razor instead of plastic disposable ones. This is, hands down, the most terrifying of purchases. Every time I pick that thing up to shave with, the back of my mind is saying “NO! What are you doing?! All that’s keeping thin metal from slicing your skin is the angle at which you’re holding the handle!” It’s been fun.
  • A few unpackaged soaps and whatnot from Lush, which is the first step in my soap journey, the next step being making my own and the step after that being forgoing soap altogether to live in the woods and bathe in dirt. The charcoal tooth tablets are also from there, and there’s nothing like painting your teeth black to really clean them up.
  • Reusable menstrual pads. Yes, you have to soak them and wash them out like they’re reusable cloth diapers. Still, given how much plastic I’d be going through otherwise…
  • A metal water bottle! Golly, did you know that you can save money and plastic just by not using money to buy plastic water bottles?
  • Bulk sugars for my (now) bulk tea. I… really miss individually packaged teabags, guys. They were so neat and easy, especially the Bigelow stuff. Turns out, you can recycle the box and the teabags themselves, but not the individual teabag wrappers. It’s been rough.
  • Cloth napkins and cloth “unpaper” rags for cleaning.
  • Wool dryer balls! Pros: Your clothes do dry faster with the woolen balls separating the layers in the cycle. Cons: They really don’t do well soaking up the static. Anybody who tells you they’re as good as dryer sheets doesn’t remember what it’s like to have dryer sheets.

I’ve also been doing things like buying fresh bread from the local bakery, instead of bread that’s wrapped in plastic and then, carefully, wrapped in another layer of plastic and tied off with a plastic end. The key thing about small local bakeries is that you can usually coerce them into putting the fresh bread right into your reusable bag, and they’ll come to remember you as the crazy regular with the toe-ring dreadlocks, but hopefully in a fond way.

This vague interest in the zero-waste movement has also helped to curb my impulse spending. But… not entirely. Exactly. Really.

IMG_20170524_115017409

It was just really important that I get this teacup holster from the steampunk convention, all right? Look, it’s all reusable! That makes it okay to spend an obscene amount of money on!

Mind you, there will always be some things I can’t trade out for reusable and non-plastic. Pill containers, for instance. Computer things. Deodorant that’s not in some weird powder form.

Also the makeup brands I know and love. You can’t make me give them up. I mean, unless someone has some better suggestions that are under $10. It’s cheap because the brands don’t care who or what they have to steamroll to get it here!

Spring… Springs

It probably goes without saying that spring is here. You can tell because it’s May 19th, and also because here on the east coast it’s a mild 94 degrees, the way spring is supposed to be on Venus.

IMG_20170430_115435778_HDR

Spring is that important time of year when you can start having staring contests with deer, because they can’t easily see you approaching through the green foliage until it’s too late and they’re forced to watch you for as long as you watch them.

In fact, I’d wager we’re on the verge of summer instead, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s still spring because otherwise the series of photographs I have in my possession would be for naught.

Every Wednesday afternoon the eldest boy I take care of has a piano lesson at the house next door. This house is on a very pretty piece of property overlooking a lake, with some great big windows to emphasize how spotless everything is because the piano teacher  doesn’t have three to six boys.

So every Wednesday, while the oldest boy was explaining why he couldn’t possibly have practiced that week, I positioned myself in front of the same window and tried to line up my shots. It’s easier said than done, but I came away with just over two months worth of photos, and a vision of exploding spring time.

IMG_20170315_163522653IMG_20170322_163441617IMG_20170329_163431470IMG_20170405_163255758_HDRIMG_20170419_163212522IMG_20170426_165238004_HDRIMG_20170505_164250786IMG_20170510_164211093_HDRIMG_20170517_163758597

I do easily forget how pretty the east coast is from May to November. It stays this way by maintaining humidity levels equivalent to lying in warm jello. I haven’t yet decided if this is worth it.

Things Mom Was Right About

As a teenager, my mother always made crazy and unreasonable demands of me. Completely unfounded, out of whack suggestions and commands that had absolutely no basis in reality. Absolutely ridiculous.

These were things like turning my clothes right side out before she did laundry, or soaking a pot before she did dishes. Unbelievable. The gall.

But then here I was, seven years later, and as I passed by one of the boy’s rooms with my laundry basket, I reminded him to make his bed.

“No!” he yelled. “I don’t want to! I do all the work around here! You treat me like a servant!”

So after dealing with that Elementary School crisis mostly by laughing, I started thinking back on all the absurd demands of my childhood. Turns out, they were actually pretty reasonable. These were things like:

  • Rinsing out the bathtub after a shower so that the soapy residue didn’t stick around, making it slippery and hard to clean.
  • Practicing piano every day before the day of your lesson instead of making excuses right up until the morning of, and then frantically practicing for fifteen minutes in the hopes that your piano teacher won’t notice your incompetence.
  • Cleaning up as you go. Hey, did you know that could save you time?
  • Turning those clothes right side out before wash. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s incredibly tedious to do it all at once.

It’s surreal, taking care of children who complain about the exact same things I complained of. The only difference is that they’ve learned to complain about them out loud.

And it’s really, really annoying.

So I’d like to apologize to Mom for being, excuse my language, a little shit. Being a functional human being is better. You were right, Mom. Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Except about The Sims 2. That’s a great game and totally appropriate for someone over thirteen years of age.

 

 

Comics, Cosplay, and Imperial Officers

Can’t afford to bring the kids to Disney? Try bringing them to your local comic convention. Sure, you’re going to run into some real weirdos, and you’ll have to shield their eyes when you walk by some of the raunchier booths, but you’ll also meet some real weirdos in incredible costumes. And some of these costumes will be Disney costumes, is what I’m getting at.

(I say weirdos affectionately. I am also one.)

This convention was the East Coast Comic Con, which was advertising the visiting of Dawn Wells (Mary-Ann from Gilligan’s Island), Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters), and all the remaining cast of Lost in Space (the people who were under thirty when it filmed).

IMG_20170429_122951544

Here’s a blurry photo I snapped real quick of everyone but Ernie Hudson. They’re in there, I swear. I think you can even see Dawn Wells there, to the left of the guy in the red shirt. I just didn’t want to pay for a photo or an autograph.

This comic convention was specifically comic-related with other geeky undertones (as opposed to a fantasy or sci-fi convention, which is more broad), so most of the booths were just rows and rows of new and old comic books. I, personally, have only ever read ElfQuest and a few random issues of The New Teen Titans, so I was mostly there for the other things.

Like the cosplayers.

IMG_20170429_130024486

Look at that Two-Face. Look at it.

Cosplayers do some incredible things with their time and money. It also helps, of course, when you look a great deal like the character already, which is why I can get away with cosplaying Ms. Frizzle with minimal effort.

IMG_20170429_144258909

On that note, I’m not completely convinced this guy wasn’t actually Tony Stark. All he had to do was show up with his suit and his neatly groomed beard and you could swear he was the real deal. He’s standing in front of the convention doors here because every time he tried to move forward, someone would stop him for a picture.

I have a great friend who’s a phenomenal cosplayer (hi Avery!), so you’d think I’d be used to it, but really these people continue to amaze me.

IMG_20170429_134009978

While I was taking a break in the lobby, I saw a woman and her little daughter approach this Merida. “Can she take a picture with you?” the woman asked. “You’re the only one she’s not scared of.”

IMG_20170429_140911539

This guy had the most ramshackle cardboard costume ever, but boy did he ever have the Wolverine swagger down.

IMG_20170429_142529243

I didn’t actually know who this was at first (because, again, not really a comic person) until someone in the background yelled “Mr. Freeze!”, but I had to take a picture regardless. That’s dedication. He had to get help to take the bubble off when he wanted to eat.

IMG_20170429_124845739

There’s cosplayers, and then there’s professional cosplayers like the fellow above. He spoke to me in that soft Obi-Wan voice the entire time after he let me take a picture, and then fished out a business card for me after- hence, he’s the only cosplayer I can name.

I also ran across the 501st Legion, the “bad guys doing good.” They’re a (apparently pretty large) volunteer charity group that I’d never heard of before, and it looks like they do some great things in great outfits.

IMG_20170429_151149732

They had a booth and they brought a trash compactor with them. You could take pictures in it.

I participated in the “droid hunt” they had going on, wherein they gave you a badge:

IMG_20170429_135343935_BURST001

…And had you wear it around the convention. If the patrolling Imperials spotted you, you were “forced” to hand it over in exchange for a raffle ticket.

IMG_20170429_141212468_HDR

It took me about half an hour to be spotted by the Imperials, during which time I found a 3D printer merrily chugging along. It was printing another copy of the little pink Yoda you see up top. The future is here, and soon I’ll be able to get my own Earl Grey out of a replicator.

IMG_20170429_141130574

In the end, I was caught by this lot. I’m jealous of their hats.

I didn’t win the raffle, but that’s all right because there was a mother of approximately fifteen squirmy small things there who won twice, and I feel like she needed it more than I did.

IMG_20170429_150428701

The 501st Legion lined up for a picture too, which was nice. They’re good people. I feel like what really makes them work is that they’ve got just the one Darth Vader, but a whole lot of underlings running around. Really adds to the authenticity.

James couldn’t go with me, which was a pity because the Mandalorian bounty hunters allowed you to put a bounty on anyone’s head for a mere five dollars, at which point they were drag the target in and put them in an actual cage for “a minimum of five minutes, but no more than twenty.” Classy.

All in all, if you have a comic convention happening near you, I highly recommend you attend. Just don’t do it like I did, go and get pictures with celebrities and listen to panels and whatnot. There’s more to be found than cosplayers.

IMG_20170429_152727358

Just as I was leaving they were organizing the D.C. hero picture. All these guys would soon be on the steps. It was good I left when I did.

An Excessive Amount of Literature

Every year around April, the Friends of the Public Library holds a massive, week-long used book sale in the local mall. I know this because I came across it completely by accident last year, and consequently staggered home with 25 lbs of books and the lingering feeling of having been hit by a book mobile.

12963427_631377080358374_1904940601350068965_n

Last year’s books. I feel like that sideways one in the middle was something I was embarrassed about, but now I can’t remember what it was.

Accordingly, when April rolled around again this year Facebook had the common decency to remind me of what I had posted about a year prior, which was buying an excessive amount of books at said book sale. I immediately checked the mall’s website and discovered I had a tremendously long wait of three whole weeks before it was time.

On Monday, the dawning day of the book fair, I showed up five minutes before the mall opened and prowled like a cat in front of the doors, hissing at passerby that looked like a threat.

I needn’t have worried; the glorious thing about a large library book sale is that a) there’s frequently multiple copies of the same book, 2) no one really knows what they’re looking for until they see it and can’t plan ahead, and δ) everyone has different tastes in books anyway. And fortunately, showing up at 10:00am on a Monday meant I was mostly competing with nice retired people who weren’t there to aggressively snatch books the way I was.

IMG_20170424_100101166

Table one of many.

I’ve never been able to give away books, unless I picked them up by chance and they turned out to be incredibly incompatible with my brain (I’m looking at you, The Martian). As such, even now, I’m envisioning loading all these books I’ve gathered in the last year and a half into a moving van to haul to wherever it is I live next.

That’s the problem with growing up in a household that had a certain reverence for books. Now I can only think of them in that high fantasy “BOOKS ARE MAGIC” mindset, which is often untrue and highly inconvenient, but I suppose there are worse things to hoard. Like garbage, or slunk pelts.

With book prices drastically varying from $1 to $3, I had to be very picky naturally bought any book that looked worth having. I followed a very complicated strategy:

  • Buy any book that I had read before and enjoyed, but didn’t own
  • Buy any book that I’d heard good things about but never read, such as New York Times bestsellers or classics I hadn’t gotten around to
  • Buy any book that just looked vaguely interesting
  • Buy any book

And so I came back with a modest nineteen used books. It’s very handy that I have a nice reading chair in my room now.

IMG_20170428_130611563

While I was in line to buy them a man complimented me on my “Great Gatsby” reusable shopping bag. I had to admit I’d never read it and just bought the whole book-themed bag collection at Barnes and Noble. “Huh,” he said. “I thought it was required reading in all high schools.” Cough.

Now, of course, I’m facing the problem of running out of space (again) in my room. My bookshelves will probably house this batch of books with a little rearranging, but the next batch will overrun everything and soon I’ll be just like that nice couple in that Hoarders episode that had a house like Flourish and Blotts.

IMG_20170428_130639540

I don’t have any more room to expand outwards, but I suppose I could stack another bookcase on top of that first bookcase. And then maybe a miniature bookcase on that tall bookcase, and a corner bookcase for the corner, and then I can just move into a library.

But fortunately it’s all over and I can begin methodically working my way through the new books, at least until next week, when an entirely new book sale begins at the other local shopping center. I regret nothing but my rapidly emptying wallet.

Unreasonable Amounts of Garbage

Back in Idaho, we were green accidentally.

In true survivalist/homeschooling/country family fashion, we raised our own animals for meat, grew our own vegetables, and bought in bulk what we couldn’t make ourselves. Mom’s favorite summer time activity was to show up at the house with approximately 300 peaches from the local farmer’s market, that she would meticulously peel, slice, and can so we could have peaches all winter and all through the zombie apocalypse.

We did composting, we did recycling, we used washcloths and linen napkins in place of disposables, and we weren’t even really trying, because that’s just what all the other survivalist homeschooling country families were doing. You just did it.

Then I moved into an upper-class suburban family of three to six boys, and there is so. Much. Trash.

At some point my credit score crept up to “inundate with offers” level, and I began to get three or four credit card offers in the mail a week. And this was TERRIBLE.

“Look at all this junk mail!” I would cry, holding up the single envelope I had retrieved from my employer’s 30cm mail stack. My employers would give me sympathetic looks while I ranted extensively, even as they sorted through their fifteen daily catalogues.

IMG_20170427_062535423_HDR

Sample of the catalogues this house receives daily.

I put myself on every “do not contact” list I could think of, immediately called to get myself off any catalogue I randomly received, and transferred all my bills to paperless. But it was too late, the itch was already under my skin.

Every day I make the kids snacks for school. Three to six snack bags holding a disposable drink container and a prepackaged, meticulously wrapped processed snack or plastic baggie holding goldfish crackers. I’ve started searching for reusable containers in the house for their snacks, but when things are Done A Certain Way around here, they stay DACW forever. None of the boys will appreciate being given reusable water bottles.

I realized that even though I was reusing the same plastic water bottle until it wore out, I was still going through one every week and a half. And this was TERRIBLE (even though it goes in the recycling). Because, of course, this house isn’t under my control, will never be under my control, and it’s really about how much waste they will always put out. When you live rent-free in your employer’s home, you just shut up and let them do what they do.

So instead of focusing on my host family, I’ve gradually been changing up my waste output. I discovered, to my delight, that there was a Zero Waste movement out there that offers suggestions for phasing out excessive trash, and I’m incorporating that into my own life, if not the kids’. Metal water bottle, bamboo toothbrush, reusable grocery bags, bulk foods.

IMG_20170427_102853145

In short, I’ve become one of those people. I had avacado toast and did yoga this morning. It’s only a matter of time until I have white-person dreadlocks and a “Meat is Murder” t-shirt.

 It’s not perfect and it won’t be perfect until I have a place of my own, but at least I can try to watch what I’m buying.

But no composting in the backyard, that’s frowned on around here.

Tea for Two

If there’s one thing I recommend in life, it’s to surround yourself with people who are classier than you. People who will force you to go to the opera, for instance, so that you can feel like you don’t have a cultured bone in your body and aren’t even sure how to properly shout words of encouragement after a performance.

Or people who are so particular about where they have tea that they will drive a full two hours to a special tea room just to have it there.

IMG_20170402_151448993

But they sell books like this there, so it’s worth it.

I have a friend named Katrina who is the closest thing to a mythical being that I’ve ever known (besides my father. Hi Dad!). Katrina will float into a room in flowing lace dresses and stripy socks. Katrina will bring her own tablecloth to a Panera Bread to class up her meal and protect her board games from surface residue. Katrina’s apartment is a greenhouse with taxidermy thrift store finds and moon sigils. Katrina may be an actual witch.

And Katrina loves tea just as much as I do, which is why we went out and had some as fancily as we could. I threw on the most intricate outfit I could, which happened to be almost entirely white, and this was good because Katrina’s outfit was almost entirely black and we looked like chess pieces.

Fancy chess pieces.

Tea was at Teaberry’s, a tea room in a restored Victorian home, and every inch of it was covered in tea-related decorations.

IMG_20170402_144144260

Every.

IMG_20170402_132621013

Inch.

IMG_20170402_133011918

IMG_20170402_133006835_HDR

Teaberry’s seats you at an elegant table, and gives you a charming teacup and a beautiful menu, and lets you be completely overwhelmed by the variety of tea available to you. That first page of the full-sized menu is all tea, and only the beginning. After perusing the intimidating options (“Teaberry’s Black Rosehip Almond-Infused 417 Year Old Ginger-Spiced Ming Dynasty Loose-Leaf Chai”), I settled for something that was probably “Black tea, no spices.” I’m not adventurous.

We also ordered soup and mini sandwiches, because mini sandwiches are The Law in a tea house.

IMG_20170402_135853987

The soup is also served in a teacup. No two teacups are alike here.

IMG_20170402_142452125

The variety mini sandwich pack. Every mini sandwich you could every want with your tea. Also mini quiche.

Looking around, at least half of the other guests had attempted a garden party outfit or at least their Sunday best. A few men even had top hats, though I’m not certain if they borrowed them from Teaberry’s itself. In fact, in the middle of the meal, Katrina looked at me and said very firmly, “While you’re here, be sure to visit the bathroom. It’s worth it.”

IMG_20170402_143926606

The bathroom was worth it.

IMG_20170402_143937902

I already have far too many hats of my own, but I considered trying to smuggle a few out under my dress.

With the overwhelming amount of options available, we ended up packing most of our meal home, and Katrina grabbed a blueberry scone to go, because scones in a tea room are also The Law.

Teaberry’s also has a separate gift shop where you can spend an outrageous amount of money on tea-related things you never knew you needed, like the aforementioned Shades of Earl Grey. I bought nothing only because I had just spent all my money on my meal, and besides, I really didn’t need a twelfth teacup for my room.

Not at $25, at least.