Thursday, September 18, 2008

Towards a Less Plastic School Lunch

Beth at Fake Plastic Fish is always asking asked what we are doing to reduce plastic and got me thinking.

It amazes me how much trash, especially plastic trash, can come from a typical homemade school lunch - juice box, individual servings of applesauce, chips, cookies, even pre-wrapped frozen PB&J sandwiches. And if you don't buy the prepacked, then there is usally a flurry of sandwich baggies at the end of lunch. A new school year is when I like to look at how I'm packing lunches and make a small change or two.

I've never been a fan of the individual servings of applesauce, pudding and other treats. So, I've been putting applesauce, goldfish crackers, grapes, nuts, and other little goodies in reusable bowls. The kids know to bring them home to be washed. The bowls are plastic, but I also have a set of very small stainless bowls with plastic lids that I use when I can. (Looking for more!)

Last year I stopped buying juice boxes for school and bought small (plastic) sport drink-type bottle to reuse.

This year the kids got new stainless thermos-type bottles. We are reusing their lunch boxes from last year. I'm experimenting with wrapping their sandwiches in cloth napkins instead of plastic sandwich baggies. I hope to make some cloth snack bags for cookies, etc., soon.

I buy concentrated juice in aluminum cans (Welch's) and mix it at home. We occasionally buy juice boxes for other purposes, but we've cut down on our juice-related waste quite a bit.

I'm sure there's a lot more I could be doing. But, like most people, small changes, one at a time, is the only way I can keep going without getting overwhelmed.

edited 9-19-08

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Caution, Irene's Tote May Be Addictive

I am loving this pattern. I love that you use heavier fabric, so no need for lining. I love how fast and easy it comes together. (Still not on the SMS payroll!)

Anyway, the next night after making my first Classic Tote, I made two more! They are both a bit smaller than the original.

apple bag1

This is may be a teacher gift, but I am hurting looking at my bad sewing in this! It's a bit smaller than Irene's original because it was made from... curtains. Yes, another great find from Target's clearance rack, only $3.24. If I pick all the seams out for maximum yardage, I am hoping to get 3 more bags from this one set of curtains! I like the pencil pocket on the front.

fish bag

Here is a bag for my three-year-old son. I was rummaging through the stash, thinking he wasn't paying attention, but when I pulled this fabric out, he said, "I want that one." Made over from a little curtain I had made to hide the cat box in our old house (yes, it's been thoroughly washed). This bag is quite a bit smaller, and the pocket is divided to hold four pencils.

Show us your bags!

Friday, July 11, 2008

La di da di dum, La di da di dum, What's the Name of this Blog?

That's right, Make A Bag. So it's about time I showed you - get ready...


Oh, if you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about in the title, there's a little something for your viewing pleasure at the end of this post.

This pattern is Irene's Classic Tote, from the Sew, Mama, Sew blog. If you haven't visited SMS, you've just gotta go. It is an online fabric shop with the cutest of the cute, plus the blog has amazing tutorials on all kinds of sewing projects. Lots and lots and lots of tote bags there, many of which I plan to link to soon.

(No, I'm not on their payroll. I wish!)

Now, the pattern was originally designed by Irene's aunt, so Irene asks that you do not sell any totes made from this pattern. But she says you can make as many as you want for yourself or for gifts.

My fabric came from my current favorite real life fabric store - the lovely, lovely clearance shelves of Target. 100% cotton stripey tablecloth transformed to stripey tote. Let me tell you, a $4 tablecloth yields a LOT of fabric.

I'm not going to take you through all the steps. Irene has an amazingly easy-to-follow tutorial on the SMS site, and I would be insulting her genius if I tried to duplicate it here.

One of the techniques she shows is a French seam, which I had not heard of before. If you're not familiar with this sewing technique, watch the instructions and photos closely at 4b - that's WRONG sides, together, people. The instructions are correct; don't assume they're not. Also, don't ignore them completely, assuming you know what you're doing. Like some people I could mention. *cough*


Hello, Mr. Rippy!

Shortly after this little interlude with Mr. Rippy, my bobbin ran out exactly at the end of a seam. How often does that happen?

Then, just after midnight...




(Yes, the horizontal/vertical back/front thing is on purpose.)

Irene's Classic Tote is a definite winner in my book. It took just over 2-1/2 hours, and would probably be even quicker for a more experience sewist (SMS's word, can't take credit). Or one who can follow directions! It's big and roomy and very strong if you use a heavier fabric as noted in the instructions.

As promised, a little movie magic...

Isn't there a version of this that Ernie sings to Bert and keeps him from falling asleep?

Anyway, I kept thinking of this song and this blog and realized I needed to get back to more bag patterns. There's a great big world of bags to make, so get sewing, knitting, crocheting, or whatever floats your boat. And, as always, if you have a macrame bag pattern, please, the macrame world is desperate for your pattern!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Keep Yer Cool Challenge

If you're living under an enviro-blog rock, you may not be aware of Crunchy Chicken and her sometimes outrageous, alway challenging... uh, challenges. Here's the latest:

Keep Yer Cool Challenge

Some of her challenges are a little too skeevy for me, but I tell you, the woman gets ya thinking. I only started reading her blog about a month ago, and it's already one of my can't-miss faves. So I'm happy that she's running a challenge I'm not too grossed out to participate in.

Click on the logo for more info on the Keep Yer Cool Challenge. I signed up for No Air Con - I can't wrassle those window units into place by myself, so we're making do with fans this year, like it or not. Now, the office is obviously a different story since I don't control the thermostat there. And the van AC is definitely going to be on as the van doubles as a solar cooker otherwise, and I prefer my kids to arrive home uncooked.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Reel Mower Update

more cat pictures

I felt like that kitty today after using my newly sharpened reel mower on the front yard. Woo hoo!

I tell ya, a good sharpening makes all the difference. The mower worked okay before, but now it's much better.

Some people say a reel mower only works well on flat, well-groomed traditional lawns. Mine is not that kind of lawn. Mine is a hodgepodge mix of sunny patches with semi-decent grass, deep shade with nothing but low-growing moss, and the rest, which is pretty much all broad-leafed weeds. In fact, I laugh when I see ads for broad-leafed weed killer - if I used that, I'd have almost no "lawn" at all!

Guess what the reel mower works best on? Small, broad-leafed plants like clover and wild violets. In fact, if I had my way, I'd happily overseed the lawn with those two plants. They are so pretty in the spring, blooming before the rest of the grass is long enough to cut, and they don't get very tall unless you really let them go.

That said, it's confession time. I only got the front yard done. This is the smaller portion. The back yard is probably close to .5 acre - and it's hilly. And the grass is almost knee high in spots because I let it go a leetle too long.

I think it's stopped raining, so I'm off to tackle the back yard. Send water. (Or beer.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Factory Farming + Floods = Bad News

The following was swiped liberally from Yahoo. Bold is mine. Full article here.


In Des Moines, where a levee failure Saturday sent water pouring into the Birdland neighborhood, some residents returned for the first time to see the damage.

Where floodwaters remained, they were a noxious brew of sewage, farm chemicals and fuel. Bob Lanz used a 22-foot aluminum flatboat to navigate through downtown Oakville, where the water reeked of pig feces and diesel fuel.

"You can hardly stand it," Lanz said as he surveyed what remained of his family's hog farm. "It's strong."

LeRoy Lippert, chairman of emergency management and homeland security in nearby Des Moines County, warned people to avoid the floodwaters: "If you drink this water and live, tell me about it. You have no idea. It is very, very wise to stay out of it. It's as dangerous as anything."

Mixed into the floodwaters are pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer from Iowa's vast stretches of farmland.

Ken Sharp, environmental health director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, acknowledged that the floodwaters could make people sick. But he said the sheer volume of water can dilute hazardous substances.

The flooding also raised concerns of contamination in rural wells, said G. Richard Olds, professor and chairman of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"For rural folks, it's going to be hard to know if their water's safe or not," he said.


Eat local. Grow 'em if you've got 'em. (And all the more reason for me to get those tomatoes in the ground - soon!)

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Melanie from Bean Sprouts has posted today about joining your local Freecycle group. I couldn't agree more. Freecycle is a great way to get items you need or want for free, as well as a great way to get rid of things you don't need anymore and saving them from the landfill.

One thing I wanted to add to Melanie's excellent post, is that you don't HAVE to get a bunch of emails. In Yahoo Groups (which you must join to participate), you can opt for digest emails, which group together 25 or so posts in one email. Or you can opt out of emails altogether.

Here are some of the things I've recently gotten from other local Freecyclers - a big bag of blue jeans to wear and for crafts, an old manual typewriter for the kids to mess around with, some old blue canning jars and tons more.

Some things I've given away on Freecycle include clothing (both good and worn, although I disclose if clothing needs some extra care before use), packing paper, moving boxes, old towels for pet bedding, etc.

As a receiver, you never know what you can get, so it's worth asking. As Melanie points out, it's generally bad form to ask for luxury items, but this may vary depending on your location. We live in a somewhat affluent area, so asking for, say, an older digital camera is not necessarily seen as bad manners here.

And as a giver, you never know what people want. So again, worth asking!

Once you're in the group for a while, you get a feel for which items are popular and definitely worth your time listing.

Make sure you read your group's rules. Each group's moderators determine limits on things permitted. For example, our group does not allow animals to be traded on the group. They used to disallow plants, but reversed that decision.

Once you've signed up, head over to Bean-Sprouts and vote in Melanie's poll!

Monday, May 12, 2008

New (Used) Toy!

(Photo to come)

I just bought a Craftsman reel mower off of our local "garage sale" Yahoo group. (The garage sale site sprang from our Freecycle group and is another great way to find useful used items.)

Our house sits on .75 acres with another .2 acre side lot, so you might think I'm crazy for trying to mow it with a non-motorized lawn mower. But I don't know. My powered lawn mower used to be a "nice" self-propelled gas mower, but the self-propel feature broke last year, was not fixed, and makes the power mower darn heavy. I figured if I have to push mow it anyway, why not use something lighter?

Plus avoid paying $3.85/gallon to MOW MY LAWN (an artifical environment to begin with). I need that money to drive kids to school.

Not to mention avoiding all the nasty carbon emissions.

And I could stand to lose a few several a couple pounds.

So it's a win-win-win and probably a few more wins I didn't think of.

I will say my old mower would rip through small twigs and pine cones like nobody's business, where the reel mower tends to get hung up on these. But the blocks are easily cleared and, after the first few tentative efforts, I no longer hear my Grandad's voice telling me, "Don't touch those blades; they'll take your finger right off!" (Thanks, Grandad! Miss you!)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Another Fun Green Video

Saw this on Bean Sprouts. It's too funny not to share:

In other green news, there is an abyssmal dearth of fuel-efficient cars available in the US, especially if you're looking for a used (reused), older (cheap), 6+ seat (3 kids) vehicle like I am. Anyone want to hook me up with an EV-1?

Friday, April 25, 2008

MagKnits & The Way Back Machine

Jennie hooked us up with a couple of links via The Wayback Machine, so Injeanius and The Saturday Market Bag links are now up to date. Thanks, Jennie!