Plastic wrap? Sandwich baggies? Just Say No

Lunches get packed around here five days a week. I take the leftovers; Mr. H. C. prefers a sandwich, fruit, and cookies.

I have Pyrex bowls for the leftovers, but sandwiches just don’t fit well in the bowls. Plus, trying to cram three bowls into a lunch cooler that already contains an ice pack, a pair of safety glasses, sundry small tools, first aid supplies, and yesterday’s banana isn’t easy.

I would guesstimate that 90 percent of our trash is food container waste: plastic that isn’t recyclable. We burn our paper here in the country, we recycle hard plastic, glass, and metal. We are down to one small garbage bag per week. But plastic bags…

Yes, I buy sandwich baggies AND I HATE THEM. I also hate plastic wrap (and if you have never had a long length of the stuff just magically turn into a stuck-together-mess in your hands, I’d like to talk to you about your skills…) The stuff is just plain evil, but until a couple of weeks ago I felt that I didn’t have any other options.

And then I bought 9 organic food wraps from Eteeshop. Here is Mr. H. C.’s neatly wrapped ham sandwich. There are three sizes in a set: small, medium, and large. The medium wraps a sandwich very nicely:

The small wraps up cookies, fruit slices, hard boiled eggs…

These apple slices are not so neatly wrapped but they dropped on the floor and did not open or spill out.

The large wrap will cover a pie or a casserole dish.  Maybe vegetables, like celery or cucumbers? I haven’t experimented with that yet. But I do have a brick of parmesan cheese wrapped up in the fridge.

After using, they might need to be  washed depending what food you’ve wrapped. I usually just brush off cookie crumbs, but I wash the larger ones with cool water and mild soap using a sponge. The wraps are very waterproof and water beads up on them. I usually hang them to dry, but they can easily be dried with a towel.

I’ve used them for two weeks and I’m sold. They are made of cotton and coated with waxes to make them stick to themselves or a dish. If you have trouble getting them to stick (I didn’t) here is a video made by Etee Shop that might help. (Etee is an acronym for Everything Touches Everything Else.) I don’t know how long the stickiness will last, but they are recyclable when they can’t be used as a food wrap any longer.

And just so you know, I’m not getting any material benefit from saying how much I love these cool food wraps. The bright colors make me smile early in the morning. And I’m also smiling because I don’t have to spend time untangling plastic wrap any longer…

142. Skip the Cleaning Aisle: DIY easy green clean recipes

Earlier this summer several of us were cleaning a commercial kitchen at a children’s camp before camp started for the summer.

There was a lot of grease… everywhere.

My friend Joey introduced me to her recipe for an all-purpose cleaner that cuts grease better than the expensive, commercial, stinky stuff that contains “who knows what unpronounceable ingredients.”

I had been using a natural cleanser of my own — orange vinegar, sometimes with baking soda — which I like a lot, but this one is way better! I liked it so much, I went to the dollar store and bought my own clean spray bottle for it, instead of just using a hand-me-down bottle.

All purpose cleanerAll-Purpose Cleaner and Degreaser:

  • 1 teaspoon washing soda (not baking soda)
  • 2 teaspoons Borax
  • 1 teaspoon Castile liquid soap
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 10 – 15 drops essential oil (Good oils for cleaning use are cinnamon, lemon, orange, melaleuca, peppermint, and lavender.)

Mix all the ingredients and pour into a 16 ounce spray bottle, and get to work on that greasy stove top.

Green cleaning

Dishwasher Detergent

I’ve been using a green cleaner in my dishwasher, but I really don’t like it much. The glasses are cloudy when they come out, and the silverware doesn’t always get clean, even though I rinse my dishes in hot water before I load the dishwasher. I know it’s a waste of water, but I don’t want food collecting in the bottom of my dishwasher. And that’s the bottom line.

So I was delighted when I found this oh-so-simple recipe for dishwasher soap. I remember reading that homemade dishwasher soap was an issue, because Mother-in-Laws come to your house and inspect your glasses for spots. Well, guess what? This is a mother-in-law proof recipe! Here’s my glass bowl, fresh out of the rinse cycle.

IMG_6190

Dishwasher Detergent:

  • One part Borax
  • One part washing soda
  • White vinegar in the rinse-aid compartment

We have city water and I’ve used washing soda with great success. I have also heard that citric acid is a great addition to the rinse aid compartment if you have sediment on your plastic ware. But even the commercial dishwashing detergents leave sediment on my plastic stuff, and that’s just one more reason for getting rid of your plastic stuff. If you have citric acid, by all means try some with the vinegar. I was so astounded at how well this worked that I’m not going to bother with it. (If you are someone who wants research behind this, you can go to the blog post “10 things you should know before making homemade dishwasher detergent” by Little House in the Suburbs. Or you can just make this recipe, and be amazed that it’s so simple, and it works so well. Now if only I could discover a shampoo that is so simple and works so well…

Disinfectant

And here’s one more cleaner I love to spray on my countertops — both wood and soapstone. It is also a disinfectant, so it’s good for sinks and toilets too. And it is reputed to keep ants away. I can’t say about this for sure. What I can say is that it might work. I sprayed around Henry the Cat’s food bowl when I started seeing ants there, and now the ants are gone. But I’m also being careful to keep it cleaner and his food swept up better. Not only is he the King of Cats, he is the King of Slobs when it comes to the food bowl department.

Cinnamon Disinfectant:

  • 12 oz. hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon oil

Mix together in a spray bottle and shake well before every use. I use a bottle that has a mister option, and I love this cleaner for two reasons: the cinnamon in it smells terrific, and the peroxide in it foams up on contact with dirt, so you can tell it’s working. Use an opaque spray bottle — there’s a reason peroxide is sold in brown bottles. It’s a great addition to your green cleaning supplies. Use it as a disinfectant, on your tile grout, on your floors, or as a bleach replacement in your laundry. I’ve even poured it down our bathroom sink drain. Here’s a great article about using hydrogen peroxide as a cleaning tool.

But I’m not giving up on my orange vinegar — it’s the best on a linoleum floor.

94. Oven Ordeal

Somewhere about last April, I boldly pronounced that the next big project would be to move the kitchen stoves around. Yes, well…
It is January. I’m aware of that. One thing I’ve discovered while writing this blog: even though I write about what is going to happen, that doesn’t mean I have control.(In more ways than one…) I always have big plans in my head! Sometimes Mr. H.C. refuses to listen to those plans; sometimes bigger events happen that always serve to remind me who Is in control.

I’m certain that I whined a lot about the stoves. I had many good reasons to whine:

Under construction

Under construction…

  • The Apple Hill stove was still in the living room, while all other utensils, food, pans, etc. were in the bright, pretty new kitchen.
  • The stove in the cottage was Clara’s ELECTRIC stove, and I know that people will disagree with me about this, but I HATE ELECTRIC stoves because they always burn everything.

We also had to relocate Henry the cat’s food and water; nothing like having to search for your dinner bowl…

  • There was a large hole in the kitchen where the stove was to go, and it ruined all my photos of the kitchen.
  • My wonderful gas convection oven, which has never burned anything in its life, was sitting up in the city house cold, unused, and alone.

Switching stoves was definitely an ordeal, but we managed to get them both moved last weekend without dropping either stove on anyone’s foot, without either stove sliding off the dolly, and without anyone hurting his back. And we are filled with relief that we don’t have to switch refrigerators!

Safely inside, still strapped to the dolly.

Safely inside, still strapped to the dolly. If you look closely, you can tell that it’s not gonna fit…

The thing about this beautiful black range is that it just isn’t regular. It borders on being a built-in, and even though it has the same dimensions as most stoves, there are just a lot of quirks. It was 5/8 of an inch off, and something had to give. It was either cut the soapstone countertop or cut the cabinet or cut the wall. The wall won — the cabinet is now recessed 5/8 of an inch into the wall.

The dry wall was cut out, and the stud at the corner was notched to enable the cabinet to slide back 5/8 of an inch.

The dry wall was cut out, and the stud at the corner was notched to enable the cabinet to slide back 5/8 of an inch.

Once that side was done we pushed the stove in place, but it wouldn’t go far enough to the back wall. Turns out, the gas hookup had to be lowered. Twice. The floor even had to be cut out around the pipe to get it low enough for the back of the stove.

See the flooring cut out?

See the flooring cut out?

I’m blessed to have an even-tempered, patient husband who did not once throw a tool or utter any curses (at least out loud). All told, it took nine and a half hours — we unloaded the stove from the truck at 10 AM and Mr. H.C. turned on the gas around 7:30 PM. (Yes, the pizza delivery guy knows where we live.)

Henry in a prison of his own choosing...

Henry in a prison of his own choosing…

Henry the cat, however, was not even-tempered. The noise of various saws and drills and air compressors drove him to the basement where he sulked all day, hidden behind some boards. This was so unlike our usual placid kitty, we actually thought he had suffered a kitty stroke. It’s not as if he’s never heard power tools before… Mr. H.C. finally took down a box and a blankie and set it near the heater vent. He curled in, and we shut the door to keep out the noise.

It's a good thing he's skinny. I had to slide over a ladder and he stepped out on to the ladder rungs to get out.

It’s a good thing he’s skinny. I had to slide over a ladder and he stepped out on to the ladder rungs to get out.

To busy myself while all this was going on, I cleaned the stove! And I have another gorgeous tip for all you people out there who love organic cleaners. I love to clean with vinegar and baking soda, but I don’t love the smell. (Drum roll, please…)

Orange Vinegar!

Orange Vinegar!

Put your orange peels in plain old white vinegar and let it sit on your counter for a few days. It smells so wonderful, you can hardly tell it’s vinegar! Well, okay, not quite. But it sure beats the smell of the plain stuff. It smelled so good, I’m going to use some of the next batch for cole slaw dressing. And I’m also going to try it in Olive Oil. Have any of you ever been to a Vom Fass store? Delicious Vinegars and oils in pretty little bottles and very pricey! Yep, I’m makin’ my own Extra Fancy Orange Vinegar!

IMG_3639Back to cleaning the stove — the baking soda and orange vinegar did a perfectly serviceable job of cleaning the top. I had actually cleaned the oven about a month ago in anticipation of moving it, so all I did with the oven was give it a wipe down; but the baking soda and orange vinegar fizzed off the caked-on brown stuff on the glass of the oven door, too. It is so clean, it reflects the floor!

It didn't take long for it to collect pans, teapots, and a utensil jar...

It didn’t take long for it to collect pans, teapots, a utensil jar, and a pretty new towel…

And here’s another shot from a different angle:

Yes, I cleaned the counters just for this picture.

Yes, I cleaned and oiled the countertops just for this picture.

Our first meal was baked salmon. And next week I’m baking this Coconut Lemon cake from Foodie with Family for someone’s birthday…I think he deserves it!