Archive for December 2011

Wrapping Gifts With Calendars   Leave a comment

Several years ago in my quest for a way to have beautiful/interesting gift wrap that does not waste resources I stumbled upon the idea to use old calendar pages, and I have to highly recommend this. They don’t work for every gift, but it is part of the “arsenal” of gift wrap. Arsenal may  be an odd choice of words, but I think that it is appropriate since different types of gifts/gift giving situations require different strategies for wrapping. My arsenal contains gift bags, newspaper, butcher paper (from buying things online), tissue paper, calendars, paint, stamps with colored and metallic inks (although I haven’t used them in a couple years so they may be dry), ribbons, and various silk flowers and leaves from my old bookcase decoration. Oh, and this year there is one particularly large box that will be covered in a sheet as a visual shield since nothing else will work.

I gather from reading comments this year on various Facebook posts and blogs that lots of people just can’t stand the idea of not wrapping gifts with a roll of wrapping paper. I’m  not going to say that using wrapping paper is horrible for the environment and no one should do it, because that’s just not true or helpful. One could easily say the same thing about buying wall calendars or sending out Christmas cards, but for me the spiritual satisfaction of those things is enormous. Besides, I totally understand the desire to make gifts look beautiful. I spend quite a bit of time on the quest myself. The idea to use old calendars to wrap gifts came about because I love a good calendar and a pretty gift. At the end of the year I always felt bad tossing a calendar that I thoroughly enjoyed into the recycle bin. It occurred to me that many calendars have images that make for good/fun gift wrap. And there’s something that I like about using my husband’s old pirate or Darth Vader calendars to wrap gifts for him, or wrapping my mom’s gifts in old goddess calendar pages. It’s more personal than a generic roll of gift wrap that is the same for all of the gifts. For those who object to the look of newspaper or plain paper wrapping, a calendar page can also be used on just the top/front of the gift to spice it up a bit.

There is one type of person who should probably not try this strategy, though, and that’s the person who needs to get every edge and corner perfectly folded and match the patterns at the seam. Calendar pages are heavier than typical wrapping paper, so it can get difficult folding corners sometimes. They do have the hole at the top of the page and the torn edge at the bottom, and depending on the situation these may end up visible. Sometimes the best part of the image is in a corner of the page, requiring some creative wrapping to frame the image on the gift as desired. To me it is worth it and the act of wrapping the gift has become part of the gift itself.

For all that I recommend old calendars as gift wrap, I also have to recommend being more open-minded about gift wrap. Simplicity is ok. A few years ago I went to a few gift exchanges with gifts wrapped in plain paper with a nice ribbon, and I noticed that my gifts were the last to be chosen. It was almost like people expected plain paper to house lame gifts. I am rather offended by that notion, especially since I put effort into every gift and I find plain wrapping to be simply beautiful. Simplicity can be very beautiful.

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Posted December 23, 2011 by mayakey in frugal living, resource use

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Starting The New Year With Less Dead Weight   Leave a comment

The run up to the start of a new year is, in my opinion, a great time to declutter and start the new year without a little of the “dead weight” that we accumulate over time. Some of this decluttering is easy, at least if done regularly. Sorting through clothes, getting rid of more cookware with non-stick finishes, passing on unused decorative items, or sending old books out to find new readers are all relatively easy steps. In my annual purge I’ve so far managed to get through the entire house except for the side yard and the office, and the clock is ticking down with one day remaining before winter solstice.

But in addition to the physical purging, some mental purging may help usher in a better new year as well. Anyone like me have a crazy backlog of “projects” waiting to be done? They do weigh me down, I have to confess. So in the last day of the purge as I tackle the office, where the physical manifestations of many of these projects reside, I’ll try to let go of some of those projects. This is especially important this year since we’re at 15 months of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. A child is a life change, and what if  the piles of little “projects” in my office are making my life too full and not leaving “space” for a child? I’ve been saying that it’s not a problem, but that could be denial. Isn’t there some kind of saying about keeping open space in your life so that there’s room for new things?

Posted December 20, 2011 by mayakey in pre-pregnancy, psychology, simple living

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Slowly Enjoying the Christmas Tree   Leave a comment

I love a good Christmas tree. I love everything about it. In our old house there wasn’t enough room for a full tree so this is our first Christmas tree and we’re loving it! I have to be very grateful to my husband for being willing to enjoy it slowly, though.

For the first week we left the tree completely nude, except for a cowboy-hat “topper”. The tree is in a corner where it does get a little bit of sun since the best sun-protected corner currently houses the loveseat, but that means that in the morning I got to enjoy the beauty of morning rays of sun filtering through a few evergreen branches. Simple beauty. As much I love decorated Christmas trees, I loved the opportunity to really enjoy the nude tree, too, without rushing to obscure its inherent beauty. I think that I’d like to make it a tradition that we leave our tree bare and enjoy a “Yule tree” until the week before Christmas/week of solstice, although I’m not sure Mike will be willing to do it every year.

Tonight we added the lights. Doing this slowly makes it feel like we’re dressing the tree up for a grand occasion. There’s the anticipation of putting on the ornaments, but for now we’ll enjoy just the lights. To me the lights are the most important of the decorations anyway. We’ll probably add the ornaments on the 23rd, just in time for Christmas. This slow process fits very well with my spiritual sense. A Yule tree until shortly before Yule, a lit tree around Yule when I light a candle in every room for blessing, and a decorated tree right before and throughout the Christmas holiday.

I suppose I should probably mention that we do have a natural tree, as artificial is not even an option for me. Something about soul. There’s just something so special about the transience of the natural cut tree that only can last for a short time, as opposed to an artificial tree that is unchanging and almost everlasting. It’s not an equal substitution in my mind. I do have fake branches, though, and a fake garland. I used to decorate with real branches, but they just dry out so fast that I switched to artificial since there was no benefit at all to the real ones except from the resource use standpoint. The real branches were the the bottom trimmings from a Christmas tree lot, so it wasn’t using a “new” resource. The artificial ones are plastic, so made from a non-renewable resource and possibly some toxic chemicals.

Posted December 16, 2011 by mayakey in musings, spiritual practices

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Thank You Prayer   Leave a comment

If the only prayer you say in your life is “Thank You” that would be enough.

Meister Eckhart

THANK YOU!

Posted December 6, 2011 by mayakey in quotes, spiritual practices

Life Without Paper Towels   Leave a comment

This came up at Thanksgiving as an interesting conversation during the final meal preparations. Someone asked where we keep the paper towels, but we don’t have any. Oddly enough we had more “need” for paper towels during the 8 hours around the Thanksgiving dinner than we have for years. I’d say there was universal surprise that we don’t have paper towels.

How do we live without paper towels? Easily. When I sat down to write this post, I tried to remember when we stopped using paper towels and I can’t. So it could have been 2 years ago, or a little more or a little less. I do remember how it happened: We finished a roll of paper towels and just never replaced it. The paper towel holder got donated, and that’s history. So what do we use instead? Mostly rags.

For your typical cleanup situations we have lots of rags. A bin of old socks, t-shirts, etc. supplies rags for general cleanups around the house. When we first went without paper towels we decided that it was ok if we occasionally felt the need to throw away a rag that we felt had gotten too dirty to go in the laundry and back in the rag bin. Somewhat surprisingly, that hasn’t happened. I do have to confess that we have a small box of paper napkins from our unfortunate take-out food habit. I can’t think of an instance off the top of my head, but we have probably used a paper napkin a time or two for particularly gross/oily/sticky cleanups.

In the kitchen we have a drawer with random old washcloths that are used in place of paper towels for kitchen-specific tasks. These are segregated from the regular rags because it just seems like a good idea.

Between the rags and the washcloths (and the stash of paper napkins), almost all paper towel uses are covered. The only thing missing is gauze. I’ve been meaning for years to order some organic cotton gauzy fabric to be the final piece in the paper towel replacement scheme. I’d like the gauze for tasks like wrapping parsley or other herbs in the fridge, or layering cooked foods like platanos that need to drain/de-oil. This is certainly the least crucial of the paper towel replacements, as we get by fine without, but it is still something I’d eventually like to have.

Why go without paper towels? For me it’s an issue of getting out of the throw-away mentality. Even if you compost the used paper towels, they still have a larger footprint than the alternatives. If you don’t compost them, they most likely go into a landfill where they will last just about forever. But thinking beyond the roll itself there’s the trim from the edge of the rolls, the bleach, the plastic wrapping, lots of water used during manufacture, lots of energy use during manufacture and transport, and the impact of the tree harvesting. As opposed to the rags, which were all old clothing resurrected for many more useful years. Or even new washcloths that will be used for years? decades? before being trashed.

Posted December 3, 2011 by mayakey in frugal living, home, resource use, unshopping

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