Camp cooking

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I’ve just been camping with my kids for a few days, and that means feeding them good, healthy(ish) food while away from the kitchen, the fridge, and the garden … and hopefully doing so with as little packaging, waste, and impact on the environment as I can manage.

This year our camp cooking repertoire was greatly expanded with the purchase of our first ever dutch oven, and this very useful little cookbook by Robin Donovan.

I purchased a new dutch oven for this trip, and my sweet husband spent a good part of a Saturday seasoning it. We chose a few recipes that appealed, and made our meal plan.

 

 

Some delicious results (although doesn’t all food always taste better when you eat it in the outdoors?): s’mores pie, goat cheese quiche, cinnamon cake, parmesan garlic potatoes.

I’m so glad I’ve added a dutch oven to our lives, and that we can eat this well even when away from home!

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Is it embarrassing to refuse the plastic?

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This week my kids really wanted to stop and get milk shakes on our way to work. There is a locally owned drive thru place right on the way, so I agreed to the treat and packed our own cups and straws.

My son, however, was sure that they wouldn’t do the shakes in our own cups, and moreover was embarrassed that I would ask for a special accommodation because I’m avoiding plastic waste.

I can understand how he feels, and it made me think of how many times I haven’t tried to add the 4th R, “Refuse”, into my eco-lifestyle simply because it seems embarrassing to do things differently than everyone else is. As long as the norm is to use a disposable straw in everything, you have to make waves to do it differently.

On this occasion, I asked if they could make the shakes in our cups, and they said No, their machine works with the wax cups and would tear our cups up. I said, OK, but please no lids or straws.

They handed us our shakes with the lids on, and handed me two straws, which I handed back and said “we actually didn’t want the lids or straws”, they said sorry, I said “no big deal, thank you”, and tipped them. The lids, having been used, we just took.

Was that exchange embarrassing? I wasn’t embarrassed, and in the end the kids said they were less embarrassed than they expected to be.

Annoying to the employee at the drive thru? Maybe, although I tried to be nice – I was still asking for something different than their routine.

What would happen if we all asked for no straws? It would become the norm, and easier to remember not to just hand straws to everyone. So I’ll just have to keep putting myself out there a little bit, practicing Refusing the plastic.

 

Plastic-Free Shopping

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For Day 2 of Plastic Free July I ventured out to the Food Co-Op, as prepared as I could be for avoiding plastic waste. By bringing my own bags for the bulk bins and the produce, and tubs for bulk cheese, I avoided a lot of packaging. It’s always good to bring masking tape and a sharpie when you will be re-using. I use them to cover up old barcodes, to record tares, and to write down PLU’s on the tubs.

My trip was fairly successful. I’ve done this month’s menu planning around the garden produce that needs to be eaten, so there wasn’t too much to buy other than pasta (bulk bins) and cheese (bulk bins for fresh mozzarella and parmesan), dried beans, and a few other odds and ends.

The downfall was this week’s holiday and the menu plan that my family is attached to and unwilling to go without: brats and weenies and burgers (all packaged) and jello with marshmallows in it (packaged), etc. Independence Day is not a particularly Green holiday.

 

Plastic Free July 2018

Today is the first day of Plastic Free July, and this will be my 3rd year of trying this challenge as a way to reduce my use of disposable or single-use plastics.

Last year I blogged about it and focused on all the mistakes and trash I ended up with. This year I will be focusing on plastic-alternatives and trying to take pro-active steps. I know there are better lifestyle choices, but planning ahead is key. If my family is out in the world and isn’t packing our own food, it’s too easy to end up with unwanted containers, utensils, and straws.

So today I purchased packable and reusable silicone straws, bamboo utensils, and a stainless steel carry-out container. Total cost was $80, so this wasn’t cheap. Hopefully we will use and re-use these items for years, though, so if all goes as planned the cost-per-use becomes reasonable.

I’m inspired to try taking that carryout container to one of our local take-away favorites some time soon and see if they will just fill my container for me!

Go Low and Slow ….

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Travel (and transportation in general) are a big part of the impact that we humans are making on the planet and its health. And yet, in the modern world, I find it really hard to avoid travel altogether … such as this month when I and my kids had a conference, the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, to attend.

If I can’t just stay home or join in virtually, I can at least decide to take the lowest impact mode of transport to get there. While folks may argue about the figures, ultimately all of my soul-searching research has led me to the conclusion that the key is Low and Slow.

  1. Stay low, because emissions higher in the atmosphere have a greater effect. So instead of flying, drive or take a train or bus.
  2. Yes, it’s going to be slower. So embrace the slow … make the most of the time along the way. Then those travel miles and the emissions that go with them count for more … all the sights along the way instead of “fly over states”.

My family of three needed to get to Kansas City and back to Washington State again. The three of us drove in a hybrid car, but we needed a car-top carrier box for our stuff, so that lowered our aerodynamics and meant we got lower gas mileage … none-the-less it was still pretty fuel efficient for three people.

We had to take an extra 10 days of vacation (the slow part) to accomplish the travel, but in those 10 days we:

  1. Visited four National Parks or Monuments
  2. Visited and stayed with two extended family members
  3. Attended a church service in another town
  4. Visited a few road side attractions
  5. Saw beautiful scenery
  6. Listened to an audiobook together

We also had to eat and sleep along the way, but we had a cooler in the car full of food, so we picnicked at rest areas and way-side tables and parks, and we chose a few restaurants along the way because they aren’t available where we live.

But still, we stayed in hotels, and we traveled on roads, and ate in restaurants … so all of that infrastructure should be factored in to the impact, to be fair.

So our trip definitely was not zero-impact. I don’t know of any way to travel that is zero impact. Ultimately, the first question needs to be “do I really need to take this trip?”

If the answer is Yes, the next question needs to be “do I have time to go low and slow?”. I’m glad that for me, at least in the summer, I can do this.

Next up, in my environmental action plan, is Plastic Free JulyCare to join me this year?

 

Zone Cleaning: 3 Weeks In

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After three weeks of trying the Zone Cleaning method, I am getting the kids more involved now, mostly by not allowing this to be an optional activity. Now I tell them in the morning what the zone of the day is, and let them pick one or two items from the checklist to complete. Not every item on the checklist is equal (they seem to prefer cleaning baseboards and cabinet doors to scrubbing toilets, for instance), so there is incentive to get to the list early and have your pick.

I then can fill in the rest and do the chores they didn’t do for that zone. This way I really am getting them to participate more (I’m not going to say “Help”, because they live here too and it is not “helping me” …. it is doing their part). Our house is cleaner, and we’ve given some TLC to corners of the house that are too easily neglected.

There is one wrinkle that I wasn’t expecting, however. I set up 6 zones, thinking we could do a zone per day and take Sunday off. But there are days where we aren’t home, or are sick, or just simply can’t get to our cleaning. So we don’t get through the whole rotation each week, and consequently the zones aren’t cleaned every week. For some zones, that’s not a big deal, but for others, such as the bathrooms and kitchen, if it’s been too long since they got the full service they will need a quick touch up visit.

I’m considering a hybrid system …. are there chores that should be assigned always to days that I know I have more time at home and then we also use the zone wheel? What if my day off each week I made sure to clean the bathrooms and kitchen, and when that zone came around on the wheel it would just get extra attention?

Always room for improvement in the life management. 🙂

Finishing …

Why is it easier to start a project than it is to finish? Or am I the only one who gets tired of plugging away at something and tends to just say “good enough” and leave it?

I’ve had a week home alone while my husband and kids were away, and these breaks from mom duty are great times to get projects done. But this time, I didn’t start anything … instead I tied up some loose ends.

Those three drawers in the kitchen that I didn’t get around to painting when I did the rest of it?

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Done!

The Valentines Day apron I cut out in January and then never sewed?

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Done!

Now I feel okay about starting a new project ….