Posts belonging to Category Uncategorized



The Library of Things

GoPro Camera_SmallHow’d you like to go to your local library and check out a GoPro camera, a sewing machine, or an acoustic guitar? If you’re in Sacramento you can, at the Arcade Library’s Library of Things. In addition to being a great tool for building community, it’s also a fantastic way to efficiently use resources through sharing objects that might otherwise be purchase by multiple people who barely use them, which is just up Stuff You Don’t Want’s alley. Branch supervisor Justin Azevedo was kind enough to answer a few questions about this new venture.

1. What prompted you to open a Library of Things?

The Library of Things was funded by a project called Library Unexpected which sought to challenge people’s perceptions of what a library is and what it can do for them.

2. Has it brought in a new constituency into the library?

Guitar_smallYes. One of the first people to check out one of the guitars was a homeless man who wanted to use it to have jam sessions with friends that got together in a nearby lot to play during the evenings. He worked with us to ensure that he could keep the instrument here while it was checked out to him so it wouldn’t get damaged or stolen.

The board games have also brought in new patrons. A large number of the people who check them out introduce them to friends and family members in order to encourage further gaming together. I make it a point to ask the patrons what they thought of each game as they check them in, partly to check for missing pieces but mostly because I love games myself and want to hear their feedback so we can serve them better.

3. How did you determine which items to offer initially? Which have proven to be the most popular?

Sewing machine_smallerThe items in the Library of Things were 100% patron-selected. We polled the public for suggestions and built the collection based on that feedback.

One of the key staff members affiliated with the project was very interested in sewing machines, while another staff member and I had a particular interest in video and board games, so our input had some influence. Overall, though, the patrons of Sacramento chose the items that began the collection.

The sewing machines and the GoPro cameras are two of the most popular items in the library.

4. Now that it’s been open almost a year, what’s been most surprising about the process?

Board games 1_smallThe program was implemented at one of our more visible and highly frequented branches, which serves a socioeconomically mixed area and is close to a number of schools. Anyone in Sacramento can place a hold on the items, but they have to go to that library to pick them up and return them.

By doing this, we’ve made it into a destination library. Now patrons from other parts of the county can discover some of the other unique services we have, such as our 3D printing lab and makerspace, when they check out items.

5. Would you encourage other libraries, like those in Los Angeles, to start a similar program? Any specific tips you could offer?

Yes. There are few other libraries who offer a similar services already.

We based the general idea of the Library of Things on similar collections that other libraries have offered, such as tool libraries and rentable musical instrument libraries. We also have a history of loaning nontraditional items here at Sacramento Public Library, including a seed library, multiple read-and-feed gardens, and a collection that includes museum passes, art kits, and electricity usage meters.

6. Any final thoughts?

Libraries will always be about equitable access to information for self-directed, lifelong learning, whether the medium is a book, the Internet, or something else. The Library of Things is simply an extension of that idea.

For example, all libraries carry books on sewing patterns and how to use a sewing machine, and many offer programs for local crafters in the community to come together and share knowledge. We also happen to offer the actual machine so for hands-on practice.

 

I Ate Expired Food For a Week and It Was (Mostly) Fine: You’re Welcome, Obama!

This is an experiment from a few months ago — sorry about my tardiness in posting it! Something to think about as we waste far too much food during the holiday season!

pancake_breakfastAll your life you’re told there are rules you must live by. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition. Don’t wear white after Labor Day. Don’t take a knife to a gunfight. As time goes on, you learn that many of these rules are, at best, guidelines, and, at worst, bad advice. Nowhere are the expectations of the world so seemingly definitive and yet so misleading than when it comes to food expiration dates.

For years, I took the dates stamped on my groceries seriously. Rice from six months ago? Right in the trash. A can of beans from 2014? Not so fast there, buddy. Even after I came to understand that these were often ‘best by’ dates, or ‘sell by’ dates, I still behaved cautiously. Maybe I’d cheat it a few days, a week. A month, maybe, for a less volatile food product – or an especially delicious one. And yet this still meant I was tossing perfectly good food on a regular basis.

The Obama administration recently announced their goal of cutting U.S. food waste in half, an amount estimated at 133 billion pounds of food each year. One component of this effort is educating the public about the true meaning of dates on food packaging. Chef Dan Barber is championing the cause, even offering a recipe for milk that’s gone sour.

In the spirit of this edict, I vowed to eat something seriously expired every single day for a week, pushing my previous limits. I consulted EatByDate.com for advice. Join me as I eat the most dangerous food my pantry and refrigerator have to offer.

 

435px-Brown_chicken_eggDay One: Sunday, September 20, 2015.

The food: eggs.

The date: September 5, 2015

EatByDate.com says: good for 3-4 weeks after the sell by date

During the month I spent volunteering at an endangered turtle camp in Mexico without access to refrigeration, the other volunteers and I regularly consumed eggs that had been exposed to the 90-degree heat for days on end. No one worried about it. (We were also surrounded by scorpions and our bathroom cleaner proudly announced that it killed cholera, so, in fairness, the egg situation wasn’t anyone’s biggest concern.) Since then, even though I’ve learned that the U.S. requirement that our eggs be power washed means they are stripped of their protective coating and more in need of refrigeration, that experience has made me a bit more cavalier about the danger posed by old or poorly stored eggs. Still, bad eggs pose a serious health risk, and that’s not something to be cavalier about.

Following EatbyDate.com’s advice, I cracked open my eggs, inspecting the whites. Were they still white and cloudy? Check. Any pinkish hue? Nope. I smelled them. Nothing weird there.

I made an omelet with avocado, onions, and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms for my boyfriend and I. Delicious.

(2)

 

pizzellesThe food: baking powder

The date: June 28, 2014

EatbyDate.com says: good for one year after the printed date

I know what you’re thinking: Baking is a science! It’s too risky! What if my cookies don’t turn out, and an hour from now I have sub-par cookies. The horror! I have been through this exact mental process many times, leading to who knows how much prematurely rejected baking powder. Not this time.

Luckily, there is a test to see if baking powder still works. I added a teaspoon of baking powder to half a cup of hot water to make sure it bubbled. It did. Voila, pizzelles!

 

yeast_dateDay Two: Monday, September 21, 2015.

The food: yeast

The date: November 22, 2012

EatbyDate.com says: good four months past the printed date, if refrigerated

Yeast is a living thing. Could my yeast still be alive after almost three years of neglect, long past even the suggested end date by EatbyDate.com? I was skeptical.yeast_rising

I did a visual check, as recommended. It wasn’t clumpy or dark brown, which would signal spoilage, but an attractive tan, as if it had recently returned from spring break in Cabo. Helpfully, there was another test. I poured half a cup of warm water in a measuring cup. (Not hot, warm – hot water will kill yeast, and this yeast had been through enough already). Then I added a teaspoon of sugar, along with 2 ¼ teaspoons of yeast. If it foamed up to the one-cup mark after a minute, it was usable. It did, and it kept going!

breadI brought in a loaf of bread to my co-workers in the morning with a disclaimer about the yeast’s age. Several of them thought I was pointing this out as a selling point, as if my yeast was like a vintage wine. By noon, the loaf was gone.

 

Day Three: Tuesday, September 22, 2015.

The food: sesame oil

The date: sometime in 2012 (date partly worn off)

sesame_etc_prepEatbyDate.com says: good for 1-2 years after its sell-by date, depending on storage conditions

Once again, I was well past even that recommendation. I conducted a smell and taste test. Meh. Seemed fine to me.

sesame_noodlesMy boyfriend made us peanut noodles with it, which were super tasty, though we both agreed it would be better with slightly less peanut butter. Meanwhile, I prepared cookie dough for the next day.

 

spicesWednesday, September 23, 2015

The food: cloves

The date: December 30, 2006

EatbyDate.com says: good 3-5 years past their expiration date.

The shelf life of spices varies considerably, and they last much longer when stored in a cool, dry environment. That’s why people in the know never mount their spice rack over their stove. The best way to test their effectiveness is to smell them. Despite being nine years old, my cloves smelled plenty clovey to me, so I proceeded to use them with my favorite almond refrigerator cookies recipe, a prize winner at the 1976 Texas State Fair.

cookiesI brought three-dozen cookies into work the next day with another advisory about the age of the spices. (My nutmeg was from 2009). Minutes later, my co-worker, Josh, appeared with bagels and lox for everyone, stealing my thunder. The break room flooded with breakfasters. Cream cheese was everywhere. I fretted about my overshadowed cookies.

Not to worry. By 1:00, there were only two left. The next time I checked, the Tupperware container was empty, only the warning note remaining.

 

hot_chocolate2Day Five. Thursday, September 24, 2015

The food: hot chocolate

The date: I couldn’t find one, but I am certain I’ve had it for at least eight years, and possibly longer.

EatbyDate.com says: good 4-6 months past printed date

This was no nasty old Swiss Miss. This was some seriously posh hot chocolate given to me as a gift, more akin to a regular chocolate bar. It had moved with me to at least three apartments, and the last time I’d used it, several years before, it already seemed pretty dicey. I wasn’t going to give up that easily. As per EatbyDate.com’s instructions, I inspected it. Was it getting white around the edges, maybe a little waxy? Yes and yes. Still, since that was related to flavor and not safety, I forged ahead.

I cooked it with some 7-grain milk over the stove, which I’d opened on September 3rd, so that was also weeks past its recommended usage date. In all honesty, it was not especially tasty, though it wasn’t awful. I drank about half and then dumped the rest.

 

mayoDay Six. Friday, September 25 , 2015

The food: mayonnaise

The date: May 20, 2014 (or 2015? not sure)

EatbyDate.com says: good for one week past printed date

EatbyDate.com was very stern about old mayo, and I don’t blame them. It smelled off, and  was yellow, instead of creamy white — another warning sign. My tuna fish sandwich plan thwarted, I tossed the mayo in the trash.

I also ditched my extremely vintage ketchup because it smelled questionable. I noted that Heinz ketchup lasts longer than other ketchups, according to EatbyDate.com. Interpret that as you will.

 

pancake_syrupDay Seven: Saturday, September 26, 2015

The food: maple syrup

The date: October 24, 2010

EatbyDate.com says: good indefinitely

Despite the fact that EatbyDate.com exists only to discourage food waste, it can still be a little tentative about some things, partly out of legitimate health concerns and partly out of, I’m sure, fear of lawsuits. Despite that, they are pretty freewheeling about how long you can use maple syrup: forever. If it starts to crystalize, you can simply re-heat it to restore its original consistency. I was super happy to hear this, as I go through maple syrup at a glacial pace.

pancake_mixI made pancakes with syrup for my final expired meal. The pancake mix, FYI, was dated March 19th, 2015, but since it consists mostly of flour and baking powder, I wasn’t too worried about it.

 

What did I learn from eating expired food for a week? Your eyes and nose, along with a few simple chemical tests, are the best way to tell if food’s edible or not, not some arbitrary date stamped on the package. So, eat up, America!

 

 

 

Get Schooled: Donating School Supplies

11329_10151273967446883_567756184_nIt is fairly widely known that public school teachers, who are seriously underpaid in many regions of the U.S., often incur the additional expense of buying school supplies for their classroom. These supplies can include everything from maps on the wall, to pens and pencils, to backpacks. Thankfully, a number of organizations have sprung up in recent years to collect school necessities and 11755891_10153073562145698_7240958482096150632_ndistribute them free to teachers. I talked with a few of them — Sinead Chilton from Schools on Wheels (SOW) in Los Angeles, California, Alice Forbes from Schoolhouse Supplies (SS) in Portland, Oregon — to get the full scoop on their donation process. They have fairly similar wish lists, though Schools on Wheels takes fewer used items than most such organizations.

1. Who uses your program?

12036409_10153189456450698_2892901302398421420_n(SS) Schoolhouse Supplies’ Free Store for Teachers is open to every teacher in the Portland Public Schools (PPS) district, and to a broader network through our Volunteer Voucher program. As of June 2015, Schoolhouse Supplies has provided school supplies valued at $23.4 million to help students succeed, over $4 million in pencils alone.
(SOW) Our program is open to homeless youth living in shelters, motels, cars, on the street and in group foster homes.

2. What are some unusual items that people might be surprised to know you accept?

12039718_10153189456630698_1090389635268598420_n(SS) We accept toys and prizes such as small games, novelty pens, etc., that teachers can use for  incentives to motivate students.
(SOW) Every year one of our longtime donors knits beanie hats for our students using leftover wool that come in all colors. The kids love them! We also accept gently used books and textbooks, including reference books, history and geography books, and children’s classics. We also take used calculators, scissors, office furniture and supplies.

3. What do you get offered a lot that you can’t use?
(SS) Old textbooks and romance novels.
(SOW) Used school supplies and backpacks. We only give our students new school supplies. It is especially meaningful for homeless kids to get new items because they don’t have the luxury to go shopping for new school supplies. Being able to give a student a choice between brands and designs really makes them feel empowered and start the school year on the right foot.

4. What would be an example of a dream donation?
(SS) Our need for art supplies is always high. Bank of America is generously matching the value of any cash or product donations made to the art aisle between now and then end of the school year, so those would be especially appreciated!
(SOW) Everything a student needs for the whole school year. We also accept used laptops (2009 or newer). It’s very hard for students without access to technology to complete their assignments.

Thanks so much! I hope you will keep organizations like these in mind throughout the school year. If you have a potential donation that you think might be useful to teachers near you, contact the closest such organization near you and ask!

Re-Book It: Easiest and Best Book Donation Option in L.A.

DSC_01031_1600x1066_acf_cropped1-1 If you live in L.A. and you like reading, you’re either a fan of The Last Bookstore or haven’t been there, a terrible oversight you should correct to as soon as possible. Not only is it a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon and find your next great read, they also boast a program, Re-Book It, which collects your unwanted books, keeping some, selling some, and distributing the rest to eager readers throughout Los Angeles. Very convenient if you’re moving or just cleaning house. If you have a few boxes, they offer complimentary pickup. I caught up with Kathy Hazen who kindly answered all my nosy questions about how it works.

1. How do donations to Re-Book It work? Do you guys take Kathy_Hazenwhatever you can sell and then distribute whatever’s left?

Books that can be used directly by other organizations are temporarily warehoused. Particularly valuable volumes are sold elsewhere and the proceeds from the sales are contributed to other non-profits.

Books that are appropriate for The Last Bookstore are shelved in our warehouse and brought into the store as space opens up. The majority of the donated books are sold in the $1 room in The Labyrinth above The JNmagnifyingglasseslargeLast Bookstore, which operates as a community service and makes no profit.

If the books are too tired, worn and/or damaged to be of use to anyone, they are turned over to a recycler.

2. What prompted you to start the program?

The program began as a way to divert books from landfills as well as to serve people who needed help donating their books. Most charities no longer accept books due to oversupply and the high costs of moving large quantities of books. Many people also simply have too many books for them to move on their own! The Last Bookstore has helped put previously unwanted books into the hands of thousands of people in L.A. county.

3. You talk in a general way about redistributing books to hospitals, libraries, etc., but can you break down some specifics for us? What would hospitals want, say, as compared to homeless shelters? Do you work with any organizations that have super specific requests?

A children’s cancer hospital requested books for their young patients to read while undergoing treatments. Many convalescent and rehabilitation facilities request that we restock their reading libraries for patients on an ongoing basis. RBI has provided art books for high school art classes, dictionaries for students in language arts class, and small libraries for many start-up daycare facilities.  We don’t receive many requests from homeless shelters but imagine they would probably want educational, self-help, or fiction.

We are currently compiling sizable donations for new teachers in a low economic community, both for their classrooms and to send home with the students as well. We have provided collections of reference materials for a local Boys and Girls Club for use in their after school program. The requests are quite varied and we are able to fulfill most every need, due to the generosity of the community!

4. Do you accept books written in Spanish?

We do, and Chinese, Japanese, German and Russian – any language!

5. What would you most like to receive that you never get?

We get pretty much everything, but the best books for our purposes are always going to be those that are either current and in like-new condition, or classics in their category.

6. What do you get a lot of that you don’t have much use for?

Textbooks more than five years old! Although the information contained in them doesn’t change, professors require their students to buy updated editions. Also, Harlequin paperback romance novels and ex-library books are not useful to us.

7. I notice your site lists information on how to schedule a pickup but says nothing about dropping books off at The Last Bookstore. Is that an option?

We do not mention it because it is not our preference. We also do not arrange for drop-offs at our warehouse.  We don’t have dedicated personnel in either location to handle them. We offer complimentary pick up for any donor with three boxes of books or more. If a donation is comprised of only a few items I will sometimes recommend they be taken to TLB. It’s also an opportunity for a store visit, which is an event unto itself!

8. If a charity is interested in receiving books from you, should they contact you?

The best way to request books from Re-Book It is to visit our website and submit a Request for Pick-up, just as you would if donating, and write the words REVERSE DONATION in the instruction field (third from the bottom) of the form. Then send a wish list of desired books via email at donate@rebookit.org. When both notices are received, your request will be processed.

Thanks, Kathy! I am sorting through my books right now. Hope someone wants my Douglas Coupland rejects, but that might be too much to hope for.

 

 

Seven Things You Should Never Buy New

Most people would prefer a new thing over its pre-owned equivalent. The reasons for this tendency range from squeamishness to status consciousness to simple habit. You may never have the commitment or the time to comb through craigslist for the perfect end table. I get it. Even if you do not normally dip your toe in the used market, however, if you have even the tiniest inclination towards practicality and frugality, there are some deals too good to pass up. (Please note the prices cited are based on my experience shopping in Los Angeles, and may vary slightly depending on your location.)

basket1. Baskets. You know that time you got a gift basket of muffins/toiletries/specialty mustard and didn’t know what do with the basket itself? That’s what happens to literally everyone. If you’re got a way with wicker, head to your nearest thrift store. There is no sight more common at Goodwill than a row of baskets near the knick-knack area, and they’re never more than a buck apiece.

2. Ties. There is a certain kind of man who is obliged to wear a tie every day to work. There are many more who wear them only grudgingly to weddings and funerals, tearing them from their necks as quickly as decorum allows. Yet even these men regularly receive ties as gifts. These excess ties often make their way to the donation pile, and are almost always priced at $2.99 or $3.99. Available at all thrift stores.

3. Purses. Most women have a single purse they carry around until it is so worn that shame compels them to replace it. Yet many of those same women have half a dozen other purses stuffed in their closet, barely used, rejected based on style or color or other practical considerations, which they eventually surrender to the world at large. Evening bags or purses in unusual colors* are particularly easy to find. I’ve seen them start as low as $2.99. Available at all thrift stores.

4. Specialty appliances. Shaved ice/panini/pasta makers are often used once or not at all. I got my breadmaker at a yard sale for $5.00. Though it had neither the box or the instructions, I was able to track down this information easily online. This was an especially great deal, as they run at least $50 new, but saving between 50% and 75% off retail on a specialty kitchen appliance is easily done. Larger thrift stores have these, as does your local craigslist if you live in a big city. Buying local (as contrasted with ebay) allows you to avoid shipping charges.

5. Dishes. I believe we’re in a golden age of vintage dishes, because dishesolder generations often had regular dishes in addition to “good” dishes, so there are a lot of sets of china left behind once they pass on. I regularly see nice sets of dishes in near-perfect condition selling for less than a dollar per piece, which is a significant savings on even a new acrylic set from Target. Interestingly, I was looking up a set I just saw at the Out of the Closet here in Venice, and I am quite sure I saw the exact set this woman on ebay was trying to sell and must have failed, and donated them. They are currently available for $35.00 unless someone already snapped them up. Virtually every estate sale has these, as do any upscale thrift stores. (My local Salvation Army has a boutique arm that sells beautiful sets regularly. Maybe yours does, too.)

books6. Bestselling books. Are you a Dan Brown or Nicholas Sparks fan? Lucky for you, you’re not the only one. If you’re not obsessed with getting the latest as soon as it hits the bookstore, you can snap them up for a dollar or two in due time.

7. Wedding Dresses. In this era when it’s common for brides to overextend themselves financially to pay for their big day, they’re often looking to recover a little on the back end. That’s where sites like preownedweddingdresses.com or Tradesy come in. They’re hardly even used — what are the chances she wore it more than once?

*like rodents of unusual size, for all you Princess Bride fans

 

All Things Shoes

IMG_20150715_083831444It is always disappointing when a beloved pair of shoes is rendered unwearable. Running shoes can be dropped off with Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, where they are ground up for use as tracks, fields, and playgrounds. Non-athletic shoes, compromised of much more varied materials, are essentially non-recyclable. Luckily, many shoe issues are solvable, and these tips may keep your shoes out of the trash can for a little longer.

1. Stinkiness. My blue flats recently started exuding an unpleasant odor after I went to Vegas. Don’t judge me, it was literally over 100 degrees every single day! I’m a human being, just like you! No big deal. I  put them in a plastic bag, shoved them into my freezer overnight, and Voila! no more stink.

Stuffing newspaper in them for a few days or spraying them with rubbing alcohol reportedly works as well.

2. Surface Wear. If your shoes are a very ordinary color (black or brown), you can generally pick up a tin of shoe polish for around four bucks, though fancier options are available. Aren’t they always!

3. Wear on Soles/Heels. I often extol the value of tailors and cobblers (I know the word has a Grimm Fairy Tale vibe, but that doesn’t take away from its accuracy), and I will continue to do so here. The tips of the heels on women’s shoes are a bargain to replace. I got them done for around $10 on a vintage pair I purchased. The cost of other work varies widely, but if you feel it’s not worth it to spend $20 to repair your shoes, I think you should consider buying better shoes. Quality is always cheaper in the long run.

All shoes wear out over time, but there are many steps you can take to minimize shoes damage before it happens, including keeping them out of hot and dry places, making smart choices of materials for repairs, and having thin rubber soles put on your shoes as soon as you get them.

Side note: when I was a ‘brownie‘ in the 1970s, the third grade launching pad to Girl Scouts, the brownie handbook contained a variation of the Elves and the Shoemaker from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The overall message was that brownies should be like the elves, quietly doing the work of the shoemaker at night and never taking any credit for it. That incredibly sexist message never sat well with me, even as a third-grader, and it annoys me to this day. I never held it against shoemakers, though, who I have boundless affection for.

It does explain why I never went out to join the Girl Scouts.

Big Water

320px-Drop001

“All water is holy water.” Rajiv Joseph, Animals Out of Paper

Our water filter purification system at work went on the fritz recently, and I was shocked — shocked, I tell you — by the number of my co-workers who refused, even temporarily, to drink the tap water directly from the faucet citing either (a) its bad taste or (b) its questionable safety. This prompted a tirade from me about how if no one was going to use our tap water for drinking, we should let Mexico have it, because they would be thrilled, and that it was pointless to keep it up to FDA standards if we were going to use it solely to flush down the toilets of this great city. This tirade, like most tirades, convinced no one. Even so, I can’t quite let it go.

Bottled water companies have hoodwinked the public, solving a problem that doesn’t exist. For one thing, tap water is more heavily regulated than bottled water. According to the Environmental Working Group, which has studied millions of records from 45 U.S. states, about 44% of bottled water comes directly from the tap, anyway, some of it with no additional filtering. Even if it is filtered, it’s almost always difficult to find out exactly which “contaminants” are being filtered, and why. The upshot of which is: you could be spending 1900 times as much money on your water simply because it comes in a bottle. You can see this list to see how your local municipality compares to others, and what potential contaminants there might be.

What about taste? I concede that I, too, drank the water from the purification system (provided by ChungHo, a company I find dubious based on their Facebook feed citing a Vanilla Ice song alone) because it tastes more refreshing than the straight tap, though I suspect some of its good taste comes from its chilly temperature alone. Variation in local plumbing may account for this. However, study after study shows that people often can’t taste the difference, such as one by Good Morning America showing New York tap was far tastier than any of the bottled water options.

You don’t live in New York? A 2011 study at Boston University which recruited 67 students to drink both tap and bottled water showed that only a third of them could identify which was bottled, a third thought the tap was the bottled water, and the remaining third had no opinion. Correct me if I’m wrong, statisticians, but those results would be the same as random guessing. And what about health considerations? The Earth Sciences department tested both the Vermont Pure and the tap water and found they both met FDA guidelines, though the bottled water contained higher levels of magnesium and calcium, which can potentially affect flavor.

In fairness, I live in L.A., which does have some of our nation’s worst tasting water, and I ran across this BuzzFeed video in which a small but convincing sample size of participants could tell immediately the difference between L.A. tap and the other bottled water. So if you live here and don’t like the taste, you can always get a filter for your faucet or refill those multi-gallon jugs at the supermarket. Surely you can find some option that doesn’t mean buying bottle after bottle of an overpriced, life-giving beverage you can get for almost nothing, lining the pockets of Big Water.

 

Fun at Haz Mat

haz_matOkay, not exactly fun, but your local hazardous material drop off event is probably coming up soon, and it is a convenient way to rid yourself of dangerous household items and substances that are inappropriate for the trash. Collected items usually include batteries, paint, household cleaners and garden supplies, light bulbs (not incandescents) and electronics. I went to mine several weeks ago and got rid of my growing collection of unwanted items, and it was super easy and efficient. Also, since everyone was dressed up in protective gear, it made it feel more dangerous than it actually was. Exciting!

Why bother? Substances collected at hazardous material events have toxic components that can leach into the ground and water supply if they’re simply chucked in a landfill with everything else. It’s also pretty unpleasant (and potentially unhealthy) for your garbage handler.

Coats for Cubs

Bassarisk_fur_coatUsed clothing chain Buffalo Exchange is sponsoring their annual Coats for Cubs program, where they collect fur apparel and donate it to various animal rehabilitation centers to use as bedding for animals. It sounded kind of weird to me, but once I saw these baby squirrels hanging out on a old fur coat, I was totally won over. They accept donations through Earth Day, April 22nd.

If you have fur coats or hats you would like to donate outside of their drive period, they provide a list of rehab centers to contact.

Dishing It Out

IMG_20150131_142836020You know what sucks? When you break a dish. And you know what sucks even more? When you break a vintage dish that is crucial to your beloved set.

Several months ago, I knocked over my Crooksville creamer from my grandparents’ old set of dishes and broke it. If it were a plate or a cup, it would have been no big deal, because I have many of these. But it was the creamer, of which there was only one. Sure, I could have bought a new creamer and matching sugar bowl. But what about the sugar bowl I already had? Could I really leave it hanging like that?

If this were twenty years ago, I would have visited a few flea markets and then given up in defeat. But in this magical age where anything can be found if you look hard enough, I simply ordered a replacement creamer from Replacements Ltd. It arrived, lovingly packed, about a week later.

I’m not going to lie to you; this wasn’t a completely straightforward process. First I searched for Crooksville items on ebay and came up empty, and then tried a few other sellers of old dishes. But once I found Replacements Ltd. I was able to determine the pattern name (CRO5) and, $19.95 and shipping costs later, I was back in business.

You may lack the commitment and/or non-medical grade OCD to do this research. For that, I cannot fault you. However, if it is a key piece of dishware, it’s totally worth it to save the set.

If you have your eye on a not-quite-complete set of dishes somewhere, it might be worth an advance look at Replacements Ltd or one of the other dish replacement sites to see if you could supplement your purchase and make it work.

Now if only I knew what to do with my broken creamer! If someone near me was working on mosaic project I’d gladly hand it over!