Recycled wrapping paper?

November 18, 2014

I love Wrapsacks, the 100% cotton, reusable giftbags. The thing I like the most about them is the website where you can track where your wrapsack goes, because there is a unique ID code in each one. The recipient will need to enter that code into the website in order for it to be tracked. I love the idea in theory so much, but in reality, I gave away a total of nine gifts in wrapsacks, and only 3 were passed along (and tracked). And none of those three were tracked after that.

If you’re looking for recycled paper gift wrap, I only found one that was both recycled, AND was made in America. The brand that I found was called Waste Not Paper, and not only was it 100% recycled (30% PCW – Post Consumer Waste), and made in America, but it also seems like a good company, doing things right (see their “green story).” I found it at The Container Store.

Recycled Gift Wrap

I found recycled wrapping paper everywhere when I was looking for it last year, but almost all of it was from India. Wow, it was gorgeous paper, and I loved that it was recycled, but I wanted to cut down on the carbon footprint of the paper as much as I could, so I wanted to minimize the transport, and also support American jobs. (I only wrapped one present in actual wrapping paper last year – all the rest were in outdated subway maps, some of the kid’s art projects or newspaper/packing paper we decorated.)


What kettle do you use?

November 17, 2014

What kind of kettle do you use? I think we’re v. similar in terms of doing a ton of research & trying lots of things out to find the best solution to a problem, and I’m currently in the process of doing this for a kettle, and would love your opinion. Bonus points if you know anything about electric kettles…

My favorite kettle.

My favorite kettle.

I use this kettle – the Jenaer brand (now called TrendGlas) all-glass kettle.  I have used this kettle for at least 10 years (I think I’m on my second one – I broke one, but they don’t break easily).  The glass ball at the top does not last at all – it will break off sooner or later, but there is a metal thing inside of it, so even after the glass ball breaks, you can still lift the lid with that metal thing, though I need to use a small towel or an oven pad when the water is boiling.  (You can slightly see the metal nub at the top of my kettle with the glass broken off in the photo that goes along with this post.)

I absolutely LOVE this kettle and would definitely buy another one if I break this one.  I love the way it looks, I love that it’s glass, it’s easy to clean (and more importantly, easy to tell when it’s dirty).  I highly recommend it.

Two quick caveats about this kettle: 1. you have to hold the lid or take it off if you pour a lot of water out of it, or you have a low water level.  This seems like common sense to me, but in reading reviews, apparently, some people were surprised by this.  2. I believe my kettle was made in Germany.  It was called Jenaer when I bought it, and the company has changed over/changed its name/is somehow different, and I think this kettle is made in China.  It is definitely the same, exact style of kettle I have, but I don’t know if any quality changes have occurred.  I have purchased TrendGlas (the new company) products within the past few years and I’ve been happy with them (the glass tea mug I use is TrendGlas – I have posted it a bunch of times, here is one such post).

Prior to finding this kettle, I used a kettle very similar to this one (forget the exact brand), which is less than half the price of the one above, and still works perfectly well.

In case you’re wondering, I use my kettle on a gas stove, and the glass sits directly on the cast iron trivets.  (I think I’ve taken enough photos of my stove for you to get a few views of it.)

I will never buy a kettle for myself that is not all glass.  And, I will never, ever heat up water in plastic (I had a terrible, seemingly unsolvable health problem for years which turned out to be due to heating drinking water up in plastic, and it was completely cleared up once I stopped doing that).  So, if any electric kettles that you are looking into have the water held in plastic, or the hot water going through plastic, I would say in big, big letters AVOID!

Lastly, electric kettles confuse me.  I just don’t understand their purpose, except if a hot stove would be a safety hazard (like for a very elderly person, or in a dorm room or something).  Yes, they heat up stuff quickly, but not THAT much quicker than a stove would.  And, plus, I use my kettle mostly to make tea, and tea is a process.  It is a lovely ritual to make tea.  And, waiting for the water to boil, and to cool slightly, and to see those bubbles, well, it’s all part of the process, and I love it.  So, I am biased against electric kettles for these reasons.  It does not mean they are bad.

In fact, I can see the utility of having an electric kettle, especially if you have an electric stove, because an electric kettle would be MUCH more efficient, electricity-wise, as well as quicker.  This electric kettle seems nice, and it’s glass, but I would never pour the water through that plastic lid on top, and I’d never filter hot water (as it recommends in the description – BTW – I love that it’s referred to as a “high class glass designed electric” kettle).  You should never filter hot water to begin with (it should be filtered before it goes into the pot), and never pour hot drinking water through plastic (see above).

I know you wanted a simple answer, but simple is not my thing.  Neither is “concise,” whatever the hell that means.


How the heck do I choose a tomato sauce in Whole Foods?

November 12, 2014

First of all, wait for a sale.  I have noticed that most brands of tomato sauce go on sale at least twice a year.  Whole Foods prices are high, but their sales are pretty good!  If you don’t need organic and aren’t necessarily watching sodium levels, I would go for Rao’s Marinara Sauce ($7.99 for 32oz on sale).  Rao’s sodium isn’t topping the list of sodium heavy brands or anything, but my next recommendation has much less sodium per same-size serving.

If you want organic (and lower sodium), I buy Middle Earth Organics Organic Tomato and Basil Sauce ($6.49 for 19.8oz, non-sale price).  I personally don’t eat tomato sauce, because I can’t eat nightshades, but I buy it for my family and they are happy with either of these.  My recommendations are based on ingredients that are straightforward, with no sugar, no canola oil, and a “reasonable” amount of sodium (“reasonable” is a relative term, given the nature of pasta sauces in general!).  Below are photos of ingredients and nutritional stats.

RAO’s

IMG_5907 IMG_5909 IMG_5910

Middle Earth Organics

IMG_5911 IMG_5912


How do you pick a peach?

July 16, 2014

Dude, seriously!  I JUST wrote a Tumblr on this very subject!

http://yummyfixins.tumblr.com/post/91950361779/how-to-pick-a-peach-im-on-my-way-home-from


Alert: Casabella Online Coupon

July 4, 2014

Hey.  Save $5 off your next order at Casabella.com – use code THANKS20145 – expires 12/31/14.  I just got this card enclosed in an order from them, and I’m probably not going to order from them again this year.  (But in case I do, it’s at least archived here – I hate to keep paper!)

And, in case you’ve forgotten, my favorite Casabella product is the Casabella Glass cleaning cloth – I wrote a post (warning – I drop the Fbomb in the post due to cleaning-related exuberance) about it in early 2010 because I loved it so much, and I still have the same two cloths I started with – they still work perfectly, and I see no need to replace them any time soon.  DUDE – that is almost 4 years of cleaning glass and mirrors with NOTHING other than WATER and less effort it would take to use paper towels/newspaper.


How do I keep my kid thinking over the summer?

July 1, 2014

Oh, you and me both, honey!  You and me both!  This is what I’m doing – please share your ideas in the comments!

  • Math, math, math!  I think this is the easiest thing for a kid to forget over the long, summer vacation.  Math-Aids.com is a great, free site that gives you topic-specific worksheets.  Maisonet Math costs $10 for a year of unlimited worksheets.  You can check out what they have before you pay.  Believe it or not, we actually pay for ixl.com in our family (mostly because I keep forgetting to shut off the renewal function!). IXL has math and language arts for kids K-12, but I hate to admit, my kid hardly ever does it.  He really doesn’t like online test stuff.  He’d rather write it all down on a piece of paper (but I think their content is great!).  And, hey, don’t go overboard.  Your kid should still have a <I>summer</I> after all.  I try for one math worksheet a day, 3-4x a week.
  • Reading time is important!  Here is an old post of mine regarding some great books for kids.  And, here is James Patterson’s site Read Kiddo Read.  Your local library is a great place to go during the summer (and all year!), and librarians are always a wonderful source of recommendations.  Also, I find it much more educational and inspiring to page through an encyclopedia than to miscellaneously go through information online – I think it might be because things online are linked, so they are connected in some way, but the information in a paper encyclopedia is alphabetical, so you get exposed to things you might not ever find out about otherwise.  Also, there’s a lot less inappropriate material for kids in a World Book Encyclopedia, as compared to the rough-and-tumble internet.
  • Limit video/computer game time!  Hey, I love them myself (I am a recovering 2048 and Kingdom Rush addict!), but you’ve got to limit the amount of time you play them, or seriously, your brain just turns to mush!  I prefer to have my son limit himself (doesn’t always work, but we’re getting better at it), and I use this timer from Oxo as a tool to help him do that.  (I’ve been a big fan of that timer for years.  Here’s an old post I wrote about it!)
  • Keep active, eat healthy, and try to maintain healthy sleep and eating habits!  Physical activity and healthy eating are important (duh), and sleep is necessary for all of us, especially children (who should get between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a night, and they often won’t “sleep in” even if they are up late!).  So, try to maintain a regular, early bedtime during the summer!

Shredfest NYC – this Sunday – May 18th, 2014!

May 12, 2014

Every year, thoughts of the NYC Shredfest put a spring in my step and a song in my heart!

As usual, I’ll be at Union Square, shredding the (approximate) metric ton of love letters, fan mail, and top-secret blueprints I’ve amassed this year as a result of being awesome.

Here is the schedule.  Get there early.  Once that truck is filled, it’s gone!


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