Saturday, October 3, 2009

compost and mulch

apparently, i'm not the only ecological preacher out there! the beach we went to in colombia this past summer was full of trees with inspirational messages on them. i got such a kick out of them! here it says "la idea no es limpiar mas, si no ensuciar menos," or rather "the idea isn't to clean more, but to dirty less."

this tree is saying "si me quieres no me ensucies," so "if you care about me, don't dirty me." cool, huh?!

so, here i'm writing about two idea to "dirty less." first, compost. some italian towns collect "wet" trash separately, meaning organic trash, meat and grease remains, paper napkins, etc. unfortunately they don't compost this stuff (at least not in my town), even though they couldn't really with the animal byproducts in it, but they dispose of it in some way that isn't dumping it in a landfill or bringing it to our despised local incinerator. i need to find out more about it, i honestly don't know exactly what they do with it. anyway, even doing this, it's still trash that needs to be gotten rid of. so i decided to start composting.

if you have a yard, it's super easy to pop a compost pile or bin in the corner and dump all your fruit and veggie remains, egg shells and paper napkins in it. after a while, the heat helps decompose it and after quite a few months (or years) you'll have marvelous soil, full of nutrients, that you can put back in your garden or use for potting plants. some italian towns even give out free composters to those who have a yard to use it in.

those who live in an apartment will have a bit more difficulty using a compost bin, and that's why i didn't use one myself. but then a friend of mine managed to do balcony compost, so i gave it a go as well. so, procure a bucket and a plastic bag that fits in it nicely and is wide enough to fold over the rim of the bucket (so it won't slide down or move). use something pointy (i used an ice pick) to make a bunch of holes in the bag, then put it in the bucket. first put dry twigs at the bottom. the twigs and holes let air to circulate a bit, otherwise you'll end up with some yucky, stinky mush. then you can start dumping your stuff in it. it's important to remember NOT to put any animal products in your compost (except egg shells)! put the bucket on your balcony, preferably in the shade and where the rain won't get it. leave it uncovered when possible, but if it might rain, cover it. the contents should stay dampish, but not too much. it's better if you mix it every so often and you'll see how it starts decomposing. don't worry, it won't stink if you don't let it get wet. if possible, mix in a couple of tablespoons of fireplace ashes every couple of months. it's amazing to see how so much trash can become so little soil and how much less trash you'll have. in about 6 months you'll already start to be able to use some of your awesome new soil for you balcony plants!

i grew up in a town on the atlantic ocean and it's common to take frequent walks to the beach. in our area the beaches are full of dry seaweed. my mother brings home masses of this seaweed and spreads in among her garden plants as mulch/fertilizer. it works really well, is cool-looking, is super ecological, gives the soil lots of nutrients, and is free! go mom!

so, there are another couple of ideas of how to dirty less, enriching your soil, all for free!

yersinia's blog candy

seeing as i've been a bit out of the blog loop lately, i'm trying to get back into it. and this morning i found il cantuccio di yersinia, who makes different types of cool objects and also has a blog candy. thanks!

Friday, October 2, 2009

ginger and finocchietto

A friend of ours has recently discovered the joy of candied ginger and tried to find a way to make it himself at home. Seeing as I like it a lot too and that ginger is really good for you, I asked him for his recipe. I tried it out and it turned out pretty well, even though it is considerably different than what you find in the supermarket.

--peel the fresh ginger root and slice it about 5mm wide.
--put the ginger in a pot, cover with water (I put enough to cover it and then doubled that), and let it boil about 20 minutes.
--drain the ginger, putting aside the boiled water. let both the ginger and the water cool.
--weigh the ginger, then put it back in the pot and cover it with the water from the first time around (which should be just enough to cover the ginger).
--when the water boils, add the same weight of sugar as there was ginger. let it boil 20-30 minutes, stirring every so often and being careful that the sugar doesn't burn. in theory the ginger should start getting a bit transparent, but we only managed to get it slightly so at the edges.
--remove the ginger and let it dry. the water is delicious cooled and used as a syrup with cold water for a refreshing drink.

Last summer we spent a few days at the beaches of Acciaroli, sleeping at Pollica, a truly beautiful place where we've gone for years. You can't help but eat super yummy stuff there and one of the things that we love is cooking with finocchietto selvatico, wild fennel flowers. It's a plant that grows in the summer with wispy green parts and yellow flower umbrellas that look sort of like Queen Anne's Lace flowers. Here's a picture of it with the background of the beautiful hills of the Cilento. I've always wanted to make liquor from finocchietto and finally I did it. Unfortunately I'm writing this a bit late, so if you want to try it, you'll have to wait til next summer. Here's how I did it:

--wash and completely dry a couple of handfuls of wild finocchietto flowers.
--put them in a jar which closes hermetically with 1 liter of alcohol. put it in a cool dry place for about 30 days.
--when the 30 days are up, make a syrup by boiling 1 liter of water with 800 grams of sugar for 15 minutes. then let it cool down.
--when it's completely cool, filter the flowers from the alcohol, mix the alcohol with the syrup and put it all back in the hermetic jar. let it sit about 4-5 days out of the light.
--filter and put it in a nicer looking bottle. wait at least 3 months before drinking.

Buon appetito!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

blog action day 2009: climate change

October 15 is Blog Action Day, a day in which all registered blogs write about a specific topic as it relates to their blog's topic. This year the topic is "climate change," something that I consider pretty darn important, so I registered right away. The idea is that if everyone writes on this topic at a specific time, readers can't help but read about the environment and climate change, and it's really important that everyone is well-informed not only about the environmental crisis, but also about what they can do to help out.

So I ask everyone with a blog to think about registering-- it only takes a minute!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

bamboo pads and other new products

Finally! I've finished 34 new regular and ultra cloth pads and have put them up for sale at my store at Cloth Pad Shop. Lots of great new things, based on my experiments and observations. First of all, I shortened the length of the regular pad by 1 cm and made the two ends the same shape and size (the original regular pad has the back a bit longer and wider).

Then I added channels in the center of the regular pad so that the fluid remains in that area as much as possible, without spreading to the wings.

And finally, I changed the shape slightly so that the two ends can be folded in and the wings snapped over them. Doing this makes a sort of package that is very easy to carry when you're out and about.

The ultra pads are the same as before.

I have also introduced the new ecological cucicucicoo line: regular and ultra pads made with only bamboo velour (while the classic pads have cotton terry cloth on the inside) and cotton PUL as waterproof layer. Bamboo is considered a very ecological plant. It doesn't require pesticides and it absorbs more greenhouse gasses and releases more oxygen than does cotton. In addition, it is naturally anti-bacterial. Bamboo velour is super soft and very absorbent. These pads don't have anything synthetic in them, except for the lamination on the back side of the PUL, which doesn't come in contact with the skin. These pads are like a caress!

Even better, cucicucicoo bamboo velour pads (both regular and ultra) have the new features I wrote about earlier: center channels for distributing fluid better and the shape that can be folded into a "packet."

Right now I have three colors of bamboo velour: light blue, dark pink and green, even though my stash of green is all gone, so if you like it, there's no time to lose!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

happy saint's day, sofia!

My daughter was born in August, when pretty much everyone in Italy goes on vacation, so she can never celebrate with her friends and family at home. So we throw her a party for her onomastico, saint's name day, as is celebrated in Catholic countries. I've had a lot of work to do, but I did what I could manage for her party. Unfortunately almost all of the pictures I took of what I did are horrid, but they'll just have to do!

First of all, we made a sort of banner saying "Auguri," (a very generic sort of "congratulations" that is used for every possible occassion). I have pictures of every birthday party I had as a girl with all the guests under a "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" banner that my mother made from colored construction paper. Every year, the same banner and quite often the same kids.

So I found a couple of shoeboxes, cut out the letters and punched holes at the tops to string them up. Then my daughter and I painted them with acrylic paint. I had imagined doing each letter a different color, but the fact the virtually all our paint had dried up foiled my plans and we had to settle for a different color of glitter for each letter. A nice afternoon project to do together and I assure you that it does look much nicer than you would think from this photo!


Then the favor. I still haven't figured out if it's typical in Italy to give out birthday party favors (it is in the United States), but I prepared them anyway. Last year I brought sidewalk chalk home from the USA and all the kids (including the old ones) who live in our apartment complex were completely enthralled, because this sort of mega-chalk doesn't exist here, and kept asking me for months afterwards if I had any more of "that big chalk" and where I had bought it.

So this year I bought a few boxes and put a package of five with Colombian lollypops and some little plastic toys in cloth drawstring sacks. I made a bunch of these sacks in just a few hours and my daughter helped me turn them right side out and fill them up.

And I made the desserts. I didn't take a picture of the Rice Krispies Treats, a typically American thing, made from the breakfast cereal and melted marshmallows. They're always a success because first of all, they're yummy, and second, nobody in Italy knows what marshmallows are. I did remember to take pictures of the Hello Kitty cake, even though the pictures are horrid. I cut out the shape of her head from a rectangular chocolate cake, covered it with white frosting and added liquorice whip whiskers and candy eyes, nose and flower. Auguri, Sofia mia!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

international day without plastic bags

Anyone who knows me even a bit knows that one thing I hate are plastic bags. If a person reuses them, for example to make a lamp, that's great, but we all know that way too many plastic bags get loose, harming the environment and animals. Last month we spent a week in Taganga, on the Caribbean Sea in Colombia, while they were doing some public construction work on the streets. Digging holes near the shore they uncovered a layer of trash, mostly plastic bags, squashed between layers of soil that have built up over the years. All this plastic was pretty far down, not at all at the surface, so we can surmise that it had been there for quite a few years, but it hadn't decomposed even a bit. It was just a bit ripped up.

I read in the Italian newspaper la Repubblica that the 12th of September will be the first international day without plastic bags, meaning consumers should refrain from accepting stores' plastic bags, using instead washable bags or already used bags. Hoping that people realize that it's not at all difficult and they continue to do so. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Guess what else I found in those holes in the street in Colombia? A flip-flop, like new despite all those years it had been buried. Poor little guy...if only he could've had a happier ending....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

window crayons

Every free moment these days I spend making new menstrual pads for my Cloth Pad Shop store, so I don't have my own original things to write about right now. Instead I'm writing about something I brought back home to Italy from the United States: window crayons.

They're big twistable crayons that are softer than regular ones so their color spreads very well on glass with nice, strong shades. They might exist in Italy, though I've never seen them. In any case, they can always be ordered from other countries on eBay. In the past I've bought window markers, but the color comes off if you go back over where it's already colored and it smudges way too easily.

My little girl just loves drawing, coloring and painting and any sort of new proposal is always welcome. So when I asked her if she'd like to color on the windows, she got pretty excited. As you can see here, she also drew on the wooden door, but luckily these crayons wash off really easily not only from your hands, but also from glass and other surfaces.

Yesterday was my husband's first day of train rides for work after summer vacation so we decided to make his return home all the nicer with a welcome message on the mirror just inside the door. He was more than happy, as was the munchkin. So what's my conclusion? Money well spent!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

colombian artisans

I knew going to Colombia that I would buy tons of things. And that's just what happened! There are so many amazing artisan-made crafts. My husband had already brought some things home from previous trips to Colombia and I had the earrings above, made from coconuts, that a Colombian friend had brought me. Let's see some other things that I brought back with me. There are coconut bangles, a bracelet made with wooden beads and a shell necklace that I bought from a girl on the beach in Taganga.

The thing I loved about this necklace is that from a distance it looks pretty banal, but up close you can see that it's actually strung from gazillions of tiny shells.

These keychains and jewelry look like they're made out of plastic, right? When you hold them, though, they're heavy and feel more like rock. But actually they're a type of very hard seed called tagua, which is cut and colored. I just love tagua and had to try really hard to restrain myself from buying everything in sight made from the stuff.

August 8th is not only our daughter's birthday, but also our anniversary, celebrated this year in Bogotà and Villa de Leyva. My husband gave me this typical type of Colombian filigree jewelry. Normally these things are made from gold, but he knows I don't wear gold and got me silver instead.
Enough with jewelry. There are also all different types of traditional handmade bags in Colombia. This one is called a mochila and it's made out of wool by the indiginous tribes. You see Colombians all over the place with this type of bag. I should have taken a picture of the bag being worn because it's really very cool looking in use.

Another thing which I already knew of and loved is the mola. Once again, handmade by indiginous people, las molas are pictures and shapes made from sewn and embroidered layered cloth of all different colors. Usually you buy them already applied on something, such as a t-shirt, a pillow, a belt (like the one I bought), all types of shoes (which I really wanted to buy buy knew how sad I'd be when they eventually got horridly dirty), etc. But you can also buy them loose so you can apply them yourself or even frame and hang up as I did with the two molas that we already had in the house. These pears seemed very funny and different from what you normally see, but I still don't know what I'm going to do with them....

A detail of the pear mola.

There are so many other incredible things made in Colombia and I'm sorry that I'm not writing about the hats, ruanas, "ceramics" made out of mud, baskets, not to mention the fabulously delicious things to eat, the unimaginable places or the nice people. Colombia is an amazing place and I certainly won't be forgetting this experience any time soon!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

awards and colombia

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Thank you so much Aurora for having thought of me for these awards! Her blog is great and so it means a lot!

We've been in Colombia for about ten days or so and it is absolutely incredible, full of amazing new things. Among other things, the food and artisan crafts are fabulous. Unfortunately I don't have much time to write about it all so I'll have to hold off for another day. See you soon!

Monday, July 13, 2009

homemade gifts for the states


So I'm back in Boston and my hometown of Plymouth right now, loving how nicely things work, how civil people are, what varied food there is, how I don't have to try to get everything done before 1 pm when stores normally close in Naples. But more on all that later. First a crafty post.

Every year when I go back to the US I bring back at least a suitcase full of gifts for family and friends because I hate sending gifts overseas during the year when I don't see them. And I normally spend a good amount of money for all these gifts. So this year I cut way back on expenses and sewed a bunch of gifts for very little if no cost at all, besides the time I put in, obviously. I wanted to do more things, but I just didn't have time. So here goes:

I made five marker or colored pencil rolls. I first got the idea for this in January in the shop at the MADRE art museum in Naples. Similar rolls with Fabriano colored pencils cost at least 30 euros, ridiculous! I studied how it was made and went home and made one with some extra material I had and some cheap Auchan pencils. I've since seen them on other blogs, some very fancy ones, too. So I decided to make some of these for the kids I'd see in the United States. They roll up and are tied with ribbon. This is what they look like when they're opened up:

Then for the girls I made headbands to match their rolls and some extras. This tutorial from Between the Lines (a very cool blog) is very easy to follow.


And finally some produce bags, some from netting, some from chiffon.

And so far everything has been a big hit! I feel good and spent hardly anything (at least for these things)! Yah!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

cucicucicoo shop on vacation

Seeing as I'm leaving for my holidays July 5th and coming back August 20th, my shop at Cloth Pad Shop Europe will be closed for the months of July and August. When I reopen in September, there will be lots of new products, so don't forget to come take a look!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

and from undies to...

God knows what in the world I was thinking when I bought these pairs of underwear a couple of years ago. Apparently I was under the delusion that my behind had miraculously gone back to what it had been maybe when I was 18, a most improbable possibility. And I obviously couldn't wear them more than once or twice thanks to the quite unpleasant sensation of.... Well, I really prefer not to be vulgar here. You know what I mean anyway.

Seeing as I'd already trasformed something into underwear, I decided to do the opposite and transform underwear into something else. However, no matter how cool the fabric of these undies is, there wasn't a whole lot of it, as you can clearly see. And so I did the only thing I could think of: to cut and dry the flowers and leaves of my lavender plant and make some nice lavender sachets for the drawers.
Though I will come clean, stretchy fabric like this (which is like t-shirt fabric) isn't really the best for this type of project because the pieces of lavender stuck to it and wouldn't go down nicely into the sack. And sometimes they sort of stick out through the fabric. Regular cotton would've been much better. Though certainly less fun and satisfying! I did this instead of the gazillions of things I really should be doing. Sunday we're leaving for a one day layover in Madrid, then 3 weeks in Boston area (where I'm from) and then 3 more weeks in Colombia (to visit friends) and I've got tons of gifts to sew, bags to pack, Spanish to try to miraculously relearn....

award II !

I've gotten another blog award! Cool! Thank you so much Barbara from Mi racconto!

Seeing as I not only a week ago did a whole bunch for another award and I really have no extra time right now, I'm going to pass it on just to a couple of blogs which I discovered after the last award that I just love:

la bottega di amrita
Made By K

You're both awesome!

P.S. Can anyone figure out what's written in the second line of the award image? It's already a small image so enlarging it is totally pointless. All I can make out is "Friendships are like diamonds (something...) Easy to love but hard to find." How poetic!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

award!

This is the first time that my blog has gotten an award and I feel quite honored! Thanks so much Giuly from La Stanza di Miss Lizzie for having thought of me and given me this award!

Ok, people who get awarded must
  1. list 5 wishes
  2. list 8 things that he/she absolutely wants to do in the future and
  3. award another 10 blog.
Ok, so my wishes and hopes are:
  • health and well-being for friends and fam, but in particular for my dear daughter and hubby
  • to soon be able to make another addition to our family
  • to manage to make just enough money to pay off my school loans and to travel a bit more often
  • that people would start respecting the environment a bit more and stop destroying the earth
  • that my daughter will grow up to be cultured and self-confident
and the 8 things to accomplish are:
  • start taking yoga classes again
  • start sewing clothes for me and my family
  • finally learn Spanish well enough to speak it
  • learn to recognize different plants
  • travel in all the corners of the world
  • see all those great classic films
  • ditto for books
  • learn to be more patient with myself and to accept my shortcomings and limits
And now the hardest part. Since I've started checking out blogs, I've found so many really great ones. I wish I could award them all, but that can't be done! So 10 of the blogs that I really like are:

AbcHobby.it
Angry Chicken
//Between the Lines//
Cut Out + Keep
Equazioni
Filth Wizardry
Folding Trees
Made
Roberta Filava Filava
The Object Project

Obviously there are a lot more and I took those which had already been given this award out of the running. Congrats to you all! You're all so cool! :)

potty seat sack

Saturday, June 20, 2009

appliques

sorry...again! doh!!!

I'm asking all of my readers to be patient with this blog. Unfortunately the problems I had last week with Blogger have come up again worse than before. I can hardly ever save posts, add photos, leave comments (even in other blogs) and access certain Blogger pages. I'm looking for help everywhere, but I can't figure out the problem but not for lack of trying. I must have spent at least 10 hours in the past two weeks trying to fix the problem. I have tons of things I want to write about (and comments to leave other bloggers) but I can't! If I keep having these problems, I will probably move this blog to wordpress. I'll let you know!

And now I hope that I can at least publish this little post....

Friday, June 12, 2009

pesto x 3

For me the summer is pesto time. I recent saw a facebook friend's status about sundried tomato pesto and obviously I had to ask her how she made it. She told me to toss basil, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes, olive oil and salt in the food processer. But that she sometimes makes it with parsley, walnuts and olives. Seeing as my poor basil plants are still tiny and I love parsley, I mixed up parsley, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes and olive oil in my immersion blender (I don't have a food processer). There wasn't any need for salt because the tomatoes were already very well dressed. You only need a little for each plate of pasta and it's so good!

Then there's obviously the traditional pesto alla genovese, not all that genovese (from Genova) when made by an American near Naples. Normally when the weather starts getting nice, I buy three basil plants and I put them in a huge pot and let them grow, grow and grow until they get to be something like a bush. Then I harvest and blend them with minced garlic, pine nuts (or walnuts, almonds, pistachios), grated pecorino (sheep's cheese) and olive oil, and voilà! Seeing as I make a good amount, I freeze it for the winter in little portions in those plastic cups for espresso covered with aluminum foil. But I hate using that disposable stuff so this year, if my poor little basil plants ever grow (they were given to me by a friend who grew them from organic seeds), I'll freeze them in ice cube trays and then, when well-frozen, will put the pesto cubes in a closed container so they don't lose their nice smell. This is what I did when preparing food for my daughter before she could eat "normal" food like the rest of us.

And lastly there's zucchini mint pesto, which that same friend of the basil plants taught me a few days before my daughter was born. You steam the zucchini, but not too much. In the meantime, put the almonds with their skins still on in a bit of boiling water for a little, just long enough so the skins peel right off. If you have almonds without their skins, you can obviously skip this step. Then into the blender go: lots of fresh mint leaves, the almonds (or pine nuts or whatever nuts you want), a little olive oil and a bit of the water from steaming the zucchini. When it's well-blended, add the zucchini, parmesan and pecorino (sheep's cheese) and more oil. You can also put in a little salt, but it's better to just get the right saltiness by adjusting the pecorino. But usually it's good to put the same amount of parmesan as pecorino. You can freeze it as with regular pesto or put it in a jar, cover with more olive oil and keep in the fridge. I wouldn't suggest keeping it frozen for very long, though, because with time all the flavor goes away.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

missing in action


I'm sorry that I haven't been writing. I have been insanely busy but I'm also having technical problems with signing into my google account and getting blogger to work properly. Please do come check in again soon, I promise to work it all out soon! I will soon be writing about my cloth diapers, both the AIOs that we already use (that you can see hanging out with a nice view of Vesuvius) and my new pocket diapers that I'm now working on. And a bunch of other stuff. Don't miss out!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

mint syrup

So I've already written about the wonderful elderflower syrup I made a few weeks back, which you dilute for a lovely summer drink. And I thought, there MUST be some way to make homemade mint syrup, like the ones you find in every Italian supermarket when it starts getting summery. I have a wonderful mint plant on my balcony that supplies me with more mint than I can ever possibly use. I googled it and found a good recipe on a great blog that I'd never seen before. Basically boil 1 liter of water with 100 grams of fresh mint leaves and 450 grams of sugar until it's reduced by half. Let it cool and put it in a bottle, straining the leaves. You can put a few extra fresh leaves in the bottle, but I find them annoying when I'm pouring the syrup. I actually made mine with only about 75 grams of mint leaves because it already seemed like an insane amount. But it really does need the whole 100 grams and after just a minute or so they wilt down so they don't fill the pot anymore.

Yes, I do realize that it's been raining constantly and is once again quite chilly and nobody's in the mood these days to drink a refreshing drink. But let's all hope that the good weather comes back soon!

Monday, June 1, 2009

new types of pads

Up until now I've made my pads with a top layer of microfleece or suedecloth (except for pantyliners). They're fabrics that you can't find in Italy (or at least I've never found them there nor have I ever heard of anyone else managing to) but they're great for cloth menstrual pads and diapers. They are wicking materials, meaning they pull whatever liquid that gets on them down into the absorbent layers below, leaving the the top surface much drier. It's really incredible to see how much a pad (or diaper) can get wet without feeling wet.

But quite often people aren't totally convinced because these materials are synthetic. In theory, fleece is made at least partly with recycled plastic bottles, so it's a little more ecological in this sense. But most people who use cloth products don't want to use synthetic things if at all possible. Their biggest worry is that they're imagining jackets and other things made with thick fleece. Microfleece is a totally different product. It's very thin (and suedecloth even more so) and really soft. It doesn't irritate the skin at all, nor does it make you feel too hot in the summer. Actually, disposable pads are much more irritating first because they're full of chemicals (read here for more on that) and, being made of plastic, they don't let the skin breathe and it can feel quite sweaty "down there."

But I decided to see for myself and try some pads without these wicking fabrics. After all, lots of pad makers don't use these special fabrics, including most of them at Cloth Pad Shop, where I am also a seller. So I made three new pads to try out personally. They are, from left to right, with cotton flannel, regular cotton and bamboo velour. And I found that they do absorb quite well and the bamboo velour one is super soft and makes you feel really spoiled. The velour is also organic and naturally anti-bacterial. But when these types of pads get wet, they stay damp on the surface. I still prefer pads with microfleece and suedecloth, but I've decided to start producing some pads without those materials for those who still really prefer not to use them.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

giveaway at Pane, amore e creatività

Linda from Pane, amore e creatività, one of the blogs that I always check out, has organized a giveaway with two wonderful gifts that she made: a bag and two journals. If you'd like to participate, check out the giveaway. And even if you don't, her blog is a great source of wonderful ideas and it's always worth it to see what she's got going! Thanks, Linda!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

bike helmet

Yes, a bike one. In Italy nobody uses one. Go figure, nobody even wears a helmet on scooters. But I don't care one bit and I go out and about my town with my daughter in her bike seat behind me, both of us with our helmets, and I pretend that nobody's giving us pitying looks.

Except the front inside pad had crumbled apart, leaving hideous black marks all over my forehead when I took off the helmet. So I made a new one. Two pieces of flannel, one of batting and a strip of touch tape (the resistent velcro that I use for diapers) to attach it to the helmet. And there you go! I just might make a new pad to replace the top one, just to brighten up that boring old helmet!

Monday, May 25, 2009

RIP puntino :(

Yesterday was a tough day, the due date of the baby that I lost in October at 9 weeks. Don't worry, I'm not going to bother you all with tales of the despair that a woman who miscarries feels nor how insensitive some people can be (though I should. It seems that few people realize how frequent miscarriage is. Some say up to one in three pregnancies end that way, but it often happens before the woman even realizes she was pregnant in the first place.). Instead I'll tell you a bit about what I did for a little emotional healing.

After losing a baby, many women feel the need to do something to remember it by. Some get a tattoo, others plant a tree or flowers. I've never been able to choose a tattoo that I would like to have for the rest of my days and I was worried that a plant could die on me. So I thought a bit. One of the things that I was saddest about was that I really would like for my daughter to have a sibling, someone to play with. So yesterday I sewed a doll for her. I bought the "John" pattern from the Etsy seller Bit of Whimsy Dolls, a PDF pattern, which is great because there's no need to mail it. I'd never made a doll in my life, but the instructions were really easy and it only took a few hours. I'd never embroidered either, for that matter, but I must say that I found it quite relaxing and I'd like to try more of it in the future.

Friday, May 22, 2009

paper or plastic?

I recently read an article on change.org about what type of bag you should choose at the supermarket. The author, however, write that it isn't as important what type of bag you use as what's INSIDE the bag. Condiser a bag full of meat, potatoes, tropical fruit and soda and another bag with a vegetarian diet with soy protein and produce coming from your country. It takes 113 MJ (megajoules) to get that first bag of groceries on the dinner table and 24 MJ for the second. On the other hand, it only takes 0.5 MJ to produce and dispose of a plastic bag. Therefore the energy saved by a family of four eating a diet from that second bag of groceries would be enough to manufacture 186 plastic bags or drive the average American car (meaning: big) for 15 miles (24 km). And all this backs up what I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the harm eating meat does.

Ok, so even if we just buy dry beans and local fruit and veggies, we still have the plastic vs. paper dilemma. It seems (according to that article) that it takes 20 times the amount of energy to produce a paper bag than a plastic one. But you can easily recycle paper bags while plastic ones take centuries to decompose, they're dangerous for wild animals and they create other problems, like blocking public drains. And so there's no doubt about it that reusable/washable bags win hands down.

There are all sorts of possibilities for reusable shopping bags: cloth ones, juta ones, more resistent plastic ones, etc. In the United States reusable bags are relatively popular, but Italy (or at least southern Italy) hasn't quite caught on yet. Sometimes I actually have to argue with shopkeepers or cashiers because they insist I use their plastic bag. I could understand slightly if they had a bag with their logo to give them advertising, but generally they're just anonymous plastic bags.

One problem I often run into is when I decide to buy something when I'm already out and about, without my collection of washable bags. Those who usually move around by car can just keep their reusable bags in their car, but it's a bit harder for people on foot to bring around a bunch of cloth bags. Last year I was given a very nice gift, the ChicoBag. It's a bag made from 7 recycled plastic bottles, is super light, and gets closed up inside a little pocket sewn on the inside to bring it around. You can't use it for really heavy things (I had to resew some of the seams after I put too much weight in it once), but it's really convenient to carry around in your bag all the time for when you make a spur of the moment purchase.

Those bigger plastic shopping bags are easy to reuse in other ways, like for your trash or to carry around other stuff. But my main problem were those smaller produce bags. They get dirty, and so are hard to recycle, and they're too small to really reuse for many things. And just look at all that plastic used to bag up a single cucumber! Ridiculous! Then I saw some produce bags made of organza or nylon mesh on the founder of the website Cloth Pad Shop (where I sell cloth pads and other things)'s personal website. It seemed like a great idea, so I copied it. I got some nylon mesh and added a drawstring recycled from the same pyjama pants I made my potholders from. Next time I'll use some lighter (and prettier) ribbon or something for a drawstring. They looked at me kind of funny when I asked to use these bags at the supermarket (though I'm used to this, being a "weird" foreigner who always does things "differently" than everyone else!) but they didn't have any problems with them. And just look how pretty groceries are with these bags!


There are, however, people who put plastic bags to good use. For example, there is a seller on etsy (which unfortunately is not at all used in Italy, despite the fact that there are exceptionally wonderful things there) that makes jewelry, bags, hats, etc from crocheted plastic bags, as well as other things made from recycled plastic bottles and cloth. I bought one of her bags and some jewelry, and she even sent them to me in the coolest boxes she made out of folded magazine pages. Check it out!