Thursday, June 25, 2009


A few weeks ago, I just happened to be in the office at school when Terracycle called to talk to me. They wanted to find out what I thought about their cookie wrapper/drink pouch/candy wrapper/chip bag collection program and how I use it in the classroom.

Here is the published article in the local paper, the Chester County Independent:
Check it out!

Please check and see if anyone locally is upcycling these waste items for Terracycle. It is one way to keep some waste out of our landfills. Not one of these items that is being upcycled is biodegradable; it just sits in the landfill FOREVER!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One Day without Plastic??

I know that it is difficult to live without plastic. I have been trying for over a year to reduce my plastic use and while I have been successful in many areas, I know I have far to go.

Today, I attempted to go the entire day without using any disposable plastic. I am sad to say I was unsuccessful.

As I was preparing to write this blog, I thought back over my day:

I ate breakfast at home, a bowl of Cheerios. I emptied the box, then tore off the Boxtops for Education coupon for school, folded up the box for recycling, and folded the PLASTIC INNER BAG, so I could use it for trash.

For lunch, we all ate out after working at the Thrift Store. I ate a Chicken Finger meal with a biscuit which came in a paper tray. I brought in my own cup so that I would not use a styrofoam cup. So, no plastic for me at lunch.

Before the above thought process, I thought I only had one offense:

These are the little plastic pricing tags from the Thrift Store where I picked up some shirts for my mother. They are small, but they are disposable plastic.

Then after remembering I had the plastic cereal bag to account for, I realized I had two offenses.


And we have not even started dinner yet. I know there will be plastic there as any meat we decide to prepare will be packaged on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic. Unfortunately for us, that is how meats are packaged here.

Awareness is critical to beginning to control plastic waste.

Be aware.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Plasticky Lives

Today, a coworker of mine attempted to put a plastic soda bottle in my trashcan. I stopped her and said that it was recyclable. She told me it was a plastic soda bottle, and I repeated that it was recyclable and to put it in my wooden basket. I intended to take it home for recycling. She is not use to recycling. The recycling of plastic is relatively new here in our county.

We live in a world where plastic is part of our lives. We cannot get away from it. Every where we look....there it is!

Wallace J. Nichols challenges people to go ONE DAY without using any disposable plastic.
Can you do it? I know it will be a challenge for me! But I am willing to try it. I have been working on reducing my plastic waste for over a year now, and while it is down significantly, I have not managed to reduce it enough that I don't think about it every day.

I challenge you to go ONE DAY without using any disposable plastic. Send me a comment on how you do.

My update will be here tomorrow!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I have been busy, just not blogging!

I know it has been a while since I blogged about my summer projects, but I really have been busy on them!! Here is Pieces of the Past with the first pieced border and second solid border. The border is comprised of a block known as either Underground Railroad or Jacob's Ladder. I really like the look of this quilt so far! I am hopeful that before the end of this calendar year, I will have this one and several others to pass along to Chris. (the wonderful quilter I found in Oakland)

You can see that my sewing machine is working hard on flying geese units for the next border! The pattern has a different way of making the geese, I started with a 5.25" square and sewed 2.5" squares to the corners, cut them apart and am now sewing another 2.5" square to the first unit and when finished, I will have 2 flying geese units from this weird triangle unit.

I did get tired of working on the Pieces of the Past quilt and dragged out the book Vince gave me for Christmas. It was patterns for Jelly Rolls. I purchased a Jelly Roll from Connecting Threads because I liked the fabric line. I did find that the pattern I picked needed a few more fabrics, so I added to the roll from my stash (Yay, for reducing the stash again!) and I created this lovely scrappy quilt! I have the border fabric picked out and cut, but not sewed in place yet!

Two years ago, Sherry and I attended a Quiltaways weekend in Pennsylvania. This quilt pattern called out to me every place we stopped to shop or look at quilts on Saturday. So, I purchased the pattern and planned to raid my stash for the fabrics. Well, I settled on a fabric for the borders which has lots of fun colors in it.

What I could not decide on were fabrics for the spinning stars. I wanted the fabrics to start light and get darker as they radiated outward. I had some fabrics in my stash which worked, but I was missing some! Last summer, Cat was here and together we worked my stash and visited 2 quilt shops in the Memphis area to fill in the missing colors.

Finally, this summer, I cut and stitched the strips to create these blocks! These are the big blocks, there are also 4 smaller blocks in each color scheme and 2 strips or each color block. The next step is to cut these apart and sew them together in another way!

Yesterday, my class books arrived! At the end of the year, my students completed a journal assignment entitled "A Lesson my Grandparent Taught Me". I loved the responses so much, that I knew it had to become a book. This company called Nationwide Learning has a program called Student Treasures where teachers can get free book kits for the creation of a class book. The kits are free as are all of the shipping costs. The instructions are easy to follow and my students created this great book. There are two shown because both classes completed a book.

Finally, my garden GROWS!! I have spent several early morning hours weeding the garden! We were away for two days and it seems like the garden just bloomed---plants as well as weeds. I even have two potato plants growing! The weather has finally gotten summery, so the heat and humidity are zapping my energy. But, since I awaken at around 6:00 AM EVERY DAY, I have been getting out to the garden to weed. Every morning I manage to pull weeds for an hour before the heat sucked me dry. Today, I decided the bad weeds are pulled, and I just need to maintain the garden by plucking the new shoots. My soaker hose is set up and working nicely as well. We had green beans and cucumbers growing, and many flowers yet to produce vegetables!
It is our first attempt at a garden, so I am thrilled to have anything growing!

Well, I will work hard at keeping you updated more often!

Friday, June 19, 2009

St. Louis

The Arch! It was quite cool and extraordinary!
Rob, Vince and I were there looking at apartments for Rob and after our work was done, we had time to relax and play!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Vanilla Extract update!

I checked on the vanilla extract today and this is what it looks like. It is a nice vanilla extract brown. When I sniffed it, it smelled much more like vanilla extract than vodka! I guess that is the good part!
I figure the more it sits and steeps, the better it will be!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pieces of the Past Quilt progress

While not the greatest picture, this is the center of one of the quilts I have been working on this summer. This center measures 48.5 " square. It is comprised of 108 flying geese and 144 half square triangles!

I am actually quite pleased with this quilt so far! I have several borders to put on this before it is finished, 3 are simple, but one is comprised of Jacob Ladder blocks and the other is rows of flying geese.

Should be fun!

Today, I worked a bit on the Snow Crazy quilt, finishing the last crazy block and part of the second to last snowman head.

I cut out the letters to make the few posters I plan to put in my classroom this year. I used old magazines to make the letters! I thought it was quite appropriate since one of the posters makes reference to recycling!

I used up almost all of my remaining bulk soap to mold scented bars of soap. Last summer, Vince and I decided to stop buying soaps until all of the bulk soap was used up. Well, we are still working our way through it!! I still have half a block to go, but with a dozen new bars of soap to use, it will be a while before I have to make new bars.

Another positive note: Today I received a donation to one of my Donors Choose projects! YAY!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Vanilla Extract

A while ago, my sister sent me information on how to make vanilla extract. I saved the blog entry, but made no further progress.
Eventually, I did purchase 30 vanilla beans on Ebay (I actually received 31!) for $9.99.

Last week at the commissary, I purchased the Military Special Vodka for $8.57 for one liter.

Today, I 'cooked' up my extract after reading through additional information on the instructables site.

I sliced my beans lengthwise and filled my jar with vodka, stuck in the beans and made sure all of the beans were covered with vodka. Then I put on the lid, shook it well and marveled at how the caviar (the stuff inside the bean pods) swirled around the beans.

Instructables gave detailed instructions on scraping out the caviar and cutting up the bean pods, but I elected to combine their instructions with Bethany's on her blog.

We shall see what happens in a few weeks!

In total, I spent $18.65, and I have made5 cups of extract. According to, 8 ounces of McCormick's pure vanilla extract is $18.03.

So, I think in the cost category, I am ahead of the game.