I’ve been without a microwave for a few weeks and it’s been difficult! I like making a lot of food and eating leftovers for a few days afterwards, but not many things heat up well in a pot or skillet. I am of course loathe to buy anything so I was lucky to find a free microwave beside a dorm dumpster. It works! It was even pretty clean inside.
I found the university’s free pile, where you can leave stuff and take stuff as you please. It’s pretty small considering the number of students. Maybe people don’t know about it. I’ve already gotten some good stuff! Handmade doilies, sunscreen, earbuds (they need a little glue, but still).
The apartment is a little less neat now. I got started on a craft project, so knitting supplies are (sparsely) strewn around the room. I’m making a pair of socks for sibling C! It’s my first pair of socks and I have to say they’re not as difficult as people make them out to be. Socks are certainly fast to make. The main difficulty is getting the two socks to be the exact same size.
Sibling C wanted the socks to be around 11″ tall, but I wasn’t sure I would have enough yarn so I knit the socks toe up using these instructions, with some modifications due to differences in gauge (see sock calculations). I used the Middle Eastern cast-on, gusset-heel flap for the heel, and bound off in pattern using 1×1 ribbing. If the cuff isn’t stretchy enough, I’ll have to use a different bind off.
My goal this year living alone is to produce as little trash (meaning stuff that isn’t recyclable or compostable) as possible. I’m doing well so far. I scouted out a few compost bins in the area, so I don’t need to pay for the local compost service, Shadyside Worms. It costs $20/month which, while reasonable, provides much more service than I need. They pick up 5 gallons of compost every week; I produce maybe a half gallon on a cooking-heavy week.
There are a number of bulk stores in the area, so I’m all set on that front.
I picked up a few more kitchen items from Goodwill: a non-aluminum pot for tomato sauce (I only brought an aluminum one with me), a wooden cutting board, glass jars for food storage, and a mesh strainer. Goodwill has 25% Tuesdays for students 😀
Since J and I only have one chef’s knife, I was planning on buying a new-to-me knife for using here. J wanted a cleaver to make processing meat easier, so it seemed like a good idea to get a cleaver to use as my everyday knife. Before committing to a purchase on eBay, I “shopped” my parents’ house for knives. I turned up a couple of really dull, low-quality cleavers that didn’t seem worth salvaging. I sharpened one anyway and it’s been pretty good! A bit uncomfortable to hold, but good enough for a year.
Then we went to Cookin’, a mid-century-European-cookware thrift store.
(stand for food mill, wok spatula)
Cookin’ was very impressive! They have a large selection of very niche items – not just one canning food mill, but 5! – and a large selection of vintage and non-electric cookware (e.g. hand-crank egg beater). The store is organized by type, so that all the wooden cooking spoons are together within the larger implement section, the copper pots are together within the larger pots and pans section, etc. Not everything is displayed, so ask if you’re looking for something specific.
I bought a canning food mill stand, which I haven’t even been able to find on eBay. C bought a wok spatula, which she’s been looking for at thrift stores for ages.
Cookin’ is kind of expensive, but the prices are worth it for those hard-to-find items. The prices for popular items (vintage Le Creuset) are on-par with eBay, but the low demand items seem too expensive (worn plastic spatulas for $0.75). The store specializes in European cookware, so you won’t find a lot of specialty Asian items, e.g. (although C did get to choose between 3 different wok spatulas).
Oddly, they were selling darning eggs as pestles. They do look a bit like wooden pestles (see canning food mill picture above), but the owner obviously doesn’t do crafts. At least I know where to find darning eggs now 🙂
As some reviewers note on Yelp, the shop is like a display of the owner’s personal collection of cookware. The inside is an organized hoard – leave large bags and hats at home to avoid accidents! Enjoy!
My older sibling C visited a few weeks ago. We did tons of cool things, starting with… the public library! It was sewing night, so I worked on the never-ending supply of holey clothing. Here are some of my recent patches!
While I was patching, C looked at books, getting cool ones like:
Last fall, I made olives from fruit gathered from a neighbor’s tree. As it turns out, this neighbor had been interested in making olives for a while, but never looked into it. He was very excited about the project and readily let me pick his olives.
I hadn’t cured olives before, but I’ve did some research on it (and have a lot of experience with other niche food projects!). As it turns out, it’s pretty easy and makes an item that is relatively expensive to purchase, so definitely worth it.
There are four basic ways to cure olives: in water, in salt brine, in lye brine, and in salt (dry). The lye method is the fastest- it can take less than a day, but lye is rather dangerous, of course. Curing in water is also supposed to be relatively fast (a month), although it seems of questionable veracity to me. Dry-curing takes 1-2 months. This method is also called oil-curing, since these types of olives are often marinated in oil after being cured. The low water content makes them taste richer and oilier. The slowest, but one of the easiest and most common, methods is brining. It takes 6-12 months and produces a “normal” olive.
The salt-based methods rely on lacto-fermentation for flavor and additional preservation. The salt prevents the wrong types of bacteria from growing (which is why it’s important to use enough salt and why I’m dubious about the water-only method!); the fermentation adds flavor and acidity.
All methods can be used on all types and ripeness of olives, but there are combinations that are more common. For example, dry-curing is more common with ripe olives. Brining is more common with green (unripe) or half-green olives. Unripe olives tend to have a stronger taste, since they start off more bitter.
Here’s a review of the process, plus improvements:
Collect olives by shaking branches towards a tarp. Gather olives from the tarp (e.g. pour into a bucket). Picking by hand is laborious and bumping the tree as you pick causes nearby olives to fall off and be lost.
Many (~75%) of the olives I collected had been impacted by the olive fruit fly, which lays its eggs in the olive meats. Impacted olives are safe to eat, but may be more acidic and have a shorter shelf life. I didn’t use any of the impacted olives this time, but would in the future since I was left with so few olives!
I dry-cured the olives, leaving them in a jar of salt for ~3-4 months. Turns out this was too long, as the olives were overly salty and desiccated, so make sure to taste-test periodically. I rehydrated and de-salted by soaking in plain water for a few days, then put the olives in a brine (because they started getting moldy…).
Dry-curing works best on ripe olives. I cured some green and half-green olives that turned out kinda hard and bitter, so I would avoid those in the future.
I was impressed with how easy the process was and how olive-like the finished product was.
The zero-waste dentist also has a very thorough article on replicating Dr. Bronner’s castile soap at home. Castile soap traditionally refers to soap made with only olive oil, so Dr. Bronner’s, which contains a large amount of coconut oil, doesn’t actually count. Apparently the coconut oil makes a big difference in texture, smell, and cleaning ability, too.
On the topic of Dr. Bronner’s, awhile ago I was reading an article reviewing the company and was super confused when the article said “she has a lot of nice scents.” Who the heck was this “she”? It turns out Dr. Bronner is a woman… :'(
I regularly patch clothes – mostly the knees of J’s jeans, and recently some of J’s socks. I do boro-style patches (like this but less polished) and other forms of visible mending. They never look super awesome, but they are durable. (I’m going to look like a hobo one day, though.)
If you aren’t sure how to repair an item, take a look at Make Do and Mend. It is a British WWII booklet on caring for and repairing clothing. It is super detailed! I’m sure everyone could learn a new technique from it.