{charmed earth}

The Lifestyle blog of Katie Storms.: something simple, something sweet, something styled.

31 January 2010

Something Old

Sorry I've been gone for days! We were out of touch with my husband's family, especially his Granny. She made it to 89, and I wanted to dedicate this post to her because I think she would be a fan of the challenge. Granny was such a kind, simple, and positive woman. We miss her, but I think she's happy looking down on us.

A few weeks ago I went rummaging through my old jewelry stashes in search of old brooches. I had caught myself searching Etsy and Anthropologie only to find a new trend: brooch necklaces. I hear JCrew has them, too. On Etsy, they are truly one of kind--sold from $100-$200+, and at Anthropologie they start at around $60. I considered going over to Anthropologie to look at the beautiful necklaces, but the temptation seemed too much to handle: I couldn't keep my Christmas Anthropologie gift cards at bay. And I'm saving those for when the temptation gets tough or if, for whatever reason, I actually need something. So I was left with some online pictures and my own jewelry.

My first find was the ruby red jeweled butterfly I inherited from my Great-Grandmother on my mother's side. We shared the same birthday, so I have a lot of her old "costume jewelry." And then I came across a jeweled cat my friend Sheri gave to me one year for my birthday. And with my searching, I found other gold brooches and pins with hints of red and turquoise, including an old star I believe belonged to a great-aunt or other great-grandmother. And in the top of my jewelry box, I even spied the gold cat with red eyes and a pearl by its tail: That one was from Granny's jewelry box. My husband's family said I could have it.

But my finds--six in all--weren't enough to complete the necklace. But a quick (well, as quick as browsing can be) look though my favorite antique mall just minutes from my house, I found exactly what I needed: A large gold flower with a pearl middle and a jeweled frog. Both were old, used, and $3 each. I finished the necklace off with an old strand of pearls. Total cost: $6 (sure beats upwards of $200!) To create the final piece, I simply pinned the brooches to a curved cut of stiff felt I had leftover from Christmas ornament making. Then I hooked the necklace to each side. It was far simpler than methods that suggested cutting off the pin backs and filing them down. Plus, I didn't want to destroy the brooches. This way, I can still wear them as individual pins.

The compliments at work the next day were ubiquitous, and the surprise that I created the necklace made it even more exciting to wear:) I'm told I could sell it--or make more and sell them--but there is no way I would sell this piece, no way I would give away the jewels of my family grandmothers, no way any price could replace the joy I get out of identifying where each piece came from.

18 January 2010

Something Net

I've always been an avid "I have my own bags" customer at the grocery store. And now that we've started to consider the money spent on groceries more, we've had the luxury of loading our own bags at Shop n' Save. But I do wonder how much I'm saving in pennies. So my charming husband is on a challenge to find the best grocery store overall. My job is to keep the list simple and to bring the bags.

One simple change I've made is buying only two kinds of fruit per visit. This week I picked up grapefruits and the ever-popular winter clementines. The dilemma, though, that I've been having with produce, is its need for bags. I hate using the bags they provide in the produce section. And I didn't buy the reusable produce bags when they are on sale three months ago. Sometimes I just fore go the bag. But enough is enough. I mean four grapefruits rolling around the cart is one thing, but then they start rolling down the conveyor belt, rolling out of the bag in the car, and rolling off the kitchen counter when I'm unpacking. Plus the cilantro inevitably gets packed on top of the oatmeal, the cucumbers get an extra ding from the cannellini beans, and don't forget the rolling grapefruits.

Then it hit me: I buy onions in bulk. I buy clementines in bulk. And both items come in breathable, strong, net bags. Problem solved.

The only thing I have to remember is to avoid ripping a hole in the net. I also have to remember to pull off the original tag, bring a few rubber bands or twist ties with me (I just twist one around the netting), and to be careful when I'm cutting the top of the original.

It was so simple. It didn't cost a dime since I buy those items regularly enough. And I know I will need more onions in about a month. Right now I've only collected four bags. But that was enough for the grapefruits and cucumbers at the grocery store last night. This one just makes me smile. Oh, and if you're not into trying it out, will you save your netted bags for me?

13 January 2010

Something Sudsy

With part of my Charmed Earth challenge, I promised I wouldn't buy new shampoo, body wash, lotion, and all of those other beauty/hygiene products until I run out. Just last week I was walking with my friend Amy, laughing about the thought of my lotions and body washes lasting all year long. So I went home and took inventory: Ten bottles of body wash. Yep. Ten. For the record, only two of them are almost full--the Johnson and Johnsons and the Ralph Lauren Romance (part of a gift set I received for Christmas from my wonderful in-laws). But there are still eight more bottles that aren't empty. And the bottle of Raspberry Sorbet is a big bottle that's still three-quarters full.

I haven't counted the lotions, shampoos, and face washes. But I am curious as to how long my overstocked stash is going to last. In fact, I'm almost giddy about making it a whole year on what I have. Can you imagine not needing to buy body wash for a year? I'll let you know when I run out. But until then, does anyone want to place any bets? (I think I've got around 55 ounces right now).

And be warned: as part of this ten-bottle-discovery, I've started portioning the amount I'm using in the shower. I used to pour almost a full tablespoon or more. But I've discovered that a teaspoon or two gives me enough to lather, clean, and enjoy. And I know it's silly, but I've started taking in all the smells of it before I start to wash up. It gives the shower a whole new experience of renewal. So, how many bottles (or should we count ounces?) of body wash does it take to get through a whole year? Let's find out.

11 January 2010

Something Donated

You wouldn't believe the ideas that have been running through my head lately. Be prepared for a long line of Charmed Earth posts. All of you know, or at least most of you know, that I teach high school English. So it's safe to assume I own shelves and boxes of books. I have three floating shelves here in the office boasting my complete Harry Potter and Twilight hardback collections, along with my husband's charmingly vintage copies of Mice and Men and The Yearling. We have a three layer shelf in the basement entertainment room with travel books, film books, and books about baseball. Upstairs, I have Love in the Time of Cholera, T.C. Boyle's latest novel, The Women, and his latest collection of short stories, Tooth and Claw, stacked at my bedside. In the living room, I've propped up more T.C. Boyle, my David Sedaris and Ruth Reichl collections, my newest Billy Collins collection of poetry, and the newest teen Vampire read--The House of Night series (I at least borrowed those from my little sister Molly).

Then there's the trunk of my car. I don't even remember what's packed away there. And I am pretty sure my beach bag has my copies of The Joy Luck Club and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents hiding underneath my sun hat. Oh, and don't forget the 20-some-odd cookbooks stacked in my re-vamped pantry. I do feel proud that I used Mollie Katzen's The New Moosewood Cookbook tonight to make the Eggplant Curry. It wasn't bad. I added some light sour cream, and I enjoyed the healthy meal.

Oh. Back to the books I keep at home. Don't worry. Those books aren't going anywhere. Yet. I will never part with my complete sets of Harry Potter and Twilight. I get nervous even loaning them to a friend. But beyond the books of my home, I have books at work. Now, unlike most of my English teacher friends, I do not have my own classroom at work. I keep my books, my pens, my folders, and whatever else I seem to "need" in my office. And in this office there are shelves of more books. I am not ready to part with some of them, especially the ones I use every year in class or to re-read--Chuck Palahniuk's Rant, Sloane Crosley's I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Jhumpra Lahiri's The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies, and my beloved Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain). I can't donate those. But the extra copies of Like Water for Chocolate and Maus? Or the old book club reads like The Red Tent and The Soul of Baseball? Or the stacks from old college classes like Young Adult Literature and Contemporary World Literature? I don't need those in my office. Students never borrow them because there is no way for them to pick them up. They sit, gathering dust and taking up space.

Solution? I gave myself permission to keep the novels I teach, which are all annotated anyway; the books that relate to the ways to best Educate (for now); the top fifteen novels, short story collections, essays that I love; and my poetry collections (I use them constantly in Creative Writing). I threw the rest in a plastic bin (the total was over 50) and carried them up to the library. My good librarian friends are going to cover them, catalog them, and shelve them. And if I ever decided that I just must re-read The Master and Margarita or Saving Fish From Drowning, I can clock in a few extra steps and check it out.

08 January 2010

Something Adored

Another Snow Day! It's like Christmas Vacation never really ended. And since it's just the start of the semester, I don't have any grading to catch up on. My lesson plans are pretty set, and I finished Act I of The Crucible yesterday. So what's a girl who can't buy anything new supposed to do? Create.

My friends and family tell me I'm a creative girl, and I believe them. I have beautiful handwriting. I make cards. I make Christmas ornaments. I make earrings. I make bracelets. I make fringe scarves. I scrapbook. I decoupage. I love all craft fairs. I own a sewing machine I rarely use. I take pictures. I write poetry. I am a creative girl. But I've been longing for a place to create that I don't have to clean-up every day. Prior to Christmas, when I was creating ornaments and fringe scarves, my dining room table was a complete disaster. And we ate dinner most nights using the vintage tv trays my friends Shawn and Nicole let me steal from their basement. Don't get me wrong--I love the occasional dinner with the tv, but the dining room craft table was dangerous: I spilled glue on it, I dinged it with scissors, and I was scared to death that my glue gun would burn a hole in it. Dining room table crafts just had to go.

My intention was to purchase one of those long plastic tables that folds up. I know. I can't do that now. And part of me knows that I could buy one used off of CraigsList or at Good Will or an Antique Mall, but that would involve driving in the snow. And those tables can be costly if I still want it to be cute.

Then I got to thinking...

When we moved into our charming city bungalow, the first change I made to the kitchen was tearing down the pantry door. I use the space as a China cabinet nook instead. It opened the space up, and I get to look at my beautiful dishes every day. The door was solid wood, original with the beautiful glass knob. So I stuffed it in the storage room in the basement. Yep. That's my solution--My old door is my new table. It was quite simple to create.

The Creation Process: I pulled the door out of the storage room. I stacked four plastic boxes in groups of two along the empty wall of our guest room/office (this place was being saved my my creative table already). I covered the see-through boxes with my favorite towels that I found at T.J. Maxx last summer. They are a bright paisley print, and I never wanted to use them. Now they are seen and preserved. Then I placed the door on top of the covered plastic box stacks. And Viola! My creative table. I even brought down my old drinking glasses with the Pink Care Bear, The Chipettes, and Miss Piggy to use for pen storage.

The table is already a mess because I've been spending this Friday Snow Day making earrings. But I haven't spent any money! And I've reused an old door. I think Mother Earth would approve.

07 January 2010

Something New

I want to thank everyone for their encouraging words via Facebook and in my comments sections. For my friend Laura, I figured out how to allow anyone to post a comment. Comment away! And my wonderfully charming husband found out about the blog, and I think he might actually become a fan of Charmed Earth since it's more than me not buying new clothes. Which brings me to...

Today's Temptation: Goody Hair clips.


If you know me, I love my hair, and I am the queen of hair accessories. And while I was browsing a magazine last night, I noticed the new ones out by Goody this year. And you can get them at Target for a mere $4. The ones I am falling in love with are beautiful gray-blue and gold--which happens to be one of my new favorite color combinations. Before the challenge started, I purchased a new wallet in the same combination. I have to say that the hair clips would be the perfect match. Problem: My promise to not buy anything new. My solution: I took a deep breath and went rummaging through all my old make-up bags and bathroom drawers and took out all of my hair accessories. Then I put them in a hot pink Candies shoe box (I'll post a picture later, I hope). I didn't count the total, but I'm pretty sure it's over 50 counting all of my headbands. And I even found some old sparkly clips that I wore to my junior prom.

But the biggest discoveries? An old gold barrette that belonged to my great-grandmother and a silver necklace with beautiful blue gemstones that I received as a birthday gift a few years ago. Both are beautiful accessories I haven't worn for nearly two years. It's going to feel like wearing something new this week.

05 January 2010

Something Simple

Something Simple.

My friend DC and I were talking about my blog today. I was trying to come up with something to write. And I noticed the water bottle on the table beside her. It was half full, the plastic crinkled, the label boasting the Wal-Mart store brand.

And then I thought about my Camelbak water bottle. My mother surprised me with it on my birthday, and I love it. It's pink, it says "peace," and it tells me to drink tap water. And I do. I made this simple change at the start of the school year for a reason beyond Mother Earth: money. At the start of every school year, members of the English department chip in for bottled water to be delivered to school (It's one of those water cooler systems I always laugh at when I see it on The Office). It's over $40 a semester to participate in the "Water Club." At the time, I thought that I'd rather buy a new pair of jeans for $80. So I opted out and decided to walk to the water fountain every time I needed to fill my bottle.

This brings me to the simple question: How far is the water fountain from your desk at work? How far is the community water jug?

Mine's about the same distance.

Back to the bottle: My pink Camelbak water bottle is BPA free, and I wash it regularly. I know that those cool new aluminum water bottles are "better for you," and "better for Mother Earth." But I can't but a new one. That's the rules. And the one I own isn't harmful. I found this helpful link about the facts you may not know about that old hard plastic bottle you may still have tucked away in the back of your cabinet or the ever so popular "one-time-bulk-pack-bottle" you'd buy at the grocery store. Both are something to consider.

Here's the link: http://www.thegoodhuman.com/2008/03/17/choosing-a-safe-reusable-water-bottle/

And if you're trying to conserve like I am and don't have an aluminum or BPA free bottle, nothing's wrong with bringing in the old standby: the drinking glass from home. Or, better yet, kick back with a good old glass Mason jar.

04 January 2010

Something Reduced

Something Reduced.

I still haven't told my husband about the project. I told my friend David, but he swears he won't tell. So unless someone stumbles across this Charmed-Earth by accident, my secret's safe.

Today's Temptation: Play-Doh.

Every semester I start back at school with a new group of Creative Writing students. And every year I start the first day with Play-Doh. We get creative. We sculpt it, smash it, showcase it, and then the bell rings. And globs of Play-Doh weigh down the trash can. And those nostalgic canisters that remind us of our childhood: trash. Sure, I try to rescue it from the depths of the garbage. And I stash some of it on my shelves for the next semester. But you and I both know I can't use 6-month-old Play-Doh when I'm trying to impress a batch of second semester seniors, eighth hour.

Dilemma: Though some small children may sneak a bite, Play-Doh is not edible. And those canisters don't look biodegradable. And unless I already owned them, I can't reuse them.

Solutions: a.) I could buy it as usual and change the rules so that classroom purchases don't count. b.) I could skip the whole Play-Doh activity and have them write. c.) Oh, yeah. I could make Play-Doh.

It's only Day 2. I chose Option C. You can find countless how-to videos on youtube, and you can find countless recipes online. And since I had cornstarch, baking soda, oil, water, and food coloring at home, I figured I'd give it a go. I did need to get more baking soda at the store, since each batch requires a whole box. But baking soda is technically edible, and I know it's biodegradable. And it's only 87-cents a box. That's a lot cheaper than the Play-Doh I find at Target. And it turned out to be super easy. The warm dough was a wonderful touch, too.

Here's the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsV3L6MOCc4.

It's the best one I found. I like that she suggests using a tablespoon of food coloring. I found some gel food color in hot pink, neon green, and orange. It looks better than the real deal. I might be a bit crumbly in class, but I don't think I mind. Today I reduced my spending. I usually spend $10-$15 on Play-Doh; today, I spent about $5. And I know that I usually trash the 24 canisters (I'm embarrassed to admit that I've trashed at least 96 in the past two years. That's 96 full size canisters). And I promise I won't throw this stuff in the trash either. I think I'll have the kids give it back. And I'll see if the 4-year-old twins next door can find a use for it.

03 January 2010

Charmed Earth

Something Borrowed, Something Used. Something Old, Something True.

This endeavor is something new. It's a challenge. My husband, charming as he is, is not a fan of Charmed Earth. It's reckless. It's calling for failure. It's a dance with temptation that I probably won't win. It's foolish. But, then again, so am I. I have 365 days. Not to work my way through Julia Child's cookbook (though I might throw in a few small tastes). No. I have 365 days to live and love the Earth. I have 365 days to live with something borrowed, something used, something old, and something true. January 4, 2010-January 4, 2011.

Definition: new (adj.): fresh or unused.

The rules: I can't buy anything new that isn't edible or biodegradable. I realized that I can't apply that to packaging of all foods, but I will be conscious of it as much as I can. Same goes for natural cleaning and hygiene. Sorry!

The exceptions: If I can't create or discover something borrowed, old, or used to gift to friends and family, I can buy them gifts for birthdays and holidays. They don't need to suffer my vain endeavor. I can receive new items as gifts, and I can spend my holiday gift cards on new items. I realized that I don't "need" anything except a new pair of walking shoes, so I'm going to get those new this month. Other than that, unless I can use it up (and I've run out of it--i.e. toothpaste, shampoo, cleaning sprays (I'll have to recycle the bottles)), eat it (i.e. yogurt and cereal--and I'm going to have to deal with the packaging--sorry)), or need it for survival (replacement of tires on my car or home repairs/necessary improvements (we've been planning a dishwasher since 2008)), I can't buy it new.

Day 1, January 3, 2010.

Confession: I made this goal after my first purchase of the year: two planners from ArtMart. Make that two overpriced planners from ArtMart. I don't need them. So I plan to return them first chance I get. Why?! Because I have a stack of sheet music that I decided to upcycle. The music notes are beautiful on one side, and I printed monthly calendars for 2010 on the other side. Something old became something new.