Catching my breath

I usually take the tree down Dec. 26, but the girls are fond of this one, so it's still up.

I usually take the tree down Dec. 26, but the girls are fond of this one, so it’s still up.

It seems like it’s been a whirlwind the past week or so, getting Christmas preparations nailed down, visiting with family and friends, addressing last minute holiday cards (whoops) and enjoying time with my husband and girls and kitties. It’s been slightly stressful and super fun.

I was hoping I’d have my act together enough to put up a real post today, but … well, life is in that weird in-between space, where I’m catching my breath and acting like I’m still on vacation even though it’s business as usual. I’ll have my act together next week. All of that is just to say that today we have updates because that’s all I’ve got in me.

(Know your limits. That’s totally zero waste, right?)


The gifts I brought to work were better received than I’d dared to hope. My coworkers seemed to like both the sugar scrub and the jam. One of my Millennial boys was all, you’re giving me cherry jam?! in a tone that suggested I was really giving him a car. The consensus on the sugar scrub was A) the jar was cute (yep) and 2) that I was incredibly clever for “making” such a thing (perhaps if they knew how easy it was to knock out, they’d reconsider).

Oh, and no one said anything about my lack of cards or labels or embellishments. And bonus: I got to work before most of the staff, so I could just drop gifts on their desk and shoot them an email. It was like my Christmas wish came true.

Anyway, I’m filing this particular win away for next year … or for whenever I need a quick gift.


We did pretty well on the gift front overall. I’ve already talked about how my girls are darlings and have low expectations — this is why you set the bar low early! (Free parenting tip.) Gifts were fairly low waste: Books (purchased at Powell’s in Portland — now that is a bookstore!), art supplies (some less waste than others), jumper cables for Abby (ask me how she melted hers later), Rogue One tickets (printed on the computer), a new sweatshirt for Johanna, that sort of thing. For their stockings, I hit the bulk aisle for candy, which I decanted into smaller jars (we’re 17 and 12, so it’s not like there’s a mystique to uphold), as well as tossed in the traditional orange in the toe. Each kid also got a pair of socks from Blue Q. Low waste and I like that a percentage of the proceeds go to Doctors Without Boarders.

The girls also are now proud owners of HydroFlasks. That is going to make everyone’s lives much easier.

Wrapping consisted of well-worn gift bags, newspaper (and some crappy washi tape) or jars and/or fabric. Kinda boring, but it did the trick. I have a worn out flannel sheet that I had hoped to make into reusable gift bags, but I never got there. I think that’s a project for another time — like in the summer or something, when the pressure is off.


We went to my parents’ house for Christmas Eve, and my brother-in-law’s house Christmas Day. My mother is crazy and didn’t want me to bring anything for dinner (that was awesome, actually. We had tacos, cheesecake and pumpkin pie. So basically the perfect meal). At my in-laws’ annual gathering, it’s just informal finger food, so we brought a pasta salad (low waste) and a pastry dessert (zero waste). Food seems to be the least of my worries at this point. It’s just kind of everything else.


Clear cuts are so much prettier when it snows.

Clear cuts are so much prettier when it snows.

When I was buying the girls’ candy at the store, a new checker commented on how much he liked my jars. I was all, well, it’s much easier to get home and just toss them in the cupboard … and I’m trying to reduce my trash. He nodded and was like, that’s really smart.

So I have a new best friend.

That was Friday after work. On Monday, I did my weekly grocery trip, and found myself in front of the meat counter after a long hiatus. There were three clerks behind the counter — one was our sly Mr. Plastic, who was dutifully ignoring me. That made me laugh. Don’t worry, dude, you’re doing me a favor. And the young kid who stepped up to help was all, oh, yeah, just put that container on my scale, and then filled it with chicken (Abby is in the mood for a braised chicken soup this week. Who am I to crush dreams?). And THEN, because apparently he didn’t think he had been awesome enough yet, told me that he appreciated that I brought my own container.

Are you kidding me? How many best friends do I need?


Emboldened by all this container-love, I decided to scope out the sprinkles situation in the bakery. Johanna has been in the mood, and I thought that maybe we could get some bulk sprinkles if we asked.

Well, disappointment: The lady very nicely told me that I could pick out packaged sprinkles (who knew they had packaged sprinkles in the bakery?) and she would put those in my jar. I was like, um, then what happens to the container? She said it would go in the trash.

Johanna looked at me with those blue eyes, and I … asked her for ideas on reusing the container. I can put my hair ties in it, she said immediately, because Abby is always stealing them.

We bought the sprinkles. Which she put into a jar once we got home and yes, that container now holds her hair ties. Not a perfect solution, but sometimes it feels good to say yes.

Next up: It’s hard to believe we’re looking at a new year.

8 Responses to Catching my breath

  1. I totally agree to saying yes once in a while. And the point of zero waste is to make progress, not to be perfect. Zero waste is a journey, or something like that (I just read something, probably on one of the links from your blog last week? that said something like that much more succinctly, but I an’t remember what it was.) I’m happy you have two new best friends! I need more best friends like that!

    I actually wanted to comment on making the sheet into gift bags: this summer will be soon enough! Making yourself crazy trying to do it all at once is not worth it; you’re making changes that will hopefully last a lifetime and not trying to reach burnout.

    • Totally what I think, too. If we make it too hard on ourselves, we might get so frustrated that we then give up totally, and what help would that be?
      Here in Germany I found baking soda and white vinegar only in plastic – both things are not much used here, so not many brands to choose from. So I resigned myself to buying that for cleaning – and now I found the soda in a paper packaging and vinegar in a glass bottle at the most unlikely spot, a small shop selling russian specialties in my neighbourhood. So the thinking about zero waste helped me even if it took almost a year to find something without plastic. But without all the thought I wouldn’t even have noticed that this small shop in an inobstrusive corner has exactly what I need.

      • How awesome that you finally found your solution in an unlikely spot! I love how things come together like that sometimes.

    • Johanna DEFINITELY agrees with you on saying yes! I’m very lucky with my grocery store — I mean, I struck out at the bakery (although I do plan to try again, what could happen?), but they’re just so great about filling my containers.

      I’m beginning to realize that there are projects that will have to wait for after my year is up … a year sounds so long but somehow it’s not. But anyway, I appreciate the kind words and the support! It’s a journey, indeed.

  2. Sounds like you had a great time this Xmas 🙂 Me and my partner practice zero waste at home but it’s significantly harder to say ‘no’ to gifts from other family members. My partner is particularly partial to this one type of chocolate you can only get in some mainland European countries (we live in UK). After bringing two blocks of plastic wrapped deliciousness I thought to check for a recycling/TerraCycle label. Lo and behold, it’s made of PP5 which is one of the safer, theoretically recyclable plastics (at least according to this website: ) so fingers crossed for the recycling guys to pick it up on their next run. I new that not all plastics are created equal but now I know which ones are the lesser evil. 😉

    • I don’t worry about gifts from other family members — their hearts are in the right place even if their gifts are packaged. 🙂

      Oh, wow, thanks for the link — that’s a great read and resource. Here’s hoping the recycling guys take the chocolate wrappers! But really, chocolate is right up there with air, coffee and shelter, so … 😉

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