The mini compost bin revisited

A few days ago I posted about my “free” outdoor garbage can and that mini can I also got for composting scrap veggies and such before they go into our big bin outside. If you remember my motivation for this mini can was not strictly because I am so profoundly dedicated to preserving our earth and keeping usable materials out of our landfills. Rather, the truth was that  my laziness at walking outside to deposit an egg-shell (which by the way should be rinsed first) or a few pieces of nasty broccoli was the real impetus.

I have been doing quite well at remembering to place materials into this can and out of our basic trash bin. I have long know that coffee grounds can go into the compost bin and have so directed my husband to empty his into the mini bin. The caveat is that he has to actually remember to do this. I’m waiting to see how this goes. I on the other hand drink mostly tea and have been wondering about tea bags in compost receptacles. Along with coffee I know that filters can be composted, but today so many tea bags seem questionable to me for these reasons:

-of course the staple that holds the string isn’t compostable

-many tea bags, depending on the brand you buy of course, seem to be of a mesh poly substance that I would guess will not compost

I did some research as baby is taking her morning nap and came upon quite a few websites that discuss the composting of tea bags. They essentially recommend the use of loose leaf tea as the ideal. Have you seen the price of loose leaf tea lately? When you drink tea every day it can get pricey.

**Tea drinkers out there-do you have any suggestions for a great place to purchase loose leaf teas?

As I have already noted that my laziness often trumps other more practical matters in my life I do have to say that I like the convenience also of the tea bag. I’m not hooked on any one brand, other than one of my favorites is our local Market Spice. I drink a variety of teas, mostly contained in normal tea bags meaning the tissue-like paper, the string and the cute paper tag/holder. I have also used those odd little triangular-shaped bags which by the way are the ones that I don’t think will compost. (?) 

My Google searches led me to the conclusion that as long as I take the staple out of the string and assist decomposition by opening the tea bag before it goes into the compost then all should be fine. The paper, string and bag will eventually break down.

My search also led me to this site. I am especially excited to read through and post this handy little list where it will serve to remind me of the many significant items that can be composted. I knew protein items were a no-no, but how great to think that left over pastas, rice, and cereal can go in. Now that I read about those things they seem like a no brainer but I never thought about those items before. How about wine corks? Those are in pretty high supply at my house.

I also love that this site goes beyond the basic kitchen items and ventures into the surrounding rooms of the house.

These I will admit were a bit shocking, but when you think of it they all make sense: old loofahs, nail clippings, urine (! –  probably not at my house), old 100% cotton or wool clothing, animal fur (we have lots of that), vacuum cleaner bag contents, dryer lint, and the most surprising – used latex condoms! The author does suggest that one might want to bury those deeper in the compost to avoid questions should the neighbors or small children be exploring in your bins.

I am really rather excited to start tossing all this great material into my bin and to see just how much less space we take up in our trash bag. Luckily all our paper already goes to recycling, as well as glass and some plastics so while I could compost the papers I think I’ll stick to the program that recycles these things for us.

I’ve also been curious as to odors that might begin emanating from the small bin but so far things are pretty good in that area. I am really pleased with my decision so far and while I don’t intend to use this material for my yard or garden  at this time, I do feel slightly superior in that I am not adding actual useful stuff to the landfill.

My companion in blogging

I thought I would throw this in today also as she is almost my constant companion anymore and…

because the dancing professor shared a recent picture of her aging companion as well I felt I couldn’t let her be the only one. Full of cat food, warmed by a short stint on the heater and now ready for a long nap.

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Rate your day: not half bad

It has truly been a long time since I’ve been able to say that about a day when I tutor. After my complaints and whining and weariness with my own self my mantra this morning was “find something positive, find something positive.”

The tutorials where anything but perfect. However going into the day with a purpose to move beyond the frustration, the apathy, the regret at saying yes to this job, I made it through with much less desire to tear my hair out and scream at my students for wasting not only my time but their own.

I’m not even sure how much positive anything I really found today, but perhaps simply because I was trying to look for that elusive bright spot the usual process was a bit more bearable.

My 8th graders had their assessments today and we will be switching groups once more next week. I’m pretty fond of my 8th graders in general. Actually I really like every single student who has been in any of my tutorial groups at any given time. Some I feel more affinity with than others.

When we assess our kids there are specific criteria we look for. I usually start by asking them to grade themselves. I’ve only ever had a few who have given themselves better reports than what my assessments have shown. Today I was happy to see that my reports were really spot on with how each 8th grader rated themselves. I was also happy to honestly be able to tell them that I have seen improvement. For the most part these kids now need to work on consistency by making sure that they follow through, and at the very least, meet standards rather than go backwards. I have a lot of hope for these groups as this is their first year and I think 95% want to succeed in this program. My fear is that all that will change. That’s a real dichotomy I suppose: longing for hopeful outcomes while terrified that everything they have accomplished will go to hell.

I think I have the hardest time with the 9th grade groups. This is their first year also, but they seem to have different viewpoints than the younger groups. What happens between 8th and 9th grade? In our school system even though the 9th graders are housed at the junior high school building they are for all practical purposes in high school and considered Freshmen. We can’t seem to make them understand that this stuff counts, and that every single thing they are doing is going to be directly reflected in future education outcomes. This is a group of kids with so many issues though. Personal, familial and social. They struggle in all aspects of their lives. I’m not sure I would be giving much emphasis myself to school if I was in many of their positions.

I have fallen into tutoring one particular group of 10th grade students about 80% of the time. This group has two boys who feed off of each other, not always in good ways, and a girl who is sweet and fortunately holds her own with the distractions of the boys. I like to study the interactions between these kids especially when other students are introduced as members. Their behaviors change dramatically, so I have my very own sociological experiment happening. It’s really rather enjoyable to have this secret and orchestrate conditions to monitor reactions. They are a great group to apply my own learning to directly. I will add here that I would appreciate it if no one reading this post turns me in to the ASA as this really isn’t a sanctioned experimental study, these participants have not given consent, and I have no intention of actually publishing research statistics and articles. When days are bad and the negatives are overwhelming these little sociological diversions keep me sane.

Finally, I was sort of rewarded with an 11th grade group of students today who I haven’t worked with in quite some time. This age group has been with the program long enough that I mostly just monitor. One boy in particular was much more talkative than I remember him being before and actually quite fun. I will be honest. Working with this age is sometimes disconcerting. These kids have a way of looking at you sometimes like I’m sure they look at their parents. It’s that quizzical, disinterested, aloof, and I-am-so-not-revealing-anything-of-myself attitude. Then we have a day like today where you get to see their personality shine through and actually have fun with them. That’s a huge positive.

Let’s keep fingers crossed that this trend continues for a while longer.

Digging myself deeper and deeper

I find myself in this consistent and significant rut whereby I am complaining, nay whining may be a better description,  about my dislike of the tutoring program I am involved with, as well as the entire public school system which houses it.

I meet my ride share comrade on Tuesday and Friday morning and even though we tried to make a promise not to discuss the many trials and tribulations faced at our sessions it happens that almost instantaneously our mouths begin running off with all the bad involved.

There are definitive flaws in both the system and in the motivation of many of these kids. Those two things have been established as a given. The point of this post however is self-focused. I actually sat back today, while one of our rants wound down and thought about why we are so quick to criticize. All of the tutors, and there are five of us, seem almost hyper critical lately. So I began to ask myself some questions.

Are the expectations that we bring to the program unrealistic?

Are we delusional in anticipating progress in the activities of our students since they have now been in this program since September?

Are we judging these kids by some standard or measure that is set way to high-meaning are we expecting adult behavior and motivation that can’t possibly exist at these grade levels?

Consequently, if we as tutors are expecting too much and have these expectations because of directives associated with this program then where does our responsibility lie in speaking out to change the program?

…and on a personal level…

Why do I find it so easy to complain and seem to get satisfaction when I do find fault?

What inadequacies in myself am I hedging around by looking at the negatives rather than pointing to the small triumphs?

Why is it seemingly rather apparent that these sessions leave me irritated, frustrated and defeated, yet I continue to dig myself deeper into this pit of gloom and doom?

Did I go into this job thinking I was going to be a savior, a bright and shining example? Did I find that the kids who “have it” already don’t truly need me there and the ones who do need me (meaning tutors in general) are so far down themselves that I (with my limited training) will not be the enlightened power who pulls them from their academic abyss?

Do I whine simply because I cannot be the person who changes things?

There doesn’t seem to be a To Sir With Love happy ending coming into my life as a reward, and maybe selfishly that’s what I expected.

Sharing the awesomeness of my day

It’s been a pretty grand day for me.

Firstly I did not have to tutor this morning as we are on the tail end of the President’s Day/Mid-Winter break. I was at my breaking point last week with my 9th grade group. The apathy that comes out in waves from three of the six students is sometimes so overwhelming. I went so far as to ask the teacher to transfer my star student into another group. Her frustration is clear and so unfair as she does 95% of the work in the group, and I felt that she deserves more than what she is getting from those around her. It will be interesting to see what has been accomplished on Friday when we tutor again. The teacher promised some work and review of concepts. My personal opinion is that she needs to figure out just who exactly wants to take part in a meaningful way from this program and toss the rest out as I think they would accomplish more in a different elective course, or at least not drag those who are motivated down into the apathy pit with themselves.

I have been on a toss-the-crap clean out of my house again and over the last few days have taken about four boxes and eight to ten sacks of stuff to our local charity. I admit much of this belongs to my husband, who in a slight, but very real way, is a hoarder. His childhood was one of pretty deep deprivation when it came to having food, clothing, and just general necessities and so it is incredibly difficult for him to let anything go. I do mean anything. Luckily he keeps most of his saved materials to our bedroom closet and a small area of the garage. Every now and then I subtly remove the oldest of the collection and as our weather lately has been intimating spring what better time to transfer some of these not needed items out of the house.

I absolutely love organizing and moving unused, unusable, and just plain garbage items out and away. There’s another career I should have focused on, that of professional organizer. I feel such a huge rush of excitement when those hoarding shows are on TV and the clean-up crews and organizers come in. Leaving the dead rodents, felines and assorted animal and human waste out of the equation I could see myself very happy putting people’s lives back in order.

I have also done some outdoor projects, which probably wasn’t the best idea, but how can I resist being outside in the sunshine and knowing that winter messes need to be taken care of. I did get a bit carried away today but I think I caught myself in time and would have only had some sore arm muscles had I not made an inadvertent mistake while carrying cat litter. I have been anxious to change cat litter brands and found one today that 1) is clumping–a must have, and 2) contains only corn, cedar and pine. This means no dust-YAY, and a pretty nice scent as well. I dumped all the old litter into a bag and after cleaning the box with ammonia, refilling with the new litter and generally tidying the area I hefted the old litter bag out to the garbage. No issues until I attempted to lift the fairly heavy bag of old litter while trying to keep our broken (unknown to me) garbage can upright. My right wrist did some sort of funny popping, grating, stretching thing. While not horribly painful it just feels off. Mostly like things aren’t lined up correctly. Not broken but definitely different at the outer joint. It still functions perfectly well, just feels and sounds odd. The really sad thing is that the outer joints in my wrists haven’t been a problem. It’s always been the area closest to my thumb that hurts, pops, and cracks with arthritis. Anyway, I put on, and am wearing one of my wrist supports to see if that makes a difference.

I also did a little shopping, nothing major because I truly don’t need anything, but I did pick up a new pair of ballet flats in a medium brown. They aren’t the best for my feet and the arthritis I have going on there, but I refuse to completely give in to wearing sensible grandma shoes—yet.

Hope everyone had as wonderful a day as I did 🙂

The cost of eating organic

I don’t have any intention of filling this post with facts about how healthy organic and fresh foods are. Nor do I intend to preach on the benefits of herbal supplements, oils, and the like. I steer clear of the later because I know roughly zero about such things and with the multitudes of these products that are available on natural food store shelves I believe a PhD is necessary to understand the benefits, interactions and usage of the world of plants and herbs.

I visited Marlene’s Natural Foods Market today with my daughters and the baby. For those of you who know and have the pleasure of living near a Whole Foods or a Trader Joes you can image a sort of quasi cross between the two with a huge emphasis on the supplement section that one might find in a shop like Super Supplements. Throw in a nifty little deli serving soups, sandwiches and some wonderful looking desserts and you have Marlene’s.

The oldest daughter has returned to the concept of creating her own beauty products and such and was looking for ingredients to make her own makeup, shampoos and the like so we (meaning the second daughter and the baby) wandered through the store with her.

Some highlights include the very small but incredible fresh produce section. Marlene’s basically sells produce that can be utilized as ingredients in other healthful concoctions such as smoothies and protein drinks. Don’t think traditional, well stocked produce counters with the vast array of goodness found at a farmer’s market. This area is meager at best but they did have some of the best looking, freshest kale I have seen in a long time. I didn’t buy any, but my brain was whirling with ideas for recipes.

Marlene’s also has a pretty good supply of some of the most common organic and natural products typically stocked in our area. For those who buy Amy’s Kitchen brand Marlene’s has a great variety. So we checked each aisle, finding new products and commenting on tried and true items. It always strikes me as rather ironic that there are so many prepared organic food brands. Isn’t the idea that organic and natural should be leaning toward the fresh you-make-it-from-scratch  ideal rather than the pre-made concept? Is there a bit of a dichotomy in this message?

As we turned each corner we would come across wonderful sounding products that would have been at the very least a fun and adventurous foray into trying new foods. This is where the low lights begin. I am realistic enough to know from past experience that these products cost more than the regular old grocery store or big box brands. It is fairly common knowledge that you pay more for organic, but many of the things we saw at Marlene’s went well beyond simply paying more. An example: I picked up a box of granola bars. The flavor is what caught my eye. It was something with apple. I admit I didn’t take the time to read ingredients or determine just how organic these bars were because the price for a box of six bars stopped me cold. It was five dollars. Now I shop in a variety of stores and pay anywhere from two dollars up to about three dollars for granola bars. Usually they are the basic oat and honey variety, either generic or a lower fat/lower carb type. The wonderful looking box of bars at Marlene’s where, I assume, made from something akin to a precious metal as the cost would indicate. I will never pay five dollars for a box of six granola bars. 

The youngest daughter is a huge hot beverage drinker. Cocoa and tea fill her days and evenings with joy. She balked quite forcefully at the ten-dollar price tags for cocoa mixes and the tea bags of a brand Marlene’s was selling which can be found in our local grocery stores for half the price. That folks is a blatant mark up simply because those tea bags were occupying shelf space with the more healthful varieties of loose leaf teas probably hand-picked by older ladies on a mountaintop somewhere.

As we encountered more and more products asking us to open our wallets and pull out every last dime our conversations turned to the fact that eating organic, eating even somewhat healthy by trying to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables is not something open to a great many in our society. These foods cost money and many, many people such as college students, older folks and those struggling on limited incomes for other varied reasons simply cannot afford these foods. They certainly can’t afford the choices at Marlene’s and I expect that they bypass those same foods when they go to the local Walmart.

Yet our reality is that we preach about obesity, we preach about healthy eating and those who need it most cannot afford the foods, organic or otherwise, that would help them to be healthy. They turned to processed garbage because it is all that they can afford to feed themselves and their families if they have them.

The reality is that healthy eating doesn’t have to be raw foods, or organic foods, or products from a big name specialty company. Healthy eating means having produce, dairy or alternate products and proteins that are fresh and affordable. Not everyone in our communities wants to shop at a Marlene’s or a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s, and no one, no matter where they shop should feel taken advantage of because of a label or brand or ideal that dictates unrealistic prices.

I love having these choices in my community. I don’t like the large cost discrepancies that these companies feel they can justify and pass on to their consumers.