Saturday, January 5, 2008

Bags With a Story To Tell

I've been slowly working my way to becoming more green. The one area that I'm doing really well in is cutting down on the number of plastic bags that I use and throw away. ( I still use plastic bags occasionally - but the quantity is so small that I can re-use those bags for other things before they hit the dump. I used to have so many that I would just trash a lot of them)

I mentioned my recycled cotton shopping bags in my last post - and if you saw the original draft of the last entry you saw me mention something called basura bags. I thought I'd make an entry with my wish list. :)

I love to use items that have stories behind them. That's why I love family heirlooms and antiques. It didn't just come from the local Wal-Mart - - there's a history, a reason that it is here. So - in addition to the fact that I surprisingly love the appearance of these bags - I also love their story. Info on Basura Bags from

Note: Basura bags are handmade using colorful recycled juice containers to form cool, one-of-a-kind styles. While the pictures on our site will give you the general look and feel, the bags produced vary in color – they are all great looking and the variety is one of the things we love about them!

Bags are made in the Philippines by a women's cooperative, utilizing used juice containers. These containers are purchased through a network of local school children. Indestructible and non-biodegradable by nature, foil juice packs clog landfills, fields and streets throughout the Philippines. Using clever designs that combine the material's strength & brilliant colors, the co-op helps keep the environment clean via this very cool method of recycling.

About Basura Bags

Basura Bags come from a women’s co-op in the Philippines that set up a Livelihood Project assisted by the local village council. With almost no capital, the women found a very clever way to support themselves.

Every day, children from the local schools collect over 50,000 used drink containers, called doy packs, then sell them to the co-op. The bags are sanitized and the women sew them together into attractive, durable bags.

Unlike most third world factory workers toiling away in sweatshops, these women are entrepreneurs and shareholders. They work for themselves and have a positive impact on their community and, at the same time, they encourage environmentalism.


It's estimated that millions of juice containers get thrown in the trash everyday in the Philippines.

Here are the bags I would love to own:

Medium Insulated lunch bag

And because, really, I need one more tote bag to carry back and forth to work

There are also bags by Gecko Traders. Their story is:

Once used for carrying commodities in Southeast Asia, the rice & feed bags used to create these one-of-a-kind pieces have been 100% recycled into a new life as stylish shopping totes. Each is skillfully crafted in small batches by a fully certified Fair Trade Co-op in Cambodia. Constructed with tough as nails material the bags include box stitching at stress point. All bags feature authentic prints & colorful dyes that will beautifully fade with wear.

Fair Trade Certified products guarantee a living wage to people in developing countries. Each bag sold helps provide sustainable living to Cambodian weavers & producers, many of whom are disabled / economically disadvantaged single mothers supporting households. This translates into a better life for many who have been disabled from polio or landmine injury, or pulled from brothels & taught a trade. Produced under the Fair Trade Certified label, these creations bring fair trade into the fashion world while helping people across the world improve their lives.

They make a few different sizes of tote bags similar to the basara bag. But these are my favorite from Gecko Traders:

small bags that would work great as cosmetic bags or whatever:

They also sell what looks like a large and very durable tote-bag made out of recycled advertising banners. But - they don't tell a cool story.

*edit* I should do my google searching before I post my blog entries. There are other "Basura Bags" out there as well. (Though the ones above are still my favorite) was started by a Peace Corp volunteer and uses chip bags from the streets of Honduras to make their purses. Money goes back to Honduras children. seems to be the same group from from I'm not quite sure why spells the name differently.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Cooking For One

*author's note* I'm still trying to figure out blogger's coding. I apologize for the awkwardness of the way the text and images fit together. And, if you're viewing this using a feed - it's probably really messed up - sorry!*

One of the most annoying things to me about living alone is food. It’s hard to shop and cook for one without wasting food from leftovers or things spoiling before you get a chance to eat them. Plus, most of the fun in cooking for me is making food for someone else. When I come home from 11+ hours at work the last thing I want to do is spend an hour in the kitchen before dinner is ready. If I do decide to cook when I get home – I’m stuck with a dinner meant for a family that I’ll be eating for the next three days or risk wasting the food.

My solution is to spend a day once a month or so preparing a number of meals and freezing smaller portions of those meals.

The first step is of course the grocery shopping – and I mention that just so I can plug my cool shopping bags. I love them. They are made from recycled-cotton and were made under fair-wage/fair-labor practices. They have dual handles – longer straps for the shoulder and shorter ones for the hand. I own four of them and can typically fit all of my groceries into them. Because of the shoulder straps I can easily carry all of my groceries in one trip and still have my hands free to open the door/turn off the alarm/keep the cat from getting out. After all, there’s no one inside for me to call and say “Hey! Come help me lug these things inside! I fit all of the groceries for the meals below into my four grocery sacks. (Plus some other misc groceries) I bought my bags at Go shopping!

Depending on the meal I either just do the prep work and freeze the uncooked food or I cook the entire meal and freeze the smaller portions that can be microwaved later. The food tastes better if you freeze it without cooking - - but then you run into the problem of freezing entire cooking entire casseroles still. If you’re cooking for a family – I’d definitely recommend that option.

Here is what I I cooked/prepped in my most recent cooking-day:
Chicken Divan
Cranberry-Orange Chicken
Sloppy Joes
Spaghetti Sauce
Pigs-in-a-Blanket (Breakfast)

I had planned on making Meatloaf as well – but forgot to reserve the beef when I started browning it.

Also, after cooking the Feta Chicken I don’t think I will freeze it (we’ll just do an “eat it for three days” thing) – as I don’t think the Feta in the Freezer will do well.

Beef Meals:

I formed hamburger patties with about 1.5 lbs of ground beef. Placed them in a freezer bag and froze. When I want a hamburger – I can pull out one patty, defrost in the microwave, and then slap it on the George Foreman.
I browned about 3.5 lbs of ground beef. I divided the meat into 1 1-lb freezer bag and 3 .5lb freezer bags. The 1lb I’ll use to make tacos. I can just put the frozen meat in a skillet and it’ll de-thaw and I can add the taco seasoning. The smaller bags I can use to make sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, or another recipe calling for browned ground beef. The remaining lb I left in the skillet - and added chili ingredients to make chili. I divided the chili up into small portions in freezer-safe bowls and those are now stacked in my freezer. I let the meals cool lightly covered in the fridge before sealing and transferring to the freezer.
I don’t really have recipes for any of those – they are just things I throw together.
The sloppy joes have ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar
The chili has beans, tomato sauce, onions, and chili pepper


I boiled two chicken breasts and let those cool over night for the Chicken Divan (it’s easier to cut when it’s cool) Then cooked the meal completely and froze individual portions.
Recipe: 3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 pks frozen brocc, cooked
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup mayo
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp lemon juice
Layer broccoli, then chicken in a casserole dish. Mix together mayo, soup, curry, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Spread over chicken. Top with shredded cheese. Bake 45 minutes at 350.

I prepared the Cranberry-Orange Chicken completely and froze individual portions.
Place four chicken breasts in a lightly greased casserole dish
In a small saucepan whisk together:
½ cup orange juice
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
¼ cup of honey
1 tbs cider vinegar
1 tbs soy sauce
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp Tabasco
Cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens (about 8 minutes) whisking often. Quickly dissolve 1 tsp cornstarch in 1 tbs water, whisk into cranberry mixture.
Pour over chicken and sprinkle with nuts (sliced almonds, chopped pecans or walnuts, etc. Bake 20—30 minutes at 450 until chicken is done.

This is sauce is rather sweet – so adjust accordingly if that’s going to bother you.

Again for each of those, divide into small freezer-safe containers, let cool lightly covered in fridge before sealing and transferring to the freezer.

The chicken-feta is really easy (though, again, I wouldn’t recommend freezing it)
Place chicken in a casserole dish. Drizzle with 1 tbs lemon juice. Salt and pepper chicken. Sprinkle with 4 oz. crumbled tomato-basil feta cheese. Drizzle with 1 Tbs lemon juice. Cook 30-40 minutes at 350 until chicken is done


This is my favorite breakfast food. You take the Pillsbury biscuit dough that comes in the four-can pack and cut the biscuit dough into strips. Wrap a strip of biscuit dough around a “lil’ smokie” sausage.

I put about 6-8 of these in a freezer bag and freeze. When I want pigs-in-a-blanket for breakfast I open the bag, defrost in the microwave for two minutes, and then put the sausages on a greased cookie sheet and cook for about 8-10 minutes at 350. (They don’t brown as easily when they’re frozen – so they don’t look as pretty but they still taste good!)

And, when you’re done – you have a number of meals ready to go or things ready to make a meal prep easier!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Projects

I have heard the sad news that Blueprint Magazine is being discontinued. Thankfully the blog will continue (see link on the right) - but I am going to miss the actual magazine arriving in my mailbox. I will spare you all the rant on their idea of replacing the magazine for their subscribers with Martha Stewart Weddings. Seriously? That's all I'm going to say about that.

The latest, and last, issue did give me some inspiration. On the cover of the Jan/Feb issue is a dresser that has a picture of a fancier dresser stuck on the front. It's very simple and unique.

I'm going to take an old dresser I have that I don't really use and turn it into a dining room storage thing. (Tablecloths, serving platters, etc) I'm going to paint the dresser green with the leftover paint from my frame project (with perhaps some brown or darker green accents) and then adhere an oversized clip-art to the front of the drawers. ('s really cool looking. I promise. If the magazine webpage had the cover up I'd direct you there, but they don't.) So - I've been browsing clip-art sites looking for something that fits me and the room.

I've fallen in love with many from the "Dover" collection on - they are black and white drawings of vintage looking...everything. I'm narrowing my search down with such terms as "dining" "kitchen" "cooking" and "waitress". They charge $14.95 for a week's subscription. So I'm thinking about buying it for a week and downloading anything and everything I like. Right now I'm just looking. Here are a few of my favorites at the moment. (This is more for my reference than anything - but feel free to comment on my choices)

Lady at a Kitchen Cabinet (I'd prefer a similar image without the lady)

Cooking Lady


Hits The Spot

Home Cooking

Excellent Food

Fine Foods

I probably won't have time to really work on this until the February break. (And I need to not spend money on the clip-art and getting the image enlarged to a poster-size until then anyway) However, I wanted to keep track of my image ideas for now. :)

I'll take pictures as the process goes along. I have a feeling this is one of my ideas where everyone is going to think I'm crazy until I get some pictures up.

there was also a really cool idea for "build your own Entertainment Center" - but that one will have to wait for perhaps a summer project.