Playing is how we learn

By now you’ve seen some of the projects I’ve done using plastic bread bags and leftover yarn. I’ve also made some using clothesline rope and yarn. I love playing with ideas (where do I get my ideas? Youtube, Pinterest, and looking at other artist’s work).

Here are some of the ornaments that I made using clotheline rope and yarn – the first one uses the loop back method to create a hole for hanging the ornament (see first picture).

Ornament
Ornament

I have loads of jewelry findings, so I dug through my stash for end caps that had hooks or holes for a way to hang the ornaments, and used those for the two larger ornaments. And these are indeed large, about 6 inches in diameter…which would look great on a big tree or hanging in a window.

Ornament

I am also trying to figure out what to use as a wire form in order to make a tree topper – I would make a “round” ornament and affix it to the “stand” so it could be slid over the top bough or branch. My challenge is both to make it sturdy and pleasing to the eye, as well as to use materials that might otherwise be in the trash/landfill. I’ll let you all know what I come up with. If you have any ideas, please feel free to message!

My current focus project is making a bunch of small “baskets” to use as soft sculpture on a canvas using cut up bread bags (we eat a ton of breads and bagels even when I regularly bake sour dough). Yes, yes, I know I am all over the place – I just like to work on lots of things – and sometimes paint needs to dry or glue needs to set – so I have other things to do while that is happening.

I picked coordinated “Fall” colors – and will make several of these smaller “baskets” which I plan to affix to a framed canvas (which I will paint ahead of time). I could also see these easily on an Autumn themed wreath or as part of a table centerpiece. You are only limited by your imagination! Plus I am prepping some fabric scraps to use to make some baskets, as well!


I was recently interviewed for “A Heart For Writing” with Joan Raymond, and I mentioned that I will be putting together a book on how to do many of these crafted items. I hope you will stay tuned and also give your input about what you would like to know more about and which projects are the most interesting to you.

Until next time, remember “Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose” – every little bit counts!

Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose

I save plastic bags. The zip lock type – I wash, dry, and reuse. Bread and english muffin/bagel bags, I save and use for pet waste…but even that makes me feel bad, because it goes into the land fill.

Recently I was browsing Pinterest, looking at what kinds of things I could do with a lot of the waste that goes into the recycle bin – and I found a post where someone was crocheting plastic bag “plarn” into mats for the homeless. I don’t have enough to make “plarn” (plastic bag yarn) but it did remind me that the bags could be used as the core of something else.

Plastic bread bag strips used instead of rope for a coil basket.

I have made a couple of baskets using bread bags cut into three inch strips and folded to make a “rope” to wrap leftover yarn around – and voila! Coiled baskets!

Here are the first two that I have made:

These were relatively easy and a lot of fun — as well as therapeutic, as it gives me something to do while listening to audio books. 🙂 .

I may give a shot at making plarn if I ever amass enough shopping sized bags but in the meantime I will be playing around with using fabric remnants and yarn to make coiled baskets and coasters. Maybe even a rug! It keeps them all out of the landfill and makes fun artsy items for the house.

Do you make stuff with plastic bags? I’d love to hear about it and share it!

The “real” pandemic

It has been hard to focus on anything these last two years. I’ve had a lot of false starts and failed experiments, and I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned a lot about pandemics. I’ve learned a lot about how people deal with pandemics. I’ve learned a lot about how people process information (and information overload).

Ultimately the “real” pandemic seems to be a contagious form of rage.

You might wonder what rage might have to do with sustainable living, and learning how to have a higher quality of life with less “stuff”.

Part of the answer is just that there is such a disparity in addressing how to live on less. For those who currently live paycheck to paycheck – transitioning their thinking is not only hard, it may be impossible.

For example: a person making minimum wage and lucky enough to have a place to live, may not have access to fresh vegetables or the time to prepare them, since it is likely they are working two jobs to be able to afford the apartment they are living in. When you live with scarcity, you tend to hold on to and try to accumulate as much as possible. You cannot simply check to see if something gives you joy… you see what I mean?

And with the lockdowns of the last two years, if you were one of those folks doing a minimum wage job, you also found yourself in danger of losing wages due to being sick, or if the business had to close, or worse – being assaulted for trying to maintain mask mandates.

Everyone has had reasons to build up rage. Frustrations and stress are the building blocks to rage. And people who are angry tend to make everyone around them angry, too.

One thing that has become apparent, is that to counter this rage pandemic, we need to help each other. Treat each other kindly. And share our resources.

One way to share is to look for a community Buy Nothing Project Group. the concept is that if you have something that is still usable, instead of throwing it away, you offer it up to someone else in your community, who might need it. Clothing, food, appliances, baby stuff, craft stuff – whatever. And if you need something, you simply ask – and if someone wants to gift you, they do. It keeps things out of the landfill. It shares the abundance in a community. It builds relationships – many new friends have been made through sharing on the Buy Nothing groups.

Just a little reminder to you that you can do something about the rage pandemic, at the grass roots.

Be well.

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Changing things up a bit

I’ve blogged for years. Literally years – more than a decade, less than a quarter of a century. And while I love blogging, I haven’t been great at self-promotion; it isn’t a strength of mine. I have no problem with promoting others and therein is my epiphany moment.

I have explored a variety of platforms and have decided to publish a bi-weekly newsletter about sustainability for every day life. And I will be scouring the internet to find people who are doing interesting things in sustainability – recycling, upcycling, reusing, growing, foraging, teaching, sharing – whatever it is that is being done to creatively find ways to live responsibly; because I love interviewing people and I love sharing their stories.

If you know someone or ARE a person who is doing something good for the planet CONTACT ME – I would love to talk with you, interview you, share your good works with the world.

Email me at: Natalia@serroc.com and use “Changing things up a bit” in the subject line. Let me know what you are doing, what part of the world (time zone) you are in and whether you prefer a phone call or Zoom or an email list of questions for your interview…and I will answer you to schedule an interview about what you are doing and how it benefits the world. And it will go in my newsletter, and get promoted and shared. Helps you, helps me, and inspires others to do what they can, to make the world a better place (hopefully).

Got kids?

If you have kids, then you probably have a chunk of closet/drawer space filled with clothes your kids have already outgrown, but are still good. Maybe you’ve thought about recycling them or donating them. Here’s one more choice for you: It is called “Rockets of Awesome” and it is a kid’s clothing subscription box service, that also has a program called “Rockets Reverse” which lets you send the clothing that the kids have outgrown back for store credit.

The Rockets of Awesome subscription lets you preview the selections, and if you (or rather – if the kid) doesn’t like some of the clothes, they can be returned in the box they arrived in.

The Rockets Reverse is for “worn” clothing (aka used) that is in good shape and you get to return that stuff for store credit – and it doesn’t have to be their brand of clothes being “Reversed” …so it is a win/win for those growing kids and the best part (according to kids I have asked) is that the clothes are “cool” and “fun”.

Currently this company only ships to the Continental USA (sorry guys and gals – if you are in other parts of the USA and the world).

Got more questions about “Rockets of Awesome? Here is the link to their FAQs – CLICK HERE.

Shelter in place

If you are sheltering in place or just trying to maintain social distance, now is a good time to review your emergency plans.

What? You don’t have an emergency plan?

Whether you live on a fault line, in a blizzard prone area or flood zone, or in an area that gets hurricanes and/or tornadoes – in otherwords wherever you live – you should have an emergency plan.

That means:

  1. Figuring out where you will go, should the order to evacuate be issued. You should identify at least two alternatives: one that you know how to get to if you have to walk; and your first choice if your transportation is usable.
  2. Figuring out how you will get there (what if you cannot use your car? no buses?)
  3. Figuring out what to bring. This will depend on what you (and your family and pets) can carry. At the very least you should have your identification in something that is waterproof. If you can have a “bug out” back pack ready to go, all the better – make sure you put copies of all your important documents and prescriptions in a waterproof container in the bag.

For example, I have a foldable wagon that I will use if I have to walk with my pets to evacuate. I have a carrier for the cat, and the dog has a back pack that he will wear to carry some stuff too. I’ll have my backpack and then additional water and food in the wagon with the cat in her carrier.

If we need to evacuate and can use the car, all of that except the cat and dog, will go in the trunk. Dog in the back seat, cat up front with me. Hubby in his car filled with his stuff and our extra food/water. We know where we will meet up and caravan out to our safe spot.

When figuring out what to bring with you, make sure you roll any of your clothes into a plastic sealable bag in your backpack – you’ll use those plastic bags for a variety of things should you have to go to a shelter. The added benefit is that if it is raining, you will have dry clothes at the end of the trip. 🙂


Also now is a good time to review your other emergency plans. If you have a family, have a few fire drills… so everyone remembers what to do. And has some practice.

Double check the smoke alarms and the carbon dioxide alarm. Take this time to also unplug unused appliances and check the water taps for leaks.

Be safe and be ready!

Oil – The Tangled Web

One of the greatest challenges we have as a planet, is to divest ourselves of our dependence on oil. And it is naive to think that we can simply stop drilling and transfer our energy needs to solar and wind, and other alternative sources of energy – because oil is much, much more than an energy source. 

Image created in Canva.com

Oil and its byproducts are used in so many other ways that it can boggle the mind! In an article from Earth Science Week, meant to be used as a classroom study guide we see this alarming statistic:

“…an April 2007 nationwide online survey revealed that 72 percent of the American public does not know that conventional plastic is made from petroleum products, primarily oil.”

A while ago I wrote a scifi/speculative fiction story “Not With A Bang But With A Whimper”. The premise?  What if, in trying to  rid the world of plastics, someone weaponized plastic eating bacteria and it got lose? 

There is, in fact, research being done on bacteria that will eat plastic as a means to reduce the plastic pollution that is ubiquitous now. You can read about this in these articles:

Scientists Accidentally Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic Bottles

Plastic Eating Bacteria

There is also research being done to genetically engineer bacteria to eat garbage and create plastics (so that we continue to have plastic, just not made from oil) see article here:  Genetically Engineered Bacteria Turn Garbage to Plastic .

But what can we do to reduce plastics and our dependence on oil, over and above its use as fuel?

Well that is where we come to the tangled web. Because petroleum (oil) is used currently in over 6000 products, many of which you probably wouldn’t ever guess. We all know our homes are rife with plastics – combs, glasses, upholstery, the jar of petroleum jelly that sits in most medicine cabinets, utensils, clothing and more.  

But did you realize that it is also in: aspirin, shampoo, deodorant, glue, ink, dyes, candles, crayons, soft contact lenses, detergents, antiseptics, rubbing alcohol, perfumes and anesthetics?

There is a more comprehensive list of the “everyday” items at WHGBETC.com , though by no means a complete list.  Just take a moment to think about how many of these items are in your homes, vehicles, and workplaces.

Now think of what you would have to do or find to replace these items with something that is not made of or with petroleum products. Not so easy, is it?

We cannot simply quit buying plastic bottles of water, and think we’ve done our part in reducing the amount of plastic in the world.  

Recycling helps, see the article in Scientific American: Has Recycling Lived Up To Its Promises  and this article by the Plastic Industry: The Potential of Recycled Plastics.  

The bottom line is that education, awareness, and actively looking for alternatives to the plastics we use, will bring us farther along to the goal of less dependence on oil.  And yes, it will cost us more in the short term, but in the larger picture we will be leaving less of a mess for our children and their children. That is an investment I am willing to make.

The paradox of the fixed income (aka: Should I get a roommate?)

Living smaller is a choice. And being on a fixed income, such as for older people on Social Security with little retirement/savings – it is a necessity.

Many older people are now considering the option of having roommates or homesharing. Our culture has, for decades, encouraged individuals to be independent until starting their own families…so this is a difficult shift for many people and may feel like “going backward”. Especially as they have become used to their solitude, privacy, and routines.

Yet the financial reality is, that if you are in a big home with many bedrooms, it is a burden to care for and pay for. Even if you are lucky enough to have paid off your mortgage – utilities and taxes continue to climb, while your income is fixed.

And if you do not own property, rents continue to rise, as well as healthcare costs. While your income stays the same.

It is a “no-brainer” to look for roommates in your age group when finances are fixed. And there are some applications out there such as Silver Nest at www.silvernest.com  and Senior Home Shares at www.seniorhomeshares.com. But they are not yet well-known.

And of course, sharing a place is not for everyone – there are many considerations – such as:

  • Do you have pets?
  • Does the home-owner or apartment renter have pets?
  • What happens when you want to have visitors?
  • What about family?
  • What happens if there is a medical emergency?
  • What happens if the person you are renting from – dies?
  • What happens in the event of a natural catastrophe (earthquake, fire, etc)?
  • What happens if there is a burglary?

Plus is it truly a “roommate” arrangement with shared responsibilities or are you simply renting a room?

While you answer those questions for yourself, there are upsides to shared living for seniors:  Companionship and Safety.

You may not think you need to have someone to say “good morning” to, but it is good for your health to interact amiably with another human being; and if you have a roommate, and you have a medical emergency – there is someone there who can call for help. And surprisingly for some, having a roommate, ensures a few more years of independence.

So if you are on a fixed income, and thinking of living smaller to help make your dollars stretch a little further, consider a roommate.

 

 

Freecycle.org

Once every couple of years I do an article on Freecycle.org (established in 2003)- like this one I did on Narrative.org : https://www.narrative.org/post/the-freecycle-network-tm – and while I know that not everyone who tries to use this service has had a stellar experience, those bad experiences are the result of other users, not the service itself.

Their mission: “Freecycle aims to keep items out of landfills by providing an internet listings service to help people give unwanted items to someone else for free in their own community. Keeping stuff out of landfills helps build a sustainable future, is good for the environment and builds local and world communities.”

Since researching it again for my Narrative article, I noticed that the City I recently moved to had a post saying they were looking for moderators. I am currently a moderator-in-training for the Moreno Valley group.  If you browse the groups available, you will find that there are groups all over the United States and all over the world from Albania to Zimbabwe.

When you join one (or more) of the groups, the Moderator will send you a welcome email with all the rules and how-to’s. Very simple, and easy to use – if you have something you no longer need that is clean and safe – you can post it as an “Offer” if you need something – you can post it as a “Wanted”.

The rules specify the no-nos and they make perfect sense for safety and liability reasons. And the Moderators job is to make sure that those simple rules are adhered to, and to help publicize the service.

I support anything that keeps usable items out of the trash – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and this is one of the ways we can all do that, while helping others.

A quick suggestion to you, gentle reader: If you know of a non-profit that looks for donations of goods (for example: old towels for animal rescues) – share Freecycle.org with them. It is one more way for them to get their message out and ask for the items they need. 

 

Cryptocurrency and living smaller

If you follow my blog, you are probably wondering about the nep-5 wallet and the links for cryptocurrency, and for those who have not already invested in Bitcoins, or looked into cryptocurrencies – I believe it will be a boon to you in your search for making a living while living your life.

Many people who are pursuing downsizing, do so because they are searching for ways to make the most of the salaries they are receiving, while keeping debt at bay. Some people pursue tiny living, in order to speed up paying off debts in the hopes of “getting out from under” the massive debts that seem to pervade our society. And once someone has “gone smaller” they seek ways to provide alternate incomes in case they are “downsized” at work, or when seeking to work less and live more.

Cryptocurrency has been around for awhile. Like many technologies, early adopters were more technically educated and could get their heads around shifting and expanding their definition of money.

After all, money is a symbol that we use to barter for goods and services. The days when that money had actual gold and/or silver to back up the stated value of the currency have passed away. (If you don’t believe me look at old money versus newly printed money. Example: a 1935 E series One Dollar Bill “silver certificate” is currently being sold for $299 dollars on Etsy.com).

Once the concept of cryptocurrency became well understood by the technologists of the world, many other cryptocurrencies were being created, and today there are as many (or more) cryptocurrencies out there as there are paper currencies.

What are some of the advantages of cryptocurrencies?

  1. They are faster to send and receive, and have lower (and sometimes no) extra fees to handle. So things like “remittances” being sent from one country to family in another country, can more easily be done with smaller amounts of money.
  2. Developers who create games, can establish an economy that is based on pennies (or fractional amounts of whatever currency) and still make money, because there are not those heavy bank fees to contend with.
  3. “Tipping” and “Donating” can happen worldwide, because the currency is easy to transport in the internet and easy to convert.

Some disadvantages are:

  1. You need to establish a wallet or wallets, virtually, to receive and send from; and the “key” to these is often a long string of characters, making it hard to remember and to secure. For example, if you keep your wallet on your computer and your computer crashes – boom, no money. You need to keep a copy of the wallet on a usb stick (also known as a thumb drive, or jump drive), in case – which means remembering to back things up regularly.
  2. Also, not all wallets work for all currencies, so you may wind up with a few wallets.
  3. The process of buying, transferring, and spending cryptocurrency; while it is “simple” is not EASY, and you must truly pay attention to the details, and be focused on what you are doing. Because if you transfer currency to a wallet that is not compatible, you will (usually) lose that currency. It is like putting your money in your pocket but your pants don’t actually have a pocket, so the money falls to the ground wherever you happen to be…

The fact is there are growing numbers of ways to make cryptocurrency on the internet, from connecting your blog to a browser that allows “tipping” in the form a the BAT cryptocurrency (Brave which also allows you to keep those intrusive popups and video autoplays that eat up your bandwidth) to sites that allow you to earn cryptocurrency with your original content (Narrative, Publish0x, Steemit) and the variety of mining sites (CryptoTab – a chrome compatible browser that mines Bitcoins while you browse) and faucets (sites that let you “collect” bitcoins during time intervals in the hopes that you will spend time playing games or looking at their advertisements). I am certain, as people become more comfortable with cryptocurrencies, we will see even more ingenious ways to make money with them.

And of course, there is the old fashioned approach, as well – which is investing in cryptocurrencies. A site like Coinbase,  allows you to invest and also keep your currency in the coinbase wallets. It doesn’t handle all currencies, but it does have some of the major players – plus while it lasts – they have instructional videos to teach about the various currencies, and once you have registered an account with them, you can go through the videos and earn some of the currency they are teaching you about.

If you are already making a living, or at least a side hustle that pays in cryptocurrency – please share you experiences!

If you have questions, ask them, and I’ll try to get you the answer.

Cryptocurrency is the next evolution in “money” – here’s hoping you have good experiences with it.