Blog Archives

Death to Fruit Flies! (a freezer compost bin?)

We tried to be dedicated composters, we really did. But then the fruit fly invasion happened, and they were all over that side of the kitchen, and then they were all over the kitchen, and then they were all over the house…that was sort of the end of it.  We have continued sporadically, and whenever I have done any big cooking projects that involve a significant amount of food detritus (like canning tomatoes or making soup) I have gathered the goods and put them directly into the outdoor bin, and my husband tosses in the leaf-rakings or grass clippings, but it’s fallen sadly by the wayside. And once winter comes, I don’t know if I’ll even be inclined to do that.

So seeing this article about a freezer compost bin was really intriguing.

Part of me goes, “okay, why would I need to buy a schmantzy thing for my compost, I could just gather it in a yogurt tub in the freezer, couldn’t I?” Which is absolutely true.  On the other hand, the silicone “pop-it-out” feature is nice; that wouldn’t work with the plastic yogurt container.  On the third hand (as a crazed suburban mom, I of course need about 5 hands at any given moment, so don’t let this throw you), it doesn’t have a lid, and I’m a sloppy-freezer-user…I’d worry that it would get knocked over in there…

I don’t know…thoughts? Is this an awesome idea, or an attempt to capitalize on the Craze of Greenness?


When Culture Eludes Me

With a title like that, you were probably expecting something sort of deep for a topic, right? Like why it’s actually a stretch to think that we might get adequate climate change legislation in my lifetime, or how it is that we have all these hybrid cars on the market and most of them still get under 40mpg…or something genuinely green.

No, what I want to talk about is mom jeans.

I need help, all you my faithful friends, and if you call me a fashion-impaired loser behind my back (or even comment quietly that if my rear end were smaller I might not have this problem) I won’t mind, as long as I don’t hear you.  Take pity on me, and lend me your aid.

Most of you know my deep love for ebay shopping. I honestly don’t much like shopping in stores, since I don’t have any time anyhow, and at 5’10” I can so seldom find anything that fits me off the rack, anywhere.  It’s why I learned to sew. And it’s why I know exactly which companies sell “tall” pants and jeans, and regularly do ebay searches to find out if anyone is selling a pair. Which is how I ended up with the like-new olive-khaki pants you see at left.  For $5.99. Not bad, huh?

While the big pluses of ebay shopping include good prices (if you know how to work the system), giving second life to otherwise cast-away perfectly good clothes, and avoiding patronizing businesses with whose practices I take issue, the minuses include not exactly knowing what you’re going to get till you get it. For example–normally when I see “boot-cut” I can interpret it as meaning “not skinny around your ankles”–in short, fairly normal down to the hem, maybe a little wider. That’s what most “boot-cut” pants I have look like.  These suckers, in real life, have a little bell-bottom vibe.  Not a big deal–I can always alter the bottoms.  And until I have time to do that, I can wear them to work only on days I know I’m just going to be sitting around in my office not really seeing anyone. (Or going to a staff meeting.  I honestly could care less what the staff thinks of my clothing choices.) Or to the park with the kids.  Or I can pretend I’m doing the 70’s retro thing.  Or quote internet sites that say these are actually now sort of “in.”  In a way, thank God for ebay, because until pants I bought there started having this lower-rise thing going, I didn’t really pay much attention and was still looking for the pants I’d been accustomed to for years. (You know, pants with waistbands.)

No, my real problem is the hips. Because until fairly recently, because I do most of my shopping on ebay, I subsisted on “mom pants.” You know the ones, the things you could last purchase new in the 1990’s sometime, except from Lands End–nice long rise, waistband that sits at the –imagine!– waist, a couple of pleats onto that waistband allowing room for that abdominal curve and rear-end curvier curve, pants you can work and walk and sit and crawl around on the floor in. To me, for ages, they were just…pants.  Until I first heard a teenager (with about 2% body fat and low-rise jeans on) refer to them as “mom pants.”  And saw this Saturday Night Live spoof commercial. And even found the “guide to mom pants.” (Is there anything you can’t find on the internet?)

So okay.  Even though they are apparently making a comeback (is there any greater sign that one is a fashion ignoramus when something is making a “comeback” that you never really knew was gone?), most fashion-y sites say they are pretty much a no-go. Which I sort of knew, I was just in denial.  Because I crawl around on the floor a lot with my kids.

Unfortunately, the alternative becomes pants that sit at your hips.  I’m not talking crazy-low-rise, which are just not in my universe, but ordinary pants that sit about at the hips and don’t actually come up over the hip bones to sit at the waist (I mean, you see the picture, right? These are practically mom pants themselves). Because the waist has this nice feature–it keeps pants from sliding down your hips.

So, any of my dear friends who wouldn’t mind helping me out here–how in the heck do you wear pants that sit at your hips without their a) falling down (I was running to be on time for a rehearsal in a pair of these and I swear I thought they would fall down around my ankles), b) needing to be unattractively hitched up every ten minutes, c) displaying my seriously not-huge-but-certainly-present love handles to their best disadvantage, or any of the other pitfalls of not having on a pair of no-worries high-waist pants that stay exactly where you put them all day?  I’ve been struggling with this issue, silently in the despair of my room, for probably a couple of years now, and I am still lost.  Is the trick to wear them so tight they won’t go anywhere? That doesn’t sound like much fun.

Please, I need help. I need an intervention. I need wisdom and guidance. And most of all, I need pants that will stay up.

(And by the way–any of my other dear friends who still wear the mom pants–and yes, I honestly do too, because I have them and they fit and I can do anything in them–you should know that you can still find them on ebay, fairly often, though it’s rarer every day…we can band together as a sisterhood, secure in the knowledge that we will never sport plumber-cracks nor worry that the world will know what kind of underwear we have on, knowing that whatever activity we are called to, we are ready. Mom-pants wearers, unite!)

Do you ebay?

A few years ago I discovered ebay.

In case any readers live under a virtual rock, ebay is the huge online auction site where you can buy anything from clothes to a car to a peanut butter sandwich with the face of Jesus Christ in it. (I’m not making that up, though I might not remember the details correctly.  Some crazy thing like that was up on ebay for auction.) What some people may not know is how extensive it is.  It pretty much has changed the way I shop.

At first I thought of ebay only as a way to get what I wanted for much cheaper than I could get it in the store–which doesn’t always work; you have to pay attention, not lose your head, and do a lot of research about whatever you are buying.  And it’s a lot more work than walking into a store and going, “Okay, I’ll take that” and plunking down the plastic, or logging onto a retail website and doing the same. 

But after I saw “The Story of Stuff” and began thinking about how “carbon footprint” is about a lot more than how much garbage I generate or how many miles per gallon my car gets, I began to realize that my plan of buying cheap clothing for myself and my kids from big box stores and such, clothing that would wear out in a season and get tossed or sent to Goodwill (and probably get tossed) wasn’t even remotely carbon-savvy–and in the long run, probably not all that cost-savvy either.  So I started paying attention.

Now I buy almost all of my children’s clothes from other moms who make a few extra dollars for their families by selling their own kids’ gently used outgrown things.  Holiday dresses for my daughter especially are easy to find, since those kinds of things tend to be worn only once or twice and then outgrown, but it’s also a huge relief to spend just a few dollars per piece on already slightly worn play clothes and not have to worry if she spills allegedly-washable-but-we-moms-know-the-truth blue paint onto her new pink top.  My son’s knees and the ground seem to be great friends, so it’s better when the holes in the jeans happen in the used ones I paid $3 for than the brand-new ones I spent $14.99 on.

I occasionally find good stuff for myself, too–once you know what brand names and sizes fit well, you can just search for those.  It’s thrift store shopping from your living room, but a really big thrift store and you need to pay attention.

In my experience, most ebay sellers are good honest folks who just want to run a business and recognize the value of good customer service.  With a little experience, it’s not too hard to find the pitfalls and know what deals and sellers to avoid.

A few tips:

  1. Read ALL the small print. Assume nothing.
  2. If you are buying something to wear and the listing includes measurements, don’t assume it will fit just because you wear a Medium. Measure yourself and be sure.
  3. If the listing doesn’t provide enough information, ask.  And be wary–sellers who don’t know enough to include all the info in the listing are probably less experienced and might make mistakes.  You could get a great deal–or you could get burned.
  4. Check the return policy.  Every seller is different, so every seller sets his or her own policy. Also realize that unless your reason for return is entirely the seller’s fault, you will get back the purchase price but probably not the shipping costs. (See tips #6 and #7 regarding shipping costs!)
  5. Check your seller’s feedback rating.  Every transaction leaves the buyer with the option of leaving a feedback rating of positive, neutral, or negative for the seller. I personally never buy from a seller with less than a 99% positive feedback rating, and I always check the ratings to see where the negatives come from and if there’s a pattern. (Some sellers, you should understand, also get burned by dishonest buyers who leave negative feedback that’s not really deserved.)
  6. Ask questions about the item, if you have any at all.  Good sellers will respond quickly; a seller who doesn’t get back to me after maybe 48 ours at the latest is probably not someone I want to do business with anyway.
  7. Beware shipping fees–they can be huge, because they can include “handling fees” from the seller.  Remember that a $3 shirt you have to pay $14.95 in shipping for is essentially a $17.95 shirt.
  8. Check the item location and how long it will take to get to you. Increasingly, people in Hong Kong are selling on ebay, and these take a long time to arrive and usually cost a lot to ship.
  9. Don’t get caught up in the “OMG I might lose it!” thrill of the auction.  Rarely is there an item, at least in my world, that will never come up again or that is such a good deal that you can’t afford to miss it, and also such a hidden treasure that no one else will recognize it’s such a good deal and thus drive up the price till it’s not such a good deal after all.
  10. Obviously, increase your research/care/diligence as the cost of what you’re buying increases.  It’s one thing to get burned on a $15 coat, another to get jerked around on a $1200 computer.  On the other hand, I am typing this on a laptop computer I got for a really good price on ebay.
  11. Don’t assume that the “buy it now” price on any item is cheaper than you could get it retail.  Research, research, research!
  12. Consider using a sniping site, like or several others (do a Google search!).  There are mixed opinions about the ethics of sniping, but I personally think it’s a great field-leveller.  It sort of turns things into a closed-envelope auction.  When bidding on ebay, you put in the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for an item, and the actual bid only goes to the lowest necessary to top the next highest bid.  So if you say you’ll go to $15 and the previous bidder only put in up to $10, your bid will stand at $11 or so unless someone else says they’ll go to, say, $13, in which case you’ll still be winning but your bid will automatically go up to $14. And so on.  If you just place a bid on an item and someone else wants it, they may place another bid and keep inching up to see how far your bid will go, and that’s how bidding wars happen and folks end up paying much more than they should.  What happens when you sign on with a sniping site is that you put in your maximum bid amount there, and the site automatically places your bid during the last 7 seconds or so of the auction.  That way you decide in advance what you’re willing to pay, and you take away both your and the other bidders ability to hem and haw and inch up your amount.  I just think it’s smart.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  But a lot of people snipe these days, so it’s at least important that you know how it works.

I think that’s most of it–happy bidding!