NYE is a time for reflection: appreciating the good, honoring accomplishments, acknowledging struggles, rewarding hard work, and filling with hope for all the magic that lies ahead.
By Janeen Ellsworth
What a year it has been!
We started this journey of Reductionism together in May of this year, and it's been a wonderful trip! Thank you for being here with me--through every re-used plastic container, every high-quality air filter, every saved drop of water!
Ahhh, the memories... Want to take a waltz down memory lane with me? Check out this little picture movie of all we've achieved!
I'm thinking long and hard about what 2019 will look like and all the things we can make happen together!
But now is a time for focusing on good luck, and for doing all we can to bring it into our lives.
There are, of course, so many food traditions for taking care of that.
New Year's pretzels like these braided beauties, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, are thought to bring good luck to us because of their ring-like shape. Think of them as continuous cycles of goodness that recirculate through our lives all year long.
Back before I knew my way around active dry yeast, I used that bland frozen dough from the freezer section of the grocery store to make my pretzels. But given that my old part-time job in high school was being a certified pretzel roller at Auntie Anne's (seriously, I attended a weekend training workshop in Lancaster, PA, met Auntie Anne herself, and received a certificate!) I'm trying this copycat recipe of those delicious favorites this year!
And then I make split pea with ham soup because the green peas symbolize coins, i.e. wealth, which I need a whole bunch of! Ham or pork is considered lucky because pigs are known to 'root forward,' which is what I'm doing to bring prosperity in the new year. I use Emeril's recipe, and it's been a sure-fire hit every single time.
Of course there are black eyed peas that also signify coins; any leafy greens like kale, cabbage or collards that symbolize cash; and any variety of pig byproduct like kielbasa or bacon. Before we hit Pittsburgh's First Night celebration this evening, we'll be enjoying sauerkraut with kielbasa, seasoned blackeyed peas, ham & split pea soup, and kale chips along with our pretzels!
Beyond food, I love this holiday for making New Year's resolutions--which don't have to pin us down to unrealistic goals like losing 50 pounds. They're just about setting good intentions to start the year off on a positive note.
In 2019, I'm resolving to let less food go bad in my fridge--to use every scrap before it's too late, so that less goes in the trash.
How about you? What are your food traditions for this holiday, and what kind of resolutions are you contemplating? I'd love to know!
Enjoy every final moment of this wild and wondrous year while it lasts, and here's to a happy, healthy, prosperous 2019 for all!
Think outside the roll of wrapping paper this Christmas. Prevent waste & save resources instead!
By Janeen Ellsworth
I come from the kind of family that hollers at each other for tearing gift wrap off of presents too aggressively.
For as long as I can remember, the phrase “Be careful!” has been shouted at every birthday and Christmas celebration by at least one Irish Mother Hen, directed at any child attempting to enjoy the act of receiving.
“Don’t rip that paper or we’ll never be able to use it again!” they always say.
Which might explain some things about me.
Who’s with me?
We can get creative, thinking beyond the confines of your average glossy, festive gift bag--which, if you’re not reusing every year until they’re mangled beyond repair, you should be ashamed of yourself! (At least that’s what the Irish Mother Hens in my family would say!)
I’ve gone ahead and gathered up a bunch of alternative gift wrap ideas from around the web-o-sphere to share with you, and I’ve added in a few of my own to get you thinking outside that new roll of wrapping paper before your gift-prep commences. Ready, set, wrap!
Brown Paper or Fabric
Blogger Kristen Lindsay offers ideas that are sleek and classic, often using stuff you might already have around your house: think brown paper (like shopping bags turned inside out, or the stuffing you get inside delivery boxes), or ordinary burlap, with a sprig of evergreen added to fancy it up. She even gives a tutorial on DIY-ing your own fabric gift bag, draw string and all. Boom!
Towels or Blankets
Wellness Mama blogger and author, Katie Wells, has lots of cool ideas. In particular, I like the idea of making your wrapping an actual part of the gift itself: as in, wrap that new body lotion gifty inside a nice towel or blanket and you’ve got yourself a two-fer. Genius!
Maps, Sheet Music & Other Odds and Ends
And I found this link from Lindsay over at Passionate Homemaking in a vault from ten years ago—which feels like a century in blogging years--but it still applies, because we’re still trying to figure out how to be “frugal and green” at the same time. I love her idea of using old sheet music or even a map as wrapping paper.
Shabby, Chic & Anything in Between
You could take it a step further and yank old pages right out of your kid’s coloring books to wrap a small present. Or the phone book. Or an out-of-date encyclopedia, which probably has some great photos. If the item to be wrapped is small enough, you could fashion this darling paper cone, secure it with tape, and hide that little prize inside.
If the gift that needs wrapping is large, do like my grandma, Mimi, always did, and wrap your gifts in the comics section of the newspaper. The receiver of your gift will get to enjoy Family Circus or Cathy punchlines before (and after!) they tear it open (yes, these comics are still around!).
At my house, we like to decorate our own wrapping paper. You know those big sheets of cream-colored paper that stores send your breakables home wrapped in? We reuse those and really any paper that comes in delivery boxes. Smooth them out as best you can, then hand your kid a couple of daubers or markers and have them get to work making dots or designs. Soon you’ll have lovely polka-dotted wrapping paper that looks cheerful and festive.
Gifts in the Buff…(or not)
My husband, the original Reductionist, is a huge fan of not bothering to wrap stuff at all. Sure, he might stick a (reused) bow on top of a gift, like he does my dark chocolate candy bars (ahem, honey, did you remember?) every year.
But a fully naked gift that’s just sitting there under the tree with no cloak at all probably won’t go over well for your average gift-receiver who’s more accustomed to traditional wrapping.
That’s why Christmas stockings come in so handy. I suppose you could stuff just about anything into an old sock and call it a day, but when you’re stuffing a stocking, why bother wrapping that present, too? Definitely go nudist when you’re inside the cover of red faux-velvet.
I love receiving a gift that’s got a doodad like a cookie cutter or tree ornament tied into the bow, which can really take a plain burlap box to the next level. Plus, extra prize! And, as some other eco bloggers have suggested, tucking a sprig of greenery, or a happy note even, into the ties of a string can make it so much more memorable and appreciated.
I want to see how creative your holiday wrapping ideas go! Send me pics of how you’re presenting your presents! Share them on Facebook or Instagram and tag me!
I'm Janeen; writer, mother, wife, and full-time, radical Reductionist. I share stupid-easy tips on how to save money while reducing your impact on the environment, & I'm committed to helping others live a life of simple sustainability.
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