We think we in the 21st century invented green living? Huh. We’ve got nothing on our parents’ generation. My folks, both born in 1934, each grew up with the Depression-era philosophy of “why buy when you can make do?” And they’re still following that directive. My mom saves plastic butter tubs and bread bags for leftovers, my dad turns paper over to print on the other side and they would never think of going out and buying tomato stakes. This is their backyard garden in Tennessee, and you can see that they definitely reuse and recycle — from the rusted metal fence posts to the strips torn from old cotton sheets to the outdoor artwork of flags decorating the iron headboard from a vintage bed. And they water the flourishing tomato and pepper plants with leftover ice. When the ‘maters are ready to eat, my dad probably will put a salt shaker out there for the freshest possible eating. I just hope they share.
My family’s weekly trip to the recycling center in Florence, Alabama — shamefully, our own nearby town doesn’t recycle — usually is simply one more item on the to-do list, but every once in awhile we’ll stumble onto a mystery. Such as a recent visit when we found this collection of remote-control toys carefully placed on the recycling altar and bravely waiting the recycling-forklift fate. We were immediately nosy intrigued and wanted the backstory. Were the robot, monster truck and fire engine broken? Was it a punishment: “If you hit your sister one more time, we’re taking your new toys to the recycling center?” Was a revengeful woman somewhere gloating over finally getting rid of her husband’s/boyfriend’s obsessions? Or — and this is the explanation my family favored — had we inadvertently stumbled onto some sort of Toy Story-esque rescue operation that got halted as we humans approached? And as for the Bob Marley poster … well, use your own imagination. I got nothin’ — except to say, “Let’s get together and feel all right.” (Which is the only Bob Marley song I know and that’s because of the Jamaica commercial. But I really like it.)
On our way to Louisiana’s Cajun Country for a wedding this past weekend, my friends and I spent a day in Mississippi doing some of things we do best: Eating and shopping. And stumbling on Wacky Ideas That Might Come In Handy Sometime Because You Never Know. Like these two examples that solve the problem of what do you do with all those 45s/albums/CDs that you will never ever listen to again? At the 101 Cafe in Brookhaven, Mississippi — a funky sandwich spot with a very cool 1960s-hippie vibe — one of the walls was decorated with a huge peace sign made out of old 45s. I love this idea — how great would it be for a rec or media room? And then at Upscale Resale — a fun consignment shop in Jackson, Mississippi — we found this gleaming and holographic mobile made out of CDs. Now, this is true recycling! Check back tomorrow for one more Cajun Week post — I saved the best for last!
My younger daughter Carolyn is a master at recycling and reusing when it comes to making gifts. She is so creative and talented — proof that genetics skips a generation because she did not get those characteristics from me. Inspired by Natalie Chanin’s how-to guide “Alabama Stitch Book,” Carolyn’s latest project is making these tea towels* from thrift-store T-shirts. She shops for the colors she wants, then cuts out the solid pieces of fabric from the shirts and plans her embroidery and reverse-applique designs. We recently spotted towels just like this in a Birmingham gift shop for $25 — she’s got less than $1 in each towel and the embroidery goes fast, so making them is definitely a money-saver. Plus, I think it’s her therapeutic stress-relief. These are so wonderful that I’m counting on her to make my old age rich and comfortable. Isn’t it nice to know that your children will take care of you?
And if you haven’t seen a copy of Natalie Chanin’s book, you’re missing out. It would make a wonderful Christmas gift for any crafters on your list. Natalie is a fashion designer who returned to her northwest Alabama roots several years ago. Her company specializes in gorgeously hand-quilted clothing made from recycled fabric. Check out her Web site at http://www.alabamachanin.com/ to learn more. Carolyn’s first project out of “Alabama Stitch Book” was this past year when she tried her hand — literally! — at making this bandana. She’s gone on to make several for family and friends out of old and vintage T-shirts, including one she made for her sister, Liz, from the blue T-shirt Carolyn was wearing on the day Liz’s first baby — Nolan Thomas Behel — was born. I remain in awe of my children’s talent and imagination. Who would have thunk it back when it was a struggle to get them to finish their homework???
* Tea towel — a Southern term for a pretty cotton or linen towel used exclusively for drying delicate dishes and silverware
What can I say? My husband and I live on the edge. Taking our paper/plastic/cardboard recycling to the center in nearby Florence, Ala., is a weekly chore on our to-do list, and the status of the aging and always overflowing bins there is a hot topic of our conversation. So naturally we were overjoyed to see that the city of Florence recently replaced some of the old and creaky bins with larger and shinier ones. The question, of course, is: Did the city of Florence recycle the old bins? Inquiring minds want to know.