What’s in my Window #4: Lungwort

When I finished hanging a fresh harvest of lungwort leaves in my kitchen window this week, I came to three telling realizations.

#1: I realized that I’ve posted a few things already about what’s hanging in my kitchen window. First, I talked about basil seed; next, basil leaf; then stevia.

#2: I also realized that I have hung many things in my kitchen window the past few months that haven’t received a post: sage, roses, and my all new Costa Rican seed-saving gourd (more on those later, no doubt).

#3: My third realization was more poetic: this kitchen window often acts as a window into the Hipsterly habits of this House Husband. There’s always a frugal/industrious/resourceful reason for my efforts to preserve the various things that hang in my window. I have an obligation to share these things.

So starts this recurring “series” in which I will detail the items in my window and the ways I plan to use them.

Back to the lungwort. Over the winter, I was looking up different kinds of teas that we could add to our little rooftop garden in the spring. I found some information on lungwort, which grows in large quantities in our backyard already. I was taken aback by all the benefits that this plant offers when dealing with the ailments of the lung: coughs, congestion, asthma, etc. It can also be used as a poultice on open wounds. This is a plant all hipsters should love: it’s European in origin, and you’ve probably never even heard of it. In fact lungwort is given credit for helping to curb the Black Plague in Europe in the 1300s. Who knew? I do, now.

Frankly, I was skeptical, but it wasn’t until late April when my wife and I both caught a springtime flu that we were able to put this to the test. Both of us suffered from the flu-induced cough and congested lungs. What a prime opportunity to give this lungwort tea a try. As soon as it had begun to grow back in early spring, I had harvested a few handfuls of leaves and let them dry. To make tea, simply steep in boiling water for 10 minutes. While the flavor is unique, it isn’t bad. Honey helps, or even stevia if you have any of that growing. More importantly, it really helps reduce the cough! Awesome, now I make my own medicine. (Also, I should probably put in a disclaimer about not being a doctor and how you should always consult with a physician, etc.)

Lungwort flowering in early April in my backyard.

Fast forward 30 days, and the lungwort in our backyard is loving life and growing like crazy. This week I harvested a huge amount of large leaves and tied them like a ristra of chiles to proudly hang in my window. Now I can’t wait to get a cough again…and that’s what’s hanging in my kitchen window.

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Tacos and Styrofoam

I like tacos. No, I really like tacos.

Reading this, you might think that we have something in common, but I’m still pretty sure that I like tacos more than you. This particular culinary curiosity has led me to be a bit of a taco snob. In terms of hipsterisms, being snobby isn’t something new. Lots of hipsters are beer snobs or coffee snobs or music snobs or technology snobs or bicycle snobs or etc etc. You get the point, right?

I’m going to say this here first: I am a taco snob before it is cool.

This taco snobbery has kept me in pursuit of the perfect taco: authentic, flavorful, meaty; juicy but not wet, loaded but not messy, soft but not chewy. I’m not talking about the kind wrapped in a Dorito shell or the “$1 taco Tuesdays” at the local pub. My taco has to have the right aroma, the right mouthfeel, the right finish.

The trouble is, all of the places where I have found the most flavorful and delicious tacos tend to be less environmentally minded and more focused on making great tacos. That’s all well and good until you order something To Go and you get a pile of styrofoam containers. As a responsible hipster, I can’t just throw a styrofoam container in the trash where it will end up in a landfill for thousands of years. My disdain for styrofoam even quashes my quest for taco goodness. And this is no isolated problem: gyros, falafels, curries, phos…all seem slated with the same styrofoam situation.

Worry no more, for this resourceful hipster has found a solution. Just because the curbside recycling won’t accept styrofoam doesn’t mean that I can’t recycle it. I just needed to put a little more effort into where I could go to get it recycled. After a little bit of research, I found a drop-off location not far from our apartment. In fact, the joy that I felt was so great, that I had to share this with the neighbors in our building. We printed out an announcement and distributed throughout our building. Now everyone recycles styrofoam!

My guilt-ridden taco-eating days are gone. I can enjoy my [warning: bad pun ahead] Hunt for Best Tacober free from the tyranny of the toxic container. Speaking of which, writing this post has made me really hungry for tacos. Gotta go.

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Exercise your OCD

My wife is super athletic, and with this gift she teaches ballet and fitness in a number of locations around the county. My wife is also incredibly empathetic: she doesn’t just relate to your feelings, but she joins in feeling them with you. This means three things (among others):

  1. She is an amazing teacher. No matter what she’s teaching, she is really able to understand each student’s level and give corrections that drastically and specifically benefit the individual student. 
  2. She is great at watching TV. Every emotion that the writers want the audience to feel, she feels. Fear, excitement, anxiety, anticipation, joy. It’s all there in every episode. She is the best at watching TV.
  3. She is serious at…let’s call it persistent encouragement. If you aren’t doing something that she knows needs to be done for your benefit, she will persistently encourage you to do that thing because she feels how beneficial it is for you.

For me, I am persistently encouraged by my wife to exercise. Her persistent encouragement towards this end only comes from a place of her own desire to exercise and be healthy. As she loves me, she has this same desire for me to be healthy, and thus comes the persistent encouragement for me to exercise.

So this weekend I did some exercise. I exercised my OCD.

Have you ever tried putting Q-Tips in a clear storage container? Both sides are so fluffy and heavy relative to the thin lightweight center beam. And they just scream to be evenly stacked like they appear in their packaging. I have tried various methods of placing Q-Tips in our Q-Tip container, but my OCD has not allowed me to quickly and easily throw a couple of handfuls of Q-Tips in the jar. Instead, the only method that will give me visual satisfaction is to place each Q-Tip in the jar one at a time. This way I can be sure that they are all evenly placed.

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At this point I’ve become quick enough at this particular exercise that it only takes me about thirty minutes, but I continue to write this post more as a confession than anything else. I don’t have an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder most of the time, but when it does come out it seems to go against every part of my Hipster House Husband motto: it keeps me from being frugal, industrious, and resourceful. All the same, every time I reach into that Q-Tip jar, I only feel appreciation for the time I spent meticulously stacking each individual Q-Tip.

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Have a Deep and Meaningless Conversation

Last week, I was using some reclaimed lumber to build a desk. Already this post is pretty hipster, but just wait.

I ripped my last piece of lumber through the table saw to square the edges. I used a belt sander to take down the rough patina of the lumber. I started cutting out a drawer face with my jigsaw. In doing these things, I would notice a stray and random carpenter ant appear on my work surface or on the floor of my workspace. This didn’t strike me as odd right away since I was in the old garage building.

When I completed cutting out the drawer face I found that I was cutting exactly through the center gallery of a carpenter ant nest. I found about a dozen hungry, confused, and shaken carpenter ants ambling about. While this clearly was not an active nest, it must have been six months ago in the porch from which I took this old lumber. Since removing it, these few remaining ants had been huddling in their homes…doing what?

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I started to ponder this and other questions in the classic hipster conversation method: too abstract to have practical application, just intelligent enough to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about. For the ants that were left behind when I removed the old lumber, was this some sort of ant apocalypse (“antocalypse” maybe)? Was this the promised and long-prophesied day that the old nest would be made new? I’m sure that’s what it must have seemed like. A terrible End of Days, a period of tribulation and unrest, followed by a glorious and pure new order being put into place for the 1000 year reign…just as it was foretold in the book of Revelantion. What about the ants that were taken away from the porch inside this old beam? Did they consider themselves to be the Dorothy in a new version of the 1939 classic The Wizant of Oz? On which set of feet do they wear the ruby slippers? Am I the wicked witch or the great and powerful Oz? One thing’s for sure, she can’t wait to get back to Ant Em. What would make a good Toto parallel? Probably a termite named Terter.

More AntsAnd just like that, I’ve had a deep and meaningless conversation. You can, too. Here’s how:

  1. Pick any topic. In this scenario, I chose “ants in wood.”
  2. Choose any other topic that you know a little about. In this scenario, I chose two: “end times” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
  3. Parallel the two topics.
  4. Use random facts about either topic. In this scenario, I chose to use the phrases “the old would be made new” and “1000 year reign” in regard to the end times, both taken from the book of Revelation in the Bible. I also used the date 1939 and the names of minor characters from The Wizard of Oz.
  5. For extra points, add puns.

Congratulations, you’ve just had your first deep and meaningless conversation!

Everyone Should Make their own Candles

It has been a little while since I’ve had the opportunity to show off my unique homemaking and homesteading skills. I took a week off from my full-time job in order to take care of a number of little projects and get started on one big project. All this to say, my industrious side took over for a week+, and sitting in front of the iMac was a little too sedentary for the time being. Don’t worry, here I am back in the usual routine so that I can flaunt my pearls of hipster wisdom with the world.

So today we’re making candles. Well, more accurately, last week. The title of this post claims that everyone should make their own candles. While this is true, it is not as mandatory for everyone as it is for hipsters. And here’s a few reasons why:

  • Hipsters can smell bad. Whether it’s the fixed-gear bike riding, the hemp shampoo, or the lack of deodorant is not important. The bottom line is that hipsters smell bad. Candles can cover up those unseemly body odors.
  • Hipsters like cats. You can photoshop ironic mustaches and captions on them, and they warm your lap in the winter when you are too cheap to pay for heat. A cat’s poop smells very bad. Candles can cover up this disturbing yet natural part of pet ownership.
  • Hipsters like to talk about the weird things they do. Making candles qualifies.

When I first set out to do this, I did a little bit of research (aka google search) and I found this article. This made candle making seem complex as it dealt with different kinds of waxes and temperatures and etc. I promptly disregarded most of this and decided to do it my own way.Spent Candles

I collected all the spent candles that we had accumulated over the years and broke down the leftover wax into chunks. These I threw into a coffee tin that was heating up inside a pot of water on the stove. As the wax began to melt, I used a cooking thermometer to keep a gauge on how hot the wax was getting. This turned out to not really matter, but it averaged about 180 degrees the whole time.

 Cooling candles

Once all the wax was completely melted, I tied some string (I call it kitchen twine, though I’m not sure exactly what it’s actually called. I also use this to tie and dry all my herbs, etc) to a couple of cheap chopsticks and centered them over the candle jars that I had cleaned out. I spooned the wax slowly so as to not move the wick from the center of the candle.

Burning candle
After that, I was just a matter of letting the wax cool and cutting the string. In a matter of a couple of hours of active work I was able to repurpose a bunch of old candles into perfectly good new candles. Not only was I surprised at  how easy this was, but it made the whole house smell pretty wonderful as I was doing it. With this first success, I’ve begun collecting spent candles from friends and neighbors. This not only gives me a steady supply of wax for candle making, but also a steady supply of hipster credibility. I’ll let you decide which is more important.

 

How to Fold your Skinny Jeans

I have a particular way I fold my skinny jeans.

Okay…to be honest, I don’t wear skinny jeans. I also don’t wear V-Necks. Even so, I think my Credentials as a Hipster remain intact. I would even dare to say that this obligatory uniform of the contemporary nonconformist is not as obligatory as you would think.

There are exceptions to every rule. In the case of the skinny jeans, a hipster’s leg wear only need be skinny enough to be able to see the silhouette of an iPhone in the pocket of his/her choice. In the case of v-necks, they are only necessary if you have enough curious chest hair to peak out the V. I meet both exceptions: having the iPhone clearly visible and a lack of any chest hair (curious or otherwise).

But back to folding laundry. I’ve toyed with different ways to fold my jeans over the years, but have recently struck gold in terms of folding methods. What makes a folding method good? I have three basic criteria:

  1. Keeps clothes from wrinkling/unfriendly creasing in storage.
  2. Highlights the innate features of the material.
  3. Makes the garment easy to store.

So here’s my method:

IMG_2489I start by folding them lengthwise with the seams together, similar to the way I would hang a pair of slacks. Then I tuck in the zipper and the butt so that I get a mostly straight line up and down.

IMG_2490 Fold that in half.

IMG_2491 Fold that in half again. All done.

This nice square shape fits nicely into my closet, prevents any wrinkles from storage, and even gives a faux crease look along the front of my pants. My little piece of original denim origami isn’t really a big deal, but it helps me keep my hipster/house husband sides together and happy.

Seed-Starting Terrarium

It’s that time of the year again: when March hits, I immediately begin pining for the Spring planting season. We still have a few months before we can actually plant anything in the open, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get a head start now. With all the seeds I’ve been saving from last year, I have plenty stocked up to allow me to get ahead of the frost.

A few years ago, I started my garden early with a store-bought seed starting kit. It was basically a black plastic basin with a clear plastic domed lid. I set it in front of a window and it worked really well. It gave the seeds everything they need to get started: a temperature controlled environment, light, and constant moisture. It also cost $40, and when I brought it out from storage the following year the clear plastic lid had broken in half and had to be sent to the recycle bin.

This year I decided to make my own. I was planning to build a complex frame system into which I could set panes from an old window to replicate that clear plastic dome. As I looked around our old attic for a junk window, I found this old transom. I decided to switch gears and save myself some time.

Transom Window

What is really awesome about this old transom is the way the paint peeled off the glass. At some point the whole window was painted, and over the decades the paint peeled itself off most of the way, leaving these “fingerprints” behind. I have never seen anything like it, and was tempted to just hang it on the wall as-is. But instead, I moved ahead with the project. Sorry Art; Utility wins today.

Terrarium base

I have a lot of tongue-and-groove porch boards left over from a project last year. It’s yellow pine, which has a good tolerance for moisture, so I decided to use that to build the frame for the glass top. The trusty table saw came out and zipped off the groove and half the tongue on each board, leaving a flat surface on one end and a nice frame on the other. I mitered these together so that the transom would fit snugly inside the frame without gaps. I screwed the frame onto one of the hutch shelves that was left over from the hutch project.

Ready for seeds

Everything fit together nicely. I may end up building some more frames for additional glass panes around the sides to give it a dome shape once the young plants get too tall, but that can wait for another day.

Finished Terrarium

I was limited on space inside my new terrarium, so I started with the plants that need the most time: tomatoes and peppers. I also planted a bunch of lettuce since that’s a plant we can continually harvest as it grows.

In total, this project cost me zero dollars and about two hours from start (looking for an old window in the attic) to finish (seeds planted and dirt cleaned up). Take that Winter: two cubic feet of Spring just started inside my dining room. May the germination begin!