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Truck Meat Revisited: Am I Too Trusting?

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Have you ever bought truck meat? How about had your dent undented by a parking lot dude? Have you ever been accused of being too trusting, or are you the kind of person who frisks your own family when they come to the dinner table?

I admit it, I may be too trusting. (Note: I first wrote about this on Facebook 4 years ago, but something happened yesterday that made me realize I’m still trying to figure it out. Plus, it’s just fun to say truck meat. Go ahead, it’s fun, say it. Truck meat. Ha!)

While treating a fellow Stand Up for Mental Health comedian to lunch yesterday for sharing her morning with my co-author and I for our upcoming book, I was hollered at in the restaurant parking lot. “Did I hit someone? Did I park stupid? Do I know that guy?” Questions ran through my head (not that I have a habit of hitting people. Parking stupidly, eh, maybe) as a friendly gentleman in a pickup truck waved me over.

“I am sorry to yell at you like that,” he said, “but I couldn’t help notice you have some damage to your bumper, and I have a machine that will pop that right out, I can come to you, maybe I could jump out and take a look and do a free estimate for you right now?”

Here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure my husband, a handsome but introverted and danger/inconvenience/getting-ripped-off-averse guy, would have already said “no thanks, not interested….” and walked away at this point.

Which is WHY, dear readers, I haven’t told him about it yet, because I want your feedback first! So stick with me, and tell me what you’d do, ok? Help a blogger out?

I, being me, said sure, he could give me an estimate if he wanted to come find me in the restaurant, because I didn’t want to make my lunch partner wait. AND HE DID. About 5 minutes later he walked right into Shari’s – Denney’s of the Pacific Northwest – and came over to give me his estimate. $160 to pop out the big ol’dent in the front corner of my front bumper, which would allow him to reattach it to the surrounding bumper-adjacent parts. He gave me a note (OK, I had to give him a piece of paper and a pen to write the note) with his name and number and the estimate and said to give him a call.

OK, that’s not exactly how it happened. He actually said he could go get the machine RIGHT THEN and have my bumper fixed by the time I was done with my tasty BLT, and I wouldn’t have to pay unless I was satisfied.  When I played the “oh, I’d definitely need to talk that over with the husband first”, THEN he said I could call him, and if I said nice things to my friends he’d even touch up the other paint-scratched areas for free. (There may be a few, I don’t think that’s relevant here. Though I do think it makes me extra pious and noble to not care that my Honda Odyssey is showing signs of its journey with me…..)

And you know what? That’s the world I wish I lived in.

I wish I lived in a world where I could say “Sure, that would be great! Please do go fetch your undenting machine, I’ll see you in the parking lot after my lunch!” without knowing that grumpy untrusting folk like my handsome husband would metaphorically strangle me for doing such a crazy thing. Grumpy McGrumpypants. Why can’t I give this earnest man a chance to fix my bumper?

Said husband would point to my history, I’m guessing. For instance, I wrote a personal check a couple of years ago to a rough-looking young woman with a really good spiel at my door. She was selling magazines and kids books, and she said she was a teen runaway hooked up with a charitable organization helping her learn skills to stay off the streets. My husband, quite sure the depths of the identity theft would become clear right before the home burglaries and murders began, was somewhat annoyed. We were both relieved when we actually got the books and the magazines.

And you can imagine his resigned bemusement when I bought truck meat. Yup. Meat off a truck. Meat off a truck from a guy who “happened” to be going on vacation that day who needed to unload it instead of taking it back to the “office.” I thought at the time I was pretty clever, even going so far as to whip out local store ads and make him prove that his prices were comparable. In the end, I bought truck meat. A lot of it. For a lot of money.

Not long after, while frying up some truck meat, I had to admit to myself I’d been taken. The hamburgers were just not great. The steaks were fine, and the chicken merely average. Don’t even ask about the seafood, I’m not sure we were ever brave enough to eat it. (I TOLD YOU, it was a LOT of truck meat.) Sweet husband asked for months afterward, as a matter of course when he saw me cooking, “Is that truck meat?” And now, in this public forum, I admit it to my dear husband. I got taken. The truck meat was fine, but I shouldn’t have done it.

It didn’t help that I once neglected and burned some truck meat because I left the kitchen to show a sweet-faced landscaper seeking work a stump in our yard that needed removed so he could do an estimate. But…..

I like working with the little guy, supporting the underdog, keeping it local. How do I do it without being a trusting idiot? Or should I worry so much about it?

How else to be a part of a community without allowing yourself to occasionally be vulnerable to your fellow man?

Or is that just a glorified excuse for truck meat and parking lot undenters?

What do you think? Have you ever used a parking lot undenter dude? What would you do?

I Wonder What Molybdenum Tastes Like?

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Salt is weird.

Really, have you thought about it? I mean, it’s a mineral we grind up and put on our food. We don’t grind up other rocks to put on our food.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some salt. Without salt, many foods are pointless: popcorn, hash-browns (this evening’s muse), french fries, eggs. No salt, no point.

But what inspired early man – or let’s face it, woman, since she was likely responsible for the culinary innovations of the time like cooking with fire, not eating potatoes raw, and always garnishing your kill with a sprig of mint – what inspired her to grind up salt crystals and shake them on dinner?

Did Early Chef go around licking other rocks and grinding them up to try and enhance the flavor profiles of mammoth, sabre tooth tiger, or (in the case of our cannibalistic ancestors) Earl, her annoying neighbor? (Earl had it coming, always playing his rock music so loud in the cave next door. ‘Course, rocks were the only available instrument at the time…..Get it? Rock music???? I’m sorry, I’ll stop.)

So, I’m wondering, what does molybdenum taste like?

Molybdenum - pretty, but does it taste good? photo by  Alchemist-hp

Molybdenum – pretty, but does it taste good?
photo by Alchemist-hp

I think this area of science may be ripe for development. For instance, according to the US Geologic Survey, “The versatility of molybdenum in enhancing a variety of alloy properties has ensured it a significant role in contemporary industrial technology, which increasingly requires materials that are serviceable under high stress, expanded temperature ranges, and highly corrosive environments.”

See? Boring, and not a word about molybdenum’s potential ability to improve hash-browns. Or mushrooms! Now THAT would be a significant role! A rock that could make fungus not taste like dirt would be worth a lot of money! Wikipedia makes clear, however, that molybdenum has the sixth-highest melting point of any mineral, so its nacho-topping utility is probably limited at best.

Actually, the magical oracle which is Wikipedia can’t even seem to agree how many minerals there ARE (at least after an exhaustive 3.25 minutes of searching), and seems conflicted as to whether it is molybdenum or molybdenite. With such uncertainty existing in the field, I think there is clearly work to do.

We must determine if any minerals taste like salted dark chocolate or a really good margarita.

Science, people. It’s important.

My Guardian Angel Is An Octopus

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My Guardian Angel Is An Octopus

I don’t know if I’m actually supposed to HAVE a guardian angel, not sure where the Protestant theology is on that.* Theological questions aside, if I did have a guardian angel, it would have to be an octopus, no question. The poor thing would NEED eight arms just to keep up with me.

In the last 15 months, I’ve given myself permanent nerve damage in my hand; blistered and scarred my leg with boiling water; and nearly blinded myself with yard implements. Honestly, I have no self-harm urges, I’m just equal parts clumsy and impatient – a dangerous combination. My parents always tried to get me to think before I act, but that didn’t take. I am usually too passionate, impulsive and overenthusiastic to do any such sensible thing.

To ensure that some public good comes from my private idiocy, I share with you these stories and the accompanying life lessons, in case a) you need a chuckle, or b) you have a five-year-old in need of basic safety skills. So here we go:

The Avocado Stabbing:

Just finished filing the nail on my middle finger AGAIN. So annoying. See, I frequently have to file the middle fingernail on my left hand because that finger is largely numb, devoid of any feeling except a constant tingle akin to your foot being deeply asleep. The numbness must make me use it less, because that nail just grows really quickly. (GOOD LORD, IS SHE REALLY WRITING A POST ABOUT HER COMPARATIVE FINGERNAIL GROWTH RATES?)

Anyhoo, it all started back in May of last year. I was preparing nachos, one of my family’s favorite meals. Well, one of my favorite meals, and thus one we enjoy regularly. No plate of nachos is complete without guacamole, which I was just beginning to make. I cut the avocado in half, and then went to remove the avocado pit the same way I always have, since my teen years in Alaska when an avocado was a truly foreign and glamorously ethnic vegetable. Raise the blade up and vigorously drive it down into the avocado pit, tip down.

Here, I’ll give you a visual on my technique:

How NOT to Pit an Avocado

Apparently, that’s NOT how you are supposed to do it. As you might predict – not that I did – the blade bounced off the slimy pit and went through the avocado into the palm of my hand. After a trip to the nurse’s house down the street, the urgent care clinic and then the ER, I was left with two pretty stitches and a small scar that neatly bisects one of my lifelines. Probably changed the whole course of my life right there. (Except that I’m pretty sure the theology on lifelines is even weaker than guardian angels….)

I was also left with what appears to be permanent numbness along the entire pinky side of my middle finger. I know, you wouldn’t think that the pinky side of your left middle finger would be important for a right-handed person.  However, I’ve found that it makes flossing shockingly difficult, and I also use that finger to operate my car’s turn blinker.

I’m just waiting for the day I have to explain my sub-par blinker-operating handicap to a police officer.

The lesson: Apparently, THIS is how you are supposed to pit an avocado. You’re welcome.

The Scalding 

This is not a funny story, unfortunately, and I apologize for that. The least I could do while hurting myself is be funny, cause if we can’t laugh at it later what really is the point? But I was just carrying some potatoes over to drain in the sink a few months ago when I sloshed the boiling water on my leg.

It WOULD have been funny if we’d had guests, as I easily set a world record for quickly stripping off a wet pair of jeans in the middle of the kitchen. As it is, I now have a 8-inch long area of permanently discolored skin on my thigh. The good news is I no longer feel guilty about not training for the Mrs. Middle Aged America Bikini Pageant. For when I’m actually middle-aged, you know, in the FUTURE. Cause that was TOTALLY gonna happen. Meh, that was probably the lifeline I cut anyways.

The lesson: This is pretty clear, actually. NEVER let me carry boiling water anywhere around you or your loved ones.

The Yard Tool Near-Blinding 

You should know right off that my ophthalmologist says my retina looks great. Firmly attached. I didn’t feel like I could write this post until I knew for sure whether I had ACTUALLY nearly blinded myself being stupid, or fallen blessedly short of that undesirable milestone.  I mean, if I wrote a lighthearted post about my tendencies to hurt myself and then went blind shortly thereafter, that would have been poorly thought-out blog planning on my part for sure. Awkward…..

Especially if the blindness made it difficult to update the post and ask for your prayers and explain that I would have to learn all new technologies for the blind before I could keep blogging.

This time, I was just laying innocently on my hammock, enjoying the summer breeze, minding my own business. But there was a REALLY annoying branch in the maple above my head, and it was completely ruining my view. It was all twisted up against the trunk under another branch, very aesthetically displeasing, and it was just. Ugly. Clearly that could not go on.

So I grab these AWESOME pruners I got from my dad and a stepladder. Cause, you know, I’m 4’11” and nearly all pruning requires a height assist of some nature. Heck, I practically need a stepladder to weed. Anyhow, to get close enough to deal with the offending branch I had to get directly under it, and stand on the top step with the pruners held directly over my head. I’m sorry if you can already see where this is going, but as I mentioned before, I’m kinda impatient.

I didn’t think to ask my 6’1″ husband to come clip the offending branch until AFTER the pruners slipped off the branch and descended (HANDLE DOWN, THANK THE GOOD LORD WHO IS FAR MORE GRACIOUS THAN I DESERVE) into my right eye.

Dramatic reenactment of my view right before the end of that handle landed on my eyeball.

Dramatic reenactment of my view right before the end of that handle landed on my eyeball.

The lesson: Don’t do anything like that. Ever. At all.

After a wee ladylike curse, I made sure there was no goo leaking from my eyeball, and then went in the house to make a couple of truly classic requests to my sweet husband. “Dave, DON’T YELL AT ME, but I need you to come trim a branch and then look at my eye because I may have just blinded myself. DON’T YELL AT ME.”

Two trips to the eye dr later, we were all fairly reassured my retina had not detached. My stupidity did, however, result in BIG floaters, a delightful new experience that left me swatting imaginary bugs for two weeks. (Seriously, I am SO glad I did not get stopped for a traffic violation this summer. “Well, officer, I missed the turn signal due to the numb pinky side of my middle left finger, and then I swerved because I was swatting a giant floating worm, except it was just a floater in my eye…..” No police officer should have to hear that.)

In addition, the blow to my eye caused some of the vitreous eye goo to detach from my retina. This vitreous goo detachment is apparently permanent, and was going to happen with age at some point, but it was definitely the last humbling straw in my run of hurting my own darned self.

I really should be forced to spend my days lying quietly on a soft pile of mattresses in a padded room.

The best I can do is recommend that if you see me near either blades of any kind or boiling water, RUN. Just run. And pray for me.

And call my husband.

*Of course, I couldn’t stand to leave it at that.  If you are a smidgen of the truly nerdy that I am, you can go here, or here, or here, for further thought.

Bonus science geekery: I am not great at including images in my blog yet, which explains all of the poorly lit photos, but while hopefully googling for an image of an octopus angel (Hey, it could happen!) I found this post about strange sea animals. FASCINATING.

Squirrel Murder Was Just the Beginning

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Hey, long time no see. Read. Share. Whatever. Hey Blog Readers! Thanks for joining me, I know it’s been a long time, but I’m back. Again. Honestly, you may want to grab a cup of tea, this is kind of a long one, but so glad you’re here!

So, how was your day?

Mine? Not great, honestly. Empty gas tank, squirrel murder, gas station faux pas, nervous travelers, and Angry Dude, the gas station manager. That was my morning. Well, that, and the Whisper that changed it all around.

The plan was to drive some old and dear family friends back to the airport this morning after they’d had a visit with my folks.  I arrived on time. (Well, really, thirty minutes earlier than necessary because my mother, who claims she didn’t, accidentally told me to be there thirty minutes earlier than necessary because she does not trust my timeliness. Apparently my teen years were very hard on her. I like to be exactly on time, she likes to be ridiculously early. A lifetime of tension ensues. Timeliness – key plot point to remember…..) Anyhow, I arrived to pick them up in plenty of time, and after some brief chitchat it was time for hugs and hitting the road, and we loaded up.

We set off, but just as I pulled onto the highway, I happened to glance down at the gas gauge, and was HORRIFIED to see it below empty, light just blinking away. I didn’t drive at all yesterday, what happened? Crud. Oh, well, we’ve got time, no problem. And so it began……..

I efficiently pulled off the highway and up the ramp, calculating in my head where the gas station might be and how long this little detour might take (timeliness on my mind, not wanting to have THAT conversation with Mom……).

You know how it’s so funny to say “Squirrel!” and feign distraction as if you are the dog from the movie Up?

Yeah, that’s not how I said it when I saw the pair of furry frolicking love-squirrels skittering directly ahead of me, a vehicle to my right, a steep hill to my left. And after the undeniable jolt we felt, I made the mistake of looking back, only to see the twitching, seizing body of the squirrel lover I had just summarily squashed. I didn’t see but can only imagine his little squirrel amour, safely across, watching his little body draw its last breath, struggling to understand how her spring romp had gone badly so quickly.

"Frankie! Frankie, what's wrong? I wanted to have your squirrel babies......"

“Frankie! Frankie, what’s wrong? I wanted to have your squirrel babies……”

Still shaking, I pulled into the overpriced highway ramp gas station. Angry Dude, the manager, approached my van, and took my credit card. I was only getting $20 of gas, so when he returned in a few moments, I was not surprised.

(Back in MY DAY, $20 worth of gas would get you a full tank and a free car wash, yessiree. Today, not even a quarter of my minivan’s tank. Grumble, grumble, I walked to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways……..Sorry.)

He handed my credit card back to me with a hearty “There you go!”. I assumed we were done, as did my passengers, and I began to pull away. Unfortunately, Angry Dude had just been enthusiastically returning my credit card, and had barely begun to pump the gas. When I drove away with the nozzle still in my tank, it ripped loose and loudly clattered to the ground. I realized immediately what had happened, and stopped, the apology ready on my lips as I opened the door.

No matter, he had no interest in my apology. “What the f***?” he yelled at me, as I tried to tell him I wasn’t trying to steal the gas, but just had misunderstood him. He demanded I return to the pump, continuing to berate me the entire time for how stupid I was, how I needed to pay attention, how the pump was probably broken(it wasn’t) and I would be paying the $1000 to fix it.

I am quite sure that the very proper retired 4th grade teacher in my van has NEVER been yelled at in such a manner, nor has she had the f-bomb even hurled in her general direction before her delightful time with me this morning. Poor thing. I’m sure the 6 hours of flying she had ahead of her were relaxing in comparison.

As we finally pulled away, headed once again toward the airport, I began to angrily compose my letter to the gas station’s corporate CEO in my mind, filling it with my unbridled anger at being mistreated over a simple mistake. I gleefully pictured returning to the station, demanding Angry Dude’s name to include in my brilliantly written epistle of anger.

Believe me, I come by my capacity for ferocious righteous indignation honestly, from a long line of ladies who are and were more than capable of standing up for ourselves and others, for writing blistering letters to the editor or the complaint department that left ash and singe marks in their wake.

By the time we go to the airport, though, I had calmed down a wee bit, and from out of Nowhere into my soul came a different plan.

“Go back,” said the Whisper to my heart, “Go back, forgive him, apologize for not paying attention, and acknowledge the likely source of HIS anger.” It was clear to me as I went over the details of our encounter that others must have pulled away on purpose, stiffing him for the gas and the broken pump, and his response to me was clearly that of owner or manager, worried and responsible for the whole station.

But no, I thought, he DESERVES my wrath, he yelled at me! Plus that would be weird, he’s probably forgotten about it, I’ll just make him feel more awkward, and that would be overreacting. “It’s good to be weird,” persisted the Whisper, “especially when it makes people think about why you’re doing it. In fact, bring him a gift.”

A gift. Great. That won’t be weird at all. Sigh.

I am not historically one of those apparently blessed types who constantly hear The Voice of The Lord, who can tell you what The Lord told them to have for breakfast or what to wear for dinner at Red Robin, or even which job to take or house to buy. Usually, God and I have a more informal communication pattern, one in which I probably miss about 75% or more of what He tells me, and in which I’m sure He gently laughs and rolls His eyes at what I tell Him.

But there are times in life when an idea or thought is so clearly not of me, so clearly inspired by His Whisper, that I know to ignore it is just Not. An. Option.

So after safely depositing my travelers at the airport (only ten minutes late, thank you Lord!), I drove to a nearby Target. My mindset changed from how to verbally eviscerate Angry Dude in my letter to his boss, to what kind of snacks or treats Angry Dude might like, and if a sample size of “Goo Be Gone” would be thoughtful or would imply I thought he was dirty. (I decided to stick with manly, edible snacks, just in case.) I tucked some mini Oreos, a tiny sample of fancy coffee, some beef jerky and some little bags of almonds into a little metal bucket, and I even bought a little ribbon for the handle.

If you’re going to be weird and go overboard, it might as well color-coordinate.

I drove directly back to the gas station to deliver it, nervous all the way.

Now, as I share with you the underwhelming end to my story, let me make a couple of points:

I knew this was about me, about my heart, and that I had to forgive him and present my gift with NO expectations of his response. That wasn’t the Whisper’s goal. My heart was the one that needed change, the one I could change or allow to be changed.

Good thing, because his response when I arrived and walked up to him with my cute little tin of treats ran the gamut –  suspicion, dismissal, refusal of my gift, and a rehash of how I should pay more attention and how dangerous it had been.

It wasn’t about telling Angry Dude why I was doing it, that I was realizing I had been forgiven long ago for so much more than a rude outburst, that the least I could do was live my life in this world in a way that stood out a little, that made people wonder.  It was about the tenor of my response, a Word He had planted in me just a few days ago through the musings of a dear friend at Bible study.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15

Good thing, because I choked out something lame like “no, really, we’ve both had a crappy morning, and I just wanted to say I knew I should have paid more attention. Please, take it, I just want you to have a better day.” I was gentle and respectful, but also nervous, awkward, and probably weird.

Angry Dude finally did take my gift, and said something like, “Well, I’m sorry I yelled at you BUT you should be more careful.” Ahhhh…..the qualified apology. Good thing this wasn’t about manipulating a satisfying response………..

And I confess I did spend some time afterwards, thinking of all the things I could have said differently or better, and kicking myself for not including a note with some key Scriptures in it that would point him to the Source of my weird actions. But not for long. Because I heard another Whisper, winding in-between my self-recriminations.

“It was enough. Shhhhhh…….Accept that it was enough.”

So I am.

Still feel awful about the squirrel though, may he rest in peace.

The Big Question: Pizza Box Recycling

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Recycling guilt is an inevitable and serious psychosocial complex contracted when living in the Pacific Northwest, a condition which can cause crippling shame, paralyzing confusion and deep self-contempt.  Hello, my name is Tara, and I am a Habitual Recycler.

This condition causes behaviors that can be puzzling and laughable to those unfamiliar with its symptoms, those from say, oh, I don’t know, the South. I recently traveled to Nashville for a conference, and found myself anxiously carting around a water bottle, a soda bottle, another water bottle, all for lack of a reassuring blue recycle bin. Where could I put them? What was I supposed to do with them?

The head-spinning confusion was aggravated by my co-existing guilt for even drinking water from a plastic water bottle*, instead of a cool, BPA-free stainless steel one like all the cool hipsters do. But thankfully those symptoms subsided relatively quickly when I tasted the water in my hotel. Ewww.

Of course, in time you begin to master your symptoms, and you become an expert at recycling cereal boxes, yogurt cups, and the box your heartburn medication comes in. (Probably wouldn’t have heartburn if I wasn’t so angsty about recycling……) You accept the difficult fact that cardboard Popsicle boxes can’t be recycled (wet strength, Google it) and you even begin questioning produce purchases from Costco because of the EXCESSIVE packaging. (If you are from the South, or are my mother, you may be getting anxious and dizzy at this point. Take a deep breath, you’ll be fine.)

But certain struggles remain, and I am here to share my stories with you in the hopes you can avoid my mistakes.

First I must confess there is one battle I’ve yet to win since tasting the glory, the rapturous glory that is a Sonic Diet Coke with Diet Cherry. That huge styrofoam cup (of COURSE I have to get the huge size, silly question) haunts me, mocks my weakness, stabs me with visions of dying seals and weeping children and a not really Native American actor with a single tear running down his stoic cheek.

But the Diet Coke Diet Cherry calls to me, and at best I can only contemplate bringing in my own refillable cup and begging for mercy. That battle is still to be fought, that victory not yet mine to claim.

But can we talk about pizza boxes? I thought I had this one, confidently tossing my pizza boxes in the recycling bin outside, sure that I wasn’t REALLY supposed to just throw them away, send them to a landfill. (Cue crying babies, screams of horror.) But why was my local recycling company so intent on having me wreck the environment?

I mean, sure, don’t throw the box in there with the pizza still stuck to it, that’s gross. But if I carefully scrape off the cheese, shake out the crumbs, that’s enough, right? A responsible consumer such as myself can surely be entrusted to recycle a huge, wasteful pizza box, right? Those rules are for the unreformed, people who still buy cases of bottled water to drink from home, standing in the kitchen next to their fancy refrigerators with dispensers of chilled, filtered water. Not for me, not for a skilled recycler such as myself who actually cuts out the annoying little box tops for education before flattening my Cocoa Puff box, right?

Yet still it nagged at me, so in an effort to ease my angst I set out to conduct extensive research on the issue. Well, you know, I Googled it. Turns out, grease from the pizza box can really muck up the water-based process used to break down cardboard in the recycling process. Even the Farmer’s Almanac agrees that a cheese-free box can still ruin a whole giant batch of cardboard recycling if it is more than a little greasy or oily. Then you really ARE killing the environment and baby seals and what not.

Frequently quoted solutions emphasize that only the greasy parts are bad. So cutting them off, or even just ripping the lid away from the bottom, means you can recycle the clean part. Great, right? And if the box is too greasy, or you want to reuse before you recycle, this website has 5 fun ideas for boxes, including a cool table top easel for arty kids, a fort and a throne for a pizza king.

So rest easy, recyclers. Me, I’m going to go test out a pizza box S’mores oven.

photo from pizzadelivery.org

*Except in rare circumstances, drinking from a plastic water bottle in the U.S. is unnecessary and wasteful, especially when 1 in 6 of us on Earth have no access to clean drinking water. That should cause guilt! Want more info? Check out waterafrica.org.

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