Candy Season

Every year when October rolls around, all I can begin to think about are the inevitable bonfires, the cooler weather warranting hoodies and jeans and jackets, and the sweet treats that fit the seasonal theme of the month.

I’ve long considered Christmas my favorite holiday, thanks to the traditions that my parents instilled in our family, but as I grow older, Halloween becomes more and more a favorite of mine. I wouldn’t say I consider the day of Halloween to be my favorite. Rather, it’s the build up to the holiday that is so much fun for me. From hay rides to pumpkin patches and corn mazes and even spiked cider and pumpkin beers, the month of October is quite the festive one. And most of all, I love that it’s all centered around the harvest season, making it quite a “natural” holiday season, rather that one themed around more manmade traditions.

I like to celebrate my October by having friends over mid month for a little get together. Usually, we end up celebrating the end-of-year holiday season officially “beginning”. So, you can often find us drinking apple cider that’s been spiked, eating finger foods that everyone has contributed, and playing some video games or listening to music and hanging out in the basement. It’s always a good time, and most of the time we end up having one of the best evenings of the year.

What makes it especially fun is the candy. I tell everyone to bring a few of their favorite candy boxes to contribute to a growing pile of candy. People willingly bring their favorites so that they can end up sharing what they like with other friends and colleagues, and it becomes this huge pile of community candy that anyone is welcome to throughout the evening. At no other point in the year do I usually indulge this much in candy boxes, so it’s nice to unwind for one night of the year to get my “fix.” Of course, the next day I’m usually left with a sugar hangover and feeling a bit groggy, but to enjoy those different treats with my friends is something I enjoy.

I think this year I’ll tell everyone to bring a recipe for their favorite alcoholic drinks, with the stipulation that each one must have a candy theme to it and include at least one candy within the cocktail. I expect most people to come with hard candy or sugary candies in mind, but some may surprise with a chocolate recipe!

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To Move or Not to Move

I’m currently in the midst of making some big decisions with my fiancee about our next year ahead of us. While I’m extremely thankful to be going through it with her and not alone, it’s still been a lot more stressful than I ever would’ve imagined. One of the biggest things our next year revolves around is if we’re staying in our current apartment or moving to a new place (and if that new place will mean purchasing a home or renting again).

Of course, it doesn’t help knowing we are also getting married next fall! Don’t get me wrong, we’re beyond ourselves thinking about the big day and what it will entail for us. Luckily, we’ve got the most stressful part of that out of the way in deciding on a venue, so at the very least we don’t have nearly as many huge decisions to make there.

Nonetheless, it’s important we make a decision on where we’re living next or if we’re staying in our apartment. If we do happen to move, we’re quite lucky in that her dad owns a furniture store with all sorts of moving trucks, so not only will we have our moving day taken care of by his company, we’ll also have access to any and all furniture we may want or need at the new place. I honestly think our biggest “work” involved in moving will simply be to have all of our cheap moving boxes filled and ready to go on the day of the move. And trust me, if being in charge of our cheap moving boxes is all we’re doing, that won’t be nearly as stressful as planning the move itself. That’s a huge burden taken off our shoulders.

It’s weird to think about moving to a new place “already”, though. I mean, we’ve only been in our current apartment for 15 months, but we absolutely adore our location and neighborhood, so much so that we really don’t want to leave if we don’t have to. It may make sense to get a home sometime soon, but lately we’ve been considering what it would be like to move west for a few years. And since we’re not sold on the idea of having kids, well, buying a home isn’t nearly as important as we first thought it might be.

Overall, every couple has to make these kinds of decisions, so we’re no different than any other mid to late 20 year olds. I just want to make sure we make the most informed decision that fits our lifestyle the best.

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Game Day Preparations

One of my absolute favorite things to do around this time of year is host NFL watch parties at my place on Sunday afternoons. Most people only tend to do this during the playoffs or on Super Bowl Sunday, but I’ve realized it’s much more fun to do it throughout the entirety of the season for both fantasy reasons and fandom reasons. While watching the games out at bars can be quite fun it its own way, being in the comfort of your own home while surrounding yourself with other fantasy league mates and friends who like your team can be a real blast.

The benefits to doing this are many, with saving money at the top of the list. If you can spend just a few bucks on drinks and food and have everyone pull their weight, it’s almost as if you never spent a dime at all. And being able to save big while also enjoying the best day of the week? That has some staying power right there. Everyone would prefer to save more money, but most don’t actually hold themselves to that.

It’s also quite fun to hang out with friends and others you know while not stepping foot outside. While I enjoy being out and about in public on gameday, there’s something awesome about staying in your own home, drinking as much as you want, blasting the TV as loud as you want, and having no “rules” to abide by that you may have to within a bar or at a game. Just as well, you can keep eating everything you want and save so much (as we mentioned above).

I like to take advantage of the packaging supplies I have on hand in order to set up a snack station for my guests. For example, I’ll take basic packaging supplies such as labeling tape and sharpies to write a few labels to stick onto bowls that may have different snacks and sauces in them. Sometimes, everyone who makes it over to my place doesn’t know me that well considering I tell friends to bring their friends. So, they may not be as forward in asking me what’s what regarding sauces and flavors and more. I just feel it’s my duty as host to be thorough and prepared for such encounters.

There’s nothing better to me than kicking back, watching football in the company of buddies, having a few drinks, and eating good food on game day. The only other thing I ask for is a Cowboys win from week to week.

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Preparing Against the Machine We Call Time

There are a lot of things in life that catch my interest. A lot of things, in fact, that I wish I could devote more time to. For example, I wish I could spend more time cooking, and spending my money on nicer ingredients to cook more varying dishes. Or on another end of the spectrum, I wish I could spend more time reading through my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style to perfect my craft when it comes to editing and tweaking my writing. (And, you know, to further the skills in my professional field.)

But, as life has it, time isn’t something that you can summon endless amounts of. In fact, time is the number one limiter to all things in life, not money. Humans could do so much more if we all just had more time. The older and wiser we became, the more advanced we would be. Of course, this is all passed down to generations as they come and go, but it still begs the question. What would happen if we were undying? Would we advance at a much more rapid rate?

Because I wish we had more time, I like to focus on the time I do have now. I used to be so mindless about my days, constantly looking forward or backwards, but never down at what was happening right then. I’ve realized how poorly I have managed my time throughout my life in doing this, and it’s led me to understand how many moments I’ve missed capturing in memory.

So, instead, I’ll focus on taking in the moment, whether good or bad. We learn from the bad and we love to experience the good, so both are valuable to remember and to seize benefit from.

An interesting way I will go about doing this from here on is creating little “memento boxes” out of cheap moving boxes that I’ve had laying around the house. Basically, I’ll take one of these cheap moving boxes and store things that mean a lot to me here and now. Perhaps it’s a t-shirt I’ll have to retire that was a favorite of mine during a specific period of my life. Maybe I’ll start printing photos and creating albums to always have (though I know this is possible digitally, it’s just not the same as having physical copies). Heck, I know I’ll be putting some of my favorite records away in these boxes as well, as music has had such a great impact on my life. The possibilities are endless so long as I’m really soaking in the moment.

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Sustainability and Making a Change

Sustainability is one of those things that everyone knows about yet not many attempt to make a change to implement. And I get it. I was one of those people just a few months ago, preaching the benefits of recycling, shopping with sustainability in mind, and more. Yet what was I doing when it actually came down to practicing what I preached? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Now, though, I’ve taken the liberty of empowering myself and my ideals by backing up what I say and suggest. Instead of just theorizing and spouting what people can do, I decided to take up the most sustainable practices in my home. This has not only reinvigorated my willingness to learn and teach others what I know, it’s also transformed the way I see these things in my own everyday life and what I can do to inspire change in others.

I can’t begin to tell you how much certain packaging supplies have helped me in creating an awesome recycling setup in our home. While some would frown upon using cardboard boxes as their recycling bins, I’ve championed their use as nonplastic containers that can eventually be recycled as well once they’ve become worn down or any unwanted bits of water start to soak through it. 

While some would find it tedious to do what I do to make sure cardboard boxes are kept around for awhile, I don’t mind the extra work. In fact, having a little extra stuff to complete actually makes me feel like this is all worth it. It starts with making sure aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and glass jars are clean by rinsing them out after use. Then, I take a paper towel and dry them out as best I can in a hurry and set them in the respective recycling box.

This has been so incredibly easy to implement, to the point that it seems like a no brainer for everyone to do. I mean, we all have such packaging supplies laying around, from cardboard boxes to packing tape and sharpies used for labeling the different boxes.

It just requires a change in our everyday lifestyle. If you can’t make a change for the world and your home, how can you ever actually make a change for yourself? People will point to selfishness in changing who they are but not the world, but the truly great changes in one’s mental and physical health usually impact the other things (like the environment) for the better. That’s the case more often than not, at least.

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Recycling Using Everyday Materials

I come from a pretty simple and traditionally middle class home. Being in small town Illinois for 18 years of my life made me subject to some mostly average and “normal” trends and ways of doing things. I’d say the majority of things I’ve experienced and learned actually came after I graduated high school, simply because there was an extreme lack of diversity in my home town.

For example, we never used to really “go out” simply because there weren’t many options to travel to. We also didn’t eat at many ethnically diverse restaurants or even attempt cooking different dishes from different cultures because we lived small and simply. That is, my parents chose to do what they always knew and what was easy.

So, it probably comes as no surprise that we never used to recycle, either. This is something that has affected my way of life since moving out. I find myself always wanting to try to recycle but never committing to the act.

And up until now, I never thought it would be worth it. But now that I know the benefits and impacts recycling has on the earth, it’s absolutely imperative that I begin now.

The problem I always had was thinking I have to have dedicated recycling boxes to each material. In addition, where I grew up, there were no recycling drop off points nearby. I would have had to drive at least 40 minutes to the nearest dropoff location (yes, I’m serious).

Those two problems are nonfactors for me now. We have a recycling drop off point that’s a two or three minute drive away, which is an incredible boon for our want to begin.

As for the containers, well, we’ve thought about ordering cute plastic containers online, but since that will have to wait for a few weeks, we’re going with cardboard.

I’m sure you’re like me in that you have a few cheap moving boxes laying around the house not being used whatsoever. This is the perfect place to start, especially since the boxes are free and taking up space anyway. You may as well get some use out of them, because that’s what we’re doing. Our cheap moving boxes are big enough to retain plastic for about a week and glass for three to four weeks. And all paper will fit for a good month before needing to be recycled (unless cardboard is shoved in there).

These things simply take a will to start them. Once you’ve begun, you can be proud of yourself for accomplishing the hardest part. From there, everything gets easier.

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We Can Pickle That!

My fiancee and I are pretty big fans of the show Portlandia. It’s irreverent humor and scattered skits are pretty off-putting at first, considering you struggle to follow along with what in the world is going on. But once you get into it, you start to see some familiar faces and scenes with a slow-moving “plot” (if you can call it that) that sort of describes Portland’s weird culture.

In one of the early episodes, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (who are portrayed as different characters in just about every scene in the show) have wacky roles as people who “can pickle that!” It starts off as commentary talking about pickling, well, pickles. But from there, it gets pretty ridiculous. They claim they can pickle anything, which goes out of the way to start talking about items that aren’t even vegetables that are traditionally pickled.

Anyway, fast forward 4 or 5 months, and my fiancee and I have finished the entire 9-season series. We never did see the scene pop back up again as a follow up to the first scene, but we did find ourselves pickling our own cucumbers.

We had the appropriate packaging supplies and pickling supplies after buying some vinegar and the right seasonings to pickle cucumbers, and lo and behold we were able to pickle some mighty fine pickles. They taste better than store-bought, in my opinion, because we were able to dilute the jars with more vinegar than usual. When I eat a pickle, I want some kick to the mouth.

It’s funny how sometimes ideas can come to fruition because of the supplies you have available. Take one of our recent projects, for instance. We had enough packaging supplies (thanks to her dad owning a furniture company) to load up a lot of our unused clothes, trinkets, and other junk. We decided cleaning out the apartment some and donating the clothes was a good cause, since there was no way we were going to make hardly any money at all on it.

Most of the time, people have an idea and go out to get what’s needed. But it can be very fun and rewarding to look at the things you already have and make an appropriate judgment call on what can be done with those supplies instead. All it takes is a bit of creativity and some action to start a new project, try something unique, or get things done.

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Farmers Markets

In the past year or so, my fiancee and I have been going to our local farmers market from time to time for a multitude of reasons. There’ve been times we just wanted to check out who was there and what was going on. At other times, we just wanted to take the dog along with us to meet other dogs and have a snack in the morning. And even other times we went solely to gather a good amount of groceries for the week.

One thing is for certain, though. We love going to farmers markets now, and that’s a fact. There’s nothing cooler than experiencing your own local culture and vendors. Being able to talk with the farmers and vendors about their products, how they treat their animals, what they grow their produce with, and more is something you won’t get anywhere else. There’s no option to do that when you go to a Kroger or Walmart or Meijer. There’s no one there to answer your questions, inform you on their products, and quell any concerns you may have.

But at a farmers market, all of those things happen and more.

Sometimes you’ll get people saying how it’s more expensive and that they don’t like that. Price is an understandable reason to stray away from these things, but I cannot vouch enough for the freshness and taste of all of the products I’ve already had at my farmers market. It’s unparalleled, and it’s great to know I’m supporting local vendors instead of people or companies that do the best they can to undercut competitors, pay their workers lower wages, and worse.

One thing I know that my partner and I can do in future to help ourselves have an easier time, though, is bringing along a few cheap moving boxes. Sometimes when we bring our reusable bag, there’s not enough room for all the different types of produce we end up walking away with. I think it would help to have a few cheap moving boxes to carry our produce around in, which we can then put in our vehicle once we head out. Too often I find bigger vegetables crushing smaller ones, and I think it’s important to keep certain things separate.

Regardless of how we handle these problems, I know that we’ll be making a point to go back to our local market every Saturday when given the chance. We simply connect too much with the people, the atmosphere, and the food we come away with.

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On the Move

Throughout my life, I’ve moved around (as in, packed and unpacked my vehicle with my belongings) so many times that I wouldn’t be able to tell you how much I’ve truly done it. In fact, I’m almost positive that I’ve become a nomad, even if it’s only by definition from the percentage of time I’ve been on the move.

I think that I used to like the fact that I would hop around from place to place, moving in and out of apartments, dorms, and even crashing on couches. I was proud of the whole “up and moving again!” thing simply because it meant I was “adventurous” and free.

But then it got pretty old. I realized how often I was doing it, how stressful it could be to pack and unpack and load up my truck and unload it. It became time consuming, it wore me out, and I generally started to wish I could stay put in one place for at least a few years.

Well, that all changed once I moved in with my partner over a year ago. We’ve already renewed our lease at this apartment for another year because we enjoy the area so much, meaning I’m able to stay in one place for at least two years. That’s actually something I haven’t been able to claim for the last 6 years, if I’m not mistaken.

Now, while we will be moving out next summer which is just another move in my life, it’ll be to a new house that we eventually buy. And that, quite honestly, has been the ultimate goal for me for awhile now. Sure, it’ll be more moving and unloading than I’ve ever done in my life, but it at least has a sense of permanence attached to it this time. All the packaging supplies and moving items I’ve accrued in my years will yet again get some recognition and use, though this time may be one of the last that they’re put to full use. I’m not a huge fan of my meager collection of packaging supplies in the first place, but you know what? They’ve done me well throughout the years, to the point that I never had to go out and buy a new moving strap or new cardboard boxes.

Moving is a bittersweet activity. On the one hand, you look forward to the new place you’re going and are happy to be upgrading “well, most of the time it’s an upgrade.” On the other hand, though, you’re leaving behind a place that you have called home. It can be sad to say goodbye to an old abode, but it you look at life as constantly changing, it’s actually a good thing to move and switch it up.

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Art and Shipping

I never quite realized the need for specialized cardboard boxes until I came across art. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t have figured that it was art which would lead me to learn more about such shipping materials.

Here’s the thing: there are a lot more cardboard box variants out there than you’d probably realize. From small to big, rectangular to cylindrical, cardboard comes in many shapes, sizes, forms, and specialities that you probably wouldn’t know about unless you owned awkward shaped possessions that needed to be moved or shipped safely.

So, one of the types of cheap moving boxes I’m really talking about is picture boxes. You know, flat, rectangular boxes solely used to ship pictures and paintings and art? These are the ones that you’d never bother to go out of your way to buy unless you were an artist yourself or owned some more expensive paintings. Otherwise, why go to the trouble to secure a specialized box if the contents weren’t worth something to you?

I had the realization that these sorts of boxes had to exist when I was at a museum this past weekend. While I never took myself to be one to enjoy viewing art, I quite enjoyed myself getting lost in the artists’ pieces at the GRAM up in Grand Rapids. And that’s when I began to ponder the price of some of those pieces.

A little lost in thought, I wondered how it was that some of those paintings and pieces could be shipped from one museum to another (whether it was purchased, donated, or borrowed). And that’s when it dawned on me: they’ve got to have some sort of sturdy, reliable box out there that both protects the art within and secures it well enough to withstand some jostling in transit. Lo and behold, I come to find out that there are specific boxes meant for framed art or pictures. While museums everywhere likely don’t use cheap moving boxes for their pieces, I do know of some cheaper variants for consumers out there if they were worried about a keepsake of theirs being damaged on a move or while shipped.

Like anything, there’s always a solution or product out there that fits your needs. It’s no different when it comes to art or paintings or portraits. Be sure to ensure the safety of your possessions by grabbing some sturdy cardboard boxes made to protect your belongings.

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