Thursday, January 8, 2015

What's Old is New: Mom & Dad's Upcycling

My parents aren’t wasteful people, they find a way to reuse almost anything.   Here’s a few things my parents have been reusing, recycling, and upcycling before they were on Pinterest.

Reusing glass jars

Reusing glass jars in a woodshop or garage
My dad had a woodshop in the shed in our backyard. Now thinking back on it, I wonder how much wood work he did, perhaps it was just to get away from me and my brother, but that’s another story.

On the underside of a long shelf, he had nailed the lids of jars, and in the jars were all kinds of nails and tacks and whatever stuff you need to build things with wood.  These were recycled jars – maybe pickles or peanut butter; they definitely were not purchased for this purpose.  As a kid, I thought it was a pretty cool idea and was for some reason, fascinated with unscrewing the jars to see what was in them, although I could see (they were glass, after all) and there was nothing ever more exciting than washers and nuts and bolts and nails.

Repurposing envelopes
Tucked in with the bills and charity donation requests is a blank envelope. If for some reason my father was not using that envelope, he set it aside to use at another time.  It’s a habit I still do.  My kids’ lunch money, field trip money, note to a teacher, is just as likely to be in a charity envelope or credit card return envelope.  Because everyone pays everything on line these days, these envelopes are less available, but they still come in various mailings.

Repurposing cookie tins

Remember those little butter cookies that came in the blue metal tins?  Do they make them anymore?  My mother used to get them for us and after we had eaten all the cookies from their little cupcake-paper holders, there was the empty tin.  She reused those tins around the house as various containers.  One became a sewing tin to hold her thread and needles.  One held her playing cards, these little red plastic Korean cards for a game that I never got the hang of, but always looked so fun.  They held hair ties and accessories.  Whatever little things we had, she gathered them in these little cookie tins.

Reusing plastic containers & glass jars
If you go into my mother’s refrigerator and take out the tub of butter, do not be surprised if there’s no butter in it. It could be soup, spaghetti sauce, or half an onion. To be truthful, the same could be said for my fridge, too.  My mother has always reused the plastic containers from foods such as butter and tofu, as well as glass food jars for storing leftovers, food bought in bulk, or kimchi that she’s made herself (kimchi is a Korean fermented vegetable dish that is made in large quantities and then is stored.)  I’ve taken it a step further by painting the lids of the glass jars to make them cuter on the pantry shelf.

Using a kitchen garbage bowl
The modern, fancy garbage bowl. Who knew mom could've been rich?
When my mother cooked, she always had some sort of catch-all on the counter for the ends of an onion, the skin of the garlic, and other throwaway pieces. This was usually in the form of the Styrofoam tray from the chicken or the plastic container that she had emptied of it's tofu.  She never used that pretty ceramic mixing bowl in the cabinet that she used for, well, for mixing.  Who knew had she used that bowl instead and marketed it as a “stylish garbage bowl” like Rachel Ray, she could have funded her retirement on throwing away cooking garbage.

Isn’t it interesting when you come across a “brand new idea” and realize that your parents or grandparents have been doing that for years?  Where our parents did it for pure functionality, we update it with some spray paint or some ribbons and give it a name and think we're doing something brand new, but it’s still the same function. More proof that “there’s nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

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