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If you're looking around and wondering how you wound up with 15 spatulas, 12 wooden spoons, eight or so ladles and six kitchen electronics (half of which you have no idea what they do), then it's time to break open some drawers, clear off some shelves and take your kitchen down to its useful and clutter-free basics.

In our kitchen, which is comfortable for one person but a tight squeeze for two, we've narrowed it down to tools -- outside of essentials like pots, pans and mixing bowls, of course -- that are not only used on a regular basis, but serve at least two purposes, if not more.

Diary of a New Homemaker

Lynn's picture

Our current favorite video is "Ten Bullets." It's a training film for Tom Sachs' industrial arts/video/coolness studio in NYC, and it's rather inspired us. JJ has taken to "knolling" his desk during conference calls, and I've knolled my own desk and my bedside table. And the kitchen. And maybe a couple of other spaces. We'll see how long it lasts. It is January, after all.

A Taste of the Season

Featuring Spring

Conventional chocolate is often produced by clear-cutting rainforest land, applying chemical pesticides and through the use of child labor in hazardous conditions. However, a number of companies now offer organic, sustainably-grown and "fair trade" varieties that adhere to environmentally and socially responsible production and processing standards. Pictured here: some offerings from Endangered Species Chocolate, Dagoba and others. Photo: Jason Kremkau.

Dear EarthTalk: I heard a reference to “Earth-friendly chocolate” and was wondering about what goes into chocolate that would raise environmental concerns.
--Ben Moran, Providence, RI

Like coffee beans, the cacao seeds from which we derive chocolate can only be grown successfully in equatorial regions--right where the world's few remaining tropical rainforests thrive. As worldwide demand for chocolate grows, so does the temptation among growers to clear more and more rainforest to accommodate high-yield monocultural (single-crop) cacao tree plantations. What are left are open, sunny fields with dramatically lower levels of plant and animal diversity. Adding environmental insult to injury, most cacao plantations use copious amounts of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides that further degrade the land that once teemed with a wide variety of rare birds, mammals and plants.

A Taste of Today's Chore

From House to Home 9/18/07

  • Before you buy new clothing for fall, clean closets and check what you need. You may be surprised by how much you own, especially if you alter or clean items.
  • Celebrate one new occasion in September, such as Grandparents' Day.
  • Convert a family room into a music room with soundproof walls using wool felt on the walls that are padded to muffle the sound. A handsome complement in the room might be leather floor tiles and a comfy chair in which to listen to your favorite tunes.

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