Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy Birthday to My Mom

Today is my mom's birthday, and for the first time in a while I'm here to celebrate it with her. It's a sad truth that we never appreciate everything our parents did for us until we grow up, and even then, I'm sure there are things my mom did that I won't truly appreciate until I have kids of my own.

But I wanted to take a moment to thank my mom for all the sacrifices she made for me, for everything she has given me, for the values she has instilled in me. I'm also thankful for her good skin genes she passed on to me though less thankful for the wide birthing hips!

My mom is one of the kindest, most caring, and strong people I know. She flew around the world from India to the US to get married, and brought up her children miles away from the rest of her family. She always opened the house to friends and family, and she knows how to throw a good party. She traveled with both my sister and me to India every other year so that we could learn where we came from, and know all our family. (Yes, that means multiple 20+ hour flights with toddlers.)It was from my mom that I developed my love of travel.

I know it hasn't always been easy. I know that these past few years have been especially difficult ones. And I know we have our differences at times. But I'm so thankful and lucky to have you as my mother, and I love you so very, very much.

Happy Birthday.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Detox

I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday. Mine has been extremely busy, but also very enjoyable. Many of my friends and family gave me gifts in the spirit of my non-consumerist small footprint adventure: My mom gave me a Trader Joe's gift certificate and a wind chime made of found objects. My sister gave me some fair trade soaps, my aunt and uncle gave me a spa gift certificate, one of my friends made a donation to the volunteer organization I work with, another friend made me a scrapbook. Another friend gave me a used book. So all in all, I think I did pretty well!

A couple days after Christmas I flew to my mom's house to celebrate the rest of the holiday. I decided that I didn't want to pay the money for a taxi or long-term parking, so I figured I'd park on the street by a friend's house, and walk the couple miles to the airport. I was traveling fairly light, and I figured after all the holiday gorging I'd done, the exercise would do me good. Besides, just because nobody walks in LA, doesn't mean I can't!

Except there is a reason nobody walks in LA, and that is that you are in danger of the sidewalk suddenly disappearing. So then I was forced to walk on the side of the road with cars whizzing past me, and I started pondering whether the money I saved would be worth it if I got hit, when an airport shuttle van pulled up by me. "Going to the airport?" he asked.

"Yes!" I said hopefully.

"Well then get in! You've got another mile to go."

The shuttle driver clearly thought I was nuts. I tried to explain a little about needing exercise, but I don't think he thought pulling a suitcase for two miles on a sidewalk-less road was the best way to get your exercise, and I guess I have to agree with him. He pulled up to the curb to let me off, I handed him five dollars, and he thanked me and told me next time to try jogging if I want exercise.

The rest of my trip has been much less eventful, but very lovely. I've spent time with friends and family. I got to see ScienceMama and her little Bean, and I've eaten and drank to excess. Tomorrow is New Year's Eve, but more importantly it's my mom's birthday, and the whole family will be together in the first time in forever to celebrate with her.

I'm still debating about whether or not I'll be making New Year's resolutions this year, and I'm also still vacillating between challenges for January, but I guess I better make up my mind soon! I fly home on the 1st, and will be back to regular life on the 2nd.

Happy New Year everyone. May 2008 be a banner year for you all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Twas the Afternoon Before Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve!

I'm at my uncle's place, enjoying the warmth (75 degrees here in sunny Southern California.) I sat outside, enjoyed the sun, read a book, played Wii with my cousin and ate lots and lots of cookies.

The eating the cookies almost made up for the staying up until 4:00 am baking cookies on Saturday night. Almost.

Anyway, I hope all of you, wherever you are, are enjoying your holiday. I wish you all the joy in the world.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Still Over 3,000 Things To Do

My sister's plane lands in a little over twelve hours. Am I any where near done?
Um, that would be a resounding no.
Am I going to sleep tonight?
Jury's still out on that one.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Have 3,542 Things To Do Before Christmas

Ack! Ack! Ack! Are there really only four days left?

I hope you all have been better planners than I have been, because four days to Christmas, and I still haven't finished started making my damn presents.

This is not my fault. Okay it is. But in my defense, I have been doing OTHER things. Like making cookies for my boss's birthday. And making brownies for the company potluck. (Which, by the way, were AWESOME. At the last minute, I decided that adding ginger and cinnamon would make my boring brownie recipe infinitely more special. And you know what? I was RIGHT!)Also, I've been eating brownies and cookies. And watching the first season of "Heroes" all in one weekend. And now I would really LIKE to be busy making presents, but is it my FAULT that I've been totally and completely sucked into "The Omnivore's Dilemma," and can't stop reading it?!

In other news, remember my used book dilemma? Well, I finally decided to buy the used book, and then it arrived from Powells and apparently they sent me a new book for the used price! I don't really know how or why that happened, but I guess my cousin is just getting a new book. Ah well. I tried.

I also think that after four months of not buying anything new for myself, I'm going to have to cave and buy something. I've been putting it off, and putting it off, because I REALLY didn't want to, but I'm freezing cold (I know, I know, I live in LA, tell it to my feetcicles.) So I think I'm going to buy a cherry pit heating pad. I'm justifying it because at least the cherry pits are being put to use, where they might be thrown away? And also because if I didn't buy one, I might be compelled to turn on the heat which so far I've avoided doing.

In any case, I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday break. I'll be posting off and on for the next week, and please continue to comment on the January challenge here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


There are over 10 days left in my DeSloFooMo challenge, but I'm already looking to January! I've come up with a few options for my January challenge, but I'm having a hard time picking which challenge to try out, so I thought I'd put it to you and get your input.

Here are the choices:

JaLoFoMo- The Local Food Challenge
Since starting DeSloFooMo, I've become much more interested in the food I eat and where it comes from. Currently, if any of my food is local, it's totally accidental. I'd like to try and incorporate some local foods into my diet, and that's what this challenge would be about.

Pros: This is a challenge I'm pretty excited to try as food has been on my mind a lot recently. I'd also like to supplement my challenge by doing some reading about the local food movement. Also, there's a farmers' market that's about a twenty minute walk from my apartment that I have never been to, and I'd like to get into a routine of going every weekend.

Cons: Another month of food? While I think people have enjoyed DeSloFooMo, this isn't a food blog, and two months in a row of food challenges might be a bit much.

JaWaCoMo- The Water Conservation Challenge
The Mayor of Los Angeles is probably going to institute mandatory water conservation regulations soon as we're in a pretty bad drought here in Los Angeles. This challenge would be about conserving my water- hand-washing dishes, taking short showers, etc.

Pros: This challenge would definitely be timely.

Cons: I try to be pretty water-conscious already. I do use a dishwasher, but I only run it about once a week. (I eat breakfast and lunch at work, and those dishes get washed by hand.) And I already take short showers. I know that there are things I could be doing regarding my toilet, but because it's just me in my apartment, my personal toilet doesn't get used a ton. I'm at work a lot, and I can't really "let it mellow" at work.

JaDiCuMo- The Diva Cup Challenge
The first time I heard about the Diva Cup, my reaction was, "Ew, gross." But the more I keep reading about it, from various people, the more intrigued I've become. And I'm always up for trying something once, so, what the hell? Why not give it a go?

Pros: This to me is the wackiest, most out-there challenge of the three. And who doesn't love a wacky, out-there challenge?

Cons: Most of the month, it won't even be relevant.

All right, those are the options. Let me know what you think in the comments. Any additions, questions, or other options are welcomed as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

People of the Corn

I just started reading Michael Pollan's book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," and so far it's been a fascinating and somewhat frightening read. It's an interesting time for me to be reading this book- halfway through my DeSloFooMo challenge. One of the things I like about this current challenge is that it has made me take a closer look at the food I'm putting in my body and how it gets from wherever it is grown or raised to me.

Before DeSloFooMo, I really didn't give much thought to the food I ate. I know it seems crazy, but I never considered who made the Trader Joe's prepared lasagna I like. I never considered where it was made or when. I didn't think about where the lettuce for my prepared salad was grown, or whether the dressing was made with high fructose corn syrup. I bought organic at times, and didn't when I was feeling cheap. Food sustains me, but it didn't sustain my interest. I just ... didn't care.

Since starting the challenge, I've become more keenly interested in the food I eat. I've bought mostly organic when it was an option. I've examined ingredient labels. And since I'm the one preparing my lasagna, I know when it was made and where. I felt like I was becoming much more food conscious and savvy.

But as I read this book, I realize, I still have so much to learn.

One of the most interesting parts of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" has to do with its in depth coverage of the corn industry. I knew that corn was in a lot of foods and drinks, and yet, I never really realized the extent until I started reading this book. Pollan writes that while Mexican descendants of the Mayans may claim to be "the corn people," the truth is that Americans have more of a claim to that title:

But carbon 13 doesn't lie, and researchers who have compared the isotopes in the flesh or hair of North Americans to those in the same tissues of Mexicans report that it is now we in the North who are the true people of corn. "When you look at the isotope ratios," Todd Dawson, a Berkeley biologist who's done this sort of research, told me, "we North Americans look like corn chips with legs." Compared to us, Mexicans today consume a far more varied carbon diet: the animals they eat still eat grass (until recently, Mexicans regarded feeding corn to livestock as a sacrilege); much of their protein comes from legumes; and they still sweeten their beverages with cane sugar.
So that's us: processed corn, walking (Dilemma 23).

I knew from traveling to other parts of the world that most other countries weren't as addicted to high fructose corn syrup, but I didn't give much thought to what we feed our livestock. As it turns out, corn is in our sodas, our burgers, and probably in our fries as well.

Was I a really a 'corn chip with legs?' I started to pull jars out of cabinets to get a closer look at what I was eating. The cereal I ate today didn't have high fructose corn syrup, but it does contain corn bran and corn starch. The milk I drank probably came from a corn-fed cow. The yogurt I had was imported from Greece, so the cows there probably weren't fed corn, but I really don't know much about Greek farming. The honey I had with the yogurt is corn-free, as was the peanut butter and jelly I ate. (Both were organic, from Trader Joes. Smucker's would have contained high fructose corn syrup.) But the bread for my PB&J sandwich? Contained corn flour.

Obviously corn isn't a bad guy. I love corn, corn bread, and corn tortillas. But the idea that we're unconsciously eating so much corn is scary. And the more I read and learn, the more I realize that the way we grow our food is fundamentally problematic.

And yet, it seems unlikely to be changed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Arduous Can Bake, But She Cannot Ice

On, Friday, I made some chocolate gingerbread men to take with me to my friend's holiday cookie decorating party.

Of course, I didn't have a gingerbread man cookie cutter, nor could I buy one, so I had to cut them out using a paper template.

All things considered, I think they turned out pretty well.

I took them to the party, where I scored massive bonus points for making CHOCOLATE gingerbread men, and also for making them without the use of a cookie cutter.

And then I tried to decorate them. And let's just say, I'm not giving Martha a run for her money any time soon.

This was my first attempt.

It wouldn't be so bad ... you know, if I were FIVE.

This is punk man. I made him when I got tired of trying to use the icing.

Uh oh. I guess this gingerbread man suffered some red eye when I took his picture.

A Family of Freaks.

Luckily for me, freakish gingerbread men taste just as good as the non-freakish variety. Unlucky for the poor gingerbread men. They're all gone now.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

If You Whine About It On The Internet, It Will Come

My friend Honda had two basting brushes in her kitchen, so she gave me one yesterday, "So you can brush cut things!"

So now, I am the proud owner of a basting brush! I like it so much, I'm not even going to kick Honda's ass for making fun of my "brush cutting." (Well, that and Honda's freakishly strong, so I couldn't kick her ass even if I wanted to.)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Friday!

My desk is a mess, and my Christmas to-do list feels a mile long, but I wanted to wish everyone a happy and low-stress weekend (as low stress as weekends this time of year can be.)

I've lately taken to listening to holiday music at work, and it's amazing how it's been putting me in the holiday spirit, and making me less cranky about my epic to-do list.

This weekend, DeSloFooMo-holiday baking edition! I can't really remember the last time I baked cookies. And I definitely cannot remember the last time I baked cookies that weren't pre-made in a tube. Probably hasn't happened since high school. But I got to say, this cooking thing? I will admit, it's become a little addictive for me. I definitely don't hate it so much as I used to. So I'm excited to try my hand at baking. And if it all goes terribly wrong, well, you know you'll be the first to know.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Four Months In

It has been about 4 months since I embarked on my year of non-consumerism. I say "about," because I am not 100% sure when exactly it was I decided to become a non-consumer. I'm pretty sure the last new, durable, non-gift, non-Egypt thing I bought was a dress that I bought on August 1st. And I made my decision sometime between August 1st and the 17th, but I wasn't 100% committed to my decision at first, so I kind of made it in my head, and didn't really talk about it or write about it.

But basically, it's been four months.

In general ... it feels fine. I don't feel deprived at all. The few things I've really wanted, I've found used. And as for the rest, my philosophy is, if it's too much trouble to find it used, then I really didn't need it. And, truth be told, I've never been a HUGE shopper anyway.

Occasionally, it's a hassle. The other day, I was helping a friend do some Christmas shopping at Crate and Barrel, and there was a basting brush there for under a dollar. I'd kind of like a basting brush, seeing as I don't have one, and it was SO CHEAP. But I didn't get it. And that was probably fine, since I have yet to baste something in my life.

Sometimes, it's an adventure. Like when I made some cool scrapbooks using stuff I had on hand at home. Or when I find clothes in my closet that I haven't worn in a year.

But mostly? Mostly I don't think about it much. It doesn't occur to me to buy things, because I've removed it as an option. And in that way, it's a relief. Because it used to be that I'd see something, and maybe want it, and much hand-wringing, and can I afford it, and do I really need it, would follow. And now?

Now there's no hand-wringing. There's no justifying, no rationalizing. No wait-three-days-and-if-I'm-still-thinking-about-it-maybe-I-can-get-it-as-long-as-my-bank-account-looks-okay.

I don't need to convince myself that this "thing" will change my life, because I know it won't. I don't need to tell myself that it's a necessity because I know it isn't.

So, yeah, I'd have to say, that four months into my year of non-consumerism, my overriding feeling is of peace.

Eight months to go.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Easy Green #3

Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you spend a lot of time on the internet. And if you want to see what J Crew's winter collection looks like, you don't need a catalog to see it, because it's all available online. So why not reduce the catalogs you receive, save a few trees, and lessen the clutter in your house?

I had previously tried to get off of various catalogs, by emailing the companies directly, but locating the proper email address was oftentimes difficult, so I ended up only emailing a few companies and leaving it at that, until I found Catalog Choice. Catalog Choice makes it really easy to get out of all those annoying, often unsolicited, catalogs that come in the mail.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

DeSloFooMo- Shoot Me Now

Today I am eating a heavenly butternut squash soup for lunch. I am sincerely glad it is so good, because making it almost killed me.

It all started when the magnificent ScienceMama sent me a few recipes to try including her recipe for butternut squash soup. I LOVE butternut squash soup. In fact, it might be my current favorite soup. So I skimmed through the recipe, and it seemed that ScienceMama had adequately judged my level of culinary skill (or lack there of.) Most of the recipe seemed doable. The only thing that confused me was this one phrase: "Brush cut side of squash with oil."

"Brush cut? How do you brush cut something?" I wondered. I came to the conclusion that brush cutting must be some sort of more advanced culinary skill that I had yet to learn, perhaps involving a cooking utensil I didn't own- half basting brush, half knife? Because I don't ALWAYS like to telegraph my cooking retardedness, I decided to Google "brush cut," and see what I got.

Of course, all I got was that a brush cut was a type of hair cut. Which, somehow, I doubted that I was supposed to give the squash some sort of hair cut, so that was out. I googled "brush cut cooking," and came up with many results involving brush cutting things, but nowhere was brush cutting defined!

Finally, I gave up and turned to Awesomest Co-worker. "Okay, this is probably a really stupid question, but I'm looking at a recipe that's telling me to 'brush cut' something. What does that mean?"

Awesomest Co-worker looked at me dumbfounded. "Brush cut? I have no idea."

I began to feel relieved. "Oh good. So this isn't some sort of culinary term that EVERYONE knows except me."

"What's the context," Awesomest Co-Worker asked.

"Brush cut side of squash with oil," I began.

And that's when Awesomest Co-Worker started to laugh. "It's not brush cut, it's brush THE CUT side of squash. Like, brush the side of the squash that has been cut as opposed to the non-cut side."

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. See, THAT I know how to do."

That being settled, I reviewed the rest of the recipe. It looked easy, though time-consuming, with a lot of down time while things roasted or simmered. So I figured, while I was making that, I might as well make tomato sauce as well. I had been meaning to try my hand at making my own tomato sauce- mostly to use up all my tomatoes before they went moldy. (I'm trying really hard this time NOT to end up with moldy vegetables. So far, I've been successful.)

The tomato sauce recipe looked easy too. Why not just make one night a giant cooking night? So, I decided to make BOTH the butternut squash soup and the tomato sauce.


I got home at 7:10 pm, having had to stop at two grocery stores on my way, because neither Trader Joe's nor Vons carried ALL the ingredients I needed. I immediately got to work on the squash.

For a while it was all sunshine and daisies. I successfully roasted the squash.

I observed that tomatoes look naked and sad when peeled, and that de-seeding them is intensely boring.

But as the minutes started to tick by, I got more and more tired. My back ached from stooping over to chop things. My feet hurt from standing. I was STARVING because I still hadn't found time to eat dinner. My hands were freezing from handling cold vegetables, and the rest of me was burning up from the heat of the stove and oven. I was slowly getting crankier and crankier.

By 10:00pm I was entering the home stretch. The butternut squash soup was almost done. All I had to do was throw it in the blender, and season it. The tomato sauce just had to be pureed in the food processor and then reduced. No more chopping! Hooray!!

And then my blender did this:

Butternut squash soup splattered all over my fridge, the counter, the blender, and my hair. I quickly unplugged the blender before it could vomit up anymore soup and stared at the mess. By this time I was tired enough, hungry enough, and achy enough that I could have cried. But luckily, the first thought that came into my head was, "Well at least it will make for a good fodder for my blog."

I managed to salvage most of the butternut squash soup, and then started re-blending it a cup at a time, while holding on tight to the blender to prevent it from leaking. I quickly tasted the soup (amazing!) and I wanted to stop right there, but I still had the freaking tomato sauce to finish and also my kitchen looked like 20 toddlers had had a food fight in it.

I quickly put the tomato sauce through the food processor, and set it on the stove to reduce while I cleaned the kitchen. I cleaned up most of the dishes, and then decided, "Screw it. I'll do the rest tomorrow," and went to watch TV and eat the remainder of the rum cake from Sunday night.

Meanwhile, my sauce continued to reduce. I took a quick shower. I got dressed for bed. I brushed my teeth.

The sauce was still not done.

At last, at 12:30 at night, a mere FIVE AND A HALF HOURS AFTER I STARTED COOKING, my tomato sauce was done. Luckily, it too, had turned out to be delicious.

As I crawled into bed last night, I decided, "That's it. I'm eating sandwiches and omelets for the rest of DeSloFooMo."

Today, I feel a little better about the whole thing. But I have learned my lesson:

Never cook two time intensive recipes, neither of which you've ever tried before, in one night. Particularly a work-night.

I still haven't figured out exactly what went wrong with my blender, though I'm assuming that in my exhaustion, I didn't lock it down properly. I will say that it will probably be a little while before I work up the nerve to use my blender again.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend Fun

Annie was in town over the weekend, so this weekend was jam-packed with fun with her and my other friends. Sunday night, eleven of us crowded into my little one-bedroom apartment, for a delicious dinner of hot buttered rum, persimmon salad, roast chicken, lasagna, and rum cake. I was in charge of the lasagna, and after the turkey burger debacle, I was a little worried, but the lasagna turned out just fine. My friends outdid themselves with the chicken and the rum cake, and everything was so good that I didn't stop eating until I thought I was going to die of fullness.

To me, this is what the holidays are about. Having my friends over, and enjoying a meal, playing some games, and drinking too much hot buttered rum.

Friday, December 7, 2007

DeSloFooMo- The Meltdown

So, while I am perfectly capable of making delicious vegetarian lasagna, or sloppy joes, or omelets, I am apparently a total disaster when it comes to making turkey burgers on a GEORGE FOREMAN GRILL.

Yesterday, I was kind of getting tired of the monotony of my diet, which mostly stems from my extremely limited cooking repertoire, because as mentioned previously, I am not much of a cook. Really. I think before this week, I cooked maybe 10 times this year. Total. But I figured, what the hell, everything's been turning out so well, and how can I mess up turkey burgers, really?

But I couldn't find my instructions to the George Foreman, so I called my mom and asked her how long I needed to cook the turkey burgers for.

"I don't know, about five minutes on either side. So 10 minutes total, okay? Be sure to cook them REALLY thoroughly," she warned because she totally doesn't trust that I won't give myself food poisoning. And I agreed with alacrity because I have a horror of uncooked meat that stems from this really scary movie that we watched in sixth grade science about a crazy dude named Fester who tries to get kids to eat foods that have been "in the danger zone!" (Annie, ScienceMama, tell me you remember this film.)

So I pulled out the George Foreman, and right here is where I admit that I also do not really like my George Foreman grill. And I know, I know, that saying that means that when I go home there will be millions of Foreman enthusiasts at my door lining up to beat me with Foreman sized sticks, but I've tried, people. I just don't like it. I don't like that you can't see the meat while it grills, and I don't like that it's so small and that it's hard to clean, and I don't like the weird little fat tray under the grill.

But it had been a long time since I last tried my Foreman, and I figured, well it's THERE, and everyone says that it makes cooking so easy, and I've been successfully managing to cook all week, so maybe I'm not the cooking idiot I once was. So I put my turkey burgers on the Foreman, and checked the clock. And then five minutes in, I opened up the grill, and this was my first indicator that maybe my mom was wrong about how long it takes to cook turkey on a Foreman grill, because the burgers looked about done, and also, why would I need to flip them since there's that double grill? But, my mom said ten minutes, and she's MY MOM. I trusted her. So I flipped them over, and closed the Foreman again.

But now I was kind of suspicious, so I ran to my computer to check and see if I could find instructions online, but I couldn't find them anywhere, and then I remembered exactly where the instructions were, so I quickly pulled them out and saw that according to the instructions turkey burgers are supposed to cook for FIVE TO SEVEN minutes.

But it was too late, it had already been ten minutes, so I hastily unplugged the Foreman and put the burgers on a plate. And I was starving, so I just poured a ton of ketchup and mustard on my burger to mask the slightly burnt taste, and took a big bite and my bite was COLD and I freaked out and had a mini panic attack and I could swear in my head that Fester's evil eyes were gleaming at me.

And then I realized that the cold was not from the burger, but from the bun, which ... okay, I had run out of hamburger buns, so I had pulled an English muffin from the freezer to use. Only it turns out that you should not put English muffins in the freezer because they turn into hockey pucks, and were impossible to separate, so when I finally managed to separate them, 3/4 of the muffin was on one side and 1/4was on the other, but the whole thing had been such a fiasco, and I was hungry, so I just threw it in the toaster like that, and well, the 3/4 of a muffin? It was still a little cold.

In the end I didn't die of food poisoning which is the most important thing anyway. And I learnt some very important things in the process, such as, "Don't put
English muffins in the freezer," and "In addition to being hard to clean, Foreman grills are also freakishly fast in cooking meat."

So there you are. I guess it would have been too much to have expected a week to go by without some sort of Arduous cooking fiasco.

The City She Loves Me

I am never more in love with my city than after spending an evening in one of its amazing music venues. Spaceland, it had been too long, but I swear, I'll be back soon.
Outside it's raining. I should be asleep, but I'm too wound up, so instead, I'm enjoying the peaceful Los Angeles night.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Consumption Gone Wild!

Okay, I know I have neither been pregnant, nor gone through labor. I know from my pregnant and formerly pregnant friends, that pregnancy is rough and uncomfortable and that labor is no picnic either. So I know that I shouldn't judge, but I have to ask, is this really necessary?

I don't know, maybe I will change my mind when I get pregnant, but personally, I don't really feel like a "push present" of diamond jewelry is necessary just because ... I gave birth like women have been doing for thousands and thousands of years. Not to knock the miracle of birth, as it is a miracle that I would like to be a part of one day. But I think maybe giving birth to my child, and having my loving and supportive spouse by my side would be enough. And if he REALLY wanted to give me a present? Maybe instead of buying me jewelry, he'd hire a cleaning service.

The other thing that weirds me out about this article is that all these women seemed to have basically hinted to their husbands that this is what they wanted until their husbands bought them the "push present." It's not like it was even coming out of the husband's head as a nice, unexpected, romantic thing to do for his wife. If you really, really want jewelry (and I have to admit, that I am not immune to the allure of jewelry) why not buy it yourself? Especially if you're having to hint to your husband about it anyway. I mean gifts are nice and lovely, but to me, what makes gifts special is the surprise element of them. (I would think this would be especially true when you share a bank account with someone. It's not like the gift is free, really. It's coming out of your budget.)

But again, I haven't gone through pregnancy, or labor, so I don't want to be unnecessarily harsh. To me, this feels like excessive consumerism, but I'd be interested to know what those of you who have kids think about this.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Irony Thy Name is Paper Company

So a week ago or so, I ordered some recycled paper, and today it arrived in a cardboard box stuffed with STYROFOAM balls.

It's .. paper. It's not even fragile. Why would anyone package RECYCLED paper with STYROFOAM?

Why "Freeze Yer Buns" Isn't So Arduous

It was a sunny 85 degrees in Los Angeles yesterday. Ha ha! We may be a city full of gridlock and plastic surgery, but on the flip side, we occasionally get 80 degree days in December.

(I think that's actually our official motto. LA: it's not that cold.)

Anyway, after a week of freezing my buns off and wondering if I was going to make it through this challenge, it was so nice to come home to an apartment that wasn't icy cold but warm, warm, warm. In fact it was a little too warm. And then I thought, hey, I committed to turning off my heat, I didn't say anything about my A/C. I can run that thing all night long.

I'm kidding! I'm kidding! I didn't turn on my A/C. I didn't even crack a window. Instead I revelled in not being cold, made myself dinner, talked on the phone to a few friends, and went to bed in just a tee-shirt.

It was heaven.

Oh yeah, so far DeSloFooMo is going really well! I actually find myself *excited* to cook. Of course it's only been five days, so who knows if the novelty will wear off. But for now, I'm enjoying this challenge very much.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

One is Silver and the Other's Gold

So, I'm having a Christmas gift problem. I've basically figured out my gifts, except that my 11 year-old cousin has a book on his Christmas list. As the resident book lover in the family, I usually tend to buy the books off his list. And I'd love to do that this year ... except, I'm having "issues" with myself. See, while I CAN buy gifts for people, it seems so silly to me to NOT buy a used book when used books are such an easy thing to get. And yet, I feel guilty. It's Christmas! Does a used book say, "I'm cheap?"

And then I remembered an incident with my grandfather when I was about my cousin's age. I was at their home in India, and it was early morning and I was reading. Several books were piled around me on either side. I had been given a bunch of used books by some family friend and I was excited to pour through them all.

My grandfather picked up one of the books that was particularly old- it was a small, yellowed paperback, and the binding had come undone; the front cover was hanging on by a thread. "This book needs repairing," he declared. "Let me take it to be fixed, and I'll bring it back when I come home from work."

I had never heard of BOOKS being repaired. And I was loathe to part with my book. I half suspected my grandfather would throw it out, or forget about it, or that it would need to be "repaired" for weeks, and I wouldn't get the book back. But my grandfather was not really someone who I could argue with, so I gave it to him.

And sure enough, that night he came home with my newly-repaired book. The binding was fixed. The cover was newly laminated. The book looked perfect! My joy and amazement at seeing my old book repaired was far greater than it would have been, had my grandfather just gone out and bought me a new copy.

I think most people would probably just toss an old paperback, rather than get it fixed. That moment with my grandfather was a "teaching moment." He probably didn't intend it to be- for him, repairing paperbacks was probably the norm, and not so unusual. To me, though, that was a small reminder that sometimes fixing something used is better than buying something new.

So maybe I will get my cousin the used book. Possibly he won't notice. Most of the used books I've bought have been in excellent condition. But if he does notice, maybe I'll explain to him why I bought a used book. And one day, many years from now, he might think of that used book and remember that sometimes buying something used is better than buying something new.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Easy Green #2

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, from time to time I'm going to post easy things to do to "green up" your life. While they may not seem like very big things, I am a believer (or at least I try to be) that every little change can make a difference.

One easy change I made a few months ago- bringing my own dishes and utensils to work. I like to eat my cereal at work while I check my morning email. Because my office has a stock of plastic dishes and utensils in the kitchen, I would use a plastic bowl and a plastic spoon each morning and then throw them away. Looking back, I can't believe it took me so long just to bring in my own bowl and spoon.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Holy %$@&

I just got my electric bill for the past two months, and it's LESS THAN HALF the cost of my last bill. Of course this bill is for September 14th through November 15th, which means that the last period was in the height of the summer. So most of the decrease is probably from not running the A/C. But still.

DeSloFooMo- 1st Shopping Excursion

Part of the reason that I started eating almost entirely pre-packaged meals was because I suffer from moldy potato syndrome. It goes like this. You go shopping, and you decide that you are going to be Healthy and so you buy all these vegetables- potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower, spinach. And then you throw in a frozen pizza because one cannot be healthy all the time. And then two weeks later, you want something to eat, you open your fridge, and you find a bunch of bad vegetables and nothing else. (You ate the frozen pizza 12 days ago.)

Gradually, I decided that buying fresh vegetables was a waste. I never seemed to finish them before they went bad. I would buy a cauliflower intending to cook it, but then I would always pass up the cauliflower in favor of some mac and cheese. Because it was easier. So I reasoned, if that's the way it is, that's the way it is. I could delude myself into buying fresh vegetables and then never eat them, or I could just buy ready made salads and chicken wraps from Trader Joe's and at least then I'd be getting some veggies in me.

But with this challenge, I am endeavoring to find a third way. I don't want to buy a lot of things and have them go to waste. And yet, I also don't want to have to eat the same thing every day. This is the problem of living alone, and another reason I don't cook. Four to six servings is not much for a family, but for an individual, it's four to six meals!

I knew I needed to plan. I sat down with a few cookbooks, and came up with a few meals to eat this week whose ingredients somewhat overlapped. Then I quickly listed everything I needed for these planned meals- omelets, turkey burgers, turkey sloppy joes, lasagna, and spaghetti. And after THAT, I went shopping.

I always walk to the grocery store, and I also always shop in my bags. This prevents me from mindlessly throwing things into my cart that I don't really need. Yesterday, only two things not on my list went into my cart- ketchup and mustard that I realized I didn't have and would definitely need for turkey burgers. Aside from that, it was all on my list. I mostly bought organic when I could, though I couldn't quite stop stressing about the prices.

Finally, I was done. I chatted with the nice lady at the check-out counter (Trader Joe's has the NICEST employees), and kept glancing fearfully at the register as my items rang up. Finally, my final total. $64.57.

Not bad considering all the staples I had to buy.

And then I went home, and made myself an omelet.

It was delicious.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What Have I Decided to Do?!

Okay, I think this month's challenge might be a little harder than I anticipated.

Just so you can see what I'm working with, here are the current contents of my fridge. That's face lotion in the corner, and I think the lemonade is probably old.

And this is my fridge door. Probably half the condiments and the soda need to be tossed.

Okay, and while I know my freezer looks incriminating, I'm not a lush. I swear! I just happen to throw a lot of get togethers at my house.

And my pantry. Don't ask me how long I've had that random tin of water chestnuts on the top shelf. Or why I purchased a random tin of water chestnuts in the first place.

Clearly I have my work cut out for me. Sigh.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The End of NoBloShoeMo

From 22 pairs of shoes to 12. Not bad.

December Challenge

So tonight when I get home, I'll officially wrap up NoBloShoeMo, and give you an official count of shoes kept and shoes going.

But right now, I want to introduce my challenge for December.

As some of you know, I pretty much live on pre-packaged foods. I'm not much of a cook, which is to say that I can cook, but I don't derive particular enjoyment from cooking, and I don't have a ton of time. I know, excuses, excuses.

But I know that pre-packaged foods are not particularly healthy, and are also definitely not environmentally friendly. So this month, my challenge to myself is:

1. No buying pre-packaged dinners
2. No buying fast food

For one month. So I can either cook, or go to a sit-down restaurant. But I can't order take-out from a sit-down restaurant unless I bring all my own containers.

I'm really excited for this challenge, but also a little scared. This challenge requires a lot of preparation, and it also requires that I remember my lunch every day before work. Luckily for me, I'm doing this particular challenge in December which means that I'll be with family for a chunk of it, and probably have lovely dinners cooked for me!

My only problem is that this challenge doesn't have a snappy name to it. So if anyone wants to come up with one, that would be great. Otherwise, maybe I'll go with DeSloFooMo.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

November Wrap Up

Augh. This jet lag thing is killing me. I meant to finish off NoBloShoeMo tonight, but I'm falling asleep as I type, so I promise I'll finish tomorrow. Also tomorrow, I'll introduce my December challenge! I'm very excited about this one, and I swear it won't involve a billion pictures of my shoes!

'Tis The Season To Be Cranky

Humph. I am cranky today. This may be because I have a lingering cold, or it may be because I woke up at 3:30 am today (thanks jet lag!) or it may be because it is only 26 days until Christmas and I am starting to stress out.

The problem is it's all very well to SAY that my non-consumption doesn't apply to gifts, but in practice, I'm finding it hard to go forth and shop. Also, for various reasons I will not go into here, I'm on a tight budget which is further complicating matters.

So then I committed to making some of my gifts, and I feel relatively confident about what I am making and in my ability to make it, except that I'm having some trouble getting all environmentally friendly raw materials. Which means I am probably going to have to settle for some environmentally friendly raw materials, and some ... not. Which is not sitting well with me, but at this point I'm a little at a loss.

And then I keep going round and round in my head about Christmas decor. I love Christmas trees, and I've had one for the past few years now, and would love to get one again this year. But it seems a little wasteful, especially since I'm going to be at my uncle and aunt's for Christmas itself, and they will definitely have a tree at their home.

Sigh. As a wise frog once said, it's not easy being green.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Freeze Yer Buns- Part III

It's almost the end of the month, so I thought I'd give you a little update about this. So far, so good. I haven't turned my heat on in my apartment at all. It's a huge psychological help that the heat doesn't work too well, so I know that even if I turned it on, it would be forever before the apartment warmed up, and I'm better off just putting on a fleece and wrapping myself in a blanket.

Of course it's not even winter yet, so the true test is yet to come.

The Rules

Yesterday, Amelia asked me in the comments what exactly I was and was not consuming.

Since I've been making up my rules the best way I see fit, I figured it was worth clarifying what I can and cannot do. While I looked to The Compact and Colin at No Impact Man for inspiration, my rules are slightly different.

1. I cannot buy any new durable goods.
2. I cannot buy any clothes. Period. This does not include shoes.
3. I can continue to use non-durable products I already own, but once I run out, I need to find the most environmentally friendly replacement.
4. I can spend money on experiences- concerts, plays, museums, etc.
5. Presents are exempted from my ban on new goods, but I try and make a good faith effort to buy something either from a small independent artist or producer, or to buy my friends experiences.

That's pretty much it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

To Consume or Not to Consume

So I had decided long, long ago that my trip to Egypt would be my one exception to my non-consumption this year because going to Egypt is a once in a lifetime experience and anyway, I rationalized to myself that by buying in Egypt, I'd be supporting a third world economy.

But I wasn't entirely prepared for the confluence of emotions that hit me as I prepared to shop- there was a pent-up desire to shop, there was relief that if I needed/wanted something I could just get it without having to jump through a myriad of Ebay or Amazon marketplace hoops, and there was lots and lots of guilt.

Even though I had told myself Egypt was an exception, it was hard for me to buy without feeling like I was cheating on my non-consumerist vows.

As a result, I ended up buying a lot less for myself than I usually do when I go on trips which is good. Mostly I bought gifts for friends, so now almost all of my Christmas gifts are taken care of, so that's somewhat of a relief.

I still have a few more Christmas gifts left though, which is another struggle. I also decided that when I became a non-consumer that gifts would be exempted. Mostly because I didn't want my friends and family to hate me. BUT, I still feel weird about buying gifts. I'd rather buy experiences- tickets to plays or concerts or museums, but experiences can be kind of expensive so I'm not sure if that's going to work out. Any ideas for inexpensive experiential gifts would be much appreciated.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Seven Random Facts

Just before I left for my trip, I got tagged by notthemama. I've never been tagged before so it was pretty exciting, except that I was running around like crazy getting stuff done for my trip. But now that I'm back, here are seven random facts about me. And in light of the fact that I just got back from a trip, all my seven facts are travel related. So I guess they're not totally random then. Oh well. Guess I'm a rebel.

1. I have been to every continent other than Antarctica. Though I almost don't count South America because I was only about five years old when I was there.

2. My favorite city in the world is Istanbul. To me, Istanbul combines the modernity of a European city with the exotic-ness of an Asian city. I fell in love with it the first time I went, and look forward to going back many times.

3. I am terrified of roller coasters, but being 30,000 feet in the air doesn't bug me in the slightest. I even sometimes enjoy turbulence.

4. We have a family video of me feeding some kangaroos in Australia when I was 8, and then getting freaked out every time they jumped towards me, and jumping back away from them as they jumped to me.

5. I hate jet lag when I'm travelling, but I secretly enjoy jet lag when I come back home. I wake up at 5 am, and end up doing super productive things like cleaning and unpacking because what else am I going to do?

6. My next must-gos that I've never been to are Peru, Morocco, Sweden, and Croatia. I also really want to revisit France and England, but Western Europe is ridiculously expensive, so I'm not sure when that will happen.

7. I would love to live abroad at some point in my life.

All right. I'm tagging ScienceMama, Annie, Shorty, and Amelia.

I know that's only four, but like I said, I'm a rebel.

1- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
3- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I'm Baaaack!

Did you miss me?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Farewell! So long!

I'm sorry to do this to you, dear internet, but I am taking a week long trip out of the country. Which means that while I will still try to post when I have the time and access to the internet, I can't guarantee that you'll be getting fresh postings every day from me.

I know, I know, what about NaNoBloMo, and NoBloShoeMo? Well, I've almost finished showing you my shoes. And anyway, aren't you TIRED of seeing my shoes? So when I come back, I'll finish it off- show you a group picture of the shoes that are staying, etc, etc. And I have a new challenge for myself already lined up for December so there's that to look forward to too.

As for NaNoBloMo, well, when I signed up for it, I forgot that ummm... I'm going out of the country for over a week. Then I entertained ideas of pre-writing blog entries and getting them to publish at a certain time. Only it turns out that the program you would need to do that in Blogger doesn't work, blah blah blah, more trouble than it was worth. Plus, I had reservations about pre-writing my blog. It just felt wrong somehow.

So I decided that I would blog as much as I possibly could given that I'll be traveling around a lot, with my entire family, and in a third world country.

So you can keep occasionally checking this space in the next week. And I'll be BACK back a week from Sunday.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Easy Green

One of the things that surprised me as I moved to my non-consumer way of life, was how SIMPLE some of my green fixes were. Like buying recycled toilet paper at Trader Joes where I shop all the time anyway. And I kept wondering to myself ... why wasn't I doing this EARLIER?

I think sometimes we balk at the bigger lifestyle changes people like Colin or Crunchy are making, and figure, well anything I'm going to do is going to be a drop in the bucket, so why bother?

But just think about this. If everyone reused their grocery bags, which is a pretty easy green fix, think about HOW much plastic we would save. And the more people who start doing their small, maybe insignificant-on-its-own part, they more that that drop in the proverbial bucket starts to be more of a flood in the bucket.

So from time to time I'm going to start posting some of my easy green fixes. I know many of you are old hats at all of this, but I am consistently surprised by simple green fixes that I, up until recently, never bothered to do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lululemon's a Lemon

There's an article in the NY Times about a company named Lululemon. I had never heard about Lululemon, but apparently they are a producer of high-end yoga wear and part of their appeal is that they purport to use natural ingredients such as seaweed in the their clothes. I say purport, because according to two NY Times tests of the clothes there is no seaweed in their clothing.

Now, my first reaction was well ... basically, "Sucka!" Because come on, people. You can easily do yoga in an old tee-shirt and sweats. And frankly, expensive yoga wear is kind of the antithesis of what yoga is all about- which is a kind of asceticism, a giving up of the material for a transcendental experience combining mind, body, and heart. Do you think those old yogis in India are wearing seaweed clothing? Well, they're not. They're barely wearing anything at all.

But after I thought about it, I realized that while maybe I would not choose to buy high-end yoga wear, that doesn't mean people are suckers for expecting to get what is advertised from a reputable company that is making gobs and gobs of money. (Incidentally, I tried to price some Lululemon clothing for y'all, but all the sites Google pulled up were all about Lululemon's stock which was sky high ... until the NY Times article came out. Lululemon: just like Enron only with a side of Nirvana.)

But if Lululemon claims that their clothes contain 24% seaweed fiber, then they SHOULD contain 24% seaweed fiber. And it's appalling that in this day and age, we are having to deal with this level of false advertising.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Do My Feet Look Old In This Picture?

I think they do. As old as feet can look. I am having one of those days when I am freaking out about how I look old.

Anyway, these shoes were bought for a friend's wedding I was in. They are my newest shoes. So I think they can stay, even though I don't know that they fill a specific need in my closet. I dunno. I guess I need to be more ruthless about getting rid of my shoes?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not About Shoes

I've been putting off posting all day because I've been trying to resolve something for myself- a feeling of unease that has been coming and going for the better part of the day. First I thought I'd post about it, and then I resolved not to post about it. I'd get back to the shoes. But ultimately, I decided I'd rather blog about the cause of this unease. And maybe by writing about it, I'll gain some resolution.

The unease began when I read this post by one of my favorite bloggers. In it, she talks about trying to find products that were not made in China.

Now, before I launch into anything, I want to make it very clear. This post is not about her. I have nothing but respect for Chris, and love for her great blog. The unease is with myself and my feelings on the matter.

And I'm utterly conflicted.

On the one hand, I completely see where people are coming from by not buying products made in China. People do it for many reasons. The obvious is the lead scares, but many people also refuse to buy products from China because of the poor factory conditions and the obvious health hazards to the workers.

And I see those reasons. I agree with those reasons. And yet ... I can't help but think about the numerous people who, thanks to these factories, are able to eke out a living for their family.

As an Indian-American, I have a vastly different point of view from most Americans about outsourcing. To most Americans, outsourcing results in fewer jobs for Americans, and is therefore bad. To me, outsourcing is a great boon that is providing thousands of jobs for Indians, that is growing the middle class, that is pulling India into the 21st century.

I keep wondering how I would feel about people boycotting Indian products. Defensive, I'm sure. Frustrated. I think I'd want to tell people that they should be boycotting, not a country, nor a people, but the mega-corporations. Don't choose Legos from Europe instead of Legos from China. Boycott all Legos everywhere until the company wakes up and starts realizing that it will lose its customers if it doesn't institute stringent product safety checks and fair labor practices EVERYWHERE.

But that's easy for childless me to say. I don't have to answer to a five year-old come Christmas morning when she opens her presents and finds out that Santa brought her an acorn and a very bad drawing of a stick figure. I don't have to worry that my two year old will be sucking on some plastic toy, and I'll go online and find out that that plastic toy is being recalled. And I loved Legos as a child. Who am I to take away Legos?

Mostly, I dream of a day when all the governments of the world mount the courage to band together and to tell these multi-national corporations, "Enough is enough. From now on, you will abide by world-wide standards of safety. You will provide your workers with fair conditions from every corner of the Earth. You will not build a factory in a city, and create jobs and mass migration, only to move out of the city for somewhere cheaper a year later. We will require you to pay your workers a minimum wage based on the country's per capita GDP, and oh yeah, you will pay overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week. And if you don't do this, we will not allow your product to be sold in our country."

But that's never going to happen. Will it?

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This past weekend, I was at the wedding of a very close family friend. Both my sister and I were in town for the weekend, and Saturday was wonderful and chaotic and beautiful and emotionally moving and full of lots of people whom I love and cherish.

And yet, throughout the din and hullaballo, I was acutely aware of an absence.

I felt it first Saturday morning while I was in the shower. And as I stood there, letting grief and hot water rush over me in approximately equal proportion I wondered if every happy occasion was now bound to be slightly bittersweet. If I could ever be completely joyous, without a part of me being sad that my dad wasn't there to share in my happiness.

I could clearly imagine what this weekend would have been like with my dad around. My dad was the type of person who, when he was excited, could start jumping up and down. Other people's joy was his joy. This weekend would have gotten him so riled up with excitement that it would have driven me absolutely crazy. I would have yelled at him to calm down. And he would have cackled like some crazy maniac and refused. He could be completely maddening sometimes.

And now, I miss that vicacity of his every day. I would give anything to hear him cackle again, or to see him jumping up and down.

I managed to rein it in for most of the rest of the day. And then, during the toasts, the grief pricked up in me again. And as I sat there feeling sad, I also felt ashamed. Ashamed that after over three years, I don't have total control over my sadness. And ashamed that instead of being 100% happy at this loveliest of weddings, that I was crying.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Providence In The Form Of A Used Book

Last night I was sitting at my gate at the airport, when I realized that I had left my book at home.

And ... I didn't have any other distractions on me. My cell phone doesn't have any games on it. I didn't bring my iPod or my laptop. I didn't even have a pad of paper. And not only did I have a flight to get through, but my flight was delayed so I had an hour and a half to kill before my flight.

Okay, I thought, I'll grab a book at the newsstand or something. I walked over to the newsstand, and suddenly came to a screeching halt. I had forgotten for a few seconds, but I can't buy a NEW book. I'm allowed to buy only used books.

I stood in front of the newsstand gazing at my forbidden fruit. Well, what about magazines? I've never really made an official ruling on magazines. But then I thought, you're already getting on an AIRPLANE, you want to push it by buying a magazine as well?

So, I decided to go for a walk in order to relieve my boredom. I decided that if I became desperate, I'd allow myself to buy a magazine, but not until I became desperate.

As I walked through the gates, cursing the airport for not being walking distance from a used bookstore, I remembered that last time I was here, one of the stores was advertising a program that offered you 50% of your money back if you bought a book from them, read it, and sold it back to them.

So... I thought getting more and more excited, it stands to reason that if they buy people's used books back, they must also SELL used boooks.

I hurried down to the store and sure enough, there was a shelf of "previously read books." The selection was paltry- only four or five books sat on the shelf, but I still managed to find a book that I've been meaning to read for a while.

So I paid for my book, walked back to my gate, and triumphantly settled down to read my book.

And it was good.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Being Environmentally Conscious Doesn't Mean You Have to Hand Churn Your Own Butter

When you read a lot of environmental blogs they are all about growing your own plants, and making your own jams, and hand weaving your own clothes.

And look, I think that's awesome. I would love to be the kind of person who grows my own plants, and makes my own jams, and hand weaves my clothes. But I am not that person.

I know my limitations, and I know when to "outsource" jobs that I'll never do. For example, a couple years ago I realized I had a ton of clothes in my closet that I really liked, but that I never wore for various reasons. The straps were too long, the skirt needed hemming, there was a button missing on a shirt.

And as much as I like to delude myself that one day, I'll sew on that button, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that that would never happen.

So, what to do? Throw the clothes out? Get new ones?

Hell, no! I took about 12 articles of clothing to my drycleaner who also advertises minor alterations. She fixed up every single piece of clothing very nicely. And the cost? About $80. Imagine if I had gotten rid of all those clothes and bought twelve new pieces of clothing.

So my point is, you don't have to beat yourself up trying to do everything yourself. Sometimes, it's okay to cut corners.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Survivor of the Boots

I'm going out of town this weekend, so I'll still be posting, but I won't be able to post any shoes. So tonight, you get three pairs of boots! And one pair's gotsta go. Which one will it be?

First up:

My Naturalizer Ankle Boots. If I were Ryan Seacrest, I would be saying, "Naturalizers, you are SAFE." They are comfy, still in good condition, and fill a need in my closet.

Next up:

My brown Aerosole Boots. I do not love these boots. They are not super comfy (though they are not un-comfy either.) And I don't adore the color. There's something cowgirly about these boots? And I am not a cowgirl. But, they are brown tall boots, and can be worn with cute skirts. And they are in extremely good condition and aren't even a year old.


These are my Steve Maddens. I love these. And as you can tell, they have been well loved for they are getting pretty worn. My head says these need to go, but my heart says, just one more winter! Just one more winter!!

So, which one goes? Keep in mind, no boots will be getting replaced. While I've decided that I am allowed to buy used shoes, boots are a little too much of a luxury. And I'm a little lean on the pocketbook right now.

Fixing Instead of Replacing

Today the New York Times had an article about fixing your ipods instead of replacing them. It's an interesting article, with some good tips for where to find information on repairing your ipods, but in the end, the article concludes that ipods have a life span, and after three years, you should probably just replace your ipod.

I have been mostly counting on my laptop and my ipod lasting until next August when my year of non-consumerism officially ends. But if they failed before then, what would I do? Would I break my vows of non-consumerism? Or would I try to get my laptop or ipod repaired? The answer is, I don't know. If it was my ipod, I would guess that I would try to fix it and then live without.

If it was my laptop, well, that's not something I could live without. But on the other hand, the cost of a new laptop is so high, that I'd be more willing to pay for an expensive fix.

The truth is, EVENTUALLY, I will want to replace both my laptop and my ipod. Not within the year hopefully, but probably in a few years. And when I replace them, I will probably want to replace them new.

I'm not too thrilled with this. I'm kind of looking at this year of non-consumerism as a diet. But like any diet, I do not want to go back to my old consumeristic (is that a word?) habits after the diet is over. But the fact of the matter is, technology is rapidly evolving, and not buying new is a huge pain, especially for someone as un-tech savvy as I am. I can't build myself a computer out of old parts. I can't add my own RAM or hard drive.

I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I Am Running Out Of Ways To Title Posts About Shoes

These are the shoes I wear to work almost every day. I bought these in June to replace the old pair of shoes I used to wear to work almost every day. That pair looked just LIKE this pair. Because I am old and crusty and set in my ways.

Now That I'm Getting Rid of My Shoes... How Do I Do It?

The first pair I decided to get rid of was relatively easy. I thought the shoes were ugly, but they're comfortable, have been worn about 10 times, and are in good condition. So I figured I could send them to Goodwill and feel relatively confident they wouldn't wind up in the trash.

But the hobo/hipster shoes? That are seven years old? That are falling apart? They presented a problem.

Okaaay ... so I throw them out. Right? Do I have any choice?

I'm not sure. Nike has a program for recycled running shoes, but the only website I found for recycling ALL shoes was in the UK.

If anyone has any advice, it would be much appreciated. I'll continue doing some digging as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Obviously, this pair is a prime candidate to go, because, um, I got them seven years ago at Payless and they look like crap. Oh also, they're not really that comfortable. It's weirdly like they're so worn down, they got too big for my feet.

But then I think to myself, well, what if I decide that my new style is to look like a cross between a hipster and a hobo? What then? Won't I be sad that I got rid of these shoes? WHY IS IT SO HARD TO GET RID OF MY SHOES! AUGH!

But, in all seriousness, I need to get rid of these, yes?

We Can Do It?

Yesterday, ScienceMama wrote a provocative piece on feminism. It was an incredibly well-written piece, and as I read it, all sorts of different emotions started welling up in me.

My freshman year of college, I declared a science major. The program was small, but the female population was even smaller. In my class, there were only seven female students. My dad had always framed going into science as somewhat of a "feminist issue." There were too few women in science, and thus, as a good feminist, I felt like I needed to do my part to rectify this.

Except, I hated it. Science. I wasn't terribly good at it, and I certainly had no passion for it. And ultimately, I realized that I couldn't sacrifice my happiness for the feminist movement. So, after some agonizing about "betraying" my fellow female science majors, I switched majors. And I know now, that that was 100% the right decision for me. So, like ScienceMama, I have struggled with being a "traitor" to the cause, and like her, I have ultimately realized that I cannot sacrifice my personal happiness for the sake of the women's movement.

But, I am also keenly aware that I wouldn't be where I am now, were it not for the tireless sacrifices of iconic feminists such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. It seems completely shocking now, but in the 1960s and early 1970s, a woman could not even own her own credit card. So I think it was natural that women focused on the workplace. Because in our capitalist society, money equals power.

And now, many of the older generation of feminists think we younger feminists are a disappointment. They don't understand why they fought so hard for us to be able to succeed in the workplace, and yet so many women would rather stay home.

I do not blame them per se. But I also don't think they completely understand the situation. You see, this is not your mother's workplace anymore. I think when Betty Friedan was contemplating women working, she was envisioning women working full-time, you know, 35-40 hours a week. Nine to five. The problem is, that now, full time often means 50-80 hours a week. And it means that time at home is interrupted with cell phone calls and emails on the blackberry.

So, I can't blame feminists for not forseeing that globalization and the technological revolution would permanently alter the landscape of the workplace. But I also think old-school feminists who exhort us to "get to work" are not entirely knowledgeable of what they are asking either. Because I know many women who would love to continue to work, but realized that even a 35-40 hour work week would never be possible in their field, and ended up quitting their jobs.

I think, what we have here, is not a feminist problem, as such, but a humanist one. Most of the men I know don't want to work 60 hours a week either. They don't want to miss out on raising their children, or spending time with their friends and family, or ... living life. And yet, this is the culture we live in.

This is something I struggle with daily. I know I need, that we all need, a work-life balance, and yet it seems impossible. But I am hopeful, that someday soon, men and women will both realize that we have become a people who live to work, and that we should be working to live. Because I don't see change happening until men AND women start realizing we all need some work-life balance.

Monday, November 5, 2007

And now ... Shoes

Apparently a lot of my shoes have pink in them. Hmmm.

So far, I'm keeping four pairs of shoes and getting rid of one. Tomorrow I'll pick another pair I'm getting rid of.

Freeze Yer Buns- Part II

So, I decided to go for it. I'm a little nervous, but I hadn't been turning on the heat in the apartment, and it's been okay. It helps that I know that the heating is iffy at best, so even if I did turn on the heat, chances are I wouldn't feel much warmer.

I'm going to keep the heat off this winter, but allow myself 15 cheat days. I think it should be fine, but I'm going to have to adjust my habits. It won't be hot enough anymore to sleep in just a tee-shirt, so I'll have to wear warmer night clothes.

I'll keep you posted.

Winning Over Environmentally Friendly Consumers

Recently, Colin at No Impact Man has been discussing ways that businesses can win over environmentally conscious consumers.

In my opinion, a little effort can often go a long way. As I've mentioned, I tend to buy ready-packaged food because I work long hours and don't have much time to cook. This is an area I want to improve upon, but for now I've been mostly resigned to the fact that pre-packaged food means a lot of wasteful packaging, and usually, a lot of plastic containers.

Well, the other day, I just happened to throw in an Annie Chun's noodle bowl into my shopping cart. When I went to make the noodle bowl, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Annie Chun's noodle bowls are not made of plastic, but mainly of cornstarch and that they are biodegradable.

Obviously, the ideal would be to not rely on pre-packaged foods, but at least I know now, that if I need to buy something pre-packaged, I now have a somewhat environmentally friendly option.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The former SAT teacher, and the forever word geek in me is super excited about this website I found today called Free Rice.

Basically, it's a free vocabulary building site, and for every vocabulary word you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to the UN. I checked out the site a little, and it seems completely legit. The rice is donated by the advertisers (all reputable) on the website.

The awesome thing about the site is that they have a wide range of vocab words, so the site was equally challenging for me and my eleven year old cousin. It basically starts you off with a fairly simple vocab word, and then starts increasing the difficulty of the vocab as you answer questions correctly. If you get a vocab question wrong, the difficulty level goes back down. I got totally engrossed in the game, and my cousin joked that I was now going to be glued to the computer all night. Luckily I managed to drag myself away eventually.

And now your shoes for the day. I love these- I call them my "Claudia Kishi Shoes."

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The First Pair to Go

I hate these shoes. I bought them on a crazy shopping expedition at Shoe Pavilion a few years ago. I bought five pairs of shoes, and somehow, in the mayhem ended up buying these as well.

Since then, I have probably worn these shoes 10 times? That's actually probably pushing it.

Why do I hate them? Mostly because they are too close to the color of my feet. So they make me look like I'm walking around barefoot except that I don't have any toes. I just don't want people to pity me for being toeless.

Cuz, I have toes.

Needless to say, these are getting purged.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Sometimes the Simplest Things Escape Me

So today I took my car to the dealer for its 30,000 mile service. Because it's kind of a long service, and because I had a coupon from the dealer for a free rental car, I ended up getting a rental for the day. I do not like rental cars. They freak me out, and I try to drive them as little as possible. But in this case, it seemed like the easiest answer. It was free, I wouldn't have to miss work to wait for my car, and I wouldn't have to ask someone to go out of their way to pick me up or drop me off at the dealer.

As I was driving my rental car to work, I realized that I had left my garage remote in my car. Okay, no problem, I thought to myself. My car should be done by lunch. I'll just drop off the rental and pick up my car then, and it won't be an issue.

Except that OF COURSE a whole confluence of events at work led to me not getting to leave at lunch, and by the time I left work for the day, the dealer was long closed. But still, no big deal I figured. I'd just park on the street tonight, and pick up my car first thing in the morning.

So, I found parking. I walked to my building, and then I stopped suddenly and realized that not ONLY did I leave my garage remote in my own car which is at the dealer, I also gave the dealer my ENTIRE set of keys. Which includes, you guessed it, the keys to my apartment.

I cannot believe this did not occur to me ALL DAY LONG.

Luckily, my very nice manager let me in. Which means that instead of spending the night in my rental car, I am at home sending you pictures of my shoes.

These are my pink and green sneakers. I love them.


So, November 1st not only marks the first day of NaBloPoMo, it also marks the beginning of yes, NoBloShoeMo.

And in honor of NoBloShoeMo, I'm getting rid of my shoes.

Ok, yes, I understand, that the point of NoBloShoeMo is to SHOW OFF your shoes, so yeah, I'm subverting NoBloShoeMo for my own purposes. Oh well!

But I realized that I have TWENTY-TWO pairs of shoes. TWENTY-TWO. How this happened, I'm not sure. I'm not even a shoe person. Ok, I do know how this happened. And it's because I have this terrible disease regarding shoes wherein I can't get rid of them. I mean, it's a serious problem. In fact once, several years ago, the situation became so dire that one of my friends got drunk and hid my shoes because she thought they were gross and she wanted me to never wear them again. But then I found them and continued to wear them for another year or so.

But this time, I'm going to get rid of shoes on my own, without any help from my drunk friend. I want to at least cut the number of shoes I own in half. Throughout the month, I'll show you the shoes I'm keeping, and the shoes I'm getting rid of. And then you can tell me if I'm crazy for keeping the shoes I'm keeping, or crazy for getting rid of the shoes I'm getting rid of.

First off, my black heels. Actually stolen from my best friend for ScienceMama's wedding. And then I never gave them back, because I love them. I don't wear them often because they have heels and I don't walk very well period, so heels are kind of questionable. But they are a pair of black heels suitable for weddings. So this pair is a keeper.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Freeze Yer Buns

Crunchy Chicken is hosting a challenge at her website asking people to turn down their thermostats this winter.

I admit, I love having my heater on. When I lived in Chicago, I used to do all my studying, sitting on the windowsill with my legs dangling over the old-fashioned heater.

But, I think I am willing to sacrifice my love for heat. So far, I have yet to turn on my heat at home. Okay, I live in Los Angeles, but I HAVE been cold a few times, and I've just tried to bundle myself in sweatshirts and blankets.

I am contemplating responding to her challenge, by not turning on my heat at all this winter. Am I out of my mind? Maybe. Is the challenge of non-consumerism enough? Maybe. But I do live in freaking LOS ANGELES. It never really gets that cold here.

I don't know. I'm not sure if I am mentally ready for another challenge, but I'd like to think I could do it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Man, A Car, and a Parking Spot

Today, I had to pick up lunch. And the restaurant I was picking up lunch from has a notoriously small parking lot. So I was a bit wary, but I figured there had to be some place I could pull over just to run in, grab the food (it had already been ordered and paid for) and run out.


The lot was full. The parking spots were taken. The non-parking spots were taken. There was nowhere to go.

Except for one lone spot. That was specifically designated for a very small shop.

At first, I thought, well I'll just pull in, turn my hazards on, run in and run out. It's not like he can have me towed in two minutes.

But I didn't like that thought.

And then, it hit me. Why not just ASK the shop owner if I could park there? So, I pulled into the spot, ran into the shop, and asked if I could use the spot to pick up lunch.

"I'll just be one minute."

The shop owner looked at his watch, and said, "Okay ... go."

I stared at him uncertainly. Was he ... kidding? Was he serious? I mean, I was going to be a minute, but I wasn't about to end up with a ticket because I had taken a minute and ten seconds.

"Are... you really going to time me?" I asked pathetically.

And maybe he had been kidding the whole time, or maybe he had been serious, but I made him laugh, and he said, "No, go ahead."

So I ran. I grabbed lunch. I ran out.

"I told you I'd be fast!"

"I knew you would be"

"Thank you!"

"You're welcome."

Seriously, thank you. You made my day.

This Post Has Nothing To Do With Halloween

A few days ago, I decided to re-read Nick Hornby's "About a Boy." I love this book so much, I ended up re-reading it twice (because there aren't enough UNREAD books on my shelf, clearly) and then I went out and rented the movie on Sunday.
I'd already read the book, and seen the movie, and I remember enjoying the movie. But I didn't remember being disappointed by the movie, whereas this time, while I still liked the movie, I also felt vaguely disappointed.

I think one of my favorite things about "About a Boy" is the way Hornby manages to capture that ineffable essence of the 1990s. And of course, the movie is not set in the nineties. So while the book centers heavily on Kurt Cobain and his music, and sets up interesting parallels between Kurt Cobain's life and the characters' lives, the movie features the music of, well, Mystikal. I'm not going to say that Mystikal's songs aren't catchy, but ... that's kind of all I have to say about that.

So when the movie ended, I pulled out my copy of "In Utero" and put it in my CD player. And I was immediately taken back to the day when I purchased that CD (amazing how music can do that.) I remember my dad and I having something between an argument and a discussion about the CD. My dad heard the song "Rape Me" and was shocked that I, a self-proclaimed feminist, would listen to such a song. And I argued with the total authority that only a teenager can possess that Kurt Cobain was a total feminist! And that "Rape Me" was a feminist song!

Which is funny to me now, because I know NOTHING about Kurt Cobain. And the nothing I know now is still probably more than the nothing I knew back then. Because back then I didn't even LIKE Nirvana really. I thought they were kind of noisy and scary, and I mostly listened to Nirvana because they were cool. And I mean, I guess I can extrapolate a little and say, well, Courtney Love seems to be a sort of strong woman? So maybe Kurt Cobain was a feminist? But the truth is, I don't know. I don't know if I met him, and talked to him, whether I would have considered him a feminist.

Back then, I listened to Nirvana because it was cool. And now I listen to it because it makes me nostalgic for the nineties, and because I eventually grew old enough to appreciate their music. I'm not trying to claim any moral high ground there. Because, frankly, I enjoy listening to rap, and while rap music does give me some qualms, I mostly shut down those qualms. Because while I might be able to claim that Tupac was a feminist, and you might even be able to make the more tenuous claim that Eminem is not really that misogynistic, it's his character Slim Shady that's the real culprit, I don't think you can claim that Ice Cube's "Put Your Back Into It" has a hidden feminist meaning.

And I know the controversy surrounding "Rape Me" (now, I'm not sure I knew much of it back then.) And I know what Cobain purported the song to be, and yet, I understand how many feminists found the song untenable. To me, the song has always been laced with irony, but I sometimes wonder if that's because I have always wanted to like the song, or because that's how I really feel. I think the lyrics are ambiguous enough that you can draw various conclusions, but I think the anger, frustration, and resignation in the song suggest that at the very least, Cobain is not taking the words "Rape Me" lightly.

All of this rambling to say that, there are some musicians I believe are worth analyzing. Cobain is one. Mystikal is not. Or maybe I was trying to say that the book for "About a Boy" is much better than the movie. That's probably it. Go read the book.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

All Candy Diet

Tonight I ate a salad for dinner to try and make up for the fact that I ate my weight in candy earlier today. This is why I don't buy candy. If it's not there, I'm fine. If it is there? I will eat it ALL. I'll be very glad when Halloween is over (well my scale will). I have no sense of will-power.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Must ... Stay ... Awake

Today was an exhausting day after a pretty crappy Sunday. And I'm really tired, and want to be in bed.
So why am I still up?
Because the Daily Show is on in half an hour. And they were on hiatus last week. And I'm an addict.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Pinkberry Plastic Spoon Meltdown

Well I guess it's fitting that on a day that I talked about my imperfections, that my imperfections got the best of me.
I was having a crap day, so I decided to take a walk, return the video I rented, and pick up some Pinkberry.
I have maybe an unhealthy love for Pinkberry, but I try to restrict my Pinkberrying to once a week or so. And I've been really good, and probably hadn't had any for a couple weeks, so I felt justified in getting one.
When I went to the store, I remembered to order it for 'here' so I didn't get an unnecessary plastic lid on my cup.
When the guy handed me my yogurt, I hesitated over the plastic spoons.
I was a two minute walk, max, from my apartment. I could take my Pinkberry, walk back to the apartment, and grab a spoon from my kitchen and save a plastic spoon.
But, I thought, if I do that, I won't be able to eat as I walk, and I really want my Pinkberry noooooow.
So, I grabbed a spoon, and dug in. And immediately felt guilty.
Have I become so obsessed with instant gratification that I could not stand to walk TWO minutes to my apartment?
So I decided, as penance, that I have to keep the spoon. Okay, it's not perfect as far as penance is concerned, but it's the only way I could justify it.


I am not at all perfect.
And neither is my non-consumerism.
I just wanted to state that up-front lest you think what I'm doing is really crazy or amazing or crazy amazing.
Because there are a LOT of things that I'm not doing. Basically because I know I can't. Or at least, I don't feel that I can right now.
For example, food.
I buy pretty much all my food from Trader Joes.
I don't always buy organic because sometimes I'm feeling cheap.
I buy a lot of pre-packaged meals wrapped in a lot of plastic because I work 12 hour days and I don't have time to cook.
I drink cans of soda.
And I admit. I drink bottles of water too. Though I do try and refill the bottle several times before I recycle it.
I like to fly places because it's faster. I feel a little guilty, but not enough to stop flying. (I do buy carbon offsets though when I fly.)
I would like to change some of these habits, but I am trying to take things one step at a time. A year ago, I didn't recycle consistently, I didn't bring my own bags with me to the grocery store, I printed things single-sided, and I liked to shop.
I've changed a lot in the past year. And I know I will be changing even more.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vegetarianism, Scrapbooking and Cults

When I first started down the road of non-consumption, I didn't put that much thought into it. My first thought was, basically, I'm not going to get crazy about this, but I'm going to try and just buy less stuff. I hadn't really stopped to consider exactly WHY I was buying less, but it just seemed like a good thing for many reasons. It's odd because in many ways I am a very rational person, and yet this isn't the first time I've embraced another way of life without really thinking. I was a vegetarian for four years in college, and I never was able to fully articulate the reasons I was a vegetarian except that ... it felt right. Hmmm. Does this make me a prime candidate for a cult?

In any case, I kind of just figured I would just not buy durable goods and that would be that. But, as I got more into this challenge, and as I started doing more reading online about people doing similar things, my not-buying-durable-goods mentality started seeping into other aspects of my life.

For example, scrapbooks. I love making scrapbooks. I know that it is not exactly the hobby of choice for most twenty-something women without any children, but whatever, it's what I like to do. Initially, I figured that scrapbooks fell in the gray area between non-durable and durable. So I thought, I could buy a scrapbook because where on earth was I going to find a USED scrapbook. But I kept putting off buying one, and putting it off, and putting it off. And finally I realized that it just felt ... wrong to buy a scrapbook especially since the whole point of scrapbooks used to be that they were made out of SCRAPS. And now yes, you can buy specialty papers and ribbons and so forth, but that's because NOW, we are all crazy consumerists.

So I decided that there was no question, I just couldn't buy a scrapbook. I would have to make one. Which posed a problem for me because I am not a crafty person by any means. Pasting photos into pre-made books was as crafty as I get. How was I going to CREATE a scrapbook. After looking at options online that involved elaborate binding of paper bags, I finally rummaged through my cupboard and came up with a nice red binder and some fancy wrapping paper. Voila! My scrapbook.

And then the total score- I was going to buy 100 percent recycled cardstock to go in the scrapbook. But I went to my mom's house for a weekend, and took the opportunity to do some cleaning out of my old room, and I found a whole pack of 100% recycled scrapbook paper that was left over from my college scrapbook and has been sitting in my bedroom at home all this time. So the result was a wonderful scrapbook created from things I already had and also free! It's not the most beautiful scrapbook I own. But I think it's my favorite.