Monday, September 27, 2010

Adventures in Craigslisting

So my boyfriend and I have been on the lookout for a little cart for our kitchen for a while. Now, we could have just gone to Ikea, and picked out any number of these kitchen carts, but as much as I'm now a normal little consumerist just like anyone else, I made a pledge to myself that this move was not going to involve a trip to the Ikea store. Every other time I've moved (except when I moved to London), I've worshiped at the Ikea altar. But that was all BEFORE. Now, I can't help but feel like Ikea represents some of the worst excesses of our throw-it-away culture. Because they make furniture SO cheap, everyone just buys it, and then dumps it a year or so later. As much as I am willing to shop and buy new, even venturing into the big box stores now and then, Ikea is my current line in the sand. The one I'm not yet willing to cross.

So, instead I hit Craigslist for kitchen carts. I quickly found that even if I were willing to go to Ikea, it would be completely foolish to do so: there are a plethora of Ikea kitchen carts on Craigslist for dirt cheap. Why pay $60, when you could pay $10? My opposition to Ikea doesn't extend to used Ikea furniture on Craigslist, but honestly, neither of the ubiquitous Ikea kitchen carts were quite what we wanted.

So, we kept looking. This one was too small, another too wide. Another too ugly, another too far away. Meanwhile, our microwave continued to sit on the floor. Finally, I was ready to call it a day, and just pick up one of the many used Ikea carts, when we found it. A nice, fairly solid cart with a couple of drawers and extra shelving.

Excited, I quickly made an appointment to view the cart. I gave my boyfriend the dimensions and asked him whether or not he thought the cart would fit in the back of our car.

"Yeah, it should," he said nonchalantly. And I, eager to pick up the cart, believed him.

I know. Big mistake.

So, we find the cart, and it looks as advertised, and is clean and in good shape. We pay the nice couple some cash, and wheel the cart into the warm San Francisco night to our car.

Where it turns out, that, in fact, no, the cart will NOT fit. We try the trunk. We try the back seat. We try multiple configurations, saying "Pivot" really loud, but nothing seems to work.

So now, we're stuck on some random street with our kitchen cart.

My boyfriend suggests we call a friend with a station wagon. I suggest we hire a taxi mini-van. He pulls out his cell phone to call his friend, while I stand on the street corner to hail down a cab. He's on the phone with his friend when a taxi mini-van pulls over. I grab my boyfriend and we explain our situation to the cab driver. The driver seems dubious about the whole endeavor, but agrees that we can bring the cart over and try to load it into the van. We run to the cart and grab it to bring to the taxi, and ... he's long gone.


Round two. My boyfriend tries to call his friend again. I head back to the corner to try and find yet another cab. After a minute or two, I manage to hail another mini van. Again, the cab driver is dubious, but this one pulls over and puts the seats down in the back. We bring the cart over, and the cab driver shakes his head. "It's not going to fit, but you can try," he says.

We tip the cart gently into the back of the minivan and it fits!! Success!!

Relieved to no longer be stuck on the street, I get in the cab, and my boyfriend follows behind with the car.

We get home and quickly wheel the cart into place, satisfied that our Craigslisting adventures paid off.

I guess that's one more advantage to not going to Ikea. While going to Ikea means you're less likely to wind up stranded on the street with a kitchen cart, you also do have to get home and assemble said cart from ancient Scandinavian scrolls. Given my proclivity for immediate gratification, it was nice to have the cart look like this five minutes after entering:

Cute, huh? Thanks, Craigslist, my microwave appreciates having a real home.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quick Note

I just wanted to alert any interested readers of a contest running on the Nature Conservancy website right now.

Most of you are probably familiar with the Nature Conservancy which is one of the leading conservationist organizations in the country. They are also known, at least around my house, for their really gorgeous nature photos that are featured in their magazine.

Well, they are currently running their 5th annual photo contest, and are inviting everyone to submit their favorite nature pics online. The winner will be featured in the Nature Conservancy calendar for 2012.

If you're interested, visit this website for all the details. The deadline is October 4th.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Last night, I had one of the most fantastic meals I've had in a long, long time.

And the kicker?

It was all vegan.

Yup, last night, my boyfriend and I made it out to Millennium Restaurant, which is perhaps one of the most famous vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco. In fact, by the end of the second course, my meat-loving boyfriend was making multiple comments about how if all vegan food tasted this good, he'd be okay going vegan.

And of course I was happy because at a vegan restaurant I didn't have to worry about animal fats lurking in my food. No need to offer a laundry list of things I can't eat: cheese, butter, cream. No need to worry that we'd get three courses with bacon. Instead, we sat back, ordered the tasting menu, and let the deliciousness unfold.

Millennium's success (can we talk about how crowded this place is?) demonstrates that ultimately, we are all happy to eat good, healthy, sustainable food. If it tastes good, that is. Judging by the Yelp reviews (and my boyfriend) a number of meat eaters have been good and satisfied eating at Millennium.

So why are we all stuck in the meat paradigm? Why do so many of us feel that we need to eat meat with just about every meal?

Is it because that's what we know? What we grew up with? Is it just plain easier to cook with meat?

When we think of a vegetarian dish, are we stymied at pasta or a salad?

And how do we change the paradigm so that instead of focusing on meat, butter, and cheese, we focus on vegetables, lentils, and whole grains?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Going Car-Light

When we first met, neither my boyfriend nor I had a working car, not that I knew that right away. My boyfriend picked a restaurant near the train station for our first date; I assumed he just liked Mexican food. I drove to the restaurant in my mom's car, and he walked from the train.

At the restaurant, I was ... well me, which means that my eco-nuttiness slipped out in some way. I mean, I don't go around being like, "Hello my name is Ruchi and I don't use toilet paper*," but I also don't tend to hide the fact that I like to be green. My boyfriend, perhaps emboldened by my environmentalist talk, mentioned that the last time he had driven to work had been, irony of ironies, Earth Day two years ago. Since then, his car had sat in the garage, unloved and unused. It no longer started, and probably needed a few repairs.

My boyfriend likes to joke that I am one of the few women on the planet who would have viewed this state of affairs as a plus. After all, this story is really a story of a guy who was too lazy to fix his car, so he decided to just keep it in the garage for two years and take the train. It's not like he was making a political statement.

But, of course, I, because I am an eco-romantic thought this was a great story. Plus, I am lazy too. And when you break it down, a lot of my habits such as not shopping and wearing my clothes multiple times before washing, are as much green as lazy. Yes it's greener to wear my glasses instead of disposable contacts, it's also lazy.

So, hell, if people are going to cut down on carbon emissions out of laziness, I'll take it!

But as we started dating, things got complicated. At the time I lived in a place with almost no access to public transit, so, I would have to borrow my mom's car to see my boyfriend, or get her to drop me off to the train. When we went skiing, it was now two people bumming rides, instead of just one. As Charles can no doubt attest, being car-free is difficult if you spend much time in the South Bay as we did.

So, finally, after a couple months of aggravation, my boyfriend got his car fixed. And now we use it to visit friends, my mom, drive to Tahoe, and generally make our lives a little easier. It's not ideal, but between two people, we probably have to get gas every two weeks, which is less gas than I was using in LA, even once I started taking public transport to work.

So, while we're no longer completely car free, we are fairly proud to be a one-car household, and hope to stay that way for a good, long time.

*I do use 100% recycled toilet paper now.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Response to Jenn the Greenmom

This morning I read Jenn's post over at the Green Phone Booth about "The Junk Food Dilemma." I guess it touched a nerve, because I started writing a comment to her and then kept writing, and writing, and writing, and writing. In fact, when I finally went to post the comment, I found out that I'd exceeded the comment limit. I'd never realized there was a comment limit in all my time blogging. And I've written some seriously long comments.

But, ya know, that's what I have my own blog for. So, read her post, and then read my response. If you want.


Sometimes I have serious concerns about the enviro/foodie movement. The vibe often seems to be that you can eat whatever you want as long as it's not processed junk food and it's local, organic, etc.

Couple reality checks here:

1) The problems with animal products aren't just with the meat. Raising animals is an energy-intense process, and that goes for both dairy cows and cows for slaughter. Most enviros, even non-vegetarians argue that we need to cut down on meat consumption. We eat too much meat, no question, but I would argue that we probably also eat too much animal product period. I'm not a vegan, hell, I'm not even a vegetarian, but I think it's important for us to recognize this point.

2) Even organic whole wheat chocolate chip cookies are bad for you. Yes, you can eat some in moderation. But, honestly, moderation does not mean you can eat three cookies a day. Or even two cookies a day.

I changed my diet because I felt I had to. I got the results of a cholesterol test back and they were alarmingly high. So I began to add a ton of fiber to my diet (I already ate a good amount of fiber, but now I eat double the daily requirement.) I only eat non-fat dairy. I also eat about three or four servings of fruit a day and try to eat three servings of vegetables a day. I eat a lot of hummus and guacamole. I eat a lot of lentils and beans. I rarely eat red meat (aside from bison which is super high in omega-3). I eat a lot of fish, and a little poultry. I probably average three vegetarian days per week, and then two days with fish.

I cut out cheese entirely. And butter. Occasionally I will eat a bite of cheese at a restaurant but it's rare. (When we go out to pizza, I ask for an individual pizza with no cheese.) Likewise, I'm sure there are times at a restaurant where I accidentally end up with something with butter, but it's not something I use to cook with at home. I eat chocolate sparingly: sometimes in dark chocolate form, and sometimes in the form of low-fat frozen yogurt. But it's not a daily treat by any means.

I do miss cheese and butter and ice cream and all the rest. Sometimes I long for some mac and cheese. BUT, by eliminating things, I think it actually makes it easier than if you try to figure out "moderation." Moderation is hard, because it's so easy to slip back into old ways. There's a reason alcoholics are told that they can never drink again.

And most of the time, I'm happy. I love fruit. I love hummus and avocado. I have found a ton of super tasty, healthy veg dishes. And yes, I allow myself the occasional slip up. I also allow myself (though I know I should not) a couple vices: since my problem is cholesterol which has to do with fat, I let myself have soda and juice which you know, are really just sugar. I also let myself have sugary candies occasionally like sour patch kids. I know, I know, I shouldn't do that, but sometimes I'm just dying for something bad! And, for me, (not a diabetic) this is not THAT bad.

In the process of this new diet, I've lost about ten pounds. I feel super energetic (although that's probably also due to my exercise regime).

And frankly, now that my body is acclimated to healthy non-fatty stuff, a little fat goes a long long way. The other day, a friend offered me a mini banana-nut muffin he had baked. It was all warm from the oven and looked delicious, so I couldn't resist. I had half of a mini-muffin and felt really satiated.

I've also noticed that I've become very sensitive to butter and cheese and stuff. A little bit starts to feel like a LOT to me. So I enjoy it, but only in very limited quantities.

Anyway, that's my very long-winded response to your post. My advice to you: don't do a cleanse. Instead, do exactly what Chile suggested. Choose only healthy foods for a month. Eat no unhealthy foods. Then gradually add the unhealthy stuff back in. HOWEVER, whenever you sit at the dinner table, take stock of your plate. It should be one half veggies. The other half can be composed of carbs/protein/meat/dairy. But fully one half of it should be veggies. This is a tip a nutritionist gave me, and I think it's pretty brilliant. That means the occasional Alfredo pasta is fine, but make sure you are also eating a ton of broccoli, etc, that day as well.

Hope this helps!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Moving is Hard

We have internet!!

Finally. After several desperate days without, I am now free to procrastinate all the live long day online.

Actually, it's probably a good thing that we had no internet at the new place because it allowed me time to, you know, UNPACK, and that kind of crap.

So, I'm sure you're wondering how the move is going, or maybe you're not because who really cares about other people's moves? But I am not deterred by your lack of interest and I will happily tell you this that you already know, but forget when you decide to shift house.

Moving blows.

It is a lot of carrying things, and shlepping. There is a lot of frowning as you wonder where to hang that picture. No, not there. Not there either. Nope. Oh forget it. Your apartment is never going to look like those Apartment Therapy pads no matter how you try.

And of course there is a lot of buying.

Yesterday, I impulsively bought a super ugly blonde wood bookcase and file cabinet off of Craigslist. To be fair, they're not actually that ugly. They're perfectly respectable Ikea-esque specimens. And they're the exact right size for what I needed in the office. But the wood definitely doesn't match the rest of our furniture, not to mention the floors. So now, I've been racking my brain trying to come up with ways to make the furniture less attractive.

So far, I've thought about painting, wallpapering, or decoupaging.

Either way, it seems like an awful lot of work.

Did I mention that I am really not crafty?

So internets, if you had boring blond Ikea furniture that you wanted to jazz up what would you do? What would you do if you were extremely lazy as I am? And what would you do if you didn't want to spend too much money?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Balancing Out the Nuttiness

‎"Oh my God. Is this going to be my life forever? It's like we go to the environmental store and what's there is still not good enough."

The following is a quote from my poor, beleaguered boyfriend. Who has to put up with me and my eco-insanity more than anyone else.

In most cases, my boyfriend approaches my eco-nuttiness with good humor. And honestly, we live in San Francisco, where many aspects of my eco-ness are par for the course. My boyfriend already used reusable bags when he went grocery shopping. Everyone in the city composts because it is mandated by law. Most people I know here buy organic.

So, in a lot of cases, he goes along with my crusade. Sometimes willingly, sometimes rolling his eyes. He doesn't bat an eyelash about buying organic milk. He religiously composts and knows all the rules. And he even calls me on my eco-sins. Like the time he reminded me that if I don't get out of bed in time, he has to drive me to the train station, and the car isn't meant for those walkable journeys.

But in other cases, my choices do definitely cause him some frustration. He misses the Pantene. He likes having an emergency stash of paper towels. He can't believe it when I tell him that only one mattress at the eco-mattress store is eco enough.

The other day we were watching the No Impact Man movie, and I couldn't help but watch the whole thing from his eyes. Of course, I knew a ton about their project, I had followed along on the blog, and I've read Colin's wife's writing about the subject. So, I knew how the whole project had been an evolution for her from a somewhat unwilling participant to an active, involved, collaborator. But a whole lot of the movie seemed to focus on the unwilling participant part, probably because it provided some drama. So it felt a lot like she was being dragged along through this torturous project and that she had very little say in the matter. As I watched my boyfriend cringe when Michelle's toilet paper was taken away from her, I wondered, "Where's the balance?"

I started my eco-nutty phase when I was living alone. This had its own struggles, but, by and large, it made things simpler. I did what I wanted. If I wanted to not use toilet paper or paper towels? It didn't affect anyone else. But now, every choice I make, whether it's to use vinegar as a cleaning solution or to turn off the air-dry on the dishwasher, affects someone else.<

And while I think some of the changes are fair and justified, like say eating all organic, sometimes they are perhaps a little overzealous and unnecessary. When my boyfriend convinced me to buy a roll of paper towels, we bought an unbleached, 100% recycled roll that lasted us three months. I guess I can agree to buy four rolls of recycled paper towels a year.

I guess like all things, this is about finding the happy medium. Because after all, there's no point "saving the world" if everyone gets so pissed off at you that you have no one to share your world with.