heart & sole

I am training for a marathon.

There is quite a bit of anticipation and anxiety wrapped up in those six words, but the more I say it, the more real it will become. It’ll be a monster to tackle, personal uncharted territory, but a road well traveled by others before me. I’m excited for the opportunity.

As I embark on this journey, I have made my first truly new purchase of 2017: a pair of new running shoes.

Read More »

week 15: an easter exchange

This week, the “journey of no new things” brought me to back porch in the company of near-strangers, eating potato salad and watching a three year old enjoy the thrill of egg hunting.

The story involves a run, a loaf pan, and a phone conversation with a someone I’ve never met in Colorado, so let me back up a bit:

My roommate, Hannah, will be “shipping up to Boston” come August. As a result, I’m slowly scouting out yard & estate sales to prepare to replace some of the household items she’ll be taking with her when she goes. So, on Saturday, when James and I set out on a morning run and passed a yard sale, we made a pit stop to see what we could find.

Sure enough, there were a few items that caught my attention, namely a mandolin slicer, a loaf pan, and a cutting board. We set the items aside, promising to return after we’d finished running and could both pay for the items and carry them home. Upon our return, we got to talking with the couple selling their wares and left with a bargain: $5 for the lot with an ice cream-maker ball tossed in – and an invitation to Easter lunch the following day.

Read More »

taking space, making space

March is Women’s History Month, with International Women’s Day marked on  March 8th. As with, well, pretty much anything, there is much debate over whether this is justified, what or whose agenda it furthers, who it seeks to celebrate, and so forth. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of the contributions of daily and historical importance women have made, and our importance in the fabric of society.

This period of discourse has reminded me of a thought that often works its way into my head surrounding the fact that, while I’m not aspiring to minimalism,  I am seeking to minimize my footprint of consumption.

As women, we are taught from a young age to minimize the space we occupy, minimize our voices, minimize our bodies. The space we are permitted to grown in, however, is in our consumption. Since the beginning of the retail explosion of the early 20th century, if not sooner, the power of a woman was found in her purchasing power. As much as 85% of purchases in the US today are made by women, for numerous noteable reasons, yet society has somehow perpetuated a degrading troupe of women with armfuls of shopping bags filled with frivolous purchases. It’s as if we’ve been told our worth is in our utility, not our creativity, aspirations, or interests.

So what about women, like myself, that take a stand to effectively take up less space? Those who strive to  use fewer things, live in smaller homes, or shrink our physical footprints?

Read More »

peanut butter

Peanut butter isn’t, on it’s own, a food group, but some weeks it seems like my diet treats it as such. It’s simple, it’s versatile, and it pairs very nicely with chocolate (bonus!). Over the last year or so I’ve bought exclusively “natural” peanut butter, typically the store brand jars that contain only peanuts and salt. After eating that for a while, “regular” peanut butter more closely resembles frosting than the spread I now put on apples & sandwiches.

But only peanuts & salt? Surely it couldn’t be too difficult to recreate. After all, some grocery stores have a fresh ground serve-yourself option. So this weekend I went for it and, lo and behold, it was super easy after all.

Now there are so many possibilities: toss in some chocolate,  maybe some hazelnuts. Sometime soon I’ll try making sunbutter (a peanut butter alternative made from sunflower seeds) as well.

I have a Magic Bullet, which worked wonders. Toss everything in & let it run for a minute or two. As the peanuts grind they first resemble a paste, but give it a bit longer and the oils begin to come out. Next thing ya know and you’ve got super fresh PB.

wp-1488344452237.jpg

Fresh-Ground Peanut Butter
Makes ~ 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 cups roasted peanuts, shelled
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Place peanuts and salt into processing device of choice*. If crunch peanut butter is desired, set aside 1/4 cup of peanuts before processing.
  2. Run for ~2 minutes, pausing to scrape the sides of the container to ensure uniform grinding.
  3. Crunchy Option: Crush the remaining 1/4 cup of peanuts with a rolling pin and combine with peanut butter
  4. Spread on EVERYTHING. This can be stored in an airtight container in the pantry, refrigeration isn’t necessary.

*As stated in the description, I have a Magic Bullet and it worked incredibly well. I haven’t tried this in a blender for food processor, but imagine it would work in a similar fashion, possibly requiring a few more pauses to scrape the sides of the container & make sure everything is evenly distributed.

weeks 06-08: time marches on

It’s hard to believe it’s essentially been a month since I last did a proper weekly update. In some ways, I see that little changes from week to week, but over a number of weeks there’s a bit more to say. I tend to try and write my weekly updates on weekends, but these last few have been so busy between work, school, and other obligations that I’d be midway through the next week before getting to it, and then would skip altogether.

But that’s okay.

As much as I’d like to try and stick to a routine of writing updates, it’s not imperative that I do so. So I’ll keep up where I can, after all, it is nice to be able to reflect on the week and extract a theme or defining feeling of the past seven days. Seeing that it’s been three weeks, however, means that such a uniform feeling is harder to come by so I’ll just hit the highlights.

Not to dwell on the weather, but wow. Raleigh had 3 days above 80 degrees in February for the first time in history. (This comic sums up my feelings about that quite well). It also means that I’m even further behind in starting veggie garden seeds than I ought to be, and will get those planted this weekend: for real this time. I’ve got seeds and some egg cartons, so I’ll tuck the seeds in and anxiously await the day the little green sprouts poke through the soil.

Despite my guilty & hesitant enjoyment of the weather, I can say that it’s been a great help in the biking department. In summary: biking in an urban area equipped with bike lanes is fantastic. So much more convenient that driving and parking. Saturday I was coming back from prepping some stuff at church and stopped in to visit Anne at work at Runologie, and then, a little bit further down the road, saw a new bakery opened up so circled back and bought the greatest croissant T’ve ever tasted. Thank you, bike, for facilitating these two happy, ordinary things.

wp-1488343685678.jpg

I have to say, a point of pride amid this busyness is that I have yet to cave in to any major consumerist conveniences. (Not trying to bash conveniences or those who utilize them, simply something that currently would be a break from my personal objective here). To summarize:

Plus:

  • Proud moment at Whole Foods this week when everything I bought was new-container free! I returned my milk bottles and swapped for full containers, and my other purchases came from the bulk bin. Happy about the containers, and happy about the contents being simple (beans & peanuts)
  • Working on trying my hand at making other food staples. This week it was hummus and peanut butter, both of which are incredibly easy. I’ve made hummus on numerous prior occasions, but this was the first attempt and peanut butter and it was way quicker than I’d expected. I’ll post about that soon.
  • Thanks to the weather I’m biking more and really enjoying it. Maybe the next step is to purchase a Bicycle Benefits sticker for my helmet. Free Videri Chocolate? I’m in.
  • Thought I was going to need to find a new (to me) shirt for an event last weekend, but a shortage of time helped me realize that what I had would suffice. “It will suffice” seems to be a good phrase to have on hand. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and there’s usually some solution on hand that will do in a pinch.

Delta:

  • Due to lack of a thermometer, I haven’t made any more yogurt lately. Not quite confident enough to heat it based on time, but I’ll find one soon.
  • Still trying to work on breaking the disposable item habits (ie. bags, plates & cups). I’m usually pretty good about the bags & have gotten better at carrying my water bottle, but it’s a simple thing that I’m finding to be a not-so-simple change.
  • Also, trying not to associate guilt with each disposable usage or usage of convenience. Guilt: not the best thing, but also a motivating factor in remembering for next time. If I’m being completely honest, some kind of feeling that triggers “Hey, maybe I shouldn’t be doing/using this” isn’t entirely bad.

Now that wasn’t too hard… I imagine March won’t be much less busy but here’s to finding a few minutes each week to sit down and compile that week’s happenings. Hard to believe we’re already entering month three of 2017!

 

to home, with love

Happy Valentine’s Day.  While my thoughts on the holiday are a little convoluted and conflicted, I hope y’all are feeling the love today (and everyday), whether through a relationship, friendship – or place.

wp-1487099160140.jpg

This weekend’s unseasonably warm weather, a community race through the local mental hospital turned public park, and an evening spent outside with friends was reminiscent of the atmosphere in which I was first prompted to write about how much I’d come to desire to take ownership of this place in which I was planted.

Though Raleigh, and my place in it, have changed a bit in the last year and a half since I wrote this piece, this sentiment remains. Originally titled “Home Ownership”, I was trying to capture the feeling of pride and belonging in place one has come to love:

Read More »

week 05: better late than never

It’s already Wednesday, meaning I’m a bit late getting around to writing this update and struggling to remember what exactly happened this past week. In light of the fact I’m also getting over a mystery stomach bug and trying not to inhale a can of ginger ale as I sit here (easier said than done when all you’ve eaten in the last day is a bunch of crackers and some peanut butter… and the ginger ale tastes so good), maybe I’ll just leave you with a few photos of things that made this past week a good one.

An event put on by the Science Policy Advocacy Group at UNC to discuss how elections influence science & environmental policy. While there were plenty of things to not be excited about, it was encouraging to see the turnout & know that this is not an isolated group. As one of the panelists said “I imagine this room is replicated at universities across the country”. I’m sure he’s right.

0201171503_hdr2.jpg.jpg

A Thursday mentoring meeting in which we ditched the school building and opted to do some painting instead. Trying not to spill blue paint everywhere seems to build relationships a bit better than multiplication tables, as important as they may be.

0202171657_hdr2.jpg.jpg

Bread that didn’t turn out quite as planned, thanks to some less-than-fresh yeast, but still filled our apartment with warm, welcome winter aromas. Even if it’s actually close to 60 degrees outside.

0203171700_hdr2.jpg.jpg

Plus:

  • Found some nice, large glass jars at a yard sale on Sunday – perfect for storing grains & other bulk-aisle items. They have a plastic seal, so still working on getting rid of the lingering smells of peppermint and Smarties.
  • Visited Yellow Dog Bread Co. on First Friday and spoke with a rep from Compost Now, a compost collection service here in the Triangle area. Came away with a couple cookies (yum) and some flower seeds (yay).
  • I’m a little shy when it comes to sharing things I write, but decided to go for it & shared one of my latest posts on social media. It may seem like a little thing, especially in an age of digital communication, but one that took a little bit of working up to. For those who read it & responded, thanks for your kind words!

Delta:

  • The weather here has been unreal for February, but I’m still doing a poor job of actually biking places. I had an elaborate plan to bike to school, a meeting, and then to the city council meeting yesterday, but my gastrointestinal system had other plans so that got nixed.
  • Still working on navigating the farmers market and then “how do I decide what booth to buy from”question, as well as remembering to volunteer the fact I have my own bag as to not continue acquiring plastic ones.

But, that should do it for this week. If nothing else, I can check the box for “I wrote something for this week” and can be a bit more thorough next time.

Week-To-Week is a series consisting of reflections on purchases & daily events condensed on a weekly basis

 

whence it came

Thursday is Produce Day. It’s the day on which our Produce Project shares are ready for pickup from the local shipping container turned “Produce Cave”, a name coined by a child of a shareholder. This week, as I loaded the share into my box to take home, a man and his elementary age daughter came in behind me. Immediately after crossing the threshold into the container, the man stopped, took a deep breath, smiled, and asked “Doesn’t it smell good in here?” before prompting his daughter to try and pick out their box among the alphabetized containers of fruits and veggies. The question seemed to be directed partially to her, partially for his own acknowledgement. Though I didn’t answer him, I silently concurred. The distinct smell of fresh produce laced with a bit of cardboard is oddly refreshing, a reminder of the earth from which the bounty was cultivated.

0119171501_hdr.jpg

I think there is great value in knowing where something comes from, and knowing where it’s going. I think there’s even greater value in turning that knowledge to action & trying it for myself. While picking up a share of produce on a weekly basis is not the same as growing it, or speaking with a farmer, it’s one step closer to the source – and the smell is a reminder of this.

As evidenced by today’s politics, we fear what we do not know. Similarly, we may often take for granted that which we have not witnessed.

Read More »

january in photos

Happy February! My January, as told in purchases, looked something like this:

(Not Pictured: 2 produce boxes, 2 gas fill ups, 2 half gallons of milk & 1 taco dinner @ Virgil’s)

I went back and forth about posting all these pictures – something about it seemed to enter into a level of intimacy not to be shared with strangers on the internet – but decided they tell the story about as well as (or better than) I could with words, so here they are.

Upon inspection, it becomes clear that almost everything I purchased was related to food or transportation, with a few miscellaneous things tossed in. This would also explain why, though I’m not writing a food blog by any means, matters of food seem to sneak into my posts more often than other topics – though I have so many other things I’d like to write about at some point.

This first month wasn’t especially difficult – though I am quick to acknowledge I’m only responsible for myself and not another person or family, and have the flexibility offered by a student schedule, albeit busy. The primary challenge was combating the urge to frequent the grocery store, or remembering to check and see if an item I need is sold in bulk in the area. Having jars on hand for stops for bulk items is another habit change to make.

Things to Celebrate

  • Food Sourcing: Overall, I generally stuck to my goal of buying farmers market, local, or bulk foods with a couple exceptions. By not frequenting the grocery store, I didn’t find myself making extra purchases of sale items on the basis of “I’ll use that up, eventually”; it’s true – I would – but it’s also an action that speaks to a lack of mindfulness in consumption. Frugal, perhaps, but not mindful. It’s also increased my awareness of what really is in season produce wise, and eating more seasonally-focused meals. Shout-out to sweet potatoes for being in season year round here in the top sweet potato producing state, North Carolina.
  • Trying New Things: Before this month, I had never made my own yogurt or pasta from scratch (I’ve made käsespätzle – what might be described as “fancy german mac & cheese” but that’s a different excerise. On a sidenote, y’all may get a kick out of this video of a woman preparing the dish with a finesse unlike anything I’ve ever seen). Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge to do something different, and this challenge has certainly provided that. I may find that some DIY things are simply impractical, but others are totally doable & I’m looking forward to making them part of a routine.
  • Target: I’ll be honest, I enjoy Target. Not that I frequently buy things on a whim there, but trips to Target for staples like TP or soap often involve perusing of the clearance racks. My only trip to Target this month was actually to make a return on a pair of shoes I bought for a wedding in December but didn’t end up wearing. Target, looks like our relationship from here on out may be a bit strained.

Things to Work On

  • Bike More: This may seem like a ridiculous suggestion for February, but NC weather is totally unpredictable, and it’s far from unheard of to have freezing temperatures and temperatures in the 60s or 70s in the same week. This being said, it’s hard to develop a routine of biking, but it is easy to get stuck in the routine of driving. So here’s to seizing the inevitable not-so-chilly days.
  • Meal Planning: As it turns out, I’ve stocked up on a lot of freezer and dry foods over time, like beans and bread. This has been great for this month, since I could usually find something between those items and our produce box to pull together a decent meal or snack. Eventually, however, there won’t be a bag of pretzels hanging out in the pantry, so I’ll have to decide what things I want to continue to get from the grocery store, what things I want to make, & what to get from the farmers market – then plan accordingly.
  • Time Online: Though it’s not related to purchases, I suppose conscious consumerism could be broadened to incorporate the conscious consumption of information. It’s all to easy to get sucked in to all the news (real and fake), opinions, politics, and clever memes associated with the happenings of the day. I think it would be wise to limit time spent subjecting myself to this information to certain times of the day to prevent it from overflowing into work & leisure time.

What’s Next?

Moving forward, I’m think of other ways to quantify consumption outside of dollar values. I’m thinking things like miles driven or trips to the store. Or perhaps metrics that capture the absence of conventional consumption: books read, board games played, meals cooks, dinners shared, and so on. While numbers are so often considered objective, I’ve learned that the mere act of collecting certain data is an inherent value judgement. Perhaps if we placed more of an emphasis on tracking the things that we like or want to see, we could change our mentalities and the lens through which we see the world a bit.

It’s quite the open-ended question, and if you have any ideas I’m all ears.

Here’s to a happy & productive February! It’ll be all eyes on our friend Punxsutawney Phil tomorrow.

 

 

week 04: actions speak

In short, it was an exhausting week… the political landscape has been nothing short of distracting, and contemplating the effects of certain actions is a true exercise in empathy. I personally fall into the category of people that wish to stay informed, but also maintain my sanity. News story after news story leaves me feeling a bit helpless. The rhetoric is brazen, it is harmful, and it is loud.

But we must remember that actions speak louder.

This weekend I was driving home, listening to an NPR interview with a relative of the family sent back to Syria upon arrival in Philadelphia. Over the course of the interview I shed a few tears; it’s gut-wrenching to hear the story, to hear what this family had invested to make this move, to hear about their anticipation of reuniting with family in the US – only to hear about how it was snatched away at the last moment possible.

However, there was a small, encouraging moment amid this. Upon being asked how the family was doing, the relative explained that, while they first felt helpless, knowledge of the uproar and protests & that the American people stand with them has produced a glimmer of hope.

I was also uplifted by efforts here in our community to reach out when called upon. Our local bulk-produce distributor, The Produce Project, posted on their Facebook page that a friend had been hosting a Syrian refugee family, and they were in need of car seats and some other supplies for the children. Within 30 minutes, an outpouring of support produced the 2 car seats, $250, and numerous offers of other supplies if or when they are needed.

Our actions mean something. If only making a difference for one moment, or for one family, I think it’s worth it. To those of you out there that are writing letters & postcards, making phone calls, painting signs, organizing & attending protests, and having conversations with or helping your neighbors: those actions matter. They may not be high profile or part of a clear, direct cause and effect, but they absolutely have impact. Remember that.

Also this week, James and I met up for lunch to partake in Triangle Restaurant Week, in which restaurants in the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) area participate in a “celebration of culinary excellence”. Afterwards, he presented me with part of a promised birthday IOU that I never really followed up on: an instant film camera.

0127171256_hdr.jpg

While I was thrilled by the gift, I was even more appreciative of the effort put into it. He knows how important it is to me to be conscious of what I consume, and he went the extra mile to find a pre-owned camera via Amazon & film via Craiglist – the seller had bought the wrong size and was looking to unload the package. Even the wrapping paper was saved from a gift given to him & repurposed for this occasion. I think he felt a little strange giving a used gift, but I applaud him for fighting that discomfort and doing it anyways. To say it meant a lot is an understatement and, once again, those actions spoke volumes.

But I digress. This week also had a few things to mention pertaining to consumption habits:

Plus:

  • Got to take advantage of a DIY cleaning & beauty products workshop at the Well Fed Community Garden. It was fun to take a couple hours away from the hectic-ness of everything and make something while sitting in a room filled with like-minded people. We came away with recipes for laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, lotion, and body wash.
  • Made pasta by hand using the pasta press I acquired a few weeks back. I was pleased to find it wasn’t nearly as time consuming as I’d anticipated, and it was pretty successful for a first attempt. There are some things I’d tweak in the future, but all in all an enjoyable, tasty experience.

Delta:

  • If you’ve been reading these last few weeks, you’ll recognize that it’s not truly a weekly update without some mention of yogurt. This week I successfully made yogurt for the second time, but decided to store it in a container that I previously used to hold salsa. The lid was apparently still a little onion-y, so my first few servings of yogurt had some, uh, extra flavor…

I hope you all are doing well. Here’s to lifting our voices a little louder, or perhaps finding them for the first time. Keep it up.

Week-To-Week is a series consisting of reflections on purchases & daily events condensed on a weekly basis