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.

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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.

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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