Category Archives: Uncategorized

Boxing Day

Happy? I’m as happy as a turkey on Boxing Day. 

If you find yourself in England or, like me, spending your holidays with English in-laws, you might hear of a delightful phenomenon called Boxing Day. It’s the day after Christmas, and the story goes that it is the day when the wealthy would box up their old things, after getting shiny new ones on Christmas, to give them to the servants. Which, if you’re a servant is probably a better haul than actual Christmas, so it became its own holiday. And the banks are closed in England on December 26 to this day. 

Despite a lifetime of receiving my own shiny things on Christmas, I’ve never practiced Boxing Day, or anything like it. It’s pretty rare for me to get something that is a straight-up replacement for something I already have, and, let’s be honest, I have a bit of the pack rat in me. My own personal “boxing day” usually comes when I move, and is filled with annoyance and grief at the fact that I didn’t get rid of this huge ridiculous pile of things I couldn’t care less about long ago. (Anyone feel me out there?) After Christmas, by contrast, I can usually be found forcefully persuading my now-larger group of possessions to fit into my still-tiny apartment. With varying levels of success. This year, Boxing Day has come and gone. Here it is, January 17th, and I’m still working on integrating one of my new possessions into the available space. Friends, meet me at the coat rack. 

Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none.

I got a beautiful coat for Christmas. Beautiful. My mother picked it out, got the perfect size, boxed it, wrapped it in pretty paper, boxed it again and sent it to me. Since I opened it, I have been a little sad each and every day that it’s too warm to wear it. It is everything a coat should be: long enough to cover my knees, warm enough for a brisk winter day, and it even has a little tie around the waist, just to give it extra class. I love this coat. I cannot imagine ever in my life needing another one. 

I do have another coat. It’s a perfectly fine coat and has kept me toasty through four (or so) winters. I appreciate this other coat greatly. I thank it for its service. But it’s Boxing Day around here. Coat has to go. 

Sharing is hard. In this case, it’s not actually hard because I will miss my dearly departed coat (see above description of the prettiest, most wonderful coat in the world). It’s hard because I’m lazy about sharing. It’s easier to stuff things in the back of my closet than to think about how to give them away and then actually go do it. On Saturday. When there is so much good tv to catch up on. The Brits have it right, we totally need a special day for this kind of thing. An official get rid of it day. Spread the wealth day. 

The coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it

I’m doing it. I’m giving the coat away. I’ve even now publicly professed it to the internet. It’s time to remember that I have all of the things that I need and many of the things that I want. I can box that coat up and find my nearest winter clothing drive. It’s Boxing Day, after all. 

I’m not delusional here. I don’t think giving my old coat away will save the world. It’s just a coat. But we belong to each other, and it no longer belongs to me. This year, I’m celebrating Boxing Day. Bigger and better things next year, perhaps. 

Advertisements

Dress Like a Pro

The end of my grad school days is officially upon me. I successfully finished all my studies and graduated back in May. This means many things for my life. It means that my flexible schedule will soon have fallen by the wayside, that the weekend will mean more again; it means the return of paychecks, hallelujah, and the start of a long-planned career. But most importantly for today..

It means my wardrobe has got to change.

I love buying clothes that aren’t just clothes. I’m totally sucked in, for better or for worse, by one-for-one type operations, like Toms. I buy clothes really infrequently, and I thought for sure there was something like that out there for a professional wardrobe, and I could buy a pair of pants or two. Right? Look spiffy, help support some great community organization. This was sure to be a win-win.

Turns out there isn’t.

At least not that I can find. I found some GREAT clothing companies. KNO Clothing. Threads for Thought. Seer Outfitters. Justus, which donates underwear to homeless shelters, a topic on which I could wax poetic for hours. Even Threadless tee’s that benefit UNICEF. Be still my beating heart! But nothing for work. I love a good t-shirt. I love some nice underwear, but can a soon-to-be lawyer get a blazer here? Apparently not.

I think this is an untapped market here, folks. I cannot possibly be the only one who had this thought, went looking, and came up empty.

So I charge you, dear Internet, to fix this. We could do a little more good.

 


How to Commute on Foot

I’ve made it my business the past few years to live someplace where I could walk to grad school, and I’ve grown fond of it. It’s not yet clear whether I’ll be able to continue my pedestrian commuting ways in my new gig, but I hope to. Planning alternate commuting strategies has renewed my respect for the merits of the foot-commute.

I was initially intimidated by the idea of schlepping to and from on my own two feet, but became super glad I started doing it. As it turns out, my fiercely independent side likes getting myself there and home again without worrying about public transit failing me or where I’ll put my car when I get there. It’s definitely not for everyone, or for every day, but for the past 3 years, I’ve been happy to say that it’s been for me!

Thinking about commuting by foot? Here’s how to, in 11 simple steps.

1. Live close enough to your workplace to walk there.

2. Acquire commuting shoes.*

*I grew up in Houston, a town where approximately 0% of the population walks to work. I had no concept of these alleged “commuting shoes,” but they’re exactly what they sound like. Usually comfy sandals in the summer and sneakers in the winter, it’s whatever you would choose to wear to walk  from A to B on any other day. The important thing is that they need not coordinate with anything else you’re wearing. Pulling it off requires only attitude. See step 4.

3. Leave all real work shoes in the bottom drawer of your desk.

4. ROCK the work skirt with sneakers look. Don’t worry, at least half the other ladies on the sidewalk will be wearing the same thing.

5. Create plan B for inclement weather. Your boss will not accept, “Well, it was raining and I usually walk” as a reason for not showing up. Alas. Bus, metro, taxi, or begging a ride from your nearest and dearest are all possible plan B’s.

6. Create plan C if you chose the begging option. Let’s have a semblance of self-sufficiency here.

7. Plan to call family members on your commute, and rarely any other time. Make sure to have an ambulance drive by at LEAST once per phone call. It will become a running joke with your mom. Call your sister only when it’s windy, then pretend not to understand why she can’t hear you. Laugh until you can’t take it anymore at her WHOOSH Hey WHOOSH it’s me WHOOOOOOOOOOSH impression of talking to you on the phone.

8. Plan your day around what will mean you have to tote the fewest pounds in the morning and evening. If in school, try NOT to let this morph into, “Oh, I guess I just won’t read that because there’s no way I’m carrying that book home.”

9. Realize that you didn’t read something because you didn’t want to carry the book home. Make it through anyway!

10. Scrutinize the crosswalk timing until you perfect your walking pattern to minimize wait time. Scoff at the mere mortals who don’t know your tricks.  Try not to scoff out loud.

11. Stop and smell the roses. Don’t stop and smell anything else.


Eggplant Pasta and CSA box round-up

I am totally in love with my CSA box. Every week, like magic, a whole new cornucopia appears just around the corner, with my name on it. It’s wonderful what beautiful and delicious things the earth can make, when people know how to do it.

Earth’s Bounty: Exhibit A

In the beginning, this were a little dicey. Dark, leafy greens are just not in my wheelhouse of cooking. I had a couple of successes. (This, in particular, was tasty), but mostly things just tasted resoundingly fine. Nothing special, nothing any better than I could do with the produce section of the grocery store.

Oh, there were lots of cucumbers, and I made this salad. And then I dreamt about it. Highly recommend.

As the summer has progressed, the box has gotten better and better. The kale and chard are gone, and they’ve been replaced by zucchini, beets, tomatoes and potatoes. Now these, I can work with. I made a potato and zucchini torte that was the bomb. It’s from Smitten Kitchen, so that wasn’t really in doubt. I made delicious roasted beets with balsamic vinegar. My husband even threw together some zucchini pancakes. YUM.

And today, I made some sautéed eggplant pasta. It’s a great way to both use an eggplant you might not be totally confident on what to do with, and put to use a tomato on its last legs. I used two cups of penne I had left over from something else, but you can scale it as needed.

Hello, delicious!

Go forth, and love your CSA box.

Simple Eggplant Pasta

Serves 2

2 cups cooked pasta

1 TBS olive oil

1 small eggplant, diced

2 plum tomatoes (can be in disparate stages of ripeness), diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp fresh herbs of your choice. (I used oregano. Basil and parsley would also be great!)

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Grated parmesan or mozzarella, for topping

Kosher salt to taste

Start by putting the diced eggplant in a colander in the sink and sprinkling a few good pinches of kosher salt over it. (I misread some instructions and coated it with a lot of salt, then rinsed the salt off and patted it dry. This made the whole thing too salty. Don’t do this.) Let sit for about an hour, while the eggplant drains. Alternatively, you can skip this, but the eggplant may be slightly bitter.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add eggplant and saute for about 10 minutes, until it starting to get a little golden color. If your tomatoes are at varying stages of ripeness, add the ripest tomato, along with the oregano, garlic, and red pepper flakes. If your tomatoes are at similar stages of ripeness, just pick one. Saute around for about 4 minutes, until the eggplant starts to fall apart. Add the pasta and the other tomato, and saute for just about 2-3 minutes, until the sauce adheres to the pasta. Add salt to taste.

Serve topped with grated mozzarella or parmesan. Rejoice in seasonal produce.


Stockpiling Recipes

The CSA check is in the mail, but winter is still in the air. So for now, I will not be making delicious things out of vegetables in a box, but there is nothing at all that says I can’t get ready.

I’ve heard that two things in particular show themselves in abundance in CSA boxes around these parts: greens and peaches.

What better place to begin in stockpiling recipes, then, than to start with recipes for greens and peaches. The internet tells me there are oh-so-many ways to make these two raw ingredients even more delicious. These are some of my favorite places to look for tasty things.

Greens

From 101 cookbooks: Winter Pasta, Poached Eggs Over Rice

From SmittenKitchen: Baked Kale Chips, Barley Risotto with Beans and Greens, Spinach Quiche

From Simply Recipes: Kale with Sausage and White Beans, Colcannon

From Cooking Light: Autumn Apple and Spinach Salad, Swiss Chard Spanikopita Casserole

Peaches

From 101 Cookbooks: Plum and Peach Crisp

From SmittenKitchen: Peach Cupcakes (which I might turn into muffins)

From Simply Recipes: Blueberry Peach Fruit Salad, Peach Salsa

From Cooking Light: Summer Peach and Tomato SaladSparking Peach Sangria!

Looking those up brought such a cascade of deliciousness into my life. Can I make these all, right now, please?

 

 


Spicy Love

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but a little holiday called St. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. While some adhere to the traditional celebration of the holiday by reciting a verse of Chaucer*, most celebrate with some combination of heart-shaped paper and sweet-tasting things.

I myself will be baking heart-shaped cookies and hope to eat a tasty chocolate treat at some point on the day. Any holiday that brings more tasty chocolate treats into my life can’t be all bad, right?

That’s the problem, isn’t it. Valentine’s Day is not the nicest of holidays, since it tends to separate the coupled from the non-coupled, and that’s a shame. Anything associated with love and chocolate should be nicer about it. For that reason, I propose giving Valentine’s love to everyone you love, romantically or otherwise. It’s nice to reclaim it a little by celebrating friends and family as well as sweethearts.

If you’d like to celebrate with sweet-tasting things that are of the sustainable variety, may I direct your attention to Equal Exchange. They have many wonderful things, but perhaps the most apropos for this particular day is this cayenne-infused hot chocolate.

For what, pray tell, says, “I love you” quite like saying, “And I also love when workers are paid a fair wage, and when the chocolate in your gift is grown organically?” Nothing, I tell you. Nothing at all.

*He wrote “For this was on seynt Volantynys day/ Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.” To my knowledge, no one recites this on Valentine’s Day.


City Love: Bag Tax

The blog needs focus. It turns out that the universe of things I could be writing about is too big. Focus it shall have! I’m turning it into a site about living in a sustainable way – both environmentally (watch out, there might be more posts about eggs), and spiritually/emotionally (where I will likely talk more about other people’s feelings than my own, because I am a chicken and the Internet is forever).

Kicking this off, I would like to turn your attention to something that is old news around these parts, but might be new news to more far-flung friends of mine: the DC bag tax. Excellent story about it here:

Excellent Story about the DC Bag Tax

In our fair city, shoppers are charged a nickel for every disposable shopping bag they use, paper or plastic. The money from this tax goes to clean up the Anacostia river, which is (apparently) polluted in no small part by random plastic bags that make their way down there. I like this because using money from taxing the use of plastic bags strikes me as poetic justice.

I should probably admit here that I have no independent knowledge of the workings of the bag tax. I do not know how the money is collected or what, exactly it’s spent on for river clean-up. I don’t know if it’s making any difference to the state of the Anacostia River. I speak as a consumer and user of plastic bags, and I like the bag tax because of how it has affected my behavior as a consumer.

The bag tax makes me a better person.

Really. Granted, it makes me a better person in a very small way. I now use reusable shopping bags to do my grocery shopping. I used to be one of those people who would get to the check out and be all, “Doh!” “Forgot the reusable shopping bags AGAIN.” And now, for the price of only a nickel a bag, I hardly ever do this anymore. Being charged for bags makes it stick in my mind that there is a cost to single-use bags. It makes me remember to take the reusable ones. I like remembering. I feel like I’m saving the world. And when I forget, I like that someone reminds me at the check-out to remember next time by charging me 15 cents.

I don’t know about you, fellow DC shoppers, but I like the bag tax because, anecdotally at least, it works. You know more people are carrying around reusable bags now. You know convenience stores stopped automatically giving you a plastic bag for a pack of gum. You’ve seen people bear-hugging a pack of toilet paper because looking silly is worth more than a nickel to them (I fully admit that I am one of those people). I think it’s great.

I’m a big fan of empiricism in these matters. We shouldn’t support a tax like this because it feels good, but because it objectively affects behavior in the desired way. There will be studies, but I’m willing to bet it’s reduced plastic bag use.

If you don’t think single-use bags are a big deal, you are probably not a fan of the tax. And it’s possible that taken in the context of this great big world of ours, it doesn’t make a bit of difference how many plastic bags we use. It’s probably a small fish to fry. But I have another reason to like it – it’s a great symbol. It makes me more conscious of other single-use things in my life, and makes me question whether there is another way to get done what I need to get done without them. Cool! Has it done that for anyone else?

In the end, what I do know is that it’s reduced MY plastic bag use, and I like it. Sometimes, it turns out I need a little coercion to do what I should have been doing all along. Thanks for the economic disincentive, DC government!