Sunday, September 11, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Salad

What do you bring to a dinner party at summer's end? We originally planned to bring a green salad, but like many New York area farms impacted by Hurricane Irene*, Evolutionary Organics farm had no greens to offer over Labor Day weekend. Instead, we selected a variety of their tomato beauties, as well as a cucumber and red onion from the market. The vegetables were thinly sliced and carefully layered -  a layer of tomatoes topped with a layer of cucumber, followed by scattered onions and parsley, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil and red wine vinegar. Continue to add layers until you've used up the goods and then give it a few hours to marinate. It was part of a impressive spread that included oysters, sweet roasted tomato, honey and ricotta crostini, sweet potato and bacon hash, pork ribs three ways, and peach cobbler (I regretted not bringing my camera to the party). Yum!

* Check out GrowNYC's campaign to help local farmers recover from the losses wreaked by hurricane flooding.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wear it out

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

When something starts to break, people go around saying they "need" to buy this item of clothing or they "need" to buy that household object, but there is a difference between want and need. Mindful consumption is about evaluating whether you truly need it, and whether it will be worth the expense not only in terms of your bank account, but also in terms of depletion of natural resources, pollution, and unfair labor.

For example, this was my old backpack. When a hole first started appearing over a year ago, most would run out and replace it with a new backpack right away. This particular backpack company also offers a lifetime warranty where you can send backpacks to be repaired, but when I called to ask about the specifics about this, it was very unclear as to whether the rips in mine fell under their warranty policy or not, and I wasn't willing to go a month without a backpack to find out. Instead, I repaired the hole with needle and thread, and later when the mended stitch no longer held, with safety pins, and eventually just went around with a giant hole in my backpack. Was it unsightly? Yes. But was it still functional? Actually, yes, it was. As long as I had an umbrella when it was raining. Finally, I decided that it was time, and that I wanted a new backpack that would carry my groceries more securely. My old backpack saw me through high school AP textbooks, treks lugging my computer and notebooks around my college campus, and NYC bike rides weighted down with a lock and groceries, so it lived a long life, and it got a second life when I donated it to the textile recycling stand at the Greenmarket.

Likewise, I got a new computer this winter. My previous computer was an 8 1/2 year old dinosaur purchased for my college freshman year. Over the years, it was repaired with a new keyboard, motherboard, and hard drive. But for probably the last three years I had it, it was plagued with slowness, frequent freezing and poor internet connectivity. I dealt with this by using my then-boyfriend's computer (which he wasn't too happy about) or getting things done on my computer at work, or simply having patience. I resisted getting a new computer, since I recognized that I didn't absolutely need one. I originally planned on waiting until it died a nasty death. I finally decided it was time this winter, when I wanted to be able to blog easier and do demo recordings of my music. I went with a refurbished macbook, which is rated as having adequate environmental controls. Luckily my old laptop was a Dell, which you can recycle at Staples, but Staples will also accept non-Dell electronics for a $10 fee. Electronics Takeback Coalition has a useful guide to electronics recycling here.

The delayed gratification involved in mindful consumption also makes me appreciate it all the more when I finally buy something new. How do you feel about mending broken goods and making do?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Elements of a Minimalist Bedroom

I am a minimalist in that I don't like buying and owning too much stuff. Just the idea of it weighs me down. The more things you have, the harder it is to clean your home and to move homes. It doesn't make sense for us to deplete the earth's resources so that we can acquire things that we don't really need and that force us to have larger homes to house all that stuff. Each time I move, I take it as an opportunity to figure out what else I can get rid of. I've also learned a few tricks over the years on how to manage with fewer things in smaller spaces. I will admit I have many kitchen things, but in general I aspire to minimize my belongings. This is how I live in a 70 square foot room. (Note: many of these photos are from my previous apartment, which had better light.)

- While keeping my mattress on the floor means I lose storage space under my bed, I also like the simplicity of it and not having a bedframe to move around when I change apartments.

- A storage container doubles as nightstand, covered by an attractive sheet.

- Rather than use a duvet, which I find cumbersome to remove for washing, I just keep my comforter between two sheets.

- I don't have a desk. In the past, I used a tray table, although my current room doesn't have room for that, so I usually bring my computer to my bed or the living room coffeetable.

- I don't own many books (since I do my reading via library loans), I don't own any DVDs (that's what the internet and netflix are for); and I recently made sure all my CDs were burned onto my computer so I could recycle them all at Best Buy.

- You can just see the black suitcase standing hidden behind the door, which serves as storage and also doubles as extra surface area in a room short on it.

- In the past, I have also used boxes for storage instead of buying more shelving furniture.

- I like to hang a plastic bag rather than having a garbage can. You're going to have a plastic bag inside the can anyway, so why bother buying another piece of plastic just to keep it in?

- I try to keep as many of my appliances as possible plugged into one power strip, that can easily be turned off whenever leaving home to avoid using phantom power.

- I periodically reevaluate all my clothes to give away anything I have determined that I no longer like to wear or consider useful. 

Do you have any tricks for simplifying your home and eliminating unnecessary furniture and "stuff"?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sneak Peek of my new apartment

Yes, as I have mentioned, I moved AGAIN earlier this summer. Such is the way of life of a twenty-something New Yorker. This time I moved out of a craigslist roomshare so that I could live with my best friend Jamie. The apartment hunting process was extremely painful. You may think that working with a broker will be helpful. In fact, the search process involves refreshing craigslist searches every hour for two and a half weeks, calling every lead, visiting multiple apartments each night, working with multiple brokers and mostly seeing apartments that would be fit for a couple but not roommates because of our nonprofit salary price range. We applied for four apartments, two of which the tenants decided not to move out of, and one of which the broker was incompetent and waited a week to tell us the landlord picked another applicant.

The unfortunate thing about New York real estate is that it's more expensive to live with a friend than strangers because it usually involves signing a new lease, which landlords use as opportunities to raise the rent exorbitantly. So you can either live with craigslist roommates in a decent apartment at a more reasonable price, or have an awesome friend as your roommate but not as nice an apartment.

So, we ended up in a railroad apartment, where I pay more than one should to live in a 70 square foot room with no window. BUT, at least we have a cute apartment with lots of plants. We managed to stay in a good area in Williamsburg, even if it's not my favorite part of the neighborhood. And Jamie is my favorite.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


As I mentioned, I'm going to Portland, Oregon at the end of September. I know nothing about the city except that according to lots of people, I will love it. What foods should I eat, what bars should I go to, what sights should I see? We will have a car so we can do day trips. Share your Portland tips with me!