Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year Reflections

I've already made my resolutions for my 27th year, but the new year is also a time to reflect. When I think back on the last year, I feel proud of all that I accomplished and all the experiences I managed to pack in. Despite the lack of sleep (see above resolutions, which include going to bed earlier), it was a year that saw me realize several steps toward being the person I want to be. 2011 was the year I:

* Started working for an environmental nonprofit, where I have now survived a year of the steep learning curve there.

from a restorative work retreat in Vermont

* Started bike commuting, managing 20-40 miles most weeks since March.


* Joined a band (the garage rock/punk band Sexy Neighbors).


* Played my first solo shows since 2007 and wrote several new songs.

* Met my awesome boyfriend.


* Finally visited Portland, Oregon, the land people have long told me I would love


* Visited my friend's little cottage on Cape Cod for a fun August weekend of lobster and beaches


* Was membership co-head of the Bushwick Food Coop for six months. 


* Moved twice and now live with my best friend.


* Meanwhile, we have dealt with a three month scourge of bed bugs (and no it's not quite yet over), so the new year will hopefully bring us a return to home normalcy. In the meantime, life goes on and work goes on and I go on trying to be the person I want to be.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Make Your Own Deodorant


This looks like a photo of regular deodorant, but it's actually my homemade deodorant. I'd been meaning to try this out for a long time as part of my general trend toward eliminating personal care products and their associated risky chemicals from my life. In fact, back in 2009 I considered going deodorant free, but that never happened (probably for the best). But I recently realized that even the natural deodorant I'd been using, while free of aluminum, still had a low rating on the Good Guide due to a questionable ingredient called propylene glycol. This fall when this deodorant finally ran out, I decided to follow my successful homemade replacement for shampoo and make my own deodorant.

It was as easy as mixing coconut oil, baking soda and corn starch. I left out essential oil since coconut oil itself has antibacterial properties and I like the scent of it. I started out with Crunchy Betty's recipe of 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 5 tbsp coconut oil but found that I had to add a little more of this and a little more of that until I got a consistency that was solid enough to refill my deodorant container. Winter is a good time to try this out, since coconut oil is only solid below 76 degrees Fahrenheit. I would prefer to use a little glass jar rather than a plastic container, but since I need to carry my deodorant with me for bike commuting, it's better for the container to be lighter. I also figured I would be able to roll it on like I was used to, but the homemade stuff doesn't hold together as well, so I scoop out a little and rub it on with my finger. I don't even necessarily have to worry about washing my hands afterward since the ingredients are all safe and edible.

Do I smell? I don't think I sweat or stink anymore than I did on regular deodorant. I don't shower after biking to work, I just reapply this and I'm good to go. My boyfriend said he would warn me if I smelled too much and that hasn't happened. Now, I just smell slightly of coconut, which I find pleasant. My roommate is impressed and wants to try it out, so I need to remember to make her a sample soon.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Make Your Own Mustard

When I went to my make mustard for my father's holiday gift this year, I realized that I've never posted the go-to recipe I've been using for years now. The concept behind making mustard is very simple: soak mustard seeds in a vinegar-based liquid and then blend it. That liquid can be just vinegar and water, but I like to use beer or wine for more flavor, as well as honey for some sweetness to offset the spiciness. You can also add whatever spices your heart desires for endless variations. Despite using white seeds, which actually look yellow and are supposed to be the most mild of the types of mustard seeds, this comes out hotter than the storebought stuff and takes a few weeks to mellow out. I also recently learned you can heat the liquid first, which will cut the mustard's bite, but I haven't tried that yet.

Mustard seeds can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores. Some seeds I've bought are harder to blend than others for no apparent reason and result in a coarser mustard - just a warning. This makes a very simple gift, which you probably wish I told you a few weeks ago, or is a simple way to impress barbecue guests, or is just a good thing to have in your fridge since the anti-bacterial properties of mustard mean it will last for months.

Also, happy holidays!

Homemade Spicy Honey Mustard

1/4 cup white mustard seeds
1/4 cup beer or wine
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp salt
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp honey

Combine all ingredients in an empty jar* and put in the fridge for a week. One to seven days later, blend the mixture until seeds are mostly ground and it reaches your desired consistency, adding a little water a tablespoon at a time if necessary.

* It is suggested that you rinse and save salsa and peanut butter jars since they are perfect for homemade condiments.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Birthday


Last week I turned 27. I'm finding that life keeps moving forward, and I have to just take advantages of opportunities for enjoyment wherever they can be squeezed in. The bed bug saga is still ongoing and draining, so I drew out my birthday with multiple celebrations...happy hours on my birthday, a romantic dinner, drinks and dancing with my friends, some very nice little presents, and plans for ice skating with another birthday next week. And, I highly recommend wearing a homemade paper crown to one's birthday party.

I've now crossed off most things on my 26 things to do before turning 26 list (which also turned into my before 27 list). And so, a new list for this new year of life...couldn't quite get to 28 but I'm sure I will think of more as the year goes on:

1. Live in a home that is bed bug free as of May 2012, and then not again as of Sept 2012
2. Live in a home that feels like a real home as of May 2012
3. Record a solo EP someday....
4. Book more solo shows played 2/14/2012 and 4/5/2012
5. Record an album with my band released an EP on 4/29/2012
6. Play at SXSW didn't perform there but did go to watch others in mid March 2012 
7. Perform with my boyfriend we played a song together onstage on Valentine's day 2012
8. Go to the gym on lunch breaks only managed to go once every other week on average...would like to get to regular twice a week
9. Leave work on time regularly no :-(
10. Go to bed earlier no :-(
11. Visit New Paltz went for a romantic getaway 9/28/2012
12. iVsit Caitlin's house upstate again went 
13. Visit Elaine and her new baby 2/4/2012
14. Go camping camped in Queechee VT for my sister's college graduation nearby 6/8/2012
15. Visit my parent's beach house (somehow I never went camping or to the beach house in summer 2011). Memorial weekend 2012
16. Go to Founder's Day at my college didn't go, hopefully next year
17. Possibly visit my sister while she studies abroad in London didn't go
18. Model in a shoot for my photographer friend still haven't done this
19. Go ice skating 12/9/2011 at the Standard Hotel
20. Trim my own hair 12/25/2011
21. Stop a bad habit not yet...
22. Bake pumpkin cinnamon rolls, which I have been thinking about doing for years now New Years Day 2012
23. Make homemade pasta not yet
24. Host another pizza potluck hosted one 5/19/2012
25. Try a yoga class first yoga class was in the middle of the Costa Rican rainforest, followed by a few at a neighborhood yoga studio and free lunchtime classes led by a coworker
26. Make ice cream cake for Evan's 30th birthday party 8/25/2012
27.
28.