April 30, 2010

Food Waste Friday plus Free Museums

This post is going to be short and sweet, because... we've got no food waste this week! Yay.

One thing that has helped is buying less when I shop for groceries. The past two weeks I've crossed a couple of things off the list that could wait. This is especially true for packaged items, which tend to take precedence over other food we should be using up from the pantry or freezer. So I'm starting a new policy: only one packaged "treat" per shopping trip. Frozen pizza, cookies, and chips are all included. I'm not cutting them out entirely, but I'm not throwing them into the cart willy nilly anymore either. When we don't have those items readily available, my husband tends to get more creative with what he eats for lunch, and it usually ends up being healthier as well.

This is possible because of our CSA delivery, and a well-stocked pantry. We won't be going hungry anytime soon, so I can cut back on what we bring in a little bit. And buying less food has been the Number One best trick for wasting less. The bonus is that we save money in the bargain.

To learn more about how wasted food harms the environment, visit Wasted Food. And check out The Frugal Girl to get tips from other bloggers learning to minimize their food waste.

FREE STUFF ALERT: It's that time again: Bank of America's Museums on Us program, which lets you into participating museums free all day the first Saturday and Sunday of the month. That's this weekend, so if you're a customer, get out your debit card and click here to find participating museums in your area.

Are you watching your food waste? How did you do this week? Let us know in the Comments section, along with any great freebies you've heard about lately.

April 28, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, ebay, freecycle, a yard sale, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Sandy, who blogs at Hip to be Cheap. Sandy is back for a repeat performance on Thrifty Threads, with this excellent summer outfit perfect for enjoying the outdoors in beautiful Canada.

This photo was taken with her son at Echo Lake in British Columbia, near where they live. She got married here and they visited again on their anniversary. Sandy says the area is full of beautiful lakes like this.

Sandy got this pretty top for about a dollar and she made the skirt from old jeans and Freecycled ribbon. Very cute! She says her son is usually in Thrifty Threads as well, and always looks stylish no matter what he's wearing.

Sandy says it's Hip to Be Cheap, so head on over to her blog to read about her style of frugality. Sandy's tagline is "I'm cheap and that's okay," and her profile describes her as a "modern woman trying to lessen the load of debt, consumerism, and materialism and find out what truly makes me happy." I still say she's frugal, not cheap, but maybe that's all just semantics. I appreciate the honesty in her blog about how day-to-day life doesn't always go according to your best laid plans and intentions, and I've also gotten some fabulous baking recipes there.

Thanks Sandy for sending in that great photo. It really puts me in the mood for summertime. You can click here to see her first appearance on Thrifty Threads. Okay readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite secondhand outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at barton.angela@gmail.com. I always need more photos, and we all love to see your fabulous finds. Any and all submissions are welcome, including men, infants, and children.

Please leave your best secondhand shopping tips and compliments for Sandy in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

April 27, 2010

Frugal vs. Cheap

I recently had an experience that left me determined not to be cheap, with myself or anyone else. And it got me thinking about the difference between being frugal and being just plain cheap. Sometimes there's a fine line...

I would consider myself mostly frugal, thrifty, and resourceful, and I consider those to be positive qualities in others. However, what is decidedly NOT a nice quality is cheapness. I want to be generous in life, with myself, my time, and my money. Living on a budget is no reason to be stingy with others.

Here are a few examples of being frugal versus being cheap:

1. A frugal person doesn't go out to dinner when they can't afford it, and pays their fair share when they do. A cheap person doesn't leave enough money to cover their portion of the bill, thereby causing the rest of the group to pay for them.

2. A frugal person borrows DVDs from the library. A cheap person makes illegal copies of the DVDs for their own personal library.

3. A frugal person has a grocery budget and cooks healthy meals from scratch. A cheap person eats Top Ramen every night even though they can afford much better food.

4. A frugal person doesn't spend every penny they earn, and leaves an inheritance. A cheap person eats cat food for dinner and lives in squalor while they have a million dollars in the bank.

Those are just a few examples, you get the idea.

It's possible to be cheap with others, and with ourselves. Not taking care of our own health and well-being could be considered being cheap with oneself.

I want to be both frugal and generous, and I don't think they're mutually exclusive.

What are some other examples of when frugal goes too far and enters the land of the cheap? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section.

April 26, 2010

It's CSA Delivery Day

This delivery was so over the top, I couldn't even fit it all on the table, and you can't really see the absolutely ginormous stalks of swiss chard in the back because they're covered up by the kale and golden beets. It took me about an hour just to put all this away, because I had to trim the greens off the beets and the swiss chard off the stalks, because otherwise it wouldn't have all fit into the refrigerator.

My husband watched me while eating his portion of the walnut brownie treat that came with the delivery, and he said, "Let's be honest. Not everyone could do this. It's a lot of work."

I told him I had mentioned that before, but in case it's been awhile, I have to admit it IS a lot of work to keep track of all of this, plan menus around it, and make sure we use it all up. It's worth it, mostly because it tastes so good, but also I like knowing that we're eating local and organic and I think it's much healthier for us. But I just wanted to give full disclosure about it - my husband and I have flexible schedules and we can swing it, but it would be very difficult with two people working full-time jobs. The delivery is a convenience, but the rest of it is a project.

I'm not complaining, mind you. Just telling you how I see it. I'm always very happy to see some of my favorites with each delivery, and with a few exceptions, I've discovered several delicious new recipes planned around an item we were previously unfamiliar with.

This week we got (roughly clockwise from the back): Bloomsdale spinach (our current favorite), kale, swiss chard, golden beets, some kind of beans, zucchini, maui onions, broccoli, navel oranges, fuji apples, artichokes, potatoes, grapefruit , sweet potato, cabbage, strawberries, snap peas, green garlic, an unidentified bunch of herbs and a walnut brownie (not pictured).

I'm a huge sweet potato lover, and am excited to eat possibly my first local, organic sweet potato. For dinner tonight, I'll get to that swiss chard right away with our new favorite Guadalajaran Swiss Chard Quesadillas, and tomorrow I'll make a potato/leek/broccoli pureed soup. That leaves a lot of other dinners to figure out!

Click here to learn more about CSA and find one in your area. And feel free to leave your thoughts in the Comments section, along with recipes for anything you see in the photo.

April 23, 2010

Food Waste Friday plus favorite blog post of the week

What's in the container? The rest of some delicious cooked beets that I couldn't get to before I left on vacation last week. My husband will eat almost anything, but he has a strict no beets policy. The beets in the last CSA delivery were so huge that I was eating these things for lunch and dinner for a couple of days. It's incredible that I would ever waste beets, I love them so much, but I'm not perfect.

My husband did better: he ate all the cilantro, lettuce, and radishes while I was gone. And I gave it my best with my attempt to use up some turnips with a Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie that I found online. It was horrible, and I don't think I'll be able to eat turnips again for quite awhile. We ended up scraping the mashed potatoes off the top and dumping the turnip stew underneath. So that was a bit more waste. The recipe was not a keeper, and the worst part was that I ended up spending almost two hours cooking it! I very rarely spend that much time on dinner, and when I do I expect it to be spectacular! But I do believe you have to keep trying new things, even though it doesn't always turn out to be a positive experience. At least I don't have a husband who throws a less-than-tasty dinner in the sink and stomps out of the house, as my mom claims her father did (!) when my grandmother would try something "exotic" like Chop Suey.

It's hard not to waste any food at all, but it's not too hard to waste less, with a bit of planning and effort. You can read all about how wasting less is good for the environment at Wasted Food, and check out The Frugal Girl for the folks who are documenting their waste in an attempt to do better.

And head on over to The Non-Consumer Advocate for my Favorite Blog Post of the Week, about how some folks seem to think being green is a competition with their "I'm greener than you" holier-than-thou attitude. It really got me riled up!

Are you watching your food waste? How did you do this week? Please let us know in the Comments section, and feel free to weigh in on the "green" controversy as well.

April 22, 2010

Thrifty Threads: Earth Day Edition

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, a yard sale, craigslist, ebay, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is yours truly, finally getting into the swing of buying used clothing. I found this whimsical and original t-shirt at a high-end consignment shop on the half-off rack, which came to $7. It's hand appliqued and sequined in a cute design and I love the colors. The jean jacket appeared to be brand new and fit me perfectly, and set me back $9 at Goodwill. I'm very happy with that purchase because I've never found a jean jacket that was both fitted AND comfortable.

Okay readers, it's your turn. I'm getting very low on photos, so please put on your favorite thrift store score, snap a photo, and send it to me at barton.angela@gmail.com. We all want to see your fabulous finds. Any age and size is welcome, but I would particularly love to see some pretty spring dresses, florals, and bright colors. Something festive and fun now that winter is finally coming to an end.

Please tell us your favorite tips for secondhand shopping in the Comments section. And click here if you'd like to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

April 21, 2010

The gratefuls

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. I'll be back tomorrow with a brand-new Thrifty Threads.

My husband and I don't have kids, so I don't often post photos of cute children on my blog. But I can post pictures of my friend's kids, especially when I have something to say about them.

This is Lukas, the son of a good friend of mine. My friend will wonder why I'm posting a photo that's over three years old. Lukas turned 4 the other day and there are tons of adorable photos that are more recent. But I have my reasons. For one thing, it's one of my favorite photos of him, and perfectly captures his unadulterated joy. The other reason is because I love that we do that pose in my yoga class, and it's actually called "Happy Baby pose." And this post is about happiness.

I'm very interested in studies on happiness and what makes people happy. I find it interesting to wonder if it can actually be quantified. There's a lot of evidence that being grateful actually adds to our sense of well-being. And anecdotally, focusing on what I'm grateful for counterarracts the tendency to be constantly striving, wanting more, and wanting things to be different.

Sometimes Lukas and his mom practice what they call "the gratefuls" during dinner. They name something they're grateful for that day, or that moment. It could be one thing or five things. And one night when I was eating with them, when asked about his gratefuls, Lukas said, "I'm grateful that Auntie Ang is here eating dinner with us." It was totally unprompted and spontaneous. Now THAT'S something to be grateful for.

Being thankful for what's in my life, especially the people and relationships, gives me an immediate sense of calm. This is how I practice it: whenever I think of it - once a day, once a week, a few times a week, or a couple of times a day - I think of or write down 5 things I'm grateful for. I don't make it a chore, or a "have to" or another item on my "to-do" list, I simply do it whenever I think about it. And I like to call them "my gratefuls."

What I notice is that they are very nearly always the same: my husband, my friends, my family, the fact that I can walk and run and breathe easily and move my body freely, the fact that my husband and I are in good health, that kind of thing. When you pare it down to the essentials, what's important is hardly ever material. So I might be really excited about our beautiful new kitchen floor, but I'm grateful for a husband who worked so hard to make it happen.

What are you grateful for? Do you practice thankfulness, at a place of worship or on your own? Do you think it makes you happier? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section.

April 20, 2010

Why are you frugal, or semi-frugal, or resourceful?

The following is a reprint of a previously published post.

After I wrote yesterday's post "What do you splurge on?" it occurred to me that maybe I should have started with the question "Why are you frugal?" Because there's no point in being frugal for the sake of being frugal. There needs to be a reason, which ranges from sheer necessity (for example, you live on a fixed income or you're trying to support a family on minimum wage or you've been laid off from your job) to all manner of lifestyle goals and ideals.

One of my readers suggested that if I was uncomfortable with the term "frugal," perhaps I should substitute "resourceful." I like that. It brings to mind a sensible person, cheerfully making do with their circumstances. Creating a gourmet meal out of forgotten pantry items, making a cozy home in the wilderness, sewing stylish clothing out of burlap bags. Sort of a cross between Marmie from Little Women and MacGyver (ingenious uses for everyday items).

So WHY am I resourceful? There are many reasons, but they mostly revolve around wanting to create a lifestyle that meshes with my values and goals. The values have to do with non-consumerism and protecting the environment and trying not to use more than my fair share of the earth's resources. The goals involve wanting to work less, while at the same time doing work I enjoy and having control over my own schedule.

It all comes down to priorities. Mine have just never been to have a big house, an expensive car, lots of jewelry, or STUFF. They've always had more of an experiential element, and include doing work and activities I love, having time for my husband and friends, and not being tied down to a schedule. Also, living on less lets me feel more in control and less panicked if my husband or I get less work or if the economy takes a turn for the worse. Having money for an emergency and not living on credit means that we're not so dependent on jobs or the economy.

If I gave the impression yesterday that I was frugal just so I could spend money on travel, boots, and spas, that's not the case. I do splurge on some things, but they're not the overall point of a frugal or resourceful lifestyle. Joining The Compact was an extension of the way I was already living rather than a radical experiment, and I've realized that even more because nearly five months later, I've had hardly any challenges or temptations to wrestle with.

I'm not trying to recruit members for The Compact, but I guess in a way I AM trying to relate how simple it is to live on less. Maybe give a little hope to people who are doing it by necessity. How it can actually be creative, invigorating, and yes... fun! Because believe me, if you saw our lifestyle, I don't think anyone would call it deprived. Except for maybe someone like Donald Trump, who I would consider the exact opposite of me. It's hard to believe we're the same species, really. The only thing I can think of that we have in common is a thick head of hair. But then again, his is probably fake.

Why are you frugal, or semi-frugal, or resourceful? Or do you prefer another label entirely? Please tell us your thoughts in the Comments section.

April 19, 2010

CSA delivery: or, how to make Monday your favorite day of the week

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. I'll be back this Thursday with a brand-new Thrifty Threads post.

Getting this delivery of local organic produce every two weeks has changed our lives! Cooking is more fun, and my husband is eating more fruit. On top of being better for the environment by cutting down transportation costs and supporting the local farmers, this stuff is much fresher, so it lasts longer, and it tastes absolutely delicious.

Here's a rundown of this week's bounty (I definitely need to consult the list because I don't know what some of it is): starting from the back and moving roughly clockwise is watermelon, bi-colored sweet corn, cavallion melon, red butter lettuce, a beefsteak tomato, zucchini, Ronde nice squash, cherry tomatoes, black grapes, homemade tomato sauce, plums, nectarines, red onions, rooted basil, and Armenian cucumber. Those purple goodies in the middle? Fresh Black Eyed Peas in the Shell. I've never seen those before.

I can't decide what to have for dinner tonight. I'm really excited about the corn, we'll have to eat that. Maybe I'll tackle those Black Eyed Peas, there are instructions on how to prepare them. And I'll definitely be referring to all the zucchini recipes I received from my readers when I cook that zucchini later this week.

I've posted today's recipe below, although we didn't receive eggplant, so something must have changed at the last minute. Our CSA visits four local Farmer's Markets over the weekend and picks the freshest offerings each week.

If you live in Los Angeles, this CSA operates through the restaurant and catering company Auntie Em's. This delivery costs $42, and we're getting it every two weeks, which is plenty for two people. I like what the owner has to say in this week's newsletter about the whole issue of trying to eat responsibly for our bodies and the planet: "I think that we should all try to do the best we can, and be proud that we're making a difference. Don't beat yourself up over the fact that you're not eating grass-fed beef, if you are buying organic produce, recycle, and are walking more places. It is really hard to do it all. But you can make good choices everyday."

I agree. And Auntie Em's is helping my husband and I make a good choice. I believe that many people making a lot of small changes has a greater impact than if a few of us become Ed Begley, Jr. (no offense to EB). The point is that you do what you can, and it all adds up. For me, the baby steps method works well so that I don't become overwhelmed. I can incorporate small changes into our lives like composting and eating local produce without a huge outlay of time or resources.

Becoming a non-consumer has led to a slew of other healthy lifestyle/good for the environment changes for me. What about you? Do you have a CSA option or Farmer's Market near where you live? Maybe you grow your own produce. Have you ever made Black Eyed Peas from the pod? Do you boil or steam fresh corn? Please leave your thoughts and questions in the Comments section.

April 16, 2010

Another Food Waste Friday

The following is a reprint of a previously published post.

No picture... no food waste!

I actually ate the less-than-appetizing sauteed kale from a few nights ago in order to avoid taking a photo of it. I sauteed it again with olive oil and garlic, and added salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, parmesan, bread crumbs, and toasted pine nuts. The result? It would be a stretch to call it delicious, but it was tasty.

It reminds me of something my husband told me. Back in Alabama where he grew up, there was a women's dress shop called "Betty's Big Girls." He always got a kick out of their ad which was, "If you can't lose that weight, dress it up pretty." Well, I dressed that kale up pretty. And I'm going to consider today's lunch a successful experiment in behavior modification. And thanks to my husband, the Eat Me! section of the refrigerator has been entirely cleared out. Ladies and gentlemen, human beings CAN be trained to change their behavior. I give you Exhibit A (me) and Exhibit B (my husband).

I also have to thank my readers for helping me to avoid soy milk and fennel ending up in this week's photo. The soy milk made a couple of smoothies, and my husband ate the rest with cereal. And the fennel was delicious sliced up into a salad, which we ate two nights in a row. Thanks for all your great suggestions.

So why are hundreds, or maybe thousands, of people posting photos of their weekly food waste on their blogs? It's not a new aesthetic, found art, or a diet fad. It's a way of taking responsibility for what we buy, eat, and throw away. And making it public helps with our level of responsibility and commitment.

Kristen over at the excellent blog The Frugal Girl may have been the first person to use the method of taking a photo of her waste. Her Waste-No-Food Challenge now has many followers. And it all started with Jonathan Bloom over at Wasted Food, who is on a mission to stop food waste across the nation. Check out his blog to learn about why it matters that we all start thinking more about what we're throwing out.

And if you're wasting LOTS of food, keep this in mind. We all started there. When you're at the market, maybe you buy too much produce with the good intention that you'll eat it all. Maybe you buy snacks that end up being a meal instead of that fresh produce. The point is, once you start thinking about it and focusing on it, there are all kinds of tips and tricks to use the food you already have, to eat the produce while it's still fresh, and to avoid throwing food away.

So how did you do this week? Have you joined the Waste-No-Food Challenge yet? Please leave your thoughts, questions, anecdotes, and musings in the Comments section.

April 15, 2010

Thrifty Threads

The following is a reprint of a previously published Thrifty Threads. I'm on my way to Florida to visit my 92-year-old grandfather, so I've picked some of my favorite posts from last year that I hope you'll enjoy for the next few days. I'll be back next Thursday with a brand new Thrifty Threads.

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y Outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is anything used or recycled, from the Goodwill, a thrift store, or a consignment shop.

Today's model is Jenna, who bought this fabulous dressy dress for just $10 at Crossroads Trading Company in Seattle. Jenna lives in Spokane, but goes to Seattle a couple of times a year just to shop in their great thrift stores. She wore this beautiful dress at her graduation from Whitworth University, where the photo with her friends was taken. Since then, she's worn it to a lot of other fancy events like the Nutcracker ballet during the holidays, and her birthday dinner with her boyfriend.

Jenna just bought a new house (congratulations!) so she says she doesn't have a lot of money to spend on designer clothes. But that doesn't mean she can't be stylish. She says this is her most prized consignment store find, it's super soft and has a row of purple jewels along the waistline. It really is beautiful. It makes me want to hit the secondhand stores right now.

Good for you Jenna for buying a house and for wanting to change your lifestyle so that you waste less. Since you're starting to make wise purchases so young, you probably will be able to avoid the trap a lot of people get in when they get out of college and start racking up their credit cards and living beyond their means.

Readers, put on your favorite thrift store finds, take a picture, and send it to me. I would love to be able to do this segment every Thursday, for now I'm going to do it at least every other week as long as I get enough photos. So keep them coming! We want to see your fabulous finds of all kinds: dressy and casual, large and small, men and women. Thanks for participating Jenna. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

Do you buy secondhand clothes? What's your favorite score? Can you believe she found that dress for just $10, something that probably cost 10 or 20 times that much new? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section.

April 14, 2010

Shop Until We Drop

A new poll has found that the average woman spends EIGHT YEARS of her life shopping. I'll give you a minute to digest that...

Have you recovered yet? This news makes me happier than ever that I found out about The Compact. On my deathbed, I don't think I'll wish I had shopped MORE.

Much of the shopping women do is for their family: buying household essentials and keeping them fed and clothed. But the average woman apparently also goes window shopping 51 times a year. Wow. Well, it's not news to me that I'm not the "average woman." That's okay.

The poll found that women make an average of 301 individual shopping trips per year, for a total of 399 hours. In my union, that would be just one hour short of the minimum hours you need to work to keep up your membership.

301 individual shopping trips per year??? There are only 365 days in a year, so people shop almost every day? That's inconceivable to me, Compact or not. I have never in my life shopped nearly every day.

The average woman also spent 40 hours looking for shoes. An entire workweek!

The only part of this poll that doesn't depress me is the 31 hours women spend shopping for books.

I do need to shop for food and essentials, I'll estimate that is easily less than 100 hours per year.

And here's how I'll be spending the time I'm NOT shopping, about 300 hours: reading, writing, walking, learning, spending time with my husband and my friends, trying new recipes, traveling, seeing plays, attending concerts, watching movies, listening to music, taking classes, laughing... and the list goes on and on...

Click here to read the entire article.

What do you think? How many years of your life will you spend shopping? What would you rather be doing? Weigh in with your thoughts in the Comments section.

April 13, 2010

Blue Hair Day

This is far from my favorite photo of myself. No makeup, bad angle, and I look tired and a little frightened or skeptical of the photographer (my husband!) But I promised you a photograph of my blue hair streak, and you can see it pretty well here. It's already a little faded, but I have my own tube of blue dye now if I want to brighten it up.

Putting this streak in my hair was my non-consumer gift to my husband for his birthday. For years, he's been suggesting that I do something of the sort to my hair, and I always just laugh and humor him, usually saying I was too old for that sort of thing.

This year I went back to my old view of the subject: "It's just hair." It can be colored or survive a really bad cut, and it always grows back. No biggie. It's much more forgiving than a tattoo or piercings in that way. So I figured I would do it for him, and if I hated it, I'd just cover it up in a couple of weeks.

The surprise is that it's been really fun. It's a social experiment to see how people react. A surprising range of men and women, young and old, have been extremely complimentary about it. For some reason, older women and Latino men in their twenties seem particularly fond of it. I don't know what it signifies on their radar, but it's been fascinating.

Most importantly, my husband loves it. He was absolutely thrilled that I'd done it, and even a little surprised. And that is definitely a good thing in a marriage, after 17 years together. You tend to be able to predict each other's actions, tastes, and opinions with alarming accuracy, and it's great to mix things up.

So I'm considering re-coloring this bit of hair again and "being blue" for a bit longer. In any case, it was a successful non-consumer gift. Another example of how limitations can spark creativity.

What are your favorite non-consumer gift ideas, to give or to receive? Please share them in the Comments section. And click here if you missed the post about how I navigated the March birthday season, which included my husband, my father, and my brother.

April 12, 2010

Meatless Monday Recipes

It's Monday, time to share readers' favorite meatless recipes.

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit organization that encourages people to eat less meat, for their own health and the health of the planet. According to their website, "Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save fresh resources like fresh water and fossil fuel."

Click here to learn more about the movement, and if you sign up to go meatless on Mondays, they'll send you a weekly email packed with delicious meatless recipes.

And now for some reader suggestions:

Frugal Gravy like canned beans, diced tomatoes, corn, spices and Mexican hot sauce on Navajo tortillas. That's a super-easy suggestion that you can whip up in no time.

Simple in France recommends crepes filled with spinach and mushrooms, quinoa salad with apples, carrots and raisins, or sourdough pancakes. All great ideas! I think I'll try a simple crepe recipe and post about it here.

Ellen at Within My Means loves potato bars, and suggests mixing it up by doing sweet potatoes instead of regular ones. That's right up my alley, because I LOVE sweet potatoes. I usually eat the dark orange ones, which I think are actually yams.

I also got a couple of great ideas for using up greens on my CSA post last week that are definitely meatless, like this recipe for Spaghetti and Greens from Laura at Thinner and Wiser. Laura says they eat a lot of greens and it's one of their favorites.

And Magdalena offers this simple soup that she made for Easter: Take 4 cups of broth and heat to simmering. Add 3 cups of any kind of chopped green and simmer about 3 minutes. Have ready a cup of freshly grated parmesan or other hard cheese, a Tablespoon of flour, and one egg, all blended together with a fork. Turn up the heat under the broth, and as it comes to boiling, stir in the cheese/egg mixture. It will separate into little flakes, like egg drop soup. Add 1/4 cup chives or other mild leafy herb, fresh ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Serve immediately with good homebaked bread. Magdalena says it makes an excellent lunch or first course. That sounds delicious!

Thanks readers for all your terrific ideas! If YOU have a simple meatless recipe you'd like to share, please tell us about it in the Comments section and I'll include it in the next Meatless Monday post. And click here if you want to peruse the recipes in previous posts.

April 9, 2010

Food Waste Friday and Favorite Blog Post of the Week

It's Friday, and we've got no food waste. Yay!

Some things we did that helped this week:

1) I bought less at the grocery store because the refrigerator was packed with leftovers.

2) We ATE those leftovers. This is usually quite easy for us when it's a whole meal, like chili or a crockpot creation. It's a little harder when it's bits and pieces. I had one lunch that was black beans, collard greens, and swiss chard. Not exactly a balanced meal, but it used up the leftovers. My husband put odds and ends into a couple of burritos, so those tortillas are coming in handy lately.

3) I gave away some baked goods while they were still fresh.

4) We ate most of the CSA greens right away: sauteed, in Guadalajaran Swiss Chard Quesadillas, and in greens risotto. We'll have more tonight in a salad.

If you want to know how kicking the habit of throwing food away will help the environment and save you money, check out Wasted Food. And go to The Frugal Girl to see how Kristen and a lot of other bloggers are documenting the food they toss in an effort to waste less.

Now on to my Favorite Blog Post of the Week: Catherine at The Vegan Good Life wrote a great post called Economic Stimulus: I Did it My Way. It's about her frustration with the idea that we're supposed to do our part to end the recession by going to the mall. She says there are a lot of ways to support the economy without going on a shopping spree, and then gives examples (with pictures) of going to the movies, borrowing from the library, attending community events, and picnicking. Catherine is also an avid thrift store shopper and restaurant-goer, two other activities that fit the category well.

And while you're there, I also loved this week's post called The Vegetarian Good Life? where she muses on the difficulties of being 100% vegan, disliking labels, and choosing to be honest about the realities of being true to a lifestyle that's still considered exotic to many people.

Catherine's blog is a perfect mix of thoughtful and fun in my book. I love her photos of delicious-looking vegan food, and super-cute thrifted clothing, along with her philosophical take on life.

Are you watching your food waste? How did you do this week? Please leave your tips for wasting less in the Comments section. And feel free to weigh in on Catherine's posts: Must we go shopping at the mall? Is the vegan life a good one? And is Harry Potter better in French?

April 8, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, ebay, craigslist, freecycle, a yard sale, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's models are Lisa and Marie. Marie sent me this charming photo after I wrote this post about attending Pasadena's annual Jane Austen Ball. Lisa and Marie wear their Regency attire to their own Jane Austen Ball in Rochester, New York, although Marie says that technically her gold gown should be referred to as "Regency" in quotation marks since it's not strictly authentic. Marie says it's made-in-India rayon, but the embroidery is done by hand. It's perfect for Thrifty Threads because it's from the Salvation Army, where she picked it up for just $7.99! Marie says it always gets a lot of compliments, and I can see why, it's a beautiful dress.

As far as her accessories, Marie describes the gold cross as "gloriously fake, but similar in design to the one given to Jane Austen by her sailor brother Charles," and it was also purchased at the flagship Syracuse Salvation Army for just $5. The gold plumes were borrowed from Lisa's extensive costume collection that comes from collectors' conventions and ebay, and the black velvet 1920s reticule bag was a gift from a friend.

Lisa's lovely lavender gown is not secondhand, it was made for her, and it's absolutely gorgeous. Lisa conducts workshops for both men and women on how to achieve the Regency look on any budget. For example, men's knee britches can be contrived from sweatpants, baseball pants, or even large-sized Capris. Her "Dressing Mr. Darcy" presentation at the Jane Austen Society's annual meeting in Philadelphia, with a distinguished lineup of models, was a big hit with the delighted audience. That sounds like so much fun! Lisa also teaches people with a few sewing skills how to transform thrift store finds into period-correct wear.

Marie has made good using of her dress: in addition to the ball, she's worn it to two JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) annual general meetings, plus for gala occasions on a JASNA tour of England last year. I didn't even know such a thing existed! To find out about events big and small, and all things Jane, go to the national JASNA website. The society is "dedicated to the enjoyment and appreciation of Jane Austen and her writing."

Marie is regional coordinator and Lisa co-coordinator of their local Syracuse region Jane Austen Society. You can read their blog about local events here.

And if you happen to live in the area and wish to attend the 2010 Rochester Jane Austen Ball in May, you can find out all the details at the Rochester Country Dancers website. Even if you can't go to the ball, you should look at Lisa's fabulous guide to Regency dress for men and women. It covers dress, hair, accessories, and jewelry and has lovely illustrations.

So if you've always wanted to attend a Jane Austen Ball and perhaps dance with a modern Mr. Darcy, now you've got all the resources you need to make your plans. It really is one of my favorite social events of the year.

Thanks Marie and Lisa for inspiring us all to look for secondhand clothing for special events. And maybe even get a few people dancing! Readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite thrift store score, snap a photo, and send it to me at barton.angela@gmail.com. We all want to see your fabulous finds, for any occasion. I'm starting to think it's possible to have an entirely secondhand wardrobe. So keep the photos coming!

Please share your favorite tips for thrift shopping in the comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

April 7, 2010

Green is Good

I'm so happy to be part of a "green roundup" at Your Daily Thread called "Five L.A. Women Bloggers Up to Green Good."

I'm included with an inspiring group:

...A woman who rides the bus every day (believe me, that's a BIG deal in Los Angeles)

...A creative genius who sews A New Dress a Day out of the ugliest garments imaginable, transforming them into stylish ensembles (it doesn't hurt that she looks like a model herself, which is why I stole her cute photo for this post)

...And the intrepid soul who is cleaning up the Santa Monica beach, one 20 minute step at a time. I love her quote: "Who needs an organized cleanup? Just grab a bag, go to the damn beach, and pick some stuff up."

So head on over to Your Daily Thread and check it out! You might be motivated to learn to sew, use public transportation, or pick up trash on the beach. And you'll probably find a blog you love.

April 6, 2010

Going Organic Part 2

Last month I wrote this post about how I've decided to switch over to organic for all my personal care products. Some of them, like soap and shampoo, will include my husband. But most, like my face lotions and sunscreen, are for myself. It seems I use a LOT more personal care products than he does.

I received such a wealth of information from reader comments that I made a list to keep in my purse, and I thought I'd write up a post as a sort of "organic roundup" that will hopefully be helpful for all of us. I'm including the categories I most need to replace, along with some of the reader suggestions, plus where to purchase if they included that information.

So if you want to go organic, but don't know where to start, here are the tested recommendations of my very smart readers:

Dr. Bronner's tea tree bar soap
Publix pure castille soap
Organic, homemade soap sold in specialty shops or online
Alaffia shea butter soap (Whole Foods)

Burt's Bees
Alba Botanica
Keys (online)

Giovanni (drug stores, Target, Whole Foods)
Nature Clean
Burt's Bees
L'Occitane for hand lotion
Renew lotion from Melaleuca
Earth Mama Angel Baby baby lotion

Organix (drugstore)
Desert Essence
abba (salon)
Dr. Bronner's
Kiss My Face
Ligett's bar shampoo
Aubrey's organics (Whole Foods)

Burt's Bees for lips
Physician's Formula organic (Walgreen's and Target)
Dr. Hauschka

Mountain Rose Herbs for organic jojoba oil for bath, moisturizing, and massage lotion
Melaleuca for all products including Nicole Miller makeup and Renew lotion

The website Saffron Rouge carries many organic brands, including Badger, Dr. Bronner's, Weleda, and Dr. Hauschka

The products and brands that got the most raves and multiple mentions were Aubrey's organics shampoo, Burt's Bee's, and Badger lip balm and sleep balm. One reader wrote that she'd been using the sleep balm on her eye area for a short time and her crow's feet had entirely disappeared.

I'm working on switching over our soap first, and so far I've tried Dr. Bronner's, but it got a thumbs-down from my husband, who isn't a big fan of peppermint. I'm not too worried about finding organic soap, but I do need to find a brand that's affordable for everyday use.

And here's another category: a product that isn't specifically labelled or marketed as organic, but which doesn't have any of the offending parabens or other ingredients listed by Vanessa in this post. The facial moisturizer by Bioelements that I've been using for the past few years falls into this category.

You can check the toxicity of a product at Cosmetics Data Base. Also, if you want more details about any of these suggestions, go back to my original Going Organic post and look in the Comments section.

Thanks again to everyone for contributing your knowledge and experience, and if you have more ideas you just have to share with us, feel free to leave them in the Comments section. I'll post updates on products I've tried over the next several months.

UPDATE: L'Occitane is NOT organic, and Origins and Bioelements both score relatively poorly at the cosmetics database, so I'm going to have to switch facial cleansers and find a new face moisturizer. I'm learning every day!

April 5, 2010

CSA Delivery Day: Spring Edition

I'm so sick of apologizing for the poor photo quality, I've decided to use my birthday money to buy a new digital camera. I've been hemming and hawing for months now, because of not wanting to break The Compact. But I've decided that I'm not comfortable buying a used camera unless it's from someone I know, and since I don't know anyone selling a used camera, I'm going to splurge for the least expensive Canon beginner's model.

My decision to break The Compact for a digital camera will be the subject of another post, however. This post is all about beautiful, delicious CSA produce.

This week we got (roughly clockwise from the back): black kale, Bloomsdale spinach, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, leeks, giant beets, black night carrots, broccoli, strawberries, radishes, artichokes, red potatoes, fennel, red spring onions, and turnips.

We also got a container of roasted red pepper hummus, which isn't in the photo because my husband had already absconded with it.

This is a fantastic delivery. The Bloomsdale spinach is one of our favorites, and my husband loves radishes and spring onions for his self-created lunches. The strawberries are SO sweet, and the purple carrots are beautiful.

Tonight we'll have Guadalajaran swiss chard quesadillas. I love the recipe because I've done a lot of substitutions and it's always good, with any kind of green, almost any kind of cheese, and either corn or flour tortillas. Later this week I'll make a greens risotto, and I also plan on some kind of pureed soup.

One thing I don't think we have to worry about in our house is an iron deficiency, with the amount of greens we've been eating lately.

Creative recipes for greens, or anything else you see pictured here, are always welcome. I use a lot of your suggestions, so thanks! And click here to learn more about CSA and find one in your area.

April 4, 2010

Continuous Small Treats

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. We just received our Easter ginger cake and I'm looking forward to savoring it with my morning tea.

Our dear sweet neighbor gave us this Easter basket. He baked the ginger cake himself. I can't wait to enjoy it with tea tomorrow afternoon. It will perfectly embody the concept of Continuous Small Treats. By the way, the flag reads "Joyenses Paques," which means "Happy Easter" in French.

The late British novelist Iris Murdoch said "One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats." She was happily married for 43 years to Oxford professor John Bayley. According to Bayley, one of Iris's greatest pleasures was swimming.

So here is my list of 20 small treats for a happy life:

1. homemade ice cream
2. stroking a purring cat
3. listening to the ocean
4. the smell of freshly brewed coffee
5. a room lit only by candles
6. any track on Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue"
7. a cup of tea
8. a warm bath at the end of a long day
9. freshly baked bread
10. a note from my sweetheart
11. the cooing of a mourning dove
12. a good hard laugh
13. a walk at magic hour
14. a perfect margarita
15. a horse eating an apple out of your hand
16. fresh herbs
17. reading a good book in my favorite chair
18. black licorice
19. a footrub
20. a big hug

I'll be enjoying my small treat tomorrow at tea time: fresh ginger cake with tea.

What are your favorite small treats? Please share in the Comments section.

April 3, 2010

Close Encounters with the Animal Kingdom

If you haven't heard this story about a woman who set off on a 40-mile paddle from Catalina island to Dana Point to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research and was joined by a minke whale, I encourage you to read it now. The whale swam with her for almost two hours of her nine-hour journey, an experience she said was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen in her life. She named him Larry and watched while he blew bubbles, fluked, and rolled over and showed her his belly.

Jodie Nelson is a professional surfer and Stand Up Paddleboard rider who had raised just $6000 toward her $100,000 goal when she set off on her paddle a few days ago. After the encounter with Larry made the front page of Yahoo news on Thursday, she hit her goal in less than 24 hours and raised it to $250,000.

Click here to read the inspirational tale.

April 2, 2010

Food Waste Friday and a Freebie

No picture, almost no waste.

I say almost because there were a couple of tangerines that started to go bad, but I peeled them and was able to eat part of them. The rest will go in the compost bin, so there's no landfill trash this week.

Why do I care about wasting food? Because food rotting in a landfill creates noxious gasses, plus we don't have money to throw away.

If your reaction to this quest of reducing food waste and taking photos of rotten food is somewhere along the lines of "get a life," I know where you're coming from. When you're busy with kids, working at a demanding job, taking care of an aging parent, or any of the million other things that demand attention in our busy lives, watching your food waste seems way down on the list of priorities. But let me assure you that it really doesn't take any extra time, it mostly just takes a bit of focus and planning.

Check out Love Food, Hate Waste for some great tips on wasting less, and visit The Frugal Girl for her weekly food waste roundup. And please share YOUR tips in the Comments section.

FREE STUFF ALERT: It's the start of a new month, and that means it's time to take advantage of Bank of America's Museums on Us program. If you're a customer, just show your debit or credit card to get in free all day Saturday and Sunday to participating museums. Click here to find museums in your area.

April 1, 2010

Thrifty Threads

It's Thursday, time for another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is from Goodwill, a thrift store, consignment shop, ebay, craigslist, a yard sale, garage sale, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Cynthia, who at a size 16 just barely qualifies as the very first plus-size TT model. And since she's on her way down from a size 22 after losing 50 pounds, she deserves a big congratulations! Cynthia says she's always liked buying clothes at thrift stores, and this is what she wore for St. Patrick's Day.

The green sweater, blue cardigan, and Chinos are all from Goodwill. The earrings were a gift, the green and blue necklace is from the thrift store Savers, and she got the Cole Haan shoes from ebay. Cynthia says the whole outfit cost less than $30, and all of the pieces are versatile and can be used over and over in combination with other items.

What great finds. The cardigan sets off her gorgeous blue eyes, and I love the pretty necklace. And Cole Haan shoes cost hundreds of dollars new, plus they're super-comfortable, so those were a smart purchase. I was able to buy a pair of Cole Haan boots in 1996 that were on sale for $100, marked down from $300. They're so comfortable that I still wear them every year to the Jane Austen Ball.

I asked Cynthia how she lost the weight, and here's what she said: "I made a lifestyle change that included eating healthy, real food, cutting out sugar, white flour and salty crunchy snacks. I allowed myself an occasional treat, but stuck to my plan pretty well. In addition, and this was super important, I made exercise part of my daily routine. Weight resistance 3 times a week, treadmill the other 3, usually one day off exercise. Using motivational mantras was also key (like "Yes I can, no matter how hard it is. Don't give up"). It wasn't quick, it took a year, and I'm not done yet, but it has really been worth it. I feel so much better physically, stronger, and like myself better. The one other thing was accountability. I have my nails done every two weeks, and weigh in with my nail lady. Then my trainer would ask how I did, I didn't want to disappoint them. I should be more concerned about disappointing myself, but that wasn't how it worked for me."

Cynthia, thanks so much for sending in that photo and congratulations on losing all that weight! You look great! And I have to add, so does your house. I love all the beautiful wood and the river rock wall. Readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite thrift store score and send it to me at barton.angela@gmail.com.

Isn't it fun to see what people are discovering in their local thrift stores? I think secondhand shopping is a great way to be fashionable for a lot less money, and it's particularly useful for anyone whose size is changing rapidly, whether they're losing weight like Cynthia, gaining weight due to pregnancy like last week's model Nicolle, or growing out of their clothes quickly because they're a toddler like Simone.

Please share your favorite tips and advice for buying secondhand clothes, plus compliments and kudos for Cynthia, in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.