Thursday, August 30, 2012

Small Success: Compost!

I should not be this excited about food scraps.  Really, really shouldn't.  And yet. 

When I started cooking a lot last year, I felt frustrated by the amount of food waste I was dumping in the garage bag.  We didn't have a general compost program at my undergrad, and a dorm apartment isn't really the place to make a compost pile.  So I've been anticipating this since I first found out about GrowNYC's compost program at their Greenmarkets.  Once a week at the local Greenmarket, I take my little pile of food scraps to the compost stand.  They have big bins waiting to take my scraps and turn them into compost for city greening projects.  Woohoo!

Right now I'm using a foil/plastic takeout container that's living in the freezer to collect my scraps.  When I stopped by the Greenmarket stand last week, they told me that if I'm keeping the scraps in the freezer, then I can actually use a paper bag, and then just drop the entire bag in the collection bin.  I'm probably going to switch to that method next week, until I can find a better container.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First round of shopping

I brought some leftover canned/jarred foods, baking supplies, and spices with me that I had in my apartment last year, but the last half-week I've been trying to stock up my kitchen with at least a basic array of goods.  It's been an adventure, and I've learned a few things.

The first lesson was that trying to shop for food after two straight days of cleaning, shopping for apartment stuff, and organizing with Mom and T was a really bad plan.  I wandered around Fairways and Trader Joes in something of a state of shock.  I know I'm an introvert, it shouldn't surprise me that trying to go out in public after two straight days with people would make my exhaustion that much worse.  So, updates on Fairways bulk section will come a different week.  For now, let's just say the rest of their store is expensive.  I don't know how I shopped there last summer.  I didn't spend any money there last week.

Trader Joes.  This was my main store last summer, because it's relatively cheap, it was on my way home from work, and my roommate adored it because her boyfriend worked there.  It's still convenient to get to by subway, so I went there last week.  However, now I realize that basically everything is packaged in plastic.  It's probably going to be a primary source of meat in the future, though, because, well, it's cheaper than anywhere else I've ever seen it.  In the end, I bought canned goods and a box of tissues there, to the tune of $14.50.

I also hit up the local farmer's market. I   I got green beans, peaches, apples, honey, a quart of milk, and bread for $18.  Most of that money went towards the honey and the milk, but the milk comes in a glass jar so I'll get a discount next time I go.  And it was good milk, so I don't regret that decision.  I also got some more produce (green beans, tomatoes, and bell peppers) yesterday for $6.50.

Finally, Whole Foods UWS.  My first bulk-buying experience.  Unfortunately, the bulk-bins are completely self-serve, there's no way to tare my own containers.  So I think I'll just have to take my lightest bags and pay a few extra cents :/  Still, I got nuts, granola, sugar, and quinoa for $14.34, and the trip overall cost me $47.07 for bulk items, a few herbs and canned goods, and local mozzarella.  The mozz was an impulse buy that was way more expensive than it needed to be and that I probably didn't need to get.

So my grocery/market spending last week: $76.07.  Definitely room for improvement, since my monthly goal is $200.  Restaurant spending was something like $40 (I didn't save all my receipts) for a grad student happy hour and three meals with a friend who was in town.  That's coming from my wants budget, and that's more than half of a week's worth of "wants", so...that should be reduced.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Finally, internet! And a clean apartment.

Due to some (ongoing) issues with the wireless router left by the last tenant, it's been a few days since I've had internet.  But I have completed my move to New York City!  Most of my stuff came up by UHaul truck a few weeks ago, and on Monday my mom, sister and I hauled three suitcases with everything else up on the train.  We spent the next two days sweeping, scrubbing, being totally grossed out, and organizing.  Most of the cleaning was done by Mom and T, because they're a lot more intense about it than I am.  And given how disgusting the kitchen and bathroom were when we got here, I'm very grateful. 

The kitchen is my favorite part about the apartment.  I'm 100% responsible for my own food for the first time in my life.  The cabinets aren't that spacious, but we added metal shelves for more storage space and a rolling cart with counterspace on top.  Jars of various dry goods are sitting out on the shelves making me happy.  Granted, I can't put much in my refrigerator right now because the gasket is old and won't seal, so dry and canned goods are really the only thing around.  And a few pieces of fruit that I bought at the farmer's market yesterday.  But, when I get my new refrigerator today, freezer cooking can commence for September.  I'm inordinately excited about that.

I'm very thankful to be living in university-owned housing. I can live close to the university but, while it's not cheap, my rent isn't sky-high and it includes utilities.  Also, my super and the maintenance guys are awesome.  I dropped a maintenance slip off on Tuesday night for the refrigerator gasket, a very dirty but out-of-reach light, a burnt-out but also out-of-reach light, and a couple of nasty ceiling patches. My super dropped by on Wednesday morning with another maintenance guy to see what was going on.  They were appalled, called in work orders for the fridge and ceiling along with new window grates, fixed both lights, and told me to submit a request for a new toilet seat because mine is old.  And I don't have to pay for any of it.  Except that I'm probably going to bake them cookies when I trust my refrigerator to hold dairy products.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Pile Status II

I'm somewhat disappointed with myself in the last month and a half, my reading rate is not what I would have wished.  And I realized today that aside from the books listed in this post and my previous status update, I have only read two other books this year.  Two.  Both on spring break.  I suppose it's an indication of how busy I was but I can't help feeling disappointed in myself.  Ugh.  Anyway...

I finished The 4% Universe, which doesn't really count as coming from the pile because it was a graduation present.  Still, it was a fascinating read, telling the story of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the accelerating universe.  The book discusses the history of cosmology, and its title refers to the fact that "normal" (baryonic) matter only comprises 4% of the universe.  The rest is comprised of dark matter and dark energy.  I thought this book was quite well written, and some of the phrases were downright amusing and fun to read.

J.R.R. Tolkien, Author of the Century by Tom Shippey took up most of my reading time this month.  I thought it was a biography, but it turned out to be literary criticism.  I still enjoyed reading it.  Shippey is a philologist, as Tolkien was (he even worked with Tolkien at one point) so he spent a lot of time digging into the linguistic and literary background for Middle Earth and its inhabitants. He also talked a lot about Tolkien's writing process and about the appeal of the books. My vocabulary for discussing literature isn't very strong, so I felt like Shippey articulated some of my love for Tolkien's writing that I didn't quite know how to explain.

Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland, visited my undergrad last fall to give a talk.  I was intrigued at the time, but the book was much better (during his talk, he seemed to focus on the more shocking stories he tells in the book, and less on the discussion and sociological explanation/implications).  I wish I had read it before I left college, because I would have loved to talk with some of the guys I knew while we were still in that environment.  It made me think a lot about the ways in which I react to situations involving guys and how I might have changed my interactions with the guys in my care when I was a residence assistant.  Kimmel also talks about the negative effect that Guyland has on women, and gives some brief ideas on the ways they can reject that culture.

I'm almost done with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  That one doesn't actually come from the book pile either; I'm reading a Project Gutenberg copy on my Nook and listening to some chapters on LibriVox.  I saw the BBC miniseries about a month ago, and started the book in response.  It's pretty decent, although I wish I had read it before watching the miniseries because my opinion is clouded now.  I can keep them separate when I read before I watch, but it's harder when I've watched the adaptation first.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Impatience and Peer Pressure

I've wanted one of those reusable cold cups (designed for iced drinks at coffeehouses) for a while now.  I looked longingly at them last summer, when my research group made weekly forays to Starbucks, but never bought one.  They're made of plastic, and I wasn't sure I wanted that.  This summer, I kept my eye out at yard sales but didn't see any.  I mentioned it to my family, who questioned why I wouldn't just buy one new since they were so inexpensive and available.

So a few weeks ago, we were at the grocery store, and there were the cups, with stickers proclaiming "eco-cup".  My Mom and sister went "look, here they are, just get one."  And I did.  So did my sister.  I felt vaguely guilty for picking up a new piece of plastic, but I ignored it.  Surely, it had to be better than getting a new plastic cup every time I wanted an iced drink?

Tonight I went to Starbucks to meet a friend, toting my reusable plastic cup.  As I walked over to the counter, guess what I saw.  Reusable metal cold cups, complete with metal straws.  I could have cried.  If I had waited a few more weeks, and not given in to the pressure, I wouldn't have bought a new piece of plastic.  Clearly, Starbucks pays at least some attention to the recent anti-plastic trends, and has come out with an alternative.  It was just too late for impatient me.  I could buy a metal one, and I still might, but it doesn't change the fact that money has already been spent on the blue plastic cup sitting on my counter right now.