Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Keurig: The Dumbest Idea in Coffee. Ever.

What do you see when you look at this photo?

Once upon a time, I saw an unlimited, free supply of coffee at my office. I was even excited there was a fair trade option. I was proud to always make it in a reusable mug, and even more proud when my company started supplying soy milk after I made a request for it.

BUT...according to Keurig's own environmental statement these are:

"petroleum-based" and "The K-Cup package is made up of three main elements -- the cup itself, a filter and an aluminum foil top. The polyethylene coating of the foil - as well as the process of heat-sealing the various elements - makes recycling difficult."

What's more distributing is the home use of these. I see these promoted at Bed Bath & Beyond and other outlets. Is it really that much work to make a cup of coffee? Have we been conditioned to that level of laziness and environmental negligence?

I think of an ad a few years ago promoting plastic single-serve bowls of cereal with plastic spoons, so kids could help themselves while their parents slept in. My sister and I managed just fine with our cinnamon Life cereal in a box which we happily ate while watching The Smurfs.

I hear some declaring they are a treehugger, and are very conscious of paper usage, but we often don't think of all the plastic in our lives, which seems just as egregious, if not worse. I was guilty of this too and thankfully haven't used these for many months.

Certainly, a few moments of coffee enjoyment isn't worth a lifetime in the landfill. Not for this treehugger.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Doing Jamie Proud

Where was I Friday between 8 and 10 PM? Glued to my television watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. If you missed it, you can watch full episodes online.

I cringed when the lunch lady demanded Jamie supply her with documentation British school children use forks and knives. My blood boiled at that hostile dj's protest that they're not all going to sit around and eat lettuce. But the Edwards family stuck with me the most. I'll be rooting for them to turn things around.

I cannot imagine a life without fresh fruits and vegetables. I visit a local, organic farm, Old Hook Farm, every week. I rarely have a plan, I just go and get inspired. The breakdown this week:

For snacking: blood oranges and pears. Celery with peanut butter for a protein boost is a snack I learned about in the third grade. I'm still eating it.
For roasted cauliflower soup: cauliflower, a potato and shallot. I'll add vegetable stock, herbs and nutmeg.
For a classic French bistro-inspired salad: radicchio and endive. Just add walnuts and grapes or walnuts and vinaigrette. Serve with bread (I love the rosemary focaccia from Trader Joe's).

My sweetheart's mother was in town visiting. In honor of her birthday and upcoming trip to Spain, he made paella. While everyone else had seafood and chicken, my own Jamie Oliver chef made me a very special vegan one, complete with shitake mushrooms, navy beans and peas. Vegetarian paella is so comforting. Make some sangria if you'd like to make it festive.

To start: a spinach salad. I topped mine with yellow peppers, roasted red peppers and tomatoes. He made a lemony vinaigrette with fresh thyme.

Making your own dressing is so easy. Check out Tyler Florence's Arugala Salad and Ultimate Vinaigrette. Leave off the honey if you want to veganize.

Jamie Oliver's Everyday Green Chopped Salad is on my recipe "to do" list.

Spanish clementines for snacking.

Okay, it wasn't all healthy! For dessert, warm sweet bread drizzled with honey. Very similar to French toast, but with no cinnamon. I admit it: I had a slice. Delicious.

The next episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is Friday, April 2nd at 9 EST.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dessert Times Two? A Good Day

In the shadow of the Empire State Building...

I went the Macy's Herald Square.

Why? It was free cone day at Ben & Jerry's! Strawberry kiwi sorbet for me.

Why is New York City called the Big Apple? Here's why.

Two hours later, I ate dessert again! The week's Tuesday tea break at work sponsored by - moi. I picked up a blueberry pie and cherry pie (both vegan-friendly) at Old Hook Farm. I didn't have time to bake over weekend or Monday night. Instead, I was proud to give my money to hard-working, family farmers.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar for some added sweetness.

What better companion to tea than a good book? We used tea time to spread the word about Kathy's book swap.

Speaking of reading, I have a confession. I miss getting The New York Times delivered during the week, and have been debating re-subscribing. I miss reading an actual paper. You just miss so much online. Catching up a week's worth of reading at the library would take hours.

I think it's vital to stay on top of current events. I cannot understand that so many people simply don't care to turn on the news or even check one of the multiple online news outlets.

A final few thoughts on dessert. I keep hearing from women, "swimsuit season is coming up!" Frankly, I don't care what New Jersey shore beachgoers think of my thighs. I just have fun reading a book, taking a stroll at the water's edge, and a refreshing dip in ocean.

I recently saw a news story that eating sweets (particularly the sugar) will speed the aging process. I'd rather have a few extra wrinkles than no sweets in my life.

A woman in the piece was 38 years old and already getting Botox injections. Why? Why are so many obsessed with a youthful appearance and a quest for vanity, and not enriching their minds or making the world a better place? Is the number of wrinkles going to matter at the end of their lives?

Imagine if the money spent on Botox treatments and cosmetic procedures was instead donated to a children's hospital, animal shelter, or other worthy cause?

Here's vowing to age with grace, dignity, wisdom and gratitude. And with many more desserts to come.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Bloom: The New York Botanical Garden

I traveled through damp rainforests, arid desserts, lush gardens and deep woods. All in on afternoon. All in New York City.

Here are some postcards from my recent trip to the New York Botanical Garden. The Orchid Show: Cuba in Flowers, is the current attraction. Tickets, $20 each.

Admire and celebrate the beauty of the Earth.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

$5 Frugal Meal: La Batalla

When a friend and I got together for a meal and some long overdue catching up, we settled on cheerful, inexpensive La Batalla in Bergenfield.

I love that they have cloth napkins.

Guava nectar, $1.50. Love the fancy goblet! Whenever possible, I just say no - to straws.

Sopes, $3.50 Only beef, chicken or shrimp were listed as choices, but I asked for a vegetarian one, no cheese. Simply grilled cornmeal topped with beans and veggies. Delicious.

Beyond a few items, vegetarian and vegan options are rarely visible on a menu. It pays to look at more carnivorous options too to see how you can remove the meat. I'm guilty myself of looking for the veg options, making my decision, and sitting silently while my omnivore dining companion reviews their extensive list of options.

Incidentally, I made an entire meal out of this appetizer (plus a good portion of chips and their homemade salsa). Entrees in most restaurants will garner two meals, and I'm often armed with a reusable container to take leftovers for my office lunch. Consider an appetizer as a meal if you're looking to eat lighter or don't want the leftovers. Saving a few dollars is an added benefit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's a Wonderful Thrifted Life

Why were there light refreshments at the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop?

It was VIP night!

Yes, I'm quite proud to say I'm a VIP - to a thrift store. After a great sale all week (winter clothes were just $1), the spring fashions were ready to make their debut.

Kind of like Goldilocks, I tried out different fits, of dresses, that is.

This dress was too small (would have been so cute on a summer picnic).

This dress was too big. I love that peacock print, and it still had the original tags on it.

This dress fit just right. I like to call this Bobby Bee creation my Marilyn dress. For thrift, a splurge at $17. I'll pair it with the white Kasper sweater, $3.

Other finds: Gap floral skirt, $8, a lemon Passport top, $6.

A white Newport News cotton top, $3, which I'll wear under this olive Mark (an Avon brand) dress, $5.

Hippieish Rue 21 top, $7.

Cream colored bag, $5, necklaces, about $4 each.

For my standards, this was a major shopping spree. But it was to benefit homeless animals, and I'm getting ready to donate my own unwanted spring clothes to our next clothing swap at work and to the C.A.T.S. shop. Metro reported on the clothing swap fever.

All these items pictured are vegan, by the way.

And the grand total was: $62, for 10 items. I could not buy one full price skirt at Anthropologie for that amount.

I no longer desire expensive fashion, nor do I care about labels. I'm just listing them in case you're curious. I think of the I Love Lucy episode when Lucy and Ethel are in Paris and are coveting a dress from the fictional designer Jacques Marcel. Ricky and Fred play a joke on them and present them with phony Jacques Marcel outfits made out of a potato sack and a horse's feed bag. Thinking they are the real deal, Lucy and Ethel adore them. When they find out they're fraud, they burn them. Unfortunately, Jacques Marcel and his models had spotted Lucy and Ethel at a cafe, and copied the outfits. As soon as the ladies find this out, they suddenly regret burning them. Moral of the story: labels and brand names are largely driven by psychology and perceptions.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spared from the Landfill, a Second Life

An update to Disposable Nation, a Photo Essay.

Most of the books are now at the book swap organized by a co-worker. I kept a few. Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" is now in my reading queue. So is "Little Children" and "The Memory Keeper's Daughter."

In addition to a few of my own shirts, I donated the new martini glass/tray set to the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop. It was lovely, but I already have martini glasses that I use for desserts.

Among the items we found destined for the landfill were a large and small laundry basket. I filled them with the now fresh, clean baby and boys clothes I found along with some toys and brought them to Our Thrift Shop in Westwood. I held on to just a few of the warm fleece items and a Halloween baby nightgown and will donate those in the fall. Remember when donating to small shops to donate what you would be shopping for. Fall/Winter items aren't in demand.

They also accepted the baby car seat. One of the volunteers had a navy stroller-like concoction with no seat, so she hopes this will fit it perfectly.

Our Thrift Shop benefits a local art school in Demarest. But shops like this benefit so much more. The community, which can buy things for a fraction of the cost of traditional retail. And the Earth. All of the items are spared from the landfill and no new production is needed.

Spotted outside the shop. I'm glad the parent of this bike's driver decided to donate it after use. Check out the streamers! The park this weekend was filled with enthusiastic young drivers.

No need to go to a craft shop, Marshall's or other retailer for seasonal fare. Thrift shops are brimming with Easter and spring decorations. Great bargains are to be found, and charities to benefit.

What a precious bunny. Can you imagine if everyone's stuffed animals were thrown out? Just put in a pillow case, wash in hot water, dry and it's ready for endless snuggling for a new guardian to enjoy.

And the move toward a reusable nation continues.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Frugal Friday Night: Pizza Edition

Parents with kids after a soccer game. Teenagers. Couples. Hungry workers. All enjoying a night out at a local pizza parlor, Tony D's. I was there with my mom after a very thrifty shopping spree. More about that in a future post.

A Sicilian with fresh tomato and onion, $2.50. Similar to bruschetta. So yummy!

On an unseasonably warm night, I enjoyed an Italian cherry ice, $1.75.

Visit Tony D' Pizza, 71 Center Avenue, Westwood, NJ.

Frugal for all: Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day! I get refreshing sorbet every year. It's this Tuesday, March 23rd, from 12 to 8.

Happy first day of Spring!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day, and the Lost Art of Conversation

Tuesday's office tea time with Kathy: Irish soda bread with strawberry preserves and Earl Grey tea. The plate is from the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop. The Irish tea cup: from my trip to Ireland, which I have such fond memories of.

On this St. Patrick's Day, some musings on what the Irish are famous for: the gift of the gab - something Americans seem to have lost, at least face-to-face. Northern New Jersey was hit very hard by severe storms this past weekend. I was myself without power Saturday evening into Sunday afternoon.

Something curious happened in living rooms, shops, and elsewhere in the area: conversation. This was such an odd and phenomenal occurrence that our local news source,, ran a story on it.

"People don't do this anymore, talk to one another," said Mary Hanlon of Ridgewood. "Everyone is talking to one another, that's nice."

Kathy's weekly tea time is supposed to provide a much-needed break for busy office workers who are in meetings, on conference calls, or in front of their computer. Yet so many have even five minutes to spare to talk to one another and just enjoy this delightful treat. Most grab the snack and head straight back to their cubicles. Why? Smokers unapologetically take breaks for their bad habit, so why do we feel guilty spending a few moments indulging in some "me" time with a cup of tea and discussing the latest books we're reading, films we've seen, or other non-work related topics of conversation?

I always say in an age of all this connectivity: e-mails, Facebooks, text messages, and more, people seem oddly more disconnected than ever. I am so grateful to have grown up before all of this technology. I recently saw a brother and sister (around 8 and 10 years old I'd guess) compulsively text messaging and thought it was the most depressing sight. I also think it's contributing to a culture of rudeness.

My friends and I actually wrote, gasp, hand written letters to each other in college. I still have many of them, and have a good laugh at how we tormented ourselves over men whose last names I don't even remember. Letter writing is another lost art.

Reflect on this story, described in

"Even as their 150 foot pine tree lay across their roof, Sunday Jack and Mary Newman of Paramus said they were grateful for the increasingly rare, quiet family time they shared with their three sons.

In the darkness, with no power, they had sat with their sons in the family room, in the warmth and glow of the fireplace.

They spoke, with no cell text messages to check, no Facebook status updates to glance at, no telephones vibrating or ringing."

Fallen tree aside, that sounds like a perfectly lovely scene to me.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Celebrate responsibly. Learn more about why so many are eating green bagels and drinking green beer. I will enjoy an Irish Magners cider at home - far, far away from any Irish pub today.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Disposable Nation: A Photo Essay

One Sunday afternoon. Anytown, USA. In this case, it was my suburban town in New Jersey. My sweetheart and I returned from a movie, and decided to take a look at some furniture by the dumpster at my apartment complex that wasn't there when we left. Well it wasn't just furniture we found.

What about these items says "trash" to you? Because some items need cleaning? Or they need a few repairs? Because they are simply no longer wanted by their inconsiderate owners?

Two beautiful frames and a hand-carved wooden turtle. I'm going to keep these. The right one will now hold a cherished picture of my grandparents in their farmhouse in Switzerland.

A suitcase. This needs a good steam-cleaning due to the pet fur, but otherwise, there is nothing wrong with it. My boyfriend took this. It will be with us on future adventures.

We salvaged the bookcase on the far right, the brown cabinet, and the baby car seat. Sadly, we did not rescue the white cabinet. My boyfriend kept pleading with me we could not save everything, but I'm still crushed this could not be reused.

Brand new martini glasses and light blue serving tray, with a price of $10 marked on the box, which had never been opened. I love using martini glasses to serve desserts. Even a scoop of sorbet with a sprig of mint seems more festive in them.

If I do buy books, I mainly buy them used, and I believe in passing them on (except for ones you absolutely want to own), for future readers to enjoy them. They didn't even have the courtesy to put these in the recycling bin.

...and more books.

My boyfriend was most thrilled about these: CDs...The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and more. He was actually in the market for a Bob Marley CD.

I adore the fall season and Halloween. These will decorate my home in 2010.

Reusable bags. My organic almond milk and staples don't care what kind of bag they are carried in. They will be carried in this Whole Foods bag (which will get a good wash in hot water). My boyfriend snagged the Old Navy blue bag, for the beach or grocery shopping.

Baby and toddler clothing, now freshly laundered. In my opinion, we'd be doing our children a favor by not over-indulging in endless amounts of clothing and plastic toys from traditional retail shops and instead saving early on for their future. Why not culturally embrace youth savings accounts for future educational use or purchase of a home? Many of my colleagues are crippled with educational debt well into their careers. For Christenings, birthdays and such, perhaps a financial gift to a savings account would do a child better than so much "stuff."

You can find these bibs for 25 cents at most thrift shops.

Sweet dreams. Thirteen sleepers/nightgowns.

I bet there are a lot of little boys out there who would love to wear that Spiderman shirt.

These clothes were made by laborers in China, India, Indonesia, and Madagascar. I am mortified they are considered disposable. One shirt had a bad bleach stain which I will use as a cleaning rag, but the rest are perfectly fine.

When people throw things away, it's about pollution, but it's also about throwing away wealth. People of all income levels could use things others throw mindlessly in the trash because it is too inconvenient for them to do a bit of research or work. Make no mistake, this happens constantly in every neighborhood in the USA.

The irony was not lost on us that we had returned from a major shopping complex where many people will be buying new the items that had just been thrown out. We are proud to have saved them from a cruel, unnecessary fate in the landfill. We resolved to continue to find ways to reverse this pattern.

Learn more about where to donate your items from MSNBC. Real Simple gives tips as well. Find a charitable thrift store through Sell things through a local thrift/consignment shop. Go on Freecycle. Host a clothing swap. At our work swaps, I see the immediate gratification of people who find things that others didn't use or like, and satisfied shoppers at the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop buying our donations.

Let's be a reusable nation. A financially-empowered nation. An environmentally-minded nation. Anything but a disposable nation.