Thursday, November 17, 2011

Things I Didn't Learn in Kindergarten: Sharing

I was totally flattered the other day. And then I was also quite confused.

I was described in this blog post as smart, good at my job, beautiful, calm, and grounded. It was said that I am a biker, a blogger, and a maker of delicious treats.

I read this description which made me feel so honored, especially knowing the source. And then I thought to myself, "that's how someone else would describe me?!" I couldn't help but be struck by what was missing. Nowhere was dancing, sewing, drawing, singing, writing - not even collaging. And I don't think this has anything to do with the beautiful woman who wrote it. It's not that she missed something. It's that I do a terrible job of sharing. Sharing what I love. Sharing the skills I have been gifted and then have worked really hard to develop. And it's not even just that I do a terrible job of sharing; I do a terrible job of allowing. Allowing myself to do these things that fill my heart and focus me and just flow out of my tired fingers. Also, allowing others to see them.

So there is definitely a good reason not to share what you do on the internet, because it is instantaneously commodified. That's the ickiness of the internet in general as it is set up today. But that's not why I don't share. I don't share because I'm embarrassed or something. Shoot. I don't even know why I don't share.

So, here's the first thing. I made this dress for my beautiful friend without a pattern. She just moved to Philadelphia. She is having a baby boy. I will be squeezing him.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


So I started riding my bike. You remember we got rid of our volvo and we're down to 1 car and 1 bike. I decided to get a bike of my own. I had one - baby girl was just in a bad way. So I went shopping around. I visited Performance Bikes. The dude was real nice, but I was going to have to spend about $1,000 for a basic commuter bike with a rack, fenders, and pannier bags.

Then I visited Iron City Bikes, and I have to say that I was treated like an idiot. First of all, I walked in and there were 3 dudes working, but I had to stand there waiting for one of them to address me. Finally, I singled one of them out and asked if he could help me. He quickly passed me on to another man, who I found out later was the owner. He quickly explained everything as though I should already know it. Every question I asked, I was given the shortest answer possible. He answered the phone in the middle of us talking (remember there's 2 other people working at the same time). Once I thought about it and decided I'd see what else there was elsewhere, I let him know. He then tried to keep me there by explaining how he orders things and when the next shipment of the bike I was looking at would be in (with someone on the phone he was holding to his chest). It was frustrating.

So then we come to the gRIDEitude part of this post. I went to Thick Bikes in the Southside. Let me just tell you. They are absolutely phenomenal. The owner, Chris Beech, is smart and calm and helpful. He spent his sweet time with me going over the features to look for in a commuter bike, showing me some used options (because I didn't have enough money to buy new), and explaining each and every geegaw I asked about without sighing once. He gave me a fair deal on my used bike, and I now know she's in good hands.

Geegaws I went for:

Donkey Boxx

Collapsable Metal Crate

Sweet fenders with rubber flaps at the back so the water doesn't creep around and getcha anyway (You also get a SWEET full body shot in this one...along with my compost bin in the background)

So I traded in my bike, got this new (to me) one with all the geegaws, and they threw in some thicker commuter tires for a little over $300. And they put everything together. Did I mention, they were really nice? How's that Performance Bike? $1,000 to get me set up?! I don't think so! HaHA!

You may think the good news ends there. You're wrong.

I have the best ride to work ever. So my gRIDEitude must extend to the other folks who have made it possible. Those being: RiverLife for advocating for HUMAN spaces along the river and connecting me to the beautiful bodies of water that are so integral to our city's heartbeat, (They've made some amazing headway lately), and Bike Pittsburgh for making the roads a safer place to ride, and for also being friendly people who care and listen.

I'm sure there are others. I don't know all of them, but I just have to sum it up with this:

That's what I see on my way to work. It smells like Crown Vetch, Queen Anne's Lace, and Bachelor's Buttons. It's serene and cool and quiet. I'm pretty sure I'm in a longterm relationship with a goldfinch because of these rides into work. Do you understand?! It's changed my life.

I'm thankful.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Success #5


It is totally delicious. Here are the amazing ingredients:

As you can see, it is not yet a zero waste meal. The noodles I got from a food pantry a while back. I still have quite a few bags to go so I won't be zero waste on the noodle front for quite some time (anybody need some macaroni?!?!). Like I said in my last post I was a wuss about the feta cheese at the salad bar. The salad bar also didn't have kalamata olives for me to buy in bulk. I could have gone to Whole Foods but I don't gots all the time in the world. Someday I will make that change though, stick with me folks. Everything else is from the farmers market. Look at those tomatoes! (If you read my last post you will see that they were grown locally) I had zucchini on my shopping list but decided to get cucumbers instead and on a whim bought the beautiful spinach.

You will notice though that this could easily become a zero waste meal. So I'm looking forward to the day when it is!

It was such a simple recipe I just:
1. Diced the tomatoes, cucumbers, feta.
2. Cut the spinach in thin strips by bunching all the leaves together and slicing close together.
3. Halved the kalamata olives.
4. Dumped the aformentioned ingredients in a large bowl.
5. Cooked the macaroni according to the package and threw it on top of the other ingredients.
6. Added balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mayonnaise, oregano, basil, salt, & pepper to taste.
7. The hot noodles wilt the spinach a bit. The flavors fold together. Ouila!

So fast. So easy. So fresh.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Grocery Shopping is Different, or Bulk Shopping = Great/Terrible

So I tried the new grocery shopping.

It's definitely more fun, that is to say I like the people that I see and how I interact with them. I now go to the Farmer's Market and the East End Food Co-Op first. I have to say I love the loud man who really enunciates from Jodikino's Farm. And I found out (since I became a member of the Co-Op) that some of the people working there are actually volunteering for the week. They're just regular old Joes and Janes. I think it's right to support them first but it definitely changes the way I shop.

So in the past I would simply pick some recipes for dinner and write down the ingredients I didn't have and then I would look around in the fridge & pantry & cabinets to see what other things we needed for lunches & breakfasts & snacks. That's what made up the list and I would just go once a week.

The past weekend I did the same thing but I was thrown some serious curveballs. Curveball 1) I thought I'd have to get vanilla at trader joes but saw that the co-op had it in bulk, so I was all like, "oh, ok, i'll get it here, I am so zero wastin' it" I had thankfully brought a small tupperware so I just poured some in there and off I went. Doesn't seem like a curveball, eh? Welllllllll, my small tupperware was leaky and by the time I got home I had exactly NO vanilla. Fail. Curveball 2) the farmer's market did not have a lot of the veggies I put on my list. I'm not sure why I didn't think of that. No carrots. No cauliflower. No broccoli. No zucchini. Surprisingly, there were tomatoes. I was all like, "How did you do this?" to the farmers and they were like, "Start them in a greenhouse in February." I was skeptical, but I have to say they are scrumtralescent. Curveball 3) The Co-Op had some feta in their salad bar and I was going to take it in one of my containers and pay the $6.99/lb. for it but I couldn't do it. It was weird. I felt weird. I felt like I was breaking a rule, but there weren't any rules. Except for maybe, don't 'bow the person sneakin' in on the last of the chick peas and don't sneeze on the mesclun greens.

For some reason I found The Co-Op to be stressful. I took my containers and asked a very friendly young man how to take care of the Tare (the weight of the container). He kindly explained to me and I got to it. So I just weigh them on this little scale and was told to write the Product Number and the tare on the container, except the just had a ball point pen and they were plastic containers. I made it work but looking back I was weirded out!

Which brings me to my point in writing this blog post. This is a culture shock. It is not easy. I am finding myself feeling really disheartened in some moments and really excited in others. I know though, that I am motivated because I have not stopped. I don't have the strongest of determination so it's certainly not just me pulling it through. I am reminded in every hour that this is an important endeavor - one that is worthy of my greatest efforts.

How are things going for you? What changes are you making in your food shopping habits?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Modes of Transportation

We had 2 cars. We are a 5 person family.

These three photos are images of the fine, fine piece of Swedish engineering that we just got rid of. Aforementioned = Success # 4

Why in God's blue & green earth would a family of five sacrifice a gorgeous 1998 Versatile (that's what the V stands for) Volvo V70 T5 Wagon which once belonged to the author's (yes, I spoke in third person right there) mother who took great care to sustain and maintain the fine, fine piece of Swedish engineering?

I'll try to answer - simply first...

We don't need it.

There's definitely a more complicated answer though. The car served its purpose. When we were fixing up our house it made all the sense in the world to have expansive storage space to transport plywood and medicine cabinets and joint compound and shrubbery. But we're done now. And we found ourselves looking at how we used our cars and just realizing it was a great burden (as well as a great luxury) to both have accessibility to our own, personal cars.

Such a first-world problem - to be "burdened" with a fully functioning (and might I mention, FANCY) car. But honestly, that's what I'm figuring out even in the few short weeks down this path. All this stuff is SUFFOCATING. Having things that work and serve their purpose is good. Good for our souls. Good for the thing itself. Watching the old girl sit on the side of the road doing the work that any-old-sedan could do... She was made for more than that.

Volvo's are also tanks and she was guzzling gas at an alarming rate (16 miles a gallon!). Not so great for the environment but a sacrifice needed to finish our home. Just driving her around in the city though... It wasn't working with my conscience.

That's another part of the suffocation I'm talking about. I can't even look at things anymore without thinking about their cost. Not in dollars per se. Let me show you this nightstand so you can see what I'm talking about:

You might see a slightly messy nightstand. What I would have seen on top of the nightstand a few weeks ago were some precious letters, some precious books, a great issue of The New Yorker, some sweet headphones, 2 cups that my sister got for my bachlorette party, a crumply tissue, and the book I'm currently reading buried under everything. Way back then I would have thought that only one thing off of the former list was something destined for the trash. Now I look at the nightstand and all I see is the cost of each thing. The cost in the resources and energy it took to make them all. The cost in the time and energy it takes for me to keep them and maintain them. The cost in terms of what I am choosing by keeping them. And the fact that they will all one day be sent to the trash heap. They will all - one day - go beyond usefulness. What then? The choices I made in buying them will matter then.

I have thought about what it would be like to live with all the trash I created in one year. If I was forced to keep EVERYTHING, what would it look like? It's a scary thought, because I'm not used to being responsible for the things I've thrown away. But I am. I am. I am.

I hope that made you see what I've been thinking about. I'm going to pull us back down from the bird's eye view and spend a little more time on the ground. But don't forget about the way things look up there. It's important. (When I tell you, I'm telling myself too!)

We are going to use some of the money from the sale of the ol' girl to buy me a REAL bike. My bike is a sorry sack of you-know-what whose gears are constantly slipping (for the record I tried to fix it but the dude at Kraynick's said I basically had to deal). I'm sure there is someone who won't mind, when I sell it to them. I just don't want to be worried about my gear's slipping when I'm riding down Negley Ave. I like a relative amount of safety. Call me crazy. Plus, like I said before, I want my stuff to WORK. So since I can't fix it to my standards, it's time for it to find someone who likes it the way it is!

Frankly, I'm looking forward to this part of the experiment. I'm a physical person, who has been stuck sitting indoors for the past five years. I will be sure to let you know whether this was the biggest mistake we've ever made, but like I said before I am under the impression that this was Success #4 (YES! THAT RHYMED!). I am especially looking forward to some saddlebags.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Name Change

So I decided to change my name to "A Sojourner" from "An Average American". It might seem like a simple change, but I actually put a lot of thought into it.

Truth be told, I am not "An Average American" financially speaking. My parents are upper-middle class and I live in The United States of America not just America. If you put me in that bigger Western Hemisphere pool, I'm really doing well as compared to the rest of the citizens. I might be average in a lot of other ways (mostly brain power and baseball skills), but it seemed misleading the more I looked at it.

So I switched it to "A Sojourner," because the truth is we're all just passing through. I know it's a morbid thought, but I also know that I'm a pretty morbid gal. I've always been taught to "leave the campsite better than I found it." So I think it's only right to apply it to my life, which will - in fact - someday end.

Learn more about my namesake if you haven't already...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Clothing Diet

I am usually pretty good at keeping my clothing under control. I've sucked at it lately. Reference below:
My closet: I know it doesn't look bad, this is because my floor looks like...

This. Note: my husband and I share the dresser, that's why you're only seeing a couple drawers.

There's two things that are wrong here. I have too much stuff for the space. So, I could either: buy more storage stuff, i.e. a dresser or a trunk or a plastic bin, or make it fit. When I put into perspective that peeps 100 years ago could fit all their stuff into a little armoire, I'm feeling pretty guilty. Yes, you may say that that is an unrealistic ideal to match myself up against, but I'm feeling like maybe it's not. They did ok, right? Except for the terrible healthcare and therefore short life expectancy and also the bad working conditions...

"The other problem?" you may ask... I LIKE clothing. Look, I know, I'm trying to be all Buddhist Monk and live with less, but I don't have to get rid of my clothing, do I? It's a basic human need: food, shelter, a wide selection of fashionable duds. Besides, people will judge you based on what you're wearing. That's why you wear suits to interviews. You're supposed to show people that you're legit.

But the whole point of this experience is to not do things based on what other people tell me I should do. I'm trying to listen to me. I like clothing, but that doesn't mean I have to have so much I can't keep track of it all. I also love small furry critters, but you don't see me collecting a whole bunch of those. Besides, this is an experiment. I'm going to give it a shot and see what happens. I'm not some crazed religious fanatic about this "less is more" stuff; I'm just giving it a shot, and seeing what happens... I swear. I'm not going to turn into a judgmental jerk about this simplicity thing.

So anyway, this is what my clothing looked like all organized before I went through it.

I thought the best way to go about it was to simply reduce by number. I didn't go for a specific percentage but just agreed I'd have to get rid of a lot. My thinking is, I'll try to live with this number. You'll hear from me if it isn"t working.

Here's the official numbers if you're wondering:
Skirts: 8 -> 2
Dress Pants: 5 -> 3
Jeans: 2 -> 2
Dresses: 19! -> 5
Shirts: 21 -> 11
Tanks: 21 -> 12
Sweaters & Cardigans: 17 -> 10
Shoes: 12 -> 8

I never wear dresses/skirts so that's why I cut that down so much. I thought the number of jeans was pretty good so I decided not to get rid of those. I justified all the tank tops because I wear those all the time as a layer. The amount of shoes I had (even originally) amazed me, but then I remembered I just got rid of 6 pairs of high heels because I am a crazy, judgmental jerk about them. They hurt my feet. I'm pretty sure they're just bad for you. I can't have fun in them; I find it hard to believe anyone can. I'm totally fine with other people wearing them, but it does make me sad sometimes to think that ladies wear them because our legs are "too stubby" or we don't feel comfortable without them. I just need to say, "You look great without those high heels. Look at how pretty your legs are." (often to myself)

As you can see, we're still talking about 53 pieces of clothing - not including underwear, bras, socks, etc. So, I'm not exactly a monk. But we'll see how much better I can do.

I'm just feeling like I should have a manageable amount of clothing. Before yesterday, I didn't. It was everywhere; always bundled up in the bottom of my closet making it so I couldn't find my high heel shoes. A mess! And if you can't take care of what you have it does you no good anyway. I believe in taking care of what you have. If I have so much stuff that I can't do that, I'm breaking my own rules. No. Good.

Here's what it looks like now.

Yes, I did fit most of my clothing in a tiny, turn-of-the-century armoire, but I also have these bins and a couple drawers which aren't pictured.

And this is what your average 2-year-old (about 3' tall) looks like standing next to the bag of stuff I got rid of.

Alright folks. We'll see how this goes. I'll keep you updated. In the meantime, what do you think when you read this post? Am I a monk or a clothing glutton? Also, what are you?!