Archive for the 'goals' Category

New Rule

Remember that time my goal was posting regularly?  My grandmother reminded me about that today, and asked for something newer than cherry blossoms.  Thanks for keeping me honest, grandma!

So, before I show you the beach where I was last week instead of posting for you, the new rule is:  If I don’t have time for a post, I will post you a picture I’ve taken of something.  Perhaps with words explaining a topical point.  Fast for me, new for you!

But, I learned from the goal to post more that I like posting, and again I’m feeling an itchiness and slight guilt when I don’t, which is good.  Except for that week at the beach, in which I felt no guilt at all, because life was beautiful.

In conclusion:

The ocean has eroded away groves of trees to just stumps on this section of Corolla.  Beautiful and cautioning.

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March of Time

Hello!  I have been selfish with my time lately, and away from here too often.  Perhaps I have been living alone too long, and my communication skills have deteriorated past the point of blogging.  I’m only taking one easy class this semester, my graduate school applications are all in (I’ll hear back anytime between now and early April), and work is busy, but not that busy.  It’s really just the selfish-about-my-time-thing.  Since I have so much of it back after the stress of last semester, I’m piddling it away on silly things for the sheer joy of having it to waste.

But, I am a month overdue on whatever challenge I was working on, and I’ll have some big life changes soon (this blog possibly won’t be partly Alexandria-related for much longer), and I do like the blogging life, and it has been a nice round two and a half years since I started this, so I have some nostalgia and plans and a few general thoughts to work through.  So!  Onward!

The January Challenge:  Eat all my food.  This was mostly a success.  I learned lots, anyway, like how I should just never, ever, ever buy milk.  No matter how small the carton, it’s not going to be drunk.  I’ve gotten the hang of finishing large bags of greenery, and looking in my fridge and pantry to finish fresh fruit and veggies before I just have cheese and crackers for dinner.  It’s been a good practice to integrate with trying to spend less on food, eat healthier, and prepare more meals for myself.  Not “cook” mind you, just “prepare meals”.

I’ve documented what I learned by creating a chart of “Foods I Eat” and listing foods that I can trust myself to finish all of.  This is helping me edit my grocery lists. For instance, buying avocados and peppers and apples are good, useful choices, but I shouldn’t buy potatoes or onions without a pressing reason, since I’ll probably forget to use them in time.

Forget a February challenge with the snow and such, my challenge was not going insane all alone in my apartment, and that pretty much worked except for a few days in the middle of the snowpocalypse week that were touch-and-go.

March is halfway over, and the challenge for the rest of the month is posting regularly.  Regularly will be defined as posting every other day at least.  This blog keeps me honest about my attempts to live more sustainably, and when I ignore it, my resolve slips.

As for the nostalgia part:  I’ve been writing this blog for two and a half years, during which time I’ve moved thrice (soon to be, er, fource?), switched jobs, begun a career change, and ended a relationship.  The blog is not responsible for all of that, but it helped me organize some thoughts on the career switch.  Following the Eco City Alexandria project got me thinking about planning more seriously.  This blog has changed the way I eat.  I’ve cut meat out almost entirely (though if I am a guest I eat what’s prepared for me, since my vegetarianism is not anyone else’s problem).  (And also sometimes I just want to eat a lamb.)  But I can go weeks happily avoiding meat, and this was inconceivable for me just a year ago.  I’m eating healthier because of it- just paying attention to what I eat causes me to consume more vegetables, which is a thing.

Typing through my environmental worries has also made me much more comfortable about setting my personal goals and boundaries.  There’s still plenty I need to work on- my relationship with water, some of the trash I create, my transportation methods- but I know now what’s easy for me to change, and I’ve changed most of that.  I don’t get a sense of paralyzing environmental guilt in grocery stores anymore when I see plastic packaging.  I’m happy trading off warmer, longer showers in winter for turning the heat lower.  I’m comfortable with my failures at gardening and composting- though I’m ready to try again, with time and hopefully help.  Also charts.

This comfort with my efforts and failures also leads me into ruts, yes, but I can work out of those.  By blogging more.  Starting now.

Update: Compressed Goals

It sure is.  And I haven’t filled you in on how my November goal went- the staying warm one?  Or told you my December goal.  I decided it must have been “sustainable holidays” since that seems likely, and because it’s still Christmas time for me- my family was in so many places this year that we still haven’t all gotten together for food and presents.  I get Christmas until Sunday at least.  Plus I posted on holiday stuff a couple times, so that will have to count.

The “staying warm” goal is working a little.  My apartment has very poor heat distribution- the bedrooms get no heat, and have nice huge poorly-sealed windows, so they’re about 15 degrees colder than the rest of the house.  I’ve been keeping a space heater on when I have to be in them, and the covers on my bed are a foot thick, and it’s getting better.  I’m wearing a lot of sweaters to bed.  Keeping the heat at 63 when I’m home (50 or 55 otherwise) and layering worked all through November and most of December.  This apartment loses so much through the windows that in this especially cold snap, I’ve turned it up to about 68 when I’m home, just to make it feel more like 63.

So, my toes have not fallen off (though there have been evenings where I would not have felt it if they had) and trying to stay warm is a lot easier than trying to cool off was last summer.

And December!  Holidays!  Here is a link to how to make origami boxes (scroll down).  Use your 2009 calendars pictures or something similarly classy.  Or tie up presents in fabric– easy, reusable, no bits of tape sticking to you afterward.  This is good info for me, I still have Christmas to do, but you can save it for other gifts (there are plenty of people with January birthdays that sneak up on you because it’s January, aren’t there?) or next year.

That takes care of 2009, then.  I thought of a new goal for the month (not to be confused with a resolution).  I will be working on not wasting food.  I throw away so many half-bags of gross spinach and moldy bread-ends and congealed milk, and I should not waste food or money that way.  I will clean out my fridge and start fresh, and consume.  I began this Monday.  I got a smaller bag of spinach than normal, and I have eaten from it every day.  On day one, I had a bowl of raw plain spinach- all my salad dressings have gone bad.  I didn’t know salad dressings went bad.  This led to a humbling realization of just how terrible I am to have in control of a kitchen.  But now I have some balsamic vinaigrette, so it’s not so hard to eat spinach.  I’ve had salads, a spinach and cheese wrap, a spinach and cheese sandwich…I still have more spinach left.  Those bags are deceptively full, but I think I can finish it this weekend.   On the upside, finishing the one (of three, urp) jug of uncurdled milk with require me to have a lot of hot chocolate in the next three days, so that will balance all the spinach.

In conclusion, Happy New Year!  Hope yours is starting out well.  Mine is starting out…leafy.

Progress: Mmm-Hmmm, Now Changes

Hey there!  I’ve missed you guys!  I realize that that’s my fault for not posting, but be assured I missed you while I was avoiding you.  So after that vacation to New Zealand, I was useless with jet-lag for a few days, then the sniffle I brought back got worse for a few days (no, not swine flu, got it checked out, but I did get prescribed this amazing cough syrup for whatever it was), and then I got inspired for a few days, and now it’s now.  More on that later.  First my July goal.

In July, that sunny month of my birth, I had pledged to travel sustainably.  And I think I did a very good job.  Bought local, stayed local, ate local, considered the sources of things, etc.  Usual behaviour, only over there, not here.  And with souvenirs.  I will be posting on some the places I stayed- all of which have excellent green practices and were run by locals.  I’ll be posting on some of the environmental issues I noticed there- fishing (obliquely related, with a book review) and pest control (I think you’ll like that one!  It comes with taxidermy photos!).  And the food I can summarize here- I ate a) well, b) meat, and c) more vegetarian than I expected.

As you have gathered, my attempts at being vegetarian- even for a little- have been largely halfhearted and begrudging.  The first meat I had after the pre-trip veg was Air New Zealand plane food.  Not terrible, and if you forget how it looked, pretty good,  and served with free wine (refills available), so rock on, ANZ.  But ordering meat again in restaurants was strange.  It felt wrong.  Wrong and freeing, but still wrong.  One nice thing about meat in New Zealand is that it’s probably locally produced- a lot of cows and sheep and plenty of seas about, and your dinner doesn’t have far to travel.  They also have deer farms too- tried the venison a lovely terrine in a pub opposite Parliament.  It was very easy to stick to local restaurants.  But transportation isn’t the biggest sustainability issue with livestock, so that’s a small consolation.

I did my time on the North Island (Auckland, Napier, and Wellington) traveling alone and thus entirely according to my own whims, but in the South Island I was hosted by the dashing D, who has vegetarian proclivities of his own.  His excellent cooking and general good behaviour about picking restaurants with tofu on our road trip inspired me to try harder myself- buddy system.  We still ate meat (oh dear I do love lamb) on several occasions.

Coming home, though, I haven’t had meat since the last ANZ meal- lamb and oh that wine- and I feel good about that. I noticed my digestive system is happier without all the meat, too, especially the red stuff.  In-teresting.  But whether it’s just too hot out to eat anything ‘real’ or I’ve actually unfurled a new petal, I’m getting my kicks from lots of fruit and vegetables (and cornbread) these days.  Even making plans to get a blender and crock pot (craigslist!) to aid me in my attempts to prepare fruits and vegetables in new and exciting ways.  This is an unexpected and pleasing development.

Alright, that’s the goal summary, now the changes:  I’m not making new resolutions for August.  Or probably for a while after August.  I’m going to keep on posting about all the other things I’m trying (there will be compost changes shortly, for instance) but I won’t add things.  I am beginning the process of applying to graduate schools of urban or city planning for next fall, starting last weekend- and with that on top of the real job, studying for an exam that’s real job related, and architecture classes beginning in three weeks, I should not have the time to make any big new changes around here.  If I do, someone please tell me to get back to my homework.  I am very excited about all of this (ok not the job exam, but I am excited about passing that as a revenge for all the boring stuff I have to learn for it), and I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going.  So far I’ve got specialties of interest identified, a list of schools to apply to, a list of deal-breakers, and I’m starting the asking-other-people-who-actually-know-planning about it.  Not bad for three days, think I’ll take a month off.  Ha ha!  Ha.

Busy fall.  I planned it that way.  But I’ll be back, and soon, and you will see some opossum taxidermy the likes of which you have probably not imagined.  At least I hope so.

Progress: Hurried

Heading out the door soon, but before I go, it’s a new month, so goal summary:  I turned on my AC that once, but otherwise the no-AC thing hasn’t been horrendous, except for not sleeping.  I’m heading to the antipodean winter, too, so AC becomes moot for a couple weeks.  Certainly won’t be on here while I’m gone.  As for everything else, vegetarianism, check, carbon offsets, getting done, yeah.  Let’s describe last month as distracted, but tending in a positive direction.

New monthly goal- sustainable travel!  I clearly spent days coming up with that one.  On my trip, beyond the carbon offsets and the personal offsetting fun, I’m going to examine all my touristy choices.  Choosing local places with green missions, and not big chains, for instance.  Buying souvenirs from real NZ type people, not imported trinkets.  Respecting the local environment by not kicking a moa. Etc.  I’m sure I’ll think of more there, and it’s possible I’ll get a chance to post while away, so I may even share.  But for the next couple weeks, be pleasently surprised by updates, instead of expecting them?

Pre-trip breakfast (the tomatoes came along just in time):

pre trip breakfast

Have a great weekend!

Progress: Wha?

I’m really glad I post once a month about what I’m supposed to be doing, because today I had to go back and check what I was supposed to be doing last month.  It appears I was supposed to be working on travel offsets, gardening, and talking to the apartment complex.  Right.

Well, I gardened- put up some pictures recently too- and I started some research on the carbon stuff, hopefully I can get up a post on my initial impressions on that tomorrow.  I did realize it’s a much bigger question than just picking a good offset group.

Didn’t do the apartment stuff at all, though.  Actually I haven’t talked to the apartment manager since then- and she definitely hasn’t sent out the recycling reminders she promised.  So, yeah.  I should probably get on that. Perhaps I will feel the motivation later.  Summers are good for building revolutionary tempers, right?

So, this month.  No big plans on my mind.  Keep gardening, finish up the offset stuff, plan my trip (I leave in a month!).  See if I can build up any anger about the recycling situation again.  Bleh.

Know what?  It’s too hot to care.  I’ve lived in VA my whole life, and the summers are getting more unbearable every year.  When we were kids, we spent the hottest month or so of the year with Dad’s family up in northern Wisconsin, so maybe I just didn’t notice it so much then.  And this year I’ve got two weeks in an antipodean winter to look forward to, but it got hot and humid again yesterday and I couldn’t stop thinking about armpits and despair.

So this month, while I bake in the heat and can’t care, let’s pretend it’s an environmental thing. I’m starting a No-AC-Summer Challenge.  Rules are easy: I’m not turning on my AC.  Instead, I will learn to deal.

My apartment is on the top floor, and has uninsulated windows that get full sunlight until about 1pm.  I pull in solar gain all day, then, plus heat rises up to me from apartments below.  I am up high enough to get some nice breezes, though.  So, my goal is to keep the sun out and the air circulating, so I don’t come home to an oven every evening.  My windows will stay cracked, then, while my curtains will remain drawn all day.  To save energy during the workday, I’ll only plug in the portable fans when I come home.  In addition, I’ll keep the ice cube trays full for when I need them, some water in the fridge, and popsicles handy.  Showers will need to be cooler.  And I’ll need to dress for the temperature inside- gym shorts, tank tops.  I haven’t had the AC on yet this year, so hopefully I can keep that up.  I’ll share other coping strategies as I come up with them.

The goal is more reactive than proactive this month, but its too hot out for that to bother me.

Progress: Growth

In April, I was focusing on gardening, and negotiating with the apartment complex for unlame recycling facilities.  Now May is half over, and they’re both going very well.  My garden is growing, up and out.  Dad gave me tomatoes and a pepper, and Mom gave me a flower and some oregano this weekend, so my deck is pretty cluttered.  I’ll take a picture for you if it ever stops raining.

I’m growing spinach (and/or baby’s breath- I thought I planted both but everything looks the same, and this might be weird because I might have planted spinach with the morning glories), morning glories, peas the vegetable, sweet peas the flower, and I think that’s it.  Compared to last year, it was painless- I dumped some seeds in and forgot about them, it rained for two weeks, and now everything is green.  I’ve either gained garden perspective, or I’m more easily distracted.

Next steps:  Ascertain what I did plant, repot and stake the tomatoes.  Stick trays under the pots, since they’re peeing on the deck underneath me, and it’s just too soon to alienate my neighbors.

I was also bugging the office.  I determined they are violating a law!  I’m not sure I properly expressed how thrilling that day was for me.  Felt like a citizen hero, became David to Goliath, etc.  I did talk to the property manager about that last Friday, actually, and she said the city never enforces those laws so it’s cool for now.  It was a fascinating interview- I learned a lot about her personal life- but the management position is, the law isn’t enforced, and we residents are uncooperative, so they aren’t going to push it.  She wasn’t aware until I pointed it out that they were in violation, though, and she said she’d send out another notice.  Which is required anyway twice a year.  She did mention that, if more people recycle, they’ll save money on trash pick-up, since recycling pick-up is basically free, and the trash is changed by weight.  So, I see a two-fold path on this:  figuring out who enforces this for the city, and why they don’t, and cajoling the management to take some recycling baby steps.  Proper container labeling, for one.  No progress on the bike racks so far.

I’m going to follow up on the apartment agitation, so let’s count that as something for ‘half-May’.

For a legitimate new challenge, though, I’m going to work out my travel offset plans.  I finished my classes this Tuesday, so I can let myself read my guidebooks and do the fun research for New Zealand with a clear conscience now.  I’ve been vegetarian for a couple weeks now, as part of that project.  I did eat some pepperoni, and I had shrimp on Mother’s Day, but otherwise awesome.  Except for when I tried a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which is seriously gross and how did Elvis eat those?  That was a rough morning, gastronomically.  It sounded like such a delicious idea.  I’m pretty sure I’m getting enough protein- eggs, tofu, chickpeas, those are protein right?- and I’ve done a little online searching for recipes, which worked well.  Though they did lead me to the pb and banana combo.  Mixed bag, I guess.

More of that for the rest of the month, then, plus some research on carbon offset programs, and commenter bullmooser made a great point that some sort of activism to reduce emissions in the long term would be another great way to offset my carbon guilt.  Stay tuned.


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