Sustainability Project: January 2020

I am still attempting to slowing swap out environmentally unsustainable habits for more sustainable ones, but as time goes on, this grows more difficult, as I am running out of ideas. Please send me ideas, if you have them!

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Photos of paper towels are dull, so here is a photo of my younger son, climbing a tree (hey, it’s loosely related!)

For this month, I wanted to work on my use (or over-use) of paper towels. I am well aware that I use too many paper towels, and, once again, I think the problem is I was taught to clean using exclusively paper towels. Before this swap, I probably used a roll of paper towels a week!

In my efforts to cut down, I purchased reusable bamboo towels. I bought these over a month ago, and have only used about three each of the smooth and scrubby type. It says they can be washed in a washing machine, but I haven’t done that. I just wash in the kitchen sink until they look really disgusting, and then use for a final gross task and then throw them out. Usually this final gross task is my cat vomiting up a hairball. I imagine these two rolls will last about a year, which is a significant reduction in the amount of single-use paper in my house.

Book List for 2019 (Part 2 of 2)

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Since I didn’t enjoy any other book this year as much as Lolly Willowes, here is another great version of the cover!

I started my book list for 2019 here, but it was too long to write out all at once, so this is the remainder.

31. The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. 5 stars. This is one I thought about a lot afterward and once I started looking at Gregor’s sister as the protagonist, I liked it a lot more.

32. The Murder on the Links, by Agatha Christie. 4 stars. The second Poirot novel. At this point, they started bleeding into each other a bit, but still fun.

33. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. 4 stars. I wanted to read this especially after reading Kindred, but also because I think everyone should read it. While Kindred was more viscerally upsetting, this book is definitely more emotionally upsetting.

34. Murder in Mesopotamia, by Agatha Christie. 4 stars. Another Poirot novel that my library had. By this point, I fully grasped the point and use of the illustrations.

35. In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware. 3 stars. I enjoyed this and read it in a day but it was predictable. Still a fun way to spend a day.

36. Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie. 4 stars. Yet another Poirot novel.

37. The Woman in Cabin 1o, by Ruth Ware. 4 stars. I read this right after Death on the Nile, so I was confused because this book is actually the exact same. There is no way Ware didn’t just read the Christie book and say, “Hmmmm, I can also write that book.”

38. $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, by Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer. I liked the topic of this book and it has valuable information, but the way it was presented didn’t grab me.

39. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. 4 stars. I admit that I wanted to watch the show, but I don’t like watching a movie or show before reading a book. I really liked both and I am having trouble telling them apart because I started watching the show the same day I finished the book.

40. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote. 5 stars. I can’t believe I never read this before! The version I had from the library also had a short story called, “A Christmas Memory.” I read this story while on a bus and was sobbing hysterically over how good it was.

41. The Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie. 3 stars. The first Miss Marple book.

42. The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware. 3 stars. Probably my least favorite Ruth Ware book but still fun.

43. Rawblood, by Catriona Ward. 5 stars. I don’t read that much horror, much less gothic horror. The end of this was just perfect. I read it very quickly, waited about an hour, and then re-read the last few chapters, just to experience it again.

44. An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore. 4 stars. This is one I read because I can’t believe I’ve not read it before. Probably should read something more current about this topic, however.

45. Ark, by Veronica Roth. 5 stars. This was in a set of novellas I got free from Amazon. Recommended!

46. The Last Conversation, by Paul Tremblay. 5 stars. Same as above but I think this was my favorite in the set.

47. Summer Frost, by Blake Crouch. 4 stars. Same collection as above.

48. Emergency Skin, by N.K. Jemisin. 5 stars. Another good one from the same collection.

49. You Have Arrived at Your Destination, by Amor Towles. 3 stars. The only one from the collection I didn’t care for.

50. The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware. 4 stars. The newest Ware novel is a retelling of the classic Henry James novel. I liked it!

51. In the Woods, by Tana French. 4 stars. This was recommended to me by a ton of people. It was fun!

52. Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo. 1 star. This was a book I read for a book club. I hated it. I can’t even how much I hated it. I am glad most of the reviews I’m seen around are also very negative.

52. Raising Boys, by Steve Biddulph. 1 star. Sexist and gendered. I read this because I have two boy children. The advice given in the first chapter was basically to stand back and let the male parent do it. Nothing about gender being a spectrum, or what if the parents are the same sex? bleh.

53. Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeir. 5 stars. This is a young adult graphic novel that my older son read, but it’s so good!

54. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. 4 stars. I was embarrassed that I never read any Bradbury, so I read the most well-known Bradbury novel. The latent sexism bothered me, so I couldn’t give it the full 5 stars.

55. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf. 5 stars. Another book every woman should read!

56. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides. 3 stars. This is another book from a book club. It was fun but predictable.

57. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. 5 stars. Really great book that also was made into a great movie!

58. Lilith’s Brood, by Octavia Butler. 4 stars. This is three books in one. If alien-human threesomes are your thing, then you should absolutely read this book.

59. The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. 5 stars. Such a great book! I want to watch the movie, but I can’t find it for free anywhere.

60. Unspeakable Things, by Jess Lourey. 2 stars. I got this book for a free promotion and read it quickly, but there are a ton of plot holes.

61. What Should I Do with My Life?, by Po Bronson. 2 stars. This book did not help me answer the titular question at all.

62. The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future, by Ryder Carroll. 4 stars. For a book that suggests brevity, the title is pretty long. Anyway, I decided to start a bullet journal in 2020, and this book was helpful.

63. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl. 4 stars. Part 1 of this book was about the author’s experience in Nazi concentration camps, and was horrifying. Part 2 was about the therapeutic technique of logotherapy, which I’m not sure I fully understand, but I believe is mostly concerned with ascribing meaning to meaningless events to help depressed persons function in the meaningless world. But I could be wrong about this.

64. El Deafo, by Cece Bell. 4 stars. This is a graphic novel that my older son was reading, but was really enjoyable. It’s about a deaf elementary-to-middle school deaf kid.

65. Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, by Richard H. Thaler. 4 stars. Yes, I really enjoy reading books about behavioral economics, even though I’m not that familiar with the topic yet.

66. The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. 4 stars. As a default, I love any books about Satan, and bonus if another character is a large, talking cat.

Sustainability Project: December 2019

One swap I’ve intended to do for awhile was deodorant. I had been buying Degree deodorant since I was a teenager, and I had never properly scrutinized this choice before. I don’t seem to really sweat or smell that much. I had originally decided to do this swap over the summer, but I still had two and a half sticks of Degree deodorant left. (When stuff is on sale, I tend to buy a few extras.) And I’ve also heard it takes a few weeks for your body to adjust to natural deodorant, so I did think the best time to do this was the winter. As of today, I still have one and a half sticks of Degree left, so either I am constantly forgetting to put on deodorant, I use much less deodorant than the average person, or these tubes are partly magic. Either way, I stored away the Degree to be used on sweat-heavy days next summer, and made the swap now.

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On a sweaty hike up Overlook Mountain in Woodstock, New York.

In case you haven’t yet looked for yourself, there is a ton of natural deodorant out there to choose from. One big difference between brands is whether or not they use baking soda. As almost everyone knows, baking soda absorbs odors. But it does tend to irritate skin. Since I have sensitive skin, I decided to forgo the baking soda. Also, I obviously wanted a product that came in a non-plastic container. In addition, I am a bit averse to subscription services.

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This image is from their website!

Given all these preferences, I went with Little Seed Farm brand deodorant. The scent I choose was Jasmine Green Tea. The scent is nice and not too floral or overpowering, but I might try a different one the next time. I’ve been using it since the first of the month now, and I haven’t noticed anything like smelly pits or wet armpits. It came with a tiny piece of bamboo that I think you’re supposed to use to remove the product from the container. However, I lost that in the jar almost immediately, and I don’t think you really need it. I personally take a shower at night, and I put all my various creams on right after the shower, so my hands are clean then anyway.

One thing I wonder is if you can use this product on places other than the armpits. Personally, my under-boob area sweats way more than my pits. I don’t see any reason you can’t use this totally natural product there, so I may try it after I’m certain my pits don’t experience any adverse effects.

Book List for 2019 (Part 1 of 2)

Sometime last year, I started keeping track of books I read by physically writing them down in a journal. This year, I transitioned to using Goodreads. If you are interested in connecting with me on Goodreads, you can do so with this link. I decided to participate in a reading challenge this year, and set my goal as 52 books, or one book per week. I went beyond that goal, but I’m not yet sure by how much as there are still three weeks left to get through.

Because this list is so long, I thought I would break it up into two parts. This is the first!

Since Goodreads uses a one- to five-star system, I’ll use that here as well.

  1. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. 5 stars. Is it  sad that the first book I read this year was probably one of my favorites? I loved, loved, loved this book. It was written in 1899 and (almost sadly) still so relevant today. In my opinion, every woman should read this book.
  2. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. 4 stars. Sometimes, I read nonfiction. I liked this one.
  3. Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden. 5 stars. I almost subtracted a star when I saw this was written by a white guy, but I did really like it.
  4. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. 5 stars. This was a true story of poverty and neglect in America. Do read about the author but don’t bother with the movie.
  5. Audrey’s Door, by Sarah Langan. 3 stars. This is a horror story my husband bought, and horror is not a preferred genre of mine, so it’s probably better than I think it is.
  6. The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham. 5 stars. This was really, really great. The only other book of this author I had read was Of Human Bondage, and that was a few years ago, but I thought this was better by far. A terrific example of how a man can write a compelling female protagonist. I read about the movie and it seems awful and totally different from the book, so I don’t recommend that.
  7. My Abandonment, by Peter Rock. 4 stars. This book was based on a true story of a guy and his young daughter living in a park in Portland, Oregon. In this case, I do want to see the movie, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
  8. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margareta Magnusson. 3 stars. Another non-fiction book. Obviously I love getting rid of stuff, so I had to read it.
  9. Three Floors Up, by Eshkol Nevo. 4 stars. I read this for a book club and to be honest I don’t really remember it, but obviously I liked it when I read it.
  10. Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism, by Fumio Sasaki. 3 stars. I have to be honest that the best thing about this one was the photos.
  11. The Minimalist Home, by Joshua Becker. 3 stars. I think I read too many similar books in a row because I’m having trouble remembering this. I also think I read all this last spring to gear myself up for my biannual minimalism game.
  12. The Great Passage, by Shion Miura. 4 stars. I think I got this free as an Amazon promotion. It’s about an editor of a dictionary, and has a lot about the meanings of words. Fun!
  13. The Girl With All the Gifts, by Mike Carey. 5 stars. Sometimes, a funny thing will happen where several people will recommend a book to me, within days of each other. This was the first book this year that happened with, and it’s by the writer of one of my favorite comics, Lucifer.
  14. The Brain: The Story of You, by David Eagleman. 5 stars. This is obviously another nonfiction. If you love neuroscience, read this!
  15. A Life Less Throwaway: The Lost Art of Buying for Life, by Tara Button. 4 stars. This topic is very important–quality over quantity.
  16. Knock Knock, by S.P. Miskowski. 3 stars. Another horror book my husband got on our shared kindle account. I loved the set-up, but I don’t know if the ending delivered.
  17. 2BR02B, by Kurt Vonnegut. 5 stars. I started reading Vonnegut last year, and I love everything I’ve read so far. Incidentally, I read the entire story before I understood what the title meant (mental facepalm).
  18. Delphine Dodd, by S.P. Miskowski. 4 stars. I liked this book, the second in the series, better than the first.
  19. Astoria, by S.P. Miskowskit. 4 stars. The third book in the same series.
  20. In the Light, by S.P. Miskowskit. 4 stars. This is the fourth and final book in the series.
  21. The Power, by Naomi Alderman. 5 stars. Another book that a bunch of people recommended to me and totally worth it. Great read.

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    I wish I had this version, with an intro by Sarah Waters. So awesome and appropriate!
  22. Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner. 5 stars. I just started tearing up remembering how much I loved this book. Currently tied for first place in books I’ve read this year with The Awakening. A book club I’m in had a vote between two books and this was one of them. The club chose the other, but I read this one anyway. What swayed me was the female author, the time it was written (1920s), and an Amazon review. The review read, “What do all women want? To be witches, always.” I read this book in a day while I was staying in a forest, and I have to say, if you can read this while in the forest, you will not regret it. Plus, I started reading about Sylvia Townsend Warner’s life and she was just an amazing badass.
  23. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vol 1: The Crucible, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. 5 stars. Yes, this is a graphic novel, but I loved it more than I loved the show (which was a lot). The art is gorgeous as well.
  24. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie. 5 stars. On the recommendation of my very best friend, I decided to read Agatha Christie, so I started with one of the most popular books. I was never that into mysteries before, but this was a fun, quick read. I even watched and enjoyed the old black and white movie afterward.
  25. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie. 4 stars. I decided to try to read Christie’s books in order as much as possible, and this was her first.
  26. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson. 5 stars. Many people who I interact with on a regular basis recommended this, so I read it, even though it’s about space, which unsettles me. The rating is partially based on the amount of time I thought about it after finishing it (a lot).
  27. Verity, by Colleen Hoover. 1 star. I read this for a book club. It was boring and predicable, with very unlikable characters.
  28. A Caribbean Mystery, by Agatha Christie. 4 stars. This was the first Miss Marple book I read, and I like her better the Poirot.
  29. The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie. 3 stars. This was the first Tommy and Tuppence book I read, and I’m not sure where it ranks.
  30. Kindred, by Octavia Butler. 5 stars. There is a rare book that is so stressful that I literally cannot put it down. This was one for me.

Sustainability Project: November 2019

A couple of months ago, I switched from standard plastic toothbrushes to bamboo toothbrushes. I thought I would hate it or there would be a long adjustment period that began with disgust and ended with hesitant acceptance. What really happened was I loved it immediately and also thought if I was wrong about the brush, I might also be wrong about the toothpaste being an issue. Thus I began to search in earnest for a toothpaste that was not sold in plastic tubes.

What I eventually decided on was The Dirt Toothpowder. I thought I would be grossed out by a tooth powder, but I absolutely wasn’t! In fact, I found myself brushing for longer and more often during the day because the sensation of brushing my teeth with a powder and a bamboo brush was so pleasant. I bought the super mint flavor in a 6-month glass jar, because the smaller size comes in plastic. I wish I could bring the jar somewhere and just get it refilled, but that’s a problem for six months from now. I’m sure I could use the jars for other things when they are empty, or just recycle them.

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I looked for a photo in which I was smiling and showing my teeth, and the only photos I have like that are ones in which I am holding a cocktail.

One caveat is I have not had a dentist appointment since I started using this tooth powder. I usually get a very bad report, so I’m curious if it will be any better or worse.

Meat-Free for Six Months!

After taking part in Meat-Free May earlier this year, I’ve been vegetarian for just about six months! Honestly, I didn’t think I would still be vegetarian, but once you stop eating meat, it’s a little weird to go back to eating meat. I still don’t miss it, and I have not craved it at all. I have lost six pounds in the six months, but note I was not specifically trying to lose weight, and also note I still eat potato chips. I did have a physical last month, and was told I am pretty anemic. This was not unexpected, as I was anemic before I stopped eating meat too. My cries of, “But I eat kale every day!” fell on deaf ears, and my doctor insisted I start taking an iron pill a day, in addition to my B12 pill.

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This insanely good and decadent lunch consisted of a Creole Grilled Tofu baguette and a dulce de leche doughnut.

In exciting news for me, I found out that every Wednesday the vegan food truck The Cinnamon Snail is parked two blocks from where I work! I used to work by their shop in the Pensy and was sad when we moved offices. But now I have it almost every Wednesday!

What have I eaten these past six months? I’ve eaten at home a lot more, which is good. I’ve gotten in the habit of having the same things on repeat, which the kids actually like (since they like knowing what they will be eating based on what day it is). This also saves a ton of money. Some stuff we have about once a week are: pasta and veggie meatballs, tofu with curry and vegetables, tacos or burritos with beans and rice and cheese, and  frozen pizza (I get regular for the kids and dairy-free for me and my spouse). We order sushi about once a week, and we usually eat out once a week.

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Go soak your oats, as the old saying goes!

I have been trying to eat less eggs and dairy to further reduce my environmental impact, and to that end, I made oat milk! Oat milk is one of my favorite non-dairy milks, but I think the ones for sale in stores are overpriced. Oats are pretty cheap, after all. There are a ton of oat milk recipes to be found online, so I’m not getting into that here, but what I will say is, I didn’t have an advance strainer or cheesecloth, so I just used my colander, and that worked exactly as well as one would expect. (Not that well.) The result was a little too thick. It was okay in coffee, but very good in cereal. I will definitely try again once I invest in a cheesecloth!

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The resulting oat milk, still frothy from the blender!

 

Sustainability Project: October 2019

For the October Sustainability Swap, I focused on cat litter! This is particularly appropriate as our cat, Oz, joined the family two years ago, on October 13, 2016 to be exact. I have lived with at least one cat for most of my life, and I have to admit that I’ve never really thought about cat litter before.

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My kitty Oz, in his favorite spot (my lap)!

When I was young, my parents used whatever litter they used, and I was not involved. When I was 18 and I moved out with my first cat that I adopted myself, my parents actually still bought all my household items, including cat litter. The next time I adopted a cat, I was a full adult, and continued to buy the same litter, just out of habit. (Fresh Step, if you are interested.)

It’s only now that I’ve started doing these sustainability swaps that I have thought about switching cat litters. Why switch? Clumping clay litter doesn’t biodegrade in landfills, and, from what I understand, is not sustainably sourced.

What I started using instead is Feline Pine. This litter is completely biodegradable (it’s pine!) and also sustainably sourced. You can read about that on their website, which is linked above. I have used this litter for a bit, and there is a learning curve to cleaning the litter box. In fact, I had to watch a YouTube video before I could figure it out! But, it doesn’t smell at all, and Oz seems to have taken to it! This is the video I watched: see someone cleaning a litter box!