Thursday, December 30, 2010

Being the Only Vegetarian in the House

This book would not be found at my house-house, but it's at my school-house.

Though there are tons of things I love about being at home, one of the worst things about being at home is that I'm the only vegetarian in the house.  (Even at school, strangely enough, three out of the six of us are vegetarians.)  The thing about being at home is that you're at least slightly subjected to things that your family wants to do.  Everyone's going to a steakhouse because it's your dad's birthday?  You're kind of stuck with at least going.  It doesn't help that my mother is convinced that I'm suffering from protein deficiency because I don't eat meat and that my family thinks I'm crazy.

So here are the things that I've found to help me deal with my family's eating habits.
  • Emphasize side dishes.  No one (not my family at least) eats just a steak for dinner.  I'm fine with eating just the grain and veggie side dishes.  There are tons of vegetarian side dishes that would go with any main dish, so you should be covered on this front.
  • Go grocery shopping with the person who does the grocery shopping.  This way you can put in your input and can also help to decide how and what to cook.
  • Develop the menu with the primary chef.  If you can put your input into what's for dinner that night, you're more likely to be happy with the meal.
  • Help with the cooking.  This way you'll know what's going into the food and there won't be any reasons for arguing later.
  • Be clear about your eating rules.  Just like diets, there are tons of ways that people are vegetarians. There are vegetarians who may eat eggs, dairy products, other animal products, animal byproducts, etc.  It's important that you're clear with regards to where you stand.
  • Be willing to compromise.  No one is saying that you have to eat fried chicken wings if you're a vegetarian, but there are definitely ways that I compromise when I'm at home.  I rarely eat fish when I'm on my own (so technically I'm more of a pescetarian) but when I'm at home I'll eat seafood a little more frequently.  I don't eat any meat products when I'm on my own, but I will eat, for example, stuffed zucchini that my mother made with a little bit of chicken stock.  [Note: I think this point is much easier for me than it might be for others because I am a vegetarian because of environmental, rather than ethical, issues.]
Eating while you're the only vegetarian doesn't have to be a total chore.  Eating is humanity's oldest cultural activity, and it's meant to be communal.  (At an Asian home like mine, eating together is the only way we eat!)  Having different eating habits doesn't mean you have to eat alone.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Gifts: Picture Perfect

I can't take a picture of my camera with my camera (that would be too meta), so this is the best you're going to get.

As a blogger and avid documenter of my life (I have over 65 Facebook albums... most people consider 20 to be adequate), I use my digital camera all the time.  I've only had two digital cameras before this week, both hand-me-downs from my parents: a 2NP Olympus Camedia D-230 that originally came out in 2001 and a 8MP Nikon Coolpix P1 which came out in 2005.  My Coolpix has been sputtering lately - the batteries take forever to charge and then run out immediately.  I thought it was a battery problem, but new batteries still didn't solve it, so I knew it was time for a new camera.

I had done some research and found a glowing review from Digital Camera HQ on the Panasonic Lumix FH20 (and is now their Best Consumer Camera of 2010), which I asked for from my parents and got for Christmas.

As far as tech specs go, it's 14MP which is probably the highest resolution without being an SLR camera and has an 8x zoom.

I haven't had it long enough yet to play with the other features (apparently there are tons of different Scene modes - I'm used to just using Auto mode) but there are some two major things that I can safely say that I love.

One is its compact size.  This is a tiny camera compared to my old cameras, but it's big enough that I'm not like a giant trying to use a cell phone.

The second thing is the non-flash focus.  I'm inclined to say that it's due to the high resolution, but even when the flash is off, the focus is sharp and crisp and the shutter speed is quick.  This is pretty rare for cameras that I've used in general (both digital and film) because the lens can't get enough light to focus on the image, but from my limited use of it, there's great focus.  I don't know how frequently people use their cameras while the flash is off, but it'll be useful for concerts or when you're trying to avoid a glare.

Overall, the camera is simple to use and a great size for more casual users like me.  I'm pretty excited to continue using it and to take lots and lots more pictures!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Gifts: The End of Print Books as We Know It?

I have terrible vision.  I learned to read when I was three, read Little Women for the first time when I was seven, and religiously pre-ordered every Harry Potter book off of Amazon and read it front to back that same day.  I read myself into my poor vision and ever since high school, found myself with less and less time to read.

Which I think will all change.  My dear uncle bought the new 3G Kindle for me for Christmas, which I can safely say I adore.  It's taken a bit of getting used to, but it's not difficult to use at all.

Though it loses the romanticism of a physical book, I think it makes up for it with it's sleek and simple interface.  It cuts down on the printing and shipping of the books, which definitely lends for its eco-friendliness.  Since I'm such a voracious reader, it's great that books are cheaper for Kindle than for print.  The next book on my to-buy list, The Big Short by Michael Lewis goes for $15.36 in the print version, but for $9.99 on the Kindle version.  Best yet, I can really see bringing it with me when I travel - I don't have enough space to carry around books, but now I can carry around hundreds of books in one lightweight case.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Gifts: Carrying It All

I have an iPhone and I bring it with me everywhere - and I go through cases quickly.  I loved my Agent 18 mix-tape case, but broke the corner of it off accidentally (not to mention it got really dirty) and had been using Contour's Flick case, which unfortunately wasn't terribly useful since I had to take the entire case off when I put it into my roommate's speakers.

So I was really thrilled when my brother and sister bought me a TRTL BOT iPhone case for Christmas.  I knew that I wanted my next case to be more environmentally friendly than my last ones, and TRTL BOT cases are made from recycled water bottles (and other recycled plastics!) and locally designed and manufactured*.

The best part about this case is that it holds three credit cards in the slot in the back - though when three cards are in there it's a bit difficult to get them back out (they are snug).  It's probably better to keep two cards there.  One or two cards fit well so I'm not worried about bringing it out when I run errands or when I'm out partying.  I rarely bring cash out with me, so this can fit my ID and a credit card.  It's perfect for all my sparkly clutches, which can't fit my wallet.

It's completely functional (it doesn't cover the camera, charging slot, or any of the other buttons) but there are a few things I wanted to mention.  It's a little bulkier than my old cases because of the credit card holder, but not to the point of discomfort - it's still easy to use.  The other note is that it's not a glossy-shiny plastic, like my Flick case was.  It's recycled so it's a duller, smoother plastic.

Overall, I really love this case!  I'm excited to start using it when I go out and saving some space in my purse.

*My case has materials from Indiana and is manufactured in California, so it's not totally "local" to where I live, but much more so than other cases.  It's important to note that this company also tells us where the product is sourced and manufactured, an open information system similar to the one that Patagonia is moving towards.

UPDATE 12/26/10: Something else that I noticed that may be important for you guys... I almost always put my phone in my back pocket and I wear jeans.  The white case gets stained with the indigo from my jeans, so if that matters to you then you should probably get the black case.  (Or you should just not keep it in your jeans pocket...)  Most of the blue comes off with some all-purpose cleaner, but there's still a tinge of blue.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

NO Plastic Christmas Trees

My roommate, Lindsay, and I made an impromptu decision to buy a Christmas tree for our house.  As you can see, it's decorated in LED string lights and old lightbulbs that we decorated.

I've always been partial to real Christmas trees.  We've never had a fake Christmas tree, so maybe it's just out of habit, but there are tons of reasons that real Christmas trees are both better and better for the environment.

  • They smell delicious
  • Fake Christmas trees are made out of plastic and PVCs (polyvinyl chloride - the stuff that smells when you open a new plastic shower curtain or inflatable pool toys)
  • Christmas trees are grown all over the country (all 50 states), while most fake Christmas trees are made in China or Taiwan
  • Fake Christmas trees can't be recycled; Christmas trees are completely biodegradable
  • Christmas trees take an average of 7 years to grow to 6 feet - they are one of the fastest growing trees
  • In the US there are about 1 million acres dedicated to growing Christmas trees, which give off tons of (much needed) oxygen

Merry Christmas,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Wrapping

Last minute have-to-do's!

Regardless of the fact that I haven't started wrapping any of my presents (save this one), I thought I'd share one of my favorite eco-tricks for wrapping gifts.

While sometimes I'll snag some wrapping paper from my parents, or even buy some recyclable gift wrap (Earth Presents, a company I work with occasionally, creates recyclable gift wrap from 100% post-consumer content - because most gift wrap can NOT be recycled due to the shine and sparkle in it), I'll wrap my smaller gifts in old magazine sheets.

I hate the look of gifts wrapped in newspaper, but magazines have such pretty pictures and end up looking really great covering a gift.  This gift doesn't yet have ribbon or a tag, but the addition of that will make this gift presentable (hahahaha, sorry).

To wrap your gift in 100% post consumer content:
Items needed:
- magazine
- tape, double-sided if you want to get all Martha Stewart-esque
- scissors
- gift
Time: 3 minutes
Cost: $0 - I save magazines from years ago... I still have my YM magazines.  Yes, they stopped publishing that in 2004... I know.
1) find a page or spread that you think would look good as wrapping
2) rip out the pages (or cut them out if you are more patient than I am)
3) tape the pages together if there are two pages (because I ripped my pages out, I fold them over to make the seam prettier)
4) wrap like you would a regular gift

And now you have perfectly functional gift wrap.  It does work best for smaller items, so I'll have to get a little more creative for the larger gifts.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Things I Love About Christmas Break

Casey loves wearing her Santa hat... Really.
  1. My house is so clean and I had nothing to do with it.  Because we don't throw down at our house, it's pretty much always clean.
  2. Delicious food that I didn't have to cook.  Seeing as I cook maybe a rotation of 15 meals, being at home is great - and I don't have to go grocery shopping.
  3. My dogs.
  4. No school work!  Because we're between semesters, I'm completely done, unlike Thanksgiving break when professors seem to assign more work since they know we have free time.
  5. Time to do nothing.  I can read for pleasure which is pretty unheard of while I'm at school.  I can watch movies because I have nothing to do.  I can sit around and watch all the TV channels that I don't have at school.
  6. And most importantly... being with my family and friends from home.
Hope you all have a great Christmas/holiday break!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting Organized

Now that I'm finally done with finals, I decided to get organized.  It probably doesn't look super different but now I can at least see most of my makeup.  I'm thinking that I need a bigger makeup box...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

With Love from Greece

I even liked the light blue - a color I probably would never have bought on my own!

Sephora has this amazing eyeliner holiday set by my favorite makeup company, Korres.

It comes with 10 eye pencils: two black (one soft, one regular), one gold, one silver, one grey, one lavender, one navy, one light blue, one brown, and one green.  These eye pencils normally retail for $16, and prior to this purchase I've had my soft black and brown eye pencils for a few months, but this set is $32.50 at Sephora and comes with colors I'd wanted to try (like gold!) but couldn't justify spending $16 dollars for.  So a $160-valued set for $32.50 makes for ridiculous savings of $127.50!

Korres is a beauty company based in Greece that works only with natural ingredients.  They don't use mineral oils, silicones, or other non-biodegradable ingredients, nor do they test on animals.

This exclusive holiday gift set is a real steal, so treat yourself (like I did) to some great eye pencils.  I even got my friend, Katie, to convert and she loves these eye pencils now (her favorite is the soft black).

More about the ingredients after the jump:

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Very Indie Christmas

Let it snow!

With 12 days of Christmas left to go, I present to you some of my favorite Christmas tunes.

Some faves that didn't make the list, because they weren't available on iLike, are:

  • "Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto" off of Belle and Sebastian's John Peel Christmas Album
  • "It's Christmas, Let's Be Glad" off of Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas Singalong
  • "Blue Christmas" by Bright Eyes off of Saddle Creek Christmas
  • "Plastic Christmas Trees" off of Summer Cats' Christmas Cats

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cool it!

I was thinking about getting a laptop cooling pad because I use my laptop all the time while sitting on my bed and sometimes it gets really hot.

I ordered the Logitech Cooling Pad in green (my favorite color!) and I love it.  I use it all the time now and it works great whether it's on my lap or on my desk.

I love that it plugs into my USB outlet which turns the fan on.  I was really concerned about the fan because I didn't want it to be loud, but I can barely hear it when it's on.  Another great thing about the fan is that it pushes the air out towards the back of your laptop so it doesn't just simmer around the bottom of your laptop.  There are two little rubber pads on the laptop pad that prevent my laptop from sliding off.

My laptop has a 13.3" screen and there's about an inch of space around my laptop on the pad, so it would probably fit a laptop that's slightly larger than mine.

Overall, I love my laptop pad - it was a great purchase and was on sale at Amazon.

UPDATE: 12/13/10
I realize I forgot to say - I'm not 100% in love with the way that the cable cord doesn't roll up nicely.  It is clearly supposed to snap into the back where there's space but it takes a bit of effort to get it right.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Plastic Christmas Wreaths

To get into the winter spirit, I made this cute wreath for our house.  True, on the inside our house might be a mess of half-written term papers and Solo cups, but on the outside, we're slowly getting into the spirit.

The best part is I made it using household items that would have just gone to the bin - plastic bags and a wire hanger.  I used ones that my newspaper came in, but I could imagine a cute wreath made out of multicolored bags.  I finished this while watching two episodes of Law & Order and an episode of the Office.

To make your own plastic bag wreath:
Items needed:

- wire hanger
- plastic bags
- scissors
Time: 2.5 hours
Cost: $0 - all bags were saved and the wire hanger was from my roommate (thanks, Laurel!)
1) bend wire hanger to an approximate circle
2) cut up plastic bags into strips: I folded mine up and then cut straight across, but you may need to play around to see how thick you want your wreath to be
3) tie the strips around the hanger until the hanger is covered
4) hang on your door

A free and adorable craft - especially for those who can't bear to throw out any plastic bags.  Ours is currently hanging on the inside of our front door because of the crazy wind
 but hopefully when it gets calmer I'll hang it outside.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bringing Mac and Cheese... Back from the Fridge

A college staple, macaroni and cheese from the box is very difficult to save.  Even one night in the refrigerator turns it crusty and dry.  Macaroni and cheese from the box is one of my guilty pleasures.

The best way to salvage it, I've found, is to essentially recook it.  It takes about five minutes and it's as "fresh" as it was before.

To remake your boxed mac and cheese:
- milk
- butter
- shredded cheese (mixed or cheddar is fine)
- heat a pot to medium
- add some milk, less than a quarter of a cup should be enough
- put cold mac and cheese into the pot
- add about half a tablespoon of butter
- stir until it softens
- add shredded cheese to melt

I know that I really should eat healthier, but if I'm going to have extra mac and cheese, why would I throw it out?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Veggie Sandwich that Isn't Gross

As a vegetarian, I sometimes find it really difficult to find sandwiches.  I like grilled cheese and mozzarella sandwiches, but I usually hate veggie wraps.

In accordance with trying not to eat greasy foods, I decided to order a Sconset sandwich from Jetties.  A Sconset is: "hummus, muenster cheese, sprouts, tomato, carrots, cucumbers, and avocado spread on multi-grain."

It was quite tasty, though there were too many carrots for my liking and I took out the sprouts.  The hummus and guacamole (avocado) was what really made it delicious.

To make your own Sconset:
- multigrain bread
- hummus
- guacamole
- muenster cheese (cheddar would also work)
- sliced tomatoes
- cucumber slices
- take 2 slices of multigrain bread
- spread guacamole on one slice, hummus on the other
- add a slice of cheese on both slices of bread
- add tomatoes on one slice of bread, and cucumbers on the other
- put together
- toast (optional) for a few minutes
- eat

I love hummus and I love guacamole, but I would never have thought to put them together.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy December

A hipster omelette.

I don't think I'd be the only university student who thinks that December is the worst month of the school year.  I've been swamped with final cases, final papers, and final presentations... not to mention end of the year activities for my groups, preparation for events next semester, and planning for some major university initiatives.

But being super-involved and pretty (extremely) type A means that this isn't the first time I've felt the crunch.  These are my rules for keeping sane...
  1. Eat normal meals.  It's important to keep a schedule where you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I frequently forget to eat meals when I get really busy, so this is definitely important.  I try to keep a small Clif bar in my bag for when I'm busy.  At the other extreme, it's also important not to snack to procrastinate.  I try to make sure to take a few minutes out of my day to cook simple meals, which tend to be healthier and and don't cost as much.  I'll make omelettes, simple Caesar salads, veggie burgers, or pasta - all of these take less than 20 minutes to make.
  2. Schedule everything.  My planner is filled with notes that I have to do for the day.  I like to set small goals for myself for every day.  If I have a 10 question math assignment due in three days, for example, in my planner I'll make a note to do the first 5 questions on the first day and the last 5 on the second day, leaving the last day to check over anything.
  3. Stay pretty.  Even when you're really busy and stressed, you still have time to throw on a pair of jeans. When you walk around in sweatpants, you feel like a scrub, so take three minutes in the morning to put on some mascara and chapstick - you'll feel a lot more awake and will be much more productive.  Along those lines, dry shampoo is your friend.
  4. Sleep.  Make a promise to get at least five hours of sleep a night.  One all nighter might be okay, but two will definitely burn you out.
  5. Be active.  Going to the gym is a weak spot for me. I used to be much better at going, but I've gotten involved with even more clubs this year and have taken up leadership positions - which takes up a lot of my time.  But by taking ten minutes for a bike ride or walking up a few flights of stairs, I at least feel a little better. 
  6. Breathe.  Take a few minutes out of the day to chat with friends, online window shop, and eat without your books out in front of you.  You'll feel a lot better and more refreshed.
Now my major goal will be to get through next Monday, which will be a super busy day for me, and then to follow all of my rules.