21 December 2009

Granola Interview with Goddess and Grocer

 As mentioned in a previous post I wanted to take the time to highlight some of my favorite local restaurants in Chicago that I think are great. They must meet certain criteria.

  • Must be a LOCAL non chain restaurant
  • Must have good food
  • Must have fed SLY at some point in her life (not for free. None of these places are paying me to highlight them. These are just places I like to frequent.)
  • Must practice some form of sustain behavior so that my "granola" highlight isn't in vain. :)
For my first restaurant highlight, I was able to interview the owner which turned out great. (insert happy dance here!)

Today we will hear from Debbie Sharp, the owner of The Goddess and Grocer and Feast.

SLY:  How long has The Goddess and Grocer been around? 

DS: 5 and a half years, I think. 

SLY: What’s the difference between The Goddess and Grocer and Feast?

DS: Feast is  a sit down restaurant with a more global approach to food and wine - a neighbor restaurant with a global beat - is how we like to brand it. The Goddess and Grocer covers a much wider range than a restaurant - we have sandwiches, prepared foods, salads, pastries and desserts, catering - all made from scratch as well as drinks, a fantastic wine selection, is for quick bites, easy take out and wonderful catering 

SLY: I read in another interview that you got your start working in the entertainment industry as a caterer to entertainers such as Princess Diana, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, and the likes. Was that an amazing experience or what? WOW! Any interesting quick stories you can tell?

DS: I actually started out as an accountant, went into journalism and back into accounting before I started working for Adam and The Ants, a punk band in England in the late 70s and early 80s. Then I went into catering. My most amazing experience was working with Linda McCartney, who was such a strong woman but also such a caring and loving person. She always amazed me the way she kept her family so close and was also so embracing of everybody on the road.

Fun times - shopping in a local supermarket in Germany, and I had loaded 15 supermarket carts and as I was loading them, somebody was putting them back on the shelves, thinking I was a crazy woman, but too polite to ask me. it was like a comedy.

On George Michael, in Verona,  Italy, he was about to go on stage but  it started sinking into the ground. They thought there were going to be riots when they cancelled the show and they hid us in these caves in the  back of the amphitheater and sort of forgot about us for a few hours. thought we were going to be buried there along with other Roman soldiers.

SLY: Are any of the ingredients that you cook with natural, organically and/or locally grown? 

DS: We try and use local products but they are very expensive considering they are locally grown.  I am very much a natural cook though and we don't use any additives or preservatives for anything. When I first came to the States, which was with the McCartney tour in 1989, I was shocked at all the added ingredients in food and wouldn't buy anything. It taught me a lot about using fresh products only. (SLY: And I must say, Debbie's food is FRESH and so TASTY!)

SLY:  Your menu seems to change based on the season…does this mean that you try to create menus based on what’s in season?

DS: We have some favorites that we need to keep on a regular basis for both stores, as customers would be upset without them and then we change seasonally. (SLY: This is a very important aspect of eco-conscious eating!)

SLY:  Do you practice any sustainable methods within your restaurant? (Whether that’s through recycling, using wheat flour, or using left over veggies to make soup?  

DS: I have always recycled, I was one of the first restaurants in Chicago to do so. I also hate waste so I try to make sure we use up as much as possible. When I was in Mosco with Bon Jovi, also in 1989, we were doing a huge concert with 10 bands and I had brought all the food by truck from London because Moscow would not have the amount of food we need to feed 800 people on a daily basis for 2 weeks. I used to see the old woman going through our trash everyday picking through it and also our Russian helpers, so everything that was left over, we would box up and leave it out for them to take home.

SLY: What are some of your signature vegetarian and vegan dishes? 

DS: Goddess does a great bbq tofu sandwich and the garden goddess wrap is my favorite of alll the sandwiches. For Feast we do some really great Indian and Thai curries but do them as complete meals with four or five different things on the plates - maybe samosas,  vegetable curry, basmati rice, pappadum, mango chutney, raita (SLY: I have tried the BBQ tofu sandwich and it is AMAZING. Even some of my meat eater friends love that sandwich.)

SLY: Why should someone come to Goddess and Grocer versus Potbelly's?

DS: We always say maybe twice the price but we are three times the sandwich! We also use much better quality bread, meats and cheese and our fillings literally are three times as much. But I do think Potbelly's does a good job. I like a couple of their salads a lot. (SLY: Such a classy lady. Giving Potbelly's props!)

SLY: Anything else you'd like to share?

DS: I think the economy is picking up because we are really busy and thrilled about it!

One of my favorite things about Goddess and Grocer is their RED VELVET CUPCAKES. I have eaten a LOT of red velvet cupcakes, including my own. But the BEST ones I've ever tried are from Goddess and Grocer.

You can find out more about Debbie or her wonderful restaurants below......


1646 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60647
p: 773.342.3200


25 East Delaware Place
Chicago, Illinois 60611
p: 312.896.2600


2200 N Elston Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60614
p: 773.292.7100 

1616 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago. IL 60647
Ph: 773.772.7100

25 E. Delaware Place
Chicago. IL 60611
Ph: 312.337.4001
Twitter: Goddess and Grocer 

17 December 2009

I Blame it all on Dr. Seuss

I love books.

Just yesterday I sent an email to one of my former professors from college asking for a new reading list. I just spent a LOT of money on Half.com buying books for myself and for friends. The fact that I can buy a hardcover copy of Drowning Ruth for $4.00, $3.25 of which is shipping cost..thus meaning the book itself cost 75 cents is CRAZY! So I bought three copies for friends. I'm not sure which friends have it already and which do not so if you do not, tell me and I'll ship it to you. Same goes for The Myth of You and Me and The Memory Room.

I once received a gift from someone for Christmas that was a little figurine of a girl with a book in her hand. The giver explained that she always saw me with either a book and/or journal at all times and when she saw figurine, she thought of me. That figurine sits on my bookcase till this day! I LOVE BOOKS! I love reading. I love stories. The more I read, the better I write, the fuller my imagination becomes..books transform my mind. God created books and stories for me! Maybe for you too. But mainly for me!

A friend recently put a link on facebook about the World's Most Beautiful Libraries. AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

I would give up sex for an ENTIRE year to spend five seconds in each of those libraries! (I mean, I adore you Mr. Officer. I can taste you in the air I breathe. But those libraries are heaven. I could die there and you'd know it was okay!)

So back to books. I recently signed up to participate in a book challenge. The African Diaspora Reading Challenge by BrownGirl Speaks. I found out the challenge via Raquel at HomeGirl. I found out about Raquel through Veola (my mom) from Do You, Inc. Talk about networking, branching out, and discovering new and amazing people!

Brown Girl says of the challenge....

PictureThe African diaspora speaks mainly to the dispersion of African descendants in the Americas and Europe due to the Atlantic slave trade. Yes, Africans were enslaved or migrants to other parts of the world but the term is usually in reference to the aforementioned areas. So, for this challenge, books read will be by Black authors and set in Africa, North America, South America, Central America, Caribbean Islands, and Europe. Yes, this is broad but it means the possibilities are endless. Hopefully, those who participate will gain more incite into the myriad of Black cultural experiences.

Now, for guidelines:
*This challenge will run from January 1, 2010-December 31, 2010
*Crossovers are allowed
*Fiction and nonfiction hard copies or e-books from any genre (no audio books)
*Participants should visit different geographical regions in their reading (i.e. not all African American or Afro-Brit or Haitian or any one group representing the diaspora)
*Levels of participation
  Novice: commitment to read four (4) books
  Versed: commitment to read eight (8) books
  Scholar: commitment to read twelve (12) books
*If you need ideas, here's a list of authors and titles in the African diaspora.
*There will be a prize drawn amongst those who complete the challenge.
*I may host a mini challenge at some point as well and there would be a prize. Only challenge participants will be eligible.

To join to challenge sign up via her website.

So far I have purchased 7 books. My goal is to read 12. I picked people who I was familiar with and people I had never heard of.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Let the Lion Eat Straw by Ellease Southerland
The Untelling by Tayari Jones
So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora by Michael Angelo Gomez
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

Do you have suggestions on other books I can read that fit within the guidelines? I'm excited.

Books can be very expensive to some people. Some books are about $30. I'd drop $30 on a book but I look twice at a dress from Forever 21 that's the same price but then I'd spend $30 on Thai food but I wonder why a video game cost the same amount. It's crazy what we think is reasonable and unreasonable.

If you are one who doesn't like spending too much on books try websites like half.com and amazon.com. Swaptree.com is also amazing. You only pay for shipping and you get to get rid of books, movies, music, or games you no longer want cluttering your house. You can also try local bookstores and the sale racks in regular bookstores.

Purchasing used books is a very sustainable lifestyle approach. While half.com is a "greener" choice, its probably even better to bike to your local used bookstore and purchase them locally.

While purchasing books used is environmentally sustainable, I don't know how culturally sustainable that is. The authors must make enough of a living to be able to write more stories and support themselves. So perhaps the publishers or manufacturers need to use 100% post consumer recycled paper or some other material all together.

I suppose some will say a Kindle is a sustainable approach. God, what if the Kindle becomes the next iPod. I would cry. I would throw my body on a floor and have a FIT! While I love my ipod and love that at any moment I've carrying over 3000 songs with me at all times...I love a physical book! I love underlining and highlight and writing in my books. I love the smell of books. I love the weight of books. I love folding the pages down. I don't want to read a book on an electronic device. I REFUSE!

You could also go to the library and borrow books. Unfortunately I have a very bad problem with returning the books. I don't like too. I want to keep them. I'd rather give them something else in the place of the book that I took. But for you, I encourage you to go to the library. For me, I will just buy my books used. (Although if its an author that I love, I usually buy there latest books full price to show my support for them!)

Another idea I like instead of the library is swapping books with friends. Whether that's permanately or temporarily. I like when friends let me read their books and vice versa. But again..I don't like returning their books and I want them to return ALL of mine asap. I'm a book whore. AND I DON'T CARE!

If you were going to be stuck on an island and I could ensure you had one book with you to read, what would that book be.....
....SLY's TOP PICKS for MUST READS are (in no particular order becase you should read them all)

Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwartz (I also like ALL of her other books but this one is the best. I believe Wes Craven is now going to make it into a movie and I think its very fitting)
Children of Men by P.D. James (its different from the movie but JUST AS AMAZING!)
Strange Fits of Passion by Anita Shreve. (Really. I love just about all of her books. I think I have over 15 or so.)
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. (SO SO SO Freaking amazing! If you like the Brother's Grimm Fairy Tales and NOT the Disney ones you are going to have an orgasmic experience!)
The Myth of Me and You by Leah Stewart. (The ad for this book said, "if you've ever googled and old friend's name, you should read this book." And its true. If you have ever had a falling out with a friend, even for legitimate reasons...this rocks your world.)

The Memory Room by Mary Rakow (This woman can have my soul if only she will write another book. The book is pretty much highlighted in its entirety. Do you want a copy? I will buy you one as a gift because you must read this book!)
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. (She is local to Chicago and this book is perfect. She does so many great things.
I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. (I hated his book, She's Come Undone. But I love everything else. This book is like 900 pages but it is worth every bit!)
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. (Another good one by Lamb)
The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve. (If I had to pick one of her billion books that you must must read. This would be the one!)
The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. (Its written after The Last Time They Met but its the prequel and sequel. You won't have any idea until you read both!)
Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder. (The best memoir I have ever read. He has worked with everybody. He is so fascinating and so human. I wish he was my uncle!)
Lip Service; The Truth about Women's Darker Side in Love, Sex and Friendship by Kate Fillion. (Its not what you first think. Trust me. Its not anti-feminist or feminist. Its just the plain and simple and complicated truth. The ENTIRE book is underlined and highlighted! This woman needs to write some more stuff!)
Unspeak: How words become weapons, how weapons become a message and how that message becomes reality by Steve Poole. (Every communication and sociology major should read it. Anyone who opens their mouth should read it really!)
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. (Every child on the face of this earth should read it! If you are a christian and disagree...ummm stop reading my post! I don't even want to hear your stupid critique. Seriously. I really think what you have to say is stupid.)

EVERY SINGLE BOOK written by Dr. Seuss. (I credit Dr. Seuss with teaching me how to read!)

For teens...I recommend...(and my 15 year old sister has approved of this message!)

Perfect by Natasha Friend
Lush by Natasha Friend
Bounce by Natasha Friend.

(She also has two other books. One due out in April called For Keeps and one I can't find anywhere called Night Swimming.)

So there you have it.

Sarasvait is the Indian God of Speech, Wisdom and Learning and  Thoth is the African God of Writing and Knowledge. With my passionate affair with books, knowledge, learning, studying and writing...I believe I must be a direct descendant from them both. I channel them daily.

Read any good books lately?

09 December 2009

Sustainable Music

I can not remember how I happened upon Diego Stocco but I am glad that I did. First just watch his video where he creates beautiful music from an element of nature...SAND!

Diego Stocco - Music From Sand from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

Um. Wow.

Nature may not do it for everyone, but for me...I love music. I love sound. I love rain on pavement and the sound traffic makes against that. I love the sounds nature makes and I love the sounds musicians make. I love music. After coming across Diego Stocco's work, I started thinking about sustainable approaches towards music and within a few minutes my google search was out of control.

First, I thought about how its such a practical idea to use nature itself in creating music. Diego used sand in one video and a tree in another to create sounds. You can't get more granola than that!

Then I thought about how you can use a simplistic approach towards music. While some people like a huge spectacle type of show such as the U2 concert which I will touch upon later, I also love when its just a singer and their guitar. I can't tell you what the sound of that does to me. Such as a dear friend of mine Dave Seume. Now, Dave can put on a good show. I went to enough of his concerts during college and recorded pretty much all of them. But what I love about one of his latest singles and videos is how he just has his guitar and he sings a song that is so beautiful. Listen to my friend. Dave and his guitar. That's sustainable!

Another approach towards sustainability in music is purchasing used instruments. I really want a guitar and instead of buying a new one, I'd love to have a used one. Perhaps I'll scourer craigslist for a good one.

Another approach is educating yourself. Sustainability and Music is a whole other topic. I'm doing a short post about it but their are blogs and alliances out there just for this in mind. I happened upon Sustainable Music which focuses on cultural sustainability in regards to music but I believe that's just as important as environmental sustainability and economic sustainability. I also came across the Green Music Alliance.
There was so much information on that website it was out of control...in a good way. Take some time and explore the site. I found so many resources. I didn't know there was such a movement! Why can't all the various movements join as one, to really show the true number of people who are really making an effort towards sustainability.

Another thing that I personally do is download all my music. I believe this leaves a far less carbon impact than buying cd's or vinyls or cassette tapes.

Another thing you can do, go to local jazz lounges and open mic cafe type places and hear and support the local musicians in your area.

On a different note, recently I had to opportunity to attend to opening night of U2's 360 tour that began in Chicago. It was amazing! I had encountered Bono before at my undergraduate college because he was there spreading the word about the ONE campaign. But I had never seen him rock before! The concert was incredible!

But while it was incredible it left a GIGANTIC carbon footprint. I wish you could have seen it. The stage was MASSIVE. The sheer amount of energy used....all those lights....all those amps. The stage manager booth was bigger than my apartment. Probably bigger than most people's houses. Imagine that. Needing a booth the size of a house to run the show from. That's crazy.

I heard things like, it taking over 200 trucks to move the concert from city to city. I heard it cost 40 million to build the stage. 334 stage hands to make it all work. The fact that it takes 5 days to assemble the stage and 3 days to take it apart...I've never heard of such a thing. How did such a massive, expensive show fit with their environmental beliefs.

The Edge spoke with   BBC News and was quoted as saying,"I think anybody that's touring is going to have a carbon footprint. I think it's probably unfair to single out rock 'n' roll. There's many other things that are in the same category but as it happens we have a programme to offset whatever carbon footprint we have." He was also quoted as saying, "We'd love to have some alternative to big trucks bringing the stuff around but there just isn't one."

Here's the thing. As much as I LOVED the show. The effects were out of this world. The band was AMAZING, everything was great...but as much as I loved it, I still feel his comments are a bit of a cope out. For a group that is trying to literally feed the hungry children in africa, it seemed like for as long as they have been in the business they could have come up with some creative solutions and alternatives.

But I don't judge them. While I spout out my granola tendencies, there are other areas in my life where true "greenist" would be appalled. So I get it. I have a quote on one of my art journals that's from Bono. It says something to the effect of, "I want to be a Rock Star and save the world too!"

Can they co-exist? Is it ok to spend half your fortune on your every whim and then the other half on starving children. Or should it all go to them? When is enough enough?

I can't answer that questions. But I can say that I hope that they find another way to put on their shows. What if the biggest Rock Band in the world was able to give a phenomenal experience to its fans while still taking sustainable measures. It would set the standard in the music industry!

One of my favorite moments from the show was probably one of the quietest, less showy moments. It was when The Edge played guitar and Bono held the mic and together just the two of them sang, "Stuck in a Moment." To me, that simple moment was the most mind blowing of all. The Edge, Bono and an acoustic guitar.

What could U2 have done differently? What are other ways in which music can be environmentally sustainable? Diego used sand and trees to make music...what else should he use? Have you created music from the earth.

Practical Steps towards lowering your utility bill.

A friend wanted to know the practical steps towards reducing my energy usage and decreasing the amount I pay on my energy bill.

I believe when I moved into my apartment back in May, my first two bills were about $20 to $22 dollars. That was with living my normal lifestyle without taking extra measures towards being more eco conscious.

Here is what I do and I know its not conducive for everyone. (Remember I live alone which means I live in a controlled environment in a small city apartment)

  • Live alone. While some say its cheaper to live with roommates, I have found its cheaper to live alone. Or at least, if you live with roommates, live with someone who is conscientious about their energy consumption and amount they spend on utilities. My former roommates were more than ok with spending $100+ on the electricity bill. I was NOT ok with that. By living alone or living with people who are like minded you know that the lights are being turned off. You know that energy isn't being wasted. If you have children, you can teach them to be conscious of the energy they consume. I actually came across a toy called the Power Hog that children are to plug into the wall. And when its fully charge, there is something to indicate to the kid that they can unplug the piggy. And when the piggy runs out of charge, the child has to feed it a coin to turn it back on thus teaching the child that energy isn't free. Anyone know what I'm talking about. Even without these crafty little strategically marketed "green" toys, you can teach your children to turn the lights off when they leave a room, to not leave the water running, and such.

  • Get outside. During the summer I spent little time at home. I work a full time job and I stayed active in either theater shows, beach volleyball teams, traveling, bike rides and such. By spending time outdoors, I was spending less time at home with lights on, watching tv and wasting energy. So add a thing or two to your schedule. Instead of watching tv with your children, take them to the park. Its free! Cable and Electricity are not.

  • Unplug appliances from the wall or use surge protectors. The ONLY thing plugged into my walls on a consistent every day basis is my Fridge and Stove...which I don't really count. And my router for my wireless internet because if I unplugged that, it would take forever for it to reboot. I unplug my lamps from the wall. I unplug my phone chargers from the wall. My microwave stays off and unplugged unless I need to use it. So does my blender, printer, external hard drive and other chargers.

  • Use less artificial light. This may be harder for some people rather than others. This lady that I work with always makes fun of me and says I like living in a cave. For every light that she turns on at work, I want to turn another off. I am quoted as saying that "fluorescent lights suck my soul away." I only like using enough light that's necessary. As little light as possible. Whenever I skype with Mr. Officer he complains about not being about to see me. While he has 20 lamps on, I think I have one on. "I know what I'm going to buy you," he says, "A desk lamp!" Its funny but its also true of me. I don't really like turning lights on. Turn on the lights only when you need too. Use candles. Use natural lighting. I have lots of windows in my apartment. Therefore I can use the sunshine for many things. In the mornings I just wash my face and brush my teeth. Since I'm not styling my hair or applying makeup, I don't really need the light on. When I shower, I shower with the light off. It feels better that way. Right this very moment, how many lights are on in your place?

  • Own less stuff or own multi-functional devices. I don't have a flat iron. hot curler. blow dryer. dvd player. tv. wii. radio. alarm clock. toaster. food processer. Because I have less stuff. That's less stuff to use. My laptop serves as a laptop and a radio and a tv and a dvd player. Since I wear my hair natural and use simple styles like twist to make other styles, I don't need a blow dryer, flat iron, curler or anything else. (I don't even own a brush or comb!) My blender doubles as a food processor. My boiler toast my food just fine.

  • Open the windows and Drink Water.  Because my air runs on electricity, I specifically did things differently as oppose to turning the air on. I kept my windows open for most of the summer. Since our summer this year was more like spring, there weren't too many HOT HOT days. If I were hot even with the window open, I'd SOMETIMES turn my ceiling fan on. But MOST times I'd drink water or lemonade. I'd eat popsicles and gelato.
So that's what I did. And by doing so I took an already cheap bill of $22 down to $15. But keep in mind, I live alone in a small apartment and I don't own as much stuff as the average person and I have an natural aversion to artificial light in the first place.

What to do when you live with roommates who don't care about energy consumption and the money they spend on utilities?
  • Move Out or Find a Subleasee. (You can't change people. You can impact and influence them. But only to a certain point. And some people give no priority to the environment or the weight of their energy usage. Let those people be and move on and move out.)
What to do when you live with a spouse and family?
  • Since its your family, you have greater influence on what people do in the house. And while a spouse may not be too keen on your new granola ways, I'm pretty sure they are keen on saving money. Why spend a saturday in the house with everybody watching their tv's in their own room or listening to their ipods or talking on their cell phones when you can go to the beach as a family? Or go on a picnic? Or play a game? 

What were ways you lowered your utility bill? I'm looking to bring my bill from $15 to $13. Any advice on what else I can do? (I could watch even less tv on Hulu.com than I currently watch. Then my computer wouldn't drain as much and I wouldn't need to charge it. Instead I could spend more time journaling and reading books. I could also spend intentional weekends going "off the grid" with an elective blackout. )

    Reforestation and Trees for a Change

     While I am a bit of a granola and I like a nice sunny day, I wouldn't say that I'm much of a "nature" girl. I've never been camping like "real" camping. Where you sleep in a tent and a sleeping bag with only the trees and stars and BUGS. I don't do a lot of hiking in forest preserves here in Illinois. I've never climbed a big mountain, I don't think.

    But I spend time in the mountains of South Dakota. I spent a summer as a camp counselor at a camp where there were tons of trees and a giant lake. I went to Wisconsin with a friend and we went on a long ASS walk through a wintery forest that led to a water fall. I have happened upon rivers and ponds. I've seen the sky in all its glory. When it rains, sometimes I cry. I clearly remember the first time I swam in the ocean. And my Aunt's ranch and farm in Tennessee reminds me of all that is good in the world.

    So while I don't own a pair of hiking boots, there is something that still draws me to nature. When ever I am surrounded by water or trees or standing in an open field or on the edge of a cliff, I literally feel god. I breathe him. I hear him. I smell and taste him.

    I remember once after having a near break down in an open field in South Dakota the peace that later ensued. Earlier in the day a group of theater students were playing volleyball in this large open field surrounded by mountains. I remember walking on the open field and taking the entire scene in. At once I felt connected to nature. But then I remember something about nature and all the grass and dirt reminded me that a friend of mine had died the year before and his body was beneath the dirt. And I lost a bit of my grip of reality and couldn't think straight. And as people were playing volleyball,  I freaked out! A little while later a few women and I went on a walk up the mountain. We arrived at the edge of a cliff where if you went to far you could fall to your death which reminded me of another friend who had died two years before in a hiking/climbing accident. Which also reminded me of Todd Skinner.

    And I was just not feeling peaceful at all. But then we sat on the edge of the cliff and three of the women began singing hymns. Not the churchy ones. But the ones that tie you to this earth and tie you to god. And that moment was perfection. Nothing could have soothed my spirit like the sound of the water below, the wind in the trees, and their voices singing. I need moments like that.

    I need my Aunt's farm....

    I need the ocean and the sun setting and waterfall.....

    I mean my real issue with "nature" is the bugs. I just don't like bugs. Except the Orchid Mantis. Now that is a BUG. If you are going to be a bug, you should be an Orchid Mantis.

    I digress. Nature plays a big part in my life despite my city dweller status. At least once a year I escape somewhere to get back to earth whether its to the ocean, to a farm, to a mountain, to a national park. I go somewhere that isn't man made and I remember there is something bigger than me.

    I forget that as permanant as nature should be, these moments of oneness with the earth that I enjoy so much are dwindling if we continue on our current course of action. Who would think that the trash I produce, the food I consume, the water and energy that I use could be linked the the likely disappearance of the ocean and mountains and trees that I cherish so much. They go hand in hand.

    In the past few years there have been all sorts of natural disasters. I believe some of these "natural" disasters are due to man's careless disregard for the earth. Among these natural disasters has been the deforestation of many parts of the world due to fires, man's own greed and many other reasons. The thought of losing trees and never having them back is so weird to me. But its not foreign.

    What can be done?

    Along with finding ways to live a more sustainable life, we can also do things like plant a tree! As cheesy as it sounds like naming a star, it is still a practical step towards returning the earth to a more harmonious state.

    Wouldn't it be nice if you could plant a mountain too? And an ocean? And a park and a beach. Well, I suppose you can. you can volunteer and be a part of a team that does ocean clean up or something. There are many hands on ways you help. Or you can have an organization plant a tree. For you or as a gift for someone else.

    There are three organizations I know of that plant trees.

    Arbor Day Foundation

    The Nature Conservancy

    I personally like Trees for a Change because more of a grassroots effort started by a woman who would glitterfy pine cones as a child and try to sell them. I like her organization as well because the trees they plant are within U.S. National Forest to replace trees destroyed by wildfire, disease or insects. I had no clue until reading their website the sheer volume of trees and acres of land that are in need of reforestation.

    There are all kinds of things you can do big and small towards living a more sustainable life. If there were a list of things to do, I'm pretty sure planting a tree or having an organization do it for you would make the top 100 sustainable things and individual could do.

    Have you ever planted a tree? Do you know of other organizations similar to the ones listed above? Do you think having a tree planted is too cheesy?

    08 December 2009

    Natural Hair Care

    After posting a video about how I style my hair, a friend asked if I had any advice on dreadlocks since that is how she rocks her hair right now.

    Wearing your hair as it naturally grows...is a very sustainable approach towards being more conscious of the footprint you leave on the earth.

    I didn't realize how many women of ALL races chemically and/or permanently alter their hair, ALL the time. Whether they are coloring it, straightening it, curling it, styling it, blow drying it, and whatever else. Think about the amounts of products you put in your hair. Think about all the chemicals and unnatural substances that you are putting on your hair and body. Think about all the money you use to buy those products or pay the beautician. It's crazy!

    What are the sustainable benefits towards wearing your hair natural? These are the ones that I've experienced.

    SIMPLISTIC LIFESTYLE: If you hair is curly, wavy or straight, embracing its natural state of being gives your life and personal upkeep a sense of simplicity. I know women who spend HOURS doing their hair ALL the time. Whether its in the morning during their wash, condition, blow dry, flat iron, style or in going to the beauty salon. Just letting your hair be, lets you BE. I love the time that I have saved and given back to myself by wearing my hair in its naturally curly state.

    SAVE MONEY: Wearing your hair as it naturally is, enables you to SAVE LOADS of MONEY. Since my hair is curly and heat can damage my hair, I don't own a blow dryer, I don't own a flat iron. I don't go to the beauty shop. I don't have to pay for a relaxer every month. I don't have to pay for products because my hair doesn't really need them.

    CREATE NATURAL PRODUCTS: Before I was natural I used products like spritz, gel, setting lotions, and all kinds of other things. The list is too long. Since embracing the natural I now mix and make my own products. I've realized I don't need to put as much stuff in my hair...(simplistic and money-saving realization). Now I have three main things I put in my hair occasionally. One is a mix of tree tree oil, olive oil and grapeseed oil with a little water and a little conditioner. Another mix is of vegetable glycerin, water, rosewood essential oil, rose otto essential oil and rosemary essential oil. I also put various forms of shea butter in my hair. That's about it. While I use an all natural shampoo and conditioner, sometimes I just use Apple Cider Vinegar as my shampoo and it works just as well when toned down with water.

    GENERATE LESS TRASH: Since going natural I have generated less trash since I am purchasing less products. A lot of the oils and things that I use to put in my hair are the very oils that I cook with, perfume my home with, or make other body products with.

    GENERATE LESS POLLUTION: Isn't there something to be said about all those chemicals and sprays that you put in your hair also being put into the environment. Since going for simplicity and creating my own hair care solutions, I don't pollute the air I breathe with crazy products. I suppose I'm also generating less pollution since I'm not driving to and from the hair shop and/or stores to buy more stuff for my hair.

    LEARN A NEW THING: Since I don't go to the beautician anymore, which has enabled me to save lots of money, I learned to style my own hair. I'm not an expert. I probably can't do your hair even if you paid me. But I learned how to do my hair. While I can't french braid or do corn rows, I do know how to do two strand twist and with that simple knowledge I've been able to generate all sorts of styles for the last six years. People say, "I never know what your hair is going to look like but its always fly." There is a sense of empowerment in taking care of myself like that. I don't have people dress me, feed me, and bathe me so why pay someone to twist my hair when I can go it while catching up on tv shows on hulu.com?

    Whats my advice towards those with locks? I suppose it depends on the advice you are looking for.(I wore my hair in locks for a year and then pulled a Britney and cut all my hair off)

    For general upkeep, no matter how you wear your hair, make sure you to keep your hair moisturized and healthy, but don't over do it and layer your hair with oil, water, creams and such. Find the right balance of what to put in your hair and when.

    For style ideas, just try stuff. Even if you think its crazy or weird. Every now and then, I just do something that I think is completely out of the norm with my hair. I'll pin one side this way and do a flop thingy here and all of a sudden I have a new style and everyone is asking, "who did your hair." Or google pictures to find ideas.

    For coloring locks, I have no clue. Google that!

    For starting them, do them your self, have a friend do it or go to the shop. I used google. Found some you tube videos and started my locks myself.

    For general upkeep, make sure you stay fly. I have seen some crazy looking hairstyles with people who have locked hair and I've seen things growing out of them and moving about inside of them and that's scary! Keep your locks clean! I washed my hair as often as I did before I had the locks. Keep your hair looking fresh and presentable. Its completely doable even with locks.

    I realize as I type this advice about locked hair, it can apply to those with unlocked hair. And my hair advice about wearing your hair natural, applies to all women across the board no matter their race or hair type.

    There is something spiritual about hair and its connection to the gods, the kundalini and the chakras. Channel your inner god and practice your granola ways by wearing your hair as it naturally grows.

    Do you alter your naturally straight or curly hair on a consistent basis? Why? Do you wear your hair natural? How does that line up with your sustainable lifestyle? What other advice did I leave out or what are other benefits towards wearing your hair natural?

    07 December 2009

    Dive! The Film

    I came across the trailer for this movie in one of my sustainability RSS feeds. Having just watched it, I'm at a lost for words.

    I'm sure there are some people who look down on people like those in this film because the Dive in dumpsters for food. They see them as too granola. And that fact that they can be arrested is sad.

    We waste so much food!

    To digress a little bit I remember a commercial years ago about dieting and they said something like, "Leave a little of your food on your plate at each meal"...because if you did that every time it would add up to you eating less and less. What that means is that left over food goes into the trash! Why not just put less food on your plate in the first place.

    Anyways. I know a little bit about food being thrown out when its still viable. My company when hosting an event that's catered sometimes tosses the food out at the end of the day. Why? Because we don't have a place to store it. Because we can't give it to the homeless because of liability issues. When I am able to, I take as much food with me to rehearsals and performances for the actors and crew to eat. Sometimes I've taken fruit and made cookies and pies with them and brought them back to work.

    Still. So much food is wasted. But what can you do when you can't donate it to a worthy cause. At least, don't arrest the people who have the balls to dive for you food.

    Why can't all restaurants and such offer the day old food that's still viable at discounted prices. I know some places that do that.

    Somehow I believe part of this is due to money. Profit. Capitalism and consumerism. Its like when instead of sharing the food with the underprivileged in the past, farmers would burn the food instead. It's crazy.

    I have faced my own challenges with living alone when it comes to preparing food and not wasting it.

    • A lot of my food used to go bad by the time I got around to using it
      • I've tried shopping as needed versus doing monthly shopping. Sometimes though I don't have the time for that
      • I've also tried cooking multiple recipes that require the same ingredients, thus lessening my chances of wasting raw ingredients

    • A lot of my food used to go bad because I didn't want left overs three and four days later
      • I've learned to invite friends over so they can eat my food too. Makes it disappear faster
      • I've learned to alter a lot of my recipes so that I'm not making as much
    Do you waste a lot of food in your home? Do you compost? Would you ever dive in a dumpster for food?

    Honestly, I'm not sure that I would ever dive in a dumpster because all the other germs and trash freaks me out. But I don't judge the people who did it. I think they are pretty cool. And I'd eat the burger at their party too.

    03 December 2009

    Coming Soon.

    • Granola Tendencies second interview with someone very dear to me, Veola Jolly.

    • My own personal how-to guide of the process of moving in an environmentally sustainable way from packing to purging to storage. (I have learned a thing or two after having moved 10 times in the last five years.)
    • Granola Tendencies first giveaway! Exciting natural prizes!
    • Granola Tendencies recommendations for organic, local, and/or natural restaurants in Chicago. (I handle a lot of catering and tasting events and have come across some great places.
    • A few topical post on sustainability in the workplace. (Not that I'm an expert or anything but I did spend a year receiving certification in "Green Business". I have to remember to add that to my resume)
    • Updates on concocting my own toothpaste and deodorant and the continued search for home-made recipes for shower gel.
    Plus lots more to come. Stay tuned.

    When love isn't green

    I've mentioned a couple times, that while I am working towards living a more granola way of life, I am in a relationship with a man who doesn't always subscribe to that sort of approach. He has every opportunity to do so. I fantasize about his huge backyard. I imagine fruits and vegetables growing. Herbs and Flowers. I imagine using the compost from his kitchen to nourish the earth in his backyard. My fantasies run deep.

    His backyard is used to store the trailer to his truck for his motorcycles. His backyard houses a rusted basketball rim but I believe it holds extremely significant value to him. And it houses all of Mr. Magoo's poop and pee.

    I was speaking with Sam about how my life with Mr. Officer would align with these kinds of differences. These differences materialized in small ways during our time together at the Ritz last week while I was working in New York.

    Let me explain.

    I don't own a tv. By choice. I have a laptop and hulu and a netflix account. Any show that doesn't fit into either of those isn't worth watching.

    Mr. Officer. He has a tv in every room of his house. A flat screen tv in every room of his tri-level, three bedroom, two bathroom house. Even the bathroom. Even the kitchen and dining room which open onto themselves each have a tv.

    When visiting him, I don't make a fuss. It's his house. I'm a guest. His favorite guest! But its his house. He makes the rules. Just as I told him, when ever he came to Chicago he would have to do without a tv.

    While we stayed in the hotel, I kept the tv off as much as possible. The TV served as white noise for him. So we went back and forth turning the tv on and off throughout the night. I could stand it until it woke me up again and then I'd turn it off. He'd put up with that until the silence of the night was unbearable and turn it back on. What if we ever live together? I have a no tv in the bedroom rule. He has a tv in every room rule and it has to be on at all times rule. WTF? I think I could compromise with it being in the room so long as I didn't have to hear it every night while falling asleep.

    I also have a little thing about electronics in my bedroom in general. My cell phone, my laptop, ... all of that stuff. I keep it away from my bed. So in the hotel room I had my phone across the room on the desk while I sat on the bed....watching tv.... with Mr. Officer. My phone would buzz because of an email or facebook notification or text and each time I'd jump out of bed, check my phone, respond if necessary and then get back in bed leaving the phone on the desk. I must have jumped up like seven times before Mr. Officer was like, "What are you doing? Why don't you keep the phone with you in bed? You look crazy." I told him that I didn't like having electronics in bed. I liked having my phone away from me. "Suit yourself," he said. And throughout the night every so often he would send a text just to screw with me because he knew I'd get up each time. Silly Officer.

    Now part of Mr. Officer's NonGranola Tendencies are due to his career. He always needs one or sometimes two laptops on him. His phones always have to be turned on. He has to use a variety of cars.

    But seriously...he has seven computers, four cameras, three personal cars, two motorcycles, TV's EVERYWHERE, and the list goes on and on and all these things are ALWAYS on. The first time I stayed over night with him, I jumped at every sound and barely slept. At any given moment something would beep, tick, ring, or buzz. But I've gotten used to it. There are many adjustments I've made willing because its what comes with dating someone in his position. I get it. And while the thought of his electricity bill scares me, I know there are other ways he wouldn't mind being a bit more sustainable. (He probably pays in just taxes and tariffs what my full bill of $15 is.)

    • I'm pretty sure getting him to recycle wouldn't be an issue. 
    • Since he is VERY health conscious, purchasing organic fruits and vegetables would be a breeze. He loves local places. (He thinks New York is the center of the world.) So the whole eco-conscious eating thing would be SO easy. 
    • It might take some convincing but I think after working him over a bit, he'd let me have my way with his unused backyard.
    • I doubt he will unplug things from the wall. All of your arguments are not going to convince him.
    • He will never get on a bus or train
    • He probably won't ever buy things used.
    The will he or won't he list could go tit for tat.
      Although I find it funny. One of the organizations he leads is all about mentoring children. He's also a basketball coach and he has been quoted as saying, "We need to leave the world better than we found it." or something to that effect. He uses that to talk about why its important to have great relationships with children. But of what use is having people, if the very world itself can no longer sustain us. Perhaps if I use his own logic and the things he cares about, I could spin it in a way that would shift his paradigm of thinking and he might try a few granola things.

      I will definitely be using the tips from Green Girl Meets All American Boy to figure out our sustainable life together. My friend Sam mentioned that since dating her awesome boyfriend, because they are near each other, they pick up habits and tendencies from each other. Now he is recycling more and being more conscious about the way he consumes and his energy usage. Perhaps once I live closer to Mr. Officer that will be the case too. Does any one have advice? I will also say that its not my goal to convert him to my paradigm of thinking and if he never set foot in a thrift store it wouldn't be the breaking point of our life together. I just think there is room for growth and I don't want to ever lose any of my granola tendencies. HELP!

      02 December 2009

      Granola S.N.A.F.U.

      I mentioned in a previous post that for the past week I spent time working in New York! Amazing. If you had a peek inside my hand written journals since 2003...you'd know my love affair with New York...well before I began my love affair with Mr. Officer in New York. :) So the fact that I was able to work from there....AMAZING!

      Here's my question. How can I practice sustainable acts when things are beyond my control?

      First, I needed to get to New York. I suppose the most environmentally sustainable approach would be to walk there. Unfortunately that wasn't going to happen. I had to fly there. And there isn't a "Green Airline." And I am not a fan of carbon offsets. I believe they encourage complacency. I'm not sure that there was anything I could have done differently that would encourage a more sustainable approach with my flight.

       I suppose I could have taken the train and bus to the airport, as oppose to a car service. However, the car service arrived at 5am and where I live and with how dark it was...using public transportation on an early Sunday morning wasn't going to work.

      (This sounds like I'm making a list of my own complacent acts. I complain about carbon offsets and how they serve as a platform for people to NOT think creatively about problem solving and developing and yet I wasn't being creative either. Now, I'm depressing myself.)

      I will say that my stay at the Ritz was encouraging. I suppose I could have looked for a completely eco-friendly hotel in New York, of which I'm sure there are many. But the Ritz was a five minute walk to my office and remember my sustainable guidelines. Convenience is very important! (But not the most important.) What I will say is the Ritz doesn't change your sheets and towels every night. They encourage you to reuse them. And even though I forgot to unplug my chargers from the wall, when I came back to my hotel room...they had unplugged them and folded them nicely. (But they didn't unplug their stuff like the tv, radio and twenty lamps.)

      They could probably take things like their in room dining menu and info packet and put it on their hotel channel on the tv to decrease their paper usage.

      What I did do...was walk to work each day. There was also an organic grocery store a block from the hotel and I did my shopping there. I discovered this organic HEALTHY licorice from Australia that I fell in love with and Mr. Officer did too! When eating, I ate at local places and avoided restaurant chains. I avoided meat as much as possible. I also brought one of my water bottles from home and used that as oppose to bottled water.

      So there were little things I was able to do here and there but what i want are BIG changes in the travel industry. That would be amazing. Seeing the aviation and hospitality industry make large leaps in areas of sustainability would make my life on the road so much easier.

      I will admit...I turned the heat up in my hotel room. Not because I was rebelling. At home I keep a few blankets on my bed so that I don't need to heat on 100 degrees. But at the hotel there was only one comfortable. I suppose I could have requested another duvet. Especially since Mr. Officer kept pointing out that it was way too hot in the room.

      Oooh. Another sustainable practice and romantic gesture. Mr. Officer and I showered together. Now in the back of my mind, I was thinking...look at us conserving water. I doubt that ever crossed his mind.

      I'm not sure what else I could have done. Any advice on how I could travel in a more environmentally friendly way?

      boyfriend not green at all.

      01 December 2009

      The Anti Green Movement

      While looking for an image for an upcoming blog post where i had to type, "anti green" into the search field, I happened upon The Anti Green Movement. I don't know if this guy is serious or not. Or if he is just apathetic with a wonderful dark sense of humor but it did make me laugh out loud.

      I hope he doesn't offend your sustainable sensibilities. One thing Mr. Officer taught me is that we can't take ourselves too serious. We have to laugh. We also need to consider the other perspective. There is a quote...

      "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

      I love that quote. Although I don't consider his website the opposing idea. I think its just funny. I mean, the death of the environment isn't funny but like I said, we can't take ourselves too serious.

      Climate-Rising Tip #18 – Fly A Kite Through A Wind Farm


      Buy Nothing Day and Creative Gifting

      While it is a few days late, I will say I did not buy anything on Buy Nothing Day. I didn't feel as if I was making any difference because I've already been trying to consume less, buy less, use less and I'm not a big Christmas gift giving person. I usually just focus on my immediate family. I don't even send Christmas cards. Although in an effort to get rid of the hundreds of pages of magazine clippings and arts & crafts in my apartment, I am making homemade cute Christmas cards this year. At the rate I'm going, people may receive them by next Christmas. Or maybe I'll give myself an extra week and call them, "New Year Cards" or something. Any hoo.

      I have no intention of shopping. I shop for what I need and give myself a few indulgences. Although lately, I'm loving the empowerment behind creating and making my own products, that even my beauty indulgent purchases have decreased.

      (I must admit. I did just purchase another bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume. Its my signature scent and I was out. Even though I have probably 10+ bottles of other perfumes that i need to go through. Ugh. I know. I know. I'd give them away but they are half empty or 1/3 empty. Who's going to take that? I mean if you want it, you are welcomed to it. I'll ship them to you for free. Email me and I'll send you the list of all the kinds I have and I will send them your way. This would really help my personal guilt.)

      I digress.

      Everyone in my family already has their "holiday gift" except my five year old sister. I use the "" not because i said holiday but because I don't really do "date specific" gifts like birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, christmas gifts. I am the person who will purchase or make something that's perfect for you and give it to you right then. So my mother received her "birthday gift" two months before her actually birthday. It was an all expense paid trip to Vegas for five days.

      Last month my mother received her christmas gift early. Her laptop broke down and so I bought a brand new one for her with an external hard drive, with facial recognition software, with microsoft office...it was fully loaded! It wasn't really a christmas gift. Had this occurred in July, she would have received it then or whenever the need arose. Considering all the things my mother does with her laptop..homeschool children, take online classes her self, coordinate meet up groups, research, business and such...purchasing her a new one is granola. Laptops are multi-functional devices. Her's came with a built in camera, built in speakers, media player, dvd player...all that good stuff. Perfect for her life on the go.

      There were a few things i could have done different or still can.
      1. Recycle her old laptop. (She is still transferring all her files and software to the new one but once she is done, the old one can be recycled. Actually as I type this I realize she's using the old one as a backup for home use)
      2. I could have purchased a refurbished laptop for half the price I paid and the possibly spent more money on more programs and such for her. Or purchased two refurbished laptops for the price of one brand new one. (Yea. So I definitely forgot to think about that! Even my mac laptop was purchased used. It was two months old when I purchased it off Craigslist with the original receipt. But for my mom's computer I did receive multiple discounts and shaved over $500 off the cost of the laptop and some software)
      All in all. My mother has her Christmas gift sans the home made creative holiday card that I have yet to make.

      My siblings also have their "holiday gift." Although it has little to do with Christmas. In an effort to promote the growth of their personal character, I started a project called the Ipod Project. The three older kids have eight weeks to accumulate a certain amount of points in various categories such as Character, Stewardship, Chores, School and Relationships in order to win an Ipod Touch. Each catergory has sub-categories. There is a cap on how many points they can receive per day and they can also lose points. They can not get points in the same sub-categories two days in a row in order to encourage a holistic approach to improvement. We have this whole elaborate chart where the tally is kept and they can only receive positive points by having another sibling take notice and they can only lose points by admitting it themselves. (They are notorious for ragging on each other.) If they receive bonus points, they can even win a $25 itunes gift card for music.

      I must say I am having fun with the competition. There have already been improvements. They are behaving more positively towards each other. They are taking the initiative more. They are trying new things and thinking creative and I love it. We modeled the categories in areas where we knew each child needed improvement, or after general character traits that benefit any human functioning in the world and after their own suggestions for things. According to my mom, they are each on track to receive their very own iPod Touch.

      (My three sisters and brother. I am in the middle. Bianca (15) is on my left. Hanna (10 soon to be 11) is on my right. Dasia (5) is in front of me. Daniel (14) is behind me.)

      How is this sustainable? Because it focuses on the need to sustain ourselves! You can save the world, the trees, and the rabbit's fur but of what use is it without high functioning human beings. What use is the a beautiful sky without people to stop and appreciate it. We focus on saving the earth for the future. But we sometimes neglect the children that are the future. And teaching a child to pay attention to stewardship encourages a sustainable mindset.

      Also the prize is multi functional. Music player. Planner. Email A billion Apps. This prize is SO worth it!

      The end date is near Christmas time so if it makes the holiday gods happy, I can label it as their "holiday gift."

      Mr. Officer and I are not exchanging gifts because I'm too lazy to think creatively and make or buy one. Who knew laziness could help me consume less. :)

      I will also be repurposing things around my home as gifts for a few select friends. I have a bad habit of purchasing multiple coffee and tea mugs and for someone living alone..there is no justification in having 30+ coffee mugs. Since they are brand new with the price tags still stamped on, I will be filling them with packets of tea, hot cocoa and such and giving them as gifts to friends. It's the same with the WAY too many candles and other cute little things around my house that i have too many off. I'll add some flair and love and someone else will be able to use what's just crowding my space.

      You are going to come across many blogs with holiday party ideas, green gifting ideas, no stress ideas, creative ideas and all that goodness. A lot of them have great ideas and are very useful. What i encourage. Just find what works for you. If you do like to shop and buy gifts for everyone you love..I encourage you to find gifts for them that will be used and not end up in the back of the closet. Create, repurpose or purchase gifts that hold meaning or that will last. Its not about finding "green gifts" per se. Its about finding ways to sustain life. Rather than buying a barbie for your little girl...although I LOVED barbies as a child. Buy or MAKE a game that your entire family can play. Instead of buying lots of new books...purchase used books or write and illustrate a fun, silly, or adventurous story for your children or with your children. Wouldn't that be a great gift. To make a "book writing kit" that includes story ideas, crayons, paper and such and then to tell your child you will have a special day where you write a book together. I may actually steal my own idea!

      Now that "Buy Nothing Day" is officially over, what are you buying this holiday season and why? How are you shopping for sustainable gifts? What creative gifts are you making?