30 November 2009


I just received both my ComEd and People's Gas bill in the mail today. I was so eager to open the bill that I ran up the stairs to my apartment. Who ever heard of that? Someone being excited to open a bill.

But I was! I have been even more intentional over the past month in my usage and habits at home in regards to electricity and gas that I've been itching to see if I'm making any difference.

Last month I paid $20.60 for my gas bill and $19 for my electricity bill.

This month, my gas bill isn't as accurate as it should be. People's Gas took it upon themselves to enroll me in their budget plan since the winter is coming. Their presumption that I would need this budget plan annoyed me. I know winter is coming. I know my bill will probably be more as I turn the heat up...but even still I am finding other ways to keep my bill from going through the roof. I had to call in to take myself off their budget plan. Also, while it will be December 1st, I have yet to turn my heat on. Why? Because I don't need to. My apartment is small and cozy. If I cook dinner, that heats my apartment up. I have lots of blankets. I wear long sleeves and I drink tea.

Even with the budget plan, my bill this month for gas is $21.00. Minus their bs and the taxes and tariffs for efficiency program and environmental charge..my bill really comes to $17.05! How amazing is that!

Some people are going to roll their eyes when I tell them my electricity bill.

Are you ready for this?

With all the taxes and tariffs included my total electricity bill comes to.....$15.43!!!!

I am just feeling really good about myself right now. Who knew putting the microwave on a surge protector and turning it off indefinitely would decrease my bill? Nowadays...everything is unplugged from the walls except for the stove, fridge, and router for my wireless internet.

This brings me back to living with roommates where our electricity bill ws $130 once and I was made to pay a 1/3 of that even though I knew I didn't use that much energy. Now I'm able to get an accurate read of what I really use.

The goal is to bring the gas bill down to $18 including taxes and the electricity down to $13. We will see what happens. Any suggestions on how I can further decrease my monthly utilities bill?

How do I dispose of....label tape?

I am really digging the fact that I can post a problem and readers are able to give me advice on solutions. Its like the reverse of most blogs that offer the tips and tricks. :)

So...I need help with a new problem involving waste reduction and recycling.

Do you know what these are?

These are the labels for my amazing label maker.

I don't personally own this label maker. I use it at work. A lot of people use them at work. You'd be amazed at all the things we find to label. You'd also be amazed at the variety of label tapes that we have.

But what do I do once the label tape is empty? Do I just throw it in the trash? Can is be recycled? Where does it go? I have a pile in a drawer in my desk and don't know what to do.

I ship pack used ink toners to xerox and other vendors.
I ship old cell phones to charities and broken ones are given back to vendors to properly dispose of.
I reuse scrap paper.
I sort my trash from my recyclables.
I think heavily about wanting to compost the pounds and pounds of coffee grinds that are thrown away each week at work.

But I'm not sure what to do with these label maker tapes when they are empty? Anyone have any idea?

Homemade Body Products

Soooo. I've made homemade face wash, exfoliating face scrub, body scrub, and face toner.

But I'm also looking to make homemade shower gel, body butter, face moisturizer, mouthwash and pretty much anything else that I use. I keep saying I refuse to give up my perfumes because no one does it like Marc Jacobs but Sam made a good point in a recent conversation and maybe I'll consider using oils instead. I would save over $50+ but I love how Marc Jacob smells!!!! Can someone make a Marc Jacobs substitute with essential oils? I will pay you!

Any hoo! My goal is to pretty much make many of the products I am buying, including my cleaning products. I'm not focusing on those just yet because I still have more than half of a bottle of most of the things. But I am running out of mouth wash. And I found a recipe.

Now for toothpaste, most websites are saying to just use baking soda. Dip your brush in either water or mouthwash and then dip it in the baking soda and then brush your teeth. Simple! Uber cheap! More sustainable!

I found Homemade Spearmint Mouthwash on Ultimate Cosmetics.

You will need
  • 6 ounces water
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 teaspoons liquid glycerine (is liquid glycerine the same as vegetable glycerin? if so, I have all the ingredients at home except the vodka)
  • 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel
  • 10-15 drops Spearmint essential oil
  • Boil water and vodka, 
  • add glycerine and aloe vera gel. 
  • Remove from the heat, let cool slightly. 
  • Add spearmint oil, shake well. 
  • Pour into bottle, cap tightly.

I found the following three recipes on Associated Content. Cinna-minty Mouthwash.


  • 2 cups water
  • 3 drops cinnamon oil
  • 3 drops spearmint oil
  • 3 drops peppermint oil
  • 3 or 4 drops tea tree oil
  • 1 tsp vodka

  • Swish this in your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds and rinse. Be sure not to swallow! It's pleasant, but strong!
  • Best kept in a sealed glass bottle or jar.
Now maybe you aren't into the whole alcoholic thing. I don't keep alcohol at home, except for rubbing alcohol. I came across an Alcoholic Free Baking Soda Mint Mouthwash. What I like about this one is that I already have ALL of the ingredients at home. No extra shopping.

  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 drop pure peppermint oil
  • 1 drop tea tree oil
  • 2 oz. water
  • Mix well, then swish for a few seconds and rinse.
This one seems so intriguing since I love the scent of rosemary. Alcohol Free Cloves and Rosemary Mouthwash


  • 1 oz Cloves
  • 3 oz. Rosemary
  • Glass Jar with lid
  • 2 cups water

  • Boil the water in a saucepan. 
  • While cooking the water place the Rosemary and Cloves in the jar. 
  • When water comes to a boil, pour it in the jar with the herbs and allow to steep overnight. 
  • Drain and use the next morning. 
I just ran out of mouthwash this morning so I will try using the baking soda mint mouthwash this evening and will update you on the results.

Where did she go?

I've been noticeably absent. I know. My apologies. I've had two weeks of 17+ hour days, and then the opening of an amazing show at Redmoon Theater, and then I was flown to NY for a week because of some exciting developments and well...today is the first day where I remember where I am, what day it is and what time zone I'm in.

There will be updates on further granola tendencies in theater as well as how I tried to be more sustainable while traveling. I have holiday shopping updates and personal updates too. Lots to come now that I'm back and rested. Check back later tonight for new post!

17 November 2009

Granola Interview with Photographer Sam Schwartz

It's been long and coming but FINALLY, here is my interview with my dear friend, amazing photographer and fellow granola Sam Schwartz. I asked a lot of questions and she provided LOADS of information. But I promise you, it is worth the read. I learned so much more about sustainability and about Sam and I am so grateful she did this for me. Now I'm encouraged to interview even more people to learn more! Two performers in my most recent show are vegetarians and during our last break in between shows I grilled them with questions. I'm sure they were wondering just what I was up to. Now without further ado, here is Sam. I'll interject my responses and such, here and there, fyi.

I am the black girl in the picture. My fiend Megan is in the middle. And Sam is on the other end.

What is a CSA? How did you learn about? 

Actually, I learned about the CSA from my roommate Laura.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically, we (along with many others) purchase a share of a local, Illinois farm.  For about 5 months a year, we receive 3/4 bushel of freshly picked, organic fruits and vegetables every week.  We have the option of getting bread, meat, and eggs from the same farm for an additional price.  Laura and I started purchasing the share two years ago.  We write a check to the CSA around March or April and then we are able to pick up the food once a week starting at the beginning of June until the last week or so of October.  Buying into a CSA program has several benefits.  First, you are getting freshly picked fruits and vegetables from an organic farm--which means no nasty chemicals or synthetic fertilizers AND your produce is only a few hours picked, so there are maximum nutritional benefits.  Second, because the CSA is local, you are supporting local agriculture, which is just better for farmers and for you.  You also have the option of helping with certain harvests if you want.  Related to being locally grown, you are also eating foods as common as carrots, but as diverse as kohlrabi or swiss chard.  Lastly, I have definitely become more aware of keeping food and planning meals around the food that is in season and provided.    

(Because of Sam's CSA involvement, we were able to take this apples........)

(...and turn them into this delicious pie!)

Another cool thing about CSA's:  if you live in a warmer climate (such as Florida) sometimes you can get this produce all year round--and it might even be cheaper and have awesome things like almonds!  There are also co-ops where you can get things like soap, paper products and other non-perishables.

Do you consider yourself "green"? In what ways would you say you live a "green" life?

Well, "Green" is a term I think we all need to use very loosely.  To be honest, I think it is all marketing!  Let's put it this way:  I recycle.  I try to turn things off and unplug them when they are not in use.  I don't buy those t-shirts at luxury brand stores that have weird "green" messages on them.

In what ways do you see yourself improving towards living a more sustainable life?  

Sustainability is always a goal.  Let me explain in the light of what I just said above:  "Green" to me seems like a really great way to make people spend more; consume more.  The idea of sustainability is about allowing life to be simpler while also trying not to drain a community or system of its resources.  I also think that sustainability has a lot to do with a process over time.  Being “green” is a trend, a tax break, a social status.  However, living with the goal of a sustainable lifestyle not only connects us to our communities, but makes us aware of our habits.  A sustainable lifestyle can also connect us more fully to our futures. Humans spend so much time figuring out how to get more for less.   More money for less work, more food for less cost, two for one…you see it all over the place, and frankly, this attitude disconnects us—from others, from the world, and ultimately from ourselves.  We don’t pay attention to where food or products come from.  We don’t know who harvests, or what it takes to grow.  We don’t know what chemicals enter into our bodies and homes.  Personally, I think living sustainably might take a little more time and effort, but in the long run, you get what you work for and it is more satisfying in the end.  I wish that we could live by that sort of mantra—you get what you work for.  Consider: 

    “[H]uman brains…[have] become such copious and irresponsible generators of suggestions as to what might be done with life, that they made acting for the benefit of future generations seem one of many games which might be played by narrow enthusiasts—like poker or polo or the bond market, or the writing of science fiction novels.
    [We] found ensuring the survival of the human race a total bore.”  --Kurt Vonnegut
I believe that taking these extra steps to be connected are more than just the trend that people make it out to be.  It is an important step to making certain that we can survive ourselves and our own technology and ideas.
    So, ways that I see myself improving...Over the past year I have started to wash out my ziplock bags (most of the time...if there is meat/dairy/egg product, I usually throw it out) and reuse them, I started an herb garden in my apartment, I unplug appliances such as the toaster, tv, cell charger, etc.  I also try to buy used if possible either through craigslist, freecycle, or the thrift store.  I've been trying to buy local groceries if possible.  I try to buy my spices and other herbs in bulk--sold in a small bag--to cut down on waste.  In fact, if I can find things without the extra packaging there is a better chance I will buy it that way.

I have also started to cut back on the chemicals I introduce to my environment and body.  It is very difficult because sometimes I rely on strange chemicals for medical reasons or because those are the things that are available and work the best.  I encourage people to take a look at the ingredients of things like lotions or cleaners.  I try my best to purchase cleansers that are not petroleum based.  Instead of buying a highly chemicalized prescription lotion for the very dry skin I get in the winter, I started just using olive oil, which has worked wonders….and I know exactly where it comes from!

It really helps to have a roommate who has these same goals also.  It doesn't help when your roommate doesn't care about things like saving energy or recycling.  My current roommate, Laura, is pretty awesome about stuff like this and I've learned a lot from her.  In that respect it is helpful to have friends who share the same values.  I get a lot of great ideas from friends!

Goals for the future: I would love to get one of those composters and start composting.  I would also love to start my own vegetable garden.  Going to the grocery store has become such a disappointment because it is hard to tell where that food is coming from.  Very few grocery stores and products label if something is genetically modified (because it is not something Congress sees as important…for whatever reason—food industry lobbyists, I’m sure.  Europe does it even for things like candy bars.)  That being said I would like to start buying more locally grown foods from farmers markets, and maybe even directly from local farms.

Is living a sustainable life in line with your personal goals for life? (for example, one goal of mine to be intentional in all that I do, to be present. one thing I've seen is that by trying to be more conscious of my energy consumption, waste reduction or intake of local food...i find that it makes me a more intentional person and it keeps me present. they just linked up naturally) Do you see examples of this in your life?  

Yes, a little.  A lot of these new habits started in an effort to save money.  This summer, I started baking my own bread because I realized that purchasing "the good bread" was costing me as much as $4.00 a loaf, but if I made it from scratch it cost me about $1.11 a loaf.  The same with herbs.  Buying them fresh from the grocery store can cost upwards of $3 (or more) and then they go bad before I can use them up.  But I can have fresh herbs all year round just by investing $1.25 in seeds and some dirt.  The same goes for buying used things. You can usually find things just as good as new for much less--and you don't encourage mindless spending.  Because you have to spend the time looking for something worth your money AND time, you are less likely to just buy whatever is stocked on the shelf at a department store.  It's all out there, folks.  Everyone thinks they need everything at one point, and when they decide they don't, it goes to the thrift store.   
All that to say, I've saved money, but I also found that things become much simpler when they don't come in a package.  Things seem to exist better, to flow together.  By simplifying I feel like I am doing something good for myself as much as possible.  It’s one of the only ways I feel like I can be a little selfish, without actually negatively impacting others. The effort adds balance to life. And I think that is the purpose now:  to find a better balance every day.

Why are many of your products in your home organic, natural, sustainable or raw? Such as the raw sugar, unbleached flour, seventh generation tissue, recycled aluminum foil?  

 (photos I took around Sam's home)

Here's another side of the story:  I don't want processed foods in my body!  Did you know that European countries won't import our meat and other foods because they are appalled by the way we produce our food?  American food won't pass any standards tests in Europe.  The way we produce and slaughter animals.  (By the way, did you know that raw meat in America is treated with Ammonia to keep out contamination?) The pesticides and hormones and genetically modified seeds we use.  It's really horrific.  As for the raw sugar--I'm a vegetarian (although I still eat some fish every so often) and often times sugar, when it is refined, is filtered through an active carbon source--usually animal bone char.  I'm usually not one of those crazy vegetarians, but I just find this kind of nasty.  All of this may sound kind of fundamentalist, but the way I think about it, every little bit counts.   

(photos I took around Sam's home)

Were you raised in a granola home?

Not entirely...We did eat a lot of granola! I was raised in a home without a ton of money.  So a lot of the things we did revolved around trying not to spend a lot of it.  Turning off lights, shopping resale, all that. My mom was an avid recycler though.  Before there were recycling programs in our town, I remember every Saturday we packed up all our recycling in the car and drove it to the next town over to recycle it.  And after we got a pick-up service, we had these huge bins where we put the recycling after we washed it and removed all the labels and reduced it.  We were recycling MACHINES!

Why did you choose to become a vegetarian? Have you noticed a different in your life since doing so? Have you felt that your meals are limited because you've taken meat out? 

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I first started eating vegetarian in high school because of a bet.  My best friend bet me that I couldn't last a month and I was determined to prove her wrong!  I've gone back and forth since then.  Reasons that I eat vegetarian:  Health reasons--I've found that eating less processed, simpler foods helps digestion, helps me to sleep more soundly, I feel more energetic because I'm eating several times a day in smaller portions and eating things that have more available nutrients than, say, a lean cuisine.   Other reasons have begun to emerge as well.  As I've continued exploring a vegetarian diet, I've found that it can also support a more sustainable ecosystem, a more balanced agricultural system.  I know that one person cannot change the way our farming system works.  But I also like the idea that I can explore other options like the CSA, not eating meat, buying more natural, organic foods, fair trade products. 

(If you go to dinner at Sam's place, you will eat things like Stuffed Tomatoes with Risotto, Ginger Carrots and Homemade Dill Bread.)

What is your favorite green product?  

What is a great green tip? 

Evaluate the things you buy, such as cleaner, shampoo, lotions.  Take a look at the ingredients and see if you can find products with ingredients that you can identify right away.  If you have to Google more than 2 or 3 things, you might want to find an alternative.

Try to buy more locally grown veggies, eggs, and meats.  They taste better!

I notice that your apartment has lots of plants and herbs that you grow and take care of? Is there a particular reason? 

Having plants in the apartment makes it seem a little calmer and a little more inviting, especially in the winter.  It also increases oxygen, humidity in the winter, and has a cooling effect in the summer.  Also, they are easier to take care of than dogs…or kids…and I kill fish all the time…so, plants it is!

(Sometimes, Sam even has tomatoes and lavender growing at her place. It's wonderful!)


Tell me about your chair project and why you didn't just go buy chairs from ikea?

I needed some dining room chairs and I found 2 sets of 2 matching chairs from freecycle.com.  The upholstery was dirty and ugly, but this was fine with me because I wanted to reupholster the cushions myself.  Why? First I wanted to have chairs that were unique from anyone else’s!  I also like the idea of refinishing old things and making them usable and hopefully stylish.  So I got the chairs for free, and then I went to a cute little fabric store in Wicker Park
www.theneedleshop.com and found some fabric that I liked.   

Also some other questions that will be good for people to know....

Where are you from?  

I am from Pell Lake WI.  It’s ok if you don’t know where it is.  We didn’t have paved roads until 1999.

On a Saturday afternoon at 3pm what are you most likely to be doing? 

Maybe taking a walk with a certain dog, cooking, if I’m being good I’m exercising.  Taking photos around town…shooting a wedding.  As I write this, I am sitting with two dogs, a handsome man and some good tunes, brewing my first beer recipe—Pear Walnut Oktoberfest!

Anything else you'd like to add? 

http://www.plowcreek.org/farm/    (our csa)
http://www.foodincmovie.com/about-the-issues.php  (the website for the movie Food, Inc., but also includes links to other sites with information about food)
http://www.wbez.org/Program_WV_Series.aspx?seriesID=143  (podcasts/online listening on public radio about food)
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120013107   (part I of an interview about overfishing on Fresh Air)
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120049590  (part II of an interview about overfishing and how to eat fish more sustainably)
www.michaelpollan.com   (he is not only a phenomenal writer but also writes about sustainability, farming, consuming, and nature in the books he writes, but also for print such as the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, National Geographic, etc.  This is a link to his site, which links to articles he has—beautifully--written)

Sam is a photographer who currently resides in Chicago, IL. To learn more about Samantha Rose Photography, please visit SamanthaRosePhotography.com.

(Would you like to be interviewed next on granola tendencies? Do you live a granola life? Do you have amazing tips and advice that would help others learning more about sustainability? If so, email me at SheenaLYoung at gmail dot com and I'm sure readers would love to hear from you!)

16 November 2009

Grocery Shopping and Cooking Vegan/Vegetarian

This past Sunday (or perhaps it was two Sundays ago) I went grocery shopping. I do my bulk grocery shopping about once a month and then every week I'll buy a thing or two. Such as one bell pepper here or there. Cooking for one while trying to be organic while not wasting food but not really liking to freeze things...is sometimes a daunting task!

Since I knew my schedule for tech week of Winter Pageant at Redmoon Theater would leave me no time to do anything else, on top of my regular "9-5" which is really "7-5", I decided to make a few meals in bulk and portion them out so that I'd always have lunch and dinner. Without planning to, they were all vegetarian or vegan. I'm still struggling with trying to create a raw dish. (Actually my homemade salsa is a raw dish. YEA!)

Due to this crazy schedule there is has also been a lack in posting and reading of other great blogs. My apologies for the absense. My day went something like this.

6 am to 6:30 pm -Wake up. (microwave water to brush teeth and wash face in - by the way I found a homemade recipe for mouthwash and I am starting to use baking soda as toothpaste). Get dressed. Use extra water to water my plants.
6:30 to 7am - Travel to work and try to sleep on the train. 
7am to 5pm - work like a horse at my wonderful job that is a bit understaffed. Hopefully the empty positions will be filled SOON!!!!! Please, gods of positons filled for understaffed companies...pretty please give us someone.
5pm to 5:30pm - travel to Redmoon Theater
5:30 to 12:00 am - TECH Winter Pageant. (Do you know what tech is? Holy crap. I forget what tech is till it slaps me in the face!)
12:00 to 1:30am - Travel home. (If I drove I could be home in 15 minutes. But since I take the bus and train everywhere and they run slower this time of night...morning...it takes a long time to get home. Shoot, I could fly to New York in that amount of time when put in prespective!)
1:30 to 2:30am - Send reports for theater, browse facebook when I really should not, take my shower.
2:30am to 6:00 am - Sleep
6:00am - wake up and remind myself I chose this life.


So as you can see, if I didn't bring my lunch and dinner with me, I would not eat.

I made my tofu veggie stir fry, vegan black bean soup, homemade salse, corn chowder with jalepeno parsley puree, and spicy potatoe soup. I don't have pictures of the later two right now, but will soon!

Some of the ingredients for the Vegan Soup.

This time i added a few more ingredients. Diced tomatoes. Corn. And Salsa Verde.

Next time I'm going to take out the diced tomato. I didn't like it that much.
And this time I let it simmer for about an hour as the recipe called for. And I didn't like that either.

But it was still good and I was eating it ALL WEEK LONG!

I also made my homemade salsa. I tried to keep track of the ingredients I was putting in it so I could compile a recipe later. Also while I was making all the dishes...half the salsa disappeared. I guess I kept eating it throughout my marathon cooking day.

Some of the ingredients were green, yellow and orange bell peppers, serrano peppers, jalepeno peppers, onions, diced tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, salsa verde HOT, and lots of seasonings including hot shot, chili pepper, and cayenne pepper. (I noticed that everything I made was spicy)

These are the some of the veggies for my tofu stir fry.

TOFU. There are many ways to prepare and cook tofu and there are many kinds of tofu. If done incorrectly, it is gross, tasteless and people will never try it again. If done to perfection, people will beg for more! I had friends eating my stir fry all week.

The stir fry when complete! And this time I prepared it with brown rice instead of white rice. It was still the instant minute rice but at least it was brown!

Even more containers of food! You can also see that I catch up on tv shows as I cook or clean. Because when else am I going to watch last season's episode's of Lost?

One thing I enjoyed about this process was that by making a few different recipes I was able to use a whole bell pepper or a whole onion. Sometimes I'll make something to eat and still have left over unused bell peppers and whatnot. And by the time I get around to using it again, it has spoiled. By cooking in bulk with a variety of recipes that had similar ingredients, I was able to keep my waste down!

A few things I noticed while grocery shopping.
  • Because of the tons of vegetables in my cart, it looked like I had just robbed a farm. My cart was colorful, I didn't use any of those plastic bags and just about all of the vegetables were organic
  • While the vegetables were organic, I forgot to even consider whether or not they were locally grown. If I want to become a more eco-conscious eater, I have to be more mindful of that. I am definitely going to participate in a local CSA next year.
  • I went down the toiletries aisle to find some mouthwash and I saw so many products. Twenty differen face washes and shower gels and this and that and with pride I thought, "Either I have made my own versions of these or I am on my way to doing so. I can by pass this aisle now!"
  • But I also thought, "Wouldn't it be great if I could by pass the vegetable aisle too? Wouldn't it be great if I had my own garden? Then I'd be saving loads! And what if I made my own bread and what if the only milk I drank was almond milk. But I like store bought popsicles. I still have to buy that. And that cream cheese fruit dip. That's too good to give up. But still, I really want a garden. Maybe my boyfriend will let me use his backyard.)
Taking the time to preplan and sort my meals came in handy. During a week when I normally do not eat at all, I always had healthy homemade food at hand. While I missed out on sleep, at least I was eating a balanced, organic and vegetarian diet for the week!

08 November 2009

A Forgotten Treasure Box

While prepping to do a Product Review of Regreet, I came across an old box with tons of letters, notes, cards, quotes, ticket stubs, and all sorts of things. Some things I had completely forgotten about. Other things I had "lost" awhile back and suddenly found again. Other things were reminders and highlights of life well lived.

The box of old things

In this old box I found 25 two cent stamps.  Over 30+ old birthday invites from 3 years ago that are printed on both sides.

What am I supposed to do with this? I can't use it as scrap paper. But there are only so many things you can do with 30 images of yourself. (Yes, I had a cool picture of myself put on my birthday invite). And those are some of the two cent stamps in the bottom left corner. :) That's like finding money.

This pretty picture and note is from a student in a classroom that I chose for a Donor's Choose program. I love this program. You get to see exactly what each classroom needs for toys, to supplies, to books and you can pick which project and classroom that you'd like to fund. My favorite part is having the students draw pictures and write you notes thanking you for their new things and they tell you exactly what they did with the things your donation paid for. I remember tearing up when I first received the thank notes and as I found them again, I cried again. Happy tears.

Okay. This is a little shameful. See these Christmas cards. They are cute ones I bought, wrote notes in, put in envelopes, put stamps on and then put in a box. Those cards are from Christmas 2005. Four years ago. How lazy am I that I apply the stamps and just never put them in the mailbox. Unfortunately with the way the cards are made and how I wrote in them, I'm not sure how to reuse them. I guess, if I still like the people I wrote them out to four years ago, I can resend them this year. Although some of the address probably changed. 

The lower left hand side with the pink envelope on top. That's a stack of cards and pictures for my ex boyfriend that died in a car crash in college. Since this summer I've been looking for those pictures and never thought to look in this box...since i have a separate photo box and thought they might be in there. Finding these photos of him and I brought me to tears as well. 

This is one of the photos I found.

I also came across over 20+ handwritten letters and cards from my friend Amber who lives in New York. She sends me cards every year for my birthday, valentine's day and christmas...as she's jewish! She sends me just because cards. She sends me ornaments. Handmade scarfs and mittens. I mean, I can't even place a value on these. And I could never regreet or regift anything from here. I had no idea the volume of stuff she sends me until I started making piles and Amber had her own couple of piles!

This is Amber. Isn't she gorgeous!

I also came across wedding invitations and holiday gala invitations and company picnic invitations and all these things are too expensive and pretty to throw away or rip apart and turn into something new. And I don't scrapbook and I also don't think they are fitting for my art journals. So what do I do with those things? Suggestions?

I came across many dear notes and letters and it was great to reread them. Although I wish they didn't live in a box under my bed. There were also the notes and cards from people who are no longer a part of my life, no longer my friends...and some of them were still great to have and others, my impulse was to burn. :) I didn't though. I'll upcycle them into brand new cards!

Which upon closer examination I saw a number of cards that were handmade from friends or blank cards that received a lot of jazz from magazine clippings and such.

While I won't be able to regreet most of these things because they are either too precious to give up or won't fit the regreet labels, I will defintely take the time to regift them in my own way. I do a lot of art journaling and have all the supplies I need to give new life to these cards, take back some of my storage space and divert them from going into the trash.

You also, don't have to wait for the next card to come in to try something. I once took quotes and pictures I'd ripped out of magazines and framed them to make cast gifts for a show I worked on. While each of the seven pieces were uniquely different there was a common thread throughout the tie them all together. I actually wish I had kept them all but giving them to the director and each cast member was much better.

So if you have an old frame just lying around, why not throw something together and send a creative gift to a friend.

Or I once sent over 10 different postcard type things to my mom. I just took cardstock paper, added quotes, pictures, and pretty paper and mailed them to her. When I later went home ot visit I saw she had framed some, had some lining her bathroom sink, her bedroom dresser and in other places around the house. During a trip to Vegas with her, she even brought some to make the hotel room more like her bedroom. It took me a short period of time to mix match quotes, pictures, and paper and for her is something so precious.

Why not find ways to make the scraps around your house into a creative gift for someone you care about?

Regreet - Product Review

I've mentioned Regreet a few times on Granola Tendencies and I finally took the time this weekend to try the product out at the request of its CEO, Christy Elchers. Welcome to Granola Tendencies first product review.

I received my Regreet package in the mail about two weeks ago and my initial reaction was excitement and intrigue. There was even a handwritten card included in the envelope in which it was suggested that I use that card as my first Regreet. Unfortunately, the card is too pretty to give to someone else, so right now it lives on my desk at work.

Isn't the card so pretty?

So, the first thing I was was dig around my box of old notes, cards and letters for some possible things to "Regreet." I can't give away something too pretty or too precious. It has to be something that was nice but has lived in the box for years just taking up space. (You have no idea the things I found in that box. I must not have gone through it in years!)

After finding a suitable collection of cards that I wanted to regreet, I opened the kit. It seemed easy enough. I apply the journey label to the back of the card. (This is how each recipent is able to track all the places the card has traveled.)

Then I'm supposed to apply a signature label over the message the previous person wrote on the card. I hit a snag during this step. The label wasn't big enough to cover what the person had wrote.

I tried changing the direction. Adding two labels. Nothing worked. The pre-determined size did not fit over all the writing on the card I wanted to use.

Not only did it not fit, but the whole color and theme of the "regreet" label totally messed up the look of the original card. Perhaps if the card was more earth tone in color, it wouldn't look so obviously regifted. After trying two other cards that could also not be covered with the signature label, I neatly packed the "regreet" kit back up and wondered who I could regift the regreet set to.

My review.

While the idea of regreet is intriguing, it turned out to be very limiting. In order for the product to work, you will need a card that fits its pre-determined label sizes and one in which only has writing on a certain part of the card. How does this account for people who have written on both sides of the card or in a place not able to have a label stuck over it.

Since i wasn't able to find a suitable card to regreet, I wasn't able to try the second part of the product which involved tracking the various places the card goes.

My advice.

For old cards that you come across but that need a new home, try old fashioned construction paper, glue, and magazine clippings that way you can cut things to the exact size that you need, find color schemes that work, and pretty much completely remake the card into something new.

Would I recommend this product? Sure, if all your friends send you cards that fit the exact measurements of the regreet kit. Otherwise, you'll need to find a way to regreet the regreet kit. Anyone want to try it on, I'll mail it to you free of charge!

World Vegan Day and my Epic Fail

November 1st was World Vegan Day.

The week prior to World Vegan Day, I did a pretty good job at eating vegan foods for three days, vegetarian for four days, and meat on one day. I thought that was pretty good.

And then I hit a wall!

I realize that its hard to stick to my dietary ideals since 75% of my meals are consumed at work. 15% are consumed by ordering, eating out, and grabbing on the go. 10% are consumed at home.

Those numbers may be a bit off but almost all my meals are eaten at work. Personally this is great because it cut my grocery bill beyond 50%! My place of employment is an excellent provider and takes care of its people. But perhaps I should start preparing my meals at home and bringing them to work if its really important to me that I cut down on my consumption of meat and pay closer attention to carbon footprint my food choices leave.

However, it's just so easy to grab a plate of whatever is in a conference room meeting whether its a vegetarian dish or spicy chicken basil. It's right there. And if I don't eat it, it will sit out and be thrown away and isn't it better to eat it than to have it spoil and be thrown away! (That's so un granola of me!)

It's the convenience factor. Its just right there. If my job didn't provide food, almost all of my meals would be vegetarian with some vegan things here or there.

I went to a Bears football game a week ago and that is where I had my epic fail. Without thinking I went for the hot wings, burgers, and salad with bacon bits. There was also italian beef and hot dogs and sausages. And I went to town. On World Vegan Day. Perfect day!!! :(

I ordered all that meat even though I took the time to order a vegetarian dish for a colleague who was only eating the fruit provided. If I had enough sense to notice that he was a vegetarian and then order him an appropriate meal...why didn't I do it for me?

I began to wonder if perhaps I didn't have a strong enough conviction to stand by my sustainable ideals. Some people are vegetarians for religious reasons, for environmental reasons, for animal right reasons, for dietary reasons, for traditional reasons. And they have been that way for years and have adapted to that lifestyle. But for me, if I'm somewhere where meat is the only option, while true vegetarians will opt out and wait till they go home to eat...I will just grab what's available and eat the meat. Where does that impulse come from? I'll have to figure that out another day.

While I do enjoy veggie burgers and veggie italian sausage and all that good stuff, I haven't come across a good vegetarian hot wing. After a simple google search I found two recipes that I am going to give a try.

07 November 2009

A Granola Cat?

So I am heavily considering adopting a kitten/cat. Well, its beyond considering it since I've already purchased everything I need for it except for the food, litter and litter box. In a few weeks...like next weekend there will be a pet in my apartment.

While I don't know what kind of cat or kitten, I am nonetheless excited. My plan is to go to the Anti-Cruelty Society and let the cat pick me. (The Anti-Cruelty society is NOT a no-kill shelter. Therefore I'll potentially be saving a life) While kittens are cuter...they require more work and need more training...but they are so cute. However, I'm interested in adopting a cat that's at least a year but not fifteen years. I don't want to spend the entire time with the cat at the vet. Although senior cats need love to. I'm looking for a cat that needs a home that he won't destroy. A cat that will cuddle but can also be aloof. A cat that won't mind that sometimes I have rehearsals.

(By the way, I used to own a kitten named Polo. She was a firecracker, knew how to fly, broke almost everything made of glass in my room, and yet was the most sweetest little cuddler ever. However, I had to get rid of her because she had a temper problem. When she'd get upset, she'd pee on my bed as a huge flick off to me for having to discipline her. That could not continue. Therefore I had to give her up as lovely and crazy as she was)

This is Polo. I miss her but I know she's in a better home!

So, in wanting a kitten, I started looking up ways to raise a cat in a granola kind of way and I came across some interesting ideas and tips.

Of course there is the whole use organic or natural food and litter. Finding the right one that suits my needs and pleases the cat will be the challenge. I did see at the grocery store and on Petco.com that Feline Pine is an all natural clumping litter. Clumping is what's important to me. So perhaps this will be the one. It also seemed reasonable priced. Because trust me, I'm not going to break my budget for a cat. If I'm going to break my budget its going to be because of me and a new dress or book or another trip to a Thai restaurant. (Selfish, yes. I know.)

I was confused when I saw on Petco.com that you had to choose between "natural," "organic," or "holistic." I guess I figured that all those choices went hand in hand but perhaps not. For now, I will wait to purchase the food until I know what cat I will have and receive some guidance from a sales associate at Petco or Petsmart.

Another green tip I came across was that I should not wear my shoes in my apartment. I agree with this for other reasons aside from pets. It keeps your floors cleaner. Yogis believe it keeps your apartment's chi intact by being intentional in the act of removing your shoes before entering your home. I'm sure there are other religious and cultural significance around removing your shoes. Another reason, is for your pet. Since we trap things on the bottom of our shoes, we are giving our pets the oppurtunity to fill their mouths with all sorts of impurities. This will be something I will become more conscious of. Over the last few weeks, since decided to adopt a cat, I've started taking my shoes off.

Another green idea was to make toys for your pet instead of purchasing more stuff. Stuff that took resources and energy to make. Stuff that will eventually end up in the trash. Ideas for toys. Well, you could ball up aluminum foil and let the kitty play with that. You could tie a piece of string to a piece of scrap paper and pull that around the room. The kitty will destroy that paper in minutes and it cost you nothing. I read once that you could take an old box, cut holes around it big enough for the cat, fill the box with newspaper and little treats and the cat will spend loads of time going in and out the box.

Another green choice is to adopt a kitty versus buying one. I believe the ones you buy are breed. Adopting one helps those that already exist and need a home.

Since cats love catnip, there is also the possibility of growing your own catnip. Or should you choose to purchase it, purchase the organic kind.

These are the only tips I've been able to find so far but I am constantly looking for more so that my new cat will have a holistic and sustainable life with as little of an impact on the earth as possible. So we will see.

I've been thinking of names and just today I thought, "Granola," would make a good name too! What do you think?

04 November 2009

Green Art by JantiraK

One of my closest friends is an amazing artist and so so lovely and dark and twisted and beautiful and I love it!!! She's one of those people that I wish had a few clones because I swear the world would be a far better place.

After posting about Green Stage Management in a previous post, Jantirak told me she wanted to write something about Green Art and then SHE DID and it's great. She also posted it on her blog. So you can either read it here. She graciously let me repost it, in its entirety. But I also encourage you to go over to her blog too at Four Walls, No Walls, You and Me. just so you can catch a glimmer of a genius.

I almost forgot to tell you that Jantirak was the illustrator on a children's book I wrote a few years back. Perhaps when I'm home again, I'll scanned in a page or two. It was never published. Just given out as a christmas gift to a few people and a theater.

Ooh and also, did I mention she's an amazing artist? One of the few projects I remember clearly and vividly from a Theater and Culture class in undergrad involved a one woman show Jantirak did that involved us literally stripping her of her culture. Oh it was crazy. You'd have to have been there.

Without further ado, here is Jantirak's post.


GREEN ART by JantiraK.

Inspired by my friend Sheena’s new blog, Granola Tendencies, I decided I would do a post on eco alternatives in Art.

One of the big caveats with art is that it’s so damn expensive! In school, people would always comment on how lucky I was that I almost never had to spend the couple hundred dollars on textbooks for class. What they didn’t realize was that in the course of a semester, I would end up spending several times that amount on art supplies! One great way of being eco-friendly is to simply consume less. By this I mean ways you can use what you have around you to make art, as opposed to running out and buying new art materials every time you have a new project. This is very eco-friendly in that it reduces waste and doesn’t contribute to the enormous amounts of energy and materials used in producing new products, etc…

Chopsticks: Not only for eating noodles, they make great drawing utensils. You can also use forks or spatulas or credit cards to lay blocks of texture. In Learning by Heart, Sister Corita suggests an exercise where one makes drawings using only chopsticks and india ink. The combination of using something as simple as ink and a chopstick really invites a sense of play (which is crucial to any creative endeavor) since the way we feel toward a chopstick is not the same way one might feel toward say, a #12 Kolinsky Sable brush, for example.

Spoons: A good spoon or ladle can go a long way. Use these instead of a brayer for small prints. If you have larger prints, you can use an empty can covered with cloth for the same purpose. In fact, many useful things can be found in a kitchen utensil drawer. A butter knife makes an excellent bone folder.

Glue: Why buy glue when you can easily make it? Wheat paste has been around for centuries and is a favorite among street artists worldwide. It uses just 3 common household items: water, flour and sugar. There are lots of different recipes for making wheat paste but here’s one if you don’t want to sift through google. They are all pretty much the same, and will be good for use for up to a week. Also consider this as an alternative to store bought Modge Podge or epoxy resins for sealing.

Buy used: Nowadays, a lot of the art you see is digital. This means digital cameras, software, tools, etc. Consider buying these things used instead of new. Technology moves fast and it’s important to keep up, but unless you are a pro and making money off your art, then it doesn’t really seem reasonable to buy that new $3K digital camera or $2k for that pen tablet. Remember, it’s what you do with the tools you have. Although I may want the new 5D Mark II or D700, if I don’t know how to compose a nice picture to begin with, no amount of vibration reduction, vertical horizon, autofocus, etc…is going to make it any better than if i shot it using a disposable camera. And think of all the plastic you saved from the dump by buying used! Also, many programs come with multiple downloads or users. Consider splitting one among friends or searching for a single user from places like craigslist or eBay.

Notebooks: I LOVE notebooks. This is one area that’s really hard for me. Every artist needs a good notebook. I have a reserve of several nicer notebooks/journals for the stuff I want to keep or remember but for quick notes and to-do lists – the stuff that eventually gets tossed and recycled – I use scrap paper. At work we go through a lot of paper, and almost all of it is one-sided. I keep a pile of this on my desk for quick notes or things that I know I won’t need to keep around for a while. You can also gather up all this paper and bind it into a nice little notebook as well.

Pens: Ok, so this is me on my soapbox for a minute. As much as I love notebooks, I also LOVE fountain pens. They are very eco-friendly in that you only need ONE good fountain pen and it will last you for potentially your entire lifetime. At the very least it will outlast your cheapy disposable several times over. Just think of all the plastic that goes into making disposable pens – and then think of your pen collection. How many of those pens are disposable? I would guess that for most Americans, almost all the pens they use are disposable. All that ends up somewhere. Although I have several fountain pens, my favorite is a super cheapy one made by a Chinese company (Hero) that I picked up in Thailand for around $2 USD. Similar models (Hero 330) are available here for only $5. Noodler’s inks are also relatively inexpensive at around $10-15/bottle for 3oz which is more than enough ink to last. That’s a $15-20 investment, which I’m sure is around or less than what most of us spend in the course of a year on pens. Not to mention all the other benefits of fountain pens such as improved penmanship, less strain on your hand, etc… Fountain pens now come in many different nib sizes so illustrators have a variety of line widths to choose from.

Canvas: Yes, sometimes, you will need to go buy that huge canvas for that huge project, but sometimes, you don’t. Consider other materials that are readily available and free/cheap. Adam Neate made a career out of painting on cardboard. Consider this, along with wood, glass, vinyl, fabric, basically any surface. Many of these items can be found in thrift stores for cheap. Now, with the huge popularity of Street Art, the entire city is your canvas! Painting on an alternative surface also pushes you to think more about the nature of that surface. It engages your creative juices in a different way than painting on canvas or canvas board.

These are but a few ideas. Feel free to tweak these to suit your needs and resources. Also don’t be afraid to build your own tools. If you have any more ideas, let me know and I’ll post them here. More to come on eco-friendly art in future posts as well as different topics to consider.

02 November 2009

Expired Medicine

I have a bunch of medicine in my medicine box, some of it prescription from surgeries and such this year. I doubt I'll have a need for them since I tried to ween myself off them sooner than I should have anyway.

In order to make sure I disposed of them in a proper way, I googled it. Because that's what you do when you need information nowadays. What I found wasn't that encouraging.

You could always just throw it away. (Unfortunately, people or animals might get to it in the trash and that's not a great idea. One article said if you don't have a choice but to throw it away, you should take it out of the medicine bottle and put it in something else and conceal it with other things like coffee grounds or kitty poop or something)

You could flush it. (But now that's in our water supply. I thought it was gross when Chicago put out its annual report of the test done on our water from Lake Michigan and what they found in it. Gross. Gross. Gross. And yet, I'm told I should drink tap over bottled water. Hmmm.)

You could return it to your pharmacist. (Some of them have drop off bins or just take them back. But there's something about that I don't like. Maybe it has to do with some 20/20 report I saw where the pharmacist were not giving people the right medicine in an effort to save money and people ended up dead. What if they take my expired medicine and give it to someone else and they get sick. I just don't trust them.)

You could donate it to a third world country. (Umm. When I came across this option, I was quickly offended. We can't sell expired medicine in our stores but its good enough to send to someone who is less fortunate. Like "oh, the apple is rotten and I'd never buy it but send it to Africa, at least its something." Yeah, that option just doesn't work for me.)

So I still haven't found an answer and I just have a box full of all kinds of medicines that I no longer need. What am I supposed to do with it?

throw away
give back to pharmacy
donate to third world countries

Can I put Eco-Stage Manager on my resume? :)

While I'm still trying to articulate my views of socio-political theater and its interception with eco-drama, I have found other ways that I am able to incorporate granola tendencies into my theatrical adventures.

First, every stage manager must have a physical prompt book. While you may argue the merit of such a need and highlight all the ways we could get around a physical one that requires paper, I just don't believe it. I have seen too many challenges during a show that shows a necessity for having this physical book.

I worked on a show as an Assistant Stage Manager where the Stage Manager heavily relied on his computer to run the show. His action script and master cue list were on his laptop. Hmmm. Let me count all the ways something went wrong.

1. One night he forgot to charge the laptop and had left the charger somewhere else. Therefore, computer dead.
2. One day, the document just wouldn't open.
3. Another time...he left the laptop somewhere.

And whenever these mishaps would happen, low and behold...I had my prompt book that had the info we needed.

So being that I need a prompt book, I've approached the process of creating one in a granola kind of way.

Instead of preprinting most of my prompt book contents which include forms, calendars and scripts amongst other things, I have done majority of the work on my laptop until I have a final draft ready to print. The action script changes constantly. Someone was just taken off the contacts list. And so the story goes. So, if I've been able to wait to print it, I've done so. Each night I send a rehearsal report and I usually print it out and add it to the binder. The report is only one page long. So instead of printing one page each night. I wait until I have a chunk and print them double sided. (I wouldn't recommend using scrap paper. Its sort of a stage manager's portfolio and needs to be professional looking. You wouldn't print your final resume on scrap paper, would you.) When I have printed, I've also printed on 100% post consumer recycled content paper.

Sometimes I need scrap paper, just because I'm standing, I'm moving. I'm here, I'm there. The director is giving me 100 notes, an actor ask for this...and I can't hold my laptop and type it and I've tried using my cell phone to type it out too. Just doesn't work. So for scrap paper, I did something. Because I was notorious for pre-printing my prompt books and sometimes printing things that I didn't end up needing, I was able to make a stack of paper that can now be used as scrap.

Also, by purging my old SM prompt books I came across many generic forms that were blank and now I will be able to reuse them in the future. I have a stack of forms that I didn't use three shows ago, that are perfect for this show. So instead of tossing them, or letting them sit in a cabinet collecting dust and space, I'm able to actually use them.

In rehearsal there are some other things, either the performers do or the theater does that tend to be a bit more granola.

Redmoon Theater is notorious for being innovative, creative, and engineering wonder! That have all sort of contraptions and crazy things and many of them are home-made. Instead of purchasing these items, most of them are created in right in their shop, such as the swan headdresses.

Redmoon is also great with reusing items. (Theaters in general are great for this. Usually it has to do with financial reasons but its also a granola reason.) I've worked with Redmoon on numerous shows and many objects, puppets, contraptions, and things are reused, repurposed, upcycled and then used for something else.

This photo I took myself. It highlights two things. The clouds are something we may be using in this year's Winter Pageant and they were also something we used last year as well. While they are both two different shows with different moments throughout, sometimes they find ways to reuse a great object.

This photo also shows the car. You probably can't tell but that car is made of paper mache. Most of it aside from the part that makes it actually move and such. But the body of it or the outside (I don't know car vocabulary)...but the outside is made of paper mache.

And the other day on the objects/props table I came across a crazy wonderful looking puppet made from electrical tape! Its hair was made of old newspaper. (A picture will be posted of it eventually). So they are able to make objects, contraptions and puppets from regular "household" items. Tape. Newspaper, Paper, Glue.

I love that!

In this picture, a performer is experimenting during a moment in the fall. The paper on the floor represents leaves until we receive the real prop sometime soon. This rehearsal prop of ripped up paper is used pretty much each night. Instead of using new paper each night to work this moment, we sweep up the paper and reload it into the suitcase. Now sometimes some of the pieces of paper get wet..because there is water in the show and bubbles. Or sometimes they get really dirty because its the floor and the theater is inside a warehouse...so occasionally we have to throw some of them out. But, majority of it is reused each night.

So these are just some of the ways that we have been practicing granola tendencies while rehearsing for Winter Pageant at Redmoon Central. I acknowledge there are some big picture ideas on how theaters can be eco friendly such as in stage lighting, electrical use, huge scale recycling and such but that's a post for another day.

Do you have tips on other ways we can practice granola tendencies? How else can I as a stage manager incorporate green practices into my artistic work without sacrificing my professionalism or the quality of work I produce?