Monthly Archives: February 2012

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

yellowstone, america’s first national park

{photo by allan harris via flickr creative commons}

This past weekend I was {still} feeling a bit under the weather (thanks, allergies!), so I once again took to our Netflix instant queue. Since I finished the last of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ last week, I looked to see what else was there. I came across the multi-part Ken Burns documentary for PBS, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

I made it through the first few episodes (out of six total) and found it so fascinating! The first episode was particularly interesting, since we’re traveling out west this summer and I’m hoping to squeeze a stop at Yellowstone into our itinerary. Watching this documentary made me even more thankful for the efforts of conservationists like John Muir for their efforts to secure our nation’s natural beauty for generations to come.

I love the following quote from one of the episodes and think it sums up my own view of the National Parks nicely:

“National parks are an idea of generosity. Not just for our own species, but for all species.” -Terry Tempest Williams

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Saturday at the Market: Durham Edition

If you’ve known me and talked with me for awhile, you know that I have a bit of a thing for farmers’ markets. I love getting up early, armed with my own basket and bags, to visit local farmers, see neighbors, pick up fresh and local produce, and sample as many different cheeses, breads, and other baked goods as possible.

So far in North Carolina, I’ve been to the markets in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Durham, and (my totally biased personal fave) Carrboro. While I love the routine and ease of getting up and walking just a few minutes to the one in Carrboro, it’s also a fun treat to see what other markets have to offer.

 

 

On Saturday, we headed up to Durham to meet up with our friend P and her parents, who were in town visiting for the weekend, at the market there. This was only my second time visiting, and it definitely didn’t disappoint!

 

 

Since Kate and I arrived a bit before everyone else, we went ahead and picked up most of our purchases before it got more crowded. Though I don’t have any photos of them, we ended up coming home with two bags of mixed greens, a head of lettuce, a bunch each of kale, Swiss chard, radishes, and green onions, three heads of broccoli, and two tomatoes. Perfect for all of our meal plans this week!

 

 

After our purchases, we met up with P and family at Monuts Donuts, who had four different flavors available. We tried a bunch of them, including the maple bacon bourbon (!) flavor, but the clear winner of the bunch was the chocolate earl grey. It was wonderfully moist and cake-like with plenty of chocolate and tea notes in every bite. It was so good I went back for a second one to bring home for Sunday’s breakfast.

 

 

We then perused the market, which included stops at Kona Chameleon for P, tasting samples of chocolate babka and chocolate chip mandel bread from Berenbaum’s, and more time to peruse the stands in the market itself.

My one complaint about the Durham market, which may just be because I’ve only visited in winter, is that there seems to be a dearth of stands selling produce. In order to get our veggies, we often had to stand in lines up to 25 people long. I’m happy to wait awhile to get what I’m looking for, but feel this is definitely more extreme than any other market I’ve visited. We’ll have to go back once things warm up again to see if there are more produce vendors in the coming months.

 

 

It was cooler than earlier this week and SO windy out. I didn’t even realize how cold I’d gotten until after we’d gotten back into the car. I should have bundled up more! I also don’t think spending that much time outside did anything to help the cold/allergy situation I had going on. Luckily I was able to spend the rest of the day Saturday and much of Sunday recovering on the couch!

 

 

After ample time at the market, we headed over to Parker & Otis for lunch. We battled the crowds and managed to score a table large enough for our group. I didn’t take any photos, but trust me when I say that our meal was delicious. The grilled cheese with bacon (bad vegetarian!) with a side of pesto pasta salad (filled with green peas and wilted spinach) was absolutely perfect.

 

 

Before we left, P’s sweet parents gifted us with a container of popcorn from Garrett’s (at O’Hare Airport). It’s the Chicago mix, which was a fun combination of cheese and caramel. Although I wasn’t sold on combining the two in the same bite, both Kate and I enjoyed each flavor a whole bunch!

 

 

Later that night, I used some of the veggies to make a pizza for Kate and myself to enjoy at home. Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough topped with tomato basil marinara, leftover roasted sweet potatoes, Swiss chard sauteed in a bit of olive oil, broccoli that got nice and crispy in the oven, and organic shredded mozzarella. Paired with a Kennebunkport Brewing Co. blueberry wheat ale and a game of Monopoly it made for the perfect end to the day!

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Life Lately

sunday brunch, followed by a trip to the gym {while repping the pp!}

This past week started off great but ended up being a bit of a weird one. We had two sets of couple friends over for the second edition of our monthly brunch club. Challah french toast, bacon, and grapefruit. Om nom nom! Oh, and a great time catching up with friends, too. 🙂

sunday night fun, monday morning snow, sick day, daffodils

Sunday evening, it SNOWED!!! This may not be big news for folks in other parts of the country, but it’s the first snow we’ve seen all year. At the very least, we’ve been able to count on there being snow during our trip to see my family in Connecticut, but this year there was none to be seen. Even though it all melted the next day, it was fun while it lasted!

Much less fun while it lasted was whatever sickness I managed to pick up this past week. After a day and a half spend on the couch at home, sipping ginger ale and water and watching far too much ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (seriously, how good is that show?!), I was ready to get back to work, even if it meant going back before I felt 100%. Whoops!

working ‘from home’, a trip to the garden supply store

On Thursday I eased back on into the swing of things by working from home. Since the temperatures were well into the 70s, I spent part of the day working from a local coffee shop’s patio. Definitely a good decision! We rounded out the day with a trip to the garden supply store to pick up some new additions for our little front garden {three kinds of pansies, lettuce, spinach, and a green gem boxwood}.

garden update, a walk with kate, a patriotic shot

On Thursday we also took a nice walk during lunch and, after work, got the garden updated while Kate continued writing her dissertation (I can’t believe she’s turning it in in just two weeks!).

Friday was spent getting up nice and early to drive up to Franklin County (north of Raleigh) to do a training for work. I snapped this photo before we got started!

signs of spring, impending storms, a roasted dinner

I rounded out the week by doing some more work from home at a different coffee shop. As storms rolled in, I headed back home to cook up a random but delicious dinner: roasted sweet potatoes {with cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper} and Brussels sprouts and some chickenless chicken nuggets. A friend came over to catch up with us, and it was a perfectly low-key way to end the week.

Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend!

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Life Lately

coffee, valentine’s colors, my favorite boots, taking advantage of $5 foot longs

my recent oatmeal recipe {banana, almond butter, soy milk, + chocolate chips}, a friday evening walk with my favorite podcast {stuff you missed in history class}, the best dinner we made all week {bbq soy delite patties, alexia sweet potato fries, and unpictured salads}

saturday breakfast outside with biscuits from neal’s deli, taking in some yarn bombing

a jaunt to the farmers’ market, paperwhites, free ‘sample’ beignets with jam and honey, sunshine

market bounty {brussels sprouts still on the stalk, paperwhites, + girl scout cookies}, a visit to maple view farm

an afternoon walk, followed by a night out with friends

I hope you’ve had a lovely week, too!

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Life Lately

{early morning road trip east; break from a work event to say hello to the atlantic; fun night with friends at the science of wine event, complete with a food truck visit; saturday morning feminist coffee}

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Shopping While Losing

Over the past year and a half, I’ve lost about 45 pounds. Hooray! While this is great in a lot of ways (healthier! more confident!), it has made figuring out what to wear a bit tricky for someone as enamored with fashion as myself. And since I’m still working to get more fit (and ideally lose some more lbs.), this has been something that I continue to debate, especially since I am striving to buy more natural, eco-friendly products.

In an ideal world, most everything in my wardrobe would be made in an ethical and sustainable manner by people being paid a living wage and working in humane conditions. All of the fibers and materials that went into my clothing would be organic, recycled, and/or sustainable and high quality, lasting many years before needing replacement. It might also contain a few conventionally-made items that are extremely well-made and didn’t have a more earth-friendly substitute.

However.

The criteria I outlined above, unfortunately, tends to equal a much higher price tag.

And, when you’re losing weight, paying a premium for items that you’ll only have around for a few weeks or months isn’t realistic. At least when you’re living on a tight budget.

While I certainly don’t have all the answers to this conundrum, here are a few strategies that have worked well for me over the course of this journey:

1) Befriend a Tailor

Since using items that already exist is more eco-friendly than investing in an entirely new piece of clothing, getting clothes taken in whenever possible is definitely a good route. I found this to be easiest with dress pants and blazers and am planning to bring in some pencil skirts and possibly a more structured dress in the near future. While this isn’t totally inexpensive, I think the strategy works well for a) items that were totally dirt cheap to begin with (hello, $6 pants from Target) so that the total price still isn’t all that high or b) are classic and timeless pieces that you totally love. I paid about $70 to get three pairs of pants and a blazer taken in and they’ve all now lasted me an additional 6+ months that they wouldn’t have otherwise. A good tailor should also be able to tell you whether it will be possible (or even worth it) to take something in, so if you’re waffling, go ahead and bring it to see whether alterations can be made.

2) Shop the Sales Racks

In case you hadn’t seen my ‘purchased’ posts (which, considering that they’re the majority of this blog so far, seems kind of impossible), you know I love me a good bargain. For pieces that aren’t going to stick around for a long time while losing weight (jeans, jersey-knit skirts or dresses, cotton t-shirts, exercise clothes), I’ve been trying to get them on the cheap. While I definitely have some ethical qualms about where they come from and how they’re made, getting things that literally cover my @$$ that fit in our budget take priority until I start building my ‘forever’ wardrobe.

3) Go the Distance

Although it’s certainly gratifying to get rid of an item as soon as it’s a bit big, this isn’t necessarily the best strategy to keep money in your wallet. I’ve been trying to buy items that still look good when they’re loose or baggy. Though I’m firmly against wearing exclusively oversized clothes (since they make me feel gross and not confident or proud of my body), if I can find a way to still feel cute in an item that’s a bit big, I’m all for it. I keep an eye out for things that can be belted (dresses, cardigans, button-downs), tucked in or layered (some t-shirts or tops) to keep me stylish without buying a new item.

4) Thrift It Up

While this is definitely a GREAT strategy for folks losing weight (and looking to buy new-to-them items in general), I have not had any luck in the thrifting department. This is due in large part to my own laziness. While I’ve browsed a few thrift stores since moving to the Triangle nearly four (!) years ago, I haven’t found any to be a gold mine of second-hand goodies. Clearly I just need to do some more research, pay more frequent visits, and spend some more time looking, but all of that hasn’t happened yet. I donate to our local thrift store like crazy, but haven’t bought a single piece of clothing from there. Crazy! If you have any tips for places to go in NC, I’m all ears!

So those are my tips on staying clothed and stylish while losing weight. Anything that I missed? What are your strategies for building a more eco-friendly wardrobe?

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Purchased 1/23-2/5

two pairs of old navy straight-leg jeans (similar) in light + dark wash

I stopped by Old Navy after a weekend chock full o’ board meetings. A bit of retail therapy was in order, plus I had a $10 off coupon to use on a purchase of over $20. These puppies were on clearance for $10.99 each, so, combined with my coupon, I ended up paying $13 for two pairs of jeans ($6.50 each!). Awesome.

new balance 10 minimus road sneaker (via fleet feet)

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of high-intensity interval training, but was wearing my same old running sneakers. They are super cushioned, which is great for running, but not so much for keeping my balance during cross-training moves. I’ve only worn these New Balances around town for errands, but they are super lightweight and comfy. I’m thinking that they’re going to be a big improvement for my workouts, plus they’ll be great for the travels we have planned for this year!

beauty without cruelty eye makeup remover (via weaver street market)

So happy to have found makeup remover that’s natural available at a local store.

craft supplies from michael’s

I realized recently I haven’t been doing nearly as much crafting as I’d like, considering that I was once the arts and crafts director at a summer camp. So, I procured wooden beads and sueded cord to make some jewelry (mostly necklaces) and then a set of paint brushes, a book of watercolor paper, and a set of watercolors. Hopefully I’ll have time sometime soon to delve into these more deeply!

anne klein fully-lined trench coat (via nordstrom rack)

This jacket was definitely a bit of a splurge item (at $90), but I’ve always loved having a timeless trench coat. They’re perfect for pretty much every occasion and are easy to throw on. I’ve been lusting after the Burberry trench coats for ages, but at their $900+ price tag, owning one will pretty much never be in the cards for me. One of my favorite things about the Burberry version is that it had a full wool lining that could be removed during warmer weather and added back in when temps dip. While shopping at Nordstrom Rack (in search of a trench coat), I came across one from Anne Klein that was basically identical. I just couldn’t pass it up!

spanx reversible tights (via nordstrom rack)

I got my last pair of these 3+ years ago and they’re still going strong. Based on the wear and tear they get (as well as numerous trips through the washing machine), I’m pretty sure they’re indestructible. Definitely worth the $20 price tag!

sally hansen double duty base + top coat (via ulta)

I needed some new base/top coat and picked this up while we were out running errands. Luckily, it doesn’t score too badly on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, but it definitely wasn’t the most mindful purchase.

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