26 August 2008

product placement: chico bags

In another impulsive Whole Foods buy, I purchased a Chico Bag in a really fun orange color ("Mango"), because I thought, "being so tiny and weightless, at $6, it's kind of hard to resist!"

While I'm known among my friends for my fairly wide assortment of canvas tote bags, which I use almost daily for more than just lugging groceries around, I was happy to add a reusable bag to the mix that weighed even less, folded into its own cute pouch, and could fit really easily in my purse everyday or even a pocket-- and the strap is even long enough to wear on my shoulder, but not too long that if I hold it in my hand, the bottom of the bag is dragging on the ground!

In fact, one of the reasons I was excited about getting this bag was this idea I had of waking up early, going for a run, stuffing the folded up bag in one of the pockets of my running shorts, and ending the run at the Union Square Greenmarket. And within a couple days of purchasing it, I did just that, excited to be able to have some of my grocery shopping and exercising for the day already out of the way by 9am.

I've had the bag for about a month now and we've become nearly inseparable-- I can't believe I didn't own one sooner! While I have noticed a little bit of wear along the bottom seam already, I don't doubt it's because I've abused it's suggested 25-pound weight limit. But if it can pass the trials I put it through multiple times a week with my own groceries and clients' groceries being lugged around, I know it's a good find!

You can even recycle any reusable bag through Chico Bag's Zero Waste Program, functional or not, and it will either be given to low-income families to help them drop the plastic bag habit or repurposed by The Grateful Thread.

Check out the "Plastic Bag Self Test" on Chico Bag's website.

25 August 2008

green 1 thing: let the sun shine in!

Instead of depending on overhead or lamp lighting all the day long, open your blinds or use sheer curtains to let natural light seep in and keep your space well-lit, or relocate your reading chair or desk to a sunnier area. This will save energy and bring a little of the outside in! Soak in that Vitamin D!

Let a little sunshine into your nighttime as well, with this super cool Sun Jar!

19 August 2008

product placement: sweet and sara vegan marshmallows

Let me just say this: I am not a marshmallow person. Never really have been though I have enjoyed the occasional S'more or Rice Krispy treat. After trying some Sweet and Sara Vegan Marshmallows... consider me converted.

Recently, I was considering having a bake sale and was pondering the different fun treats I could make. I like to do a lot of my baking vegan when possible, but at the same time, being that it's summer and most NYC apartments aren't air conditioned, baking seemed kind of like an awful idea. In brainstorming with a friend we thought of Rice Krispy treats and wondered if you could make them vegan. (Marshmallows are not vegan because gelatin is one of the key ingredients). Never having done it, I wondered if vegan marshmallows would melt and hold up the right way and also looked into alternative recipes, most containing corn syrup or other syrupy sweeteners. After a few failed attempts of making the treats without a marshmallow product and just enough Organic Puffed Brown Rice left in the box, I shelled out the $7 and bought a container of Sweet and Sara's Toasted Coconut Vegan Marshmallows at Whole Foods. I've had my eyes on these for awhile and was pretty excited because they are made locally in Queens.

So 1 bowl, 1 small pot, some additional shredded coconut, and a couple of tablespoons of virgin coconut oil later, and about 1 hour of 'cooling' time later... a vegan crispy treat feast was had with comments of "this is the best rice crispy treat I have ever had" shared all around. Success! (Let it be known that I ate one of the marshmallows on their own, and was very very pleased.)

Thank you Sweet and Sara! <3

basic recipe: vegan coconut crispy treats
This is dangerously easy to make. It makes me a little happy that the marshmallows a little expensive, because that's the only thing keeping me from making these once a week.

3 cups puffed brown rice cereal
2-3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil (could substitute vegan margarine or organic canola oil)
1 7.5 oz. package Sweet and Sara toasted coconut vegan marshmallows (use plain if you prefer)
1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened), optional

Place the cereal in a large bowl.

In a small pot, gently heat the oil and the marshmallows until they melt. Pour into the bowl with the cereal, add the coconut, and gently mix with a spatula until well combined.

In a 9x9 baking pan lined with parchment, pour in the crispy mixture, and press gently to even out. Allow to cool on the counter for 1-2 hours, if you can stand to wait. Cut into squares or other desired shapes and sizes, and enjoy.

Dip in or pour on some melted chocolate if you are feeling really crazy!

18 August 2008

green 1 thing: bottle your water

Because getting 'going green' can be daunting and overwhelming, this is a new series I'm publishing here once a week with quick tips to make your life a little greener. Bit by bit, you'll have gone green before you know it!

BPA scares aside, it is a far nicer thing for the planet to forgo your bottled water habit. Instead, grab that sports bottle gathering dust in the back of your cabinet and bottle your own water from your tap, or splurge on a sassy SIGG bottle. Refill it at work or on the go as needed, and you'll never go thirsty again. Not to mention you'll save yourself money and reduce the demand for petroleum based plastics. That's worth raising your glass over isn't it?

12 August 2008

product placement: smooze! fruit ice

Unless I am very hungry or feeling spendy, I can usually control those impulse buys on unfamiliar products at the grocery store. But as soon as I spotted Smooze! Fruit Ice in a floor display at Whole Foods a few weeks back, I picked it up and only delayed in throwing it in my basket because I was deciding on a flavor. These vegan, coconut milk based ices are all-natural, preservative free, and sold in the aisle, but are meant to be eaten frozen. They're imported from Singapore, and I think they're just now becoming available in the US.

Coconut + Pink Guava is what I picked and what a taste sensation! Sweet and flavorful and creamy and just plain good on these hot summer days. I have since also tried the Coconut + Passion Fruit flavor, which with its tart sweetness reminded me of a yummy summer cocktail.

See if you can find them near you, 'cause I for one am totally smitten and more than ready to try the other two flavors, Mango and Pineapple. YUM. (I'm also hoping their coconut drinks will be available here soon!)

08 August 2008

a few things i learned about honey

I don't talk much here about honey, and all things being equal, I don't use it a lot. But then, I don't add sweeteners to much-- not tea or cereal, which are the things I consume most often that would be susceptible to sweetening. But I do really love honey. The smell, the look, the taste, and the little cute bumblebees that make it.

I recently had a nice chat with Andrew of Andrew's (Taste Bud Bursting) Local (Wildflower) Honey (Fairfield County, CT) at the Union Square Greenmarket, asking him about his (raw, organic, unheated) products and what he does and all of that. Hmm, that makes it all sound very official. It was more that I was breezing through the market on a particularly nice day and was feeling chatty. Friendly smiley Andrew, noticing my bee necklace, and as usual, generous and quick with the samples, handed me a spoon with some whipped honey on it, and on a sugar high just looking at it, I just let the questions fly.

The 'creamy' raw honey you see in stores in a ploy!
People think that creamy look means it's unrefined and more 'raw' than the amber colored syrupy honey, but no! It has to be whipped to get to that consistency, therefore increasing the volume of a smaller amount of product-- honey comes off the comb all pretty and drippy. More visual volume means they can charge you more for less! Andrew does sell whipped honey but it's labeled as such and it's for those who want to be able to spread their honey or don't want to deal with messy honey drips. Oh, and if you like the honey with the 'bits' of stuff in it, that's added in too-- bits of pollen and honeycomb.

Bee pollen is a, erm, 'pick me up', for the gentlemen.
Andrew commented that he gets a lot of older ladies purchasing bee pollen from him for their husbands. Aside from that, it's also a good antioxidant and energy booster. I guess they say 'busy as a bee' for a reason. I've always wondered what people do with those yellow bits. Andrew says he just lets a little dissolve on his tongue and then chases it with juice, but a lot of people don't like the taste so you can also mix it in your cereal or yogurt, or dissolve it in some juice or a smoothie. I've also seen this sold in capsules in the vitamin aisle. (Hey! You could make your own bee pollen vitamins by buying empty vegetable capsules).

The honey is 'flavored' by the flower pollen the bees primarily gather.
Andrew, like most beekeepers, keeps bees close to the blossoms he wants to encourage them to gather from, ranging from buckwheat, to acacia, to blueberry, but hey, we can't control where the bees go, and they fly up to several miles away from the hive to collect pollen. Andrew samples the honey straight from the hive and determines whether it is potent enough to have a specific flavor. If not, it gets labeled as wildflower, which to me, is just as delicious and tasty, and tastes a little different and special every time!

Local honey and other bee products help alleviate seasonal allergies.
Okay so I already knew this one, but it's such a fun tip! If you suffer from seasonal allergies or want to keep them at bay, including a bit of local (it must be local!) honey, bee pollen, or other bee product will greatly improve your body's ability to tolerate the allergens. Not a bad excuse to have a little something sweet. (Check the labels to see where the honey comes from, some labels say 'local' but if you're buying it from a supermarket, it might not be your 'local'.)

I didn't buy anything from Andrew that day as I already have a cute honey bear filled with his Wildflower honey at home, but I did try a couple different 'flavors' of his honey, including one I can't remember the name of that was kind of cinnamony and spicy. YUM! I could get used to that sweetness. Andrew and his taste-bud bursting honey is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays.

If you're interested in learning more about bees or beekeeping, go to your local farmer's market or find a local beekeeper near you to find out about classes or other learning opportunities-- it's possible to keep bees on city rooftops, suburban backyards, or in wide open spaces. The Permaculture Institute also offers beekeeping and permaculture workshops in New Mexico, and other beekeepers and organizations teach workshops across the country-- look for one in your area. In your garden or yard landscaping, you can also plant to encourage honeybees, which with the mystery honeybee crisis (or, Colony Collapse Disorder) we're seeing around the world right now, would be a really nice gesture to the bees to say 'thank you for everything you do.'

03 August 2008

restaurant review: bubby's pie co.

New York is a food town, that's for sure, and I could spend a lifetime eating at different restaurants several meals a week, but like everyone, when I go out to eat, it's generally to the same few places. Or, the places I would go to again are either out of the way or out of price range.

Bubby's has been on the list a long while. Best known for their pies, but also reknown for the pancakes they serve during weekend brunch, it seemed like the perfect post-half marathon brunch spot, where I could get my carby breakfast on, and take my pie to go.

I guess the main reason I haven't gone here yet is proximity-- even with two locations, they are in neighborhoods (Tribeca and DUMBO) little frequented by me and my regular dining cohorts-- because my love for pie and pancakes certainly isn't in question here. But the half-marathon ended in lower Manhattan, making Bubby's the perfect option.

Everyone else thought so too, because arriving a little over an hour after opening, the place was already abuzz with runners and their supporters, but luckily my running buddy and I got a spot right away. And not knowing much more than this is the spot for pie, I glowed more and more excitedly while reading the menu...

THREE kinds of pancakes! Grass-fed beef from ONE partner-farm. Their own house-made to-order soda using organic cane juice. A special of LOCAL bluberry johnnycakes. ORGANIC, SHADE-GROWN, FAIR-TRADE coffee*! There was real maple syrup on the tables. Wow! I was very nearly overwhelmed. Mostly though I was tired and ready to celebrate the run with something carby and delicious.
*If you are a connoisseur of environmentally and socially sustainable coffee, you know that to find coffee that is organic, fair-trade, AND sustainable is pretty rare.

We ordered the Sourdough Pancakes (!), Local Blueberry Johnnycakes (like pancakes, but made with cornmeal), a side of scrambled eggs. What tastiness!

The sourdough pancakes surprised my tastebuds-- imagine pancake batter mixed with a little sourdough bread dough, and cooked on a griddle. A little weird, pretty doughy, but what an inventive and successful idea. I'm excited to go back to try the Sour Cream Pancakes and the Sauteed Banana Walnut Pancakes. They also had a quite a nice looking egg and sandwich menu.

To go was the local and in-season special Peach and Blueberry Pie and the Mile High Apple Pie, one of their regular items. I ate my pie with tea and a movie later that night and was really pleased not to bite into anything cloyingly sweet. Not only does this let the fresh fruit shine, it also is a testament to the bakers knowing they are using fresh, delicious, high-quality ingredients. Anything can be overly sweetened to disguise mediocrity, but this was a tasty tasty slice of summer that was worth running 13.1 miles for.

Other perks? A black and white photo booth and Mrs. Pac-Man arcade console in the basement, outdoor seating, and a fairly recent pie cookbook with all their secrets!

Let it be known that I grabbed these photos from TimeOut and Amazon.com, respectively.

01 August 2008

think less, do more: the nike nyc half-marathon

I've been putting off writing this blog because I was thinking I'd have to write some big saga of this crazy thing I did, this running 13.1 miles in the middle of the humid summer in NYC, as well as aspiring to and successfully raising over $1000 for charity, and waking up before 5am to do it.

But after uploading these few photos, I thought differently.

I've been wanting to run a half-marathon for a couple of years now. One of those bullet points on the 'things to do in life' list. If you let them sit there and allow yourself to keep saying 'One day...', you're not getting any closer to just doing it. So, with the support and motivation of my running buddy and with family and friends cheering me on from around the world, I 'just did it'.

It rained shortly before the start of the race which got the day thankfully off to a cool start. Running a full loop within Central Park and heading south through Times Square and west and then south on the West Side Highway was crazy and at times disconcerting, but what a unique experience! And the times I saw people stop to walk or the unfortunate few who passed out for who knows which reasons, I had to psych myself up and listen for the cheers of the crowds on the sidelines.

I finished the race within my time goal, with a finish of 1 hour, 44 minutes, 26 seconds and placed 1,632nd out of over 10,500 runners. And I will tell you I am damn proud of that!

But mostly I'm proud and very glad that I was able to meet, and exceed!, my fundraising goal for The Fresh Air Fund-- an organization I feel really good about, and I'm always happy to think less, and do more, this time by knocking this life goal off the list-- if only to make space for the next adventure!

Check out my race "action" photos here!

Get out there and have an adventure of your own!

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