Covid19

I went to the Asian grocery store to get my pantry staple hulking bag of rice. I ran out late last year and have gone without rice for too long. While at the Asian market, Mom got me so spun up about this virus, we quickly grabbed random greens, some noods, miso paste. While debating over the choices of miso, an old Asian gramps standing by the miso paste let out a big cough and it concluded our miso debate. We were in such a frenzy to get out that halfway to the car, I realized we didn’t get the hulking bag of rice. I went back in for round two. I’ve had rice daily since. Glorious.

Moral of the story – Eat rice, not animals.

Lent is as great as lentils!

Lent, my favoritist holiday, is here again. There’s just something about the budding newness and renewal of Spring that inspires change, growth, experimentation. A 40-day experiment is fun, a little challenging if you want it to be, and noncommittal. Perfect for my 5-minute attention span.

This year, my Lent challenge is to meditate (daily?). I don’t have any rules or guidelines. I don’t even really know how to meditate except to just focus on my inhales and exhales and come back to my breath when my brain invariably wanders to which pot the kumquat plant is going to go.

Dining Hall Entertainment

We actually left our house this weekend! As much as I love being home, it was glorious to get out of the house! We visited Virginia Tech, and while there, decided to go eat at their buffet dining hall, Dietrich Hall. I went twice (breakfast and dinner)! Buffets are actually easier to fill up on plants while eating out because most typical restaurants don’t realize that people need more volume to fill up on plants! But lets be honest here, I really went for the people watching. And boy was it like reality TV. Live! In-person! I purposely parked myself on high top tables to get better views, and conveniently, it was right by the soft serve machines. Soft serve for breakfast is a thing. Sadly, the machines were empty during breakfast. I could see myself use it as a coffee creamer in college.

At dinner, I observed people put soft serve on their plates of sweet sour chicken and other meals. Creative combinations! I also witnessed a male student approach a trio of three females dining together and he asked one of them for her phone number! She seemed flattered and nervous and happy as she dialed his phone using hers. Then after he left, the trio giggled happily. Witnessing this, I was second-hand over-the-moon. In Sim-world, they have three kids already and have climbed to the tops of two careers.

Runners Up Purchases of 2019 (and how my 2019 resolution panned out)

Second to the TV and PC that I got last year, these are other things I treated myself to that made me very happy!

  • Hotplate. I got this at the beginning of 2019 and used the heck out of it. When fall rolled around, it was our daily evening ritual to steam up our place with tasty cooked vegetables. It sits permanently atop our coffee table year round! I love hot pot!
  • Kindle. Anything that can save me space is a winner. I think I read exactly one book in 2019, and I didn’t even finish it until the beginning of 2020! (In case anybody’s curious, it was Fat Chance by Dr. Robert Lustig. Very highly recommend!)
  • Hiking sticks. I went hiking in West Virginia during the early part of 2019 and these came in handy to help keep all of us balanced and just feel generally steadier when navigating unpaved terrain. Not used on a regular basis, but if it prevents even one injury or fall, it’s a win in my book! I love being outside and seeing trees!

Probably Unnecessary Purchases – For my 2019 year of decluttering and minimizing purchases, I probably didn’t need to get these things, even though I did.

  • Cycling shoes with clips. I use them maybe once or twice a week, at most. Some of the bikes in my class have clips that are messed up so I can’t clip into those anyway. I like the firmness and the feel of them when I’m trying to focus on pulling up on the pedals, but either way, I know I can get a good workout with or without these fancy shoes.
  • Seed sprouting lids. I got some lids with screens on them to sprout seeds like alfalfa or broccoli seeds. I had such a hard time using them though, the sprouts just never looked that great and I ended up preferring to eat the broccoli seeds unsprouted anyway. I use the lids now to rinse oat groats, buckwheat, and millet, so they’re used, just not for the purpose I originally intended.
  • Hair ties. I was trying really hard not to get hair ties. Sooo hard that they were all I could think about. So when Prime Day rolled around, what did I get on impulse? Hair ties. What we resist, persists! This was a low point in my life during 2019. I am remorseful. And I use these hair ties and they work fine. I just could have easily lived without them.

Wins (Things I resisted purchasing)

Ok, obviously, this could be a crazy long list, I mean, I didn’t buy a yacht or private jet or dog. The list could go on! So this is just stuff I would have normally gotten when the urge struck and I wouldn’t think twice, but I resisted in 2019.

  • Shoes. Aside from the cycling shoes. My god, I want new shoes all the time! It’s an addiction that will never go away. Eating plant based has been easier than giving up shoe shopping. Hence the cycling shoes moment of weakness. I have shoes pinned on my Pinterest board and the list grows. I fear one day I may explode. But for now, I take it one day at a time. Breathe in, breathe out…
  • Clothes. I got basics that one can’t (and probably shouldn’t) get secondhand such as underwear and socks. For the rest, I am so fortunate and grateful to have friends who are kind and generous enough to give me their clothes they no longer want. I have a closet stuffed to the gills from their generosity! And I’m still in perpetual pare-down mode. Just not the drastic Kondo-method.
  • Earrings and other gewgaws. My ears got sensitive to most of my collection of costume jewelry. As soon as I put them on, they would start burning. So I got rid of them and now rarely, if ever, wear earrings anymore. I could easily restock my collection with hypoallergenic earrings, but I am okay with what’s left of my existing collection. It is tempting though, when I spot something colorful or twinkly.
  • Beans. Surprise! Bet you would have never guessed in a million years that pulses would be on my list of things I don’t buy! I eat them almost daily! We’ve just found that lentils are easier to digest. They’re easier for me to cook (faster) too. And to be honest, I have a pantry full of beans. I’ve just been using up what I have. So even though I love, love, love beans, and I love having a variety at all times, I’ve had to resist adding to my collection. I’ve almost used up what I have and I know this year, I’m going to have to get more. In the meantime, I keep a big 25lb sack of brown lentils in my pantry that I dip into for any dish. They are so versatile and creamy and tasty! Maybe this is why I saved so much on food in 2019. Those Rancho Gordo orders! Ahhh, now I want some Rio Zapes and Alubia Blancas! SOOO GOOD!
  • Baking soda and vinegar and soaps and shampoos. All myriad of cleaning products. I am such a sucker for buying cleaning products. Much less of a fan of actually using them. Or maybe I just don’t use them up as fast as I can impulse-buy them. Also, I don’t know why I feel the need to have 6 giant jugs of vinegar on hand and still throw in a couple more jugs in my cart at every Costco run. What is this fear of running out of vinegar?! Is it biology? Trauma of having the urge to clean and not having the vinegar to do it? I don’t know. But I stopped buying it and I still haven’t run out.

Best thing I got in 2019

Ok it’s a little late to be doing this, but I just thought of it because I’m sitting right here staring at it! And that is, my fave purchase last year – a giganto TV. It is 55″ and was about $320 during Black Friday. I say it’s my favorite, but it really goes hand in hand with my new computer. The old one was about eight years old and even though it was fine for browsing, it really struggled with running games like Sims. My Sims have been busy populating Sim world, growing enviable gardens, and climbing their career ladders ever since the new computer!

So I have been wanting a new TV for years – since August 2015 when the screen of our old TV started spazzing out. Our fix had been to turn it on and “warm it up” by playing any video on YouTube. It would clear up in a minute. Then 5 minutes. Then 15 minutes. Every year, Black Friday would come and go and I’d hem and haw, and then last minute decide, naw, we’ll wait another year. Then this year, it was having spasms at random times throughout use, even after it was warmed up. It was eyeball-hurting and headache-inducing. I finally said E-Nough! It has been such a relief to have a clear screen that doesn’t wobble or fritz.

Separately, I wanted to give a bit of a review on my online eyeglass purchase experiences, now that I have two under my belt.

  • The first time I got online glasses, I used Zenni. They were inexpensive and did the job. I wore them for a year and a half! But I could tell from the start that they were flimsy and loose and were just a bit rougher around the edges. Literally and figuratively. The lenses weren’t polished on the edges.
  • At the end of 2019, I got new glasses from EyeBuyDirect and let me just tell you, they are way nicer! Aside from the polished edges, the frames just feel sturdier and better quality. Also, I love that they don’t come with plastic cases. I have a whole drawer of eyeglass cases which I never use and even though I’ve donated a bunch, there are more! Like tribbles. Instead, EyeBuyDirect ships their glasses in hard cardboard boxes inside microfiber drawstring bags that double as lens wipes. Brilliant. Those I use regularly and I like to keep them in various places like one in my gym bag, one in the bathroom for when I’m getting ready in the morning, and one at work. The glasses are a bit pricier, but worth it in my opinion. I also got prescription sunglasses. They feel like such a luxury when I put them on. Finally, I can wear sunglasses without contacts.

Year 13

This is kind of a TS moment, being the 13th year of this blog. It’s a new decade so this blog has now spanned three decades – the aughts, 10s, and 20s. I’m not sure what the groundhog is thinking but I’m thinking spring is going to come early. This winter has been unusually mild.

So how am I doing with that 2020 resolution, now that it’s been about a week. The resistance bands I got some years back have finally justified the space they occupy. I just do a 45-minute or so bit of exercises and stretching in the evenings. It seems to help me digest after dinner and I seem to fall asleep more easily. I don’t do anything vigorous or strenuous but there’s definitely a burn and the stretching bit is nice afterwards. I’m hoping to keep this up as an evening ritual. All I need is a good tv show to keep me going.

Happy Rat!

Another New Year to celebrate! Renewal! Good fortune! And in particular good health! It’s nice to have the Lunar New Year follow so closely after the Gregorian calendar New Year, because this year, I spent January recovering from a flu which became bronchitis. So I slept for what felt like three weeks. I’m all good now. Even that last bit of lingering cough-hack is gone! (TCM trick for a stubborn cough: I stopped eating bananas and had daikon soup.)

2020, besides being a new decade, is also a leap year and the year of the rat. Rats are lovable and smart! To ring in this lovably smart new year, I cleaned the bathroom vanity and cooked vegetable noodles. All very lovable and smart activities to ring in an auspicious year.

Resolutions. I’ve been racking my brain since late 2019 and still haven’t really thought of anything. For the past few years it had revolved around reducing consumption. It’s become a habit now for the most part so I think I can safely move on and still lead a life of cognizant consumption.

So that brings me to my current thoughts on what to focus on this year. I’m feeling weak from laying about for three weeks so I think this year, I want to focus on strength and movement. Also, with strength, I’d like to revisit flexibility.

Update: ACV is not for my hair

I wrote this piece of drivel last year: Healthy Scalp Trick
Don’t do it. Or if you do, be very careful about it because vinegar is acidic and will throw your scalp off balance. I got major uncontrollable dander after doing it. So I did it some more. And it got worse and worse until I realized maybe it was the vinegar making things worse. Indeed, after washing my hair with nothing but a ton of conditioner did the scalp finally calm down. I basically was burning my hair with vinegar and turning it into a big mess.

If you still choose to try it, dilute it heavily and don’t leave it on your head very long and try to just do it on your hair and avoid it getting on your scalp (which is very hard).

How I inadvertently cut my food costs

In short:

  • Savings come from eating less processed everything. Besides saving money, it’s also more nutrient dense.
  • Cooking is effort. Eschewing processed foods has made food taste better with less effort. Also it’s my choice to be as lazy as our willingness to eat whatever I make. Boiled everything!
  • I acknowledge my privilege of not living in a food desert.

In tracking annual spending for the past four years I’ve observed that my lifestyle changes have led to a year over year trend of decreased food expenses.

2016201720182019
Dining Out$3,325.60$2,246.28$1,218.38$679.95
Grocery5,750.654,679.306,135.936,195.33
Total$9,076.25$6,925.58$7,354.31$6,875.28

Considerations:

  • Travel dining was counted as a travel expense rather than dining out or groceries. If I were to assume dining out and groceries at a conservative estimate of $100 a week, had we been home, below would be the adjusted totals.
    • 2016: 1 week on travel; total would have been around $9,200
    • 2017: 7 weeks on travel; total would have exceeded $7,600
    • 2018: 3 weeks on travel; total would have exceeded $7,700
    • 2019: no travel; no adjusted total
  • I counted everything as best as I could. A coffee at a gas station goes in the dining out category.
  • Big data fudge – I lost four months of 2019 data so I doubled the four prior months. Being creatures of habit, I don’t think it was far off. Dining out once a month and groceries are practically the same week after week.
  • Assuming three meals a day, our average per meal cost in 2019 was $3.15 a meal. This includes the grand total of all meals eaten out, in, takeout, and with friends.
  • For reference: USDA Food Nutrition Services Cost of Food at various Expense Tiers I fall in the Moderate Cost plan.

The biggest difference in reductions came from dining out. We spent over $3,000 in 2016 and this year, it was under $1,000. That’s an evening at French Laundry. Hopping off the hedonic treadmill of processed foods and generous servings of salt, oil, and sugar have made me enjoy food more. And I’ve slowly shifted my social activities to focus more on fun things to do rather than just sitting and eating.

Cooking does not have to be hard or time consuming. Devote as much or as little time as you’re willing to eat whatever you churn out. It is in your hands. I’ll admit, some of the stuff I make we don’t always like. Or I make it on repeat once too many times. We eat it anyway. I balance my willingness to cook with my willingness to eat. When I’m not willing to make multiple dishes that week for variety, we eat the same meal day after day. When I’m craving something akin to takeout Chinese, I’ll put in extra effort and make a few dishes. Example of minimal effort: I microwaved a whole head of cabbage and peeled the leaves and ate it. Food prep time was as much as microwaved popcorn. I highly don’t recommend this recipe.

I will acknowledge that if one lives in a food desert this is much more challenging. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by organic markets, farmers markets, international markets, you name it. Not a full on food desert, but I spent some time in middle-of-nowhere Kentucky years ago, where fresh produce was cabbage, carrots, celery, and onions week after never-ending week. One time, they had eggplant. I was over the moon. It’s do-able, but pretty sucky.

Finally, knowing there are a myriad of mixed messages about the connection between diet and health, I don’t want to get too into this, but I’m going to make two assumptions: processed food is less nutrient dense and it is detrimental to our gut microbiota. Given that, this is a healthier way to eat. Health is priceless.

Moral of the story: Outsourcing your food preparation is expensive. Eating whole foods like grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, is relatively affordable.

Obsession #917

Bonsai.

Ever since I got it in my head that I had to bonsai my clown plumeria in order to keep it in a pot, I’ve been doing a lot of research. After finally receiving my phD in bonsai-ing from the Universities of YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram, I’m now trying to grow citrus seeds and avocado pits to see if I can bonsai them as well. I’m a bit nervous about chopping down the plumeria but I think I can propogate the top in case the root base doesn’t make it. I’d also love to have a honeysuckle bonsai if I can get my hands on a cutting of the vine and I also have a jade plant to hack. Since today marks the shortest day of the year, I plan to start my chopping in a month or two. Growing season is the ideal time to cut.