Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Looking back, moving on.

I've been tracking my consumption for a month now.  I've enjoyed it and I've learned from it, but I'm putting the blog on hiatus.  I'm writing a play, and quite a few days I've said, "I'll work on my play as soon as I finish today's blog post."  And then an hour or two goes by...and I'm ready for bed...and my play languishes.

But here's what I've learned:
  • I do have two hours to write every day if I commit to it. 
  • I don't waste as much money as I thought I did. (I spend about 25% less each week then I'd realized.)
  • I don't generate as much waste as I thought I did.  Usually less than an ounce of packaging per week.
  • I drive or buy something every single day.  I didn't go even one day this past month without doing one or the other, usually both.  
  • Much of my consumption revolves around my social life.  Most of my driving and almost all of my restaurant/bar/coffee shop expenditures have to do with meeting up with some or all of the playwrights.  And Fiddleheads, the food co-op, is also a meeting place for me.  I don't just go there for the local, organic, minimally-packaged food.  I also go there because I'll almost certainly bump into friends, whether they're customers or other volunteers.  This is especially important to me because other than farmers market days or waitressing days, I work alone from home.  I would feel isolated without these near-daily excursions. 
On this, the day beforeThanksgiving, I also want to say how grateful I am for much of what I consumed.  I ate well in large part because local farmers--some of whom had given up more lucrative careers in order to do something they believed in--grew wonderful food.  And because enough volunteers have given enough hours so that Fiddleheads remains open.  And because quite a few people, knowing my low income, have tucked sweet potatoes into my market bag or bartered or given me discounts. And, too, I saw plays because someone drove me or someone bartered.  I read plays because someone organized a writers' group.  I wore clothes I love because someone took the time to donate them to a thrift store instead of tossing them in the trash.

What next for this blog?  I'm not sure.  Maybe I'll bang out my play and get back to tracking my consumption.  Or maybe I'll find that I'm still not writing my play, therefore I might as well go back to writing my blog.  Or maybe I'll post occasionally, not tracking everything every day, but posting when I have something interesting and useful to share, like a tutorial.  Or maybe I'll just find that I miss this, and that it's worth the time I put into it regardless of what else is going on.

Thank you for reading.  Writing this blog made me more conscious of what I consume and why.  I hope it has done the same for some of you.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And Even More Theater! Plus weekly consumption totals

Yesterday afternoon one of the playwrights, Anna, finished a draft of a full-length play.  And so by 6:30 yesterday evening most of the playwrights were gathered yet again, eating pizza and reading her play out loud.  We all hate Anna now because she wrote the whole play in four days and it's brilliant and emotionally true and, as Mike said afterward, she managed to make cancer both funny and sexy.  Did I mention we hate her?

Jubilant about having read such excellent work, Jake and Mike and I headed to the Dutch Tavern, where Mike was kind enough to buy us a round.  Thanks, Mike!

In other consumption news, I bought chocolate-covered almonds at the co-op earlier in the day.  I bought something else too...what was it...broccoli.  Somehow the chocolate made more of an impression.

I ate the chocolate almonds, and even the broccoli, before I thought to photograph them.  So here, instead, is a photograph of our sprout garden. They're ready to move into the fridge now.  Yum.

Monday's Consumption Totals:
Food: $4.08  (Are chocolate covered almonds food?  Or are they entertainment?)
Miles Driven: 6.5 (again, my half)
Given to me: pizza and beer!  (Anna bought pizza for all the readers.  Okay, we don't really hate her.)
Weekly Consumption Totals for 11/15-11/21
Food: $37.44  All of this came from either the co-op or local farmers. Woot woot.
Entertainment: $20 
Book: $4.19
Clothing: $3.99
Coffee: (my share) $5
Cat food: $5 (Jake went out and bought some that didn't show up in the blog.)
Bartered: Theater tickets, eggs, lettuce, pie
Waste generated: packaging from the cocoa mole sunflower seeds, the hazelnut milk, a plastic bag.  The usual recycling bin full of cat food cans.
Miles Driven: 71.6  Woah!  Almost all theater-related. In my defense, these were miles Jake would have driven anyway if I hadn't joined him.

More Theater.

Theater, theater, friends, theater.

This past week our playwriting group has been exceptionally active.  First we went to Westport for the reading of Mike's It Comes From Beyond.  Then we saw Kato's production of Eurydice.  Then Sunday we met for our bi-weekly meeting.  During these meetings we give cold readings of any new work, which helps the author hear what is and isn't working, and helps the rest of us develop our acting chops.  After we critique what we've read, we usually head out for drinks afterwards.  And by usually, I mean always.

I'm not much of a drinker.  If I never drank again, I wouldn't miss it.  But after our more formal meeting, I'm not ready for the night to end.  Besides, this group of writers has been meeting in various incarnations for over a decade.  They're my closest friends.  So although I sometimes can't afford this night out and could take or leave the beer, I'm willing to pay for another hour of camaraderie.

No photo of the beer--I forgot to bring my camera--so I'll show you a photo of Trilby instead.  He tore all the feathers out of his feather wand, but Jake replaced them with some blue rope and he's happy with that.

Sunday's Consumption Totals:
Entertainment: One beer plus tip $5
Miles Driven: 7 (I'm claiming half because Jake and I carpooled.)
Stuff Made from Other Stuff: cat toy

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice and Barter Barter Barter

Last night Jake and I went to see a production of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice.  This play just leap-frogged to the top of my Favorite Plays list.  How does someone write a stage direction like "A child, the Lord of the Underworld, enters on his red tricycle."?  Or a line of dialogue like "I can do chin-ups inside your bones."

Our friend Kato McNickle chose and directed this play, which was performed by Ledyard High School students.  It was an ambitious choice, one which demonstrated trust in her young cast and crew. It also gave both the actors and audience a chance to experience a little-known play rich with metaphor, gorgeous language, humor, and tremendous theatricality.  A chorus of goggle-wearing stones (who advocate eternal sleep untroubled by memory or grief)?

Tickets for Eurydice were a $6 bargain.  However--and this was a theme today--I bartered an Urban Eden gift certificate for tickets for Jake and me.

I also bartered, bartered, bartered earlier in the day at the Fiddleheads farmers market.  Soap for duck eggs, soap for lettuce, soap for apple pie.  I bought a few things, too: chocolate hazelnut milk (big sale), pears, kale (can you believe I'm out of kale already?)  and...everybody in unison...sweet potatoes.

Lastly, because I had a coupon for ten dollars off any purchase, I went to Borders after the farmers market and bought a book: The Break of Noon by Neil LaBute.  I've been a fan of LaBute ever since I saw his play Bash.  This one has the intriguing line on the back cover: What if God told you to be a better person but the world wouldn't allow it? 

The photo from Eurydice was taken by Kato McNickle.

Daily Consumption Totals:
Food: $8.48
Book: $4.19
Bartered: theater tickets, duck eggs, lettuce, pie
Miles Driven: 17 (I'm claiming half the mileage to Ledyard because Jake and I rode together.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Black Bean Soup (Recipe)

Yesterday I came so a day without buying anything.  But when I started to make black bean soup, I realized I was out of onions.  This gave me an excuse to walk up the street to the Hispanic American Super Fiesta Market, a store I don't frequent often enough considering how friendly the owners are.  So my sole purchase of the day: two onions.

One of my friends has asked me to post more recipes.  So here's my soup recipe.  It is slightly adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Lean Bean Cuisine by Jay Solomon.  If you're looking to expand your bean repertoire, this is the book I recommend.  It's out of print now, but you can buy it used for barely over a dollar.

Southwestern Black Bean Soup with Sun Dried Tomatoes

1 1/2 cup black beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons dry sherry (Optional.  I didn't use it because it wasn't on hand.  But it's good.)
3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced (The books' recipe is for regular canned tomatoes.  That's good, too.)
1 teaspoon salt
parsley, cilantro and/or scallions for garnish

Generously cover beans with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Sautee the onion, garlic, jalapeno, celery, green pepper for 5-7 minutes, until they start to soften.  Add beans and their cooking water, carrots, and all the seasonings except the salt.  Bring to a simmer again and cook for about 20 minutes or until the beans are good and soft.  Add the salt and the tomatoes; cook for another 10-15 minutes.  You can puree a cup or two of the soup in the blender to thicken it.  Garnish and serve.  The next day it's good served over brown rice or thickened into a vegetable dip or burrito spread.

I have a full weekend planned: farmers market this morning, a play tonight, waitressing tomorrow then dashing off to my playwriting meeting.  I probably won't have time to post again until Monday--when I'll be able to do my first monthly consumption analysis.

Daily Consumption Totals:
Food:  .93
Miles Driven: 0

Friday, November 19, 2010

Retail Therapy

Some people eat emotionally.  I tend to shop emotionally.  So when I received panic-invoking news from one of my suppliers (No the coconut oil has not shipped yet.  So sorry you still can't make soap and won't have enough for the Christmas season) I first went to every Asian market in the area looking for coconut oil.  When that failed--and this was my back-up plan all along--I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Goodwill next to the Asian market in Groton. 

Before I go any further, I have to say that I have a lot of clothes.  A lot.  I love clothes and I love combining them and I love getting artfully dressed even if I'm home all day and nobody sees me.  And yet...I am also deeply drawn to the artist Andrea Zittel, who when she lived in a 200 square foot apartment in Brooklyn (where she also raised chickens!) pared her wardrobe down to one single dress that she sewed herself and wore daily for six months until she sewed another.

Someday I may also pare way down to see what it feels like to own as little as possible.  Would it feel liberating?  Or would it feel like a form of anorexia?  And if I didn't turn to thrifting when I needed some head-clearing, where would I turn? 

Yesterday my retail therapy did tamp down my anxiety, at least for a few hours.  I tried on various combinatins of black, gray, putty and brown; was wow'ed by a nubbly eggplant jacket, and asked several strangers if a certain camel-colored,  corduroy dress with a black collar and cuffs made me look like I was swimming in my Mommie's clothes. (It was a maternity dress, size large and I'm maybe a size 4.)  Despite the maternity dress's charms, in the end I limited myself to a black corduroy miniskirt, perfect for waitressing.  And it's only a little too big.

In other consumption news, before I went to Goodwill, I volunteered a few hours at Fiddleheads, where I also bought these:

Almonds, an avocado, barley flakes, a carrot, a pepper, whole dates, date pieces and some rice. With my volunteer discount they came to $16.05.

Daily Consumption Totals:
Food: $16.05
Clothing: (thrifted) $3.99
Miles Driven: 10.8

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Road trip! Restaurant! Oh the horror.

It Comes From Beyond!
A horror movie in which a vegan do-gooder is transformed into a gas-guzzling, cheese-sucking, cookie-chomping alien.

Readers, beware: last night four playwrights forced me into the back of a Subaru, drove me to Westport and made me eat cheesey, sour-creamy chicken chili and corn chips. 
Horrifying, isn't it?

Okay, okay.  The playwrights didn't really make me eat this. I could have opted to eat a bowl of black bean soup.  I admit it.  But all around me people were ordering sausage-fried cheese, and cheese-smothered sausage; and jalapeno, sausage and cheese quesadillas with sides, toppings and bottoms of cheese.  And...and...I was planning on making black bean soup later this week...and...oh heck, the sausagey, cheesey restaurant smelled too tempting and I caved.

Maybe this is a good time to mention where I am with my ever-evolving eating choices.  I'm mostly vegan.  I just about never buy animal anything except local honey.  But sometimes I run out of almond milk and I'll have a splash of Jake's cream in my coffee.  Or sometimes I'm out with friends and I don't want to be a pain in the ass, or sometimes I just want to loosen up a little and eat whatever. (At other times I have opted to be a pain in the ass, or at least a damn difficult house guest, and I regret that. ) So I'm not quite strict enough to call myself a vegan or even a vegetarian..  Still, that's how I eat for all but a couple of meals a month.

But back to my night out.  the real reason I ate chili and cheese at a Mexican restaurant in Westport was because a group of us traveled together to hear a reading of our friend Mike's play "It Comes From Beyond." . 

Jake and I are members of Mike's playwriting group, so we were familiar with the script.  But it was a treat to sit back and enjoy the cast's fine performance.  And it was also a treat to meet Slant of Light Theater Company's founder and director, Stacy Ruttenberg.  She's welcoming, engaging, and  dedicated to making the theater a safe space for artists to explore and learn.  And her mother makes awesome cookies.

I've been tracking my consumption on this blog now for three and a half weeks, and this is the first restaurant meal I've had during that time.  It was also the first longish road trip, but because we carpooled I'm going to claim 1/5 of the mileage as my share of the consumption. 

Daily Consumption Totals:
Theater Performance: free! Slant of Light Theater Company's monthly readings are free!
Dinner including tip: $13.  Jake bought my dinner (thanks, Jake!) but I'm going to include it in my totals.  If Jake doesn't like it he can start his own blog and call it "Lies Laura Tells."
Miles (in which I was) Driven: 30