Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 3.30.14

Welcome back to my weekly meal plan post!

In this week's CSA box we received some endives, which I've never actually cooked before. I tried them in Belgium when I was studying in Italy, but I'm looking forward to cooking these myself this week.

Sunday: lentil salad from last week (life got in the way of our original plans for that night)

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: cheesy polenta with oven roasted tomatoes

Wednesday: roasted endive & pear salad (Cooking from the Farmer's Market)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: grill something?

Saturday: mustard pork chops

Friday, March 28, 2014

Design Finds of the Week #6

This week I want to share some more great images I've found in my thesis research.

This image of St. Edward's Parish Church in England has been a huge inspiration. I found a lot of uncredited images of this beautiful Gothic door grown over by two yew trees, but eventually traced them back to a few Flickr accounts and this website. It was actually through Wikipedia that I was finally able to find the correctly sourced photo I had been seeing all over Pinterest. Yet another reminder to check out the Pinterest links before blindly pinning!

© Copyright Martyn Gorman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

Another beautiful yew tree, this one at St George's Church in Cowhurst, England:

 © Copyright Tim B

Yew trees are so amazing. Did you know that they are often hollow inside as they grow? So fantastic and so peculiar...I am enjoying finding images of these trees to inspire aspects of my thesis! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Conservation Monday #7: Living Green for any Design Aesthetic

Although "green living" or sustainability are not design choices themselves, it seems that they have become identifiable with certain decor styles. Sustainable decor conjurers up ideas of hippie or bohemian style, while the idea of living waste free seems like it would only apply to minimalist, modern design.

I love reading Bea Johnson's blog Zero Waste Home, and she has inspired many of my own efforts to consume less. But while I admire her minimalist, white home, it is not my chosen style. I love color, and prefer a cozier feel. I like extra blankets on the couch to curl up with the cat (as Fleck tries to add her own thoughts to this blog by crawling onto the laptop keyboard). And I will admit to still having some inexplicable emotional attachments to otherwise useless things. But that's ok! Today I want to discuss how living an eco-friendly lifestyle is adaptable to any decor style you wish for your home!

Let's start with furniture. The most sustainable furniture choice is one that already exists. Yep, this means used! But used doesn't need to mean grimy thrift store finds that scream 80's.

For instance, my dining table was my grandparents' table. It is a simple, elegant and fairly timeless style. They chose a high quality wood which still looks great. And it has multiple removable leaves so that it can accommodate more people should we ever host a seated dinner party. (The physical constraints of our dining room don't allow for much expansion, but it's a flexible option for later down the line.)

(Please forgive the odd light balance of this picture - it's from sometime last year as I was beginning this blog. Time to take an updated picture of the dining room!)

While we're looking at this picture of the dining room, let's talk about the rest of the furniture there. The chairs were an amazing hand-me-down: my college roommate and awesome friend was given these chairs for free by a neighbor when we first moved into off-campus housing. When we graduated, she was moving back home so gave me the chairs. I'm currently in the process of refinishing them (thesis before painting! thesis before painting!) since they do show their age, but they're still strong and in good condition.

That bookcase holding my cookbooks and serving pieces was Sean's when he was a kid. It actually was bought to match his bed set when we was in high school, but by chance it's a fairly close match to the dining table and it works quite well in here.

And what is on the bookshelf? Mostly hand-me-down cookbooks! We've been given a lot of cookbooks as gifts, some new and some old. It can be fun to go through the old ones, especially the 1970's era "Cooking for Two" books that were passed to us from both sets of parents!

Oh, and the art in the dining room used to belong to my aunt! I actually hadn't realized before typing all of this just how many pieces in this room came to us from other people. Wow! And you can see that my decor is not minimalist at all -- I have many cookbooks that I enjoy going through, and I have beautiful serving pieces that are decor most of the time but handy when I need to use them.

Of course, there are some areas of the home where newer choices are more eco-friendly. One item that I've been reading about lately is the mattress. Many typical mattresses use unsustainable materials as fill, and then use cheap chemical flame retardants. These chemicals offgas as we sleep -- with our faces only a thin layer of fabric away. Organic mattresses may use natural latex or wool, and no chemical flame retardants. Unfortunately, they are considerably more expensive and often require a bed with slats to prevent moisture build up and mold. Since our bed is a platform, but we need the storage it provides and aren't ready to buy a new bed frame and organic mattress, this is something that is just on my wish-list for now!

At the risk of writing a huge essay, I'll end this post now. Hopefully I've given you some ideas on how to translate sustainability and waste-free living into your own design aesthetic. Since there are so many more aspects to talk about (not to mention looking at other decor styles besides my own) I think my Conservation Monday posts for the next few weeks may focus on eco-friendly design. Stay tuned!

And of course, if you have any ideas for green design, please share them in the comments! Have pictures that showcase green living joined with your own design style? Direct me to a blog post of yours and I'd love to feature it!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 3.23.14

It's officially spring break from school, but there's no real break from thesis work! What this does mean is that Sean is home for dinner on Monday (yay!) so I've actually planned to cook that night instead of our usual leftovers. Here's what we'll be eating this week:

Sunday: dinner in Berkeley after Accidental Death of an Anarchist?

Monday: chicken with sautéed beet greens

Tuesday: pasta with lemon zest & ricotta (from Cooking from the Farmer's Market)

Wednesday: lamb meatball & swiss chard soup

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: lentil salad with asparagus & herbs

Saturday: something with the London broil from our meat CSA -- BBQ if the weather is nice...marinade and broil if not. Plus salad either way.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Design Finds of the Week #5

It's been a while since I've shared my design research on this blog. I've been finding a lot of great images in my thesis research lately, and I want to share some of them today.

For my thesis I'm designing a hypothetical production of Camelot. Some of my inspiration is the blending of nature and architecture, like these images:


Monday, March 17, 2014

Conservation Monday #6: Why I Meal Plan

In the hectic existence that is a master's thesis, I missed my Conservation Monday post last week. Oops! I hope today's post makes up for it!

I want to break from my regular list format today and discuss in depth one of the ways I have practically eliminated food waste. I have accomplished this through the use of a fairly simple tool: the meal plan.

Some people have incredibly elaborate, detailed meal plans. Some plan an entire month's meals at once! This is not for me, because we prefer to eat with the seasons and are members of a fruit/veggie CSA as well as a meat CSA. I absolutely love my CSA memberships, as they encourage us to try new foods, eat all of our fruit and vegetable servings, eat locally and eat organically. The occasional downside is that we don't know the contents of the veggie box until the weekend before it arrives, and we don't know the contents of the meat box until I open it!

This element of surprise has led me to the following method:

When I get a box, I write down in the notes section of my planner ALL of the contents. I have a column for fruit, a column for vegetables, and a column for meat. (Since the meat arrives once a month and vegetables currently come every other week, I end up with more fruit and vegetable lists than meat lists)

The list looked like this in February after I opened our first meat box:
  • ground beef
  • ground pork
  • ground lamb
  • leg of lamb
  • pork chops
  • pork butt
  • carrots
  • artichokes
  • romanesco
  • lettuce
  • kale
  • shallots
  • apples
  • oranges
  • lemons
Then, I work to plan meals within the basic schedule I have in which Mondays are leftovers, Tuesdays are typically pasta, Wednesdays are often soup, Thursdays are leftovers and Friday, Saturday and Sunday can be anything. I'm flexible about moving pasta and soup nights around, but establishing those gave me a decent framework to make sure meals never get too repetitive. (After all, I studied in Italy for a year and I would be happy eating pasta every night, but that wouldn't be OK with Sean!) As I figure out a recipe for each ingredient, I cross it off the list. For instance:
  • ground beef
  • ground pork - baked eggs & kale
  • ground lamb
  • leg of lamb - lamb tagine
  • pork chops
  • pork butt
  • carrots
  • artichokes
  • romanesco
  • lettuce
  • kale - baked eggs & kale
  • shallots
  • apples
  • oranges
  • lemons 
I continue matching ingredients to recipes and recipes to days until I have figured out what to do with all the produce. I try to use delicate produce, like the leafy greens, first since they wilt, whereas the heartier stuff can wait closer to the next box. The meat needs to last all month, and it's in the freezer, so I don't worry as much about figuring out a recipe for each piece right away. I typically get about a week and a half of meal planning done at a time.

I write the week's plan in my planner and on a fridge calendar. I love that with the meal plan right there on the fridge, there's never a question of what to make for dinner!

Of course, then there are weeks like tech, when I'm not even home in the evenings to make dinner, and Sean gets cute with the "meal plan":

Won't have tech again for a while, as I finish this thesis. But at least I know he can handle the "meal planning" without me!

My meal planning system isn't perfect yet, and part of that has to do with spontaneity. Sometimes I plan something, but then we end up having a last minute dinner with friends. The meal plan gets shifted to accommodate, which is why if you read all of my meal plan posts you'll see certain meals carrying over into the next week.

We have also had a few times when I was supposed to make the new soup for "soup night" but I looked into the fridge and there was still leftover soup. I'm not making a whole new pot when there are still jars of leftovers sitting in the fridge, so it becomes an impromptu "leftovers" night.

Despite the couple kinks I'm still working out in our plan, we have cut food waste down to almost nothing. The worms get any kitchen scraps that aren't meat, dairy or citrus. It can take a long time now to ever fill up the kitchen garbage can, and it's a fairly small one to begin with! I'm very happy with the progress we've made, and I plan to keep working to reduce our waste even further as well as take all the stress out of dinner time!

Do you meal plan? What's your system? Share in the comments!


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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 3.16.14

The meal plan for this week is heavy with seasonal produce from our CSA box: beets, butternut squash, blue potatoes, radishes, asparagus. A small holdover from winter (the squash) with lots of tastes of spring!

I've also planned the meals this week so that two recipes use kalamata olives and feta cheese (the chick pea stew and the winter salad). These are not products I buy often, so when I do I want to make sure they get eaten up.

Sunday: beet ravioli

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: slow cooker char siu pork roast (this was my plan for yesterday, but we ended up doing dinner with my parents instead)

Wednesday: slow cooker chick pea stew

Thursday: winter salad with butternut squash (with lettuce instead of radicchio)

Friday: slow cooker whole chicken with potato Caesar salad

Saturday: asparagus frittata

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 3.9.14

Sunday once more, so time for some meal planning. Friends and family have made this week a bit easy on me, with two nights where we don't need to plan dinners. It's great when that happens! Plus spending time with friends and family is always nice.

Sunday: stew dinner with friends (we'll bring a dessert, maybe something using the oranges from yesterday's Village Harvest event)

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: carrot ginger soup (last week's plans changed, and this never was made; time for take two!)

Wednesday: dinner out with Sean's family

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: real food sloppy joes

Saturday: slow cooker Char Siu Pork Roast

Monday, March 3, 2014

Conservation Monday #5: Reducing Waste in Other Rooms

It's Monday, which means it's once again time to share some conservation/waste reduction tips!

The last two weeks, we've looked at some ways to reduce waste in the kitchen and the bathroom. For us, these two rooms are the biggest waste generators. But today let's look at some other areas of the house where you may be able to cut down your waste and conserve resources.


1. Get Rid of Old Clothes. While you may not think of old clothes sitting in the closet as "waste," they are certainly wasting your space if you are not wearing them! If items are in good enough condition, and you have the time, you may be able to sell them online, to a place like Plato's Closet, or through another consignment store. Otherwise, donate! Free up that closet or drawer space for the clothes that you actually do wear.

2. Minimize Clutter. Again, not exactly a waste stream issue, but by reducing clutter you will save time cleaning and organizing.

3. Use Blankets instead of a Heater. If you live in a mild enough climate (this may not necessarily work for you if you have inches of snow on the ground!) pile up the blankets and leave the heater off. You'll save energy, which in turn reduces your electric or gas bill.

Home Office

1. Junk Mail. It's so easy to let papers just come into the house, and then what do you do with them? Hopefully you're able to toss them in the recycling, though there are those pesky ads that have some plastic coating on them preventing recycling. But wouldn't it be better to stop the junk from ever coming into the house? The Federal Trade Commission website shows you some ways to opt out of unwanted mailings (and phone calls!). DMA Choice also allows you to opt out of certain unwanted mailings.

2. Print Judiciously. It's very easy to get into the habit of printing out everything. But if you only print out the files that you truly need a hard copy of, you will reduce paper usage and reduce your need for storage.

3. Sell Old Books. If you have old books you aren't going to read again, sell them to your favorite used book store. One of my favorite used book stores will even pay you more if you take store credit rather than cash. Since I always find great art/architecture/theater reference books there, I'll happily trade old fiction for more long-term resources!

that top shelf has a nice hole in the sea of books - the former residents are in a box waiting to be sold, and read by someone new

Living Room

1. Reduce clutter. Once again, clutter reduction saves time and effort when it comes to cleaning.

2. Rent/Borrow vs Buy. This applies to movies, books, even video games. By renting movies and TV shows (from either a physical rental place, or Netflix) you have access to lots of media without having to purchase it. This can save you money, save space, and reduce the amount of packaging that enters the waste stream from producing all those DVDs. Borrowing from friends is also a great resource, and free!
Your local library is also an amazing resource. I haven't bought many new books in the last couple years (when I have, it's primarily been for school) as our public library is so extensive. Some people also borrow movies from the library; personally I haven't had the best of luck with this as DVDs are often scratched. However I have had excellent luck borrowing music and books on tape from the library.

3. Use those Blankets! Just like the bedroom, blankets can be used to keep warm instead of a heater. I enjoy curling up on the couch with a cozy throw blanket while reading or watching TV. If your heater can get noisy like ours, you want to avoid using it while watching TV anyway!

 you can see my pile of blankets on the stool above

Of course, if you have any other suggestions for reducing waste in any of these areas, please share in the comments!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 3.2.14

Once again, it's time to share our meal plan for the week!

Sunday: Mustardy Pork Chops with Acorn Squash

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: Broccoli Pasta

Wednesday: Carrot Ginger Soup

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine

Saturday: homemade pizza

The Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine has become a favorite recipe, and works well with chicken too. This week we'll be using a small leg of lamb that came in our meat CSA box, and serving it with some artichokes from our veggie CSA.