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This past year has been remarkable for vegans in Boston. I can’t believe how better things keep getting! Last year saw the opening in October of the amazing Peace O’Pie co-owned by my talented buddies Eric and Miguel. A vegan pizzeria? Oh yeah!

Red Lentil (vegetarian with vegan options) opened sometime around the same time.

Pulse Cafe then opened in February just a five minute walk from my apartment. Vegan home cooking..and now brunch!

True Cafe is slated to open soon just a ten minute walk from my apartment. The Clover Food truck is opening another truck in Harvard Square soon (vegetarian food truck). And finally, oh I can barely contain myself, we will have a vegan shoe store!!!

Sudo Shoes is scheduled to open soon..come visit soon everyone!!

Sudo Shoes--vegan shoes!

Sudo Shoes--vegan shoes!

Retail-Me-Not

Wheee!!! My No Buy Year means that I’m not spending unnecessarily but it doesn’t mean that I’m not spending. Le sigh! Unfortunately, necessary items such as vitamin supplements, shampoo, and pet/companion animal supplies can be expensive. Which is why I am really excited about the following website, Retail-Me-Not which lists coupon codes for just about any web site and store I’ve tried.

Recently, I:

  • Saved $5.95 on shipping for my vegan Vitamin D supplements
  • Saved 20% on my purchase of shampoo online
  • Found a promo code for a local show that I was planning to see with some friends. We saved $10 per ticket!

Check it out! Retail-me-not.

My sister forwarded this item to me the other day and I was thrilled to behold this blog! Thanks Michelle!

http://www.thegreatamericanappareldiet.com/

A little background information:

“The Great American Apparel Diet, what is it?  We are a group of women who have decided to go on a diet of sorts.  A fast really.  We are completely eliminating  “new apparel” from our diets for one year.   Yes, the next time you see us sporting new togs it will be Sept. 2, 2010.  Sound easy?  Well think again.  This is going to be a stretch for most of us.  You see, like most women we are attached to our wardrobes in some form or another.  In fact buying a new something-or-other is as natural as a dark choclate pick-me-up.  We all have our reasons for embarking on this project but it all gets down to this…who are we without something hip and new in our closets?  We shall see.”

Does this resonate with me? Oh yeah. Sometimes I just tire of everything in my closet and throw my hands up in the air that I have “nothing to wear.” When questioned by the husband, who reminds me that I have plenty, I beg to differ. Oh, no, it doesn’t fit anymore because I gained/lost weight. Or it’s all worn out. Or I don’t have anything appropriate for this particular event/meeting/conference/activity/fill-in-the-blank. Honestly it’s not the clothes, it’s ME. Maybe it’s a life funk, day-to-day speed bump or just simply having an ugly/fat/pms moment (I know even the most confident of women have them even if they won’t admit it!). I am convinced in these moments that a new outfit will fix the problem. And you know what? Sometimes it does! It’s just what I need to get me out of whatever funk I am in. However, it’s a band-aid on a bigger problem. If you hit a patch in your life where you are having a lot of rough days, your monthly budget is going to take a serious beating. It’s time to me to “iron” out these issues.

Two weekends ago I was tempted to break my No Buy Year..I was going out to a disco show in Harvard Square with a bunch of friends who were going to dress “in period” dress. I struggled to remember my own apparel from the seventies..which was years 1-8 of my life. Giranimals? Probably not appropriate (but so fun and omg, I cannot believe they are still around!). Underoos? Hum. Nope. So my friend Jesse and I headed out to some local thrift and consignment stores the day of the show. I didn’t want to break my No Buy Year pledge so I found a workaround, possibly a cheat, but for now I’m going to call it a workaround. I had consigned a ton of clothes at the consignment shop down the street from my apartment in Davis Square. Figuring that I’d have a $30 credit or so, I decided that my seventies gear must come from that store. Honestly, it was hard. At first, I found nothing. I searched and searched. I tried on so many different pieces with no luck. It was so easy to get distracted by more modern pieces. I had to keep reminding myself that I had to focus on the task at hand: seventies! Finally, after two hours, on the “under $10” rack I found it..a striped orange and silver sparkle tank. Perfect. At checkout I found that I have a $70 credit at the store because all the pieces I dropped off in December sold! I was thrilled. I was at first tempted to use that credit up but I think I’ll save it just in case another “wardrobe” emergency arises. No Buy crisis averted.

Some random thoughts around clothing recycling:

  • Consignment stores sell your lightly worn clothing for you and give you a percentage of the sale price when the item sells. They can be somewhat picky about what they take. Items must be in good condition, clean, and show very little wear. Consignment stores all vary in their policies. My favorite store, Poor Little Rich Girl, offers a one-time in person drop off so they can talk to you about how things work. After that, you can drop off anytime during the first fifteen days of the month. They give me 40% of what my items sell for as well as a 20% “consignor” discount for any item that I purchase in the store.
  • Thrift stores are donation-only..they sell your clothing and keep the sale income which sometimes supports a local charity. They are less picky about what they take so it’s a good dumping ground for anything that a consignment store won’t take.
  • Cash on the spot options. Buffalo Exchange, which just opened near me, is a nation-wide “recycled clothing” chain. They offer on the spot cash for your items. Just call in advance to find out what they are looking for.
  • Try consigning at the a few different stores as each store specializes in different types of items. Poor Little Rich Girl likes a lot of my funkier, younger items. Raspberry Beret has an incredible selection of used jeans in excellent condition. Buffalo Exchange has an amazing shoe selection.
  • Plan ahead season by season. If you are cleaning out your winter gear as you pack it away for spring, you’re probably not going to have a lot of luck consigning your winter items. Even thought it’s still cold, the retail season for winter wear is over. Like most retail, consignment stores are looking ahead to the next season. I keep a bag for each season for items that I want to consign. When March hits, I’ll be dragging out the spring bag to bring it down the street to PLRG as they start accepting spring items.
  • Looks are everything! Clean, ironed, and neatly folded items in a J. Crew bag or something similar makes a much better impression than cramming everything in a big trash bag.

We recently got a new car, a third-generation Toyota Prius. Our old Prius was my baby (group hug with the Prius anyone??!) and I thought my heart was going to break when we turned it over to the dealership. It is ridiculous how attached I get to cars and my appliances! Can’t help it. It’s very Gilmore Girl of me, right? I laughed so hard while watching the episode where Lorelei claims to have named all of her appliances. The pending separation with the original Prius was soon made *almost* all better by the new car. The third generation Priuses are just amazing, amazing cars. Fun to drive and a perfect fit for a small person, the folks at Toyota made the new Priuses even better than the old ones. H tells me that our new car is much much better in the snow which is a nice safety enhancement, right?!! So the new car came with a three month trial of XM/Sirius satellite radio. I thought, oh pooh, who needs that? Wrong wrong wrong. I fell in love with it, especially station #47, Alt Nation. During the holidays I printed out the list of 5 stations devoted just to holiday music. The station selector didn’t move until after the holidays were over. I loved it!

So I started thinking, do we want satellite radio? H agreed that no commercial interruptions and limited DJ banter (god, how I hate DJ banter!!) made it very attractive. I weighed out the options..the monthly subscription would be $12.99/mo. BUT we could only play the radio in the car. Adding on an internet option to play via our computers would be an extra $3/mo. Which brought me back to my “No Buy Year.”

I got so sucked into thinking that I really “needed” this satellite radio..I had excuses flying through my head from claiming that it would increase my work productivity to imagining that I’d work out more at home with really cool music. HA! How many times do I do this dance with myself which is basically my gut saying “no, you do not need this” while my mind tries to justify it. Normally my mind wins and then I regret the waste of money later. However, this time, with my “No Buy Year” being in effect, I decided to do a little research first.

I mentioned my dilemma to my friend Lisa who is always full of great ideas. She mentioned Pandora.com, an internet radio service. I’m a late coming to the whole internet radio thing so you may already know about this..I didn’t! Since it was free I thought I’d try it right away. That was last Sunday and now, over a week later, I can’t stop listening! Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up for a free account at Pandora.com. There’s nothing to install. Pandora will play right in your web browser. The only thing that you might need is a better pair of speakers if the ones on your computer aren’t so good. Luckily my MacBook Pro has good sound. My old iBook was terrible though!
  2. Create a “station” based on a band that you like. My fav right now is the “Yeah Yeah Yeahs.” Pandora determines what other types of bands you might like. So my “Yeah Yeah Yeahs” channel plays a lot of Phoenix and Radiohead.
  3. Share it if you want. You can share you station with friends and family.
  4. Play it remotely on your iPhone or Blackberry. I installed it on my Blackberry (make sure your data plan is unlimited otherwise you’re gonna get a heart-stopping bill). It works well in my apartment and at work. I haven’t tried it yet at the gym. I did try it in the car and the sound quality wasn’t that good as the car was moving (a lot of static).
  5. Enjoy! Pandora has brought a lot of joy to my day and I’m so grateful to have been clued into it!

So you might be wondering, what am I going to be listening to in the car? Well, evaluating my whole “needs” vs. “wants” dilemma made me realize that I, luckily, spend very little time in the car. I spend much more time in front of the computer or in a place near my computer so it made sense for me to find a solution that actually addressed where I spend more of my time! Regular old FM radio here I come!

I was so eager to get started with “My No Buy Year,” which officially commenced on January 1st, 2010, that I decided to make my New Year’s Eve celebration a currency-free evening! Luckily, the weather wasn’t too horrible. Last year we had a blizzard and blustery cold weather on New Year’s Eve but not this time. We had a bit of snow during the day but by evening it cleared and was perfect for walking! Boston has quite the First Night celebration..actually the very first in the country to start up years ago. There are plenty of outdoor activities that are free and open to everyone so we parked our car on the Cambridge side, walked over the Mass Ave. bridge and walked for the rest of the night with stops at various events. It was a blast!

First stop: the open house at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, open at no cost to the public all day!

Inside the MFA

Inside the MFA

Dragon

Dragon

Ceiling at the MFA

Ceiling at the MFA

MFA Main Entrance on Huntington Ave.

MFA Main Entrance on Huntington Ave.

Next stop: Copley square to view the ice sculptures

Copley Square/Public Library

Copley Square/Public Library

Copley Square

Copley Square

Ice Sculpture

Ice Sculpture

Party Gear

Party Gear

Aphrodite Ice Sculpture

Aphrodite Ice Sculpture

Ice sculpture

Ice sculpture

More ice sculptures

More ice sculptures

A walk through the Boston Common

Music on the Boston Common

Music on the Boston Common

Xmas tree on the Common

Xmas tree on the Common

A stop at a local church to hear some music, sample some cider and hot cocoa, and play around with a computer test on the bible (we failed horribly!)..

Hot cider and cocoa

Hot cider and cocoa

Going to hell without our handbags

Going to hell without our handbags

Walk through Faneuil Hall..food vendors everywhere..we got bagels and sat inside to warm up a little…

Fanueil Hall Marketplace

Fanueil Hall Marketplace

Fanueil Hall

Fanueil Hall

Finally, we arrived at the Harbor right before midnight..just in time for the fireworks and the countdown to 2010!

Boston Harbor Park

Boston Harbor Park

Fireworks on the harbor

Fireworks on the harbor

A walk home..I really think of Boston as being beautiful only in the warmer months but I was taken back by how pretty the city looked with the snow and decorative lights.

Walking home through the Boston Public Garden

Walking home through the Boston Public Garden

Boston Public Garden 1am, January 1st, 2010

Boston Public Garden 1am, January 1st, 2010

Happy new year!

As I’m preparing to start off my official “no-buy” year in the depths of a snowy winter, I’m thinking of flowers. I’m pledging to buy only the essentials for 2010 so what about the occasional bouquet of flowers that I like to treat myself to? Luckily, we always have orchids!

Orchid

One of my orchids

Orchids have long been a favorite flower of mine for two reasons. First, they are gorgeous. They come in so many different varieties. My favorite and the one that you may find most often in stores is Phalaenopsis (pronounced fal-en-OPP-sis). They have big, beautiful flowers and are, in my opinion, the easiest to keep.

Second, orchid flowers last a REALLY long time! Blossoms can last for 6-8 weeks which, compared to fresh cut flowers, is more than worth the $20-30 that you may pay for an orchid vs. the $8-$20 for a bouquet that may last just a week.

Orchid 1x cost of $20-30

Weekly fresh flowers for 6 weeks $48-120

Orchids win hands down! And if you are diligent and keep your orchid friends happy, you will be rewarded with many more blossoms in the future.

Now I admit that this is easier said than done. I’ve had very little success in getting my orchids to rebloom (that doesn’t stop them from being an amazing value though with their initiate blooms!). Some tips that I have gleaned from the web this morning are:

Orchid from Whole Foods

An orchid from Whole Foods

  • Water is important but orchids need just the right amount of water. They prefer a weekly “soak” where you allow the bark to become completely saturated with water and then drained.
  • If you give them too much water, mold and rot will appear (which is why the “soak” method where the water drains away is better than regular occasional watering). Not enough water and the leaves will become dry and leathery.
  • It is also important to get the right amount of light for your particular orchid..orchid leaves should not be a dark green but instead a lighter green. The lighter color of the leaves indicates that the orchid is getting the proper amount of light.
  • Regular fertilizing is key to reblooming.

For some great resources on growing orchids check out these links:

Beautiful fuschia orchid!

Beautiful fuschia orchid!

Last but not least, a recent addition to my orchid collection is a chocolate scented orchid. What?! Really?! Yes, after lusting after my friend Sarah’s chocolate scented orchid for a year, and failing miserably to locate one of my own (for months I visited a local flower shop in Harvard Square on the promise from the owner that they have them occasionally), I was surprised when a box was delivered to my office two months ago. Inside, a gift from Sarah, was a ready to bloom chocolate scented orchid! The delicate brown blossoms are gorgeous by themselves but after a day of blossoming, the scent chocolate-like scent is amazing. Now, it’s not exactly like chocolate but it’s pleasant enough to delight anyone and after two months of inhaling the scent from the continuous blooming next to my desk, I’m still not tired of it.

Some interesting orchid facts:

  • You probably have orchid seeds in your cupboard already. The vanilla plant is an orchid and its seed pods are the beloved vanilla beans, topped only by saffron as the most expensive spice in the world.
  • Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants..Charles Darwin studied them extensively.
  • Popularity of orchids reached its peak in the Victorian era when “Orchidelirium” or “orchid flower madness”  set in, causing wealthy orchid collectors to hire expeditions to travel the world in search of new orchid varieties!

White orchid

White orchid

Where to get your own orchids? I find the least expensive and fairly healthy orchids at Whole Foods although it is hit and miss when they have them in stock. You can also try to Google for local orchid growers (Google “orchids” + “your state or location name”). Many states have their own orchid shows. Even in the snowy New England we have a local orchid show in New Hampshire every February. Many growers will offer discounts at shows to make your purchase even more affordable. A good healthy small to mid-sized Phalaenopsis will range from $15-40. The bigger the plant the bigger the price as a general rule.