Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Thief Among Us

While I was in Spain, the lack of a computer forced me to go out and buy some *gasp* pens and paper.

At the department store's office supply section, I picked up a notebook and put it down immediately, unhappy with the cover. I moved over a foot and looked at a different group of notepads, picking a few of them up, too. As I was doing that, I noticed that one of the saleswomen had been standing at the end of my aisle. She didn't ask me if I needed help, so I assumed she was stocking something. I went to the next aisle to look at the other notebooks. The woman appeared again, this time on the other end. I ignored her and went back to the other aisle. She appeared again. I moved towards the pens.

The saleslady moved to the cash register, which was by the pens, and she was now joined by another saleslady. When I disappeared around a particularly large display, one of them appeared behind me, acting as though the aisle behind me suddenly needed tidying. It did, but so did the rest of the store. Why care all of a sudden? For 15 minutes the women kept shadowing me through their office supply domain. I actually started switching aisles more frequently just to see if they would follow me (they did).

What was I going to do? Grab a handful of erasers and make a run for it? Stash Hello Kitty notebooks in my purse to sell on the office supply black market to some five-year-old HK addicts? Apparently my orange sundress and flip flops gave away my secret identity as Master Office Supply Thief. There's a new criminal in town and she's set on making off with reams of A4, off-white printing paper!

In the end I went to the counter and paid four euros for a green notepad and a set of pens. Disappointment floated around the two women as one begrudgingly rang me up and the other one drifted away. Maybe they thought they were going to be heroes that day, collaring a thief in their midst. Sadly, I turned out to be a simple, upstanding citizen who just needed some alternatives to a computer and the internet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Check out the actual FARE on my ticket, and then check out the FINAL PRICE. Amazing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Chanterelles are beloved in Germany and when they're in season, the markets are exploding with them. My California upbringing means I love light, simple food, citrus, and wine. So the below recipe was a perfect combo. This is also an excellent substitute for mussels/clams (and easier to clean!).

The picture is from Martha Stewart, the recipe is from

Watercress Orange Salad

After failing to keep New Year's Resolutions for more than a few months and then giving up on them altogether for a few years, I've decided I need a new approach to life. We make New Year's resolutions because there are always things in our lives that we feel we could do better, or differently. But trying to keep a resolution for a year is impossible. The time frame is too long and we get bored, or forget, or can't remember why we thought the resolution was important in the first place. So I've decided to start smaller. I am setting goals that I want to achieve in 30 days. At the end of the 30 days I can keep going or I can stop, it doesn't matter. What matters is sticking to something for just a month - a small, manageable period of time.

Which leads me to question of what my first goals should be. After reading Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals" (a post on that coming soon!) and working on sustainability within a large company, I have been asking myself a lot of questions about my own activities. How can I work to make a company more sustainable when some of my own activities are not sustainable? How can I continue to eat meat when I know it contributes to climate change, hunger, global pandemics, and human rights abuses? There is always a need to balance what you should do with what you feasibly can do, but if I'm brutally honest with myself, I haven't even been doing a lot of what I could do relatively easily. The arguments about not having enough time or money to make those changes are just arguments - they're not reality. And the arguments that one person can't make a difference is also ridiculous. Ten years ago, asking for a vegetarian meal at a restaurant gave me funny looks. Today, I can open a menu and go straight to the specially-designated "vegetarian entrees". That was because millions of individuals made the decision to become a vegetarian and the markets responded. Now there is a need for consumers to say they want really sustainable products, not just greenwashed marketing, and I intend to be one (of the millions) who makes that demand.

So, my November goals are about changing the way I consume food.

November 2011
Month 1, Goals 1-3
1. Go back to being a complete vegetarian (no fish, no poultry, no meat)
2. Buy in-season produce, locally where possible
3. Buy groceries that have at least one of the legitimate "bio" labels

Germany and the European Union together actually have 10+ bio labels, but not all of them have an actual positive impact on environmental or social issues. I did some research and identified six that were not simply exercises in greenwashing and am basing my purchases on them. [For those of you living in the U.S., the "organic", "natural", "cage-free", and "free-range" labels have virtually no meaning whatsoever thanks to the USDA's conflicting mandate to protect consumers AND producers....If you're trying to make more conscious decisions, you'll need to find local third-party verifiers in your individual states. is a good place to start looking.]

I also found an awesome calendar of seasonal fruits, nuts, and vegetables in Europe that not only identifies what's in season, but labels what is likely to be grown within Europe and what is likely to be imported. I also located two specific farmer's markets in Frankfurt that only include farmers/cheese producers from the state of Hessen. In reality, many of these farmers also purchase goods from other distributors and sell those products, too (for example, there is no way the current abundance of persimmons came from Germany...). I try to counteract that risk by checking the produce I'm interested in against my seasonal, European calendar.

The outcome after two weeks? A whole new repertoire of recipes, a healthier diet, and the knowledge that what I'm eating is sustainable for future generations.The goal timeline is for only 30 days, but it's already become apparent that this change is cheap and easy, so I'll probably stick to it in the long-run, too.

I found the recipe below while looking for something to do with my seasonal and locally-grown watercress. The picture and the recipe come from Food Republic, a treasure trove of recipes from a "Canadimerican" couple living in California (

I also added pumpkin seeds and radishes (also in season!), which complemented the rest of the salad quite well.

By the way, I *love* honey mustard but spend tons of cash testing out sub-par honey mustard dressing at the supermarket. This recipe is amazing and ridiculously simple to make, ending my search for the perfect dressing!