Good enough.

This is one of those weeks where I have ceased feeling like a functional adult. When I returned from vacation I remember thinking "Is this really what I do every day? Plugged in and on and making decisions and prioritizing a billion different things at work and then again at home?" It felt so nice to be on vacation and only have to plan one thing at a time. I still had to process the horrifying news that is the domestic US political situation but it was a light week when we were on vacation, so it felt less bad. (Now, however...)

Small victories feel like what I can muster this week. I am not on top of deadlines but 60% of stuff that needs to get done is getting done (we are understaffed). I had a good week with my new office foster cat. I renewed my library books. I made it to the chiropractor. I brought lunch to work most days. And I did find a suitable container for the solid personal care stuff I mentioned last post. Keeping with the theme of this week, it's not perfect but it's functional.

I was going through old, unused beauty products and I found this tin of balm. It wasn't vegan and I got stuck with it at a vegan gift swap (seriously) so it just sat there. I was just in the process of emptying the very old contents into the trash and putting the tin in recycling when the comments on the last post jogged my memory that this existed and might be an option. So, some Citrasolv, washi tape, goose-shaped post-it and clear tape later...a container for my Farmacy. 


Zero waste: swapping liquids for solids at Lush

Hi friends! I have been trying to swap out some of my plastic bottled (liquid) products for solid products that come package-free. Lush seems to be the only store I could think of where I can go and look at the products before purchasing so that's where I started. I know there are some Etsy store that do solid lotion and shampoo bars but I find Etsy so hit or miss for handmade stuff and I'm hesitant to buy a personal care product unless someone recommends it.

First up, I swapped out the previous Lush shampoo bar I had (Montalbano) for their new Lullaby bar, which is supposed to be better for sensitive skin. I don't actually have sensitive skin but that prior shampoo bar was really drying -- I asked around in a few zero waste and vegan makeup FB communities and that seems to be a common problem with Lush's shampoo bars so hopefully this swap will help. I've also heard the Lush conditioner bars are useless and I've experienced the same with the one I have (Sugar Daddy-O). I've been using plastic bottle conditioner and adding a few drops of jojoba oil to it to counteract the drying Montalbano. Hoping I get to skip that step in the very near future.

I was also interested in a body butter bar I'd seen written up somewhere. Apparently it's for in-shower use though, which seemed strange. I did ask a Lush consultant if they had any moisturizer bars for like, regular moisturizing and she recommended using one of the massage bars post-shower. She recommended Therapy - which is below. The dots are are something about navels -- for every three innies, there's an outie? I don't remember. So far, so good with the bar. I'm seeing how long it lasts though, since it was $12 and if it doesn't last at least a bit, that will be some expensive moisturizing. The bar is primarily cocoa butter and shea butter so if this is too expensive in the long run, I'll try to look for a bar with similar ingredients elsewhere. If you haven't used these before, they do warm up with just the heat of your hands and it's easy to apply. 

And lastly, I wanted something to replace the MyChelle fruit enzyme scrub that I use when I feel like I need to do a deep clean of my face. You know those days in the summer especially -- when your pores are like huge and open for business? I remembered calamine-based Fresh Farmacy and asked for the smallest portion they'd let me buy. I used to love this stuff and then I had a bad experience with it when I bought a big piece and it was a weird formula and super dry and gritty. I stopped using it after that expensive mistake. This piece was fine so I'll probably just buy it in the smallest quantities possible so it stays fresh. This was about $4. And that's way cheaper than the MyChelle scrub and will probably last as long.

My next problem was figuring out the best way to store this stuff. I realized storing the shampoo bar near the bath, on the little windowsill product-storage ledge was not ideal and that would not be great for anything else that comes in a solid for the same reasons. (It either gets wet or dries out in the sun too quickly.) So I found an already-owned travel soap dish for one of them and managed to find a like new and suitable snap-tight plastic container at Goodwill for the Farmacy. Now I just need one more container - honestly a travel soap dish would be best but I really hate to buy a new one and I am not a huge fan of the metal dishes Lush sells for this stuff -- don't they get rusty? So I'll need to figure something out.

I'm traveling soon and the good news is that all this stuff doesn't need to be in my clear dopp bag for liquids so it can go right in my suitcase. (Two points for solids!) 

Though, last time I traveled I didn't even need to pull out my liquids bag. Apparently the adorable K-9 unit puppy who sniffed my bag confirmed that they didn't need to see anything, according to the guard. Not only did I get to see a puppy (who they insist you cannot pet), but she saved me the trouble of pulling stuff out of my suitcase. 


Lipsticks: Love the One You're With

You know how I always complain about my lipstick problem? Lip balm and lipsticks are so easy to buy. New colors are like a face change! And finding the "just right" color for your coloring is a weird first world challenge I seem to have made my personal mission in life. (Besides my whole "the very best natural deodorant" quest.) I have amassed tons of product. So many little plastic tubes. Plastic Free July has reminded me of this excess yet again.

This past weekend I actually went through my stash and got rid of any older stuff and this is what was left:

I've now sorted my stuff into clear balms, tinted balms and actual lipstick and have committed to picking out a new one each day. My overall goal is to have just a few well-chosen things.

Lip Stuff Goals:
  • No more than 5 clear lip balms (preferred brand is Soothing Touch Vanilla Chai - thanks Jaunty Dame), 
  • One tinted balm with an SPF (probably this Pacifica peach one, SPF 30)
  • One or two proper lipsticks (one perfect red - probably 100% Pure Blood Orange, one obnoxious pink - I think I have an Emani candidate here - the Manic Panic I'm wearing below is no longer made vegan)
That will at least reduce the amount of waste and plastic I have! As I look for replacements I'm also going to look for ones that have metal or wood containers (100% Pure has metal lipsticks). Work in progress!

This is my first "I guess I'll wear this 'cause I have it" foray!


Have #plasticfreejuly will travel

One of the huge hurdles about trying to be plastic-free is that you really have to plan. When planning, it's helpful to know what to expect in your day to day consumption at the grocery, coffee shop, restaurant. When you're traveling you have a lot more unknowns to deal with (it's not your regular grocery, coffee shop, restaurant) and you're often not making food at home. Just the thought of it gives me anxiety and sounds like some Mission: Impossible BS and gives me visions of a Fvjallraven full of glass containers, sporks, tiffins, you name it. Like if Inspector Gadget and Life Without Plastic had a baby. (I don't even own a Fvjallraven, by the way.) 

Chicago has been my home-away-from home for the last week and knowing I'd be living out of a hotel room and eating out, this is what I brought with me:

2 wraps
cloth napkin, spork and elastic
small leak-proof tiffin
(not shown) metal condiment/spice rack size container

my trusty REI travel mug
(today the barista told me "it looks like it's been through a lot")

It helped that I discovered that the one vegan chain, Native Foods, near our hotel served their dine-in food on ceramic plates with metal flatware with the only disposable being a napkin. (For the most part. I did order a dessert they tried to put in a plastic cup but I saw it happening and was able to put it into one of the wraps I had instead.) This meant that I became a Native Foods groupie for a week straight -- sometimes I ate there twice a day. I've eaten half their menu, legit fan-girl style. It was just so easy because not only were they 100% vegan but they also didn't hand me disposables the way a lot of fast food places would. We used the tin and wraps for Native Foods leftovers quite a few times. Once I ordered my food to stay just so I could put it in my own to-go containers vs receiving it in their plastic ones. 

Do-Rite Donuts was also pretty easy -- a paper bag and a sheet of waxed paper was not so bad. Sometimes it was just waxed paper, no bag. 

And we managed to get some loose produce from the farmers' market -- kirbies and peaches:

Yeah, that's our ice bucket and hotel room side table. The kirbies had a green cardboard container and I just put the peaches in my tote bag

Other places were a little trickier. I asked Le Pain Quotidian to put my baked goods right into my wrap mat. Intelligentsia coffee shop #1 gave me my soy milk for my cold brew in a ceramic creamer pot the first few times and then the last time they just let me pour it in right from the box. Intelligentsia #2 handed me my soy milk in a paper cup. (Why do coffee shops do this?! Why?!) I favored Intelligentsia #1 for obvious reasons. Chicago Diner gave us ceramic dishes (though we used a wrap mat for our sandwich leftovers - so prepared!), as did Kitchen 17 (also packed up leftovers into the tin - again, prepared!). We took the L to and from those places, so no cars involved.

I bunged up a few times on my own though. I got low blood sugar near a CVS and couldn't find something package-free while I walked around with my glass bottle of kombucha (sans travel mug). Nuts in a cardboard canister? Everything was too big or not vegan. All the other nuts were in plastic. Cracker boxes? All had a bag inside. Bars (Fig Bars, Aunt Betty's, That's It, etc) -- all had plastic wrappers. I ended up with a box of rice cakes with plastic packaging inside, which made no sense but my brain wasn't working at that point so I just made my failure purchase and GTFO.

I also managed to forget my travel mug when I went to the rate-the-fall-season-samples Mata Traders event and took a plastic cup from them for my lemonade. (It was a 20 min train ride and a 20 min walk so I was thirsty!) Feck. That cup went in the trash cans available there. I did manage to take the L and walk to their location instead of calling a car so I was proud of myself about that. 

I was also running low on bar soap and uh, eyeliner. I usually travel with my own bar soap because hotel soap usually isn't vegan and often involves some kind of plastic packaging anyway. My e.l.f. eyeliner (cruelty free and vegan) just happened to run out this week and since there was a Target nearby and I knew I could get both e.l.f. and soap there, I headed there to look through their offerings.

In addition to the e.l.f. eyeliner (vegan, cruelty-free but sadly in a plastic blister pack, unlike some of their other products which are only in cardboard), I found a new-to-me vegan brand called Hand-to-Hand. Palm oil-free and made in the USA also. They are one of those one-for-one social impact companies as well if that's your thing. But importantly, the bars were wrapped in paper only. No plastic shrink wrap! (Looking at you, Yes to Carrots and 70% of the other brands out there.)

Target also had some super cute plastic-free note cards. Usually they are sold in those stupid plastic-front boxes but there were quite a few sold in cardboard packs -- both this green brand and the Target house brand as well. I have a glut of note cards so I didn't need them but if you do, take note! (Sorry not sorry. Also how is "notecard" not a real compound word according to my spellcheck?) I know this has nothing to do with what I went in there for but I suffer from the illness that makes me to look at every aisle in drugstores and Targets and so forth. It's relaxing to me and therefore, I bring you plastic-free note cards. 

Speaking of having to look at everything -- I stopped in Urban Outfitters across the street because a) they were having a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale on those black jeans I wear constantly for work and b) because I like to look at their Urban Renewal stuff, though this season it seems to be mostly butchered Levi's. (I still look at UO even though I know they are design-stealing provocateurs whose leadership supports gag-inducing political candidates. I know.) Anyway, now I feel stupid for even bringing up UO and what I'm about to post next but here I go. Look at this little ceramic mushroom bowl with a leak-proof (albeit plastic) lid! 

I knew I shouldn't have been as excited about this as I was. (God knows where and how it was made. Plastic lid. Heavy for travel because it's ceramic.) But I couldn't talk myself down from the ledge on this one. Why? First of all -- it's ceramic and feels nice. The lid is pretty secure. It looks like a normal bowl! Also it's in Urban Outfitters housewares. The kids should be encouraged by fashionable mushroom-themed home goods. Inspired to bring their lunch (or breakfast!) (or brunch!) to work! Or school, I guess - wherever the kids go. Go kids, go! 

I mean, I didn't get it. I just liked that it would put the idea in someone's head that they could use a reusable container and bring their own food...somewhere, skipping takeout plastic.

This trip has been more successful avoiding plastic than pretty much any other trip in my life. I skipped the Terra chips on the plane, even! I can thank #plasticfreejuly for that inspiration. Thanks, dudes. Hopefully I can continue without the crutch of a hashtag on social media. 


What I Wore Lately

I have started doing random mirror selfies or iphone timer photos while I'm out so I have some outfit photos for when I discuss my wardrobe on this blog. It's the only way I'll ever have photos of what I'm wearing. (Which means also what I'm buying.) And I kind of like photos better when they're just an everyday snapshot of wherever I was, though I'll admit that I walked into Urban Outfitters with the intention of using their selfie mirror for that first picture because I hadn't worn that dress in a while and I wanted to mention that I've had it for years and it's still going strong -- a credit to Make It Good. But mostly I've just been sticking my iphone on some apartment stairs on the selfie setting, setting a timer and stepping back 10 feet. 

While trying to reset my budget, I've been reading a lot of personal finance and lifestyle blogs. It is mostly all the same concepts over and over and over again. But I am just one of those people who needs to hear the same thing reiterated 100x in various formats if it's a habit I'm not naturally inclined to practice. That's just how I am. I don't fight it. Frugalwoods is one of the blogs I've been reading (they are pretty hardcore) and I tagged this quote:

Nothing is more fulfilling than relishing what you already have and reveling in gratitude for what we've been given. I'm never happier than when I do this. And I have to remind myself to feel this way - it's a conscious decision I make to step back and express thanks for everything I have in life.  But when I do, I'm overcome with serenity. And all I did was recognize what I already have! The mind is a powerful partner in our financial and life journeys - if we allow it to guide us towards insight and reflection, it's incredible how much gratification we can generate on our own. {from this post}

It applies to everything but as it relates to this blog, it covers clothing and makeup and housewares too. Before I only used to post stuff when I'd just purchased it but nowadays I just want to post a snapshot of what I do actually wear -- regardless of when I purchased it. That helps me remember I have stuff I like. And I appreciate it.

Make It Good dress from a few years ago
slip on thin-style Vans
tote bag screenprinted by local artist whose name I can't recall
and a mason jar of coffee with a Cuppow lid + faux bois jar cozy

Simka Sol cactus t-shirt dress
sweatshop sandals from last year
same tote bag
Klean Kanteen insulated water bottle with cafe cap

Make It Good dress from this year
same tote bag
Insecta cut out oxfords from last year or the year before
same mason jar + Cuppow + cozy

Po-em day dress
Clyde's Rebirth necklace
Insecta cut out oxfords, same as above
same tote 

Everlane linen blend shirt
Everlane black short chinos
Insecta cut out oxfords, same as above

These Everlane pants are not at all "flattering" but I love that. I hope they look intentionally ridiculous and not just extra disheveled and ill-fitting -- it's a fine line. But I'll be wearing them until I tire of them in one way or another even if part of that is being beet-red-faced embarrassed that I walked around like this, I'm sure.

I'm trying to grow in my angled bob to a longer bob. Mostly for less haircut maintenance which means less money spent and less time spent getting haircuts. I am only going as far as a long bob. I can't handle longer hair. It is clear that I live and die by minimal hair-washing and dry shampoo and this has just been reinforced by dealing with bleached and tinted hair since bleached hair is drier (so wash it less) and tinted hair fades quickly (so wash it less). My strategy for growing in hair used to be just bobby pinning everything up in the awkward phase buuuut this round I have a 70% undercut right now so that's not possible. So I'm just trying to center part (aka "nerd part") my hair and tuck it behind my ears. If it gets tragic, I'll get the curling iron or rag curlers out but let's not be hasty.

So get ready for some nerd parts.


Review: Sell By Mail with Buffalo Exchange

Howdy! Recently I decided to try Buffalo Exchange's Sell-By-Mail option since I had a pile of clothes packed up and just sitting in my closet. I was tired of bringing stuff to Beacon's Closet and Buffalo Exchange stores are just way further from me than I'd like to have to haul a bag to as a special trip. The clothes in this stack were a mix of brands - some Free People, Mata Traders, Urban Outfitters, vintage, etc. Half were off season and half were on-season. You can see the mix below:

  • 4 dresses (all Urban Renewal)
  • 2 jackets (Gap, Ann Taylor) -- boooring
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 cardigan
  • 4 short sleeve shirts (1 Free People, 1 Mata Traders) 
  • 3 long sleeve shirts (one Zara, 2 vintage) 
  • 1 pair of American Apparel Pants 

How it works:

You request a bag to be sent to you via an online form. The deal is you can fill the bag they send you and whatever they don't buy can be shipped back (for a hefty fee) or you can donate it to their monthly charity $1 sale. Once you fill your bag, you drop it off at a UPS location. When Buffalo Exchange receives the bag, they scan it and you receive an answer as to your bag's status within 5-10 days.

How it worked out for me:

Requesting the bag is easy and packing up the big bag they sent was a breeze. Finding a UPS store was minimal work and I was able to just bring my bag with me to Manhattan on my way to work and it wasn't too much of a hassle. The email updates they sent were timely and let me know exactly what where my fat bag was in their process and managed my expectations about when I could expect another update. 

I felt like donating the clothes they didn't purchase was fine - if it didn't get purchased it was going to our textile recycling drop-off anyway so it might be more likely to get used if it goes to a $1 charity sale vs what a NYC thrift store would price it as anyway. This made me a little envious of this $1 charity sale with the huge volume they get - imagine the deals! I figured they at most take 30% of what they receive.

Off-topic, of course because hi have you met me
I'm always jealous of thrifting and resale shops elsewhere. In NYC we have a "pay to be VIP" Housing Works sale, which may be why I never ever ever can find anything to buy at Housing Works. (Seriously do only '90s career women into synthetics donate there?) While I support their mission in general, I hate that VIP concept. I prefer my shopping to be egalitarian. (I know, I know, it's for charity.) Then there's the "bring gloves and dig through dirty bins" for both Goodwill and Housing Works. I have done the Housing Works warehouse "Buy the Bag" situation once and I could not find one thing I wanted to purchase much less pay like $15-25 for bag. I literally found a pair of Taxi the tv show-themed boxer shorts that made me laugh but that was the only redeeming inventory. NYC is a little too self-important in the used clothing resale area.

Circling back from my tangent -- how did the Buffalo Exchange sell-by-mail work out for me in terms of cash dollars? ZERO. They literally did not buy ONE thing. I figured they'd buy one or two of the Urban Renewal things and I'd get like $3 credit but this was a bit of a shocker. But also, like, shrug emoji. Whatcha gonna do, amirite?

How it worked out for others:

There weren't very many reviews online. I did dig around before I tried it and didn't see many reviews raving about selling by mail or pissing on it, either. This time around the ol' Google, however, I unearthed this bitter throw-down of an in-store experience which I thought was  worth posting. It is titled "I hate the Buffalo Exchange. Like, totally." There are several complaints that really don't have much to do with Buffalo Exchange buying clothes in that post but the fact that they didn't buy anything from her and then took her shoes out of the donation bin to put on the retail racks is really amazingly asshole-ish. I'm sure this is the exception but, wow. What the hell.

Let me know if you ever try the Buffalo Exchange sell-by-mail option (or if you have already, you pioneer person). I'm curious to see if you have as much crap luck as I did or if you offered the magical combination of cuts and patterns to the Buffalo Exchange God.


Plastic Free July - Day 12: So far, so good yet so far, so bad

Since the start of Plastic Free July I don't think I've taken one coffee cup, plastic bag, straw or plastic utensil. So that's been a success. That's what I signed up for! But I have also been looking at my groceries and a lot still comes in plastic, even though I try to shop from the bulk aisle. I know I didn't sign up for that level of Plastic Free July, but it's impossible not to think about it now. You would think our food co-op has decent bulk options (because it's a crunchy co-op) but there is only half a row of bulk bins. The rest of our "bulk" is pre-bagged in plastic baggies and bar-coded. So it's been a bit of a struggle and I'm trying to figure out which item (or two) we buy regularly that could be purchased bulk elsewhere, to start. 

In an effort to make my food so I can avoid waste (a packed lunch is transported single-use-plastic-free!), I've been trying out a few new recipes. The last week or two (or four) I just ate rice, beans and a vegetable (or kimchi) for lunch every single day. Thanks to the Instant Pot making it so easy, we regularly buy dry beans and rice in plastic-free bulk. And while I can usually hang in there with duplicate meals ...4 weeks straight of rice and beans actually started to break me. I'm only human.

I've been trying to switch it up with not beans and not rice but still vegan and tasty and not super expensive. (While I haven't tried any of their recipes yet, I noticed Budget Bytes has a vegan category.) Some of the recipes I tried out are below -- most of the unpackaged stuff is produce and some things came in glass. But a lot came in plastic, too. More than I would have thought.

(this version has the tempeh bacon recipe)

First of all, it is not lost on me that both tofu and this tempeh have soybean content but I maintain that's not the same thing as beans-beans. You know what I'm saying. 

Back to figuring out which pantry staples we buy that I can figure out how to get package-free. Tofu? Pasta? Those are the ones I'm thinking about focusing on. I love Bridge tofu so that won't be that easy to replace with equal quality (seriously - it's quality tofu) but the pasta should be easier.