Getting outside

Shopping, movies and concerts are expensive hobbies. Getting outside doesn’t have to be, particularly if you can acquire whatever gear you need slowly over time.

I’m already a pretty regular biker, and have expanded my range somewhat since getting my touring bike. (Not enough yet – gotta train more so I can take on bigger hills.) But lately, I’ve rediscovered my childhood love of walking in nature.

Despite growing up in New York City, I had the good fortune to live only a few blocks away from one of the largest natural parks in Queens. Flushing Meadows may have been larger, but Forest Park lived up to its name. There were lots of trees, some moderate hills, and interesting little paths that connected various neighborhoods. For pint sized people, it felt like an imposing forest. Now I have a much bigger land to explore. Hello, redwoods!

I live in Oakland, which happens to intersect the California Coastal Redwood belt, a stretch of (mostly) uninterrupted redwood forest that stretches from Big Sur to eight miles north of the Oregon border. While my initial forays into the woods were in the northern part of the state, lately I’ve taken to hiking closer to home, thanks to the knowledge of friends.

Today, I went on a solo hike in Redwood Regional Park, which stretches along the Oakland Hills separating Oakland from the outer hills towns. I drove there, because I have not yet developed the exquisite level of masochism required to bike up a mountain. (Notice I said “yet.”) I saved that masochism for my hike, which started off pretty mellow and populated and quickly turned into hilly. My entire goal for the first hour was to get away from this group of teenagers that was being taught how to backpack. It was a noble thing for them to be taught, but I go into the woods for blissful silence, not screeching. This led me to take trails that were “challenging,” meaning that I basically hiked down from the ridge to the creek that bisects the park, and then back up again on a different trail. I found my quiet and solitude, and my stunning beauty, and the outer limits of my calf muscles. It was fantastic. 


Categories: Uncategorized

It’s been a long time…

With first spring blooming in the Bay Area, I feel my vitality returning.

Winter is hard on me, even the mild version we experience here. As a native New Yorker, I thought that the winter months would be easy here, but the sun is still gone for more hours of the day, the sky is overcast, and our buildings, unlike NY’s, are not insulated to handle the cold. I’ve spent a lot of time huddled in front of a small space heater.

Now that the mid-afternoons have gotten sunny and warm, I find a patch of sun each day and sit out in it, jacket off, and try to soak in as much sun on my pale bare arms as possible. It revitalizes me. For the past few weeks, I’ve been taking midday bike rides on my days off. These rides (and a nice income tax refund check) led to me finally purchasing the touring bike I’ve been dreaming of. I took it for a 10 mile ride down the Oakland waterfront yesterday. 

I tilled the earth in our garden a few weeks ago, and new greens have been planted. I’ve been making delicious smoothies out of the hearty chard patch that survived the winter. Here’s the recipe:

3 to 4 chard leaves (depending on size)

1/4 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 banana (eat the other half)

1/2 cup coconut or almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

Blend and enjoy!

Categories: Uncategorized

New experiments in tooth care

I gave up on the sage and sea salt tooth powder as a primary tooth care solution after the first batch. I think it would be good as a back up option for days with tooth pain, but the sage bits had a bad habit of sticking to my teeth and I felt like it wasn’t effective enough in battling bacteria. 

However, I wasn’t ready to return to commercial toothpaste! For the past few months, I’ve been using a very simple formula:

– 4 tablespoons of coconut oil

– 4 tablespoons of baking soda

– 20 drops of peppermint oil.

Mix in jar, keep in cool dry place out of the sun, and, voila! Instant toothpaste that tastes great. The only caveat is to not spit it down the sink, because coconut oil solidifies at room temperature. 

Categories: Uncategorized

Settling back into daily life

The epic Pacific Northwest road trip is over. We logged 1940 miles in the car, camped in beautiful redwood forests, enjoyed a rare entirely sunny four day stretch in Seattle, and vowed to go camping more often.

A week before the trip, I got my Sour Apple Green Citizen Tokyo folding bike delivered at work. Besides the minor logistical problem of them delivering it with *pink* brake and shifter cables (which I switched out to white), it’s a great little bike for a reasonable price. I rarely buy new, but in this case, it seemed worth it to me to have a trouble free bike on such short notice. I used it to putter around the campgrounds, and put it to the real test during our time in Seattle. Not only was it the perfect solution for traveling between our hotel and the conference center with ease, but we took a great ride from downtown to Fremont to see the troll. On the way back, after a tough (for 16″ and low gears) three block long hill, I got to enjoy an amazing stretch of downhill riding on a bike lane that was very smartly designed! The buses on that street stopped closer to the center, and had a little traffic island separating stops from the bike lane. I was able to fly down the whole way. 

I was surprised to see a lot of touring cyclists on 101 and 199 (the road that connects 101 to 1-5 in between Crescent City, CA and Grants Pass, OR). It seemed like a tough ride – narrow shoulders, lots of curves, and many cars navigating those curves who were not locals. I’m not too familiar with the trails in that region – hopefully, there are some better options! Mad respect to all of those who were doing it, though – I hope to someday be in good enough shape to join them. 

As far as finances for the trip, they weren’t perfect. We had a snafu with our propane stove – we left the hose at home, and since we had saved money by buying an older model off of Craigslist, we actually got burned on the deal because they no longer sell replacement hoses for that model in any store, even ones that specialize in Coleman stoves. We ended up having to buy a new stove, and in the days beforehand when we were trying to figure this all out, we bought more meals on the road than originally intended. We still did pretty well – we made enough yogurt and granola to have some for breakfast everyday, and I made a lentil and tomato soup in the crockpot in our hotel that lasted us several meals. We also made good use of the peanut butter, jelly, and bread (one loaf gluten, one loaf gluten free) that we brought with us. 

I also bought swimming trunks and flip flops – several opportunities came up to go swimming, and I was craving the exercise. I will get good use out of them, because I loved swimming so much that I intend to hit up the local city pools. 

Upon our return, I scrambled to clean the house and do laundry for a few days, and continued to eat crap food, but that ends now. I just made a batch of curry and rice, and some granola for the morning. My old regime of bringing lunch to work every day is back in effect. I was able to save a remarkable amount of money for this vacation very quickly by pre-planning meals and eliminating other frivolous expenses, even as I socked away money for retirement. (I ate much healthier, too.) It was a good lesson in what is possible when you prioritize saving. Now, on to the next adventure!

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Gearing up for the epic Pacific Northwest road trip

Time on the internet has been mostly about researching, not writing.

Two weeks from today, I will be writing out an epic list of things for my staff to do while I am on vacation for TEN WHOLE DAYS. I will be setting up my away message on my inbox, and perhaps cleaning my desk so it is nice and tidy when I get back. That’s the idea, at least.

Vacationing and frugality don’t go hand-in-hand, but we’re attempting to stretch our vacation dollars. Other than the conference weekend, we’ll be car camping our way up and down the coast. I had to buy my tent new, although I waited until REI did a 30% off all outlet clearance sale and bought the tent for half of its original price. We’re borrowing one sleeping pad, and I already had the other. I got our cooler for free. Another friend is lending us her camping chairs. For the hotel, we’ll be bringing the crockpot and utilizing the fridge and microwave heavily, and you better believe that we’ll be bringing full batches of granola on the road.

My one splurge, which I hope will pay for itself in gas and parking fees, was buying a folding bike. Alex was bringing his and I imagined myself in some of the bike friendliest cities in the country feeling sad and forlorn about having to drive. I went uber-budget and got myself a Citizen Tokyo. I tried finding something used on Craigslist, but most of the folding bikes were either too high end and out of my budget range, or had mechanical issues I didn’t feel qualified to fix, or were not priced competitively with the new bike. (One person was trying to sell a used Citizen for more than the new price!) The few hardcore naysayers were mostly people who had never ridden the thing. Common issues seem to be that the bike is heavier than similar folding bikes, or that taller riders had issues with the frame geometry. Those who tried to ride the bike many miles a day were getting sore. I don’t need it as a commuter, so I’m not too concerned. I just want to casually toodle around and enjoy some new scenery. I got the 16″ size because I’m also excited about the possibility of taking it with me when I fly east to visit my parents. 

When you have excess zucchini…. zucchini bread!


Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Tooth powder

We’ve been experimenting with alternatives to commercial toothpaste around here. Why? It’s mostly the plastic tube it comes in, but I’ve also heard stuff about the glycerin in most toothpaste not being very good for your teeth.

Our first attempt was a simple solution of baking soda and clove powder. Now, we’re taking a recommendation from James Wong’s book, Grow Your Own Drugs, and made a tooth powder from dried sea salt and sage.

That’s it: it’s 50% sea salt, and 50% sage. Alex dried it on the lowest setting in the oven, and then ground it up and put it in a jar. To use it, I just wet my toothbrush and dip it in the jar. The sage helps fight gum inflammation. There’s no coating on my teeth – instead, my teeth will naturally re-mineralize. My next step is to take a small amount to work so that I can brush with it all of the time.

Tonight’s dinner: Thai basil coconut curry

Between SF Pride week and unexpected physical malady, it hasn’t been a great week for home cooked food. But tonight, I made a delicious Thai-inspired curry with zucchini, carrots, coriander and basil from our farm. I adapted it from the recipe here:

In mine, I sauteed coriander seeds for a minute before throwing a chopped medium onion in the pan. I followed that with minced fresh ginger and garlic, and threw in some red curry paste, cayenne pepper, and red chili flakes. Then I added garden carrots and zucchini (in place of the celery the recipe recommends), red lentils, water, coconut milk, tomato paste, a bay leaf, and a cinnamon stick. Once it boiled, I simmered it for 25 minutes, then poured it over jasmine rice and covered it with fresh basil. Yum!

Here is the giant zucchini (and teeny carrots!) and basil before I chopped them up:



Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Homemade deodorant


My skin is delicate.

I’ve inherited a cornucopia of skin issues from my parents. (Thanks!) My skin is, at once, too dry, too oily, prone to breaking out if I eat too much of x or y, very fair and highly likely to be burnt, etc. It also does not react well to many substances, both chemical and natural. Finding a deodorant that does not make me break out in a rash has been challenging.

I gave up antiperspirant about ten years ago. Even then, the idea gave me the heebie-jeebies (my Mom is a breast cancer survivor, and I’m a little paranoid), and honestly, the adjustment to living with sweat took me about a week. I don’t understand why this is still marketed as a good idea – it’s as if you had an expensive, multi-layered waste filtration system set up in your house, and you put a cap on the final layer so none of it worked. If you don’t want unsightly sweat stains on your pits, wear breathable fabrics!  

The problem I had was moving beyond mainstream deodorant. Tom’s of Maine made me break out in a painful rash, particularly the non-scented stuff. The crystal stuff was completely ineffective. Other “natural” brands I tried also made me get a rash. For years, the only thing I could reliably use was the basic Speed Stick by Mennen, but I’m not a fan of having deodorant that turns into cologne when you start sweating, AND I was worried about the chemicals I was putting under my arms.

I’ve finally found the solution, thanks to an adaptation of a recipe by Crunchy Betty. Here’s the link:

For those who don’t want to click through, here’s the basics: you need beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter, essential oils, and some kind of powder. She used bentonite clay. I wasn’t that fancy, so I used arrowroot powder. Basic internet research said that arrowroot was less problematic for people’s skin than cornstarch, so I chose that. 

I heated up the grated beeswax and coconut oil in an improvised double boiler set-up. Then I stirred in the shea butter and arrowroot powder until blended smooth. Finally, I added my oils. Now, I thought that my partner had tea tree oil, but it was in fact eucalyptus oil, which doesn’t have the same antimicrobial properties. Oops! I also used my homemade sage oil, because I was desperately wanting to use it for something! The result is a deodorant that smells good and kinda works.

I had heard that baking soda was caustic for lots of people, so I was originally hesitant to use it on my picky skin, but I’m finding that if I powder some on over my deodorant while it’s still wet, it doesn’t bother me at all, and my deodorant goes from “kind of” working to completely working. I’m also using organic baking soda from a  bulk bin, so that could be making the difference in terms of not giving me a chemical burn. I have a very physical job and unload trucks full of furniture twice a week, and this stuff has passed the test. I compensate by skipping the baking soda on my days off.

I am curious to see what happens if I use the right essential oils for the next batch, but for now, I’ve found something that works! 


The garden tour

Welcome to Filbert Farm!

The zucchini plant is the crown jewel. There are several proto-zucchinis and many flowers underneath these massive leaves.


Chard is constantly rotating through our menu. This is a new batch.


Tomatoes! We’re going to have tons of them this year. They outgrew their pots and Alex had to plant them wherever we had gaps in the garden.




There’s some dino kale hiding behind a tomato plant:


Pepper plants of various kinds on the left side of the L, and calypso beans along the fence:


Another section of tomatoes:


Lavender bush:


An almost ripe strawberry on one of our many strawberry plants along the fence:


This is the long view of our side yard, with the main garden visible at the back:


A nice shot of the bulk of the main garden:


Basil, in pots:


Another long view, facing the street:


Categories: Uncategorized