The New York Philharmonic has started up a new Free Fridays program, where people 25 years old and younger have the chance to get one of 100 free tickets to select Friday concerts throughout the season. I’ve been lucky enough to have gotten a ticket for the past two concerts (and I will continue to push my luck for the rest of the season).

The plaza at Lincoln Center.

The plaza at Lincoln Center.

I am so happy that this program exists. These performances have made me realize that, although it makes me so happy to listen to music, I don’t often get the chance to actively listen to music. It’s something on in the background, a soundtrack to a movie, or absent completely. Just sitting around and listening to music isn’t something that I do anymore.

You can say that maybe I’ve changed as a person, and my preferences on how to spend my free time have changed, but it’s more likely that in the craziness of “growing up” I’ve just forgotten about music. And that’s not a great thought.

Plus, live music is so much better than the best recording you could find of anything. The sound quality is obviously better, but you can feel a difference when you’re in the same room as the instruments producing the sound. The air is completely filled with music, and that’s something that cannot be reproduced. Sure, certain recordings can have nostalgia attached (there is a particular live version of a Panic! At The Disco song that is the song I go to for a pick-me-up), but live music is something else entirely.

Inside of the auditorium.

Inside of the auditorium.

Anyway, I just really wanted to brag about my incredible luck at being able to see the Silk Road Ensemble perform live. And since I happened to get a ticket that was orchestra level, I was in a fantastic spot.

Here is a playlist from the Silk Road Ensemble’s YouTube. The videos really don’t do justice to their musical talent, but you can get an idea of it.

I had a bad dream two nights ago, and the inability to fall back asleep that night meant that I really only got about two hours of rest for yesterday. It was… Challenging. My energy was sapped, I struggled to function.

Sure, it may not have been all doom and gloom. On the one hand, I wrote some really great things in my journal during my break at work. Strong emotions and the time to really sink into writing can make that happen. On the other hand, I was unhappy. And I don’t like being unhappy; it becomes this positive feedback loop where my unhappiness is amplified by my unhappiness, and that’s a terrible place to be.

Still, I got through the day by reminding myself that after work I would be going downtown to run a few errands.

And I can hear you think,”Wait, running errands was the shining light at the end of the dark road?”

Running errands may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but this particular set of errands was special. Since the days have been getting longer and now there’s a little bit of sunlight when I leave the office, I got the chance to walk around the Village in the early evening with soft light and sunset. Everything in that area is still so familiar; it was like I was a student again, walking up and down Broadway and onto Astor Place into the shops I used to frequent.

Plus, the errands I had to run included getting more notebooks and pen refills, and stationery shopping is always exciting to me. I’m more hyped than a kid in a candy store.

haul.

Treat yourself.

There are two things that I always try and write down every day: a list of accomplishments (small things as simple as “I had a good conversation with a coworker”), and a list of things to look forward to. Both lists help me stay optimistic; I remind myself of the little victories and keep myself motivated by remembering that something awesome is going to happen soon.

And I always make it a point to have something awesome to look forward to.

Sometimes, I don’t get to everything on that list. A few days ago, my list included leaving the office right at five, eating a freshly prepared and warm meal at home, reading a little bit more of The Lord of the Rings, writing some story ideas I had during the day in my journal, and generally having a very relaxed night. I ended up doing none of those things.

But rather than get disappointed that my list of things to look forward to was utterly shattered, that list ended up being just what I needed to get myself through the day. Sure, I ended up not doing any of these things on the particular day that I wanted to do them, but there are very few truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The opportunity to do these things will come around again.

Sometimes, just the anticipation is enough.

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for quite some time now because it really is one of the best cookie recipes I have ever come across. And considering that they’re vegan, you can eat it either baked or raw without the fear of food poisoning from raw eggs. (Though I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who actually got food poisoning from raw cookie dough…)

Absolutely perfect cookie dough.

Absolutely perfect cookie dough.

The one downside: it does take some patience, since a crucial step to making these correctly is to let the dough chill for 12-24 hours. You can cut this time down to only a few hours if you freeze it instead, or use a vegan butter substitute like Earth Balance instead of oil so that the dough is more solid, but there is still an element of waiting involved.

Cookies fresh out of the oven. The lighting in my kitchen really doesn't do justice to the cookies...

Cookies fresh out of the oven. The lighting in my kitchen really doesn’t do these justice.

I struggle a lot with baking desserts. I remember the first time I tried to make homemade cookies to bring to school on my birthday in high school and they were hard as rocks. I’ve tended to let others take care of the cookie making since then. There are very few things that I can consistently make well, and I’ve noticed that they’re all vegan dishes.

Maybe my body is trying to tell me something, like, go vegan.

An artsy shot of two of my many loves in life: desserts and books.

An artsy shot of two of my many loves in life: desserts and books.

But these cookies, anyway, are perfect every time I make them, and I will never go back to regular cookies ever again.

Share the love: Vegan chocolate chip cookies recipe

Makes ~18 cookies. Recipe adapted from here: http://www.vogue.com/2042461/ovenly-vegan-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe/

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup regular sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp canola/vegetable oil or vegan butter substitute
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp water
coarse salt (optional, but definitely recommended)

Directions

  1. Combine the wet ingredients with the sugars and mix thoroughly. If using a vegan butter substitute, cream together the vegan butter and the sugars, then mix in the wet ingredients.
  2. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until the dough gets a creamy consistency.
  3. Chill in the fridge or freezer until the dough is firm (anywhere from 2 to 12 hours depending on if you use oil or a vegan butter substitute, or if you freeze the dough).
  4. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  5. Take ~1 tbsp of dough and form into a ball. Place the dough balls about 1-2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
  6. Freeze the dough for 10 minutes before baking. This will help make sure that the dough doesn’t spread out too much in the oven.
  7. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden/brown and the middle is still slightly gooey.
  8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet until the centers are set and solid. Transfer to a rack or plate to cool further.
  9. Enjoy!

*

A friend once told me, “Your middle name means ‘erratic.'”
“Why is that so perfect?” I replied, laughing around my words.

**

The instructions for keeping a lab notebook were very specific, and the pages of the cheap composition notebook that I used had an inspiring texture and weight. I became addicted to the feeling of filling up notebook pages the way I filled them for Chemistry class.

***

“That’s not even coffee anymore, that’s tan, sweetened milk.”

****

The concert hall at Lincoln Center, with the strings and winds taking full advantage of the acoustics as they make their way through Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, brings back a familiar soaring feeling, rising from the dusty memories of band concerts and competitions.

*****

I rub cocoa butter lotion onto my skin, and stick my leg into the strips of sun that shine through the blinds. My skin glows, and I recall a past, imagined life of being a goddess.

******

I take a picture of the turkey, and my stomach rumbles as the smell brings back so many memories. And just like every year, I reminisce that “Deep fried turkey was seriously one of the greatest things I ever ate…”

*******

“So, when are you two getting married?”
“Oh god, don’t ask that question. We just graduated from college, so basically…” I never want to get married..

********

In my head I called it “Akai ito”: all of the places I’d been in my life pinned to the map, and a red string connecting Chicago, LA, Sydney, Christchurch, Queenstown, and New York.

*********

The moment I step off the plane, I know my rusty French will tumble over my tongue, and my best friend and I will end up in completely the wrong place and no clear moment of return… Or worse, I’ll have to play the part of ugly, ignorant American. I shudder at the thought.

**********

I’ve been so-and-so’s little sister for so long that in my junior year of high school, when I was finally “Caroliena,” I didn’t quite know how to act.

***********

“I fully acknowledge that this purchase is fueling a Capitalist society I disapprove of and want to reform,” I chant to myself as I buy pen refills from Muji, clothing from Uniqlo, and notebooks from various bookstores.

***************

I spend ten minutes snapping different angles of the tree growing up through House of Small Wonder. “I wish it wasn’t such a hipster thing to enjoy being in Williamsburg,” I pout as I choose the perfect shot and filter for Instagram.

This post was in response to this week’s writing challenge from Blacklight Candelabra: A Box of Chocolates. I however, mixed it with this Q&A post from Wandering Oak, and answered a few of those questions by using little stories. Here are the questions from that Q&A that I answered:

Dear Reader,

I have been on a letter-writing kick since about the end of 2014. It came on rather suddenly, but ever since I sent in my mail-in ballot this most recent election, I’ve had the urge to use the envelopes and stamps I’ve had with me for years. (Yes, years.)

So, I asked around for a few addresses from my friends, simply saying “I want to send you a letter, so give me your address,” and people have responded with a mixture of amused indulgence and downright enthusiasm for the idea.

I always try to include a little extra something when I send letters. I've been on an origami kick lately also, so...

I always try to include a little extra something when I send letters. I’ve been on an origami kick lately also, so…

Electronic communication has its place, obviously. (I mean, I’ve had to message people in various ways for their addresses, so this entire project would have been impossible to do without the internet.) And I’m not going to say that all electronic methods that have supplanted ink and paper are bad. (I may highly prefer printed books to e-books, but I can also get so many books for free because they’re in the public domain and PDFs are available that e-books are sometimes way better.)

But consider the moments of simple joy that people experience when our industrial and technology-based world pauses, even just briefly. When a predicted snowstorm shut down NYC, I know that there were people all over celebrating that there was a snow day with no snow. When I get a letter, I’m so excited that I got something in the mail that wasn’t a bill or junk that I take the time to enjoy everything about it: opening the envelope that was sealed with loving care, the familiar handwriting of an old friend that makes me realize that I don’t really get the chance to see people’s handwriting very often (and even the handwriting can bring back so many memories), and, of course, the content of the letter.

In a world where everything is always about efficiency, about maximizing something while minimizing time, slowing down and taking the time to write out a letter can be a simple way to tell someone, “Hey, I care about you.”

It’s certainly a nice change of pace.

Until next time,
Caroliena

I don’t know how long this has been going on, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a very anxious person when it comes to talking about who I am and what I do (and what I want to do).

For example: I blog. A lot. I have many blogs. I always put my writing out there, from short stories to the smallest thoughts to lengthy descriptions of how a particular day went. I talk about the future. I talk about things that have happened (without diving too far into the realm of the super personal when it comes to writing in a public blog like this). I have very strong opinions on food that I’m slowly getting into the habit of articulating via this blog (and, in some ways, on Food Forests Forever).

But if anyone ever came up to me and said “Oh, you blog? Can I read it?” and started having a conversation with me about my writing, or even asks about my writing at all, I clam up. “Oh, yeah, it’s nothing special, I just write whatever…”

That’s not true, though! My writing is extremely important to me, and I have this mixture of pride that I sometimes write damn good things, and fear of showing anyone my writing because no, this particular piece of writing isn’t ready to be seen by other people yet.

So what do I do? I know that I can’t stay in this place forever, where I do the things I do, but then don’t own up to them. Where is that attitude going to get me?

I got this fantastic fortune from a fortune cookie on Tuesday. "There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line."

I got this fantastic fortune from a fortune cookie on Tuesday. “There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line.”

“There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line.” I don’t often get fortunes in fortune cookies that are actually helpful, but this one came at a surprisingly fitting time. These past few weeks I got myself into a weird headspace, one where everything ended up being more exhausting than it really needed to be. The turning point in my attitude happened before I got this fortune cookie, but this little slip of paper felt like the last sign I needed to really solidify my determination to just do things.

I’m not necessarily looking for glory, or any kind of external recognition. The “glory” that I’m seeking is a very personal kind: the satisfaction of having done something new and different, the excitement of meeting new people, the contentment of living a good life that is more in line with my personal beliefs, the relief of taking care of myself and doing what I can to take care of others.

But even in the smallest steps, I have to take the leap to get myself out into the world and do things.

Even in the smallest goals, there is an element of having to put myself on the line.

As promised before, I had a few more thoughts about using this calculator to calculate my ecological footprint. On my first try, using information that described my life as closely as possible (living in the U.S., never riding a car but taking the subway every day, eating a vegetarian diet with gradually decreasing amounts of eggs and dairy, etc.), and this was my first result:

3.2 planets to sustain my way of life for everyone? That's disappointing.

3.2 planets to sustain my way of life for everyone? That’s disappointing.

3.2 planets to sustain my particular way of living. I figured that my footprint was largely due to the fact that I did what I could to emulate living in New York, which would naturally increase the size of my footprint, so I tried to minimize everything in this calculator. Vegan diet, no use of any transportation save for walking and bike, living in a green design residence, etc., and this is the result I got:

ecofootprint2

2.9 planets? Still not down to one planet like I wanted it to…

2. 9 planets, still. Why can’t I get my footprint score down to one planet?

I took a look at the Frequently Asked Questions, and saw this little gem, answering the question “Why can’t I get my Footprint score within the means of one planet?” (emphasis mine):

A person’s Ecological Footprint includes both personal and societal impacts. The Footprint associated with food, mobility, and goods is easier for you to directly influence through lifestyle choices (eating less meat, driving less, etc). However a person’s Footprint also includes societal impacts or “services”, such as government assistance, roads and infrastructure, public services, and the military of the country that they live in. All citizens of the country are allocated their share of these societal impacts.

The Footprint of these societal impacts (i.e. the “services” category of your Footprint score) does not vary, and therefore in some nations it is not possible to reduce your Footprint to below one planet.

This is why, if we want to achieve sustainability, we need to focus on two things: both our own lifestyle as well as influencing our governments. Even with significant changes in individual behavior, a large portion of a personal Footprint comes from the way national infrastructure is designed, goods are produced, and government and public services operate.

In order to allow their citizens to achieve a lifestyle that fits within one planet, governments need to dramatically improve the efficiency of the built environment and invest in renewable energy and smart land-use planning.

I love that the calculator takes this into account, and it honestly slipped my mind that, as a (new and slightly nervous) taxpayer, of course I’m responsible for the ecological impact of my government. The only way for me to live a truly sustainable life, one in which it would only take one planet to sustain my lifestyle, I would have to actively seek to change the politics of the US, or just leave the country entirely and move to a different place where the ecological impact isn’t so high.

My personal life plan right now is more along the lines of the latter, with some forays into the former.

By living in the US and having the basic necessities for life plus a little extra, I’m already considered “rich” compared to the large part of the global population living well below the poverty line. And while I do genuinely appreciate that I live a comfortable life in the US, I don’t think I can see myself living here forever. I’ll do what I can to change the system, but considering the general trend of US politics and how frustrated I get that this country isn’t there yet, I feel the pull of leaving. Although I’m not necessarily taken by the idea of a nomadic life, I don’t want to stay living in this particular country for longer than I need to.

Though the thought of the US changing enough where many of the policies align with my personal beliefs makes me question whether or not it would be worth it to stay here. Would those changes be enough to reduce the ecological impact? And would I want to stay if that were the case?

That’s an entirely different story.

Caroliena Cabada:

I know that I’ve previously said that Food Forests Forever posts will be coming in on the first and third Friday of each month, but I found that I had the time this past week to do another post for January, so here’s an overview of the Permaculture Research Institute!

Working on these Food Forests Forever posts while also taking the Coursera course on the US Food System has got me thinking a lot about the impact food production in the US has on the environment. One of the assignments on the first week of the course involved calculating my ecological footprint and finding out how many Earths would be needed to sustain my particular lifestyle. I plan on doing a more extensive post on this (it’s actually already drafted up, I just need to finish it), but even if I minimized everything in the calculator, just living in the US makes it so that it would take at least 2.8 Earths to sustain living in this country. The reason why there’s this default number higher than one planet is that personal, day-to-day choices aren’t the only factor in this calculation. Think about the footprint of the US armed forces. By paying taxes to the government to spend on various things, including the military, that footprint is part of each US citizens’ footprint.

So this footprint score doesn’t entirely have to do with food, and reducing the food part of the footprint will not be enough to get this score down to one Earth. There are systematic changes that need to be made so that US citizens don’t automatically start off with this gigantic footprint that they can’t do anything about. But considering how huge of an impact food can have on the environment (think about how resource intensive meat can be, for example), and considering that food is a choice that I can more or less directly control, that’s what I focus on.

I started Food Forests Forever because I needed a way to organize the information about these various programs, and I figured I would share the stuff I found with others who may be interested in the same thing. But Food Forests Forever is just one way to have a conversation about the greater topics of sustainability and environmentalism. And though it’s still in its early stages, I hope it proves to be helpful and informative to those who are getting involved in this conversation.

As always, any feedback to make Food Forests Forever even better would be greatly appreciated. Please send me your thoughts! And thank you for reading!

Originally posted on foodforestsforever:

A screenshot of the organization's homepage, taken on 29 January 2015. A screenshot of The Permaculture Research Insitute’s website, taken on 29 January 2015.

What is the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI)? [1]

The mission of the Permaculture Research Institute is to work with individuals and communities worldwide, to expand the knowledge and practice of integrated, sustainable agriculture and culture using the whole-systems approach of permaculture design. This will provide solutions for permanent abundance by training local people to become leaders of sustainable development in their communities and countries.

–Statement from the PRI website [2]

Headquartered at Zaytuna Farm in Australia, the Permaculture Research Institute (abbreviated to PRI; formerly known as the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia) is a network of global sites (Master Plan Sites) whose goal is to spread the knowledge and principles of permaculture worldwide. The PRI has a number of experienced instructors in various locations that provide an engaging experience to everyone who participates…

View original 869 more words

I hope everyone in the northeast of the US is staying warm today! I woke up this morning to this view:

image

7AM, this was what the world outside my window looked like.

I have a very strange conflict going on in my head right now, though. On the one hand, I’m glad that the storm wasn’t as bad as people thought it was going to be. The various coffeeshops and bookstores I follow on Instagram are posting announcements of late or reduced hours for today, there’s some snowfall as I write this, but it mostly looks like snow is just blowing around, and I’m still working from home. (Though it is a bit disconcerting that I keep getting kicked off my workplace’s VPN…)

On the other hand, though, I was expecting a real snowfall. I was expecting a Chicagoland-type of snowfall, where the plows have to work twice as hard because the roads keep getting covered, the city runs out of salt to put on the roads and sidewalks so they have to use sand to make do until they can get more salt, and kids are out of school for an indefinite amount of time.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s better that it turned out to be not as bad as expected. But for all the hype I was expecting just a little bit more.

Regardless, I hope everyone is staying safe and warm!

Today is the official first day of “An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health,” the Coursera course I signed up for last week. In my downtime at work this morning I’ve read through the syllabus, had the introduction video on in the background, and glanced through some of the required reading for the week.

I can already tell that it’s going to be an exciting and engaging course when one of the first required readings includes this statement:

At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world.

via Scientists: Human activity has pushed Earth beyond four of nine ‘planetary boundaries’ – The Washington Post.

A course about food blending together health and environmental topics? I don’t think I’ve ever been this jazzed about any of my undergraduate courses, which, yes, is a little sad. But, rather than wallowing in the regret of not taking advantage of NYU’s Food Studies concentration, I’m focusing my energy on really getting into the material. (Plus, I’ve just added the WordPress button to my bookmarks bar, which makes it so much easier to post little excerpts from and quick thoughts on the reading. Snazzy.)

If you’re taking this course as well, please feel free to leave a comment and link to any posts you may write! I would love to read your thoughts on the course content.

Happy blogging, everyone!

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