July 21, 2017

Plastic Free July 2017, Ep 2

Well I lied about being back in one week. But I made it. Better late than never.

One of the huge things I try to do all summer long, is get as much produce as possible from farmers markets. Not only can you get most items plastic-free, but the items have a lower carbon footprint due to not traveling as far as super market produce does. 

The most important thing to remember: BYOB (bags) or else you will be putting un-packaged items into plastic bags. 

Not sure if it's just the ones in my area, but you might have to be pushy about them not automatically putting your purchases in plastic bags. Surprising that they aren't more used to BYO. My strategy that works pretty well is to just start grabbing and putting in my bags instead of pointing at what I want.

I have small lightweight bags for individual bagging of some items (like lettuce), and larger bags for putting everything in together.


Another is paying a little extra for glass. Glass recycling doesn't lower your carbon footprint that much, but it does reduce plastic. 

We have a local dairy that reuses glass bottles. This lowers my carbon footprint AND reduces plastic!


This is one of the more ridiculous endeavors I have taken: toilet paper. Unless you want to by individual rolls of Scott toilet paper for $1 per roll, you can't really find it plastic-free in stores. I perused the internet and found industrial supplied toilet paper that comes individually wrapped in paper (better than plastic), but in a large quantity to get a good price. 
You may recognize Georgia-Pacific as a public-bathroom-quality paper product, but I found this "embossed" variety that is preferable to that giant-roll-of-dispensed-tp we all know and hate. AND it's 25% recycled! Yes, you will need a decent amount of storage for this one. 


Last for today, is buying bulk items at the super market. I have two super markets near me that have loose mushrooms in addition to the pre-packaged ones. Get some light weight produce bags to buy mushrooms (where available) and all other packaged produce items.
I've found a tiny amount of reusable produce bags in stores, or you can find a million options online. It's best to buy natural-fiber ones (usually cotton) but those will cost you more on by-the-pound items. To me, it's a fair compromise to buy the lightweight nylon ones since they will last for years and greatly reduce the amount of single-use produce bags to ultimately come out ahead. 


If your supermarket has a bulk section (usually found in a back corner, unless it's Whole Foods which features it more prominently), buy oats, popcorn, nuts, candy, chocolate, and more(!), using your produce bags. 


That's it for me today! Stay tuned for this year's last installment of Plastic Free July, coming soon!

July 06, 2017

Plastic Free July 2017, Ep 1

It's been a couple of years since I have documented my Plastic Free July efforts. I've been busy, OK? Well I never stopped making an effort to be plastic free year round and have added some new efforts. Let's take a look at what I've been up to in the first week:

Canned beverages. Plastic down-cycles, and aluminum recycles really efficiently, so I exclusively buy soda in cans. When there's a party I insist on bringing the soda so that no one's bringing 2-liter plastic bottles. 

Pasta from scratch! I don't really get credit for this, Boyfriend starting making fresh pasta long before me. But I strongly encourage this and we are getting the attachment to make penne & rotini so that we can make all our pastas at home. 
Reusing a chinese take-out container. 
Ketchup. This one has been plaguing me since the first year I participated in Plastic Free July. It's really hard to find ketchup in anything but plastic! I had to buy some weird brand at a health-food store to get it in glass that year. When I ran out of that I tried making it myself. It was fine for me but Boyfriend is really particular about his ketchup being Heinz. 
I searched Amazon for glass bottles. I found a case of 24 12oz bottles that were a decent price but I shuttered at the idea of trying to store all of the extra bottles. We don't actually use ketchup that much. I sought out options on a restaurant-supply store. There I got the idea for this: 
Yes, that is a 114oz can of ketchup (purchased from Amazon). I discussed this as an option with Boyfriend (before buying). We are going to refill our plastic bottle, and use canning jars to store the rest once opened. It's less than the 24-bottle case. Wish us luck. 

The last item for today: hot dogs and hamburgers. It's not easy to have a 4th of July party and be plastic free! Luckily, boyfriend likes making bread products and agreed to make us the buns plastic free!

What about the meats? you ask. Well hot dogs are basically impossible to get plastic free, so I had to forfeit that battle, but if you bring your own container to the grocery store, you can get your hamburger meat plastic free!

I did have an issue with the guy claiming that he couldn't tare my container which is very hard to believe, so I'm going to try a different supermarket and/or try again when someone else is working. THE SCALE HAS A TARE DISPLAY ON THE OUTFACING SIDE. I DON'T BELIEVE YOU! I  unfortunately did not get photos. But I promise it happened. 

Stay tuned for more plastic-free-ness next week!

June 20, 2017

That Time I Went To Boston....Again....

It had been a few years since I last visited Boston and felt that it was time for another visit. Boyfriend had delared that he doesn't like Boston, so I had to set him straight. My strategy was to skip anything really tourist-y and instead do the weird and unique stuff.

There was a poster of the skyline at the Airport. I felt it was worth a groupie.
I made one exception which was the Cheer's photo-op. We did not bother to eat there. 
No one knew our names.

Next stop was Earl of Sandwich for lunch. Yes this is a chain but it was built into a defunct bathroom in Boston Common from the 1920's that had since been a locked grave to urinals and rusting pipes. We'd never frequented an Earl of Sandwich and were happy to discover that it was worth the visit because the sandwiches were delicious also. 




The highlight of the day for me was that also taking place in the Boston Common was the Boston People's Climate March. 

I was sad to already have a trip booked when I found out about the Washington DC one, but didn't know there would be one also going on in Boston. We showed our support for a bit then headed out as we still had to check into our Airbnb. 



Our Airbnb felt like a you-get-what-you-pay-for but was actually pretty nice.  It wasn't my favorite neighborhood, but it didn't feel unsafe. We had a private room and shared a bathroom with another guest in another room. The latter is basically my biggest complaint. The house was close to a commuter rail and less close to the T. We got a 7-day Charlie Card for the T and our stop on the commuter line was included.

We were far enough out that we didn't ever go back during the day, but if you want a low-cost option, this place is one of the best choices. For our dates, there was only one other place at the lowest price available and the other had a cat, making it not an option for Boyfriend. I would probably opt for a slightly closer option for a bit more money.


For dinner we headed to Boston's Little Italy, though I don't think they call it that (looked it up, it's just the "North End"). If I was going to convince Boyfriend that Boston is awesome, I was going to have to prove that there was good pizza. We chose Quattro because it was both on my list and recommended by a friend.
Captured during the one moment when all of the cooks were in the back.

We found out that we should have made a reservation but were able to get in somewhat quickly by agreeing to sit at the counter. This worked out great for us because we had a great view of the pizza making and the pizza oven. Because I know you're wondering, the pizzas got Boyfriend's seal of approval.

Another spot I found in my researching was about a block away, Caffe Vittoria, Boston's first Italian Caffe. 
Always dust your espresso with cocoa.


We enjoyed a cappucino each along with tiramisu and a canolo, and admired their antique espresso machines and vintage glassware. 



We finished of the night at the Beantown Pub to have a glass of cold Sam Adams. The inspiration for the visit being its proximity to the Granary Burial ground, making it the only location at which you can drink a "cold Sam Adams" while being across the street from a "cold Sam Adams." We nabbed a seat right in the window and I even took a sip of Boyfriend's pint to fully participate in the experience.


Sam's in there.
Even after the TWO pizzas and dessert we ate, Boyfriend was compelled to order wings, basically just because they were on the menu. They were a bit pricey so he deferred to Trip Advisor which featured reviews that said Beantown had the best wings in Boston. Quality wings are also important, so we ordered them and confirmed that they lived up to the review.


We kicked off day two with more pizza. Why not? #bostonpizzatour. Pizza stop number two was also in the North end at Trip Advisor's #2 pizza recommendation: Ernesto's. Ernesto's claim to fame is for their giant slices- basically a quarter of a pie, which they slice into two for ease of eating.
Ernesto's was more NY style, wheras Quattro is Neapolitan, but still got Boyfriend's approval. NY style is my preference, so it was my favorite so far. They also had a huge variety of slice pies (translation: already made to be sold by the slice) making it hard to pick just one!


Next up was the Children's Museum. We did not go in the museum. We wanted to see the giant Hood Milk Bottle on the property, currently housing an Au Bon Pain. The Hood Milk Bottle was originally built in 1933 in Taunton, Massachusetts as an ice cream stand and was ferried to Boston in 1977. We could see it's massivness from across the river and but it was even cooler to see up close.
"I CAN SEE IT FROM HERE!"

The Au Bon Pain is only open seasonally so we did not make a purchase. We got our photo-op and then grabbed a coffee across the street at Starbucks. If you decide to visit it, it can be located in Google Maps now because I added it before my trip! (You're welcome.)


After the milk bottle we made our way to the Mapparium located in the Mary Baker Eddy Library. The Mapparium is a large walk-in glass globe. This sounded silly the first time I heard about it, but articles recommended it otherwise.
Tours are $6 (less with a student ID) and surprisingly worth the trip and money. Our tour guide talked about the history of the globe and changes to the geography since the globe was built as the different sections were highlighted by light. We were not permitted to take photos, so I had to use one from the website.


Right around the corner was something also recommended by stuff-to-do-in-Boston articles. It is a men's shoe store called Bodega that is hidden behind a fake convenience store. The store does not have a sign out side, and once you go inside the entrance is behind a door disguised as a Snapple vending machine.

The magic was ruined by the sign that said not to take photos of the door (whoops... I didn't read it, just snapped it), and it was a little underwhelming as there wasn't really anything cool inside. Clearly it's not so secret anymore. I only suggest this as a stop if you are also going to the Mapparium.


We had some time to kill so we made three more stops. One was to another pizza restaurant (!) called Area Four in Kendal Square by MIT that Boyfriend read about. I had read up on the favorite college hangouts to find an affordable place to have a drink and found a dive bar called State Park. Definitley a dive bar but a great choice. Across the way Cambridge Brewing Company (yay they had cider!), so we stopped in there as well.


Our final destination of the day was a comedy show at the Somerville Brewing Co. tap room. I found a Groupon for it which didn't save me any money, it just informed me that the comedy show existed. The comedians were, for-lack-of-better-phrase, less-famous than at other comedy clubs, but they were all funny and the show was free! You just have to make reservations. The Groupon came with a pizza and a pretzel, but I paid the same as menu price. (For those of you paying attention, yes we had pizza again. It was okay for being at a random brewery)

One thing I didn't like was the seating arrangements. Their attempt to mirror how a comedy club does it fell short. No I don't want to sit across a 5" table from my date so that he can't hear me very well, and the 4 people around us can hear everything we say. I asked if they would swap so that he and I could sit side-by-side (enabling them to do the same) but was shut down. Word to the wise: make reservations early and ask for a private table (they had some small cocktail tables that were two/table, the rest were long family style tables).


For those counting, we are now up to 4 pizza meals for the trip.


Day 3 started with my mission to visit Beacon Street Pizza. There is a TV show (cancelled years ago but starred Nathan Fillion and Ryan Renyolds) called Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, which takes place in Boston and in which one of the title characters is named Beacon Street Pizza.


I'm not sure if the one I found didn't exist a few years ago, or if it's because it's in one of the surrounding neighborhoods in Somerville (closer to Cambridge) that we did not visit it last time I was in Boston. Last time we found a pizza place that is close to Beacon Street, and walked a block to eat it ON Beacon Street.

Before this trip I Googled for it and this one came up, so I had to go to full the mission. The pizza was decent (Boyfriend was meh about it, I am less picky). And the most entertaining part was the inclusion of burritos and quesadillas on the menu. I won't be going back but I'm glad we made it there!


I need to take a step back and talk about the trip from our Airbnb to Beacon Street. The closest T stop was the Harvard one so we got to walk through campus and more importantly Harvard Yard. Important because I got to keep calling it Haaavad Yaaad. Also because there were a few food trucks ready to sell students their lunches.


Among them was a pizza food truck named for its brick-and-mortar companion Stoked, located in Boston. This was, of course, terribly exciting for Boyfriend, and we had to stop and get a pizza on our way to get pizza. Yes. THAT REALLY HAPPENED. The truck had a wood-fired grill built into it and, yes, it was Boyfriend's preference over Beacon Street. It was tasty, but personally I preferred Beacon Street Pizza's NY style pizza.


Yes, that's 6 pizzas.


Next up was the Boston Museum of Science.

This was one of the parts of the trip I was most excited for as I had 1) never been and 2) we got to get in for free with my membership to the Franklin Institute, Philly's science museum. Highlights of the visit were the Delorean in a temporary exhibit called POPnology (how movies, books, television, and art have and continue to inspire technological advancements), and the dinosaurs! 

Silly me, I thought we would need roads.

My favorite!

Yes, the T-Rex is a Red Sox Fan.

We also hit up the Planetarium, the Omnimax, and with a few minutes remaining, I found this giant lobster.

Other photos worth including:
The chocolate exhibit was interesting but disappointing as there was no chocolate to eat! 

Life is in a box of chocolates... Wait. That's not right...



Beep boop beep



Seeing the lobster reminded us that we hadn't actually eaten any seafood during our trip so we sought out a seafood spot en route to Fenway Park. We found Luke's Lobster which was delicious but pricey (we split a duo of lobster and shimp rolls, really only enough for one), resulting in a second dinner at Chipoltle (mostly because we had a gift card).



Finally we made it to the most important part of the trip: Red Sox vs. Oriels!


Fenway was even cooler than I remembered and even got compliments from Boyfriend. They did not win but it was nonetheless fun even though we were freezing the whole time. That's what I get by picking travel dates to save money! 

The Green Monster: much less intimidating in a tiny photo.
I now own a very nice Red Sox beach towel that I used as a blanket, since it was much less expensive while being not much smaller than an actual blanket.

Isn't it glorious?!


By our last day, I had checked the boxes on everything except a visit to the Boston Sam Adams Brewery. 

The Boston one is essentially a craft brewery, used for small batches and experimental recipes that are only sold locally and by their oldest clients. The tour is free and you get a sample glass as a souvenir, a sample of 3-4 of their beers (I opted for "root"), and a tip on where to get a free Sam Adams pint glass.

Make sure to give Matt a good review for his tour.

We got done in time to make a stop for dinner on the way to the airport. There was a pizza place that was close to the airport that I'd found on Trip Advisor that I had nixed from our list due to it's location. Now that we were more familiar with the T routes I thought we might as well check it out. I was a bit off put by the name "Italian Pizza Express" but I think it's called that because they mostly do take out (I don't think they have a bathroom for customers) even though there is a decent amount of seating.

We took the "T to the Danger Zone..." a T stop called Maverick, then walked a bit to Italian Pizza Express. They also featured giant pizza slices which were even bigger than at Ernersto's, and our combined favorite of the trip. 

Final pizza count: 7