Friday, December 3, 2010

The Holiday season, or, cheaping out on your close friends and loved ones

The holidays always bring me to a strange impasse. I’m not religiously Christian, and neither are 80% of the people on my list (I’ve got Jews and Hindus and atheists, oh my!) but my love of gift-giving is such that I’ll embrace any excuse to shower my friends with pressies. Sadly and in ultimate proof that the beautiful and noble must always suffer, I’m not paid enough to give anyone a gift even half as cool as they are without coaxing my meager finances to stretch, twist, leap and perform amazing feats of agility. This is never easy. Out of curiosity I tried googling “inexpensive Christmas gifts” and the lists that popped up were horribly inadequate- stuff like “garden gloves and a packet of seeds” or “prepaid photo developing envelopes”, stuff that’s not even close to something I would ever want to give, or that anyone would be jazzed about receiving (except for my great friends from the Senior Center Book Club.) So here’s MY list of how-tos on cheaping out on your loved ones while not looking like a tactless bastard.
-Start early. Keep your eyes open all year for cool, unique gifts in stores or online. Oftentimes you’ll find a gorgeous enamel box, an old flask, or funky earrings for less at a garage sale or on sale for cheap at an otherwise expensive boutique. If it’s well-chosen and specific to their needs it doesn’t have to be expensive. One of the best gifts I ever got was three pairs of long, groovy cable-knit socks that can’t have cost more that $10 total. A year later, I saw socks almost exactly like them retailing at American Apparel.
-Got a skill like painting, drawing, or knitting? Use it. One year I crocheted hats and scarves for my friends, the next, I painted plain wooden picture frames with a design specific to each person and put a picture of the two of us in it. This works for the people at the top of your list too. One year I gave my then-boyfriend a picture I had drawn of us based on a cute photo. This approach takes a while so again, start early. Also, be realistic about your crafting abilities- don’t plan to sculpt everyone an art-deco ceramic vase if you know you’ll end up with blobby thumbprint pots.
- Hit up Goodwill, garage sales, or best yet, craft fairs. In fact there’s a craft fair going on today and tomorrow in the Southside- the I Made It! market. I’ll be there tonight looking for fabulous things for the last folks on my list- hope to see you there :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

State of the GVE address

At almost the end of the GVE and since I bet you’re wondering how it went (whether because you are interested in veganism yourself, wanting to garner a little schadenfreude by seeing me fail, or you’re killing time reading piffy prose on the internet) and I aim to please.
Well, to be honest, I didn’t succeed completely with my goal of total veganism- two days in, and a lack of prepared-ness (plus drunk hunger) had me stopping by the gas station for a bag of really, really animal-o-licious chips. After that little boo-boo I figured out I needed to plan better. Being vegan means you have to eat more frequently than an omnivore, probably about every two hours or so. Protein is in scarce supply so nuts, beans, tofu, TVP, tempeh- all crucial to a happy, full vegan who has no gas-station centric cravings. Using my trusty Moosewood Cookbook, the Fat-Free Vegan blog, and the vast stores energy I should be pouring into my job, I planned out a week’s worth of food (21 meals plus snacks and desserts, to be exact). A sample day looks something like this:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with bananas and strawberries sliced up in it.
Lunch: Brussels sprouts and shiitake mushroom soup
Snack: Baba Ganoush (with cherry tomatoes and tortilla chips as dippers)
Dinner: Asparagus and chickpea casserole
Dessert: Dark chocolate vegan cake*
I devoted one night to making a big batch of soup, casserole, baba, and cake so I didn’t have to think much once the munchies took hold. With that plan I was actually able to stick to my veganism AND have a lot more time during the week what with all the premade meals, so I got some grad school application stuff done too. Yay!
Three lessons learned: Vegans have to eat more often, go to the grocery store more often (what with all the produce) and research a lot. Never ever ask why something isn’t vegan, since it’s always some horribly gross reason you probably don’t want to know… and finally, veganism is a commitment- a commitment to compassion, environmental friendliness, and good health. If you do it right, it makes you feel better to know that you’re being good to your body and the earth. Will I keep it up? TBA. I have enough produce and lesson plans to last me another week or so- so we’ll see! But not to worry, I’ll be writing about plenty of other stuff too.

*sorry, trade secret ;)