Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taking a break

Sorry I've been gone for so long with no word. Things have been a little crazy here at SGF, post-holidays. Without going into details, I can say that the new year has brought on many changes, as well as the chance to meditate on the future. You can bet I'm still living an SGF-lifestyle - in fact, I'm biking more than ever (about 20 miles a day), working the info booth at the farmers' market, enjoying lots of local and organic goodies, as well as supporting my favorite locally-owned shops and restaurants.

I hope over the last 21 months, my adventures have encouraged your along your own Simple-Green-Frugal journey. I won't say goodbye for now, as there may be lots to write about in the future. But for the present, I'm going to sign-off for an extended break to concentrate my efforts closer to home, in my local community.

Please peruse the archives, and feel free to email with any questions. Of course, I'll still be reading and commenting around the blogosphere, as well as on my Facebook page, so you'll see me around.

Until next time!

--Heather @ SGF

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Biking and Eating Local in Aptos

Dave and I walked down to the Aptos Farmers' Market this morning. Even the day after Christmas, there were maybe 30 vendors lining the community college parking lot. We didn't buy anything as there's tons of leftovers in my mother-in-law's fridge, but we did take a couple photos along the way...

Here's another of those signs I'd love to take home with me. The signs are everywhere since there are always lots of bikers on the road here in Santa Cruz county, including kids as I mentioned in my last post. A biker can't help but feel at home in a place with so many bike lanes. My favorite bike-friendly observation,
however, is of surfers who have affixed surfboard holders to their bikes to catch those much beloved waves at a moments notice.

So on to the farmers' market. This is for all you Locavores who make that exception in your local diet to include that can't-live-without-it ingredient... salt. Yep! That's local salt there in the jars for $3! Awesome!

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday 2009 - Shopping in Aptos

Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time know that I absolutely hate to shop, unless, of course, it's for food. But today, I have to say, I had a wonderful experience.

After a light breakfast, Dave and I walked down the hill onto the town's main street level, lined with small, locally-owned shops. We had a few things in mind to buy while in town - I wanted to pick up some groceries to make bread with the Amish Friendship starter Chile gave me during our visit, meds for Dave as he has a bit of a cold, a book for my mother-in-law, and a pair of hiking shoes for me (the only ones I had were donated months ago because they hurt my feet so much I never wanted to hike - pointless, right?).

It turns out, to accomplish all these goals, not only did we not need the car, but we could shop all-locally owned in the process! Awesome!

Our first stop was to Bookworks (photo above) to purchase a book for Dave's Mom - a book I loved and wanted to share with each of our mothers (click here for the book review). Bookworks is a wonderful bookstore - a place where you want to browse, relax, and enjoy the atmosphere. Unfortunately, its much smaller than it was even last year due to the economy, and no doubt, the increase in big-box stores in the area. I asked the clerk as we entered where we might find the Guernsey book and she immediately knew exactly where it was and smiled at the request (perhaps she read and loved it as much as I did).

We took time to browse - it's just that kind of store, warm and welcoming - and as we were browsing, we noticed a boy, maybe 10 years old, pull up on his bike, enter the store, and politely ask the clerk for a copy of a book he wanted to buy for his father's birthday. Um, can we adopt you? Seriously! He biked to a locally-owned shop (wearing a helmet), was polite as can be, and did it all to buy something for his father's birthday. Maybe it's the holidays, but I have to admit to feeling warm and fuzzy at the scene.

The next stop was for my hiking shoes. Originally, we planned to drive into Santa Cruz to one of the large sports stores, but when I saw Fleet Feet Sports right next door to Bookworks, I wanted to check it out first. Owner Tom Griffen greeted us, welcoming us to his store. We told him what we were looking for and he ushered us to a couple of chairs and gave us the shoe experience of our lives. I'm SO not joking! In fact, Dave decided he wanted to explore the possibilities too. Check this out...

First he measured each of our feet, both standing and sitting, asked us about our foot, knee, and hip health, and had us walk across the store and back to witness first hand our walking tendencies. All this information helped him select the best shoes for our feet. Of course, he explained everything as he went along so that we understood why these steps were necessary (which was GREAT for me since I have so much trouble with my feet and knees and have trouble finding shoes that don't hurt).

He slipped to the stockroom for a moment and brought back 2 selections for each of us. After lacing us up, he took us outside to walk the sidewalk so we could get a good feel for the shoes and he could see again how we walk to assess whether the shoes would suit us long-term. After we tried both shoes, he brought one more set out for each of us, going through the same routine. By the time all this took place, we had to have spent an hour or more with him, as he patiently walked us through the process. Having gone in to buy only one pair of shoes for me, we ended up both getting a pair of shoes that felt great. Honestly, I've NEVER been that comfortable in a pair of shoes. And he wasn't just sharing with us, I also shared with him my love for buying from local sources, told him about Big-Box Swindle (which he seemed VERY interested in), and shared stories of home.

For someone who flat-out HATES to shop, I have to say, this was the most wonderful shopping experience of my life... AND I got a great pair of shoes out of it. Thanks, Tom!

On the way back home, we stopped into the shopping center where a small, locally-owned pharmacy was (to get Dave's cold meds) as well as Aptos Natural Foods (where I visit each and every time I'm in town). If you love healthy food, it's a given you'll love this little store. With one row dedicated to bulk everything (including honey, oil, and cereal), another full of fresh, organic produce (much of it local), and much, much more, it's foodie-heaven. We purchased our needed supplies plus a vegan ginger-spice cookie (for me to enjoy while everyone else is gobbling up cakes and pies at Christmas dinner) and headed back up the hill for home.

As I said earlier, I just hate to shop, but I have to admit, I might just need to adjust my attitude a bit. It was a wonderful morning - the air was crisp and cool, the sun was bright and warm, the walk was invigorating, and my faith in the buy-local movement is strong. Buying local means personal attention, knowledgeable staff, relaxing atmosphere, an enjoyable experience, and three times the amount of money that stays in the community vs. buying at a big-box store. If you're going to make a new years resolution this year, help keep our local communities alive and vibrant and buy local!

Thanks to all those local Aptos businesses who made my shopping day a delight!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday 2009 - Driving to Cali (San Diego)

Wow! Another amazing day of food and friends! After leaving Chile and family yesterday, we headed West once again, this time with San Diego set on the GPS. Home to another fellow blogger, I was really looking forward to meeting Beany, my bike hero, and her sweetie. And just like the visit to Chez Chile, the visit was wonderful.

Beany is another blogger I've corresponded with for going on a year and a half, now meeting for the first time. I was especially amazed when she and her sweetie sold all of their worldly goods and biked from from Philidelphia across the states, making it to North Texas before renting a truck to take them and their bikes the rest of the way. She is truly an inspiration in living simply, alternative transportation, and both getting involved and making a difference in her community.

The evening began with an incredible dinner and one you can bet I'll be trying to re-create back home! The photo above is a large tortilla stuffed with roasted sweet potato, black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, and onions and grilled quesadilla style in cast iron skillet. It was absolutely delicious and much to my own amazement, yes, I did eat that whole thing! Wouldn't you?

Next we talked about a little of everything (politics, meditation, biking, work...) as we walked, heading to a fabulous little chocolatier, Eclipse Chocolat, for an extra special dessert. Eclipse specializes in natural and organic chocolates with an entire line of vegan-friendly and regular truffles, chocolate bars, chocolate muffins, and chocolate drinks. Although we had Kelsey with us, the staff invited us inside and offered yummy samples. I picked the sea salt nib chocolate, although I also tried the orange peel anise, as well as the blackberry sage. All were wonderful! Did I really eat 4 pieces of chocolate after that big meal? Oink!

The next morning, Beany had a special treat planned - the San Diego farmers' market! And what a market it was! It had to have been 40-50 (maybe more) booths lining the street with loads of fruits, veggies, cheeses, meat, honey, eggs, oils, beans, crafts, and prepared foods. There was even a combo gluten-free and raw vegan booth (see photo). VERY cool! As I wasn't all that hungry for breakfast (after a very wonderful but filling meal last night), I picked up a basket of strawberries for breakfast, which I promptly devoured within the first 5 minutes of our drive out of town. But I also picked up a bottle of avocado oil, a container of dried dates, and a beautiful mango. I love local food!

As it was getting late in the morning and we had a 7-1/2 hour drive (minimum, considering we have to drive through LA) ahead of us, we parted ways with Beany and her sweetie to head back to the open road.

A great big THANKS to the Beanys for sharing their home with us! Come see us soon!

Well, next stop - Aptos California, Dave's home-sweet-home. See ya there!

Holiday 2009 - Driving to Cali (Tucson)

With just a short drive to Tucson from Van Horn, we took our time on the road (and thankfully didn't have any run-ins with 18-wheelers). Pshew!

The first impression of Tucson was mixed. Tucson is HUGE and we did get a bit lost, BUT there were bike lanes everywhere, the busses had bike racks on the front of them, and even the signs told drivers to "yield to bikes." I teased Dave that we needed to take one of of those signs to mount on the back of my bike back home!

By about 4:00, we were nestled in the alcove that houses Tucson's Community Supported Agriculture pick-up site where fellow blogger Chile Chews volunteers every Friday. Not only were we surrounded by great local food and locals coming to get their weekly supply of farm-fresh veggies (many of whom were bikers), there was live music AND, of course, I had the opportunity to meet Chile.

To finally meet someone I've corresponded with for the last 18 months, was an amazing treat. And to discover that not only do we have many of the same simple-green-frugal goals, but I thoroughly enjoyed her and her hubby's company and hospitality. It was quite a visit! Well, let's get right to it.

Dinner plans were for Lovin' Spoonfuls, an all-vegan restaurant. So that Kelsey could join us, we sat outside in the cool evening air. The tough choice lay ahead. After 14 months of slim pickings at restaurants, it was a bit overwhelming to chose from the menu. Seriously, go check it out. Every last one of the choices is vegan! After ogling all the dinner plates on the way to the counter and reading the menu a dozen times, I finally decided on "Buddha's Delight." Beautiful, isn't it? Also making an appearance at the table were "Linguini with Italian Meatballs," the "Santa Fe Platter," and "Stroganoff Supreme." Everything looked fabulous and, in fact, my meal was wonderful!

We spent the meal relaxing and talking about our lives. To a certain extent, you get to know each other on-line, but I found that there was so much more to explore in person. And speaking of exploring, after dinner, we walked the Winterhaven Festival of Lights (see photos here). Of course, it changes a little every year, but it's a truly amazing display of lights. Road are blocked for pedestrian only access, allowing us to wander around an admire the unique decorations that ran for blocks.

Later in the evening, back at Chez Chile, we curled up in cushy chairs, exchanged local holiday gifts, and talked more over some of Chile's homemade peach liquor. It was absolutely delicious, but as I'm not much of a drinker, I was yearning for a good sleep by the time we called it a night around 11PM.

And as if last night wasn't a complete treat, Chile and her hubby prepared breakfast for us this morning - vegan pancakes (local whole wheat flour), topped with a choice of homemade pomegranate or prickly-pear syrup, and freshly-squeezed orange juice (from local oranges). I ate more than I usually do (the photo shows only one of the three pancakes I ate), but it was worth every last delicious bite, and we did take the dogs for a walk afterward, so I managed to get in a little exercise before we had to say out good-byes.

A HUGE thank you, Chile, for having us and hosting a fabulous visit! It would have been wonderful to spend more time talking and exploring life in Tucson, but we have family to reach for Christmas and one last stop before we're there - visiting Beany in San Diego. Until next time, we're on the road again...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday 2009 - Driving to Cali (Van Horn)

Well, we made it to Van Horn, TX for an overnight stay in a KOA cabin. It was an uneventful day until an 18-wheeler tried to run us off... no, make that he DID run us off the road. Scared the crap out of both of us, but we're alive and well (and so is the Prius) to talk about it. Pshew!

Nothing much else to report other than we're ready to crash. Another day of driving tomorrow, but we're heading for Tucson next where we'll meet Chile Chews in person! Awesome!

P.S. Midland/Odessa area has to be one of the most unattractive places I've ever seen. We tried to make a game out of it - "I spy something attractive." We both lost...