Saturday, May 24, 2008

I want to eat cake and get frosting on my nose

I miss the days when birthday meant party streamers, ribbons in my pigtails, musical chairs, and a Minnie Mouse cake with pink, sugary frosting. My little cousin celebrated her fourth birthday last weekend, and I have to admit, I was a little bit jealous.

Donned in her new sandals and matching red purse, she played whiffle ball with the boys, ate handfuls of potato chips and gave everyone kisses that left behind smudges of pizza sauce or ice cream. With more than 25 party guests, it was a big day for a four-year-old.

As soon as I arrived, she ran up to me and nearly knocked me over with her excitement. With a giant mouthful of kielbasa, she managed to ask me if I'd go see her room. I held her tiny hand as she led the way upstairs. Apparently, her first present of the day was a pink, flower-shaped rug, and she couldn't wait to show it off.

As I looked around her very pink room, it reminded me a lot of my old bedroom. Like a much younger me, Leah loves glittery jewelry and My Little Pony figurines. Stuffed animals fill her bed, and she even has a mermaid night light. I realized then that maybe I miss more than just childhood birthdays. I was beginning to think that I might miss childhood everything.

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to when Saturday was Cartoonday, and I could play outside all day until the sun went down. But most of all, I miss having nothing to worry about. No bills. No job. No real responsibilities. Aside from occasional homework, having fun is the main priority when you're a kid. Maybe that's why I have such a hard time deciding on a career path or setting long-term goals I don't want to grow up.

By the end of the day, Leah was utterly exhausted. Her white sweater was stained a rainbow of colors, and her hair was one huge knot. As she gave me a big hug and a sloppy kiss goodbye, I became acutely aware that my shirt was clean and my hair was in place.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How big is your footprint?

I measured by footprint today, and it's pretty huge 3.97 Earths. In case you don't know, I'm talking about my ecological footprint, or my personal impact on the environment. I took two quizzes that estimated how much land we would need if everyone shared my lifestyle. I hoped to affirm that all those juicy, delicious cheeseburgers I was passing up really helped decrease my damage to the Earth.

But my results were not exactly what I expected. I was disappointed because lately, I've really been making an effort to be less wasteful (and not because it's the trendy thing to do). I don't have a car. I only eat meat two or three times a month. I bring canvas bags to the grocery store. I reuse paper bags, gift bags and wrapping paper. I try to buy food from local farmers, and I don't usually buy items that are individually packaged. But it turns out, it's not enough.

Despite my seemingly high score, my results were still considerably lower than the national average in all the categories (carbon, food and housing) except one (goods and services). Alarmingly, humanity's ecological footprint is at least 23% bigger than what the earth can regenerate. It's estimated that it takes longer than one year and two months for the planet to regenerate what we use up in one year. And it's only getting worse.

So, here are some lifestyle changes I'm going to try to make:
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Recycle
  • Purchase produce from farmer's markets
  • Donate old clothes to Goodwill
  • Use "dryer balls" instead of dryer sheets when I do laundry
  • And here's one I just learned: If you brush or vacuum your refrigerator condenser coils twice each year, you save an estimated $32 a year and emit 651 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sandwich snob

It's no secret that I'll eat just about anything. In fact, many of the common gross-out foods, like Brussels sprouts, anchovies and sushi, are actually my favorite. Although I'm not generally a picky eater, I'm kind of a sandwich snob (which, I know, probably sounds like an oxymoron).

There are rules to good-sandwich making. A fresh, crusty roll with a soft and squishy center is an essential foundation for a truly tasty sammy. Condiments should never take the spotlight, while wilted lettuce and unripe tomatoes should never make an appearance. And – this one's important – it absolutely, positively must be sliced in half.

When done right, my all-time favorite is roast beef on a hard roll with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, black olives, and a little mayo. If I’m really hungry, a small cup of creamy artichoke soup is a perfect side. I practically dream about this lunch when I'm planning a trip home because nothing compares to the the local, hole-in-the-wall deli, Hold the Pickle.

How do I describe the best deli ever to open? I love everything about it. The creative daily specials with silly names like "porky pig." The refrigerator stocked with every possible flavor of Stewart's soda. The laid-back atmosphere and the friendly, hippie, bandanna-wearing staff.

I had my first "minnie" turkey club at HTP after a field hockey game. Since then, I've been addicted to big, fat, messy grinders. They say addicts don't consider the consequences when they're in need of a fix. So, it should come as no surprise that I was almost suspended in high school for ditching class to get a turkey grinder – quite a severe punishment, I know. But even if I had gotten in trouble, it would have been worth it.

In the summers, when I waitressed at a nearby Austrian restaurant, I spent many lunch breaks devouring monstrous subs and gulping orange 'n cream sodas. Sporting my dirndl (aka German barmaid costume) from the previous shift, most people couldn't resist the urge to make fun of my silly outfit. But once I took my first bite of perfection, I didn't seem to notice the points and giggles, and I didn't care that I looked like a complete goofball.

When I went away to college, I became concerned with animal rights and ecological sustainability. After nearly two years of being a strict vegetarian, I gave in to temptation. My food of choice? A six-inch roast beef hoagie from HTP stuffed with the works.

So, you can imagine how disappointed and surprised I was to see a new sign in front of the old HTP building. A new deli, called Litchfield Catering Company, has taken it over. No matter how good their sandwiches are, I'll always feel a little let down.