Friday, April 18, 2014

Making It: Avoiding the Hassle of Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping in San Francisco brings visions of endless circling of too small parking lots looking for a space. Checkout lines as far as the eye can see. And, no guarantee what you need will be there when you are. That's why grocery shopping is one activity I've delegated.

Good Eggs Packaging

The other day, I realized I was out of a few ingredients necessary for making my Thai-flavored Vegan Broth. No problem, I thought! I had enough time to pop out to the market, pick up the ingredients and still videotape the segment. Wrong.

I forgot it was Monday and most markets haven't restocked from the weekend. The shelves and produce aisles were striped bare. While they didn't have everything I needed, luckily they had workable substitutions. And, that's why I now shop almost exclusively online, with services like Good Eggs and Google Shopping Express.

Google Shopping Express Packaging

How We Started Using Grocery Delivery Services

Before we became a family of three, cubes and I would spend one or two evenings a week, walking to Bi-Rite Market, picking up local, fresh ingredients. In fact, one of the factors for where we looked at renting was how close it was to Bi-Rite Market. With a toddler, a walk that's doable for us, a twenty minute leisurely mile walk, becomes an expedition. And now that Gates wants to walk rather than ride, a mile is too far of a distance. So, if we do it, it's a weekend trip or a solo trip. Both of which are no fun.

Yerena Farms Strawberries

When cubes' company began offering delivery of fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables and meats through Farmigo, we jumped on it. After a farmer pointed me to an online fresh-from-the-farm delivery service for residential customers, LolaBees Harvest (now closed), I jumped on that too. For at least a year and maybe longer, we've been getting our meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables delivered to our door, first Farmigo, then LolaBees, and now Good Eggs.

Good Eggs Packaging

What You Might (I Miss) About Neighborhood Markets

Go to a small friendly neighborhood market long enough and you'll know the checkers and the section leads and they'll know you. I miss the discovery of new cheeses and recommendations of wines and recipes to try that we got at Bi-Rite. (I don't miss the stress of wondering whether Gates could make it there and back before she got tired or worse wanted to be carried. At about eighteen months, Gates was too tall for me to carry safely for long distances or an extended period of time. She's not quite old enough to understand why mommy can't carry her any more and often only wants to be picked up by mommy when tired.)

Spontaneity. Although as parents we don't really have that luxury. Arriving home to an empty fridge with a hungry toddler takes the fun out of a leisurely stroll through the aisles of the produce department crafting a menu featuring local in-season ingredients.

Serendipitous meetings. While you wait in line for your fresh-from-the-oven bread along with twenty or so others at one of the busiest corners in the heart of the Mission's foodie corridor you're bound to see a friend or two walk by. You're also just as likely to make friends with people you see in line with you week after week. (Getting our fresh loaf of Tartine bread delivered to our door is pretty awesome--especially when it's raining.)

Bacon Gruyere Brioche

Tips for Shopping for Groceries Online

Online grocery shopping requires a few changes to how you plan your meals and how frequently you shop.

  • Consider delivery fees, in addition, to the cost of items. A slightly more expensive item from a store you're buying other items for may end up less expensive, if you have to pay a delivery fee for each store you purchase from.
  • Regularly inventory your pantry and your refrigerator. If you run out of one of your staples, you may have to wait to have it delivered. Some services deliver the same day; others the next day; others two days later and not on weekends. Also, most services require a minimum purchase.
  • Review weekly purchases and subscribe to commonly purchased items where possible to reduce costs. Revise the frequency of your subscriptions if you find your purchases going to waste. Savings that go into your compost bin aren't savings.
  • Reference your calendar weekly and adjust the following week's deliveries based on planned activities and workload. If you're swamped at work, you may not have the energy to cook when you get home. Switch out pre-made meals for raw ingredients if your budget allows.
We're still trying to get the hang of using grocery delivery services. I'd love to be able to say we don't waste anything we buy, but we do. I've cut back on the amount of food we buy and am meal planning two weeks in advance to reduce the waste. I'll let you know how that is working in a future a post.

How do you shop for groceries?
Got any tips for reducing the amount of food that gets wasted?
genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Disclosure: When I signed up for Google Shopping Express it was part of the pilot where testers received free delivery and have their monthly membership fee waived. I still receive this benefit. Personally, the convenience of having sundries and groceries delivered to my door and not having to hassle with parking and traffic outweighs the costs of the service so I'll keep using them when the pilot benefits end. When we begin paying a delivery fee for each store, I will change my purchase habits, stocking up monthly on items rather than shopping weekly.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A Good Mail Day: Sending Five People a Surprise in the Mail

Grey stormy days can get the best of us down. Unexpected niceties from strangers or surprises from friends can do a lot to brighten one's spirit. A snailmail package brightened my day and will be brightening the days of five other people in the future.

Passing On A Good Mail Day

Early this week I was struggling with my schedule, focusing only on what I hadn't gotten to instead of on what I'd accomplished. My day hadn't been as productive as I'd have liked it to have been and I was beating myself up. And then, the mail arrived.

In the middle of a rare for Northern California downpour, our mailman delivered a drenched package from Olive Box. (A brief aside, I don't know if Olive Box chose their packaging with weather in mind but it survived without any damage. I absolutely love their font and color selections.)

Minimal Labeling - Branded Wrap Label

Once the box dried out a little, I opened it to a note from Bing:
Thanks for being awesome! xo #thanksBing

A Good Mail Day: Thanks for Being Awesome

And I smiled. Yes. I am awesome.

And, I thought. So are you. You are awesome too.

I immediately decided to share this thought with another five people. Because, let's face it, who doesn't need to be reminded they're awesome?

So, I invited people on Instagram and Facebook to tell me why they needed a pick me up.

  • "I could use a pick me up because my husband just got his first big boy job & I am now a lonely momma. All my friends/family live either out of state or at least 3 hours away. I need human contact! ....I do cherish the time I spend with my daughter though & am so very grateful I get this opportunity."
  • "[B]ecause snail mail is better than dealing with corporate politics."
  • "Because I go 24/7 with no break and do for others before I would ever do for myself."
  • "I could use a pick me up because I work third shift and my time with my family is limited!"
  • "Every single day I strive to make the people around me happy. I am mother to two teenage girls and about to be step mom to another. ...they are the loves of my life for sure. I NEVER ever need a thank you but sometimes it would be fun to get my own treat!!!!"

A Good Mail Day: Who Will You Snail Mail?

The five lucky people who will be receiving snail mail are:

  • Ashleigh of Om Livin, a blog about living a more peaceful lifestyle, whether it be through attachment parenting, plant-based eating, upcycling, or meditation. Follow her on Instagram @OmLivin.
  • Kathleen, owner of Resource 11, a design consultancy specializing in motion graphics, iPhonography, interactive & tablet media, executive-level presentations, trade show graphics, and onsite graphics support for corporate events worldwide. Follow her on Twitter @resource11.
  • Keneshia of Blissful 2 Be Online Wedding Magazine, a wedding magazine for the everyday bride filled with tips and advice on how to plan a fabulous wedding on a modest budget. Follow her on Instagram @Blissful2Be.
  • Melissa of This Brunette Blogs, a blog about being a tell-it-like-it-is Southern girl raising two daughters in Arizona. Follow her on Instagram @ThisBrunetteBlogs.
  • Missy of Making Brissy's Home, a how to, DIY, up-cycle and re-do blog where Brian and Missy (Brissy) share their search for the perfect forever house that they will turn into an amazing home that will bring them years of happiness. Over the course of their search, they share pieces of furniture among other cool finds they find that they re-do and make beautiful! Follow her on Instagram @MissyAEdwards.

My Olive Box: A Curated Selection of Birthday Cards

We all have the ability to make a difference in people's lives. An action doesn't have to be big to make a difference. It can be a unexpected surprise in the mail or a stranger waving to a driver in the rain to let them know he was leaving and she could have his parking space.

What have you done lately to pay it forward?
genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Disclosure: I received my curated birthday card Olive Box as a gift from Bing. I am not being compensated to write about this gift. All opinions presented are my own. Olive Box offers two products: a monthly subscription service delivering paper and lifestyle goods for $25 each month and curated card boxes for $25.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Making It: Gluten-free Treats for a Tea Party

A lot goes into perfecting a moist, delicious cupcake, brownie bite, or muffin. Especially those that are dairy-free. (Many butter and milk substitutes don't have the same fat content.) Toss in dairy-free AND gluten-free and well... Most offerings are little better than cardboard. But Sweets Simply has nailed it: dairy-free, gluten-free, AND refined-sugar free.

Let's Play Tea Party

Besides exploring space, Gates loves throwing tea parties. And when it comes to food, she's very social and very inclusive. She doesn't like to be the only one eating and will share so that no one goes without. So we try to serve our meals family style. (This approach doesn't always work, but it does result in less leftovers or composted discards.)

Sweets Simply: Delicious Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Baked Goods

After a picture perfect, gluten-free peach galette turned out to more closely resemble salt dough than an edible pastry, I haven't tried my hand at gluten-free, dairy-free desserts. For one, mistakes are very expensive. Second, accidental cross-contamination is so easy. Third, in San Francisco, we're lucky enough to have a range of options that you wouldn't know were gluten-free.

Here Have Some Tea

Unfortunately I didn't get my order of Sweets Simply in for us to have brownie bites at Gates' birthday party. But I did arrange for some gluten-free Salted Caramel Cupcakes; they're just not dairy-free so I'll be watching enviously. If they taste as yummy as the brownie bites, both will be traveling cross-country to a friend who doesn't have as many gluten-free options near her.

Do you make or buy your gluten-free baked goods?
genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Elevate the Ordinary: Learning to See

We're often quick to frame a pleasing-to-look-at shot on Instagram and hit Share without much thought. But, it is not until we learn to look--really look--that we can appreciate what's right in front of us. That's the premise of this month's Elevate the Ordinary Instagram Challenge: Reframing Your Perspective to See (and Attract) the Positive.

A Daily Ritual Reimagined

"Photography is about vision -- real or perceived. Before we take the camera out of the bag we must first learn to look at what we are seeing, and to see at which we are looking." -Dale Wilson, "For Beginners - Learning to See"

Looking requires us to break down our surroundings into fundamental shapes and colors. To abstract them from expectation. To observe from all sides: above, below, under, next to. And to re-envision them.

This is the approach I take with both my My Ordinary 365 and The Scene Today Instagram Series. And why I'm challenging you to join me this month for 30 Days of Elevating the Ordinary; a group Scene Today exercise.

Taking Another Look at the Ordinary in Your Life

Why this month? The beginning of Spring seemed a perfect time to stop and take another look at the details of our lives. To help us see our own lives from another perspective, I've put together 30 prompts, half of common objects and half of moments or emotions, for the Elevate the Ordinary Instagram Challenge. Elevate the Ordinary is designed for you to tell your story visually, introducing yourself (who are you), setting the stage (where are you), showing your day (what do you do), and revealing what's unique about what you do (how do you do what you do).

Elevate the Ordinary Instagram Challenge

My "no-rules rules" are mirrored after those Hilary Rushford applies to the Dean Street Society Style Me Instagram Challenge:

  • Choose your level of commitment one day, one week, or all thirty days. There's no right or wrong way to participate.
  • Take a photo with your iPhone and share it on Instagram using #ElevatetheOrdinary and/or elsewhere on your blog or social media.
  • Encourage vision. It's scary to put yourself out there and try something new. As Hilary says: "Be generous with your likes and your words of affirmation, sharing only positivity and words that will make one another authentically glow."

Will you join me and Elevate the Ordinary in your life?

"It pays off. Suddenly you begin to see wonderful things in your daily life you never noticed. ... Training the eye is very important. You can't come up with ideas if you don't see first." -Inge Druckery, "Teaching to See"

Practicing Seeing

As part of my job as a marketeer I'm tasked with making events unique and getting people to come back again. One takeaway I give participants is a keepsake photo album using all of the images guests took. The keepsake has an overall narrative describing what we did and includes snippets from people's social streams for color--what we were feeling or learning.

Rarely do I use photos as is. More often than not I crop them to highlight a detail to visually support the story I want to tell and the emotion I want to relive. After receiving an album, I'm often asked for tips on how to improve composition when shooting.

The short answer is practice. Take an ordinary object and photograph it from all angles in all sorts of light and repeat with another object and another. Try to show action where there is none. Life when there are no humans or animals. Give yourself constraints and practice showing an absence in your image.

I also point them to two online resources: a documentary on Inge Druckery, Teaching to See, and Dale Wilson's Eleven-Part Learning to See Series on Digital Photography School. The documentary gives you insight into how students of Inge Druckery were able to apply learning to see in their everyday lives and work. And Dale Wilson has a series of exercises you can work through to practice learning to see.

How I Learned to See

I learned to see when I got my first camera. It was a simple Kodak Instachrome 110. It had a fixed focal length and relied on the speed of the film to determine how crisp photos would be in daylight (100) and inside (400) and for portraits/still lifes (100) and action shots (400). When framing a shot you had to remember the film speed and adjust your vision for a shot if you had the "wrong" speed.

I got frustrated easily. I was twelve and I picked up most things with little to no effort. I'd point and shoot and assume what I saw was what would be captured. Disgusted that this wasn't true, I discarded abstract waves of color remembering the tulip details I'd been trying to capture. My mom picked up my photo and grabbed a book of Monet's paintings. I forget which painting she held the photo up next to, but I saw the similarities. I realized photography doesn't have to be an exact replica of an object. A photographer through their shot can convey action when there is none. Emotion when there are no people.

I was lucky enough that summer to train with a few of San Francisco's nature photographers at the Junior Academy at the California Academy of Sciences. (It's a program that no longer exists that should, but that's a post for another day.) The only required equipment was a camera. I was either the only child without a 35mm camera or one of the few. I'd follow some of the older kids with their zoom lenses and try to mirror their shots with my camera: the most memorable being hang gliders at Fort Funston. Our teacher saw me and explained the difference between what the eye can capture and what film could capture. I'd just shot all of my exposures so I wasn't able to practice what she was saying but I took the message to heart. I could have a roll of vibrant color, shots of the hang gliders on the ground. Of the action of preparing to launch. Instead of almost twenty shots of blue sky with a tiny undistinguishable dot.

Why Learn to See

Learning to see has allowed me to challenge the status quo or expected ways of doing things. It's why I've always believed "it can't be done" just means no one's looked at the problem from a different perspective. It's why I've looked at blocked paths or opportunities only available to a few and crafted new paths to get the opportunities I wanted. For me, learning to see gave me what Marie Forleo calls "Figureoutability" an approach that applies universally to any endeavor: personal or professional.

genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Currently Reading: Books with Mice in the Starring Role

Gates loves to read; rather she loves to be read to. On a given day, she'll have us read to her over thirty stories. Lately the stories that she's having us read "again" are those where the starring character is a mouse. So it's no surprise that for her upcoming birthday party, she wants it to include mice.

Recommended Books for Kids who love Mice

In two days, Gates turns two. And in six days, friends and family will join Gates as she celebrates her birthday. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she replied Mice, Alphabet, and pink cake. Lest you think this is another Disney-inspired birthday party, let me introduce you to the mice Gates hangs out with. These critters are far from their animated Disney cousins.

Inspiration for a Child's Mouse Birthday Party

Gates' "Mickey Mouse" is a wooden pink-eared mouse that came with a pull-along train manufactured by Goula. When Gates first got the train last year, she was more interested in dumping the passengers from the train. In fact, every time she saw the mouse, the cat, and the bear in the train she'd pull the train up vertically by it's string until they fell to the ground. Now, she carries the mouse with her during most of her play, carefully putting the mouse in a purse or a bag that goes with her everywhere. (The other mouse she'd been consistently traveling with had been one of Sprite's well-loved, rabbit-fur covered mice.)

Inspiration for a Cat's Birthday Party

Throwing a mouse inspired party is nothing new for me. One year I wanted to throw a cheese and antipasto tasting party, so I threw our cat Sprite a birthday party using a vintage children's book, The King, the Mice and the Cheese (Beginner Books(R)) (*affiliate link), as my inspiration, acquiring an army of vintage mouse ring holders and picks (that I still have and may be making an appearance at Gates' party).

Alphabet Mouse Party Pinterest Board

For Gates' party, I've created a Pinterest board, Effortless Entertaining: Alphabet Mouse Birthday, where I've been collecting non-Disney mice and alphabet inspiration. I'm sure someone has thrown a children's mouse-themed party before that wasn't either a Mickey or a Minnie Mouse party; they just haven't shared their party details on Pinterest where they're easily findable by other parents. (The party results for "mouse" on Hostess with the Mostess were either Disney or the Twas the Night Before Christmas. I had better luck on Pizzazzerie, finding a children's book themed baby shower that included If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.) Over the week, I'll be sharing behind-the-scenes, in progress shots of the decor on Instagram. If you're curious what I'm dreaming up, follow me there.

The mice that are inspiring me are found on the pages of Gates' favorite books about mice. If you have a toddler, I highly recommend these books:

How do you get inspired for children's parties?
genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

This post contains affiliate links, identified with (*affiliate link) following the linked text. I feature products that I own or that I am considering purchasing regardless of referral fees. I own all of the book referenced in this post. All opinions presented are my own.

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