June 2009 - Posts - Yankee 2.0
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Yankee 2.0

June 2009 - Posts

  • De-tech, detox

    I realize the irony of writing a blog post about using less technology. But with that acknowledgement out of the way.... I think I've reached a tipping point with electronics. Everywhere I turn, people of all sorts are in physical contact with some sort of electronic gadget. Senior citizens in the grocery store chatting a cellphone, young kids texting as they walk down the street or ride a bike, commuters checking in with their GPS, parents watching their children's graduation through the lens of a video camera.... heck, the other day I saw a homeless guy talking on a cellphone while he was wheeling a shopping cart down the street!

     So.... with a bit of a contrarian spirit mixed in with a dash of frugality and a philosophical yearning for "authenticity" (whatever that may be), I'm partially de-teching. For almost a year, I've had a blackberry-esque device: cellphone, camera, email, web surfer, texter, GPS tool. I'm getting rid of it. I told myself I had it for my business (which I'm "right-sizing" out of an office and into my basement), but I really got it because I thought it was cool. I'm going to replace it with a pay-as-you go cellphone to have on hand for emergencies in the car (not the "wow, I really want a pizza, let me order it on the way home" kind of emergency, but the "I have a flat tire" kind of emergency). Since I can, I'm going to port my business telephone number to the cellphone, so I'll have continuity of contact number.

    I thought a lot about replacing the GPS function with a device. Although I lived 39.8 years without a GPS and got along just fine, it was kind of fun and it made getting places easier -- no thinking involved. But then I remembered that I like to discover new places. I like to get lost! I've found some neat places by losing my way in the car. So icksnay on the GPS. I am quite an accomplished map reader, anyway.  One less screen in my life.

    I noticed that with that handheld electronic thing, I would find myself surfing the web, checking my email, reading the news -- anxiously, hurridly, rushingly -- whenever I had a free moment. I thought I was going to miss something: an important email, a news update, a text from a friend....and on Friday, I reached a tipping point. It was -- it is -- too much. So I turned it off this past weekend. When I had a free moment, I played with my cat and dog. I sat outside and looked at the world around me. I cleaned my house. I did laundry. I read a magazine. I wrote (longhand) in my journal. And I feel great this morning. 

    So, I'm going to be keeping the computer and the Internet. I need it for work, and to keep in touch with some friends (although I do have one friend with whom I correspond by written letters, which is great). But everytime that I have a free minute and I think "oh, I'll just check my email" or "oh, I'll kill a few minutes reading Consumerist.com or the Dollar Stretcher or the New York Times" -- which turns into half an hour or more, I'm going to try to check in and see if that's what I really want to do, or if I can do something less virtual with my time. Although every now and then a little web surfing is a good fun escape like watching television. But having it in my pocket made it more of a compulsion.

    This de-teching over the weekend gave me a bit of peace and serenity, and I haven't (yet) had any tech withdrawl (although here I am writing something on my computer to post on this blog, so maybe I'm in denial). But each time I saw someone attached to an electronic device over the past few days, I thought how glad I was not to be touching something plastic and electronic and ignoring the world around me. I'm going to try to spend more of my time touching people, pets, paper, and nature, rather than beeping, whirring, energy depleting devices.

    And with that.... I'm signing off for now.

  • Huge savings on Indian food

    Indian food is my very favorite cuisine. I have been visiting the Indian restaurants in my city since I was about 14 years old. I've been a vegetarian for quite a while, so Indian food is also a great protein source for me, as so much of it is vegetarian. This winter, after being on a waiting wist for a year, I took an Indian cooking workshop. It was GREAT! I learned how to make many of my favorite dishes as well as some new ones. I left with a cute round box of Indian spices as well as a big recipe pamphlet. I've been cooking up a storm since then.

    I recently decided to have a big Indian dinner party for some friends and needed to stock up on supplies, so I searched online for "indian grocery store" and found one about 30 minutes away. My eyes were opened! The prices were so low -- bulk rice, lentils, dried beans, nuts (pistachios, cashews, almonds) -- all much less than at grocery stores. And then there were the frozen naans (Indian bread) for $3.00 for four (these cost $3.99 for one at the restaurants), and frozen paneer (Indian cottage cheese at $4.99 for a pound; I know how to make it myself, but it doesn't come out as well).

    But the best find were the boxes of "masala" (which, as I learned at the cooking class, just means "sauce"); there are specific masala mixes for specific dishes. These cost $1.49 each, and each box makes about five large batches (each batch has four - six servings). So to make paneer masala, for example (my favorite dish), I would need a fifth of a $1.49 box of masala, a half of a .29 cent can of tomato sauce, an onion (50 cents?) and about half a pound of paneer ($2.50). For a total of $3.50 (plus rice, let's say 50 cents worth -- and call it a grand total of $4.00), I can make around four servings of one of my favorite foods on earth, rather than paying $9.99 (plus tip) at the restaurant for one serving. 

    The store also had lots of specialty pickles, and chutneys, and mango syrup (for mango lassis -- yummm), not to mention spices used in other cuisines -- cumin, cinnamon, cloves (just to mention the "C" family). And it was so inexpensive!

    So frugal friends, I bet the same holds true for other ethnic cuisines. If you're a fan of Mexican, Afghani, Chinese or Vietnamese food, check and see if you can find a grocer that specializes in that food in your area. The savings can be dramatic, and you'll get to meet some people from the country whose food you love!

  • Career detour, fork in the road, etc.

    Three years ago, I started my own business. I decided to be a corporate language and speech trainer; I got certification in my area, did some market research, rented an office and hung out my shingle. I knew that I wouldn't be able to earn an entire living from this work immediately, so I hung on to my other work, teaching language as an adjunct at my local community college.

    I love both jobs, and I love the lifestyle that being my own boss affords me. The idea of sitting at a desk 40 hours a week kills me. I knew that opening my own business was risky, and that even pre-great depression 2.0 only about half of all small businesses last even two years. So I've already beaten the odds, but things are sort of dire, and I am forced to consider working for someone else. One of my major corporate clients decided to do all training in-house (thus getting rid of consultants, like me, upon whom they had relied for much training), and others are cutting back dramatically, due to the recession. I currently only have one client, and my contract with them ends on July 1st.

    I just finished reading an article in the NYTimes magazine section about people like me --  self-employed and flailing in the recession/depression/downturn. It made me feel less alone, but it also convinced me to look more earnestly for a "real job" working for someone else. I've been toying with the idea all spring, and have submitted a few applications. I even had an interview for one position this week. I consider myself a really good, hard worker, and my self-concept includes the idea that I can "always just find a job" if self-employment doesn't work out. Well, I think that time has come. I'm hoping to be offered the job I interviewed for, and hoping I can finagle a flexible schedule that allows me to still teach at the community college. Whatever happens, I plan to re-locate my business to a spare room in my house ("right-sizing it"), and laying low for a few years. The economy has to turn around at some point, right? Maybe after a few years of putting in my time working for the man (and earning enough money to live, having health insurance, and making some much-needed home repairs), I'll be able to go back into business for myself.


  • Inexpensive cat toys

    My cat animal companion, Jerome, loves to play with things on sticks or string. But not anything on a stick or a string. I've tried making tin foil balls and wrapping a piece of string around it -- no dice. His ferocious hunter instinct is only roused by toys with feathery bits or little strips of fabric on a stick.Ugh.

    I'm somewhat ashamed to admit this on the Dollar Stretcher blog, but I have given in and paid $3.49 (plus tax) for a stick with feathers on it at the pet store. Jerome loved it -- he demonstrated his love by tearing it to shreds in a week. Double ugh. Not wanting to have to buy him one of these every week, I've been scouring dollar stores for toys (with success, but sometimes he just turns up his nose as if to say, "why on earth would I play with that?"). But yesterday I picked up a feathery artificial stem (fake flower) at a craft store for a flower arrangement for my home. It was on clearance for 30 cents. 

    Jerome spotted it immediately; his razor sharp predator instincts protecting the household from this feathered menace. Ah ha! For 10 -- 30 cents, I can get prey that will stimulate his little pea brain and won't make me feel like a chump for forking over almost four bucks for the same thing. Priceless.

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