Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dumpster Diving, Mustgoes for Dinner, and Negotiating Sardines

Earlier this year, I watched this documentary:

What I saw was staggering...every year in America, filmmaker Jeremy Seifert claims, we throw away 96 billion pounds of much food, he says, as we feed ourselves. That is the equivalent of $165 billion dollars wasted, says the National Resources Defense Council(NRDC).

And then, when you consider the poor who are food insecure, wasting food becomes that much worse. According to Feeding America, 50.1 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including 16.7 million children.  Reducing our food waste by only 15% would feed more than 25 million people every year, claims the NRDC.

From an environmental standpoint, the NRDC states that going "from farm to fork" uses 10% of the total U.S. Energy budget, 50% of U.S. land, and 80% of freshwater consumed in the U.S.

Food waste becomes a big deal.

While Seifert's practices are a bit unorthodox, I was still moved by the vast quantities of thrown away food and the restrictions surrounding food donation.

I thought about the take-away message of Dive and what I could do in my own home, in my own kitchen. 

Here's what I gleaned:

1. Inventory the fridge, freezer, cabinets and pantry. Dig into the corners and the back spaces. What has been put away and forgotten? Check expiration dates and use my judgment about whether it needs to be tossed.

2. Be mindful about what I buy and what I order at restaurants. Choose items that I really will want to finish up and not throw away.

3. Get creative...need to use up those canned beans? Summer is the perfect time for a grain and bean salads. Need to use up some frozen meat? Throw what I can on the grill...have friends over and have a "mustgo" party...everything must go. Who can be the most creative with what's in the cabinet today?

4. For food that has spoiled, compost what I can. Recycle the containers and make better choices.

5. Stay local. When I buy from the farm, I am working within a more reasonable shelf-life. Buy local, eat's a win-win.

Now, of course, if you're into doomsday prepping or anticipating a zombie apocalypse, you may not be interested in emptying your food stores. My husband, who tends to be an over-buyer (as in stacks of canned sardines in the cabinet) likes to play the devil's advocate.

It doesn't have to be a zombie apocalypse, he says. What about a bank crisis? Or an energy crisis? With no access to cash? What if the markets close?

He has a point, I guess. Having lived in South Florida, I can vouch for the madness that results post-hurricane when you're an ill-prepared northerner with debit and credit cards that need electricity to function, limited cash, and a scant supply of non-perishable food. 

I get it.

So I conceded the sardines in exchange for non-negotiable trips to the farm for fresh produce. We both win.

Regardless of our food storage practices, we can't deny that as a society, we waste a lot of our restaurants, in our schools, in our markets, and in our homes. Being more thoughtful with our food consumption and disposal, as we do with other mindful practices, such as recycling and gas consumption, will have far reaching benefits, including the bottom line. 

We don't have to dive, as Seifert does. Being aware and making the best choices we can will make a real difference, one meal at a time. 

And those's all you. Bon provecho!

Un besote.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

5 reasons I can't wait to be back in Galicia

Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain, is a lush, green coastal gem that is not the first thought among travelers to Spain. It's a hidden, unspoiled oasis that I have come to call my second home.

Here are 5 reasons why I can't wait to return to Galicia this summer:

1. The food...
 Queso de tetilla y rosca (pan de huevo)
 Amazing, fresh seafood

 Pulpo (octopus) gallego...not a personal favorite, but a Galician must-have

And a vast array of the freshest vegetables and fruits
2. You never know who you will meet...
Like John Lennon...
 Or Hercules...
 Or a wandering musician
Or even this guy...
3. There's interesting architecture to see
Like hórreos
 And castles on the side of the road.
4. And then there's the churches...
 Like this one covered in scallop shells in La Toja
 And the big ones, like the Cathedral in Santiago de Compestela

5. And last, but not least, the spectacular landscapes...

 Playa de Las Catedrales
Rias Baixas...Pontevedra

I'm queen of the world at Finisterre!
If you have the opportunity to visit Spain, consider Galicia. There is so much to explore and see why this seemingly quiet corner of Spain has stolen my heart.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A "No Excuses" Guide to Achieving your Goals

Goals are fun to make. They open a world of possibilities as to what your life could be because we tend to dream big. And that’s great.
But what happens when those dreams, our goals, are smothered by time, financial or other constraints?
Or when those goals seem just too big to ever accomplish?
How do we keep moving in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds?
Approach it like any other project…chunk it.

As a middle school English teacher, I help students break papers and projects into steps, chunks, so that the final product is less daunting and more achievable. Often times, students see final projects as too difficult. Their “affective filter” is high and their belief in their inability to succeed results in exactly that. As their teacher and coach, I help them chunk the assignment out and make each task an attainable step in the process.
Stephen Krashen, in his theory of second language acquisition, hypothesizes that students have a number of “affective variables” that contribute to their ability to learn a second language. Variables, such as anxiety, motivation and self confidence can help or hinder one’s probability of success.
The same can be said for other goals. When we get overwhelmed by the task of whatever goal we set for ourselves, it becomes easier to dismiss it as impossible, rather than push through. Our affective filter becomes a wall that blocks our road to success. 

The benefit we have, as adults, is that we can recognize when our filter are in place and, with work, visualize the hand holds in the wall that allow us to scale it and put ourselves back on track.

The first step is recognizing those variables. Do you see the goal as too big? Chunk it. Break the goal into smaller, manageable, measurable steps. As you achieve each step, reward yourself. Your confidence builds and you continue on your way.
Do you doubt your ability to achieve your goal? Why? What is it about the goal that makes it unreachable? If it’s unreachable, why is it a goal? If it’s truly unreachable, then aren’t you setting yourself up for failure? I may never run a marathon, but maybe I can run a half. And if a half isn’t realistic right now, a 10k certainly is. Everyone starts somewhere. Find the beginning point of your own goal and build from there.
Are financial constraints standing in your way? A round-the-world trip may not be realistic for you at this point in your life but, you can start small. Getting away for a week, even a long weekend, can do wonders for the psyche. Start somewhere. Anywhere.
For nearly every goal you want to achieve, there are others who have paved the way. Do your research. There are mentors everywhere, online and in real life. And most of them are happy to share their stories and offer their own tips for success. Sift through the advice. See what works for you and discard the rest.
Want to travel? Check out travel blogs that offer tips on everything from debt reduction to packing lists. Create a vision board on Pinterest and start the ball rolling.
Want to lose weight? Check out weight loss and fitness blogs for inspiration and healthy or clean eating blogs for go-to recipes to add to your repertoire. The information is there for you…go get it.
A no-excuses approach is a tough line to draw, but in many cases, it is what it is. No excuses.
You have one life and it’s always too short.
Find those handholds in your wall and haul your ass over it. Your life depends on it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pack Your Bags...5 Tips for the First Time International Traveler

Summer time is a popular time for international travel. If you have your passport and you're ready to go, consider these five tips to put your mind at ease before you even get in line for security.

1. Scan your passport and email a copy of it to yourself. Make sure your photo and passport number is visible. If for some reason, you lose your passport, it will make it easier for you to get it re-issued if you have evidence of the documentation
2. Call your bank and credit card company. Let them know your travel dates and that should reduce any chance of your charges being denied overseas.


3. Speaking of banking, make sure you have a 4-digit pin for the ATM; otherwise you may not be able to use the foreign machines.
4. Call your bank and find out their partner bank overseas. If you use these for your ATM withdrawals, you will not have to pay the ATM fees.
5. Find out what your credit card charges in foreign transaction fees. One of the main benefits of the Capital One Ventures card that we have, in addition to miles accumulation, was no foreign transaction fees. If you're paying exorbitant transaction fees, make sure you have cash and save the credit card for only the emergencies. Save where you can.

They're simple tips, but they can make a real difference. Knowledge is power and having things taken care of before your trip can save a hasty decision in the heat of crisis.

Buen viaje!
Un besote...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bored, Not Hungry...30 Things to Do Instead of Snacking

My husband is a boredom eater. I am a snacker. This is not exactly a win-win situation. In trying to remedy the problem, I decided to generate a list of what to do instead of eating. 

Here's what I have so far...
  1. go to bed
  2. take a nap
  3. read a book
  4. catch up on magazines
  5. workout
  6. drink some water
  7. drink some iced tea
  8. go to the mall
  9. go to my favorite store
  10. go to the book store and browse the travel section--feed the wanderlust instead.
  11. go to book store and catch up on magazines
  12. go for a walk
  13. revise the bucket list
  14. research what to do instead of eating
  15. take a bath
  16. take a shower
  17. do laundry
  18. do husband . . . just checking if you're reading. ;)
  19. delete old pictures from albums
  20. watch a movie
  21. clean out closet
  22. organize junk drawer
  23. clean out wallet
  24. clean out purse
  25. plan next vacation or weekend away
  26. make love
  27. make art
  28. send naughty text to husband
  29. call a friend
  30. weigh myself
Any of these can work as a distraction. Any of these can be downright splendid. And the bonus is . . .I won't eat...right?

What's your secret? How do you prevent snacking? Mindless eating?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bread...the fourth utensil

There is a very real learning curve that happens when you marry someone from another culture.

There may be idiomatic expressions that are embedded within jokes that you may just never get.

There could be a collision of flavor palates, and the habits of day-to-day living may be influenced by how it's always been done...just not necessarily your way.

One funny discovery I made while dating and then marrying my Latin husband was the gross underestimation I had about the role of bread with the daily meal. Growing up, my family occasionally had bread with dinner, and as a somewhat calorie and carb-conscious eater myself, my relationship with bread was almost always a guarded one.  

But my husband loves bread. And who can blame him? He grew up on locally made artisan-style breads, the likes of which get featured in magazines and in windows of corner bakeries...the kind that makes passersby stop and breathe in the aroma of freshly baking bread.

Flour, salt and water, my husband doesn't get more basic than that. And he's right. I suspect that, barring medical necessity, the whole gluten free, low-carb lifestyle has little chance of survival in any Latin household, or at least in our Latin household.

In fact, at our home in Galicia, there is actually a bakery that delivers to the various neighborhoods every day. The driver toots the horn and the neighbors come out with their euros to buy their fresh bread every morning. He will even bring you a cheese and a paper, if you let him know the day before.

La comida perfecta: tortilla española, queso de tetilla, y pan gallego. Delicioso!

Any Latin will probably tell you that a meal is, simply, not a meal without bread.  My husband comes from Spaniards, where bread is used as the fourth utensil. But it's not just the Spaniards. I saw the same phenomenon in Rome with the Italians and in Paris with the French, and in Porto with the Portuguese. Even my Latino middle school-age students unanimously agree that bread is a non-negotiable staple of every meal.

Bread not only complements the meal, but it also sops up the juice and cleans the plate. I have even witnessed my husband dab his chin with the corner of a slice when caldo threatens to drip on his shirt.

"We need something in our hand," my husband says, "Otherwise, it's like something is missing." My suggestion of a knife only got me a raised eyebrow indicating that nothing could be more ridiculous.

A head scratcher like this is part of what makes cross-cultural relationships fun. My unnatural love for baked beans may be a head scratcher for him as well. 

Nevertheless, I still don't eat bread with every meal (except in Spain). But I can't help but smile as I watch my husband and my mother-in-law, bread in hand, wipe with gusto, every last remnant of food or juice from their plate.

It certainly makes clean-up a lot easier.

Un besote...

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my 42nd birthday. How I ended up in my 40s, I will never know, but nevertheless, I am here and I am rockin' it. My 40s are fabulous and, alliteration aside, I am blessed beyond belief.

I thought about ways to mark this occasion on Besote, and as a new blogger, I thought about taking the self promotion route, with a little getting-to-know-you trivia.

But I kind of already did that on my About Me page.

Then I thought, as a list-lover, today would be a great opportunity to set some goals for year 42.

And so I did. In my head.

See, 42 is a big number for any one list, but I can give you the quick and dirty.

In my twenties, my mom decided that 20 something candles in any cake was a fire hazard, so she decided that she would put in one candle in my birthday cake for each decade, plus the number of the particular birthday. For example, when I turned 27, I had 9 candles...2 for the decades and 7 for the years.

So, now I'm 42. And when my mom makes my special request, Duncan Hines strawberry cake with vanilla frosting this weekend, she will not give me 42 candles, but 6...1 for each decade and then 1 for each of the two years of my 40s.

Weird, I know. But back to the list in my head. My list of 42 was overwhelming, even for me, the list lover, so I decided to take my mom's approach.

Here are six things (in no particular order) that I hope I will get done in my 42nd year of goal for each candle.

1. Build my blog readership to 100 or more regular, active followers.

2. Walk or run and log 100 miles.

3. Read at least 10 books.

4. Publish at least three times per week and follow my editorial calendar.

5. Add one fabulous recipe per month to my repertoire.

6. Visit and explore at least two American cities where we have never been.

It's not a bad start. It's ambitious, but doable, with my hard work and with your help.

If there's ever something you like, please share it. And if there's ever a topic you would like to see covered, please propose it.

And in the meantime, please know, my dear readers, that you are appreciated. Your comments and feedback encourage me and reading your blogs inspires me.

I'm off to celebrate. Salud y suerte! Feliz cumpleaños a mí!

Un besote!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Way: A great film for feeding the wanderlust

I came across this movie last summer, as I was prepping for my trip to Galicia.

There aren't a lot of movies that feature Spain, and most that do focus on the more popular areas, like Barcelona.

This is not a criticism.

But I was headed in the opposite direction and although I had heard of the Camino de Santiago from my husband, I didn't a know a lot beyond the limited information searches that I did myself.

And then I found The Way.


The Way is not a religious film, but it does speak of forgiveness and compassion and understanding and tolerance.

And the landscape...Galicia is featured like another character of the movie. It speaks without words. Many people on Camino forums online claim that they were inspired to walk The Way after seeing this film.

I can understand why.

The Way features a touching story that will inspire wanderlust for this breathtaking corner of Spain that will soon become our home...part-time, it already is.

Un besote...