August 28, 2011

Hurricane Sunday!!

So there's a hurricane.  And it seems like everyone in Albany is freaking out!  I went to the store Friday afternoon to do some grocery shopping and I will admit, look for a flashlight and get a bottle of water (just in case armageddon did strike) and the store was absolutely crazy!  Between hurricane prep and UAlbany moving back to down the day before the store was insane!  Granted it has been raining pretty hard most of the day and night and one pretty big tree fell about 20 feet from my building, but overall the storm has not been that bad, definitely not as bad as everyone was saying.  

So my hurricane Sunday has been extremely productive - couponing, coffee, cleaned my entire apartment, laundry, cooked a (vegan friendly) dinner, baked challah and continued getting a jump start on my school work.  

Light red kidney beans, 4 different types/colors of peppers, onion and various seasonings - to be served over rice!

This weekend I have also been reading The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone and it is VERY interesting!  I recommend it to anyone!  I am not considering becoming a vegan but it is interesting to think about what you are putting in your body and the effects it may be having on your life, the environment and the planet!

School begins tomorrow night - Transportation History and Policy, should be interesting!

August 23, 2011

To Cable or Not to Cable

I am disconnecting my cable!

I had been mulling over the idea of disconnecting my cable for a couple of weeks now and I finally decided that is was the best decision.

  • Reason #1 - In May my cable/internet bill went up by $30 and is now well over $100 a month.
  • Reason #2 - My final year or graduate school begins Monday and I need to eliminate as many distractions as possible.
  • Reason #3 - I have been asking myself 'is cable really worth it'?  I will admit, I do love BRAVO and watch my fair share of MSNBC and NCIS reruns on the USA Network, but I feel that I can definitely live without them.  Furthermore, I stream Netflix through my Ruko and I am considering signing up for Hulu Plus so that I will be able to catch up on any shows that I deem 'essential viewing' 
  • Reason #4 - My only two requirements when eliminating cable is that I still be able to watch the local and national (nightly) news and be able to watch football in the fall, and with digitial converter cable boxes I am able to do both!
Growing up we never had cable in our household and it was not until I went to college that I experienced cable on a consistent basis.  And I must admit the idea of saving $70 a month and $840 a year quite appealing!  So after consulting my anti-cable friend Jessica (who also let me borrow her digital converter cable box for a week to try out - thank you!) I went ahead and purchased two converter boxes and two antennas.  The total cost of the four products was $116 which will easily pay for itself in a little over one month of not having cable.  Dare I say I am somewhat excited for this new exploration!  I believe that not having cable will allow me to focus more on my school work (especially given the 20+ books on feminism and transportation history and policy that I am required to read this semester) and it will allow me to be more productive in other areas and spend less time in front of the TV.    

August 21, 2011


This is one of my favorite home baked breads!  Traditionally made for Jewish holidays, I discovered this recipe after six months ago after making a different version of the bread for some time.  It's light yet filling and slightly sweet - that and the fact that it is braided makes it all the better!

5 cups flour
3 packages dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 eggs
1 egg yoke
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Take the 3 packages of yeast and the one cup of warm water - mix together.
Combine 5 cups of flour and 1 tsp. salt.
In a separate bowl combine 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 oil.
Mix the yeast mixture and the sugar, egg and oil mixture with the flour until a saggy dough is formed.
Coat bowl with oil (vegetable or olive) and place dough inside.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and cover with a towel.
Place in a warm place and allow dough to rise.

Once dough has risen cut into three pieces and form 'ropes'.
Braid the three ropes.
Place dough on a baking pan.
Beat 1 egg yolk with a tablespoon of water.
Coat the dough with egg yoke/water mixture.

Bake at 325 degree for 20 to 25 minutes.


August 20, 2011

Odds and Ends

Happy Saturday!  I went to the Troy Farmer's Market again today and it was great, I purchased a ton of colorful peppers!
This week's veggie loot!
Over the past two weeks I have also been collecting the books that I will need for the semester from the Guilderland Public Library and the NYS Library.  It looks like it may be a very long and reading intense semester...

About half the books I will be reading this semester

A few things I love about my apartment...

My spider plant (named Peter Parker) and a picture of some of my best friends at a wedding in June 2011.

My ever growing magnet collection!

August 19, 2011

Going Green and Becoming More Eco-Friendly

Living in New York and working in Schenectady has really made me more aware of my community, what I consume, how much I spend and the area in which I am working.  My shift really began when I resigned the lease on my apartment this past June.  For the first two years I was living up here I more or less perceived Albany as just a stop along the way, somewhere that I would live for (at most) 2 years and move on.  However, this will not be the case.  I have one more year of graduate school and I work full time for a company and in a position that I really enjoy.  So I realized, I need to become more invested in my community, learn to like the area become more 'green'!

One reason for going green and becoming more sustainable is simple; everything is more expensive in New York.  From gas and groceries to bottled drinks and the fact that all the major highways are tolled.  When I go back to Virginia I am always envious of the price of gas (it is always $0.30-$0.40 cheaper) and the fact they do not have to pay a deposit on every can/bottle of soda or bottle of water bought.  Another reason for going green is that it is just simply better for the environment and the community and since I have become more invested in the Capital Region I want to support the area as much as possible.  While I do not believe Albany and the Capital Region will be my home forever (you can breath a sigh of relief now Mom) I am determined to like and support the area more!

So what major changes have I made toward becoming more eco-friendly?  To many people these changes may seem like nothing or common sense, but to those who know me these changes are HUGE!

+ First and foremost I now recycle everything that is recyclable and return recyclables in order to receive a reimbursement for the bottle tax.  (In NY each grocery store has recycle returns and you receive (around) $0.05 for every bottle returned.  Upon completion you can then receive cash for the returns or use it as a coupon that will be deducted at the conclusion of your shopping trip).

+ Reusable grocery bags - all the time!  Grocery stores also often taken off a couple cents from your total bill depending on how many reusable bags you utilize.  I also use reusable grocery bags to store things around my apartment, carry things to work and occasionally I have been been known to use them as a gym bag.

+ Attempting to consume a more plant based diet.  While I am not becoming a vegan by any means, I have found it interesting to read more about the philosophy of veganism and I am definitely recognizing some of the benefits.  I am striving to eat a more plant based diet, meaning that I attempt to cook with more vegetables and reduce my carbohydrate and meat intake.    

+ Farmer's Markets.  This goes hand in hand with becoming more plant based!  I recently began going to local farmer's markets on Saturday mornings.  There is also one near my office on Thursdays which my coworkers and I often visit.  I LOVE the market!  It feels great to know that I am supporting local farmers and everything is fresh and often tastes 10x better than store bought when used to cook! 

+ Reduced shopping at the 'big box' stories.  Wal-Mart is out in my book!  One year my mother made a New Year's resolution to not purchase anything from Wal-Mart for an entire year.  I thought she was crazy!  How could anyone go without shopping at Wal-Mart!  But I can honestly say that I have not stepped into a Wal-Mart in months!  (Side note - Albany is home to the largest Wal-Mart in the western hemisphere; two stories complete with a cart escalator.)  Even though groceries are more costly at the Price Choppers or Hannafords in the region (when compared to grocery shopping at Wal-Mart) the quality is better and when combined with couponing I save 10x more than I would shopping and supporting a big corporation.  Now this is not to say that I will never shop at the Wal-Mart again, quite the opposite, I am merely trying to reduce my dependence on major chain stores and focus more locally.   

+ Packing my lunch everyday and utilizing non-disposable containers.  This may seem like something little but it is a definite change for me.  I now pack my lunch almost everyday (and dinner when I have class at night).  Previously I was spending way too much money purchasing food, that was not only monetarily wasteful but it was also not good for my health.  Furthermore, for Christmas my sister (Johanna) gave me these awesome usable Lunch Bots which I use everyday.  That combined with a lunch bag and very little use of disposal plastic bags my lunches are healthy and environmentally friendly!  

+ Exploring local restaurants and activities!   'Groupon' is one of my favorite sites and offers deals to many places and restaurants that I would not ordinarily know about or go.  I recently purchased a deal for a family run Italian restaurant in Schenectady and I can't wait to try it out! 

So those are some of the major changes in my life!  I am finding that I learn and change a little more everyday so I am sure that there are more changes to come!

August 18, 2011

Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde!

About a week ago my friend Rebecca and I packed a picnic, grabbed our blanket and headed about 30 minutes south to the town of Hudson, NY to watch Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde perform!  It was an awesome concert and the venue was even better!  

The first time I saw Taina Asili perform was during one my graduate classes; she was a guest who came in to sing and speak about her work with political prisoners.  I will admit that at first I was very skeptical; her music is very different from the mainstream and her political beliefs (at the time) did not appear to mesh with mine at all.  See, In graduate school classes I tend to play the roll of the devil's advocate conservative in order to counter traditionally liberal classroom views.  During the class I asked (some may say grilled) Taina on her work, the meaning behind her music and was surprised; her answers to all my questions were very thought provoking!  

Fast forward a month and there I was at the Capital Region (Gay) Pride Festival in Albany's Washington Park on a rainy Sunday with my friends Rebecca and Andra to watch Taina and her band perform.  Now for anyone who knows me, my father and my upbringing, a gay pride festival would NOT be a common occurrence in the Lemon household.  But needless to say it was so much fun and the concert was great!

Fast forward another month to a gorgeous Wednesday night on the Hudson Riverfront in Hudson, NY and we are having a picnic, drinking some beers and watching the band perform surrounded by hippies, hula-hoppers and unicyclists!  Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde is fast becoming one of my favorite bands, their CD is on in my car more often than not and I am definitely willing to travel to see and support them.  I have also  begun really embracing the band's message and the way in which they choose to perform and put out their music.  Check out their site!  Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde

Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde performing!

View from the dock

Hudson Riverfront Park

August 17, 2011

Couponing for a Cause

Many people ask... you're 24 years old, why do you coupon and where do you have room to store everything?  The truth is that couponing is challenge and it really does save you money!  When I started I will admit that I was spending a little more than average on creating the base of my 'stockpile' but now I have seen my weekly grocery bill go from around $50 to about $20!  

Items that I stock up on are thing that I use on a daily or weekly basis; toothpaste, toothbrushes, body wash, pasta, powerade and garnola bars.  Sales go in cycles so when I find a coupon that I like I typically jump at the opportunity, buy multiple coupons (either through ebay or a coupon clipping company) and then take advantage of the sale for as long as I can.  My grocery store (Price Chopper) also recently began doubling coupons up to $0.99!  

One of the best and most recent example I have is Barilla Piccolini pasta!  $0.55 off any one box of Piccolini pasta.  That doubles to $1.10 off per box.  An in-store sale has all Barilla pasta at 4/$5 or $1.25 a box.  I buy in bulk and I am getting each box of pasta for $0.15!  Another example is Powerade, which I drink  more of now since I have been training.  All summer Price Chopper has had a sale on Powerade for $0.88 a bottle.  I ordered a great coupon, $0.75 off any 2 Powerades; double this and it becomes $1.50 off two bottles.  Two bottles of Powerade with the in store sale total $1.76, subtract the coupon savings and divide by 2 and you are getting each bottle of Powerade for $0.13!  Deal!

So enough about merely couponing because after all the title of this post is 'Couponing for a Cause'.  I am not one of those extreme couponers who have garages full of stockpiles and buy cat food even though I do not own cats.  I will not let my stockpile go beyond my linen closet, I only buy and coupon towards what I consume and I donate a good portion of what obtain.

In June I recruited for the program that I coordinate (Northeast Energy Corps) at the Schenectady Inner City Mission (SICM) Food Pantry in downtown Schenectady and the need was incredible.   (SICM has a mass distribution day the last Thursday of every month but also serves those in need any day of the week throughout the year.)  Individuals and families lined up hours before and in the month of July the SICM served over 500 ticket holders.  Ticket holders could be an individual or a family of 10, so just imagine how many families in Schenectady are in need.  

That same weekend I was sitting in church and the priest was giving a sermon on how great the need is in this country and the world; he focused mainly on the famine in Somalia but toward the end he spoke about how many people go hungry in the Albany/Capital Region area as well (with Schenectady being one of the poorer, if not the poorest area in the region).  He ended the sermon by saying that it was all a damn shame because probably none of us in the congregation has ever had to go hungry.  Then he paused and said, "and some of you may leave here focused more on the fact that I said the word 'damned' than on the actual need."  Something clicked - he was completely correct!  So many people in this country focus on the wording, the perception and the verbage rather than the actual problem.  I asked, what can I do and I realized that my couponing skills could be used to help others!  So I started couponing for SICM and I now try every week to bring a (reusable) grocery bag of food to the food pantry every week.  I know it isn't much and there are so many people in need but I figure that every little bit helps.  And after all, I live by myself, how much pasta and powerade can one girl consume!

This week's SICM donations

August 16, 2011

Run It!

It has been a couple days since I did a really long run and since I was able to leave work a little early I decided that today was the day!  I love running the loop around UAlbany (especially during the summer when the weather is nice and there are few students) and it is about 3 miles.  There are very few things I actually like about UAlbany but this running loop is 'almost' worth the cost of tuition, almost.

UAlbany Uptown Campus Map
It was a great run and I really pushed myself so by the time I got home I was spent!

Since I was not in the mood to cook an elaborate meal I decided to chop (or rather slap chop) the rest of the vegetables I got at the farmer's market, sautee them with a little olive oil and italian salad dressing; mix in some rice and voila!  Not only a great dinner but also a pretty good lunch for tomorrow.


Last weekend was pretty low key and I really enjoyed relaxing, doing some baking and hanging out with some friends I had not seen in a while to celebrate Sarah's 'quarter life crisis!'  

One thing I did do was go to the Troy Farmer's Market for the first time and it was awesome!  I got some great veggies and some Brown's Cherry-Raspberry beer (which is one of my favorites). 

Veggie Loot!

I must say... last week I did some thrift store shopping with my friend Rebecca and purchased this 'slap chop' for $2 and it has revolutionized the way I chop vegetables - it is amazing and definitely helped with the veggie lasagna.

'Slap Chop'

Farmer's Market veggies post slap chop

And after all that the result was amazing!


So I've been told I should blog...

I am famous for cooking elaborate meals, taking pictures throughout the process and then sending a picture of the finished product to my friends which more often than not will leave them drooling.  After about a year of this a friend suggested I should blog.  So here goes nothing!

So how would I describe myself...
I am a fun simple girl from Virginia who moved to New York two years ago.  I work for a non-profit and go to graduate school.  Having retired from collegiate throwing I now run and train for 5Ks (hopefully a 10K soon!).  I also love to cook and coupon!  I love road trips and exploring new places and small towns!  I have an extensive magnet collection representing the places I have traveled - I want it to keep growing!

What this blog will focus on...
Graduate school and my crazy job!
My ever changing and evolving thoughts on politics, New York and the environment!
And anything and everything in between!

Ashley, Me and Carly - June 2011