Thursday, January 29, 2009

Got Library Card?

I have one. This past saturday I went to my local library and got my very own library card. The librarian was very helpful with all my questions (what are late fees, what are other policies I should be aware of, etc.). It was rather exciting to have a library card again, probably because I always enjoyed going to the library as a kid.

I really don't know why I haven't gotten a library card over these past five years. When I first moved to Boston for grad school, I read too many textbooks to be interested in leisure reading. Then when I moved into the working world, I started a library within my work and all the people from my department dontated their old books to share with others in the office. I would occiassionally buy books to fill in ones I wanted to read, that no one from my office owned yet.

Now that I have read all the books in my work "library", I made it a goal of mine to get a library card this year. The money I save from not buying any new books will be set aside and saved and at the end of the year I plan on donating it to a cause. Plus if money is tight, and you are trying to cut down on your expenses, it's FREE! Provided of course you return your books on time.

Additionally, the cool thing about getting a Minuteman Libray card is you can use it in 35 other community libraries. From Acton to Woburn, my free little card will let me read to my hearts content. You can even return a book you got from one library in the Minuteman libray network to another libray in the network.

If you don't have a library card, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shopping Thriftily

I feel as though I'm constantly being bombarded with messages about how I "need" new jeans, or I simply "have to get" that new stylish top. Well, gosh darn it, I'm tired of spending money! And I'm trying to increase my minuscule nest egg, just in case my secure job becomes not so secure. Not to mention I'm trying to consume less overall in order to be more environmentally friendly.

However, I still like consuming. I do. It's fun to get new stuff, or at least 'new to me stuff.' Some of my favorite places to pick up trendy deals are:

Urban Renewals, Allston, MA
Think Goodwill, yet not, because it's not actually Goodwill. But it could be one. They have a ton of clothes here. You're not likely to find any of that cool vintage stuff you always hope thrift stores have, but I did get a fantastic dress there that served as the basis for my mermaid costume. They do have a fairly good selection of home goods. I picked up some great baskets that I use for storage. The other great thing about this place is that it's open until 8 PM on Thursdays, and open Saturdays and Sundays.

Nearly New Thrift Shop, Brighton, MA
This place is actually in a church (see their sign on the right) and helps them raise money for churchy things, like giving groceries to people who can't afford them. They're only open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 2 PM, but it's a wonderful Saturday morning expedition. This place seems to get a lot of stuff from older people. Some nice woman's donated sewing supplies jump started my button collection. I have also gotten quite a few random plates here, which I enjoy.

People here are nice, clients are mostly older folk also in the building to get groceries. The other day I tried to pay more than what she wanted to charge me ($2, I offered her $5 since I only had a $20 bill), but she insisted on giving me full change. I wanted to be like, "LADY! It's for CHARITY! And I have a TON of buttons and lace here!" But I didn't make a fuss.

This weekend I'm planning on dropping off some stuff to help replenish their stocks, and help raise money for their food pantry.

Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
When my library fines overwhelm me and I'm feeling extravagent, I visit the basement of the Brookline Booksmith where they sell used books. Last time I was there, I picked up a huge oversized version of Curious George. Hollah!!! I also managed to buy a book I had already read. Dang. At least it was just $7 down the tube, not $20.

Craig's List Free Stuff
It's what it says. Free. Sometimes it's shit, sometimes it's not; sometimes it needs repair; and sometimes it's just chock full of nada. The "for sale" listings sometimes have good stuff, but often it's overpriced.

It's free, it's stuff, it's all in the spirit of reusing.
The only Goodwill store I know of that has its own online shopping interface!! What fun! Any items you purchase will come from far-away Santa Ana, CA.

The Curb, At A Location Near You
Yes, I have been known to pick up stuff off the curb. One man's trash, another man's treasure! Keep your eyes peeled on trash day. The redeemable can/bottle gatherers will likely leave the furniture for someone a little more ambitious. I have a great little chair I painted red that I picked up off the curb in good ole Somerville.

Of course on snowy days like today, you could always snag someone's annoying "parking spot saver."

Where's your favorite place to get deals?

Related Posts: Composting in an apartment; Moving? Donate your items; Spring Cleaning Part Deux
Photo courtesy of romaryka.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

oh hay now!

So, still walking to work and still noticing some strange paraphernalia as I peruse the streets of Boston. Over the past few weeks I've noticed some hay bales behind a couple of the benches in Boston Common. I would hope other people notice the strange things I do, as they aren't really hidden, but some people are on a mission on their way to work.

Anyway, I'm not really sure why the hay bales are there or who might be using them. I would assume an animal over a person, right? I know that I've seen some horses trotting around but since I only walk through in the morning and later in the afternoon/evening I might not see the horses who might be eating this hay. I never see any hoof prints though and if the hay is there for horses, they might not appreciate the snow capped bales.

I don't know. It confuses me. It's been there for awhile and we haven't really had any large happenings since First Night and the hay was placed there afterwards, I think, so the only other possibility is that it's keeping the ground warm. Or, according to Wikipedia, hay can also be fed to guinea pigs and rabbits. Maybe people bring their pets to the Common to be fed? Hey, times are tough...Pigs can also be fed hay, but they don't digest it very efficiently and I don't think we have many pigs in Metro Boston.

Oh, and the TV at the end of my street is finally gone.

Related Posts: Guide Horse?; Talking Trash; Let it Snow; Please shovel your sidewalks
Photo courtesy of Christina K. herself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

January is Super Hunger Month

If any of you know me, you know I love to eat. I love all sorts of food. Whether it is a dinner I cooked or a delicious dish created from one of my favorite restaurants, I LOVE food.

Unfortunately there are some people who can not afford the high price of food these days and I wish I could do more for them so that they can have healthy food that will give them the nourishment our body requires.

That is why I am super excited that this weekend I can do both. This Saturday and Sunday, join other Bostonians for the Super Hunger Brunch. It will be an exclusive brunch to help end hunger for either $25, $35 or $50. It may seem a bit expensive for brunch but ALL proceeds go to benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank.

In this tough economy it is important to consider that most food pantries have fewer resources and a reduced staff which equals less service to those who need it most! So do good by eating good at your favorite restaurants this Saturday and Sunday. For a list of participating restaurants, click here.

Oh and don't forget to bring a friend!

Picture Courtesy of: Okay so it probably won't be like this spread. But it does get you in the mood right?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Volunteering: Sara's Experience

I think people frequently don't volunteer because they're not sure how to do it, or if they'll have enough time, or even if they'll enjoy it. As part of OYFP's effort to help people volunteer, we profile volunteers just like you and me. Today we're talking with Sara Radin, a woman I work with at my day job, but who (like me), also volunteers.

Where do you volunteer, Sara?
Right now I am volunteering at the Whittemore School in Waltham as a reading volunteer. I also volunteered for the Obama campaign in the fall. In college I was my sorority's philanthropy chair and president of the BCAC (Breast Cancer Awareness Coalition).

Since Everybody Wins! is your most recent volunteer activity, why don't you tell us a little about that? Why did you start volunteering there, and where did you hear about the opportunity?
I started volunteering at Everybody Wins! because my mom is the school coordinator, and she told me how much everyone enjoys reading. Also, my employer has a program set up that allows us to volunteer during our lunch hour with Everybody Wins! called the Power Lunch program.

How many hours a week did you volunteer there? Did you have to give up anything in order to have the time to volunteer?
I volunteer for about an hour there each Friday, but it takes up about an hour and a half with travel time. I would not say I have had to give anything up; especially because it is Friday afternoon the workweek is generally winding down. Perhaps if I calculated it, I would give up some free time due to having to stay at work later on other days to get everything accomplished.

What do you do when you go to the school?
I read a book of the student's choosing for 30 minutes while she eats her lunch.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering?
Jaclyn (the student I read to) is always so happy to see me, and it is a great break from the workday, and a really fun way to spend lunch. You can tell that getting read to is something she really enjoys, and she made me a really cute Christmas present which made me realize how much of a different I made even just spending a half an hour with her once a week.

How does it compare to your other volunteer experiences?
In college, I had a sidekick (like a big brothers/big sisters type thing but specific to Colgate) but it really felt more like unpaid babysitting, so I much prefer the reading program. My other two experiences, as BCAC Co-President and Philanthropy chair, were much more about about creating and executing events for college students and club members - so more planning/fundraising driven rather than giving time.

What would you say to someone who is hesitant to jump on the mentoring or volunteering bandwagon?
Even if spending time with kids isn't your thing, there are a million ways to get involved. You can volunteer to make phone calls or stuff envelopes or organize an event. Whatever your talent or skill is, there is almost always a non-profit that could use your skills and expertise.

What have you personally (or professionally) gotten out of the experience?
I love having an outlet through work that allows me to spend my time doing a philanthropic endeavor. I really appreciate my employer more for it, and I know everyone is busy but I think people would really enjoyed it if they tried it. It has been a great way for me to dip my toe in the post-college volunteer pool, and has only made me want to do more.

So do you actually love reindeer, as your photo would seem to indicate?
Reindeer are fine. I would say I'm really more of a cat person, though.

Thanks for your time, Sara!

Our blog occasionally features sporadic profiles of volunteers in the Boston area and beyond. If you're interested in sharing your experience, please email

Related Posts: Volunteering at Lunch; Boys & Girls Club: An insider's view; OYFP's Intern; Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation Volunteer; Doubts about volunteering? Read about Fred

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Composting in an Apartment

You probably think I'm crazy - talking about gardening and composting in the middle of winter. For Christmas this year, I received an indoor composter from my boyfriend, made by NatureMill. So now instead of putting my vegetable cuttings and leftover pasta into the trash, I can put it in this composter where it will turn into usable dirt within 2 weeks or so!

You may think that your trash that can break down into dirt, breaks down once it's in the landfill. Think about this for a minute - what do you put your trash in? A plastic bag. Can plastic bags break down? Not really, not for a long time. Especially considering the fact that your trash bag is piled underneath thousands of other trash bags, away from the sun and air that help the trash break down. So all your trash that could be made into rich dirt isn't.

The composter is about the size of an old school computer tower, and is made out of black styrofoam. (Side note: Styrofoam actually is not that bad for the earth because it is much lighter to transport than paper products.) Compostable items are placed in this metal tray, and it is stirred every few hours. The entire thing is kept at an elevated temperature to rush along the breakdown process. I have to add sawdust and baking soda. I think the baking soda prevents odors.

So far I have one container of dirt. It's so rich (or so the pamplet says) that you can't actually pot a plant in it - Once the compost has "cured" long enough, I'm just supposed to sprinkle it on top of the soil so the nutrients drain down into the roots.

This sort of luxury (composting inside) doesn't come cheap. The thing costs between $199 and $399, depending on your model. And, mine is currently "jammed" even though there is no visible blockage. I've tried everything, aside from a phone call to the manufacturer.

Still, I have hope for my little composter. Soon I'll have fertile soil enough to help start a city garden, all without owning any land! Now that's a technological advance.

Related Posts: Composting in the City; Green tips for the New Year; Make Love, Not Grass; Bee-ware: Where have all the bees gone?; Patio Gardens and City Growing
Photo of landfill courtesy of D'Arcy Norman. Photo of the composter courtesy of NatureMill.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How do you feel?

Regardless of your political views, the US Inauguration Day represents change. George has collected all his family's belongings and written his note to Barack, Dick Cheney has moved some of his stuff (before throwing his back out), and staffers and saying their final goodbyes. It's out with the old, in with the new.

It's an empowering, hopeful feeling to start over, or at least start fresh. And the pomp and circumstance that go along with it help reinforce the notion that this change is significant, though the details ar

e getting a little tedious ("The Metro is full at 5:30 AM. Now it is fuller"). While you're waiting for the ceremonies to begin, you can play with this online Obamicon to make your own political art/statement. However, don't try to text or call someone on site at the inaugeration - cell phone companies aren't sure their networks will hold up under the strain!

How do you feel today? What do you hope will happen over the next four years?

UPDATE: Full text of Barack Obama's Inaugural speech is available on And, take a look at Vanity Fair's collage of past presidential portraits.

UPDATE 2: Find a Boston inaugural party at

Related Posts: Electoral College; Casting About

Monday, January 19, 2009

Volunteering on Martin Luther King Day

Ok, so I chose to spend my day off not volunteering. Well, except for my normal volunteer work, which is stuff like running OYFP with Krystle and writing blog entries.

However, many OYFP executive board members (the givers that they are) have chosen to volunteer this weekend. John R is engaging in a little construction work at the Margaret Fuller House, Evan is participating in one of a mulitude of activities around Boston, and still others are spending time with kids. I suppose I'm doing my own part, what with my OYFP work and the pile of stuff from my "winter cleaning" that I'm setting aside to donate to a local group.

If you do have to work today or are intimidated by the snow, you can still give back without moving your little finger. You will have to move your index finger, however, to text "SHARE" to 20222 on your mobile device to donate $5. AT&T will match all text donations up to $100,000. Help meet this challenge grant! also wants people to organize food drives in their community to help those who are going hungry right now. They're trying to end hunger --- especially hungry and malnourished kids --- and need your help. Find out more on the "End Hunger" Strength website.

You too can help! Really!

Related Posts: Yes We Can make it a day on; Looking forward to a day ON; Food Banks in Massachusetts; Helping with a mullet; Helping a little old lady

Friday, January 16, 2009

In a "Post-Racial America"

If you didn't watch the Golden Globes this past Sunday, Tracy Morgan of the TV show 30 Rock, announced that because Barack Obama won the Presidency of the USA, Tracy was going to accept the awards for the 30 Rock show in a "Post-Racial America". It was a great/funny acceptance speech, very fitting of the show in my opinion, but in reality we are not in a "Post-Racial America".

I am not trying to downplay the historic significance of the President Elect Obama, who has arguably done the most for positive ethnic relations since Martin Luther King, rather I am being realistic about people's view points across the nation. I watched countless news programs during the election coverage where reporters found people who were willing to come outright and said they didn't trust Barack Obama because he was black. It is unfortunate to know that people still have fears based off someones appearance, but again that's the reality.

In my opinion, part of the solution for positive ethnic relations is to get people to dialogue about the subject matter. Acknowledging your biases and gaining knowledge of the unknown is the only way to deal with this unwanted subject. This is why I would suggest after you celebrate Martin Luther King day and President Obama's historic inauguration day, visit Community Change, Inc., in Boston, who have developed the Yvonne Pappenheim Library on Racism

This collection has been selected to support the development of racial and multicultural awareness and sensitivity and development of skills for communicating across differences of all kinds. The books, and videos they offer may be a great starting point in which to bridge the cultural divide with your friends, coworkers and family.

Please see their website for more information and who knows maybe with your help, we can live in "Post-Racial America".

Related Posts: Yes We Can Make it a Day On, Dialogue Anyone? Culture in the Workplace
Photo Courtesy of:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Yes, We Can - Make it a day on

On Sunday, January 18th, in the spirit of the King Day of Service, the Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), in partnership with Green Decade Cambridge and with funding from the Massachusetts Service Alliance, will hold a Weatherization Barnraising at The Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House and the Cambridgeport School.

Traditionally, a “barnraising” was when a community would come together to help a family build a barn. Using this concept HEET is brining volunteers together to weatherize The Margaret Fuller Neigborhood House and The Cambridgeport School.

HEET has organized expert builders and contractors to lead the weatherization activities. Weatherization is the practice of protecting a building and its interior from the elements, predominantly from sunlight, precipitation, wind, and of modifying a building to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency.

Dr. King’s Day of service aims to make the Martin Luther King holiday a day ON, where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to “improve lives, bridge social barriers, and move our nation closer to the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King envisioned.” For more information about the King Day of Service please visit

The Home Energy Efficiency Team is raising funds in order to make weatherization barnraisings available to households that cannot afford the cost of weatherization materials. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to support some of our neighbors who are most in need.

Check back for hammer in hand interviews and pictures posted live from yours truly.

Picture from

Monday, January 12, 2009

Looking forward to a day ON, not a day OFF

Are you just now finding yourself recovering from the post-election frenzy, or starting to already tune out to the pre-inauguration hype, or maybe you think the most interesting development seen on CNN politics recently has been Dr. Sanjay Gupta's nomination to U.S. Surgeon General?

Yah me too. So, while you could spend next Monday's holiday catching up on CSPAN. But what better way to become re-engaged in the state of our nation, by directly volunteering to improve the state of our state. (Which, by the way Governor Patrick will be delivering his speech Wednesday January 15th--remember to tune in!)

President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Biden have launched a National Day of Service to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and enable Americans to make an ongoing commitment to volunteer service and civic engagement on the eve of this new administration.

The National Day of Service is a mass-organizing effort to engage volunteers to help organizations in communities across the nation. In Boston and Massachusetts, field directors hope to have hundreds of service projects ready to go over the course of this coming three day weekend--January 17-19. Many local groups have created new events to assist organizations with one-time opportunities and others have requested help with specific, ongoing projects.

To find out how to get involved, find an opportunity in your neighborhood, and sign up to volunteer--the Presidential Inaugural Committee has launched a website where all of these events can easily be searched by zip code. Visit to see more details.

Honestly, what else do you have to do next Monday, January 19th? You weren't really planning on taking the day off to do laundry, catch up on sleep, continue to work, or watch the new episodes of 24 all day, were you? Why not help organize goods at a Longwood food bank, clean up the North End streets and waterfront, learn more about online youth mentoring Downtown, improve and beautify a Charlestown community center, help repair a neighborhood house in Cambridge, assemble care packages in Somerville, improve a family center in Dorchester, help care for shelter animals in JP, and countless (seriously) other projects around town.

There are so many families out there for which Monday will not be a holiday off, but I know for me, I'll be making the most of mine by helping out in some small way.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Talking Trash

It's truly an adventure walking to work every morning. I leave my apartment in the North End and walk through Government Center, across Boston Common and finally up Boylston to the Pru. Usually by this point sweating profusely (because Dylan Dryer is sometimes a little off) or trying to get the feeling back in my numbed face, fingers and toes. The walk usually takes about 35-38 minutes which leaves plenty of room for me to peruse the sidewalks for unusual sightings and people while rocking out to my ipod. Most people think I'm keeping to myself, but really I'm looking for my next opportunity to exploit whatever might strike me as obnoxious, funny, or simply out of the ordinary.

Last week, and really since I first moved to the North End over a year ago, I thought about how many random, stray objects I've walked past on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday trash days. I came across this television which has been keeping this tree company for about a week now. I'm not sure what guidelines the garbage men follow but I guess this guy didn't make the cut. I've seen things like bed frames, cat scratching posts, fish tanks and more so was surprised to see this pretty average looking tv abandoned for so long.

I wonder what will happen to it...maybe someone will pick it up and see if it works, maybe someone will use it as decor in a shop or restaurant, maybe the garbage men will feel bad it has been sitting there for so long and just take it, or maybe I'll still be walking by it in the spring.

Hope it survives another night in the cold.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Guide Horse?

Traditionally when you think of "service animals" you think of dogs. That's not a suprise really, dogs are loyal, loveable and easy to train. Dogs can easily be trained to suit the needs of the disabled or elderly person who requires help for everyday life.

Just when you got used to the idea of seeing dogs in restaurants, here comes around an article that presents the idea of service horses. According to the article, horses are just as loyal, and trainable as dogs. Another plus is horses live longer, 25-35 years where as the average dog is 10-15 years. Apparently these horses are very small and are about the size of golden retriever. These mini horses are even better for disabled adults who have allergies and can't not have a service dog because of their allergies.

Seems reasonable, but I don't know what I would do if I saw a guide horse walking down the street. Would it even be allowed in a restaurant? I believe legally it should be, but would you want to sit next to a minature horse at a restaurant? I don't know, it certain would provide interesting conversation if I did see one.

What are your thoughts?

Picture Courtesy of:

Monday, January 5, 2009

Putting things off -- Guilty as charged!

I wouldn't call myself a procrastinator. Typically I get things done early or on time. However, as anyone who has been in my car in the past year knows, my left windshield wiper arm is disabled. By disabled, I mean it doesn't work. At all. This means I'm windshield-wiper-less when it's raining, or snowing, or when my windshield is dirty, and as a result I can't see so well out the front of my car.

This makes for some not-so-safe driving, to say in the least. In fact, I think John R from OYFP has been avoiding getting rides home with me after OYFP meetings for this very reason! Miraculously, I have not had any accidents. Yet. And it's been a whole year (yes one whole year).

But why haven't I gotten it fixed? It just seemed like too much of a pain in the butt. I didn't want to drive out to Wellesley early on a Saturday morning to get the windshield wiper arm. I tried to get the piece at a junkyard, no dice. I tried to get it at a few auto parts stores, but it's too special to be in stock.

So instead, I just drove around, endangering all passengers, passerbys, other drivers, and myself whenever there was any precipitation.

FINALLY just now I called the dealership, and $80 and a few days later, I'll have the part. What spurred me to action? Well... I made a bargain with my boyfriend - if I got the windshield wiper fixed, he would make a dentist appointment.

Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants, even if we know the action we're putting off would be good for us. Actually, especially when the action is good for us (but maybe not so fun). The New Year is a great time to take care of those nagging little tasks, like writing to your grandma, bringing that bag of clothes to Goodwill, or finding a place to volunteer. Make bargains with your friends or roommates to ensure you'll actually complete those chores you have been avoiding.

What have you been putting off doing?
Relaxing in tropical paradise with a glass of bubbly and an apple can wait until after some of those chores are done.

Related Posts: Moving? Donate your items; Spring Cleaning Part Deux; Unexpected Volunteering

Photo courtesy of me and my 2006 vacation to Puerto Rico.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What to do with all those Holiday Cards

Now that the holiday season is winding down and you have started to take down any holiday decorations, you may be left with the inevitable pile of holiday cards. Holiday cards are always fun to receive and I am EXTREMELY thankful for everyone I get. That being said, there are more things to do with your holiday cards than simply put them in the recycle bin when the season is over. Here are a few ideas on what you could do with yours.

  1. Put them in a scrapbook. I used to do this when I was a child and saved all my holiday/birthday/valentine cards in a scrapbook. I used to hate it when my mom made me do it, but when I was home over the holidays I found a couple of theses old scrapbooks and it brought back many fond memories. Over time I had forgot some of the little details of who I was friends with, the funny cards that were sent my way, etc. It was really enjoyable to look over these old cards again!
  2. If the front part of the card is not written on you can cut it out from the back part (make sure to recyle the back part) and reuse it as a postcard the following year or a unique gift tag for one of your presents.
  3. Cut your cards into decorative tree ornaments.
  4. Bring your cards into a local daycare center to be used as arts and crafts projects.
These are a few of the ideas I know of, do you have any great ideas on what to with the holdiay cards you receive?

Related Posts: Alternative holiday gift ideas, Green Tips for the New Year
Picture Courtesy of: