Answer: Bring it from home.

The question is how to keep that lunch interesting enough to not be pulled to the darkside of the wonderful foodtrucks that are on my office block each day.

I’ve been doing some financial belt-tightening as part of my goal of paying off all my debt before I hit 40 (I’m not going to say how many years that gives me). A recent review of my spending showed me that a large share of my income goes to supporting local food trucks and other nearby cafes.

So I’ve been packing a lunch each day from home, or packing all of the week’s lunches on Sunday night, to save money.

My lunch options are more limited than most people because I cannot have anything containing gluten, fresh tree fruit (bananas are the exception) or tree nuts.

And although I’m thankful that there are some gluten-free breads that could pass for the real thing if one were realllllyyyyy intoxicated, sandwiches and snacks get boring really fast. Moreover, bringing in something like humus and cucumbers doesn’t work because I’ll snack on them all day but not find time to treat that like a meal.

This week I decided to mix it up a little.

On Monday I had gluten-free rice pasta with garlic-scape pesto and a side of fingerling carrots pan-cooked with rosemary and olive oil.

Next, I made a sort of taco mix (the church I used to go to called them haystacks) of beans, lettuce, Greek plain yogurt (I prefer that to sour cream), shredded cheese, diced tomatoes and salsa. I brought in a bag of corn tortillas (precooked at home) and made the tacos in the kitchen.

Today I made a dish that used to be my potluck standby.  It is a salad of chickpeas, feta cheese crumbles, diced tomatoes, diced cucumbers, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, cumin,  salt/pepper and a dash of Adobo seasoning.

But I’m running out of ideas.  Suggestions?

No matter how much you may deny being overweight, there is one thing guaranteed to make you face reality — economy airplane seats.

I recently traveled to the Midwest on a work trip and all I could think about as I walked down the dimly lit carpeted tunnel to the plane was that I hope I don’t have to squeeze in with someone my size or bigger. (I acknowledge what a hypocrite this makes me.)

As I found my seat, my heart sank because it was a full row, meaning my hip would probably have to duke it out with the hip of someone else for a space under an armrest for several hours. The alternative would be to sit with my muscles clenched, which was unlikely to last but a few minutes.

And don’t even get me going on having to sit next to very broad-shouldered men — it makes me feel like I’m going to turn into someone in an old V8 commercial (the one where people walked sideways because they hadn’t had enough vitamins).

There is nothing like seeing the equally disappointed look on the face of your seatmates when you reach your row to make you realize that you may have been the person they were hoping they wouldn’t have to share the space with.  In other words, I need to get my eating/exercise under control and get fit again.

One thing skinny people may not realize is that fat people, no matter how short, also have less front-end leg room…. for me it’s because my excess pounds seem to congregate around my hips and butt. The bigger the butt, the further out your body extends from the seat and the less room there is between you and the next row.

After four such flights in the last week (I had to transfer planes both times), I think I may finally be motivated to start doing something about it so that the next time I have to fly all I will have to dwell on is whether the plane will make it to its destination in one piece or not.

Growing a vegetable garden from seed is difficult — much more challenging than I expected.

This year I decided to grow a vegetable garden from scratch — starting with seed packets and potting soil.  I’ve never had my own vegetable garden. But I have some limited gardening experience from watching and helping my parents and grandmothers in their gardens.

Two months ago, I went to the local hardware store and loaded up on more than a dozen packets that promised a bountiful garden with pictures of red ripe cherry tomatoes on strong fuzzy vines, bulging beefeater tomatoes nearly touching the ground, big green garden pea pods, yellow-veined chard, slender Asian cucumbers and shiny green bell peppers, plus a few varieties of flowers.  My purchase also included potting soil, starter seed containers, fertilizer and various shiny tools.

With permission from the landlord to use a plot of land in the backyard, I started growing seedlings indoors. I figured I could get to digging the garden later because it would be a breeze, right? Wrong. But more on that later.

My first set of seedlings  was an utter failure. I did all of the things a rookie grower would do.

I over watered the plants which caused them to get moldy and drown. I didn’t make sure that the seedlings stayed warm all of the time or had consistent sunlight. Sometimes I even forgot to water the plants.

It probably didn’t help that I live in a basement apartment with limited sunlight.

So I scrapped the first batch (there was nothing really to toss out but soil because all of the plants shriveled up and died) and tried again. But this time I was aided with a sunlamp and an indoor grow lightbulb.

The plants did much better in my second attempt. The cucumbers grew strong and became viny, the tomato plants sprouted leaves that had that wonderful earthy ripe tomato smell when you pinch them. And my green pepper plants produced shiny waxy leaves.

But my busy schedule, time away from home and random cold weather kept me from tilling the backyard soil.

When I did finally put my shovel in the ground (or at least tried to), I found the earth was packed tight thanks to years of people walking on it combined with a thick network of grass and roots from nearby bushes. I had to jump on the shovel to get it in the ground each time.

Forty-five minutes later, covered in red dots of mosquito bites; with dark brown and grey smudges of dirt on my clothes, hands and face; I had only created a garden plot the size of a truck tire — if tires were square. In other words, it was tiny. *sigh*

But I persisted and mixed the slightly sandy soil with organic fertilizer and placed my little green metal garden fence around the border. The plot sat untouched for nearly a month.

Then my wonderful mother came to the rescue. Last night she helped me reshape the soil and plant the remaining seedlings (only a few tomato and bell pepper plants remained alive by then), plus a wonderful LARGE tomato plant she bought at the store.  It will probably be the only thing that survives.

Now all I have to do is water the plants consistently, keep bugs and other pests away as much as I can, and keep my fingers crossed that I will get to sample at least one vegetable from all of the work I put in this year.

Hopefully, it will be uphill from here.

Despite more than a year’s worth of so-called efforts to downsize my possessions, yesterday I found myself staring at an overcrowded living room and a couch crammed with cardboard boxes full of kitchen wares, random items and laundry baskets of clothing. I’m not even going to begin to describe the state of chaos in the rest of my place.

Besides my own seeming inability to stop bringing things home from consignment shops and other stores, I can also thank my parents and grandmother for my most recent influx of mostly unneeded items.

You see, my grandmother last month moved out of her home of more than 20 years to go live with one of her daughters in California and my parents are downsizing (and I mean DOWNSIZING at a level that I don’t know if I would have the stomach to do) and have moved into an apartment.

As a result, I now have things I didn’t think I’d inherit for years, if not decades and I’m not willing to give them up.

That means, I must get rid of other things.

So….

This weekend and until July I will again begin a serious decluttering/downsizing effort in the house. If I haven’t used it in two years, it must go.  And I’m going to get rid of all things broken or damaged that I’ve been meaning to repair.

Finally, I’m going to bite the bullet on my crochet yarn and get rid of the whole lot (with a grandfather clause for yarn already dedicated to a project).

It will be a weekend of freecycling gone wild.

In July, I’m letting one of my friends who is a ruthless declutterer come in to my home and do the rest. We’ve agreed I get two vetoes and a corner in which I can put a few small boxes of things that I will not give up no matter how irrational it is to keep them.

No one ever told me that I would have a hard time finding an affordable apartment if I adopted a dog, but that has turned out to be the case time and again.

It’s been going on eight years since I adopted my adorable and loving dog Sophie, a blonde medium-size dog. I did not know at that time that most apartments that allow pets have a weight restriction on what dogs they will allow — I confess I’ve fudged the numbers in prior apartment applications just to be able to apply. Nor did I know that I would have to pay a special deposit/monthly fee or hundreds of dollars more per month to find an apartment that takes pets.

I would estimate that having a pet makes at least a $200/month difference in terms of the costs I would otherwise be paying for an apartment if I did not have a pet.

Well, it’s come that time in my life again when I need to move. This time it’s because my parents are planning to move and they need me to take back my upright piano.  (It would not be possible to get the piano into my basement apartment without killing or seriously injuring someone in the process  and/or destroying the piano.)

With the added need to have an apartment on the ground level — to make it easier to move in a piano — I estimate my future rent will be at least another $200 higher.

Oh well, I guess it’s all part of having a pet.

I would not trade Sophie in for any discount I might otherwise recieve.

I rent a basement unit with a deep stairwell to my front door that tends to be a safe haven for mosquitoes each spring and summer. This means that my legs and arms spend the summer covered in mosquito bites and being itchy.

In addition to being a rather unattractive sight on my skin, it means I spend a lot of money on anti-itch gels and other treatments for those bites.

In past years, I’ve used all kinds of bug killers and non-natural options to try to decrease their population, in addition to reducing/eliminating any puddles or standing water for them to breed in. But it hasn’t worked.

This year I’m trying a whole new technique, if it can be called that.

I’m building up my outdoor population of spiders to reduce the mosquito population. The way I see it, all those insecticides also killed of the natural predators of mosquitoes — spiders.

So this year, I’m not going to put down any pesticides in the stairwell or nearby ground. Moreover, I’m going to do what I can to keep my basement stairwell hospitable to spiders — leave a few leaves lying around, etc.

This tactic also solves another dilemma for me.

In living in a basement, I sometimes find a spider of substantial size in my bathtub in the morning. This usually occurs at least on weekly basis.  I guess they crawl in to get some water from the bottom of the tub and then can’t climb back out.

Instead of killing these spiders, I am now tossing them into my outside stairwell in hopes that they will set up home there. As of now I know of three different spiders that use my stairwell as home and it doesn’t bother me in the least.

I have seen one or two mosquitoes in my stairwell so far this year. The problem is that I can’t recall when in the spring/summer the blood suckers really start breeding. Therefore, I guess I won’t know if my strategy is successful until July or August.

I have one more tactic to try.  I will buy plants that attract birds and put out a squirrel-proof bird feeder. I’ve heard that having lots of birds in one’s yard is also a natural defense against mosquitoes and other flying pests.

What tricks have you tried to reduce the bug population?

I love to crochet and I love to shop.

These two enjoyments over the years have led me to collect dozens of skeins of yarn of various colors, weights and textures. The problem is that for most yarns in my house, I have only one or two of each type.

One contributor to this collection is that for some time I was buying only one or two skeins of any color. That was before I realized that a lot of yarn is needed for most projects of any substance.

Worse,  sometimes I would buy yarn because I liked it but with no idea of when or how it would be used.

The last time I gathered all my yarn in one place the collection took up all of my full-length couch and was piled higher than the arm rests. In other words, I have more yarn than I could crochet in a year if I worked hard at it every day.

For each type of yarn, I usually have enough for small projects such as gloves, hats, scarves, small clutch bags, baby things, and a couple dozen afghan squares (a lot less than what would be needed to comprise a full-size afghan), but not enough for a project of any substance or for anything that requires a thin yarn.

I tend to gather the chunkier/bulkier yarns because, for a long time, I valued speed/quantity of completing projects over quality — at least to some extent. You see, the thinner the yarn, the less space each stitch takes and the more stitches required to take up the diameter or length needed.

Now, as part of home/life project declutter, I am debating what to do with my yarn collection. My sister has offered to take some of it off my hands and there are some yarns I still have plans to use.

I believe the wise thing to do would be to give away my yarns through freecycle or donate it to a thrift store, and that will most likely be my decision.

I think I will better be able to enjoy the yarn I have, find the yarn I need when I have a reduced collection and be happier when my yarn isn’t taking up a fourth of my living room like a giant rainbow hairball.

It may also be wise to have a plan to prevent such a collection from accumulating again.

Once I get rid of the majority of my yarn, I will only buy yarn when I know exactly how much I need and what it will be used for. In addition, I will give away or toss whatever yarn of my new purchases that I do not use to complete the project.

Finally, I will limit my number of ongoing crochet projects to six — I can think of three that are currently unfinished.

Do you have any suggestions, thoughts on what I might do here both to deal with what I have and rules for going forward?

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