Monday, October 26, 2009

Experiment: Lunch Box Week One (Kind of)

My lunch box experiment definitely got off to a bumpy start.  There were several unforeseen circumstances, like the fact that I went a little nuts trying to find the perfect, stylish insulated bag.  That took a good ten days but I finally found it on which is my go-to source for unique, personalized gifts.  (As an aside, if you haven’t checked out etsy, do it.  You will find some amazing stuff.  A good place to start is the store of local artist Jess Lyons.)  So with my new lunch box in hand, I went to the market to stock up for last week’s meals.  I bought a large container of cottage cheese, a box of Boca chick’n patties, a loaf of bread, a sack of apples, two containers of V8 soup, a bag of carrots, a 6-count package of peanut butter crackers and five containers of Greek yogurt.  All of this totaled out at $25.10, which is less than half of what I’d normally spend buying lunch five days a week.  Even after factoring in the cost of the bag ($20.00) I was still under the wire.  But nothing can ever be easy, of course, and last Monday morning a coworker scooted over in her chair and said, “I’m in the mood for Ichiban.  My treat.”  I couldn’t resist a seaweed salad so that day was shot, as was Tuesday since we operate under a system of, “you buy today, I’ll buy tomorrow.”  Wednesday I did manage to stick with what I’d brought in, but then wound up working from home on Thursday and Friday.  Sigh.  Today starts another week and I’ve already turned down Chinese food (easy) and Panera (slightly more difficult) in favor of a soup and Boca combo.  It will be a miracle if I make it a full five days, but I’m going to try.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Other-Worldly Mall

Crossgates Mall is a major hub for CDTA and is where I change buses twice daily from the line to the shuttle in the morning and back again in the evening.  This means that I spend a lot of time at Crossgates.  Well, not so much at it as outside it, but that time has not helped me to understand its layout any better.  The mall, to me, has always been confusingly oriented with the outside not having any relation to the floor plan inside.  It’s like a freaking House of Leaves over there.  How can Best Buy be at one end of the mall (as it appears from the outside) and at its center at the same time?  Why is the 18-plex so massive when you’re in it, but accessible only through a teeny tiny entrance that you’d miss if you blinked?  Is the mall shaped like a Z or a V or an L or none of the above?  I don’t know the answers so instead of looking at an aerial map or speaking to someone with knowledge on the subject I’m just going to go ahead and assume that Crossgates is a portal to another dimension.  Think about it: stores come and go without warning and there are hallways to nowhere from which ghostly figures emerge and disappear.  “Um, stores change at all malls, and those people are probably just tired employees,” you say?  Suuuure.  All I know is that they card you at the mall, which means there must be something sinister going on there (other than intolerable restaurants.)  Not being eager to find out, I’m going to stay out here in the parking lot where spatial relations obey the laws of physics and no hobgoblins are chasing me with Dead Sea salt scrubs.  Oooh, I’m getting chills just thinking about it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Be careful out here baby"

“Be careful out here, baby.”  The older gentleman was sitting in a folding chair on his porch on Myrtle Ave, elbows on his knees and hands clasped together in front of him.  I was walking from my bank on New Scotland to the Delaware Ave Price Chopper when he issued this startling bit of advice.  Now, I have two different modes when walking alone.  The first is, “home mode,” where I put my head down and walk across Lark Street as fast as possible, hoping to avoid everyone.  The other is, “away mode,” when I’m walking in any neighborhood other than my own.  The point of away mode is to be hyper aware, traveling at a slower pace, making eye contact with people you pass and saying hello.  It just seems safer (whether you’re in West Hill or on the upper West Side) to keep your eyes open for potential threats and I seem to remember reading somewhere that you’ll be less likely to fall victim to a crime if you greet people.  I will run the risk of appearing like some goofball from 1950s Pleasantville to avoid getting bonked on the head and having my bag snatched.  It’s worked thus far, thank goodness, so when I passed this man on his front porch, said, “Hi, sir, how are you?” and was met with his warning it really, really shocked me.  Be careful out here? It’s high noon on a sunny day and there are kids playing on the street but I should be careful?  Why, because I’m a woman?  Because I’m white?  Because there’s a mugger on the lam who has been known to go after you if you have recycled shopping bags tucked under your arm?  Whatever the reason it was a serious dose of reality and a reminder to be careful no matter where I am, even if I’m just walking to the grocery store.  So thanks, Marginally Creepy Old Guy, for your concern, even if it was out of the blue and kind of unsettling.   I promise I’ll be careful.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Experiment: Lunch Box

Sooo…I have a personal issue that needs to be dealt with.  Lunch.  My addiction centers around The Plaza Deli, a great, straight-forward little place tucked into an office building near mine.  For standard deli fare it’s consistently well done, probably thanks to the attention to detail of the owner, Tony, who can be a bit of a sandwich nazi.  Anyway, this place gets a call or a visit from me just about every day.  They even have my credit card on file.  A normal order is a kind of breakfast/lunch combo, usually toast or an English muffin with peanut butter and jelly, a cup of cottage cheese, a fruit or green salad and possibly their soup of the day if it strikes me.  And, oh, of course I have to get a drink, either a fresh iced tea or a sparkling water.  All of this gets expensive with bills ranging from $8 to $15 every day.  A quick check of my online bank statement from last week tells me that I spent $54.53 just on lunch.  That’s crazy.  So I’m going to do my best to save some money (and probably some calories) by planning a week’s worth of lunches today and portioning them out in containers and baggies. It’s not a revolutionary idea or anything, but I want to see if it will work for me.  I’ll report back next week with how much I spent on groceries, if I slipped up and all the accessories I felt obligated to buy.
For example, who knew there were such tolerable lunch totes out there?