A tour of Trinity College

4 Oct
Trinity old library

The Long Room in the Old Library

Trinity College, founded in 1592, is the pride of Ireland. Our guide, George, was an extremely knowledgeable and charming history student originally from London. He told us about a former administrator who was not particularly loved and, in fact, fought tooth and nail against admitting women to the school, leading many female graduates to get their picture taken next to his statue just to show who won that battle.

George, Trinity guide

George, our intrepid tour guide

The library has a lovely symbiotic relationship with  two majestic trees on campus: their roots suck the moisture away that might otherwise cause harmful mildew to collect on the books.

Oscar Wilde–one of Trinity’s most famous graduates–lived in the residence hall furthest out so that he could more easily practice debauchery and corrupt fellow students without getting caught.

And speaking of escaping punishment…A few hundred years ago, two students threw rocks at the window of their professor, who appeared with a gun and began shooting at the students. The students, in turn, ran back to their rooms to get their own firearms, returned to the angry professor’s window, shot, and killed him. But the two students were eventually pardoned because the college deemed that it was all just a prank that got out of hand.Berkeley Hall @Trinity

Because the college is so old, beautifully restored buildings from the 16th century sit beside 20th century structures, including a block of concrete named Berkeley Hall, which is pronounced “Bark-lee.” Coincidentally, the sculpture in front of this hall is one of about a dozen created by the artist, Pomodoro. The other sites include the Vatican, the U.N. in New York, and one just a few miles from my home on UC Berkeley campus.

We got to see the Book of Kells, or at least the four pages currently displayed in the Old Library. Monks painstakingly copied the Latin text and illustrated the words lovingly. Now of course, we would just go to the corner copy store.

Our tour was pretty quick through the Long Room of the Old Library, which houses Hobbit @Trinitythousands of old volumes, including many first editions of books under glass counters, including one of my favorites.

Many of Ireland’s famous scholars passed through these halls, including Samuel Beckett, Jonathon Swift, and Bram Stoker. Apparently Courtney Love went there too. They can’t all be gifted…

Dublin–Day 2: Potatoes, pigeons, and pubs

3 Oct

potato peeling contestIt was a day of exploring the quirky riches of Dublin. Walking through a shopping area, we came across a potato peeling competition in celebration of National Potato Day. The two-year champion was pitted against a volunteer from the crowd, who was trying to win a stuffed Mr. Potato for her grandson.

Strolling along St. Stephen’s Green Park off Grafton Street, we met Daniel, who feeds and cares for the park’s resident pigeons. He introduced us to some recuperating birds (one had been bitten by a fox but was mending nicely) and pointed out how gentle and sweet these feathered creatures were. He knew them individually but didn’t give them names. I realized how it was actually pretty easy to tell them apart by their specific coloring. One had a spotted head; one had dark gray feathers, one had an iridescent purple throat. It made me look at pigeons in a different way. One landed on my arm, so Daniel gave me some bird feed. I had one land on my shoulder, waiting for the first one to finish eating so he could get some too. They weren’t fighting Daniel, the pigeon manat all.

We had lunch at a wonderful pub called The Hairy Lemon that was named after an old man with a scruffy beard who drank so much he had jaundice. I had a pint of Guinness and a delicious beef and Guinness pie. (It is Ireland, after all.) The waiters there were funny and friendly, and the atmosphere was lively but not rowdy. It was a fun place to spend an afternoon.

Then we wandered around St. Stephen’s Green Market where you could buy books, framed photos, clothing, postcards, and a huge variety of fudge. The orange chocolate was yummy.

We walked so much my feet started to hurt, so we rested up for a few hours at our Airbnb before heading out for dinner at a different pub, where I finally got the fish and chips I had been looking forward to. And another beer, of course. Or maybe two…We ended up sharing a table with three women from North Carolina. The pub was quite crowded and kept filling up more. Just after we left, live music was scheduled to begin, but we’d had a full day and were ready to hit the hay.

Dublin: land o’ bridges, monuments, and good food

2 Oct

view from the Ha’penny Bridge at sunset

the controversial Spire

Our room is on the north side of the Liffey River, which divides Dublin into north and south sections. On our first night here, we met up with old college friends, Ross, Jim, and Charna. Ross moved here for work and only moved into his new home a few days ago. Jim and Charna happened to be vacationing in Ireland and overlapped with us by one day, so we were able to celebrate my birthday together over dinner at Brasserie Sixty-six.

While walking to the restaurant, we crossed the famous Ha’penny Bridge at sunset and encountered a few monuments. The Spire, though simple, has apparently caused controversy in Dublin because some hate it and some love it. I’ll let you decide for yourself. It’s basically just a very tall metal sculpture that tapers up to a pointy tip.

the substitute bartender mixing a corpse reviver 2

Because we arrived early, we sat at the bar and had cocktails until the rest of our party arrived. The poor chap behind the bar was covering for the bartender who was out sick, so he was having to look up how to mix the drinks featured on their menu. Our first cocktails were fine, but Dave asked him if he would make him a Corpse Reviver 2 if he told him what was in it. He followed Dave’s directions and finished making his cocktail just as Ross, Jim, and Charna arrived and we were seated.

The food was wonderful. I highly recommend the bacon chicken Caesar salad and the peanut butter mousse with chocolate sauce. Because they forgot to charge us for our pre-dinner cocktails, they told us they were on the house. Quite a birthday present. I am loving Dublin so far!

From London to Dublin on my birthday

1 Oct

me boarding plane to Dublin

What an absolute whirlwind! When one is actively vacationing, one hardly has time to document!

My 53rd birthday started with a delectable selection of pastries from Gail’s, which is a lovely bakery near our hosts’ house. And I made good use of Ellen’s espresso machine and magic milk steamer. I say “magic” because it heats and foams the milk almost instantly!

Today we travel to Dublin. Checking luggage would be expensive and make our journey longer, so I made do with a day pack—which is actually one of Kylie’s old backpacks from middle school—and my laptop case. There was no room for my rain boots or raincoat, but the forecast doesn’t call for rain until Monday when we leave, and Dave brought a traveling umbrella in addition to his hooded raincoat, so I should be able to stay dry if I keep close to him.

We left Duncan and Ellen’s house at 10:35 to begin our trek via Tube, train, and plIMG_0506ane to Dublin. Feeling like a seasoned Tube user by now, I know to “mind the gap” between the train and the platform, and it is now second nature to walk on the left of the escalator and stand on the right. Each Tube station and car look essentially the same, but occasionally I glimpse a new poster or sign that intrigues me. Especially if it rhymes:

If you spot someone ill or in pain/Please try to help them off the train

We can offer aid much more quickly/on the platform if they’re sickly

Although we had only one switch on the Tube, it still took a long time to reach the train station, where we had to buy separate tickets because it’s outside the zone that accepts Oyster tickets. (By the way, I asked what “Oyster” refers to, but nobody knew. If I had Internet access on this plane, I’d look it up and share that info with you, but I’m afraid I’m currently Google-deprived.)

Security lines at the airport snaked six lines deep beyond the first crush after check-in. Illustrated signs are very clear about the transporting of liquids: no containers that hold 100 ml or more may go through, and all liquids, gels, pastes, aerosols, lip glosses, and mascaras must be sheathed in a transparent plastic bag no more than 20 centimeters wide and taken out of your carry-on. This same information is also broadcast in several different languages to ensure maximum efficiency at the security checkpoint. I had dutifully put my travel size containers of shampoo, lotion, mouthwash, and toothpaste in a Ziploc bag, but I should have left my moisturizer/sunscreen back at Duncan and Ellen’s. While we inched along the security queue, I opened it up and emptied as much as I could from the container into a small plastic bag that used to house prescription hormone patches, knowing that the liquid itself would be less than 100 ml. But because of the prescription label, the security officer said it had to be “tested.” I didn’t know how long that might take, so I threw it out. It won’t be terribly expensive to replace, but my face will be unprotected from the elements for a few days. C’est la vie.

London to DublinWe boarded around 1:30 and finally took off at 2:00. That’s a 3 ½ hour trip from London to an airport that’s still in England. I’m glad the flight itself is less than an hour. I have to admit that when I thought about combining our London vacation with a trip to Dublin, I’d assumed it would be more of a hop, skip, and a jump. Of course we do have to cross the Irish Sea, but the countries here are so small that I just assumed we could take a ferry or an underground train…

Some interesting tidbits about Ryan Air: There are no pockets beneath the tray table, and thus no place to store items during liftoff. And the seats are so close together that it’s impossible to bend over to access the area under the seat if there is a person sitting next to you unless you want to plant your face in your seatmate’s crotch. Luckily I’m married to my seatmate. And God forbid someone needs an air sick bag because there aren’t any. And the seat belts are the smallest I’ve ever encountered. I know I’m big and I may even have gained some weight on this trip, but I had to suck in my gut to fasten up. (Nobody should have to do that on her birthday.)

When we boarded the aircraft, flight attendants handed us tall menus with bright photos that resemble something you might get at Denny’s. And they sell scratchers/lottery tickets during the flight that support a church, which is Ryan Air’s chosen charity. But other than the rough landing, it was an uneventful flight. At customs, the agent asked if this was a “birthday trip,” to which I excitedly exclaimed, “Yes! It is my birthday!” before I realized that of course she had just read my birth date on my passport. Duh.

IMG_0507The ladies’ room in Dublin’s airport offers unique services: on one wall is a hair straightening wand, and on the other wall is a breath freshener that you apply to your finger and wipe your teeth. Who knew that Dubliners valued straight hair and fresh breath so much?

We found a bus to get to the center of the city, but we didn’t actually know which stop to get off at. When it looked like we were in the heart of things, Dave went down to ask the bus driver where we should disembark given the address we were heading for. The driver said, “this one.” So we got off and found a nice bar that’s part of the Gresham Hotel, where we ordered a few pints and called the caretaker of our Airbnb, so he could meet us and show us our home away from home. It turns out we were just a block away from the place. Sheer luck.

So now we’re here in Dublin!

London–Day 4: Churchill, a ghostcam, and pickety-boo

29 Sep
Natl Museum entrance

National Gallery courtyard

Well, Duncan and Ellen had to go back to work today, which means Dave and I were on our own navigating London. It may be slower than the Tube, but you can’t beat the top of a double-decker bus for great sightseeing. There is no way on Earth I could have figured out which bus to take because it is truly the most complicated transit system I’ve ever encountered, but Dave got us everywhere we wanted to go.

We started out at the National Gallery, which is free! Unfortunately because of a strike, the museum was forced to make do with volunteers and had to close off the wing housing pieces from the later Renaissance and Rococo, the ones Dave was keenest to see. But I’ll never turn down an opportunity to see Impressionists. I got to rediscover Théo van Rysselberghe and saw one of my favorite Monets, as well as several other lovely pieces.

Our next stop turned out to be a much longer one than we thought it would. Who knew we would spend over two hours in Churchill’s underground war rooms? Of course it was connected to a whole museum devoted to this adored statesman, and it was quite extensive. Several upper-level officers, code-breakers, Morse code readers, and personal secretaries spent day after day underground, never seeing sunlight. In fact everyone was required to spend a few minutes under the sun lamp for health reasons. One woman fell asleep under the lamp and suffered quite a sunburn. There was a sign posted daily below ground to let them know what the weather was like above. The sign that read “Windy” however, came to signify the frequent air raids. Another tidbit: old Winston was a talented and prolific painter. He also took two baths a day and drank Johnny Walker.me in London phone booth

We arrived at Westminster Abbey around 3:35 but couldn’t find an open entrance or anywhere to purchase tickets for a tour. Apparently, they don’t admit anyone after 3:30, although they don’t close until 4:30. So we made plans to get an early start on Tuesday. Walking among the abbey across from the Houses of Parliament, I heard an American voice declare to his companion, “It’s just more tall, old buildings!”

Walking along the Thames we spotted The Rising Tide‘s four horses of the apocalypse from the other side, only now they appeared to be wading in the water.

I didn’t actually make a phone call from one of London’s iconic phone booths, but I still got Dave to take a photo of me in one.

Morpeth's ghostcamAround 4:00 we were tired and decided to fortify ourselves at Morpeth’s pub, where the floor above was supposed to have a lovely view of the Thames and the basement was haunted. A private party prevented us from checking out the view, but the ghostcam allowed us to keep tabs on any paranormal activity that might be happening below the pub.

That night Duncan ordered Indian food online and had it delivered. (What we call “takeout” in the States is called “takeaway” here. In fact, these crazy Brits have a different word for just about everything. I already knew many common ones, like “loo,” but there’s so much more! Sidewalks are referred to as pavement. Exit signs say “Way out.” Someone who’s really upset is gutted. And my favorite is a fun way to say okay: pickety-boo. I haven’t actually heard that one yet, but Ellen swears her colleagues use it all the time. I’m going to do my best to promote its usage back home. How fun will that be? Let’s start a campaign!

London–Day 3: Brick Lane, a moss-covered lorrie, and a boat called Audacity

28 Sep

Brick Lane Cereal Killer

We took the overground rail to London’s East End, which is buzzing on Sunday afternoon. We started at the beigel place, and I do mean “beigel” because that’s how it’s spelled in London. One might expect an extra “l” or even a wayward “u” from Brits, but for some reason, the round, chewy staple of New York delis is spelled with an “i” in London. We also saw a line out the door of the popular new eatery, Cereal Killer Cafe, which actually serves little boxes of cereal.

Brick Lane marketSpitalfields Market is a huge indoor marketplace where you can buy inexpensive scarves, unusual earrings, hot samosas, funny T-shirts, handmade crafts, and a range of cheap, plastic items that you could get lots of places. Of note was the vendor whose truck was covered with moss. I didn’t even see what he was selling, but it definitely stood out. And outside the market toward Brick Lane are temporary booths selling vinyl LP’s, fruit drinks, and every kind of ethnic food you can imagine.

Brick Lane musician & dancersBrick Lane itself is teeming with local color. A reggae musician set up a small performing area for himself, prompting some elderly folks to move to the beat.

We dove into Brick Lane Books and found a hysterical fake children’s book and some gorgeous post cards. After braving the crowds in the food tent, we managed to wedge ourselves into a bit of available space at one of the few picnic tables out back so that we could eat lunch sitting down.

Brick Lane Coffee lego straw holderI bought a matted photo of toppling phone booths and sampled four different mouth-watering flavored chocolates, including  liquid sea salt caramel and orange vodka. We relaxed a bit with a latte at Brick Lane Coffee, where straws and lids are stored in a container made of legos.

We strolled along the Regent’s Canal to get back to home base at Duncan and Ellen’s, where graceful willows hung over  uniquely decorated boats that proudly displayed their names–names such as Scrumpy, the Hedgehog, and Audacity.

Regent's Canal willows

As we left the East End, we stopped off at a farmer’s market to get salad fixings for dinner. Then after a light supper back at the mews, we headed into our evening in West End’s theater district, where we saw a fabulous show called Showstoppers! (The exclamation point is part of the name.) It’s musical improv, in which the director asks the audience to offer suggestions for a premise that the actors can build a story around. Given the setting of a haunted brothel, the six players were instructed to sing and dance in particular styles that were shouted out, including The Lion King, Once, Grease, and Carousel. All of them were quick on their feet, had wonderful singing voices, and did an amazing job of pulling off a funny and engaging musical on the spot. I highly recommend it to anyone. If I lived here, I would probably see it again and again, since each night will be a different experience.

Brick Lane button people

the button people

And judging by what we saw in the East End, every visit there is likely to offer new surprises. We’re taking a guided walking art tour there on Wednesday…

London–Day 2: Windsor Castle & some rugby

27 Sep
windsor panorama

panoramic view of Windsor Castle

Ellen had gotten us tickets to Windsor Castle in advance, which was very smart. It allowed us to bypass the long queue of people who were buying their tickets onsite. But it still took a while to get through security, which made us late for our tour of the great kitchen. The tour had already begun, but we were welcome to come back in 45 minutes for the next one, which was fine, as there was a lot to see.

The doll house was an amazing array of precisely created miniatures, and the two “French dolls” that had been given to the princesses circa 1940 had an extensive wardrobe made by top fashion designers of the day, including a real ermine coat. One tween remarked to her companion, “Those dolls were more spoiled than any human girls!” Although I’m sure the princesses themselves did not suffer for lack of lovely frocks.

Our guide was delightful and clearly loved her job. She knew more than anyone should have to know about the castle andwindsor turret the royal family. We were not allowed to snap photos in the kitchen or in any of the special rooms we toured, so I had to content myself with outdoor pics. Because of the current celebration commemorating Queen Elizabeth reigning longer than any of her predecessors, there was a special exhibit, and more of the residence was open for view. We saw the state apartments, St. George’s chapel, the grand dining hall, and so many rooms I couldn’t possibly remember them all. The most curious one was the king’s bed chamber, which indeed featured a bed with elaborate purple and gold curtains, but it was not actually where the king ever slept. It was where he went to after he awoke for the official rising ceremony. Imagine having such pageantry before you’ve even had your first morning coffee…

In what used to be the building where the royal fire engine was housed is now a gift shop with royal jams, commemorative trays, and furry slippers, all with big price tags, as well as royal guard teddy bears that are priced at £250.00. You could even buy a royal corgi iPad cover. Even the smallest items were beyond the budgets of most tourists, with small fabric crown Christmas ornaments going for the equivalent of $22. I did splurge on a double-decker bus fridge magnet for my friend, Evey, but that was the extent of my shopping spree.

windsor castle pubAfter touring the castle, we launched on the famous “long walk” trod by many state visitors over the centuries that was a straight path that was a five-mile round trip to the Thames. But my feet were tired, so I detoured to the Windsor Castle pub, where I had a pint and watched a rugby match on the telly while I waited for the others to join me. From the pub’s parking lot, a wedding party crossed the busy street to the wooded park area that bordered the pathway to take wedding photos. I don’t know where they had the ceremony though.

We were hungry and couldn’t find the eatery that had been recommended, so we dove into a place and took our chances. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. This time it didn’t.

The last stop of the day was at a cute little neighborhood pub where we drank some beer, watched Wales play England on the big screen TV with a few regulars, and contributed to the good-natured banter around the question of how much longer the human race would survive.What better way to end the day?

London–Day 1: Big Ben, steak pie, and a rose called Nostalgia

26 Sep
Big Ben at night

Big Ben at night

The Tube took us right from Heathrow (Zone 6) to the Green Park station (Zone 1). Since we were on it from its starting point, we got seats, which was good because we were toting luggage and made 16 stops on the Piccadilly Line, where Duncan was kind enough to meet us at the station so we wouldn’t get lost transferring to the Jubilee Line, which took us to north London where our friends and hosts live.

It was just a few blocks to their mews house where we dropped off luggage before venturing out into the immediate environs. We walked up Primrose Hill, which, as the highest point in London, afforded us some lovely views. Then we walked around Regent’s Park, which includes Queen Mary’s Garden, a lovely spot with several varieties’ of roses, all with wonderful names: Ingrid Bergman, Dawn Chorus, Adriana, Ice Cream, Valentine Heart, and–my personal favorite–Nostalgia.

As excited as I was to be walking around London, my loss of sleep hit me rather suddenly around one in the afternoon–not surprising since my body thought it was 5 am and I hadn’t slept in 22 hours. We hopped on a bus after a few false starts, and I plopped into bed for a nice long nap.

Rising Tide girlI awoke shortly before 5 pm, took a quick shower and headed out with Dave and Duncan to meet Ellen at Vauxhall, close to the site where famous underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor is exhibiting his piece “The Rising Tide.” I’m pretty sure that Taylor doesn’t actually sculpt while he himself is underwater, but it didn’t really clarify that point. The piece is essentially the four horsemen of the apocalypse in the form of oil rigs. It’s a  political comment on the impact of fossil fuels, strategically located within sight of the Houses of Parliament. Because it was low tide, the figures were completely exposed and firmly on land. Despite the clear request that the artwork be viewed from the walkway, everyone passed beyond the gate and was moving among the four horses taking photos–us included. I can’t say that I loved the piece, but it was certainly interesting, and the detail was impressive down to the sandals on the little girl atop one of the horses. To learn more, read this piece from the Guardian:  http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/sep/02/underwater-sculptures-thames-london

steak pie @ Duchess of WalesThe walk along the river and across the Westminster Bridge Street provided many opportunities to capture Big Ben from different angles. And as dusk gave way to evening, the lights imparted a beautiful glow to the Houses of Parliament and the surrounding buildings.

We had a traditional English meal in the Rudyard Kipling Dining Room that was part of a larger establishment called The Duchess of Wales. My steak pie and mashed potatoes was delicious, and the London lager on tap was perfect. The greens were an odd mixture of peas, green beans, and kale but were perfectly edible. Dave adored the vegetarian gravy that accompanied his vegetable pie and even coaxed our charming waitress wearing polka dots to bring him more.

A perfect first day in merry old England.


Getting to London

25 Sep

I defy you to find I (as in a capital i) on this map.

(This was written on the plane from SF to London on 9/24, but I couldn’t post it until the next day.)

I can now attest to the fact that one can go all the way from north Berkeley to the airport via BART in under an hour and a half. I cannot confirm that money was well spent on so-called improvements to decrease the noise in the transbay tube, however. Its deafening screeches are still painful.

While circling back round the small city that is the San Francisco International airport on the AirTrain, I mentally noted our departure times, the names of the various terminals, and our ensuing adventures when things did not go smoothly, but now I think I prefer to sum it up this way: “Terminal 1” looks identical to “Terminal I” on an itinerary. What I want to know is why would one use a mixture of numbers and letters to designate terminals?

We left the house at 9:30 am, yet had just enough time to grab lunch at the airport version of Il Fornaio before boarding for our 12:55 flight. Thank god we didn’t have an early morning departure…

Am delighted with the size of my new-ish laptop as it fits compactly in the little soft, inexpensive, and reasonably priced case that I ordered online (before I vowed to buy local). Unfortunately I was unable to locate said case before my trip abroad—I love the way those words look together  trip abroad—leaving me with the option of stuffing it into the day-pack I was bringing along for day trips or using the heftier case that housed my old laptop, which is much larger and heavier but would offer better protection. So I’m lugging around my cute little laptop in the dinosaur case. The  laptop also fits nicely on the fold-down tray-table with room to spare on each side. However because the person in front of me is reclined fully, I cannot tilt the screen back enough to read my text very well. Ah, the sacrifices we make as writers.

I’ve been enjoying the occasional glimpse of the monitor showing our progress. We’re now over Greenland, have covered 5413 miles, and are currently traveling at a speed of 942 mph. (Just thought you’d like to know.) Oh, wait, make that 5447 miles ad 944 mph, yet that little white outline of a plane looks so still on the monitor.

I can hardly believe I am going to London. The land of Dickens, Beef Wellington, and the Beatles. Of course when we arrive it will be just past daybreak for the local Brits but my body will think it’s midnight. So that should be interesting. I wonder if we will be served breakfast, in deference to our destination, or dinner, according to our stomachs.

And I wonder if our cat Cartwheel has figured out that we’ve gone, or if he’s just as happy with the housesitter. Better not to think too much about it…2011-10-30 09.55.31


I totally shop local. Except when I don’t.

14 Sep


I’ve been to many, many Solano Strolls, but among the fixtures I see every year are always one or two booths that I’m unfamiliar with. This year I looked past the solar panel people, ignored the massage therapists, and even resisted those delicious high-end vinegars and oils. But I stopped at a booth promising free tote bags–even though we have more than we can use already–because it had a sign that read “Thank you for shopping local.” I try to buy locally when I can, but I don’t always know if a product is local, so I was curious how this organization would assist in that endeavor.

The first postcard I was handed listed the reasons why one should buy local. Although I knew most of them, this one caught my attention:

For every $100 you spend at one of our local businesses, $68 will stay in the community. What happens when you spend that same $100 at a national chain? Only $43 stays in the community.

I’m not sure how buylocalberkeley.org arrived at those figures, but I found them interesting. I tried to imagine someone tracking a particular dollar bill from, say, Target versus a dollar spent at Pegasus Books and got lost almost immediately myself. But it makes sense that if I want to support California and create a smaller carbon footprint, I should pay attention to where my dollars go.pegasus books

Through Localwise, I can get recommendations for local businesses from community members. (Or I could if their website was up and working.) Some of the examples on the postcard include web designers, bankers, and bookkeepers. So I thought about it, and in each of those cases, we are definitely supporting local folks. Dave met the guy who is redesigning our business website at the dog park. Our money is in USE credit union, which serves mainly but is not limited to California university and state employees. And our bookkeeper, Susan, lives in nearby Emeryville and comes to our house/business to do our books, so that’s pretty darn local.

Lately, we’ve been looking closely at where our dollars go because they seem to be going rather quickly in general. So I’ve been keeping track of every penny spent so that we can analyze it at some point and hopefully figure out a way to spend less of it. Although we are only in week two of our budget experiment, I can already tell you this: except for expenses surrounding our daughter in Baltimore (college tuition, room & board, airfare home), most of our dollars are spent right here in Berkeley at local businesses.

no-amazonLong ago I swore that I’d never buy anything from Amazon, and I made a recent pledge not to order anything online if I could get it at a brick and mortar store. (Okay, it was only a month or so ago that I bought a phone case online, but I swear that’s going to be the last thing.) Of course I own an iPhone, which technically is a local company since it’s only an hour away, but I know it’s anything but a mom and pop operation. So I guess that doesn’t fit in with the whole buy-local mentality…

But we are avid theater goers, which means we’re supporting the arts in Berkeley, San Francisco, El Cerrito, and Oakland. And I buy books at Pegasus and Books, Inc., which are both in Berkeley, and at Book Passage in Corte Madera (just across the San Rafael bridge, so still pretty local). About half of our groceries (all the produce) comes from Monterey Market (in Berkeley, despite the name), while the other half comes mostly from Safeway (locally started but huge and national) and Trader Joe’s (definitely national, but it has a local feel, and the checkers there are so nice!) Of course it gets complicated when you start to consider where those local businesses get their stock from. A lot of produce at Monterey Market comes from nearby corn flakesfarms, but of course I’m lucky enough to live in a place where veggies and fruits can grow all year long.

Oh god, I just realized that my corn flakes are Kellogg’s, which is a huge company. And my laptop is a Dell, and I don’t even know where their headquarters is or where their parts are made. Sigh.

I guess we just do what we can do. I will continue to record all of our purchases and make a point of noting whether or not they’re local. And I will report back.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 620 other followers

%d bloggers like this: