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Category Archives: Personal

Easy ways to save water

As we all know, California is in a statewide drought emergency, and we’re all very aware of the need to conserve water. My husband and I have always been very conscious about our water usage, and we thought we were doing pretty well… until we saw last month’s water bill. While we were still well below the average user, we consume 150 gallons of water. PER DAY. I think that is totally insane, but after we looked it up, the average California household uses 360 gallons a day. Needless to say, I was shocked.


I started to look into other ways to further decrease our water consumption, and found some tips that don’t cramp our lifestyle while still making a serious dent. Here’s what we’re doing now:

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Use your dishwasher. Yup. I checked, and it uses about 1/8 of the water that handwashing does. We don’t rinse them ahead of time either – we just throw them straight in. Need I say more?

Warm up your water in a bucket. An easy tip thanks to my dad. We now keep a bucket in our shower to warm up water. Then, we use that water to water the fruit trees in our yard. Takes almost no effort at all!

Use bar soap. Liquid soap is highly concentrated, so not only do you use less soap,  but you use less water to rinse it off. You’ll also notice that you won’t have as much soap scum everywhere, so your sink and shower look much cleaner.

blog - 2If you can’t live without liquid soap, get a foam dispenser. I totally understand the desire to use soap pumps over bar soap. If you’ve ever watered down liquid soap though, it’s sad. The foam dispenser gives you that clean sudsy feeling, while still diluting the soap. Once you start using a foam dispenser or a bar, you’ll start to notice how much water you waste when rinsing your hands of regular liquid soap. I have a quart of Dr. Bronner’s that I’ve been going through the past three years, so you’ll also save money!

Keep a cup by the sink. Use a cup to rinse out your mouth and your toothbrush as opposed to running water. After reading this article which outlines household use by appliance type, it turns out a large percentage of water usage is due to running the faucet. Using a cup will ensure that you’re conscious of how much water you’re actually using when brushing your teeth.

Cut down on watering your lawn. It will live. The first year Jesse and I did this, we were convinced that we killed our lawn. It turns out that it just goes dormant. That upcoming winter, it was green again. (We’d like to actually take out our front lawn, but I understand how difficult that actually is in practice. Maybe next year!)

Don’t wash your hair everyday. This was something I couldn’t do until about two years ago. I know my friends with curly hair do this, but my straight hair built up waaayyyy too much oil and looked gross. I switched to a natural shampoo, and I can go about three days without a wash, and my hair actually looks nice… and I can style it! It took a while to find the right shampoo, so be patient (I like the JR Liggett’s Bar Shampoo or Avalon Organics Clarifying Lemon). AND, you can use a foaming soap pump to dilute that as well – it really helps cut down on rinsing your hair.

Get a handheld shower head. I find that I take showers faster this way, and it’s much easier to avoid my head when I’m not shampooing. I also like fact that it makes it easier to bathe Barney (which, we’ve also cut down on, mostly because he hates it). Lastly, it helps in keeping your shower clean – if you rinse the walls quickly after the last person takes a shower and squeegee any glass, you never have to clean it otherwise!

Be creative. I understand why people gripe about the ALS challenge, but at the same time, I enjoy the fun people are having in participating in it. If you don’t like it though, find a different way to join in on the fun! Sarah and Vinnie, my favorite Bay Area radio hosts, did a spin on it by passing around a bucket at work and then “bathing” in the $400 they were able to collect. I think that that kind of spirit is what’s going to get us through this crisis.


If you have any tips, feel free to share. I know all our work is going to really make a difference for not only the future of our state but in educating non-Californians to be aware of their water usage before they have a crisis too!

August 21, 2014 - 1:26 pm

Donna Rosenthal - When washing dishes by hand I fill the other sink with hot water and instead of running the water each time to rinse a dish; I just dip it in the sink of hot water and the suds are removed.
Also collect rain water in buckets (when there is some) to water plants. Hope these help.

Prayer for focus

Tomorrow is the first day of school – eek! I’m a bundle of excitement and nerves. I’m really excited for all the things I’ve learned over the summer and plan to implement; I’m nervous that everything isn’t going to go according to plan, and that my attitude may be soured by stress. My hope for the year is to foster the excitement and stay true to my good intentions. I hope the same for all of you, and I found this nice prayer to keep in mind:

Fractal-Art-WallpaperGod, help me to focus on what is really important.
Help me to focus on what will give life.
Help me to focus on what promotes
justice and peace.

Help me to let go of all the
little things that don’t matter.

I hope that we all keep in our hearts what’s most important in our lives when the day-to-day stresses distract us, and I will send all my fellow teachers good thoughts and prayers for the upcoming school year!


Second-hand Style

As a teacher at an all-girls’ school, I am very conscious about the way I dress. I rarely wear makeup because I want the girls to know that bare faces are socially acceptable. I dress professionally to show my students what appropriate work attire looks like, but I also love to wear bright prints and colors because I want to demonstrate that you can always find ways to let your personality shine (and, I enjoy wearing cute work outfits!). In addition, I try to be socially conscious about what I wear. I believe in fair labor practices, and it feels wrong to pour money into companies who mistreat their labor forces. In addition, the sheer volume of clothing that Americans purchase as a whole is also startling – much of our barely-used clothing ends up in landfills, which also impacts the environment. Obviously, shopping less is one way to help curb this problem, and I figured that second-hand stores would be a first step in becoming a more conscious shopper. In addition, I continued to hold hope that I could be stylish AND a good citizen!

I used to be a big thrift shopper in college, but hadn’t been back since. I’m sorry I stopped because I was AMAZED at the variety of styles and quality of the clothes offered! First, basics are super easy to acquire. Button down shirts and jeans come in every color and style, so you can pretty much find whatever you want. When Bermuda shorts became a hot item on the style blogs last year, department and chain stores were a bit behind the trend, but on my first visit to Crossroads, I snagged a pair of Gap shorts for $10 🙂 They were well-constructed and fit like a glove! Below, you can see the shorts on the left, and a button-down men’s shirt I snagged at the Goodwill for $7 on the right.

Gap shorts on the left, button-down shirt on the right. I wear them all the time!

Gap shorts on the left, men’s button down shirt on the right. I wear them all the time!

One of the things I hate shopping for is going-out attire. It’s not that I dislike that kind of attire – I just hardly go out! And then I spend on a lot of money on an outfit that I wear maybe once or twice. It did take a little more effort to find those kinds of outfits second-hand, either because they’re popular or because I don’t have the same taste as most teenage and 20-something girls, but below are two pieces I adore.  The first is a zig-zag tube top that is goes great with either white pants or a skirt. The second is a sheer, pleated skirt that is super fun – it’s light and breezy and can be dressed up or down. I love that they’re both unique (one of them has a tag from some random boutique store I’ve never heard of), and I paid less than $20 for both pieces!

Zig-zag tube top paired with a white skirt borrowed from my mom. Also featured - my fabulous dance moves.

Zig-zag tube top paired with a white skirt borrowed from my mom. Also featured – my fabulous dance moves.

My favorite piece of clothing ever! Super feminine, trendy and, above all, comfy.

My favorite piece of clothing ever! Super feminine, trendy and, above all, comfy.

Lastly, there is the opportunity to buy high-end items on consignment, and I will never pay full-price for a designer piece again. Purses are especially easy to find on ebay or in local consignment stores, and each are good about screening for condition and authenticity. Besides the fact that you obviously save money buying second-hand, most brand-name handbags remain classic in design, so there’s no reason you need to buy the latest style to keep up with the trends. And although designer goods are obviously high-quality, you are really paying those extra big bucks for the name, and I loathe that. This lets me feel like I’m sticking it to the man a bit 😉

Below is my Christmas gift to myself – a limited-edition Coach purse. It was originally $425, but I got it for $100, and it looked brand new. The best part is, they had it available in coral and black, so my mom now owns the matching one 🙂


I’m not normally a big Coach fan, but I couldn’t pass up on this color or hardware. I love unique finds!

What I like best about this exercise is that I learned that I don’t necessarily have to compromise my style or budget with my principles – I just need to be more creative. It’s easy to feel powerless when dealing with a global issue, but I really think if we all make small steps, we can make a bigger difference. I’d love to hear about your socially conscious shopping finds!

Cute shoes and happy feet don’t have to be mutually exclusive

I love to dress up, but as both a photographer and a teacher, I spend a lot of time on my feet and value comfort as well. Midway into the school year, I am always ready to give up on style and just wear my running shoes with every single outfit. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with that – in fact, that’s exactly what my mom does, and it looks adorable with her nursing uniforms – but it really wouldn’t look right with my favorite work outfits.

Mom Uniform

My mom’s uniform complete with matching running shoes.

To remedy the situation, my first idea was obviously to try on as many shoes as possible and see which ones worked for me style and comfort-wise. Lifestride is a brand that consistently checks both boxes, and, oddly enough, Crocs is producing heels and flats that actually look like real shoes! In the last two years, I’ve patiently searched and made thoughtful choices, and now have a decent collection of professional footwear. But as happy as I’ve been with each pair, they still can be difficult to stand in for 8-hour stretches. I do not easily give up on my goals though, and am always looking for ways to maneuver around obstacles (it’s the engineer in me). Last summer, I decided to do some more research and finally solve this fashion puzzle.
Work shoes

My collection of work shoes.

I thought about what makes all my athletic shoes comfortable, and it all has to do with foot position. My dad always bought me specialized insoles and arch supports for my basketball shoes and running shoes, and my mom even had custom orthotic inserts made for me. All these products allow my feet to rest in their natural posture. Alternatively, heels place all the weight on the ball of my foot, and flats are just too… flat! Even flats make my arches sink and knees ache. I’ve tried putting the above mentioned inserts into my dress shoes, but they were always too big. Enter Superfeet. Superfeet makes two products specifically for dress shoes that have made standing for 8 hours relatively painless – Black Delux Dress Fit and Black Delux High Heel (and I really like their athletic insoles too). Both of these low-profile inserts fit into all of my dress shoes, which also means I can keep my current collection as is!
Superfeet black dress inserts

Superfeet Black high heel and flat dress inserts displayed next to their corresponding shoes.

If you have never purchased orthotics, you may wonder how a hard piece of plastic could make standing comfortable. Orthotics are molded to your feet, with the plastic hugging your arches and supporting your weight so it is evenly distributed throughout the entire foot (even the high-heel inserts do this!). I don’t notice they’re in my shoes at all. The other great thing about them is you only need one pair – a little piece of velcro keeps them from slipping in your shoe, while still allowing you to switch them out. The black color also blends nicely into your dress shoes.
Shoes with inserts

Heels with and without the insert. The insert is held by a velcro tab.

Lastly, to get my foot in its ideal posture, I finally found the piece de resistance – toe spacers. I also happen to have bunions, and if you’ve wondered what those are, they’re those bumps on the side of each foot in the photo below (between my big toe and arch). I used to constantly stretch my big toe away from my other toes to relive my bunion pain. After perusing SkyMall on vacation (gotta love SkyMall), I found that there were such a thing as bunion correctors that effectively did the same thing. I looked into purchasing them on Amazon, and stumbled upon these bad boys that I can wear all day with my dress, walking and athletic shoes. Now, my feet are never sore. The only downside is that they are noticeable if your shoes have a low vamp, but since I already hate toe cleavage all my shoes already hide them pretty well.
All shoe components

Inserts + toe spacers = happy feet!

Good luck shopping, and remember – beauty isn’t always pain 😉  If you have some additional shoe magic that works for you, leave a comment!


February 17, 2014 - 9:08 am

Dina Mansuy - You have solved the mystery! Great post!

February 17, 2014 - 2:12 pm

Nubia Pineda - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Clark’s shoes.

February 19, 2014 - 7:20 pm

Jaime Greene - What a great post! I hate heels and hate flats… but I’m more inclined to wear flats with a toddler for the sake of stability and safety! 🙂