A Regular Gal’s Opinion on [Blueland] Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Once upon a time, I became interested in using “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” cleaning products in my home. Maybe back then I was less conscious about actually being sustainable but rather couldn’t stand the headache that often occurred after deep cleaning my home from the fumes of those super-duper effective cleaning products.

After trying several brands of “eco-friendly” cleaning products over the last few years, I realized that none of them reallllyyyy got the grime out where I wanted it to, especially in the bathroom. Or the products smelled a bit too natural – like a really smelly sneeze (yuck).

(One thing I should note too is that since I’ve worked in restaurants/cafés, I’ve been spoiled with using those commercial-grade cleaning products – the ones that make everything super squeaky clean, so when I clean my own home, I need it to be THAT noticeably clean.)

Notes about “Eco-Friendly” Cleaning Products

Alright, alright. I’m getting to the product review, I promise. But before I do, I want to address several important things when it comes to “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” cleaning products.

  • “Eco-friendly” and “sustainable” products aren’t a trend. To say so would be an insult to people who have been using more natural products their whole life. For example, my mom has always refused to purchase cleaning products with bleach. Instead she makes her own cleaning concoctions with things like vinegar, baking soda, citrus peels, etc. It’s not because she’s oh-so sustainably trendy, it’s because that’s how she learned how to clean where she grew up (a small, humble home in a province in the Philippines).
  • Just because it’s a natural cleaning product, doesn’t mean it’s safe. These marketing gurus like to trick people and label products as “natural” but actually contain things like fragrances, dyes, allergens, and irritants that may not be good for people who have asthma, other respiratory issues, and people who have sensitive skin allergies/irritation. Some multi-purpose cleaning brands that have received an Environmental Working Group (EWG) rating of D and below are Seventh Generation, Method, Green Works, etc.
  • Yes. There are environmental impacts from cleaning products. Just to name a few: water pollution (chemicals washed into streams & rivers), air pollution (volatile organic compounds in cleaning products can affect indoor air quality & outdoor smog), and waste (many containers are not made from recyclable materials and O M G, so much empty plastic bottles. Not to mention, some of the more hazardous materials need special energy for transport & disposal). ‘Green’ products typically are more biodegradable, lower in toxicity and VOC, have minimal packaging, and produced with less energy.

OK, ok. Getting closer to the product reviews.

Blueland Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

From Blueland.com

I heard about Blueland after hearing recommendations from YouTubers who try to live a more ‘sustainable’ lifestyle… and hearing that it actually works. After digging through Blueland’s website and reading about them in various articles, here’s a few facts that intrigued me enough to make a purchase:

About the Products:

  • The packaging is reusable, BPA-free acrylic (for the spray bottle) and the refills are little tablets wrapped in compostable paper packaging. The best part is that the refills start at $2!
  • Products are made without: triclosan, parabens, phosphates, ammonia, chlorine bleach, phthalates, or VOCs.
  • Blueland is Certified Platinum Material Health by Cradle to Cradle, EPA Safer Choice, USDA BioPreferred, Leaping Bunny (cruelty free).

About the Company

  • “Better for You and the Planet” is their brand mission.
  • They’re constantly innovating and on a mission to reimagine all the categories of household packaged goods with innovating form factors and environmentally responsible packaging.
  • The carbon footprint involved in shipping Blueland refill tablets is a fraction of that of a standard single-use plastic container of cleaner or hand soap.

After going through all their products, I decided to only purchase the Multi-Surface Starter Set, $16 and Bathroom Starter Set, $16 (since multi-purpose & bathroom cleaners are what I mostly use anyway).

The two bottles I ordered!

I guess I should say that I’m O.K. with the current cleaning products I use. Some are more “eco-friendly” and some are not. However, I want to switch to using only ALL eco-friendly products and decrease my use of disposable plastic in general. In this review, I’m going to compare those two Blueland products with the ones I currently use:

  • All-purpose cleaner (counter tops, glass, door knobs, etc.): Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface, Clean Day Basil
  • Bathroom cleaner: For countertop, sink, toilet cover & toilet seat, I use Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface, Clean Day Basil. For tub & tile, I use either a homemade cleaner made with Dawn dish soap + baking soda + splash of hydrogen peroxide + drops of essential oil (for more casual cleaning) OR Clorox Bathroom Bleach Foamer (for deep cleaning).

And finally, the product reviews:

  • What you Get: 1 reusable spray bottle + 3 multi-surface cleaning tablets (although I only received 1) + instruction sheet
  • How it Works: Fill up the bottle with hot/warm water, drop in the tablet, watch it dissolve, and it’s ready to use! Makes 20 oz of cleaner.
Multi-Surface Cleaner

Multi-Surface Cleaner. Overall, I like this a lot. I used it on several surfaces: countertop, stovetop, and kitchen sink. On my stovetop was where I really saw its effectiveness – I used this cleaner after cooking something that had a lot of splashes and grease and I was very happy with the results. In case you’re curious, to me it smells like… warm lemon…? Not a bad smell, but not as pleasant as the Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface cleaner. After using it several times, will I be making the switch? Yes. I will.

Little refill tablet
Dissolving tablet. It takes about 30 minutes to fully dissolve.

Bathroom Cleaner: First of all, I reeaaaalllyyy like the smell – it’s minty and eucalyptus-y, and much better smelling that the products I currently use. More importantly, I think this worked pretty well. I used it in my entire bathroom – countertop, sink, toilet cover, toilet seat, tub, and tiles. It took away the grime and soap scum by just wiping (not too much scrubbing happened since my tub & tiles weren’t super dirty). Overall, I think this will replace both the Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface cleaner. Also, in comparison to my concoction of soap + baking soda, this one is just so much easier to apply on the surface (rubbing vs. spray) AND it reduces the plastic I go through from the dish soap. All good stuff here.

Final Thoughts

I think if you’re interested in making a switch to more eco-friendly cleaning products, Blueland is the one to try. I don’t really have anything bad to say about the brand and the products. I love how it is definitely ‘better for you and the planet’.

I also love that it’s affordable. Maybe the starting cost isn’t cheap (purchasing the bottles/packaging for the first time), but the refills are relatively inexpensive (starting at $2).

Another important thing to note is that none of their cleaners claim that they kill bacteria (unlike some competitive eco-friendly brands who claim their ability to kill 99% of germs), so I’m still going to be using my disinfectant wipes from time-to-time. Other than that, I’m very happy with my purchase and I’m definitely going to re-order refill tablets for both cleaners.

I’m also looking forward to trying some of their other products. The ones I’m interested in trying next is the Dish Soap, Hand Soap, and Dishwasher Soap. Maybe I’ll write a part 2 review.

xo,
Donna

3 Simple Ways to Start Reducing Food Waste

Food waste is a growing problem in our modern society.

In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30–40 percent of the food supply. In 2017 alone, almost 41 million tons of food waste were generated, with only 6.3% used for composting from landfills and combustion for energy recovery1.

Why You Should Care about Reducing Food Waste:

  • Saves money from buying less food.
  • Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
  • Conserves energy and resources, preventing pollution involved in the growing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling food (not to mention hauling the food waste and then landfilling it).

I know there’s a larger problem at hand than just me and you. I know there’s large corporations and companies that are responsible for a large chunk of food waste in the U.S.. I’m not here to talk about them (not yet anyway). Today, I want to address how you and I can start making a change in our own homes. As the CEO of the company work for always says, “You cannot control what goes on outside these four walls, but you can always control what happens inside.” (…or something like that).

I also know that there’s an overwhelming amount of information out there telling you how to reduce food waste in your home (and here I am adding to the mix with this post), and you may be curious and want to start applying some tips, but you don’t know where to start. Or you may be a creature of habit and hearing about “100 ways to reduce food waste” just seems daunting. I totally get it – which is why I want to share just a handful of tips that have personally helped me make lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes is key here. What I don’t want to happen is that you practice these things and it feels good for now, then forget about it two weeks later when things get inconvenient (yikes, this is what happened to me at first)! You should start to become more conscious about food waste and hopefully these are simple enough tips to get you started.

Image from Milk Means More

3 Simple Ways to Start Reducing Your Food Waste

Meal Plan. This is the biggest tip that has helped me reduce my food waste significantly. By this, I don’t mean that you need to cook for the whole week in 1 day. What I mean by “meal planning” is to think about what meals you will be preparing (or eating out) for the following week (or at least 4-5 days) and then write down a grocery list before going to the store. Also, make sure to check your fridge to see what items you already have so that you can either plan your meal around that or you don’t double purchase.

Below is a photo of my simple meal planning list on a good ol’ sticky note (I don’t eat breakfast (only coffee), which is why I only have lunch & dinner listed). It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re going to eat every single day for every single meal. I find that even just a little bit of planning helps me buy less (grocery store & eating out). Even if I don’t plan on eating a home-cooked meal for a specific day, I still like to write down where I’m going to potentially pick-up food (e.g. Sweetgreen for Thursday lunch) – it puts less stress on me that day. Also, don’t forget to plug in your leftovers when meal planning!

Proper Food Storage. Great. You’ve planned your meals and went to the grocery store without buying anything extra… now what?! How do you keep your groceries fresh for the next week so that you’re not throwing away spoiled food?! Luckily for you, I’ve already done some research. I wrote a post about two years ago on How to Store Herbs, Vegetables, and Fruits to Maximize Freshness (these are more common produce items). For meats, I like to chuck them in the freezer if I’m not going to be cooking them 2-3 days after purchasing. In general, freezing food is the best way to keep them from spoiling until you’re ready to eat them.

Another important thing to learn about food storage is knowing the different “best by”, “sell by”, “use by”, “freeze by” dates on food packaging. Apparently, confusion over these labels accounts for about 20% of food waste in American homes and this equates to about one-third of all food produced in the U.S. being wasted or lost2. Just imagine if you’re walking out of the grocery store with three bags of food… and then you toss one bag straight into the trash can. This is ridiculous and it makes me mad that there are millions of people that are starving everyday and we (the fortunate ones) are throwing away so much food.

Anyway. Most date labels are about quality, not necessarily safety, and leads us to toss away food that’s perfectly safe to eat (of course there are things like infant formula, etc. that have very strict discard dates). For me, the best way to figure out if food has indeed gone bad is checking smell (does it smell like your feet after a running outside on a summer day?), physical signs of mold and discoloring (are your avocados black instead of green? make sure to also check the bottom of glass jars/tupperware for mold!), and texture (are your veggies and deli turkey feeling slimy? or maybe your milk has gone from silky smooth to chunky? toss out that bad boy!).

Pro Tip: If you’re ever unsure of how long different items can be stored in the fridge/freezer, use this FoodKeeper App and/or Is My Food Safe App! Available for both Android and iOS devices. Also, here are 5 easy ways to tell if your food has gone bad.

Keep Track of Your Food Waste. This one is simple. Keep a “food waste journal” and jot down what you toss out each week. This way, you can easily see what you are throwing away on a regular basis so you can reduce or eliminate that item from your shopping list. Maybe it’s half a loaf of bread each week? If you buy fresh bread, perhaps you can ask your bakery if you can purchase half a loaf. Maybe you can make bread crumbs! Or my favorite, make a “pizza toast” – add some chopped tomatoes, herbs, and grated cheese on top of your sliced bread and put it in a toaster oven for a few minutes!

But before tossing out your food, you can also donate what you won’t use! Never going to eat those canned beans or soup? Give it to a food bank! Click here to locate a food bank near you.

Lastly, if you do end up with food waste, please dispose of it properly. If you live in an apartment, I wrote a post on how you can easily compost. Even if you don’t live in an apartment, you can still perhaps learn a thing or two!

I truly hope you learned something! And honestly, even if just one person takes something from this post and starts making a lifestyle, I’ll be happy.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” -George Bernard Shaw

xo,
Donna

1 Source: Food Loss and Waste | FDA
2 Source: To Reduce Food Waste… | NPR

American Elections, Simplified

I know voting and elections are such sexy topics, which is why I want to bring it up again today!

Today’s post won’t be a long guide, but instead I want to share this must-watch, extremely informative, easy-to-follow video by Hasan Minhaj about American Elections.

We’re Doing Elections Wrong | Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj | Netflix

Let me start off by saying that I am SO glad that this message is on Youtube and is freely accessible to everyone in the US. I truly believe that to make a change in your country’s system, you have to learn the history of how it became that way to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.

Secondly, my favorite thing about this video (and really all his other topics) is that he is teaching us about the American two-party election system and why plurality voting (vs majority voting) is the cause of so many issues we have. He touches on “negative partisanship” which simply means that our voting decision tends to swing in the opposite direction of who we HATE, rather than voting for someone who we actually like. For example, Republicans voted for Trump not necessarily because they liked him, but because they hate Democrats more.

So how do we fix this?! Hasan mentions in the video that even if we fix Electoral College, gerrymandering, and campaign finance, it won’t fix the fundamental issue. Instead he discusses a better long-term solution called “ranked-choice voting”. This is where you rank the candidates in order of your preference (essentially what majority-rules voting is), and that this is something we can do RIGHT NOW because all we need is a local law to implement it.

Couple of fun facts from Hasan’s video:
1.
Trump never got a majority of voters. Only 13.5 million Americans voted for him. That’s only 5.5% of all eligible voters!!!
2. There is nothing in our Constitution says that we have to have two parties… but the reason we have this is because the Founding Fathers just copied what the British were doing even though they didn’t want the U.S. to only have two parties.
3. Maine is the first state to implement ranked-choice voting.

Since Texas Primary Runoff Election is July 14th, this is probably going to be my last post about voting until it gets closer to the General November Elections. I will do similar posts about the positions & candidates that are national, state, and local for Harris County/Houston.

If you live in Texas, I hope you got a chance to vote with ease during Early Voting. If not, the last day to vote in the Primaries are July 14th. If you live in another state, I hope you got to vote during your state’s Primaries.

I’ve been enjoying educating myself (and hopefully others) and hope to keep providing relevant, simple-but-accurate information to all.

xo,
Donna

P.S. For those who care to know, I will be voting for Biden in November. I don’t love Biden, but I believe that voting Blue is certainly a step to the right direction. I really miss Bernie.

P.P.S. I mentioned to my friend the other day that I finally understand why people ‘unfollow’ their ex after a breakup and you still have feelings for them – it’s very painful to keep hearing about them and wishing things worked out. This is how I feel about Bernie losing the Democratic vote. He was the one who got away.

Edit 7.15.2020

Hello! Just doing a mini-edit! Below is the link to view the results for the Texas Primary Runoff Election. I believe this is an ongoing live page, so it will keep updating until all results have been counted.

My Favorite Foods in Houston

I looked back at my Lasagna recipe that I posted beginning of the year and it made me do a knee-slapping laugh – I was talking about big things happening in 2020 and it is hilarious to go back and read about it.

You would think during quarantine, I would have posted a million recipes on here with all the extra time I had working from home. Don’t get me wrong – I cooked a lot. If being in quarantine for two months taught me anything, it’s that I realized I don’t love cooking as much as I thought I did.

Well, I still love it, but cooking 5-6 times a week, and sometimes even up to twice a day started to feel like a chore. And then came the worst of it all– those damn dishes. So. many. dishes. This fueled my lack of motivation to take ‘professional’ photos of my cooking process. All I wanted to do was eat at a restaurant, share stories, and laugh with friends. Do I sound like a brat yet?

Which leads me to today’s post – I’m reminiscing and want to highlight all my favorite restaurants & foods in Houston! These are the ones that I dreamed about during quarantine. These are the food and restaurants that I recommend to e v e r y b o d y. These are the ones that make me happy when I’m sad… or just make me happier in general.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to the day when things get back to “normal” and I can once again dine-in at my favorite spots with friends and family.

*Note: photos below are not my own.

*Another Note: this is not a food-critic review post!

My Favorite Foods in Houston

Relish Fried Chicken Bucket | Image from Facebook

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant: Relish Restaurant & Bar
This restaurant has a special place in my heart. Relish Restaurant & Bar is described as a “contemporary classic American comfort food with French and Italian influences” and I think that is very accurate. I could go on and on why I love this place. I have a couple of all-time favorite foods here: Hot Honey Chicken Biscuit (found in their Brunch menu only, which they’re not currently serving), Fried Chicken with Hot Honey (the breading is unbeatable and you can purchase in buckets!), Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes (it is mostly crab meat and not so much stuffing), and Brussels sprouts (roasted with some type of balsamic glaze). Honestly, I don’t think I’ve had a bad item on their menu. Their wine list and cocktails are amazing as well.

Relish is only serving curbside for now, but typically they are counter service for lunch & brunch and seated service for dinner.

Relish, 2810 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Killen’s BBQ | Image from Instagram

Favorite Barbecue Restaurant: Killen’s BBQ
Confession. I did not enjoy eating barbecue until I had Killen’s BBQ. Their Brisket, Beef Ribs, and Pork Ribs are excellent – packed with flavor, tender, and juicy. But my favorite part about this restaurant is their unrivaled sides options.

Contrary to popular belief, I think that execution of side dishes are just as important as the meat when it comes to barbecue. I’ve tried other popular BBQ spots in Houston (…and in Kansas City) – Rudy’s, Goode Company BBQ, Truth BBQ, etc. – it’s not that they don’t have good barbecue, it’s just that their sides are subpar and Killen’s BBQ’s sides are magnificent. My top two favorite sides are the mouth-watering Mac ‘N Cheese (so creamy and cheesy) and Creamed Corn (sweet and creamy but with a hint of spice). Even their desserts are some of my favorites around town – Banana Pudding (very Southern traditional) and Bread Pudding (made with croissant).

Killen’s BBQ is offering both dine-in and takeout service at the moment. If you’ve lived in Houston and haven’t had Killen’s BBQ before, you are missing out. Venture on out there and your taste buds will thank you.

Killen’s BBQ, 3613 E Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77581
Website | Instagram

TacoKeto | Image from Yelp

Favorite Authentic Mexican Street Tacos: TacoKeto
My sister and I first discovered this little food truck during college. We were craving something good… and something greasy. I don’t know how my sister found this place, but I feel lucky to have stumbled upon this eatery. I remember it clearly – we both ordered beef tacos (we had to add cheese) and Mexican coke. It was the most glorious little meal I’ve ever had. The beef tacos were greasy, slightly crunchy, and delicious. The green salsa that came with it was amazing too.

It’s been a while since I’ve visited, but I’m drooling as I’m typing, so I will have to make a trip down I-45 soon.

TacoKeto, 1401 Cullen Blvd, Houston, Texas 77023
Facebook

Favorite Americanized Tacos: Velvet Taco
I know, I know. Some of you are probably shaking your head at me. Americanized Tacos… and a chain?! What can I say – sometimes, it’s done well. In this case, I truly believe that Velvet Taco is not just a copycat Mexican taco restaurant – I think that a good chunk of their menu is unique and you cannot find at other taco places.

My go-to tacos are: Picnic Chicken (rotisserie chicken, avocado crema, warm honey-dijon potato salad, crispy chicken skin) , Nashville Hot Tofu (crispy tofu, napa slaw, ranch crema, house brined pickles), and Spicy Tikka Chicken (crisp tenders, spicy tikka sauce, buttered cilantro basmati rice, raita crema, Thai basil).

Velvet Taco is currently offering dine-in and takeout service.

Velvet Taco, 4819 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007 (preferred Houston location)
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Melange Creperie | Image from Instagram

Favorite Crêpes: Melange Creperie
This was another spot that my sister & I discovered during college that still frequent even now. Melange Creperie was a Parisienne street style creperie stand that started in Montrose (corner of Taft & Westheimer) and now they have their own restaurant in the Heights! The crepes speak for themselves. My favorite is a basic Nutella-Banana crêpe – the actual crepe is thin and crispy and they put just right amount of Nutella. This is one of my go-to comfort foods in Houston.

Melange Creperie is currently taking takeout orders. It’s perfect because their crepes are wrapped “street-style” – you can eat while taking a walk around the neighborhood!

Melange Creperie, 711 Heights Blvd #B, Houston, TX 77007
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Luce Ave | Image from Instagram

Favorite Coffee: Luce Ave
This one was a battle. I contend that great coffee is extremely subjective, but I believe this place exceeds expectations. I had a few runner ups, but ultimately, Luce Ave won. I’m a little picky when it comes to coffee (and espresso drinks) because I have 6+ years of experience working as a barista. I’m not an expert, but I guess know more than the average person. I won’t bore you and get into technicalities, but I love how consistent their drinks are. Their baristas are thorough – from measuring the ground espresso in the portafilter to extracting it with perfect timing. Their espresso drinks are top-notch quality each time.

My go-to drinks are: Cortado (half espresso, half steamed milk), Iced Creamericano (when I have a sweet tooth), and Black Peach Iced Tea (they brew the tea upon order, so it’s fresh each time).

Bonus: Their chocolate chip cookie is amazing and a must-try.

Luce Ave, 3995 Richmond Ave Suite A, Houston, Texas 77027
Website | Facebook | Instagram

State of Grace | Image from Facebook

#1 Favorite Restaurant: State of Grace
State of Grace is a “jubilant medley of old favorites played with new spice, accent, and freshness: southern, American, Latin, Gulf Coast, German, and Asian.”

This restaurant is brilliant, excellent, and amazing from food to service. I’ve eaten here perhaps 182638x over the last couple years and have eaten through their different menus – lunch, Sunday brunch, dinner, and Sunday Supper. I’ve never eaten anything here that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. This is my favorite restaurant for date night, small celebrations, and just-because.

Again, I’ve tried a majority of their dishes but my top recommendations are: Redfish “On the Half Shell” (with ginger and lime vinaigrette, pearl onions – always cooked perfectly – dinner menu only), Chicken Fried Chicken (topped with butter biscuit, sausage gravy, and sunny side-up eggs – brunch menu only), and their Sunday Supper, which is a prix-fixe menu for $29 pp.

Bonus: For Happy Hour, they have $1 oysters (and it’s just not the Gulf oysters )!

State of Grace is currently offering dine-in and takeout service. Kaykay and I ate here last month and felt very, very safe (at least safer than grocery stores).

State of Grace, 3258 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Happy Eating!

You Should Be Composting… in Your Apartment

What the F*ck is Compost and Why Should You Care?

(n.) Compost is decayed organic material used as a fertilizer to help plants grow.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food is the biggest ingredient in American trash. Currently, more than 35% of the average garbage can is filled with kitchen scraps – the ones that should be composted instead of ending up in landfill. When you compost, you help keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas1.

“Wait, hold on. I thought methane was good?” you ponder.

Well, you are partially correct. Let me explain.

Natural gas consists primarily of methane. When methane is produced from non-fossil fuel sources such as food & green waste, it can take the carbon out of the air (which is a good thing!). Methane provides a great environment benefit, producing more heat and light and energy vs. fossil fuel (coal & or gas refined from oil). It also produces significantly less carbon dioxide and pollutants that produce smog and unhealthy air.2 However, when methane is released into the atmosphere before it is burned, it becomes harmful to the environment. Essentially, methane becomes 26 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

(Have you fallen asleep yet?)

Just a few of the many other benefits of compost are:

  • Reduction in garbage volume
  • Provides a rich, natural fertilizer and in turn cuts back on use of chemical fertilizers
  • Improves soil aeration and drainage
  • Helps control weeds
  • Decreases the need for costly watering

You should care simply because of this – the earth is your home and you should take care of it as much as you can.

I’ve known about composting and its benefits for a while (mom always talks about it but you know, 50% of the things she says still goes in one ear and out the other). I never gave it much thought before since I thought it was only possible for people who either a) have a backyard/balcony/patio or b) have a garden. Well, it turns out I was wrong. Maybe I should’ve listened to my mom more.

All I needed to do was stop being L A Z Y and do some research! It is possible for someone like me who lives in a city apartment with no backyard, no patio, and no room to start a garden!

Ways to Compost (in an Apartment)

Today, I will be specifically talking about easy ways to compost if you live in an apartment.

1. Collect & Drop Off

Stainless-Steel Compost Pail, 1-Gal. | Williams Sonoma

If you don’t have a backyard/balcony/patio, this may be the easiest method yet! You can collect your kitchen scraps in a container and take it to a local food-scrap drop-off location!

There are a couple ways you can store kitchen scraps without stinking up your apartment. One is to put them in any container and stick them in your freezer – this method is F R E E! The other way is to purchase a ceramic or stainless-steel compost pail and keep it on your counter if you don’t have room in your fridge. Either way, once your container is full, it’s time to drop it off.

Note: It is important to check the rules for the drop-off location where your taking your scraps!

If you live in Houston, check out this link to see which location is closest to you! If you live in another major city in Texas, check out this link that lists where you can compost. If you live anywhere in a major city in the U.S., you can easily do a Google search (“food-scrap compost drop-off”) or check out your city’s Department of Sanitation’s website.

This method is what I just started to do! It’s easy AND free. Literally the hardest part is driving down the shitty roads of Richmond Ave!

2. Countertop Food Digester | Electric-assist Composter

FoodCycler FC-30

OK – this method LOOKS awesome… and is also a great method for people who have minimal outdoor space. However, this doesn’t necessarily compost your food waste – it just converts it into something that you could immediately put on your patio planters. If you don’t have patio planters, I’m sure your apartment complex has some garden beds that you can take your processed food waste to! One other benefit to using one of these electric-assist composters is that they can process even avocado pits to chicken bones overnight.

I think the only negative thing I see about this is that they are a liiiiitttleee bit pricey ($299.99 USD). If you’re interested, check out this one by FoodCycle. I may actually purchase one soon. If I do, I’ll update this post and let you know how it goes.

There are other methods too…

I can list other methods such as worm composting but since I haven’t done it myself, I don’t feel confident discussing it. I’ve watched YouTube videos of how people are accomplishing this in their apartments. It seems simple enough, but also time consuming and have a lot of requirements e.g. controlled temperature, etc. I eventually DO want to do this but I have more research to do… and maybe when I move somewhere that has at least a patio or balcony. When/if I switch to this method, I’ll be sure to share my worm adventures.

What & What Not to Compost

I know it’s a little confusing on what you can and cannot compost, so here’s a small list of common food/kitchen items:

Compostable

  • Coffee grounds and coffee filters
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Fruit & vegetable craps
  • Nut shells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Tea & tea bags
  • Toothpicks & burnt matches
  • Paper towels (if not soiled with grease/fats or dairy)

Non-Compostable

  • Meat, fish, egg, or poultry scraps
  • Dairy products
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
  • Citrus peels (in worm composts)

Click here to see a longer list of what you can and cannot compost. If you don’t see the item you’re looking for here, just use your best friend Google.

Sources:
1 Composting at Home
2 Methane and the Environment

What’s & Who’s | Texas Primary Runoff Election (Part III)

It is 1:48 AM CST and I am finally ready to publish this post. We have a lot of ground to cover, so grab a bunch of snacks and a mug of coffee before diving in. Apologies in advance for any typos and grammatical or language errors. My English typically suffers as the night goes on. Kaykay typically proofs for me but he’s knocked out and currently snoring like a bear.

Before you read this post, make sure you check out Part I & Part II first.

Today I want to give you information about all the other races/ballots/people in the Texas Primary Runoff Election, in addition to the Senate & Representative candidates I mentioned in my last post. Please note that these candidates are within Harris County, so some of these people may not be in your county’s ballot. If you do not live in Harris County, click here to find out who’s in your county’s ballot. Select Year > Select either July 14th REPUBLICAN or DEMOCRATIC Primary Runoff on the Election drop down > Choose your county > Candidates will automatically populate on the page.

I’ll briefly describe the role of each race/position. I won’t go into detail about the candidates, but I’ll simply list their website, social media accounts, and any other relevant links so that you can do your own research about each role/person.

Side note: Click here to find out who’s currently representing you [where you live]!

OK – Let’s get started.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Race: Railroad Commissioner
One of three seats on the railroad commission is up for re-election. Funny enough, this commission does NOT regulate railroads but instead oversees the oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, and safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry, and surface coal and uranium mining.
Railroad Commissioner Candidates:
– Roberto R. “Beto” Alonzo: Website
– Chrysta Castañeda: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
The winner between these two candidates will be going up against Incumbent Ryan Sitton (R) in November.

Race: State Board of Education, District 6
This board is composed of 15 elected members, each representing one of the state’s 15 education districts. Board members set policies and standards for Texas public schools including setting curriculum standards, reviewing and adopting instructional materials, establishing graduation requirements, overseeing the Texas Permanent School Fund and more.
State Board of Education, District 6 Candidates:
– Michelle Palmer: Website | Facebook | Twitter
– Kimberly McLeod: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
The winner between these two candidates will be going up against Incumbent Donna Bahorich in November. *edit 7.5.2020: Donna Bahorich is not running for reelection. The winner between Palmer and McLeod will go against Will Hickman (Republican) and Whitney Bilyeu (Libertarian).

Race: State Representative for Districts 138, 142, and 148
The Texas House of Representatives is composed of 150 members, elected every two years. State representatives introduce and vote on laws that represents the interest of the people who live in their voting district. They create new laws, modify or update old laws, and more.
Candidates for District 138:
– Akilah Bacy: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
– Jennifer Rene Pool: Facebook
– The winner between these two candidates will be going up against Lacey Hull (R) in November: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Candidates for District 142:
Incumbent Harold V. Dutton Jr: Website | Facebook
– Jerry Davis: Website | Facebook
– One of these two candidates will be going up against Jason Rowe (R) in November: Website | Facebook | Twitter
Candidates for District 148:
Incumbent Anna Eastman: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
– Penny Morales Shaw: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
– The winner between these two candidates will be going up against Luis LaRotta (R) in November: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Race: Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
The Texas Court of Appeals are part of the Texas judicial system. Simply put, the state of Texas is divided into 14 regions, and each court has jurisdiction over cases in its’ area. The 14th Court of Appeals is the “group” that is over the Houston region, and is made up of 9 Justices. Justices are responsible for hearing and reviewing appeals from legal cases that have already been heard in trial-level or other lower courts.
Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7 Candidates:
– Tamika “Tami” Craft: Website | Facebook | Instagram
– Cheri Thomas: Website | Facebook
– The winner between these two candidates will be going up against incumbent Ken Wise (R) in November: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Race: District Judges for 164th and 399th Judicial Districts
Texas District Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdictions in Texas. As of September 2019, there were 450 district courts in Texas (one judge per court)! Most district courts consider both criminal and civil cases but in counties with many courts, each may specialize in civil, criminal, juvenile, or family law matters. Harris County has 60 district courts! District courses have original jurisdiction in felony criminal cases, divorce cases, cases involving title to land, election contest cases, civil matters, etc.
Candidate for 164th Judicial District:
– Cheryl Elliott Thornton: Website
Incumbent Alexandra Smoots-Thomas: Article
– The winner between these two candidates will be going up against Michael Landrum (R) in November: Facebook
Candidate for 339th Judicial District:
– Te’iva Bell: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
– Candance White: Website | Facebook
– The winner between these two candidates will be going up against incumbent Jesse McClure (R) in November: Facebook

Race: County Commissioner, Precinct 3:
The county commissioner is responsible for roads and bridges within their precinct and makes policy-making budget decisions. Additionally, the commissioners court is made up of the county judge and four commissioners. The court is responsible for adopting the county’s budget and tax rate, provides and maintains all county buildings and facilities, and more.
County Commissioner, Precinct 3 Candidates:
– Michael Moore: Website| Facebook | Twitter
– Diana Martinez-Alexander: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
– The winner between these two will be going up against incumbent Tom Ramsey (R) in November: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Race: County Constable for Precincts 2, 3, and 5
A county constable serves as a licensed peace officer and performs various law enforcement functions, including issuing traffic citations, serving warrants and civil papers such as temporary restraining orders, and serves as a bailiff for Justice of the Peace Court.
Candidates for County Constable Precinct 2:
Incumbent Christopher Diaz: Website | Facebook
– Jerry Garcia: Website | Facebook
– The winner between these two will be going up against Daniel Vela (R) in November
Candidates for County Constable Precinct 3:
Incumbent Sherman Eagleton: Information
– Ken Jones: Facebook
– The winner between these two will be going up against Andre Hines (R) in November: Website | Facebook
Candidates for County Constable Precinct 5:
– Randy Newman: Website
– Mark Alan Harrison: Website | Facebook | Instagram
– The winner between these two will be going up against incumbent Ted Heap (R) in November: Information | Facebook

REPUBLICAN PARTY

Race: Court of Appeals, Place 5
The Texas Court of Appeals are part of the Texas judicial system. Simply put, the state of Texas is divided into 14 regions, and each court has jurisdiction over cases in its’ area. The 14th Court of Appeals is the “group” that is over the Houston region, and is made up of 9 Justices. Justices are responsible for hearing and reviewing appeals from legal cases that have already been heard in trial-level or other lower courts.
Candidates for Court of Appeals, Place 5:
– Terry Adams: Website | Facebook
– James Lombardino: Facebook
– The winner between these two will be going up against Amparo Guerra (D) in November: Website | Facebook

Race: Sheriff
The duties of a Texas sheriff generally include keeping the county jail, providing bailiffs for the county and district courts within his county and serving process issued by said courts, and providing general law enforcement services to residents.
Candidates for Sheriff:
– Paul Day: Website | Facebook
– Joe Danna: Website | Facebook | Twitter
– The winner between these two will be going up against incumbent Ed Gonzalez (D) in November: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Race: Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5, Place 1
The Justice of the Peace oversees the justice court in cases involving misdemeanors, small civil dispites, landlord/tenant disputes, and more! They also conduct inquests and may perform marriage ceremonies.
Candidates for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5, Place 1:
Incumbent Russ Ridgway: Website
– Mike Wolfe: Information
– The winner between these two will be going up against Israel Garcia (D) in November: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

….and that’s a wrap! Now it’s your turn to do some reading. Go research all the people [in your party]! Put your social media stalking skills to work and do some digging and find out what they’re really about. Google their names – read the articles that they’ve featured in, read their past interviews, etc. Research the incumbents – go find out what laws and bills and actions they’ve made in the past that have impacted your community positively or negatively.

If you live in Harris County, early voting is coming up from June 29th – July 2nd and July 5th – July 10th! I know it may seem scary right now since Covid cases are significantly rising, but I hope that doesn’t stop you from voting [very safely]. If you do vote, please wear a mask and stay 6 ft. away from others. If you are [feeling] sick, please do not leave your house! I’ll be going next week to an early voting polling location – perhaps I’ll do a quick update on my experience (good or bad).

Until next time!

P.S. I promise I’ll start posting food-related stuff again!

Source, Source, Source

What’s & Who’s – U.S. Senate & U.S. Representative | Texas Primary Runoff Election (Part II)

Alright. It took me longer than I thought to research this information. But as promised, this post is about the positions & candidates in the Texas Primary Runoff Election for Harris County on July 14, 2020 – particularly, the U.S. Senate and U.S. Representative.

I tried to be as unbiased as possible – most of the information here were pulled from each candidate’s website and/or a non-partisan source. I am here to inform you, not necessarily persuade you on who to vote for. Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate. It’s also okay to disagree with some views of your top candidate(s) – just like how you and your best friend don’t agree on everything. I want to encourage you to do your own research on these candidates and vote for whoever is the best choice for your own beliefs and priorities.

Remember, if you voted in the March 3, 2020 Primary, you may only vote in the Runoff Election of the same party. If you did not vote in the March 3, 2020 Primary, you may vote in the runoff of the party of your choice.

We often hear about Congress on the news – “Congress blocked X bill!” or “Approval rating of Congress sucks!” – but what is Congress, exactly?

The U.S. Congress is made up of two parts – the Senate and House of Representatives. That means there are two types of Congressmen, Senators and Representatives. A new law (bill) could be authored by either, but in order for a law (bill) to pass, it has to be passed by both the Senate and House. I’ll go into detail about each role below.

U.S. SENATE

There are 100 Senators in the U.S. (two from each state). Senators are part of the legislative branch of the government and are responsible for writing and voting on new laws (bills). They are also responsible for approving or rejecting some actions taken by the president including treaties, job appointments, cabinet officers, supreme court justices, and ambassadors.

We (the citizens) are constituents of the Senator. They should be taking phone calls, e-mails, and letters from citizens they represent to inform their decisions. They are in Congress to represent OUR views when writing and voting on new laws. Their main responsibility is to represent US and OUR VIEWS.

Senators are up for reelection every 6 years. The current Senators in Texas are Ted Cruz (who won reelection in 2018) and John Cornyn, whose seat is up for reelection in November 2020.

John Cornyn has been a U.S. Senator for Texas since 2002, representing the Republican Party. Some of his key votes1 are:

  • Voted to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother in the 114th Congress.
  • Voted to defund Planned Parenthood Federation of America (S.1881 and H.R.3762) in the 114th Congress.
  • Supported an amendment to ensure that federal funds aren’t used to purchase health care plans on the Obamacare exchanges that cover abortions.
  • Voted to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant program in the 113th Congress.  

To find out more about his political views, click here.

The two Democratic candidates who are running for U.S. Senator for Texas are Mary “MJ” Hegar and Royce West. Whoever wins in the Texas Primary Runoff Election on July 14th (must receive more than 50% of votes) will be the one to face against John Cornyn in November Elections. If you’re voting in the Democratic Party, you will chose between these two candidates for U.S. Senate. If you’re voting in the Republican Party, you will not get a chance to vote for these candidates.

Mary “MJ” Hegar is a combat veteran, working mom, and a Texan. She believes in creating a public option to make Medicare available for all those who want it and is opposed to those who want to privatize, dismantle, or undercut Medicare. She supports Roe vs. Wade and believes politicians should not be able to legislate a woman’s most intimate decisions. At the same time, she believes in providing support for women and increasing access to sex education, affordable OTC contraception, and cost-effective childcare. Regarding current events, Mary supports police reform solutions detailed in Campaign Zero, including ending for-profit policing practices. To learn more about Mary Hegar and her views on issues, click here. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

Royce West is currently a member of the Texas State Senate (not U.S. Senate), representing District 23 (Dallas County). One of his top priorities in investing in K-12 education. For over 30 years, his position on fun reform has been clear – in the 1990’s, he wrote laws on both universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. Royce is also a proponent of $15 federal minimum wage and has fought for legislation to raise the minimum wage in Texas. To learn more about Royce West and his views on issues, click here. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

*edit 6.29.2020: These Democratic candidates are statewide, not only for Harris County.

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

The number of U.S. House of Representatives in each state is determined by its population – the more people that live in the state, the more Representatives there are. The total number of U.S. House of Representatives is 435 (Texas has 36).

House of Representatives is sometimes called “the People’s House” – that is because the U.S. Constitution sets few restrictions on who can run for a U.S. Representative! They can be as young as 25, can be rich or poor, belong to any religion, and while most members are born in the U.S., more than 300 members have been immigrants.

U.S. Representatives hold hearings, develop policies, and vote on federal laws. They investigate suspected wrongdoing by people in office and can bring charges against them. U.S. Representatives serve on committees – agriculture, homeland security, budget, foreign affairs, and many more. Representatives must serve in 2 committees, in which they become subject matter experts. The committees closely examine laws (bills) before they get voted on by the rest of Congress to become federal law. One of the most important things they are in charge of is the ability to tax and spend public money for the national government. Like a U.S. Senator, they are also responsible for listening to their citizens (YOU AND ME) to represent their views.

U.S. Representative represent the people who live in part of their state, called a district, and are up for reelection every 2 years.

In the Democratic Party Election, U.S. Representative District 10 (stretches from Austin to Houston) is up for reelection. In the Republican Party Election, U.S. Representatives District 18 (includes part of Harris County) and District 22 (includes parts of Fort Bend, Harris, and Brazoria counties) are up for reelection.

The current U.S. Representative District 10 is Michael McCaul of the Republican Party.
Michael McCaul is currently serving his 8th term as a U.S. Representative. He is devoutly pro-traditional marriage, and voted NO on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, on four weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees, and on Impeaching Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors, Article I & II. To read about all his votes, click here. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

The two Democratic candidates who are running for U.S. Representative District 10 are Mike Siegel and Pritesh Gandhi. Whoever wins in the Texas Primary Runoff Election on July 14th (must receive more than 50% of votes) will be the one to face against Michael McCaul in November Elections. If you’re voting in the Democratic Party, you will chose between these two candidates for U.S. Representative District 10. If you’re voting in the Republican Party, you will not get a chance to vote for these candidates.

Mike Siegel is a civil rights lawyer and a former public school teacher running for Congress. He believes that our current economy and political system is not working for most Americans. Huge corporations use their money and influence to rig the game to their own advantage. Mike believes that we need a movement to build a stronger America. To learn more about Mike Siegel and his views on political issues, click here. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

Pritesh Gandhi is a father, husband, primary care doctor, and community advocate. Pritesh supports in the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 as well as shifting social welfare responsibilities of police officers, abide by progressive community policing strategies to rebuild trust between police officers, end retrograde practices like quota-driven and stop-and-frisk policing, etc. He also supports universal background checks when purchasing firearm and banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. To learn more about Pritesh Gandhi and his views on political issues, click here. (Facebook, Instagram).

The current U.S. Representative District 18 is Sheila Jackson Lee of the Democratic Party.
Sheila Jackson Lee is serving her 11th term as a U.S. Representative. Her priorities are fighting for healthcare and the environment as well as work to expand affordable housing for families, young people, and the homeless. Sheila has voted NO on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman, on banning gay adoptions, on more persecution and sentencing for juvenile crime. She has voted YES on expanding services for offenders’ re-entry into society, $40B for green public schools, and on Impeaching Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors, Article I & II. To learn more about Sheila’s votes, click here. (Facebook, Twitter)

The two Republican candidates who are running for U.S. Representative District 18 are Robert M. Cadena and Wendell Champion. Whoever wins in the Texas Primary Runoff Election on July 14th (must receive more than 50% of votes) will be the one to face against Sheila Jackson Lee in November Elections. If you’re voting in the Republican Party, you will chose between these two candidates for U.S. Representative District 18. If you’re voting in the Democratic Party, you will not get a chance to vote for these candidates.

Robert M. Cadena is the current President for Harris County MUD 150 Board of Directors and has served as a Grand Juror for Harris County. He believes that healthcare, illegal immigration, and protecting our constitutional rights are the three most important issues and he supports penalizing states or cities who provide sanctuary for legal immigrants. To learn more about Robert and his views on political issues, click here. (Facebook, Twitter)

Wendell Champion served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves for over five years and was honorably discharged after earning the rank of U.S. Army Captain. His focus is on infrastructure that provides, safer, secure neighborhoods with emphasis on decreasing flooding and disaster relief. Introduce and support development of dedicated resources to promote education, job skills training and career opportunities. Promote industry development to create higher paying and accessible local jobs. Require accountability for proper use and spending of tax dollars. To learn more about Wendell and his views on political issues, click here. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

The current U.S. Representative District 22 is Pete Olson of the Republican Party.
Pete Olson is a former Navy pilot and. Some of his recent and past votes include YES on banning federal health coverage that includes abortion, federal funding to groups like Planned Parenthood, terminating the Home Affordable Mortgage Program, barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. He has voted NO on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation, on $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending in 2009, and on Impeaching Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors, Article I & II. To read about all his votes, click here. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

The two Republican candidates who are running for U.S. Representative District 22 are Troy Nehls and Kathaleen Wall. Whoever wins in the Texas Primary Runoff Election on July 14th (must receive more than 50% of votes) will be the one to face against Pete Olson in November Elections. If you’re voting in the Republican Party, you will chose between these two candidates for U.S. Representative District 22. If you’re voting in the Democratic Party, you will not get a chance to vote for these candidates.

Troy Nehls served the U.S. Army for 21 years and has spent the last two decades serving Fort Bend County in various law enforcement roles. Troy stands with President Trump to build the wall, deliver his America First agenda, drain the swamp, and Keep America Great. To learn more about Troy and his views on political issues, click here. (Facebook, Twitter)

Kathaleen Wall works to be the leader that President Trump needs, someone who will fight alongside him to defend conservative values, stop illegal immigration, and build the wall. To learn more about Kathaleen and her views on political issues, click here. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

*edit 6.29.2020: The candidates mentioned above in both Democratic and Republican party are in the Harris County-only election.

Coming Next

In the next post, I’ll go over the remaining positions & candidates who are also part of the Texas Primary Runoff Election. I won’t go into so much detail as I did for this, so it will be easier to read!

Source, 1 Source,

Texas Primary Runoff Election 2020 (Part I)

Introduction

Hello! My name is Donna. I’m just your regular, 28-year-old gal who believes that as U.S. citizens, we should exercise our right to vote for our local, state, and national government officials and judicial system! I know this is my food/recipe blog and has nothing to do with politics, but hey, this is my blog after all and I will be posting whatever I want!

As an immigrant who became a permanent resident and eventually a U.S. citizen in 2014, I am empowered knowing that I can bring positive changes to my community by exercising my voting rights – I want you to experience that feeling too!

As a voter, you have the power to decide on the quality of life that you want for yourself and future generations. Your voice matters. Voting is a chance to stand up for the issues you care about! Voting gives us the chance to support candidates and propositions that can help our community, state, and even the entire country. I am hoping that you will want to make your voice heard in these elections and make the decision to vote for yourself and those around you.

You may be wondering why I’ve decided to put this information together – I have an answer for you! When I became a U.S. citizen and a major election day came (Texas Senator), I was genuinely confused about the process – from the logistics of registering to actually voting. I recall standing  in front of the electronic kiosk getting ready to make a selection – I thought I was only voting for 1 person and was surprised to find a long list of candidates spanning multiple pages  running for City Council, Judges, as well as propositions for future funding, etc. I ended up skipping those and missed an opportunity to vote for someone other than a Senator.

Yes, you can just Google everything or go to vote.org to find information. However, I find that doing so will give you either TOO much information or they use such formal language that may be difficult to understand exactly  how to vote, what & who you are voting for, why you are voting, and when to vote. In short, it is hard to decipher the relevant information and at the end of it all, you may be too overwhelmed to vote.

So I’m putting this information together for new voters or if you’ve voted before, and have found yourself in a similar predicament where you are unsure of who you’re voting for in the Texas Primary Runoff Election. My goal is to simplify the process so that hopefully you are better equipped during this upcoming election cycle and future elections!

A few disclaimers before you start diving in:

  • For each topic below, I sourced information/answers from official state websites such as vote.org, vote411.org, votetexas.gov, sos.texas.gov/elections, etc.
  • Since I live in Houston, TX, the majority of the information below is specific to Houston/Harris County or the State of Texas. I include links on how to find information about other states’ election where I can.
  • If I list out a how-to method for the topics below (e.g. how to register), it does not mean it’s the ONLY way – I’ve listed out what I believe would be the easiest way to accomplish those tasks.
  • I do not work for the government and I do not know everything about politics/elections, but I’ve done countless of hours of research and made sure, to the best of my ability, that the information I’ve provided below is as accurate as possible. If I misspoke, please let me know and I’ll make sure to fix the error.
  • With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, dates and methods of voting may change. I will make sure to update this document as often as I can with the most up-to-date information (LAST UPDATED JUNE 4, 2020).  

General Information // Q&A

There are countless of questions when it comes to voting. Below are the handpicked questions that I hear of the most often from friends & family, or the question that I find myself asking almost every election I’ve participated in.

Q: Why are we having a Texas Primary Runoff election on July 14th?
A: On March 3rd, Texas had its regular Primary Election, however, no candidate received more than 50% of our votes. The run-off election candidates are the ones who came in first and second. The purpose of the primary [runoff] election is to finalize which candidates will be on the ballot for the general election in November.

did you know: If you voted in the March 3, 2020 Primary, you can only vote in the runoff election of the same party (Democrat or Republican).

Q: When is Texas Primary Runoff election?
A: Early Voting is between June 29th – July 10th, 2020 | Main election day for Texas Primary Runoff is on July 14th, 2020

Q: How can I vote?
A: In-person via Early Voting:

  • June 29th – July 2nd @ 7am – 7pm
  • July 5th @ 10am – 7pm
  • July 6th – July 10th @ 7am – 7pm.

– In-person via Election Day: Tuesday, July 14, 2020
– Ballot by mail: details at the end of this document*

Q: Can I do Early Voting?
A: Yes, you may! Any registered voter may vote early in person. But of course, you must vote in your county of registration.

Q: I’m not sure if I’m registered to vote. How do I check?
A: Go to this website! It takes 30 seconds!

  • For Texas: If you don’t remember if you’re registered, you most likely don’t remember your voter ID. You can use your TDL # (Texas Drivers License) & Date of Birth to “login”. If you’re registered, this will lead you to a page where you can see your Voter Information – your voter status (active, etc.), county (Harris, Fort Bend, etc.), and your VUID #, and much more!  https://teamrv-mvp.sos.texas.gov/MVP/mvp.do
  • For Other States: https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/

Q; It turns out I’m not registered to vote. Is it too late to register?
A: For Primary runoff election, your deadline to register is June 15th! Deadlines for November General Election differs per state… so hurry up and click here to register – it takes two seconds! For Texas, our deadline is October 5, 2020. You can also register by mail. You will have to request a postage-paid application by filling out this form and it will be mailed to you.

(There are Vietnamese & Chinese voter registration applications available for Harris County Residents only. These must be mailed in a stamped envelope).

For the rest of USA, find out how to register in your county/state by clicking here.

Q: Alright, I’m registered and ready to vote! Where do I go to vote?
A: If you live in Harris County (where I’m assuming most the people who follow me do), you can find polling locations using this website (this may not be ‘live’ yet until closer to Early Voting date). I am not sure about other counties in Houston, but please note that in Harris County there are different locations for Early Voting vs. Election Day. Please pay attention when you make this selection on the website.

If you live in Texas, you can use the same link where you checked your registration to find polling locations. After logging in, you will see a box that will be populated with links such as voting sites, a few days before early voting begins.

Q: I’m registered to vote, but I recently moved within the past year. What do I do?
A: If you moved within the same county, you may submit the “in county” change online by clicking here. The last day to make a change of address for the July 14th Primary Runoff Election is June 15, 2020. If you moved to a new county, you must re-register in your new county of residence by June 15th, to be eligible to vote in the July 14th Primary Runoff Election.

Q: Do I need to bring my voter certificate card/ID? Will I be able to vote without it?
A: No, you do not need it to vote. However, if you do not have a valid form of photo ID, your voter registration form can work as an ID!

Q: Oops, my acceptable form of photo ID is expired… can I still vote?
A: If you are between the age 18-69, your photo ID cannot be expired for more than 4 years when you’re at the polling place. For ages 70+, it can be expired for any length of time.

Q: Does the address on my acceptable form of photo ID have to match the address on my registration?
A: Nope! There is no address matching requirement!

Other Very Important Facts That You May Not Know

  • If you voted Democrat/Republican in the Primary or Runoff, you are not obligated to vote for that party’s candidates in the November General Election! You can vote for any candidate in the ballot!
  • We are lucky in Texas because most Judges are elected by its residents! The fact that we get to participate in judicial races means that this is one of the most important things we can do as a Texas voter! Judges make decisions about fundamental issues that affect all of us – family life, education, healthcare, housing, employment, finances, DISCRIMINATION, CIVIL RIGHTS, public safety, and government actions. These decisions can have long-lasting impact on individuals, groups, and the public. It is critical that we vote for judges who can make fair decisions based upon open-minded and unbiased consideration of the facts and the law in each case.
  • You are required to show an approved form of photo ID. However, if you do not have and cannot reasonably obtain one of these IDs, you can bring one of the supporting documents to the polling place. The officials should help you complete a form and you’ll be able to vote:
    • Valid Voter Registration Certificate
    • Certified Birth Certificate (must be original)
    • Copy of original Bank Statement
    • Copy of or original Government check or paycheck
    • Copy of or original current Utility Bill
    • Copy of or original government document with your name and an address (original required if it contains a photograph)

Coming Next

For the next update, I’ll be tackling the most exciting part of voting – the Primary Runoff Election candidates! I know this is a lot of information so far, so hang with me! I will be going over all the positions we are voting for and the runoff candidates for each position, Democrat & Republican. Since most of my friends who will be reading are most likely in Harris County, I will be going over positions and candidates who are part of the Harris County election.

Ballot by Mail*

Voters may cast mail ballots if they are at least 65 years old, if they will be out of Harris County during the Early Voting period and on Election Day, if they are sick or disabled or if they are incarcerated but eligible to vote. Mail ballots may be requested by visiting harrisvotes.com or by phoning 713-755-6965. You can also download the mail ballot application here. A signed paper copy of your ballot by mail request must be received no later than Thursday, July 2, 2020. Requests received by fax or email will not be honored. The last day to receive ballot by mail is—

  • Tuesday, July 14, 2020 (Election Day) at 7:00 p.m. if carrier envelope is not postmarked OR
  • Wednesday, July 15, 2020 (next business day after Election Day) at 5:00 p.m. if carrier envelope is postmarked by 7:00 p.m. at the location of the election on Election Day (unless overseas or military voter deadlines apply)*

How to Store Herbs, Vegetables, and Fruits to Maximize Freshness

Happy New-ish Year!

After a 3-month long hiatus (after the holiday craze), I am back!

It didn’t mean I stopped cooking! In fact, I’ve probably cooked more meals in the past 2 months than I usually do. I often get discouraged from taking photos of my home cooked meals because 1) my kitchen is tiny so I lack space to set up and 2) food styling can get a bit too much especially when I just want to eat my food right away! I know, I know, both are feeble excuses and I promise I will try harder this year. However, today’s post is not a recipe! Instead, I’d like to share my tips on how to store herbs, vegetables, and fruits in your home to maximize freshness after your trip to the grocery store.

One of the things I hate about cooking is how much produce I waste.  For example, if a recipe calls for 2 basil leaves, you cannot purchase TWO basil leaves at the grocery store. Instead, they come in a bunch and you don’t know what to do with the rest except hope that you’ll find use for it the next day or watch it wither and die. This is also why it’s discouraging to eat more veggies at home. By the time I’m ready to cook them, they’ve gone bad. It’s easy to say, “Just grow your own produce so you only pluck as much as you need to!” Trust me, I would very much like that, but I lack the space to do so. Maybe I just need to try harder next time.

To try and reduce food waste, I’ve gone through a series of trial and error to find the best ways to keep common produce fresh as long as possible. I know these things can easily be Googled, but I’ve found that multiple websites can tell you conflicting instructions, so it’s a bit overwhelming. I’ve narrowed it down for you. I also know there’s a lot of science behind these methods – mix of moisture vs. oxygen vs. sunlight – but I’m not going to go into that (boring!). Just trust me.

(Keep in mind that these are not new, revolutionary methods. This is just what has worked for me based on experience!! If you truly believe that singing to your herbs at 6am every morning helps them stay fresh, then keep on doing it!!!)

HERBS

Basil: My patience is about as short as a basil’s lifespan when it’s been plucked from the plant. It’s non-existent. There’s a couple of tricks for this. 1) Trim off about 1/2-inch off the ends and place them in a jar of water, about 1 inch, just like you would with fresh flowers. Loosely cover it with a plastic bag (I usually use produce bags from the grocery store) and leave it on your counter. I’ve found that room temperature is basil’s best friend and oppositely, the cold air in the fridge can make them wilt faster. This method can usually prolong basil’s life for 4-5 days. I like this method if I know I’m going to use basil on Monday and then again on Friday for a different dish. With this method, I find that replacing the water every 2 days can help maintain its freshness. 2) If you accidentally bought a whole basil plant, but got home and decided that you’re too lazy to take care of it, you can actually freeze the leaves so you don’t have to use it all at once or throw it away. First, pluck the leaves from the stem and blanch* for 2 seconds (YES, 2 SECONDS ONLY). Then completely dry the leaves and store in a freezer-safe container, separating the layers with parchment paper.

Mint: Similar to basil, trim off the ends of the stem and place in a jar with 1 inch of water. Loosely cover it with a plastic bag, but store it in the fridge, not your counter. Change the water every 2 days (or when water becomes cloudy) to maintain freshness. This keeps mint leaves fresh for about 7-10 days. You can tell it’s gone bad when the leaves have become discolored.

Parsley, Cilantro: Exact same method as mint (trim ends, put in a jar of water, cover loosely, keep in fridge), but add more water to the jar. Change the water every 2-3 days. Keep trimming the ends if they get a bit slimy. This method keeps the leaves fresh for about 7-10 days. You can tell they have gone bad when the leaves become discolored.

Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Oregano: These guys can last a while already without much care, but there’s 2 ways to keep them even longer!! 1) Place them in a small jar of water, about 2 inches and leave on your counter top, no cover. Replace the water when it gets cloudy. This prolongs their life for about 4-6 days. Thyme will last longer. 2) To keep them even longer, loosely wrap the sprigs in a slightly damp cloth towel and then again in a plastic storage bag or airtight container. Be careful not to wrap the sprigs too tightly because trapped moisture makes it easier for mold to grow. This prolongs their life for about 2 weeks. Method 2 is my favorite way to store these herbs.

*Blanching is a cooking process wherein a food, usually a vegetable or fruit, is scalded in boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water to halt the cooking process. -definition stolen from Google

VEGETABLES & FRUITS

This section is more about proper storage and how long it lasts i.e. do I put it in the fridge or leave it on my counter top? Should I hop around it for 10 seconds and clap my hands twice?

Bell Peppers, Cucumbers, Eggplants: Fridge, 5-7 days

Onions: Counter top, 1-2 months if whole. Fridge, 5 days if cut & peeled & stored in an airtight container

Avocados: Fridge, 3-5 days. However, if you’re storing half an avocado, I’ve found that placing it in the same, air-tight container as a cut onion can help slow it down from turning brown. Also, I’ve found the problem with buying avocados is that they are always too unripe (reminds me of dragon eggs) or it’s too mushy. If it’s too unripe, the faster way to ripen them is to store them in a brown paper bag until soft. Pro Tip: when picking avocados in the grocery store, pull back the stem on the end of an avocado to check the ripeness. If it’s green underneath, it’s ripe. If it’s too brown, it’s overripe. If the stem doesn’t come off easily, with just a slight pull, it’s unripe.

Apples: Fridge, 3 weeks

Mangoes: Counter top, 1 week. They shouldn’t be refrigerated until they’re ripe, but putting them in the fridge when they are ripe can help them prevent from getting too ripe.

Grapefruit, Oranges: Fridge, 2-3 weeks. Counter top, 1 week

Lemons & Limes: Fridge, 3 weeks. Counter top, 3-5 days depending on how ripe they are

Potatoes: Counter top, a lifetime. Just kidding, they can last about 3-4 weeks. These are best stored in a dark, cool place. When your potatoes start to sprout, this means that nutrients are leaving the potatoes. To prevent from sprouting, keep them in a brown paper bag. If your potatoes have sprouted, don’t throw them away just yet! If you have a garden (or access to one), click here to learn how to grow a potato from a potato.

Asparagus, Scallions: Store in a jar with about 2 inches of water. Don’t trim the ends/roots. Loosely cover with plastic bag. Store upright in fridge for 7 days.

Garlic: Counter top, 2 months

Ginger: Fridge, 3 weeks. You can also freeze these to make it last for MONTHS. This is awesome because you don’t need to thaw it out before grating. My best tip is to just buy ground ginger. I have seen no difference in taste in recipes when I’ve substituted ground ginger for the real ginger. I would say that the equivalent is 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger to every tablespoon of freshly grated ginger the recipe calls for.

Arugula: Wash & dry thoroughly. Wrap the leaves in a cloth towel and place them in a plastic bag with holes and store in the fridge. This will keep them fresh for about 7 days.

Carrots: Wrap in damp cloth towel and place in an airtight container. If you buy carrots with the tops, cut it off first. Store in fridge, 7 days.

Celery: Keep it whole! Wrap the whole thing with foil (not too loose, not too tight) and store in the fridge, 7-10 days.

Tomatoes: I recommend counter top for 1-2 weeks. Not sure if there’s any science behind this but in my experience but I’ve found that although tomatoes keep longer when refrigerated, they lose their flavor.

OTHER FUN FACTS

Did you Know? When other fruits are next to bananas, they ripen faster. This is because Bananas release a gas called ethene/ethylene. This gas breaks down the cell walls of fruits (starches converting to sugars) thus causing them to ripen & soften. There are some fruits like oranges that doesn’t ripen next to ethene, but there are a lot that do (avocados, peaches, apples, tomatoes)!

To Wash or Not Wash?: I think there’s a lot of argument about whether or not to wash veggies & herbs before storing (something about the bacteria on the leaves helping it last longer). From my experience, I think that you can certainly wash certain vegetables before storing, but make sure to dry them well after washing. I’ve found that doing this doesn’t necessarily shorten the life of the vegetable or herb.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope that helps out someone. I promise my next post will be a recipe post!

Cheers,
Donna

Favorite Kitchen Tools

Today I’d like to share my favorite kitchen tools!

I know this might seem silly, but I think that having the right tools in the kitchen makes a difference in your mood when cooking. By mood, I mean that I used to get so grumpy every time a recipe says “zest of a lemon” because I hated using my large cheese grater to zest a tiny lemon. While it does essentially the same job, switching to a microplane changed my life. Before I start rambling, my point is that having the right tools in your kitchen can make a difference in the ease of cooking. I use these items almost every single time I cook/bake. When I’m working in someone else’s kitchen, I feel like one of my arms are cut off if I don’t have these on hand. In no particular order, here are my favorite kitchen friends:

Microplane, $12.95, Amazon:

Microplane

This little guy surprised me. I didn’t know I needed him in my life until he came along. Now I don’t know what I’d do without him. Really, the biggest difference between a regular grater and a microplane is that microplanes shave much more finely and have better consistency than a grater. As I mentioned above, this guy save my citrus-zesting game. When I first used this, it increased the flavor & efficiency in my cooking. While I mostly use it for lemon/lime zest, I also use this for: hard cheeses (Parmesan), fresh ginger, fresh nutmeg (when I make apple pie!), and garlic. It can also be used for other things like chocolate shavings, coconut shavings, etc.

OXO 2oz Mini Angled Measuring Cup, $4.99, Bed Bath & Beyond

OXO Measuring Cup

Alright, this measuring cup is the unicorn of all measuring cups. This exact one is hard to find (I found mine at my local liquor store. I own 3 of these). Yes, it’s only 2oz (1/4 cup). Yes, it looks like a normal measuring cup, but it’s not! It measures tablespoons on one side, ounces on the other, and mL on one side too. The calibrations are printed on the cup’s sides (as usual) AND it’s printed inside the cup that’s angled so it can be read from above. It means that you don’t have to bend down or hold it up to determine how much liquid it contains. (It’s the little things, guys). I love this because it measures small volumes of liquid very accurately since most 1-cup measuring cups won’t give you the markings for less than 1/4 cup. While this is plastic, it’s very durable. I hand wash it for the most part, but I run it through the dishwasher anytime I use it for oily liquids. This is definitely my most-used kitchen tool.

KitchenAid 3.5 Cup Food Chopper, $39.99, Target

Food processor

I honestly don’t know what my life was like before I got this food processor. How did I mince garlic? How did I chop basil? How did I make corn flake crumbs? How did I make salad dressing? This food processor is the Kristin Chenoweth of kitchen tools – she’s tiny but her voice is so damn powerful. This will be your new best friend if you hate chopping things like basil, cilantro, garlic, and other veggies. You can also use this to puree vegetables. It’s perfect for those who have a small kitchen like myself! This is SUPER easy to take apart, wash, and put back together (I’m literally laughing out loud because I’m reading reviews/comments on how people are like “it’s too many things to snap together!!!” because the whole thing is only 5 pieces).

Citrus juicer, $4.99, Amazon

Citrus Juicer

These are a game changer when you need fresh lime & lemon juice. There’s not much to say about this except that you need one. My advice is that you need a heavy duty one, not a plastic one. I don’t suggest buying it online – go to the store and feel the weight. Also, there’s a lot of fancy versions of a handheld juicer that are super expensive. You probably don’t need that one, so save your money and get the most simple, heavy duty one!

Silpat Baking Sheet, $28.99, Amazon

Silpat

These silicone sheets are so exciting!! They are thin, flexible mats that can be used instead of parchment paper when baking. Cookies and pastries come off without tearing because of its nonstick surface, and it makes cleaning up so easy! I also place these on my counter when I’m kneading or rolling out dough. Just make sure you order the right size for your baking sheet!

KitchenAid KSM150 Artisan Series Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, $299.99, Best Buy

Stand Mixer

Every time I use my stand mixer, I can’t help but sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” because it really is just too good to be true. Before I finally caved in and bought one, I was using a handheld electric mixer. It was very messy. I do not miss it. But this stand mixer works magic. Even Dumbledore won’t be able knead dough like this guy with the Elder Wand. If baking is your hobby, you need a stand mixer. The one I have is a 4.5 quart, the tilt-head makes it easy for you to add ingredients, it comes with 3 beater attachments, and it’s yellow! There are a bunch of different kinds of stand mixers in the market, so if you are interested in getting one, do your research on which one will work best for your needs. I’m not a heavy baker so I don’t need the super fancy one. One last note: I suggest purchasing it from Target or Best Buy since they often put these stand mixers on sale. I purchased mine from Best Buy because you can get 10% cash back or finance it without interest with a credit card.

8-inch Knife, $30.00, Amazon

Knife

Having a good knife is essential to cooking. This one is my favorite. Oooo it slices, dices, and chops soooo good. It’s relatively inexpensive too. I know that there are $200 knives out there, but my eyes are set on this one. The important thing to know about knives is how to take care of them. Make sure you clean it immediately after use and dry it right after washing.

Food Thermometer, $9.99, Amazon

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My favorite for measuring temperature the doneness of meat and hotness of oil. This is an important tool to have!

Digital Food Scale, $10.85, Amazon

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Doesn’t really matter which brand of digital scale you get. All that matters is that you get one that measures both ounces and grams! My favorite use for the digital scale is for baking. I used to use cups/teaspoons measurements for baking until a good friend gave me very great advice and said weighing dry ingredients (flour, sugar, etc.) is more accurate and always yields better results. He told no lies. I found that my dough is always more consistent when I measured weight vs using cups/teaspoons. He is a fairy godmother.

Anyway, I think that’s all for today. I hope you like this post. I know it’s a little weird to talk about kitchen tools, but having the right ones is something I feel strongly about.

Until next time,

DLJ