who gives a crap?

i give a crap.

about our planet, about my impact on it and what i can do to reduce the negative impact of my life, habits and choices. i even think about what and how much toilet paper i’m using.

i’m a firm believer of the ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow’ toilet flushing practice. i’m also a firm believer of using the least amount of toilet paper possible to get the job done (3 squares, in case you were wondering!).

i have a thing about pipes and plumbing. part of this is just curiosity about where things go when you flush. and part of this is that in my previous job at sangam world centre, I oversaw redoing the entire sanitation system. (it was 37 toilets, 14 bathrooms, 5 kitchens AND all the plumbing needed for those things too, in case you were wondering!)

why do we even use toilet paper? it’s such a random choice that has been around for centuries. the first recorded use of toilet paper was during the 6th century ad in china. by the 14th century, 1 province in china was producing over 10 million packages of toilet paper a year!

in many parts of the world, the plumbing and sewage system can’t take sewage, much less anything extra like toilet paper. and this is usually where societies and cultures use water instead of toilet paper.

modern toilet paper’s invention is often credited to joseph gayetty from the us. he introduced his paper in 1857 and it was sold until the 1920s! since it’s modern inception, toilet paper has taken many forms. colors, spliter-free, softness and increased thickness. manufacturers spend countless hours and lots of money on market research to improve their product. in american stores, there are so many choices of toilet paper. it’s impossible to know which one to buy, no matter what your criteria for toilet paper is.

entire forests are grown and cut down just to make toilet paper. 1 tree can produce 200 rolls of toilet paper. Global toilet paper consumption requires 27,000 trees PER DAY. that’s a lot of trees…

but there’s a company that gives a crap.

‘who gives a crap’ is the best toilet paper company ever! they make recycled toilet paper. PLUS 50% of the profits from their toilet paper go towards building toilets in countries that need better sanitation! how amazing is that?!?!

so next time you are in the bathroom, think about what you can do to help our planet. turn the water off when you are brushing your teeth. take shorter showers. or change the toilet paper you use.

you too can give a crap!

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best indian snack food

hands down, the best indian snack food is wada pav! if you don’t know what this is, i’ll explain.

wada pav is a spicy potato vegetable mix that is formed into patties. you dip that patty into a chickpea flour batter. then DEEP FRY it until it’s nice and crispy and brown on the outside. this is your ‘wada.’

you then put this in a piece of bread, the ‘pav.’ and enjoy!

wada pav

and the best thing to eat wada pav with? onion bhajia!

onion bhajia, if you don’t know what it is, is cut up onion mixed with spices and chickpea flour batter. you DEEP FRY small spoonfuls and enjoy!

this deep fried combo is my all time favorite indian snack food. i oftentimes eat it as a whole meal. 2 wada pavs and 30 rupees of onion bhajia. it’ll fill you up that is for sure!

in pune, there are 2 spots that are my favorite wada pavs.

the first is the snack shop right next to sangam world centre. they taste great, have amazing fried and salted chillies and are a 5 minute walk away from sangam.

the second best place to buy wada pav in pune is the garden wada pav stand on mg road. what makes these the second best? the green chutney that they add to the pav before they put the wada. plus, it’s a popular place, so the wada pav is always fresh and hot from the fry pan! i’ve stopped on the bike and eaten wada pav. i’ve walked to get them. i’ve even ordered through the car window. it’s a great spot and there are always tons of people around eating wada pav!

if you haven’t tried wada pav before, i highly recommend giving them a try the next time you are in india! you won’t regret it!

but remember, always make sure you are getting them from somewhere that has good preparation practices. you don’t want your wada pav to make you sick. ask a local where the best place is! they’ll always have the hot tips that the lonely planet might not! 😉

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the grass is always greener…

you know you’ve been in america too long when you have 4 full pages of beer on tap choices and you can’t find anything good to drink. and what you do pick isn’t even that good.

you know you’ve been in india too long when a brand new big bottle of beer is completely flat. which happened 2 days in, so maybe not a sign of being here too long, maybe I just drink too much beer?

when i’m in the us, i miss tusker (the best kenyan beer). when i’m in the us, i miss budweiser magnum (a fantastic 8% beer in india). and when i’m not in the states, i miss beer on tap.

the grass is always greener…

i think this is a great reminder to remember to live in the moment and take it all in. enjoy what you can where you are. because you can’t always enjoy a tusker and a a pineapple cider on tap in the same place.

2 years and 2 months

it has been 2 years and 2 months since i was in india. it doesn’t actually seem like it has been that long. but it has actually been 2 years and 2 months. (i looked it up!)

even though i finished working and living at sangam almost 3 years ago now, the flights and airports are still regular. the path from one plane to the next is muscle memory. the flights between sioux falls and mumbai are the same. and the flights usually leave from the same gates.

nothing much has changed in those 2 years and 2 months…

i’m still job searching. still trying to figure out some sort of life direction. but i think this is regular for everyone. no one knows what they are doing really. we are all just faking it until we make it!

i have gone lots of places and done lots of things. kenya (a few times), uganda, australia. i saw mountain gorillas, wombats and SO MANY echidnas. i even had my gall bladder removed.

while i’m at sangam, i’ll do much the same things that i did while i lived and worked there. i’ll swim. eat mangoes. go to the sweet shop every afternoon for wada pav. work in the archives. it will also be regular.

but 1 thing won’t be regular.

jen has finished her time working at sangam! i don’t want to say ‘it’s the end of an era’ even though that is probably the best way to explain it. i can’t wait to share and celebrate all that jen has done!

i’m not sure when i’ll be able to get back to india again, so i’m making the most of this trip for sure! but i can’t wait to see what awaits sangam’s next 2 years and 2 months!

don’t worry! you haven’t missed out!

you can still join my hiking club as a day hiker for us$10! sign up now cause you won’t wanna miss out!

skunk creek flooding

world water day

world water day is one of my favorite days. i believe it is always good to reflect on our own water use and access. i’ve written about access to clean water before. this year, i want to share what my water use looks like in the us.

last week, sioux falls had record flooding. skunk creek, right across the street from my parents’ house, hit a record crest of 17.8 feet. and we are forecast to get even more flooding this next week.

flooding aftermath skunk creek at dunham park

because of the flooding, the city’s water systems were at max capacity. they asked people to reduce their water use for a few days. of course, i complied!

i had a pile of clothes that i needed to put in the washing machine, postponed! i had a dishwasher full that needed to be cleaned, also postponed! i even limited my toilet flushing, if it’s yellow let it mellow!

while i easily can compile with water restrictions, not everyone can. my mom asked why i wasn’t running the dish washer. i explained that we were in water restriction and since we didn’t absolutely need to have clean dishes, i let it sit. i also didn’t need any clean clothes, i still had plenty in my closet, so i let my dirty clothes sit!

the average dish washer uses 6 gallons of water per cycle. this is 23 litres, for my metric readers. this is the same amount of water as daily drinking water for 11 people! the average washing machine uses 15 to 30 gallons (56.8 to 113.6 litres) each cycle. an insane amount of water!

so if i don’t need to use gallons of water while the city’s water systems are stretched, i won’t! and luckily, others in our city also helped out. the city’s system was back at regularly outputs in 2 days! and we could go back to our regular water usage.

while world water day has passed, i encourage you to think about your water use. can you reduce it? can you change your habits to help our planet (or our city)?

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glorified rice, wait… what?

living in other countries, you start to question why you do things. people are curious about you. they ask why you do certain things. they wait for a logical explanation. but sometimes i don’t know! i just do. family tradition. habit. glorified rice is a perfect example.

my great-grandpa andrew and great-grandma mary on their wedding day in 1924.

i come from a long, and expansive, line of bohemians. they came from the czech republic and russia to the us in the 1800s and early 1900s.

settling in south dakota, they wanted a safe and prosperous life far from religious prosecution. south dakota also provided a huge amount of farmable land.

immigrants came in droves and brought their cooking traditions. they created new, americanized recipes. and the upper-midwest (south dakota, north dakota and minnesota) is home to a very unique type of food.

america knows our ‘salad.’ but not the green kind of salad…

dessert salad!

that’s right. people know us for our dessert salad.

dessert salad is an interesting blend. it’s sweet and savory. you make it in bulk quantities to share at large church and family gatherings. it usually includes marshmallows! every family has their own favorites, recipes and adaptations.

dessert salads are specific to the upper-midwest. the rural scandinavians and lutherans, make them. but no one knows where these recipes come from.

and i’m dying to find out?!??!!! why on earth are people making this? and serving it to other people?! do they think it tastes good? i’m not sure and still haven’t found the answer.

which brings me to, well, me…

growing up, i always cut the maraschino cherries and mandarin oranges for the glorified rice. cutting cherries is challenging. it stains your fingers red for days. scrubbing them doesn’t help, the red doesn’t come off. it’s not the easiest job in the kitchen. but it’s better than making the snowball cookies.

last christmas, alexa (my cousin) requested glorified rice. for some reason, my family LOVES glorified rice. i’m not a fan. but mom always mixes it up. and this year would be no different!

so what on earth is glorified rice?

glorified rice
  • cooked and cooled rice
  • cool-whip (or whipped cream)
  • pineapple tidbits
  • mandarin oranges
  • maraschino cherries

mix it all together, cool it down and enjoy!

i recently found my great-grandmother’s recipe for ‘glorified rice salad.’ it’s pretty spectacular. i have included it below so you can check it out for yourself. she even signed it!

my mom’s recipe adds cream cheese and doesn’t include marshmallows. mom actually made 2 batches this year, christmas and new year’s.

my family loves glorified rice. i still don’t get why. glorified rice is a bizarre and intriguing food. but the family tradition continues. and that’s the most important part.

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when you empower a woman

you empower the whole world

winnie, sandra and patricia

today, on international women’s day, i want to share a story about my zambian host sister, sandra, with you.

sandra is my age. when i was living in the village, she was a single mother with 2 little kids. like every mother, she wanted to ensure that her little girls had the best life possible. she was an extremely hard worker and smart too.

when i had my oven built, i started baking a lot more. this lead to my host mom, bamaama, and sandra baking with me too. bamaama and sandra could make the best simple scones ever. i started sharing recipes with them to make different things and different types of cakes.

the hardest part about baking in the village was sugar and flour. it was expensive for the average village family, especially if you had to buy it in the village (where prices were always higher than in town). whenever i would go into town i would stock up on a few kilograms of each. and when i got back home, i would often share a bit with sandra and bamaama too.

those simple scones were amazing, but with sugar? even better!!!!!

one day sandra came to me with a business proposition. she wanted to start her own cake baking business and sell small pieces around the village. but she needed start up capital. i was more than happy to oblige! we made an agreement that she would pay me back in 1 months time and i wouldn’t charge her any interest.

she was off to town to buy materials the very next day!

over the course of those first few weeks, i would watch sandra bake her cakes in the morning, get them ready to go in her basket, strap the baby on her back and off she would go.

she would walk around the village to people’s houses until she had sold everything she made. sometimes she would be back home by lunchtime. sometimes she wasn’t back home until after dark. but she would always sell everything.

2 weeks later, she brought all of the money she borrowed back to me. i was so surprised that she had earned that much that quickly! i asked if she was sure if she wanted to pay me back right away. she explained that she had enough funds to make another trip into town and purchase supplies for her next round of baking!

over the next few months, sandra continued to bake and sell her cakes. she was making a real name for herself in the village. everyone knew the quality of sandra’s cakes were amazing and she would tell people that i loved them too! 😉 (which i did and i told her that was a great marketing idea!)

me and sandra
patricia and jeannie on their first day of school

when they say ‘when you empower a woman, you empower the world,’ i fully believe this. sandra used all her profits to buy a school uniform and pay school fees for her oldest daughter patricia. she used her funds to change the lives of her daughters.

on this international women’s day, i encourage you to think about the women in your life that could use your support. it doesn’t have to be a huge display. it can be something as simple as an email offering good vibes!

happy international women’s day!

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i hate shoes

i have the world’s flattest feet. and for the last 10 years, i’ve exclusively worn plastic flip flops from old navy. so i’m not sure which came first, my flat feet or the flip flops that cause flat feet. whichever way it was, i hate wearing shoes and the arch support that comes with that. it makes me feel confined and strapped in. i absolutely hate it.

unfortunately, since i live in a place with winter, you have to have shoes. so converse are my go-to shoes. flat, no arch support, but keep your toes warm when it’s cold and snowy! i’ve got a trusty pair i bought in india. and i recently found some vintage chuck taylors from the 80s that are a perfect fit!

but yesterday, my mom bought me HELLO KITTY converse!

so my converse collection is, clearly, complete. and i’m ready to go hiking!

what really started this shoe shopping adventure was to find a good pair of tennis shoes. because, in case you haven’t heard, i’m going on a himalaya hiking adventure!

i figure these will work. they are shoes, they are closed toe, and (since they are chuck’s) they provide ankle support-that’s a thing you need when you’re hiking, right? i figure they are perfect! right? RIGHT???!!!!!

well i’m not being allowed to hike in flip flops this trip (although i have plenty of other places!!!). my mom said she wouldn’t let me leave the country without a good pair of shoes. (and jen would probably agree!)

so i guess tennis shoes are needed.

i hate shoe shopping because shoes don’t feel good. i don’t like my feet caged into things. i like to feel the air and grass and world on my feet. and i HATE arch support. plus, my feet are huge and i can never find shoes that seem to fit perfectly right. and at this point in my life, i don’t even know what shoes should actually feel like when they are right. so it makes shoe shopping tough.

it took 3 stores and a lot of patience from my mom (and several helpful salespeople), but i found a pair of shoes that actually feel ok! which is super exciting, and makes me going on a hiking trip a bit more REAL!

but now comes the hard (and i can guarantee hilarious) part. i need to break these shoes in AND actually start training. because i still haven’t done that AT ALL! my feet hurt as i’m writing this and all i’m doing is wearing shoes at my desk!!!!!

so now you are really going to want to join me!

for any amount between us$10-us$30, you can join me as a day hiker and receive email updates about how things are going! and the very first email goes out TOMORROW!

join me on my himalaya hiking adventure!

girl scouts + cookies = girl bosses

this last weekend, i bought 5 boxes of girl scout cookies. while this might not seem like an innovative activity for a woman who spent the majority of her life in girl scouts, i actually haven’t purchased girl scout cookies for YEARS. this is because i have 1 rule.

i only buy girl scout cookies from GIRLS.

not parents. not leaders. not from a facebook post from someone’s family member. i only buy girl scout cookies directly from girls. because when you see parents or leaders taking the lead and trying to make the sale, they’ve missed the whole point of why girl scouts sell girl scout cookies.

when i first joined girl scouts all those years ago (not sure of the exact number, but at least 25 years ago now), i remember the excitement of getting our order sheets in preparation for our girl scout cookie sale. we would learn all about the new cookies. memorize how much they where and when they would be arriving for delivery. we would even practice selling cookies to each other so we were ready to knock on doors and pitch to people we didn’t know.

we would set our troop goals. decide which summer camps and events we wanted to go to and how much we would need to earn so we could all participate. we would peruse through all the prize incentives and set our personal goals based on what prizes we really wanted.

and then we would SELL! we would go door to door, we would call our family members, we would set up cookie booths outside of stores. we would ask people, ‘do you want to buy some girl scout cookies?’ easy as that, but teaching a lifetime of lessons and skills.

this weekend, i was at the mall with my mom and the girl scouts had a booth set up and were selling girl scout cookies. i’ve seen this many times in previous years. but this year, a little daisy girl scout saw me, actually came up and asked if i wanted to buy girl scout cookies! i said YES and went over to learn more!

i asked her what her favorites were, if there were actually cookies in the giant display boxes they had set up (alas there was not), how much they were and which ones i should buy. her and her friend answered all of my questions, they got my $20 and i got 5 boxes of girl scout cookies!

selling girl scout cookies isn’t just about ‘making money.’ it’s a program. girl scouts are teaching entrepreneurship, business skills, social skills, financial literacy, confidence, goal setting, the list goes on and on and on!

when parents and leaders are selling girl scout cookies, the girls aren’t gaining these skills and learning from these experiences. this is why i don’t buy girl scout cookies from parents or leaders.

girl scouts PLUS cookies PRODUCES amazing girl bosses who can do anything! so go and buy some girl scout cookies from GIRLS!

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5 weeks…

once again, i’m the proud owner of several airline tickets! a round trip ticket to india and flights to nepal! my countdown has begun: i have 5 weeks left until i depart for india!

this upcoming trip is going to be special for a few different reasons.

i have to go into official trip physical training! i’ve never ever trained for a trip. i barely even pack for trips. and i don’t exercise. so this is going to be a whole new experience! why do i need to train? well, i’m going hiking. in the himalayas! you can read more about my trip to nepal and how you can join me here! it’s going to be an amazing challenge and, as scary as it seems to me now, i can’t wait to experience the himalayas in this unique way!

i’m gonna hang out at sangam! which i haven’t done for SO long. i was last there in january 2017! which is unbelievable. i feel like it was just last year. but it’s been over 2 years! butter chicken, garlic naan, wada pav, pani puri, pulse candy, onion bhajia and the sangam staff are calling my name!!!

while at sangam, we will be celebrating jen’s time as programme manager and world centre manager because she is finishing. ;( but gwen and bron will also be coming to hang out (yea!!!!) and we’ll be doing all of jen’s favorite pune and india things!

it won’t be all fun and games. i’ll be volunteering in sangam’s archives. jen and i need to come up with a plan, along with the current archive ladies, to figure out what to do next and how. there are still SO MANY boxes that need to be sorted. imagine what we will find in there!!!!!!

i’ll be gone for 6 weeks and while that may seem like a long time, i know that it will go SO fast. before i leave, i need to really think about what i would like to accomplish and experience while i’m there. and then when i’m there, make it happen!

let the countdown begin!

you can join me virtually on my himalaya hiking adventure!