Trip to alma mater in LA

The weekend after going to Sacramento (so about 3 months ago now), J and I visited our undergraduate institution outside of Los Angeles, ’cause our old dorm was having its big annual party! Woo!

We took an overnight BoltBus to get from San Jose (Diridon Station) to LA (Union Station). It was cheap at $25/person, but I would never do it again.


  • It was overnight, so that we didn’t waste a day on traveling. Amtrak only has a daytime train between LA and the Bay Area.
  • Going overnight also decreases the chances of running into traffic.
  • It was cheap (half the cost of Amtrak, half to 1/8 the cost of a flight).
  • Lower emissions than a plane.
  • The stop in San Jose was relatively easy for us to get to.
  • There was a bathroom on board!


  • It was overnight, so we needed to sleep to have a good next day.
  • The seats are uncomfortable and cramped -> it was hard to sleep.
  • The bus driver talked inappropriately loudly for the time of night. Pretty sure he was the only one fully awake.
  • Intermittent stops were accompanied by bright lights and loud announcements, thus disturbing our sleep.

Yeah… Only take an overnight bus if you’re a heavy sleeper and don’t mind cramped chairs. We were super tired when we got to LA. We made a multitude of plans to find a nice place to nap, but never actually succeeded in any of them 🙁 Overall, Amtrak is a nicer experience.

We stayed with the lovely T for the duration of our trip. Thanks!

We visited Grist & Toll, an urban flour mill located in Pasadena. Who knows how long it’s been there! I’ve been missing out for years D:

The front of the mill. It looks pretty desolate. We initially thought we were in the wrong place because of the industrial vibe the complex gave off. Notice the big garage door for delivery trucks. By the way, that’s a date palm shadow.

Grist & Toll specializes in heirloom and locally-grown varieties of wheat and other grains (einkorn, oats, barley, rye, teff, and sesame, I think).
Cornmeal, too. There was a big quilt hung up in the store. You can see it here against the wall. Of course I asked about it! It turns out the owners know someone with a quilt collection, so the store gets a rotating selection of historical quilts. This particular one was from the late 1800s; the cashier even read us a blurb on it!

J and I got one bag of bread flour (and one as a gift for our host, T!) and one bag of general purpose flour grown by Mai Nyugen, a farmer who tries to be super environmentally friendly. For example, most (all?) of her field work is done using horses(!) and she doesn’t irrigate. Of course, the flour is super expensive (~$35/5 lbs flour).

We had dinner at the acclaimed Chengdu Taste, supposedly the best Szechuan restaurant outside of Szechuan Province, China. Unfortunately, we accidentally went with some friends who don’t particularly like spicy food… I think there was a miscommunication somewhere.

Double-fried green beans.
Cumin beef.
Mapo tofu.

And we went to the dorm party!!

And a few straggler happenings:

The dorm now has fancy recycling bins from Terracycle! Okay, I don’t think anyone is using them, but the intent is good. I may take my dental care waste back there to recycle it.

Recycling paid for by Colgate! This is a form of extended producer responsibility that would help build the cost of disposal into the price of a product.

The communal projector is falling apart.

Seriously, I think it’s weight is being supported by copious amounts of duct tape.

The university recently switched to different dorm furniture, casting off the old (which was much beloved!). When we were visiting, I scrounged around for bunk-bed parts. I got enough for 1 bunk bed (so spots for 2 beds, or a bed and a desk) and 1 table, plus extras for future repairs. Now I just have to figure out how to get them to the Bay Area!! I’m hoping USHIP works out.

Not sure where this is from originally, I saw it on Reddit. Credit goes to Steinberg, I guess.

Did you know that you can stop getting the Yellow Pages?

A past tenant of the apartment really liked mail subscriptions. We got one of her Victoria’s Secret catalogues today, which then had to be dealt with (I sent Victoria’s Secret an email requesting to be removed from their mailing list).

While looking for an unsubscribe tool for Victoria’s Secret, I discovered that you can unsubscribe from the Yellow Pages phone book, which are huuuuuge. You first have to make an account at the linked website, then go to the “Select which directories you receive” page. Although the page has an “Opt out from all” button, it doesn’t do anything… You have to manually toggle the number next to each directory to 0, meaning 0 copies delivered. Let’s hope it works!

Zero-waste household goods delivery service

California has lots of interesting sustainability-focused companies. For food, there are farmers’ markets, Imperfect Produce (still using unreturnable cardboard boxes, unfortunately), and quite a few bulk stores, but it’s harder to find household bath/hygiene and cleaning products. Rainbow Grocery in SF has some items, but it’s far away.

So recently, I tried out Fillgood!! Fillgood is a zero-waste household goods delivery service. If you live in the SF Bay area, they deliver items to your door in a returnable bag and returnable containers (Ball jars). They even take the labels and tags back to reuse.

The only problem with this is how to return the bag. The expectation is that you’ll buy from them again, and they’ll pick up the bag and containers from the previous order. In my case, I’m not sure when or if I’ll every buy from them again. Does that mean I’m stuck with this bag forever???

I bought dishwasher powder and Dental Lace floss refills.

Fillgood carries a lot of useful products that normally can’t be found in bulk. For example, laundry detergent, dishwashing powder, hand soap, makeup remover, lotion, tooth powder.

If you’re not in the Bay Area, Refill Revolution is a similar company that sends bulk goods through the mail. They use returnable plastic pouches, which they then wash and reuse.

How Fillgood works

You purchase items online. Items that come in jars (liquids, powders, pastes) are called “refills” and come in their own containers. You don’t need to purchase containers from Fillgood to get your products (although you can if you want additional storage).

If you are in the Bay Area, when selecting shipping you have the option of door delivery ($5) or local pickup ($2). If you selected door delivery, on a given day your items will be delivered to your door in a black bag.

Next time you order something from Fillgood, leave the bag and containers from last time by your door. Fillgood also collects dental waste for recycling, so you can leave that out in a bag as well. The delivery person will collect the bag and the dental waste, and leave your next purchase.

Pretty easy!

Usaato outing!

J and I went to the Usaato exhibition last Sunday in San Francisco. If you were there, we might have seen you!

It was springtime in Japantown. The cherry trees on the plaza were in bloom. Happy spring!
Cute bunnies on sale and neat fabrics in the background!
I bought something! Both the floor and the shirt are much more orange-toned in real life.

It’s not that close to what I was initially looking for, but I am pleased with it 🙂

I was mainly shopping for a short sleeve shirt to round out my hot-weather tops (which currently consist of one v-neck, and one homemade shirt that is quickly disintegrating and is currently out of commission for repairs) or a sleeveless shirt to use as an undershirt. I didn’t find any of those in suitable style-size-color combinations, unfortunately, so I moved on to my secondary goal: adding more variety to my long-sleeve tops (which also consists of two tops – both currently useable! Wow~).

This particular shirt has an interesting color and goes well with blue jeans, which I wear a lot. I was hoping to get a hemp item. Like linen, hemp is a long-staple fiber that is very durable and can be successfully farmed without much pesticide or fertilizer. This shirt is, less desirably, cotton. It cost $105.

I was also considering a $185 button-up, but wasn’t thrilled with the cut or color (J said it looked very stylish, though).

The fabric is dyed with indigo and other unspecified natural dyes, according to the tag. The background color is more saturated than this picture shows. One nice aspect of Usaato’s items is the care given to the details of the fabric. In this particular fabric, thick and thin threads are alternated to add even more depth.
A welted seam and a closeup of the color changes in the fabric. The fabric is cut on the bias. I’m hoping to use this shirt as a pattern for my own bias-cut garments – initial experiments without a pattern didn’t go well.

After shopping at Usaato, we got Korean food for linner!

Soft tofu soup with dumplings.
Followed by black sesame ice cream. It was not as good as anticipated 🙁
A new ice cream place was enticing, but had a not-so-great line.

Usaato Clothing Exhibition!!

If you’re in the Bay Area, there’s going to be an Usaato exhibition at the hallway in the Kinokuniya Bookstore building in Japantown. The sale will be from 11 am to 6 pm on Sunday, April 29. There are new designs!!! Here is the event announcement on their website. Enjoy!

Bread pudding

I roasted a ton of sweet potatoes last week for snacking on, but my interest in them has waned. To prevent the rest from going bad, I decided to turn them into dessert. Sweet potato pie was the first option, but I also wanted to use up some waffles that had been languishing in the freezer, plus some milk that was getting old. The stars aligned for a batch of sweet potato-waffle bread pudding!


There’s no recipe; I just threw the ingredients together based on my last memory of making bread pudding. Bread pudding usually involves: milk, cream, sugar, eggs, butter -> custard; bread -> bread; cinnamon, vanilla, nuts, and raisins as extras. In my case, I replaced the custard with sweet potato pie filling (using homemade evaporated milk!), and the bread with waffles. Sadly, I forgot about the nuts and raisins 🙁 and we don’t have any rum on hand. Next time!

Discussion of how to make liquid castile soap

The zero-waste dentist also has a very thorough article on replicating Dr. Bronner’s castile soap at home. Castile soap traditionally refers to soap made with only olive oil, so Dr. Bronner’s, which contains a large amount of coconut oil, doesn’t actually count. Apparently the coconut oil makes a big difference in texture, smell, and cleaning ability, too.

On the topic of Dr. Bronner’s, awhile ago I was reading an article reviewing the company and was super confused when the article said “she has a lot of nice scents.” Who the heck was this “she”? It turns out Dr. Bronner is a woman… :'(