Thursday, June 26, 2008

Garden Rearrangement. Urg.

Some small animal obviously rearranged the seeds in my new garden plot. So chard is growing in between rows, carrots are growing from the path, and cucumbers are sprouting from the bottoms of their mounds while nothing sprouts from the tops. What a mess! But the good news is that everything's growing! Next year we'll be able to get stuff in earlier, too, and I think this new garden plot will work out great.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

With Chickens And Gardens For All

Among other things gaining in popularity lately due to the surge in gas and food prices, backyard chickens and front yard gardens are becoming more commonplace in my town. Several people lately have come over to look at our chicken setup, and we have been loaning our chicken tractor out as more folks get chicks. As it turns out, two of the people read about our chickens on this blog, although I also had real-life connections to them as well. I love it when the internet proves itself not just to be a means of connecting distant people, but providing local connections as well.

In our local weekly paper this week was an article on Victory Gardens and the local folks who are aiming at creating 10,000 new gardens in our city this year. Just down the street, a team of folks descended on a neighbor's house to help turn a portion of their yard into a food-producing garden. This nationwide movement to revive the Victory Garden "for victory over global warming" is gaining steam all across the U.S. Standing to benefit the most are people with limited access to fresh vegetables due to the deterioration of local grocery stores and public transportation. If you don't have a food-producing garden yet, start a Victory Garden team in your own neighborhood. Gardening always goes better when people work together and help each other out.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

1-2-3-4- What the Hell Are We Fighting For?

Let's all spell it now: O-I-L!

Ya know, it was pretty transparent when we went into Iraq what our intentions were. We really didn't care that much about deposing an evil dictator - if we did, then why would we be ignoring or even propping up comparable regimes in other parts of the world? And we all know about those non-existant WMD's. But just in case Americans haven't figured out yet why our troops and our economy are dying over there, here's a paragraph for you:

"Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power. "

The rest of the NYTimes article is here.

Here's a couple of telling quotes:

"A total of 46 companies, including the leading oil companies of China, India and Russia, had memorandums of understanding with the Oil Ministry, yet were not awarded contracts. "

“These are not actually service contracts,” Ms. Benali said. “They were designed to circumvent the legislative stalemate” and bring Western companies with experience managing large projects into Iraq before the passage of the oil law." (italics mine)
and finally:

"In an interview with Newsweek last fall, the former chief executive of Exxon, Lee Raymond, praised Iraq’s potential as an oil-producing country and added that Exxon was in a position to know. “There is an enormous amount of oil in Iraq,” Mr. Raymond said. “We were part of the consortium, the four companies that were there when Saddam Hussein threw us out, and we basically had the whole country.”

...and now they will have it again. And probably bring Iraq's big oil fields back online, temporarily offsetting the high cost of gas to American consumers and setting back the fragile and temporary changes that people are finally (and necessarily) starting to make in their lifestyles! After all, Americans FINALLY drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April than they did in April 2007, which is WAY up from the 400 million fewer highway miles from March 2007 to March 2008. The change that needs to happen is happening, but meanwhile the chessmasters elsewhere are moving the bishops and rooks around.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pretty Red Things I Don't Really Need

Nope, there's no way I need it. We have 12 bikes in our garage already! But I met a gal riding a gorgeous red Hawaiin Electra town bike today and she said it makes her feel 12 years old again and I believe her. Aren't these pretty? I'm pretty sure that Mackenzie's going to move up to my around-town bike this year as he's rapidly outgrowing his kids' bike, and Asa has outgrown hers and has recently taken to riding his whenever she can get away with it. And I'm also pretty sure that I'll be replacing mine with a Bike Friday like my hubby's, which I know I will love. And I also know that these cruiser bikes only come with three gears, which isn't exactly all that handy given that I live on a big hill, but.....

....but, but, but I just see a bike like this and I want one anyways. For no other reason than to just cruise around town on it and be able to wear what I want and not worry about it getting caught in the chain, with my cute strappy leather sandals on my feet, and feel like I did bombing around this town in college on my gorgeous little red cruiser, bought for $25 at a garage sale.

Friday, June 13, 2008

DIY Yogurt

Speaking of making foods yourself, I made yogurt for the first time. We buy all of our milk raw from a local person with a few goats. It's really great goat's milk, miles better than what you can get in the store (very little of that goaty flavor, for one thing). And since the kids love yogurt, I thought I'd try my hand at making some from the goat's milk. I used the directions on this site: and it worked out very well. I think I'll let the next batch go about half an hour longer though, just for a little more thickness.

The great thing is, my mom had this yogurt maker from sometime in the 1970s, and she brought it up to me and it works great! It's easier than leaving the yogurt on a hot pad or other warming methods, because it keeps it at a constant temperature that's just right. And since strawberry season it upon us, it's just the perfect time to get my yogurt-making underway.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Replacing Convenience Foods

As all parents know, sometimes getting kids to try new dishes can be challenging. Especially for my kids, any kind of combined food seems to put their sensors on high alert. Now they eat a ton of fresh raw veggies and fruits and good proteins, so there's no nutritional concern on my part. But sometimes it's nice to sit down to a family meal where, say, we all eat the same thing!

So there have been a couple of occasions where the kids have tried a sample of a combined food at a place like Trader Joe's or Costco and actually liked it, and then asked to buy it. This leaves me in a bit of a quandary, since these prepackaged combined foods are usually lower in nutrition, higher in undesirable ingredients like corn syrup and soy products, and also come at a much higher cost to the environment with their packaging and shipping figured into the equation, as well as to our pocketbook.

So I've developed the following standard response, which seems to have worked out very well so far: "I'll buy this one package, and then we can figure out how to make it." Recently, this happened with the Teriyaki Rice Bowls available from Costco (horrifyingly, they each come in their own disposable plastic bowl!) I bought a box, and vowed that we would experiment until we could produce a reasonable fascimile, and voila! This week we had the "Mom-aki Rice Bowls" for dinner, which were really great.

So, rather than take my kids' request as an opportunity to lecture on environmental responsibility and deny their newfound tastebud venturing, instead we made it into an occasion where I could demonstrate to them our ability to experiment and discover how to create such things ourselves. We looked through the ingredients, bought fresh veggies from our local area, and created a really yummy family dinner that we'll look forward to having again.

Our Mom-aki Rice Bowls have:

Teriyaki sauce (either prepackaged or make your own with soy sauce, pineapple juice, ginger, and garlic)

Sauteed in the sauce are:
diced onions
minced garlic
sliced carrots
red peppers
broccoli florets
sliced celery

The adults added chicken, pre-soaked in Teriyaki sauce and cooked separately. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

This Is Our Moment

We just got done watching Obama's speech. I told the kids they would probably remember this moment for their whole lives. History in the making.

And the kids reactions to Obama's speech:

"He's sure being a good sport" (during the bits about Hillary)

"Wow, he's not pulling any punches!" (during the bits about McCain)

And... 16 minutes into it: "Was that a pick or a scratch?" (yes, we just watched that Seinfeld episode this week). I was totally ROTFLOL at that one.

I was struck again with what a brilliant and yet humble and honorable person he is. I will feel really good to have him sitting in the White House. I was happy to hear him address again our need to have good energy policies in place. Interestingly, I contrasted that with Hillary's speech from tonight where her only concession to energy was getting Detroit to make more fuel-efficient cars. Hello, the time for that was 30 years ago when Carter did that. We need more. Now. I'm glad that Obama realizes that, and I am hoping to see him follow up on it in a big way.

Monday, June 02, 2008

National Politics and Bicycle Advocacy

I couldn't make the Obama rally in Portland a couple of weeks ago, it was my mom's birthday and we spent a lovely day kayaking and hiking with her. But I've heard from several friends that were there that the bicycling presence was huge. Bikes were racked along every conceivable stretch of railing, every pole, rack, tree, and parking meter. I've heard estimates ranging from 6,000 - 15,000 bikes there, a very visible presence. has an article up with photos, and even a soundbite of Obama's speech, referencing Portland's mass transit and bikeability as a model for the rest of America:

“If we are going to solve our energy problems we’ve got to think long term. It’s time for us to be serious about investing in alternative energy. It’s time for us to get serious about raising fuel efficiency standards on cars. It’s time that the entire country learned from what’s happening right here in Portland with mass transit and bicycle lanes and funding alternative means of transportation.

That’s the kind of solution that we need for America. That’s the kind of truth-telling that we are going to do in this campaign and when I am President of the United States of America.”

I don't think we can understate at this point the importance of each individual doing their part. The people who already know how to bike commute right now are in an ideal position to help people who, because of rising fuel costs maybe, are just now starting to give it a try. The more visible we are, the more national politicians will pay attention to the needs of cyclists. I'm hoping that Obama's words are more than just campaign-trail promises and that a new future of better bikeability is on the horizon for all of the U.S.