April 27, 2008

Sweet Freedom

I thought we were supposed to spend this weekend at the beach, celebrating my aunt's birthday. Right up until we were in the car, leaving town, and decided to double check the directions. Turns out that would be next weekend, no matter what I wrote on my calendar. Ah hem.

Finding myself with an unexpectedly free weekend, I reveled in it. Doing a bit of gardening and a whole bunch of sitting in the yard with a glass of iced tea and a novel. I even managed to eat an entire mango by myself, the juice dripping off my elbows and put a pretty good dent in the first watermelon of the year.
This not having to go anywhere is not so bad...

April 24, 2008

Playing in the Kitchen

I've been reading How to Eat Supper from the NPR series The Splendid Table.  One chapter begins "we all have nights when we hit the kitchen at 8 p.m."  Uhm, really?  That would be most week nights for Alex and I.  Maybe its more like 7:30, but still... I guess that explains why our dinners are so heavy on the stir fry, meat tossed on the grill and/or a green salad.  And the rotisserie chicken.  My Lord but do we eat the rotisserie chicken.  (I'm actually not nearly as disgruntled about this since Alex came up with the marvelous trick of crisping it up on the grill.)  Mind you, we definitely aren't living on take out and still do quite a bit of cooking.  As my sister has commented on more than one occasion, we eat well.  Its just usually pretty quick and dirty on weeknights.

That said, the stars have aligned to have me home nice and early three times this week.  So, I've had an opportunity to cook a more leisurely dinner.  My cooking style is to read a recipe and then deviate liberally from there.  And I don't actually measure.  (Unless I'm baking, and then I measure zealously.)  So with that caveat, this book has been the inspiration for several dishes this week.  It has taught me the most amazing trick for cooking frozen shrimp so that they actually have flavor.  And tonight I was wondering what to do with green beans that really needed to be cooked - when I found the perfect recipe in the book.  I didn't actually follow the recipe, but you know...

Anyway, if you enjoy cooking, I'm recommending the book.  I've discovered great recipes, learned useful tricks and found it to actually be an interesting read.  There's a good bit of narrative in the book, actually.  (Is it narrative in this type of book?  They're not exactly telling a story.  Well, you know what I mean.)

April 22, 2008

Reflecting on the Three Rs

* This is what my Flowering Maple will look like when it grows up.

When I was a little girl, Earth Day was often a real celebration for us. My mother consciously taught us environmentalism and sustainability, though she called it "respect for the Earth." So, when Earth Day rolled around, it wasn't just another day. We participated in a tree planting ceremony, a trash pick up day or something of the sort. I wonder now where she found those events for us. They are good memories that have stuck with me, and a tradition I followed through college.

My Earth Day this year has been decidedly less deliberate, but its still been on my mind. We woke before the alarm this morning to the singing of the birds. They were raising such a ruckus - particularly the mockingbird who loves to trill - that we gave up and just got up to enjoy their Earth Day symphony. But, the celebration of the birds and the pretty logo on Google have pretty much been the extent of the external reminders today.

Instead, I've been reflecting a lot on my efforts to be respectful and what my next steps will be. A year or two ago, I began deliberately making small changes in my life to minimize my impact. We were already good about recycling and reusing. So, most of this has been reducing and about the products we use. So far, I've:
- developed the habit of using canvas grocery bags by going back for them when I forgot them
- begun using canvas bags (or no bag) for all my shopping, not just groceries
- created a compost pile (and then researched and re-established it when my original plan failed)
- switched to vegetable-based dish soap, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent and shampoo
- minimized chemical use within the house and yard
- focused on spot watering the garden, when a full watering isn't needed (We have no lawn and I try to plant drought resistant plants anyway.)
- looked for local and/or organic produce and free range, chemical-free meat
- limited use of plastic water bottles to when we're out and carry them with me until I can recycle them
- found biodegradable pooper scooper bags and wax paper bags for storage at home to the extent practical
- considered reusable/practical wrapping for all gifts and used them when I came up with one

My goal was to identify little things that I could but that would be simple enough that they'd become a habit, adding them one at a time. It has honestly been much easier than I expected. They are small steps that easily became habit, and quite frankly the rule all along was that I'd be gentle with myself on those days I fell short of my goals. (I'm assuming I'm more likely to actually do these things most of the time if I don't make it about guilt or set the bar too high. Every little bit makes a difference, right?)

But, I haven't seen or heard anything new recently to move on to my list. We dream of a 'green' home at times, but I'm definitely not up for any major retrofitting at this point. And the problem that bothers me most is the one on which I've made the least progress - our water consumption. This is Florida, and fresh water is precious. (Again, I'm not ready for the retrofitting, so I will not be draining my washer from the second floor to the garden.)

So, I think I'll be spending my Earth Day evening researching. Any suggestions for where I should be looking? (Or for changes I could be making?)

April 20, 2008

Gardening Hero

Alrighty then - a week has gone by with nothing much to report. The first half of the week the weather was cold and I had the yucks, which lead to curling up in bed with a few good books and far too much bad T.V. I couldn't even get up the motivation to knit more than a few rows. The second half of the week I felt fine, but stayed very busy with work stuff.

So, lets jump back to last Saturday and the great adventure I would have reported this week, shall we? Saturday morning, Gwen and I made a quick trip over to Mom's to pick up plants she'd found for me. (I now have a baby Flowering Maple, very exciting.) While I was there without a husband in tow, Mom took me to see a woman who has turned her (slightly larger than average) yard in to a farm.

It was great. I bought fresh chard. So fresh, that I watched her cut it out of the row, being careful not to step on her still-fruiting strawberries. And salad greens with flowers and herbs in them, sprouts that crunch delightfully and just barely resisted buying more tea. (I wouldn't have resisted at all if I had any more space left on my tea shelf.) She was a wealth of information, though I suspect she's also the kind of person for whom things just grow. She knew every inch of her garden and went on at length about the vagaries of each plant and pest. When Mom brought up our brazilian fruit bushes, she immediately began reminiscing about climbing the 15' high one outside her grandmother's door in Brazil and then told us she had one down in the orchard (of sorts) that she was starting from seed. She also warned us it will need more water than we had been told. I'll be betting on her this summer and keeping the soil moist.

But, the best part was spending a good hour enjoying her garden. She doesn't worry about weeds, just pulling them out of the rows of vegetables and allowing them to grow anywhere else. (Though, even that can be farming - when we arrived she was busy pulling weeds the root of which would be added to the salad she was taking to a birthday party.) And she's not particularly worried about traditional aesthetics, either, using "junk" as trellises or supports. She does, however, add any piece of whimsy that catches her eye, like this old parking meter beside the driveway.

I want to be her when I grow up.

April 13, 2008


My Church held an Empty Bowls fundraiser today, with proceeds benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank.  It was one of the best fundraisers I've ever attended (and I attend many), and one of the more creative themes.  Since we were fighting hunger, we were all about the bowls, empty and full.

There were the empty bowls, on sale and on display to raise both awareness and funds.  The children and the braver adults of the congregation made bowls (hand build, not thrown) and then even more of us painted the bowls.  They were fun and creative, and they told a story.  Local artists and a few artists in other states somehow connected to the Church donated additional bowls, highly coveted actual pieces of art.  But, the bowls made by the non-artists sold quite well, too.  I knew the parents and grandparents would buy the kids' bowls, and most of the adults their own.  But, I helped hostess at the sales table and plenty of people were buying bowls that they just thought were fun and interesting.  And they'd tell a story about the community coming together to help feed its own.

And then there were the full bowls - the lunch.  Soup donated by a local chef, loaves of bread from Panera, and chicken nuggets for the kids.  Today is rainy and the temperature is rapidly dropping, so it was a great day for soup and fellowship with plenty of both to go around.  But, most importantly, plenty of awareness spreading throughout the room and change clinking in to the cans.  (Our church participates in the 2 cents a meal program, so at every congregational meal their are cans on the table for you to donate your 2 cents that is gathered and given to the food banks.)  

Oh, and the children of the Church have a small vegetable garden.  Something I didn't realize before today, when they harvested a dozen amazing yellow squash and donated them directly to the food bank.

It was a simple event, mostly friends gathering together to admire each other's handiwork and share a lunch.  There was no entertainment, just one speaker from Second Harvest, and very little fuss.   It was great.

April 08, 2008

Welcome Alena

Baby Alena should be joining us any time now, and her cuddly quilt is on the way to Mama. Cheerful turtles, the soft texture of minky fabric and ties to be played with - just the way to greet a little one whose older siblings (all three of them) are bound to ensure she's a creative little sprite.

April 07, 2008

April 03, 2008

Barcelona Skirt

Amy Butler's Barcelona Skirt

I am beyond proud of the fact that I've sewn a skirt I can wear to work. The next version of this will be for casual wear; I'm going to shorten it and use a lighter fabric.

April 02, 2008

Nature's Art

Driving home tonight, an electrical storm was blowing up quickly enough that it was here before the dark clouds had fully chased away the sun.  Suddenly, a sharp white flash of lightning and a rainbow were sharing the small space in my front window.  

Mother Nature sure puts on a great show.

April 01, 2008


We won't discuss how many years - or tears - it took to finish this. Instead, we'll bask in the glory of it being finished. And just in time for delivery to its patient owner, who visited for a few short days over Easter. Yes, it took me that long to post about it. I can't get the colors right, but I've now given up. The heck with it. Just know the purple is only slightly variegated, not tie dye, and actually looks, well, purple.

Ironically, the binding, always my least favorite part of a quilt, went on without a hitch. Go figure. It might have something to do with researching better methods of applying the binding, but given that absolutely nothing else about this quilt was easy I'm still amazed.

I'm just so glad that its done, that S. is happy with it, and that I never have to do another T-shirt quilt again as long as I live.