Saturday, August 21, 2010

**We interrupt this normally scheduled blog silence to bring you an important update**

I said I was taking a break to make more time in my life. That's still true, though admittedly, I miss my little blog outlet. I especially missed it this morning and, since I have some extra time, I thought I'd share a small rant that's been bouncing around in my head.

My workplace has recently acquired a ridiculous contraption called a K-cup coffee maker. It's such an expensive and grossly wasteful purchase I can't even fathom how it made it into our break room. Recently one of the staff members sent out an email with some information about all of the ways Green Mountain Coffee, the makers of the individually packaged, single-serve coffee grounds, is an environmentally friendly company. Next to the coffee maker, we also have disposable cups and lids. I suppressed the urge to reply to that email with this:

The notion that our new coffee maker is in any way environmentally friendly is ludicrous. The machine is one of the most environmentally unfriendly purchases this establishment could have made, and to say that "it's not as bad is it could be" equates to sustainable is just misguided.

I would like to take a moment to point out that one fifth of Pakistan in now underwater after seeing the worst downpours on record, Russia burns during the longest drought on record, and it United States is blowing up mountain tops, looking for coal, rather than trying to curb energy use. All the while, we sip single cup coffee from wax-coated cardboard cups, topped with plastic lids, and call ourselves environmentally responsible for at least using the Green Mountain brand.

Also, can I direct you attention to this machine, which brews a single cup of coffee, the only waste being coffee grounds and a bio-degradable coffee filter. My grandmother, who watches so much Fox News she probably thinks of the climate crisis as a political farce, has one of these. She's greener than my "forward-thinking" workplace. Way to go people. I guess having to replace a filter, spoon out some coffee grounds and clean your own mug is just waaaaaay too much effort. We could have been composting those grounds.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Oh Dear, how embarassing

It's been a while. A long while. But I have a great excuse. Last week I finished moving into my own place. As much as I loved the Ice House and was looking forward to spending my summer there, I really really needed my own space. My stress levels have been out of control. This new place is awesome. It's quiet and it's low maintenance, and it's closer to my jobs. As soon as it stops raining 24/7 I fully plan to start biking to work at least three days a week.

The other reason for no posting is my lack of internet. I've decided not to get internet at my apartment. It forces me to get off the computer and read, or cook a nice meal, or do the dishes; all that shit I put off when I can get online. So I won't be updating this blog much for the moment. I rally want to focus my energy on taking good care of myself. I hope I'll have time to write up a quick post about all of the new green ideas I've been having, but I'm not going to stress about getting three posts up a week. We'll see.

So ta ta for now lovely blog. I'm sure we'll meet again sometime soon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

On relaxing

My level of stress recently has been off the chart. I have so much I want to do, but ultimately I have very little time for them. There have been some really crazy things happening in my life and yesterday, my day off, I finally had to really stop myself from going insane. I thought about all the of things that needed to get done, and put off all the the things I had simply been wanting to get done.

So I took my bike in for a tune-up, I bought dish soap and laundry detergent. I did not bake cookies or bread. I did not look up or concoct any home-made soaps. I did not write a book review for the amazing book I just finished. I took it easy and read a little. I played with Kava and the Frenchman. I relaxed. It was so amazing. Even though it rained, and kind of even snowed yesterday and I didn't get to soak up sun, it was still one of my better days off.

So, yes I'm doing better at staying organized, but I'm not getting it all done in one day. And I'm no longer going to try. I've been driving myself mad trying to take care of too many things and too many people all at once. I need more time to myself to relax. I need more time to read. I need more time to just breath and let my shoulders drop. Even just for a few minutes a day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Ice House is for summers.

Spring spring spring! I went outside this morning and looked at our back yard, horrified to see a huge patch of sand. What the hell happened to all the grass? It has not been so warm or dry that the yard would just dry up.

Suddenly I realized I wasn't looking at sand, I was looking at a huge patch of very tiny, very light purple flowers. Our yard is covered in teeny little flowers! From far away they look like the color of sand.

It was sunny and warm all morning, despite predictions of rain. It's just starting to look cloudy now. It's been a perfect day for planting the High Mowing seeds I got for free courtesy of Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved. He came to the bookstore to talk about his book and gave out some free seeds. I only got to watch the first half of his talk, but I can't wait to read the book. I also did not miss the opportunity to talk to him and make a fool of myself. I have such respect for anyone good at talking to people they have just met. I am always an utter failure.

Spring also means it's tag sale season around here. In the past few days I've scored a rolling pin, a black glass bowl (Designated Popcorn Bowl), a spice shaker, two pairs of pants, 3 hand towels, 2 shirts, and a Teflon-free frying pan (finally!!). I celebrated by making rice flour pancakes this morning, which promptly stuck to the frying pan and made a big mess. But they were tasty, and not full of icky chemicals. I also started the process of prepping the cast iron frying pans that have been in the trunk of my car for a million and a half years. I guess that extra half year finally drove me over the edge, because I can't wait to use them.

To add to this wonderful day of good news and happy blogging, we found out we could stay in our Ice House until September!! That means I get to live all summer with a stream in my backyard and Frenchman growing veggies all season!! Plus, the cheap rent means more of my hard earned money can go straight to my student loans, which is both depressing and uplifting.

Another tag sale this Friday in Manchester! Woo! Wish me luck finding a food processor.

Friday, April 16, 2010

That's Why We Don't Eat Animals by Ruby Roth

Kids ask so many freaking questions! I have found myself in so many awkward situations because I wasn't exactly sure of the most appropriate way to explain certain things to a child. My veganism is one of those tricky subjects. I think kids should know where food comes from and that some of it may have come from an animal, but I don't think it's ok to scare kids into vegetarianism, and it's inappropriate to step on another parent's toes. However, kids ask questions because they need to understand their world and the different kids of people that they share it with, vegans and meat-eaters alike.

This book is one great way to tackle that scary question, "What's a vegan?" It's a wonderful book about vegetarianism for kids. It's a very gentle and un-scary way to explain what vegetarianism is and why some people don't eat animals. The illustrations are very sweet, depicting happy animals in natural settings and sad animals in factory farms. I also have to say that, as an adult, I still enjoyed this book for myself and managed to learn a few things from it. Did you know that a heard of cows will all moo together until a missing member finds its way home? I didn't.

Now, don't even ask me where to begin when a kid wants to know where babies come from. Go ask your mother.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Winter to Spring, in pictures

Now's a great time to share some pictures from winter and remain hopeful of the coming spring.

The importance of storm windows. See that little etching on the lower side of the right window? That was done from the inside. All that ice was on the inside. The other window has a storm window on the outside, so it obviously stayed warmer.

The igloo ramp! The Frenchman used the top for snowboarding and Kava used the bottom for an igloo.

The snow is starting to melt around our tepee.

There's a stream in our backyard where Kava likes to play.

The bridge in our backyard.


Our house, from the bridge.

Spring tepee.

Signs of spring.

I can't believe we have to move out of this house in June.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Book Review - Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

I've always been captivated by stories of New York in the 70's and 80's, back when it was still a dangerous and trashy city, when Times Square was all smut and crime, without the Disney musicals. Let the Great World Spin takes place in that era. It has all the dirt and grime, but it is a story about people, so it also has their hope. The stories move between the South Bronx, the Upper East Side and the Financial District (the southern tip of Manhattan).

The book takes the stories of many different people, from all parts of life, and weaves them together slowly and delicately. Most of them do not even know they are connected; they may sense it, but they will never fully understand it. An Irish priest and his brother, living in the South Bronx, one to find the underworld, the other trying to get out of it, become entangled in the lives of a group of prostitutes. A rich mother loses her only son in Vietnam and tries to find other mothers to connect with. A lost artist gets into a car accident that will change the course of all of their lives and set the story fully in motion.

The stories are all fictional, but they have something very important, and completely true, in common. In 1974 Phillipe Petit strung a wire between the Twin Towers and by walking across it he created an instant network of people, all connected by the same miraculous moment. Petit created one more piece of web to connect all of these stories. At the very height of their stories, the climactic turning point, they all experience the man dancing on the wire between the Twin Towers. His 140 foot length of cable, somehow crossed over the entire city at once, From the South Bronx, to the Upper East Side and back to the Financial District.

I loved this book. It's definitely a must-read for any fiction lovers.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shopping bags

This post is dedicated to a little item that frustrates me endlessly: "disposable" shopping bags.

No one needs disposable bags. Chances are you've got at least ten plastic bags floating around your house. I know I do and I don't even use them. I have no idea where they come from. They litter our streets, clog up streams, and they don't even biodegrade. They'll be on this planet even after your unborn great-grandkids are gone and you don't even need them. Oh, you use paper? That's not much better. Paper comes from trees and all that wood needs to be cut down, processed, made into bags and then shipped to you. You're paper bags may have been cut from trees in South America, shipped to china to be made into bags, then shipped to California to a distributor, before being shipped all over the country.

I can't even begin to share with you my frustration with people who come into the bookstore, buy one little book and say they need a bag. It's just one little paper bag. It doesn't even have handles! I resist the urge to tell them, "Carrying that book in a paper sleeve is no different than just carrying it in your hand." So if you refuse to re-use bags for shopping, at least don't ask for one when you've made a purchase small enough to be carried, or thrown into your freakishly large purse. You carried that item to the register, I'm sure you can make it to your car.

To help you understand the seriousness of the situation, here are some insane facts:

  • Consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500,000,000,000 (that's 500 billion) plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute.
  • Americans use over 380 billion plastic bags per year
  • Americans throw away approximately 100 billion plastic bags per year (what they do with the other 280 billion is beyond me)
  • It takes 1000 years for polyethylene bags to break down
  • Approximately 1 billion seabirds and mammals die per year by ingesting plastic bags
  • Worldwide, an estimated 4 billion plastic bags end up as litter each year. Tied end to end that’s enough to circle the earth 63 times. In case you didn't get that the first time, we can circle the planet with plastic bags 63 times EVERY YEAR
  • For more numbers and general information, go here, here, or even here.

Think paper bags are the solution? Think again!

  • Paper bags are made from wood, a renewable material, but more energy goes into producing them than plastic bags.
  • Paper bags are biodegradable, but many still end up sealed away in landfills and will not biodegrade. This is true of most waste in landfills due to lack of water, oxygen and sunlight.
  • Paper bags generate 70 percent more air and 50 percent more water pollutants than plastic bags.
  • But if that makes you think plastic bags are better than paper bags then let me remind you, we can circle the planet with plastic bags 63 times EVERY YEAR
  • More on paper bags here andhere.

Please, please, please think about these numbers next time you go to the grocery store. It's so easy to have reusable bags in your car at all times. Many grocery stores even give you a discount for bringing your own bags, so they'll eventually pay for themselves. And for one more interesting thought, my co-worker Sarah told me that if she ever forgets her reusable bags in the car or at home, she just piles her groceries back into her cart and brings the whole thing out to the car. Then she'll beg them up to take them inside. That's dedication!

For a great look at where bags come from, check out this article

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Book Review - Eaarth by Bill McKibbon

If it were up to me I'd make this book required reading for everyone on the planet. It's one of the most important books ever written about climate change. In fact, the only reason it's not the most important book, is because books written in the 70's and 80's predicting climate change were far more important, though mostly ignored. If we had only listened then, we would need a book like Eaarth now.

The book starts strong. It caught my attention quickly, citing specific examples of climate change and it's results on both massive and small scales. I thought the reason the United States didn't take much interest in climate change was because those hardest hit by changes in the weather lived in other parts of the world, but the truth is, we've been hit too. The major difference is that American people, supported by the US government, have the money to import food, crank up the AC and even pack up and move if we want. However, at the rate we're going, we're going to reach a point where all the money in the world won't be able to buy you food that just won't grow, or remove the pollution from your water, or save your life when a hurricane crashes into your town.

But the book isn't all doom and gloom. McKibben simply wants to make sure you're listening. He wants you to know that you're not saving your children or your grandchildren anymore, you're saving yourself. He wants you to you fully understand that the planet has been fundamentally changed and it's not ever going to change back. The most we can do is stop things from getting worse. It's a really hard piece of information to swallow.

The second part of the book is more hopeful. McKibben doesn't have all of the answers to survival, but the ideas he has are really good ones. His points are valid. I really liked his idea of communities providing for themselves and looking out for each other. Why buy your electricity from a power plant when you can generate it yourself? There's real security in being able to take care of yourself. When oil starts to dwindle and the prices skyrocket why not power your electric car and your house at the same time with solar and wind power from your own yard? His point is that we can't wait for big government to save us and provide for us, we have to show them what we want. With the world in the state is in right now, bigger is not going to be better. We have to scale down, start taking back the power to care for ourselves.

McKibbon isn't attacking the government. He praises large scale projects like highways and general infrastructure. This country grew and grew and because of that, American people enjoy a fairly high standard of living. It's time to stop growing though. It's time to adapt to the world we created. No book I've yet read makes that more abundantly clear than Eaarth.

It ends on a good note. The kind of ending that makes it easier to recommend this book. He uses Vermont as a model for sustainability, but he talks about larger-scale projects as well; things that are working. He also points out the importance of the internet. The internet, this crazy tool that can connect anyone, anywhere. For example, I'm writing this review while sitting on a bus to NYC. The wireless internet connects me to millions of people, the biggest forum ever known. Any idea I'll ever have can instantly be shared with he world. There is no need for us all to be isolated, we can figure out solutions and move forward as a group. I can instantly find information about powering my own home, growing my own food, and converting my car to run on veggie oil by just getting online. The limitless connections of the internet are a gift when most of us don't even know our own neighbors. It's a hope, in a world where hope fades more and more the longer we live the way we do.

I have more to say about this book, and a few excellent quotes and stories to share from it, however I did not bring the book with me on the bus. I'm going to save those bits and pieces for a few weeks from now, after the book is available to buy. Check back mid-April for more on this title!

And, in the interest of saving paper, I will gladly loan you my copy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A scattered and belated post

These past few weeks have been crazy. Never a dull moment around here between cars, jobs, family members. At least it's warmed up and it's finally starting to look like spring. I also could have sworn I wrote a book review for Eaarth. Now I'll actually have to think about it. That'll come this week.

I'm going to NYC tomorrow for about a week to work on Keen Company's next show, I never Sang for My Father. That should be fun. I've shortened my time there, so I'll be back on Friday, just in time to work at the bookstore. This means I miss the Sustainable Vermont talk this month, where Oliver will be talking about CSAs and sustainable and local food. I hear one of the WWOOFers is going to make a killer power point presentation for him. Ah well.

So while I go work on that book review, you should ponder this little green tip:
Reusable water bottles. Yes, we've all heard of them, but for some reason people still drink bottled water. Odd. Mine is a glass Nantucket Nectars iced tea bottle. People are sometimes a little weird about carrying glass bottles, but I've done it for years and never broken one. I did have a cool metal water bottle, but oddly enough I dropped it and the top broke. Go figure. Anyway, I highly recommend looking into a reusable, non-plastic, water bottle. As is the case with mine, they don't need to be pricey or fancy. If I do lose mine, which has happened once or twice, I just treat myself to an iced tea, rinse the bottle out and presto, a reusable bottle.

When you think about bottled water, it makes no sense. A large-scale company takes the most abundant resource on the planet, puts it into a chemical-leaching, plastic bottle and ships it hundreds or thousands of miles so you can take a few sips and then throw it away. Then, after all that needless effort, to add insult to injury, the plastic will last longer on this planet than you or anyone you know. All for water, something readily available and usually free. Don't like tap water? Look into filters!

For further filter research, check out this blog post.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Nights like these the desert starts to creep in. Memories of driving aimlessly all night through Santa Fe mountains; laying on the warm hood of my car to stare at endless Santa Fe stars. The sky met the mountains and the trees, but never touched the city, so far out of sight even the glow of it can't be seen. Nights like these I miss the desert. I miss pressing the gas pedal to the ground just to see how fast the car could go down those endless hills, deep into canyons. Somehow towns up here are so much harder to escape from. Every exit leads somewhere. The sky doesn't seem so endless and there is no Nowhere to drive to. There is no sandy pull-off, or highway to Mexico. No unlit roads to dark solitude. Even in this small town, the lights are always on. I have to be inside to find the darkness of night time. I have to crouch in front of the woodstove to find a hopeful glow reminiscent of a desert sunrise.

All highways are the same though, and I know that if I just drive long enough I'll find that unpaved road that leads up purple mountains. And yet, somehow, this place feels like so much more of a home to me than those ghostly southwestern towns. Something keeps me here, even on nights like these.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Adventure in my pants: Part 2

It's been two anxiety-filled days of waiting for the amazing conclusion.

Five days to test four different feminine hygiene products and figure out if full-time sustainability is practical enough for a period.

Day 1: Diva Cup

I figured I'd better start serious and break out the Diva Cup. Getting it in is a little tricky, and even though the instructions tell you to only use this product when you're on your period, I'm going to recommend you practice getting it in and out before your cycle starts. You'll be glad you did. Figuring out the logistics of my body while on my period was annoying, to say the least.
Anyway I did finally get it. It was quite comfortable. I had to trim the stem a little, but apparently that's normal.

The packaging says that the Diva Cup does not leak and only needs to be emptied every 12 hours. This wasn't exactly the case for me and I needed to empty it several times in the first 24 hours and I went through two liners. Luckily it was my day off, so it wasn't an issue. I'd like to give this product another test run next month before I give my full recommendation.

Day 2: Tampons and Liners
I paired up the tampons with the liners, just to be safe. I had already used two of the liners on day one, which was stupid of me, so I was a little worried. When my period finally started I was so excited to use my new stuff that I didn't really plan ahead at all. I was so used to having boxes upon boxes of pads and tampons that I just went ahead and used whatever, without thinking.

This made me especially nervous because I didn't know how well the tampons would work. I packed an extra liner and all the tampons into my wet bag and also shoved a few disposable tampons into my backpack, just in case. I knew that using them would mean that I failed my own sustainable challenge, but I didn't want any embarrassing issues at work.

The day was a success. The reusable tampons worked just as well as my disposable, organic ones, if not better. They're easy to roll up and put in and I had no leak problems that one little pantiliner couldn't handle. The bonus to the reusable method that I didn't foresee was that because there was no packaging, there wasn't any of the embarrassing noises associated with ripping open tampon packages in the bathroom. I don't mind blogging about my period, but I'm not about to broadcast news of my cycle at work.

Day 3: Tampons and Liners
Much the same as day 2.

Day 4: Reusable Pad
Well, here's where I panic a bit. I was out of liners and tampons. I had to suck it up and use one of the full sized pads, which I had only been using for evenings (in case you were wondering what I did at night). When I removed the inserts the pad was undetectable with slightly baggy pants. Really, these pads are great, it's just that they are longer than I need and they make me paranoid. Still, the day was fine. I pulled the pad forward a little and I don't think it ever became visible from behind. Phew.

Days 5 and 6: Pad Insert
There is maybe a bit of spotting by day 5 and 6, but as I said, I was out of liners. I decided to use an insert from the pads, even though they don't have wings and snaps to keep them in place. Amazingly I discovered that you don't really need the wings and snaps to keep pads in place. They just stay. No shifting at all, even after walking around all night at the bookstore.

Care and cleaning:
After using pads or tampons I rinsed them and tossed them into a small bucket of cold water with a lid sitting under my bathroom sink. I changed the water daily, and on my heaviest day I put a little detergent in there. If you change the water daily, it won't smell. By the last day the water will be clear. I dump the water and throw everything into the wash with my clothes. In the months since I started using the cloth pads overnight, this is what I have always done. I have never gotten a stain on my clothes and there aren't even stains on the pads themselves. Don't believe me? All of the pictures in the previous post were taken the day I wrote this, meaning they had all been used at least once and washed with my clothes using all natural powder detergent.

Tampons: Rinse them as soon as you can after use. They store just fine in the wet bag, but I really don't think you'll want them sitting in there for any longer than necessary.

Pads: Can usually be thrown right into the bucket without rinsing. Use your judgment.

Diva Cup: Follow the directions that come with it. They are detailed and easy. I used Dr. Bronner's unscented body wash instead of the Diva Wash, because I don't need to order yet another overpriced product from the internet.

Wet bag: Wipe it out daily and wash it with everything else at the end of your cycle.

Even though I carried disposable tampons around in my pocket all 6 days of my period, I never used them. Not one.

I splurged on my period, but I'm happy I did. I can honestly say I'm not going to be buying reusable pads or tampons any time soon and it'll save me so much money. The convenience of always having them here, ready for use is enough to sell me, but the environmental and safety issues are the greatest bonuses.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Adventure in my pants: Part 1

I'm going to start this post with a Disclaimer. This post is about periods. Yep, it's about that perfectly normal thing that most women on this planet deal with every month. Before all of you boys run off, I'm going to ask you to -try- and be mature about this. While you're obviously not my target audience, if you're eco-minded, or just plain thrifty, it's good information to have. Plus, it's about time men got over the whole fear of periods thing. And any ladies out there who are squeamish about their monthly cycles... suck it up and hear what I have to say. Maybe you'll learn something that will make your monthly visits a little easier to deal with. No, there won't be any gross pictures. What the hell kind of blogger do you take me for? Ok, now that we've lost all the big babies out there, let's get started!

A few years ago, while I was still in college, a friend of mine made a passing comment that kind of stuck with me. She was annoyed that women have to spend so much money on their damn periods. Everyone needs food and water and those subsidized by the government. Systems for getting these things to people have been put into place so that the things we need most are available to us for a pretty low cost. But what about women? We have periods every month and we need to buy products to help us deal with them so we can leave our houses and function as though we're not completely inconvenienced and feeling like shit. That stuff is expensive and wasteful and actually quite bad for us.

I'm going to start with a quick list of facts you might find interesting about disposable pads and tampons:
  • Tampons and pads are made of bleached cotton and rayon and contain dioxin, a chemical linked to infertility, immune system suppression and hormone abnormalities. Do you really want to put those inside your body?
  • The average woman will use 12,000 tampons or pads in her life. That doesn't take into account the applicators and the packaging. This is basically a mountain of bloody waste per woman. That's quite a lifetime achievement!
  • Tampons and pads are not sterile. Yes they are individually wrapped (more waste), but they are not sterile.
  • For more scary statistics and sources click here and here.

  • When I first learned about dioxins a few years ago I made the obvious switch to organic. The organic brands out there offer pads and tampons made of unbleached cotton, with little to no plastic packaging. I also ditched applicators, because they are so unnecessary. You should be washing your hands before and after dealing with tampons anyway.

    Last year I discovered Heather. At the time she was still Holistically Heather, but has since branched out and created a new Etsy shop called Aunt Flos Pads, dedicated to offering women a sustainable solution to their monthly cycles. Her blog post about reusable pads really got me thinking and I decided to try it out. Heather's pads come with two inserts: one for light days, one for medium and then you can pair them up for heavier days. I've found that the pads work so well that I never need more than one insert at a time at night. Sometimes I wear them without the insert at all. A disclaimer: Heather's usual pads are far more attractive than the ones I asked her to make for me. These were the first reusable pads I had ever seen or purchased and I was really worried about staining. I'm stupid.

    I'll admit that I didn't embrace it fully at first. The reusable pads are a bit bulky for me and can't be worn under just anything. However, her pads promptly replaced all of my nighttime and sitting-on-my-butt-at-home pads. The purchase of just these three pads has saved me a bundle of money and there hasn't been a leak to speak of.

    Last month I realized I needed to get a little more serious about it. I have less and less time to go shopping these days because I work all the time, and I was constantly running out of tampons and liners and not being able to go to the store. I also had a lot of eco-guilt associated with all of the waste. However, I didn't want to give up tampons. They're so damn convenient I can't even deal with it. In a moment of desperation, I turned once again to Etsy. I did a quick search and found the answer to all of my problems.

    For liners I found Brittany, who was willing to deal with all of my picky requests. Brittany agreed to make me a shorter liner than usual, leave out any stitching down the center of the pads (I've heard that can cause leaks) and line it with PUL, a waterproof liner that blocks leaks. I made sure my pads were cute this time. The pads also fold up and snap for easy storage, as you can see above.

    I then found Barb. How unexpected. It seemed to good to be true! A reusable tampon? I was worried, so I sent her a message asking her if she really used these things. How does she deal with changing them when she's out? Do they really come clean? Do they smell? All of her answers were satisfactory and her prices were even better. So I told her what kind I wanted, what the wet bag should look like and I made my purchase.

    There was just one more thing. As I was reading Sleeping Naked is Green, I rediscovered The Diva Cup. My friends and I used to make fun of The Diva Cup. I mean, the title alone is ridiculous enough, but come on, a cup? In your vagina? Not so sure about that. But Vanessa loved it, and she talked about other women who loved it. That got me reading blogs about the serious love of Diva Cups. Women swear by them. After checking out their website I decided to give it a shot and I ordered one.

    I figured I'd better make something of all this crazy spending and write up a nice blog post about it. The thing that sold me the most on all of these products was hearing about them from another woman, even if I didn't know her. The kind ladies I purchased from on Etsy use their own products and the bloggers who wrote about Diva Cup are not paid for it, so it added a very human touch. In an attempt to add yet another human touch, I tested all of these products the best way I could think of, on myself.

    This ends part 1. For the results of the Sustainable Period challenge, check out part 2!

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    A post about Stuff

    I know you are all waiting on the edges of your seats for the extra special post I promised for this weekend, but this is not it. The extra special post involves some things that are currently wet and I would like to have them dry before I take pictures. You'll have to wait until Monday, which is when I've scheduled it to appear (magic!).

    Right now I would like to take some time to talk a little about Stuff. We all have it, lots and lots of it. Even those of us who do our best to keep it minimal have more stuff than we actually need. I get endlessly annoyed with all of the Stuff out there in the world, begging to be purchased. All of these things that are supposed to make our lives better, easier, more complete. I talk to some of my co-workers about this and they tend to agree. But then, booksellers are a thousand times smarter than everyone else and have no faults whatsoever. Ahem.

    The product that always jumps first into my mind and annoys me more than any other product out there is The Swiffer. Can a product possibly get any more needless than a Swiffer? You replace a broom and a mop (perfectly sustainable and long-lasting, cheap tools) with something plastic, disposable, and expensive. Yeah, ok, the refills are cheap (I'm guessing here, I've never bought any), but holy crap! you don't need it! And you have to keep buying them. Over and over and over again.

    I recently saw some products on Etsy for reusable Swiffer heads. A step in the right direction? I almost bought some for my mother. Maybe I will.

    So basically, when people talk to me about the problems with American Culture, the first thing I think of is a Swiffer. I know there are worse things, but this a pretty good metaphor for what's wrong with the developed world.

    This brings me to an important point. The point, actually, of this post. I'm going to be writing a few posts about the wasteful everyday items we use, well, everyday. The Logger was complaining about the lack of paper towels in this house the other day when I reminded him that I don't use anything disposable (except toilet paper), so we don't have any. Sorry. You'll have to use those cleaning rags after all. And to kick off this little series of posts, I'll start with the Super, Extra-Special, Weekend post I promised you. Monday is the new Sunday, so look or it then!

    I end this little post with my favorite green tip:
    Not all modern inventions are bad. Washing machines are awesome (cold water people, cold water). But seriously, who needs a dryer when you live in the most beautiful, green place all summer...

    and you've got a rockin wood stove all winter.

    PS- I started a new book! Check it out in the left hand column!

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Wicked Plants - Amy Stewart

    What a charming and interesting book. I had no idea that so many common plants were so freaking bad for me and might possibly be able to kill me or my cat (this is imagining that I have a cat of course). For instance, did you know that tulip bulbs can cause blisters on the hands of people who package them because they are slightly poisonous? I mean, I always knew that tulips could inspire murder and ruin economies, but blisters? Now that's crazy!

    The book isn't all poison though. It also highlights plants that are destructive, and illegal, intoxicating, unpleasant, and dangerous. Apparently Stewart's opinion is that tobacco is the most dangerous plant of all. I'd have to say I agree with her on that one, though the Australian Stinging Tree sounds excruciating.

    There were so many little tid bits about the plants I see every day or even keep in my house. The book isn't set up in a way that is meant to be shocking or scary; it's interesting and fun. The author includes fun little facts and stories about most of the plants, which makes it more fun to read. It's also such a nice size and comes with a ribbons attached to use as a book mark. Why don't all hardcover book come with ribbons damn it?

    I had mixed feelings about the art in the book. The etchings, done by Briony Morrow-Cribbs, were very well done and interesting. They were beautiful and eerie at the same time, very much in the spirit of the book as a whole. They also remind me of the art my friend Lisa does, which helps. However, the little illustrations, done by Jonathon Rosen, were so poor that they actually annoyed me. They look like hasty doodles. I actually checked out his website because his bio in the book had some impressive commissions. His work varies from the doodly things seen in this book, to some impressive illustrations for newspapers and magazines. Go figure.

    Basically, when I was done reading this book, I wished there was a poison garden somewhere around here to visit. I have such a new appreciation for the scary power of the plant world. I always knew dangerous plants existed, but I guess I didn't realize just how common they were, and just how dangerous they could be.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    I live in a Dorset horror flick

    Driving home at night from the bookstore is a little freaky. The roads are dark and twisty and trees crowd in from both sides. They're the kind of roads where, if my life were cheap thriller movie, a ghost would suddenly appear in front of my car, or an ax murderer would pop out of the backseat (I guess it doesn't help that I never lock my car), or some psycho would start stalking me with his car and flashing his brights and maybe even run into me. Have I mentioned there's no police station in Dorset and no 24 hour businesses and basically no one around by the time I get home?

    These are the kinds of things I was thinking about tonight while some asshole with NY plates insisted on tailgating me all the way through town all because I'm not going to speed. Sorry. Even if the roads weren't slippery, I probably wouldn't be speeding. What I don't need is a ticket, a deer plastered to the front of my car, or to slide off the road. And come to think of it, I bet that guy didn't any of those things either. Thus, I am a cautious driver. I also hate tailgating so much it's reason enough for me to just stop driving.

    So I slowed down. He didn't get it. I brake checked him like nobody's business. No effect. If he had been any closer he would have been in the back seat of my car. Finally he passed me as we got into Dorset, 30mph speed limit, double yellow line. Good riddance.

    The point of this post? Public service announcement. DON'T TAILGATE. It's annoying and dangerous and it will make people who don't even know you, hate you.

    I know, I know, this isn't even a real blog post. But worry not! I have something special in mind for the weekend. Also I started a new book so amazing I want to memorize it and start reciting it on the streets like those crazy people in NY that are always yelling about the bible while everyone rolls their eyes and tries to ignore them. Yep, someday that nutcase you cross the street to avoid will be me. My parents will be so proud.

    Ta ta for now faithful readers!

    That green tidbit I promised to keep up with: So this one is stolen directly from the book Sleeping Naked is Green. It's just such a damn good idea that I had to take it up. During my morning showers, I do not turn on the bathroom light. There's enough sunlight coming in the window to see with, plus I love the calm and quiet feeling associated with darkness. Somehow it makes my shower feel more hushed. Yeah, I've been spending too much time around lighting designers. Anyway it's just one more little thing that can be done to reduce energy consumption in a daily routine. If I actually showered daily that is.

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    The dark side of the farm

    I haven't posted in a while. I've been busy and that lead to me being tired. Anyway I stumbled across this star wars parody and it's basically the bst thing ever. So just shut up and watch it.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Book Review - Generation A by Douglas Coupland

    Douglas Coupland's writing is a little Chuck Palahniuk, without trying as hard to be clever, and a little Kurt Vonnegut, though not so cynical. This book is not his first novel, but it almost reads like one. It doesn't make me interested to read his other books anytime soon, which is a bummer because I had high hopes for this book.

    The story is about the foreseeable future when bees have gone extinct. No one has seen them for at least five years. Suddenly 5 different and seemingly unrelated people get stung. The book is told from their individual perspectives. Coupland does a good job of giving them all different personalities, though the writing style for each voice is basically identical. I found myself having trouble believing that the perceptive introvert was perceptive at all in certain chapters. At times he told his story like an ignorant fool.

    I had bigger problem with the pacing. The story was all beginning and end, with no middle to speak of. We start out with the 5 people getting stung and they are whisked away to underground labs to be studied for a month, without explanation as to why. Then they go home, but before anything can happen there, they are whisked away yet again to a remote island where they find out why they were stung and what the results of being locked away underground were. Why even have them go home at all? Coupland seemed to be in a rush, but nothing gets me into a book like a writer who savors the story.

    But I don't want to be misleading, it's a fun book and Coupland has a smart writing style. It was an easy read and an enjoyable one. It simply wasn't my favorite and I won't be rushing to re-read this book. I still stand by it being an interesting story idea, I just wish there could have been more to it. In a way that's a compliment. It's not like I didn't finish the book; I liked it enough to want more from it.

    Sunday, January 31, 2010

    Rice Flour Pancakes

    I realized when I was posting yesterday that I have never actually put up my recipe for Rice Flour Pancakes. The link I had there was the inspiration for what I make, but not the way I actually make them. So here it is:

    Amazing, tasty, who-even-cares-about-wheat-flour-anymore, gluten-free, banana pancakes

    1 c rice flour (I use brown, it has a fuller flavor)
    2 t baking powder
    1/2 t salt
    1-2 T sugar (if you have maple syrup that's even tastier. I use raw sugar because refined sugar is... gross.)
    1 t vanilla(or almond) extract
    1 T veg oil
    3/4 c alternative milk of choice (obviously you should not DEFILE my recipes with cow milk)
    1 medium overripe banana

    Mix all the dry ingredients. Mash the banana really well in a separate bowl, you want it to be about the consistency of beaten eggs. Then add in the milk, vanilla and oil. Add wet to dry. Stir well. A banana is an inexact measurement, so you may need to add more milk or flour. Make sure your cooking surface is adequately greased, because these puppies will stick like crazy and then crumble apart, though if this does happen, don't fret they still taste just as good. Cook as you would any other inferior pancake, dropping about 1/3 c at a time.

    I put a little lemon oil into The Logger's pancakes yesterday morning and he LOVED them. I also once made these with a bit of jam swirled into the batter, which was amazing. Basically, it's a flexible recipe and a yummy one.

    Saturday, January 30, 2010

    A mid-winter check in

    I recently posted about the mid-winter warmth we've been having in Vermont. All over town and even in my backyard I can see actually grass. Real grass. Not covered in snow. Or at least I could until two days ago. It was as though the sky finally looked at the ground and realized it was looking a little too much like spring and promptly dumped a few inches of snow on us. I really enjoyed the use of the word squall that happened on several occasions at work. At one point we looked outside and saw nothing but white. NOTHING BUT WHITE. OK, OK, I know this is Vermont, but it's not the arctic, this kind of stuff doesn't happen very often.

    And now is as good a time as any to check in with those changes I told myself I'd be making in my life.

    1. Step up my commitment to the environment. I'm doing a pretty good job of this. I've made a few changes recently that are small, but significant. One of those changes does not include driving less. It's endlessly annoying that I have two jobs and usually work at two locations everyday. This kind of kills any chance of carpooling, because I would need to orchestrate something between three different people who don't share my schedule. However, come spring I plan to bike more. Right now it's not feasible. Not because of the cold, but due to the danger of ice and snow banks in what would be the shoulder of a highway. No thanks.

    But here's something fun! I'm going to try and include a fun environmental... something (who knows) at the bottom of my non-book review posts. Starting today.

    2. Become a for real Vermont resident. I am officially a Vermont voter! And I have a PO Box! And I applied for health insurance. I don't have a Vermont ID yet, but that's because I don't have time to even think about driving to Bennington for such a trivial thing.

    3. Get even more organized. Yeah... about that. I haven't done this.

    4. Check!

    5. Read more. There isn't enough time to read all of the books on my book list!!! But I'm trying.

    6. Make new friends. Um. Well. I think I'm kind of trying. I mean, I've gone out to social events I would normally skip out on, but I also go to the movies alone every week and never even try to have company. Socializing is so much work! I just want to have friends without having to go through the stress of making them. (yes, I said stress. This might explain why change is so difficult for me)

    7. Continue my efforts to eat whole, home-made, unprocessed food. I haven't had a single Soy Chai Latte since I wrote that change! I have had several bagels though. Clearly I need to go out and get me some rice cakes, because I'm all out and I'm substituting bagels. Still no blender. Gonna go make a new freecycle post about this.

    So... yeah! I'd say I'm chugging along. But I'm gonna go chug along down to the kitchen and make me some rice flour pancakes.

    A green idea: I get paid weekly at my internet job. Gordon leaves our paychecks in an envelope by our time sheets. There are 52 weeks in a year. That's 52 envelopes a year! I buy a box of 50 envelopes and it lasts me forever. I don't want my paychecks costing the earth a box of paper envelopes a year. So on Fridays I put my packcheck into my backpack and hand the envelope back to Gordon. He reuses it next week. My little envelope change inspired one of my coworkers as well, so that's a little over two boxes of envelopes a year we're saving for pretty much no effort whatsoever. Woo!

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    Lemon Amazing!

    One of the perks of working at a bookstore is that I can borrow books. If I'm really interested in reading a book, but I don't really want to commit to buying it, I can simply allocate a copy to myself and take it home for a few days. Of course I need to be insanely careful with it and not spill anything on it, or accidentally bend the cover. I NEVER dog ear pages, so that's no problem.

    Getting to the point: Monday is The Loggers birthday. And if you are a devoted blog reader (AKA my mother), you'll remember the ridiculous lemon cake I made him last year. This year he said he wanted to be a little more low key and that he wanted cupcakes. Lemon cupcakes. There's been a major change in our lives since last year's cake, and that is veganism. The Logger isn't actually vegan (though he gets closer and closer every day), but since I am, and I do most of the cooking and all of the baking, that means vegan baked goods for birthdays.

    I knew I would need to get the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, but I didn't want to buy a copy. I was just going to email a recipe to myself while I was at work, but I completely forgot until about 5 seconds before we were shutting down the computers. Shit. So I quickly allocated a copy to myself. It was the last copy. So I'm sorry bookstore, I know I'm not supposed to take books home when there isn't another copy in the store, but I think I'm pretty much 100% of the Manchester vegan market, so I'm not too worried anyone is going to run into the store and demand a copy of the vegan cupcake book. Anyway there's a copy of the vegan cookie book, so whatever.

    In order to be as careful as possible (and because I generally make a mess when baking) I copied the recipe onto another piece of paper before attempting to make anything. I transformed the basic vanilla cupcake into a lemon delight. The Logger loved them, and so did I, though I don't especially love lemons. Win.

    Maybe I do need a vegan cupcake book after all...

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Bees!!! and a canker sore

    I have this stupid canker sore. Not as bad as the one I had at the end of last winter though. At least I can eat and talk and be alive without thinking about this one. It really only annoys me when I brush my teeth. I feel like I'm making it worse. I'm not though. These things are all the same; they show up suddenly, stick around without changing for whatever period of time they seem fit, and they they disappear just as quickly as they came. They don't get worse or better, they are either there, or gone. This one is not gone. Maybe a few more days.

    Whatever, that's not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about the weather I think. There's a January thaw happening right now and it feels nice. The weather has been above freezing for most of the day and then everything gets icy again at night. The news man on the radio said that bees need a warm day or two every month to leave their hives and take a dump. I feel like my brain might need sunny days like that as well to take a spiritual dump. Whatever that means. I clearly need more sun.

    I'm reading a book called Generation A (yeah, I put the plant book on hold and didn't update my website. Oh hush, you don't even care). It's all about the not-distant future where bees are extinct. No bees. None of those pollinators we've come to rely so heavily on. An exotic species in this country, but so are most of the crops we grow, so it makes sense. We've changed our eco system and it's working out. Except bees really aren't doing so well, so this book isn't so unbelievable. It's fiction by the way, not some kind of apocalyptic sustainability book.

    Anyway this brings me to my next point: honey. I know, I know, honey is not vegan. I got it. But put the whining on hold for a second and let me point out my thoughts on my own personal honey consumption. I eat honey. I eat it rather frequently. I realize the issues with large-scale commercial honey farms (if you don't, then you might want to check this out). I agree with honey being an animal product that is collected in ways which I would consider cruel. I won't buy silk because I think silk production is cruel, so why include honey in my diet?

    The reasons, which I have thought very hard about, are simple. I have terrible allergies in the spring. I can not function as a normal human being without medication. Medication is tested on animals in the cruelest ways possible. However! eating local honey in the winter can help your body become immune to pollen in the spring. It's like a delicious and sweet allergy shot to go with my morning oatmeal. If eating some honey in the winter, which I get from a beekeeping friend (who does not kill his bees, or clip their wings, or burn their hives) will mean that I won't need to purchase allergy medication, then I'm going to eat honey. I'm not buying honey from anyone else. I don't buy pre-packaged food which might contain honey and I pretty much cook all of my meals, so the honey thing doesn't come up often in my life. It would be awesome if, in a few seasons, I didn't need allergy medication or immune system building honey, but right now I'm certainly choosing the lesser of two evils.

    I realize I'm probably going get a huge lecture on this at some point. The honey debate is a huge one in vegan communities and I would say that I agree with the non-honey eating vegans. I do agree with them. I also think that bees are important pollinators and if they do disappear (which they have been doing, though we don't really know why), we are pretty much fucked. So if my local friend (who worships his bees by the way), can raise a happy, healthy colony, then more power to him. He's an incredibly irresponsible guy and his hives will probably end up swarming and creating wild hives anyway.


    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Book Review - Vegan Freak by Bob and Jenna Torres

    This book is a must have for any vegans, vegetarians, or people somewhere in between. It's kind of a how-to guide to surviving in a very non-vegan world, where you will probably be looked at as a freak.

    It deals with the obvious question of "why vegan?" and also the less obvious question of "why vegan and NOT vegetarian?" It also deals with the parts of veganism that involve non-food items. I especially like the chapters about how to handle non-vegans, specifically family and friends.

    I really identify with and needed something like this book. It explains the importance of having vegans friends and a vegan community. I live in a small town and I'm lucky to know even one other vegan. I spend a lot of time reading vegan blogs and I communicate with my vegan friends in NY whenever I feel like I need a vegan ally. Part of the reason I have this blog is for and outlet for my life and my veganism is part of that. It's frustrating to feel like you're the only person around who sees the very serious cruelty involved in the non-vegan ways of the people around us, especially the people we love.

    The only major criticism I have about this book is the editing. In this case, it seems like the major part of the editing process was done by a spell checker and not much more. I found so many major grammatical errors in this book it drove me mad. Simply sending the book to anyone else and having them read it cover to cover would have solved so many of the editing issues. Oh my god I have never read a book with so many typos. Even my college papers had less problems than this book. Bob and Jenna, if you're reading this, I adore you guys, but please fix this stuff before the next printing. (For all you people out there who would argue that my own blog is full of errors, I'll remind you that I openly admit to not proofreading mot of this, it's not a published book, and I make absolutely no money from it. It's a hobby, not a job and is in no way professional.)

    I don't want to make the book sound amateur, it's not. It's so clear that a lot of thought and research went into it. They include many other books to refer to for more information and help on any of the many topics they touch on in the book. It's a starting point, and an important one. So, if you're vegan, or thinking about it: go buy this book! Or borrow it, whatever.

    Sunday, January 17, 2010

    No 'poo

    After reading Sleeping Naked Is Green, I felt inspired to start making my own small changes. I already do a lot of what was talked about in the book, but something I had been curious about and even managed some failed attempts at, was giving up shampoo. In truth, I don't think the author ever really did it, but I wanted to.

    For as long as I can remember I've always had dandruff and buildup. Actually, I've had dandruff caused by buildup. No matter what shampoo I used or what kind of water I washed it with, I always had buildup. And my hair is super-italian-greasy and heavy. It gets pretty gross after a few days of not washing.

    I figured I'd give this no shampoo thing a try, so I read up about it on the internet first. Turns out it's not just as simple as, stop washing your hair. Your hair gets stripped of it's natural oils when you use shampoo, so it over-compensates and starts producing massive amounts of oil to recuperate. When you initially stop using shampoo your hair will be extra-ultra greasy. It takes a while for your hair to balance out and stop over-producing oil.

    I avoided this period pretty easily (or at least shortened it drastically) by only shampooing once a week for a long time. My hair was at least half way to balanced. I also mixed up a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda and one cup of water. I keep it in an old Dr. Bronner's bottle in the shower. I massage it into my scalp when I "wash" my hair. The baking soda helps to break up excess dirt and grease in your hair. Another thing I did to help with the transition was to use shampoo only on the bottom part of my hair, where it didn't touch my head.

    Baking soda will feel strange at first, mostly because it feels like almost nothing. It won't lather, it won't smell fruity, and it won't make your hair slippery and silky int he shower. Actually my hair feels kind of weird and stiff when it's still wet after I've scrubbed with baking soda. However, once it's dry it feels AMAZING. It's so light and soft. It's almost annoying how much lighter it is (in terms of weight), because before all of the grease was keeping my hair weighed down and out of my face, now it just kind of flows and moves easily, it falls in my face a lot more.

    I also don't have gross buildup and my dandruff has gotten much much better. Better than it was when I was using shampoos made especially for dandruff. I still have a little bit of it and my scalp stills gets a bit itchy. I think that has to do with genetics (thanks dad for the oily hair and dry scalp you passed on to your only daughter) and a little do to with the baking soda itself.

    One thing I read online is that the baking soda can cause a little irritation or dandruff because it is so basic. If that happens you can rinse with a solution of 1 tablespoon vinegar and a cup of water to neutralize the base. I used to use vinegar to wash my hair when I was swimming a lot. Yes, it smells bad in the shower (use apple cider vinegar for less of a smell), but it will not leave your hair smelling like vinegar. The smell is gone as soon as the vinegar dries.

    As soon as the Logger finishes his current bottle of Dr. Bronners, I'm going to mix up a batch of vinegar solution and let you know how that goes. Yay for no more 'poo!

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Book Review - The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

    I can't review this book. How could I review this book? I feel like a fraud. What right do I have to write anything about this amazing story? It's a classic for a reason! It's so perfect and meticulous. Dumas created the most amazing and perfect characters and had no trouble whatsoever bringing them to life. There's not a speck of laziness in his writing. He takes no shortcuts, creates no miracles without explanation, and he runs the reader through every possible emotion throughout the story.

    Edmond Dantes is wonderful. He's an honest and good person and he's perfect in so many ways. If he's slightly conceited, it is only because he is too young to know any better. When he becomes the Count of Monte Cristo he is conceited because he has learned to know better. He is the ultimate instrument of revenge and wrath. He is so perfect and adept at his revenge that at times it gets away from him, it takes on it's own life. He forgets that he is human and I found myself forgetting as well. However, Dumas reminds his readers before he reminds The Count. We see what is about to unfold just before Dantes and just after it is too late to stop any of it. The revenge is so perfectly plotted, no detail is left out. However, it is impossible to know the full extent of it, only because it impossible to know any person to the fullest extent. Who knows just how far any one character will go? No one but Dumas it seems.

    The ending. Oh the ending. Of course I would never reveal the ending. But, oh is it perfect. Amazing. A believable fantasy, just like the rest of the book, but somehow even more so. And just like the rest of the book it is impossible to say just what happens after the last page. The story will never rest, because, like life, there are no tidy endings. Like life, you can never really know what path people will choose, or what tomorrow will bring.

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    This is a post in which I rant a little

    So some cattle rancher decided to follow me on twitter. How on earth did that guy even find me and why would he think it was a good idea? Was it the fact that my profile states that I'm vegan? This cattle rancher is an "animal welfare specialist" according to his profile. Right. What part of breeding and raising animals specifically to kill them for human pleasure is to be considered humane? Just because animals weren't raised on factory farms doesn't make it ok to kill and eat them. Listen, you don't NEED meat to live, and you don't need it to be healthy. Therefore, when you do eat meat, it is only for pleasure, and nothing more. That means that you raise and kill animals for pleasure. End of story. There's no animal welfare in that.

    So I checked out his tweets and he put up this article about vegetarians who eat meat. Um... what? Sorry, vegetarians don't eat meat. Not to mention that the word flexitarian means absolutely zero to me. It means about the same thing as an animal welfare specialist cattle farmer. I'm so fucking sick of hearing about "happy meat" and how it's morally ok to eat it. How about I come over to your house and kill your dog and eat it. I mean, you gave it a happy life, so it's ok right? That makes it ok!


    Also, I read Michael Pollan's new book, Food Rules. Awful. It's just a (really)watered down version of In Defense of Food. Don't waste your time or your money on that one, especially if you already read his other books. It was kind of a sell-out thing to do; publish a book that takes exact passages from the last book he published, increase the font size, add a ton of blank pages and big pictures and then sell the thing for $11. Um... why? He should have just published an article in the NY Times magazine instead of a whole book. Why waste all that paper?

    OK, I'm don't ranting now. On a lighter note, we may have found some roommates who want to rent the other rooms in our house but not actually live here. That is so awesome! What more could you possibly want in a roommate?

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Book Review - Sleeping Naked is Green by Vanessa Farquharson

    Vanessa Farquharson is a movie critic for the Canadian newspaper National Post and doesn't care too much about the environment, until she sees "An Inconvenient Truth," and finally feels that she needs to do something. But what? She decides to take on a challenge of making one green change in her life every day for a year.

    The book is divided into chapters by month and each month starts with a list of the changes she made each day. It starts out simply: Changing to recycled paper towels. But she soon starts to become desperate and shuts off her freezer, then her fridge. The order in which she makes her changes is... well, odd to say the least. For example, she turns off her fridge before putting a brick into her toilet tank. She gives up toilet paper before she gives up her vacuum. She also waits until day 198 to sign up for CSA.

    She soon finds that being just a little green suddenly makes her want to be as green as possible. She wants to be the greenest in the green movement and often finds herself jealous and competitive of other environmentalists. At the same time she struggles with frustration over making certain changes and exhaustion from having to think new ones up. Some might be seen as a cop-out (writing only haiku poetry, signing up and then promptly taking down her profile on but you have to give her credit and cut her some slack, she's making 366 (leap year) changes.

    She whines endlessly about how hard it is to be an environmentalist, but when it comes time for her challenge to end, she keeps almost all of her green changes. This book is just further proof that anyone who is educated about the changes they can make and why they should make them (not to mention how easy it can often be), will make them. And they will start to care about it too. It's easy to claim ignorance about the environment and do nothing, but once you do know, it's harder to forget. She even manages to green her family a little, even though they were adamantly against environmentalism at the start.

    This book is inspiring. And funny. And down to earth. Plus it's a great read. It's good information for environmentalists or just people curious at where to start. The green movement is often seen as either too extreme or just not enough, but Farquharson struggles to find a middle ground. Reading this book made it more apparent to me just how easy it could be to step up my own greening. It's nice to see all of her changes in a list in each chapter, because although she doesn't talk about each one, you still know what kinds of changes she is making.

    Because Farquharson is a journalist, her writing is interesting and engaging. She talks about the changes and why she made them, but also what the result is on her life as a a whole. Not to mention she's hilarious. The book isn't just a list of changes that you can make, it's a story about making a difference. At the end Farquharson isn't a preachy environmentalist. She sticks with her own changes, because she sees no point in going back. But there's no denying that the story is an inspiration to those who read it. It's a story about how little changes can make a big difference, not just to the Earth, but to your entire life.

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    2010 - Happy New Year

    I don't make New Year's resolutions. It is my belief that if I really wanted to change something about myself I would start right away. If I put it off for days, weeks, months, waiting for the new year as an excuse to start, it probably isn't important enough for me to actually stick with it. I think this is true with most people which is why new year's resolutions seem to fail so often.

    That being said, there are plans and decisions I have made recently, which I'll pass off as new years resolutions simply because it is that time of year.

    1. Step up my commitment to the environment. I finished "Sleeping Naked is Green" and I really loved it. I was inspired by Farquharson's commitment to being more eco-friendly and the great lengths she went to. I won't elaborate on the book at this time because my review is forthcoming, but I will say that reading about her efforts made me realize just how minimal mine are, even if they are greater than most people (who don't seem to give a hoot about the planet they live on).

    2. Become a for real Vermont resident. This has been in the works for a while now. I finally registered to vote yesterday and I'll be getting a PO box next week. Then I'll work on getting health insurance. I'll probably even schlep myself over to the DMV and get a state ID, though I'm resistant to give up my AZ driver's license for the mere fact that it doesn't expire until I am 60. SIXTY!

    3. Get even more organized. Is it possible? Sadly it is. I keep all of my tax, employment, health, and criminal records in clearly labeled envelopes by year. I keep all of these in a cardboard box piled with who knows what kinds of other crap. What I really need is an accordion file thing of some kind or a really nice big binder with dividers. This seems like an easy task and I should have gotten it done by now, but alas! this is a small town and options are few. Anyway I'm going to get it together. Maybe I'll even go crazy and get myself a safety deposit box at a real bank and put my birth certificate in there as well. (note to my mother: Don't worry, the criminal record thing was a joke. I don't organize those by year.)

    4. Learn to drive stick. This has been on my list forever and I'm glad to cross it off. Well now I've got this stick thing down, and though I still hate it, I can at least do it without a problem. I don't even stall on big hills anymore, or drive way out of my way to avoid them. Last night I drove an automatic for the first time in months and though I rejoiced in not having to hassle over shifting and hitting the clutch, I still felt like I was forgetting something when my left foot and right hand took a well-earned break from driving.

    5. Read more. Gone are the times when I would sometimes be reading the same book for months. It's my job to read now and form an opinion on it. I'm being paid to have those opinions. In addition to just reading more, I need to remember what I've read and why I did or didn't like it. This is why I'm writing full-fledged, longer-than-you-have-patience-for, and more-than-anyone-cared-to-know book reviews. You can skip them if you like. Or, you can specifically look for them in brand new link section on the left. Bookworms unite!

    6. Make new friends. I know a good deal of people around here just from dealing with the theatre and living on the farm, however most of them are not close friends, but rather people I say hi to in passing. I have a lack of people in my life that I can go out to movies with, or lunch, or invite over for a lazy evening of dinner and board games. This was a regular occurrence in my life in NY and it's the thing I miss most. The fact that I am a social moron makes this increasingly difficult, but I have been and will continue to make efforts.

    7. Continue my efforts to eat whole, home-made, unprocessed food. My biggest battle being bagels, the cafe next to the bookstore where I get a discount, vegan butter, and my obsession with potato chips. I'm willing to keep potato chips if I can quit soy chai lattes and everything bagels with Earth Balance spread. Also, I need a blender and/or food processor to make my own vegan cheeses and spreads.

    Of course there are other things to be done and changed, but a life is ever-evolving. We all have endless lists. Those are the big ones, which are most on my mind because they should have been done already. Who knows, maybe I'll check in with myself in another month and I'll be wonderfully on track. Maybe I'll really get serious and draw up a little five year plan for myself. Ugh.

    Secondary note: The Logger has started to make his own changes and has created a youtube page. Though I detest youtube, I love The Logger, so check out his site here and listen to some awesome music.