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