22 April 2008

happy earth day!

Being green is so in these days, so in honor of Mother Earth and Earth day, I'm going to post some interesting links on a variety of environmental topics. Enjoy!

Which Candidate is Greenest? -- An article in Vanity Fair discusses which presidential candidate will be best on environmental issues. Yes, we all know it's not McCain, but check out this piece and the other articles it links to for more details.

Find Earth Day Events in Your Area -- I know it's getting a little late in the day for this, but Mother Earth News offers some resources for finding out what's happening in your area today.

10 for the Earth -- Heifer International (an all-around excellent organization) lists ten simple, everyday things you can do to lower your impact on the environment. They may sound familiar -- none of them were new to me -- but it never hurts to be reminded.

Why Bother? -- Michael Pollan addresses the seeming hopelessness of those little individual acts of environmentalism, and makes a compelling case that we should persist in our individual efforts. (Thanks for the link, Kim!)

Greener Pastures -- Speaking of individual acts of environmentalism, Bill Nye (the Science Guy) puts the rest of us to shame. Some of his ideas are simple, others are prohibitively expensive for most of us, but all of them make me wish I were eating his scones and watching hummingbirds with him.

Earth Day Tips -- Another list, this one from National Geographic's Green Guide, of things you can do to make your life more green.

Environmental Cleaning Solutions -- Lots of resources about using environmentally-friendly cleaning products, such as vinegar and baking soda and lemon juice. Keep your home clean using fewer chemicals and pollutants, and save a few bucks too.

The Rainforest Site -- Just one click of your mouse and money is donated to rainforest preservation and habitat protection. (Click to donate to the other worthy causes while you're there, too.)

Thoreau's Laundry -- Interesting post at Shakesville about the intersection of gender issues with environmentalism -- thoughts I've had from time to time, but I don't think I could ever have put it down so coherently. As usual at Shakesville, the comments section is nearly as good as the original post.

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear -- Okay, this is not exactly an Earth Day link, but it's about the evil being done to the earth, to farmers, and to agriculture in general by one of the leading bioengineering companies in the world. Monsanto is responsible for the majority of genetically modified foods out there, as well as a marketer of bovine growth hormones, and they are frighteningly aggressive in both political lobbying and bullying small farmers.

Okay, that's all from me. Go out and do something nice for the Earth today!


18 April 2008

spring spring spring

Now that it's spring, things are getting busy. It was spring break this week, and gorgeous weather too (right now it's 80 degrees. Eighty degrees! In April!) so we have been spending a lot of time outdoors, going to the playground, riding bikes, taking walks, having playdates.

I've also decided to start running again. Periodically I decide that I'm going to be a runner, and I enthusiastically go running a few times and then lose interest and watch the dust accumulate on my running shoes. This time I've actually kept it up for almost a week, which I think is a new record. I'll let you know if I'm still at it once James is back in school and I have less of that needing-to-get-out-of-the-house-by-myself motivation.

We're going on a mini-vacation this weekend -- renting a house in the Finger Lakes with some friends. You see, a month or two ago Greg and I decided, after years of not really paying attention to our finances, to track our spending and work out a budget. We discovered that we have less money than we thought, and we are totally poor, so obviously the first thing to do with that newfound knowledge was to buy the most expensive video game on the planet. The next step in our financial plan is to go on a vacation which, while cheaper than most vacations, what with being off-season and splitting much of the cost with other people, is still more than we should be spending right now.

In totally unrelated news, we've recently decided to make our kids pay for college themselves. To teach them about responsibility. Build character. That sort of thing.

(Kidding. Maybe.)

So I'm spending much of today running around like a chicken with her head cut off, trying to get everything ready so that once we get to the lake, we can just relax, and play. Hope everyone else has a good weekend!


14 April 2008


"Let's play The Three Little Pigs."


"Who do you want to be?"

"A sand person!"

"No, you have to be a pig or the wolf."

"I want to be a sand person!"

"Okay, let's play The Three Little Sand People."

[Some time later]

"Little Luke, little Luke, let me in!"

"Not by the point of my sharp, sharp lightsaber!"

"Then I'll load and I'll load and I'll shoot your house down!"

I don't condone their use of violence, but I do appreciate their creativity. (Possibly inspired by reading this book incessantly over the last week. If you have small children, find some of David Wiesner's picture books -- the several we've read are beautiful and imaginative.)


13 April 2008

weekend recipe

I'm lazy this weekend, but that might work out better for you. Instead of writing up one recipe I like, I'm going to link to several recipes I've tried lately.

Carmelized Tofu -- I used spinach instead of brussels sprouts, and parsley instead of cilantro, and skipped the pecans, but everyone in my house agreed that this was the best tofu we've ever had. EVER. Evan doused it in ketchup, but still, he ate it, which is more than I can say for most meals.

Jam and Streusel Muffins -- I was looking for a way to use up some old apricot jam we had sitting around, and stumbled across this recipe. I used sour cream instead of yogurt, skipped the nuts, and substituted brown sugar for maple sugar, and these muffins were totally delicious. The cardamom gives them an unusual flavor, but it's good. Goooood.

Whole Wheat Honey Bread -- For those of you with bread machines (or those of you who are ambitious enough to make bread by hand), this is quite possibly the best homemade bread I've ever had. It's definitely the best I've ever made, and I'm baking a loaf every two or three days to keep up with the demand. Scrumptious.

Roast Leg of Lamb -- This may seem odd in light of our new vegetarian leanings, but our grocery store had naturally-raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free lamb on sale. So yeah, we ate the leg of a poor little lamb (my older son kissed the package and whispered an apology) but at least his brief life was happy. And let me tell you, that leg was delicious. This recipe marinates the meat in a citrus-wine-herb sauce, and it comes out so tender and juicy and delicious. We all loved it despite our guilt.

Lamb and Winter Vegetable Stew -- And what to do with the leftovers? (Because even my carnivorous boys can't eat 5 pounds of lamb at once.) I made a lamb stew, with carrots and potatoes in place of parsnips and sweet potatoes. Greg thought it was a little bland, but he spiced it up with some hot sauce and was pretty happy with it, though he thought he would have liked horseradish or worcestershire sauce better. I thought a little salt and pepper made it very good.

So that's what we've been eating this week. And our tummies are full and we are all happy.


11 April 2008

friday photos: it's finally spring! edition

It finally feels like spring around here, and I cannot even express how happy that makes me. We are spending a lot of time outdoors these days. Oh, sun, how I have missed you.

Happy weekend, everyone!


10 April 2008

not about food

Okay, enough of the food blogging. The more I write about food, the fewer comments I get. I can take a hint.

Instead, today, I'm going to post on a couple of other topics I love: movies, and gender issues. (Not that I think these topics will get many more comments, but at least it's a change of pace!)

I want to direct you to this piece by NPR's Peter Sagal, which has been all over the feminist blogs I read, about the blatant sexism in the new Dr. Seuss movie, Horton Hears a Who. It's pretty short; read it if you haven't already. I've written before about gender distribution in sci-fi and fantasy, and in that post I mentioned, without getting into details and examples, that it's part of a larger trend in film in our culture. But Horton apparently takes the cake, with one heroic boy and his ninety-six useless sisters. Trust me, they didn't get that from Seuss's book.

It felt great to read Sagal's indignant rant about the worth of daughters. The lack of female characters in kids' movies (and adult movies too, though I'll save that rant for another day), not just of female heroes or protagonists but of female characters in general, is something that has irritated me for a long time. Television is generally better -- thank goodness for PBS! -- but part of the reason for that is that there are so many kids' shows to choose from (even when you only get five channels) while there are, what, 3 or 4 mainstream kids' movies in theaters every year? Maybe five in a good year. Slim pickings, at any rate.

At the end of his piece, Sagal mentions several iconic kids' movies featuring male protagonists saving the day, or saving the world. Below the fold I'm going to highlight some of my favorite kids' movies (favorites of my boys, too, I should add) that give girls a chance to shine.

At the very top of my list is every film ever made by Hayao Miyazaki. From the magical adventures of Satsuki and Mei in My Neighbor Totoro, to the compassionate yet fierce ace pilot and princess Nausicaa, to the smart, resourceful Sophie taking charge in Howl's Moving Castle, to the slightly-feral warrior Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki's films are full of girls who run the show and save the day. Totoro was a favorite of my boys' when they were small, and Nausicaa is a long-time favorite of both as well.

One of my favorite movies even now is Mary Poppins, and both of my boys fell in love with it too when we first watched it a couple of months ago. Two adorable children go on adventures with a magical nanny who takes no nonsense from anyone. Plus there are fun and catchy songs to sing along to. Bonus: the children's mother is a suffragette! (Something I had forgotten in the many years between watching this movie as a child and as an adult.)

I've been working on this post for a while, and the last film I can think of with good gender distribution (and a good plot too) is The Incredibles, the only Pixar film I can think of that has more than two female characters. (Did you see Ratatouille? Cute film, but am I the only one who noticed that in the colony of hundreds of rats, there was not a single female rat among them? Please!) As someone who likes superhero movies in general, and as the mother of boys who love superheroes, I have to say that I would really love to see more movies about female superheroes, and The Incredibles helps fulfill that wish a little bit for me. It's not only a fun film, but one that places its women on equal footing with its men, and in which everyone works together to save the day. My kind of film.

So there you have my favorite kids' films, for girls and boys. I don't think it's a coincidence that my favorite kids' films also have even gender distribution (well, more even than most films anyway) and/or strong female characters who are not stereotyped. (Okay, a proper British nanny is obviously a stereotype, but Mary Poppins goes so far above and beyond typical child-rearing that I think she's an exception here.) Maybe one of these days I'll have time to get into other kids' films that are good, but could have been better if their vast casts had included, say, one woman to every 3 men instead of one woman to every 10 men.


07 April 2008

food, glorious food

It was a good weekend. We got our car back on Friday and I was able to go grocery shopping and I can't even describe to you how wonderful it felt. It seems that both of my children, especially James, chose the Week of Dwindling Food Supplies to have a growth spurt, so we were getting pretty desperate toward the end of the week.

On Friday, when I left for the store, our fridge looked like this:

It may look as if there's still a good amount of food in there, but it's pretty much all condiments. With a little milk and beer. We love condiments, but what good are mustard and maple syrup and salsa and jam and sour cream when you've got nothing to put them on?

Compare to the state of our fridge after shopping, which is much closer to its usual state:

Yogurt! Eggs! Apples! Orange juice! You can't see into the drawers, but they are similarly stuffed, with cheese and fresh produce.

Yes, I've probably reached a new low here by posting before and after photos of my refrigerator on the blog. I do think it's interesting, though, to peek into other people's refrigerators. A person's food choices can tell you a lot about that person.

I'd write about what I think my refrigerator says about me, but now I'm too hungry, so I'll let you speculate if you wish.


03 April 2008

not what i'm used to

Apparently I live in the sort of neighbrohood where, when an allegedly rabid raccoon is reported to management, a maintenace guy sits in his car below the tree in which said raccoon is hiding, and shoots at the raccoon with a BB gun. I'm not sure whether this was before or after Animal Control was called, but it definitely happened before they arrived. We have yet to discover the fate of the raccoon.

Also, this afternoon I was talking with a neighbor who's coming down with a cold. She told me she's been using lozenges that have a lot of vitamin C, zinc, and euthanasia. She continued talking, completely oblivious of what she had said, and it was a very difficult task, my friends, not to start laughing.


02 April 2008


We have been more or less housebound since Friday afternoon, when we inadvertently killed our car's transmission and had it towed to a repair shop that wasn't open all weekend, and which took one day to diagnose the problem, and is taking another three days to fix it. Oh, the joys of being a one-car family! But on the bright side, by not driving, we are saving a lot of gas money, and we are sparing the atmosphere a miniscule amount of pollution. I'm patting myself on the back as I'm typing this.

It's okay, really it's okay that we're stranded at home, because we now own Rock Band and we are putting it to constant use, annoying our neighbors and giving ourselves sore muscles from the intensity of our rock and roll. Our neighbors retaliate by blasting bad '80s music and Celine Dion at unpardonable volume levels (really, any volume is too much for Celine), but I suppose that makes us even.

Being carless has really not been so bad. Greg has been working from home, and the kids and I have been finding more to do around the house. It's been nice enough to play outside the last couple of days (though windy and muddy -- James and our neighbor were playing a game yesterday called "Scooby Doo and the Tornado Swamp"). This afternoon I played Candy Land for the first time in ages, albeit with Lego people instead of the plastic characters that come with the game. Okay, I know that really has nothing to do with not having the car this week, but I'm on a roll, here, and this is my first post in a while, so let's pretend it's relevant.

The biggest problem we're having actually, is that we're beginning to run out of food. This is partly because we're too lazy to walk the mile and a half to the grocery store for whatever food could fit into a backpack, but partly because I am viewing this situation as a challenge to see how well I can feed our family on the odds and ends now in the cupboards and refrigerator. I've been managing the dinners pretty well -- thank goodness for canned and frozen foods! -- and we have plenty of breakfast stuff around (even stuff that doesn't require millk, which we're almost out of), but I'm starting to run out of ideas on lunches. Today's fruit-and-vegetable-group offerings for my children's lunches were banana yogurt and pickles. They love those, sure, but it's a good thing we're getting the car back tomorrow.

Of course, when we get the car back we have a bunch of errands to run, so it'll probably negate all of the good anti-global warming karma we've been accumulating over the last week. But I feel like I've learned some kind of lesson this week, something about simplicity and not taking things for granted and being resourceful and adapting to unfortunate circumstances, and maybe some other things that I can't quite grasp in my current tired state. It's been a pretty good week so far.