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September 2010



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Sep. 16th, 2010

healthier eating

It has been said that after repeating an activity for 21 days the habit becomes routine. I don’t know if this is true, but it seems like a pretty good bet that three weeks of repetition would create a level of assimilation. I’ve tried this with exercise, but didn’t get very far as my efforts got slammed by a month of 100+ degree temperatures, at 6pm. I’ve tried to cut out dairy from general everyday consumption, but didn’t make any real plan so failed miserably. Please, learn from my mistake, soymilk does not make a good mushroom stroganoff base. I can’t believe I even wrote that sentence.

I’m not vowing to change life pattern of food forever, but I do see things about my body and health that could be better. Our kitchen is beautifully equipped and we eat more whole, unprocessed foods than the majority of Americans, but we can do better. Lately, E has been having stomach problems and a nagging cough. I know allergies can be blamed (so can smoking like a chimney while his father was here, but, since he has stopped, we won’t travel down that road), but so can laziness with our food. Finally, Arwen can truly not be bothered to eat meat. Cheese and yogurt, yes. Meat, you need not exist. Thus, I decided to take us down the road of vegan experimentation for a three short weeks. The caveats being, we may eat a little cheese, E can have milk for his coffee and cereal, and the idea of soy yogurt frightens me, but overall I want to have a vegan home for a trial run. However, I know my weakness of needing a plan so I began a search, because what else is an iPhone for than the search “vegan” on the apps page. As it turns out, that’s EXACTLY what it is for: 21-day vegan kickstart was one of the first hits.

I checked out the associated website and it turns out there is a wonderful list of meals, broken down day-for-day and meal-for-meal. Secondly, there are recipes for each meal. Finally, all ingredients are straightforward. There is no tempeh, seitan, vegan margarines, back-shelf of hippie grocery amino acids. Not at all. In fact, the most foreign ingredients are silken tofu and quinoa – both of which I have on hand (though the tofu expired two months ago). In fact, most of the recipes are super simple and, frankly, a bit dull - which makes this endeavor more exciting because it opens me up to making everything taste even better than the proposed, dull recipe. Afterall, nothing like a few pats of butter and reduced to cream sauce to liven up an simple pasta dish. Oh wait …

As it turns out, this whole 21-day Kickstart program is sponsored by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which seems to be a bunch of animal lovin’, cheese haters dressed as doctors. (I kid, really.) Seriously, their aim is to get people eating healthier without breaking the bank, which is an admirable goal. Admittedly, the campaign aesthetic is a bit cheeseball – complete “Celebrity Tips” – but it is an excellent, clear website that couldn’t have a better motive, especially since September is deemed “National Childhood Obesity Month”:

Based on research by Neal Barnard, M.D., one of America’s leading health advocates, this program is designed for anyone who wants to explore and experience the health benefits of a vegan diet. Low-fat vegan—plant-based—diets are the easiest way to trim excess weight, prevent diabetes, cut cholesterol, lower blood pressure, prevent and reverse heart disease, and reduce cancer risk. They even trim our carbon footprint.

The program "started" September 6, and after a final bolognese sauce with pasta and fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, we will start this weekend. Better late than never.

Aug. 10th, 2010

99 at 9

I just came inside from giving our garden a thorough watering.  I love doing yard work in the evening, except for the bugs giving my ankles welts from repeatedly sucking my blood, it is wonderful to watch the sun go down.  All down our street, I see lights coming on as day moves into evening.  Sounds change from background to foreground as so many cars head inside and the toads and cicadas begin their evening gossip.  It seems the new dose of composted earth, turning over beds, adding a bit of fertilizer food, and general care for the beds has been good for everything.  Our peas have gone from barely hanging on to beginning to crawl up a dead corn stalk.  This change has evolved in the last 36 hours.  Thrilled!  Now here's hoping all the seeds take root and we begin to see new growth in the next week or so.  The fact that it's 99-degrees at  9:00 p.m. makes my concern for the seedlings all the more real, but if I do things right and have a bit of luck, we'll have fresh veggies from the garden at Thanksgiving.
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Aug. 4th, 2010

one small step and then another ...

Every 6 months or so I commit to getting back into shape and then, well, make excuses that I have better things to do because my lazy ass – and legs – and back – gets sore.  This time, I’ve found a low-key, easy ramp-up plan that I aim to keep.  It is a zero to 5-K in 12 weeks plan.  If a plan asked me to move any slower from zero to 5-K the end result would never be achieved.  Thus, this plan seems do-able.  Tonight I will alternate 2-minutes of running with 2-minutes of walking for 30 minutes.   If you’d like to check out the plan go to RunTex's awesome training website at http://www.runtex.com/runtexu/training/5K/trainingwk1.asp
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Aug. 3rd, 2010

Locally Sourced

I adore cooking all food – though pastry still eludes me.  Ending my day with simple, colorful meals allows any stress to just fall away.  Cooking brings me back to earth, clears my head. The kitchen is the place where I laugh and teach and give. It’s my church.  Historically, I’ve taken over the kitchen every night and Erich has practically avoided the kitchen for fear of screwing up something that I couldn’t imagine being any simpler to cook – quick veggie stir-fry; flipping a fried egg at just the right moment so the second side only needs a last 30 seconds on the flame; marrying a pot of lentils with a bit of sautéed garlic and cinnamon then cooking it all down with a few tomatoes while I nurse the baby or play in the yard. 

Perhaps the fact that I am more comfortable in the kitchen than in any other space accounted for Erich’s avoidance of continual nagging about cooking together.  When he would occasionally give in and enter my lair of bubbling pots and castles of sliced vegetables, I would excitedly demonstrate a new way to slice something, by taking away his knife.  Or declare that olive oil should really be used instead of vegetable oil.  Or ask why he was letting some ingredient drain off excess water naturally rather than helping the process along by tossing the colander a bit.  My fluency seemed to baffle him and, more often than not, we’d end up blowing up and he’d leave the kitchen.  I thought he misinterpreted my questions as interrogations and I saw his defenses as childish worries.  Afterall, it couldn’t possibly be that I was being heavy handed! It couldn’t possibly be that I needed to keep my trap shut and wait for him to ask questions.  And our journey toward kitchen commingling couldn’t possibly be as simple as him having a few successes with new recipes. Never!

“This is really elaborate,” Erich said as he placed Arwen in her highchair and we prepared to sit down to dinner.  In the new habit of cleaning a bit as I cook, because a kitchen full of dishes drives Erich nuts, I dried my hands after washing a pot, “Not so much more than any other night.”
“But there just seem a lot of extra dishes.”
“Well, you helped dirty them and I’m cleaning a few before we eat. It’s not that bad.”

Some of our friends have a plants that are hemorrhaging cucumbers so for the last two nights we’ve been eating the best cucumbers I can recall tasting.  They have a bright flavor, slightly floral scent, and a crispness that is near chip-like.  Arwen had one bite and proceeded to only want to eat cucumbers for dinner – they are that good.

Night before last, a smidgeon of balsamic vinegar and oil dressed several cucumbers that had been tossed with an enormous handful of minced cilantro, a couple handfuls of homegrown cherry tomatoes that nearly burst with sweet juices as I brought down the knife, and half an avocado – diced.  Erich cooked off the last of the ground pork sausage that had been butchered from a home raised pig and gifted to us from an uncle.  We’ll miss having it available in our freezer.  Not to waste, I had him drain a touch of pork-fat drippings in the wok, heated it to high and allowed the fat to dance with some coarsely chopped green onions and a few whisked eggs that came from the nether regions of our friend’s chickens.  Finally, Erich heated up a can of refried black beans and warmed a few Central Market tortillas directly on the stove burner.  It was a south-of-the-border influenced dinner that came together with perfect ingredients, most of which were from friends and family.  I felt so absolutely blessed to have such bounty on the plate before me.

Last night wasn’t nearly as locovore lovin’, but it was some fun cooking. I soaked milanese style beef slices in an egg-milk mixture while sliced carrots and pasta cooked up.  After soaking, the meat was dredged through leftover whole-wheat hamburger buns that had been whirred through the Cuisinart, along with a touch of garlic salt and a healthy dose of fresh ground black pepper.  Arwen loves turning on the Cuisinart, but gets even more excited to taste test what comes out of the machine.  The breadcrumbs were approved by way of three additional samples.  Erich melted a bit of butter with touch of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet and cooked off the beef.  The pasta was quickly done and Erich assembled as per his edited version of Annie’s mac-n-cheese directions.  I tossed the steamed carrots with remaining minced parsley. As another small side, yet more cucumbers were sliced and tossed with rice vinegar plus a touch of water.  Pasta and meat was plated.  The parsley carrots and cucumber salad were each spooned into serving dishes for the table.  I rinsed out the assembly bowls and joined my family at our table. 

Finally, our nightly table is beginning to be filled with food shared from meal’s inception.  It only took ten years of fussing to work out sharing meal preparation, but now it feels like we’ve cooked together forever.  I know the last of our food fights are not over, but we have more successes than failures.  Slowly, we are learning a new culinary fluency and that is sweeter than the most perfect garden tomato.

Aug. 2nd, 2010

toddler intensity

To possess your intensity would be to capture living in its purest, un-reflected essence. We have all been there and are capable of returning, but are we capable of returning? Boundaries have slashed across us - criticism, judgment, inadvertent scorn - leaving our pure id bleeding at the base of our ego. The ways of It replaced by the rules of I, confined by the evermore critical Over-I of grown days.  Minds bound with worry of creating something “right” – hyper-attachment to what’s “real” quickly shade our actions and push away the unabashed intensity of early toddlerdom.  To watch a toddler freely playing, with no rules or parameters is to watch certain energy. 

When I drop paint from the plastic tub it is stored in, you don’t wait for the paint to hit the paper.  Your hand juts out into the path of the paint.  For you, paint is not a tool to create a representation of life, but it life itself.  It is texture, color, temperature, and taste to be explored.  The blob of paint is addressed by your hand, then rubbed onto your belly, and introduced to your hair, but also your arms each have space to accept your explorations and every space experiences the paint in a slightly different way.  Your blue/red/green muddled hand reaches to your mouth and I try to stop you, but am too slow. “Ah-ak-ah!,” is the sound that comes from your disturbed palate. Ultimately, your painted hands meet the paper.  Gleefully, intensely you pull new paint blobs across the paper into masses of mixed colors. You grab a toy airplane and run its wheels across the painted surface.  Airplane tires leave variegated patterns through the paint; your dad grabs the camera because the pattern would be a wonderful abstract image, but you’ve already smeared the abstraction into oblivion and are onto the next incarnation.  Soon there is so much paint the paper is soaked and the fibers are worn from your cycles of creation and destruction.

I have my back to you when it happens.  The tear is unheard.
“Uh-oh!,” you declare.
I turn around.  You have bits of paper in both hands and are lurching forward to rip out the newspaper that is barely able to protect the table from your intensity.
“Arwen, darlin’, don’t tear up the newspaper.”
“’Un.,” you declare and give the sign for “all done.”
I try to explain we need the newspaper, but can add new blank paper for your paint.  I have to work fast to get the new paper laid and taped into place.  My hands frenetically move against your drive to tear up the seemingly useless newsprint. You are thwarted with my request to throw away the painted paper.

Distraction is my ally. 

Just as eagerly as you smeared paint across your body and paper, you smash the worn out fragments of your masterpieces between your tiny hands and slam them into the gaping trashcan.  Quickly you return, your agility propels you back up on the platform from which you can access the painting area and you declare, “More!?,” in that strong little voice that demands and questions simultaneously.

Aug. 1st, 2010

august's arrival

This summer has been stunningly bearable.  Week upon week of afternoon rain showers, preceded by towering cumulonimbus filling the sky with bucking broncos, paranoid rabbits, and magical top hats.  We knew it couldn't last, but hoped the summer would sneak by hundred degree days and slide in a long fall.  Today, our dreams were shattered with a slamming wall of heat.  At 8 a.m. the temperature was 84-degrees and the mercury continues to inch up.  99-degrees marks 3:00 p.m. and 104-degrees is moving our way.  The week will be blanketed with 100+ temperatures and rain is nowhere on the horizon.  The sky is back to the intense Texas blue that I think of when  Texas summer enters my thoughts.  The garden is already shrinking from the rays - the dirt is so hot my bare feet can't tolerate even 3 minutes of roaming. 

Our tomatoes have been the only real success of our late-spring plantings.  This evening I hope to prune back those tomato plants.  Heavy and overgrown with leaves, and now unproductive flowers, the plants still have fruit, but only on the lower branches.  The ripe fruit is split - birds are finally taking advantage of the bounty.  I'll take two of the plants back to a six inch stumps.  A few of the suckers will be plucked and put into freshly fertilized soil.  Both of the tomato plant transformations will be an experiment in propagation.  Next weekend, I'll pull up the corn and beans that didn't thrive, careful to avoid the pumpkin seedlings that are sprouting.  To all the garden beds, I'll add new soil and food.  With thoughts of homegrown corn at Thanksgiving, I'll drop new corn kernels into the garden bed.  My hope is that the first corn plantings didn't take because the summer was too cool.  Perhaps, August's heat will encourage new crops to push into the crispness of fall. 

May. 14th, 2010

(no subject)

This is a heartbreaking video of the oil purge that is Deepwater Horizon that was filmed from an aircraft.  You will see the oil from where it begins to lap the shores of Dolphin Island to the ground zero point of the oil platform and continuing oil release.


The only possible consolation is the the well, by definition, has an end point. Deepwater Horizon is not an event horizon leading to an endless black hole of oil.  It will stop gushing.  Someday. In the meantime, I hope there are petroleum engineers working out how to cleanse crude oil of saltwater and be able to use it for fuel. 

However, since BP owned the well, but cannot capture the escaping oil and said oil is now in international waters, who holds ownership rights to that oil?  Will a cyberpunk, pirate race begin on recapturing the oil?  This is a disaster beyond current understanding of oil spill fallout.  What technology, changes, adaptations will we make to handle the fallout?  Or, is that gush coming to an end as we chatter?  Perhaps it is.  Perhaps, as we chatter only Louisiana, Alabama, and parts of Florida and Texas will be affected.  Clean-up will occur; government and big oil will dust each other off, say, "That was close." Business will continue as usual, because Deepwater Horizon was just an outlier accident. 

Privacy Concerns :: Facebook and Beyond

I keep close tabs on my settings, but - perhaps more importantly - I think before I post.  People are up in arms about Facebook and privacy, but let me point out that Facebook is an open service that we voluntarily choose to use.  We have no rights over Facebook.  We do not need Facebook to communicate with friends.  Facebook created a need that is now being voraciously consumed and enjoyed and berated by the very same people who voraciously choose to participate. 


It is the consumers’ responsibility to use the product responsibly.  It is not Facebooks’s responsibility to ensure everyone protects himself or herself from potential privacy invasion.  The tools are available.  The privacy settings exist and are not difficult to use, but it does take a bit of actual tinkering.  This is not a problem.  This is technology.  The future is now.  People need to understand that anything that goes online is not private.  You may have the false comfort of an “invisibility cloak” by applying privacy settings, but those settings are no guarantee. Regardless of what privacy settings you apply, hackers are hackers because the bigger the lock, the greater the challenge.  Thus, no matter what settings you apply there is someone out there working out how to get through those settings.  For better or worse, the world of information is a voyeuristic world and if you choose to participate do not expect your words, pictures, or thoughts to be private.


What amuses me about these “privacy settings” outrages is none of this is new.  Once placed outside of our being, our personal information, our words, our thoughts have always been accessible. Our addresses, home ownership, tax records, school enrollment, grocery purchases, etc., are all accessible. In the past it simply took a bit more work to access them.  Now, if I know your name I can quickly find out if you have bought or sold property, applied for a marriage license, had a child or paid your taxes on time with little more than a few minutes and an internet connection. Those new websites spoke.com are doing nothing more that scraping publicly available information and compiling it in an easily accessible location.  These companies might seem morally debase by creating a business opportunity out of our “privacy,” but all of this information is publicly available so they are simply smarter (devilishly clever) and richer than the people complaining about shared information. 


Tangent story … After we bought our home, within in a week of closing, we began receiving offers to refinance our mortgage.  Where did these companies learn that we’d bought a house?  Simple.  There are people who scour court documents on a daily basis and sell the information (rather they sell their labor because the information – say it all together – is publicly available) to companies find value in the information.  What continues to be ironic about the offers is the cultural assumptions that are still made through this information scrape.  We bought our home with a VA loan due to my military service.  However, 8 out of 10 “VA offers” for refinance are addressed to my husband because, obviously (duh?) the woman whose name is lead on the loan couldn’t possibly be the military veteran.


Another thing that occurs to me is that people treat Facebook as an absolute that will always exist when, in fact, Facebook’s headquarters could just say, “That was a fun experiment.  We are closing shop right now," and proceed to wipe out everyone's account.  Alternately, we could experience some sort of electronic pulse that could wipe all of our electronic fingerprints – protected or not – off the digital map.  Yes, that sounds like fodder for late night sci-fi, but then again no one ever imagined we’d carry computers in our pockets, or have penetrable social networks like Facebook, so don’t underestimate the power we hold or the potential to destroy that power.  Now go check your privacy settings; do not post hastily, and, this weekend, learn to start a fire with sticks because one day keeping wolves at bay may be your only privacy concern. 

Mar. 17th, 2010

I Gave Birth - by Cherie Boison

I Gave Birth

I gave birth
Too large of a baby
Too flat of a plevis
Said I couldn't do it
I gave birth
Too risky they said
Too much overdue
C-section scar
I gave birth
Glucose intolerant
Group B positive
What's your end game?
I gave birth
Without their interventions
Without their fears
Surrounded by calm, peaceful love
I gave birth
Let that contraction go
Listen to your body
Holding hands
I gave birth
Birth stool in my kitchen
Birth tub on the floor
Trusting it all
I gave birth
Strong pain
Stronger support
Moaning low
I gave birth
My body isn't broken
My spirit is healed
My heart is so thankful

The above poem was published in the Spring 2010. Number 93, issue of Midwifery Today.

Mar. 16th, 2010

Kidlet and the baby fig tree

This year, we are ramping up with gardening. The area we planned to xeriscape will now be filled with raised beds that E is building out of cedar. Those boxes are not to be messed with - solid, everlasting materials and an amazing smell. Over the next couple weeks, they'll be filled with wonderful soil and good baby plants.

This little fig tree is in our side yard, placed specifically to be shared with the neighbors and - we hope - one day used as a shady place for Arwen to spend lazy afternoons with books, musical instruments, and drawing materials ... also good for napping.

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