Saturday, April 26, 2008

Book discussion?

I am reading a book that is just fascinating me, and though I got it from the library I think I'm going to have to break down and buy it, because it's got so many ideas in it that I can't possibly process all of them at once.

The book is called "Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle" by David Wann (who is also the author of the book that spawned the PBS special called "Affluenza").

From the back book cover:

"In his bestseller Affluenza, David Wann and his coauthors diagnosed the debilitating disease of overconsumption. Now, in Simple Prosperity, he shows us how we can overome it to recapture a more abundant and sustainable lifestyle without sacrifiing everything we love."

The book is about living greener, living happier, living socially consciously. It is filled with statistics, too, but also practical ideas and advice about how to proceed.

If anyone else is interested, please get yourself a copy of this book (it is available at the library, after all....though one library copy is in my hands right now) and then let me know when you're done with it, because I'd love to talk about it with you. Anyone?


PS We're in Portland, enjoying visiting with Mom & Dad S. and lovely weather, too. Off to adventures at Bob's Red Mill!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sleepovers and Portland

The girls made it through the night - hurrah! Despite the fact that it was Zoe's first sleepover, she did fabulous, and my little stinker (who has had several sleepovers) stayed up WAY too late with the excitement of it all. Oh well. I still remember sleepovers from when I was young, and styaing up too late and getting in trouble for it is part of that.

(The threat that finally got her to settle down: "If you get out of bed one more time there will be no sleepovers for TWO MONTHS!" Never mind that we only have a sleepover every few months anyway....she was having too much fun to think of that long, and she finally went to sleep.)

I got to visit with Marisa last night, and that was such a treat. We've been good friends since college, and I always love seeing her. (Thank you Marisa for watching Shep this weekend, too.)

Now Zoe is gone, and Tessa and I are home resting. I kept Tessa home from preschool because she slept in late as a result of her late night, and I didn't want her to be (pardon the bad pun given today's events) a train wreck for the grandparents tonight. We'll have a quiet morning together getting ready for Portland instead.

And Portland! Our family is catching Amtrak this afternoon (Ryan will meet us at the station, which is walking distance from his office) from Seattle to Portland to visit Grandma and Bopa. Tessa is over the moon at the idea of a train ride,and Ryan and I are hoping for a nice relaxing trip where we can stroll a little to loosen up our legs, where someone else does the driving, where we can snack, talk, and relax. Gas prices are so awful that we decided that this was a good time to take the train, as when we looked at the cost of gas the train is a particularly good deal. It is also fortunate that we can go to Oregon City, close to Grandma & Bopa's, so they don't have to drive far to get us. The five of us can fit in their car, and they're okay with that, so it should work well.

(I hope I remember why I thought this was a good idea as I schlep a booster seat, suitcase, carry on bag, and child through the train station!)

We haven't been to Portland (or anywhere else, for that matter) in months, and it will be great to see family.

And on that note, off to fill up the suitcase and finish getting ready. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fabulous kids

Tonight Zoe stayed over for a spontaneous sleepover. The girls had a blast....and are both sleeping like angels (fingers crossed that it stays that way). Here's the pictoral proof of their excitement!

Have you seen it yet?

It's worth watching it more than once...and if you haven't seen it yet, you're missing out. Set aside 20 minutes and grab a cup of tea, and enjoy....

Pay attention to "the golden arrow of consumption." This is where I'm really focusing my efforts at change for myself. I'm convinced that I can change my life in positive ways by changing the paradigm presented here.

Food for thought. I'm watching it for the 3rd time, and I learn something new every time. It's teaching me ways to change my life in positive ways that feel good....try it! You'll like it!

Sustainable West Seattle

My friend Abby sent this to me - I can't go because I'll be on Orcas but I hope you'll consider attendi------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUSTAINABLE WEST SEATTLE FESTIVAL MAY 4 - 10AM to 3PM ALASKA JUNCTION (Alaska & 44th Ave SW) (Across the street from the Farmers Market) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Sustainable West Seattle will be holding its 1st Annual Festival across the street from the Sunday Farmers Market (in the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot) 1 block West of the Alaska Junction this May 4th from 10am to 3pm. The Festival will feature a wide range of sustainability speakers, workshops & exhibitors around the theme of “Building Community, Making Connections”. Special activities will include: a Food Drive for the West Seattle Food Bank, Neighborhood House Green Building bus tours of the new High Point Project, a bicycle maintenance area, and a special “Undriving License” booth where festival-goers can get a free Undriving license along with ten free Metro bus tickets! A Transit Forum addressing issues affecting West Seattle will simultaneously be held one block South of the main Festival site, at Arts West, 4711 California Ave SW. The Transit Forum will feature discussions with Richard Conlin, Dow Constantine, and others. There will also be a presentation and discussion about the Viaduct by the People’s Waterfront Coalition. Sustainable West Seattle is a non-profit organization that educates and advocates for urban sustainability in our local community. The group envisions a West Seattle community of empowered citizens who actively lead one another toward greater self- reliance, local democracy, social justice, and existence in harmony with life on earth. More details about the Festival and SWS, including the Festival poster, a complete program schedule, and a listing of exhibitors, may be found at: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Contacts: Brian Allen - SWS 2008 Festival Coordinator (206) 973-7374 Bill Reiswig - SWS President (206) 883-7040 ng!


Less is more

Yesterday we had too much of a good thing - I booked TOO many good activities.

The morning was nice and slow; I did some chores, Tessa hung out, I drank coffee. Nice. But then the afternoon got crazy.

Tessa and I showed up at Alki early (11am) to pick up Zoe from preschool, and the two of us walked around and viewed the cafeteria, the classrooms, the halls, the gym, etc. (We couldn't go to the library because the WASL was taking place.) Tessa was excited to see "her" school, and to dream of next year's adventures. Then, we picked up sweet Zoe, came home in the car, and walked to the bus stop. We caught the 54 to Seattle, and met Ryan at his office, and the two girls were in fabulous moods and oh-so-sweet and I think Ryan enjoyed showing them off. Next, walking together to the Seattle Art Museum, where we had lunch. The four of us had a nice lunch, and then Ryan headed back to his office and Tessa, Zoe and I headed to the Romans exhibit. (This is one instance where advertising DIDN'T drive me crazy: Tessa kept hearing the exhibit ads on the radio, and she wanted to go, and I was happy to oblige.) Since we have passes to the museum, it wasn't difficult to commit to this. We spent time walking around looking at the Roman art, learning about Roman people, looking at their clothes, mosaics, statues, jewelry, dishware, fountains, and other beautiful objects. The girls asked great questions, and learned a ton - I was so proud of them.

This is where it should have been perfect, but I kept cramming stuff in. I looked at my watch and said, "HURRY! We have to get back!" and the girls and I went back to the bus stop, rushed home to West Seattle, and dropped Zoe off amidst protests that they wanted to play now. Then I rushed with Tessa to Abby's house so Abby & I could chat about the environment, lifestyles, etc. and the kids could play (Gabe is Tessa's age, and they played together really well). An hour and a half later, the kids were having fun, Abby and I were having fabulous conversations...but RUSH! Gotta go!

Home. Scramble to make dinner for the family (a shrimp and broccoli dish from Cooking Light). Ryan came in. Smooch - here's the rest of the dinner instructions (I prepped but he had to stirfry) - and I'm out the door to take the bus to Elliot Bay Book Store to meet Erik.

Erik and I had a great talk about being a stay at home parent, consumerism, and all kinds of stuff. Fabulous.

And I got home at ten, exhausted.

What I need to learn to do is to do all of these things, but spread out over more days. I wouldn't drop a single item on this list, but it would have been mcuh better to break it up and spend more relaxed time on each item, rather than looking at my watch and running half the day.

I am convinced that less is more. I'm convinced that multi-tasking is ruinous. I am convinced that I can not be as compassionate if I'm overbooked.

I want Tessa's childhood to be filled will free time to think, dream, draw, read, run, scamper, play. Not to hear "hurry up!" quite so much.

Okay, so I'm working on it. It was a great day, adn the old me would have thought that a day like that was a day fully lived, but the new me thinks that slowing down would be a better idea.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Compassion Talk

Last night a small group of friends who had also seen the Dalai Lama speak came over to talk about compassion, and how to put it into action.

We all struggle with issues of compassion when we are put face to face with unkindness or rude behavior or insensitivity. It is so easy to be compassionate when we are the ones deciding to reach out....and it is so hard to be compassionate when children are having a fit and the phone is ringing and dinner is burning on the stove and you feel lousy and somebody is demanding a favor without considering your needs and...... In the meditative state, it's easy to be patient, compassionate, understanding. But what do we do in the midst of real life to take our real human emotions and manage them to be more compassionate while still acknowledging our own need for boundaries and understanding?

Tough questions, but rather interesting ones. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the honesty of my friends, who opened up about their struggles. The funny thing about them is that they feel their struggles so deeply, but I admire their compassion so much. They worry that they are off track, and I see them as more on track than 99% of the population. This is what makes them reflective, and I wouldn't change them, and I admire them all the more. (You know who you are!)

Tessa and I have had a tough couple of days. I'm hoping that both of us hit the "reset" button last night so that today will be easier. I swear I've seen the 15 year old in her these past few days, and it looks like a sign of rough times five year old has been telling me that I'm wrong, she's right, and she's been snarky and resistant to basic instructions. She is the most delightful child I know, and I love her so deeply, and that is, perhaps, what makes it all the more frustrating. What the heck is going on?

Today I will work on being patient with Tessa, and developing my compassion where I need it most, when she is being difficult (okay, when she is being five). And I will try to be compassionate with myself when I am tired and not able to do all that I wish.

Tessa is demanding Mama's oatmeal (Carolyn's recipe) - every day she eats massive quantities of oatmeal with berries, yogurt, and maple syrup (though she has strongly rejected nuts in it) and I'm glad that she's found something so healthy to love. Off to the kitchen!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cost of Food

I've been visiting a "simple living" website for ideas, and somebody turned me on to this:

It's a breakdown of how much the USDA recommends a family spend on a healthy diet. We are in the moderate to low end of their budget, which, when you consider the type of food we buy (organic, etc.) is pretty impressive to me. I'd be happier if we were on their "thrifty" plan, of course, but I don't know if that is possible without making some compromises that I do not wish to make. The fact that we don't eat soda, or many prepackaged foods, only partially offsets the higher costs of dairy, fish and meat, and fruits and vegetables.

I'm spending a lot of time thinking about our food budget, intake, health, etc. as you can see. The impacts of food on the earth are impressive, and while we may cut down on the level of electronics in our lives (let's just say that we won't be going flat-screen plasma TV any time soon) we're not going to cut back that much on food, so it's an area to improve on our consumption habits.

This morning Tessa and I planted two long rows of carrots - Scarlet Nantes and Dragon varieties. I wish that I was stronger (without weight restrictions) so that I could prep some more rows, because I'm ready to get snap peas, beans, beets, and radishes in the ground, too. But within the next two weeks I hope that we'll have them ready to go. Anyway, Tessa is excited about the carrot crop; she finds it tough to get excited about lettuce, kale, and beets but she does have grand visions about purple carrots.

These days I'm feeling like a throwback to a prior age (although I guess then I wouldn't be on the computer right now!). My house smells like vinegar right now because I mopped the floor today (all that going in and out yesterday didn't help the floor), I'm baking this afternoon because a few friends are coming over this evening to talk about the Dalai Lama's all seems old fashioned. But I like it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wacky like the weather

It is alternately sunny and snowing here. Yes, you read that properly - snowing in Seattle in April. We have had snow flurries on multiple days in the past few weeks, most recently today. This morning before friends came over I thought I'd mop the kitchen floor. I got as far as moving the chairs and throw rugs outside....and it started snowing. So instead of mopping I dragged everything back indoors and gave up on that project. (The floor remains unmopped. What can I say?)

Then, this afternoon, Tessa ran around in the yard barefoot. The grass is lush and Ryan mowed it yesterday and I think it was soft, if cold, beneath her feet. Tessa played on her swingset with her friends, made a "baked grass pie" with grass clippings in a bucket, jumped rope, and insisted on keeping her coat off.

This evening, Ryan prepped another row of soil in the garden so that Tessa and I can plant the carrots tomorrow, and he did so in a windstorm with spitting rain - horrible weather. (Thanks, Ry, for doing it anyway.)

My mood - and Tessa's - is as wacky as the weather. I'm proud of myself for getting back in the swing of things, and irritated as all heck that I'm NOT in the swing of things. My patience is short, which is unfortunate because Tessa is a crazy nut today....her mood is all over the map (and though she's usually a good listener at gymnastics, she was obnoxious today and got spoken to on multiple occassions by the teacher).

I made a lovely dinner (I thought) and then felt like screeching at Tessa because of how much she complained about the scant amount of red onions in it (she used to love onions, now she's decided that they're evil and inedible...whatever).

Tessa was rude to me over the dinner issue, demanding dessert, going so far as to stick her tongue out at me and "harumph" me and raise her voice to me. Just when I thought I'd totally lose it, she started crying. I held my ground about dessert, held to her consequences, but offered to snuggle her and read a story. Then, my obnoxious daughter was sweet as can be, gentle and kind, snuggly on the chair, both of us enveloped in a blanket, reading stories.

Maybe the weather has something to do with our moods!

The garden is starting to be a legitimate garden. As of right now, we've planted:
- leeks
- rainbow Swiss chard
- mixed lettuce (red and green)
- Shuksan and Rainier strawberries
- early cabbage
....and we've got seeds planted in pots to be stored indoors until the weather is ready:
- northern peppers
- Black Krim tomatoes
- red currant tomatoes

I've still got sugar snap peas, golden beets, broccoli, kale, spinach, more lettuce, radishes to plant, and I want to buy more strawberry plants (I've decided we'll never tire of strawberries, and they're low cost when you consider that they don't have to be replanted each year). I want to buy rhubarb and squash. Oh, and I've got potatoes sprouting on a windowsill, so that I can plant those, too.

Our chives, oregano, rosemary, and parsley are thriving this year. I've got an indoor basil plant. I still plan to do mint, thyme, garlic, and maybe some other herbs.

Today, picking oregano from our herb garden, I was more pleased with myself than I should admit. It made me dream of making whole meals from our garden.

But my energy is high and low, just like Tessa's mood, and just like the weather. Maybe when the weather improves my mood will improve as well.

Frugal, Healthy, Environmental Meals

Food is a really big part of our budget, and of our lives. We are working hard at making our vegetable garden, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure it's not in my DNA to do so. I enjoying cooking (sometimes) and experimenting with new recipes. I'm very aware of the Weight Watchers way of living ("it's a lifestyle, not a diet") and try to work with that. I want to buy organic, and local, to save our bodies and the planet. And I want to do it all on a budget.

Easier said than done.

Food takes a lot of time. This weekend, as I mentioned, I went through Cooking Light's most recent issues (they tend to use seasonal ingredients, one advantage of getting a monthly recipe magazine) and picked recipes. I like their "Superfast" section because I don't want to cook all day.

I went to Trader Joe's - the cheapest store around here, and I like them - and got ingredients.

But it's not cheap, even when I'm trying.

Today I made a one dish meal that breaks down as follows:

$1 orzo pasta
$8 chicken (free range organic)
$1 arugla (organic)
$2 cherry tomatoes (from
$1 basil (organic)
$0 oregano (it overwintered in a pot - hurrah! we put vermicompost on it and it's thriving)
$1 yellow pepper (not organic, not local...sigh)
$.50 red onion (also not organic or local)

So not including salt, pepper, olive oil, and red wine vinegar (all of which I had in my pantry) this dish, which feeds six (we'll have it for lunch AND dinner today, with leftovers for lunch tomorrow), costs $14.50. And I have to figure out more recipes to use up the basil, peppers, and arugula, because I have lots of leftovers (not included in the costs above) and if they go to waste that's no good.

It is so hard to do this properly. It does get easier over time, but I struggle. I don't want to eliminate the beautiful flavors of fresh herbs. And I don't usually buy tomatoes out of season but I was just craving them - I haven't had any in a couple of months. And the peppers are SO expensive when they're not organic.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Faking it pays off!

I was so frustrated when Dr. Isik told me that I shouldn't be tired any more. I thought "What am I doing wrong?!" I certainly wasn't faking my fatigue - it was awful.

So I thought about it, and decided that it was no way to live, and decided to fake it. No more letting life pass my by while I layed around feeling sorry for myself.

Yesterday, I did a project that has been driving me crazy: I organized the attic, reviewing what we have for a yard sale (not as much as I thought - hmmmm). I took Tessa to a birthday party, and while she played princess I looked through Cooking Light and came up with a week's worth of recipes and a meal plan for the week; then we went to Trader Joe's and bought what we needed (the goal, once again, to eat everything from our fridge this week). Last night, Lori came over, and we chatted and stayed up later than I'm used to and watched a movie. Today, after a very leisurely morning (I decided that I couldn't remember the last time I just hung out drinking coffee, so despite some remorse, we stayed home from church; Ryan also did a long bike ride) we did yard work as a family, and I did lots of weeding, a bit of mulching, and some planting (leeks, kale, lettuce, marigolds, cabbage, and strawberries) and Ryan cleaned up the area for the blueberries, further working the soil, pulling up grass in that area, and mulching over the soaker hose (the blueberries are looking well!). I posted the old play structure on Craigslist and got a taker right away, and Ryan and the gentleman are currently taking it apart to fit in the gentleman's truck.

The result? I feel tired, certainly, but better than I have in a long time...better than since my surgery. Our yard has progress for the first time in a while, my body feels tired and sore but from activity (which is much better than feeling tired and sore from inactivity).

And this allows me to think about more than just "oh poor me" which has been my focus far too much lately.

Back to gardening, which is part of caring for the earth, using my body in a physical way that is healthy, teaching Tessa about the connection of food to the earth, and being frugal. (Our neighbors Sarah & Steven gave us soaker hoses, and then Kathleen gave us one, too.....hurrah!)

And posting the play structure on Craigslist has been a goal of mine for some time, and the $100 will help our coffers immensely. Frugal, recycling.....check!

So I'm trying to get back in the swing of things. I'm trying to care for the earth, care for my family, care for our budget, avoid consumerism (including the "let's order pizza because I'm too tired to cook" nights), and soak up the sun. It helps that there WAS sun today, by the way.

Let's hope that the rest of the week is like this, too. I still have the paint and supplies to finish painting the downstairs bathroom....wouldn't that be a good project to finish? And I continue to shop Craigslist to find a new entertainment center and loveseat for downstairs (free would be good for that, by the way).

I'm filled with enthusiasm to get back on board with these things. I want to help out friends, I want to organize playdates, I want to go for long walks with Shep.

Let's hope my body feels okay tomorrow. But today, so far, so good.