tuesday ten

Or at least things I’m doing that aren’t going to kill the Earth as quickly.

1. My garden. I’m hoping to grow a large percentage of our family’s summer and fall food, and hopefully keep the garden producing through the winter, as well as keeping some of our harvest with root-cellaring. Our house has a perfect room for a root cellar. It’s cold, dark, and if we get a door on it, I think it will be ideal all winter. Plus, I just got a book on four season gardening, from some people in Vermont, so I have to trust that they’re serious about producing even in the winter.

2. Composting. I’m so happy I have my own compost bin, and I will have a separate heap to put all the yard scraps in. That way, when I need some brown to put on top of the kitchen scraps, I can just grab some from the pile. Less goes into my trash, and I have home-made fertilizer for my lovely garden.

3. Cloth diapering. I can’t stand the thought of putting those horrible “disposable” things in the landfills. The funniest thing is seeing how huge my baby girl looks in the giant cloth diapers, though. I had to buy some summer clothes for her yesterday, and I ended up getting a bunch of skirts and some shorts that are the 4 year old size, so they will fit over the diapers.

4. Buying recycled clothes. There’s really no reason to shop for new clothing, since there is so much out there that gets discarded, but is in perfectly good shape. Plus, I have a love-affair with thrift stores. The other day, when I got home from a thrift store spree (there are about 7 thrift stores within a couple of mile of our house), Derek asked me how my treasure hunt had gone. I giggled. But I do love finding treasures that have been cast off for whatever reason, and I feel like I’ve avoided adding to the burden of resource depletion and possible human rights violations. Keeping goods in the loop eases my consumerist mind.

5. Using the local library. I love reading, I love books. I can’t afford to buy all the books I want, but more importantly, I want to avoid using up more resources by purchasing books I will only read once. Which is to say, I still buy books, and I still love them, but I’m buying fewer books. Plus, one needs to support the local library for so many reasons. They have so many books you will never be able to buy, they support literacy, both the boo variety and the computer variety, they have so many community programs, and they are havens of peace and quiet. My sanity would be much more threatened without the local library.

6.Turning things off. I try to leave lights off as much as possible. I try to hang the laundry to dry whenever possible. I encourage my kids to notice when things are unnecessarily ON, and help them understand why they should be OFF. I’ve tried to use as many low-energy things in our house as I could, with all compact fluorescent bulbs, low energy refrigeration (lesser of two evils, as far as I’m concerned. I wish I didn’t have one at all), low energy (and low water) washer and dryer, etc.

7. Opening windows. This spring is so gorgeous, but it’s already started getting hot. I’ve been opening the windows for circulation, rather than turning on the air conditioner. If I do end up desperately hot, I will try to keep the thermostat at something in the upper 70’s, rather than actually trying to make my house cool. Seasons are good for us, and a constant 71 degrees is not good for our dear Earth. During the winter, we kept the heat at 61 at night (I know, we could go lower, but my baby girl won’t keep herself under any blankets yet, and even with two pairs of fleece pajamas, she still got pretty cold) and 64 during the day, except on the days that I just couldn’t take it anymore, and turned it up to 68. I believe in sweaters and wool socks. From the thrift store, of course.

8. Recycling. Yes, I know how cliche all my things are, but I believe in recycling. I recycle everything I can. I want to really reduce how much trash we send to the land fill, so I recycle the things that can’t be used again, use up what can be used, make regular donations to the thrift stores, send the organic stuff to my compost bin, and give stuff away. I also try to purchase things that aren’t excessively packaged. Sometimes I get the large size, sometimes I skip something I want because it has too much plastic on it. Packaging makes me sad, especially when it’s intended to make the item look bigger or more exciting, and when there are multiple, unnecessary layers.

9. Making my own. Last night, I made a bunch of flannel baby wipes, and poured some home-made wipe-juice on them. I like to make my own cleaning products, using vinegar, Borax, baking soda, essential oils, and other good stuff. I would love to be a brilliant craftswoman, designing and building furniture and clothing out of reclaimed materials, but I’m just too lazy. Yesterday, I was about to throw an umbrella away. It has been on our porch all winter, and it was a piece of junk to begin with. It was rusty, all the little wires were bent, and it was unusable. When I picked it up, I suddenly thought how it would make a cute (and waterproof!) skirt for Kiki. All I need to do is cut a circle out of the middle and add some elastic or a strip of fabric with a fastener. Then I could decorate it with some ribbon or embroidery. Or maybe some tiny tassels on each of the points. I’ll post some photos when I’m done. And maybe while I’ve got the sewing machine out, I’ll get to those curtains I’ve been meaning to make since last November!

10. Use less. I try to limit the use of things that aren’t totally waste free and non-toxic. I’ve started only washing my hair about once or twice a week, instead of every other day. There’s really no reason to wash your hair every day, since your natural oils help your hair stay healthy and shiny, and also help with the frizzies. Plus, washing your hair often makes your skin produce more oil than it needs, so it gets greasier faster if you wash it all the time. I also don’t put clothes in the laundry unless they’re really dirty. By that, I mean that they have discernible spots or smells. Clothes shouldn’t be laundered often, because each time you wash them, the fibers break down more and the color fades, so if you want your clothes to last, don’t wash them so often. Just because you wore a shirt doesn’t mean it’s dirty. I give my shirts at least two days, and this may be TMI, but pants can last a couple of weeks. After all, that’s what underwear is for: to protect your clothing so you don’t need to wash it as often. (I’ve also found some more environmentally friendly laundry detergent that I love. Seventh Generation makes some that does well in an HE washer, and it smells incredible, like eucalyptus and lavender.)

Happy Earth Day!


I hate housework. Yes, I hate it more than almost anything else. Which sucks, because I love being in a clean and orderly space. I think the real reason I hate it is because I’m lazy. So here is my top 10 things I hate to do around the house.

1. Making beds. I hate this bad enough that I’ve been known to let it go for a couple of months without changing the sheets. All right, I was pregnant and useless at the time, but even now, I usually don’t get it done on a weekly basis. Especially with the boys’ loft bed, for which I must contort myself into acrobatic postures just to reach the corners from below, because I don’t trust the thing enough to climb up and do it from above. Luckily, Zeeb is still young enough that the wetting the bed and puking in the bed is pretty good incentive to get it done on a semi-regular basis. And Calvin is just about big enough to do it himself.

2. Cleaning around the toilet. Because just so much yuck can find it’s way down there, and it’s inevitably so awkward trying to reach it. I got no friends in low places.

3. Picking up toys. All right, all right. I know my kids should be doing this, but there’s just always a sea of toys left in their wake, so I end up having to do it a lot too.

4. Cleaning up after I cook. So Derek made me a promise when we were engaged that if I would do the cooking, he would do the dishes. Except that when I cook, it looks as though a hurricane has swept through the kitchen, and sometimes the surrounding rooms, and the piles of dishes and spices and canisters and bags and plastic containers and knives and garbage and cookbooks and spills and spatters and pans and blenders and everything are just too much to bear. I need me a genie who can nod her head and make it all magically disappear.

5. Putting away laundry. The folding is never that much of a problem, because I can always submit to my guilty pleasure and watch some TV or a movie while folding. But the putting away is nearly impossible. Sometimes I’m forced to put things away because I’ve run out of baskets and buckets and bins to put the freshly cleaned laundry in. Or because Calvin can’t find one of his 27 pairs of socks.

6. Vindow Vashing. I was never a good vindow vasher. It always seems so pointless, because two seconds after I vash them, there are tiny hand prints on them.

7. Clearing off the piano. What can I possibly mean by that? Well, Derek and I have this incurable inability to not put every paper, book, game, puzzle, toy, pen, key, junk mail, screwdriver, camera, DVD, and basket full of folded laundry on top of my poor piano cum table. And the idea of sorting it all is enough to make me flee in a panic.

8. Clear the table for dinner. Yes, it always needs to be cleared of junk (see #7) before we can even sit down to dinner. And sometimes all we do is push it to one side. I know, we suck.

9. I can’t believe it. Are there really only 8 things I hate doing? I’ll have to think about this for a few more hours. I’m sure I can come up with two more.

1. My brother NungNung called today, just to chat.

2. Zeeb has the most musical, delightful laugh in the universe. I can’t help myself from tickling him every singe day, because he’s so ticklish, and he’s guaranteed to rip out continuous, glittering, precious jewels of giggles. If I could bottle the sound, I could bring the world universal peace.

3. A funny doll I acquired while in Mexico in 1980. It’s a girl in traditional dress. My kids have discovered the doll, and love her, so I use it as an opportunity to teach them some Spanish, using funny voices and requiring responses.

4. Rugs. I’m so glad I bought a bunch of area rugs at Target when we moved into this apartment. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain why.

5. Sheila. She drove 6 hours to visit me this weekend, and we went to the farmer’s market, the Wool Gathering, and house hunting, while she prepared her syllabus for her American Lit class that started yesterday.

6. Farmer’s markets. The one we went to on Saturday was in Yellow Springs. I bought garlic, green beans, eggplant, tomatoes, watermelon, apples, parsley, basil, potatoes, chinese lantern peppers, and a purple cabbage. I don’t think I spent $20.

7. The Simpsons. Yes, I know I’m a bad parent, because what morally responsible parent plunks her kids in front of the TV and turns on the Simpsons? But honestly, I think it makes them smarter. That’s why I do it. That’s the real reason. I swear.

8. Sunglasses. I can’t believe how painful it is to walk outside into a bright, sunny day. I must be getting old.

9. Jem. I admit my preferences in popular music are quirky at best, infantile at worst, but I really like this album right now. My kids love to dance to it.

10. Maytag Blue. Cheese. So fantastically good with the farmer’s market green beans, some pecans sautéed in butter, and the cheese cut into small chunks and added while everything was still warm. Oh my heck.

Thank you Kathryn and readers, for these wonderful new additions to my lexicon. You’ve all heard that quote that says “profanity is a sign of a vacant mind,” and now, here are some alternatives that will surely prove your mind is anything but vacant. I like these, because they aren’t dumbed down versions of other curses, except for Derek’s #9, and which of you know the word that one resembles, let alone it’s meaning?

Please feel free to add to my list at will.

1. Marshmallow Peeps!

2. Precious Moments!

3. Fluffy puppies in a child’s luvin’ arms!

4. Creme-filled Twinkies!

5. Sugar Beets!

6. Son of a motherless Goat!

7. Corn dogs and Tater-tots!

8. from my own Calvin, “Mom, she drives me nuts, bananas, and ICE CREAM!”

9. Derek’s favorite Russian word, that sounds much like a real Russian swear, is “Blin!” It sounds like, “bleen!” and means, “pancake.”

10. And my personal favorite, to be used only in moments of extreme frustration, “Brigafriga!”

I tagged Derek and he thought that was cheating. Too bad. I made him do it any way. This is how he spent his time waiting for our delayed flight out of Oakland yesterday.

1. I love ice cream. And not just a little bit. When I was growing up, my brother and I would spend a few weeks every summer with my grandparents. My grandpa used to tell everyone, “There are small bowls of ice cream, large bowls, and Derek-size bowls.” Needless to say, things haven’t changed and a half gallon of ice cream really disappears fast in our house.

2. I can fix those cheap electronics toys that your kids love to get and then destroy. Unfortunately, mechanical toys (especially things with springs) give me trouble. Luckily I married Sarah 🙂

3. I’ve learned that for a sufficiently loose definition of “best” I can be the best at anything. For example, when Carrie proposed a contest for determining who the best husband is, I decided that if the definition of best was a combination of skill on Street Fighter 2 and number of papers published in the cooperative control area, that I should be the best in the world. You’d have to agree, it’s just as arbitrary as skill in an obstacle course.

4. I’ve always looked younger than I am. When I was serving a mission in Russia (age 19-21) people thought I was 16. Since attendance at BYU requires men to be clean shaven, I’ve never had the chance to look older by growing a wild beard.

5. My nightly routine involves reading stories and singing songs to my two boys. Sometimes they ask me to make up stories and songs and things get really crazy: I’ve created songs about bunk beds, Spiderman, ceilings, toys, dragons, fishing, and fans.

6. I once volunteered to take notes for a deaf student in an upper division psychology class and learned a bunch of interesting things about how the brain works.

7. The first time I tried sushi was with Sarah for my 22nd birthday. Now for every special occasion, getting sushi is near the top of the list of things to do.

8. As a teenager, I spent a few summers roofing with my uncle. It really made me want to go to college.

9. Growing up, I was very interested in space and the solar system and was determined to become an astronaut. Turns out that they don’t let just anybody become an astronaut and they definitely don’t let you if you are color blind.

10. Once, on a trip to LA, I learned that I wear the same size shoe as Tom Cruise. I used to use this fact as the “interesting fact” that you tell everyone along with your name in class. I have since realized that Tom Cruise is a weirdo and I shouldn’t try to associate myself with him.

Back to the food-snob issue. I love food. I try new stuff all the time. I read cookbooks like novels. I’m the neighborhood go-to girl when anyone has a question about a spice, a substitution, an ethnic cuisine, or bread, or when there’s a random ingredient someone can’t find, since I have such an odd collection of foodstuffs that are not commonly used. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of what you might find in my pantry:

1. Hazelnut oil. I used this last night on the salad of spring greens with baby sweet peppers and crumbled feta. Yummy. Speaking of oil, I also have a jar of coconut oil, some ghee that I clarified, 3 kinds of olive oil, mustard oil, sweet almond oil…

2. Trader Joe’s Marion-berry Blueberry fruit sauce. I’ve had this one for a year. It sounds yummy, but I don’t really make desserts often, so what do I do with it?

3. Sake Wasabi Mustard. Why did I buy that? If I needed sake wasabi mustard, could I not have gotten some sake, some wasabi, and some mustard, mixed them together, and not had a whole jar to deal with?

4. A bunch of spices most of my friends have never heard of: Kalonji, Aamchur, Black Salt, Asafoetida, Galanga powder, Achiote, Agar agar, Garam Masala, Tamarind pulp. I use these every so often, but I wish someone around here used them too, so I could share.

5. A bunch of more normal spices, but in quantities the average American cook has never even seen: 7 ounces of coriander – that’s the size of 4 hamburger buns, 1/2 pound of cayenne, same of ground ginger, cumin, bay leaves, black mustard seeds. I get my spices at Indian markets, where folks know what food is supposed to taste like.

6. All the weird whole grains that the health food people love to tout: Quinoa, Millet, Kamut, Rye berries, wheat berries, Spelt, Bulghur, Polenta, Steel-cut oats, whole oats, hulled barley. Not all of them are yummy. Millet, for example. Always a tiny bit crunchy. I also have flours made from all of the above.

7. A hundred kinds of rice. Mongolian red rice, Forbidden black rice, sweet rice, arborio rice, glutinous rice, basmati rice, brown basmati rice, long grain white, long grain brown, short grain brown, sushi rice. We eat a lot of rice.

8. A 25 ounce bottle of capers. I like capers, but what was I thinking?

9. Interesting varieties of sugar:  jaggery (palm sugar), honey, creamed honey, raw honey still on the comb, agave syrup, stevia (ever tried it? It’s not sugar, but it’s a weird kind of sweet that I don’t really like).

10. All the fixin’s for Halu-Halo. That’s a Filipino snack/dessert that has any combination of the following: Macapuno strings (strips of young coconut), marble sized tapioca pearls, Langka (jackfruit), Nata de Coco (sweet coconut jellies), red beans (or red mung beans or kidney beans), corn, rolled oats, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, and shaved ice. Yum!

11. Oh, and don’t forget the Pig’s Feet!

Can you top me?

I’ve just had the longest 4-day weekend ever, and I just don’t want to do anything. Here’s why:

1. I’m tired. Usually, when we visit my in-laws, we have a relaxing time, not worrying about our kids and in general not lifting a finger. This time, Derek was roofing the whole time, until dark every night. Derek’s mom, Toni, was busy getting the house ready for us, for her parents, her brother, and Derek’s brother and his wife. Derek’s sister Britanna was gone to work most of the time. His dad was up on the roof, too. There was a big family gathering on Sunday, so there was much cooking to do. Plus, Toni had and infection in a wound that made her need more rest than normal. She really doesn’t rest at all, unless ordered by a doctor.

So I actually had to do some of the work. I bet most of the people there would have a differing opinion, judging from the amount of time I spent with my eyes closed, but I must have done something, because I’m exhausted.

2. I’m sad. This might just be another manifestation of being exhausted. And of not having spent much time with my husband for the past week. He’s been wrapping up the dissertation, and has had to work extra hours. And then we blew the weekend roofing.

3. I’m cold. I hate being cold. Ever since my 15 months in the Philippines, the cold really gets to me, and it makes me very irritable. Plus, I think my internal furnace is faulty. I get cold when normal people feel just fine. And my feet turn to ice blocks that are very hard to thaw. And then I can’t sleep. And I’m cranky when I don’t get any sleep.

4. My body feels icky. Whenever we go away from home, we eat differently that we’re used to. We don’t keep things like potato chips and packaged snack foods and candy in the house, and we generally eat meat only a couple times a week. So when all the meals include lots of meat, lots of chips and snacky things, no whole grains, and there’s always dessert, we just don’t do very well. And the problem is that we like those things too much to just pass them by when they’re there. It’s also much harder to regulate what the kids are eating, because you can’t really restrict their treats when they see everyone else getting treats.

5. My house is messy. Too much stuff. Toys on the floor, laundry and mail on the couch. I haven’t unpacked from the weekend.

6. We don’t have any vegetables in the fridge. Or milk.

7. I have a book to read, and it’s good. The story is interesting, and the writing is lovely. It’s the kind of writing that makes me want to be a writer.

8. My babygirl is out of sorts from the weird weekend, and she wants me to hold her all the freaking time. I hate one-handed typing.

9. My mommy is gone on a trip and I can’t call her to cry.

10. I went to visit Bon and her little Pearl in the hospital. I’m such a complainer.

1. So my feet don’t hurt walking around on the hateful tile floor in the kitchen.

2. So I can be prepared to run out of the house at a moment’s notice to retrieve one or both of my deviant sons, who frequently leave silently, so as not to alert me of their absence.

3. So it will take longer for my feet to reach their normal, frigid, core temperature of 36o Fahrenheit.

4. So nobody can see the pink nail-polish chipping off my too long toenails.

5. So I will be discouraged from taking a nap. All that effort to get the shoes off, and then put them on again post-nap.

6. So I will be encourage to do something. Anything. Because if I don’t, I will crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head and turn my brain off.

7. So my children can learn from my shining example, and start wearing shoes themselves. In the spring, rather that in the heat of summer, when it will likely be too late, and their little feet will have already melted, leaving stumps with randomly protruding toenails.

8. To keep my socks clean.

9. So they will be good and broken-in for my 5K on Saturday.

10. So I can dance to my children’s favorite song with them at the end of the day. No lie, they really love this song.

I’m such a snob. I have so many snobberies they are hard to count. Many of them involve food. Sometimes I wish I weren’t a snob, so I could sit back and enjoy some of the things other people seem to enjoy, but I just can’t do it. I have converted Derek to the dark side, so at least we don’t have conflicts of interest when it comes to dining out, which we do often. I’m not aware of any cure for snobbishness.

1. I cannot abide a restaurant that calls itself something it’s clearly and blatantly NOT. I won’t go to any place that claims to be Mexican if it has no corn tortillas, soft tacos, Sidral Mundet, black beans, or fresh cilantro, or if everything on the menu has at least four pounds of cheese on it. I lived in Mexico for a year, and I love real Mexican food. There are many, many offenders in this category. Usually, they are chains. I also hate the two ubiquitous and tasteless “Italian” places that everyone seems to love, and will stand in line for an hour to dine at. No squishy bread for me, thank you very much.

2. Which brings me to my next. “Italian butter” comes from Italian cows, just like American butter comes from American cows. It is not green, you cannot pour it, and you don’t mix it with vinegar at fake Italian restaurants. I love a good olive oil, that has a flavorful, fruity taste, and bright green color. Not gray, green. Not yellow. GREEN.

3. Every restaurant, except awesome Asian ones where the menus are in Engrish, should spell-check their menu before printing it. And a little editing is never amiss. Whether or not it’s a typo from a crappy typist (like poor little me), or blatant disregard for the rules of the English language (or whichever language dominates the ethnic region of origin for the food), I can’t stand reading menus that are full of mistakes. My favorite is the place where you can get cremé brùleè. Why put in a bunch of random accents? Why not just learn which ones go where?

4. Also, please teach your waiters how to pronounce the items on the menu. I was at an Italian place once, and ordered bruschetta. The cute little waitress said, “Oh, you mean bruSHetta?” I couldn’t believe she would correct the pronunciation of a customer without knowing herself what was correct. I haughtily responded, “Yes, and it’s brusKetta, by the way, not bruSHetta.” My poor Derek was mortified.

5. When a waiter comes to the table and crouches down so as to be level with the people at the table, I cringe. Unless it’s a restaurant with red and white checked tablecloths that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches for 4-year-olds, I think waiters should take orders, and not try to be best friends with their customers.

6. I also think waiters should occasionally scan the table to see if anything is amiss. For instance, if one of the customers has clearly not been served while everyone else at the table is half finished, I think the waiter should try to notice, rather than waiting to be questioned, and being surprised that he had missed anything. I say “he” because this happened yesterday, and “Chief,” as one of the other ladies at the lunch called him, looked so confused when it was pointed out that someone had not been served. He also asked half of us if we would like refills on our drinks, but neglected the other half. Maybe it was his first day.

7. And speaking of waiters, I will not want to return to a restaurant if the waiter tells me I’m making a mistake by not ordering the all-you-can-eat meat-fest. I choose what my “money’s worth” is, and it has nothing to do with the amount of food I can stuff into my belly in a short period of time. Especially if it’s all meat. Ugh.

8. Another one about the menu. I think things are easily misrepresented on menus to people who are not familiar with a certain cuisine. A good example is the wonderful experience Derek and I had recently while trying what we thought would be exciting authentic Peruvian food. A french fry by any other name…

9. I’m sad when a restaurant uses ingredients that are clearly inferior. Derek and I went to an Italian place for our anniversary once, and ordered Chicken Marsala, which can be fantastic, unless you use the cheap, disgusting supermarket cooking wine, and the cheapest, oldest chicken you can find. It was dog food. It looked, smelled, and tasted like dog food. I’d just as soon stay home and eat cold cereal for dinner, than order something that comes out and resembles dog food.

10. I can only think of 9 of my snobberies about restaurants. Or maybe… I’m just quitting before you think I’m too snobby to even call an acquaintance. I usually only bring up one or two snobberies at a time, so as not to drive anyone away. Everyone has a few, right? Do you have a restaurant snobbery that deserves the #10 spot?

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