Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Great Book and a Hero

Another one of the posters I received in the mail this weekend was this one:

I was thrilled to see this "quote" had been made into a poster. It is a quote by one of my long-time heroes, Doris Janzen Longacre.

I think it was round about 1996, the year my first daughter was born, that I came across my beloved book, Living More With Less, at the wonderful restaurant, St. Martin's Table.

Okay - an aside and a plug for SMT. St. Martin's Table is a vegetarian restaurant on the West Bank in Minneapolis. They are a Christian-run restaurant and the wait staff is entirely volunteer. All tips go to a local charity of the month. It's SUCH a cool concept. SMT has incredible food! All of the food is made fresh there every day and they have a wonderful selection of soups too. They have a beautiful bookstore that is connected to the restaurant that is so fun to browse after your meal. The restaurant is a real social hub and they often host community groups, poetry readings, etc. The atmosphere is intimate and warm and while they have many smaller tables, they also have one, large central table for anyone who wishes to sit together: a community table. It's one of my favorite places in the city and I have many fond memories of times spent there.

It was there that I found and purchased Doris Janzen Longacre's two books: The More-With-Less Cookbook and Living More with Less, which I still highly recommend. It is in her book Living More with Less, that she divides the book into the categories of : Do Justice, Learn From the World Community, Nurture People, Cherish the Natural Order, and Nonconform Freely.

The book is broken into two parts. The first part is a collection of eloquent essays Longacre has written around the topics of Do Justice, etc. The second part of the book is, "a glimpse into the experiences of people trying to live by standards of simplicity" in a country of mass-consumption. This book's first copyright is listed as 1980, nearly 30 years ago. Sadly, it's message is as relevant today as it was then, perhaps even moreso. We are now in an age where the climate crisis is staring us boldly in the face and can no longer be denied and in which our government routinely refers to us as "consumers" rather than citizens.

One of the reasons I love this book is that it is a distinctly Christian response to what has, of late, been labeled a more liberal topic. It thrills me to see that while the more publicized Christian responses in the last decade have not seemed to lend themselves to the issues of caring for the planet, living simply, and sharing our resources, more and more Christians are responding to these issues, and indeed to which Longacre's book testifies, have done so for a very long time. It is my hope that we will move into a place where we remain visible and vocal concerning these issues.

In her forward Longacre writes,

"This is a book for people who know something is wrong with the way North Americans live and are ready to talk about change. This is a book about rediscovering what is good and true. This is a book about beauty, healing, and hope, a book about getting more, not less. Volumes can be written on our unbelievable carelessness with God's gifts. We not only neglect the poor, for whom the gospel is to be good news - we exploit them. We nurture purses professions, cars, and houses more than people. We relinquish freedom and personal productivity in favor of dull conformity. We spoil nature, the only home we have. We don't look beyond the predictable, familiar voices for help. We fail to fortify each other in solid communities."

Longacre battled cancer during the writing of this book and passed on to heaven before it was completed. Her husband writes in the introduction, "The fact that others had to bring the book to completion is also symbolic. No one person is a final expert on the subject. We need help from each other. Doris had the primary inspiration and wrote Part One and all but the introductions to the chapters on transportation and church buildings. I finished these using her notes. Many others made this projects a shared effort."

To finish, this is such a beautiful, beautiful book. There are so many fantastic ideas in here: places to start and places to start again. Obviously, I highly recommend it and I read it at least once a year, because it is something that never grows old. I get new ideas from it all the time and since it is broken into tips, it can be read in small bits.

Ronald J. Sider, author of the book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, wrote the introduction to this book, 28 years ago. He wrote,

"If you feel discouraged or alone in your pilgrimage toward simple living, if you have heard enough theory and want practical, concrete suggestions, if you are ready for challenge, read on... Living More with Less is [Doris'] last gift to the church, the poor, and the Lord she served. May its powerful message stir us all to walk further along the path she carefully charted and joyfully trod."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

More "After" Shots

This post is mostly for my little sister who said she wanted to see more "after" shots of our boulevard garden. A few posts back, I commented on how shocked I've been to see how quickly the native plants we planted in October have already grown in gigantic proportion in a mere 6 months. I've already pruned the bee balm back twice! This is something that has taken some getting used to: in Minnesota the adage for perennials is, "The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap!" Somehow I always seemed to move before my plants really ever leaped the way I wanted them to. Here, though, it's like the plants are on steroids or something.

Again, before:

and after:

And this, all before the rainy season has even arrived. I'm just a wee bit frightened of that prospect. :)

One more thing to share in this short, weekend post. I got some new posters! They arrived on Saturday and I just love them! Here is one and it is my favorite. I have wanted this one for a very long time, yet couldn't justify spending the money. I am still working through some of my Christmas money, so I went ahead and bought it. It makes me so happy. :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Kitchen Inspiration

So, how was your Earth Day? We really didn't make any permanent changes, but kept up with the things we have been doing for a long time now: went shopping with our fabric bags, picked up some material at the library, shopped at the health food store, buying in bulk where I could and picked up some other things at the regular market with a focus on organic and local food.

That's not to say that it's all organic or all local. I'm not there yet. I don't have a local source for local bananas, though I do think you can grow them here in FL. I use a lot of bananas. We have a "green" smoothie almost every day and often have frozen bananas in there for its creamy texture.

I had a very "foodie" week. I'd been kind of in a funk in the kitchen of late. My cooking has been pretty redundant and uninspired... because I have been uninspired! Mostly it's because I have been so wrapped up in my art and knitting that I have wanted to spend time on that and therefore food has been more of an afterthought. You know, that would be just fine if it were only myself I have to feed. I would happily just eat a papaya for dinner. I'm serious... and I've done it too! But there are others here that need supervision or else they might just eat cereal for their dinners - which is okay on a busy weekend, but not for a regular diet!

Anyway, I've been listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's podcast, Vegetarian Food for Thought and have been re-inspired to try some new things. I have found Colleen to be SO well spoken on vegetarian topics including nutrition and ethics. Having been a vegetarian for 21 years myself, the ethics side of my diet choice is not new to me. I have steered clear of some of her episodes in which she addresses things like factory farming, the dairy industry, etc. I really have a hard time listening/seeing things like that, which is one of the reasons I became vegetarian in the first place. Really. I think if people really, REALLY knew just what animals are made to endure for the convenience of human taste, they would stop eating meat... or at the very least, stop purchasing meat that is not humanely raised (a.k.a. cheap/bargain meat).

Anyway, listening to some of her shows on her "Five Favorite Foods," for example has gotten me excited to be in the kitchen again. I also checked out Robin Robertson's fantastic, comprehensive, book, Vegan Planet, from the library and will definitely be ordering a copy for myself.

One thing I thought was funny in Colleen's podcast is that she talks about the common questions we vegetarians always, always, always get and she makes some suggestions as how to respond to them. Mostly, she refers to folks who ask us sincere questions, but there are some funny ways to respond to some of the "smart" or not so kind remarks we often get. Of course, the most common one seems to be, "Oh, you're vegetarian???? Where do you get your protein?!" She noted that we vegetarians don't often say, "Oh... you're a meat eater? Don't you know that animal foods contain high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat? Aren't you concerned about heart disease, osteoperosis, kidney damage, or high blood pressure?"

I'm not trying to bash meat-eaters here, I just enjoyed listening to someone who really understood my values and had heard so many of the same things I hear so very, very often.

So, the refrigerator is stocked and I've been spending a bit more time in the kitchen of late. I haven't drawn anything for a few weeks now and it feels weird, but with our homeschool year coming to a close, end-of-the-year planning (award ceremonies and the like), the homeschool convention, and curriculum shopping moving to the forefront, my art has had to take a bit of a back seat. I am hopeful for new projects to begin again once school is over next month. In the meantime, I can expend a bit of that creative energy exploring a few new recipes. After all, the meals have to get cooked anyway!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day 2008!

Mmmm... My gardenia is blooming!!! :)

Hello, everyone and a Happy Earth Day to you all! What a wonderful day that everyone on the whole planet can celebrate together: no political or religious divisions involved, just our dear, dear home.

One of the things I love about this way of life (going lightly, living green, whatever you wish to call it) is the whole aspect of discovery found in its very nature. I find it quite thrilling, in a daily round of life, to be casting little experiments left and right and discovering new ways to live. So many times we do things because it is the way we have been taught to do them or because everyone else does something that way. Of course, it doesn't mean that the way we have been taught or do things is the best way or the only way, but sometimes, not knowing any differently - or simply not thinking about it at all - we don't think there is any other option. So to me, discovering new and lighter ways to walk on the earth is like a big game of Did You Know...? And some things may end up being things that don't work for me or my life, but so many more of them do... and it's always an interesting experiment in the interim.

For example, did you know...

that you can use a simple, cotton shower curtain without a plastic (non-biodegradable-lasting-forever-in-a-landfill) shower curtain and that it will work quite well? Well, it works for our family. I should say that this curtain is in the girls' bathroom and they are not up to an age where they are wanting to take showers every day. I don't know what it would be like with a larger family all using the same bathroom every day. But I experimented (and the curtain cost us less than $30 at Target) by purchasing a 100% cotton, waffle-weave (for greater absorbency) and found that it works beautifully for us. We just make sure to have the curtain out and open after a shower. It drips a little onto the bathmat and a bit onto the tile floor right next to the tub and we have, thus far (after nearly two months), had no troubles with mildew (like on a plastic curtain) at all. So, it works for us.

Here's another one: Did you know that you can easily make your own peanut butter in your food processor? Now, truthfully, I have a nice, Kitchen-Aid, food processor. So, again, you'd have to experiment like I did. I add about a tsp of sugar and 3/4 t of salt to 3 cups of roasted peanuts that I purchase in bulk at our healthy food store. I used to add a bit of oil, but I found that I really do not need it; I just needed to be patient. My processor turns it in to peanut butter in about 3 minutes. NO packaging or preservatives required...especially if you remember to take your own bags (I use other plastic bags that creep into the house via breads, etc.) to fill in the bulk sections and use a recycled glass jar.

Mayonnaise is also very easy to make - with or without eggs - and there are recipes all over the web to show you how to do this.

So those are just a very few things you can try that maybe you did not know. There are SO many more and it just may be a good series of posts to try for a while. In the meantime, there are plenty of folks who have done their own experimenting out there in blogland. I find their adventures fascinating reading and get plenty of new ideas to try.

Some experiments I am working on right now are: trying to make purchases with as little packaging as possible and using apple cider vinegar as a substitute for conditioner for my hair. I'll have to write more later - we've got to head out to our homeschool co-op in just a bit this morning.

In the meantime, do some of your own experimenting today... and this year. Make a little - or big - positive change for the planet and see how it goes! I'd love to hear what you try! Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Fever

This weekend I stopped by Meredith's blog and found that she's recently been struck with the "urge to purge." :) I left a comment immediately, because I have been experiencing the same thing over the last couple of weeks or so. Even in Florida, I said, we still get that urge to overhaul the closets and let in some light and space!

AND you KNOW this is a serious phenomenon when your 11 year old daughter decides to do the same thing all on her own! Oh, I DO wish I had a "before" picture, but I'm sure she would not have let me show it anyway! :) The biggest thing to go was the Littlest Petshop village she's had at the end of her bed for the last 2 1/2 years! She has nearly 80 of these tiny bobble-headed toys. It's not something I like to admit to when I am a person who values simplicity and dislikes overconsumption.

But they find their way in.

Birthday and Christmas presents and every odd Grandma overnight in between often yields another LPS, as the girls call them. One of my theories as to why children have just SO MANY toys these days is that they are just so darn cheap. My girls get an allowance and while we have saving and giving programs in place, I have gone back and forth with how much control I ought to have over what they purchase with their own money. Obviously, I would not let them purchase something that is not appropriate, but when it is appropriate and it is something they want to spend their hard-earned money on, I feel remiss in refusing them the opportunity to purchase what they want. Even if it is yet another LPS.

So. LPS was not given or thrown away, but it was put away and that is a real turning point. It's one of those "two steps forward, one step back" moments of those "tween" (but I hate that word) years. And I paused and took note. We talked about it a bit too - about how it feels to want to play with your toys one moment and do something more grown up the next.

Way to go, Maia! Just look at some of the stuff she got rid of!

Paul and I purged things this weekend too and now the well of our van is full and ready to go to Goodwill tomorrow. It'll be a good thing to do on Earth Day, I think.

A little off-topic here is a picture of what happened when I mopped the floors this weekend. There must be something enchanting about displaced furniture, because something interesting always crops up whenever I need to move the chairs to mop the floors. This time was no exception.

Speaking of Earth Day, we put this terrific sign up in our yard on Saturday. We've actually had it for over a year, but just hadn't put it out yet. I saw one the first time in my (wonderful) sister-in-law's yard (hi, Lena!) a number of years ago and was on the hunt for one of my own ever since. I really hope folks walking by will pause, assuming it is one of those nasty warning signs that the chemical lawn companies leave after they've treated a lawn, and just think about the absurdity of it all.

You can get one of these great signs for yourself here too, if you want!

I'll be back tomorrow with a post for Earth Day. Put your thinking caps on and make a positive change for the Earth, for its creatures, for all of us.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hello, Again :)

Well, it's been nice to be away for a bit and a special, "thank you" to those of you who left me such kind and supportive comments. I am heeding your advice and will continue to blog for the time being. Mostly, I found that I just kept thinking about posting! That, in and of itself, let me know that I was not ready to walk away just yet.

It was quite nice, however, just to peruse some sights without the niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I should be spending some time posting instead of reading. It's funny, isn't it, how easy it is to impose rules on oneself, when there are no rules to begin with! I tend to do that quite a bit. Maybe it's because the majority of my time is self-governed. As a SAHM/homeschool parent, like anyone else who works at home, I have moderate myself with my time. I'm sure everyone does... I just think I'm kind of strict with myself sometimes. I'm not very good at being unproductive, but it was nice having a little blogging vacation there.

I finally finished up my latest picture. It's a mixed-media piece: watercolor pencil, watercolor, magazine collage, and embroidery (the branch is backstitched). I am pleased with how it turned out and now I just need to find a frame for it and for a couple other things I've done. I'm glad to be finished with that one. All the cutting and gluing of the petals, buds, and leaves was a bit tedious. I just kept wanting to just draw and paint again. I'm going to give myself a little break from that for a few days too. I want to take some time this weekend to do a bit of what my word of the year invites me to do: IMAGINE.

In listening to some of my favorite green podcasts lately, I've been thinking again about stepping up some of our efforts. Specifically, I was listening to episode 32 of Living Green on peak oil and it got me thinking again. This kind of news always excites and inspires me - and thrills me when I hear how many more people are participating in going more lightly. This particular show, though, freaked me out just a little bit. The reality of the situation is getting more and more blatant all the time: the "earth crisis" is showing itself more and more in the rising price of fuel, the cost of a sad and needless war, and our faltering economy. All of these things have me stressed, to say the least. We are feeling the pressures of it here at home (are you?) and know many others who are struggling too.

The parts of all of this that excite me are the conversations about the new ways of living that are going to become necessary for more than just those of us who have been labeled "crunchy" and/or "treehuggers" for years and years. I am excited to think that I may have a little company! :) lol! It will be interesting to see the developments that will arise from all of this in the (nearer) future. I guess what I'm saying is that, while some of us have been practicing green living, voluntary simplicity, etc. for years now, it has been looked at as a choice. I think now we are going to begin to see a situation where folks are going to be forced to "play their hand." I am hoping more and more conversations with people who wouldn't have called themselves environmentalists in the past are going to be happening.

One thing I am planning on doing next week is talking with a gentleman from the University of Florida's, "Florida Yards and Neighborhoods" program. I am inviting them out to do an evaluation of our yard to see if we will qualify as a "Florida Friendly Yard" and earn ourselves a little yard sign! :) I love signs and bumper stickers, yes I do! Paul doesn't quite understand my enthusiasm for a little sign, but, as I told him last night, it just might make folks stop and wonder just what the sign is for and may inspire them to try it themselves.

In fact, recently, our boulevard garden, planted all with plants native to Florida, attracted the attention of our next-door neighbors. They liked it from the beginning,:

but just last Sunday, he was asking me what kinds of plants we used, since he would like to do something similar!! See how much is has grown just since last fall when we put it in?!

Incredible!! I've already had to trim back the bee balm twice, because it's getting so huge. The red salvia has already seeded itself and new plants are starting and 1) we haven't even had it for a year yet and 2) we haven't even had the rainy season yet!

My neighbor would like to put in some sort of irrigation system. They are on a tight budget like we are and he was thinking that he would save having to water the boulevard if he could just plant it with native plants. BINGO!! Aaahhh, the beauty of xerascaping!

Some other places that have got me thinking are some blogs that I haven't had time to visit in a while and just did again while I've been on my blogging break. Crunchy Chicken is always a favorite and she has been posting regular challenges to up the ante on our green practices. Check out her Extreme Eco Throwdown challenge. I haven't completely signed on yet, but am giving it some serious thought. I am thinking specifically of giving up plastic, paper products (an easy one in this house), and eating only local. It's only for a month, but I wonder how well I'll do.

So. Long post to say hello again. I hope some of the things that have been inspiring me will inspire you too! Do you grow "green thoughtful" around Earth Day? Are you going to do anything to celebrate this wonderful day next Tuesday? I'd love to hear your ideas. Maybe that will be the day I sign on to Crunchy Chicken's challenge. I hope you'll pick something big or small too. Hey, Mom, maybe you could start using just cloth napkins! We'll be at dinner Wednesday night; I'll be looking for them! :)

Friday, April 11, 2008



Is it the time of the year? Is it just so much to do? Is it way too much time spent on the computer anyway? Is it that the spammers have found me? Is it that I wanted to start conversations here and have done that... but also have not found that too and seem to find them more on message boards... ? Is it that there are seemingly MILLIONS of blogs out there and I really just couldn't keep up if I wanted to now? And there are so many very, very good blogs with people dedicated to their blogging... Or is it that I'm just a wee bit tired?

A little bit of everything I think. Maybe just a new phase? Maybe I won't stop altogether... maybe I will. What do you do with a blog? I don't want to just delete. Are there tutorials on saving all. those. words? Maybe I'll feel differently in a week or two. Really, it doesn't matter that much in the big scheme of things... except for that part about all. those. words. So, any pointers on preserving them so that I could do that... if the need ever arises? :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Finished Cardi and Other Creative Pursuits

This week, thus far, has had the feeling of continually playing catch-up. I'm sure it's because we're getting back into school - the home stretch! - and yet we still have our family here tempting us for a few more days of playing hooky. :) Tomorrow we will, but it has an educational twist: a visit to the FL Aquarium in Tampa. So, it's a field trip and we'll call it a day. :)

I finished my cardigan on Sunday night - staying up until 12:45 a.m., Monday, in order to do it, but now it's done! Yay!... Just in time for warmer weather! lol! Really, though, I used to bemoan the fact that I lived in MN all those years and then moved to FL and learned how to knit. Now I realize that I am such a cold-natured person that it's quite perfect. I wear cardigans a great deal of the year and sweaters keep me comfy in the winter months, often without a jacket. So, now I just appreciate the fact that I can enjoy and use knitted goods even in Florida. At least I didn't move here and become a coat designer!

The cardigan turned out nicely. I knit it in a Bernat Softee Chunky, as I'm such a tight knitter, even though the pattern called for worsted. Some day, perhaps, I will be able to find a nice, affordable, natural yarn in which to knit another one, but the acrylic was the only thing that fit the budget right after Christmas and now I can just throw it in the wash, right?

The original pattern that I found didn't have instructions for buttonholes (I am all about needin' instructions!), but I didn't think I'd need buttons. As it turns out though, I could have used just one at the top, because the neckline seems a bit wide and one shoulder tends to fall off with too much movement. Given that I do tend to move during the course of a day :), I've used a pin at the top. Laura Chau, the designer of this sweater, has a newer pattern up here. She's included options for buttons and waist shaping - both of which I would love to try. Additionally, she has provided instructions for adjusting the pattern if you - like me - have a gauge that is way off. So, I may get to try this in worsted sometime after all. I think it would provide for a nicer drape. The chunky is cozy, but the worsted would be a bit more elegant. Also, I love a boat-neck neckline and may just knit it as a pullover one of these days too. Ahhh... my knitting queue grows ever longer.

In other creative news, I continue to work on a project that I am enjoying immensely, but find to be rather slow-going. I don't want to show the progress yet, preferring to do a "reveal" of sorts when it is all done. Don't get me wrong; it's not huge or anything. It's just time consuming and given that I can only seem to work on it in 1 hour snatches early in the mornings, it's taking quite a while. I'm not even working in my sketchbook at this time; there are just too many things going on and I literally move from school to chores to project to knitting to chores to school and round about again.

While I long for longer stretches of time to work, I also wouldn't trade anything I am doing right now. I still love teaching and spending every day with my children. The time is all too fleeting. I see it every day in my growing girls and know there will be a season in which I will have hours to do as I please - whether in this lifetime or the next. So, I am content and feel full. Full, full, full to the brim with ideas and creative pursuits! That in and of itself fills me with gratitude and makes life worth living.

Craftcast, by the way, has had a couple of wonderful, inspiring podcasts the last couple of episodes. Her talks with Seth Savarick and Dayle Doroshow were wonderful.
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