Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book and TV Review: The Town That Food Saved & Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

I'm currently reading a book called The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food. I'm a couple of chapters in and it's talking about how we are facing a food crisis in the all too near future if we don't start decentralizing our food production, and then describes how one town in Vermont is DOING it. I like that it gives the problem and sounds the warning bells, but then also offers a solution so that it winds up being very positive.

Speaking of food, did anyone else watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution last night? It was very entertaining. He took some ideas from other shows, though. There's a show on BBC America, You Are What You Eat, where Gillian McKeith, a nutritionist, confronts people with what they eat in order to get them to change, and like Jamie she piles all the food they eat in one week all on a table at once. She can then point out that there aren't any veggies and everything is the same color, or whatever the issue is, just like Jamie did. Hmmm. (But I think what he's doing is great and I hope he is successful.) Gillian McKeith has also written a ton of books on nutrition if you're interested.

Brit Jamie Oliver is also following in the footsteps of our own Alice Waters, who advocated edible gardens in the schools and got the Berkeley school system to serve healthy food to their school kids. This is a fight worth fighting and I'm so glad more and more people are taking it on.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The New Law

The health care bill passed and was signed into law today. I have mixed feelings about it; I wasn’t planning on writing anything but then I saw Michael Moore on Larry King Live last night and he had some good points, and I saw a really good comparison of health care to a fire department on the internet a while back and that made some good points, and I have my own feelings about what I think government should be, so I threw that in the pot together and mixed it all up. What it boils down to for me is this is not the law I wanted AT ALL, but I do believe that, given the contentious climate in Washington and the political pull of money from the insurance companies and their lobbyists, that this is the best we can do for right now. It's a foot in the door. People will come to expect to be able to find affordable health insurance; I don't believe the politicians will ever be able to take that away again. Same for being able to insure our kids until they are 26, although they may have more success with nudging that age. People with pre-existing conditions- same thing. Basically all the good things they are touting as coming from this legislation- I don't think they will be able to close the door on any of it.

What would I have done personally? I would have started a brand new public health care system. Hospitals, clinics, the whole 9 yards. Yes, socialized medicine. I don't care what label anyone puts on it, it would be the right thing to do. Now, I wouldn't outlaw the current private hospitals, or private health insurance. There's still a place for that just like there is still a place for private schools even though we have a public school system. To find doctors I would provide incentives for our top students to go to medical school, including full tuition payments if they agree to “enlist” as public doctors for a given amount of time. Qualified students would get free schooling to become doctors, physician's assistants, nurses, medical technicians, and all of the various professions we need to run the healthcare system. I would also allow immigrants into the country if they qualified to go to medical school and also “enlisted” for a certain number of years; they could stay on and become citizens after their years of service. Yep, I would also raise taxes, by about the amount that people are already spending on health insurance. Companies that wanted to ditch insurance would be able to do so, and many would. Those companies would have to give raises in the amounts that they were previously spending on health care, to equal the taxes. Basically I would try to make things even out, then if anyone wanted to pay for private insurance, possibly give them a slight tax break. There would be employers who still need to attract the "cream of the crop"; they would of course still pay for private insurance since private is always seen as better than public whether it is or not.

For me it goes back to what I think government is for, and I could care less about -isms so label me however, and again, I don't care. I think government's primary job should be to protect the little guy from the big guy, whether the big guy is a foreign country trying to blow us up or a corporation trying to lie to me to get me to buy bad products or an insurance company giving me the bait and switch after I've paid premiums for forever, or a car company selling me a dangerous car, or the financial industry playing roulette with my money all the while assuring me everything is fine, or a credit card company changing my interest rate without telling me because I was late with the water bill, or a manufacturer hiding the fact that they are putting GMOs in my food, or a toy company selling me toys with lead paint that will damage my children, or a factory polluting the water I have to drink, or a religious group telling me I can't marry whomever I want when that person is a consenting adult just like I am. It’s about fairness. Life sure isn’t fair, but governments are there to level the playing field as much as they possibly can.

I also believe our government should provide essential services the private sector is unable or unwilling to take on. Fire stations, police departments, the mail, education, and now that it has become a life saving industry, health care for every single citizen instead of only the fortunate. (Heck, I wouldn’t turn immigrants away, either; they are people too after all.) Health care is an essential service as much as our police force. It wasn't that way when our Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution, I mean they thought bleeding people was a good idea, but it is now.

Such a system would not be perfect any more than our current public school system is perfect, but that’s a different fight altogether. You can’t make people be perfect and all of our various systems are run by people. There are mistakes and carelessness and abuses in our current healthcare system but there are also amazing successes, just like there would be in a system of public hospitals.

But it wasn't up to me. It was up to 435 representatives and 100 senators, and just try to get that many people to agree on something perfect. It's a wonder anything ever gets done at all, then you throw in Fox News and the insurance industry working in the background trying to sabotage anything they think will affect their bottom line. Nope, I’m not happy with the law, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Wild Child Still Eats Meat...

Our son can't give up meat. He loves it. He's devastated we don't have it at home anymore, but I've told him he can indulge when we go out to eat. Today he took me up on it and had baby back ribs.

Maybe one day...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yet Another Food Recall

Check out this article in the Washington Post about the latest food recall. It's getting scary, kids.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Response to "The Femivore's Dilema"

Through The Voracious Vegan, I found an article in The New York Times by Peggy Orenstein titled "The Femivore's Dilema". (Pause while you click on the link and read the article...)

I'm feeling pretty darn insulted by the thing. It's just so... limiting. It makes a general assumption that all women want the same things, that just being a house wife (or family manager, the term I prefer, thank you) is not enough of a role for any woman to find fulfillment with. We have to look to some other JOB or ROLE or something to find ourselves, I guess. The women discussed have done this through gardening and raising chickens, of all things. Hooray for them; I'm happy that these women have done something they find interesting and beneficial both in their lives and for the planet and that is to be celebrated.

As for me, I don't raise chickens. I don't garden. Well, OK, I try to garden, but when I can’t even get milkweed to survive for the butterflies it’s pretty much a given that I’m not getting any tomatoes from the shriveled up plants in the backyard. I’m not into canning veggies or re-covering an old couch I found on the side of the road. I admire people who have the skill, desire, and patience for those types of things, but they are not for me even if I take the random stab at being crafty. I admire women in the workforce who have found jobs they love, too. I chose my major poorly when I went to college and wound up in a job I was not suited for at all, back in the day when I earned a full time paycheck. I actually loved my last paid job, which was part time, but the job dissolved so it’s not something I could go back to anyway. Which is why I stopped working for money; I was laid off when the program was closed and it was a pretty unique job. The Eldest was 4 at the time so I decided I would stay home for a while. There was a period of about a year when it was really strange to be home but it made my life so much easier. I loved not having to get up to the alarm clock every morning and I loved the extra time with my husband. Prior to that we were ships passing in the night; I worked in the morning then he would leave for work after I got home and worked late into the evening, often coming home after I was in bed. Why would I possibly want to continue doing that if I didn’t have to?

As for this statement in the article:

“…though today’s soccer moms may argue, quite rightly, that caretaking is undervalued in a society that measures success by a paycheck, their role is made possible by the size of their husband’s…”

I say SO WHAT. My husband’s paycheck, our health insurance, and our financial stability are dependent on his employer just as much as I am dependent upon him. Unless you are an entrepreneur, everyone’s paycheck is dependent upon someone else. What the women profiled in the article are doing is getting out of the 9 to 5 rat race, which is far more significant an action to me than making some feminist statement. Not that there's anything wrong with feminist statements, they are great and necessary things, I just don't see this as one of them. I know one woman, for instance, who is self sufficient along WITH her husband and neither one of them earns a “regular” pay check. They set their own schedules, work when they want doing what they love, and have a great life. (And they don’t raise chickens either, but they are homeschooling some great kids.) Is the husband in this case a “manivore” simply because he doesn’t earn a regular paycheck?

That’s how I see my life, too. I have opted out of the rat race, which to me means I have stopped working for pay at jobs I wasn't happy with. (I don't mean to insult anyone who is working in corporate America; if they are working at a job they enjoy then they are NOT in a "rat race" kind of a situation.) I do what I want when I want to do it. My husband chose his college major better than I did and likes the work he does. He likes working for his company and that company pays him well. If he didn’t like it, we would look at other options. He supports our family financially because he enjoys doing the work. I didn’t have the earning power he did when I drew a paycheck, plus I didn’t enjoy my work like he does, so this is how we arranged things between the two of us. (Again, I chose poorly in college; no one forced me into a major with a low income potential.) It’s something we both agreed to and we are both happy with. When I want to go back to school to finish my Master's degree, then eventually back to work, I will do so.

I guess that’s what I have the issues with in regards to this article. It sets up this feminist thing when it should really be about individual choice and women who have found happiness through non-traditional work (by going back to very traditional work, funny enough). I am happy living my life; I am a housewife and proud of it. (Even if I prefer to be called a family manager.) This is my choice, even if it depends on my husband’s income. I find fulfillment in many, many ways, all of which are possible because I no longer work for a paycheck. I volunteer and I blog and I take classes and I go to a book club and a women’s group and yes, I even homeschool my kids. I sleep in when I want and take vacations when I want and set my own schedule and decide on my own projects and activities instead of working towards someone else’s deadlines.

Wow, I must really be depressed and feel a niggling sense of purposelessness since I’m dependent on DH’s paycheck. Can’t you tell?

(And I have a friend who raises chickens, btw; she’s dependent on her husband’s paycheck too. So far I haven’t seen any evidence of depression in her either; must be the chickens.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Emergency Preparedness Part II

As I was stumbling around on the internet this morning I ran across a site relating to home organization. Since today is the day to "Spring Forward" by setting our clocks ahead one hour the site recommends this as the day to make safety checks around our homes. There are the usual things, change the batteries in the smoke detectors, for instance, as well as the very topic I discussed in my last post- update your emergency preparedness kit. Additional information includes links to a printable list of first aid supplies, a family emergency information page, and FEMA. It's potentially life saving information that is well worth checking out.

(Maybe I'm not the only one with emergency preparedness as a hobby...)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Emergency Preparedness

Some people have, oh, I don't know, stamp collecting as a hobby, others build model trains, others work on craft projects. My hobby is a little unique; I am into emergency preparedness. (That's the kind of thing that happens when you live through a couple of doozies named Andrew and Wilma.) I like being prepared for whatever life throws my way, both in day to day situations as well as in an emergency. The project for today was updating the family "Go Bags". I put together one backpack for each of us a few years ago then stashed them in our entry closet. I knew I needed to go through them on a yearly basis and refresh and update items as needed but I've missed the past few years. Since my class is on Spring Break and hurricane season is right around the corner (well, two and a half months) I finally decided now is the time. I pulled out old clothes that don't fit the kids anymore and put in new items, took out expired Tylenol and Motrin, tossed the old granola bars and put in fresh ones, added a few items I didn't think of when I filled them the first time, and made an inventory of each bag. The inventory will be helpful when I think of things that should be in the bags- is the item in there already or do I need to add it?

What are "Go Bags" for, you may be wondering? Well, if we get a category 4 or 5 hurricane bearing down on us, these are the bags we'll grab on our way out the door to a stronger shelter. (DH and I have agreed we won't leave town, getting caught in traffic could be deadly, but we would probably go to a stronger building than our house to hunker down.) The bags contain items we need for identification, (dog tags I had made for each of us), personal comfort (hygiene items, spare clothes) as well as for post storm conditions (work gloves, multi-purpose tools, emergency food tablets, that type of thing). Add my 10 meal boxes, water, and our family tent and we could survive for a while, at least the 72 hours the State of Florida recommends, in fairly good shape.

Do you have an emergency plan?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Bloggies!

There is this awards thing on the web called the Weblog Awards, or The Bloggies. This is their 10th year and they have some pretty impressive blogs among their winners and nominees. I've had 17 and Baking listed over there on My Blog List for just about forever now and I'm happy to send congrats to Elissa since she won in the Best Teen Weblog category. See, can I recognize greatness or what!? There are several different categories with something for almost everyone. (Although I think they've missed an obvious one in leaving out "best parenting weblog", but oh, well.)

If you want to check out some great blogs, head on over and start clicking. All of the winners and nominees are linked so you can click your way through the best of the internet. You can even go back through the years since those are linked at the top of the page.

Happy surfing!

Monday, March 1, 2010


Kindness is in the air these days! One of the blogs on my favorites list (over there on the right) has a post about kindness and good deeds gone... astray. I read Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet not too long ago. My incredible women's group focused on kindness at our last meeting. The group's organizers recently saw the Dalai Lama speak and had that to share with us then we all shared our own Random Acts of Kindness committed over the past month. (It was our group homework.) There was even an act of Senseless Beauty; one of the women spent hours fixing up her neighbor's garden. The kind acts ranged from large to small but they were all meaningful and they all made a difference to someone's day and life. It's amazing how little effort we can expend for such a huge payoff. I can't think of anything else, actually, that has such a huge reward as an act of kindness. Even the anonymous acts- WE know if we are the ones who acted.

So what are kind acts, anyway? The book The Kind Diet would say that switching to a vegan diet is kind. I switched to a vegetarian diet (I’m not quite ready for that last step to vegan yet) partially out of a desire to be kind. I am trying to be kind to the planet by not using up more than my fair share of food resources because I truly believe that eating meat on a regular basis is taking food out of the mouths of the poor in third world countries. (The crops grown to feed cattle could be used much more efficiently to feed people.) Letting the guy behind me with just a few items go ahead of me in the grocery check out is a kindness. Volunteering is kindness. Kindness ranges from trying to live a kind lifestyle to the little spur of the moment things we do for others. Kindness, to me, goes along with compassion and caring for the other people living on the planet with us.

I am rewarded when I am kind; it makes me feel good. Conversely, when I behave like a jerk I feel badly. (And I can think of some instances…) I am embarrassed to remember times when I’ve let my temper get the best of me. I am chagrined when I remember times when thoughtlessness has caused inconvenience to others when it didn’t have to be that way. Or when I could have done something nice for someone but missed the opportunity because I didn’t think about it, like not sending a card for someone’s birthday. (I’m terrible about that; I lose track of the days.) It’s not intentionally unkind but the missed chance for active kindness and thoughtfulness that bothers me in those cases.

There’s also kindness in paying attention to others and not jumping to conclusions about who they are, something I’m learning as I get older. For instance, there have been people in my life that I felt, for one reason or another, didn’t like me and so responded to them… I don’t know, aloofly? Snobbishly? I even have a recent example. There was a woman I met a couple of years ago and I just knew she didn’t like me and there was no way we could ever get along or be friends. I’ve had some chances to spend more time with her lately through some activities we were both participating in and I realized she was actually pretty friendly towards me. There was even one time when we were standing around waiting for something and she came over and threw her arm around my shoulders. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I was so wrong about her; she did like me! I was so careful to behave nicely, kindly, every time I interacted with her, even though I felt she didn’t like me, and I was rewarded with finding out how wrong I was. (And I was happy to be wrong in this case, especially since I think she’s a pretty cool person.) It’s kindness that comes from a generosity of spirit. I have to remind myself to be generous of spirit and not judgmental, which is a bad habit and character flaw I am trying really hard to overcome.

All of these lessons learned, all tying back to kindness. This is a good subject to ponder.