Monday, May 31, 2010


I have a tendency to get into hobbies of various sorts. I go crazy with said hobby for a while then life gets busy and I set it aside, sometimes just for a while, sometimes permanently. The bad part of this hobby-habit is when I spend all sorts of money on new supplies, then lose interest and have all that stuff left over taking up space in my house. What do you do in that case?

Scrapbooking, for instance. I really enjoy scrapbooking when I get into it, but I haven't had time for it (or made time for it) pretty much since we moved into our current home six years ago. I've done a few pages here and there but nothing to speak of. Now that we have digital cameras it's too overwhelming to even think about! I have the supplies, though, taking up half of the storage space in our den/computer room.

I've also been into birding/bird watching, but that was before the little ones were born. Birding with The Wild Child? I don't think so! At least the supplies for that, a few bird books and some binoculars, don't take up a lot of space.

My latest hobby is butterfly gardening. I'm sure my interest in this new hobby will fade one day too, but I'm enjoying it for now. The Middle Child is fueling the fire; she loves her caterpillars. Plus it's more like two hobbies in one; both watching the butterflies and creating the habitat, which involves a lot of gardening. I never was much of one for flower gardening, preferring low maintenance plants that don't necessarily flower, but now that I'm getting into it I'm finding I love finding new flowers to plant. The Middle Child and I enjoy going to Home Depot to look for new flowers together. We're also getting really inventive with finding new places to tuck milkweed for our beloved Monarch caterpillars!

Along with the flower gardening I'm hoping to get some vegetables to grow this fall. (I live far enough south that planting season starts in the fall.) I haven't had much success with veggies in the past but I keep trying! I got a compost bin for Mother's Day so I'm hoping that adding compost will help. (Yes, my gift for Mother's Day was a compost bin. Yes, I realize that's strange, but it's what I wanted.) I'm realizing the importance of the soil to a successful garden, something I never bothered with in the past. We have friends in our homeschooling group who are very successful gardeners and they are encouraging and helpful. The kids took a tour of their garden and we learned a lot from that, so now I have someone to call when we need advice. I've been bugging DH to set up our planting bed so that it will be ready for the fall; we need to get it set up now so we can cover it with heavy plastic to kill the grass, which will then be tilled back into the soil.

But for now, I just want to get out there and go for a bike ride, one of my favorite hobbies at the moment.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Now that my class is over and summer is approaching I've made time to do some organizing, mainly in the form of purging needless STUFF. I took a huge load of old electronics to our city's annual Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Day and I have another huge load ready to go to Goodwill. I went through a pile of magazines a couple of days ago and I was ruthless, ruthless I tell you, about chucking those. Anything that didn't have "2010" on it went into the recycle bin. Didn't matter if I've read it or not, out it went. (Except my vegetarian magazines; I'm keeping those for now. I'll get rid of them after I pull out any recipes we want to try.) I went through a cabinet in our computer room and streamlined that; Goodwill is getting a lot of nice stationary. I've gone through messy Girl Scout supplies and straightened those out. It's nothing I've planned, it's just as I come across an overstuffed cabinet, or a pile of things I need to go through, or stuff that just needs to find a home, I deal with it.

My main goal for this summer is to go through the two big piles I have left from clearing out my Grandmother's house. I want to get that all sorted out and either put away, send away to relatives, toss, or donate every last little thing. It's been two years since she passed away so it's time to deal with those last items. At least I have it down to two piles; her stuff originally took over my whole living room!

I've gotten to the point where I HATE the piles. They are visual clutter, a reminder of work to be done, procrastination personified, they are stressful to look at, and they weigh my life down. I've toyed with the idea of asking myself a question as I purge- "will this be something I would take with me when I go live in Europe"? If the answer is no, then I need to get rid of it. Not that I have any immediate plans to move to Europe, but I'm hoping to live over there for a year at some point in my life. Not that I've actually been that ruthless with my purges, either, but it's a goal! (Magazines notwithstanding; that was only one little pile.)

It feels so good when a pile of junk goes out the door. I feel lighter and freer. There's more room in the house and less stuff to have to deal with. Off I go to deal with another pile!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Restaurant Review: Grand Lux Cafe

DH and I went out to eat for an all to infrequent Date Night at Grand Lux Cafe last night. We've been fairly regular patrons there for a few years now. I used to order their Cedar Planked Salmon, changing the sides to mashed sweet potatoes and sugar snap peas, hold the oil and butter, but now that we've gone veg I've been trying out different menu items. At our regular restaurants, I tend to find one thing on a menu I like then stick with it so this is a new approach. I have to admit I'm slipping back into my old pattern, however, now that I've discovered a couple of items I LOVE. First of all, the tapas menu. They have the best hummus (garlicky with a layer of olive oil poured over the top, just FYI) and flat bread, but that's not my favorite. My favorite is the Warm Goat Cheese Salad. Where to begin describing this food? First of all, the goat cheese is formed into little balls, battered, and fried. (Not so good for the waist line, but there are only a few little teeny cheese balls so how bad could it be?) They are served on a bed of mixed baby greens with little chunks of green apple. Drizzled over the top, a lemony/honey concoction that you can't see, but you can taste. It's like heaven bursting open in your mouth to take a bite of the cheese, with the honey flavor mixing in, then a bite of the apple... to die for. You know that show on the Food Network? The Best Thing I Ever Ate? Yeah, if I were on that show, that Warm Goat Cheese Salad would be the best thing I ever ate, without a doubt. It's better than anything I ate in Europe by far, and it's right in my own back yard! The chef that came up with that combination of flavors should win awards.

DH and the kids like the fried pickles, also on the tapas menu. (We took leftovers home for them.) I absolutely love the tapas menu; it's so inexpensive that you can order two or three for the same price as one appetizer. You can make a meal out of just tapas, or follow up several tapas plates with an entree. Speaking of the entrees, I enjoy the Yellow Tomato Pasta Pomodoro, and the portion size is large enough that I can bring home enough for The Middle Child's dinner. (She loves it too.)

Since this is a review, I guess I should discuss the restaurant as a whole and not just the food. The service varies; it bothers me that we are regulars, going on the same night almost every time, but we rarely see the same servers. They must have a high turn over in their wait staff. Sometimes our servers are great, sometimes they are mediocre. We've even had one or two servers who were really slow, but that doesn't happen often. (Our server last night was fantastic; I hope they keep her on.) As for the decor, it is OVER THE TOP ornate. I love it. I wouldn't decorate my house that way, but for a night out it's a lot of fun. It's like stepping into another world, maybe Venice, in another era. Oh, it's always chilly, so I know to take a jacket. (I get cold easily; the temperature doesn't bother DH at all.)

It's my favorite Date Night restaurant; yummmmmmm.

PS: Here's the disclaimer- I have absolutely no connections with this restaurant other than eating there fairly often, but if they want to send me any gift certificates I'd be happy to take them! ;)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Child Proofing

The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, is full of it these days; I spent the better part of Thursday locking up our "grown up" movies, or I should say re-locking them up. They were in a cabinet locked with a magnetic child lock but he's known how to open those for a while. He never seemed to bother with the movies inside though, until recently. He started watching "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" the other day and I knew something was up because that's not a movie in their "G" movie storage case. Not that I wouldn't let him watch that particular movie, there's a good message in it and it's PG, but it was in with other movies that he absolutely can NOT watch at his tender age of 7. Plus he got it out of a cabinet he knows he's not allowed to access. Plus he had not completed his school work for the day so it wasn't an appropriate time for him to be watching ANYTHING. I got a little pissed.

So I gathered up all of the DVDs from that cabinet and sorted them into piles, PG, PG-13, and R, then took out the actual discs and filed them in three different storage cases. I'm debating about tossing the now empty movie cases. They take up a lot of space and we don't really need them. I have a listing of all of the movies in a document on the computer so when we want to watch a movie I can easily see what we have. Collectible purposes? They might be valuable to collectors one day? Eh. I don't really put much stock in that as a reason to keep something around, after all, if I throw mine away then the people who make the space to keep theirs will reap the benefit of fewer of said items floating around diluting the value. It's an act of charity! (OK, I have Beanie Babies and Barbies in boxes, but that's beside the point.)

The Wild Child has also been going into my bedroom closet lately, another thing he KNOWS he's not supposed to do. DH took a pair of folding scissors that go with my pocket knife away from him yesterday. I used them the last time I went camping with The Eldest and just put them away the day before, so I knew where he got them from. I suppose that one serves me right; I used to sneak into my parent's closet all the time when I was a kid. I got in big trouble once- I found my birthday presents and unwrapped them to see what they were. I re-wrapped them, of course, but my mom still put two and two together. She got so mad she returned some of the presents to the store. (Or threatened to; I can't remember if she actually did it or not.) It didn't stop me. Hey, I was a latch key kid and I got bored.

Umm, now that I think about it, I should check and see if the pocket knife, which was right next to the scissors, is still where I left it...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Souljourn for World Hunger

I follow several blogs (listed over there on the right) and one that has been updating every day this week is Voracious Vegan. She’s in the middle of an experiment to live on only 1,000 calories a day, which is basically a starvation diet, in order to see what it’s like to live a life of food insecurity. She’s writing about the physical and emotional effects she is feeling and also about food insecurity issues in various areas of the world. It’s very powerful and reaffirms my commitment to switch to a vegetarian diet. While I think it’s OK for meat eaters to indulge (like my son) I would hope that all the carnivores out there would think about the impact their habits are having on the planet and at least reduce their meat intake. Start out with Meatless Mondays, for instance, then maybe, after finding some good vegetarian recipes, go for a few more meatless days every week. My grandmother told me she and my grandfather only ate meat once each week when they were newlyweds, for instance. It was an economic issue for them but it goes to show that reduced meat consumption is something do-able. (My grandfather was a big guy so for him to eat a mostly vegetarian diet means anyone can do it.)

I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again now- when we eat meat we are taking food out of the mouths of starving people in other countries. There is a direct correlation. The food that is grown to feed our cattle should go to feed people instead, but we have money and power so our cows get the grain. The huge appetite for meat in our society is not sustainable, but yet our hunger for meat with every meal is being exported and adopted by countries like China, with their huge population. Our planet can’t do it.

Voracious Vegan is going into a lot more detail, with all the facts and figures, than I can do here so I encourage everyone to click on over and read what she’s got to say. It will shake you.

Judging Others

I’m usually pretty oblivious to the judgments of others I guess, sailing through my life without noticing. Recently it’s come to my attention however, through various writings on the internet, that people are judging each other left and right out there both in the blog-o-sphere and in the real world. Those of us who don’t “meet the criteria” for entrée into whatever group are deemed unworthy and “less than” those in said group. It’s like high school for grown ups! Recently I’ve come across posts from feminists who can’t stand you if don’t work for a paycheck and doctors who think you are automatically sanctimonious and judgmental if you are a part of the “natural childbirth movement”. (I don’t work for a paycheck and I had The Middle Child and The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, using natural childbirth methods, heaven forbid.)

So what is this judging all about? In its mildest form, it’s the way we make sense of the world and decide who we’re going to hang out with. Who is like us and won’t judge us when we are with them because we are similar to them in our lifestyle and beliefs. We have to judge others in some ways to protect ourselves and make choices about whom to associate with. By choosing my husband I judged the other guys I dated and rejected as not right for me. By choosing which organized groups to be involved with I am judging the other groups as not appropriate for me and/or not worth my time. On another level, I don’t want my kids hanging out with kids who are undisciplined or from families with vastly different values from my own because I am judging those children and families as not like mine and not good for my children.

I want to find groups of people who are like me so that when we have discussions we don’t end up in arguments. I want to find groups of people I am comfortable with. I want to find groups of people who are like minded. I think everyone does to some extent. Why would you hang out with people who make you uncomfortable?

Of course, this can get carried to extremes. When that happens it can turn ugly and become discrimination or racism. That is to be avoided at all costs, of course. I do NOT choose my friends by their race or ethnicity or sexual orientation or income. Is it discrimination, however, to choose friends by their political or religious beliefs? Although I have friends who hold opposite political views and friends with strong religious beliefs it can get really awkward if either of us makes a strong statement about religion or politics. I jumped all over a friend on Facebook when he said something negative about liberal viewpoints recently; it got ugly. I don’t know if he still considers me a friend or not. Most of the time I bite my tongue and try to just get along and not make waves, but sometimes I go off on people when I feel that their statements were snarky. Expressing an opinion that differs from mine is OK; doing so in a demeaning manner is not.

The recent internet postings I mentioned earlier kind of shocked me, like a slap in the face. There was an article on-line about women, family managers like me, who strive to make their families more self sufficient by growing their own food and raising chickens. I thought that was great, but then there were comments and counter posts by “feminists” who said oh, terrific, now women have to be held to some higher standard when they are stay at home moms, or if they don’t grow their own food they’ll be deemed unworthy. But then there were other posts that said these women are just looking for excuses to justify staying at home, and they should go earn a paycheck, or they are leeches and unworthy of even calling themselves women, or something. WTF? Who cares? The women in question are living the life they chose so get over it already. Yes, there are still barriers that feminists need to conquer, but it’s like we are fighting ourselves on some fronts.

Expressing one’s opinion is fine and necessary and it’s interesting to learn about differing points of view, but it seems that the negatively judgmental part of things is getting out of hand. Expressing one’s opinion, no matter how diplomatically, can’t be done these days without sneering at someone else, it seems. By expressing my own opinion I automatically become, to some bloggers, condescending. Judgment taken to the negative. But when that’s not the intent, who’s being negatively judgmental, me for expressing myself or the other blogger for taking what I’ve said the wrong way? If I try to say something in a way that’s just expressing my thoughts and ideas, then someone takes offense or takes it as a personal attack when it wasn’t meant that way at all, who’s judging whom? But then there are people out there who make a living by sneering at those who hold different beliefs; Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck immediately come to mind. Have they so conditioned the rest of us to think that any expression of personal opinion is automatically belittling those who believe differently? It’s like our entire society is sinking to their level; we are all being dragged through the mud with those guys. Blech.

In addition to the recent accusation of condescension, I’ve also been accused of having a chip on my shoulder. (That was from the friend with differing political views.) ??? Is having my own opinions having a chip on my shoulder? If so, then yeah, I guess that chip is right there and livin’ large. I have opinions. I have STRONG opinions, and when I get fired up I will express those opinions. Sometimes to the detriment of friendships which is why I choose my friends with more care these days. I’ve realized that there are people out there I don’t want to be friends with. It’s OK not to like certain people, or people with certain views. As long as I am judging by behavior and who a person is individually and the groups they choose to associate with and not by the things a person can’t help, like race or gender or ethnicity or whatever, then I’m OK with that.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Little Carnivore

I mentioned in a previous post that The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, still eats meat. The girls will also indulge on occasion but not like The Wild Child! He is a full on carnivore, that kid. When DH and I went totally veg I decided I wouldn't buy meat at the grocery any more but the kids would be able to make their own choices when we went out. That's working well for the girls but I've noticed The Wild Child getting a little... peaked lately. He was looking pale, developing dark circles under his eyes, and lately he's been cranky. He refuses to eat beans, our main protein source, so I've been worried that he was having some problems with the no meat at home thing. (He'll eat peanut butter sandwiches but not often and he makes his own bagel pizzas with cheese so he is getting some protein, just not enough, I think.) When I had him with me at the grocery the other day I caved and bought him some turkey breast at the deli counter. The clerk handed him a sample and it was like Cookie Monster; little bits of meat were flying everywhere as he shoved it in his mouth. Poor kid; you'd think I was starving him! I bought half a pound and it was gone the first night. (The Middle Child ate a little bit of it, but not much.) So I've changed my mind. I will buy deli meat at the grocery store for my darling boy. I don't want him to be malnourished, for Pete's sake! I bought another 3/4 of a pound yesterday and he was one happy camper while he was eating his sandwich at dinner; he was grinning from ear to ear. (Yes, while chewing; it was quite a sight.)

DH and I are sticking to it so far; we've both been vegetarian since Christmas. I may go flex at some point, or I may go totally vegan at some point, but for now it's working for us. I'm loving the new meals and I'm figuring out my new stand-by, pantry recipes that everyone should have in their repertoire, along with more complicated dishes that require fresh ingredients that (most of) the family loves. The Middle Child and I both comb through the vegetarian cookbooks to find new things to make; she's even turning out to be quite the little cook. It's fun and I am so pleased to report that I don't miss meat at all; there are too many other things to eat!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Debate Rages On!

I tend to get a little fired up sometimes. Like today. I ran across an article on the internet where SOMEONE WAS WRONG, so I had to set her straight. (DH introduced me to the "someone on the internet is wrong" concept. I still get fired up, though.) This someone happens to be a Harvard educated obstetrician who feels the natural childbirth movement is pushing women to suffer needlessly through the "excruciating" pain of labor and delivery. Snort. I experienced natural childbirth with both The Middle Child and The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, and she has NO IDEA what natural childbirth is all about. I set her straight, but you can read it all, including my comments, by clicking here. (I'm commenting under Rambling Family Manager, of course.)