Monday, January 24, 2011

Fretting and Baloney (bologna)

It's been a week here.  I could say it's been SO busy but that's not really true.  It's been the usual.  I work on the weekends now.  This is not MY business.  It's the job I won't ever talk about because I'd like to keep it and I wouldn't do something dumb like post it in my Facebook profile and then bash someone about eating Jello.  Because, Dude, someone could read that and not like it and forward it to that company and then said person could lose their job.  I am not that kind of person...on most days. 

It has been a week, though.  I've been fretting about Rowan.  What I am about to tell you is strictly confidential, which is why I'm blabbing it all over the internet.  There's a reason to my madness.  I'm not particularly worried about her being accepted into some ivy league college, so if this comes back to haunt her, I don't think it will matter much. 

Rowan has an issue that we are dealing with head on and with all the force of a hurricane.  If you know me, then you know when something hits my radar it is addressed swiftly and with full power, resources, and determination.

She's having adjustment issues (in awesome shrink talk).  To preschool.  Think about that.  If I don't tackle this now then she is doomed to become an outcast.  Forever to walk on the fringe of society.

Well, maybe it's not that gloomy.  The reason to my madness is that it should be discussed.  I think we are all aware of things being swept under a rug and not spoken about.  At our house I need to make sure this is not a secret issue, in all things I do.  And since blogging is one of the things I do, this will now be a part of it.  We will not call it Rowan's Mental Health.  So where does this story begin?

Last year Rowan went to a Pre-K 3 class and all was well.  She knew everyone's name.  She was on top of all the social goings-on of the other 3 and 4 year olds.  She even did imaginary play at home with these kids.  Reenacting classroom scenes, doing problem solving by asking her ghost friends.  This year is different.

This year, we are now in January, a full semester into school, and Rowan cannot tell us anyone she goes to school with this year.  I thought at the beginning of a school year it might take a little while to learn the new kids' names.  However, the time has long passed for that.  Be nice, I did notice before the winter break that this was happening. 

We were planning on discussing this with the teacher at the next parent-teacher conference but then we had a little nudge to do something more.  Mostly, Rowan wanting to go to the restroom All. The. Time.  We thought she might have a bladder infection, etc.  We took her to the doctor to have the physical part checked out.  All o.k.  So now we are dealing with the psychological. 

Today I did 3 things.  1)  I enrolled her into gymnastics.  A group activity with other kids not in her classroom.  Also, an activity I think she might like as it involves jumping on things like furniture.  We watched youtube videos of spectacular gymnastic feats this evening to inspire her to Olympic greatness.  We did not watch youtube blooper videos of gymnastic fails.

2)  We had a parent-teacher conference.  There were some nagging questions I had.  Like, how did Rowan come home with great social skills on her report card yet have no knowledge of who she went to school with.  The teacher gave me the usual "she has no problems in class."  Then I took my glasses off.  This is my last straw sign.  I was determined to keep my cool and not blame the teacher.  I actually need her on our side.  I explained that sometimes there are other children who are problems in the classroom and they require so much attention that the good children start falling through the cracks.  The teacher liked this idea.  She also suggested that while most kids are already forming cliques, Rowan doesn't have an interest in that and wants to be friends with everyone.  I suggested Rowan has too many choices and it's making her crazy.  I also suggested we do this:  The teacher keep on working on her squeaky wheel problem students but stop giving Rowan too many choices for activities.  Give her two choices.  The teacher likes this and also participating in our next step.

3)  Counseling.  This is such a dirty word, isn't it.  I am determined not to think so.  I am determined to get Rowan through this now and not deal with who knows what when she is a teenager.  What's the counseling for?  Because I, nor Jace, went to Super Duper Parent School and we've reached a brick wall on what to do.  We also know there are answers and skills to help us.  We don't think she'll need medication, she's often remarked as being a very good child in public.  We think she'll, and us, will get some skills for coping and interacting with others and making friends.

What I'm afraid of?  We'll all end up in counseling.  Jace and I both grew up in homes that we are now repeating life problems, though less.   What I'm hopeful for?  Like I really have to say.  A healthy, happy child.

Got any suggestions?  Please let me know.  As always, thanks for "listening" to my blog.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

How A Bike Rack Tried To Kill Me

I wanted to post this earlier but I was afflicted by an upset tummy.  I have noticed this happening more and more and seems to coincide with the days I get up to get Rowan off to school.  This is part of my reasoning for wanting to homeschool.  I think my body is rebelling and saying, "You did the school thing growing up and now I'm not getting up early anymore!  I will make you pay for getting me up too early."  And it has.  Lucky for me Jace is getting her up tomorrow.  I don't suppose I could homeschool only on days that I have to get up with her. 

Speaking of bad attitudes about school, Rowan was sent home a sort of test.  It has come to the teacher's attention that many of the kids can identify every letter of the alphabet and numbers and colors...when they are at home, but not in the classroom.  Rowan is one of these.  Our conversation at the last parent teacher conference consisted of the teacher saying she might not be cut out for school and should probably find a nice career in prison.  She could only identify 5 letters and 3 colors.  At home it's a different story.  She can identify 24 of 26 letters, she can count to 30 and knows all her colors, she's doing kindergarten level math, and we've started working on reading.  A classical example of not being able to test under pressure.

Now to the bike rack.  In this weekly stroke of genius, I thought I should get a bike rack.  This is to help me get my bike to town so that I can spend hours and hours of riding with a gentle breeze through my hair and sunshine on my face. 

My first obstacle was finding the darn thing.  I finally found one at Walmart.  It listed my car as acceptable for using this rack.  And no assembly!  Oh, how hard could this be? 

I opened it.  So far so good.  I managed to make it look like it did in the picture.  Then I got tangled in the straps.  All I could think was Jace was going to come home to find me bound up in this rack thing unable to move.  I finally managed to get untangled and get the thing outside. 

Once outside I did manage to put the bike rack onto the car fairly easily.  But then I had it too high, then too low.  That back window wiper thingy kept getting in my way. 

Now that I had the bike rack on the car, I had to put the bike on it.  I had to lift the bike.  Hahahahahaha.  I'm a going to have to practice that.  I finally had to wait for Jace to get home to help me figure it out.  But we managed to get it strapped down and I drove around a little to see if it was stable.  It's still on there.  I'll let you know if I'm actually going to be able to manage to use it in town or if I'm going to just drive around looking cool like I might ride my bike somewhere.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Triple J Farms... Mui Romantico

I'm posting to plug Triple J Farms blog.  I noticed they were following the person who finally looked at my blog in Alaska...not to mention the 2 people in South America.  I was really stressing about Alaska since Sarah Palin lives there and I thought maybe she might be The One. 

I'm supporting Triple J Farms  because it's THE most romantic, real blog I've seen in a long time.  I followed them before reading any posts, only because of their description line.  It might seem kitsche, or frivolous.  It says, down home and honest to me.  It appeals to my Live Better motto.  I hope you follow them...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Making Butter....mmm

Today I made butter.  I feel very Modern Pioneer.  That's a catchy name.  I just made it up. 

Food is starting to become a real hot button issue.  People are beginning to not like overprocessed items or chemicals in their food.  I know I don't.  As I've become more educated about the things in food, I'm also learning how to change some of the things in my kitchen.  One thing I'm changing is butter.  It's really easy to make and we don't usually eat food drowning in it. 

 To make butter you will need heavy cream, a mixer of some sort, and salt is optional.  I used a food processor and 32 ounces of heavy cream for this batch.  I've also used one of those small food choppers to make smaller amounts.

Simply pour the heavy cream (salt) into your mixer and push the on button.  It will take 5-10 minutes of mixing.  It will first become whipped cream.  Then it will become really whipped cream.

When it becomes butter you'll know it.  It'll suddenly "seize" and look like scrambled eggs sitting in some water.  That water is buttermilk, which can be saved but I pour mine out. 

You'll want to rinse the butter in cool water to make sure all the buttermilk is gone.  This step will help the butter last longer.  

I packed the butter in a small container and pressed down to get all the water out.  This recipe made 1 lb. 2 oz. of real butter.  

It's yummy.  It's fresh.  I know what's in it.  I'll be switching to organic cream next.  You can also use the cream from goat's milk, though it'll be harder to find.  Other options would be to add honey, garlic, or herbs.

Monday, January 10, 2011

No Impact...Day 7 & 8

Day 7 is a pretty short post.  The challenge was Giving Back.  I was supposed to be volunteering my time (or good manners) and give back to the community or open the door for people or walk old ladies across the street.  I had to work all day (read up at 4 a.m. and not home till 7:15 p.m. then to sleep to repeat the next day), so I didn't really do all those things.

I'm actually not very comfortable getting into great detail about how I do give back.  Oh sure, I have a blog that screams "Look At Me!" but when talking about charitable contributions I don't want to post "Look at what a good person I am.  I am great.  I am fantastic. Blah blah blah."  And maybe it's just silly.  I'm going to list the four things I do but that's it.  No further explanation.

I donate to my local Women's Shelter
I donate to my local Food Bank
I started a community Trade Day
I send money to Yosemite Conservancy

Day 8 EcoSabbath.  Today was supposed to be a day of reflection.  To reflect on the past week.  To enjoy family and friends.  I went to work.  I reflected on the past week, but it was more a sense of relief that I made it through the week.  Relief that I could go back to my "regular" way of life.  That I could be low/no impact on my own terms and not under pressure.

I'm making some permanent changes and I'll write about those in regular posts.  Something like how a bike rack tried to kill me. 

Here's something I know you've been waiting for.  A picture of my trash for the entire week. 

Just over 4 cups.  I could probably have recycled some of this down even further.  

Isn't this a cute picture?  This was the one and only thing I regret about doing this experiment.  Not the jello, not the picture.  What I regret is that I posted the picture.  I had mixed feelings about doing that because it opens the floodgates to strangers.  I posted the pic on the Yes! Magazine Facebook page for a chance to win a year's subscribtion. 

One person felt it was their duty to point out the evils of jello.

 "Cynthia Koons- Is this JELLO???? Do you know how they make the stuff??? They have animal bones/carcasses shipped from South America and then boil them off for the gelatin, the people who work in the factories are prone to getting anthrax on their skin!

January 6 at 6:09pm · LikeUnlike"
She really likes the "?" key.  You can also read my nice, yet polite way of saying, "Hey, I don't know you and thanks for being a jerk!" if you go to the Facebook page.
The truth is that it's boiled off for collagen, not gelatin, smarty pants.  Only the strictest vegetarians avoid gelatin and it's already in numerous foods that we all eat.  My family is not vegetarian. 
Basically, I could've done without that comment, as the experiment was hard enough as is.  I was hoping this would've been a completely positive experience, but as the saying goes, "there's one in every crowd."

Friday, January 7, 2011

No Impact...Day 6

Today's challenge was water.  I had big plans for this one.  I had even practiced last week.

This is bathtub laundry.  See Rowan's doll?  She's waving at you.

We had great fun stomping all over it.  We even used a natural laundry soap.  In the end it was a real pain.  Maybe if I only had a few items to wash every day this would work better.  So maybe what we should cut down on is how many outfits a 5 year old should wear in one day.  Just sayin. 

Although I won't be giving up my washer, I do have serious plans about the dryer.  I did in fact buy a laundry umbrella last summer.  Once it's installed then it will dramatically cut down on the use of the dryer.  That'll be a huge energy savings.

Back to the challenge.  Today was bill paying day.  Today I just happened to pay the water bill.  This time I took a good look at it.  I noticed something really great.  The No Impact information states that "The average American uses 1,189 gallons of water per day."  My water bill says we use 175 gallons per day.   And that's for 3 people!  So that's around 58.3 gallons per day for me compared to 1,189 gallons for the average American?  Yeah, I'm not cutting out my washing machine.  

I can very happily say that we aren't watering our yard or washing our cars on a regular basis.  Bath time is always a shared event.  Rowan, very often likes to dress as a mermaid and jump in. 

One weird thing I did today was weigh my mail.  On Fridays I go through the mail and pull out what we really need.  There's never much that needs our actual attention sooner than once a week.  Today I weighed the mail we really needed versus the mail we don't.  My results are 1.5 ounces of useful mail and 13.6 ounces of junk.  That has a lot of implications.  I'm receiving 13 times more stuff than I need.  The mail carrier is carrying 13 times more stuff than he needs to.  He's using more gas, etc. etc. than is 13 times necessary. 

Basically it was a low eventful day.  I did do my first canning project, which will be another post next week.  Tomorrow's challenge is Giving Back.  I'll be working at my real job for the weekend so I won't be volunteering time for any organizations in town as suggested.  I'm not sure I'll have anything to post, but you never how things will turn out.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No Impact...Day 5

OMG!  This thing is lasting forever. 
Today's challenge was Energy.  I didn't drive anywhere so this specifically meant No Electricity...for me.  Since the 2 wimps non players can't play like a big girl I have to leave some electricity on.  Specifically I left the clocks plugged in and the fridge on. 

I did use some electricity for work, which is allowed.  I just couldn't rationalize doing some things and calling them work related.  I'm also doing this post because I don't have solar power to hook up my computer to.  Otherwise, unless it's business or related to this challenge I cut myself off from all other websites till Monday.  Just shoot me now.  I do get to check Facebook since that's where I'm receiving some instructions on this experiment and I have a business page and I'm really trying to rationalize it. 

Jace is starting to take a little bit of pleasure in all my imposed suffering.  Take today.  He made coffee with the coffee pot, and he shared.  Very nice of him.  Afterwards he said, "you can turn off the coffee, I know the electricity is burning you." snicker snicker snicker.

Tonight, he knows I can't watch a movie or turn on a light unless he does it for himself and I can share since I'm in the house.  He has figured out that he gets to choose what movie will be on.  So unless I want to sit in almost dark then I will be watching Blazing Saddles...again...for the 254th time.  The reason I say almost dark is because I have some oil lamps that will be used for reading and navigating in the dark. 

The only anxious things that have happened today are getting this post in because I want to really give the no electricity thing a try tonight.  It's been a very relaxing day not having anything distracting me.  The other thing was getting dinner ready before the sun sets.  This meant I had to start cooking by 4 pm.  It's now almost 5 and I am just waiting for the turnip casserole stuffing cheesy thing I made to finish cooking.  We're also having the pan sausage and a salad of greens all from the farmer's market. 

Tonight I will truly be going over to the dark side... Tomorrow's challenge:  Water...I think

No Impact...Day 4

I got in late last night and didn't want to mess with posting, so here's yesterday's post and there will be another post later before the sun goes'll see.

As promised, here is my bike.  It's  a very laid back ladies' bike.  I feel a bit like the evil neighbor on the Wizard of Oz when I ride it.  I want another basket in the front.  Actually, I wish my little dog would ride in the basket on the back.  That would be cool.

Day 4's challenge was Food.  Specifically to only buy food that is produced locally.  I did well with this.  With careful planning, I can easily make this work for my family.  My farmer's market is open on Tuesdays, so I planned ahead for this challenge by buying food on Tuesday.  There's other local/natural food sources close to where I work that I could practice planning and using more for increased efficiency in this area.

These were the things I found at the market and will eat.  There were some other things that didn't appeal to me.
Starting from the left:  Spinach, Blackberry Preserves, Local Honey, Turnip, Tomatoes.

Grass fed pork pan sausage, Bison Meat, Carrots, Garlic.

Broccoli, Swiss Chard, Collard Greens, Pecans, and Eggs.

I don't have a local source for milk yet and that's something we aren't going to give up.  Looks like I'll be doing some more investigating.  I found there's really an abundance of local food if I take the time to look around.  The grocery store really "blinds" you to all the other possibilities out there for food sources.  

The last thing I did was go to the local meetup I organized.  I brought my own cup and they were happy to prepare my mocha and put it in there.  We don't grow coffee locally but I thought I was doing pretty good by buying from a local business, that offered it's space for the meetup, and I used my own cup.  I also have my own silverware in my purse now.  That really made me aware of how much I hate using restaurant utensils.  I think I will continue this practice.

The meetup was very successful.  I found out there's a lot of people that are very resourceful in my town.  There's a couple that want to grow a garden on their roof and see if they can get other buildings to join in.  Another family is partially solar and collects all their rain water.  One man has learned and lives low impact and only lives one street away from me. 

Things we accomplished was getting to know each other and making a plan for the next meetup.  We're going to do a trade day.  We'll promote it and invite people to bring their items they don't use, but are still in good condition, that they would like to trade or give away.  Everyone really liked this idea.  It keeps it in the community and out of the landfill.  I like Goodwill and Salvation Army but you never know where your stuff goes.  I'd like to try this as a step before I drop things off for donation.  We'll also have a small amount of time to bring up "Needs."  This will address things people need or need to have done and what they are willing to trade for it or the possibility that someone might have the item in need to lend or give.  

Day 5's challenge is energy.  I'll have another post before the sun goes down! 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

No Impact..Day 3

I knew a few days ago I would not be able to do this particular challenge as well as I would've liked.  The timing was all wrong and so was the weather.  Today's challenge was Transportation and Take Action.

I was thwarted in the transportation part because today was Market Day and the weather was out to get me.  Let me write you a picture...

I have mentioned that I live in the country.  Eight miles exactly from the edge of town.  Those eight miles are a dangerous, trecherous journey of hills, narrow shoulders, and drivers who think they're in the General Lee. 

Let's add to this that it was raining and I'm new at riding my bike in traffic again.  I had visions of wiping out and sliding through intersections.  Plus, it was freaking cold just standing still.  I wasn't about to add wind speed. 

Most of you also know that I have a booth at the local farmer's market.  This requires me to drag a 6 foot folding table around, not to mention all my fabulous wares that I sell.  In my ignorance I just couldn't fathom how I would strap a 6 foot table to my bike without looking like an airplane and thus causing other drivers to crash into each other from staring at me thus making me lose control and go sliding through the intersection. 

Taking public transportation was out of the question also because of the table issue and there doesn't seem to be any public transportation either.  I did succeed at the lowest level of participation, which was to group all errands together on one day and drive the shortest, most efficient route.  Yea me.  And since I rode my bike to the store the other day, I'm going to count that.  I will also try to get a pic of my bike up tomorrow.

The other part of the challenge was Take Action.  It suggests taking part in their approved choices of organizations and notifying your congressman or senator about unclean air and water.  I did not like these choices.  I made up my own choice. 

Part of the purpose of this whole experiment is learning to make things better in your own community.  So shouldn't that be where you participate, at your local community level?  I organized my own event for tomorrow evening.  I thought it might be very helpful to have people meet who are doing the No Impact Week, already living their life by these standards, or those who need a few tips and a little encouragement to make that transition of less wasteful/more resourceful.  I contacted the owner of a well known coffeehouse/live music/people ride their bikes place.  He saw me and said, "I know you!  I buy your stuff at the market."  So I've got free meeting space once a week if I want.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Tomorrow's challenge:  Food

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hideous Mind Blowing Terrors...or 7 Days of Posts

If you follow with even the slightest smidge of interest then you know I am participating in No Impact Week.  It's a 7 day countdown of reducing waste and consumption.  It's not an all or nothing, just adapted to fit my life right now.  One part of the project is to blog about how it's going, the good and the bad, and to post every day.  So this I will be doing. 

Today's challenge is Consumption.  Starting today I'm not to buy anything new except food.  It's ok for me to buy second hand or thrift stores.  I can also get an item through trade or gifting. 

Jace and Rowan are not "official" participants, which means they get to cheat whenever they want.  Like today.  I planned to take my bike with me to the store and Jace was tuning it up a little and says I need a grease gun.  Except I can't buy one, I remind him.  So he might bring home a grease gun...thing.  I will try to make him wait till next week when this is over.  I'm pretty certain the bike will hold up for a week without it.

I did go to the store by van and by bike.  This is a compromise I have worked out.  I live 8 miles from the edge of town.  The roads are little more hilly than I can manage with my weak chicken legs.  I decided to park at the edge of town and ride my bike to the store and back. 

I did buy only food and as luck would have it I found a couple of freebie cards and a $25 gift card to the grocery store in my wallet that I had forgotten about.  Score! 

My evaluation of today is that shopping was more of an experience for me.  I wasn't negotiating for a parking place.  In fact, I got to park closest to the door, practically in the store.  I also would never have gotten the chance to speak to the bum nice gentlemen who wanted to know if he could buy my bike. 

Tomorrow's challenge:  Trash