Thursday, June 26, 2008

clear as mud

Dyami tried to help Lucy improve the English today. Here was the exchange.
Lucy, pointing to a picture of a rabbit: "Rabbit."
Dyami: "Good! You haven't said that before. You're right. It's a bunny rabbit."
Lucy, confused: "Babbit?"
Dyami: "It's a bunny. Bunny!"
Lucy: "Money?"
Dyami: "No, see, a bunny is a baby rabbit."
Lucy: "Baby?"
Dyami: "No, no, it's not a baby."
Lucy, the light clicking on: "Momma."

See, we really should homeschool our child, because we definitely make things clearer for her with our instruction.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

pure and simple

I am running out of steam on this look-at-how-crunchy-I-am posting series. That's fine! Cause it's my blog and I can do what I want to.
Part of what is exhausting me is's not enough, is it? I've been craving beef this week (thanks, Carne Asada Burrito from Baja Fresh!) and the beans are just not cutting it. I put some laundry into the dryer this morning. Got into the car to drive to see some friends.
I'm not feeling that bad about it, but still. I read parts of this book called "Cradle to Cradle," that talks about how if we just designed products better, we could reuse them over and over (their biggest example was the book itself, which is made out of recycled/recyclable plastic polymers, is nearly indestructable, waterproof, and uses non-toxic inks. Pretty cool). Except: I don't see all of the products we use getting redsigned any time soon. Not even close. And no matter whether I recycle the aluminum that goes around the burrito or not, there are tons of it being wasted, as I speak.
I liked Michael Pollan's call to not give up, even if our "doppleganger" in China is happily stepping up to consume the things we're foregoing. We don't stop doing the right thing, even if it seems like a lost cause. That's part of what the cause of Christ is all about, right?
I also liked this posting on Image Journal's site: reminding me that this world is not pure, and is not going to become pure through human effort. No amount of recycling, laundry hanging,
bus-hopping, organic shopping, bean growing, or tofu frying is going to change that. I can't do it.
Repeat: I can't do it. I don't have to try.
I have to repeat that a lot these days.
My problem is this is not the only area I try to perfect in my life. It's kind of a lifelong struggle. I am trying to write an essay about my struggle to stop perfect my reading of the Bible. Still haven't figured that one out, but am a lot closer to just enjoying time with God instead of setting up a program to adhere to. I think greening one's life is kind of like that. If you don't slow down and try to appreciate the time you take to do things like cook, hang up linens, garden, and mindfully shop, then you jsut end up feeling guilty, pressured, failing, incomplete. And by "you", I mean me.
The mindfulness is the hard part, isn't it? That's the real countercultural revolution here. Waking up. Thinking about where things come from and where they end up. Why you reach for your wallet when other solutions might exist. Why security always comes in the shape of a dollar bill. Why I don't have time to do things slowly.
So here's to taking it slowly. And to being okay with slowness.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I read this cool housekeeping book by Ellen Sandbeck a while ago, and have tried to eliminate a lot of stuff from our house. Got rid of the paper napkins and towels and switched to cloth (not hard to do, and I actually like cloth better). Got rid of the windex, and started using vinegar (also, not a problem: plus, vinegar kills germs! bonus!) Got rid of the Ajax, and use baking soda (sweet! And it works). I'm still in the process of switching to less harsh detergents for clothes and dishes. I'm still going to use less green stuff for the cloth diapers, cause I've heard you have to to actually get rid of the, um, well, you know.
The one thing I've been trying to eliminate that I have not been so hip on is the clothes dryer.
I like drying my clothes. It's easy! It's right there! It's fast! It also uses a lot of energy during the summer, when there's a free energy source right outside! And we live in the sunbelt! Where it never rains! So I have no excuses!
I think the fact that we can't use a regular clothesline doesn't help things (thanks, HOA!). It means that each load barely fits on my drying rack, and an extra large load (which I try to do, to conserve water, right?) really doesn't fit. Plus when I hang stuff up, often Lucy pulls it immediately down. On the ground. She's getting better about it, but she's not as "helpful" as she wants to be. And I think the drying rack isn't as efficient--everything's close together and doubled over and larger things hang over smaller things, shading them from the sun.
It's also just an extra step. It's so easy to shove things into the door of the clothes dryer and forget about them. Not so much when you're lugging the clothes outside.
But still. There's that free energy source, right there. That I talk a lot about wanting to use. In theory.
But did I mention how much I love my baking soda? Really, guys, the stuff cleans really well. It's amazing.

Friday, June 6, 2008

nothing new under the sun

In contrast to yesterday's post, today's topic is something I think has gone pretty well. I was inspired by my friend Thia, who abstained from buying new things for some period of time (how long it was, I can't remember any more) and I thought, I should do that too.

So I did.

I decided to only get clothes for myself secondhand. Thrift stores, consignment shops, whatever. And I was surprised to discover that because we live in an area of ridiculously wealthy people (compared to the rest of the world, I'll even include us) it's pretty easy to find very nice clothes secondhand. And I ususally I just do thrift stores, and still find nicer clothes then I'd spend money on in regular stores. I've also gotten bags, toys for Lucy, clothes for Lucy, household items, and a bunch of books. People give this stuff away.

Shopping secondhand has really changed the way I look at shopping in general. I wait a long time before buying something new. I look around. I got Lucy a trike a while ago, (new), and have seen several used since then. So when I decided to get her a baby stroller, I waited. FOr like a month. But found one used. Which means that I'm not adding to the great machine of consumption that is our economy these days. And I'm supporting either a small mom-and-pop shop (the consignment stores) or a charity (even better).
Now I think before I buy. I think a lot. If it isn't food or toilet paper, chances are you can get it used. And why not?
Last Christmas, Dyami and I did a thrift store Christmas for each other--all our gifts came used. I think it was a mixed success--it didn't quite have the shine and polish of new-store shopping. And it was weird not having as much choice. However, we still use most of the things we purchase. We're still deciding whether or not to repeat it next Christmas. But what I did like, whole-heartedly, was that the stuff that we didn't use just went back to the thrift store, to be repurposed. We didn't waste a bunch of money--the money we spent went to a good cause, at least.
I don't see ending my fast from "new" shopping ending anytime soon. Well, that's not entirely true. I buy new sometimes. Like for underwear.
But what stuff I do buy new, I'm more motivated to think about, to buy more sustainably, and to spend money on quality, or greeness, or sustainability. Why not, when I don't shell out much cash for purchases anyway?
I have noted, though, that even secondhand shopping can become a way of escape, a way of entertaining myself. Which I don't like. So I try to limit trips to the thrift for when I actually need something.
There you go. Go local, go used. Go thrifty.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


So this post is about the thing we haven't done so well.
We haven't done much of anything to change our driving habits.
We watched An Inconvenient Truth, and Dyami pumped his bicycle tires, bought a helmet, and proudly set off to work each morning on his trusty bike from 1986.
For about three weeks.
The problem? we live a long way from the train station. With several very large hills in the way. And Dyami was often riding when it was dark out. And cold. And when he was sleep deprived.
He lost enthusiasm pretty quickly, and I couldn't really blame him.
Thankfully, his work then moved downtown, and he decided to take the train rather than opting for a parking space. Then he at least was only driving to the train station, which was a lot nicer.

And then there was my zealous attempt to take public transportation. Which I actually did! Once!
It made a difference, though: now every time Lucy sees a bus, she gets very excited, and says "Bus! Busss!" See! I have influenced the next generation with my greeness and environmentalism.
Problem is: with a baby, riding a bus to do shopping just isn't feasible. And I tend to forget to call to schedule a ride until, say, when I want to leave. You're supposed to call hours ahead of time. Who thinks that far in advance? Certainly not me about my library trips.

What irks me is that this is probably the single greatest thing we could do to live more greenly. And we're not doing it.
So I'm trying to eat less meat instead. Yesterday, I served tofu! See how I green I am?
We're in this house for a few more years, but when we do move, eventually, we're going to try our hardest to live someplace where you might actually be able to take public transportation and/or walk someplace.
It could happen.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

the lightbulb

So I'm flying solo for a few days while D is in Ojai, working. Generally, things have gone really well--Lucy went to sleep easily, has been her usual charming self, and I've managed to get some naps in when she woke up at godawful hours.
But lunchtime? What happened?
Sit down for lunch. Lucy trips (or something) and cries. I go to comfort her. Only she won't let me. She wanders around, pushing her stroller, yelling. Finally, I tell her I'm going to go eat my lunch (which was now mostly cold), and would she like some? Please? Since the lack of protein was probably why she was yelling?
No dice. She gets a book and asks me to read it.
No, I'm eating, sweetheart.
Read! Read! Read! Mamaamamamama. Read!
Take the book. More yelling. I tempt her with a banana. FShe sits in the high chair. I give her a variety of tempting offerings. Tea bags (which she likes to chew. Don't ask why). Water for said tea. Pasta. Banana. Tofu. Milk.
She shreds the teabag, tips over the milk, which swamps the rest of the food.
Still yelling, still not eating anything that might actually make things better.
I was about to lose it at this point. SO I clean up the milk, and I am telling her that I'm just the tiniest bit frustrated with her, just a tiny bit, when she says, plaintively, "Dada?"
The lightbulb went on. Tripping+hungry+missing Dada after two days of him gone? Probably a good excuse for not following Mom's agenda.
It's funny how it's a lot easier to be patient when you know why the child is not being easy.
We watched a little nature program to help us decompress. And she ate some eggs.
Everyone's happy again.
And it's only a few more hours till Dada comes home.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


So the next thing we did in our grand journey was eating a lot of vegetables.
A lot of vegetables.
I was inspired, reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, to join a CSA. We did, and started picking up our veggies every week, and eating a lot of lettuce, and a lot more lettuce, with some lettuce on the side. Then we went down to every other week pickups, and we're a lot happier with less lettuce. But we still have plenty!!
As a result of the CSA, we had a lot of vegetables to eat every week, we'd paid good money for them, with more to come, and thus, we didn't eat out as much. Because we had to use the vegetables! So I got in the habit of cooking more. Luckily, I like to cook.
I also started getting used to prepping lettuce with real dirt on it (and living bugs, which at first seems gross, but then you realize that if the bugs are still alive, that's probably a good sign). And I started buying other organic produce, because the case against conventional produce was made pretty powerfully by Pollan. (Hearing from the potato farmer who won't let his family eat the potatoes he grows for the mass market is a little, well, disturbing)
Experimentation with more vegetables has also led to more vegetarian cooking, wherein I try to, at least a few times a week, use only beans/tofu for protein. I'm lucky that my husband is not a huge meat eater.
When I read a book about effective environmental choices, it said that food choices are one of the biggies. And while organic produce/meat is better, less meat (or no meat) is best. It's just such a resource hog.
One thing I like about cooking veggie stuff is that you don't have to worry about salmonella. Well, unless the spinich is tainted.