Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Right to Marry

Ms. T at Surviving the Workday has just posted something compelling and intelligent about marriage, social justice and descrimination. Check it out.

A Femminista Tribute


Paraphrasing an article written by Jil Schult in my hometown newspaper. I will not link to the article itself because it relates WAY too many personal details, such as ages, last names, geographic locations, etc. (Sorry, Jil.)

When a local branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) received a letter from someone who cited a local judge for making a big difference in their life, they knew they’d found their award recipient for this year’s Women Making History award.

That recipient would be MY MOM, who, apparently, won the award for many reasons:

“She is the first female district court judge and carries the honor of being the first female chief judge in the circuit court in the northern Lower Peninsula,” said someone whom I shall not name.

“She’s forged her way into the school system. She used to go into classrooms and teach children about court and even allows schools to come in the courtroom to see a true case,” X added.

Mom works primarily with young offenders, mostly aged 17 to 35. She rules by rehabilitation and believes punishment is not always the answer.

“It’s not all about punishing,” said Mom. “It’s about making people change behavior — taking responsibility for their actions.

“Something we always try is to make them get a job and finish their education,” she added.

Though Mom is truly honored to be the Women in History Award Recipient, she was a bit surprised.

“I thought I wasn’t old enough,” she said. "Women in History makes me think of someone who’s completed a career. I still have things I want to do.”

In her free time, one of the things Mom likes to do is quilting. She has been an active quilter for about 12 years.

“I’ve always loved fabric,” Mom explained. “I was convalescing from an illness and needed something to keep my hands busy.

Her first quilt was called courthouse steps. It was the hardest quilt she ever made.

“I called it capital punishment,” joked Mom.

Report on the Anti-Valentine's Day Party


A recap on the BUST Anti-Valentine's Day Party:

Fellow blogger Beth in NYC (also my sister-in-law's sister and co-aunt to our four amazing nephews) went to the party and sent me photos. She reports to have loved the beer and wine while stitching. I drank and knit here in New Mexico, in solidarity.

For photos of the party, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustmagazine.

Sexy blonde Beth in NYC is featured in a few--but I'll leave it to you to guess which one she is, since there was no shortage of sexy blondes (and this includes the fabulous Debbie Stoller. I am the proud owner of two of Debbie's books--Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook and Stitch 'n Bitch Nation).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Boycott ExxonMobil

Fernando, my local sustainability guru, forwarded me a message which seems rather important.

As Fernando says, "I think this is an easy way to do something for the planet."

(I must also admit that I've been angry at Mobil ever since it dropped its long-time support for PBS's Masterpiece Theatre shortly after it became ExxonMobil in 1999. Grrrr.

Same thing happened when Texaco ended sixty-four years of sponsorship of the Metropolitan Opera's Sunday afternoon live radio broadcasts after it merged with Chevron.


If you are a greedy oil company that is sucking the planet dry, contributing to global climate destruction and making oodles of profit, the least you can do is sponsor the arts!)

But back to Fernando's email, which he passed on to me and others from either ThePetitionSite or the Care2 website:

What would you do with nearly 40 billion dollars in profit?

Well, if you were ExxonMobil, you'd continue opposing solutions to global warming and funding junk science, despite the fact that climate change could lead to the extinction of thousands of irreplaceable wildlife species. You'd keep trying to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge despite its importance to America’s vanishing polar bears and other wildlife. And you’d be one of the only major oil giants still refusing to invest a dime into clean, renewable energy sources.

That’s what ExxonMobil is doing with its second consecutive year of record-breaking profits, and we need your help to stop them.

Wildlife supporters from across the country have banded together to successfully defeat ExxonMobil's attempts to industrialize the Arctic Refuge. But we must do even more to push the company to start being a part of the solution to global warming and other threats to wildlife.

Sign this petition to tell ExxonMobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson that you're boycotting the company until it stops double-crossing America on global warming and the Arctic Refuge.

Have you ever participated in this type of protest before? When you see an Exxon or Mobil gas station, drive right by and know that you are one of hundreds of thousands of people refusing to support ExxonMobil’s bad policies on global warming and the Arctic Refuge. And sign this petition to Exxon’s CEO so he knows why ExxonMobil’s clout is waning.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Frugal Laundry

In my search for less toxic and more environmentally friendly cleaners, I've been wanting to make the homemade laundry soap recipe from kidsorganics.

However, it calls for grated castile or glycerin soap flakes. Where do you buy that? Not at Wal-Mart. I can't even find good old-fashioned Ivory soap flakes anywhere. (Can you?)

So my thrifty self thought of a way to gain access to grated soap for free: you know those bits of soap bars* that are too big to throw away but fairly annoying to use? I started collecting them.

When I had a pile--actually, when I ran out of my Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent --I put the bits of saved soap in the Cuisinart and pulverized them. (Here I learned that soap grinds to a very fine powder--which wafts everywhere and makes one sneeze furiously.



I didn't have the required eight cups of flakes--I had two. Adjusting the recipe, I added three cups of borax and four cups of baking soda, along with the little bit of bergamot essential oil I had left in my little jar (less than 1 tablespoon).

The result is nine cups of very beautiful smelling laundry soap, made for very little cash or labor. Also, according to kidsorganics, I need use only 1/8 cup (that's two tablespoons) for every load. If my math is right, that makes 72 loads. Wow.

If it works, it will be fine value indeed--recycling soap and using cheap, natural, non-petroleum, phosphate-free ingredients.

Can't wait to do laundry!


*I'm talking real soap, not detergent bars. To learn about the difference, please read The Dope on Soap.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hot Springs, Alpine Life and Pueblo Dancing

What a weekend!


It took two and a half hours to drive up to Jemez, via Espanlola and Pojoaque (where we stopped at a gas station where a man had just shot himself in the leg--no one seemed very surprised), up and down and past the road to Bandelier National Monument (an exceptional stop if you are ever in the area), through the Valles Caldera (that's my intellectual friend Joe, reading educational and scientific Caldera information) and finally to Jemez Springs, where we checked in to what was a delightful and affordable boutique motel, the Jemez Mountain Inn.

We ate some of the picnic lunch I had made and took a short walk around Jemez Springs.

We then made our way to the Giggling Springs, located just next door.

Despite the cold weather (twelve degrees below freezing), we were very toasty as soon as we entered the spring.

We had it all to ourselves for three hours, and we simply soaked and talked, letting our muscles relax and our skin delight in the mineral-rich water. (Lots of calcium, magnesium and iron.)

We've had a hard winter, and I haven't been outside much for the past few months. It was a great delight to spend HOURS outside in the sun and the open air.

After our amazing three-hour soak, other people started to arrive, so we relinquished our spot and returned to the Inn to dry off and plug in our crock-pots--fondue in one, tangine in the other. Al and I went across the street to the Los Ojos Bar for a beer--a roaring fire and a lively family crowd greeted us.

Back at the Inn, we popped the cork on the cava and settled in to an evening of grand food and conversation.

The next morning, we breakfasted, packed, checked out and headed a few miles up the road to Spence Hot Springs--truly wonderful springs in a pristine alpine setting (see picture above).

The 20-minute hike over a river and up a hill was steep, muddy and icy--but worth it. Again we had luck--we were the only ones there for an hour and a half. Once several other groups arrived, we dried off, packed up and hiked back down to the car.

We headed home by completing our loop, going through Jemez Pueblo. We picnicked in some rather fierce wind in front of the dramatic red cliffs across from the Visitors Center.

Driving through the pueblo, we noticed much activity--and then heard the drums. What luck! It was a Feast Day, and they were dancing!

We made our way to the main plaza to see.

Jemez Pueblo is closed to visitors except on special feast days--and no photography is ever allowed. I wish I could show you what they looked like today--we saw a buffalo dance, and the costumes were stunning: pelts and evergreen boughs and antlers and feathers and the softest, softest moccasin boots I've ever seen. (The photo shown is one from a historic collection, but it is similar to what we saw.)




The non-dancers of the pueblo sat all along the main street, wrapped in colorful blankets. Kids played and watched. Wood smoke wafted. Dust blew.

We watched until the end of the dance, then got in the car and drove the 140 miles back home.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Weekend Adventure Menu-Planning


We’re going away this weekend with friends to Jemez Springs.

Our overnight accommodation has a living area but no kitchen, so our menu preparation involves make-ahead picnic things and crock-pot cuisine.

I am in charge of two picnic lunches, an appetizer and dessert.

I get very geeked when it comes to menu planning.

For the lunches, we’ll have a picnic buffet:

The appetizer is a crock-pot Swiss (cheese) fondue from my kitschy 1975 Crock-pot Cooking book, served with crusty bread and cruciform vegetables for dipping.

For dessert, I’m making a kumquat compote (from Joy of Cooking), which will be served with Greek-style yogurt, dark chocolate and pistachios.

We’re also packing Cristalino NV Brut Cava and a Dom. La Garrigue 2004 Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine.

Edith, my counterpart, is preparing her famous lamb tangine and will, no doubt, bring along some other goodies.

Must remember to pack cutlery, plates, bowls, cloth napkins, tablecloth, wine glasses, corkscrew, tea, milk, electric kettle, bathing suits, bathrobes.

Kaffee Klatsch


I had a wonderful and rejuvenating hour and a half today with the coffee-shop knitting group. Vibrant, healthy, fun conversation.

Still high from Kate Manchester's visit to my blog (see her comment in Sunday Dinner), I made my way to the Super Chief Coffee Bar.

Over double-shot lattes and pots of tea, we talked about cleaning with vodka, folding fitted sheets, laundering down pillows, removing periperi sauce stains, spinning dog hair, the dangers of kerosene stoves, turning 70 (and 60 and 50), the Bill Richardson presidential campaign, Colores del Corazon (the upcoming local fiber arts show), and other weighty matters.

During the course of our crafting* and conversation, we were approached by a very polite and articulate anti-nuclear activist, who asked us to call our local senator, Paul Griego, and protest a government memorial affirming the importance of uranium and nuclear energy production.

*Some knit, some paint, some sketch, some quilt.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Like balm to the burn


Ahhh. Having visited sanity in reaction to stunning arrogance, I now feel much calmer.

From One Femminista to Another

I am going to try not to become too, too political on this blog--but at the moment I am so stunned that I can't help it.


I just heard it on the Lehrer News Hour, and I couldn't believe it. So I Googled, and so far only one blog seems to mention it--and that without comment.

Could I be the only one reacting to what Hillary Clinton said today at the Democratic presidential candidate forum in Nevada?

She said, "But I want to cut off money to the Iraqi troops. They’re not standing up and getting the job done."

Wow.

Didn't we invade them?

"Pre-emptively"?

And thus turn their country into the living hell that it is today?

And now it is their fault?

Hillary, don't we have some responsibility to clean up our own mess?

I can't see myself voting for anyone who adopts a "blame the victim" stance.

Messing with code

I just did something very scary--I messed around with my HTML template code so that my posts' labels are now in a lovely little cloud (see sidebar), rather than a boring list.

Many thanks to phydeaux3 for the excellent instructions and for doing the hard work of creating the code.

Busty Trinkets



I was just on the Breast Cancer Site, clicking "Fund Free Mammograms" for women in need, and I saw this gorgeous Sterling & Crystal Pink Ribbon Toe Ring in the follow-up ads.

I know that some of you click on the Breast Cancer Site daily (because I see your traffic to the Ouch posting), and I applaud you for your diligence. I'm resolved to do so, too.

Maybe a toe ring would remind me?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Soup


If you have nice things in your refrigerator, this can be a lot better than it sounds--and is key to frugal good living. I make it nearly every time I roast a chicken.

How does it work?

Day 1: I made stock from the Sunday Dinner roasted chicken carcass and the trimmings of the to-be-roasted vegetables (especially the leek tops!) by boiling them for several hours in a large quantity of water, allowing to cool and then draining through a colander for a nice, clear broth.

Day 2: I pureed the leftover roasted vegetables and added them to the stock along with the leftover gravy, leftover b'stilla filling, leftover cabrito in sauce which my friend Anne had brought over for lunch, and leftover cabrito garnish (chopped onion and cilantro).

I stirred it all up and heated it until piping. I seasoned with leftover Ras el Hanout, a spice mixture I'd made for the b'stillas.

Served with buttered toast, it was a wonderful Moroccan chicken soup. Other clean-out-fridge soups may play with a different culinary theme--Thai, Indian, Hungarian, etc. It all depends on what's in the fridge.

CFLs in the land of Oz


Following up to a older post on CFL lights, my dad sent me this update from today's news:

SYDNEY, Australia, Feb. 20, 2007 -- In an effort to reduce greenhouse gases, the Australian government announced today it will phase out energy-inefficient incandescent light bulbs in favor of compact fluorescents.

Australia is aiming to gradually phase out all old-style light bulbs and fully enforce new lighting standards legislation by 2009 or 2010. The step should reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tons by 2012 and cut household lighting costs by up to 66 percent, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“The most effective and immediate way we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions is by using energy more efficiently,” Turnbull said. “Electric lighting is a vital part of our lives; globally it generates emissions equal to 70 percent of those from all the world’s passenger vehicles. But it is still very inefficient. We have been using incandescent light bulbs for 125 years and up to 90 percent of the energy each light bulb uses is wasted, mainly as heat.”

The heat loss of normal light bulbs represents millions of tons of CO2 emitted globally into the atmosphere, he said. Compact fluorescents use around 20 percent of the electricity of traditional bulbs to produce the same amount of light and also last between four and 10 times longer.

For more information, visit: www.environment.gov.au

Beta Cook Disorder



It's a pointed message about my behavior in the kitchen--apparently I'm a kitchen bully.

Although, according to the Times article, it is she, the bullied, that has the disorder. Huh.

She is an alpha cook in her own territory, but, if thrown in with either of her children, she becomes a mere beta because we are, in her words, "kitchen Nazis." My husband uses a similar description.

I must admit that some descriptions in He Cooks. She Stews. It’s Love. ring true for me, notwithstanding the gender role reversal. I would suspect they also ring true for the other child, mi hermano.

However, I do not expect my mother or spouse to "greet any meal [I] might make on an average weeknight with the equivalent of a marching band reception." Frankly, very few of my dishes would be worthy of such treatment.

I do admit to holding strong opinions on technique and ingredients, based on years of fairly serious reading, study and actual lessons. This butts up against the number of years my mother has spent in the kitchen--a number with which I cannot compete.

So then it becomes psychological: Who's tougher? Who's more confident? Who's alpha?


And what happens when you raise your children to be confident, assertive, passionate craftspeople?


I suspect that my mom did not want to raise mere beta cooks.

She wanted alphas.

La-la-la

Follow-up to my recent sign-up euphoria with Lala.com.

I just recieved this email:

Hello Elizabeth,

The member agreeing to send you State Of The Heart by Mary Chapin Carpenter has notified us that they cannot ship this CD. We have voided this trade and reset the status of this album on your Want List.

If for some reason this CD has been billed to you it will be credited on your next bill.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Sincerely,

Support @ lala


Hopes dashed. Heart broken. Trade voided.

But wait! In the very next second, I get this email from the Lala team:

Good news! The following CD on your Want List has been shipped to you!

Shooting Straight In The Dark by Mary Chapin Carpenter
Shipped on
02/20/2007

Fickle, fickle lala. Is it true--or are you just teasing me?

Eraser Evangelism



I am not sure why I am moved to do an unofficial product endorsement (grimace!), but I need to tell someone about my new discovery.

I live a fairly isolated, non-mainstream life, and so I had never heard of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Sponge until my friend Steph blogged about its amazing powers.

And then I forgot about it--until yesterday, when I bought its cousin, SCOTCH-BRITE 4004CC HAND PAD,EASY ERASING--also available in bulk: Scotch-Brite Easy Erasing Pad (MCO4004CC).

Wow!

I have lived for ten years in a house which was never painted, but which has what is called "builder's primer" on the walls.


This means that when I squash a bug or spill tea onto a wall (it happens), I cannot really wash it off, because the primer rubs off and I see drywall. Result: ugly, dirty, shameful walls.

(You might well ask, "Why not paint your walls?" Answer: because it is isn't my house; it is a loaner from my employer, and I am not sure (1) if it is permitted and (2) how much energy I want to put into a house that is not really mine.)

But back to Scotch-Brite!

Have you seen this amazing technology? I wet the pad, I rub it on a stain, et voila! No more stain. It makes me want to buy a case and just rub every surface in my house until it is all unblemished. It is magical.

Is there some horrible, hidden environmental catch (besides the obvious one of using something non-recyclable)? What kinds of chemicals allow this magic to happen? Does anyone know?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

How happy are you?

How Happy is the World Today - Click here to find out.

This web site asks people how happy they are, and then shows the average happiness level broken down by country. The site automatically locates users' countries by IP address.

I remember seeing an article a few years ago (in the Economist?) which reported that the happiest countries in the world were Nigeria and Mexico, and the saddest was Romania.

Having taught jaded teenagers from about 60 countries, I have to say that sort of fits. In fact, my Romanian student and my Mexican student both agreed with the assessment.

I remember that the US and the UK were reported as being not so happy. And places of turmoil (like Nigeria) were.

It seems that affluence and happiness do not correlate.

read more digg story

Sunday Dinner

Since I have chicks on the brain...

I'm roasting many things, and it all smells hugely comforting.

I'm making the "World's Best Roast Chicken," according to Kate Manchester, who wrote her recipe in a little yellow box in the first print issue of Edible Santa Fe alongside the article about Red Label Chicken .

I cannot find this recipe anywhere on their web site, so I can't link you to it, and I shouldn't post any particulars without permission. Rats!

Suffice it to say, it involves my cast iron skillet and it is working really, really well. Alas, I am not using a Red Label chicken, but I am using an organic, free range one from Trader Joe's.

And, alongside the bird is a huge tray of Jae's Maple Roasted Roots. (Yes, there is a recipe at this link!)

Happy, happy me.

I'm a blogging chick


Just joined my first blogroll--I'm trying to get readership beyond immediate friends and family (bless you all).

The blogging chick blogroll is on the side bar--scroll down until you hit the cute chick image and the scrollable list of other blogging chicks.


And blogging chicks has something called "carnivals": doesn't that sound fun?

Maybe we'll all make friends.


Surely this is a first step to World Peace.

Breakfast of Champions


Monday to Friday, I am not a breakfast person. I have no morning appetite, and my body enjoys the two-meals-per-day, no-snacks rhythm.

But weekends are another matter.

I like to wake up slowly, drinking tea and listening to NPR, and I like to have a real, cooked breakfast. My husband has an unerring routine of which I d0 not take part, so I cook my own single-serving breakfast.

My current favorite is a breakfast pizza (see picture) that I invented all by my myself.



I like it because it is fast, because I can put whatever I want on it, because baking an egg makes it perfect and beautiful, because I do not have to mess around with making pizza dough, and because there is almost no cleanup--the cast iron pan is basically clean at the end since it is protected by tortilla.

Here’s my recipe:

1 cast iron skillet (essential!)
2 rashers bacon
1 flour tortilla
1 tomato
1 green onion (scallion)
other vegetables (as available and desired)
1 egg
Sliced or shredded cheese of choice
Seasonings of choice


1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. (Yep, it’s HOT.)

2. Partially cook two rashers of bacon.

While the bacon starts to warm and sizzle, assemble the pizza. You really do need a cast iron skillet. This is essential because (a) you can shove it into a 500-degree oven with no worries and (b) it conducts the heat in such a way that you get a nice, crispy pizza crust.

3. Place a floured tortilla (frozen or thawed—I keep my tortillas in the freezer) into the cast iron frying pan. No oil needed. A burrito-sized tortilla fits perfectly into my 10-inch Lodge skillet. Do not use low-carb tortillas—for some reason, they do not crisp up like ordinary tortillas (?).

4. Slice a tomato and arrange slices on the tortilla. Leave an empty spot in the middle of the tortilla. You an add other vegetables also--I usually sprinkle sliced green onion, add some avocado if I have any, etc..

5. Crack an egg into the empty well in the middle. The tomatoes and other things that you’ve pout on the tortilla should keep the egg form oozing out.

6. Drape the two rashers of bacon around the egg.

7. Sprinkle all of it with sliced or shredded cheese. Season as you wish with red chile, black pepper, etc.

8. Stick it all in the oven and cook until the egg has baked (but the yolk is still runny!). This can take between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on how quickly you’ve made the pizza and how fast your oven preheats. I shove the pizza in even if the oven isn’t fully pre-heated and check it after five minutes.

9. The pizza should easily lift out of the skillet—the tortilla should be crisp, the cheese melted, the egg white firm.

Et voila!

Another recipe I tried for the first time this weekend comes from the just-arrived April 2007 issue of Cuisine At Home*: the chipotle bacon breakfast sandwich with tomato avocado salsa.

Despite being named to the Lake Superior State University 2007 List of Banished Words (for the vacuous reason that Midwesterners have, apparently, just discovered it and have made it ubiquitous), chipotle--a smoked jalapeno in a wonderful hot vinegary sauce--is a favorite flavor of mine. I’ve been buying chipotle in adobo sauce since I first moved to New Mexico, and it does wonderful things when added to mayonnaise and soups.

This sandwich also led me to new territory: glazing bacon to add flavor. Wow! Chipotle-glazed bacon is beautiful, especially when crunched with cheesy egg and a creamy tomato-avocado salsa.

*While their recipes are not always exciting, I respect this publication because it is entirely ad-free and has useful photos of techniques which are sometimes new.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

La-la


I'm in a housecleaning, de-cluttering mood, and I've just discovered lala.com.

They have over 1.8 million CD titles to choose from, and you can trade-in your old CDs for CDs you really want for only $1 each. (If you are desperate, you can also buy new CDs from their store.) Signing up is free.

I listed one pile of old CDs (see below), and within five minutes, I made my first trade!

Unfortunately, they do not have all the artists I am looking for in their database, and I need to figure out how to alert them to Jonathan Coulton's Thing a Week, as well as the existence of Jim Geezil.

This seems to me the kind of sustainable business that Steph recently blogged about.

Lala.com also reports that it has established the 'Z' Foundation, inspired by Charlie Chaplin's visionary creation of the Motion Picture Relief Fund and United Artists:

The "Z" Foundation is a non-profit that seeks to unite working musicians to address the economic challenges they face. Like Chaplin's endeavors to assist and empower entertainment industry workers nearly a century ago, the "Z" Foundation is a collaborative effort. The "Z" Foundation will initially be funded with monthly contributions of between $10,000 and $50,000 from lala.com and its members (actual amounts may vary based on CD trading volume on lala.com.) The "Z" Foundation will focus on providing health and dental care that is often inaccessible to working musicians.

In addition, For the first time, musicians will receive economic support directly from their fans. Each time a lala.com member trades a CD from a 1.8 million-title catalog with another member, 20% of the trading revenue will be contributed to performing artists. This new model for direct contributions is enabled by lala.com's social accounting technology.

Click here to get any of my CDs for $1

The Dope on Soap


There is a difference between soap and detergent. Many people I know use detergent to clean their bodies rather than soap.

The big difference is that soaps are made from animal or vegetable fats, while detergents are made from petroleum products.

Many of the “sports bars” people buy are actually detergent bars—and if you look carefully at the packaging of your “soap”, you’ll see that often it doesn’t say “soap” at all—it says “bath bar” or “body bar”—and that usually means it is detergent.

Natural soap is a more environmentally friendly choice, since soap is made from renewable resources and is less toxic to fish and wildlife since soap does not use the chemical builders (like phosphates) which detergents use and which are not very biodegradable.

The drawback of using real soap is that soap is more reactive to minerals, and it is this reaction that leads to soap scum—the harder your water, the worse the scum.

But I do love real soap, and I love the way it makes my skin feel.

When we switched to using soap in the shower (rather than a deodorant body bar), our skin showed an immediate difference—it was softer and less dry.

There is an aesthetic pleasure in using nicely crafted and subtely scented traditional soap.

There is also the feeling that we are supporting smaller producers rather than the Colgate-Palmolive Industrial Complex which pollutes our lives with heavy advertising and heavy petroleum use.

I sometimes buy locally made soaps from artisans—you can find these at farmers’ markets, craft shows, local co-ops.

There are also some good online sources. One special source is The Enterprising Kitchen, a nonprofit social enterprise located in Chicago which enables lower-income women who have been unemployed and underemployed to sustainable employment after 6-12 months.


In producing natural soaps and spa products, female workers receive intensive workforce preparation and skills development including paid employment, work and life skills training, individualized career planning, high school equivalency preparation, technology training, financial planning and a variety of other support services.

I first bought their product in bulk from Overstock.com, but they now successfully manage their own store from their own web site. Each product includes the mission statement on its label and is signed by the woman who packages it; I have given these soaps as gifts (along with my own hand-knitted cotton chenille washcloths).

When I’m feeling thrifty, I buy good soap in bulk from Amazon.com, such as Olivella Face and Body Soap, All-Natural 100% Virgin Olive Oil from Italy, 5.29-Ounce Bars (Pack of 12). For liquid soap. I look for a vegetable castile soap and try to buy it in bulk, such as the excellent Dr. Bronner - Pure-Castile Soap Peppermint, 1 gallon, which I dilute for liquid hand soap and also use to make my own shampoo.

A longevitiy tip: if you dry out bar soap, it lasts longer. I unwrap my fancy bar soaps as soon as I buy them and put them in my clothing drawers. They make my clothes smell great, and when I need a new bar of soap, they ar sufficiently dry so that they last a good, long while.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Desolation and Renewal

Aack! How can it be that a whole week went by and I didn't blog at all??? (Bad blogger, bad, bad, bad!)

I really should be blogging about something useful: answering Stephanie's question about soap scum removal or writing an ode to grass-finished beef--but maybe that can wait until my chocolate high has worn off (?).

I am in a state.

Following HELL WEEK, this week offered another round of randomly weird events and discoveries:

  • a weekend Board meeting that left me completely useless all day Sunday, curled up with Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey and watching the saddest, most cathartic films in our collection--The Mission and Brideshead Revisted (all 660 minutes)
  • a Monday devoted to cleaning up after the Board and doing the things I failed to do on Sunday (chores, working on book, preparing for class)
  • a Tuesday in which my spouse tested positive for latent TB (non-infectious) and I got to drive a busload of people to the hospital for chest X-rays
  • a Valentine's Day spent entertaining work guests over an enormous platter of green chile cheese fries (how romantic!)
  • a Thursday in which I had to teach a lesson on Tantric Hinduism (including an explanation of ritualized sexual intercourse) to a group of teenagers (AACK!) and then missed my lovely, lovely weekly after-work knitting group due to TWO HOUR conference call during which my phone died due to run-down battery

Another not-so-smooth week. Cosmos out of kilter. Not too harmonious. Not enough knitting.

But then, today, a GLORIOUS Friday dawned. I escaped to Santa Fe to play with my friend Anne, and I am rejuvenated.

Mostly, we walked around Santa Fe looking at Pretty Things and eating very well.

I discovered Cinzano Rosso at Il Piatto (yum!) and then tasted an amazing variety of chocolate things (chocolate with ancho chile, chocolate with rosemary, chocolate with Calvados) as we made our way to a few of Santa Fe's remarkable chocolate shops: we visited both ChocolateSmith and Todos Santos, but we saved our holy pilgrimage to Kakawa Chocolate House for next time.

We also somehow found room for some scoops at an organic ice cream parlor serving ice cream with flavors like sage, saffron and garam masala. Sigh.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Flowers, Valentine's Day and Human Rights

For those not attending Deb Stoller's Curiously Lonely anti-Valentine's Day party tomorrow, you might be thinking of giving (or getting) flowers.

Stephanie's post about flowers for Valentine's Day --and the related human rights and toxicity issues she mentions--reminds me of a flyer I found on our coffee table yesterday: Organic Bouquets in support of Amnesty International.

Organic Bouquet sells flowers that are grown and harvested using practices that aim to improve the quality of farm working conditions, minimize damage to ecosystems, conserve biodiversity, and enhance environmental quality for future generations.

Organic Bouquet has partnered with Amnesty International USA to educate consumers about the benefits of purchasing sustainably grown and certified organic flowers and to support Amnesty International’s efforts in protecting human rights. With each flower purchase, 10% will be donated to Amnesty International U.S.A.

They have also partnered with several other charities--Red Cross Roses, Jane Goodall Calla Lilies, etc.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Another charitable institution wants knitters....


What do these remind you of?

Yep.

So what seems to happen a lot is that Steph finds interesting online tid-bits--and I get to blog about them. (Cool!)

Here's her latest discovery: Woolly breasts appeal goes global

The gist of it is that a hospital has asked volunteers to knit fake breasts.

Why?

The knitted facsimiles are used to show new mothers how to breastfeed and how to express milk.

The knitting pattern for the breasts is allegedly being made available online for volunteers to download--but I have searched and searched, and all I find are references to the fact that the pattern is being made available online for volunteers to download and that the source of the pattern is the Lactation Consultants' Association.

But I find no pattern.

And I would charitably knit some of these beauties in a heartbeat and send them to Liverpool ASAP if I could get a pattern.

Liverpool, are you out there? Could you please post your pattern?

Knitted breasts reminds me of a similar pattern I came across several years ago and have wanted to knit ever since just for the hell of it--or for novelty gifts for like-minded girlfiends. Check this out (and pause to appreciate the artfully hilarious pictures): knit your own womb.

The creator of the pattern, MK Carroll, has some follow-up on her blog here, including a two-needle version of the pattern and discussion of other knitted body parts.

My only slightly related project was a knitted thong with fur trim which I made for a fairly large man but which seems to fit yours truly (when worn on top of clothing)...

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Charity Knitting: recipient found!


So I found someone who wanted my funky hats that are part of my charity knitting effort!

I was in the coffee shop with a crafting group I recently joined. (We drink coffee and knit/paint/embroider for an hour or so on Thursdays. Heaven!)

The coffee shop is a gathering place of local artists and activists who like good coffee and today's New York Times, and I ran into the director of the local Peace and Justice Center. When I told her that I was looking for an outlet for my charity knitting efforts, she said she needed door prizes for a benefit event happening this Saturday. Et voila!



My hats will help raise funds for the upcoming 2007 Synergy Fest , a community festival raising awareness about sustainable energy, environmental politics, and local ecology issues, as well as promoting local artisans through an Arts & Crafts Village.


Happy ending.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

BUST Anti-Valentine's Day Party!


Just got this invite in the email, and if I didn't live over a thousand miles from New York City, I'd be tempted to go.*

It's "A DIY Valentine's Day for One: Therapeutic Crafts for the Bruised, Blackened and Broken Hearts of New York City."

To read the fine print in the invitation above, click here.


*I should clarify that I do not have a bruised or broken heart (lest Mom worry about the State of My Marriage!), but I really like the emphasis here on sisterhood and crafting!

My Fellow Americans


Apologies to international readers--this is unabashedly American.

But it is a great example of domestic activism as well as an opportunity for my compadres and compatriots to participate in the political process.

This comes to us compliments of Steph, who has blogged about it here and here and also sent me the following in an email to goose me into action: (Persistence pays!)

Please consider sending an email to the Department of Labor whdcomments@dol.gov), which is reviewing the Federal Medical Leave Act (details here: http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/)

This law provides unpaid leave for parents of new children, for people with long-term illnesses, and for people caring for those with long-term illness. You may not need it now, but you certainly might at some point. And if you don't, no doubt someone in your family qualifies.

We have very few laws to protect workers compared to other developed countries (see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16907584/) .

Email your comments (e.g., I support FMLA in the current form without any additional restrictions or I used FMLA after the birth of my child and do not support any modifications to it) to whdcomments@dol.gov and mention FMLA in the subject line. You have until 2/16, but why not do it now.

And you know how this works---it's the volume of emails that counts, not necessarily the eloquence, so just write something, anything. And please forward to people who might be interested. Thank you!