Thursday, June 14, 2007

Q Tonic

A follow-up on G&Ts and the ultimate tonic water:

This may be the most exciting thing to happen as a direct result of this blog: free stuff sent to me to try out and report on. How cool is that?

Jordan Silbert, founder of Q Tonic was as good as his word: he sent me two bottles to taste, and Alan and I have just finished our tasting, having sat outside under the shade and languidly sipped our gin and tonics.


My review: attractively packaged in a small bottle that will make exactly two short G&Ts. Not too sweet and with only about 7g of carbs per bottle--which is only about 3.5 g of carbs per short G&T (!). No high fructose corn syrup. Organic ingredients. Hand-picked Peruvian quinine (*not* synthetic).

What's not to like?

This is what: at the moment it is available only in New York City at the following four places:

Milk and Honey
Little Branch
Gramercy Tavern
Blue Hill at Stone Barns

BUT Jordan says it will be available soon at gourmet groceries around the country. If you want to stock it, you can contact Q Tonic here to discuss possibilities.

This was really fun. I can't wait to be able to buy this regionally. I am sure it won't be sold locally, but I'm hoping some Santa Fe store will stock it. And I will stock up.

If anyone else is out there needs to test out a product--imported dark chocolate? vintage ports? artisan cheeses?--please do let me know. I'm game.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Doggy Pi

Just finished a stash-busting project: a felted dog bed made from leftover Lopi.

I adapted the pattern from Wendy's felted kitty bed, which is based on the increases used in Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi Shawl (hence Wendy's name of "Kitty Pi").

To make a circle grow, Zimmermann used the knowledge that a circle's circumference doubles as the radius doubles, which my math-teacher husband tells me has nothing to do with pi, but that's what EZ called her application of this fact and thus it shall ever be known in knitting circles...)

I followed Wendy's instructions exactly except that I made it much larger by doubling stitches an additional time at 24 rows--288 stitches--and I used size 13 needles. It was a super-quick knit-up--chunky yarn, huge needles, knit in the round (which is much quicker for me than straight knitting). I knit in the car during the last two camping trips, and it rolled off the needles lickety-split.

From her pattern, it looked like Wendy was counting on 40% shrinkage, which seems high, but I used that in my own adapted pattern and did indeed get the size I was after (about three feet in diameter). It will suit James for a while, since he typically curls up when he sleeps.

I didn't block mine as severely as Wendy did--in fact, I couldn't stop James from playing with it while it was still wet!

My knitting friends asked me about being worried if he will chew it. I'm not really. The felted knitting is super thick (like carpet), and James has a soft bite. Also, if he does a chew hole in it, it can't really unravel (thanks to the felting), and I can just throw it into the washing machine for re-felting to mend the hole!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Seven Things, Week 15

Alan cleaned out our camping closet and found the following things that have become Week 15 of the project:

ONE blue tarp-bag (which held we know not what)

FOUR carabiners (which we have never used for anything)

ONE plastic flask (which is not as nice as the fancy leather-sided, stainless-steel bourbon flask we already own)

ONE water-bottle holder that says "For women who thirst for knowledge: Women's Colleges 2003"--given to me by a colleague because I attended Smith College (a women's college in Massachusetts)

TWO enamelware camping mugs that are oversized (which Alan deems too large to be decent)

ONE opened packet of unused rubber tie-downs

ONE hand-operated air-pump

Salvation Army Thrift Store gets the lot.

In addition I released TWO books that I had read and am unattached to into the wild: The Guide: A Novel and Telling Tales

Total for this week: 13
Total so far: 123

A Two-Day Camping Adventure

Just got back from a semi-aborted camping trip. I thought we would be gone four nights--we were gone only two. Came back to a hail storm, so it was a good call to return early.

We left on Thursday afternoon in order to secure a goods site at Sugarite Canyon State Park. I'd read a great write-up in Christina Frain's New Mexico Campgrounds: The Statewide Guide. I'd never been to Sugarite, but Frain said it was one of the prettiest state parks of New Mexico, so we had to go.

It is indeed one of the prettiest. Breath-taking views, great trails, forest, water, mountains, even a ghost town.

As soon as we got there I realized that the camera needed new batteries. Drat! No cool picutres from our trip to share with you.

The best I can do is resort to Google. Here is one from It is a wide-shot of Soda Pocket Campground, where we camped. It doesn't really convey the majesty of the canyon views, but there are copyrighted photos on the site where I got this un-copyrighted pic, so have a look if you are curious to see what the camping looks like close up.

I also realized that we needn't have worried about securing a good camping spot--this was one of the three "crowded" weeks of the park due to the annual Fishing Derby, and there were still many empty sites.

We hiked three trails while we were there, but it was windy and pretty cold the whole time--heavy frost/ice on our tent when we woke up on Friday morning. It had gotten down to 20-something degrees in the night and didn't reach 65 in the daytime, and the cold wind just blew and blew, making reading, cooking, even sitting difficult. So although we had paid for two nights, we packed up on the afternoon of the second day and headed south toward home.

We stopped by the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge--there is primitive camping allowed there, but again the gale was blowing by the lake, and although we would have seen some great waterfowl, it just wasn't going to be fun to sit unprotected in cold wind. We did see some beautiful deer on the drive in and a very nice assortment of ducks on the lake.

As a last resort before returning home, we drove to Cimarron (home of the haunted St. James Hotel and the Philmont Scout Ranch) and then into the protected Canyon to see if we could snag a spot in Cimarron Canyon State Park. It was late afternoon of a Friday, so we were doubtful.

Jackpot! An amazing site at the Maverick Campground--on the river, with trees and shade and view of high cliffs--and both drinking and toilets just across from our site. No wind, mid-70s--the warmest we'd been in 24 hours.

Again, my camera wasn't working, but this picture I found when I Googled gives a sense of the canyon. Thank you,

The dog was in high heaven--lots of mud and water and wonderful places to dig.

However, we were pretty dirty at this point--having been frozen, having moved camp, having slept with a muddy dog, having failed to wash/shower for two nights and almost three days. The clouds were getting up and it looked like an afternoon thunderstorm was in the works, so we packed up after lunch and headed home via the scenic route--through Eagle Nest and Angel Fire and Guadalupita. It rained and rainbowed--and hailed soon after we unloaded the car.

So we're home tonight a bit earlier than anticipated.

I managed to send two books into the wild as part of the trip, one at each campground.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Victoria's Dirty Secret

I have always disliked Victoria's Secret--overpriced lingerie, objectified female form, bombardment of unwanted catalogs and, like nearly every other bra vendor in the USA, they don't even sell my bra size.

(To get a good fit, I have to get my bras imported from Europe. I can mail order all my other clothes and they fit well, so I am a pretty standard size--but I can't buy a US bra off a rack. Given this weird state of affairs, I suspect many, many women in the US are wearing poorly fitting bras, and I have actually surveyed fit instructions online and have found most of them incorrect. But that's another blog topic to be covered in future....)

Today on Bioneers, I heard about the campaign against Victoria's Secret, who had been making its catalogs out of wood pulp taken the Boreal forest.

Victoria's Secret mails ONE MILLION catalogs a day. That's a lot of wood.

After two years of campaigning, Victoria’s Secret reached an agreement with ForestEthics and signed a new paper contract.

Which makes it sound reformed.

But no.

Consider the recent email I received from GreenDimes:

We contact thousands of catalog companies and mailers on our member's behalf every month. Each of these is cooperative and provides an easy way for us to take customers off of mailing list... all but ONE. Victoria's Secret. They require us to call them each and every time we take a customer off of their lists - which can mean hold times of 30 minutes! Odd given that people can request to RECEIVE and REDUCE catalog mailings on-line. I guess this is why they keep sending 350 Million catalogs every year.
GreenDimes stats as of May 2007 were 514,000 pounds of junk mail stopped, over 174,000 trees planted and over 1,313,000 gallons of water saved.

Not bad for a company that started just last autumn.

Good company = GreenDimes
Bad company = Victoria's Secret

Travels with James

We took the puppy tent-camping last weekend.

It was an experiment. Would we get any sleep? Would the puppy behave bizarrely? Would we be slung out of the campground?

We decided to go for just one night in a state park close to home in case the whole venture was a total disaster. We went on a Sunday night, when we knew the campground would not be full. We camped high on a hill, away from other campers.

It was glorious.

We had a view of cliffs and mesas (which I failed to photograph). The park offers rock and adobe shelters. You can see our rock shelter here. So we had shade, view, walks along the Pecos River, and a dog who could not have been happier.

He barked only to welcome me back from the longdrop. We put him on a 30-foot cord, and he ambled around the campsite, somehow completely missing a snake we encountered while on a walk and and a fox that came to visit as we sat around the campfire.

That night, we had to coax him into the tent. He refuses anything unfamiliar, but once I lifted him bodily into our low-slung, three-person tent, he began to investigate. It took a little while to settle him down, but he spent most of the night curled up at our feet, dozing and enjoying the den experience with his pack (i.e., us).

The yucca and prickly pear were in bloom:

It amazes me how therapeutic just one night spent camping is. I was cheered and relaxed.

We're off again this weekend, this time to a park a bit further afield and for several nights.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Seven Things, Weeks 13 & 14

Catching up from my hiatus, I didn’t take pictures for the project, but I did offload the following:

TWO bags of grout powder (a kind of mortar) that have been in our utility closet since we moved into the house ten years ago. Also, TWO other mysterious bags related to grout and tile that we also inherited when we moved in. I returned them to the workers who had used them in the first place (ten years ago), thus freeing up space for dog food and rawhide chews.

I forgot to count the ONE bag of pig-skin twisties that I had bought for our puppy and that he wouldn’t touch and that I gave to my friend Anne several weeks ago. Anne has two exquisitely behaved Blue Healers who also seem to quite like the twisties.

The other dog-related purchase which was a mistake was ONE bag of puppy training pads. The Dog Bible had them on the list of things to buy in preparation for one’s puppy, so I dutifully did—and never used them once. We’ve crate-trained our puppy and have never used the pads. So they will be put out in the break room at work with a sign that they’re free to a good home.

Also to put in the break room is ONE can of lighter fluid for barbecues. I hate this chemical stuff and have used either Chimney Starter to make fire or paraffin fire-starters (which are also fairly toxic, but for some reason they frighten me less than lighter fluid.) Don’t know why we even have a bottle of lighter fluid. Someone must have left some at our house…?

So that’s seven for May 26.

And then there’s last weekend, June 2: I do not think this can count toward any total number of things offloaded, but I did gather all the books that wonderful friends had lent us in the last month and returned them. As you can see from the picture, it was a rather huge pile, and rounding them up and sending them back to owners actually managed to de-clutter our home quite significantly!

Total for these weeks: 7
Total so far: 110

Blogging Hiatus

Golly. I haven’t blogged for two weeks.

Since January, I'd been blogging very regularly—except for the odd week of Work Hell that prevented me from getting to it.

But, forcing myself to examine why I haven’t blogged lately, I see several factors:

One, of course, is the glorious summer weather. I want to be outside—camping, cooking, eating, drinking, walking my dog, gardening—and patently *not* inside at a computer. Life is meant to be lived, not just blogged about, and I’ve been doing a whole lot of living. And it’s been great.

And then there is the slightly shameful reason I haven’t blogged.

About three weeks ago, an anonymous print publication was circulated at work, and in it, I was roasted for my blog. Actually, the blog was not mentioned, but very silly pictures (taken from here and here) were lifted out of context, and I was lifted up to ridicule for all colleagues to see.

Not very nice. Still makes me shudder. And get a bit weepy.

I know I should have thicker skin, but it made me think I should drop the blog altogether. The experience was so embarrassing and mean-spirited. (I should mention that I work at a high school, and this text was, I think, student-produced. Thus, I was outed and ridiculed by the very students I serve.)

No matter how long you work for them and what you give, some teenagers just don’t ever seem to appreciate it, whether it be creating challenging and important classroom lessons or helping raise scholarship money so that they can attend the amazing school in the first place.

It makes my heart ache.

And then there were major work demands: another Board meeting, the end of our fiscal year, a graduation to help organize.

And then there was Memorial Day weekend, during which we looked at more houses to buy.

And there is, of course, the ongoing puppy experience.

And the first tent-camping trip with the puppy (which was glorious).

So now I’m back, but I am not sure how regularly. My need for blogging seems to coincide with cold weather and need for challenge. And I feel I've had more than enough challenge in the last few weeks.

Enough excuses. I have missed you all, and I'm sorry I've been out of touch.