What Insurance Is For

Although I’ve managed to get 5 articles posted in the past 6 weeks, I’m actually not doing all that well, and I finally decided that I owe my readers an explanation.

I was driving, with my whole family in the car, when our car was rear-ended on August 15.  Nobody else was hurt.  I didn’t notice that I was hurt until we were back in the car after exchanging insurance information with the other driver, so it must not have been that bad, right?

Oh, it could be worse.  It could be so much worse.  Riding in cars is very dangerous!  We are lucky and grateful.

But my back still hurts.  This is my 46th day of continuous pain.  Much of the time it’s quite mild, but it wears on me, makes me tired, dulls my appreciation of every good thing in life.  Then there are the times when I try to do some ordinary thing like picking up a half-gallon of milk or my 22-pound toddler, opening a heavy door, or scooting back my desk chair by pushing with my feet–or I’m not even doing anything at all–and my lower-back muscles send out blinding flashes of pain.

I thought it was just the cumulative pain that was making me so tired that I had trouble stumbling through my daily life, so distracted that I found myself wrapping up work days realizing that I’d done only two hours’ worth of work in eight hours, so irritable that I was shrieking at my ten-year-old.  I thought it was because my lower-back muscles were yanking on my upper-back muscles yanking on my neck muscles that I was having more frequent and more severe headaches.  These things are probably true, but there’s more to it than that. Read more…

Pen and Marker Recycling: Starting Year 3!

My son Nicholas is in fifth grade. He and his friends Emma and Sadie have been running a recycling program at their school since third grade. Each year they have to make arrangements with the principal so that their recycling bins will be left alone by custodial staff and they have permission to go around emptying their bins–for which they give up their recess time twice a week.  I’m so proud of these kids for being diligent about their program, week after week, year after year!

You might think pens and markers aren’t recyclable or it isn’t important to go to the trouble of recycling them.  It’s true that most curbside recycling programs don’t accept pens and markers because the process of separating the recyclable case from the inky part, and sorting the cases according to what type of plastic they are, is complicated.  However, TerraCycle collects writing instruments and recycles them into plastic storage tubs.  When Nicholas learned that our friend Suella had launched a Writing Instruments Brigade, he wanted to help!

2015/09/img_2536.jpgAfter two years of seeing just how many ballpoint pens, dry-erase markers, highlighters, permanent markers, and regular felt-tip markers are discarded by a school of over 800 students, I’ll never again think that it would be no big deal to let all that plastic go to a landfill or get incinerated into our air!!  The kids haven’t been counting their collections (although I’d love to see them do that, to get some numbers to wow the student body and also to satisfy my curiosity) but Nicholas brings home approximately a half-full grocery bag most weeks.  We usually bring the markers to Suella at church, but when there’s an especially big haul we’ll drop them off at her house while running errands by car.  It’s easy for us, and she says her role is easy, too: Just collect markers until the box is full and send it off to TerraCycle!

The first year, Nicholas and friends collected markers in bags that they taped to the walls next to the school’s staircase entrances.  It worked, but it wasn’t as convenient for students or teachers as having collection bins in the classrooms, so they weren’t recycling as many markers as they thought they could get.  (Also, the bags were flimsy and didn’t always stay in place.)

Last year, I made an announcement in church asking people to bring in empty, clean containers that were the right size to hold about a dozen markers.  We got a great haul of plastic containers from yogurt, cleaning wipes, coconut oil, dish detergent, etc.  Nicholas and friends decorated them and put one in each classroom.  Sure enough, they got more markers that way!

Nicholas brought home all the bins at the end of the school year and planned to use them again.  Unfortunately, some kind of parental malfunction occurred: Daniel and I remember that the bins were stacked in the corner of the dining room near the basement stairs for quite some time and that we both felt they should get put away somewhere…and then they weren’t there anymore, so one of us must have put them in a better place…but where?!?  We looked everywhere that seemed plausible, but we couldn’t find them!

Thus, the bins you see at left were created last weekend.  Because we were in a hurry to relaunch the recycling program, we sprung for new plastic containers–these have the advantage of a standardized appearance that will help students and teachers spot them in the different classrooms.  They are deli food containers from Gordon Food Service (which has stores where anyone can shop), sold in a pack of 25 for $5, without lids; since we didn’t need lids, it was nice not to have to pay for them or figure out what to do with them!  The containers are made of polypropylene (#5 plastic) so when they are worn out, they can go into curbside recycling.

Nicholas and his friend Ashlyn covered the bins with paper from his craft supplies, clearly labeled with marker and attached with tape.  It took them less than two hours to prepare 50 bins. Read more of this post

National Drive Electric Week: Events Around the Country!

This is a guest post by Maria Ramos.  Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication.  She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.

National Drive Electric Week is an annual event designed to educate the public about electric vehicles and the benefits of driving them. The event, taking place September 12 – 20,  2015, highlights the increasing availability of electric cars and the accompanying infrastructure. While electric vehicles, including motorcycles and trucks, face their own battery-related challenges, they are significantly better for the environment and can ultimately be less expensive, compared to their gasoline-dependent counterparts.

The concept of National Drive Electric Week originated in 2011. It was initially called National Plug-In Day, but the idea remains the same: to hold simultaneous events all over the United States to promote the use of electric vehicles. The first National Plug-In Day took place in a humble 26 cities, but come 2013, the event proved to be a monumental success.: The day’s events attracted 36,000 attendees to examine 3,000 electric vehicles in 98 cities. Inspired by the event’s success, its organizers decided to expand it, and the first National Drive Electric Week was held in 2014.

So far, over 160 events have been announced for 2015. Read more of this post

Book Reviews: Guys and Womanhood, Grown-ups and The Child’s Child, and Tripods!

Different kinds of people and their different ways of living are among my main interests, and I’ve been reading about a variety of demographics in the past two months.

The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor

I remember really enjoying this book of short stories the first time I read it, several years ago.  This time around, I didn’t like it as much–too many of the stories spin off into excessive absurdity in a way that kind of stops being funny to me.  Still, it has some really great lines, some vivid, some silly, and some philosophical:

It was one of those ugly and treacherous springs in the Midwest, when winter refuses to quit, like a big surly drunk who heads for home and then staggers back for another round and a few more songs that everyone has heard before.

“Try dessert substitutes, such as erasers. A plate of erasers served on a slice of sponge contains less than two calories.”

After all, he cared for her, she was his wife, and when your wife has an affair, don’t you want it to be a good one, a great experience for her?

And the overall premise, that guys (males) sometimes struggle with their identity and that it isn’t the same struggle for all of them, is a fine one.  I enjoyed hearing from some of these guys again.

The Long Shadow by Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olson

This book summarizes a longitudinal study of almost 800 people who started first grade in Baltimore public schools in 1982 and were interviewed for the last time at age 28. Read more of this post

Two Healthy Breakfasts for Late Summer

Tomato season is in full swing and apple season has begun here in Pennsylvania, so I’m alternating between these two delicious breakfasts!  Both are quick to prepare, with minimal dirty dishes.  They make good snacks, too.  You get plenty of vitamins and fiber from the fruit, plus protein and fat to keep you feeling full.

We planted two tomato plants in our front yard this year and had another tomato plant come up by surprise, and they’re all producing well.  We also get both tomatoes and apples from our CSA organic farm share.

Tomato Toast is simply buttered toast with nutritional yeast flakes, a nice thick layer of sliced tomato, salt, and dill.  (Cilantro instead of dill makes a different flavor, also tasty.)  If you’re really hungry, add a scrambled or fried or sliced hard-boiled egg.  An affordable gluten-free variation is a bowl of warmed-up leftover cooked rice or other grain, with butter, nutritional yeast flakes, diced tomato, salt, and dill.

Easy Fresh Apple Yogurt is simply a diced apple quickly cooked with seasonings and stirred into plain yogurt.  Sometimes I add granola or other cereal.  This morning, I made this with a pear instead (because we were given a bag of home-grown pears) and that’s good, too.  This recipe is ideal for people who get an itchy mouth or upset stomach from eating raw apples–a problem I had only while pregnant with Lydia, which is when I developed this recipe.

Enjoy the season, and check out all the great ideas at Real Food Friday and the Hearth & Soul Hop and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Works-for-Me Wednesday!

Sckoon Menstrual Cup and Cloth Pad Review

WARNING: People who are offended by graphic discussion of menstruation should go read something else.

I first tried a reusable menstrual cup in 1997 and reusable cloth menstrual pads in 2001.  Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different brands, and I’ve written about why these alternatives are better than disposable pads and tampons and lots more about how great they are, with details about how to use them.  This article is about one specific brand whose cup and pad I’ve tried in the past year.  This is my new favorite cup, and the pad is very good, too.

Sckoon is primarily an organic-cotton company.  They make lots of baby clothes and some other cotton items, including cloth menstrual pads.  Recently, they also started making a menstrual cup out of medical-grade silicone (and it comes in an organic cotton storage bag).  Their organic cotton is grown and processed in Egypt, but their menstrual cup is made in USA.  They use recycled materials in packaging.

What I haven’t been able to find out about Sckoon is how to pronounce their name.  They didn’t answer my question, choosing instead to maintain an air of mystery…so I’m going with “Skoon” unless I learn otherwise.

I have joined Sckoon’s affiliate program, so you can click here to get 10% off your order (or manually enter the discount code ER01HG) and I will earn a 10% commission! Read more of this post

That Time I Caused Trouble in Sunday School

This is a story I’ve told my son Nicholas many times.  It’s entertaining for him, but it’s also a story that really gets him thinking about right and wrong, temptation and resistance, punishment and forgiveness, what those kids who get into trouble all the time might be thinking, and many other interesting issues.  It’s inspired some great discussions!

I’ve been thinking for a long time about writing some “storytelling” style posts like this, to share some of my better anecdotes from my visit to Earth.  Please comment below or contact me if you would like to read more stories like this!

I was a mostly well-behaved child.  I liked to learn rules and follow them.  I liked to do things that made adults approve of me.  Sometimes I was disobedient or obnoxious at home or in other familiar places with familiar people, but because I was very shy my behavior in public situations like school was calibrated to attract as little attention as possible.  It was very rare for me to “get in trouble” in school even enough to have a teacher take me aside to speak to me, and I certainly never got sent to the principal or anything like that.

This was true also in Sunday school, which I attended at a church so large that there was a separate class for each grade, which might have as many as 50 names on the attendance sheet and 20-30 kids present on any given day.  Our classrooms were much like those in a school, with a big chalkboard at the front and small bulletin boards alongside it.  Each grade had a different curriculum theme, but they varied widely–some were vague, so the teachers scrambled to put together random activities to keep the kids busy and maybe sort of relate to the theme; other years had structured activities and worksheets for every week.

Fifth grade spent the entire year pondering the question, “Why Do Bad Things Happen?”  This was a Unitarian church, so each week we studied the perspective of a different religion or culture.  One of the first ideas presented was that bad things happen to bad people who deserve them.  That idea was quickly refuted by kids thinking of examples of good people who’d had bad things happen to them, and vice versa.  But there was also a tangential discussion of whether people who do bad things are always bad people and whether there really is any such thing as a bad person, or we’re all just people who sometimes do bad things and sometimes do good things.  Many of the kids talked about believing that they were basically good people, or at least medium people, but once in a while “something comes over me” such that a bad thing just had to be done and they were powerless to resist.  When a later lesson brought up the idea of evil spirits that possess people and force them to behave badly, most of the class agreed that even if this weren’t literally true, it was a good description of what the urge to misbehave is like.

I didn’t argue aloud, but I was skeptical.  I was a good girl, and badness was not tempting.  Read more of this post

Cutting Food Waste at Home and Worldwide (70+ recipes and tips!)

This is a guest post by Maria Ramos.  Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication.  She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.

(The recipe section of this article originally appeared on the Thrifty Tips page of The Earthling’s Handbook.)

Most of the current focus on environmental harm has been on the effects of pollution generated through industrial processes, but there’s another type of human activity that probably hits a lot closer to home for most people: food waste. Discarded food often ends up rotting in landfills, emitting greenhouse gases as it decomposes. Moreover, all the resources–fertilizer, water, energy, and labor–that go into the production of wasted food have also essentially been wasted at this point and could be better utilized.

It’s estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year. In the United States alone, as much as 40 percent of the food we purchase ends up being thrown away. About a third of all food produced worldwide is either thrown out or destroyed before it is eaten–a loss of a whopping $1 trillion in foodstuffs. With the world population expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, it’s important that we work to counteract this profligacy and misuse of our nutritional resources, or many may face hunger and starvation.

There’s a dichotomy in the way food is wasted between the developing world and the developed world. Read more of this post

Cheesy Zucchini Casserole

This recipe came about when my ten-year-old Nicholas rejected the first two ideas I proposed for using the enormous zucchini we got in our farm share: (1) “Nooo! We still have zucchini bread from last time!” and (2) “Nothing with tomato sauce unless it is a pizza.”  Hmmm… I remembered a casserole recipe from some magazine that I made a couple of times in the 1990s but threw out in the transition from recipe cards to our recipe binder because it called for canned soup and saltine crackers and we just weren’t keeping those things on hand anymore.  That casserole had corn in it; Nicholas likes corn, and we have a huge bag of frozen organic corn.  (By the way, zucchini and corn are two vegetables that are important to buy organic to avoid genetically modified organisms.)  Instead of the soup, we could use cheese to hold it together.  What other farm produce did we need to use up?  Garlic scapes and the dill from a couple weeks ago that I’d hung up to dry.

I didn’t measure anything, but I can tell you approximately what you’ll need to make a 10″x15″ casserole:

  • 1 medium-sized zucchini (If you have a giant one, grate the whole thing and freeze excess in appropriate portions for future recipes.)
  • 2 cups corn kernels (If they’re frozen, just measure the 2 cups and set out at room temperature to thaw while you prepare the rest of the food.  It’s okay if they still feel icy when going into the oven; they’re small and will cook well enough in the end.)
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 7 garlic scapes, or 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. dried dill
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper (Black pepper would be fine if you don’t have white.)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar or monterey jack cheese (You can grate extra cheese and freeze it, too, or just set it aside for another meal requiring grated cheese.)

Read more of this post

3 Ways to Save on Fair-Trade Coffee

Daniel and I both drink coffee, at least 3 cups a day each.  That adds up!  We support human rights and environmental stewardship by buying only fair-trade*, organic coffee for our home.  My church also buys fair-trade, organic coffee.  This coffee is more expensive than the big mainstream brands.  How can we get the most value for our money?

*(Yes, I have heard that fair-trade certification isn’t always perfect; I’m also willing to buy coffee from companies that “have a relationship” with coffee farmers and treat them well but have not obtained official fair-trade certification; what I’m looking for is some acknowledgement that the coffee is grown by people in a place and that these people deserve fair compensation for their labor and this place deserves not to be ruined.)

Buy in bulk.

Organic coffee in the supermarket often costs $10 or more for a 12-ounce (3/4 pound) bag–and then what will you do with that bag?  Years ago, Daniel and I made coffee one of the things we routinely bought in reused containers from the bulk section of our local food co-op.  Just recently, after he read my post about buying by the case, we talked about other products we might be able to get cheaper if we ordered a case.  It turns out that the co-op’s “case” price for coffee is a 5-pound bag.  We use about a pound of coffee a week, so 5 pounds is not an unreasonable amount to buy at once, especially since it’s whole beans that we grind shortly before brewing–it won’t go bad or anything.  This month, Equal Exchange Breakfast Blend is on sale for $8.99/pound; after the 20% discount for buying a case, our 5-pound bag costs $35.96, which is $7.19/pound–almost half the price per pound of the supermarket coffee! Read more of this post

Book Reviews: 4 British Books

Although I’ve never been to Great Britain, books by British authors have been on my shelves since I was very young.  The first ones I read to myself were from the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton, when I was in first grade; I remember that after the first few pages, I stomped off to find my mother and complain, “The quotation marks in this book are all wrong!  And they spelled color wrong!  And what’s a lorry?”  Once I understood that there are places in the world where people speak English but use different spelling and punctuation and vocabulary, I was intrigued by this parallel universe, and I’ve read several British books every year since.  The books I’ve read in the past month happen to be a spontaneous clustering of Britishness.

No, wait–does Ireland count as Britain?  I know the government is separate.  But it’s right there on the same island with Northern Ireland. [irrelevant link deleted] But it’s not on the island of Great Britain, and my mind is echoing with the shout of the Mike Myers character from two decades ago: “Here’s Scotland! Here’s Ireland! Here’s the bloody sea!!!”  Oh dear.  I hope I’m not offending anybody….  I already set up the title of my post, and I’m running out of time for writing, and I’d better just get on with my reviews….

I’m a Stranger Here Myself and Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson

These two books went onto my list–the list that I give to people who ask what I want for gifts–at different times.  I didn’t realize that they are the U.S. edition and the U.K. edition of the same book!  Bill Bryson grew up in Iowa, lived in England for twenty years, then returned to the United States.  The first of his books I encountered was The Lost Continent, about traveling around the U.S. ten years after he’d moved away, and I was interested to see how an additional decade would affect his perspective. Read more of this post

Make Your Own Foaming Hand Soap!

This tip is a real winner: You can make your own foaming soap in about one minute by mixing just two ingredients.  Foaming soap will save you a lot of money because you’ll need less soap to get clean.  Refilling your foamer will save even more money and reduce the packaging you discard.  You can use plant-based soap, which is better for the environment and probably better for your health than soap made from petroleum distillates and undisclosed chemicals, without breaking your budget.  You can choose whatever scent you like!

This is not a sponsored post.  I’m recommending two specific products (a foamer and a soap) that have worked really well for me for several years.  However, if you already have a soap foamer and a plant-based liquid soap, try them together!  I’ve used several brands of soap and never found one that didn’t work.  You may need a higher ratio of soap to water if your soap is not as concentrated as Dr. Bronner’s.  Some soaps settle to the bottom overnight; just shake to re-mix. Read more of this post

All-Natural Vegetarian Non-Refrigerated Convenience Foods

This is not a sponsored post.  This is a recommendation of products I tried and liked.

Daniel and I try to make enough real, from-scratch, healthy food that I (working in an office) can take leftovers for my lunch every day and he (working at home) can get something ready to eat within a few minutes rather than spend time cooking at lunchtime.  It works out better at some times than others.  In the past year, with the additional distractions of getting our baby daughter ready to go each day, I’ve had more days when I didn’t have time to pack a lunch, couldn’t spare the attention to figure out what leftovers were available, or wasn’t able to carry a lunch because I was bringing something to work (like dish detergent) and there’s a limit to what I can carry along with Lydia and all her gear as we commute by bus!  I was grabbing Trader Joe’s meals from our freezer sometimes and eating in restaurants much more often than normal.  I like restaurants, but at $6-$9 per lunch, that gets expensive!

One day I was buying some milk for my coffee and mixed nuts for snacking at the CVS store half a block from work when I noticed a sale on foods in pouches and noticed that many of these were vegetarian foods.  I took a closer look and saw surprisingly unobjectionable ingredients.
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Read more of this post

A Real-Life Menu (early summer)

I was recently asked by a reader to share what one of my family’s meal plans really looks like. I’ve previously described how I plan the menu even though Daniel cooks our weeknight meals, how from June through November I’m planning around the vegetables we receive from our share in a local organic farm, how I write the menu a few days at a time on a sheet of scrap paper held up with magnets on our steel kitchen cabinet door, and how each of the multi-week menus I’ve posted is based on the weeks that fit on one sheet of paper…but when I write those menu posts, I write out a lot of details about what we ate and why. My actual instructions to Daniel must be much briefer, to fit 3 or 4 weeks on a page–what do they look like?

Well, here you go! Since you’re not Daniel (who isn’t a mind-reader, but after being happily unmarried for 21 years we do think along the same lines) I’ll explain the things that I see need explanation, and I’ll be happy to do more explaining in the comments if you have questions! Recipe links are at the bottom. Read more…

Top 3 Veggie Burger Recipes

Daniel and I have tried dozens of varieties of veggie burgers in the past 15 years or so, since they started appearing in stores and restaurants.  We gave up meat for Lent in 2002, and since then we’ve never gone back to eating as much meat as we used to eat.  In particular, we really don’t eat hamburgers anymore, after learning that grinding meat causes any bacteria on the surface to be distributed throughout the meat and that ground beef and chicken are the meats with the highest risk of food poisoning.  But we do like to eat a tasty chunk of protein on a bun with ketchup and pickles!  We buy frozen veggie burgers sometimes, but they tend to cost around a dollar per patty, and they’re packed in plastic, and they’ve been shipped across the continent in a freezer truck, and many of them feature large amounts of genetically modified, isolated soy protein.

Here are our 3 favorite recipes for homemade veggie burgers, and then some tips on how to cook and freeze them.  All these recipes work well for making “meatballs” or nuggets instead of full-size burgers, if you prefer. Read more…

My Father Taught Me How to Be a Working Mother

When I was born, my mother quit her paying job so she could be home with me.  She did not take another job until I was almost twelve years old.

I resumed working outside the home when each of my children was twelve weeks old.  After Nicholas was born, I went back part-time and later gradually increased my working hours until I was back to 40 hours a week when he was four years old.  After Lydia was born (when Nicholas was nine years old), I returned to my job full-time.  It isn’t easy!  Forty hours, plus commuting time, is a long time to be away from home even when you’re only taking care of yourself; when you have young children, it’s a time-management struggle as well as an emotional struggle over being apart from the kids so much.  My mother–who’s been a great role model to me for things like breastfeeding, intelligent discipline, and making healthy food–was not much help as I figured out how to balance parenthood with employment.  It’s my father whose example has really helped me understand what’s important and where to cut myself some slack.

Oddly enough, it was an insensitive comment my father made that led me to realize his value as a role model for me. Read more of this post

Technology to Help You Be Energy Efficient and Environmentally Friendly This Summer

This is a guest post by Maria Ramos, who offered to share her research on these new technologies with my readers.  I’m not a smartphone user myself and don’t carry any other high-tech device routinely, which is one way to conserve energy…but if you’re already carrying a device or you’re considering getting one for other reasons, adding energy efficiency to its tasks is a great idea!  Also, some of these products are things you set up in your home that don’t require a “smart” device to control them.  It’s interesting to learn what’s new in climate control!

Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication.  She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.

With summer just around the corner, many people expect to use their air conditioners heavily in order to stay cool during sweltering days. Doing so, however, traditionally consumes a lot of electricity, costing a pretty penny and harming the natural environment. This situation is changing with the development of new technological products that aim to cut energy consumption with consequent benefits both to the earth’s ecology and consumers’ pocketbooks.

The Apple Watch and HomeKit app aim to make it easy to control devices from different manufacturers from a single interface. As long as they use compatible products in their homes, people will be able to adjust their thermostats, dim and raise lighting levels and manage a lot of other functions right from their Watches. They can thus turn off appliances when they don’t need to use them, reducing energy consumption. Many smart home devices from different producers haven’t worked well together in the past, but now they’re being brought together through the HomeKit interface.

Those who are put off by the Apple Watch’s high price, starting at $349, may be interested in the Misfit Flash fitness band, which only costs $50. Although it’s primarily designed to help users exercise more efficiently, Misfit has extended its capabilities through partnerships with other companies. Users can use the Flash to control thermostat equipment from Nest, smart home systems from Logitech, and many other devices. With the right products from partner firms, users of the Flash will be able to lower their energy usage by finely controlling the performance of their home equipment. Read more…

Book Reviews: Mysteries and Mars

These aren’t the only books I’ve read in the past few months, but I noticed two themes that led me to group these reviews together.

A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin

P1020132This classic mystery was written in 1953, and reading it in the original edition (courtesy of Daniel’s mother) helped me get into the mood.  I’ve never seen either of the two film versions, which is good: This story is best if you have no idea what to expect from it, and some of the twists just simply wouldn’t work if you could see who’s who rather than relying on the viewpoint characters’ perceptions.  I won’t give away the plot except to say that you may want to avoid this one if you’re pregnant or have a new boyfriend.  It’s really fantastically written, with plenty of clever tricks that prevent you from noticing that you’re making assumptions until some of those assumptions are suddenly overturned.

Although the story is set on Earth and all characters are humans, the book will be enjoyed by readers from all worlds, as indicated by this symbol on the cover of the Inner Sanctum Mysteries hardcover. Read more of this post

Grildebeen Burgers (homemade veggie burgers)

Most supermarkets these days sell convenient frozen veggie burgers.  We’ve eaten a lot of these, and most of them are quite tasty and nutritious.  But they tend to cost around a dollar per patty, and they’re packed in plastic, and they’ve been shipped across the continent in a freezer truck, and many of them feature large amounts of genetically modified, isolated soy protein.

This is one recipe for homemade veggie burgers that we really like.  Four years ago, I explained how we were still calling them by the original recipe’s name even though it didn’t make sense with our modification of the cooking instructions…and how that made me think of a future animal, the Grildebeest.  In the comments, my brother asked if we’d now be calling the burgers Grildebeens.  Ultimately, yes, we modified the recipe to be a little more to our taste, and we are still making these burgers regularly and calling them Grildebeen Burgers.  So here’s our recipe! Read more of this post

‘Becca Misinterprets the Signs

After a discouraging morning at work, I journeyed to a slightly farther-away restaurant than usual, in search of an invigorating lunch.  (By this I mean that they have free refills on coffee.)  After eating, feeling much perkier, I noticed for the first time that one of this restaurant’s signs is missing a letter, so that it was directing me to The Restooms.

I was happily distracted from the boring biological activities of the next two minutes by imagining my vacation to The Restooms.  These must be a series of interconnected caves of unusual smoothness and beauty, furnished with embroidered silk pillows for lounging.  I think they’re in North Africa somewhere.  I felt more relaxed just imagining being there.

Then, on my way back toward work, I noticed a new restaurant with the highly disturbing name of Chick’n Bubbly.  Their signature dish must be horribly fermented chicken–no, maybe it’s one of those highly engineered vegan chick’n products made of genetically modified soybeans or filamentous fungus.  As I drew closer, I could read smaller words on the sign, which explained that this establishment offers “chicken bites & bubble tea.”  So you go in there to get a bubble tea, and a chicken bites you.  Fun for the whole family!

Earth is quite an entertaining place if you just read the signs and let your caffeine-fueled mind roam freely.