Origins 2008 Recycling Report

Last year I wished this story had a happy ending.  Now it does!  The Greater Columbus Convention Center had recycling bins for cans and bottles, and for paper, set up in many parts of the building during Origins this past weekend.  I am thrilled!  Last year’s news was so discouraging, I hadn’t expected them to try again…but this has been a year of increasing greenishness in the popular culture, and apparently they realized the public might be more willing to cooperate than before.  Based on what I saw, glancing into recycling bins and the trash cans next to them, people were doing a pretty good job of sorting.

There were some flaws in the recycling arrangements, which I am mentioning here not to complain that it wasn’t perfect but to point out some considerations for any readers who may be planning to implement or improve a recycling program: Read more…

Counting to Three…Part Two

Well, the technique of counting to three had a good run, but it’s not working anymore.  Nicholas tried using it himself to get us to do things we’d refused to do, he saw that we still refused, and now he sees no reason why he should comply just because we’re counting.  I don’t remember ever trying it on my parents when I was little….

I suppose that hard-core Consensual Living parents would argue that I should never have used this technique on my child if I wasn’t willing to respond to it myself.  They’ve got a point.  But I think (and this is why I can’t really get into Consensual Living) that parents, because of our greater knowledge and experience, can at times hold firmly to a decision we have explained to a child, even if the child would rather we do something else.

For example: Read more…

Cabbage Nengkan

This is a story about how I cook.  I hope it will provide some insight to people who cook only by following recipes, or who “don’t know how to cook,” as to how one can go about figuring out what to do with the main ingredient that happens to be available.  If not, maybe my chaotic cookery will be amusing, anyway.

Nengkan is a Chinese word (familiar to me from The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan) which means the ability to do whatever you put your mind to.  It usually carries me through cooking projects like this one, walking around unfamiliar places without getting lost, shopping, and writing data-management algorithms.  I have learned, however, that I do not have tie-dyeing nengkan.

If there is a recipe for Cabbage Nengkan, it’s buried amid the confusion and musings below. Read more…

Packing for a Picnic or Potluck: Reusable Gear!

UPDATE: This is an old post that I’ve updated and shared at Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday.  In the six years since I first wrote this, my family has continued bringing our own tableware to many events, preventing a lot of trash!  We are very pleased that our neighborhood public school now asks families to bring their own water bottles or cups to events.  Earlier this year, I learned that I can buy great reusable gear and support my favorite school through Mighty NestThis is not a sponsored post; I am truly thrilled with Mighty Nest’s quality products and generous donation of 15% of the purchase price.


Picnic/barbecue season is here, with mounds of disposable tableware: soggy paper, bendy plastic, skidgy foam, spoons that scratch our mouths and melt in our coffee, forks whose tines snap off, knives that won’t cut anything, cups that are too cold or hot to hold without adding a layer of cardboard.  Everybody’s cup is identical, so we have to write our names on them.  What convenience!  What convenience?  Everyone seems to assume that when we eat outdoors we need a bunch of fake stuff.

We’ve started bringing our own dishes, utensils, and napkins when we go to picnics and some potlucks. Read more…

What’s wrong with these Earth policemen?!

Pittsburgh police killed Nang Nguyen because he was waving a meat cleaver.  Okay, he should not have been doing that, but did they really have to shoot him dead on the sidewalk?  Consider the details of this story: Read more…

Impulse Control and Understanding Consequences

Like learning to share, these are skills some parents claim are absolutely impossible in babies and toddlers.  I think they’re underestimating what those little brains can do!  Babies are capable of controlling some impulses, some of the time–they just aren’t as good at it as older people.  Babies are capable of learning that something they do causes something else to happen–they just aren’t familiar with as many action-reaction pairs as older people, and they don’t have as much logical reasoning ability.  These are skills that develop gradually, so we can work to encourage them rather than assuming they don’t exist.

We never “babyproofed” our home.  We wanted Nicholas to be able to cope with visiting places that aren’t babyproofed (which happens a lot) and, well, we just have a lot of clutter! What we’ve done, as it comes up, is to move the things that either (a) he could damage quickly and we’d be really upset if he did or (b) he’s consistently finding hard to resist.  Read more…

Don’t forget the lemonade!

How come people don’t serve lemonade more often?  And why is it that, when people do serve lemonade, it’s usually the fake kind made from a powder?

Yeah, squeezing lemons is a lot of work.  But lemon juice comes in a bottle!  You can make lemonade with just bottled lemon juice, sugar, water, and maybe some ice cubes if you want to get fancy.  It’s quick!  It’s easy!  It’s inexpensive!  It’s only one more ingredient than instant fake lemonade!  It contains no food coloring, artificial flavor, or other weird stuff. Read more…

Spreadable Butter

This isn’t a recipe, exactly, but more of a food-related tip:

I grew up seeing that butter or margarine was always stored in the refrigerator. Therefore, I assumed that it would spoil quickly if left out. Shortly after I moved up to Pennsylvania for college, a friend who’d grown up nearby invited me home for the weekend. I was astonished to see that his family kept a stick of butter in a covered glass dish in the cabinet! It was not spoiled at all!

Now we store extra butter in the freezer, one pound in the fridge, and one chunk* in a dish on the counter. It is spreadable all year, very soft and mushy in summer. When we get down to a tablespoon or so in the dish, we get another chunk out of the fridge. When we take the last chunk out of the fridge, we get another pound out of the freezer to thaw. Once in a while, maybe every six weeks or so, we start a clean dish and put the old one to be washed. Rather than a special “butter dish”, we use a one-cup Pyrex bowl with plastic lid, because we have several of those for storing leftovers. A standard butter dish, which is almost flat with a tall lid, is not good for storing room-temperature butter in summer because, when it gets even a little bit melted, it escapes the dish and runs onto the counter.

There was one time we came home from a week-long vacation to find that the butter smelled funny, but we weren’t sure how long that particular chunk had been in the unrefrigerated dish before we left. Now we put the butter in the fridge before we go away. Sometimes we refrigerate it in the very hottest weather when we have no immediate butter-using plans. The rest of the time, spreadable butter is always at hand!

*The reason I say “chunk” rather than “stick” is that we recently started buying butter in one-pound blocks (each wrapped in waxed paper; four pounds held together with plastic wrap) rather than quarter-pound sticks (each wrapped in waxed paper; four sticks in a cardboard box).  That means less packaging and a slightly lower price per pound.  Since our butter dish isn’t stick-shaped anyway, it works out fine: We just chop a big chunk of butter off the pound, wrap up the rest, and put it back in the refrigerator.


Check out Kitchen Tip Tuesday!

The Dreadful Future of the Postage Stamp

Last Friday night, I walked over to my local post office to buy some 1-cent stamps.  Sure, the post office was closed at 9pm, but it has a new computerized machine to serve our posting needs 24/7.  In fact, the Postal Service is so keen on our using this machine that, last time I was there during business hours, they had assigned one of their employees to walk along the line of customers waiting to be served and suggest that we take our business to the machine–rather than have that employee work behind the counter so that we wouldn’t have to wait in line so long!  She’d said that this new machine could weigh my package and provide appropriate postage, as well as sell me stamps.  I do prefer to deal with humans, but for after-hours use this machine sounded quite convenient.

Well, I felt like taking a walk at sunset Friday, and we needed some 1-cent stamps to supplement our 41-cent stamps now that the rate has gone up.  I planned to buy two booklets of 18 or 20 or whatever, one for me and one for Daniel.  Our post office’s previous machine (which was more like a vending machine than an ATM) had offered several denominations of stamps, both singly and in booklets, and since the rate increase was just a couple of weeks old I felt certain that 1-cent stamps would be in stock. Read more…