Greening the Employee Holiday Meal

I wish this were a story of a big project I did that made a big difference, but this one is only about a personal choice that made a small difference.  It’s still better than nothing!  And you can’t always change what big organizations do, but you can change what you do–so maybe you could make a little choice like this one!

I work for a department of about 40 people running two social science research studies and several associated substudies.  Most of the time we’re sort of in our own little world here.  But we are part of a megaconglomerate “health system” that owns a bunch of hospitals, medical practices, research facilities, and a health-insurance company; it is one of Pennsylvania’s largest employers.  The System provides each of its tens of thousands of employees with a Holiday Feast each December.  This event inevitably takes on a somewhat standardized and mass-produced tone, but I do appreciate getting a free Feast.  What I don’t understand is why it has to produce so much non-recyclable, non-biodegradable garbage. Read more…

Dining at The Purple Tulip

Our son Nicholas is almost seven years old and has three possible careers in mind: railroad engineer, teacher, and waiter.  This last interest has increased in the past year, and at dinnertime he sometimes wants to pretend our home is a restaurant.  He got particularly elaborate during my mother’s summer visit and named his restaurant The Purple Tulip after a ballpoint pen with duct-tape flower that she brought him.

It’s an elegant sort of restaurant where the customers wait on a sofa until led to a table by a very polite waiter with a towel over his arm.  The menu varies from day to day; the waiter always recommends the special, and we always enjoy it.  The waiter brings in the dishes from the kitchen.  Sometimes we dine by candlelight or with music.  Daniel and I enjoy going to The Purple Tulip for a romantic date.  Read more…

Granulated Garlic

Daniel and I love garlic and use it in many of our recipes.  Usually we prefer to use fresh garlic, crushed in a garlic press.  Every once in a while, though, we’ll run out of garlic or find that our last few cloves have gotten squishy–and also, there are a few recipes like Honey Baked Lentils that call for garlic powder and actually turn out better with it than crushed garlic–so we’ve always kept garlic powder in our cupboard.

But a few months ago, Daniel discovered a better alternative! Read more…

Things Not To Do: Electronic Fund Transfer Edition

First, here is a good thing to do if you use credit cards: Arrange for an automatic payment, equal to the minimum amount you charge to that card in a typical month, to be electronically transferred from your bank account on a day before the payment is due.  That way, if the e-mail reminding you to check your paperless billing gets into your spam folder, or if your paper bill gets lost behind the couch, at least part of your bill will be paid and you won’t get the full late fee.  Write the automatic payment in your bank account register in advance so you’ll remember to keep at least that much in your account.  Ideally, you’ll also remember to check your bill and pay any additional charges before the due date, and then you won’t pay any interest at all!  (If your charges for the month are less than the automatic payment amount, your credit card company should take only the amount you owe–check to make sure this is the policy.)

I set up an automatic payment for my Visa card a few years ago, when my son was in preschool and his tuition was charged to that card, so I set it at $400 transferred on the 11th of each month.  It had always worked out well for me . . . until last month. Read more…

3 Good Books About Parenting

Jessica’s Three Books on Thursday post today is about parenting books, so I decided to post my top three recommendations, even though they’re already included in the longer list of Books That Blew My Mind.  To prevent faithful Earthling’s Handbook readers from feeling gypped, though, I’ll first list three more books–actually, sort of categories of books–that weren’t quite mind-blowing but have been very helpful to me as a parent.

Like Jessica, I did a lot of reading about parenting long before becoming a mother.  In fact, I started when I was about eight years old and my parents bought a set of World Book encyclopedias and the accompanying Childcraft books.  Childcraft is a treasure trove for kids, but it also included Read more…