Is Your Pussyhat Keeping Someone Warm?

Photo by Joeff Davis from Pittsburgh City Paper.  Click photo to read the article

Photo by Joeff Davis from Pittsburgh City Paper. Click photo to read the article “Pittsburghers pledge to continue fighting after women’s march.”

In photographs of last Saturday’s women’s marches in Washington, D.C., and around the United States, many pink hats are visible, most of them with ears, indicating solidarity with the Pussyhat Project that was so popular it caused shortages of pink yarn in some parts of the country.  It’s obvious that many thousands of pink pussyhats now exist.

Why haven’t I seen any of them this week?

I live in the East End of Pittsburgh.  This is a very liberal area where support for equal rights is seen as a good thing by the general public; it’s highly unlikely that someone would be harassed for wearing a feminist symbol in public around here.

The weather has been warm for January but damp.  I do see people wearing knitted hats.  I haven’t yet seen a pink hat with ears, not even one.  Where did they all go?

If you have a pussyhat, wear it as your warm hat for the rest of the winter!  Let it remind you and everyone else that this protest was not just a one-day thing but that we need to stand up for equal rights for everybody every day!

If you have a pussyhat that you are not going to wear again, for whatever reason–please give it to someone who needs a warm hat or to an organization like a homeless shelter that will put that hat on a cold head.  A warm hat can keep a person alive on a cold night.

Don’t let that knitting go to waste!  Share the warmth and keep America great!

Matrix Logic: The New Baby’s Relatives

Matrix logic or logic grid puzzles challenge you to figure out the characteristics of several people, using a series of clues, marking “yes” answers with an O and “no” answers with an X in a grid of boxes.  You can see an example grid in this Wikipedia article.

My 12-year-old Nicholas enjoys matrix logic almost as much as I do, so when he asked me last night to make up a matrix logic puzzle for him, I jumped at the chance.  He wanted it to have 5 people and 5 facts about each.  I challenged myself to do it with just 5 clues.

This puzzle is about 5 people who have a new baby in their family.  What is each person’s first name, last name, month of birth, day of birth, and relationship to the baby?

Get your graph paper!  Read more of this post

How to Approach Life Planning to Secure Your Children’s Futures

This is a guest post by Jackie Waters. Ms. Waters believes balance and diligence can help you achieve a beautiful, clean home. She runs hyper-tidy.com, providing advice on being…Hyper Tidy!

If you’re not an attorney, accountant, or financial planner, you may have anxiety about life planning and making the right decisions to secure your children’s futures. You’re not alone. Many parents are not sure where to begin with planning for contingencies in relation to their children, making financial considerations, and knowing where to go for help. Our guide will help get you started.

Do Estate Planning Now

You need to do some basic estate planning regardless of your age and the ages of your children. The first step is to write a will to determine who will serve as guardians for your children if they are minors. Even if your children are not minors, you should have a will so that you can rest assured that your final wishes will be carried out and that your property, possessions, and assets will be divided as you desired them to be.

You don’t need to spend a ton of money on attorney’s fees in drawing up a will; many online resources are cost-saving alternatives that produce binding legal documents just like attorneys do. However, if you have a large estate, several specific requests, or questions about guardianship, it may be better to meet with an attorney. Read more of this post

How to make it from scratch instead of a package: Chipotle Simmer Sauce

My son Nicholas is 12 years old and often tells us about meals and snacks he enjoyed in his friends’ homes.  Last month, when we were shopping at Target, he pointed out a package of sauce that was the exact type his friend’s mother had used on the delicious fajitas.

I told him I wasn’t going to spend almost $3 on a plastic pouch containing one meal’s worth of sauce.  We could make it ourselves.

“Oh really Mom,” he said with a contemptuous eye-roll, “You don’t even know what it tastes like.”

“But you do,” I replied.  “I will write down all the ingredients that aren’t preservatives.  The first ingredient is the one used in the largest quantity, so I’ll start with that and reduce the amounts as I go down the list, and then you’ll taste it and tell me what it needs.”

He was very skeptical, but I held firm and did not buy the sauce.  I brought home the list of ingredients.

UPDATE: I had not written down the name of the product: Frontera Classic Fajita Skillet Sauce.

This interesting sauce, although designed for Mexican food, contains ingredients I don’t associate with Mexican cooking: soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, fish sauce, tamarind paste, ginger, and thyme.  I was curious to find out what it would taste like!  I’d recently bought fish sauce so that we could try making our own pad thai, and we also needed tamarind paste for that.  The only other ingredient in the fajita sauce that we didn’t already have in our kitchen was chipotle chili powder, which I was glad to buy.  I found the fish sauce at the Korean store on our block, tamarind paste at an Indian food store, and chipotle powder in the bulk section at the food co-op.  We finally made the sauce last week. Read more of this post

Go Green in 2017: Drink Better Milk

Did you make a new year’s resolution to “eat better” without defining specifically what you meant? or did you try to start the new year choosing all the healthiest, most responsible foods, and now you’re reeling at the difficulty of changing too many habits at once?

Sometimes it’s best to make one change at a time so you can focus on getting it right.  (To make more changes in a year, try a new month’s resolution each month, or give up something for Lent.)  One change you might make is choosing milk that’s better for your health and the environment.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Where does the milk come from?  Where do the cows live, and where is the milk processed and packaged?  Milk that travels a shorter distance from farm to packaging plant to store is better for the environment because less fuel is burned to transport it.  Here’s a handy online tool for finding your milk’s source.
  • Are hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides involved in the production of the milk?  Did the cows eat grass in a pasture or eat genetically-modified corn or even gummy worms in a crowded barn?  Grass is what cows are made to eat, and the milk of grass-fed cows contains more conjugated linoleic acid, which is good for the heart.  Grassy pastures are better for the environment than concentrated animal feeding operationsCertified organic milk comes from cows who were not treated with hormones or antibiotics, ate food that was not treated with pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and got at least some outdoor grazing time eating fresh grass.  Many small farmers that can’t afford every detail of organic certification still manage to meet most of these standards.
  • How is the milk packaged?  Milk stored in light-permeable containers loses riboflavin and Vitamin A.  If your milk containers are recyclable, will you actually recycle them?  If you won’t recycle, do you have a second use for those empty containers?  If you’re able to buy milk in returnable, refillable containers, that is the option with the lowest environmental impact: Washing and sterilizing a bottle uses much less energy than making a new bottle even from recycled material.
  • Where can you buy the milk?  If the milk that’s best according to all the other criteria is available only from a store that you otherwise wouldn’t visit, and you have to drive to get there, your car is burning fuel, which might be enough to offset the environmental benefits of that milk.  Also, if buying better milk is inconvenient and time-consuming, you’re unlikely to keep up the habit.  Aim to buy the best milk you can get at stores where you’re going anyway, where you can easily stop on your way home from somewhere, or within walking/biking distance (so you can double up with that resolution about exercise!).

I wrote about my family’s milk choices in 2012–check out that article for more detail.  Since then, the milk that used to be our #1 choice is no longer available, but we’ve found a new favorite milk. Read more of this post

Top 10 New Articles of 2016

This isn’t really a blog.  It’s a constantly expanding reference book.  Every year, when I look at the statistics on which articles drew the most readers in the previous year, all or most of the popular articles are more than a year old.

2016 was an unusual year for The Earthling’s Handbook.  Losing my job in June, after working reduced hours since March, meant that I no longer had lunch breaks sitting in front of the computer writing new articles and promoting the site by leaving comments on other blogs.  I’ve found it much harder to work writing and blog-reading time into my schedule while I’m at home, often distracted by my two-year-old’s needs or my twelve-year-old’s desire to use the computer himself, and using a lot of my computer time to look for a new job!  I wrote fewer new articles in 2016 than in past years, but more importantly, I was less active on other blogs.  (By the way, Facebook has not brought me the incredible increase in traffic that “everyone” said it would.  Linking my articles to blog carnivals and commenting on other blogs brings in far more readers.)

Also, in 2016 I became a contributing writer at Kitchen Stewardship.  Each of my monthly articles includes a lot of links to The Earthling’s Handbook–often to articles that are more than a year old.  That causes a surge in overall traffic for a few days after the publication of each new KS article, but a lot of it is going to old articles.

I’m not surprised to see that 2016’s top 10 most-read articles overlap heavily with 2012’s.  All the suspense lies in seeing which of the new articles got the most readers–and the short answer is, book reviews.  If I just gave you the top 10 list, 6 of the articles would be book reviews! See, this is what I mean about the effect of linking to blog carnivals: Quick Lit, hosted by The Modern Mrs. Darcy, brings me a lot of readers every month I can get my act together for a book-review post!

So I’m just going to tell you that the most popular new article of 2016 was Book Reviews: Good, Bad, and Coincidental and that you can read all my book review posts here, and then I’ll get on with

Top 10 New Articles of 2016 That Are NOT Book Reviews

  1. The City of Slim Shadies.  This essay on my experience of working for 17 years with data on the lives of 1,517 high-risk boys is probably the most introspective writing I did all year.
  2. A Person Who Deserves to Wear This Dress.  Cleaning all the way to the back of my closet, I found a surprise that served as both a Halloween costume and a self-esteem boost.
  3. Homemade Halvah: A sweet, nutritious, energy snack!  This is my easiest new recipe of the year.  Vegan, gluten-free, and perfect after a long walk.
  4. Coffee in Moderation: The 7-1-7 Plan.  Here I horrified some of my readers by explaining how I keep my coffee consumption down to a level they would never attempt.
  5. 5 Fish-Free Family-Friendly Meals.  Annoyed by “meatless” menus for Lent that all involved fish, I promoted these vegan, gluten-free ideas: Gallo Pinto, Green Ribbon Lentils, Black Bean Soup, Sloppy Joes, and Masoor Dal.
  6. A Really Real-Life Meal Plan.  When life gives you 7 weeks of craziness, make a blog post based on a photo of your so-called meal plan that hung on the kitchen cabinet…and give yourself some credit for having come up with any healthy, home-cooked meals during that time!
  7. Diaper Changing Duties: What’s Fair?  I was surprised to learn that splitting everything 50/50 doesn’t necessarily result in feelings of cooperation and harmony between parents…so we did it differently with the second baby.
  8. How to Clean a Blackened Baking Pan.  When I made the batch of Honey Baked Lentils and butternut squash that provided the photos for my Kitchen Stewardship article about this tasty, thrifty, nutritious meal, I managed to get one of the pans totally encrusted with burned squash-juice…thus creating an opportunity for photographic documentation of my best pan-cleaning technique!
  9. Cooperation, Communication, and Consequences.  This is one of the few parenting/discipline articles I’ve written lately, featuring examples from a discussion board as well as from my own family.
  10. Get FREE Breadcrumbs for All Your Recipe Needs!  This photo tutorial explains how to turn your random bits of stale bread into useful breadcrumbs and how to freeze them for later use.

There really was more to life than books in 2016!  But I’m grateful for all the excellent books I enjoyed last year–and looking back on it, I’m glad I wrote so many reviews because they help me to remember what I read, what I liked about it, and where I was in my life when I read it.

It’s hard to predict what will happen around here in 2017.  Maybe I’ll get a new job with the same kind of lunch breaks, and my writing will really pick up.  Maybe something different will happen, but I’ll figure out how to do more writing from home.  Either way, thanks for reading, and please stick around!