This isn’t really a blog. It’s an ever-expanding, interlinked reference book. As my new articles keep linking to old articles, and other people also link to those old articles or share them on social media, they continue to draw readers for years after publication. That means that when I look over the WordPress statistics for the year, many of the most popular articles are ones that weren’t new that year and that were popular in previous years as well.
So, let’s look at what was new and interesting this past year!
Top 19 New Articles in 2019
1. Trader Joe’s Thai Yellow Curry Sauce review. Sauce from a jar can spice up your meal, save a lot of time compared to making complex sauce from scratch, and save a lot of money compared to buying restaurant food–but it only works if the sauce is good! This one earned only a C+ grade from this family of Earthlings–it’s better than no curry sauce at all, but we won’t buy this one again. The flavor is not fabulous, probably because it’s made with a lot of the wrong ingredients.
2. How do I stay so thin? As the prevalence of obesity swells all around me, I’ve had a fairly easy time maintaining a healthy weight. I acknowledge that there’s some luck involved in genetics and microbiome, but my tips on portion control and lifestyle habits might be helpful to anyone struggling against the tide of low-quality food swirling all around us as we attempt to lead healthy, active lives! See also my article at Kitchen Stewardship about calibrating your personal metabolic clock.
3. Go Green in 2019: Cut Back on Single-Use Plastic! Please keep on doing this in 2020. I was so glad to see concern over single-use plastic (SUP) getting mainstream attention that I threw myself into activities with a new local organization tackling the SUP problem, and I wrote several articles on this topic during the year, including specifics on choosing less-plastic packaged foods at Kitchen Stewardship.
4. Party Without Plastic! How to serve less trashy refreshments. A crowd of 80+ people viewing a documentary on the SUP problem enjoyed abundant snacks–and the total amount of plastic packaging discarded could be contained in my fist! Here are the specifics on what we served and general strategies for minimizing instant garbage when you serve food to a crowd.
5. Split Pea Curry Soup for Slow Cooker. This nutritious, frugal, vegan, gluten-free, filling main dish is easy to throw together (just some chopping and measuring) and then cooks unattended for 5 hours while you do other things. It’s one of many homemade convenience foods–cook once and pack lunches for the whole week!–whose vital role I explained at Kitchen Stewardship.
6. Pick Up the Receiver. More personal and spiritual than most of The Earthling’s Handbook, this article explains how I felt called out of my Unitarian Universalist childhood into an Episcopal church and then into receiving Communion. When that phone rings for you, it might be that you’re called to a different specific spiritual practice than the one that speaks to me–what I’m urging you to do is pick up and listen.
7. Zero-Waste Name Tags. I was startled and annoyed that every meeting about escaping single-use plastic began with people peeling single-use name tags off a plasticky sheet, like Hello my name is IN THE LANDFILL FOREVER. First I complained; then I fixed it. This is not an elitist approach of buying permanent name tags. I’m using repurposed and durable materials to make name tags that will endure for many meetings, at about the same cost as a pack of sticky trash.
8. Peppermint Tea: Healthy Helper or Just Hot Water? After years of enjoying a daily cup of hot peppermint tea and feeling like it had health benefits, I did some research! Here are the scientifically proven effects (some good, some bad) of peppermint tea on our kidneys, mental peppiness, iron absorption, respiratory tract, sex hormones, gastric troubles, effects of antibiotics, and risk of food poisoning. This is a companion article to my research on rooibos tea at Kitchen Stewardship.
9. Relighting the Tree of Life. As we approached the anniversary of the synagogue shooting here in Squirrel Hill, I reflected on what the world’s thoughts and prayers for Pittsburgh have meant to me. I recognized that the public urgings to light Sabbath candles–so prevalent in our neighborhood that they are incorporated into sidewalk chalk art!–are not just Jews nagging other Jews. Lighting candles is a meaningful act in many religious traditions. It’s a way one little Earthling can fight back against the forces of darkness.
10. Beige Book Reviews. Collecting my thoughts on the books I’d read in the previous four months, I noticed that a lot of the covers had complementary color schemes! Books reviewed here are It Gets Worse, The Empire Striketh Back, Free Food for Millionaires, The Women, Dreamland Burning, Teatime with the Firefly, Girl on a Wire, Oath of Fealty, Murder a la Mode, and The Hypnotist’s Love Story.
11. Printable handout “12 Ways to Cut Back on Single-Use Plastic”–a compact version of my article (#3 above) with 12 concise reminders on 1/3 of a page, perfect as a bookmark or stuck on your refrigerator to remind you of the little changes that clear garbage out of your life. Pittsburghers Against Single-Use Plastic has been handing out these at events.
12. Vinegar Girl, Bright April, Tell the Machine Goodnight. I reviewed these three books, wrapping up the decade by reading and thinking about the effects of immigration policy on science and marriage, how the struggle against racism has changed over time, and what weird new technologies may emerge in the 2020s. Two of the books are adult novels published in the 2010s, but Bright April is a children’s book from 1946 that was very progressive for its time. [I’m going to skip over two more book review posts that qualify for the Top 19 and just refer you to my book review index.]
13. Brown Rice Salad. I’d been making this recipe for years and posted it after the site where I’d originally found it disappeared so that my links to it didn’t work. (Luckily, we had a paper copy in our recipe binder!) This gluten-free concoction fills the role of pasta salad in a picnic, potluck, or workday lunch–and it’s much tastier than my Sunflower Pasta Salad made with brown rice instead of pasta, as I learned when my family compared gluten-free pastas and pasta alternatives in my recipe, at Kitchen Stewardship.
14. Palak Paneer. This is a simple homemade version of the delicious “creamed spinach with cheese” dish popular in Indian restaurants. Our recipe includes suggestions for what you can substitute if you don’t have paneer, as well as some time-saving shortcuts. This isn’t the most authentic or impressive Palak Paneer, but it is yummy! And it’s quick and easy enough that I’ve repeatedly managed to make it and the very easy Garam Masala Baked Lentils that go so well with it and rice at the same time!
15. Now Is the Cool of the Day. 2019 was a very encouraging year in terms of the number of people showing awareness of Earth’s environmental predicament and willingness to do something about it. This is a huge relief to me, after decades of feeling almost alone in my awareness that trashing a planet is wrong. Here I explain one of the roots of that fundamental awareness–a song and its underlying idea that have haunted me since I was 11.
16. Cutting Back on Car Snacks. Here are some specific strategies to help you get through a busy day without eating in a moving car! Some of these will be right for your family, and others won’t; see what works for you. Why would you avoid eating in the car? I give some reasons briefly in this article and in more detail in my article on mindful eating at Kitchen Stewardship.
17. How Repurposing Brings Abundance. This fable is a true story about the roles this bear and its shirt have played over the years.
18. How to get slug slime out of car upholstery. I thought it would be an ordeal; it turned out to be simple! I have to wonder how many of the people who’ve clicked on this article were searching desperately for information on this topic–and how many were just intrigued by the question of how I happened to get into this mess!
19. Two Things About the Climate Strikes. Attending my local climate strike in September, I was struck by an important issue with the way some older people are seeing the movement to stop climate change–and also by one simple way the marchers’ seriousness was expressed.
More articles at Kitchen Stewardship!
Don’t miss my contributing-writer pieces on another site. These are the ones I wrote in 2019 that aren’t linked above:
- Kid-Friendly Meatless Meals from Around the World. This article was my motivation for finally learning to make Bi Bim Bop, a Korean meal that isn’t as challenging as it seemed!
- Therapeutic Mushrooms: Looking Beyond the Supermarket. I suggested an article about cooking with ordinary mushrooms [UPDATE: here it is!] and Katie offered me the chance to review some coffee and hot-cocoa mixes incorporating less common fungi purported to have health benefits. My research on what science says about these fungi, along with my family’s strong opinions on the product samples, became this article.
- Healthy Strategies for Real Food in the Summer. Tips for getting into the kitchen when you can’t stand the heat, ways to cook outside the kitchen, and ideas for meals with little or no cooking.
- The Healthy Mind Cookbook review. I saw a review of this book on another site that was so gushingly positive I thought, is it really that good? It has some weak points, but overall it’s pretty good, with a lot of helpful information about cooking techniques as well as a list of brain-healthy foods and a lot of recipes using them. I learned to make some delicious gluten-free muffins!
- Irradiated Spices: Are They Safe for Your Family? Good news! I found that irradiation is not as scary as it sounds, and there are good safety reasons for doing it, but in fact most of the dried spices and herbs sold in the United States are sterilized by another method.
Coming up in 2020 . . .
I’m planning to work on the series of articles about “how to build a smarter kid” that Daniel and I outlined more than a year ago! Check out the list of topics and help nudge me to fill in the details!
Visit Welcoming the Twenties at Hearth & Soul to see what other writers are working on at the turn of the decade!