Monthly Archives: September 2011

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

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Do the mashed potato!
Image by theilr via Flickr

And by gadget I mean something that goes beyond the regular kitchen stuff (pots, pans, spoons, knives) but not so far as to be an appliance.  A gadget is something that isn’t strictly necessary but makes cooking easier or more fun.  Oh, and they must be multi-taskers!  So here they are, in no particular order. Keep Reading…

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Planned Obsolescence or A Printer’s Tale

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We’ve had problems with our printer.  At first, it didn’t seem like a huge deal but lately we’ve needed to print more and more and it’s becoming more than just inconvenient to not have a functional printer.  Besides, my husband will be starting school in January so we would need to do something about the problem before then.  Our printer was gifted to us by my brother and besides a few software issues, worked rather well for almost a year.  And then something inside snapped.  (I would like to blame our two-year-old daughter, but there were no witnesses so I have no case.)

Our first instinct was to get it repaired.  We called every electronics dealer in the area from the big box stores to the small locally owned businesses.  Everyone gave us the same answer.  Don’t you know?  NOBODY repairs printers anymore!  No one will sell you the part, and  it’s cheaper just to buy a new one!  Shocked and dismayed we started shopping around a bit, but we never actually committed to buying a new printer.  Now, here’s THE REST OF THE STORY.

I just happened to go scavenging today in our building garbage cans, and guess what I found. Yep. A printer. (Ok, I wasn’t really scavenging.  I just took our garbage out and was checking all the garbage cans to see which ones needed to be taken out for garbage day tomorrow.)  But I do think I’m a bit of a horder/bum at heart and I pulled that stinky yet nice looking printer out of the garbage.  Luckily, it was sitting nicely on top of a tied up garbage bag and didn’t have anything gross on it.  I took it inside, hooked it up to our computer (it didn’t have any cables but amazingly enough the cables from our broken printer fit perfectly), downloaded the drivers online and Voila!  A new printer! And not only a printer, but also a scanner/copier/photo printer!  Complete with ink cartridge!

But then, the trial came.  I tried to print a test sheet.  The printer would attempt to load the paper and immediately jam.  I was slightly heartbroken but not too surprised.  My husband said it was hopeless – NOBODY repairs printers, remember?  There’s a reason someone threw it out.  But I was determined to do all I could to save this poor printer (and save me some money).  Undaunted, I turned to the World Wide Web for help.  Turns out, lots of people with this model of printer have paper jams.  And someone figured out how to fix most of them.  The problem?  Some foreign object was blocking the paper.  The solution?  Turn the printer upside down and shake it.  If that doesn’t work, get a piece of cardstock or paper board and force it through the printer.  I forced the paper board through.  Out popped my blockage and the printer was fixed!

So what did I learn from all of this? We live in a consuming, disposable world.  Everything is made cheaply and even designed to break.  And if by some miracle it doesn’t break then it becomes obsolete in a few years and you are forced to buy a new one.  Our entire economy is based on Planned Obsolescence.  Some people say it’s just a conspiracy theory, but there’s sure a lot of evidence that backs up that theory.  All you have to do is look at the numbers.  In 2003, over 63 million working PC’s were trashed. In 2004 it was 325 million.  How much do you want to bet that number has jumped exponentially since then?  One statistic I found says Americans throw away 80% of all manufactured products they buy within six months of being purchased.  Scary.  If you’re interested, there’s a whole book full of examples of this. Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America.  I haven’t read it yet, but when I do, I’ll write a review.  Meanwhile, here’s an interview with the author.

So how do we fight this trend?  Here are a few ideas I have:

If it’s broke, fix it. 

If you don’t want/need it anymore, sell it on craig’s list or ebay or donate it to a local thrift store or charity.  Or give it to me.

If you want something, buy it used on craig’s list or ebay or your local thrift store.

Don’t mistreat your belongings.  Make them last.

When you shop, look at warranties.  The longer the coverage, the longer the device will last.  It’s worth paying a little extra for that.

Don’t just throw away your electronics.  Most of them can be recycled.  Check with local recycling programs and electronics stores.

Don’t fall for the advertising that tells you the latest gadget will make you more popular.  It won’t.  But if you can fix your neighbor’s printer for them, you may just make a new friend.

What do you do to fight Planned Obsolescence?

Remember to be Patient (with Yourself!)

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Our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)  just had it’s annual Relief Society meeting last Saturday.  The General Relief Society Presidency spoke, as well as President Uchdorf, who is 2nd counselor in the 1st Presidency of the church.  I watched the broadcast from our church house.   

I LOVE this talk by President Uchtdorf!!!  In the talk, he mentions 5 things not to forget.  Tears started rolling down my cheeks after the first one, and I spent rest of his talk trying to keep my emotions under control.  I felt as if he were speaking directly to my heart-and I know that I wasn’t the only one touched judging by the sniffs I heard all around me.  This message really uplifted me and helped me to remember that I DON’T have to be perfect and to stop comparing myself to others!  Why do we do that so much?  It reminded me to notice the good in my life and enjoy living in the moment.  I felt the spirit testify truth to me as Pres. Uchtdorf spoke of God’s love for us.  It was so powerful and uplifting, I wanted to share it.  I hope it will be as uplifting for you.

Home Cooking: Pizza

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Pizza

Image via Wikipedia

I believe the first and best way to nurture ourselves, our families, and our world is to bring back the family dinner around a home cooked meal. That doesn’t mean we need to be a slave to the kitchen!  As a certain celebrity chef says, “a good meal is never more than 30 minutes away”.  (Seriously, that’s faster than take-out!)  So with that in mind, here is my solution to delivery pizza. Keep Reading…

Cap and Trade: the compromise that never happened

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A friend of mine mentioned “Cap and Trade” a few weeks ago and I’ve been trying to figure out the latest news on the subject.  Boy, there sure is a lot of information out there!  If you need a refresher on what Cap and Trade  entails,  check out Sightline’s Cap and Trade 101.   As Sightline explains it, the “cap” is a legal limit on the quantity of greenhouse gases that a region can emit each year and “trade” means that companies may swap among themselves  the permission – or permits – to emit greenhouse gases.

“Cap and trade commits us to responsible limits on global warming emissions and gradually steps down those limits  over time. Setting commonsense rules, cap and trade sparks the competitiveness and ingenuity of the marketplace to reduce emissions as smoothly, efficiently, and cost-effectively possible.”

– Cap and Trade 101

Well, that sounds nice, but not everyone sees it that way.  A lot of economists are worried about the volatility this kind of trading would introduce to the market, making risk management difficult.  (Cap and Trade and Risk Management).  Others are worried about an increase in gas, oil, and coal prices that will be passed on to consumers.  And still others are concerned that it offers too much leeway to big industries that have a lot of influence in Washington.  Of course, a lot of these issues were addressed in the Waxman-Markey Bill that was introduced in Congress in 2009.  The bill would cap carbon emissions at 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, gradually lowering the cap to 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. It was the most comprehensive energy bill to be introduced in a generation complete with built-in protections for energy consumers.  So what happened?  The bill made it through the House intact but will probably never become a law.  Basically, Big oil and gas companies thought it was asking too much and environmentalist groups didn’t think it was enough.  Sounds like a great compromise to me.  But then you get all those lobbyists involved, provisions are made, and nothing gets through.

As the New York Times puts it, “Why did cap and trade die? The short answer is that it was done in by the weak economy, the Wall Street meltdown, determined industry opposition and its own complexity.”

So where are we now?  It seems like Cap and Trade has become a dirty phrase in political circles these days.  There have been other attempts at legislation that are similar in nature, but they tend to all get the boot, as demonstrated by this article in The American.

So here’s what I think:

I think there needs to be better regulation and charge on pollution.  It’s high time those big polluters paid for the externalities they’ve been pushing on the rest of us.  After all, most businesses aren’t socially responsible enough to fork out the money to implement new technologies and cut back on pollution without some kind of incentive and the only entity with that kind of power is the government.  A cap and trade policy has already been used  to cut down on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in an effort to combat acid rain.  It appears to have worked.  So why can’t we do that again?  In order to really make a difference any Cap and Trade law would have to have a stringent cap, high priced permits, stiff punishments for cheaters and no exceptions!  Sounds good.  Maybe I should be a congresswoman and write a bill.  But we all know it won’t go anywhere.  Any emissions bill that gets passed is going to have to be a compromise for both sides.  We have to start somewhere. Obviously there are all things we can do individually to reduce our personal carbon emissions or our “carbon footprint” but the biggest changes need to happen at the major sources. (see the EPA’s charts.)  For example, I can turn off the lights and unplug appliances when I’m not using them.  But wouldn’t it be much better if my electricity was being generated by wind in the first place? I know this seems like a no brainer, but when my local university tried to build a wind turbine in the mouth of a canyon, the rest of the city threw a fit.  I’m sure not every town is this silly, environmentally speaking, but this is the kind of thinking that kills progress.

So…. enough ranting.  Stay informed.  Vote!   And let your congressmen know what is really important to you.

What do you think?  Which are our best options?

The World of Rhythm Part II

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Click Here for World of Rythym Part I

And now, to answer last weeks question: How does having a rhythm to our days help me stop living in C.H.A.O.S.? (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) There are a few different reasons.

One.  I actually have cleaning planned into my day!  I know, it’s crazy.  But I’ve found that if I am planning on cleaning the Kitchen and Living Room on Saturday, it gets done.  I plan other things around it and that makes sure I have a block of time to do said cleaning!  I’ve also noticed that I plan ahead-such as making sure the house is tidy  on Friday night so that I don’t spend my time when I’m supposed to be cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms tidying other rooms.  Now, whether the afore mentioned rooms stay cleaned until Monday is another matter. 

Two.  It (meaning rythym, or at least thinking and reading about rythym) has helped me come to peace with my daily routines (or tedious chores as I usually call them).  Here is a quote from the book Heaven on Earth by Sarifa Oppenheimer that shows what I mean.  “A major way we show our children that we value them is in undertaking the never-ending round of “caring” activities life requires.  It is not only in housekeeping and the preparation of food, in the arranging of the flow of life, but it is primarily though our inner attitude that we show love.  It is not just what we do; it is who we are, in the doing of the things, that speaks volumes to our children.  This is love made visible.”  I love this quote because it helps me step back away from the sometimes mundane and unpleasant tasks I do as a wife and mother and realize WHY I am doing these things.  It IS love made visible.  I do these things because I love my husband and my children.  I want our home to be a refuge from the world, and all the things I do from cooking & cleaning to organizing & washing clothes work towards that goal.  It is remembering this as I am doing (and teaching) these “caring” activities that helps me to have a better attitude and enjoy the task at hand.

So for the past month I have been striving to plan cleaning into my day and keep in mind that I am doing it because I love my family.  I have also been trying to show my enjoyment of my daily tasks so that my children will want to join in or at least see that I am taking pleasure in my role.  In that, however, I do better somedays than others.  The other day I was talking to my husband on the phone telling him how I had been cleaning ALL MORNING.  Then I noticed my 5 yr. old watching me and added “It’s been so MUCH FUN!”  “nu-uh, mom!”  she said.  “You’re JOKING”.  So I’ll keep trying on that.

Radical Homemakers

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Cover of "Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming ...

Cover via Amazon

Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes

“[T]he major work of society needs to happen inside our homes, putting the homemaker at the vanguard of social change”

I came across this book completely by accident.  I was in the library browsing for books on making cheese when I saw it.  The title “Radical Homemakers” immediately caught my attention.  “Wait, that’s me!” 

So I checked the book out. Keep Reading…

Tie Dress

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Thanks for all your responses to environmental issues, posted and un-posted!  I’ll be addressing a few specific issues in the coming weeks.  While I work on putting together some good information on that, I thought this week you might be interested in seeing my latest attempt at up-cycling.  I’m not the greatest seamstress, (despite my genetic heritage)  but I’m quite pleased with the outcome.  Here’s how I made my very own tie dress.

I picked up most of these tie’s from my local thrift store.  Usually their ties run anywhere from $2-$5 each, but every once in a while when they have too many they bag them up and sell 8-10 ties for $2 or $3 a bag.  I bought two bags and ended up using 12 ties for my dress.

In order to get the maximum amount of fabric per tie, I took all the ties apart by pulling out the thread that runs up the back of the tie and removing the thick tie interior.  Then I did my best to iron out the creases.  This made the ties easier to work with.

It may be a good idea to hand wash your ties before you start sewing just in case any of them decide to shrink. Or you could just dry clean the dress forever, but where’s the fun in that?

I sewed all the ties together lengthwise making sure the fat tie bottoms lined up and I ended up with this:

back

front

When I had enough ties sewed together to wrap all the way around me, I then decided how long I wanted the dress to be and I cut the top of the dress, making sure to leave enough fabric to make a hem.  I cut the top so that the back of the dress was a little lower than the front. I hemmed the top and added a zipper.  Obviously, the sewing is flawed and I’m sure yours will look better if you decide to make one yourself.

I took the thin pointed tie ends that I had cut off the top of the dress, sewed them so the tips were even, trimmed and hemmed the other side and used these strips as straps for the dress:

I sewed on the straps and Voila! A Tie Dress!

I love how the natural flare of the ties translates in to a flare in the skirt.  And if you wanted to accentuate the waistline a little more, it wouldn’t be difficult to shape the waist as you sew up the ties.

I teamed the dress up with a white sweater and a string of pearls and wore it around on Sunday.  I probably should’ve taken the iron to it again….

I think I’ll tie a ribbon or one of my extra ties around the waist for some extra flair next time!  If you make one yourself, let me know how it goes!

Thanks for reading!

The World of Rhythm Part I

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“Rhythm is the magic word for parents and educators of young children.  Young children thrive on a simple, flexible rhythm that carries them through their day, through each week and through the slowly unfolding years of their lives.  Our children, who live closer to basics than we do, are profoundly affected by the life rhythms we determine for them.  Many problems we experience with our children can be addressed by setting a simple daily rhythm that allows their needs to be met in a timely way.”

                                                                                                                            Sharifa Oppenheimer author of Heaven on Earth

Recently I have been realizing how chaotic my life has become.  “Are you living in C.H.A.O.S.?” writes Daryl Hoole in The Ultimate CareerThis stands for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome, and yes, I am!  My struggle to become organized has been a long and not very organized journey.  However, I am not giving up the struggle, and I have been reading two books that have really helped me on my way.  Both are books written by Waldorf teachers; You are your Child’s first Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy and Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer. 

In my study for my Bachelors in Early Childhood Education, we learned that young children need structure.  Things that are predictable and familiar are comforting to a young child.  Imagine that your entire day was planned by someone else.  You would have no idea what was coming, and that would be stressful.  Fear of the unknown is a very common fear.  Knowing this, with my first and second born I have tried to do things somewhat the same, and have meals around the same time.  Not much else was organized, though. 

Now, a year after my third child, we need some sort of organization to our lives!  I have resisted writing down (and sticking to) a schedule because I am against strict schedules for babies that dictate feeding, sleeping, etc.  That is why I love this idea of rhythm.  It is a more fluid way of planning the day.  Making sure some elements are the same and in the same order, but not necessarily at a strict time.  Of course, general times are good, but keeping a rhythm feels more freeing than a schedule.  Dancy explains it this way.  “Creating rhythm in one’s life doesn’t mean to be rigid and dogmatic.  There is still plenty of room for special activities and surprises (and sometimes the piper has to pay the next day when the child has missed a needed nap or had a late, exciting evening- but it’s worth it!)”   

Also in support of rhythm, Dancy says Rhythm is a blessing for parents, because it enables the daily activity of life to flow more smoothly, require less energy, and become a platform that supports the family, its activities, and interactions”.  Sounds good, huh?  After reading all the suggestions in the book, I was fired up to get us super organized and on a schedule the next day.  It’s not quite that easy, however, and I invite you to do as Oppenheimer suggests: “be gentle with yourself and set an easy pace as you move your life toward the rhythm you’d like.  Abrupt changes are often too dramatic, too difficult, and therefore not successful.  You can try just one thing, and when you and your child have integrated it well, then move on to the next.  Most of all, enjoy!” 

So, even though I have planned out a rhythm and several different things I’d like to start, the thing I’ve chosen to focus on is bedtime, and a weekly schedule.  We have been doing these for about a month now and I have loved incorporating them.  For our bedtime routine really starts with dinner, because if dinner is not on the table around 6pm, then the rest is kind of thrown off. 

6:30 is bath time

6:50 pajamas- lay out clothes for tomorrow

7:00 bedtime snack- always ½ bagel with butter and honey and warm milk with cinnamon and honey

7:15 brush teeth, get in bed to read a picture book, just one

7:25 read scriptures, say prayer, candle time (a ritual where we light a candle and say a verse from a song)

7:30 lights out-  stay in the room and tell them one story as they fall asleep

When we first started it was tough to fit bath time in, and we still miss it occasionally.  Also my son would not eat the bedtime snack of toast with butter and honey, but he loves a bagel with butter and honey.  It’s good to play around with things for a bit and find out what works best for your family. 

Now for the weekly Rhythms.  Oppenheimer gave the guidance that “ when choosing weekly activities, remember the golden rule: Simple, Simple, Simple!  A walk to the park one day, a story hour at the library another and a weekly play date with a friend is a busy week for a child up to the age of four”. 

Our schedule looks like this

Monday– Park day in the morning, Family Home Evening after dinner.  We have dinner half an hour earlier to allow for this.

Tuesday– Make appointments (doctor, dentist, car, whatever) for this day in the morning.  If no appointments yea!  Free play!

Wednesday– Library Day

Shopping in the afternoon

Thursday– Park Day

Parent/child date after dinner

Friday– play dates

Saturday– cleaning in the morning

Family activity in the afternoon

Sunday– Nature walk in the morning, Sunday stations

Church in the afternoon

So, whew! That is what we have been working on lately.  I love how it has changed our bedtime from hurried and hectic to peaceful (mostly) and enjoyable. But wait!  How does this help my C.H.A.O.S.?  This and more next week in The World of Rhythm Part II. 

 In the meantime, what sorts of rhythms do you have in your home?  What would you like to incorporate?

72-hour kits – Food

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When we put together our 72-hour kits two years ago, I wanted to include food in them.  So I printed out a list from the internet and followed it exactly.  Turns out it wasn’t a good fit for our family.  I’ve since made some changes to that menu and I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Keep reading…