The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Friday, June 29, 2007

Low Impact Lifestyle

I recently stumbled across 2 blogs that I found very thought provoking, both having to do with sustainable living /low impact lifestyles. The first, No Impact Man, is written by a man who has challenged himself to reduce his environmental impact to zero for 1 year through a series of serious lifestyle changes: no electricity, no car, not buying anything new, recycling, etc. The second, Living Plastic Free in 2007, is written by a woman who has pledged not to buy anything plastic for 1 year. Both blogs are fascinating reading, and of course I followed a whole bunch of links to other blogs and ended up spending a couple of hours reading about low impact living. So I am somewhat inspired to reduce my environmental footprint. Here is what I did today toward that goal:
1) I presented my own traveling coffee mug at the coffee cart this morning. I know, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but this simple act kept 1 styrofoam cup, 1 paper bag and a couple of coffee-stained napkins out of the trash pile.
2) And I have also decided to join Crunchy Chicken's Local Food Month Challenge which starts July 1. Here's the basic premise:

During the month of July you're going to increase your consumption of locally and sustainably grown food and decrease your consumption of imported and packaged food.

I don't think I will be making my own soymilk, but local produce is so abundant during the summer months that this should be a relatively easy way to get started. And with the kids GFTS, I look forward to preparing mostly vegetarian meals from fresh local foods.

Monday, June 25, 2007


1. Son #1 graduated on Friday night. When the graduates marched in, I almost lost it, almost started crying, but I held it together. It's kinda weird, being on the other side. I don't have vivid memories of my HS graduation, but I do remember that I had very similar feelings to what my son has expressed-- that it's alot of hype and that the ceremonies are fairly meaningless. I wasn't unwilling to go, and I knew it was a big deal for my parents, so I did go and I'm sure there are at least 100 pictures (slides) in the family archive to mark the occasion (My dad took pictures galore, all the time, anytime-- I can just imagine if he had lived during the era of the digital camera). So son #1 did the same thing, even coming home to do 5 hours of school service to earn the privilege of attending graduation after the alarm clock fiasco. And my mother and DH and I were able to swell with pride and admire the man he has become. I wasn't expecting to feel this emotional, but it was truly one of the most joyous moments of my life as a parent.

2. After graduation, son #1 went to a party, an all-night event. He called us at 5:45 to let us know he was leaving to drive back to camp because he needed to be there at 8:00. While I was a little concerned about him driving after very little or no sleep, I had to admire his sense of responsibility. I also realized that we have to trust him, his judgements, because he is heading off to college and we won't be involved in these decisions anymore. So joyous moment quickly followed by difficult moment when I knew I had to let go a little more.

3. My mom went back to Florida yesterday afternoon, but not before we indulged in some "retail therapy." My mom is a champion shopper, especially on someone else's buck! We did have fun and I did buy some clothes to fill in some holes in my wardrobe.

4. When I got back from taking mom to the airport, the house was awful quiet. Yes my kids are Gone For The Summer (GFTS). And in celebration, I opened a jar of mayonnaise. Both of my kids hate mayonnaise, they going running at the sight or smell of it. But with them GFTS, I made cole slaw with real dressing with mayonnaise instead of an asian-style slaw with an oil/vinegar dressing.

5. I found this awesome website-- Vegetarian Mealplans. I haven't prepared any of these recipes yet, but they seem to be perfect for weekday meals. I'm already thinking about tempeh sloppy joes!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Back to Basics

First an update on the Montrose 19. Our little suburban school district has made it into the NY Times once again. The students were arraigned and pleaded Not Guilty to the felony charge of placing a false bomb. They are barred from graduation ceremonies this evening. Son #1 came home and did 5 hours of school service in order to regain the privilege of attending his graduation. The principal did get all of the senior students into the auditorium and had a conversation with them about the situation. He did allow them to express their anger and although he will not budge on the issue of them attending graduation, he did listen to suggestions about how they could acknowledge them. I was glad he was at least willing to listen and didn't just lecture them about "appropriate behavior."

Although the events of this past week haven't made it any easier to get back to basics, I have been struggling the past month or so to get all the pieces working together. I have eaten too many bagels! I have not done any strength training for 2 weeks! I have used lack of time to prepare food as an excuse for eating poorly. I have ridden my bike and run some miles, but I haven't been able to do anything consistently. But there's no use punishing myself with negative thoughts. Every morning presents a new opportunity to get it right, and yesterday was one of those days. I went to the gym and purchased another 12 pack of personal training sessions. I then had MPT (My Personal Trainer) beat the crap out of me in 30 minutes. After not lifting for 2 weeks, I am paying for it today. I am sore everywhere. Very. sore. My kids are both now officially GFTS (gone for the summer) so it will be easier to spend time taking care of myself. Son #1 is actually coming home today just for the day because he is graduating from high school, but that won't put a dent in my lifestyle. It does a bunch of other things, like fill me with pride and cause me to pause and reflect, but I've already written about that.

My mom is visiting (because of son #1's graduation), so in the late afternoon we went to the gourmet supermarket and then I did some cooking. My mom never tasted collards so I cooked up a whole bunch of beautiful bright green collards with onions and craisins and toasted pine nuts. I made this gazpacho for my vegetarian self, adding scallions and fresh cilantro and some red pepper too. I made salmon steaks with a teriyaki glaze for the meateaters and we had a delicious dinner. Mom liked the collards.

Black Bean Gazpacho
  • (2) 15 oz. cans black beans
  • 4 peeled and finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (2 limes)
  • 1 quart tomato juice
  • 2 peeled, seeded, finely chopped cukes
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes
  • 2 finely chopped onions
  • salt, pepper, and sugar

Drain and rinse the beans. Add garlic, vinegar, lime juice, tomato juice, cukes, tomatoes, and onions. Add whatever other vegetables you like in your gazpacho. Blend and chill.

Season with salt, pepper, and a little sugar.

To speed up prep, put balck beans, tomato juice and canned tomatoes in the frig.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Senior Prank Gone Bad

This has been a very interesting week in our school district. My son is a senior and will be graduating this Friday. Since he had no final or Regents exams, he went to work last Saturday (he works at a camp in Pennsylvania). Before he left, he contributed $5 to a "senior prank" which involved placing 100 alarm clocks in the school, all set to go off at 9:15 am on the last day of classes. What he didn't know was that the prank involved breaking into the school on Sunday night to hide the clocks. Well, that's when things started to go bad. The kids set off an alarm, the police showed up, and when they saw alarm clocks duct taped to the walls, they had to call the bomb squad. In the end, 19 seniors were arrested (those that were in the building as well as the "lookouts") and they are being charged with a felony. Their day in court is today. These students will graduate but they are not being permitted to attend graduation ceremonies. An additional 40 students (in a class of 215) who financed the prank (including son #1) must perform 5 hours of Community service (cleaning the schools under the supervision of the custodial staff) in order to earn back the privilege of attending graduation.

Now I have mixed feelings about the way the school district is handling this. They have very clearly drawn a line in the sand and will not back down from these decisions. While everyone knows that this was an incredibly stupid thing to do, even the administration has admitted that they never intended this to be about bombs. And while the police had no choice but to bring in the bomb-sniffing dog, I'm not sure the students should be charged with a felony. I don' think that will stick once they go to court today, but I think it was a bit heavy handed. And as for my son and his cohort, the original statement was that they would be required to do "community service," which my son was perfectly willing to do in Pennsylvania. Having them clean the schools smells more like punishment than community service. These kids were buying into something far more innocuous and are being punished for something that was really out of their control. He is coming home for the day to "do his time," but he has made it clear he is doing this for his grandmothers. My mom is coming up from Florida for graduation and my mother-in-law (who is dying) will certainly want to see the photos.

All of this was, of course, reported in the local paper, but we also got space in the New York Times over the weekend. Unlike the local paper, the NY Times got it right. These events are a commentary on "these times," and the aftermath of Columbine and Virginia Tech. That forced the administration to draw a line in the sand and watch students and families line up on both sides of the line. Two friends of son #1 are among those arrested. I feel for them and their families. I hope all goes well today when they appear before the town judge.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Short Answer

Son #1 works as a counselor at a summer camp. The staff arrives in dribs and drabs in the weeks preceding the arrival of the campers. They call it "work camp," and I'm sure they do work setting up the facilities, etc. I think it's also a good time. No kids to worry about, nobody cares if you're a total slob, 3 meals a day, and party time. Since he has no final exams (he took AP exams in May), he will be going to camp on Saturday. As in the day after tomorrow. When camp ends, he will be home for a week or so, and then he's off to college! So these are probably the final days of him living at home. I know, some kids return home after college and parents have a hard time getting rid of them! Sure, he'll be home in a couple of weeks for graduation, and then again when he has college orientation. But right now I'm looking through a short lens and I am coming to terms with this reality. So this is it. It has forced me to think about so many things, but basically, did DH and I do good job preparing him for this? And the short answer is yes. Senior prom was last week and when I look at the pictures of him and his friends and classmates, I see grown-ups, adults, beautiful men and women. Yes, there's that whole "where did the time go" feeling, but mostly it's about the future, what lies ahead for them. And because the short answer is yes, I see wonderful opportunities, discovery, and new horizons.

But just short of the new horizons is the beachfront, which right now is littered with piles of laundry, a shopping list, and a very messy house. This is also my reality. I just feel a little bit happier tackling everyday life when the short answer is yes.

Monday, June 04, 2007

GSIU Week #23 and Halloweens Past

I had a great week on the bike. I rode on Monday (Memorial Day), Thursday evening, and Saturday and Sunday. Just under 100 miles. On Saturday I led a D+ ride through my corner of the county. It wasn't that long(22 miles) but it was hilly, so we moved slow, as slow as the slowest riders. We stopped for ice cream at my favorite homemade ice cream shop and there was only 1 person working, so that took a while. Then 2 of my slowest riders missed a turn, and I had to climb back up to the main road to either find them or get cell phone coverage to try to call them, so that took some time. It took forever, but we got thru it. On Sunday I met up with a couple of my riding friends for a 25 miler. None of us had ridden this route before, but when Lady J looked at the cue sheet, she gasped,"Whipporwill?" This ride featured hills aplenty and 3 of them were especially evil (including aforementioned Whipporwill Rd). But if you want to get stronger you gotta Dab the Wussy. So this past week, stepping it up was all about the hills. And it felt good.

On Saturday night DH and I had dinner/BBQ at a friends house with a few other friends. One of these friends brought along a slide projector and a carousel of slides taken at Halloween parties past..... really past... like 20-25 years ago past. With pictures of boyfriends and girlfriends before spouses, and spouses that are no longer spouses, people who could not be identified, and others that made you wonder, whatever happened to that person? But some of these pictures had us howling, laughing so hard we were crying, and remembering the days when we could stay awake into the wee hours. It was a blast, a blast from the past. Now we all plan to dive into our photo collections and do this again. And hopefully we will still be looking at photos of parties past 25 years from now!