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Regarding Cliff Cornell and war resisters

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Posted on : 7:08 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

To whom it may concern,

I am an American citizen that immigrated legally to Canada three years ago after sponsorship by my husband. I plan to become a Canadian citizen as soon as possible because I no longer want to be affiliated with my former country. Why? Because of the many atrocious, illegal acts of war against other nations. Even though I didn't come here for political reasons, I love Canada and feel proud of our peaceful heritage.

The American military is not the same as the Canadian military. It takes advantage of young Americans, sends them off to wars to die for an unjust cause, and leaves them with little economic benefits. Recruiters lie to so many underprivileged young people just to meet recruitment quotas. Just because a soldier swears an oath to protect their country doesn't mean they should willingly become pawns for profiteering warmongers. Canada did not participate in the Iraq war, and I feel ashamed that we would send them away from sanctuary, just to be treated as criminals for the rest of their lives - simply because they stood up for what we as Canadians believe in.

Cliff Cornell is facing deportation and will face court martial. He will lose his rights and be treated as US military property because he fought for peace. STOP his deportation and allow him and all other Iraq war resisters to apply for permanent resident status. Allow them to be treated as refugees, with compassion and understanding that they stand for what we stand for. They took a big risk coming here and they are not trying to hide, they are trying to become legal Canadians. Don't punish them for this act of courage.

I am taking a position that is offensive to my own family and to my former country. I take it because it is the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

Nicole Faires
Nanaimo, BC


This was sent to MP's, the immigration minister Jason Kenney, and various party leaders. If you are interested in supporting soldiers who are resisting the Iraq war, email these addresses.  It doesn't have to be a long email.  Just tell them to STOP deportation and allow these innocent people to apply for permanent resident status.
Kenney.j@parl.gc.ca
minister@cic.gc.ca
wrzesnewskyj.b@parl.gc.ca
chow.o@parl.gc.ca
st-cyr.t@parl.gc.ca

If you are in Canada, email your local MP as well. For more information check out the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Fun Things to Do With Algae

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Posted on : 1:38 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Algae has all kinds of uses.  A chef wants to grow it for food for people, and in the video above MIT built an algae photobioreactor which was used to gobble up CO2, and is now part of a biodiesel plant.  You can make your own home photobioreactor to grow your own algae (its kind of like taking care of a saltwater fish tank).  I am not sure how practical it is to eat algae (except maybe in sushi), but I think CO2 removal and fuel are real winners.    


This is an interesting video below, of a guy that makes regular old gasoline out of algae that he grew. Same polluting fuel, but totally renewable, which begs the question... why are we fighting wars and drilling for this stuff?  His website is very informative as well.  I guess Bill Gates thought it might work and has invested in a company that promises to produce 10,000 barrels a day of this stuff - Green Crude.

Tomorrow is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life...

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Posted on : 9:58 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I found two great little end of the year reviews, one on Holistic Mama and one at Two Frog Home and I want to combine them into one ginormous end of the year post, but I have to be quick because it's 10am and I'm supposed to have everything packed today... The way I'll combine these is to use Mon's subjects and add goals inspired by Kathie.  Yah!


Summary (3 sentence max)
It was another crazy year for us but I think that this next year will be the year of sublime tranquility.  Peace and harmony are the family goals, for ourselves and the world.  There's no rules on how we'll do this.

Fun
Play more games, more board games, more group video games.  This year was the year of free dates and Rock Band.  I think I just want more of that.  More family visits too.

Challenging
Right now finding solutions for Annie is the most challenging.  This year let's hope the steps we are taking will get her some of the help she needs in dealing with her sensitivities and anger issues.

Thoughtful
Being mindful of my own emotions and reactions to situations would benefit my parenting more.  We live in a world that demeans self-control and glorifies self-indulgence, and as much as I wish we could all be willy-nilly whatever we want, the truth is that this has caused debt, parenting problems, and ecological issues.  

An insight/thought
“What we do upon some great occasion will probably depend on what we already are; and what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline.” - H.P. Liddon

Website/blog Find
I found so many this year... Spud.ca was a great find, and I use Tastespotting.com all the time now.  I also will be getting many of my seeds from Salt Spring Seeds, and my homebirth supplies from MamaGoddess.   

Words (quote/reading/book recommendation/1 sentence review!/anything word-related)
I highly recommend Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  That was my big read of the year, and this year I would like to do more reading. Actually I want to download more audio books, which is what I actually did.  I get bored when I knit (I like to knit) so it's nice to listen to something while I do it.

Note to Self
Start a big garden
Get some more cookbooks and food preservation books
Preserve as much of the harvest without electricity
Make a bunch of herbal remedies from the garden
Make sourdough
Start teaching piano after baby is born
Build up food storage again
Finish my book I'm working on

Favourite Tip/Idea from web
Furoshiki was an awesome find, but I think some of the most valuable info I found was on Asperger's from Our Asperger's Teenage Boy.   It was eerie and invaluable to find parents dealing with a teenager extremely similar to our kindergartner and help us to make decisions in how to help her.

I love New Year's eve - it's a night of new beginnings, and I always love cleaning the house right before.  This time it really is a new beginning because I get to pack all of our worldly belongings and start the new year in a new home.  Happy New Year everyone!

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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Posted on : 8:42 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

We watched this last night, and I have to say I probably shouldn't have when I am pregnant.  It is not really a happy ending and it will make you cry - except if you are pregnant this might turn into huge quaking sobbing movie rather than just a tearjerker.  Don't get me wrong - it was very good.  Just teary. lol


The movie is loosely based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but rather than losing everything, movie Benjamin Button leads a full life and reminds me of Elwood P. Dowd from one of my favorite movies, Harvey.  Benjamin lives as a sort of spectator to the people and events around him.  His unique backwards perspective on life, starting as a child in an old man's body living in an old folk's home, then growing to middle age and gradually to a confused and angry child with dementia, forces him to watch everyone around him grow old an die.  He is very much at peace with this, although it causes him pain, and he appreciates each moment with each person his wandering life brings him.

The story is also about an old woman on her death bed in a hospital that is in the middle of a hurricane, and her daughter.  Her daughter is reading her mother Benjamin Button's journal as the storm rages stronger around them.  As they relive the story of Benjamin's life it becomes clear that Benjamin and the old woman loved each other despite their physical age difference and the circumstances that pulled them apart.  In several parts of the movie the couple finds themselves in a storm but they choose to ignore it and be together.  It becomes a love that transcends time and physical attraction.

Many people had mixed feelings about the movie.  Most felt that Brad Pitt's character Benjamin Button wasn't very appealing or that he didn't have enough emotional attachment.  The truth is that I don't think the movie was about the character at all.  He cared nothing at all for himself and is the most trustworthy, loyal person you could ever meet, but it was more about his perspective than his personality.  His incredible love for Cate Blanchett's character and her eventual understanding of who he was (or how good he was) became more important to me than how much I liked Benjamin.  

The acting was phenomenal, and even more amazing was the makeup and digital effects that made people age.  You'll have a hard time believing that Brad Pitt is not really 80 years old.  

I think the movie seemed a lot like some of the Chinese films I like.  In many Chinese films the character and even the plot are often secondary to the moral of the story or the relationships.  Benjamin is forced to live deliberately, and I like that. :)

After we watched it, John and I were discussing our favorite movies.  Here's my list of favorite most meaningful movies (including documentaries), in no particular order:

Pleasantville
The Dead Poets Society
Harvey
American Beauty
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Island
Wall-E
The Shawshank Redemption
Dogma
Schindler's List
Fight Club
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Life of David Gale
The Day the Earth Stood Still (original for heaven's sakes)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Jimmy Stewart)
Vanilla Sky
Edward Scissorhands
Hero
Metropolis (the Rintaro anime version)
The Matrix (#2 is probably the most meaningful)
Phonebooth
The Life Aquatic
Spirited Away
Lost in Translation
I Heart Huckabees (meaningful because the girl who just wants to wear a bonnet is me)
Little Women (Winona Ryder version)
Crash
Bowling for Columbine
Fahrenheit 9/11
Planet Earth
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Super Size Me
Jesus Camp
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
Grizzly Man

Canadian Police Chase

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Posted on : 11:53 PM | By : Nic | In :

Describing the Color Green

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Posted on : 12:46 PM | By : Nic | In : ,


Post number 230 on 12/30!  lol It must be my lucky post.  


How do you describe the color green to someone who has never seen it? 

"Well... it's a lot like blue... only different.  It's a peaceful color and it's got a million variations.  It's a mixture of blue and yellow and it makes someone altogether original..."

There really is absolutely no way to describe that color at all without seeing it.  A similar thing is happening with the word 'Green' to describe ecological principles.  I read over the holidays that 44% of holiday shoppers wanted to give green gifts, which is pretty good, or better than it used to be.  Half of those people would be willing to pay between 10-25% more than they would on a non-green gift.  Even better, 50% of all shoppers thought that a company's environmental history would influence their shopping decisions.  

But there was a problem when these people actually went shopping.  In the end only 21% of people thought that a company's environmental history had made them purchase something else, but this must have been a guess on their part because only 7% could remember what they had bought.

So what does 'green' mean?

1. Something that is green is part of a closed loop.  This means that when a product is made, the recycling of that product is built into the design.  One poor example of this is plastic water bottles- the company uses a plastic easily recycled, makes sure that there is incentive to recycle the bottles, and then makes makes it a goal to use 100% recycled plastic in future production.  A better example of a more practically applied closed loop is to purchase recycled paper without bleach, use it to the max, then mash it into pulp so you can make paper again, and if that gets worn out, throw it in the compost.  A closed loop to me means that nothing ends up in the trash.  This is also called 'cradle to cradle'.

2. Green means local.  Lots of things labeled green in the store were trucked thousands of miles using massive quantities of fossil fuels.  Purchasing locally made items diminishes the pollution and also the dependence on petroleum.  This means a complete shift away from globalization to local energy, food, materials, and supplies like cloth.  

3.  Something green doesn't have ANY man-made chemicals.  One company I have issue with right now is Seventh Generation which is marginally better than other companies but is also guilty of greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a company tells customers they are ecological or environmentally friendly but really aren't.  Most companies are guilty of this right now.  For example, Seventh Generation dish soap, which I have purchased before, contains sodium laureth sulfate which is pretty common.  It makes soap foam, and also causes skin damage and irritation and is absorbed into the body through the skin where it mimics estrogen.  Yuck!

4. A green thing used very little energy and water to produce.  This is pretty simple and yet so very complicated when it comes to stuff like technology, food and other things we think of as necessities.  This means better efficiency, design and development of closed loop systems as part of production.  For example, you would be designing food production to minimize water runoff, soil loss, and drainage, and recycling greywater.

5.  Green means reused and repurposed.  People that bought an old house, filled it with old furniture and walk around in their thrift store clothes are much more green than the showy suburbanites walking around in expensive celebrity-made organic clothes (like Edun) and buying soy lattes and fair trade coffee at Starbucks.  Recycling wins hands down, and even if you can't afford all the organic food in the world, you CAN afford to recycle because it's cheaper than not recycling.  Everyone's #1 goal should be not having a trash bin in their house.

However, it's difficult to always be green when shopping. Here's the green shopping rules:
#1. Never, ever impulse shop.  Plan and research each purchase, no matter how small.  
#2. Know the companies you buy from.  Research how they treat third world countries and the environment.
#3. When buying a gift, less is more.  Stick to something that lasts forever, like books or tools.
#4. When buying for your home, less is more.  The less ingredients the better, the less miles the better, the less man-made materials the better.

Overpopulated?

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Posted on : 8:51 AM | By : Nic | In : , , ,

In all my reading about sustainability and peak oil I often find that overpopulation is also one of the causes (or scapegoats) commonly mentioned.  It is true that there is more people than ever and that means we are having more babies than ever, even when many cultures are limiting the number of their children to 1 or 2.  In fact, the world average is 2.65, while in the 1950's it was 5.  People also live longer though, so even though we have about 6.7 billion people, by 2050 there is projected to be 11 billion.  


But how much is 11 billion people?  

Suppose we gave all of those people 1 acre of land (let's not worry about whether it is farmable or not) in all the fairly flat, large regions and avoiding the Amazon...
United States = 2,428,202,240 acres
Mexico = 487,429,120 acres
Canada = 2,466,614,400 acres
   ....we are almost at the current population so far - that's 5,382,245,760 acres.  Let's keep going...
Australia = 1,912,897,280 acres
Europe =  2,515,200,000 acres
Central America = 129,428,857 acres
Africa = 7,467,902,720 acres
TOTAL = 17,407,674,617 acres

Alternatively, we could put everyone in the world in Asia, which has 11,015,680,000 acres.  But more realistically if we gave everyone an acre everywhere in the world besides Asia and South America, leaving those places as a kind of nature reserve I guess, we would have about 6 billion extra acres.  But those are simply some leeway for all of the unlivable, un-farmable land in regions that are too cold, to rocky, too wet, etc.

So it is possible to fit all those people onto the earth and spread them out, but then we have another problem.  Not everyone can support themselves on an acre like the Dervaes family from Path to Freedom simply because not all land is that fertile and not everyone lives in California.  It is possible that with tons of compost, and utilizing many season-extending techniques most people could do it.  But it would require 11 billion people all becoming sustainable agriculturalists. It also would mean everyone on earth changing their lifestyle.  In India currently it takes 2.4 acres to keep someone fed and clothed.  In Western countries it takes 20.  Everyone on earth would have to become self-sufficient.  Possibly some of these people could cooperate and make group sustainable farms, but it would still take most people cooperating with each other.

One issue surrounding population food shortages is the current control that agribusiness has over food.  In order to maximize profits they don't use very efficient farming methods and instead choose to modify seeds in order to make bigger vegetables.  It is cheaper to grow a bigger plant than to fit as many plants into a space as possible, because the second option is labour intensive and they don't want to pay people to do that.  So on top of everyone cooperating, all of those big companies would become obsolete and they would fight it tooth and nail.  It would be an uphill battle.

On Christmas Eve John and I gave ourself a treat and watched the television upstairs.  There is actually cable hooked up in the house but we don't use it - we just went up and borrowed our landlord's tv.  We ended up watching 17 and Counting which was having a marathon.  The Duggars just had baby #18 and I just get fascinated with them probably for the same reasons they are on tv - so many kids, so many matching outfits, and so much organization.  Most people know the reason they keep having babies is because they are part of the Quiverfull movement, a Christian culture that believes that God should determine how many kids you have, basically.  That's a very rudimentary description but I think it could be seen as the group of people that believes the exact opposite of the group of people who believe in overpopulation.

I've always been a bit of a fence-sitter on this.  I like having kids.  Right now I'll be having three and that's more than the average.  After that we'll adopt a couple more.  I'm not really against people that have lots of kids - I think that what has happened population-wise is the natural consequence of our medical and agricultural advancement.  We personally try to live as sustainably as we can, but most people don't.  I'm also not sure we could support ourselves completely on one acre.  Which means that in 40 years there will be too many people and I seriously doubt that everyone will change their lifestyle that dramatically so that they would be living on less than 20 acres.  I might find that when I'm 67 years old cancer will be cured and we'll finally have clean energy, but I'll be hungry.

In calculating how much acreage there is in the world, it is also important to realize that even sustainable farming is kind of bad for the environment because it replaces the natural ecosystem, and all of those medical advancements keeping us alive for longer would go downhill.  If everyone in the world was farming we would pretty much be back to a time in history of subsistence living and very little science, art, literature, etc.  Unfortunately if population grows that much in the next 40 years that's what we'll have to do just to keep up with the food demand and to become more sustainable.  In either scenario it's possible we would see a population drop simply because medical care would suffer or because there would be a food shortage.  It seems as though the earth will simply right itself no matter what we do.

This is kind of a dark post for me - usually I am quite upbeat about these things.  Peak oil doesn't bother me that much because I think we should live without it anyway.  But too many people and not enough food?  That's a serious thing.  It really is our own fault - we could have been figuring this out ages ago and researching sustainable agriculture and replacing agribusiness with it.  Instead we went through the 50's and filled our soil with poison.  I think the real solution at this point is the simplest - victory gardens in everyone's backyard, and as much support of local sustainable agriculture.  And not only for food - for every product that goes into your house.  Clothing needs to be recycled, household products need to be reused, locally made or made by you.  People need to fight to built sustainably with cob, strawbale or other locally sourced materials besides wood, and they need to use as many recycled materials as possible.

The communities that do this will create a pocket of survival for their children.  And I mean literally your children - not some generation far into the future after you die.  There will be people that suffer in the near future, and I think there will reach a time when people will go into survival mode.  It no longer will be about the hungry people in Africa.  It will become an issue right next door.  

In the Midst of Packing...

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Posted on : 10:31 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I'm procrastinating now... I'm sitting in the middle of all the Playmobile I had so much fun putting together, a huge stack of boxes, a new beading set, and lots of blankets and I really need to start packing.  We're moving on Thursday!  


But I was reading this morning on Dirt Under My Nails about the seeds she ordered for her garden and I got so excited!  I get to have a huge garden this year and I even get to start planning it but I promised I would get completely unpacked and have a house-warming party by the end of January so I'll see if I can do it all.  It's surprising how much I've been able to do in an apartment... one year I managed to grow basil, sunflowers and snap peas in about 4 inches of soil and about 3 square feet of space. But that list is very inspirational and I may steal from it since she got all those non-GMO varieties. :)

I love that we are moving on New Year's and starting completely over from scratch.  To celebrate, here is a New Year's meme (may be edited for time and/or the mundane):

What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
I tried calimari, and I tried really getting serious about writing.  I also introduced more controversy into my writing, lol.

Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I can't really remember my resolutions... I believe I wanted to get in better shape, which I did.  Before I got pregnant I was doing 100 pushups and 100 situps a day.  I also wanted to be even more green which I have also done.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister did!  They even delivered the baby themselves. :)  And my cousin did too!  So now I have 2 nephews and a niece. Yay!

Did anyone close to you die?
No one close to me has ever died.  I feel as though if I mention that I will jinx it and cause someone's death.  I think part of it may be that everyone in my family married fairly young, but some are getting up there.  

What countries did you visit?
The United States. :)  It's always interesting to go from Canada to America.

What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Less financial stress?  lol I think everyone wishes that and for us that is something that should be better this year since we are now out of debt.  I would really like to have more acquaintances that we can get together with that have no agendas about religion or other causes.  It seems like everyone is trying to sell you something.  People really need to be friends just to be friends.  Gosh that sounded a bit pessimistic, lol.  

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Re-righting our life after the catastrophe of the summer.  This wasn't my achievement - it was my amazing husband.  He should be everyone's hero.

What was your biggest failure?
Being an idiot.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
I got a couple of colds and had some morning sickness, but all in all pretty good.

What was the best thing you bought?
Wow I didn't buy much this year.  If I bought some books it was them, otherwise it was the one purchase we made of the keyboard.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving into this house, and watching my Amazon book ranking go up and down, lol.

What song/album will always remind you of 2008?
Hmmm... I think it's going to be the Pencils in the Wind (Cello Tape) song by Flight of the Conchords.  So many divisive issues this year, lots of racism, and they are at the top of my iTunes list right now, so they win for writing a song about bringing people together.

Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? happier
thinner or fatter? pregnant-er
richer or poorer? richer 
What do you wish you’d done more of? swimming
What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I had been more authentic and true to myself - so less non-authenticity
What was your favourite TV program? Lost
What was the best book(s) you read?  The Shack, and Ishmael
What was your greatest musical discovery?  The Flight of the Conchords, lol
What did you want and get?  To find a house to rent that was old and had a big yard, and to be pregnant, and a good piano.
What did you want and not get? I wanted to get some more oil paints, but now I can set that up in my art nook so it's good that I waited.
What were your favourite films of this year?  Eagle vs. Shark, Kung Fu Panda, Tropic Thunder, Wall-E, Ironman, and I really want to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button because I think I'll like it
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 27 and John made me a cake.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004? Jeans and t-shirts
What kept you sane? John
What political issue stirred you the most? All of the issues this year were dreadfully important - I think sustainability and food security, climate change and civil rights were all at the top of my list.
Who did you miss?
I miss my Montana family, especially my mom.
Who was the best new person you met? John :) He'll understand.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.  Anyone can change.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
Brown paper, white paper,
Stick it together with cellotape, uh huh.
Ooooh yeah
Brown paper white paper,
Stick it together with cellotape...

You know Jemaine, recently I've, um, I've been I've been thinking about love, about mutual love, that sort of love where two, you know two people, they love each other equally, like the love you have with, you know, with a loved one. And it's an equal love, and you give love equally, and it's, it's a feeling that's uh, it's amazing, it's this sort of, it's probably that, you know, it's a wonderful thing. It's love at its best, it's love, you know, it's, uh, it's, you know, it's probably the strongest adhesive available.

Getting a Piano for Your Kids and Other Technology Problems

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Posted on : 8:45 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

For Christmas this year the big present for the family was a keyboard.  I play the piano, compose some music and I used to teach and do accompaniment for the high school, so naturally I want to expose my kids to music.  It's easiest to do this by having a piano around.  


So here's a quick guide to buying a piano for your family.  Normally it seems like I'm a bit of a luddite, but really we have quite a bit of technology around the house.  We have really tried to balance technology vs. the old ways, and it's not always easy, but pianos are one exception.  Ideally I would like to have a room full of musical instruments, including a nice grand piano but that's just not practical, so we have a digital piano.  We hook this up to our Macbook Pro via a USB and use a software called Logic to write music.  We also plan to get a program called Ivory which is just extremely high quality piano sounds, so you can pick whether you want to play a Yamaha or a Steinway or even a Bösendorfer.  This is all professional equipment and having the kids expose to it is invaluable.  A digital piano is also amazing because you can use it to recreate any instrument.

I have gone through many digital pianos though.  I was classically trained and I am used to an acoustic piano.  When you are learning to play the piano it is actually very important to have heavy keys that are sensitive to the pressure and speed that you are putting against them.  It also has have a good piano sound, and be easy to use.  Here's what I have used and how they measure up:

M-Audio Keystation 61 -  This is good keyboard for the price.  At only $250, it has pretty good semi-weighted keys and works well for kids to practice on.  You have to have extra speakers since it doesn't have its own, and works well with a Mac which is nice if you want to start the kids using Garageband to write their own music.  Overall a pretty good keyboard for a family and well worth getting over those cheap Casio ones.

Yamaha Clavinova CLP 280 - All CLP pianos have the same basic features and the only difference is the sounds and program options really.  They have a graded hammer system (rather than just being weighted) which simulates an acoustic piano, and the keys are made of wood instead of plastic.   They also have self-contained speakers.  Even the basic one has some helps for learning piano and different songs that are programmed in, which can be fun for kids.  If it is a concern, they also look fairly nice.  But at around $3000 I'm not sure if this is the best buy, as I wasn't that impressed with the sound or the feel... it seems like that price should buy more.

Yamaha M08 - After I had the Clavinova I wanted one that would work better with Logic and the computer in general.  This is a synthesizer, which means that it has a lot more control over the sounds coming out of it and into the computer.  The keys felt pretty good for a synthesizer as well, but I still felt like I had compromised on the feel.  You do have to have speakers and software on the computer also.  It was used around $2500, I'm not sure what it is new, but there is still better things you can buy for that price.

Roland RD-700GX - I think keyboard names are ridiculous! lol  We got this for Christmas, and it is by far the best keyboard yet.  It feels exactly like a piano, and the sounds are very nice.  With a good set of  speakers you can use this on its own without the backup of a computer.  It is also extremely easy to use and the kids have no trouble figuring out how to change the sounds, start up a drum rhythm, or mix another sound in.  It runs about $2500 also making it a good value in comparison to the other keyboards that didn't quite live up to my expectations on feel and sound.  

Besides good speakers you also need a foot pedal and a very good stand.  The Roland was made for stage performing and they make a very good heavy duty stand so the kids can't knock it over.

Ok so how does someone justify having a digital piano, but no electric mixer in her home?  How can I have a huge piece of technology, and no microwave?  Maybe it's because I spent a lot of time reading about the Amish, lol.  I believe in using technology that only supplements what you are doing, rather than taking it away from you.  I also think some technology is unhealthy. A digital piano doesn't take anything from the person - you still have to learn to play it.  For myself, I think that having a mixer might make my cooking different and I want to feel connected to the women who mixed everything by hand.  But I make an exception for a bread machine and a rice maker because I think we would eat more homemade bread, and I already know how to make rice in a pot - I just don't like to do it, lol.  It's a minimal amount of electrical devices, all carefully chosen.  I also don't like doing the dishes every day (although I enjoy it sometimes), and I appreciate a dishwasher.  

Every child should be given the chance to play around with a musical instrument, and a keyboard is the perfect way to do that.  

White Winter Hymnal

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Posted on : 9:18 AM | By : Nic | In : ,


White Winter Hymnal from Grandchildren on Vimeo.


It's Christmas Eve... John and I are as giddy as the kids.  We aren't getting any presents - we just savor the feeling of love for joy that the Christmas season seems to bring out in people...it's as if being in on the secret has only made our excitement brighter.  My wish for everyone is that you all can remember that feeling you had as a child when you when you still believed in the magic.  

It doesn't matter if all the holiday symbols are pagan, or if we are celebrating the birth of God, or if it has all become part of a big advertising campaign.  There's just something so powerful in having a time of year when such large numbers of people are thinking about giving to one another.  That is the essence of my religion, and why I love this holiday.  

Well It's Hard to Take a Break

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Posted on : 1:01 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

I know I said I would try to take a week off from this but it's really tough, lol.  First off, my favorite toy this year has got to be Sprig toys.  We got the dune buggy and these things are just ingenious.  It's made of recycled plastic and reclaimed sawdust and they smell really good - like wood.  They work like one of those small hand-generator flashlights - the child pushes it and it lights up and goes by itself, without batteries.  On top of that, it has a little guy that plugs into the car with a USB and says things, completely powered by the little child-powered dynamo.  You can get more people for them and they will say different things too.  I just giggle with delight, lol - sustainable and awesome.


Also, I was over at My Freezer is Full and I found a great list of goals for the New Year:

1. Plant something. 
2. Harvest something.
3. Preserve something.
4. Store something.
5. Manage reserves.
6. Cook something new.
7. Prep something.
8. Reduce waste.
9. Learn a new skill.
10. Work on community food security.
11. Regenerate what is lost.

The new house is going to provide so many great options... I want to get a freezer and utilize the cold storage in the basement, and we want to also get a cord of wood just in case the power goes out.  I want to make almost no waste, and I haven't quite decided what new skills to learn but now that I will have space for my own crafting/sewing table, the possibilities are endless. :)   Merry Christmas!

A Bunch of Racists Criticize Me

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Posted on : 10:37 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

After posting so happily about the deletion of some words from a children's dictionary and simultaneously mildly shunning a website/group of people who believe that God favors white people, I found this little gem of a blog (called SpiritWaterBlood - I still refuse to link back to you!) that had this to say about me in return:


Here’s “a typical White person,” if I may quote the new emperor, who likes tribalism, agrarianism, and all the White cultural concepts found in the English language, but reacts negatively against “white supremacism,” whatever that may be. I think she means opposition to miscegenation, which was a crucial belief of all of our fathers and their excellent wives, who were the very same people who gave this woman all the things she holds dear. So the question is this: Who else on earth will conserve the “culture” that she cherishes if not the blood heirs of those who created it? Another way of putting it: If the White race disappears, who will ensure that White culture survives? It’s probably a good idea to make sure you have answers to these questions before spouting off about the “supremacy” of those who merely want to survive. And if you still can’t help yourself, do us a favor and give equal time to the supremacism of Jews, who also want to survive, and make sure of it in their laws. That’s all we ask. It’s funny how Judeochristians love to merge all things Jewish and Christian except when it comes time to level accusations; then, miraculously, Jews become blameless.

Now here's where a good Oxford dictionary comes in handy.  'Miscegenation' is the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types.  Besides the incredible irony that I am the direct result of miscegenation, having been born of a Brazilian father, and a Scotch/English mother with Native American blood somewhere in our Arizona lineage... the whole thing is SO RACIST.  They spend so much time trying to convince themselves that they aren't racist or white supremacist, trying to justify themselves that being white is something special, that it comes out as a big racist verbal diarrhea.  

This person also claims that tribalism and agrarianism are white cultural concepts.  Being white isn't a culture, and white people didn't invent those concepts.  In fact, white people don't even live that way anymore and it is being preserved by people with darker skin.  I actually don't cherish whiteness or the culture of the past or the present at all.  I despise it.  I think we treated each other little better than toilet paper throughout history, and now we've graduated to treating each other like the morning paper.

If the white race disappears, then white culture was obviously flawed from a survival point of view, lol.

I think the whole thing is laughable, and I couldn't leave it alone right before Christmas.  I feel ashamed to be identified as Judeo-Christian... if that's how I come across, I am sorry.  I thought all the posts on Buddhism might improve that, but I guess not.  SpiritWaterBlood, you should be ashamed of yourself using the name of a man who embraced all people, so you can justify racism and hate.  

Besides all that, it is mindboggling to me that the levels of melanin in a person's skin would be used as a criteria for judgement.  I consider myself to be brown - just a different shade of it.  I think I need to go out and buy our family a nativity set with a black Jesus.  

And to spread my hippie love a little further, I would like to share this beautiful love song to humanity... :) Merry Christmas!


Peace on Earth

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Posted on : 10:09 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,

I am going to try to take a Christmas vacation from my projects, so the posts will probably thin for the next little bit. This is a necessary thing for a 5 months-pregnant mom during a holiday season while in the middle of moving.  We are moving on January 1st so things are happening quickly.  I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas... no matter what you believe or what you celebrate (or don't celebrate)... I just want everyone to be happy and have peace.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. - editorial in the New York Sun, 1897, responding to a letter from 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon

This called Waiting for Christmas 1960 by Grandma Moses, one of my favorite artists.  I love the family cosleeping too. :)


Merry Christmas!

Eating Seasonally for December

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Posted on : 9:03 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,

One of the things that many people don't realize when they try to eat local is that they have to eat seasonally.  I have an awesome cookbook by Jamie Oliver called Jamie at Home which is all about how he pulls things from his garden to eat them.  Rather than being organized by food type, it is organized by season and the common food available.  


There are some things I fudge on - I love tropical fruits like avocado, coconut, bananas, and these are so healthy.  But the majority of our food has to be something that is available.  I believe that humans are meant for a limited diet, a repetitious, boring, basic diet that changes according to the seasons.  Traditionally (unless you live in the jungle), people would feast on veggies and fruit all summer, and then in the winter they had the exact opposite - storable foods like squash, potatoes and canned goods.  I think that our body needs that downtime.  

So every month I am going to make a post on seasonal foods. You don't have to use it, because its mostly for myself and helping me to reach a goal of more seasonal eating.  But I'm not going to list foods I really hate - like brussels sprouts!  lol

For December we have all kinds of goodies:
Celery
Chicory
Kale
Leeks
Parsnips
Turnips
Potatoes

Apples
Clementines (or Mandarins)
Passion Fruit
Pear
Satsumas
Tangerines

Geese
Game fowl
Rabbit
Venison

Now if you really want to eat seasonally, and you still wanted to eat things like chicken and beef, you could buy these things in season and store them away.  In fact, that's exactly what you and I should be doing.  Every time something is in season, buy it in bulk and store enough of it or the winter.  So this month for your groceries you would buy only the things on this list, and store the extras appropriately.

So here's how to preserve these things:
Celery: you can keep celery for a while in cold storage, away from turnips, onions and cabbage.  You pull it up by the roots and keep them a little moist and the leaves and stalks dry.  Put a board on top and pile dirt and then straw over that.  Not everyone has a cold storage, so alternatively you can freeze or dry it which means you can only use them in cooking.  Wash them well, chop them up and put them in water to freeze, or spread them in the dehydrator for at least a day to dry them.  Once dry put in an air-tight jar.  Even better, make dried mirepoix - mix dried celery, onions and carrots with dried spices, which you can add to anything.

Chicory (or endive): this can be dried like any other herb.

Kale: you can freeze kale by cleaning them well, steaming them for a few minutes and then popping into an airtight freezer bag.  Or you can dry it to add to soups and other things later.

Leek: these tend to lose a lot of quality so the best way is to put them into a leek soup and then freeze the soup.

Parsnips/turnips: wash, peel, and cut up into little 1 inch cubs. Put in boiling water for 2 minutes (to blanch), then immediately remove and cool them off under cold water.  Easiest way is to have a bowl of ice water handy.  You can use your blanching water up to 5 times.  Then bag them and put in the freezer.  It's important not to overcook them!  Time it exactly.

Potatoes: these last forever in cold storage.

Apples/pears: these need to be canned or dried.  There are so many recipes for this I won't list one.  Drying is also very simple - peel and core and slice them and throw them in water with some lemon juice in it.  Then put in the dehydrator.

Clementines/mandarins/satsumas/tangerines: these need to be canned or made into marmalade.  I am also not going to post one recipe for this as there are many, but you basically peel them and take them all apart and put them in water or a sugar solution.  Then you can water bath can them.

Passion fruit: needs to be made into preserves. 

She Wants to Go to Public School

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Posted on : 5:38 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

Now that the news has come out that we are moving to a new house, there is the usual excitement with the usual acting out that accompanies any change in our home.  Annie gets a little violent when change happens, and this time it has been particularly bad.  I got kicked in the side and later tried to trip me going down the stairs, and today a twitch bashed me in the eye.  Ouch!  These are not intentional, but typical Asperger's anger issues.  


Asperger's is pretty rare in girls, which is possibly why it has been so hard to get a diagnosis. I found a great article on Asperger's subtypes and she falls in the angry and anxiety category most strongly with many of the others thrown in.  One thing that we have always puzzled over is that she does better when she's not at home and away from us - even though her social skills aren't that great and she feels shy.  She does well in institutionalized, routined, predictable programs - she craves them and thrives on them.  Here we are an unpredictable (like any family), artistic family that can't get up at the same time every day.  We have more of a routine than many people simply to accommodate her needs, but I've realized I'm still not meeting that need even remotely.  She is asking to go to public school, begging me, because the reason she does better away is because we are the source of change, transition and unpredictable-ness in her life.  

I have struggled between meeting her needs, and fighting for the issues.  For most children, public school can be crushing, stifling, and harmful. But as a student who went to both public school and having been homeschooled, I've never thought of it as us vs. them - public school vs. homeschool, right vs. wrong.  This is exactly the kind of black and white thinking I am trying to avoid.  I also believe that the real difference in a child's life is not what sling I used to carry the baby with or what foods they ate or where they went to school, but rather what kind of parent I was.  Did I try to control my child based on my own needs, or did I allow her the freedom to be herself and find ways to meet her real needs?

But that's the trick isn't it?  *sigh*

So since she has asked and asked and begged and begged and understands now what it means to go to public school, we are going to give her the freedom to choose that for now.  It is only 2.5 hours a day and I can walk her there around the corner so this is probably the least shocking way to introduce it.  It's also the middle of the year so she is being given a low dosage, lol.  And it's not like I'm done unschooling - if anything, this is part of it.  An experience that she is interested in.  We will revisit it every year and continue to have an environment in our home that is of respect, love and learning. 

I try to always play devil's advocate with myself... I was raised to believe in the evils of public education, and I am opening my mind to experiencing the positives of the institution and what it can offer Annie in the form of a social, predictable routine.  I imagine us allowing our children the freedom to make these choices without judgement or bias on my part, and the freedom to quit if she really wants to.  If it means one child in school and one radically unschooling, so be it.

My Take on Someone Else's Peak Oil Article

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Posted on : 5:39 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

I was just reading an article by author James Kunstler on 10 ways to prepare for the peak oil crises.  Now it may seem like gas prices are so low that peak oil can't possibly happen, but it's more of an issue than ever.  There seems to be some dispute over why gas is so cheap right now, but the best explanation that I have read is that oil prices are actually based on stocks and oil speculation.  The stock market is down, so the price of oil is down too.   Demand is a little low too, which means supply is up, but there is still more oil being used than can be adequately supplied for into the future.  We're still using more than we should.  One thing that bugged me about the article is that it's not a list of actual practical solutions, but rather a list of 'shoulds'.  A solution is a how, not a why:


1. Think beyond the car.  I think that this is part of a major paradigm shift from the global to the local.  Working close to home, or moving your home close to work is a necessary step.  People will be biking, walking and taking trains and buses.  Back in the old days housewives didn't leave their homes much - things were delivered, like milk, ice and other necessities.  Support local delivery services such as Spud, local food co-ops and CSA's (community supported agriculture) rather than running errands all the time.

2. Produce food differently. Urban farming and small local organic farms will become the norm.  There are so many resources for urban farming now... and unlike traditional farms they are local so transportation is cut down.  Buying local food is one of the most important steps to decreasing oil dependence.  Every person, regardless of location, can grow something, and I highly recommend these resources: City Farmer News and it's info site Urban Agriculture Notes, Path to Freedom and their 100 foot diet challenge at Freedom Gardens.  One great example of a concentrated city project is a youth project called Vancouver's Urban Agriculture

3. Redistribute the population. I'm not sure if this is as likely to happen as the rest.  People hold on to their homes as bad as they may be.  In places like Detroit which has about half the population that it once was, there is a huge urban agriculture movement.  They are reclaiming abandoned land for organic agriculture and contributing thousands of pounds of fresh food every year.  All those people left for other cities to look for work, not return to a more agrarian society.  I think redistribution may happen, but small towns can't handle it - if anything a city will just become more sprawling and green as people begin to look to their own backyards.

4. Move things and people differently. This is similar to #1 except that it is talking about mass transit and shipping.  We do need an infrastructure of electric trains and buses much bigger than what we have now.  Things are marginally better in Europe and Japan, but North America is woefully behind on this.  They barely passed a vote allowing the California high-speed rail, and I was quite surprised that it was such a struggle considering that it's (1) California and (2) how innovative it was in using existing tracks.  People really need to support these kinds of measures and keep trains going.  Kunstler in his article also mentions people using sailing ships again but doesn't mention who... he's probably referring to CTMV, a French company that uses old sailing ships.  Right now they are shipping only wines - I suppose there is a marketing angle in saying that your wine got to its destination by sailing ship, especially since it's good that wine is aged.  It takes a long time to cross an ocean that way.  I think more and more ships are going to be fitted with Solar Sailors, huge solar panels that are currently being used by Chinese and Japanese cargo ships.

5. Transform retail trade. The buy handmade and local campaigns have only made a little dent in the Wal-Mart market.  50 years ago housewives prided themselves on making their own linens, clothes, home decor, and everything else.  Really stores basically sold staples - fabric, food staples like meat and vegetables and grains, tools, needles and thread.  We've become a society of instant, manufactured, ready-made, cookie-cutter items.  We need to value handmade things and ignore the convenience of the convenience store.  Actually the irony of the term 'convenience store' is that it's an illusion... the moral, environmental and human rights cost of these items is the very opposite of convenient.

6. We will have to make things.  lol I didn't even realize this was the next one when I wrote #5.  It just goes to show that all of these solutions are interrelated and dependent on each other - and they are simple.  Kunstler says in his that we don't know how we will make things, but I have a pretty good idea.  People will demand better, sustainable products and business will find a way to capitalize on that.  They already are, slowly.  More and more homemade products will find networks like Etsy and local co-ops.  As far as things like computers and phones and other items that we can make ourselves, if things get to that point we may be using older and older stuff and recycling until alternatives are found.  These things won't die, but I'm pretty confident that business will adapt.  How long that will take is another thing.

7. The age of canned entertainment is over. I'm not sure if this is an electricity problem.  I think this may be simply a time when there's nothing good on TV and people are sick of commercials.  Less and less people watch television... I actually only know one family that has cable.  Everyone in my family and all of my acquaintances just watch movies.  If the electricity goes out, you will be looking for other entertainment and it's so much better if you know people who like that sort of home-made fun.  Homemade music, board games, and plays are so much fun. :)

8. Reorganize the school system. More people might homeschool, but I think that people won't have time.  If you think about it, the reason public school was created was to provide an education to families who worked so hard that they couldn't do that for their kids.  If you are having to farm or make your stuff by hand and chop wood, your kids would benefit from a small school. That's why we have summer vacation - so that farm children could come home and help during the growing season.  I think that parents would do well to take more control over the public school system and create small parochial schools, and find ways to get more teachers.  Back in the old days teachers did not have a college education - they were just the smartest and brightest students.  They had the knowledge necessary, and they taught only the basics - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.  Their educational model was vastly more successful than what we have today in equipping students to be thinkers.  We have become obsessed with well-roundedness and it has compromised all kinds of necessary skills.  They had older children teaching younger children as well, and it worked.

9. Reorganize the medical system. Living in Canada I'm not sure that this is such a necessary thing, but in the US it is.  Canadian doctors make less, and the corruption of the US system hurts us in that Canadian med students end up wanting to work in the States.  They can make more money there.  Doctors need to become doctors to be doctors, not because they can make lots of money.  I think that alternative medicine that is not dependent on corrupt drug companies needs to become more accepted as well, in conjunction with modern medicine.

10. Life in the USA needs to be local. This just reiterates all of the above.  Local food, local work, local business, local medicine.  I think we've seen that globalization just unequivocally doesn't work. Can we all agree on that?  lol


Learning to Let Go of the Unschooling Portfolio

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Posted on : 9:59 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

Since the start of the school year I have been helping Annie learn to be more self-directed with the whole unschooling thing.  It's so rare for her to have any initiative - usually when she can't find something to do she tries to find ways to really bug her sister or jumps around the room as many times as she can.  But it has gotten better, and partly because I've offered her projects and educational things to do.  I've provided the opportunities and more often than not she's taken them.  Now she's starting to find a few projects on her own, and is starting to read on her own too.


But the lack of self-direction made me worried, and I have a notebook that I would list out our projects, our books and educational activities of the day.  I couldn't record everything, because pretty much everything in life is educational - especially things that look like playing.  But it made me feel better about what they were learning, and it also made me feel like I was challenging Annie enough since she seems to need a constant challenge.  As time passed I gained more confidence and I worried less... and so for the month of December I am writing down nothing.

This is tough for me.  I write down everything - I'm a writer.  I have to write every day or I get stressed out because I process things this way.  Not keeping a journal about unschooling was the opposite of what I naturally do.  

But I've realized that this is part of the trust I have to have in my children that is integral to unschooling.  I also realized that I was being unfair - I trusted Autumn because at 3 she is creating her own projects, pretending to read books, building things, and playing independently, whereas Annie isn't.  But she still needs trust.  I may have to be way more involved with helping Annie become self-reliant, but I can still trust her to learn the things she needs.

Right at this moment, Autumn is washing doll clothes in a tiny child-size working Miele washing machine that we bought on eBay from Germany, and Annie is sounding out the words 'I Love You' and writing them on a Christmas card she is making for her aunt.  I had to give Annie the idea for the project, but it's something she's interested in and wants to do.  When she's done with that I fully expect her to start repeating hateful phrases about her sister over and over and smacking people, but I just have to help think of something else to do.  And that's learning.

I think today we might actually get a camera.  We have at least a foot of snow which is amazing for this area, and I won't be getting my SPUD order because they can't get over the Malahat (the road over the mountain) from Victoria, but we might be able to get around the corner and get the Canon Elph that we wanted.  That means my blog will have way more photos of us, the island, and all the projects I am doing all the time. :)

Note to Self: Remember What I Put in the Chili

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Posted on : 2:10 PM | By : Nic | In :

I just made some hot chocolote and chili and I need to remember what I put in it.  It never snows that much here at all, and we have 6 inches and counting.  Amazing!


1 small/medium squash
1/2 one big white onion
1/2 of a #10 can of kidney beans (so lots of beans)
3 tomatoes
chili powder
cocoa powder
salt
pepper
garlic

I minced the onion and put it in a big pot with lots of olive oil to soften them up, then added the peeled and chopped squash so they got coated with oil.  Then I added enough water to almost cover the squash and brought to a boil and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes, until the squash was really mushy.

Then I added the beans, brought it up to a simmer again and added the chopped tomatoes.  I like my tomatoes to not get too soft so that's why they were last.  Then I added one big heaping spoonful of cocoa powder, a regular spoonful of chili powder, and the rest to taste.  The squash pretty much liquified but gave the whole thing a hearty sweetness which blended with the cocoa nicely.  The chili gave it a little kick too. 

We're Losing Perfectly Good Words!

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Posted on : 12:47 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Here's a short story written by a child of the future:


Yesterday I went for a walk in the woods.  I saw some water so I blogged about it with my broadband phone.  Then I left because I am allergic to nature.

Thanks to Mon at Holistic Mama for pointing out that the Oxford Junior Dictionary is dropping all kinds nature, religious, and political words.  I had a hard time finding the complete list, but here it is (thanks to a post on an interesting forum I'll mention below):

Words taken out:
Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe
Dwarf, elf, goblin
Abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar
Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade
Adder, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren
Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow

Words put in:
Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue
Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro
Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph

Now the way I stumbled upon this complete list was through a forum for Kinism, which I had never heard of before.  After reading an official website, I realized as much as I would like to give credit to the poster, I couldn't link back to the forum it was on.  At first it sounded ok - a form of Christianity that believes people should live in tribes, an agrarian economy, etc.  Then I got to the white supremacist part and decided I didn't want to read any more.  Wow.  What a smorgasbord of censorship against language from Oxford and blatant racism by religion.  

Anyway if I could pick one word from the list of taken out it would be acorn, but blacksmith was a close second.  Maybe it's because this year there was an extreme acorn shortage that made squirrels enraged, and because even though I've never really lived where there are many acorns, I still love them.  They are cute, they have little hats, they are so useful, Native Americans would use them as a staple of their diet, and squirrels really need them.  But now kids can't look that up in the dictionary?  

Blacksmith bothers me for a different reason. In a world where there are very few blacksmiths anymore, any time a child reads classic literature they are going to wonder what that is.  It's as if they are assuming that children won't read old books, which makes me sad.  Old books are what made me who I am.  

The Victorian Evils of Breakfast Cereal

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Posted on : 12:08 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

The first time I was introduced to the history of breakfast cereal was through the movie The Road to Wellville, which was a pretty weird movie about Victorian sexuality and also a funny character sketch of Dr. John Kellogg, who invented corn flakes.


When I first watched this movie, I was definitely a cold cereal kind of person. I loved my Cheerios with a little bit granola sprinkled on the top with some cold milk (later soymilk).  I used to eat HUGE bowlfuls.  The serving suggestion on the box was about 1/3 of what I usually ate in a morning.  The problem was that it didn't make me full and with my extreme metabolism I had to eat a couple of hours later.

You see, the Victorians believed that constipation was God's punishment for eating meat. They ate pretty much all meat, and not being able to get veggies reliably all year, they were grateful for the invention of cornflakes, which were little better than a rock-hard piece of cardboard.  

Cereals today are very expensive, and most of them have tons of sugar.  The serving suggestion on the box is actually pretty small, and if you consider that many, many children's cereals have more sugar per serving than a glazed donut, it's not really the health product of the future, is it?

I don't like to spend lots of time making breakfast, however. I wake up with my stomach growling and hands shaking.  So here's my list of quick, healthy breakfasts:

Whole wheat toast with scrambled eggs.  The secret to quick, dairy free scrambled eggs is to just heat up the pan until it's pretty hot, with a little bit of olive oil.  Then break the eggs into the pan and stir them up.  Let them sit for a minute, then stir them up again.  Don't let them overcook - this should only really take 5-8 minutes.

Toast with natural peanut butter.

Fruit and peanut butter and toast.  When I just eat fruit I don't get full, so I have to add bread.  But grapefruit, stawberries, kiwi, and apples with peanut butter are all very good, especially with a cup of green tea.

Oatmeal.  Not the packet kind with all the sugar, but the Quaker quick oats kind in the bag.   I have a conundrum right now figuring out what kind of milk to have with it, but it's good.  It's pretty slow to make it on the stove, and I don't have a microwave, but if you do use a microwave the secret to making creamy oatmeal is a very tall ceramic bowl.  If the bowl is very deep, the oatmeal will rise while it's cooking and keep in the moisture.   If you do it that way it tastes pretty close to stove top oatmeal.  Cream of what is also equally good in my opinion. :)

It seems a little funny to me that we are still so hung up on such a Victorian idea like breakfast cereal, when it is obviously not the healthiest or cheapest option for breakfast.  Nor is it the most sustainable option.  I think on the other hand people have bought into the idea that in order to be healthy they have to eat these health-labeled packaged foods in order to lose weight or live longer.  The truth is that whole foods and healthy fats are what does it, and breakfast cereal has neither.

More Carbon Neutrality to Give Away

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Posted on : 12:05 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Get 135 pounds of carbon offsets! I'm not sure how much I have to give away, but if you claim it fast it could be you. :) As of posting this the first time they have offset 540 pounds of carbon, which is pretty good.


One Day from Brighter Planet

1940's House

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Posted on : 10:36 PM | By : Nic | In :

We successfully completed the quest of the day and secured a home to rent.  We had three choices - 1940's character home, brand new university neighborhood house, and some kind of crazy bad side of town abode with strange junk strewn about the yard.


We obviously picked the 1940's House, which, unlike one of my favorite televisions series, 1900's House, has gas heat but still has some fun similarities and quirks.  First of all, none of the bedrooms have closets and we will have to get some neat antique wardrobes (oh dear, I have to collect more antiques? lol).  The downstairs bathroom has two taps, one for hot water and one for cold and if you want to have warm water, you have to fill the sink to wash your face.

The front door has a tiny metal door so you can open it and talk to someone before you open the door.  It's the kind of tiny door that makes you want to ask for the secret password before you let them in.

Even more importantly, the yard is huge and half of it has already been plowed up to be used as a garden.  It also has a cold storage for food, and none of the toxic off-gassing that was happening in the university house - the floors are beautiful wood.

Most importantly, it matches our toaster

Time to start planning the massive garden I'm going to have next year!

Quote of the Day

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Posted on : 5:32 PM | By : Nic | In :

"Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry."

- John Lennon, 1963, at the high point of the group's set during the Royal Variety Performance before members of the British Royal Family

Secrets to Living With Asperger's

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Posted on : 12:29 PM | By : Nic | In :

Also on my Sunday morning wanderings (I visit at least 400-600 webpages a DAY - but not for very long, lol), I came across the blog Aspergerteen. This also led me to an article by CNN's asperger manager about what it's like, and a post on Aspergerteen on what their secret is.  Originally, I titled this post '...Dealing With Asperger's' but we're not dealing with it.  We're learning to live with it.  Dealing is a bad attitude.  So here's my secrets.


1.  Professional help is difficult to get, even in places that it's free.  Because there is no 'cure' and therapy is expensive for the system, unless your child is severely non-functioning, the professional approach is often to pass it off as inadequate parenting in order to save money.  Notice I said inadequate - they know it's not you, they just will tell you that you need more tools to handle it.  Basically they will 'blame' you, even knowing that it's not your fault.  The truth is that no one really understands autism and Asperger's except for the people who have it and their parents (and them only marginally so).  Secret #1: Only you know your child.

2.  Because you are the only one who knows your child, you will know whether or not he/she has autism or Asperger's.  If you are a parent with a high-need child you may sometimes wonder if your child fits the bill, but with the internet having so much information and videos on YouTube, it has become much easier to truly know by comparison whether or not your child does indeed fit the criteria (caution: your child needs to fit most of the criteria for you to be able to do this).  If you have doubts that they are not, then they probably aren't.  Secret #2: Read every book, every website, and watch every YouTube and Vimeo video, find people who have diagnosed children with autism and ally yourself with them.  

3. Don't compare your 'normal' kid to your autistic kid.  This is easy to do, and sometimes it can even be useful in validating to yourself that you really are a good parent and it's not you.  Sometimes it can be useful in showing professionals that you actually have good parenting skills.  But don't compare your child in that one child is 'normal' and one isn't, or in how you give your children approval.  One child functions differently and has more difficulty, but there really isn't such a thing as a 'normal' child.  There are unique children, and some children have sensitivities and different needs.  Feel good that God gave this child to you knowing that you were the only one who could give them what they needed.

4. It's ok to use trial and error.  Often times, it's a guessing game.  I remember when my second child was born saying how parenting is a big guessing game, and my (assistant) midwife was very shocked. "Aren't you sure of what you are doing?"  I felt inadequate after that... but now that Autumn is older I know what she means.  With most children you can be pretty sure what their needs are, but with autism it's a huge learning curve that takes years and years of trial and error.  Each autistic child is different and while you can know what to expect, how to teach that child how to function with these issues is a completely unique experience.

5.  There isn't a 'cure', but your child can learn how to live without tantrums and deal with their sensitivities, making your life easier.  If your child can't hug you, find strategies to introduce gentle touch into their life and initiate this every day.  Find ways to make eye contact, ignore tantrums when they get dressed or have to change a routine - but make them do it anyway. I disagree with parents who bend over backwards to accommodate a child who screams about a shirt tag.  Yes, find shirts without tags.  But make them get dressed, and expect them to do it on their own, and never yell back.  They have to learn to do these basic skills, and it just takes them longer.

6. For heaven's sake, read The Continuum Concept.  A child who can't stand touch even as a baby is only desperately in more need of more touch.  A child who can't seem take responsibility for simple things like getting dressed is desperately in need of a feeling of empowerment which comes from taking responsibility of something in their life.  A child who can't stand different sounds needs quiet sometimes, but is in desperate need of a community of people to find examples from and to learn to deal with noise from.  

7.  Deal with stress in a healthy way. Having a child who saps all your energy with constant needs can stress a whole family out.  It is ok to send the child to an understanding friend's house and take some time to yourself.  It is ok to have a bedtime and expect your child to stay in bed so that you can have some quiet time to de-stress.  Taking care of yourself directly effects the outcome of your day, because your child is super sensitive to your mood.  They will react directly to how tired you are and pick up any frustration that you have.

Finally, enjoy the fun moments.  Your child probably says eccentric things and does quirky things that are so unique.  This is what autism and Asperger's are all about.  These children DO have a sense of humour, it's just different.  They have an intelligence about certain things that is far beyond what most people have.  Find the good, and rather than seeking a cure, seek a balance. :)

My Year 2000 Predictions

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Posted on : 11:11 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I was just reading this article about predictions made in 1900 about what people thought would happen by the year 2000.  The predictions highlighted were mostly about energy, agriculture and transportation, and surprisingly, many of them were spot-on or at least close.  The weirdest/saddest one to me was #13 about the U.S. population. The predictions was that there would be at least 350,000,000 people in American.  There are only 306,000,000, but it says that if America had not participated in so many wars since its inception, the number would be accurate.  At least a million Americans have died in these wars and they would have had enough descendants to fill in the gap.  


I began thinking about predictions I had made about the year 2000 and the new Millenium in general.  When I was very little, I thought of the year 2000 as The Future - so far away.  Then suddenly, it was upon us.  In 1999 I was 18, I had a good job as DSL phone tech support (no really, I was a good one!  I fixed things!), and I lived in Montana.  People around me were preparing for Y2K, lol.  And now it's going to be 2009 - almost a decade has passed.

The first thing I thought was that maybe the Y2K scare (which I thought was fun but not too much to be concerned about) would make people realize how unprepared they are in general and we'd see some more self-reliance.  Unfortunately that didn't happen.  

I thought we would finally see a mainstream, affordable electric vehicle, or at least a significant decrease in our dependence on fossil fuels.  My husband's tiny iPod is so much more powerful than the Packard Bell computer I used at home then, and we couldn't invent a better car?

I thought that America would slow down the wars a little bit.  Since I can remember there has been a conflict - Desert Storm, Desert Fox, Haiti democracy operations, Afghanistan... Iraq.  What I have realized since being in Canada is that war is psychologically unhealthy, even for those who are not actively participating in it.  It creates an environment of fear and conflict.  If you think of it in smaller terms, it's as if a skirmish is always going on in your front lawn - your neighbors are sending their sons to go beat up people directly in your front yard.  You can't really go anywhere, you don't really have a way out because other people are orchestrating it, and you feel obligated to support it since your neighbors have kids involved, but still it's a stressful situation just being on the fringe of it.

I thought that there would be a second Renaissance as the result of some kind of global trauma.  I looked to the hippie era and wondered what had happened to them... why did it end the way it did.  I thought that if something happened, people would use it to get back to the pursuit of a meaningful existence, a generation of discovery, invention, art, music, etc.  A generation of people who refused to be consumers.  Unfortunately only half of this prediction came true - something did happen in 2001, and people did the exact opposite.  Rather than a wake up call it became a catalyst for more consumerism, more wars, and more fear.  I think what we're seeing now is that the my generation is waking up. It's too bad it wasn't everyone, but after years of our schools and television programs hammering environmental and conflict-resolution messages into our brains, maybe my generation is ripe for a Renaissance. 

I'm actually not sure where I am going with this - it's a Sunday morning where everything got cancelled because it's snowing quite a bit.  Here on the island quite a bit is 5 inches and still snowing.  I suppose I sometimes feel as if my responsibility to my children hinges on what I have seen since making my way in the world when I was 18.  It's not a pessimistic view, but a view that we are capable of so much more and at some point we will whether we want to or not.  

Some Alternative Charities

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Posted on : 12:52 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

So this Christmas we picked World Vision because we can simply add to our monthly checking account draw and don't need a credit card, but there are so many charities to give to, how do you pick?  In previous years we have done the Make a Wish foundation, the Red Cross, and given rocket stoves to African villages through Alternative Gifts Int., but these are pretty mainstream.  There are many other great innovative causes to put your money towards.


The first thing you should always do before donating is check out the income and donation percentages on Charity Navigator.  Another thing we really liked to do is take care of it all online, but we don't use credit cards so you have to find charities willing to deal with Paypal or checks.

Here are some great alternative organizations:

Hippo Water Roller - 1 in 6 people don't have running water, and many of these people walk 5 miles a day to get some.  This is women's work, and it causes severe complications for pregnant women, spinal damage, and often takes them across areas with land mines.  This is an amazing solution!

Alex's Lemonade Stand - Alex was a little girl who battled terminal cancer.  Before she died, she raised millions with her lemonade stands for cancer research.  This charity has all kinds of resources so that other kids can do the same thing.  They give grants directly to doctors and others for cancer research.

Play Pumps - They've invented a fun playground toy that pumps water from much-need wells in southern Africa.  The kids pump the water into a tank, which then delivers fresh water to the village.

First Book - Gives low-income children their first new book to inspire a love of reading.  Only $10 gives 4 new books.  When kids never get anything new, this can be really special - being the first to hear the binding creak. :)

Witness - These people make it easier to get images and videos from around the world that highlight human rights abuses, into mainstream media so that people can be aware of what is going on.  They provide technology, and then network with officials and executives to get the message out.

More Furoshiki

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Posted on : 10:03 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

On thing about the furoshiki video of the other day was that there were no instructions or a single present - everything was in pairs. This chart from Japan's environmental division shows how to do way more stuff (also available as a PDF).

Super Basic Natural Remedy First Aid Kit

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Posted on : 10:53 AM | By : Nic | In :

I posted earlier about my mainstream kit, but I also keep a few things on hand that I use most often that are common natural remedies:


Tea tree oil - I use this for so many things.  Any kind of rash, feminine problem, infection, skin problem, etc. can be treated with tea tree oil.  It both cleans and heals at the same time, and is effective against bacteria, fungus and other nasties.  And it feels very soothing and cooling.  Diluting it works best but I've used drops of it straight as well.  This has also worked on gingivitis and other gum problems.

Apple cider vinegar - I use this for cleaning my house sometimes, but most often this is used in conjunction with the tea tree oil in cleansers and toners for any problem related to the skin.  It is also good to gargle for a sore throat - any kind of disinfecting of the body.  I haven't taken it internally but there are a plethora of things that it can do as it is considered a detoxifier.

Chili powder - This is by far the best virus prevention I have used.  For a very strong dose, especially for a sore throat, put at least a teaspoon in a tall glass of orange juice and chug it.  The chili will cleanse your throat and fortify your immune system (along with the vitamin C).  For a less difficult way, make some fresh, really spicy salsa and eat at least 3 times a day.  

Baking soda - Besides cleaning the house with it, this is also a great remedy for sore throats, just dilute at least a tablespoon in a small cup of hot water and gargle it.  I have used it for an ear ache on myself as well, using the same mixture and just sitting with it in my ear for 10 minutes at time.

Rosemary - Rosemary has some great external uses, but we have mainly used this for circulatory problems.  A strong rosemary tea (even from the dried rosemary you would have in the kitchen) can cure headaches, and also can keep your menstrual cycle running on time.  I have found it to be very gentle so several cups works better.

White and green teas - This is a no brainer, but I consider it part of our health kit.  Besides boosting our immune systems this helps us feel a little less fatigued and helps us slow down and de-stress at the same time.  The process of drinking tea is therapeutic in itself. :)


What's Up WIth the Seafood?

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Posted on : 5:41 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Woke up to puking this morning... I think it's just all seafood in general.  So this is not much of a post, but I want to discuss the increasing number of allergies in the world.  I think I've now developed a seafood allergy, to add to this list:


Perfumes/artificial fragrances
Dairy
Artificial cinnamon flavoring
Chamomile/ragweed
Grass hay 

When I am exposed to fragrances I get rashes and hives, when I smell them I sneeze and my eyes get itchy. When I have dairy I get a rash on my face and diarrhea and sometimes throw up.  When I have artificial cinnamon flavoring it makes the taste buds on my tongue swell up.  Chamomile is something that makes my throat feel more sore and swollen (fairly common if you are allergic to ragweed, which I am).  I discovered an allergy to grass hay when I had bunnies - little bit of that grass and I can hardly breathe and I can't see because my eyes start crying and swell up.

I read this article the other day about research being done on allergies because they are becoming increasingly common and many are becoming life-threatening.  Basically they have discovered that there is one part of China that was very sensitive to shellfish and peanuts - but less than 1% actually had an allergy.  Part of the theory is our culture's exposure to antibacterials and other chemicals has weakened the immune system, but that doesn't really give the whole story.  They don't really know why this happens, and it's now happening A LOT.  To ME.  lol

It's funny though, because I am a person who was breastfed for at least a year when I was a baby, we didn't really use an antibacterials in our home at all growing up, and I still don't.  So all of those preventative measures didn't really work for me.


Beyond Martha Stewart! Beyond ANYTHING!

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Posted on : 9:16 PM | By : Nic | In : , , ,


Furoshiki gift wrapping from RecycleNow on Vimeo.


This is going to take me beyond Martha Stewart.  Now I can be the meanest green gifter on the planet.

Somewhere in the Mind of George Lucas There is a Yoda

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Posted on : 2:15 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

One discussion that often comes up at our house and on email lists I am on is linear thinking, or the thought process in which a person only thinks in terms of A + B = C.   I call this thinking in black and white.  Linear thinking can be great if you are doing simple math (1+1=2), but absolutely fails in any kind of practical situation.  For example, to reach his theory of relativity (E=MC2), Einstein obviously couldn't be thinking linearly because what normal person would think that matter and light could equal energy? Another good example of popular linear thinking is in making judgements about people, such as: some terrorists are Muslim -> all Muslims read the Koran -> all Muslims must be terrorists.


It struck me as funny the other day that somewhere in the mind of George Lucas there is a Yoda spouting pithy wisdom.  As a Star Wars (and Star Trek) fan, it bothered me that he has pretty much destroyed the archetypal mythos of Star Wars with merchandising and cheap knock-off movies.  It seemed a little ironic that Yoda was knocking around in such a sell-out brain.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Yoda was a victim of linear thinking too with such statements as "Do or do not, there is no try."  

If there is no try, then there is no hope.  There is huge gray area of possibility in between doing and not doing.  To quote another wise character from a movie:
"Quit, don’t quit. Noodles, don’t noodles. You are too concerned with what was and what will be." - Master Oogway
In trying to do or not do, we forget the most important - to be.  There are no strings attached to being, no rules, no good or bad.

Which brings me to why I was thinking about this in the first place.  We try sooo hard to not say, "You're doing good!"  or "Good job!" or especially the worst of all: "Good girl!"  In breaking these bad habits of labeling everything good or bad and simultaneously making our girls dependent on vague praise that only hurts them in the long run, I have struggled to learn one noble truth: "There is no good or bad news, just news." (Oogway again, lol)  My perception of what is going on in my home and in the world is often colored by my linear thinking, when the reality is that it can be perceived entirely different by someone else - so who's 'right'?  Both perceptions.  For example, a certain child was cutting with scissors, just cutting newspapers into little pieces.  Suddenly the scissors strayed from the paper and headed toward the couch.  I just said, "Hey!"  My perception: 'You are going to wreck this couch and it's not even ours!'  Her perception, 'These scissors can cut ANYTHING!'  Fortunately I didn't say anything else, because in her exuberance over the miraculous technology of scissors she entirely forgot what she was doing.  My little, "Hey!" brought her back and she went back to paper, lol.  But we were both right.  :)