Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pool Floaty thing


At the beginning of the summer I bought a $3 inflatable floaty thing for G, and it worked fine... but then it popped. And I realized that I didn't like it that much afterall! It was bulky and took a lot of blowing to inflate! Anyhow, I got this one, and love it. It's a cinch to blow up and is much more fun for G, since she can actually touch the water and splash around.

Also, it twists up (like my KidCo PeaPod Plus) and pops open, so it takes up a lot less space!

Snacks G Loves!

Snapea Crisps. You can get them at Trader Joes. They are addicting, and really made of peas. They're baked too, so it's a great snack.

INGREDIENTS:
GREEN PEAS, CORN OIL, RICE, SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C).

Teddy Puffs.
These were some of G's first foods. I try to varry her grain intake (since Americans tend to be so wheat heavy), and these are another wheat free snack. These are widely available (Wegmans, etc.)

Ingredients:
Organic whole grain oats, organic whole grain brown rice, organic whole grain corn, organic evaporated unrefined cane juice, calcium carbonate, tocopherols (vitamin E)

Trader Joe's Schoolhouse Cookies. They're called cookies, but really they only have 8g sugar for 15 cookies!

Also at TJ's: Just Banana Flattened. Literally.

KidCo Tent

I can't believe that I haven't put this up here before now, but I was talking to a couple at the REI Attic Sale and wanted to make sure it's up here.

The KidCo PeaPod Plus has been the greatest thing we have bought for G yet. We use it all the time--camping (in our tent with us--I don't have to think about her rolling anywhere, etc.), going to the beach, at the pool, hanging out outside while I refinish furniture. And G loves it too! We even took it with us on our Minnesota trip, and she could sleep anywhere. The plus is a little bigger than the other PeaPods (we thought she could use it longer that way).

It is the coolest thing though--no annoying rods to feed through nylon sleeves, etc. It just springs open on it's own. It weighs about 5lbs and twists up flat, so we could put it in our suitcase. We use it without the mattress too, just putting down the sleeping bag. The link above was the best price I found for the Plus.

Specs:
  • Virtually indestructible frame folds for storage
  • Mattress easily inflates with included hand pump
  • Bottom pocket hides mattress away from baby and prevents mattress shifting
  • 50% UV protection
  • 4 mesh panels
  • 4 adjustable wind screens
  • Open Dimensions: 52.5" x 34" x 25" High
  • Storage Bag Dimensions: 19"L x 6.5"W x 19" High
  • For use from birth and up
And at $73 it still beats the price of a bulky (ugly) Pac N' Play.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sigg

I love my new Sigg water bottle. I was really excited to see that Wegmans is carrying them for only $13.99. I am slowly getting rid of all plastic! I replaced all my tupperware with glass three months ago.

SIGG: The History

SIGG Switzerland dates back to 1908 when metal processing specialist Ferdinand Sigg established an aluminum product factory about 30 kilometers outside of Zurich. Along with his colleague Xaver Küng, the two men combined their love of metal and the strong belief that "aluminum is the material of the future". Their product line, which was called SIGG AG Aluminiumwarenfabrik, was initially comprised of saucepans, frying pans and bottles, all of which sold rapidly and were immensely popular. By 1958, SIGG had thousands of products that were all manufactured in the company's own rolling mill and drawing shop.

It was in 1990 that the course for the future of the SIGG bottle was determined: a new shape, still typical of today's bottles, was developed and the quality achieved was superior. The beautiful shapes and design of the bottle is one of the reasons that in 1993 SIGG was incorporated into the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. In 1997, the company was bought by an investor group and changed direction to focus on its #1 "star" product... the SIGG bottle.

Approaching its 100 year anniversary, SIGG has its sights set on growing the brand outside of Europe. In 2005, SIGG launched a USA subsidiary based in Stamford, CT. "This brand has tremendous history and for generations has been the must-have water bottle for Europeans," stated Steve Wasik, SIGG USA President. "Americans are now discovering that using a high quality, reusable bottle like SIGG makes great sense – both financially and environmentally."

For the last 90 years, corporate headquarters have been based in the charming village of Frauenfeld Switzerland where SIGG employs about 60 dedicated people. "With nearly a century of Swiss expertise and craftsmanship, we take tremendous pride in the quality of our product," claimed Stephan Lack, SIGG Switzerland CEO. "Today, SIGG remains the world leader in premium water bottles, sold in over 40 countries... and counting!"

SIGG, "The Original Swiss Bottle", is recognized world-wide for Swiss quality and craftsmanship that comes with nearly 100 years of heritage and experience. Produced from a single component that is seamless and has no comparable weak points, SIGG bottles are tremendously durable and virtually unbreakable. In June 2006, Backpacker magazine conducted a relentless field test of leading water bottles brands. With the services of a 100 pound cannon packed with golf balls, they were able to destroy all of the targeted bottles – except one! Following the bottle barrage, they dubbed SIGG "The World's Toughest Water Bottle."

SIGG bottle linerAs tough as they are on the outside, it's the inside of SIGG bottles that make them so special. Due to SIGG's special, proprietary internal coating, these high-tech bottles are resistant to fruit juice acids, energy drinks, alcohol and virtually any consumable beverage. Because the liners are taste and scent neutral, you can enjoy any beverage you'd like – without any lingering smell or taste of the last beverage you drank. The composition of the liner also reduces the chances of bacteria build-up. And because the liner is virtually baked into the inner walls of the bottle, it will not flake or chip even if dented on the outside.

Recently, there has been a lot of press concerning Lexan plastic water bottles (Polycarbonate #7) leaching harmful chemicals into the container's ingredients. It's extremely important to note that SIGG bottles exceed FDA requirements and have been thoroughly tested to ensure 0.0% leaching – so they are 100% safe.

Combining function and fashion, SIGG bottles come in over 100 unique, eye-catching designs. Utilizing 30 independent artists from around the world, SIGG Switzerland introduces new, cutting edge styles every year. And the leak-proof caps are interchangeable creating over 1,000 possible combinations – so you can find the SIGG that meets your needs and expresses your personality.

SIGG bottles are manufactured in an ecologically-friendly environment and are 100% recyclable after their very long lives. In fact, most SIGGs in Europe are still being used 10-20 years after purchase.

Illustrator


Thanks to MP for a link to this guy's blog.

With so many good illustrators out there, it's a little intimidating to get started.

A final word on smells

I finally found the thing to do it... to take away those odoriferous wafts coming from the diaper pail. I got it at Home Depot: The Gonzo Odor Eliminator for Homes. I liked that last thing I posted, but it only worked for about a week before it's powers were overwhelmed. This is a bag of volcanic minerals. It claims to be environmentally safe (whatever that means), and is non-toxic. They last for years. I have now been using this bag for months, and when the potency wears down a bit you just lay it out in the sun for 6 hours to get it recharged. There are no deodorizer scents added either, it seems to really just absorb smells.
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Would Byatt be happy with my choice?

How We Lost Our Sense of Smell

AS Byatt
The Guardian Unlimited

Imagine a modern room. Its magic window is open on another world where once the hearth used to be, with its wood smoke, or its smell of hot coal with a ghost of tar. The artificial paradises succeed each other. Sunny glades in dappled woodland, inviting tunnels of greenery like the shadowed rides in Keats's Ode to a Nightingale, where

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs
But in embalmed darkness guess each sweet...
Keats lists the guessed-at flowers and grasses:
White hawthorn and the pastoral eglantine,
Fast fading violets covered up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine
The murmurs haunt of flies on summer eves.

The television screen shows branches and violets. It shows pine forests and sheets of falling white water ending in curls of clean, shining spray. It shows meadows full of buttercups and pine forests full of mystery and crisp needles. It is telling you - enticing you - to recreate these atmospheres in your own home with air fresheners, with aerosol sprays of scented furniture polish, with jigging and extravagant canisters of flowery and fruity powder which will "freshen" your stale carpets, with droplets or waxy cones which drink up the odours of tobacco smoke and shaggy dogs and damp wool and replace them with tangy fruit and flower bouquets. Think how many such smells contend for supremacy in the room with the television. The lavender polish (with its sharp aerosol undertow), the rich, peachy freshener hanging in the window, the orris and attar of roses and orange peel in the carpet, the Glade, the Lavender Antiquax, the appley Pledge.

Move out into the kitchen, where the floors have been washed with sugary hyacinth disinfectant, where the dishwasher is scented with lemon and honey, where there is a kind of mixed artificial flower scent in the washing machine, and perfumed paper strips making the contents of the dryer smell of essence of concentrated plums and overwhelming extract of cloves, or vanilla, or potpourri, or all at once. You have seen ecstatic dancing women on your TV screen pressing their noses into heaps of enhanced-white towels, which do not smell of damp cotton but of lightness and freshness, you are told. Does pressing your nose into your own towels induce ecstasy?

You have a deodorising block in your refrigerator which does not smell of nothing, but of ersatz orange or lemon or lime. Your steam iron emits aromatherapeutic steam, valerian for headaches and stomach cramps, nutmeg for digestion, neroli oil as an anti-depressant and aphrodisiac.

Go out into the lavatory and your floor will smell of spring forest, your lavatory cleaner of "pine forest" or "aqua", which is not a smell of mussel shells and seaweed, or of froggy ponds and marsh marigolds, but another swoon-sweet mixed floral bouquet. The water-softening block in your loo tank will have its own strong, sweet odour, as will the little block you hang from the rim to odorise the water in the bowl, to make it smell "clean". There will be air fresheners in canisters to spray high into the air, from where they drop and drip in wisps of rosy or spicy or peardroppy vapour. In France, even your lavatory paper will be printed with rosebuds or fleurs-de-lys and be " délicatement parfumé ". ...

.... If these were sounds they would be a cacophony. As with sounds, you are inured to it and turn up the volume. ....

.... Scent also comes from the French, sentir, a word which means both to smell and to feel, acknowledging the primitive nature of the scenting sense. Scent is to do with our sense of our own identity, with our recognition of other people's identities and their emotions, with sex, with infant-mother bonding. It is also to do with finding things and places, with tracking prey and locating food, from mushrooms to honey. It is not an easy thing to describe at this level. ...

For the complete article click here. It's so Byatt (good).

Little Paper Planes

Cool prints, bags, jewelry, etc.

Esp. a tiny acorn necklace that I just love. [Note: Acorns are very popular in Norwegian folklore and decoration. They mean both longevity as well as protection from storms, since Thor evidently found shelter under an oak tree once.]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Avoid bendy broccoli"


I have been browsing a couple of cooking sites/blogs and have to mention a couple:

Eat the Seasons. This is a site that has weekly updates on what should be most fresh right now, and all year around. There are both American and British versions available. The British site includes admonishments such as "Avoid bendy broccoli." I have been wanting to compile a cookbook doing just this, but it seems as though the www has beat me to it!

Seasonal food information, tips and recipe ideas, updated every week.

FOODS IN SEASON NOW

foods in bold link to articles

VEGETABLES

artichoke | arugula | beet | beet greens | bell peppers | carrots | cauliflower | corn | eggplant | garlic | potatoes (maincrop) | radishes | sweet potatoes | wild mushrooms | zucchini

FRUIT & NUTS

almonds | apples | cranberries | figs | limes | melon | pears | plums | pomegranate | raspberries | tomatoes

MEAT

duck | lamb

FISH & SEAFOOD

lobster

Another blog that I ran across as I was searching for Bouddha Bleu is Oswego Tea. I really like her recipes and her fod photography is really sumptuous.


I am beginning Choice Cuts, ed. by Mark Kurlansky. It is an anthology of food writing from throughout history, arranged by theme. MK is the author of Salt and Cod as well.

"Food is about agriculture, about ecology, about man's relationship with nature ... about nation-building, cultural struggles, friends and enemies ... and at times, even about sex." Thus Mark Kurlansky, author of the award-winning Cod and Salt, introduces Choice Cuts, his anthology of food writing throughout history. Kurlansky has cast his net very wide and presents a legion of food writers on every possible culinary subject.

The usual suspects are here, sometimes in triplicate: Brilliat Savarin on gourmets, female food-love, and how to gain weight; M.F.K. Fisher on bachelor cooking, the dislike of cabbage, and dinner at France's famed Monsieur Paul's in the 1940s; Elizabeth David on the folly of the garlic press, the glories of toast, and English pizza. But Kurlansky's trail starts much earlier with Plato on cooking (food as a branch of medicine, a notion shared by many modern advertisers), Heroditus on Egyptian dining, and, resoundingly, Mencius, a student of Confucius who, in the third century B.C., implored Chinese leaders to observe saner food and environmental policies.

There is a great deal to digest here, but readers can take small bites at their leisure. Enjoyed in this way, the book provides an endlessly fascinating glimpse of humankind's second--or is it the first?--greatest pleasure. --Arthur Boehm

Mariage Freres: Bouddha Bleu

I am just finishing up a tin of Mariage Freres' tea called Bouddha Bleu and am looking for another tin. I think my mom got this for me either at The Inn at Little Washington or at Coppola's vineyard. Does anyone know of a good source for this tea? It's absolutely delightful. It makes the perfect cup of tea.

Monday, September 10, 2007

In Defence of Harry Potter

A really fine review and defense of the Harry Potter series, specially the seventh.

The Youngest Brother's Tale
Harry Potter's grand finale.
by Alan Jacobs

A little more than a hundred years ago, a number of British educators, journalists, and intellectuals grew exercised about the reading habits of the nation's children. The particular target of their disapproval was the boy's adventure story—the kind of cheap short novel, full of exotic locations and narrow escapes from mortal peril and false friends and unexpected acts of heroism, that had come to be known as the "penny dreadful." Surely it could not be good for children to immerse themselves in these ill-made fictional worlds, with their formulaic plots and purple prose; surely we should insist that they learn to savor finer fare.

Then came riding into the fray a young man—twenty-five at the time—named Gilbert Keith Chesterton, who, though a journalist and an intellectual himself, repudiated the hand-wringing of his colleagues and planted his flag quite firmly in the camp of the penny dreadfuls: "There is no class of vulgar publications about which there is, to my mind, more utterly ridiculous exaggeration and misconception than the current boys' literature of the lowest stratum." Chesterton is perfectly happy to acknowledge that these books are not in the commendatory sense "literature," because "the simple need for some kind of ideal world in which fictitious persons play an unhampered part is infinitely deeper and older than the rules of good art, and much more important. Every one of us in childhood has constructed such an invisible dramatis personae, but it never occurred to our nurses to correct the composition by careful comparison with Balzac."

For the complete article, click here.

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I would add to this that the epilogue is not some cheese-ball soapy ending at all. I think Rowling's whole point of the seven books is that sure, this is a great rip roaring adventure, but the whole point of the struggle is that life goes on, that families continue. This is exactly that for which they were all fighting! To miss this point is to miss how actually counter-cultural these cultural phenomenon are. Almost every other kids book or movie promotes th idea that family life is bad, working and sacrificing for the norm is for goons, and that life ought to be about seeking enjoyment and excitement. Not so in Rowling's epic.

Thanks to FK for the article. It put many of my own thoughts and impressions into a much more able wording.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Big Draw

The Campaign for Drawing’s aim is simple: to get everyone drawing. Its annual showpiece, The Big Draw, proves that drawing can be a public activity as well as a private passion. In October, 1000 venues throughout Britain, from large national institutions to village halls, join in to offer more than 350,000 people of all ages the chance to discover that drawing is enjoyable, liberating and at everyone's fingertips.

The Campaign takes its inspiration from the visionary Victorian artist and writer, John Ruskin. His mission was not to teach people to draw, but how to see. Each Big Draw season reveals how drawing opens our eyes to our environment and heritage, encouraging us to think, invent and communicate.

We attended the first American Big Draw at the National Building Museum in Washington DC, where David Macaulay (of The Way Things Work) kicked things off on this side of the pond. It was really a great event, and worth trying to find one (or sponsor one) in your area. They handed out sketch pads and pencils at the door, There were workshops, demonstrations and sidewalk artists. We even had the opportunity to get right down and draw on the same canvas as Macaulay was. And it was all free!

Slow Food

I recently read about the Slow Food movement. Now, I don't know that I support all their distaste for agri-business (I'm pretty glad that I don't have to grow my own corn), but their determination to enjoy good food is a pretty great cause!

They even have an Ark of Taste!

U.S. Ark of Taste

Saving Cherished Slow Foods, One Product at a Time

  • Click here to view the full list of USA Ark of Taste Products.
  • Click here for a list of US Ark-Presidia Committee Members

The Ark of Taste came into being in Italy, at the first Salone del Gusto in Turin in 1996. A year later, in Serralunga d'Alba, a Manifesto was drawn up to define its objectives. The Ark seeks, first and foremost, to save an economic, social and cultural heritage - a universe of animal breeds, fruit and vegetables, cured meats, cheese, cereals, pastas, cakes and confectionery.

Our mission is to preserve endangered tastes - and to celebrate them, by introducing them to the membership and then to the world, through media, public relations, and Slow Food events. Nominations for Ark products can now be made online.

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On a personal note: My problem with these great movements/organizations, is that they almost without fail miss the whole issue of giftedness. In their rush to preserve community (a good thing), they forget that part of what community is all about is each of the gifts that the Lord has given us--so why not let the farmer farm, the baker bake, and the teacher teach, and I will enjoy the fruits of their much more skilled efforts than any paltry attempts of my own.

To be fair, this particular organization does seem to value the farmers' own contributions, without feeling the need to preach about growing and grinding our own grains.

Crunchy Cons


My sister-in-law was reading Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher when I saw her recently. I flipped over the book and began reading the Crunchy Con Manifesto. I was really excited, b/c my husband and I had been recently talking about how we were politically conservative, but (specially having worked in the Conservative political non-profit world) it seemed to both of us that conservatives have lost their personal mooring in what they claim to believe. They say they believe in family values, but you can't tell that from the way they relate interpersonally, etc. They say they are Christians who are carrying out the Creation mandate, but who don't care to conserve the environment, etc. It seems as though a lot of Republicans are really just capitalists period. Libertarians in sheep's clothing. But the Free Market is only a good thing when it is held in check by a populous that is also committed to the other fundamental institutions of family, church and the government. Free market alone is just as wrong as Big government alone. They become giant unwieldy thumbs.

Anyhow, I picked up a copy as soon as I got home. I was sitting there reading the manifesto and thought, "Wow! We are not alone!" I guess there is a whole movement out there of political conservatives trying to actually live out those conservative principles in their daily life. Now, I don't agree with everything that Dreher espouses (ie. homeschooling, is a good example), but I do think he brings up a lot of really interesting points for discussion. I generally agree with his concerns, but don't always arrive at them for the same reasons, or think the solutions he proposes are the best, but it's a good book for prompting some vigorous discussion. I often find myself turning to whomever is near me to find someone with whom I can chew over these ideas.

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On another, though similar, note... We just recently returned from our vacation to good ol' liberal Minnesota where we realized just how concrete our conservative beliefs are. After many interesting discussions, I still think that Conservative political thought is the most rational, comprehensive and un-contradictory political perspective one can have. Also, the one that most is most closely aligned with Christian principles.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish cooking

I am going to post a little on soem of my favorite cook books. My friend recently picked up The Clay Pot Cook Book called, One Pot, Clay Pot, by Jenni Fleetwood. She is a Brits, so she overdoes the vegetables in my opnion, but the cook book is a lot of fun, everything always turns out and the recipes are easily adaptable.

You can someties find it on the Borders Bargain Rack for $5.99

My friend asked for some of my favorites out of it, so I'll include them here, along with my cook's annotations:

p. 27 Moroccan Harira
I double this recipe.
use 2 cans of chopped tomatoes (instead of chopped fresh).
When doubling I use 3X the spices, and 2 C beef broth along with the doubled amount of water.
I use 1 can of chickpeas rinsed, instead of soaking overnight.
And instead of the garnish at the end, I just add a dash of lemon juice.

p. 26 Sausage and Pesto Soup

p. 24 Chinese chicken and chili soup.
Almost without fail I use red pepper flakes whenever she calls for chilis. You can use whatever kind of mushrooms you want. I use a can of baby corns. Also, I don't know if you ever shop at Super H Mart, but they have really great produce for cheap (like they were having 6 bunches of green onions for 99 cents), and they have this great stuff that is just a jar of grated fresh ginger, nothing else... so it saves a lot of time, and you don't waste the left over ginger root, the jar lasts in the fridge for a long time. this recipe is really quick, specially if you use one of those rotissery chicken you can get at costco for $4.99 and pull it.

the p. 28 spanish potato soup is good, but not a meal.

p. 36 pasta squares in broth
This is one of our all time favorites. a lot of times when we can't think of anything else, we go for this. it is so good, and satisfying! I use a ham steak cut into 1 inch slices instead of the pancetta (i don't put in the bacon or the procuitto cubes). And I throw in the frozen peas at the very end, just as the pasta is almost done, otherwise they are British peas! Also, I often add more broth than is called for.

I love p. 75

We have tried I think 75% of the recipes and like them all, I am just trying to give the highlights.

p. 87 Lentil Dahl-- so good! I tried making it once, and not letting it cook the allotted time, but it was not that great. We brought this to church dinner on sunday and it was soooo good. To make the garlic puree I just popped a head of garlic in the over at 350, while I was preparing other things (chop off the tips of the top, and drizzle with olive oil), the you can just push out the garlic easily. Also, I usually use olive oil everytime she calls for some fancy kind. and I didn't put the curry leaves inthe garnish, since we didn't have any, and it was still great! I doubled this one, and used a 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, slightly strained instead of the chopped fresh.

this'll be the last, but this is like the ham/pea soup, we eat this all the time. p. 108 chicken with tomatoes and honey
I use boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes, just whatever nuts I have around, and olive oil. you don't have to cook it as long as she says either, just until the chicken are done. i put the nuts in at the beginning-ish of the cooking, so that they are soft by then end, i don't blanch them. I cook it in a regular stove top pan, and i don't take the chicken out, blah blah and put them back in. It cooks nicely without all that. It's totally easy, and the flavors are excellent!

p. 120 is good
i don't like her boeuf bourguignion at all. bleh.
p 133 is good
p. 138is great!
p. 156 is good