Friday, December 29, 2006

We finally have DSL, after a hiatus of three weeks! So I was able to upload some pictures. I took these right after Paul did a marvelous job getting up all of our family pictures, plus he framed some of the kids' artwork and put it up. The room just lit up.


Paul and Hibi did a count of how many recessed bucket lights there are in our house. That's how many: 58. We will never want for lighting around here, as the electrician who lived here before went a little crazy! However, we may want for cash to pay the electric bill....

So begins the greening of our house. We're headed out to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

We just got back from the Rebuilding Center (cool place!) and looked at doors for a project we want to do (eventually). We want to build a fence in our back yard. There's only a chain link fence there now, and over one street is a very busy street. Between our back yard and the busy street is only a parking lot. So we'd like to have something to block the sight and sounds of the busy street. Anyway, I was balking at just a conventional fence. Then I thought of the Rebuilding Center, and making it out of old doors! Yes, that's the perfect solution, we all said! We'll be doing that sometime in the new year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A new blog is born

A new friend I've met here in Portland has a new blog. I've really enjoyed getting to know her and also reading her blog. Here it is!

Magpie Ima


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas busyness melting into post-holiday calm

What a great Christmas we've had!

On Christmas Eve, we had vespers service at church, and the choir performed some neat arrangements of traditional carols (most of which only had the same words, not melody). I truly enjoyed singing them and loved the beautiful songs. I have to interject here: I had been having lots of trouble with my voice, which I talked with some of you about before. I have always enjoyed singing, and usually think of myself as talented in that area. But for the last three years or so, I've had trouble with going hoarse very soon after I begin to sing. I lived with it for awhile, thinking it'd go away. But it didn't. So I went to a specialist and discovered it was my acid reflux that was damaging my voice. Now I sure wish I hadn't waited so long, because perhaps it wouldn't have done so much damage and wouldn't be as difficult to heal.

He prescribed me medication, but I just couldn't see taking pills every day for the rest of my life, much less think of all the side effects of those meds. So I began looking for an alternative. Could it possibly be as simple as another doctor told me about? She said apple cider vinegar. Every day take a tablespoon. Yeah, it's an acid, seems counter-intuitive. But it's been proven to prevent all kinds of ailments of the throat/esophagus, like esophageal cancer. So I tried it. I've gone through more than one 16 ounce bottle of the stuff! I recommend Braggs--I had tried what I had on hand (never tried it in such a raw form before, so I didn't know what it *really* tasted like) but when I ran out I got Braggs, which was less expensive than what I'd been using, and tastes....almost good, quite zippy. I mix one tablespoon with a tablespoon of honey, then add about 1/2 cup warm water. Drink it down--yeah, I still have to choke it down. But it seems to be working. My voice still isn't full-throttle, but on Christmas Eve I was able to sing for the whole service plus the carols without going hoarse, in better voice than I've been in a very long time.

Anyway, after church on Christmas Eve, Paul was going to stop for stocking stuffers and other stuff we needed desperately (how did we get down the dregs of shampoo? Fortunately, we seemed to have Judah Maccabee's shampoo bottle, which continued to give even when we thought for sure it was done). But, as we were to find out, all the stores had closed at 6! Even Fred Meyers, which was the sign of sure impending doom. If Freddies was closed, surely we would find no place open. What were we to do for stocking stuffers? We had some mandarin oranges. But that seemed quite bleak. Paul said, weren't you thinking of making divinity? I said, yeah, but there's NO way of making divinity vegan for Hibi. BUT! I remembered seeing on Vegan Lunch Box a recipe for fudge. I went looking for it, and found I had all the necessary ingredients on hand! Yes! The stockings were saved. ;-) The kids *loved* the fudge.

Christmas morning! I don't know how, but I managed to not get any pictures of Christmas or the day after. :-( Zac got a didgeridoo, and Hibi a wooden flute (both made by the same Ukrainian Catholic man we met at the Portland Saturday Market). Hibi also got a pair of pirate earrings (silver hoops) which violated our one-present-each rule, but everyone thought it was a good idea. :-) Paul got a piece of Asian art. And I got the interesting gift. As we were walking through the Saturday market, we were telling each other what we'd like to receive from there. I said I'd like artwork, either a painting or a photo. I was thinking of one of those beautiful photos of Mt. Hood, all bedecked with snow or wildflowers (or both). They did get me a photo, but not of Mt. Hood.

I had told Paul that I had a pretty frame that his mom had given me years ago for Christmas, but I never had anything to put in it. It's decorated with dried flowers. I told him he could use it if he wanted to. He liked the idea.

So, when I opened my gift, it was in the dried flower frame. But it was a black and white photo. It was taken at a war protest in 2002, in Portland. It shows a police line, policemen all decked out in riot gear, armed to the teeth. Standing at the police line is a young woman, dressed like she's ready for a night on the town. But with a pink Hello Kitty bag. She is just standing at the line, staring contemplatively across the police line toward the officers.

On the back of the photo the photographer has written that it was at the protest in 2006, where there was a peaceful protest of the war, in which there was no violence on the part of the protesters, but the police used force all the same. Shame. My children wrote on the back as well: "where have all the flowers gone?"

After gifts it was time for church. We had liturgy and then home for a quick breakfast and time to get the house ready for guests! We invited two sets of people over for dinner: one was a family that the church has been helping to get on their feet. They moved here recently from Denver and had no place to live and nothing to put in a place to live, such as furniture. They have a 13 year old son and an almost-two year old daughter. Unfortunately, the mother wasn't feeling well and she wasn't able to come. The other set of people who came were some folks from the Catholic Worker house whom we've connected with recently. Two staff members and two residents came for dinner. They take in women who are transitioning from prison or homelessness. It was kind of quiet, sometimes awkward, for these people are in difficult situations and cannot just snap out of it in order to have a good Christmas. But it was good in it's own way and we're glad we had them over. My kids had fun with the two other children--they played chess with the 13 year old, and enjoyed playing with the 2 year old with toys they hadn't gotten out in years, like the Curious George that ended up going home with the little girl because she loved him so much and my kids were ready to let him go.

Then the day after Christmas: our good friends, Mark and Lisa, along with their children Hailey, Noah, and Isaiah, stopped by to see us! They spent Christmas with relatives in Seattle and were on their way home to San Francisco. They spent the night with us and left this morning. All the kids are friends (as well as all the adults!) but Zac and Isaiah are extra special best friends, the kind you only find maybe once or twice in a lifetime. Zac was sad the visit couldn't be longer. We'll have to look for more opportunities to get together, but that's hard when you live a 10 hour drive apart. Hmm. I just had an idea about that. Lisa, if you're reading this, drop me an email.

And the last item in today's very lengthy, chatty post: I just finished a beautiful book. I've been working on it ever since I checked it out, but it's been so busy and hectic around here that I'm only able to read a few pages each night before my eyes cannot stay open any longer. It's called Waking, by Matthew Sanford. I first heard about Matthew Sanford on a program on OPB (Portland's NPR station) called Speaking of Faith. I don't know if this is a program that's syndicated, or if it's just in Portland, but I know from just listening to it that once that I can recommend it. (Do any of you have trouble remembering to listen to your favorite programs?) In this book, Matthew tells his story, of how his family was traveling back home from Thanksgiving when he was 13 and the car slipped on the ice on a bridge, tumbled down the embankment, killed his father and sister, and paralyzed him from the chest down. How he was told that he wouldn't ever walk again, he wouldn't ever feel anything below his armpits again, and the feelings he was having and the ability to move his foot a bit was just phantom feelings, and not real movement. He tells of his journey from that time when he was told to ignore his body, to focus on "what he had left" as if he was only upper torso now and not a whole body. How he hurt himself by that belief for a while, and then began the journey to wholeness, to connecting with the whole of his body. He doesn't hold out hope for ever walking again, or even feeling again the way he felt before, but he does feel with his whole body in a certain way. He ends the book with the bittersweet birth of his twin sons. One of whom died in utero and one who lived. Matthew seems to me to be an incredibly beautiful person, one who can see the beauty in everything and everyone and who has a great gift to share with the world. I feel like I became acquainted with a new friend by reading this book.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Posts from Portland

Xmas Stocking
leave a gift for Elizabeth
your username: <
your gift: < (30 characters or less)

get your stocking
dating website

Here's my Christmas stocking! What will you leave in it? I hope not lumps of coal!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Update on us

There is life after moving! We have had a difficult week and a half getting settled over in our new home. We're realizing that yes, while we did just do this last year and we got through it fine, for one thing it was earlier in December that we moved in, and number two, we got all cleaned out of our old apartment in San Francisco before Thanksgiving. Plus, now we're connected and living active lives of Portland residents, instead of having nothing to do. Which is a great thing, but still makes moving difficult. But it's done now and boxes are being unpacked slowly. We have out what is really necessary (begging the question: why not just dump the rest?) and we can take our time doing the rest. Except that Christmas is coming fast! We are again doing our Christmas shopping at the Portland Saturday Market, which is very cool. We rode the MAX over there today, which has a stop only two blocks from our house, and pulls up right in front of the market. Very neat! Although that didn't keep us from getting chilled to the bone, which necessitated some curly fries. We thought it necessitated some elephant ears, but the guy we always buy them from wasn't there today. Very sad.

Yesterday we had an outing with our homeschool co-op, to the Mt. Scott Rec Center's pool. I had heard they had a "nice pool" but I'd always thought, a nice pool is one that's clean and I filed it in my brain. I'm sure glad to know about it now, though! This was no ordinary pool. Check it out on the website if you're local. It's well worth a trip. The kids and I spent a lot of time in the current channel. It was so much fun! Then they opened up the waterslide. It's really tall and I just zoomed down it--it was almost too fast for me. Zac tried and tried to work up his courage to go on it, but was scared. After much agonizing, he finally went....and proved me right, that once he went down it, he'd go again and again, and wonder why in the world he'd waited so long! And the third thing I enjoyed there but the kids weren't allowed to was the hot tub. Mmmmmm did that feel good when it's so cold outside. I wish I was there now!

Sunday we had our Nativity Pageant at church. I think the director has had a stroke of genius. You know how Christmas pageants have a tendency to drag on and on and be too long and tedius? Well, this one is short and sweet. Actually, it's in two parts: first is the part in the church, right after liturgy. They have the 6th grade class take turns reading out the nativity story and other kids acting it out as they go. Then the younger grades come into the church in turn, singing a Christmas carol as they come in that has to do with what's happening in the story. Like Away in a Manger during the birth, We Three Kings while the kings are coming in (actually all of the 4th grade were kings, and singing, and Zac made a great king!). Hibi was chosen to be Mary this year! She did a great job, though it wasn't actually a very big part--just carry in the "baby" and sit down for the whole thing.

The second part is the Christmas concert in the church hall. After everyone gets their coffee and sweets, they go into the hall. (This also allows for those who aren't interested to make their escape.) Individual children can perform Christmas carols, singing or playing an instrument. It was very nice! Hibi sang and played guitar for What Child is This. She was a hit!

Alas, in our fashion, we didn't bring the camera. Sigh. Besides, I think it's still packed away somewhere. Hopefully someone else will give me a picture or two.

And now you are up-to-date on the happenings of this family! Hope you all have a great week, and a very merry Christmas! (Or whatever holiday you are celebrating!)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

This cool article appeared yesterday in the Oregonian, about some folks in San Francisco who made a vow to not buy anything new for a whole year:

WP: 10 friends live secondhand for a year
Voluntary simplicity also sparks a backlash
By William Booth
The Washington Post
Updated: 8:29 a.m. PT Dec 18, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO - In the living room, the group gathers to share inspirational stories about the joy of finding just the right previously owned shower curtain. To the uninitiated, these people appear almost normal, at least in a San Francisco kind of way. But upon closer inspection, you see it: Nothing in this house, nothing on their bodies, none of their products -- nothing is new. Everything is used.

For these people, recycling wasn't enough. Composting wasn't a challenge anymore. No, they wanted much more of much less.

Attention holiday shoppers! These people haven't bought anything new in 352 days -- and counting. These 10 friends vowed last year not to purchase a single new thing in 2006 -- except food, the bare necessities for health and safety (toilet paper, brake fluid) and, thankfully, underwear, and maybe socks (they're still debating whether new socks are okay).

Everything else they bought secondhand. They bartered or borrowed. Recycled. Re-gifted. Reused. Where? Thrift stores and swap meets, friends and Dumpsters, and the Internet, from Craigslist to the Freecycle Network, which includes 3,843 communities and 2.8 million members giving away stuff to one another.

These people purchased old sheets this year. Tonight's vegetarian feast was cooked in a hand-me-down Crock-Pot. Christmas presents? They're making them, or -- shudders -- they don't give them.

They call their little initiative "the Compact," which they say has something to do with the Mayflower and the Pilgrim pledge to live for the greater good, save the planet, renew their souls, etc. And although these modern "Compactors" say they never intended to spark a mini-movement or appear on the "Today" show, that is exactly what has happened.

Since the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about them in February, their story of not buying has appeared on media outlets around the world -- everything from Yoga Journal to Martha Stewart's Body + Soul to the London Times. Even Oprah's producers called.

Pinched a nerve
It appears they've pinched a nerve. Perhaps, the Compactors suggest, many people have the same feeling that the mall just isn't working for them anymore.

"We're just rarefied middle-class San Francisco greenies having a conversation about consumption and sustainability," says John Perry, a marketing executive with a high-tech firm, and one of the founding Compactors. "But suddenly, we decide we're not going to buy a bunch of new stuff for a year? And that's international news? Doesn't that say something?"

Their user group on Yahoo has grown to 1,800 registered members, representing SubCompact cells operating across the country (including Washington), and around the planet. So they apparently live among us, biding their time, quietly not buying, like some kind of Fifth Column of . . . Shakers.

The online Compact community ( spends enormous amounts of typing-time discussing things most Americans probably do not. Such as how to make soap. Or whether a mousetrap counts as a safety necessity. Or how to explain to your children that Santa Claus traffics in used toys.

"And people hate us for it? Like it drives them nuts?" This is Shawn Rosenmoss, an environmental engineer in the original San Francisco group. Some have called the Compactors un-American, anti-capitalist, eco-freak poseurs whose defiant act of not-consuming, if it caught on, would destroy the economy and our way of life.

Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters magazine, who advocates taking a 24-hour timeout of the consumer merry-go-round, has promoted Buy Nothing Day since 1992, urging citizens to resist the urge to splurge on the day after Thanksgiving, the kickoff to the holiday shopping spree.

Lasn claims that millions of people have stopped shopping on Buy Nothing Day, although he admits there is no way to know for sure. But Lasn does know that Internet discussion about the movement has grown, and so, too, the backlash -- against the backlash.

"I go on talk radio shows, and I'm amazed by the anger of some people, the Chamber of Commerce president who calls up and says, 'You're trying to ruin the economy,' " Lasn says. "I sympathize. I know you have to pay your rent, but try to take the larger view. We consume three times more than we did right after World War II. These things are connected."

"I think it upsets people because it seems like we're making a value judgment about them," says Rosenmoss, who has two children. "When we're simply trying to bring less . . . into our house."

What are the rules to this particular game? "People are really into the rules," Perry says, "as if it were a game, which it kind of is. I like that part of it. Figuring out how to do what I need to do without running out and buying something."

Is a toilet brush a necessity?
The rules are simple -- and flexible. The original Compactors decided they would get to vote on anything in the gray areas.

One member recalls asking permission to purchase a new toilet brush, contending that it was a health issue. Overruled. How about a new house key? Allowed. New tubes of shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen are okay, but skin bronzer would be frowned upon.

At the potluck supper, the family dog is playing with a toy, which looks like a ball of yarn. Technically, it is new, and thus a Compact breaker. "But if she eats it," points out Rachel Kesel, a professional dog walker, "then it's food."

"We all have our little weaknesses," says Kate Boyd, a schoolteacher and set designer. Her challenge was getting used bicycle shoes, plus a used helmet and pump. Three buys through Craigslist through three sellers. "It was more of a hassle than going to the bike store," she says, but more interesting, too. "You get to meet new people."

The greatest challenge of the Compact? "The strangest things," Perry explains. For example, he cannot find used shoe polish.

Then there are modern dilemmas. Is it better to buy a battery (allowed, if recycled and rechargeable) for a cellular phone for $70 or just have the company give you a new free phone if you switch providers?

Clothes? Easy, they say. Vintage stores. Consignment shops. Or more down-market, your Goodwill, your Salvation Army. Or your own closet, likely filled with outfits.

Toys? The easiest. Perry and his partner, Rob Picciotto, a high school language teacher, have two adopted children. "I take Ben to Target sometimes and we'll play with the toys and then leave," Picciotto says. The kid seems happy.

"I broke down and bought a drill bit," Rosenmoss says. The Compactors nod their heads. "I just wanted it and I needed and I did it." The group members understand. They've had their drill-bit moments.

‘The craving will pass’
But not a lot of them. Asked what they bought that broke the Compact, the list was not long: some sneakers, the drill bit, a map, and for Sarah Pelmas and her newlywed husband, Matt Eddy (fellow Compactors), some energy-efficient windows for the house renovation. The 1920s house, they remind us, was purchased used. Indeed, they painted it with recycled paint.

"By being so strict with yourself, you learn to take a deep breath," Kesel says.

"You learn to do away with the impatience." Boyd says, "You see that the craving will pass."

One Compactor points out that the group's members are not really denying themselves much. Boyd says that, for example, by buying less new, "I drink way better wine now." Also allowed: services. So they could buy a massage if they wanted to. They can go to movies, theater, concerts, museums, bars, music clubs and restaurants. They can fly, drive (and buy gas), stay in hotels.

Judith Levine, author of "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping," went really cold turkey in 2004 with her husband. The couple split their time between Brooklyn and Vermont. She applauds the Compactors, but says that not buying stuff for a year is only taking it halfway. Not going to the movies and restaurants for a year -- now that's cutting back.

Amazingly, the Compactors have all decided to renew their pledge for another year. There are, naturally, things they miss, and so they've decided to give themselves one day next month when they can buy a few things they really need new.

Like? "I need a drain snake," Perry says. Is that not pitiful?

Used pillowcases? Disgusting
Pelmas is dying for new pillowcases. Used pillowcases, even this group agrees, are rather disgusting.

Lessons learned?

"We didn't do this to save the world. We did this to improve the quality of our own lives," Perry says. "And what we learned is that we all have a lot of more stuff than you think, and that you can get along on a lot less stuff than you can imagine."

Staff writer Sonya Geis in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company


© 2006

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Not everything can be exciting...

Okay, so I have to say that one *major* disadvantage to buying a house as opposed to renting: people who have sold their house and gotten your money have no reason whatsoever to leave their house clean for you. :-P

We just spent three hours plus cleaning our new home. I'm sure glad I had the foresight to think of this, because I don't know what we'd have done if we'd shown up tomorrow, moving truck full of things to unpack, and the house was in the condition it was. It was just a lot of little things....and it's still not done, but at least the bathrooms and kitchen are (mostly) clean. I have been concerned that this would happen ever since the second time we saw it and it just wasn't as clean as the first time. But hey, it's been three guys living there together, what did we expect?

As it is, it doesn't feel quite like our home yet. But with a bit of cleaning it's feeling more so than before. It just squicks me out so to clean a toilet that someone else has let go way too long.

Almost there!

Oops, I accidentally posted this to my cooking blog instead of my regular blog. I had thought it disappeared, though I was sure I'd seen it post! Thanks to Mimi for commenting there so I could figure out what happened! Originally posted last night (Saturday) so the "tomorrow" is only in an hour from now. :-)
Man, I am exhausted. I'm getting too old for this! But it's a good exhausted. We closed escrow on our house on Thursday (yay!) and the seller is now in the process of moving out. He's supposed to be out by 5 pm tomorrow and we move in on Monday! We went over this afternoon and he showed us all the ins and outs of how the house works. We are all so happy to finally be HOMEOWNERS!

On Thursday evening, we were invited by a family from the church to come to dinner, then go to The Grotto to hear one of the daughter's high school Christmas concert. The Grotto has a big Festival of Lights every year and I'd wanted to get over there to see it this Christmas season, but I probably would have let busyness keep me away. I'm so glad this family invited us to come with them because the place was beautiful and the concert was wonderful. It was nice to get away from packing for an evening, too.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Enjoying while packing

Paul recently decided to give a listen for the first time to the Dixie Chicks, when they came out with Taking the Long Way Around We're both really enjoying the CD we got from the library, and might just have to buy a copy.

Random thing that came out of my mouth regarding Dixie Chicks, that made Paul laugh:
"When I first heard Dixie Chicks I thought their singing style sounded really slutty. But now I like it." Of course I didn't mean that now I like slutty music, but that's what made Paul laugh.