Monday, November 28, 2011

Re-Learning Common Sense

The main thing we know about common sense is that it is no longer common. I don't know if we have over-protected or bred it out of ourselves of if something in the water blocks it, but it sure is scarce these days. We shouldn't need to be told to not hold hot coffee between our legs while driving, or not to text while driving, or that plastic bags are bad... yet, here we are.

And we really shouldn't need to be told to toss on a sweater instead of the heater. Isn't that something our grandparents just knew? I saw a picture posted on Facebook by one of my greener (I thought) friends of his absolutely otherwise adorable wife... in front of the heater, freezing, warming herself in front of it, while all she had on was a t-shirt and SHORTS. Oh, and warm slippers. Umm...

Frequently, I am silently horrified by such images. I refrain from commenting, because, after all, I try to get along. I try to not piss off people with whom I am normally friendly. I often pass up a chance to point certain things out, because... well... it can be off-putting. All I really wanted to say, though, was, "For frick's sake, try putting on some warmer clothes before you crank the heater and waste energy!!! Don't you KNOW that already???" Sigh. When I am chilly, I put on warmer stuff. If I am still chilly, and just on the couch or such, I add a blanket. If it is still really cold, THEN the heat. Common. Sense.

It's not about "Oh, so what, it's their heating bill." No. It's all our energy, and the distribution thereof, and the need for more and more and fracking and drilling and ALL that. There are two empty units in the building across the street from us, right up front, and they have lights on in them 24/7. It makes me crazy. It's their bill, but it is OUR energy. The whole planet's. They are getting that energy from UTAH from a coal-burning plant. Should some family in Utah suffer the health effects of coal-burning because YOU can't toss on something a little warmer or be bothered to turn off useless lights?

Didn't think so.

And to anyone who feels the snarky need to say yes to that, please pull over, put down your keys, and step off the planet. We're better without you. Thanks. You are excused.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Process of (Un?) Re-Learning

The more I look around, observe, read, learn, the more I realize the depths to which we have been led around and duped. It's so much that there will be a series of these over the next few weeks.

One such moment came up as I used our trusty, not very old but definitely favorite, cast iron skillet. We pretty much leave it on the stove all the time, since we use it SO much. I think back as to why these have been replaced in most of our lives. Cast iron pots and pans last forever. In fact, the longer you use them, the better they get. The cheap crap pans we use nowadays, the light, "non-stick" things, do not last very long at all. And you have to use plastic spoons on them. Which also need replaced all the time. Unless you use bamboo, but I don't know of a majority of people who do that. (They should, those things are great.) It's a vicious cycle, and the manufacturers, corporations (can you say DuPont? I can) prefer it that way. Am I hinting of a conspiracy theory? Not so much but yes. (LOL) I was an X Files avid viewer. Let's just say that, over time, as we know, most things we use that used to last forever have been replaced by planned obsolescence. This is not a new statement for me, you know that. But I'm really starting to laser-focus in on it now.

Like my pan, as I pondered it today, as my onions caramelized nicely... When did we move away from them? And why? What were the reasons? Let us examine:

1) Stuff sticks.
No, it really doesn't. Once that pan is properly prepared and seasoned, nothing sticks to it. And I mean nothing. DuPont just wanted to sell Teflon, so they spun it, and we fell for it.

2) They are heavy.
Yeah, they are. And we are WEAK. Heck, I lift it for a good core exercise. I realize that older or infirm people would have a hard time with them, but your average everyday homemaker should have no problem. We are weak and lazy, and that is that. Heavy shmeavy. Get a backbone.

3) They are SO hard to clean.
*Insert obnoxious buzzer sound here.* Couldn't be further from the truth. It takes a few times before the thing is properly seasoned, sure... but then, it is the biggest piece of cake to clean that thing. Oh... and no detergents or chemicals needed, so there's another incentive for the big companies to get rid of cast iron in favor of their stuff.

Some other pluses that are seen as minuses by those who want to make money off of us:

1) This thing keeps the heat very steady. I actually HAVE to use a lower flame to cook with it. Therefore, I save gas. That's bad when you want people to use MORE gas and energy.

2) Since nothing sticks, I don't have to buy stuff like Pam etc, thereby saving money and keeping chemicals out of my food. Another bad thing for those who sell all that crap. They don't make money if we aren't buying their crap.

3) It will last me the rest of my life.
Enough said.

Maybe you can't use them on those glass-top stoves. But I never liked those anyway. Restaurants use some awesome pans that are good and light and expensive and they use them til you can see through them... and that works... but you notice THEY don't use non-stick pans that we buy every few years. Those were sold to us under false pretenses and we fell for it and we are still falling for it. Let's stop, shall we? Let's UN-learn what they have spun around us and RE-learn what we used to know better.

And I have to say, I have NEVER had grilled cheese sandwiches that taste as awesome as out of this pan. I'm in love.

What are you un-learning?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Perfect Re-purpose

So Turkey Day is over. The food was great. Lots of leftovers. The stupidity of Black Friday is over. I avoided it. Now, it's the weekend and it is time to tackle the remains of that turkey. Reusing and re-purposing all over the place.

I think my post-T-day soup is what I look forward to more than the turkey itself. Well, very close. Right now, the remains are happily reducing on the stove in a big old enameled stock pot.

Making stock is the ultimate in using everything around you instead of throwing it out. You throw in the parts of the bird you would otherwise toss. You throw in tops of celery and ends of onions that you would otherwise toss. It's the old days. It's using everything because you have to and because it makes good sense and because there is no other way. That, and it kept the house warm.

Naturally, I like to chop up my soup veggies all at once ahead of time. But you have to put them in to the saute pan at different times, not all at once. This means a whole buncha' bowls or plates... kind of a pain. I sighed as I got multiple containers out. Then I thought, Hey...

Yeah, I had picked up, in a hurried situation, for a party, one of those darn veggie trays you get in the store, you know, everything all ready and cut and with the dip right there. It was convenient. Snort. But I did NOT throw out the tray. I figure I could do something with it at some point. I was right. It's perfect for separating my onions, which go in first, then my garlic, which has to go in after the onion or it'll burn... and so on. It was perfect! I love it! I shall keep it for just this purpose til it wears out.

Oh, that's right, it's plastic. It won't wear out. It might break and then become useless, but it won't wear out.


But, I am really enjoying this whole process. I want more. And I kinda love that my hands still smell like celery and onions!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quick and Easy, No Purchase Necessary

File this one under Major Duh.

I've been fretting over my water bottles. They were getting grungy inside. My lovely Libre Tea bottle, as well... I just couldn't get my hand down in there to scrub them and I didn't have any bottle scrubbers. They got grungier and grungier. Surely, I would have to go buy a stupid plastic thing to get down in there. Wait,t hey make good, eco-friendly,, well-made ones too. Just have to get to that store... Nope, still getting grungy. And damn those fancy eco-scrubbers are pricey. I hate having to pay a lot for green. It's such a pet peeve of mine. But what else to do? I'm not going to buy plastic junk just because it's convenient...

Finally, I looked at my scrubby sponge and I looked at the bamboo spoon in the dish drainer. Um, wait, I can just do this. Uh huh, yeah, just stuffed the sponge into the WaterGeeks bottle I love, and smoosh it around with the handle of the spoon. Wow, that worked so well that it might just get the tea stains off the inside of my Libre. Sure enough...

I don't know what's worse: that it took me so long to come up with that, or that I even pondered buying something to scrub out my bottles. I mean come on. I'm smarter than this. I'm embarrassed for my own brain.

But happy that I have clean bottles now. Tee hee. I guess we all have a long way to go.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Viva la Via

It was doomed from the start.

Starbucks... now, I love me some Starbucks, I really do, lots of people take issue with them, but I worked there in NYC and pretty much had a good experience and they do a lot of philanthropic things and treat their employees decently and damn I love the coffee. (Which may explain that run-on sentence after a few cups this morning.)

But Starbucks came out with Instant Coffee. Do I hate instant coffee? No. I don't drink a lot of it but I have nothing really against it. Hell, I've added instant coffee to my coffee. Yeah I'm just that hooked. What I hate is that they felt the need to put their instant coffee in single serve convenient packs. Of plastic something material. So it's convenient.

With that in mind, I would never have purchased Via to try on my own. But they put a sample on their pound-bags of coffee, so that we may be hooked by its convenience. So I gave it a try, as it came on the pound-bag of coffee we bought for our French press. It's the fair thing to do.

Back to the first statement, though... it was doomed from the start. I must have had it in for myself. I spilled a little of the coffee while opening the packet. The teapot splorged boiling water everywhere when I poured it into the cup. The agave syrup splooshed everywhere and gave me the stickies the rest of the day because it got everywhere around my mug before I realized it. I splashed the coffee out just stirring it. (This was after I DID have coffee previously, so we can't blame it on that.)

While that may have had an effect on my experience, I'll attempt to be objective. Was it delicious? Sure. It was. Better than most other instants? Probably. Is it worth it? Absolutely not. Do we need pre-packaged little bits of instant coffee in ours lives? Nope. These are no better than those stupid plastic pods of coffee that are STILL all the rage (and still causing me rage).

This is definitely a to-avoid product.

Now, if you don't mind, my French press awaits...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's Still Flowing.

Documentaries are usually something I avoid. Seriously, I'm usually angry and hopeless enough without being proven right. But, I made an exception and went to see The Big Fix. (Trailer here:

Blurb: "The scathing documentary 'The Big Fix' investigates questions of corporate negligence and political corruption surrounding last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its lingering aftereffects on the Gulf Coast." Yup. Pretty much sums it up.

Did I cry through the whole thing? Yup. Was I disgusted and despairing? Oh heck yah. I'd seen the couple who made this film before, and hearing them speak was very enlightening and uplifting. Josh and Rebecca Harrell Tickell (They made the documentary "Fuel") are two seriously cool people. This is, I am sure, not a film they wanted to have to make. It can't be in wide release soon enough. The truths that are exposed are so important to get out there.

At the risk of blowing any surprises, here goes. Think the oil was stopped? Wrong. Still leaking. Think they stopped using Corexit because it's COMPLETELY toxic and forbidden by the EPA? Wrong. Think they aren't STILL using it to hide the still-leaking thing? Wrong. Think the seafood from the Gulf is OK to eat, that the water is OK to swim in? Need I answer that?

A cool part of the screening was that a couple from the area affected, Kevin and Margaret Curole, came in from Louisiana on their own dime to speak to us. Kevin said the shrimp were coming up without eyes, with deformed tails... Margaret said (and this really got me) that the mom dolphins are bringing their babies to the docks, carrying them in on their beaks, as if to say, "Help, we don't know what else to do." I take it even further in my brain that the moms are saying to us, "Look what you did, look what you did to my baby." Miscarried dolphins have washed up in mass numbers. It breaks my heart. Margaret thinks her son, who went in early to spray Corexit, will not outlive her. Corexit is a known toxin and they are STILL carting it in and spraying it and dumping it in the Gulf under the cover of night to hide the oil stuff still flowing.

Documentaries can either inspire you or make you want to slit your wrists. I asked a friend on the way in who had seen the first showing. She said, "Oh wrist-slitting for sure." The film was excellent; the knowledge and information was horrid. Josh and Rebecca - inspiring. I know what I have to do now. I know why I am moving back to my home town. And I'll do what I have to do. When I need strength I will think of Josh and Rebecca and Margaret and Kevin.

What can YOU do? See this movie the minute it's near you. Spread the word. If the movie isn't going to be near you any time soon, educate yourself about what is still happening down there, how screwed up the ecosystem is and will be for awhile. Talk about it. Ask questions. Make other people aware.

All this Occupy stuff around... we got lots more to talk about for sure. It's all tied together. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How Green is Green?

So this product floated across my field of vision yesterday. It's claiming to be eco-friendly because it eliminated the need for staplers and staples. Now, I don't know everything, but I really wasn't aware that staples are high on the environmental destruction list...I know you don't want 'em in the microwave. But really, never gave them that much thought. But here is a product that - well, here, I'll let the text from the site tell you:

The Eco Cat Stapler free stapler staples papers together without staples!
No kidding!
Here is how it works:
The Eco Staple Free Stapler cuts out minuscule strips of paper in the corner area of your paper files and uses these strips to "sew up" up to five pages of standard paper together.
No more metal staples (so that's good for the planet and your wallet). Safe and better for paper shredders too.
3 x 3 x 2.5 inches
Environmentally Friendly
Kid Friendly
Stitches up to 5 pages together
Creates no paper waste.

It seems like a cool idea. It super-cute too. And apparently not a new idea, but now in fun shapes and designs. But, "environmentally friendly"? How? It's plastic. There is nothing environmentally friendly about plastic. I questioned it and was told hey it'll last forever and there's no need to buy staples which are made from steel and less packaging and product over time. 

OK. But when it breaks? All things break. And when a plastic thing breaks, it is not repairable and therefore becomes landfill junk. So is that green? Friendly? I think I want my stapler of Wayback, that metal hunk that lasted and lasted and could be used as a weapon, too. 

In the meantime, I am not buying this. That's buying as in literally and intellectually. And the site I saw this on sells all kinds of kitschy plastic crap anyway, so I am doubly not sold. 

Can we all just step back and try to recognize the important? Don't sweat the petty stuff, just pet the sweaty stuff? Yes, there are LOTS of bigger issues out there in the world, and we are dealing with them, (finally) but it's also made up of all the little things, the petty things, we do every day. Wake up. Focus.

And quit buying this sh*t.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Eh, Not Convinced

I must really be a tough sell. I'm just not convinced.

A great wonderful cool Green Festival was last weekend at the LA Convention Center. Similar festivals and expos have failed, but this one was VERY good. I chose to focus on the good booths and try to ignore the greenwashing, which, thankfully, was not in abundance. A little product did catch my eye, though. Biodegradable wet wipes. Um, OK. I'll look.

Well, let's get past the plastic packaging and the little plastic container that is somehow necessary to use this product. Let me give it a try. It's a little pellet of dried "natural fiber"... a little dried thing of what she said was rayon. Yeah, I'll get back to that. she puts a few drops of water on it and POOF it's a wet wipe. Normally I am charmed by these things. I find them slightly magical. (What can I say, I am easily amused) OK. Great... I have a wipe. Great... it's biodegradable. Now what? I'm sure this is a great thing, they say it's superior because regular wipes dry out and go to waste and these start out dry.... so... Um... Yay?  Am I excited now? Do Harold Angels sing when we make these wet? No?

Yeah, not convinced. Let's re-visit that rayon thing. Rayon is "natural", sure, but are you aware of the chemicals that are involved in getting rayon fiber but it's a lot. Rayon is from cellulose, and it is a buttload of nasty stuff that it takes to make that cellulose into nice fabric. I used to love it til I knew. So unless they are making these from leftover rayon scraps and threads... yeah, no, I can't even sell myself on that one. Rayon = Not So Eco. Make them out of something else and ditch all that horrible packaging, and I MIGHT be halfway convinced that this is a valid product.

In the meantime, I surely can do without. I know, no kids, when you have kids, you NEED wet wipes. Uh huh. Go ahead with that. It's all fine. Nothing to see here. I just fail to see what is so "green" about this product. To me, it's just another piece of plastic noise that we don't need.