Saturday, January 26, 2008


I wonder what exactly inspires an individual chickadee to sing its spring song. It doesn't seem to have much to do with actual spring. It can't be the length of day, because I've heard them sing in pre-solstice December, and it can't be the temperature because I've heard them sing in sub-zero conditions. And it's not the available light, because today it was cloudy and overcast, and yet this morning while I was waiting for the bus, about half a block away there was a chickadee whistling a soft, clear fee-beee, fee-beee. It must be nice to be that optimistic about spring.

Any birders out there want to offer any insights or speculations?

Friday, January 11, 2008

a simple yet amazing breakfast

In the winter my breakfast usually consists of some combination of grains, fruits and/or nuts, sweetener, and soymilk. This morning it was rolled oats, dried currants, fresh bartlett pear (peeled and diced), and raw walnuts, drizzled with local maple syrup, with a dash of Real Salt. And it was so good. I have a tendency to fall back on rolled oats because they're easy to cook: since I make tea every morning anyway, I can just pour the boiling water over a bowl of oats, stir, and the cover it with a plate while my tea steeps. But I'll bet this would have been good with bulgar, too. (I don't think I even have any bulgar on hand right now, horrors.) I usually put the dried fruit in there early, too, so that it has a chance to plump up a bit, and I think I should have put the pear in early too so that it could soften a bit more, but the pear was an afterthought while I was standing around in the kitchen waiting for my tea. My attempts at matching a complementary tea to food are usually hit and miss, but today was a hit: the rich, slightly musky flavor of the Earl Grey set off the sweetness of the pear and maple quite nicely.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Durability is a Green Issue.

I was in the market for some new measuring cups recently. A set of cheap plastic ones were about $4.50, and a set of nice metal ones were $8.50. (Unfortunately, both sets were made in China. I should have shopped around to find some that weren’t, but that would have probably meant ordering them off the internet. It’s kind of a tough call – buying something ethically sourced from a no-name internet site, or buying China-made goods at the locally-owned corner hardware store. My cheapness won out and I opted not to pay for shipping.)

More and more lately I have been making every effort to resist things that are flimsy and cheap, no matter how inexpensive they are, and just bite the bullet and pay a little bit more for something that is going to last. Of course I’ll save money in the long run, since I won’t have to replace the item as often, but the initial investment is still a bit of a stumbling block, since I am essentially living on a poverty level budget, and even if I wasn’t I am still a cheapskate. Sometimes it’s just not possible, but I do try my hardest. Of course society doesn’t make it easy, with disposable this and that and everything else, and all the consumer goods with planned obsolescence.

Plastic is something else I try to avoid on principle, because the whole chemical-leeching thing is really scary, and it’s never going to degrade, and over time the surface tends to get either dull or slimy or gummy. I have a set of plastic measuring spoons that are only a few years old but are mostly useless, because the measures are rubbed off (they were just painted on) so I have to guess, Is this a teaspoon?

My cheap measuring spoons lasted about five years before the printing started wearing off, and the matching cups are on their way there, and eventually they’re all going to get sticky and unpleasant to work with, because that’s what plastic does, and then they sit in a landfill until the end of time. I really like my new metal measuring cups, because so long as they are well taken care of, they will last my lifetime, and probably a couple lifetimes after that, but they will eventually rust and degrade and go back to the soil from whence they came. I might eventually buy another set of them (because it’s easier to bake with two sets of cups and spoons) but I probably won’t have to ever replace them. And, look, the metal one cup measure has increments printed on it, fractions of a cup on one side and milliliters on the other. How cool is that?