Recycling’s Forgotten Elder Siblings

Recycling is awesome.  It reduces waste going into our landfills, it reduces demand for the raw materials, it reduces – to some degree – manufacturing pollution (though bear in mind, recycling produces a small amount of its own pollution) and it makes you feel all holy to help the environment, right?

I’m here to tell you: stop recycling.

Okay, that’s a lie, I’m not actually going to tell you that.  But I want to get your attention so I can tell you that recycling is only one step in reducing waste and pollution, and that it should be the last step, not the first, and certainly not the only.

Recycling has two older siblings called Reduce and Reuse.  These are far, far more mature than Recycling, and should always be courted first.

Recycling is sort of the easy-way-out of caring about the environment, and is a cop-out in many ways.  It still takes 100% of the energy to produce the first time, and then it takes additional energy to recycle it.  Oh sure, the energy to recycle is significantly reduced from the initial process, but why not save the whole mess?

Plastic, especially, can be tricky to recycle if you don’t know what the number codes mean, and some plastics aren’t recyclable at all.

Reduce: this should be the first step in saving the environment.  Stop the cycle at the very beginning – use less.  Don’t buy disposable items when non-disposables are available.  Don’t buy small sizes when bulk is available.   Don’t buy individual packaged items if you can repackage these yourself into smaller portions.  You’ll save the package from its very first use, reducing the initial impact on the environment to gather and process these materials the first time.

This means you have to get over some of your convenience, just a little bit.  And we are a nation that loves its convenience, aren’t we?  (Well, if you’re in the US.)  Individual sized things are this latest craze that makes us feel somehow special, I guess?  This little packet of crackers is *just for me*… it didn’t come out of the same bag as everyone else’s crackers…  Oy, we are a spoiled, childish culture sometimes.

Okay, so reduce prevents the initial package from even entering the cycle.  It reduces the pollution and energy at the source, which is awesome!  Instead of spending 100%+1/3 energy to recycle, we spend 0% when we don’t even use it in the first place.

But we can’t reduce 100%.  We still need some products and some packaging, because it would be awful difficult to carry 10lbs. of flour home in our bare hands.  And this is where the middle-child comes in, Reuse.

Reuse: When you’ve reduced what you can, there is still some left over.  Rather than dumping this in the recycle bin and using a bit more energy to turn it back into more packaging, reuse the package you have and save that extra bit of energy.

Especially plastics that often can not be recycled anyway, based on their number, your local recycling capabilities, and the type of plastic it was made from to begin with.

It’s a snap to clean ziplock or sandwich bags, – and takes no extra time or energy if you have a dishwasher – and you’ll save both the bag itself and the box they came in by doing so.

Take the glass jar your pasta sauce came in, clean it well, and use it to store flour bought from the bulk section of your grocery store.  Not only have you removed the jar from needing any energy added to recycle it, you’ve reduced the secondary packaging required when you buy the bulk flour.

This really is much more beneficial than buying two packages which both get recycled at additional energy expense.  Reuse one package, remove the need for the second!

I keep grocery bags in my trunk, lots of them, to reuse when I go to the store.  I keep lots of them because if I forget to put one batch back in the trunk, there’s more to reuse instead of needing new.  Of course, using cloth bags is a great way to incorporate reusable items into daily life without the initial consumption of paper or plastic bags.

You can even reuse at work, taking old paper destined for the recycle bin (if it was only printed on one side), turning it into scratch paper note pads.  An easy way is to cut or tear the paper into quarters and staple one corner, and voila!  You have a quick way to reuse office paper again before it ever needs recycling.

One of my favorite reuse items is an old teapot whose lid broke, that I now use as a watering can for indoor plants.  It has a lovely Chinese dragon motif on it, and I couldn’t bear to get rid of it being so pretty, so now it sits nestled among my plants and is both beautiful and functional!

Bulk: Bulk is the love-child of Reduce and Reuse, helping you to do both!  Find a grocery store that has an amazing bulk section if you can (and I mean a bulk section of product you dispense into a reusable container, not just bigger packaging, but that is at least better than individual packaging.)

Yes, this may mean you need to find a new or supplemental grocery store.  Again, we need to move beyond our childish convenience need and expend a touch of energy of our own to help make a difference for everyone.

While it isn’t the case that everyone has access to a good grocery store and bulk, if you do, I implore you to use it as much as you can.  I’m very fortunate to have a local cooperative where I can buy rice, flour, sugar, salt, spices, tea, coffee, peanut butter, honey, seeds, beans, olive oil, and so much more all in bulk bins which allow for greatly reduced and overwhelming reuse of packaging.

Things to consider next time you’re at the store:

Skip the bottled water.  It isn’t even as clean as your tap water, so why spend 1000% more for it?  Buy a water filter if you don’t like the taste of your tap water and buy a refillable, non-plastic water bottle to take with you (glass, or stainless steel.)

Instead of buying individually wrapped snacks, buy a larger bag and portion your own servings out of it.  Why spend more money for more packaging and create more waste when you can spend a few moments of your time and do it yourself?

Reuse containers from other products you need, such as glass jars, plastic sacks, or shopping bags, and take these back to the store with you for bagging fresh produce, bulk items and your groceries.  It may take some time to make it a habit but you’ll be saving packaging and the environment!

If there is a non-disposable option available, go for that.  You may spend a little more upfront, but you’ll save over the life of the product and you’ll reduce the impact on both ends of the manufacturing cycle.

Because seriously: this is the only planet we get.  It isn’t recyclable.  Our demand for convenience is killing us!  So it’s up to each of us to decide which we want:


Or this?

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First Contact

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to describe a First Contact encounter with an alien species in 3000 words or less.

It was the kind of mission we’d trained for, planned for, anticipated and yet feared just a little: first contact. Satellite had the scientists convinced there was alien life here, but boots on the ground had never been able to confirm that.

Pete and I had been assigned grunt-work doing routine sweeps. It was the worst duty they could find for us, I suppose; we always got the worst end of it from our commanders. Now we were out under the harsh afternoon sun mapping sector by sector, cataloging plant life and water sources and bringing samples back to the lab for the white-coats to fuss over, but this time we saw something beyond vegetation. We quickly ducked out of sight and I radioed it in.

“This is scout unit four-seven-niner reporting to base, we have a target. I repeat: target is acquired and in sight. Beginning reconnaissance.”

The radio static crackled in my ear as the reply came. “Roger, four-seven-niner, logging your coordinates for a full team deployment. Stand-by.”

We lay low, watching the creature as it moved about the area, appearing to eat from some low-growing plants. It was brown, tall, and with shaggy hair over its entire body – not like the little green men from Mars we’d always read about – with four legs and a very long neck with what seemed a mis-sized head at the end of it. I gave Pete a nudge and nodded toward the thing, hoping that our radios would allow us to speak without being noticed.

“Do you suppose it’s intelligent?”

His head tipped sideways as he often did when thinking, then he gave a shrug. “Depends on what you mean by ‘intelligent’. Even dogs can learn to do stuff.”

“So what are you saying, you wannna toss it a stick?”

“No, don’t be silly. Let’s just watch it and see what it does.”

The tangle of alien plants gave us ample cover, we thought, to hide us from the creature’s eyes, provided we didn’t make any sudden movements. Of course, that assumed the creature ‘saw’ in the same way we did.

“I think it’s some kind of animal,” Pete said as we continued to watch it move slowly from one bit of plant life to the next. “Not a person, I mean, not like us.”

“It doesn’t appear to be using any kind of tools,” I agreed. “Not even a form of clothing.”

Trying not to draw its attention, I slid my hand into my pocket and produced a small camera. I knew our helmet cams would be getting all this on video anyway, but I couldn’t resist getting a few shots of my own.

“They’re just going to confiscate those, you know,” Pete said.

“Yeah, but only for thirty years or so,” I said. “After that I can get them back and have the oldest pictures of an alien ever!”

I snapped a few shots, thankful there was ample light for the task so I wouldn’t have to risk using any kind of flash. I thought I had managed to get away with it as I eased the camera back into my pocket, but then the alien raised its head and gave the most horrifying sound either of us had ever heard. Even though I could not see any eyes through the thick brown hair, it seemed to stare right at us.


I froze. Please don’t let it see us, I thought, mind running wild with imagined possibilities. For a moment it dipped its head again and I thought we had escaped notice; then it started for us. Pete grabbed my arm.


“I see it,” I said, trying to back up, but the vegetation had hooked me somewhere. I struggled but I couldn’t get unstuck, and I worried trying to force it would put a hole in my suit, and then I’d have a whole mess of trouble to deal with.

Pete let out a cry as it barreled down on our position, larger than either of us had realized from a distance. It was almost on top of us when I felt a hand grab onto the back of my suit and yank me out of the bushes. There I was, staring into the face of Aunt Jolene. She had a hand on Pete as well and was scowling at us like hellfire.

“Peter Joseph Riley, what are you doing rolling in the dirt? I told you to stay clean in your good suit!”

“Yes, Mamma!” Pete squeaked.

“John Frasier, you are here for your cousin Anna’s wedding, now stop rustling in the bushes and pestering the llamas and get on back before I tell your pa!”

“Yes, Aunt Jolene!”

She gave us both a firm whack on the backside and sent us running back to the tents where the reception was going on. I had managed to keep hold of the little disposable camera, though, and wondered what cousin Anna would think of the pictures we had got for her of our first encounter with alien life.

“So what do you think?” I whispered as we stood over the punch bowl. “Is there intelligent life out there?”

Pete looked around the reception and shrugged, then gave a devilish grin. “Well, there has to be intelligent life somewhere!”

Career Day

Writer’s Digest Weekly Writing Prompt: Career Day

You’ve agreed to give a talk at your child’s school for Career Day. Not only do you hate public speaking, you found out yesterday that you’ve been fired from your job—and you haven’t told your kid yet. Write what happens when you go to the school to present.


I knew Nisha would be worried, so I made sure I showed up extra early; teenage nerves are not things to toy with.  I brought her a bottle of orange juice and her favorite muffin: orange currant.  I had been up half the night re-writing what little I had prepared of a speech, but this was important, I couldn’t disappoint her.  I couldn’t disappoint the teachers who were counting on me to take five minutes of focus off them.  I couldn’t disappoint myself – not again.

I kissed my daughter on the forehead and told her it was going to be fine, I promised I absolutely would not embarrass her by mentioning her in any way, especially not as a baby, or as my precious little girl.  I’m not sure whether she was relieved at the reassurance, or terrified that these things had entered my mind in the first place.

There were two other parents (I assume) who were there to speak as well.  Both looked successful, business professionals by their dress, and I refused to feel intimidated by them.  The notes I had written the night before looked more like foreign languages scrawled on my 3×5 cards, but I swallowed and focused.  This was important.

A sea disinterested teens who didn’t really want to hear what I had to say lay out before me as I took the podium and cleared my throat.

“Some of you probably should not waste your parent’s money going to college.”  And with that, I could already feel the panic in the room, the scramble for security to ‘get that crazy woman off the stage before she says anything else!’  Maybe that was just my imagination, but I’m sure whispers were going around.  “Some of you should probably start practicing how to ask if I want fries with that.”

I saw some shock and some anger in their eyes.  That meant they were paying attention.  Good.  “There will be lots of talk today about picking your life-long career, working your way up the corporate ladder, success being measured in salaries and yearly income.  Forget all that.  Forget the idea that you have to get one career for life, or that you have to already know what it is.  There is no shame in not knowing what you want to do, or in switching jobs every few years if you want to try different things.  It isn’t too late to learn that the only success you should really have to worry about is seeing the pride in your children’s eyes when they talk about what you do, so do something they can be proud of.

“Don’t try to sleep, bribe, or back-stab your way to the top.  Don’t put up with discrimination in any form, but don’t see discrimination where it doesn’t exist.  Don’t put up with crap, but don’t start it, either.  You will always be expendable, don’t make the idea too tempting.

“If you want to act like a diva, go into show business and make it big first.  If you want to be a writer, you can’t sit around waiting for ‘inspiration’ to strike, you have to sit your butt down and write.  If you want to be a starving artist, then ignore everything you hear today, you already know everything you need to know in order to starve.

“Do what you love, if you can; but do what you must to retain your self-respect.  Most of you will work 40 hour weeks at jobs you don’t really like just to put food on the table and pay the bills.  And most of you will, at some point, find yourself unemployed and looking for a new job.  Make sure you’ll be able to hold your head up high when you have to stand in front of a group of career-day teenagers and tell them what reality is really like.”

I’m sure I said some other things before I stepped down from the podium to see the shock and anger in the eyes of the other two speakers, but the applause that filled the auditorium gave them something to consider as they re-evaluated what they were about to say to this same group.  Most of all, the pride I saw in my daughter’s eyes made the whole thing worth it, and I somehow knew that when I had to break the bad news to her about being unemployed, she wouldn’t be quite so nervous now.

The Maiden of The Tower, Pt IV

[Part III]

Tabitha bent over the microscope, studying the tissue sample.  It was the same as the others, no sign of the virus, at least nothing she could detect.  She sighed and put the sample back in the freezer.

“Our initial scans also found nothing,” Denny said.  “It is not unreasonable to think you would also find no sign of it.”

Tabitha sat down again and frowned.  “Without the ability to isolate the organism, I cannot even begin to study a possible inoculation or cure.”

“Even if you could, that is no guarantee that the quarantine would be lifted or that you would be allowed to leave.  Though,” Denny added after a moment, “it would be a very convincing argument for it.”

“If I could get a fresh sample…”

Denny shook his head.  “There is no way to isolate the virus to find a viable sample from the planet, and you have been unsuccessful isolating it from stored samples.”  Denny meant samples from the old crew from cryogenic storage.  It wouldn’t do to leave bodies lying around, and there was no ability to ship them for proper burial, so they had been frozen; not without some thought to exactly what Tabitha was trying to do right now: find the cure.

“Do you still have the original?”

“Only the files, the sample itself was fully consumed in testing.”

“There has to be some way,” she said.

“Incorrect.  Though it is desirable to find a solution, that does not mean there is always one to be found.”

Tabitha sighed and pushed herself up from the work station.  “Alright, please bring up the files on my tablet, I am going to rest for a while and will look over them again later.  Maybe I missed something.”

“Yes, Tabitha.”

He knew she was extremely intelligent and had extensive knowledge, but she did lack practical experience in these things, he could not deny.  She had studied everything he had in his databanks about biology, chemistry, botany, microbes and more, but that was still not the same as cutting open a fresh specimen and getting her hands on the real items.  But she was determined, and so he would do everything he could to help her.

Denny had himself spent untold processor time on the problem, studying the original files for anything that might have been overlooked in the scans, or by the scientists, but he could not even offer a reason for why Tabitha had showed apparent immunity to the virus, let alone offer a solution to the virus itself.

Tabitha stretched out on the bed and stared up at the ceiling.  She had no real desire to leave the Tower to be away from it, but more to experience all the things she never could here.  She wanted to feel the warmth of a rising sun on her face, or understand what it meant to drink a cool glass of lemonade on a hot summer day.  She had never watched a spider climb across a wall or a bee flit from bloom to bloom.  She had never pet a dog, felt the rain, or planted a garden; though she had planted seeds into a sprouting solution and watched little plants grow.

There were so many things she read about in books that seemed so amazing and wondrous to her, and yet she could not truly understand most of them.  The Tower was the only thing she had ever known, the smooth walls and not-quite-gravity that was simulated through its spin, and the starry field that rotated once per minute outside the windows, punctuated by the planet below.

All this and more danced through her mind as she closed her eyes and slowly drifted to sleep, dreaming of tissue samples and strange plants.

CSA: Week 9

Oh.  My.  Goodness it’s been one helluva week!  Working overtime, painting the house, getting ready for the appraiser.  Who has time to go to the grocery store like this!?


Good thing I get my veggies delivered to within two miles of my work and I don’t even have to wait in line at the checkout! (shameless promotion FTW!)

Squash, tomato, cauliflower, beans, blueberries, and basil!

Purple cauliflower.  Purple.  Cauliflower.   Isn’t that just the most amazingly beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?  PURPLE CAULIFLOWER!   I feel like tying a sheet around my neck and running around outside screaming Purple Cauliflower Power!

Is it weird to get this excited over the color of my vegetables?

So I get home and the first thing I do is make food:

Taste the Rainbow

Red tomatoes
Orange carrots
Yellow beans
Green squash/basil
Purple Cauliflower

But Eliza, you cry, what about Blue?!

Matching Dinner.

BLUEBERRIES!  And plates, and cups, and little bowl and chopsticks… (check it, my chopsticks and my plates match!)

So yep, I had the rainbow for dinner last Thursday.  It tasted awesome.

I really like my blue dishes.  Blue is my favorite color, after all.  This meal consisted of my curried vegetable soup from the crockpot.  I don’t remember what all went in it now, but I know it at least had onions, potatoes, broccoli and squash, a can of coconut milk, and lots of hot curry powder.  Nummy.

I should do a post about my dishes.  Some people obsess over food.  I tend to get more excited about the plate!  (or bowl, or whatever.)  Yep, I think I’ll do a dish post at some point.

Oh yes, since I didn’t have pictures of this one last week, here is my cucumber/melon freezer pop.  Very delicious!  Needed perhaps just a hint of lemon… next time I’ll blend in some lemon balm from the garden. 🙂

I love tacos.  I love corn tortillas.  I love eggs.  I love egg tacos on corn tortillas for breakfast!  So I did.  With some lovely tomato slices, jalapeno, and lettuce leaves, and a bit of taco sauce.    And while I love blue, well, red just goes better with faux-Mexican food.

That basil is so lovely!  I need to make stuffed mushrooms so I can smother it with chopped basil, but until I do, I sprinkled it on top of tomato soup instead!  (Yeah, I was lazy, that’s from a can, but hey I’ve been working 11+ hour days and repainting my house, cut me some slack!)

Thank you, Viva Farms, for saving me this week from certain starvation (or at least poor nutrition and inadequate vegetable servings)  What *would* I do without my lovely CSA boxes every week?

And don’t forget to hop over to inherchucks What’s in the Box #39 CSA link party!


Getting Out Of The Pool

This last Spring, the company I work for hosted a “Biggest Loser” competition.  For those unfamiliar with the television show (as I previously had been), this is a contest to see who can lose the most weight (by individual percentage) within a set time frame.

This type of thing doesn’t really set well with me for several reasons, however, seeing as I was sitting just shy of my heaviest weight ever and needed a good kick-in-the-pants incentive, I decided to throw my hat in and motivate myself to really honestly lose the weight I’ve wanted to lose for over 10 years now.

For a $20 buy-in, you had a chance at first, second and third place monetary prizes, none of which were too shabby after the owner of the company threw some extra in the pot.

It’s interesting how money *can* be a pretty good motivator.

I ended up coming in second place, with a total percentage lost of 8.3% of body weight, coming out to around 14 pounds I believe (I don’t remember exactly, now.)  Not bad.  But that was just the beginning.  My lofty goal was (and is!) to lose a total of  60 pounds.  And you know what?  I’m going to succeed.

Let’s go back for a moment.  Last August I hit my all-time high of 210 lbs, and while I wasn’t miserable because of my weight, I was certainly miserable *with* my weight, but I always felt powerless to do anything about it.  I ate pretty well, all things considered.  Made most of my own food from scratch, tried to always take my lunch to work, etc.  What I didn’t realize was I was eating good food but in quite the wrong ratios, and I was eating a *little* too much bad food (justified by how good I always ate, of course) and the weight just kept creeping on.

(Not surprisingly, it’s hard to find pictures of me from the last 10 years as I detest having them taken.  I managed to track down one which amply shows off my double chin, chubby arms, but… I just couldn’t bring myself to post it.)

Now I had managed to take 10 pounds off by myself just by cutting out snacks at work, but then was stuck stubbornly at 200 for the next five months until the Biggest Loser competition started.  I had considered re-joining Weight Watchers, as it had worked for me when I had been on it before, but I just couldn’t (then or now) afford the cost.  Even without going to meetings or buying any of their products, just access to the site was more than I could afford.

Enter one of the coordinators of the competition at work who told me about SparkPeople.

This website has given me every tool and resource I need to meet my goal.  You sign up and enter all your information such as height, current weight, goal weight, level of normal activity, style of work, etc. and SparkPeople gives you a calorie range.  Sounds pretty standard, right?  Well, it is, and it isn’t.

Instead of focusing purely on calories, it focuses on several key nutritional requirements (calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates) , and you can choose to track even more (salt, calcium, vitamins and minerals) all to help you know what your body needs and where you may be right on track, or  under- or over-doing it.

The tracking system is very much like WeightWatchers, but it also has a very good activity tracking system as well, including strength exercise routines you can have it create for you.

There are tons and tons of helpful articles, an entire recipe section, dietician blogs, forums to chat, and special interest groups to connect with others just like you.

But the very most amazingly awesome part of this website… is it is absolutely, 100%, no strings, FREE.  You don’t pay one cent for anything.  Oh, you *can* buy products, but nothing on the website requires you to spend a penny to access or use.

Now, my only gripe with the website is it can be a little difficult to navigate, but worry not, there’s a youtube video for that!   It’s a little out of date, the website has been updated since, but it’s accurate enough that you can take what it says and find your way around without any trouble.

But I don’t call SparkPeople a diet.  It isn’t.  A diet, in today’s world, carries the connotation of “restricted eating to lose weight.”  The way most diets work is you go onto one for a time, lose X amount of weight, and then you stop the diet.  At which point, statistically speaking, you will gain everything back that you lost plus some bonus pounds on top for good measure.

More traditionally, ‘diet’ is merely the foods you eat, period.

Your diet consists of whatever you put into your body on a regular basis.  SparkPeople isn’t *a* diet to start and stop, it’s a tool which helps you create your diet for life, to not just get to where you want to be but gives you the resources to maintain that forever.

I signed up immediately and am so glad I did!  I followed my calorie tracker, logging all my meals, snacks, and even cheats to get a clear picture of what it was I was eating and how it was affecting me.  I saw right away I barely ever get enough protein in a day, but have no trouble hitting my carbs.  I also wasn’t getting enough calcium, which I supplement half of my daily requirements with a calcium pill, the other half I drink my almond milk.  Let me wax on about that for just a moment.

Even if I wasn’t lactose intolerant, I  always hated milk.  I mean passionately hated.  There is nothing about it I find appealing.  Oh sure, I enjoyed ice cream, but I didn’t even like cheese.  So giving up dairy (at least, mostly) was not hard for me to do at all.  The only question was… if I want cereal, what do I put on it?  If my recipe calls for milk, what do I use?  Can hot chocolate *really* taste rich and creamy in just water?   No, it can’t, let me answer that right now.

There’s soy milk, of course, but I don’t like the idea of having so much soy in my diet, and rice milk, but both of those also have quite a bit of sugar and that seems to defeat the purpose of eating better.

Enter almond milk.  Specifically: Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla almond milk.  Unsweetened means not just no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, either!  The variety I currently drink gives me 45% calcium in a single glass (calcium varies between shelf-stable and refrigerated varieties), contains only 40 calories in 8 oz, and uses GMO-free almonds.  What’s not to absolutely love about this?  (well, unless you’re allergic to almonds…)

Okay, so I’m getting enough protein and calcium, I’m eating within my calorie range (1,200-1,550 per day) and I’ve even manged to work in that dreaded “daily exercise”.  I do that by making use of my breaks at work.  Two 10-minute breaks means I get 20 minutes of walking in per day, at least, without taking one second out of my otherwise busy schedule for it!  Rain or shine, I get up from my desk and walk for 10 minutes during my breaks.  Because hey, what was I going to do during those ten minutes anyway except browse the internet?

So that gets me part of the way there.  Sometimes I walk on my lunch breaks, but I’ve had to stop that for Summer, it’s just far too warm for me.  I also bought myself an XBox with the kinect and I play active video games like Kinect Adventures, Your Shape 2012 and Dance Central.  But again, I’ve had to reduce that due to heat being just too much, and I have no air conditioning.  I’ll resume all my extra exercises when the weather cools, and I’ll just resign myself to being an 9-month-per-year exerciser.

Despite the lag in activity, the calorie counter is still keeping me on track, though with my hectic schedule right now I’m happy to be maintaining.

I’ve reached the lowest I’ve been in 6 years: 180 lbs!  That’s 30 lbs down from where I started.  30 lbs!  HALF WAY TO MY GOAL!  In 7 months I’ve made it half way to where I want to be.  I’m hoping to lose the other 30 in the upcoming 7 months.  And I’m perfectly fine with a 14 month journey.  I didn’t put it on overnight, it won’t come off overnight either, but it *is* coming off!  Better slow than not at all, and really, better slow than fast for keeping it off.

So back to the Biggest Loser: as I mentioned, I won second, which came with a decent little cash prize, which I claimed would go into savings for buying new clothes (which I didn’t need quite then at only 14 pounds down, but I knew I would need eventually) but of course it instead got spent on bills and the like.

Skip ahead, I had to start belting my pants.  Skip a bit further ahead and that belt just isn’t cutting it anymore, I officially graduate down one size pants, from 16 to 14, and am feeling really glad I hung onto that last pair I had.

But then my old boss (same company, different department) makes a very good-natured comment, and all in the spirit of how far I’ve come and how wonderful that is, about how I’m *swimming* in my shirt.  So I decided it was time to get out of the pool.  (ah ha!  See, I finally get back to the title of the post!)

I realize that not only are my pants hanging off me, my shirts are really starting to as well.  Which is great, right?  I mean YAY I’m losing weight, and *noticeably* losing weight, but suddenly that problem of having to buy clothes crops up again, and when it comes to spending money on clothes you know you’re going to shrink out of, it feels less exciting.  Maybe that’s just me?  I’ve never been a big shopper.

But still, I can’t keep bagging it at work.  Even a few trips to the thrift stores don’t net me quite enough of the clothes I need.  So I hang my head and head to the mall.  I hate malls.  But they do have clothes, so off I go.

And I found a 50%-70% off sale going on in a store that had some absolutely *adorable* tops!  And at 50%-70% off, they’re just about worth the prices, too!

So I wrote all this…

just so I could say…

I got some new clothes!

The Maiden of The Tower, Pt III

[Part II]

Kyle Prince, contracting engineer for Gothel Demolition, maneuvered his shuttle to get a better look at the old relic, shielding his eyes against the light reflecting off its metallic surface.  It was still in decent condition, but the style was such an old aesthetic that he could not suppress a bemused laugh.

“Man, look at it.  Half expected it to be covered in cobwebs.”

His on-board AI, Max, appeared beside him holding a holographic clipboard, making little checks as he ran through some routine calculations.  “I do not understand.  You are well aware that an arachnid could not survive, let alone spin a web, in the vacuum of space.”

“Yeah, Max, I know.  It’s just an expression.”

“I see.”  The AI flickered, then continued, “I am unfamiliar with it.  Would you please define more precise parameters for its use so I may accurately catalog-”

“It means it’s old,” Kyle said, interrupting but not meaning to be rude.  “Things on Earth that have been abandoned for a long time generally get cobwebs on them.”  It was hard for the AI to understand non-literal phrases; he was only an M-5 AI, not as advanced as a Spectrum-class designed to run an entire station.  Just getting Max to accept a name other than M-5, which Kyle insisted was too cumbersome and impersonal, took almost a year.  Max mostly took care of navigation calculations and gave Kyle someone to talk to besides himself in the vastness of space, but over time Kyle had grown rather fond of the little guy.

“I believe I understand,” Max said, “the expectation of experience even in opposition to logic.”

“Something like that.”  Kyle swung the shuttle closer to the station, amazed it showed signs of being functional.  The cylindrical shape still spun to imitate gravity within, and even some of the running lights still illuminated the designations on the side: T-295 RESEARCH STATION BETA.  Still, it was two decades behind the latest designs and looked every bit the relic that it was.  For Kyle in particular, the station had begun functioning when he was only two.

“Hard to believe that was the best we had to offer once,” Kyle said

“Twenty years has seen much in the way of advancement.  That does not negate the importance it held at the time it was operational.”

“I suppose so.”  He looked at it a while longer, then finally shrugged.  “Well, it’s not going to be anything but a footnote, soon.  Ready the grapple; let’s put her to rest once and for all.”

Max hesitated.  “I do not see how an inanimate object would require -”

“Just an expression, Max.”

“…yes, Kyle.”

CSA: week 8

Salad mix, cucumber, swiss chard, zucchini, blueberries

What a gorgeous box, yet again.  That Swiss chard is so huge I barely know what to do with it!  I ended up chopping two leaves up to put in veggie soup, another might go into stir fry later this week… man that’s big stuff, though!

So when I sat down to do this week’s CSA box, I realized I really sucked at taking picture this week.  In fact, I only took one picture (well, technically two) of CSA-made food this week… so let’s do that first, then I’ll kind of throw convention to the wind and just show you other food I made, too.

So with last week’s fabulous zucchini, I made a batch of baked veggies, one of my favorites.  Added a twist this time, make-shift stuffing and egg noodles.  In retrospect I probably should have added one *or* the other to be more balanced, but it was so fabulous I just don’t care…

Potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, garlic, bread and noddles

I sliced up the heels of my beer bread into crouton-sized chunks and lined the bottom of the dish.  Then I added a thin layer of egg noddles.  Over that I chopped up garlic, onion, mushroom, potato and zucchini, lots of herbs and a bit of beer, and covered the whole thing with foil before baking for about an hour.

The other thing I made from last week’s cucumber and a melon I picked up at the Viva Farms produce stand:

Freezer pops!  Now technically this isn’t strictly accurate since *this* batch isn’t cucumber/melon, it’s apple/mint/lime.  But same idea, and I did make them at the same time so it works, right?

Peel and seed the melon and cucumber, put in a food processor and puree until very, very liquidy, then pour into molds for the freezer.  That’s it!  In this case it was add some fresh picked apples, a few mint leaves and just a hint of lime juice and then same process.  Very refreshing (and not just frozen sugar water!)

Now, that ends the CSA portion of the post so instead I’ll show you some other stuff I made today!

I’ve got an apple tree or three on my property and the yellow ones are well ripe, so last week I picked a whole box-full.  This weekend I had to do something with them before they started going bad so I sliced the bejeesus out of them and borrowed my parent’s crock pot so I could have two going together.  Then I pulled out some getting old peaches we had canned two years ago and made one batch of apple/peach butter and one batch of apple/peach sauce!  The only real difference is how thick it is, so let it cook long enough the sauce will turn into the butter, but I did make them a little different just for variety.

Apple/Peach Butter:

Lots and lots of apples, sliced and cored (but left the skin on)
Two quarts of canned peaches, sliced
1/4 cup of sugar for just a touch of added sweetness
a bit of lemon juice (maybe 1-2 tablespoons worth)
a bunch of cinnamon
a little less of nutmeg

Cook for about 14 hours on low.  If too wet, uncover and cook another hour or so on high.  Store in jars and refrigerate.  (unless you’re comfortable doing the canning thing.)

Apple/Peach Sauce

Lots of apples, sliced, cored and skinned
One quart of canned peaches, sliced
(second crock-pot was about half the size so the ingredients got halved as well)
Half cup of water with 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
Half cup of honey
The last half hour (ish) add a drizzle of vanilla extract.

Cook on high for 8 hours.  Store in jars and refrigerate.  (unless you’re comfortable doing the canning thing.)

The other thing I made was granola bars!  So fabulously good, easy to make, and tasty to eat!

I made a double batch for snacks at work.  I also embellish the heck out of the recipe so I’ll give the original and then my re-work of it:

Original Granola Bar Recipe:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
3 cups oats

Combine peanut butter, honey and butter in a thick sauce pan on the stove.  Bring to a boil, then cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning the bottom.  Pour the liquid over the oats in a bowl and stir to thoroughly coat.  Then press into a wax-paper lined pan.  Cover with another sheet of wax paper and press firmly to compact as much as possible (I use a can and roll it down).  Chill for a few hours, then remove and cut into bars.

My modified recipe follows the same directions with the following ingredients

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup honey
1/2 cup butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups oats
1 cup puffed kamut wheat cereal
1 cup puffed millet cereal
1 cup whole grain flakes cereal
1/4 cup flax seed
1/4 cup sesame seed
3 tbsp cocoa powder
optional: exchange 1/2 cup of any of the above for dried fruit

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix peanut butter, honey and butter as above.  Add vanilla extract immediately after removing from heat and mix well, then pour over dry mixture and prepare as above.

Amazingly good, home made, and no weird unpronounceable ingredients!

Thanks for reading this week!  I promise, I’ll do better next week on getting more pictures.  🙂

For more great links to CSA boxes, recpies and ideas, see In Her Chuck’s link party: What’s in the Box? #38

The Maiden of The Tower, Pt II

[Part I]

You might think living on a space station without a single other person around would be very lonely, but Tabitha didn’t know what lonely felt like.  The AI and robots were her friends and companions, and they never grew old, or moved away, or got bored with her.

The Tower had three primary AI, and each carried a specific designation for its function.  The first was AIDEN, Artificial Intelligence – Department: Engineering and Navigation, but Tabitha hadn’t been able to say that when she was young, and so she just called him Denny.

She had been a very bright child, and Denny had early on developed quite a fondness for her, assuming the role of teacher.  He taught her reading and mathematics, sciences and history and all the subjects he had in his databanks.  He taught her logic and facts and she soaked up all the knowledge he shared with her.

AIRAM, Artificial Intelligence – Repair and Maintenance, was the more creative one, and he loved to play and listen to her laugh. Tabitha called him Ram.  As a baby he’d play peek-a-boo with her, and he used the robots and replicators to fashion toys and dolls from unused or unneeded items.  Later, the games became hide-and-seek and riddles, and eventually games of strategy and reflexes, the toys becoming lab kids and experiments.

The third was AIMS, Artificial Intelligence – Medical Specialist, whom Tabitha called Amy, and she ensured Tabitha stayed safe and healthy.  When Tabitha was born, many of the old uniforms or cotton items were repurposed into diapers and blankets for the new baby, and as Tabitha grew, she learned to sew clothing for herself from whatever could be found to make it from.

Amy also kept her to a nutrition and exercise schedule.  The Tower had been provisioned to sustain a crew of up to fifty for two years.  With just Tabitha, there was more than enough to stay well fed for life.

Between the three of them, Tabitha flourished and grew in body and in mind, with a wide understanding of the universe that even those twice her age rarely achieved.  The one thing that they could not provide her, however, was a future.  No matter how much she grew in knowledge or how she thirsted for discovery, she was quite confined, unable to ever leave the Tower, or to bring anything new into it.  Her mind was limitless, but her world was small and static.


[Part III]

Writing Update

So if there is anything at all that is guaranteed to kill my creativity – or at least severely wound it – it’s conflict and stress.  Both of which I’ve had in abundance the last couple of days.

Mostly from work.  Part of it being I-hate-being-a-supervisor stuff, part being the prospect of going into some mandatory overtime because of short-scheduling and being woefully behind.  I’m looking at somewhere around 12-14 hr days, excluding weekends at present but who knows what may come next.

To that end, I will try very hard to continue to write and post, but it may not be daily for the immediate future, hopefully this won’t last more than a couple weeks.

The Tower is still being worked on, but it’s going very slow due to the aforementioned stress and conflict, and soon to be lack of time, so I apologize and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy whatever I can manage to provide.