Saturday, August 30, 2008

School Supplies

This six-pack of root beer was among the items in the boxes of groceries. It was only after I got home and began unpacking the boxes that I discovered the witty instructions added by a creative co-worker. Click on the photo to read them.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Nice to Know They Care

And care they do. My office had a going away breakfast for me today, giving me both a small bag of school supplies (pencils and Sharpies, etc.) and three big boxes of groceries. The boxes contain lots and lots of food, as well as toilet paper, laundry detergent, and dog food. And a $20 gift card for more groceries.

Unfortunately, it made me cry. Yup, I cried in front of my entire office. Lordy, how embarrassing.
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Fair Food is the Best

The return of the state fair heralds the official end to summer. I have always been a dedicated fair-goer. Yesterday I made my first visit, and I will go again next weekend. It did not turn out to be ideal fair weather. The temperatures were in the high 80s, although they felt well above 90. It was humid and sunny (as my shoulders can attest to). My energy and interest waned quickly. If I can't be bothered to eat fair food, we know there's a problem. I only hope the weather is more suitable next weekend because I still need to consume vast quantities of Bad Things.

I did manage to check out some cows, chickens, bunnies, sheep, goats, pigs, and llamas. I saw the butter sculpture and the beginnings of the sand sculpture. I fought the crowds in the raptor tent so I could make eyes at the barn owls (so cute are they). I bought some handmade soap in the agriculture building. It's vegetarian (no beef tallow) and fragrance free. If I like it I may buy more next weekend so I have some on hand.

In the 4H building I came across an Omlet and instantly took a liking to it. I have been wanting chickens in my backyard for years. Not that I'm going to actually do it (as the neighbors sigh in relief), but I can daydream can't I?

It took me hours and lots of water to recover last night, but I'm already looking forward to the next visit. Fried dough! Curly fries! With vinegar!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thinking Ahead

Even though I only grew one kind of vegetable this summer, I still learned from the experience. My two patio tomatoes are nearing the end of their productivity. The tomatoes they produced tasted wonderful, much better than the store bought ones or even the ones from the farmer's market. Unfortunately they did not produce nearly enough tomatoes to cover the cost of the plants themselves. So next year no patio tomatoes. I will try cherry tomatoes instead. And I will plant them in the ground, not in pots. Other things I'm considering trying next year: potatoes, zucchini, and yellow squash. And maybe an apricot tree...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Greening My Tea

I start every day with a cup of English breakfast tea with milk and sugar. I have for many years. If something prevents me from having my tea, I feel like my day has gotten off on the wrong foot. I've been using an organic English breakfast, but every tea bag comes in its own individual plastic envelope. I've used loose teas before but more as a novelty item than anything else. I have a little strainer-like contraption that rests on the top of the cup to steep the tea. While at the grocery store I found a (plastic) resealable package of loose English breakfast tea. I made it for the first time this morning. It has a slightly different taste, but I think I can get used to that. It was more expensive, but hopefully it will last longer. In addition to not having the individually wrapped bags, there isn't the wasted string and paper tab, or the cellophane that wrapped the entire box. Is using one bigger plastic bag better than using the paper, plastic, and string of my former tea? My choices were fairly limited. I bought the only loose English breakfast they had.

I know I should be using a local honey as a sweetener, but one step at a time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I actually did something this weekend!

My good friend and college roommate was home visiting family, so I drove one city west of me to spend the day with her. We talked, got crepes for lunch, visited some friends from college to meet their children, got coffee drinks (nutella latte!), and walked along the canal. In college, she would often bring "cow cookies" back to our apartment after school breaks. These were, by far, the best cookies ever. As we headed back to her father's house, I mentioned the famous cow-shaped cookies. Was the dairy nearby? It was, and they had one more cow cookie in stock. She graciously let me have it, and I snarfed the whole thing by myself. I wonder if they would ship some to me?

Not only do I love spending time with her, but the town she grew up in is a delight. It has lots of independently-owned shops and restaurants and lots of walking trails. It's a perfect place to spend the day with a good friend.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My relationship with meat

I was never a big meat-eater. I remember eating and enjoying hamburgers as a young teen, but I've almost always been happier with just the pasta, bread, or potatoes. The summer after my junior year of high school I worked with a woman who was a few years older and in college. She was a vegetarian, ate a lot of yogurt and granola, and carried a gigantic reusable water bottle with her everywhere she went. I was somewhat smitten. I wanted to be just like her (other than all that running, of course). At the end of the summer she went back to college, and I started my senior year of high school.

When I cautiously expressed my desire to go vegetarian, my step-mother immediately quashed the possibility. As long as I lived in her house, I would eat the meat I was served each night for dinner (meat, green vegetable, and starch were doled out each and every night come hell or high water). With no other course of action, I bided my time until I went away to college.

Shortly before Thanksgiving break I warned her over the phone that I was now an ovo-lacto vegetarian. In other words, no turkey for me please. She was horrified and unsure what I would eat for Thanksgiving dinner, never mind that the sides were always my favorite part. I told her that as long as there was an apple pie I would be fine.

And I was, but my approach to vegetarian eating was not a healthy one. People kidded me that I was a pastatarian or a starchatarian. I didn't eat a lot of vegetables and including protein wasn't a high priority for me. A couple years later I began craving tuna fish regularly, and around the same time I contracted a virus that I just couldn't shake. Clearly my body was trying to tell me that I needed to take better care of it. I began eating seafood occasionally (thus morphing into a pescetarian).

Eventually I went back to eating meat but, with only a few exceptions, never really enjoyed it. While with FF I ate more meat than ever before, as he is an extreme consumer of meat products. Often he would have a gigantic bloody steak for dinner with a side of chicken breast. Like many meat-eaters, he would never be able to kill and slaughter the animals he eats. I can't help but wonder how long it would take him (or other meat-eaters like him) to recover from seeing the inner workings of a slaughterhouse and to return to eating meat.

Now that I've been on my own for over a year, I've gradually returned to my pescetarian ways. I'd rather not support the meat industry or the negative impacts it has on the environment. I know there are problems with the fishing industry, but I don't believe it has to be all or nothing. I can do what I am comfortable doing right now, and that's good enough. I haven't eaten a hamburger in almost 15 years, nor have I wanted to. I would, however, have a hard time cutting tuna from my diet.

I'm sure I would've become a vegetarian at some point even without "A's" influence. We lost touch sometime after she completed the Appalachian Trail; now she's one of those old friends I hope to find on Facebook someday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Up and Down the Hill

The walking to and from my free parking and work is going well. I often get picked up at some point in my morning walk by a co-worker, and when it is raining at the end of the day I can usually catch a ride back down the hill. It is occasionally inconvenient not to have a car with me at work. I can't run out for lunch if my frozen meal sounds unappetizing. The only other downside to it is after walking 2o minutes to work and 20 back to the car, I rarely feel like taking the doggies for a walk when I get home. I know that sounds rather pathetic, but please reference the exhaustion mentioned in the previous post.

As doable as it is in August, I wouldn't really consider it as a permanent solution. Come December and the end of my educational leave of absence, I'm sure I will fork over the money to obtain a parking spot again. Even if I resent it.

This morning was oddly foggy as I climbed the hill. I could barely make out the buildings around me. At one point I could clearly hear a woman's voice nearby, but I never found her amongst the fog. On such mornings when I'm enjoying the walk I am almost disappointed when someone pulls over to pick me up.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Weekend Wrap-up

I had a rather nice, relaxing weekend. Grilling with family, farmer's market, dog walk, Olympics watching, and a lovely walk around the lake at Second Home Nature Center. I also took a lengthy nap Saturday afternoon, during which I unfortunately missed most of the coverage of the men's road race. Boo hiss. I did, however, wake up in time to see the last kilometer or so. (As a bit of an aside, I wish we used kilometers here in the states.)

As the weekend approaches each week I imagine doing all sorts of fun and exciting things, but the reality is that I'm so exhausted I can barely manage to stay awake. I had to fight to not nap yesterday afternoon out of fear that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep until late. As it was I didn't go to sleep until after 11:30 last night, which is darn late when I get up at 5:20. I need closer to 8-9 hours of sleep. I always assume that everyone is running around in the same state of total exhaustion. Am I wrong? And if I'm right, then something is terribly wrong with our society. I actually had to sit and rest during my walk around the lake. A formerly unheard of act. This is going to be a long day. If you hear snoring, please ignore it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Oh Deer!

As seen on one of my walks to my car after work. (Sorry about the disappearing post. Blogger difficulties.)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Green Toothbrushes

I was well past needing a new toothbrush (I never replace them on the recommended every three month schedule) when I read on another blog about Preserve Toothbrushes. They are made from recycled plastic (including yogurt cups!) and after use can be returned to the company to be made into plastic lumber. How cool is that?!

So while my car was being inspected on Saturday, I walked over to Target. The toothbrush cost me $2.04 plus tax, which you can't beat. I've used it for a couple days now and can say that I absolutely like it. It has a nice small head and super soft bristles. I would definitely recommend it.

Going into Target for even my one small item was disturbing. All of the acres of unnecessary crap and pushy people. At the checkout aisles I was shoved aside by someone with a cart full of merchandise when all I was holding was one item. Had I known for sure I would like the toothbrushes I would've bought several to avoid having to return to that store in three months. I need another soapdish now that I'm switching to bar soap, but there was no way I was buying one there. If I can't find the one that is MIA in my own house, I'll pay a visit to the thrift store. I'm going to do my best to avoid buying new whenever possible.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

From my morning walk

Berrybird suggested that I take some pictures along my new route to work. As it happens, I paused briefly in my hill climbing on Friday morning to do just that. I almost always have my camera with me. I'm always on the lookout for shots I could use in future classroom settings. This, for example, would be perfect for a lesson on Mollusks:

Now I just need to ID it. Anyone good at snails? Wood snail, I think, but what kind?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Cheap and Lazy

My place of employ charges their employees to park, even though there is a multitude of space available for parking. It's done on a sliding scale so that the more you make, the more you pay. When you get a raise, wack! Now you pay more to park. I'm sure this is not an unusual practice, but knowing that doesn't make me any happier about it.

August 1st marks the beginning of a new parking year, but with my upcoming leave-of-absence I was reluctant to have to buy the new pass, then return it in a month, and buy it again a few months after that. I certainly wasn't going to pay for it during my 3 month LOA. To avoid all the hassle, I decided I would just buy the fool thing when I return to work in December.

So today was the first day of my new routine which involves parking nearby (where it's free!) and walking to my office. I cut through some nice wooded areas and some tall grassy bits, then I popped out onto the sidewalk to climb the hill to my office building. I arrived somewhat sweaty and damp from the dew in about 15 minutes (change of pants and shoes in my backpack). My plan is on mornings when it's raining cats & dogs to snag a spot in the visitor parking. Surely they won't know the difference for one day, right? If I was more ambitious I'd calculate how much money I'm saving by doing this.