March 30, 2010

Inspiration - George McGovern - Now and Then

"You know, sometimes, when they say you're ahead of your time, it's just a polite way of saying you have a real bad sense of timing." George McGovern

Then -- The briefest of history:
McGovern represented South Dakota in the U.S. Senate from 1963 to 1981 and was the Democratic nominee for president (running against Republican Richard Nixon) in 1972. McGovern was a decorated bomber pilot in World War II, after which he earned his doctorate in American history and government at Northwestern University.

McGovern was a symbol of hope and always outspoken against war, against poverty, for peace. Many of us watched in horror as he was brutally trumped by Nixon in the 1972 election (and,remember, Nixon was disgraced just two years later). McGovern then went on to continue a fine career as a Senator with many other interests and life challenges including receiving an honorary law degree, being a published author (his most recent book a biography of Abraham Lincoln), and the topic of biographies, his alcoholic daughter's death, and stints as a used bookstore owner and the owner of a Connecticut Inn.
For a more detailed chronology read the entry at wikipedia

So why do I write about him now? Where's the current inspiration?

While on our sabbatical (The Dream Year) Alan and I serendipitously heard McGovern lecture.

Early on an April evening in 2009, Alan and I were strolling around St Augustine, FL and followed a group of folks gravitating towards Flagler College. We found out that McGovern, who was declaring Fort Augustine his winter home, was speaking at the college that night, actually in fifteen minutes after our arrival, and that the event was free and open to the public.

What we saw was an old man stiffly making his way to the podium, but an impressive old man. At 85 he still had strong opinions and wonderful anecdotes to share. He spoke about peace -- and reported advising President Obama to get out of Iraq (and likened our involvement to our decades long occupation of Korea) and spoke about his bipartisan effort with former Senator Dole to eradicate hunger around the world. He explained how food and literacy and women's health and independence are linked.
Dole and McGovern became the 2008 World Food Prize Laureates because:

The McGovern-Dole Program emphasizes benefiting girls and young women and overcoming gender inequalities in literacy and access to education. Traditionally, young girls in many developing countries are often kept out of school to work in the home performing child care, elder care, and other domestic chores, or are sent out to earn a living.

However, when meals are available at school, and/or take-home rations are available to the families of students attending school, girls and young women are much more likely to be allowed—even encouraged—to enroll, with numerous benefits. For example, studies in Mexico have shown that school-feeding programs there have led to girl students’ finishing school at higher rates, and also marrying later in life and having fewer children.

I am impressed, with McGovern that cliche "He walks the walk" shines through as real and inspirational. Through all the decades, undaunted, and with seeming wisdom mixed with just the right amount of skepticism George McGovern continues doing what's right. Ohh, how I can learn from him, how when I falter and think of toning down my involvements in causes I believe in, I will think of good old George still fighting the good fight.

March 29, 2010

We Are Honored....

Our blog was just featured in the Story Circle Network e-newsletter...Catch it here:
Story Circle E-newsletter

Hope that we can inspire you too?

Please leave your comments, questions, and suggestions... tell us about your own Intentions and Inspirations this year.

March 24, 2010

Inspiration - Agnes Varda

Inspiration -- I intend to write more often about sources of inspiration in my life.
Some are long-term, others sporadic, some serendipitous, and others quick snapshots.

This weeks inspiration comes from a movie Alan and I watched--
the movie (DVD via Netflix) The Beaches of Agnes.

Agnes Varda is a filmmaker and photographer. The Times said that "Born in 1928, she is still an artist of undiminished vigor, curiosity and intelligence."

I was intrigued and teased by Beaches of Agnes, a retrospective memoir-collage. I wanted to learn more about Varda, order some of her other films, and reflect on her success in a then-considered male profession. I also was take out my camera, to muse about the photos I enjoyed taking during my sabbatical (The Dream Year) -- which include the photos in the Intentions and Inspiration heading (which some of you have asked about). And my thoughts about Varda's film have mixed with my own thoughts about memoir and the myth of our personal memories.

What or who inspired you this week?

Community Fruit Orchard - Vote Online

ONLINE VOTING – Click on Communities Take Root or go to
to vote for our local food pantry CHOW to receive a fruit orchard.

Edy’s Fruit Bars brand and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation
are sponsoring a contest for communities to receive a fruit orchard.

CHOW, our local food pantry, is one of the grant-applying contestants. Below is their description of the work they do:

Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (Broome County Council of Churches)
Conklin, NY
CHOW, the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, is the hunger relief and advocacy program of the Broome County Council of Churches. We provide emergency food to our 30 food pantries located in congregations throughout Broome County. We also provide recovered/rescued food to some 35 soup kitchens and community meal programs in the county. In 2009, nearly 2 million pounds of emergency food was distributed through our warehouse. Over the past few years we have focused on providing more fresh produce to our pantries and soup kitchens. As part of this focus we are starting a CHOW Farm Project to grow our own fresh produce to be distributed to the emergency food sites in Broome County. An orchard has been added to our farm project so that we can distribute fresh fruit as well as fresh vegetables to those who face hunger here in our community. In 2009 about ten acres of corn was planted for CHOW that was harvested by our volunteers and distributed to the emergency food sites. In 2010 we are planning to begin a CHOW Farm on land in the Town of Conklin that was rendered unusable for housing because of a major flood in 2006. The land has remained unused since then and we have partnered with the town of Conklin to begin using the land to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for the local food pantries and soup kitchens. The orchard we hope to win is part of that plan.

PLEASE VOTE for this project – it’s easy to do.
Go to the Communities Take Root website (click here)
and follow the dots...go to Plant, to the List by State, and then to New York – the CHOW Conklin program is the only one in NYS.

Voting began on March 15 and you can vote one time each day—and every day—until the voting ends on August 31 at 11:59 PST. They will announce 5 winners the first of each month, May 1 through Sept 1.

We are now in the top two – but we have to keep voting; numbers can change a lot in over a month.

March 22, 2010

Blogs to Books


Last week Alan and I watched No Impact Man: The Documentary which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival; I am reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin for a review on Story Circle Reviews; and I suggested the book A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg to my friend Susan as a resource for the food literature class she is designing.

What do the three have in common? Each began with a blog and developed into a book.

The blend of books and blogs has been most recently popularized by the wonderfully entertaining film Julie & Julia. I assume that by now most of you have either read the book or seen the incredible Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci as the film couple, but here's the background:
It all started when a young woman named Julie Powell, just surviving her working life in NY city, decided to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If young Julie’s project occurred in the decades just following the release of Child’s 1961 classic there probably would be no movie -- but over 40 years after the book’s publication, Julie Powell blogged about her experience. The blog found an online audience. Agents and publishers took note. The blog became a book. The movie is based on the book (simply titled Julie & Julia) about the blog as well as on Child’s posthumously published My Life in France, where it really all started.

And because of Julie’s experiment there is a renewed interest in beef bourguignon and the real Julia. Although Mastering the Art of French Cooking has sold over a million copies, the sale of the book has generally been slow and steady with an annual run of about 25,000 copies. Its publisher, Knopf, reports that it is now "a national bestseller for the first time,” with multiple reprintings since the movie publicity began. Last year’s sale of the book exceeded a quarter of a million copies!

Of course, most blogs never receive the attention that Julie Powell’s did. Some blogs – like ours -- have few readers other than a small group of the writer’s family and friends.

But I am intrigued with this phenomena – of blogs to books, of so-called Stunt Memoirs (memoirs written by a person who has taken on a project or challenge for a specified time, usually a year), and the whole book-loving book-reviewing blogger community. I'll be writing about all of that over the next few months.
Please join me. Do you have any favorite blogs or blog-turned-books?

Corners of my Neighborhood

More interestingness I didn't know existed, right in my own neighborhood.
Inspired by SouleMama's Corners of my Home.

March 13, 2010

Garden Intentions

It has only just started to get warm here in the last week, but garden plans have been in the works for a couple of months now!  My parents have a big garden at their house which I will be helping with, and I also plan to have a small "salad garden" at my apartment. Here's what is on our list to grow:

"Salad garden"
salad greens - lettuce, arugula, mizuna, sorrel
hot peppers
herbs - chives, garlic chives, thyme, oregano
johnny jump ups

My Parents' Garden
winter squash
red cabbage
Brussels sprouts
salad greens
Belgian endive
belgian endive

My dad does much of the planting, and I do much of the planning (we play to our strengths). I typed up a planting schedule for everything we plan to grow, which includes dates of planting, whether it's being planted from seed or a seedling, and where it will be planted (started indoors, direct sown in the hoophouse, or direct sown outdoors). My dad has already started several flats of seeds inside, and I will be going over to help plant and transfer some things in the hoophouse very soon! More garden news and photos to come (these photos are from a previous season).

What are you planning and planting?

March 11, 2010

Mmmmm...Maple Syrup is Ready





From the sugar shack...and Rebecca on night shift. She was up every two hours or so during the night to check the fires.
Next day...almost done. We bring it indoors and finish it off on the stove.
Alan checks the temperature, filters it and then it is bottled.
Pancakes anyone??

Meditation Inspiration: Rent

An award-winning Broadway musical about starving artists and HIV may seem a strange place to take inspiration for meditation, but Rent has inspired me nonetheless.

Reading through Stephen Levine's book, A Year to Live, I was reminded of the song/line from Rent "No day but today." I quickly scribbled it on a piece of paper and hung it by my bedside where I see it when I wake up.

More lines from the song:
There's only now
There's only here
Give in to love
Or live in fear

What this song means to me is not that I can't plan or prepare for the future, but that I should both be conscious of where I am and what I'm doing in this current moment, and should remember to find joy in it.

What unexpected places do you draw inspiration from?

March 9, 2010

More Maple Magic (Part 2)




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After gathering the sap, get a fire going in the pans in the sugar shack, and pour and strain that elixir (which looks like water at this point)into the pans to simmer all night. Next step -- alchemy!

March 8, 2010

This Country Life - Maple Syrup Magic - Part 1


This country life.... who's that tapping at my... tree?

Perfect country days... the snow is melting, the sap is running, the cusp of spring. We have tapped six maple trees and I solo collected about 40 gallons of sap yesterday on our first day. Have to start the sugar shack fires later today. That should yield one gallon of maple syrup. (Yep, it's a ratio of about 40 to 1, sap into syrup.)

On Saturday, Alan instructed Rebecca and Dan and a group of their wonderful friends up from NYC in the art and fun of preparing to make maple syrup.

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How to, first three steps:

1. Drill holes in your trees,
insert spiles (the little faucets),
hang old fashioned metal buckets with spring-loaded roofs (to keep out debris and deter critters).

2. The sap starts flowing when nights are freezing and days are warm.
Listen to the dripping, faster than your heartbeat, on a sunny day.
Wait. Patiently. Check those buckets.

3. Pour the sap, overflowing from the bucket, into larger plastic containers -- and carry them over to the sugar shack.

More to come....

March 5, 2010

We Love Comments!

(This post is copied from my mom and dad's old blog The Dream Year, with a few edits by me)

Dear Readers,

We really like the responses that we have been getting to our recently inaugurated mother-daughter blog. Some people comment directly on the blog and some in personal emails to us or via facebook. All are encouraged and appreciated. We feel that dialogue is an important part of this blog - both between mother and daughter, and between writers and readers; so we especially encourage you to comment here on the blog itself. However, we know some readers may not know how to comment here on the blog, or may not have done it for so long that they're forgotten how.

If you already know how to comment on the blog and read others comments, you can skip the rest of this post. Everyone else, read on.

At the bottom of each blog entry there is a link, in small blue (or brown) letters, "comments." It will have a number in front of it. If you look at the posts now, you will see a few have "0" and a few have a number. The entry, Dumpster Diving Discourse - Mother Speaks, presently has "1."

Click on the "comments" and you can read the comments that people have written and/or post your own.

Adding your own comment is easier than it looks. Here's what to do:

Type your comment into the text box (below where it says "Post A Comment").

Below the text box, click on the drop down menu where it says "Comment as."
You will need to select one of the options here.
The easiest one is: Name/URL
You can fill in any name you want... Probably your first name is best. (You do not need a URL to post -- just leave that field blank if you don't have one or don't want to share it. If you do have a blog or website of your own, this would be the place to enter the web address.)

If you would like a direct response from myself or my mom, please check back later in the comments for our response, or be sure to include your email address in the body of the comment if we do not already have it.

Then click on the "Post Comment" button when you are finished.

You will see a preview of your post - this is the time to make any edits if needed. If you are satisfied with your post, complete the "word verification" -- just a precaution for the blog not to receive spam.

Finally, click the "Post Comment" button. Please only click once, even if you do not see your comment appear immediately, as it sometimes takes a few minutes for the page to update.

March 4, 2010

Dumpster Diving Discourse - Mother Speaks

What does my daughter do, you ask?
Well, ummm (pause) daughter is unemployed and eating out of garbage cans.
Admitting that my daughter, Rebecca, dumpster dives makes me... defensive.

Yet she writes so eloquently about the practice.
“Many people see dumpster diving as gross, degrading, dangerous, or something only for the really desperate and destitute.”

As I do and I am disturbed by the deed.

Rebecca goes on to say:
“I see it as a choice, a statement about who I am, an adventure, a way to save my limited financial resources for other priorities, a way of reducing the tremendous amount of food waste produced in this country, a way of reducing my own personal impact on the planet, and a chance to be an example to others.”

The fact is -- and isn’t this what the mother-daughter dance is often about? -- Rebecca’s position challenges me. Even when she and I seem to start on the same wave length, her path goes farther and deeper than my own. Here again she enters regions beyond my comfort zone. And so, I disapprove of her decision to dumpster dive.

But maybe I need to take into account some background information. I have recently learned how much food is wasted in this country daily and about food reclamation projects. Probably more info than you want to read here...but the numbers are really shocking. One account says that, “Almost 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in America each year. 700 million hungry human beings in different parts of the world would have gladly accepted this food.”

How many of my generation remember our mothers saying, “Eat what’s on your plate. There are starving children in China?” My mother was right, of course, there are hungry people. But it was so annoying – she couldn’t tell me how to send our leftovers to my Chinese counterpart. As an adult I obviously realize that the problems of poverty and hunger are not just “over there,” but start right here on our own street corners – and maybe we can and should do something to help.

Our family has continued to donate to the local food pantry, CHOW and Rebecca has recently introduced me to Food Not Bombs, a more radical international organization with a local chapter.

Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer global movement that shares free vegetarian meals as a protest to war and poverty. Each chapter collects surplus food that would otherwise go to waste from grocery stores, bakeries and markets, sometimes incorporating dumpster diving, then prepares community meals which are served for free to anyone who is hungry.”
(read more at Wikipedia's Food Not Bombs entry)

I wholly support Rebecca’s volunteer participation with Food Not Bombs. Just yesterday she and a friend did the pickups at some of the participating groceries and small markets. These businesses donate food items which are close to their expiration dates or have blemishes, rather than discarding them. But the corporate policy of some supermarkets is to not donate but to discard edible but not still saleable food. The dumpsters of these stores are the ones most often targeted for food-reclaiming divers.

So what are my personal objections to dumpster diving based on?
First, this is not about health and safety. There are over 70 million reported food-borne illnesses in the US annually. I know that the chances of getting sick from food bought in traditional markets and eateries is on the rise. Reclaimed food is no more or less risky.
In fact, as part of her Food Not Bombs involvement, Rebecca recently completed a Food Safety class that the Department of Health mandates for restaurants and soup kitchens. Her personal kitchen rules are now stricter than my own.

Second, this is also not about dollars. I know that if I gave Rebecca more than enough money to overstock her cupboards or to eat out nightly, she wouldn’t stop the dumpstering.

In certain circles, dumpster diving is seen as hip, ethical, a mostly-legal form of recycling, community building, a creative hobby, and a frugal sport.

So, my reaction is visceral, not cerebral. I associate dumpster diving with disturbing images -- of homeless folks ripping open dirty plastic garbage bags and pulling out the remains of a sandwich, a half-eaten doughnut, a slimy piece of salmonella-ridden chicken and gobbling it hungrily, food oozing out of the sides of their mouths.

My daughter (like her parents?) has often defied convention. So I applaud when Rebecca reclaims items before they reach the garbage heap. I myself have been known to claim a curbside chair to incorporate into our home decor.

But food is a touchier issue. It epitomizes our cleanliness standards and ideas of domestic decency. I am pleased that Rebecca is one of the representatives who pickup food from Wegman’s and Health Beat to be cooked in a nearby church kitchen and served and eaten with any person who shows up for the meal. But then I think she crosses the line... My daughter’s dumpster diving disturbs my middle class sensibilities. And this issue made me realize that I care more than I thought I did about what my family and friends think about my daughter.

In conclusion, let me take this last moment to introduce you to my daughter:
Rebecca is a delightful young woman. She (ahem...mommy-pride here) is intelligent, talented, generous, good-looking, etc and with emphasis here – a woman who lives her ideals. Although unemployed, Rebecca is looking for a job while involved in a number of community projects and volunteer activities. She is thankfully happy and healthy and active. She and I have discussed dumpster diving along with many other topics and I will continue to be challenged – and inspired by -- my daughter. But still, I can’t deny it...she eats out of garbage cans; Ugh!

March 3, 2010

One Small Change - Month 3

I feel successful with my February One Small Change - increasing the amount of eggs, meat, and dairy that I buy from local sources. I was already doing this to some degree, but was not very disciplined about it and I was unwilling to spend the extra money to purchase local meat. This is partially because I rarely buy meat anyway and I don't have an accurate sense of what it costs in the supermarket, so the prices on local meat seem really outrageous. When I actually compared though, I decided the extra effort and cash are worth it, especially considering I don't eat very much meat. Yogurt and eggs I was buying locally when I came across them, but would purchase conventional versions of these products when I couldn't easily find the ones I wanted. Again, I am putting in the small extra effort it takes to get these even when I have to go a little out of my way.

This month I attended the local Winter Farmers' Market on February 6 (good thing I did, I found out the next one is not until March 27) and I purchased organic stew beef, free-range eggs (including an extra dozen for my parents), and free-range pork chops from three different local farms. I also spoke with a couple of the farmers and got information about visiting the farms. This month I also bought local yogurt and cheese at one of the natural food stores (unfortunately the one furthest from my house, but the only one that carries the local yogurt I like). This will actually become more convenient soon, as I will soon be going there at least once a month anyway to do pick-ups for the local Food Not Bombs. There is one more place on my list to shop, but it will have to wait until next month - the food co-op on the local university campus. It's not too far away, and they have some good stuff at reasonable prices, but parking is a bit of a pain and there's not really a good way to walk or bike there.

The most delicious brand of yogurt ever. 
Double Maple is good, but the best flavor is Orange.

My One Small Change for March will be water conservation. I contemplated this for last month, but knew I couldn't do much until I got the shower working (previously could only take baths). I'm now ready for this change, having fixed the shower with the help of my dad. We even installed a low-flow showerhead with a soap-up switch and I plan to start using the kitchen timer to time my showers and remind me not to dawdle. I also plan not to flush the toilet every time it's used. I'm familiar with the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" philosophy, but our toilet seems to stain easily and I also find that policy a bit smelly. So my plan is to stay well hydrated, and then as long as what's in the toilet is more clear-ish than yellow, I'm fine letting it mellow. I will also try to use a lower flow of water when I wash my hands, do handwashing and rinse dishes.

One Small Change Giveaway Winners

Since only two people entered my One Small Change Giveaway, I decided that I have enough stationery and snail mail accoutrements to make them both winners - Momma Rae and Helen will both be hearing from me shortly, and your packages will go in the mail as soon as I receive your mailing addresses!

A sneak peak of some of the contents of the packages

I see more giveaways in the future... perhaps some books? Stay tuned.