Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who Gets a Bag Check at Forest Hills T Stop?

There are bag checks at the Forest Hills T stop most mornings. Usually about five police officers are doing the checks, mainly standing around a single table. I've never been stopped, but I find large officers pretty intimidating nonetheless.

In fact, I've actually never seen a white person stopped. The only individuals I've seen checked are African American males.

This stood out to me today as a school-aged teenager was trying to go through the turnstile and a policeman literally had his hand on his chest stopping him and pulling him aside for a check. Even if they knew something I didn't about this person, NOT COOL.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Real Food Challenge

Check out this CNN article about blogger Jennifer McGruther's Real Food Challenge. In it, she challenged her readers to eat "real" food for a month.

What do you think about her idea that "Real Food never comes from a box"? I'm challenged by it, but I'm not (even close) to eschewing boxed food. I'm also not totally sure that real food can't be packaged, especially in a city that has four seasons. Am I assuming that the system has to be the way it is? I mean, if we didn't have to work so hard then I think we could preserve and store food for the winter. But making pasta seems like a fun occasional thing not a frequent survival kindof thing.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm really into the ideas of gradual, small changes, and also of diminishing returns. The two both come into play in deciding how to eat, and how much effort to put into figuring out what to eat. So, if it's a little better for you but takes a long time, try to find something that has better returns or that you'd actually do without feeling desperately tired. I would love to know where all my food comes from, and that it's all good stuff. I'm just lazy.

But, talk to me when I'm not 33.5 weeks pregnant, maybe I'll be more amenable to grinding oats.

These were The Daily Challenges:
Ditch processed, packaged, refined foods.
Choose wholesome, natural foods.
Improve your grains.
Start your sourdough.
Sprout your grains.
Mill your own sprouted flour or make wet-milled sprouted grain bread.
Relax and evaluate.
Fats for moderate and high heat.
Fight against GMOs.
Fats to eat raw.
Bake your sourdough.
Find real milk.
Get your (good) bacteria.
Relax, evaluate and eat some dark chocolate.
What’s a SCOBY?
Get cultured (veggies, that is).
Make yogurt at home.
Make cheese at home.
Prepare nuts and seeds properly.
Maximize the value of beans and legumes.
Vegetables and salads and another reason to eat your fats.
Why you should eat red meat.
Eat your bacon, eggs and lard too.
Homemade broth and stock.
Not-so-awful Offal.
Fish and seafood.
Grow your foodshed.
Beyond the challenge.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How I Fell in Love with a Fish

I loved this talk by Dan Barber, about a fish farm in Spain where low-intensity (sustainable) farming means high taste, high quality fish. I'm not a huge fish person, but this video made me want to become one.

I'm also not someone who has very refined taste buds. My tastebuds have been thoroughly geared towards loving sugar and fat-- the more the better-- whether the quality is good or not. I'm trying to retrain myself and develop that sense of what "good" food tastes like. And I'm learning that a strawberry is not a strawberry is not a ...

Even though I can't totally relate, this kind of talk (and Dan's writing) is helping me get closer towards eating really well. I started out on this path because of indignation at industrial farming and the unsustainable practices involved (and it's just fun and empowering to know where your food came from), and am only now coming to enjoy the actual experience of a good strawberry, rasberry, or carrot.

Check out this Q&A with Mr Barber, where he answers the question of whether the food he's talking about can feed the world.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Early mornings

Here in Boston the awful rainy weather has cleared up, and it feels like Spring is on it's way. On Saturday we lost an hour so it's also really light until 7pm or so. I'm someone who needs sun, so I'm pretty much as happy as anyone could be.

This is just a quick post to point you towards Conferre, Eug's site. I still haven't taken pictures of our living room, but Eug took pictures of his amazing office area!

Finally, the person who sings gospel/extemporaneously at the Downtown Crossing (to Forest Hills) T stop is finally back! It's been too long.

More soon!

Friday, March 12, 2010

No More, Bank of America, No More!

I've been planning this post for ages, but I guess it shows how hard it is to switch banks. We made the move over to Wainwright bank last October, but it's taken several months to transfer all our autopaid bills to our new accounts. We're finally ready to close the BoA accounts.

For those of you reading who aren't familiar with BoA, it's a huge institution who has shown itself, time and time again, to care very little about its responsibility to customers, communities, or society in general. We were both customers for years because of inertia (and, for my part, laziness). Eug starting a business gave us the momentum we needed to make the switch, alongside divesting from the stock market.

We chose Wainwright because they care about where they invest customer's money, and they seem to really care about their customers, and about small businesses. They're small enough that we have a banker who we know and can visit when we have questions.

On a totally unrelated note, keeping Bees in New York City may no longer be illegal! I've been dreaming of making our own beehive (one day...)-- Of course, I don't live in NYC or keep bees right now, but it will set a precedent if the commercial center of the world says yes to bees. So, go to it, NYC bees!

Bolder Giving (and receiving)

Jo Hunter Adams

About a year ago, Eug and I were inspired by Tom and Bree Hsieh's story, featured on Bolder Giving. We were doing the Lazarus at the Gate (LATG) curriculum at the time, and trying to figure out how to give, which is one of the central themes of the curriculum (Live more simply to give more generously). The curriculum even inspired me to write an e-book!

Yet recently I've felt anxiety, and a need to engineer a sense of financial certainty. So I went back to Tom Hsieh's story to get inspired, and was reminded of what provision could mean. The Hsieh's live on the median U.S. income (in L.A., an expensive city) and give away everything beyond that.

There's a definite seasonality to our finances, which seems good-- financial priorities should shift to stay in line with our other priorities. When we did the LATG curriculum the first time, we had a ton of student loan debt and were living primarily on Eug's income; the second time, we had more almost eliminated our debt and had two incomes; now, we're free of student loan debt, our income is unpredictable and we're turning into a family of three. Through these changing seasons, I've felt a sense of God's provision (though I'm totally not pushing the prosperity gospel, because that's just shady).

Rather, looking back affirms my sense that living in the uncertainty (rather than trying to engineer certainty) is a good thing: That feeling of euphoria that we could buy a house in Obs after very little planning; the offer, this past weekend, of a (an amazing) car from a virtual stranger. Both things that we don't technically need. Giving seems a pretty safe "risk" when we have so much.

Jamie Oliver on TED

I came across this TED talk recently. It's clear that Jamie Oliver is doing far more than anyone expects of him, and I found that inspiring from a professional perspective.

Our friends commented that it's important to "pick our battles" when it comes to food, and that also resonated with me as a possible application to this video. I'm convinced that, when it comes to being healthy for the long haul, I have to tread slowly and carefully towards better, healthy food (and cooking prep that doesn't leave me or Eug feeling overwhelmed). Switching to mainly brown rice and barley (from white jasmine rice) took about a year. Eating more vegetables took our Community Supported Agriculture Share. I eat far less bread when I'm in the U.S. (as compared to in South Africa), but the bread is made in the bread machine, usually from white bread flour. Our grocery bill has crept up a little, but we eat out far less when we know what's available at home.

Exile and Ratios

My friend/roomate Elona wrote to me today about Michela Wrong's book "It's our Turn to Eat"; how the lives of educated Kenyans returning home resonates with our stories of being away since age 16 (Elona and I both left our home countries and families to go to Wales, UK when we were 16; El has just recently returned to Albania and I'm still away from South Africa). My experience has been that leaving home to study took on a life of it's own, totally apart from my Big Plans (big plans overestimating ones control), because it's very hard to factor in relationships and the life you live while studying.

[I'll put in a quick plug: Wrong's book (which I wrote about here) is one of the best books to come out in African studies in recent years. It's tough to write well about Africa, even if one is African-- there's a ton of historical baggage that gets in the way. I'm totally sold on Ngugi's idea that our minds are colonized.]

Ok, back to the subject: Wrong writes of Africans returning home profoundly changed by their experiences overseas. I'm not sure if or when we'll head back to South Africa, but there's always been something transient about living in Boston, even as I fully embrace Eug and little blob as my "new" immediate family. There's a constant tension. Although surely numbers are just numbers, I get nervous as the ratio of years spent in South Africa (17) and years overseas (10) start to edge towards eachother. It takes a lot of work to remember to be present and enjoy Boston, and not just feel like all this is preparation for what's to come. That said, I started to realize a few years ago that my Big Contribution to South Africa may not be what I envision.

I suspect that if, God willing, we make our big move, we'll find ourselves in a different kind of exile. For one, we'll have a South African-Korean-American son, and be far away from a different side of our family. Accepting this has been hugely helpful for me. Getting a house in SA that isn't totally suburban has also been helpful.

All this makes me think of the Somali Diaspora. If, as so many hope, peace comes to Somalia in the next years, what will it mean for the millions of Somalis who have been living outside the country for almost twenty years? What does it mean for children born abroad? What will it mean for Somalis to have every kind of hyphenated identity-- Dutch-Somali, Somali-American, Somali-English, Somali-Swede?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

32 Weeks

Jo Hunter Adams

The weather here in Boston went downhill today, and somehow that dungey feeling stuck with me from when I woke up until I got home. It's starting to feel a little harder to go to work, and it's hitting that, in eight weeks, when I don't have to go to work, we're going to have to figure out what to do with a baby. But thanks to my awesome husband, our amazing living room that I still haven't photographed and a chicken whose destiny led her to the rotisserie (uhh... ok... it might not have been her destiny...poor thing) that mood has lifted and it now feels like everything might be ok. Anyway... I know you're all dying to hear about my mood.

As far as taking the T: I'm feeling like a giant turtle. I've gone from hugely excited about getting offered a seat on my commute, to rubbing my belly expectantly and staring down all the people who are inadvertently making me stand while the little blob is dragging me down. Yet I'm still pretty happy we're without a car for this season.

I noticed something else: even though I'm not doing a news fast this lent season. I'm posting here more than usual. Perhaps there's a little more space for thought, and connecting with people is somehow happening, by grace.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Year Anniversary of our Wonder Wash and Spin Dryer

It's been one year since we bought our washer and dryer, and they're still going strong. They paid for themselves in about 30 weeks ($6/trip to the laundromat * 30 = about $180 for the washer and dryer), so the past 23 weeks have been all savings.

I still feel like I'm figuring out the washer. I've found that spinning the clothes with soap and hot water for two minutes, followed by spinning the clothes in cold water for a minute or so, is pretty effective at cleaning the clothes and getting rid of most of the soap. I still have to rinse a little in the sink, though, which I might stop doing if I can get into the habit of doing laundry more regularly and doing an extra rinse cycle. The spin dryer is amazing- it gets the clothes almost completely dry in two minutes. So the whole process for one load takes about 15 minutes.

For those of you thinking of giving up the laundromat in favour of this kind of system, one thing that I'm realizing is that small, frequent loads are much less work than waiting a week then doing three loads all at once. To do these small, frequent loads, you need to have a place to hang small loads up easily (usually just for 12 hours or so), and to access the washer and dryer easily. That's the part I'm working on now, as our (bright pink) bathroom has...uh...size issues.

The laundry conundrum is one of the biggest things driving my thoughts on when to move out of our current place. We're going the cloth diaper route, and I'm not 100% sure that our Wonder Wash is going to get the diapers clean enough. We'll see. People(women) have been washing for much longer than washing machines or disposable diapers have been around...But as my AC roomate Lia pointed out after our high school washing machines imploded yet again "Washing machines meant that women could finally spend the day doing something other than washing and cooking!"

I, for one, am not going back! (said with ummphf) (uhhh... unless I absolutely have to for the sake of simplicity, financial freedom and the environment... then I will...)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

HeroRats (Rats saving the world one mine at a time)

A project we (relatively randomly) gave money to in 2009 was featured on the BBC. It's innovative and well-organized, and seems to be growing from strength to strength. Check out this video:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Worms and Weekends

Jo Hunter Adams

Our hotel weekend was wonderful. 15th floor. Indoor swimming pool. Totally free luxury. The only downside was that Eug's iPod disappeared (fell out of his pocket?) while we were walking around the city. He loved that iPod so much it had it's own pillow in our bed.

And when we returned yesterday, it was time for a worm rotation. This is basically when I harvest compost from the bottom of the two worm bins, move the top bin to the bottom, and start a new bin. The idea is that the worms will work on the food in the bin below, and when food starts to become more scarce, they'll be able to move freely into the top bin. Theoretically, this means that you should be able to harvest the compost on the bottom without digging through worms. Theoretically. I was reminded that I am still a little freaked out by worms...

Eug and I also planted some of our Seeds of Change seeds yesterday. I tend to plant WAY to many seedlings, and find it totally impossible to say goodbye to the extras, so this year I'm trying to be different. I also kept all these melon seeds from our share, hoping that I can get them to germinate this year. I'm thinking of planting them outside and just waiting to see what happens.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

On Miles and February Books

This weekend, we're using frequent flier miles to go away for a couple of nights. (mom, dad, I didn't know we could do this when I was booking your hotel.... sorry!) I wanted us to be able to get away one last time before May, but couldn't figure out how to do it without overspending. Enter my Delta miles (which are unlikely to be enough for a flight), and a totally fancy hotel. I love hotels (I love predictability and indoor swimming pools) and I'm hoping the next couple of days will help me finally kick my annoying cold.

Here's my February booklist:
A Blessing Over Ashes by Adam Fifield
The New Frugality by Chris Farrell
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith
The Myth of a Christian Religion by Gregory Boyd
Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi
The Noodle Maker by Ma Jian

I'm not expecting great things of every book I read: I find that while I was taught to be critical, it's proving pretty helpful to try to get a good sense of the author's intention.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

K'Naan and The World Cup

Jo Hunter Adams

We're still shuffling through the papers and other stuff in our flat, and I'm finding that just moving things around gradually helps eliminate some of the excess. I've never been so excited for recycling day (tomorrow is recycling for the Green Bins!); the recycling truck will never forget us...

These days it's also hitting me that I won't be home for the World Cup. Beyond that tinge of sadness, I'm hugely excited and proud that the World Cup is happening in South Africa. I wanted to put in a plug for K'Naan's World Cup Theme Song:

Imagine, during the World Cup, everyone is going to be listening to this song, listening to a Somali-- a Somali-Canadian refugee-- and enjoying the music. I wonder if, for a few weeks, the world can see K'Naan and think of Somalia? Somalia cannot be reduced to one western feel-good song, but maybe there's something to be said for one person, speaking in an international language, representing a new way, and helping us see something we couldn't see before. Here's to that hope!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Leap Of Faith (that, and Ikea)

Jo Hunter Adams

It's Lent on the western Christian calendar, and at our church we do something together called Leap of Faith (previously known as the 40 Days of Faith). It's a great season, where we ask God for or about things that we really care about, for ourselves, those in our immediate (day-to-day) circle, and our church.

I mentioned earlier that I was thinking about heading back into my news fast--or some version thereof--in honour of this season. I decided not to, after all. The News Fast seemed to be about disconnecting from useless stuff (in a fairly strict way), whereas I felt like this lent will be about connecting to people in a meaningful way. So, hopefully you'll hear more from me (by phone, e-mail or in person) the next few weeks!

We're also gearing up to welcome the little blob into our home (he's getting pretty big) in early May. Although I'm totally sold on frugality and simplicity, it seemed like a great time to go big on our apartment. Our flat is small (even for two people), but we're hoping to stay there for a little while longer after the baby arrives. Hence a trip to IKEA. Our apartment is halfway to being a totally new place (stay tuned). I'm pretty excited. For the first time, we have seating for more than one person (yeah!), and an office area of the living room.

I realized that 1) my standard of living is hugely subjective, that 2) for about $400, ours just went up a ton, to the point where I feel like we're all going to have enough space and 3) The cost of furniture is completely worth it when set against the expense of moving even one month earlier than we "need" to. Pictures will be forthcoming.... If you're in Boston, invite yourselves over!