Friday, June 28, 2013

Appalling

I just read an article that really riled me.  State Representative Sims (D), the first openly gay legislator for Pennsylvania, was not allowed to comment after the Supreme Court made their ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  The person who silenced him, and the other legislators who rose to defend his ability to speak, was State Representative. Daryl Metcalfe (R) citing that Sims was speaking against God's law.  Honestly?Rachel Maddow, the author of the article correctly states that there is a separation of Church and State, and regardless of that, anyone should be able to speak on the floor. But, apparently there is no freedom of speech in the state house. I find hard to believe as well.  

I greatly applaud the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA. I strongly believe that this is a civil rights issue more than anything else.  Civil unions are not the same thing as marriage and therefore are lacking in the ability for each couple to inherit, attend to medical issue, or cover each other's property. This is the major crux of the situation

If you want to bring God into this discussion consider this point; we are all God's children are we not?  So why don't we reward the children of God to have the same rights?  This goes for everyone, which we have all heard are equal in our Constitution.  This business about some being more equal than others flies in the face of what I have been taught as a Quaker.  I just hope that we get over ourselves and begin to realize that we should all be given the same rights as an American citizen and move on to other issues.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

EverNote

For the last year I have been using an app called EverNote.  For those users of OneNote from Microsoft, it is very similar.  I also found out that Google has a similar product called Keeper.  All of these apps are available on every platform; PC, tablet, and phone as well as having the ability to sync between the platforms. They are all electronic notebooks where you can keep notes, pictures, and website clips all in one spot. The data is stored in the cloud so you never will be without it.

They recently came out with another function for EverNote, called EverNote Hello.  This is a way to track your human interactions by being able to scan their business card, or connect with them when you are in physical proximity by pairing your phone with them.  The idea is that if you are in a meeting with a group of people you can keep the contacts from that meeting and the minutes from the meeting all in one place.  Of course, it will also sync with LinkedIn and Facebook so that you can maintain a social network presence at the same time.  The idea is great, but the business card scanning, which is what I downloaded it for, does not work on my Android phone or my 5th generation older iPod Touch. Apparently the scanning feature doesn't work well enough for a "pleasant experience". I found a way to overcome that by using the main EverNote app to take a picture of the card because I don't want to merge these people into my personal contacts and every other app for business card scanning provides that feature.

I like EverNote a lot.  I have found the syncing can cause problems.  For example, I created a note with a few business cards on my phone and tried to sync them so I could update on the PC through their web interface.  After exiting the app on the phone I went to the PC but only two of the four were there.  It said I had a network problem.  I am sure I can clear that up when I get back home this evening and connect with my home network.  The nice feature I noticed was that one card that was scanned last night from an event that I attended, tagged the picture with the event name as I had just attended it and the end time had not been reached.  It was smart enough to know that I were I was.  A little creepy, but very helpful.

Bottom line is that these three apps will do the same thing.  If you use Windows 7 and above, you can do the same with OneNote.  However, if you do not use that platform, EverNote and Keep are independent of the platform and will perform very well.  My recommendation, along with a comparison article I recently read, give EverNote the highest grades.



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Self Reliance

There is a movement afoot, at least in the magazines that I read, to become more self reliant. I recently read an article about a young couple who significantly changed their lifestyle to live on a 40 acre track of land in Wisconsin.  They built their own home and are living life pretty much off the grid.  It seems like a hard life, and I admire their tenacity.

I often kid with my husband and son that I want to be prepared when the zombie apocalypse arrives.  I want to know how to survive and live off the land.  It is not really the zombie thing that makes me want to do this, but I feel that a more simple lifestyle is really better.  Truthfully, without my electronic "buddies" I would probably be lost, but slowly learning how to grow my own vegetables and make things from scratch is a healthier lifestyle more than anything else.

There is a wealth of information out there on this subject and it makes my head spin, and the more I read about it, the more impressed with just how far technology has brought us.  Whether it is a good or bad thing, only time will tell.  In the meantime, I will continue to learn a simpler, more stress-free way to live.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shoe Love

I, like most women I know, own a lot of shoes.  Not the kind that Imeda Marcus owned, but more than 30.  I will admit that for some unknown reason that I have not been able to figure out, love shoes.  Maybe it is because unlike other things you wear shoes for the most part can be worn in a fat stage and in a thin stage. I will also admit that I have several that I haven't worn for a long time.  I rarely come across a pair that is stylish AND comfortable but this morning while I was dressing I found a pair that I had gotten some time ago which are both. I immediately put them on.

For the last few years I have been getting out of the habit of wearing heels.  Now that I am working in a very casual office, I don't really have the need to wear pumps.  I had some that were wicked good looking, but I can't go dancing in them.  I guess as you get older the ability to teeter around in those skinny heels is lost.  Because I am relatively tall anyway, I never really got into the habit of wearing anything higher than 3 inches anyway and I probably own maybe one pair.  But, I really do miss the ability to wear them because they used to make me feel sexy and powerful.

I will probably never really understand why women love shoes even though I am a woman and I fall into that category.  To me a good pair of shoes makes my day. It is a mystery that my obsession with shoes continues to this day.  But it does and I will just deal with it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Injury

On Friday night I was making pizza for dinner and I could not find my sifter for the flour.  I rummaged around the cabinet and all of a sudden I found my mandolin slicer!  Or rather my finger found it.  Blood was everywhere! I wrapped it in a paper towel figuring it would stop bleeding soon but no, it bleed, and bleed, and bleed.  I finally got my husband to wrap a paper towel around it and secure it with electrical tape so that there was constant pressure on the wound in hope it would finally stop enough that I could survey the damage.

Undaunted, I went on to knead the pizza dough with my uninjured hand.  Not an easy feat.  By this time the yeast was so bloomed I thought it would be no good. The pizza turned out okay but the dough was a little tough.  With all this going on, it was getting later and later and I really didn't have time to have it rise.  But I discovered that regardless, the crust was quite flat  - a little thick, but flat never the less.  It was supposed to be a flat bread pizza after all!

Having an injured index finger on your dominant hand is annoying.  One soon learns how many things are a challenge with that finger out of commission.  Take typing for just one example  A lot of mistakes for sure. But it is teaching me to slow down a bit and be careful where I place my hands.  The human brain is a wonderful thing, even mine which I am sure is short a few dozen neurons, and after a while, typing gets better.  One learns to adapt.  That's the moral of this story that all things heal and we find ways to do things that need to be doing.  For me, I found a recipe for pizza dough with no yeast.  It's much quicker.  I also found a new place for my mandolin - out of the way of delicate fingers.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Nice House

We recently had a leak in our roof.  The next to last big storm we had opened up a large portion of the roof and my husband who was home at the time (luckily) came upstairs to find water pouring through the bedroom window.  Being the handy man that he is, he got what he needed and plugged the hole to save further damage.  After the rain stopped, he got some kind of material and patched the hole himself and then called a roofer.

The roofer called this morning to give us our options.  Of course there was the tear off option where the roof portion would be torn down to the rafters and then rebuilt (the more expensive option) or we could make do with a larger patch.  I am not sure which way to go because he didn't give me the cost, but requested to talk to my husband who has been dealing with him.  In this case I don't mind him dealing with my husband; but that's another entry.  At the end of the conversation, he remarked that we had a very nice house.

It makes me smile to have a total stranger tell me that.  My husband and I work very hard to keep up the house.  Granted my husband still has not finished the bathroom, and neither of us are very fastidious housekeepers, but we try to keep the place tidy overall.  If we know we are having guests over, we clean thoroughly, but generally that doesn't happen otherwise and there are clothes, magazines, and dust lying about. Especially now that the summer is here, we spend more attention to the outside.  So it is really nice to hear that our hard work has paid off.  Because, yes, I think we do have a nice house and I am pretty proud of it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bring the Inside Out

In the recent issue of Mother Earth News magazine there is an article about creating outdoor rooms.  It appears the newest design trend is to create the space outside your house as well as inside.  In the summer weather it is probably smart as being outside on a cooler summer day will help to reduce the amount of electricity used for indoor living.  When you use your outdoor grill you don't use energy using the stove.  When you sit outside and read, you don't use energy for light.

I have started to begin to create some outdoor spaces myself.  I have my veggie garden, my flower garden, my herb garden, my corn garden (new this year), and the patio.  I thought about this concept for a while and ended up starting a little corner of the garden which I call my tranquility corner. It is a little outdoor room where I can have my morning coffee and prepare for the day enjoying some moments of quiet.  I have a bird feeder there and some wind chimes to provide some distraction if needed. It is really quite lovely even though it is not totally finished.  What is left is to strip the grass there, put some flagstones down, and plant some fragrant step-able plants like creeping thyme in order to bring some scent to the area as well. I also want to get a little side table and maybe another little chair so that it is not so obvious it is a room for one.

I really like this concept of outdoor living.  Like many of you, I work inside an office all day and being outside helps clear the head.  Between biking, gardening, and meditating, I get to experience all that God has provided rather than just stick to man made things. I am fortunate that I have a little space to create this garden of mine and I hope that others can create one for themselves.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Clean Up

This weekend I participated in a clean up of Norristown organized by a young person.  He goes to college in Norfolk VA now and has worked with the Disney Corporation doing college recruitment. I know that Disney has a long history with volunteerism and I guess that is how he learned some tips on organizing. As with young people the organizing was done online through a site called Indiegogo.  It is a way to raise money for a number of things and they have capabilities to help non-profits and get projects going.

I was really impressed with his dedication and organization.  He had a plan and food, water, and supplies for the volunteers.  While I was disappointed in the turnout, as I am sure he was, the dozen or so who were there accomplished a lot.  I met people from Norristown that I had not met before and we did a good job cleaning two alleys and four blocks.  I was chuckling because I was trying to imagine what the residents on the blocks we were cleaning were thinking.  I guess they just thought we were DUIs doing community service and didn't pay us much mind, but I was kind of hoping they would get inspired and come out and help.  After all we were cleaning up on their neighborhood and picking up their trash, but I guess that was hoping too much.

While the part of Norristown that we cleaned was not that bad, there are worse and they are scheduled for different days.  The site allows one to suggest areas that need attention.  I admire this young person for taking on this responsibility.  I talked to him before we started going and asked where he hoped this would go.  He did indicate that he would like to see people taking on the responsibility of doing it themselves by learning from the group. Kind of a "teach a man to fish" kind of thing.  I only hope for this town that people get the lesson.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Visual Pollution

This scene was not possible for many years driving North on business 202 through Norristown.  For about 10 years four large billboards claimed this view (minus the rain of course).  Just the other day driving home from the grocery store I realized they were gone.  But not for long.

Today I noticed that the large electronic billboard had been erected in roughly the same spot as the previous ones.  One is better than four and it is higher than the others so you can roughly see the same view as this with the new one.  I know this visa isn't some beautiful scene of a peaceful town that you might see in the movies, but the billboard is the issue here. It is visual pollution as far as I am concerned and it is a constant reminder of the demographics in the town I have chosen to be my home.

I am not sure if you realize it or not, but think about where you see those billboards.  Aside from Times Square, I have observed that most billboards I see are usually cluttering up the sky in low income areas. This makes no sense to me as people in those areas are generally less likely to purchase the things that are advertised there, except maybe a bail bondsman.  I suppose it is to attract those driving through.  But I would prefer not to have them in my town. I would prefer to see my town in all its glory and to see the buildings sans flashing ads for whatever advertisers feel the need to hawk at you during every waking moment.  I would appreciate some peaceful reflection.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tasty Eating

I made a Tempeh Reuben from a recipe I found in two places the other night and served it with a side salad and a glass of red wine.  One step, draining the sauerkraut, was suggested in the other recipe, and I found it really helped with this one.  As usual my husband and I dined in the kitchen with the candles lit.  It was a delightful meal and the sandwich was really delicious.  My husband took one bite and was very surprised that he was finding it tasting so good.

When I first started this type of eating lifestyle, my husband balked and just shook his head and said "well, just make it taste good".  I think I have met that challenge.  Vegetarian cooking is not bland, it does not taste bad, and it is not restrictive.  Rather it is opening up a whole new world of ingredients I have never used before and endless possibilities with which to explore.

Give it a try.  I did not use vegan cheese or mayo with this, but I had all the other ingredients and it took very little time to make.  The results were delicious.  You don't have to go hog wild either and go totally vegan first time out.  Replace one meal with a vegetarian entree once a week to start.  Before long you just may find you are feeling better about it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

City Living

I was thinking of what makes a place a good place or a bad place to live in an effort to figure out a way to help the town I live in.  I started my research on Google (where else?) and typed in "what makes a city a good place to live".  I came across a site that has all kinds of listings for cities -  the 10 most exciting cities, the 10 best places, and so on.  Reading these lists gave me all kinds of ideas of things.

Actually putting things in motion is a challenge.  It is not impossible, but there can be many things that stand in your way.  One of the  most difficult one to achieve is getting enough money to do what you want to do.  Short of hitting it big in the lottery - and we all know the chances of that - funding is usually the culprit for ending a project real fast.

Generally though what makes a city a good or bad place to live is one's perception and a lot of that perception has to do with one's own framework.  However, there were some commonalities I found and that is having things to do, things to entertain, work, places to eat, and education.  People generally want what's best for their families and the above short list is a start.  There are some truly happy people in this burg that I live in and it is expressed in this really cool recent video.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

In the Saddle Again

After a several month long hiatus from bicycle riding, I have started up again.  Last weekend, my husband and I joined our biking buddy and did the Farm Park.  This is really not the thing one should do after being off the bike for six months, but we took it slow and I managed to do all the hill climbs without getting off the bike.  I was pretty proud of that.

I expected to be pretty sore the next day and was surprised to find not one muscle hurting when I woke up.  I felt really good, albeit a little tired.  I felt so good, that my husband and I decided to go riding later that day.  We got our gear on and our bikes out and as soon as I sat on the seat I realized that something did hurt!  It took a good half of the ride before I could sit on the seat without wincing.

So we took a few days off and I went riding this weekend and the saddle felt ever so much more comfortable.  We did, however only did 16 miles.  Babysteps.  Before I know it my saddle time will be up and we will doing 20 miles or more every time we ride as we did before.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Crazy Corn Bed

I don't know why I thought that putting a bed of corn out there in the middle of the yard would not attract varmints.  I must have been out of my mind to think it would not be touched. Of course it would.  So before I lose any more plants, I have surrounded the bed with fencing - any kind of fencing that I could find to keep it safe.  So now I have a corn bed that looks like something crazy.  But it is safe.

This is the first year I have done corn and this is a new bed that was build specifically for this purpose. I don't know what corn looks like when it is first coming up and I planted two varieties so there are things that definitely look like corn and others that look like grass. So I am going to let it go for a while until I can tell the difference.  That's how you learn.

So in the meantime, my corn is in prison, but as bad as it looks at least it is safe. Next year I will be prepared for whatever I plant in this bed will be protected right from the start.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Seed Bombs

I came across an article the other day about Guerrilla Gardening and making seed bombs. If you are not familiar with the term, it is basically gardening in spots where you don't have permission to do so by using a ball of seeds and compost-able materials.  I sort of did it at my workplace, although I did get permission, so it really wasn't guerrilla gardening.  Behind the office was a small plot of land which was bare when I got here.  I bought a flat of impatiens and planted them one weekend.  I had planted wildflower seeds, but they were coming up looking like weeds and I was getting comments about it, so I went and bought the flat. As you may be able to see here, I put a sign up that seeds were planted so that the landlord would not weed the spot.

Anyway, the seed bomb article make me chuckle, especially the part where they make the clay ones were made in the form of a gun or a grenade.  I imagine that could cause some issues in places where people could panic.  I love the idea of planting flowers and things where there is just dirt which just collects trash.

Another article that I saw was on an British website and they referred to it as nature's graffiti which really made me chuckle.  The pictures they showed on that site though were bulbs, which probably took a little more time than throwing a seed bomb and hoping it will rain enough to spread the seed around.  Whatever the method, the idea of spreading around plants and flowers in vacant lots really appeals to me.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

White Flowers

So this little patch of garden space is the start of my new white flower garden.  I saw this idea in a gardening book that I had received some time ago.  The idea is that a garden filled with just white flowers will "sparkle in the sunlight and glow in the moonlight". I thought this part of my yard would be a good spot...well let's put it this way, this was one of the places I wanted to put it and it was confirmed by my husband and neighbor who used to work with a landscape architect. Anyway, my other thought was that with all the color from above, the white would stand out and compliment the colors above and behind.

I ordered some things online and last night the first shipment came in and I went out there and put them in.  I got a small hosta with white flowers, Achillea Angel's Breath (a plant that looks like baby's breath), and Achillea Ballerina (flowers that look like white carnations).  Still coming is a white rosebush, white phlox, a white clematis, and white tulip bulbs.  I know that it won't look like much now, but next year things will come up nicely.

I had the white ceramic rabbit in another part of the garden and I thought he would look nice here among the white flowers when they come in. He belonged to my step-father and had sat in my house in a corner until last year when I brought him outside.  The vertical slab standing in the corner is a brass rubbing of a knight that I found which to me reminded me of the white knight so I thought it fit.  I can't wait until next spring when these flowers get established and the garden takes off.  This is my new favorite spot in my garden and it is next to my bench, so morning coffee will be extra special next spring.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Flexitarian

My mother was getting on my case yesterday about my recent decision to live a vegetarian lifestyle.  She remarked that I was probably not getting enough protein and said that all the vegetarians she knew were thin and sickly.  The last part caused me to just look at her and say "do I look thin and sickly?".  Then I went home and ate Chicken Parmigiana because my neighbor cooked us dinner and I would rather eat it than throw it away.  But I did eat it with a wonderful Kale Rainbow Salad that I have made in preparation to go with the veggie burger I was planning to eat.  Rather than feel guilty about doing that, I came across a term for what I am.  A Flexitarian.  

A Flexitarian sticks to a primarily vegetarian lifestyle but occasionally eats meat, which is pretty much what I have become.  At home I cook vegetarian, but if we are out or at a friends house I will eat what's available.  None of my friends or family are vegetarians especially my mother who has been trying to get me to go on this Pealo diet for the longest time because she thinks that will help me lose weight.  I can't seem to get her to understand that my problem is not what I eat or not eat; it's that I eat.  Period.

But I like the idea of the flexitarian lifestyle.  It is simple and available and helps to reduce the stress of what I am eating.  Now I just have to work on the stopping part.