Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Don't take a deep breath before reading...

My friend Lindsey recently posted an article about air quality in the United States. To read the article, click here. Or, to find out exactly how your city measures up, click here. Hate to break it to you, but unless any of you moved to Fargo recently, most of you readers aren't breathing the cleanest of air. Pittsburgh apparently has the worst air quality in the United States, Frederick got an "F" for ozone, Buncome County North Carolina got "F"s on both particles and ozone, DC strikes out with double "F"s too. Providence is only slightly better with a "D" for particle quality. I could go on, but most of you live in big cities and generally, that's not good news for your lungs. Los Angeles of course still has terrible air quality, but maybe we should celebrate the little things in life: we have moved from worst to fourth worst in the country...

But amidst all of this bad news, I have some positive air quality news to report. Thanks to Kai Hagan and all of his supporters, the plans for the incinerator in Frederick, Maryland have been put on hold indefinitely. Everyone in Frederick can breathe a little more easily today, even if their ozone isn't top quality.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What are you blogging for dinner?

It recently occured to me that it might be time to give away my dusty cookbooks. It's not that I know all of the recipes by heart, it's just that rather than cracking open a cookbook, if I want to cook something new, I head to I love that I can just check online and find a chicken noodle soup that 1,000 other people have tried out and reviewed before I head to the store for ingredients. I feel like each recipe comes with a guarantee that, unless I suddenly become distracted by the 100 other things I need to do each evening and leave the food in the oven until smoke is pouring out of it (not that that has ever happened), the food is going to come out tasting really good. But I still sometimes find it hard to come up with a recipe if I don't go there with one in mind already. All the recipes are there for the searching, but you have to know what you want to search for first. Then today, Toby sent me a link to the site I love this site because it shows page after page of photographs of inspiring meals. Not only that, but when you click on a photograph, it links you to a different food blog. You don't have the guarantee of 1,000 reviewers, but it's a great way to discover new and useful blogs. So go ahead, give it a try. Oh, and bon apetit!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why Plastic is So Trashy

I'm not a very good environmentalist. I have three kids in a world that is staggering under the weight of overpopulation. I love long, hot showers and am not giving them up anytime soon. My favorite days are spent outdoors - hiking, camping, the beach - and because of it, I often spend hours in the car getting to remote, beautiful places. But there are two really easy things that I do that, if everyone did, could have a huge impact on planet earth - I use Sigg bottles in place of plastic bottles and I bring my bags to the grocery store. I'm not patting myself on the back here. These are easy things to do, but when I look around the grocery store, I see that largely neither is being done.

There's a big swirling patch of plastic floating around in the pacific ocean. A patch makes me think of a small piece of fabric sewn onto a pair of jeans (yes, I went to college during the 90s), but this "patch" is 90 feet deep and approximately twice the size of Texas. The patch is made up of lots of things, but 90% of them are plastic. As far as how much of that is made up of grocery bags, at this very moment, we have used 154, 534,480,999 plastic bags this year. I think. It was hard to catch the number because it was moving so fast. They make up over 10% of the debris washed up on shore every year.

Some more disturbing facts about the "patch":

"The garbage patches present numerous hazards to marine life, fishing and tourism. But before we discuss those, it's important to look at the role of plastic. Plastic constitutes 90 percent of all trash floating in the world's oceans [source: LA Times]. The United Nations Environment Program estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic [source: UN Environment Program]. In some areas, the amount of plastic outweighs the amount of plankton by a ratio of six to one. Of the more than 200 billion pounds of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean [source: Greenpeace]. Seventy percent of that eventually sinks, damaging life on the ocean floor [source: Greenpeace]. The rest floats; much of it ends up in gyres and the massive garbage patches that form there, with some plastic eventually washing up on a distant shore." -

If that's not enough reason to start bringing bags, here's a great quote from Oprah's (love her) show on Earth Day:

"You wouldn't let a child open up a cabinet under the sink and start tasting the chemicals down there," Fabien says. "So why would you dump those chemicals down the drain and have them end up on your plate, which you then feed to your child?"

So if you don't already, please buy your bottles and bring your bags! Our beaches, oceans, marine life, and children will thank you. And to top it off, just like the patches in jeans, plastic is so 90's - you'll look far more stylish carrying a Sigg bottle and a well-designed reusable bag than you will holding some trashy plastic!

Resources for more information:

Great place to buy Siggs:

Best reusable bags:
- $1 at Whole Foods

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bar Centro

It didn't take long after moving to discover that we had landed in the heart of the movie industry. Almost everyone I have met is either a producer, actor/actress, writer, director, you name it. If not, they are probably involved in the music industry. Yet it occurred to me last night that, while we may live in the heart of the industry, we live far from the glamorous side of Los Angeles. Sure, George Clooney lives up the street, but most likely he's heading over the hill when he heads out on the town.

My friend Jane is determined to show me and Sarah (both new to Los Angeles last summer) the Los Angeles that we don't normally see. Last time we went out, she took us out for a hilarious night of drag queen bingo. This time we headed over the hill to Bar Centro, where the people watching is at least as good as the exotic drinks. Despite being known for glamor, Bar Centro's signature drink involves an ingredient typically found at the county fair - cotton candy. Sarah ordered a "magic mojito", which the waitress made at our table by pouring out a drink as shown below.

While we sipped our drinks (mine a Bellini, not involving any spun sugar) and chatted, I couldn't help but notice that pretty much every other woman in the bar looked like she had just stepped out of a magazine spread. And yes, the camera adds ten pounds. Aside from being a little top heavy, these women were extrodinarily tall and skinny. I wanted to steer them to the nearest steak house. And yet, they fit quite well with the ambiance. Everything was designed with an air of fantasy. From the drinks to chandaliers to the people, as Sarah said, it almost felt like a bar meets Alice in Wonderland.

In general, a prefer a good Irish bar where you can wear jeans and a t-shirt, sit in a booth with friends, and enjoy a cold mug of beer. But I will say this for Los Angeles - there are a lot of interesting places to explore.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Goodbye Francie

"Just be a nice warm person, that is enough." HH the Dalai Lama (and the quote at the top of Francie's Facebook page)

"...I am thinking that I am pretty lucky to be awake and to be thinking about such trivial things. How truly blessed am I to be thinking about being able to give back to my community, to get to stay home with my children, share time with my childrens' grandparents, and to have such wonderful friends that I care so much about...and to have my health and to be able to exercise. I am thinking how grateful I am!" - Francie, in her last blog entry

I only met Francie once. A friend knew that she and her family were moving to town and told them that we were about to move and rent out our house. A few days later, she and her family showed up at our doorstep. I liked her immediately. She had a warm smile and a sharp sense of humor. She laughed easily. As soon as they stepped in the door, her two boys, Chandler and Gavin, took off to play with Evie and Lucy. She held her daughter, Fiona, in her arms and we soon had moved on from talk about the house (they loved it and could "just picture living here") to talk about raising three children, organic foods and schools. Her husband was quieter than she was, but still friendly. He and Toby talked about public transit, his job and one of Toby's passions. I remember that she joked that she'd just married him because he was so handsome and he laughed. When they left, Toby and I lamented that a nice couple was moving to town right as we were leaving.

They decided to rent the house, but a few days later it fell through when we insisted on a credit check. We rented our house to another family, they moved to Middletown, and I assumed I wouldn't hear from them again. I was surprised when Francie friended me on Facebook, since I had just met her, but soon we were writing on each others walls and commenting on each others' statuses regularly. She was always quick to comment whenever I wrote about snuggling with Noni in bed, trying to get all the kids out of the house in the morning, or any thing else that a mom of three can understand.

Yesterday, Francie and her three children were murdered. Her husband stabbed them and then shot himself in the head. The story is already making its rounds on the news circuits, but I am thankful at least that I heard it from a friend instead. There are no words of course. I am shocked, saddened and still shaking at the thought. I am haunted when I think of how just last weekend I commented to a friend that Francie sometimes shares "too much information" on Facebook about arguments with her husband. Little did I know that she wasn't sharing enough.

Francie, I didn't know you very well but our prayers are with you and your beautiful, beautiful children. It breaks my heart, it really does. I am thankful that I knew you, even if it was brief. God bless you and your family. God bless all of us for living in a world where such a tragedy could occur.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What city are we?

A number of my friends have recently taken the "What city are you?" quiz on Facebook. If they are persuaded by the results, I will soon know a lot of people living in Seattle. I have yet to take the quiz, but Toby and I have been asking our own questions to each other about where we can envision ourselves living. We're not pulling up anchor anytime soon, but when I see us five years from now, I imagine us calling someplace other than Los Angeles home. The question is: where?

Of course we like to think of ourselves moving back to Frederick, but given that we don't know if that will even be possible, we've tried to imagine other places we might like to call home. Ideally, we'd like to live near our families. Realistically, we will need to find somewhere with a thriving tech community. There are a lot of places where I know we'd be perfectly happy - like Boston, MA or Takoma Park, MD - but when we are throwing practicality aside and just imagining our lives in different places, we picture a city that's small enough to feel like home but large enough for a dynamic downtown. It is somewhere near or nestled in the mountains. The city's citizens feel connected to and are active in the local politics, lending to a strong sense of community. A vibe that's progressive and outdoorsy with a touch of artsy is always nice too. And of course, the public schools should be excellent - or at least decent.

Here are the cities we've discussed:

- Asheville, NC
- Boulder, CO
- Burlington, VT
- Charlottesville, VA
- Flagstaff, AZ
- Frederick, MD
- Northhampton, MA
- Portland, ME
- Portland, OR

This weekend, we added another city to the list.

We spent the weekend with friends in Pismo Beach, California. Pismo Beach is not making the list anytime soon. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's vying for the top spot in a list of "Most redneck places in the United States". There's probably a lot of competition for spots on that list. But I think that you can safely know you are in a redneck town if the beach is covered with people riding ATVs and more than one of them is flying the confederate flag. The town gets extra redneck points for people doing that even though they are nowhere near the southeastern United States. We had been unaware of the ATV factor when we rented the house, so needless to say, on Saturday morning, we hightailed out of there pretty quickly.

We headed to San Luis Obispo county, to Montana de Oro, a state park named after the golden wildflowers covering the hills. We spent the morning hiking through fields of flowers, climbing down sandy cliffs, and looking at hermit crabs in the tidal pools. After a picnic on the beach, we hiked back to the cars and within a few minutes' drive, we found ourselves in a small city with beautiful mountain views, tree-lined streets and a vibrant downtown. We bumped into a Children's Festival by the creek and sat on the grass to watch "mad scientists" explode balloons and to listen to live kids' music. After a day in the sun, we were soon all feeling a little thirsty and walked to a restaurant with a patio overlooking the creek where we enjoyed a couple of rounds of beers and pretended that our kids' weren't mixing rice, salt and sugar into their ginger ales. As our kids terrorized the restaurant at their separate kids' table (love the separate table), we toasted a wonderful weekend and decided that we should all move to San Luis Obispo. We were sort of joking, but it's a city that would be hard not to love. I'm adding it to the list.

So I'm wondering: what is your criteria for a great place to live? What cities are on your list? Are we overlooking anyplace?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What a mustache says about a man's profession

I thought I'd add this as an update to my mustache post. (Courtesy of Noah.) If mustaches are going to come back in style, guys should know which type to grow. Click here for a guide.

Monday, April 6, 2009


This past weekend, we headed to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve to check out the wildflowers. With a bright blue sky as a backdrop, the yellow, purple and orange flowers were spectacular, even during what is supposed to be a bad year for poppies. I posted photos on Facebook, but thought I'd put a couple up here too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

G is for girls

Move over boys, there's a new girl in town. OK, this isn't exactly breaking news. She's been around for two years now, but we've taken a couple of years off from Sesame Street in our house. Well, now that Noni's approaching two, we're back full force. And I was delighted to turn it on today and find a new girl in a starring lead role. It shouldn't really be that amazing. There are now a whopping total of three leading ladies on Sesame Street (Zoe, Rosita, and now Abby Cadabby) and I'm counting nine guys (Cookie Monster, Count Von Count, Grover, Elmo, Baby Bear, Telly, Snuffy, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch). But, hey, at least we're making progress. While Sesame Street was started in 1969, the first female puppet wasn't introduced until Zoe popped up in 1992. So for 23 years, they produced a show for girls and boys...only without thinking that maybe they should add, you know, a girl! Well, at least Abby Cadabby is here now. Maybe she can shake her wand a few times and create six more girls to balance things out in her 'hood. Then they can take the boys on for a little Sesame Street soccer. Cookie Monster will provide the snacks.