Yes, We Have No Bananas

31Days2013

Two years ago this month, my mother, sister and I went to Paris to celebrate Mom’s Seventy Fifth birthday. My sister had lived in France; I travel there regularly for work; but Mom had never been. It was a to be the trip of a lifetime for Mom, but things got off to a rocky start when she missed her first flight (we journeyed separately at the beginning from our respective homes). The reason: she needed bananas. No kidding. She didn’t have any bananas at home and felt she just couldn’t make the trip without them. So she stopped by a supermarket for bananas on her way to the airport, and as a result she missed her flight. In fact, she missed an entire day in Paris, due to the domino effect of missing that first flight. This story is now a big joke in our family, and we make sure to ask Mom before she travels, “Do you have bananas?” She doesn’t appreciate the sarcasm. Continue reading

Alternative Living, Part Two: No Impact

31Days2013

A number of years ago I heard a radio interview with a man who was striving to live for an entire year without creating a carbon footprint* on the earth. I was immediately captivated by the idea and the details of his plan, and impressed that he had taken on the challenge with a somewhat less enthusiastic wife, and a toddler in tow. Colin Bevan, aka “No Impact Man” lives in New York City, which both eased and complicated the lifestyle experiment he took on in 2007. Imagine living a whole year in the city, your only means of transportation your own two feet (which also are used to power the family bike); not using the subway or elevators; buying nothing encased in packaging (buying almost nothing new, for that matter); not using air conditioning or watching TV; using nothing made of plastic; and composting ALL your waste (and I do mean all!). There’s even more. Continue reading

Flower Power

31Days2013

So, after a holier-than-thou post yesterday regarding the nasty cut flower industry, a dilemma:

What to do when someone gives your husband a huge bouquet of beautiful cut flowers? No, not a lover; there is no illicit affair being carried forth. But recently TBM was given flowers, after he brilliantly did what he does best in this world. You know, as a congratulatory gesture.

TBM then gave the flowers to me, because flowers don’t interest him (not to say he wasn’t touched by their receipt). And I thought, “UGH! I won’t have such sinful flowers in my home!” No, I didn’t think that, but I did think, “Well, there has already been so much waste bringing these flowers to us, I can’t continue wasting them now.” Continue reading

In Bloom

31Days2013

Saturday I cut from the garden what surely are some of the last flowers of the season. In my absence from Hudson the past two weeks, the geraniums and dahlias mistook their forced drought (alas, there has been no significant rain) for a death sentence and are fiercely in bloom right now.

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Washing Up, Portuguese Style

Years ago, l lived in Portugal. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a period that would influence my life forever. At that time, Portugal was an unsophisticated product of the old world, where culture, religion and politics were equally tainted by charlatans and fools. Yet I viewed life there as far richer and more sophisticated than my upbringing in the American west. I fell in love with the country, the language, and most especially with the Portuguese people. Memories of my time there are gently etched in my heart and mind.

Portugal has been considered a Third World country in the recent past, and many Portuguese citizens still struggle to gain an economic foothold. As a result, they’ve developed habits that are very conservative- as in not wasteful- and I quickly learned to appreciate and live by such practices.

One I still do to this day is to wash dishes using very little water. First, I sort “like with like” so the whole process is a bit organized. Then instead of filling a sink with hot, soapy water, I wet a rag or scrub brush, douse it with dish detergent, and scrub up the utensils, cups, and plates that need washing. When enough have been washed, I turn on the water to rinse, and then turn it off again. If a pot needs an extra soaking, I put it at the bottom of the sink while I wash and rinse the other items, allowing it to fill with water. Then I set it aside and let the water do the hard work of loosening the stuck-on bits. When it’s time to tackle the pot, I have a tiny, amazing tool- a small scraper made of bamboo- that takes off the food bits without damaging the surface of the pan.

Some people may think this isn’t a good way to do the washing up, that the dishes can’t possibly get clean and sanitized without a lot of hot soapy water. But I attest, I’m a clean-freak when it comes to dishes, and I do get mine clean.

That said, I’ve heard that new, energy efficient dishwashers are very water conservative, and that fully loaded, using a dishwasher is better than washing by hand. But energy is required to run the machine, versus my own power to was dishes Portuguese style. I’d have to check the facts to see which method is actually better. However, I figure I’ve conserved thousands of gallons of water over the years, washing up Portuguese style, and I feel good about every drop.