Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Bet I'll Take

I've enjoyed reading, thinking on and talking about Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and An Eater's Manifesto, so when this article was forwarded to me earlier in the week, I took the time to read it. And it did take some time to digest it it, but it's worth the read.

Most of what Pollan's work takes a little bit to read (less so with Eater's Manifesto as opposed to Omnivore's Dilemma). Writing style is one of the reasons why Pollan isn't a quick read, subject matter is another. The nutrition and food chain mess we have gotten ourselves into doesn't have a quick explanation or an easy solution.

However in this latest article, Pollan talks about the simple act of planting a garden. The task of producing some of your own food puts the industrial food chain into a new light. It's also one small part we can take to deter climate change. Plus, it helps with the recent high prices at the grocery store.

Ever since we have had this house, we've had a garden and have found it to be really rewarding.
Currently our lettuce is in the micro form, we have a few seedlings of volunteer fennel from last year and we put peas in this afternoon. Later we'll add tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peppers. It's not a big garden, but it will help a little with the grocery bill. And it will connect us more to our yard and the earth.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When in Doubt: Shrug

After the fourth and final trip to Lowe's, Chris finally got the new dishwasher installed Monday night. I would like to say alls well that ends well, except that upon filling the dishwasher for the first time, we discovered our dinner plates do not fit in the bottom rack (or the top for that matter). Our dinner plates are over sized and as such I try not to use them much. We use the salad plates much more frequently, which fit fine as they are a normal portion size. (Note to self, do not buy Emeril brand dishes and think these are normal sizes).

Much more disappointing to me, is that the wine glasses don't fit in the top rack unless it is in the lowered position. Before the whole leaking thing, I really just wanted a new dishwasher because I hate to hand wash wine glasses. And the wine glasses in our home do get put to good use. Thank goodness for the stemless.

As Chris was finishing up the dishwasher project, I put my excess energy into cleaning out my closet. It always feels so good to pack bags of no longer worn clothing off to Goodwill! This year, I took my repurposing of clothing one step further and decided to make an old tee shirt into a cute little yoga shrug. So cute and so in the spirit of the Earth Day. I can't find the link to share the directions, but the project was easy and sewing-free. I'm looking forward to trying the technique again. This was my first effort:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Washing my Hands of It

As I might have mentioned before, Chris and I have some differences in style in the way we approach problems. I think this mostly stems from the way we were both raised. Chris' father renovated a house, learning along the way and using Chris as his apprentice. Chris says helping his father with house projects are some of his favorite memories from childhood. My dad, on the other hand, isn't so much a do-it-yourself type guy. Instead, he famously always knew somebody who could do the job for a good price. Rewire a fan, no problem, his assistant could take care of it. Paint the windows, some guys from the pizza place can handle that. We might have had second thoughts about letting some of these characters in the house, but the work always (mostly, if you count the finishing of the basement) got done in an efficient manner. Consequently, my favorite childhood memories stem around all that extra time created by farming out tasks when we would take off to Florida for weeks in the summer. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

I give you this background just to clarify why when we were buying the dishwasher at Sears the other day, I immediately started trying to visualize my Outlook calendar to know when I could be home to let the delivery / install guys in. While I was visualizing, Chris was telling the sales guy that he would pick the appliance up at the warehouse and install it himself. Huh? Do you know how to do that I asked? Sure, it's not that hard, he said.

Famous last words, I think as I glance into our kitchen where two dishwashers are currently taking up residency and neither is installed. Chris is on his third trip to Lowe's and I'm thinking the $129 delivery / install fee is sounding like a better and better bargain.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Applying Ourselves

One of the first things we noticed when we moved into this house, was that the kitchen was apparently last updated when we were barely learning to walk. Another thing we noticed is that our yard appeared to be the neighborhood hangout for cats. The Clintonville cats are something of a legend; everywhere you look there is a cat or two roaming around. On one of the first nights here, I thought one of these cats was dying in our backyard. There was a howling yowl like I had never heard before and I could only imagine it was coming from one of the half dozen cats who I had seen in the alley. It turned out the howling was coming from our dishwasher. From that time on, we begrudgingly called the dishwasher our second pet as it certainly did make it's presence known.

Now our second pet really has met it's natural end. Monday night we noticed large amounts of water escaping from the bottom and it broke one of our water glasses. The poor little guy led a good life. Twenty plus years is a respectable span of washing dishes and keeping people company with howls.

The (un)timely demise of our dishwasher was just the kick in the behind we needed to get moving on the kitchen renovation. This project kicked off last May and has seen no progress since that weekend showed us just how much work would go into the seemingly innocent project.

So last night we went to look at new appliances. I'm now in sticker shock. We're only choosing middle of the line models, but they're still so expensive. With one appliance needing replaced in a timely manner (as in now because I hate washing dishes by hand), we decided to go ahead and get new everything at the same time - range, hood, refrigerator and dishwasher. It really adds up when you're purchasing all new appliances.

So any helpful appliance hints? Something you love? Hate? Wish you had?

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Different Understanding of the Force

Late on Friday, I was flipping through the channels and stumbled upon what I think of as the first Star Wars movie. According to Chris, it is episode 4, but whatever. Even though I have seen the movie more times than I can count, I was drawn into this classic story of good versus evil. The simplicity of the first movie had me thinking of my R2D2 underoos (which I loved) and singing the theme song for hours after the triumphant ending. We must have missed Empire Strikes Back on Saturday night, but by the time we returned home from the trip on Sunday, we were able to catch the end of Return of the Jedi (the third movie to me, episode 6 to Chris). But this time, along with cheering on the Ewoks and our band of Jedis, I found myself yelling at the television for Luke to stay Present as he was having his final scene with Darth Vadar and the Emperor. Stay Present Luke! Chris thought I was going nutty as I was spewing New Age philosophy into a 1983 movie. But really, what was Luke doing if not controlling his ego and staying present in the moment? What is the Force but another word for Being? And don't tell me Yoda wasn't practicing yoga in that cave of his.

And so it was that I came away from the Star Wars trilogy with a new understanding of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. Reading the book has been a struggle for me even though through my yoga practice, I'm familiar with most of the tenets of the book. That you are not your thoughts is a heady concept to grasp. While it doesn't line up exactly, the familiar image of Luke not using his Jedi powers to fight Darth is enough to remind me to stay Present. And if Luke, who Chris says isn't even a very good Jedi, can do it, so can I.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What All the Fuss is About

For years and years, I've been hearing about the wonder of Ikea. I've seen catalogs and visited the web site. My brother has even gifted me some fun Ikea finds over the years. He had made the trip to Pittsburgh to visit this Mecca of modern home furnishings. I held out with hope one of the stores would be added to the Columbus landscape. The folks at Ikea missed Columbus by about 50 miles and put the Ikea in West Chester, Ohio. Luckily, friends of mine live close by the store and we were scheduled to visit Chris' family in Indiana this weekend. That means stopping for lunch with Jaimee, Ben and Andrew and shopping at Ikea on the way.

While on the way to our final destination, it didn't allow much time in store. I thought I would be fine with this as I just wanted to pick up a few items and quickly see what was offered. In reality, I was a frantic mess waffling between I want it all and I don't have time to pick anything out. I ended up with a few items I immediately saw would work in our home, but for well thought out shopping, more time is needed. Good thing there is a baby shower in Indiana that I really should attend. For I am now indoctrinated into IKEA having discovered what all the fuss is about and I heart it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Just Do It Already

I can procrastinate with the best of them. Or the worst of them as the case may be. School projects regularly were completed the night before. College brought hours of computer solitaire games before actually beginning a paper. I'm typically running late for work. Okay, I'm always late for work. I just put things off. Most of the time I put off things I'm not really looking forward. This week, I went to the dentist for the first time in a year and a half. I just kept putting off that call because I hate sitting in that leany back chair while people put sharp instruments in my mouth.

The only aspect of my procrastinating that makes me disappointed with myself, is that it has become such a habit that I usually put off tasks I want to do in addition to those I don't. It took me more than a year to complete Level 1 of my yoga training. I wanted to do it, I just didn't. I find this to be the case a lot and I'm trying to change it because I suspect I'm missing out on some great experiences. Some of the hesitation is probably a lack of confidence, but some of it is just plain old procrastinating. I've being wanting to sign up for a ceramics class at the Cultural Arts Center for three years. Seriously, every couple of months a note pops up on my calendar to check the class schedule and sign up. I called once two years ago, but classes were full and I didn't make an effort after that. Registration starts again on Monday and this time I'm just going to do it.

I'm going to be a person who does rather than who wants to do.

Monday, April 7, 2008


There may not be leaves on the trees, but for me I am living like it is summer. The AC was on in the car this afternoon. I stopped by Target to buy the first sun dress on the season. The grill is on and I'm looking forward to a whole meal with nary a clean up in the kitchen. And to top it off, I have discovered our network works outside. Indeed, summer living is easy. Sitting here in the sun, waiting for dinner and feeling a slight cool breeze around my bare legs is enough to make the long darkness of winter worth it. I wouldn't appreciate the light as much right now, if it hadn't been dark at this time in the evening two months ago.

Spring and then summer is fleeting. Bittersweet if you will. Once you get used to the season, it changes again. It's in this spirit that I introduce to you what I am calling the taste of summer 2008 - The Bubbly Amaretto Sour. I mixed a batch of these up last night and while we all agreed you couldn't drink a lot of them, the first one goes down nice and easy. This sweet, sour, syrupy combination is so tasty, and so very summer. Cheers!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Not the Room For Me

Last night we headed over to Gallery Hop. It was a nice night out and we wanted to look around. The plan was to get there about 5:30, grab something to eat and drink at Marcella's and then do the hop. Well, we got there closer to 6:30 and there was an hour and 45 minute wait at Marcella's. We still walked around for a bit, and then happened upon Burgundy Room. It's the least popular of the wine bars in the District, so no problem on getting a table. I've been there before, so I didn't have big expectations, but I have to say we were disappointed upon leaving.

I understand the Burgundy Room is a tapas bar, so the point is to order a few small plates to make a complete meal. We didn't want to stay that long, so we each ordered only one plate. Plus, to me it seemed like the menu didn't lend itself to combinations. The small plates were more like mini-complete meals rather than typical small plates meant for sharing and exploring. I had veal short ribs, cheddar mash and fried carrots. Chris had a Cornish game hen, candied yams and braised red cabbage. The food was fine, but it wasn't great. I was okay with the portion, but Chris was still hungry after.

Being a wine bar, we maybe should have just stuck with a glass of wine and not ventured into food territory. I ordered a nice claret. It's something I don't usually drink, so I thought I would give it a taste. It came with a piece of cork floating in it and a lot of sediment at the bottom of the glass. The waiter said they just got the variety in. So either they haven't figured out it is best decanted or they're just not going through enough of it.

All in all, we decided the $60 (on two glasses of wine and two small plates) would have been better spent at Marcella's. From having been there before, I know Chris wouldn't have left hungry and the food would be of better quality. We're making it a point to go on a non-gallery hop night. And, now I know, if you can get a table at a restaurant in the Short North during gallery hop, it's really better to skip it all together.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Last night I opened my phone for a text message from a friend saying Skybus, Columbus' start up airline, had gone bust and would be ceasing all operations as of this morning. I went to the Web site for confirmation and sure enough a message there confirmed Skybus was no longer.

Skybus, in it's short life, had some troubles, but it also generated some great positive press for our City. It also gave many residents here the chance to explore our nation on the cheap. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip on the airline when we went to the Bellingham, WA area last year. I didn't so much enjoy four months later when that same leg was cancelled as I was returning to Seattle for business and had to find other flights. I also wasn't thrilled when a short trip we had planned to Florida in February had flight times changed to crazy hours. We ended up getting a refund for that one.

It's a little sad when a company tries a new model, takes a risk and then ends up failing. Whether it was some of the inherent problems with the airline, or the tough economic times that finally did the company in will be debated. For one, I'll be disappointed to see them go. Whenever people's horizons can be broadened through travel for $10, that's good stuff.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Just Two

My next session of yoga started today and I was sad to see my group go from about six to eight people all the way down to two people. I'm not sure if the recent nicer weather had something to with the shift down in numbers, or if it is something I have done. I've gotten attached to this group I've been leading since October and it has been hard to see the numbers go down over the months. I've had two guys struck down with back injuries. While this doesn't speak well for my teaching abilities, I don't think either of these problems have been my fault.

A part of me thinks I have been pushing this group a little too hard. It's been hard to find a good balance between the class participants. Some are older and not in great shape and some are younger and are looking for more of a challenge. I've been offering a lot of modifications, but people don't always take the suggestions. I've been striving to create a safe and judgement-free atmosphere in our class, but students do sometimes push their edge further than they should.

Today, with my only two participants, I made an extra effort to slow down and focus on breathing. We held poses longer. I sprinkled in more yoga philosophy. We practiced alternate nostril breathing. Even with two people, it was a great class and I was happy to share the experience with them. It reminded me that sometimes in yoga and in life, we have to slow down and take stock before we can move forward.