Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Confessions of a Bad Gardener

So I’ve been a lousy gardener this year. The newness of last year has worn off so I was less obsessive, but then it really all just went to pot. The front yard was never planted – I must at least pull all the weeds and the few dead plants out this weekend. I might be able to get my hands on a pressure washer to remove the paint from the walls enclosing my front yard, so if I can do that and then stain them as I’d like then it’s good I didn’t plant yet. It’d get ruined.

Most of the vegetables in the back are spent – I need to at least cut all the dead plants out at the soil line so it looks cleaner and then hopefully I can take care of the rest sometime in the next couple months.

The only things still producing right now: swiss chard (which is enormous) and carrots. I’ll leave the carrots their pot until the winter so they can get bigger. All that water and care on the two zucchini plants and I think I got six zucchini between them before this heat burnt them up. What a waste – for a container garden, I’m not planting it next year. One tomato plant got too overgrown and didn’t produce any real fruit (I’ll be better next year about pinching). The other tomato plant did give me a bounty last weekend and I got one perfect pot of sauce out of it. No more flowers in sight though. No sauce left for the freezer either – I may still get some in-season tomatoes from the store and make a big vat of sauce to freeze. I like my sauce better than the jarred stuff from the store. Eggplant – I think I got ten off the plant and that’s it. It’s triple-digit temps here and the plants are just not having any of it.

Neither am I.

Additionally, I was rather out of commission on the gardening front for the whole of July. Luckily God kept up with the watering for the most part by sending rain at the right times, until this week anyway. I was traveling so much between my wonderful trip to Mexico, then a business trip to Vancouver, BC – and I just had a whole lot of stuff break and go wrong at the same time so that I had to take care of those things to the detriment of the garden. Right now I just want to clean it so it doesn’t look a mess anymore.

The busy-ness of my life is going to continue, so I might get one or two new plants but I’m not going to obsess about a fall garden for 2007. Next year I’m planting a pasta sauce garden (2 tomatoes, 1 eggplant, herbs and garlic), greens and carrots in the spring, and that’s it. I love gardening but with my educational and volunteer pursuits I just won’t have the time to do much more than that. My garden looks so sad right now I hate to think of torturing any more plants than necessary. When I do plant my front yard, it will be with plants that thrive on neglect. I foresee a lot of lantana…

Mostly right now I just want to put something in the hanging basket by my front entrance even if it’s fake. It looks very empty there…

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Roasted Eggplant Dip

So I had great ambitions for yesterday but only one of them happened. I did weights at the gym on Tuesday for the first time in a month and woke up yesterday moving a lot like Frankenstein, so most of my cleaning and extra-spin-class ambitions did not come to pass. Went to my regular class this morning though.

I did clean the kitchen and cook the awesomest eggplant dip from my garden harvest for the neighborhood BBQ. Also studied my Spanish for about three hours accompanied by a Law & Order marathon. Heh. My new roommate came to the BBQ and met the neighbors. She’s going to fit in nicely, and now they’ll keep an eye on her during her first week when I’m not there, too.

Today I’m just preparing for my retreat this weekend. I’m really looking forward to this time at the monastery – it’s hard to believe I go tomorrow when it was three months ago I booked the weekend during a meltdown. The retreat is called “Listening to God,” and as usual the timing is about right.

Roasted Eggplant Dip รก la Lady Marmalade

1 large regular eggplant or 7 small Japanese ones
6-8 roma tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
25 large fresh basil leaves
2/3 c. cottage cheese
2 tbsp. shredded asiago cheese
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Peel and cut eggplant into chunks. Cut up tomatoes into ½” cubes. Peel garlic cloves and slice open. Oil a cookie sheet with one tbsp. of the oil. Place eggplant and garlic chunks at one side and tomatoes at the other. Drizzle the rest of the oil on top and add salt and pepper to taste. Place cookie sheet in oven and roast for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Put roasted eggplant and garlic into food processor or blender. Add cottage cheese. Blend thoroughly. Add most of the basil leaves – pulse only until the basil is in small pieces, not pureed.

Add mixture into a shallow cast iron or glass baking dish. Fold in the roasted tomatoes. Add asiago to the top. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with basil leaves and serve hot with pita chips. Bon Apetit!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Yo Soy Profesora Mia

I’m sure I messed that up but it’s OK, I’m learning!

I thought I’d share the scheme I’ve devised to learn Spanish on my own, in case anyone else is interested in learning a language but can’t afford classes, or would simply rather work through it on their own schedule. There is a wealth of material out there for the disciplined self-teacher.

I’m going for a multi-pronged approach – basically trying to “immerse myself” as best I can so that I’ll learn quicker. #1, I broke out my old Learn Spanish in your Car tape set and have been listening (and speaking!) everywhere I drive. Which, with my commute, is a lot.

I’ve also subscribed to
Coffee Break Spanish through iTunes – right now I’ve just subscribed to the free podcasts and am catching up on the last several months’ worth. I haven’t got an iPod but I listen on my computer at home. The podcasts are done by a couple of Scottish folk and are really delightful – right now even the basic lessons are still teaching me a few words that I didn’t know before and reviewing things I forgot. The podcast builds sequentially so they are getting progressively harder as time goes on. Still beginner, but that’s fine for me right now.

I’ve also wishlisted some materials from after reading several descriptions and reviews. I plan to order at least the first two books in a week or so.

The first one is
The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice. It’s a big, fat hardcover book with CD Rom that is full of great review for all levels and also has lots of practice exercises and tests. I’ve wishlisted the companion book as well, which is The Ultimate Spanish Verb Review and Practice. I’m really rotten with the verbs and this book is meant to really solidify you, expanding on the first book and also full of exercises and visual representations on how the verb tenses work. To expand my vocabulary and put it to even more use, I’ve also wishlisted two beginner (to start) Spanish Readers with comprehension exercises in them: this and this.

With the “save if you order these two together”–type deals that Amazon has, I can get all of these for about $37.00 plus shipping. They all have rave reviews.

The last step is to find myself a meet-up group to practice with. They’re all downtown so far, but if I’m getting all this work at home for a total outlay so far of about $45.00 with shipping, a once-a-month trip downtown for some practice with others is pretty worth it. My plan is to work solidly on my Spanish for at least six months, perhaps nine, and then begin the same process to learn French while continuing my Spanish studies at the same time. By the time I graduate with my Master's, I'll need to know at least two languages in order to get international aid work - and perhaps even three depending on where I want to go, and I'd like to be way ahead of the game before starting at UGA in two years.

I’ll create a self-syllabus when my books arrive - likely after my return from Mexico, and post my reviews of the materials from Amazon after I’ve been able to work with them for a while.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Top Ten, June 2007

Lists! My life is full of lists these days. It’s the only way I can keep track of a damn thing.

  1. I got a roommate! She moves in July 14th. Thank God. Now I can go forward with life-plans and also halve my personal household environmental impact.
  2. Speaking of “afford” –my last plumbing repair is finally done. More expensive than I wanted, but FINALLY nothing leaks anymore. When the water began to drip just faster than I could carry the daily bucketful out to the garden, I knew I couldn’t wait until next paycheck as planned. Though, now to water the garden, I’ll have to actually turn on the hose.
  3. I gave my last yoga class last night without knowing that’s what it was. Found out afterward that my students are all traveling in July. Probably best that way – no weepy drama about “last class.” I do feel a bit empty though.
  4. I let my director know I was done with choir too, aside from the occasional pop-back if I can fit it in. T’was awkward but OK. I’ll really miss singing with them.
  5. I’m investigating online and podcast Spanish lessons since my new career will require at least two languages. I’m hoping to supplement those with a couple immersion courses, but right now a podcast sub with print supplements is all I can afford. I’ll make myself a syllabus as if I were in a real class. Thank goodness I’m already at least familiar - I wonder if I can get used teacher’s materials.
  6. I’m supposed to hear back soon about my college app so I can get registered for my evening science class. I want that set.
  7. I hate insurance drama-rama. JUST REIMBURSE ME.
  8. Must get ready for Mexico mission trip this weekend, since I’m at my monastery retreat next weekend (can’t wait for that). I think I need to get some scrubs – are those cheap? I should go over the list. (HA. Another one.)
  9. I am back at the gym now. Whoo! Taking it a bit easy since the surgical wound is still healing, but glad that I don’t have to play invalid anymore. Exercising after three weeks away, it’s been difficult “getting it back,” but I’m doing it and very glad to be there.
  10. I think I sold the extra bed I had on Craigslist! Here’s hoping. Roommate is bringing her own bed. I should finally finish moving into my new room this weekend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wardrobe Re-Fashionista

I was reading the Compact list today and someone linked to this blog Wardrobe Refashionista. Read the rules for their pledge.

It’s about “abstaining from the purchase of "new" manufactured items of clothing, for a period of 2 / 4 / 6 months. I pledge that i shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract.”

It seems to me to be more about consumption in the guise of environmentalism, and here’s why. Work clothes and clothes for sports and school are excepted, though people are encouraged to try to make or buy those used. That’s fine, but why are work clothes excepted? Add the sports clothes (you do need to buy sports bras new), and that’s 75% of my wardrobe. For the record, most of my business clothes look great and you’d never know they are from Good Will. Even special “To Die For” occasions are excepted as long as you “confess.”

Additionally, members are expected to post their progress and achievements weekly. Weekly? The only thing I do every week related to my wardrobe is wash it (the dirty pieces). Granted, I’m single, but how many clothes does a person need to acquire/make on an ongoing basis that they’re expected to have weekly progress?

It just seems that a period of 2-4-6 months, when it comes to wardrobe, should be easy to abstain from getting or even making anything at all. What do we really, truly need that is not probably already in our closets that we can’t get through such a short period without consuming more?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

It takes an incredible amount of Discipline to keep it together

Have you ever seen the film Monster? It’s about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was executed in Florida for killing several of her “johns.” It recounts her life of abuse, how she became a prostitute along Florida’s trucker highways in order to eat, her journey into mental illness, how she was victimized over and over again until finally she snapped and started killing her johns. She did this both to get their cars and money to eat, and also to end her cycle of being beaten and abused by them.

Today I met a potential Aileen Wuornos right here in Lawrenceville. Her name is Sandra Wilson.

I’d actually met Sandra last month at the Co-Op, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to really learn about her until today. Other volunteers last month expressed their frustration about how she would just come in and go any old where, picking up anything and eating it, and how she made the rounds of all the churches “taking advantage”. It’s plain to see that she is homeless, hasn’t really got anywhere to bathe or wash clothes, that she is mentally ill, that she has wounds and abscesses that will not heal.

Sandra looks about 60 years old from the way life has worn on her, but I bet really she isn't much over 40, if even that. There is a note in Sandra’s file from two years ago in which her interviewer had asked her, “What one thing do you want most in the whole world?” Sandra answered, “I just want a grave that I can lie down in.”

Today I learned that aside from sleeping under bridges and the like, Sandra is a prostitute. I don’t believe by choice – this woman is victimized. She is taken advantage of by lots of men with promises of food or something else she needs, and afterward she is sometimes paid and sometimes simply beaten. She is not on drugs, which is amazing. I'd want anything I could get my hands on to numb the pain. Linda bought her a week at the Villa Lodge extended stay today so she can have a break, as well as a place to bathe, wash clothes, and eat the week’s worth of food we gave her without it being stolen as it so often is. Sandra just got out of jail for stealing a bag of Chex Mix after not having eaten for two days.

When I was watching Monster, my constant thought as the plot unfolded was “Please stop hurting her!!!” While I can never condone murder, I can absolutely and without question understand, empathize, and relate to how someone with these experiences and that many years of abuse and dehumanization would be driven to that point. The fact that Sandra hasn’t cracked and killed one of her exploiters is a testament to God.

So Monster is not just a movie. It’s not just one woman’s journey through unfathomable abuse and violation into madness. It’s not even just Sandra’s story. There is an Aileen or a Sandra (or many) in every city in this country. The dirty homeless woman mumbling to herself is not just someone gross to get away from or to shoo along. She is a desperate soul who simply longs for sustenance and peace.

Next time I start to complaining, which I do a lot, seriously remind me that at least I don’t have to pay for any of my meals with blow jobs and broken jaws. Ever since yesterday morning I have been fervently praying not only for her earthly deliverance from hunger, mental illness, and physical, emotional and spiritual wounds, but that upon her death she be rushed straight up to heaven into the arms of Jesus without having to wait in any lines, and given a place of honor at the table. Sandra could really use the rest.

And let’s not forget – she lives in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County. These ills are not limited to the inner city. They are right here in the suburbs. I often wonder if the gates on so many communities are to keep Sandra out, or just to allow people to continue wearing blinders.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Restaurant Confidential

I think restaurant food is irritating me to the point that, save for a few favorites, I’m sticking to soups and salads for a while. I was unexpectedly invited to dinner last night for a surprise family occasion and had the veggie burger – which was not only huge but double-patty and was just far too much food. And that’s WITH saving most of the side and half the burger for today. (And especially after gorging on the spinach dip first because my blood sugar had fallen too low.)

I eat out so rarely now (almost exclusively special occasions), that when I do I am just astonished by the amount of food and the deep-fried quality to it, how heavy it is.

I ate the other half of last night’s meal for lunch today and am stuffed and still hungry at the same time. I guess that’s what happens with food of poor nutritional quality. This picture looks better than what I was actually served. Even the vegetables were greasy.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Roommate Ad Test Results

As I've been talking about, I’ve been searching for a roommate, and I’ve been rewording my craigslist ads to see what gets more responses. It’s amazing how one change, while not financially beneficial to the potential renter, has pulled immediate response.

I changed the ad from $525 all utilities included to $400 + ½ utilities. Holy cow, what a difference in response rate. If one does the math, one sees that the first option (utilities included) is the better deal for the renter, but people just see the smaller number and don’t work out the real cost. I have a potential candidate coming to see me Saturday - prayers/positive vibes all welcome!

It also occurs to me that if the roommate pays $400 + ½ utilities, and the utility number varies with the amount of usage, it will be easier to bring the person on board with my energy conservation scheme than if they can use all they want for a flat rate. MUWAHAHAHAHA!!!

So, it may work out better that way after all from a Compact and environmental standpoint.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Floor Cloth

Have any of you ever made a floor cloth? The carpet in the room I've been redecorating is terribly stained with bleach, and I happen to have a large piece of canvas and a bunch of acrylic paints. Tea staining and other dying methods are also under consideration, once I come up with a design. The site linked to here has it being covered with Minwax polycrylic, but won't that make it hard? I think I'd like to be able to throw it in the wash every six months or so. Does it need to have some sort of backing to make it stay put, being placed on top of carpet?

I am enamoured by being able to redecorate for next to nothing using all these materials I'd been saving. Aside from the portable wardrobe I had to buy for my clothes, I haven't spent a penny so far and the room is transformed. I may need some reclaimed fabric for a couple of the last things, but that shouldn't cost more than a couple bucks.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Posessions Bulimia?

I’m feeling a terrifically large urge to purge again this weekend. I think I will collect and box up things but just not do heavy lifting again like I did last weekend – I think that’s part of why my foot hasn’t closed up yet. But I can neatly box up the books and other things in place and just not carry them out for donation until next weekend. I can stand the clutter no more.

I have such an overwhelming urge to lighten my load. I’ve been doing this every couple of months for well over a year now, carloads of stuff, and still the job never seems done.

Meanwhile, I have actually come up with two gifts I’d like for Christmas: a new comforter for my bed or a duvet to go over the old one, and The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes. Heh… Better keep that list no longer than three items or I'll be in trouble again.