RSS Feed

Tag Archives: commentary

San Francisco Bay

Posted on

Coffee.

If there was only one environmentally friendly packaged coffee out there, I hope it is this one. We have a Keurig for convenience, for those days we don’t want a whole pot. I do buy some Green Mountain coffees, but don’t like their wasteful packaging.

Way back when, I discovered this family business that packaged their coffees without all that extra plastic stuff.

Use it. Put it in the compost. Even their outer wrap for the 10 pod packages is made of compostable material. I made special trips to Wegmans to buy it.

Now, it’s gone. Probably because it doesn’t work in K-2 machines. It was a bargain. Less than 40 cents a pod.

But, you know, when you can’t find something, you can always turn to Amazon, can’t you? Yep, the 80 cup pack on line for less than what we paid at Wegmans. With Prime, and free shipping, 30 cents a cup.

And we wonder why brick and mortar stores are hurting.

By the way, this is an excellent dark roast coffee. Low in acid. High in flavor. The dark roasts are so much nicer for those of us who want to avoid acid.

Fifty is Nifty

Posted on

If you are a city, that is. Even though people think that 50 years is a long time, it certainly isn’t when it comes to cities. The place I lived the longest, Columbia MD, turns 50 this summer. The celebration started last weekend.

The storytelling event this Friday night at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center will feature many long time residents. Who may remember the tiny little town of the 1960s and 70s. When there were just two lane roads, and not all that many traffic signals.

It was an interesting place to live, but it certainly isn’t old, even now. Heck, I might have a pair of boots or two older than Columbia.

I grew up in Baltimore, in a house built in 1920. I considered it really old when it was only 50 years. Back when I started college. I couldn’t wait to graduate and move to the New Town. The one with the cool people tree.

And the even cooler downtown, that included a lake, instead of high rises and congestion.

I remember ice skating on that lake. Spreading blankets on the grass before the fireworks. Making reservations at The Tomato Palace, to have dinner and watch the fireworks (in the years after I made enough money to do that).

Still, it isn’t really old. Sitting out here with a next door neighbor in a renovated farmhouse that was built in 1894, I have a different perspective.

No matter what. It’s been my home county for 42 years. Columbia was the town I lived in for 30 years, so there are lots of memories.

You bet I will be enjoying the storytelling events. And many of the other events celebrating the occasion.

I think I’ve even gotten used to this no longer being the Rouse Building.

Change is Hard

Posted on

First of all, Happy New Year! I have been fairly busy with the painting around here, and haven’t kept up the blog. At least I remembered to change the copyright notice date to the current year. Hopefully, I can remember to write the correct year on all these checks we keep writing.

As for the past, current and future, I admit, not sorry to see 2016 go away. To us, 2016 brought Medicare, Social Security and lots of other reminders of getting older. Like realization that bad weather is worse when you aren’t a spring chicken anymore. Last year’s blizzard and tornado proved to be problems for us. In minor ways, but still problems.

We learned that we had to change things. Make things more accessible. Eliminate possible accident sources. Update bathroom, kitchen and other interior spaces. All these things are disruptive. Sometimes I think even more so because we are retired and here most days. We didn’t get to run away to the office and come home to the chaos only at night. Or, have the luxury like those on-HGTV people who could stay elsewhere while their houses were under renovation. I understand why people resist doing renovations. It can literally stress you out to the point of wanting to give it up. Yes, the results are nice, but living in complete disarray gets to me.

Every item from my pantry is in bags and boxes on my family room floor. Cooking is difficult.

kitchen-001

kitchen-016

kitchen-024

Add to it, the sheer shock factor of going to a bright yellow.

kitchen-023

Let’s just say I really like it. My better half? He’s still adjusting to the major color change.

We at least had New Year’s Eve dinner even while working around it all. I have to say that this recipe is a keeper, and it was a simple meal served with an excellent bubbly.

nye-and-paint-003

nye-and-paint-011

nye-and-paint-016

Emeril Lagasse’s Oyster Stew. Recipe from online. Oysters from the Jessup Seafood Market. A side salad. Champagne savored from beginning of cooking through to a glass just before we gave up and crashed around 11:30. Yep, we couldn’t make it until midnight.

nye-and-paint-012

Here’s to a better brighter 2017! At least my kitchen will be bright and cheery.

Life Skills

AKA Home Ec. Shop. Personal Finance. You know. The stuff we really should add to the high school curricula. Are we really preparing children for life, or just to get into the top colleges?

Julia wrote about VoTech in her post today. It triggered a response internally from me. Based on watching and reading and just wondering about how well we really are preparing children to survive when they go out on their own. Can they make a simple meal? Can they fix anything? Can they pay attention to their bank balances and adjust their spending?

We had life skill classes when I taught high school in the 70s. They seem to have disappeared.

We also have a shortage of skilled tradespeople where we live. We seem to push everyone into the college prep option and forget about those skills necessary to support our county. Those trades pay well. Better maybe than going to college and majoring in an area that won’t guarantee a high paying job. We need to allow children around here to choose their passion, and to follow it.

Artisans built our deck. For much more per hour than some of the degreed folks around here are making.

deck-and-stuff-019
tomatoes-csa-and-deck-024
deck-and-soup-003

Food for thought, so to speak.

Giving

It’s not just for Tuesday.

There are so many worthy causes that can use our help and our monetary support all year long. One “Hallmark holiday” day may be cute and trendy but the reality is this. The other 364 days of the year (OK, 365 this leap year) we can still make a difference.

Give time. Give money. Give publicity. Help in any way you can. Share a Facebook post from a nonprofit. Support an event at local charities and nonprofits.

Just recently I saw requests from places locally. Like:

How Girls Code
Howard County Conservancy
Howard County Community Action Council
Voices for Children

Today I realized I supported the food bank three times before 11AM. Once by pulling some items from my CSA share, to take up to our community food bank garden. Then, by harvesting collards and cabbage to add to my contribution. Then, at Harris Teeter, donating to give them money. It’s easy to do. It’s those little things that add up.

fair-ribbons-005

It’s the season of giving. Find something that you believe in. Something that ignites a spark within you.

Every little contribution is worth it. I got hooked on food bank gardening years ago. It’s one of the most rewarding things this old lady can do. I can still harvest veggies.

food-bank-volunteers-and-gardens-010

Five Years Old

Posted on

I made it to five years writing this blog. On November 2nd 2011, I opened a WordPress account and started writing. Somehow I have gone from a handful of readers to over 500 followers. Amazing to me that I continue to find topics that interest me, while plodding along in retirement. Keeping busy. Still dedicated to eating well, volunteering, gardening, and not quite as dedicated to remembering to write about it all.

My second post. About my fall CSA. Which just began again yesterday. I have continued my commitment to eating from small farms, local and regional, as much as I can.

squash-lasagna-and-csa-020

squash-lasagna-and-csa-029

This fall I expanded my options to include flour and grain. I hope to bake more than I used to do. I do know that the flour will find its way into holiday baking, and that cornmeal just inspires me to make polenta more often than I did.

As for new exotic things to discover, we found a Thai Kang Kob squash in our box. I just made squash lasagna from the triamble squash from a few weeks back.

squash-lasagna-and-csa-012

It was a good dinner last night for us, and leftovers will feed my better half while I am out with the local bloggers checking out The Turn House, a new restaurant that took over the space in the Hobbits Glen Golf Course.

Both the squash recipe and a report on the blogger party will follow in a few days.

I also need to write about the construction at the Conservancy, and about two great events in the next week.

There is much happening around here. Definitely enough topics to continue my blogging. Think I can keep this thing going until it’s ten years old. Let’s see.

Anyway, I will be seeing the locals tonight in Columbia. Can’t wait to try out a new farm to table option, with a locally raised chef.

Food Insecurity

Posted on

The harvest season is coming to an end. Those of us who work to provide fresh produce to our local food bank are taking out the last vegetables in the garden.

food-bank-and-zucchini-001

This is the time of the year when we get slammed with greens, and not much else. The cabbages are winding down.

food-bank-gardens-039

Once you harvest a large head of cabbage, it tries to make more but you get mostly cabbage leaves. You can still harvest them, and make soup, but this is the beginning of the end.

We only have carrots, beets, collards, lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard left to harvest. Just about a month until we finish. Then, the fresh produce dwindles down at the Food Bank. In November and December many people donate, but those long months after the holidays are pretty grim. The gardens and local farms donate between the months of May and November. After that, it’s mostly canned goods.

I get an immense satisfaction in harvesting for our local food bank. They are about to move into much larger space, where they can process more fresh foods and hold them. That is good for the gardeners, the farmers and the local CSAs, like mine. Our site host wants to give more to the food bank but the limited storage and the limited days to accept non-perishables has hindered us in the past.

Every week when we drop off our community garden bags, we ask when they will be moving. Hopefully, it will be soon.

In the meantime, if you can, be sure to help by donating. Head over to the bulk stores and pick up some staples. Beans and canned proteins like tuna are always welcome.

Here’s the link to our local food bank. Take a few minutes and find yours.

Dennis Lane

Posted on

Traffic made me miss the dedication of Dennis Lane, a private road on Merriweather Post Pavilion Land, named in honor of one of the well loved members of the Columbia/Howard County blogging community. I was stuck on I-97 and then on 100, trying to get back on Wednesday afternoon. I did see that many, many people made it to the dedication. All the friends who loved to read Dennis’ writings about life in Columbia and Ellicott City. Or, who were family and friends.

Dennis was special to us. We miss his wit, wisdom and his way with words. Three plus years since we lost him. Tragically, but we lost him. Nice to know he will be remembered by the developing community of which he was a large part.

Dennis scooped the Whole Foods thing. In his blog. Which thankfully is still there for us to find and read about our home.

preservation-weekend-and-other-stuff-015

Dennis just knew everyone. His love of Columbia and Ellicott City was obvious.

So, this year, when you head out to Symphony of Lights, which is back as a fundraiser for the hospital, see if you can find Dennis Lane as you drive around.

dennis-lane

It’s a brown sign. A privately maintained road. And, in the spirit of sharing trivial information about where we live, like Dennis was so good at doing, did you know, green signs are county roads, blue signs are Columbia (CPRA) roads, red signs are old town Historic District Ellicott City roads, and brown signs are private roads.

Not Good At Math

A phrase that drives me crazy. Why do we announce (and particularly in front of children) that we aren’t good at something? Something necessary to thrive and excel in our lives. Most of the time, it isn’t even true. But I hear it constantly.

Usually during field trips when I introduce a math element to our hikes. Like when I talk about the chickens, and how many eggs they may lay in a week. If you have four chickens and they lay about six eggs a week, how many eggs do you gather in a week?

Basically, we are good at math. The common sense math we encounter daily. Here’s how.

Do you bake? Can you halve or double a recipe? Are you like me, finding only a 1/3 cup measure clean when you need a cup of an ingredient. Knowing three of them will make a cup.

deck-and-stuff-027

How about deciding how much paint to buy? What is the area of your room? Or, my latest project. The deck. Estimates of $40 a square foot to install. What will that cost? We divided the deck into squares, rectangles, triangles, and the one trapezoid to add up the area. Figured it out, and decided we could live with that estimate.

deck-and-stuff-019

Do you tip? Can you calculate that 18-20% number by looking at the bill?

Then, obviously, you are good at the math skills necessary to function. Yeah, you may have problems with trig or geometry, or like me, hit the wall at Theory of Numbers (I hated that course!).

I think we all need to be enablers when it comes to encouraging children to figure it out. Learn those analytical thinking skills.

Pull out a recipe. Measure and bake. Make a simple wood project, like a frame. Learn how to saw at a 45 degree angle.

deck-and-stuff-008

Just don’t tell the little ones that it’s OK to be functionally deficient. It’s not OK to be “Not Good at Math”.

A Few Good Volunteers

Posted on

Actually, a few hundred to start. The clean up effort of public and private lands ravaged by last weekend’s flash flooding continues. Now, looking for people to help in teams with leaders. Currently, just show up at the volunteer tent on North Ridge Road, Walmart parking lot. Daily. 8-4:30. Teams will be assembled and sent where needed.

Ellicott City, my county seat and one of my favorite places to shop and eat locally, was pretty much devastated with the massive flooding Saturday night. Tomorrow, access to areas that need to be cleared of run off and debris has been granted.

The efforts are coordinated through the county Recreation and Parks department. Registration is required. Minimum standards must be met. Age, physical ability, and proper clothing are listed in the web announcement.

As someone who frequently volunteers, and also leads volunteers, at my “job” at the Howard County Conservancy, I can offer some practical advice for those willing to volunteer their time. I have four things I stress when looking for people to help.

1. Dress for Success
2. Be Prepared.
3. Safety first.
4. Know Your Limits.

We lead groups on Earth Day doing clean up. I lead service learning groups from the local schools. We have work days on food bank gardens, and over the years I have gotten better at volunteering and at making volunteer efforts of others much more enjoyable, because we learn what works best. After all, a happy volunteer comes back over and over. A stressed, or unappreciated, or underutilized, or overworked volunteer doesn’t.

Dress for Success – the announcement from the county asks that you wear long pants, closed shoes, preferable boots, and that if you can, bring work gloves.

Dressing right is really important. You don’t want to get scratched by thorns, get wet feet, or blisters, by not having work clothes.

This is mosquito and tick season. It’s also the time of year those annoying little bees come out of the ground and want to sting you. Also, hats are a big help, to provide cover from the sun, and to keep little pests out of your hair.

rhine csa and siding 015

I am showing a picture of a construction crew on site at our house (installing part of our storm management solutions, more on that in another post), but they absolutely demonstrate what works best when working outdoors to avoid problems.

Long sleeve lightweight shirts. Hats. Glasses. Boots. Gloves.

The second item on my list. Focus on basic supplies to help you. I carry sunscreen and bug spray. Bandaids. In my car, when I get out for my volunteer work, I have spare shoes, socks, and a change of shirts in my car.

Safety. I never try to do things I can’t control. No attempts to climb over obstacles. I wear safety glasses. I use heavier gloves. I try to avoid contact with poison ivy, or if I know I have carried logs covered in vines, I never wipe my face with my hands. I carry a bandana, just in case. I also come home and immediately put everything in the wash, to avoid carrying ticks around.

I always take the face masks if offered, when dealing with excessive pollen, which drives my allergies nuts, or when handling debris that may include insulation fibers or other possible inhalants.

My limits. I know what I can’t pick up. I don’t qualify to help with the Ellicott City clean up efforts right now, because I can’t lift 40 pounds. I can’t carry heavy items. Back surgery put an end to those days for me. The days of lugging 35 pound bags of mulch or top soil.

I know I can’t volunteer to help with the current clean up efforts. Somewhere along the way, they will be looking for help disinfecting or scrubbing down cleared out spaces. I can do that. Patience is a virtue, they say.

As for right now, my help will be in supporting fund raisers. And, finding out when my favorite places find temporary or new homes, and giving them as much business as I can.

If you do volunteer, you will know the satisfaction of making a difference. Just be an asset, follow directions, and realize you are appreciated. Like those groups that help us at the Conservancy.

earth day and herbs 022

Here’s to better days ahead, and the return of our favorite places.

hiking main streets and belmont 037