... I didn't actually go anywhere, I just checked out a bit from blogging -- writing and reading -- to reevaluate and prioritize. In the end, I decided that for now, I'm not going to worry about focussing this blog on anything. It will be a smorgasbord* of family memories, personal photography, business photography, my thoughts, and my environmental pursuits. But I do hope to be a little more consistent.
I mentioned previously that I have always loved film. When I was little and there weren't any commercial photo labs (the communists didn't want people to have business or memories, I guess). My grandpa was a higher-up professor at a university so my dad had access to photo developing resources. He took photos, developed, and printed them himself. I really thought it was so cool. He talked about it a little, but it wasn't until high school that I actually learned to develop film and print images myself. When I was a freshman in college, for my 18th birthday, my dad wanted to buy me an SLR camera. This was 2003 so everyone was making the jump into digital, but I was stubborn. I had an infatuation with film. My dad tried to reason with me, but I insisted.
The camera wasn't the top of the line, but I loved the photos I took while living in Hawaii that year. But a few years later, I realized that film as becoming expensive. Every few months another lab shut down and options for film developing decreased. It became a very expensive hobby. My sweet husband surprised me with a digital SLR our first Christmas as a married couple. I was excited, but felt like I was breaking up with a great boyfriend for a cuter, but less cool one.
Anyway, I decided that cameras aren't boyfriends and I don't have to choose just one. Lately I've been enjoying both. To me, there is something magical about film images. I love the grain, I love the more creamy tones. I love the surprise that it is to have to wait a few days to see the pictures that I forgot I took.
There is only one place within 20 miles that develops and scans film -- Walgreens. I decided to give them a try last week. Oh boy -- not good! I think I will drive the 21 miles and pay $3 bucks to get a better quality scan. The scans were very small files (which is why these look SO grainy) and greenish.
These are from two really great beach trips -- one to Cannon beach with just or family and one to Seaside with our friends, the Blaisdells. Also, there are a few from the library where the kids and I went at least weekly this summer, and the naked one was taken at home :)
*Did you know that Smorgasbord is s a type of Scandinavian meal served buffet-style with multiple dishes of various foods on a table, originating in Sweden.
On Saturday morning we got up and packed for an outdoor adventure (while Zach mowed our slightly-overgrown yard). There was quite a bit of traffic just outside of Hillsboro on Sunset west and once we arrived in Cannon beach, there was a huge line to the toll booth at Ecola State Park. We finally parked and got our bags on. Zach carried our picnic lunch, Lucas carried... a backpack with a truck and granola bar in it (it was mostly symbolic) and I carried Anya.
The first part of the 1.5 mile stretch was quite muddy. We saw many groups turn back. We are so glad that we didn't. The trail snakes through an old-growth forest with periodic views of the Pacific.
Lucas kept seeing the beach and saying that he wants to go to the water. Zach told him that we are going "up over the hill and to the water". We were hiking to Indian beach (in the photo above you can see it on the far right just above the horizon). From that point on Lucas kept pointing his finger and exclaiming "UP AND TO THE WATER!" every five minutes.
There are a few points of this hike where hand-holding of a youngster is crucial. Can you hear me freaking out as you look at the photo below? I kept yelling "hold his hand! Do you have him?!" There is only about ten centimeters (half a foot for you Americans) between the narrow path and a grass covered cliff.
A little over an hour later we made it to Indian Beach. It was buzzing with surfers. We sat and ate our lunch. Anya fell asleep as we were getting there and woke up right when we were leaving again, so she kind of missed lunch. Lucas really wanted to stay on the beach and play, but I knew that if we stopped for too long, we'd have a hard time making it back. The kid was a little bummed and discouraged, he didn't understand why he had walked all this way to get to a beach just to turn around and go back.
So after a few minutes he just stood in the middle of the path with a pout on his face, arms crossed, refusing to take another step. I was not envious of Zach who had to carry a 30 pound kid in addition to his backpack.
We made a lot of fast progress, but it wasn't long before Lucas wanted to walk by himself again. Overall, he finished strong and the way back seemed shorter than the way there.
Back at Ecola state park, we got into our car and drove down to Cannon Beach right outside of Mo's. There we met my mom and little sister who drove up with my sister's BFF and her family. Anya loved the warm sand. She wanted to hold it and crawl through it and eat it.
Lucas enjoyed digging, building a castle, and carrying water from the ocean to our hole. My sister Maria and her friend, Leah, were Lucas' favorite playmates, while my mom entertained our chubby little baby.
I love these photos of my mama and Anya, especially because they are not even a little bit staged. Because my parents live so far away now (New Hampshire) I could just tell how special this time to spend with my kids was for my mom. It was so fun seeing everyone so happy to be together.
Zach was pretty tired after the drive and the hike, so he took a little nap on the beach.
I wish we could have stayed longer, the weather was perfect -- not a lot of wind and warm (70s). But it was getting late, so our little family had dinner in Cannon Beach and drove home. It was just such a beautiful, beautiful day.
It's one thing to produce waste when you are doing something productive or particularly enjoyable. It's a whole new thing when you are contributing to waste while being annoyed! It is infuriating that Zach and I receive up to 20 credit card and insurance offers a week in our mailbox. These are in addition to coupons, city news flyers, catalogs and ads.
Paper junk mail is incredibly wasteful (of trees, water, energy, plastic, and my time!) and completely unnecessary in this day and age (though I hate junk email only a little less).
On average, American households receive approximately 69 pounds of unwanted mail each year.
The number of trees used to produce this mail is hard to account for, but according to Recycled Papers: The Essential Guide it takes an average of 24 trees to produce one ton of the paper most used in junk mailers and catalogs. That's approximately 96 million trees per year in the US alone.
The EPA states over 50% of junk mail is not recycled, meaning 48 million trees are thrown away. That's the equivalent of chopping down a tree in every other yard across the nation.
With each ton of paper using between 2,500-6,000 gallons of water, the junk mail industry uses 10-24 BILLION gallons of water each year.
With the typical direct mail response rate at about 2%, that means 9.8-23.5 billion gallons of water, 23 and a half trees, and enough energy to power 245,000 homes is wasted each year. (sustainable baby steps)
44% of junk mail is discarded without being opened
It is estimated that 250,000 homes could be heated for a single day's junk mail (OCAPP)
Junk mail produces more carbon dioxide emissions than 9 million cars (41 pounds.org)
WIthout proper disposal junk mail can lead to identity theft.
To me, this was more than annoying, it was appaling so I set out to get rid of our junk mail. I am already enjoying the results. Here's how you can do it too:
Visit Opt Out Prescreen to remove yourself from credit card and insurance companies' mailing lists. You need to add yourself and your spouse, or whoever lives in your household, separately. Otherwise you will stop receiveing junk mail from Chase, but they will not. You need Social Security Numbers for these (this site is actually listed on all those credit card offers as the only way to get out)
Cancel catalogues and use online ones (I know, I love the photos and the feel of paper too, but it is really worth it?) I have only ever bought one thing and William Sonoma (a pizza stone a few years back) yet they send me every little catalogue, including their "Wine Lists". Call Cusotmer Service and ask to be removed from their paper mailing list. Being nice (yet firm) will increase chance of their cooperation.
To calcen catalogues and phone books you can also use CatalogChoice.org. It's free and can remove your name from some mailing lists or give you information of how to easily do it yourself.
Use gethuman.com to find out how to speak to a human customer service representative. I have spent SO MUCH TIME listening to the automated "press 1 for.." recordings that I almost wripped my hair out. If the company you are trying to cancel with is not available through gethuman.com, then call whatever number you can find on the junk mail. Have the junk mail in front of you when you call as they may ask you questions about it.
Through your provider's website, sign up to receive and pay electronic bills whenever possible. You can do this for electric and gas, internet, phone, credit cards, and others.
If you belong to organizations or groups who send out paper newsletters email or call them and ask if an electronic version is available. If it is not, see if you can help establish this option. Most people would prefer to recieve an email about such thing anyway.
Make one or two phone calls at a time, while waiting for your pasta water to boil or while holding a baby, don't try to do it all at once -- it can be quite overwhelming.
If you'd rather, you can pay $41 to 41 pounds.org to do this work for you. They stop all your junk mail and donate 30% of their profits to a non-profit agency.
Don't get discouraged, you will be making a big difference. Today, after being on hold for 20 minutes and enduring a sales pitch, Frank with Frontier told me there was no way I could be removed from the mailing list because "they are automatic, I can only remove you if you a customer." Can you believe that? Fortunately, I went on their website and found a "media representative" and called their direct line. She picked up right away and gladly put me on the "do not contact" list. Take that Frank! I know that some of these environmental things I talk about may have an "oh man! but I LIKE my hummer!" type of responses -- they seem like a great sacrifice. But this is a good environmental deed we can all do and feel good about.
Update: I called Origins and told them exactly what happened. To my surprise, they were happy to replace it as long as I had the receipt!
On Tuesday I volunteered to pick up some desserts and drive them to my mom-in-law's work for an event they were having. I was in a rush to get out of the house. Anya had been cranky all morning and was sitting on the floor crying. I was looking around for her pacifier and a pair of clean pants for her because the ones she was wearing (though I put them only minutes ago) were now covered in banana.
After a couple of minutes I came downstairs to find this:
My chemist/make up artist. He took my mascara, opened it and plunged it into the make up bottle. Then he did that to his face and hands and smeared more all over the table.
Now I was late. With a crazy looking kid, dirty table, grey-tinted bottle of make-up and flesh colored mascara. On the bright side, he had shared some make up with Anya so she was now calmly entertained.
The real kicker is this: It takes me about two years to go through a bottle of make up. I had a gift card to Macy's that I have been saving up for almost a year just for this (I don't buy anything else at Macy's. The make up is from Origins). The previous night we were at the mall to get my laptop fixed, I had been out of makeup for about a week, so I bought a brand new bottle. It wasn't even out of the box yet! The mascara too was a very recent purchase and I was thrilled to have gotten it with a coupon and on sale for a couple of bucks.
Both things ruined. I don't know how and where and why he got my makeup bag... That morning I was already on the edge... but as I was washing this kid off, I just had to do that you-are-now-crazy out loud laugh. Oh kids....
Like many here in the Portland Metro area I was very disappointed when the plastic bag bill (on the most recent ballot here in OR) didn't pass. To me it seems like such an obvious way to reduce needless waste promoted by our consumer driven culture of convenience. I am consistently frustrated by how much it seems we pat ourselves on the back for providing recycling services, and requiring bottle deposits to promote "greener" ideas - yet - we fail to actually reduce waste by eliminating excessive use of materials for the sake of having an easy way to carry our two or three items to the car while talking on our cell phone.
Plastic bags are not the only problem... or even a large part of the problem that is our disposable society. I have been thinking a lot about the mountains of garbage our community generates each month. Food packaging, and all sorts of plastics and other petroleum based products. How that stuff just sits there in the soil... how those molecules that make up a bottle or diaper or whatnot are stuck and won't become usable again in my lifetime... or my kids'...how we only have a finite amount of molecules to use on this planet -- for the rest of the planet's existence... How this is an obvious fact, yet we act like there's no limit.
Zach and I have had several conversations on why these facts don't seem to translate into real change in the way businesses operate; reducing (and in best cases eliminating) waste generated by creating, selling, and using a product. The conversations always come back to the fact that businesses only do what the consumers demand.
So we've decided, as consumers, that we are going to make some changes around our little patch of land.
I was pleasantly surprised when Zach brought up something about us doing better. He said he liked the idea of reducing waste and thought changing the way we consume things could lead to a healthier overall lifestyle. I gotta tell you I was quite smitten when he was talking like that.
Having a plan and making some progress reduces my anxiety. Drawing inspiration from Zero Waste Family, we would like to take some steps to reduce waste and clutter in our life. This will be done in many steps that will take many years, but I hope to always be making some progress.
We anticipate that if we stick to it, we would see the following benefits (in addition to the obvious environmental ones):
1. Less clutter and trinkets in our house -- less mess, less time cleaning, less stress and anxiety for me.
2. Better eating habits. Avoiding packaging means avoiding a lot of processed food. Buying in bulk encourages cooking from scratch. It will also encourage us to eat more seasonal food and try new foods.
3. Saving money. It might cost a little more at first, but I know that avoiding packaged foods, goods with a lot of packaging, and generally avoiding stuff that we don't absolutely need will save us money.
4. Less stress. With less stuff, there is less stress. With less options, there is less stress.
5. Reducing amount of plastic that comes into contact with our food.
6. Simpler life.
Overall goals are: 1. Reduce or Refuse 2. Reuse 3. Recycle (only as a last resort)
In the first phase of our goal we have set out to do the following:
Do not bring any plastic bags home. Be prepared with reusable bags at the store. No need to bag produce. Use reusable bags for bulk items (we have been doing most of this, except for the bulk).
Bring glass containers to the butcher counter to avoid plastic and/or paper wraps.
Call, email, do whatever it takes to reduce junk mail (started last week -- it can take a lot of time)
Do not purchase anything in a plastic bottle. Drinks in glass bottles are ok (glass is just about the most recyclable material there is. Plastic and paper are actually down-cycled)
Do not buy anything in cartons, glass only for milk and cream (have already been doing that)
Stop using disposable wipes (this will be harder now, but I think I can do it)
Compost all compost-able food bits.
Buy bulk whenever possible. Right now this includes: flour, sugar, salt, oatmeal, detergent, pasta, rice, quinoa, raisins, snacks, and honey.
Do not use trash can liners
Buy toilet paper that is wrapped in paper instead of plastic bags
No paper products such as tissues, paper napkins, paper towels, single-use dishes or utensils (already do this).
No zip-lock type baggies (already doing this)
Reusable feminine products
In the next couple of weeks we're looking into:
Getting sour cream/cottage cheese in glass
Making our own yogurt
Finding cheese that is not wrapped in plastic
Some of these changes seem downright unnatural: Zach is strangely unnerved by the idea of bringing meat home from the grocer in glass jars (may have something to do with a twilight zone episode he saw as a child with human brains being stored in glass containers). In the end though, we feel we can only benefit from this experiment.
We've felt very inspired by the stories of those who are living this way now, and can only hope to inspire a few others to try it too. You don't need to go cold turkey and adopt a completely "zero waste" lifestyle overnight... but try taking one or two things you do that might contribute to unnecessary waste and think of some ways to eliminate that waste. You may find it is easier and more convenient than you think.
I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with food when they are adults. But right now... right now they just don't know what's good for them. It's important to me that Lucas tries the food that we're eating. Sometimes trying it is good enough, but on days he's been merely snacking, it's not. So I bribe. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Tonight we had baked drumsticks, quinoa salad, and watermelon. Lucas ate a bunch of watermelon, but none of the chicken or quinoa. If we have treats planned then I can bribe him with those. But there was no dessert tonight. So tonight I... yes you can judge me... bribed him with TV. I said he can watch an episode of Magic School Bus if he eats some of his quinoa salad. And it worked, once he got going -- he at ALL of it.
Easy and Quick Quinoa Salad: Rinse a cup of quinoa in cold water (I mixed regular and red quinoa) and drain well. In a saucepan combine quinoa,1 and 3/4 C cold water, and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Then turn heat to low and cover. Cook for 12 minutes. Rinse and drain a can of black beans, sprinkle with red wine vinegar (1.5 T or so), dice a cucumber and two or three tomatoes. If in a hurry, I rinse the hot cooked quinoa in cold water to cool it down for the salad (drain all the water really really well). Combine diced vegetables, beans, quinoa, sprinkle with olive oil, squeeze half of a lime (if you have it), add a teaspoon of ground cumin and salt to taste.
When I cook, do dishes, or other work in the kitchen, I set Anya down in the middle of the family room rug to play. Our kitchen and family room are one room so I am close by supervising. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that she was at the edge of the rug attempting to pull off a stay rug thread. I was sure I had set her down in the middle and wondered if Lucas somehow moved her. For the next few hours I watched her carefully.
I then discovered that the girl moves! She reaches for something far in front of her and when she sits back up right, she scoots her bottom ever so slightly. After a half of an hour she can move two feet, all in these tiny increments. Now she can easily turn and is trying to crawl!
I know what my dad is thinking while looking at these photos "why didn't you move the wipes! They are ruining the pictures! Look how cute she is and now it's ruined". But... she was playing so happily, I didn't want to take her "toy" away.
Here she is transitioning from sitting to "crawling"... in this case motivated to reach Lucas' red shoe.
She ends up on her tummy -- we call this "beached whale" position.
Or with right food stuck under. She really doesn't like either of these positions. Cute leg rolls though, right?
They are just phases, right? It took some work but Lucas started sleeping through the night (from 8pm-7am ish) since he was about 7 months old, and then consistently since he was 11 months old. In fact, by the time he was 13 or 14 months old (and I had stopped nursing him), we read a book, said a prayers, sang a song, kissed him goodnight, walked out of the door and didn't hear from him until the morning. That was a great phase.
And a few weeks ago Lucas entered a new phase. When we kiss him goodnight, he refuses to close his eyes and starts yelling when we attempt to walk out of the room. He sits up and whines, yells, cries. Lately we've set next to him until his lids get too heavy to keep open and he finally falls asleep. If we walk out before he's good and asleep, he sits up and cries again. The really fun part is that he does this in the middle of the night too, wakes up, sits up and yells. We walk in to check on him and then can't leave because he, again, refuses to close his eyes and freaks out if we head toward the door.
I considered the idea that it was night terrors, but dismissed it because as soon as we walk into his room when he's yelling like that, he stops and is fine. Usually, when kids have these night terrors they continue freaking out when you're there, and take a while to snap out of it.
Anya is 8 months old. For a few months now she has been good at going to bed. I sing her a song, lay her down and she usually falls asleep shortly thereafter (if she didn't fall asleep while nursing). If she fusses at all, it's only for a moment, less than a minute or two. But she won't sleep until dawn. She wakes up every few hours and cries, sometimes every hour and a half, sometimes more.
I don't know what to do. My kids share a room. Between both of their sleeping issues, I am up a lot at night and the most difficult thing is that I can't go back to sleep for a half hour or more each time. I'm sweet and comforting and understanding the first one or two times Lucas wakes up but by the third... I am cranky, tired, impatient... "why won't you go back to sleep!"
This is just a phase, right? A short one?
This is what I found after Zach went to comfort crying Lucas in the middle of his nap today. Yup, he fights naps too and if he wakes up when he's no ready he's a cranky cranky kid, but won't go back to sleep unless someone's next to him.