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Archive for the ‘90 % Reduction’ Category

There is a specific question for anyone from the Riot reading this on the feed at the bottom–I need advice about how to get myself to stop buying stuff.

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I am thinking a lot about Tillie Olsen for my paper.  Thinking about privelege, about struggle, and about how my favorite thing about “I Stand Here Ironing” is that the narrator is a mother who sounds like a mother.  Slightly harried, proud and regretful at the same time, and a  mother and person at the same time.  I am excited to write my paper, and nervous to not do justice to this writer I have come to admire greatly both for her writing and for her life.  Her words are so powerful.  They make me want to write again, which is good since all of my classes are conducted in writing 🙂

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We are growing things again here at chez Neko.  Over the past two days, we planted basil, chives, parsley, cilantro and thyme, plus this cheezy-ass Gothic Graveyard Garden I ordered from Tarzhay.  It is awesome.  We are growing moonflower, sensitive plant, dragon tree and black coleus (this last one amuses me as I spent the better part of last weekend trying to decipher photos of slides of coleus plant structure.  I find myself wondering how much different the chloroplasts must look if the leaves are black, which means I am actually learning in my botany class.)  I picked up marigold and nasturtium seeds as well as pickling cukes what can be grown in containers but we are waiting to plant those.  I think we’re going to give some tomatoes a go this year again because I think moisture was the problem last year.

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What do both of the above sections have in common?  Buying things.  I have been a lean, mean buying machine.  This continues to be my weakest Riot section.  I would say that I suck at it except I really haven’t been able to find a way to make myself really try.  I see something, I can afford it, I buy it.  Books I need for class, new pants so I don’t have to live in sweats, pants for Chico, socks for C, feeding Lucy’s Littlest Pet Shop addiction.  It’s like a reward system for my good work but it isn’t something I want to keep up.  Everything gets used, we actually have room for most of it, but I want to get myself out of the habit of rewarding myself with STUFF.  I can’t seem to maintain any sort of resolve in this area.  How do you keep yourself from impulse purchases/reward purchases?  I am really feeling like I need to get this problem under control NOW.

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Look!  It’s already the 4th.  I have been ruminating on the specifics of what I want to accomplish this year and while I never make do-or-die resolutions (I know my limitations and my follow-through often sucks), I wanted to put down for posterity the stuff I want to focus on this year.

First, I realized on New Year’s Day when I went to chant that I have really been missing God.  This year I want to focus on regaining a spiritual practice.  I probably won’t be writing very much about this because honestly, it’s really personal and my beliefs need not impinge on y’all.  I’m excited about this, though.

Second, and possibly an even bigger challenge than the first, is getting our stuff under control.  This involves a lot of honest evaluation, and I’m both looking forward to and dreading this.  It’s hard for me to face up to the amount of things we have and I truly think that we are imprisoned by our stuff when it is stuff we don’t love or use regularly.  I know I feel it when I walk through the house and trip over toys and books that just don’t have a place to live when not in use.  I have been conservative in the past about letting things go but this time around I need to remind myself that I am letting my things own me more often than owning my things.

Third, I am going to give a serious go to not eating meat that we don’t get from the CSA (not including fish since we can’t get that locally all the time and I really just eat sushi.)  Its’ being more expensive should help me to generally cut back on meat which can’t be a bad thing for my body or the earth.

Fourth, I am going to take time each day for the following:

  • meditating/chanting (15 min. a day)
  • knitting/weaving/spinning (15 min. a day)
  • yoga (30 min. a day)
  • a walk with the baby  (30 min. a day)

One hour a day, every day, where doing something for and by myself takes priority over the house, the laundry, the internet, and than another half an hour to get outside with the baby so that I can remember to connect with nature (such as it is here in the neighborhood).  This will be, I think, very important to keep me grounded as I go into classes and papers and figuring out how to slot together tasks.  I used to be quite good at getting lots of things done in a day and I’m hoping I can get a true schedule going again.

Fifth, and final, is the Riot/Competence Project.  I am tracking numbers for the Riot again, this time informally in a wee notebook that will fit in my pocket.  I’m going to set up a tab for that when we have completed the first week and all numbers will be kept there.  No spreadsheets, no making things more complicated than they need to be.  Just notes plugged into the calculator each week and then each month when we get the electric bill.  Easy peasy.  For the Competence Project, I will be learning to spin and weave for some time so I reckon as long as I check something off every month or so I’ll be happy.  This is not a big focus of mine at this point but I do want to continue with it.

And that, my friends, is that.  The year in preview as it were, again.  Now all I have to do is get started on it, eh?

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Without a doubt 2008 was one of my most eventful years yet.  Between the meningitis, foot surgery, volunteering, learning new stuff, and most importantly, getting into college, I have certainly kept myself busy.  And all this with two children!  I don’t know how I do it!

*eye roll*

It has been a big year, and overall I am really proud of myself for all that I have accomplished.  I am hoping 2009 will be more of the same, minus the health issues of course.  I’m setting pretty lofty goals, including getting back to the Riot, clearing the apartment of the stuff we just don’t use/need/want to keep tripping over, and the Competence Project.  I will also be taking 10 credits’ worth of classes, which will be interesting at least, terrifying at worst.  I’m trying to do less thinking and more doing, to be honest, because the more I think the more I can’t figure out how in heaven’s name I’ll get anything done what with the huddling in the corner muttering about nonsense.

I jest, I jest.  I huddle in therapy muttering nonsense.

The big thing I plan on doing in 2009 though?  Is giving myself a break from time to time.  Seriously.  I have a really bad habit of being hard on myself for not doing as much as I think I should and the result has been that I spend more time berating myself than giving myself time off.  And I need time off or I’m going to crack.  It’s the bitch about being a stay-at-home-mom.  It seems like you have nothing but time off but in actuality, not having the divide between work and home means that even your time off is working time off.  I’m hoping that having classes will allow me to feel like it’s ok to take time for myself.

In the meantime, today is my only day this week to get shit done so I fear a break will have to wait.

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Or something.  I woke up this morning to pitch dark.  At 7am (the baby is up at 12:30 screaming bloody murder every night so I’m stealing extra sleep wherever I can.)  I was very confused.

Yesterday I boxed up a bunch of baby toys that either Bubby doesn’t play with or we have something similar in wood.  I was hoping for more, but at least we should have cleared space for the new stuff coming in.  Today I’ma sneak out a boxful of stuffed animals from Lucy’s room because I swear she’ll never remember all of the little ones she had buried in the big bin or ’em.

I can send the easel, the glider and ottoman, the playpen all out next month and we’re going to get the crib for naps and emergency baby containment.  I’m going to basically turn my big closet into a space to store stuff that is on its way out of the house and give up on the notion of using it until it’s cleared out.  If I was only a wee bit braver, I’d just send everything out that is in it but I fear I may need a dress or some spare linens one of these days 😛

C’mon, what else can I get rid of?  I’m on a roll here!

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I freaked out yesterday and ordered a couple presents each for the kids’ stockings.  I realized that the baby was only getting 2 pairs of wool longies in his, and then there was a game on sale that Lucy wanted, and then she’s been fixated on these fairy dolls that I did not buy her because I got her a pioneer dollhouse family instead so I got her a make-your-own fairy doll kit too, and then I had to pick up another little thing for the baby to make it even and then I collapsed in a pile of exhaustion because I am a freaking BASKETCASE every year around the holidays.  So it’s a good thing Lucy’s birthday is next month because I’m sure I’ll get everything out of the closet and go ‘what the fuck was I thinking?’ like I do every year.  Again, I’m going to be keeping an eye toward the things I’m bringing into the house when I look to clear kids’ stuff out over the next few weeks.

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Last night was the first winter CSA pick-up and I have so.many.veggies.  C made up a big batch of home fries when he got home and tonight I’m going to steam up a mess of broccoli to go with the local sausage I’m thawing and the mostly-local mozzarella I’m going to finally make, and then I guess Friday will be soup day.  I love local food!  I love local meals!  I love having a fridge and freezer full of good food.  Another thrill has been feeding the baby the peaches I froze over the summer.  I’m really proud of myself for doing so much preserving, even though I didn’t get any canning done again this year.

I also have not tried out Gina’s Garam Masala recipe because I am shy of a couple of the spices And I’ve been too lazy to get to the good grocery to pick them up.  This weekend!  I have everything but the black cardamom and black cumin (mmmm, cumin, drool)  seeds already 🙂

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I fear for our electricity usage this month.  And our gasoline as well (car services are in order to travel back and forth with packages.)  I’m glad I’m not tracking until the 1st of January 😛

It’s only slightly cheating.  It’s already been heavier car usage than normal with Thanksgiving and the trip to the Met but those were all 4-5 people in the car trips so it’s not so bad, right?  RIGHT?

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My book about handspinning is on its way and I am really excited!  And I am almost done with my first knitting project!  And Lucy and I have been learning to weave on a peg loom, which may actually be more fun than knitting.  Still no paper though.  I’m running out of time!

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No paper has been made as yet.  Chico’s stocking came home yesterday.  Gift shopping is complete.  And Santa?  In a startling about-face, Lucy is now completely ignoring the fact that she told me she knew we were Santa.  WTF?  Children.

Anyhow, that brings us to this morning.  I have a crisper full of veggies begging to be eaten before they go bad.  This is actually a good thing, since the CSA break has rendered the rest of the fridge pretty barren.  The freezer and pantry are still stocked, thank goodness, but you could land a plane in there with barely any rearranging.  And so a soup is on its way tomorrow.

After some considerable laziness on my part, I finally got the toilet cloth set up again.  Double-washed, everything superfluous pulled out of the basket, the whole nine yards.  Seriously, I’m already doing the cloth dipes and baby wipes.  I have no excuse.

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My resolution for the New Year is to start up the Riot again in earnest.  I think we’ve held steady at our last numbers which were pretty darn close except for consumer goods.  We still don’t take taxis, it’s been two years since we’ve been on a plane, and even our long-distance train travel has been curtailed with the arrival of el Chico Problematico.  Electricity has been holding steady at 9 kwH a day (100 % green power) although it will be higher with the Xmas lights since I didn’t switch to LED this year as I had planned.  The part I’m most pleased with is our food, which has been around 35% local at worst.  And it’s catching–our Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s was damn near 100% local and my mom has found a place not prohibitively far away where she can get local produce, meat and eggs when she’s not too bogged down with a lunatic job.  I did a big trip to the bulk store on Wednesday and we are now fully stocked on beans, rice, popcorn, and sesame sticks for Lucy in addition to the nuts and dried fruits we already had.  All we need is a place to find bulk pasta and I will be one happy hippie.

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The Buy Handmade Challenge is over for me as, well, everything has been bought.  Handmade gifts for Lucy, Chico, C, several cousins, my FIL’s partner.  Donations for MIL and step-FIL.  Social justice gear for FIL.  It’s been really nice again to support artisans and fair trade organizations.  I think this will be a nice habit to keep.

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There is still one class  that they haven’t announced the lecture time yet.  I have received my textbooks already.  I find this infinitely frustrating.

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First, I bought Lucy one of these the other day.  Toby, as a matter of fact.  And she loves it, which does mean it was money well spent, even though I threw up a little in my mouth as I forked over money for a ‘celebrity pet set.’  By the time we got home and got it out of the box, Toby was a rescue and very happy to finally have a home (we’re really into rescue these days–an average trip to the bus stop yields at least 3 mermaids without parents we rescue from bushes and/or cages.  Toby apparently came from a home where he wasn’t fed or loved, so our House of Cat Delight is quite a paradise, apparently.)

And Lucy loves Toby.  She takes him everywhere and does everything with Toby at her elbow.  It would be rather sweet if not for one thing:

Their third constant companion is a running commentary about what they are doing together.  Or what they have done together.  And I know I’m the Worst Mother Ever because while I should think it is incredibly caring of my daughter to be so attentive to this little animal very much in need, I have to say that every  time I hear the name Toby I have to choke back a scream.  Then again, I think that any word repeated with such frequency would produce the same effect so perhaps I’m not a Terrible Mother after all.

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To file under Things That Make Me Swoon:

C and I were in the kitchen the other evening when he said, ‘I wish we could clear all of this off,’ sweeping his arm in front of the kitchen cart loaded with baby food, tea and cereal, ‘and just have tons of kinds of dried beans.’  I can’t wait to get to the bulk store!  Rice and beans make me so terribly happy.

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And then the rest:

I found cloth napkins for 50 cents apiece the other day (we’ll call it ‘Before Toby’) and so we are ready to make the move for the house as well as for Lucy’s lunches (I got her cloth napkins the other week and they have already been successfully road-tested at camp.)  I am very happy about this.

Also, Lucy’s camp has been switched to T-Th so we can do a run to the Greenmarket on Wednesdays until school starts.  We (ok, I) overslept last week and so I hauled Lucy with me to procure tomatoes enough for C to make up a bunch of sauce and we had a really good time (aside from my poor back aching from carrying  glass-bottled milk and a melon and mutant carrots and close to 10 pounds of tomatoes and PIE.)  It is a nice supplement to the CSA and cheaper than Fresh Direct.  Win-win.  Almost everything in our fridge is local and I love it.

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Chico is getting teeth like a madman–he has 3 on top and the 2nd coming through on the bottom.  He’s crawling, pulling himself up and starting to cruise.  And, most adorably, he likes to sing little songs while he’s trucking around.

Lucy is reading voraciously and amazing me with things that pop out of her mouth (all Toby aside.)  She has such a fantastic little brain and appetite for learning.  I love spending time with her and hearing all of the things she comes up with (again, all Toby aside.)

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I’ve placed our meat/cheese/bread order for next week, set up the spreadsheet for food tracking (including eat out/take out) and the dry-erase board holds a guide to the treasures contained in our fridge.  I made up baby beets, peaches and carrots on Tuesday with apricots and more peaches to follow this afternoon (we’ll be using up store-bought baby jars at the MIL’s this weekend but otherwise it’s been two days of naught but homemade.)  Whatever we don’t finish from the refrigerator over the course of the day will be taken with us (I’m looking at you, zucchini.)  I can say conclusively that I am ready for the new month!

And my head is in the right place, too.  I woke up feeling…better.  Sort of calm.  It’s nice, especially since the temptation is great to pop on the a/c today.  It’s amazing how much easier it is mentally to make changes in your life when you have someone to support you.  I hadn’t realized how much I was associating Rioting with some sort of notion that my priorities were out of whack and that my family (or my health) was suffering because of it.  The thing is, I think I had started to believe that I wasn’t capable of participating without somehow not being a good enough wife/mother/woman/whatever.  Fuck that noise.  It really isn’t for anyone else to say whether I am doing a good enough job anyway so I don’t know why I take so to heart off the cuff remarks that aren’t even based in reality.

I’m starting to think that one of the most important actions one takes when undertaking a large-scale lifestyle change is to make sure you’re being true to yourself.  Even when people act like you’re a nut, even when you’re the only one in your household acting, even when things go pear-shaped and you feel like giving up.   I think most people want to view change as a linear process even though we all know intellectually that it is anything but.   In the long run, though, this can lead to so much disappointment, both in the process of change and in ourselves.  But when you can say honestly that you are listening to your true self when you act, it is so much easier to get things done, even when it feels like you’re one person against the world.

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It’s coming, and I am refreshing my mad spreadsheet skills in preparation for Operation Stop Throwing Shit Away So Much Already, Man (aka food waste reduction beginner stylee.)  Also encompassed within this rather weighty experiment is a serious attempt to get our local food numbers between 50-60%.  I am cautiously optimistic, although 5 of the days of August will be spent on vacation with pre-ordained meals.  I’ll still be tracking, though, such is my absolute dedication to finally gaining the upper hand on where our food comes from.

I have not as yet made the switch from paper to cloth napkins or rags but when the roll of paper towels runs out, we’ll be keeping them around for emergency only.  Lucy is excited about making the move to cloth napkins for her lunches (she’s such a good little environmentalist–did I write about how she refused to watch when I had to purchase chemical toilet bowl cleaner?  We made sure to have some Seventh Generation on hand from then on, but there was a woman waiting to clean my toilets so I panicked 😉 and really, it’s silly not to make the switch.

I got caught up this morning in one of those super-funks (and not in the purple suit-Bootsy Collins way) where I get completely wrapped up in how much shit I have to do and how much I don’t want to always be in charge of everything and ROAR!  It sucks to have an overdeveloped sense of duty and I really wish I could turn mine off sometimes (most of the time in fact.)  The thing is, when I was in the hospital with the meningitis my MIL made a comment about how the apartment hadn’t been cleaned since well before I had the baby and how it was all because of the Riot taking over my life (which wasn’t true, either count) and I managed to internalize that to the nth degree (both counts.)  Since then, I’ve been very wary about making it known that I’m still participating in the Riot, and it’s hard to not talk about something I’m so proud of.  So, yeah, I’ve not done the best job lately of achieving balance between reducing and house stuff and it came to a head today.   Well, coupled with that period where I was feeling really discouraged…I have a tendency to second-guess myself and that was probably more about feeling like maybe I couldn’t handle both taking care of the house to the appropriate standard and making/tracking reductions than I would have admitted.  Not that the ‘why am I doing this’ doesn’t sneak in, but you know, I felt like something was missing when I got out of the hospital and I didn’t feel comfortable talking about the changes we had made with anywhere close to the same zeal I had before.  The irony, of course, is that I’m certain she doesn’t even remember saying any such thing and meanwhile I’ve spent the past 6 months feeling as though I have to keep the house up to a certain level so that nobody knows I’m still Rioting.  Shhh, Internet, it’s our little secret.

But anyway, we’re full steam ahead here, and I’m going to try to look back at this often and remember that the only standards I have to live up to are my own.  No more back alley data entry, or sneaking around in the middle of the night to rid the house of disposable products.  It’s all back in the open, and I’m really looking forward to the next month.
And the house?  Don’t come over if you can’t stand works-in-progress.

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I’m still bleary-eyed almost all the way through my coffee.  Which is why I was so very, very thankful when my MIL emailed to ask if I wanted to postpone our outing today due to rain.  Because I really, really do.  A lot.  My feet are still sore, my nose is jam-packed, and I am in dire need of a trip to Target for Kids n Pets because apparently I didn’t clean up one of the spots well enough where Pickle peed when she had the UTI because she has stopped to squat there several times.

But you didn’t come here to read about the cat piss smell in my living room, didja?

Here are some mini-changes I’ve decided on.  Not a big deal, but sometimes it’s good to get the rest of the low-hanging fruit, no?  I’m ready to make the plunge to cloth napkins and rags, which means we can most-of-the-way get rid of our paper towel use.  It also means I have to pull out and wash our cloth napkins and cut up some old t-shirts or something similar for rags, but that is a project for another day.

I’ve also decided that I am going to focus on food for the month of August.  This means earnestly tracking what we are buying so that I can know how much is local, how much is packaged, and how much is unnecessary.  I was talking to a woman at the CSA about baking bread, and I’m (finally) going to give this a go.

I want to make some big changes as well, but I have to think on them.  It’s much easier doing the small stuff when you’re not the only person in a household.  The big stuff requires much more group effort, which we don’t always have ’round here.

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Last week, after receiving a surprise refund check from an overpayment for my stay in the hospital, I bought a Wii. It’s a huge eco sin, and I should feel terribly like a hypocrite for even thinking about getting one, but the truth is, I love it. I’m not going to make excuses about how I’ve given up so much and I deserve a little treat because honestly? Nobody deserves a Wii. It’s a luxury purchase, plain and simple. There. I feel remarkably better for owning up. It may seem silly, but it’s really hard to think about writing about reducing one’s impact after running in place in one’s living room in front of a television. And is there anything more ridiculous than needing a video game to exercise? But I do. And it’s fun. If I was a better person I’d be out running on the street but I still can’t wear closed toe shoes and frankly, I hate to run. And, hell, if the shit hits the fan and we have to get out of town, we’ll be walking and I’ll have to be in better shape 😛

I’ve been having a lot of trouble lately with Rioting. To be honest, the Hanson news sort of took all of the wind out of my sails. Not that it’s a huge surprise, but that it seems like people still don’t get it. Also, it’s really hard to freak out about the external hard drive running all day when turning it off isn’t going to make any sort of appreciable difference. And so I’ve been trying to think more lately about other things. Not in a head in the sand sort of way, but in a plateau sort of way. Like, we can keep on with the changes we’ve made until I regroup and regain my sense of balance and things will be ok.

Maybe the Wii purchase was a little more fiddling while Rome burns than I’d like to admit. Either way, it’s done and now that I’ve owned up, I’m going to admit that I’m just as capable of being a hypocrite as anyone else and move on.

I’m also not so much tracking anymore except for electricity and transportation (consumer goods I can always look up but I’m not spreadsheeeting it anymore.)  I’m estimating everything else, and frankly, at this point, all of our numbers are either staying the same or going up.  I just haven’t felt like making any more changes, or maybe I’m just not sure what changes to make next.

I so want to be inspirational, and I so love hearing when I’ve convinced someone to make a change themselves.  I have been feeling lately like it may not be enough and I’ve felt like I can’t possibly do enough.   And then Unfit Mother left a comment that I really needed to hear right now, and it really snapped me out of the eco-ennui (green-nui?)

I think maybe I can get back on track, get my head out of survival mode and into thrive mode.  And I’m going to look into some carbon offsets so that I can stop beating myself up for enjoying the Wii so much.

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